Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Monthly Archives: February 2016

I Smile Back (2015)

Drugs, sex, booze, and other stuff is bad. Remember that, kids.

Laney (Sarah Silverman) is going through a bit of a rough patch. For one, she’s a housewife who doesn’t know what to do with her time, except do drugs, drink, and have sex with a married-man (Thomas Sadoski). Obviously, this is fun for a little bit of time, but after awhile, it begins to not only take a toll on her life, but her husband (Josh Charles)’s as well. This leads to plenty of fights and random shouting matches, but what this really gets down to the bottom of is that Laney, no matter if she wants to admit it or not, needs help. So, she seeks it out by going to rehab and finds out more about her life than she had ever expected. Through rehab, she realizes that due to her poor childhood, she’s never learned to love anyone else or even herself, for that matter. Knowing this now, she wants to get back into the groove of her normal life, but sometimes, that’s better said, then actually done, leading Laney possibly back to her old life of risque raunchiness where nobody is happy, including especially, herself.



For the past few years or so, Sarah Silverman’s been itching herself into far more deeper, more challenging, and overall, more dramatic roles as of late. But none of them have ever been nearly as dark or as demanding as her role in I Smile Back. Not only is Silverman hardly cracking a joke here, but she’s crying, doing drugs, having crazy, wild sex, humping teddy-bears, and basically seeming like she’s about to crack open at any second.

And yet, it’s not enough to fully help I Smile Back from being what is, basically, just another Lifetime movie, but with more nudity, more cursing, and most importantly, more sex.

This isn’t to discredit Silverman herself as she portrays what it’s like for a woman, who clearly has manic depression, in the most honest, raw way she can possibly do without sinking herself almost too far into such a role. Laney herself seems like the kind of woman who, at one point in her life, may have been a sweet and endearing gal, but now, seems as if she doesn’t understand much about life, its pleasures, or what exactly she’s supposed to do with it. That’s why, watching Silverman go from scene to scene, making it seem as if Laney herself is lost in some sort maze she can’t get find the nearest exit out of, is relatively hard and, at times, disturbing.

But that’s mostly because Silverman is a good actress. The rest of the movie, I’m afraid, isn’t nearly as up-to-par as she is, or smart, especially because it never really draws much more about her character, other than that she’s a pissed-off housewife who’s got a lot of problems in her life. Sure, there’s no problem with highlighting that aspect of a character’s life, regardless of how depressing it may be, but the movie doesn’t really give us any more context other than that.

Or boyfriend?

Or boyfriend?

Also, as good as Silverman is at creating this Laney character, we still don’t understand much about her to begin with, or how she was before she started feeling as depressed as she currently is. We get a certain idea through her troubled relationship with her estranged father, but it’s so late in the game and so tiny, that it almost doesn’t register. So instead, we’re left to watch as this character, one we don’t know from Adam, do all sorts of troubling, downright terrible things to herself, as well as those that surround her life.

Once again, there’s nothing wrong with having these kinds of stories, about these kinds of complicated figures, but there has to be more behind all of the events. To just place someone in this role and leave it at that, without any added-on info or anything, just doesn’t quite work. There’s one scene between Josh Charles’ husband character and Laney that’s supposed to give us at least some background info on how the two met and got together, but like it was with the father character, it’s too little, too late, in a film that’s already just relying way too heavily on Silverman herself to pick up the pieces.

Which she does, but it’s really obvious what’s going on here.

But if anything that surprised me about I Smile Back, in an at least somewhat positive way, was that it had an ending that, believe it or not, is way different than from what you’d get from a Lifetime movie. For one, it’s not pretty and it sure as hell isn’t the feel-good, happy ending some may expect, like I myself did. However, it also brings up the smart idea about people’s life stories and how, in most cases, not everything it tied-up in a neat little bow. Sure, certain movies may have you think that, but in reality, that’s not the case.

In fact, life can be very messy. There’s no real beginning or ends to an issue, instead, it’s always existing and controlling your everyday life whether you want to admit it or not. But what I Smile Back deals with, at its end at least, is that Laney’s life, as well as everybody else’s, will continue to live on as they were before. Some things may change, some things may not, but most of all, life will continue to be just how it is. Sometimes sad, and also, sometimes happy.

Even though the movie itself doesn’t quite work, I Smile Back at least has something to say when all is said and done.

Consensus: Despite Silverman’s raw, challenging performance, I Smile Back doesn’t seem to really have much to say about any of its upsetting material, even if it does end on a solid, if surprising, note.

5 / 10

Or family? Pick your poison!

Or family? Pick your poison!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


2015 Oscar Predictions

Well, everyone. It’s finally here! The biggest night of the year and needless to say, it’s going to be quite an interesting one. Not just with Chris Rock hosting and whatnot, but also due to the fact that it’s not really known who is going to win Best Picture, or a few others. But in all honesty, none of it matters, because what really matters is who wins, who loses and most importantly, who pulls a Travolta.

Without further ado, here are my picks for tonight’s Oscars. Let me know what you think of them down below!


WILL WIN: The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: Spotlight

WILL WIN: Brie Larson
SHOULD WIN: Brie Larson

Revenant1BEST ACTOR:
WILL WIN: Leonardo DiCaprio
SHOULD WIN: Michael Fassbender

WILL WIN: Sylvester Stallone

WILL WIN: Alicia Vikander
SHOULD WIN: Rooney Mara

WILL WIN: Inside Out
SHOULD WIN: Inside Out

WILL WIN: The Revenant
SHOULD WIN: The Revenant

WILL WIN: The Revenant 
SHOULD WIN: The Revenant 
COULD POSSIBLY PULL IT OFF: Sicario (Roger Deakins just don’t get any love)

WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

Alejandro-González-Iñárritu1BEST DIRECTOR:
WILL WIN: Alejandro González Iñárritu
SHOULD WIN: Alejandro González Iñárritu

SHOULD WIN: The Look of Silence 
COULD POSSIBLY PULL IT OFF: What Happened, Miss Simone? 

WILL WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road
SHOULD WIN: Mad Max: Fury Road

WILL WIN: Son of Saul (still ashamed I have yet to see it!)
SHOULD WIN: Son of Saul

WILL WIN: John Williams
SHOULD WIN: John Williams

WILL WIN: Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You”
SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You”
COULD POSSIBLY PULL IT OFF: Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” (although, I’d much rather have Radiohead’s Bond theme instead)

WILL WIN: The Big Short
SHOULD WIN: The Big Short

WILL WIN: Spotlight
SHOULD WIN: Spotlight
COULD POSSIBLY PULL IT OFF: Straight Outta Compton (just to piss off all the white people!)

Enjoy the show, everyone!

Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Fly like an eagle. Or Eddie, too, I guess.

Throughout his whole life, Michael “Eddie” Edwards (Taron Egerton) had everything going against him. His dad always wanted him to work more, rather than spend his time focusing on silly dreams of being a superstar athlete, and even when he does finally get a chance to make something of his athletic career, it turns out that he gets cut from England’s Olympic ski team. Rather than being frazzled and with nothing to do with his life, Eddie decides to travel to Germany and test his skills at the very dangerous, but ultimately rewarding sport known as “ski jumping”. While there, Eddie meets the one and only Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman), a former ski jumper who now works as a snowplow driver. Though Bronson has been done with the sport for quite some time and is now all about drinking, partying and starting fights, he sees something about Eddie that he just can’t resist. That’s why, together, they train, night and day, as hard as they can, so that they can ensure that Eddie gets a chance to show his face at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.

Always practice with props.

Always practice with props.

Eddie the Eagle is a lot like other sports movies of the same nature. In a way, you know Eddie is going to be the typical sports biopic protagonist who has an undying spirit for overcoming the odds, is earnest, sweet to everyone around him, and generally, puts up with a lot of crap from people who are mean to him for no exact reason. But in all honestly, that’s actually fine.

See, even though Eddie himself was all about breaking the conventions of what made a typically-seen athlete, the movie itself, more or less, just wants to give Eddie’s story the movie spotlight it actually deserves. While you may not at all care about ski-jumping, this Eddie fella, or even Brits for that matter, Eddie the Eagle, slowly but surely, will have you eating out of the palm of its hand, while simultaneously making you forget that you ever saw any other sports movie before it.

Okay, maybe that’s a tad too far, but you get the picture.

There’s a fun-loving, kind spirit to Eddie the Eagle, the person, as well as the movie itself, that’s downright infectious. It’s 80’s theme and style, while overbearing at first, soon starts to work its way into actually getting to understand the feel and appeal of that era; while there’s maybe one too many synths in the score, it turns out that it actually works for the sport the movie’s portraying, as it’s a little hard to have a ski-jumping movie with a Metallica-like score backing it all up. No offense to ski-jumping, but it’s not necessarily considered the roughest, toughest, and rigorous sport of them all.

But that doesn’t keep Eddie the Eagle away from being a solid movie, at the very least, an inspirational sports movie, as well. You see the twists and turns coming from a mile away and even if you didn’t already do your own homework on just who this Eddie character was in the first place, chances are, it won’t matter. You’ll know exactly where this story is going to end up and while that would normally tick me off to high heavens, here, it didn’t seem to matter.

I was just happy to be in the presence of Eddie, Bronson, and well, basically everybody else who showed up.

Keep on lookin' ahead, Taron. Sooner or later, people will be forgetting all about Joel.

Keep on lookin’ ahead, Taron. Sooner or later, people will be forgetting all about Joel. (And yes, I know that Joel’s last name is “Edgerton”, but still, it’s hard not to get confused)

Speaking of Eddie himself, Taron Egerton has slowly, but most definitely surely, shown himself to be one of the brighter, more promising young voices in film nowadays and it’s great to see where he’s going with his career. While the movie definitely overdoes it in trying to making Egerton look like the actual Eddie himself, with titled-glasses, terrible hair and whatnot, Egerton gets past all of that and makes us sort of fall in love with this guy. He’s nice to basically everyone around him and hardly utters a naughty word throughout the whole movie, which may seem like total bull-crap, but once we actually get to see the real Eddie himself, it becomes all too clear that this is exactly who the guy might be. He may be overly earnest and kind to those around him, but it’s hard to hate a person who, quite frankly, is exactly as he appears to be in actual, real life. And yeah, Egerton’s great at him, showing both the inspired, as well as the lovable side to our hero.

And even though there’s no such person as Bronson Peary (well, at least not in relation to Eddie’s story – there’s most likely a porn star with that name out there on some corner store shelf), Hugh Jackman does a solid job at giving us a likable mentor, who also has a few demons of his own. Obviously, by the way story goes, we’re going to have to expect at least some sort of issue between these two that they need to overcome and though the movie does predictably bring one up, it actually seems believable to the situation. While the world may look at Eddie like a fool and he may not care about it, there’s also the argument to be made for him not even trying to be apart of the Olympics, for that exact reason. Because Peary’s character is a point-by-point caricature of conventions that we typically see with these mentor types, it makes sense why he would have a problem with Eddie taking himself one step further, even if we want him to achieve his dream at the end of the day.

But if anything, what Eddie the Eagle does best that, some other sports biopics like, for instance, Race, didn’t seem to do, is get down to the meat of the story and make us realize why we care so much to begin with. Jesse Owens was way more inspirational than Eddie, however, this movie at least shows that Eddie is like you or I. We may be a little troubled and clearly not in perfect shape to do everything that we want to do, but as long as we have the right mind and spirit, we can achieve whatever we want.

Sure, it’s hokey as hell, but it’s the kind of hokey I don’t mind to smile at and go along with.

Consensus: Conventional and corny, Eddie the Eagle may not surprise viewers familiar with the sports biopic, but is still so likable, well-acted, and enjoyable, that it’s easy to push away these issues and just fly along.

7 / 10

Teachers aren't always that hunky,

Teachers aren’t always that hunky, but it certainly helps your movie’s appeal.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Triple 9 (2016)

Dirty cops do dirty things. Like not take showers, apparently.

A group of bank robbers are running high on their latest heist and feel as if, finally, it’s their time to settle up, kick back, relax, and enjoy all of their riches. However, that’s all short-lived once the the ruthless and notorious gangster Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) orders her men to pull off another job – the one they keep on calling “the last job”. While none of the guys are happy about this, they see this as their only way out, so they devise up a few plans on how to steal another huge amount of cash. Eventually, they have a million-dollar idea, the only issue, is that it involves cops. But this isn’t much of a problem considering that two of the members in the group, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins, Jr.) , actually happen to both be cops. But to make their plan even more difficult than before, Marcus gets saddled with Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a by-the-books cop who is now for playing it on the straight-and-narrow. Will the guys be able to get the heist altogether, even despite the obvious issues standing in their way?

Corrupt cops never smile.

Corrupt cops never smile. That’s just a fact.

What’s so interesting about Triple 9 is how little it’s being promoted, or how it doesn’t seem like many people will see it this weekend, even though it features an insanely stacked, all-star cast list of who’s who. Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael K. Williams, Teresa Palmer, Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, and more, all show up here in Triple 9, yet, you wouldn’t know it. And it’s not like the studio’s trying to bury the movie, either; this much talent can’t be attracted to something so terrible that it would be thrown in the February time-slot, due its horribleness. While you could definitely make the argument that that has in fact happened before, I still rest my case and say that, for what it’s worth, Triple 9 is a fine movie.

In fact, it’s a very fine crime-thriller, which makes it all the better.

John Hillcoat loves him some blood, action, and crime, which is why it’s no surprise that Triple 9, in nearly every shot, seems as if everyone and everything in it, needs a long, steaming hot shower. However, it’s quite refreshing to see something so down, out and gritty as Triple 9, that isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to its violence, nor when it comes to giving us characters we don’t necessarily hate, or love. In some ways, we can sort of feel very “meh” about a character, depending on how much time they’re given to develop, but really, Hillcoat isn’t trying to make one character in particular, better than the rest. Everybody’s conflicted; everybody’s got an issue; and most of all, everybody’s got at least some sort of “bad” to them.

That’s why, with this solid cast, it can sometimes feel like Triple 9 isn’t giving each and every person a whole lot to do, even if there are a few exceptions to the rule. Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet get the two showier roles of the movie, and even then, it feels like they aren’t here enough. While Casey Affleck could easily be classified as “the protagonist”, he still feels like an afterthought when it becomes clear that Hillcoat himself is a tad too enamored and caught up with all that’s going on with bank-robbers and their own personal lives. No issue with this, as the bank-robbers here are all played by solid actors, but at the same time, it still can’t help but feel like a little too much, for a movie that’s so simple to begin with.

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Sure, Triple 9 may combat with the idea of it being a far more “serious” and “complicated” crime-thriller, but really, it isn’t all that much different from any other crime-thriller out there.

Every character feels like a type, every situation that they’re thrown into, when it’s not predictable, has been done before, and really, there’s no real message at the end of the day. Not that every movie ever made needs to have a message at the end of it to wrap everything up in a neat, little bow, but Triple 9 thinks that it has one and that’s its biggest issue. It’s maybe far too self-serious and brooding for its own good, when really, all we want it to do is crack open a beer, chill out, and turn that frown upside down.

The more entertaining moments of Triple 9, other than the violence, is when the actors seem to be dialing it up to 11 with reckless abandon. Harrelson and Winslet are definitely the main ones here who take advantage of their limited screen-time, having as much fun as they seemingly can, but there’s others in the cast like talented character actors, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Michael K. Williams, who seem like they showed up, ready to have some fun and just let loose. That’s why, when Triple 9 is just living it up in these moments, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

But then, like I said, the actual story comes around and everything gets so super serious, so super quick and it’s a bit a slog to get through. Not to say that people like Affleck, Mackie, or Ejiofor can’t do some interesting stuff with this kind of material, but by the same token, it also feels like they’re bringing down the whole ship with them. Although, not nearly as much as Aaron Paul is, with his one-note, rather annoying character who is addicted to drugs and constantly causing problems everywhere he goes. In fact, if there’s a weak-link in this huge cast, it’s Paul, but it may be less of his problem, seeing as how he doesn’t have much to work with.

Sort of like a lot of other people here. Even if they all make a go of it, for the longest time.

Consensus: Given its well-stacked ensemble, Triple 9 may be a tad bit disappointing for those expecting something far more powerful, but for those expecting a bloody, ruthless, gritty and sometimes, fun, crime-thriller, then enjoy.

6.5 / 10

Red means "they're onto something". I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

The red glow means “they’re onto something”. I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Who says superheros are the only ones allowed to fly?

Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), a retired warrior, pays a visit to a nobleman friend to give him a sword that can apparently cut through anything, called “Green Destiny.” However, the sword is stolen, and Mu Bai joins forces with old friend Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) to get it back. Even though Mu Bai believes the thief is Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-pei), an assassin who killed his master not too long ago, little does Mu Bai, or Yu Shu know that it’s someone completely different. Meanwhile, there’s the story of Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), a a bored and annoyed teenager who is set to get married to a nobleman she has clearly no interest in whatsoever. But what excites Jen the most are these warrior women who have control over their mind, body and life. And even though her life is about to go through a drastic change sometime soon, she still can’t seem to get past her love for a killer known as Dark Cloud (Chang Chen).

I wouldn't want to mess with Michelle Yeoh as is. But with her wielding a blade? Forget about it!

I wouldn’t want to mess with Michelle Yeoh as is. But with her wielding a blade? Forget about it!

It’s nice to know that there’s directors out there like Ang Lee who are true, absolute visionaries who don’t care what it is that they do, they just want to do it. What I’m trying to say by this is that Lee, for as long as he’s been directing, hasn’t really stuck with any one genre and made that “his thing”; instead, he’s bounced around from one to another, taking on all different lives, trying on all these different skins, and for the most part, making it all work out just fine. Sure, there’s the occasional misstep (*ahem Taking Woodstock), but when you take into consideration all of the other great movies, as well as all the other genres Lee’s played around in, it doesn’t really matter.

All that really matters is that Ang Lee still exists and is still making movies.

And while everybody knows and believes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to be his unabashed “masterpiece”, there’s still something about it that I have yet to fallen in love with. Granted, this being the second time I’ve seen it (once before when I was way young and only cared about the characters kicking each other’s butts), there wasn’t much of an element of surprise to guide me along, but for movies such as these, ones that are considered “absolute perfection”, I feel that it’s almost necessary to check them out for a second time. Sometimes, you don’t know if you’ve missed something neat, or interesting, or cool about the movie that you may have missed the first time around, like a subtle hint, or clue, or piece of story-telling that gets better and better each time you think about it, which is why it’s always a blast to re-watch movies.

But for Crouching Tiger, that’s not really the case. Everything that you see, is basically what you get. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as what we get is pretty solid in its own right, but really, there’s not all that much depth to Crouching Tiger other than honor, loyalty and respect. Sure, there’s plenty of love stuff to go around, too, which was a nice touch, but really, it gets over-powered by all the scenes concerning characters talking about their loyal ways and rules they’ve been set out to follow and how they’ll continue to do so. Once or twice is fine, but once these scenes get to be seen/hear at least seven or eight times, it gets to be a bit tiring.

Then again, that’s why the fight sequences of Crouching Tiger have always been the source of adoration.

In some cases, sure, you can tell when there’s wire-work, but for the most part, you get used to seeing these characters fly around, fight one another, get hit pretty hard, bounce back from it, and continue to battle on, without hardly a scratch to be found. It’s actually like a video-game whenever a fight happens here, but they’re filled with so much fun, energy and inspiration, that it almost doesn’t matter how much it looks like the PG-version of Mortal Kombat. Lee does something smart with these action-sequences though, in that he has them constantly build up from one another, all until the point of where it seems like there’s nowhere else to go, or anything else to do. That is true, all until it isn’t, and we realize that Lee is literally throwing everything at us, kitchen sink included and it’s a whole lot of fun to watch.

"Hey, girl. What up?"

“Hey, girl. What up?”

Which isn’t to say that the story itself doesn’t work – it just obviously pales in comparison when you look at it side-by-side with the action.

The only subplot that I really found myself genuinely interested in was Jen Yu’s. Her story of a young, lustful romance that takes place in the desert isn’t just surprising, but funny and heartfelt, sometimes at the same time. In a way, it’s almost as if Lee decided that he wanted to make another movie halfway through, but realized that he already had all of this good material for Crouching Tiger, so rather than chucking it all to the side, he stuck with it, placed the lover subplot somewhere in between and decided to let the film-reel continue to roll. It feels slightly random, but it’s still a welcome surprise because it brings plenty of emotion to a story that, quite frankly, needed it.

And this is also to say that, as Jen Yu, Zhang Ziyi is all the right kinds of smart and sassy, but at the same time, still feels like a kid at the same time. In a way, she sort of steals the movie from the rest of her cast, although that isn’t to say that she gets away with it Scott free and without any competition in her way. Chow Yun-Fat is wise and rather intimidating as Master Li Mu Bai, someone you know can kick a mean ass, but just waiting to see him actually do that is half of the fun. Then, there’s Michelle Yeoh as Yu Shu Lien, who is also pretty bad-ass in her own right and the fact that she gets to get down and dirty with most of the battles, makes her all the more of an impressive character who is willing to step up to the plate and throw down the gloves, especially when she’s called on to do so.

Consensus: Perhaps not Lee’s best film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is still, by the same token, a fun, exciting, and lovely tribute to the kinds of over-the-top, crazy kung-fu movies that Lee himself clearly has a soft spot in his heart for.

8 / 10

Those youngsters and their kung-fu ways.

Those youngsters and their kung-fu.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Pinterest

I, Robot (2004)

IRobotposterIf Will Smith doesn’t trust technology, neither should anybody else.

In the year 2035, robots co-inhabit the earth with humans, acting on our every hand and knee. But before people start getting worried about whether or not they’re taking over, have no fear, because they are kept in line by a set of rules integrated into their make. For the most part, they revolve around not hurting humans, but also knowing when to allow for themselves to be destroyed, if that’s what a human believes that needs to happen. Even though everyone is in love with these robots and has one, one person who does not trust them is cop Del Spooner (Will Smith). He doesn’t hate them, but he doesn’t really trust them either, which is why when he’s called onto the scene of a supposed “suicide” of the creator of these robots, Spooner is quick to believe that it’s the robots, more specifically, a rather more intelligent one named Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). But nobody will believe Spooner and his suspicions, so he’s forced to take matters into his own hand and follow the case on his own terms. This, obviously, can lead to some very dangerous situations, where Spooner may have to put up with a lot of robots attacking him.



I, Robot deals with a lot of issues about the modern day that, in 2004, seemed a bit silly. However, nearly 12 years later, they have all but become a reality. While we don’t necessarily have robots walking around society, side-by-side with humans on a daily basis, technology, in and of itself, still takes over our everyday life. Most people you see on the streets, either have some sort of headphones in, or are caught staring down at their phones, swiping through whatever bit of information they want, or trying to win their next game of Candy Crush. Either way, what I, Robot discusses, is very much true to what is going on in today’s day and age, but at the same time, the movie doesn’t really even seem concerned with these types of ideas and themes.

Instead, it just wants to feature a whole lot of action, explosions, gun-shots, robots, and most of all, Will Smith screaming.

In other words, it’s a traditional summer blockbuster, that maybe, just maybe, has a little bit more going on beneath the surface than your usual, aimless popcorn fodder. As has been the case with mostly all of director Alex Proyas’ other films, he clearly seems interested in the visuals of his films, rather than what’s actually going on in the movies themselves, and this can sometimes help, rather than hurt his movies. There’s a few neat sequences here, like for instance, a car-chase through a tunnel, that grab you right away and show Proyas’ inspiration for visual-imagery, which is all the more surprising considering how old this movie’s CGI can look.

Sure, it’s dated and a bit sketchy at times, but still, it’s a movie from 2004 and for a movie then, it’s pretty damn impressive. It also helps that once the action does get going, the movie keeps a fun and exciting pace that’s hard to get past. The story itself is a bit conventional, as it starts out as a whodunit, to being something of a conspiracy-based sci-fi flick, but mostly, Proyas goes between the many stories quite well. He doesn’t really get down and dirty with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it affects our everyday lives, but he does bring it up just enough to have us think maybe a bit more than we normally would, had this been another blockbuster, by any other director.

Then again, it is a silly summer blockbuster, and there’s no way of getting around that.

Are we human, or are we robot?

Are we human, or are we robot?

By the end of I, Robot, it becomes clear where it’s going and can start to disappoint. Not to say that the movie was breaking down any genre-barriers either, but it is to say that once we realize that the movie is all going to be about Will Smith saving the human-race from extinction, it gets a bit over-cooked and crazy. You’d probably expect this, but it also can’t help but feel like something of a cop out.

However, it’s fine because throughout the whole movie, Will Smith is doing what he usually does: Charm the shorts off of every single audience-member. Though the script is pretty lame and feeds Smith some cheesy lines, he’s still confident enough of an actor to get through it all and give this Del Spooner character some sort of personality that makes us root for him more. There’s something of a backstory to Spooner, his hate for robots, and why he was called onto this case in the first place, that can tend to feel a bit tacked-on, but Spooner isn’t here to draw emotions – he’s here to be the hero of our story and have us stand behind him and hope that he kicks as much robot ass as he wants to.

That’s why the rest of the cast, as good as they may be, don’t really get a chance to stretch far and wide beyond the borders set around them. Bruce Greenwood, once again, plays the typical white guy in power that may be a villain, or may just be a general a-hole; Bridget Moynihan plays the possible love-interest of Spooner, who also happens to be a scientist for these sorts of robots and is at least sympathetic enough that we want to see her understand the issues about this corporation she’s working for and start hooking up with Smith; James Cromwell is barely around and he’s sorely missed; and Alan Tudyk does a solid job at voicing these robots, showing that there may be a slight bit of emotion underneath the intentional dull delivery of his lines.

Oh, and Shia LaBeouf is here and curses a lot. That’s fun. I think.

Consensus: Though it deals with some interesting ideas about technology running society, I, Robot, the actual movie itself, seems less concerned about them, and more concerned with blowing stuff up, which is fun for awhile, until it isn’t.

6 / 10

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Knowing (2009)

Nic Cage could probably save the world. Issue is, we’d all have to put up with a lot of yelling.

Professor Ted Myles (Nicolas Cage) makes the startling discovery that an encoded message predicts with pinpoint accuracy the dates, death tolls and co-ordinates of every major disaster of the past 50 years. As Ted further unravels the document’s secrets, he realizes it foretells three additional events – the last of which hints at destruction on a global scale, which leads him to go totally gonzo and do whatever it is that he can to warn, as well as possibly save the rest of society. If that’s at all possible, without being laughed at first.

"Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?"

“Okay, but seriously, which one is Earth?”

This is one of those rare “bad movies” that are pretty terrible and you know that. Yet, there’s something so bad about the way they go about themselves, that they’re actually pretty interesting, as well. Not because you like the story, or anything that the movie is doing really, but because there’s just something about itself that draws your mind to it, if only because you want to see how it all turns out at the end.

That’s exactly how I felt with Knowing – yeah, it was a terrible movie, but one that I couldn’t stop watching.

While, at the same time, not laugh my rear-end off at.

Calling this flick “terrible” and a “piece of a crap” probably isn’t right since it honestly isn’t the worst thing that I’ve ever seen grace the screen, it’s more or less that it just doesn’t do much for you or what your thinking. Director Alex Proyas knows how to make anything beautiful and there are a couple of scenes here that he definitely shows that. There’s a plane crash sequence very early on that’s all filmed in one shot and definitely has a look and feel as if you were right there to begin with. Then, there’s another crash sequence with a subway station that’s well-done and features special-effects that actually make it more realistic than I had imagined the plane crash one as being. There’s also a couple of other scenes where Proyas really cranks up the special-effects volume and allows there to be more than you’d expect from him and his vision, but sadly, it falls like a dud.

"Give me my agent! NOW!!"

“Give me my agent! NOW!!”

If anything, the problem with these scenes is that no matter how striking they are, they still don’t have any emotion or feeling in them whatsoever. For both crash sequences, you hear yells, screams, hollers of terror and fright, but you never get that upset feeling in your stomach, nor do you ever feel anything for these characters whatsoever. It’s almost as if Proyas just wanted to throw these scenes in cause he had the money and he thought it would look cool; which is fine, because it can definitely look cool, but when there’s hardly any emotional connection to something like the world exploding, then that’s a huge problem.

Get all the artistic points you want, but this is the end of the world, dammit! Let’s feel that tragedy!

And it’s not like there isn’t any recipe for that to happen here throughout Knowing. There’s a story between the father-and-son here, but is so under-cooked that it’s easy to forget there’s a kid even in this; the religious themes come and go as if Proyas was just Spark Noting some parts of the Bible to make himself seem more smart; and, aside from the last 20 minutes or so, there’s never really any big surprises to be found.

Oh and of course, if you couldn’t tell by now, Nic Cage is in this movie and does what he usually does – give goofy-faces, deliver some terrible lines, and make us feel as if we are watching the same performance he did, two movies ago. However, Cage owns it all and is pretty fun to watch, because you don’t know if he sees this as a crap script, or is just really giving this his absolute all. Cage pulls a lot of his usual Cage-isms here as Ted Myles, and while I never fully believed him as a college professor, I still believed him as a guy who may, or may not, be slowly, but surely losing his cool and letting people know of a possible apocalypse. If anything, I’d like to see that movie, where instead of us just getting what appears to be a rip-off of the Day After Tomorrow and Armageddon, we get something more interesting and thoughtful to where we don’t know if we can trust this guy and all of his rants – all we do know is that he’s Nic Cage, so he could either be insanely out of his mind, or telling the surprising truth.

Either way, none of that is found in this movie.

Rose Byrne is here and mopes around practically the whole time, which is a huge shame. Considering we’ve seen her light the screen up quite well in the past few years with comedies like Bridesmaids, Neighbors, and Spy, it’s interesting to look back on these earlier flicks of hers, where she was still on Damages and everybody saw her as this drop dead, serious actress who couldn’t crack a single smile. Now, that seems to be what most movies rely on her for and it’s great to see that kind of transition from her.

Cause I bet you she’ll definitely think twice about taking up another part in a Nic Cage movie.

Consensus: Knowing is all bits of bad, but at least gives some entertainment in the form of Nic Cage and the occasional burst of inspiration from Alex Proyas, but they come very few and far between utter garbage.

2.5 / 10

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

I would not trust Nic Cage to save me from a plane crash.

Photos Courtesy of:

Sleeping with Other People (2015)

Men and women can be friends. But attractive men and women can’t be.

Jake (Jason Sudeikis) and Lainey (Alison Brie) haven’t seen each other for over 12 years, but they mean a whole lot to one another. Meaning, that, well, they both took each other’s virginity’s and never really talked about it ever since. However, many of these years later, they get back into contact with one another somehow and remember just how great of friends they truly were. They talk to one another about basically anything, have the greatest of times together, and yet, they still don’t see the reason in getting together in a strictly sexual, almost romantic way. For one, they know each of their own personal lives happen to be a bit of a mess. He’s currently playing the field, but getting a tad bit more involved with his strict boss (Amanda Peet), whereas she is having all sorts of hot, sordid sex with a married man (Adam Scott). Both know that they’d probably be great for one another, but when you’re having this much fun together and there’s nothing serious going on, then why ruin it all? After all, romance is so overrated after all, right?

Sometimes, all you need is a platonic friend who will lay with you in bed without ever making any moves.

Sometimes, all you need is a platonic friend who will lay with you in bed without ever making any moves.

It’s hard to do a really good rom-com in today’s day and age in which even though it follows through on the same old conventions and tropes of that never ending genre, there’s still enough interesting material brought to the table that it almost doesn’t even matter. The ways certain movies do get past the rom-com genre and do something neat, can obviously vary, but where the actual enjoyment of the said movies is that it not only feels funny and romantic, but also feels at least somewhat genuine. You can have all the meet-cutes, awkward exchanges, falling-in-love montages, and random conflicts to tear them apart that you want – as long as your romance feels somewhat believable, then you’re fine.

And that’s exactly what is the case with Sleeping with Other People.

While it isn’t necessarily the kind of rom-com that sets out to light the world on fire and make a comment on the actual rom-com set-up itself, it still does something good in that it allows for us to see the two people falling in love, further beyond their archetypal writing. While you may read that both characters are “sex-addicted” and have “commitment phobia”, writer/director Leslye Headland sees them more as troubled and beaten-down human beings who, yes, clearly make stupid decisions in their lives, but are still capable of giving love, as well as feeling it, too. At the same time, the whole idea of “friends with benefits” is another rom-com trope that’s been nearly done to death by now, but Headland shows that, in some cases, this most definitely can happen – whereas in other cases, it can’t.

Most of all though, Headland gives these characters personalities and likable traits that make them more than just types. Alison Brie’s Lainey, for instance, feels especially raw and hurt, even though she has plenty of sex and seems to go out with many good-looking people. What Headland shows us about Lainey is that it doesn’t really matter that she’s doing all of this stuff, as much as it matters that she doesn’t feel anything about them, or simply put, needs them in her life. She doesn’t know why she feels the way she does, or does the things that she does – all that she knows is that she can’t help herself and it’s a bit sad to watch.

Of course, Brie livens her character up a lot and shows that there’s more fun and charm to her sad-sack of a character, but it’s this extra attention to character detail that makes the movie a whole lot more compelling.

Same goes for Jason Sudeikis’ Jake, who very much feels like a typical character Sudeikis would play, but slowly but surely, starts to unravel and show more shades to his character. While he may seem like the typical womanizer who goes from woman to woman, with absolute reckless abandon, the movie shows that maybe there’s more to him than just all of that sly stuff, and maybe he does want something more meaningful and love-like in his life. He may not realize it, but we certainly do and it’s what keeps him interesting practically all throughout.

Or, a platonic friend who will go to random parties with you.

Or, a platonic friend who will go to random parties with you.

It also goes without saying that both Sudeikis and Brie have great chemistry together and it feels like they’re not just best friends, but the perfect kind of couple. We see them go through all of the motions of being friends, then going to becoming best friends, and then, predictably, getting to that awkward spot in their relationship where they don’t know whether or not they really want to give each other a try, or just take the safe route and stay as friends. For anyone who has ever encountered this sort of situation, it goes without saying that Sleeping with Other People feels almost too honest and real, but it still works.

But if there is anything to say about Sleeping with Other People is that I feel like it’s more “entertaining”, and less actually “funny”.

Of course, this may not sound like me saying much of anything at all, but as the movie progressed, I found myself more interested in what it was trying to do and where it was trying to go, rather than actually laughing hysterically at the jokes it had to say or do. Most of that seems to be due to the fact that the movie relies a tad too much on Sudeikis’ own brand of humor, and not on the actual jokes that are written themselves, but it’s still not a terribly bad thing. I just feel that if you’re movie is as reliant on having humor as Sleeping with Other People is, it would be smart to actually have some of that humor land and make a mark, rather than just being, at best, chuckle-worthy and leaving it at that.

Then again, I’m just nit-picking.

Consensus: Anchored by two strong, incredibly charming leads, Sleeping with Other People may not shake the rom-com world up, but it still shows the world what you can do with a familiar premise, and add a little heart and humanity.

7 / 10

Or, most importantly, teach you a thing or two about your own body that you never knew.

Or, most importantly, teach you a thing or two about your own body that you never knew.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Tumbledown (2016)

TumbledownposterFolk singers have the saddest lives.

After her husband dies, Hannah Miles (Rebecca Hall) goes into her own bit of hiding. While she isn’t necessarily depressed and doesn’t know what to do with her life, at the same time, it doesn’t seem like she’s making much movement on it, either. Aside from the every so often hook-up she has with the local hunter (Joe Manganiello), she doesn’t seem to be getting any serious about another relationship and, for the most part, doesn’t really seem to care that her husband was, when he was alive, a cult-followed folk singer who so many people loved, yet, didn’t fully get to appreciate because he died so tragically at a young age. However, one person in particular that wants to find out more about this singer’s life is part-time writer Andrew McCabe (Jason Sudeikis). Though Hannah is initially against the idea of bringing a stranger into her home and into her late husband’s studies to chronicle his, as well as her, life, she starts to give in and realize that she’s happy with Andrew around. Not to mention that he brings out a certain sparkle within her that hasn’t been around since, well, when her late husband was actually alive, well and writing songs all about her.

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Why have dinner when you can just maul one another?

Tumbledown has all of the promise of a soft, sweet and tender romantic-dramedy, but sadly, it falls prey to its own conventions one too many times. For one, the movie itself doesn’t seem to want to take itself too seriously at first, which is fine, but it’s not very good at being funny, either. There’s a lot of annoying rom-com cliches and conventions that show up here that not only feel very beneath the cast and crew working here, but the material itself.

The idea of one moving on with their life after the loss of a very near, dear and loved one, is a universal theme. Not only is this shown in movies like I’ll See You In My Dreams, where the older women are shown to be living out the rest of their years, wondering where to go or what to do, but it’s very rarely shown for the younger women out there who are, believe it or not, widows. Death knows no boundaries, so it’s an honest wonder to me why we don’t have more of these kinds of movies about young widows trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, where do they go from their certain situation, and most of all, whom do they choose.

Throw in the folk music angle and guess what? You’ve got a pretty interesting movie that goes above and beyond any melodramatic romantic story we’re so used to seeing and hating with Nicholas Sparks.

However, that’s the exact issue with Tumbledown: It turns exactly into that kind of movie.

Most of this is especially evident with the characters. Even though the cast here is understandably strong, it’s a bit of a shame to see some of them playing such types that, after awhile, it makes you wonder why they even bothered to begin with. Rebecca Hall gets the meatiest role as Hannah Miles, where shows both sadness, as well as loveliness to a character who seems like she’s at a bit of a stand-still with her life. Though she wants to live each and everyday in absolute tears, she doesn’t and it’s interesting to see how she still copes with the loss of her husband, even if she also knows that there’s more to life for her out there – it’s just a matter of whether or not she wants to actually go out there and see it for herself.

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain't got time for that Sudeikis charm!

Mmmm! Ms. Hall just ain’t got time for that Sudeikis charm!

So yeah, Hall’s character isn’t really the issue as much as it’s Jason Sudeikis’ Andrew McCabe who is, basically, Jason Sudeikis, but this time, playing a college professor and writer. Sudeikis is a good actor and, in the past few months, I’ve come to respect for at least trying to do something more interesting with his career than just sticking himself in every broad comedy he can find, but for some reason, he doesn’t feel right for this role. The character is a little too smarmy for what appears to be a really laid-back, almost reserved kind of guy. He and Hall have good chemistry, but the way that they’re relationship gets put together, or how they come to a certain common ground, doesn’t always feel believable and it’s a shame, because they’re both solid actors. Sudeikis just doesn’t seem like he’s the perfect fit for whatever kind of character Andrew McCabe is.

Other actors show up here like Joe Manganiello, Dianna Agron, the always welcome Blythe Danner, Richard Masur, and Griffin Dunne, but they’re kind of just here on the side to allow for Sudeikis and Hall to do their thing and develop their never-believable relationship. It’s good to see these actors here, but when they aren’t really around to do anything but play window-dressing to a poor plot and script, it almost feels like a disservice. Especially for Danner who, in the past few years at least, has shown that there’s more to her than just playing the sassy, sometimes way-too-smart mom that knows what’s going on with every relationship around her, but will sometimes keep her mouth shut.

I love Danner with all my heart, but I want to see different roles for her, especially since we all know she’s got the chops.

Same goes for the rest of the cast, because something like Tumbledown, while showing off a indie-sensibility, plays out like any mainstream rom-com. People fall in love, people fall, people get hurt, people get into fights, and believe it or not, people cry, but they always seem to brush it off with a laugh or two. This happens with life, but not nearly as much Tumbledown portrays it as and it can’t help but feel like a disappointment.

Consensus: Given the subject material and ensemble cast, Tumbledown can’t help but feel like a bummer when you see it all get wasted on a rote rom-com plot.

4 / 10

Will they? Or won't they? Oh, I just don't know!

Will they? Or won’t they? Oh, I just don’t know!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Race (2016)

Those Nazis didn’t even know how to enjoy the Olympics!

Jesse Owens (Stephan James) was just a young man living on the dirty streets of Ohio. He had a kid, he had a girlfriend, and he had a very poor family, but what made him rise above all of that was the fact that he not only was a very fast-runner, but had all sorts of ambitions and ideas for what he wanted to do with his life. That’s why when he got accepted on a full-time athletic scholarship to Ohio State, he couldn’t pass it up and had to grab the opportunity right away. Problem was, considering that this was the mid-30’s, people didn’t take too kindly to African American people, regardless of how fast they could run, or how high they could jump. Getting past all of these issues, however, was Jesse’s track and field coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), who wants Jesse’s absolute and undivided attention to the team, so that they can win all sorts of championships and, if lucky, head on off to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. And everybody knows what was going on with Germany at that time, and it’s another problem that gets thrown in the way of Jesse, as well as the whole U.S. Olympics team.

Black and white can get along people!

Black and white can get along, guys!

There’s already something interesting, and relatively cinematic about Jesse Owens’ own story that it doesn’t need much else more to be said around it. However, Stephen Hopkins, for some reason, didn’t seem to realize this. Instead of keeping the story singularly placed on Owens, his triumph over racism, adversity, and personal anguish, to, at the end, stick it to Hitler in the best way he could, Hopkins goes everywhere else.

Not only does we get Jesse’s story, but we also get a story about his track coach; not only do we get a story about his track coach, but we also get one about Jesse and his wife and girlfriend; not only do we get one about his wife and girlfriend, but we also get one about the Nazis and how they were using the Olympics as a way to let the world know of their brutal regime; not only do we get one about the Nazis and their regime, but we also get to see how the Olympic committee decided on not boycotting the Olympics that year; not only do we get the idea of boycotting or not, but we also get one about German camerawoman Leni Riefenstahl, and how she used her skills as a director to, in ways, undermine Hitler and his messages; and not only do we get this story-line, but we also get one about how a fellow hurdler, German Carl “Luz” Long, saw Jesse for what he was (a great athlete), and decided to let all of that race stuff go to the side.

Did I get everything?

Honestly, I’m not sure, and that’s a huge part of the problem. Race already has a solid story at the center, what with Jesse and all, as conventional as it may be when it comes to race biopics, so when it seems to linger elsewhere and take on all of these different angles, it seems to be too much and a bit disrespectful to Owens. It’s almost as if Hopkins and his team of writers thought that having a Jesse Owens biopic wouldn’t be enough to get people going, so they just decided to take up all of these other different subplots, in a way to cram everything in and distract people from the fact that they don’t really have any actual faith in Owens’ own story.

And for the most part, everything concerning the 1936 Olympics is interesting. It’s nice to see just how everybody acted in that country, at that time, but also, to see just how some people reacted to Nazi Germany, their ways, and their controversial rules, way before anybody actually knew what was going on. At the same time, the movie handles some of these bits and pieces in a hammy way; an almost useless scene concerning Sudeikis’ character looking for shoes late in the night is handled in such a hammy way, that I still have no clue what it was trying to get across. Even the subplot concerning Luz and his random friendship with Owens is so corny, that it feels tacked-on, even if it did happen in real life.

"Thank you for all your service. Now please, walk through the designated bathrooms."

“Thank you for all your service. Now please, walk through the designated bathrooms.”

If anything, the movie really livens up when Jeremy Irons and his character is around. As Avery Brundage, the International Olympic Committee who works as something of a concierge for the U.S., trying to figure out a deal with the Nazis, Irons isn’t just exciting, but fun to watch. He tells the Nazis some stuff that I don’t think the real life Brundage ever had the right idea to say, but it’s interesting just to see how he gets his point across and how, when it came to planning these Olympics, the certain demands both sides had. Obviously, as real life would have it, Brundage becomes more of an unlikable, but for awhile, he seems like the heart and soul of, what was supposed to be, after all, Jesse Owens story.

But that’s neither here nor there.

There is one interesting idea the movie brings up concerning Owens and it’s whether or not he should have actually competed in the Olympics or not. Considering that he was already facing so much unabashed racism and hatred in his own country, it was actually a huge question as to why he would bother representing said country, in an Olympics game to show whom is better than the other? Not to mention, Germany itself was treating people in their own country with the same kind of racism, except with more tragic consequences obviously. So why would Jesse even bother?

The movie brings this idea up and touches on it a couple of times, but really, it’s not enough to get through everything else. At two-hours-and-ten-minutes, yes, Race is jam-packed with the idea that there will never be another Jesse Owens biopic made for quite some time, even though it’s incredibly likely that there probably will be. As well as their should be – Owens himself had made it quite clear that he wasn’t afraid of saying what was on his mind when it came to racism, his thoughts on it, as well as the U.S., but really, none of that’s ever shown here. Instead, Jesse Owens is used as our conduit to explore this much bigger, more interesting world where people are bad and evil, but that’s about it.

I guess as long as you’re fast and can jump really high, people will like you.

Consensus: While there is the occasional interesting thread weaved throughout, Race deals with way too much, in such a messy way, that it feels like a disservice to Owens, as well as everything he stood and fought for.

5 / 10

Fly like an eagle, Jesse. Away from all the Nazis.

Fly like an eagle, Jesse. Away from all the Nazis.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Witch (2016)

There’s no “W”, but it’s really hard to spell that actual word out.

It’s New England in 1630, and after being banished from their old home for shady reasons, a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie), his oldest daughter, Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), his oldest son, Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), and his two youngest, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) are forced to relocate to an isolated homestead in colonial Massachusetts. There, they have absolutely no contact with the outside world and instead, rely on one another for support, comfort, and shelter, even if sometimes, they don’t always get along. But some weird things start happening, and although nobody knows what to initially make of them, eventually, when the baby of the family, goes mysteriously missing, everybody’s pointing the fingers at each other. Some believe that it’s witchcraft, some believe that it’s just good, old-fashioned games being played, and some believe that it’s just the way the world works. However, they’re all about to proven wrong and realize that maybe it’s time for them to start praying to God a whole lot more. Even if, you know, he may not be able to help in the first place.

Yeah. Get out of the woods.

Yeah. Get out of the woods.

The VVitch is a very scary movie that doesn’t feel like it’s trying way too hard to be as such. Much like last year’s It Follows, it does a lot with the genre of the horror movie that sort of turns it on its head, bring it back to the golden days, but at the same time, still deliver the scares when they’re needed. For all of its plodding, meandering and silent movements, the VVitch still is, absolutely, a horror movie – it’s got all the scares and shrieks and jumps you could ever want from a horror movie, but at the same time, doesn’t ever feel like it’s being cheap.

Which is to say that, no, there’s no jump-scares.

Thank heavens for that!

But regardless of if it did have jump-scares or not, the VVitch still works because of the mood it creates. Write/director Robert Eggers literally drops us in with these characters right off the bat and we never leave their side. In ways, this works for the movie, as well as against it; works because there’s that dreadful sense of claustrophobia that hardly ever leaves, doesn’t work because, on occasion, the characters can be downright annoying, what with all of their fantastical superstitions that are based in no fact whatsoever, except for what it is that they read.

However, what Eggers does, and very well I may add, isn’t just place the movie in 1630 Massachusetts, but give it that same look, feel and realism, that a story set in and around that time should have. Everyone here talks in their period-appropriate dialogue, with plenty of “thees”, “thys”, and “thoughs”; everyone prays to God before supper and sleep; and everyone believes that such things as witches do exist, even if they’e never seen one, but only heard of ’em. This idea may not work well because it has the characters come off as a simple-minded, almost narrow-headed shrews, but Eggers highlights the fact that faith is all that’s driving these characters to living a better, happier life.

By the same token, it’s also what destroys them the most.

What Eggers has to say about the sort of role faith can take in someone’s everyday life, as well as their psyche, is sort of the same idea that Darren Aronofsky had to say about it in Noah. While both movies are clearly different in terms of subject-matter, scope, and overall tone, Eggers shows that faith can sometimes drive people so crazy, that they may also interpret what God may be saying to them in the wrong light. Rather than carrying out God’s message to make the world a better place by planting a tree, or giving loose change to the homeless, some people may take God’s advice to start killing people and getting rid of “the evil in the world”.

Obviously not the most desired spot for your spring break vacation. But hey! At least nobody's around you!

Obviously not the most desired spot for your spring break vacation. But hey! At least nobody’s around to disturb you!

This isn’t to say that Eggers has an issue with religion, in and of itself, but to say that he understands what draws people to it, as well as the kind of danger it can bring to people’s lives, when it’s taken differently than it’s perhaps intended to be taken. But what this does is allow for the VVitch to be more than just you standard, popcorn horror movie; it’s much more thoughtful and carefully-done, as well as having a point to be made. Witches may or may not be real, but faith definitely is and it takes over some people’s lives more than others.

And although something like the VVitch may not actually happen, it’s definitely plausible.

Like I was saying though, the VVitch is still a scary movie. Sure, it’s got something to say, but Eggers still realizes that the best way to spook people, isn’t to give them everything and anything at once. Instead, it’s much better to reel them in, slowly but surely, and continue to have people expecting the worst, as well as not being able to figure out just what’s going to happen next. In this sense, the VVitch is “fun”, but never “entertaining” per se.

It’s the kind of movie you can get wrapped-up in while you’re watching it and then feel a grip on your throat loosen, once it’s over. That’s what every horror movie, from now, to the days of Nosferatu have set out to do, but so few have actually achieved. The VVitch is the rare movie that achieves this and then some, but in doing so, also, may have you shaken up for days and a tad confused of what to think of it all.

That’s good. However, the fact that it makes you never want to see it again is also a bit of an issue, as you think you’ve seen everything you needed to see, got what you wanted, and now you’re good. Maybe this is just me, but so be it.

Just see the VVitch and quit listening to my yammering on.

Consensus: Terrifying, tense, freaky, and above all, thoughtful, the VVitch is the kind of horror movie that shows up all other movies of the genre, but still feels like a required viewing, even if it’s only once in your lifetime.

8.5 / 10

Keep on praying, family. You may need it.

Keep on praying, fam. You may need it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Keeping Room (2015)

Stick together, ladies. Can’t trust those men and their penises.

In the waning days of the Civil War, everybody seemed to be on their own and left to fend for their own darn selves. Two sisters, Augusta (Brit Marling) and Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) live out in their family’s home, strapped with plenty of guns, food, and shelter to keep themselves alive and well during this whole time. And of course, they have their trusted and loyal slave, Mad (Muna Otaru), by their side no matter what. But now, with the Civil War starting to draw closer and nearer to its end, that means that more and more stragglers will start showing up at these ladies’ front doors, leaving them with no other option other than to defend themselves, by any means necessary. And after one fateful trip into the city, it seems as if a certain bloody and violent hunter by the name of Moses (Sam Worthington) now wants something to do with these girls and even though it’s clear he isn’t going to stop by for a simple “hello” and leave it at that, the girls still don’t know what to do. Do they go to a small war with him and see if they can survive? Or do they run away and head for the hills, all over again?

Brit's got a gun.

Brit’s got a gun.

You can call the Keeping Room, “feminist propaganda” if you want, but you wouldn’t necessarily be right in saying so. Sure, it’s a story about women staying strong, sticking together, and facing all sorts of adversity, united as one, but really, it’s deeper than that. The movie is less about making some sort of point or message about gender, or sexuality in general, and more or less trying to speak about what can happen at the end of a war – when practically all hope and faith in humanity is lost, civil order has gone out the window, and practically everyone is on their own.

In that sense, the Keeping Room is a way better movie than you’d expect.

What director Daniel Barber doe so well, for so very long with the Keeping Room, is that he takes his good old time with the material and doesn’t really tell us too much at the very beginning. For the first ten minutes or so, with the exception of a gun-shot and a dark barking, there’s hardly any words spoken, or any other noise heard; instead, we hear the whistle of the wind, trees, grass and whatever actions certain characters are doing. Nobody in the movie really laces out into long, tired and winding tirades about war, death, or love, but more or less, think about it, without ever telling the audience.

This works in the movie’s favor because it really sets the mood for what sets out to be a very tense movie that doesn’t always realize how tense it can be, until it decides to let loose and just crank up the excitement. But the movie never overdoes it by any means – more or less, it just seems to still take its time, developing characters, setting a stage, and letting all of the cards and pieces fall together. Though Barber doesn’t have a lot to work with here, he still does his best to not forget that taking things in a more melodic nature can sometimes work out the best.

That’s why, in the last act or so, when people start shooting one another, pants are pulled down, and everybody starts, suddenly, opening up, crying and yelling, it becomes a bit of a shock.

Not a good one, though.

See, the issue with the Keeping Room is that for so very, very long, it doesn’t really seem to be about the big movie moments, but instead, the smaller, more intimate ones that feel much more to real life, than to the sort of crap we see on the big screen. That all changes during the last twenty or so minutes where all sorts of action occurs; most of it’s exciting, but still feels oddly-placed in a movie that, for so very long, felt like a kind of a drama that was smarter than convention. Because we get to know and understand these characters, as well as the terrain they’re currently setting up shop in, the killing is a lot more compelling than it would be, had there been no development either way, but still, something feels slightly off.

Hailee's got a gun.

Hailee’s got a gun.

That said, the cast is great and given that they have very little to do, except stare into space, they work wonders. Brit Marling’ Augusta is perhaps the strongest of the three female characters here, as she not only feels like the most determined, but perhaps the smartest one. She knows what to do in a situation such as this, where law and order has been practically shoved to the side, and also knows that she needs to keep her girls together, so long as they want to live on and not be killed, raped, or left for dead.

Same goes Muna Otaru’s Mad who, despite not saying much at first, eventually shows a side to her character that’s not just unexpected, but also welcoming. There’s a certain backstory to her character that isn’t just tragic (what with being a slave and whatnot), but also telling of the time and why she is, the way she is. I won’t give it away because it’s a very special moment in a movie full of almost hardly anything happening, but just know, it’s a very good scene and shows that Otaru, even without having to say anything, can work on levels. Same goes for Hailee Steinfeld’s Louise, who definitely seems like the more unlikable, bratty of the three, but soon learns to grow up very fast.

And then, there’s the two men of the story that take up another good portion of this movie, with Kyle Soller and Sam Worthington. Neither character really get as much development as they probably should, other than being seen as dirty, ruthless rapists, but both try. Worthington especially does a good job because, for once in a very long time, it seems like he’s playing a character that isn’t asking for you to love him, but rather, see him as something of a human being. Though he’s a very unlikable one, he’s still someone who has probably seen plenty of death and tragedy in life, so for him to act the way that he is now, sort of makes sense.

Doesn’t excuse who he turns out to be, but it’s thoughtful enough that reminds me that Sam Worthington may actually be something of a good actor.

Consensus: While it may take its own, meandering time to get going, the Keeping Room still works best in the smaller, quieter moments, with its talented cast and scary setting placing you right in the action.

6.5 / 10

Sam doesn't. But that's okay, because he's still making plenty of money from Avatar.

Sam doesn’t. But that’s okay, because he’s still making plenty of money from Avatar.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Saint Laurent (2015)

Fashion’s cool and all, but partying is probably better.

Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) has become synonymous with the fashion world. However, he also had his fair share of personal and professional issues that kept him away from being a person people would want to be around and appreciate. Through many years of his life, we see as Yves goes through all sorts of love-partners, as well as co-workers, most of whom either despise, or adore him. Either way, people know that Yves has a certain style that the people want and because of this, everybody is willing to stick with all of his odd, almost preposterous idiosyncrasies. All of this is chronicled at the time during his life from 1967 to 1976, when everybody was at his beck and call, yet, so little people actually loved or cared for him and were more concerned with milking the cash cow for as long as they could. Yves knew this, however, and it’s one of the main reasons why he would continue to break away from the rest of society for so long throughout his life.

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

I’m all for a biopic not standing by conventional route we tend to see with a biopic, or a story about a certain famous person in which there achievements are told through something as deep and meaningful as a Wikipedia entry. However, Saint Laurent is the kind of pretentious piece of film making that makes me wish more movies did follow a structure of some sorts, wherein we understood and learned more about the biopic subjects, and not just follow its own rhythm and pattern. After all, there is something to be said for a movie that does what it wants, when it wants, and plays by its own rules, when its subject did the same exact thing in real life, but really, there could have been so much more done here had some rules been followed.

Actually, scratch that. A lot of rules.

See, what director Bertrand Bonello does here is that he focuses on one time in the life of Yves Saint Laurent that may have been the most successful, as well as exciting, but he doesn’t really show how or why. Instead, the movie just more or less shows us that Laurent tended to be a bit of a perfectionist, something of a drama queen, and a generally closed-off human being who didn’t really treat those who loved him or worked with him, to the best of his ability. In fact, there’s one key scene in which an employee of Laurent’s tells him that she needs to get an abortion and doesn’t have the money for it. Laurent gives her the money and tells her that she’ll always have a place to work, except that, moments later, he’s seen at a dinner table talking about how he wants that employee fired.

If anything, this scene not only tells you everything you need to know about Laurent, but is perhaps the only bit of insight the movie ever actually gives us. Other than that, we just get a bunch of scenes where Laurent slowly pans around, looks at fancy clothes, touches his chin, engage in promiscuous sex, do drugs, drink, dance, party, and most of all, be an a-hole to everyone around him. That’s pretty much all we get to see about Laurent here and while it’s nice to see a biopic that doesn’t necessarily set out to glamorize its subject, it would have also been nice to see more about him that made this movie worth watching in the first place.

And then, of course, there’s the pace.

I'd party with her. Not him.

I’d party with her. Not him.

Saint Laurent meanders so much, for so long, that by the time the two-and-a-half-hour run-time had hit its limit, I got up out of my seat, took a walk, took a shower, and then, continued on with my watching. Rather than getting started on another movie/show right off the bat as soon as it ended, instead, I had to do something else more productive with my time, as well as get past the fact that I wasted so much time with a movie that seemed to go hardly anywhere from the very start. And while there’s no issue with a movie taking its time, when it turns out to be very clear that the movie has no set destination in mind, after awhile, all of the waddling around can get to be a bit of a pain.

None of this is particularly any of the cast’s problems, either. Basically, they’re trying their absolute hardest to make sense of what’s going on and just how exactly they can make things better. Gaspard Ulliel looks great as Laurent, but doesn’t really get a chance to dive deep into the inner-soul of what made Laurent such a tragic, rather misunderstood figure. We see him do a lot of crying and whining, but that’s not enough to really have us see him for all that he was when it came to not just being a fashion-designer, but also a human being.

In fact, it’s those around him who are probably the most humanized and understood. Jérémie Renier’s Pierre Bergé constantly wants to be there for Laurent no matter how hard times between the two get, but also can’t seem to help himself from sponging off of the goods, too; Louis Garrel’s Jacques de Bascher may seem like he’s just there for the sex with Laurent, but really wants something loving and caring, too; and Léa Seydoux’s Loulou de la Falaise may not go all that deeper than just being “the party girl”, but hey, it was nice to see her around. Wish there was more for each of these talented actors to do, but for what it’s worth, it was nice to see them at least try in a movie that didn’t seem to care for them, or anything else.

It just wanted to be cool and stylish, sort of like its subject.

Consensus: Saint Laurent may daringly play by its own rules, it still doesn’t offer enough glimpses of heart, humanity, or even insight into its subject, but instead, just shows him as a guy who did some stuff and that’s about it.

2 / 10

Just chillin'.

Just chillin’.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Chi-Raq (2015)

Stop the sex, then you stop the guns, and then you stop the violence. Or something like that.

Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) is getting absolutely sick and tired of her gang-banger boyfriend (Nick Cannon) taking advantage of her sexy body and using her just strictly for sex. After all, she wants him to stop all of the shooting, killing, and drug-dealing, but he just won’t. So therefore, Lysistrata steps up, bands her fellow friends together and start a revolt against allowing their men to use their bodies for sex. Because if these men don’t get their sex, then possibly, they may stop killing one another and things may be a whole lot safer in Chicago. Clearly, certain people aren’t happy about this, whereas others are, but mostly, it calls into question the rest of the community and how they’re willing to handle this whole change. Some people, like Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack), love it and wants to see all of the crime gone at last, whereas others, Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), doesn’t even care about the crime stopping and just wants his sex already! He may get it, after all, but he, along with the rest of his gang-pals, need to cut-out all of the shooting and killing if they want to get what they want.

Sadly, seen this one too many times in real life.

Sadly, seen this one too many times in real life.

Spike Lee has never been the most subtle writer/director out there in the world and for the longest time, that was alright – until it wasn’t. What seems to have been going on with Lee’s career as of late is that it doesn’t appear like he’s really fired-up or passionate about anything he’s making anymore. Sure, there’s clearly movies like Miracle at St. Anna, or more obviously She Hate Me, where it’s obvious that he has points to make and wants to say something, but he can’t keep himself away from getting all caught up in a bunch of other stuff, that eventually, it all just becomes a mess.

And although Chi-Raq finds Lee back to his old ways of being passionate about something, it’s still very much, in the end, a mess.

But an interesting mess is, in some ways, better than just a dull, uninteresting mess – which doesn’t seem like something Lee himself ever creates. This is why the idea of incorporating the Greek comedy “Lysistrata” into the modern day world and land of the violent and ruthless streets of Chicago, may seem rather weird at first, but eventually, it’s easy to get used to, even when it seems like certain dialogue comes off stranger and more stilted than others. That said, perhaps the most moving moment of Chi-Raq is when there’s no old-timey, stagey dialect anywhere to be found, in which John Cusack, playing a local priest, unleashes into a tirade about all of the murders, crimes, and guns in the world that he sees around him and it’s too hard to not get wrapped up in.

For one, it features Cusack’s best performance in the longest time (excluding Love and Mercy), but it also reminds us of the sort of power and beauty Lee’s “angry” writing can sometimes have. While he is most definitely preaching and yelling at his audience, he is also spelling-out truths about society that most movies tend to shy away from, or are too afraid of even bringing up. Rather than doing so and joining his weaker counterparts, Lee reminds the audience just what he’s talking out against and shows us why he is the first and last person to have a say on the matter.

And this is all to say that Lee has a lot to say in Chi-Raq, mostly all of which is great and uplifting to hear.

But at the same time, there’s also way too much going on around this central message. To say that Chi-Raq is “jam-packed”, would be an absolute understatement. Now, to say that it’s “filled with one too many subplots, all taking place in different movies, and seemingly having no way of connecting with one another”, then you’d be absolutely right, because that’s exactly what it is about Chi-Raq that makes it a hard movie to watch or get totally invested in. One second, you’ll see a character get plenty of attention and automatically assume that they’re the protagonists or characters you should be looking at the most, so you sit there, study them, get to know them, and take them all in – that is, until it turns out that Lee’s bored of them and their story, and is off to the next character/story to focus on.

John Cusack knows "the struggle", everyone.

John Cusack knows “the struggle”, everyone.

This happens at least five or six times and after awhile, it begins to be a bit tiresome. Casting a wide net for your film when you’re tackling such a big issue as violence in America isn’t a problem, but to do so and not really offer up much development to any of these points you want to focus on, is. Maybe Lee could have benefited from getting rid of one or two subplots, and devoting more of his time and attention on other, way more important ones, but really, it still doesn’t seem like that would solve any of these issues.

In other words, Chi-Raq is the usual kind of mess we’re used to seeing with Spike Lee, but feels like more of a missed opportunity, and less like a piece to solve the puzzle he’s trying to put together.

The only one of the cast who gets the most eyes from the Lee is Teyonah Parris. Parris has been putting in some solid work as of late in pieces like Mad Men, or in last year’s Dear White People, but here, she really gets her opportunity to light the screen up. Not only does she have presence, in terms of her beauty, but she’s the one who handles all of the stagey material to the best of her ability and shows that there may be something of a pulse underneath this, what appears to be, something of “a type”. And while there’s a huge cast featuring the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Wesley Snipes, Nick Cannon, D.B. Sweeney, La La Anthony, Dave Chappelle and Samuel L. Jackson, basically replaying his role as Mister Señor Love Daddy, nobody ever gets nearly as much to do as she does.

This is fine, but really, it would have been nice to see Lee give each and everyone a chance to do more, as well as remind the audience why it is that Lee himself is such a master at getting these crazy ensembles together and yet, make them work so well together.

Consensus: Lee is firing on all cylinders in Chi-Raq, and while he definitely makes his voice heard and his points understood, they’re sometimes tucked underneath a mess that’s hard to wade through and not feel frustrated by.

5.5 / 10

"Do the right thing, ya'll."

“Do the right thing, ya’ll.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Where to Invade Next (2015)

Apparently, America does not rule. How could this be?

Having gotten tired of roaming around the United States, heckling for people and looking for something to complain about, Michael Moore has now headed overseas. Why, though? Well, it’s because he wants to, theoretically that is, “invade” these other countries on behalf of the United States of America and prove the countries dominance. And through this tour of his own doing, Moore sees how Europeans view all sorts of things differently from Americans like work, education, health care, sex, equality, and plenty more to come from there. Through all of his travels, we realize just how different America is from the rest of the world, sometimes, in good ways, as well as in some bad ways.

It’s obvious from watching Michael Moore’s movies that, well, he loves America. While he does an awful lot of moaning and criticizing the country, deep down inside, Moore just wants to be loved, accepted, and listened to as America’s spokesperson who, when a crisis arises, he is the first one the President makes the call to because, well, it’s his decision that matters the most. While this will probably never, ever happen for as long as anybody, as well as Moore himself, is alive, it’s still nice to see Moore constantly try his hardest to make himself seem and sound more important than he may actually be.

"So, does America suck? You can tell me. It's okay."

“So, does America suck? You can tell me. It’s okay.”

Which isn’t a hit on Michael Moore, as I found almost all of his documentaries as entertaining and interesting as the next, but Where to Invade Next is an especially odd addition to his filmography.

For one, it’s not nearly as controversial as you’d expect. With a title and premise like that, as well as knowing what Moore can do, you’d expect that a lot of Where to Invade Next be a lot of Moore knockin’ on doors, shocking conclusions being drawn at the drop of a hat, and plenty of those overly sentimental, downright annoying pieces of narration from Moore himself, but what we actually get is far different. Which is fine, as we get to see a lot of Moore talking to people about so much out there in the world that may be new information or not, but there’s still a feeling of disappointment watching this.

Most of that has to do with the fact that Moore doesn’t really seem to have much of a point to all that he’s doing here. In a way, it’s as if Moore himself wanted to travel to all of these countries for fun, see what they were all about, get paid to do so and, oh yeah, make a documentary about it all. Sure, he got to eat plenty of food, see plenty of lovely sights, and best of all, meet some pretty cool and happenin’ people, but really, he was there to really document just how different other countries are from America, right? Well, yeah, it appears that way, but the conclusion Moore makes at the end about how most of these European countries got their ideas from America is interesting, but seems to come at a time when Moore’s gone on for far too long about all of these other countries.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no issue with highlighting some of the great things about these other countries around us.

A lot of the points, too, Moore makes, actually do seem to tickle the brain. The idea of free tuition seems totally fictional to me that hearing a whole country actually allow that for college students, as well as foreigners, was an absolute mind-blower. Not to mention that the point Moore brings up about how Germany hasn’t forgotten about the atrocities of the Holocaust and has instead, decided to teach its kids about what happened and why it matters. There’s plenty other interesting tidbits and anecdotes that Moore makes, but really, there’s a lack of focus that makes it seem less like there’s a message connecting everything and more or less, like Moore himself just wants to play around with all sorts of different ideas and methods.

Pictured: People we can trust. Maybe.

Pictured: People we can trust. Maybe.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but there’s a feeling that Moore’s better than this. Of course, a Michael Moore documentary can tend to be better than what most of us get out there and it’s nice to see him still trying his hardest to remind people that he still matters in today’s political landscape, but at the same time, where’s the hard-hitting questions and conclusions? Just saying that other countries are better than the U.S. because their economy is more lenient and nicer to its citizens, isn’t really enough; it may be true, but it doesn’t go anywhere if you don’t have the gall to back it up more.

Moore definitely does have the gall, but for some reason, it’s hardly shown here.

Instead, he’s too distracted by the different cultures and lifestyles these other countries have, most of which seem pretty normal. The kids in France have better school lunches; the kids in Iceland have no homework and instead, go outside and play more; the working-class in Italy have paid vacations are allowed to take off whenever they get sick; and yeah, there’s more. All of these are facts of life that Moore himself takes a look at and barely even scratches the surface of. Sure, he asks the questions, but to what length or extreme? Is this the same guy who constantly badgered away at Roger Smith, even when it was clear that he wasn’t going to get a single word in with him? Or, hell, is this the same guy who approached Charlton Heston and grilled him all about the NRA, to his face?

It definitely is, but here, it’s not really showing and it’s a huge issue when mostly everybody knows just the real Michael Moore is in there somewhere.

Consensus: Though it has some interesting points to make about many countries, Where to Invade Next misses the mark when it wants to feel important and have a point to introduce, but Michael Moore himself can’t really figure out which one to deliver on.

6 / 10

Leader of the United States? Uh no thanks.

Leader of the United States? Uh no thanks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

How to Be Single (2016)

It’s actually quite simple: Just do it.

After four years of college, Alice (Dakota Johnson) decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). Though she’s not too sure if she wants to do this, she still knows that she wants to live a life of her own, for now, and see, at a later date, if being single is what she really wants. Still, she’s very excited about this new freedom she’s found in her life and starts up a friendship with her co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson), the kind of gal who loves a good time, to party a whole lot, sleep around, and just generally be as reckless as can be. Now, through Robin, Alice an meet new guys and have a whole bunch of new experiences, that may or may not include sexual relations with other men. Meanwhile, Lucy (Alison Brie) is looking for that special someone in her life, even if it seems all too clear that the bartender she constantly sees (Anders Holm), may be the perfect man for her. Also, Meg (Leslie Mann) finally decides, after many years, that she wants to have a baby and goes through with the procedure. However, at the same time, she meets and starts to fall for Alice’s co-worker (Jake Lacy) and doesn’t know if she wants to settle down and tell him about the situation, or just pull away altogether.



There’s a lot about How to Be Single that doesn’t work and there’s a lot about it that does. What the movie wants to do is not get on these women’s cases for having sex, going from man-to-man, doing their own thing, and not really needing a man to tie her down. Still though, the movie doesn’t try to say that any women who may want a man, or to get married are “bad” or “stupid” – after all, it’s just a fact of life that some people live and others don’t.

At the same time, though, How to Be Single also wants to talk out on these female character’s ways for having so much sex with so many random people that it gets mixed up in judging them. This is something I didn’t expect to see, but was still surprised by, because the movie does have some interesting anecdotes to bring up about women’s lives that you don’t too often see in mainstream rom-coms of this nature. Normally, the characters will be judged and held on some mantle as if the audience is supposed to learn from their mistakes, but here, in How to Be Single that thankfully doesn’t happen.

But there’s a odd unevenness about this whole movie that never fully gels well together.

For one, there’s at least one or two stories going on here that probably don’t need to exist at all, but are still around, if only because they feature talented, somewhat famous actors in the scenes, so rather than tossing them out and wasting them, they’re used and put in the film anyway. Alison Brie is charming and likable in just about everything she does, but here, if you were to take her character away, the movie would not change one bit. There’s a core group in the film that holds down the center, which Brie’s character hardly even brushes by and is instead, left to sit at the bar and only have interactions with Anders Holm’s character. Granted, there’s no problem with this because it’s always nice to see him in something, but still, it can occasionally feel like unnecessary filler.

Same goes for Leslie Mann’s character who, even despite being related to Dakota Johnson’s, still feels like she’s got a whole story of her own, going on elsewhere and not really connecting to the main-frame of the story. But then again, like is the case with Brie and Holm, Mann and Jake Lacy are both lovely presences, so the more scenes with them, the better honestly. That’s why it’s hard to get on this movie’s case for having so much talent around and deciding to use them all, as superfluous as their screen-time and involvement can sometimes be.

And this is all to say that they help How to Be Single be better than you’d expect.

More drinking...

More drinking…

Rather than making this cloying, in-your-face rom-com about how great it feels to be in love with someone, it’s actually more about these certain character’s lives, their ventures into romance, and just where they head to when they make a decision. The movie is nowhere near as insightful as it likes to think it is, but it’s at least trying and with the cast it has involved, that’s fine enough. Nobody here has to light the world on fire, but instead, just be ready to deliver the material as best as they can.

In fact, if there’s any weak spots in the film, it’s specifically through the main protagonists of the movie: Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson. Both are supposed to be our main center-points of the movie, and while Wilson is mostly around for strictly comedy, it gets a bit tiring to see her do the same thing, over and over again, without hardly a laugh or shed of humanity to be found. Johnson’s character is slightly more interesting, but the movie constantly betrays her with the random, sometimes idiotic decisions she make, that it can get pretty frustrating. Johnson is good and clearly seems to be enjoying her time with the camera in front of her face, but really, you’ll just wish she had better material to shed out more. We know that it’s within her, we’re just waiting to see when that time will eventually come around.

Hopefully not in Fifty Shades Darker.

Consensus: Given the cast involved, How to Be Single works as an entertaining, occasionally dramatic rom-com that doesn’t know what it wants to say, but like the people it’s working with enough to just let them do their things and be charming.

5 / 10

The true life of a hard-partying single girl.

The true life of a hard-partying single girl.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

Zoolander 2 (2016)

Male models are still funny, I guess?

After the death of his wife, Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller)’s life basically imploded. First of all, The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too actually collapses due to faulty construction. Then, he loses his son to Child Protective Services. And his best friend and closest confidante, Hansel (Owen Wilson), gets disfigured and is forced to leave the spotlight, never to be heard from again. All of this culminates Derek in leaving the rest of the world himself, venturing out to the far North where nothing, or nobody, can bother him. That’s until Billy Zane (Billy Zane) comes into the picture and warns Derek that known celebrities are not only being mysteriously killed, but reenacting one of Derek’s most famous looks before doing so. This leads Derek back to finding Hansel and figuring out just what this is all about. Eventually, with the help of former swimsuit model, now turned Interpol agent, Valentina (Penélope Cruz), Hansel and Derek find out that the one going after them and killing all of these celebrities just so happens to be their arch-nemesis Mugatu (Will Ferrell) who, despite being locked-up for all of these years, still holds a grudge and wants to take over the fashion world, once again.

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

See! Tiny cellphone joke! A! HA!

Zoolander isn’t a classic by any means, but it’s still a very funny movie. It’s stood the odd test of time as some sort of “cult classic” that may not be as smart as it thinks, but in by doing so, somehow was actually smart. I don’t know. It’s the kind of movie that I’ve seen so much now, whether through TV re-runs or with my buddies that, by now, the movie’s been so imprinted into my mind that I know almost every line of dialogue and I still find it funny.

This is everything that Zoolander 2 is not and it could have been so much more.

But it didn’t really have to try at all and that’s one of the biggest surprises about Zoolander 2. Even with the likes of the original crew back and ready for action, there seems to be something missing in that Zoolander 2 is just the same joke, over and over again, but this time, there’s nothing funny about the joke. The first movie at least made the joke about how models are dumb and went far and wide with it, but here, we’re supposed to take that joke and think that’s just about it, with a slew of cameos thrown in for good measure.

In a way, too, it’s almost as there are so many cameos from totally random people celebrities here, that it’s almost as if Ben Stiller himself knew that he was working with bad material and thought the best way to hide behind that fact was to have people like Sting, or Neil deGrasse Tyson, or even Justin Bieber show up for extended cameos to distract everybody from the real problems with the script. But that’s the issue, the cameos aren’t funny, the script blows and the same joke, being hit over our heads, over and over again, goes nowhere and doesn’t seem to really land, even if the story is basically about this whole conspiracy involving male models.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t some laughs to be found, but really, they are few and far between, which mostly has to do with the tone.

The first Zoolander kind of existed in this ridiculous world where people acted-out in strange, over-the-top ways but this second movie only seems to flirt with that world. Instead now, the jokes are a bit more mean-spirited and most of all, just call-backs. I get that  tiny cellphone in the original movie was funny for its time, to have it now be 2016 and have not one, not two, but three jokes about said tiny cellphone is just overkill. There’s so many other callbacks that continue on in this movie, almost everyone failing harder than the one before it and just makes me wonder why Stiller was so off-point here?

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Thank heavens for that.

The future of the Zoolander franchise that will never work out. Poor guy.

Clearly he has a sort of love and adoration for these characters, knows that there’s a huge audience out there for this product, and typically, doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to take on a whole project on his own and just go through the motions. Say what you will about some of his choices, but mostly, Stiller has been smart with the movies he’s decided to write and direct, all of which being more ambitious and surprising than the last. That’s why Zoolander 2 not only finds himself back in his comfort-zone, not just as a director, but as actor, but also reminds us why some Ben Stiller movies can be so grating to watch.

We know that there’s more to him than this, but why is he putting this out? Was it for the money? Or was it just because he wanted to get the crew back together, one last time for the hell of it?

Regardless of what the reason was, he’s not the only one who gets caught up here, showing that they have better stuff to do. Owen Wilson tries as Hansel, but with the exception of orgy jokes, there’s nothing else holding him together; Kristen Wiig’s character is supposed to be the head fashion designer who can’t walk, talk or emote right because of all the surgery she’s had and while it can be funny at first, it goes on way too long; Will Ferrell shows up late in the game as Mugatu and seems like he wants to do more, but only has a certain amount of time to be funny and it’s not much; Penelope Cruz tries to bring more to her standard agent role and she shows some personality, but it doesn’t go far enough; and yeah, the cameos. There’s so many here, most of which are surprising, but really don’t pan-out to being much else but just cameos and that’s it.

They’re not hiding the fact that Zoolander 2 stinks, even as hard as they may try.

Consensus: Even despite the original not being a great movie, Zoolander 2 still is no excuse for the likes of Stiller, Wilson, Ferrell, Wiig, Cruz, and everybody else to be wasting their time with such lame material as this that has nothing else to say other than just to say, “models are stupid”.

3 / 10

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn't this his?!?!

Todd makes any movie better. So why wasn’t this his?!?!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Deadpool (2016)

Take this in your pipe and smoke it, Batman. Or any other superhero.

After a surgery to cure his cancer botches, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is left brutally burned, chewed-up, left for dead and downright ugly. However, what the person who did all of this to Wade didn’t take into consideration was that he’d live to see another day and most importantly, his girlfriend Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin) and now not only wants to get his life back in order, but also wants revenge on the son-of-a-bitch who basically ruined his life. That’s why it’s Wade’s sole mission to track down and find Francis (Ed Skrein), the evil doctor who also has a sidekick of his own, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), someone who can kick ass, take names and chew toothpicks as if she’s Sly Stallone. But now that Wade realizes that he’ll almost never, ever come close to dying, he can now use his skills and talents for the greater good of society, or just to kill a whole bunch of bad people that want him and his girlfriend dead and not really worry about anyone, or anything else that may be in any particular danger.

The couple from hell. And all of a sudden, I really want to pay that place a visit.

The couple from hell. And all of a sudden, I really want to pay that place a visit.

Finally, after so very long, a Deadpool movie has come around and released for the whole world to see and, well, believe it or not, it’s actually pretty amazing. Though, to be honest, I didn’t know much about Deadpool to begin with, other than that he was supposed to be really funny and cool, like he sort of was in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but that was about it. So yeah, I’ll admit that the fanboy train for this didn’t really connect with me, until I eventually realized what it was: The superhero movie to end all superhero movies.

What Deadpool, the character as well as the movie, sets out to do is take the overly-familiar and, dare I say it, sometimes boring superhero genre that’s all too popular and conventional by now, and not just flip it on its side, but slap its ass, spit on its face, twists its arm, flip the bird at it, and end all of this pain on a lovely little one-liner for good measure. It’s basically the kind of superhero movie that Guardians of the Galaxy was, but instead of working within the confines of being a weird, but also appropriate superhero movie for all people of all ages, Deadpool clearly doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about any of that, or anything. All it wants to do is tell its story, while also remind you just about every single second that you are indeed watching a movie, where really good-looking, talented actors are acting, everyone is getting paid (except for you), and it’s not exactly equipped with the biggest budget, so there’s obviously going to be less stars and big-names here and instead, just the cast it was able to fit in.

And you know what? I loved almost every second of what it was doing.

Not only is Deadpool funny in an incredibly subversive, overly meta way, but it also doesn’t forget about what makes itself a good movie in the first place. Sure, poking fun at the constructions of a superhero movie, as well as a movie in general is fine and all, but if you’re not giving me a good story in the meantime, then forget about all of your jokes. However, Deadpool, once again, the character, as well as the movie, wants to have its cake, eat it, and still have room for seconds, and it surprisingly works. While Deadpool himself will take time out of the movie to turn towards the camera, address the audience and tell everybody that “this is where the backstory begins”, what he’s also doing is introducing us to a solid, well-told story that, wouldn’t you know it, you get interested and compelled by.

Though Deadpool isn’t really working with any groundbreaking material in terms of its story, it’s a more jaded-version of Frankenstein, the movie still gives it its all and allows us to not just feel something for the characters involved, but the central love story that’s supposed to allow for this movie live and breathe. While it would have been easy to have the film be all about Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin, two very good-looking people, meet cute, have sex, fall in love and leave it at that without any further questions asked, the movie takes it one step further and actually shows how screwed-up and weird they are respectively, that when they come together, it’s like peanut butter and jelly.

Of course that peanut butter and jelly was probably left out in the open far too long, with flies on top of it and mold growing on it, but hey, you can still make a sandwich with it and sometimes, the sandwich is all you need.

Be nice to T.J. Miller! He's got a new season of Silicon Valley to film!

Be nice to T.J. Miller! He’s got a new season of Silicon Valley to film!

It doesn’t matter the quality of the ingredients, but as long as you have it and you can see it as a sandwich, then yeah, it’s fine.

That’s why Deadpool, deep down inside, as we’re told, is really a “love” story. It’s not trying to make any profound statement about the human heart, but rather, just giving us a believable romance between two people who not only have great chemistry, but really do feel like they could be together in a universe as weird and twisted as this. Baccarin is given a strong female character that goes beyond being the damsel in distress, can think and take care of herself, whereas Reynolds, as Deadpool/Wade Wilson is, well, perfection.

Sure, it was the role he was born to play, but it’s so much more than that. So often, whenever we see Reynolds show up in a movie, he’s depended on as being the wise-cracking, quick-witted comic-relief, and that’s about it. We’ve seen certain shadings of just what he can do as an actor before, but never to the furthest extent to where we’ve been like, “Wow. That Ryan Reynolds can sure as hell act.” He’s been good in movies before, but with Deadpool he gets to do so much and it’s just a pleasure to see him having the greatest time of his life. He’s not just a funny guy, but a smart one who we’re able to get behind, even when he does some reprehensible things throughout.

But yeah, he’s not the only one that Deadpool is all about, as there’s plenty more characters to shake a stick at and, believe it or not, they’re all pretty fun to be around that I wish I got more of them. T.J. Miller is, as the opening credits show, “the comedic-relief” and every scene he has, isn’t just funny, but really weird and off-kilter, just as the movie asks for; Ed Skrein, despite not being all that much to write home about in the Transporter reboot, is mean and unlikable as Francis, the villain, and it’s everything he needed to be; same goes for Gina Carano’s Angel Dust who is bad-ass; Stefan Kapičić as Colossus has more personality to him than you’d expect, even though he does always go on about being a “hero”; and Brianna Hildebrand, as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, is basically just another mopey, soft-spoken millennial, but she’s fun about it and seems to have a nice rapport with Deadpool, which makes her worth caring about.

But really, it’s all about Deadpool and why shouldn’t it be? He’s finally getting his own movie and it’s a pretty great one at that, so good for him and everybody else!

Consensus: A very hard R, but with good reason, Deadpool isn’t just hilariously subversive, but also features a solid superhero origin tale that we can get behind, even when it seems more concerned with commenting on movies and actors and all of that fun meta stuff.

9 / 10

Hopefully that's news of a sequel, but probably not!

Hopefully that’s news of a sequel, but probably not.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Roger & Me (1989)

Won’t be stopping by Flint any time soon. Or anywhere in Detroit, for that matter.

In the late 80’s corporate America is taking over and beginning to start a crack down of sorts on industrial inefficiencies. Meaning that some of the first casualties is the American factory worker, who live and breathe off of these factory jobs. Most importantly though, Flint, Michigan, where its residents would literally go to work at General Motors, build cars, bring home a paycheck and spend their earnings on food, rent and all the other expenses that people use in everyday life. However, it all began to change when General Motors decided that they could get more parts, and for cheaper labor, in other parts of the world like Mexico, which meant that they took themselves out of America and decided that it was time to close the factories down. This means that a lot of people lost their jobs, as well as their houses, and the city of Flint, overall, began to take a turn for the worse where the poor get poorer and the rich, when they aren’t having their Great Gatsby parties, are getting richer. While this is all happening, General Motors CEO Roger Smith is being praised by investors for helping out the bottom line, which is a point that Michael Moore does not stand by one bit.

Pictured: The devil.

Pictured: The devil.

Michael Moore clearly loves America and there is no problem with this. He’s one of the very rare people who will stand by his country, make generalizations about other countries, and all the while, still question his own country about what it is that makes us so wonderful. Is it our democracy? Is it our ability to do whatever we want, at any time, as long as they stay within the legal parameters? Or, is it that we brought places like Burger King and McDonalds to the world for everyone to enjoy and grow morbidly obese from? No matter what the question, nor the answer may be, Michael Moore will never stop loving America and while a lot of people would feel better off without having someone like him representing our country, it’s still nice to see someone still as patriotic as he is.

At the same time though, Michael Moore is very preachy and it’s one of the main reasons why most of his documentaries work, most importantly, Roger & Me.

Roger & Me is the first instance in which people found out about Moore, what he could do, and just what he was all about. This was way before all of his recent documentaries came out and shook up the world – nobody knew of his radical left stances, his overly melodramatic narrations, his constant hammering of random subjects, his wild antics just to get a hard subject for an interview, etc. Nobody knew what to expect and in a way, it’s nice to look at the movie as some sort of time capsule of the beginning where Moore’s voice came out for the whole world to hear.

And while there’s a lot to Moore’s style that can be considered “annoying”, there’s no denying that he makes entertaining movies and knows how to frame a story to where, no matter where he goes, you’re following him just about the whole way through. With Roger & Me, it’s interesting to see how Moore uses Flint as a fill-in for the rest of America, where everyone is equal and able to do what they want, but at the same time, are still being tied down and ruined by the richer of society. The picture that’s painted of America, and especially Flint, is a very sad and depressed one, however, Moore himself tries to focus on more than just the sad aspects of life and more or less, remind everybody about some of the joys of life.

At the same time though, it’s hard not to feel a slight bit of uneasiness when watching Roger & Me because, all of these years later, we know that nothing’s changed in Flint, or in America and, for the most part, has gotten worse.

That’s why, when Moore focuses on random people in the movie like a rabbit herder, a former policeman who now evicts people from their homes, 1988’s Miss America, the dirty and surprisingly perverted Bob Eubanks, and countless others, it’s hard not to feel sad. Of course, Moore is using a lot of these interviews as strictly comedy and to point the finger at some people for their sheer stupidity, but there’s an underlying sense of seriousness that makes it all the more shocking. We know that Moore doesn’t know what to make of the whole situation with Flint, or with America and because of that, the answers never seem to come easy, or ever around. Instead, there’s just a lot of beating around the bush of the question and times where it seems like Moore’s mind gets taken elsewhere.

Pictured: Hell.

Pictured: Hell.

This is all fine, of course, because where Moore takes us and how, can sometimes be exciting than anything anybody has to say here. For instance, there’s a small glimpse into the lives of the very rich people of Flint where, when they aren’t holding fancy, over-the-top Great Gatsby balls, they’re paying $100 to stay in the new, state-of-the-art jail. It’s actually quite shocking to see that people like this still exist, but at the same time, have absolutely no clue of what’s going on around them and it’ll make you wish that they’d just give their money away to either people who need it, or that they don’t have it at all.

Still though, Roger & Me always comes back to Michael Moore, which isn’t a huge surprise, but it also shows that he has a point with his movie. What Moore wants to say is that while the big companies may try to tear the American working-class down, it’s up to everybody in the world to not just depend on themselves, but find anyway that they can to survive and still make a profit. Sometimes, this can take one person down a very scary, almost immoral alleyway, but it’s the only way a person can survive.

It doesn’t have to be fine, it just has to be.

Consensus: As is usually the case with Michael Moore’s documentaries, most of them have an angle from the very beginning, but nonetheless, Roger & Me is still an entertaining, compelling and sometimes upsetting look inside Flint and most importantly, America, what makes it work, what makes it tick, and what makes it sometimes so sad to live in.

8 / 10

Pictured: A true patriotic nut.

Pictured: A true patriotic nut.

Photos Courtesy of: Pyxurz

Nasty Baby (2015)

Babies are a pain, both before and after they’re around.

Freddy (Sebastián Silva) and Mo (Tunde Adebimpe) have been together for quite some time and they feel as if now is the right moment to finally start the family they’ve always wanted. However, considering that they are both men and aren’t able to get pregnant, they decide that their best friend, Polly (Kristen Wiig) is the perfect person to go through with the procedure, especially since she doesn’t at all mind and considers both men to her best friends. However, as Freddy, Mo and Polly continue on and on to get pregnant and have this damn baby that they’ve been craving for all these years, certain issues arise. For Polly, she is having problems actually getting pregnant, with some sperm working and some others, not. As for Freddy, well, he’s starting to get a tad crazy. With pressures at work and at home, Freddy is finding himself constantly acting out in an erratic manner where he’s lashing out anybody around him, even if he knows full well that he’s being a terrible person. Still though, what keeps them all together is the idea of this baby, regardless of if it actually is conceived or not.

The director?

The director?

There’s at least two movies within Nasty Baby, one is fine, whereas the other shows promise through and through, until it eventually just plays itself out and becomes oddly placed in a film that, quite frankly, can’t be bothered with it. What I mean by saying this is that whereas one half of Nasty Baby plays out like a funny, rather insightful tale about sex, gender, and the idea of a modern-day family, the other half seems like a tense thriller, where we don’t have a full grasp on what’s going to happen next, nor what’s going to happen to whom. All we kn ow is that things are getting more riled-up as they move along, and in ways, it’s interesting to see how writer/director Sebastian Silva places it throughout the movie.

At the same time, however, it still causes an issue for the film’s tone.

Cause, for one, it’s incredibly uneven. One scene, we’ll be sitting back and watching as a bunch of characters pal around with one another and just seem to chew the fat, but then, in the next scene, we’ll get one where Reg E. Cathey’s homeless character is terrorizing characters because, well, he’s crazy and homeless and that’s how all homeless men act, apparently. Regardless of whether or not this makes any sense, Silva does present this character enough times to make it clear why he’s around, but never seems to actually make better sense of why he exists. It seems like Silva wants this character around to create some sort of obstacle, or better yet, villain for these characters to overcome? Which is fine and all, but this is an indie that’s supposed to be about a anybody’s lives – having Cathey around to just be an evil nut-job, constantly causing havoc wherever he goes, feels a bit silly and over-the-top.

Cathey himself is fine in the role, but really, all he has to do is act like a crazed lunatic and have you feel like he could fly off the handle at any second. Cathey’s effective at this aspect of the character, but still can’t make it clear why his character, or his character’s subplot, needs to exist in Nasty Baby after all. After all, the movie would have been fine, had it just paid sole attention to what was going on with Kristen Wiig’s character.

But considering we didn’t get that movie, it’s probably best not to talk “what ifs”, and more about “what’s actually on the table”.

Or, the guy from TV on the Radio?

Or, the guy from TV on the Radio?

And what’s on the table for Nasty Baby is a promising tale about fertility, starting a family, and deciding whether or not you’re actually fit to be a parent in the first place. If anything, Silva brings up some interesting ideas about what constitutes the normal, American family of today and, in a way, sort of skewers it. There’s a scene involving a family dinner in which the idea of a gay marriage comes into play, and rather than coming off as preachy and obvious, it actually plays out both sides quite well. One side has reasoning for being against gay marriage that doesn’t have to do with the fact that their just bigots, and the other side who is for gay marriage, doesn’t go around spouting about it and how everybody should feel the same as they do.

And even the scenes with Kristen Wiig’s character, where the situation tends to get more and more awkward when more sperm needs to be produced, but really, it all goes away once Silva sets his sights elsewhere with the story. Also, it’s worth mentioning that Silva himself, despite being a talented writer and director, isn’t quite the best actor. Some of that has to do with the fact that he hasn’t quite perfected his English just yet, but another good portion of that has to do with the fact that his character is kind of boring in that he doesn’t really seem to have much more to him than just a bunch of whining and complaining and that’s it. We get some background on his own father, but really, it seems like filler and an excuse to give Silva more time to work in his own movie.

Wiig and especially, Tunde Adebimpe, fare a lot better off, but neither are flashy here. Wiig may not be as reserved as she’s been in some of her previous indies, but still shows a lot of heart and humanity, as well as her much-adored charm. As for Adebimpe, he’s a very calming and relaxing presence on screen, that goes a long way whenever it seems like Silva’s character is getting on our nerves and doesn’t really have anything interesting to say. It’s not just the character he’s playing, but also Adebimpe himself, who keeps Silva, as well as the rest of Nasty Baby grounded, even when it seems to go absolutely bonkers at some of the most random moments.

Consensus: Essentially two movies into one, Nasty Baby works better with the more insightful of the two, whereas the second story comes in, goes and then feels forced, making everything feel off and disjointed.

5 / 10

Either way, Kristen's gonna continue to be Kristen.

Either way, Kristen’s gonna continue to be Kristen.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire