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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: September 2015

Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.

Ew.

Ew.

So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

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Waiting for “Superman” (2010)

Yup, I’m home-schooling.

The current state of the USA’s education system is not a very pretty one. Kids don’t seem to be learning anything; aren’t getting into college; are falling behind; and are coming nowhere near being able to pass certain grades that they should. They have it lucky, though! Some kids aren’t even getting into schools and instead, find themselves on the streets, without a book in hand or an adult to lead them across the way. This is where our independent teachers come in to show what a single person can do if they show love, dedication, and passion for teaching, and helping kids learn.

Before I step past the gates of hell and go all out with my thoughts and opinions, let me just tell you a little something about me. I’m not rich, my family’s not rich, and we sure as hell wouldn’t be considered high-class. My father has a job that has amazing benefits. With that being said, my parents never seemed to take the one road and send me to public school, considering they thought it would be a waste of time and I would learn little to nothing (my parents’ thoughts, not mine). That’s why they sent me to a catholic school from the 1st, to the 8th grade, but after that was a bit of a problem.

See, my older sissy had gone to a very nice, productive, and expensive private school, passed there with flying colors, and got into a very good college (Providence, go Friars!), but the problem was what the hell my parents were going to do with me: the black sheep of the family. Throughout grade school, I never really was knocking each and every test out of the park. I struggled, studied, and did my best. Was it always perfect? No, but my parents felt as if it was time for me to give myself a bit of a challenge and send to me to the same private school that they sent my sister to, as not only did it work for her, but got her a career as an accountant (if you’re reading this Siobhan, you’re the bomb!).

Look on the bright side kid: third is the one with the hairy chest.

Look on the bright side kid: Third is the one with the hairy chest.

Did it work? Not really.

Not only was the private school a challenge for me, academically, but also personally. I got involved with people I shouldn’t have, got myself into extracurricular activities that I shouldn’t have bothered with, and barely even opened up a book. After a dismal Freshman year, my parents decided that it was time to start a fresh and anew, and sent me back to my roots: Catholic school. This was something I was very happy about because I knew it’d be an easier, more efficient use of my time, and a lot of the people there, would be the people I had known all of my life. After that, I graduated high school and am currently still in college, where I duke it out with professors and collegiate books, each and every day. Some days are better than others, but hey, it’s school.

What the hell else am I gonna do with all of my time?!?

Most of you are probably wondering one thing after that whole speech: “What in the hell was that all about?” Well, I used that as a way to show you that not only can I barely connect with any of these kids when it comes to getting the right education and struggling to keep their grades up, but I also don’t really know what it’s like to really dedicate myself to school. I’ve always gotten by just by doing my thing, didn’t need much help from teachers, tutors, mom, dad, etc. – just got by the way I needed to. But no matter what my report cards may say about my dedication to work, I still know that each and every kid deserves a chance to learn, read, and write, and the fact that most aren’t getting that out there doesn’t just upset, it downright fuels me.

Watching this movie, made me realize just what it’s like to be a teacher, in-and-out of the classroom. The movie does paint some bad pictures of those teachers that are part of Unions, and in ways, rightfully so, but what this movie does do, is that it celebrates the profession of a teacher. A teacher is the person that stands there, teaches you whatever subject it is, helps you in anyway that they can, and never gives up, no matter how many obstacles may stand in your way.

That’s the definition of a real teacher, but not every, single one is like that.

In fact, a lot more teachers are starting to become more and more of a bore, than a chore, in the way that they just take attendance, sit down, read the paper, and wait till their time is up so that they can collect their money, and be off to roam throughout the country. They don’t even need to do anything, and it doesn’t matter to them because they’ll never be fired for their piss-poor performance. They will always have tenure on their contracts, will always be supported by the Union, and may never, ever be questioned for what it is that they do right, and what they do wrong. Are those the types of people you want looking after your child and his/her future?

I know I sure as hell don’t and I don’t think I stand alone.

Writer/director Davis Guggenheim knows this and knows that it’s better to change the ways of the school system, before it goes on any further and totally loses our kids. It’s sad to see kids like these lose their hopes of ever making it in life, doing what they want to do, learning whatever it is that they have a fiery passion for, and also be able to make a living off of it, all because schools don’t help them, and refuse to really let them grow, not just as people, but as students. It’s a sad reality that we live in, but it’s the reality that most people are faced with and it’s even worse to know that it never ends. Whenever a kid leaves school, he always needs to be taught something, whether it be manners, school work, or just life lessons in general. That’s where the parents kick in and I think that’s the most important pieces of learning there is.

At age 8, she is about 500 steps ahead of me already. Go get 'em, girl!

At age 8, she is already 500 steps ahead of me. Go get ’em, girl!

Guggenheim knows this and doesn’t let us turn a blind eye to it. The problem I think he runs into, is that he focuses a bit too much on the fact that Charter schools are the way to go. Now, to be fair, he doesn’t outright say that in his narration, but he does show that more and more people are learning their options towards charter schools because they are free, prosperous, and will most likely, help your kid learn more. These are all true, but do we really want our kids having to go through a lottery in order to make sure that they can get an education? But hey, those are my thoughts and mine alone.

It doesn’t reflect poorly on the movie, because, well, it’s incredibly well-done. Guggenheim lets us know pretty early-on that he has a certain connection to the school system and makes his case by focusing on the right people who deserve it the most. Sure, the more-attentive teachers out there get a lot more attention than others, but it’s the families and the kids who have to wait around and work the hardest that they can to ensure that they get the education that they want.

It’s a very hard-hitting documentary that never loses it’s steam because it has such an emotionally-charged subject at hand. If you feel as if the world we live in, where people seem to be getting dumber and dumber by the second, and are losing faith in reading a book, and gaining more faith in watching a 20-second video of some dude in an afro falling on his facethen see this movie for the painting it portrays of the world. However, your on personal-beliefs might just center on what you think is best for your kid, his/her needs, and how they learn in school. Whether or not you want to send your kid to a school or not, is totally up to you. Just know, that there are always teachers around, no matter where you go. Whether it be you, or a person who actually gets paid to exhume knowledge on others.

Consensus: Teachers, moderators, parents, and kids may all react to Waiting for “Superman” differently, depending on what type of their own, personal status may be, but one can’t deny the fact that it paints a grim, but hopeful picture of what our future looks like, in terms of in the classroom and out.

8.5 / 10

Yeah, Bill feels the same as a poor, single-mother trying to send her kid to a charter school.

Bill feels the same as a poor, single-mother trying to send her kid to a charter school.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Gossip (2000)

These 21st Century kids make millennials look like babies.

Sex, deception and rumors run wild amongst a group of university students and roommates when Derrick (James Marsden), Jones (Lena Headey) and Travis (Norman Reedus), collaborate on their new journalism class assignment: Identifying the link between news and gossip. But when their class project goes frighteningly out of control, it puts friendships, the future, and their lives, in total jeopardy.

Looking at Gossip from afar, you’d expect it to be your normal, by-the-numbers teen-beat thriller that features a good amount of stuck-up, rich, good-looking kids all running around, drinking, having sex, getting crazy, and saying all sorts of mean, ugly things behind one another’s back. And considering that the film stars many actors/actresses who were, at the time, nearing-30, this makes the movie actually seem like a whole lot of campy, unintentionally-silly fun. And it sort of does, which is why it’s weird to see this being directed by Davis Guggenheim; someone who is most known for directing important, finger-pointing documentaries (An Inconvenient TruthWaiting for Superman).

Not even Kate can take James seriously with that cut.

Not even Kate can take James seriously with that cut.

Pretty odd, right?

Well, what’s even odder is that Guggenheim seems to take this material a whole lot more serious than it probably needed to be. But, like I expected, there’s something fun about the fact that it revolves so much around bullying and gossiping, and doing so in such a straight-faced, no-jokes manner. And because everybody’s a lot older than who they’re playing, it’s a lot more entertaining to be watching 30-year-olds go on and on about rumors of who cheated on who and where at.

One would expect a film titled Gossip, to be one hard-hitting morality tale on how people lie with their words, only to extract revenge on that other person for something they may have done, or to just see that person being talked about, feel pain and hurt. While they touch on that a bit in this film, it’s never materialized into being anything more meaningful or smart. Instead of actually digging deep into how gossip affects us everywhere we go (jobs, media, relationships, etc.) the film takes a left-turn to silly land and becomes a “he said, she said” argument that’s not nearly as smart or as defined as it may think it is. You have to give points to the movie for at least trying, but for the most part, I just wanted them to go back to the screwing, drinking, partying, and gossiping.

Then again, who doesn’t want to watch teens do that for an-hour-and-a-half?

Like I said before, too, the cast is filled with all sorts of recognizable faces who, in plenty of other work, show that they’re more than willing to do great things with the material given to them. However, because everything is so cheesy here, they’re sort of limited to just having to go through the motions. Even if, you know, some do try to step apart from the rest of the group.

Still Pacey, bro.

Still Pacey, bro.

That one, key performance would probably have to be from James Marsden, playing some asshole named Derrick. Marsden is a good-looking guy; there’s no doubting that, no matter who you are, what’s your sexual orientation, or what your taste is. Where Marsden works well with here is that he plays against that fact and shows that, yes, while he may be awfully handsome, there’s not much more to him than that. He’s rude to girls, treats them like used-tissues, and will, on more than a few occasions, make himself feel better regardless of how it makes another person feel. Yes, he’s so deuchy and annoying, that it makes Marsden’s performance all the better and more enjoyable to watch because he’s not backing down from it one bit. Sure, it’s hard to imagine what sorts of wonders Marsden could have done with a better movie/character to work with by his side, but for what it’s worth, the dude gave all that he could.

And what else could you ask for?

That’s why when I look at everybody else in the cast, while I’m initially impressed, I see them in the film and it’s a bit of a disappointment. Nobody, much like with Marsden, is given all that much to do, so they’re sort of just left with being around and servicing a lackluster script. Lena Heady is most definitely pretty, but her character is flat and seems like she’s in a whole other movie completely; the incredibly talented Norman Reedus is fine as the art-weirdo that seems to be a bit too obsessed with all of this gossip-talking, but seeing what he does now on TV, really makes me think that this type of character doesn’t really suit him totally well; same goes for Joshua Jackson who, with the Affair, seems like he was primed and ready for a good role to come his way, he just wasn’t getting it just yet; Kate Hudson despite not being around nearly as much as she should is good in a rare dramatic role as the rich girl, Naomi, because the verdict is never fully out on whether this character is as good of a girl as she says she is, or is as raunchy and vindictive as others say, too; and Eric Bogosian seems so randomly-placed here that it’s actually pretty awesome. He definitely took this as a nice paycheck gig, but still: When was the last time you could say you saw Eric Bogosian in the same film as Cyclops, Daryl, Pacey, and Cersei?

Never! So yeah, see it for that, if anything else.

Consensus: Gossip wants to be, at certain points, a trashy, over-the-top and wacky teen-thriller, while at others, wants to be a melodramatic, soap-opera-y message movie about the affects of false rumors and never makes perfect sense of either, but is still occasionally entertaining to watch because of the cast involved.

5 / 10

Teenagers. Literally never get old.

Teenagers. Literally never get old.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Stonewall (2015)

I don’t even think homosexuals want Roland Emmerich voicing his support.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City are considered one of the main kicking-off points in LGBT history. But before this moment in history occurs, we get to see how everything was beforehand, and through the eyes of Danny (Jeremy Irvine). Danny is a small-town boy from Indiana who, for controversial reasons, has fled his hometown in hopes that he’ll find a new life and possibly go to college at Columbia. But for now, Danny wants to enjoy his time around people he never quite had the chance to back when he was living at home and it all starts with Ramona (Jonny Beauchamp) – someone who takes a liking to Danny right away. So much so that once Danny starts to shack up with local liberal rights activist Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), he’s as jealous as can be. For Danny though, he’s living the life that he never could and is absolutely loving every second of it. Eventually though, reality sets in and he not only realizes that he wants to make something out of his life than hustling on the street for whatever nickels and dimes he can scrounge up; he wants to make his voice heard and better yet, he wants to stand up for what he believes in.

"Freedom! Or, something!"

“Freedom! Or, something!”

When I hear “heartfelt, emotional, and character-driven historical account”, nowhere at all does my mind come near the name, “Roland Emmerich”. The same director who’s created such disasters (literally) like 2012, Independence Day, the Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Stargate, and many more that I don’t want to even speak of, is also the same guy who I imagines just sits around, throwing bricks around his mansion, seeing what he can break in the most awesomely outrageous and unbelievable way imaginable. He’s not, honestly, the same guy whom I’d expect to take an account of seminal moment in LGBT history and give it the movie it deserves.

And don’t worry, he still doesn’t deliver that movie.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was at least somewhat tickled by what Emmerich is appearing to try here. Basically, Stonewall takes this moment in history, and plays it all out through the eyes of this random, seemingly fictional that, of course, has to be around so that we can see everything he sees, take everything that he takes in, experience the way he experienced it, and well, learn some neat anecdotes about being gay in NYC during the mid-to-late-60’s while he learns them. Obviously, this is a manipulative narrative-device so that the movie can appeal to a broader audience, but it was one that I didn’t mind.

For one, Danny himself has his own backstory that, albeit conventional, is at least interesting enough to deserve some attention. Also, the fact that Danny himself is a homosexual, trying to come to terms with his sexual orientation and the sorts of trials and trepidations he’s to face, makes the fact that he’s around and about, not all that annoying. Sure, Emmerich’s trying to make this something along the lines of Forrest Gump, but you know what? It worked. I was interested, I was paying attention, and most of all, I was learning a few new things that I didn’t know beforehand.

So sue me!

But then, of course, Emmerich’s usual tendencies come into play where it seems like we’re getting the work of a director who seems a whole lot more concerned with being over-the-top and making sure that his message hits everybody straight in the face. In a way, this is fun to watch in a campy, none-too-serious way, but by the same token, it also seems to do a great disservice to the actual story of Stonewall itself, the people who were involved with it, and what it helped to do for some time to come. None of that is ever quite evident or made known, mostly because Emmerich seems distracted elsewhere.

And most of that comes down to the fact that Danny himself, the blonde, chiseled, and hunky man from Indiana, really doesn’t need to be in this story and just gets in the way of everything. Through Danny, Emmerich seems like he’s trying to study the predicament of having a peaceful protest, against a violent one, but never seems to go anywhere deep, smart, or meaningful with them. It’s almost as if once Emmerich brought the idea up, he thought it’d be too boring and threw more scenes of Danny having sex where he’s either in pain, or crying, or clearly wanting to be elsewhere. There’s one exception, but honestly, it’s so slight, it hardly matters.

Where's the flying-saucers when you need 'em the most, Roland?

Where’s the flying-saucers when you need ’em the most, Roland?

This isn’t to say that Jeremy Irvine isn’t bad as Danny, either, it’s just that he’s such a brick wall, he doesn’t really factor in much to the story. The best moments Irvine has is when Danny’s forced to break out of his shell a bit by acting wild and flamboyant like his fellow friends – every other time, though, he’s mostly just there, helping the story to move on along. Everybody else around him is saddled with more eccentric, lively performances and while most of them try, they’re mostly given a poor script that makes it seem like they coached how to deliver each line, four or five different times, with almost each and every different time being put in the final-cut.

But to be honest, I want to give Emmerich the benefit of the doubt here.

It’s interesting to see him not just throw his own money on the table and create his own tribute to the Stonewall riots (or some hot dude named Danny), but to also seem like he’s giving it his honest-to-god shot here. For that, I give him at least some credit; however, it doesn’t make him, or the movie, itself, better. It just gives us a dude who clearly has good intentions, but doesn’t know how to display them in a smart way.

I guess this just leaves the path for another Stonewall movie to come around soon enough then, eh?

Consensus: Despite Emmerich seeming like he’s trying his hardest, and at least, succeeding slightly, Stonewall is too distracted and silly to really drive home the cause it’s fighting for.

4 / 10

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Intern (2015)

White People: the Movie.

Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro) has come to a point in his long life where he has to make a decision: Either, sit around and enjoy his retirement, like most men his age do, or, continue to work whatever jobs he can to make something out of the rest of his life? Obviously, Ben goes with the later once he goes in for a meeting with a start-up, fashion-based e-commerce company, for the coveted role as the “senior intern”. Ben, as expected, gets the job and is then transferred over to being the main intern of the CEO, Jules (Anne Hathaway). where he basically does all the work she asks of him. This means that Ben does a lot of driving around, running errands, getting coffee, and just generally, being there for whenever Jules needs him. The two, through their time together, get along, get to know one another, and eventually, start to see how one another can learn from the other’s career. However, Jules’ professional life is starting to get in the way of her personal one and it’s up to Ben to help her get through it – that’s if, he even knows how to.

STOP.

STOP.

Like most of Nancy Meyers’ movies – there’s not much of a plot to go along with the Intern. Basically, we get an older-guy, thrown into a much younger, much quicker work-environment, where it’s up to him to see if he can still hang with today’s generation. That’s basically it. And if you’re like me, you’re already hitting your forehead with the palms of your hands thinking about all the cliches this movie most go through.

Oh wait, let me guess, because Ben is older, he doesn’t know how to technology? Or better yet, because he’s old, he doesn’t understand some of the slang that these young people around him are constantly coining every five-to-seven seconds? Or how about the character of Jules? Let me guess, she’s one of those workaholic types that’s an absolute pain in the ass to be around, but somehow, everybody still sticks with her because her company is just so goddamn successful? And because of this dedication to work, she’s also got a terrible and lonely personal life, with no one else to go home to except her cat Fiffy?

Well, thankfully, I was wrong.

See, Meyers decides to take this movie one step past all of the conventions we expect to get with these sorts of stories, and instead, give us something, although so incredibly happy, light, and pleasant that it’s practically sickening, more realistic and smart. Yes, the Intern is as sweet as a two-for-one deal at Krispy Kreme, but there’s a nice attention to these characters that Meyers presents and highlights as her strength; no longer do her characters feel as if they’re just acting all silly and wild for shit’s and gigs.

Now, her characters, especially with Ben and Jules, seem to be actual, living, breathing, loving, caring, and emotional human beings. Neither one, despite what they may seem like from a first gaze, are types; mostly, they’re just familiar characters that also happen to be very likable. And surrounding them, are even more likable characters that, although not getting the same amount of attention as the two leads, still add their own two cents to a story that, thankfully, includes them to begin with.

But really, this tale is about Ben and Jules and with good reason: They’re strong, well-defined, and have lovely, if somewhat complicated personalities.

Ben may be a bit more easy to enjoy being around than Jules, but even he sometimes seems like he could have some problems of his own. For one, he himself has to do deal with the fact that he is definitely getting up there in age and, in a decade or so, may not even be alive. So therefore, he sets out to actually make something of the time he has left on this Earth, as best as he can. I know this sounds so incredibly schmaltzy and corny, but trust me, there’s enough depth to go along with this character to make him, as well as the situations he gets thrown into, work.

Not to mention that De Niro is quite charming here, showing us a certain happiness we haven’t seen on the screen for quite some time. Of course, whenever he’s in a David O. Russell film, De Niro seems to be as dedicated to the craft as possible, but here, he seems like he’s settling in just nice with this role. However, he doesn’t seem like he’s being lazy or phoning it in at all; his character is just a genuinely laid-back dude who tries to approach everyday, as maybe his last. But he, nor the movie, is cloying about this aspect – you can just tell by the joyful expression placed on De Niro’s face throughout.

FREAKING.

FREAKING.

But really, this is Hathaway’s show to steal and she does wonders with her role as Jules Ostin, the boss of her own start-up company that may be growing to be something bigger, better, and more recognizable. From the beginning, it seems like Ostin’s going to be an incredibly difficult person to be around, let alone, work for, but as we soon see, she’s actually fine to be around. I don’t want to say she’s “lovely” or “great” to be around, because there are times when it seems like she’s strict and slightly mean, but then you remember: Oh wait, she’s the boss of this company. She’s the one who has to keep it running and in order to do so, she’s got to keep a tight ship. Sometimes, that means hurting a few people’s feelings and getting on with your day/life as if it never happened.

Basically, she’s every boss I never had. They were all terrible, evil human specimens.

But I digress.

Like I was saying before about Hathaway, she’s great with this character because shows certain shades and layers to this character that we might not have gotten in another film. That Jules genuinely seems to care about her company, her family, as well as her employees, makes it all the more reason to sympathize with her when she decides to choose one over the other, and then see what happens when she does make those decisions. Sometimes, the ball in his favor – other times, it is not. But always, Hathaway’s Jules stays relateable and above all else, human.

There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but there’s one important one that comes around the end, wherein Jules breaks down about what she wants out of life and how she’s absolutely terrified of it all falling apart. At times, the scene can be funny because of what she blurts out in a mostly serious way, but it’s all revealing and shows just what really goes on behind this character when she isn’t working all day and night. She, like you or I, wants a certain level of happiness and fulfillment in her life and she’ll do anything to make sure it happens – even if, at the same time, that means she loses other meaningful aspects of life. People who dislike Hathaway because of her off-screen personality, will hopefully wake up and realize that even though she may be a bit of a grating presence when she isn’t smiling for the cameras, still can act and work wonders when she wants to.

Consensus: With a smart direction and script from Nancy Meyers, the Intern is an incredibly sweet and charming tale that may be a bit too lovely, but still features character that feel like real people we could meet on the streets, or in the office.

7 / 10

SMILING.

SMILING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Glory (1989)

Yes. People did go to war over the Confederate flag.

During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was one of the more infamous troupes, due to the fact that they were, for the most part, filled with black men. Some were freemen from the North, others were slaves, but all of them were under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (Matthew Broderick), a commander who is still reeling from the affects of the warfare he’s experienced in his lifetime. Already, before they even set out for battle, there was already plenty of trepidation towards the 54th, because some believed that blacks could not be controlled, or commanded in such a way that would have them prepped and ready for war. Despite this, Shaw, along with his second-in-command (Cary Elwes), try their hardest to not only discipline the soldiers, but even relate and connect with them, as hard as it may seem to do. Some soldiers, like John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), are more than willing to go along with all of the problems they encounter fighting for a country that doesn’t accept them as human beings, whereas others, like Trip (Denzel Washington), aren’t and want the whole unit to know that they aren’t fighting for freedom at all – they’re just fighting to die. Obviously, this causes problems between each and everyone and all culminates in the disastrous attack on the Confederate fort in Charleston, S.C.

Goofy-looking 'stache.

Goofy-looking ‘stache.

Glory is, as most people say, a “classic war film”. Not to take any spit out of that statement, but that’s sort of true. It’s a very good movie, in fact, and one that shows both the humane, as well as harsh realities of the war. At the same time, however, it’s also a film about slavery, and how two races can simultaneously connect to one another, while also having to prepare for a war that they may not actually win and come away alive from. Edward Zwick clearly had a lot on his plate here and it’s one of the many things that makes Glory a solid war film that deserves to be seen by any person out there who either, loves film, history, or a combination of the two.

But, that doesn’t make it a perfect movie, as some may call it.

For one, its extremely dated in the way the story is told. What I mean by this is that rather than getting a story about black people trying to get by under extreme war-conditions, told by a black person, we are told the story through their white commander, as played by Matthew Broderick. It’s understandable that the reason for this is to show how the black soldiers are helping to make Shaw open his eyes a bit more to the realities that, well, believe it or not, African Americans are humans, too. Even though he lives in a world where slavery does exist (although, not for much longer), he knows that these black men are just as honest and humane as he is, which is why we see the tale told, in his own words, through his own eyes, and in his own way.

However, at the same time, it sort of feels like a disservice to the actual black folks in the story. Why are we being told that these fellas are all magical and lovely people, when we can clearly see that happening, right in front of our very own eyes? Did we really need to deal with Shaw’s voice-over to begin with? In all honesty, probably not, because it’s already understood that Shaw will start to warm up and grow closer to these black soldiers that are under his command. So, for anything else to be thrown on, makes it feel like stuffy and, well, a bit schmaltzy. Not saying that it didn’t happen in this way, but the way Shaw is used as our heart and soul of the story, makes Glory seem like it’s taking the easy road out – rather than letting the story be told by those who are most affected to begin with.

But, everything else about Glory, aside from that little nugget of anger, is great.

Like I stated before, Zwick clearly had a lot to work with here, and he does so seamlessly. He gives enough attention to the black soldiers that matter most and show how each and every personality can, at times, clash, while at other times, rub against one another to create a far more perfect and in-sync union. No character here is made out to be a perfect human being, and because as such, it’s easy to sympathize with these characters early-on – and makes it all the more tragic to realize that, in all honesty, they aren’t really fighting for much.

There’s one scene in which this is presented perfectly when Denzel Washington’s Trip goes on about the fact that even when the war is over and everybody goes home, he’ll go back to whatever slum he’s been forced to stay in, whereas Shaw and his white counterparts will be able to head back and relax in his big old mansion, and continue to live his life of total luxury. This scene, above all else, drives home the point that these soldiers may, yes, be fighting for their lives, but are doing so in a way because, quite frankly, they have nowhere else to go, or nothing else better to make up with their time. Most of the soldiers are slaves, so therefore, they have no freedom to begin with; however, even the ones that are free, don’t really have much to do except still be treated as minorities and non-equals, although not as harshly as slaves.

Mediocre 'stache.

Mediocre ‘stache.

So yes, it’s a very sad tale, if you really think about it. But Glory shows that there is some light to be found in the folds. There’s heart, there’s humor, and above all else, there’s humanity here that shows that each and everyone of these soldiers were, race notwithstanding, human beings. And because of this fact, the performances are all the more impressive by showing the depth to which these characters are portrayed.

Though Broderick’s Shaw didn’t really need to be the central figure of this huge story, he’s still solid enough in the role to make me forget about that fact. Ever since Ferris Bueller, it’s known that Broderick has always been trying to get past that image and, occasionally, he’ll strike gold. This is one of those times wherein we see Shaw as not only a clearly messed-up vet of the war, but also one that has enough pride and courage to still go back to the battle and ensure that each and everyone of his men are fit for the same battle he will partake in. Cary Elwes is also fine in showing that, even despite him being more sympathetic to the slavery cause, still has to push his men as far as he possibly can, without over-stepping his superior, obviously.

But, as expected, the best performances come from the three cast-members who get the most attention out of all the other black characters: Andre Baugher, Morgan Freeman, and of course, the star-marking turn from Denzel Washington. As an educated, smart and free black man, Baugher’s character faces a lot more tension from the rest of the black soldiers, and his transition from being a bit too soft for all the training, to becoming a far more rough, tough and gritty one, is incredibly believable. Freeman, too, stays as the heart and soul of the black soldiers and proves to be the one who steps up the most when push comes to shove and a leader is needed. Freeman, in just about everything he does, always seems to become a leader of sorts, so it’s no surprise that the role here fits him like a glove.

However, the one that shines above the rest is, obviously, Denzel Washington as the rebel of the group, Trip.

And the reason why I said “obviously”, is because it’s well-known by now that Denzel was given an Oscar for his work here and understandably so; not only does he steal every scene, but when you get down to the bottom of the story, you realize that he’s the heart and soul of the whole thing. Without him, this would have probably been a normal tale of blacks and whites coming together, to fight the obstacles set against them, and fight a war, but it’s Trip who’s the one that hits everybody’s head and wakes them up to the harsh realities that is the world they live in. Denzel is, at times, hilarious, but also brutally honest, and it’s his voice that keeps this movie’s humanity afloat.

Now, if only the movie had been about him to begin with and not the white dude.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, and well-acted on practically all fronts, Glory is a solid war picture, that also happens to have a message about racial equality that doesn’t try too hard to hit you over the head.

8.5 / 10

No 'stache at all and guess what? He's the coolest one.

No ‘stache at all and guess what? He’s the coolest one.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Holiday (2006)

It’s always those attractive celebrities who need the most love during the holidays.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both women who seem to be going through the same sorts of problems, even though both live in different countries. The former is from London, and had an affair with a man (Rufus Sewell) who has just recently gotten engaged; whereas the later is L.A.-bound and has a boyfriend (Edward Burns) who cheated on her. They both feel hopeless and upset, and with it being the holidays, they have no clue what to do next with their lives other than sit around, mope, and cry. However, Amanda has an idea that will also affect Iris: She wants to take a trip to London and Iris wants to take a trip to L.A. So the two concoct a plan where they’ll switch residencies for the time being and live in the other’s shoes. This all happens, but what surprises them both is how they end up meeting new people and, believe it or not, start striking up some romances of their own. Iris starts to see a film composer, Miles (Jack Black), whereas Amanda starts to hook-up with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Both are happy and enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they’ll eventually have to get back to their real lives, and it’s something that may keep the relationship’s away from being anything more than just “some fun”.

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

And honestly, that’s all there really is to this movie in terms of complications or tension. There’s no big twist thrown at the end to throw the whole plot and/or its characters into a whirl-wind of chaos, nor is there any sort of hurdle that these characters have to get over in order to make themselves feel fulfilled. It’s honestly just a bunch of hot-looking, attractive people, flirting, dating, smooching, sexxing, and then, oh wait, having to then come to terms with the fact that they’ll be living in separate parts of the world in a few days.

That’s it.

A part of me should be pleased that writer/director Nancy Meyers didn’t try too hard to make this movie anymore complicated than it needed to be. So rarely do we get movies that are literally about, what it’s about, and don’t try to stray too far away from that original-plot. So in that general aspect, Meyers does a fine job of giving the audience, exactly what they’re seeking for.

But at the same time, there still needs to be a bit more of a plot to make up for the fact that this movie is over two-hours long. However, it’s not the kind of two hours that flies on by because of the company the movie keeps; it’s every bit, every hour, every minute, and every second of two hours and 16 minutes, which is to say that it definitely needed to be trimmed-down in certain areas. The main which being the scenes that Iris has with her older neighbor (played by the late, great Eli Wallach). Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are nice, charming, and sweet, but as a whole, they don’t really add much to the final product; we just sort of see that Iris is a kind, loving and caring gal that’s nice to old men.

Once again, that’s it.

The scenes that she has with Jack Black’s Miles, tell more about her, her personality, and the kind of lover she is – the scenes she has with Wallach, thankfully, do not. However, Winslet, as usual, is as lovable as she’s ever been; it certainly helps that Iris is a strong-written character to begin with, but it also has to do a great deal with the fact that Winslet can handle both the comedy, as well as the more dramatic-aspects of the script, whenever she’s called on to do so.

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

Diaz herself is quite fine as Amanda and also does the same as Winslet does: She balances out both the heavier, as well as the lighter material well enough to where her character stays consistent with the movie’s emotions. It’s not a huge shocker to know that I’m not a big fan of Diaz, but she’s actually quite enjoyable to watch here, because she doesn’t always over-do her act. Her character may be a bit stuck-up, but that’s the point; to see the cracks and light in her personality shine through, makes her all the more likable and sympathetic, regardless of where she comes from.

But this isn’t just a lady’s affair, because the men who do show up, also give their own, little two cents to make the Holiday work a bit more than it should. Black isn’t as grating as he usually is, and Law, the handsome devil that he awfully is, also shows certain layers deep inside of a character that could have probably been as dull as a box of hammers. Thankfully, he isn’t and it helps the relationship that his character and Diaz’s strike-up.

Problem is, though, it’s that run-time.

Also, not to mention that the movie doesn’t really make any reason for its existence. There are a few occasions where it’s funny, but for the most part, it’s just particularly nice. Nice does not mean “funny” – it just means that the movie can be seen by practically all audiences, regardless of age. Nancy Meyers always makes these sorts of movies and while they may not necessarily be lighting the world on fire, they’re just pleasant enough to help any person watching, get by. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a kid, an adult, a senior citizen, gay, straight, bisexual, married, single, widowed, engaged, in a “it’s complicated“, or whatever. All persons from all walks of life can enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie.

That alone does not make them amazing pieces of film – it just makes them accessible.

Consensus: With a likable cast and fluffy-direction from Nancy Meyers, the Holiday is fine to watch and relax to, even despite it being way too long, and feeling as such.

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Patriot (2000)

Ah. The good old days of when people could actually trust in Mel Gibson to save the day.

During the American Revolution in 1776, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson), a veteran of the French and Indian War, declares that he will not fight in a war that is not his own. However, his oldest son (Heath Ledger) thinks differently and decides to enlist himself. Though Benjamin is upset with this decision, he knows that it is up to his son to make his own decisions and to be able to live with them, just as he has done with his own. But one fateful night, his son comes back, bloody, beaten-up, battered, and in need of some shelter; Benjamin, obviously, gives it to him, thinking that this will be the last time his son sets out for battle ever again. But Benjamin is proven wrong when, early the next morning, the British come looking for him and want to take his son away. Obviously, Benjamin is against this, as well as the rest of his family, which is when one of his young sons is shot and killed. This is when Benjamin decides that it’s time to quit being a pacifist and to pick up his sword, his gun, and his tomahawk, in order to extract some revenge, the good, old-fashioned way, baby!

Evil.

Evil.

Obviously, seeing as how this is a film from Roland Emmerich, I wasn’t expecting there to be any sort of complexity involved with the occasion. However, what’s different about the Patriot, apart from most of Emmerich’s other movies, is that it seems like he’s actually trying to make this an emotionally-gripping, detailed-story about how one man fought for the love and honor of his family, even when all the odds were stacked-up against him. This, on paper, all sounds heartfelt and kind of sweet, but the way in which it plays out?

It’s the furthest thing from.

For one, as soon as Gibson’s Benjamin Martin picks up his tomahawk, it’s go time right from there. People are shot, decapitated, split-open, spit-on, bled-out, and all sorts of other lovely actions involved with war. To be honest, I’m not one to back away from a movie that contains an awful lot of violence (especially when the violence is as graphic as it is in a big-budgeted blockbuster such as this), but there’s something here that feels incredibly off about the whole movie, that put a sour taste in my mouth.

Because, to be honest, it doesn’t seem like Emmerich gives much of a hoot about whether or not Benjamin actually feels fulfilled when every Redcoat is dead and gone away with; he cares more about how many people get killed, and in how many ways that make people go, “Aww yeah!”, or “Ooh!”. You can’t hate Emmerich for wanting to please his audience, but you can hate him for trying to pass all of that death and destruction with something resembling a peaceful; it’s just stupid and feels ill-written.

But, if I did have to rate this movie as a summer blockbuster, it’s an okay one.

It sure as hell did not at all need to be nearly three-hours, but considering the huge budget it has to work with, it’s nice to see that, at one time at least, Hollywood was willing to put all of their money into a history epic that featured as much gritty and raw violence as a single season of the Sopranos. Though the violence is oddly thrown in there with an inspirational message about standing up for your rights and taking down those who take what means most to you, it’s still effective; through the many war-sequences, we get a certain feel for just how dangerous and hellish the battlefield was, without any bullshit thrown in there.

It’s literally just blood being shed, lives being lost, and more disturbing memories for the generations to come. If anything, that’s as deep and as far as the Patriot is willing to go with any life-affirming message. For the most part, it is, like I said, concerned with just showing how many people can get killed, in all sorts of graphic ways that may, or may not please people.

Naive.

Naive.

Depends on who you are, I guess.

Though the movie tries to dig deep into Benjamin Martin’s psyche, eventually, it just stops and allows for Mel Gibson to do the leg-work for them. Which was obviously a smart idea, because even though Gibson seems to be, once again, playing another man on the search for getting justice and revenge for the loss of a loved-one (see Braveheart and/or Mad Max), the role still fits him like a glove that it doesn’t matter how old it seems for him to be playing. He has that perfect balance of being just vulnerable enough to make you think that the odds could topple over him, as well as being just mean and vicious enough to make you think he could kill whoever he wanted, how he wanted to, and whenever he saw fit. It’s actually quite scary, but it’s the role Gibson’s worked well for as long as he’s been acting and it’s only gotten more dramatic as he’s gotten older.

A lot of other people show up here and seem to be trying on the same level as Gibson, but they’re sadly tossed-away once the movie decides it doesn’t have time for them to stretch their wings out. The late, great Heath Ledger, Rene Auberjonois, Joely Richardson, and Chris Cooper all seem to have shown up, ready for work, but they don’t have anything worthwhile to do. After all, they’re in a Roland Emmerich movie, and when was the last time when of them was actually about the solid performances on-display?

No seriously – when was that? Cause I sure as hell don’t remember!

And the main reason why I didn’t include the likes of Tom Wilkinson and Jason Isaacs in that last paragraph, is because they are sadly given the roles as “the British” here, which means they play, either, nonsensical idiots, or blood-loving savages. It would make sense why the British would have a problem with this movie to begin with, but it’s made all the worse by the fact that two immensely talented actors like Isaacs and Wilkinson were given roles, so limited in their development and scope, that even they couldn’t save them. Sure, they went through the motions and collected the nice, meaty paychecks, but is it really all that worth it?

Consensus: As a summer blockbuster, the Patriot is more violent and bloodier than you’d expect it to be, but also happens to be a Roland Emmerich movie, which means it’s basically all of that, and hardly any depth beyond.

5 / 10

Heroic.

Heroic.

Photos Courtesy of : Super Marcey, Rob’s Movie Vault, Popcorn for Breakfast

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015)

There is such a thing as “being too alone”.

Even though her husband’s been dead for nearly 20 years, Carol Petersen (Blythe Danner) hasn’t ever really tried to find a replacement of any sorts. Though she has her dog, Carol’s been quite happy to be by herself and not have to worry about another person in her life that may, or may not, stick around any longer. One day, however, Carol’s dog tragically passes-away, which leaves her all alone, once again. This time, however, Carol feels as though it’s time to make a change and actually start hanging around people. There’s the pool-boy (Martin Starr), who comes around not to just check-up on the pool, but to also hang with Carol because he can’t get past the fact that she was, at one point in her life, this awesome songstress. And then, there’s Bill (Sam Elliott), a fellow older-person who is instantly attracted to Carol and wants everything to do with her. Though he comes on a bit strong, Carol believes that he’s the one that she can spend the rest of her life with. But Carol’s personal issues come into play and it isn’t before long that she soon realizes that maybe she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, even though she’s already lived plenty of it so far.

Martin Starr?

Martin Starr?

I’ll See You In My Dreams is the kind of teeny, tiny indie that I love to see. It’s one that I assume is going to be a good watch because of how many people say it is, but when I actually get down to watching it, I’m totally surprised. What seems like a movie made for older-people to laugh, cry and relate to, actually works for anybody who decides to view it; loss is a universal feeling that anyone can feel, no matter who or what may be lost. That’s why it was all the more shocking when I realized that I’ll See You In My Dreams doesn’t seem to fall for any of the annoying conventions and cliches that we normally expect these kinds of movies to fall in.

For instance, Martin Starr’s character seems like he’s written just so that he can play the younger-apple-of-the-much-older-protagonist’s eye, which, in a way, he sort of is, but co-writer/director Brett Haley and writer Marc Basch are a lot smarter than that. Instead, they make this character seem a little more aimless and sad than you’d expect, therefore, it makes sense as to why he would want to hang around someone who is almost four decades older than him. Maybe he wants to have something of a romantic relationship with her, maybe he doesn’t, but either way, it’s interesting to see how each and every one of their scenes play out, especially since they don’t always go to, or end up places you’d expect them to originally.

And that’s the magic of life; things don’t always go down quite the way you want, or expect them to. Curve-balls can get thrown into your way and it’s up to how you, yourself can get past them and move on to make yourself better.

Which is why it’s really interesting to see how the character of Carol handles loneliness in a way that most movies don’t like to portray: Which is, “hey, I’m doing just fine.” Most movies in this same vein would show Carol as being a miserable, lifeless and angry old lady who wants a man in her life, but at the same time, can’t seem to get along with one well enough to where she could fulfill that need. Instead, here, Carol’s shown as being a very mild, well-manner and easy-going gal that’s been on her own for quite some time and seems perfectly fine with that. Does that mean she doesn’t want something of a companion in her life? No, she definitely wouldn’t mind one, but at the same time, she isn’t necessarily seeking one to make her life feel more fulfilling and happy.

Although her gal-pals (played perfectly by June Squibb, Rhea Pearlman, and Mary Kay Place) all get on her case for not trying to get a man, she shoos them off and does what she wants. However, when she does start to get a person in her life, romantically, in the form of Bill, the movie doesn’t seem like it’s back-tracking and trying to make itself into more of a conventional rom-com. That Bill himself was the one who actually approached Carol and asked her out in the first place, already shows that the movie isn’t trying to make Carol into some sort of love-sick fool, for some odd reason.

Or Sam Elliott?

Or Sam Elliott?

It should be noted that Sam Elliott does a wonderful job as Bill, because he seems like a genuinely charming, nice guy. However, there is a certain odd flavor to the way his character acts on certain dates with Carol that makes you wonder if he’s already too smitten with Carol, or is just using her as a life achievement of his own personal pleasure. Clearly, he’s a nice guy and doe seem to have feelings for Carol, but how genuine they may be, is constantly up in the air and it’s what keeps their scenes together exciting, as well as compelling to watch and listen to, even in the smallest detail.

And while I’m at it, it should be definitely noted that Blythe Danner, finally getting her own chance to shine in a movie of her own, is perfect here.

Danner is perfect for this role as Carol, because she says so much, without saying anything at all. Because Carol herself doesn’t always say what she wants, or in ways, just refuses to do so, already speaks volumes to Danner’s skill as an actress; we don’t always know what Carol is thinking or feeling at any given time, but we know that there’s definitely something going on in her mind that we want to hear about and see. That’s why Danner, who is always lovely to see in anything, works this character in so many wonderful ways, that we’re able to see all sorts of layers to her than just what’s presented. Sure, you can most definitely chalk a lot of that up to writing, but Danner is most definitely the main reason why Carol’s more interesting to watch, even when it seems like she’s doing nothing at all.

Heck! She’s a lot more interesting than some of the girls my same age that I know!

Consensus: With a rare, but wonderful lead performance from Blythe Danner, I’ll See You In My Dreams is a small, but sweet tale that sees the typical conventions a story like this could fall for, and avoids them at every step.

8.5 / 10 

Oh, Blythe. You play 'em, girl!

Oh, Blythe. You play ’em, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Child 44 (2015)

Hey guys? Don’t forget to feel bad for Communists, too.

In the early 1950’s, during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, MGB Agent and war hero Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) discovers that there’s a series of child-murders occurring in the area that nobody’s really paying attention to. But before he can ever get a chance to bring it to his superiors and going ahead with the investigation, his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is accused of being disloyal to the government and giving certain secrets away. Though Leo is not currently happy with his wife, he still sticks by her because he loves her and that’s what a husband ought to do. Problem is, this puts him the same problems that she’s in, which then has them demoted to a militia position in the gritty, rusted and ragged town of  Volsk. Here, Leo is under the command of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), who doesn’t know whether or not he can trust Leo, but knows that they’re both fighting the same battle as they discover, yet again, another dead boy by the side of the train-tracks. With Nesterov’s approval, Leo sets out on his own adventure to discover who this killer is and stop him before he takes anymore victims.

How on Earth does a movie with the likes of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassell, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, and hell, Gary Oldman only get $600,000 on its opening weekend? Though I understand that not all of these names are household ones that could most definitely open up to heavy-hitting box-office runs, there’s still a part of me that wonders just why the hell something that attracts so much attention like this could go so far under the radar? Because even if a movie is bad, it’s not $600,000-bad, right?

Just think of the Drop.

Just think of the Drop.

Well, kind of.

See, the main problem with Child 44 is, despite the onslaught of talent in front of the camera, director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriter Richard Price can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want to do with this movie. Though I’ve never read the novel, I know that it’s quite long novel, and to try and condense it into a two-hour movie, may not have been the best choice – especially since what’s supposed to be the central plot-line of the story (serial killer on the loose), is basically an afterthought. This is alright if Espinosa and Price wanted to focus more on the paranoia that surrounded Russia during this time, but the two don’t even seem that interested in talking about that, either.

Instead, Espinosa is more interested in how bloody and violent he can make some of these sequences, which makes huge sense when you remember that this is the same guy who directed Safe House. That movie, just like this, was helped incredibly by the fact that there was some thought and care put into how the action-sequences were orchestrated and what effect they gave off to the audience; here, they seem spliced in as Espinosa couldn’t control his blood-loving urge. Price, on the other hand, is trying to make something of a meaningful drama, but once he realizes that Espinosa could care less, he basically gives up, too.

So basically, everybody involved with Child 44 gave up about half-way through.

Which would probably be a smart idea for the audience too, however, there seems to be a lot more of an effort from the rest of the cast. The only downside of having a cast this good, in a movie like this, is that they’re all disappointingly saddled with some terrible Russian-accents, which can sometimes vary from being okay, to downright indecipherable. There is some joy to be had in listening to these actors try their hardest to nail down the right tone for their ill-put accents, but it takes away from the movie; there’s so much going on, with random twists, turns and revelations coming at us every second, it’s hard to take note of them when there’s no clue of what the hell anyone is saying to begin with.

Or Lawless.

Or Lawless.

And don’t get me wrong, everybody tries. But when the movie that’s supposed to be aiding them, seems to have no idea of where to go, what’s the point? Tom Hardy seems the most interested out of everyone, and it’s only because of him that this movie stays watchable. While there’s something inherently flawed about how this guy goes through his day-to-day life in such a vicious and inhumane manner, it’s nice to see how he interacts and holds a relationship with his wife, as played by Noomi Rapace. Rapace and Hardy were great together in the Drop, which makes me wonder if they were filming both movies side-by-side and already knew which one to give most of their time and effort to. Though the Drop and Child 44 are two different movies, Hardy and Rapace are easily the main reasons to see both of movies, even if the former is at least four times better than the later.

And everybody else that isn’t Rapace or Hardy are, well, fine. Once again, they’re trying, too, but it goes nowhere to help them. Jason Clarke is in the movie for maybe five minutes and has the worst Russian-accent of them all (so yeah, good riddance); Joel Kinnaman’s character is such a one-note villain that, I imagine, it would have been hard for any skilled-actor to make something interesting out of this character than just a black heart, let alone Detective Holder; Vincent Cassell is, as expected, just evil; Paddy Considine is as weird and twisted as he’s supposed to be; and Gary Oldman shows up as the more sympathetic communist in the movie, even if he gets short-shifted being able to do anything more.

So in other words, watch for Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Or, screw this movie altogether and watch a better flick containing the same combo: the Drop.

Or don’t do either. Suit yourself.

Consensus: Child 44, despite boasting an impressive cast, never gets itself together as too many strands of the plot come in, only to fall apart moments later, then start back up after someone’s blood is shed because it’s a movie about Russian communists.

3 / 10

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Mend (2015)

Brothers will always compete against one another. It’s just nature.

Because he’s known for pissing-off quite a lot of those around him, Mat (Josh Lucas) gets kicked out onto the streets by his girlfriend Andrea (Lucy Owen). This leads Mat to many places, the last one of which is his brother’s apartment. It just so happens that on this one fateful night that Mat happens to be lurking around New York City, his brother, Alan (Stephen Plunkett) and his girlfriend Farrah (Mickey Sumner) are throwing a small get-together of sorts filled with booze, cigs, good jams, and most of all, weed. Mat walks in and becomes apart of the party. The next morning, however, Alan and Farrah head out to Canada for a trip they’ve been planning for quite some time, leaving Mat home, all alone, without TV, or working electricity for that matter, either. It’s just Mat and his brother’s apartment for a short awhile and then Andrea and her kid show up, using the apartment as their own source of comfort because their place is currently crawling with bed bugs. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, Alan comes back, clearly heart-broken and upset, which adds a bit more tension and unease for everybody in the who are setting up shop in his residence.

It’s very rare to get a movie about unlikable, self-loathing assholes who, believe it or not, stay unlikable, self-loathing assholes. So often do we get flicks that present a these characters as the kinds that we start off hating the absolute hell out of, and all of a sudden, the revelations begin to come out, the tears begin to stream, and the “sorry’s” are exchanged, and before we know it, these rather detestable human beings become completely different people. Even if it only took an-hour-and-a-half, the characters that we have learned to despise, soon become the ones that we love and want to give a hug to, rather than hold an argument or brawl with.

How I imagine the ladies always smother Josh Lucas at parties. Lucky bastard.

Not hard to imagine this is what happens to Josh Lucas at every party. Lucky bastard.

The Mend is not that movie and it’s great for that exact reason.

Sure, there is plenty else to praise and adore about writer/director John Magary’s directorial debut, but the fact that it takes these not-so-lovely characters, gives them the light of day, allows them to be who they are, and doesn’t hold back on their sometimes unforgivable actions, made me so happy to actually see play-out. Such as is the case with real life, the Mend has no real “villains” or “heroes” – everyone’s just sort of a person who makes mistakes, tries to make up for them, and will occasionally learn a lesson or two about life. However, they don’t always learn lesson, because, quite frankly, they don’t need to; they’re fine just being who they are.

And that’s one of the smarter aspects behind Magary’s craft. Though there’s an awful lot of direction in terms of how quick his camera can jump and move from one scene to another (with an over-aching score to boot), Magary’s more concerned with allowing these characters to show themselves off to the audience, rather than having him do so. This is especially evident in the first-half, where we literally thirty or so minutes stuck in this one, two-room apartment, with a party going on of hardly anybody we know. While it’s obvious that budgetary-issues may have been the cause of this, Magary makes it work because everything and everyone feels realistic.

Conversations, people, beer, and weed, come and go as they please. Sometimes, the conversations are fun, light and chock full of sensible witticisms that only artists from NYC could come up with; at other times, however, the conversations can take dark, serious turns where people begin to argue, yell at one another, and be on the brink of tears. And of course, there are people who oogle at one another one second, only to then be sucking face the next. Basically, this is a lot like many parties I’ve been to in my life and it’s great that Magary was able to work wonders with something as simple and easy-to-film as “the party-sequence”.

But, like I’ve stated before, that’s not all the Mend works well with.

At the center of all the yelling, the anger, the crying, the bleeding, the banging, and of course, the drinking, is a tale of two brothers who, despite not seeing each other a whole lot, still know one another well enough that it makes it easy for them to clash heads, as well as get along and have great times together. Though Magary likes to focus on the fact that these two brothers are different in many aspects, he also likes to point out that they’re actually a lot alike in others. While Mat may not have as much ambition with his career as Alan does, they still have problems satisfying ladies to the fullest extent, in their own respective ways; Alan may be able to socialize with more people than Mat, but at the same time, they’re still able to piss a lot people off because they always seem to voice their unwanted opinions on anything; and, well, if there is one similarity they have, through and through, they both don’t like to hear from their mom and would much rather like to not talk about her, or their dad for that matter, either.

Don't have a clue of what's going on here, but considering that they're brothers, I know that it's nothing pleasant.

Don’t have a clue of what’s going on here, but considering that they’re brothers, I know that it’s nothing pleasant.

Basically, anybody who has ever had a brother/sister, will know that this is exactly what a relationship such as that is like. And that’s why both Stephen Plunkett’s and especially, Josh Lucas’, are so good; in even the smallest details, they’re able to make us think of and see these characters in different lights than we probably did a scene or two before. While they’ve both got their problems, they’ve also got their traits that make them the least bit sympathetic, as small and as unnoticeable as they may be.

It’s probably more in the case of Lucas’ Mat, who is quite the abhorrent human specimen, but also has that “something” about him that makes you want to watch more of him. He’s lazy, rude, mean, and uninspired with just about every apple life offers him, and yet, why? Why do we want to sit and watch him interact with those around him? Why, even though he’s made it clear that he has no idea what he wants to do with his life (except for maybe a web designer), do we want him to get his shit together, pick up a job, make some money, move off of people’s couches, and live on his own? Why, despite the fact that he sorts of treats her and her son like total shit, do we want Mat to end up starting something meaningful with the lovely Andrea (played wonderfully by Lucy Owens).

Why oh why?

Well, it’s simple: He’s a character we can believe in.

Mat’s someone we could definitely meet in real life; whether it’d be at a party, roaming the streets of the city, or just by pure chance. Would we want to meet him? Probably not, but the fact is that we definitely could strike something of a conversation up with him, realize he’s a miserable person, and move on, happy that we’re done to be talking to him, but wouldn’t mind watching how he interacts with those around him. Lucas is amazing in this role because he plays up the whole aspect that Mat is indeed a dick, but also, one that knows he is and makes no apologies for it. He’s the perfect anti-hero and it’s Lucas’ role to run wild with, which isn’t something I’ve seen him do in recent time. Whether that be because his name may not carry as much weight now that he’s older, or just because he doesn’t choose to be in those huge, mainstream projects, this role makes me hope and pray that there’s more interesting roles from this guy to come.

And the same goes for Magary. Even though the final-act does get to be a bit over-the-top and showy, there’s still so much here that promises that character studies such as the Mend are still alive and well. It’s just a matter of who wants to make them, what they have to say, and whether or not the character’s stay who they are throughout, without trying to smile nice for the camera.

Because that’s how most of people in real life are anyway.

Consensus: Despite the sloppy wrap-up, the Mend still shows a new, bright talent in John Magary, as well as a bright new awakening for the career of the supremely talented Josh Lucas.

8 / 10

E-cigs aren't cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

E-cigs aren’t cool, but Josh Lucas finds a way to make it so.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Astronaut Farmer (2007)

AstronautposterThe moon landing never happened anyway. So keep on dreaming, bro.

For as long as he’s been alive, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has always wanted to travel to the moon. Although he was a NASA pilot for a little while, he had to step out due to personal issues at the time. Now, Charles is trying to create his own spaceship that he can launch into space. It seems like a pipe-dream, but Charles is inspired so much, that he won’t take “no” for an answer; even though friends, confidantes, and hell, even his wife (Virginia Madsen), tell him it’s impossible, he doesn’t listen. When Charles’ plans get leaked to the world wide web, eventually, as they tend to do, the FBI finds themselves getting involved. Though Charles is not, from what people know, a terrorist planning on nuking the entire Earth, the government still doesn’t want to take any chances and keeps track of Charles’ everyday comings and goings. And hell, even though Charles has got the rest of the world behind him and his journey, the government still does not want to budge. This is a challenge that Charles accepts and stands against, even if it risks his own life, as well as those that he loves and cares for so much.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

The whole time while watching the Astronaut Farmer, I kept on waiting for the subscript to start/end the movie saying something along the lines of, “based on a true story”. Does a story about some small-town farmer creating his own rocket and trying to launch it into space sound plausible? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor that I’ve never heard about it before. Crazier things have happened in this land we call Earth, right?

But the subscript never shows up.

The Astronaut Farmer is literally an idea written by Michael and Mark Polish, which is interesting to say the least. Silly? Sure, but it’s obvious that they’re both trying to aim for that you-can-do-anything-that-you-put-your-mind-to sensibility that so many Disney films seem to rely on. Through Farmers’ own journey of trying to get into space and do what he’s always wanted us to do, the Polish bros. are trying to get us to think of our dreams and have the idea that we too can make them come true, so long as we have enough heart and inspiration deep down inside of our souls.

And this is all fine and good, but the movie never seems like it earns that feeling of absolute and divine inspiration. Instead, it’s just a really old-timey, almost-retro story that may have a heart to work with, but never seems to go any deeper than the surface. Which is kind of a shame considering that the Polish bros. debut (Twin Falls Idaho) also dealt with the same sort of strange premise in a mindful way, but also gave us more to the story than just what was presented.

Here, it just sort of feels like everything and everyone is one-note, without there being any gray area left for the audience to decipher themselves.

The only interesting aspect of this story where it seems like the Polish bros. themselves are conflicted of a certain character-trait is with Farmer himself. While the Polish bros. clearly love and adore the character of Charles Farmer, his ambition, his heart, and his never-say-never attitude, the idea that, if he isn’t successful with his trip to space and does end up dying in the process, what will he leave his family back on Earth with? Because he’s put so much gosh darn money into this spaceship, he’s already bled them dry, so what could they possibly do without him around to keep the money flowing in? Will they be left high, dry, and without a fork to use? Or will they get by just fine because, well, Charles Farmer always has a tricky plan up his sleeves?

Take a guess of which conclusion the Polish bros. come to.

"It's okay, honey. If you die, don't worry, cause we're all screwed."

“It’s okay, honey. If you die, don’t worry, cause we’re all screwed.”

Like I’ve said though, I don’t mind the simplicity of most tales, but this one in particular doesn’t seem to really concern itself with much else other than, “dude wants to travel to space and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that”. While it would have been interesting to see a complex, almost flawed-figure presented, Charles himself is painted in such a lovely portrait, that it’s almost like they’ve could had him run for president at the end, win, create his own world where everybody and their grand-mothers are allowed to travel into space, and it would seem uplifting, smart and, above all else, believable. It’s painfully clear that the Polish bros. don’t have much of a narrative-drive to go any further and it hurts the characters so much, that even the ones who may have some sort of interesting plight to show, it just makes it seem like a waste.

For instance, Billy Bob Thornton, surprisingly playing a good-guy, does what he can as Charles, but because the dude is so blue-eyed and optimistic, it just becomes irritating. Virginia Madsen, despite her character seeming as if she initially has something interesting to say, doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t expect her to, except by her husband as he possibly kills himself in the process of living his life-long dream. And then, as her daddy, Bruce Dern shows up as the voice of reason who, you might expect to be against the idea of Charles going out into space and risking his own life, but is instead happy that he’s doing it because, as he says, “he shares the dreams with his family”.

Yawn.

The only people in this movie that I could identify with were the FBI themselves – which, for a movie such as this, is not what’s supposed to happen. The FBI, as written by the Polish bros., are painted to be these sort of big brother, negative Nancies that are always trying to get on Charles’ case and tarnish his dreams forever, but in all honesty, they have a point for thinking the way that they do. Though Charles may not be a huge threat to the government per se, there’s still something incredibly dangerous and crazy about his idea of going out into space with his own, homemade spaceship that makes it understandable why they wouldn’t want him up in the sky to begin with. This may seem like I’m thinking too hard, but honestly, the Polish bros. want us think of this as some sort of “could-happen” tale that, if someone puts their heart, mind, body and soul into an idea long enough, that it and the rest of their wildest dreams can all come true.

Yawn again.

Consensus: Though its heart may be in the right place, the Astronaut Farmer is too implausible and one-dimensional to really inspire the people that it wants to, but instead, make them feel happy that there aren’t more Charles Farmer’s trying to release DIY spaceships into the sky.

4 / 10

"Kids, don't be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can't possibly happen to anyone."

“Kids, don’t be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can’t possibly happen to anyone.”

Photos Courtesy of: Superior Pics

Twin Falls Idaho (1999)

Brothers can be so clingy, sometimes.

Penny (Michele Hicks) is a hooker who gets dropped off in front of a shady-looking motel in Twin Falls, Idaho. Though Penny has no idea what she’s getting herself into, she sure as heck couldn’t have expected to stumble upon her two customers being who they are: Conjoined twins named Blake and Francis (Mark and Michael Polish). Initially, Penny storms out because Blake and Francis are only something she’s heard of, but never actually seen in real life. But, Penny soon remembers that she needs to go back and get her purse, which is where she apologizes to both Blake and Francis, in hopes that she’ll at least end the deal on somewhat good terms, even if she isn’t actually going to go through with “the deed”. However, for Penny, she sees Blake and Francis as two guys that she can help out and get to be more sociable with the world around them; even if they all know that it’s hard to actually believe that the rest of the world would actually accept them for they who are, and not look at them as some sort of circus freaks who wandered off. This is where Penny, Blake and Francis learn more about one another and grow closer, even if the rest of society can’t help but turn their heads.

How I imagine every guy acts whenever Michele Hicks enters a room.

How I imagine every guy acts whenever Michele Hicks enters a room.

There’s not much of a plot to Twin Falls Idaho. And you know what? That’s okay. While Mark and Michael Polish seem to try a little too hard to draw some sort of over-aching story to this movie, in a means of keeping things rolling, anything resembling a story-line is far from what they really care about. Instead, the Polish brothers would much rather like to focus on these characters, their odd quirks, intricacies, and lives that, in all honesty, probably wouldn’t have gotten the same kind of front-and-center attention in much larger, more mainstream pieces.

Except if your name is David Lynch and even then, I don’t know if you can consider him “mainstream”.

Either way, Twin Falls Idaho works well because it has a heart carrying it along. The plot, like I said before, tries to be something more than what it is (aka, filler), but once you get past all that, you realize that the Polish brothers do seem to care about these characters and how they interact with one another. Obviously, the lives of Blake and Francis are tragic enough to take over a whole movie as is, but the Polish bros. also incorporate Penny’s story which is definitely just as important to keeping the central main-frame noticeable.

Through Penny, we see how Blake and Francis get by, even despite their situation. Because they are literally attached at hip, there’s no need for the other to yell or scream what the other has to say – quite simply, they just murmur. And eventually, we find out that one has a weaker heart than the other, therefore, making it absolutely essential that the healthy one stays alive and well, or else it’s goodnight for the other. While the subject of surgery does come up quite a number of times, the movie doesn’t set out to use it as a way that shows just how wonderful life can get for these two if they just break apart; sure, it would be a bit of a better convenience, but it’s something that they’ve been living with for so long, that they aren’t setting out for that kind of treatment.

It should be noted, too, that even though the Polish bros. may not be the most talented actors around, they still do solid jobs here and seem like they genuinely have the sort of chemistry that two twins in their situation, would definitely have. They’d bicker and bite at one another, but at the end of the day, they’re all that the other’s got, so it makes sense that they’d get along and love the other. Though it can be a bit hard to tell the other apart, because they truly are identical, it soon becomes clear that one has more to work with than the other and that’s fine, too. Neither actor is bad, nor good, they’re just fine.

No. This is not a TLC documentary.

No. This is not a TLC documentary.

As well as they should be! They wrote the damn movie, after all!

Michele Hicks, who some would probably know a whole lot better from her days on the Shield, does a good job as Penny, showing that there’s more of a heart and shred of humanity to this character than we’d expect from what she does for a living. So yeah, basically, Hicks plays the “hooker with the heart of gold” cliche portrayed in these types of movies, but there’s a tiny understatement to the way this character is played and written, that makes it seem less noticeable. Though she’s the one pushing these guys out the door and into the rest of the Earth’s populations eyes, they’re still the ones who have some growing up and understanding to do on their own – she doesn’t help them, nor does she need to.

And it should be noted that Twin Falls Idaho isn’t constantly trying to be a sappy inspirational-tale of over-coming one’s disadvantages. While one person could definitely grab that from having seen this movie, it’s more about actually enjoying the life you’ve got, while you’ve got it, and not really worrying about who may push you back in the shadows. People will point, whisper and take pictures, but at the end of the day, it’s how you care and experience life that makes the world around you better.

Okay, so maybe it is a bit sappy.

Consensus: Despite an over-reliance on plot, Twin Falls Idaho still works as an odd, but heartfelt slice of life that we don’t usually see get the light of day, unless it’s for harsh laughs or horror.

7 / 10

Seriously! Which one is which?

Seriously! Which one is which?

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Movie Channel

Mistress America (2015)

Freshmen are so immature anyway! Just hang out with the older-crowd!

Tracy (Lola Kirke) has just started her freshman year of college and already, she’s not a huge fan of it. For one, she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life; she wants to be a writer, but in order to so, she needs to join up with the school’s writer’s group, who aren’t as welcoming as she’d like. Also, Tracy doesn’t have many friends that she can continuously hang out with. Even though she considers Tony (Matthew Shear), a fellow aspiring novelist, a solid friend of hers, he soon starts taking up with a girl that she’s a bit jealous of and doesn’t really care for. So one night, out of pure boredom and desperation, Tracy decides to call up her soon-to-be-step-sister, Brooke (Greta Gerwig), who is a lot different from what she’d expected. Because Brooke’s a lot more eccentric and fun than a lot of the other people Tracy knows, they start to hang out more and more, where Tracy starts to mooch off of Brooke more and more, even though Brooke doesn’t even care to notice because she’s currently too occupied with plans of having her own restaurant. But eventually, the truth about Brooke’s past comes into play and it isn’t before long that Tracy realizes Brooke isn’t all that she’s made-out to be.

One hipster...

One hipster…

For better, as well as for worse.

I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Noah Baumbach. Somehow, he was able to film a whole, 85-minute narrative-flick, starring both Greta Gerwig and Lola Kirke, in secret, without anyone knowing, and have it still feel like a well thought-out movie. Though it definitely seems like a lot of it was made-up on the fly, for the most part, Baumbach knows the story he wants to tell and even though it’s not going to tear down the walls like he did with Frances Ha, he’s still going to give the world a little piece of indie-cinema.

Doesn’t make it a great movie or anything, but the intentions are good and sometimes, that’s what matters.

Problem is, though, Mistress America feels like it’s trying too hard. But not in the way you’d expect Baumbach’s movies to be. In most of his other flicks, Baumbach seems so intent and keen on making his characters so unlikable and grating, that he sometimes forgot how to tell a story and make it some bit of compelling. Here, however, he loves his character’s so much and wants the audience to feel the same way, that he, once again, forgets how to tell a story and make it compelling.

Which isn’t to say that the first-half or so of this movie isn’t. Baumbach’s biggest strength here is that he portrays what it’s like to be a college freshman and have not a single clue what the hell to do with your life. Not too long ago, you were a clear-headed person with enough inspiration for what you wanted to do, but then, literally out of nowhere, you’re thrown into this great, big, and new world where you’re the tiniest fish in the sea and left without anyone to latch onto or follow. Everybody else seems to be going somewhere, but you, on the other hand, don’t, and it’s, at times, both frustrating and miserable.

This is how Tracy feels and Lola Kirke does a great job with the role, as a whole. For one, Tracy’s naive enough that when she eventually meets a person who wants to be her friend and hang around with her, she can’t help but follow that person’s each and every move. At the same time though, she’s also smart enough to use this for her personal-gain where she is, in ways, using Brooke. Sometimes, it’s to help create her story, other times, it’s to get a free meal and night out on the town. But overall, Kirke feels like a fully-realized and understandable young adult.

Something that Brooke never quite feels like.

...meets another.

…meets another.

However, because she’s played by Greta Gerwig, there’s a certain amount of likability to her that makes it easy to get past the fact that this character is nothing more than just a type. She’s the kind of character you’d find in an episode of Girls that Lena Dunham would use as a soap-box moment to make a point about the type of self-involved young women that she loathes (even if she herself may be one). Which is fine for a half-hour long show, but for a near-hour-and-a-half movie that depends on this character for a sense of morality, it doesn’t quite work.

Because the main protagonist is so in love with Gerwig’s character, it only makes all the more sense that the movie would act the same way and while it’s sometimes funny to hear what ridiculous things this character has to say, after awhile, it becomes clear that it’s a crutch the movie falls back on. Soon, the last-half comes in and while it’s quick, random, and constantly moving, it also feels randomly thrown in there. It’s clear that Baumbach wants this to be his “screwball comedy”-try, but it makes a lot of these characters sound cloying and irritating.

It’s a nice effort, though. It’s just a little too late.

To be fair though, it should be noted that these characters do eventually get their comeuppances. While they may not be as serious or as life-changing as they probably would be in the real life, they still feel like a nice treat from Baumbach showing that the real world does exist. Even though half of the movie seems like it took place in some ultra-witty land where everyone has a snappy comeback to anything ever said to them, there’s still a glimmer of harsh truths to be found; the truths where people have to learn to grow up, stop depending on others, and see what they can make of themselves while they’re at it.

Basically, what Baumbach’s always been talking about since he got started.

Consensus: Despite some charm, Mistress America loves itself a bit too much to really be all that hilarious and ends up taking away from the more insightful aspects.

6 / 10

And they're now hipsters together!

And they’re now hipsters together!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dirty Weekend (2015)

Keep business away from pleasure. Especially if your “pleasure” is crazy kinky.

Les (Matthew Broderick) and Natalie (Alice Eve) are coworkers who are currently going through their own sorts of issues. Both are delayed in the same city where they’re left with nothing more to do than to drink, talk and get to know one another a whole lot better. Through their non-stop conversations, Natalie finds out that Les has a bit of a risque sexual history; one that he’s ashamed of, but one that Natalie wants him to pursue on this little trip of theirs. Still though, Les is foggy on certain details on what happened that night and whom it was with, which gives him and Natalie a journey to set out onto where they meet all sorts of colorful characters, in certain areas of the city that they’d never expected themselves to be found in. But because they have nothing else better to do, they’ll find out whatever it is that they can about this one eventful night in Les’s life, even if Les himself doesn’t want to hear all the nitty, gritty details.

Sitting....

Sitting….

For anybody who knows me, they’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Neil LaBute. Sure, he’s had some stinkers in his life, but for the most part, when he’s making pieces of work that he himself concocts from the ground-up, there’s nothing more entertaining or fun to watch. In the past few years, LaBute’s made something of a comeback with Some Velvet Morning and the terrific, but under-seen TV show, Billy & Billie, all displaying what LaBute does best: Give us a couple of morally-corrupt characters who speak so eloquently that it doesn’t matter how mean and detestable they can sometimes be.

And now, with Dirty Weekend, there’s an odd combination of LaBute’s more mainstream piles of junk, with his indie delights. Which basically turns out to be a piece of indie-junk.

Which is, the worst kind.

Part of the problem with Dirty Weekend isn’t that it’s like everyone of LaBute’s other flicks. Sure, the characters are rude, self-involved and mostly mean, but here, they’re just so annoying that you don’t care for anything they have to say, how they feel, or whatever sort of dilemma they may be going through. We’re literally thrown into a random situation with these two characters, without getting any sort of background info or what have you; it’s just us, watching these two characters having conversations.

Which isn’t a problem with LaBute’s films because he finds ways to make even the most innate conversations seem fun and snappy, but here, he seems lost. He doesn’t know what to make of these characters, or even the plot they may service; so instead, he seems to just make something up to roll with. And what he comes up with is, disappointingly, a random night that Broderick’s character had where he was involved with all sorts of sex and doesn’t know whether he’s gay, or straight, or bi?

If this sounds exciting to you, then please, be my guest and check this movie out.

But if you, like me, feel like there isn’t much of anything to develop or dig into deeper here, then get in line, because it’s just as worse as you expect it be. LaBute is definitely better than this and it makes me wonder why he even bothered in the first place. I’d much rather enjoy seeing one of his plays adapted, rather than watching a piece of original that’s as boring as this.

...more sitting....

…more sitting….

But a good portion of why Dirty Weekend doesn’t wholly work is because the cast doesn’t seem too involved, either. Alice Eve, despite having done incredibly well in LaBute’s Some Velvet Morning, seems like she’s going through the motions a bit as Natalie. Though it’s never easy to be able to put our finger on just what her intentions are, Eve still seems like her mind is elsewhere and not adding any certain oomph to her line-readings (something that LaBute’s movies always depend on). But I still have to give her credit for trying.

And “trying” is another form of credit I have to give to Broderick here who, despite seeming like he’s doing everything and anything in his power to play against-type, just isn’t able to make it happen. Some of that has to do with the fact that his character is so uninteresting, that it’s hard to really want to watch and listen to whatever this character has to say. Most of the time, anyway, is just spent listening to him whine on and on, without there ever seeming like a reason for it.

Together, the two hardly have any chemistry. Which would have been fine, had the movie not all of a sudden turned into this friendship piece about how close and willing to depend on the other, they are. I didn’t quite buy it, except for the moments where they were bickering with one another; these were probably the only real scenes of actual fun and bite to be found in the whole piece.

Everything else is just as lame as you can possibly get.

Consensus: Boring, overlong, and annoying, Dirty Weekend is the kind of Neil LaBute movie that LaBute-haters love to rant about, even despite Alice Eve’s and Matthew Broderick’s best intentions.

2 / 10

...and, you guessed it, more sitting! Holy shit! Just get up already!

…and, you guessed it, more sitting! Holy shit! Just get up already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Visit (2015)

Grandparents are so weird.

Paula (Kathryn Hahn) is, after all of these years, finally connecting with her parents, who now want to meet the grand-kids they’ve heard so much about, but have never actually seen. Even though she’s got a trip planned with her boyfriend, Paula still allows for her kids, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) and Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) to go and head out to rural Pennsylvania, where they’ll meet their grandparents and spend a week at their house. In order to document for their mom, Rebecca brings a video-camera with her along the way, which even inspires Tyler to do the same. Once they get there, they soon realize that there’s something awfully aloof with grand-mom and grand-pa. Grand-mom (Deanna Dunagan) likes to run around in the middle of the night, in the nude, banging on doors, and, generally, creeping Tyler and Rebecca out; whereas grand-pa thinks that people are always following him and acts out in strange ways, as well. Though they’re told that all of this weird behavior has to do with their grandparent’s age, Tyler and Rebecca still want to figure out just what the hell’s going on by snooping around and trying to understand their family’s history a whole lot more.

And maybe even figure out why they aren’t allowed in the basement.

Old crazy dude with a shot-gun = not good at all.

Old crazy dude with Chekov’s shot-gun.

By now, it’s a common-known fact that M. Night Shyamalan has become something of a punch-line. While his career started off all bright, pretty and inspired, ever since the Village, it’s been plagued with nothing bad decision, after bad decision. In fact, the movies got so horrible that eventually, people started turning on the ones that actually made Shyamalan a trusted house-hold name (like the Sixth Sense and/or Unbreakable). And while it can be definitely be argued that he hasn’t made a good movie since 2004 (giving the Village a whole lot of credit here, I know), there’s still something about him that makes me feel like there’s maybe just one good movie left in him.

Is the Visit “that” movie? Kind of.

Which, yes, I know may not sound like much at all, but considering what we’ve been seeing from Shyamalan in the past decade or so, it’s actually quite the statement. While it’s nowhere near the genius of the Sixth Sense or earlier-parts of Signs, the Visit is still a fun movie that shows Shyamalan is capable of taking the found-footage format into certain areas that we least expect it to be, especially with him at the helm.

Did the movie really need to be filmed in this format? Not really, but it helps add a certain level of eeriness that can sometimes be so strange, it’s actually entertaining. However, whereas with the Happening, where we were laughing at how incredibly serious Shyamalan seemed to be taking his goofy-as-all-hell material, this time, it seems like he’s actually in on the joke and knows that what he’s presenting, is indeed silly. There are moments where it seems like Shyamalan wants to make this story a whole lot more serious than it actually appears to be, but these are the moments that he actually focuses the least on.

Most of the time is spent in the dark, where we don’t know what’s lurking in those shadows or behind those closed-doors; all we do know is that whatever we see, will be creepy and possibly, make us jump out of our seat.

Does that mean that the movie’s actually “scary”? Kind of, but not really. However, there isn’t a problem with that because Shyamalan’s intent doesn’t seem to be giving us the jeeper’s creepers; he mostly just wants to give us a fun, little “boo” moment every so often, keep our minds awake, and our eyes dead-set on whatever comes next. Whether this movie can be best classified as a comedy, or as a horror-thriller, doesn’t seem to matter because it takes away from the fact that, basically, Shyamalan is having a good time here.

And honestly, when was the last time we saw that?

That said, there are still problems to be focused on and show that, even though he’s getting better and back to his old ways, Shyamalan still has some issues to get past. For one, the final-half gets so ridiculous and so insane, that when we realize that it’s actually supposed to be a heartfelt tale of these kids’ own journey to get over the abandonment from their dead-beat dad, it feels odd. At one point, the movie was an uproarious, campy-as-crap creep-fest that features a barn full of dirty diapers, and then, randomly, becomes a super-dee-duper serious piece of melodrama. It doesn’t feel right and in all honesty, sort of makes the last-half seem like it was directed by a different person.

Don't follow. Just run!

Don’t look down that well. You never know what you’ll find.

But then again, the movie does get by on the fact that it is fun and the cast is mostly to thank for that. Though they are basically playing kid-types that movies such as this love to write snappy dialogue for, Ed Oxenbould and Olivia DeJonge are both good enough performers to get by some of the more annoyingly straining lines of dialogue. For instance, Oxenbould’s Tyler likes to rap, which occasionally leads to scenes where someone will give him a word and he’ll find a way to put in his jam; think of the “milkshake” dude from Before Sunrise, but instead of free-verse, cheap-ass poetry, it’s some kind who thinks he spits game like Tyler the Creator, but instead, is a lot more like Kid ‘N Play. It’s all so cloying and irritating, but Oxenbould is just charming enough that it’s easy to get past and just accept as a quirk.

As annoying as it may be.

DeJonge’s character fares a lot better as Rebecca, although she has a bit less of a personality to work with, other than that she wants to be a director one day (hence the reason for filming this whole trip in the first place). Hahn doesn’t show up quite enough to make me happy she was involved to begin with, but I was able to get past all of this once McRobbie and Dunagan came on the screen and took this movie by-storm. Though both of them are just supposed to be “weird” and “creepy” and hardly anything else, there’s a certain bit of humanity within them that makes us think that quite possibly, these older-peeps are just old and that explains why they act so strangely. We know it’s not, but there’s the silver-lining that that’s reasoning, which makes the movie more compelling to sit by.

And oh yeah, there is a twist here in the Visit, but it’s not the kind that Shyamalan has, sadly, made a career with. The movie doesn’t depend on it and isn’t used a crutch; it’s just a neat piece of narrative story-telling that makes the movie a bit more tense. Something that all twists should do, but has become running-gag for Shyamalan’s career.

Let’s hope this takes him out of the gutter and back onto the main streets.

Consensus: With a simple premise and approach, the Visit is a slight return-to-form for M. Night Shyamalan that still shows there’s plenty of room for improvement, but is also a reminder as to why he was such a hot-button director so early in his career.

6.5 / 10

The perfect consequence for being apart of the "Me generation".

The perfect consequence for being apart of the “Me generation”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz