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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: August 2013

Passion (2013)

Never thought that the site of two very sexy women making-out, would actually make me laugh-out-loud. First time for everything, right?

A businesswoman (Noomi Rapace) finds herself feeling great and prosperous after an idea she just recently came up with not only gets all of the attention it deserves but puts her name up-top in the company that she works for. However, all of the happiness and feelings of succession that she has, all go away once her ruthless, sexually-driven boss (Rachel McAdams) takes all of the credit for it, just to ensure that her name stays up on top, without any problems whatsoever. Whether she does this out of spite or just strictly business is totally left in the air; but what we do know is that there’s some sort of sexual-attraction between these two that gets very dangerous at times, if not deadly.

Brian De Palma hasn’t really been popping-up in the movie world as of late, and to be honest, I’ve been looking forward to a comeback from the due for quite some time. He’s definitely had some stinkers in the past (looking at you, The Black Dahlia), but for every stinker, there’s at least one or two Blow Out‘s and/or Dressed to Kill‘s. Many have criticized him as being nothing more than a “Hitchcock impersonator” and although I can’t quite disagree that he doesn’t have many of the same notes and rhythms that Hitchcock used, it’s still wrong to discredit the guy. He’s made a name for himself and it’s a pretty respectable name to say the least.

"Taste my fine cotton, bitch!"

“Taste my fine cotton, bitch!”

However, any chances of a “big comeback” of sorts for De Palma should all be put on hold, because this sure as hell isn’t the movie to do it.

Notice how I mentioned both Blow Out and Dressed to Kill though? Notice how they’re both from the 80’s and considered staples of what was considered a gaudy, campy decade for overly-sexualized thrillers? Well, that’s because this movie feels exactly like the type that would have been made back in those days, and while that may have some 80’s-lovers jumping for joy, it didn’t quite work its magic on me. The movie just feels too campy, but with not enough sincerity or fun thrown into the mix. I can get used to a flick that plays around with itself and goes for a bit of a lighter look and feel, but there wasn’t enough substantial material really helping settle out all of the bad parts in between.

The main aspect of this flick that I am indeed talking about, is probably the aspect being most talked-about: The lesbian sub-plot. Yes, there are moments of two gals kissing here, but rather than making it an ultra-sexy, titillating thriller that cranks the heat up every chance a woman half-naked walks into a room or in front of the camera, it’s kept surprisingly tame and small. It’s almost as if De Palma wanted to get us all hot and bothered, but only screw us over in the long run by not finishing what he started. You know where I’m going with this analogy, but for the sake of my female-readers out there, I’m going to keep what I’m trying to say quiet, and allow you dirty men out there to come to your own conclusions.

Trust me, from one man to another: Guys, you know where I’m going with this.

But I may sound like a total perv that can’t get enough porn in his life, but that’s not it at all. There are only inklings of what could have been here, had De Palma decided to go down that full-on road of sex, lesbians, crime, and lies, but it never, ever materializes. And if it did, even in the slightest bit, I never caught onto it; not even during the last 20 minutes when all of a sudden the flick decides to throw us a last-minute twist, screw with our minds, use the gimmick of “dream-sequences that feel like real life”, and give us explanation-after-explanation of something that happened, yet, we never gut full confirmation on. De Palma seems invested in his work and is ready to make us feel the same thrill that he probably felt writing and directing, but it never works for us like it should. It just lingers and lingers, and gets even dumber and dumber as it goes along.

Which, even though I hate to say it, will probably make this movie a camp-classic in a couple of years from now. Seriously, even though the plot is dumb and the thrills are nowhere at all to be found, the movie still has a playful-feel to it where De Palma legitimately thinks he’s back in the 80’s, and still engaged to Nancy Allen. Certain lines are said with the conviction of a day-time, soap opera actress; the score is heard in almost every scene of this movie, and is as corny as they come; and certain lines of dialogue just feel so stilted and awkward, that you’ll only hear it from a movie of this nature, had it been made in the 80’s. The fact that this movie was made in the 21st Century is embarrassing, but like I said, just give it a couple of years, and don’t be surprised when you see possible, Saturday night screenings of this at your local, small-time theater. Wouldn’t hold it against anybody for liking this either, I guess it just wasn’t my bag, baby.

Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn!

Dun dun dun dunnnnnnn!

What made the feeling of watching this train-wreck even worse was watching two very talented, and two very sexy actresses, absolutely fail with this script, all because they are undeniably miscast. Rachel McAdams, as hot and vivacious as she is, still can’t help but feel like she’s in the wrong role in this movie. Sure, she can play the “evil card” like nobody’s business, almost as if she was the grown-up version Regina George, but she feels like she’s a little too young for a role of a business-associate, especially one that seems like she’s been in the game for quite some time. Instead, she just looks and feels like an intern that just so happened to get mixed up with somebody else who worked there and had a higher-power, so she decided to just roll with it and play around with all of her employees for as long as she can. Something tells me that maybe, just maybe, McAdams got a little too excited over the fact that she’d be working with De Palma, and didn’t realize that the script she’d be working with not only didn’t work for her, but nobody else for that matter either.

And if you thought McAdams’ casting was bad, she ain’t got shit on Noomi Rapace’s hack-job. Seriously, even though I may get on McAdams’ case, at least she’s showing some effort on her part; Rapace, on the other hand, just feels bored with this material, like she can’t just sit down in a scene and relax. She has to be up and doing something, and even when she is, she still brings nothing to the table. Her character is boring, her motives are odd, and whatever the hell she wants to do with her life, is totally left up in the air for us to think about. We never quite do get to know much more about her, other than the fact that she may, or may not have a lesbian-crush on her boss, and that’s a big problem, especially when you have these two actresses playing-off one another. Poor girls. Maybe they’ll find better soon.

Consensus: There may be an audience out there for the campy, over-the-top Brian De Palma return-to-action flick, Passion, but I am not apart of that audience, even though I can tell that De Palma cares very much for this material.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

No tongue?!?!? What kind of crap am I watching!?!?!?

No tongue?!?!? What kind of crap am I watching!?!?!?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Getaway (2013)

Do as the title says. Yup, that’s all I got.

Retired race car driver Brent Magna (Ethan Hawke) comes back to a ransacked home on Christmas Day, without his wife anywhere in sight. He worries, he runs all over the place, and then, he gets a call. The man (Jon Voight) has yet to name himself, give us his reasoning for why he captured his wife, and what he plans on doing to her at the end, but has made it very clear that she will come out of this alive as long as Brent follows by his every instruction. First one being he has to get in a suped-up, sexy Mustang, and drive all around the country, and practically doing everything he’s told. For a short awhile, everything’s going to according to plan, Brent has come close to killing over 500 people in a span of 2 minutes, so that’s always good, but the plan sort of gets skewered once a young, punky teen (Selena Gomez) tries to take back the car that she feels is rightfully hers for one reason or another, and then becomes part of the plan. But is it all by mistake, or was it all part of the plan?

Frankly, the best way to answer that last question I just left dangling is: Who cares?!?! Not me, not you, and sure as hell nobody else involved with this movie does, save for maybe editor Ryan Dufrene who gives us one the most insane, most hectic editing-jobs I have seen in recent history, and I’m still trying to figure out whether or not that’s a good thing. See, the whole gimmick behind this whole movie isn’t that there is a gimmick, but moreso that it’s just exactly what its title and premise promises: An hour-and-a-half of Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez driving, trying to get out of harm’s way, his wife, and get yelled at by Jon Voight’s jowls. That’s all there is to this movie and if that’s what you want, then you might just be stuck somewhere between heaven and the peaceful afterlife.

"Waaaaaah! I'm sad!!! Pay attention to me like Justin did!!"

“Waaaaaah! I’m sad!!! Pay attention to me like Justin did!!”

However, if you want something that’s less like a trip into the mind of somebody with a heavy mixture ADD, OCD, and a slight dosage of paranoid schizophrenia, then you may just want to steer clear of this one. See what I did there? Gosh, I’ll tell ya! My jokes are just on fire today!

Anywho, my personal pats on the back aside, this movie is pretty damn stupid, yet, seeing that it is the end of August, and since practically all of the “quality” summer blockbusters are gone and never to be seen again, it shocked me no less. Still, there is something negative to be said about a movie that, within the first 10 minutes, shows a guy driving down all streets, alley-ways, parking-lots, and even parks in a city, going about 100 mph, and hitting absolutely no one. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of shit gets busted up, torn up, and absolutely destroyed, and also, don’t make me out to be some sort of sick fool who wants to see innocent people killed on the streets by another senseless act of a hit-and-run, but knowing that nobody’s going to be hit, or even slightly injured in the least bit, it totally gives you the feeling that you’re watching something straight out of an adrenaline-junkie’s dream, who just so has happened to see PG-13 movies his whole life.

Once again though, not saying that this material needed to be “upped” to an R, just so it could have been viewed at as better or even more thrilling, because I honestly don’t think much would have, but it’s just an idea that crossed my mind and realized the type of crap I got myself involved in, and couldn’t escape. I could have left and been a total dick, but I wasn’t, seeing as that I have a duty to do for all of you lovely, dedicated readers and followers out there. The things that people will do for their fans, the things that they’ll do.

But once again, I’m getting side-tracked and getting further and further away from the real fact behind this movie, and that’s just because there’s nothing really here worth talking about. Yes, it does have some moments where it’s inspired and takes you for a jumpy ride (that POV shot that lasts for a solid 5 minutes was pretty thrilling, although it was so late in the game it didn’t even matter how cool it was), but overall, it’s a pretty weak attempt at trying to be hip, fast and cool to the point of where all teens will feel the need, the need for speed that is. However, knowing that there have been way, WAY better summer blockbusters having to do with fast cars, fast situations, and fast girls (I guess this movie sort of has something that features that category), this one just pales in comparison and feels like a total hack-job from start to end.

Please crash and burn! Please!!!!

Please crash and burn! Please!!!!

And it all gets even worse once you realize that yes, Ethan Hawke did take this role, he accepted the chance to be in this movie, and yes, above all, he tries his damn near hardest to make his role, and ultimately, this movie work. Hawke, as much as I love the guy, he really goes balls-deep with this role and although I’d give him credit on any other given day for at least trying with a shit script like this, I do have to say he went a bit overboard here, almost making it seem like he didn’t realize that this was a paycheck gig and nothing more. But to place his talented-ass next to Selena Gomez, of all the other young, hip, and withit female actresses of today’s mainstream pop-culture, made me depressed. Hell, fuck that! It made me damn near-suicidal.

Not only can Gomez not act a day in her life, but every single scene that focuses on her and Hawke’s characters just interacting with one another and talking; I almost wanted to chop my ears off. The script is terrible, that much is true, but what makes it so terrible is how these two characters don’t have any chemistry whatsoever, and that’s not just judging from Hawke and Gomez’s performance, that’s just judging by the way the script makes these two out to be the most random, most odd duo ever put to screen. One second, they love the hell out of each other; next second, they’re fighting; then, the next second, they’re best friends trying to figure out what their next move is going to be (hopefully choose better scripts); and then the next second, yup, you guessed it, they’re back to bickering and yelling once again. It’s stupid to watch these two make no sense of their time to work together, and it’s only made even worse because you know Hawke is capable of so much more, with such better material. This just wasn’t it. Not even Jon Voight could walk away from this thing unscathed, even though we see his face for about 1 minute, whereas the rest of the flick just concerns his voice, his mouth, and whatever pieces of food he’s stuffing it with next. That’s all he has to do, and for that, he just steals the show right away from Gomez and Hawke. Not like he had to do much to begin with, but hey, at least somebody seemed like they were having a bit of fun here.

Consensus: Action-junkies may get their daily fix with Getaway, considering more than half of it’s running-time is dedicated strictly to racing, spills, crashes, and engines revving, but after awhile, it grows stale, tired, repetitive and begins to make you notice all of the rest of the bad decisions the movie went with, like teaming together Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez together and have them do nothing but be annoyed of the other, and annoy us in the process.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

There he is! Savor this moment, people. It only lasts for 25 seconds longer.

There he is! Savor this moment, people. It only lasts 25 seconds longer.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Love makes ya do the darnedest things.

Ruth and Bill (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) are young, madly in love, and plan of having a baby together. That’s usually a tri-fecta for any couple, but it’s different for these two since they are both outlaws, and Bill is in jail for all of the crimes he committed and some of which, he didn’t. Fast forward to a couple of years later, Ruth is living her with her and Bill’s baby girl, while also living a life under the lingering-eye of a local deputy, Patrick (Ben Foster). However, things go back to normal, and by “normal”, I do mean bat-shit crazy once Bill escapes jail and intends on coming back to Ruth, his daughter, and living the life they once lived before. But it isn’t going to be so easy with the law and a bunch of hitmen on his tail.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that David Lowery takes inspiration from Terence Malick’s shoes of film making. The images are beautiful, wistful, and poetic in the type of way that you could only get with a dude who pays as much attention to his editing, than the actual filming-process itself, but Lowery is a new type of breed that may be more welcome than Malick is these days. To the Wonder featured all of the same pretty things we love and adore about Malick films, but the story just blew. So you have to wonder: If Malick isn’t being the best he can be, who’s next to take the reigns? Obviously David Gordon Green had all of the promise in the world that just squandered once he started smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew, so that only leaves one person right here, right now, and possibly for awhile, and that’s David Lowery himself.

"Don't worry, baby. If you come with me, I'll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?"

“Don’t worry, baby. If you come with me, I’ll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?”

And yes, with the visuals, the sound, and the feel of this movie, it’s very Malick-y. It’s able to convey plenty of emotions just strictly through putting the camera in a certain position, barely moving it at all and just letting the images do the speaking for themselves. But he’s also very Malick-y in the way that he frames this story, if not better because at a surprising quick and fast hour-and-a-half, everything you need to, want to, and have to know about this story, just so happens to occur within the first 10 minutes and after that, it’s a free-fall from there of character-development, emotions, ideas, and themes, none of which ever seem to be over-shooting their guns either. For a first-time director with such limited resources, it’s a surprise that Lowery was able to hit as many marks as he was able to with a story that seems so familiar of outlaws and bandits falling in love and running from the law, but the stance and direction that Lowery takes is what makes it surprisingly fresh.

Rather than having this whole movie focus in on the relationship between Ruth and Bill, the how, the where, the what, and the when; we get only a tiny-bit of development between these two where we see how they obviously love each other and why, and then go straight to where they become separated, only to find that Ruth is pretty lax in her latter-days as a single-mommy. Believe it or not, after all of the hustle, bustle, action, and Jackson of the first 10-15 minutes, the movie calms down and gets very light, touchy-feely, and probably the most enjoyable since it’s all about the characters. And what makes those characters work as well as they do is how Lowery is able to make almost every character as interesting, or as likable as the one that came before.

Except for a couple of shady hitmen that come knocking through town later in the movie, there’s nobody here that’s really considered a “baddie”, which makes every conversation between whatever characters on-screen, interesting and compelling. Lowery’s script is great as he’s able to tackle the subject of love and at what lengths one would be able to pursue for it, but is also great at giving us a rich, detailed-characters that feel like real people, with real problems, and real feelings. Of course they’re more dramatic than the common-day folk, but at their core, they feel like people you could meet on the streets, especially the streets of Texas during the 70’s, where, you guessed it, this movie takes place. Obviously Lowery is a talent that needs to be watched from here on in and to be honest, once this movie hits the big-screen; I think we’re going to have ourselves a new David Gordon Green. Let’s just hope, as I said, he doesn’t start smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew.

Beware, David. Be very aware!

But as much as Lowery’s to be congratulated for the awesome work he’s pulled-off here, so is the cast that is just about perfection. Rooney Mara is a nice fit for Ruth, when she’s both a reckless troublemaker, and also a sweet, relaxed house-mommy-of-one. It’s nice to see that after a tough-ass performance in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mara can still make us forget about all of that and actually get us paying attention to how nice and civilized she can be. Ruth is a character caring for and worth watching, especially since you know she means well and just wants what’s best for her and her daughter, regardless of whether or not the daughter actually sees her father.

Speaking of the daddy, Casey Affleck is also very good as Bill, the outlaw on-the-run. Affleck’s good here because he’s not only able to make us care for this dude by the sure fact that he just wants to see his daughter and his baby momma, but also that we feel like he won’t kill anybody just to do it. In fact, he makes it an apparent point not to do so, but yet, still finds himself doing so when push comes to shove. It’s just the way the world works and he tries to keep his head above it, but still gets sucked down in every once and awhile. Aiding Bill at one point, is Nate Parker as one of his ex-crime buddies who has now taken up a life as a bartender/owner. Parker’s been a star on the rise for quite some time now and it’s only a matter of time until the dude breaks-out and takes the whole movie world by storm. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, baby.

Mustache = extra serious

Mustache = extra serious role

However, the best of the best for me was Ben Foster as Patrick, the local copper who not only takes a liking to Ruth, but also seems like he’s actually on Bill’s side, as much as he’s on the law’s side as well. People get on Foster’s case for being all about the yelling, the screaming and the larger performances that usually take more attention away from the movie or the character he;s playing, and more towards how over-the-top he is, but I’ve always stood by him no matter what, which makes this performance all the better because of how much he downplays it all. Patrick could have easily been a character that’s unlikable in the way that he’s thirsty for revenge and wants to bang the dude who shot him’s girlfriend, but it isn’t like that way with the character or with Foster. The dude’s actually really nice, seems to care about Ruth and would probably never do anything to hurt her or a fly, despite having a badge and a gun that may show otherwise. It’s great to see Foster finally getting more quality-roles and even though I wouldn’t say this is his best (this always does it for me) it’s still a step in the right direction for a dude who I think is criminally-underrated and due for some big roles. Hopefully my dreams come true. Hopefully.

If there was a problem I had with this movie, is that I think a little bit more time devoted to plot would have really benefited this flick. How it ends is pretty emotional and compelling, as the movie never seems to settle for a second, but it also feels rather abrupt, as if there was more here that Lowery didn’t leave in the final-cut or just didn’t bother shooting at all. Whether that may be the case or not, I have to say that something felt like it was missing from this movie and I still think about it now. Maybe I’m due for a re-watch sometime soon to fully get a grip? Just maybe I do but until then; that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Consensus: With a short running-time of only an hour-and-a-half, you would assume that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is just too packed-up for it’s own good, but it’s surprisingly brisk, deftly-paced, detailed, entertaining, and compelling enough to where you care for the characters, what happens to them, and where they might end up once the triggers have been pulled and the blood has been spilt.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"I'll never let go. Not even when you're in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.

“Bill, I’ll never let go. Not even when you’re in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Closed Circuit (2013)

Good thing I don’t live in London. Seems like they’re government is crazy.

Over 120 people were killed after an explosion was set-off in very busy London marketplace, and the main suspect is an Turkish immigrant known as Farroukh Erdogan (Denis Moschitto). After his defense attorney is mysteriously killed, Martin Rose (Eric Bana) rises on the scene and is given the opportunity to work with special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall). Seems fine and professional and all of that, except it isn’t because the two had an affair that destroyed Rose’s marriage some years earlier. However, the court can’t know about that, or else they would both be out of a job and would lose this case; one that surprisingly ends up being very serious and detrimental to the government, because people begin to wind-up dead, just as more and more information comes out about it.

The best way to really, and I do mean REALLY, get a thriller pumping, is just to add the threat of the government. Once they’re involved, then you know there’s nowhere safe to go, nowhere to hide and no way you can come out of this unscathed in one way or another. Mostly all thrillers end the same with the government prevailing and showing us that no matter how hard us determined human-beings may try, the government is always going to be one step ahead of us and ready to lift their magical, power fingers in order to come out on top. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles and although this movie does give us very subtle hints at what type of powerful wrecking force the government can truly be, it never seems to go anywhere with it.

It's the paper-guy. He can't be trusted. KILL HIM!!

It’s the paper-guy. He can’t be trusted. KILL HIM!!

See? Didn’t think all of my jabbering and ranting had a point, now did you?

Anyway, where I was getting at with that paragraph was that the movie definitely wants to be like one of those frenetic, paranoid thrillers from the 70’s, but never fully amounts to that. And I don’t mean that in the way that the movie doesn’t generate any type of suspense or tension in the air, because it sure as hell does; it just never quite gets to that point where I understood that this was a “Two small-time lawyers vs. the big-ass government” type of story. It only kicks in with about 10 minutes left, and that’s where I really understood what was going on, for what reasons, and who exactly was all involved with this cluster-fuck. Only then did I get a chance to pain the full-picture, but everything leading-up to it was just a tad too confusing for me.

Not because I need every single clue, hint or plot-twist painted out on the walls for me, it’s mainly just because the story never sits with one aspect and pays attention to it the most. We get that these two got it on back two years ago, and rather than making that the fore-front of the movie and paying attention to how this whole case causes a strain on they’re relationship, the movie only alludes to it from time-to-time, and suddenly, out of nowhere, becomes ALL about it by the end, just as things with the political-conspiracy is starting to heat up. That bothered me, not just because it seemed unnecessary or stupid, but because it probably would have made the movie more effective and more suspenseful, had we cared for these characters and their relationship, but we sort of don’t. We just sit there, watch them as they fumble around, look behind their shoulders everytime they turn a corner and throw subtle hints that they just want to get on top of the table right now and go at it like never before. Some of that sounds fun, but most of it isn’t.

However, as much of a thrashing as this movie may be getting from yours truly, I do have to say that I got tense very often. It isn’t like the flick totally loses all sense of its mystery and what it’s actually about; it actually pays close enough attention to the case, therefore, allowing us to feel more compelled when we begin to realize what’s happening and what this cover-up means. Once we get painted a clearer-picture, it all makes sense and takes you by the throat and throws you along, I just wish it happened earlier, and with more character-development.

"Screw this case! Let's just screw one another, for old time's sake!

“Screw this case! Let’s just screw one another, for old time’s sake!

That said, I can’t get on the cast’s case all that much because everybody does their best with what they’re given, even if it is only for a short amount of screen-time. Rebecca Hall is still one of those actresses that has yet to really do anything for me, but she shows that she’s getting bigger and better roles now, especially with her performance here as Claudia Simmons-Howe. Hall’s a bit sexy, but she always seems inspired to do the right thing, which makes it a lot easier for us to actually root her on and care for her when the shit hits the fan. Eric Bana, despite having a pretty piss-poor British accent attached to his vocal-chords, does a nice job being smart, confident, and slightly heroic as Martin Rose. Together, they show that they do have chemistry, but since they aren’t on-screen together all that much and aren’t really given much to do with one another other than just look scared and shout out facts of the case, it only feels like a missed-opportunity.

The rest of the cast is pretty rad too, especially because they have some real heavy-hitters here. Jim Broadbent is probably the most sinister he’s ever been here as the Attorney General of the case, and shows that he can not only charm us, but make us wet our shorts at the same time when he wants to; Ciarán Hinds is a lovable presence to watch on screen, but you know that there’s always something up with him that you can’t quite put your finger on just yet; Julia Stiles randomly shows up as a New York Times journalist whose role shows not much purpose, but it still made me smile seeing her working again, so that’s something to commend; and Anne-Marie Duff, for all of the sexiness that she has, really scared the hell out of me as Melissa, somebody you expect to be a goodie-goodie in all of this, but somehow turns out to be the decider in all that happens. Overall, a solid cast that I wish was given more to work with, even though they do make the best of what they have here.

Consensus: Even though it doesn’t really get tense and edgy until the final 10 minutes or so, Closed Circuit is still an okay watch if you don’t have much else to do with your life, just don’t expect much in terms of character-development or shocks.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Something's out of place here, and it isn't that red dress.

Something’s out of place here, and it isn’t that red dress.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Short Term 12 (2013)

Next time, just hug it out. That always seems to work better.

Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, has a bit of a wild past behind her, but is looking bright and hopeful towards her future. For starters, she loves her job and loves dishing out advice to any kid who needs it; she also is happily in love with her boyfriend/co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and looks to spend the rest of her life with him. On top of that, she’s just happy in general and is living the easy-going life like all young, twenty-year-olds should. However, when Grace finds out something that could alter the course of the rest of her life, she’s thrown a curve-ball as she has no idea what to do. And as if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, well then, they do once things at the foster-care facility begin to get a bit shaken-up once a new, very troubled girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up, and does not follow along with the rest of the other kids. But like Grace was and in ways, still is, there’s a lot more to the act that she uses as a front, and Grace will find the best possible way to get to the bottom of it, by any means possible.

Little flicks like this remind me why I love watching movies so much. Especially the movies you don’t know much about going into, except for the fact that it’s supposed to be good and that’s all. That’s exactly what happened to me going into this flick: I knew it was going to be good and I expected the best, and that’s exactly what I got. Except maybe a bit more. Like I said though, this is why I love watching movies; this is why I love not knowing too much before going in; and best of all, this is why I love having a movie blog where I tell everybody about little movies such as Short Term 12 because, let’s face it, most of you out there probably never have, and never will hear about this until it randomly pops-up on Netflix.

Well, that is until now. So consider this you’re wake-up call, fellow movie-lovers.

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

The balance this movie strikes between heart and humor is pitch perfect for many reasons, the main which being that it’s present in every scene. Watching these characters go about their day, say what’s on their mind and show what they feel or want to give to the others around them, is very interesting and touching, mostly because it all feels real and natural. A lot of this material has been touched-on before, but done in a way that’s almost like made-for-TV movie way. This time, it’s shown as painfully honest and as bleak as it can be, without any strings attached whatsoever. What you see is what you get with most of these characters, and some of them will take you by surprise with just how troubled and messed-up in the head they truly are.

However, such as is the fact with life, and it’s a fact that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t shy away from, nor does he throw in our face. He lets us understand these characters, the situations they’re thrown into, and gives them the circumstances for which they can choose to live by, if they have to. Cretton allows for this material to go into some very dark, disturbing places, but never lets go of it too far to where it feels like we’re watching a different movie. Don’t be fooled by words like “bleak” and “painfully honest” scare you away from something that’s actually more light-hearted and happy than it may sound; it just takes awhile to get to get you to realize how light-hearted and happy it truly is.

However, like I stated before: Such as is the fact with life. You never know when it’s going to make you happy, and you sure as hell never know when it’s going to make you sad. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere, and sometimes you can predict it, but just don’t have the right amount of power to stop it. And that’s not a judgement-call-of-character on you as a human-being or anything; it’s just the way we are wired. Cretton really shows us that being human, for all of its negatives and its positives, really is a beautiful thing that we should not take for granted. Some people don’t have the same type of life as you do, so stop bitchin’ about your WiFi not being located! Get out there, do something with your life, and make a difference!

Sorry if this review is sounding more like a preach, and less like a review, but that’s just what happens when I see a movie that allows me to think as much as this one did. But like I said, it’s a review, so on with the movie itself, folks!

I think where this movie really hits it’s sweet-spot is in the way it continues to hammer us down with emotion-after-emotion, and yet, never fully kills us to where we can’t watch anymore. Granted, by the end, it did get a bit too repetitive where I felt like I was watching the same conversation, happen with the same people, for the same reasons, but that’s just me being nit-picky. If I really wanted to judge this movie on it’s full merits, I’d tell you that it’s a very funny movie, that focuses on the witty interplay between it’s characters, but also doesn’t lose sight that most of them have, and still are, hurting to this day.

No other statement could have been truer for the character we have here of Grace, played so perfectly by Brie Larson, in a performance that I hope garners her more recognition and notice than just being known as “that Indie darling”. In fact, I have seen Larson’s face in quite a number of indies, most of them good, so it comes as to almost no surprise to me here that she’s great here, but the movie she chose is even better. Not only does the movie offer Grace all of the extra-baggage she needs to seem fully-dimensional and understandable in the way that she leads her life and why, but also allows Larson to show everything about her acting-ability that should make her a star by now. It won’t, but it’s worth a shine of hope I’d say.

"Are you even trying anymore with that facial-hair?"

Only thing in between them and their passionate kiss? His slacker/pseudo-hipster beard.

Everything about Larson is great here: She’s funny; she’s angry; she’s smart; she’s emotional; she’s dedicated; she’s a bit sexy; she’s sweet; and most of all, she’s hurting. Like all of us, Grace is hurting on the inside and rarely ever shows it. However, she does throw subtle hints to everybody around her and uses it as a way to connect with the kids she tends for, but not in a way to make her seem “cool” or “hip” with the kids; but more as a way to draw similarities between her and another person going through the same motions she went through. There’s a couple of beautiful scenes here where Grace really gets to the core of her character, as well as the others around her, but the best in my mind is when she gets a fairy-tale told to her from the newest, most troubled kid of them all. It’s a scene that starts off a bit funny, but gets very disturbing and sad by the end of it, where we see not only Grace’s true emotions come out, but the movies’ as well. We see Grace do all that she can to make everybody else’s life around her easier for the sake of mankind, and it mostly works. She forgets about herself sometimes and has to depend on herself for happiness, and like most of us, she can’t find it easily and usually tends to lash-out irrationally at the ones around her that mean the most.

In other words: Grace is like you or I. She’s a damaged soul, but she’s also very lovely to the ones around her and knows that with each and every smile you have and get a day, means a better life for you, and many more. Brie Larson makes Grace this thought-provoking, sweet and beautiful to watch, and if I don’t at least put her in my “Top Crush List” now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

And even though I may make it seem like this is just Larson’s show, and nobody else’s, don’t be mistaken, cause it isn’t. John Gallagher Jr. shares a loving, if sometimes playful chemistry with Larson and allows us to see him for a bit of a goof, but a charming one at that. Then again though, he’s not all fun and games. He does tend to get serious at times, and those scenes are probably the best of the movie because they’re more concerning him and Grace’s relationship, the type of movie-relationship that I really cared for, believed in, and was rooting for the whole time, even if it’s made evident to us that they’ve been together for quite some time and are happily in love. But still, you want them to stay together, forever. Kaitlyn Dever is also great as Jayden, the newest kid who’s brought in and causes a bit of a trouble, but is still smart, fresh, and funny enough to hold our interest. But, like with Gallagher Jr., her character isn’t all fun and games, and can get very touchy, and very sad at times, both of which feel earned and honest. Pretty much like this whole movie,

Consensus: Many will resonate towards Short Term 12, not because it touches those most affected by abuse and neglect, but because it teaches us all that having emotions, being inconsistent, laughing, crying, hugging, and feeling, are all apart of what makes us humans, and for that life-lesson, it’s a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen, especially for younger kids who need to see that they aren’t alone and can easily always look for help, if needed.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you'll toates be cool."

“I’ll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you’ll toates be cool.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lovelace (2013)

So did she really have a clitoris located at the bottom of her throat?

Remember that porno back in the 70’s that started a phenomenon of pervs getting away with watching people bang on-screen and have be it considered “art”, Deep Throat? Well, the main star of that “film” was Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) who was more than just a gal who gave very good head. Nope, actually, believe it or not, she was once a small-town, Christian gal from the suburbs that just so happened to get caught up in an older man named Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). They fall madly in love and before they know it, they’re out gallivanting and loving life in the hot sun of L.A. However, Chuck sees potential in Linda, the same type of potential that could be used to make both of them very rich, and very famous as well. Problem is, with fame and fortune, comes the problems and with Chuck, the problems never seem to stop coming up.

The porn world sure has come a long, long way since the early days of the 70’s, and all of us horny dudes have Linda Lovelace to credit for that. However, as most of us may, or may not know, there was a lot more brewing underneath the surface of Lovelace’s life, as well as the making behind Deep Throat. Not only was Lovelace practically beaten within an inch of her life for a long while of it, but she was also forced to do the movie just so that Traynor could pay off some debts, support his drug habit, and just make money in general. He also wanted Lovelace to be a star, which she did become, but once that actually panned-out well for her, the dude put his foot back down and domineered his way back into her life like before, except it only continued to get worse and worse.

"Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD."

“Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD.”

All of this is pretty tragic, considering the fame and fortune Lovelace could have had had her career gone on any longer; but the film never seems to tap into that fact. It’s strange, but believe it or not; the flick is mainly more about Traynor than it is Lovelace. Lovelace does have many scenes where she’s not with Traynor, but even then, she’s always with another person on screen, as if both writers/directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman didn’t have enough trust in their material to find a way in making her more of an interesting character to hold an hour-and-a-half-long movie. It gets very disappointing after awhile, and it also feels strange because the movie never quite goes as deep as it should with it’s subject, the sadness behind it, or what exactly happened to Lovelace’s later life.

In fact, I’d probably say that her later life was probably the most interesting thing going for her. Once Lovelace had it with all the money, the notoriety, and the sex, she decided to stand right up against the porn industry; the same porn industry that she helped catapult it’s way into total and complete popularity. Seems odd for a type of person to do that, but given the circumstances of which she lived with for a long while, it makes sense that somebody so damaged and upset would go back to those limits and scare others away from making the same mistakes she made.

However, that’s just a reality; the type of reality this movie doesn’t even bother to develop enough. Then again though, oddly enough, it doesn’t develop much else either. Sure, we see the spousal-abuse from Traynor come around, a little too much I would say, and we see her film her porn scenes that have become something of infamy now, but never anything else to where we really feel a connection to this story or anything that’s going on. Even Lovelace herself just feels a bit like a sad excuse to show boobies, asses, dicks, and grotesque-sex, just so the horn-balls watching this will have something to get off too. A real shame too, because Lovelace’s story that I wouldn’t mind hearing more about, or even seeing for that matter, but the flick doesn’t show much interest in her, or anything else for that matter. It’s just dull, and painfully so. Where’s Dirk Diggler when you need him!!?!? Seriously!

Speaking of Linda Lovelace, she’s played very well here by Amanda Seyfried, the type of role that’s meant to stretch her abilities as an actress, but somehow doesn’t. Not her fault neither, because she does all that she can, without as much clothing as possible, but it never amounts to a fully-driven, sympathetic character. We do feel bad for her because she’s stuck with a d-bag that acts like all sweet and charming with her one second, and then turns into this crazy, ballistic animal the second, but nothing else here really makes us sympathize with her or have us root in her corner. We know she’s a nice gal that would like to do nice things for the ones around her, but is there anything else to that? Does she deserve to have a porn career? Or hell, does she even deserve to have a whole movie made about her?

I thought she did, but this movie could have fooled me!

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

But like I was saying before, the movie isn’t all that concerned with her as much as it should be. Instead, most of the supporting-cast around her takes over the spot-light, which isn’t so bad since it’s such a heavily-stacked list of names, but then again: Who’s story is being told here? Anyway, playing the d-bag-of-a-hubby that she gets stuck with, Chuck Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard does a wonderful job, as usual, playing two sides to this character. Firstly, he has that lovable, charming side that makes it easy for him to win us, as well as her and her parents over. And then secondly, and probably everybody’s favorite side of Sarsgaard’s acting in general, is the crazy side where he’s yelling, doped-up, an being a total evil, and manacle ass. Why? Well, the movie makes it clear that it’s all about drugs and debts that he has to pay off, but doesn’t make it any clearer than that. Basically, he’s just a self-destructive nut because that’s what he is, just about all of the time. Sarsgaard is good at playing this character and at keeping him somewhat interesting, but like with everything else in this movie, still pretty dull at the same time.

The rest of the crew we have here is a bit more scattered, with some having more screen-time than others and bringing a little plate of food to the party, and others just showing up empty-handed. The ones who’d be placed in the former would definitely have to be Robert Patrick and a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda’s Catholic-faith parents. They are both good because you can tell that they love their daughter very much, but aren’t going to leave out a helping-hand too much, due to the fact of where she’s going with her life. Sounds pretty harsh and mean if you ask me, but the movie still has them seem sympathetic and almost like the voice-of-reason to all of the havoc and dismay that will take part most of Linda’s later-life. But as for the others: Ehh, they’re fine, but no real pieces of shining silver to be found. James Franco has a nice bit as a younger Hugh Hefner; Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale seem to love the hell out of playing-off one another as the director-producer combo that worked on Deep Throat; and Chloe Sevigny has, I think, maybe 5 seconds of face-time on screen, and the rest of her performance is just her voice. That’s it, nothing more. I think somebody needs to give their manager a call!

Consensus: While it touches on certain moments of Lovelace’s life with as much respect and adoration as one movie can, Lovelace is still a very dull, uneventful, and tepid biopic that never reaches high enough to get it’s story moving, or get it’s point across, whatever that may have been.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say "Res in Peace."

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say “Rest in Peace. You will truly will be missed.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Spectacular Now (2013)

Drinking and partying hard every weekend when you’re in high school is considered “bad”? Somewhere, I’m calling B.S.!

Sutter (Miles Teller), no matter how many people want to deny it, is the perfect example of a high school senior. He does not know what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he doesn’t actually care much at all neither. He’s just happy to live in the moment, be with his girlfriend (Brie Larson), drink a hefty amount of whatever he can find, and be ultra-popular among adults and fellow kids. However, all of the partying and good times do eventually catch up with Sutter, and not only does he lose his girlfriend, but begins to see his grades fail way beyond his reach. But after a heavy night of binge-drinking with some of the best in town, Sutter is suddenly awaken (literally and mentally) by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a quiet, shy, and low-key girl that reads sci-fi and Manga novels. This makes her the ultimate nerd and the complete opposite of Sutter’s high-strung, loud-mouthed ways, but somehow, they hit it off quite well and realize that there’s more to each other than they could have possibly ever knew was there in the first place. Especially Sutter, who finds something within him awoken with this new relationship.

With this summer’s The Way, Way Back, The Kings of Summer, and now this; it seems as if teens have an awful lot to learn from this year. Almost each of these flicks concern teens coming-of-age with whatever responsibilities they have to deal with, while also learning a thing or two in the process. However, what’s separated them all is the tone and the material involved. Way, Way Back is a lot more comedic, with the occasional moment of heartfelt drama; Kings of Summer, despite being my least favorite out of the three, was more jokey and didn’t take its premise very seriously, until it soon realized that there needed to be a point behind the whole product, and shoved it in there for a good measure; and now we have The Spectacular Now, the type of film that takes its subject seriously, but never over-does it. Not saying that those other ones do, but there’s just something about this movie that really clicked with me, and made it my favorite coming-of-age drama from the whole summer.

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all "cute" on us!

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all “cute” on us!

There’s going to be plenty more where this came from, but it’s still nice to know that they can be done, and be done well. John Hughes is smiling somewhere. I can tell.

Director James Ponsoldt isn’t a name you’ll know right away from hearing it uttered, but definitely should, especially by the end of this review. Last year, with Smashed, Ponsoldt tackled the rough subject of alcoholism in its grittiest way yet. It offered us a solution to all of the problems, but still showed them off in a very far, very unreachable distance, that it made the whole movie seem rather depressing, yet very true and realistic as well. As someone who has seen alcoholism around him very much in his life, it touched me and had me remember all of the times I had to hold somebody’s head over a trash-can/toilet, just because they were too busy out getting plastered all night. But this isn’t a review about that movie, it’s one about this movie, The Spectacular Now, but I can assure that the themes and issues that the flicks tackle, make them very similar, but very different in the ways they go about talking, or mentioning it.

For instance, the movie never utters the word “alcoholic”. Not even Sutter himself, who seems like he knows how much he drinks, how much he loves to drink, and why he does so, but yet, never comes to admit to himself that he has a problem and needs help. And to be brutally honest, it doesn’t seem like he needs all that much help with that aspect of his character, as much as he does with everything else in his life. What Ponsoldt does well with this character and this flick is that he tackles all of the problems that most teenagers face when they are about to get ready and leave for college; but never dramatizes them in a way that we’ve seen done a million times before, in lesser, coming-of-age flicks. Sutter has a problem with drinking, yes, but he also has an even bigger problem with living for the future and taking the rest of his life into hand. He knows that he needs to be the life of the party for now, because that’s all that matters, but is it going to matter 10 years down the road, except for maybe when he shows up at the reunion, still drunk off of his ass? Not at all, but Sutter doesn’t want to hear that, and honestly, he’s like every other teen out there I’ve ever met, including myself.

No young person, female or male, wants to admit that they don’t have everything planned-out and ready-to-go. Every young person likes to think that they’re out on top and nobody can take them off of their high-horse; but that’s when reality comes in, slaps you in the face, and has you wake up, realizing that you have the rest of your life to live, and the countdown starts NOW. That’s where this movie really hit me, because for the first hour or so, it’s somewhat fun, comedic, light, and playful with its material, its characters, and what it’s ultimately going to set-up, but once the reality of the situation of all of our lives, including Sutter’s, sets in; then, the movie becomes very dark, very dramatic, and very sad, almost in a way that shocked me by how far Ponsoldt decided to go.

It’s a teen-drama in the sense that kids do party, kids do drink, kids do have sex, and kids do go to school and plan for college, but it’s also a teen-drama in the sense that it’s not like a movie; and more like a life-lesson on what could happen to anyone, at any moment. However, it’s far from being that hokey or ham-fisted as most of those “message movies” are. This one, instead, really touches on the ideas and themes that are present in all young teen’s lives, allows it to tell itself, and never holds our hand or tells us directly what’s happening. It’s almost like we’re watching real life happen in front of our eyes, with all of the good and bad decisions made along the way. For that, I have to give this flick a super, duper high-five! Not just because it’s smarter than your average, run-of-the-mill teenage-drama (which it totally is), but because it touches on an idea that most of us are afraid to admit is there, and sometimes prevails: Failure. Yep, that dreaded “F word” has a funny way of showing its own face around every once and awhile, and this movie does not shy away from that fact either.

But believe it or not (because you sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to tell from my constant bickering), this is a movie about two teens getting acquainted, finding out who the other person really is, falling in love, and doing all of that other, cutesy-bootsie stuff that most people who fall in love do. On that note, it serves its job, even if I did feel like the ball does get dropped a bit at the end once a middle-twist shows up, and totally changes the movie’s view-point around. Can’t say much as to what it is, or how it happens, but trust me, when it does occur, you’ll feel the movie’s weight drag right from underneath you, and pull you down as it continues to develop more and more. That’s a good thing, by the way.

Like I said though: The romance at the center of this flick. Despite this seeming like another one of those “popular guy falls in love with nerd, nerd finds out her inner-beauty, popular guy realizes he’s been a jerk his whole life and conforms at the end”-stories, it totally is not. Ponsoldt touches this aspect of the story with as much sensitivity as a real-life, blossoming-relationship would be. There’s the insecurities; the awkward conversations; the initial action of sex; and the first meeting of the family-members. However, it’s all played with about as much sincerity and honesty as most of your relationships may have been, and it touched the inner-romantic side of me, while also made me realize all of the good times, as well as the bad ones, that I spent with a few of my honeys during high school. Quite a lot I had, just don’t ask them if they did go out with me or not.

What really makes this relationship between these two work so well and believably, is that Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are both very charming when they’re together, and even when they aren’t. More in the case of Teller, but I’ll get to him in just a few bit, as for right now, we have Woodley to discuss here, who is not only the most adorable, sweetest female to grace the screen this whole year so far, but really out-does the Oscar-worthy performance she gave in The Descendants. Not only is she less brass and sassy as she was in that flick, but she also has more of a heart to her here, one that feels like it deserves love, even if it is from this dude who’s just trying to figure out what he, as well as life’s, all about. She’s a nerd in the sense that she doesn’t talk to many people and reads weird stuff that us cool kids wouldn’t dare get caught skimming-through in the cafeteria, but she doesn’t wear glasses, she rarely differs in her personality from the beginning to the end, and she isn’t in need of a major makeover that drastically changes her appearance, making her sexier and more desirable than ever before. None of that, at all. Instead, we just have Woodley here to give us a beautiful look at a young, small-town gal who wants to do nice things for the people around her, and deserves all of the love in the world, regardless of who it comes from. Wonderful performance from the gal, and I hope she bounces back from being bounced out of The Amazing Spider-Man sequel.

That Marc Webb sure is a heartless bastard.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

Although, the one performance here that this movie depends on the most is Miles Teller’s as Sutter Keeley, aka, the guy everyone wants to be, but just never amounts to actually being in high school. Sutter has it all and knows that he does, yet, he doesn’t quite take advantage of it while he still can, because he’s constantly drunk and acting like an ass. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re young, but like what many people tell him throughout this flick: You have to get serious every once and awhile, and stop always being a jokester. Whenever Teller is being funny and/or charming, he’s perfect at it, and feels like a younger-version of Vince Vaughn (without saying “baby” at the end of every sentence).

He knows how to work the humor and the fun of this character, but also knows how to get to the deeper feelings as well, and never loses sight of what’s really going on behind this guy’s wild times, as sad as they may be to go face-to-face with. With that, Teller is amazing and I really cannot wait to see where his career goes from here, as it seems like the guy knows how to be lovable and funny, but also have us care for him too, despite his character not being all that sympathetic or smart. Sutter does partake in some questionable actions, as well as very lazy ones, you still feel for him and understand where he’s coming from; all because he, like you, were at one time or still are, a teenager and coming to grips with what the real world out there is like. Some of it’s pretty, some of it ain’t. But that’s the world for ya, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

However, it’s also the rest of the ensemble cast that perfectly rounds out this movie, and makes it even more brutal and realistic in its scope and vision. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a few nice scenes as the older sister of Sutter, a girl who was probably just like him at one point, but has finally escaped that world and married into the money world; Brie Larson plays Sutter’s ex-girlfriend, which would be an easy role for any actress to work with just by being bitchy and annoying, but Larson isn’t and gives this character an sympathetic-route that I didn’t expect to feel for her at all; Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sutter’s mommy, a damaged woman who obviously loves him for what he is, but is a bit too broken-down to fully merge herself into his life and take charge; and last, but sure as hell not least, Kyle Chandler has a perfect 10-15 minutes of screen-time as Sutter’s daddy, a guy who’s just as messed-up as him, if not worse, and it totally hits a soft spot with him, as well as you. Overall, perfect cast that helps hit you with a harder blow, had it been handled by any lesser-actors.

Consensus: The obvious trappings of a coming-of-age, dramedy are definitely present in The Spectacular Now, but are rarely used because it’s a lot smarter with its hard-hitting and brutal, yet realistic view of what it’s like to be a teenager, see what’s next to come, and not want to let go of the past, as much as it may pain one to do so.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Again with the "cute"! Damn teenagers!

Again with the “cuteness”! Damn teenagers!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net

The World’s End (2013)

Well, if we’re all going to die soon, might as well go out with a bunch of drunken nerds.

After failing to complete “the Golden Mile”, some 20 years earlier, old high school friends Gary (Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), all reunite to try to recreate, and hopefully finish, their epic pub crawl. However, time hasn’t done any of them any good, and they’ve all found themselves losing connection with one another, becoming working members of society, getting old, getting responsibilities, getting kids, getting wives, and etc. Except for Gary, who is a recovering drug-addict that practically forces them into this whole reunion of sorts, which, surprisingly, seems like it’s going well for quite awhile; that is until they all begin to realize that something is rather amiss with their hometown. Not only is everybody acting weird, but everybody they ever knew is still there. What could be the cause to all of this? And hell, what are they going to do to make sure they stay alive throughout the whole night? Eh, just keep on drinking.

Well everybody, there does it! The World’s End marks the end of what everybody knew as “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, and what a trilogy it was! Shaun of the Dead started things off perfectly, not just making fun of horror movies, but showing the heart and the fun that could be had with those certain movies if you took them seriously; and Hot Fuzz pretty much did the same thing, but instead of it being horror movies, this time it was buddy-cop movies, male-testosterone and all. And last, but sadly least, we have this movie and it’s surprisingly different from the other two, and not because it’s a lesser-product, but mainly because it isn’t spoofing any sort of movie genre or idea. It’s basically it’s own wild beast, and for that, it deserves a whole slew of credit.

There's a reference on that map somewhere. I can just tell.

There’s a reference on that map somewhere. Way too much significance placed on it to not be.

But also, more credit should be given to this flick because it’s exactly everything you’d expect from Wright, Penn, Frost, and co.: quick, funny, full of sight-gags, action-packed, witty, and best of all, has an underlining heart and soul to it’s final-product that really helps even it all out. Nothing here in this movie will necessarily surprise you in terms of its sense of comedy, action, or where the story-line goes and why, but what it will surprise you with is how damn dark it can somehow get. And I don’t mean to use the word “dark” in a bad way either, it’s more of a welcome addition to a trilogy that needed some serious dosage of it, especially for the last installment.

For instance, if you take the whole character of Gary King into thought, he is essentially a very damaged, sad and messed-up person, yet, is able to get past on the sure with and charm of Pegg. Gary has not only become a loser ever since his grand days of high school were up, but he’s become something of a explosive device, just waiting for his time to blow up and disintegrate into the air. We see that he misses his lads, he wants to relive those glory days, and will stop at nothing to get them back, but yet, also doesn’t have an ounce of morality located anywhere in his soul, which therefore, makes him a hard character to really root for or connect with. Yet, he’s a human, and you can tell that out of everybody involved, he needs this reunion the most, as if it’s sort of a way to give his life some meaning and a reason to live.

If you haven’t been able to tell just yet, yes, this is some very dark stuff, but Wright uses it to his advantage by touching on all of the emotional-notes that worked so well with the past two, and to make matters even better: The dude seems to really be living it up behind-the-camera.

It’s fairly obvious that Wright is the real deal when it comes to fast-paced, punchy, and movies that MOVE, but here, he shows total and complete in control in his material, and allows for his it to get even weirder and weirder as it runs along. What starts out as a movie along the lines of Beautiful Girls, somehow becomes Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and it’s as bizarre of a transitioning as you’re expecting, except that it’s more fun and entertaining to watch here, rather than what’s probably playing in your head. Once it gets revealed to us just who these “things” are, it’s an all-out fest of jumps, thrills, chills, and epic throw-downs (especially the first scene in the bathroom where it’s 5-on-5, no holds barred), that will probably bring you back to what Wright did 3 years ago on his own with Scott Pilgrim. Just goes to show you that as time goes on and he gets more projects under his belt, Wright is growing into being his own type of director, and showing us that he will continue to do so, regardless of if it’s with his fellow, British pals or not. All we have to do now is wait for what he has in store with Ant-Man, and then he will totally be the finest director working today.

But as I said before, this is sadly the lesser of the three, and I think that reason is because the switch in tone is so obvious and a bit jarring, that it’s too hard not to get past. I won’t give away what happens, or what’s revealed to us when we realize what’s really going on underneath it all, but I will tell you that it definitely changes the way the movie works, and how it becomes serious. There’s an sense of seriousness and heart to this material that shines through in certain spots, but once we realize that something’s wrong with the night’s proceedings, then it gets very serious and dare I say it, “melodramatic”. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was still fun, exciting, and full of yucks and chuckles, but the tonal-change in the middle that we’ve come to see and expect from Wright’s flicks isn’t as subtle here, and it definitely changes the mood and the overall outlook of the rest of the flick.

With that said, it’s still an Edgar Wright flick, and with that being said: The cast is still full of a bunch of heavy-hitters that show they can be dramatic, but still hilarious as well.

"Aye! We're British, and we're here for a couple of pints and a few smokes, lad!" British enough?

“Aye! We’re British, and we’re here for a couple of pints and a few smokes, lad!” British enough?

Case in point: Simon Pegg. Everybody knows that Simon Pegg is a funny guy, and everybody knows that he can use his British wit and charm to his advantage, but what really surprised the hell out of me here was how deep he went with this character, not just showing us a damaged-soul, but one you can feel an ounce of sympathy towards, even if he would never, ever feel it towards you. Pegg really gets to the bottom of who this guy is, why, and where he will most likely be going with his life, but while he’s at it, also seems to be living it up, dialing it up to 11, and totally letting loose on his comedic-chops. Everything the guy says, does, and even thinks about is hilarious, and it shows that not only is Wright growing as a director, but Pegg’s growing as an actor, one that can get to the root of any character, given the right material, time and place.

Same goes for Nick Frost who, believe it or not, is actually playing the straight-man to Pegg’s crazy and wild antics as Gary. Frost has never really shown us resilience in his acting, but he shows it here and makes us realize just what we’ve been missing out on all of these years. He’s funny, sweet, a bit sad, but also a bit bad-ass when the movie needs him to be. and it just goes to show you that Frost is growing up alongside his fellow mates as well. However, Pegg and Frost are just the beginning of what’s a very good, very well-equipped, and very attuned cast to the material they’re working with here, as it seems like everybody else involved knows what they’re getting themselves into with this movie, how to play it off, and why they have to give it their all, and never let up. Not for a second. It’s kind of strange actually, because yes, even though I have seen Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan all be funny and light with some of their roles, I’ve never quite seem them as much in a full-on comedy-mode as they are on in here, and it allowed me to see them in a different light where they can do this funny stuff, but also allow for us to take them in as actual characters as well. Not just a bunch of goofballs, but people, and I think that’s a smart decision on Wright’s part on casting these highly-acclaimed, “serious” British actors. Or at least just Marsan and Considine; Freeman’s more of a clown than those two.

And don’t be fooled either, just because Rosamund Pike is the only gal of the group, doesn’t mean that she goes down without a fight. In fact, just the opposite. Not only is she as knowing of the humor as the dudes are, she also shows that she can mess-around with the best of them, and even get her hands a bit dirty if need be. She’s funny, very sexy, and also, very fiery, and reminds me of the type of chick I wouldn’t dare to mess with. Also, I highly doubt it needs to be said, but I’ll go for it anyway, just be on the lookout for everybody in this cast, because they’re all familiar-faces you’ve seen before and will surprise the hell out of you here, as they are all having a great time, and allowing you to enjoy the whole movie even more than before.

Consensus: The World’s End, or as others will know it as “the inevitable finale to The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, may not be as polished as the two prior installments, but is still full of the same madcap hilarity, fun, excitement, action, and typical glee that we have come to love with these movies, while also offering us some real heart and emotion to the proceedings as well.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

They're all drinking in-sequence! See, I told you they were all buds!

They’re all drinking in-sequence! See, I told you they were all buds!

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

You’re Next (2013)

Next family reunion, G-Mom and G-Pop better bring their arsenal. Just in case.

The very rich, but very dysfunctional Davison family reunites for the 35th wedding anniversary of the mother (Barbara Crampton) and father (Rob Moran). Everybody in the family comes, and hell they even bring their own significant others to get everybody acquainted. However, it becomes abundantly clear early on that nobody in this family really gets along, and as a result, fight at the dinner table over something utterly and completely dumb. But once somebody gets an arrow shot through their head, all of the family-squabbling is put to the side, and the feeling of danger arises throughout the house. Why? Well, it’s simple: A bunch of masked-killers are attacking these family members and killing them one-by-one. Some are unlucky, and some get very lucky, but staying alive and being fight off the enemy is only where the night begins.

After this movie being postponed for what seemed like a century (in reality, it was only 2 years, but it was a long two years!), I am finally able to get a taste of You’re Next, and figure out just what all of the fuss was about. Home-invasion thrillers come, and they go as they please, and rarely re-invent the wheel of the horror genre, especially in today’s world of modern-day cinema. However, that doesn’t mean a little movie like this can’t just come out of nowhere and completely shock us, but not by changing the game up and offering us something new, but by simply having fun and remembering the old-school days of horror movies, where one used to cheer for the goodies, and boo the baddies.

Yeah, those were the days my friends, and You’re Next reminds us that they’re back and still as fun as they were all those years ago. Hurrah for that!

Relax! It's not like it's real blood or anything....

Relax! It’s not like it’s real blood or anything….

The aspect of this movie that totally works is how the screenplay from Simon Barrett and the direction from Adam Wingard totally compliment one other; almost in a way that I haven’t seen from a writer-director combo in quite some time, especially within the horror genre. Barrett’s tone for this movie may weird some viewers out at first by how jokey it is, despite being terribly gory and gruesome in the first 5 minutes or so, but once the movie gets going, the plot starts to thicken, and you’re ultimately set-up for what the rest of this movie is going to be and look like, and it only gets better from there. One second, Barrett will have us laughing our assess off by a random sight-gag, or something silly a character does; and then the next second, have a disturbing sequence of someone getting a bodily-organ torn from them, in the most gory way possible. However, with most horror movies where it seems like it would not work and just become a disjointed affair, Barrett surprisingly keeps it grounded in a sense where you know what to expect from the comedy, and you know what to expect from the inordinate amount of violence.

Then again though, a lot of that same credit I just gave to Barrett, could easily have gone to Wingard as well, considering he seems to be having just as much fun with this material, if not more. Once the first person at this family reunion is killed, it’s an all-out slug-fest from there, and every chance Wingard has to do something new, cool, or simply righteous with his kills, he doesn’t back away and embraces it. You would think that all of the killings in this movie will just make you numb after awhile, but Wingard surprisingly finds newer, more exciting ways to bring out as much awe-inspiring and cheerful moments of violence, as humanly possible as it is to do for a horror movie. He never goes over-the-top with it; nope, instead, he keeps it bloody, brutal, in-your-face, and mostly compelling, even when he does seem to be pulling whatever he can out of his ass. However, I think more horror directors need to be pulling stuff out of their ass, especially if it’s this fun and entertaining to watch.

Which may be weird for some to hear, especially considering this a horror movie, and as we all know; horror isn’t necessarily the most joyous genre of all. But Barrett and Wingard think differently: They know that horror movies should be just as disgusting and as horribly gruesome as it has been perceived as being, while also being scary whenever possible. Also though, they know that horror movies should be an entertaining experience you can only have at the movies, especially when they’re done at this caliber, and with this much of a playful tone and feeling. The two do get a tad bit “too jokey” at times, almost, dare I say, falling into the territory of being “meta”, but most of the times, they were able to make me laugh, while also expecting the unexpected with it’s story, the violence involved with it, and the direction.

Hello 2013's most-demanded Halloween costume!

Hello 2013’s most-demanded Halloween costume!

Thank you, Mr. Wingard and Mr. Barrett. It’s been awhile since the last time us movie critics remembered how much fun it could be going to the movies, and seeing a horror movie, without necessarily having to be scared shitless. Thank you very much.

And of course no good horror movie would be considered “good”, if it wasn’t for the perfectly-pitched cast they have on hand here. Everybody’s good here, especially because of the fact that nobody’s really a bigger star than the other here, and even if they are, they sure as hell aren’t treated as such. With the exception of maybe one chick, everybody’s demise is left up in the air, flying, and soon to land at any second, for any reason. Every character here is actually like a pawn on Barrett’s and Wingard’s chess-table: They all have their reasoning for being there, their strengths, and their weaknesses, however, they could be gone without any fair warning. Literally, you could be watching a character on-screen, seeing them do something cool, courageous, or even bad-ass, and then the next second, see them taken away from you because they weren’t thinking all that straight or got caught off-guard. That was a whole bunch of fun to watch, and it was only made better due to the cast being totally up for anything that Barrett and Wingard were able to throw at them. And yes, blood-flavored corn syrup was one of them.

Consensus: While it may not be the game-changer or revolutionary flick that most have been deeming it as, You’re Next still goes back to the basics, keeps it simple, bloody, fun, entertaining, wild, unpredictable, and always worth watching, even if the horror genre isn’t your favorite flavor of pie. It sure as hell isn’t mine, and look what I’m saying about it!

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If they are in fact "Next", they better get a move on and start the love-making later. Idiots.

If they are in fact “Next”, they better get a move on and start the love-making later. Idiots. What? Have they never been home-invaded by killers in animal masks before?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

A 2-hour-long wet dream for any video game nerd out there. All that’s missing: Bewbs.

In Toronto, 22-year-old bum Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is trying to make it big with his garage band Sex Bob-omb, lives with his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), and has just recently fired up a relationship with a young high school student named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), even though everybody around him disapproves of it. Everything’s going all swell between Scott and Knives, that is until Scott has a dream of a girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a quirky, color-haired American gal that seems all to good to be true. Thing is, she isn’t something only dreams are made of, SHE’S FREAKIN’ REAL!! This obviously gets Scott’s heart beating up and down, and his mind going berserk, so he does what any love-struck dude would do: He pursues her in hopes of being her new love-interest. However, in order to do so, he needs to defeat her 7 evil exes with any trick he can pull off. Which ultimately means, a lot of “KAPOWS”, “WHAMS”, and “BAMS”.

No “THANK YOU, MAMS”, cause honestly, that would just be way too meta.

For the third time since it came out, I have watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and why I never decided to chalk-up a review for this until now, is totally beyond me, although I think I may have a clue as to why. There’s something about Edgar Wright movies that just intimidate the hell out of me; so intimidating, that I’m scared to even bother writing reviews about them, and feel more better just telling people that I’m a fan of them through conversation. It seems like every Wright flick has its own core audience that understands every joke, every pun, every piece of wit, and just about everything thing about it, so much so that any person who doesn’t quite “get it” or even like it for that matter, is ultimately “a noob”. Maybe that’s just all in my head (most likely is), but that’s the main reason why I have yet to write a review of this flick.

Got her with the old, "Do you know the history of Pac-Man" line. Works like a charm every time.

Got her with the old, “Do you know the history of Pac-Man?” line. Works like a charm, every time.

That is, until now. Three years after the fact, and just in time for The World’s End.

Never reading any of the graphic novels going into this, I have to say that I went in, originally, not knowing what to expect, other than sure mayhem. Why? Well, because it is directed and co-written by Edgar Wright who, as you may or may not know, is the creator of two of the funniest comedies from the past decade: Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. So yes, going into it, I knew that I was going to have to be watching the screen the whole time just to see and spot out all of the visual-gags, and get ready for what would be a very quick and fast movie, one that would not slow up for me or hold my hand, guiding me through to where I wasn’t left behind. If I missed a joke or two, Wright wouldn’t stop doing what he was doing so I could keep, so therefore, I knew I couldn’t either. However, despite Wright’s style being practically the same from every one of his other movies (meaning that they’re all hilarious, including this one), there’s something a tad bit different to the approach that he takes with this flick.

Rather than being a full-on parody of a certain genre, then becoming a film that could easily be considered apart of the same genre he is mocking, Scott Pilgrim is more of a straight-forward story that doesn’t make fun of any certain genre; instead, it combines two different types of styles that we usually see done in movies, but never to the full extent as they are done here: Video games and comic books. Right from the beginning of this flick, you can tell it’s obviously going to be an ode to video games; where when characters get hit, there will be words like “BOOM” and “BANG”, along with a bunch of frenzied colors gracing the screen as well. Even other action words like “RIIIING” or “THONK” show up, but here’s what surprised the hell out of me here: It never gets boring to see. Instead, Wright finds a way to make each and every one of these aspects of his style work and continue to spring out more inventiveness within his project, even if it is solely for the gamers out there that grew up on Zelda, and know the Final Fantasy II theme song by heart. I’ve never considered myself a full-fledged “gamer” of sorts, but this movie made me feel like I was watching one on screen, and a very fun and hilarious one at that.

And yes, there are plenty of comic book trademarks here, but not as obvious or as over-zealous as the video game trademarks. With that said, the movie still has plenty of fun with its manic energy that, not even for a single second, let up. There do come the moments in this movie where it has to slow down and give us a little bit of characterization and development, just so that we care a bit more, but even then the story still never cools down. It continues to fire more and more jokes, gags, and funny quips at us, all while feeling like an honest and heartfelt story about a dude just trying to overcome his own mishaps with love and life, and just be with the girl of his dreams, literally. Which actually surprised me because even though the flick never gets too serious or meaningful in the least, it still has a story placed well into the middle somewhere, that goes beyond just being about “a dude facing off a bunch of evil ex-boyfriends”. It’s more about a guy coming into his own, realizing how much of an ass he was in the past, and best of all, still learning that love is the most sacred thing to behold in your life, and you shouldn’t let it go, not even for a second. Some pretty soapy stuff, but it has a meaning for being present and I have to give Wright credit once again for at least tackling a the rom-com genre, and giving it a new vision, while providing the same kindred thoughts and spirits as well.

But like I said before, this movie is fun, fun, fun, and that must never be forgotten. Everything you expect to see from an Edgar Wright movie is here, if not more than that. Obviously there’s going to be a generational-gap between the people that did love the hell out of this, and the people that hated its guts, but that’s neither here nor there. What is “here”, is the matter of fact that this flick knows what type of movie it is, and continues to find new, improved, and refreshing ways to tell its story, while also giving us just the right amount of adrenaline and craziness we need to really get involved with it. You can be a “geek”, and love this; and you could be just a normal, average dude who enjoys movies for the sake of entertainment, and still love this. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this, and continue to find more and more aspects about it that you love about it.

That IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Yes, that IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Case in point: Me. I’ve seen it about three times by now, and it continues to get better and better. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally got a handle on what good humor is, or maybe its just that I’ve wised-up in the past couple of years and came to notice that Edgar Wright is one of the freshest voices we have in the movie world, and it’s better to embrace him, rather than be away from the rest of the pack and say “I don’t get him”. Maybe that’s it. I still don’t know. I love this movie, let me just leave it at that, okay dammit!!?!??!?

It seems pretty obvious though, that if you’re going to have a movie strictly dedicated to nerds from all over the globe, that it’s only right to include none other than everybody’s favorite celebrity nerd in the lead: Michael Cera. For most people, hearing Cera’s name attached to anything just gets them waving their hands up in disapproval, which makes sense. The guy definitely hasn’t done himself any favors by practically George Michael again and again, role after role; however, from my side of the room, I like what Cera does with these roles and even though he is still awkward, still a bit nervous, and always not-so sure of himself here, he’s still amusing and shows that he can prove to be a bit of a toughie as well. Also, surprised to see that he was playing that wasn’t the smartest guy in the room, or even the whole movie for that matter. He’s a bit of an bumbling idiot when it comes to certain decisions, and shows that he can still get by using his typical trademarks you may, or may not, love him for, but also spice it up a bit as well. Nothing too drastic in terms of what he does as Scott Pilgrim, but the dude seems really comfortable and seems really deserving of the honor of playing every nerd’s favorite superhero, that isn’t Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman (if you get my drift?).

While Cera’s doing his thing in the lead, everybody else on the side do their things as well; the difference with them is that they not only seem to be having more fun, but absolutely living it up in the moment, no matter how long they have on screen. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pretty rad as Ramona Flowers, not just because she’s every hipster dude’s dream woman, but because she handles the dry sense of humor with perfect ease and resilience that it’s not hard to see her popping-up in more of Wright’s features; Keiran Culkin was an absolute riot as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace, and handles the humor perfectly as well, while also adding his own bits of charm; newbie Ellen Wong is a great fit for Knives Chau because not only is she funny, but she’s quite endearing and cute as well, making it easier for us to get past the fact that she does become a bit stalker-ish by the end; and lastly, nice to see Brandon Routh actually do something with his career and life after donning the cape and spandex for Clark Kent, but also be very funny and show he may have a future in comedy, if he decides to wake up and smell the moolah burning. Those are the ones that just came to my mind first, but honestly, if you think long and hard enough, you’re going to find more and more people in this movie that just knock it out of the park. Everybody’s hilarious, everybody has something to do, and not a single cast-member feels wasted. Not even Mark Webber. Now honestly, when was the last time you saw that guy being funny?!??!?

Consensus: The central demographic for this movie may ruin some viewers, and win the hearts of others, but it can’t be argued that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the perfect example of a movie that never lets up for anything or anyone, while also being hilarious, and always offering us something new to see or enjoy every time we watch it. Third time for me, and I’m still finding stuff out!

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

I guess "Finish Him!" wasn't in the script? Boo! Points taken off!

I guess “Finish Him!” wasn’t jotted down in the idea book? Boo! Points taken off!

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Whoever thought that walking, flesh-eating, pieces of meat could be so darn humorous!?! The Brits, that’s who!

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is your typical, 29-year-old Brit: He has a lousy job that nobody respects him at; he’s got a loser best friend named Ed (Nick Frost) who doesn’t clean up after himself and pisses off the other roommate; he’s having problems with his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) who just wants him to grow up and take charge for once; and his mum (Penelope Wilton)’s annual-visit is coming up, which he doesn’t mind showing up for, except that he hates his step-dad (Bill Nighy). And yet, as if his life couldn’t have gotten any worse or depressing enough, now human-beings are starting to keel over and become reanimated as zombies. No reason is given, but everybody is told to stay in their houses, lock all of the doors, and keep away from the zombies. However, Shaun and Ed do otherwise, and decide to fetch up all of their friends and family, go on down to the pub where they can stay safe, and also have a few pints and smokes as well. Sounds like the perfect plan, except they’re SO MANY ZOMBIES.

With The World’s End coming out this weekend, I thought it’d be best for me to not only catch back up on two of Edgar Wright’s movies that I haven’t seen in awhile, but review them and remind myself why I should be as hyped-up as everybody else in the world (especially the Brits) seems to be for the end with the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. So, with all of that out of the way, why not go back to a day when nobody outside of America knew who the hell Simon Pegg or Bill Nighy were, and when every horror-comedy had to live up to An American Werewolf in London.

Cause we've all needed a good reason to get rid of that dreadful mix-tape you got from your high school sweetheart.

Cause we’ve all needed a good reason to get rid of that dreadful mix-tape you got from your high school sweetheart.

I almost want to say “the finer days”, but they really weren’t because this movie came around and shook things up like never before. And believe it or not, but the horror genre hasn’t been the same since. Screw the comedy aspect, this is a horror movie through-and-through. It’s just done by a bunch of Brits, so obviously it’s got to have wit and sly humor! Duh!

Anyway, this is probably the 5th viewing I’ve had of this flick and I have to say, I could go 5, 10, hell, even 20 more times of seeing this flick and never getting bored or tired of it! One of the main reasons behind that, and with all of Wright’s flicks, is that there is always something new or inventive to spot-out, especially when you’ve seen what goes down and know what happens. Sometimes the lines are so ironic and so full of foreshadowing, you’ll wonder how in the world it got past you originally, but such is the talent of Wright and Pegg. I mean, Christ, it only took me to my 3rd viewing until I realized that the whole “Queen, pool-stick fighting sequence” was all choreographed to go along with the song. Call me slow, call me an idiot, call me a Yankee, call me what you will; but it slid by me, and you’re only a bigger fool if you don’t admit to at least missing a few jokes here and there. Even some of the most loyal natives of Britain will find themselves scratching their heads at a few references and that’s the beauty behind it all.

It’s hilarious, but in a way that doesn’t take any cheap-shots. Yet, it’s still able to make you hold your gut with the most simplest forms of comedy like slapstick, like farting, and even the simple, dart-accidentally-sticks-into-someones’s-head joke. Even then, it’s still very, very funny and continued to make me laugh, while also holding my attention up on the screen, just hoping that I didn’t miss out on something that everybody else seemed to understand or be laughing at. So glad I didn’t see this in a movie theater with a bunch of smarter, more-sophisticated people, or else I would have felt like an even bigger idiot than I originally did when I first saw this. But, nonetheless, it’s still funny any way you write it, and that’s some big, effin’ credit to Pegg and Wright, aka, the two script-writers who understand the horror/zombie genre, yet, at the same time, know its limitations to where it can get serious, as well as jokey, but also be quite effective.

And that aspect behind this whole movie is what really separates it from the rest of the pack of horror-comedy flicks, and will continue to do so until a better one comes along down the drain-pipe (highly doubt it, at least not for awhile anyway). Everything starts off all goofy and witty, as if everybody involved knows how far-fetched it is for these things to actually be waking up from the dead, and start eating/infecting others, but with also a smudge of realism, where the people involved (you know, the ones not zombified) could easily be doing the same things in real life, had this actually ever happened. They realize that even though the rest of man-kind may be screwed for eternity, you might as well suck it up and have a good time while you still can; hence why they go to the pub, plan on getting blitzed, and enjoy whacking the shit out of zombies whenever one gets in their way. However, it also gets very serious by the end, and you realize that not only is this a satire of what we expect from a horror movie, but it’s also its own horror movie in and of itself. Wright and Pegg not only conquered the unimaginable by having us laugh our assess off by the way these characters interact and make jokes, but also by having us scare our pants off and actually care about these people once they begin to kick the bucket, and get eaten alive. It’s not just a funny-take on the horror genre, but it’s also a love-letter as well; one that makes me really glad to know that George A. Romero actually loved.

When you’ve made that man happy and give his seal of approval, then you know you’ve done something right in this world.

Quite your moaning! *Reference

Quite your moaning! *Reference

Hell, while I’m speaking about these characters, why not just talk about them right now, rather than wasting all of your time! It’s great to see how big Simon Pegg hit it after this movie, because not only is he very funny with his dry wit and humor, but he’s also very capable of coming off as the everyday, kind of loser that anybody could relate to or cheer on. Shaun is a bit deadbeat, but he’s a nice guy that you care for right away, and can’t wait to start seeing lay down the law when the dead begin to come alive. Same goes for Nick Frost as Ed, who keeps things light and punchy, whenever it seems to get all dark, cold, and surprisingly scary. Both have a lovable chemistry that makes me no less surprised knowing that it all came from their real life friendship. Good for those two, cause lord knows I would not be able to get along with any of my friends when I’m going all “method”.

And everybody else in this small, but effective cast is great, too. Kate Ashfield is a nice fit as Liz, Shaun’s present/ex-girlfriend that just wants him to grow up and stop being such a boob, which makes it easier for us to actually care about her, as well as them, since they not only seem good for each other, but may even make it out of this thing alive, together; Penelope Wilton is funny, but also quite endearing as Shaun’s clueless mum; Bill Nighy is a great fit as her husband/Shaun’s step-dad (and don’t get it mixed up!), proving to us that he’s got the comedic-chops to make this strict, weird dude work, but also give us a scene that touches us on more levels than we’d expect from a horror-comedy, especially because it happens so early in the game; Lucy Davis is fine and snappy as Liz’s roommate, who is also is a wannabe actress; and Dylan Moran is her sheepish, deuchey boyfriend who can’t stand up for himself, or anybody else for that matter, but seems to be taking Liz’s side the most out of everybody else’s. There’s plenty more cameos and hidden-roles here as well, but way too many to get into, just make sure you keep a close eye on some of these zombies; some may be famous faces, hidden underneath layers and layers of blood and gore, aka, make-up and prosthetic, but you catch my drift.

By the way, “Sorry”. Thought I’d leave it at that.

Consensus: Still funny, still smart, still quotable, and still able to be taken seriously enough as a full-on horror movie, regardless of how many times you see it, Shaun of the Dead did the horror genre a favor 9 years ago, woke everybody up out of their conventionality, made them work for their laughs and violence, and it hasn’t quite been the same since. Hallelujah!

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Wait, did they steal this scene from Warm Bodies or something?

Wow! Like rip-off Warm Bodies, much?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nights and Weekends (2008)

Just move in already!

James (Joe Swanberg) and Mattie (Greta Gerwig) are happy and in love. So happy and in love in fact, that when we first see them together, they close the door, get right on the ground, take each other’s clothes off, prepare for some love-makin’, and do the deed. Now if that’s not a true sign of two people in love, I don’t know what is! But as we begin to learn more and more about James and Mattie’s relationship, it isn’t necessarily a normal one as much as it’s one that has to be spent together when one is in town or around and ready for a little hang-out. What I mean by that is that they have a long-distance relationship that seems lovely and going very well at first, but as we see once we get a fast-forward to one year later, things are a bit different between these two as we may have never suspected judging from the first shot of this flick.

The term “mumblecore” is usually referred to in a negative way, however, like with most films of any genre, I don’t find that a negative term per se. The movies that can be associated with this term are usually easy-to-make, as if you or I could get up right now, grab a camera, and start filming anything you want, and usually feature real, down-to-Earth scripts, or sometimes, not even a script at all. The point of a “mumblecore” movie, really, is to show us how real and frank something is, whether it be a simple story or one that provides plenty of thinking. These types of movies are usually my favorite kind, but yet, I still haven’t latched onto the movement as a whole.

"The Plastic Lion Gift": We've all been there before, right men?

“The Plastic Lion Gift”: We’ve all been there before, right men?

Then again, I’m just a 19-year-old dip-shit from the suburbs, so what do I know about real life?

Anyway, where I’m getting at with this flick is that despite the movie being as cheaply-made as possible, there are still some god-to-honest truths that come out here that are more than just “long-distance relationships blow”. No, believe it or not, there’s more of a thought-process needed to be had here when watching because, as co-writer/director Swanberg continues to remind us, everything we are seeing, hearing, and feeling is all real. Maybe almost too real. So real, to the point of where you feel like you can almost connect with their relationship in a way that makes their’s more inferior to yours. We all think about it, especially when we watch movies about relationships and for me at least, it usually doesn’t work because most of my relationships have started off perfect and prosperous, then turned into total miserable affairs, mixed with some pleasures here and there.

However, watching these two made me very happy to not only have those relationships in my life, but also to still be single. Actually, it’s probably more of the latter in this situation, but it still got me thinking about the former. Probably too much actually. Damn you, Swanberg! Now I want a girlfriend back in my life!

But I think what Swanberg is trying to get at here with this honest look into the relationship of a couple that doesn’t seem to really know what they want with one another just yet, is that all humans feel and need love in our lives. It’s just a statement of fact. We will always and forever continue, no matter how hard or painful the outcome may be, to look for that special someone, even if it takes us a hundred years to do so. That’s just how we are functioned as a society to automatically think: If you don’t find that special person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, don’t worry, he/she’ll come around eventually. That idea pisses me off, but as I get older, more hair starts to fall out, names are forgotten, and the vision gets blurrier, somehow, it can’t help but be all too true.

That’s why when I had somebody like Swanberg practically pointing his finger at me, telling me that I should listen up to what he has to say, turned me off right away. The style of this is one that will tee most people off, mainly because it is all about improv, as if everything these people came up with on the top of their heads were moments of pure genuineness, almost like you or I could have the same moment as well. However, it feels more forced than it actually does natural, and that’s not a hit against the two performers here. Both are amazing, but I’ll get to that in a little bit. Basically, it’s almost like the movie knew it had to touch a sensitive spot in our hearts, so rather than just giving us some bits and pieces of character-development that would have us understand these character’s a tad more, it just gives a bunch of pretentious conversations that these two constantly have, whenever they aren’t boning or fighting. Come to think of it, that’s all relationships are: Boning and fighting.

However, that’s not the point of this movie and sure as hell not what Swanberg was trying to get across. What he is trying to get across is that most relationships will die-out, but you have to feel some real truth and passion in them, and if not, if there’s one crack to be found in that persona of you or that other person, then all hope is lost for the relationship. Once again, a very sad fact. but a very honest one that needs to be said more, especially in the slew of mainstream rom-coms that seem to get churned out each and every year. It’s not like Swanberg is telling us that this happens to every relationship, albeit long-distance ones, but just this relationship in particular; a relationship where we the two involved seem like they honestly love one another, but begin to find more and more about each other as time goes on, and don’t really like what they see.

For instance, Mattie tells it like it is, what she’s feeling at a certain moment, and rarely ever holds anything back. Makes her a pretty cool chick to hang out with I think, but that’s just me. But sooner or later, once we get to see Mattie in all of her full-on form (and I’m not talking about the nudity, although there’s plenty of that), we realize that she’s probably the most-invested one in this relationship, constantly crying whenever her boyf isn’t around to keep her company, or put on a “real” smile when she wants to have fun. But it’s weird too, because when she’s not crying and being all emotional for no reason, she’s then talking about how she feels that “love shouldn’t be so precious”, as if she’s just that ice-cold bitch that every man should steer away from. She’s an odd duckling, and an inconsistent one at that, but she still feels like a real person for that reason alone. There’s an under-lining honesty to her, that comes out more and more once the flick continues on and gets further into it’s own emotional crossroads.

Cue the Marvin Gaye. Or not music at all either. Just heavy-breathing and moans is fine too.

Cue the Marvin Gaye. Or, no music at all. Just heavy-breathing and moaning is fine too.

This is of course, made to happen because of the amazing performance from Gerwig who’s been churning out great-performance-after-great-performance ever since this movie came out, but yet, it’s still nice to get a small-glimpse at her career when she was getting bigger by the mumblecore flick. Same goes for Swanberg, who probably isn’t as big of a name as Gerwig is, but still shows us enough dramatic chops as an actor to where I feel like he could be a welcome-presence, had I have to get used to seeing him all of the time on the big screen. Together, they forge a wonderful relationship that’s filled with plenty of ups and downs. I could also tell that these two were legitimately two friends who got together, realized that they wanted to make a movie, not have it cost all that much, and just let it all hang loose (literally and figuratively). They actually have a nice bond together, where instead of telling each other how they feel through simple words, they convey most of their emotions usually through eye-contact or a certain physical-trait the other one has, allowing them to latch onto one another. Pretty beautiful thing, if you don’t mind me saying so myself. It’s something you can tell between two people who honestly know and love each other, which only makes it more accessible to understand that these two really are besties in real life and better yet, are ones that love to make movies. But not just any sort of movies, movies with messages about two people that feel they have it all, but don’t know half of what’s about to happen to their relationship and their lives.

However, such is life. Suck it up. Move on. Find that special someone. I guess.

Consensus: Though Nights and Weekends strategy of getting it’s point across feels a bit self-indulgent, we still get the point, and it hits us in a spot that we like to keep clear any bad vibes from hitting: Our hearts.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Ehh, whatever they're fighting about, they'll forget about it in T-minus 10 years.

Ehh, whatever they’re fighting about, they’ll forget about it in T-minus 10 years.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Paranoia (2013)

Technology is taking over everything! Be ready, Wall Street!

Young, ambitious Adam (Liam Hemsworth) dreams for something big. Actually, a hell of a lot bigger than his job at a tech firm run by the powerful, but awfully snobby Nicholas Wyatt (Gary Oldman). Adam thinks he deserves so much that when he has to present a new product his team of co-workers have been testing out, that when it doesn’t seem to please Wyatt or the rest of his squad, Adam loses a little bit of self-control and blurts out a snobby comment. Obviously no boss would take this off of any disgruntled employee, especially not Nicholas Wyatt. So therefore, Adam and the rest of his crew gets fired and decide to go to a very high-priced club, party it up, and get whatever it is that they want, all on the corporate credit card. You know, the one meant for “work”? Well, once Adam wakes up, after he has a forgettable (literally) one-night stand with the beautiful Emma (Amber Heard), he gets a demand from Wyatt, who tells him he can either go and rot in jail for the crime he’s committed, or he can do pull off a sneaky stunt where he would go over to the rival company (lead by Harrison Ford), charm everyone, and then steal a prototype smartphone that the company is working on. Sounds easy, but when the stakes are this high and the risk is a lot greater than the reward: Nothing’s ever easy.

No clue why the hell I went so in-depth with that plot-synopsis, but I guess I needed to find something even remotely interesting to type about this movie. Seriously, just by watching the first ten minutes of this movie, you can tell how everything is going to happen, why, where, when, and to what people. It’s all so obvious, conventional, predictable, and cliché, and offers barely anything redeeming about itself that’s worth watching. Whether or not that’s the cast’s or the script’s problem is totally left in the clouds, but let’s just get to the root of the problem here, shall we?

"I got you off my plane 16 years ago, don't think I won't hesitate to do it again!"

“I got you off my plane 16 years ago, don’t think I won’t hesitate to do it again!”

Director Robert Luketic, despite charming me a tad bit with 21, is back on his terrible-streak of movies, and it only seems to be getting worse. Something about the way in which Luketic directs this material not only keeps it away from sizzling, but never allows to amount to anything other than just another huge piece of blandness. You’ve seen it all before, and there’s nothing at all new or cool to see here. Just the typical crap you expect from these two-bit thrillers. It saddens me to say this too, because I don’t know why half of the talent that got involved, got involved with this because the twists and turns that this movie throws at us (way too many to be exact), are not predictable right from the start, but are terribly idiotic as well.

Take for a terrible instance in one scene where Hemsworth’s character is being watched by a group of peeps, spying on him through surveillance who want to know all that he’s up. So therefore, they’ve ran-down his whole apartment with cameras, speakers, and all sorts of tidy gadgets that they need for this one, specific scene and no other time, in hopes that they will catch him in the act of doing something mischievous, like calling up somebody to ask for help or to do something else these bastards consider “bad”. I lost track of what was good and what was bad, but that didn’t matter because apparently the baddies were the goodies all along, or something. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Anyway, where I was at with this scene is that you’d think that these people wouldn’t want Hemsworth to know that he’s being watched by them, right? Well, that’s a smart baddie would do, but these ones apparently aren’t. They call him, and start describing certain features about the way he’s dressed and he’s walking, giving him the idea that they see him and know what he’s up to. Obviously, feeling betrayed and “paranoid”, Hemsworth lashes-out on the apartment and rips everything down, wall-by-wall, piece-by-piece. Why the hell anybody would ever call up the targets they’re spying on, and giving away with their post, totally beats me. Then again though, the rest of this flick does too.

The only reason I talked about that scene in such particular description is because it’s the most memorable, among many other scenes, that were just as-stupid-as-day. But none of what I’m saying matters, because this movie has been released to the general-public, with some big names, just in hopes that people will run out to see it. I’m encouraging you now to not even bother with it, and buy a ticket for something else. Like Lee Daniels’ The Butler?!? Or, Elysium? Or hell, even Man of Steel?!? That’s still in theaters, right? Ehh, it doesn’t matter. All I’m saying is that nothing here in this movie is worth the price of admission, so please just stay away. It’s for your own good. Trust me.

I get it! He's really, really, super, ultra hot!

I get it! He’s really, really, super duper, ultra-magnificently hot!

But if there is anything, and I do repeat, ANYTHING worth seeing in this movie, it’s the very few scenes that Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford have together, as rival CEOs, who are both evil and snarky in their own, rich guy ways. Both are playing type, and are fine with what crap they’re given, but there’s one scene between the two where they just go at one another that’s so funny, so entertaining, and filled with so much energy and spirit, you have to wonder if it was even in the same script, for the same movie, or if they just improvised their assess off and decided to roll with it. I honestly have no clue, but all I do know is that that one scene, is probably the best and most memorable scene of the whole flick, and actually the only time I felt like I was watching a summer movie that was supposed to be considered “fun”.

And even though I do feel bad for those two, I can’t at all feel bad for Hemsworth because the dude’s just a brick-wall in this movie. He’s a terrible choice for this lead role, not just because he can’t act a single bit, but because he’s simply too good-looking. Weird complaint, I know, but the fact that he’s a total heart-throb for the tweeners that this is aimed for, only makes his performance a lot less bearable to sit through, especially since he’s constantly shirtless and in a towel about every 10 minutes. He looks good, I’ll give him that, but he’s dull, can’t act, and has a body that’s a little too chiseled and ripped for a dude who’s supposed to be considered “trash”, as well as a “hipster”. For a guy who knows plenty of hipsters, Liam Hemsworth being called one, almost made me want to punch the screen, but every hipster I know. Just because you wear somewhat tight-jeans, black-and-white shoes, and don’t make more than $50K a year, does not, not even a single bit, make you a hipster. I’ll just put it down on the line like that and leave it there. So screw you, Robert Luketic! You don’t know shit about the hipster-ways. You dick.

Consensus: Nothing in Paranoia, with the exception of maybe a scene or two between Oldman and Ford, is worth recommending to see. That’s all, folks.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"So since you're insanely hot, and I'm insanely hot, I guess we sort of have to bang, right?"

“So since you’re insanely hot, and I’m insanely hot, I guess we sort of have to bang, right?”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Jobs (2013)

You’re trying to tell me Steve Jobs was NOT God?!?!?

This is the story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher). Some of you may know him as that guy who died two years ago, others may know him as the man who founded Apple and the world has never been the same since. That latter-choice is mainly what he’s remembered for, although you wouldn’t be wrong to go with the first one either because he did die two years ago, due to stomach cancer. Anyway, that’s the end of his story, the beginning of it all begins with his early days of getting kicked out of college, being a hippie, doing a lot of acid, and starting his own computer company in his garage with fellow iconic nerd Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). Then, once powerful businessman Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) came strolling through, poking his nose into Jobs’ business, then he, along with the rest of Apple, got big. Almost TOO big some would say, especially for Steve himself who was considered very difficult to work with and always wanted perfection, at the expense of the others around and supported him. That would all come back to catch up with him though, in a way that not only blind-sided him, but the rest of the technology world as well.

The story of Steve Jobs seemed almost destine for the big-screen. Think about it: How many people do you see out-and-about with iPods, iMacs, or iPhones? The answer is somewhere in the millions and it shows you the type of effect/influence this man had on our world. He changed the way we see, hear, and feel everything, not just computers, music, or video-games, EVERYTHING. The man was a visionary, and it still saddens me to this day to see him go. What saddens me even more, is that his legacy will most likely live on in made-for-TV movies like this; the problem being, this isn’t a made-for-TV movie. It’s released to the general, wide public, in order to inform the world on the person Steve Jobs was and why his story matters, but at the same time, not doing either of them. It just tells a story, and that’s it.

"Can we get a munchies break, man?"

“Can we get a munchies break, man?”

All we really get here from Joshua Michael Stern’s direction with this material is that Steve Jobs was a very smart dude, but at the same time, a dick. Which I will admit, I liked. It takes a lot for a biopic like this to not sugarcoat its main subject, and I liked that it showed Jobs as a dude that didn’t work well with others, for reasons that weren’t anybody else’s fault but his own. He was a perfectionist, arrogant, always felt like he knew what to do and how to do it better, and didn’t want to be anything or anybody that disagreed with him. From the stories that I’ve read and heard of Jobs, a lot this rings true, which is why I’m glad that Stern went for that aspect of the man’s story, but that’s about it.

Everything else we see here, like his failures and his victories, all play out without little to no emotion, insight, or compelling arguments as to why it matters at all in the least bit. Seriously, as soon as Jobs and the rest of his ragtag group are given their first task to create a keyboard and sell it to the wide audience out there, we are told it does something cool in a way that only full-on computer geeks will get and understand. As for the rest of the human-population that can’t tell the difference between a Dell or a PC, are going to be at a loss for words, which is wrong to do for a biopic of this. A lot of people have been bringing comparisons between this and another technology-centered biopic, The Social Network, and although I wanted to side-step away from that obvious route, I just can’t help it because at least that movie did everything right, that this movie could not do.

It gave us a reason to care, with fully fleshed-out characters; it made us understand why all of these inventions mattered, and still do in today’s world; and made us feel the hurt and the pain once the back-stabbing and betrayal began to happen between co-workers, and old friends. That movie, was a near-masterpiece and watching a misguided biopic like this only made me realize just how well-done that movie honestly was. This, on the other hand, while not being terrible like I had originally imagined it being, still can’t seem to get to the core of the events it’s depicting, or the person it’s about himself.

For instance, rather than this being a movie about Steve Jobs the person, it’s more about Steve Jobs, what he did, and how he did it. Not how he felt or who he was, but what he got done in time for everybody to check it out. In a way, it just traces all of the accomplishments he had over the years, while also shedding a dim-light on some of the biggest happenings of his life. Probably the most important event of his life was when Bill Gates “supposedly” ripped-off one of Jobs’ models, putting him into a total fit of rage and anger. You’d think that the tension and building-up to this one scene would be somewhere along the lines of Peter Parker on the verge of beating the shit out of JT, but it was the farthest thing from. Instead, we just got a simple phone-call from Jobs to Gates, where the man left an angry voice-message, saying he’s pissed and all of that other enraged crap, and that was it. Never alluded to once again, and just left to pan-out in mid-air. That’s not the only instance where we get something important in Jobs’ life alluded to, and never brought up again: There’s the fact that he was adopted, and didn’t want anything to do with his first-born; what he did in his meantime when he was first fired from Apple (and subsequently founded Pixar); and the fact that he abandoned and ripped-off of most of his co-founding friends within Apple.

Plenty more where that came from, and even though they do touch on those subjects in this movie, they never go anywhere deeper than just a nod, a wink, or nothing at all. Maybe just a mention, and that’s it.

Oh my gosh! It's Kelso! But he's old! And bald!!

Oh my gosh! It’s Kelso! But he’s old! And bald!!

However, I’d say that the only memorable part about this whole movie is Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve Jobs, which in and of itself isn’t even the best part of the movie; it’s just interesting per se. Because let’s all face it: I highly doubt I was alone in the world being skeptical and nervous hearing that Michael Kelso would be playing none other than Steve Jobs, a widely-regarded genius of the modern-day, right? And that’s not a hit against Kutcher at all; in fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I “like” the dude. He’s funny, he’s got charm, and seems like he can pull off some nice bits of acting when he needs to, but I think it may be just a little too drastic for him to go for the gut with a performance that’s centered all around him, what he can do as an actor, and how spot-on he can portray this famous figure. Some of it, surprisingly, Kutcher does well with, especially the gaunt-walk Jobs supposedly had and the way he was able to sound-out certain vowels. That “impersonation”, if you will, is good for him and he does a nice job with, but when it comes to getting to the meat of the performance and of this guy, then he loses all credibility.

Most of that blame is partially on the script, as well as the direction, but it’s also on Kutcher because I always saw him “acting”. Not once did I really see him BECOME Steve Jobs. I just saw him playing Steve Jobs, and try really, really hard at it as well. The make-up and facial-hair looked good on him and was able to make us see him as Jobs, but that’s all because it’s a neat little trick of the director, and not because Kutcher is that talented of an actor. However, I can’t hate on the guy too much because he surprisingly bearable to watch here, and it’s the type of performance that makes me wish I see him in more daring, challenging roles in the future, but as for right now: Just stick with saying choice words like “dude” and “sweet”, and you’ll be all good.

As for the rest of the stacked-cast, they all do fine as well and in certain spots, bring out the best within Kutcher’s acting skill. Josh Gad especially, playing Steve Wozniak in a way that makes him a rather rotund, but lovable nerd that knows what’s right for the technology world, but also has morals to where it’s no surprise to see him and Jobs have a bit of a battle on what constitutes “business, without being personal”. Also, it was very nice to see Dermot Mulroney get his best performance in what has seemed like ages. Seriously, why is this guy not getting bigger and better roles nowadays?!?! The man obviously deserves it, and shows so here. Whatever, it’s probably just me.

Consensus: While Jobs doesn’t stray far away from the ugly side of it’s main figure-head, it surely doesn’t do him many favors either in terms of getting to who the person was, why he was that way, why he mattered, why what he did mattered, and why we should fully believe Ashton Kutcher as a dramatic force to be reckoned with.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ's "Sexiest Man of the Year" recipient.

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” recipient.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

Good call on making it Lee Daniels’ The Butler, because there would have been a whole lot of confusion differentiating this movie, from the 1916 short film of the same name.

The years from 1952 to 1986 saw a lot of change. Change in economy; change in society; change in people; change in politics; and just change in general. However, the one thing that didn’t change in this world was Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), and the job that he had as a White House butler. Remember though, he was the butler for more than 8 presidential terms, and saw them all: He started with Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ended with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), and witnessed all of the change, the turmoil, the happiness, the problems, and all of the social happenings that occurred in our country, and had the best seat in the house. However, on his home-front, away from the very white, very rich people who lived in the nation’s capitol, Cecil Gaines found it a little hard to keep everybody in his happy, mainly his drunken wife (Oprah Winfrey) and rebellious, but racially-inspired son (David Oyelowo).

When you see a movie like The Butler (which I will continue to call it for the rest of this review), you have to know what you’re getting yourself into right from the start. Obviously its going to be predictable, ham-handed, preachy, episodic, and beyond earnest, but that’s what you expect with something that people are considering “The Civil Rights movement meets Forrest Gump“, right? But like with most movies of this type of nature, if you can get past all of the politics of what the story’s trying to get across, then you can actually find yourself a bit touched by this story, even a little inspired. Nope, I am not black and nope, I am not a Civil Rights activist that still fights to this day, but I’ll be damned if this movie didn’t make me want to raise my fist up to the white man!

"Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He's scaring the shit out of me."

“Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He’s scaring the shit out of me.”

What’s very strange about this movie though, and what ultimately does it itself in, is that it’s seemingly two movies spliced into one, 2-hour-long feature. One is a flick about a meek and kind butler working for these rich, white politicians who are sometimes as mean a they come; while the other is a flick about a father and a son who obviously love and care for one another, but can’t find an agreement on where they both stand when it comes to the Civil Rights movement, and what needs to be done in order to get the same respect and gratitude that the white man’s been practically getting forever. One’s very interesting, if a little conventional, while the other is surprisingly well-told, and holds most of the core emotions that Lee Daniels himself has this flick bottle-up, just in hopes that it will eventually cork right open and have everybody crying in their seats.

Eventually the cork does come flying out and the emotions do run high, but it could have hit harder, had the other-half of this movie not been so coincidental.

And yes, I do get that if Gaines’ story didn’t have some sort of meaning in the grander scheme of things, then ultimately, we wouldn’t have a freakin’ flick; but some of this is just a little too hard to let slide by. A couple of scenes with Gaines and the president-at-the-time felt honest, realistic, and believable (mainly the ones with JFK, played very well by James Marsden, who not only looks, but feels the part, for as short of a running-time as he gets), but others just claw their nails into your face, just trying their hardest to get a tear out of you. The scenes with Nancy and Ronald Reagan mean well, but end up somehow spitting in the face of both of those familiar faces, making them seem more like fame-whores, rather than actual humans, that were considered at one time, the saviors of this country. I guess hating on Nixon is all fair game by now, but the Reagans? Really?!?! Oh well, maybe it’s just me, but something with their story left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

But then of course we have the stronger-half of the movie: The father-son drama, that’s more compelling than it ought to be. I don’t know who to chalk up the credit to for this part of the movie working the most, so I’ll just give it to all involved with it. Firstly, Lee Daniels has never really impressed me with anything he’s done yet as a director, mainly because the dude’s nowhere near being subtle. Even Precious, as dramatic as it was, was completely over-the-top and got away with it all, because it was adapted from something people consider “truer than art”. Didn’t see that at all, but whatever. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid on that notion, but hey, I guess it’s time to get blind-sided every once and awhile, right?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Daniels doesn’t pull as many punches here, and it shows. When he keeps it grounded in a sense of comforting reality, you feel closer to these characters and have an emotional-placement in them and what it is that they do. Sometimes Daniels gets a little too over-his-head with various cuts to news footage of the South, where it was practically legal to kill a black person (only if you were a white person that is), but overall, the guy made sure that his story stayed on track and never lost sight of what he was really trying to tell us here. Maybe Gaines’ story didn’t impact the world like Daniels thinks it does, but it definitely is a story worth telling, especially on the big screen, and you can tell that Daniels loves that fact and doesn’t want to lose us, or our interest.

Like I was saying though, the aspect of this movie that mainly keeps it going throughout is the father-son relationship between Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo, two actors who give their best work in a long time, especially for the former, who has been churning out dull-role-after-dull-role ever since he won “The Big One” way back in ’06. Both characters, Cecil and Louis, are fighting a fight and doing it all for a cause; and that’s racism. But what separates one from the other is how they’re doing it. Cecil stays loyal, workable, and dedicated to his job, just to show that a black man can make a living in the White House, even if he isn’t at the head of it; while Louis, on the other hand, believes that taking to the streets is the one, and possibly only, way to get your voice heard and to make matters finished. At first, when he’s teaming-up with MLK, it’s all about resilience and control, but once the man gets assassinated, and Malcom X takes over the wheel, then it all becomes about violence, installing fear into society, and doing a whole bunch of other questionable acts that would end anyone in a slammer, regardless of their skin-color.

"Don't worry baby, I'll just buy you the White House."

“Don’t worry baby, I’ll just buy you the White House. I mean, cause Christ, I’m Oprah, bitch!”

Anyway though, I’m avoiding the fact that these two, despite them being both father and son, are fighting the same battle. They want to speak their minds and be heard for the rest of the world to take notice of, but are doing it completely differently, if not at the same time. But they don’t disagree with how either goes about it, and that just causes more friction between the two, even when they aren’t together. It’s very clever how Daniels stretches this aspect of their story, and it never gets old or over-done, especially since Whitaker and Oyelowo inject their characters with some real-life heart and trouble. Whitaker gives the type of tour-de-force performance that always is able to get his name noticed come Oscar season, but it’s mainly Oyelowo who shows us that he’s capable of taking someone who’s a little too young and brass to fully get a grip on the world, and still be arrogant about it. Yet, at the same time, still fully gain our sympathy because we know his heart is in the right place, it’s just that he doesn’t have the total understanding on what the world means or where it’s going to end up. Pretty interesting stuff once you think about it, and thankfully, Daniels doesn’t hammer that idea in too much, to where it practically becomes over-shadowing everything else; even if it still does, unintentionally so.

And the rest of the ensemble is great too, if not a bit too stacked for it’s own good. Going into this movie, I felt like I was going to be annoyed to high heavens of Oprah Winfrey here as Cecil’s wife, Gloria, all because it seemed like a piece of stunt-casting used just to get the movie’s name out there more and more for the rest of the world to see (because honestly: Everybody loves Oprah!). I have no qualms with Oprah, but it seemed like a dumb idea to cast her here, if not a very obvious one. However, the woman totally shocked the hell out of me with her portrayal here because she never over-does it, always brings out something new within this character, and charmed me with every scene she was in. Heck, she even made me forget I was watching Oprah act as somebody that wasn’t Oprah! Didn’t think it would happen, and nearly thought I was doomed once I saw her face on the big screen, but she sure did show my pretentious ass. Glad she did, too.

Also, glad to see my main man, Cuba Gooding Jr., getting more work and still being able to knock it out of the park. Take note, Hollywood. The man may be on his comeback trail. Guess Daddy Day Camp wasn’t such the career-killer everybody thought it was….okay, yeah, it was. But still, he’s back, baby!

Consensus: Lee Daniels’ The Butler touches plenty of schmaltz throughout it’s 2-hour running-time, but does it so in a way that will actually compel you, while also serving a history-lesson on how far we’ve come as a nation, and how many times we’ve screwed-up in the past. However, the future looks bright and that’s something I feel that is worth seeing, especially during these hard times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

When he isn't responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

When he isn’t responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

Photos Credit to: IMDBCollider, JobloComingSoon.net

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Sadly, as much as it pains to me admit it: Jim was right.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still the same old, lovable dork everybody remembered him as being three years ago. He still wants the ladies, he’s still awkward with his dad, and he still tries to save the day dressing-up as his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. However, times have changed since everybody’s favorite, real-life superhero came out and started saving the world, one dead drug-dealer at a time; now, it seems like everybody on the street who’s ever wanted to do something nice, is dressing-up as their own creation and getting ready to go head-to-head with the various baddies who run throughout New York City. Heck, they even have their own team, which is lead by the mysterious, but deadly force of nature known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Things start to get a little shaky however, once Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), aka, the Red Mist comes back to seek his revenge for his daddy’s death, but this time, has a new name and a dangerous posse along with him for the ride, wreaking havoc and disaster everywhere they show up. With Kick-Ass, the rest of his team, and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), D’Amico’s war-path of revenge may come to an end.

Despite it having its haters, I rather enjoyed the original Kick-Ass. It definitely had its moments where it went a little too far with its action, and definitely felt like it was a lot cooler than it actually was, but overall, it was fun, exciting, gory, and a nice change-of-pace from the usual, CGI-driven superhero flicks we usually get, and got that fine summer of 2010. Hence why I was looking forward to this sequel so much, even if it felt like the type of movie that didn’t need a sequel, nor did it really need to expand on its story. But you know what? It’s the summer; it’s action-y; and it’s Kick-Ass, so why the ‘eff not?!?

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Well, here’s why not….

Nice transition on my part, I know.

Where I feel like this flick definitely hits its problems in, is its tone. The first movie took its violence seriously, but never too seriously to the point of where we couldn’t laugh or at least be amused by the image of some druggie getting decapitated. The point of Matthew Vaughn’s direction in that movie was to show violence in a form that didn’t make you feel guilty, but showed you violence that still meant something, without being overly-exploited. Here, under the new wing of Jeff Wadlow, it feels overly-exploited and nonsensical, which wouldn’t have been bad had the movie not tried taking itself so seriously at times. I get that the movie isn’t trying to condone these (sometimes) disturbing acts of violence, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it should really be glamorizing it all that much either.

But as the movie goes, it then continues to gets weirder with its view-point and its tone; which I thought wasn’t possible at all, but apparently I was dead wrong. What happens with this movie is that it gets very, VERY serious, and throws in pieces of action that would make any die-hard, action-junkie jump in the air, fists raised, but at the same time, also is too disturbing for anybody to really cheer for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pulling a Jim Carrey here and/or getting soft in my old age or anything, it’s just that I know when you can mix comedy and action together, in order to make the transition between the two seamless, and this movie’s transition is noticeable, if not off-putting. A scene by the end when one of these superheros named Night Bitch (witty, ain’t it?), gets attacked by the main group of baddies, and is shouting, screaming in fright, and looks like she’s about to be the victim of a very vicious, a very scary rape. I don’t know about you, but to put a “hinted” rape scene in any movie, whether it be a comedy or a drama, gets me feeling a bit uneasy, especially when it’s thrown into a movie like this, where it seems like they’re going for the yucks, but also the “Hoorahs!” and the “Yays!” of its heavy-male demographic.

However, I realize that I’m sounding more and more like a prude here, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead of myself and before I lose my membership to Hardbodies Gym. Anyway, what I was saying about this movie is despite the tone being oddly “off”, the movie still has its moments of sheer fun and visual-grandeur, maybe it’s just not as smartly-written or as thoughtful as the first movie. Maybe so, but that said, it’s still a good movie that will have you all ready for the inevitable, final show-down between the goodies, and the baddies. Which is credit to Wadlow as the director, because even though we know where this story is going to go and how it’s most likely going to end, he throws in his own subtle-tricks of amping-up the story’s tension, little by little, piece by piece. For that, I have to stop busting his balls and give credit where credit’s due, but I also have to say that Matthew Vaughn was such a better director for this material; one that I hope they are able to get back if/when they make a third.

Look out, Aaron. You don't want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage's.

Look out, Aaron. You don’t want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage’s.

Though we all know he’s one sexy mofo underneath that whole, “I’m a total geek! Just look at my glasses and frizzy hair” facade, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still serviceable as Kick-Ass, even though he isn’t given much heavy-lifting to do with this story. Instead, that honors given to Chloë Grace Moretz who not only steals the show when she’s being the feisty, fiery, little bad-mouthed gal that she is known as with Hit Girl, but also when she’s just living the life of a 15-year-old, high-school freshman. Yes, believe it or not, Moretz is getting a bit older and it’s about that time for her to start taking on more mature roles, and if this counts as the beginning for her, well, then she’s off to a pretty good start. Not only is it funny to watch her try to fit in with “the cool clan” of her grade, but to watch as she fails, time and time again. Sometimes it’s hard to watch because of how true it is about certain social-cliques within high-school, but Moretz’s unabashed sense of knowing that she can whoop any of their asses, makes it all the better just to sit back, and wait for her to extract her revenge whenever she sees fit. And when she does, trust me, it’s going to be deserved, if not disgusting. VERY disgusting, that is.

While Nicolas Cage isn’t here to steal the show like he did in the first one as Big Daddy, Jim Carrey is more than able to take his spot and do a little bit of scene-stealing as well, even if it isn’t the type of performance you’d expect from the guy. Not only is Colonel Stars and Stripes a bit of a nut when it comes to violence and the way he uses it on his victims, but he’s also a bit of an endearing figure, especially when we find out that he’s an ex-mobster, now turned born-again Christian. It’s a very strange role for Carrey, one that he doesn’t go too over-the-top with, but still owns and has a great time with. Shame that he abandoned any type of love or support for this flick, because the movie could have really benefited from it. And even though he’s still treated as more of a joke than he was in the last one, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is still enjoyable to watch as Chris D’Amico, now with his new name: The Motherfucker. Not much originality lies in the pens of those script-writers, but at least they know how to make a joke work a couple of times.

Consensus: Though the first one added an extra feeling to its punch, Kick-Ass 2 still delivers on the action, the violence, the humor, and the fun turns from its cast, but also doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serious superhero movie with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it, or a comedic superhero movie, with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"When the camera's are on, I'm your best friend. No need to worry. But when they're off, ehh, go fuck ya self!"

“When the camera’s are on, I’m your best friend. No need to worry. But when they’re off, ehh, go fuck ya self!”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Air Force One (1997)

I could see Barack being able to throw down when push came to shove.

On the most heavily-guarded aircraft in the world, President Marshall (Harrison Ford) is returning back home to the states with his wife and daughter. Everything’s running smoothly and calm, that is until a group of angry, pissed-off, Russian terrorists (lead by Gary Oldman) decide to take over the plane, hold the president and his family for ransom, and kill some other passengers as well. However, the President is lucky enough to get out of there as safe as can be as soon as the bad stuff begins to happen, and finds himself locked inside a air-pod that flies him down to safety, away from all of the violence and the terrorists. But that’s what they all think. See, what really happened here is that the President didn’t back down from this fight, and was going to stop at nothing, I do repeat, NOTHING to get the family and the country that he loves oh so much back.

Yeah, it’s pretty stupid: The President just so happens to kick just as much ass, if not more, than the heavily trained and tutored Secret Service members there to save and protect him, if the moment itself ever arose. But hey, so be it. When a movie is this fun, this goofy, and this tense, you just learn to embrace it rather than slap it in the face for it’s sheer showing of stupidity. Like I said, it’s fine and everything, but it is very stupid and one mustn’t forget about that fact when watching this movie. Or else, you may get a bit lost in your own self-seriousness. Don’t be ashamed though, because it happens to all of us.

"No need to call my agent. He already knows I'm doing this crap."

“No need to call my agent. He already knows I’m involved with this crap.”

The main reason being is that a lot of it is very, VERY patriotic. As much as Americans love to show how snobby other countries are with their ways of running themselves, and whatever it is that they hold sacred; trust me, we are just as worse, if not worse. And one of the main ways we get our patriotism out there for the rest of the world to see and (hopefully) latch onto is movies, and this is just the clear-cut example of that. Plenty of moments here feel like everybody involved was just ready to chant, “USA! USA! USA!”, after somebody said something considered “cool” or “tough” that had to be associated with the country they hail from. I mean, I’m an American, I love my country, and I’ll stand by it any day of the week, but this movie does push it a little too far, to where I feel like if I was out of the United States of America; I’d be very bothered. I was bothered, but that’s just because I’m an American and I’m stupid, right?

Anyway, so the movie. What works about this movie, despite it’s over-the-top, stars-and-stripes approach, is that it’s always a boat-load of fun. See, as the summer continues to roll on and die down, day by day, I start to see less and less of these big, loud, and unapologetic stupid blockbusters that aren’t made for our minds to be used, and more for our eyes. It’s very hard to come by a very solid blockbuster that doesn’t totally blow out the fun, or doesn’t totally blow out your brain-cells by the end of it’s run-time, and I felt like this flick found a nice breathing ground between both of those factors. Yup, it was very dumb to where I questioned what 2 + 2 equaled a couple of times; and yup, there were many moments where I felt like I didn’t know what was going to happen next, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, and why. I’m a movie critic. I watch a lot of movies. So what can I say, eh?

Basically, where I’m getting at with all of this gibber jabber is that this movie, no matter what type of folk you are, whether you like your movies loud, big, action-packed, and implausible, or small, subtle, thought-provoking, emotional, and mentally-challenging; you’re going to have fun with this flick. Most people already have and even though I’m not to say “Go out there and follow the rest of the herd”, I do have to say that it does seem pretty obvious why people like this movie so much, and why it has a 79% on Rotten Tomatoes, 16 years after it’s original release date. That goes to show you the type of movie this was meant to be: Big, dumb, and fun. That’s what’s worth seeing here, even if you can’t believe a lick of this plot. And if you don’t, I don’t blame you, because apparently Slingin’ Dick Billy didn’t either, and he still liked it!

"FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!"

“FOR MUTHA RUSSIA!!”

As for the real reason why this movie did so well commercially and critically, well, let’s just say it’s because the President of the United States of America in this movie was portrayed by non other than Harrison Ford himself. Yes, as hard as it may be to fully take in Han Solo as the guy who would make most of the judgment calls behind the big desk, in the White House, Ford still uses that charm and general ruggedness to his act that works very well and has us believe in him. Not just as the President, but also as a bit of a bad-ass that would be able to chew bubblegum and kick ass, while also telling people to get off of his plane. Its obvious that around this time Ford was beginning to show his age and it was going to eventually catch up on him, but for the mean time, watching this movie; his older-age practically just leaves your mind and allows you to just soak up all of the ass-beating and whoop-downs that he commits to these terrorist scum-bags.

Speaking of those said “terrorist scum-bags”, the leader of the crew is non other than everybody’s most lovable villainous actor: Gary Oldman. And yes, Gary Oldman does plenty of the Gary Oldman tricks of the trade that we expect to see him pull off by now, especially with as much enthusiasm as he shows here. The character that Oldman plays is rather weak, because he’s one of those leaders of a terrorist group that has a plan so stacked into his head, yet, still can’t help but let his violent tendencies gain control over his mind and plausible-thinking, but Oldman’s too great of an actor to let that phase him in the least bit. Oldman chews up, spits out, and swallows back in the scenery, and seems to be having a ball while doing so. Therefore, we have a ball just watching him, even if we would have appreciated more screen-time between him and Ford. Oh well, I guess that’s why we have Paranoia coming out this Friday, right? Trust me, just as least excited to see it as you are.

Consensus: Implausible and idiotic to a fault, Air Force One definitely doesn’t have the highest IQ of all the other action-thrillers out there, but still has plenty of fun with itself, and allows Ford and Oldman to work their magic and do what they do best: Act their assess off.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

A woman in control?!?!? This has gotta be a movie!

21 (2008)

Poker nights with the boys are lame now. Vegas is where it’s at, baby!

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) seems like your typical young adult: Senior at MIT, has a respectable source of income, is a bit of a geek, nice to his mommy, cares for his friends, does well in class, and is trying his hardest to get his ass into Harvard’s Med School. Okay, maybe he’s not the “typical young adult” we all associate ourselves with, but he is poor and he does have a dream so at least he has that going for him. Problem is, the dream he has is practically unattainable due to a lack of funds and a very small shot at getting the perfect scholarship that would make all of his problems go away. However, when Campbell catches the eyes of his professor (Kevin Spacey), he soon finds himself involved with his school’s late-night, underground world of card-counting and unofficial “gambling”, where all of a sudden, all of the money in the world that Ben could possibly want is right here in his hands. How’s he going to handle it all though?

Many out there would probably dismiss this as nothing more than another one of “Hollywood’s, glamorized fantasies” where unrealistic, young, aspiring people have a chance to live their dreams, get rich, party it up, have a good time, and live like they’re going to die tomorrow, And to be honest with you, you wouldn’t be that far off here, had the actual story behind this movie not just been true, but actually written into a book that this movie adapted itself from.

Totally considered "professional".

Totally considered “professional”.

That’s right, believe it or not: A story about a bunch of MIT students who, in the mid-90’s went out to the Vegas casinos, using their skills of counting cards to benefit from the rewards of steep cash, who were lead by a man named Jeff Ma. Despite being, as they say, “based on a true story”, the flick has every working of what could be counted as a total and complete ball of unrealistic glitz and glamour, that gives any kid hope that they too can not only just run tables by learning code names behind certain cards, but also “act out” in a way that changes their image up and has people fooled because they decided to throw a mustache on their face, or a wig on their head. Obviously, it’s all very stupid and hard to fully believe in, but I don’t think that’s really the point behind this flick, especially coming from an inartistic director like Robert Luketic. It’s meant to be a fun, thrilling, and shiny-looking movie that’s more of a love letter to Sin City, than actually being about a heartfelt tale of a kid who chased his dreams, had them in the palm of his hands, and came very, very close to losing them due to sure stupidity, but that’s fine.

Well, fine as long as you can keep me interested; something Luketic forgot to do and in a lazy way as well.

It isn’t even that the movie lost me because everything happened the way I expected it to; in fact, I knew that was going to happen, so I didn’t get myself all wrapped up in the rampant clichés and decided to enjoy what was on screen anyway. However, Luketic tested my patience a bit too much here because he never seems invested in the material, nor does he ever really add an stamp-mark on it, as if you could see him, and only him directing it. This movie could have literally been directed by anybody: You, me, the homeless guy right by the 7-11, anybody. It feels like the type of movie that Luketic made just so he could score some extra cash on the side and with the type of track-record he has; I wouldn’t throw that possibility out at all.

Even as boring as his style (or lack thereof) may be, the writing for his flick is even worse. One of the first rules that these younglings bring up right away before they get out to the town and started making some moolah, is that they play it low-key, so nobody knows just what the hell they are up to, or who they are. For the first couple of trips, they’re calm, collective, and cool, while still making plenty of money on the side. However, once a little bit more cash-flow starts coming their way, they’re acting like total and complete a-holes, as if they were the Rolling Stones during their hey-day. They got the strippers; the drinks; the money; the drugs (didn’t see any, but it’s assumed); and the vanity behind it all. All that’s left was a rockin’ soundtrack of 80’s glam rock collection of Mötley Crüe and Poison. Maybe it was to show that they were young, naive, and a way too in over their heads, but even the professor that’s aiding them on this trip is allowing it, even joining in on the fun as well. Just stupid, stupid, stupid stuff, man.

"If white guys in Marty Scorsese movies can run a casino, hell, I can too!"

“If white, Italian guys in Marty Scorsese movies can run a casino, hell, I can too!”

Anyway, they totally betray their finest rule of their scheming and not only did it take me out of the movie, but it didn’t allow me to see anybody or anything as believable in any sense. Jim Sturgess shares not a single resemblance to the real-life Jeff Ma at all, but he gets by on being a welcome-presence that’s nice and rather sweet, even if if his accent does go in and out almost as much as customers in a whore plantation. Once his story goes on and gets more convoluted, you begin to care less about him, and more about the people around him, who actually feel some sort of emotions for the dude, despite him being a bit of a prick. I guess you could throw Kate Bosworth’s character in that group, even if she too feels like she’s a bit dull and bored with the material. However, Luketic probably didn’t worry himself too much with them in the first place, so why should they even bother, right?

The only two in this cast that are worth watching and giving a shit about are the screen-vets that wipe their asses with this material: Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey. Both take a bit of a back-burner to these younger stars, but eagerly wait in the background, just to have their moment to shine and show the rest of the movie world that they still “got it”. Fishburne is fun to watch as the strong, powerful black man that takes controls of his casinos and will not, not for a single bit, fall victim to another fraud that left him kicking cans in the street last time something like that happened; and Spacey is, well, Spacey. He’s sarcastic; he’s an ass; he’s funny; he’s vindictive; he’s manipulative; and he’s a blast to watch. What else is there left to say? Without these two, the movie definitely would have suffered a whole lot more, but just them showing up and letting us know that they actually care about this material as much as they didn’t need to; really made me want to give it a chance. Even if that chance came crashing down and burning once I realized that it’s nothing new I haven’t seen done a hundred times before, and mostly better as well. That’s Hollywood for ya, though. Nothing new, nothing funny. Just shiny, pretty surfaces to gaze at.

Consensus: Even if 21 is based on a true story, you wouldn’t fully believe in it due to it’s empty feeling and boring characters, despite it being okay to watch, if only you have nothing else to do with your life than spend 2-hours in front of a screen that isn’t your phone or the computer.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

By the end of the year, at least two of them will over-dose on coke or heroin. Because that's the life of a millionaire, card-counter, babay!

By the end of the year, at least two of them will over-dose on coke or heroin. Because that’s the life of a millionaire, card-counter, babay!

Death Proof (2007)

Never trust a dude that can rev it up to over 150, and still collect retirement checks.

Kurt Russell stars as a Hollywood stuntman named Stuntman Mike. He’s cool, lean, mean, drives a sexy, muscle car, looks as fly as can be, and is also very quick to the point. Whenever he walks into a joint, he’s the coolest mofo there, if not the most mysterious as well. However, what most people don’t know about him is that he’s a raging sociopath that goes out of his way to kill beautiful, innocent women on the road with his sexy, muscle car and is finding more and more victims of his to prey on. But not all of the ladies he is on the hunt for are going to stand down from a fight.

That plot synopsis up above may make this movie seem like a pretty straight-forward, slasher flick that doesn’t really deserve the light of day, let alone the light of a movie theater. However, what may change your mind as quick as possible is the fact that it’s written and directed by none other than Mr. Crazy Genius himself: Quentin Tarantino. And if you know Tarantino like I do, you know that nothing he does is ever straight-forward. Thank the Movie Gods for that!

All of those 70’s exploitation flicks that had to do with fast guns, faster cars, and even faster women, are the perfect examples of what Tarantino’s trying to do here. And yes, obviously that style is going to be over-the-top and a bit dated in spots, but it’s Tarantino, and when the guy wants to make a movie, in whichever way possible, you can’t help but come along for the ride too and just share his same sense of joy and pleasure. Since this is Tarantino’s attempt at trying to recapture, or for lack of a better word, “recreate” the same style as those before him, he uses a lot of the trademarks where the camera has little rips and tears throughout, making you feel as if you are sent right back into to the golden years, into those little, rinky-dink theaters that used to carry these unapologetically dumb movies around in order to find it’s audience. After awhile though, it starts to feel like a gimmick, which is why you can sort of tell that Tarantino gets bored with it as well as he changes things up around the second, and in my opinion, a lot more interesting second-half.

"Wanna go for a ride, TO HELL!!!!"

“Wanna go for a ride? The destination being HELL!!!”

However, before we even get to that second-half of the movie, we get to see Tarantino work his magic in a slow, melodic movement that sets the pace for the rest of the movie. Instead of popping out with guns ‘a blazin’ and blood shootin’ out of everywhere, Tarantino begins this film in a quiet, almost relaxed pace where we get to see these female characters talk one another, just like normal females would actually talk to each other. Now, I’m not sure that all girls out there in real-world talk as interestingly and witty as Tarantino makes them out to be here, but they still have conversations about the same topics as most women do like men, sex, food, and partyin’ it up. But Tarantino scripts it all in a way that you want to hear these gals talk it up and it almost doesn’t matter that it goes on for about 30 minutes at a time with barely little to no action to be seen. It’s very interesting and fun to hear them just speak about whatever the topic of discussion is, and somehow, makes us care for them a wee bit more especially when shit hits the fan.

And do trust me on that: Shit does in fact hit the fan here.

Although Tarantino’s dialogue doesn’t seem to miss a single beat with any of these characters, the action is what really takes the second-half and makes it the adrenaline-fueled experience I was expecting to see, but didn’t quite get until it totally blind-sided me out of nowhere. What I loved so much about the action bits here, is that they all felt really old-school, but in a way that wasn’t forced or trying too hard, but in a way that felt natural. The cars in this movie look great and make you really want to go out there and try your hand at a couple of 70’s-era muscle cars yourself. Then again though, they wouldn’t be of any use whatsoever if it wasn’t for the awesome car-chases that take over this flick, especially in the last half-hour. And when I mean the last half-hour, I mean: THE LAST HALF-HOUR.

What separates the car-chases in this movie, from the ones that we usually see in big-budget, action galore-fests, is that they feel necessary to the plot and these characters. Every character in this movie talks about their love and fondness of cars and how they love to get wild when they’re in and driving them, so that when they get on the roads and start going 90 mph down the freeway, you feel like it’s believable, as if they really do enjoy driving in these cars, at these very high speeds. And even the car-chases themselves get you going at a high-speed where you really feel like these are real people, driving real cars, on real roads, and actually have the fear of death in their minds while they’re at it. These scenes reminded me a lot of the one in Bullitt, where it just felt like it was actually happening, without any add-ons like unbelievable CGI or anything of that crappy nature. It gave me fear for these characters in the pit of my stomach, but even worse, it made me scared for myself the next time I get myself behind the wheel because I know that staying below 80, would be a little too hard.

But, even though this film kept me entertained, alive, and well for the most part, there was still something that I felt was missing from the product as a whole. I don’t really know what it was about this movie that just didn’t “get me” as much as all of Tarantino’s other flicks do, but it’s almost like the feeling wasn’t here as much as there is when he does something like Kill Bill or Inglorious Basterds, aka two passion-projects of his that he lets you never forget about, not even in a single-frame. Here, you can tell that he has some feeling and interest for what he’s displaying on-screen, but the passion and love just isn’t all there that much. Almost feels like he went through the motions in what he thought was cool, but didn’t want to get too carried away as he probably is saving them for a later film idea that he has brewing around in his crazy-ass head. Still love the guy, though. I always have to give him that.

THE FEET!! THE FEET!!

THE FEET!! THE FEET!!

Even though some of the feeling for this whole film may not be around, you can still tell that the cast has that feeling, and all do great jobs with what they’re given. This is probably the first time that Kurt Russell has ever went out there and been a straight-up baddie, but since he is a baddie in a Tarantino flick, he’s obviously not going be your typical, scenery-chewing a-hole where you can tell what he’s going to do, every second of the way. See, Russell plays around with this role a lot as he’s very mysterious, strange, creepy, charming, but also, a bit of a bitch when it comes right down to it and by the end, you’ll start to see that more and more. It’s an awesome performance from Russell that shows that the guy can still knock-out iconic pieces of work, no matter how old he gets.

All of the gals in this movie are great, but the one that really took me by surprise would have to stunt-woman Zoe Bell, playing, well, stunt-woman Zoe Bell. If you’ve never seen Bell in anything else before, don’t be ashamed, because you shouldn’t. The girl has never really been in front of the screen to where you can see her face and has been doing stunts for quite awhile, but here is where that all changed a bit. Here, Tarantino gives her more than she expected with a role that displays an endearing sense of charm and likability to her that works and makes me think about all of the other stunt-men and women out there that have to constantly be in films where they aren’t shown doing anything, other than pulling-off some pretty sick stunts. Maybe they like that, but then again, maybe some of them out there have some real, effin’ charm that needs to be seen, in order to be believed.

Consensus: Death Proof is certainly not anywhere near being Tarantino’s best, but still features plenty of his trademarks that make it a great flick and never seem to get old, even if the film itself is trying to set that example with the grungy, 70’s-look that can get a bit gimmicky and unnecessary at times. That said, it’s way better than Planet Terror.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

And Dom Toretto thinks he's all that and a bag of chips.

And Dom Toretto thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips.

To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/planet-terror-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Planet Terror (2007)

Muscle cars > zombie apocalypse.

Not all small towns get along, but especially this one that seems to be located somewhere in the heart of Texas. And just to make matters worse, they’re thrown up against the wall and supposed to fight off a ward of zombies after an odd, toxic biochemical is released onto them. Why? They don’t quite know yet, except for maybe the government may be involved. However, they can’t, and they won’t worry too much about it because they have bigger fish to fry. Or should I just say: Bigger “zombies” to fry? Yeah, it’s corny, but that’s what I’m going for!

The idea of having a chick having an M4 carbine assault-rifle for a leg is probably one of the dumber one’s out there, even as cool as it may sound. That is, unless, you’re a character in a Robert Rodriguez movie, then it makes it perfect sense because you’re just another part of his crazy, insane puzzle that never seems to end inside that guy’s head. And that’s not a complaint at all. I like what Rodriguez brings to the table, whether it be weird, straight-laced, or something new he’s trying out. However, when he’s supposed to be back in his “original form” and is going up against non other than Mr. Quentin Tarantino himself; he can’t help but feel tame in comparison.

Its just what happens when you go toe-to-toe with an even bigger nut, if that’s even imaginable.

"Walking Dead who?"

Walking Dead who?”

But, despite whoever you put Rodriguez up against in a movie, no matter what: The guy always knows how to have fun with his stories and direction, and it is no different here. It’s obvious that this is a mesh between the George A. Romero zombie-flicks, and the eerie, horror movies from John Carpenter, but it seems like Rodriguez is doing more than just an homage, and actually expanding on his own story, with his own quirks and trademarks thrown in there for a great deal as well. The guy lets loose on what we all know and love about him; people get shot-up to oblivion, body-parts come flying out of nowhere, corny-lines are exchanged, and distorted colors seem to make everything on-display trippier. Basically, everything you expect to see from a “Robert Rodriguez zombie flick” happens and is seen here. For that reason, it’s very fun and will keep your eyes alive on the screen for quite some time, even when it seems like Rodriguez is maybe going a little too “nutso” with his own material. Then again, he’s a film maker and he’s allowed to, so who the hell am I to judge?

But what I think ruins Rodriguez and his flick as a whole, is that when it’s stacked-up to Tarantino’s Death Proof, it really pales in comparison. Now, in a way, Death Proof and Planet Terror are both different from one another. Death Proof is a bit serious with its subtle-approach and as a result, feels very down-played, whereas Planet Terror goes absolutely gung-ho with it’s story and never loses it’s pace; Proof is very dialogue-heavy, with lines that are as witty as you’re going to get, whereas Terror has some of the cheesiest lines you’re ever going to hear, but it’s on-purpose; Proof is more about the tension, dialogue, and characters, whereas Terror is all about the action, blood, and violence. See, as much as the two stories may have in common with one another, you can’t help but notice how different they are as well. Whether or not that was deliberate on both of these guy’s parts is totally left up in the air, but I think that’s where this flick hits a hard-place. Or at least Rodriguez does, anyway.

Maybe because I’m speaking from my own point-of-view, my problems with this flick may be a bit biased, but when it comes right down to it: Tarantino is just more talented than Rodriguez in the long-run. Some may call that a no-brainer and some may not, but what I do know is that I feel like Tarantino has a lot more resilience when it comes to the movies that he wants to do and why, where as Rodriguez is a little too random and sporadic. Also, Tarantino has never done a Spy Kids movie so maybe that’s where the sake of the argument lies as well. But I digress.

So yes, both sort of have the same styles in how they let their movies play-out and even tell their own stories as well, but in the end, Tarantino just has something more to him that’s attention-grabbing and as interesting, as anything that Rodriguez has ever really done. Now, I’m not saying that anything Rodriguez has done in his career isn’t good by any means necessary, but Tarantino just has something about him and his movies that make you want to go out there, start writing on a piece of paper, and start making your own movies. In a way, Rodriguez’s films can do that as well, but Tarantino is the automatically first guy I think about when it comes to inspirations/favorite directors.

Fairly uncomfortable I'd suppose, considering he "assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg" situation.

Fairly uncomfortable I’d suppose, considering he “assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg” situation.

Aside from that whole “Rodriguez vs. Tarantino” rant, the reason why Planet Terror just isn’t as good as I would have liked for it to have been was because it’s stacked-up against something that Tarantino did, and that movie’s name is Death Proof. Granted, Proof was no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it kept me alive, intrigued, and best of all, entertained the whole time; whereas with this flick, I felt myself, as well as itself, just meander along and didn’t really offer me anything new that I haven’t already seen done 100 times before in other, and sometimes, “better” zombie movies. That’s not to say that this flick isn’t any fun at all, because trust me: It is. Its just is a time-burner for the sake of being a time-burner and there’s nothing else to it other than that. Kind of disappointing when you think how this is by the same guy who did From Dusk Till Dawn, among many others, but I guess that’s what happens when you go up against a guy who’s won Best Original Screenplay more than once.

Where this film does feel a lot like a Tarantino movie, is in it’s characters that are goofy, wild, and fun as hell to watch. Rose McGowan fits perfectly as Cherry, the ex-stripper/wanna-be comedienne, because of her physical presence (her early strip-scene is one of the hottest openings I’ve seen in a long, long time), and her comedic-timing is actually pretty good which makes the whole idea of her being a “stand-up comedienne” seem pretty convincing. Freddy Rodríguez is alright as Wray, Cherry’s bad-boy, and does what he can but comes off as a bit of a stiff dude, without any real presence on-screen. Most of that screen-presence is used very well by steadied-pros like Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, and even a short, but lovable cameo from Bruce Willis. A pretty stacked-cast and everybody kicks it pretty hard here, but its a real surprise to me that the only one who really comes out on-top is Kurt Russell. And hell, that guys from a whole other movie!

Consensus: Robert Rodriguez injects Planet Terror with his signature style of goofy, over-the-top, wild fun that we all like to see in all of his movies, but can’t really stand-up against Tarantino’s far better, more interesting piece of work known as Death Proof. Sorry Robert. Quentin’s just more of a crazier son of a bitch than you are when it comes right down to it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds."

“Don’t worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds.”

To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Death Proof, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/death-proof-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.