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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Girl Most Likely (2013)

Best way to get your man back? Fake-kill yourself. Just you wait, he’ll be back in no time.

Imogene (Kristen Wiig) seemed to have had it all: the boyfriend, the writing job, the fancy apartment in NYC, the much-needed separation from her gambling-addicted mother (Annette Bening). However, it all goes down the drain once she loses one aspect, and then it becomes a domino effect from there on in, which makes her fake a suicide-attempt, in hopes that it will bring her boyf back to her. It doesn’t. But since she pulled a risky stunt like this, she can’t be trusted on her own so is now forced to live with her said gambling-addicted mother, her new boyfriend, a supposed CIA agent by the name of George (Matt Dillon), her geeky brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), and some tool that’s been renting out her room for quite some time (Darren Criss). It’s all bad for Imogene at first, but she soon realizes that maybe her old life wasn’t as great as she may have seen it as being. That, or she just didn’t amount to shit. Something like that, I think.

Alright, let me just put it as simply and obviously as I can: This movie is a total mess. It’s a total mess that I wish I avoided, but I just couldn’t turn down a screening invite to because of the big name’s attached and an odd crush I’ve had on Wiig for quite some time now. It seemed like it was supposed to be good from the outside-looking-in, but it just is not because the whole movie can’t rise beyond it’s one-note premise. Even when it tries to, it does it so miserably, that it has nowhere else to go but downhill from there. Problem is, it’s already down at the bottom of the hill. So seriously, where the hell can a film go if it’s already at the deepest, darkest hell of the hill?

Clothing: Way. Too. Colorful.

Clothing: Way. Too. Colorful.

I have no clue. That’s what I’m still struggling to figure out, but I don’t care too much about this movie or the explanation to figure out what.

I know I sound like a miserable git that can’t have fun, even if the movie is terrible but no, no, no! This movie is really bad and actually surprised me because it started off fine. It had a good premise, a good start-up to where we are thrown into this girl Imogene’s life, and are left to figure out what she’s going to do with the rest of it. It’s a perfect set-up for a pretty good dramedy, if there was one to be found here, but there isn’t. Instead, it’s just a whole slew of repetitive-jokes that get old from about the first 5 seconds that they’re introduced. However, the movie doesn’t care and will more than love to bang them against your head, until they’ve been implanted in your brain when you leave, just so you have something worth remembering. Maybe the creators didn’t have that much effort in their systems while making this movie, but I’m just in a sinister mood. So leave me be, dammit!

Let me take the time to tell you some of the running-gags that these characters have, and will never, ever let you forget about. Imogene’s the only lucky one here who comes out surprisingly unscathed, except for maybe the joke that she’s too old for the people she hangs out around. She wears a Friends t-shirt for about 10 minutes, she dresses like a grand-mom at risque night-clubs, when it’s made abundantly clear that she’s probably around her mid-to-late 30’s, and constantly reminds everybody that she’s in a totally, different day and age than all of them combined. That’s her joke, I guess if I had to reach out for one. Wiig milks it for all that she can and comes up pretty successful at times, but feels like she’s trying way too hard to be all awkward and odd, but for no reason.

Moving on, we have her gambling-addicted mother that cannot stop mentioning winning some sort of poker/blackjack game, even when her own daughter’s in the hospital because of an apparent suicide-attempt. Also, she likes to make sandwiches. A lot of sandwiches to be exact. Don’t know why this is meant to be shown as a joke, as if she’s a goof-ball or something, but it does not work, no matter how hard to Bening is trying to make it so. And she really does try. Poor gal. Matt Dillion has his joke where he’s a mysterious, shady CIA-agent that’s also involved with the samurai code that has him talking about some odd morals and rules that he must live by. Oh, and before I forget: He likes to eat the sandwiches that Bening’s character makes for him. That’s right, he eats sandwiches. What a bunch of jokesters these people are!

Now I know why I didn't like him. Bastard.

Now I know why I didn’t like him! Bastard.

Then, we have the brother who’s your typical, anti-social nerd. He practically lives in his room, one filled to the core with crabs, lobsters, and all sorts of other creatures, I’m sure, and doesn’t talk to girls at all. Hell, he barely even leaves his room and when he actually does, it’s only to work at the shop he owns which, you guessed it, sells crabs! Fitzgerald is more than up to the task of trying his hardest to make this character work or even be funny for that matter, and actually had me chuckling at least once or twice, but the script treats him as a total dweeb, one that will never, ever get laid, no matter how many crabs he ditches. Poor guy.

Darren Criss doesn’t really have a joke to his persona, mainly because a rock has better comedic-timing than him. I don’t know who this dude is, but Darren Criss is not a name I want to see anywhere near another comedy I see in the near-future, because he is not funny and doesn’t even seem to try at all to be so. He’s just there to look pretty, be a forced, romantic-interest for Wiig’s character, and sing Backstreet Boys songs because that’s apparently what all heterosexual dudes do, especially when they’re trying to bang somebody like Kristen Wiig. Maybe that’s what I need to do in order to win her over? Just maybe I will.

Consensus: Girl Most Likely has some promise of a generic, but entertaining flick that has a nice heart intact, but is neither and tries to fulfill both sides of the equation, and still falls apart while trying to do so, much to the dismay of the talented cast (except for Criss) on deck.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"So, you guys ever heard of Scott Joplin? You know, cause I'm soooo old."

“So, you guys ever heard of Scott Joplin? You know, cause I’m so old.”

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A Hijacking (2013)

The days of Jack Sparrow sure have changed.

MV Rozen, a Danish cargo ship, is going about it’s usual coast and features little to no problems whatsoever. Back at home, C.E.O Peter Ludvigsen (Søren Malling) is cutting deals with other companies in order to make so money, while also being able to tell them that the ship will be on deck shortly. That all changes once a bunch of Somalian pirates take over and demand over $10 million. Everybody back at the company freak out, so obviously they feel as if they have to get a professional on-board to help them negotiate a deal with these dangerous-beings, but nope, Ludvigsen will not have it. It’s his ship, it’s his crew, so therefore, it’s his responsibility. However, the man realizes the limits of responsibility once he becomes more and more connected to this ransom deal, as well as the cook aboard the ship (Pilou Asbaek).

This is one of those movies where it feels like it could have taken the easy way out, gone one way, came out another, and been as conventional as you could have gotten. However, writer/director Tobias Lindholm is better than that. A lot better than that and he knows how to build a story filled with suspense and all sorts of drama, without ever diving into the over-the-top theatrics that a similar film to this, Captain Phillips, looks like it might just take. However, I have yet to see that movie and have only seen this, so less talk about that movie, and more about this gem.

Something tells me his facial hair would be a lot longer. And a lot more grungier.

Something tells me his facial hair would be a lot longer. And a lot more grungier.

What I was alluding to up there, is that this flick could have easily been all about how this big corporate-head, and how he stops at nothing to get the ship back, at any means necessary. That means he could have been one of those dudes that didn’t care about the stakes, the human life, or the fact that the families out there are worried to death for their loved ones, and that the only thing on his mind the whole, entire time was making his co-workers/bosses happy and save his company some money. May not sound too bad and out-of-reason for some corporations out there, however, this flick is not like that and nor is this character.

Everything here is played to the utmost subtlety, especially when we see certain character’s real motives and ideas come out of their systems. Then again, nobody really has any sort of hidden agenda here. They are sort of just sticking true to themselves and hoping that whatever happens, is for the better and not for the worse. That said, the flick isn’t so subtle that we don’t even we feel anything at all. In fact, I’d say that this flick is surprisingly tense, but not in the ways you’d expect it to be and hell, might even take you off-guard.

Take for instance, the fact that we don’t even see the initial-raid of the ship. What we do see is the corporate-head getting a distress call from the ship, him rushing to the phone, and figuring out what’s going on. Cut to the next scene, and we see a bunch of Somali pirates holding guns, demanding stuff to happen in whatever language they’re speaking, and all of a sudden throwing you into something that’s among the lines of a thriller, but without the most thrilling part you’d expect to see in the whole movie. It robs you of that set-piece, but it doesn’t feel like manipulative or deliberate; it’s just sort of how this movie paints it’s story, without adding any secret-meaning underneath it all or anything. It’s just as straight-up with you, as you are with it. It’s sort of like a friend you meet, talk to, get to know, and develop trust with over time, as you can both see that your both being honest and real with each other.

Stupid alliteration, I know. But hey, it’s all I got right now. Please stick with me here people.

The movie does switch back-and-forth from the ship to the corporation building where they are trying to figure out what to do with this deal, how to let it settle in, and how to have it complete without any blood on anybody’s hands, and that does provide some frustration at times. Especially one part, probably the most tense of the whole one where we hear something, but we never see it. There are plenty of phone calls in this movie, but rather than pulling off a trick like split-screen or fast-edits to make it clear and possible to hear both ends of the conversation, all we have is the conversation on speaker-phone that can be as tense as ever. Well, except for that one moment where they don’t go back to the ship for awhile and we really need to see what the hell has happened aboard. I don’t want to give too much away so I’m going to be as vague as possible, but then again, maybe it’s just me who felt that way and nobody else.

Yup, that’s probably it. I’m a dick.

Why all that money, when you have yellow-colored walkie-talkies at your disposals?

Why all that money, when you have yellow-colored walkie-talkies at your disposals?

Although, I do have to say that I was glad to see that not only did this flick seem to treat it’s protagonists with enough respect and care to shake a tail feather, but also it’s antagonists as well. Believe it or not, the movie isn’t really making these pirates seem like terrible people. Granted, they are bad, they do bad things, and aren’t the nicest dudes you want to meet up with in a bar if it’s just you and 15 of them, however, they’re given some moments of slight humanity where you see them for people with feelings and emotions, and not just a bunch of grimy criminals that hold guns to people’s heads and demand a ransom. Even the leader of these pirates, who always lets everybody know that he is not actually a “pirate” per se, and more or less just a translator for these fools, gets a bit of bright and shiny spots where we see him for a reasonable guy; one that you couldn’t see killing anybody, even if he had to. Then that all changes once you see him get any bit of pissed-off and it’s all downhill from there, and you automatically crap your pants.

That was nice to see in a movie like this, just like it was nice to see a sympathetic hero that isn’t trying too hard to seem like “the man above the rest”, but more of just a guy that does what he needs to do, without trying to hurt anybody at all. I wanted more development with this character of Ludvigsen, but Malling’s general iciness and cold-stare, made it worth watching, even when the flick didn’t seem to have anything interesting to show or say. He reminds me a bit of a Bond villain, with the exception that this is a good guy, who does good things for the people who trust him. Hope to see more of him around in the States, just like everybody else in this cast, especially Asbaek who’s fairly solid in a role that could have gone nowhere and been as bland as Paul Walker. Just think of what could have been people.

Consensus: The questions it raises don’t really seem to come out clear, or at all for that matter, but A Hijacking is too subtle and too smart for that type of heavy-handed preachiness, and just tells it’s story the way it’s meant to be told without any added gimmicks or tricks thrown in.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Pirates? Like the one of the Caribbean?"

“Pirates? Like the ones of the Caribbean?”

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Desk Set (1957)

First, it’s the jobs, then, it’s the humans. Technology is taking over!

Bunny Watson (Katharine Hepburn) is the head of the research department at a TV news station and, along with her lovely co-workers, finds herself happy, cozy, and as independent as a woman could get in the 50’s. All of that gets turned upside-down, however, once Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) comes into her office and starts snooping around. Why? Well, because Sumner works for an electronics-company that wants to somehow be able to fit a huge computer into her office space, making Bunny and her gals almost insignificant to the job that they do. This obviously creates tension between Sumner and the ladies, especially Bunny who not only finds Sumner a very attractive guy, but a very troubled one who may need her love and comfort. But then again, how you can you be with a person, who also happens to be the same person that might take your job away?

I don’t watch many “older” movies, but when I do, I make sure that they are nice picks and worth my while. However, I didn’t even pick this one and I still liked it! To be honest, I did this flick as apart of a little event that I’m doing for my pal Nick, over at The Cinematic Katzenjammer, where I’m given the task of watching some movie a person recommended, and in return, I do the same. My recommendation has yet to be reviewed or seen yet, but I have no problems because this is the one I was given and it makes me want to see more and more “old-ish” movies, mainly in hopes that I will broaden my eyes to the world of cinema that isn’t just the 60’s-present. Easier said then done, but I’m making some progress, people. So please, just bare with me for now.

Party over here and a party over there!

Party over here and a party over there!

Anyway, so the film. In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to this one too much. Not because it’s from the 50’s, but because it seemed so conventional and cutesy, that I was expecting it to be non-other than a flick that I’d find my G-Mom and G-Pops watching and laughing their assess off at. However, if that actually was the case and my mind isn’t a bun full of nuts, then I’d have to join them as well because I found myself easily charmed by this flick as well. Granted, it’s not the funniest thing you’re ever going to see in your entire life, but with a premise as simple and as coy as the one they have here, they could have easily gone nowhere with it, and just relied on the star-power of Hepburn and Tracy. If they did go down that road, it still would have worked, but at least there’s SOME effort given to this flick in hopes that it will work as it’s own force of nature.

Mainly which being is the script, that also happens to be written by both Phoebe and Henry Ephron (parents of the late, great Nora). The movie doesn’t go further than being slightly cute, slightly romantic, and an altogether odd piece of film, but it works so well at doing so, that you almost forget how dated everything is. Most movies from the 50’s don’t fit so well in today’s day and age, but this time, it didn’t matter because I was easily distracted by the fun, light-feel of the movie. You easily get swamped-up in these people’s day-to-day lives, no matter how monotonous they may be. However, as regular and as ordinary as they may be, they all seem to be so happy and have a great time with life, so in return, it makes you happy as well. Didn’t expect it to happen so quickly, but the first 30 or so minutes of the flick, I spent watching with a nice, wide-eyed grin on my face and I was glad. Wish I had that happen to me more, but I guess life can’t always be like ’57, right?

Oh, the year 1957. That surely was the year to live. Anybody else with me on that?

My oh my! What's that huge, electronic thingy behind them!

My oh my! What’s that huge, electronic-thingy behind them?!?!

However, where most of this flick works, and mainly it’s charm, is in the chemistry between Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, who, as we all know by now, loved working together and loved showing it. In today’s world of cinema, any famous couple that gets together and decides to make a movie together, just to show how in love they are, usually is a tell-tale sign of the movie not only failing, but the relationship itself as well (case in point). But Hepburn and Tracy’s flicks were very different, not because they were quality-stars willing to put as much effort and care into a project as hopelessly possible, but because they were also able to show that they loved each other, even when they on screen, in front of the rest of the world to see. Their chemistry in this movie, is what keeps the movie going and a fun experience, because they always seem to bring out the best in one another, even when they have to be at-odds.

But when they aren’t together, and are just doing their own thing separated from the other, they give great work. Tracy is fun as the tough and rugged bachelor that hasn’t met Mrs. Right just yet, and shows subtle signs that he already has and might just go for it. Even though he doesn’t get as many solo scenes as his famous co-star does, Tracy still makes the best of it and shows why he was one of the best. As for Hepburn, well, what can I say that hasn’t already been said about the gal? Not only does she show that she can light up the screen on any occasion, but she shows that she’s also able to have us laugh and love her character, while also feel an ounce of pity for her as well. By the end of the movie, the whole “Hepburn act” gets a bit over-the-top, but nonetheless, the woman always showed us that she was able to act her ass off, electrify anything she was in, and show the dude’s a thing or two about messing with the wrong lady. That Katharine Hepburn, what a fox!

Consensus: Though Desk Set is as conventional, obvious, and cute as you can get with a Tracy-Hepburn starring-vehicle, there are still plenty of pleasures and charm to be found, despite being 56 years old by now.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Hi there, I'm Spencer Tracy. It was a pleasure working with you, AGAIN."

“Hi there, I’m Spencer Tracy. It was a pleasure working with you, AGAIN.”

The To Do List (2013)

Teenagers are already awkward as it is. Throw sex into the equation and it’s just a huge mess. Literally and figuratively.

Brandy (Aubrey Plaza) was not the type of girl that did much with her time in high-school, other than study, study, and do some more studying. It all built to something and got her the sweet title “Valedictorian”, however, she still didn’t have much time or opportunity to fool around with boys and test the waters of sex out. Now that the summer has begun, the one before college resumes in the Fall, Brandy believes that it’s her time to shine sexually and show all the dudes out there what they’ve been missing out on, when in fact, it’s her who’s the one that’s missing out. But in order to feel fully prepped-up and ready for the wirl-wind of sex and fluids that Freshman year of college is going to be, Brandy has devised a list of all the sexual acts that’s she’s heard of, but never actually knew about or performed. All while leading up to losing her V-card, to non other than a college student (Scott Porter) she can’t help but have eyes for.

Here’s when I knew something was wrong with this movie right from the very beginning: The title-sequence was not only shown in it’s entirety, but didn’t do anything funny or original that had to do with the movie it was representing. Whenever any movie does that with their opening-credits, let alone a comedy, you know something’s not right, but then again, that could also just be me. I have a weird instinct about stuff like that so yeah, maybe I overreacted a bit too early in the game. OR MAYBE I DIDN’T?!?!?

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

Like the first time I kissed a dude. I mean, WAIT, WHAT?!?!??!

The problem with this movie all stems from the sole fact that it holds so much promise for hilarity, wit, insight, and an emotional connection, that it makes me more depressed knowing that it was all squandered in favor of a bunch of nonsensical, unfunny jokes that go nowhere and are only meant to shock us, or get a rise. Either way, it tried too hard and it showed because nothing hit it’s mark here, not even the constant sex-jokes that they decide to throw at us. However, the movie has plenty of jokes that made me chuckle at least once, and hell, when I think about it now, maybe even twice, but those were very few and far between, and I have yet to even remember them now specifically, even as I’m typing away here.

Then again though, this whole movie could be considered “unforgettable”, and it will only hit the nail on the head. Except that I realize that underneath all of the non-stop layers of poop, fart, dick, balls, boobs, and sex jokes; there’s an actual point and story meant to be told here. Problem is, it never shows up or when it does, it comes out in the cheesiest, most-innate way possible; as if the flick itself needed to “have a point” in order to be more than just “a story about some chick trying to get her cherry popped”.

You can do so much with a raunchy, teen comedy, especially because any person, no matter how old or young they are, is able to connect with it. Everybody in their life has been a teenager, and has been sexually-frustrated or curious at least one time in their life. So right there is enough material to make the young, brass, sexually-problematic teenager come out from within us, connect with the material, and make us long for the old days when a sudden glance from the crush you had in school, gave you the sweats for the days. However, that said material is lost and never to be found again because the movie isn’t funny, tries to be, and doesn’t even make sense really.

If you think about it: This movie has no point to be taking place in the 90’s. With the exception of a VHS copy of Beaches, and a hip, nostalgic soundtrack that boasts some of the most obvious songs from the day, there’s nothing here that’s necessarily of the time of the 90’s, which means I never felt it either. I always felt like I was just watching a bunch of people dress-up in some odd outfits, and let that be it. They also said and did some dirty things that I highly doubt we’re really “named” back in ’93, but that’s just me. I was just born, so what the hell do I know? Basically, where I’m trying to get at it with this point is that the movie could have been placed during any decade or any year, and it wouldn’t have mattered a single bit. Why? Well, it’s not funny and the movie as a whole just doesn’t matter. You won’t learn anything new about growing up and coming to terms with your sexual-awakening, and you sure as hell won’t be telling your kids to watch it if they ever need something to connect to.

For all of us Gen-Y kids, we have American Pie and Superbad for that. And we’re better adolescents for it.

But nothing about this movie, not a single thing about it was as disappointing as the next aspect of this movie I’m about to cover: Aubrey Plaza in the lead role. It should come as to no surprise to anybody that knows about my love for Parks & Rec. that I love the hell out of Plaza and consider her one of my biggest crushes working today (her and Rosemarie Dewitt, oddly enough). Hell, I even went to school with her younger sister for one year, so if that doesn’t tell you anything about me and my connection to her throughout the years, then I have no clue just what the hell will! Fact is, I love the hell out of this chick and believe that she’s so talented and hilariously deadpan, that I was left down in the dumps when I realized that she just couldn’t pull through with this material and her lead performance as Brandy.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

And to be honest, I can’t really put the blame on Plaza herself. She tries, it’s very obvious, but she does at least give it her all. Problem with Plaza is that she’s so used to deadpanning her ass off, that instead of giving this character any type of energy and charm, she seems to just be sarcastic all of the time, as if she was never really taking the premise or the material seriously enough. Plaza’s sense of humor works wonders in almost everything that she does, but she’s oddly-miscast her, almost to the point of where it was unbearable for me to watch. I have myself to blame for that, but I just couldn’t help myself dammit!

An even bigger shame about this movie (as if you haven’t been able to tell by now) is that the rest of the talented-cast is wasted as well. The only ones out of this huge ensemble that were able to get a slight giggle out of me were Clark Gregg, Connie Britton, Alia Shawkat, and most importantly, Bill Hader. That’s it. Everybody else is left to try and be funny, but just end up falling flat on their faces because either they don’t have the guts to make the material work, or it’s the material itself that’s failing them. I feel like it’s more of the latter, but there is some of the former thrown in there as well and it shows more than once. Just overall, a total disappointment and makes me sad to see many of these talented people stoop to the levels of this crappy script.

Consensus: Despite a heavy-presence of some very, very funny people, The To Do List never ends up being that: Funny. Instead, we get a bunch of dirty jokes that go nowhere and are only left to make us realize that being a teenager was so awkward.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's the 90's because of the hair, right?

It’s the 90’s because of the hair, right?

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

The Wolverine (2013)

So, Deadpool?

After the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), James Logan (Hugh Jackman) still has yet to recuperate and wakes up almost every morning in a pile of his own sweat. He hasn’t been able to shake the memory of her away for a long time, and as a result, has yet came back to the real-world. He spends his time in and around the Canadian wilderness, where he occasionally goes into town, and if so, only to cause a bit of trouble for hoodlums who deserve it. One night however, he gets a rude awakening from a Japanese lady named Mariko (Rila Fukushima), who informs him that a guy who’s life he saved during World War II, is now dying of cancer and would like to see him, one last time. Logan is hesitant at first, but ultimately accepts knowing that they wouldn’t have a random chick come all this way for nada. Once he actually arrives in Japan, Logan realizes that something is not all too right with these mob-bosses and comes to terms with the fact that his visitation may have more meaning than just a simple chit-chat about life. It may have something to do with the after-life and most importantly: Logan’s life.

To be honest, I was not really looking forward to this flick. Any bit of excitement or jitters I may have had in my sleep were all lost once Darren Aronofsky backed-out. Well, actually, it was before that too. Remember a little old movie called X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yep, I do, you do, we all do, which sucks because Wolverine is such an awesome character to build off of, that it’s a total shame that his one and only opportunity to branch out and take the world by storm was screwed over because Hollywood felt like it was time for the world to see will.I.Am as a superhero. But you know what? Life goes on, the pain settles, and eventually, you get over it all and realize that there’s still a light of hope for everybody’s favorite, steel-clawed superhero and what a light of hope it truly is.

She's no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

She’s no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

Something felt different about this movie right from the start, and I think it has to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. No, not in the way where instead a light, rousing romp of a flick, it was a dark, depressing melodrama about some dude coming to terms with the powers that have been bestowed onto him. Nope, something was different here and I think it’s because we know this character so well by now, that it doesn’t matter if we aren’t introduced to where he’s come from or what he’s been up to. We are just sort of plopped-down in the middle of his life as it’s happening, without a single clue as to what’s happened before, or in the meantime since we last saw him. I liked that approach because we were constantly moving forward with this story and getting to the juiciness of it all, and not folding back into time, where everything we saw and heard before, is told to us again.

All movies, especially superhero ones, should be moving forward with their story and that’s why I knew I was off on a good foot with this flick and ready for an unforgettable ride. That’s exactly what I got, if not more.

Once Logan shows up to Japan, the movie becomes slightly like a Japanese, kung-fu movie where you have people doing all sorts of crazy moves and actions that you haven’t quite seen in any other superhero movie, up until now. But then again though, it doesn’t get all Kill Bill on our asses neither; there’s still plenty of ass-kicking, high-adrenaline action that comes in and busts our rumps every once and awhile, and keeps the blood flowing and the interest-rates up. To me, this felt like the type of superhero movie that knew what it was, but wasn’t going to shell out for anything less or more. It stuck with what it knew it could do, and didn’t turn my head away at all.

Some moments did get a little comic book-y, especially by the end, but overall, director James Mangold keeps his head above the rest of the current, and allows for his material to breathe some newly-found life into it’s character and it’s story. It helps an awful lot that the story is placed in Japan, an area that’s able to make any simple tale pop, sizzle, and crack, but it also helps that Mangold doesn’t allow for this material to get too serious or too dark. There’s plenty of times where it could have gone straight for the soapy melodrama, but rather continues to entertain us, or build more and more on the story. The story we have here is actually pretty compelling and surprising in the places it turns to, which is a huge change-of-pace for a simple genre of films like the superhero ones. You feel like everything’s already been set in stone for this genre, until one like this comes around and shows you that not only can the game change up a bit, but it can do it so effortlessly as well.

Great directing job on Mangold’s part. However, I’m still of the opinion that Aronofsky’s version would have made it a hell of a lot more interesting to see. Then again, this would have been the same movie done by the same dude who made everybody’s favorite, and probably only, “ass-to-ass scene”. Yup, it’s THAT guy.

"Screw you, Bai Ling."

“Screw you, Bai Ling.”

But if there’s anybody that really deserves all of the credit and praise here, it’s non other than Mr. Hugh Jackman himself, playing Wolverine for about the 5th time, and never getting showing signs of it getting old or worn-out. Jackman isn’t really doing anything insanely original with his latest act as Logan, but he doesn’t need to be when this character is already so interesting and likable. We care for the dude right from the start, because we know that no matter how many times he may lose his temper and the claws come out, there’s still a simple-minded, lovable human-being underneath all of it, and in the end, will do the right thing for the better of mankind. As I said before, I wasn’t really looking forward to another movie that was dedicated to ALL of Wolverine, ALL of the time; but I was still happy to be reminded how wrong my initial-feelings were. Another Wolverine flick may be pushing it, but this will do for now.

Jackman is so good though as Logan, that it almost steals the rest of the movie from everybody else in this cast. Not to say that nobody else is good here, but it’s obvious who the more comfortable worker is here and who’s the one that really has the charm and the presence to make this sometimes-goofy material work. That is with the exception of one performer in this movie: Rila Fukushima as Yukio, the kick-ass, samurai-sword-wielding side-kick of Logan’s. When I first saw Fukushima, I thought her character was going to be another one of those quirky, Japanese gals that was not only out-of-place being beside Wolverine, but also say and do strange things (because all Japanese girls are freaks, right?) Well, I was surprised to see that not only did the movie treat her with enough love and respect as they did with their titled-character, they also did it in a way to where you want to see more of her, doing whatever it is that she can do just to ensure us that she’ll be on the screen more. It’s surprised me to know that Fukushima never acted in anything before this and I hope that this means she’ll get more roles, especially in more American movies because I think she’s got the energy and the general likability to make it all work. Everybody else is fine, but she’s the one who comes close to walking away with the whole show. However, she comes close, but doesn’t run away with it. That’s Wolverine’s job, and it’s one that I’m glad he has and hope that he continues to have.

Consensus: May not change the game of the superhero flick, or even expand on it either, but The Wolverine definitely does one thing right: Entertain the hell out of you, even when you least expect it to. Take that, Zack Snyder!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We get it, Hugh! You're JACKed!

We get it, Hugh! You’re JACKed!

Small Time Crooks (2000)

Cookies are usually on my mind when I’m smokin’ stuff, not robbing vaults. That’s just me though.

Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is an ex-con who has big dreams and an inability to hold down dish-washing jobs. His next plan in life is an inspired one: Rob a bank with his buddies. However, the main problem with robbing the bank is Ray being able to get it past his wife (Tracey Ullman)’s head. Even when he does, thinks don’t go so according to plan and that’s for better, and for worse.

That short synopsis up there may not seem like much, but trust me, once you see this flick and realize that I didn’t give away half of what happens in the second-half, the better for ya and the more thanks to me. See, the trailers and advertisements for this movie will have you think that it’s about Woody Allen, and all of his clowning-buddies, trying to hash together a plan to rob a bank, but being the buffoons that they are, just can’t get it to work. For the first 30 minutes or so, that’s exactly how it plays out in typical, Allen fashion. It’s fun, goofy, zany, witty, and very classy in the way that it’s just having a joyous time with itself and not worrying about going anywhere deeper than just a regular, heist movie.

Then something changes.

Without giving away too much of what goes down in this flick, especially in the latter-parts, I will say that it is the usual, kind of Allen we are used to seeing and loving so much, but much more important in the way it talks about it’s subject matter and the characters it usually points a funny finger at. For instance, all of the people that we are surrounded by in the latter-act are a bunch of richy-riches that act as if their shit don’t stank, don’t have a worry in the world because they can just get their butler or maid to do whatever they need done, and are totally absorbed in being fine, fancy, and loaded with cash. Allen makes fun of this but also brings up an important idea of how we all get absorbed when we have money, but yet, not everything about us gets affected, right?

It's a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn't going to be any shots of New York?

It’s a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn’t going to be any nostalgic shots of New York?

It never goes anywhere deeper than that, which is probably one of Allen’s main faults with this movie, but that’s fine because the way Allen makes jokes and satirizes this life-style really made me laugh, as well as feel as if I was seeing real people, actually be affected by all of the money they have for themselves. Some people get wrapped-up in it all; some just stay the same. Some people like to see a fine opera on their Saturday night; some like to stay at home, hang out with their buddies, slug a couple of brews, eat chips, eat pizza, play some cards, and bet some moolah. Some people like to venture out to Europe to see what the life out there is all about; some are just content with staying home and enjoying all that’s around them, without having to jump aboard a plane.

Yes, if I was given $5 million, most likely, I would be going a tad bit insane with it all, just throwing it away and acting like I didn’t have to worry about bankruptcy, losing it, or wasting it at all, but would I change? That’s what I thought about with this movie and it’s always a testament to Allen’s fine writing as to how he is able to give us something more to think about then what we are seeing, even if he is still hitting the notes on making us laugh and have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still hilarious and will make you chuckle more times than you can imagine, but the way that Allen is able to incorporate more general-thoughts, is what really stands-out with this flick, and sort of stands-out from everything else that he’s done. Allen is a very hit-or-miss director nowadays, but thankfully, it’s safe to say that this is a sure-hit for him. He’s creepy and all, but at least he makes good movies.

Regardless of who he prefers to go to bed with, Woody Allen is still a talented mofo, and a very likeable one at that. His performance here as Ray, the down-and-out con who just wants to re-live his glory days, is actually very surprising to see from him. No, don’t get me wrong, Allen still plays up his whole blubbering, frantic-phase that we all see and hopefully love from the guy, but not matter what, he stays lovable, easy-to-relate-to, and very believable as the type of guy that would actually be feigning at the knees to pull-off another heist. Allen never seemed like the bad-boy type to me, and I’m pretty sure everybody else feels the same way, but he will surprise you here by how much he’ll change your opinion on that as soon as it’s time for him to act. He’s still goofy, but he’s very smart too, and it’s never annoying.

The one who really steals the spot-light from Woody, just so happens to be Tracey Ullman as his wife, Frenchy. Ullman is really playing-up her New York, Jewish-look and accent but it works so well for this character because she’s so quirky, so funny, and so obvious at times, that you can’t help but like her in the way that she wants to be rich and accepted. The fights between her and Allen feel real because they never really escalate to the point of near-death, but actually just keep you laughing because they feel like two people that are just getting tired of each other’s shit, even if they know that they love each other in the end. Allen and Ullman on their own, are hilarious, but when they’re together; they’re freaking dynamite!

Still shocked that he isn't on the front-paper.

Still shocked that he isn’t in today’s head-lines.

Elaine May plays Frenchy’s sister, May, who is definitely not the brightest bulb of the bunch, but definitely charmed the hell out of this character. Not only is she hilarious at playing a total ditz, but she also has a sweet and sympathetic-look to her that isn’t all about playing dumb to be cute, but more or less just a lonely girl, that gets discouraged because she is stupid. Yeah, maybe I am looking into it just a tad much, but that doesn’t mean that the motivations for that character aren’t there and shows that there are at least more to her than we may presume. Nice job on both May and Allen for that side-addition. Everybody in this cast is pretty good, but most of them do feel underused. People like Jon Lovitz, Tony Darrow, and Michael Rapaport are all good for what they do, but also get thrown to the side once Hugh Grant shows his beautiful, British-self into the mix. Those damn Brits! Always stealing our screen-time, even in Woody Allen movies!

Consensus: The shift in narration may change some viewer’s opinions about Small Time Crooks, but nonetheless, still shows Woody Allen in top, comedic-form as a guy that loves playing around with conventions, characters, and humor that we all think we’ve seen before, but with a couple of surprises along the way.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"It's so artful."

“It’s so artful.”

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

Manhattan (1979)

I guess you can’t fall in love in Brooklyn?

A neurotic writer named Isaac (Woody Allen), who was just recently dumped by his ex-wife (Meryl Streep) for another woman, is finding love in all the strangest places. Take for instance, the new gal he’s going out with: 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Together, they surprisingly share a nice connection that’s built more upon the fact that she has plenty to learn with her life, but will spend whatever life she has now with him, that is, until she gets bored of his old-ass and goes for somebody younger and more nimble in the sack. However, it may take some by surprise that Isaac is in fact the one getting a bit bored with his jail-bait and is finding himself more and more attracted to his best friend’s mistress, Mary (Diane Keaton).

Here’s the quintessential, Woody Allen comedy that everybody loves and considers a masterpiece and yet, I have no idea why. Is it because I’m not from New York? Is it because I’ve never been involved with a person that’s 25-years-younger than me? Or simply, is it because I’ve already been spoiled by Annie Hall so close to this movie? I think it’s more of the latter, considering I watched Annie Hall literally two nights before I popped this in the VCR, but still, something doesn’t seem right with me and this movie, and I’ll try my hardest to explain why, even though it probably won’t come out the best way imaginable.

"For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl's way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It's probably just a phase."

“For some reason, I feel a slight attraction to girl’s way, way younger than me. Oh well, no reason to worry. It’s probably just a phase.”

Woody Allen’s knack for turning an actual issue like human-beings, the way they interact with one another, and best of all, love one another, into a thinking-piece as well as a bit of a joke, never loses it’s bite no matter how many years go by. It’s been 30 years since this flick came out, and you’d think that we’d all get bored and tired with the same old, richy-rich, New York-types that go way too into depth about art and philosophical ideas, and don’t think enough about other people’s feelings at the most opportune moments, but it surprisingly doesn’t. In fact, it’s still fresh and edgy even by today’s standards, which is mainly because I couldn’t tell you who “our version of Woody Allen” is right about now. I mean, the dude’s still making movies and whatnot, so I guess we sort of have to wait till he croaks in order to crown the new leader in Jewish, neurotic comedies, right?

As with most of Woody’s flick, it’s always interesting to listen to these people talk, no matter what the subject may be, and to see how each and every one respond to the other, which is used to great effect here. The movie isn’t as big as you may think, with maybe 6 or 7 actual main members of the cast getting more than a couple lines of actual dialogue, which means that there is plenty time for us to just get involved with these character’s lives, understand them, their problems, and what they’re going through whether it be a broken heart, broken mind, writer’s block, or a simple, mid-life crisis that can’t be solved by an inordinate amount of drugs. And that was all fine with me because Woody’s writing is always snappy, always entertaining, and always worth a listen, even when he seems to be reaching a bit farther with this material than you’d expect.

There’s a lot of talk about love and how it makes people lose their minds and the essence of reality, and nobody’s more guilty of that then Woody himself. Most of his movies, in fact, feature him swooning over the idea of love, making things up in his mind about it, and getting a bit too carried away. However, that’s the darker side of love that Woody is more than happy to explore, but here, he’s surprisingly a little less cynical about love and probably more hopeful. Rather than leaving us on a depressing note that makes us question the person we lay next to be with every night, it makes us wonder whether we should have more faith in love, or human-beings for that matter. We’re always so used to blaming others for being so idiotic with even the most simplest tasks like keeping a relationship afloat, when we always forget to hold out some hope just in case they don’t screw it up. Woody’s always a bit mean with his views and opinions about the idea of love and whether or not it’s ever-lasting for all of the reasons we may think, but he shows that he was growing softer in his older age and better yet, was getting a little sweeter as well.

Because come to think of it: It was only a matter of time until he met a little lady named Mia. And then, shortly after that, it was only a matter of time until he met another little lady, this time, named Soon-Yi.

Nothing strange here at all. It's just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Nothing strange here at all. It’s just a dude and his granddaughter out and about.

Some of you may be wondering why I chose to bring this up, considering that it’s all been done to death by now whenever the name “Woody Allen” gets mentioned anywhere, but seeing this plot and realizing that it was about 13 years earlier before what actually happened in real-life, takes it on for a whole other spin that’s very, very disturbing once you get to thinking about it. Woody’s character gets mixed-up with this 17-year-old, and it’s never explained how or why, we are just dropped-down in the middle of it occurring/blossoming and are told to accept it for what it is. If it was any other writer/director at work, it probably would have been way too creepy to even get by, but somehow the man makes it work because he has a certain amount of grace and skillfulness to showing it that’s more about the actual love part, and not about the age part, even if it is too hard to not think about the latter when you think of the former. Or maybe it’s just me, I don’t know.

Anyway, age problems aside, Woody’s great in this role because he does everything we know and love him for, and it never gets old. Mariel Hemingway, on the other hand, really gets us going because she’s so good and so interesting as a female character, that it’s a shame we don’t get much more of her in this flick. Obviously Hemingway has that whole “young, innocent”-presence about her going on that works and makes us care for her, especially when Isaac shows a slight sign of boredom in their adventures as a couple, but she also shows some adult-like sensibilities in the way she acts and speaks that has me wondering just where the hell this dude found her, and why was she so attracted to him in the first place. I believed that they were a couple and could actually be together for awhile, but I didn’t understand why she was so naive when it came down to realizing that she has a full-life to live, but still shows that she’s smarter and more capable of making smarter decisions than half of the adults in this flick. I didn’t quite get it, and I think it was more of a screen-writing trick that Woody tried pulling so we wouldn’t pay too much attention to the creepiness of what was going on, but I latched on pretty quickly. Hemingway is still good, and so is everybody else, but maybe this is where Woody’s tricks started to show a bit more obvious now. Then again, maybe it’s just me. I don’t know.

Consensus: Though some consider Manhattan to be Woody Allen’s end-all, be-all masterpiece, some of it still rings a bit too false for me to really get engaged like everybody else, yet, the true and sweet sentiments are here for us to take in, and they work even after all of these years, if you can believe it or not.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We've all seen the picture 100 times, but isn't just so damn pretty?

We’ve all seen the picture 100 times, but isn’t just so damn pretty?

Annie Hall (1977)

Thanks, Annie. All we needed in this world were Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Thanks a lot.

Meet Alvy Singer (Woody Allen): He’s a neurotic, 40-year-old living in New York who’s had a pretty undefined life so far. He was born underneath a roller-coaster, has been married twice, and has yet to understand the meaning of what makes you happy in life. He’s never met a person that’s really took him by surprise and he’s never really been able to look on the bright side of things; always negative and always downing those around him. But that all somehow changes when his buddy (Tony Roberts) introduces him to a spunky gal named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The rest, as they say, “is history”.

Yes, this marks my first viewing of Annie Hall and before any of you jump down my throat right as soon as I open the gate, I have a reasoning for doing so: The time just never amounted itself. See, there’s a little something you folks out there may not know about me and my movie-viewing that I’m going to let you in on right about now, I have a weird thing about me where I need to watch a movie that I hear is “perfect” and “a masterpiece”, in the most perfect way possible. That means not on my computer, not on some lap-top, and sure as hell not in the middle of the day. It needs to be done in a way where I can watch it on my own, personal television (that’s rather huge), and needs to be done during the night, especially when I’m thinking of it the most. Hence why it took me over 2 years to actually crack-open the old VHS tape and actually watch this bad boy.

Don't drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Don’t drink too much, Woody. You may cause holes in your body.

Thankfully though, in the 2 years that it’s taken me to view this, has also lead me on to leave 2 years of my life that I feel were necessary enough to fully “get” just what exactly this flick was all about, for better or worse. I’ve been through a couple of “get-togethers” in the past 2 years and I’ve come to the realization that most relationships are exactly what you make of them and how much effort and love you want to put into it, but then my brain also gets raddled-around when I begin to think about all of the other aspects of a relationship like the people involved themselves. I begin to wonder, “well, maybe it was supposed to happen like that”, or, “it’s her, not me”, and you know what, that’s absolutely, positively true. So why the heck do we always go through with the same old stuff like relationships, even if they begin, go on, and end, mostly all the same?

That’s the type of question that Woody Allen brings up perfectly here not just once, but more than a couple of times but it never feels preachy or annoying; it feels like there’s really a man trying to get behind all of the stupidity and sappiness about what makes relationships loving and caring, and figuring out what the hell’s the point of it all. Allen himself seems to have had that problem many times in his life, but this time it was the most drastic-change for him where he needed to get his word out there, for all of the rest of the world to see, hear, and feel as well. It worked, and 4 Oscars later, Woody Allen will never, ever lose that cliché of his that “wasn’t better than Annie Hall“.

I can’t disagree with that statement, but that’s more of a positive than a negative because Allen has had his fair share of blunders in the past, but also his fair share of wonders as well, and this one only showed the world that he was more than just a satirist who was ready to make an easy joke out of any situation. This time, he showed a compassion and feeling towards the things that he was making fun of, as well as a reasoning behind all of the mucking it up. He shows us that humor is the quickest and best way to making a person happy, and is able to get them away from all of the hard-ships they may, or may not be happening in their life at the present time, even if it’s only for a second. Sounds like a sappy thing to say, but it’s the truth and it’s present in just about every frame here when Allen’s script comes out hitting us like a ton of pins and needles.

The one-liners the guy has to present are hilarious, regardless of if you don’t get them or not (and trust me, you won’t, but neither did I so it’s okay). But with every situation and happening this story goes through, the movie always finds the lighter side of the equation, even if the man himself who’s telling it, is a pessimist himself. Everybody knows that about Woody, and especially about Alvy the “character” in this movie that he’s playing, which brings us more of a real-world glimpse at the world of love, happiness, and sadness, without ever seeming like it’s the Hollywood-ized version or anything of that nature. It’s the way that Allen sees the world and everything that inhabits it, and it’s such a pleasure to see, for many more reasons than one, but the most important one being that it’s as real as you’re ever going to get and ever going to need, especially with a subject like love and relationships.

There’s a reason why every rom-com that’s any percent above the usual cookie-cutter, conventional rom-com, always seems to find itself compared to this flick, which is reasonable because this is one of the first rom-coms to ever really scratch the surface with such an attending eye as the one that Allen himself has. It touches on relationships in the way that they don’t last forever, just like love as well, and it’s up to us to decide whether we want to go through with any of it anymore, or just give up it all entirely and save ourselves some pressure and some time. However, there’s also this idea that one may need love, no matter how desperate it may actually be.

See, couples can have fun and be happy. It just doesn't last forever. Wah.

“Yeah, take a picture of me doing this so I can remember the happy time we had every time you piss me the hell off, woman!”

Love is like a must one person has to have in their life, if only for just a short amount of time. It can either be the first person who said “hi” to you on your first day of Junior High; your ex who left you for the best man/bridesmaid at your wedding; or it can even be the significant other you’ve stood by after all of these years, even if you do get tired of hearing their dreaded snoring, night and night again. It doesn’t matter who you felt love for, it’s as long as you’ve felt it, if just for one time. Love is what people constantly throw themselves into, time and time again, regardless of if it comes out negatively or positively. It comes out in a way that reminds you what life is all about and even if you lose that person you love, well, life still goes on and you will continue to meet more and more people, experience new things, and may eventually come to realize that that person you held an affection for, maybe wasn’t the best person who deserved it in the end. Just maybe.

As you can tell, this movie made me think a whole lot and it still will, even after I finish this review. That’s the sign of a great movie, and dare I say it, “a masterpiece”.

However, no film at all would be complete without great performances from it’s cast, which is exactly what this movie has, but benefits more from the wonderful chemistry by it’s two leads, the same two that were rumored to have been out and about during the time of this movie’s release and filming. Many people considered this work to be “autobiographical” in the sense that everything that Annie and Alvy go through and experience together, is exactly what Woody and Diane did as well, but something tells me that that’s only taking credit away from the perfect jobs these two did together, especially by actually getting us to believe in this couple right from the get-go. Except I’m still mad at Diane Keaton for giving us this. Why, Diane! Why?!?!?!?!?

Woody Allen still plays-up his usual, neurotic-shtick that never gets old or annoying, it’s always hilarious to see him react to the others around him, even if it comes from a source of a mind that’s a bit too miserable to be around. Then again, all of the problems this guy has with the world around him seems reasonable and understandable, especially considering the way he was brought up in the world. Woody Allen has always been a bit of a charmer in his movies, but his comedic-timing and wit was on fire during this movie, and rarely ever kept me from laughing. It’s an act that some people thought would have been done to death by now, but has yet to have over-stayed it’s welcome. Don’t ever change, Woody. No matter what all the nay-sayers may, ahem, say.

Only thing that's dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she's the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it.

Only thing that’s dated about this movie is her: No man, neurotic or not, would think she’s the end-all, be-all of relationships. Hate to say it but times have changed, my friends.

Diane Keaton though, all jokes aside, really gave it her all with this performance and is absolutely loving and cute as our titled-character because she feels real. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been mixed-up with a couple of cooks back in my day, but I felt closer and closer to this relationship because I could see why somebody would want to be together with someone, break-up with them, and get back together a couple of days, hours, or seconds later. As a human-being, some of us are prone to making mistakes and trying to undo them as soon as possible, which is exactly what Annie tries to do throughout the whole movie. She tries to cater to Alvy’s own needs and wants, yet is keeping herself away from something that she herself wants to do; she allows herself to be made fun of and criticized for the way she talks and acts, even if she’s still not sure why she does or says certain things, it’s just who she is; and she continues and continues to go through with a relationship that’s more than shaky at times, all because she needs somebody in her life, especially somebody like Alvy.

It’s a beautiful relationship these two form and one that I felt more of a connection to, being that I’ve been through a couple of crazy relationships of my own. Together though, Keaton and Allen make a wonderful screen-couple because they feel real, honest, and as heart-breaking as ever, even if you may want to punch the other in the face sometimes for being such a ding-bat to the other’s emotions and feelings. However, that’s just how relationships go. You can’t always satisfy the other, from beginning to the end of your relationship; your always going to mess up and have to kick yourself in the ass for doing so. But then, you get back up, continue forward, and work at it. If the relationship doesn’t work out as you or the other may have planned, then so be it. Life goes on, relationships will come and go, and love will continue to find itself back into your soul, whether you want it to or not. Case closed.

Consensus: Annie Hall is considered “one of the greatest rom-coms of all-time” and well, with good reason: It’s beautifully-told tale that’s honest, hilarious, perfectly-acted by Woody and Diane, and leaves room for plenty of thought and discussion, even if it all comes through one’s life experiences and own ideas. Still though, you’ll feel the bug of love eating at you long after the credits roll.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Hi. I'm Woody Allen and I hate everything that's good and right with life. Now, watch my movie."

“Hi. I’m Woody Allen and I hate everything that’s good and right with life. Now, watch my movie.”

R.I.P.D. (2013)

Who ya gonna call? Van Wilder and The Dude?

Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) wakes up one day as if it was the most normal, average day he’s ever lived. His girlfriend (Stephanie Szostak) wakes him up with hugs, cuteness, and kisses, he goes to work, talks with his partner (Kevin Bacon) of what to do with a bunch of stolen-goods he’s buried underneath a tree, and goes off to raid a meth-house. Same old shit, different day you would think, right? Well this day is different from any other that Nick has lived because he gets shot and killed by his partner. Bummer, I know. But rather than living the after-life like a ghost, roaming all throughout the world or the heavens up above, or something, he’s assigned to be a member of the R.I.P.D. organization, an after-life police-force that’s built to take monsters out of the real world. Nick is up to the task, just as long as he’s able to live his life, but the task gets a lot more complicated when he’s given the go to be partnered-up with wild-cat Roy (Jeff Bridges), a cat who’s been dead and on the force for quite some time.

You know how I knew this flick was going to be lame? No, not because of the crappy, first trailer a mixture between Jonah Hex and Men in Black, but because I literally saw it 2 hours before it was finally released to the public. For ordinary peeps who have no idea what that means, it means that the movie sucked so bad, that the studio that released it didn’t even trust it enough with the critics, so who needs a screening a week or two before? Give it to the people right away so it can get some word-of-mouth, whether it be good or bad. However, shady-screenings make any film look bad, which this one isn’t. Then again, maybe I was just in a good mood to begin with.

Watch out, Hollywood! They got a bomb on their hands!

Watch out, Hollywood! They got a bomb on their hands!

Actually, no. That’s definitely what it is. I’m still a sucker for free movies.

The thing with this movie that I didn’t mind was that it was somewhat fun. Granted, it’s nothing new you haven’t seen done before time and time again, especially within the past year or so, but it still allowed me to have a small ounce of fun, despite being nothing out of the ordinary. It’s supposed to be a comic book movie, but doesn’t show much color or wildness to it that could really make me feel as if I was watching a comic book brought to the big screen. It’s sort of just on the screen for us to see and have some fun with, which is what happens, even if it feels like it could have been better. Actually, so much better to be exact.

The movie’s premise to promise something wacky, crazy, and energetic, but even though we get bits and pieces of that idea, the movie still toys around with our minds thinking that it’s going to explode at any second. However, it doesn’t and just continues to lie there, hoping we don’t know how lazy it’s being. I may call it “lazy”, even if I still didn’t mind it, but I’m still struggling with ways to describe this movie in a way that can get past 1,000 words and also seems smart. But it’s a lot easier said in my mind, than actually done and typed-down in this review.

That said, it’s not a bore. Some people will find themselves laughing at the goofy-quips between these two, or the creations of the CGI-monsters, who all feel like the most blatant rip-offs of Men in Black, with each and every one looking like Vincent D’Onofrio’s long, lost relative in a world where creatures roam the world, and the action that shows up in spots to smooth-out the non-stop exposition that’s fed to us, even if we don’t want to digest, and all of that’s fine. Nobody is wrong in their right mind for enjoying this movie because that’s what it’s here and released in the dead of the Summer for: to be enjoyed. Even I took a bit of the Kool-Aid in a way, so even I deserve a small bit of that finger pointed at me as well. But knowing what a Summer blockbuster can be, especially one that featured huge, freakin’ robots and monsters colliding, head-to-head, you know that you should and could do a lot better.

"Please, God. Let Green Lantern 2 never happen."

“Please, God. Let Green Lantern 2 never happen.”

However, it’s the Summer time so spend some money if you have some left-over. Just don’t make this movie your first choice. Or the second. Or the third. Or maybe just your last choice before you lose your mind and spend money on Lone Ranger. Yeah, whatever you do: Just don’t buy a ticket to the Lone Ranger. Bother your wallet with this and “thank me” later. I guess.

If there’s something in this movie that makes it a slight cut above some of the other pieces of junk that’s out there, playing in cinema’s all over the globe now, it’s the nice chemistry between it’s two leading stars, who both seem to be slumming it a little bit, but not too much to where it’s almost unwatchable. For instance, Reynolds has that comedic-timing that works and makes you laugh every once and awhile, and Bridges is basically playing another rendition of Rooster Cogburn, but with the slightest understanding of what the hell he’s actually trying to say. It’s a bit hard at times, I will admit, but when you can understand him, he’s pretty funny to listen to, even if most of them consider of him saying “Oh shit” to every insane thing that happens to him and Reynolds’ character. Like I said, their chemistry doesn’t break any new ground or give them a career resurgence that they desperately need, but for an hour-and-a-half, they are fine to watch. That’s all you have to ask for from a movie starring these two, especially one released during, as I said: “In the dead of Summer.” That’s all there is to it, folks.

Consensus: Even though it’s as ordinary and conventional as you’re going to get with an action-comedy such as R.I.P.D., you can still have a small ounce of fun with it, and also do a hell of a lot worse with your time and money. Once again, talking about you, Lone Ranger.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Beat it old, Chinese man!

Beat it old, Chinese man!

Red 2 (2013)

Still old, and still have the right to bear arms. So why the hell can’t I?

A couple of years after we left off with the first adventure, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) have finally taken time to relax and settle down. That all ends abruptly once Moses’ old pal Marvin (John Malkovich), comes back to stir up more trouble, telling him that they have both been linked to a top-secret Cold War weapon, that somehow made it’s way online. They all realize that they can’t just wait around and see what happens and instead, have to go on the run. To make matters worse however, they also find out that a bounty has been put on their head, where their old friend Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Moses’ old protégé Han (Lee Byung-hun) are on their tales and trying to get a slice of the pie any which way they can.

Most of you probably already saw by now, but I didn’t care too much for the first Red. Granted, I didn’t hate it, nor did I love it. It was just fun and fine for what it was, and that was that. However, nobody in their right mind was begging for a sequel to it, and I don’t think anybody ever will bother again, especially after this hunk of crap.

Bald heads: Unite!

Bald heads: Unite!

I mean honestly, the first one was no masterpiece to begin with, so how the hell do you screw up a simple plot about a bunch of old people getting back into action, blowing things up, and being a tad bit goofy while doing so? It’s not a hard trick to pull off, which is what the first was able to do with such ease and a laid-back feel, but not this one. This movie feels like it was almost trying too hard to be like the first movie, with the same type of humor still in place but it does not work a bit because it’s not refreshing anymore. It’s an old trick we saw done before and it’s not going to get cooler or newer as by the second, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t noticeable why they focused on the comedy aspect of this movie so much.

The first flick was able to balance everything out nicely, but this flick doesn’t have that skill at all. It’s mostly all comedy, all of the time and would have been fine if it was the least bit funny or chuckling, but it’s just not. It continues to go on and on and on, beating the same old joke to a bloody pulp, until it’s practically crammed itself into your brain, as if you needed any more understanding or learning of what the jokes they were trying to throw at you meant. For example, the perfect instance of a joke going on way too long, and way too far was the first time that Sarah saw her man, Frank, hooking up with another gal. For some odd reason, this gets her hormones all up in a twist and she not only decides to up the ante by getting with two guys, but I’d say about three or four. Honestly, I lost track counting because the movie continued to move with it, but instead of having it move somewhere to a spot where it would constantly be funny or inventive to use in a certain spot, it’s continued to be used the same, exact way each and every time.

Like everything else in this movie, the comedy gets real old, real quick, and it never stops. Then again, it wouldn’t have mattered, had the action or the story worked a bit, but they don’t. The plot makes no sense and eventually, I just lost myself wondering, “Why this person was trying to kill this person? Or, why this was happening at all?” The movie oddly begins with the typical plot from the first movie that’s standard, simple, and to-the-point, but then journalists, terrorists, the Russians, and nukes get involved, and it becomes too much of a chore to keep up with, or even care about for that matter. The action is good at points, I’ll give it that, but also looks cheaply-done, as if the studio itself didn’t have enough faith in the movie to perform well enough at the box office to really be granted as much money as the past two Willis action pictures of the year (A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Whether or not the movie’s actually going to make much money at the box office, or at least enough to earn it’s money back is a worry that I don’t give two shits about. I really don’t.

But at least, even in the darkest pit of the movie’s worst, most uninspired moments (which there are plenty of, trust me), the cast is enjoyable enough to watch, right? Well, it’s more of a mixed-bag this time around than the last and that’s because everybody’s doing the same act they did from the first, except it’s more amped-up because it’s a sequel, and whatever you do in the originals, means you have to do a lot more in the sequels. Such as is the case with the likes of Malkovich, Mirren, and Louise-Parker who had me chuckling and happy at some points, but seemed to be using the same old shtick that made them so pleasing to watch in the first movie. Granted, there is something grating about watching Helen Mirren hold up two machine-guns as she blasts the opposing-cars around her, but it can only go so far. She’s rarely in the movie all that much and doesn’t leave much of an impression at all, unlike the first movie where her holding a machine-gun was worth the price of admission alone.

Fire. Machine Gun. Helen Mirren. I need a new pair of shorts.

Fire. Machine Gun. Helen Mirren. I need a new pair of undies.

Still foxy, though. Holy hot damn, is she foxy.

New-comers to the franchise are Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lee Byung-hun, who both seem to actually try with this material, but fall short of juicing anything out of it. Hopkins especially, who probably gives the most disappointing performance out of the whole movie considering he seems to obviously have the spunk and energy that would make this material pop and electric, but his constant ramblings and oddness just bothered me, rather than amusing me. Even if the old joke about “the nut who still talks to his imaginary friends” isn’t funny anymore (when was it ever), don’t tell this flick that. Anything this movie has to throw at you with it’s sense of humor, it will, and if you don’t like it, then scram-off and see a different movie for goddsakes. No seriously, do that.

And last, but sure as hell not least we have Bruce Willis himself, playing Frank Moses in the blandest-way possible. I will give credit to Willis, he was fun to watch as Moses in the first movie as he seemed to have a jolly good time doing his usual “tough guy” persona to the death, and never letting up for a single action scene where it may have called on for him to get a tad physical. However, like he has been known to do in the past, he’s simply phoning it in here as Moses, as if he didn’t want to do a sequel, but just chose to because the money was good and the franchise most likely would not survive without his name attached to it. I don’t think his name attached is going to matter now, since it sucked, but let’s hope we don’t get another sequel. Let’s just hope on that one.

Consensus: Red 2 feels like it’s trying way, way too hard to be like the first one in spots, but this time, with less action and more comedy, that not only isn’t funny, but is repetitive and gets old after about the first 20 minutes or so.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Looks like they just got caught in the act of making a sequel to Red. Oh wait...

Looks like they just got caught in the act of making a sequel to Red. Oh wait…

The Conjuring (2013)

JUST LEAVE THE HOUSE!!

During the swingin’ days of 1971, trucker Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters, all move to a big old Rhode Island house in the country. At first, it feels like a nice escape for the family to start anew, but that’s before things start going creek in the night, the dog doesn’t come in the house, birds fly directly at the house, and the youngest daughter of the five gets an imaginary friend. Once that all begins to happen and turns violent, the Perron’s know that they have no other of where to go except to call in the professionals. Enter mega-serious ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who stand up to the hard task of defeating this demon and not killing anybody while doing so. However, being in the ghostbusting business for as long as they have does begin to take a toll on even the strongest souls, especially once demons come into play.

Here’s one of those horror flicks that’s been getting some of the biggest buzz I’ve heard in a long, long time. Obviously the teaser scared the shorts off of me because it was so simple, yet at the same time, freaky as hell. And then, the second trailer came in, ruined everything, and had me realize that maybe this was just another generic, horror flick that just so happened to take place during the 70’s, where apparently the Zombies were constantly playing in everybody’s hearts and minds. Felt like a gimmick that could have worked if it had the right creator for it, but James Wan hasn’t done much to really get my interest-meter boosting off the radar so, as usual, I remained cool, calm, collective, and ready to see what this horror flick could do for me, if anything at all.

"Help!!! She just told me that "my mother sucks cocks in hell!!"

“Help!!! She just told me that “my mother sucks cocks in hell!!”

Needless to say, I was scared and I jumped. More than a couple of times actually.

And yes, for a schmuck like me that doesn’t care too much for the horror genre and considers October to be a pretty weak month; that’s saying a hell of a whole lot and it makes me respect Wan as a director more, because the guy has a knack for directing horror here that could really do some damage to people. Seriously, the way he’s able to manipulate the audience into being freaked out just by a single action of somebody opening the door they weren’t supposed to, or losing the only source of light you have in the pitch blackness, really requires a certain skill and trade that I haven’t seen in quite some time, especially within the horror genre. Wan isn’t really re-inventing the wheel with this flick, or even the tricks that he pulls off, but he does show you that you can create something tense and scary, even if it is convention, as long as the inspiration and the sure-will to make something fun and entertaining for all is there.

However, calling a horror movie “fun” and “entertaining”, isn’t necessarily doing it any favors. A horror movie has to be scary, jumpy, and full of terror that makes you sleep with more than just one night-light on. And this is that type of movie, even if you’re a movie-dork like me and can see each and every one coming away. Even then, the movie-dork inside of me sort of began to fall back because I soon realized that this is a horror movie that isn’t trying to do anything new, yet isn’t trying to bore me either. It wants to have me jump and cover my eyes, even if it’s only for a scene or two and with that extra-push from Wan’s direction: it happened. Wan is the type of director I know I have to look out for now, and let’s hope he can single-handedly revive the horror genre into being the wrecking ball it used to be, for both critics and audiences alike.

That said, there’s still a lot that I feel like this guy has to work on and if there’s one aspect I had to choose to talk about the most, it’s the writing. With the oodles of scares and jumps Wan has at his disposal, obviously he can’t be too concerned if the script’s anything memorable or smart for that matter, but with the high-caliber cast he has here, he should have done more. Certain lines come off cheesy; character-development is obvious and practically leaning on the star’s talents to squeeze anything out; and the back-story for the reason why everything is happening is unoriginal, and feels like it was the easiest way out of exploring any type of new ground possible. Once again, I get that the movie isn’t trying to create a new type of horror flick that needs to be seen to be believed, but a little more effort in the writing-department would have made an absolutely huge difference here, even if the regular, everyday movie-goer didn’t notice it.

Critics at least would have been happier and aren’t they worth satisfying?

"What? Did I miss a spot or something?"

“What? Did I miss a spot or something?”

At least Wan’s lucky enough to have assembled such a talented cast such as the one he has here, because they really, REALLY do help this material out, even when it seems to linger towards the most conventional parts that you can see coming and ending a mile away. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston make for a sympathetic married-couple that obviously seem to love one another, as well as their five daughters, so that when the bad shite does begin to happen to all of them, we at least feel some sort of emotion as it shouldn’t be happening to them. But then we think about it and realize that if it wasn’t happening to them, then we wouldn’t have a movie. So then, we’re happy and are especially glad it wasn’t us that this demon decided to attack.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are perfect fits for these two, confident pros who know what they have to do to get their jobs done, as well as how to do it without any casualties or injuries on their hands. There’s just something about Wilson’s demeanor that not only makes him the coolest guy in the room, but also makes him the smartest one too that I could totally trust with my own well-being, had I run into the same situation as these peeps found themselves. Also, there’s something about Farmiga’s look and feel that not only has her seem like the same person as Wilson, but with a little bit more love, care, and feeling added to the mix where we can see that she’s not just doing this for the money or notoriety, but for actually saving people from those a-hole demons. Together, they make for a great married-couple, even if their story together is a bit hokey, and you trust that they will do the right thing, the safest way possible. That is, until they start getting regurgitated on. P-Wilson ain’t dealing with that shite.

Consensus: You won’t be seeing anything new or ground-breaking with the Conjuring, but what you will see is a movie that’s surprisingly scary, will make you jump, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight-up, and most of all, will make you think twice about going down that long, dark hallway to get a glass of water from the tap.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, what is it that you mean when you say, "shit here is pretty fucked up?""

“So, what is it that you mean when you say, “shit here is pretty fucked up?””

Valhalla Rising (2009)

It’s like if Conan decided to not talk. At all.

During 1000 AD, held prisoner by a Norse chieftain, a fearless mute warrior (Mads Mikkelsen) , aided by a boy slave, kills his captors making him somewhat of a free man, or thing, or whatever the hell you want to call him. He then falls in with a group of Vikings seeking a holy-land which begets a journey into the heart of darkness. The heart of darkness that most people don’t want to find themselves in, no matter how ruthless or dangerous they may be, which is exactly what this dude is, 10x

After seeing both of director Nicolas Winding Refn’s flicks so far, I realized that this guy isn’t always style, all of the time. Sure, he’s shown to be that way with Drive, Bronson, and by the way the reviews are turning out to be, Only God Forgives as well, but something tells me that the guy can do damage when he tones it all down, even if just a little bit. He does here, but it’s still pretty much the same shite, just with weirder happenings than ever before. And I do mean “weirder”.

Tales of vikings, barbarians, and warriors in the Ancient times isn’t the most intriguing pieces of work to my mind, but Winding Refn does something with that story that makes it so. Instead of making this an in-your-face, action thriller filled with cracked skulls, bones flying everywhere, and grisly killings, the film actually pays more attention to creating a certain type of atmosphere that actually allows for a story to breathe in between all of these moments of silence. There’s actually many moments of silence where it’s just long, sweeping shots of these characters doing nothing but sitting there, looking mad, looking dirty, and just thinking some very messed up stuff (or at least that’s what I assumed), but it actually helps the film in setting itself up for a very big conclusion as this story treads along, slowly but surely.  I have to give a lot of credit to Winding Refn for taking his own time with this flick and allowing there to be a tense atmosphere, as it worked and made me think twice about these types of conventions, we come to find in these stories.

Like that's going to matter against Mads.

Like that’s going to matter against Mads.

But the film really stands out with the certain essence of beauty that it has to itself, underneath all of the shocking violence. The mountains of grass-land in Scotland make this a perfect setting for a story like this as almost shot, has a type of Malicky-feel to it where I was looking at these characters, and looking behind them at the big, big world that they live in. That idea adds a lot more to this flick as well, because the whole basis behind this story is that these people are constantly trapped in a world that they can’t get out of, a world surrounded by God, and most of all, a world surrounded by violence and death. It’s a beautiful film to just gaze at, even if it is just the background you’re checking our. However, you can’t get past the fact that it’s also quite ugly in it’s own right, and if you don’t believe me, just watch the first 10 minutes of this flick and come back and tell me so.

This film isn’t a total bore-fest, even though I may make it seem though, because even with all of the long moments of deafening-silence, I still felt the need to gag at a couple of scenes due to the incredible amounts of gory violence that is shown here. The first 20 minutes aren’t “action-packed” per se, but they do feature some terribly disgusting violence that puts you into this setting that is utterly remorseful and gruesome, almost to the point of where you feel like nobody is going to leave this flick alive and with all of their bodily-organs intact. There was one moment that had me cough a bit, but it didn’t feel forced or exaggerated. It feel needed for the story itself and even though there wasn’t a butt-load of that in this flick, it still shocked me every time it came on.

Even though Winding Refn’s direction may be pretty inspired, in his own odd way, the film still suffers from a story that honestly made no damn sense, which would have probably still been the case, had I been under the influence of some crazy drugs. The whole story may have you think that this is going to be your typical story about a killer barbarian, that befriends a little kid, only to lead him on a long trip across the world, and they eventually find a peace between one another. That not only sounds too simple for this director, but also a bit too cutesy-bootsie. Something that Winding Refn does not enjoy but I sort of wish he did, because that would have made this story a whole lot better to actually understand.

"I think we found dinner. Oh wait, I'm not supposed to be talking."

“I think we found dinner. Oh wait, I’m not supposed to be talking.”

For the first 30 minutes or so, the film starts off by making sense but then it starts to get into all of this weird, philosophical-talk that seems to come out nowhere and rather than just letting it settle in every once and awhile, it gets used over, over, and over again almost to the point of where I wanted this guy to just kill anybody who chanted the word “God” or “My Lord” next. Maybe Winding Refn was trying to go for something higher (literally) when it came to this movie’s deeper meaning, but it just felt like he was trying too hard to take us out of the fact that this is a story about a killer barbarian who is looking for an escape goat out of the badlands. That’s all there is to it and to try and add anything else more, just makes it seem to desperate to be something more. Something that isn’t all about pretty backgrounds, brutal violence, and a slow-pace. Oh wait…

But if there is anything that may come close to saving this movie, it’s the lead performance from Mads Mikkelsen as the worst-named, but bad-ass barbarian ever, One-Eye. Not only is Mads one tough son-of-a-bitch throughout the whole film because of what he does to other people, but also because the guy never once even utters a word, but still comes off as the most intimidating mother ‘effer in all of Ancient Scotland. Seriously, just the look he gives everybody with that one eye of his is more than enough to have me shit my bed for weeks and he uses that to his advantage here because you can always tell what he’s thinking by the look in his eye, but you are almost never too sure. This character may sound more complex than Winding Refn ever gives him actual credit for, but Mads plays him up perfectly, giving him plenty of instances to show you that you shouldn’t fuck with him and that he also may not be such a terrible barbarian deep down inside. And if this guy has any feelings whatsoever, they don’t really come out too much, unless he’s chopping you up into teeny, tiny, little pieces. Basically, in a nutshell, this guy is freakin’ scary just by standing there and making your insides melt.

Consensus: The story gets very lost in the muck of whatever it was trying to get at, but Valhalla Rising is brought back to the promised land with an inspired, but very moody direction from Winding Refn, and a superb performance from Mads Mikkelsen that just goes to show you that you can still be cool, still be bad-ass, and still scare the shit out of everybody around you, without even uttering a word.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What's so spiritual about that?

What’s so spiritual about this?

Pusher III: I Am The Angel of Death (2005)

Like with musicians, artists, and rockers, drug dealers too have an age-limit when they’ve gone way past their prime.

Milo (Zlatko Burić), the Serbian drug lord from the first two Pusher films, is here once again but this time, a little screwed up in the head with what he wants to do with his life. Taking place over one day and night, we see as Milo struggles with being the father-figure that his daughter deserves, getting out of the drug-game, staying away from the actual drugs themselves, and being able to stay alive long enough in his line of business where he can retire and settle down happily and safely. But it’s the 21st Century, and Milo doesn’t quite have the gas nor the power to really keep up with the rest of the world and stay happy and healthy at the same time, which makes it even harder for him to stay afloat without using a little bit of extra fluids on the side, if you know whatta mean?

So here it is, the final installment of the long, 9-year-spanning Copenhagen crime trilogy from Nicolas Winding Refn and in all honesty, it couldn’t have been any more different. Rather than making this movie another flick where it’s all about drugs, crime, killing, stealing, and doing lines of blow non-stop until the cows come home, Refn keeps things subtle and subdued, and also turns the whole genre on it’s head. Case in point, the first scene where we actually see Milo, the powerful drug lord he once was and still thinks he is, actually talking about his drug-habit in a Drugs Anonymous meeting, where everybody talks about how they are trying to stay away from the drugs and kick the urge altogether, whereas Milo can’t do either because, well, he’s a drug-dealer. It’s almost like a comedy in and of itself, but Refn plays it with enough sincerity to where you see why Milo can’t leave the world he’s beginning to hate, but why it’s also starting to take a toll in him.

The "slicked-back hair, gangster look" was so 1996.

The “slicked-back hair, gangster look” was so 1996.

Anybody that’s expecting a tight, suspense-filled movie like the first two may be a little bit upset with this flick since it’s a whole lot different in it’s view of the drug-world. Yes, it’s still dangerous, sinister, and unapologetic, but like with the rest of the world, it’s beginning to change where the old saying “in with the new, out with the old” is still relevant. I never thought I’d see this in the trilogy where Refn doesn’t seem to be glamorizing the underground drug world, but also doesn’t seem to be hating on it either, but it’s a nice change-of-pace for a trilogy that seemed like it needed on. Cause let’s face it: We were all getting a bit tired of the same old, story of druggies who don’t like drugs and don’t like their worlds they’ve brought themselves into, but yet, can’t get away from it either.

Then again, that’s sort of what this story is all about too, it just feels like it has a smaller-scope where we understand the character’s actions and reasoning for doing the things that they do, and why. Milo is the type of character that seemed to have had it all in the first two flicks, where he was not only looked on as the most powerful man in the business, but one you did not want to screw over by any means. Nowadays, he’s being screwed over left and right, and nobody seems to want to do anything about it neither. He’s almost sort of become something of a joke and it’s a little sad to see, especially because you know that there’s a good heart and soul underneath Milo’s look, it just rarely ever comes out when it needs in the most dire situations.

However, something about this movie didn’t feel too right with me in the way that it treated it’s protagonists drug-habits. I get that he’s a drug addict that’s finding it harder and harder to get away from, but after awhile, I thought it got old and went a little too far, almost to the point of where the flick needed that as a crutch to fall back on so that we could feel more sympathy for Milo and everything bad that was happening, and about to happen to him. We’ve all seen this story time and time again, and hell, even in the same, last two flicks, but here, it felt manipulative, as if Milo’s inner-struggle to escape the hole he’s dug himself into wasn’t enough. That aspect of the story alone was enough for me to feel compelled, but the drug addict-approach, as refreshing as it was to get in a flick such as this, still felt like it was only another add-on for us to feel more sympathy for the dude, as if we didn’t have enough already.

And I think where most of that sympathy comes from is in the way that Zlatko Burić’s plays this character in such a smart and brilliant way, that you almost forget all of the bad shite that he was doing in the first and second one. Burić was probably the most memorable aspect of the 2nd flick, and had me charmed and smiling, despite him being on the screen for less than 5 minutes. But still, it was enough to have me realize that I liked this character and could even see myself watching a whole movie, just dedicated to him and what he’s up to. That’s exactly what we get to see here and it never gets old because Burić still has everything in-place that he had from the first two movies, just with more of a rugged look and feel to him.

"You mean to tell me you don't know what a record is?

“[English Translation] You mean to tell me you don’t know what a record is?”

Milo’s obviously been in the drug game for quite some time now, and it’s beginning to become a stretch for him. And even though most of us would try to find our ways to run away from any type of bad situation or equation we may find ourselves, sadly, Milo cannot. He’s already too deep in this shit, to ever escape. All he has to do now is stay strong, calm, and remember who he is. However, that aspect of Milo’s character is changing, and he’s starting to show a softer-side to his character now and Burić is amazing in that aspect. There’s a look of pain and frustration on his face throughout the whole movie, whether he’s waiting for his 60 deep fried fish he ordered, or contemplating whether or not he wants to take a smoke of heroin that he was just offered.

Whatever the situation is that he finds himself in, Burić is always compelling to watch and leaves you off with a note that has you contemplate whether or not he gets out of the world he’s gotten tired of and stays happy, or, simply gets dragged back into the world, where his agony and pain only continues on and on and on. Once again, we are left to ponder these questions, but with a larger idea in our mind that maybe Milo doesn’t have the jewels to stick by his word anymore, and might just give up. Then again, that’s speculation as we may never, ever know. And I’m very fine with that.

Consensus: With it’s more subdued-approach, some may be surprised by how different Pusher III is from the two other flicks in the trilogy, but that still makes it a more compelling, insightful look into the world of a drug kingpin who had it all, and still does, but doesn’t want it anymore and only wants a life where he can sit down, relax, and settle in peace and quiet, something he may never, ever get thanks to no one but himself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

It's been 9 years since we last saw him, and he still looks like the lead singer of Right Said Fred.

It’s been 9 years since we last saw him, and he still looks like the lead singer of Right Said Fred.

Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands (2004)

Drug dealers have souls too, ya know.

Remember the dirt-ball druggie Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen) from the first Pusher? Well, he’s back and he’s still the same, if not in worse shape than ever. 8 years after we last saw him get his head pummeled by a bat, Tony leaves prison only to get thrown into the underground world of crime, sex, and drugs, but he has to earn the respect of his daddy (Leif Sylvester) first. And to make matters a hell of a lot worse, he even has to father/support a kid of his that he got when he didn’t wrap his willy with some prostitute (Anne Sørensen). Yup, life sucks for Tony, but he’s not going to give up on it, especially when coke is around.

The first Pusher wasn’t as great or amazing as I heard it was, but still impressed the hell out of me, more because I knew the back-story behind it all, what Nicolas Winding Refn went through to get the movie off the ground, and what it’s lead to, all of these years later. That’s why it not only seemed weird to return to name-brand that he probably didn’t even intend on going for in the first place, but to attack it once again, without the lead from the first movie, Frank (Kim Bodnia). There’s a mention of him in this movie that’s great and will probably hold most of you over, but don’t expect too much. This is Tonny’s show, the whole way through and in a way: It’s a hell of a lot more interesting than Frank’s to begin with.

Don't worry Mads, nobody ever really likes what they see when they look in the mirror.

Don’t worry Mads, nobody ever really likes what they see when they look in the mirror.

What bothered me from the start with this flick though, is that it all felt like it was covered-ground coming from Refn. Granted, this is a sequel to a movie that’s taking place in the same setting, with some of the same characters, so obviously some of it has to be the same, but a little too much of it is and can only go a long way. Watching two people snort coke, run out looking for some tail, and doing something completely idiotic, works for a little bit, but after awhile becomes nothing more than just a safe-spot for Refn to work in, because hey, we already know what to expect from this flick and therefore, we know what to expect from his direction.

Not many surprises here with the style or the story for that matter, and it gets a tad redundant after awhile. Especially with Refn’s direction that seemed to be getting closer and closer to that “artsy/pretentious”-look that most of his later films seemed to be hitting the nail on the most. There’s a couple of cool scenes where the natural-lighting comes into play, but when you have a whole scene of red and nothing but, as if the camera was splashed with 1,000 tomatoes, I think I’ve about had it up to here with it all. Refn brings some uniqueness to a tale that could have easily been the same story of the first, told by/with the same marks and notes as before, but he surprisingly played it to the same pace and feel, just with a bit of a bigger budget. It still feels like we’re watching a documentary of a drug dealer going through an existential crisis, but with a bit more perks here and there.

Thankfully though, the perks don’t get too much in the way and the story eventually prevails, it just took awhile to get there. Once the movie began to get the gist of what itself was trying to do and say, then I think that’s when I really started to get interested and keep my eyes glued on the screen. Granted, I was always watching the screen in wonder and intrigue the whole time, but with more reservations when something obvious would happen. Once the second-half of this movie kicked itself in through the door, then I got all involved and it didn’t lose a single bit of my mind, not even when the credits showed-up on the screen.

Rather than being a movie just strictly about a guy who does stupid things like takes drugs, fucks random women, and commits crimes in an unprofessional way that’s just asking for himself to get caught, the movie goes a bit deeper and actually attacks the character of who Tonny is, and what makes him, well, him. Tonny, like Frank from the first, is definitely a messed-up guy, one you want to smack in the first more than you want to smother and kiss it, but you still can’t help but feel for him, even when he’s in his darkest state of mind. For one, everybody picks on him calling him names among the likes of “retard”, “idiot”, “fuck-tard”, and many, many more I can assure you, and it’s not like he’s called this by people every once and a blue moon; it’s non-freaking stop. The poor dude walks in a room, and all of a sudden, his brain and how puny it is becomes the subject of derailment. You know that he’s not the type of guy you want to be stuck in a jail cell with, or anywhere for that matter, but to watch as Tonny gets shit on, day in and day out, well, it begins to rise up within you and actually gets you feeling a little something for the junkie.

Sugar, right?

Sugar, right?

Tonny’s not very likeable, as much as he’s more of just a guy, that does stuff that most people would frown upon. Yet, we care for him and want him to do the best thing for himself possible, even if that does seem to be the farthest option from his mind. Once Refn focuses on this character and his psyche, something I would have never expected to work so well after I saw the character in the first and already wanted to punch him, then the movie really turns its wheels and gets you going as well. It may take some time, and it still may be plot-heavy at points, but you still reel for Tonny, his story, who he is, and most of all: Mads Mikkelsen himself.

I don’t know what’s been getting into me as of late but I’ve been catching more and more of this guy almost everywhere I go and so far, all I have to say is that the man can act his ass off and give the best work he’s ever done (in some cases), no matter what type of script he’s working with, good or bad. Mikkelsen gets right down to the heart and soul of what makes Tonny tick, as a person and as an object of everybody’s anger. As you probably saw up above, Tonny is constantly attacked for everything he does, whether it be a moral or immoral action on his behalf, and every time this happens, you just look at Mikkelsen’s face as he holds everything back, lets his ass get shred to pieces, and continue on with his day. Yet, you can still see that it affects him and isn’t just thrown behind his back, never to be found again. The pain inside of Tonny is still there and slowly but surely, we begin to see more and more of that come out of Mikkelsen’s performance and gets you right on board with this guy, hoping he’s not the dip-shit everybody makes him out to be. The final shot of the movie is perfect in the way that it makes you wonder if Tonny is still a dip-shit, or if he’s a dip-shit with a heart that’s somewhere in the right place for the time being. Like usual Refn-form, we are left in the dark as to what’s going to happen next to Tonny. However, something tells me that we don’t really need to know all that much info, and what we are left with is fine enough for what it is.

Consensus: Since Pusher II is obviously a sequel to the first, a lot of the same themes and ideas are touched on, but with Mikkelsen in the lead role, giving an emotional yet raw performance as Tonny, something feels different and a whole lot more interesting this time around.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!! 

"Good baby. Now what the hell's your name again?"

“Good baby. Now, let’s get started on that naming process.”

Pusher (1996)

I’m going to assume that drugs are bad?

During a couple of days, middle-man drug-dealer Frank (Kim Bodnia) is living the life he wants to have. He’s got money, he’s got drugs, he’s got a girl (Laura Drasbæk), he’s got a best friend (Mads Mikkelsen), and he’s got some protection on his side, just in case anything ever goes wrong. However, that said protection has been getting a little antsy in the panties lately since Frank has owed money to them. For a long time too, so I might add. But that doesn’t matter because Frank cuts a deal with the kingpin of the mob, Milo (Zlatko Burić), and come together on a deal that will make both sides happy and clear. Then the actual “deal” happens, and not everything goes so according to plan as Frank, Milo and everybody else had hoped.

After Drive hit the cinemas and everybody realized that Ryan Gosling could still be the hottest thing known to man, without uttering a single word and just staring, a new name was brought to the Hollywood-crowd: Nicolas Winding Refn. And yes, it all started back in ’96 with this little gem, that not only put his name on the map, but Danish cinema altogether. Then again though, it was a crime movie made for a total of $15 and a couple of Big Macs, so obviously any type of exposure or audience would have made this flick a “success” to say the least, but I digress.

Don't mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That's if he can actually control 'em.

Don’t mess with a man who has two guns in his hands. That is if he knows how to fire them simultaneously.

I’ll give credit where credit’s due, for being just 26 at the time and not having any experience whatsoever in a film school or any type of tutelage for that matter; Refn makes for a very impressive-debut because the guy tells the story in a straight-forward way, without any added schlock or strings. Obviously that simplicity would change very drastically over the years, but for his first flick, he made the smart decision in keeping things cool and straight-forward, which altogether made it a very tense, jittery flick that will have you feel as if you’re right there, if not in as much danger as Frank gets over the movies hour-and-a-half. Everything about the film seems like a documentary here, and even though it’s obvious when and where Refn added his own workings to have it gel in a way that’s at least cohesive, it still seems like Refn got together with his buddies, pressed “record” on his tape-recorder, and let loose with whatever story/script he was working with.

I also wonder just how much of a script was used here considering not a single person really seems to be acting. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing, as much as it’s just noticeable by how grainy and unprofessional the film seems to be. Obviously everybody here starred in flicks before and had their own type of exposure, but being a Yankee and only leaving my country once (does Niagara Falls count?), I didn’t catch on to what these actors were before the movie. After the movie, I had a pretty clear image in my head since most of them still continue to pop-up in stuff nowadays, which shows that Refn had a good handle on who he was casting, and for what role.

Everybody here gets their roles down to a T, even if most of them feel like they’re just saying shit, just to do so. Well, that is with the exception of Kim Bodnia as Frank, our frantic drug-dealer for the hour-and-a-half. What works so well with Bodnia here is that he doesn’t make Frank really all that sympathetic, but still allows us to root for him, hoping that he eventually escapes the shitty luck he’s been having as of late. He’s not a good guy in the sense that he isn’t moral, per se: He deals drugs, commits crimes, runs from the cops, makes girls do dirty, sexual things to him, and even go so far as to beg his mommy-wommy for a heaping-amount of money, even when it’s pretty clear to us that this is the first time he’s talked to her, or vice versa, in a very long time. In that sense, the guy’s not “likeable”, but once you see him try to go to Point-A-to-Point-B, only to have it all screwed up because of one unlucky coincidence; then you eventually have to open up the arms and just tell him to give you a big one. Bodnia’s great in this role and keeps the movie moving at a nice pace, even when everything and everyone else around him seems to be so relatively regular and ordinary.

And if there was a huge problem I had with this movie, it was that after all of the buzz and hooplah I had heard about this movie (and the two sequels that followed), I was left sort of disappointed. Not because I wanted more bits of gun-toting, violence, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, but because I expected it to be more than just your ordinary, crime thriller that focused on a drug-dealer who needed to get a certain amount of money before the ticking-clock hit zero. That whole approach provides plenty of tension and a general sense of unease in the air, but it doesn’t bring anything new to a genre that was already hitting it’s high-marks of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, right at around the time this movie hit the streets.

"Don't make promises you can't fulfill. Like this knife to your throat."

“Don’t make promises you can’t fulfill. Like this knife to your throat.”

Yeah, maybe it’s a little too cheap to compare those cinematic classics to anything, anything at all, but with this type of movie, I would have felt like Refn would have had his work cut-out for him and know what to do to make this a bit more unique than your average, forgettable crime-thriller in the same vein as Tarantino’s. Other than the naturalistic-approach, that gives it the grimmest-look I’ve seen of a movie in a long while, there’s not much else to this story. It’s just a guy who needs his drugs, needs his money and needs his safety, so that he can live the life that he wants to live, as bland as it may be. Definitely an idea this movie could have explored more, maybe in a way to separate itself from the rest of the pack, but nope, Refn decided to follow the leader and along the ride, hoping that people will notice something “different” or “unique” to the approach.

I found nothing, but I’m just a dick.

Then again, being a the self-establish film critic that I am, I have to take in each and every flick as they are, and not what they could have been and I could see you doing plenty of other bad crap with your life, other than watching a movie about a bunch of people who do. It has plenty of style to-boot and will probably make you feel more for Refn as a director, especially since you’ll know about his back-story behind this flick and how he decided to turn down the offer from a local film school, just so he could make this movie. Sounds to me like somebody’s making a bit more money now, than half of those fellow-graduates probably made in their whole lifetime. Lesson is: Screw film school! Get out there and make a movie of your own!

Consensus: Despite not being anything criminally new or ground-breaking that hasn’t been done to death by now, Pusher still shows us a force to be reckoned with in the form of Refn, a name who has become synonymous with “artsy”, but shows barely any of that here and to good effect as well.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, "no" to the booty-call?"

“So, “no” to the booty-call? What about the drugs at least?”

Red (2010)

They are old as hell, and not going to take it anymore!

Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has found himself in a bit of trouble when a younger, hot-shot CIA agent (Karl Urban) is hot on his trail. Rather than running away and hoping that he doesn’t get caught, Moses not only takes a possible gal-pal of his (Mary-Louise Parker) along for the ride, but also calls up some of his old pals as well. Some have been waiting for this sort of action all of their later-days (Morgan Freeman); others have just been lounging and relaxing in retirement (Helen Mirren); and well, frankly, others have never left the force and are still waiting to get attacked any second, at any time (John Malkovich). Together, they form the team that they once were and stop at nothing until they unveil the truth about their pasts.

The whole idea of having a bunch of old-farts, go back to their golden days and act all bad-ass and violent again has been just about done to death by now nor has it ever really worked. Most movies like that try so hard to be funny and zany with it’s presentation, that you too, have to laugh at it because honestly, just think about it: Would a small, petite thing like Helen Mirren be able to hold up a huge machine-gun? Well, maybe in the movies, yes, but in real-life: hell no! That’s why movies like these are made; they are supposed to make us laugh by how outrageous they are, supposed to make us feel happy for the old people getting in the spotlight once again, and most of all, supposed to make us feel like we can join in on the fun.

None of these factors that are supposed to work for this type of film, actually happen here, but I still found myself pleased for the most part. Weird, I know, but please do bare with me here.

Totally see the attraction....

Totally see the attraction….

The whole tone of the movie likes to play around with the fact that it’s goofy, but is also very laid-back. A little too laid-back, some may say. For instance, the plot is supposed to be filled to the core with non-stop twists, turns, moments of danger, panic, and heavy-breathing, but since the movie itself seems to take such a lax-approach to it’s material; we never really get to that part where we feel like all hell is going to break loose and that our beloved characters could perish at any moment. Heck, even when one does (and I’m not going to give it away, trust me) bite the dust, quite surprisingly too, I may add; the film plays it off with a shrug of the shoulder, a couple of shots (of Vodka, obviously), a couple of wisecracks about how they’re “too old for this shit”, or something along those lines, and then they’re back on with the story, action, and supposed humor. It’s an odd way to attack a film like this, especially when you’re supposed to have havoc occurring just about every second of it, and it somehow didn’t quite work.

But still, I can’t fault this movie too much because yes, I did have fun and yes, I did enjoy what most of what this flick had to offer me. Could it have been better? Bet your damn tushes it could have been, but I wasn’t going to be hating against this flick for something that it wasn’t, especially when I didn’t see much potential in it in the first place. That means, nope, I have not read the graphic novels that this movie is based off of, but coming from a person who knows what type of movies work and how they should, I know that this movie was not destined for anything more than a couple million at the box-office, some nice sales on DVD, and back to the box of forgotten movies (aka, WalMart $5 Dollar Bin).

But, much to my surprise, I was wrong. Dead-wrong, in fact, and one Golden Globe nomination later (then again, the Tourist was nominated that year as well), the movie screwed-away all of the nay-sayers and just had fun with itself. That was something I was very grateful for, especially when you take into consideration how freakin’ dumb and dull action movies can get nowadays, no matter what type of talent is involved. What makes it so much better to watch here is that not only is the cast the movie working with, very acclaimed and very strange for this type of material, but actually how the movie doesn’t let us forget that this is a dumb action movie that not only did they sign up for, but one that we did, as well. That sharing of fun and joy, is what makes this movie work and at the end of it, I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. Besides, who would pass-up a moment to watch John Malkovich run towards the Vice President with a bomb strapped to his chest.

Okay, maybe that was a bit too weird, but you see what I’m saying. It’s fun, for the sake of being fun, that it’s. Nada!

Even if the material is dumb and only made so that you’ll get the Extra Large popcorn and hopefully come back for a refill, the cast still doesn’t treat it like that, which does sometimes work, and sometimes doesn’t. More of the former than the latter, but the latter is more noticeable. I don’t want to say that Bruce Willis seemed like he was phoning it in here as Frank Moses, but it does seem like the type of performance that the dude has been giving us every so often. He squints, he makes random googly-eyes whenever possible, and just seems as if he’s itching to say everybody’s favorite line. It is John McClane, so you can’t go too wrong when you have Willis and a gun in his hand, but after awhile, the act does get stale and it seems that the dude is more or less just in the mood for getting a new summer house, rather than actually putting in any effort into making his character three-dimensional or fun to watch.

The one who really keeps his character interesting and begging for more is Mary-Louise Parker as his gal-pal, Sarah. Parker has never really got me much in the movies that she’s shown up in, but she does well here with the humor-aspect of her character, and also being able to make us believe that this chick could fall for a dude like Moss, no matter how dull or boring he actually may be, underneath all of the violence and espionage. Of course even for her age, she is still freakin’ smokin’, but looks aside, the chick’s got comedic-chops that are always worth checking out. Along with her other chops. Hayyo!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you're going to get. Okay, that's a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you’re going to get. Okay, that’s a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Helen Mirren doesn’t let Parker steal her spotlight as being the only chick that has something bad-ass to say or do, and gets to show us why she’s still so damn foxy, fun, vibrant, and awesome to watch, no matter what the hell it is that she does. Yes, she played the Queen no less than 7 years ago, and here she is, holding up a machine-gun and letting the mofo’s have it. Awesome. John Malkovich seems like his role as the paranoid, loose cannon of the group would be tailor-made for a dude who’s made a career out of these types of roles, but much to my dismay, played it straight most of the time. It was still entertaining to watch this guy play around with a character that’s a bit loopy in the head, but he never goes so far, to the point of where you can really tell this guy couldn’t wait to start killing people, something that, I think I speak for everybody else when I say, is what seems to go through Malkovich’s mind whenever he plays characters like these.

Lastly, rounding everybody else out here, is Morgan Freeman as the oldest dude of the group, who also happens to be diagnosed with liver cancer and is need of this fun and adventure the most. Freeman is good in the role, even if it doesn’t seem totally right for him, considering how unsubstantial his character is to the plot, and how half of the time the dude is just sitting around, smiling, and poppin’ B’s, as he checks out the house-maids “fix” the television. Yup, apparently when you get old, that’s all you have to live for: boners. Even if you are Morgan fuckin’ Freeman.

Consensus: Some of it tries to be more witty and wild than it actually is, but Red still stays fun, light, energetic, and well-acted enough to be worth a watch, even if you do just want a silly action movie, with non-other than Dame Helen Mirren holding up a machine-gun. Seriously, it’s so awesome to see occur on-screen.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

See what I'm talking about!!!

See what I’m talking about!?!?!

Fruitvale Station (2013)

Just when you thought cops were becoming everybody’s heroes once again….

Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan) wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something odd in the air. He can’t quite put his finger on what it is really, but he thinks it’s a sign that he needs to stop from hustling and bustling ways, get clean, and start anew. This means being a better husband to his long-time gal-pal (Melonie Diaz), being the son his mother (Octavia Spencer) wants him to be, and best of all: always being there for his daughter when she needs him the most. Throughout this whole day, Oscar sees what his life was and what it could be if he puts his mind to it, but honestly, he isn’t too worried because it’s New Year’s Eve baby, and he wants to just have a good time. So good a time, that he eventually ends up getting shot and killed by two BART police officers in cold blood. Yup, so much for changes, right?

Now, for any of you peeps out there who may already be pissed that I just spoiled the hell out of this whole movie, cool your jets because not only does the last part of that synopsis happen in the first five minutes of the movie, but it’s also a true story, that you may or may not have heard about. I for one, never heard of this story, but apparently it caused plenty of havoc around the Bay Area and had the two cops involved, disbarred and put in jail (of course only to have one of them actually be released several months later), but that’s the real beauty of what this story is really all about: What happened that tragic night and figuring out the people/person behind it all. Of course we don’t know how much of this story is just pure speculation or what is actually what went down from dusk til dawn, but at the end of the day; Oscar Grant was a man who was wrongfully killed and will hopefully spark more and more debate about what’s wrong and what’s right, when it comes to what the police can and cannot use as protection.

My daddy never gave me any piggy-backs.

My daddy never gave me any piggy-backs.

Yep, it’s going to be one of those reviews. Get ready, baby.

Already, people are touting this as “this year’s Beasts of the Southern Wild“, mostly in the sense that this too is a small movie that’s already making plenty of waves around the festival circuit. However, I don’t think it’s comparison really holds up as this is a movie that concerns something very real, honest, and frank with what it’s portraying, that it’s an honest wonder how this movie hasn’t already been made yet. Granted, the actual murder occurred four years ago, but in Hollywood time, all you need is a couple of months and weeks to get a script, director, cast, budget, and shooting-times locked and loaded for a movie to be made. Thankfully though, this wasn’t made or even really produced by Hollywood. It’s all indie, all the time and thank heavens for that because it makes you feel closer and closer to this story than you’d ever expect.

Oscar’s day isn’t a really eventful one, and that’s what makes this movie pretty damn unique. We pop right into his life without any real flashbacks (except for one key scene) or knowings of who this character is, and what everybody else he sees or meets means to him. We are just plopped right into the dude’s life and basically expected to follow in line with what he, and everybody else around him says, which is easy to do since he is so easy to like, even if he isn’t perfect. I have no real clue as to what type of person Oscar Grant was in real life, but from what this movie makes him out to be is that not only was he hustler, drug-dealer, and gang-banger, but he was also a pretty dedicated father that was there for his wife and kid. Sure, the dude messed up plenty-upon-plenty of times, but he still was there for them when they needed it the most.

However, all that I’m saying is mostly pure speculation as we don’t actually see what Oscar used to be like before this fateful day. But then again, we don’t need to because the movie seems to have already mapped-out enough info and details about this dude, his life, what he does, how he does it, and who he is as a person, which makes us care more and more for him as the story goes on. Drug dealers are bad news, no matter who the person may be, but Oscar makes you think that at the end of the day, he will do the right thing and that’s all that matters when you have a story as humane and honest as this one.

Bad news is, we know how the story ends and whether or not he does the right thing means jack shit, because the man died, and for what?

Which brings me to the idea of this movie: Why did Oscar have to die? As soon as the cops show up at the end of the story, we see Oscar and his buddies criticized for the sole reason that they are black and do believe me, it does not stop there. It gets worse and worse and worse, because it seems that these cops not only have authority problems that probably spur from the fact that their mommies and daddies didn’t love them enough when they were children. but they can’t handle a little disagreement between officers and “alleged” prisoners. However, it doesn’t matter what the reason may have been since it only makes wonder “why”, but also, “for what?”

Like the old saying goes, "Momma always know what's up". Or something along those lines.

Like the old saying goes, “Momma always know what’s up”. Or something along those lines.

Oscar Grant was a very troubled guy, but he was still a human that didn’t deserve to get his life taken away so quickly. Then again, nobody does and it’s just a shame that somebody who seemed to really be turning his life around or get involved with making right, had to suffer the consequences for something as stupid and idiotic as a slight scuffle on the subway. I’m not going to give away any further details, unless you don’t already know the story, but the final 30 minutes of this movie are probably some of the most tense I’ve had to go through the whole year so far. Hell, the movie’s like that the whole run-time because you know that no matter what Oscar does, no matter how much promises he makes to the people around him and no matter how long Oscar tries to keep up this get-up of being straight and cool that sadly, the man is going to be nothing more than just another man, wrongfully shot and killed for the sake of a bunch of misunderstandings. That whole feeling rests right in your stomach and has you feeling more and more emotion for Oscar and the story, as soon as the actual shooting actually shows up on-screen. And trust me, once it hits, it’s going to hit you bad, bad, bad. Just as it did to me and apparently, to everybody else in the theater surrounding me.

Don’t get taken away by this story though because as rich as the actual, real-life material may be, the discussion doesn’t quite smack your train-of-thought like it should. For instance, without giving too much away and being as vague as possible, the movie ends on a note that shows Oscar and what’s left of his family as they mourn his death, and it shows a tribute to a man that could have been you or me, but wasn’t. That’s all fine and dandy because Oscar’s story is one that’s meant to be heard loud and clear, but should also spark up some more discussion, which I don’t think this movie had the balls to do just yet. It does point fingers at the cops for being terribly over-zealous with the use of their weapons, but it doesn’t go much further than that. It shows the problem, what happened, how, and why, and leaves it that.

Not much more after that except for a couple of very upsetting scenes that tug on the heart-strings as much as you’ve heard (or may have not, I don’t know). And just like I said, that’s not a bad thing if you’re giving a movie to a real person’s story that’s meant for the big-screen, but there’s so much material and promise here to really capitalize on getting people talking, thinking, arguing, discussing, and getting on the backs of either sides. If the movie made that next step, we would have had a masterpiece on our hands, but it didn’t reach that pinnacle. Instead, it was a nice feature flick about a man who’s life was not just a tragic one, but a real one that anybody on this Earth could have lived as well, it’s just sad it had to end the way it did.

Very, very sad indeed.

Once again though, who Oscar Grant really was is really all up in the air because the movie only uses speculation and what I hope was actual testimony from friends and family alike. Well that, and also Michael B. Jordan’s amazing portrayal of him that is sure as hell going to get him some real deserved Oscar buzz. Jordan is great as Grant because he shows the guy in many ways, all of which seem realistic enough to be taken in as actual fact, even if we don’t know if it’s fact or fiction or just a person reading a script and going with whatever emotion comes first. Whatever it may have been for Jordan, it sure as hell worked since this performance is nothing short of perfection, in the way that he’s able to make us feel something, anything, for this guy regardless of what he does throughout the day.

As I stated before, Grant wasn’t a perfect person, but he was a person nonetheless and showed promise for being an understandable and trustworthy husband, father, as well as a friend. Jordan never loses sight of making this real-life person, anything else but realistic and for that, I really do want to see this guy get a nomination of some sorts come February next year. I know, I know, I know! It’s early as heck for that type of talk, but with the buzz this movie’s been getting: I can actually see it happening. Fingers crossed, people!

"Don't worry, boo, I sort of got your back."

“Don’t worry, boo, I sort of got your back.”

Melonie Diaz is also great as his girlfriend of many, many years as she knows who Oscar is and doesn’t always stand for his shit, but at least still knows that he’s a good enough man that she’ll stick with him at the end of the day. She’s a very realistic woman, and one that every man sure as hell hopes to be with at the end of the day. Octavia Spencer plays Oscar’s mommy and shows the same type of emotions that Diaz shows in the way that she knows who Oscar truly is, but still loves him no matter what. The scenes these two have together are not only raw, but very emotional in that you can see how these two would still stick by one another, no matter how far off-track the other one went. But above all, I’m just happy that the lady has gotten a role that’s worthy of her Oscar-winning role two years ago. Never thought it’d come around, but thankfully, it did in the form of this movie and this role.

Lastly, we have Kevin Durand and Chad Michael Murray as the two cops involved with Oscar’s death and this is where the slope gets a tad bit slippery. Both are good with their short run-time they have on-screen, but in order for the movie to make them feel substantial enough to pay clear enough attention to and continue to think about even until this day, they needed more time and more material to work with. I get it: The movie is more concerned with Oscar’s side of the story, as it’s obviously clear he was the one who was wronged, but what about the cops themselves? Did they do anything wrong or were they just doing their job? Or hell, if you think about it, could you blame them for accidentally killing Oscar? The questions that I just made up were ones that the movie could have definitely went with and totally hit the nail on it’s head, but it didn’t go that far. And I’m all for rooting for the one who was the victim, but there could have been further development and discussion on the other side. Then again, there may have not been all that much to deal with, so I might just be making shit up that’s non-existent.

All I will say is that if you hated Chad Michael Murray before, you’re going to hate him even more now. Damn you, Lucas Scott!

Consensus: Many people will feel plenty of countless emotions during and/or after watching Fruitvale Station, most of which are deserved, but something still tells me that there is an argument to be made here that still hasn’t been brought to the lime light for all to see, prey on, and devour. Maybe that will come around once people actually see it, but until then: I wait and I wait.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

4 black guys. 1 white cop. Wonder what's going to happen next....

4 black guys. 2 white cops. Wonder what’s going to happen next….

Pacific Rim (2013)

Who cares about going to war with North Koreans when you have HUGE, FREAKIN’ MONSTERS!??!?!

The Earth is being threatened by a bunch of huge-ass, killer monsters known as Kaiju, who never seem to stop attacking. There’s more and more of them, each and every day so obviously something has to stop them. Enter the Jaegers, giant robots that are equipped and ready to defeat this big monsters, especially since they are ran by two people at the same time. However, once the threat of human extinction becomes all too real and closer and closer by the seconds of every day,  two unlikely heroes (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi) realize that it’s their time to stand up, fight, and break some monster skulls, while also having the fate of humanity rest solely in the palm of their hands. Not too much pressure, is it?

As you could probably tell from the last 5 days: I’ve been watching A LOT of Guillermo del Toro movies. Yes, the main reason for doing so was to get all hyped-up and ready for this flick, but also to understand him more as a film maker and creator, then I ever did, and I think have a handle on what he’s all about now.

First of all, the guy is a director that makes the type of movies he wants to make, and allows people to join in on the fun and excitement if they so please to. He’s sort of like a kid who grew-up on late-night trips to theaters, more action-figures than actual, human-being friends, and probably made Atari more times than you or I have ever popped in GTA IV. Except he’s all grown-up, has the ability to make a movie, and get paid for doing so, which is great for him, but even better for us since we get to watch those movies, and see the world through his eyes, as amateurish and kiddish as they may be. However, the terms “amateurish” and “kiddish” are used more as positives than negatives here, because del Toro makes such great movies that it’s so easy to forgive him for being non-other than the type of director who likes to see things go “bang”, “boom”, and “caboodle”. But with his latest effort, “great” doesn’t come close, but “fun” does and that’s more than enough than I can say about other loud, big, summer blockbusters.

Yeah, you need to get those molars next time.

You need to get those molars next time around.

Looking at you, Lone Ranger.

Del Toro’s knack for having fun with his material shines throughout the whole flick, and it never lets up. The idea of having huge-ass robots and aliens fight each other, atop major cities and oceans is a silly idea, but it’s one that del Toro takes very seriously in the way that he amerces himself into this universe where, for some reason or another, alien-like creatures come out of the ocean and start attacking our world, only to be fought to the death by even-bigger robots created by us, the humans. As I said, silly, but a bunch of fun because del Toro knows the type of flick he’s making here and isn’t really trying to show us anything new or surprising, in terms of plot or tone. Some may be a bit saddened by that fact, knowing what del Toro has been able to do with even the most simple plots, but I was happy to see this, considering this flick could have easily gone South, had he decided to make it a super-cereal flick, with still a shit-load of aliens and robots fighting one another.

This aspect of the movie works because it’s as big, loud, explosive, CGI-filled, and entertaining as you may have thought it would be, coming from all of the countless trailers and whatnot. Not only do the aliens and robots look very-detailed in a way that’s obvious CGI, but still feels natural, but their fights are easy-to-understand and aren’t constantly cut and edited at a fast, Paul Greengrass-style. Del Toro continues to let the fights linger on and on and on, until we had enough or, in some cases, want more. I was more of the latter than the former, however, I can see the ship from both sides. Some may want the fights to not over-stay their welcome and end as soon as they get started so they can get back with the characters and their development; whereas some may just want the fights to keep on happening and continue to take up space, considering that they’re the best thing the movie has going for itself.

This is a real shame too, because, if you know del Toro movies the way I’ve been knowing del Toro movies, you know his attention to action-splendor and characters is amazing considering he rarely ever misses a beat with each aspect. However, with this movie, he seems to have lost his touch and used loud action scenes, and put them in place of characters and their developments. Which is fine since the action scenes are fun and exhilarating, but it’s a huge bummer knowing that there could have been so much more accomplished here, had del Toro decided to go that extra mile with each and every one of these characters and making them more than just cardboard cut-outs. But he didn’t, and as saddened as I am to say this: It totally brings the film down.

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

Though everybody in this flick seems perfectly-cast, they are all wasted on a script that couldn’t give two shits about them. Members like Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Ron Perlman all get their chances to shine and do what they do best (especially Elba who probably gives his best “film” performance, ever), but the script is so weak and poorly-written, that it feels like most of them were just called onto have one “look” the whole time, and never lose it. They all try to rise above the material, but they all fall face down in the dirt because del Toro is more infatuated with the big-ass robots he has grace the screen more than a couple of times, as he should, since they cost him probably more than half of that $200 million budget of his.

The only person in this cast who actually seems to try, but gets the hardest end of the stick the most is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, the type of role that should have catapulted him to stardom, but most likely won’t because it’s too weak and conventional, even for him. I can’t get on Hunnam’s ass too much because the dude seems like he was putting some time and effort into a role that probably seemed fit for him on paper, but the script just lets him down and makes him nothing more than a poster boy for getting revenge, fighting for “your boys” and respecting the code and honor that is bestowed onto you. That’s all this role has to do and there are times when Hunnam shows some inspiration in his work, but nothing too noticeable to where I think he’s going to be a star one of these days, and really show the world what he’s got. Yes, I know he’s on Sons of Anarchy and, from what I hear, is lighting up television screens all over the world, but film just may not be his thing just yet. With time, maybe. But as for right now, not at all.

Consensus: Even though it may be del Toro’s weakest in a long while, Pacific Rim still offers you all the bang for your buck that you need, especially with the constant battles between aliens and robots, but if you want anything more like character-development or heart injected into the material, you may be a little lost.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

In Luther, we trust.

In Luther, we trust.