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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: November 2013

Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's, but...aw, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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Gimme the Loot (2013)

Who needs a budget when all you got are the wild streets of NYC!

Malcolm and Sofia (Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington) are two young, trouble-making teens that live their lives throughout the streets of NYC, “tagging” any spot that they can find. This gives their life some sort of meaning as it has them noticed by fellow gangs out there looking to tag their names and gain some notoriety. However, Malcolm and Sofia want more recognition than just random spots, they want THE REAL DEAL. So, in order to gain the most attention at all possible, they decide to tag Shea Stadium’s Home Run Apple, which is more than likely going to get them known; it’s going to make them stars! And with Malcolm’s supposed “inside man”, they may just be able to achieve their dreams. But, in order to do so, they must cobble up $500 together in a 24-hour time-frame. Therein lies the problem.

It’s little movies like Gimme the Loot, that get me all happy, inspired and determined to make a movie in the very near-future. I know people will continue to knock me down, drag me out and tell me that it’s harder than it seems, but so be it! The art of film is not how it’s made, it’s how people see it and if it’s to inspire, then better for us, the viewers. Especially for aspiring film makers, like myself.

So much sweat. You can't see it, but you just know there is.

So much sweat. You can’t see it, but you just know there is.

One of these days, people. One of these days.

But all that dreaming and wondering aside, this movie is still a movie, and should be taken as such. And for a movie that runs-in at about 79 minutes (possibly even less), I have to say, I found myself quite entertained and pleased with what I was seeing. The movie literally pops us right inside the lives of these two kids, and whether or not we know anything about them beforehand, it doesn’t matter. All we need to know is that they’re young kids, they live in NYC, they like to graffiti streets and they like to get by in this world, in any way they can. That means they do a lot of hustlin’, lyin’, stealin’ and playin’, however, it’s strange that we don’t ever think of them as “bad people”. Instead, we sort of see them as “kids, just being kids” and it makes the slight experience all the more worth-watching.

Somehow though, I can’t continue writing this review without at least letting you know of a very strange, but interesting thought I had about this movie. As soon as this movie started and we got acquainted with our two characters, their surroundings, what their objective was and what they were going to do in order to get it, I got this strange feeling that this was a movie along the lines of something like Kids. I know, I know, I know! Strange, right? Well, I was thinking that if you take away all of the gratuitous scenes where teens are doing drugs, having sex, saying a lot of bad words and just talking about a whole bunch of things that only the shallowest-of-shallow teenagers would talk about, I feel like you’d have this movie. Except shorter, and a lot more thought-provoking.

Sorry, parents of the mid-90’s. You’re children were safe, sound and not committing those countless dirty acts. Well, at least from what you’ve been told.

Anyway, without making this a review of that movie, one last thing I’ll say is that while the movie did not really get HOW teenagers talked, the movie still nailed down the idea that we were literally hanging out with these kids, while they lived their lives and did whatever they did in a 48-hour time-frame. It was a dull experience to sit-through, but it made you feel like you were around for the party, even if all it was was a bunch of dirty-talk and even dirtier happenings on the couch. But like I said, that’s as far as I’ll go talking about that movie, because the same slice-of-life feel I got from that, is exactly what I felt from here.

Rather than giving us some dark, gritty and bleak story about these two teenagers who practically live on the streets with how they run their lives, it gives us a somewhat hopeful, and happy one that doesn’t really judge its two characters. Sure, they aren’t the brightest flower of the bunch and they sure as hell do make mistakes, but I feel like if I too was walking around the streets of Brooklyn and in need of some directions as to where to go to some place, then their would be kids just like Malcolm and Sofia to help me out. Whether or not they’d actually help me get to my destination, or con me into giving them some sort of prize is a whole different story, but the fact of the matter remains is that these kids felt real, honest and pretty damn charming, even if it does just seem like they were told to “just be themselves”.

Hated those types! HATED 'EM!!

Hated those types! HATED ‘EM!!

And if that is the case, then I hope to see both Ty Hickson and Tashiana Washington in the near, NEAR future. Both seem pretty natural in front of the screen, and it wouldn’t have shocked me if these two seemed to be something of besties in real life. They carry a nice chemistry throughout the whole flick to where you can see why they’d be tagging-pals, and why they’d also be possible soul-mates as well. However, the flick never throws that idea down our throats and always has us keep wondering whether or not they’ll take the next step into being a couple, or whom is going to do it. It’s pretty interesting to watch their dynamic continue to grow and grow into something more serious over time, but it isn’t all about that. Trust me, no sappy romances between two broken and sad teenagers here. It’s just straight-up friendship, with some sexual tension thrown into the mix. Only some, though.

The only problem with these two feeling and being so natural in front of the screen, is that the others around them do feel like they are trained-professionals at acting, and for that, they kind of ruin this movie. Okay, let me rephrase that: Some of them actually do feel like they’ve been in front of the screen before, and for that, they seem like they are too knowing of what they’re supposed to be doing, whereas it seemed like Hickson and Washington were just being themselves and not even bothering with how they looked on camera. I could say the same for probably one other person in this cast (some dude named Meeko, I think because I’m having a bit hard of a time finding him), but as for the rest of the cast, they all seem to be trying a bit too hard and come off as less natural. And since this is such a small, realistic movie, they stick out like sore thumbs. Especially a girl who goes by the name of Zoë Lescaze, whom plays the preppy chick Malcolm deals drugs to, as she feels like she could have been a very interesting character to develop more, but instead, she rather comes off like a stuck-up, prissy beotch that I used to go to school with and despise sitting next to. Maybe that’s just my own personal problem as it was, and maybe there really wasn’t anything more to her than just money and good-looks, but I don’t know, didn’t like her and felt like they could have just casted some other gal who’d never been in front of the camera before. You know, for shits and gigs, that is.

Consensus: Most likely not going to last in your mind long after its over, especially since it won’t even take up a portion of your day, however, with something as pleasant, as charming, as short and as sweet as Gimme the Loot, it doesn’t matter because you’re too busy smiling and enjoying your time with these characters, who feel like actual, real life human-beings. Who woulda thunk it!?!??!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Now you can REALLY see the sweat!! Oh yeah!!

Now you can REALLY see the sweat!! Oh yeah!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Homefront (2013)

Them Southern belles and boys don’t take too kindly to British lads around their parks.

After a drug-bust goes slightly wrong, DEA Agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his little girl Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) relocate to a small, abandoned Louisiana house where they are practically left alone and allowed to resume their normal, everyday lives as if nothing ever happened. It seems to be going well for awhile too, that is until Maddy violently retaliates to a bully, breaking this kid’s nose and everything. The boy’s mother (Kate Bosworth), despite looking like she’s constantly in need of a meth-fix everytime she shows up, somehow starts up all the right trouble, giving Phil Broker the kind of unwanted reputation that usually drives out new-folk to this small town. It gets so bad, actually, that she even goes so far as to call up her drug-dealing, big bro Gator (James Franco) who knows a thing or two about Phil’s past that puts him and Maddy in some serious danger. Then again though, Phil being played by Jason Statham and all, we know he won’t go down without a fight.

First things first, I think it’s best to tell everybody right off-the-bat that this flick is written by none other than Mr. Sly Stallone himself, which already gives you the idea that not a single ounce of this movie should be taken seriously. Because, in the past couple of years, with the movie’s he’s been participating in, it doesn’t seem like he has, so why the hell should we, you know? Some part of me wishes that this movie took that idea and ran with it, but instead, this is what we’re left with: A big, dumb, brainless action-thriller, somehow disguised as deadly-serious, slow-burner.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath's still got time for his daughter.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath’s still got time for his daughter.

And that’s the biggest mistake I think Sly could have ever made with this material.

With a movie this outrageous, it almost feels like you just have to make it something that’s quick, loud and to the point, just so we don’t realize all of the cracks with the important elements that go into making a movie. Elements like say, acting, writing, directing, originality, and so on and so forth. Nope, you can’t find much of that here, and even when you do, it’s not of any great quality to really call home about. Instead, we’re mainly just presented with something that should have been a totally fun, exciting and well-worth it time-burner, but we get something that takes its time a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m fine with a movie trying to tell its story, set-up its pace and give us characters to care about, mainly through developing them and showing dimensions, but this isn’t that type of movie. It’s much more of something that should be balls-to-the-walls crazy, over-the-top and nutty, as if we were watching a movie dear ol’ Sly himself would have actually starred in way back when. Heck, I don’t know why he didn’t star in this one as it was! Sure, he’s a bit older now and most of the fighting scenes would have looked hella cheesy and tacked-on with him moving around, but who cares. His type of silliness would have made this movie at least somewhat charming, rather than just emotionless, but sometimes fun.

But you know, I can’t really get on a flick like this, because when it’s having fun, it’s a good time to be around for. The only problem with all of the fine action set-pieces is that once we actually get to the point where one occurs, it takes a long while for us to get to the next one where we have to pay attention to the characters, the directing and the most simplest of them all, the acting. Now, I’m not saying that any of these actors in these roles are per se, bad, it’s just that they don’t necessarily bring anything to the table, nor do they make the material better or worse with their presences being felt. They’re just there to act like window-dressing for a whole bunch of explosions, guns, bullets, drugs, sex and violence. A whole lotta violence too, may I add.

Jason Statham, whether you love him, or you definitely hate him, there’s a certain charm about him in these movies that somehow works, if only just for his character. He doesn’t really try to dig any deeper with this wholesome daddy, yet, savage beast known as Phil Broker, but he gets the job done more than he doesn’t. Especially when he’s just kicking ass, taking names and saying some sort of cocky one-liner that’s only funny to the people closest to the speakers who can actually decipher what the hell he’s saying underneath that freakin’ accent. Seriously, I get that the guy is born and bred from England, but he needs to help us out a bit with that “talk” of his. I mean, seriously. It’s literally been eight or so years since the last time he was in a Guy Ritchie movie. Help us out, pal!

However, the strangest thing behind this whole movie is that this is being advertised as yet another, big, dumb, stupid, action-vehicle starring Jason Statham, and somehow, these really well-known, very talented stars got involved with the supporting cast, making you wonder why they even signed up to do this in the first place. But after awhile, it becomes clear: They just want to stretch their wings out a bit. That’s not a bad thing neither, considering some of these names in here do desperately need to show us that they still got the goods to sell us on anything it is that they do, but there’s nothing at all for them to do.

Yeah, I mean that's trashy, right?

Yeah, I mean that’s trashy, right?

The most prime example of this fact would be James Franco’s Gator. We all know that James Franco loves to switch things up with his career, whether he’d be playing a wanna-be-gangsta, Allen Ginsberg, or even himself, it doesn’t matter because Franco’s one of the brightest and bestest talents right now that loves doing cool things with his career, and seems to always succeed at pulling them off, no matter how random or obscure those decisions of his may be. This is where I think he goes a bit too far with those odd choices, but it’s less of his fault, and more of the script, although he’s definitely partially to be blamed, too. The problem with Gator isn’t that he’s a bad dude, it’s just that he isn’t very interesting or even worth even being scared by. You sort of always know that Statham’s going to kick this guy’s ass no matter what, and most likely go home with a win at the end of the day. Franco definitely could have made this character interesting, compelling or even fun to watch, but oddly enough, Franco kind of straight-faces his performance the whole time, despite this guy being a backwater meth-dealer, which is already plenty enough substance to make a person want to go crazy with a performance. So basically, if you put these two problems together, you just get a lame character, with a very strange and dull performance from Franco.

Something I never thought was possible, but hey, I guess anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

The rest of the cast fair-off a bit better than Franco, however, it’s obvious that they definitely try all that they can do to make this work as well. Sometimes, painfully so. Winona Ryder does what Franco should have done, and gives her biker-trash girlfriend enough craziness to actually make us want to feel like we want to watch her, however, it’s pretty hard to watch when all you know that she’s doing is just acting all crazy, just to act crazy and try to steer our minds away from the bad script; Frank Grillo plays, YET AGAIN, another villain but he handles it fine and shows that he can still steal the show, even if he does show up with only about ten minutes left in the movie; and Kate Bosworth, despite never impressing me before in her long-storied career, somehow becomes the most believable and most interesting character out of the whole bunch, despite her practically yelling, hootin’, hollerin’ and looking like she’s in desperate need of a shower, everytime it is that we see her. Never been too big of a fan of hers, but I’m always ready to be impressed and surprised. And hey, it’s like what I said before: Anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

Consensus: While there are spouts of action, fun and tension to be found in Homefront, they still don’t add to much of a movie that’s worth investing time in, or even really caring for. You just want to see the explosions, the violence and the asses being kicked, so you can be on your merry way. Is that too much to ask?

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He'll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He’ll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Frozen (2013)

As if any of us needed anymore reminding with how freakin’, deadly cold outside it is! Thanks, Disney!

When they were both wee-little girls, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) suffered tragedy at the hands of the other girl, and scarred them for the rest of their lives. So much so that Anna has never quite been able to forge-back the relationship she used to have with Elsa. Instead, she’s told to keep her distance, make herself pleased in any way she can and just wait until Elsa is finally crowned Queen of Arendelle, and is given the right to be wherever she wants, with whomever she wants. Anna sees this is a way to break out of that big, old and lame castle, and have some fun for a change! However, Elsa’s mysterious powers of unexpectedly being able to turn everything around her into ice sends her away from the rest of the village, while still leaving them in the blistering cold without much heat to keep them alive and well. However, Anna comes to the rescue, and with a lending-hand from handyman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), she may just be able to save the day, even if she does eventually realize that it’s going to be a harder task when so many people want her and her sissy dead, and the throne all for themselves.

She's a woman who turns almost anything and everything around her, into solid ice. So basically, she's one of my ex-girlfriends.

She’s a woman who turns almost anything and everything around her, into solid ice. So basically, she’s one of my ex-girlfriends.

Hate to say it and sound like a cynical ass, but animated movies don’t really do much for me nowadays. Sure, I like them when I do eventually get a chance to see them, but it’s been quite some time since the last time I found myself foaming at the mouth by just the thought of a new animation flick. Some of that blame can be put on for Pixar and the fact that, in the past couple of years, they’ve been dropping the ball more than usual, but most of that other blame can be also put on the fact that I’m getting older, more miserable and without any kids by my side (at least ones that I ACTUALLY father). So therefore, it’s more that I’m just some old, cranky dude that doesn’t like bright and shiny things that make little kids happy; in fact, I frown upon them and scream out “Bah humbug!”

But, like I predicted, what I expected to happen, did in fact happen: The animated movie that I was not looking forward to a single bit, surprisingly, did a lot for me and had me smiling for practically the whole time.

While most of you out there won’t be surprised by me saying this, I sure as hell am because while I do fancy myself actual, good animated flicks, this one did not seem to have the makings of that said animated flick whatsoever. But surprisingly, I found myself smiling more and more as it went along. Though I didn’t initially know it was a sequel, the surprise was well-worth it as each and every song, though not memorable, still had me astounded by how fun, up-beat and impressively-done most of them were. Sure, some of them aren’t going to be known as the “Under the Sea” of this generation’s kiddie-bops, but they still get the job done in being fun, light, quick and straight-to-the-point, in hopes of not drowning out the minds of its target-audience too much.

And in order to know that I was fully and honestly enjoying myself with these songs, I’ll have you know: The feet were tapping, and the fingers were dancing. There! Now you know I had a great time with this movie, but most importantly, these songs!

This movie’s charm isn’t just in the way that it’s songs are buckets of fun however, because believe it or not, despite the story being just another re-working on “The Snow Queen” fairy-tale, there’s actually some subtle, original nuances to be found in the pits of this story that you may not find in other animated flicks of this same nature. For instance, without spoiling too much just in case any die-hard cinephile out there who is still interested in seeing this movie is reading, the movie does, somehow, and in someway, end up coming to the conclusion that a gal doesn’t always need a man in her life to get the job done. The only person she needs to rely on the most is her, her brain and the resources she has around herself. Yeah, I guess those said “resources” could include a member of the male gender, but that’s not the whole point of this movie. The whole point of this movie is that these lady characters eventually come to realize that they can get the job done, or at least, finish their objective by just doing what they think is best for themselves.

Now obviously, there is a love story that needs to be here in order to still spit-out positive messages for the whole crowd, but it’s not done in a hackney-way that feels like it was just thrown in there. Surprisingly, the romance between these two main characters that I refuse to mention, because it may just surprise the heck out of you, feels honest and heartfelt enough to be worthy enough of its own movie. Heck, maybe even its own, live-action rom-com? Highly doubt we’ll get it, but here’s holding out some hope for the future, baby. Here’s hoping!

Just found out a little thing called "Global Warming" exists.

Just found out a little thing called “Global Warming” exists.

If anything, too, this movie deserves the ultimate credit in reminding me why Kristen Bell is such a lovable presence to have in a movie, regardless of whatever form it may be in. She can either be showing up for a small cameo, in a lead role, or voicing a character, but whatever it way it may be, she’s still pleasant enough to have around because she is one hell of a charmer. She gives Anna her fun and spirited sense of energy that never leaves this character, especially even when she’s singing her damn heart out. Don’t know if I’m just an imbecile or what have you, but I never knew that K-Bell could actually heckle to skies like she did here, and I have to say, color me surprised and impressed on that one. Girl can belt it out like it’s nobody’s business. That’s for damn sure.

The rest of the voice cast is pretty damn lovely to have around, too, with each and every one throwing their own two cents in their for good fun and measure. Josh Gad steals the show each and every time he shows up as Olaf, giving us the impression that this guy is still so pleased with himself in everything that he does, yet, we still enjoy his presence enough not to care too much; Jonathan Groff is also a nice fit as the hard-working Kristoff, who builds a nice rapport and chemistry with Bell’s Anna, regardless of whether or not they were actually in the studio next to each other, recording and whatnot; and Alan Tudyk proves to the world, once again, that he can do no wrong when it comes to voicing these outrageous characters. The only weak-link in this cast that I can come even close to finding is Idina Menzel, and before you all flame me in the Comments section, it’s not because of her singing (we all know that could NEVER be true)! The only problem with her voice is that when she was talking, and not singing her lungs out, you could tell that she was a lot older in the voice than what the character was actually called onto be. Now personally, I don’t know how old Elsa’s character was meant to be, and it probably didn’t matter, but when you have somebody’s voice as high-pitched and youthfully-sounding as Bell’s, it’s kind of hard not to sound like a older, more tough and rugged gal. May be a weird complaint, but it’s something I realized. However, it didn’t matter to me too much after long, because, well, I mean just listen to this! JUST LISTEN TO IT! BLOODY HELL!!

Consensus: Not the greatest animated flick Disney’s churned out in the past couple years or so, but regardless, Frozen is still a pleasant, joy-filled time at the movies that’s easy on the eyes, ears and mind, as it teaches some worthy life-lessons you don’t often see in current animated flicks that come out every once and awhile.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

NO! Don't fall for it, honey! All men are liars, cheaters, thieves and philanderers! Right, kids?

Don’t fall for it, honey! All men are liars, thieves and philanderers! Right, kids?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Tangled (2010)

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “Long hurr, don’t curr.”

Separated from her real, royal parents as a baby, a young girl named Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) with very long, very flowing and very magical flowing locks longs for the day she’s able to go outside into the real world, where she can just do whatever it is that she wants. However, her adoptive mother (Donna Murphy) doesn’t allow her to for many reasons, but the main which being that she tells her it’s too dangerous for a wee-little chick-a-pee like her to be in, and that she also doesn’t want Rapunzel to lose her hair because if she does, that means the mommy loses her young age. One day though, a noble thief by the name of Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) somehow finds himself in her tree-house, where she takes away his crowned-jewels. She’ll give it back to him on one condition: Take her to see these beautiful lights in the sky. Rider, despite being obviously hesitant to go back to the same town where he’s wanted dead or alive in at first, eventually softens up to young Rapunzel and starts to feel the love connection. But mommy ain’t too happy about her protected and sheltered girly being out there in the crazy world, so she decides to take matters into her own hands, which isn’t going to be so pretty for the star-crossed soon-to-be-lovers.

What a charmer! What young, adolescent male doesn't want to be just like him!?!?

What a charmer! What young, adolescent male doesn’t want to be just like him!?!?

Pretty much, it’s the story of Rapunzel, but with a lighter-twist that makes it suitable for all kiddies out there in the world. Oh, and it’s a different title, too, just to appeal to all genders, not just the gals. Okay, so now that that’s out of the way, let’s go onto the movie, shall we?

This may not be a surprise to anyone at all out there, but this is a pretty damn good-looking animated flick. Apparently the production-costs went so high-up for this thing, just to marry both traditional-animation, with the type of color-patterns that make it look like a painting, but needless to say, it works out well. You could practically turn the sound down all the way when watching this, and still find something about it to enjoy because it’s a beaut of a flick, giving plenty of detail, color and visual-pizzazz every the story takes itself.

However, you wouldn’t want to keep the sound turned down the whole time as the music itself is pretty damn stunning as well, if not entirely memorable like what we’re so used to having with Disney animated-flicks. The songs definitely hit their peaks with each and every singer who’s performing it, and while you may be absolutely stunned when watching it, you won’t really find yourself humming the tunes for the rest of the day. But the songs are still worth listening to, especially since every performer seems to give it their all and add a little “signature” of their own on it.

For instance, Mandy Moore gives all of her songs a fun, jumpy-feel as she’s vibrant and constantly moving around; Donna Murphy’s the obvious pro at-work here who gives her very-few songs the feel of something you may see with your mother or grand-mother in an very expensive opera house; Zachary Levi doesn’t have much singing to do in the first place, but at least gets a chance to show his coolness, even when using his vocal-chords which, for any guy out there, is a hard-feat to actually pull-off since, we all know, being a dude and singing, doesn’t always come closest to being considered “cool” in the slightest bit; and though the voices are all-over-the-place with whose singing at one point, there’s a song taking place inside of a bar where a bunch of huge, demanding forces-of-nature sing about their dreams in the most sensitive-way ever, and got a lot of laughs out of me while it was being performed.

Totally see the resemblance. How could you not?

Totally see the resemblance. How could you not?

See though, there’s a reason why I went into so much detail about the tunes of this movie, and how different they are from one another because they aren’t the only thing that’s inconsistent with this movie. In fact, it’s the tone as well. There were a couple of times throughout this movie where I began to question what it was that I was supposed to be watching; some scenes seem like they’re pandering to the young girl, female-crowd that may want to venture out and see a flick about a young girl falling in love and living out her dream, while other scenes made it seem like it was appealing to the younger boys that want a slick, cool bad-ass hero that not only gets the girl at the end, but seems to get out of any terrible situation Scott-free whenever he oh so chooses. The movie definitely tries to have itself both ways, but it ends up coming off as a bit disjointed, as if it was like the movie want to be more for the girly-girls, but didn’t want to totally alienate the young guys either.

That said though, the movie’s still fun regardless of which way you spin it. It’s funny, quick, witty, sometimes emotional and overall, a huge crowd-pleaser meant for the families who need a bit of escapism around this time of the year. Also, something else that should be noted that this is an animated-flick released in the 21st Century that has just about little-to-no pop-culture references involved at all. Which also means, you don’t have to be a total whiz, or smarty-smart to get the jokes that the movie brings out of itself. All you have to do is have a relatively nice sense of humor to where you like slapstick, you like jokes, and heck, you may even like it when horses try to act like humans in a demanding, powerful way. If that’s your type of humor, then this one will surely work out well for you. If not, go watch Shrek, and it’s 500 other, unnecessary sequels.

Consensus: Surely not the best Disney animated-flick ever made, but Tangled still works well in the way that it’s a pleasing, exciting, funny and worthy-enough piece of escapism that may not appeal to all viewers out there in the world, but does just the trick for whomever it’s for, even if that itself is a bit harder to pin-point down than anything else that has to do with this movie.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Mandy Moore's voice can command anything. Even horses.

That’s the type of power Mandy Moore’s voice has over things.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Philomena (2013)

Wanna see some REAL “evil nuns? You’re welcome.

After failing in his ill-advised decision to be a politician, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) decides to return to the world that he knows he’ll safe be in, considering he’s practically been in an expert in it for 20+ years: Journalism. However, Sixsmith isn’t the type of journalist who goes out there and writes fluff for the mainstream. No siree! In fact, the type of writer he is an important one that gets straight to the facts, and doesn’t leave anything dangling. But all that changes once Sixsmith is given the opportunity to cover a “human interest story” concerning one Philomena Lee (Judi Dench). The story is simply this: When Philomena was a young and confused girl, she got knocked up. Seems normal, right? Well, at the time, she was an orphan who had a bunch of nuns breathing down her neck for every simple act she committed, which meant that she could either a.) take the kid and leave the orphanage, or b.) leave the kid at the orphanage to be looked at adoptive parents, while she still lived and worked at the orphanage, giving her the chance to see her kid every once and awhile. She decided to go with Option B, but it wasn’t before long until her own boy was snatched up from her, with little to no idea of who this family was, or even where they went. 50 years later, Philomena and Martin go out to discover the truth, which sadly, isn’t only just Philomena’s story, either.

Sightseeing with Steve Coogan may not be the most pleasant-filled afternoon you could ever have, but it's better than with somebody who ISN'T Steve Coogan, so it's at least a slightly better choice.

Sightseeing with Steve Coogan may not be the most pleasant-filled afternoon you could ever have, but it’s better than with somebody who ISN’T Steve Coogan, so it’s at least a slightly better choice.

There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of hype and a lot of buzz surrounding this movie and quite frankly, I don’t get it. Sure, it’s got two supreme, British heavy-weights in the forms of Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench in the lead roles, and is even a true-life story, but does that really mean it deserves all of the praise it’s been getting? Actually, let me rephrase that: Does it REALLY deserve an 89% (so far) on Rotten Tomatoes?!?!

HELL TO THE NO!!

But then again, I can see why.

Basically, here’s a movie that caters to the late-Holiday, Oscar-bait viewing audience: It ruffles some feathers, but features pleasant, happy-going thoughts about finding yourself, embracing your past, as well as not blaming any others for your problems that you’ve had before, or the ones that you have now. Wow! Wait a ticket! Didn’t that last one seem a bit negative to you? Well, that’s because it is.

What this movie does, and does well, if you choose to see it the way I did, was that it presents a view of these nuns in such a despicable, one-sided way, that the movie lost almost all credibility from me. Don’t be fooled, I am no heavy-duty Catholic that prays to God everyday before I go to bed, or wake up for school, or never misses Sunday Mass, however, I know an unfair viewpoint when I see one, and that’s what I see here. First of all, I don’t think anybody took into account the idea that not only were these nuns giving these girls a second chance at life, but made sure that they did actually get to see their kids. And heck, didn’t the nuns give these girls a choice to begin with? Sure, the girls could have easily left the orphanage without a place to eat, sleep or live at, and the extra-baggage of a newborn could have only added insult to injury, but it’s still the risk you take, right?

The fact that this movie brings this point up, but doesn’t really have much to say about it really ticked me off. Hear me out, I am in no way condoning these nuns for what it was that they did to these girls and to their children, however, that doesn’t get me past the fact that this movie doesn’t realize how hateful it sounds. Makes sense to make the Catholic church the enemy here, that’s totally understandable actually, but it doesn’t try to even come close to explaining their side of the story, or even the benefits one might have made from this decision to stick around the orphanage while the kids themselves were put-up for adoption.

I know plenty of you out there are already thinking how much of a terrible, distasteful human-being I truly am, but seriously, you know there’s a problem with your movie when you have nothing more to show for it other than a bunch of scenes in which both Judi Dench and Steve Coogan just do whatever comes to their mind first. And there’s actually nothing really wrong with that, because they’re both pros, but considering that’s the only aspect of this movie has to fall back-on, those scenes together between them both get real old, real quick and start to make you see all of the other problems with this flick.

Though the trailers and heck, even the poster up-above, may have you fooled into thinking that is a somewhat fun, hilarious, witty road-trip between two of Britain’s most famous beings of the big-screen (only the latter is true), the movie is totally different. It is a drama, and a very dark one at that, which I do applaud because it goes to some areas that I didn’t in the least bit expect it to end-up. But as dark as a movie can and wants to be, it has to be able to save it all by transition well between both sides of the story, and that is not what this does. Whenever there is supposed to be a moment made for comedic-effect, the movie relies on Dench to say something silly, or somewhat daft, just to show you that she’s an little ole’ cute lady, that you’re supposed to feel bad for no matter what mistakes she may, or may not have made in the past.

And while Philomena, the character, gets by mainly on Dench’s performance, you still can’t help but think what would have been if there was more attention to the script and the simple mechanics of the plot. I get that this story was adapted from a book, that was apparently based on a true-story, but for some odd reason, a lot of this just rang false to me, as if it was just Philomena going on the trip all by herself in real-life, but producers realized they needed a witty, sarcastic Brit along with her for the ride, so just call up Steve Coogan I guess, right?

Okay, nevermind. She is pretty damn cute. Just look at her!!

Okay, nevermind. She is pretty damn cute. Just look at her!!

Well, not to anybody’s surprise, Coogan ends up being the best thing about this movie, despite his character being one that’s quite frequently looked-down upon from this movie. Coogan does his usual dead-pan, dickish-like act where he says things that aren’t supposed to be funny, but because he’s such an uncomfortable asshole to be around, you can’t help but chuckle at him. However, Coogan does take this character a step-further in showing us a guy who is actually coming to realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this story than ever before, and while he may not still care too much for “human interest” stories, he cares enough for Philomena to the point of where he wants her to be okay, once they find her boy and get a chance to talk to him. Though the movie definitely has an anti-journalistic mentality about itself going on here, it’s Coogan’s journalist-character whom ends up being the most interesting and believable.

As for Philomena, well, that’s why Judi Dench was cast in the first place, and as good as she is, even her amazing talents can’t save this gal from being just another simple, old woman who loves life, appreciates it all for what it’s worth and loves to throw wisdom down other people’s throats whenever she feels like it. I guess those type of old women are considered “cute”, and not the types you want to send away to a home in hopes of benefiting from the family house?

Consensus: Coogan and Dench do slightly save Philomena from a very painful, uncomfortable death, but the script’s pit-falls into drama, religion, comedy, homosexuality, sex, lies and no videotape, never work or even seem believable, despite this apparently being a “true story”. I’m doubting that one.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't expect a hug, or hell, any sort of emotional support from the Coogs.

Don’t expect a hug, or hell, any sort of emotional support from the Coogs.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Delivery Man (2013)

You can almost never trust sperm to impregnate somebody when you want it too.

David Wozniak (Vince Vaughn) is a 40-something-year-old slacker that doesn’t have much ambition in his life. That would be fine and all if there weren’t others tied into his life, but sadly for those poor folks, that isn’t the case. He works at a family-owned meat market that he takes too long to do; owes over $80,000 to the mob; has a girlfriend (Cobie Smulders) that he isn’t settling down with yet, despite her constant-nagging; and worst of all, he has his own kid on the way. But once everything in his life seems to be crumbling down, he gets some crazy news that some-odd years ago, when he donated sperm, he birthed 600 children, and out of those 600, 100 want to know who he is. There’s all sorts of laws granting anonymity that have been broken here, hence why Wozniak enlists his buddy/lawyer Brett (Chris Pratt) to handle the case, which he is more than willing to do, only on one condition though: That David not see, meet, or share any sort of connection with these 100 or so kids. Sound easy enough, that is all until David starts actually tracking these kids down, and getting closer to them more than they, especially him, ever expected to.

I’ve never seen the original movie that this is a remake of (Starbuck), however, from what I hear, it’s a pretty good movie. Sounds like something I’ll definitely have to check out in the near-future, but as for right now, I guess this’ll do. And that is not a nice sentiment whatsoever.

The thought of Andy Dwyer being a father, scares me half-to-death.

The thought of Andy Dwyer being a father, scares me half-to-death.

Like most U.S.-made remakes of foreign flicks, the plots sound interesting and very promising, but for the American mainstream-audience, that doesn’t matter. Just as long as they get plenty of goofy moments where people hurt themselves, say something stupid and/or show that they have a heart, then all is well and fine with the world. However, we need substance to a tale like this, which it does not in fact have, despite trying so damn hard to throw the idea at us that it does. The constant shoving in our faces of how much of a heart it has, eventually, began to get tiring and repetitive, as if the movie knew that it wanted to be more than just your average, Vince Vaughn-comedy, but instead, have more to say about growing up, accepting life, falling in love and reconnecting with long, lost family members.

Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong, many movies out there have done exactly what this flick is trying to do, it’s just that they’ve done so a lot more efficiently and a lot less obvious. For instance, there’s a switch about somewhere half-way through where instead of being a broad-comedy about a guy accepting the fact that he has over 600 kids due to his sperm being passed around more than a whore in a brothel, we get an emotional movie that tries to be compelling by taking an “owning-money-to-mob” subplot, mixing it in with the whole “courtcase” fiasco, and also using the kids as a crutch to fall back on and pay attention to once things get a little crazy. It doesn’t work and while it does seem a bit mixed-up in what it wants to do, it’s pretty clear what it’s trying to say: Life is beautiful.

Yay. Actually, I meant to say “yawn” again. My bad.

And that’s pretty much all there is to this flick, in a nutshell. While there were bits that had me chuckling here and there, most of the comedy seems stale and uninspired, as if the creators knew they had a neat idea on their hands here, but decided to just roll with that, rather than adding some really nifty, witty pieces of material. Rather instead, the movie relies on the talent to let these comedic-moments hit us where it hurts, but they just can’t help but fall victim to what seems like another lame script, used to manipulate families into seeing around the Holiday season. Damn, Hollywood and their smart-ass, money-making ways and ideas.

I’ve said it before in my Internship review, and I’ll sure as hell say it again: Vince Vaughn needs to grow-up and begin to act his age. I get that this is probably something he doesn’t want to hear from anyone (let alone some random, two-bit blogger), and won’t bother Hollywood since they continue to cast him in these “relatively-young, free-wheeling dude” roles, but it’s starting to get tiresome to see him play the same roles, almost to no avail whatsoever, and actually worrisome, especially considering that this is about strike four in-a-row for this guy when it comes to starring in these vehicles, and not being able to do much with ’em. Sure, he’s pleasant and talented enough to make these movies charming in the slightest bit, but you have to begin to wonder just when he’s finally going to wake up, start smoking some of that experimental-stuff and realize that he needs a career-change by picking better, more daring-roles that not only show how much of a talent he is to behold, but that he is over-40, and he is embracing it.

He can't settle down with THAT?!?!? He's not just a dummy, but he's entirely unsympathetic.

He can’t settle down with THAT?!?!? He’s not just a dummy, but he’s entirely unsympathetic.

Here though, as David Wozniak, some will probably be confused by how “un-Vaughn” here he is, which is both a sin and a blessing. Reason why it’s a blessing is because he’s at least finally doing something where he isn’t constantly ranting at a-mile-a-second; but a sin, because he’s just bland, bland, bland. Wozniak seems like a likable-enough dude to care enough for in this movie to be get behind, but after awhile, it just seems like the guy really is a loser, and probably should only say “hi” to these kids and walk away. I don’t mean that to be or sound mean, but the guy just doesn’t really seem like he has much going on for him other than the fact that he’s played by a phoning-it-in Vince Vaughn, and that’s that.

Even Cobie Smulders tries her damn-near hardest, but even she can’t seem to get past the fact that the script just wants her to be hot, pregnant and always bitching at David for something new, each and every day. Sort of like all women, right men? The only one who really gets by with this script and his character is Chris Pratt as Brett, Wozniak’s buddy/lawyer, who is amusing in his depressed-outlook on life, which is charming enough to get by because of Pratt’s charm, but eventually seems played-out. That is, until a strange turn-of-events occur and we get a movie that focuses more on his story, and less of Wozniak’s, in which Pratt takes center-stage, show that he can be hilarious without being over-the-top dumb and goofy and also give us a look at what we can come to expect this summer with him in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s coming up soon, people! So be ready! Has nothing to do with this movie, but hey, that’s all I got, folks.

Consensus: An interesting premise for sure, but still mawkish, manipulative and uninvolving in the way it continues to hammer away at the fact that yes, Delivery Man is a movie about growing up and other important themes of life that we must accept and live with, but yet, doesn’t show them in a different, effective way. Instead, it just tells us and ends up doing nothing.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"HeywhatsupguysmynamesVinceVaughnandIliketotalkreallyfast."

“HeywhatsupguysmynamesVinceVaughnandIliketotalkreallyfast.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Switch (2010)

Would it REALLY be that hard for J-An to get preggo?

Besties Kassie and Wally (Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman) can pretty much do whatever they want with, or around each other, and it wouldn’t matter a single lick. They’re just that comfortable with the other, that it doesn’t matter. However, the only thing they can’t do is have a child together, even when Kassie says that she desperately needs to have one, even if it is just through artificial-insemination. Some people, like Wally, think this is weird, but so be it! It’s the 21st-Century and a woman should be allowed to do with her body and life, what a woman wants to do with her body and life. Throughout her search for the biggest, best and most promising sperm-donor, she finds Roland (Patrick Wilson), who Wally is ultimately jealous of. So basically, through one night in a drunken-stooper, Wally accidentally spills Roland’s jizz-sample everywhere, and decides that he can’t just leave the whole bottle empty, so he decides to do it himself. Not realizing what he did, Kassie gets pregnant with what she thinks is Roland’s baby. Fast-forward seven years later and Kassie’s son is all grown-up  now, showing all sorts of signs that his daddy is not in fact Roland, but Wally. However, neither of them know this, JUST YET.

Despite what some of you may see or believe, but I feel like I’m a pretty easy guy to please. No, seriously. You can give me the most trite, conventional, clichéd and utterly hackneyed script in the world, and I may, just may be able to find something that I like about it, and therefore, roll with it for as long as I can possibly stomach. So many bad movies I’ve seen in the past couple of years have all been saved by this feeling I usually get when watching something, and it’s helped me stay fully-together as a two-bit movie critic, and full-fledged movie-lover.

The ole' switcheroo. I remember those days.

The ole’ switcheroo. I remember those days.

Which means if you give me a movie that I can’t ever seem to enjoy, no matter what it’s trying to do, then you know you have a shitty flick on your hands. Bar none.

And I get that “whatever Dan the Man says, is the total truth, no doubt about it” isn’t really true, but there is something to be said for a movie that I go out of my way to view (Netflix), and I don’t enjoy a single moment of. Okay, scratch that, maybe a couple moments, but they were all because of three people and three people only. And no, I am not talking about either Jason Bateman or Jennifer Aniston. In fact, while I’m talking about them, let me just give you the skinny on why this movie bored me to hell: Them.

Yes, I know. Despite me being a fan of both of these stars, and the utter-idea of them two starring together in a rom-com would give me the willies, the movie solely lives and dies by them. Maybe that’s more to blame of their poor character-development, their lack of chemistry, or their phoned-in performances, but something was just not mixing well here. Aniston makes all of her female characters breathe with a lively, expressive soul, but her Kassie can’t help but feel like a bit of an idiotic dummy in the way that she doesn’t realize that her seven-year-old son is exactly like her best buddy, and not like the supposed “father”. Also, the fact that she decides to get so serious with the “father” so sudden after his recent, and tragic divorce, also makes you wonder where the heart of this film really lies. You can tell that it wants to be about a woman taking charge, but in the end, it’s really all about the guy finding himself and realizing that it’s time for his ass to do a little growing up; which would have been fine, had it not all been so poorly-written and uninteresting.

That’s a real shame, too, because Jason Bateman, despite seeming like he’s trying really hard, can’t make this character of Wally work. Bateman’s doing his whole snarky-act to show us how negative and cynical his character is with the world around him, and while this is supposed to charm us and make us feel like we’re seeing a real character being written here, it still can’t help but feel annoying, like as if the card has already been dealt a bit too many times. He’s just miserable to be miserable, and that’s the type of person you don’t want to even be around with, let alone, watch a whole movie dedicated to that said person. Like I said, Bateman does seem like he’s trying, but the movie doesn’t help him out in any way, shape or form. Instead, he’s just told to do the same act he’s been doing since he saved that damn Bluth family, and it showed shocking signs of getting real old, real quick.

Who cares what he's saying, he's so damn charming!!

Who cares what he’s saying, he’s so damn charming!!

But who I really feel bad for the most is the kid who plays the young Sebastian, Bryce Robinson. The kid is young, so I won’t really rain on his parade too much, but the writing for him makes him annoying coy, as if every moment he does or says something, we have to automatically follow it up with a response like, “Awww!”. Like Wally, his real father in the movie, he gets really annoying, really quick and all of the little neuroses that he has, that he apparently inherited from his real daddy, just continue to show more signs of implausibility, proving that kids who act like they know it all in movies, make you want to shut that kid up, or all kids up for that matter, too.

The only ones that end up saving this movie, even in their smallest moments, are Julliette Lewis, Patrick Wilson and last, but sure as hell not the least, Jeff Goldblum. Lewis is playing the typical, gal-pal that everyone of the rom-com heroines need to shake things up a bit, and she does the sure best that she can; Wilson is charming-as-hell and gives us one of the better-written characters as he’s less of a deuche that just wants to get rid of his sperm and bang whomever he want, and more of that he’s just a guy who is going through a bit of a rough-patch, means well and is doing all that he can to make things right; and Jeff Goldblum is, well, Jeff Goldblum in all perfection. That’s all you need to know about that.

Consensus: Conventional, obvious, implausible and just plain shallow, The Switch doesn’t do anything with the potential its premise holds, and instead, just plays it all up for goofy laughs, and cloying sentimental moments that tug so hard at your heartstrings, that you may have to call a doctor as soon as you’re done watching it.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You think all humans are a waste of precious air and space, too? Hmm...?"

“You think all humans are a waste of precious air and space, too? Hmm…?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

I Am Legend (2007)

Carlton would have faired-off much better.

Virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) and his doggy Sam, are left to roam throughout the rest of a desolate NYC, just after a virus has hit the Earth and pretty much wiped-out any signs of human-life throughout the globe. And how did it all start, you ask? Well, Neville himself actually caused the beginning of it through a new treatment that was going around to cure cancer, but instead, turned almost all humans into walking, roaring, angry, pissed-off, and rage-infested monsters that only come out at night, when there’s no sun anywhere to be found in the sky. Neville continues to search for a cure and to stay alive, but more than often, he finds himself coming up on loose-ends, without knowing when the clock is finally going to stop ticking and he’s going to give up, or when he’s finally going to get rescued. And yet, he continues to wait and wait, and wait.

What sets this flick apart from most of the other mainstream, zombie-invasion flicks out there is that this may have a crap-load of money, crap-load of places to film, and a crap-load of filler-scenes, but don’t be mistaken, this is not necessarily the type of mainstream, zombie movie you’re used to seeing and wasting $10 (plus more if you include over-priced snacks) on. Somehow, this one goes a bit deeper than that in the sense that it shows you this man, Robert Neville, practically all alone in this world by himself. There may be others out there looking for him, or searching the world for a cure or a way out of this crisis, but from what he knows, he’s the only one left alive.

Just a typical walk with his dog through a deserted NYC. Typical, is what I say and typical is what I mean.

If only every dog-walk I’ve ever been on with my pooch was as peaceful as this. No plastic bags needed at all. What a dream that would truthfully be.

In a way, due to Francis Lawrence’s approach for a good-chunk of the movie, you feel as if you’re watching something along the lines of Cast Away, minus Wilson and the Palm trees. Right as the movie begins, you’re thrown right into this world of pure-silence, where, if something or somebody was moving around, you’d be able to hear it just through the sheer-lack of anything else happening at all. It’s sad, yes, but Lawrence also injects some fun and humor to make up for the fact that this is essentially: One dude, one dog, and one deserted city, all to themselves. Which also means, plenty of time to golf wherever you want, steal whatever you want, from wherever you want and even get the chance to make-up fake friends with mannequins, where you can have imaginary, one-sided conversations to make it feel like you live in a normal, everyday-like world. Sucks that it isn’t true, but Neville doesn’t harp on this sad reality too much, and just takes everyday as he goes along, not knowing when its all going to come crashing down at any given time.

While this is all strangely, un-Hollywood-like, eventually, Francis Lawrence does realize that he has a huge budget to work with, and that ends up becoming the movie’s biggest-issue, despite all some impressive shots in the beginning. The fact that Lawrence was able to make NYC look like this post-apocalyptic, deserted wasteland is something to applaud, yet, given the fact that he was probably given a mucho amount of moolah to spend, it isn’t anything that noteworthy. Then again though, it’s still cool to see done on the big screen, especially since you can tell a lot of effort obviously went in to the way it looked, felt and seemed to be sought as a realistic look at the world’s end.

But like I said, the big budget ends up killing Lawrence’s ambitions because not all of the CGI here works, and instead, comes off as rather dodgy, where it seems like most of the attention was put into NYC itself, and less of the rage-infested vampires themselves. Given that the movie cost a lot of money, this is a beat of a disappointment, but then again, we have come a long, long way since the late-days of 2007, so maybe I shouldn’t get on this movie’s case too much about the special-effects being as up-to-par with what I’ve seen in the post-Avatar movie world. Though it was a bit hard to get past some of those problems, I eventually realized that at the end of the day, it’s better to just embrace the hard-effort put on by Lawrence and his crew, and look at the positives.And then that ending happened.

Without spoiling it all for you peeps out there who have yet to view this movie and see its ending, I’m just going to let you know on a little fact that the theatrical-release’s ending, is way different from the original, far-better ending. In the original ending, we get this sense that what Neville is fighting is more than just a bunch of angry, vampire-like things that are hungry for human-flesh and are chomping at the bit for their next flavoring-session, instead, he’s fighting something that somewhat resemble humans, with enough heart, humanity and understanding to come to terms with; but with the original ending, it’s all played-out as if it was some big, loud, action-packed, HURRAH moment that could have only come along with a big-budget, mainstream Will Smith movie, and not something that’s a little smarter and different, like we were initially promised from the first hour or so.

"Jesus! After 3 years, there is still no delivery-guy!"

“Jesus! It’s been three years now, and these assholes still haven’t realized where I live!”

I’m sorry if I may have ruined the ending for some, but honestly, I don’t feel as if I have. You can check out the original ending online somewhere, I bet, and you can most likely make up your own mind. But as for me, the original ending should have been used, and is a lot more effective than just something that the major-studious probably forced to Lawrence to have, just so that “some” audiences could feel like they got their large helpings of soda and popcorn fully-deserved.

That said, the one aspect keeping this whole movie together, through the worst of times, and the best of times, is none other than the star of the show himself: Mr. Will muthafuckin’ Smith. Some people may not know this, but in case you don’t and need a simple reminder, let me let you in on a little something: Will Smith is freakin, bonafide movie star. He truly is, and he shows that he not only is capable as a charming fella that you’d love to spend time with, even if the world has practically turn to utter-crap, but that you’d be able to trust every judgement he makes. There are some questionable choices throughout this movie he decides to go through with, but you always get the sense that he’s doing it for the better for himself, for his trusted-doggie Sammy and the rest of mankind, or at least what’s left of it. We know he’s a good guy, and even though he practically spurred this whole infection on in the first place, it’s relatively easy enough for us to forgive him now because he’s making up for it in a hard-hitting way. Yet, he’s not asking for our sympathy and doesn’t want everybody to know how damaged he is, he just wants to survive and save the rest of the world from being fully-contaminated and ruined. Whatta man. Great performance from Smith that obviously gets a lot of attention as being that he’s the only human we see on-screen for awhile, but still makes every single second with him count and be believable.

Consensus: I Am Legend, despite all of the pit-falls it hits with its patched-on ending and dodgy-CGI bits, is still one hell of a survival flick that never leaves you feeling like you know what’s going to happen next, no matter how many times you’ve seen it (fifth time for yours truly).

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

When he's not kicking ass and taking names of the monsters that surround his city, Will Smith usually takes a break, chill-out, and see what's new in the world of the Apocalypse.

When he’s not kicking ass and taking names of the vampires that inhabit NYC, Will Smith usually takes a break, chills out and check out what’s new in the world of the Apocalypse.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"

“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

“WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Charlie Countryman (2013)

Next time, check if the chick you fall in love with has any connections to the mob whatsoever.

After his mother (Melissa Leo) dies, aimless young-adult Charlie Countryman (Shia LaBeouf) gets a message from her ghost that she wants him to travel to Bucharest, Romania. Seeing as how he doesn’t have much to do with his everyday life in the states, Charlie complies and gets on a plane, where he meets a spirited old Romanian named Victor (Ion Caramitru). The two hit off, but not before long, Victor ends up dying on the plane. But just as soon as the plane lands, Victor’s ghost tells Charlie to give his daughter Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood) a gift he had planned on giving her in the first place. Charlie, once again, complies in doing so and realizes that not only is Gabi a sad, young and tortured soul, much like his own, but he’s damn well he’s certain he’s in love. However, as in love as Charlie may be with Gabi, he soon realizes that it almost can never come true as she’s also involved with a psychopathic mobster by the name of Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). No matter what though, Charlie won’t let anything get in the way of his true love, even if that does mean a lot of getting his beaten to death and running.

Charlie Countryman is such an easy target to pick on. So much so, that I just knew I had to cut it some slack. Seeing as this is the type of flick that loves it style, rather than its actual story, that makes it incredibly easy to nit-pick at and throw out certain words like “pretentious”, “artsy”, or even “dumb” at it. However, I feel like if you know that this movie is going to be all about the look and feel, rather than what it’s telling us, then you just have to sort of roll with the ball. Is that so hard to do in the first place? Is it?

Michael Bay approves.

Michael Bay would like to credit.

I don’t know. But what I do know is that this is one hell of a stylish movie, albeit, a very random one. May not be hard to imagine this after seeing the movie itself, director Fredrik Bond comes from a long line of commercials and yes, it does very much show. First of all, the actual filming in Bucharest really makes it feel like its own character that just sits in the background, watches as these characters do live their lives, make mistakes, make good choices, have fun and just overall, have a good time whenever they can. Bond’s gritty and raw look inside this area of Romania really brings you deep inside a place you’d never thought you get a good look at, ever, but somehow, you do and you end up falling in love with it.

Maybe that was just me, and if that’s the case, then whatever, I’m fine with that. Because while I do realize that Bond definitely doesn’t seem to really infuse much heart into this story, it’s about what’s all happening around it that matters. Of course, Bond does juggle more than he can actually handle (the movie itself is a fusion between rom-com, drama, action, thriller, and sometimes even neo-noir), but the ambitions, to me, felt deserved as it showed that he was able to fall back-on some very smart stylistic choices that surprised me and thrilled the hell out of me as I was watching.

For instance, there’s a scene that occurs practically out of nowhere that revolves around Charlie running away from a gang of thugs, all throughout the dirty streets and terminals of Bucharest. The camera continues to race all along as we watch Charlie jump, dive and move all around these streets, all in effective slo-mo, while in the background, some rave vibes are playing, just adding more of a fun feel to the whole scene. Hard to explain the scene without giving it all away, but it was definitely the high-light for me, as it easily brought me back into the story once I felt like it lost me, and it also showed that Bond himself had some true motivations behind-the-screen, even if they didn’t show up in the screenplay.

And since I’m making so many mentions of the lame screenplay, I think it’s time to actually focus on it and let you know, it may not be as bad as I may make it seem, it just doesn’t really seem to be the main objective in anybody’s eyes here. Which, like I said before, is fine because of the stylish direction working with it, but does end up causing a problem for the movie’s main sell: The love story between Charlie and Gabi. See, we get that Charlie is head-over-heels in love with this Gabi chick, and feels the same way she does about life, but never fully feel like he’s in love with her, nor that they are the star-struck lovers that would fight to the death just to be with one another for the rest of each other’s lives. There’s plenty of scenes of them running around the streets, happy, sometimes holding hands and kissing, but they can only go so far until we realize that the romance itself is a bit shallow, and under-cooked. Which, ultimately, leads us to the problem that even when the idea that their romance is being threatened by these outside, way powerful sources, it doesn’t really hit us as hard as it should, and just makes us feel bad for Charlie himself, and less about the romance between him and Gabi.

Shia's got it. It's not like Mads ever messed with anybody's balls before....

Shia’s got it. I mean, it’s not like Mads ever messed with anybody’s balls before….

But the reason why we do care so much about Charlie is that because Shia LaBeouf really does seem like he’s passionate about making this character work, and the effort pays off well. LaBeouf has never been anybody’s favorite cup of tea, and while he’s always been mine, it makes me happier and happier each day to see him just play around with his self-image, take roles that challenge his ass two-ways-from-Saturday and continue to just show us his abilities as an actor. Of course everybody’s going to have to wait and see what he’s FULLY capable of in Nymphomaniac, but here, as Charlie Countryman, LaBeouf gives you the idea that he not only wants to be Charlie, but he actually is Charlie. You feel bad for this small, sheepish guy because you know he means well and just wants to be loved, but still can’t get past the fact that he’s fallen for the wrong girl, and is basically in the wrong situation right from the start. Once shit does begin to hit the fan, and we see Charlie’s life practically crumble all around him, he’s the one we care about the most and want to see live for the rest of his days. This is all thanks to LaBeouf’s determinism to make Charlie, not just as a movie character, but as person, to work and be believable, and it works. Good for him, and good for us.

Despite her character not being as interesting, or even likable as LaBeouf’s, Evan Rachel Wood still does a fine job as Gabi, even if it is clearly obvious that the odds are stacked against her and that poor accent of hers. Also, her character does seem like your traditional “troubled, young girl can’t get out of slum world she used to be apart of”-role that so many attractive actresses take, and still can’t seem to make believable. Mads Mikkelsen plays her crazy and violence-driven ex-hubby, Nigel, giving us the type of sadistic bastard we all know and usually see him as. Since he and Charlie make such good counter-parts, it’s easy to want to see their final-duel, even if it’s pretty obvious who’d win in that brawl. Though, who knows? Maybe Shia would pull off the upset. Just ask Tom Hardy.

 Consensus: More style here, than actual substance with Fredrik Bond behind-the-mantel of Charlie Countryman, but somehow, it still works in giving us a somewhat compelling story, with more than a few good performances from the cast, especially a very inspired Shia LaBeouf.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So in love, we can't even see 'em.

Never date a chick who has shorter hair than you. More problems ensue than just the ones you may, or may not have with the local mafia.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Nebraska (2013)

One billion would have been better. But I guess for Nebraska, eh, a million ain’t so shabby.

After many years of boozing, whoring around and sitting on his lazy rump, Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) finally gets the opportunity of a lifetime: The chance to claim a million dollars. The way in which Woody finds out about this offer is through the mail, which obviously means it’s a scam put on by some of these magazines, in hopes that they’ll get more and more subscriptions. Everybody around Woody sees this, but he doesn’t, so therefore, some go along with it. That “some”, ends up being his youngest son David (Will Forte), a guy who is stuck in a rut of his own as well. Together, the two embark on a road trip to Lincoln, Nebraska where Woody hopes that the money will be, even though David knows this not to be true. On the way to their destination, however, they meet up with old family, friends and acquaintances, telling them all about the path they have set in front of them, and for what reasons. Some see this as a joke and know it’s crazy-talk, but some actually take this story to heart, and get a little bit threatening, feeling as if they’re owed a bit of that cash-flow just as much as Woody is.

Alexander Payne has made a career out of these types of movies: Smart, slow, but realistic character-studies about people whom you feel are actual, real-life human-beings. They also mostly have to do with a road-trip occurring at some point or another, which is exactly what this flick is dedicated to, but they never quite play-out with the same old wacky goofs or hijinx you usually see from road-trip movies. Instead, you see real people, talking about real things and going their daily-lives, as if they really were “the real thing” .

First time the two have shared a smile together in 45 years. More romantic, than depressing if you think about it.

First time the two have shared a smile together in 45 years. More romantic, than depressing if you think about it.

So yup, in case you couldn’t understand by now, Payne usually excels in these types of movies, and this movie only proves that statement as fact, although it surely wouldn’t be the clear-cut example I’d use in a prestigious argument, if and whenever I found myself in one.

The idea of whether or not this whole “winning one million dollars” stipulation is really a scam, or something that Woody actually received, doesn’t quite matter, as it’s used as a stepping-stool for showing what America’s past-time was like, and still is to this day. Some may be surprised by this, but I actually do have friends and family living out in some of the rural areas shown in this movie, which not only gave me a closer-connection to it, but also made me feel like all of the raw, rather saddening vibes this movie was giving off, were deserved. This is a snap-shot of America that we don’t usually see depicted in the movies, and even if we do, it’s usually dollied-up to make it look like a Southern bumpkin town that’s full of all sorts of fun and happenin’ events.

But not in this movie it ain’t! Instead, what we do get a glimpse at is an area of our nation that’s worn-out, tired, broken-down, sad and just waiting to be blown off the world, much like most of the people that inhabit the cities are. They’re on their last limbs and looking down the barrel already, and yet, they still continue to live their lives, as happily and as winningly as they can. That’s what I noticed when I visited my relatives all of those years ago, and that’s the same exact feeling I got from this movie; they didn’t care where they lived or what it was that surrounded them, they were just happy to be alive and doing the things that they do. Even if those “things” simply meant going outside, finding a chair, sitting in it and watching the cars go by, then so be it. They’re just living, man. And so should you!

Anyway, Payne’s raw emotions of what the center-core of America is really like, rang true with me. However, there’s one glaring difference between this movie and all of his others, which became more and more evident as it went along: He’s only the director here, whereas the writing duties are given to Bob Nelson this time around. To be honest, I kind of feel like a d-bag for having a problem with this aspect, considering that most of the movie does in fact feel like an Alexander Payne movie, but there was still something missing for me that could have gotten it over that hump into where I’d be fully taken in by the material, no matter how dry it was.

See, the whole movie plays out with this soft, rather mundane tone that evokes plenty of emotions of what the people out in the Midwest most likely feel on a day-to-day basis. That part of the movie worked well and showed Payne’s talents in full-fledged form; however, when things began to get a bit too theatrical and sentimental, something didn’t feel right. Because on one hand, you have this movie that’s playing out is if its real life, where conversations don’t really start and they don’t really end neither; and then on the other, you have this one movie that seems like it wants to be a heartfelt tale about an estranged son and his daddy reconnecting after all of these years of not really seeing one another, or even “getting” each other when they did see the other. So basically, you have these two different movies, that sort of want to say the same thing, but can’t. They’re directions are driving them out in different ways, but somehow, are meant to be reconnected in the end by the fact that we all want to see a happy ending, even if it is a realistic one. To me, this didn’t quite mix as well, and probably would have been better if Payne took over writing-credits in the first place.

Like with most of Payne’s movies too, the people he chooses for his casts may not be the most famous, notable names in the world, but they’re still inspired choices nonetheless, and nothing could ever be further from the truth than here with whom we have here. It makes sense that Payne would mostly cast little-to-unknown names and faces in this movie, because it goes almost hand-in-hand with a premise that’s as simple as you could get, with a look that’s not really trying to reinvent-the-wheel or anything. It’s just trying to tell a honest, easy-going story, with characters that deserve one. Especially a character like Woody Grant, played to utter-perfection by an Oscar-hopeful Bruce Dern.

A man at his crossroads. No, literally.

A man at his crossroads. No, literally.

Most may know the name (father of Laura), but some won’t be able to match the face at all. And that’s fine, because it actually works a lot more in Dern’s favor since he’s able to sink his teeth into Woody, the type old-corker that you see in these movies and is usually played-up for laughs, but instead, gives us a raw look at a man that’s been through mostly thick and thin with his life, and is about sick and tired of it. However, he never lets you know that he’s a sad, old fella. You can tell just by looking into his eyes, or listen to the tone in his speech, whenever it is that he actually does in fact say something. Woody’s just your normal senior-citizen who wants to make some more meaning out of his life, and feels like these million dollars may just be the main resource to help him fulfill that dream, regardless of it’s real or not. Dern’s great here and shows us why he deserves bigger, and far better roles than what he’s been given through his long career. Most likely, this will be the role to ensure that.

Same goes for June Squibb, the hard-spoken wife of Woody, Kate, who may also be looking at a nomination by the end of the year as well. Squibb is so great here because she’s nasty, mean, lean and not afraid to speak her mind. She can be a bit of an old, haggy bitch when she gets on Woody’s case for doing something, but when she backs him up when all of these other people seem to try and schmooze him out of getting a cut of the money, you feel a certain ounce of sympathy for her, as you know that she loves her husband, but most importantly, she loves her family and won’t stop at anything to protect them. You love her when she’s making you laugh by letting everybody know how she feels at any given moment, and you love her even more when she shows that there’s an actual feeling of emotion she has for her fam-squad, which brought a bit of a tear to my eye.

As for Will Forte, the one who clearly doesn’t have the most experience when it comes to subtle, dramatic-acting, the guy ends up doing pretty damn well. Granted, he isn’t really stretching himself far beyond his limits, but the guy still shows us that he can be funny, even while he is being earnest, proving that the guy does have some real comedic-timing. Same can be said for Bob Odenkirk, who plays his brother, Ross. Then again though, I feel like most of you already know that by now.

Consensus: In his whole list of lovely gems, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska may not be the best, but it’s still an honest, funny and well-acted look inside the lives of people who don’t really do much with their lives, and yet, are still very interesting to watch and just hang around with.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Whose line is next?"

“Whose line is next?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Best Man Holiday (2013)

14 years may have done damage to some people, but not to these sexy, attractive and rich A-listers. Damn you Hollywood and your plastic surgery.

The whole gang is back together again and this time, 14 years later to be exact, they’re all hanging out during the Christmas holiday. A lot has changed since we last saw Harper (Taye Diggs) propose to Robin (Sanaa Lathan), and believe it or not, they’re still together! However, they are running into a bit of problems: He can’t seem to get another “best-seller” on his resume, and she can’t seem to get past the fact that she’s looking VERY pregnant. But that’s all fine and dandy now, because they’re going to be heading out to Lance’s and Mia’s (Morris Chestnut and Monica Calhoun) mansion for Christmas, where they’ll most likely be joining everybody else. And they do, and it’s a grand-spanking time. Except for the fact that there’s something very serious brewing underneath the surface with this little get-together, that may have more meaning than just “being with old friends”. Something is happening to someone, and everybody’s eventually going to have to find out what, why, to whom and how they’re going to get through it.

Let’s get right down to it, people: Holiday movies, no matter how crappy or non-crappy they may be, are still something to see for many reasons. But the main which being is that it gets you in holiday-spirit, where sharing is caring, giving is living and being thoughtful is, well, I don’t really have anything that rhymes with that but you get the point. Holiday movies are still movies to see because they get you right in the spirit of the holidays, and probably has the end-result of the movie itself turn out a lot better. Especially one that’s a sequel to a movie that already wasn’t even a holiday-placed movie in the first place.

Believe it or not, poor man's Jon Hamm ends up being the most interesting dude.

Believe it or not, vanilla ends up outshining these guys. Just because everytime I saw him, I thought he was Jon Hamm.

But hey, whatever sells tickets, right?

While a sequel to a movie that happened 14 years ago, does seem like a bit of a Hollywood cash-in job designed for the people who were fans of the first, and can still remember most of it to actually go out and see this, it’s surprising how much of it didn’t feel lazy or done just because. Instead, a lot of this movie centers on what made the first one such a joy to be around: The chemistry between everybody in the cast. As usual, the guys all get to hang out with their wangs out, talk about chicks, talk about their sex-lives, ladies they’ve banged, problems in their lives and so on and so forth; and the ladies get to do the same as well, except about guys, and their nails (obviously). But the chemistry is heightened more due to the fact that everybody in this cast has returned to these characters, and are getting older, having to deal with more and more problems as they go along in their lives.

The insight for this movie doesn’t go as deep as the first one did, but what this movie does so well here is that it just lets all of these characters interact with one another, acting as they always have around each other, without a change in the beat or rhythm. Sure, a lot has changed in the past 14 years, and some of the problems certain characters had when the first one ended are certainly still there, but the endearing heart and love these characters have for the other never leaves this movie, and made it a pretty damn good time to sit around and watch, in a pretty-stacked theater, no less. One could even argue that the movie could have just been dedicated to these characters sitting around the dinner table, eating, chatting and insulting one another, and it probably would have been a fun time, if not a better one.

However, but of course, that does not happen as there are certain things like “plot”, “character-development” and “emotions” that need to be shown, hence where most of the problems come from in this flick.

Without spoiling it too much, because it doesn’t seem like many reviewers are talking about it, there’s a twist that comes out and about during the half-way mark and it changes the vibe of this flick from “funny, feel-good”, to “dark, sad and really preachy”. Once again, I’m afraid to give it away, but once a character reveals that something is going wrong with them and that there’s more of an underlining reasoning for this little get-together to be happening, then everybody puts on their serious-faces and start praying to god, which annoyed me more than anything else that this movie even bothered trying.

Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t matter that I’m not a religious man by any stretch and it doesn’t matter when a flick tries to show off its religious agenda in a way that wants you to join in prayer along with them, but once the flick started showing those who don’t have much faith in god as those who are dumb and ill-advised, then I just about lost my cool. The trailers and ads haven’t really been high-lighting this hidden-agenda that writer/director Malcolm D. Lee and the rest of his cast clearly has, which makes me wonder who he’s really trying to aim this towards. Because, while the latter-half of the movie is clearly very serious, very god-oriented and preachy, the first-half is, oddly enough, a very sexual, dirty and rather raunchy adult comedy that no character of the Bible would want to see, not even Judas. So, whatever the reason was for this switch in the half-way mark, regardless, it didn’t work and ended up taking away a lot of the pleasure I was having from the first, way-better half of this movie.

Thankfully though, that’s where the cast comes in and shows me why they are all so deserving to pop-up in more things than they usually do. I’ve already talked about my fondness for Taye Diggs as an actor and, once more, gives it all he’s got as Harper, but with more of an “adult”-spin on this guy that I didn’t think was even possible to notice. Sanaa Lathan and him had chemistry in the first movie, which is sometimes evident here, except for the fact that they are always bickering and fighting with one another, that you almost forget that they loved each other for so long, only to stay married for another 14 or so years. I guess they can blame those problems on her pregnancy, but seriously, how many freakin’ times have we seen that angle done by now?!?

The rest of the gang fair as well as they did in the first movie, except that some characters subplots are a little more thinly-written then they were before. For instance, Nia Long’s character’s problems is that her life is so dominated by her work-life, that she can’t just settle-down and get her freak on with somebody, even if it is somebody as dashing and charming as Eddie Cibrian (somebody I wish the movie gave more attention). Seemed like this was the same dilemma her character was going through in the first movie, and while it was easy to forgive there, it just seems old and tired by now, especially since Long herself doesn’t get nearly as much screen-time as she should have.

Same freakin' mug he's had for the past 12 of his movies!!

Same freakin’ mug he’s had for his past 12 movies!!

Can’t say the same for the rest of the peeps in the cast, although they do have some pretty poorly-written subplots going for themselves as well. Harold Perrineau and Regina Hall surprisingly make a believable couple that’s gotten more prestigious with their owning of a private school and whatnot, however, their whole conflict surrounds the fact that a video from the old days of Hall’s stripping has popped-up on YouTube, and is already the latest talk of the town. The video they show is pretty damn tame and uneventful, which makes me wonder whether they got that mixed up with something like Dailymotion. Hey, gets me all of the time!

Though he’s definitely the most successful, most famous actor to come out of the original, believe it or not, Terrence Howard still gets probably the same amount of screen-time and development as he did in that movie, as he does here, but makes every second of it count. Whenever things begin to get a little too serious for its own good and in everybody’s in need of a little laugh or chuckle. Howard’s character is there to bring it, even if it is with something like a simple weed or sex joke. Doesn’t matter which, because the guy’s so damn funny, and makes you realize why he’s the only one out of this cast to really get the most recognition.

Oddly enough, I felt like by the way they left things off with the first movie, he and Melissa De Sousa’s character would have gotten hitched-up or something, making sense why she’s there for the reunion all of these 14 years later, but nope; instead, they treat her like the same old, conceited and annoying beotch like she was in that movie, which made me wonder why she was even involved with this movie in the first place. It’s clearly obvious that nobody liked her in that movie, so why the hell did they even need to bother to call her ass up and get her back with her “friends”? Made no sense to me, but I guess the producers were just begging that they bring a name like “Melissa De Sousa” back to the cast. Because, you know, if you saw that name on a billboard from miles away, you’d be in that line right away.

Alright, I’m done being a dick. For now.

Consensus: Better than most sequels tend to be these days (especially one that takes place 14 years later), The Best Man Holiday shows off its clearly charming and happy cast for as long as it can, until it begins to get too serious, over-long and obviously preachy, making you wonder what the point of this movie’s existence was in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Underneath the passionate embracing, they hate each other. Aka, exactly what happens in 14 years, people.

Underneath the passionate embracing, they hate each other. Aka, exactly what happens in 14 years, people.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

12 Years a Slave (2013)

I thought all slaves walk around to the sounds of James Brown and Rick Ross.

This the true story of one Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man who, in 1853, was expecting to be in business with two circus men (Taran Killam and Scoot McNairy) looking to make a quick buck with the very talented violinist, but instead, found himself to be drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery, all within a 24-hour time-frame. As soon as he’s shipped off to the South, he meets and interacts with fellow other slaves, as well as other slave owners that range from sympathetic (Benedict Cumberthatch), to downright despicable (Michael Fassbender). But through this all, Solomon realizes that he can’t continue to plead that he’s a free man who can read, write and work as well as any other white folk can, and just has to accept the reality that this is his life from now on and he must face it head-on. A sad reality, but a reality for many African-Americans (and whites as well) out in the South during this time.

Hard to believe that even after all of these years of coming very close to hitting the nail on the head of the slice of history that was slavery, it took a Brit director in the form of Steve McQueen to give us the most definitive, honest, painful and realistic look at it, and then some. We all know that there’s been some hype and some buzz surrounding this movie for quite some time, and while it may have taken me longer than expected to actually get out there to my local indie theater and give it a go, I’m glad I did because this is one of those flicks that many people will be paying attention to for awhile. Not just at the end of this year when Oscar talk is running rampant, but for many, many years to come, as it presents us with a view of slavery that has never been as grueling or as painful as this is.

"You're pretty much my best buddy. Just don't tell anyone. EVER!!"

“You’re pretty much my best buddy. Just don’t tell anyone. EVER!!”

And yet, all of that importance still doesn’t make it the best movie of the year, heck, maybe not even Top 10.

I know, I know, I know. The pitchforks are already seized and the torches have been lit, but please, I urge you to bear with me and see if we can maybe come to an understanding. And if not, I don’t care. I’m a movie critic, dammit! I got opinions, regardless of popular-belief!

The aspect in which I must give this movie credit for, is mainly in the way that it does not back-down a bit from what it wants to show us. Most of that credit does deserve to go to McQueen, as he has proved that, time and time again, he is one of the masters at giving us a downright nasty piece of subject-matter, throwing it out there on screen and allowing us to just watch as it all plays out in front of our eyes, while also having us come to our own conclusions about what he’s showing as well. I respect this decision, not just here, but with his other two flicks (Hunger and Shame) as it shown him as the type of director we all have to look out for as he might be changing the ways movies are made and looked at in today’s world. I know that’s one huge leap I’m taking, but it’s one that I feel confident supporting as the guy really seems like he hit his stride here. And then some…

See, the real reason why this movie works as well as it does is because it gives us the story of slavery that we all think we know by heart by now, and yet, shows us that we still don’t know all that much about it, nor do we actually even realize the REAL harshness behind it. We see Solomon go through all sorts of travesties in his time as a slave: People suddenly get killed, raped, sold, left-for-dead, or are simply never heard from again. But the saddest reality of all that this movie brings up more than a few times is the fact that, for these slaves, it didn’t matter if they lived, died, or how many times they were constantly being sold-off and moved around; because nobody knew about them, nor even cared. Most of these people were already born into slavery as it was, so they already knew that they had no lives outside of picking cotton to live, but even for the ones who were free and then eventually sold into slavery, they still had no certain level of existence in their loved ones’ minds.

These types of slaves couldn’t write to their loved ones, let them know where they were and how they could free them, because usually, it was too much of a risk to take in the first place. Not just by being caught actually trying to transport a letter from Point-A-to-Point-B, but letting your owner know that you are in fact a free man or women,who can read, write and do all sorts of other things that a typical slave doesn’t have the ability to do. That realization could have you either killed, sheltered away from the rest of the public till the end of your days, or threatened to keep your mouth shut and realize that it doesn’t matter what you can or cannot do; you are a slave, and you must work, work, work, and work. And when you can’t work no more, you’re dead.

End. Of. Story.

But see, that’s the strangest idea about this movie, as well as our society itself: We already know this harsh reality, and yet, we still can’t seem to get our heads around the fact that this was America at one point in time. All of these brutal feelings, thoughts, ideas and standards we set for the rest of our society were felt during that time-period, but are still ever so present in today’s day and age, that a movie like this must be seen to inform others about what happened back in those days, and how we’re still getting over it all. Because honestly, let’s face it, nobody will ever be able to live slavery down: Whites, blacks, Jews, Chinese, etc. None of them will be able to live it down, and that’s a mind-set that will probably be forever tattooed in our minds. The fact that slavery, although being abolished for more than 140 years now, will still never, ever go away. Will we ever move on as a society, or we will just continue to remind ourselves of what our nation used to be like?

Questions, questions, questions.

As you can tell, this movie definitely gave me plenty to think about, mainly important stuff, but while all of those ideas ran around in my mind, I still couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that despite it being an unflinching, powerful and important look at slavery, there was something holding me back from thinking it was the end-all, be-all masterpiece of the year. While the true story of Solomon Northup is one that should never go unnoticed, the framing of the story itself just felt too normal to me, as if everything we were seeing, all happened in a sequence, without much rhythm or rhyme. I get that this is most likely how Northup experienced most of these events, but for a movie, it just makes it seem less like a story being told to us, and more like a series of things that are happening. For instance, we get to see Solomon get sold-off to a couple slavers throughout his life-span which, rather than making you feel awfully terrible about the type of predicament he’s in, comes off more episodic, as if it’s a new chapter in the life of Solomon Northup, or how it probably read on paper.

He's also a producer on this. Wonder if he's got a big, rather important role?

He’s also a producer on this. Wonder if he’s got a big, rather important role?

The problem I had with this movie wasn’t that it was told to me in a way that easily understandable and comprehensive so that I understood all that McQueen was doing, at any given moment, it was just that there never really felt like much of an emotional-connection here that would have had me running along with Solomon and everybody else around him for as long as they wanted me to. Granted, I did tear-up a couple of times to the point of where I needed a clean wipe-down, but that was mainly because I was reaching for something to cry about. The movie that McQueen was giving me, wasn’t the nearest thing to “sentimental”, and while I give him credit for not soaping this story up to where it could have been laughable, a hint, or hell, even a smudge of sappiness would have really put me over the edge to where I felt like this movie was the emotional-experience of a lifetime. Instead, I just felt like it was a series of bad things, happening to good people, from bad people, and that was about it.

Oh, and slavery was bad, too. Mustn’t forget about that fact.

That’s why, even though many will disagree with me, this flick feels like it delivers on what it sets out to do, and yet, could have gone deeper and even further into it’s subject story, by creating emotions and feelings. But McQueen doesn’t roll that way, and although I respect his decision to keep it so, I still feel like it would have done him a great deal of good if he had decided to throw something in there for good effect. Maybe a couple more crying-sessions? Or character-development? Maybe? I’m just a dude with a blog, what do I know?!?!

What I do know though, is a great performance when I see one, and there is an exceptional one given by the always-excellent Chiwetel Ejiofor as none other than Mr. Solomon Northup himself. Ejiofor is one of these actors in which, it doesn’t matter how many great pieces of work he does in a year or throughout a whole career, he still will never be a household name. Which is a damn shame because the dude is so freakin’ talented, and has been showing this talent for years-on-end. I think now may be that time where it all changes, and he finally gets the credit he deserves. Now, I am not saying that he’ll win the Oscar this year, however, he will definitely be nominated and a sure-pick because of just what he goes through here.

Every emotion that that Northup feels, every thought that crosses his mind and every pain-staking reality that he is coming to terms with, Ejiofor channels in the most perfect ways. He’s very subtle with his emotions, but when he has to do let loose every once and awhile, you really feel the man’s strife for freedom and getting back to those that he loves the most: His family. You already feel bad for Northup in the beginning, considering that he’s practically tricked into slavery in the harshest way imaginable, but once things get going and he has to make decisions that will alter the rest of his future on Earth, then you realize that this is a human-being, no matter how many slavers around him try to prove to him otherwise. Some decisions he makes for the betterment of those around him, but sometimes, he makes decisions for the betterment of himself and to save his own ass. While any other movie based on this same story would have probably shown him as being a bit of a selfish guy, McQueen shows him with a moral compass in hand, making us realize that he’s just trying to survive, by any means necessary. He knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and the lines rarely ever get blurred. It’s only when others get in the way, is when they do, and Ejiofor shows this inner-conflict wonderfully, giving himself one of his best performances ever.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot. Don’t believe me? Just check out anything the cat’s ever done in his huge body-of-work. Trust me, you’ll be shocked to see what he was in. Minus this one. Yeah, on the second thought, don’t even bother with that one.

"Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??"

“Wanna go kill something? ANYTHING!?!??”

But while this is easily Ejifor’s show, he doesn’t necessarily steal it away from everybody else in this heavily-stacked cast. Which was a nice act on his part, considering that everybody you see in this movie, speaking-role or not, is a face that you’re at least familiar with. Actually, let me just get right off of a face that you’re not familiar with, as she is easily the most compelling character you’re going to get in this whole movie that isn’t Northup himself: Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey. If you don’t know that name, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Neither does anybody else, but after this movie, I think you’ll be hard-pressed to forget it as she is amazing in every scene she has as the slave that Northup sticks with the most, and easily runs into the most problems with. Early on, it’s shown that Patsey starts a relationship with a slaver, that is less about rape, than it’s more about her trying to pleasure him and stay alive for as long as she can. While this act may be deemed “dehumanizing” in most eyes, it seems like the only act that she has left to live by, therefore, is giving it all she’s got with every hump she takes. Nyong’o’s eyes are expressive and convey an emotion everytime she shows up on screen, so definitely expect a nomination for her come Oscar-time.

Another person that you may also expect to be hearing whose name pop-up a lot is Michael Fassbender, playing that said philandering-slaver, Edwin Epps. Fassbender’s character is one demented soul; the type of guy you wouldn’t want to be around when he took one too many shots, nor would you want to be owned by him neither. Basically, Fassbender goes crazy in all of the right ways that gives you the idea that this guy is a twisted person you do not want to get on the wrong side with, nor do you actually want to be around. You just want to do the work he’s demanded you to do, no “ifs”, “ands”, or biggity “buts” about it. However, there is some semblance of a soul deep inside of this man’s crazy well-being, and Fassbender allows that play out very rarely, but still in a believable way to where he isn’t so over-the-top, he’s downright laughable. Same can be said for Sarah Paulson, who plays his wife, Mary, in a very chilling, yet understated performance that tells us a lot about this character, without telling us much at all. She’s just that damn good of an actress, one that I wish got more notice.

Others in this movie that are pretty damn hard to watch, mostly by of how despicable and unlikable they are, are performers such as Paul Dano as a worker that feuds with Northup many times, Paul Giamatti as an owner whose trying to make a quick buck as a business salesman who specializes in human-lives, Garret Dillahunt as a rare-case of being known as a white slave, among many of the black faces, but still can’t be trusted, Alfre Woodard as mistress that takes pride in the fact that she bangs her owner and gets treated like a white woman and especially Benedict Cumberthatch who plays one of the first slave owners Northup deals with, and is more sympathetic than the others out there, because even though he realizes is bad, he still does nothing about it. Instead, he just continues on with his business, selling away more and more humans lives, like many others were doing at that same point in time; the same point in time we will never soon forget.

Consensus: Most definitely going to be the one film you must see before the year ends, 12 Years a Slave is a harrowing, uncomfortable, somber and disturbing look inside the life of one man who had a journey much like many others during this time-frame, and yet, still never gave up hope and did all he could do to survive at any costs.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yep, even he's ready for what's to come by the end of the year.

Yep, even he’s ready for what’s to come by the end of the year.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Sunlight Jr. (2013)

The true-story of people who call a Motel 6 “their home”.

Melissa and Richie (Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon) are old slackers just trying to get by in a world that’s moving a little too quick for them, and an economy that seems to be getting worse and worse. Melissa works at a gas-station/convenience store called Sunlight Jr., where she is constantly getting harassed by her dirt ball of a boss. But as crappy as that may sound, at least she’s the one with the job; on the other hand, Richie, due to the fact that he’s confined to a wheel-chair for reasons unknown, gets by drinking, going to the bar, fixing old VHS’s, trying to sell them and collect unemployment benefits for as long as he can. It’s not the ideal life for these two, however, it’s the only life that they can possibly have right now, so they stick with what they got. But once Melissa gets preggo, then things for this couple begin to get even more difficult by the days, especially since none of them can really control their emotions or their habits.

In case you couldn’t tell just by that synopsis right there, this one’s a pretty depressing and down-trodden thing to watch and get through, but somehow, it’s a movie that matters. Doesn’t make it perfect, or even worth watching, but if you’re in the right mood, at the right time, with the right ideas of knowing what to expect, then you got to give it a go. Here, let me explain some more.

In case you couldn't tell, they're sad.

In case you couldn’t tell, they’re sad.

What I liked so much about writer/director Laurie Collyer’s approach is that she never really finds herself jumping into over-the-top, melodramatic territory with this material, even though it definitely begs for that to happen. Every moment something bad or suddenly disastrous occurs to this couple, rather than showing us how heart-broken they must feel at that point in time, the movie takes the higher-road and shows that they have to move on, as quick as possible. The movie never settles on the fact that they’re poor, a little dumb and have the odds stacked highly against them, but rather, shows us that they know what’s going on in their lives and are trying their best to get past it. And if they can’t get past it, then they will sure as hell survive in it; that’s as much as they can do, and that’s all that they’re going to die.

However though, it wouldn’t be safe to call them “sympathetic” in the least bit, because they do make some bone-headed decisions. For instance, one scene here occurs about mid-way through where Melissa is told by her boss to not have her boyfriend behind the counter, counting the money and doing the job all for her. Two scenes later, that’s exactly what he’s doing, and why? Oh, well, it was all because she was tired, was in need of a nap and her boyfriend decided to step up to the plate and be a sweetheart. And by “be a sweetheart”, I mean, he risked her getting her beauty-sleep over having her job, making minimum-wage and being able to pay for his bum-self.

So yeah, it’s not like you feel totally sorry for these characters because while that scene was just one instance of their sheer stupidity at times, there are plenty more where that came from. But then again, they make some idiotic decisions that any human on this Earth would make, especially ones who probably make more than just $7.25-50-an-hour. They’re human-beings, they act silly sometimes, they don’t always use their heads and rather act on impulse. That’s how we all are, their only problem is that they have a mortgage to pay that they can’t keep up with and even worse, they got themselves a little baby on the way. Just adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that’s why this movie works as well as it does and should at least be seen; because while it does have some very dark, deep and depressing moments that wouldn’t be the nice pick-me-up you need after you just get laid-off from your cashier job at Mickey D’s, there is still some honest-to-god realism and hope thrown in there for good measure, and it works. It doesn’t just show you that you have to stick up for yourself and say whatever’s on your mind in order to get what you want and demand that respect; in fact, I’d say it’s about the opposite. It’s a movie about people who know when to take shit, how to dish it back out and when worse comes to worse, and their lives on the line, how to just keep their mouths shut and keep on a movin’. Don’t have anybody fool you, but THAT, my friends, is “the American way”.

Just realizing that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.

Just coming to the realization that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.

Hate to break it to ya, folks. But that’s the only way you’re going to get by in the world. And if you don’t think so, then just get a blog. Look what good it’s done me!

As down-trodden as this may all sound, the one aspect really keeping it alive and healthy are the performances from Dillon and Watts who, once again, show that if you give them a script worthy-enough of their talents, then they’re going to give you their all. And then some more. Dillon seems like he’s having a fun time being a charming loser, and gets a few scenes that seem more like he just said “screw it” to the script, and absolutely free-balled it. Makes me wish we saw more of him, as he’s a guy whom I still feel doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. As for Watts, she does pretty damn good also as Melissa, showing us a gal that’s really got the odds stuck up against her, and yet, will continue to fight to survive for as long as she can possibly stomach. After stinkers like Movie 43, Adore and that oh-so-terrible Diana, it’s nice to see Watts acting her hiney off again, and actually getting more out of it, than what she just puts in. Keep it up, girlie, and stay the hell away from biopics and comedy! Please.

Consensus: Don’t depend on Sunlight Jr. to get you happy and hopeful for the future, however, do expect it to be a nice slap-in-the-face for facing reality, realizing what one must and wants to do, and noticing how they are totally two different things altogether. Then again, that’s life. That’s what all the people say.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah! And he's in this, too! But he doesn't have a cross-bow with him, so boo!

Oh yeah! And he’s in this, too! But he doesn’t have a cross-bow with him, so boo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Citizen Ruth (1996)

CitizenRuthNever would have happened if the people involved weren’t silly, and just wrapped their willies. Or, I guess just “willy”.

Poor old Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern). Not only is she homeless, addicted to huffing paint on a regular-basis, and not able to see her kids, but now she’s pregnant with her fourth child. And trust us, four is enough for her, and lord, even she knows it. That’s why she plans on having an abortion as soon as possible, that is, until the “Baby Savers” get ahold of her and try to make her keep it, all in the good lord’s name who don’t really seem to care about her or the baby, they just want the publicity that somebody is listening to their ways and not thinking otherwise. But Ruth knows that she wants to get rid of the baby, so she then gets taken in by the pro-choice group that actually had a spy (Swoosie Kurtz) in the pro-life group. At first, things with the pro-choice group seem all fine and dandy, with Ruth getting all sorts of lovely treatment in hopes that she’ll get rid of the baby and stick to their side, however, things change around once the pro-life group offers her $15,000 to keep the baby and let it live. And then, the whole deal gets changed around again once pro-choicers offer her the same amount, if not more to get rid of it. What’s poor old little Ruth to do when she has all of this money being waved around in her face, and a baby still in her stomach? My oh my, questions, questions, questions.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen just about all of his movies that Alexander Payne sure does love to poke fun at people. But already in the year 2013, we know this. Back in 1996, nobody had a clue what this guy was capable of doing, or even what his name was. All that they knew was that there was a movie out, that dealt with abortion, starred Laura Dern and that was basically it.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I'm not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

Exactly what I do on an airplane. Minus the blue paint. That is unless I’m not sitting in first-class. In that case, I just huff the hell away.

And over 17 years later, that’s all people still know of it as and quite frankly, rightfully so.

While I can’t get on Payne’s case too much considering that this was his first movie, I will say that he does go for the gull when it comes approaching the topic on-hand. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, the abortion debate will always be one up for much discussion and controversy, and it’s how funny Payne turned that on its side in a satirical way, highlighting both sides to the best of his ability. Of course it’s easy to poke fun at the heavy-duty Christians that pray to the lord, hail him as the almighty and banish all those who decide to kill their babies to hell, but it never seemed so easy to poke the same type of fun at the liberals on the other side of the coin, which is what really shocked me here. Rather than showing which side he’s on more, he sort of just lets them both speak for themselves, with them both seeming greedy and ill-tempered, yet well-intentioned, as if what they are doing is what they truly believe in as the right way to go about things in your daily-life. Their only problem is that they don’t know how to go about it in a nicer way.

That said, the movie definitely doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know about the subject of abortion, the people that get them, perform them or support them as an action. Mainly, the movie just gives us a story about a girl who gets caught in the middle of this whole media-frenzy where she and her baby are the center of attention, and the topic of abortion is lingering over it. While I do, once again, give Payne credit for spinning this in a way to where it plays both sides view-points in a sympathetic, fair manner, the movie itself just never got over that hurdle for me to where I was totally, and utterly involved.

Plenty of food-for-thought if you think about how far we’ve come as a society in discussing the topic of abortion, but that’s all it is: A thinking piece. Sure, we have characters, character-development, a witty script and even some heartfelt insights to the way humans interact, think and get their points across, but they all just feel like filler for the real attraction of this whole movie: Abortion. I know it sounds terrible to use that as a selling-point for a movie, but it seems like that’s what the creators behind this movie did, which doesn’t matter it any better. It just makes it a smart decision in order to get your movie seen and noticed by dozens of people, which is why I have to give more credit to Payne.

Good job on the advertising, bud. Not-so good job on the final-product itself. Oh well. You picked yourself back up in the years to come, so all is forgiven.

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that's done me!

Like what my mommy did when I was still in her belly. And look what good that’s done me!

But where this flick really feels like a total disappointment is in the way that it wastes a very talented cast, giving them material that feels like a bunch of ham-handed speeches that do have a point, but are shown to us in the wrong format. For instance, you have great character actors like Kurtwood Smith, Swoozie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place and even M.C. Gainey showing up, looking like they’re going to bring some of their miraculous personalities to the script, but in reality, all they do is become victims of Payne’s preaches. They all do what they can to make the material worth more than just a series of thought-provoking lines, speeches and discussion-starters, but overall, they just succumb to the problems and are left with nothing else to do.

And then of course we have Laura Dern as Ruth, and as talented as this gal may be, she too can’t help but become a victim to the weak-material, if not even worse due to how annoying her character can be at times. I get that Ruth is supposed to be a despicable piece of a white girl trailer-trash, however, there could have been more substance to her than what we got. Once again, Dern’s performance is another case where we have a terribly talented actress, given this piece of material that has reaching for the stars, but ends up coming down empty-handed with nothing to show. Well, except for maybe a spot on her resume that shows she’s got those indie-chops.

Consensus: Payne never chooses a side to stick with in Citizen Ruth, and is the smartest decision he makes throughout the whole entire movie, which brings up a lot of smart, thought-provoking points about the abortion debate, but ends up being just that, no substance added or involved.

5 /10 = Rental!!

Like I always say, "Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has his 'stache."

Like I always say, “Bring Burt Reynolds in to liven things up. Just make sure he has the ‘stache.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Best Man (1999)

Just so that I can rest assured my wedding will be awesome, I’m already making plans.

After not being with his boys back at home for many years, settling down with his girlfriend Robin (Sanaa Lathan) and writing a novel that’s all about the people he surrounded himself with back in the old days, and all of the crazy experiences they may or may not have had, Harper (Taye Diggs) is reunited with the old gang after he finds out that he’s to be the best man at his friend Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding. Not only will Harper get to hang out with the guys like he used to (Harold Perrineau Jr. and Terrence Howard), but he may even get to reconnect with an old flame of his (Nia Long). And hell, since his lady-friend won’t be around until the day of the wedding, well then Harper has plenty of time to commit any sort of adultery and dirtiness he oh so pleases to. But to make matters worse as if cheating on your heavily-devoted girlfriend wasn’t enough, it seems to be that Harper may have had a little thing with Lance’s fiance (Monica Calhoun) from way back when, which he’s kept away from him for so long, so why would he want to tell him now, especially on the weekend of his wedding? Well, he doesn’t want to, but since Harper has made a mention of it in his novel that Lance carries around with him, it seems almost like it’s bound to happen at any second, unless that is if Harper has anything to say about it.

It’s strange to think that a movie that did relatively well at the box-office almost 14 years ago, would actually get a sequel. However, it’s even weirder to think that the sequel would include almost every familiar face, name and/or creator that was attached to that same original either. Because, if you think about it, in the land and age of non-stop remakes, re-hashes, reboots, sequels, and so on and so forth, it seems like almost every star eventually gets tired of doing the same thing at some point. And if that is so, well then, all you have to do is wait 14 years and you’ll get the whole band back together, regardless of if that band was all that popular in the first place.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way more talent.

Look like my groomsmen. Except different colors, and way better luck at nabbing the bridesmaids.

But all sequel talks aside about The Best Man Holiday, let’s chat it up about the original. See, I’ve never seen or heard anything about this original until a couple months ago, which is really odd to me because I definitely like to feel like I know almost any movie, that has ever been made, especially with such big names as the ones we have in here. However, all that trash aside, I pretty much went into this movie cold or totally unexpecting of what it was to expect, other than a bunch of black folk making me laugh, hanging out and having a good time. And hell, white folk or black folk, I’m down for a good time which is what I had here.

What writer/director Malcolm D. Lee does well here is that he doesn’t necessarily go down the same conventional-roads that most “wedding movies” of this same nature usually go down. Rather than giving us a look at the bride’s side, and all of the problems that she and her fellow gals are going through, we get a full-on glimpse at the groom and all of his buddies that support him through this decision, party with him the night before and give him their condolences on the day of, after all of the boozing, drugging and sexxing has been put to rest. Obviously for a sly guy like me, this approach was nice and made me connect with these characters a bit more, and while I do know some girlies out there will be pissed about how it pays attention more to the dudes of the story than the actual girls, well, that’s because it’s called “The Best Man.” Not, “The Best Woman“.

Like duh!

But no, seriously, all of those problems aside, the movie still paints a clear enough picture for both sides to where it doesn’t seem like Lee’s just playing favorites as he so pleases. Of course he likes to focus more of his attention on Harper and his problems, as well as his friends’ problems, but he also shows that the girls that inhabit this story go through the same dilemmas as well. Maybe the guys don’t fret too much about whether or not they look too fat in their suit or if their flowers match their dress, but they definitely do care about similar things like getting the ring, looking fresh to death and being able to actually go through with the decision, and getting past all of those cold feet problems most dudes go through on the day or days leading up to the wedding, much like the women do as well.

Not me though. I already knew I was making a mistake, and five marriages later, look at me now!

So, that’s why when people get on this movie’s case for presenting more of a dude’s point-of-view, it’s not really all that fair, and it’s kind of already know right before hand. Even then though, it doesn’t matter because the script gives each and every one of these character’s a personality, no matter how annoying or likable theirs may be. Of course in a movie like this, we just need to have the constantly nagging, snobbish girlfriend who never leaves her man alone and let him have a good time with the guys (Melissa De Sousa), but even then, her character still feels well-written to where you are annoyed of her no matter what she’s doing on screen, and yet, you sort of know that that’s the point behind her whole character, and therefore, you learn to embrace her. It also helped that De Sousa was mightily easy on the eyes, that’s for sure.

And everybody else to a certain extent is written the same way, except that they’re probably a lot better-performed by more-talented cast members. I’ve always had a soft-spot for Taye Diggs as I’ve always felt like, no matter what it is that he’s in, he’s the most charming thing about it. Hell, even when he is in a bleak piece of work like Equilibrium, the dude still couldn’t help but crack a joke or a smile to save his own life, so obviously he wouldn’t be able to hold himself back in a movie like this, where he’s practically called on to do that almost every second of the movie. That was fine for me because not only was it a blast to watch Diggs give us a cool, suave and charming guy like Harper, but to also show that he isn’t perfect, that he has made some mistakes, and will continue to make them because, well, he’s human, dammit. Humans make mistakes. Even humans named Harper.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

Probably talking about perfume, or clothes, or some girl stuff.

The other big name in this cast (at the time) was Nia Long who practically made a living, and still is to this day, of appearing in these African-American movies, sometimes, even with the same cast members continuously showing up besides her and confusing the hell out of viewers. Seriously, like how many movies did this chick do with Ice Cube? Or even Morris Chestnut for that matter? Anyway, she’s great here in giving us a female character that seems like she’s thinly-written to be nothing more than a hard-at-work gal that needs to get her bone jumped in the next 48 hours or so, by any means necessary, but after awhile, you do realize that she’s a cool gal, one that any dude would be lucky to end up with. That dude just may not be Harper, regardless of what it is that she wants, or heck, even what he wants.

Speaking of Chestnut (sort of), while I’ve always felt like he’s been a bit of a buzzkill in almost anything he shows up in, he was pretty damn good here as Lance, giving us the type of muscle-bound jock that we’re so used to seeing him play, and yet, somehow be able to show us a soft side of his that isn’t afraid to come out in the ugliest ways possible. Don’t want to go any further than that, but I think you feel where I’m going with that. But regardless, Chestnut’s performance here as Lance is definitely the best I’ve ever seen him give, which may not be saying much to begin with, but is still saying something. Same goes for both Terence Howard and Harold Perrineau Jr. who seem like they’re enjoying themselves quite enough to steal the show when they are given the chance to, even if they aren’t the lead characters. However, I think the times may have changed too much and now, all of these years later, the focus may be switched to where they got more attention and more time to do some great acting. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Doesn’t change the name-of-the-game when it comes to wedding movies, but The Best Man is still a fun, entertaining, somewhat insightful movie to see, especially if you’re wondering what it’s like when you want to get hitched, and what all of the people surrounding you will be thinking, saying or doing with one another. If you catch my drift?

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay everybody! Let's gather round and play the "whose life is going to be over next?" game!"

“Okay everybody! Let’s gather round and play the “whose life is going to be over next?” game!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Act of Valor (2012)

Keep on fighting the good fight, boys. But let’s leave that on the battlefield, and off of our silver screens.

This one’s going to be a little difficult to summarize, so just bear with me for as long as you can. A group of Navy SEALS are sent on a mission where they must rescue an undercover CIA agent who has been held captive. Once these SEALS finally rescue her, all safe, sealed and delivered, they realize that this little kidnapping scheme is part of something far more bigger than just your traditional threat to the United States army. Somehow, through someway, the Mexican drug cartel and terrorists come together on this plan to invade the U.S., with more than a few suicide bombers ready to press the button at any point in time. However, it’s up to this same group of SEALS to do whatever it is that they can to defeat the enemy, save our country and still a life to live where they can go back to their families, have dinner, make love to their spouses and in some cases, finally get to see their newborn baby. All in a hard day’s work of a Navy SEAL Marine. Hoo-rah!

I’m going to let you know right now, just as we start things off: If you go into this movie expecting something of an honest, realistic, slice-of-life look inside the lives of Navy SEALS, then you’re not going to get here. Everything you see or hear in this movie, is straight-up, pure propaganda that’s obviously been tinkered with many of times, just so soldier-hopefuls out there will get packed, grab their bags and get the hell out of the house, where they can go to their nearest recruiter and sign right up. If you take it in as anything else other than a propaganda-piece, then you, my friend, are indeed screwed, because trust me, that’s all you’re going to get.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

But that brings up the interesting question: If this is a propaganda movie made for those who want to contribute the war, and/or support our troops, is it wrong to NOT like this movie? I remember this discussion was going through the minds of many peeps when this movie first came out early last year, and while I didn’t even bother to check it out for myself, I still realized that maybe some day down the pipeline I’ll give this try. Fast-forward to Veterans Day 2013, and gosh, was my timing every so impeccable!

If you’re going to watch any movie today to get in you the fine spirit of paying your condolences to those who fought for us, then this is definitely the movie to see, if you haven’t already seen it. While there have been far more preachy and obvious movies made for the sake of propaganda, this one definitely takes the cake as it literally seems like there are no problems with any of the SEALS involved whatsoever. Every soldier that we get the slightest glimpse at is either on-point with every decision they make, smart, nice, easily pleased and always able to figure something right on the spot. They rarely ever get frazzled, pissed off, upset, jealous, selfish, scared, worried or even a little bit gung-ho with their weapons. Nope, they’re just the most perfect human-beings in the history of the world and some out there may call me a dick for making fun of that fact, but I’m just making an obvious note: People, this is no Restrepo. Trust me on that.

And since this is no Restrepo, that means we are subject to some pretty weak character-development and acting, which could have all been easily solved had directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh not decided to be so gimmicky and cast former active duty Navy SEALS. See, I get that these guys obviously wanted to show some real, hard-earned respect to these boys, so they thought by casting them in these lead roles, giving them a handful of lines, fake guns packed with stud bullets and some, to little back-story, that they’d be doing them a real slim; which is exactly what they’re doing. Nothing really wrong with that as it probably made them feel even more special than ever before, however, what may make those guys feel all mighty, high and proud of themselves, may make some of us who are stuck watching these guys be forced to commit such actions as emoting, or getting down their comedic-timing, or even just reading their lines, feel awkward and terribly uncomfortable.

This is another point that may earn more haters than lovers, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m a movie critic, not a fellow solider writing about my thoughts and feelings about these soldiers in the roles, and the movies they’re in. I’m simply just talking about the movie as a whole, and in that regard, the movie is god awful. It’s hard to listen to half of these guys say something, without laughing uncontrollably out-loud and wonder why McCoy and Waugh couldn’t just get real actors to do these roles, and just have the SEALS stunt-double for them, in order to still give us the real look and feel as if we are really seeing these soldiers go to work and talk like they normally would. But instead, we just get a bunch of guys who can’t act for crap, but can sure as hell throw out war jargon like nobody’s business. That’s what I’ll definitely give them credit for, but then again, something tells me a person like say, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or George Clooney would have been able to do that ten times more effectively.

Think long and hard, bud.

Think long and hard, bud.

Once again, movie critic, not a soldier.

Since I do keep reminding you that I am a movie critic, I think this is finally my time to stop bagging on this movie and get to the good stuff, which isn’t much, but still something that’s worth recommending for the hardest, of hardest action-junkies. Basically, minor bits and pieces of character-development and scenes of dialogue probably take up about 10% of this whole movie; whereas the rest of the 90% is straight-up, non-stop, action. And by “action”, I mean the full shebang: Guns, nukes, explosions, bullets, snipers, bombs, explosions, dudes getting shot in the head, POV shots, explosions, knives, blood, tanks, jeeps, explosions, and plenty more where that came from. For people who get their rocks off of seeing a terrorist get their head shot off by some camouflaged sniper, then this is definitely the movie for you as there’s plenty more where that came from, and hell, who am I to judge, because I don’t mind seeing that every once in awhile either. I didn’t really care for it much here since I felt like I got that same scene about hundred more times, but still, there is some fun to be had with this movie and its various amounts of violence, especially if you’re on our side. If you’re not, then you won’t like this movie, and in essence, you’re a traitor. That’s what I’ll most likely be told.

Consensus: The movie’s intentions are good, and the heart is in the right place, but Act of Valor still can’t help but feel like nothing more than pure propaganda for army-hopefuls to check out and suddenly be inspired to take action right away, whether that be through joining up, or simply donating. Either way, this movie wants your commitment, and it may or may not get it, all depending on the type of person you are.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

On a lighter, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us.  I know I will. I just won't be watching this movie while doing so.

On a more serious, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us. I know I will. I just won’t be watching this movie while doing so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net