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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Four Rooms (1995)

People will do anything for a tip.

It’s the first day on the job for Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth), and from what it seems like, it won’t be a very pleasant one. Early on, he gets told the ins, the outs, the what to do’s, and the what not to do’s on the job by an aging, supposed retiring bellman that gives him an idea of what he should expect taking people’s luggage up to their room, answering their phone calls and the most important of all, waiting on them for a tip. So with this all out of the way, Ted gets ready for one of the biggest and most hectic nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. And what do you know it? Ted’s night ends up being an eventful one, albeit one that he finds his life threatened on more than a few occasions. But it’s all in the good name of a sizable tip, right?

Like with most anthology films, the idea here seems smart and somewhat nifty: Get at least four low-key, up-and-coming indie film-makers, give them a budget and give them free reign to basically just strut their stuff for no less than 20 minutes each, slap the Miramax logo on it, and release it to the mass-audience. Seemed like a really promising idea that could have worked wonders for all of the film-makers involved, but somehow, it more or less just ended up killing two promising careers, while just injuring two others.

Take a wild guess as to whose career’s were killed, and which ones were just injured for a short while. Not that hard I guess, but let me just tell you through my usual-way of reviewing anthology films; taking it one-by-one, segment-by-segment. Shall we?

Random twitching example #2.

Random twitching example #2.

1. The Missing Ingredient – This is the one that starts it all off, and that’s not a good thing at all. In short, this segment is easily the worst. It made me feel like I made a huge mistake actually even bothering with this movie. Director Allison Anders gives us a cool idea in which a coven of witches who need male sperm to complete their ritual and just so happened to choose Ted as he comes stumbling on in. While the ground-work was there for this to be not just hilarious, but all sorts of weird and cooky, in a fun-way, Anders doesn’t even bother going anywhere with this. Sure, for horny dudes, there is plenty of hot boobage to be seen, but for anybody who wants a little bit of craziness mixed with their covens, will be most likely disappointed as Anders seemed to really drop the ball with this, and not know what’s considered “funny”, and what’s considered “boring.” Easily the worst out of the four, but it’s not like the next one is a peach neither.

2. The Wrong Man – Things seem to get a bit better with this segment, however, not by much. Director Alexandre Rockwell keeps things small and subdued, but not anywhere near being considered “sweet”, as this whole segment just meanders endlessly, without ever really moving outside of the actual hotel room it’s placed in. The whole story is in which a married-couple (Jennifer Beals and David Proval) basically plays this little sex-game where he pretends that she’s been screwing around him and picks out whatever poor fellow just so happens to stroll through that door, interrogate him, wave a gun in front of his face, take his pills, and basically, just scare the shorts off of him. There are moments in this segment where the wheels seemed to be turning and there seemed to be some moments of promise, but once the segment is all said and done with, I couldn’t help but feel like it went on a bit long. Especially once Beals’ character just started yelling out any term for the word “penis” she could think of right away. Sure, it made me laugh (probably my first one), but it was only because it was a random moment of creative spontaneity that the first segment didn’t seem to have.

Thankfully though, it does get better from here and begins to feel like something worth watching, rather than the first two awful-pieces.

3. The Misbehavers – Antonio Banderas plays a tough and sinister father-of-two that wants to take his wife on a night out on the town, in hopes of getting laid and therefore, igniting the spark in their marriage that probably sizzled-out once kids came along and screwed everything up. But, knowing that these same kids can’t come out with them, he decides to intimidate Ted intoi watching over them, and making sure that they “don’t misbehave”. It seems easy, and with the price for this little mission being $500, it seems even easier. However, with these two kids, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and eventually, the room itself starts to smell and once that happens, all hell breaks loose. So yeah, the plot-line for this segment is dumb, but with Robert Rodriguez behind-the-wheel, it’s anything but. Actually, that’s not true. It is still dumb, but in a “fun” way in which one can only associate with Rodriguez and his style of film-making. It starts off simple and small, but as time goes on, and Rodriguez really gets the brain working, you can see just how much havoc he can throw on top of the other and once all is said and done and we get the final-line of this segment, you know that, if anything, the whole movie was it at least worth it for just this whole time-span of 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if the last segment blows, all we know is that this is the segment people should be wanting to see and talk about.

When you do have a movie in which "the chick from Say Anything" gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something "to watch".

When you do have a movie in which “the chick from Say Anything” gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something “to watch”.

But of course, the last segment is done by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself and, as we all know, the guy has a bit of a thing for stealing the spotlight of movies, and his segment here is no different.

4. The Man from Hollywood – The plot-line is simple: Ted stumbles upon a bunch of fast-cat, Hollywood big-shots (Bruce Willis being among them), who con him into doing something for a hefty price, as idiotic as the act may be. Oh, and there’s a bet involved somehow, someway. Basically, being that this is a Tarantino-segment, you can expect a lot of witty lines that involved pop-culture, violence, sex and a bunch of other talk that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from actual human-beings who grace us with their presence on the same planet we call Earth. That said, considering the rest of the film that came before this, it’s a blast to watch, keeps you interested, laughing, a bit tense and overall, entertained as if Tarantino was the one they really were leaning on for this to work and that’s exactly what they got. In hindsight, it’s not the best thing that Tarantino has ever done or touched (especially when also speaking of his acting), but when you place his segment against the three others, his definitely comes out on-top and a reason to see this whole film. Although you do have to get through two shitty segments, and one pretty good one.

And through all of these segments, there’s none other than Tim Roth himself acting his ass off through them, which is not a good thing. For some odd reason or another, Roth is given the order to carry-out this overly-used, spastic-twitch of his that carries on throughout most of his segments in which he stammers and bumbles more than Hugh Grant on a bad day. It gets old real quick and just becomes random, as if there was no other reason to make this character interesting than to just have him do and say all of these odd things. Roth tries, but he can’t help but suffer due to doing whatever it was that he was told. However, when he’s told to dial it down a notch and just let the segments for speak themselves, is usually when he’s at his most watchable, as well as the same could be said for the movie itself. And mostly, this occurs during the last two segments. Strange how things work themselves out, right?

Consensus: If you counter in the fact that only two of the four segments in Four Rooms work, then I guess you could consider this “watchable” in the least bit. But, then again, if you want to save yourself some precious time, effort and/or money, then just watch the last two segments somewhere on YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be able to find them somewhere.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a party I'd like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don't do anything I wouldn't do! Woo hoo!

Talk about a party I’d like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Woo hoo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

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47 Ronin (2013)

It’s Keanu and a sword. What else is there to know?

In 18th century Japan, lowly half-blood Kai (Keanu Reeves) sits outside of his village looking in. Nobody respects him, nor cares for him. He’s just there to clean-up messes that are made and to get on with the rest of the society. However, one day, his master is murdered by a rival clan that is looking to expand his empire, which leaves Kai and fellow other samurai’s without much of anywhere to go. Some have died, some have hidden and some, well, mainly one, Kuranosuke Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), have been locked away from society a whole year, only to be brought back into a world that’s changed a lot since imprisonment. Oishi doesn’t like all of this change and realizes that it’s time to get the old gang back together, even if that means tracking down Kai and bringing him along. Well, it’s a smart move on Oishi’s part as Kai is now a very-skilled fighter, and also, just so happens to know who this evil clan-leader is, and where he’s located. Altogether, Kai, Oishi and the rest of the samurai’s set out for revenge, even if that revenge does mean death, regardless of whether it’s successful or not. Is it at all worth it? Well, the honor-system of the Ronin says so, so they must!

A samurai movie starring Keanu Reeves being released on Christmas: How do you think it’s going to do? Well, for starters, the movie will most likely bomb, bomb, bomb itself away into an oblivion, but that doesn’t get in the way of me at least enjoying a little B-movie fun, right?

You can trust Keanu to save the day. He knows "The Way of the Blade". Or something like that. I don't know!

You can trust Keanu to save the day. He knows “The Way of the Blade”. Or something like that. I don’t know!

Nope, not at all. But do you know what does? Something dull, lifeless and as Americanized as this. And yet, I didn’t hate it. Here’s why:

The problem that most seem to be having with this movie is that it doesn’t take itself as nutty as it should. Those people are absolutely right, but when the movie does actually show some signs of rare-craziness, it’s a whole bunch of fun and makes you wonder what the movie would be like if it was rated-R, rather than the soft, rather safe PG-13. There’s slivering CGI dragons; telepathic monks that have the ability to move at-a-mile-a-second; some huge, gargoyle-looking beast; and a seven-foot-tall-plus samurai warrior draped in all sorts of iron that knows a thing or two about a wrecking ball. Need I say more about this movie’s strangeness? I think not, and in those very rare moments the movie accepts what it is, it’s a whole bunch of fun, even if you don’t see it in 3-D.

That’s why when the movie does seem to take itself so damn seriously, and try to throw a historical-lesson on us, it feels like a wasted-opportunity of something really wacky and over-the-top. Rather than giving us a samurai movie in which Keanu is running all-over-the-place, saying dumb things, and hacking up every person he meets, we just see him show up, speak about “The Way of the Ronin” and then leave, ultimately letting others steal the spotlight from him. I’m not totally against this approach, considering that this is a Japanese-set movie about something that actually did happen with real-life, actual people of Japanese-decent, but it sucks so much fun out of what could have been. And by “what could have been”, I mean something that could have really been just all-out, balls-crazy in its own-self. But somehow, through someway, first-time director Carl Rinsch plays it relatively easy and never knowing whether he wants to be goofy, epic, action-y, loud, proud, philosophical, or all of the above.

It’s a strange mixture that never quite figures itself out. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hate it as much since there was always something odd the movie was doing next. I mean, for lord’s sake, I actually didn’t mind something as plain and simple as R.I.P.D., so you definitely know that this wasn’t going to be a total dread for me to watch. It just wasn’t, as expected, anything special or anything that I’ll remember ten, twenty, thirty, hell, even fifty years from now. However, do you know what I will remember? A Keanu Reeves-starring samurai flick that may have not been perfect, or even all that memorable, but I still had a painless time with. That so rarely often happens to me with a flick, and it happened to me here, so I have to say: I’m feeling alright, and that’s good enough for me.

As for all of you out there, if you want to see this, then I say go for it. Just don’t expect it to be like those old-school, kung-fu movies from the 70’s in which a bunch of people yelp, scream and chop each other’s heads off with a bunch of blood spurting out everywhere. Just expect something as odd and as weird that only Keanu Reeves would actually do, and there you go. You got your movie!

Yeah, they existed.

Yeah, they existed.

Speaking of Keanu, as much as he tries here, he feels terribly out-of-place. Which, yes, makes sense considering that he’s a half-breed of an British man and a Japanese woman. But I mean it more so in the way that he literally feels like he’s in another movie where everyone is placed into this ancient-war epic, and then, out of nowhere, Keanu seems to stumble upon the wrong set, mumbling whatever nonsense he has to say, and then walking off, letting whomever it was that was doing their job, continue to do so, without anymore interruptions at all. And, with this talented, Japanese-cast, it’s not all that bad; even if it is a bit strange that this is a historical-story set in Japan, featuring mainly all Japanese actors, and has them all speak English, with barely any subtitles involved. It’s strange to watch and in ways, very distracting considering you may be wondering what the hell it is that some people are saying at times, but the cast do what they can with what they’re given, especially Keanu. Poor, poor Keanu. The guy can kick ass like anybody’s favorite weirdo superhero, but here, he just feels odd. That’s more of the movie’s problem then his own, so I won’t be so mean to him. Because we all know what Keanu looks like when people get him all upset and bothered. Poor buddy.

Also, be on the lookout for a Gedde Watanabe sighting! Or, better yet, be on the lookout for a “Long Duk Dong” sighting!

Consensus: May not be the movie you’ll remember come next year, or any year for that matter, 47 Ronin is still passable enough as a piece of fluff entertainment that gives its core-audience enough sword-wielding fun and action, with some other neat treats in between, that’s fine for what it is, even if it could have been so, so, so much more had it played itself a little less seriously.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Will the real Ronins please stand up? Yeah, I'm talking to you in the front!

Will the real Ronins please stand up? Yeah, I’m talking to yous in the front!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Wow, timing is everything.

This is the story of the life and the times of one Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba), where we first see him as a lawyer in South Africa where he makes an honest living, has a beautiful wife-and-kid and most of all, gets along with practically everyone around him. However, he starts to clash with the local police force once he realizes that there have been numerous bouts of racism occurring around him, some that end in death, and worse, even some including his own friends. Mandela does not put-up with this and sooner than later, eventually begins to build a revolution and make his, as well as most of the Africa’s voices heard. Around this time too, he meets a lovely lady named Winnie (Naomie Harris), with whom he marries and shares the revolt with. But, as we all know, when one person has a voice that doesn’t quite go along with the conventional way-of-thinking, problems can ensue and eventually, Mandela and his fellow band of trustees are all locked-up and taken away to an island prison, where he spends 27 years of his life in. Through it all though, Mandela persevered and we see this, not just through his soul, but through his wife’s as well.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, I’m pretty sure that some people may feel a bit of discomfort in watching this movie. Which is fine considering that this was a real person, albeit, one that’s usually considered “one of the most influential figures of all-time”. I do not necessarily disagree with and with what little I actually do know of the man who was Nelson Mandela, I have to say that I was actually looking forward to learning more about his hardships, his activism, and basically, just his whole life in a nutshell.

Hey, they at least gave him some toilet-paper so you can't say they were all "that bad".

Hey, they at least gave him some TP, so you can’t say they were all “that bad”.

That said nutshell did just so happen to take 139-minutes to get through, and also didn’t offer me much learned either. So basically, this is just a Nelson Mandela movie for all sorts of people whom may already know Nelson Mandela, what it was that he fought for and know enough about his life as it is, and that’s basically it. In other words: He’s getting “the Hollywood treatment” here and it feels like so. However though, I can’t say that it makes this movie bad; it’s just disappointing really.

Though director Justin Chadwick may have never made anything worth writing-home about, he still does a nice job here at giving us a Nelson Mandela we usually don’t see in many movies. Or better yet, maybe not just Nelson Mandela in particular, but a subject of a biopic altogether. What we see of Nelson Mandela here is a man that may be inspired, may have the right ideas of how to run a government in a happy, peaceful way, but he isn’t perfect and the movie makes sure that we know that. He’s shown to have a bit of a short-temper, some control-issues and also can’t really seem to keep it in his pants when he’s out late at night at some club, and spots himself a fine honey that just so happens to not be his wife. Can’t say I blame him, hell, it makes him all the more human. And that’s the point!

Most biopics should (even though they usually fail to do so) present us with a realistic, honest-to-God view of their subject, without many biases involved whatsoever. You can definitely stand-behind somebody’s story and/or what it exactly was that they brought to the world, but it’s better to make sure that they get to be seen as “human”, and not just as “inspirational superheros”. At first, the movie starts off by painting Mandela as the former, but once things begin to move on, the latter starts to show and it gets rather dull after awhile.

See, we all know that Mandela was wrongfully imprisoned for speaking his mind and taking matters into his own hands on more than a few occasions, but the movie never really quite digs any deeper than that, nor shows us anything new. Mainly, we’re just subject to seeing how Mandela and his fellow anarchists lived their lives in prison, got used to the harsh surroundings, which also meant getting used to the corrupt police-system they had going on over there. The movie nails this aspect of the story more than a few times, and does well with this, but soon, it begins to get over-shadowed by what it is that Winnie Mandela herself is doing on the front-lines, out there in the “real world”. And sooner or later, Nelson’s story becomes to get far less and less interesting, and Winnie’s takes over, showing us depth, emotion and even offering us some new insights into her life, and the way she lived it at that point in time.

You go tell 'em, girl!

You go tell ’em, girl!

Every so often we’d go back to Nelson’s story, but it basically sucks all of the energy and emotional-heft of Winnie’s story that, sad to say, was keeping this movie alive and interesting. There was probably a better way to show Mandela’s 27-year-span in prison, without feeling so dry and disjointed from the rest of the movie, but it wasn’t here and it’s disappointing because what Idris Elba does as Nelson Mandela here, is some of the best acting I’ve seen him do in a long while (besides from this, of course). Elba does stretch himself here to be more than just a walking, talking “Mandela impersonator”, and he does get to the inner-kindness, as well as anger that was probably lingering inside of this man for the longest while, but it feels underused by a movie that changes itself around so much. Which, need I say, isn’t all that bad considering Winnie’s story is a lot more interesting and compelling, but come to think of it: Wasn’t this mainly supposed to be about Nelson Mandela in the first place? Didn’t we already get a Winnie Mandela biopic that absolutely nobody saw, earlier this year? Anyway, my point is that while Winnie’s story does wonders for this movie, Nelson’s is just sort of there, sucking all sorts of life out of it, not really adding much new or surprising to the tales we already know of Nelson Mandela. Other than he was a very smart, very compassionate, and very determined man, even when placed hundreds-of-millions of miles away from actual, on-going society.

But, like I was saying, Winnie’s side of the story works a lot better, and most of that has to do with the fact that Naomie Harris is just so great as here, offering us some real, unrelenting and raw insights into a person that so desperately needed them. Like for instance, Winnie does go through a whole seep of changes throughout this movie; where we first see her as meek and mild girl that instantly falls for Nelson’s big brawn and good charms, and then changes into a very angry, very violent gal that wants her man back, but most importantly, won’t stand for all of the wrongdoings her country’s government has been committing. Harris is quite believable in this role and best of all, she keeps us on the same side as Winnie, even in her most questionable moments. Even when she begins to realize that violence is in fact the answer to solving a problem, she doesn’t seem like an even, relentless queen beotch. She seems like a woman who stands up for what she believes in, and won’t stop until she gets what she wants, by any cost necessary. Nelson believed in the same ideas, but she was the one who carried out his message, while he was away wasting his precious time in prison. Then, as we know, he got out and continued to spread the good word with Winnie and we’re better humans for it. Even though it is still sad to see him gone from us, forever.

Consensus: Elba and Harris give powerful performances in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, making it worth seeing for them and them alone, but don’t expect to learn much new, or even feel all that compelled by what it is you’re seeing. Just know of the ramifications of these people’s actions and you’ll probably walk off with a smile.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was the only action he was going to get with his wife for that whole time.

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was most likely the only action he was going to get from his wife for a long, long time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lone Survivor (2013)

I wonder how many people got out of this alive?

It’s the summer of 2005 in Afghanistan and four Navy SEALS (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) find themselves assigned a covert mission: Find the vicious Taliban leader known as Ahmad Shahd and kill him. All four of these soldiers feel like it’s going to be another walk in the park, but soon, things start to go wrong once they seem not to be able to get their radio to work. To make matters even worse, they stumble upon a few local goat herders, whom they hold in captivity in fear of not knowing what to do just yet. However, working with their better judgement, the four decide that they shouldn’t hold them any longer, nor kill them. So, they let them go and continue on with the mission. Problem is, once they let these bystanders go, one of them actually goes right back to the local Taliban and gives up their cover, meaning that it’s these four Navy SEALS, against this whole army. In other words, it’s a fight to the death in which the Americans, for once, are out-numbered and may continue to be if they can’t get their stinking radio working.

Peter Berg’s been known to be a big advocate for our soldiers, which is why a movie like this just plainly reads “total propaganda”. Even if the story itself is real, with all of the right details thrown in there and such, it still seems like another case of Peter Berg getting his hand on a military story, making it for the masses and showing the rest of our society the heroes that are out there, fighting on a day-to-day basis, so that we can continue to live our lives in perfect, total harmony. Trust me though, there’s nothing wrong with that as we should all definitely pay our respects and gratitude to these soldiers who risk their lives day in, and day out. But a movie that’s basically telling me I need to, is never something that sits well with me, which is exactly what I thought I was going to be subject to here with, yet again, another Peter Berg “military” movie.

With or without guns in their hands, they're pretty damn boss.

With or without guns in their hands, they still look boss.

However, I was very wrong. I’m glad to be though because now seeing it, I can say that this is as honest, and as heart-wrenching of a tribute to our fallen heroes, as we’ve gotten for quite some time. Especially with one that doesn’t hold any obvious political-agenda; it’s just signaling a tribute to those who deserve it the most.

What Berg does so well with this true tale is by the way that he doesn’t really pander to any view-point in particular. Whether the people who see this more are for the war, or aren’t, it doesn’t matter as Berg clearly shows us that this is less a story about the actual war, the brutal killings and all sorts of other controversies that surround it, but more about the human-beings who get wrapped up into this war, feeling as if they are doing something right for themselves, their families and most importantly, their country. And they definitely are, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to watch as each and every one of these guys continue to fight for their lives, find the best possible way to make it out alive and make sure that whomever it is that’s on their side, walks across the finish-line alongside them as well. It’s more of a testament to how these soldiers are like brothers in a way and care more for the person next to them, rather than themselves. I don’t usually like that “hurrah hurrah!” type of stuff in these war movies and quite frankly, I don’t really fall for it, but here, with Berg’s attention to emotion, it felt real and authentic, without many strings attached. There were some over-dramatic moments that were clearly tugging at the heart-strings, but never to the point of where it was unbearable.

But what really sets this movie over that edge of being more than just your traditional, war flick, is in the way it portrays our infamous sequence-of-violent/horrific-events. It’s less sentimental than one might suspect, and really will test some audience’s patience as it gets very up-in-your-face, and never seems to shy away from the harsh facts of the reality of this situation.

For instance, the whole sequence between the SEALS and the rest of this Taliban army starts off on the top of a mountain, and at first, Berg makes it seem like these soldiers are invincible heroes that yes, do get shot, but also suck it in and walk away from it all, only to continue on with the shooting, the strategizing and the running away. Eventually though, the soldiers do begin to get more and more shot at, which also means, they begin to take more bullets wherever they just so happen to connect. Some take it in the legs, the back, the shoulders, the stomach, the head, and all sorts of other parts of the body that I don’t even want to get into or describe.

Nonetheless, this is when the movie really starts to hit you, and hit you hard. This is also where Berg’s direction really starts to excel in the way that it paints a portrait of just how bad a situation can get, once one unfortunate mishap continues to happen, after another, and nothing seems to be working well for one side, but perfectly for the other. You begin to feel a palpable sense of danger, just about the same time as the soldiers do and it takes you for a thrill, more times than often. Especially once the battle itself starts to spill out all the way to the bottom of the mountain, and people begin to start falling all over themselves, and getting injured even more, in horrific and gruel detail.

Though some may see what Berg does here as “too realistic”, it’s never gratuitous as if he were making a horror film. For example, some people’s ears are shown falling off; blood is seen spraying every which way but loose; and even eyes get enclosed to practically making some people blind. But somehow, it never seems over-done. Instead, it seems like Berg really does want us to get an idea of what it is that these soldiers went through on that fateful day, without trying to manipulate us in any way. Simply, Berg just allows for the scenes to happen, with barely any directorial-trickery or manipulative score added anywhere.

It’s just four Navy SEALS fighting for their damn lives, and it’s a compelling watch, every single second its on-screen.

Yep, they really do go there.

Yep, it goes there.

However, it should be noted that once the actual mountain-attack is over and done with, the movie does begin to get very conventional, and this is exactly where Berg begins to tug on the heartstrings. And usually, it would feel deserved, especially since we’ve already been through so much with these SEALS and seen them go through and, well, stay there, but it didn’t quite work as well as the first two-halves of the movie. Most of that simply has to do with the fact that barely any of these characters have much more to them than we see painted on a portrait for us in the first 30 minutes or so.

Despite this, the cast does very well with each and every one of their roles, despite never really getting any development beyond the bravery-side to their personality. Mark Wahlberg definitely does well with being macho and tough, but showing the capability of being smart as well; Taylor Kitsch is at least easier and less painful to watch here, then he’s been in his past three or four movies; Emile Hirsch brings a lot of his little-boyish charm that we’ve seen him bring to most of his movies, and it works wonders for his character here that himself seems a bit immature and a bit too out-of-his-reach; Eric Bana tries hard to hold-back on his Australian-accent, but does fine altogether as the one sergeant whose back at base, watching over all of the proceedings; and, if there is any stand-out to be found here, it’s Ben Foster as the one soldier who suffers through the most pain and agony out of them all, but never wusses-out or asks for mercy. He just keeps on trucking until he can’t truck on no more. Much like every other soldier did on that terrible, terrible day where lives were lost and families were hurt. But altogether, we stuck through it and will continue to do so until the end of time. ‘Murrica!

Consensus: Though it has all of the workings of a very obvious, ham-fisted war flick that’s trying to make its political stand-point known loud and clear for all to hear, Lone Survivor still sticks to the humanity of this real-life mission, in which many soldiers lost their lives and even though one came out alive to tell the story, the painful reality of fallen family members is still there and never going to go away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty (2013)

Daydreaming stopped being considered “cool” after fifth grade.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is a quiet, simple and harmless guy who daydreams constantly about wild, unbelievable and over-the-top adventures in which somehow, and in someway, he’s the one who steps up to the plate and does heroic, cool things. However, in real life, he’s just another guy who sits behind a desk at Life magazine, and is desperately searching for his future Mrs. Mitty. He sees this ideal future-wife of his in co-worker Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), even if he hasn’t mustered-up any courage to actually go up to her, and ask her out on a date. And while that may have seemed like an objective at one point in his life, now is not that time, considering that he is now searching all over the world for famed-photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), so that he can get the final frame of a picture he sent him, that was already supposed to be on the cover for the final issue of Life magazine. Through this wacky adventure of his, Walter discovers exactly the type of person he is, what he strives to be in life, and whether or not he has what it takes to win Cheryl’s heart in the way that he envisions in his mind.

While everybody knows Ben Still for his over-the-top comedies, the guy definitely has a lot more going on inside of his head than some may think, and this is the prime example of what that is. Remaking the classic Danny Kaye film wasn’t necessarily a very bold-step on his behalf, however, turning the original source material into something of a bigger, and a lot wider horizon, definitely was, especially if you’re Ben Stiller. While the results for this flick may be, at best, mixed, there’s no doubt in my mind that I think we’ve seen a new side to Ben Stiller; as well as one that I hope takes over more, just so that we don’t get another, freakin’ Fockers sequel.

Times have been tough for Derek Zoolander. At least he's a mountain-climber or something now.

Times have been tough for Derek Zoolander. At least he’s a mountain-climber now, or something.

Please, Ben! I’m begging you! No more!

Anyway, what Stiller does here, and does well, is that he gives us a simple tale of a simple man, and for that matter, it’s a pretty simple film. We see Walter as the type of sad-sack dude we all want to feel bad for, which we do, but at the same time, we still root for him as we know that he’s capable of so much more in his life than just going through the constant, day-to-day motions. We know he has a good heart; we know that he can give that heart to any person who is willing to accept it; we know that he cares for the people that care for him; and best of all, we know that he wouldn’t commit any wrong-doings to others, except for the ones who deserve it the most. So yeah, Walter Mitty is a pretty small and tender guy, but he also has a very big heart; the same big heart that Still doesn’t totally cram down our throats, which shows me that he has more resilience in his direction than some may expect.

In fact, I’d even go so far as to wager that some of the best moments in this movie come from when Stiller himself allows for everything to be down-played, quiet and peaceful, as if he himself has finally found a place in his life where he too can calm down, relax and find the more beautiful idiosyncrasies in life. Even if those beautiful idiosyncrasies are such things as staring at a computer-screen, staring at Icelandic mountains, pondering what you’re next move in life will be, etc. In these moments, we realize that while Stiller may love a lot of the insane and highly-electric dream-sequences he’s placed in this flick, he also cares for the character-driven moments where we see Walter for all that he is, and all that Stiller allows us to see of him.

Needless to say, it’s Ben Stiller himself who allows us to see Walter Mitty’s heart and also, to be a guy we care for. And to be honest, I’m a bit of a better person for it. Not only do I realize that Stiller is capable of a lot more than just do his nervous, twitchy thing, but that he’s actually able to take an ambitious story, and turn it into something that not only warms our hearts a bit, but also, makes us feel like we’re not wasting our times either. And I can’t go and tell you how happy I am to actually recommend a Ben Stiller film, right here and right now. You’ve kept me waiting, Ben. But I’m glad you finally paid-off, pal.

It should be said though, that the movie never really goes any deeper than it is, or should be. Instead, it’s just a movie about a shy guy, who discovers the man he can be, just through a couple of life-changing experiences he goes through. Nothing new, ground-breaking or life-changing, but still a simple and sweet tale that’s told with just enough heart and charm. Those looking for anything more than just that, may just be smoking weed before the wrong movie. If that is that the case, then go watch Cloud Atlas, or something of that nature, ya hippies!

Always fear the beard.

Always fear the beard.

Also, it should be noted that Stiller, while anchoring this movie as a director with a keen-eye for visuals, and a soft-ear for quietness, still does a relatively nice job at playing Walter Mitty. He doesn’t necessarily change anything about his persona that we haven’t already seen him do before, but he’s less about trying to force down our throats that he’s trying to be funny and quirky, and instead, is funny and quirky. Even when he does branch-out a bit and show something of a wild side to his personality, it feels real and honest, as if this is actually Walter Mitty waiting to show himself to the rest of the world, and to anybody who will accept him for what he is.

That’s why, even though Stiller is definitely the main subject we’re supposed to be paying attention to the most in this flick, he still lets everybody else in his cast do a little of their own thing as well. Kristen Wiig was pleasant and cute as Cheryl, the object of Walter’s affection, and it was nice to see her down-play it for once in a lifetime; Adam Scott may be too much of a dick as the guy that practically takes over Life magazine and bullies the hell out of Walter, but is still charming enough to watch; Kathryn Hahn gets to be weird and slightly off-kilter as the immature sister of Walter’s, but she never seems like she’s going too overboard with the whole act, and instead, feels like an actual gal who loves her big bro; Shirley MacLaine has a few scenes where you can tell she loves and adores her son, despite him being a stepping-stool for anyone who shows power and command over him; and Sean Penn, for the few scenes that he actually has as Sean O’Connell, is very charming, very strange, but altogether, very necessary for the type of message this movie is trying to force along. Then again though, he is playing a nut obsessed with nature here, so I don’t know how much of it was actually acting, or more of Stiller just finding him hiding up in the mountains, and decided to start the camera rolling.

Consensus: While it may definitely think it goes a lot deeper than it actually is, the Secret Life of Walter Mitty still has plenty of touching, charming and pleasant-enough moments to where you can gain confidence in the fact that Ben Stiller, despite his age, may still be a force to be reckoned with in show-biz, even if it is solely through directing.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

There's a smile we haven't seen in over 35 years. Give or take.

There’s a smile we haven’t seen in over 30 years. Give or take.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and a whole lot of money. Oh my!

Meet Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio): He’s a womanizer, a drug-addict, a go-getter, a hard partier, and most of all, a full-fledged billionaire, and this is his story. We follow Jordan through his early days as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street, where he learns of the ins and the outs from a seasoned-pro (Matthew McConaughey), but eventually, finds himself out of a job and inspiration for life once the stock market crashes. From there, Jordan finds another job in which he’s still working the stocks, however now, he’s found a way to rip people off, and benefit from the extra cash money he has flowing in by the weeks, and then by the days, and then it’s by the hours, and sooner or later, it’s by the minutes of each hour, of each and every single day. So basically, Belfort discovers a way on how to keep on getting richer, and best of all, how to keep on partying and living life until you can’t no more. Sooner than later, though, the FBI starts snooping around and that’s when Jordan begins to find himself backed into a corner that he may not be able to get out of, or one that he may be able to, but will have to take those nearest and dearest down in the process.

Most of you can probably tell by now, but I’ll say it anyway: This movie is a freakin’ blast. Yes, it does clock-in at 179 minutes (that’s near-three hours for those of you counting at home), and yes, it features countless acts of debauchery in which drugs are consumed, women and their body parts are fondled, Big Bens are thrown high up in the air and the “f word” is used more times than it ought to be, but if you can stick through all of this and keep the blood pumping, you’re going to find yourself having one of the best times at the movie theaters.

Was it all politically correct to call it "midget tossing" back in the late-80's/early-90's?

Was it politically correct to call it “midget tossing” back in the late-80’s/early-90’s?

Just exactly like I did, and here’s why.

It’s not easy to make a film about a bunch of stockbrokers that are knowingly ripping people off, in hopes of gaining a heftier wallet and more gifts to bring to the parties, in which we don’t actually hate them and instead, actually rather loathe them, but with all of the movies he’s made in the past (including this), Martin Scorsese has proved himself to be more than up to the task, and then some. Scorsese is approximately 71-years-of-age, but this movie does not show an old man working inside of his comfort-zone, nor one who seems like he can just get as much enjoyment from the spoils of this movie, as much as his subjects in his movie are. Nope, instead, Scorsese continues to find more and more ways in which he can try something new, or, for lack of a better term, never slow down.

When I said that this was a movie that clocked-in at nearly-three hours, most of you probably ran for the hills and never looked back; but what I didn’t say was that it was a near-three hour movie that never, not for a single second, slows down. Sure, there are some moments where we see Scorsese let go of his style and just let his ensemble do the speaking for him, but it’s all Scorsese, all of the time, and it never lost its sense of energy that made it such a blast to watch for its first five minutes of being on screen, let alone it’s 2-hours-and-59-minutes. And needless to say, some of it could have definitely been chopped-down and even taken-out, but with what Scorsese himself has here, it’s pure dynamite by how quick, fun and energetic everything is, without taking a brief moment for silence or to catch your breath.

In other words, if you can’t handle a near-three hour movie that never cools its brakes, you may want to look elsewhere, because once Marty and the rest of his gang get this bus going, they aren’t stopping and it makes you feel like Scorsese himself may never, ever quit making movies. And I would have no problem with that whatsoever, because if he shows us, so late in the game, that he can still hang with the best of them, get moving when he needs to, and also be able to keep his blood-pressure at a reasonably healthy rate, then we don’t need anybody else other than him. If he’s going to keep on branching out and trying new things, then who needs someone that could be, “The Next Martin Scorsese”. It would surely be nice to get someone else who can master the art of the multiple over-head narrations, or the constant zooming-in camera movements, but as for right now, at this moment in time, I’m fine with Marty Scorsese sticking around for however long he damn well pleases to. I just hope that he continues to make movies as exciting, entertaining and hilarious as this.

But everything that I’m saying about Marty, and how he seems to still be open to new and cool things to play around with, could be said for his cinematic muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Anybody who has ever followed my blog and knows my history, knows that I am a huge and adoring fan of Leo, and he did not disappoint me a single second here. Heck, in fact, I’d say that he surprised the hell out of me here, showing that it is possible for somebody who’s nearing-40, and who has already shown his talents as an actor, to still shock us by letting us know that he’s capable of doing more than just yelling, emoting and being upset; in fact, just like he proved with his Oscar-worthy performance last year in Django Unchained, he can actually be quite funny and steal the scene from some of the most charming, and spirited screen-presences out there.

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Not only does Leo get show his lighter-side with Belfort, in terms of making wise-cracks and just being the lovable, handsome devil that knows what to say, and when to say it, he also gets to branch-out a bit and pull-off some really impressive scenes where it’s just him, and him alone. There’s the one scene that everybody seems to be talking about in which Leo begins to feel the side effects of decade-old Quaaludes, and begins to fall limp in every part of his body; almost to the point of where he’s practically dragging himself and crawling to his car. It’s the scene that everybody seems to be talking about, and with good reason: It’s funny, it never ends (in a good way), it’s probably the quietest scene in the whole movie, it’s bizarre and the best of all, it shows us that even somebody like Leo DiCap, the same guy who has been taking serious-role-after-serious-role for a good chunk of his career, can handle something like “physical comedy”, and pull it off with perfection. There’s even a couple more scenes where he’s getting the rest of his stockbrokers all locked, cocked and loaded for whatever it is he wants them to do, whether it be getting richer or throwing down a sweet-ass party, and he absolutely owns each and every one of them, showing us, once again, that if you give him character, you give him a drive, you give him a capable director and you put a camera in front of his face, he’s going to make some magic happen and absolutely over-power everybody else around him.

That’s why, when you look at an ensemble as wide and as fun as this, you really do have to give a whole bunch of credit to somebody like Leo for never letting this movie loose, because his shoulders are the ones in which this flick solely rests its fate on. While everybody here is charming, fun, crazy and anything else but boring, he’s the guy who keeps the train on its tracks, making us realize that these were in fact, real people, who screwed over real people, just like you or me. Though Scorsese may never seem to go any further than “look at all these rich guys and all the debauchery acts they’re committing”, the movie is still a powerful indictment on the fact that these were guys who messed our economy over, and we’re the ones who had to pay for it. It sucks big time, and even though this movie has a good time getting itself away from that fact, we’re still the ones who have to suck it up and move on with our lives, while they are the ones who get to live freely and still be able to do what they want.

Sucks, I know, but it’s all in the name of a good time, right?

Anyway, needless to say, I’ll be pulling for Leo to land his Oscar this year, as I do every year, but let’s face it: He’ll be lucky enough to nab a nomination. Which blows, because he’s so electrifying here, you’ll wonder what else he’s got in-store for us and whether it will be back to his old ways of playing the same old,”troubled and tortured smart guy role”, or if he’ll continue to surprise us and show that he’s got more in his tank than what we know of? I don’t know what side he’ll most likely lean towards, but what I can is that Leo will definitely keep on being one of the best working today, and one that proves to me, as well as to everybody else, time and time again, that nobody can steal the spotlight away from him. Nobody!

Yeah, I’m a bit of a Leo DiCap fan boy. Deal with it.

"Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I've moved on to bigger, and more critically-acclaimed things. Sorry, guys."

“Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I’ve moved on to bigger, and more respected things. Sorry, guys.”

Like I was saying before though, Leo may own this movie, but he isn’t the only that’s actually “good” in it. Jonah Hill is a laugh-out-loud riot as the equally as demented and sick buddy of Jordan’s, Donnie, who starts to show some pretty dark shades to his character as time goes on; Matthew McConaughey appears in about two or three scenes early on in the movie and is a whole box of fun, even giving us some insight into the person that Jordan himself aspires to be, and most likely, will be once he gets his paychecks in order and balance; Rob Reiner is a welcome-presence to see back on the screen, this time, playing Jordan’s dad who handles all of the money, and doesn’t like to ask questions about where it comes from and what it’s for, but still somehow can’t get away from being just a little curious; Jean Dujardin shows up as a Swedish bank-owner that Jordan doesn’t particularly like, but does business with to keep the feds off of his ass; and speaking of those feds, Kyle Chandler plays the FBI Agent whose leading the whole sting-operation against Belfort and his trusty band of misfits, and somehow forms a nice rivalry between the two, despite only having about two scenes together where they actually do match wits.

Oh, and last but not least, Margot Robbie is as perfectly-suited for this Scorsese flick, as much as she’s easy-on-the-eyes, because while she does definitely get full-on naked at various times, she never feels like an object that’s an easy stepping-stool. She can hang with the big boys and she proves that she won’t be taken advantage of, even when it’s clearly obvious that all Jordan wants her for is a nice fuck and a gal to watch over the rest of his family, as well as his empire, just in case he just so happens to be gone for a short while. She’s what every man in the world wants: Smart, brass, good-looking, and a fire-breather in bed, but also the same type of girl that won’t put up with your shit, no matter what. In other words, each and every one of my ex’s. Damn them all!

Consensus: Running on a near-three hour time-limit may take some viewers away from spending time with the Wolf of Wall Street, and the excessive amount of drugs, sex, crime and violence that it depicts, but those who are willing to, will find themselves rewarded with not only one of the most entertaining flicks of the year, but also one of the most impressive that shows us that neither Leonardo DiCaprio, nor Martin Scorsese are down for the count and might just have a few more hits left in them.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Arthur Christmas (2011)

I always knew Santa was nothing more than a lazy tart.

It’s another year, which means, it’s another time for Christmas in which Santa (Jim Broadbent) and his illustrious team of trained and skilled elves find a way to deliver over millions of presents to children all over the world who’ve been clamoring for this moment for a whole year. However though, one present gets lost in the shuffle and come 4 a.m., Santa’s son Arthur (James McAvoy) takes notice of this and decides to gang-up together with his grandfather, Grand Santa (Bill Nighy), to deliver this one present, to this one child who would be absolutely heart-broken if they don’t receive it. Along the journey, the two run into quite a few problems, but back at home, their biggest problem may be Arthur’s older brother, Steve (Hugh Laurie), who is next-in-command for the position of being Santa Claus, and will stop at nothing to make sure that they don’t screw this plan up, nor that his dad doesn’t forget that he’s as smart, or as in the Christmas spirit as Arthur, despite not caring too much for cute, soft or cuddly things, like children, toys or the spirit of Christmas itself.

They wouldn't work though. Too patriotic.

They wouldn’t work though. Too patriotic.

There’s a hard case to be made for most of the Christmas movies being currently made. Not only is it hard to stack-up against such holiday classics like Santa Clause is Coming to Town, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but it’s even harder to try and spin the simple tale of Christmas in a way that makes it fresh, new and cool, but still not forgetting about the happy spirits and thoughts that make the season itself such a joy to be alive in. But leave it up to those clever lads at Aardman Animations to pull something off in which they not only turn the usual, average story of the night of Christmas that we usually get, around, but also find a way to make us feel like we’re watching a Christmas movie made for the whole family, even if that said family may have to be British.

Still, the fact that this movie was made by Brits holds no meaning whatsoever, because it’s still a sweet tale that doesn’t really set out to offend anybody that believes in Santa, or those who don’t. Simply, those who come the closest to not believing in Jolly Old Saint Nick, are usually just a bunch of Scrooge’s who treat Christmas itself as a mission, rather than a time made up for simple fun, joy and all sorts of other happy thoughts. It will probably make the kid who is watching at home plenty of warm stomachs and smiles, while also letting the parents know that they have nothing to worry about as their child will still believe in the guy in the big red suit who comes down your chimney. And then they grow up and at age 11, they’ll get the bomb dropped on them and it won’t be pretty.

Trust me, it won’t and it may even damage their minds forever, and ever. Trust me.

Anyway, what this movie does do, and does well, in case you couldn’t tell, is that it gives off plenty of happy and cheerful vibes, the exact same vibes you expect from a Christmas movie. However, I will say that it does think it’s a bit funnier, than it actually is. Aardman Animations usually has a problem with this because while they make think that they’re being a bunch of cheeky, witty fellows, they don’t realize when they’re more or less throwing themselves out of a window for a laugh, and when they’re just making us laugh effortlessly. Lately, I’ve been having that problem with them more and more, and it’s starting to feel like they may be doing this on purpose more and more to appeal to a the children, in terms of content and quality, rather than the parents, where it’s usually all about the material and how smart it is that usually gets them. I don’t know, maybe I’ve had one too many viewings of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run in the past, but I know when my favorite kind of animated movies are being dumbed-down, and I’m afraid to say it, but I’m seeing that now with Aardman Animations. Still, maybe that’s just a problem I have and nobody else does, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m just keeping an eye out though, people. That’s all.

The voice-cast for this movie does feature plenty of famous names that even us Americans know and more than likely, can commit to memory, however, they all still do pretty well playing-up their characters for all that they are. James McAvoy, while he does get plenty to do as Arthur with his high-strung character, does get a tad bit annoying with how screeching high the pitch of his voice is. I get it, he’s something of a neurotic Brit with a good heart, but the act got old after awhile and it made me feel like McAvoy needed to smoke some weed, or something to call him down. Bill N

If he ended up being Santa, he'd probably tear all naughty kids a new one.

If he ended up being Santa, he’d probably tear all naughty kids a new one.

ighy also gets the same type of role as the Grand Santa, but he still has a lot of fun and is less annoying because he’s, well, Bill Nighy, man. Can’t ever go wrong with that lovely Brit.

And I don’t know if it’s just me or whatever, but having Jim Broadbent as Santa Claus would be a perfect move, not just on a movie’s part, but all malls spanning the globe. He’s got this lovable, warm and goofy voice that really does make us believe that he’s an aging, out-of-his-league Santa that’s getting down to his last couple of years of going out into the field, but also make us believe that he still has a good heart and does care for these little tikes still getting what they ask for, and as a result, still having the faith to believe in him. Once again, may just be my thoughts and my thoughts alone, but if I had Jim Broadbent was showing up to my local mall as Santa, I’d be there right away, no questions asked! But lord knows he wouldn’t be able to handle me sitting in his lap. Poor guy. Nevermind, probably wouldn’t work.

Consensus: It definitely may not be as funny as it thinks it is, nor as what we’ve come to expect from Aardman Animation’s past contributions to the animated world, but Arthur Christmas still gets everybody in the Holiday spirit that may work more for the kids, than the parents, but that’s all that matters in the end, you know?

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The truest Santa if I've ever seen one. Except Artie Lang definitely gives him a run for his money.

The truest Santa if I’ve ever seen one. Except Artie Lang definitely gives him a run for his money.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Bug (2006)

Pop-pop wasn’t kidding when he said, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite”.

Hiding out in a scuzzy motel on the side of a highway, Agnes White (Ashley Judd) waits for the day that her ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr.) gets out of jail, find out where she’s been hiding away from him for all of these years and practically go back to ruining her life like he always used to. This obviously has been implanted into Agnes’ mind so much that she practically shields herself off from the rest of the world only to where she works, makes money, pays the bills, do a little bit of drugs, get drunk and continue living her life the way she has been, all by herself and with nobody else there to share her life with. This begins to take a toll on her, so when her bestie from work (Lynn Collins) brings in a mysterious drifter she just met that night (Michael Shannon), over to get acquainted with, Agnes does not, cannot say “no”. She invites him in and although there are certain reservations to be had in the beginning, the two eventually hit it off and become something of a couple. But something strange happens after this guy gets bitten by a bug, and soon infects Agnes, leading them to both think that whatever it is that they have, is deadly, dangerous and caused by people who are very powerful.

Though that premise (as well as that poster to the left) may have you thinking that this is some sort of creature-feature, horror-flick directed by somebody like David Cronenberg or Rob Zombie, don’t worry, because it’s very far from. Well, let me be exact: There is some blood, there is some gore and there is some hacking-off of limbs, but it’s not done in the type of way in which you expect to see from most horror movies. Rather, everything that happens in this movie is less about getting an “ooh” response out of you, and more of an “oh”.

Don't mess with him, honey, or else he'll jazz ya up.

Don’t mess with him, honey, or else he’ll jazz ya up.

Yeah, it’s that type of movie.

In case you didn’t know, William Friedkin adapted this from a Tracy Letts stage play and while some people don’t usually like when that sort of thing happens, I don’t mind it a bit. In fact, I want more of them, especially if they’re going to be done by William Friedkin! With this type of story, you already get a sense that you, as well as the characters themselves, are already boxed in to a world that they can’t get out of, so when you see that this whole movie is practically confined to just staying in this one hotel room, the whole hour-and-a-half, it makes sense. It doesn’t feel like a conceit that Friedkin himself pulled off because he’s a witty mofo, or that the studio didn’t give them enough money to begin with, so they had to do whatever they could, with whatever resources they had at their disposal. And for those reasons, this movie is quite effective.

Most of that is thanks to Letts already amazing source-material, and most of it is thanks to Friedkin himself for not ever allowing this movie to fly off of its hinges. Usually, whenever a director gets a movie where the setting rarely changes and just stays-put in one spot, they usually tend to play around a bit, peek their head out and see if they can bring other aspects of the story into play, just so that they can assure that viewers won’t start to nod off, or get bored of seeing the same damn people, in the same damn room, possibly doing the same thing. It makes sense, but it also feels like a cheap trick that some directors like to pull. William Friedkin is not one of those type of directors and instead, he keeps his story small, tight and always on-track with what it’s trying to say, where it’s trying to go and exactly why it’s doing all of the crazy shite that it’s doing.

And trust me, once you get to the last-act or so, you’re going to totally wonder why it is that these two people are freaking out so much about a bugs eating their flesh. It may sound crazy, it may sound over-the-top and it may sound like something you’d see in a B-movie, late at night on SyFy, but nope, Friedkin actually has you believe that these people may be infected, but also, at the same time, maybe not. And if they aren’t actually infected by these flesh-eating bugs, then you understand why; but if they are, then you also understand why for that part of the story as well. So basically, both sides of this story, whether it be real or fiction, works well and it keeps you guessing for a long while, especially since Friedkin continues to ramp-up the suspense of not knowing just what the hell type of stunt these crazy fools are going to pull next.

But like I was saying before, most of these stage-adaptations live and die from the directors working on them, but the same should definitely be said for the actors in each and every one of these roles, no matter how small or big they may be. If they fail, the movie fails, so there’s a lot of pressure on them as it is. Which is why this cast is so good.

Judd’s never been known as the type of actress to really stretch herself beyond her reach, nor really light the world on fire, but she’s always had a charming enough screen-presence to where you never understand why it is that she ever was a big name, or why her name’s constantly showing up in the head-lines whenever she has some message to make about poorer countries. She’s never really reached out to me as anything special, but I was willing to be surprised by her talent and that is exactly what I got here with her performance as Agnes White, one of the saddest female characters I’ve seen in awhile. What works so well for Agnes is that while she may be a bit of a loner that doesn’t really hang out with too many people, or care to even, she still seems like a likable enough gal to where you would want to hang around her, even if you do know she comes from a troubled-past.

That’s why when this random guy walks into her life, makes sweet, sweet love with her, starts to fall in love with her and practically tell her that she’s infected with a flesh-eating bug that could kill her soon if she doesn’t act now, it all makes sense in the grander scheme of things. The writing supports that claim, but so does Judd’s amazing performance in showing us a real battered and beaten woman who won’t take any more shit from men, but is willing to compromise just for this one, all because it’s the first time in a long time for her, and she doesn’t want to be left alone. So, rather than feeling like she’s a big dummy for falling head-over-heels for this nutty guy and listening to every word he speaks, you actually sympathize with her and hope she can be happy, still be in love and ultimately, find whatever it is that she’s looking for. Judd goes balls-deep with this performance and bares all in a way we haven’t seen from her before, and she surprised the heck out of me. Shame she hasn’t really done anything more challenging or strange since this, but who knows? Maybe she’ll be back to go crazy all over again? You never know!

Nothing more than a mere flesh wound.

Nothing more than a mere flesh wound.

Although, I can’t say the same for Michael Shannon because I think we all know him pretty well by now to where we’ll continue to see him play these nutty characters, and there won’t have a problem with that. Why? Well, it’s because the guy’s so good at playing-up a character’s sheer insanity, while also giving them a bit of a human-compound as well, to where you are actually seeing a crazy human being, and not just a crazy person, if there is any difference to begin with. He’s great here as the mysterious guy that Agnes hooks up with one night, but I feel like that was practically expected, considering that he’s portrayed the character numerous times on stage, so it was sort of like a free-bee, if there ever was one with a film role. That’s not to discredit the work that he does here at all, but it just goes to show you that obviously, whatever it was that he did on the stage, must have been impressive enough to land him the role in the theatrical-release of it.

And in the middle of all this craziness, there’s Harry Connick Jr. playing the scummy, mean and cruel ex-husband of Agnes, and he’s pretty damn good. He looks the part of an ex-con, he sounds the part of an ex-con and he also makes you believe that if you mess with him the wrong way, he won’t be afraid to mess you up right back. Corny as it sounds, it works well for his screen-presence and it comes off less like one of those performances where a really good-looking, mainstream actor tries to go for the gritty, bleak role in an indie; much rather, he seems like he was made for a role like this. Somehow, someway, Harry Connick Jr. works in a movie directed by William Friedkin, aka, this guy. Yeah, think about that for a little while.

Consensus: May be a bit too strange and over-the-top for the casual viewer, but for anybody else who may be at all interested in seeing what Bug has to offer that’s more than just what looks to be a bunch of gross-out sequences and jump-scares, then please do give it a look because it’s very far from being that at all.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

I guess room service must have been laid-off.

I guess room service must have been laid-off.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Venus (2006)

All somebody needs in life is a little acceptance. Even from a dirty old man who just wants to get in your knickers.

Maurice (Peter O’Toole) is nearing the end of his life, but still keeps a smile on his face and himself busy with work. He’s an aging-actor that takes jobs as lifeless corpses in certain shows and movies, however, it’s work nonetheless, and that’s more than he can say for his dear old buddy Ian (Leslie Phillips), whom he gathers with every so often to hang out, shoot the shit, drink some tea, read the paper and talk about people who have just recently passed. Since Ian himself is getting so old, his family thinks it would be best for him to be looked after, so then enters his great grandniece Jessie (Jodie Whittaker), who, at first, he thinks is going to practically save his life and make him feel young again, but once he actually gets to meet her, realizes anything but. However, what doesn’t happen to Ian, happens to Maurice and sooner than later, he finds himself hanging around Jessie more, getting to know her, helping her get some steady work as a “model”, gaining some confidence in herself and sometimes, even being the object of his desires and pleasures. Yeah, it gets pretty creepy, as you can tell.

That Petey O'Toole. Sure could get down with the best of them youngsters.

That Petey O’Toole. Sure could get down with the best of them youngsters.

With a story like this, it’s hard not to get at least a little bit uncomfortable, all because who likes watching it when old, creepy and decrepit men, start pawning after young, blissful women? Nobody, and even though it definitely does happen in the real world (half of Hollywood), it isn’t like we really want to see a movie about it, let alone one that practically sympathizes for the man’s case. Then again though, you also have to take into consideration that the old, creepy and decrepit man called into question is in fact Peter O’Toole, and then you realize, “Oh, well he can’t be that bad! Can he?” And thus, we have our movie’s dilemma, but yet, a very good one that makes this a lot more interesting in the way it plays-out, then the way it looks on paper.

I guess the only real way to start this review off, and to start it right would be to credit the most important, and best aspect that this movie has going for it: Legendary stage-actor himself, Peter O’Toole in one of his final roles ever on screen. Knowing what we know about him now, it’s hard to watch a movie like this seeing as how his character is practically a take on his own person. For instance, the character of Maurice is an aging stage-actor that although may not be so noticeable and famous that he needs a bodyguard to keep hordes of fans from attacking him on the streets, is still a big enough deal in certain social-circles to where he gets invited to fancy parties, complimented on his past performances and maybe, just maybe gets asked for a few autographs here and there. And while this would probably make any 74-year-old man more than happy, it somehow doesn’t put a whole smile on Maurice’s face, instead, he just wishes he could turn back time and relive all of his glory days, and possibly make-up for the mistakes that he’s made; of which he has plenty.

That’s why we do sort of sympathize with him, in a way, to when he starts hanging around this much-younger gal, begins complimenting her on her body and sometimes, even touching her in inappropriate matters. Yes, it can be quite painful to watch since you know they don’t stand a single chance in hell of shacking up and living happily ever after for a couple more years together, but you still understand why a guy like Maurice is falling weak at the knees for this girl, so therefore, you don’t quite hate him as much as you do feel bad for him. This is all because of O’Toole’s performance and in the way he’s able to make us see how a guy as accomplished as this, who has been through so many ups and downs in his life, doesn’t look at the life he has now with a frown and paranoid feeling of death being in the air, but more of a hopeful, inspired feel that makes him act as if he could die tomorrow, and he wouldn’t feel like he’s stepping out on anything. In that aspect, it’s sad, but to see the way O’Toole has his character look at life with the sunny-side-up, you can’t help but be on his side and hope that he keeps on being happy.

However, you do also make sure that he doesn’t try anything too dirty with this young girl. That much is certain.

Hey, lady! Can't you read the sign?!?!? Oh....

Hey, lady! Can’t you read the sign?!?!? Oh….

And speaking of this young girl, Jodie Whittaker, despite being stacked-up against one of the best ever, doesn’t really disappoint in terms of giving us a female character that feels like a troubled, upset and self-conscience girl that just needs some guidance in her life, and will take it in any which way she can. Her character isn’t written very-well, and you can definitely tell when personal problems of her own are more than likely going to come up and disrupt the rest of the plot, but Whittaker always feels raw and understated, which never got in the way of the always-amazing O’Toole. Good for her, and good for me. Also, be on the lookout for a small, supporting role from Vanessa Redgrave as Maurice’s ex-wife that still has some problems with him, yet, is ultimately forgiving in the end. Wish I could say the same about some of my ex’s, but so be it.

But the reason why I’m high-lighting these performances so much, particularly O’Toole’s, is because, when you get down to the nooks and crannies of this thing, they’re the only thing keeping it altogether. The plot is, for lack of a better term, lifeless and goes through the usual hoops that one dramedy needs to go through in order to have development, have a problem and have a resolution. It’s not a terrible story per se, it’s just not a very original, or compelling one. It’s just solely there to give these actors a chance to work their magic and that is exactly what they do, even if it does feel like there could have been more working here, had the screenplay itself not felt like such an afterthought. Oh well, at least we had Peter O’Toole doing what he does best, and what a legend we are truly going to miss.

Consensus: While Venus rests solely on the shoulders of its performances, mainly O’Toole’s, it’s still in good hands considering they are all what gives this movie life, hope and most of all, a heart that never stops beating, even when the end seems very near.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What an ass Peter O'Toole looks like right there...

What an ass Peter O’Toole looks like right there…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Blackfish (2013)

Kids, next vacation, you’re going to Universal and you’re going to like it!

This a documentary discussing orcas, how they’re captured, sold, taken to SeaWorld and left to perform tricks and all sorts of shows for the pleasure of tourists and rich families. However, underneath all of the showboating and smiley faces that usually come along with these performances, is a very dark and sinister world that goes even deeper than orcas being mistreated, they’re downright tortured. But this is also a story told through one orca named Tilikum who, when just a wee, little baby, was taken away from his mother and taken to SeaWorld, where he was expected to perform acts, follow the rules, not hurt anybody, not get hurt, not screw up, and basically, just get used to the cram conditions he was set to live in. Apparently though, Tilikum didn’t listen all the way through, and due to him, SeaWorld has been held responsible for four trainer’s deaths, all of which they do not take sole blame for. And this is despite not only SeaWorld owning these orcas, but also paying and ensuring the safety of the trainers themselves, especially the most notable one, Dawn Brancheau.

In case any of you out there have been living underneath a rock for quite some time, you may have seen that this documentary has caused quite the stir among just about everybody in the world. Celebrities, activists, tourists, regular humans, and heck, even rockin’ bands like REO freakin’ Speedwagon themselves don’t want anything to do with SeaWorld all because of this documentary. Now if that doesn’t tell you at least something of this movie’s effectiveness, then I don’t know what will. Oh wait, yes I do: A nice, lean, mean and mashed-up, 1500+ word review from yours truly. Here we go, people!

Just imagine tears steaming down his face, and you'll understand the sadness.

Just imagine tears steaming down his face, and you’ll understand the sadness.

Some of you peeps out there may not know this, but I am quite the animal lover. No, that doesn’t mean I am a vegetarian, or don’t wear leather or fur, but I know when an animal is being mistreated and I, like many other humans out there I would suppose, don’t stand for it. Downright, I am one of those big softies that, even after kicking some tough dude’s ass at a bar, would go home, lay down on my bed and cuddle up with whatever pet was lying around my house. So basically, I’m a big softy because I love animals, but that’s just the way I am and I would hate to see any torture or mistreatment placed upon those little friends of mine, as well as ours.

That’s why documentaries like this, no matter how well put-together they may actually be, always get me up in a rut. For starters, I never did trust SeaWorld to begin with. Surely, I’ve been there maybe once or twice, but those were when I was just a little tike. Now that I’m older, wiser and more knowing, I’ve learn to not really trust a place too much that parades around a bunch of killer whales, as if they could actually be pals with either you or I. Like I said, I love animals and all, but there would be no way in my mind that I could see myself befriending a killer whale, hence why I give a whole slew of credit to the trainers who show up here to talk, not just for sticking with SeaWorld when they actually saw all of the mistreating that was going on behind the scenes, but because they took a risk each and every day, getting into that water with those whales, performing with them, training them and just trying whatever it is that they could do to treat them the best that they could, because they sure as hell weren’t going to get it anywhere else in that corporation.

And through these stories with these various trainers over the years who have either been with Tilikum, or who have worked at SeaWorld in general, we get a pretty good idea of what’s really going on behind the whole show of SeaWorld and why we can’t always trust what it is that we see, especially since all of these people themselves never did, and yet, they still stuck around! Why? Because they had a heart and a conscience, and they knew that if they left, then nobody would take care of their “pals”, so they stood by no matter what. Even when it got so dangerous, they had to be placed on another side of a steel barrier. If that doesn’t make you at least well-up a bit just reading that, then I don’t know what will.

Oh wait, yeah I do: THE REST OF THIS MOVIE WILL!

The best aspect about Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s direction here as a documentarian is that she clearly sides with the killer whales, the trainers and the people who are especially sympathetic to Tilikum’s cause, but due to their actually being some wrongful deaths involved in the mix of things, it never gets to the point where she’s so one-sided, that she loses the humanity behind the whole idea. The movie does deal with three or more deaths that were caused by killer whales, and shows/tells us even more near-death experiences some trainer’s have had and it’s some of the most suspenseful, exhilarating things you’ll hear in a movie this year. Which is odd too, because it’s all told to us through words and recollections. There are some video spots of these actual attacks happening on-screen for the whole world to see, and as good as they are, they somehow don’t match up to watching these people just tell us like it was, with all of their feelings and emotions right in front of us. It’s raw, brutal and altogether, very sad, because while you do realize that most of these people may still be coping with the fact that they were almost killed by somebody they considered “their friend”, but that they know that there are more experiences like that to come for other trainers, and they can’t do a single thing about it.

And honestly, that’s probably the most heart-breaking aspect surrounding this documentary: The fact that no resolution seems to be found in sight. Sure, watching as killer whales get taken away from their parents is more than sad, in fact, it’s downright torturous; but I knew that it couldn’t have been all that bad for the whale once they got to the big-budget, illustrious and wonderful extravaganza that was SeaWorld. Sadly though, I was terribly wrong and it really hurt me to see how it continued to get almost worse and worse, with no end to all of the problems in sight. I won’t even dare to spoil the ending to this documentary and what sort of note Cowperthwaite herself ends on, but what I can tell you is this: It will make you angry, upset, ready to punch a wall, free any Willy you stumble upon, and do all sorts of these other heroic, inspiring things that you can only see in movies about pot-smoking, free-loving hippies (of which this movie has none, except for one, and his fate isn’t quite desirable).

How in the blue hell can something that massive, be "poorly-treated"?

How in the blue hell can something that massive, be “poorly-treated”?

And that’s quite alright, since these are the types of documentaries to do so, especially one as perfectly-crated with just enough amount of respect for those who have fallen, those who stand behind the corporation that’s going to continue to commit their wrong-doings, those who were there with Tilikum and witnessed, first-hand, the name he lived up to over time, those who saw the corruptness to the corporation and still stood by it because they had “prior obligations”, and last, but certainly not least, those who know that it’s a problem, won’t stand for it and are making their voices heard. With all of these people getting behind the movie’s message and the movie itself, I wager that maybe, just possibly maybe, SeaWorld will cease to exist in the next 20, or 30 years, which also means that plenty of orcas will be allowed to roam freely throughout their large bodies of water, without having to worry that one day, they might just accidentally get picked up by a couple of hunters looking for a quick buck, sold to some head-honchos looking for more than a quick buck, being enslaved in tiny, concrete pools, and practically being forced to live the rest of their lives in a joyless, depressing and highly emotional manner. Yeah, I know I sound soft and sweet, as if I traded in my “Man” card for a whole big can of red paint, but trust me, once you see this, you won’t want to do anything else in your life other than stand up, get your voices heard and let SeaWorld know that you’re onto them, and you won’t be giving them a single one of your own dollar bills.

In other words: Fuck SeaWorld.

Consensus: You don’t have to be a die-hard animal lover to understand the wrong-doings that Blackfish clearly speaks out against, and for that, the movie will more than likely have you upset, disgusted and downright appalled that something like this still stands, in a popular tourist attraction no less. But it will also make you want to speak up, have your voice heard and make a difference in your life, but also with these poor, little killer whale’s lives’ as well. Strange, right?

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

See? All the killer whale wants is a kissie, along with a side platter of blood and guts, but hey, we're losing the point!

See? All the killer whale wants is a kissie, along with a side platter of blood and guts, but hey, we’re losing the point!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

NOT-SO-SECRET SANTA REVIEW SWAP BLOGATHON: Black Sunday (1977)

I just thought that the Good Year blimps did would tell us that “Ice Cube’s a pimp”. However, I was a dead wrong. It’s apparently a WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION!!

After stumbling upon a possible terrorist plan, Israeli anti-terrorist operative Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw) decides that it’s time to take matters into his own hands and catch who exactly it is that’s behind this, what their plan is and when exactly their going to pull this all off. Even though he doesn’t know yet, we do, and it just so happens to be a very angry, very evil Dahlia Iyad (Marthe Keller) who’s been setting up this plan of her own for awhile, but hasn’t gotten the “go-to” just yet. But once almost every person that’s above her in the food-chain perishes, gets found out, or simply backs away from this plan, she too decides to take matters into her own hands, enlisting a Vietnam vet (Bruce Dern), who also happens to be a frequent pilot for a Good Year blimp that goes over football stadiums on the day of the games, just to get a couple of nice action shots here and there. And heck, the Good Year blimp is so awesome and handy to have around, they even enlist it to do its job on the most special football Sundays of all time: The Super Bowl. See where this one’s going?

Get your head in the game dammit!

Get your head in the game dammit!

What may have seemed like a pretty illogical and nutso idea to have back in the days of 1977, gives off a very creepy, slightly eerie feeling watching it now, in the 21st Century. For instance, back in those days, the idea of a group of terrorists taking over the same Good Year blimp that hovers over the Super Bowl, where all sorts of fans, players and even high-ranking politicians go to sit back and relax, and attaching the bomb to it with all intents of a mass murder, seemed like one of those Hollywood, big-budget movie-making “what if” ideas. It would have been the same idea some guy probably made to a hot-shot executive saying how the people would love it and totally venture out to go and witness just what it’s all about.

However, in the year 2013, where things like 9/11, school shootings, the Afghanistan war and the Boston Marathon Bombings, seem to pop-up in every U.S citizen’s minds on a day-to-day basis, not only would it not be played for such a “gee, wouldn’t this be crazy?”-feel, and more of a “this could actually happen” one, and therefore, never get made. That’s why movies like these, no matter how dated they may actually be or feel, still hold plenty of thoughts and ideas that can be looked at in a current-mind, rather than one that’s just looking at it as if it was 1977 all over again. That’s not the type of world we live in now, and that’s why, at times, this movie was definitely a little hard to watch.

All of that thought-provoking yammering aside, this movie is still a movie and it should definitely be taken in as that, regardless of when it was released and the subject content it involves.

If you’re going to have a movie that’s all leading-up to a huge, bloated and disastrous climax, it makes sense to want to build-up to it by creating characters, spending time developing them, as well as the situation, what’s at stake here and why everything we are seeing and hearing now matters, especially when we know that everything’s going to blow up into itty bitty pieces during the last 20 or so minutes. And for the most part, the movie does a relatively effective at job at doing that, however, it does take quite awhile to get going and even when it does actually get its foot moving, it never really escalates to much.

Actually, that’s incorrect, because there are quite a couple of cool, tense and action-packed sequences that happen here, and made me feel like it was working to something big, while also still giving us tiny pleasures in between. There’s a chase-sequence between a terrorist member and the whole police squad that starts off in a hotel, then spills out onto the gritty streets of L.A., and then, for one reason or another, ends up on a beach in the most ironic scene of all. It’s a nice scene that practically comes out of nowhere, however, it grabbed me by the throat and took me for a ride. There’s even another scene like that in the form of a boat chase that doesn’t look half-as-bad as it sounds. So yeah, there are some moments where this movie really kicks into high-gear, before going balls-out crazy in the end, and it kept me sticking with this all, even though I felt like there was nothing really interesting happening underneath this at all.

Mainly though, I have to discredit the writing for that, because while these characters do seem pretty standard in terms of their motivations for doing the things that they do, there’s never really much more to them. The late, great Robert Shaw is the determined agent who doesn’t take crap from anyone, and dishes out more violence and pain than the actual violence and pain he’s trying to stop from happening, and has a couple of scenes where you get that he’s trying to stop these terrorists because it’s his right as a citizen and as a human being, but it doesn’t go much deeper than that. We know he had a wife, two kids and has a daughter that he rarely so often sees, but there’s not much more to the guy other than that he wants to stop this terrorist attempt from actually happening. It does make him a great guy and all, but not a very interesting one to watch, despite how hard Shaw tries to make this guy practically jump-off the screen at us. Instead, he’s just jumping onto Good Year blimps, but more on that second.

Pen exploded I'm going to assume?

Pen exploded I’m going to assume?

Same that I say about Shaw’s character, can’t quite be said about our two terrorists for the whole two-hours-and-a-half, although they do seem pretty standard in their own rights as well. I’ll give credit to the writers for at least giving us bad-ass chick that not only screws her way to the top, but makes the most of her time looking down on those beneath her and doesn’t piss and moan about how she doesn’t get as much respect as the dudes. Yeah, she’s a terrorist and all that’s trying to kill thousands of innocent people, but the movie does make it seem like she’s basically doing this to gain some street-cred for the d-bags that authorize her what, and what not to do. Bruce Dern probably gets off a bit better as the disgruntled vet that, wait for it, wants to get back at his country and teach them a lesson that they’ll never forget. Dern does find some real heart and humanity within this character and we get the sense that underneath all of the disturbing memories and PTSD, that he was actually a nice, kind, gentle and warm-hearted man; it’s just that the war beat it all out of him. Literally.

But while we’re waiting for this climax to eventually happen, we’re all subject to these people just doing the usual chit-chat where they say what they’re going to do next, why and when exactly. It all feels like exposition, and rarely ever feels like actual human beings talking to one another; let alone human beings that are about to be apart of something as big and as terrifying as the Good Year blimp running into a football stadium and killings thousands of people. Even when the climax does come up, it is the fun, exciting and tension-filled spectacle you expected to get, but then, it suddenly becomes a bit goofy. I know it was 1977 and all, but the special-effects for this were just a bit too cheesy and after awhile, it began to take me out of this story that was supposed to be happening up in the air above thousands of football fans, and just made it seem like I was watching something that happened in an L.A. sound-stage with only 15 or so more people watching. Also, to top it all off, we have one of John Williams’ first scores and while it can be a doozy at times, it feels wrong for the material because of how dark, cold and brutal events we’re seeing on screen. But to him, it was just another battle between Luke and his daddy. Oh, the days of vintage-Williams.

Consensus: While it holds a very scary, threatening light in today’s society, Black Sunday is still a supposed “epic” that’s not as thrilling as it should be, nor is it as interesting either. It just moves along a steady-pace, telling its story and has us all awaiting for the huge, bloated and over-the-top climax that delivers, and then somehow, doesn’t.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sunday3

Quite fitting, don’t you think?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

To see all of the other various reviews and picks going on with the Not-So-Secret Santa Review Swap, check out my buddy Nick’s site, the Cinematic Katzenjammer! It’s a good time, no matter what the occasion may be!

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Waiting nine years for a sequel to Anchorman?!?! Kind of a big deal!!

After he and his fellow wife/news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) run into a rough patch that causes a separation between the two, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is left with nothing to gain, nor anything to lose. He’s practically hanging himself, just as an ambitious businessman (Dylan Baker) comes to him with a proposal: Get the old gang back together, and help him start up a 24/7 news-station. At first, the idea seems quite preposterous, but seeing as how Ron is out of a job and needs to gain some confidence back into his ego and his wonderful ‘stache, he decides to get out there, and ramble up Champ (David Koechner), Brian (Paul Rudd) and of course, sweet Brick (Steve Carell). Together, the four decide that they’re going to take the news world by storm, however, they have just one, big problemo: They’re on at 2-5 a.m. Yeah, not exactly the ideal position for these seasoned-pros, but they get on with it and realize that telling the news is exactly what they loved doing in the first place, even if not everything they discuss is in fact “news”.

As you all most likely saw and scratched your heads about, I did and still do to this day, love the hell out of Anchorman. It’s dumb, random, nonsensical and completely, utterly idiotic in terms of where it goes, why and how its plot is structured. However, that’s why I love it and laugh my ass off at it each and every time I catch it. Doesn’t matter where or when, all that matters is that when I see it, I laugh my heinie off and have as great of a time during that moment, then I did when I first witnessed it all of those years ago.

Yerp, it's the 80's alright.

Yerp, it’s the 80’s alright.

However though, as much as I looked forward to the idea of a sequel to my beloved comedy-classic, something didn’t sit too well with me after all of this time. First of all, it’s literally been nine years since the first flick came out, which means that this is a sequel happening nine years later. I’m sure that the original will stand the test of time and the memory of it will continue to transcend from decade-to-decade (I sound crazy, I know), but that just feels odd that it would take THAT long for a big-budget, mainstream sequel to come out, especially since everybody involved with the first movie, are even bigger stars than they were before (with the exception of Koechner, sorry Champ). So why the long wait, guys? Better yet, was it even worth it?

The answer to that last question is sort of, and the answer to the first is “I don’t know”. Why? Because I’m not in the business of Hollywood so I don’t know why it took so long to get this sequel off the grounds, but that’s another discussion for another day, another topic and quite frankly, a whole ‘nother blog out there.

Like I was saying though, most sequels to successful comedies fail at many things, the main one being that it tries to do exactly what the first one did, with all the same jokes, gags and insider pieces of info that got the fans so on-board in the first place, but that’s surprisingly not what happens here. Yeah, there are a couple of times when Ron utters his famous line “stay classy”, or familiar faces from the first one show up to let us know that they’re still getting a pay-cut from all this, but it’s never like “Hey, Whore Island? Ammiright!?!?” Instead, the whole movie just focuses on letting these guy do what they did best in the first movie, as well as subsequent offerings they’ve completed since then: Just be funny, have a ball and give us something to laugh at.

In that case, the movie’s pretty damn funny. Random stuff happens, is said and even alluded to, and you don’t know why it’s happening or where it even came from, but you expected that already, so you learn to just roll with the punches and see what else these guys can bring out of their funny-repertoire. Not all the punches hit the funny-bone as well as they did in the first, and there definitely are more than a few ad-libbed parts that don’t really go anywhere and felt like they could have been cut and thrown right into the blooper reel section of the DVD release, but taken on as a whole, it was a funny comedy that made me laugh.

Then again though, I’m running into constant problems with this because the first movie is my baby and, as much as it pains me to say, this movie just doesn’t meet those qualities. More than a couple of times, I found myself holding my gut as I was yucking it up, but never to the point of the first movie, nor did it feel like anything that happened here was ever going to be as quotable as, I don’t know, say “I’m in a glass case of emotions”, or even, “Cannonball!”. Nope, instead we get a bunch of ramblings that lead on to some pretty funny, wacky and wild stuff that we expect from everybody involved, yet, never feels like it’s hitting that sheer level of “odd-genius” that the first movie hit. Maybe I’m being unreasonable and maybe I’m being a bit harsh on this movie, but the first one will always have a close place to my heart and if something is going to connect itself to that story, and try and reinvigorate the same magic as that charmer did, then I’m going to be looking a bit harder and closer than ever before. Doesn’t mean I didn’t like the flick, it just doesn’t hold up to the standards of the first one.

But, once again, let’s not split hairs here, people: If you want a good time at the movies, to bust-out laughing and be surprised along the way, then see this flick. It’s nothing special like the first movie but for what it’s worth, it’s a fun time at the movies, guaranteed by yours truly.

And thanks to the returning-cast, the movie’s funnier and more entertaining than ever. Chalk most of that up to, as I stated in my review for the first one, to none other than Mr. Ron Burgundy himself, Will Ferrell. We all know that Will Ferrell is hilarious and will practically throw himself out there on a silver-platter if that means getting at least something of a chuckle, but man, he goes for it here and it pays off big time. There’s one scene that’s been spoiled in the trailers, but is actually quite hilarious when you see it all play out and it’s when he’s at the dinner-table of his “black” girlfriend’s family home. It’s racist for sure, but it will certainly get a hell of a lot of laughs, especially since Ferrell just goes for it and never looks back. He’s the type of comedic-actor all aspiring entertainers should want to be, and he proves that to us time, and time again.

Okay, okay! The only reason I'm giving up his is because it literally occurs in the first two minutes. I kid you not! Check me out on that!

Okay, okay! The only reason I’m giving up his is because it literally occurs in the first two minutes. Just be happy I didn’t include another famous, more talented black rapper who shows up in this movie…..

But when I start talking about the rest of the newsteam, I start to get a little upset. The reason being that although Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and even David Koechner all get their moments to shine and bathe in the spot-light of fun and happiness, some actually feel misused. Koechner’s there, is funny and does his thing, so I hate to say that he doesn’t count, but he truly doesn’t. The two who I’m really talking about here are Carell and Rudd; with the former getting a hell of a lot more attention than he did in the first movie, and especially a lot more over the latter, which is strange considering that they both seem pretty worthy of more than enough screen-time, but nope, apparently Adam McKay saw differently. The thing with more of this focus on Brick, and his love-angle he has with Kristen Wiig’s character, is that the novelty of him saying really ridiculous and out-of-left-field things is lost. Much more now, we just hear him say, or do something completely and utterly crazy, just because it was such a winner in the first movie, so why not up the ante a bit, eh? It didn’t feel right to me and it was an easier pill to swallow because Carell, like Ferrell, goes for the whole slice with this, but it gets over-played at times and seems like the only card the movie can handle.

Also, I feel like I’m of the opinion that any time away from Brian Fantana, is time wasted. Am I right, people? Come on!

And while I’m sure all of you probably no who shows up here, to say the least, each and every familiar face that you see in this movie, is a face worth noting. Can’t get into specifics one bit, but they’re all fun, all exciting to see and a bit shocking, considering there are some pretty serious faces that, oddly enough, actually agreed to show up in the sequel to Anchorman. Maybe it’s cult following isn’t just a bunch of single and lonely dudes? Maybe others out there have noticed the charm of Ron Burgundy and the rest of the news-team and decided they wanted a piece of the pie, too? Or maybe, just maybe, they’re doing Will Ferrell and co. a favor. Yeah, you know what? I think that’s it. Oh well.

Consensus: May not fully bring back the strange, idiotic charm of the first movie, but Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is still a laugh-out-loud comedy from a bunch of people who clearly know what they are doing here, and don’t shy away from breaking their backs for a laugh or two. It just seems desperate after awhile, that’s all.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Still jumping. But this time, pulled-out backs are huge consequences.

Still jumping. But this time, pulled-out backs are huge consequences.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

If only the world of journalism was this cut-throat, or entertaining to be around.

Everybody, meet San Diego’s top news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and come and see how good he looks. Yeah, Ron’s a bit of a fool of himself and definitely thinks he’s the greatest thing to come around since sliced bread, however, he isn’t alone. He has a fellow band of trusted and worthy reporters that hang around him and give him a lending hand whenever he needs it. Together, they work as a team and together, they’ve been practically #1 in the ratings, week-after-week. And everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, up until an inspired and determined female reporter, Veronice Corningstone (Christina Applegate), shows up and decides that it’s her turn to shine and become the first ever female newscaster. Mostly everybody scoffs at this idea, but once she proves them wrong and that she’s more than capable of telling the news and still having rather large, exquisite breasts, then the newscast team evolves and work with what they have, which also means that Ron’s out of a job. And to make matters even worse, Ron’s all alone and without his biggest and best buddy, BAXTER!!

Basically, plot does not matter at all with this movie. It’s only purpose is to actually move it from one outrageous, over-the-top joke to the next and while that would usually seek, kill and destroy any comedy out there, it does not do that to this one. Sole reason? It’s a dumb movie that knows it’s dumb and makes no apologies for it whatsoever. You sort of have to expect that going in, and if you don’t, then I don’t know what to say, you might be screwed over. Although, even to this day, it’s still hard to find somebody that doesn’t at least “like” this movie, let alone adore the hell out of it.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

It’s going to be hard to write an honest-to-God, non-rambling-mess-of-a-review on this so if I do run into a couple of tangents along the way before reaching my usual “Consensus” part of the review, I do apologize.

Anyway, with this movie, you have to know what to expect, solely on knowing Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy. It’s going to be loud, crude, rude, stupid and fun for everybody involved, which also means you yourself, the viewer. That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times you see this movie, whether you stumble upon it on television or decide to give it a re-watch to hype up the second movie (now who would want to do that?), it’s always a rip-roaring, gut-busting and funny-as-eff watch. Sometimes, you may even have to watch it alone, mainly because you’ll be heckling so loud, you don’t want to disrupt all of the others around you and whatever uneventful they may be doing that doesn’t concern watching Anchorman (we also call them “losers”). That’s what I did, and I still had a ball.

However, I could go on and on about how funny this movie is, but to really pin-point down exactly what it is that I feel is so funny, I just have to get on about it with the cast because, if you think about it, they’re really the ones holding this fort down. Sure, I bet some of the lines of dialogue were scripted, but only the parts that mattered in order to move the story along from one scene to the next. Instead, half of this dialogue feels, and probably was, more ad-libbed than anything else. With movies where half of their dialogue comes from somebody’s improv, it usually can, once again, seek, kill and destroy any comedy, but, once again, not this one. And certainly not with this cast of funny and deranged comedic-geniuses.

Will Ferrell was the one who got this whole gang/movie together and it makes sense why: He’s easily the best part of it all, which is not an easy thing to just state. The reason why Ferrell works so well as he does as Ron Burgundy is because he knows exactly what it is that he’s trying to do, every step of the way. He sees the comedic-potential in him speaking to a dog, as if the two actually understand each other, and he just goes for the gull with it. Same could be said for his “Yazz flute” scene; could have easily been a one-note joke stretched way beyond its means, but Ferrell takes it to places that go higher, stranger and way better than one could ever imagine. Also, in the brief moments that this flick does tend to show some depth, you do realize that there’s maybe more to Ron than just a macho ‘stache and an expert-way at getting the ladies; maybe he’s getting sick of it? Ferrell shows that there’s more humanity and heart to this guy that feels like he actually longs for some sort of emotional-connection in his life, that doesn’t just consist of constant partying, boozing and whoring around (on Whore Island, of course); he actually may want to settle down, get hitched up, have some kids and live a very happy, luxurious life. It may be that I’m looking way too far into this, and chances are, I definitely am, but Ferrell is the one who anchors this movie, gets it to where it needs to go and practically made me laugh the hardest.

Which, once again, is not an easy thing for me to state considering the rest of the ensemble is equally as hilarious and scene-stealing as he is.

Paul Rudd, as usual, made me laugh just by how goofy he was here, playing the charismatic ladies man, Brian Fantana. If you give Rudd the spotlight and give him time to do his thing, he’ll make you laugh. You know this, I know this, he knows it, hell, we all know it! That’s why it’s no surprise in my mind to see how funny he is here, especially when he’s plugging something as outrageous as “Sex Panther”; which, in case you were wondering, is in fact real, and costs an awful lot of “keesh”. Bam! Two Paul Rudd movie moment-references in one sentence! And though he’s definitely not as much of a household name as the peeps surrounding him may be, David Koechner is still a laugh-out-loud riot as the hee-hawing sports man of the news team, Champ, and gave the idea of wanting a man to get an apartment with you, an even more homoerotic-feeling than it ever had before. He may be the weakest-link of the main-squad, but that’s less of a take-away than it sounds since he’s still damn hilarious.

And Brick. Oh, dear ol’ Brick. He loves his lamps, he pulls out random hand-grenades, he wants people to come to his pants party and best of all, he killed a guy with a trident. I think the less said about him, the best. Cause, in case you couldn’t tell, he’s awesome. Thank you, Steve Carell. You too, are quite awesome.

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as "that guy from the Colbert Report and Bruce Almighty".

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as “that guy from the Daily Show and Bruce Almighty“.

But you know what’s really surprising about this movie, besides it still being equally as hilarious this time around, as then the first time I saw it all those years ago, is that it’s a dude comedy that still has a pretty kick-ass female character in the vein of Veronica Corningstone, played to perfection by Christina Applegate. And you know, I have to give a lot of credit to Applegate for at least taking a lot of shots that she does here in this movie because while there are many jokes aimed towards her heine, her breasts and her lack of a penis, she goes along with them, takes them with her, and even dishes some out on her own, showing the boys that she can hang. She may not be as hilarious as the guys, considering her character is definitely more serious than anybody else in the bunch, but she still gets away with a couple of laughs and seems a lot tougher than any of the guys that surround her, which is saying A LOT for a comedy of this nature.

Trust me though, the cast does not end there, nor do the laughs. With this supporting cast, you get to see so many faces, some surprising than others, that you actually wonder if they’re actually there to be funny, or just show their faces and be ironic. The answer is both, but it’s perfect because they all get a chance to shine a bring a lil’ something to the table. For instance, the whole “Newsteam fight” is chock-full of cameos and surprises that I won’t dare to spoil for those who have yet to see this flick, but does more than just present us with a familiar-face and say, “Hey, look who it is! Isn’t that so crazy that he/she showed up to partake in this Will Ferrell-comedy?” Nope, instead, the whole movie keeps on giving us more and more of these faces to make us laugh, to make us love them more and also, have a great time. Which, at the end of the day, is what comedies are supposed to do in the first place. Sure, they can be thought-provoking comedies that have you toy around with the ideas of existentialism in your head, but that’s not how Will Ferrell and co. roll, so therefore, neither should you!

Consensus: Anything you’d ever expect from a Will Ferrell comedy, you get with Anchorman, and then some more randomness. So either take it, or leave it. Can’t go any deeper than that because the movie doesn’t want you to, and that was fine with me. Watch this, have a laugh or two, and stay classy. Or, if you stand on the other side of the spectrum, thanks for stopping by. But most importantly, stay classy.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, then I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Supercali….aw screw it!

Famed author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) lives her life the way she wants to, which usually means that she’s pushed-off from the rest of the world around her, doesn’t care much for others, or even being known as “nice”. She’s just simply doing her, and from the flashbacks we get to see of her and her days as a little girl (with her daddy being played Colin Farrell), it all makes sense. However, she may have to stop her ways for awhile, or at least settle them down so she can get some more money in a way that she isn’t as up accepting of at first, but eventually decides to go through with, despite her obvious reservations. The job: Go to Hollywood, meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and see if they can both come to an agreement on making the tale of Mary Poppins that she wrote, come to life on the big screen. The two come to a stand-still in which they’ll make the movie, but she gets final say, cut and edit. Altogether meaning that she and Mr. Disney’s vision won’t necessarily meet the same standards, but that’s the movie business for ya, honey! Take it or leave it!

Here’s one of those flicks that I actually thought was going to do nothing for me. For the most part, I’ve never been a huge Mary Poppins fan, but having seen it more than times than I can actually count, I will say that seeing the back-story of how this movie came about did get my interest a bit. However, then I realized one key element to this movie that automatically turned me off: The fact that it was a Disney movie, talking about how the iconic-owner himself, got one of their classics made for the whole world to see. So basically, to me, that seemed like nothing more than a film company patting their own selves, on their own backs; for what their owner did, why it all happened, and how, even after all of these years, families and children from all-over-the-world still can’t get the grins off of their faces from this decision made.

He must love it when they ask if he's "still running".

He must love it when they ask if he’s “still running”.

So yeah, there was a lot of heat within me going into this flick but something happened. Actually, scratch that. Something REALLY did happen. Not just with this flick, but to me. Once all of the old-school Hollywood, self-pointing jokes were over and done with, I soon realized that there was something a bit more to this story that wasn’t as self-congratulatory as I expected it as being. In fact, very far from. See, this is one of those rare flicks, better yet, rare STUDIO flicks, in which the movie itself actually gives a hand or two for those who write the original stories that get made for big-budget productions and yet, also stick to their original vision. That surprised me, especially considering what the end-result of this story was, but even then the movie never seems to turn their backs on its main subject. Even the one who seemed to cause all of the trouble in the first place: Ms. P.L. Travers herself.

It would have been terribly easy for the movie to paint her as the cruelest, meanest and rudest witch in all of the land, and for awhile, that’s exactly what she is. Sure, she has her redeeming qualities about her in the fact that she can read, write and make the people around her rich, but she never seems like an actually nice person that me, or anybody else for that matter would want to be around. So when she does eventually decide to take the offer to fly out all the way to Hollywood and she gets all nestled-up in her suit, it’s easy to believe that she’s doing this more to find a part of herself out, be fun and happy again, while also reinvigorating a spirit within her that’s been tucked away for quite some time. Maybe I’m reaching here, but there are moments where wee see when, where and why Travers herself wants to change her ways, and though it does take an awful while til she does eventually do so, it’s done in a believable, honest, emotional and most of all, unmanipulative way.

Though there is definitely a large amount of bullshit to be had here in what actually happened during the filming of Mary Poppins, for the most part, it was easy to get by because this was really a flick about an artist, a writer, or a creator in any way imaginable, and how they stick to a certain vision they have, regardless of what others may try to say, do or change about it. As we all know, Travers does eventually give up the goods, suck it all up and let Disney get his way, as well as his hefty bags of cash, but it’s never like Travers herself gave up or quit. It’s just that she eventually moved on with the times and realized that there’s no use at all in fighting something, because we all got to get along somehow, and someday.

That’s why when people see that this movie has Walt Disney in it, those same people will be awfully surprised to see how much of it really concerns P.L. Travers, who she is, whom she was and the type of creative genius she could be if you gave her a pen, paper and some time on her own. And this is why Emma Thompson’s performance as Travers is so brilliant, because she gives us a shrewd, older gal who doesn’t put up with anybody’s crap whatsoever, and yet, we don’t really hate her. We get angry at annoyed at her, but we never want to raise our fists in the air and take a swing at her. Can’t say the same for the people that probably worked on making this movie come to alive with her, but hey, at least I knew that there was something more to her, which is what Thompson herself conveys so well. There’s a deep, sad and fragile figure at the center of this rock, and we get to see it chipped-away at each and every second we spend with her, but it doesn’t happen right and it never happens with strings attached. We simply see her go from mean, old, nasty bitch, to relatively pleasant, easy-going and okay-to-be-around bitch. She’s still a bitch either way, but a sympathetic one that’s easy to like when she puts a smile on, and just as easy to be angry with when she’s treating the others around her so inappropriately.

I think that Thompson’s definitely got a nomination in her midst and if that’s the case, I hold no objection whatsoever. The woman is, has and forever always will be a great actress and I feel like she is the only one who could have made P.L. Travers a lovely woman to be around, despite all of her bickering and nagging. In that general regards, she was like my grand-mom. Except that she actually makes me cookies! Love you, Gams!

Though the story is definitely more about Travers, Walt Disney gets some chances to develop over time, too, and rather than seeing a money-grubbing, shameless business-man, we legitimately see a guy who rose from nothing, to own this huge bedrock of an empire where people from all over the world come together to share one of the most beautiful emotions any human can share: Happiness. We get a couple of scenes where we see Hanks turn the charm-dial on and show us that he can easily sink his teeth into a role as Walt Disney, but there are some very few moments where we get to see a real human being underneath that whole facade we usually see in commercials or pictures. He’s definitely a charmer for sure, but he’s not always like that and when we do get to see the human-side to him, he’s believable and a sympathetic guy that I’d be willing to work with any day of the week. That, and the fact that he’s FREAKIN’ WALT DISNEY!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by "let loose", I didn't mean THAT LOOSE!!

Wow, P.L.! When I meant by “let loose”, I didn’t mean THAT LOOSE!!

Everybody else surrounding this story that aren’t Disney or Travers are all great too, with Paul Giamatti, once again, coming off with the best supporting role here, despite being the only made-up character in the whole flick. Giamatti plays the limo-driver assigned to lugging Travers around left-and-right and while at first, they don’t really get along despite his best intentions, they build a nice friendship that would seem cloying and schmaltzy in any other movie, with any other two actors, but with Thomspson and Giamatti, it works wonders. Same goes for Colin Farrell who plays Travers’ alcoholic daddy-o that runs into plenty of problems through these flashbacks, and while they may not work the best to the film’s ability, he’s still lovely, charming and easy-to-like, despite being a very flawed person. I wanted to see more of Farrell here, just not done in a way that bothered me when it took away from the real story: Everything happening with the big-screen development of Mary Poppins.

That’s what brings me onto my only real problem in which the movie did focus a bit too much on Travers’ life, as well as her back-story. It’s fine that we got to see where she came from and what exactly made her who she is today, but we get so many damn flashbacks, that it slows everything down that we see in Hollywood. Those scenes where we witness Travers growing up as a little girl, and all the sorts of hard-ships she went through, are definitely the back-bone to the story that was Mary Poppins, as well as this movie itself; however, you can also tell exactly when they’re going to come up, what they’re going to show and how they correlate to the story of Poppins itself.

Then again though, I bitch and I complain about these flashbacks, but yet, later on in the movie is where it also really got tugging on my heartstrings and brought out the tears within me. I don’t want to say how, when or why this happens, but it just happens and it will completely take you off-guard. Mostly because it’s done so in a way to where you know it’s going to try its hardest to make you cry in the way that most biopics normally do, let alone movies directed by John Lee Hancock himself, but it never begs you to. It just simply allows you to and I have to say, I allowed it. I fell victim and I cried. Didn’t make it a perfect movie by any means, but I’d be lying if I didn’t need at least two tissues by the end of this. At least.

Consensus: Could have easily been the type of off-putting movie that cracked jokes about Hollywood, while simultaneously hugging itself at the same time, but somehow, Saving Mr. Banks is the furthest thing from that and instead, gives us a real story, of a real person that speaks for all of the writers out there when one has a vision, wants to stick to it and won’t settle for less. But, also realizes that there is a time to move on and most importantly, a time to adapt and go on with the times.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her.

There she is! Ehrm, well, at least the inspiration for her…

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Where’s the precious?

Picking up right where the last one left off, we see the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) still on the run from the orcs that are pursuing them. Halfway through their journey however, Gandalf decides to break off from the rest of the group, fearing that this rumored Necromancer will take over the whole land, and infect it with its pure venomous evil. As he’s gone off to do his own thing, this leaves Bilbo with the rest of the pack to venture off to the Lonely Mountain where they meet plenty of fun, exuberant, and yet, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. However, standing at the end of their journey is none other than the vicious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is the sole foe standing between them and retaking the mountain. So it only makes sense that Bilbo have to go up there and settle the peace, right?

Despite all of the problems people had with the first movie and the whole 48 fps ordeal, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that bad. It was definitely a drawn-out movie that felt a bit unnecessary, especially considering that there was supposed to be two more movies for this said 100-page story. However, for what it was and for what it was worth, it was fun when it wanted to be and best of all, brought me back to the good old days of when I used to rollick to the movie theaters, just to place myself back in Middle Earth, even if that meant wasting half of my day doing so. So it sort of had a little bit of a nostalgic thing going on for me, which is why it didn’t kill my insides as much as it may have done to others.

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

All that aside though, now that we’ve got the first movie out of the way, which also means that all of the awkward plotting and setting-up of the story is with it, we finally have a sequel that should hopefully do what most sequels do: Tell the story, give us new characters, while still building ones that the homefronts have already been built for, but also, not forget about giving us the goods that usually make people happy with the movie in the first place. We get plenty of story and plenty of new characters, but what about the goods? The movie doesn’t totally shy away from giving us all of the fun, exciting and energetic bits of fantasy action and adventure we’re so used to having with these movies, but it also still feels like there’s something else missing here that was missing from the last movie, but was totally there, front-and-center with the original trilogy, and that’s an actual amount of tension and terror to be had.

Throughout the whole movie, I couldn’t help but feel like the wheels were spinning for this movie once again, but this time, without much surprise added to the mix. We get most of the same characters, doing the same things, for the same reasons and no sense that any second, these characters could be taken away from us at any moment. Now, that’s not saying that I’m some rabid animal who wants people to be dead at the drop of a hat, but there’s also nothing here that really felt like it got me over that hurdle to where I really felt like this was a story I could get involved with. Instead it just felt like a story I could watch as it played-out, but without any of the heart or emotion devoted to these characters or the actual proceedings themselves. You could practically say the same thing about the first movie, but I think that’s a tad different because we’re sort of used to that with first movies in a planned-trilogies. It’s sort of like learning how to ride a back and all for the first time after all of these years, in that you don’t actually need the training-wheels to assist you, but you may need a buddy or two to stand behind you just in case you go plummeting down.

Them, or a firm and trusty helmet. But you should have had that on already!

Anyway, back to what I was saying, basically, this movie didn’t really offer me anything new I didn’t already see with the first flick, with the exception of maybe a few new sights to see, characters and set-pieces. Fun set-pieces nonetheless like, for instance, the sequence in which we follow the dwarves as they are in a bunch of barrels, flowing down the river stream away from the orcs, but at the same time, also battling them in any which way they can, with some assistance from the elves as well, but still nothing really new or inventive to where I felt like Jackson really got back into his old school, Lord of the Rings mode. Nope, this is the Hobbit’s trilogy, or better yet, Bilbo’s, and his is a whole new breed of storytelling, if you will.

Even if that is the case though, and this is all about Bilbo Baggins, his adventure, his story and his splendid life and times with “THE RING!!!!!”, it’s sort of strange considering how only gets about fifteen or so minutes to where it’s just him and nobody else. But even stranger is the fact that it’s practically at the rear-end of this whole flick, and it’s easily the best part. Of course he had some help from his fellow Sherlock star (that bastard) but it’s still the most tense, most exciting and only time where I really felt like all of these different threads of story-lines were coming together, even though the part itself focused on one, which just so happened to be the main story we’re supposed to care about in the first place. Though Freeman’s great too, as he usually is, he still barely gets enough time in front of the screen to substantiate the fact that he is indeed who this story is all about, and he is the one we’re supposed to be rooting for and thrusting all of our emotions into. However, you just never feel that because Jackson’s got a hundred-million-bajillion other story-lines going on, none of which really seem to catch any real fire.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Same thing that I’m saying about Bilbo’s treatment, goes the same for Gandolf’s as well, which is an absolute sin since we know that Ian McKellen’s portrayal is absolutely the heart and soul that keeps these movies moving. Instead, we get introduced to a new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, Luke Evans’ human character with the least human name, Bard, Lee Pace playing Legolas’ daddy-o, Thranduil, and the always pleasant and charming Stephen Fry, who shows up as the corrupt and lazy Master of the Laketown in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves hanging around in for some time. They all do fine and bring enough to the story to where I could see them having bigger roles in the next film and being fine additions. Yet, I also see myself not really caring too much, either. Once they took Viggo away from me and replaced him with some dude named “Richard Armitage”, then I knew I’d just never be the same.

With all of that said, and I now I’ve said and awful lot to really beat and batter down this movie, it’s still somehow a hair better than the first, if only because it now actually feels like we’re getting somewhere with this story and where it’s supposed to take us. Sure, there are some mishaps here and there that definitely got in the way of what could have been a very compelling and well-told story, had there been more focus placed on Bilbo and his fellow band of dwarves, but with the way they end it, it’s hard not to get a bit jacked-up for what’s next to come. The ending is very abrupt and along with what the consensus seems to be with Catching Fire’s, most likely people will be up in arms and upset; but to me, it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with this trilogy that should have never been. However, if Peter Jackson wants to indulge himself a bit, then hey, I won’t stop him. Not like he’d listen to a two-bit, movie blogger from Delco anyway, but still. It’s the idea of power that counts.

Consensus: Just a tad bit better than the first, yet, still feels like there’s plenty room of improvement to be made with Desolation of Smaug with the cutting-down of its run-time, exposition and endless list of characters that don’t really seem to mean much, except that they’re just big names filling in the roles, and who doesn’t love that?!?!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I know! ONLY one movie left! Shocked, right?

He’s as shocked as we are that there’s only ONE movie left. However, it is Peter Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Last Days On Mars (2013)

What goes on on Mars, should definitely stay-put there. Except for you, Martian Manhunter. You’re a pretty cool guy.

A group of astronauts on Mars, all get ready for what’s supposed to be their final day of their first-manned mission to Mars. It wasn’t a very eventful mission to say the least, but it was one that went down without a hitch where everybody felt pretty relaxed, happy with one another and confident that they were going to be able to adjust back to normal life on Earth. That is, until something unexpected happens when two astronauts go missing, and one comes back, but brutally injured and possibly bringing back a virus along with them. And while the rest of the group tries to contain their fellow passenger, as well as the virus, they are unsuccessful, leaving the virus out there and able to infect anyone. As the seconds count-down to when they rescue crew will be able to pick them up, every ‘naut tries to do anything they can to stay alive, at any costs. Even if that means getting their hands a little dirty.

While the slew of comparisons to Alien, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and all sorts of other lost-in-space movies are endless, that still doesn’t mean that a little flick like this couldn’t make its own wonders happen, even if they’re are on a smaller-scale than what we’re used to seeing. That’s why with such the high-profile cast, premise and crew, one has to wonder: Why hasn’t this one gotten a bigger release? And better yet, why the hell isn’t anyone talking about it?

They all act like they've never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven't they ever gotten a massage?!!?

They all act like they’ve never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven’t they ever gotten a massage?!!?

Well, the answer to both questions is pretty darn simple: It ain’t all that good to begin with.

Problems with movies in this same vein are pretty constant, but one of the biggest is character-development, or in this movie’s case, lack therof. I get that it may be a bit hard to tell us everything we need to know about each and every single one of these characters, given the small time-frame we have with them (an-hour-and-a-half), but a little probably would have a real long way, especially since there were some pretty talented people in the roles. Peeps like Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris and the always welcome Elias Koteas are all here, doing what they do best, however, the script just doesn’t really assist them in anything whatsoever. Instead, it gives them corny lines like “We’re gonna get you through this”, even when the person that they are in fact talking to is turning black and blue from some sort of virus that’s taking over their minds and souls.

Speaking of which, I won’t dare jump into spoiler-territory, but it should be known that once you actually do get to see what infects these people and what they actually become once they are infected, you’ll be pretty bummed. For starters, there’s no reason for what they become; they just become it, all because of the radiation in the air, or something like. Also, there’s never a real explanation as to how you can kill them, or get rid of them in anyway. You see people knock ’em down, roll ’em around and drag ’em as far as they possibly can imagine, and yet, they still continue to get up and cause all sorts of havoc. To show how ridiculous this idea truly is, there’s an even a scene in which Schreiber’s character is wailing away at one of these infected “things” so damn much, to the point of where we can just see the venting frustration clearly on his face. It’s actually one of the movies very rare moments of humor, whether it was intended or not.

And that’s pretty much all we have to this movie. We have our setting (Mars), we have our stock-characters (a group of astronauts), we have our central character who’s is supposed to be the heart and soul of this story (Liev Schreiber’s character), we have our dilemma (people are turning sick and twisted with this new virus) and we even have our end-point in sight (rescue team is supposed to be around in 24 hours), so it’s pretty standard stuff. Not everything in this movie happens the exact way you’d expect it to, but then again, it doesn’t really surprise you either. Sometimes one certain character will take a fall when you don’t see it coming, but that’s more because the actor who is getting killed off is a pretty well-known, recognizable face, and less about the character, the background that went into them and all of the time we’ve invested in them. It’s got the ensemble that isn’t really an ensemble, yet also has a bunch of people we’ve seen, we like and we care for when they show up in stuff, just not as much to where we could really devote our hearts to them here.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I can see that I’ve practically gone on and on with this review to the end where it practically seems like I’ve hated, but here’s the thing: I actually don’t. I’m just very “meh” about it. Sure, it can be predictable, doesn’t have anything neat or new to say about the alienation one feels being lost out there in outer-space and it definitely won’t be remember by the year’s end, but if you’re looking for something to watch when you’re cold, alone, bored and want to spend some time underneath the blankets, then I’d say watch this, just don’t expect much. If anything, the movie looks great and has some real moments where you’ll give the creators credit for at least making use of their rather measly-budget, giving all of this space-gear and such a realistic look. Maybe more time and effort could have been dedicated to the script and whether or not we would totally be shocked by the end, but I guess that’s a complaint that’s going to go nowhere considering I’ve made it a hundred times before, and it’s not going to change a thing. Let’s just hope that this makes Liev Schreiber want to choose better roles, in better movies, because when he’s given something to do, he can work wonders with it. Just ask Ray Donovan.

Or, don’t ask him, just watch it. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

Consensus: The Last Days On Mars is about as generic as its title promises it as being, which isn’t all that bad since it can be fun at times, but at others, can just be a plain, simple and dull time whether you’re at the movies, or watching it from home. I’d stick more so with the latter, than anything else.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If Mars ever wanted to be considered "a vacation spot", well, I think I just found their postcard.

If Mars ever wanted to be considered “a vacation spot”, well, I think I just found their postcard.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net