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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: April 2014

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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The Railway Man (2014)

He’s been working on the railroad, all the goddamn day.

Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) meets Patti (Nicole Kidman) on a train and the two automatically strike-up a conversation, therefore creating a connection as well. And rightfully so, because they seem to have a lot in common – despite his love of trains, they are both soft-spoken, reserved, and shy, but expect to be happy with that one other, special person, that is if that person ever comes around. They think they’ve both found that special person in one another, so they automatically decide it’s time to get hitched and start their lives together. Which is all fine and dandy at first, but once Eric begins to have panic-attacks and freak the ‘eff out over something he’s imagining in his head, then it all gets a bit sketchy. Still, Patti loves Eric enough to stick with him and figure out just what’s up with him. Through his buddy Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard), she finds out that Eric was once a young, dashing soldier in the British military during WWII when Japan made them surrender and took them into their prisoner-of-war camps. In this camp, Eric experienced all sorts of hell and torture that he doesn’t wish to talk about, but may get the chance to confront them head on when he hears that one of his captors (Hiroyuki Sanada ) is still alive and at the spot where he was treated like dung all those years back.

My problem with this movie right off the bat began when I realized that everything was going and moving a bit too fast for me, as well as for itself. See, we hardly get any introduction into Eric Lomax, other than he’s a smart, rather nerdy-chap that sort of, kind of, maybe, has a way with the ladies, as long as the ladies enjoy his constant blabbering about trains and railways. Nor do we get much of anything to Patti, despite her being played by Nicole Kidman and more than deserving of some development before we are thrown right into things. But nope, we see them get placed on the same train together, somewhat hit it off, and then, all of a sudden, they’re happy, frolicking on beaches, kissing, making-love and married – all in the span of a five-minute montage.

Love at first train flight.

Love at first train flight.

That felt a little too quick to me, but then, it gets a bit worse. See, once we are introduced to Eric in the present-day and his life he has with Patti, then things switch around to the days of when he was in the army; more specifically, the event in which his whole squad practically got captured and taken in as hostages. This, I kid you not, occurs quicker than Eric and Patti getting married, and made me feel as if I maybe started a bit too late and missed a reel or two. Because surely, no movie would just toss us into a whole bunch of action we don’t really have any reason for seeing in the first place, right?

Well, nope. In the case of the Railway Man, the first half-hour is very hard to get through. Not because it is slow or taking its good old time (which it does in many cases throughout the whole film), but because we never get any understanding of any of these characters. We just notice that they’re sort of sad, distraught and trying to make best with what they can. That’s a trait all humans have, but what else did they have?!? Not much else really, and that’s why I was wondering if I was going to give a single hoot about this trip Eric was going to take, why it mattered and just exactly what kind of person he was before he got married and started having crazy hallucinations.

Thankfully though, I got that, and then some.

I guess I should go into the idea of how most of this story is fact, but that shouldn’t get in the way with how you view it. In fact, I’m not even going to place a link to the actual details of the true story, because I don’t think it needs to be read beforehand. Because what works so well with this movie is the fact in how it continues to build its story through flashbacks and the present-time it presents, yet, never feels like a gimmick. In fact, it’s one of the very few movies I’ve seen in quite some time, where the flashbacks didn’t get in the way of what was really going on and mattered; they served the story, and all of the emotional-notes it was supposed to hit.

Sure, it’s a story of forgiveness and it is no doubt that most of this story may have been a bit fabricated to get away from the really, REALLY brutal and grim details of what went on in those camps, but the movie never seems like it’s pulling away many punches either. It focuses on this Eric guy, what he went through in the war, and how it has made him the person he was back when he was alive. It’s actually very sad to watch, considering we know that there are plenty of others just like Eric out there, right now, that we can’t really seem to do much for except just pat on the back, hug, talk to and let know that everything is going to be alright, even if they’re going to be stuck with those nightmares for the rest of their natural-born lives.

It’s a sad reality, but it’s one that will never stop to be true. Regardless of what you’re feelings of the war may be.

Not the sort of dreams I have, but hey, that's just me we're talking about here!

Not the sort of dreams I have, but hey, that’s just me we’re talking about here!

And as usual, Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman are both great with what they do here as Eric and Patti Lomax. Moreso of Firth because he has plenty of screen-time to himself, although I feel like his character went through so many characteristic-changes over the course of a whole, three-to-four-hour conversation that he was suffering from something more than just PTSD, and more like being bipolar, but maybe that was how he was in real life. I didn’t know and honestly, I didn’t care too much about it because Firth is so good here and it made me happy to see him getting another meaty role that’s worthy of his talents.

Kidman, however, doesn’t really have much to do except look upset, smile occasionally, and be on the verge of tears just about everytime Eric is acting up. It’s nice to see Kidman and Firth get a chance to work together, but it’s a bit of a shame that this has to be the movie, where they don’t spend too much time together that doesn’t consist of them shutting the other one out, or not talking at all. Sometimes, it’s a bit frustrating because you know there could be so much more emotional fireworks had there been maybe one or two more scenes of them just talking, but I guess those parts of the script just got written out.

However, as good as Kidman and Firth are, the one who really steals the show is Jeremy Irvine, who plays the younger-version of Firth’s Eric. The only time I’ve seen Irvine in something else was War Horse, and while I may not see all that much range within his acting-prowess from those two movies, I can still see that this guy has plenty of promise. For starters, it looks like he really got into this role as a brutalized, tortured soldier that is in a whole other game than he expected to be and it makes us all feel sympathy for him. Especially when he’s getting water-boarded and yet, still decides to stick with his story. Don’t know about you, but that takes some damn courage.

Not saying that it’s ever happened to me, but man, does that just look terrible or what!

Consensus: Takes awhile to get adjusted to, but once the Railway Man gets the wheels turning, the story hits the emotional notes it’s supposed to, which is mostly thanks to both Jeremy Irvine and Colin Firth’s great performances.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Thomas the Tank Engine my rump!"

“Thomas the Tank Engine my rump!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider, ComingSoon.net

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Vampires were so 20th Century.

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires living in the 21st Century. They’re both in love, married and have been living for a very long awhile, and it’s sort of beginning to take a toll on them. Maybe less so on Eve as she’s just happy with the way life has turned out for her and spends her nights reading, walking through the streets of Tangier, and meeting up with her blood supplier, Kid (John Hurt). As for Adam, however, he’s a bit less happy with life. He’s dark, moody and all alone, living in Detroit, yet, he makes music for the underground scene that is a big hit amongst the cool crowd, even though most of them don’t know who he is or where he lives. He too has a blood supplier in the form of Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright), in which he pays the big bucks to keep his life going on even longer. Problem is, he’s starting to feel like life really isn’t worth living, which is when Eve decides to come up to Detroit and visit him, where they hang around, drive, listen to music and get an unexpected visit from her sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who causes all sorts of trouble for them.

I don’t think I stand alone when I say that I am absolutely tired of vampire movies. Nor do I really want to think of one directed by Jim Jarmusch – the kind of director I get and understand his intentions with certain movies, but I still don’t really know if I “like”. So, with those two aspects put together, I knew one thing for certain: I was not looking forward to this. But, being the type of dedicated movie-lover I am, I gave it a watch and believe it or not, things came out a lot better than I expected.

Don't always believe it when I guy tells you "Hendrix played it once". We've all fallen for that sham at least once.

Don’t always believe it when a guy tells you “Hendrix once played on it”. We’ve all fallen for that sham at least once.

For starters, this is definitely not the type of vampire movie I was expecting to see. There’s barely any bystanders getting bitten in the necks, hardly any violence, and only small doses of blood being shown to us. Other than that, everything’s pretty laid-back, cool and calm, in a way that I expected to see Jarmusch use. However, it never felt meandering here like it has with many of his past flicks; much rather, it seemed like Jarmusch had a reason to slow down the pace of this movie. Not to just pay attention to these characters and give us sympathetic blood-suckers, but actually shed a light on the world around us.

See, if you think about it, the way this movie frames both Adam and Eve (geddit!?!?!) is that they’re, essentially, the two, biggest hipsters of the 21st Century. They think they are better than everybody, refer to humans as “zombies”, listen to obscure, R&B hits from the 60’s and 70’s, where sunglasses wherever they go (mostly at night, of course), and even discuss Nikola Tesla and Einstein. If those aren’t recipes for the two biggest tools on the face of the planet, then I have no clue what is.

But here’s the thing about this movie and these characters: They’re supposed to be like this. Vampires, especially these two in particular, are immortal and have lived through it all, seen it all, experienced it all, etc. So, it makes sense that they would not only talk so negatively about those that surround them that aren’t their kind, but also be able to talk about such historical-figures like Christopher Marlowe, or Shakespeare, or even Robert Schuman for that matter. If these two were two, actual human beings placed in some random indie, they’d be absolutely insufferable. However, since they are vampires and have been living, breathing and drinking other people’s blood for as long as time can go back to, they just seem like themselves, no frills attached.

Because of that, we not only like Adam and Eve, but sort of see what it is that they are saying about the world around them. Yes, humans as a species, are dumb and don’t always make the right choices. However, there’s also something about humanity and the way it can end seemingly at any second, that gives those reasons to live. We can enjoy life, hold it in our hands, and do whatever it is we want with it, because we all know that one day, it’s all going to end. It’s sad, but that’s the reality of life, man.

Not the reaction I have to drinking blood, but hey, whatever floats her boat.

Not the reaction I have to drinking blood, but hey, whatever floats her boat.

And with these two vampires, you can see that living through everything the world has brought to them, really is taking a toll on them. They’re not necessarily so tired with life that they want to end it any second (except maybe less so in Eve’s case than Adam’s), but they do feel as if they have so much damn time on their hands, that what is really the point of it all. It’s a sad existence those vampires are forced to live, which is why it’s easy to care for both Adam and Eve, if only because they know how to survive and do it the right way without anybody really getting hurt because of so.

Of course both Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are the main reasons why we feel this way towards Adam and Eve, but it’s also the way in which Jarmusch just keeps his attention solely on them, their daily-interactions and how it is they get by in life. He doesn’t necessarily change anything up about the conventions vampires have, but he does do some neat and cool things with the idea of having a vampire be, what is essentially a hipster living amongst everyday society. They’re almost human-like, except for the facts that they live off of blood, can’t let the sunlight hit them, walk into some place without being invited in, nor even see their reflections. However, it’s much less about these rules and standards that have been handed-down from the beginning of time that matter, and more about how these vampires are ones we actually care for and don’t totally loathe.

Take that, Bella and Edward!

Consensus: Slower than what most are used to expecting with movies about vampires, Only Lovers Left Alive shines an alluring eye on its sympathetic characters, while also realizing the realities they are placed into and why being human does matter, if it can be sometimes meaningless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

True love. Not like this crap.

True love. Not like this crap.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Dom Hemingway (2014)

Don’t drunk and drive, kids. Or go to jail for 12 years. Or do drugs. Or, simply, just don’t do anything bad.

It’s been quite a long time since Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) has been out in the outside world (12 years to be exact), but he finally gets released one day, where he goes back to doing everything he once did before. He collects debts; has sex with women; does blow like nobody’s business; drink; illegally smoke tobacco inside of a pub; hang out with his close-buddy Leftie (Richard E. Grant); kick the shit out of the man who married his wife when he was thrown in jail; and try his damn near hardest to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke). The only problem is that Dom has a bit of a temper-issue, which more often than not, has gotten him into trouble in the past, and seems to be getting him in even more trouble now when he realizes that he’s out of money and needs a new gig. Being the swift heist-man that he is, with the niftiest of fingers, he decides to go back to his old ways of breaking into concealed-vaults; something that’s a lot harder now with every vault being electronic, thus throwing Dom off of his game. Thus, as a result, making Dom even more pissed-off with everything and everyone around him.

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen something in which Jude Law really wow’d me. Not saying that he’s a bad actor by any means – in fact, he’s a terribly consistent one. He always shows up in movies, acts, does what he has to do, look charming, get his paycheck and continue on to the next project in which he’ll do the same exact thing. There’s nothing wrong with that really, especially if you’re somebody whose been surviving in Hollywood since the mid-to-late-90’s, but there is something to be said for an actor who has always been around, but really hasn’t had that one, amazing performance in which he’s knocked down all of the doors and showed us his true talents as an actor.

Hey, uhm, whose driving?

Hey, uhm, whose driving?

I think Dom Hemingway may in fact be that performance we’ve all, myself included, have been waiting for.

What Law does so well here as Dom Hemingway, unlike from anything else we’ve ever seen him do, is be brass, crass and all sorts of detestable. Dom Hemingway, by creation, is a dirty, mean son-of-a-bitch that looks as if he’s stumbled out of the pubs from the 70’s, and into the modern-era in which none of the kids want anything to do with his old, grungy ass, and just want to hang out and drink their Pabst Blue Ribbons alone and in peace. He’s always wanting to get pissed, get some blow, bang some fine ladies, and start trouble with anybody who dares to ever step up to him. Because of that, we’re supposed to dislike him and think he’s just a total jack-ass that doesn’t our sympathy, or even time of day – but somehow, Law makes us do just that.

Law is every bit as loud as he’s ever been in a movie before. With Hemingway, Law’s asked to be a total sleaze-ball, but a sleaze-ball that is always making those around him feel uncomfortable. Not just because he always seems to do and say the wrong things, at the wrong time, and to the wrong people especially, but because he’s just so damn unpredictable with his actions. One second, he’ll be so drunk that he’ll be offending and screaming at the most powerful mob-boss in all of Europe; but then, the next second, be totally cool, calm and suave at the dinner-table, with the same guy he was just insulting clear to his face. So yeah, Dom Hemingway is not an easy character to pin-point down, but that’s why it’s so amazing to see Law tackle a hard task like that and seemingly get through it all without making us ever seem like he’s trying too hard to be something that he clearly isn’t.

Sure, the receding hair-line, chin-strap facial-hair, and over-worked jaw-line may also have something to do with that, but for the most part, it’s Jude Law that makes us believe in somebody like Dom Hemingway.

The same actor whom, ten years ago, was most known for tappin’ his nannies and filling in Michael Caine’s shoes, in a movie most of us would like to just forget about by now.

But there’s a reason why I’m talking so much about Jude Law’s performance in the first place because, as much as I hate to say it, the rest of the movie doesn’t really live up to everything he does. The supporting cast is good here – with Richard E. Grant being a particular stand-out as Hemingway’s close buddy/voice of reason – and there were a few moments in which I had no clue what Dom was going to do next and how it was going to affect him and those around him. But, like I said, there just wasn’t much else here to really keep me going and all that interested.

Practically me, every night of the past week.

Practically me, every night of the past week.

There’s a twist that occurs somewhere around the half-way mark in which the tone of the movie sort of changes and we see how Dom’s life goes from shit, to even shittier in about a matter of a couple of minutes. The surprising switch itself is one that I think writer/director Richard Shepard pulled-off well, but he does with that feels sort of like an after-thought; almost as if the only idea for this movie was to focus on how much fun it is to watch Jude Law yell, rather than actually give us a plot, or even much character-development really. Then again, we do get some character-development here for Dom, it’s just that a lot of it seems so cheap and over-used.

Like, for instance, the whole idea that Dom’s daughter absolutely hates his guts because he left her and her mother all alone, with nobody to care for them at all, isn’t anything new, but you could do so much with that to make it feel genuine and heartfelt. Here, it felt like Shepard knew he wanted it to be the sweet aspect about the movie that the more emotional moviegoers would enjoy more than just seeing Jude Law eat cocaine like breakfast cereal, so he didn’t put much thought into it. All we get are a couple of arguments that go nowhere except show us that Dom’s daughter doesn’t like him and doesn’t want to give him a chance to get to know her better and make up for lost times, which then makes Dom want to go out and go back to his old ways of pulling-off heists.

For some reason, I didn’t see the connection and I sort of wish I did. It not only would have made the movie more interesting as it went along, but would have made a lot more sense to me once Dom started going nuts and humping vaults. Yeah, it gets a little nuts, but that’s all this movie seems to want to be: Nuts, with Jude Law providing most of that craziness for us.

Consensus: Though Jude Law clearly carries Dom Hemingway on his bulky shoulders and booze-breath, the rest of it doesn’t feel as well thought-out or interesting, it’s almost too in awe of its own main character.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The only way Dom Hemingway knows how to make an entrance: Through the damn wall.

The only way Dom Hemingway knows how to make an entrance: Through the damn wall.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Brick Mansions (2014)

Though parkour got determined “uncool” once everybody jumped ship to this whole YouTube thing.

In a dystopian Detroit (aka, present-day Detroit), numerous abandoned brick mansions have been left for all sorts of criminals to stay, linger and just do what it is that they do best: Commit illegal activity. But since they’re separated from the rest of middle-class society, it doesn’t really matter, which is a strategy the Mayor clearly takes pride in, even if its with rather demented intentions. Regardless, inside these brick mansions lies drug-lord Tremaine Alexander (RZA) who has been looked after by the FBI for quite some time, in particular, undercover agent Damien Collier (Paul Walker). Reason being? Well, let’s just say that Tremaine had a little bit of something to do with the death of Collier’s death; which is exactly why he doesn’t say “no” to a raid that would include Damien taking him down, once and for all. The only hitch is that he has to go in there to detach a bomb, but also, to get a better feel for the ragged, musty apartments he will soon be venturing into, he has to go with someone whose lived there for quite some time. Enter Lino Dupree (David Belle), a parkour champion that wants to get his woman, as well as his respect back, even if it may come at a price by teaming-up with a cop.

It may be no news to anyone out there, but I’m going to restate it again: Paul Walker did in fact pass-away last December, and he left behind this movie as his last, fully-filmed piece-of-work. Sure, he has some scenes in the upcoming Fast & Furious installment, but apparently they’re doing some weird stuff with his brother or something that I’m not too sure will work, but either way, that’s only a few scenes; this right here, Brick Mansions, is a full movie. So for that, it should definitely be seen.

That's not Rick Ross! So don't get your panties all up in a bunch about how RZA's "turning to the darkside".

That’s not Rick Ross! So don’t anyone get their panties all up in a bunch about how RZA’s “turning to the darkside”.

And of course, in most cases, some movie being some person’s final film wouldn’t mean diddly-squat in whether or not it should be seen, but in the case of this, it actually deserves to be seen more for what it does, rather than who is in it.

See, even though this is a movie that is downright, utterly idiotic in every way, it knows it is. So, rather than just trying to go for a heavier-meaning and be something that it’s not, the movie just sticks to the basics: Be fast, fun, exciting and don’t linger too much on the over-the-top plot. And for the most part, the movie does all of that so well that I never cared how preposterous this story got. For instance, there’s a nuke in this that gets directed towards Detroit for no other reason other to than just kill a whole bunch of people. It doesn’t make any sense, and even the villain himself, doesn’t really fully believe in it. But it’s a movie, so why the hell not!

That’s why you can’t go into a movie like this and expect something life-changing or thought-provoking, just go into it expecting to have a great time and not even worry about what else is going on with the world around you. All there is to a movie like this, is what’s in front of you and how well-done the display is. Sure, the camera does get a bit frigidity at times and the dialogue more than often sounds like somebody taped a person’s lips moving, only to then add their own voices in at a later-date (Especially whenever David Belle has to deliver lines), but still, it’s all meaningless stuff that’s easy to get by. So basically, just enjoy the damn show is what I am trying to say. As simple and easy as that.

However, like I was talking about before, the one aspect surrounding this movie that’s a bit hard to get past is the fact that yes, Paul Walker is gone from our world, and even worse, is gone because of a car-crash he was involved in. Which, yes, if you love to be “that guy”, is ironic, but also in the front of your mind when watching something like this, considering he has about one or two scenes where he, and the car he’s driving is in the process of being involve with a crash. Heck, he even screams in absolute fear at one point, if only to make us feel even worse for what we’re watching.

Pssht! I could do that if I wanted to.

Pssht! I could do that if I wanted to.

Though that’s only one or two scenes of this whole nearly-hour-and-a-half-movie, it should be noted that it does make you think about his death and how really sad it is, even if he wasn’t always the best actor out there. But talented actor or not, the guy was fine with what he did, which was just staring into space, delivering a tough-guy line every so often, and doing whatever silly, over-the-top action-stuff he was told to do, with precision that made it seem like he could do that type of stuff for the rest of his life and never get bothered with it. It’s a shame we’ll never get to see that actually happen, but it’s nice to see a movie like this that shows us what he did so well in the first place and why, even though he wasn’t necessarily an “acting legend”, was definitely the kind of guy you could get for this type of movie and actually count on to give you 110%, each and every time.

Yes, I know that some may be wondering if this is actually being written from me or some sort of Paul Walker-sympathizer, but nope, this truly is Dan O’Neill and I am truly sad about the passing of Paul Walker. He wasn’t amazing, but he was able to do whatever somebody threw at him. And in the world of film, that means a lot. A whole heck of a lot, actually.

Consensus: On the outside, Brick Mansions is incredibly dumb, and on the inside, it’s even more dumb, but it doesn’t matter because of how much fun it seems to be having with its B-grade plot, special-effects, action and idea of not wanting to last in your mind long enough, but just wants to give you a good enough time. Also, it wants you to remember Paul Walker, and the talent he was, even if he wasn’t all that flashy to begin with.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh, Paul. You were such a hunk. You will be missed.

Oh, Paul. You were such a hunk. Even while carrying a deadly-weapon. You will be missed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Other Woman (2014)

Some dudes just have all the luck. Except for the part about getting caught. Yeah, that sort of blows.

Carly (Cameron Diaz) is a wealthy, middle-aged lawyer who thinks she has met the man of her dreams in the form of Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). What she thinks, though, is different from the reality. See, Mark is hiding a bit of a secret that he’s actually married to his spunky housewife Kate (Leslie Mann) who accidentally finds out what is going on between the two when Carly unexpectedly shows up, knocking on their front-door. Though Kate is upset with this shocking piece of information, she decides to not let her husband know that she knows, and instead, devolves a game in which she and Carly will spy on him and try to take him down with everything he’s got, just in case the two get a divorce. However, while spying on his every move in Miami, they stumble upon another girlfriend of Mark’s – this time, a lot younger and in the form of Amber (Kate Upton). Amber, like the other two, is clearly upset and distraught with what to make of this new info, but also like the other two, decides that it’s time to teach dear old Mark a lesson about screwing around way too much.

In other words: Girl power!

So yep, anytime you get a movie that boasts a female-dominated cast, more than likely, it has to do with the fact that a dude screwed up something. Better yet, the dude screwed most of them over. Which, I can’t complain too much about because spouses do cheat on other spouses, but it just sucks that the only types of mainstream, female-centered movies we’ll get to see have to feature a member of the male gender, doing something reprehensible that allows the ladies to have something to talk and yell about; without just getting a movie in which women want to be women, and live it up like no tomorrow, guys are optional!

Some nights, this is me. Usually Fridays.

Some nights, this is me. Usually Fridays.

However, what’s even worse is the fact that this is the type of movie we get when Hollywood decides to give a project all the big bucks it needs to be completed.

Which is very strange considering that this is coming from none other than Mr. Nick Cassavetes, the son of John, a man who was always known to do movies on his time and dime, regardless of what others think they wanted to see or throw some shillings out to see. That man just made movies because he wanted to and he loved the art, whereas his son, as much as I hate to say it, doesn’t really have that going for him. That’s not to say the dude’s never made a bad movie (the Notebook is probably the only Nicholas Sparks-adaptation I can actually fathom), but it is to say that when your dad is that much of a legend for something like making small, independent-movies, to go on and make big, mainstream rom-coms drab-fests like this, sort of seems a bit like wasting good-genes, eh?

Then again, my dad’s a correctional officer, so it goes to show you what I know!

Anyway, like I was saying about this movie and it’s director, it’s a shame that Cassavetes got stuck with doing this (I hope), but it’s an even bigger shame how much of this movie just does not add-up. First off, it’s just not funny. It’s that clear and simple. The movie tries to be all about the wacky situations these gals get into and how they all play it off so awkwardly, and it rarely ever got a giggle from me. Especially not from when Leslie Mann was doing it because, bless her soul, she tries so damn hard to make this material funny and her character likable. But I just could not get past all of her non-stop rambling and yelling, as if she was in one of her own hubby’s movies, where he would just let her run wild with whatever script he sort of laid-out, and tell her to “stop” when he felt was necessary.

But Nick Cassavetes, clearly isn’t Judd Apatow. Not because he can’t seem to tame the lion that is Leslie Mann, but because he doesn’t seem to have a single piece of comedy in his directing-repertoire whatsoever. Sure, maybe I giggled a few here and there, but they were nothing where I felt like this movie needed to be seen. And heck, if you want anymore clarification as to why I laughed a bit and it didn’t matter, it was because most of the laughs came from Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, aka, the same guy whose playing the dick that cheats on everyone except for his right-hand in this movie.

So yeah, when the person you have made-out to be the bad guy ends up getting more laughs than two female stars who are known to be funny whenever they see fit, then you know your movie has problems.

Even worse is when you realize that your movie wasted Kate Upton. And NO, I’m not saying that because we don’t get one-million shots of her half-naked body, running down a beach in a bikini like all us guys so obviously wanted, but because she seems to actually have some charm and spunk to her. But, like I said before, she’s wasted on a bunch of gags that involve her looking at either Diaz or Mann, nodding her head, smiling and laughing. There’s even a part in which she dances risque, but I won’t bother you with any of that right now….

"All I'm saying is that if we're going to split the bill, we have to decide who got the most food. And to be even more honest, I barely even had a sip of that wine."

“All I’m saying is that if we’re going to split the bill, we have to decide who got the most food. And to be even more honest, I barely even had a sip of that wine.”

Okay, moving on.

As for Cameron Diaz, a gal I’ve never been a fan of, I have to say, is given the worst character in this whole movie. Diaz tries and tries a billion times to make this Carly woman likable in the least bit, but she just is not. I get that she’s supposed to a snobby, know-it-all, super-serious Sally, but after awhile, I felt like she was so stern and tense that I didn’t know if she could ever fall in love with anybody, let alone have sex as many times as she does with one guy. Diaz has some of her comedic-timing still with her, but it seems like she’s starting to really fall-off-the-radar by picking bad roles, or, when she does pick interesting roles, gets saddled with having to hump a car.

Yup, that’s a sight one will never, ever forget.

Consensus: The three leading-ladies are charming and beautiful as always, but the Other Woman doesn’t give them much to do except giggle, perform terrible, grade-school-like pranks and get drunk a lot, without really giving us a chance to identify with any of them, except that they want revenge on the same guy, for sort of the same reasons.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

I'm sorry. What we're you saying again?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Limits of Control (2009)

Hiring a guy who doesn’t talk at all to kill somebody, actually seems like a pretty wise business-decision.

A lone man (Isaach de Bankolé) sets out to do a job he has been hired to do. Though it’s not exactly clear what this job is, he knows that the only way to get it done without any screw-ups is to have no sex, drugs, booze or even fun. Yes, pretty much the life of this lone man is to just sit around at a cafe, have two espressos (in separate cups, mind you) and wait around for something to happen. Somehow, it does, but without him or any of us watching at home, knowing. A woman who fantasizes about Hitchock’s movies (Tilda Swinton) comes around; a guy who discusses the meaning of the word “Bohemian” (John Hurt); and a random, Hispanic man (Gael García Bernal) gives him a guitar. It doesn’t make any sense, but apparently it’s supposed to lead us to the one rich, powerful man we’ve been waiting for this whole time (Bill Murray).

Listen, I know I’m not the biggest Jim Jarmusch fan out there. So I’m not going to try and sit here and act as if I am totally and utterly surprised that this movie turned-out to be just one, two-hour-long film about practically nothing. I kid you not, there is literally nothing to hold onto here. And in a way, I sort of get it.

I get that Jarmusch is trying to make the perfect, quintessential “anti-thriller”. For instance, early on in the movie, our hired-killer is told that “everything is subjective”, meaning that just about every decision or choice he makes, is totally up to him. However, I read that as a way of Jarmusch trying to tell us that yes, as boring and repetitious as this movie may be, it is up to us to look further into it and make up our own minds about what he’s trying to do. He’s not going to flat-out tell us, straight-up what message or mood he’s trying to convey.

There Paz de la Huerta goes again with no clothes on!

There that Paz de la Huerta goes again with no clothes on!

Which, as a movie-goer that appreciates a bit more of a thinking-process involved with the entertainment of watching movies, is something I have to respect. It’s very so rare to where I get to watch a film of where everything is practically left open to my interpretation. Not those thousands and thousands of others across the globe that are yelling about it and discussing it all over message boards (if they even have such a thing for Jim Jarmusch movies), but me. Me and myself alone!

However, I will admit, that even on some occasions, a little hand-holding could do me some good and this was one of those instances where I needed more than just hand-holding – I needed a freakin’ grab of the head, letting me know just of where the hell this was going! Seriously.

I mean, for the first 20 minutes of this thing, I stayed interested. I knew it was going to keep on moving with the same downtrodden, slow-as-molasses pace, so I should have just stayed happy with it, but that’s not all that happens. Rather than actually having this movie go on for so long, as slow as it does, we never get any characterization of anybody we are introduced to whatsoever. Heck, I don’t even think we get a single person’s name! Just “person with blonde wig”, or “Mexican dude”. That’s pretty much it and it frustrated the hell out of me after awhile because I never got a single clue as to who these people were that kept on popping in and out, why they mattered and if I needed to know anything about them whatsoever to further enhance the plot.

And mostly, these characters that just randomly show up here and there, are meant to be random and slightly idiosyncratic. I get that was the point and because of that being so, some of the performances are actually pretty entertaining; John Hurt, in particular, as the kind of spirited, energetic guy a movie like this needs to keep viewers awake. However, the point was thrown out the window once one of the characters plays a bit of a bigger part later in the movie, where we’re supposed to have a certain feeling towards them and whatever bad stuff is happening to them. Instead of giving the movie that pleasure of having them feel like they’ve really done a number on me, I had no idea what the hell was going, so I was more puzzled than anything.

Eventually though, that confused feeling turned into just downright anger with this movie. After awhile, I stopped caring about anything, or anybody for that matter. The only scene that actually had me awake by the later-part was when we’re suddenly placed into a dance club where people are making out, dancing, singing, drinking, and having a good time, while the lone man we’re stuck with, just stares on and has a weird, somewhat creepy smirk on his face. The only two reasons why this scene comes to my mind in particular is because it woke me the hell up, and also, because LCD Soundsystem is the band playing in the background during this scene.

Get the Hitchcock thing now?

Get the Hitchcock thing now? Yeah, me neither.

So yeah, anytime James Murphy is in a movie, without actually being in the movie, not only is it made a bit better, but also keeps my eyes open, if only for ten minutes longer.

Sadly though, James Murphy, believe it or not, was not enough to save this movie. Most of the problems with this movie you could chalk up to Jim Jarmusch and his reliance on just being as vague as humanly possible, and I don’t think you’d be at all wrong in doing that. Usually his sense of an offbeat style works so well for him and the characters he’s building, but here, it really seemed to work against him. Didn’t work for him, the movie, his cast or even most of whom saw this movie. But then again, I guess a 44% ain’t all that bad!

WAIT, WHAT?!?!? 44%!??!? FOR THIS HUNK OF CRAP!?!?!

Consensus: Though it’s easy to understand what Jim Jarmusch is trying to do with the Limits of Control‘s relaxed pace, it never builds to anything, except for maybe total confusion as to who everybody is, why they matter and why we’re even watching this two-hour slog in the first place.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Ek! The pretentiousness!

The pretentiousness! Ek!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Think of a duel between Don Corleone and Samurai Jack, with the Wu-Tang Clan blasting somewhere in the background. Yeah, pretty weird.

Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a quiet, lonely hitman, living in the modern world. Nothing really all that strange about that right? Well, he is a hitman that adheres to the code of the samurai; meaning he doesn’t use technology, has total respect for those who employs him and can only be contacted by carrier pigeon. As odd as this may seem, it somehow has been working for him for the longest time, all until he finds himself in a huge pickle once the mob that hired him to do the job, decide that he botched it up and want him dead. However, Ghost don’t play that shit and they’re going to most likely find that out.

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch. The guy seems like he has his own certain style that pretty much leans only towards his audience and kind of says, “‘eff off” to those who aren’t as fond of it, or not nearly as hip as those who do like and appreciate his work. I think I’m a bit part of the latter, which is why I wasn’t really looking forward to watching his mash-up of a gangster and samurai film. Seems a bit of a strange mixture to put together in the first place, and having Jarmusch being the one to combine the two, only made it seem the more odd.

However, it seems like without Jarmusch, this material couldn’t have even worked any other way.

Don't you just hate it when that happens?!?

Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!?

What I liked about this flick and Jarmusch’s direction is that the guy settles things down pretty quickly, and allows us to feel the nature and essence of this story. It’s a pretty standard story of a hired-job-gone-wrong and the people having to pay for it, but the way Jarmusch focuses more on the characters, the style behind the characters, and the setting that surrounds them is something that makes this a tad different than many other crime movies of this nature. There’s a laid-back feel to this movie that doesn’t really kick-start up once the action does; it sort of just moves around. But it’s never boring because of that. Instead, it gave me a clearer-view of whom I was working with here and got me ready for the grisly violence that actually came to be a bit of a shock for me.

Though Jarmusch is, in essence, a very stylish-director, the violence he portrays in this movie doesn’t really have all that much style to it. There’s a lot of guns being touted-around like candy; gun being fired; blood squibs flying; limbs being torn-apart; and more than enough people getting offed in some pretty reckless ways. It’s all standard crime-thriller stuff that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but Jarmusch does something neat with it that makes it work moreso for him and his legion of fans.

That mainly has to do with how Jarmusch is able to incorporate humor and a bit of dark comedy to each scene that features somebody getting shot-up. It almost reminded me a bit of a Coen Brothers movie where somebody’s head could be practically on the ground, and they’d still find a way to make a chuckle or two about it. That’s how Jarmusch is with the violence and material here and even though he isn’t as subtle or surprising with it as the Coens, he still has something to show and provides us with plenty of violence to cure any crime-movie lover’s needs. Still, it’s a movie about a samurai who lives in the current-world, so why the hell didn’t Ghost Dog at least draw the sword every once and awhile on some unlucky piece of Italiano shit? Seriously, I mean we see him practicing with it and laying by it, but it’s barely ever used.

Oh well, the guy could definitely kill me in a heartbeat so I won’t go on any longer.

Even though this isn’t as weird and quirky as most Jarmusch films are, you still can’t help but feel like this guy really carries the film back. For instance, all of the samurai babble that would literally come in every six minutes was okay for the first two or three times it was done, because it made sense to the story and to our main character. But after awhile, when they dived themselves into about 15 sayings that nobody cared about, then I got annoyed. And it wasn’t even that I didn’t try to care about them and pay attention, because trust me, I did but after awhile, I just started to realize that they had nothing to do with the story and was just one way of Jarmusch trying to get us inside of the head of this character that I feel like we connected with already. There’s a whole bunch of other liberties that Jarmusch takes with this movie and even though they didn’t all piss me off, they still made me feel like it was just another case of Jarmusch trying too hard.

Also, I get that everybody loves this soundtrack because it featured all of RZA’s work before he went-off and did the score for Kill Bill, but it is literally the same noise over-and-over again. Every time there’s a sequence of Ghost Dog walking down the street, driving down the street, or just looking plain and simply cool, the film starts to play this over-bearing track of RZA rapping over a bunch of bells and weird drum-beats. Just like the “samurai babble” I alluded to earlier, once or twice is good but after it gets into the double-digits, then I have a bit of a problem. Mixing mobster and samurai movies, to the beat of rap music is a pretty nifty-idea, I just wish there was more rap involved to where I felt like it really made a difference to the story and not just used as a gimmick to show how whack those old, Italian mobsters are because they can’t connect with the modern-world.

From one true samurai, to another.

From one true samurai, to another.

Despite all this, the highlight of this movie for me was probably watching Forest Whitaker (and his lazy eye) just kick total-ass as Ghost Dog. Whitaker is the type of actor that’s all about presence and having a look to him that can scare the hell out of you. That’s what he does here as Ghost Dog, but the guy isn’t one, big walking cliche of the silent stranger who does his dirty work and gets on with his life like a bit of a scarred-weirdo; he’s actually pretty down-to-earth and you like him for that. Yeah, he’s a bit weird because he talks to pigeons half of the movie, but then again, you would too if all you did was kill people, send people messages by birds, and never want anybody to know who you are.

Actually, I think I’d just get a dog instead, but that’s just me.

Anyway, Whitaker is awesome as Ghost Dog and makes you feel like you can stand fully-behind this guy to do the right thing and hopefully, just hopefully, just come out on-top at the end. Watching him kill all of these old, out-of-date mobsters was hilarious because they just fumbled around like a bunch of worthless goons and watching them get taken down by a dude who seemed to be in a whole, different time-zone than they were, really made this a bit more enjoying to watch. Sounds quite morbid, I know, but it’s the simple pleasures like that, which make movies like this a lot better in my mind.

I’m a sicko, I know. It’s what I live with on a day-to-day basis.

Consensus: There’s a couple of instances in which Jim Jarmusch allow his goofiness to get too in the way of Ghost Dog‘s story, but nonetheless, it’s still a neat mixture of everything that mobster movies do so well, along what samurai movies as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Beautiful New York: Where African-American samurais run free on roof-tops.

Beautiful New Jersey: Where African-American samurais run free on roof-tops.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Hunting Party (2007)

They always say “journalism is a dying form”, so if there’s some extra-cash involved, then by all means do what you can.

During the 1990’s, big time, war-reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard) went all around the world, gaining footage and covering stories in war-torn countries. They hot, big and making all of the big bucks, but after a public-meltdown on live television, the two parted ways. Duck ended-up making a name for himself moreso by becoming a producer of sorts; whereas Hunt practically vanished into thin air, barely to ever be heard from again. One day, however, while Duck and a new assistant of his (Jesse Eisenberg) are out in Bosnia covering the war, Hunt suddenly shows up, telling them that he has a plan to kidnap the infamous war criminal known as “the Fox”. The reason being? Well, one reason is to get a big story and put Hunt’s name back in the mainstream-line of news-reporting; but another reason is also to get a lot of money from those who want “the Fox”. And honestly, they’re task wouldn’t seem so hard in the first place if this was a man who was as easy to find as a cow in a grass-field, but nope. He’s protected by hundreds and hundreds of his own cronies, who are just waiting for some dudes to come snooping around in business that clearly isn’t theirs.

At the end of the Hunting Party, there’s a credits-sequence in which director Richard Shepard makes it totally clear exactly what it is that he’s trying to say with this story. He makes a mention of how the U.S. government is, “apparently still looking for Bin Laden”. He puts an extra-emphasis on the word “apparently”, giving us the impression that the CIA really isn’t paying attention to a matter such as this, and instead, wasting their good old time on cases like who stole cousin Mikey’s five dollar-bill or something of that nature. But whatever it is that the CIA is actually looking at, doesn’t matter; what does matter is that they aren’t totally searching for Bin Laden, and more or less just sitting on their asses, telling everyone else it’s their “main priority”.

Ah, the 80's. I think.

Ah, the 80’s. I think.

Well, the movie’s a bit dated in that regard. Which, I can’t really hold against the film to begin with, but this way of ending the whole show gave me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Which, yes, is strange, because if anybody out there knows me, they’ll know I’m nowhere near being the biggest advocate for the well-being of the U.S. government and everything it is that they tell me as a member of society. However, the fact still remains that we caught Bin Laden, therefore, making whatever snobby statement Shepard is trying to make at the end of this movie, practically null and void.

But by this happening, it makes me feel like the past 100-minutes I had just spent with this movie, this story and these characters, almost useless, considering it was actually about something else entirely. See, I don’t want to give too much away about the end to this movie and how everything turns out, but much rather than being a thriller, with some dark comedy placed in throughout, it ends up being one, near-two-hour preach from the creators about how the U.S. government isn’t really doing their jobs and we should all pay attention to what’s really going on behind the scenes and everything else that we’re told.

Sure, it’s nothing new we haven’t heard before, but here, it felt pretty cheap for Shepard to bring this up totally out-of-the-blue by the end. Not because it didn’t fit right with the story he was actually telling, but because the story itself was actually an intriguing one to begin with, and to just stop us, open up our eyes and tell us that it’s all about something else entirely different, makes it seem like this movie doesn’t ever need to be seen in the first place, nor does this story itself even need to be told.

So, in essence, this is a movie that doesn’t need to be seen. Like, at all.

Not for the good performances from the finely-assembled cast; not for most of the humor that actually made me laugh; and not even for the sometimes, rather-tense plot.

Nope, it should all be seen for the point that Richard Shepard is trying to bring home by the tail-end.

Which is totally strange considering something like this hasn’t happened to me in awhile – where I, at first was really digging a movie, only to have that totally change because of something that happened right at the very end of the movie that rubbed me the wrong. I honestly can’t remember the last time that that happened, which probably goes to show you how truly rare it is, but such a controversy happened here, with my feelings regarding this movie and whether or not I should recommend it to those out there who give a damn about what I think is “good”, and what “isn’t so good”.

Now bust a move!

Now bust a move!

So, with that said: Do I think this movie is worth seeing? I want to say yes; I really do. But, at the same time, I want to say no. The reason I want to say “yes”, is because there actually is a very interesting story at the center of all this, especially if you’re a journalist, or at least aspiring to be one. It’s cool to see a movie that actually somewhat glamorizes the life of a journalist; the money, the hotel rooms, the women, the booze, the money, the breaking-stories, the feeling of doing something right for the world you live in. But also, by the same token, it still goes to show you the type of lengths journalists will go to in order to ensure themselves that they have a story in the first place, even if getting the certain bits and pieces of information for that said story, may result in some very serious, very drastic consequences that could put one’s life at risk. That’s something you don’t too often see a movie show about the lives and careers of journalists, and I’m glad that this movie decided to show that side. Maybe that’s just my personal feelings, but that’s just what I like to see.

But, the reason why I say “no”, mostly has to do with everything I stated up-top: There’s really no point to this story other than to make a point. A point which, mind you, isn’t wholly based on fact. Sure, the U.S. government took quite some time in finding Bin Laden, but the fact remains: We found him, where he was living, he’s dead. End of story. Is there some stuff out there we’re not being told about this case on purpose? Of course there is! How could there not be? However, the fact remains is that we found him, he is gone from our planet and there shouldn’t be any more grumbles about that. I swear to you, I’m not one for standing straight-up for the U.S. government, but in these cases, I feel like I may need to get on my soapbox a bit as well.

So suck on that, Richard Shepard!

Consensus: Taken into context with what we know now, the Hunting Party doesn’t wholly stand in total and absolute truth, which ruins the rest of what this movie has to offer in terms of story, performances and overall entertainment-value.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Must be a local KFC around here somewhere."

“Must be a local KFC around here somewhere.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Enemy (2014)

So does that mean Maggie has a look-alike?

Anthony St. Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives a simple, quiet life in Canada. He teaches history at the local college; has a girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) that he drinks with and bangs just about every night; and he doesn’t really seem to have much problems in his life, except for the fact that he’s sort of just moping around and not caring about much of anything at all. One day, however, a colleague of his recommends a movie to him in which, all of a sudden, he notices somebody in the movie who looks exactly like him. Automatically, this drives Anthony to figure out just who the hell this person is, and why it is that they look so similar to begin with. Anthony soon discovers that this man is in fact Adam Bell, a two-bit, actor with a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) who doesn’t like it when Anthony starts calling the house and wanting to arrange a meet between the two. Eventually though, Adam realizes that he can possibly use Anthony’s resemblance, as an advantage of sorts, in which the two could pass as one another, without anybody noticing a single difference, except for the fact that one’s a bit of a loser, and the other is an ambitious, lively-fella. Or, so we think.

There’s clearly a lot more to this story than what’s just presented up-top. For instance, you’d think that this is just a simple tale of a man who realizes he has a doppelganger, that he decides to scope-out and try to build a relationship of sorts with, that suddenly goes out-of-whack. But nope. That’s how it seems to play-out, at first, but eventually, things get to be a little haywire.

How haywire may you ask?

Leather jacket = cool.

Leather jacket = cool.

Well, Isabella Rossellini, one of film’s most recognizable faces working today, shows up for no less than three minutes on screen and just leaves, never to be seen from again.

However, that’s just the beginning of the strangeness within this movie, because once you realize that there’s more clues than you can shake a stick at here, it’s going to get very complicated to digest. Which is why, despite my enjoyment of it, I can’t say that it’s for everybody. Heck, I can’t even say fully, or wholeheartedly, that it’s for me either. What I can say is that if you like a nice mystery that doesn’t always clue you in on everything it’s trying to do or reveal, then go for this one.

But, if you’re like some ladies and gents out there that I know of, then don’t even bother with it. Not only will it make your mind hurt, and twist, and pull, and do all sorts of terrible, unhealthy things that you won’t like, it will make you want to re-watch it again, and again, and again, and again, only until you finally feel justified in saying you know exactly what happens, for what reasons, to whom, and exactly why. And even then, I can’t assure you that you’ll fully understand it.

So yeah, I may be setting this one up in a pretty big way, but I think it deserves to be. Going into this, I sort of expected a natural-thriller that would give me itty, bitty clues along the way as to what I’m supposed to think and why, but this isn’t that type of movie. You can tell that director Denis Villeneuve is clearly trying to set-up a story in which everything and everybody you see, may not be what it is you’re seeing. Is it all taking place inside of this one guy’s mind? Or, is this all actually happening the way it is presented to us, which could only mean that there are two Donnie Darko’s now gracing this fine world?

The answers never come in a clean way, and I’m not even sure if they come at all, but the movie kept me guessing and trying to connect the dots as much as I possibly could, which is you need with a good thriller. Doesn’t matter if the thriller has barely any shoot-outs or chases through dark and narrow streets; what does matter is that it at least keeps me wondering, waiting and intrigued in the characters, as well as the mysteries surrounding them. And that’s a thriller needs to do – not just for me, but for anyone who wants a little suspense and confusion thrown their way.

The only aspect of this film that I will talk-out against is that I couldn’t help but think that by the end, I didn’t get to know a single person at all. Granted, that may have been what Villeneuve set-out to do all of this time, in a way to only confuse me further, but I did wish that there was somebody I could really get behind or even feel the slightest amount of sorrow or pity for, seeing as how this world they’re in doesn’t always treat them with the best intentions. Sarah Gadon’s character comes sort of close to that kind of sympathetic-figure a movie like this needs, but even when I got to thinking about her character more and more, I felt like the only reason why I did even care for her was because she was pregnant and her husband was a bit of a dick towards her. That’s pretty much it. It didn’t seem to matter if the story on a good note, or bad one, because either way, the gal would have continued to live her life and be fine. Except now, she’d probably have the baby or something. Hell, I don’t even know if she was actually pregnant!

Damn this movie!

No leather jacket = not cool.

No leather jacket = not cool.

Anyway, besides Gadon, Jake Gyllenhaal’s one character in this movie, Anthony, comes to a close second as being the only guy I could even care about, which more or less has to do with the fact that Gyllenhaal is so damn good here at playing both characters here. Granted, it’s not all that hard to play two, different versions of a character in one movie, because when you think about it, all you really have to do is play both sides with totally opposite personalities, or rely on the make-up team to help out in making sure the audience know which character is which. Here, however, Gyllenhaal has a harder-task on his plate where he has to seemingly play two characters who are, essentially, relatively similar. Not just in the way they look like fraternal twins, but by how one character is only a tad more high-strung than the other, but not by all that much.

At first, it seemed like a really hard job for Gyllenhaal to pull-off, but somehow, he does so well with it, that I didn’t even get confused for a single bit as to whom it was that he was playing. And he does so in subtle ways; a twitch of his eye, a tone in his voice, the way he carries himself from one end of a room to another, it all felt so distinctive to whichever character he was supposed to be portraying. Yes, a little more depth into both of these characters would have made this performance so much better than just “Gyllenhaal pulling an Adaptation-like role”, but man, I have to say that this guy seems to keep on impressing me, more and more each time I see him.

Don’t ever give up, Jakie-poo. Keep on acting your rump off, and don’t let these nasty T-Swift rumors get you down. She’s a crazy chick anyway. Ammiright?

Consensus: Will most likely not make a lick of sense after the first couple or so viewings, but regardless, Enemy is still an interesting thriller that doesn’t always answer its questions in an easy manner, but does allow Jake Gyllenhaal to act very well in these dual roles of his.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dude, who are you?" "I'm you!" "Who?" "YOU!!"

Not-so cool guy: “Dude, who are you?”
Cool guy: “I’m you!”
Not-so cool guy: “Who?”
Cool guy: “YOU!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Raid 2 (2014)

Man, I need to work-out more.

Taking place nearly right after the first one started, Rama (Iko Uwais) finds out that not only is his brother dead, but that he has no other choice but to be apart of this small, covert group of secret-agents that specialize in finding the crooked-cops and expose them for what they are. However, it all comes for a price, in which Rama has to now go undercover to work his way up-the-ladder where he’ll assist a head mobster’s son while he is in jail (Arifin Putra), in hopes that it will not only get Rama’s face and name known, but also give him a closer chance at finding his brother’s killer, who may almost be connected to the guys that Rama is trying to get in with. All sorts of twists and turns occur, which leaves Rama away from his family for more than two years, beaten-up, battered, and bruised, but with a new job where he is going to be the main enforcer of this heavy-duty gang, where he’ll still be undercover, taping and reporting everything that happens. Although, it does get hard for Rama to be able to differentiate how he feels, from what is the tru…aw, who am I kidding! They fight! A LOT. End. Of. Story.

The first Raid had a lot going for itself in the way that it was sort of this little movie that came completely out of nowhere and stunned just about every person who had seen it. there. It also helped too, that those said people who did see it and were blown away, couldn’t stop telling everyone around them about it; therefore, making the movie more and more famous by the whisper in hip, happenin’ coffee shops and dinner-parties. And while it took me quite some time to actually get a chance to see it, I had nothing else to do or say, except to just agree with everybody. I’m usually not one for conformity, but when it came to my feelings for that movie, I couldn’t help but join the crowd and move along.

"Hadouken!"

“Hadouken!”

Now, the problem here is this: Now that the cat is out of the bag with this movie, how will the sequels fair-off? Will they continue to keep to the same pattern in which there is barely any story at all, but plenty of kicking, punching, ripping and all sorts of fun, bloody violence like in the first movie? Or, will it go the familiar-route of most sequels and just be bigger, longer, wider, more bloated and just too much havoc and chaos going on to really give a crap about whatsoever?

Well, here’s the good thing about the Raid 2 – while it may follow the later-route in which it is bigger, longer, and more bloated, the action is never, ever too much for one person to handle. Actually, that’s a lie; it totally is. However, I mean that in a good sense because it’s exactly what you could expect from the creators behind this having more money to toy around with, but with so much more creativity and excitement thrown into the mix. Because even with the running-time being every bit of the two-and-a-half-hours that it is, for more than an hour of that, people get ripped-up, broken-down, destroyed, injured, killed, decapitated, and all sorts of messed-up, but it’s never, ever boring to watch.

In fact, that’s the key to making this movie work – always surprising the hell out of its audience. Hell, you’d think that by the year 2014, us moviegoers had seen it all with the Michael Bay’s and the Tarantino’s of the world, but once a gal walks through a subway car with two claw-hammers in her hands, then you know you haven’t. The first one had a bit of a problem with that, in the way most of the action-sequences did seem to repeat themselves just a tad bit, but here, there’s no problem with that whatsoever. It keeps on, keeping on and for that, it’s a fun time that you have to be apart of. I don’t care how squeamish you may or can be when it comes to the sight of somebody’s throat getting sliced-open, because this is the action-movie you need to see.

Not any of that Need for Speed or Sabotage crap. Or even whatever the hell it is that Michael Bay does, but as we all know, I don’t have much room to stand-in when it comes to the argument of whether or not his movies are in fact “good”.

So yeah, I’ll just let that one slide.

But like I was saying about this movie, it’s pretty awesome despite it’s nearly over two-and-a-half-hour run-time, which made me wonder why it had to be as such. It’s not to say that the story is bad by anything, in fact, it’s a pretty detailed one that kept me guessing for quite some time, even while the action wasn’t around and pumping up my blood-stream. There’s plenty of back-stabs, turns, twists and people committing acts of vengeance that made it seem like an old-school, Japanese-gangster movie, in which you never have any perfect idea as to who is on whose side, and for what reasons, until they’ve just shot somebody who you thought was their most trusted-confidante, in the back of the head, in total cold blood.

Now, could the story have been cut-down to size to ensure that this film wouldn’t feel long? Aw, hell yeah! In fact, if this movie was possibly a lean and mean two-hours, I feel like this would have been even better for me as is. However, the problem is that it does drag and once that final showdown comes around, there still was a small feeling that this movie had more than over-stayed its welcome. Once again, it was still fun and exciting to watch, but after about two-hours, I did begin to feel the five-hour energy-drink run its course.

In case you couldn't tell, you don't want to mess with them.

In case you couldn’t tell, you don’t want to mess with them.

Then again though, like I’ve been mentioning many a times throughout this whole review, none of that really got in the way of my enjoyment with this movie, especially once people started fighting as if they thought every fighting-sequence from the first was for a bunch of amateurs. I can’t really emphasize that idea enough, without even getting myself into a bit of a repetitive-jumble, but it’s the whole truth and nothing but. This movie is awesome and you’ll more than likely get excited just by somebody looking at another person in a way that makes it seem like they’re about to go at it right away. And once they do, it’s a better time than what most of you will have watching an action film this whole summer.

Well, until this soon-to-be-declared-masterpiece makes its way around.

Can’t help it, people. I guess I’m just too much of a Michael Bay fanboy.

Consensus: While it may be a lot longer, wider and packed with more subplots than the first, the Raid 2 has just about everything you’d expect to see with all sorts of fun, creative and exciting action-sequences that not only keep you glued to everything that is happening, but makes you long for the days of when one actually used to feel the pain occurring in whatever scene is on the screen. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Final round. Fight!

Final round. Fight!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Transcendence (2014)

Well of course Johnny Depp thinks he’s God!

Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) and his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) both believe in technology being used as a resource to help the planet, rather than continuing to destroy it. Evelyn believes in preserving the environment; whereas Will never necessarily disagrees with her, but cares more about making technology the prime, supreme force in the world. Their other science-buddy Max (Paul Bettany) doesn’t really know what to think, but then again, he doesn’t have much time to once Will is shot with a lethal injection of radiation by a bunch of rebels looking to take him down. He has only about a month to live, and that’s all Evelyn and Max need to transport all of Will’s mind into a computer hard-drive, where they could still talk to and interact with him, as if he was really there; except for, you know, the fact that he’s inside of a computer. While Max doesn’t like what he initially sees with this new programming software Will is in, Evelyn doesn’t care too much and decides to keep Will alive and happy through this computer, where he, all of a sudden, has the world, literally at his finger-tips. This is also, incidentally, around the time when Will decides that it’s time to take the world into his own hands, where he has the ability to repair and posses anyone, giving them hope and invincibility at the same time. Sound like somebody else we all know of?

Yeah, as you can tell, the religious-tones of this movie aren’t at all subtle; then again, nothing of this movie is, or what it’s trying to say is. Throughout the whole two-hours of this movie, you can almost hear director Wally Pfister yelling at the top of his lungs, “Too much technology can ruin one’s mind!!’ It’s a point that he makes abundantly clear in the first 20 minutes, and decides, “Aww, what the heck! I’m already there, so I might as well”, and hammers this point into our heads for the next hour-and-40-minutes. In all honesty, all of this preaching and ranting wouldn’t have been so bad had the movie been able to actually keep its the audience’s pulse, as well as its own, up and moving.

"He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!"

“He has how many years to live? Two? That means like only three-and-a-half Pirates sequels!”

But nope. For some odd reason, Wally Pfister (making his directorial-debut after years and years as an amazing cinematographer) thinks that it’s best to harp on these ideas he has, and totally forgets that this isn’t a college class where kids are supposed to be falling asleep in the back of the room, or inconspicuously playing Candy Crunch on their “notebooks”; this is a movie, for Christsakes! Better yet, it’s a two-hour, sci-fi thriller blockbuster, that has huge names like “Johnny Depp”, “Morgan Freeman”, and, ehrm, “Kate Mara”. She’s a big name now, right? House of Cards anybody? Oh wait! Cillian Murphy is in this and he’s a pretty big name from wherever he’s from. So that counts, right?

Anyway, you get the point! This is a big-budget, sci-fi thriller that is supposed to deal with the big questions one must have about day-to-day society, the technology that runs so rampant around in it, and whether or not we should let that said technology get the best of ourselves and make us forget exactly who it is we are, what we were put on this world to do in the first place, and why, as a species, it is that we matter. There’s no problem with dealings with those questions and trying to find the best, most suitable-answers possible, but there’s a better, more efficient-way to do so than what is presented here.

And it’s not like I’m some sort of caffeine-junkie that can’t wait two more weeks until the summer blockbusters start coming around every damn weekend and needs his action now, now, NOW; but it’s more that I just needed an extra “oomph” to the material that was presented here. That said extra “oomph”, rarely came around. Even when it did, it was near the tail-end, which was also a bit too late and only had me assume that Pfister realized he had to add some sort of action in there, so he decided to have guns shot, people murdered, cars flipped-over and streets exploding from the ground-up. Yeah, it sort of comes out of nowhere, and while it may be damn pretty to look at, it almost amounts to nothing. Just a bunch of smart people, talking about smart things, and trying to be smart, while also a bit bad-ass as well.

Note this, Hollywood: You can’t be a total smarty-pants, and also be a bad-ass as well. Sure, it works for our beloved superheroes, but they aren’t real people. They’re just a bunch of freaks. The same could be said for our modern-day, ordinary, regular-people scientists that roam the Earth, however, THEY ARE real people, which makes it all the harder to see them pistol-whip a baddie, while simultaneously be spewing out coded, scientific-numbers and such.

I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work. Not for real-life, human beings that is. They’re just too, real. Man.

Also, something else to mention about this movie isn’t the fact that this movie doesn’t make much sense, but how it never really seems to stop at a certain-point and realize that this is in fact the point they want to leave its audience with. For instance, the character of Dr. Will Caster comes off a bit like a normal, everyday science-geek. He loves technology, he loves playing around with internet-connections and he even loves playing old-school, vinyl! Yup, so you know he’s a bit of a weirdo! Anyway, with Will, who seem to starts out unlike any other character we’ve seen Johnny Depp in the past decade or so (in other words, “normal”), once he gets shot and is transported into that trusty old computer of his, things start to get a little shaky for this character, as well as this movie. Depp is fine here, but I can’t help but feel like he couldn’t show up to all of the filming for this movie, so just got on his Webcam and decided to act from there. That’s sort of what the role calls on him to do, but it feels like a waste of someone who has finally found some time in his hectic schedule of partying with Tim Burton.

Seriously, those two need to stay apart for a long, long time.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they're delivering scientific exposition.

Only cool guys put their hands in their pockets when they’re delivering scientific exposition.

Anyway, with with Will, firstly, it seems like he becomes a total, longing-for-the-almighty-power nut-job, all because he “thinks it’s the right thing to do”. Sure, I could see why somebody would want to create a God-like figure, let alone, use themselves as the subject, but after awhile, this movie makes you think at which point did anybody decide that letting Jack Sparrow-speaking Siri start healing people with infinite powers, and taking over their souls was a smart idea? Apparently half-way through, Evelyn just stops caring and is like, “Yeah, whateva. He’s my hubby and I love him for what he is. Even if he is just a computer that can’t touch, feel or bang me. Yup, that’s him alrighty.”

I know I’m making light of this, but this movie’s plot truly is careless. Not much of it makes sense, and the movie never realizes whether or not it wants to condemn technology for being, well, technology, or wish that everybody would take a chill-pill and go back to the old days of smoking on peace pipes and playing Pong for hours-on-end. The movie is somewhere caught right up in the middle, leaving not only its audience with too much info jiggling around in our minds, but never, ever too sure whether or not the movie itself ever knew what it wanted to say. Instead, we’re just left to get in our cars, go to our homes and sit in front of our lap-tops for the rest of the night.

Ah, technology. What a beautiful thing to waste. Or not waste.

Eh, whatever.

Consensus: Filled with more ideas than it can probably handle, Transcendence may get by on its ambitions, but never seems to take-off in terms of its plot, its tone, or even its feelings regarding what it is that it’s speaking out against, or for. I’m still not sure.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

What happens after too much partying with Hunter S.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Hateship Loveship (2014)

Nothing stranger than a gal who doesn’t mind cleaning up beds after people soil them.

Quiet, reserved and slightly off-kilter middle-aged caretaker Johanna (Kristen Wiig) has to move when her last employer passes away, which then leads her to her new job: Taking care of a young teenager named Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). She is currently living alone with her grand-father (Nick Nolte), while her alcoholic father Ken (Guy Pearce) is out-and-about, saying of how he’s trying to get his act together and start up his own Motel. At first, Johanna seems to do her own thing and not really get in anybody’s way, that is until Sabitha and one of her friends find and read a note that Ken has written Johanna. The note itself is harmless and practically meaningless, as it’s just Ken scribbling down his thoughts about how he appreciates Johanna looking after his daughter while he’s gone and whatnot; however, Sabitha decides that it’s time to have some fun with these two adults, and decides to make fake letters for Johanna to respond to. This continues on for quite some time, and gets very serious once Johanna herself even gets an e-mail address, but where it really goes overboard is when Johanna shows up at Ken’s dilapidated place, expecting him to great her with arms wide open, when in reality, he’s sleeping, high, confused and already in a relationship. Still, that doesn’t mean a relationship between the two can’t happen, or even work-out, right?

You’d think that after the smash-success of Bridesmaids, that Kristen Wiig would have taken just about every big, payday-gig Hollywood had to throw at her, right? Well, think again, crazy ones! See, with Wiig, she’s done just about the exact-opposite: She’s used a lot of her “star-power” as pull for these small, relatively low-key indies that she gets apart of, not to just make her shine better as an actress, but actually have audiences see her in a different-light than ever before.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Cause, Christ, after doing this for about seven years, you’d think that audiences wouldn’t ever take you seriously again!

Well, that’s what’s so surprising about Wiig – not that she’s good at playing-up the whole “drama” aspect to her acting skills, but because she’s able the compelling element in a movie, without barely uttering a word. For people who have wanted to see Wiig just shut it for at least an hour or two, then here’s the movie for you, because she does a whole lot of staring. And also a lot of awkward-pausing, stuttering, more staring, making-out with herself in the mirror, making food silently, and yes, even more staring. However, it’s not as boring or as repititious as I may make it out to be, because there’s always an under-lining thought throughout this whole movie about just who this Johanna woman really is.

Most of that mystery can be attributed to some fine character-development, but it can also be attributed to Wiig herself who, despite only saying more than a couple of paragraphs throughout the whole movie, is by far the one element this movie has that keeps it moving. You can tell that she’s a nice lady, but you can also tell that there is something brewing inside of her, which may either be some sexual-tension she wants to release, or just words that have been stuck inside of gut for the past 20 or so years. Either way, we want to watch her interact with those around her, it’s just hard to see how those people react to her and her way of not responding in a normal, thought-provoking manner like most human beings are pleased with.

But screw human beings, you know!!??! What a weird species, man!

Anyway, despite all of my love for Wiig and what she does here, I don’t mean to take anything away from anyone else in the cast, nor the movie itself. In fact, I’d say that despite the movie being practically just another, slow, quiet and subtle indie-drama, it was one that I rarely ever felt a false note rung with. I would have definitely loved it if the movie went into more depth with these characters, particularly Ken, who spends most of the movie looking like he’s tired, beat-up and doesn’t know what to say. Sure, Guy Pearce is great in the role (then again, when is he never?), but once he and Johanna actually start hanging out and “talking” (notice the parenthesis), I couldn’t help but feel like all of the movie’s steam that it had been building up for so long, just went away and evaporated into the air. It disappointed me a bit, although I do see where they were going with this direction, as well as what it was trying to say about these characters. Can’t say I really agreed with it all that much, but hey, I’m not a director making a movie with the likes of Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, Kristen Wiig and Hailee Stenfeld, so what the hell do I know, right?

Eh. Teenage girls.

Eh. Teenage girls.

No, really. Somebody help me out here. What the hell do I know?!?!

Well, I guess I can sort of help myself out and answer that I know fine performances when I see one, and there’s plenty to be found here. I already mentioned that Pearce and Wiig are great in their roles, but it’s that Hailee Steinfeld who really left an impression on me with her role here as the 17-something Sabitha, the kind of girl I would approach in high school and talk to, but never really become close with, all because she’s a bit shallow for my taste. Then again, what 17-year-old girl in high school isn’t a bit shallow? Heck, that’s how half of me and my girlfriends met – by being shallow!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that Steinfeld plays the role of the “coming-of-age, female-teenager” very well, without over-doing it at all. She seems catty and mean whenever she’s talking about Johanna and other people she doesn’t like; but also a sweet, endearing little gal whenever she’s chatting it up with her grand-pop, late at night, while chewing on some Honey Combs. See, she’s just like you or I! Except she’s an Oscar-nominated actress, appearing alongside the likes of Nick Nolte and whatnot!

God, I really have to get my act together already. Jeez Louise.

Consensus: More of a pleasant, little viewing-piece, rather than something that lasts in your mind for a long time afterwards, Hateship Loveship still boasts good enough performances from the A-grade cast to ensure that our minds won’t linger too much from the conventional material.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

But seriously, that stare doe.

But seriously, that stare doe.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Cuban Fury (2014)

Sorry, C-Tates, but the Brits may have this one.

Bruce Garrett (Nick Frost) used to be a huge-lover of dancing. One in particular – salsa dancing. He and his sister (Olivia Colman) were dance partners, who were coached by a dance legend (Ian McShane), and were destined for great and wonderful things in the world of dancing. However, at around age 13, Bruce lost all interest when he was beaten-up by a bunch of bullies who consider him a bit of a “wuss” for wanting to wear tight-clothing, prissy-shoes and dance his fanny off. Right away, this took Bruce away from the idea of dancing, and more towards the idea of just being an average Joe. Fast forward many years later, and well, that’s exactly what he is – he’s single, works a dead-end, 9-to-5 job, has a co-worker he can’t stand (Chris O’Dowd), and hangs with a bunch of buddies who only talk about girls they think are hot, despite them all being married and with kids. However, one shine of light walks into his life with a new boss of his (Rashida Jones), who, believe it or not, actually has an interest in salsa dancing herself. This is when Bruce decides that it’s time to go back to his old ways and start moving and grooving his rump, all in hopes to win the girl of his dreams. The only problem is that it’s been quite awhile since he’s stepped foot on a dance-floor, which not only means he’s a bit rusty, but also out-of-shape. Way, WAY out-of-shape, to be exact.

Eyes ahead, buddy!

Eyes ahead, buddy!

We’ve all seen Nick Frost before, usually as the lovable, goofy side-kick that is there to serve the story, but isn’t necessarily the one our main focus-point is on. Which, for most people, including Frost himself, is fine. There are just some actors and actresses out there who are better served as supporting-players that are there for rare delights, rather than being the center of attention, where they are more than likely going to be spoiled after about an-hour-and-a-half of just them.

But, seeing as how Frost has been in the game for quite some time, it makes sense that now he would get the chance to be the star of his own show, and what a unique show it is to see him apart of. Never thought I’d imagine him dancing, nor did I imagine him playing the straight-man, but here he is: Not only doing a lot of salsa dancing, but barely ever cracking a joke that doesn’t fall flat on its face like it is supposed to. It’s strange to see anybody whom we often proclaim as being “the goof-ball”, not be as such, but Frost, believe it or not, does well with it.

Then again, he isn’t given too much else to do other than just be charming, while also being a normal-person, but he handles it all fine. Heck, even the dancing, which, from what I hear, is mostly him, is impressive as well. Definitely didn’t seem like an easy-feet, given the fact that he is, strictly speaking, not in the best shape for being a salsa dancing, but that clearly didn’t get in the way of being apart of this movie. He’s happy he’s starring in it and the feeling is mutual.

Overall, it’s a pretty happy movie.

That’s why it’s hard to come down on a movie like this for being so conventional and obvious. You can tell every note that’s going to hit, from a mile away and there are almost no surprises. Maybe even worse, is that it’s not really all that funny. There’s many jokes made at the fact that dancing is sort of, kind of, maybe not for straight-dudes who are in touch with their masculinity and the ladies they bring to their bed every night, and by now, they all seem a bit tired. Even the character of Bejan, an ultra-feminine fellow dancer, played charmingly by Keyvan Novak, seems like the kind of “gay best-friend”-type you’d get in a rom-com. The only difference of him being here is that he just so happens to be the gay-friend of another male, but that’s just about it. Nothing else is really be out-of-the-ordinary, or even shocking for that matter.

Popped-collar? What a dick.

Popped-collar? Total dick.

Instead, where this movie’s strong-suit really lies in, is the fact that it’s cast is having a fun time. In fact, the one I’d say whom is having the most fun out of all is Chris O’Dowd as Bruce’s co-worker who is an absolute and total dick. It’s actually the role we don’t see O’Dowd too often play, but believe it or not, he’s actually quite great in it and it’s nice to see him shake things up a bit. Maybe he’s a bit too over-the-top with the nasty and cruel things he says to a person, almost to the point of where you don’t even believe that he’s never gotten socked in the face recently by anyone, but I feel like that’s more of just how far O’Dowd may have been willing to go with his improvisations. Also, I can’t rain too much on his parade, considering that he’s the second cast-member in this movie that was actually able to draw some laughs out of me.

That other person who made me laugh a whole heck of a lot was Ian McShane, who I honestly feel like they just called-in at the last second, and he decided to show up whenever he felt like it. Whatever the reason was, it doesn’t matter, because he’s always funny and always stealing the show; just like you’d imagine every Ian McShane performance being written as.

I would hate to even forget to mention Rashida Jones’ love-interest character, or even Olivia Colman as Bruce’s likable, spirited sister, but the fact is this: They are just fine. Jones seems like she may be able to break-out of that Ann Perkins-mode she’s created for herself, but this may not be the movie to do so; and as for Colman, well, she gives some levity to a role that could have easily been written-off as “the sister of the main character who is there to shed some advice on his life, even though she may not have it all figured-out like she says” type of role. Yeah, it’s a long description, but you know what I’m talking about.

Consensus: Not as crackling with humor as much as it should be, Cuban Fury gets by on the utter-charm and likability of its cast, because everything else is pretty standard, even by comedy’s standards.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"No Simon or Edgar around, it's finally my time to shine."

“No Simon or Edgar around, it’s finally my time to shine.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Fargo (1996)

Can’t ever get enough of hearing the term, “You betcha!”

A car salesman (William H. Macy) is in a tight pinch for money and needs it as quick as humanly possible. His solution? Hire two criminals (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife for ransom, so that he can get the money from his very wealthy father-in-law and split it with the two criminals. Everything seems to be fine for the three and going according to plan, until people show up dead due to some tragic consequences. That brings pregnant police officer, Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand), to the scene where she ends up figuring out just what is shaking all around her sweet, little town of Fargo.

Before I go on any further and lose more and more friends, family, fans, and confidantes than I already know I will, I just want to state this right away: I liked this movie. I can’t argue against the Coens’ artistry as writers, or as directors; the film is always entertaining, no matter how many times I actually do view it (fourth or fifth by now). That being said: It is a tad overrated.

Yup, I know. Bring on the boos.

It’s okay though. It’s exactly what I expect by now, seeing as I’ve had this opinion for as long as I can remember. And it isn’t because I enjoy going against the societal-norm because it makes me look strong, hip, and cool; it’s more just that this movie has never really charmed me as much as it has done so to everyone else.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

Hey woMAN, nice shot.

That said, there are some little pleasures to be found in this nearly hour-and-a-half movie that still surprise me to this day. First of all, it’s the relaxed-tone of this movie that really does it some justice, as the Coens seem to throw us little, itty, bitty details every once and awhile. Just by the way in which a character looks, or does, or says something, gives you the slightest hint about what we’re supposed to think about that character, and this small town of Fargo, with its sometimes quirky, residents.

In fact, this is probably where the Coens win the most brownie-points from me, as it shows that these guys clearly love these characters they’ve created, and rarely ever pass judgement on them. Sure, they’re a bit ditsy and sheltered from the rest of the world, but they’re still happy with that. It doesn’t make them bad or good people – it just makes them people, who also just so happen to live in a place that’s very far from what some consider the “idealistic landscape to live in”. However, that’s just some people and their opinions, man.

Even two despicable human beings like the characters played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare would easily be the most evil, unlikable fellows in the whole movie, and yet, there’s something about them that still keeps us away from hating them. Maybe moreso in the case of Buscemi’s character, as he seems like a guy who just gets his job done, does what he has to do, acquire his money and live a simple, carefree life like he’d done before, but even with Stormare’s character, there is still something about his quiet-demeanor that draws us to him. That’s probably what also drew the Coens to him so much in the first place, but it works more for us, as we are the ones who have to make up our own minds about these characters, and whether or not we choose to sympathize with any of them.

William H. Macy’s character is clearly the one who we find the hardest time caring for, but even his little quirks make us like him, if only for the faintest of reasons. As for Frances McDormand’s Marge Gunderson, well, we love her for being just about the opposite of these previously mentioned guys: She’s a simple, lovely and delightful lady that expects the best out of humanity, and only wants to bring happiness to the world. That set-in-stone idea that she has about the world around her gets tarnished a whole lot once she realizes that there’s some actual ugliness out there, and yes, it’s found its way into her own, safe little world that she’s made for herself. It’s hard not to feel sorry for her when she sees everything wrong and terrible about what this world can offer, but that’s what also makes it her so damn human in the first place, despite her small quirks here and there. It’s easy to see why McDormand won an Oscar for this role, as she steals the show just about every time, which was not an easy-feet, considering the talent she had stacked-up against her.

And of course, I could even say that the whole mystery itself still surprises me every once and awhile, all because certain plot-points make a bit more sense now, than they ever did before. That may be less of an attribute to this movie, and more to the caffeine I drank before watching this, but it’s something to still note regardless. The Coens love their characters and what makes them who they are, but they also still love themselves a little twists, a little turns, and better yet, a little bit of blood to be shed, all in the name of some cold, hard crime. These are the guys I’m comfortable with seeing make movies for the rest of my natural-born life, but more importantly, I would love to see them continue with the thriller-genre, and seeing how many times they can put their own creative-spin on it.

But now, here comes the time in my review where I lose all of your love and adoration, and get down to the simple fact, which is: Yes, I think Fargo is a bit overrated.

First and foremost, my problem with this movie isn’t that I’ve seen it so many times that I know everything that happened right from the get-go; in fact, that’s terribly false. There’s plenty of movies I’ve seen many more times than I can probably count, that still remain my “favorites”, even if I know every twist and turn that’s coming around the bend, all because I’ve seen said movie more than a couple of handful of times. But that’s not the point – the point is that with Fargo, I feel like every twist and turn is suitable into what gets a rush out of the viewer so much when watching it, and it just doesn’t hold-up on repeat-viewings, like so many movies I re-watch do.

Doesn't know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday  man's crisis.

Doesn’t know if the wife he wanted kidnapped is dead or alive. Oh, the everyday man’s crisis.

There’s small, little tidbits that are worth noting that made me smile because I didn’t notice them once before, but after awhile, I started to realize that there was maybe something a bit too odd when it came to the plot’s-structure. I love me some Steve Park, but his role/subplot Mike Yanagita, an old-friend of Marge’s, could have easily been written-out and the movie would have not suffered one bit. Sure, it’s another instance of the Coen’s making weird characters that they love, but it doesn’t do much for the movie except take us away from the actual crime on our hands; the same crime that Marge herself is investigating.

And I get it, I really do – the Coens like to do this sort of thing where they all sorts of different strands of plot that they are able to weave together somehow, through someway, but I just didn’t feel like it worked so well here. At the end of the day, when the people who deserved to be gone, were gone; the crime has been solved; justice has been served; and some life-lessons have been thrown around, I wondered: What was the point? Maybe this is just a personal problem I have with this movie, but once that anti-climactic ending came around, I had a hard time feeling wholly satisfied. Instead, I just ended my fourth or fifth-viewing of Fargo as I’ve done with any other viewing done before: It’s good, but that’s pretty much it.

Sorry, friends, family and whomever else may actually care. I truly am. Please take me back. Please!

 Consensus: Though the Coen’s clearly have a love for their characters, their story and all of the twists they throw into the plot, Fargo still doesn’t do much for me as a movie that has me thinking for days-on-end.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Smart idea, except for the fact that ALL OF THE SNOW LOOKS THE SAME.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Joe (2014)

In need of a father-figure in your life? Look no further than this guy. But with more facial-hair.

15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan) is living a hard life in the deep and dirty South. Not only is his dad (Gary Poulter) a drunk, but he’s a mean, nasty, and cruel one, too. Any money that Gary ever makes from working his butt off, or any reward he gets whatsoever, always gets taken away from him and/or has him get roughed-up a bit as well. Joe (Nicolas Cage) realizes this and he’s about tired of seeing it. That’s when he decides to step into Gary’s life when he notices that the kid has some promise for this world and makes it his mission to make him a man of sorts. The only problem is that Joe’s troubled-past with the law, criminals, booze, hookers and smoking continue to come back and bite him in the ass. And somehow, that checkered-past of Joe’s, ends up finding its way into Gary’s life, where neither one of them know if they are going to live or die. All they do know is that they got a friendship together, and they’re going to stick together, regardless of what havoc may be coming their way.

Nic fuckin’ Cage, man. That’s all I have to say.

If none of you know this by now, then let me just regurgitate everything I’ve been saying for the past couple of years or so – I’ve never given up hope on Nic Cage. Never, ever. Yes, he makes shitty movies; yes, most of the time it seems like he’s just doing everything for the movie; and yes, he over-acts more times than he often should. But you know what? Deep down inside, underneath all of the confusing career-decisions he’s made in the, oh, I don’t know, say decade or so, I knew that he was doing it all for a reason.

Kid better hope that's not Nic's ride. Cause if so, he'd better run.

Kid better hope that’s not Nic’s ride. Cause if so, he’d better run.

Some of those decisions were probably made to get him some extra cash on the side, and as a result, therefore allowing him to do smaller, more-challenging roles that we don’t get to see him do too often. And as the titled-character Joe, we get to see everything Nic Cage that any adoring, dedicated fan would want to see: Some real, grounded acting.

See, with Nic Cage, it’s hard to figure out what kind of role you’re going to get from him – either A): you get a totally bonkers role in which he yells, screams, hoots, hollers and never dials it down under eleven the whole time, or B): you get a bit of the nuttiness, but in a more sensible, human-like way. We’ve seen more of the first part one too many times, but that latter one does show its face every once and a blue moon, and when it does, it’s a sight to see. Such is the case here with Joe; a role that Nic Cage may have not been born to play, but a role that I’m glad to see him play and pull-off so perfectly.

With the character of Joe, or at least, the way he is written, he’s made out to be the traditional, misfit father-figure a little boy from a broken-home would look up to. He may not be the most perfect human being in the history of humanity, but he at least knows what is right, what is wrong, and how he can make those lives around him a lot better. His relationship with Gary could have easily been an uncomfortable one to see play-out, but somehow, Cage plays Joe so damn well, that it always seems like Joe just wants to be Gary’s friend. Nothing more than just a simple pat on the back and a beer in his hand. So yeah, they’re unconventional buddies, but they are believable as such.

But before I go on any further and start making this a tribute of sorts to Nic Cage, I think I should throw some credit towards Tye Sheridan who, with a handful of roles in the past four years, has really shocked the hell out of me. He’s only 17-years-of-age right now, but with what I’ve seen from him so far, I see a real bright, and inspired future ahead of his. The role he has here, may not be all that different from the one he had in last year’s Mud, but the kid is so good at playing-up that “angry-youth” aspect of his characters, that it almost doesn’t. Also, whenever he’s on the same screen with the almighty Nic Cage, he never gets the show stolen from him. He handles his own quite well, much like what he did with Matthew McConaughey last year, and shows us that any and all kid actors have a lot to live up to now that he’s around.

However, he won’t be a kid for too long, which I hope only means that he’ll get better and better roles coming around his way. Or, the worse could happen and he could end-up like this guy.

Please don’t, Tye Sheridan. You have too much good going for you right now to just screw it all up.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right: Nic Cage. Like I was saying before, this is the type of role that seems tailor-made for what Cage does so well; he’s able to be a sympathetic character, that knows the difference between right and wrong, but by the same token, isn’t always thinking correctly and usually lets his anger get the best of him. With Joe, Cage gets plenty of chances to show the rage that’s practically brewing from inside of him the whole time, and it’s tense as freakin’ hell. You can tell by just looking in his eyes when he’s going to lose his cool and you automatically feel bad for whomever it is that’s about to feel his wrath, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Most of the time, they do, but there is that slight chance in which Joe is just going all nutso on someone, just because he’s been having a bad day or something.

But, like I’ve been alluding to this whole time, there’s a deep, understanding human-conscience to this guy, and you see that play-out many times during his few scenes with Gary. In fact, one of the problems I had with this movie was that a lot of it seemed to get so far away from Joe and Gary’s friendship, that I sort of wanted them to go back more times than they actually did. Not just because I wanted to see more of Nic Cage acting his ass-off (deep down, I really did), but because that’s the heart of this movie that kept it going, even when everything was as black as the coffee I had this morning.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or something.

Probably just got done eating a rabid wolverine or human. Who knows. He’s Nic Cage.

However, that’s neither here, nor there; what matters is what fuels this movie, and that’s the fact that David Gordon Green never really allows for it to get to dark to where it’s off-putting. It’s never really pleasant either (with the exception of a few scenes, which, oddly enough, are between Gary and Joe), but I wasn’t really expecting much else from this movie. Green is sort of now back in good-graces with the movie world as it seems to be that he is, once again, doing more smaller-scale, lower-budget indie-flicks, and it’s exciting to see. More important is that while he does have that visual-style that was so prevalent in his earlier-flicks, he doesn’t allow for that to take over his movie; there is still a story here, and it rarely ever seemed to lose my interest.

And I have to say, it’s pretty interesting to see such wild cards like Nic Cage and David Gordon Green getting together and making a movie. It totally worked to their advantage, clearly, but it’s just interesting to see what happens when two talented people are able to come together on something, understand one another, and work their rumps off. Obviously, for me, this is Green’s best flick since, say, I don’t know, All the Real Girls; but as for Mr. Cage, hmm, well, I’d have to say, it’s probably his best “real” performance since Adaptation. Which, incidentally was a little over a decade ago. Not saying that there hasn’t been some fine pleasures in between (surely this moment in his career will never leave my memory-banks), but it hasn’t been too pretty either. Here’s to hoping that Nic’s got some more promising-material coming up the pipeline.

However, by the looks of things, that doesn’t seem to be happening.

Shit.

Consensus: Surely not the sort of pick-me-up if you’re a fan of some of Nic Cage’s, or David Gordon Green’s more mainstream flicks, but if you’re willing to let it take its toll on you, you’ll find Joe to be an emotional, gripping drama that you want to see all talents involved do more of.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

In most circumstances, I'd be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it's the guy without the gun.

In most circumstances, I’d be scared of the kid with the gun, but under this circumstance, it’s the guy without it that I’m scared of.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Rio 2 (2014)

You’re the last of your species! Now, stay indoors and shut up!

Now that both Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and Blu (Jesse Eisenberg) have fallen-in love and even started their own family, it’s about time the cracks within the relationship show. Jewel is still that fun, adventurous-type, like she believes every blue macaw bird should; whereas Blu is still sort of like a human, equipped with making pancakes, using a GPS to navigate from place-to-place and even allowing his kids to use technology. Adding more tension is when they both find out about another breed of blue macaw’s that are apparently somewhere out there in the middle of the Amazon. Seeing as this may be their time to find others just like them and hopefully get some excitement in their lives, Blu and Jewel, along with their three children, decide to take a trip out to there, where they stumble upon all sorts of birds that are just like them. Heck, one of them even just so happens to be Jewel’s father (Andy Garcia), whom she thought was long gone by now. So yeah, it’s a nice place where all blue macaws live in perfect harmony with one another, except for when a certain entrepreneur decides that it’s time to start making more paper, and cutting down all of the trees in the Amazon, threatening everything that these birds have made their sanctuary.

As most of you may, or may not have seen, I was actually very surprised by the original Rio. Not only was it a fun movie that made me sort of feel like a kid again, but it didn’t really need to do much to surprise or even shock me. It was just exactly what it was – an animated movie made for the whole family. Sometimes, those types of movies can be utterly cheesy and only work for those little ones who don’t know any better, but other times, they can actually work for everyone who decides to take some time out of their day and give it a try. That’s what the first Rio was. Its sequel though?

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn't want you.

He reads and performs Shakespeare. So no, honey, he doesn’t want you.

Meh. Not so much.

Actually, not at all.

See, with the case of Rio 2, as is the case with any major-motion sequel, everything that worked so well in the first movie, is now re-amped with more of everything. Here, we get more vibrant colors popping out at us; more subplots that don’t need to inserted into here at all; more characters added in; and just more, more, more! And usually this is done to really keep us interested in what is going, while to simultaneously keep track of which characters, are doing what things, for what reasons, but here, you almost never get the sense that anything is happening.

While I may have written the plot-synopsis up top as being a simple story of Blu and Jewel going on an adventure to the inner-levels of the Amazon for a happenin’, joyous good time, there’s actually plenty, PLENTY more where that came from. Remember those birds that were voiced by will.i.am and Jamie Foxx that were always singing, being hip and saying sassy stuff? Well, yeah, they’re here again, and apparently, they’re looking for cast members for their latest production they’re going to put on for Carnivale. That’s all fine and dandy. Not like it’s going to make, or break the movie. In fact, you need a subplot like this to bring some much-needed comedic-relief to this flick.

However, like I alluded to before, there’s plenty more where that came from.

Blu’s human-owner, voiced by Leslie Mann, is with her scientist hubby, voiced by Rodrigo Santoro, and they are running all throughout the Amazon as well; Jemaine Clement’s villainous-character is back around and looking for vengeance for what Blu did to him all those years ago, but this time, has an admirer constantly behind him; Jewel runs into an old friend of hers that may, or may not actually be interested in her; and oh yeah, before I forget to mention it, there’s also sort of a subplot about one of Blu’s daughters wanting to break out her shell and get involved with everything, without getting too involved to where it isn’t deemed “cool” anymore.

So yeah, as you can tell just by reading that, all of those subplots are a bit too much for any film, let alone a kids movie that runs about an-hour-and-a-half, give or take. It’s too much for any kid to keep track of, but better yet, it’s too much for a movie that wants to be so playful and simple. It just takes all of the fun out of what could have been something exactly like the first, except maybe a bit better. That doesn’t happen though, and while it may not all be terrible (the song-and-dance-numbers are just about the only elements working for this movie), it still made me want to watch the first one all over again, just to get the memory of this dull movie out of my mind.

"Aw hay, hay, hay!"

“Aw hay, hay, hay!”

Okay, maybe it wasn’t that god-awful, but you get the point. Could have been a good, escapist time if it stuck to its cards, but it didn’t. So therefore, it was just “meh”.

Meh, meh, meh.

As for the voice-cast that’s all returning, nobody is really outstanding; then again, nobody else is really all that bad either. They are just seemingly doing what they did in the first movie, and that’s it. The only one who is still slightly amusing to listen to is Clement’s Nigel, who is still funny when he’s vindictive and angry, but also has plenty of moments where we see his character as being more than just a “villain”. It was interesting to see that happen in a movie that seemed to be so distracted by everything else going on, that they’d actually allow for some neat character-development to actually happen. See, it’s just the little things that make a movie slightly better than what they should be. If only that transitioned well into the rest of the movie, then I would probably be singing a different tune. Not that I can remember any of the songs from this movie in the first case.

Consensus: With too much going in every spectrum of it, Rio 2 ends up being a jumble of many different strands of story, yet, barely any of them ever excite or intrigue one bit.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

That’s what true love looks like. Minus all of the disdain and hatred that they hold for one another brewing beneath.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Oculus (2014)

Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Tell me, do these jeans make my butt look big?

When Kaylie and Tim Russell (Karen Gillan and Brenton Thwaites) were both very young, they saw their father (Rory Cochrane) shoot their mother (Katee Sackhoff) in cold blood. The case gets thrown out as a standard case of murder in the first-degree, however, the kids think differently. See, they think it’s all because of some strange, ancient mirror they had ever since they moved on, which ironically enough is exactly once all of the weird, creepy stuff started to happen to this family in the first place. Nobody believes these two, seemingly crazed-kids, so the government sends Kaylie away to an orphanage, where she’ll most likely be made fun-of her life and taught to be independent; whereas Tim becomes a bit of a nut-case, and is sent to a mental-institution, where he is studied and tested, while he’s also trying to come to grips with what it is that he really saw: Was it a dream-like sequence to get their minds away from the grim reality of this grisly murder, or is this mirror actually possessed by some sort of demon. Neither of the two really know for sure, which is why, 10-12 years later, the two reunite at their childhood home where the murder occurred and play their own little game of Ghost Hunters. Except, it’s just them, and the mirror that’s been haunting their lives for the past decade or so.

Trust me honey, there's nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

Trust me honey, there’s nothing wrong reflection. Nothing. At. All.

While it may seem like every horror movie that comes out nowadays, may be an exact carbon-copy of the last (a statement which does hold some truth), there are those very surprising exceptions that take the horror-genre, and sort of spin it on its ears. These types of movies don’t really commit such an act by coming up with a new, inventive way to tell their story, but instead, realize that what makes and breaks horror movies nowadays, is whether or not they can be entertaining. Sure, everybody can be pissing their pants by showing them every jump-scare in the book, but is that really fun to watch? Expecting a scare to happen, so that when it does happen, you jump a little bit less than you would have, had you not known anything about any horror movie, ever made?

Personally, I think where most horror movies really make their gravy is in just how much fun they can have with toying and teasing with the audience’s expectations; and in Oculus, there’s plenty of that. However, it’s not the type of toying and teasing you’d expect from a movie like the Cabin in the Woods, where it’s clearly obvious that the creators behind it think that are a lot smarter than average the movie-goer. It’s more like the kind of toying and teasing you do with a dog when you’re playing fetch with it – you take it this way, that way, and all of a sudden, you surprise them and have them absolutely excited.

Bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got in the tank right now.

Though this is his first-outing behind the camera in a big-screen feature, Mike Flanagan shows that he has the chops to do a bit more new, and exciting things with the horror-genre. Not only does he bring us into his story with interesting, somewhat sympathetic characters, but he never allows for this story to get too over-blown or insane. Actually, that’s a lie. He totally does. In fact, that’s probably my biggest problem with this movie is that when all is said and done, and that abrupt-as-hell ending hits you, it comes too quick. But even worse, it doesn’t exactly make much sense.

But see, this is where I start to get a bit jumbled-up in my own words now. Because the aspect where this movie really works, is in the way it is able to just keep on messing with us, having us look at one thing, while surprising us with a completely other, different thing. Which, yes, is fine and all, but after awhile, some of it does start to make you scratch your head and wonder just what the hell is going, or how did that happen. Not going to give too much away, but I’ll put it like this, that mirror likes to do a lot of tricking, without ever treating, so be ready for that.

However though, like I said before, that whole aspect of not knowing what’s going on, is sort of what works so well for it in the end. This is a horror film in the sense that we get scares, ghosts, blood, teeth pulled-out, murder, screaming, people with freaky, glowish-eyes, and all that other jazz, but it’s also a lot more like a thriller as well. Mainly because instead of making this an all-out gore-fest where people in the crowd go “yuck!” and “ew!”, while covering their eyes and simultaneously throwing up their dinner, Flanagan keeps his sights on building up suspense to where you feel like anything could happen with this story, at just about any second. And I don’t mean that because it’s a fun movie, I mean that literally, because it gets confusing-as-hell.

Horror convention #208

Horror convention #208

But I don’t want to harp on that too much, because the fact of the matter is this: It’s a fun horror movie. That’s all you really need. Sure, the performances from the cast are good; Karen Gillan in particular that seems like she’s never heard of comedy a single day in her life and delivers every line in a straight-forward manner, which actually works and makes us look at her as a bit of a cook-ball, which is what this movie definitely wanted to have going for it. However though, this is less about them and more about the show. The show that keeps on going, regardless of how nonsensical it gets. Which, granted, is about ten minutes into it, but really, are horror movies really the type of movies you want to be realistic about?

Yeah, didn’t think so. Just enjoy and shut up!

Consensus: While Oculus doesn’t set out to try and re-invent the horror-wheel, it still does a fine job at building tension, characters and a twisty story to exciting proportions, even if you may not be coming out of it totally convinced you know everything that happened.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Wait? We're supposed to be playing twins?"

“Wait? We’re supposed to be playing twins?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Draft Day (2014)

You thought on-the-field was tough? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, ya pansy soccer fan!

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has it pretty rough for a man of his age and stature. He’s the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t been all that successful in quite some time; his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) may possibly be pregnant; and to add insult to injury, the most important day in all of sports history, next to the Super Bowl of course, is coming up: Draft day. Oh yes, the NFL draft. Where dreams are both shattered and made, sometimes, even occurring at the same time. For Sonny though, his main problem isn’t just dealing with his boss (Frank Langella), the head coach (Denis Leary), or even the main-prospect he’s looking into (Chadwick Boseman), the main problem he’s having is getting the deal he wants, while also making sure that everyone around him is happy with his dealings at the end of the day. Not just him, or his co-workers, but the franchise as a whole. Which, if you know a thing or two about any sport whatsoever, is a lot easier said, then actually done.

I’d probably say that the biggest worry somebody will have when going into this movie is whether or not they know enough about the NFL, the draft, how it all works, and why it all matters. To put it simple, it’s like this: College ball-players get a chance to be drafted onto any NFL team that is actually in the draft, which also leaves these teams’ managers, scouters, whatever, to start making all sorts of deals and promises that they can’t clearly keep. But basically, what you have is a bunch of guys who bicker at one another, doing whatever they can to make sure the team they represent gets the best player, or, even more important, the better deal.

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

So, if you know all of that going into the movie, you have nothing at all to worry about. All you have to do now is just sit back and watch, because for the next two-hours, you’ll be treated to a bunch of grown-ups arguing, wheeling, dealing, yelling and do whatever the hell they can to make sure that they aren’t getting screwed-over in any way. The idea for the premise to revolve around that may seem pretty boring, which is why director Ivan Reitman throws in so many different strands of plot, but somehow, it actually works.

I’m not a huge football-fanatic, but I had my time where Sunday was dedicated to sitting in front of the TV, with chips, soda and my dad by my side. And that was before you all got spoiled with your RedZone, so don’t even give me any lip! Anyway, one of the events that got me more jazzed-up than the Superbowl, was actually the NFL Draft. Reason being is that for so damn long, about a year ahead in advance, there are so many predictions about how it is all exactly going to go down, in what particular fashion, that I couldn’t help but want to just wait and see what went down, and see if all of the predictions were absolutely right, or just a bunch of sports-writers getting too wild and crazy for their pay-grade.

That same feeling I had way back when, translated into my feelings with this movie, as I really did have no clue where this story was going to go, in terms of who Sonny was going to sign, who he was going to lose, if he was going to be fired, and whether or not everybody involved with the organizations would get what it is that they initially wanted. Not only did that keep me watching and interested, but it made everything else that was happening to Sonny, easier to get past, as poorly-written as most of it was. See, this is the type of movie where having Sonny deal with the problems that usually run rampant in a manager’s head come draft-time, isn’t enough. Instead, we need to have all these sorts of different subplots where Sonny is mean to interns; may possibly be a daddy; doesn’t pay his child-support; isn’t pleasing his mommy as much as he should; and so on and so forth.

While all of that may create more stuff to be happening during this movie, barely any of it feels worth our time. More often than not, it just feels like filler for a movie that could have easily been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half indie in the same vein as Margin Call or Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, there are times when this movie does feel very “Mamet-y” in the way the dialogue moves most of the plot, and how so many grown-up men love just being dirty and not always being honest when in circling-around a deal. Those moments of this movie not only rang true for me, but genuinely had me entertained. Sometimes, the conversations these guys have are funny; they’re sometimes insightful; and hell, even sometimes, they’re a bit emotional. But they always add something more to this story, which is where I feel like mostly everything else here doesn’t.

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants "peace".

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants “peace”.

Most of what does work here can definitely be attributed to the fact that Reitman allows for these scenes of just straight-up dialogue, flow and roll as they please. However though, most of that definitely has to be attributed to the well-stacked ensemble Reitman was somehow able to assemble here, particularly Kevin Costner. I’m glad to see K-Cost back in the mainstream, however, 3 Days to Kill was not that type of movie I wanted him doing. It was fine and all (and the same could be said for him), however, that movie had more problems than it needed to have. Here though, Costner is actually given some good material worthy of his talents where he gets plenty to do. He gets a chance to be mean and a bit vindictive; funny when he’s using that comedic-timing of his that is almost nonexistent, but he somehow is always able to get by with; a bit romantic when he has some painlessly-cheesy scenes with Jennifer Garner; and even has a couple of moments as Sonny where he drops the facade of the hardcore, take-no-prisoners businessman, and just lets us see a heart and soul to this guy. The movie could have easily gone in a different direction with this character and had him come-off as flat as a football field itself (hayyoh!), but it doesn’t. It keeps its focus on him, who he is as a person, the type of person he wants to be, and how he gets by in the world.

Like I said though, K-Cost is just the beginning of the familiar-faces in this movie. There’s plenty more where he came from and they are all pretty damn fine. The previously mentioned Garner is alright as Sonny’s co-worker/lover/possible-baby-momma, who has to be a bit cute, a bit feisty, and a bit ballsy to make us believe that she could easily hang around a guy’s sport like football, all of which, Garner does a nice job with. She’s not annoying, let’s just put it that way.

Others include Denis Leary as the Cleveland Browns football coach that barely ever sees eye-to-eye with Sonny, yet, does have plenty of ground to stand on and make us see why; Ellen Burstyn is charming and lovely as Sonny’s mommy, who is clearly still grieving over the death of her husband, Sonny’s dad that he can’t seem to get out of the shadow of; Chadwick Boseman shows us why he is on the verge of near super-stardom right now with his role as a possible NFL-prospect Sonny looks into an awful lot; and Frank Langella, as you could imagine, plays the owner of the Cleveland Browns like the rich and powerful d-bag you’d expect him to play. There’s plenty more where that came from, but you may just have to wait around and see just who exactly does show their bright and smiling faces.

Consensus: May tack-on a bit more than it needs to, but when it comes to the actual process of drafting possible, football-prospects, Draft Day is entertaining, funny and heartwarming, which is thanks to both a charming script and cast, most notably Kevin Costner carrying the whole ship on his back.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like me at parties where I don't like anybody there. Actually, just parties.

Sort of like me at parties where I don’t like anybody there. Actually, just parties in general.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net