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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: May 2014

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

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Maleficent (2014)

How could one not be petrified to death of those cheek-bones?

When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was just a blissful young fairy, she was full of all sorts of life and cared for all of those around her. She loved and protected the forest she lived in; had fairy-friends that she would often fly around with; and even made herself a human-friend in the form of Stefan (Sharlto Copley). They had a great friendship that lasted until he became King – an honor he received by cutting-off Maleficent’s wings, and therefore, robbing her of her innocence. So obviously Maleficent wasn’t too happy about this and decided that she would do whatever she could to extract revenge on him in any way possible, even if that meant cursing his newborn daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). With the fear that his whole family is in danger, Stefan decides to send his daughter away with three fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), where they will watch over her and take care of her. However, the problem is that these fairies do a pretty lackluster job at doing so, and instead, leaves Maleficent herself to care for Aurora and watch over her through her formative years; making the bond between the two of them stronger than either could ever imagine. Especially for Maleficent who, if she’s not careful, may actually start caring for this little kid she calls “a beast”.

Though most of you may think that these constant, live-action re-workings of classic fairy-tales may not work for someone such as myself – it’s surprisingly the other way around. In fact, more or less, I actually commend more of them to be made. Not only do I feel like it gives our future generations a better understanding of what these stories actually are and look like, but it also shows us what these types of stories could be with actual, real-life human beings in the role, regardless of how much CGI may be floating around them.

And in the case of Maleficent, there’s a whole lot of CGI floating around here, and then some.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

While what I just said may have given off a negative connotation, I’ll have you know, that is totally not the case with this movie. See, first-time director Robert Stromberg has truly created something beautiful here; colors, locations and fantasy-like worlds all blend together to give us an idea that were in some place totally original, despite looking like every other fantasy world ever created. It’s a hard task that Stromberg is able to pass, and pass well, which may not seem like much of a surprise to anyone who knows that he’s worked on movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in the past.

However, is there such a thing as a movie looking “too beautiful”? Personally, I don’t believe so, but there does come a point where you have to wonder just when do the visuals end, and the story begin. And here, there isn’t ever a really story that begins, or even ends for that case; it sort of just accompanies the beautiful, awe-inspiring visuals that keep our eyes busy and preoccupied, so that we don’t realize what little story there actually is here.

But considering that this movie is a little over an-hour-and-a-half (a huge surprise to get in the first month of the summer movie season), the lack of a story/drive, is really noticeable and actually makes a lot of the problems with this movie shine even brighter and harsher than before, when all it was that we had to pay attention to was how purrty everything looked.

Like, for instance, with the exception of our titled-character, there is not a single interesting character to be found throughout this whole movie; instead, everybody is just a bunch of walking, talking, and behaving cliches. Sharlto Copley plays King Stefan who is basically just a selfish, deuchy man that continues to get more and more insane, just as his facial-hair begins to get more and more ridiculous and over-bearing; the three fairies are ditsy klutzes used to be something of “comedic-reliefs”, yet they are neither; Sam Riley seems like he wants to break out and show off some charm as Maleficent’s side-kick that she can turn into any creature she can think of, but anytime it seems like he’s just about to, our evil queen (aka, the movie) turns him into a crow, or a wolf, or a dragon, therefore killing any possibility that he may have some fun in this thinly-written role; and Elle Fanning, for once in her short, but storied-career, gave me a performance of hers that’s not the least bit intriguing, because, for the most part, all she has to do is look up to Maleficent and gaze into those mesmerizing eyes of hers.

That’s pretty much it. Could have called up Dakota for that job, if you ask me.

But that’s not even the bulk of the problems with this movie; like I alluded to before, there’s really no story here. In case you didn’t know, this is an origin-tale that throws us right into this story, this world, and this character that we’re clearly supposed to care for, but once Maleficent turns the other cheek and becomes an evil beotch, then the movie sort of just moves along at its own pace, while at the same time, not really doing anything. Sure, we get to see some shading to the character of Maleficent and how she’s not all that much of a despicable witch after all, but it’s not enough to warrant a whole movie made about her, her adventures, and the problems she must overcome as an evil witch scorned with hatred and revenge for another man.

Come to think of it, it’s always about a man, isn’t it? These Disney movies always love to brag and show off how much they’re about “girl power” and how much having a man in their life doesn’t matter, but when it really comes right down to it, it’s always a man that they’re fighting for, or because. It’s never that a woman lives her life because she wants to by her own free-will; it’s always because a man had some inspiration in the matter, somehow, someway. Always seems a bit weird to me, but maybe I just think too much.

And this is what sort of brings me to my next point about the most important aspect of this whole movie: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It’s cool to see Jolie in a role like this that nobody could ever see her actually accepting to do, but I guess motherhood has had a bit of an affect on her life as of late and it’s about time that she finally decided to take some roles for herself and bring some of that extra-dough. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it doesn’t matter because at least we still get to see how good she is when she’s given enough material for her to chew on and work with to the bone. She’s always been known to do that, as well as show everybody how damn beautiful and dazzling she looks; so with an iconic villain like Maleficent, you think that she’d be working wonders with this role. Right?

Ripped right out of Shrek.

When did everything become Shrek all of a sudden?

Well, that’s the problem, once again, with the movie: It doesn’t give her enough to really run wild or have a good time with. There’s a certain charisma that Jolie brings to this role that allows us to see her more human than ever before, but there’s just not enough camp to this performance where we really get the sense that she’s having fun. She’s never going through the motions, however, she’s never really showing all that much of an effort that would really put this movie over the edge into being something you need to see, if only for her.

Most of that’s the movie’s fault, and less of her own, but it’s still a fault that this movie should be held accountable for. And not just because it doesn’t give one of our best-working actresses today enough material to really go nuts with, but because it makes Maleficent, the character, seem like sort of a jumble of ideas. I’m all for getting behind a villainous character and showing them in a slightly sympathetic-light, but with somebody as memorably and recognizably scary as Maleficent, it doesn’t really do her any justice for us to see her as a character we not only stand behind, but actually come to like. Not saying that it can’t be done, but when it comes to this character, one who is quite frightening even in animated-form, then you really have to know just what you’re going to do with her and why. If you don’t, then don’t bother.

And you sure as hell don’t waste any of Angelina’s good old time. Especially when she’s got to go back to that hunk of man-meat every night.

Consensus: Easy on the eyes with its beautiful production-designs, Maleficent proves to be a movie that’s a lot about what it seems to be on its lush-surface, but when one really gets down to it and digs a bit deeper under that said surface, there’s not much to be found. Just a waste of a great cast, most importantly, a more-than-willing Angelina Jolie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ugh. I can't believe she wore that to this party. Like what a betch."

“Ugh. I can’t believe she wore that to this. Like, what a betch.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Normal Heart (2014)

AIDS are bad, m’kay.

During the early 1980’s, numerous homosexual men were being infected with a certain disease that barely anybody knew anything about, except for that it was lethal and that many more people were dying from it, each and every day. Eventually, some homosexual men, whether they be closeted or as “out” as they come, decided to start up a group called the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, which would bring attention to this deadly disease that would come to be known as AIDS, or HIV. One man in particular, former-journalist Ned Weeks (Mark Ruffalo) took matters into his own hands on numerous occasions by publicly going on television, bad-mouthing the government for not paying close enough attention to this disease and doing whatever it is that they could to stop it from killing almost anyone and everyone it infects. However, as the group begins to get closer and closer to figuring out a deal with the government to increase funding for these studies/tests to be done, Ned finds himself in even more hot water with the rest of the group, as not all of them feel as if it’s their duty to be out there fighting and never giving up. Some just want to wait and see what happens next; something Ned doesn’t want to do, considering those closest to him are dying as each and every second goes by.

Though I myself am a straight-man, I have seen quite a number of AIDS-related documentaries high-lighting the troubles and tribulations that most homosexual men and women were, and still are, facing when it comes to getting what it is that they need to stay alive and beat the disease, if that’s even possible. By now, it’s almost become hammered into my head that, for those people who were apart of that movement and were in fear for their lives, it was a terrible time and one that most straight-men or women would have not a single clue knowing about. And that’s true, which is why I don’t pretend to act as if I know everything about what a homosexual goes through on a daily basis; it’s just not fair and personally, it doesn’t seem like it should matter.

Born in the U.S. and gay!

Born in the U.S. and gay!

We’re all humans, after all, regardless of who we like to go to bed with, right?

And while that’s definitely a stance that’s become more and more popular within our society as the generations change, it’s still not a notion that everybody feels comfortable with admitting to believe in, nor do they ever feel comfortable admitting just how truly scared they can be of the idea of homosexuals being all around them. For some people, it doesn’t matter whatsoever and is just another simple, walk-in-the-park; but for others, it’s absolute hell that makes people want to run away back into their safe, little hiding places where they can’t be a witness to any of those “un-Holy acts” being committed. I’m not one of those people, but there totally are plenty still out there and it should be noted that this will seemingly never go away.

Anyway, what brings me to this film is that with the Normal Heart, I felt like everything was a tad too familiar; not just that the story has been done before, but the total act of despair and loneliness that these homosexual men must have felt during this period. I’ve seen it documented in plenty of other films before, whether they be narratives or documentaries, and personally, seeing a movie in which many very-handsome, talented people had to act everything out, just seemed like it was going to be a trip down depressing-lane.

And for the most part, it was, but I think it needed to be in order to get its point across. You can’t have a story told like this that’s all bright, sunny and happy, when the idea is that thousands and thousands are dying, and nobody is doing a single thing about it. It’s a very sad story that needed to be told in the darkest way possible, without an ounce of any sentimentality; which is probably why it’s a good thing it was released on HBO and not on some channel like Lifetime or even Hallmark. For the most part, it would have all been watered-down as to not to offend anyone and it definitely wouldn’t be able to dig deep into some of its most disturbing, darkest moments when trying to get the point of its story across.

Which is definitely to pass all of that credit onto director Ryan Murphy, who definitely seems like he wants to tell this story straight from the heart, no strings attached. Sure, there’s a couple of moments that are a bit too stylized for its own good and sort of take away from the overall impact of this story, but you can clearly tell he wants to tell this tale and put all of his might into it. Better yet, it’s a way better movie than any of his past films to date (Running with Scissors, Eat Pray Love), so I have to congratulate on doing that.

However, there’s one thing about this movie that’s really keeping me away from praising it so damn highly, and that’s because a lot of it does feel like a long-winded, two-hour-plus preach after awhile. Which I guess makes sense when you consider the fact that this is adapted from a stage-play of the same name, but still made this whole thing feel a bit tacked-on whenever, say, a certain character or two would be exclaiming their feelings to others; rather than it feeling genuine and like how someone would actually speak to another person, it just seemed like a person ranting the best way possible. That makes sense too, considering that this movie is on the same side of homosexuals, but it soon made me think that there wasn’t a real story here, and instead, just a bunch of scenes in which people yelled about how they aren’t getting treated fairly and so desperately need to be.

For a better, more clearer example, I’d choose the character of Ned Weeks himself. Weeks is supposed to be this loud-mouth dude that loves to start trouble wherever he goes, because he sees it as him “fighting for what it is that he believes in”; not just pertaining to homosexual problems either, just anything with life in general. Weeks is all about fighting and never giving up, even when it seems like people are really tossing the mud in his face and screwing him over even more. This usually would make him an inspirational-figure in any movie, but here, he’s always constantly yelling, hollering and going off about how he’s fighting and nobody else doesn’t seem to.

The movie sees this as his down-fall, not just as a character, but as a person, and while it definitely gives Mark Ruffalo plenty of meat to chew on, it doesn’t really do wonders for his character. It seemed like whenever there was a time for us to learn a lesson, it was usually through Ruffalo and his lungs, without us ever having to dissect something for ourselves. Like I said before though, Ruffalo is good in the role, it’s just that he has a fairly one-note performance where all he has to do is holler at somebody and let us know that, “Guys, this AIDS stuff is some serious business.”

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Got some marker on your right cheek there, bud.

Julia Roberts’ hard-nosed, yet totally-determined doctor character goes through the same sort of motions as well, but not nearly as obvious as Ruffalo’s. Still though, it’s lovely to see her doing something different with her career that has her acting as mean as she could possibly be, but at the same time, still not letting us forget what makes her so charming in the first place. Same goes for Jim Parsons who gets to take a breath of fresh air for a bit from his Sheldon act and play everything a lot more serious than we’re so used to seeing him play. Yet, he’s also still funny and brings a lot of the more light-hearted moments to the screen, which is something this movie was clearly in desperate need of.

Matt Bomer is also great as Weeks’ boyfriend, Felix, who believably falls in love with him and sets up some very emotional-ground for the later-part of the movie when the AIDS epidemic gets even harsher; Taylor Kitsch shows us all that he’s back to actually “acting” once again and putting himself in some roles that challenge him, not only as a pretty-boy, but as an actor in general; the always great Alfred Molina plays Weeks’ brother and has to battle whether or not he considers himself an equal as his brother, or better-off because he isn’t “gay”; and Joe Mantello has a great scene that really hit me hard as one of the members of this group that just can’t help it anymore that he’s being looked at as the bad guy for continuing his day-job during the morning, and at night, still coming around to help out with the cause.

All of the performances are great and nobody here really tears down the whole ship, it’s just that with more-subtle writing, who knows what could have happened.

Consensus: While most of the Normal Heart feels like familiar-ground being covered again, the fine cast and Ryan Murphy’s stylistic-choices as director make it an emotional trip that still feels relevant in today’s society. Just wished it didn’t blatantly say the same thing, over a hundred times in a row.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That's love right there!

Screw your male-on-female relationships! That’s love right there!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Internal Affairs (1990)

Why can’t cops just be nice guys that do nice things for the sake of humanity? Just why!

A newly minted Internal Affairs officer, Sgt. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), has come upon the fact that his old buddy from the Academy, Van Stretch (William Baldwin), might be in a bit of heat when him and his partner get caught killing a dude in cold blood. His partner, Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), is the one who bailed him out and has been bailing him out for quite some time, whether it be on the force or at home, with his wife and family. Together, they have a buddy-buddy relationship but knowing Peck, and the way that he is, it’s more than just that and Avilla finds this out the hard way.

Cop movies are usually the same thing, time and time again. So rarely do they ever shy-away from being like any other, that it’s almost like when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The same can be said about this flick, however, there’s something more going on here than just a bad cop vs. an evil cop. It’s more of a game, than it is a movie and coming from director Mike Figgis, I wouldn’t expect anything less compelling or enthralling. And yes, I wouldn’t also expect anything less than sexy, that’s for sure.

What Figgis does well with this material is that he builds it up plenty, without really giving us a clue of what to expect of the plot or the characters. We get a first-hand account that both of these characters are pretty cut and dry; Avilla is a straight-shooter, who does his job, loves his wife, kisses babies on the forehead, whereas Peck is a bit of shady character that not only bends the rules to help out those who are close to him, but gets more and more of a steady income through odd-jobs on the side that actually consist of killing and hookering. Basically, you think you have these characters all figured-out for who they are, what you want them to be and what they’re going to mean to one another, but that all changes once more and more layers are peeled off, and you see who these cats really are.

Wow! Are they gonna kiss?

Are they going to go for it?

Now, that being said and all, the movie is not a sure thing for surprises; a couple of twist happen here and there that will take you by surprise, but overall, it’s a pretty conventional flick in the way things happen, and the way people reveal themselves. What is so surprising about this movie is what each and every character reveals about themselves, and how dark they can actually be. You think you have them all figured-out from being the “baddie”, to the “goodie”, and watching these two duke it out to see who’s the bigger and better man is a whole bunch of fun and what kept this movie going, even when it did get close to the usual conventions of what makes a cop movie, a cop movie.

They don’t get many scenes together, but everytime you see Avilla and Peck together on-screen, you know some bad and crazy shite is going to go down, and you have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time until all hell breaks loose and one of these guys can’t bounce back from it. It’s fun to watch because both Gere and Garcia have a dynamic that’s unbelievably entertaining to watch, but they also bring out more within these characters than you’d ever get from a movie that’s about the good guy trying to overcome evil and defeat the bad guy. It does come down to that eventually, but the movie and the performers keep it more than just that, every chance they get, whether it be a simple conversation, a battle of wits, a threat, or just the usual mind-games that they both stoop-down to playing, once the shit gets hot.

Actually, at some times, it was almost too hot for these two to be on-screen together as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if they started beating the shit one second, and hooking up with one another the next one. Seriously, it gets pretty damn hot at times and it’s attributed to the fine performances from Gere and Garcia, both of whom have never really done much for me in the past, Gere especially who, as you all know, is not my favorite actor.

Yeah I know; he’s from Philly, he’s been in good movies, and he’s even been in a couple of Best Picture winners, but to me, the guy has only been doing the same act, time and time again, and it’s a real surprise that he didn’t play that same dude here as Dennis Peck. Then again, I think the way that the character is written, Gere didn’t have much of a choice other than to stretch out his acting skills and see what he could come up with because this dude is one, messed-up mofo of a guy. Like I said before, Peck starts off as a reasonable guy that does some odd stuff that may make you think twice about his morality, but once he shows who he really is and what he has the power to do, then Gere really takes over and shows us layers of Peck that you’d never expect to see from a guy who practically saves his buddy’s ass in the first shot of the movie. Peck continues to mess with Avilla’s mind, almost in a way that’s entertaining, as bad as you feel for the dude, and it shows that Gere can have fun with a role, do well with it, and also be able to make us actually care for a character that’s so despicable and immoral. Once we do figure out that this dude is bad news, then the character gets a bit too strange for my taste, but Gere continued to enthrall me and I have to give the dude credit, especially since I’m always hating on him.

No, are they!??!

No, but are they!??!

Not like he cares anyway, because who the hell am I?!?!?

I’ve never really given Andy Garcia much of a bad-rap in the past, mostly because he hasn’t really been in much stuff where he’s liable for scrutiny. He rarely ever is the leading-man in a movie, and even when he does, the movie’s so small that it’s almost too unnoticeable for me to even watch and review. That said, the guy’s very good here as Avilla because he not only plays up the straight-laced, calm and collective act that this character keeps for a good-portion of the movie, but also makes you believe that he may have to cut some corners just to prove justice. It’s that idea that the nicest and most moral character in the movie, the one your supposed to be rooting for, might just be a bit of a bad guy as well, is what makes this character more than just another detective who wants to be promoted, and more of a guy who wants to do his job and get his man, in anyway possible. Garcia keeps us guessing, just like Gere, but the thing is with this character, we don’t know whether or not he’s going to stay the same good guy we saw from the first shot, or if he’s going to get a bit nutso towards the end. You never know with him, and Garcia keeps us guessing.

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well, even if it is apparent that it’s more or less Gere and Garcia’s show than theirs. Nancy Travis is a fine fit as Avilla’s wife who may, or may not be sleeping-around on him and the mystery behind that idea and her character is what keeps her more interesting than just the ordinary character of “the wife that gets pissed because her detective is too busy solving crimes and not at home banging her”. Yeah, you know; that type of chick. Laurie Metclaf is also very good at trying to remind us that she isn’t always playing Roseanne’s sister, and can drop an F-bomb and be bad-ass like any other motha on the face of the Earth. She tries, it works, but it also does get obvious at some points. And of course, there’s Adam Baldwin here playing a fuck-up, who’s addicted to coke, beats his wife, kills people when they are unarmed, and doesn’t know how to keep his cool. Hm? Is it acting? Or is it just being a Baldwin? You be the judge on that one, my friends.

Consensus: Despite falling for some of the same trappings and conventions we have come to know and expect from the cop-genre, Internal Affairs still offers us something slightly new, exciting, and compelling to watch with two amazing performances from the leads, and a plot that spirals out of control, in all of the juiciest ways possible.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nope, these two definitely are. Yes!

Nope, but these two definitely are. Yes!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

Man’s best friend can also be a lady’s best friend, too!

Wendy Carroll (Michelle Williams) is driving to Ketchikan, Alaska in hopes of a summer of lucrative work at the Northwestern Fish Cannery, and the start of a new life with her dog, Lucy. When her car breaks down in Oregon, however, the thin fabric of her financial situation comes apart, and she confronts a series of increasingly dire economic decisions, which also leaves Lucy in a very vulnerable position.

Back in 2008, Marley & Me was considered the go-to dog movie, that had every doggie-lover out there pulling out a box of Kleenex by that tear-dropped soaked-ending. When I saw it, to be honest, it kind of got to me as well since I do love dogs but little did I know that there was a smaller, more effective doggie-loving movie out there around the same time. Then again, back in 2008 I wasn’t a movie critic so maybe that’s why I never caught much wind of it.

Damn me and my younger-self!

This is the third film from co-writer/director Kelly Reichardt who seems to have a certain style to her work that may be hard for some to get into, but works for those who have enough time and patience on their hands. What Reichardt does is she takes a plot, doesn’t do anything with it, and just let’s the camera keep rolling as you watching events play-out in front of you;  you know, as if it was almost like real life. She did the same exact thing with Meek’s Cutoff, and even though I didn’t appreciate that one as much as this, it still had it’s moments where I felt involved. This whole film, I felt involved mainly because of what Reichardt is able to do with this story, or lack thereof.

Lucy: A dog going through an existential crisis.

Lucy: A dog going through an existential crisis.

Some people will probably be pissed about this film and how it seems like nothing is even going on for the first 30 minutes or so, but Reichardt’s film isn’t all about what’s physically happening; it’s all about what’s going on when you look deeper into certain actions. Maybe I’m giving the film more credit than it desires but there is something here that makes this film compelling just about the whole way through. We see this whole story through the eyes of this gal and we see her for all of her faults and positives. She’s broke and is on the streets now and we have no idea why, but we don’t really need to know that to be invested in her story. All we do know is that she’s struggling big time and will do anything in her power to get where she needs to go, but also make sure that she finds her dog beforehand.

But once the final ten minutes of this thing happens, be ready, cause it will get you; much like it got me. Because the whole film is one big bleak-fest, that never seems to have any ray of sunny hope in it whatsoever, it feels like that’s how it’s all going to be, so it’s best to just leave the emotions alone and not even bother with them. Then out of nowhere comes this emotional wallop that the film apparently has been packing the whole time and once it does come through, it doesn’t at all feel calculated or phony, unlike Marley & Me. You probably won’t think that this film will get you, but trust me, it will and it does. Not saying that it made me cry, but it got me feeling just a bit more than I originally expected.

My only problem with this flick was that I feel like it takes so much of it’s time going absolutely nowhere sometimes that it doesn’t really matter what happens next. Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t remember any huge emotional or memorable scene that occurred in the middle act. They all came in the beginning and last act and it wasn’t that the rest of the film other than that was boring, it just seemed like Reichardt didn’t feel the need to move her story, so instead just let it move on itself without any real direction or idea. Not saying that this is a bad direction to take when you have a small indie like this, but sometimes you need to spice things up every once and awhile just to keep our eyes glued on the screen. Just my opinion though, man.

And let me also not forget to mention the most random scene in this whole film that seems to come completely out of nowhere: The infamous forest scene. Without giving too many weird details away, Wendy ends up sleeping in the woods one night only to be awoken by some freakishly creepy man that starts talking and cussin’ all of this gibberish that made no sense whatsoever. It goes on and on to where it seems like we should be scared for her and for this story, but it just seemed very obvious that a story would go for this trick of scaring us into believing that anything could go wrong with this gal. Once again, can’t give too much away but it’s a weird-ass scene that stuck in my head for all of the wrong reasons.

"Ruff ruff. Okay, Lucy?"

“Ruff ruff. Okay, Lucy?”

But the only damn reason we even care about Wendy’s homeless-self to begin with, is because she’s played by none other than Michelle Williams. Williams, as we all know, is a knockout when it comes to the acting department as she proves, time and time again, that she can always amaze us with the talent she brings to the big-screen and never lets us down with a role she daringly chooses. This is a very soft, slow, and quiet role for Williams, but she masters it perfectly with just the right look and attitude to every obstacle that comes in her way and it’s a very delicate portrait of a flawed character that, believe it or not, we actually care about and want to see be happy after all of the shit she’s been through so far. It’s the type of character that Williams excels, and the fact that she’s allowed to use her facial-expressions, just makes it all the better to watch.

Somehow though, Williams almost gets over-shadowed from somebody else: An unknown actor by the name of Wally Dalton. Dalton plays a store security guard that offers her help in any way that he can and tries to be there for her when everything in her life seems like it’s total crap. I’ve never seen this Dalton dude before but he’s very likable and nice, to the point of where I wanted to see her hang-out with him more because of the sweet things he does for her, whenever he coucl. This relationship between them doesn’t go where you expect and at the end of it all, they share a nice little connection that doesn’t end perfectly, but also couldn’t have ended any other way either.

Much like real life.

Consensus: Wendy and Lucy may tick some people off for its slow-pace, but it still packs a powerful punch of emotion mainly because of Michelle Williams’ layered, but subtle performance. Doggie-lovers, bring your Kleenex to this one too.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Definitely not the best kiss she's ever had, but pretty damn close.

Nothing like a slobbery, wet embrace. Much like my ex-wife’s.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Gimme Shelter (2014)

Mick Jagger swingin’ and jivin’ his hips was nowhere to be found.

Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is a 16-year-old pregnant girl living with her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) and is looking for a way out. She gets that one day when she ends up at the house of her biological father (Brendan Fraser)’s where he takes her in, despite them clearly not having anything whatsoever in common. When he and his family find out about the pregnancy, they give her two options: Either have the baby and take of it on her own, or get an abortion and stay in their house for as long as she’d like. Apple options for the later, but right before the operation happens, she flees the scene and somehow ends up in a hospital-bed where an older, faith-based man (James Earl Jones) tells her about the joys of living by God’s law and way. Apple is against this originally, but decides that she has nowhere to stay and decides to do what he says, and stick with him. That is, until he realizes she’s pregnant and puts her into a young mother’s home, where she is around gals just like her, even if her brash attitude may not always mesh with the others; mainly the head caretaker (Ann Dowd).

Right as soon as I spelled-out the word “God” you could already tell what this movie was going to be all about: A whole lot of preaching about how life is sacred, how one should devote their life to God and most importantly, how one should not kill their baby. I get that these are messages very important to people out there and I for one, do not necessarily disagree with them, however, I do have a problem when a movie constantly jam that message down my throat.

No homo, but that guy's pretty hot.

No homo, but that guy’s pretty hot.

Better yet, I hate it when a bad movie decides to jam its message down my throat. Because honestly, if this movie was any good or at least interesting in a “bad-crazy kind of way”, I wouldn’t have a problem feeling as if I just sat down to listen to a sermon for two whole hours. But it’s crap and it’s crap that doesn’t really do anything at all, except just preach like its Vacation Bible School all over again for a younger-version of yours truly.

Where this movie mainly fails is in how it doesn’t really seem to have much of a plot, except for just a bunch of scenes that can serve as “talking points” for the audience. For instance, Apple goes to the abortion clinic, which you know is going to stir up plenty of chatter among those who see this. Then, there’s another scene in which Apple gets into countless fights with her upper-class, biological father and his wife, prompting the idea of a clash of two different cultures. And then, there’s of course all that baby stuff that really just had me ripping my head out.

And I get the stance this movie is taking: Don’t have abortions because giving and taking care of a life is the most beautiful one thing a person can do. I understand that and personally, I don’t have a problem with that. However, I do have a big problem when that seems to be the only thing the movie has to say for itself. No real conflict, no real character-development, no real nothing. What this is here is basically a Lifetime made-for-TV-movie, with way too many talented people in it.

Most importantly, Vanessa Hudgens as Apple, our protagonist we’re supposed to care for, but for some reason, get annoyed of right off the bat. It’s a shame too, because you can tell that Hudgens is really trying with this character – both physically and literally. She looks the part of a troubled, poverty-stricken kid and definitely takes much pride in “uglying herself up”, but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere whenever she talks. Once again, it’s not like Hudgens isn’t trying, she totally is, but maybe it’s a bit too much.

For instance, whenever Hudgens opens her mouth, she has to sound like a cold hearted, stone cold gangsta, so she gives herself a slangy-like accent. At first, it’s hardly noticeable and it was probably better that way; however, once the movie goes on and on and she has to talk a whole lot more, it really gets hard to listen to. At best, she sounds like a really shitty Wire extra that David Simon realized was bad, but had to leave in due to budget-concerns and the fact that she was a hot chick. But at her worst, she’s an actress trying too hard to sound like a young, troubled girl, when she should have just been one.

"Gotta nickel?!?!?!"

“Gotta nickel?!?!?!”

Her scenes get more painful when she’s around the rest of the cast of dramatic heavy-weights like Ann Dowd, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, and I guess, Brendan Fraser. Yeah, I know it’s a bit weird to think of Brendan Fraser as an actual good actor in something, but here, he gives us some moral-ground when everything with this situation seems to go sour right from the beginning. He takes Apple in, cares for her and tends to her needs by any means possible, and still finds problems with her because she is so different from the rest of her family. In a way, I felt bad for the guy, even if he did just one day, knock up a girl and not decide to be a father to that baby.

Surprised this movie didn’t make him out to be a total and complete a-hole to begin with.

The only wildcard out of those four is Rosario Dawson who is unbelievably over-the-top and insane in this role, and I don’t particularly mean that in a good way. Usually in any other movie, it would be awesome to see her chewing up the scenery and acting like a cracked-out, nutty drug-addict, but when you compare her role to the rest of the movie, she really feels out-of-place. I know she’s trying to give us a serious, heartfelt portrait of a messed-up, vindictive women, but it’s so goofy, it seems like she’s even trying too hard. Once again, another wonderful talent, that I’m feeling bad for, all because she showed up in a piece of garbage like this.

No offense to all of you faith-based viewers out there, but it’s the truth. Sorry, God.

Consensus: Every member of the cast seems to be trying to make Gimme Shelter at least somewhat interesting, but they all end-up falling on dull-ends because all the movie cares about is its message and that’s it. Nothing else really matters.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

"What a beautiful baby. Let's name him Anakin. I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"

“What a beautiful baby. Let’s name him Anakin. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Winter’s Tale (2014)

Sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense. In this case, nothing makes sense!

In 1895, while on the run from his adoptive father, deadly gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) decides to make one last score in a house that seems to include some very wealthy people, who also may not even be home in the first place. He gets to the vault and starts working his magic, when all of a sudden, Peter realizes that he’s not alone in the house. It just so happens that the patriarch of the family (William Hurt), left his daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) behind and Peter has no idea what to do, except just act natural and talk to her. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually have something in common and start up something of a relationship! The problem is, Beverly is slowly dying of consumption and needs to be with a man, and soon. Peter believes he can be the man to make the sweet lovin’ to her, but he also realizes that time is running out before Pearly and his men find him and decide to take his life away.

While that may sound all simple and carefree, like an ordinary romantic-drama should be, there’s something particularly strange about this movie. See, it’s a fantasy movie, that has flying horses, demons, 120-year-old-women and time-travel, but for some reason, in the mind of someone like Akiva Goldsman, apparently fantasy just means “throwing whatever shit you can think of on the screen, without any rhyme or reason.” And don’t get me wrong, I like that type of movie, but there has to be some sort of ground-rules to allow for everything to make sense. If not, there’s no reason for your movie to exist, except to just show everybody how crazily creative you can get.

And I hate to break it to you, Akiva Goldsman, but you’re not all that creative. In fact, you’re kind of a bore that doesn’t seem to know where to begin a story, where to go with a story, and just how exactly to end it. Which may all sound weird considering this is the same guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind, but anything that worked there, totally doesn’t here. Then again, those are two different movies in their own right, so the less I speak about that comparison, the better.

"What's so wrong with a man embracing his horse?"

“What’s so wrong with a man embracing his horse?”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, that’s right, this movie. It’s a mess. It truly is. Certain things happen, then don’t happen, and then do happen again, for no reason except to just happen and keep the plot moving along. Which, once again, is fine, just as long as there are some ground-rules being laid down for us to make note of anytime anything completely out of the ordinary happens. We sort of get some of that when a demon character shows up and tells another demon what they are, and aren’t allowed to do, but it was told in such mumbo-jumbo, that I didn’t really get any of it, nor did I care. Also, the two actors in that scene just seem like they are on completely separate planets, let alone in the same movie.

But I guess that’s the way Goldsman not only directed his cast, but the movie as a whole. You can tell that there’s a really soft, sweet and endearing romance at the center of this movie, and there are times when he allows for it to just sit, relax, tell itself, and breathe. But then, moments later, Goldsman can’t help his urges, so he decides to throw in some weird ideas about the light and how it reflects on where a person is directly located on a map. I know. It’s weird and it don’t make a single ounce of sense, but I think that’s sort of the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. Personally, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care when a movie is as wild as this, but I do care and I have no clue as to why. Maybe because it seems like with a movie like this, where you can be so random and insane and still find a way to bring some emotional-connection to the proceedings, there’s always something to enjoy. But everything here was so odd and out-of-left-field, that it wasn’t. It just kept on making me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell was going to happen next, for what reason, and where was it going to lead to. And then once it did lead to that next scene, it was the whole rinse and repeat act. Rinse and repeat.

Like I alluded to before, too, there is an actual heartfelt story in the middle of all this craziness, it just doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as it should. With this love story (aka the main reason why any guy would get dragged into seeing this in the first place), we’re supposed to root for both Peter and Beverly to get together. Not only does it seem like Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay have legitimate, natural chemistry, but it’s believable why these two would be drawn to one another in the first place; she’s dying because she hasn’t consumed and is a bit picky with her boys, whereas he’s just got too much going on with his wacky lifestyle to even worry about a beautiful girl like her. They get a few scenes together where they really feel like honest love birds and I have to admit, they’re what kept me going with this movie.

"Do know, I de devil, me mate."

“Do know, I de devil, me ladey.”

It was only until Russell Crowe with his Elmer Fudd, mixed with a drunk Irish guy-act got in the way of everything and had to spoil the party. It’s not like Crowe is bad per se, he’s clearly trying to have fun with this role and give it all he’s got, but he’s really trying here, almost to the point of where the movie seems to just sort of let him run rampant with whatever he’s doing and forget to even make sense of hiss nonsensical ramblings; which there are many of, sadly.

But it does get worse and though I’d like to spoil this for everybody and say why this is the case, I’m going to take the higher-road and allow for you to see for yourself, if you wish. If you don’t, I can’t say it’s your loss. You do what you want to do, just know that this movie’s nuts and drugs may not help.

Once again, just saying.

Consensus: The romance at the center is what keeps Winter’s Tale, for the most part, grounded in some emotional consciousness, but everything else is just so weird, unbelievable, and out of the blue, that any connection we may have had to the story gets lost in the nonsensical shuffle.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

How I dance with the ladies. Except a whole lot more grinding.

How I dance with the ladies. Except with a whole lot more grinding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Blended (2014)

Adam Sandler, do everyone else in the world a favor and keep your movies in America. Don’t bring your stink to Africa.

After Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) participate in one of the worst blind dates known to man, they hope to never see one another again. That is, until both them and their kids end up staying at the same vacation resort, in the same country: Africa. Through a convoluted series of unfortunate events, they both have to stay in the same suit, sit at the same table, and practically, can’t avoid either of each other, so they just decide to be as civil as they possibly can with one another. However, when you have somebody as scrumpy, lazy and inappropriate as Jim, and somebody as neat, prissy and up-tight as Lauren, things don’t always go as civil as originally planned. Especially when you throw CGI zebras, giraffes, and rhinos in there! Oh my!

By now, in the 21st Century, I think it’s pretty easy to assume that anything Adam Sandler touches, will not be anything worth seeing. Yet, time and time again, people continue to see his movies, which, as a result, also gets him more money and “ideas” to do more films. Therefore, he gets more money and just never seems to stop making movies, with the same people behind and in front of the camera, same plot-lines, and ending it all with the same message about how “family is important, no matter what.”

It’s been the same tune Sandler’s been playing for the past decade, and though there’s been some changes here and there in the roles that he chooses, nothing since Punch-Drunk Love has really left an impression on anyone that doesn’t already love his idiotic-brand of comedy.

I think I see Jesse and Walt cooking back there.

I think I see Jesse and Walt cooking back there.

And don’t get me wrong, I do not hate Adam Sandler movies. Sure, the 90’s was his decade and definitely where most of my love and adoration comes for him, but for what it’s worth, the guy himself is still capable of making me laugh. It’s not that he’s lost his knack for comedy – it’s more that he’s just put it off to the side so that he can practically keep on doing the same thing, time and time again, while making a heep-load of money. Which, when you’re in Hollywood, I guess is your one and only objective, but it does do a killing to your reputation, which is why I think Sandler needs to start mixing things up, and quick!

However, everything I was about to just go on and on about, can be seen from my Grown Ups 2 review. Anything else that I need to say about Sandler and his career can be seen there. As for Blended, well, I guess I have to start somewhere by saying, yep, this movie’s crap.

But what’s separates this movie from the rest of the Sandler train-wrecks we’ve all come to know and despise, is that some of it made me chuckle. From what I gathered too, it’s because the movie itself is sort of a weird hybrid between a G-rated kids movie made for the whole family, yet, by the same token, has PG-13 gags about boners, rhinos humping, groping, and a whole lotta racism. In fact, this feels like the type of movie my dad would love the hell out of, despite not really caring for Sandler or anything that he does – it’s inappropriate in every way, yet, it still has the guts to make itself “a movie for the whole family”.

With that, the movie’s actually somewhat interesting, but not in the way that Jack & Jill or That’s My Boy, where everything that’s happening is so bizarre and outrageous, you can’t help but actually watch and see just what the hell happens next. Here, with Blended, it’s fun to dissect this movie because it’s never clear who this movie is for and why it’s even made. Clearly this is a movie for Sandler’s already-made audience full of people that, I assume, love drinking Heineken, driving their trucks onto to their porches, farting in public, and listening to Toby Keith, but it’s also a movie that seems like it was made so that Sandler and most of his crew could go take a vacation to Africa, hang out, spend a crap-load of money, and still somehow be able to make a movie, filming whatever they could come up with on that one day.

That’s the impression that mostly all of Sandler’s movies give off, but what’s weird here is that even though it takes place in Africa, I highly doubt that most of the crew actually went to Africa. We see a lot of leopards, zebras, giraffes, and rhinos (who are usually just humping, or getting humped), but they’re either cheap-looking CGI, or stock-footage. The only parts of Africa we do see is this highly extravagant, paradise-like resort that seems like it’s on another planet altogether, forget Africa, and the deserts, which could have easily been filmed out in Arizona or Nevada.

Either way, I hope that Sandler enjoyed his trip to Africa, cause I sure as hell didn’t enjoy his!

I know I keep on putting the focus on Sandler, but it’s really his fault these movies continue to be made and are as shitty as they are. But here, with Blended, not only does it seem like the movie doesn’t care whatsoever, but neither does he. I kid you not, there is one scene early on in the movie in which Sandler is insulted and decides to ignore the person he’s talking to by staring at the TV-screen up above him. However, when watching it, because Sandler seems so bored and dazed out of his mind, it just seems like the guy had a stroke and for some reason, just stared at the ceiling, leading it to be one of the most awkward scenes of the whole movie. And trust me, there are plenty more here where that came from.

What a waste of perfectly-ripped abs.

What a waste of perfectly-ripped abs.

Though you know what? Sandler deserves these shitty movies, because it seems like they are all he wants to do nowadays. But don’t bring Drew Barrymore into this! Cause, for what it’s worth, Barrymore does try here – maybe moreso than she should with this junk. Barrymore is pretty much doing the same thing here that she always does in her movies, which isn’t necessarily bad because she’s so charming, but does make me feel bad knowing that she’s really going for it all here. Much like Elizabeth Banks was doing in Walk of Shame: You can tell that the effort is there, but it’s just misused in a movie that doesn’t give a shit about her or anything she does. They just want her to fall down, act like a woman, be naggy, and eventually fall for the guy because of how much of a charmer he is.

But most of what this movie has going for it is that it’s the reunion between Sandler and Barrymore as co-stars which clearly transcends beautifully off the screen, than it does on the screen. However, if there is a saving grace to this movie, it’s that their chemistry is actually good and makes this movie slightly more entertaining than usual. Some of it seems improvised, and some of it doesn’t, but when you’re dealing with an Adam Sandler movie, you need anything you can get. And if that means watching two close-friends act like they’re besties, then sure, I’m all for it. Just keep me away from the poop-gags, please.

Consensus: Much thanks to the natural-feeling chemistry between Barrymore and Sandler, Blended isn’t as cringe-inducing as it should be, but it’s still not very funny, feels lazy, and doesn’t really seem to be for any audience in particular. Except for those who already love and adore Sandler and the carnage he brings to the screen.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

"So uh, are things going well enough that you could team back up with me?"

“So uh, are things going well enough that you could team back up with me?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

So many freaks, it felt like being in Saturday detention once again.

In the post-apocalyptic future, mutants across the globe are hunted down and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, who are able to modify their powers depending on what mutant it is they are fighting. This makes the idea of mutants’ extinction almost a reality, forcing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to come up with a master plan: Send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to find the young version of himself (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of these deadly Sentinels (Peter Dinklage). That’s a lot easier said then done, considering the last time Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr saw one another, they almost killed each other, leaving the former unable to walk. But, with Wolverine thrown into the mix, they hope that they can smooth some things together and finish their master-plan, all in time before the Sentinels come around in the present day, and kill all that’s left of the X-Men. And to make matters worse, retro-era Magneto is predictably giving everybody a bit of a hard time when his ideals don’t mesh so well with the rest of the group’s. Oh, these Mutants, when will they ever learn to get along.

So, in other words, what this movie is trying to do is allow Bryan Singer to come back to the franchise that was basically consider “his”, and go back in time to where he could not only make us forget about the stink of the third and Origins, but also, show that this franchise can go on, even without him or many others attached to it. And, for the most part, it’s a noble effort on Singer’s part because you can tell that he honestly does “get” these characters, their plight, as well as their stories. Singer, all of his modern-day controversies aside, knows what it’s like to be looked at in a weird way, to be a social outcast, and what it means to be pushed away from the rest of society, which is not only why these characters still work for us, but also why the movie moves as well as it does.

"Yeah. I did that. Get at me."

“Yeah. I did that. Get at me.”

Because see, what Singer does so amazingly well here is that he gives us all of the characters we’re supposed to care about and allows them to have their smallish scenes of character-development. They’re nothing gigantic to where this becomes something of a character-driven piece; a little sign of compassion, anger, rage, depression definitely helps this go a long way. However, it’s enough to where there’s some sort of emotion backing all of the wild and insane action that happens throughout the most part of this movie. Which definitely makes this movie all the more satisfying and fun to watch – exactly how a superhero summer blockbuster should be.

Sure, I may have liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than some, but there’s a reason for that: Not only did the movie keep me excited, but it seemed like it genuinely knew what kind of movie it was being. Nothing more, nothing less – a quintessential, 90’s superhero movie that just so happens to be made for Generation Y. It worked for me, but it didn’t work for others. So hey, whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that while that movie knew it was a shallow piece of entertainment and didn’t try to go anywhere it wasn’t supposed to, Days of Future Past knows that it’s more than just a piece of carefree, sugar-explosion entertainment that one pays nearly-$20 to see at the end of a shitty day to make themselves feel better.

There’s real, actual heart and emotion to this piece, that not only has us reeling for the characters whenever their lives are at danger, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher.

Jeez, who woulda thunk it, right? Having a blockbuster in which we were given characters we genuinely sympathized with and for? Naw, get outta here!

But that’s what’s so wild about this superhero movie: It not only kicks, moves, and runs around like an action movie, but it also breathes like a superhero movie, in which we get to understand and see our “heroes” for all that they are worth, regardless of if we like them or not. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a total drag-fest in which Singer continuously hits us over-the-head with sadness and darkness, like in the vein of Christopher Nolan, because there a few ounces of light, fun, and frothy comedy to keep our spirits up and afloat; but there’s also plenty of drama to make us feel like the ride is plenty worth while.

And the ride is exactly what matters here, especially in the eyes of someone like Singer, who feels like he’s gotten the whole band back together. Which is not only great for him and those struggling-actors who need a bit more extra cash thrown into their bank-account, but it’s also great for us. Personally, I remember growing up on the first two X-Men movies and fondly remember seeing each and every character introduced to me. Granted, I was young and didn’t know much better, but when I did decide to re-visit both of those movies, I found myself rarely at all disappointed. Some tonal issues here and there messed me up, but that was just the older, more-advanced movie-viewer inside of me speaking; the young, ten-year-old kid, however, was going nuts and in total joy of what he was seeing.

That’s why when certain faces show up in this movie like Halle Berry as Storm, or even Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, I genuinely felt happy; not because people are still actually hiring Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, but because I was finally seeing the mutants I used to watch as a kid, back on the big screen, in all of their wildest form. It made me feel like a kid again which, as we all know, usually comes with its huge dosages of nostalgia and late nights of sobbing into my pillow. So yeah, it’s great to have the band all back together again, but what’s even better is that they’re all in the hands of someone who knows what to do with them.

Not some freakin’, low-rent, spoiled-brat chump who I will leave unmentioned. But you know who it is I’m talking about.

Like I was saying though, yeah, this movie. What works so well about not only seeing the cast back on the screen, altogether once again, is that they definitely work wonders with delivering some corny dialogue. Maybe less so for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who really does deliver some of the movie’s best and funniest lines when it’s just him having to get used to the 70’s and all; but definitely moreso for class-acts like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who have always made their long-winding speeches of unity, acceptance, and banding together actually seem honest and interesting. There’s no difference here, it’s just that they aren’t on the screen so much, considering that most of this movie takes place in the 70’s.

She must be feeling blue...

She must be feeling blue…

This is where we get to see the younger-versions of Magneto and Xavier who are, once again, played wonderfully by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender feels like he’s constantly on the verge of dropping his good-guy persona and straight-up turning evil on everyone’s asses, while McAvoy gets to play Xavier as a bit of a drugged-out bum that needs some sort of inspiration to keep him going. It’s nice that First Class was able to get these two in the first place, because they work pretty damn well here in this movie, even if some of their dialogue is rather clunky. Just a bit though. Nothing too much.

And yes, before I go on too much, I will say one thing, and that’s everybody’s favorite figure in the media, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Mystique, however, I feel like she’s given a role that’s rather one-note. The whole aspect surrounding Mystique’s character in this movie is that she’s constantly angry about something, and while we know what that something is about, it doesn’t give us much reason to like her character or even see J-Law doing much for that character. There are certain shadings to her anger, but nothing to the point of where I felt like this was the Oscar-winner coming out of her performance and making this something more; just pretty standard stuff that could have gone a much longer way.

Hell, while I’m at it, I could even say the same thing about the movie. See, what got me so wrapped up in its emotion was the characters and the fact that I was seeing all of my old, favorite mutants, back on the screen, together, once again. That made me happy and a bit emotional, but for the story itself, there wasn’t that push I really wanted. It never really seems to be about much, except for just being about maintaining one’s extinction? I mean, I guess? I don’t know, let’s work with that, shall we?

Anywho, I know it’s a dumb nit-pick and all but it’s what kept me away from loving the hell out of this thing. But it’s definitely the superhero blockbuster you should see this summer. Although, probably, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only a couple of steps away.

No takers? Okay, cool. I’ll shut up about that now.

Consensus: With an utter sense of glee and joy with Bryan Singer at the helm, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a fun and exciting summer blockbuster, but is also a somewhat heartfelt, emotional ride that brings back all of the characters we once loved and adored, for another installment. Whether or not it’ll be the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everybody’s back and the smiles it brings to the fanboys’ faces.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Back the office, once again. Shit."

“Back the office, once again. Shit.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Sneakers (1992)

It’s like Hackers, but for the older dudes.

Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) is the head of a kick-ass security testings team that seems to do just about everything and anything right. They crack systems for companies that pay them to test their weaknesses, in hopes that they’ll never run into that problem when the real deal comes around to town. Everything seems to be going all perfect for Bishop and his crew, until some government officials get jealous of him and have a bone to pick, so they decide to blackmail him into stealing a highly valuable sort of black-box. What happens next is a crazy game of lies, deception, double-crosses, and most importantly, smiles. Smiles for everyone!

Everybody loves themselves a good spy movie. Better yet, they love themselves a spy movie with a whole lot of gadgets. The cool thing about these gadgets is seeing what it is that they can do: spy on you on when you think you’re alone; manipulate your voice even without you yourself speaking; and they can even change your whole identity and you would not know at all, until Customs had to take you aside for a “check-up”. Basically, these little gadgets are not things you want play around with, especially when you have somebody’s life in the palm of your hands, but there’s also something fun and exciting to all of that.

"I told you man. She really does eat out of that cup afterwards."

“I told you, man. She really does eat out of that cup after the other’s done.”

If you’re not on the receiving end of these gadgets, that is.

However, this movie knows the dangers of these little gadgets, but doesn’t let all of that get in the way of a fun time. The tone is a lot lighter than most “spy films” of the genre and in a way, it works. A lot of the humor here is surrounded by all of these guys being one, big motley crew of sorts that were just sprung together with barely any rhyme or reason – other than just the fact that they all know how to do some pretty smart stuff when it comes to being super, dee-duper smart spies. This was pretty cool to see as I never thought I’d ever get the chance to see Mister Tibbs and Dr. Detroit share the same screen, ever, but that’s the whole fun behind this film and what makes humorous.

The problem I ran into with this flick is that the plot is so damn thin that it barely interested me at all. I get that not all spy flicks like this are going to have original and breathtaking story-lines that change the game, but at least give me something more to work with here. All of the plot twists that occur within the last hour or so, are all terribly predictable and don’t add much to anything other than having some gullible people in the audience be totally shocked. I mean honestly people, do you really think the guy is going to give his prized possession up in a fair way by just simply handing it over to him? Give me a break!

Also, the plot seemed to really start-and-stop with itself like it had all of the time in the world to tell it’s predictable story. There were literally times when I started to doze off because nothing interesting at all was happening on-screen and that was a real bummer since I thought there was going to be a lot more heist-y stuff going on that would at least catch my attention. And even when they did come up and liven everything up for me, they were gone very soon and never really heard from again, only until the last hour. Could have been more wild, could have been more exciting, and could have been more energetic.

But I guess that’s why they had two old dudes in the lead for this flick.

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It's not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Guess the one who does the soonest? (Hint: It’s not the guy who was 65 at the time)

Speaking of those two old dudes, it’s great to see Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier, as well as the rest of the ensemble. Robert Redford seems like he still has that cool wit and charm to his whole act, even if he is a bit older; Sidney Poitier still has his act as the tough son-of-a-bitch when it comes to being in the police force, but he still has some great lines that had me howling just because it’s him saying them and you can hardly ever be bored with him; Dan Aykroyd was fine as a person called “Mother”, and he has some nice lines in here as well, which isn’t much of a surprise, because he’s Dan Aykroyd for lord’s sakes; Mary McDonnell was a little feisty fire cracker that doesn’t let this become a total sausage fest and brings out some great lines to go against everybody else’s; David Strathairn plays the main blind guy who has his time to shine, and it’s a very well-deserved scene because Strathairn is so good with what he does, but is so pushed to the back, it made me a bit upset; and then you got River Phoenix in one of his last roles ever. It’s not a big role for him, but it’s still a nice reminder as to why this kid had so much potential to be great in the first place.

The one who comes completely out of nowhere and steals this film for all of the wrong reasons is probably Ben Kingsley as Redford’s old friend, now-turned-enemy, Cosmo. Without me even knowing beforehand, I had no idea that Kingsley was even in this until I saw the opening credits flash his name and it kind of got me pumped up wondering when, or where he was going to show up and do his thing. When he finally does show up and do his said thing, it’s laughable because of how ridiculous he looks with his pony-tail, and how terrible the American accent he’s trying to pull off is. Really, he steals every scene he’s in because it’s so funny to just watch him struggle with this accent and make a character mean and detestable, when all he seemed like was one, big push-over that you could easily just beat the crap out of. It’s weird though, because ten years later, he would totally prove me, as well as I’m sure many others, wrong.

Maybe it was the British accent that made him do better in that one.

Consensus: Sneakers fancies itself a good time and with the twisty plot, fun spy gadgets, and charming ensemble, which makes it hard to not join in on the fun, even if the story itself may weave in and out of cohesiveness.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sorry. Not impressed.

Sorry. Not impressed, Gandhi.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Painted Veil (2006)

Women just never give the man the lovin’ they deserve. Tsk tsk.

Rich, spoiled, and bored English gal Kitty (Naomi Watts) thinks she’s met the man that will sweep her off of her feet, or at least, sweep her away from her mother, in the form of Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton). The two are clearly opposites and don’t seem to have much in common with one another, except for the fact that they want to be married and get away from their past lives. However, Kitty soon starts to get bored of Walter, and finds herself gravitating more towards his confidante, Dr. Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber), in which the two participate in a sordid affair of sorts. Walter isn’t dumb though and knows what’s going on when he isn’t around, so he makes Kitty a deal: Come with him to a cholera-infested village in China, or, get a divorce from him and see if her lover will want to get married too. Seeing as how Charlie doesn’t want to leave his own wife, Kitty has no other choice but to go with Walter where they both taste the dirt and do what they can to make time past, and maybe, just possibly even fall in love with one another. You know, like they originally thought that they did. But this time, for real.

What’s interesting about this movie, isn’t by the way it looks or sounds, it’s more about what it is. In one way, it’s a love story about a married-couple, but at the same time, it’s not a love story about a married-couple. These two may be married, but they sure as hell don’t love one another, and it was intriguing to see that play out, in a period-piece during the 20’s no less.

"Girl? Whatchu say?"

“Girl? Whatchu say?”

However, as interesting as that may have been, it didn’t really do wonders for me while I was watching it. See, even though I’m a young lad that’s chock full of hormones and energy, I truly don’t mind a slow-burner; in fact, sometimes, I more than welcome it. There’s nothing better to me than a movie in which all of the cards are laid-out on the table, shown to me in a comprehensible way, and made so that I can get a hold of everything I’m being told and just exactly what it is that I’m seeing. That’s usually what works so well about slow movies such as these, however, in order to make them fully work, there has to be something deep, hard, and meaningful burning deep down inside, and I just could not find that here.

Well, for the most part, I could at least decipher everything that was going on here, because not everything’s subtle. These two not-so lovebirds make it very clear to one another on many occasions that they do not love the other, and I have to say, everytime that happened, I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s played with the utmost sincerity, as if we’re supposed to be utterly shocked by these two characters not only fighting, but wanting nothing to do with the other. Also not to mention, the fact that it’s hard to feel any sympathy for either of these characters.

First of all, this Walter Crane guy is a bit of a geek – that’s pretty evident early on. Not only is he practicing in the medical-field, but he lets Kitty know, early on, that he’s a “bit clumsy”. Yeah, we get that. So, when they share one day together of doing Lord only knows what, he professes to her that he loves her, wants to get married, and needs an answer ASAP. Personally, I feel like maybe one or two dates is a bit too soon, but I guess if you feel it, then you feel it, and in the case of Walter Crane, it was instantly.

I guess I was supposed to feel sympathy for this nerdy guy because it’s clear that he doesn’t have a way with women (despite looking like Edward Norton whose dated gals like her and her) and maybe doesn’t have the best track-record, but it’s hard to care for him when he finds out that maybe he isn’t her type and then forces her to come on this life-changing trip of his. It’s clear he’s upset and confused, but still, come on, man, who was the one that practically threw it on her to get married. He even says at one point, “I knew why you married me in the first place”, or something along those lines. Then what the fuck!

It’s as if you brought a grizzly bear into your home and gave it honey. Then, moments later, you find out it still wants to claw the shit out of you, chomp your head off, and you still being like, “But hey! I brought you into my house and fed you!” Most bears are just wired that way, they can’t be fixed or helped in any way to think differently, so for you to bring it into your home, with your resources, and treat it your certain and expect the same in return, is just a bit dumb; bears are just wired differently. Maybe that’s a dumb metaphor, but I think its slightly understandable: It’s hard to feel bad for someone who gets a bunch of problems brought onto them, when anybody could have seen it coming from a mile away.

Now that I’m done with Crane, it’s time for Ms. Kitty who, despite being the cheater of the two, I actually felt a little bit more sympathy towards, if only because she didn’t try to be anything that she wasn’t. Sure, she was a total brat that only wanted to get out of her boring house and her annoying mom, but at least when her and Walt have their arguments, she doesn’t try to hide the fact that she was somebody else he didn’t already know about. Yes, I get that she is the one who decided to take the sanctity of marriage and shove it right down the sinkhole, but at least she wasn’t imposing upon anybody that she was anything else. If she was my wife, I’d be pretty pissed too, but that’s only because my wife would be somebody I know I’d feel safe and comfortable with loving and marrying; unlike how this Walter guy was with his wifey-poo.

God, what an idiot.

"Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning."

“Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning.”

Anyway, while neither character really put me in their sympathy-corners, I must say, the performances from Norton and Watts are, as expected, pretty good. Norton, despite his character being such a dunce, actually gives this Walt guy a real compassionate heart which, for what it’s worth, makes him seem like a genuinely nice guy who actually goes out of his own way to save these people all dying of cholera. He doesn’t have to, but he chooses to, and you can feel his compassion through Norton’s performance; it’s just such a shame that he wasn’t as compassionate or as smart when it came to choosing his women.

As for Naomi Watts, she gets to do a lot of pouting and staring, but she does very well with it. Though she’s the one character we’re supposed to clearly not like the most out of the two, Watts still makes us believe that there is some room for change in her personality and when that does happen, it seems understandable and barely ever tacked-on. It may be a bit corny in the way that it is presented to us, but that’s not any of Watts’ fault. Hell, it hardly ever is in her case.

Together, the two fix themselves together a nice chemistry that makes you feel like they truly do detest the absolute guts out of the other when they’re fighting; falling head-over-heels for one another when they are, well, you get it; and just happy to be in each other’s company. The movie never really throws any of this on us – it’s more about what these performers can do with the characters and material given to them, and you can hardly ever ask for a better pair than Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. All their character’s problems aside, they do what they can and most of the time, it’s good. Not great, but good enough to be seen.

Consensus: Though the Painted Veil includes the hard task of making its audience like, sympathize and understand its two relatively unlikable characters, it mostly gets by because Norton and Watts are so good at doing what it is they do: Act.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?"

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Valkyrie (2008)

But I thought Hitler died in a movie theater explosion? Stupid Hollywood and their tricks for making up history as they go!

After permanently losing his right eye and arm, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is forced to come back to Nazi Germany, with a newfound respect from those around him, as well as a new mission on that he sets his sights on the most: Assassinating Hitler and making Germany a peaceful country once again. The problem isn’t that Hitler’s the most powerful man in Germany, whom almost nobody can double-cross and succeed at doing, but getting each and every person on the same page, so that the plot goes perfectly according to plan. There are people in high places involved, too, it’s just that they are so nervous, that they second-guess themselves so many times, that they either kill themselves, spill the beans to others, or screw up the plan while it’s going on. However, for those who are inspired to take down Hitler, they don’t back down, not even when the slightest misstep rears its ugly head. Which, during this plan, occurs many times – maybe moreso than anybody involved would have wanted. But such is the case when you’re trying to take down the powerful, almighty Führer.

First thing to mention, that is more than likely going to screw people over while watching this movie (if one decides to do so), is that every actor here, whether they be English, French, American, or, obviously, German, has to play a German character. There’s nothing different about that – heck, if an actor is called upon to do some sort of accent that isn’t of their own native-tongue, then there’s no doubt in their mind that they shouldn’t take it. However, what’s so strange here is that almost nobody in this cast, not even the German actors (as hard as they are to come by), even flirts with doing a German accent.

"So, the one Jew says to other Je-...... Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?"

“So, the one Jew says to other Je-…… Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?”

Perhaps the biggest criminal of this is Tom Cruise who, in the first few minutes, does a bit of German to show that he’s got the chops to be on-par with Liam Neeson in every which way; but a mere seconds later, he’s back to his original, American-dude accent that almost everybody is able to recognize right away and is distracting practically the whole way through. It makes sense if you English lads like Tom Wilkinson, or Kenneth Branagh, or even Bill Nighy in these German roles, cause at least they have an accent as is to work with, but Cruise, he has nothing. It’s just him talking, and acting like he’s Jerry Maguire all over again.

Except this time, instead of, “Show me the monaaaaay!”, it’s, “Heil Hitler!” Which, while we’re talking about it, he only does once, so relax over there ya Scientologists!

And it’s not that Cruise is bad really, it’s just that he’s playing Tom Cruise, which is neither good or bad, it’s just Tom Cruise. Especially so here, considering he doesn’t seem like he’s really trying to go for anything else other than the heroic, determined-type we’ve seen him throw himself into role, after role, after role. Nothing wrong with that, because the dude’s a pro at those types of roles, but it does get old after awhile when it seems like all you’re seeing is the same guy, play the same role, in the same kind of movie, except with different scenery around him. In this case, it’s Nazis, but honestly, throw in a scene of Cruise on the hood of a car, with that iconic track playing somewhere in the background, and you’ve practically got another Mission: Impossible movie.

Except, once again, their being Nazis and all.

The rest of the cast is fine, too, mostly because they’re easier to not be distracted by when they’re trying to sound a lick at all like German-folk, but there’s nobody here in particular that’s spectacular. Everybody’s fine and serviceable with what it is they have to do; which, most of the time, just consists of them clicking their heels, staring into space very intently, and sweating bullets, which was probably because Bryan Singer decided to douse all of them with Aquafina bottles before shooting. So yeah, that last part doesn’t count.

And speaking of Bryan Singer (all “under-aged boys parties”-jokes aside), the guy does what he can here with this material. He clearly wants to make this move, sizzle and spice like a Hitchock thriller, while at the same time, still harp on the fact that an evil man like Hitler actually existed and had immense power over thousands and thousands of people. However, what takes away from most of what Singer does here, is that it’s a story we all know the ending to. Okay, maybe not all of the little, itty, bitty, gritty details, but what we know is that the plan failed, Hitler lived, and all of those who were involved with the conspiracy theory in the first place, we’re all eventually killed anyway. So yeah, it sort of ends on a dim note, but that’s the kind of note we can expect from a movie like this, because that’s exactly what happened.

"Stop hanging out with the pirates!"

“Stop hanging out with pirates!”

It’s not like I’m saying that movies that have an ending we already know about, can’t be fun or exciting anyway possible, because they totally can. However, in order to do so, there needs to be a drive, or a certain feeling of emotion involved with the proceedings that makes us feel, even for a split-second, like this story’s outcome could happen differently than what we already know. It’s highly unlikely, but so are plots to plenty of movies; that’s why we need movies to go for the gold whenever they can, having us believe in the unbelievable, and throw all of our cards out on the table, as if we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we know what’s going to happen next, and Singer never gives it that drive. Nor does he do much else to keep the proceedings exciting. Just by-the-numbers, by-the-books, and that’s it.

Yawn.

So in a way, I guess I have to give Singer some credit for at least sticking to history as much as he could for the film’s sake, without ever allowing it to get too boring or preachy, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder what the point was about this whole movie. We know that it wants to show us that Hitler was a bad man and that nearly everyone close to him wanted to stab him right in the back, but it doesn’t seem like anything new; person gets on top of their throne and now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take the throne away from said person. It’s a traditional story-route we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but I guess the only real aspect of this movie that separates it from the rest is that the person in that throne is, well, Adolf Hitler.

Oh, and also Nazis.

Consensus: Both Tom Cruise’s and Bryan Singer’s intentions are noble and make Valkyrie, for the most part, interesting to watch as the plot unfolds, but the problem is that we get what happens what happens at the end, and we can’t help but not really care for these generic characters more than we need to.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else."

“Huh? What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Immigrant (2014)

Becoming a hooker and spending money on hospital bills. Ah, the American Dream.

When Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) comes over on a boat to America, she automatically runs into problems. Her sister (Angela Sarafyan) gets taken away and put into intensive care because she is believed to be “sick”; her aunt and uncle don’t want her staying at their place; and she is desperate fear of getting sent back to her country, which seems to be going through a wild period of violence, death and bloodshed. However, in comes walking the mysterious Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who makes her a deal: Come along with him and live in his place, as long as she agrees to work. Seems simple enough, until Ewa realizes that the job she’ll be doing is as a prostitute – the kind of job she doesn’t want to do, but pretty much has to, because she has nowhere else to go and needs to pay for her sister’s medical bills. So, Ewa goes along with the job, screwing, making money and staying loyal to Bruno; however, that all changes once a local magician by the name of Emil (Jeremy Renner) takes a bit of a liking to her and is not going to leave her alone. Bruno doesn’t like this and, as expected, leads to a bit of a strange love-triangle that spurs out of control, with devastating results.

James Gray loves these types of small, slow, and intimate character-pieces. With most of his movies, you get a sense that the premises should have the pace going a-mile-a-minute, but somehow, Gray finds a way to keep them mellowed-out and calm by paying attention to his characters. Violence and action does usually rear its ugly head, but its done in a way that feels realistic, if only because we’ve invested so much time and patience to these character’s and their lives, that it makes total sense why one would decide to commit an inappropriate act of sorts.

A rare case in which somebody as looked at Joaquin Phoenix as "their savior".

A rare case in which somebody looked at Joaquin Phoenix as “their savior”.

And in the Immigrant, Gray is in top-form, for lack of a better word. You get a sense that Gray isn’t trying to talk about one story in particular, but a plethora of stories that stem from the idea of the American Dream. As our world has made it out to be presented as, America usually seems like the type of country where dreams are made of – the kind of country that embraces individuals that want to do when they want, how they want to, and wherever they want to, because it’s a free country and just about everybody is allowed to be themselves to a certain extent. To be honest too, there’s nothing wrong with that vision – I live in America and, despite a couple of questionable decisions made on our President’s behalf more than a few times, I love it. Not to say that there’s any problem with other countries out there, but for one thing, I’m glad I was born and bred in the good old U.S. of A.

Gray doesn’t necessarily have a problem with America, either, however, he understands that the means for which a person needs to survive by, can sometimes be immoral and dehumanizing. Even in a place like America, the land of the free and the home of the Brave.

With Ewa’s story, Gray shows what it’s like for a person to feel as if they are leaving their troubled, horrible past behind themselves, only to then be thrown into a new world, better yet, a new life, where it seems like things may be even worse than before. Those who come to America, expect happiness, beauty and all sorts of pleasures that they may have not been able to receive in the previous country, however, the harsh reality is that sometimes, that’s not really the case. It’s a shame to say, but it’s the truth; and while times may have gotten better for those who want to come into America and become a “citizen”, some of it still sort of sucks, almost to the point where it makes sense why one would divert away from the standard, typical professions one expects another to take in for means of survival. And by that, I mean taking a job that would require one to have sex, deal drugs, or be involved with any type of immoral behavior, all for money.

Like I said before, I love my country, but there are sometimes certain aspects of everyday life that even I have to admit are in my country and cannot look away from.

Anyway, I know I’ve gotten past the fact that this is, yes, a movie, but it’s one that’s very thought-provoking. In fact, that’s all it may in fact be. Gray presents a well thought-out idea of what people perceive the American Dream to be, and allows it to live through the story of Ewa’s – a pretty sad one, I may add. However, the sadness gets to a point of where it’s almost too bleak to really be anything else except for that; we get that Ewa doesn’t have much of a chance to get a high-paying office job of sorts, but is it really that bad that she can’t practically go anywhere else without being taken in by police and thrown back on Ellis Island? I don’t know, but to me, it seemed like a bit of a stretch; almost as if Gray used it as a ploy to keep Ewa with Bruno, and try to create as much tension between the two as he could. It works, but it does seem deliberate, and because of that, a little less realistic.

However, with this small, but effective cast Gray assembles, we get fully-realized, understandable human characters that seem like they could exist even in today’s day and age, except with maybe fancier clothes and a knack for taking selfies. Leading the cast as Ewa is Marion Cotillard and, believe it or not, she is great. There’s just something about those expressive eyes of hers that you can feel the pain, the remorse, and the agony that’s going through this character at every point in time, that you want to hug her like you’d want to embrace a sad, little and lost puppy. But once Ewa starts to embrace this newfound lifestyle for all its worth, there’s a change in Cotillard’s eyes and her demeanor as a whole, and it’s astonishing to watch. Once again, it’s all through the eyes in which Cotillard lets us know and understand what Ewa is going through, and it’s a riveting performance, from one of the best actresses working today, who makes me feel like a failure at life for not being able to complete a full sentence in Spanish, let alone any other language for that matter.

"Ignore the top-hat and guy-liner, and you'll see that I'm a really cool guy."

“Ignore the top-hat, villainous-mustache and guy-liner, and you’ll see that I’m a really cool guy.”

Another one of our finest workers in the biz today, Joaquin Phoenix, gets plenty of chances to run wild with this material. Gray and Phoenix have done four films together now, and you can tell that both completely know and understand each other’s strengths and weakness as creators. Gray probably wrote a lot of this material for Phoenix to work with, but by the same token, it also seems like Phoenix just decided, “Aw heck with it!”, half of the times and just went crazy. That’s not a bad thing, because if there’s anybody I feel comfortable with doing that in any movie, it’s Phoenix, somebody who is probably a lot more bonkers behind the camera, than the characters he plays in front of it. Together, him and Cotillard create a relationship that’s weird and clearly not the best thing for either of them, but as time goes on, you can tell there’s a strong connection between the two and by the end, they feel almost inseparable, despite the circumstances made in how they met and how they stayed together for so long.

Another great actor in general, doing exceptional work here, is Jeremy Renner who shows up every so often and brings just enough charm and loveliness to this movie, to keep it away from being a total drab-fest. You can clearly see that he has affections for Ewa that are just and realistic, but you can also get a sense that maybe, just maybe, he has another trick up his sleeve and is trying to fool her, like Bruno fooled her. Then again, she’s not wrong in thinking that, nor are we as an audience: The world is full of selfish, manipulative and distasteful liars. Even in America.

Consensus: While, at times, exceptionally slow and dark, the Immigrant poises an interesting anecdote to the general perception of America with a well-written script, and a pair of exceptional performances from its cast, especially the always amazing Cotillard.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity."

“Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Chef (2014)

Is it me, or has my stomach just been ripped to shreds?

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a professional chef working in a place that allows him to make whatever sort of menu he wants to and command the kitchen the way he wants, however, he still butts heads with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) every so often. Still though, cooking food for plenty to enjoy is what Carl lives off of and loves; maybe even more than life itself. So, he just goes with the flow most of the time, and lets people know that he knows a thing or two about making some grade-A quality grub. Problems arise though when Carl goes head-to-head with a popular food blogger (Oliver Platt) who absolutely trashes him in a scathing review. This brings Carl to not only confront him in an anger-filled, rage-like way, but to also quit because he doesn’t like the way things are going with the restaurant. This brings Carl to a crossroads in his life: either a) apologize to his former-boss, get his job back, and continue to take orders from schmucks who don’t know the difference between a crepe and a pancake, or b) start up his own food-truck business in which he has command over everything, and may even get a chance to rekindle a relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony).

Decisions, decisions for Mr. Carl Casper, and plenty of Cuban sandwiches to eat along the way.

Before I get into the actual details of what I felt about this movie, first thing’s first: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT come into this movie on an empty-stomach. As if that wasn’t already obvious enough by the plot, the foodgasms-filled trailer, and heck, even the title itself, just know, you must eat a hearty meal before seeing this. I don’t care if it’s a home-cooked meal, something you picked up on the go from Burger King, or a small bowl of Ramen Noodles (gotta think about the college kids here) – just do not see this movie without at least a meager amount of food in the pit of your stomach.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Because, if you don’t, you’ll be screwed. No matter what goes on in this movie, you’ll constantly be thinking about what you’re going to have when you get home, be getting constant head and stomach-aches, and maybe even think that that $13 large popcorn may do the trick to cure whatever hunger problems you may be having. You may enjoy the movie still, for sure, but all will be in your mind is how much longer this film is going to go on so that you can go home, and cook up some fresh Hot Pockets and call it a night.

And the reason why I’m harping so much on the idea of eating food before seeing this, because you don’t want to be distracted during this movie. Trust me, it’s a pretty good one that you don’t want to forget about because you couldn’t get that half-slice of pepperoni left-over in your fridge, out of your mind. You’re going to want to enjoy yourself during this movie, because, quite frankly, that’s what Jon Favreau wants you to do. Sure, he also wants you to rub your tummy like you’re playing an old-fashioned game of “Simon Says”, but he also wants you to enjoy the fun-filled spirit of this movie, and just about everybody in it.

Pretty fitting that it’s released in the summer, eh?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that with Chef, Favreau clearly isn’t trying to go for anything life-changing. There’s a lot of talk about him changing his life, being a better mate, being a better father, and being a better person that’s open to criticism, but it’s all there in sprinkles to make it seem like this story is more than just Jon Favreau and friends laughing, cracking jokes, and making food for nearly two-hours. Don’t get me wrong, that type of movie actually excites me, but I could probably do the same thing with half of my buddies, spend less money, and maybe even have a better time than simply watching these peeps do it.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’d totally have a better time hanging out with the likes of John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. Sorry to any of my friends that are reading this, but what can I say? They’re rich and they’re funny. Can’t ever go wrong with that!

High-lighting the cast would actually probably be the best way to go about with this movie, because they really are the reason why this movie works as well as it does. Sure, Favreau’s style and script is very funny, charming and heartfelt at times, but anybody can make an alright script; it’s the cast you work with, and how much they are able to elevate into being something more that really matters. And here, with this ensemble, which is basically just anybody Jon Favreau’s ever made a movie with (i.e. partied and did blow with), with the exception of Vince Vaughn. Pretty weird, right? You have just about anybody in the biz that Jon Favreau can call “a friend”, and yet, no Vince Vaughn.

Guess Couples Retreat really tore those two apart. Oh well. RIP Vince and Jon. Maybe one of these days they’ll be money again. Who knows.

Anyway, like I was saying about the cast, everybody that shows up here is fun and entertaining to watch, even if they only show up for a little over five minutes or so. Case in point, Robert Downey Jr.’s near-cameo as Carl Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband, who is the type of character you’d expect to see RDJ to play: Weird, off-kilter, goofy, fast-talking, and always acting as if he’s on another planet. However, with the limited screen-time, he makes it all so worth the while and leaves us wondering why the hell he doesn’t just do more movies without superheros and Guy Ritchie. I mean seriously: Come back to being a human, RDJ! There’s nothing at all wrong with that, dammit!

#RDJSwag

#RDJSwag

Others that pop-up ever so slightly too, are folks like Scarlett Johansson as Casper’s possible love-interest, who, weirdly enough, looked like my sister with her black hair, black bangs, black dresses, and tattoos. So every time the two would be hooking up or doing anything remotely sexual, I automatically got creeped-out. But hey, I guess my sister could do a lot worse, so good for her if that ever does happen! Dustin Hoffman also shows up for a small bit as the Casper’s boss that, can be a bit of a dick, but in reality, is just trying to keep his business afloat and do whatever’s best for his joint, even if that means getting rid of some of the best talents it may have to offer. You know, sort of like a real business man.

Also to mention, again sort of, is Oliver Platt as the critic that gives Casper a written-dialogue spanking that is actually a lot more terrible than some of the reviews I’ve seen on sites like Yelp, but still feels real, especially in the way Casper reacts to him in a way that’s both cruel, funny, and a bit sad, considering Platt’s character is a critic, doing what he does best: Critiquing. Sofia Vergara shows up as Casper’s ex-wife who is very wealthy and seems like she’d be a total shrew, but is actually supportive and nice to Casper, even when he seems to be a bit of a dick to everyone around him; Emjay Anthony is a good fit as Casper’s son who is a bit needy at times, but still feels like a kid who just wants to hang with his dad and get to know him about more; and, in case I didn’t need to re-iterate this anymore than I already have, it’s always lovely to see John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale show up in anything, and here is no different. They’re funny, exciting, cool, and always bringing the room’s volume up to at least an 11. My heroes.

But, in the middle of all this is Jon Favreau, who, considering this is a movie he single-handedly wrote, directed and put together all himself, could have easily made this a movie where he gets to do all of the heavy-lifting and show why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. Rather, Favreau is kind and allows everybody else to work off of him and get the most attention from the crowd; while in honesty, he’s the real heart, soul, and charm of this movie. As a whole cast, they make it better, but with Favreau at the dead-center of it all, just acting like that normal, everyday-man we all loved seeing him act like before, he keeps it all grounded and sincere. Without him, this movie would have never been made. Yet, without him, this movie wouldn’t have been so lovely to watch. Nor would it have been as delicious to look at neither.

Yum.

Consensus: Not the deepest movie ever made, yet, Chef is still able to slide by with a charming ensemble, well-written script, and many food delights to make you reconsider the next time you ever think McDonalds is a suitable dinner.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, well my dad's a government worker. So take that.

Yeah, well my dad’s a government worker. So take that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Yes, citizens from other countries: Play the sport where just about everybody is injecting needles into their buttocks, just to “get ahead”.

J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a down-on-his-luck sports agent that’s trying to make it big, with all of the right clients, and all of the fine amounts of cash just stream-lining into his fancy office. However, it just isn’t. Instead, he’s finding himself more and more up against the walls and without a clue as to what to do next. However, one night, he gets the brilliant idea: Go to India, and a hold a contest called “the Million Dollar Arm”. From there, Bernstein and fellow other scouts would be able to find the next hot talent from India, a place that has yet to even be looked at by MLB prospects, while also gaining enough notoriety to keep Bernstein’s agency afloat and actually still heard of. Eventually, Bernstein has the competition come down to two hopeful prospects: Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) and Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma). Though Patel and Singh remain hopeful for the future, they still have no clue how to play baseball and have never left their native-land before until now. So yeah, it’s definitely a bit of culture-shock for these guys, but Bernstein thinks he’s got all of the right resources to make sure that these two do just fine in the try-outs. Because hell, even if they don’t, at least Bernstein will have enough money and fame to his name, right? Well, yeah, sure, but there’s a price you have to pay for that; a price Bernstein is about to face, head on.

It’s obvious what this movie is trying to be: Think Jerry Maguire, but with a twist of Slumdog Millionaire. And rather than their being any famous lines like, “Show me the monay!”, or, “You….complete me”, we just have a bunch of scenes where Jon Hamm acts surprised that something didn’t go his way, throws his head in his hand, and just lets the world know that even someone as handsome as him, can look gritty. You want to know how?!? By forgetting to shave for what seems to be a little bit over a week!

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Okay, I get it. Now stop smiling.

Oh, the range.

But no, in all seriousness, folks, the problem with this movie isn’t Jon Hamm – in fact, he may have been the best aspect that kept me watching – nope, it was that the film itself is so obvious and predictable, that the fact that it’s also cloying and in dire need of love and sympathy, just really pushed me over the edge. I got what this movie was trying to do: It’s trying to give us a inspired tale of fulfilling your dreams, that most of us probably have never heard of before. I sure as hell didn’t, and I think that’s what this movie wanted to tap into the most, the surprise-element that this actually happened.

The problem with the movie is that every beat it goes for and hits, can be seen from a mile away. Don’t tell me that the neighbor J.B. lives next to, who we get a brief snippet of time with in the beginning, shows up every now and again throughout the movie! Or, better yet, don’t tell me that the old, grumpy, wise-cracking character played by, you guessed it, Alan Arkin who, at first, doesn’t seem like he gives a shit at all about these kids or the sport of baseball in general, actually seems to care a lot and help J.B. out when the time comes that he needs it the most! And please, whatever you do, don’t try and tell me that J.B.’s boss also happens to be a bit of a money-grubbing, attention-loving a-hole that doesn’t care about these kids, the sport of baseball, and whether or not he and J.B. stay as business-associates!

So yeah, as you can tell, all of the plot-developments that happen here, in front of our eyes and ears, can be predicted from a mile away. However, where that usually works for some movies, because the movie itself is so pleasing and enjoyable to begin with that it predictability itself almost doesn’t matter, it doesn’t here. Mainly because it seems like the movie just us wants to love everything about it – J.B., his neighbor, the sport of baseball, India, keeping tradition, baseball scouts, smart sports-trainers, these two possible-prospects – everything about it just screams, “Love me! Love me!”. And while I was more than willing to going into this movie, during it, I just wanted them to stop pestering me and get on with the story itself.

Which, for a nearly two-hour movie, is a bit much, especially when everything can be seen coming from a mile away.

However, with most bad movies, there’s usually the cast to make things a bit better, but even most of the familiar-faces here can’t do much to help make matters a bit better. As I stated before, Hamm is fine in this role as J.B. Bernstein, although I did find it a bit hard to see him to go from “I just want my money, like NOW”, to, “You know what? This baseball stuff is silly. Let’s just love one another, man!”. I didn’t really see the transition work as well as the movie wanted me to think it did, ad I found it even more annoying that they continued to force down our throat the supposed “romance” Hamm’s character has with Lake Bell’s.

No seriously. Stop!

No seriously. Stop!

Bell plays her usual ditsy, witty and charming-self that nobody ever seems to get tired of, but here, she seems like a plot-contrivance to keep the plot moving, give us a reason to make sense of why J.B. would go soft all of a sudden, and to sympathize with these two guys from India a whole lot more. Bell tries and tries again, but the chemistry between her and Hamm just never seemed believable to me. Also, not to mention the fact that the whole angle in which Bell’s character constantly bothers J.B. through Skype, felt very tacked-on and a bit creepy. Even if the girl is Lake Bell, I wouldn’t want some gal constantly bothering me while I’m trying to do work, a couple of countries over, just to talk about the washing-machine. Like come on, woman! Give a man some privacy!

Where the cast does get a bit better is with Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal, the two actors who play these professional baseball-hopefuls from India. Both definitely seem like bright-eyed, innocent, young fellas that don’t really know what they are getting themselves into, but go through it anyway because it’s in their lap and they think, “Eh. Might as well.” Though the movie tries to cram their squeaky-clean cleanliness down our throats, these two definitely make it worth while because they just seemed that way. It didn’t matter if they smoked crack, banged hookers, or murder people when the camera’s weren’t rolling; they seemed like nice, young and pleasant-enough fellas that I wanted to see this story about them, and whether the end-result would be good or bad for them. Didn’t care about the movie their story was in, but I cared about them, and that was almost enough to keep me going. Almost.

Consensus: You can’t deny that Million Dollar Arm‘s heart is in the right place, but it wants us to know that in just about every scene, that it gets really annoying, real quick, and takes away from what could have been a really endearing, inspirational tale that we haven’t really seen before. Except for the fact that we have.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don't over-do it!

Oh, fine. I guess you guys can be happy and smile. But don’t over-do it!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Godzilla (2014)

When you trade in Heisenberg for adult-Ferris Bueller, you’re in good shape.

15 years ago, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) lost his mother (Juliette Binoche) in a freak-accident that had to do with some sort of radiation break out. His father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), has been living the past couple of years trying to figure out just exactly what happened, and whether or not this is a sign of terrible things to come. Just around this time that he and his son reunite, a giant-sized creature comes to life, knocking out just about everything in its path, including electricity. The scientist behind this whole experiment-gone-wrong is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who believes that there is another creature out there just waiting to be heard from and to, if possible, stop these creatures from destroying everything, and everyone in its path. That said creature? Well, I’ll let this guy take the pleasure of announcing it for you.

It’s been a long time since Roland Emmerich practically destroyed the respectable, and totally cool name that was in Godzilla (a little over 15 years in fact), and in order for this movie to be awesome and hyped-up like it has been for quite time, that needed to be happen. Not only did it need to show Hollywood that messing with an international-product can sometimes be risky, but doing it to the point of where you’re practically disrespecting the culture it comes from, is definitely a big old “no no” when trying to deliver a form of entertainment. Hasn’t stopped big-time, fast-talking money-makers in Hollywood before, and it sure as hell won’t stop them from committing the same acts again, but with the disaster of that movie, it puts a clearer-emphasis on just how much “better” they were willing to make this latest re-boot seem.

And thankfully, “better” is exactly what this re-boot is, and by quite a lot as well.

Hey! That's not Flynn back there!

Hey! That’s not Flynn back there!

Sorry, Jean Reno. You’re still Leon in my book, so that’s got to count for something.

Anyway, as for this new Godzilla, what works so well for it is how it doesn’t really give us the main attraction until about half-way through. Sure, we here his name dropped a few times (surprisingly by a Japanese actor), we see his thorny back and tail, and we even get plenty of glimpses at his huge feet, stomping on large-scale buildings and practically turning them into total rubble. However, we rarely ever get to see him in a full-on form until the half-way mark, and it’s totally worth the time and patience we as audience members are asked to have when it comes to seeing just exactly who this movie is made after. It’s a constant build-up that director Gareth Edwards racks up tension, just about the whole time with, and once we see what Godzilla actually looks like in this new edition (he’s really cool) and get to hear him use that ferocious screech that scares the pants off of any 5-10 year-old, then it’s on with the plot and all sorts of other shenanigans Edwards has to get into.

Yet, for some reason, the movie is never uninteresting. It can be a bit of a drag at times, but it never gets to the point of where I was bored neither. Which, for a summer blockbuster, is nothing new, but somehow, this time felt different than it has for the past two weeks.

First of all, it was a giant-scale, monster movie that delivered the goods on just about every level that Pacific Rim failed to do. We have human characters that are actually interesting; a script that doesn’t constantly hammer-us over the head with corny lines; monster-brawls that aren’t a constant happening, but still show up from time to time to liven things up and remind people why they came to see this movie in the first place; and a sense that we’re placed into a world that is a lot like the one we live in now, yet, we don’t really think too much about reality with. We just sort of get sucked into this world, even if it is our own, and it’s a really thrilling experience to go through.

You actually get the sense that even though Edwards himself doesn’t shy away from having a little bit of fun and pleasuring himself in all of the constant explosions of things like cars, buildings, race-tracks and Navy ships, that he wants to provide an heavier-emphasis on “the government” in this movie itself. In any movie, good or bad, we always see the government being shown as either “good”, “bad”, or somewhere in the middle of both. My opinion is that it’s a bit of a slippery-slope to jump into, all because a director can easily make it seem like their using it to their advantage to get up on top of their soapbox for a good two hours and force everybody to listen up, but here, Edwards is only using them as a tool to keep the plot, the action, and the ideas moving. It was weird to never get a glimpse at the President during this time of obvious crisis, but I guess that’s made for another movie, at another time.

Either way, the movie still steps itself into as much realism as it can, even when it’s all about large-ass monsters, beating the hell out of one another and terrorizing whole cities,  and this is where I think the movie worked its most magic. Yeah, it was definitely thrilling and yeah, it looked beautiful, but I never really lost a sense that everything I was seeing was perfectly calculated in a way that didn’t seem hokey, or as if Edwards himself was just making up the rules as he went along. Some science majors may have a bit of a problem with this movie in how it explains certain happenings, in certain ways, but for the most part, I didn’t really find myself second-guessing anything of what any character said. I just sort of nodded my head, went along with it, and tried my hardest to enjoy the ride, and I’m glad I decided to do so, because it totally worked out for me in the end. Even when Godzilla wasn’t around to wreck everything in his sight.

But enough Godzilla already, that little monster him, let’s talk about the humans in this picture! Mostly, I have to applaud Gareth Edwards for putting together a nice ensemble of talents that aren’t necessarily the biggest names in all of Hollywood, but definitely have enough charisma and energy to keep a movie like this moving, and steeped in some sense of emotional. In fact, believe it or not, most of that emotion seems to come from Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. Yes, that may be hard for some of you Breaking Bad fans to realize and accept (sarcasm, clearly), but Cranston easily has the best, most gripping moments in this whole scene. He’s likable, a bit weird, off-kilter, cool and a total dweeb, but he gets a chance to play all of these sides to his character in such a small fraction of space, that I was so happy to see him here in the first place. Didn’t really much matter to me that he isn’t in the movie a whole lot, but at least he gave me someone to empathize with and at least root for.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn't cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn’t cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

Because, to be honest, nobody else in this movie really gave me that much of a chance to do the same. Not saying that nobody tried to, it’s just that their material may have been lankier than others is all. For example, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a hot, young, and charming actor that wants to be more than just Kick-Ass – now he’s ready to get muscled-up, kick some ass, and do it all without a goofy-looking, DIY-mask and costume. Can’t say that it hasn’t worked out for him in the past, but here, his character is a bit unengaging. He isn’t an unlikable character by any means, it’s just that he’s a bit of a dull hero to have in the first place, that also happens to be in the army as is. Would have been a lot neater to see this story from a regular-man’s perspective, but I guess we wouldn’t have been able to see all of those cool, high-flying scenes we’ve been getting treated to in the trailers.

And sadly, the same sort of goes for the rest of the cast. Juliette Binoche gets the same treatment as Cranston does, although reasonably so; Elizabeth Olsen plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife that has to tend to their damn kid all of the time, while still maintaining her job as a local nurse (go figure); David Strathairn doesn’t always feel right as Admiral William Stenz, a man-in-command who is constantly shouting out orders and demands; and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play two scientists that are practically the first to get started on this huge project of theirs, and seem like the over-educated dopes a movie like this needs to point the big finger at. They just want to see what happens with scientist, rather than just doing anything about it, and because of their fascination, thousands and thousands of people are at risk for their lives.

Oh science, what a beautiful thing to waste.

Consensus: Though we don’t get to see too much of the title-character, Godzilla still benefits from exciting action set-pieces, an engaging story that feels slightly believable, despite being about monsters fighting one another, and enough good performances from the cast, to make this a summer blockbuster you must see to get the bad taste of the 1998-version out of your mouth.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Godzilla (1998)

First time anybody realized dinosaurs were lame.

After a giant-sized creatures leaves a foot-print in a foreign country, Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), a worm-enthusiast/scientist, is brought to the scene to scope it all out and hopefully let the army know what the deal is. The problem is, Nick doesn’t know what the deal is until New York City just so happens to get attacked by this creature, leaving half of the town in ruins and evacuated. This is when Nick and the army decides to take their mission-work over there, where they will hopefully get rid of the beast, and not even think twice about how it all started in the first place (smart move). But standing in their ways, sort of, are a group of Frenchmen (lead by Jean Reno); a news cameraman that wants to get every shot he possibly can (Hank Azaria); a mayor, aka Roger Ebert, who doesn’t want his whole town blown to bits (Michael Lerner); and even Nick’s ex-girlfriend, Audrey (Maria Pitillo), who not only happens to be in town, but a reporter that’s just waiting for her big break. She feels as if she’s finally gotten that chance now with Nick back home, however, she realizes that they have bigger fish to fry right away.

Get it? It was sort of a pun.

Aw, who am I kidding?!? What the hell do I care if you got that or not? Because, to be honest, you’d probably be a lot better off, had you not understood the joke – which would have also meant that you never even bothered to see the movie in the first place. Good on your part. Seriously.

The state of modern journalism: Getting trampled on by whomever it is you're covering.

A metaphor for modern-day journalism: Just imagine the foot as the internet.

Sadly, for somebody such as myself, I’ve seen it more times than I can count, and I have nobody else to blame that on except for my parents. Yep, that’s right: My parents. Not only did they practically force this down my throat once it came out on VHS, but it was practically the only movie they’d allow me to watch whenever I was bored. No professional wrestling, no video-games, no MTV, no nothing! Just this 1998-reboot of Godzilla that, dare I say it, is an absolute offense to the original Japanese creators who made it, or anybody else who shelled-out money to go and see it all the way back in the summer of ’98.

It makes sense why some would go and see it – hell, it was the late-90’s, and when you have something with the tag-line, “Size Does Matter”, and you’re advertising your movie as, “from the creators of Independence Day“, chances are, people are going to see this. Especially during the 90’s. Nowadays, Roland Emmerich and his rag-tag team of over-eccentric goofballs, can’t really seem to get a hit on their hands, and I think that’s with good reason: People stopped trusting them as soon as this movie came out.

See, with this here Godzilla, what works well is the build-up. Even though the characters suck, the plot suck, and every line of dialogue sucks, there’s still a nice bit of tension leading up to the moment of when we’re finally going to see that huge monster that is “Godzirra!”. However, once we do see him, not only does he look like total, CGI-crap, but he doesn’t really have much personality or anything. I know that’s a bit hard to ask of for a movie creature, but for some creatures in film, the slightest ounce of personality can go a long way for them; heck, even the old-school, clunky-looking Godzilla’s were at least half a bit of charming, if only because they looked so cheap, that it didn’t matter whether you could take it seriously or not.

But here, with this Godzilla, not only does he look like garbage that only a late-90’s DELL would be able to fix up in a matter of seconds, but we don’t know what to think about him in the first place. Is he good? Bad? Or, is he just simply living the way he was supposed to live, and we, as a society, are just in his way and living on his land? I, for one, don’t really know. It seemed like here, that the only time Godzilla actually started doing some straight-up evil, villainous stuff, was when he was either getting shot at, hit with explosives, or chased all around downtown like it was some harsh game of “Cops and Robbers”. Any other time before or after then, we don’t really get a sense that Godzilla is being all that much of a meanie; in fact, it’s probably more of the government that are the ones being the meanies here. Not Godzilla.

And no, I am not saying that they should have just let Godzilla walk all across the Big Apple, tearing down buildings, stepping on cars and endangering thousands and thousands of lives, but I would have said that they should have found a more humane-way to level with him. Sounds very hippie-ish of me and, considering the movie I am speaking about, a bit ridiculous, but hey, it’s a creature-feature – and with creature features, you have to think of the creatures themselves and whether or not you can put a tag on them as “good”, “bad”, or “easily misunderstood”.

Here, with this Godzilla, I never fucking knew. It was only until the end where they tried to give us some sort of sad-sack attempt at sympathizing with him in a very quiet, rainy-night sequence. It’s the type of scene we need to see in these types of movies to gain some perspective on what we have just all went through as humans, as well as audience-members, but it’s handled so poorly afterwards, it seemed almost like an after-thought. Almost as if Roland Emmerich didn’t want to seem like a total savage when this movie came out, and instead, wanted to give us a glimpse at a peaceful Godzilla, that is really just peaceful because he went to war with practically the WHOLE DAMN UNITED STATES ARMY.

But you know. Just saying. Most likely, I’m looking into this a lot deeper than I should (that’s actually a definite), but the fact remains: This movie sucks.

There’s hardly much more for me to bitch and moan about with this movie that hasn’t already been said before. The action is whatever; the script is god-awfully cheesy; the special-effects would have been dated, even by ’98’s-standards; the ensemble tries, but are just pawns in the huge chess game that is this terrible script and movie; and half of the movie is a total rip-off of Jurassic Park in the first place (especially once those little twerps’ eggs start hatching). How Steven Spielberg didn’t lawyer-up right away and bankrupt the hell out of Roland Emmerich and his aforementioned pals is totally beyond me!

"Aw shucks! Guess I shouldn't have taken that day off in the first place!"

“Aw shucks! Guess I shouldn’t have taken that day off in the first place!”

Maybe he has yet to even see it? Maybe, just maybe, this could be the big break we as film-goers have been waiting for. Maybe Steven Spielberg, if he gets the right lawyers, picks the smartest angle to go at this case that he can find, and stick it to Emmerich and Pals, then maybe, we’ll never have to see another Roland Emmerich movie EVER AGAIN! Oh my gosh! Say it ain’t so! This really and truly could happen, people!! Whose with me?!?!?

Anybody?!?!

Huh??!?!

Really?!?!

Come on!

Oh, fine.

Whatever.

We could have changed history right here people. Not just for ourselves, right now, at this moment in time, but for future generations to come. Think about it, people. That’s all I ask.

Consensus: Overlong, dull, poorly-written, thin, a complete rip-off of better movies (*ahem* Jurassic Park), and just plain boring, Godzilla never really gets going once it shows us its titled-monster, and instead, just gets worse as it goes on, and on, and on, and on, into a state of complete oblivion that should be kept that way so no more people have to be punished into laying their eyes on it.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Hey look! They just took the Happy Meal figure and filmed it!

Hey look! They just took the advertised-Happy Meal action-figure and filmed it!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Wolf Creek (2004)

This summer, kids, just stay home.

Three college graduates are finally ready to embark on their summer and all of the fun times that they could have. So, they decide that what better way to get started than to go back-packing in the mountains of Australia? Better yet, how about the infamous Wolf Creek, where the hike itself is apparently three-hours long and is practically in the middle of a desert! Yep, that sounds pretty great! And for awhile, it is – the three drink, party, kiss, sleep, camp, sit by a fire, play guitar, tell goofy stories, and look forward to what’s next lying ahead of them – however, things go a bit South once their car breaks down in the middle of this said desert. But, thankfully, there’s a local outback man by the name of Mick (John Jarratt) that assists them in their time of need. And for the longest time, that’s what it seems like is actually happening, despite the culture-clash between these young rascals and this older, stranger redneck-like man. Something weird happens though when the three wake up the next day, only to find themselves tied-up, trapped, and kidnapped by Mick, who isn’t exactly as kind and as helpful as he once seemed. Instead, he’s more of a murderer that loves himself a bit of torture. You know, for the fun of it.

Anytime a horror movie opens with “based on true events.”, you know you’re in trouble. Not because the movie is just making that up to give it some sort of significance (which it sort of is), but because you know that the real facts of whatever true story it’s talking about, will be lost in the shuffle of crazy, loose ideas that some director wants to throw onto the screen. Which is fine and all, if you’re doing a movie that isn’t based on some real, grisly killings that “allegedly” happened, despite their being little-to-no evidence found, or even witnesses, then you have to realize that your juggling fire.

Not a piece of obvious symbolism at all.

Not at all obvious symbolism.

By that, I mean that you can do what you want with a story, but once you throw that subtitle up there, you have a certain image to protect. You can get dirty and dark with the details of the story, but to mess around with it so much to the point of where it seems like a director is just using it to shock more and more people, feels wrong. And worst of all, almost reprehensible.

For instance, there’s a scene somewhere by the end that I won’t spoil too much, except only to say that it involves a knife and a spine. Maybe you’ve already heard of/seen it before, but either way, it’s a pretty graphic scene that shocked the hell out of me when I saw it originally. That’s the way most horror movies should be: Dark, disturbing, and as bloody as you want it to be, where you can get the viewer actually cringing. However, the more and more that I thought about this display of graphic violence, I began to feel like it was totally unnecessary, especially given, once again, the fact that this is “based on true events.”.

Sure, if that scene happened in a Eli Roth or Saw movie, people would have easily been going nutso for the rest of time (I guess they still are), but since this is supposed to be based on real-life, actual murders of young people, it seems gratuitous and takes on an even darker meaning than ever before. Which, I guess for a horror movie, is a good thing. But here, I didn’t see it that way. I saw a director, Greg McLean to be exact, using a “supposed” real-life tragedy to frame all of the bloody, gory images he’s had in his head for quite some time and was only waiting for that moment to shine and show everybody in the world what he has.

For the most part too, I can’t really get on McLean’s case too much, because it really does seem like he has the look of this movie down. Like with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an obvious comparison, I know, but it’s all I got to work with right now), a lot of the action in this happens during the day, which somehow, gives it a creepier feeling. When it’s dark, you have no idea what to expect next, which is totally scary. However, with the day-time, you totally know what to expect next, and for some shocking reason, that works even more. McLean clearly has an eye for the long and moody outbacks of Australia, and paints them as how they should look: Lifeless, mean and unforgiving.

With that McLean definitely redeems himself as a horror director that knows what it is that he’s doing with the style of this movie, it’s just a shame that his material didn’t quite pop-off like it should have.

"Scope's are for wimps."

“Scope’s are for wimps.”

And while I’m talking about it, I think I should mention that while most of this movie was a little too much, it still worked when it needed to. It was a clever little game of cat-and-mouse that had some surprising twists here and there, even if the characters still made the same old, dumb mistakes like they usually do in these types of movies. For instance, at one point during the movie, a baddie is knocked-down, on the ground and clearly unconscious, so one of the victims decides to end him right then and there, you’d think, right? Well, yeah, you would definitely think it, but rather than finishing the baddie off, the person just runs away and hopes to god that the villain doesn’t wake up. Felt dumb to me and made it seem like this movie needed a story, just to justify its run-time and the ending it would eventually get to.

And when it does, needless to say, it’s what you’d expect – a whole lot more of that “true story” bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and almost makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time. It isn’t, but it sure as hell does come close.

Consensus: The fact that Wolf Creek takes most of its story away from what are supposed to be “real events”, makes all of its brutal, grisly scenes of torture and murder seem almost gratuitous, although it may still provide to be thrilling for some other viewers more-attuned to that type of stuff.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Crocodile Dundee, who?

Tourists better think twice now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Maria Full of Grace (2003)

The drug dealing business and kidney beans apparently don’t mix together well.

17-year-old Maria Alvarez (Catalina Sandino Moreno) isn’t quite like normal, 17-year-old gals her age, especially ones living in Columbia. For starters, she likes to adventure and live every moment as if it were her last, whereas the other peeps around her just waste life because they can. She’s pregnant, and in a place where it’s common-courtesy to marry the person you’ve been impregnated by, she doesn’t really want to since the guy in question is such a slug and doesn’t really love her. Also, she hates her job and will actually stand up for herself when she’s being mistreated by her boss, unlike the rest of her fellow coworkers that just take the abuse all because it’s the only thing they can do to keep a roof over their heads and survive. Maria doesn’t care about that, she just wants to live. That’s why when she’s propositioned with the job of being a drug mule for a local kingpin (it is Columbia don’t forget), she can’t turn it down, even though she does feel a bit hesitant at first taking so many chances of being arrested, getting hurt, or even worse, possibly getting others in her family hurt as well. But it’s a free ride to NYC, just as long as she can swallow and hold in not one, not two, not three, and hell, not even 10 drug pellets, but 65-70 drug pellets for a long, long time.

If I was in the same situation, I'd probably be shittin' bricks. Oh wait, no I wouldn't. At least not on purpose.

If I was in the same situation, I’d probably be shittin’ bricks. Oh wait, no I wouldn’t. At least not on purpose.

I don’t know about any of you, but waking up for the morning commute and working my nine-to-five desk job is all fine and dandy for me, just as long as I don’t have to control my bowels for over nine hours. If it ever gets to the point of where I have to do that, then just consider me unemployed. Plain and simple.

Anyway, the point behind that random snippet into my mind is that the idea of a drug mule is one that’s frowned upon, and with somewhat of a good reason. Drugs are bad, and drug smuggling is even badder. Case closed. However, what most people don’t realize about being a drug mule is that the people who sometimes partake in this line of business (the “mules” themselves), don’t necessarily have a choice, especially since they’re from Columbia where almost everything, and anything is fueled by drugs in one way or another.

That’s why when you look at writer/director Joshua Marston’s approach to the material, you gain a better idea of what it’s like for these numerous men and women who have had to swallow numerous amounts of drug balloons, keep them in their stomach, hold them for as long as they are told to, make sure they don’t pop-open in their stomach, and most likely the biggest obstacle of all, not getting caught by the feds that are just waiting for someone such as them to walk right next to them and get caught red-handed.

Some of you may see that as a poor career-choice for those people, so why the hell should we care, and the fact is you don’t have to. However, realizing that smuggling drugs across country-lines is probably all that those citizens got going for themselves which makes it easy to open your eyes and think a little bit about the last time you’ve been in a budge for money. Remember some of the nutty things you had to do? Well, maybe it wasn’t to the certain extent of smuggling drugs, but you get my idea: Don’t be judging. And that corny motto is exactly what Marston goes about doing not just with Maria, but everybody else in this story, whether they be involved with the drug world or not.

Marston presents us with the character of Maria who, from the looks of it, seems like your average, ordinary teen: Rebellious, pleasant, thoughtful, and willing to give anybody a piece of her mind when she thinks something that’s done to her isn’t right. Not only does this make us connect with her more on a common level, but it also makes us feel like she’s a real person, who has to make real, hard, life-changing decisions, especially as the film goes on. I don’t want to give away some of the questionable, and otherwise, dumb decisions that Maria makes, but you know that every one she makes is coming out of the mind of a human-being that’s not only trying to survive in this world, but live in it as well. She doesn’t take anything for granted, which is why when it starts to seem like her life may be in jeopardy due to this newly found career-options she’s starting to pursue, you feel bad for her and just hope that everything ends up alright for her in the end. Even when it does look too bleak at times, you know that Maria is a good person and, whatever the outcome of her action may be, you know that she means well.

Sort of like all of us: We make decisions, some good ones, some not so good, but we always mean well in the end. Most of the time anyway. Can’t say I speak on behalf of O.J. or Charlie Manson, but you get my drift.

You really want to be doing for the rest of your days? Reaaaally?!?!?

See what I’m saying?!?! You really want to be doing this for the rest of your days?

But what I think another factor into what makes Maria a character worth giving a flying hoot about is the fact that, other than Marston’s nonjudgmental-approach, is the fact that  Catalina Sandino Moreno really nails this role and totally deserved the Oscar nomination she got for this, mainly because she never really has to say much to get her character’s point across. For one, she has these very expressive eyes that make you understand whatever it is that she’s thinking, at any given second, and secondly, she always shows what her next motivation will be, especially when everything else going on around her is so unpredictable and crazy.

An example I think about so clearly in my head is the one key scene where authorities pull Maria over, question her, and try and get her to admit to smuggling drugs, which for any human-being thrown into that same situation, would be an ultimate crisis of emotions. However, Maria opts the other way out and decides to keep her cool, stay calm, and act as if she has no idea what any of these folks are talking about. In any other movie, one would automatically think that Maria a lying, selfish, and undeniably sneaky character you can’t trust because she doesn’t tell the truth about her drug smuggling, but somehow, in this movie, with this direction, and this amazing performance by Moreno, you feel sorry for her and know why it is that she chooses to do what it is that she’s doing. Doesn’t make you want to root for her, nor give the drug smuggling business a shot on your own time, but it does make you care more for her, the ones around her, and her own story. One filled with the same type of adventure and excitement that she so desperately wanted. And she definitely got it, for damn sure.

Consensus: May be bleak, may be depressing, and may be a very sad snap-shot of the world we live in, but Maria Full of Grace still reaches out to those that commit such criminal acts as drug smuggling, gives them a time to shine and tell their story, and allow for us, the judgmental viewer, not to be so and actually think of things from their point-of-view, as challenging as that initially may be to do.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

So many drug pellets to swallow, such a small bladder.

So many drug pellets to swallow, such a small bladder.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Devil’s Knot (2014)

When you hear Metallica blasting through somebody’s speakers, run as far away from them as you can!

We’ve all heard this story before, but only through documentaries, so here it is again, I guess: Three boys in West Memphis went out for a little while and promised they’d be back by 4:30. 4:30 goes by, and less than a day later, they are found dead, naked, and tied-up at the bottom of a lake nearby their houses. Families, friends, neighbors, and people in general, are all upset about this travesty, but they know that justice needs to be done. This is when the police come up with enough evidence to arrest and hold a trial for three boys, all of whom were thought of as being the killers of these three little boys. Only reason? Because they looked, dressed, and talked differently, and had some ideas about Satanic-cults than most people like to feel comfortable with. Though mostly everybody believes that these are in fact the boys who committed this murder, one man, a private investigator (Colin Firth), doesn’t, and for some odd reason, decides to take this case on his own, pro-bono and all. What he finds out is not only are there some sheisty pieces of evidence left alone and barely even thought of, but that most of these stories just don’t add up.

As many of you may know, last Thursday, I reviewed the documentary about the West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis, and I found out two things: a) Arkansas cops can be really dumb, and b), that everything I read about that case beforehand was true and therefore, didn’t really needed to be forced down my throat once again. However, I chose to watch the documentary anyway, and realized that there were some things I didn’t quite know about and was definitely happy enough to see brought to light, especially after all of these years of barely hearing anything, except for the fact that *spoiler alert* the three boys convicted of these murders, weren’t actually even the murderers and finally let free.

"Please, shut the fuck up."

“Please honey, shut the fuck up.”

That’s why it’s no surprise to see that an actual, narrative-film was made of this controversial case, and it’s not an even bigger surprise to see so much talent get behind it either. However, what is a surprise, is how bad it is.

And that’s not really anything against Atom Egoyan as a director, because you can tell that his intentions are well-driven and noble, to say the least. He isn’t really trying to bring up any new claims about this case that we haven’t heard before, and he surely isn’t trying to point the finger at anybody in an obvious way that may give us the impression that he a certain stance that he’d like to make known to the general-public. Nope, instead, he’s sort of just presenting this case, this story, and these people, exactly how it was, what happened, and whom they were.

The only problem is that none of it is at all interesting. Egoyan tries and tries again, but the problem is that there’s already been four documentaries made about this case, so what the hell is the point anyway? Sure, there’s one piece of evidence about a bloodied-man walking into a local Bojangles restaurant that I had never heard of before, but that seems to come, go, come back, go, and then all of a sudden, show up at the last second, as if it was the most meaningful piece-of-evidence of all.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled enough already with all of this ungodly amount of info I have stored-up in my brain about this case, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t do much for me. But in all honesty, the movie as a whole, really doesn’t work. It isn’t that it’s boring because it doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of excitement for this case, but because it seems like the type of made-for-TV movie that you’d see Lifetime or Hallmark doing, except only with a few more dirty words and blood thrown into the mix. Oh, and the big-named cast as well, but really, they’re just here to collect a paycheck, I’d like to think.

Aside from all of that though, this movie doesn’t really do much at all. It’s less about the actual people involved with the case (like Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin), and more about the case itself, making it seem more like a police-procedural than anything else. Which, yet again, would be fine and relatively interesting, had those documentaries never been made before in the first place; but they have, and therefore, it’s nothing new to see or hear when we find out that the cops are pulling whatever strings to ensure that these three boys go to jail. It’s less shocking here, and more like it’s just grand-pop telling us the same history-lesson, over and over again, without much variation in the details. I love my grand-pop and all, but seriously, the stories get old quick if you don’t do anything to spice them up. That’s just a fact of life, though.

Sorry, G-Pops. You da man.

Anyway, the movie does pay attention to some people involved with the case, mainly Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the murdered boys. Witherspoon tries to settle into this gritty, Southern-bumpkin mama that loves her family, just as much as she loves justice being done, but aside from the extra poundage she clearly put on, nothing here that she does really feels genuine or even interesting. She just yells, cries, faints and uses a lot of shocked-expressions on her face, and that’s it. She tries and she tries again, but her character isn’t worthy of our attentions, as horrible as that may sound coming from me.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Another character that gets a hell of a lot of attention, for no other reason other than that he’s played by Colin Firth, is private investigator Ron Lax. Firth has a troubled-role in which he has to disguise his English accent to fit with his newly-acquired Southern one, and it doesn’t always work. Aside from that, his role is sort of bland – he’s just there to get all of the facts straight, and figure out what to do with this case, as well as his own personal life. Like Witherspoon, Firth tries, and he tries again, but sadly, the material given to him just doesn’t do much of anything for him at all.

And it gets even weirder, because believe it or not, this cast is actually jam-packed with recognizable and talented faces, it’s just that they don’t do much. Alessandro Nivola has the role as Terry Hobs, Pam’s husband, who in real-life, actually has the most controversial role in the case as a whole, but doesn’t have any of that hinted at all, except maybe towards the end with one shot. That’s it. Other than that, all he has to do is have his inevitable “freak-out” scene, comfort his wife, and that’s it. Lame, I know. Same goes for notable stars like Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Kevin Durand, and worst of all, Amy Ryan. I think it should be a golden-rule by now that whenever you have Beadie Russell in anything, you must always use her to the best of her ability. No questions asked.

Consensus: Devil’s Knot tries to be more than just a regurgitation of everything we’ve heard and seen done before in countless documentaries, but the final result still ends up being a dud and not doing much of anything at all for the talents in front of, or behind the camera.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Give 'em a break! It was the early-90's for godsakes! New Edition was still considered "cool".

Give ’em a break! It was the early-90’s for godsakes! New Edition was still considered “cool”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net