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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: December 2015

Daddy’s Home (2015)

Some kids are lucky enough to have a dad in the first place, but to have two that are Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy?

Brad Taggart (Will Ferrell) wants to have kids of his own, but due to a mishap at a dentistry, he unfortunately can’t. That’s why, when he meets Sarah (Linda Cardellin) and finds out she has two kids of her own, he’s more than happy to take on the duty of being their stepfather. While their father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), is sort of out of the picture, the kids still love and adore him a whole lot more than Brad, who they just see as “the guy who’s married to their mom”. Brad’s fine with this as he’ll try to do anything he can to win them over, which he does come very close to, until Dusty decides to come back home and stay around for his kids. Obviously, the kids are happy to see their daddy, which makes Brad feel as if he has to overcompensate for something. So, he and Dwight have a battle of wits, of sorts, all to decide just who isn’t the better man, but who is the better father and more equipped to handle a whole family-unit.

"And don't ever forget, always say 'hello' to ya mothers for me."

“And don’t ever forget, always say ‘hello’ to ya mothers for me.”

If anything, Daddy’s Home proves just how great of a comedy the Other Guys was. Even though it was basically just a romp on the buddy-cop genre, featuring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell playing off of one another the whole time, it was still so funny and wacky, that it didn’t mattered that it was a bit messy and if nothing more, just an enjoyable comedy. That’s why, when watching Wahlberg and Ferrell unite here together again and try to recreate some of that same magic, it’s hard not to feel like some of the spark may be missing; after all, the Other Guys came out around a time where Wahlberg was trying so desperately hard for everyone to take him ridiculously seriously and didn’t even bother to show his mug in a fun-spirited comedy that, quite frankly, made him look like a goober.

But at the same time, the issue with Daddy’s Home lies in the fact that it never quite knows what it wants to be. For instance, believe it or not, Daddy’s Home is rated a friendly PG-13, whereas, from the look of this, it seems like at least an R. Still though, the movie still flirts around with the idea of being this raucous, raunchy R-fest that likes to poke jokes at balls, fertility, and sex, whereas another good portion of this movie just wants to poke fun at kids and still be able to cuddle up with them at the end of the day. No matter which way the movie has it, it doesn’t work and seems a bit confusing.

Still though, there were parts of Daddy’s Home that had me laughing and when I looked back on it, quite enjoyed.

Most of this comes back to the fact that everybody in the cast, no matter what they’re working with, can’t help but be charming, funny and above all else, entertaining to watch. Ferrell, as usual, is overly-earnest and sweet as Brad, a role he has played many times before but this time, seems so dedicated in actually developing more and more as the flick rolls on, and Brad gets thrown into some very weird predicaments. That Brad hardly ever turns into a bad guy, makes Ferrell seem like he’s one-note, but there’s more to this character than just being a total and complete softy, which is how the movie could have presented it and left it at. Instead, the movie shows that this sweeter-side to his persona is, perhaps, what makes him the most lovely presence to have around.

The sweet babies I couldn't imagine these two making together.

The sweet babies I couldn’t imagine these two making together.

Of course, I’m definitely getting way too deep into thinking about Daddy’s Home like that, but hey, it goes a real long way when a comedy adds a bit more heart to its characters when it isn’t just embarrassing the hell out of them. And yeah, as Dusty, Wahlberg’s a fine fit; he’s both suave and cool, but at the same time, more than willing to let himself be the butt of any joke tossed at him. Together, Ferrell and Wahlberg still have great chemistry that doesn’t get used as much as it probably should have been, but for what it was worth, there were still plenty of jokes and gags to be found between the two that are, for lack of a better word, humorous.

And the cast goes on and on with the likes of Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer, Bill Burr, and Bobby Cannavale, all seem to try with their material and may not always come out on top, but still deliver enough to add a little bit of something on the top. Basically, it was just nice to see them and see the film not trying to ruin any of their personalities in the meantime; while Daddy’s Home could have easily been the movie to have them all look stupid and foolish for actually taking this gig up in the first place, it instead, rewards them for being able to play along for as much as they can. In a way, they’re all sort of like dads who know when it’s time to relax and take a chill, but because they love their family so much, continue on with whatever they’re doing to keep the smiles up.

Yeah, definitely thinking about this one too much, but so be it! I laughed, surprisingly, and well, so should you!

Consensus: Daddy’s Home isn’t perfect and definitely doesn’t allow for Wahlberg and Ferrell’s chemistry to shine on perfectly through, but is still funny enough to make it an enjoyable comedy to sit through and not be worried about who is being wasted on what jokes.

6.5 / 10

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Point Break (2015)

If your movie doesn’t have Gary Busey, don’t even bother.

Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) was, at one time in his life, a very famous and well-known motocross rider who, for the most part, risked his life on more than a few occasions for the thrill and rush of it all. But after tragedy struck, Johnny realized that it was probably best to cease the riding and stick to a much safer, more relaxing job. This is when Utah joins up with the FBI where, at first, all he does is pencil-pushing. Then, Utah gets to thinking about these mysterious series of crimes that keep happening where a group of criminals perform extreme stunts to steal money and other valuables, but instead of keeping it for themselves, give it those who need it the most: The poor. Because Utah believes that he is like these men, whoever they may be, he does his hardest to convince his superiors to allow him to go out into the field and track these guys down. Eventually, he finds them, and meets their cool leader Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez). Together, Utah and Bodhi form a friendship that transcends just doing crazy stunts together, which makes Utah forget about what he was sent out to do in the first place.

Sweet tats, braj.

Sweet tats, braj.

First off, did we really need a Point Break remake? Most definitely not. However, in a day and age where there seems to be a new reboot/rehash/remake/spin-off in the works and released to the masses, it comes as almost no surprise that the powers that be within Hollywood decided, “Why not?”, when it came to the idea of giving the 1991, beloved bro-classic original a remake. Which isn’t to say that every remake ever made, is a bad one – it’s just to say that sometimes, certain movies don’t need to be remade in the first place.

Especially if your remake isn’t going to be all that good in the first place.

And yes, the Point Break remake, all issues with the idea of remakes aside, is not a very good movie. But the problem with it is that it seems like it’s trying hard to actually be one; perhaps maybe a bit too hard, but hey, at least there’s an effort on the movie’s part. Most of this is due to the fact that director Ercison Core really seems as if he’s interested in making this Point Break movie all about the cool, over-the-top, and daring-as-hell extreme stunts that take-up a solid portion of this movie.

While the original was about riding wild and gnarly waves, the remake is more about jumping off of the highest mountains and gliding around in ultra-tight spandex. Because Core makes the decision to shoot all of these crazy stunts in a natural way, they feel more realistic and exciting than they would had he decided to take the easy way out and just let the CGI do the talking. Even the surfing sequence in the beginning of the movie feels real, due to the waves being real, but once the surfers themselves actually start riding the waves, then it becomes obvious that it’s just computer-trickery working its magic and it takes you right out.

And considering that at least 45 minutes of Point Break is just a bunch of ripped, way-too-masculine dudes performing wild stunts, just because they want to “feel free”, it should be said that these are the minutes of the movie that work best. They don’t care too much about character-development, moving the story along, or even focusing on what the point of all of it is – it’s just a bunch of dudes climbing mountains, hand-crafting fires, snowboarding down dangerous cliffs, and much more. So no, the remake is not as bad as I expected it to be.

But yes, it’s still pretty bad.

Because even despite these numerous scenes, the movie is still, believe it or not, pretty damn boring. Considering that the movie is nearly two-hours long, with at least 45 of it being cool-to-look-at stunts, that means there’s about an hour-and-15-minutes left where it’s just bunch of stonewall characters talking to one another about liberation, occasionally fighting one another and, oh yeah, Ray Winstone showing up just to collect a paycheck because, hey, why the hell not!

Ride out, Bodhi. Seriously. Don't even bother to look back.

Ride out, Bodhi. Seriously. Don’t even bother to look back.

And this isn’t anything to fully hold against Core because he seems like he’s trying to do something with the direction of the story, but the script is just not there. None of the fun, vibrant flair of the original’s screenplay is anywhere to be found, nor is the emotion of how frustrated and torn Johnny Utah should be in this situation. Also, the characters themselves can be so bland and poorly-written, that really, it doesn’t matter if they live another day to climb another mountain, or die by falling-off of one – all that matters is that they take us one step closer to getting to the end of the movie.

Which I know makes this sound like I’m saying that the original Point Break was the greatest movie ever made and not without any of its own issues, because it definitely is. It’s corny, over-the-top and, above all else, silly. But you know what? It’s also fun, pretty hilarious, and downright cool, in a sorta-retro way that most movies from the early-90’s are. This Point Break, for some odd reason, just feels like a cash-grab that somebody thought was a good idea to do again, yet, didn’t actually think through how it would actually work.

Instead, we’re left with a bunch of people who don’t seem to care, or if they do, aren’t trying hard enough to make even the best parts of this material, work.

I don’t know if Luke Bracey was trying to do a Keanu Reeves impersonation here or not, but whatever he’s going for, just isn’t quite clicking. He’s painfully dry, uninteresting and most importantly, lacking any sort of trait that would make it understandable as to why he would go from being an extreme motocross driver to then, all of a sudden, becoming an FBI agent. We get that his friend died early on in the movie, hence why the sudden change in employment, but the FBI? Really?

As for Edgar Ramirez, the guy already had a lot to live up to with trying to take over a role held by the iconic Patrick Swayze and, well, it’s a shame to say but the role eats him up. Ramirez does definitely try to make all of these hippie-ish sayings sound compelling and wise, but really, he ends up sounding like a dude who took one too many bong hits. Same goes for Teresa Palmer as Samsara, Utah’s love-interest and possible villain, who is definitely hot and spicy, but has such a boring personality, that it makes the perfect argument for Utah just saying, “Well, bro, the chick was sexy, man.”

And that’s about all I can say for this.

Consensus: Despite it being unnecessary, there are certain moments of fun and excitement within the remake of Point Break, but mostly, they don’t do much to carry the boredom and dryness that the rest of the film, as well as the talented cast, swims under.

3.5 / 10

Just make-out already. Please! We all know you want to!

Just make-out already. Please! We all know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Concussion (2015)

Nobody can stop Will Smith! Not even the NFL!

Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a Nigerian immigrant who performs autopsy’s in Alleghany County. Not only is he brilliant, but he’s also dedicated to his job so much that he believes that even the smallest detail can matter when it comes to deciding why a person did something, or just how exactly they died. But when NFL legend Mike Webster (David Morse) winds up dead from an apparent suicide, Omalu stumbles upon a shocking discovery: Although Webster was only 50-years-old, he was acting in ways that a man nearly 30 years older would be acting with Alzheimer’s. Except, here’s the kicker, Webster didn’t have Alzheimer’s; instead, he just took one too many hits to the head and it’s here that Omalu decides to study this idea himself, forcing him to put in his own time and money into the project. Eventually, it all pays off and Omalu discovers that Webster, along with countless other NFL players are dealing with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and now, it’s up to Omalu to let the NFL, as well as the rest of the world, know of the dangers it promises. However, being a billion-dollar corporation, the NFL decides not to listen, which leaves Omalu to take matters into his own hands. Matters which, honestly, can tend to do more harm than actual good.

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Whistleblower movies, despite their importance and relevancy, no matter how many years go by, always seem to have a tough time working as well as they should. For one, it depends on the cause; if people feel as if the cause someone is “blowing the whistle” about, doesn’t have enough of an impact, then they won’t care once all goes to hell. Speaking of everything going to hell, it’s quite obvious that once the word gets out and the whistleblower’s identity is made known to the big, bad and evil corporation being spoken-out against, then they will go through all sorts of tense, almost life-threatening situations that will have them rethink the decision they made to open their mouths up in the first place.

Concussion is that same kind of movie that goes down the same alleyways and roads, but at the same time, that doesn’t defeat the fact that the cause it’s fighting for isn’t important. It’s just that, you know, what with Spotlight coming out this year and all, we’ve seen just how well “the whistleblower” movie can be made. While there’s no denying that the Catholic Church covering up countless acts of sexual abuse is perhaps a more jaw-dropping and intriguing topic to go at, Concussion makes it very clear that the issue going on currently with the NFL isn’t one that’s going to go away one day and that be the end of it. Instead, it’s going to continue to go on and on and on, until there’s not a single sane mind left in the NFL and just about every player imaginable, has either completely lost their minds, or killed themselves.

In other words, the NFL does not look pretty in Concussion, which makes me wonder just what was apparently cut-out in the first place to ensure that Sony didn’t face any legal action on behalf of the NFL.

Regardless, the NFL, as portrayed in Concussion, is not a very loving, caring or kind organization – instead, they’re nothing more than just a bunch of heartless, greedy creatures who are more concerned with the thickness of their wallets, rather than the well-being of their own players that make them so rich to begin with. That CTE and brain trauma within the NFL is already a very current and already developing issue, sort of makes Concussion feel like it’s missing out on some bits and pieces of info, but for the most part, it gets right, what it needs to get right.

For one, writer/director Peter Landesman does not lose sight of what makes this story hit (pun sort of intended) as hard as it does. There’s a few scenes where Landesman shines the focus on Dr. Omalu and shows just what it is exactly that’s going on wrong with these player’s brains and why it is that this problem can’t be seen right away, but rather, after the player is already dead and gone. Even though we see plenty of these real life circumstances play-out in the film, it’s still effective to hear it all come from the mouth of a person who clearly seems to know what he’s talking about, as well as a person who actually cares.

Yet, like I said before, the NFL does not play well, according to the film, and it’s what sets up a pretty tense battle between Dr. Omalu and the billion-dollar corporation.

"Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don't you dare bring up Jaden."

“Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don’t you dare bring up Jaden.”

It’s the typical David and Goliath story that, we so often see, yet, don’t actually get all that wrapped-up into. Here, Landesman makes it clear early-on that he’s behind Omalu’s back every step of the way and shows that he’s just trying to make things better – not just for himself, or the NFL, but for the players who make a living off of playing football for said organization. However, there’s no pretentiousness or inferior complex to be found with Omalu; he simply just wants to keep more and more players from dying, which is why he cares so much to begin with.

Not to mention that he wants to be a fully-fledged and adored American citizen, which the film smartly focuses on and brings up every so often. Still though, if there’s an issue with Concussion, it’s that whenever the film focuses on Omalu’s own personal life, with his girlfriend and her own problems, the movie seems like a bit of a drag and not all that interesting. It’s not that it doesn’t feel pertinent to the story, it’s just that it lacks the same kind of angered energy found in the parts of the movie where it’s Omalu trying his hardest to remind those within the NFL of what’s going on and why they should stop acting like fools, pay attention already, and accept the fact.

This is, of course, to say that as Dr. Bennett Omalu, Will Smith is great. Then again, how could he not be? The dude’s charismatic as hell and, every chance he gets, gives a subtle power to Omalu that you really do feel for this guy, even when it seems like his voice is being heard loud enough, or even at all. The fact that Smith himself is adopting an African accent for this role made me a bit worried, but honestly, after the first five minutes, it was easy to forget that I was watching the Fresh Prince and instead, was just watching as one simple and kind man, singlehandedly tried to take down the NFL.

While time will tell if he’s still fully successful or not, there’s no denying that Concussion will have you look at the NFL in a way different light than ever before.

For better, but mostly, for worse.

Consensus: Despite a few hiccups in the narrative, Concussion benefits from a strong central performance from Will Smith, as well as a relevant message about how it’s maybe time for the NFL to wake up, smell the cauliflower, and gain a conscience.

7 / 10

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting already!

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Joy (2015)

So, did Jennifer Lawrence invent feminism, too?

Ever since she was a young girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) knew that she was always destined to do something great for the world. While it may have all started in her room where she would experiment with creating little inventions here and there, after awhile, real life started to get in the way and it’s where she found it harder and harder to let her true inspiration come out and make a difference. For one, she got married, had two kids, and then got divorced from Tony (Édgar Ramírez). Then, she moved back into her mom (Virginia Madsen)’s place, where her grand-mother (Diane Ladd) also lives, meaning that the current house situation is incredibly cramped. And now, if matters weren’t already bad, her unpredictable, but always trouble-making father (Robert De Niro), has moved back in and wants to take over the whole family again. But knowing that she’s destined for something greater, one day, Joy stumbles upon a brilliant, but all-too-simple idea: the Miracle Mop. While Joy believes her billion-dollar idea to be brilliant, the only issue here is that she doesn’t quite know how to get in the business of selling her invention to the larger masses where each and every person can see what she’s made. This is when Joy decides to really push her boundaries and take chances that no simple woman in her situation would ever take, but because she’s got nothing to lose, she doesn’t care.

Even during serious times, this family can't help but get ready to start brawling.

Even during serious times, this family can’t help but get ready to start brawling.

About an hour into Joy, after we’ve gotten through all of the wacky family drama, the random dream-sequences in the form of a corny soap opera, the flashbacks, the narrations, the exposition, etc., something happens that wasn’t quite there all along: Excitement. This starts to happen when writer/director David O. Russell decides that the next best step to take this story is to QVC which, believe it or not, ends up working out quite well for the film in the end; it’s only about 30 minutes or so, but it’s absolutely the most fun to be had in the whole two-hours here. Of course, this has to do with the fact that Bradley Cooper shows up and he and Jennifer Lawrence are as spicy and as fun as ever, but it also gives us an inside glimpse of how exactly a product is sold, what goes into getting said customers to buy something, and just how manipulative home-shopping networks can be.

In all honesty, had David O. Russell just made a movie solely based around the inner-workings and early days of QVC, there’d probably be more of something to discuss with Joy. However, the sole issue here with Joy is that it’s not always about QVC, nor is it really about Joy, the character, and her product – it’s more about those around her who constantly bring her down, never allow for her to reach her dreams, and constantly screw up. Once or twice in the beginning of the film is nice to give us an understanding of the kind of situation Joy’s in, but after awhile, it becomes clear that O. Russell has a dead horse he wants to beat, leading to a lot of situations happening the same way, over and over again, with hardly anything new, or surprising learned in the process.

Which is to say that yes, Joy is a disappointment considering what O. Russell has been able to do in the past five years with his career.

However, when you take into consideration great flicks like the Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, not only is the bar raised pretty high, but there’s also a certain expectation that O. Russell himself has already carved-out. Considering that O. Russell himself seems to love and adore dysfunctional families, and cast practically the same people, each and every time he gets a chance to, it’s almost impossible not to approach Joy, another movie about a dysfunctional family, with at least three-fourths of the cast from Playbook and Hustle, and expect the same kind of wonder and entertainment.

The thing with Joy, however, is that it’s a much different, more dramatic, and far more serious movie that, quite frankly, isn’t as bad as I may make it out to be. Disappointing? For sure, but that’s also to say that someone like O. Russell can’t switch things up every so often because of a niche he’s already made for himself; no director ever would be able to stick with one and only style, which is why, on O. Russell’s part, it’s a brave choice to take a story such as this and take it a bit slower.

And this is why there are certain parts and moments of Joy that are actually pretty wonderful.

The babies these two would create. Oh my gosh.

The babies these two would create. Lord almighty.

Of course, the aforementioned QVC-subplot works wonders, but what happens afterwards is interesting, in the way that we get to see Joy, the character, gain more confidence in herself and start to try her hand at making something of her invention and seeing where she can go with it. Because Joy Mangano is already a pretty sympathetic figure who makes it clear from the start that she’s a smart, brassy girl, it’s easy to get behind her and watch as she takes whatever challenges life tosses at her. While most of these challenges concern her family just acting like selfish a-holes, it was still interesting and compelling to watch and see how she reacted to each situation and got through.

And with that said, yes, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good in this role, because how can she not be? Lawrence, despite playing another character she seems too young for, grabs this character, shakes her up and gives it all she’s got; sometimes, it seems like she’s working with a script that isn’t nearly as up to her speed, but at the same time, she keeps things moving and most of all, believable. Though Joy’s already shoddy performance with critics may keep Lawrence away from winning another Oscar of her own, it’s still hard not to believe her getting a nomination for what she does here, as she can be, at times, the best thing going for it.

Which isn’t to hate on the rest of the cast as the likes of Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, and the already mentioned Cooper don’t put in fine work, either, but clearly, O. Russell has a problem handling all of their stories/personalities and allowing for them to mix with Joy’s story in a cohesive manner. Because a good portion of these characters are so self-centered, it’s never easy to feel bad for them, which makes them also feel like they’re getting in the way of what could have been a very powerful story about one, small-time woman standing up against all of the adversity in her way to, well, make a difference in the world.

Though I’m not sure just how much of what appears in Joy, is actually true of the real person’s life, O. Russell searches far and wide to make perfect sense of it. He doesn’t always come up with any easy answers or solutions, but for the most part, he gives it his absolute best. But if anything, he just makes you appreciate his last three movies even more and also give the inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to change things up a bit.

Not just with his cast, but subject-material as well.

Consensus: Joy is not nearly as magnificent as what David O. Russell has put out in the past five years, but because of a solid lead performance from the always radiant and exciting Lawrence, as well as some strokes of genius, it still works.

7 / 10

No matter what, that J-Law can't seem to get herself out of trouble.

No matter what, that J-Law can’t seem to get herself out of trouble.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Next time a blizzard comes, stay away from the cabin with the most assassins.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, where she’ll be hung for committing all sorts of evil murders and crimes over the years. However, along the way, they encounter a bounty hunter by the name of Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also heading out to Red Rock to get money for a few criminals he killed himself. Ruth allows for Warren to hop aboard, but they soon realize that a deadly blizzard is coming their way. With this information known, they decide to hold out in a little comfortable and cozy cabin where everybody knows and loves called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. There, the three meet a few shady, but altogether, colorful characters who may, or may not, be up to any good or actually be who they appear to be. There’s Bob “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), who claims to be one of Minnie’s helpers, even though they’re nowhere to be found; Chris “The Sheriff” Mannix (Walton Goggins), claims to be the soon-to-be sheriff of Red Rock; Oswaldo “The Little Man” Mobray (Tim Roth), is another one who claims to be the soon-to-be hangman of Red Rock; Joe “The Cow Puncher” Gage (Michael Madsen), claims to be just a lonely ol’ cowboy looking to spend the holidays with his mommy; and ex-General Sanford “The Confederate” Smithers (Bruce Dern), well, doesn’t claim to be much of anyone. He’s just holding out and waiting for this storm to pass, which is what everyone else seems to be doing, until it becomes clear that someone is up to no good and needs to be taught a lesson.

Sort of bad-ass.

Sort of bad-ass.

Quentin Tarantino makes the sort of movie he wants. Nobody’s going to tell him “no”, nor will anyone tell him “how” – they’ll just hand him a bunch of money, plenty of freedom, and see what happens. Due to this, his movies can tend to sometimes feel overlong and excessive, which is why, when it turned out that the Hateful Eight was going to be over three hours, with a short, 10-to-12 minute intermission, automatically, most people will be turned off, as well as they should.

However, here’s the funny thing about the Hateful Eight – it’s actually pretty deserving of its three hour run-time.

Much of this is due to the fact that Tarantino doesn’t try to, in any sort of way, shape, or fashion, rush the plot here – instead, he takes his time to give us those delicate, but juicy character-moments we oh so appreciate and adore from someone as immensely talented as he is. Nobody really breaks into a conversation that feels useless, unnecessary, or unneeded – everybody here has a reason to talk about what they want to talk about and, honestly, it’s hard to not be intrigued by them right away. After all, this is Tarantino’s dialogue and as is the case with Tarantino’s dialogue, it’s punchy, fun, energetic and most importantly, exciting. The issues that have chased Tarantino since the beginning of his career in that his characters speak in that heightened sense that no other normal human would speak in, may still be here, but honestly, who gives a hoot?

It’s Quentin Tarantino! You know exactly what you’re going to get, as soon as you walk into one of his movies.

And even though most of the promotion and hype surrounding this movie has been about the fact that it’s filmed and presented in 70 mm, the real kicker here is that, aside from at least 20-25 minutes of wide landscape shots at the beginning, middle, end and sporadically throughout, the majority of the movie takes place solely in this one room. The movie looks great to begin with, as we’d expect from Tarantino, but the reason why the 70 mm matters so much in a story like this is because it gives you a greater sense of just how confined and stuck these characters are; while it may appear that there’s a great big world for these characters to go outside and venture out into just in case they have to, because there’s a deadly blizzard going on right outside, they are all stuck with one another.

Which, as you could probably guessed, leads to plenty of scenes where characters talk to one another, get on each other’s nerves, and come pretty damn close to killing the other. This is, of course, all terrific and great to listen to, adding more of a sense of intensity and suspense to the chilly air of that Tarantino, as well as his terrific ensemble create. Any lesser director/writer would have been bored with this one room setting and decided to take their movie elsewhere and jump around a bit, but Tarantino knows and understands the sheer power there is in watching a bunch of heavy-hitting actors stand around a room, watch one another, and get ready for the other shoe to eventually drop.

And when that shoe drops, well, it’s pretty crazy, violent, and gory, but still all so pleasing.

However, at the same time, there’s also that annoying feeling that perhaps Tarantino loses himself a slight bit here. For one, the intermission that takes place is perfect because it sets up a whole other movie, with a whole other tone and feeling altogether. It’s a smart decision on Tarantino’s behalf, but what he does with this second-half is, sadly, a bit disappointing; though the movie doesn’t necessarily feel long, there’s a 20-minute sequence that, in hindsight, didn’t really need to be included at all. Without saying too much, it’s a sequence that takes us a tad away from the current on-goings of the plot and instead, give us another view to look at the story; while it’s a tricky device that Tarantino uses well, it still doesn’t seem like it needed to be included at all.

As an audience-member, it was already easy enough to connect the dots as is, so why is there the need to explain certain plot-elements even further than what’s already needed?

And this matters because, right after this point is where the Hateful Eight started to feel like a bit of a retread of what Tarantino has done many times before and, mostly, better. There are still certain ways that Tarantino keeps this plot moving in an efficient manner, but by the same token, he also seems to be utilizing the same sort of twists and turns we’ve seen him roll with before and, honestly, it’s a bit of a shame. This isn’t to say that Tarantino misses the mark here, but considering that the bar has been raised so high in the past few years with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, really, anytime it feels like Tarantino isn’t fully giving his all, can definitely be a problem.

Kind of bad-ass.

Kind of bad-ass.

This is all to say that the Hateful Eight definitely isn’t Tarantino’s best, but also isn’t to say that it’s his worst, either.

It’s just that it’s very good, yet, also feels like it’s destined for something far, far better than what it ends up being.

Through it all though, the ensemble, as expected, works perfectly. Though it did disappoint me a tad bit to see a lot of familiar faces show up to work with Tarantino again here, it still doesn’t matter because they’re all so great as is. Samuel L. Jackson continues to get his meatiest roles from Tarantino and as Major Marquis Warren, he gets to show us a man who has been through it all in life and isn’t afraid to get violent when he needs to; Kurt Russell is having a blast as John Ruth, someone who seems to have a decent-enough heart, but is also just as savage as the rest; Tim Roth is joyously fun as Oswaldo, someone who seems way too cheery to be a hangman; Michael Madsen is, once again, cool and stoic as Joe Gage; and Bruce Dern, playing the ex-General of this story, is wise and grizzled, but also adds enough depth to this character that he feels like more than just “the old man of the story”.

As for the newcomers, they’re all amazing, too and show why they were perfectly picked by Tarantino to deliver his sometimes challenging, but altogether lovely dialogue. Demián Bichir, despite playing what appears to be just “the Mexican”, also seems like there’s more to him that he’s not letting on and it’s cool to see someone like Bichir, play both mysterious, as well as funny; Channing Tatum shows up in a small-ish role, too here, and does a fine enough job that it makes me definitely want to see him appear in more Tarantino flicks; and even though he already appeared in Tarantino’s Django, Walton Goggins is electric as Chris Mannix, the supposed-sheriff who we may not be able to trust, but because he’s sometime so stupid and naive, it’s almost like he’s telling the truth.

However, the true star of this cast, believe it or not, is actually the sole woman of the main cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As Daisy Domergue, Leigh does a lot of standing around, staring and looking as if she’s up to no good and nine times out of ten, that’s pretty much the case. While we’re told that she’s as bad-ass and as dangerous as any of the other men surrounding her, Leigh still shows that through her odd, occasionally hilarious performance. Though she may appear to be nothing more than just a basket case, there’s something about Domergue that, underneath it all, still seems present and this is perhaps the main factor that keeps this character interesting, as well as compelling. Domergue, just like every other character here, is a total mystery to us and while we may never know what to expect next from them, we sure as hell know it’s not going to be an act of kindness. And that’s why Leigh, who we haven’t seen much of in the past few years, is absolutely brilliant in this role, giving it all that she’s got, but at the same time, still seeming like she’s not really trying at all, either.

Consensus: Though the Hateful Eight isn’t Tarantino’s best, it is still fun, well-acted and compelling enough to keep everything moving at a fine pace, even despite the three-hour long run-time.

8.5 / 10

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Wait! Where’s Jar-Jar?

Many years has gone by since the events of Return of the Jedi, and well, a lot has happened. For one, Luke Skywalker (Hamill), has gone into some sort of hiding, leaving many people to wonder where he is and also, try desperately to find him. Also, the Empire has finally, once and for all, shattered and fallen apart, but that isn’t to say that evil forces in the galaxy are over and done with; now, rising from the ashes, is called the First Order, led by a ruthless, powerful and evil baddie named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). But have no fear, kind citizens, as the Resistance still exists, however, they’re doing what they’ve always done: Fight the evil-doers and leave it at that. However, in order to defeat the baddies, the Resistance needs to find a small droid who is carrying a secret map to Skywalker, which just so happens to be by the side of a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Along the way, Rey meets Finn (Jon Boyega), a former storm trooper for the First Order who has decided to defect and do whatever he can to stay alive and safe from the evil, harmful ways of the so-called bad allegiance.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

The force is strong with this emo punk.

Now, it’s hard for me to fully review/write about the Force Awakens without really bringing anything new to the table; for silly reasons, I wasn’t able to see the movie for nearly a week, which left plenty of time for people to commit all sorts of chatter about it. Mostly, it’s all been good and fine, but there are the occasional bad apples in the bunch who don’t like what they see and because they have an opinion that doesn’t fully agree with the rest of the consensus, they’re attacked, made fools of, and seen as members of “the no-fun police”. Granted, it is Star Wars, a very beloved and adored franchise, but still, it’s also a movie, and by that same token, it should be approached as any movie ever made.

Which is to say that yes, the Force Awakens is a good movie. Not great, but good. Don’t kill me, please. Just bear with me and we’ll see if we’re still friends by the end of it, okay?

Good. Let’s get to it!

No matter what’s said about any of the problems within the Force Awakens, there’s no denying the fact that co-writer/director J.J. Abrams deserves every bit of respect. First off, he took on the challenge of making another Star Wars film, which also just so happened to come out after he was working on making the Star Trek movies. Clearly, he has an affection for this kind of sci-fi geekery and because of that, he gives each and every fan from every background, something to cherish and hold onto. There’s plenty of callbacks here, most of which are well-done, and because of that, it makes it obvious, even from the very start, that Abrams cares, isn’t trying to keep this all for himself, and wants to share his love and appreciation for this galaxy, just as much as every other fan does, too.

That said, the problem with the Force Awakens is that, for one, it’s a Star Wars movie and it’s one that constantly feels the need to callback and reference the original ones. Which is, yes, fine for a punchline or two, but the references, similarities, or comparisons don’t just begin and end with the humor – it’s everywhere from the plot, to the character-development, to even the action itself. While this isn’t a spoiler really, it still goes to show the kind of disappointment that can be had when one realizes that the story-line here, starts the same, continues on the same, and almost comes close to ending, nearly the same way as A New Hope.

This is especially a problem because, well, Abrams and his band of trusted confidantes clearly had so much to work with at their disposal and well, to see them hark back to the story-lines of yesteryear, almost feels like a waste.

Why does, ultimately, the movie have to come down to it being a battle between two sides? Better yet, why does it have to be hinting at some sort of family-drama? And while I’m at it, do we really need to keep on developing Han Solo, Leia, and Chewie? Can’t we just have them around to do their things, in a way to allow for the new, probably more important characters take over, do their things, and give us reasons to actually give a flyin’ hoot about their part in this story? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset that Abrams decided to include Solo, or Leia, or Chewie, or anybody else from the old trilogy, all over again and show us all that they’re still alive, well, and doing what they’ve always done, but a tad too much time is dedicated to them, and not enough time is given to these newer ones who are supposed to be the leading stars of this new franchise.

Either way, it was nice to see Harrison Ford actually give a damn in a movie again, but it was even sweeter to see him playing as Han Solo all over again. Rather than seeming annoying and shticky, Ford wears this role like a glove that any line of wit he delivers, feels like a genuine reaction someone as wild and cool as he would deliver on. Carrie Fisher didn’t really get a chance to do much as Leia, except for numerous reaction-shots, but it was still nice to see her and Ford, on the screen again, clearly still having feelings for one another, but also realizing that a lot has changed, time has moved on, and well, they’re old.

As for Luke? Well, I’ll leave that up in the air.

But like I said before, not all of the Force Awakens is bad. For a movie that runs a tad over two-hours-and-ten minutes, it’s a surprisingly quick and exciting movie that hardly ever feels like it’s slowing down or not going somewhere. One of the main issues with the prequels is that we all knew where they were headed towards, however, they took so damn long to get there; here, while we don’t necessarily know where they’re heading, we’re still on-board, seeing just where Abrams takes the story next, and how he does it all. That Abrams takes familiar situations and plot-points that we’ve seen already highlighted in the earlier movies, but also turns them on their side slightly and shows them in a new light, adds a nice touch that only someone as smart as Abrams could deliver on.

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry's face!

Reunited and it feels so good! Just look at Harry’s face!

Cause I know that a lot of what I’m saying here makes it seem like Abrams missed the ball and ruined the Star Wars franchise, because he really did not. He sets everything up in a solid enough manner that it makes me all sorts of ready and anticipated for what’s to come next (in Rian Johnson’s movie, that is), while also not forgetting to keep enough going on in this story, that it doesn’t just feel like unnecessary filler. Stuff happens, is learned and made clear to us in the Force Awakens, and while plenty is left open and ready to be discussed in the upcoming films, there’s still that great feeling of knowing that yes, Star Wars is finally back in our lives and it’s actually in the hands of people capable of being trusted.

And I’m not just talking about Abrams, either, I’m also talking about the surprisingly great cast. Even though there’s no real big names among the young cast that will get the non-conformist’s butts into the seats, that doesn’t matter because they’re all still worthy of checking out and getting invested in, even if it can sometimes feel like the script isn’t giving them a whole lot to roll with or develop.

Daisy Ridley comes absolutely out of nowhere here as Rey and is a total star.

First of all, she’s got a crap-ton of charisma. Though she’s a female character, who also seems to be taking the role of one that would have been made for a man, the movie doesn’t make a point of this; it turns out that Rey, having been on her own for almost her whole life, is just a bad-ass chick that can take care of herself, regardless of what situation comes into her way. Sure, there’s one too many obstacles that she works out too simply or quickly, but hey, the fact that she’s a fun, but compelling presence on the screen, without being pushy or annoying about it, makes her more watchable and fun to stand behind.

Jon Boyega who, granted, already had a nice role in Attack the Block, does a fine job as Finn – someone who gets plenty of development and helps him and his cause more believable. Finn’s characterization is made out to be more of that he’s just a simple, everyday guy who doesn’t want to kill people for senseless reasons, but instead, wants to just be happy and live a normal life, but Boyega also makes him funny and charming, which doesn’t seem like something the script seems to always be calling out for. Rey and Finn’s relationship, whether it be anything more than just pals right now or not, is sweet enough that it tugs at the heartstrings a bit, but also not too developed to where we’re tired of seeing them together and get it already.

But really, it’s Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who I can’t seem to get enough of. Granted, I love Driver already, but his casting as Ren, while initially, a bit strange, ends up totally working when you see it actually play-out. For one, Driver’s physical presence is demanding and intimidating, but he’s also really interesting to listen to, even when it seems like he’s just delivering “bad-guy dialogue”. Ren may appear to be a total and absolute bad-ass who can stop lasers in thin-air with the force, as well as be able to choke people from across the room, but he also appears to be a bit of whiny brat, who may not deserve all of this power and respect that’s at his disposal. We soon learn more about his backstory and why he matters throughout, but what should be said now is this: Driver’s good in the role and if anything, he makes me want to see more about Ren as well as the rest of the First Order.

As for others like Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, and Gwendoline Christie, and their characters? Well, that’s for the next movies to discuss.

Until then, we’ll just wait and see.

Consensus: The Force Awakens may be too familiar and easy for its own good, but is still an exciting, well-acted, interesting, and rather funny adventure back into a galaxy that we’ve been missing for so long, and can’t wait to see what happens with it next.

8 / 10

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies.

Step aside, R2, and eat your heart out, ladies. BB-8 has arrived.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Revenant (2015)

It’s a jungle out there.

In the 1820’s, brilliant and tactful frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a group of fur-trappers and fur-hunters who, for the most part, are just trying to make a living. While they’re doing so in some of the harshest, most unforgiving landscapes imaginable, they still don’t give a flyin’ hoot because they’re just trying to make whatever money they can, all the while, still surviving to actually see said money. However, Hugh gets brutally attacked (and not raped) by a bear, which leaves him unable to walk, or fully lead the travelers he’s supposed to be accompanying and helping. Eventually, he becomes too much of a burden that a few of the hunters, including one John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), that they end up leaving him for dead, but they go too far. Now, Hugh does all that he can to extract revenge, but seeing as how this is the deep Northwest and it is in fact the winter, there’s plenty of issues Hugh has with nature. But as if that wasn’t already bad enough, now Hugh has to worry about fellow hunters, traders and, most dangerous of them all, Pawnee Indians, who are hot on revenge for what the white man has done to them.

"Look out, Academy."

“Look out, Academy.”

Much has already been made about the troubled, if ambitious production of the Revenant, as well as the fact that it may, or may not, contain a bear rape scene, but really, there’s so much more going on here. For one, it’s so brutally violent that you’ll wonder just who the hell funded this and felt like it should be given to a huge audience. The Revenant is the kind of film that feels like some foreign-made indie, where people whose names average layman can’t pronounce (except for those pretentious critics), roam around stark, beautiful landscapes, killing one another in ugly, vile ways, but instead, was made for $135 million, features a big-named cast, and is, for the most part, made to be seen by a large audience.

Which is to say that no, the Revenant is not the perfect holiday movie to bring the whole family out to see, but does that matter?

Not really, and that’s why the Revenant, despite being as dark as the depths of hell, is absolutely worth watching.

Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu surprised a whole bunch of people with Birdman last year, mostly due to the fact that he’s always been known for these depressingly bleak tales that usually contain people being sad, looking sad, and generally, hardly ever cracking a smile. That’s not to say that those earlier flicks aren’t fine pieces in their own right, but it was still nice to see that someone who was as pigeonholed as Iñárritu, could actually step out of his shadow and do something different, as well as funny, for once. But now, it seems as if Iñárritu has had his time with time with happiness, enjoyed it while it lasted and has gone back to his old ways, but now, it seems like he’s trying a tad more.

For one, everything about the Revenant is as upsetting and unforgivably bleak as you’d expect it to be, but that’s sort of the point of the story. That the Revenant starts off with a bloody, ridiculously disturbing war-sequence of sorts, already puts us in the mind-frame of knowing that, well, this movie’s not going to be a breeze to sit through, nor is it going to let up; so, the fact that Iñárritu doesn’t hold back on how far or able he is willing to go with portraying this world as brutal as he wants you to imagine, actually works. No longer does Iñárritu feel as if he’s being excessive just for the sake of being excessive – he’s actually got something to do, something to work with, and something to say.

Which is, well, humans are evil creatures.

Granted, this is no Earth-shattering revelation, but in the Revenant, it kind of does. Everyone here, whether they’re developed, given some depth, or given nothing at all, practically never perform a nice act for anybody else; there is one or two characters, but sooner or later, before you begin to think that this is a sweet, earnest tale about people sticking together in rough and tough situations, Iñárritu pulls the rug from underneath and reveals their fates to be as cruel as you didn’t want to accept, but had to at least accept. So to watch this happen for nearly two-and-a-half-hours, yes, can begin to feel like a bit of an unrelenting drag, but the mood and overall pace of the Revenant pulls you right in that it’s hard to care.

So what if Tom Hardy’s character almost never does a nice thing for anyone else? So what if practically every hurdle and set-back Leo’s character faces, he somehow comes out on top of? Or hell, so what if every situation here ends in at least a dozen or so people getting killed? The Revenant isn’t as much of an unpredictable film, as much as it’s obvious from the very start where it’s going to go and possibly end, but the adventure of getting there and seeing just where the story goes and takes you, is really what makes it all the more worth it.

"Look out, those who can't ever understand me."

“Look out, those who can’t ever understand me.”

Could I have done without maybe ten to fifteen minutes of this movie? Sure, but at the same time, I still didn’t leave this two-and-a-half hour movie thinking it was a waste of time, or that it didn’t do much for me. It can be, at times, incredibly hard-to-watch, exciting and above all else, suspenseful as all hell. It is, after all, an adventure flick and feels every bit of it – and with Emmanuel Lubezki’s swooping camera, as well as the daring use of almost all natural light, it’s a beautiful, mesmerizing one at that.

Oh, and yeah, Leo’s pretty great in this one, too.

Then again, when is he not?

However, what’s perhaps most interesting about Leo’s work here is that he’s not really utilizing, or better yet, showing-off any of his usual charisma, or dramatic prowess that we usually see him work with; instead, it’s a much more laid-down, subtle and silent performance. Which is great to see because even though he hardly speaks in this movie, there’s still a certain rush in watching him perform small, but much-needed tasks to keep him alive, as well as safe. He may never tell us what he’s thinking, but he doesn’t have to – the look on his face and dilation of the pupils in his eyes are more than enough.

While this may not be his best performance per se, hopefully, it’s the one that gets him the Oscar this year, once and for all.

Another one who does some great work here and, hopefully, gets some Oscar-attention, is Tom Hardy. While the character of John “Fitz” Fitzgerald isn’t all that much of a layered, or deep one, Hardy shows certain shadings of this character that makes him, despite everything else, watchable. We all get that he’s the villain of this story and will most likely commit every wrongful, immoral act imaginable throughout the course of this flick, but it’s pretty damn hard to take your eyes off of him. Hardy is much to be thanked for that and it just goes to show, that even after mediocre flicks like Legend and Child 44, Hardy can still act his ass off, given the right material to run wild with.

Still can’t understand half of what he says, but hey, at least we’re getting somewhere.

Consensus: Unrelenting and unapologetically bleak, the Revenant is a visceral, mostly beautiful, but altogether rewarding movie-experience that’s probably not made for the whole family, but definitely worth getting fully immersed in, without ever taking your mind or eyes elsewhere.

9 / 10

Not sure what this metaphor's saying, but it sure is a metaphor alright.

Not sure what this metaphor’s saying, but it sure is a metaphor alright.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Wait, what’s “Like a Virgin” actually about?

A group of small-time criminals gang together to perform, what appears to be, a pretty easy and simple jewel heist. However, the situation goes awry for many reasons, leaving the plan to go to crap, some men dead, and suspicions to rise through the roof. One of the main suspicions is that one of the guys involved with the crew, as well as with the heist, is a cop; while Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) disputes this fact, even he too is feeling a bit odd about what had just transpired and where to go from here. This is when the rest of the crew comes into the picture, where everybody’s getting over just what the hell had happened at the heist and who is to be blamed for it – some react more eccentrically than others, of course. Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) wants to get right down to the bottom of who caused this whole mess; Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen) just wants to sit around and hurt people for the heck of it; “Nice Guy” Eddie (Chris Penn) wants to know who screwed-up his daddy’s plan; and while this is all happening, Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) is coming closer and closer to death, as each and every second goes by, what with his gunshot wound and all.

Who does Quentin like more?

Who does Quentin like more?

So yeah, Reservoir Dogs is the sole film that put Quentin Tarantino on the map and for that reason alone, it deserves to be preserved, praise and adored for many years to come. It’s not just that since this was his debut and all that makes it worth talking about 20+ years later, but the fact that it’s still a great movie that deserves to stand alongside the rest of his other creations he’s made in the years since – which is obviously saying a whole lot. But what always keeps me coming back to Reservoir Dogs is the fact that no matter how many times I see it, it never gets old, boring, or annoying.

In fact, it just gets better and better, as mostly everyone of Tarantino’s films do.

However, having now seen this for what appears to be the umpteenth time, I will say if there was one qualm I had with the movie, it’s that it seems like Mr. Orange’s backstory runs on too long. It’s fine to see where he came from and why he matters to the story, but the whole segment concerning him, the story he has to tell to get these violent heavies to like him, and the whole visualization of said story, just feels over-done. It’s like when people complain about Tarantino’s movies nowadays being “too excessive”, as well as “overly-stylized” (both are reservations I understand, but never actually said), I totally understand; it just adds more filler-time to a movie that, quite frankly, doesn’t need it.

Because, for as short as it runs (just under 100 minutes), Reservoir Dogs is a pretty spectacular movie. What Tarantino does best with just about everything he touches, is that he gives his characters their own distinct personalities that matter when you hear them talk to one another, how they relate, and just what it is that they do when handling a heavy situation such as this. Even from the very beginning in the diner, Tarantino lays out all of the cards of which person has what kind of personality, and why they’re worth paying attention to; obviously, once everything gets heated and tense, the movie starts to show more shades of these characters, but it’s always believable and fun, if only because Tarantino sets everything up so perfectly.

And yeah, playing these characters, each and every person is great, showing that they’re clearly capable of handling the “Tarantino speak“, which is probably why most of them have appeared in his films since this.

As an actor himself, Tarantino isn’t anything special, but he’s less in-your-face this time around, so it works when we see him just delivering dialogue that, yes, he wrote, but clearly seems to be fine with letting others deliver as well. Even though it’s not hard to imagine that practically every member of this cast had no idea what they were reading when they picked this script up, it still does not show a single bit, as each member seems ready-to-go and accepting of where this movie takes them. Which is saying something because, for those who have seen Reservoir Dogs, it goes into some pretty crazy and wild places – all of which work and are just as exciting as the last maneuver Tarantino made.

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

But plot mechanics aside, it’s always about the characterizations with Tarantino that works best and it shows especially so with Steve Buscemi’s Mr. Pink. Of course, it’s no surprise to anyone that Buscemi’s a great actor who can appear in anything and still work, but here, he gets a chance to really show his true colors as a character who, for the most part, seems to be the voice of reason. While everyone else is on one side of the room, screaming, yelling and emoting loud enough for aliens on Mars to hear, Mr. Pink is just wondering to himself how the hell he’s going to get out of this situation and who is to blame. In that aspect, Mr. Pink is probably the funniest character of the bunch, which isn’t because he says anything funny, really – it’s just because Buscemi is so great at this kind of high-strung, take-no-crap character, that it’s just a joy to watch.

This isn’t to take away from everyone else here, obviously, but yeah, Buscemi’s the one I continue to think about after seeing this.

Keitel’s White is the more seasoned pro of the cast and clearly seems to be the heart and soul of the story, even when you start to feel even worse for him as the situation continues to loosen-up and get more screwy; Michael Madsen has that cool charm about him that even despite the fact that he’s playing a total and complete psychopath, you still kind of like him; Roth does a lot of yelling and crying, but is good at it enough that, in a way, it’s more fun to listen to than actually poke fun at; Lawrence Tierney’s Joe is always grumpy, but it’s hard not to like; and Chris Penn, playing Joe’s son, makes you feel like he’s a lot more of an a-hole, just because, yeah, Penn’s playing him.

Gosh. Wish that guy was still around.

Consensus: Over twenty years later, Reservoir Dogs reminds us all that Tarantino can write wonderful characters, a punchy script, and keep the violent tension running throughout.

9 / 10

Every group of dudes think they look like this. They're never right.

Every group of dudes think they look like this. They’re never right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Seven Pounds (2008)

If Will Smith is God, does that mean Jaden is Jesus? No!

Tim Thomas (Will Smith) isn’t very happy with his life. For reasons that aren’t known fully well right off the bat, he doesn’t really seem to care about where his life is at right now, so in a way, to make himself feel better or something, he decides to help out the lives of a few people – most of whom, already have enough problems in their own lives. There’s Ezra (Woody Harrelson) a blind meat salesmen who also plays piano and is getting a bit lonely; there’s Connie (Elpidia Carrillo) a mother of two children who isn’t in a very healthy relationship; there’s George (Bill Smitrovich), a man who needs a bone marrow transplant; and last, but certainly not least, there’s Kate (Rosario Dawson), a woman with a weak heart defect. Using some shady I.R.S. credentials of his, Tim finds a way to enter himself into Kate’s life, which, at first, creeps her out, but eventually, she gives into Tim’s persistence and strikes up something of a relationship with him. However, what Kate doesn’t know, is that Tim has a reasoning for all of this guiding and assisting he’s been doing, which will most definitely shock her, as well as the others that he’s been there for in the past few months or so.

Will's sad.

Will’s sad.

Seven Pounds, while definitely a flawed film, is also an interesting one. It’s one of the very few and rare, mainstream, big-budgeted flicks featuring an all-star cast that is as dark and depressing as you would probably get with any small-time indie. That isn’t to say that big-budget movies tend to be happy and pleasant pics, but at the same time, they don’t feature nearly as much dread or misery as Seven Pounds does. Because studios are playing for a much-bigger audience, which therefore, means a whole lot more money’s at-play, most of the time, execs will make a film-maker go back countless times to the editing-room so that it tests well and doesn’t scare too many people away from it.

But oddly enough, it doesn’t seem like a lot of that happened with Seven Pounds.

Instead, bravely enough, both director Gabriele Muccino and screenwriter Grant Nieporte, seem as if they were able to keep the sad tone as they had intended it to, with the incredibly shocking, and even more upsetting end. While you can get on this movie’s case as much as you want with its execution, there’s no denying the fact that it took a lot of guts to make this movie and have it stay the way that it did. And though I won’t get too deep into what happens at the end, I will say this: It’s a big shock.

At the same time, however, it’s a bit silly and abrupt. This is mostly due to the fact that throughout the whole movie, Muccino and Nieporte try their absolute hardest to mask just what this whole plot-line means, why we’re watching it, and what it is that’s driving Will Smith’s character to do all of this nice stuff for all of these random people. By using tiny flashbacks, Muccino doesn’t necessarily fill us all in perfectly on where this is all leading, but he makes it clear that everything is happening for a reason, even if it’s all too simple and easy to understand for its own good.

That said, Seven Pounds is an odd mix of a film that, at times, wants to endearing and heartfelt, but also, miserable and painstakingly mean, even if it tries to talk out against such feelings. Most of this comes through in Smith’s performance as Tim Thomas who, sadly, is a bit too bland for somebody as talented as Smith to work and excel with. Rather than allowing for Smith to try out new shades of his acting talents that we may have not seen already, Smith is instead let-down by the fact that Thomas is a bit of a pessimistic and bland person who, every once and a blue moon, will get up and yell at someone, but soon, change his tune and go back to being quiet and brooding.

Rosario's happy.

Rosario’s happy.

In a way, there seems to be two different characters at-play with Tim Thomas, and it’s a shame that Smith is stuck having to work with it all.

Though Smith doesn’t get nearly as much to do here, Rosario Dawson does eventually take over as Kate, a sweet, honest girl who, by the end of the movie, we definitely feel sorry for. However, that’s one of the biggest problems with Seven Pounds: We never actually get to care for Tim himself. Some could say that’s the point of this movie, but I’d definitely like to argue said point; there are many scenes that depict Tim as both, a selfish and heartless person, but also, others that show him as a sweet person, just trying his hardest to do whatever it is that he can to make sure that those around him are happy and pleasant. Though we’re told Tim’s doing this all for a reason, we still never get to fully figure out just who exactly Tim is, which is why the majority of this flick is just watching as some random dude, goes around to random people, helps them out in random ways, and does it all for some random reason.

Sure, we know that the reason’s going to be explained to us at the end, but that also means sifting through two hours just to get to that final reveal. Which means, that we also gave to sift through a lot of scenes where people scream, cry, smile, kiss, make love, and act nice, yet, none of it ever hit the notes that the film-makers clearly want it to. But hey, Will Smith wanted a movie made and guess what Will Smith got? A movie, starring him, produced by him, that also kind of features him as a nice person.

But then again, maybe not.

Gosh! I still don’t know!

Consensus: As daringly bleak as it may be, even for a mainstream flick, Seven Pounds is still not as emotional or compelling as Will Smith, or anyone else around him, may want it to be.

4 / 10

But together, they're as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

But together, they’re as happy as two people can be! Good for them!

Photos Courtesy of: Comingsoon.net

24 Party Hour People (2002)

PartyposterDrugs make everything better. Even annoying Brits.

Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), from what most people thought, was just another TV anchor forced to do stories on wild animals and old people. But little did some of them know that, after all of the filming was done, Wilson was also a prominent agent for some of the biggest and best British bands of the early-punk and Madchester scene that spanned from the late-70’s, to the early-90’s. Not only did Wilson make the likes of the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays big names in the music biz, but he also help pave the way for how most night clubs should be able to handle these bands while, at the same time, still make a profit. But aside from the business aspect, Wilson also encountered some issues in his personal life, whether he was bouncing from girl-to-girl, drug-to-drug, or band-to-band, he always remained focused on making the music his first and only priority. Even if, occasionally, the bands themselves were a bit too much to handle. But no matter what, Wilson always relied on something to get him through even the biggest hurdles: Drugs. And wow, a whole lot of them, too.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

What’s perhaps the most interesting element of 24 Hour Party People that not only sets it apart from the rest of the musical biopic genre, but also enlivens things, too, is the fact that every so often, Wilson turns to the camera, lets us know what’s going on, what legend has said about a certain incident and mostly, just given his own voice and opinion on things. Not only does this make the movie self-aware, but it also helps make us realize that Wilson, despite his many negative personality-traits, is an honest and relatively understanding human being. However, what’s most interesting about what director Michael Winterbottom does here is that he doesn’t ever give us the full focus on Wilson’s life, even though that’s kind of expected.

Case in point, try the one scene where Wilson meets his ex-wife and child; while we’re expecting it to be a heartfelt, albeit sappy scene trying to make us see and understand Wilson as this kind, loving and caring human being, Wilson then talks to the audience, lets us know that he does have a kid, but also reminds us that this story isn’t wholly about him. In fact, it’s about the music he helped discover and bring to the masses, the parties that constantly arose, and just why it all matters these many years later.

And for that reason, 24 Hour Party People‘s kind of a blast.

Though Winterbottom has a hard task of trying to get the whole Madchester music scene into a near-two-hour-long film, without making it seem like he’s forgotten about anyone important, he somehow is able to make it all come together. Most of this has to do with the fact that Wilson’s constant narration and breaking of the fourth-wall, actually helps us connect the dots; some may say that it’s spoon-feeding the audience and pointing out the obvious, but I look at it as a way of Winterbottom letting us know that, don’t worry, no matter how many bands or names come into the foray here, he’ll still help us out. After all, the Madchester music scene was a crazy one, and if you don’t already know all of the bands and acts going into it, you’ll more than likely get lost in all the havoc and craziness.

Thankfully, like I said, Wilson’s narration helps us all out. And due to this, the movie’s a whole lot of fun. As usual with Coogan’s productions, there’s a lot of humor that comes out of some very dark and serious situations, while at the same time, the movie doesn’t forget about the harsh realities that this music scene brought on. Of course, with the movie featuring Joy Division, it’s obvious that they’d shine a light on Ian Curtis and his suicide, but other than that, there’s still plenty of other sad things that happen. People break-up, people get back together, people gain fame, people lose it, and most of all, people lose sight of their humanity.

Ian Curtis dances weird? You don't say!

There goes Ian Curtis giving hope to all white people who think they can dance.

But no matter what 24 Hour Party People is entertaining.

Maybe it’s not as heavy as it should have been, but considering it’s a musical biopic that doesn’t try to preach any ideas about drug addiction, or fame, or money, it’s definitely “different”, for lack of a better term. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also got a nice bit of insight into how the world of music works, how people get into place when a certain craze is beginning to take over, and just how easy it is for people to get wrapped up in all of it. Though Wilson loves good music, first and foremost, he also loves money and making plenty of it, which is why it’s neat to see his perspective on what one has to do to ensure that their nightclub makes as much profit as it should. While this definitely takes the movie away from the music, and more towards the business of what went on around it, it still adds up to creating this whole scene and why it was so great to be apart of.

And like I made a mention of before, Coogan is definitely a fine source for us to follow and see all of this happen around. Coogan’s great at playing level-headed a-holes, but here, there’s a bit more to Wilson that makes him seem more humane than usual. Still though, this movie isn’t a biopic on his life, as much as it’s about all those countless bands and people he met, which is why the ensemble has some of the finest heavy-hitters in England. The likes of Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Andy Serkis (not in mo-cap gear), Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, and of course, plenty more, all give their two cents here, are fun, lively and round out a party worth being apart of and checking out.

Even if, you know, you didn’t get an invitation to it in the first place.

Consensus: With a smart, attentive eye to detail and facts, 24 Hour Party People isn’t just an insightful piece, but also a very funny, exciting film that perfectly captures the Madchester scene, the bands and all the other people who are alive and well during its reign.

8 / 10

Steve Coogan? Happy! You don't say!

Steve Coogan? Happy? You don’t say!

Photos Courtesy of: Stand By For Mind Control, Now Very Bad, VH Corner

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)

People, hide your money under your mattresses.

Why exactly did the Stock Market crash in 2008? Well, Michael Moore, using his notorious tactics, will try to find that out, while at the same time, still shinning a light on what exactly is capitalism. And while many may see the U.S. as a capitalist-free society, Moore shows just how exactly capitalism operates in the U.S. and why it’s probably not the best idea to allow for the wealthiest of the wealthy to make it out to of certain financial predicaments alive. Moore also puts some focus on those said human beings who, despite being responsible for some of the biggest financial downfalls in U.S. history, are still able to get away with it all through bail-outs, general support from shady characters, and the will of the citizens who are, sadly, still paying for the mistakes made by these immoral and sometimes, downright evil, pieces of human specimen. But of course, this being a Michael Moore documentary, there’s plenty of time dedicated to those who lost their jobs in the crisis, and just what it is that they’re trying to do next to survive and thrive in an economy that, quite frankly, doesn’t know if it can contain them, or give them any help whatsoever.

Who wouldn't want Michael Moore into their building?

Who wouldn’t want Michael Moore into their building?

As is usually the case with Michael Moore and the movies he creates, you tend to get more of a sermon, rather than an actual life-lesson learned. Though there’s no denying the fact that every documentary film-maker has an agenda from the very start, some are obviously better at hiding it than others. Whereas some directors are more known for playing the middle-ground and letting it be known that they’re not necessarily trying to force you feel a certain way, but instead, presenting the facts for what they are and allowing for you, the audience, to come up with your own conclusions (Erroll Morris). Then, there are other directors who tend to just tell you what they want you to think right away, present facts as to why you should, and do his absolute best, but not-at-all subtle way, to strong-arm you into thinking the same he does.

And yes, this kind of director is in fact, Michael Moore.

But that isn’t to say that this approach is a bad one, as it’s definitely helped such flicks like Sicko and Bowling for Columbine really hit hard and at-home, regardless of how you felt about either the health-care system, or violence in the states, respectively. Here, when approaching the subject of capitalism and all of the other factors that were at-play with the financial crisis of 2008, Moore shows that he clearly has an agenda set and ready for this movie, but at the same time, it’s not hard to actually join in his frustration and outrage. After all, the people he’s talking out against here are in fact those who are held solely responsible for what occurred on Wall Street in 2008, which is to say that if you feel bad for them, or in a way, want them to be given an equal trial just as the others focused on here, then you shouldn’t be watching this movie in the first place.

Granted, Moore could have definitely done a bit more focusing on the opposite side of the coin that he loves to attack and prod, but really, he does an effective job at just presenting them with all of the mistakes and follies they’ve committed over the years, that it’s hard to really expect him to ever bother with getting actual interviews from any of them. After all, Moore believes that this movie is for the people who got screwed over in the crisis, and as such, we get to hear from a lot of them, their stories, what jobs they had, what they lost in their lives when they lost their jobs, and most importantly, how they’re doing now just to try and scrape by. Moore loves these kinds of sentimental, almost too-hokey stories to thrown into the mix of all his reporting and casual stunts, and while they’re nonetheless corny here, they still work.

Moore taking on the White House? What else is new?!?

Moore taking on the White House? What else is new?!?

For one, they’re real people we are seeing in front of our eyes. It’s hard to dispute the fact that these people have lost their jobs and have in fact, been trying to do what they can with what they’ve got, and just however much they got left after the stock market crashed. Of course, most of the time, it’s all about context with a movie like this, and because Moore is clear from the very start of what he’s trying to say and do, it still works.

At the same time, the reason these life-affirming interviews don’t hit as well as they have done in Moore’s past flicks, is because they’re caught in a mix and mash of a whole bunch of other stuff going on.

At nearly two-hours-and-ten-minutes, Capitalism is a pretty long movie. However, what’s weird about that fact is that it probably could have been a little longer and possibly benefited from the added-on time. Right from the very start, Moore makes it clear to the audience that he’s going to make us fully understand everything there is to understand about capitalism, which is fine and all, but in order to do so, he goes through all of these other hoops and alley-ways to discuss why capitalism is relevant to today’s issues. By doing this, Moore runs the risk of losing his audience and while he tries his absolute hardest to make sure all of the info is easy to decipher for any layman, he still misses the mark on delivering what he set-out to do in the first place: Actually explain what capitalism is all about.

Granted, I know exactly what capitalism is, but watching the movie and seeing how Moore tries to draw lines between that topic, as well as the current day’s economy (this movie came out over six years ago, however, much is still the same), and he loses himself a bit. With all the countless interviews, pie-charts, facts, ideas, and dramatic music, Moore gets a little too loose for his own good and forgets what he made this movie for in the first place. That isn’t to say that Capitalism doesn’t have a true message at the dead-center of it, but maybe next time, Mikey, give us a bit more time and space to cobble everything up together.

Consensus: Capitalism: A Love Story presents a very dark side of the American economy, and while it doesn’t always gel well together, Moore still offers plenty of fine and interesting insights into just what went wrong on that fateful day in 2008, and how we can all move forward, as a whole.

7 / 10

Let 'em hear it, Mike! But hey, less preaching.

Let ’em hear it, Mike! But hey, less preaching.

Photos Courtesy of: Joblo, Indiewire

The Ridiculous 6 (2015)

RidiculousposterAt least Tarantino has a Western coming out.

In the old West, a man by the name of Tommy Stockburn (Adam Sandler) is raised by Native Americans, where everyone calls him “White Knife”. While he doesn’t know who his real father is, he still hopes to meet him one eventual day. After getting kidnapped by a bunch of bad, evil bandits, Stockburn finally understands who his father is (Nick Nolte), which leads him on a trip. Along the way, he ends up meeting 5 other men who, believe it or not, also happen to be his brothers and looking for their father as well. There’s Chico (Terry Crews), a black man who doesn’t know that he’s black; there’s Herm (Jorge Garcia), who can’t speak a single discernible line of dialogue; there’s the slow and obviously mentally challenged Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner); there’s the slippery Hispanic named Ramon (Rob Schneider); and last, but not least, there’s the cool and suave Danny (Luke Wilson). Together, they will search far and wide for their father, while at the same time, also stopping any wrong-doings they encounter along the way.

PT, where are you?

PT, where are you?

Why is Netflix making an Adam Sandler movie? Better yet, why are they making not one, not two, and hell, not three, but actually four Adam Sandler movies? Well, folks, in the biz, that’s what we like to call “profit”. Apparently a lot of Sandler’s movies are exceptionally popular on Netflix and it brings into question just in what capacity people want to actually watch his movies.

Do they either want to get in their cars, drive a half-hour, spend nearly $20 on tickets and concessions, watch and spend a few good hours of their lives watching as Sandler and all of his pals get paid vacations? Or do they want to just sit at home, think of something to do, and when push comes to shove, just watch them? Because, if you think about it, it doesn’t really cost much to begin with, so what’s the big deal?

But no matter which way you put it, you should not see the Ridiculous 6. Even though it’s not getting the same treatment as Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation and not playing in any actual movie theaters, it still doesn’t matter. You should not see this movie so therefore, just don’t even bother getting into your Netflix account, either.

Just stay away and spend time with your friends, families, or whoever else, cause anything would be better.

And yes, I know I sound incredibly dramatic right now, but seriously, it’s the truth. Not only is the Ridiculous 6 nearly two-hours long, but it has hardly a laugh to be found. There was maybe one chuckle or two to be found, but other than that? Nope. For the most part, it’s the same as it is with just about every other Sandler movie: The jokes are lazy, tired, and most of the times, offensive to just about every demographic out there in society.

This is something obvious to expect from a Happy Madison production, but what surprises me so much is how this movie, at times, seems to be trying to parody other Westerns. The Magnificent Seven is the clear genre example they use to poke fun at, but honestly, you’d never notice unless you actually saw that movie to begin with; there’s no real actual jokes made at the expense at the genre, or any attempt to be satirical. Everything is, as it appears to be, just made for the sake of being jokes and having people laugh, which surprisingly enough, doesn’t actually seem to happen.

Which is all the more depressing because you take a look at the cast and realize that most of these people involved don’t need this movie to help them out, either financially or professionally speaking.

A lot of Sandler’s buddies like Nick Swardson, David Spade, Dan Patrick, Rob Schneider, and Jon Lovitz all show up and it’s no surprise that they’re here, so it’s not all that upsetting when they show their faces here. However, it’s the likes of people like Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Steve Zahn, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, and well, yes, even Taylor Lautner, who actually make me sad because you know they don’t really need the help at all. They’ve all got fine careers to begin with and are probably making as much money as Hollywood stars in their positions should be, so why are they even bothering with this? Is it just a favor to Sandler? Or is it just because they’re bored, the paycheck looked that nice, and well, they didn’t really give a hoot?

Keep on looking, boys, you're not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Keep on looking, boys, you’re not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Whatever the reasons were, it’s just a shame to see them all here trying to do what they can with an awful script, a misguided direction from, yet again, another one of Sandler’s buddies, Frank Coraci, and jokes that nobody in their right mind would try to deliver. That none of the jokes actually land, also call into question just what Sandler actually considers “humor” nowadays. Because Sandler co-wrote the script here, my mind automatically shoots to assuming that he did it because he had a contract obligation and decided to piece together a bunch of non-sequiturs and lame gags, regardless of if he actually found them funny.

Because yes people, Adam Sandler actually is funny.

However, here, as with the countless other flicks in his long career, he’s hardly shown it. As an actor, he seems awfully tired and bored here, which already makes me wish that somebody who is actually an innovative, intelligent director would pick him back up and give him something to do. This is something I state in just about every review of an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s the truth: Now, after all of these stinkers, it’s become more and more clear that he doesn’t care, is just collecting the money that flows in, and is going to continue to keep on making hack-jobs such as this. When it will end, nobody knows. All I do know is that Adam Sandler has clearly given up and you know what?

We’ve got three more of these movies.

Enjoy, folks.

Consensus: As expected, the Ridiculous 6 is another one of Adam Sandler’s hack-fests where jokes fly, yet, never land, everybody looks embarrassed, and everyone feels as if they’ve just lost hours of their lives they can’t get back. Except, in this case, it’s two hours.

1 / 10

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Photos Courtesy of: Joblo, Hollywood Life

Youth (2015)

Hope I die before I get old. Or probably not.

At a fancy health spa located somewhere in Switzerland, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) walks around aimlessly, thinking about life, love and his career that he’s had. During one point in his life, Ballinger was a renowned conductor/composer who has, for personal reasons, lost the will to record, or better yet, live. Granted, he doesn’t want to kill himself, but he doesn’t really appreciate life quite as well as his dear best buddy, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), does. Boyle’s different from Ballinger in that he thinks that he’s got some of his best work ahead of him, which is why he’s currently stationed in this spa with four younger confidantes, working on what he pledges to be “a testament to cinema”. However, while together in this spa, the both realize that not only has life passed them by, but that they’ve also got to do something with the last couple good years of their lives they have left. This means that they do a lot more walking, talking, swimming, sun-bathing, and oh yeah, ogling at hot chicks.

Just as old men tend to do.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

My cocaine not happy with white walls.

No matter what problems persist in Youth, there’s no denying that writer/director Paolo Sorrentino has an eye for beauty. Every shot in Youth, feels as perfectly calculated and put-together as you’d expect a Renaissance portrait to be, but instead of feeling as if he’s just being showy, it just somehow works and you get used to it. That Sorrentino set the movie, first and foremost, in the lovely countryside of Sweden, already allows for him to shoot any scene, whichever way he wants and it’s hard to take your eyes off. Of course, this is perhaps best seen on the big screen, but no matter what screen or aspect-ratio it’s seen on, Youth is a beautiful movie.

Which is a shame that it’s script is a bit annoying.

For one, a lot of the visuals that Sorrentino sets up here only seem to exist for the sole purpose that they’re metaphors and that’s it. While I have no problem with the visual-imagery here being displayed as shiny and bright metaphors, the issue with Youth is that the screenplay itself starts drive home the same kinds of points that the visuals are trying to get across, so after awhile, it just feels like over-kill. It’s almost as if the movie didn’t trust having a scene in which Michael Caine’s character went out into the middle of the woods and started imagining a piece of music he would create using only nature’s sounds to drive home the point of getting old and losing one’s mojo, that they had to have him constantly go on and discuss with just about everyone he comes into contact with.

And honestly, this wouldn’t have been too bad to listen to, except for the fact that what these characters all talk about, only serve one purpose and one purpose only: To preach. It’s hard to listen to characters talk about their own mortality and aging-process, when it seems like they’re reading free-form poetry; had more of the dialogue been a tad bit more naturalistic, the conversations these characters have probably wouldn’t have been so nauseating at certain points. It’s obvious from the very start that these characters are all going to be sad about getting old and realizing their time has come, but give us more reasons to care for that and not just go, “Oh, well it’s sad. But hey, look at this pretty bird and how Michael Caine so adoringly gazes at it.”

Perhaps less navel-gazing would have helped Youth in the long-run, but really, I’m not sure.

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

Old men sneaking a peek. What else is new?

All I do know is that what Youth benefits from the most, aside from Sorrentino’s keen eye for detail, is that the ensemble here is just terrific. Of course, Michael Caine plays Fred Ballinger to near-perfection, as it genuinely seems like he’s touched by this character’s willingness to keep his career on-halt, even though there’s much more demand for him to come back to the stage and continue making music. There’s one scene in particular that shows Caine’s true connection to this character, when he lets loose on why he doesn’t want to perform any of his old material for and in front of the Queen, and it’s quite emotional, but well-done as well. While not much of Youth is subtle, Caine still finds a way to peak underneath the cracks and slip a little piece of it every now and then.

While it’s weird to see Harvey Keitel being cast as Michael Caine’s best friend here, surprisingly, it works. Because Ballinger and Mick Boyle are so different in ways, it’s fun and interesting to hear them go on and on about their careers, their interests, women they’ve slept with, and their history together. It’s hard to imagine that Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine would ever sit down and have a fully-functioning conversation, let alone, be besties, but still, the two make it work and it was also nice to see Keitel dig hard and deep into a meaty role that we haven’t seen him get for quite some time. And yeah, Paul Dano shows up as a “serious actor” working in Switzerland, whereas Rachel Weisz plays Ballinger’s heart-broken and pissed-off daughter, and both do good work here and it’s nice to see them round it all out.

However, the one who probably walks away with the whole show, is Jane Fonda showing up in nearly two scenes as Brenda Morel, a friend and co-worker of Mick Boyle.

Though Fonda appears seemingly out of nowhere, she takes over the whole movie by showing that her Brenda Morel character is, most importantly, the exact kind of worker in the biz that Youth seems so obsessed with focusing on. Even though her best years have gone past her and, quite frankly, she’s holding on to her career and fame by a thread, Morel’s still trying to keep herself busy and relevant, even in a world that could probably care less about her. She won’t give up and won’t let anybody stand in her way, which is why her scene, while hilarious and exciting (something the rest of Youth really isn’t), is probably the most heart-breaking. Fonda’s terrific in this role because even though she gets maybe only 15 minutes of screen-time, she delivers us everything we need to know about this character, from the very first second we get with her, to the last and it’s hard not to stop and think about her when all is said and done.

Consensus: As pretentious as it can occasionally be, Youth still offers up some wonderful visuals, as well as a great couple of performances from both veterans and stars alike, that all give a little extra to the sad, but true message of the movie.

7 / 10

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor.

Pictured: Metaphor upon Metaphor

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Sisters (2015)

Family homes were always the best ones to trash.

Kate and Maura Ellis (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) are sisters who clearly love one another and get along swimmingly, even if their own, respective lives have taken a bit of different turns. For Kate, being the crazy and wild party girl that she is, had herself a kid, hasn’t been able to secure a sustaining job, and seems to be going from couch-to-couch. Whereas for Maura, who was always the over-achiever of the two, always used her kind skills for the greater good of society, even if it did cost her her own marriage. However, all of these years later, they come back together and reunite in their family home, now that it’s being put on the market by their parents who just want to sit down, relax, and retire in place. Seeing as how this house is their one last chance for any sense of fun or memorable excitement, Kate and Maura decide that it’s time to throw a huge bash, where friends from the past and present, all come together for an unforgettable night of booze, sex, and drugs. Thing is, all the great times begin to catch up to Maura and Kate, and they eventually have to come to terms with growing up and realize that they do have responsibilities in life.

The sisters that live together...

The sisters that live together…

Sisters is the kind of comedy we’ve seen before, where two women get back together after all of these years apart, and relive their glory days. Sometimes, the consequences are drastic, embarrassing, and funny, but for the most part, they always end up learning a lesson by the end that not only makes them better people as a whole, but may make the audience-members, too. This has all been done to death by now and has become something of a total convention.

However, what Sisters has that none of those other flicks has, is the wonderful pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who, honestly, haven’t been funnier.

One of the main reasons for that is because, believe it or not, Sisters is rated-R, which means that there’s more time for raunchiness, more time for cursing, and just more time for general debauchery. This all adds up to a movie made by adults, made for adults, and clearly isn’t screwing around with what it’s willing to do, where it’s willing to go, or hard it’s going to try and make you laugh. For that reason and that reason alone, Sisters is the kind of comedy that should be appreciated and held up on a high-standard when compared to most other R-rated comedies that don’t tend to go that extra mile.

Instead, most of the time (like, I don’t know, say Judd Apatow movies), they tend to just rely on crazy improvisation that seems to go nowhere and end exactly there. However, in Sisters, there’s gags that get introduced right away, continue to pop-up and, yet, believe it, actually reach a certain climax in a way that’s not only effective, not only hilarious, but actually smart. Whereas a weaker comedy would have just introduced the simple gag as a small throw-away line, Sisters continues to knock at it for what’s it worth; occasionally, this means that a gag that doesn’t land well the first time, continues to get forced down our throats again and again, but for the most part, it still doesn’t matter.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Sisters is funny.

In fact, it’s a very funny movie that, considering it’s about a party that never seems to end, is actually quite fun and exciting, just as a party of this magnitude would and should be. Granted, the near two-hour run-time of the movie (which is already too long) is filled about half-way with this party, but that isn’t a complaint: The party starts off slow and lame, but after awhile, starts to pick up and eventually, it’s an amazingly great time that, quite frankly, you won’t want to miss out on or be anywhere else for. Of course, the party does consist of funny, attractive people being both funny, as well as attractive, but still, what’s so wrong with that?

..are also the ones that shop together...

..are also the ones that shop together…

As long as it’s fun, who cares!

And speaking of funny and attractive people, Fey and Poehler are definitely at the top of the list for this movie and show that they’re deserving of any movie they ever want to make together. What’s interesting here about each one of their performances is that they’re both kind of playing a bit against-type; Fey, usually more reserved, professional and serious, takes over the role usually taken by Poehler, where she’s vibrant, rude, and brassy, whereas Poehler, with shades of Leslie Knope, seems to be taking Fey’s role. Either way you put it, both are clearly having a great time, whether they’re together or on their own – which is something that transcends well onto the rest of the movie. Of course, Fey and Poehler aren’t the only ones who have fun times here as the likes of John Leguizamo, Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Moynihan, Samantha Bee, Maya Rudolph, and most of all, John Cena, all join in on the fun, bring something to the table, and seem to go home incredibly pleased and happy with themselves.

However, where Sisters runs into a problem with itself is the fact that it is, yes, very long and definitely shouldn’t be. By the end, it becomes clear that once revelations are made and people start to get emotions and whatnot, the movie is clearly coming up on its final reel. Problem is, the movie continues to go on and on and on, until it’s almost as if the movie’s trying to imitate Return of the King, but without being satirical – it just has a crap-ton of endings, none of which are really any better than the others.

Then, it ends and everything gets a bit better. Even though there’s an annoying blooper-reel that doesn’t do much else except show that everybody involved, clearly enjoyed working with one another, the movie still ends on a sold enough that, when it’s all said and done, it’s fine. The movie could have ended way sooner than it did, but hey, at least it made us all laugh.

Which, for any comedy made in the 21st Century, is a-okay with me.

Consensus: Despite being lengthy, Sisters is still an uproarious R-rated comedy featuring smart people, doing and making jokes for audience members who deserve to pay closer attention to certain stuff that goes on.

8 / 10

..as well as party hard together.

..as well as party hard together.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

Apparently, we needed more fluffy creatures.

After he lost his hand and found out just exactly who his daddy is, Luke (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewie (Peter Mayhew), and of course, the rest of the gang get together in hopes of saving the now-frozen Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the lair of notorious crime boss Jabba the Hutt, who now has him set-up as a set decoration of sorts. Mostly though, what the gang is looking to achieve here is that they’re able to get the Rebel Alliance all back together so that they can make one final push to take down the Empire once and for all. Issue is, the Sith is stronger than ever and, for the moment, seems as if they’re not afraid of a challenge. However, because Luke feels as if the force is strongest with him than ever before, he’s extra determined to take on the Sith, even if that does also mean he’ll have to take down his own father – someone he’s trying to connect with and change back to the bright side, but also knows that it may be a lost cause.

Meanwhile, Ewoks show up.

A goner, he is.

A goner, he is.

One of the main issues with finales in a series, is that they tend not to live up to everybody’s expectations. This is especially true in the case of Return of the Jedi, which, not only had the huge expectation of being a Star Wars movie, but also had to follow up both A New Hope, as well as the Empire Strikes Back. If anything, the odds were totally stacked against Return of the Jedi and well, needless to say, the wall sort of came tumbling down on it.

For one, Lucas’ writing, if anything, seems lazy here. Perhaps for the first half-hour or so, we spend watching what happens in Jabba’s little club of sorts and instead of feeling like a necessary bit of scenery that’s interesting to see, it just feels over-done, drawn-out, and most importantly, an excuse for Lucas to give us more odd-looking creatures that kiddies can soon buy the toys of not too long after watching. Of course, Jabba is a terribly disgusting and vile creature, but Lucas only seems interested in just how dirty he is, and that’s about it. The first sequence of this flick could have easily been chopped-down to at least 15 minutes, but instead, Lucas continues to go on and on with this and it seems to suck out a good portion of the movie’s energy.

Then, in come the Ewoks.

Granted, when I was younger, watching the Ewoks waddle around, speak in their funny gibberish, and be so fluffy and hairy that you wonder how they look on your wall, that I couldn’t help but love them. Nowadays, I still feel the same, but at the same time, realize that they’re what does in Return of the Jedi. If anything, the Ewoks are, tonally, out-of-place; they’re cute, goofy, and perfect for little kids to point at and adore. However, the rest of the movie, as it seems to be, is actually pretty dark and epic, therefore, the movie as a whole feels like a bit of a mess. One second, we’ll be watching the Ewoks tie clones up in the house-sized nets, the next, we’ll be watching as Luke and Vader battle one another.

Clearly, Lucas was solely trying to sell merchandise here, and while there’s no problem with that in the long run of things, it helps to make people wonder just where his head was for this final flick? Was he trying to close everything up in a neat, little bow-tie? Or, was he just trying to wait around and see when the paycheck comes in? Whatever the truth may be, either way, something still doesn’t sit right for about a good portion of this movie and it’s all the more disappointing that, for mostly everybody at the time, this was the ultimate flick to end the original franchise.

Fathers: Can't trust 'em for anything.

Fathers: Can’t trust ’em for anything.

After this, there was supposed to be nothing else. So why go out on such a tame note?

Either way, Return of the Jedi isn’t as bad as people make it out to be – but at the same time, it still doesn’t feel like a whole lot of effort on Lucas’ part was given. The final battle between Luke and Vader is pretty awesome, the speeder chase scene still works, and yeah, watching as Han takes out baddies, is more than welcome by this point, but still, there’s something missing here that made it all work to begin with. There’s not enough heart and soul with this story, these characters, or just what this universe means. We know that the Death Star is bad, but really, that’s all we need to know and/or get to know.

And of course, everyone in Return of the Jedi feels as if they’re going through the motions again, but also don’t really benefit from a worthwhile script make them work harder and harder. Hamill’s Luke is a bit too serious now; Leia is nothing more than a sexy, objectified object for everyone to point and stare at; Solo doesn’t have much of anything witty or fun to say, so he just sort of coasts around this movie; and yeah, of course Vader is still freaky and evil.

But really, when was he not?

If anything, what Return of the Jedi proves perhaps best about Lucas is that, when push doesn’t come to shove, he could really care less. He’s happy to write anything down, give it a try and wait till the movie’s themselves all hit number 1. Not bad for a businessman, but this is the same guy most people trust with their childhood.

And how dare he let them down.

Consensus: By far the weakest of the original franchise, Return of the Jedi finds Lucas in too much of a comfort-zone and keeps the final installment, from being the most epic, memorable and exciting.

5.5 / 10

The gang's back together and clearly more bored than ever!

The gang’s back together and clearly more bored than ever!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Everyone’s got daddy issues.

After a few years have passed, we pick up back in the Galaxy that is still, yes, far, far away, and now has Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) along with the rest of the Dark Side searching far and wide for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and and the rest of the motley crew Luke has been aligning himself with. Which means, yes, people like Han (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) are all still together, joined up with the rebels and trying to fight the good cause. However, everything turns South for the Rebel Alliance and everyone involved finds themselves left heading for the hills and looking for any refuge. Meanwhile, Luke gets stuck in a dirty, disgusting and grimy swamp that just so happens to have a little green friend of his that he may not know he needs, but will soon start to learn and understand just about everything a Jedi should know by him.

Yeah, I’m talking about Yoda (Frank Oz), in case I didn’t make that a bit clear by now.

Empire1

“Something holding you down, you feel?”

The Empire Strikes Back is where everything in the Star Wars universe gets very, very real. And is the case with most sequels, all the Empire Strikes Back has to do here is keep the story moving on, but never really feel the need to tie-up any loose-ends, either – in other words, everyone involved had a pretty easy task to just keep the story moving in a fun, entertaining manner for all of the fans to go crazy for. However, there’s a little something here.

For one, this movie’s just chock full of darkness that you hardly see coming. While with A New Hope, there were a few surprises in the way of emotionally-compelling moments, here, everything feels as if it was made to test out just how much you felt for these characters, the galaxy in which they live in, and realized just the kind of circumstances that were being fought for here. Which is to say that yes, it’s very hard not to get wrapped-up all in what the Empire Strikes Back does; even though he didn’t direct it, George Lucas’ inspiration is still felt through just about each and every frame.

Sure, we still get the little witty lines in between the havoc and violence, but they’re more or less pushed to the side here so that we can get more duking it out between skilled-fighters and tense moments that put the audience in a tail-spin of not knowing what to expect. You could say that maybe it’s a bit ridiculous to think that Lucas would have such the guts to kill-off a major character of this series in only the second movie, but honestly, while watching it, you’ll hardly ever think about that. You’ll just have that feeling that anything can happen because, well, Lucas’ universe says so.

That’s perhaps what’s missing from each and every other Star Wars flick, and it’s what keeps the Empire Strikes Back exciting.

But like I said, there’s of course more going on here than just a bunch of wild and crazy fun – there’s actually a solid amount of heart here that makes it hit harder. All of the scenes including Yoda and Luke, while getting off to a bit of a shaky start, work perfectly together as they’re not just a tad goofy and playful, but also, honest and sincere. In order for Luke to man up and become something of a better Jedi, he has to make his own self more disciplined and smarter, and to see how Yoda teaches him all of these tricks of the trade, is still an interesting watch. “The force”, in and of itself, may be made-up of total and absolute crap, but watching Yoda teach Luke on that subject is hard to look past.

Not to mention that Hamill’s acting gets a bit better here, as mostly everybody’s does. However, what mostly helps everybody out here is the fact that the script is more centered around what’s going on with them, how they feel, and less about where the plot’s heading towards and what type of cool action’s going to come up next. Granted, the movie still does both later options, which aren’t bad, but they don’t get in the way of the meat of this story and help remind us that, first and foremost, Star Wars is about its characters.

See? Luke's a bit more bad-ass now.

See? Luke’s a bit more bad-ass now.

Like I said, Yoda is great here and there’s no way to mince words about that fact. Frank Oz could do voices for days and it’s just great to see how much time and effort he put into making a strange creature like Yoda actually work. And yeah, while I’m on the subject of newcomers, Billy Dee Williams is a welcome-addition as Lando Calrissian, who is as fly as a spaceman as they come. Williams adds a nice level of cool charm to this character that makes him likable, but also not trustworthy enough and it’s what helps us put us in the same situation that Han has to go through.

Speaking of Han, Harrison Ford continues to kill it as everybody’s favorite anti-hero. However, what guides Ford this time around, is the fact that he and Fisher truly do have a bit of fun and fiery chemistry together that, honestly, you just want them to both drop the B.S., rip each other’s clothes off, and get it on like Donkey Kong. While this is a kids movie and we clearly know that’s not feasible in the PG-world, still, it’s an idea that’s hard to get out of your head once it’s in.

That’s because Ford and Fisher (who, oddly enough, got rid of her British accent), are so good together that, through it all, you want to see them together at the end. But of course, for most of us who know, the ending of this flick leaves us in two cliffhangers, both of which I won’t bother to speak about, but will say that they’re effective.

And that’s it.

Consensus: As a sequel, the Empire Strikes Back is not only heartfelt and exciting, but emotional to sit by, even if you know there’s one more movie left to go.

9 / 10

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

And nerds everywhere, were never the same.

A teenage farmhand who goes by the name of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has certain aspirations for greatness that go further than just collecting bots for his Uncle and Aunt, fixing them, and not reallly doing much else. However, through what seems to be a course of some life-changing moments and experiences in a very short span of time, he finds himself start to train to become a true jedi, one who can be trusted on to save the galaxy from the evil dark side. He learns all of his moves and skills from an older fellow named Obi-Wan (Alec Guiness) who, through his teachings, makes him understand how to control his force and not get carried away at all with it all. This then leads both of them to get caught up in a plot to rescue a princess named Leia (Carrie Fisher), forcing an alignment with two bad-asses of space called Han Solo and Chewbacca (Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew), and taking on perhaps the greatest force of all, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones). However, little does Luke know just how hard this task will be and what it will take for someone as unskilled as him to take down a whole empire.

Always trust in these three.

Always trust in these three.

What’s there to say about A New Hope that hasn’t already been said? For one, the movie’s an absolute classic, and that’s not just talking about the movie itself. More or less, the movie changed Hollywood and the movie-world as we known it; space operas had been done before Star Wars ever came out, but this one, despite its meager budget, list of no-name actors, and total cult-appeal, somehow destroyed the box-office and became the billion-dollar juggernaut that it is today.

And for that reason alone, George Lucas will always and forever have my respect.

Sure, the past decade or so has proven that maybe dear ol’ George has fallen a bit far from the cork tree, but regardless, nobody will ever forget just what sort of guts it took for someone like George Lucas, to make a movie like Star Wars, and then actually go somewhere with it all in the end. In a way, it’s the American Dream: Making an original movie, full of your own, crazy and unique ideas, doing everything your own self, and allowing for the rest of the world to see, only to have everyone accept it, love it and want to see more of it. Of course, along with that Dream, comes plenty of money, greed and vanity, but hey, none of that dark stuff now! This, my friends, is a happy story about how one George Lucas made a movie like Star Wars and ultimately, changed the movie landscape as we know it.

But seriously, aside from all the cultural significance this flick holds, it’s still pretty great in its own right. What surprised me so much about checking out A New Hope, even after all of these years, is how funny it actually was; people will mostly get swamped remembering the later movies and how corny Lucas’ sense of humor was, but honestly, the guy was actually a pretty nifty writer. Are the jokes silly? Of course they are, but there’s a sense of actual fun and play going on here that makes this movie such a better watch than some of the others; while Lucas may want his material to be taken seriously, he still can’t keep himself away from a witty line to deliver on. But still, it all works well with the rest of the movie and doesn’t feel just thrown in there for short measure.

Perhaps what has A New Hope stand the test of time, for as long as it has, is the fact that Lucas introduced so many iconic characters and seemed to actually do something with them.

Luke is, as made out to be, the quintessential hero of this story who may be naive and a bit bitchy, but also dreams for something more out of his life. While Hamill may get a lot of crap thrown at him for not being the best actor out of the bunch here, there’s still a certain amount of sweetness to his character-arch that makes him work and seem like more than just your ordinary hero. He’s on a quest, for sure, but because he’s so clean and good, it’s hard to hate the guy, either.

Then, of course, there’s Alec Guiness as Obi-Wan who, despite being the most acclaimed and skilled actor out of the bunch here, fits perfectly. Granted, Guiness doesn’t have much more to do here except go on and on about “the force” and how to control it, but really, he’s such a seasoned pro, he can make talking about rocks sound as compelling as they probably shouldn’t be. The fact that he and Darth Vader were, at one point in their lives, adversaries, makes it all the more interesting to watch, especially once they have that final duel between one another.

Speaking of Darth, James Earl Jones was perhaps the most perfect choice to voice this character. While we all know now that Darth Vader wasn’t actually played by Jones, it still doesn’t matter because his voice is so husky, rough and manly, that it’s absolutely terrifying to hear him get mad at someone, or just talk in general. The breathing’s scary, too, in that you don’t know why he’s doing it or where it’s coming from, but regardless, there’s just something awfully intimidating about seeing a man, dressed in an all black, nearly-identical Nazi-outfit, coming at you from afar.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi's, to another.

One generation of cool-ass Jedi’s, to another.

Not to mention the fact that, yes, he’s voiced by James Earl Jones.

But still, there’s so many more iconic characters to speak about that, honestly, it’s hard to go on about them without sounding like nothing more than just a cliche. Of course, Harrison Ford is the perfect anti-hero who, rather than try and save the girl because he’s a nice guy, would much rather do so to just get some sex (like most of us men out there); Chewbacca never makes sense, but it’s hard not to laugh whenever he and Solo communicate; C-3PO and R2-D2 are like a married couple and have the most charming love-hate relationship ever seen on the big screen; and yes, Carrie Fisher was not only as cute as a button playing Leia, but also worked well as the character because she’s not just a bad-ass gal, but one who can take care of herself and get stuff done whenever the men are just sitting around on their rumps, thinking of what to do next.

There’s more here (like Porkins), but yeah, you get the point – A New Hope has so many great, memorable characters to talk about, that to do so, would just be overkill.

However, what always has me coming back to A New Hope and remembering it for how great it truly was, and still is to this day, is the universal feeling of doing something that’s not only extraordinary, but better for the rest of mankind. It’s the kind of inspirational message that almost every movie made for young kids tries to tap into, but so rarely actually deliver on; however, without even trying, Lucas has our heads in the stars, dreaming for days, and wanting to do something special with what we’re given. Whether that’s making a billion-dollar-grossing movie, or saving the galaxy from evil clones, it doesn’t matter.

Continue to dream and you know what? Maybe it can happen to you, too.

Consensus: A New Hope not only changed the movie-business as a whole, but offered up iconic characters, an inspirational tale for the decades, and gave us reason to trust in George Lucas, even if he did sort of screw all of that up later on in his career.

10 / 10

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Who shot first? Well, George, thanks to you, the world may never know.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Baby Mama (2008)

Who doesn’t have baby mama drama?

Kate (Tina Fey) is a businesswoman who, for the most part, has been pleased with her life thus far. She has a good job, a nice apartment in Philadelphia, and generally considers her life simple and easygoing enough that she doesn’t have to worry about too much. Problem is, there’s one thing that she really wants to do with her life that sadly, she may not be able to do: Have a child. Due to her being infertile, Kate has not been able to, no matter how hard she has tried, to naturally have a child; so, she takes the next best step in the matter, which leads her to becoming apart of a surrogacy program. In the surrogacy program, for those who don’t know what that means, Kate’s baby will, through sperm injections and all sorts of other medical shenanigans, be conceived and born through some other woman. This other woman in question just so happens to be Angie (Amy Poehler), someone who is definitely not at all like Kate. Which is fine for Kate, so long as she can trust Angie to be smart about her body and realize that there is indeed a human growing inside of her. But after Angie runs into issues with her own husband (Dax Shepard), she begins to live with Kate, which is when the two begin to learn more about one another, even if they also have differences as well.

Tina doesn't need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she'll take him!

Tina doesn’t need Greg Kinnear in her life, but hey, she’ll take him! And you know why? ‘Cause she can!

Of course, in Baby Mama, wacky hijinx ensue. That’s obvious from the very start, however, Baby Mama is a tad bit smarter than most of the other broad comedies out there that would have attacked this premise as dumb as possible. This isn’t, of course, to say that Baby Mama isn’t predictable, by-the-numbers, or at least, conventional, because it’s each and everyone of those things – but working behind all of those conventions and obvious story-structures is, for one, laughs, and also, a decent-sized heart that reminds you that you’re watching a female-lead comedy, that can appeal to basically everyone.

Sure, it may definitely help if you’re a woman or going through the same life event as the one depicted here, but regardless, it doesn’t matter.

Baby Mama is, first and foremost, a comedy. And a funny one at that. Most of that comes from the fact that both Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have such great chemistry between one another, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in the fun and enjoyment they clearly have playing side-by-side. Even though their characters are, obviously, general opposites, not just in terms of personality, but also in social backgrounds, you still get the feeling that Fey and Poehler can’t wait for that moment in this film where their characters start to put all of their issues aside, take some shots, get wild together, and generally, have fun together.

To say that Fey and Poehler are both funny here, is doing them justice. However, there’s also another element to their performances that factor in well and that’s that their characters are actually well-written, despite initially seeming like stupid and dull caricatures from the beginning. Like, for instance, try Fey’s Kate: While she appears to be a stuck-up, way-too-serious businesswoman who is all about her job and not much else, eventually, the story goes on and we see that there’s actually a lot more fun and excitement to her life. Heck, the reasons for why she wants a baby to begin with, regardless of whether it’s naturally or through agencies, are understandable; she’s gotten to that point in her life where she wants one, she doesn’t need one, but wants one.

It's set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy!

It’s set in Philadelphia, so of course the bell-hop is a token black guy! Gotta love my city!

That is, most of all, perhaps the greatest distinction this movie makes and is truly a smart piece of writing. It shows that woman like Kate, whether they be successful or not, don’t need to have babies to make their lives feel fulfilled. Does that mean that they’re not nice to have around? Of course not, but Baby Mama doesn’t believe that in order to make sure that your life is great and superb, it needs to be so with a baby by your side. It’s a small piece of writing, I know, but it’s what sets it apart from most other female-driven comedies out there that are all about getting married and having kids, because of some ill-conceived notion from many, many years ago, that says women need a certain amount of requirements to make their lives great.

But still, seriousness aside, Baby Mama is still a fine comedy.

Like what I said for Fey’s Kate, can be said the same for Poehler’s Angie: She may seem a bit white trash-y, but after awhile, the movie just shows her more off as a wild girl who not only likes to have some fun, but also wants to be a bit more serious in her own life as well. She doesn’t need to be serious, but she wants to be. There are others in this movie that show up in this movie that are funny, charming and welcome, but it’s really Poehler and Fey who make the movie work the most.

Even though the movie does admittedly get a bit syrupy and sentimental by the end, Poehler and Fey still feel fun and fresh, adding another sense of enjoyment to the proceedings. The plot does eventually get to be a bit too much and be about things happening, one after another, with random twists coming out left and right, but regardless, Baby Mama can still be funny and at times, relatively insightful. It may not be trying too hard, but in its own way, it sort of is; it’s taking the female-driven comedy and doing something with it that isn’t revolutionary or game-changing, but normal.

And hey, there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

Consensus: Predictable and lightweight for sure, but regardless, Baby Mama still offers up plenty of laughs and enjoyment courtesy of Poehler and Fey’s lovely chemistry.

7 / 10

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Does this tend to happen? Ladies?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Macbeth (2015)

Insanity, vanity, and wine, don’t always mix well.

Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard) and Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) are married and, at one time, were at least happy. Now, after having lost a child, they are not – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t want the same thing. Though Macbeth supports King Duncan (David Thewlis), Lady Macbeth still convinces that it is his time to take the crown and get rid of King Duncan while he still can. And get rid of King Duncan, is exactly what Macbeth does. This leads him and Lady Macbeth to become both King and Queen, where they are not only given each and everyone’s respect and adoration, but generally seen as people you should not try to double-cross. That’s why, when it becomes clear that Macbeth himself is going a bit mad and losing control of, not just his mind, but his empire, people start trying to bail and escape from Macbeth’s rule. Obviously, Macbeth is not too happy about this and decides to use his power to take matters into his own hands. Eventually, people start to get so tired and angry with Macbeth’s psychotic tendencies, that they start to get together and form something of a rebel alliance – one that will ultimately prove to be Macbeth’s undoing.

aaa

Not Game of Thrones with Fassbender, but wow. How amazing?

Among many other things, of course.

So yeah, it’s very hard to make a Shakespeare adaptation nowadays without making it seem like you’re just taking up your time to make a movie and because, well, you could. In a way, everything’s been done by now and unless you have a truly unique, interesting way of telling the story, your adaptation won’t do much except just make people actually want to go back and read the original-text. Because as everybody knows, people love Shakespeare, and if there’s something they love more, it’s a good Shakespeare adaptation.

Something that Macbeth sort of is and sort of isn’t, but that’s sort of the point.

What director Justin Kurzel seems to be doing here is give everyone that kind of Macbeth adaptation they expected to see, yet, at the same time, still find ways to make it even more bleak and unrelenting than ever before. Clearly, for anyone who has ever read the original story or seen other adaptations, it’s clear that this is a pretty hard task, but it’s one that Kurzel seems perfectly equipped with handling. Kurzel’s last film, the Snowtown Murders, was basically an adaptation of Macbeth, but not really; while it was clearly based on a true story that’s as grim as anything in here, it’s also, at the same time, a tale about how evil can take over one man to make him do terribly inhumane things that no sane man in his right man would ever think of committing.

And with the story of Macbeth, that’s exactly what Shakespeare is trying to say. While he was obviously a bit more subtle with it than I may be making it out to be, that idea of one man losing all control of his mind, while still clearly in power over a large group of people, is still here and obvious in every shot, frame and scene. While it may get a tad repetitive with Fassbender just constantly acting out like a nut case and just making everyone around him feel genuinely terrified and scared for their lives, Fassbender’s still good enough that it’s easy to get past. Though this isn’t his best work we’ve seen him do this year, it’s still hard to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on the screen as he commands just about every scene.

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That look, those eyes, so French.

Marion Cotillard does the same, however, her role is a whole heck of a lot more subtle than Fassbender’s.

For one, everything she’s thinking or feeling, at any given moment, is displayed on those huge, bright eyes of her. Cotillard is known for giving these kinds of small, subtle performances where you have an inkling of how she’s feeling just by looking at her beautiful face, but here, it especially works because you know that, deep down inside, she’s the heart and soul of this story. It’s a pretty dark heart and soul, but a heart and soul nonetheless, which is why it’s great to get the scenes with her when it’s just her trying to calm her hubby down, or at least try and make sense of his madness.

As for the rest of Macbeth, it’s, as expected, some very gut-wrenching and disturbing stuff, most of which, is actually beautiful to watch. Kurzel layers his film with a certain code of orange that’s not just interesting, but occasionally, distracting; there’s so many shots here of beauty that, really, it seems like overkill and almost as if the ones behind this movie knew exactly that they were making something beautiful and had to tell the whole world about it. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike the film for trying to look good, but there was a small feeling that, almost every time some pretty shot was seen on the screen, that those behind the camera were just absolutely pleased with themselves.

Nothing wrong with liking what you’ve done, but you know, relax a little bit.

Instead, what Kurzel does is just tell the story, as it was, in some ways, originally presented. While there’s certain lines and/or scenes that are missing, the general idea is that Kurzel’s going to keep the native tongue and try his hardest to make us roll along with it. Because of this, the movie can sometimes be a bit difficult to read into or understand, but because the performances are so good from just about everyone, they help spell certain things out. And then, after awhile, it’s easy to just remember that, eventually, every scene is going to lead into someone or something getting stabbed, slice, or killed in a disgusting, disheartening way.

Just how Shakespeare liked it, clearly.

Consensus: The performances from Fassbender and Cotillard are so good in Macbeth, that they make it easy to get through some of the more confusing parts of it, as well as see more than just a bunch of blood, gore and violence, which ultimately, this story can just be all about.

6.5 / 10

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Hail to the king, baby.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

What a dick, that Moby was.

Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is the first mate of the Essex, a ship that’s set out for the sea where the crew on-board will go hunting whales for oil. While Chase is experienced and inspired enough to be the captain, due to political issues, he is not given that honor – instead, it’s given to George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker), someone who is new to the sea and hasn’t ever captained a ship before. Regardless, Owen and the rest of the crew set out and while along the way, they discover a whale by the name of Moby Dick. Dick is not just huge, but actually quite violent and doesn’t appreciate the mates on this ship going around and spearing his fellow friends of the sea – therefore, Dick lets the crew have it. This leaves the crew, most of whom are awfully unexperienced, stranded and without any food, water, or possible resources to survive. This leads crew member to fend for themselves, start pointing the fingers, and, most of all, try to stay alive, by any means. Which, in this movie’s case, means a whole heck of a lot.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Moby’s got a lot on his plate when he’s going up against Thor…

Oh, and the whole story is being told to us through Brendan Gleeson’s character who, at a very young age (Tom Holland), was actually on the Essex and got to experience this all first-hand. Which, in all honesty, is a bit weird when you consider that Tom Holland is playing Brendan Gleeson, 19 years earlier; meaning that, the near-two decades that has passed, were some really rough and screwed-up ones. It doesn’t make much sense or seem all that logical, but I guess the idea is that, well, the dude saw some pretty screwed-up shit.

And that’s exactly what In the the Heart of the Sea is.

Most of the ads for the movie will have you thinking it’s just Thor taking on Moby Dick for at least two hours, but it’s actually a lot more different and slower than that. Instead, we get a tale that’s all about surviving at sea, and having to make some pretty rough, drastic decisions when push comes to shove and it becomes apparent that, well, you may be dead if you don’t, I don’t know, eat that person’s heart, or, I don’t know, stay on an island while everyone else is leaving searching for more help. Surprisingly, it’s a movie that’s more about human nature and how most humans act in situations that are as deadly and as scary as this.

Problem is, none of the characters in this situation, are actually ever interesting. What Ron Howard tries to do here is give us a small play-by-play of who these characters are, what they do, and just why exactly they may matter to the story. Hemsworth’s Chase is a noble, brave superhero that knows what decision to make at every step and is always down to tango with big whales; Walker’s Pollard Jr. is a bit cowardly, but also doesn’t want to be seen as just “another captain’s privileged son”; Holland’s Thomas Nickerson is such a rookie, that he can’t handle the sight or smell of whale guts and constantly seems to be heading towards for Chase for peer-to-student counsel; Cillian Murphy’s Matthew Joy, is Chase’s best buddy who, no matter what, always has a bottle of some sort of alcohol with him at all times, just in case; and Frank Dillane’s Owen Coffin is, well, just the asshole of the ship who, no matter what circumstance they’re in, always has the gull to open up his mouth and piss everyone off.

Basically, everyone here feels like they’re supposed to be a lot deeper than they actually are, but really, they’re just a bunch of stick-figures drawn onto a big boat and we’re left to watch as they suffer, get skinny, try to eat, grow big beards, stay dirty, and contemplate whether or not it’s time to call it a day and just die already. This all sounds like some pretty grim stuff, which it is, but it’s not really as involving as it should be, given the cast and crew involved. Hell, that cast alone is enough to get me all pumped-up, but the fact that Howard doesn’t really give them much, is a bit of a bummer.

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….Abe Lincoln (the vampire hunting version)…

We know they can all do better, so why are they stuck here?

That isn’t to say that In the Heart of the Sea is bad, it’s just a tad disappointing. I’m perfectly fine with the movie being a whole lot slower and more melodic by focusing on what happens to these guys after Moby Dick comes in and ruins their lives, as well as their ship, but in order for it to really connect, it has to be, at the very least, heart-wrenching. There was never that feeling here and it was an issue that constantly plagued this film, no matter what interesting avenues it seemed like Howard was taking.

But really, whenever the movie is focusing on the boys of the ship taking on and, in a way, battling against Moby Dick, it’s enthralling, fun, unpredictable, and most of all, exciting. We don’t know where these bits of carnage are going to lead, who is going to perish, and just what the outcome of it all is going to be, so we sit there, watch and wait to see what happens. This is perhaps where the movie’s most impressive, as it’s not only frequently beautiful throughout, but clearly has a love for the sea that’s hard to ignore.

Not to mention that there’s actually something of a message deep down inside of this movie about hunting whales for oil and it’s a noble one, at the very least. Given that the movie may get a tad preachy by the end, I don’t want to jump into saying that this is, first and foremost, a “message movie”, but there is something here that Howard has to say and it isn’t terrible. It just goes on to say that sometimes, nature deserves to stay the way it is.

Screw with that and well, who knows? Nature may bite back.

Consensus: Given the talented cast on-board, In the Heart of the Sea should be a more grueling and compelling watch, but aside from the sheer beauty and excitement the film has whenever the whales show up, the movie never gets a chance to be.

6.5 / 10

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….and most importantly, Peter Parker.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz