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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Finest Hours (2016)

Well, if pneumonia doesn’t kill ya!

Based on the true story of events that took place in February of 1952, a when a brutally strong storm hit the coast of New England. During this storm, an oil tanker, the SS Pendleton, found itself in a whole of trouble – meaning that they’re ship was literally torn in half. Captain of the ship, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), as well as thirty two other men found themselves in the back half of the ship and were in desperate need of some help and attention. Because, well, the longer the ship stayed floating in the water, the more and more flooded it got, leading the men closer and closer to their own respective deaths. Obviously, nobody on the boat was happy about this, so they decided to make one last call for help, in hopes that somebody, even despite the terrible storm, would be able to come and save them all. Well, wouldn’t luck have it that a U.S. Coast Guard station hears it, and one person in particular, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), decides that it’s his responsibility to save the day and make sure that all of these men get home alive and safely. But Bernie, as well as the other brave souls who go along with him, will soon find out that maybe their dream all along, just was that: A dream that maybe couldn’t ever come true.

He's so normally good-looking.

He’s so normally good-looking.

The Finest Hours is a better movie than people seem to be giving it credit for. Although that isn’t to say it isn’t without its faults, because, well, it definitely has problems. One such is that director Craig Gillespie seems like he’s trying to do a tad too much here, but never really fleshing each plot-line/subplot out to their fullest extreme. Gillespie brings us into the sort of old timey, nostalgic-tone of the early-50’s for the first half-hour of the movie where we see love, happiness and all sorts of novelty expressions of the old days, blossom and it’s a genuinely sweet little movie in its own right. It feels odd considering that we know the movie is going to have to do with a huge storm and ship at one point, but hey, it’s fine for a short while.

Then, it jumps right onto the ship and all of a sudden, we’re getting what is basically the prequel to the Perfect Storm.

Had this movie been released in 2000, right before the Perfect Storm, the Finest Hours would have been called that and it probably would have been a bit of a better movie (although the later is definitely better than the former). However, the Finest Hours is a movie that exists, features a huge boat, as well as a destructive storm that, believe it or not, is actually pretty scary; even though Gillespie literally goes from us watching as Chris Pine makes on some sweet girl, to then being thrown head-first into this dirty, sweaty, wet, and muggy ship, at the drop of a dime, it’s still surprisingly effective.

A bit jarring? Yeah, but it still somehow worked.

But most of this is due to the fact that Gillespie seems to put a lot of his focus onto the storm at-hand and it’s where the movie really excels. Though the CGI can look a bit shoddy, as well as incredibly dark at times, the movie still gives you this idea that, no matter how determined or empowered these guys may be, there may just be one too many odds stacked against them. Despite the fact that it’s based on a true story that most people probably already know about, it’s not hard to get wrapped-up in the characters, as limited as they may be, and the storm, watching as the two sides constantly duke it out.

Once again though, Gillespie’s focus does tend to lean back towards the characters and this is where the movie can sometimes lose its grove. Personally, I was all fine with the central romance between Pine and Holliday Grainger, but once Pine’s Bernie Webber is out on the water, Grainger’s character is sort of just left there to fend for herself, going from one random house to another, looking scared and beautiful at the same time. Why she wasn’t cast in Carol is beyond me!

But regardless, yeah, everything on-land is pretty dry and more often than not breaks up the tension of the movie. However, the storm/rescue sequences themselves are so compelling and tense, that they’re almost worth all the little breaks in between. That’s not to say that Gillespie could have probably made better, tighter movie without all of the stuff on-land, but still, it exists and it’s worth getting past, just to get to the good stuff.

Work that ship, Casey. Show big bro who the real Affleck is.

Work that ship, Casey. Show big bro who the real Affleck is.

And it’s not like the characters are played by any chumps, either, as everybody here is pretty solid.

Chris Pine is surprisingly playing against-type here as Bernie Webber, someone who is neither cunning nor charming, but just sort of the quiet and meek dude who always happens to be in the corner. Granted, it’s Chris Pine, with Chris Pine looks, so it’s hard for him to really play anyone as normal and everyday as someone who doesn’t already look like Chris Pine, but it’s fine because he’s at least trying with something different and, for the most part, it works. Ben Foster plays his pal, and doesn’t really have much to do or say, despite being in just about every scene. It’s a shame because we know so much more from Foster, but still, the presence is welcome.

And yeah, there’s a whole bunch of other character actors here to shake a stick at and be happy to see, but it’s really Casey Affleck and Eric Bana who steal the show – the former for good reasons, the later, for memorably bad ones. What Affleck does well here with his character is that he presents him as a smart, but determined man of very little words who doesn’t beat around the bush when the ship is sinking, but knows exactly how to save himself, as well as the rest of the crew on-board. There’s something comforting about his presence that makes him take over every scene and sort of just wish the movie was about him, his crew, and what’s always going through their minds.

Then, there’s Eric Bana who, sadly, is doing one of the worst movie accents of all time, although it’s not entirely his fault.

Okay, that’s a lie, because it pretty much is. However, I’m just trying to be nice to the guy because it seems like he’s got a lot to work with here. For one, he’s an Australian, trying to play a Texan, who just so happens to be stationed out in Boston. It’s initially odd because we don’t know what accent he’s doing, but after awhile, it becomes clear which one he is trying and it just never works, nor makes any sense. The movie could have definitely just placed him as a normal American from California or Montana, and Eric Bana would have been fine. However, they don’t do that and instead, Eric Bana looks and sounds so ridiculous.

Poor Eric. At least he got to be the Hulk in the new millennium before it was cool.

Consensus: Though the Finest Hours doesn’t always focus on the miraculous and surprisingly uplifting escape plan, it still works when it does, but then, doesn’t work when it’s looking elsewhere.

7 / 10

Ew! Bring back the hot and sweaty dudes!

Ew! Bring back the hot and sweaty dudes!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Top 10 of 2015

It’s that time of the year, folks! Well, it’s been that time of the year since late-December, but hey, it took me awhile to get to some of these movies and now that I have them, it’s time to rank the best that 2015 had to offer!

Overall, pretty good movie year. Of course, there were some stinkers to remind me why I despise it when people make bad movies, but for the most part, it seemed like 2015 was the kind of year where most of the movies were actually quite fine, if not great. You could say that about every movie year, honestly, but really, 2015 gave some real great films.

But enough of me going on and on about nothing! Here’s my list for the Top 10 best of 2015, in a particular order, of course!

10. The Hateful Eight

IF

It wasn’t Tarantino’s best, but the more and more I got to thinking about it, the more I appreciated it for all of the neat, Tarantino-ish things that happened here. Of course, the cast was amazing and handled the dialogue perfectly, but it was really Tarantino who had the last laugh. He showed that he was allowed to make whatever movie he wanted to, and at this stage in his career, he doesn’t care what people say or think about him. He’s just going to make the movie he wants to make and everybody else can go screw themselves! Or, see his movie. In 70 mm, no less.

9. Cop Car

Cop3

Totally under-the-radar and under-seen, but definitely deserving of a watch. It’s the little movie that set-out to do so much, yet, at the same time, didn’t show it. Also, bonus points for making a coming-of-ager where the kids actually acted like kids, and weren’t these precocious little a-holes that we so often see in movies made about kids. Let’s hope that director/co-writer Jon Watts can keep the good vibes going with the next Spider-Man movie!

8. It Follows

Follows3

It was the rare horror movie that, yes, was scary. However, at the same time, did so many interesting, different things to make itself scary, without ever seeming like it was trying too hard, or trying to make a “statement”. If anything, it was just a generally freaky flick, that featured the age-old horror movie cliché of teens having sex, but rather than judging them for it, showed them as teens who just wanted to do the dirty, even if they knew that death was soon coming their way. Allegory about AIDS/HIV? Maybe, but then again, maybe not! Who cares? It’s scary!

7. Carol

Carol3

It doesn’t matter that the romance at the center is between two women, because it’s a story between two humans that features a romance you don’t just believe in, but actually feel, as well. Todd Haynes has always been a mixed-bag for me, but here, he really does capture the sheer emotion and passion that comes with falling in love with someone else, even if you’re not too sure you want to be with them, or what it is that you want to do with your own life. But what Haynes does best, is that he doesn’t forget about the male suitors on the side of Carol and Therese who are not only trying their hardest to get these women back into their lives, but also heartbroken about it. With this, Haynes shows that love can sometimes take on many forms and impact people differently, for better and for worse.

6. The Revenant

Revenant1

As unrelenting, as bleak, and as grim as you can get with a movie. Add on the fact that it’s nearly two-and-a-half-hours and you’d think you have a slug of a movie to get through. A lot of people thought that, but not me, as the Revenant, from the very beginning, had a tight, firm grasp on me and never let go. Despite the movie looking like a natural thing of beauty, it’s surprisingly gory and gruesome, which it all the more of a treat because when’s the next time we’re going to get a big-budgeted flick like this?

5. Inside Out

Inside1

Welcome back, Pixar! Not only was Inside Out a return-to-form for Pixar in showing that it could handle heart, emotion and hilarity all in the same hand, but that their creative-genius could not be messed with. Sure, kids may have not been able to fully get or understand the premise, but it was still the perfect movie for them as it didn’t just cater to them with slap-sticky jokes and silly-looking characters, but that it also taught them a lesson about life. In other words, it’s fine to be sad; it’s a way of life and sometimes, you just have to let yourself sit down, think, and let out a little cry. It’s fine. Life will go on and you’ll feel a lot better about yourself and life as a whole.

4. The Martian

Martian3

The best “comedy” of the year? Starring Matt Damon? Directed by Ridley Scott? I never once believed it for a second, until I saw the Martian and realized that it was not only the funniest movie of the year, but perhaps the best sci-fi blockbuster in a very long time. Sure, there’s been plenty, but what the Martian did that so many of those other movies failed to do, was that it gave us a simple plot-line of one man being stranded on Mars, but didn’t once forget about the person himself, nor those who were trying to save him with all their might and incredible genius. Of course, you could look at it as some sort of living, breathing advertisement for NASA, but if that is the case, it’s fine, because as long as the people in NASA are using their noggins and constantly thinking things through, then this little planet we call Earth, will be alright.

3. Steve Jobs

JObs3

People absolutely love, or absolutely hate Aaron Sorkin with a fire-breathing passion. I’m more in the former party, which is why I was hooked on Steve Jobs from the very first second someone let out a snarky “Sorkinism”. The cast was perfectly put-together, of course, but what mattered most about Sorkin’s writing, other than that it was funny, snappy and entertaining, was that it shined more of a light on what kind of person Steve Jobs was. Sure, we’ve all heard the stories about him before, but Steve Jobs, the movie, didn’t at all turn away from the issues this man had in his life, as well as all the wonderful, albeit amazing things he did for society. Totally didn’t deserve to bomb at the box-office, but hey, sometimes the best things are the ones that nobody really sees. That’s actually not a thing, but it’s something I like to say to make myself feel better about the fact that more people probably saw Ashton Kutcher’s Jobs, over this.

2. Room

Room1

Was going to put this in the position that Steve Jobs holds, but after much time and thought, I’ve realized that this movie had more of an emotional impact on me than that one ever did. Every step, move, or maneuver that Room makes, is surprisingly the right one and while you may not expect it to grab a hold of you the way it wants to, give it time and it’ll work its magic. That’s what happened to me and it took me until the five-minute mark of my sobbing that I realized that it was kind of tearjerker, that I was perfectly okay with pulling the box of Kleenex out at. Also, very happy to see Brie Larson getting more notice for this, as well as probably win the Oscar. Hopefully, this means a whole lot more of her for the near-future.

1. Spotlight

Spotlight3

It’s probably no surprise to those who know me that I chose a movie about journalism as my #1, but so be it! It wasn’t just the best movie about journalism I’ve seen for so very, very long, but it was everything that a solid movie should be. Fast, exciting, entertaining, dramatic, infuriating, funny, well-acted, intricately directed, and above all else, smart. It took certain steps to tell its story the way it wanted to, without ever burring the led. No other movie, blockbuster, indie, arthouse pic, short film, TV show, podcast, etc., this year was as electrifying as Spotlight. And at the end, it showed that something was done to open-up the scandal within the Catholic church, and although there’s plenty more to be done, at least someone finally opened their eyes, spoke up, and showed the world the true problem within. Why more movies aren’t like Spotlight is totally beyond me, but it’s the reason why I love movies to begin with.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz, IMDB

Pride and Glory (2008)

Keep it in the family. Even corruptness.

After a bunch of his fellow cops are shot dead in what was supposed to be a drug-ring raid, Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) returns to the detective field to figure out just who killed these cops and just exactly how it all happened. And because his daddy (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), are all apart of the force as well, it should make absolute sense that he should have no problems getting the right kind of answers he so desperately seeks. However, what Ray begins to find out, though, is that the details surrounding the killer and what happened are a bit shady. For one, nobody can find the supposed-shooter, and to make matters worse, it turns out that perhaps some brothers in blue may also be a little bit dirty. Which is expected, but there’s a possibility that these dirty cops may have been involved with the killing of the other cops, leading Ray to start questioning all of the cops around him, including his family. Obviously, they’re all appalled and shocked by Ray’s findings and accusations, but at the same time, there’s still some truth to it, and this is when everybody involved starts getting desperate and finding a clean way out of this dirty situation.

"Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?"

“Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?”

If you’ve seen one cop movie, generally, you’ve seen ’em all. Hardly do they ever stray away from the norm of what we’ve all come to know and expect with a cop movie, which begs the question: Why does Hollywood keep making them? Is there really any huge sell or draw in them that makes people flock out to the theaters to check them out? Or is that Hollywood can’t get over its weird affection and interest in the brothers in blue, so they still continue to make movies about them, not offering anything new or interesting to say about them, either?

Well, whatever the answer may be, Pride and Glory doesn’t really do much to make sense of it.

Although, Pride and Glory is a different kind of cop movie; for one, it’s about dirty cops, being, well, dirty and corrupt as all hell. Given today’s political climate, you’d think that this would be a hot-button topic worthy of being touched upon and prodded at, but director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t really seem interested in diving deep into that discussion. Instead, he just sort of wants to show off his dirty cops as they were; doing stuff they shouldn’t be, pointing the fingers at others, and telling lookie-loos to “mind their own business and shut their mouth”. O’Connor may have some sort of interest in what drives a seemingly normal, everyday cop, to become a drug-dealing, money-stealing baddie, but he doesn’t quite show it.

Most of the time, O’Connor allows his movie to fly-off the rails with fine actors going a tad bit over-the-top. Gifted character actor Frank Grillo is sadly the clearest example of this as his cop character, albeit a dirty one, wants absolutely each and every person in the movie to know it. It’s almost as if any and all subtlety was lost here and O’Connor told Grillo to “just have fun”, and he really did. Problem is, all of the yelling, punching, kicking, and gun-slinging doesn’t do much to help create a character, but further highlight a type that needs to be done with.

But Grillo isn’t the only one who is dialing it way, way up.

Colin Farrell is intense, doing his best De Niro impression here, but once again, his character feels like he has no rhyme or reason for breaking bad. Sure, we get the idea that maybe greed took over and he couldn’t stop himself, but we can only assume that because we never see this character actually be a good cop – we just see him as this dirty one, who can’t be trusted with anything. There’s an unpredictable nature to Farrell that he brings onto the screen each and every chance he gets, but mostly, it just ends with him yelling or acting out in some way.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

I mean, hell, the guy almost hot irons a baby! What the hell!

Edward Norton, thankfully, dials it down a bit more and seems to actually be more interested in diving dig into his character’s psyche. Issue is, this tends to make his character feel a bit more boring and dry than he probably should, which is an even bigger shame because he’s the lead protagonist we’re supposed to stand behind, root for and spend all of our time with. Norton has solid scenes with just about everyone around him, but when it comes to pushing the story-line along, there’s a never ending sense of normality that overtakes Norton, as well as the movie and it’s hard to get away from.

By the end though, O’Connor decides to stop sitting around and let everything and everyone, within Pride and Glory, run wild.

This means that guns are shot, people are beaten-up, noses are bloodied, faces are battered, people start shouting, and out of nowhere, which was, at one point, a slow, almost meandering drama, is now this wild-and-out, action-thriller where people can’t stop beating the hell out of one another. Is it exciting to watch? Sure. Does it feel like a whole completely different movie? Oh, most definitely and it’s an issue that seems to make Pride and Glory, yet again, just another cop movie.

Although still plenty more watchable than season two of True Detective.

That’s for sure.

 

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Pride and Glory is drenched into too many cop movie cliches and conventions to really do much, other than just mildly entertain those looking for some entertainment.

6 / 10

"We're brudders. We ain't eva gain to brake apaart."

“We’re brudders. We ain’t eva gain to brake apaart.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Goosebumps (2015)

Welcome back, nightmares.

Pissed-off about having to move from the big city to a small town in Delaware, teenager Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette) is already restless. However, when he meets the beautiful girl, Hannah (Odeya Rush), living right next door, he can’t help but fall head-over-heels and get easily distracted. But soon, Zach finds out that Hannah’s father is famous author R. L. Stine (Jack Black), whose best-known work is with the Goosebumps book series. And even though Stine makes it so that Zach doesn’t see his daughter, because these two are teens, they find a way to do so, regardless of what daddy wants the most and unfortunately, it leads to some very tragic circumstances. The main which being that the original copies of Stine’s books open up and release all sorts of evil monsters, goblins, ghouls and dummies get released out into the open, where they begin to wreak havoc on just about every citizen of this small town. Seeing a show they need to fix this bad situation, Zach, Hannah, and R.L. band together to try and stop this predicament from getting even more dangerous than it already is – which will mostly rely on having R.L. create a new book.

There's the Abominable Snowman.

There’s the Abominable Snowman.

If you were a kid growing up in the 90’s, chances are, you read a Goosebumps book. It doesn’t matter which title, or which one (I did prefer the “choose your own destination” ones later on in life when I became older and boring), because you were intrigued by the book-covers, the titles, and most of all, the idea of being apart of the cultural wave that it seemed like all of your fellow friends were abuzz about. And even if you didn’t read a single Goosebumps book, or care to bother to figure out what they’re about, you still got the gist of them all: They’re scary stories, written to have kids scared to go to sleep at night.

Which is why the Goosebumps movie is perfect for any and all audience-members, as it doesn’t matter if you’ve read a single book, or not – either way, you’re going to enjoy the movie.

That Goosebumps isn’t made to just appeal to the dedicated fanboys of the franchise, already puts it in line with some of the better kids movies. Though there’s definitely some scary stuff that may take some kids, as well as parents off-guard, there’s nothing here that’s meant to offend or disrupt anybody’s natural-born home life. If anything, the Goosebumps movie sets out to entertain you, make you feel safe (which is odd considering that it’s supposed to be a “spooky tale”), have you laugh, and, if everything works out perfectly, give some kids newfound interest in the books that haven’t quite picked up steam since the early days of the 21st Century.

So in that general aspect, yeah, Goosebumps is a fine movie. It doesn’t set out to light the world on fire and is, for most of the people who don’t know much about the franchise to begin with, accessible. There’s no real in-jokes or references to the books that will surprise people or have them pointing at the screen in self-adulation, but mostly, just laugh in the way you would with any normal comedy. Except, in this movie’s case, it’s a kids movie and a solid one, at that.

And this is definitely thanks to the fact that Jack Black’s R.L. Stine is actually kind of a dick.

There's, of course, Slappy.

There’s, of course, Slappy.

Even though the movie got the go-ahead from Stine himself, it’s still interesting to see how he’s portrayed as a bit of a pompous a-hole who loves to brag about his books, doesn’t like to be mentioned in the same sentence as “that hack” Stephen King, and likes to explain the difference between hims domestic and worldwide sales. Sure, he’s not a total and complete deuche that you want to punch him in the face, but he’s still one in that entertaining way where you want to hear him talk about himself more and more, just because he’s so ridiculously in-love with himself, that it’s not hard to laugh at it all. Of course, Black is to be credited with this, too, as he doesn’t fully dive into “Jack Black territory” that most of us have come to know, expect and basically hate, and shows that he can a solid screen-presence on the screen, even if he isn’t the star of the show or the one everyone has come to seen.

And heck, after the Brink, I think Jack Black deserves any kind of love he can get.

Aside from Black’s Stine, everybody else does a solid job, too. Though I’ve seen Dylan Minnette play this role before as the self-aware, but everyday teenager, he’s still likable enough to let it work its magic; Odeya Rush is, of course, beautiful, but her character has a bit more personality to her than just that; and Amy Ryan, though may seem oddly-placed here, still works fine as Zach’s mom who occasionally shows up and delights us all.

Then again, when is Amy Ryan not a delight!

Consensus: Like most kids movies, Goosebumps doesn’t try to re-invent any wheel, but instead, entertain the whole family with fun, humor, and a nostalgic adoration for its source material that definitely deserves a new audience.

6 / 10

And, uhm, some hug ant-creature-thing. Yeah, don't know if I read that book.

And, uhm, some hug ant-creature-thing. Yeah, don’t know if I read that book.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Walk (2015)

Everybody in NYC just gets to do what they want!

Frenchman Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) had lifelong dreams of entertaining huge groups of people that he would literally do anything to garner people’s love and adoration. For instance, at a young age, he would perform acts on the streets where he would do all sorts of magic tricks and whatnot, ask for money at the end, and then, get chased down by police, sometimes getting, and other times, not. However, Philippe felt as if his life wasn’t fulfilled to he most extreme point yet, which is why, by in the early 70’s, he got the idea of walking across a wire between the two towers of the newly-built World Trade Center. Problem was, as you could expect, that security would be tight and tough on this plan, which is why Philippe, along with a few of his pals, got together a crack team to pull it all off. Whether or not they’d be able to pull it off was one obstacle they had to overcome, but actually making sure that the daredevil Philippe himself would actually survive the stunt and not fall to his death, was a whole other one to digest and come to terms with.

Guess they've never seen Man on Wire?

Guess they’ve never seen Man on Wire?

If you’ve seen Man on Wire, you’ve basically seen the Walk. Sure, one’s a documentary, whereas the other is just a theatrical re-telling of that whole story, with glitzy and glamorous actors, visuals, and a tad bit more background on things that may have needed more clarification the first time around. Does it really matter which one you see first, or at all? Sort of, yes. Definitely see the documentary, but if you just so happen to catch the Walk before that one and think there isn’t something more to the story than just a dude walks a tight-rope across the Twin Towers, then please, go see Man on Wire as soon as possible.

You’ll be surprised and happy you did, especially since the Walk is, for lack of a better term, mediocre.

However, it does have good qualities in that it features Robert Zemeckis, once again, playing around with neat and cool-looking visuals that definitely grab your attention. Mostly though, this comes at the end of the flick where we’ve wadded through all of the character and story-stuff and now, after much time and dedication, finally get to see as Petit walks across the wire and perform for thousands and thousands of on-lookers. Is it worth the wait? Kind of, yeah.

What Zemeckis always does so well with his movies, rather than focus in on the visuals, is how he makes them all seem so real, and almost as if you’re right there, at that exact moment while it’s happening. Though there’s definitely a few shots during this final sequence that look a bit chintzy, for the most part, Zemeckis does a good enough job at putting us right then and there with Petit, not knowing what’s going to happen, or how this whole stunt is going to work out, if at all. Of course, if you’ve seen Man on Wire previously, you already know what happens to Petit, but still, there’s a small feeling of suspense in the air that carries this final sequence on longer than it probably should have.

Then again, like I’ve said before, this final sequence comes after everything else Zemeckis has to give us with the Walk and it’s quite painful to sit through.

Most of this has to do with the fact that the script is very hokey and already suffers from the problem that the documentary on this tale has already been told, and it’s not just that it was amazing, but also painted a perfect portrait of just about everyone and everything involved with this miraculous stunt. Sure, there was maybe one or two points of conversation not touched on in the documentary, but really, that’s just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking – basically, Man on Wire does an amazing job of giving us every side and factor of this story to make it worth telling and getting invested in.

Okay, going to throw-up now.

Okay, going to throw-up now.

The Walk, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to do any of that, so instead, just gives us a whole bunch of scenes where Joseph Gordon-Levitt, using a very silly French accent, runs around all spirited and such, performing tricks, and always exclaiming that he’s “going to walk between the Twin Towers!” Granted, this is most definitely how the real life Petit was at the time, but really, it goes on for quite some time. Then, Ben Kingsley walks in as his mentor of sorts, and hams it up so incredibly that it’s actually quite fun to watch. All of his scenes are just him teaching Petit how to walk a tight-rope and somehow relating those teachings to the rest of all that life has to offer, but Kingsley seems to be having fun, so why not!

And Gordon-Levitt seems to be having fun, too, but really, his character is so one-note, that it hardly matters if he’s trying. It’s already made abundantly clear to us early on that the only form of Petit we’re going to get is the fun-loving, constantly excited, joyous person, and that’s it. Gordon-Levitt is more than up to the task of playing this character and shining more light on his more human-features, but really, Zemeckis doesn’t quite care about all that. What he really wants to do is get to the Twin Towers, show us that his visuals are as rad as they could ever be, and remind us that a man like Petit existed, whether any of us care or not.

But hey, at least it gives everyone a movie to see! In 3D, no less!

Consensus: With a hokey script, the Walk suffers from treading the same waters that the way better documentary Man on Wire did, even if it does offer some fun and lively jolts by the end.

6 / 10

Yeah, uhm, don't look down.

Yeah, uhm, don’t look down.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Everest (2015)

Staying at home is fine, too.

Mount Everest is considered to be one of the greatest snowy mountains to climb up and sights to see, ever. That’s why, in March 1996, there were a few commercial expeditions all getting ready together and prepared to climb the mountain, even if they knew it can sometimes be rough and not so lovely, even if you do reach the top and complete the trip. One group in particular was lead by Adventure Consultants’ Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who, with his latest group with the likes of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), who’s dealing with some marital problems of his own, as well as mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who is apparently using the trip as a way to prove himself to his wife, as well as some sponsors of his. However, these two are just a slight few of the many who decided to travel up the mountain, reach the top, and achieve their goal. There were plenty others like traveling journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), just to name a few, but no matter how many there were, they still all faced the extreme weather conditions and storms that would soon sweep their area.

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

When all is said and done, all Everest really has to say about climbing and traveling and all that fun stuff is, that well, “it’s really hard to do”. For one, you have to have a whole lot of money to actually get the right treatment. Secondly, you have to train and prepare for it so much that, it comes to an eventual point where you don’t know how to live your own normal life, in normal society. And then, of course, there’s the risk-factor where, any wrong turn, slip, slide, or move in any way, can actually result in your fatal death. And while Everest can sometimes work as a way to get more and more tourists up there to check out the mountain for what it is, at the same time, that’s not at all the truth.

Because as the movie tells us, people die there. In fact, a lot of people.

And that’s about all Everest really has to say about this one particular, if true, story. People got cold, people got swept up in the huge storm that began to form right over them, and yes, people died. Of course, it’s very sad and there is no way of shining any sort of light or hope on it, however, there is something to be said for a movie that presents these deaths in a surprising manner, but also doesn’t shed any thought on them. It’s almost as if every character in Everest who dies, was around not to just die, but to also show us that hiking up a mountain like Everest is as scary and as terrifying as you’d expect it to be.

Which is a huge shame, because the cast here is pretty well-stacked and great. One can only assume that this great deal of talent got together in a movie like this because the paycheck was nice and there wasn’t too much heavy-lifting needed to be done, but still, you can tell that everybody here is trying and giving it their all. Jason Clarke finally gets a chance to shine and be charismatic for once, here as Rob Hall – somebody you just feel so incredibly safe and comfortable with, that you’ll almost forget your climbing one of the biggest mountains in all of the world. Though we get to see that he’s a generally nice guy who takes care of his free-loading buddies, picks up those that have fallen down, and loves his wife, it’s really Clarke who does most of the work here and shows just what he can do with such a limited-role.

Because frankly, everyone else’s characters don’t get much to do, either. And once again, it’s a total shame.

Josh Brolin gets to show us some semblance of humanity as Beck Weathers, the character we expect to be “the villain” of this whole story, only to realize that he’s nicer than expected; John Hawkes’ Doug Hansen is a bit of a corny character, but Hawkes is so likable that it almost doesn’t matter; Michael Kelly’s character feels like he serves more importance to the overall story, but doesn’t really get to stretch any of that out; Jake Gyllenhaal is hardly here as Scott Fisher, someone who is constantly drunk, miserable, tired, and hopped-up on some sort of drug, which Gyllenhaal works fine with, even if we don’t get any sort of background as to why; Emily Watson and Sam Worthington stay in the safe parts of Everest, for the most part, but still show enough humanity as much as they can; and Robin Wright and Keira Knightley are mostly downgraded to “wife roles” where they sit at home, watch over the house, and have occasional conversations with their spouses.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s a lot of characters for a two-hour movie. So, it’s probably no surprise that a good handful are just left to act for a scene or two, and leave it at that. Most of them are effective, but overall, you can tell that, had the screenplay been more with their interest at-heart, something special would have happened.

That said, Everest is still pretty hard to look away from and get discouraged from, mostly because it does the job right in painting this storm as one of the most terrifying ones ever.

Director Baltasar Kormákur obviously didn’t set out to make some sort of thought-provoking piece of drama, but instead, wrap us in on a suspense-ride from beginning, to end. And honestly, it kind of works. The movie not only looks beautiful, but truly does make you feel as if you’re there at Everest, watching as each and everyone of these characters grapple with each one’s lives and try their hardest to stay the hell alive. Honestly, once the storm kicks in, which isn’t until about an hour in, is only when the movie really gets going, but it’s so enriching and compelling, that I was able to forgive it for all of the missteps it made before.

Even if the cast gets wasted on roles that are way too limited, there’s still the feeling that, deep down inside, Kormákur wanted to chronicle this tragedy. Sure, he went about it in such a manipulative manner, but he’s a film-director – how could he not want to make a little bit of money out of other people’s suffering?

Consensus: Despite not feeling as if it’s fully up-to-par with the extreme talents of the ensemble, Everest still works a chilly thrill-ride that keeps you enamored with the spectacle, so long as you don’t try to look too deep enough.

7 / 10

"Yeah, it's uh, it's pretty cold up here."

“Yep. Still pretty cold up here.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Mojave (2016)

Chances are, random dudes you meet in the desert, aren’t going to be the ones to trust in actual society.

Famous Hollywood writer Thomas (Garrett Hedlund), is conflicted about his life so, one day, he decides to get up and leave his mansion, French girlfriend, and money behind, to venture out into the desert for some peace and solidarity. However, while in the desert, Thomas realizes that he may not actually be alone in this huge desert – in fact, he may actually be being followed. This is when Thomas meets Jack (Oscar Isaac), a drifter who says that he’s a director, but at the same time, doesn’t really seem all that convincing when he says that. He and Thomas, despite the obvious awkwardness of the whole situation, have a solid conversation about life, death, Jesus Christ and the devil, but it becomes all too clear that there’s something off about Jack that Thomas doesn’t want to be around. So, that’s why Thomas decides to leave the desert, as well as Jack behind; which, as a result, makes Jack very angry and forced to follow Thomas all the way to his glitzy and glamorous home life, leading to some very bloody, very violent results.

He's brooding.

He’s brooding.

William Monahan, nearly a decade ago, wrote the script for the Departed and he could have stopped right there. Already, he had given each and every person on the face of the planet something that they wanted, loved and adored, and right then and there, Monahan could have packed his things up, got all of his money together, and head for the hills, never to be heard from or bothered again, but knowing that he did something right for society. But seeing as how Monahan is, first and foremost, a creator, he decided to make Mojave which is, most definitely, a whole heck of a lot different from the Departed in many ways.

Of course, though, what Mojave does have similarly to the Departed, is that both movies feature big, rough, and tough guys being, well, big, rough, and tough.

And honestly, for the longest time of Mojave, there’s a lot to enjoy in just watching that happen, especially when the two said guys in question are Oscar Isaac and Garrett Hedlund, two young talents that are so well-deserving of every role they’re given. Seeing as how both are actual friends in real life (as well as co-starred in Inside Llewyn Davis), it makes sense that they feature wonderful chemistry together, just playing off of one another and testing each other to their limits; the same is definitely said for their characters who are, randomly, at odds with one another for reasons we never fully know or understand. However, there’s still a feeling you can get watching these two pals act alongside one another, and just knowing that they’re having a great time watching as the other works the field, so they say.

Which is why, had Mojave just been a two-hander of these two talking about whatever the hell they wanted to talk and swinging their dicks around, it probably would have been a whole lot better, tighter and enjoyable. However, because Monahan adds on so much more than just these two going to battle with one another and leaving it at that, it becomes messy and we forget what makes the movie so strong in the first place: Isaac and Hedlund. While neither loses any sense of charm or presence in the proceedings, they still get pushed too far to the back so that Monahan can run wild, say whatever he wants, and do weird things that nobody expected, but nobody really needed to see, either. Monahan gets mixed-up in his own ideas where, one side of him wants to make this mono-e-mono thriller between these two colorful characters, but on the other side, wants to talk about Hollywood and everybody in it is a terrible, mean-spirited and disgusting place that nobody should ever get caught up in.

Wow, where have I heard this before?

He's weird.

He’s weird.

Clearly, Monahan’s not working with any life-changing, ground-breaking themes or ideas and it sometimes calls into question just how odd this movie can be. Mark Wahlberg randomly shows up a coked-up, over-the-top and wild Hollywood agent who is, definitely fun, but still doesn’t add much to the whole movie; Walton Goggins shows up as a Hollywood executive who is about as dead-spirited as they come; and yeah, then there’s a whole murder investigation that never seems to escalate, but still bring these two guys closer. Monahan brings up a whole lot of stuff here, but because he’s both the writer, as well as the director, there’s no holding back in just where Mojave can, and will, go.

Still though, it’s Hedlund and Isaac who make this movie work the most and it makes sense why they’re given the most to work, for better as well as for worse. Hedlund is, once again, playing up that whole brooding-angle he always shows and does fine with it. While Thomas, the character, may be limited in how much we actually care or get to know about him, Hedlund shows that there’s something of a soul underneath it all and it makes us sympathize with him just a tad bit more, even if we don’t really care either way where the story goes, or who ends up getting the ax.

But Isaac is perhaps the one having the most fun here and it’s great to see him just live every bit of this material up. In a way, as Jack, Isaac livens this material up a whole lot more than it probably should have been, as he’s not just funny, but more thoughtful than the movie may have called for. He’s got a lot to say about faith and Hollywood, or whatever, but he’s also got something to say about Hedlund’s Thomas, and it’s these revelations that I found most telling. While Monahan has a bone to pick with Hollywood, he still has a point in saying what he says, which makes me wonder why he’s making movies as conflicted as Mojave, and isn’t giving it his all again like he did with the Departed all those years ago?

The world may never know, but we wait and wonder.

Consensus: Hedlund and Isaac are great, however, Mojave‘s odd plotting and themes don’t always come together in a cohesive manner, that gives them the movie they wholly deserve.

5.5 / 10

Together, they're the perfect couple.

Together, they’re the perfect couple.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

These younglings don’t know how old-heads get down.

With less than a week to go before his wedding, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) has good knowledge of how he wants the rest of his life to go down. And even though he’s definitely looking forward to getting hitched to his high-class, but very pretty fiancee (Julianne Hough), all of those happy feelings and thoughts are put to the side once he learns that his grand-mother has died. Heart-broken and sad is Jason’s grandpa, Dick (Robert De Niro), who Jason reluctantly volunteers to drive to wherever he wants. Problem is, Jason gets duped into taking his grandpa to Daytona Beach, for Spring Break of all times. Turns out, grandpa has been in desperate need of some fun as of late and now, with his late wife being gone, he now finally has the chance to do so. While Jason isn’t all about allowing his grandpa go around, smoking, drinking, and bangin’ whatever, he also doesn’t want to keep his grandpa away from having some fun on his own time as well. This also gets Jason to thinking of his own life and how, at one point in his life, he wasn’t so uptight and by-the-books and, believe it or not, really fun and exciting to be around – something his grandpa reminds him of all the time.

Why are Grandpa's always doing this?

Why are grandpa’s always doing this?

Movies like Dirty Grandpa are the kinds I, for one reason or another, want to stick up for. The main reason being is that it’s an R-rated raunch-fest that does, says, or acts whatever way it wants to, regardless of what others may think, say, or be offended by. In other words, Dirty Grandpa is exactly like the aging-grandfather you invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner – you know he’s going to say a lot of inappropriate, borderline racist stuff, but you just let him go because, well, he’s old and doesn’t really know that he’s doing or saying anything wrong. You could totally make the argument that those behind Dirty Grandpa know exactly what they’re doing and saying is, by far, wrong, but you could also make the argument that absolutely none of them care.

And that, to me, takes a lot of gut to actually create and deliver on.

Cause in today’s day and age where political correctness is shoved aside as a means to not offend a certain demographic, Dirty Grandpa pulls down its pants, flips the bird, and says, “screw you”, to each and everyone of those people who may be offended by what the movie’s making cracks about. Granted, it’s not hard to get offended by Dirty Grandpa; whether you’re white, black, male, female, obese, skinny, attractive, ugly, gay, young, old, or whatever, you’re going to get made fun of and be somewhat offended. Sure, some may call this “crass”, “mean”, or just downright “despicable”, but is there always a problem with that? Can, sometimes at least, that same crassness, that same meanness, and hell, that same despicability, be at least somewhat funny?

In Dirty Grandpa‘s case, it can sometimes be, but at other times, not really.

But really, the parts of Dirty Grandpa that are in fact, funny, worked for me enough to get past the other issues with the movie like say, I don’t know, the fact that it has no general regard for anyone person’s feelings or emotions. Basically, what Dirty Grandpa sets out to do is make fun of those they decide to because, well, they can, so why not? It’s not hard to hate a comedy who’s general position is to make fun of everyone around them, but it’s also not that much harder to hate one when it isn’t actually being funny – Dirty Grandpa, though, in some cases, was at least funny enough that I didn’t care and let all of those sensitivity issues fall by the wayside.

That said, if you’re offended by Dirty Grandpa, you definitely should be pissed-off and upset. There’s no denying that the movie does and says a lot that can definitely land itself in hot-water that’s hard to swim out of and honestly, for the most part, there are jokes that are so painfully stupid and obvious, you’ll want to leave the theater for about five seconds, just so that you can wash away the agony from said terrible joke. Then again, there will be another joke or two that comes by that is, surprisingly, actually funny and delivers on the mark it sets out to hit, which is why I stuck through and decided to give this thing the benefit of the doubt.

From one hunk, to another.

From one hunk, to another.

Which is all to say that, thanks to De Niro and Efron, Dirty Grandpa works better than it probably ever should.

Efron’s been desperately trying to get away from his teen-idol image and carve-out a more serious, mature look for him which, seems to be working. In Dirty Grandpa, he does more of a job of making fun of himself than anything else, and it’s actually quite fun to watch. Clearly, he knows that he’s the sexiest, hunkiest person in the room, so he doesn’t mind getting naked, or poking jokes at his ridiculously-ripped and chiseled body at his own expense. After all, he’s the butt of the joke, but really, he’s the one that all the ladies still want to be with so it’s fine, I guess.

But as much as Efron may try, it’s De Niro who actually gives it his all and seems to really make this thing work. Granted, Dirty Grandpa probably shouldn’t work at all, but because De Niro seems to be enjoying his time so incredibly much, it’s hard not to crack a smile or laugh whenever he’s on the screen. He’s dirty, raunchy, disgusting, and a bit annoying, but most of all, he’s De Niro having fun and being spirited at the same time which, if any of you have seen what he’s put out in the past couple of years, means a lot. The movie may not be fully up-to-par but hey, seeing De Niro have some fun, allows me to have some fun, as well.

Just don’t tell anybody I said that.

Consensus: Not at all politically correct by any means and definitely a mixed-affair, Dirty Grandpa sets out for the shock laughs than anything else and can, for the most part, make them work, if only because De Niro and Efron seem to be having fun.

5 / 10

Whatta party.

Whatta party.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

45 Years (2015)

A lot can happen in 45 years.

Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) has been with her husband, Geoff (Tom Courtenay), for many years – 45 to be exact. So that’s why, after a slight mishap five years ago, they’re getting ready and prepping-up to celebrate the 45th anniversary of their wedding, with a big ball full of friends, booze, food, and dancing. And while it’s a very joyous time for the couple, something from Geoff’s past comes back to life and not only disrupts his life, but also Kate’s. All of a sudden, a lover from Geoff’s past has been found dead in the Alps, which leaves Geoff wondering just where or what his life would have been, had he decided to stick with her and not get married to Kate. As a result of this, Kate herself starts to question her own marriage and life with Geoff, realizing that she may not be the ultimate woman and also trying to come to terms with the fact that this is not only the man she’s spent a huge portion of her life with, but probably will for the rest of it.

Men are always focusing on food, whereas the women are always spent looking out into the air.

Men are always focusing on food, whereas the women are always spent looking out into the air.

There’s really not a lot going on in 45 Years, except for Charlotte Rampling and everything that she puts into it. It’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to film over the past decades, to know and understand that Rampling is a great actress. It doesn’t matter what she shows up in, for no matter how long or short, Rampling comes, she conquers, and she reminds you why great actresses like her still exist.

That’s why it’s probably no surprise she got nominated for an Oscar (for the record, we hope she proves these prognosticators wrong.)

However, it’s not just her who makes the movie great, as writer/director Andrew Haigh does what he seemed to do with Weekend and the cancelled-too-soon Looking, and that’s give us simple, small tales about simple, small people, and yet, not make them simple. Rather than just giving us a story about a wife and husband trying to connect after being together for nearly 45 years, Haigh takes it up one notch and gives us a reason to see why these characters deserve our attention and thoughts. While it’s a bit silly that the recent news of a person’s death is what causes all of these issues so coincidentally, it still works because Haigh takes his time with these character, this situation, and most importantly, their lives.

After all, while watching 45 Years, we never forget the fact that we’re watching two characters, who have been living and loving one another for so very long, are still doing the same thing. Obviously though, they’re older, more tired, and perhaps, more bored with one another. However, rather than making all of this seem like a slog to wade through, Haigh makes sure the smallest bit of detail catches our attention and have us think, even when it seems like nothing’s happening at all. These two could just be sitting there, having tea, talking about past times, certain people they do, or don’t like, and/or just doing nothing at all but staring into space, and still, there’s something interesting about watching it all happen.

In a way, it’s as if we’re watching a documentary of two people who have been together for so very long, just live life.

This seems to be the exact feeling Haigh is aiming for and it works make this situation, as well as these characters, more relatable and universal. It’s interesting that Haigh, someone who was pegged as “the next big voice for Queer cinema”, decided that he didn’t want to be pigeon-holed and give his own take on a relationship that, quite frankly, anyone could have. It’s also worth noting that it’s great to see a movie about two near-70 characters, who love one another and aren’t really doing much other than just discussing their past and soon-to-be future. While most studios feel as if these aren’t the kinds of stories that get butts into the seats, they’re still probably the most honest and, above all else, sad, because well, this is how we’re all going to end up one day, if we’re lucky.

Whether or not it makes money, shouldn’t really matter, but such is the case as to why we don’t really get many movies like 45 Years.

And yet, at the same time, the movie still comes back to Charlotte Rampling and what she’s able to do with this performance as Kate Mercer.

Oh, Char. Take it easy, girl.

Oh, Char. Take it easy, girl.

From the very beginning, we don’t know much about Kate, other than that she loves her husband, her house, and her dog, and that’s about it. But as time goes on and the movie develops, we start to realize that she’s in desperate need in something out of her life; even though she’s older and has seen all that she’s needed to see, she still feels underdeveloped in some way, shape, or fashion. That’s why, when this tragedy from her husband’s past comes back into the fray, she doesn’t really know what to do or make sense of, so therefore, she tries her hardest to depend on herself for just about anything she needs.

And Rampling, even with the smallest look in her eye, tilt of her head, or walk in a general direction, she makes you think. You never know full well what’s going on in this character’s head and it’s hard to imagine what a lesser-actress would have done with such a non-showy role such as this, but that’s why we have actresses like Rampling to remind us why she deserves every role she gets. It should be noted that Tom Courtenay does a solid job as her husband, too, but really, he’s here to frustrate and anger Kate, as well as she he should. In a way, he sort of becomes unlikable and unsympathetic, but then you get to thinking, too: He’s also got to be thinking of how it feels to have spent the past 45 years with this one woman and one woman only.

In some ways, it feels like 45 Years should have been, or at least, could have been that movie. Though it’s great to see the movie focus in on Kate and her issues, it still would have been great to know and understand just what it was that Geoff was going through, especially considering his situation is all the more tragic. Perhaps we would have had a longer movie? Or maybe, even a better movie?

Who knows?

All I know is that, even though she won’t win, Charlotte Rampling definitely makes the case for the Best Actress Oscar.

Consensus: With thoughtful, heartfelt writing, and a superb performance from Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years is a slow, but interesting look at marriage, as complicated as it may be.

8 / 10

45 years? Maybe too much time.

45 years? Maybe too much time.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010)

Is there such a thing as “a job going exactly according to plan”?

Two kidnappers, Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston) have a secret, super duper shady plan of holding the daughter of a rich businessman hostage. Why? Well it’s a known-fact that she’s got a lot of money attached to her name and that her daddy would be more than willing to throw down any hefty sum of money to get her back into his arms and make sure that everything’s okay and fine. And for the longest time, the plan goes together perfectly. The daughter, Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), is found, kidnapped and put away silently in this bed and tied-up. She’s given food to eat, a pot to piss and/or do other stuff in, and a bed to sleep in, even though she doesn’t have much else choice to do much else. And hell, her father seems to not have contacted the cops and willing to meet-up to exchange the money. So yeah, it seems like everything’s going perfectly according to plan, until, well, it doesn’t and all of a sudden, everybody starts to turn on one another and question the other’s motives.

When your hostage is this pretty, it's hard to not get your emotions wrapped-up in a bunch.

When your hostage is this pretty, it’s hard to not get your emotions wrapped-up in a bunch.

The first thirty or so minutes of Alice Creed is actually quite interesting. We see a lot of planning going into setting the room and stage-up for where the abductee will be taken, but we don’t hear these guys utter a single word. We know that they’re setting up for a kidnapping, due to the title, but because everything so perfectly and meticulously planned-out, it’s actually quite chilling, while also intriguing because, well, this is how one would want to create a hostage situation. Granted, I hope to never be involved with one, but if I were to all of a sudden be in a huge pinch for money, I’d probably use this movie’s first half-hour as a guideline on what to do.

And even when Alice Creed, the character, does end-up getting kidnapped, it’s still interesting. We have no clue why this character is getting kidnapped in the first placed, how it all happened, and what kind of relationship these characters have with one another, if any at all. We don’t ever see the actual kidnapping itself, so yeah, the mystery’s always up in the air, but what do these characters mean to one another? Are they all pals doing these secret things to one another? Or are they all just strangers, set-up to ensure that no problems ensue with said kidnapping?

Well, eventually, we begin to get the answers to these puzzling questions and sadly, that’s about the same time when Alice Creed, the movie, gets to be a bit of a bore.

After a certain moment, it becomes clear that writer/director J Blakeson is perfect at setting the stage up for what could be a very interesting, if sometimes exciting thriller, but doesn’t really know where to go after all the said setting up. There’s plenty of twists here, which is fine, but after about the ninth or tenth, it becomes to be a bit of overkill. Which wouldn’t be such a problem if the actual twists and turns were the least bit believable or interesting, but most of them feel placed-in as a desperate way of spicing things up, or just ripped from other movies that are, in some cases, many times better than this one.

The only interesting aspect of the movie that stays as such probably throughout, is the actual cast themselves. Considering that there’s literally nobody else in this movie, other than three ones we get in the first half-hour, it goes without saying that they should probably all be solid actors, doing exceptional work, in a movie that’s in desperate need of it. And with Alice Creed‘s case, that’s definitely the case, even if the script itself doesn’t offer them much room to breath or stretch their limbs out.

But to be honest, it’s hard to talk about all of these characters without spoiling just exactly who, or what they mean to the overall story.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Gemma Arterton’s Alice Creed is a bit of a whiny, stuck-up rich girl who clearly isn’t used to being put into a situation like this, but then again, how could she be? Eddie Marsan’s Vic is a tough-as-nails, quiet, and brooding baddie who doesn’t have anytime for jokes or games, and just wants to get this all over and done with, as well as he should. And Martin Compston’s Danny is, well, the softer and sweeter of the two baddies, even though it becomes awfully clear why he is and ultimately, ends up showing something of a softer side throughout the rest of the movie.

Each one here is fine and do exactly what they should in a movie that doesn’t seem to be all that well-equipped to help them out, but it’s a bit disappointing, because this movie could have been a very interesting, character-driven thriller. However, because it’s all about where the plot is moving, what can happen to keep things fun, and what sort of twists and turns can come out of nowhere, it never gets the chance to be anything. Maybe, just maybe, the movie’s a bit too big for its own good and doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “downplaying”, but really, that’s expecting a tad bit too much. After all, Alice Creed is just another low-key thriller; it may not be wanting to be a smart, intriguing character-piece about what people do in situations like kidnappings, but it certainly could have been and it’s a bit disappointing that it didn’t take itself any further.

Especially since, well, the groundwork was already laid-out quite well.

Consensus: Given the solid cast on-hand, the Disappearance of Alice Creed feels more disappointing than it should, given that after the first half-hour, it loses all direction and sense of what keeps a plot interesting, and that’s believability.

5.5 / 10

Kidnappers take lunch breaks?

Kidnappers take lunch breaks?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, B Movies

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

Good thing this movie wasn’t bad.

Shaun is a sheep who, for the longest time, has been forced to do the same thing each and everyday. He’s always made to stay within the confines of the fences around him, allowed to play with his fellow other sheep, and at the end of the day, get sheered and continue on with the next day. However, one day, sick and tired of just doing the same crap day in and day out, Shaun decides to take the day off and have some fun for once. However, Shaun gets a lot more than just fun and is now realizing that perhaps breaking from the schedule maybe wasn’t the best idea. There’s a small mix-up with the Farmer, a caravan, and a hill that lead Shaun, as well as the rest of the flock to the Big City and now, it’s being left up to Shaun to gather up the flock and the Farmer, and return safely to home, all safe, sound, and in one piece.

One sheep.

One sheep.

There’s not much of a plot to Shaun the Sheep, nor does there need to be – it’s just fine in its own, simple skin where it isn’t asking much of its audience to follow along with, but still pay attention. For instance, due to the fact that this is an Aardman piece, it goes without saying that there’s a bunch of small jokes, visual gags, and bits of humor that need some sort of attention from the brain to not just understand, but actually laugh at. Sure, the animation itself is great to look and still, even after all these years, impressively original, given the general landscape of the world of animation, but really, it’s the jokes here that set Aardman apart from the rest of the competition.

And with Shaun the Sheep, they can rest safely knowing that their streak has not been broken.

As is the case with most of Aardman pictures, the humor can be considered easily accessible to all parties who decide to check this out. Because a good portion of the audience who will want to actually see this are in fact, little kids who don’t really get certain jokes, or pay attention at all, it would make sense that they’d be given all the usual slapstick that you’d expect them to laugh and point at. But Aardman takes it one step further and also doesn’t forget about the adults who are mostly dragged-out to see these movies and give them a little something to laugh and point at in their own right.

However, unlike other comedies like Shrek or Despicable Me, they aren’t given a bunch of modern-day pop-culture references that would show the creators as being “hip” and “with the times”, but instead, just witty jokes that continue to build and build and build. Eventually, yes, there’s a pay-off to a lot of these jokes and while they don’t always land as well as certain others, they do, for the most part, all bring a chuckle or two to the movie and shows what can happen when you put just a bit more thought into writing humor. It’s not just how funny the end of the joke is, or what it’s punchline is, it’s how you get to said punchline, as well as what you’re able to do to try an distract the audience so that they can be surprised when said punchline does arrive and actually makes them laugh.

I’m definitely putting a lot more thought and process into Shaun the Sheep‘s humor than I probably should, but so be it.

Two sheep.

Two sheep.

The people behind Shaun the Sheep clearly care for their product and aren’t just trying to cash in on some sort of name-brand that will either be appealing to kids and families, or their target audience. Yes, they know that the people who have been coming to see their movies for years, will continue to do so because they know that their brand of animation is far more smarter and thoughtful than most others out there (aka, crap like Norm of the North), but they also do realize that other people who don’t pay attention to the substance and effort they put into their movies, may want to go see the movies as well, mostly due to the fact that their animation. But instead of dumbing themselves down to the highest-bidder, they keep with their original identity, and keep things fun, exciting, lovely, and most importantly, hilarious.

And sure, Shaun the Sheep may not be the key piece of animation that Aardman proves its dominance with, but it’s an obvious sign as to why they do still work, given all of the movies they’ve done. Kids love to watch the goofy-looking characters fall, do silly things, hurt themselves quite a lot, and yet still get back up, whereas parents love to watch them set jokes up, continue to add more to said jokes, and then, at the end, deliver on them. In other words, everybody’s a winner with Aardman’s movies and it makes me, a film-lover, happy to know that there are people out there who still care for animation and aren’t just leeching off name recognition or popularity – if anything, they’re just trying to give the people what they want, as well as staying dedicated to the die-hard who continue to come back to them, time and time again.

Now if only Pixar remained that faithful.

Consensus: Shaun the Sheep is another piece of Aardman animation that not only looks great, but also flows nicely, is funny for all ages, and perfect for the whole family to sit down, not watch for too long, and enjoy – something all animation should be.

8 / 10

So....many...sheee...zzzzzz

So….many…sheee…zzzzzz

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Video-games should just stay as such.

When he was recruited at an early age, Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) was forced to become a ruthless, emotionless and unforgiving killer. For whatever shady reasons they may have been, he was basically trained to be an assasin, and through plenty of genetic defects given to him over the years, the powers that be have ensured that there’d be no distractions for Agent 47, so that he could keep his eyes on the prize and the job, no matter what may have gotten in his way. Now though, many years into the program and out into the field, he’s assigned a mission where he must use his skills to team with a mysterious young woman (Hannah Ware) to take down the evil Syndicate. For some reason, the said Syndicate wants this mysterious woman and Agent 47, but at the same time, they also want to use the technology used in Agent’s program to build their own army of enemy ruthless, highly-trained killers. Now, being forced with a dilemma, Agent 47 has to think of what’s best for him, this mysterious woman, as well as the rest of the world, considering it’s not just him who will be affected, but the rest of society and if the evil Syndicate has it their way, then the rest of the planet will be bowing down to them.

He can run.

He can run.

Honestly, we probably didn’t need Hitman movie in the first place and we sure as hell didn’t need a reboot made some eight years later, but here we are now. Not only do we have one lame Hitman movie, but we have another one that wastes another talented cast, on material that could be somewhat promising for a movie, but once again, like most other video-game movie adaptations, still suffers from the problems that there’s just no way certain material from a video-game, no matter how good or fun it may be, can translate to the big screen. Sure, you could make the argument that Prince of Persia was at least serviceable, but if that’s the bar, then it’s not a very big one.

And Hitman: Agent 47 doesn’t reach that same bar, but it still shows signs of trying to.

For one, the action-sequences of the movie are very good and feel very much in place with the actual video-game itself. They’re fun, exciting and silly, just as a movie based on a video-game should be. Same goes for the rest of the movie, that not only looks slick and pretty, but also feels like it exists in this imaginary world where people are downright evil and/or plain and simply good; though this is completely over-the-top, weird and unbelievable, the movie is, like I’ve said, based on a video-game, so it makes sense that the world it depicts would not be the same one you or I live in nowadays.

That’s why, for the longest time, all plot-issues aside, I was willing to give Hitman: Agent 47 the benefit of the doubt; it may not be the best movie, but as a late-summer blockbuster, it’s got some fun to it. But really, after awhile, it all goes away once we realize that there’s actually no story to this thing, nor is there actually any characters worth caring about or getting invested in. You could make the clear argument that in some video-games, like in Hitman, you don’t actually care about the characters, their development, or plot progressions, like as you would with a movie, and are more concerned with just getting to the next level and looking cool and skilled in front of your fellow pals, but I’d have to disagree with that. Certain legendary games like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Max Payne, and yes, even Hitman, all have certain qualities to them that make it clear that, if anybody wanted to, they’d have enough material for a well-done, interesting and compelling movie, but for some reason, the promise has been lost in the jumble.

Of course, Assassin’s Creed won’t be coming out until later this year so we don’t know how it’ll turn out, Max Payne‘s movie was pretty lame (if a bit of a guilty pleasure for yours truly), and there will probably never, ever be a Grand Theft Auto movie if those within Rockstar Games are still alive and breathing, but the two movies of Hitman, although containing some fine and fun action, still don’t have the right story or character-development to help the movies work fully. And even though there is quite a few action-sequences here in Hitman that do the trick, there’s still not enough to ensure that the fans of the video-game will be able to get by and be happy with; there’s a lot of down time that’s focused on the backstory of Agent 47, his childhood, and just exactly what this shady agency is all up to, but really, it’s all quite boring and just seems placed in here for some perspective. Had these elements been done with at least a little more effort, there wouldn’t have been such a problem, but sadly, it’s just kind of boring and uninteresting.

He can pull out duel-pistols.

He can pull out duel-pistols.

Not at all like the game.

Which is a shame because, given the cast involved, there should be more material here to help make things better. Rupert Friend plays a cold-blooded assassin here, like he does on Homeland, but because this one is far more closed-off from the rest of the world, as well as to himself, he does a lot of brooding and staring – none of which are actually ever compelling. Friend tries, don’t get me wrong, but he’s clearly working with material that’s limited him to just doing certain emotions and leaving it at that. Hannah Ware is pretty, but really, her character is here just to keep the plot moving and that’s about it.

The one I’m most definitely surprised to see here is Zachary Quinto. Quinto’s actually a pretty interesting actor who will, of course, take the occasional mainstream role in something like Star Trek or What’s Your Number, but also has a pretty solid work in lower-key films like Margin Call, or in TV shows like the surprisingly great the Slap, Hannibal, and most especially, Girls. So that’s why, to see him in something as lazy and uninspired as this, you have to wonder: Just how much of a financial bind was he in? Did he think there was something inherently interesting about his villainous character that just ticked his fancy way too much to turn away? Or, was he just so desperate for any sort of money he could scrounge up for the summer? Whatever the answer may be, I’m not sure, but it’s a shame to see him here, even though he is giving it his all.

Something that I wish those behind the actual movie decided to try and do, too.

Consensus: Another video-game, another lame film adaptation, Hitman: Agent 47 works well when it’s kicking butt, taking names and not bothering asking any questions, but when it tries to focus on other aspects that make movies good, like plot, or characters, or emotions, it breaks and reminds us why the video-game itself is so entertaining to play in the first place.

3.5 / 10 

He can even beat up Spock. Hell, Agent 47 can do just about anything.

He can even beat up Spock. Hell, Agent 47 can do just about anything.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

No Escape (2015)

White people should just stay home, apparently.

After disappointing in the states, Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) takes his family on a business trip to a foreign country where he hopes to not only impress his wife (Lake Bell), but also get out of this work-slump that he’s been in since the recession of 2008. However, little does Jack know that the native residents of this foreign land don’t take kindly to people like Jack, nor do they take kindly to the water company that Jack represents. So, without him really knowing, Jack and his family is being targeted for representing America and its selfish, rude ways of sticking their nose into other countries’ business that they don’t need to be bothered with in the first place. While Jack, nor his wife really have any experience in kicking ass, or taking names, what they do have with them is the will to live, as well as the inspiration in making sure that their two daughters survive this hell-zone. Because even though they don’t know where to go, or even how this is all going to end, they are, most definitely, going to try and get out of this situation with a fight.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Owen Wilson. aka, All-American Daddy.

Even if it comes close to killing them.

For a good portion of its running-time, No Escape is actually a damn solid thriller. Director John Erick Dowdle starts things off nice and slowly by introducing us to these characters, the gritty, but odd scenery they’re thrown into, and lets all of the craziness happen, but doesn’t over-do it. Once Owen Wilson’s character goes out for the morning newspaper, there’s a slight chill of discomfort in the air; it’s almost as if we, yes, know that something bad is going to happen, but because Wilson’s character is such a middle-class boob and clearly has no idea what to do in the face of violence, we’re already in-suspense and waiting to see what goes down. Then, the movie focuses on what’s going on with Lake Bell’s character, her two daughters, and the hotel that they’re staying at, and instead of just being tense and somewhat fun, it’s now absolutely terrifying.

Because really, what No Escape wants to be, is a real-life thriller that makes you feel like, if you were given the same misfortune as these characters to be stuck in the same situation, that you’d have no clue what to do either. Rather than having a bunch of pre-calculated, James Bond-like ways of thinking and gadgets to save yourself from an angry hoard of killers, you’re just a simpleton who may have no actual prior experience with violence or tense situations such as these. So therefore, you have to act on intuition, as well as your gut-feeling and this can sometimes lead to the dumbest, perhaps most risky decisions you could make, but because you want to live, and want those that you love to live, too, you’re willing to do whatever it takes, no matter what.

This is perhaps the biggest fear that No Escape taps into and it’s why, for at least the first 45 minutes, it’s a solid action-thriller that puts you directly in the shoes of its protagonists and makes you actually believe that, well, this could actually happen to you.

Of course, a lot of the movie is completely far-fetched and a bit silly, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how the movie switches the idea around of racism being against white people, and no other race or color. A lot of people have called No Escape “racist” and “ignorant” for not naming its supposed “villains”, or being more descriptive in just who it is that they represent (are they Cambodians?), but really, it’s doing something that not many other blockbusters in the same vein do and that’s focusing on white people being targeted for the color of their skin and how, no matter how hard they try, they can never be taken in as innocent.

Sound familiar?

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

James Bond is probably the right guy you want on your side in a situation like this.

Well, that’s because it definitely should and it makes me wonder why so much of No Escape, while occasionally smart, if anything, intriguing, also seems to fall apart. For example, the movie really wants to throw the grisly, heinous violence in our faces, which is fine, but by the same token, also wants us to see this movie as something of a cheery flick about sticking together as a unit, regardless of what trepidations stand in your way. While there’s no problem with this message to begin with, in a movie as dirty and disgusting as No Escape, it almost feels like a cheat – kind of like Dowdle himself couldn’t come up with the right tone to tie everything together.

That’s why, after a solid hour or so, No Escape starts to get, not just very silly, but very messy, trying to make sense of its violence, add some context, and most importantly, act as if it’s “important”, when in reality, it’s not. If anything, No Escape is just another shoot-em-up action-thriller, that also happens to take a ripped-from-the-headlines circumstance and give it a realistic treatment – anything added, honestly, feels unnecessary and silly. After all, this is the same movie that features Owen Wilson chucking his two daughters from one fifteen-story building to another, and hardly encountering any strength problems or injuries in the process.

Then again, it’s pretty interesting to see Owen Wilson in this kind of role and it also calls into question just how much thought may have actually gone into No Escape. While the movie could have easily cast a Jason Statham, or a Tom Cruise, or hell, even a Matt Damon in the role and act as if they’re just the everyday man pushed to the brink, the movie actually goes so far as to cast somebody as plain, ordinary, and dorky as Wilson, which works in helping it make it seem like this character has no clue what he’s getting himself into, or how to get out of it. Same goes for Lake Bell, who does get a tad annoying with her constantly pushing and bothering Wilson, but doesn’t get in the way as much.

If anything, however, the one character I’d probably like to see get his own movie is Pierce Brosnan’s Hammond, a variation on James Bond, that’s perhaps more realistic. Not only is the man wiser beyond his years, but he’s also a nice guy who can strike up a conversation about anything and generally seems to know what he’s talking about, regardless of what the topic may be. At the same time, however, there’s this idea that the guy can’t be messed with and what this does, whenever his presence is felt, makes you feel all warm, cozy and safe inside, even if you know full well, that it may not even matter.

Something we want to feel with James Bond, but come on – the guy’s too busy getting laid half of the time!

 

Consensus: One-half a surprisingly effective, if ugly-looking thriller, No Escape starts off strong, but soon dives into trying to take on a bit more than it can chew and lose itself in unexpectedness hokiness.

6 / 10

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there's no escape!

You can run, you can hide, but no matter what, there’s no escape!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Lady in the Van (2015)

More people need to listen to Matt Foley.

During the 70’s and 80’s of London, playwright and occasional actor Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) was in desperate need of some sort of inspiration in his life. And not just for writing either – also, he was looking for a reason to love another person and not just have wild one night stands with all sorts of usual suspects from in and around the area. His inspiration comes, however, it’s in the form of a homeless woman named Miss Shepherd (Maggie Smith); a smart, but quick-witted lady who, unsurprisingly, lives in her van. While Miss Shepherd starts off by living in the street of Bennett’s neighborhood, after some time, and plenty of ordinances and tickets from local law enforcement, she moves into Bennett’s driveway where she also starts to use his toilet and poke her nose into his business. This eventually leads Bennett himself to start looking into Miss Shepherd’s life, her past, and the exact reasoning for why she decided to live all by herself in a van for all of these years. Because obviously, no person in their right mind would want to live in a dirty, smelly and disgusting van for the later-part of their life, so what’s the reason? Well, Bennett looks to find out and is surprised to hear the answers when they come around.

She's smart...

She’s smart…

Despite what the title may have you believe, the Lady in the Van isn’t really actually about “the lady in the van”; in fact, it’s more about the person who wrote the book and had to experience the titled-character, author Alan Bennett. And to prove this, the movie doesn’t just who the story being told from Bennett’s perspective, but also uses this awkward, unneeded plot-mechanism where instead of getting one Bennett telling the story, we get another. The reason director Nicholas Hytner uses this is to show us the two combating sides of Bennett; one of the sides, is “the writer” who constantly thinks and toggles with the idea of what to write about what happened or didn’t happen, and then, there’s “the human”, who actually does a lot of the actions he’s thinking about doing to begin with.

The only reason I discuss this and show this off, is because it’s not only annoying every time it shows up, but completely silly. Sure, we get that Bennett is a writer and is in desperate need of some great, big story to carry him through the next few years of his life, but do we really need to hear or be shown his every single, little thought that goes through his head? Can’t we just see it all play-out? Or better yet, make up our own conclusions of what’s going through his mind at said point in the story?

Of course we can, but the Lady in the Van, the movie itself, doesn’t really hold that much subtlety.

Which isn’t to say that Maggie Smith, perhaps the best thing about the Lady in the Van, truly is lovely and adorable playing said lady who lives in the van. As usual, Smith always has some sort of smart-remark to make at the expense of someone else, and allows for her keen observations to run wild, but there’s more to this character that does in fact make her interesting. We get to hear more about her past life and while none of it is as developed as it probably should have been, the movie still gives Smith plenty of chances to pick up most of the slack and do something magical with this character.

Then again, though, the movie isn’t totally about her – it’s about Bennett, his life, and his experience with this lady living in the van.

...sassy...

…sassy…

Which really, isn’t such a bad thing, because Bennett himself, as well as his relationship with the lady living in the van, is actually quite interesting. For one, the movie never makes Bennett out to be some sort of latter-day saint who took this old lady into his home, washed her, fed her, and gave her the kind of sympathy and shelter she oh so desired – instead, the movie shows him as kind of a closed-off dick who, yes, may be a bit sympathetic to her cause, but is in no way opening his arms anytime soon. But for some reason, that doesn’t sympathetic or unsympathetic, just human and it’s frustrating to see the movie constantly confuse itself with the two factors and not know what to do or say about the character.

It should also be noted that Alex Jennings is actually good in the role of Bennett, someone who may deserve a better movie than the one he’s been given here. Because even when it isn’t focusing on Bennett’s, or Miss Shepherd’s life, the movie tries hard to be cute and sweet, but also loses itself in thinking it’s too much of that, and forget to actually develop the story itself. As I said before, there’s some form of mystery surrounding Miss Shepherd and her shady, unknown past, but the movie doesn’t really go too far in detailing that anymore than just a few clues here and there; not that I minded watching Maggie Smith be grumpy to those around her, but after the eighth or ninth scene in a row of seeing that happen, it got to be a bit tiring and all of a sudden, I remembered that there was a story to be told here that, believe it or not, wasn’t actually being told.

Then again, maybe the actual story of the Lady in the Van wasn’t all that eventful to begin with. That this is a true story, it already calls into question the authenticity of what’s being presented, as well as how much actually holds up when in the court of all. After all, the true story of this whole thing could have just been that Miss Shepherd was a grumpy, old homeless woman who was, of course, smelly, but also, was mean to a lot of those around her. Whether any of them deserved it or not, the movie never really gets into, but it makes you think just if there was anything more to this woman, or her story, than where’s it at?

Or is this just it? Probably is, but oh well.

Consensus: The Lady in the Van definitely receives assistance from the fine performances of Jennings and Smith, but really, it’s messy narrative-structure and plot-devices don’t come together well enough to give them a movie worthy of their talent.

5.5 / 10

...and yes, an old woman. So of course she's like some fun. Who doesn't?!?!

…and yes, an old woman. So of course she’s like some fun. Who doesn’t?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Anesthesia (2016)

AnesthesiaposterLife sucks on so many fronts.

Professor Walter Zarrow (Sam Waterston) is coming up on his last day of teaching after nearly 40 years and now, he’s starting to put a lot of his life into perspective. His son, Adam (Tim Blake Nelson), is going through an issue of his own when he finds out that his wife has cancer and needs to have surgery immediately. Meanwhile, a student of Walter’s (Kristen Stewart), is dealing with and trying to come to terms with her depression, that can sometimes lead her to deadly and dangerous thoughts. While this is happening, Sarah (Gretchen Mol), a suburban housewife is getting tired of her husband running around on her and leaving her with the kids, which is when she starts to think long and hard about what it is that she wants to do with her life, or if she even wants to stay married in the first place. Then, there’s Joe (K. Todd Freeman), an acclaimed writer who is now suffering from an addiction to heroin; one that his brother (Michael K. Williams) wants to resolve and fix as soon as possible. And then there’s Sam (Corey Stoll) and Nicole (Mickey Sumner) a couple who, for some odd reason, are out on a trip where they talk about life, love and what their current situation is.

Cheer up, K-Stew. Life for you, is getting better and less controversial.

Cheer up, K-Stew. Life for you, is getting better and less controversial.

So yeah, as you can tell, there’s a lot going on in Anesthesia, and while it may seem like none of the stories have anything to do with the other, once time begins to roll on, it’s easy to piece together the pieces of familial-tree in which we can see why this story is being told and what their overall significance is to the story. Does it really work? Not really, but writer/director Tim Blake Nelson, gives it all that he’s got, offering us a handful of stories that can occasionally spark interest and life into a pretty depressed tone, but still sometimes feel like there’s a whole lot missing.

For instance, the main story here is Waterston’s Walter character who, having seen plenty of the world and done a lot for the young, impressionable youth out there, has finally come to terms with the fact that his career is coming to an end. Waterston, as well as the rest of the ensemble, is great here and clearly gives this character his all, but he’s really the only fully-developed character here as we get to see everything about this guy, without any questions left up in the air as to why he is, the way he is. Everybody else, on the other hand, isn’t so lucky and it’s a bit of a shame because, once again, Nelson’s got a lot going on here that’s, on the surface, intriguing, but is all put together and cobbled-up in an-hour-and-a-half movie, that no plot seems to get as much attention as they should.

Even the ones that are, perhaps, the most compelling of all, still have to side the bench for some stories that are far more dull and boring.

One of the later stories in question is Kristen Stewart’s in which she doesn’t do much except look sad, act a bit crazy and question life’s meaning. That’s about it. Considering that Stewart has been showing more and more promise as an actress in the past year or so, it’s a bit of a shame that she’s given such a limited-role to work with here, but once again, it’s less of her fault, as much as it’s Nelson’s for giving it to her and not getting rid of it all completely. And this would have definitely been a smart idea, so long as it meant that there was more room for such stories like Stoll’s and Sumner’s – both of whom are fantastic here and, quite frankly, I’d love to see in their own movie, removed from all of the other sadness going on around here.

And really, the only reason I’m focusing so much on these subplots, is because that’s all the movie is made-up of, without much rhyme or reason. Nelson, from what it seems, is only trying to tell us, with Anesthesia, that life is connected in some sad, utterly depressing ways.

And yeah, that’s about it.

You too, Glen!

You too, Glen!

We get this and understand this clearly from the very beginning and while it’s still interesting to see how some of these small stories play-out in their own, mini ways, there’s still a feeling that a lot is being left out. Of course, having to deal with such a huge cast, Nelson himself probably ran into scheduling issues and couldn’t get each and every actor in the movie together for one scene, but that wasn’t as much of my problem, as much as it was that some weak stories, got in the way of the more engaging, stronger ones, leaving a good portion of Anesthesia to feel as if it’s constantly starting and stopping back up. While it’s admirable that Nelson doesn’t shine a judgmental light on any of these characters, at the same time, there’s only so much we can handle when watching certain characters not do anything of interest, just sit there, argue and talk about things we don’t really have any prior knowledge about.

In ways, the movie can sometimes feel like we’re walking into a party late, only to then realize that either everybody’s been acquainted, too drunk, or already friends with one another, to the point where you almost don’t want to bother introducing yourself or joining in on the fun. You’ve already shown up later than everyone else, they’re now looking at you and they don’t really care because, honestly, they’re getting on fine just without you. Of course, the actual viewing-experience of Anesthesia isn’t as harsh as I may write it out to be, but it is still, in no way, a party you want to be apart of or fully invested in.

Maybe eavesdropping or scoping out from across the room is fine, but that’s about it.

Consensus: Given the cast and crew involved, Anesthesia should hit harder than it does, but instead, focuses on a slew of subplots that can occasionally engage, but never fully-developed.

5 / 10

Just be with Charlie Skinner and everything will be fine.

Just be with Charlie Skinner and everything will be fine.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

Michael Bay: A true American.

On the evening of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2012, a huge group of Islamic militants were angry and upset for obvious reasons and decided to attack the American diplomatic compound, that was, at the time, holding U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. However, they didn’t just top there, they soon went onto target a nearby CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, which was supposed to be super, duper top secret, but for some reason, got leaked out because of some lookie-loos. And even though they weren’t supposed to get involved in the first place, and told constantly to “stay-put and not leave their post” a bunch of CIA security contractors decide that it’s their time to shine and end this brutality and violence before it gets too late and crazy for anyone to stop it. Issue is, it already is too late and now it’s not only up to these CIA security contractors to risk their lives, but to also ensure that they save the U.S. Ambassador.

He's a hero.

He’s a hero.

And yeah, the rest as they say, is well-known history.

Michael Bay loves the absolute hell out of America. So, it makes sense that he would actually take time out of his busy schedule of robots beating the hell out of one another, oiled-up dudes, and general misogyny, and give us, as he probably likes people calling it, “a heartfelt tribute to the soldiers of Benghazi, as well as those who put their lives on the line for the greater-good of society.” And don’t worry, this isn’t me taking a stance on who is to blame for what happened at Benghazi, nor what could have been done better to prevent anything of that nature from happening at all, because really, the true story is about the soldiers who decided to take-up arms and protect their fellow friends and allies, even if it was absolutely clear that they were out-numbered and most likely, not going to make it out alive.

Which, yes, means that this subject calls for some very overly-patriotic, preachy moments where America’s soldiers look like true heroes, in the midst of all the blood, carnage and chaos – which is what Bay absolutely delivers on. And while this is something we expect from him in an cringe-inducing way, here, it actually works because well, these were real people and they do deserve to have the spotlight shined on them for what it is that they did, regardless of what your political affiliation may be. Even though Bay does make each and everyone of them seem like perfect human beings who have lovely wives, kids, dogs, and personalities, it’s still easy to get past because you remember that, once again, this is a true story and these people were in fact, and still are, real.

At the same time though, being a well-deserved tribute doesn’t mean that your movie is at all “good” – just more thoughtful than usual.

Especially when your name is in fact, Michael Bay.

This is all to say that 13 Hours, despite Bay trying his hardest to put some thought and senselessness into the proceedings, is still a gory, crazy and hyper-violent shoot-em-up, where instead of getting the usual Bay caricatures, we have actual soldiers and Libyans, going toe-to-toe, in a literal battle of whose grenade-launcher is bigger and more effective. In other words, it’s exactly like every other Michael Bay movie, which can tend to mean that there’s a lot of explosions, gun shots, and people dying – none of which we actually get to see in a manner that’s effective or, especially, coherent. However, it isn’t always like this, as the setting-up of what initially went down in Benghazi, although a bit dramatic, is still compelling and, most importantly terrifying.

Hell, he's a hero.

Hell, he’s a hero.

But then, it all goes away once Bay starts letting stuff explode and be loud for the hell of it. There’s no problem with this, in terms of factual accuracy, as I’m pretty sure this is exactly what happened in Benghazi, but after awhile, it becomes deafening, repetitive, and tiring – none of which Bay probably intended to actually happen, but such is the case when you’re delving out way too much action/violence and not really offering us anything much else. That Bay seems more interested and taken away with the sheer violence of the events, he focuses less on the meaning of it all; this is alright, as we never know whether he’s trying to make a point or not about war being the right means for ending a conflict, but still, it’s not like he’s even trying, either.

Once again, nobody expects substance from Bay, but given the source material he’s working with, you’d expect a tad bit more.

Nothing too much, but just a slight bit.

Still though, it’s not a terrible movie – just a very misguided one that clearly finds Bay wondering which side of him he wants to show. Maybe there’s a more thoughtful, smarter side to Bay that we don’t ever get to see in the loud, bombastic blockbusters he usually puts out, or maybe, he’s just that over-grown man-child who likes to watch things hit one another, go “brash“, then look at boobs, make sexist jokes, and waste the talents of each and every talented actor who was in desperate need of paying the bills in some way, or fashion. Honestly, the later side of Bay is probably the only side of Bay, but after seeing 13 Hours, it’s not hard to imagine that quite possibly, there’s a bit more underneath the surface that’s worth getting somewhat invested, hell, interested in.

Then again, maybe not.

Consensus: While 13 Hours may show Bay trying a bit harder than ever to give this material the right amount of heart and sentiment it deserves, he still falls into the same motions of constant over-the-top and hectic violence, that’s never as compelling or exciting as Bay may want it to be.

4.5 / 10

But you know what? They're all heroes. If just for one day.

But you know what? They’re all heroes. If just for one day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Island (2005)

Everyone’s afraid of dying. Or looking ugly, too, apparently.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) seems to be living the full and complete life that every person on the face of planet should be. Not only does he have a nice job, but keeps a steady diet, has a good amount of friends, a rather exciting night-life, and seems to be getting closer and closer to his goal of reaching “the Island”. “The Island”, for those who don’t know, is a vacation resort of sorts for those workers who show the best performance and are definitely deserving of being given some sort of gift. Issue is, “the Island” isn’t actually what it appears to be – cause, for one, there actually isn’t an Island. Instead, it’s just a lie that’s just told to Lincoln, as well as all of his other fellow friends and confidantes who live with him in this community of sorts. And once Lincoln becomes wiser to what’s actually going, he grabs his best, perhaps closest, friend from the community, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and sets out to discover the truth of what’s really going on and figure out why so many people are after him and trying to kill him. The answers to his questions aren’t what he wants, or expects, but still, questions he has to live with and make something of.

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

For awhile, the Island is actually a pretty solid sci-fi flick. Sure, you could definitely make the case that it’s just ripping-off almost every sci-fi flick to have come out in the past few decades that also have to do with clones ( mainly Logan’s Run), but really, it’s hard to hate the movie for actually setting something interesting up. Even though to us, the audience, we know that each and everyone of these characters are just literal clones in this huge machine that doesn’t care one lick about them, seeing how they figure it all out, react to it, and find themselves getting out of and away from said machine is, believe it or not, compelling and exciting. There’s still a few plot-holes and silly moments here and there, but overall, the Island‘s first-half finds Michael Bay taking a backseat to his idiosyncratic tendencies and just allowing for the story to tell itself.

But then, as expected, it all goes to hell once Bay realizes that he’s making this movie and can do whatever he wants.

This means that, yes, there’s a whole lot of explosions, gunshots, cars flipping over for no reason, people yelling, carnage, and most of all, product placement. None of which are actually ever exciting, fun, interesting, compelling, or feel pertinent to the story; instead, they just feel like Michael Bay taking over the wheel and going crazy because, well, he can and who is going to stop him. After all, he’s the commander of his own ship, so why should he have to listen to others when they tell him that he may want to tone it down a bit on the general havoc his movies seem to wreak?

They wouldn’t because they’d be out of a job, that’s why!

Two Obi-Wan's? Look out, Ani!

Two Obi-Wan’s? Look out, Ani!

However, it should be noted that there is at least something of a thoughtful movie tucked deep down inside of the Island, which makes it slightly better than some of Bay’s worst, but not really. The idea of these clones having hardly any life or humanity for that matter, but yet, still feeling and expressing as if they were just like humans, is a neat anecdote that, once again, has already been touched on before in sci-fi, but here, still feels like it could make the story more than just another sci-fi blow-em-up, courtesy of Michael Bay. This especially comes into play during the later-act, when Lincoln wonders what it is about his existence that he wants to save, nor why it is that he cares so much about anything at all; somewhere, the movie’s crying out desperately to be hear and understood, but it’s not getting the right guidance from Bay and it creates a jumble of a movie that wants to be two different things, but ultimately, ends up becoming one thing – which is another hectic piece of action that only Bay can produce.

And like is the case with most of Bay’s movies, the Island features some very talented people, doing some not-so very good things with their time. However, if anything, it shows that Ewan McGregor is still a very good leading-man in an action film, even if the material isn’t always there for him. Sure, he’s charming and slightly cool, but he’s also likable and seems like a genuinely smart creation that, may not have the fullest idea of what’s going on, but is at least going to take some sort of initiative to figure something out and not just stand around all day, being dirty, yet, still looking pretty. As his romantic love-interest, Scarlett Johansson does what she can here with such a limited-role, but because she’s in a Michael Bay movie, she’s mostly used to look hot, run around, and get kissed by the sexy male lead.

Obviously, Johansson has more to do with her time nowadays, but still, it’s a tad disappointing knowing what we all know about what she’s capable of doing.

And yeah, the rest of the cast, like Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Djimon Hounsou all show up and try to add a little something more to the proceedings, but really, they’re just around to deliver corny lines and that’s it. Bay doesn’t really care about them, nor does he really want to give any of them enough efficient things to do with their time – he just wants to see stuff blow up and people kiss.

Which is basically Michael Bay’s career in a nutshell.

Consensus: Despite a strong start, the Island soon turns into another one of Michael Bay’s crazy, overstuffed action pics that, once again, wastes the talent of everyone involved, most importantly, a smarter script that may be lying somewhere out there.

3.5 / 10

Just die already so we know it's the end of the movie.

Just die already so we know it’s the end of the movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The End of the Tour (2015)

Writers hate writers. So don’t be one.

In 1996, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) was a writer for Rolling Stone and was in desperate need of a story to make his mark on, or better yet, get his name out there with. He found this in the form of novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) who, through his novel Infinite Jest, was receiving all sorts of praise and attention. And to promote this book even more than it needed to be, Wallace is forced to go out on a book-tour, which he invites Lipsky to the final day of. Initially, Lipsky and Wallace don’t seem to really know how to talk to one another or get around the fact that they’re both writers, and one is writing a story on the other. There’s a lot of awkward sighs and pauses between the two, which may be mostly due to the fact that Lipsky can’t help but be enamored by Wallace’s presence he holds both on the page, as well as off of it. But once personal issues of Wallace’s past, family and themes get brought up, it brings out a whole other side that Lipsky doesn’t want to believe is true or see, but also can’t deny is there and be scared of.

Lipsky likes Wallace.

Lipsky likes Wallace.

I’ll admit it, I’ve never read or purchased Infinite Jest and honestly, I don’t know if I have any intentions on doing so. It’s not that the length of the book scares me (after all, I sat through all 500-plus pages of Glamorama and didn’t complain), but it’s more of the dedication it takes to not just get through all of the pages, but also to appreciate the genius of David Foster Wallace for all that he was, or, from what I’m told he was. Basically, one day, when I’m older, a tad bit wiser, and don’t have much going on in my life other than just sitting around and wondering, waiting for the next show to binge-watch, then yeah, I’ll find a copy, sit down, and read all of Infinite Jest in its entirety. But, like I said, for now, all I have to base any respect on is what people say about Wallace and the book itself.

And that’s kind of the beauty of the End of the Tour: You don’t really have to know anything about Foster Wallace or Lipsky to become enamored with either personas or what they’re saying – they’re interesting enough as is that it doesn’t matter what it is they may be discussing or be delving into, all we want to do is hear them talk more and more.

This is why writer/director James Ponsoldt really does deserve a lot of credit – not only is he tacking subject-material and a story that may be very limited to a certain kind of audience, but he’s also trying to find a way to make these subjects themselves accessible and compelling enough to watch, even if we don’t already know anything about them to begin with. Right from the very beginning, there’s this feeling that Ponsoldt has a good idea of who each of these two guys are that, when they get together to conduct this so-called “interview”, they’re really just chewin’ the fat and enjoying every second, which is why we sort of do the same. It’s the kind of movie where smart, talented people, talk to one another, but instead of sounding like total and complete pretentious a-holes when discussing the meaning of life and Sternheim, they sound like interesting, sometimes funny fellas who may have some actual insight into the way the world works, as well as movies like Die Hard or Broken Arrow.

But what always keeps the End of the Tour moving, when it isn’t just focusing on these two chatting about their lives and careers, is that this is all happening because of an “interview” – one of which makes both of these guys pretty damn awkward. That Lipsky is already jealous of Foster Wallace for all of the fame and fortune he has seemingly gotten because of the book’s success, already not only draws him to the person, but also to the legend of who this guy really is. At the same time, however, he still has to do this interview with the guy, which tends to lead to the tense moments where he has to put away his hat of admiration, put back on his journalist one, and try to get the deepest, darkest secrets out of this guy, while at the same time, still not trying to offend him enough to where the interview is over and Lipsky has lost someone he could actually call “a friend”.

Wallace likes Lipsky.

Wallace likes Lipsky.

Same goes for Foster Wallace who, yes, is the one being interviewed, but also finds it quite comforting to actually be able to sit down and talk to someone who is actually interested in what he has to say, as well as understand all that he’s talking about. Still, because Foster Wallace was a very odd person and was reportedly on anti-depressants, he didn’t know what to say, or not to say to Lipsky and that tends to lead him to the same area where he doesn’t know if saying a lot is too much, or if saying nothing at all is fine, even if a bit rude.

Still though, despite this obvious issue between the two, they still clearly want to be great friends and adversaries, even if they’re only together for three or so days, due to this “interview”.

And it should be said that yes, Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg, other than being great in their own rights, share a wonderful bit of chemistry here that makes us cherish these two moments together all the more. Even though there’s always that discomforting sense of distrust between the two, there’s also the same feeling that, had they met under different circumstances, they would have been the very best of friends. Sure, they talk about everything in their lives, but also seem to be able to relate to one another in nice, funny ways that surprise even themselves. That’s why, it’s sometimes sad to see whenever the one gets uncomfortable and clearly not happy about something the other said or did; after all, the possibility of a meaningful friendship lies and it’s one that we actually want to see happen, even if we know, yes, it never did.

It’s sad, but oh so true.

Consensus: With two great performances from Eisenberg and especially, Segel, the End of the Tour gives both literary figures enough chemistry and persona to make their trip together not just an enjoyable one, but an interesting, if at times, weird one that ended way too soon and would, sadly, never happen again.

8.5 / 10

They both like one another, however, they're both writers, so it's not meant to be.

They both like one another, however, they’re both writers, so it’s not meant to be.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

Can’t give anyone authority. Especially college bros.

In the 1970’s, Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) conducted a psychological experiment that would forever have his name, as well as the study, remain in infamy and controversy. In the study, a handful of paid volunteers were picked to play “prisoners”, whereas another handful of paid volunteers were picked to play “guards”. Both groups were to simulate a prison in which the guards would treat the prisoners, just as guards would treat prisoners in any real life, day-to-day situation; they would pick-on, torment, toy, tease and punish the prisoners for doing whatever it is that they did, or basically, didn’t do. Because the guards are encouraged to go as far as they can without physically beating the hell out of any of the prisoners, most of the prisoners would tend to act-out and rebel a bit, even if they knew, in all honesty, it wasn’t going to do them any good. Watching all of this transpire, Zimbardo looks to find out why it is that people, when given the position of power, use it to their advantage and act the way they do, and why it is that the prisoners who are being powered-over, don’t fight back or ever question, “why?”.

"Lookin' at something, fellow former-child star?"

“Lookin’ at something, fellow former-child star?”

Movies like the Stanford Prison Experiment are very lucky that everything that they depict, are basically what happened. While the movie states that it is, “based on a true events”, for the most part, it actually is; there’s a few bits of dramatic licensing taken here, most of which, are incredibly obvious and a bit unnecessary. However, everything that seems to be shown in the film, actually appears to have happened and is one of the main reasons why such a study as this still stays in people’s discussions, even after 44 years of it actually being performed. But the main reason why people like us, you know, millenials and hipsters and whatnot, are still talking about this social experiment is because, well, it will always stay relevant, no matter what happens to the world around us.

For instance, what the social experiment, as well as the movie itself, brings up about humans is how, when we’re given just a little bit of power or control in our grubby paws, we will, mostly, run wild with it and take absolute advantage of every second we’re granted security of that strength. Others, of course, will say to themselves, “Ah, who cares. Everybody’s equal, so why should it matter who is considered ‘better’ than others?”, but really, it’s the opposite side of the coin that’s perhaps the most disturbing and thought-about position that really makes a social experiment like this ring so true.

And yeah, the experiment itself, is also basically why the Stanford Prison Experiment works as well as it does.

Because it’s focused solely on the actual study itself – one that was already tense, unpredictable and compelling to begin with – it would only serve it justice to give the movie based off of its events, the same treatment. That a solid portion of the movie takes place in one, narrow hallway, already puts director Kyle Patrick Alvarez in a bit of a tough position where he needs to keep things exciting, but at the same time, not go too overboard with it. Rather than trying to make sense of some of these character’s decisions or choices, no matter how questionable they may get, he just shines a light up to them and lets them tell their own stories. Obviously, there are certain situations and predicaments that occur here that are a bit over-the-top, but still, there’s a ringing sense of truth throughout that works and keeps the movie engaging, even when it seems to be just the same thing happening, over and over again.

But like I said before, the reason why this experiment is still so talked about, is because it puts you, yourself, in the position of these people and make you wonder one thing: What would you do? Had you been put into the position of the guard, would you have just not cared, gone through the motions, and just be around to accept your money when all was said and done? Or, would you savor this moment, piss the “prisoners” off, basically torture them every step you get, and constantly remind them of who is in-charge, while at the same time, driving them slowly, but surely, crazy?

Those are the looks of some very guilty people.

Those are the looks of some very guilty people.

And hell, while we’re at it, what would you do as a prisoner? Would you just take it all, keep it all to yourself, and constantly remind yourself that “this is just an experiment”? Or, would you go crazy and try your absolute hardest to get the hell out of said “prison”, as soon as possible, by any means necessary? The movie, just like the experiment itself, brings these questions up, doesn’t know whether to answer the questions or not, but instead, just let them make a point for themselves.

In ways, you don’t know how people would act when thrown into these positions, which is what makes the Stanford Prison Experiment all the more shocking.

Though, there is something to be said for the later-part of the movie where it becomes clear that this experiment may have gone a tad too long, and all we’re doing is waiting around and watching as a bunch of young adults, torture and play around with other young adults. While we know that a fine amount of what’s depicted here in the film, actually did happen, by this point, when the two-hour mark has been well hit, it starts to become like overkill where we understand what the movie is trying to say, but can’t help itself from going further and further. This is less of a problem with the actual experiment itself, and more of on the movie, but still, it goes without saying that there’s only so much pain one can consume over a certain amount of time.

Which is, once again, probably something to be said about humans and makes me trust everybody a whole lot less.

Consensus: Thought-provoking, tense and somewhat enraging, the Stanford Prison Experiment takes an infamous study, gives it the nonjudgmental light it deserves, and allows for us, the audience, to think about what they’d all do in the same situation.

8 / 10 

It's like fraternity hazing, but instead, everybody's getting paid and losing their minds a whole lot more.

It’s like fraternity hazing, but instead, everybody’s getting paid and losing their minds a whole lot more.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Experimenter (2015)

Doesn’t matter how many volts it is, being shocked freakin’ hurts!

In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) concocted a psychological experiment that, on the surface, seemed simple and easy, but once looked at deep enough, turned out to be quite disturbingly complex. What Milgram would do in this research study, was have one person be on one side of a glass door, get them strapped-up to a machine that delivered electric shocks and have the other person involved with the study ask them to reiterate phrases that they say. If the person on the other side of the door got it wrong, the person in control of the electrical volts were supposed to deliver as high of a shock as they were instructed to do so, no matter how much pain or anguish the person on the other side of the door sounded, or better yet, appeared to be in. Obviously, people question what to do next and whether or not to deliver the shock because, what they think at least, is that the other person is being shocked, nearly to death – little do they know is that said person being shocked-to-death, isn’t actually being shocked at all and is just testing to see how far and willing these subjects are able to go with the shocks.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that. Or in general.

And that, my friends, is what we call in the psychology biz, “the Milgram Experiment“.

Everything about the whole Milgram Experiment and the ideas about humans that it brings up is actually pretty interesting. Milgram, as he tells us quite often throughout, is trying to test the limits of just how far humans will go when they are given, as plainly defined, an assignment; while nobody apart of the experiment may actually be bad people who enjoy inflicting cruel and unusual punishment onto random strangers, at the same time, they’re given this assignment to do and have to keep with it, no matter what. So of course, they trudge on along and continue to zap, and zap, and zap away at the other subject, without wholly fighting the system that is telling them to do so.

If this sounds a whole lot like the Nazis well then, you hit the nail right on the head. Milgram himself, as he tells us constantly throughout the movie, tells us that his parents were apart of the concentration camps before they came to America and it’s interesting to see how this needle-and-thread narrative constantly gets weaved-in throughout, even while we’re learning of just what kind of person Milgram actually was. While writer/director Michael Almereyda has a lot to work with here, in terms of handling the biopic-form of this person’s life, as well as throwing that person’s own ideas into the narrative, he doesn’t lose himself on the material, either.

At the same time, however, it’s hard not to watch Experimenter as two different movies into one, with one being definitely far more interesting and better than the other.

But still, even the one that is off worse, isn’t terrible. The only issue with the part of the movie focusing on Milgram’s personal life, is that Milgram himself, isn’t all that intriguing of a person to begin with. Sure, the studies he concocts are, but overall, him as a person, is quite dry and uneventful, which calls into question why we needed such a film dedicated to telling his whole story, and less about the study itself. Of course, Almereyda does fine with showing us plenty of the study happening, but it’s sometimes so effective and compelling to watch, that it’s not hard to wish that it was just the whole film, with Milgram occasionally looking towards the camera to talk to us.

See? Winona doesn't even trust him.

See? Winona doesn’t even trust him.

Still though, Almereyda does some neat things with the biopic-form, in that he definitely understands that the material he’s working with isn’t all that exciting or eye-popping, so instead, he finds ways to make it so. There’s a random scene about half-way through where Milgram and his wife are driving in front of what’s clearly a walled-in background, but for some reason, it’s done on purpose. It’s meant to campy, odd, dated, and over-the-top, but so is the rest of the film, which doesn’t totally work, but is still interesting to think about and wonder why, among everything else, why Almereyda decided to do such a thing?

Is he trying to say something about people’s perceptions? Or, is he just trying to keep our minds off of material that’s not really all that strong to begin with?

Either way, it doesn’t matter because it makes Experimenter a bit more watchable than it probably could have been had it just focused in on Milgram, his life, and leaving it at that. This isn’t to say that Sarsgaard doesn’t do a fine job in the role of Milgram, as he has that perfect blend for dull weirdness, but at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine what could have happened to this character, had there been maybe more to him. We see him act around his family and such, just as he does at the office and none of it’s really intriguing; his studies may be, but he himself, isn’t really something to speak about, let alone see a whole movie about.

Again though, Experimenter isn’t a very long movie. At nearly an-hour-and-a-half, it moves on by, showing us all the study, making us wonder what we’d do in the same position, and providing plenty of food-for-thought about the whole human race. Will it have you not trusting people for the rest of your days? Maybe, not maybe not. But either way, it’s worth checking out, if only because it will bring some energy to your brain during the dead of winter that is January.

Consensus: Though it’s two movies into one, Experimenter brings up enough interesting questions and ideas about the human condition that makes it worthwhile to look past some of the flaws in its narrative.

6 / 10

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they're not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they’re not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire