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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: October 2013

Mama (2013)

A mother’s love can be just so damn smothering sometimes, am I right fellow young adolescent males?

After the Stock Market crashes, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) kills his wife and takes his two daughters somewhere unexplained to us. However, as he’s driving around in the mountains with the kiddies in the back, his car, literally, takes a sharp turn for the worse and lands the three in a remote part of the snow-infested woods. And then, lo and behold, Jeffrey finds a remote cabin these woods and decides that it’s time to not only end his life, but his kids’ lives as well. Just as he’s about to off his kids, he is all of a sudden snatched up and killed by something very, very mysterious that the girls are originally scared by, but in a strange way, embrace. Fast forward five years later, and we have Jeffrey’s identical twin brother Lucas (still played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) searching for these girls as if they were his own. Just as Lucas is about to give all sorts of hope and call it quits on the search parties, something miraculous happens: THE GIRLS ARE FOUND!! They’re pretty messed-up in the head, but being stranded, all alone, and left to fend for yourselves for a whole five years will do that to ya, so Lucas decides to take them in and raise them in a normal family they deserve. Two problems though: 1.) Lucas gal-pal (Jessica Chastain) doesn’t really take kindly to children, and 2.) that very, very mysterious being that snatched up and killed his brother all of these years before, is somehow still with those girls, AND IN THAT HOUSE!!

Save paper! Color the walls!

Save paper! Color the walls!

Okay, so yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard with that plot-synopsis, but regardless, you get the drift of this movie: Creepy girls get adopted, creepy girls start doing creepy things, innocent people get thrown into the mix, doors start closing and opening unexpectedly, heads start flying, etc., etc. You’ve all seen it done a million times before, and trust me, Mama is no exception to the rule. It’s essentially a haunted house movie where kids act strange, have an “imaginary friend”, and better yet, feature characters that have never, ever dealt with this type of paranormal activity in their lives before, EVER. Lucky for us though, none of them have the ability to work a hand-held camera (from what we know of), and even luckier for us, the movie ain’t all that bad, especially if you take into consideration just how truly lame and unoriginal the horror genre has gotten as of late.

So yeah, what makes a horror movie a good horror movie, is the scares, which this movie has plenty of because it focuses on its dark atmosphere and mood. For once, I felt like I was watching a horror movie where not only did the scares feel deserved, but they continued to have me expecting the most conventional thing to happen, and then somewhat surprise me giving me something new in front of my face. Doesn’t always happen, and once our ghost of the two-hours shows up more than a handful of times by the end, it feels like a jumping-of-the-shark, but nonetheless, the movie caught me off-guard more times than I expected. And that’s coming from somebody who isn’t the biggest horror fan, and from somebody who knows what to expect, when, and how when it comes to a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can still have fun with a horror movie, but you have to make me feel like it’s worth my time and effort.

This was one of those times, and that’s partially credited to the fact that the movie also has characters worth caring about and investing your emotions in. For the most part, anyway.

Perhaps the oddest selling-point behind this movie that probably worked wonders for it back in late-January when it first came out (aka, the same time around when Chastain was up for an Oscar), was that she suddenly went all goth for this role. She has the black hair, the arm-tats, the extraneous amount of eye-liner, and heck, even plays bass in a pseudo-punk rock band. So basically, she’s supposed to be this wholesome, cutie pie, dressed down and all dolled up to look like this anarchistic bad ass that doesn’t like kids and never, ever wants to get preggo. In essence, she’s the woman of my dreams, minus all of the black make-up and hair. That I can do without.

"Too method", I guess?

“Too method”, I guess?

Appearances aside, Chastain is still very good as Annabel because even though she is a bad ass that doesn’t give a flying hoot about having kids, or better yet, raising them, she still makes for a sympathetic character because her transition from “arms-length adoptive mother, to loving and caring adoptive mother”, feels real and honest, even if her main competition for these girls’ whole heart, love, and affection is the ghost of a woman who died almost hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But hey, maybe that’s why she’s one of the most exciting and promising faces we have out there working today! We need an actress like her to take material that’s conventional and by-the-numbers, and find some emotion behind it all that goes deeper than the surface-level. More of her will definitely do us all good. You can count on that fact.

And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ain’t so bad either as her more endearing boyfriend, Lucas, but he gets knocked out of the game about half-way through due to a coma, which leaves us plenty of time to care for Annabel, as well as these little girls, Victoria and Lilly. Speaking of these girls, both Megan Charpentie and Isabelle Nélisse do some solid jobs with what they had to do, which didn’t look easy since a lot of it consisted of being creepy, using their eyes to convey emotion, and just being kids, while also not being over-bearing and annoying like most kids in movies seem to come across as. While one has more lines to say than the other, both girls show that they may have a bright future ahead of themselves, if they don’t let mommy and daddy take over their lives and get an edumication. Because honestly, when you’re the centerpiece of a major, big-budget horror movie that goes #1 for two weeks in a row, do you really need to worry about learning how to write in cursive? Hell naw!!! Lord knows I didn’t want to and look how I turned out…..

Consensus: May not be a game-changer in the slightest bit, but Mama is still an effective horror flick that’s chock-full of some worthy scares, worthy characters, and best of all, a worthy story that takes some surprising turns you don’t expect it to go through with, especially with that ending.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Christmas Card material? You bet your ass it is! Especially if you're a sick, twisted fuck like me! Mwhaahahaah!

Christmas Card material? You bet your ass it is! Especially if you’re a sick, twisted fuck like me! Mwhaahahaah!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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A.C.O.D. (2013)

30 years later and my parents are still together, and I’m still fucked up. So what does that tell you about children of divorce?!?!?

Carter (Adam Scott) is what some of us call an adult child of divorce (or, for a clearer term, A.C.O.D.). While there is a book written about studies that were done on him when he was young, everything that it predicted has not come true. Though his parents (Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara) are crazy and definitely have some sort of effect on him as a person, he rarely so often sees them, he’s successful, well-adjusted, with a very supportive girlfriend (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and willing to help out anybody if they need it. Such is the case with his little bro (Clark Duke) when he decides that he wants to give marriage a try, despite only knowing the bride-to-be for no more than a few months. But hey, love is love, or so they say, so Carter decides to fund the wedding in hopes that it will go down smoothly, without a problem whatsoever, but now that his parents are both coming to it, and AT THE SAME TIME, IN THE SAME ROOM, well, then it seems like things may not go as perfectly as originally planned.

Comedies like this always get my happy and excited for what they may bring to me and my mood of that given day. More so this one because of the awesome cast that has almost anybody, and everybody that’s willing to bring out a laugh in me, no matter what the material is that they’re working with. As long as they’re funny, then I’m laughing and I’m happy. As simple as that.

Reserve me a seat at that Thanksgiving dinner table.

Reserve me a seat at that Thanksgiving dinner table. Please! I’ll literally do anything!

However, comedies like these also make me realize why I dislike so many comedies out there because while it may boast a cast full of people very capable of being funny, it gives them little to nothing to do that be considered funny. Of course there are plenty of gags here that the writers themselves probably thought were absolutely, positively hilarious in their minds and on paper, but when it actually comes to being on film, the gags just don’t work and seem more like they were perfectly for a small sketch you’d see on MAD TV or SNL. And for a movie that’s shorter than an-hour-and-a-half, that’s not a good thing to say, especially because you can tell that the premise itself is a nifty idea, it’s just one that never fully feels like it gets stretched out. Or, at least stretched out in a reasonable way.

The basic idea of this movie is to show how this adult child of divorce is coping in the day-to-day life, with a girlfriend who wants to get married, while also knowing that marriage is doomed from the start, all because his parents couldn’t seem to stay together and be happy while at it. That’s a story worth watching get developed and having jokes work off of, but the problem is that nothing in this story ever seems to mean anything, at all. You get a sense that this character of Carter is just creating more problems then there really needs to be, and after awhile, you stop to embrace this problem of his, and get annoyed by it.

While Adam Scott is sure as hell charming as Carter, the character can be so whiny and self-deprecating at times that it was hard to really care for him or even support him with the problems he had with the people around him. Yeah, so his little bro’s getting married to a chick he just met no more than a few months ago? Big deal, let him be. Okay, and so what, his parents are back together again, shacking up and knocking boots together again like old times? What’s the big dealio with that? Eventually, they’ll get bored of one another, realize the other’s faults and never want to speak to each other ever again, sort of like old times too, right? And so what if you’re girlfriend wants to get married, but you’re not ready yet? That’s your problem, so talk it over with her and do it whenever you feel is necessary?

So many problems this guy had with life just did not at all seem to matter to me. I don’t know if that’s because my parents have been together ever since they’re early-20’s and I don’t quite get the same crisis he’s going through as a middle-aged adult or what, but what I do know is that the movie has no central-plot that really feels like you’re strung along on. Instead, it’s more like a bunch of sketches were made up, with an idea of a story in mind, and somehow, someway, the writers were going to connect them all together to make it into one cohesive story, meant to compel us one second, and howling at the moon next.

Problem is, neither of which seems to actually happen, and that’s all made worse by the fact that everybody involved are very, very, VERY funny in almost all that they do. Just not so much here.

Like I was saying before, while I was having plenty of problems with his character, Adam Scott still does do a nice job as Carter, mainly because he has just such a likable personality, it’s almost too hard to despise the guy. He may be self-loathing practically all of the time, but when he wants to be funny in his own dry, sardonic way, it works and made me laugh like as if I was watching him tell me about Game of Thrones, all over again. He’s good with everybody here, but his best scenes definitely come when he’s with Mary Elizabeth Winstead who gives us a girlfriend that isn’t begging to get hitched right away, nor is she really wanting to wait forever. She just wants to make sure that when the time is right, it will happen, and that’s a nice breath of fresh air to actually see in a movie, even if it is a bit unrealistic (am I right, men?).

She even smiles at him when he's not looking or even saying something remotely funny. Whatta babe.

She even smiles at him when he’s not looking or even saying something remotely funny. Whatta babe.

The most fun out of this whole cast seem to be from both Richard Jenkins and Catherine O’Hara as Carter’s parents who, after sheer-chance, start banging once again, which makes the movie a whole lot more enjoyable to watch since they just work so perfectly damn well together. Jenkins is fun when he’s being a likable prick, whereas O’Hara is always a blast when she’s playing up her mean-side, as well as her outrageous one as well. You combine them together, and you have the best bits of the movie that make this so worth watching, even when everything else around them seems to be mildly interesting, at that.

But sure, Amy Poehler has a few funny scenes as Carter’s detestable step-mother; Jane Lynch shows up and does her thing as the psychiatrist who continues to study Carter on and on throughout the years; and Jessica Alba, sporting a slew of arm-tats, maybe has about five minutes of screen-time in this movie, is charming, very hot and shows Carter a new life he could have. But as soon as she’s gone, she never comes back and that’s that. Disappointing, I guess, but then again, nobody has ever really noticed Jessica Alba for her comedic-chops. Especially no guy has.

Consensus: The more-than capable cast of A.C.O.D. make this a lot better than it truthfully is, but whenever they aren’t working their magic, the script takes over and becomes a mind-numbing bore, offering us nothing interesting to really care about.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wonder where the hell he's at? Sure as heck not a "book store", is it?

Wonder where the hell he’s at? Sure as heck not a “book store”, is it?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Escape From Tomorrow (2013)

Now I know why I never trusted Mickey in the first place. That sneaky, motherfucking mouse.

Sometimes, some days are just crappy, so you got to suck it up and take your family to Disneyland. As simple as that. And if you don’t believe me, just ask Jim White (Roy Abramsohn) who seems to be having one of the worst days of his life already; starting off with a dismissive call from his boss, getting locked out of his hotel room by his son and the worst pain of all, his wife being angry at him. So yeah, Jim knows that today is going to suck, but something feels different today than most other days. In fact, something weird seems to be going on with this day that he doesn’t really take notice to until he shows up to Disneyland, and starts imagining bad, terrible things that may or may not be happening in front of his own very eyes. Then again, in the Most Magical Place on Earth, the line between reality and fantasy is sometimes blurred.

By now. it seems like everybody knows the story behind the making of Escape From Tomorrow, but if not, here it is for you, in as simple of terms as I can put it. Basically, director Randy Moore was able to get his cast of five or six or so, and film on the grounds of Disneyworld without getting caught, nor getting any permission to do so by Disney Co. themselves. And in case you don’t know by now, either, but Disney can be some tough a-holes when it comes to who films on their grounds, why and how they’re represented. Which is why as negatively this movie represents the place as being, it’s a shock to see that Disney hasn’t really thrown any lawsuits around their way.

That always was my face on the teacups. Fucking hated that shit.

That always was my face on the teacups. Fucking hated that shit.

One theory is that Disney doesn’t want to associate themselves with the movie to bring any more press or notoriety to it than it already has, which is pretty smart on their part. Another theory is that Disney thinks that the movie isn’t all that good to begin with, so why even before making a huge stink over something so amateurish to begin with. I most likely believe this theory, even if it is only a theory inside of my own mind. Nonetheless, it’s still a theory to think about!!

From an aspiring filmmaker’s stand-point, I have to give Moore plenty of credit for having the balls to actually go through with being a sneaky mouse and filming in Disneyworld. This seemed like no easy-feat, and as the stories begin to come out more and more, apparently there were a certain amount of problems that amounted to getting caught red-handed, or coming very close to being caught. Either way, Moore took a big leap of faith with this approach and it pays off well not only because it puts you right in the place itself, but because some of the best material he has here works when it’s just him poking fun at Disney itself.

The whole consumerist idea behind Disney and the people who go there is definitely a thought that’s front-and-center throughout most of the film. While Moore does play around with ideas of unnatural and ghost-like happenings that sometimes come completely out of left-field, the reasoning why Moore had his movie take place in Disney still stays in the back, letting you know that there is more to this material than just iconic Disney figures doing some creepy things. And even then, they’re still somewhat effective, mostly because the B-movie look and feel of the movie actually places you in a slight sense of reality that feels like you’re thrown into this dream-like world with this guy and his family.

However, once Moore does begin to step away from the satire of his story, and pay more attention to the story itself, the movie begins to fall apart due mainly to its whole gimmick losing shock-appeal. You can tell that most of Moore’s budget lied solely on getting in-and-out of Disneyworld itself, which makes sense why most of this movie takes place away from it; like in places such as numerous hotel rooms, bathrooms and in front of some terribly-looking green-screens. Yes, I do understand that Moore may have not had a lot of money to complete his vision to perfection, but that’s no excuse for giving us something that looks like it could have been made alongside the likes of Birdemic. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too harsh, but you get my point.

It’s also not even the fact that the movie looks cheap, because once the novelty wears thin, so does the story itself. You don’t ever quite care for this dude or the things that he chooses to do, which is why when all of this nutty stuff starts to happen to him, it seems less like reasonable twists and turns, and manipulative/obvious ways for Moore to coax us into thinking that this movie is different from any other fantasy-piece out there. But, aside from the grainy black-and-white, the shooting on and inclusion of Disneyworld, there’s not much else that we haven’t seen before. A lot of it will most likely leave you scratching your head, for better, but for worse, it will just have you uninterested since Moore never seems to have a full-focus on what he wants to do with his story. So, instead, he just throws at us whatever his budget can promise and leaves it at that.

Take that kid to Disney and leave him be. Mickey will take care of him.

Take that kid to Disney and leave him be. Mickey will take care of him.

Gets old after awhile, and begins to just seem like another case of “cool idea, lame execution”. Starting to see a lot more of them come around now, and not liking it one bit.

While most of this movie was probably made on the whim with whatever they could fly with, the actors seem like they are at least trying and aren’t as crappy as you’d expect. Roy Abramsohn does a nice job as Jim, and since this is pretty much his own story, it’s worth watching because while he does do some questionable things throughout the movie, he at least always stays entertaining. Don’t know how much of this rehearsed, or whatever came natural to him right on the spot, but either way, he’s fun to watch and I feel like if people give this a couple years or so, we’d start accepting him in other roles for bigger movies. You know, movies that AREN’T illegally shot.

Consensus: Like most low-budget films of its same nature, Escape From Tomorrow presents a neat idea, but executes it in a poor way that will wish they had more money just to give us a more-defined version of a promising story.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Filmed in a sound studio. No need to worry, copyright lawyers.

Filmed in a studio. No need to worry, copyright lawyers.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa (2013)

Never has dementia been so hilarious.

After years and years of being stuck in a rut with a marriage he didn’t much care for, Irving Zisman (Johnny Knoxville) is finally let loose after his wife dies. But just as Irving’s about to go out on the prowl and begin the hunt for all sorts of female tail, his grandson (Jackson Nicoll) gets thrown onto him after his daughter gets shipped off to jail. Irving obviously doesn’t want this, all because it ruins his plans of bagging some sweet honeys, so he makes the date to drive his grandson all the way to meet up with his daddy. However, the main problem is that not only is the daddy a total deadbeat, but he’s also far as hell which means it’s just a road trip for Irving and his grandson, resulting in some seriously wacky hi-jinx that, at first, start off mean, but eventually, as the two begin to bond more and more, begins to get more in touch with the heart as if they were like your average grand-pop-grandson duo.

Except that it’s all fake, filmed in front of real people, who have no idea what the hell is going on.

With the whole Jackass franchise, we’ve all come to expect the same types of stunts and pranks being performed, by the same types of numskulls that never seem to tire of them. Plenty of testicles get hit; public places defecated in; cars broken; rectums bleeding; and a whole lotta of brain cells being lost. However, as mind-numbing as that may be to not only perform in, but to actually watch, they’re always enjoyable to watch, especially since you know that they’re doing this all for you, and also for the pot of Benjamins that’s at the end of the rainbow, but you get my drift. The Jackass franchise may never get old, even if the people who apart of it do, which is why I wasn’t too opposed to a Bad Grandpa movie, but then again, I wasn’t totally rooting for it to come back either.

Those things still exist and function?

Those things still exist and function?

Most of these hidden-camera movies work wonders (Borat), and sometimes, they don’t (Bruno). The problem with most of them is that it’s sometimes too hard to believe that any of the people that are getting tooled around with aren’t at least somewhat in on the joke. Because honestly, you have to think about it: In the year 2013, where we’ve had Sacha Baron Cohen doing his act more than a few times and all sorts of impersonators up on YouTube, that you’d think at least one person, or maybe even a few more, would catch onto the joke and spoil the whole act for everyone. However, the rest of society ceases to amaze me as not only did it seem like nobody had a single clue that this was all Johnny Knoxville underneath the prosthetic make-up, testicles and wigs, but that everything he did in front of them, was an ACTUAL REALISTIC ACTION FROM A REAL-LIFE HUMAN-BEING.

People amaze me, they really do, which is why this movie is probably one of the funnier hidden-camera movies (if you want to call it that) of some time. But there’s more to it than just a few pranks the movie plays on people to hilarious effect, it’s the whole idea surrounding it. In Borat, we had this one character going all around the country, showing the inner-most racist feelings of society, and broadcasting it for the whole world to see. Yes, there were a whole bunch of pranks behind it that benefited off of how over-the-top some of these people’s reactions were, but there was still a political agenda behind it all that really drove the thing home. As for Bruno, the political agenda was there in how this one obvious, openly homosexual character would go around from person-to-person, wearing all sorts of tight clothing, and practically waving his penis in front of their face, all to get a reaction out of them that was the least bit negative so that they could show it off as “being homophobic”. I don’t know how that sounds to you, but if a dude comes up to me and starts touching me and invading my private-space, I feel like any negative reaction out of my system would be reasonable, if not totally supported. However, as obvious as that movie was with what it was trying to get across, there were still pranks in it that fed off the reactions of the people they were messing with the most.

But that’s where this movie is separated from those two, because while there are plenty of times the movie does go towards a certain demographic that they want to poke fun at and get reactions out of, the movie still never feels like it’s wholly against them in a type of way that’s mean-spirited. Because, need I remind you, this is a Jackass movie and those guys aren’t really known for digging any deeper than ground-level surface, which is perfect for a movie as funny and as crazy as this. Most of the gags hit, and while some don’t, they’re still mildly enjoyable because there’s just such a nice feel surrounding it. When you pull a prank on a person, it’s always fun to see their reactions and best of all, to get their reactions when the joke itself is finally revealed to them, which is exactly what you’ll get during the end credits. So definitely do stick around for them, as they are more than likely going to give you a couple of giggles and chuckles as well.

Easiest trick in the book.

Illegally stuffing goods down your pants: Just another sign you’re in Jackass world, kid.

While most of the humor does come from the outrageous pranks this grandpa and grandson pull on people, the charm of it all mainly comes from Johnny Knoxville and Jackson Nicoll who, together, give us one of the best screen-pairings I’ve seen for a comedy in awhile. And while I do recognize that there have been many others in the past not too long ago, the fact that this is between such a youngster and old guy, and they are both acting in some relatively real material, I have to give them more of the benefit of the doubt because there’s just such a naturalism between them both that works like gangbusters for the movie, as well as for the reactions from the peeps they interact with throughout the whole movie.

They both seem to be on the same page when it comes to what to say to a person on the spot, how to say it and when the right time is to start acting like total nut-balls, which shows just how much fun they have working together. Knoxville is on fire the whole time, just throwing out wise-cracks left-and-right, and never letting you forget that while this guy definitely does specialize in getting running over by bulls, he still has the comedic-talent to carry a movie on his own weight. But Knoxville certainly isn’t alone in this matter with Nicoll stealing the show by not only being the cutest kid in the world to ever call some girl a “hooker”, but that he’s also willing to do anything, regardless of how risky or dirty it may be. I want to know who his parents are so I can shake their hand and let them know that they’re some cool mofos for letting their little Jackson partake in a Jackass movie with none other than Mr. Knoxville himself. Wish my parents were that rad.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t go any deeper than just “messing with people in public places is fun”, Bad Grandpa is still a laugh-out-loud good time with plenty of hilarious pranks made better by the fact that Knoxville and Nicoll are dedicated to these characters the whole damn time, no matter what stands in their way of breaking character.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Reminds me of what my grandpa used to do to me. Now, look at me!!!

Reminds me of what my grandpa used to do to me. Now, look at me!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Counselor (2013)

Seems like everybody has to be a drug dealer nowadays. I place blame solely on Mr. White, that damn chemist.

A counselor (Michael Fassbender) has the life we would all like to live: Nice job, nice house, nice wife he so frequently pleasures (Penelope Cruz) and all sorts of other glamorous things around him. However, the life we would all like to have, apparently isn’t enough for him, which gets him involved with the drug-trafficking business in hopes of making some extra cash-flow here and there on the side. This is when the counselor gets involved with shady characters like Reiner (Javier Bardem), Westray (Brad Pitt) and perhaps the most suspicious of all, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who seems like she has more up to her sleeve then just banging the hell out of her boyfriend and automobiles. Maybe she has something to do with this drug-dealing business which, as a result, draws further consequences for the counselor and all of his fellow associates involved with this deal that suddenly goes sour.

There’s been a lot said about the Counselor, and most of it is deserved. It is an odd piece of filmmaking, filled with more uneven pieces than actual comprehensive ones, but somehow, it works. See, the film’s marketing really created a shit-storm for this because it seemed like all it promised was non-stop sex, drugs, bullets, murder and DEA agents. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as this is more or less, another crime-thriller in the vein of last year’s Killing Them Softly: It’s all about pacing, baby. Pacing, pacing, pacing. And if you’re willing to stick by it, even when it does get incredibly strange, then you’ll find yourself happy and confused.

Don’t worry, those feelings are good because it’s abundantly clear that Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy both want you to feel this way.

He really needs something more?

He really needs something more?

Making a mention of Cormac McCarthy is probably the most important aspect in reviewing this movie because while some out there may not be familiar with him before seeing this movie, it’s almost imperative of you to know that his style of writing is not one that mixes so well with movies. Yes, he does have a stylish tongue that he likes to use on all of his characters and he definitely doesn’t have the happiest outlook on the world surrounding him, but because I already knew this, the movie was an easier pill to swallow than it most likely was for some, even in its weirdest moments.

The weird moments that i continue to allude to come at you aplenty here, but the most infamous one that seems to be getting the most attention, is the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character bangs a car. Honestly, this scene is so random, so strange and so out-of-place, that I honestly wondered who the hell saw this in the final-cut and thought it was okay to leave in. I get that it was supposed to be telling us that this character was not your normal female heroine, as in that she definitely likes to get what she wants right away, but it was just too distracting to get by, no matter how understandable the character’s motivations were. The only thing making it easier to get through this scene is Javier Bardem’s crazy faces and narration, which can be even more painful to see and hear, all because you’ll wonder what movie it is that you’re watching after awhile.

Thankfully, right after this scene, the movie gets somewhat back on track and shows us how these characters respond when shit begins to hit the fan. Everything leading up to this half, don’t get me wrong, was good because it focused a lot on dialogue and the setting-up of what would be a very tense final-half; but once this half kicks in, you do realize that the cast has finally taken notice of the type of material they’re given to work with, which is also, oddly enough, when Scott decides to throw some of his artistic-direction in as well. And as odd as it may be to say, this is probably the least “Ridley Scott-ish” movie he’s ever done. Not only is he restrained, but any moments that give him a free-reign to just get nuts with the look of the film, he somehow backs out on. Can’t say I was disappointed with seeing this, considering that the material didn’t seem like it demanded much of an overbearing style to get in the way of it, but I did also wish I saw some more of Ridley Scott in here. Just a shaky-cam bit or two. At least.

But I can’t get on Scott’s case too much because he does do the nice deed of letting the cast and script come together in a way that this flick so desperately needed in order to survive and stay interesting. And what a great coming-together of actors and material, save for one that I’ll get onto in a bit. Leading the cast is Michael Fassbender who, if you don’t know by now, is not just the most handsome mofo in the whole world, but also one talented dude as well that seems to be popping up more and more now for American audiences to get used to. While this won’t make him a household name by any stretch of the imagination, his role as the counselor shows us that he’s able to handle a film like this all to himself, where he practically goes from one character to the next, talking, showing emotion, giving each one of them a different piece of his personality and just creating a person that we can either loathe, or love. But sometimes with this character, it’s at the same time because he isn’t the most moral guy in the world, but then again, he isn’t the most evil one either; he’s just a guy trying to make some few extra bills here and there, in order to make a life for his wife more glamorous than it already is. He’s greedy for sure, but he isn’t a terrible person for that; he’s just a person. Plain and simple.

Fassbender’s best parts in this movie come mainly from the scenes he each has with both Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, which makes it all the more tragic that all three never show up on-screen together at one point. Disappointing, but at least we still get to see them all act their asses off and have fun while doing so. Bardem has that crazy hair going on, but gives his character plenty of personality to where you really like the dude, but due to the company he surrounds himself with, you still never quite know if he can fully be trusted. And as for Pitt, well, needless to say, the guy steals the show everytime he shows up, which is sadly only about 15-minutes out of the whole 2-hour run-time. Pitt not only fills his character with plenty of wistful charm and coolness, but also gives him a slight humane-aspect as well, that somehow has him come off as the most reasonable human-being in the whole movie. The character only seems like he could be written for the screen, and yet, he still comes off like a relateable guy that knows what type of business he’s dealing with, and won’t think twice about who he throws under the bus, once that time eventually comes around.

"Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw."

“Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw.”

The boys in the cast have plenty to play with, which is good, but also disappointing as well, considering that the girls don’t fare quite as well. Penelope Cruz is underused, but sweet, soft and a bit sassy with her performance as the counselor’s girl who doesn’t always nag him about what he’s doing for most of the hours of the day, and is just happy to know that he’s alive, safe and still loves her. Total girl of his dreams, as well as all of ours, indeed.

However, I would have traded a whole flick dedicated wholly to Cruz’s character, if that meant we didn’t get a single scene of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina, all because she is absolutely, positively terrible in this movie and it gets very, very hard to watch after awhile. I remember when this flick first got announced and its cast was shown to us, I remember thinking that Cameron Diaz had herself an Oscar-nominee in the bag because the character of Malkina wasn’t the type we usually associate her with. There’s no inkling whatsoever of a heart, a soul or even the typical charm we usually see come from her performances; she’s actually the total opposite, which is probably the biggest problem with Diaz’s performance in the first place. Not only can she not play-against type to save her life, but she’s so outmatched by everybody else here that it makes you wonder who the hell she beat out for this role to get it. The accent she supposedly has, goes in, and it goes out; everytime she talks about something, she’s supposed to come off as “one bad-ass bitch”, but instead, seems like she’s trying WAY too hard; and if you don’t include her previously-mentioned scene where she humps a car, there’s no arch whatsoever to be found in this character, but it doesn’t hurt as much because you don’t care. I’ll give Diaz some credit for stepping out of her comfort-zone and doing a total 180, but it comes off more like a miscast opportunity, then a respectable one in terms of her career and where it’s going. Can’t say that same thing for the others here, only her.

Consensus: Definitely not the type of film its marketing has been promising, which is why, for better or worse, the Counselor is worth a watch to see what happens when you give a good cast, some worthy material, and just let them do their thing, as odd as that “thing” in question may be at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

This is when it all begins.....

The car is so willing…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Next time somebody tells you that they created a free-verse poem, run far, far away from them!

In 1944, a young, aspiring poet named Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) goes away to college in New York and finds himself in a bit of a rut. Not only is he secretly gay and not able to fit in with the rest of the macho crowd that goes out to bars every night, get drunk and hope to land in some gals bed. That’s not Allen’s style, but you know what is his style? Running along with the young, free and wild souls of the college, which is why non-conformist Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) interests him so much, for many more reasons other than just sexual. Yes, there is that idea, but since Ginsberg isn’t totally out of the closet and Carr is with an older man (Michael C. Hall), it never quite materializes to anything more than just a curiosity. However, their relationship becomes something more very serious once Carr begins to lose his cool, and does something that will affect Ginsberg, and the rest of the group of poets around him for the rest of their poem-versing lives.

Seeing as that I’m not a huge fan of the Beat Generation, I do have to say that the story of a friend of these famous writers who was involved with a murder that practically happened around them, did sort of interest me, even if I knew what I was going to get with this movie most of the time. That meant that there was going to be lots of partying, smoking, drinking, sexxing, and spontaneous writing and shouting of ideas that seem to mean more then what they actually are. So yeah, as you can see, I wasn’t too fond of the subject material going in and worst of all, I just didn’t care all that much to begin with.

Harry? What happened to Hermoine?

Harry? What happened to Hermione?

But somehow, this movie interested me because it was less about the Beat Generation and how they wrote, and more or less the idea of growing up in a world where you practically live underground, away from all of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. See, probably the most interesting aspect behind this movie is that the movie never tells you right off the bat who Allen Ginsberg is, so if you were a person who didn’t know much about him beforehand, then throughout the movie, you’d get to know just exactly who he was, what he did and why he mattered to the rest of society and the arts. We see Ginsberg as a young writer, who aspires to be like his famous daddy, but you also see him as a kid that wants more out of this life, which makes it easy for us to understand why he falls so hard for Lucien in many more ways than one.

This approach to the story made it seem pretty neat because rather than basically showing us a sign of things to come for people like Ginsberg, or Jack Kerouac, or William Burroughs, the movie just focuses on their lives and who they were at that point in time. Obviously not much changed as time the future years went by, bu to get this small snippet in the lives of these guys, all before they began to be beloved by any college kid who smoked too much weed and had too much time on their hand, and seemingly, take the art world by storm. And yes, this is all coming from a guy who is typically not interested in learning anymore about these figures than I already do know, which is why I was all the more surprised leaving the theater, feeling as if I wanted to actually read more of these guys’ poems.

Shocking, I know. Let’s just hope that none of my football teammates are reading this right now.

However, what’s strange about this movie is that the very same thing I don’t like the actual people in this story for, the movie actually does do and it was probably the only times I really felt myself terribly uncomfortable and annoyed with it. Once the movie starts to show all of these young writers getting together, acting as if they are the coolest things since sliced bread and practically know everything about the Earth they live on from the tectonic plates, to the ocean currents, then I felt like I wanted to beat the hell out of them. They were just up their own asses, and I get that most young guys their age, especially around that time, probably acted the same way; but that still doesn’t mean I want to watch a film about all of that, especially when there’s so much more interesting stuff going on around it like, say, the Lucien Carr story itself.

"As we clasp our hands together, it's like two human souls perfectly entwined."

“As we clasp our hands together, it’s like two human souls perfectly entwined, in one perfect world full of insightful ideas and thoughts. You know, man?”

The fact that Lucien Carr is actually a real person and got away with such a heinous act, really still surprises me even when I think about it. You’d think that Lucien Carr would have just been a character inside these poets’ minds that they created in order to get past some sort of writer’s wall, but nope: Real dude, real problems, real murder. That’s why when you watch Dane DeHaan and see how charismatic he is as Carr, you’re ultimately surprised by what the hell drove this guy to do something so bad in the first place. We get the reasons why he decided to murder a person, but it still shocked me since he seemed like a bright kid, albeit, one with some anger issues. That said, DeHaan is great in this role and continues to show us why he is one of the most interesting, young talents we got working in the biz today. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And to be honest, Daniel Radcliffe ain’t too shabby either, playing a younger-version of one Allen Ginsberg. It would seem like a real hard obstacle for somebody as famous and as recognizable as Radcliffe to get past in playing an even more famous, more recognizable figure in American culture, but the dude gets over that problem right off the bat and you begin to share a sympathy with this cat as you know he’s just a poor, little sheepdog just sucking this whole new world in. However, he’s not the only famous face, playing a fellow famous face, Ben Foster and Jack Huston get their chances to live and shine as William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac respectively, and both do very well, giving us more personality behind the figure-heads, while also showing us the paths they would eventually take after this tragedy occurs around them. Everybody else in this wide cast do great jobs as well, even if David Cross playing Allen Ginsberg’s dad did seem like a bit of stretch; but a stretch I was willing to let pass since he wore his glasses. Without them, it would have been too distracting to say the least.

Consensus: You don’t have to be an obsessed and dedicated fan to the generation that Kill Your Darlings is glamorizing, but it definitely will help more since a lot of this concerns them, just being the people you read about them being in any book, poem or article you may or may not read. Either way, it’s an interesting slice-of-life in some very interesting lives, that would only continue on to get more and more interesting as they lived on.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

All Is Lost (2013)

Yes, being lost at sea sucks almost, if not, just as bad as being stuck out in space.

A man (Robert Redford) aboard his boat in the Indian Ocean, wakes up after a calm nap to find that he has been hit by something rather large hitting the side, causing an opening in the side, and ultimately, a disastrous flood that leaves him planning and deciphering in his mind what it is that he has to do in order to fix this problem, and do it without causing any further harm to his boat or himself. Eventually, the problem gets solved, but then comes a storm which leaves him more battered and bruised than ever before and it’s essentially his one-sided battle against nature, pulling out whatever stops he can to survive, draw attention to himself by fellow ships out at sea, and never lose sight of what’s worth fighting for in the end: The will to live.

After doing something so talky-talky, with a huge ensemble like Margin Call, it’s really intriguing to see writer/director J.C. Chandor make a movie as simple, as grounded, and as natural as this. See, what some may be confused about with this movie is that there is literally no back-story to this character (except for a narration overheard in the beginning that has more meaning as the flick goes on), no flashbacks, no volleyball for him to explain what he’s going to do next, or the type of situation they’re thrown into, and believe it or not, he doesn’t even have a name! What we see is what we get, and we aren’t really told anything which may leave some people in disappointment, but for us less demanding viewers who knows how much of a joy it is to not be talked-down to and shown everything we need to know about a person or the certain situation they’re thrown into, it’s a joy-and-a-half.

Where you at, Butch?!?!?

Where you at when he needs you the most, Butch?!?!?

For starters, the fact that this movie features barely any actual talking from Redford really places you into the same mind-set that he seems to be the whole time. At points, you can tell that this man is lonely because he has nobody to really help him out, or hell, even talk to, and you can also tell that he so desperately wants to get out of this situation anyway that he can. He never tells us, but through Redford’s amazing performance (which I will get onto eventually), and Chandor’s no-frills direction that keeps everything style-free, straight, and to the point, you get a feel that you are right with this man, lost at sea, living every moment in hope that you’ll be saved and be brought back home to the life you once had. Whatever that life back at home may have been, it doesn’t matter; what does matter is that this man keeps the strength he needs to stay alive, try whatever he can to do so, never give up, and find help, by whomever.

And while I know that a lot people will be wondering where the big pay-off is in watching one guy try to survive at sea, it doesn’t matter. Because the big pay-off, like anything else that has to do with a big, loud, and booming theatrical presentation, isn’t in what we are told through the director or the screenplay, it’s what we are told through what we can see clearly in front of our eyes, where almost everything is open to interpretation. If you want a clear example of just what it is that I’m blabbering on about, look no further than the one scene where the man cut opens up a small, plastic tub used for clean water (which he clearly has none of), pours salt water into it, puts a plastic bag over it, tightens it so no air gets in or out, and leaves it in the hot sun. For a little while, it’s just sort of left there as the man goes about whatever he chooses to next, but moments later, he takes a cup, scoops up some of that water he was experimenting on, sips on it, and finds himself pleased with it. It’s a strange moment, one that I wondered if had any meaning whatsoever to the whole proceedings, but apparently it did, and once it showed its importance, I was really taken-by how surprised I was that I got what he was doing, without ever being told what it was that he was in fact doing.

I know this may sound stupid and repetitious of me, but the fact that this movie is so naturalistic in the way that it moves, tells its story, and let Robert Redford do his thing, really is something that needs to be seen. Not just for the performance, but the look of the movie is also spectacular in a way that could have only been shot on real waters, with real material. Although some uses of the green-screen do look a little shoddy at points, the movie still makes you feel like you’re stranded in the ocean, much like Gravity made you feel the same way in space. However, what that movie had to do to make you feel a certain way for over $100 million, seems almost comical against this movie’s lean and mean $8.5 million. Then again, I think you all know about my problems with that movie, so I’ll just let them go, but there is something to be said for a movie that can have the same effect on you, with less money and resources.

Okay, that’s it. I’m done, I promise. Just saying though, All Is Lost is better than Gravity. Just saying!

But remember earlier when I mentioned Robert Redford and his “amazing” performance in this movie? And remember how I alluded getting to it, describing it in full detail at a latter time? Well, now is that time. Buckle your seat-belts, peeps, because we got ourselves a future-Oscar nominated performance coming right at you, courtesy of a 40-year legend of the big screen: None other than Mr. Robert Redford himself.

Now, while it seems like almost any movie he does nowadays, Redford never seems to shy away from letting us all know what it is that he thinks in his head, at any given time, without any shortage of subtlety or slyness. He’s pretty up-front about his political opinions and has mainly dedicated his last couple of movies to them, and nothing else. Most of those movies don’t even have him acting in them, but when they do, he seems a bit rusty, as if all of his undeniable skills and charm as an actor went right out the wahzoo as soon as he started adding political-agendas to everything he did. He was probably the weakest link out of the whole cast in The Company You Keep (aka, the last movie he directed), and for awhile now, it seemed like the guy just gave up on the whole idea of actually acting in front of the camera, and set his sights more on the backside of the camera and what goes on behind it.

And the Best Supporting Actor nomination goes to..."The Boat" in All Is Lost.

FYC: The Boat for Best Supporting Actor

That is, until now. Now, it seems like Redford has finally been given not just the role that he’s deserved after an illustrious career of his, but the one that he could win an Oscar with, and happily retire after, knowing that he won the big one, all due to the performance-of-a-lifetime for a guy who totally deserved it. Since a lot of this performance has to do with Redford seemingly doing nothing else other than moving around and figuring things out, it’s extra special to be so commanded by a screen-presence, especially since he doesn’t really say much. The few lines that he does speak seem deserved and even something we can relate to as if we were thrown into the same position as he is. That’s why when you watch a 75-year-old man like Redford get his ass beaten, battered, and thrown all over the place in a movie like this, it’s a little disturbing because he’s an old fella, but it’s even more disturbing because he’s such an icon to the silver screen that you’d think he’s somewhat invincible to any powers that be.

However, this film proves otherwise and gives us a performance that Redford most likely may win his only acting-Oscar with. Everything he does here feels real, as if I never once questioned whether he knew a camera was thrown right in front of his face throughout the whole duration of the movie. You’re right there with him as he’s looking at things, figuring them out, wondering what it is that he can do next, and showing the will to survive, even if it’s only through a look in his eyes. Even then, we know that he’s a man that’s determined, smart, and will try whatever is in his will-power to stay alive and go back to the life he once knew. Like I said before, we don’t know much about him, but what we do know is enough: He’s a man, on a boat, stranded in the middle of the ocean, with nowhere to go, no one around him, and little to no resources. That much detail is enough to allow us to sympathize with him to the point of where his journey, is ours as well, and we care ever more now than ever. Well that, and the fact that he’s portrayed by The Sundance Kid. Now who wouldn’t want to be stuck on a journey of survival with that guy? Huh?!?!?

Consensus: Most likely going to be the most simple movie you’ll get this year, and yet, the power and emotion surrounding All Is Lost will surprise the heck out of you for many reasons, but the main which being that it gives us one of Robert Redford’s greatest performances ever, showing us that even at his age, the legend has still got it, even when he isn’t getting all hyped-up talking about politics.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Funny how Mother Nature just loves to be a bitch sometimes, isn't it?

Funny how Mother Nature just loves to be a bitch sometimes, innit?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Body of Lies (2008)

Leo’s gone rogue! And Russell’s eating too much! What’s going on with the world?!?!?

CIA operative Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) uncovers a lead on a major terrorist leader suspected to be operating out of Jordan. When Ferris devises a plan to infiltrate his network, he must first win the backing of cunning CIA veteran Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe) and the collegian, but perhaps suspect, head of Jordanian intelligence. Problem is, Hoffman isn’t quite exactly who he says he is and turns more heads than one man should be doing. Which will not get past Ferris’ head since he’s Mr. Smarty Pants over there.

I remember back in October 2008 when this film was being advertised, all my buddies and I made a promise to go out and see it. Sounded like a reasonable plan for a Friday night when girls or booze weren’t around. The one problem was that our ages from somewhere around 14-15, which meant we couldn’t see this unless we wanted to try the risky, but totally worth it sneak-in maneuver. We tried, but it didn’t succeed and we were bummed to say the least. After seeing it all of these years later, I wonder why the hell we cared so much in the first place.

Guess I wouldn't be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie too.

Guess I wouldn’t be sweating in 100+ degree weather if I was making over a million a movie, either.

There’s one thing you have got to say about Ridley Scott: The dude never half-asses a movie of his. From a technical standpoint, he does his job by making this film look as gritty and as dirty as he can get it, much like he did with Black Hawk Down. Since the film takes place in the Middle East, it makes sense that the camera look a lot grainier and sandier as if Scott just picked one up off the ground, dusted it off, and started filming. But it isn’t as amateurish as I may make it sound, because it actually adds a darker look onto the flick and it gets even better once the action actually starts to kick in. The action, as you could probably tell by now, is filmed in the trademark, crazy and kinetic way that we all know and sometimes love Scott for (less so for his late brother), but it brings a lot of energy to scenes that otherwise could have come off as generic and a bit unneeded. Still, they were thrilling, fun, and got the job done.

Needless to say, for the first hour or so, I was really digging this film. I thought that Scott really had his ass on the right track here with setting the story and making it appeal to anybody who isn’t necessarily a CIA-expert, while also making the movie itself quite suspenseful and feeling as if it could go, at any second, anywhere it wanted to. Somehow though, Scott seemed to lose himself along the way, which cause a problem the movie itself never seemed to recuperate from.

Right after Leo’s character gets bitten by a dog and has to go to the hospital for a series of rabies shots, the film takes a wild turn into a somewhat romantic-territory as Leo starts to fall for the nurse that treats him. Not only did it practically come out of left-field and add nothing to the story, but it seemed like such a tacked-on way of getting us to care more and more about Leo’s character, when I think that having Leo in the movie itself, playing that character is already sympathetic enough since the guy is able to win anybody over (even when he is playing a 19th century slave owner). All we needed to know about him was that the guy could do his job and get it done just in time to get screwed over by the head-honchos he works for. Not much else needed to be added, but Scott thought otherwise and ended up screwing his own movie over as a result.

It gets to so strange at one point, that you begin to feel like you’re dealing with two separate films: One, a dumb romantic flick based on a character’s smarts and another’s dullness, and the other one, a spy thriller that started off strong and fresh, but got very convoluted once too many characters started showing up and throwing their ulterior-motives around. Eventually, the romantic angle does go away for a bit and we are once again involved with the whole angle of this film that made it so fun in the first place, but by this time, it seems to have already lost a lot of its momentum. It’s weird too, because as they were building this story up and up, I felt like I should have really been along for the ride and wonder just what the hell is going to happen next to all of these characters but instead, I didn’t really seem to care all that much. Even when they hit the climax they’ve been itching for the whole time, it still feels undeserved and a bit anti-climactic.

Totally not his type. But apparently Ridley thinks differently.

Totally not his type: Born in the 80’s.

With that being said, the film does rely on its performances to make everything better and for the most part, they are worth depending on for quite some time until it becomes apparent that nobody can save this plot. Leonardo DiCaprio does a fine job as Ferris by giving this character more of a reasoning to be upset when it’s practically him versus the rest of the world. Come to think of it, that sounds like the same character he played in Blood Diamond, Inception, Shutter Island, and so many more. So yeah, it’s nothing new that Leo hasn’t already touched before, but at least he tries and show tons of effort in making this character, and ultimately the movie he’s in, work. Same goes for Russell Crowe who seemed like he was having fun, even if all he did was talk on the phone. I don’t know if eating cheeseburgers everyday for two weeks was the way to feel like you’re in the role but hey, I guess it worked for him and worked for us too, I guess.

Even as good as these two are, they aren’t the most interesting ones out of the bunch. The one who probably stole the most scenes for me was Mark Strong as Hani Salaam. The whole thing with Strong is that no matter what film his name pops up in, you always know he’s going to be the villain. Does he play the villain well? Yes, but could he actually spread his wings out and try something else other than that? Yes to that rhetorical question as well. That’s what he does here but this time, he plays around the idea of whether or not you know he’s the bad guy or not. He also adds a whole bunch of suave and relaxed coolness to him that makes him steal every scene, as well as not make him seem the slightest bit of gay whenever he calls another dude, “my dear”. Lately though, it’s cool to see him start to loosen up a bit and play around with other roles, even though it is a shame that Low Winter Sun seems like a bust. Poor guy. He deserves so much better, he’s just got to smile more so Hollywood producers know that he has the ability to.

Consensus: Though it wasn’t the most fresh or original-take on the thriller genre, Body of Lies was still working well in its first hour or so, but then began to lose its head once too many subplots were thrown in there, especially a cheesy one featuring Leo and some nurse he thought was cute. Lame!

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole "method thing"!"

“No, I did not get you 20 Spicy McChickens! You need to stop this whole “method thing”!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Blade Runner (1982)

2019 doesn’t seem too far from today. Now, where the hell are those new wave-stylized cyborgs at?

It’s the year 2019, and all sorts of sci-fi futuristic craziness is going on. “Replicants” (or robots, take your pick) that look, smell, sound, and feel like humans are slowly, but surely going extinct, but the ones who are still left around to roam the Earth, are looking for their creator in hopes of making more of these replicants and hopefully prolonging their existence. This is where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes in to save the day, or will he? See, the problem with Deckard is that he isn’t necessarily your go-to cop when you need something done, and done the right way. For starters, he’s a bit of a pissant, doesn’t like his job, somewhat sloppy in terms of his fighting skills, and now, to top all of that off, he’s fallen for a fellow cyborg in the form of Rachael (Sean Young) who isn’t as deadly as these other ones who want to take over the world, but still shows herself to be a threat to the case Deckard is handling, as well as himself.

Well, well, well. Where do I begin with this bad boy? I know, let’s start from the history of all this and how I somehow, someway, get thrown into the mix, shall we?

Anyway, knowing about this movie beforehand on countless occasions, I’ve tried to get through it all, but yet, no matter how hard I may try, I never succeeded in the completion of this movie. I’ve always either watched it, found it to be too slow, and lost interest, or, watched it, wasn’t in the right frame of mind, distracted, found it to be too slow, and lost interest. Basically, they were both the same problems, with the same outcome, and that’s because the movie’s pace really took me for a loop. I can handle slow movies that need to be so in order to build characters, tension, plot, and an overall atmosphere to the whole proceedings, but the numerous times I’ve seen this movie, knowing the hype that surrounds it, I just felt like it was too deliberate for its own good. It almost felt like Ridley Scott wanted to make the definitive mix of sci-fi and noir, that he didn’t really care about much else in the flick other than handling his plot. To me, back in those early days of my film watching/reviewing, it seemed like a stingy act on his part; but now, after many, many movies have been watched, reviewed, and studied, I think it was the most brilliant act he performed on this whole movie’s behalf.

Can't even use both hands. What a softy!

Can’t even use both hands. What a softy!

Well, that and the visuals as well, but that’s another story for later one. Let’s just continue to focus on the plot and the way Scott handles it, especially since it gives this movie a whole down-and-out, dirty vibe that too many modern, big-budget sci-fi flicks are scared to even touch, all because they fear they may scare away the audience members looking for lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, and all sorts of explosions. If you are that type of audience member and if those are your favorite things to see in a sci-fi movie, then go watch Star Wars or Star Trek, and don’t even bother with this movie. Not only does this movie have a slow-as-molasses pace that’s more than likely to have you drinking three cups of coffee in the first 30 minutes, just in hopes of making it through the whole near-two hours, but it doesn’t really have much lasers, aliens, spacecrafts, or even explosions for that matter, nor does it need to.

What Scott relies on the most here, other than his beautiful look of the movie, is the pacing and how it continues to give you more and more detail about the story we are watching unfold in front of our own very eyes; the character’s we are getting to know from the inside, and the out; and the future that Scott’s envisioned for us (originally done by Philip K. Dick, every sci-fi’s go-to novel guy), that not only puts you deep into a dark place where bad things happen on a regular, normal basis, but in a future where it almost never ceases to stop raining. I know, it’s a little dumb fact, but it’s always something I noticed and it just added more to the whole cold and muggy mood of the movie, giving the story more of a compelling feel, and also adding more stipulations onto why these replicants taking over the world matter, and why we should cheer on somebody like Deckard in the first place.

Speaking of Deckard, I can’t say that Harrison Ford was the most perfect pick for the guy, however, something tells me that Scott pitched it to him, and the dude absolutely loved it. And back in ’82, working with Harrison Ford was an offer you did not want to turn down so Ford gave it all that he could, despite the character being a little bit of a sheep-dog in terms of how he puts up his dukes and goes about certain scenes in the movie. See, the odd thing about Deckard, is that he does have this icy-cold front where he’s always making smart-ass comments and not really caring about those that he’s around that may have a problem with him; and yet, he’s a bit of a wimp. Not only does he get his rump beaten-up on more than a few occasions (by ladies no less), but he almost always resorts to his laser gun whenever he finds himself in a rut. Which, in case you haven’t been able to find out by now, is ALL OF THE TIME. And it’s not like I’m getting on Ford’s case or anything here, because he does a nice job with what he’s given, it’s just that the character of Deckard seems like such a normal, average dude that not only does it seem the slightest bit implausible that he would be considered a no-nonsense, take-no-crap cop of the near-future, but that he would be portrayed by the same guy who made a living off of those sorts of roles. Some may say this role is “iconic”, in regards to how he was naturally-written in order to give him more of a humane-feel, which I will not argue against, but putting Ford in this lead role definitely wasn’t the best action on Scott’s choice.

However, that’s just a blip on the radar compared to all of the great decisions Scott made with this movie, so I think it’s safe enough to just let it slip.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I'll let it slide by again.

Still have no idea where that pigeon came from. Oh well, I’ll let it slide by.

Everybody fares a lot better than Ford, and that’s mainly because they feel right for the material and live it up in all their campy, over-the-top, 80’s glory. The most impressive out of this cast that I can’t go on any further without mentioning is definitely Rutger Hauer who broke big with his role as the leader of these replicants, Roy Batty, a pretty effed-up and sadistic dude in his own right that proves a great foil for the straight-laced Deckard. Hauer’s a great villain and when you give him a role that he can sink his teeth into, he will gladly do so and give you the type of performance you oh so desire from him. He’s proved it time and time again in the past couple of years, but it was here where he first proved this fact and made us scared to high heavens as to what he was going to do Deckard, hell, scratch that, the human race once he got his hands around its throat. But, like with the best-written villains, there’s more to Batty than meets the eye and when we find out the real being behind what he’s perceived as, then it will not only bring a tear to your eye, but make you realize the type of movie you’ve been watching all along. And yes, I am talking about the infamous “Tears in Rain” soliloquy which totally lives up to the hype and legend surrounding it; which is all thanks to Hauer and his sure genius of making somebody more than they may be originally seen as. Good decision on his behalf, bad on anybody else’s out there who want take a look at this guy already and give him another shot. Come on, Hollywood!

Like I said before though, everybody else gets their time to shine and do what they do best, and it serves as a fun flashback to all of the stars that were big in the 80’s, and how some of their careers have sort of gone haywire since then. I’m talking mainly about Sean Young, but hey, she had a pretty damn solid run for the longest time in the 80’s-early-90’s, and her role as Rachael is what started it all. Not only was she a pleasure to look at, but she gave another character that could have easily been written off as literally “painfully robotic”, and instead, gives Deckard an unusual love-interest, yet, a very believable one since you can tell that guy wants somebody in his life to love and behold, no matter if that other person is a human or not. Pretty weird if you ask me, but hey, I’m not Rick Deckard, and thank heavens for that! But I do wish I was Harrison Ford. That is something I will not thank the heavens for. Damn you, heavens! Damn you!

Consensus: The idea that Blade Runner may not be all that it’s been hyped-up to be since it debuted so poorly back in the summer of ’82, may not be welcomed by most die-hards, but the fact of the matter remains is that it is one of the better sci-fi flicks out there because it pays attention to what matters the most in any good story: Characters, development, story, plot, and pacing. That’s all that you need and that’s what Scott executed perfectly, along with some beautiful visuals to appeal to the eyes.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Suddenly, I feel bad for Calista Flockhart.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Fifth Estate (2013)

How much punishment can one laptop take?

Everybody knows what WikiLeaks is and its everlasting effect on the world of politics, humanity, and most of all, journalism. But does everybody know the man/creator behind it? Well, sort of, but if you don’t then here he is, in full-fledged form. Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the man of the hour, and the man with the power who is able to release all of these confidential, and somewhat threatening pieces of information that is detrimental to plenty of big corporations out there who are living happy and easy, all because of their sneaky ways of screwing people over. However, even though Assange has all of this information up on his site, he doesn’t have the marketing to make it be seen by all those peeps worldwide. That’s where spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) comes in and gives Assange and WikiLeaks all of the help that it needs to get out there to mass public audience, be seen by important politic figures, and have people aware of what’s really going on out there, without any strings attached like you would most likely find in a public newspaper. But, like with any company that finds its sweet-spot, WikiLeaks itself begins to show cracks of not only endangering the people they promised to protect, but also doing even more harm to the friendship of Berg and Assange, showing that one of them wants a bit more power and control than he ever originally imagined.

"Julian? Why do I hear moans coming from your computer?"

“Julian? Why do I hear moans coming from your computer?”

The story of beginning of WikiLeaks is a very interesting one, however, it’s one that I think can only be done justice through the documentary format. I know that there already is a documentary out there about the upbringing of WikiLeaks, Assange, Berg, and its overall impact on the rest of the world, but I have yet to see it, which means that this piece of mainstream media will have to do. And if that is the case, then so be it, because this movie isn’t half as bad as some people may be declaring as being. Then again, it is a movie that comes from Hollywood, so you can’t always expect the truth and nothing but it.

However, that’s what surprised me the most about this movie and Condon’s direction: It doesn’t necessarily take as many sides with this story as you’d suspect. Yes, you can tell that Condon definitely favors the idea of letting the general mass-public know what their government is doing to them, but he never gets too deep into it to where you can practically see him cheering the side on from their corner. He remains objective, shows both sides of the story, and while he’s at it, informs us just what happened and how this idea of a whistle-blowing website all come to fruition. If there’s anything that surprised the most about this movie, it’s that; the idea that not only can you inform me on a story I’d like to know more about, but you can also entertain me as well, without losing site of what this story means, who the characters are breathing inside of it, and why it all matters.

Although, I do have to say that the last aspect doesn’t really come into play as much, mainly because it seems like Condon is too infused with informing us, rather than actually giving us reasons to care in the first place. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it gives us plenty of ideas about what really went on behind those closed closets of the early days of WikiLeaks, but it still could have done itself an even bigger favor by reminding the audience that this all matters to us in the year 2013, and these are the reasons why. Another cyber-thriller of the same vein, The Social Network, performed this task expertly, however, that one worked on all cylinders when it came to its overall presentation. This, on the other hand, doesn’t really leave you with that lasting impression that our world is changed forever, and ever, and ever. It only reminds us that the government are a bunch of baddies that continue to do immoral, terrible things, and it’s up to us to pay attention.

Once again, not a bad idea to have in our heads, but is that really all WikiLeaks is about? I feel like there was more to it, but Condon didn’t explore it too much. Oh well, at least he made something like the constant clicking and clacking of computer keys entertaining and even, dare I say it, thrilling.

But where I think Condon takes the biggest misstep in his direction is in the way that he has Julian Assange himself portrayed. No gripes against Benedict Cumberbatch one bit as the guy is good at making us see all of these clear intentions behind the way he speaks, act, and interacts with the people around him, and still making us see that he has a heart. However, once this character begins to go sour and his journey to proving right and wrong becomes blurry, then the missteps in making this real-life character interesting and compelling, begin to show and make you understand why the real-life Assange was so pissed about this portrayal so much. They don’t really rain on his parade, as much as they just make him out to be a bit of a control-freak that loved all of this attention and glory he received, and couldn’t share that with the others who helped him get to that point. Which is fine because the real-life guy definitely was like that, but it seems like that’s all Condon was too worried about: Making him a negative person, rather than just a person. Once that judgement got cloudy, then so did my interest-level as it seemed like the guy was just a dick, just to be a dick. Nothing more, nothing less.

At least they got the long, beautiful, and curly flocks of white down correctly. At least.

At least they got the long, beautiful, and curly flocks of white down correctly. At least.

Regardless of his character’s problems, Cumberbatch was still good to watch and had me more interested in him playing the person, than the actual person himself. Same goes for Brühl who, with last month’s Rush, is showing his bright and talented face to American audiences for the greater good that they will all eventually latch onto the fact that not only is this guy a talented actor, but he’s also a very versatile one as well, able to make a character that doesn’t really say or do much throughout the whole movie, and yet, you still know what his true intentions are and best of all, you know they’re good and better than Assange’s turn out to be. That bastard.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, and Laura Linney showing up as a bunch of United States agent members trying their best to figure out what’s going on with WikiLeaks and its overall effect on their confidential informants in foreign countries. Though there is a subplot featuring Linney’s character that goes a bit overboard at one point, they all do fine and make their story somewhat interesting, rounding out what could have been a very one-sided story. Also, nice to see David Thewlis popping up in something and putting his charm to the works. The guy always finds a way to make me laugh, even if I’m not British and can’t get past his usage of various slang.

Consensus: More importance upon why WikiLeaks matters would have done The Fifth Estate more good, but with the solid acting and enjoyable feel, without ever being too convoluted or confusing for people who literally know diddly-doo about the actual true story, it still works as a movie to see, but not to expect too much from in terms of opening up your eyes and seeing the world. and your government, in a totally different way. If you want that, just go to the site yourself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Together, let's fight crime and prove political injustice to the rest of the free world forever!!"

Proving political injustice, one illegal hack at a time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Escape Plan (2013)

Imagine joining a prison gang with these two. Yeah, you better not screw up. EVER.

In order to deem whether or not prisons are “inescapable”, Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) takes the hard job of getting thrown into these prisons, and actually test out whether or not he can use whatever trick in his books to escape. He’s been to plenty in his life, has escaped them all, and better yet, has even writing a book telling prison owners how not to get caught up in the same kind of funk most of these other owners find themselves in. However, Breslin may have meet his biggest, toughest, and possibly, even final match when he gets thrown into a full-scale prison that’s mysteriously so off-the-books and hidden, that nobody has a clue that it exists. That’s how the warden (Jim Caviezel) likes it and wants it to stay, by any means possible. But once Breslin gets acquainted with fellow inmate Emil Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), then he knows he’s going to have stack up on everything from security, protection, and most of all, his power.

The pairing of Sly and Ahnuld may have seemed like a pipedream for most Hollywood executives back in the 80’s and 90’s, but now, over 2 decades later and with both gentleman verging on the age of 70, now is as good a time as ever! And yes, before any of you do get all up in my grill about how they both appeared together on the same-screen in the two Expendables movies, they don’t necessarily count. Yes, they show up on-screen together for a bit and throw winks and head-nods towards one another, but they aren’t really substantial roles or time-limits where you can feel like you’re 10-year-old’s boy dreams have come true right in front of your own very eyes.

When he isn't punching meat, Rocky working on his mime.

When he isn’t punching meat, Rocky working on his mime.

However, now you can have those dreams come true, regardless of if you’re way into your 30’s/40’s or not. Either way, it’s Arnie and Sly together, for a full movie! And while Sly does get the bigger role of the two, there’s still plenty of celebration needed to be had here because not only do the two seem like they really do enjoy working with one another, but also seem to have really invested themselves in this material, that it doesn’t feel like a 2-hour-long joke like the Expendables movies do. Instead, this somehow feels like a long lost action film the two could have made during the peaks of their fame in the late-80’s-mid-90’s, and it works.

While the movie does feel like it is a bit too serious for its own good, you still get the feeling that everybody involved set out to make a fun, dumb, and obviously implausible movie that could only be made with action legends at the helm such as these two. Together, they make good use of the time that they have together and while they don’t get to shoot as many guns as they may have wanted to, you still get the feeling that you’re not missing out on something either. You know that the plot will start to move, and once it does, the tension will pick up and so will the action, violence, blood, and all of that fun stuff. Like I said, it made me feel like I was watching a serious, but respectively made action film either of these two could have made back in their golden days, and it did a great deal for the material and made it more fun to watch, rather than just joking the whole time.

Now, that said, it IS an Arnie and Sly team-up, which means you’re definitely not going to get the smartest material out there, but then again, I don’t really know if that’s the point here. The whole idea of getting out of this prison seems pretty far-fetched, but the whole idea of an underground prison where all of these dangerous people are left not having any clue where they are at and forced to live out the rest of their days in total and complete solitary confinement, seems pretty far-fetched. However, the movie milks it for all that it’s worth and I was taken for a few of the twists and turns this movie comes up with out of nowhere. That may have been the case because they were so stupid and random that nobody, not even the writer himself, could even predict it; however, I was all game for those types of surprises because it just added more and more to my overall enjoyment of this movie.

Before I go any further though, it should be noted that Sly and Arnie, for their first, full-length team-up, don’t crap out on any of us wanting the best from these two, even if their acting skills sort of have rusted-up a lot in the past few years. Listening to these two have a conversation, whether it be about the next step in their escape plan, or just a simple session of shooting the breeze, you’ll scratch your head in wonderment of what the hell it is that they are saying, and also, why every line had to be a pun. I get that this is the best way these two can get a reaction out of the crowd that isn’t full of anger or cheers, but seriously, have a normal conversation every once and awhile, would ya?!!? Maybe that’s just me asking too much from a movie like this, and if that’s the case, I do apologize. Not just to you, the reader, but to both Arnie and Sly as well, seeing as they couldn’t hold back their internal joy and happiness of being able to work together for a single second here. But the energy is palpable and you can’t help but fall in line once the going gets going.

"Say what about me playing Jesus?"

“Say what about me playing Jesus?”

Luckily for those two hooligans though, is that when we aren’t too busy listening to them slurring their words like my Uncle Johnny on a Tuesday evening, the supporting cast is taking full-control in giving all that they got with this scrappy material. Some better than others, but hey, what do you expect from a script this dumb? 50 Cent, not Curtis Jackson, is actually funny playing Breslin’s most trusted and loyal co-worker, finding any hint or clue that may lead him to be reunited with his bud; Amy Ryan is hot, spicy and fun as the only important female in this whole flick filled with ungodly amounts of testosterone, but she holds her own, like she always does; Vincent D’Onofrio is slimy and a bit of a dick as Breslin’s boss, but with that bit of casting, I bet you already expected that, and last, but certainly not least, we have Jim Caviezel as the sick, twisted, and slightly sadistic warden of this new prison Breslin gets thrown into.

Ever since he was crucified all of those years ago, Caviezel hasn’t really shown his face around much, yet, still did enough work to where we knew he was in fact, alive, well, and still working. That’s why you can probably forgive me for when I say that not only does Caviezel steal every scene he’s in, but practically walks away with the whole movie in his bare palms when all is said and done. And yes, I do mean that he’s doing such a thing in an Arnie and Sly team-up, actioner! Caviezel is just so dead-pan, weird, and off-kilter that you wonder what’s going through his mind at any given moment and even if you don’t want to go that far, you can still be interested knowing that he is unpredictable and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure his reputation as a bad-ass son-of-a-bitch. Never thought I’d get that type of role from the same cat who played Jesus Christ, but I’ll be damned if this guy doesn’t have range!

Consensus: While you don’t need a whole lot of brain-power to enjoy Escape Plan, just know that this may be the first, last, and possibly only full-length team-up we’ll ever get between Arnie and Sly, which means you can’t take any of it for granted, in the same vein that they aren’t, enjoying every second that they got together with each other and this material. That’s right, it’s like a little something we call love. Or a bromance. Same thing.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"We're back!! For the fourth time!"

“We’re back!! For the fourth time!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Carrie (2013)

I thought that nowadays, someone like Carrie White would be the class slut. At least at my school she would have been. That, or my girlfriend.

You know the story by now, but just in case, I’m going to regurgitate it one more time. Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is the weird girl at school that nobody likes, nobody talks to, and everybody practically picks on. Most of this has to do with the fact that her mom (Julianne Moore) is known as a total nut, but it also has to do with the fact that she’s just plain and simply a quiet person who lays low in the back of the class, doesn’t talk, doesn’t get involved, except for when she’s forced to recite poems that have no meaning to anybody else in the class. After an incident she has in the shower, one that she is ultimately ridiculed for by all of the other gals, Carrie is even more embarrassed than ever. However, she starts to gain back some of her confidence when she realizes that she has these telekinetic powers that allows her to move anything, at anytime, and at any force. And better yet, she’s been invited to the prom by the popular jock at the school, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), which, yes, was down out of pity from his girlfriend (Gabriella Wilde), but still gives Carrie’s life new meaning. I mean, Christ, it’s the prom! How bad could it be?

In case you haven’t seen by now, not only did I do a review on the 1976 original, but I saw it for the seventh time and I have to say, it surely was a charm. In fact, it was more than just a charm, it was a great experience that I’d never felt with the movie before. Suddenly, all of the points King’s original source material was trying to make, came right out at me and hit me slap-dab right in the face, making me think more about high school life, being an adolescent, and how all of that harsh bullying can effect one person’s life, for the better or for the worse. Obviously in this case, it was for the worse, but at least it still had me thinking.

Hey, I've seen worse on prom night.

Hey, I’ve seen plenty worse on prom night.

That’s why, after watching that not too long before I saw this, I realized all there was so many problems with this remake, however, the main which just stems from the problem that Kimberly Peirce, somebody so talented and thought-provoking, even with only two films under her belt, seemed like she was really phoning it in here. There may be a good reason for that (she may be saving up all of her money from this to make that next, big important piece of film), but only time will tell. As for right now, in the year 2013, I have to say I am very disappointed with what she’s brought to the table in terms of remakes, and most importantly: To the story of Carrie itself.

In fact, nothing new, improved, or original at all seems to have been brought to the table with this remake; except for maybe the inclusion of social-media websites, YouTube, and texting which, in a way, makes Carrie’s bullying worse. However, it’s strange because while the type of torment that Carrie takes does get surprisingly upped, you still don’t care because it’s such a minor inclusion, that the movie could have literally gone on without it. Other than this minor add-on, nothing else in this remake really stands out, as maybe only a couple of character’s lines or motivations will be changed around, just so that Peirce can show everybody that this is still her work, and she’s going to try and mess around with it as much as she can.

However, changes or no changes, this movie still would have failed as a remake for what they do with the ultimate prom scene at the end, something which, as we all know, has become iconic by now. What Perice does with this character of Carrie White is that she makes her more savvy to her powers. Rather than having Carrie frightened at the possibilities of hurting other people and having literally no control over it, Carrie now knows that she can hurt others with her powers, can control them, and will stop at nothing to extract revenge upon those who deserve hers the most. While most of these people do have it coming to them, it’s still strange because with this self-knowingness of what it is that she can do and how, Carrie becomes somewhat less sympathetic, and more of a horror anti-hero; except that she’s more of an anti-hero that we want her to do these bad things, yet, know she’s a better person than any of them.

That’s why when the prom sequence eventually shows up to do its story justice, there’s a weird feeling surrounding it that feels slightly off. You never quite cheer for Carrie, nor do you ever root against her either. You’re sort of just watching her kill/and or harm these people, some of which deserve it, some of which don’t, and it has no effect on you whatsoever. Not like the original where there was plenty of emotion going around that not only had you feel bad for Carrie that she’s been humiliated in front of all these people and want her to extract revenge, but you also feel bad for the kids she’s taking it out upon as well. It’s that approach that made that movie more than just your traditional, run-of-the-mill horror flick; whereas this one, on the other hand, IS that traditional, run-of-the-mill horror flick.

Except this time, we’ve seen it all before and not much has changed since. Well, kids do sext now, so I guess that’s somewhat new.

And Julianne Moore be like, "Long hurr, don't curr."

And Julianne Moore be like, “Long hurr, don’t curr.”

And while I do think that she’s a bright, young, and talented face that the mainstream should not let-go of, Chloë Grace Moretz just is not right for this role. Regardless of how Peirce’s movie paints her as, Moretz feels like she’s too smart for this character of Carrie White to be so naive and upset. Nor, however, does she really seem like she’s all that powerful or vicious to really start killing all of these people in the most hideous, disturbing ways possible. She just seems like a lonely, sad, and a bit shy. That worked for Sissy Spacek all of those years ago, and added more depth to her, however here, Carrie comes off as dull and uninteresting. Which, in and of itself, is pretty interesting, except for all of the wrong reasons.

Same goes for Julianne Moore who, is one of the best working-actresses today, and yet, comes off as a complete joke here with her performance as Carrie’s mom. She’s over-the-top, which is probably what the script called of her to be, but she goes way overboard, way quick, and doesn’t even seem like she really loves her daughter. She actually seems more infatuated with hurting herself at random times, whenever she sees fit. She’s laughable to watch and once again, that may be what she was assigned to be in the first place, but rather than coming off like a nut job that also seems to be a real person, with a real heart, and real emotions, she seems like she came right out of a Scary Movie movie, slumming it up for the paycheck. And hey, with the career she’s had, she deserves it. Let’s just not make a habit of it now, okay, Jules?

However, not everybody is terrible in this cast, and surprisingly, most come off as more interesting and more sympathetic. Judy Greer plays the no-nonsense, smart gym teacher that looks after Carrie and makes sure she isn’t being played with, and while Judy Greer is great in almost anything she shows her pretty face in, she does seem a bit dull here, doing what she can to make this teacher hip, cool, happenin’, but also very serious about her job and the kids she cares for. The one out of the whole cast that really worked well for me was Ansel Elgort playing Tommy Ross. The cool angle Peirce takes with this character is that even though Tommy Ross is still the school jock, he’s still an ultra nice guy that feels like his heart is in the right place and also just wants to do right so that he can go back and bang that sweet arse of his that he calls his girlfriend. That may make him seem less sympathetic, but in my eyes, it just makes him seem more of a real person, something this movie desperately needed more of. From what I read in the press notes, Elgort is a newcomer, and with this being his first movie, I can safely say the kid’s got a bright future ahead of him. Just steer clear of remakes, kid. Especially ones as dull as this.

Consensus: Want to save some money, time, and still have the chance of getting laid? Stay home, find the original Carrie, and rent it. Don’t even bother with this junk as it just gives you the same story, with a minor differences thrown in there which ultimately, do nothing for the movie or your interest-meter. Trust me.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Remember, she has to be a "weirdo".

Remember, she’s supposed to be “weird”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dreamgirls (2006)

White music? What crap!!

Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are three life-long friends that share something that we all have in common: dreaming. They all dream of one day, becoming the best singers in the whole, entire world and will stop at nothing to have that dream come true. After a show-stopping performance one night, they get picked-up by cool, collective, and charming manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who promises them that all of their wildest dreams in the world will come ture if they just stick with him and his main act, aging-superstar James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). However, as usual, once things get hotter and bigger as the years go by, times start to get tougher, egos begin to clash, and people start to give up on all their hopes and dreams.

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I do love musicals. Well, let me correct that: I do love musicals when they are done right. This is one of those instances where it is done right for the sole purpose that the movie makes no gripes with trying to do anything new or original, it’s just having fun being itself. People singing, dancing, lip-syncing, and doing some heavy-emoting can always guarantee a fun watch, that’s if you can handle it and can handle what the director has done with it, which is why Bill Condon was such a great choice for this material, despite it not seeming so in the beginning.

Condon seemed like a strange choice for this type of material, but after watching it, you’re going to wonder just why the hell he hasn’t dabbled in music much more? He obviously seems to be loving every second he’s working with this movie, the cast he has time to play with, and even better, takes the music and singing seriously. It’s weird how some songs are filmed as if they were performed in a concert and then, out of nowhere, people start singing and dancing to each other on the street as if it was a cut-scene from Grease, but it didn’t matter because Condon barely even had me noticing after awhile. Once I got used to it all, I realized that this was a movie all about people singing their freakin’ hearts out, and you can’t ever go wrong with that.

Then again, there are those types of people that will get on your case for liking a movie like this, regardless of if you’re a dude or a chick. If you’re a chick, it’s sort of obvious and cliche for you to like this, but for guys? Just forget it! Dudes get picked on for liking movies like this all of the time, but what I always wonder is why? If the movie is having fun, wants you to have fun, and is singing it’s heart out til the time the final credits roll-up, then what’s the problem with liking it? You like Nirvana, you like Jay-Z, and you like Metallica, which is something we all accept for what it is, but once some man comes right out and says that he enjoys musicals, all of a sudden, he’s a huge softy? Awww baloney, I say! Baloney!

Anyway, besides that rant up above, I really enjoyed myself with this movie because Condon seemed to as well. The music is entertaining, catchy-as-hell, and surprisingly, even for a major, Hollywood production, very energetic. Most musicals like to do its song-and-dance, chill out for awhile, mellow things down, and then bring it all back up for a big old, grand finale, but not this one. This one keeps the blood pumping, the attention span up, and the lungs flailing, without ever seeming to miss a beat. Well, without missing a beat in the musical sense. In the actual story sense, well, there are plenty of beats being missed.

Being that this is a musical about the age old story of having dreams, gunning for them, and never giving up to achieve them, the story does go into places that are fairly conventional and predictable. Obvious themes like how fame overpowers friendship, love vanishes once control comes into play, etc. all show up, do their thang, and leave with a push of a button. It doesn’t take too much away from the flick, but it doesn’t seem to ever really give it an original stamp that the musical genre hasn’t played with before. Everything plays out like you’d expect it to, but with the exception that everything here is practically sung and danced to. Sometimes.

Oh well, at least the movie is still entertaining for what it is and that’s also mostly thanks to the huge cast Condon was able to assemble here. Jamie Foxx is fine as the ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., and is obviously the Barry Gordy-type in the way that he wants shit done his way, or the highway. Foxx is very good at this type of role because you see the charm of his character fade in, and then totally black-out once things get so big for the ladies. Beyoncé Knowles plays Deena, the apple of his eye and the leader of the singing-group (aka, Diana Ross), and is fine, even if all her character really does is look a little disappointed with the way Curtis is acting and treating her, and singing her fucking heart out. Which, in her case, can’t really be that hard to begin with.

"Bitch, quit asking me if I'm making waffles or not!"

“Bitch, quit asking me to impersonate that donkey again!”

Playing the one whom she eventually shit-cans to the side of her, for fame and glory, is Jennifer Hudson as the lovable, plus-sized diva that can sing better and can stick up for herself more than any other woman in this movie, let alone just little, poor Deena. As we all know, Hudson won the Oscar for her role as Effie and with good reason: The chick is not a great actor, but a way, way better singer than anything else. Obviously, she will always be remembered for her jaw-dropping rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,”, but even when she isn’t telling Jam-Foxx and all of the other girls to go ‘eff themselves by using her vocal-chords, she’s still pretty good as the sassy gal that won’t put up for nothing. Hudson is a very underrated actress and I think it’s about time that she started getting more quality roles in Hollywood, rather than just some nun in the Three Stooges movie. Yup, that was her.

Another star in this movie who found their name getting some Oscar attention was Eddie Murphy as the aging, but still sturdy soul man known as James Early. Murphy is dynamite in this role because whenever Jimmy is fun, quick-witted, and having a great time on-screen, so is Murphy and you can tell that he’s working with material he really appreciates. However, when Jimmy is being a bit down in the dumps, upset, and a bit unstable, Murphy shows shades of his acting-prowess that we’ve never seen before from the dude (even in Pluto Nash, if you can believe that!). It’s no surprise that Murphy was nominated for his work here, as it not only was a change-of-pace for a guy that seemed to be putting on the same silly face for the past 30 years, but because it gave the guy a chance to show us what he’s got, even with the short-amount of time the dude may have had on-screen. Hey, if the Academy wasn’t being so generous to old-school vet Alan Arkin that year, Donkey might just have been looking at some Oscar gold that year. However, we all know who the Academy loves to favor in a position like that. Wah.

Consensus:  You might not find yourself realizing that Dreamgirls changes the way, the look, or the structure of the movie-musical, but you will still find yourself humming along to the tunes, toe-tapping away, and enjoying the hell out of yourself with material that seems to be doing the same as well.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. How times have changed.

The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. My oh my, how times have changed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Escape from Alcatraz (1979)

Yes, they may have been debunked it, but I still like to think that these three are somewhere out there right now, just sippin’ on Pina Coladas, with a couple of honeys by their sides.

Lifer Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) has just landed his ass in The Rock for apparently trying to break out of his last prison-stay in Atlanta. The Rock is Alcatraz, and apparently nobody can escape it, no matter how hard many have tried and seemingly failed to do so. Frank finds this almost as a challenge as he, and a couple of other fellow inmates pick out every little clue that they can find to bust them out of the joint. Some of it’s a bit ridiculous, but it’s all they got and it’s all that they’ve got to live for, unless they want to rot away in a place that could care less if they were even around.

We all know the story about the dudes who escaped from Alcatraz, and were never to be found again. Some think they survived and lived under scrutiny for the rest of their days; while others, well, they think they just drowned, died, and got their remains eaten by all sorts of creatures of the lake. Nobody knows what the truth really is since they never found any bodies of any sorts, however, the fact of the matter is that these men did escape out the prison that was deemed “inescapable”, and got by without ever being noticed until 12 hours later. I don’t know about you, but that deserves it’s own movie, especially one starring everybody’s favorite leading-man: Clint Eastwood.

"Can't wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn."

“Can’t wait to get home and tell those kids to get off my lawn.”

But what makes this movie pretty good, even after all of these years, is that everything in it seems reasonable as if it was meant to be put in the film, only to further on the emotion and the intensity of the prison escape itself. With a movie like this, for something that actually happened, there needs to be feeling, heart, and depth with these characters and the situation, so that when they do get the hell out of jail (literally), you feel more and more towards them and whether or not they’re going to make it out alive. We all know how the story ends and it all depends on what side of the boat you’re on as to whether you believe that they’re dreams were fulfilled or not.

For me, I think the dudes lived and are still having a grand old time to this day, but that’s just me. You know me, the type of person who believes that the human-spirit who can overcome anything. Even the deep, dark, and freezing waters of San Francisco, on a very cold night. Yup, even then, the human-spirit overcomes all, baby.

And that’s sort of the idea that this movie taps into, but not too much to where it feels like it’s preachy or overly-dramatic. It keeps itself subtle, steady, and relaxed, as if you are along with these guys, just living out the nights and days as they continue to wait and wait until their time to go bye-bye comes around. It also allows the movie to pick itself back up once the prison escape actually begins and really get you involved by making you wonder if they’re going to make it, how, or if they’re going to get caught by somebody. Like I said before, you and I all know how the story begins, continues on, and ends, but the fact that it might just go against expectations and really take you for a loop still shows up in your mind many times. That’s when you know you have a good movie on your hands, albeit, a very tense one as well.

If anything, the tension does swell back up what’s a pretty straight-forward story, especially one that I’m not too sure I believe in after seeing it a couple of times already (3 to be exact). The reason why Morris decides that he wants to get the hell out of the prison and be free is a bit cheap. There’s this character Doc, who’s the usual harmless and innocent dude you’d see in any prison movie, who has a bit of a problem that Morris apparently takes notice to and gets upset about. So upset, that he decides it’s his time to flee from serving his life-sentence. Let’s all forget though, that the dude has an IQ of “Superior”, as they show early on in the movie, he looks around everywhere he goes, and also has broken out of the last prison he was in, hence why he’s in this one. Yup, forget about that. Nope, just add the old cooky guy that the warden throws his power and anger on, to seal the deal and give Morris some inspiration. I thought this way of making Morris more human and giving him a reason to break out was sort of stupid and didn’t fit well with the rest of the movie, as it didn’t seem to really go with the over-the-top dramatics of what a usual movie such as this goes for. There could have been somebody like Doc in prison when these guys decided that they wanted to get the hell out, but I highly doubt it.

The thought inside everybody's minds right at that moment, "Shit, he gonna finish that?"

“Shit, he gonna finish that?”

But at least Morris is given some sort of levity as a human-being, due to Clint Eastwood playing him, or, essentially playing himself. When it comes to Clint Eastwood, you don’t get much else different other than him playing himself. I can’t say that’s a bad thing because the dude’s pretty damn good and charming at playing it, while also being able to give him a smarter attitude towards certain situations and predicaments that makes it seem understandable as to how he figured out how to break out, and why. I mean, the movie does tell us early on (remember the IQ level thingy?), but even if it didn’t, we would have already known that this dude was one smart cookie that was not to be messed with. Why? Cause it’s freakin’ William Munny! That’s why!

The supporting cast in this movie is pretty solid, especially Paul Benjamin as “English”, the worker from the library that Morris befriends. Together, they share a nice dynamic that’s not just playful, but full of respect and touched my heart a bit more once they get their final scene together. It’s a good one, so just wait for it. Also, be on the lookout for a very young and dashing Fred Ward in a role as one of the escapees. Nice to see when the dude was such a young whippersnapper!

Consensus: Some may consider Escape from Alcatraz “slow” and “boring”, but if you’re in the right mood for a prison movie that takes its grand old time to develop characters and tension, then you’ll be watching the right flick. Not one of the best, but definitely one of the more definitive ones.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

A beaut, ain't she?!?

A beaut, ain’t she?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Bullet to the Head (2013)

Rocky traded in his gloves, for a junk-load of guns and nobody cared. Poor guy.

After hitman Jimmy “Bobo” (Sylvester Stallone) is set up on a hit on him and his partner gets killed for it by a ruthless mercenary named Keegan (Jason Momoa), he isn’t quite happy so therefore, he sets out to gain revenge on these rat bastards who put a bounty on his head. Seems like a simple job of killing people, getting money, and relaxing with a bottle of whisky at the end of the day, for Bobo, but it all gets a bit screwed up once a detective (Sung Kang) gets in the way and try to get them to work together, and if not, well, then Bobo’s going to jail for all of the bad shite that he’s done in the past. Obviously Bobo would much rather take the job than the price to pay, but it becomes harder and harder for these two to really get along and actually come to terms that one of them has to go to jail for something, along the line.

First, Arnie got his big comeback movie that bombed, and now Sly gets his comeback movie, and it bombed as well. What’s the dealio, folks?!?! Even though the latter’s bomb wasn’t as bad as the former’s, it’s still sad to know that these two guys, despite the action icons that they once were, and still are in a way today, can’t seem to cut a break with the current movie-going audience as people can’t really accept older dudes still kicking ass, shooting guns, and having the coolest things to say, as if they were still in their late-20’s/early 30’s. It doesn’t work on us anymore and it’s a shame too, because these guys will always and forever be in our hearts, even if their names may not be attached to our tickets. Sad, sad, sad. But hey, at least they still have some fun for the most part, right?

Well, I can’t lie, but yeah, they do. The Last Stand was a pretty entertaining movie that knew it was dumb and had a fun time being so, and this movie is sort of the same thing, with obvious differences seen. Actually, probably one of the main differences between the two is that that one was probably a lot better, whereas this one is just something that you watch, have fun with, but are really reminded that you lost your brain for an hour-and-a-half. I mean, yeah; Arnie’s movie wasn’t on top of the IQ level either, but hell, at least it didn’t have me feel like I just smoked a ton of pot by all of the brain cells that I lost.

"Oooh! Close one! Nice job!"

“Oooh! Close one! Nice job!”

That’s exactly what this flick made me feel like when it was over and yeah, maybe that’s the point, but at least more effort and time could have been put into this thing. Then again, the fact that it was pushed-back two years from it’s original release date, and that Walter Hill hasn’t really made a good movie in awhile, I guess I can sort of see why it’s so bad at times. The tone is just all-over-the-place, because it can’t make up it’s mind as to whether or not it wants to be a buddy-cop comedy or a straight-up action thriller, with Sly’s little comments on the side. There are times when the movie seems like it wants to be funny with Sly and Kang, and there are other times where it seems like it wants to be serious and melodramatic with it’s action, guns,  and violence, but it never makes sense of which way it’s going.

It’s almost as if Hill got stuck in the middle of an intersection, had his GPS fizzle out on him, and he just sat there, called  AAA, and continued to wait and wait until someone or something saved him. Stupid analogy, I know, but it’s all that I could come up with, since Hill didn’t seem to come up with anything else here, other than a bunch of scenes of people using a bunch of exposition, going from point-A to point-B, and saying that they are going to kill the other one in a violent, scary way. That’s all there is to it, and when the action actually does come around and liven things up a bit; it doesn’t do it’s job like it should, which is a huge bummer since we know where Hill and Sly come from.

So, why the hell was this such a bummer?!?!

It’s rated-R, it has blood, it has shooting, it has violence, and it even has nudity (thank the high heavens for Sarah Shahi), so why the hell does this flick not capitalize on the fact that it could have been something straight from the 80’s? I honestly have no clue, but with all of the shaky-cam elements and the toning back of being violent and brutal, just for the sake of being so, I can tell that Sly and Hill’s control sort of got lessened-down, month by month, once this movie began to make it’s way to the theaters. It’s a real shame too, because together, you’d think that these guys would have had a total blast working together and would want to show it; but something didn’t feel right here. I guess I just wanted a bit more than I was given. So be it, I’m greedy.

But if there was anybody at all involved with this movie that seemed to be having fun, it was Sly himself as Bobo, a great character for a great action star. Sly may be getting older, but in terms of his acting and his physical-being; it does not show. Yeah, the dude is 66 and you’ll sometimes wonder how a man of his age and his stature can still do half of the shit that Bobo does, but you’ll be willing to forgive and forget about it once Sly takes out the guns (literal and joking sense), starts hammering away at some baddies, and uses some of the best lines I’ve heard him use in quite some time. He makes fun of the fact that he’s getting older and what he used to do back in the day, but it isn’t as jokey as his Expendables movies are.

"See, dad? Because you weren't there for me when I was growing up, I now look like the walls in the Subway."

“See, dad? Because you weren’t there for me when I was growing up, I now look like the side streets of Philly.”

Everybody else compared to Sly, are disappointments. However, not huge ones because you can tell that they were only doing it for the money, and weren’t too concerned with how their careers looked after it was over. You could have gotten rid of Sung Kang in this movie and I would have not noticed a single lick of a difference here whatsoever, except that the movie would have probably sped-up a lot quicker and even been better in most areas, too. It’s not that the dude’s bad, but the script he’s given is such crap, that he doesn’t have much development or emotional connection to this story whatsoever, that you just wish Sly would flip his switch and kill him off. He isn’t as annoying as I may make him sound, but he sure as hell is boring and a waste of time to watch, especially when he’s next to Sly who seems like he’s just having a grand time being himself, and nothing else.

Consensus: There is plenty of dumb, silly, and nonsensical violence and action to be found in Bullet to the Head that will still make you feel as if you are watching an old-school movie, starring a very old-school Stallone, but everything else around him goes terribly, terribly wrong in their own ways that it brings him, as well as the movie, down to near-boredom.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"You're so old that nobody goes to see your movies unless you have all of your other OLD friends with you. Okay, should I leave now?"

“You’re so old that nobody goes to see your movies unless you have all of your other OLD friends with you. Okay, should I leave now?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Carrie (1976)

Come to think of it, all of my proms would have benefited from some pig blood.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is your typical teenage outcast that has no friends, is a bit weird, a bit shy, and seems behind the curve in terms of her sexuality. However, what separates Carrie from all the other hot-shot bimbos in school, is that she has telekinetic powers, which gives her the ability to move anything or control anything with her mind. That means that anybody that fucks with her, might want to look out next time they go too far. And that warning doesn’t just apply to the kids that pick on her at school, it also goes without saying to her bible-thumping mama (Piper Laurie) who believes everything her daughter does in order to grow up and be apart of the rest of the world, is a sin. She may be right, she may be wrong. Who knows? But once Carrie gets asked to the prom by the studly, popular Tommy Ross (William Katt), well then, her mom settles down a bit. However, once Carrie and Tommy do get to the prom, something happens that not only changes Carrie’s life, but everybody else around hers as well. Remember those powers?

"Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?"

“Have you been out mudering hundreds of your fellow-student body tonight, Carrie? Hmm?”

With the remake coming out this weekend and looking like nothing more than another cash-grab that Hollywood churns out at least 2 or 3 times a year, I thought now is as good a time as ever to give this one another watch, my 7th altogether. And even after seeing it 7 times, I have to say that I’m more impressed than I’ve ever been before. Not because I realized that Brian De Palma was a great director at one time that was so full of beauty, style and sensibility to spare, but because the movie still freaked me the hell out in ways that I didn’t expect to. Because, in case you forgot, this is the 7th time I’ve seen Carrie by now, and I thought that may have been 7 times too many.

How wrong I was.

But like I was saying about De Palma, knowing all about what he does with his flicks and the sense of style, look and feel he brings to each of them, I appreciated this one a hell of a lot more. Of course every time something scary or shocking happens, we get the same old Psycho, screeching piece of score music he seems to love the heck out of so much that he uses it in just about all of his movies, but the Hitchcock-similarities can only go on for so long until you start to forget about them and just realize that De Palma is really putting all of his might into making this material work more than just your standard, horror movie, and it pays off in the long run.

Take for instance, that infamous opening sequence which yes, seems a little perverted to be mentioning but seriously, all nudity aside, the opening sequence is really something of a beauty. De Palma films it as if it were a dream, or hell, a man’s dream where all of these young high school girls are running around naked, whipping one another with towels and doing every other intimate act that isn’t full-on banging. And then, we get the full show where we see a girl all by herself in the shower, really feeling herself up and getting her rocks off like this is her first time, as it most likely is. For any dude who saw this back when it first came out in ’76, I can only imagine what the hell was running through their minds and their pants at this moments; just like I can only imagine what the hell was running through those same minds and pants when, seconds later, this horny girl’s period-blood starts to come dripping down. This not only ruins the dream-like feel that De Palma gave this movie, but it also ruins any preconceived notion you may have had that this movie is going to play by-the-rules and give you what you want.

After this opening sequence, it’s a full-on terror fest from De Palma who gives every frame an ounce of beauty that sticks with you and makes you feel as if you’re really watching a high school right in front of your eyes. The bullying; the gossip; the hooking up; the underage drinking; the mischievous acts in the middle of the night; the stealing of daddy’s car; etc. It all makes you feel like you’re watching a normal teen, high school movie, except that this one is filled with more horror than any high school I’ve ever attended. And yes, I am talking about the other memorable sequence in this movie: The prom scene.

Once Carrie gets all of the pig’s blood poured onto her, is made a mockery in front of every one, and loses her shit, then this is where De Palma really takes advantage and feeds on our attention. His constant use of the split-screen format during this sequence really gives you a full feel on what sort of damage Carrie is doing to these people and this area, and it really sticks with you. You hear the people shouting, screaming in pain, terror and agony, and yet, you know that there’s nothing you or anybody else can do about it. Their time has come, Carrie has decided so. And in a way, so has De Palma since he gives us all the pleasure of seeing the most despicable characters go out in some of the nastiest, most disturbing ways possible, and yet, we still can’t help but feel a bit bad when it actually does happen. Is this De Palma’s own sick, twisted way of trying to shove all of the hatred we’ve had for these people right back in our faces? Or, is he simply giving us what we want? If he was, then wouldn’t the reward feel much greater, and less depressing?

It’s strange that one could think about this type of stuff with a movie like Carrie, but all of these years later, it still brings up plenty of questions and ideas that may not always get answered or be fully fleshed-out, yet, by the same token, still toy with your mind and have you thinking a lot more than you feel like you should of a movie about a possessed-teenager. However, something also tells me that we the same thought-process won’t be needed for this remake neither, no matter how interesting it sounds to me that Kimberly Pierce is directing it.

But anyway, back to the original. I think what also allows Carrie to stand the test of time is not just De Palma’s approach to the material in terms of his style, but how he approaches the character of Carrie herself. You see her as a bit of a weirdo who can’t socialize with people, and says some weird stuff out of the blue, that only gets followed-up with laughter and more heckling towards her. Yet, you can’t really blame her for being this way since her mom is such a nut-job by the way she raised her, and also, the fellow kids she goes to school with are as evil as she actually is. So, that’s why when she pleads with her mama about wanting to “fit in” and “be normal”, you can’t help but sympathize with the girl and hope her dream actually does come true, even if you already know plenty beforehand that they don’t in fact come true. This makes the movie feel like the classic tale of Cinderella, mixed with Satan, and it makes you feel even worse for Carrie, because all she wants to do is be accepted among her fellow class-mates. Don’t we all feel like that, huh?

Wait for it...wait for it...wait...for....it...

Wait for it…wait for it…wait…for….it…

And you got to give a bunch of credit to Sissy Spacek for going to the extreme lengths she went to in order to make this character, which couldn’t have been all that hard to begin with since you know that she’s the one you should care for the most, despite her “ability” to do bad things. However, she does those said bad things to bad people, so that ain’t so bad, right? Right! Anyway, Spacek is really good in this role by the way she just carries herself from scene-to-scene without saying too much at all, yet, totally demands your attention, especially in that iconic prom scene. Once those eyes open-wide and you see the real demon within her come out, then you know its payback time and it adds even more insult to injury to the that whole sequence. As if that was even humanly possible in the first place.

Then of course we have everybody’s favorite (or not-so favorite) bible-preaching mama, played so terrifyingly by Piper Laurie that it will surprise the heck out of you when you realize that this was her first performance in a movie in 15 years. However, what’s so shocking about that fact is that she doesn’t show a single bit of rust and commands the screen every time she shows up on it. Of course it definitely helps that all she has to do is be all over-the-top, shout and be irate about any decision that her daughter makes, but she still makes it compelling, as if this lady really is THIS nuts, and does love her daughter THIS much. The last scene she gets is very, very odd and may scare people, but for all of the wrong reasons. You be the judge of that.

It’s also nice to watch this movie to see all of the young and familiar faces that would soon become big stars that would stand the test of time, whereas others, well, they have a solid couple years or so, and then fade away once time simply forgets about them. As poorly-acted as he was in his role, it was still fun to see John Travolta play the hick behind the whole “pig blood” fiasco, who also doesn’t like to be called “dumb shit”; Nancy Allen is less annoying than usual and makes a high school you love to hate, especially since you know that there were so many like her at your own school; William Katt is a bit corny as Tommy Ross, but I think that was kind of the point, I could be wrong; Amy Irving is good as the most sympathetic one out of the catty-girls club who actually cares for Carrie and wants her just to have an “experience worth remembering” (needless to say, she gets what she wanted); and Betty Buckley was also good as the gym teacher, Ms. Collins who cares for Carrie and looks out for every step of the way, even though we’re never quite sure if she’s totally on her side by the end. Overall, great cast and it’s nice to see where most of them got their foots in the door. Except for Nancy Allen. I could have done without her.

Consensus: May be dated in some spots, but overall, Carrie is a horror flick worth seeing not just for the numerous slayings of every kid you ever wanted to teach a lesson back in high school, but because De Palma gives this movie all of his creative-power and it pays off well in the end, and in a way, for Carrie herself as well.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!! There it is!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Upstream Color (2013)

In essence, humans are pigs. Doesn’t cut any deeper than that.

Kris (Amy Seimetz) is out-and-about one night, when all of a sudden, she’s drugged, kidnapped, hypnotized, robbed, and left astray in the middle of the highway without any prior knowledge of knowing what the hell happened to her, why, from whom, and where they have gone. As one could expect, this leaves Kris as damaged-goods, and has her practically sleep-walking through life as if she will never know what happened to her, and will always feel strange about it. That is, until she meets a guy named Jeff (Shane Carruth) on the train. They share an intimate connection together that may, or may not stem from the fact that he went through the exact same mysterious occurrence as her, but it also may be from something else a lot deeper than either of them could imagine. Does this have to do with nature? Flowers? Some other human-being out there in the world acting as the sorcerer in all of this? Or does it have to do with pigs?

Yup, you heard me correctly: Pigs.

To start this review off, I know that I have to be honest with you, as I usually am. For starters, I was not looking forward to watching this bad-boy as I for one, saw Shane Carruth’s directorial-debut, Primer, and if you haven’t seen by now, I’ll just clarify that I was not a fan of that one. The problem that I had with that movie did stem a bit from all of the hype and talk surrounding it, but most of it just came from the fact that it felt like Carruth was giving us a puzzle we had to figure out for ourselves, and nothing else. I’ll give him credit where credit is due and call him nice things such as “ambitious”, or “smart”, or “wise”, but the style only worked on me for so long, that is until I realized that maybe this is just a movie I’ll never get, and/or, one that I’ll just never be a fan of. And hey, that’s fine. That’s the beautiful thing about movies: You can always view them with a subjective mind, which makes it easier for one film to be loved by one person, and loathed by the next.

Reminds me of what I'll be doing once the zombie apocalypse begins. And yes, IT WILL HAPPEN!!

Reminds me of what I’ll be doing once the zombie apocalypse begins. And yes, IT WILL HAPPEN!!

However, this review is simply for Upstream Color, and only that. But the reason why I bring up my feelings about Carruth’s first flick is because while I appreciated what he did and what he brought to the table with such a small-budget, I still didn’t like the formula in which the film was shown or built. That’s what separates that movie from this, because while they are both confusing and able to mess with our minds, there actually feels like there’s a story located in the center here, and it’s a very heartfelt, emotional and somewhat beautiful one that makes all of the craziness surrounding it become deaf to your ears. Because essentially, this is less of a movie about our human-existence, and more about these two who find one another, connect in ways they never expected to connect with a fellow human-being and above all, fall in love and search the world for the everlasting happiness we all strive for.

I know this all sounds very odd of me, as if I saw this movie while it “my time of the month”, but I’m serious: Something between me and this movie just clicked. Carruth definitely put a spell on me (how fitting) in ways that he was able to coax me into forgetting all about the confusing plot, or the visuals, or everything else for that matter, and just pay attention to what he has on display and what’s the center of it all. For that, I give the dude major credit because although he did throw some curve balls here and there that got the eyebrows movin’ up, there was still a feel deep inside of me that gave me the feeling I wouldn’t be left behind with this story and its overall connection.

Now, it’s not like Carruth dumbs his material down, neither; it’s more just that he held my hand long enough to where I felt like I understood where he was going with this story, and why it all mattered to us. It’s a science-fiction movie, but not like the ones we see with aliens, lasers, or talking, killer-robots; it’s a science-fiction that uses the idea of science to further add drama and emotion to a story that didn’t seem like it needed much to begin with, yet, totally benefits because of it. You never quite know where this story is going to go, or even how it’s going to end whether it be sad, happy, or so painfully ambiguous, that it could literally be left somewhere up in the air, for all who see it decipher and make up their own minds as to what the hell it actually means. And that just took me along for a ride that never let me go, no matter how many times I thought it almost lost me, both in terms of emotions and my actual thought-process.

But, as you can see, I’ve been going on and on and on about the heart of this story, and still, I have yet to actually talk about Shane Carruth himself as a director, who, from what we saw of him last, has really upped his game as a visual-director. Seriously, some of the shots in this movie are so beautiful and so artistic, it’ll make you wonder just how he was able to capture the frame the way it was. Certain lighting will come into effect and give you this idea that you’re in a real world, with real people, and real consequences for their actions, but other times, you’ll feel as if you are in dream world where some things that happen are utterly, and totally unexplainable. And before I stand off my high-horse by acting like I know all about what Carruth was trying to do here, I just want to say that it seems like this was used on purpose, because any bit of this movie could have been a dream, or it could have been reality. You never know, and I think that’s the way Carruth likes it to be.

Same goes for the sound of this flick as well, which, surprisingly, goes hand-in-hand with what’s happening in the plot. I can’t say why sounds and noises go along with the movie and in ways, drives the plot, but the way Carruth structures them and how the play-out in the film, totally work as it sometimes places you into another surreal world, and may even make you feel as if you’re being a little entranced as well. Carruth really seemed like he took total advantage of his bigger budget here, and showed that he uses for the better aspects of his movie; such aspects like sound-design; like cinematography; like lighting; and even, believe it or not, like shooting-areas. Most of Primer made it feel like it was made for a dime-a-dozen and filmed in these dudes’ backyards (which it most likely was), but here, you actually feel like you’re apart of something bigger, and a lot more wider than just the world two people created for themselves; you feel like you’re placed inside of a story that’s taking place in the middle of the universe, with all sorts of craziness surrounding it.

Just goes to show you that even the smaller things in movies you don’t normally pay attention to, mean a whole lot more than you think. Nice job on Carruth’s part for actually taking notice of that, and in return, making me take notice of that as well.

However, if there is one thing I do have to take some credit away from Carruth and this movie, it’s that his acting hasn’t quite improved since the last time we saw him. While I feel like he was more in his comfort-zone spouting out scientific-jargon in Primer, here, as Jeff, something feels very off-tune about him. Maybe that’s the point since his character seems to be reeling from so much internal damage this one horrific accident caused him, but by the same token, you never get a full feel for this guy as to who he was, who he is now after what happened to him and just what he can do to help our sweet girl of the hour-and-a-half, Kris.

"We're more than just pieces of meat!" If they could talk, that's what I assumed they'd say.

“We’re more than just pieces of meat!” If they could talk, that’s what I assumed they’d say.

Speaking of whom, Kris is played perfectly by Amy Seimetz who seems like she’s going to have a long career ahead of herself if she continues to roll at the pace she’s going at. With a movie like this, Seimetz could have easily fallen by the waist-side and just let Carruth use his artistic-side run rampant all over the place, but that’s not what happens. Instead, Seimetz gives us a character that we don’t know much about prior to her accident, but we still somewhat care for once it all happens and she wakes up all confused and bewildered as to what the hell has been going on with her life these past couple of days. We can tell that she’s messed-up just by the look in her eyes and the way she carries herself from area-to-area, but we never know how bad it truly is for her, until we eventually find out the long-lasting circumstances bestowed onto her due to this accident.

There’s this one scene where she gets the harsh news, and rather than going all over-the-top with her reaction, we get a close-up on her face, mainly her eyes, where they remain stilted, as if she’s just trying to let it all sink in. And that’s when you see the one lonely tear run down her face. It’s heartbreaking to see because you know that she’s suffered so much pain and agony, that she just doesn’t have the time, nor the effort to be hurt anymore. She just faces the fact, and moves on. Beautiful scene and one of the most beautiful pieces of acting I’ve seen all year. You go girl!

And while I go on about this movie, there’s no doubt in my mind that it won’t work for everybody, much like Primer didn’t work for me, as well as plenty others. In terms of the logistics of its plot, this one feels like it will appeal more to the average film-goes because not only does it challenge you to think a bit more than your usual big-budget, studio-made pic, but it also gives you a reward for the time you spend thinking about it, getting involved and following along. Especially with that ending. Honestly, I can’t remember an ending I’ve seen from a movie this year that was this poignant, this life-affirming and this beautiful. While most of the movie may have been a mad shuffle of ideas that either didn’t pan-out to much, or just didn’t make much sense at all, the ending is what stays clear in my mind right now as I’m typing this, brought a tear to my eye, and assured me that yes, movies are another form of art, and they don’t get anymore inspired as this.

Consensus: Most likely not going to be everybody’s cup of Joe, Upstream Color is still, for the ones who can stick it out and keep a clear and open mind, a rewarding experience that breaths new life into a conventional story of romance between two sad people, and gives us the idea that we are watching something more powerful develop in front of our eyes that isn’t just about two people in particular, but us all. Or something like that.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

And birds have something to do with this, too. I think....

And birds have something to do with this, too. I think….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Captain Phillips (2013)

Move on over, Captain Jack. There’s a new king of the seas!

Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is your everyday boat captain. He’s a family man, he knows what’s right with the world, what isn’t, he’s strict, he’s determined, he doesn’t quite play-well with others, but he’s cautious to a certain point. However, the cautious-nature that makes him who he is may help him out this time when four Somalian armed-pirates jump aboard his ship and take hostages, demanding money. Phillips is more than able to oblige, but he realizes that these four are some insanely dangerous people you do not want to mess with, especially when they have AK-47s pointed directly at his face. But Phillips doesn’t allow for that to get in his way too much and finds the solution to their problems by giving them all of the money he has in his vault; all $3,000 of it. Obviously, as you could expect, the pirates know that they can’t go back with that chump-change and needed a bigger bang for their buck. So, like any normal-thinking human-being anchoring a hostage-situation, they decide to kidnap Phillips and put his life on the line so that they can get more money through ransom. They don’t realize though, it ain’t that easy when you’re working the U.S. army, baby! And Richard Phillips too, but this isn’t even his story, right?

"Jenny?"

“Jenny?”

While many out there (myself included) have been a bit skeptical of Greengrass’ career and how long his “frantic, shaky-cam” gimmick would run dry, the man always finds a way to keep us coming back for more. More for him, more for the material he chooses to adapt, and best of all, more for the disastrous, real-life situations he chooses to display and re-create, if you will. The man did it with United 93, one of the most dreadful, yet, powerful pieces of cinema about 9/11 you’ll ever see, and hell, despite the story not being as known to me as that deadly tragedy was, he does the same thing again with Captain Phillips, the true tale of a man who threw himself into a deadly situation and somehow, someway, came out by the skin of his teeth.

That’s not a spoiler, by the way. So please, please do not get all up in my grill, because in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. Knowing the outcome beforehand or not knowing won’t make a single lick of a difference because Greengrass, using any skill he has in his tool-belt without over-doing it, makes this movie so freakin’ tense, so sweaty, so gripping, and so suspenseful, that you may even, at one point, wonder just what the hell is going to happen. So many movies that are based on real-life events try so hard to make you feel that tense in the most manipulative ways possible, but not this one. Greengrass knows better and believe it or not, seems like he’s learned from his mistakes and dials-down a lot of his gimmicks.

No loud, swelling music trying to make you feel a certain way; none of the infamous “crack-cam”; no fake emotions trying to make you see Phillips story from all sorts of perspectives; and thankfully, not a single piece of forced-patriotism thrown onto us, as if Greengrass wants us to be chanting, “U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!”, by the end of it. And even if that was the case, it probably still would have worked because he finds a way to make you gain hope in anybody who’s just trying to survive this situation and save Phillips life if they can. Even Phillips himself who, despite being played by everybody’s favorite actor, doesn’t really come off as the nicest guy in the world, yet you still care for him.

And you can totally credit that to Hanks’ utter-charm that has him win over anybody he meets, in real-life or in the movies, but you can also credit that to Greengrass for giving us a guy who feels real, doesn’t feel like the happiest/most pleasant person on the face planet, and may even be a bit of a dick. Yet, you still care for him and realize that every step he makes, good or bad, may be a step he takes to his grave or to his warm, cozy bed at home. Either way, he’s going to get out of this situation one way or another, and he will stop at nothing to make sure he comes out of this alive. And if not, well then, he’ll make sure he’s the only one because it’s his ship, his decisions, and his life that he’s throwing out on the line. Nobody else’s and if that doesn’t make him a natural-born hero, then I don’t know what the hell does!

But, like I was saying about Tom Hanks, you know you love the guy in almost anything he shows up in (Larry Crowne included) because lord knows I do. Problem is, the man hasn’t really been showing much of his talent lately. Sure, he’s taken some interesting projects here and there, but nothing to the point of where I was reminded why this man is usually regarded as one of the best working today, best of all time, and why the hell he won two Oscars, back-to-back! Needless to say, I was a bit worried seeing him here as Richard Phillips as it seemed like the type of role that would have had him talking all of the time, being loud, trying to be charming, and not allowing me, not for a single second, to get past the fact that it was Tom Hanks playing a role.

Which one's blackbeard?

Which one’s blackbeard?

Instead, Hanks totally showed me up, and I’m glad he did so. Not only did he have me believe that he was this frightened, desperate man in this very tense hostage-situation, but he also had me believe that he could get out of it alive if he just used his smarts and brains a bit. Granted, he’s not the nicest guy in the world, like I said before, and we don’t get to know too much about his background other than that he loves his wife, his kids, and is scared that the times are changin’. But that small crap doesn’t matter because Hanks gives one of his best performances in the past decade or so and it gives me more and more faith in him as his career continues to chive on.

As for those “Oscar whispers” he’s getting, he totally deserves all of them and should get a nomination, no matter what. Hanks was great throughout the whole movie by the way he was able to still have us care for him without using his insane-amounts of charm, but nothing measures up to the last 5 minutes of the film, and what he does in front of the camera. You’ll be hearing a lot of people talk about these final moments for quite some time, and with good reason: They’re so emotional, so effective, and so inspiring, that you’ll be absolutely astonished how Greengrass and Hanks were able to come together and make it work so damn well, and in such a realistic, honest matter as well. Just watch these final minutes and you’ll see what I mean. One of the best, most memorable scenes of the year that I’ll most likely be remembering for years to come.

As for the rest of the cast, with the exception of a 5-minute role from Catherine Keener as Phillips loving, but barely seen wife, it’s character-actor central, with the occasional unknown thrown in for good measure. Everybody in this cast is good, but the one that really caught me off-guard was newcomer Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader of these Somalian pirates, and the one that takes charge early on. The one aspect behind this movie that could have really tore it down was how completely one-sided its view-point could have come off as being, and while Greengrass sure as hell doesn’t support these pirates actions, he still shows them as human-beings doing something so inhumane and so evil like threatening somebody’s life, but also giving them reasons for why it is that they are doing so. Greengrass never tries to make us feel bad for them to the point of where it’s near-Liberalism, but he does hold his hand out to them a bit more than usual, more for Abdi who you feel the worst for, because you know he’s not a bad guy, he just does bad things due to outside influence. Still, they were Somalian pirates that tried to kill a man for money. That immoral behavior should never be forgiven, no matter who commits it.

Consensus: The story is one we may all know, yet, Captain Phillips is still one of the most compelling, most tense thrillers of the whole year with plenty of food-for-thought and a Tom Hanks performance that anchors the material the whole through; keeping it humane, grounded, and placed in a sense of reality, as if we are really seeing this happen in front of our faces, the way it’s meant to be seen and understood.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!"

“No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!”

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