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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Category Archives: 2-2.5/10

The Dark Tower (2017)

Yeah. I don’t know, either.

Jake (Tom Taylor) is a lot like any other young kid. He dreams a lot, has certain issues with growing up, and doesn’t quite understand the world around him, just yet. But unlike most other kids his age, he’s been having constant dreams of sinister, almost evil happenings in the near-future that may or may not be real. Of course, he seeks help for these dreams, but he also doesn’t know if he can trust anyone, making him probably the most paranoid 13-year-old in the world. But eventually, his dreams do come true, and for the worst, when Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), who has been using children’s minds to make his evil forces even more powerful than ever. Now, it’s up to Jake and the Gunslinger to prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together, creating an even more powerful battle of good and evil.

Good….

The Dark Tower feels like the end-product of at least five or six studio-executives duking it out in a last man standing match. No one really knows who’s going to win, or at the end of the day, what’s going to be accomplished, but they know they want to get their own little two cents in and see what happens with the end result. In other words, there’s so much going on in the Dark Tower, without any rhyme, reason, build-up, cohesion, or hell, explanation, that it is nothing more than a huge mess.

And one of the worst kinds, too.

Cause see, while there are unabashed messes like, I don’t know, say Suicide Squad that may be all crazy and over-the-place, they still find ways to entertain, in even the most warped ways imaginable. Dark Tower is the opposite of Suicide Squad in that sense, where it’s so mashed-together, rushed, and ill-conceived, that it’s downright boring. And for a movie that’s about 90-minutes long, that’s a problem. Sure, it helps that movies of this awful magnitude not be two-hour long opus that make you feel as if your day has totally been wasted, but it also helps even more when these movies, as quick as they may be, at least bring a little something to the interest-table.

And perhaps the only solid factor Dark Tower has going for it is Idris Elba who, in all honesty, seems bored. But because his material at least has a solid wink-and-a-nod to the audience, it works; everybody else here, seems like they’re way too serious and not really taking advantage of their pulpy surroundings. McConaughey, for instance, feels like he’s channeling his car commercials, but isn’t, in any way, shape, or form, having any bit of fun. Sure, it doesn’t help that more than half of his dialogue is dubbed in that awfully noticeable way, but it also doesn’t help that he seems to be putting in no effort whatsoever.

…versus evil.

Basically, these are two of the most charismatic actors we have working today and not even they can save this trainwreck.

And that’s exactly what the Dark Tower is: A trainwreck. People out there may try and stick up for it, saying that it’s fine enough and short as is, but that doesn’t matter, because the movie just doesn’t know what it’s doing in the slightest. If there were no prior reports about issues in the production process, it would be easy to forgive and understand the movie, but considering that there seemed to be so many problems, it’s not a shocker at all. Everything here feels odd and out-of-place, with certain strands of plot literally dangling in the air when all is said and done. Clearly, it’s meant to be explored more in the sequels, but do we really need one?

Probably not.

Wait. No. Absolutely not.

Consensus: Uneven, poorly-written, directed, shot, acted, and well, everything else, the Dark Tower is a major misfire for all parties involved and seems like a waste of solid source material, courtesy of one Stephen King.

2.5 / 10

But uh, yeah, who cares?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Big Year (2011)

These people care about these birds a lot; that is, until they find  that white stuff on their cars. You know what I’m talking about.

Three men (Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin), each facing their own personal challenges, try to outdo one another in the ultimate bird-watching competition in 1998. However, bird-watching gets in the way of what’s best in their lives and has them rethinking their dedication and craft.

The whole idea and premise behind The Big Year? Well, it’s real. Every single year, a group of avid birdwatchers go around competing against one other to see who can spot the most birds in some set area. Doesn’t sound like the most happening thing to do on the street, but these people could all be doing something a lot worse with their time, right?

Either way, it makes you think: Did we really need a movie about bird-watchers?

Brian?!?

Brian?!?

Probably not and judging by all of the trailers/posters/ads, it’s made abundantly clear that everyone behind it were trying their damn near hardest to make sure that absolutely nobody knew this was a bird-watching movie, because really, who would want to go out and see that? Seriously. It doesn’t matter who you have, or how good the movie may be – movies about a group of bird-watchers, just isn’t all that exciting to the general audience. And it actually wouldn’t have been such a problem what the material was about, had the movie itself actually just been good, but that’s the icing on the cake, because it just isn’t.

Director David Frankel is your typical layman’s director who shows up to work and doesn’t do much, which probably made him the perfect candidate for the Big Year, a movie that’s so happy-go-lucky and cheerful, that it’s almost nauseating. Being cheerful isn’t always such a bad thing, though – sometimes, it can work in your movie’s favor – but the Big Year relies so much on its slapstick and humor, that it just doesn’t connect. The moments that the movie wants to be funny, just doesn’t work or even register as, well, “comedy”. It’s a problem that never ceases throughout the whole flick, making it all the more of a chore to sit through.

But trust me, it actually gets kind of worse.

Once Frankel takes this story into straight-on drama mode, things start to get really unbearable as all of these dumb stories converging together. The story behind Wilson’s character is probably the dumbest, because here he is being the #1 birder in the world (which is something he deserves credit for, I guess), and he can’t even choose whether he wants to be with the birds or with his wife. Need I remind you, his wife is played by the ever so gorgeous Rosamund Pike who always seems to always look the same as each and every single year goes by. So right then and there, the film tries to pull you into this story and give itself a dilemma – one that, mind you, would be solved if this dude was actually placed in real life. “Goddess or birds?”, seems to be the main dilemma and well, I think it’s pretty simple to figure that one out.

But it’s not just Wilson’s character who gets this type of treatment, everybody else gets it too and it’s only worse when you have three comedic stars like Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, basically all kicking themselves in the ass just for anything resembling a laugh. Steve Martin used to be one of the funniest and most daring guys in comedy, but now, he’s stuck doing old-man, grandpa roles where his performances consist of him being ultra-serious, with his once-in-awhile signature dance. That dance is priceless, but when he pulls it out here, it comes out of nowhere and didn’t make me laugh at all.

Tim?!?!

Tim?!?!

Then of course, there’s Jack Black who everybody seems to hate, but I for one, don’t. I’ll give Black some love here and there because the guy can be good when he’s given the material to work with, but is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. He plays his usual “zany” role where he does all of this wacky stuff, and says weird things and why is that, you ask? Oh, because he’s the 36-year old slacker that doesn’t have anything else better to do with his life or his money, instead of just waste it all on bird-watching. Black is probably the most bearable to watch out of the whole cast, but that is really not saying much.

 

But fine, Wilson, Martin and Black all putting in terrible performances? That’s fine. I can accept that because they’ve given terrible ones before and guess what? They’ll continue to do so. The real stab that hurts harder and harder that I think about it is the fact that there’s so many more people in this cast, like Tim Blake Nelson, like Dianne Wiest, like Brian Dennehy, like John Cleese, like June Squibb, like Anjelica Huston, like Rashida Jones, and like so many others, that honestly, deserve a whole hell of a lot better. Why they’re here, why they’re stuck with this crap material, why they needed the money so bad, well, is honestly a hard question to answer.

All I do know is that it’s over with and they’ve all moved on. For the most part.

Consensus: Unfunny, poorly-written, and a waste of everyone involved, the Big Year deals with an odd premise, takes it way too seriously and never knows just what to do with itself.

2 / 10 

"Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas."

“Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Blair Witch (2016)

Seriously, where the hell were you Heather? We needed you.

Nearly 15 years after Heather, Josh, and Mikey went out into the middle of the Burkitsville woods, Heather’s younger brother (James Allen McCune) decides that after all of this time, he needs to go out there and find her. Alll he really has to judge is by a bunch of grainy-footage that showed up on the internet somewhere and because of that, he decides to go out there with a few of his friends and check out what’s shaking. Equipped with all sorts of cool gadgets and recording-devices, the friends meet up with some local residents, not just to find Heather and anybody else who may be out there, but to also discover what all of this witch business is about. They eventually find the answer, although it all comes at a great and deadly cost.

No matter what all of the naysayers, the Blair Witch Project was, and still is, a great horror flick. At the time of its release, it was a cultural phenomena because of everybody assuming it was all real, with the actual actors either “missing” or “dead”, and nothing like it had ever been done before. Of course, it was all a joke and awesome gag that made everyone involved filthy, stinkin’ rich, but it also ushered in a whole slew of other found-footage, first-person-narrative horror flicks. Of course, a good portion of them have been bad, but every so often, you get a good one that makes you understand the power and impact that the format can hold.

Oh, relax! It was just a squirrel!

Oh, relax! It was just a squirrel!

The remake/rehash/reboot of that original flick, is not one of them.

In fact, it’s a perfect sign as to why the found-footage format, quite possibly, may have to go away.

And it’s a shock to say this, too, because director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett are two great voices in the horror world today who seem like they know a thing or two about delivering shocking, but fun horror. You’re Next is probably their best, with the Guest coming to a close second and here, it seems like they’ve taken a huge step back. For some reason, all of the excitement, all of the creativity, and all of the originality that seemed to be flowing through their blood, was somehow lost here.

Which leads me to wonder: Did they just not care? Or, did they care too much, but eventually, the studio got involved so much that their original version got taken away from them and they were left with this?

I don’t know what the answer may be, but either solution seems plausible. While they’re stuck with a thankless task of working with, what is, essentially, the same story of the original movie, they don’t seem to bring much to it. The technology is updated and of course, a nice touch, but that’s about it – everything is so rote, predictable and conventional that after awhile, it just feels like a check-list is being written while the movie is being made.

Except for the fact that this time, because technology has obviously improved and there’s a lot more CGI in flicks than ever before, everything now is so much bigger, louder and crazier that it actually betrays everything that the original film stood for. Made off of literally nickels and dimes, the Blair Witch Project worked best because it never always showed us everything that we had come to know and expect with horror movies; what the movie proved was that, sometimes, what’s in our imagination and what we picture in it, can honestly be the scariest thing of all. Here, however, nothing is left to the imagination, with us seeing a lot of wacky, odd-looking stuff, yet, none of it ever seems scary.

Oh my gosh! Sticks!

Oh my gosh! Sticks!

It’s all in our face and, in a way, boring.

Because now, yeah, we’ve seen it all before and it’s not as exciting as it may have been 17 years ago. That said, Blair Witch tries to make itself work for fans of the original, as well as fans of modern-day horror, who probably haven’t even bothered to see the original, which, in a way, means that it gets its job done. For someone such as myself, who loves and holds the original up in high-regard, it’s a problem, because it not only feels like a waste of time, but a silly idea that’s made even worse by the fact that it doesn’t seem to play by the same rules of the original.

And oh, before I forget, the acting here is quite atrocious. Say what you want about Heather, Josh, and Mikey from the original, but at least they could handle whatever script they had handed to them, making it seem like they were real people, trapped in a terrible, downright scary situation. Here, the actors can’t handle the script and the characters themselves are just so bland, so boring and so unlikable, that it’s hard to even care about what any of them do. This is all made worse by the fact that since there are literally cameras everywhere, watching and documenting everything that these actors do, they’re performances suffer more, showing that, sometimes, it helps to have good actors in these horror movies, regardless of how little you actually care about them and how much you actually care about the scares and the monsters themselves.

Sure, it’s a horror movie, but sometimes, well-written characters can actually make the scares all the more effective.

Don’t believe me? Just watch the Babadook. Now, that’s a horror movie.

Consensus: Predictable, uninteresting, and hardly even scary, Blair Witch is an obvious cash-grab that, despite the inspiration that usually lies with the creators, just feels like a waste of everyone’s time.

2 / 10

She's like Heather, but far more annoying. Crazy, right? Better believe it.

She’s like Heather, but far more annoying. Crazy, right? Better believe it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Gadget Help Line

School for Scoundrels (2006)

Just go out there and try to make it, fellas. What’s the worst that could happen?

Roger (Jon Heder) is a pushover New York City meter maid who can’t score at his job or with his attractive neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He’s basically a lovable loser, but a loser nonetheless. A close friend of Roger’s suggests that he go to a self-help class run by the angry Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches lessons about self-esteem to the biggest losers in the city. There, Roger develops his inner-beast and sooner than later, starts charming the socks off of Amanda. However, while this may be good for Roger, it’s also bad for him, as Dr. P doesn’t like competition, and definitely enjoys taking people down, especially classmates of his. That’s why Roger is absolutely horrified and pissed that Dr. P starts taking Amanda off of his hands and for his own good, making up all sorts of lies and stories about who he really is. Roger may not like this, but knowing what he knows about himself now, is more than up to the task of taking down Dr. P once and for all, and when all is said and done, possibly get the girl of his dreams.

"Nice to meet you. Now let's get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight."

“Nice to meet you. Now let’s get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight.”

Say what you will about what Todd Phillips’ career has turned-out to be, but back in the day, before 2006, he was quite a hot and very interesting commodity. After making two controversial documentaries (Hated, Frat House), one concert flick (Bittersweet Motel), and three raucous comedies (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch), it seemed as if Phillips was ready to try something new with his career. Of course, this meant that he would take on a slightly more romantic-comedy route and in that, came the remake of the 1960 classic, School of Scoundrels.

And unfortunately, it brought on a lot of the hate that still haunts him to this day.

Because really, the biggest problem with School for Scoundrels isn’t that it’s a romantic-comedy, it’s that it doesn’t even register as either; the romance is never there between any of the leads and the comedy sure as hell doesn’t even work, give or take a few moments here or there. If anything, it’s the kind of movie where it seems like Phillips is trying to make something work here, but really, both sides don’t connect or even go well hand-in-hand. Had the movie been a lot more vicious and mean like his other comedies, it probably would have worked a lot more, but for some reason, it seems like Phillips has to play nice and soften things up a bit, which doesn’t quite work for anyone in the flick, most importantly, him.

And it’s a shame because you could do a lot with a remake of School of Scoundrels; the subject-material is just interesting enough to comment on sexual mores, but it’s also ripe enough with a lot of comedy to poke fun at masculinity, femininity, and what constitutes as either. Surely, that movie isn’t the one that Phillips had in mind while working here, but still, it’s a disappointment when you watch and know what could happen, had the ones involved given more time, attention and care to really working with the material. Even the dressing-down of the men (by constantly using the term “f**got”), seems cheap and lazy – it’s as if all of the funny jokes and gags that Phillips had to offer were found in his three previous flicks and that’s all he had to offer.

But honestly, the main reason why School for Scoundrels is a bit of a bummer, is because its ensemble is so talented, so funny, and so entertaining in so many other movies, that here, to just watch them all flop around and not have much to do, is quite dispiriting.

Ha! Ha! Right?

Ha! Ha! Right?

To name just a tad few, aside from the two main stars, School for Scoundrels features Paul Scheer, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Todd Louiso, Aziz Ansari, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Ben Stiller, and so many more that, on many, many occasions, have proven to be hilarious, however, here, they’re just not. Most of them try and make something out of seemingly nothing, but most of the time, the movie’s uneven script and direction just leaves them high and dry – Silverman may be the only one who gets away with any sort of laughs, which mostly has to do with the fact that she’s seemingly playing the usual bitch-y sort of role she’s always played.

But then, of course, there’s Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder, and yeah, they just do not work well here. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another one of his lazier roles, where you can tell that he’s just doing this flick for a paycheck, reading his lines in the driest way possible, all so that he can go off, hop back in his trailer, and take another nap. He’s supposed to be this incredibly pompous, but smart a-hole, but doesn’t come off as either; Billy Bob being an a-hole is normally a blast to watch, but here, he just doesn’t seem spirited enough to bother.

And then there’s Jon Heder, who, yes, is pretty awful.

But honestly, I don’t know if it’s really his fault; he’s supposed to play this character that’s a total nerd, but also turns out to be something of a bad-ass once the plot gets going and just can’t pull it off. The movie constantly tries to make it work, but Heder just doesn’t seem to have that ability in his acting-skills to make that work, so instead, he just flails around and acts a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a shame, too, because aside from Dynamite, Heder can be funny, but he just doesn’t have the goods here.

Sadly, out of everyone’s careers here, his was probably affected the most and never to be heard from again.

Consensus: Despite its talented cast and crew, School for Scoundrels wastes them all on an unfunny script, that doesn’t know if it wants to be romantic, mean, or stupid, so instead, tries to go for all three and fails completely.

2.5 / 10

My thoughts exactly, guys.

My thoughts exactly, guys.

Photos Courtesy of: Pop Matters, Rotten Tomatoes, Christophe Beck

Annabelle (2014)

All creepy dolls are bad news. So just toss them in the trash while you still can!

John (Ward Horton) and Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis) are a very young and happy couple with a new baby on the way. While John isn’t around most of the time because he’s trying to finish up medical school, Mia spends most of her time at home, doing everyday, normal chores. John knows that his wife must be incredibly bored, so for that reason alone, he decides to buy her an antique doll with a beautiful dress named Annabelle. Mia loves it and automatically sets it aside on the shelf next to all of her other odd-looking dolls, but as soon as she does this, crazy and disastrous stuff starts to happen. Neighbors are murdered, crazy, savage-like cults start popping-up and for some reason, Mia starts seeing weird figures in and around the household. While there’s no exact reasoning for what is happening, Mia and John start to wonder if any of it has to do with Annabelle and if so, what do they do to get rid of her? After all, every time that they’ve tried to throw her away, she somehow comes back.

So, what do you do when a crazy, killer-doll won’t leave you alone?

"Don't worry, honey. It'll watch over us at night."

“Don’t worry, honey. It’ll watch over us at night.”

You’d think that by the way the creators of the Conjuring have hyped Annabelle, both the doll, as well as the movie, as being, that it would be the scariest thing since cavemen discovered fire. In the actual Conjuring, Annabelle herself is locked away in a glass-box, with a sign telling no one “to ever open”. You’d think that with that kind of warning, that the movie about Annabelle, her origin and her sick, twisted ways she extracts violence on those around her, would be absolutely bone-chilling and if, at that, even scarier than its predecessors.

But unfortunately, it’s not.

If anything, Annabelle, the movie, is just plain and simply put, boring. There’s something interesting about this movie in that it tries to go for a retro, old-school horror-vibe, as in the same vein of a Roman Polanski thriller. The two characters names are “John” and “Mia”, the stringy-score screeches every time something spooky happens, and yes, there’s a lot of talk about flower-power and cults. While I want to give director John R. Leonetti credit for at least trying to make this movie look and sound cooler than it actually is, he fails at actually conjuring up any sort of the same feelings, or raw emotions that Polanski’s thrillers always had, even when it seemed like they weren’t going for that mood at all.

In fact, I’ll just stop bringing up Polanski altogether, as to do so, would be disrespect to his craft, as Annabelle is a pretty crummy movie. It’s the kind of horror movie that uses jump-scares as a back-up plan for every scene, it’s villains aren’t particularly scary or frightening, if only because they’re shown so clear and full in the first thirty minutes, and the movie itself kind of jumps the shark real early on. There’s never any sense of impending doom or dread being built-up; the movie literally starts with a scare and continues to do the same kind of scares, again and again, almost to the point where none of its scary, but just numbing and annoying.

Any good horror movie you see, you’ll notice that the movie doesn’t just start off by giving you all the blood, gore, shrieks, geeks and ghouls right off the bat. That’s because the people behind the movie know that sometimes, having people wait around and wait for something terrifying to happen, is the whole fun and scary part about seeing a horror movie. You don’t want everything thrown at you, all at once and right away – sometimes, you just want to wait around, getting some chilly things given to you, every once and a blue moon, all before it fully gets out-of-hand and crazy.

God vs. a creepy doll.

God vs. a creepy doll. Where’s that movie?!?

That’s how most good horror movies are and, as you can probably tell, Annabelle is not that movie.

It also hurts that throughout the whole 100 minutes, we’re given possibly the most boring, most uninteresting and most dull characters in a horror movie since the days of the Friday the 13th sequels. Say what you will about Jason X, at least all of the characters in that movie were all jack-asses and over-the-top; they’re far more interesting and fun to watch than either this John or Mia ever had a chance to be. And while I don’t blame Ward Horton or Annabelle Wallis for the problems with their characters, they certainly don’t help matters by having absolutely no chemistry together whatsoever, nor do they actually seem interested in doing anything with the characters, either. Sure, you could definitely blame it on the lackluster direction they may have been saddled with, but unfortunately, they just look bad in the process and it’s a shame, too, because I’m sure that they’re really nice people in real life.

And basically, that’s all there is to Annabelle. The characters suck, the performances are even worse, and the scares just aren’t there, which is the biggest issue of all. The movie is, like I said before, roughly 100 minutes and more than half of that run-time is spent trying to scare the pants off of everyone watching it, which, aside from maybe one or two surprises, never happens. It’s just a cash-cow horror flick, made for the sake of more money for the Conjuring franchise and remind audiences that there’s a bigger universe out there.

However, maybe I’d just like to stick with the Conjuring story instead. It’s far more interesting and yes, spookier.

Consensus: Without even trying, Annabelle is a boring, uninteresting and downright silly horror flick that doesn’t seem to have a single fun bone in its body, even if it is, essentially, about a creepy-doll wreaking havoc on 60’s suburbanites.

2.5 / 10

Eh. I've seen far, far worse. Go to my grand-mom's place.

Eh. I’ve seen far, far worse. Trust me. Just go to my grandmom’s place.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Never have hallucinogenics been so dull.

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) is a girl who dreams big, beautiful and often times, crazy things. So often so, that the real world surrounding her just doesn’t do anything for her. That’s why when it turns out that she’s set to wed a British chump, she can’t help but run away to her own world of extravagant and out-of-this-world beings. However, in this world, Alice does’t know if she’s dreaming it all, or if it’s really happening. Either way, Alice is thrown into a whole new world that she’s just getting used to. In this world, Alice meets all sorts of colorful and wild characters like the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp), the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), her sister, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), and then, there’s mystical characters like the White Rabbit (Michael Sheen), the Caterpillar (Alan Rickman), and most importantly, the Cheshire Cat (Stephen Fry). All of whom are characters that Alice has at least one or two interactions with in this world, but mostly of all whom make her wonder if she’s in a dream that she needs to wake up out of, or a world that she needs to escape from. Either way, she needs to do something, and quick!

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

Tim and Johnny loved dress-up just a little too much.

It’s an honest surprise how bad Alice in Wonderland turned out to be, because you’d think that this would be something in Tim Burton’s wheelhouse. Alice in Wonderland is the kind of oddly strange, but endearing story that benefits from an extra bit of weirdness, as well as visuals, and considering that Burton is quite solid at being both “weird”, as well as “visual”, it’s almost a no-brainer that he’d be chosen for this.

So why oh why did everything go so wrong?

Well, I think it’s safe to say that the script Burton may have been working with here was probably really, really bad. For one, it never knows if it wants to be overly-goofy, or just plain weird, but with a darkening and serious tone. Burton himself never quite figures that out, either, but it seems like the script is going to battle with itself over whether or not it wants to set out and scare people, or if it wants to just be a silly old time, where colorful things and characters do crazy, over-the-top things.

Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with the later, because Burton himself has proven, time and time again, that he’s more than able to handle all of that and make it fun, even when it can get brooding. Here though, it never fully comes together. Burton always seems as if he’s trying to settle on one style, but instead of sticking to one in particular, he goes back and forth so often, that we never know what to expect with the movie, nor do we actually care. It’s just such a mess in its own right, that the time it takes to figure its own identity and mood out, it gets to become too late and we already don’t really care.

And that’s a shame because Burton is obviously way better than this here, and it’s clear that he took the visuals very seriously. Sure, some will complain that there’s an over-reliance on CGI and special-effects here, but honestly, what did you expect? It was a live-action adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, in the year 2010 – how could it have not been mostly all CGI? The visuals themselves do look quite impressive and it’s clear that certain details from the original flick are here as well, except on a greater scale, but there gets to be a point where you wonder for how long can pretty colors and things make you forget that a story is clearly lacking?

In the case of Alice in Wonderland, not long.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

Creepier than Snape? Maybe.

It’s clear that a lot of this story is plodding along, introducing its zany characters one by one, but never really giving them any arch or sustainable personality that makes us want to see them, again and again. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter may have been perfect casting, in hindsight, but in the movie, it’s a typical Johnny Depp performance: He over-acts a whole lot, switches up accents half-way through for some reason, and seems like he’s just making everything up as he goes along. Helena Bonham Carter is at least fun to watch and listen to as the Red Queen, if only because her gags are the only ones that land; Crispin Glover plays her right-hand man and is suitably creepy, although, maybe not creepy enough, given that it’s Crispin Glover we’re talking about here; Anne Hathaway is pretty as the White Queen; Mia Wasikowska seems like she’s interested in doing so much more than what she has here, but instead, has to do a lot of looking around and staring into space; and the voice talents all come in and add another level of charisma to the CGI-creations.

But really, do any of them even matter?

What ends up happening by the close of Alice in Wonderland is that the story goes from point to point, without ever really caring about anyone, or what’s happening. We’re told that the Red Queen is out to take over Wonderland and is this evil, ruthless Queen who doesn’t care about anything that exists, but are we supposed to take any of it seriously? Or, are we supposed to just laugh at her big head? The movie never knows what the answer is and that’s a huge problem.

Eventually, there’s a big battle that comes into play and seems absolutely random, even by this film’s standards. There’s no rhyme, reason, or understanding of what’s happening, for what reasons, and what is to be accomplished; all we do know is that Tim Burton wants his characters to battle it out with one another, for one reason or another. Which maybe would have been fine in any other Tim Burton movie.

Just maybe not in Alice in Wonderland. Sorry.

Consensus: As messy as you can expect a Tim Burton movie to be, but for all of the wrong reasons, Alice in Wonderland never makes sense of its tone, its character, or even its plot, but knows that it’s pretty to look at and only focuses on that.

2.5 / 10

Bobblehead! A ha!

Bobblehead! A ha!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Mother’s Day (2016)

It’s the universal day where you honor the woman who has literally done everything for you.

Mother’s Day is by far one of the more unappreciated holidays and around this time of the year, a few select women, as well as men, are going to experience all of the highs and lows that come with being a parent, or better yet, a mother. Sandy (Jennifer Aniston) is a divorcee who, when she’s not trying to raise her kids, now has to worry about her ex (Timothy Olyphant)’s new wife, who happens to be many, many years younger than he, or she is. Jesse (Kate Hudson) has a lovely kid and husband (Aasif Mandvi), although she hides them from her parents in fear of being judged and poked at, causing more issues and strife between them. Bradley (Jason Sudeikis) is basically taking over the mom role of his two daughters, now that his wife died in the war. Zack (Jack Whitehall) and Kristin (Britt Robertson) both have a baby, despite not being married and Zack’s issues with that. And a TV host (Julia Roberts), who sells mood-necklaces to women, also has a bit of a secret that may or may not ruin her career.

Jen can't stop laughing at the hair.

Jen can’t stop laughing at the hair.

What the hell did I just watch? Seriously. Something is very clearly wrong with Mother’s Day in that it’s a comedy that’s not funny, a drama that’s not emotional, a feel-good family flick that’s neither pleasant, nor for the whole family, and a star-studded affair, in which nobody is able to do anything worthy of their time or talents.

In other words, Mother’s Day is a complete waste of time.

And that’s a bit of a shame, too, because for all the crap that director Garry Marshall gets for movies like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, there’s still something pleasant enough about them to where it’s fine that there’s a huge list of acclaimed names doing work way beyond their respect. Call them as bad as you want, I don’t leave those movies mad, annoyed, or confused as to what I just saw; they’re silly, but okay rom-coms that don’t change the movie world, but do what they need to do, and that’s entertain people.

This is why a movie like Mother’s Day is such a bad watch. It’s the kind of movie that wants to be fun for everyone involved, but is so lazy, so poorly put-together, and so boring, that you’ll wonder why Marshall or any of the cast-members even bothered. Did they not read the script? Or did they just see Marshall’s name, see the paycheck, and automatically assume that it’d just be a paycheck gig and they’d leave it at that?

I’m going to assume the latter, honestly.

And yes, a “paycheck gig” is exactly what Mother’s Day for the whole cast, but for some reason, it feels like this is by far the worst, most pathetic one they could find. Which isn’t to say that the cast doesn’t try here, because they do. Aniston, Hudson, and Sudeikis can’t help but be as entertaining and charming as possible, even if they’re working with some of the worst lines uttered I’ve heard in the longest time, but mostly everybody else falls apart with the straining dialogue.

Julia Roberts plays someone along the lines of Anna Wintour, cause she not only acts like her, but looks like her with that terrible wig, and it’s just a terrible performance. Roberts isn’t self-aware enough to pull off that kind of “ultra bitch” role perfectly, and she’s not all that funny enough to make some of her lines actually click with the audience. Basically, it just seems like her and Marshall have worked together so much now that they’re pals and will do everything together from now on, so why wouldn’t she show up here?

And yes, before you even ask, yes, Hector Elizondo does show up here and yes, he’s the brightest spot of the whole movie.

Now, neither can Kate!

Now, neither can Kate!

That said, something is just clearly up with this movie that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. The editing feels as if it was done by an actual blind person, where scenes start and end at the drop of a hat, and random people are focused on in shots that are supposed to be on the main characters. Though I’ve never worked in Hollywood, I bet you donuts to dollars that if they gave me the chance to edit this, I would have done a way better job than what ends up coming out here.

But then again, who knows how much of the editing played a role in the final product. After all, the script is so bad, with hardly any plots that are the least bit interesting, that there’s really nothing to hold it together. There’s a story of a comedian that’s terrible because the comedian himself is god awful and the movie acts as if he’s the next best thing since Steve Martin; there’s a story with Kate Hudson’s racist parents that are just so over-the-top and redneck-y that it makes me wonder how Hudson’s character even got out of the trailer park she apparently came from; and then, if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s a story in which Jennifer Aniston’s character can’t stop yelling and freaking out in public over her husband’s new wife. Yes, these plots may all sound relatable to real life, but honestly, watching them play out here makes it seem like the furthest thing.

Oh and it’s not even funny. Did I mention that already, though?

Consensus: Garry Marshall strikes again with a star-studded affair with Mother’s Day, but this time, the results are even worse than expected with a terrible script and pace that goes nowhere in its two-hour run-time.

2 / 10

And hell, look at it! Julia's laughing at it, too! It's so terrible!

And hell, look at it! Julia’s laughing at it, too! It’s so awful!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

Kill Your Friends (2016)

What’s a CD?

A&R rising star Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is dealing with a lot in his life, but not really. While he has to try and survive in a cutthroat business that cares more about selling stuff, rather than actually making sure that the stuff they sell is actually any “good” per se, he also has to keep a lot of his homicidal tendencies toned down. But when you’re constantly fighting for the next big names in music, that’s a lot easier said then done. Eventually, Steven starts to lose control and begins letting loose; occasionally killing someone every so often, having daydreams about doing something naughty, etc. But mostly, Steven just wants to rise up the corporate ladder, which is a lot easier to actually do when you don’t have the cops breathing down your neck. After all, Steven’s considered a prime suspect in the recent murder in a colleague of his, who he may, or may not have hated with a fiery, burning passion. Steven may be scared, but he still knows how to get what he wants, especially when all anybody else in his life wants or needs is just that feeling of being rich, famous and successful – something Steven can promise to nearly anyone.

Oh, the good old days of when people associated with the music business use to be able to party hard like this.

Oh, the good old days of when people associated with the music business use to be able to party hard like this.

Kill Your Friends seems like it wants to be a satire of the music-industry, but for some reason, it’s hard to look for anything that could be deemed “crazy” or “over-the-top”, that usually have to go along with satires. For one, it’s a look at the music-industry wherein real art or talent is sacrificed for trends, popularity, or what’s considered to be “in”. Those that who may actually contain a sliver of actual talent aren’t actually looked at in any way, but instead, left to fend for themselves on much smaller markets, where nobody pays attention to them, or gives them money for doing what they do best. Meanwhile, crap-acts that are popular and well-known to the masses because of that one popular song they made, are left to live it up, making money, partying their lives away and just generally being hacks from here on out.

If this sounds like the real world, hell, any art-form that becomes popularized, well then, you understand why Kill Your Friends isn’t so much of a satire, as much as it’s just a bit of social commentary on the entertainment world.

At the same time, however, it’s also something else completely. Kill Your Friends uses the evil, maniacal, and back-stabbing world of the music-industry as a backdrop for it’s central characters sometimes homicidal tendencies, where we’re left to sit and wonder if he’s actually the worst person in this world, or if it’s just filled with a slew of bad apples, and he happens to be the most rotten out of them all. It’s almost like American Psycho where Patrick Bateman was definitely an incredibly sick, twisted and vile human being, but look at the company he keeps; is he really all that bad, or is he just the worst of them all, which isn’t totally saying much to begin with?

Kill Your Friends would love to be as smart or as fun as that movie, but instead, just wallows in its own misery. In a way, this is fine because it’s a nice juxtaposition from all of the fun-loving, spirited and poppy songs that we hear throughout, but it still doesn’t do much to actually draw you in. Whereas a movie like American Psycho realized that it was dealing with some clearly messed-up individuals and decided to have some fun with it all, Kill Your Friends wants to be all stern, serious and try to teach you a lesson. If there is any lesson to actually be learned here, it’s that the music-industry can’t be trusted and won’t just suck your spirit away, but probably also any hope you have for humanity in the world.

Clearly, this is nothing new, but hey, at least it’s nihilistic enough to keep some of this interesting.

That look you get when you've just discovered Britpop.

That look you get when you’ve just discovered Britpop.

Because, for the most part, Kill Your Friends relies heavily on its plot, that’s neither tense, nor exciting, but just a slog to get through. Occasionally, there will be a small bit of insight into the music world that really holds a mirror up, makes you think and laugh, but ultimately, it adds up to being something of worth thrown in a jumble that doesn’t always know what it wants to say or do. There’s a whole lot of cocaine, booze, sex, nudity, and British pop-jams, but for some reason, the movie’s never as exciting as any of that sounds – it just sits around, mopes around and asks for you to care about what it’s doing or saying.

If anything, Nicholas Hoult keeps the movie, as well as his antihero character, at least somewhat compelling. Hoult’s definitely grown-up a whole lot in the past few or so years, and here, as Steven Stelfox, we get to see his whole transition to adulthood basically complete itself and shows us signs of promise. While Stelfox wants to be a deeper character than he actually is, Hoult shows that there may be a tad bit more humanity to this character than originally shown, but it all sort of goes nowhere when we realize the movie is more interested in his sadistic antics, than his actual own personality, that will, on rare occasions, show brief signs of sadness, vulnerability and paranoia.

But who cares? Everybody’s making plenty of money for basically doing nothing, so what’s the point of it all?

Consensus: Kill Your Friends is neither as smart, nor as thrilling as it wants to be, but is, instead, a dry, dull, uneven and pretty boring look inside the vicious world of the music-industry that we’ve seen before and don’t have any reason to care about now.

2 / 10

This is what music will do to ya!

This is what music will do to ya!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

War can be funny, right?

Kim Barker (Tina Fey) works as a boring cable news producer and needs something more out of life. Even though she has a serious relationship with her boyfriend (Josh Charles), it’s still not nearly as fulfilling and there’s that feeling in the pit of her stomach where she knows that she can do more with her life – she just doesn’t know where that’s at yet. That’s why, in 2002, when the opportunity presents itself, she decides to take up a daring, but ultimately ambitious new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she’ll not only cover the war, but experience more to life than what was waiting for her back at home. And while it takes her some time to get used to her uncomfortable surroundings, eventually, Kim finds herself not just inspired to go out and find the best story possible, but to also open herself up to those around her. This is when she befriends the likes of Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), a Scottish war correspondent, and Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), a citizen of Afghanistan, who is also there to help her navigate throughout the city and understand the ideals. While this seems hard at first, Kim eventually gets the hang of it all, until it becomes almost too real that the situation’s she’s dealing with are very serious, and almost scary.

Tina or Margot? A lot harder than you think, men and women!

Tina or Margot? A lot harder than you think, men and women!

You know, just as you’d expect from a war.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a very odd duckling of a film. For one, it seems a lot like Eat, Pray, Love in that it features a relatively middle-aged woman, coming to a crossroads in her life, not knowing what she wants to do with it, where she wants go with it, or who she wants to spend it with, so decides to take one giant leap that her old formal-self would have never even imagined. On the other hand, it tries to be a serious, melodramatic and important statement about the war, Afghanistan, and relations between both countries. Both movies, work fine on their own, but together, well, it’s unfortunately a huge mess.

It also just so happens to be one that no matter how hard she tries, Tina Fey just can’t seem to get past. Though Kim is, essentially, a lot like the other protagonists Fey has portrayed in the past, she still is, at the same time, a “type” that we’re pretty used to seeing. She’s got a bit more attitude and sass to her than usual, but really, Kim is made out to be our conduit for this great new environment that so many movies have discussed and portrayed in the past, but not nearly as much as in a comedic-light. Fey does a fine job as standing in for us and just allowing for the movie to happen, but really, it’s a forgettable performance that basically gets lost in the fact that this movie has way, way too much going on in it.

None of which, mind you, actually gel together in a cohesive manner.

While it’s admirable that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa want to make something considered to be “funny”, out of the Afghan war, it doesn’t work well. Mainly, this is due to the fact that the jokes are, yes, very stale and not to much, quite offensive and odd. I’m all for jokes hitting a hard spot and not being in the best taste imaginable, but when you’re dealing with the war, Afghanistan, and their certain ideologies that aren’t shared by the rest of the world, there’s a fine line you tread between being “funny”, or “mean-spirited”.

In all honesty, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t seem like a very mean-spirited movie, per se, however, its casting proves otherwise. Not only does the movie feature an Italian-Spanish actor like Alfred Molina, as a native, but even goes so far as to make us think the same of Christopher Abbott as one, too, who isn’t just Italian and Portuguese, but, as you can clearly tell by looking at the color of his skin throughout the whole movie, absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, white.

"Now, please. Tell me what this war is all about? Because really, the script didn't actually tell me. In fact, nobody working on this movie did, or actually seemed like they could."

“Now, please. Tell me what this war is all about? Because really, the script didn’t actually tell me. In fact, nobody working on this movie did, or actually seemed like they could.”

Heck, at least Molina’s got a tan going on – Abbot’s still pale as if he just walked off of the set of Girls!

And while the movie tries to make these two characters at least somewhat endearing, it still feels very weird to watch them work with these accents and, at the same time, still make us believe that they’re playing these natives who are much wiser and understanding than the other, whiter characters in the movie. This is all to say that no cast-member does a bad job, really, it’s just it’s obvious that the movie doesn’t care about what they have to do, and instead, allows them pass-off poor jokes about race, war, and sex.

And none of this would have been a problem, had the movie been the very least funny, but it isn’t. Not to mention, it’s also not very smart, either. All of the points it tries to bring up about the war (which come very few and far between), don’t really seem to make people think anything differently than what we see in the news. Fey’s character is made out to believe that Afghanistan can be and is starting to become, a brutal place – not just for women, or white people, but for everyone who is living there. While this is especially true of their environment, the movie touches on it every so often, as if it feels like it’s inclined to do the job, rather than actually wanting to do so.

If anything, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wants to discuss the Afghanistan war, nearly as much as Our Brand Is Crisis wanted to talk about the FNB and Bolivia.

And when your movie is being compared to that movie, well, let me just say that you’re not in good company.

Consensus: By working both a whimsical rom-com, as well as a super serious, meaningful war-drama, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a lot to deal with and doesn’t know what to do with either side, nor its talented cast.

2.5 / 10

Who wouldn't fall for Watson over in Afghanistan?

Who wouldn’t fall for Watson over in Afghanistan?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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: Thecia.com.au

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

The Choice (2016)

Kids fall in love so easily these days. Throw one hot neighbor at them and all of a sudden, they’re smitten!

Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) is a ladies’ man who doesn’t have any sort of rush to get into a serious, romantic relationship because, well, life is good enough, so why bother with all of that other crap, right? Well, that’s why when Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) moves in next door, he’s thrown for a loop; not only is this a woman he’s attracted to physically, but mentally as well. But little does he know that Gabby herself has some love going on in her own life with a long-term boyfriend (Tom Welling), whom she’s looking to settle down with. But as fate would have it, the two end-up finding themselves together in ways they never expected to. At first, what starts out as a little fun and fiery fling, soon turns into something loving, caring, and above all else, serious. Clearly, this scares the absolute hell out of Travis, but he’s willing to let all of that go to be with Gabby? Heck, is Gabby willing to let all of her freedom go away on someone as much of a wild card as Travis? Who knows!

Choice2

She’s pretty.

But really, who cares?

Everybody knows what they’re getting into when they decide to see a Nicholas Sparks movie, so why does anybody bother? Well, there’s always that small, but surprising off-chance that there will be the one movie to break the curse and show that, even despite all of Sparks’ fluffy mannerisms and conventions, his material can still somewhat, kind of, sort of, maybe work. It’s been quite some time since the Notebook (aka, the last actually “good” Sparks movie), but really, we’ve been through some barn-burners since then.

And needless to say, yes, the Choice is another “bad” Sparks movie that shows just why the haters will continue to hate, and the lovers, will continue to love and support his work until he eventually succumbs to his own plot-devices, like say a random disease, car accident, or incident in which death is the outcome.

But if anything about the Choice actually comes close to working, then it’s the chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker, both of whom are clearly a lot better than they material they’re saddled with, but are giving it their all anyway. Walker’s Travis is, of course, the usual Sparks man: He’s cool, suave with the ladies, speaks in a Southern twang, but at the same time, a bit heartfelt and has a tender hand when it comes to curing animals. Basically, he’s the perfect man that doesn’t exist in real life, but Walker shows some heart and humanity to this character that’s not only believable, but actually sympathetic, even though we know he’s a type, and a very lazy one at that.

As for Palmer, her Gabby is another Sparks type, but this time, in woman form: She’s fun, flighty, sweet, but at the same time, confused about what she wants in life and scared of falling in love. Here’s another human that doesn’t exist in the real world, but Palmer tries her hardest to keep her character her interesting, lovely, and most importantly, believable, even when it seems like she’s making random decisions, bad solely on moving the plot along. Together, they create something that can seem genuine and sweet, even if the movie loves to dive into their personal histories, like which family-member died, what artifact did they leave behind, and why exactly they all touched their lives.

It’s all a bunch of a melodrama that we’ve seen before with Sparks’ movies, and here, it’s just all the more annoying, because it’s obvious Palmer and Walker really do seem to be trying.

However, what’s weird about the Choice, is that it’s never fully known just who these characters are, what they do, and why it is we’re watching these two fall in love. Because almost every member of the cast is at least 30 years old, or above, it’s hard to place just what age these characters are, where they stand in terms of their education, and just what the hell kind of jobs they have to maintain their overall peaceful, luxurious lifestyles on the lakes of North Carolina. Clearly, this is all fiction, that can sometimes border on fantasy, but it really sets in when it becomes clear that the movie less concerned about these character’s own, personal lives, and more concerned with just who it is that they’re going to bed with, and/or smitten with.

Then again, any person in my position would know better than to expect actual detailed heart or humanity with a Nicholas Sparks movie. But then, the movie continues to go on and on, showing this romance developing over years and years with one another, and we’re supposed to believe that they’re going through all sorts of the same problems that couples seem to go through, yet, we never actually hear them or see how they start. We just see how they materialize and then, suddenly, end. It’s as if there’s hardly any build-up, but just a drop and we’re supposed to connect the dots of what’s going on, for what reasons, and how exactly we’re supposed to feel.

However, considering that the Choice is another Sparks movie, it’s pretty clear what we’re supposed to feel: Sap and a whole lot of it.

Choice1

He’s prettier.

And of course, the people who love these kinds of movies will fall for this, hook, line and sinker, nor should they feel otherwise. After all, this is their movie, and nobody else’s. But that’s the problem with these Sparks movies – they never seem to be for anyone else, but the target-demographic. The Notebook, while all sorts of cheesy and over-the-top at times, also happens to be a coming-of-age tale, where we not only believe the romance, but see how it develops over time, with enough attention and care to detail. The cast is also allowed to work wonders, too, with just the right enough of good material, to balance out the terrible ones.

However, the Choice still feels very much for the audience who has been with Sparks since the Notebook and haven’t left his side, even though mostly all of his movies since then, have been absolute crap. They’re the kinds of movies that don’t care about getting anybody new interested in their stories, but rather, continue to aim for the same audience members, having them swoon, cry and love life all over again. Sure, it’s not like the movies are necessarily making people turn to heartless, evil human beings, but at the same time, they aren’t doing much else either.

And that’s just pure laziness that needs to stop, or be done away with.

Neither of which, I’m afraid, will actually happen to Nicholas Sparks movies.

Consensus: As usual, the Choice is a sappy, predictable, and believe it or not, boring piece of Nicholas Sparks fiction that shows why, once again, his movies don’t care about anyone else except for the audience who is already buying tickets for this now, as we speak.

2.5 / 10

Choice3

Together, they’re both pretty pretty.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

Push (2009)

X-Men clearly did it better. They always do.

Due to a government experiment gone wrong, Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is what some call “a mover”. Meaning that, well, he’s able to move things with his mind. However, he’s been on the run at an early age and in a way to stay even further off the grid, he’s been holding up shop in Hong Kong. But due to a couple of bad decisions made on Nick’s part, he ends up getting found out by these sinister powers-that-be who want to kidnap Nick and take away his powers. Or something like that. Along with Nick is 13-year-old Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning) who is what people call “a watcher” – someone who can see the future and certain tragic events before they happen. So yeah, Nick and Cassie are on the run from bad and evil people, meanwhile, they’re trying to meet up and find Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), who may have all the answers to the questions that they need answering so that they can defeat these villains and get back on with their lives. But as time rolls and Nick and Cassie start to talk with her more, they realize that Kira may not be who she is and better yet, actually may be playing on the same side of those people they’re on the run from to begin with.

Round 1, eh, who cares!

Round 1, eh, who cares!

I think.

The whole thing about Push is that it’s incredibly convoluted. Certain powers of these characters, when they’re able to use them, what keeps them from using them, is hardly ever explained; all we’re supposed to make up our minds about is that they do have powers and they want to use them for the greater good. This makes it all sound like an over-extended episode of Heroes which, quite frankly, I would have been totally fine with.

But nope.

Instead, what we get with Push, is an overlong, overly complicated, very silly sci-fi flick that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or even what it wants to be. While the movie does stage some flashy action-sequences, they come so few and far between, that they become an afterthought. Instead, the movie wants to focus on the inner-workings of these characters, what makes them tick and just how it is that they get by in a world that, honestly, doesn’t quite accept them for who they are or what skills they possess. Obviously, I’ve seen this all done way better in X-Men and it just goes to show you just how easy it is to make a tale like that.

But for some reason, no one on-board with Push seems like they want to give anything an honest effort. Director Paul McGuigan tries his hardest to give this movie a cool, slick feel, but overall, can’t overcome all of the issues that the script has going on. While he gets a lot of play out having his movie shot on location in Hong Kong, the shame about this all is that he hardly gets a chance to use it to its fullest extent. Sure, there’s a few chase scenes through fish markets and narrow, over-crowded streets, but really, these scenes aren’t ever around as much to make an impression.

In all honesty, we just have to sit around and watch as these characters piss and mope about whatever problems they have and, you know, it’s nothing to ever care much about.

Which is to say that yes, despite the script thrown at them, everyone in the cast seems to be trying. Chris Evans, pre-Cap, was still trying to find his feet in Hollywood and not be type-cast as “a poor man’s Ryan Reynolds” and though he tries to inject his character that winning personality and charm of his, it doesn’t help. That’s nothing against him, though – it’s more that Nick Gant, the character, is way too bland and boring to ever register as a strong protagonist that we get behind and cheer on until the very end. We just sort of watch him move things every so often, then cry, and that’s it.

Oh well. Chris Evans is doing better things now, thankfully.

Together, they're not scary. Like at all.

Together, they’re not scary. Like at all.

Dakota Fanning gets to play an against-type role as a cranky smart-ass who can see the future and despite her seeming like she’s having a good time with it, it’s a terribly annoying role that just goes on and on without ever ceasing. She’s not funny, over-bearing and if anything, ruins just about ever scene she’s in; which, in something already as dreary as this, is definitely saying a whole lot. None of this is against Fanning, because she’s clearly on-board with this character, but the movie itself thinks she’s so hilarious, that they keep her going with the wisecracks and none of them ever conjur up a chuckle or two. Instead, it’s just sighs. And then, the always bland Camilla Belle shows up, hardly do anything; Djimon Hounsou shows up and tries to be scary, but never does; and Ming-Na Wen is, yet again, another worker who can feel happy that she’s apart of the Marvel universe.

But regardless of these performances, the true problem of Push lies with its screenplay. Writer David Bourla never seems to make sense of anything that’s happening and doesn’t even seem interested; he’d much rather try to distract us with random scenes of action and mutant-like things that, because we’re never fully explained on where they came from or what they’re capable of, are random. Bourla also tries to dive in deep into what all of the mytholgy surrounding these characters mean, and really, it never goes anywhere. All we know is that the government was up to some shady dealings and now, they want their product back. 

Or something.

Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell this movie meant and why it went, where it went. But instead of focusing on it even more than I need to and wasting more of my precious time, I’m just going to say that, yeah, Push blows.

That’s it.

Consensus: Despite some fun and flash to be found, Push is a mostly dull affair, without much understanding of what’s happening, nor anything happening of actual interest.

2.5 / 10

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what's best for you!

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what’s best for you!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mystery, Alaska (1999)

The New York Rangers clearly have better things to do. Like watch paint dry.

In the small town of Mystery, Alaska, hockey is king. It’s everywhere you look and, quite frankly, it’s all anyone cares about. That’s why, when it turns out that the New York Rangers actually want to fly out there for a total publicity stunt, not only does the town take it as serious as a heart-attack, but the hockey team themselves are as prepped-up and as excited as anybody else in the town. Problem is, they now have to sort through their own personal problems to get their heads in-check for the big game. There’s John Biebe (Russell Crowe), the town sheriff who, at one point, was the captain of the hockey team, but due to his slowness, was given the boot; there’s Charlie (Hank Azaria), a hot-shot producer from New York who once went out John’s wife (Mary McCormack) and now seems to miss his lovely, little hometown; there’s Stevie Weeks (Ryan Northcott), who wants to have sex with his girlfriend, but can’t actually seem to get the act done; there’s Skank Marden (Ron Eldard), who has sex with practically every woman in town, including the mayor (Colm Feore)’s wife (Lolita Davidovich); and then, there’s Judge Walter Burns (Burt Reynolds), who doesn’t really care for hockey, but just might once this game gets going.

No. I am not entertained.

No. I am not entertained.

There’s a lot going on in Mystery, Alaska, however, none of it ever seems to involve the actual playing of hockey. Which, for some people, will be a huge deal-breaker. For those expecting a sports flick with plenty of swearing, fighting, heart, humor and hockey in the same vein as Slap Shot, well, go the other way. Instead of actually getting a movie that’s as dedicated to the sport as it states it is, we get more of a inside look into the lives of these various characters, as they not only try to wade through their problems, but also try to find ways to make themselves the best hockey players that they can be for the big game.

The big game, which, mind you, is highly unlikely to ever occur in the real world, regardless of how many reasons you try to toss in.

But honestly, the fact that this plot is unbelievable to a fault, is the least of its problem. That it wants to be a melodramatic character-study, but is in no way, dramatic, or ever interesting, already proves to the point that maybe more scenes of hockey being played would have helped out. But director Jay Roach and writers David E. Kelley and Sean O’Byrne, never seem to be all that interested in ever portraying the sport; more or less, it wants to see just what the dudes who play the sport are up to. And truly, I’m all for this – however, the writing is neither strong, nor compelling enough to make me see why we needed a movie so dedicated to finding more out about these characters.

Not to mention that the characters, for the most part, spend the majority of the movie going on and on about the loads of amounts of sex they had, and that’s about it. Ron Eldard’s character is made out to be the biggest horn-dog in the whole town and while his subplot is supposed to pack some sort of dramatic-weight, it never actually does because we don’t care about him, the people he’s banging, or the kind of effect it has when those said people he’s banging, get caught by their significant other. Same goes for whatever Russell Crowe’s character is going through; we’re made to think it’s some sort of mid-life crisis, but all of a sudden, turns into a possible extramarital love affair, or whatever.

After awhile, it gets to a point where you’ll wonder: Where’s all the damn hockey!

And then, eventually, the hockey does come up. Problem is, it’s towards the end, which means that you have to wade through the meandering and plodding initial 90 minutes, just to get there. Even then, though, it’s already too late to where we don’t care which team wins or loses, we just want it to be over so we can go home and play NHL 16 or whatever the cool hockey game the kids play nowadays.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Eh. Hope they lose.

Which is to say that Mystery, Alaska, despite the solid cast on-hand, doesn’t do any of them justice. 1999 was a pretty weird time for Russell Crowe’s career, as the Insider had yet to come out and Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him. Therefore, we get a pretty dull performance from him as this small-town sheriff who can’t seem to turn that frown of his upside down. Not to mention that once Hank Azaria’s character comes into town, now we have to listen to numerous spousal disputes between he and Mary McCormack’s character; neither of whom, are actually ever interesting to hear, because we don’t know who these characters are, nor do we really give a hoot if they’re together or not by the end.

And everybody else pretty much suffers the same fate as Crowe, McCormack and Azaria. Burt Reynolds, even after coming hot off from an Oscar nomination for Boogie Nights, seems like he’s just going through the motions as the older, yet wiser man of the town who likes to dispose of his knowledge whenever the moment seems necessary. It’s a boring role for Reynolds and quite frankly, he doesn’t do a nice job of hiding his own snoozes. Same goes for Colm Meaney and Lolita Davidovich who, like McCormack’s and Crowe’s characters, are left to just have marital problems and honestly, it’s hard to care at all.

All we want to see is more hockey, the actual New York Rangers (who never actually show up, because they were obviously smart enough), and somebody getting the absolute crap beaten out of them. Just like an actual hockey game.

Except with those, we don’t really care about what their personal lives are like.

Consensus: Even though there’s a great cast on the bench for Mystery, Alaska, none of them are given anything credible to work with, nor do they ever actually get to play as much hockey as everything about this movie may suggest.

2 / 10

And yeah, this is totally not forced.

And yeah, this happens, too.

Photos Courtesy of: A Movie A Day, Every Day, Sorry, Never Heard of It!

Red Riding Hood (2011)

He won’t puff, nor will he huff. But he’ll probably just moan.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young girl living in a small, peaceful little village with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) who plan to keep her safe from any harm that may come her way. The only reason why I even mention this to begin with is because this village of hers was, many, many years ago, attacked by a big, bad, and blood-thirsty wolf. Why? Well, nobody knows, but they don’t want to take any chances so they settle something of a peace treaty with him. They stay in their neck of the woods, he stays in his own, and that’s about it. Problem is, the wolf is hungry again and decides to come back to the village and wreak all sorts of havoc. This leaves the small village no other choice than to call upon the likes of a werewolf-hunting priest (Gary Oldman), who is a bit of a pro at these sorts of things. However, he begins to take a stranglehold on the village and leave everybody wondering just who is the beast. Is it the sexy, but mysterious Henry (Max Irons)? Or, is the sexy, mysterious, but also angry Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)? Or, quite simply put, is it Valeria?

Oh, what drama!

Sexy-ish.

Sexy-ish.

One of the biggest problems with Red Riding Hood, among many others, I assure you, is that it has no reason to exist. Sure, you can say that about a lot of movies made by Michael Bay, but it’s also kind of incorrect; his movies are created solely for entertainment and because he has a gigantic hard-on that he needs to be rid of. While his movies may borderline near-stupidity, they still have reasons for existing, even if the reasons themselves may be incredibly silly.

But in the case of Red Riding Hood, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. What it seems like producers in Hollywood wanted was nothing more than just a Twilight-ized version of the old folklore tale, Little Red Riding Hood. One reason it was made to begin with was most definitely for money, but then again, I bring up the question: How? How could something that seems so odd, nerdy and better yet, limited, in terms of whom it may actually reach and intrigue, be given all this money, with all this sort of talent, just for the hope that it will bring in all the same sort of big bucks that director Catherine Hardwicke was able to reel in with Twilight?

Well, whatever the reasons may be, who knows. And honestly, who cares!

Because really, Red Riding Hood‘s a pretty crummy and whether or not it exists, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s a pretty terrible movie that seems to have been dead from the very first second it arrives on the screen. While I can assure you that I was not in the least bit expecting a masterpiece of any sorts that discussed the interesting ways that humans and nature can interact and learn how to get along, I still wasn’t expecting something to be as boring as this.

Which is a big shame, because we know that Hardwicke is a fine director. However, here, it doesn’t seem like she’s actually directing anything; scenes just sort of happen and everything rolls on in a continuous fashion. There’s no real tension, no real fun (with a few exceptions), and most of all, there’s no real drama. Meaning, most importantly, there’s no romance to be felt, which is exactly what it seems like producers were going for in the first place. That the handsome male duo of Max and Peter are as dull as they come, already spells out problem for Valerie, as it seems like the movie wants to be smart about how it treats her viewpoint and the way she tells this story, but in the end, is only concerned with which dude she wants to bang first.

And that’s not normally something I have a problem with, but here, it was so boring that I didn’t even care whose bone got jumped, by whom, or even when it happened. I just wanted the movie to stop happening and end.

Sexier.

Sexier.

This is all to say that throughout Red Riding Hood, I felt extremely bad for the cast and crew involved, as it seems like most of them were definitely strapped for cash and needed something to pay their heating bills. Amanda Seyfried is always an interesting screen presence, but most of the movie here takes her personality away and leaves her to just be on the side as everything else sort of happens around her. Which, like I said before, is a big shame, because it’s a fantasy tale, told by the viewpoint of a woman, but sadly, they go nowhere with this character, or Seyfried’s talents as an actress.

Same goes for just about everybody else who dares to show their face in this. Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke are just hanging around as the parents, only called on for emotional cues; Fernandez and Irons are just hot, and that’s about it; Julie Christie tries as the grand-mom, but really seems to be in a whole other movie, completely; and Lukas Haas, well, is just here. The only one who dares to make this movie any bit better is, unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s always a great performer, but here, it seemed like he came ready to play and didn’t care what everybody else in the movie was doing. Oldman probably saw that the movie was about the classic Riding Hood tale, realized that it was probably a bit of a goof, did it, and decided that, because he’s Gary Oldman and all, can do whatever the hell he wants. So what if everybody else around him is sulking and drop-dead serious? Gary Oldman has a voice to use and holler with, so screw all that other nonsense! I wish I could say that I was sad to see Oldman in this movie here, but honestly, it seemed like the guy was having a blast and helped me to sort of do so, as well.

Although, when he’s gone, everything else about Red Riding Hood falls apart and that’s about it.

So be it.

Consensus: Despite the onslaught of talent, Red Riding Hood is too dull, aimless and boring to actually do much of anything fun or interesting with its old tale and instead, try its hardest to appeal to a broader audience who, quite frankly, probably won’t be interested in this anyway.

2.5 / 10

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

If I was an immortal and looked like Vin Diesel, I’d have no complaints.

After striking up a fight with a witch a really long time ago, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has now become something of an immortal witch-hunter. However, he only goes after the witches that are acting up and need a swift kick in the ass. Though Kaulder has been through it all in his over-extended life, he still finds ways to surround himself around friends that also serve as business-buddies, too. One such buddy is Father Dolan (Michael Caine), a local priest who finds the bad witches for Kaulder. The two have such a strong-bond that when Dolan turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, Kaulder can’t help but get to the bottom of it and see who is responsible. Eventually, this leads Kaulder to realizing that it’s a witch who is out to get him and will stop at nothing until she kills him once and for all. Kaulder is more than up to the task of taking this witch, head-on, however, he’ll need a little bit of assistance on the side from the likes of a fellow priest (Elijah Wood), and a trusted friend named Chloe (Rose Leslie), who apparently holds some neat powers that could come in handy.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Most people out there will say, and have already said, that the Last Witch Hunter is like playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Vin Diesel. While this is an appealing idea, I’m afraid, that this is nowhere near being the truth. For one, D&D is actually a fun game to not just play (once you get the hang of it), but to watch and be around (especially when those players seem to have such an undying passion and love for it). Also, seeing as how Diesel himself has, on countless occasions, professed his love for the game, it would make sense that he’d put his absolute heart and soul into making sure that this project of his own desire would turn out to be just as fun as the famous game he seems to be trying to use as a place-mat.

But sadly, none of this happens.

Ever.

So, don’t get all mixed up with what certain people say, because the Last Witch Hunter is a bore from beginning to end. And while I’m usually one for this type of fantasy-genre where dudes with swords, go up against witches, dragons, and all sorts of other baddies, when it’s done right, the problem is that director Breck Eisner doesn’t seem to know how to do that type of movie. Instead, it’s just a hodgepodge of random genres that never seem to come together and instead, make everything just cling and clang together, without hardly any spark to be made.

What makes it even worse is that the story never seems to make any sense. Though we’re placed in a modern-day setting where witches, witch-hunters and priests all have some sort of underground world in which they combat with one another, the movie suddenly goes back into time and it comes as a total shock. But not a good one, I’m afraid – instead, it’s more of the kind that feels like the writer’s got all tired and bored with what they were doing, so rather than trying to come up with some new, fresh ideas to keep the story moving, they decided to throw time-travel in there for good measure.

Does it work? Not really. Does it add any excitement? Not even close.

And a movie that features witches, flaming-swords, and dragons, yet, isn’t exciting, is a damn shame. Although, what’s probably the smartest ploy that the marketing team for this movie has been able to create, is by having Vin Diesel appear in a Viking-ish look get-up, with a wild bear, over-sized fur-coat, and bad-ass sword. Not only does it promise some crazy, as well as awesome action where Vin’s kicking all sorts of witch-ass in the good old days, but also make it seem like that’s going to be the bulk of the movie.

The genius behind that all is, is, well, that’s hardly even 15 minutes of the film.

That's not his cocaine, it's my cocaine!

That’s not his cocaine, that’s my cocaine!

Instead, we’re treated to watching as Vin Diesel plays a character who has, apparently, been alive for centuries-on-end, witnessed so many traumatic, legendary moments in life, and seen many people come and go, yet, not really care about any of that at all. Mostly, he’s just a smooth-talker who bangs hot stewardesses, drives a sexy car, and says witty things, for some reason. You’d think that after all that he’s been through, that he’d at least be somewhat affected and screwed-up, but surprisingly, he isn’t; he’s just happy to be around, still screwing hot babes and all.

Which is a shame, because we know that Vin Diesel can work with better material, when it’s given to him. Say what you will, but Vin Diesel has some real charm to him that works in movies that call on him for it – the Last Witch Hunter is not that movie. He tries to make this Kaulder dude seem hip, cool and likable, but because the movie accompanying him is so lame and random, he doesn’t get much of a chance to make any of that work. More often than not, he just seems bored and without a friend to play with.

Poor Vinnie.

Everybody else, too, sadly, faces the same fate as Diesel does. Michael Caine gets maybe ten or so minutes here and does whatever he can; Elijah Wood seems like he wants to have fun with this role as a dorky priest, but is thrown to the background, so that shoddy-looking CGI can take over; and Rose Leslie, despite featuring some of that same, feisty spirit she had on Game of Thrones, also seems like she’s lost in a movie that’s not too concerned with how good of an actress she is, and just how well she can hold a reaction-shot. And if that’s all that acting requires, then anybody could have been in the Last Witch Hunter, let alone, the talented people who sadly got tied-up into this.

Consensus: On the surface, the Last Witch Hunter promises to be a fun, exciting schlock-fest, but once you get past that, it soon becomes clear that it’s nothing more than just a terribly-misguided, ugly-looking, and boring piece of fantasy that doesn’t deserve who it has in it.

2 / 10

Huh? Eh. I don't care.

Huh? Eh. I don’t care.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Beach (2000)

Give a hippie too much freedom, and peace does not conquer.

Having grown reckless and tired with his American life, Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio) decides to run away on a road trip of sorts that, for one reason or another, land him in Bangkok. Though Richard plans on spending most of his time navigating around Thailand, he stumbles upon a mysterious map that, from what he can read, takes him out into the middle of the ocean, where a random island pops up. Richard has no clue what is on that island or even what it means – all he knows is that he wants to go out there and find out for himself. Even if he does along the way, then so be it! At least he died by trying! Well, Richard does reach the island and finds out that it’s everything he wanted it to be: Peaceful, fun, and chock full of hippies that love to live life to their fullest. As time rolls on though, Richard begins to realize that there’s something wrong with this island, as well as some of the people on it and it isn’t before long that Richard starts getting that ache to head back home in the U.S., where life’s a lot more simple and cleaner.

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

Just think of the horrid stench they must carry as one unit. Yuck!

The saying around those associated with critiquing media is, “Review what’s there, not anything else.” Meaning, basically, just review what it is that’s in front of you and not a product that you wish happened, or better yet, wanted. You may have wanted for all the Transformers films to be heartfelt, eye-opening dramas about the state of technology versus today’s society, but the creator behind those movies, may have saw billion-dollar, explosion-fests with the depth of a pebble. And honestly, whose movie is going to be created? Yours, or somebody like Michael Bay?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that it’s hard to review a movie like the Beach, without thinking of what could have been. Cause, for one, I’ve read the book and needless to say: It’s a near-masterpiece. It’s fun, exciting, energetic, lively, interesting, hilarious, insightful, and most of all, smart about its themes that deal with nature and how humans, in ways, ruin it. Alexander Garland is a talented-as-all-hell writer who, quite frankly, deserves to create more in his life. I’d rather take a movie a year from Alexander Garland, rather than seeing another one of Woody Allen’s latest, where it seems like he’s got some time left in his year, so he just oughta make something.

But I digress.

Everything that the novel is, the movie-version of the Beach is not. And that’s not just a shame because the source-material is so ripe, raw, and perfectly-ready to be made for the big screen, but because there’s plenty of talented people here working this. Danny Boyle, in case none of you know this already, is an immensely talented director who makes anything more interesting just by doing what he always does: Add techno to the background, keep that camera moving, and always finding the most disturbing aspects of humans. This isn’t to say that Boyle’s style doesn’t help the Beach out, because it most certainly does; however, most of the time, it’s obvious that around the half-way mark, he gave up in the editing-room and just let the studio-hacks take over and make their own movie, creativity be damned!

Not that Boyle had a perfect film to begin with, but yeah, this is possibly his worst movie to date.

Once again, too, you’d be surprised to hear this, not just because it’s a Danny Boyle film, but because it’s one that stars the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Paterson Joseph and Guillaume Canet, but they’re left without a paddle to float around on. The movie itself is such a jumbled-up mess, that even when it seems like there’s an effort being put in to give these actors interesting material to revel in, sadly, it seems to go to the next subplot and just totally forget about whatever it was that it was trying to develop mere seconds ago.

Sure, she's cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

Sure, she’s cute and all, but just about the last time she bathed.

But most of all, it’s just disappointing to see DiCaprio, an amazing talent, give what is, essentially, a terrible performance. For one, it seems like Leo is trying way too hard at everything; he’s always yelling, wailing-about, and trying to make scenes a lot funnier than they may have to be, which make it seem like he’s straining himself more than he needed to. Also, despite Leo probably being around 25 to 26 around the time of this movie, he still seems so boy-ish to really work in this role and makes it appear like he’s a bit out of his league. Leo tries, time and time again here, but ultimately, it adds up to him just turning in, most likely, his worst performance to date.

It all worked out though once Catch Me If You Can came around and Hollywood finally realized what to do with him.

Thank heavens for that.

But to go back to my earlier point about not disowning a movie for what I would have liked for it to have been, and more of what it actually is, the Beach is possibly my most personal choice with that. There are certain plot-points and ideas that the novel touches on that help round this story, this character and the impact it has on the reader, more effective. Those same points and ideas are merely touched on here, only to then be tossed away once Boyle remembers that he’s got to get a whole 400-plus page book, into a near two-hour movie. Granted, it must have not been an easy task, even for somebody as incredibly talented as Boyle and his associates, but still, it’s hard not to deny the fact that this movie never has a clue what it wants to do, be, or even say about anyone, or anything depicted in it.

The book did all of this and so much more. Just saying.

Consensus: Messy, silly, uninteresting and poorly-acted, the Beach tries because of Danny Boyle behind the camera, but is a missed-opportunity on capitalizing with some very promising source material. So basically, just go and head to a Barns and Nobles, if they even still exist.

2 / 10

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Jack survived the sinking after all and is now a wannabe hippie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Dirty Weekend (2015)

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

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

Sitting....

Sitting….

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

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

Which is, the worst kind.

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

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

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

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

...more sitting....

…more sitting….

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

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

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

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

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

2 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

No Stath? No thanks.

If you give Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) a job to do, he will do it. However, it’s got to be by his rules and it’s also got to fit his criteria. That’s why when he hears Anna (Loan Chabanol)’s proposition, he takes it, assuming that it’s going to be another mission of his where he gets to kick some butt, pull-off some fancy moves here and there, and at the end of the day, go back home with a lot more money in his pocket. However, little does Frank know that Anna is up to no good and isn’t a very clean negotiator; she decides, in a way of collateral damage I guess, to take Frank’s dad (Ray Stevenson), hostage. Frank’s clearly not happy about this and doesn’t want to complete the mission, however, Anna makes him a deal: Complete the mission, and then some, and he’ll get his father back and everything will go back to normal. However, if he doesn’t complete the mission, he won’t get his father back and, most likely, he’ll wind-up dead. Because it’s not just Anna that Frank has to deal with, but apparently, there’s now mercenaries involved, which never wind-up good for anyone involved.

Just do it and get this movie over with already!

Just do it and get this movie over with already!

Were the original Transporter movies any good? The answer it both yes and no. Yes, because they were stupid, fun and charming-as-hell because of Jason Statham; but no, because they were pretty idiotic at times and definitely seemed to over-stay their welcome around half-way through the second movie. But does that really mean we need a reboot? Especially when there’s already a TV show currently airing that does the job as is?

The answer this time is an astounding no. Especially when the said reboot is as terrible as this.

Basically, this new and not-at-all improved Transporter is a mess about the whole way through. At one point, it wants to be like the older movies where it’s all about a classy-sense of style, but then, at another point, wants to break into this Raid-ish action flick where baddies fly-up out of nowhere, try to kick the hero’s butt, and sadly fail. The same happens here, but when it comes around, it seems oddly-placed in a movie that, quite frankly, is a little too serious for it’s own good.

See, if you’re going to do these types of silly action-thrillers and try to get away with the fact that you’re idiotic, you have to have some fun in the meantime. There are maybe one or two action-sequences where it seemed like director Camille Delamarre decided that it was time to turn the frown upside down and enjoy his time directing this hack-piece, but those times are often too far and few between one another. Not to mention that they’re not nearly enough to save this piece of junk.

Which, honestly, is a bit of a shame because Delmarre’s last flick (Brick Mansions), was actually something of a surprise. Sure, it was all sorts of ridiculous and crazy, but it never backed away from the fact that it had an over-the-top B-movie premise and ran with the ball for as long and as desperately as it could. Here though, that’s hardly anywhere to be found as it seems like Delmarre, whether it be studio or plain and simple creative issues that got in the way, was just going through the motions, waiting to collect his paycheck and, hopefully, moving on to whatever blockbuster Hollywood assigns him to make next.

Poor fella.

As much as I feel bad for Delmarre, I can’t help but feel even worse for the cast and crew involved. But most of all, Ray Stevenson himself who, time and time again, seems to be giving it his all in these movies that don’t need a talent like him. A movie like Transporter Refueled is more than lucky to have Ray Stevenson apart of it and you know what? It absolutely shows!

Every chance the dude gets to be cool, suave, funny and somewhat insightful, it totally works. The script is as thin as a bagel without cream cheese, but Stevenson, as usual, finds loops and holes to make something out of nothing. Not only does this sadden me more that Stevenson isn’t a much bigger name than he deserves to be, but that he was actually here to begin with.

Daniel Craig, here is your future.

Daniel Craig, here is your future.

But hey, I guess you’ve got to go where the money’s at.

And in the case of Ed Skrein, I hate to say it, but I don’t know how much more money for these kinds of roles will be coming his way. Not to say that Skrein is a bad actor and shouldn’t be hired; it’s just that he doesn’t do a very good job here and makes the film seem all the more weak as a result. Skrein is definitely good-looking, but after awhile, that goes nowhere because he doesn’t quite have the power or the charisma like Statham had with these movies. It’s just another sign that maybe, just maybe, the studios should have let this title go on a bit more without another movie.

Especially one that’s not already with Statham in the lead role.

But of course, it’s hard to put the full blame on Skrein when, honestly, the movie is all-over-the-place. Whatever the Macguffin of this story is, I couldn’t tell you. All I knew about half-way through was that there were some baddies that needed to be dealt with and, for whatever reason, Frank’s dad gets kidnapped so easily and willingly, even despite the fact that he’s supposed to be this older and wiser James Bond-like figure. It doesn’t quite work its way well into the story (with the exception of a neat scene concerning covering up a gunshot wound which I myself will be experimenting soon), and just seems like a manipulative way the movie figured it could keep us watching for a little while even longer.

Even if, at the end of the day and the movie, there’s nothing to see here, really. Just another reboot that didn’t need to even exist in the first place.

Consensus: Messy, dull, and most of all, boring, the Transporter Refueled is a perfect example of why it’s not always best to reboot something that probably didn’t need to be over-extended so much to begin with.

2 / 10

At least the car's still schmexy. I think.

At least the car’s still schmexy. I think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

We Are Your Friends (2015)

I’ll take a Daft Punk documentary instead.

23-year-old Cole (Zac Efron) is currently struggling in his life. For one, his buddies still act as if they’re in high school, and his career as local DJ, isn’t quite lighting up the sky, either. So basically, Cole plans the rest of his life living in his friend’s house, fixing the roof, cleaning the pool, and playing to whoever shows up at the club. That all begins to change on one fateful night, however, when he decides to go out and party with the one, the only, DJ legend, James (Wes Bentley). Cole and James, after a wild night of booze, good music, nice vibes, and some PCP, they both hit it off perfectly, with James wanting to hear some of what Cole has to offer. While James isn’t too impressed with what he sees right away, he knows that there’s potential and decides to take Cole under his wing. The only issue is that James’ girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski), is getting bored of being his assistant and may want some of what Cole is offering her. At the same time, while Cole’s life is changing right before his own very eyes, his buddies are starting to notice this too and feel like it’s not fair that he gets to have all of this fame and fortune, and they’re still stuck living at their parent’s places.

My friend's were cooler.

My friend’s were cooler.

In case you haven’t heard, EDM is all the rage now. Kids love it; older people love it; even those indie-kids who think that they’re too cool and would much rather listen to Conor Oberst, love it (they won’t admit it, but they do). For me, I think the music can sometimes be interesting and entertaining to listen to, but there’s only so much one can take of the non-stop, pulse-thrilling, ear-aching back-beats, over and over again. Every once and awhile, I prefer a solid little rhythm and formation every so often, but hey, that’s just me.

But to be honest, my opinions don’t matter because kids love EDM music and they may even love We Are Your Friends. Why is that? Well, because it features young adults just like themselves, reaching for the stars, chasing after their dreams, never letting adversity get in their way, and overall, having a great time while doing so. Does this mean that the movie’s actually any good?

Nope, not really. But what does the target audience care?

Cause, if anything, We Are Your Friends is just another conventional, run-of-the-mill, corny inspirational tale, hidden underneath the layers and layers of EDM music that covers practically the whole entire film. That’s not to say that the music’s bad or anything; if anything, it helps add a certain level of excitement to whatever dry proceedings are occurring between whatever one-dimensional characters on the screen. But after awhile, it begins to seem that whenever the music begins to crank up, then all of a sudden, another montage shows up, and we’re thrown into something resembling a music video – not an actual feature-film.

It’s a pretty-looking music video for sure, which is all thanks to director Max Joseph, but it doesn’t add anything to a movie/story that, quite frankly, needed all of the help it could get. No character’s ever really interesting; the plot doesn’t go anywhere surprising; and when all is said and done, we’re all of a sudden supposed to believe that this guy’s music is all that brilliant to begin with. If anything, it just adds an extra layer of annoyance to a genre that’s already getting to the brim of that.

Also, it makes me more and more anticipated for Disclosure’s next album.

And that’s pretty much all there is to this movie. While I know I sound like I’m being unbelievably and irrationally harsh, there’s hardly anything I can do about that. The movie acts as if it lives and breathes off of the energy that it gets fed by the crowd it’s playing to, but instead of actually offering anything exciting, it just uses the same old underdog story done before. Except, this time, it’s not a person who has all of the odds stacked against him, like cancer, or a family that he has to take care of, or whatever – he’s just not a big name yet in the DJ world.

My girlfriend was hotter.

My girlfriend was hotter.

Yes, it’s as entertaining to watch as it sounds, but the only one who actually brings anything at all to the table is Wes Bentley. Bentley has been here and there in the past couple of years, and while it’s not that I can say he’s lighting the world on fire like everybody thought he was once able of doing some many years ago, he’s still great here and steals just about every scene. Granted, in a movie as plainly-written as this, it’s not too hard, but Bentley invigorates this movie, as well as his character, with a certain amount of humor, fun, common sense, and most of all, heart, that makes me wish this movie was more about his James character, rather than about Zac Efron’s cliche Cole character. Of course, that would take a smaller-budget and release-plan, but hey, it’s a movie I would be more than happy to see and walk out of pleased.

So yeah, Hollywood, make that shit happen.

And Efron’s fine as he usually is, but here, I couldn’t help feeling as if he was going through the motions of sorts. That is, of course, difficult to say for someone as young as he is, but from what I’ve seen of Efron in far more interesting, challenging-roles, is that he can hang with the big boys when push comes to shove. He’s not afraid to go deeper and darker to depths that people couldn’t imagine him having and he seems to welcome it more than anything else, too. That’s why it was so disappointing to see him just go through one scene, after another, look as if he’s bored and has somewhere else to be.

Then again, he does get a chance to smooch that “Blurred Lines” chick, so life ain’t all that bad after all.

I guess.

Consensus: Despite a lovely supporting performance from Wes Bentley, We Are Your Friends falls prey to being too conventional and uninteresting to suit its own well-intentions.

2.5 / 10

Now, nobody's cooler.

Now, nobody’s cooler.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz