Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 7-7.5/10

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

It takes one to ruin a village. And about six more so blow it the hell up.

Looking to mine for gold, greedy industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) has been taking over small towns, wiping out any man, woman, or child who comes into his way. Why? Because he’s an absolute savage and does not give a single hell what anybody else thinks, says, or does – as long as he’s rich and powerful, then there’s no issues. Eventually, he seizes control of the Old West town of Rose Creek, wiping out quite a few of the townsfolk there, too, leading some residents, like Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) desperate and in need of some help. That’s when they discover bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who is more than up to the task, but may need a little bit of help from some talented, incredibly violent pals of his. That’s when he recruits the likes of a gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), a sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), a tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), an assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), a Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and a Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier), all to take down this Bogue, even if they have to get over their differences and whatnot at first – something that’s actually quite easy when they all have a common enemy.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let's hope.

Possibly the beginning of a great friendship? Let’s hope.

The original Magnificent Seven isn’t a perfect movie, to be honest. Like a lot of other movies from its time, sure, it’s dated, but it’s also pretty slow and takes a little too long to get going, when all it seems to do is focus on such icons like Steve McQueen and Yul Brenner measuring dicks and beating their chests like true alpha males. Sure, that’s some bit of entertainment in and of itself, but after nearly an hour of that, there needs to be something to help speed it all along, which is why when the action does eventually come around in that movie, it’s glorious and a healthy reminder of what sort of magic can happen when you have a lot of bad-asses, picking up guns and shooting other bad-asses.

So yeah, in that sense, it’s a good movie, but not a perfect one.

And the same goes for the remake, which for some reason, takes even longer to get going. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t mind that as much here, as it’s very clear that director Antoine Fuqua, is just enjoying his time with this cast and these characters so much, that to jump right to the action where most of them may go down in a blaze full of bullets, would almost be a disservice to them all. Fuqua isn’t the best director out there, regardless of the fact that he drove Denzel Washington an Oscar with Training Day, but when he decides to settle all of his crazy tendencies down, believe it or not, he’s actually a pretty solid director. He may love the blood, gore, guns, and women a whole lot more than the actual characters themselves, but he does something smart here in that he keeps the character moments here for safe keeping.

Of course, too, it also helps that Fuqua himself has such a solid cast to help him out, with his pal Washington back in action as the sly, but cool and dangerous Sam Chisolm. Washington may seem like a weird fit, but he works it all out perfectly, showing that he’s the clear-headed individual of the whole group, while also proving that he’s not afraid to lose his cool and shoot some mofo’s down, too. Chris Pratt is also a bundle of joy to watch Faraday, showing off another sense of cool and charm that works in his character’s favor, as well as for him, too. It’s nice to see Pratt, even after something like Jurassic World, that didn’t allow for him to even crack a smile, well, get a chance for him to do that and prove that there’s also something a little more sinister to him, as well.

Yeah, where's Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

Yeah, where’s Eli Wallach? Oh, never mind.

The rest of the cast and characters don’t get nearly as much attention, but they’re all still fine, nonetheless.

Ethan Hawke has some interesting moments as Robicheaux, showing a serious side effect to all of the gun-slinging and killing that he talks so famously about; Vincent D’Onofrio is goofy and weird as Jack Horne, a big bear of a man, but it’s right up his alley; Byung-hun Lee is cold and dangerous Billy Rocks, even if he doesn’t have a whole lot to say; Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is probably the weakest of the crew as Vasquez, never quite getting the chance to really show off any charm or excitement; and Martin Sensmeier, while barely uttering a line as the Red Harvest, is still a pretty intimidating figure nonetheless and it works.

The only shame about the movie is the inclusion of both Haley Bennett and Peter Sarsgaard. Nothing against either performer, who both do fine jobs here, but it also feels like they may have been a little tacked-on. Bennett literally has a leading role here and honestly, a part of me wanted to believe that she’d be one of the so-called Seven, all sexist issues aside, but sadly, that doesn’t happen and she’s lead to just be the smart gal who, yes, can take care of herself and yes, can shoot a gun, but also doesn’t feel like she’s that part of the crew. And Sarsgaard, enjoying his time as a campy villain, doesn’t have many scenes to show off all of his evil tendencies and instead, seems like an afterthought in the movie’s mind; so much time is spent on the Seven, their dynamic and their training for this battle, that the movie forgets the actual threat himself, which is Sarsgaard’s Bogue.

Still, the final battle itself is solid and saves any sort of bad feelings going into this ending. It’s bloody, brutal and surprisingly, unpredictable, with a few people biting the dust that you wouldn’t expect to. It’s nice to see a mainstream movie not afraid to take off some famous people’s heads, while, at the same time, still have the chance to offer up a sequel in the near-future.

Would I see it? Probably. Just give me a better next time.

And no, I’m not talking about Marvel.

Consensus: With a talented and more than capable cast, the Magnificent Seven works as an entertaining, sometimes incredibly violent Western that’s a lot like the original, but also feels more concerned with characters this time, even if the villain himself doesn’t appear all that much of a threat.

7 / 10

Yeah, I'd turn around, too.

Yeah, I’d turn around, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Meddler (2016)

Mom’s annoy you, because they love you. Appreciate it.

After the death of her long-loving husband, Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is kind of lost. She’s heartbroken, sad and lonely, which is why she continuously drops by to see her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), so that she can have a little something to do. The only issue is that Lori doesn’t always enjoy her mom’s presence and because her own career as a screenwriter is stressful as is, she can’t help but bring some of those angry thoughts onto her mother. So instead of trying to help her daughter out every chance she gets, Marnie decides to extend her helping hands to those around who – some of whom, she hardly even knows. And because she was left a whole lot of comfort-money, Marnie is more than capable of doing whatever is necessary to ensure that some of her new friends are pleased with everything they ask of Marnie. While she’s doing all of this, of course, she’s also striking up something of a relationship with a local security-guard (J.K. Simmons), who takes a huge liking to her, even if she isn’t quite ready for a new love in her life.

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

Clap it up for you, Susie. You deserve it!

It’s a pretty simple and overly cutesy plot that goes quite awry a few times. See, what’s odd about the Meddler is that it seems like writer/director Lorene Scafaria doesn’t quite know who’s side she’s on – the mom who’s meddling, or the hapless daughter who just wants to be left alone. Considering that this appears to be very autobiographical, it’s odd to see a writer/director side with someone who isn’t them, and it does play into how the movie’s perceived.

There’s a part of the Meddler that’s having fun with itself and its cast, but also seems like it wants to say more. In a way like I’ll See You in My Dreams had something to say about aging and growing old without your soulmate around, the Meddler mostly shows what a person in that situation would do to try and keep themselves busy. Of course, the situations and predicaments she gets herself into are ridiculous, but they’re also kind of funny and charming in only  a way that a movie such as this can get away with.

Because, let’s be honest, driving an Apple employee that you hardly know, to and from law school, never works out.

It’s just a fact.

But what works best about the Meddler is that Scafaria’s writing is just charming enough, to where we don’t care what we can believe in or sympathize with – the situations, after awhile, just write themselves and it’s interesting to watch how each and everyone of them play out. There’s not nearly as much tension as you would expect, but maybe that’s not this kind of movie; it’s just a showing a later-age woman, trying to still make something of the life she’s got left. It’s earnest to a fault, but hey, it kind of works.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

Not Sam Elliot, but hey, close enough.

And yeah, it definitely does help that Susan Sarandon is playing the title character, appearing in almost every scene, showing off her great knack for combining her heart and likability, even when it seems like this character may be something of a caricature. Scafaria shows a lot of love and affection for the characters here, but it’s Sarandon’s that gets the most, with just the right touch of humanism to make her seem real, even if she does sort of seem like she’s too nice, too sweet, and too colorful to be real. But thankfully, that’s why Sarandon is here to show us that, yeah, even if she doesn’t, she’s still a whole lot of fun to watch a movie about.

As for everyone else around Sarandon, they fare a bit better on the realism-side. Rose Byrne is seemingly playing Scafaria and does fine enough being miserable and getting into all sorts of fights with Sarandon; J.K. Simmons is playing the older fella that Sarandon falls for and shows why someone like him would be so attractive in her eyes, yet, at the same time, also maybe not be the right fit; and Cecily Strong, as the gal who gets her wedding picked-up by Sarandon’s character, shows a great deal of heart, even if her character is really meant to stand around and just cry a whole lot.

It’s a bunch of hapless roles, but hey, having a good cast can sometimes work in a movie’s favor.

Consensus: Even though its cutesy premise can sometimes get in the way of an actual plot, the Meddler does benefit from a solid lead performance from Sarandon that overcompensates for almost every other wrongdoing of the script and/or direction.

7 / 10

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn't re-arranging your drawers.

Nothing like a pain-in-the-ass mother to come in and save the day. When she isn’t re-arranging your drawers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Snowden (2016)

It doesn’t matter if you’re awkward and kind of nerdy – if you can type fast, the world is yours.

Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was just another typical, young dude from North Carolina who had an obsession with Ayn Rand and most of all, wanted to be in the Army and serve his country. However, due to a disability that made it so that any pressure applied to his legs would almost certainly cripple him for life, he had to opt-out for something that he was far better advanced and skilled in: Typing. That’s when he heads up to Virginia, where he learns a thing or two about network systems, hacking, and most importantly, how to maintain confidential information. And for Snowden who, at first, felt like he was doing a justice for his country, this was the perfect life to live; he was a patriot, a hard-worker, while making lots of money, as well as some sweet money with his supportive, but also incredibly liberal girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shaliene Woodley). This all begins to change for Snowden when he not only realizes that the government is using its resources to destroy the lives of, quite possibly, innocent people, but also spying on each and everyone of its citizens for reasons that he apparently doesn’t have the clearance to hear the answers to.

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Did we really need a Snowden biopic after Citizenfour? Not really, but much like with Man on Wire and the Walk (yet again, another JGL flick), did we really need a movie about Philippe Petit? Probably not, but sometimes, it does help to get a little more info and attention on a subject who, for some reasons or another, may actually need, or deserve it. In Snowden’s case, this is especially true – while he will, in no way, ever be a forgotten person of our times, his cause and what he believes in still seems to be forgotten about, even when people seem to be putting more and more of an over reliance on WikiLeaks, despite all of the issues going on with that website and what it publishes to the rest of the world.

That said, Citizenfour is probably the go-to movie for finding out everything you need to know about Snowden, the person.

Or better yet, by checking out the web itself, even if the government is spying on you actually do it, that is.

But regardless, the tale of Edward Snowden, as done by Oliver Stone, isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s by-the-numbers and rather conventional, but because the tale of Snowden, how he became someone we know about, why he got there, and where he had to go through, is actually very interesting. Even if you do a small Google search on Edward Snowden himself, you may find one or two things that you didn’t already know about, discovered here – but then again, you may not. Either way, it’s less that Snowden is a meaningless movie, it’s more of a movie that isn’t doing anything particularly ground-breaking, yet, doesn’t have to – it’s telling a story of a person whose life in the past decade or so, has become quite the compelling one.

And while Stone is typically known for the kinetic, sort of crazy outrage in movies such as these, believe it or not, he’s actually a lot more chill and relaxed here – rather than running off the seams, trying to tell us more and more about the paranoid state of mind one must be in while working for the government, Stone keeps everything on even-ground along with Edward, allowing for us to see, hear and think everything that he’s seeing, hearing and thinking at the same time. It actually works in the movie’s favor, especially since a lot of Snowden’s tale is, unfortunately, about a lot of inner-angst, depression and paranoia that only he seemed to feel and for us to feel as if we are one step closer to him, actually works with the movie.

That said, the movie does lack in actually giving us more to the characters surrounding Snowden, even including Snowden, too.

Love at first bit.

Love at first bit.

As Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does the best that he can – because he’s playing someone with as much personality as a pebble, he has to dial down all of the charm and fun that we’re so used to seeing from him. However, even with the deep-voice and awkward twists and turns of his body, the performance still works; there’s not a whole lot of heavy-acting moments where he loses his cool and stops the whole movie dead in its tracks, but there’s still enough to watch and be compelled by, even when everyone and everything else around him seems not to be so up-to-snuff.

Case in point: Shaliene Woodley and her performance as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Of course, Woodley’s a great actress and lovely as all hell, but still, even her good looks and chemistry with JGL can’t help Mills from seeming like just a case for Stone to get all sorts of liberal opinions and views out there, and also challenge Snowden’s viewpoint and career. It’s too preachy to really work, but it does help that it’s all being done through Woodley, who is able to show some sort of heart and emotion with a character who, quite frankly, needed a whole lot more of it.

After all, she’s a real woman and is the love of Edward’s life. So why not a little more?

As for the rest of the heavily-stacked ensemble, they all fair fine, but once again, they aren’t nearly as developed as they should be. Zachary Quinto and Melissa Leo play the distraught but always interested Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, respectively; Rhys Ifans is hamming it up completely as Snowden’s seemingly evil boss; Ben Schnetzer has a good couple of moments as a fellow hacker within the CIA that teaches Snowden a thing or two and wakes his eyes up; and yes, believe it or not, with barely even ten minutes of screen-time, Nicolas Cage does a pretty solid job evoking a sense of pride, playing one of Snowden’s peers who, like everyone else around him, teaches him something about life. It’s cheesy, but hey, it still kind of works.

Consensus: Perhaps the movie we didn’t quite need, yet still actually get, Snowden is very much a play-by-play of what we can expect from a traditional biopic, but still benefits from an interesting store and a solid lead performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, unfortunately, has to do a lot of acting, for a lot of people.

7 / 10

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing....

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing….

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Other People (2016)

Come back home, where everyone hates and judges you. It’s always a great time.

At the ripe age of 29, David (Jesse Plemons) finally knows feel himself. For one, he’s come out to everyone around him and is finally working as a writer and not having a single worry in the world. However, that all changes when he has to move back to Sacramento to go and see his family, mostly because his mother (Molly Shannon), has come down with a pretty severe case of cancer. But no matter what distractions may be in his job, or in his love life, David keeps his attention solely on his mom who, unlike his conservative father (Bradley Whitford), actually accepts him for who he is and not what he should have turned out to be. Of course, over the time that David spends with his family, they get into fights, arguments, discussions, and all sorts of other stuff that family tends to get into, while the mother of the family is sitting there, wondering just where her life is going to take her next and whether or not this is all going to be the last moments she spends with not just her family, but on Earth in general.

Wow. The bully from Like Mike sure has grown-up.

Wow. The bully from Like Mike sure has grown-up.

So yeah, basically imagine the Hollars, but with not nearly as many stars in the roles and a way better, smarter direction and script to work with and yeah, you’ve got Other People. Of course, it’s the same kind of Sundance movie in which a young, constipated man returns to his family home where he’s subject to all sorts of criticism and praise for all of the decisions he may have, or may have not made, in the years since his leave. It’s conventional in terms of format, but whereas the Hollars felt like it barely had anything to say or do with that convention, Other People actually does do something and has something to say, which is basically that, “yeah, people die, but other people live, too.”

It sounds so simple, but trust me, played out in the film, and through writer/director Chris Kelly’s lenses and words, it works out so well.

That said, Other People isn’t a perfect movie; often times, its small, subtle tone and approach to its plot can get in the way of what could have been some really raw, emotional moments, but that’s neither here nor there. I have to give credit to Kelly for at least taking a smaller approach to this material and not just demanding our tears at every waking moment; instead, he gradually takes his time, waiting for the moments to come up and just constantly building these characters, their relationships, and each one of their personalities, so that we get a better idea of who we’re dealing with and whether or not they’re actually worth giving a damn about in the first place. And considering that Kelly comes from a SNL background, it’s surprising to see him, as a writer, wait for the right moments to actually strike the audience with a serious bit of laughter, or tears, rather than just going for it when he feels bored.

Is that a dig at SNL? Quite possibly, but hey, that’s neither here, nor there.

What matters most is that Other People, while dealing with a conventional and yes, formulaic plot, also does small, little wonders with it that helps it become so much more than just another chance for a bunch of famous, good-looking people, to slum it in low-budget, grainy-looking indies. Instead, it’s a movie that has a beating heart, that has something to say about cancer, family, relationships, and love, but at the same time, doesn’t; Kelly isn’t looking to force messages of drama and loveliness down our throats but instead, just give us a tender story that sort of shows us everything that he wants to get across or say.

Yup. This kid.

Yup. This kid.

Basically, he does a lot of “showing”, and not “telling”, which for any writer or director, that’s a smart thing to do. Kelly may not have a huge background in movies just yet, but he makes a lot of smart decisions that so many other well-experienced and legendary directors have made and continue to seem to be making. So if anything, yes, let’s hope that Kelly continues to work and show the world that hey, sometimes it’s always better to play it a little low-key, eh?

Anyway, the cast is also very good and another reason why Other People works as well as it does. It’s nice to see Jesse Plemons take on a much more realistic and naturalistic role that shows him in a more interesting light that, honestly, we haven’t seen from him since the days of Landry. That said, Plemons is still great here, showing a lot of smart, but also naivete to a character who may have it all figured out, but may also not. There’s a fine line he plays with this character and it works, allowing him to be both insightful, as well as just normal enough that he doesn’t get in the way of the rest of the characters and performances.

And that’s why Molly Shannon shines so much as his mother, Joanne. As Joanne, Shannon has a lot of heavy-lifting to do, which means she gets a chance to cry a whole lot and just be a total mess, but it’s never done for shows, nor does it ever feel overdone – it’s actually bare and raw, something that you’d most likely see in real life, being done by a real person in her situation. It’s interesting to say this, too, because Shannon’s obviously not fully known for her dramatic-roles, and here, she shows that she’s more than up to the task of delivering. Sure, she can still be a barrel of laughs when she wants to, too, but when she wants to make us cry, she can still work with that, too.

Why she isn’t a whole lot bigger and more recognized is totally beyond me.

Consensus: As simple and straightforward as you can get with a Sundance indie, Other People may not change the world, but offers up charming, heartfelt writing, along with some great performances to make it feel like a nice little family outing worth spending time with.

7.5 / 10

Mothers and sons. Can't beat 'em.

Mothers and sons. Can’t beat ’em.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Logo

U-Turn (1997)

uturnposterNext time, wait for the rest stop.

While on the road to who knows where, Bobby (Sean Penn) has a bit of car trouble and has to pull over into the nearest gas-station/mechanic he can find. Of course, this leads him right into the lovely, yet wacky little town of Superior, Arizona, where he’s told that his car will have to stay around for a few more days so that it can get inspected and get all of the right parts it needs to continue to run. Bobby’s not happy about this, but he can’t do much about it, so he decides to set up shop in town for a short while, and in doing so, attracts a whole lot of unwanted and crazy attention from the local folks who clearly seem to be pretty interested in what a city boy like Bobby’s doing around their parts. One person in particular is the sexual and dangerous Grace (Jennifer Lopez), who decides that she wants to run away with Bobby and start out a new life for her. The only issue is that her husband (Nick Nolte), controls almost everything that she does and will not let her out of his sights, regardless of who stands in his way.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

U-Turn is the perfect movie for someone like Oliver Stone to direct right after making something as loud, bombastic and overstuffed like Nixon. Because with U-Turn, you can tell that Stone’s getting back down to his roots, catching his breath, and enjoying this sick, dark and twisted world that he seemed to love and be so fascinated with in Natural Born Killers. And sure, while U-Turn is no way in the same league as that near-masterpiece, it’s still a fun little piece of noir-trash that reminds us what can be done when you have some good material, with a director who knows how to handle it all so well.

Of course, Stone has been better and worse before, but still U-Turn shows us that, once again, Stone knows a thing or two about these dark, gritty and messed-up tales about small people, in small towns, doing some pretty cruel and evil things to one another. Stone of course makes this little town of Superior all the more zany and crazy than we’d ever expect right away, but it works in the movie’s favor; every character we run into and get a glimpse of, despite seeming like over-the-top cartoons, still have this smallest sense of danger in their bones that makes it feel like they could step into the story at any second and cause all sorts of damage. It’s what most thrillers in the same vein strive for, but because Stone has a certain eye for these kinds of movies, it works a whole lot more.

Then again, it is a very disgusting movie that, at times, sure, can test our patience for what we’re capable of seeing and accepting for an upwards of two hours or so.

That said, Stone is having fun here and honestly, that can be sort of rare. There’s this small glimmer of a message about Native American tribes and the fact that they were kicked off of their land, but the movie doesn’t make it a top-priority to get on any sort of soapbox and preach to the audience – it’s rare for an Oliver Stone movie to do that, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace because it helps not take away from the cast and twisty, turny plot, and also allow for us to enjoy the movie a whole lot more, all its shortcomings with plot aside.

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Sean Penn is a nice addition to the world of Oliver Stone and even though it’s not a more spirited and crazy performance like we’re so used to seeing from him, as Bobby, it almost feel like he didn’t have to be. In a way, he’s sort of the cool, calm and collected one in the middle of a group full of nuts, wacko’s and fools, which suits Penn a whole lot, even if it is also a whole bunch of fun to see him freak-out every so often. Same goes for Lopez, who is playing the typical femme fatale we see in these sorts of flicks and does a solid job playing up that sexy, vivaciousness of her, making us wonder if we can, or can’t, trust her.

But then, there’s the rest of the ensemble who seem to be a little more ramped-up than Lopez and Penn, which is perfectly fine because it suits them all so well.

Powers Boothe and his eyes steal every scene he’s in, because of how scary he is; Jon Voight has a few heartfelt moments in the middle of a wacky and wild movie; Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes seem as if they walked off of the set of a sitcom as two young lovers who constantly keep on running into Bobby; Billy Bob Thornton seems spirited and awake as the town mechanic who seems to be enjoying his chances of ripping Bobby off every chance he gets; and yes, Nick Nolte is as dastardly as can be, playing Grace’s husband, snarling and howling every line that comes out of his mouth. But you know what? It works. We’re supposed to be repulsed by this guy and Nolte is perfect at delivering it all.

If only he and Stone worked together more.

Consensus: As wild and as crazy as Stone has been, U-Turn also shows off his most vile and inhumane piece that is definitely not his smartest movie, but still a bunch of fun, if in the right mood for it.

7.5 / 10

Yeah, Sean can't be bothered because he's just too cool, yo.

Yeah, Sean can’t be bothered because he’s just too cool, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: DVD Dizzy, Horror Cult Films

Sully (2016)

He’s the Captain now.

On Jan. 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 goes up in the sky and heads for its destination. However, not long after take-off, they run into a bunch of geese, not only destroying the plane, but even going so far as to take out its engines. This leaves the two pilots, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), to have to make an emergency landing in, of all places, New York’s Hudson River. Though it’s very risky and sort of a do-or-die decision made at the last second, it miraculously works out, with all of the 155 passengers and crew surviving. As expected, this makes Skiles, but most importantly, Sully, out to be true American heroes who, after experiencing something as tragic as 9/11, need someone to look towards for inspiration. However, as is the case with most problems such as this, U.S. Airways lawyers and insurance companies want answers to what exactly happened up there in the sky, leading to an investigation of Sully’s judgement, history, and most of all, his character.

"This is your captain speaking. Yeah, we're kind of screwed."

“This is your captain speaking. Yeah, we’re kind of screwed.”

Even at age 86, Clint Eastwood is still knocking them out like nobody’s business. And sure, while Sully may not be the greatest movie he’s ever made or, god forbid anything happen, the perfect note to go out on, it’s still a solid reminder of what kind of film-maker he can be when he’s got good material to work with and seems to have some sort of inspiration to work off of. That’s not to say that everyone of Eastwood’s are “bad”, but sometimes, you can when the creative-juices are flowing, and sometimes, when they’re not. With Sully, you can tell that they are flowing and it’s nice to watch, especially since, at almost an-hour-and-a-half, it does everything that a good movie needs to do: It tells a good story, gives us solid performances, and most of all, has us going home feeling a little bit better about our lives.

Now, what’s so wrong with that? After all, aren’t most movies supposed to do that?

Actually, no, but that doesn’t matter here; Eastwood is setting out to tell this story of a hero that, honestly, time seems to have forgotten about. With Sully’s story, however, Eastwood isn’t just using his movie as a platform to pay a tribute to the man and leave it at that – he wants to tell a story of a little moment in our nation’s most recent-history that we may remember perfectly, or may not, but definitely mattered. After all, it’s people like Sully who might possibly make this world a better place and even though Eastwood, as a film-maker, could have definitely gone down the road of lionizing this man from beginning to end, instead, he shows a real human being dealing with this whole idea of fame.

However, what’s interesting about Sully’s story is that his so-called “fame”, if anything, really comes from a possible tragedy, where a man like him was just doing his job, at the perfect time that he needed to. He had to make a very smart judgement call and while some, even to this day, still feel as if he could have avoided his final solution, there’s no doubting it was a hard one to make and it’s one that, certain people like Sully, find hard to cope with and understand. Eastwood shows how, even though Sully may be looked at by the rest of the world as a flat-out “hero”, he has a hard time accepting it, or even making sense of it.

The 'staches that fly together, sit out in the freezing cold together.

The ‘staches that fly together, sit out in the freezing cold together.

As stated before, he was just a pilot flying a plane and insuring that everyone on-board made it off alive.

And as the titular character, Hanks is quite great because, as usual, he shows us a real beating heart underneath all of the gray facial and head hair. While it’s easy to just see Tom Hanks, one of the world’s most recognizable actors ever, under a bunch of make-up and hair jobs and never look past it, look harder and you’ll see Hanks really disappearing into a role that shows off everything that he can do so well. He makes us feel for a person who, in all honesty, didn’t really need all that much sympathy drawn out of us to begin with, but still, it’s nice to see him give it his 110% as we all know and expect of him to do.

Of course, it was nice to Aaron Eckhart in, finally, a good movie again, doing his best to create some comedy out the dark and dramatic moments here, and while she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, Laura Linney is still good enough to offer up plenty as Sully’s wife. And really, it’s neat to see actors like Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan play a bunch of despicable, almost evil investigators who are acting solely on the behalves of U.S. Airways. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the portrayals of them as a complete and total hatchet job, Eastwood does show them all off as being people who are, yes, doing their jobs, but also not realizing just what this man Sully did for these passengers, as well as for the nation.

And in a time like post-9/11, where New York City was still clearly reeling from tragedy, trying to make sense of everything and not looking forward to stepping onto planes again, it mattered.

Consensus: With a solid leading-role from the always dependable Hanks, as well as a melodic, but smart direction from Eastwood who, even at age 86, is still capable of reminding us that movies like Sully deserve to be made, if solely to pay a tribute to those smaller heroes we don’t always think about on a day-to-day basis.

7.5 / 10

Follow him. He's Tom Hanks.

Follow him. He’s Tom Hanks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, the Wrap

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Some of the greatest loves are the from those who just take pictures of bridges.

While she is, in no way, considered bored with the life she lives with her family, Italian immigrant, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), still feels as if there’s a little something more to her life that she’s possibly missing out on. Not sure what that is, she takes to just doing her own thing for a few days, while her family is out and about at the Illinois State Fair. But one fateful day, she meets the illustrious and incredibly confident Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), a photographer for National Geographic who was sent around the world to take pictures of the world’s oldest and most well-known covered bridges. It sounds boring to some, but to Francesca, she’s so interested that she can’t help but take a liking to the world of photographer, but also to Robert himself. And you know what? Despite her being married and whatnot, Robert takes a liking to her and brings up the possibility of an affair – a small decision that would continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. For better, and especially, for worse.

Meryl photogenic? No! You don't say?

Meryl? Photogenic? No! You don’t say?

Sound a little Nicholas Sparks-y, eh? Well, that’s because it’s supposed to – after all, Sparks novels of forbidden and tragic love come from a special place in each and everyone’s worlds and hearts, and it’s what we call love. Actual love. You know, where two people meet, get to know one another, figure out what they do and don’t like about the other person, spend more time with them, and yes, eventually, over time, fall in love.

It’s a crazy thing, but hey, it does exist in this place that we like to call Earth, right?

Well, that’s why a movie like the Bridges of Madison County, as corny and as sappy as it may sound, is anything but. If anything, it’s a heartfelt and endearing snapshot in the lives of two people who, clearly, had a lot of life to live before and after the time that they met and got to know one another, but for some reason, clearly seem to have been so taken by this point in their lives, that it makes them who they are. It’s the kind of movie you wouldn’t expect for Eastwood to not just star in, but direct, but somehow, he makes it work, showing that with enough attention and detail to the smaller things in a story like this, everything can work out so perfectly.

After all, when you’re telling a romance tale, all you really need is a romance that’s easy to believe in and to root for. And that’s what we get with Robert and Francesca, two people who seem to be almost polar opposites upon first glance, but after a short time, begin to get to know and love one another, gradually and realistically, even if it may seem like they’re just serving a plot. But that’s why two class-acts like Eastwood and Streep are meant for these kinds of movies; the romance at the center may seem shoddy and rushed, to a fault, so it’s up to them to figure out small, but important ways on how to get it to work where we fully do trust that they are in love and against the rest of the world.

Which is to say that, yes, Eastwood and Streep are pretty great here, whether they’re together, or not.

It's okay, Meryl. Just win another Oscar.

It’s okay, Meryl. Just win another Oscar.

For Eastwood, it’s interesting to see him in a different, much more romantic and sweet light. Sure, he’s quiet and subdued as usual here, but he’s also got something of a heart that’s easy to spot at the very beginning, and not something that we have to search for. Despite what sneaky things Robert may be up to, the movie always makes it out to appear that he has the best intentions at heart and it shows – you almost always get the sense that he doesn’t just want some quick and easy nookie, but a woman to love and care for, what with him getting older and not really having any seeds planted out there in the world.

With Streep, the two create a nice bit of chemistry that continues to build and build over time, with him always egging her on to say something more about her life, and with her, constantly seeming like she’s got something on the tip of her tongue, but is too shy to actually get it out. As Francesca, Streep is, as usual, amazing, handling a really heavy Italian-accent very well, while also giving us a female lead that feels honest and raw, but never brutal. The movie never judges her for what she choices to do and because of that, it feels like we get to know more and more about her, through the life she tells us about, as opposed to who she decides to and decides not to, sleep with.

That said, as good as Streep and Eastwood are together, there’s an issue that Eastwood, the director, runs into and it’s that he has two plot-lines going on here, with one far more interesting than the other.

While the romance between Streep and Eastwood is lovely, nice, sweet and powerful, there’s also this story revolving around Francesca’s two kids, older and grown-up, having to figure out their own lives and what they want to do next. Though Annie Corley and Victor Slezak are two good actors in their own right, here, the material just doesn’t work for them; Corley seems too whiny and conceited to be sympathetic and Slezak’s line-readings are so wild and crazy, that it makes me wonder why there wasn’t at least 50 takes of every one of this guys’ scenes. Of course, this is what usually comes to happen with Eastwood’s movies – they’re never perfect and always taken down by a weak element, but still good enough to watch.

It’s just a shame that that had to happen here.

Consensus: The real heart and emotion of the Bridges of Madison County lies within Eastwood and Streep’s great chemistry and performances, while the subplot occasionally gets in the way, creating more of a fine piece of romance, as opposed to a great one.

7.5 / 10

Sordid affairs have never looked so sweet.

Sordid affairs have never looked so sweet.

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

 

Finding Forrester (2000)

Forrester. William Forrester.

After novelist William Forrester (Sean Connery) discovers that a young athlete named Jamal (Rob Brown) is also an excellent writer, he secretly takes him on as his protégé. There, they develop something of an unlikely friendship. As they learn more about each other, they learn more about themselves, and ultimately, with the help of his new mentor, the basketball star must choose the right path between following his writing dreams or his hoop dreams.

Despite this being a Gus Van Sant flick, Finding Forrester‘s overall story itself is pretty damn conventional. Just in the same way that Good Will Hunting was, essentially, a simple inspirational tale of one small-time genius coming to know more about himself, the world around him, and how to use his smarts to his advantage, Finding Forrester is about the same thing, except this time, with a bit of a different focus than before. Rather than seeing the perspective from low-class, foul-mouthed boy from Boston, this time around, we have a 16-year-old black kid, living in New York. It may not seem all that different, but in a way, there’s short and tiny spins on the age-old story that makes Finding Forrester still work.

"Listen up, kid. Don't be like Mozart."

“Listen up, kid. Don’t be like Mozart.”

Then again, it’s not nearly as great as Good Will Hunting.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect that Finding Forrester offers to this story is that, for someone like Jamal, who looks like what Jamal looks like, and because of the kinds of perks that come with him, he’s never allowed to grow to his fullest potential. In today’s day and age, the issue with race is quite frequent, with many kids just like Jamal never getting their chance to shine and show the world what they can do, even they truly are the masterminds that they’re made out to be. Van Sant sees this small world of the private school system, kind of as this cold, dark and sadistic place where the usual people flourish, mostly because they have all of the money and connections to do so, but the outsiders, don’t. Instead, they are treated as outliers who need to get with the program, or else they’ll be thrown out immediately.

It’s quite sad to see this played out on screen, but it’s something I myself saw while going to a private school in my first year of college and unfortunately, it happens more often than you think.

Then again, Finding Forrester isn’t all that dark or dramatic, even though I make it seem that way; if anything, it’s just a darker, much slower drama than Good Will Hunting. And because of that, the movie definitely runs into problems with pacing, where it seems like it picks itself up to get going, then stops, then starts again, then stops, and then, for some reason or another, Van Sant himself gets distracted by whatever is working his mind and loses whatever build-up he was working with. In all honesty, this is a frequent problem with Van Sant and his movies, which is why it’s a huge issue with Finding Forrester and it’s two-hour-and-16-minute run-time – it comes close to feeling like every minute of it, mostly because Van Sant doesn’t always know when to cut a scene, or at least do any bit of a trimming.

But really, the movie, as well as the sluggish pace, is basically saved by the two leads and what they bring to this sometimes wonderful material. Sean Connery, as usual, is great as William Forrester and does everything he can to make this character more than just another one of those “out-of-touch, old dudes” who we tend to see in movies such as these. However, this is Sean Connery we’re talking about here and the guy doesn’t let you forget about his charm that never seems to go away no matter how many years pass, his comedic-timing that has never left him, no matter how serious he tries to be, and his handsome looks that still, even at age 82, makes him look as good as ever.

Spin a ball, you can spin a book. Or at least that's how I think it goes.

Spin a ball, you can spin a book. Or at least that’s how I think it goes.

May sound weird, but hey, so be it. Sean Connery’s a great talent and needs to come back for at least one more movie, so that we can all wipe the stink of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman away.

But as good as Connery is, Rob Brown doesn’t lose any ground here, either, and it’s one of the better debuts ever seen on film. As I’ve made a mention about Jamal before, he’s a good character because he is a smart, but yet, troubled that obviously knows the difference between right and wrong, but also is still a kid growing up in a place of society that doesn’t always accept him for what he is. Because of that, Brown has to do a lot of heavy-lifting that he works quite well with, showing a great deal of angst, as well as growth in a character that desperately needed it to seem believable. Brown’s had a good career since this, but honestly, he deserves so much work.

And together, Brown and Connery work well off of one another, showing a great deal of chemistry and fun between two people you wouldn’t expect to see that from. That said, the rest of the cast and characters are pretty awful and it’s a shame because Forrester and Jamal are truly compelling. People like F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Michael Pitt, and even Busta Rhymes, all show up here and do what they can with the material given to them, but a lot of their characters are so one-note and boring, that it’s hard to ever take them seriously, or care about whether they exist in this story or not. Abraham’s character is probably the most distasteful and while he’s a smart enough actor not to have a role like this jump into caricature, there’s still a sense that no matter what, this character will always be the villain in the movie. Same goes for Michael Pitt’s character and while she’s not necessarily considered a “villain”, Anna Paquin’s love-interest is just boring. The only one who seems to be trying anything different and at least somewhat succeeding is Busta Rhymes, but after awhile, he’s just left to give Jamal inspirational speeches that could have definitely been left to Connery.

Then again, a battle between Connery and Busta would probably make a better movie, as much as it pains me to say.

Consensus: Finding Forrester definitely suffers from being a lot like Good Will Hunting, in terms of subject matter and themes, but also benefits from a solid one-two punch of Sean Connery and Rob Brown, and their characters, even if the direction isn’t always there to pick them up.

7 / 10

"Yes, dog?"

“Yes, dog?”

Photos Courtesy of: Doeppi’s Blog

Morris From America (2016)

Those Germans need to get with the times.

After his mom died, Morris (Markees Christmas) and his dad (Craig Robinson) had to relocate to Germany, where the later currently works for the country’s soccer-team. While his dad is off, working, making money and trying to stay sociable and fun when he’s still reeling from the death of his wife, Morris is trying to keep his cool, have fun, make friends, and at the same time, learn German. However, it’s a lot harder for Morris than any other German kid, because not only is he American, but he’s also black and a lot of the kids his age tend to pick on him for that reason. The only one who doesn’t is Katrin (Lina Keller), an older girl who is definitely a lot more rebellious than her fellow teenagers and hangs out with Morris a lot, making him feel as if he’s got a shot of making it with her. But sooner or later, Morris starts to act out in ways that upsets his dad and his tutor (Carla Juri), leading Morris to be more and more rebellious, while still trying to live out of his dream of, one day, becoming a successful rapper.

Uh oh. Teenage boy and girl on bed.

Uh oh. Teenage boy and girl on bed.

Morris From America is an odd flick in that I’m not quite sure who it’s for. It’s a coming-of-ager of sorts, that mostly all people can relate, but it’s also kind of a kids movie. Then again, it’s the kind of kids movie where characters cuss, do drugs, and even have phone-sex. If anything, it’s less of an inaccessible movie, as much as it’s one that’s so adult, that it actually pushes away the target audience who it could be made for and could clearly benefit from seeing this the most.

But either way, it doesn’t matter, because Morris From America is still a fine flick; it’s the kind that seems conventional and definitely is, but it’s heart is big, pure and so full of love, that even despite its conventions and often times, random bits of oddness that doesn’t seem to go anywhere, it’s hard to hate. It’s a teddy bear of a movie – soft, furry, and so cuddly, that it wants love and in return, you give it the love it oh so desires. Does that necessarily make it a great movie? Not really, but it makes it a good one that, on paper, probably shouldn’t be as good as it look and definitely sounds.

Cause really, even despite it trying to seem really hard like a witty and likable coming-of-ager for all the black teens forced to live in Germany, it’s actually a lot darker and far more serious than that.

For instance, it’s the kind of movie where the bullying seems downright mean, but also believable and kind of disturbing. Not to get into too many details, but Morris is picked-on from where he’s from, what he looks like, and is often called “Kobe Bryant”, by the white, German kids around him – normally, in films such as these, the teasing can sometimes seem random and deliberate, as if the movie itself just knew that it needed to conjure up some tension – but surprisingly, it doesn’t feel that way here. What Morris gets teased for is believable, as cruel as it may be, and yeah, it doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to stop, either. Writer/director Chad Hartigan takes a bold step showing that no matter how hard Morris himself tries, he may never be as loved or as accepted as he should, and it’s pretty sad to watch.

If he tells you to go to your room, you best do it.

If he tells you to go to your room, you best do it.

But it also makes Morris all the more sympathetic, even if he can be a little bratty and selfish at times. Still though, Hartigan makes it very clear that Morris is a 13-year-old boy, who literally has no clue what’s going on around him half of the time and is still trying to make sense of himself, his life and his surroundings, and because of that, he’s going to make a lot of dumb decisions. Also, who hasn’t done stupid things at age 13? Yeah, like I said, it’s a sympathetic character and it’s one that Markees Christmas is pretty great with, even despite being so young. While I’m not sure if it’s his first movie or not, the movie gives him a lot to do, even when he has no dialogue; a simple look here and there is more than needed to make this character work and still be believable, and he handles it all well, seeming like a professional and definitely a young actor with bright things to come.

And hell, with that lovely name, how could he not?

But honestly, the biggest shock and perhaps most pleasant surprise of Morris From America is just how perfect Craig Robinson is in a role that does not seem tailor-made for him. For the longest time, Robinson has always been seen as the big and likable goof-ball, who says and does funny things when needed, and yeah, he always kills it at that. And while he’s definitely still that funny, chuckle-worthy dude here, it’s a lot more serious this time around and it works amazingly. Every scene where Robinson shows up, is gold because there’s a certain sense of sadness to his character, that you feel for, but at the same time, you also know that he’s got something smart to say and bring to the rest of the scene. Though the advertising may have you think otherwise, Robinson is not in the movie all of the time, but if that was the case, it would be no problem, as it’s as much of his flick, considering what he has to do and how he pulls it off so effortlessly.

And yes, it definitely made me forget of Mr. Robinson, thank heavens.

Consensus: Heartfelt and poignant, Morris From America is a sweet and sometimes honest tale about growing up, fitting in, finding your voice, and trying to get through the hard times, but never being sappy or melodramatic about any of it.

7 / 10

Eh. Germany's weird anyway.

Eh. Germany’s weird anyway.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

War Dogs (2016)

The American Dream, circa Generation-Y, yo.

David Packouz (Miles Teller) hasn’t made much of his life since the days of high school. When he isn’t giving rich dudes massages for $75 an hour, he’s out there, trying to sell high-end bed sheets to retirement homes. Needless to say, it’s a very unfortunate life he has, but with the return of his old pal, Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), his luck may have changed. Seeing as how they were best pals back in the day and can probably trust one another with everything, Efraim asks for David to be his partner in his selling and supplying weapons to U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan. While David isn’t quite sure of how this arms-dealing business works, he soon learns the ropes and wouldn’t you know it? Him and Efraim are raking in all sorts of dough, not to mention getting the interest of the Pentagon, who see two youngsters making it big and succesful in America. However though, little does anyone outside of David or Efraim know, that the two are up to no good and more often than not, finding themselves in some murky areas of the law that may possibly bring them down, have them arrested, or better yet, even get them killed.

I'm impressed, too.

I’m impressed, too.

For Todd Phillips, it seems like War Dogs is his the Big Short. Whereas the later was directed by Adam McKay, someone trying to break out of the mold of directing silly comedies, by exposing the U.S.’s financial history and how it caused for the rest of society to go insane, War Dogs shows Phillips trying to do the same thing, but by exposing America’s reliance on guns and arms-dealers, most importantly, this true tale. In fact, the tale is so crazy and wild, that you’d think making a movie and trying to capture that sense of wackiness would be pretty difficult, but honestly, Phillips works well with the material.

It may not be the movie that makes him out to be a voice to be reckoned with, but it’s a step in the right direction away from another Hangover movie.

Anyway, yeah, what works best about War Dogs is that it has such a crazy real-life tale, that all Phillips really has to do is play by the facts of the story and leave it at that. He, as well as the movie, works best at that because there’s a certain sense of seriousness hiding underneath every zany moment; just when you think it’s all “too good to be true”, check it out and guess what? It’s damn true.

War Dogs is also the kind of movie that has a lot of story and ground to cover, yet, handles it quite effortlessly. The movie could have easily been tied-down in trying to explain just how these two bros were able to access all of these weapons in the first place, but instead of focusing down on that so much, they make a mention of it and continue on with these guys’ adventure into becoming legitimate arms-dealers. It’s kind of a silly tale, but it’s one that’s hard not to believe in, nor get tied-up in because there really is an energy and excitement to it that hasn’t been found in any of Phillips’ movies since the first Hangover.

And in ways, War Dogs is a lot less like the Big Short, than it’s more like Blow, or as it wishes, possibly even Scarface.

It’s the kind of movie that we’ve probably seen before, has a whole lot of ambitions that it doesn’t necessarily reach, but is so entertaining and fun when it gets moving, that it’s hard to hold anything against. Phillips does something smart in that he doesn’t focus too much on the small, itty, bitty details and instead, just lets loose and allows for us to watch as these guys rise up the ranks. We know we’re supposed to hate them for what they’re doing and who they’re supplying weapons to, but honestly, it’s so difficult to do so when the ride of watching them become more and more rich, is so much fun to begin with.

And honestly, in a summer that’s been filled with quite a few duds, it’s nice to have a movie that’s having fun with itself, but also ask for the audience to join in it as well.

Miles, guns are bad. Stay away. Unless you can make a pretty penny off of them, then forget about it.

Miles, guns are bad. Stay away. Unless you can make a pretty penny off of them, then forget about it.

That said, War Dogs does run into issues with seeming like it wants to have something more to do and say about what story it’s presenting, but ultimately, drops the ball on that front. Phillips himself seems as if he’s both for and against these guys; he likes how they’ve seemingly used their smarts and cons to get all of the money that they wanted and seem like legitimate businessman while doing so, but at the same time, also doesn’t like how they went about their business-dealings. The movie does toggle with the idea of making money off of terrorists, as opposed to making it off of government agencies, but as soon as its brought up, it goes away.

It’s a bit of a shame, too, because War Dogs does work whenever it seems as if it wants to dig deeper into these characters, their lives, and their relationship with one another. It helps that Teller and Hill are perhaps the most charismatic young actors we have working today, but regardless, the two work so well together that they do feel like best pals, who are absolutely loving everything about life. Teller gets to play his role more meek and quiet this time around, whereas Hill gets to play slimy and gritty, but also showing that he may be a good friend, as well.

The issue is that with these two characters, that’s only who they end up being: Best pals.

They run through certain problems that all business-partners run through and yeah, they also have small squabbles in between, but there’s more of a heart missing to this movie that makes so many of those other crime-dramas work so well. We may not have to like their actions, or better yet, even like them as a whole, but any sort of characteristic that resembles being sympathetic, would definitely help make this journey all the more compelling. It still works as is, don’t get me wrong, but a little more attention to the stuff that counts would have helped out a whole lot.

Consensus: Fast, exciting and above all else, entertaining, War Dogs paints it true story as a typical rags-to-riches story, but with a darker edge, even if it doesn’t always connect with every mark it sets out to hit.

7.5 / 10

True bros.

True bros.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Encounters at the End of World (2007)

There’s weirdos everywhere you go. Especially in the Antarctic.

Infamously well-known film-maker Werner Herzog decides that he’s had with normal, everyday society and travels all the way to the Antarctic community of McMurdo Station, the current headquarters of the National Science Foundation and only home to roughly around 1,100 people during the austral summer, which is October to February). While Herzog initially expects for himself to be enamored with the beautiful sights and all of the lovely, exquisite creatures that this land has to offer, eventually, as Herzog typically does, he gets a tad bit distracted from the all of the beautiful sights and starts paying more and more attention to the citizens of this land and just how they get by, being so far away from the rest of the world. This leads Herzog to interviewing many colorful and crazy characters, like marine biologists, physicists, plumbers, and truck drivers – all of whom have a story to tell and all tell it to Herzog, even if he never quite knows just what he’s getting at.

But then again, with this being a Werner Herzog documentary, are you at all surprised?

What?

Yeah, I don’t know what that is, but that dude may be in trouble.

Encounters at the End of the World is a brave and beautiful documentary that works on two formats. One way, it’s a nature documentary that could definitely be broadcast on the Discovery Channel, highlighting all of the surreal and powerful beauty of this land and the creatures that inhabit it. But on the other way, it also works as one of Herzog’s adventures into the mind and soul of people we don’t normally see in movies, let alone, ever hear about. It’s typical for Herzog to do this in his documentaries, but here, it feels a whole lot more unncessary and almost annoying.

Because, to be honest, there’s a lot of beauty lying underneath the surface of the flick, and not just through its visuals, either. Herzog travels to this land, obviously, to figure out more about the Antarctic, the way its being preserved and, honestly, how much longer it all has before its one big swimming pool. While there’s definitely an underlying global warming and environmental message talked about here, Herzog doesn’t hit us over the head too much with it – he knows that this beautiful piece of nature should be conserved and held in the highest most priority of everyday citizens who really care about this world that we believe in, but he also knows that sometimes, it’s best to leave those ideas up in the air and not always hammer away at them.

Watching this flick and seeing all of the insanely brave that Herzog and his crew is able to capture, honestly puts you in the mind-set of wanting to save the world for all that it is. This may not have been Herzog’s intention in the first place, but it’s still a friendly reminder that out there, in the deepest regions of the world, there’s some real beauty. Sometimes, we just need to see it to believe in it fully.

Then again, Herzog doesn’t really focus on these finer points too much, as his mind wanders, from person to person, as what tends to always happen with his flicks.

Which is sometimes fine, however here, it gets in the way of what could have been a much more focused, much more understated documentary about the great, big world. He gets some interesting interviews out of these odd townsfolk, who have a lot more on their mind than you’d expect them to, but really, it’s Herzog’s sometimes innane line-of-questioning that always gets me. Why on Earth is he so interested in penguins having sex? Or better yet, whether there are any gay penguins in the first place?

Huh?

Where’s that pineapple under the sea?

Sure, it takes someone as zany as Herzog to ask these questions, but do they really need to be asked? Can’t we just sort of leave them on the floor, pick them up later, and, possibly, just Google them? Yeah, we probably, actually, most definitely can, but for some reason, Herzog feels the inspiration to ask these odd questions and they don’t do much, except stop the flick in its tracks.

So yeah, in a way, Encounters at the End of the World is, essentially, two movies, ripped-together into one. It’s not necessarily a cohesive piece, as much as it’s just an interesting one that seems to have greater aspirations than just looking and pointing at its pretty sights, but sometimes, the deeper and meaningful questions don’t always work, especially when they come from Herzog. He’s made some honestly great documentaries out there in the past and nine times out of ten, a question will hit and deliver the kind of powerful moment he probably intends for it to, but often times, he loses himself. He doesn’t always know when’s best to just keep quiet and let his subjects talk, as goofy as they may be.

But sometimes, that’s what makes people like these so interesting: They aren’t who you’d expect them to be and that’s alright.

Same goes for the world that’s way, way out there in the world.

Consensus: Beautiful and powerful to gaze at, Encounters at the End of the World shows off Herzog’s strength in capturing compelling images in real life, however, also shows us that he can’t always handle an interview perfectly and can often times get in the way of everything else that’s going on.

7 / 10

Run away, little penguin friend! Be free and quite possibly die!

Run away, little penguin friend! Be free and quite possibly die!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, And So It Begins

Polisse (2011)

See, not all cops are terrible, immoral human beings!

The men and women who work in the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police see and deal with a lot on a regular basis. They not only deal with the stress of their jobs but the inevitable fall-out in their personal lives-breakdowns, including, but definitely not limited to, divorce, adulterous relations within the force, and most importantly, depression. After all, seeing the world through some of this abused and endangered children can do quite a number on a person, and when you’re seeing it about a dozen times a day, eventually, all of that pain and turmoil can begin to take a toll on you. As is the case with mostly every member of the Parisian Police, they deal with a lot, but they also have such a strong unit that even when they do run into issues, whatever they may be, they always come together and help each other. But sometimes, as is most of the cases here, that doesn’t always happen and often times, the members can feel betrayed and left-out, without a hand to hold, or a shoulder to cry on.

Uh oh. Some bad person's going to get it.

Uh oh. Some bad person’s going to get it.

A lot of Polisse, honestly, feels like a documentary. Writer/director Maïwenn does something smart and interesting with her material in that she allows for it all to be filmed in all-too real way, where we’re literally flies on the walls, watching as this police unit do everything that they do during a normal working day and night. She doesn’t pass any judgement on any character, she doesn’t paint any person as a sort of a “caricature”, and she sure as hell doesn’t get in the way of everything that’s happening; if anything, her camera is just there to be documentation for all that these policemen and woman have to put up with on a regular basis.

And yes, it can get pretty brutal.

But once again, Maïwenn does something interesting with the material in that she doesn’t allow for it all to get so bogged down in the sadness and misery of the proceedings. While the cases that we hear and see play-out can sometimes be all too disturbing and screwed-up, Maïwenn shows that this, yet again, another day in the life of these men and women. She’s not lionizing them and making them out to be perfect human beings, nor is she really making it seem like what they do is the hardest job of all – she’s just showing that they have a job to do and it can be, often times, a pretty miserable one.

Even if the movie itself doesn’t get too bogged down in the sad aspects of the story, the lives of some of these characters can be, and it’s interesting that Maïwenn put her focus on these characters in the first place. Normally, whenever watching a piece on child-abuse cases and scandals, the focus is normally put on the abused and the abuser, without much variation of the form. Here, however, Maïwenn puts her focus on, honestly, the people who really matter the most; they’re the ones who follow the case from the very beginning and do whatever it is that they can to find the person responsible, and stop them before they continue to go on and cause more pain and harm to children.

If anything, they’re the heroes of the story, but how come they don’t often get the spotlight they deserve?

The kid looks up to the police now, but wait till they get a little older and start to see the world.

The kid looks up to the police now, but wait till they get a little older and start to see the world. Sadly, it may not last.

Either way, Maïwenn paints them all in an honest, never shying away from their issues, as well as what makes them so good at their job in the first place. While it would have been incredibly easy for Maïwenn to show each and everyone of these characters as near-perfect human beings, without a fault in their systems, she goes one step further and shows that, in some ways, they’re more screwed-up than you’d expect – sometimes, it’s because of the job, sometimes, it’s not. They don’t always make the right decisions and they sure as hell don’t always know when enough is, well, enough, but they do their jobs to the best of their ability and they got the job done.

Sometimes, isn’t that all you really need?

Of course, the ensemble cast of characters work best because of the cast working with them, some of whom get more love and attention than others, which is fine, because they’re all good. Joeystarr plays Fred and has some of the more emotional and powerful scenes of the whole flick, showing just how his own home situation can come out onto the work that he’s doing in bad, unprofessional ways; Karin Viard plays Nadine showing an emotional vulnerability unseen in the rest of the characters; and while she’s considered an out-lier by the rest of the characters, Marina Foïs plays the photographer, documenting this group as they all pal around together and try to make ends meet on the job, showing a lot more insight than you’d expect.

But really, what makes all of these characters work so well together is that there’s a real feeling of love and connection between them all, making it feel as if they really are a family, that can’t be toyed with or destroyed, no matter how many harrowing experiences come in their way. The movie, once again, doesn’t make them out to be perfect human beings, but shows that sometimes, having the hand of your fellow man or woman, is sometimes what helps people out the most.

All it takes is a little hand-holding.

Consensus: Polisse doesn’t shy away from the gritty and upsetting features of its story/cases, but it also shows us real, honest characters that don’t so often get the attention that they probably deserve.

8.5 / 10

Hey! That's not UPS!

Hey! That’s not UPS!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sausage Party (2016)

I prefer my groceries non-verbal and dead, thank you very much.

Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage in a grocery store and just like every other product in this grocery store, they all dream of a better life, where they’re picked up by customers, taken out of their plastic wrappers, and brought onto “the promised land”. While no product has any actual idea of what lies ahead, once they are picked up and bought, their imaginations run so wild that they create a song and dance number to make themselves more attractive to the customers, or as they call them, “Gods”. For Frank, however, it’s less about being taken to this so-called “promised land”, and more or less allowed to finally have some sweet, sweaty and dirty sex with his girlfriend, a bun named Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig). But for some reason, as of late, Frank has been contemplating the world outside of the grocery store and because of this, he doesn’t really know if he wants to be taken to “the promised land”, leading him on this wild adventure of getting back on the store-shelves, while also ensuring that what he’s doing is right.

You know, what normal store-bought sausage franks think about on a regular basis.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The whole idea of Sausage Party is that it’s an R-rated, raunchy-as-all-hell, mean, vulgar, and nasty animated flick that’s mean to some sort of play on Toy Story, where inanimate objects walk, talk, and act, just like you or I, yet, at the same time, don’t really know much about the world around them, other than what they see in their small, contained worlds and possibly what their told. Honestly, it’s a genius idea that’s a lot more ambitious than it sounds and given the cast and crew involved, it’s a surprise that this didn’t come around sooner. Studios already have issues shelling out loads and loads of money to R-rated movies as is, let alone animated ones that are clearly not at all for kids, even if they’ll probably see the numerous ads, billboards and posters, wondering just what it’s all about and whether or not their parents can take them to see it.

Which is why Sausage Party, despite not being a great movie, is still a step in the right direction for more of these kinds of flicks to come out. Sure, they may be a better, or they may be a lot worse than Sausage Party, but still, they’re R-rated animated flicks, made by and strictly for adults. All of this garbage said, Sausage Party works when it’s trying to be a little more than what it appears to be on the surface; there’s lots of swears and cursing going on, some of which just feel like overkill, but there are also some nice little plays on this grocery-store world and puns, that make it feel like this movie had to take place with the kind of story that it has.

But then again, there’s also a slew of jokes and plays-on-words that are meant to be funny, but unfortunately, just aren’t.

Tequila's always fun no matter what form.

Tequila’s always fun no matter what form.

And really, that’s what it all comes down to when you’re working with a comedy – the jokes have to be funny and if they aren’t, then it’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times in which I laughed during Sausage Party, but there were also plenty of times that I didn’t, and it seemed disappointing, considering that everyone involved here are funny people and can make me laugh like a hyena, when they feel is necessary. The fact that they don’t always win me over with laughter, is fine, but when your movie is literally one joke after another, and a good portion of them don’t connect, it’s hard not to notice.

That said, Sausage Party still does work, because it’s got more on its mind than just talking-food – as was the case with This is the End, Sausage Party is a movie in which Apatow friends and company, all question their existence and wonder whether or not there is more to life than just what’s being presented to them. It’s a silly allegory, mostly due to the fact that it’s talking-food asking and looking for answers to these burning questions, but it’s an allegory that’s still smart and makes sense, given this story and these characters. There’s also all of this talk of race relations, religion and, believe it or not, politics, all of which don’t really feel necessary and don’t always work, but still make this more than what you’d expect it to be.

But still, Sausage Party isn’t trying to change the world we live in, and that’s okay. It’s a silly movie, that has fun with itself to the point of where it’s enjoyable and it doesn’t ask for much attention or thought necessary. The cast, as usual, is great, with Nick Kroll probably the stand-out as the Deuche, who sounds and acts like a Jersey Shore bro, as well as Edward Norton doing a very odd Woody Allen-impersonation. Not sure if the movie needed that later one, but hey, Edward Norton voicing a bagel is pretty cool, so I’ll take it.

I may not eat it, because that’s creepy, but I’ll take it.

Consensus: While not necessarily lighting the comedic world on fire, Sausage Party still works well with its creative idea, bringing out laughs and a surprising amount of food-for-thought while it’s at it.

7 / 10

Hungry now?

Hungry now?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hero (1992)

HeroposterEveryone’s a little super. Just look closely and stop judging!

Bernie Laplante (Dustin Hoffman) is known as a cheap-skate, a swindler, and just all around rat, who can’t be trusted with anything, or anyone. However, he makes the first selfless gesture of his life when he helps save injured passengers from a roadside plane crash. Before he can get any sort of recognition or praise for this righteous act of heroism, he vanishes into thin air, feeling as if he’s got nothing else to offer. But Bernie is very wrong, because not only are people out there looking for him, but most of all, the one, the only reporter Gale Gayley (Geena Davis) is now interested in finding this mystery man who put his own life at risk. And in by doing so, she announces a $1 million prize for anyone who is willing and able to step forward. But when handsome vagrant John Bubber (Andy Garcia) takes credit, Bernie now feels like it’s time to speak up, even while all of the media is centered on this one story.

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

Hero is a sloppy film in that it balances out a lot of what it wants to say, do, and actually be, but still, it all comes together because, when you get right down to it, it’s an enjoyable movie, with some great performances to be found. Sometimes, that’s honestly all you need in a movie, no matter how messy, muggy, or dirty it may actually be.

Okay, maybe that’s not always the case, but you get my point, right?

Anyway, what Hero benefits from the most is a great cast on-deck who feel as if they are more than capable of taking on this material and giving it all that they’ve got, even if they do sometimes feel like they’re far much better than the material itself. Hoffman especially is great in the lead because while he’s definitely an unlikable and pathetic bum, who constantly steals and rips people off for his own self-gain, he’s still likable and fun to watch. This is the beauty of Hoffman – give him a gritty character, a bunch of unlikable traits, and still, watch him as he works wonders into making him the most lovable guy in the whole world. The script always wants to give you the sense that there’s good in this man, but Hoffman does away with them in smart moves; you almost get the sense that Hoffman would have preferred for this character to have been more detestable and mean, but unfortunately, the movie is too light and quick on its feet to really get down and deep into those dark waters.

If anything, it wants to play around, have some fun, make jokes, but also be “about something”, which is what kind of ruins it in the end.

Cause honestly, Hero is the kind of movie that, yes, on the surface, it’s about something, but for some reason, the direction from Stephen Frears doesn’t seem to show that. If anything, Frears seems more interested in having fun with this situation and watching it spiral more and more out of control; it’s like a Capra crowd-pleaser, but obviously, a lot more modern. However, that’s the central issue with Hero – it never fully feels like it’s as funny, or as light as it should be, nor does it feel like it ever gets as dark or serious as it should.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

What Hero seems to be talking about here is how the media portrays certain people as being hero’s, for the sole sake of ratings and attention, even if, deep down inside, these people are evil and ugly human beings, really. There’s been plenty of movies made about this topic and honestly, given today’s world of media, you don’t even need movies to know this – just turn on the tube and you’ll see what picture the world paints of celebrities and athletes. That said, it is hard to get down on David Webb Peoples and his script for trying, because Hero is the rare big-budget movie, with A-list stars, that’s more than willing to ask the hard questions.

Sure, it may not give the answers it oh so desires, but sometimes, all you need is a little question to make it all matter most.

Anyway, Hero‘s messy, but it’s a fun and, at times, interesting mess. It is something of a redemption story that, because of Hoffman and his dedication to his craft, is a lot smarter and sweeter than it may have intended to be. Even all of the media stuff, as wild and hectic as it can sometimes get, still works because of Geena Davis, in full-on charm-mode, showing us a character who may be sad, deep down inside, but is still looking for that story of her lifetime to make her feel somewhat complete as much as she possibly can. The movie never gets as deep with her as I make it sound, but trust me, there’s something there, if you look close enough.

And yeah, even Andy Garcia is fine; while comedy has never been his strong suit, there’s something to this character that makes you hate him, but also like him as well. The movie is filled with characters like these and it’s actually quite refreshing to watch; we know we’re supposed to like them, but there’s still factors and ideas about them that make that much harder to be a reality. Why more and more movies can’t feature these kinds of attributes is beyond me, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Doesn’t matter the decade it comes from.

Consensus: Albeit messy, Hero still benefits from a great class, interesting ideas, and an entertaining approach to a premise that could have easily been boring, preachy and sad.

7 / 10

All of the men can't wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

All of the men can’t wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

Photos Courtesy of: Rob’s Movie Vault, Virtual History, Cineplex

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)

Laundromats were invented to bring people closer together.

In a seedy corner of London, where the tourists aren’t quite encouraged to travel out to see and witness, Omar (Gordon Warnecke), a young Pakistani, is given a run-down laundromat by his uncle (Saeed Jaffrey). His uncle hopes for it to be as successful as every other business idea he has made in this great land of opportunity, which leads Omar to do whatever he can to make sure all goes smoothly and according to plan. But soon after, Omar is attacked by a group of racist punks, leading him to question whether or not he wants to give this job a shot in the first place. All issues go out the window, though, when he realizes their leader is his former lover, Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis). The men decide that it’s best to work together and see what they can make of this laundromat, while also trying to continue their relationship. However, certain social issues arise, when people start to find out that they’re more than just business-partners and are, in fact, get ready for it, in love.

Those blond-streaks are killer, though.

Those blond-streaks are killer, though.

My Beautiful Laundrette feels and acts a tad like a student film. While Stephen Frears was no slouch by the time this movie was made and released, there’s still that feeling that he may be rushing things a tad too much. After all, making a movie and getting it out to the general public is difficult as is, so might as well get all that you can, out there for everyone to see, right?

That’s why, while watching Laundrette, I couldn’t help but wonder why Frears himself wouldn’t slow things down a bit. Granted, it does keep a story like this interesting, just by moving at an efficient pace, but it also makes us lose out on some of the smaller, more intricate details of the plot and the characters that would make a movie like this so rich and pure. It’s almost as if the script was much, much longer, so Frears himself decided to hit all of the bullet-points and just expect the audience to fall in line with everything that he showed and left it at that.

It doesn’t quite work, but that isn’t to say that Hanif Kureishi’s script isn’t good, because it is.

What Kureishi does best is that he balances out the actual heart and humanity of these characters, with the certain social-issues that surround them. However, Kureishi doesn’t make these social-issues and concerns the sole factor in determining who these characters are; it’s something that they represent, but they’re much more than just their points and opinions about society and politics. For instance, a great example of this is Saeed Jaffrey’s Nasser – he’s the uncle of the family who came over to England at a very young age and, metaphorically speaking, took the bull by the horns. He saw a land, rich with opportunity, and he decided to go for it, becoming successful, but also opening up the doors for those others just like him who are looking to make a break in a foreign land.

But what’s interesting about the script is how it shows that this can also be something of his demise; in a way, it’s made him more pompous and forget exactly who he is, where he comes from, and who he’s supposed to love. Jaffrey’s performance is wonderful and it helps make Nasser the most interesting character of the bunch, because we know what he’s supposed to represent, but the script is too smart to get bogged down by all of this and just focus on this one, in particular detail. Same goes for the gay love-angle – for a movie from 1985, Laundrette is surprisingly modern and not all that dated when it comes to two men falling in love and having sex. Sure, it’s not graphic by any means, but the movie doesn’t shy away from their little love affair either, and while I wouldn’t be saying it was a brave move in today’s day and age of cinema, back then, it must have broken down barriers.

Look out, world.

This is England?

Or maybe not. I don’t know. I myself wasn’t even a thought by that point.

But even when the direction fails them, the performances from the cast are quite solid, too. Aside from Jaffrey, Daniel Day-Lewis really does shine as Johnny, the punk-turned-legitimate-businessman, showing both sides of his anger, as well as his compassion for the world around him. Though Day-Lewis was young and not quite the powerhouse he would come to be known as, you still get inklings of things to come, whenever the opportunity presents itself here.

As for Gordon Warnecke, he’s pretty good, too. Together, the two share a sensual and sweet chemistry that doesn’t feel phony. Had the movie been solely about their love and compassion for one another, amidst all of this tension, turmoil and prejudice, it probably would have been a lot stronger and gotten rid of some of the messier-portions of the flick; however, as is, the movie still works because Warnecke and Day-Lewis seem believable in their love for one another. It kind of comes out of nowhere, honestly, but the look in their eyes when they see each other is true and it helps carry the movie through some of its murkier waters.

Consensus: Frears’ direction may be a little amateurish, but thankfully, My Beautiful Laundrette benefits from a great script and even better performances from the solid cast.

7 / 10

It's true love, people. Get used to it.

It’s true love, people. Get used to it.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Criterion, Londonist

Bad Moms (2016)

Moms always do it better than dads. Just a fact.

Amy (Mila Kunis) is the kind of mom that every mother wishes she could be. She’s always there for her kids, getting them to school on time, picking them up and driving them wherever they need, cooking breakfast and dinner for them, and hell, even doing their projects for them. Her husband (David Walton) may not be as caring for her as she wishes, however, she’s been with him ever since she was 20, and she’s stayed as dedicated to him as possible, while also maintaining a steady job at a coffee co-op. But after awhile, all of this running around, rushing and having no time for herself, Amy decides to screw it all and just stop trying so hard. Sure, she’s still going to care for her kids, her husband and her job, but she’s not going to put up with anymore crap, just to make sure that everybody around her is happy. Amy’s going to make herself happy, dammit! This means that she lets loose and party’s hard with two fellow moms, Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), and gains the attention of the other mothers of the class, one of which (Christina Applegate) doesn’t approve of what she sees.

Clean-up on aisle WHATEVER! PARTY!

Clean-up on aisle WHATEVER! PARTY!

Bad Moms is the kind of movie that looks awful and is just asking for resentment. For one, it’s another movie that can be placed into subcategory of movies with the name “Bad” in the title, to hopefully remind the audience that everything that they are about to witness is going to be, at the very least, immoral, wrong, and downright vile. And yes, that also leads to the movies themselves not being all that good and just relying on shock-factor to carry it over; like a kid in middle school going through puberty, they may want to be rebellious and all sorts of angry, but the worst thing that they can possibly do is pee on the neighbor’s cat to prove something of a point.

Of course though, what Bad Moms has going for it that these other movies don’t have, is that it’s actually quite good.

It’s surprising, to say the least, because the first thirty minutes or so of Bad Moms is awful and cringe-inducing. It moves at such a slow speed, with Mila Kunis’ narration tapping on every saccharine and inane detail that, yeah, I’m sure soccer moms will find hilarious, but for others, it’s painful to listen to, because it doesn’t seem like anything is actually happening. Sure, we’re getting introduced to our main protagonist, but what we’re being told about her, doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about the story that’s supposed to unfold, so the fact that the movie takes a damn near 30 minutes before it actually starts mentioning something resembling a plot, is troublesome.

But then, thankfully, the movie picks itself up and then, thankfully, Bad Moms becomes a very funny movie. Which isn’t to say that the movie itself is actually “funny” – writers/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore know how to deliver a raunchy joke, but for every one that lands, at least five or six miss the mark completely. However, because Bad Moms has such a lovely and charming cast on its hand, some of the jokes that honestly, not in a million years, would work, actually do.

And yes, it’s all because of the one, the only and the unstoppable Kathryn Hahn.

Has Kelly Bundy become a prude now?

Has Kelly Bundy become a prude now?

A part of me is very happy a movie like Bad Moms exists, if solely to bring someone as relatively unknown as Hahn, to the mainstream, for people to see, laugh at, and adore. Because it’s not just that she’s the funniest thing that Bad Moms has going for it, it’s that she’s the best thing about it, at certain points. Her character may seem like your typical sordid and sexual divorcee who screws whoever and whatever she wants, because she’s single as hell and not at all tied down, but because of Hahn, she also shows that there’s something resembling a human being underneath all of the drinking, partying, and making-out. After awhile, it becomes so clear that everything Hahn says is going to be hilarious, that you’ll just laugh at every single thing that comes out of her mouth, even if it isn’t as funny as something she said before.

Other than Hahn, the rest of the cast is quite lovely, too. Mila Kunis suits well as the protagonist who has a lot on her plate, but also has to still be enjoyable enough that she’s compelling; Kristen Bell works well as the sheltered and wispy-voiced mom; and Christina Applegate, Annie Mumolo, and Jada Pinkett Smith all do fine jobs at playing the evil moms of the school, while giving a funny moment here and there. The only troubling thing about this movie and its cast is that the male characters are so poorly-written, that some good and funny actors, like Jay Hernandez, David Walton, and Clark Gregg, all come off terribly one-note and cartoonish – something that this movie doesn’t seem like it was going for.

But if anything, what Bad Moms works well with is that it makes a very fair and smart points to mothers and about the role of motherhood and how, sometimes, you just need to relax a little bit. The movie isn’t trying to say that you, as a mother, should let all of the responsibilities go out the window with reckless abandon, but it’s also not saying that you have to be worried about every little thing known to man. Sometimes, it’s best to just relax and let things happen, while also keeping a keen eye on what matters most and making sure that everything is running smoothly in your household.

For a 22-year-old bro, this didn’t register quite as much, but for the target audience of Bad Moms, I’m pretty sure it will, which is perfectly fine.

Consensus: While it’s not perfect and definitely messy in some aspects, Bad Moms is also the kind of female-oriented piece of film that’s funny, honest, well-acted, and not at all patronizing to all the mothers and women out there in the world. And a few guys, for sure.

7 / 10

Take a shot gals. You deserve it!

Take a shot gals. You deserve it!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Entertainment Tonight

Suicide Squad (2016)

Always be nice to those weird kids from high school. You never know how they’re going to turn out.

In the world in which even Superman himself can be considered a “terrorist”, it’s time for some action. That’s when intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated super-villains for a top-secret mission. While it’s risky as all hell to trust a bunch of evil, armed and dangerous villains to help save the world, the U.S. government still feels as if there’s nothing to lose if the plan goes South, so they decide to give it the green-light. Meaning that certain baddies like Deadshot (Will Smith), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and Slipknot (Adam Beach) are all given plenty guns and ammunition at their disposal. And together, along with Captain Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) watching their every move, they have to stop an evil and powerful witch named Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) to stop from destroying the world. Meanwhile, an underground and heinous criminal by the name of the Joker (Jared Leto) is trying to get back the love of his life, all while taking down every person who gets in his way.

She's too good for the Joker.

She’s too good for the Joker.

There’s commonly a negative connotation when a movie is called “a mess”. Some of the times, the movie’s can be “messes”, because there was no idea put-in to how it was going to work, so instead of actually thinking things out, the film maker just cobbles up whatever they can find, hoping for some sort of a cohesive product to come out of the madness. Unfortunately, these movies mostly end up just being dull and, often times, boring.

Then, there’s the “messes” that are so wild, so crazy, and so chaotically put-together, that you can tell someone tried really, really hard to make it all work, however, knew that whatever they had left, they had to work with. Do that make the movie’s “good”? Not really. But does it make them, at the very least, “interesting”? Yes.

And honestly, that’s what Suicide Squad is: An interesting mess, that also happens to be pretty fun.

Sure, you have to get past all of the snap and chopping of the plot, the numerous characters, subplots, special-effects, musical-numbers, twists, turns, plug-ins, product placement, and god knows what else I left out, but honestly, Suicide Squad isn’t all that bad of a flick. It’s got plenty of issues, for sure, but it’s also the kind of movie that writer/director David Ayer had very near and dear to his heart, gave it all he had, and came up a little short. But he doesn’t focus on any of the character’s screwed-up, sad childhoods like Dawn of Justice did; he doesn’t muddle himself in all of the misery of these character’s lives, like Dawn of Justice did; he doesn’t forget that he’s got a solid cast to work with, like Dawn of Justice did; and yeah, he doesn’t forget that the most compelling characters to watch, no matter how thinly-written they may be, are sometimes the ones who morals are in grey areas, like Dawn of Justice did.

Now, this isn’t me saying that Dawn of Justice was some awful and terrible wreck of a flick, like so many others have stated; it’s a movie that tries to be more than your normal superhero flick and yes, is a little gloomy, but still delivers some good moments. That said, the movie forgot that watching a superhero movie, in which, people who are essentially cartoon characters, fly around and kick each other’s asses, which is something that Suicide Squad doesn’t forget. Ayer himself knows that some of the most fun had in comic-book flicks is the action itself, where over-the-top characters engage in some of the bloodiest and most violent of brawls, without caring about who’s feelings are being hurt in the process.

Of course, Suicide Squad has to worry about a PG-13 rating, but it still gets by on that.

Where Ayer really loses points with Suicide Squad is that his plot doesn’t always work. In fact, I’d wager that there hardly is one in the first place; it isn’t until after the first hour, in which we’re introduced to every character in loud rock-montages, where we get an inkling of a plot. Apparently, the Squad has to go in and stop an evil force from taking over the world. Why is it happening? Better yet, why should any of them care? Ayer never really asks these questions, nor does he ever seem to make sense of what drives the plot to begin with – he’s sort of just relying on these characters and these actors to save the day.

Yeah. I miss Heath.

Yeah. I miss Heath.

And yes, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t. Ayer is usually very good at giving these kinds of rough, tough and ragged characters some semblance of humanity and personality that makes them compelling to watch. Here, Ayer has so many characters to work with, that he gives a lot of attention to one or two characters, while totally forgetting about others. Adam Beach’s Slipknot is in and out of the plot so quick, that it’s almost a wonder why he was in the movie in the first place; Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang really has nothing to him, except that he likes to steal money, or something; Cara Delevigne’s character pulls double duty as both a super evil witch and a super scientist, none of which are well-written; and Karen Fukuhara’s Katana wields a cool, deadly sword and that’s about it.

Everyone else, like Will Smith’s Deadshot, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jared Leto’s Joker, Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag, Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo, and yes, even Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, all get attention, courtesy of Ayer’s screenplay and direction. Ayer has so many to work with and he’s only able to really define a few, so that when the final-act of the movie comes around and we’re supposed to “buy” them as a group that can connect and care for another, it doesn’t quite connect. A few of the characters we like and can believe in, but others?

Yeah, not so much.

Which isn’t to say that the cast is bad – in fact, everyone’s quite good. They all know what sort of material they’re rolling with and because of that, seem to be having a ball. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Viola Davis have perhaps the best roles, whereas Jared Leto’s the Joker is, well, a disappointment. He’s so crazy and insane, that it almost becomes like a parody of sorts. Sure, Leto was a smart choice for an actor to take over the role that Heath Ledger seemed to ruin for every other actor in the world, but his material is so wacky and unnecessary, that he takes away from the rest of the movie and makes me wish that DC would just hold off on him for a short while, and give him his own time to shine with Batman.

And yes, we will get more DC movies. I have no problem with this, however, it seems as if they have to get their act together. Marvel will continue to be trouble for them, but only time will tell if they can take them down, or just raise the white flag and give up, once and for all.

It probably won’t happen, but hey, we’ll see what happens next.

Consensus: Messy, disjointed, and sometimes, incoherent, Suicide Squad is a wild ride, for better or worse, depending on who you are, but it’s action and cast is fun enough that makes it something to possibly enjoy.

7 / 10

Yeah, I'm, uh, turning down the other side of the street.

Yeah, I’m, uh, turning down the other side of the street.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jason Bourne (2016)

All right, everyone! Let’s just leave this poor, ass-kicking, former-CIA agent alone already!

After the events of Ultimatum, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has, essentially, gone off the grid. No one knows where he is, what he’s up to, and quite frankly, they don’t care, either. As long as he isn’t causing any static and opening his mouth up about confidential stuff, then the government is perfectly fine with him doing whatever it is that he’s up to. However, Bourne gets tracked down by a former confidante of his, Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), and all of a sudden, he’s now back in the spotlight. Now, government-agencies want after him and super secret assassins, want him dead. Clearly Bourne doesn’t want to die, so he fights these agencies and assassins with all that he’s got, while also carrying around a hard drive that will hopefully bring out some of the shadier secrets of these agencies to the mainstream, for everyone to see. But Bourne is going up against some pretty heavy-hitters this time and he may have to take it to the next level, in order to make sure that he not only lives, but that the truth is exposed once and for all, so that no one falls prey to these agencies like he has.

Uh oh. Who was talking bad about this latest season of Project Greenlight?

Uh oh. Who was talking bad about this latest season of Project Greenlight?

So yeah, you can tell that Jason Bourne is following a pretty familiar thread: Bourne gets tracked down from government agency, Bourne kicks ass, he runs, he forgets stuff, he remembers stuff, and oh yeah, he has some bad things to say about these agencies after his butt. It’s definitely not original or groundbreaking by any means and it’s definitely at-fault for that, considering that we’ve got not just Matt Damon back, but Paul Greengrass, too. In fact, the only reason either of them are doing this movie in the first place is because they’re both back together and not working side-by-side with Jeremy Renner, or Tony Gilroy.

Would there have been such a problem with that? Not really.

Would I have liked to see how that movie actually turned out? Most definitely.

In fact, the way I see it, the only way for this Bourne franchise to continue on and not show its wrinkles, is by teaming-up with Renner-Gilroy Bourne franchise. Legally speaking, I know this may be downright impossible, however, there’s a part of me that wants it to happen, because both characters are strong enough to keep a movie interesting, regardless of what they’re doing. That isn’t to say that this lone edition of the original Bourne franchise isn’t so bad, it’s just that you can tell that some people are losing interest in making these stories more compelling, interesting, and smart, and more or less, just deciding to fall for the same old tricks and trades that made the original franchise such a hit.

Cause as is, Jason Bourne works both as a follow-up to the old franchise, that’s meant to continue the story of Jason Bourne alive and well, for more installments to come, but then, at the same time, the movie also feels like its own standalone feature. It’s almost as if the creators had the intentions of keeping this story going, but also knew that they may have to tied-up loose-ends, just in case. It feels very odd, actually, but also, doesn’t take away from the fact that when this movie wants to, it can be as thrilling as humanly imaginable.

Which is saying something, because the first three Bourne movies are pretty damn exciting.

CIA Agent Who Grows to be Sympathetic Towards Jason Bourne #70

Pictured: CIA Agent Who Grows to be Sympathetic Towards Jason Bourne #70

Most of this is because Greengrass, despite everyone’s qualms with his shaky-cam, knows how to make an action scene snap, crackle and pop, just like an action scene should. He gets a lot of mileage out of showing how these sequences, as small and contained as they may initially appear to be, can get so wild and crazy, that it’s hard not to get caught up in the chase and excitement of it all. There’s a nifty sequence by the end when the story finds itself in Vegas and there’s a crazy chase throughout a five-star hotel, with people running all over the place, causing all sorts of havoc. It’s the kind of fun, yet, thrilling action-sequence, that only gets more and more exciting to watch, once you start to piece together all of the pieces of the possible puzzle, not knowing what’s going to happen next, or to whom.

And that’s the real beauty of these Bourne movies – the fact that we don’t always know how they’re going to end, even if, yes, we totally do.

Which isn’t any hit on Damon, or anyone else here. As is, the movie treats them as well as it should – they’ve all got plenty of meaty material that can sometimes be silly, but can also sometimes be cool to watch. For instance, all of the scenes with Tommy Lee Jones are fun to watch because, well, we know he can handle material like this as good as the next guy – he’s basically playing the same role he played in the Fugitive and you know what? It still works. He’s still cranky and stealing every scene imaginable. Then, there’s also Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp (strangest the Night Of reunion) Alicia Vikander, and Vincent Cassell showing up, and adding a little bit of flair to the proceedings, reminding us that every little cast-member, regardless of how much time they got dedicated to them, are definitely worth watching because they add a little something.

But no matter what, it’s Damon who ends the movie on a bright note, showing what he can do, with so little and still reminding us that this protagonist is someone worth caring about and seeing more movies of. Sure, the backstory with his daddy and all was a bit overwrought, but hey, it gave us more time to see what happened in this character’s past, as well as gave us more time to spend with Gregg Henry.

Now, when’s that such a bad thing to have in your movie?

Answer is: Never.

Consensus: Though the story may be lacking in originality, Jason Bourne gets by mostly on its tense, exciting and always fun action, to go along with some pretty solid acting in a summer blockbuster that would have otherwise not taken the time to even care about such petty things in the first place, had different people been working on it.

7 / 10

Still not coming to you, man? Oh well. Maybe the next movie you'll remember the expiration date on the milk.

Still not coming to you, man? Oh well. Maybe the next movie you’ll remember the expiration date on the milk.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Casino Jack and the United States of Money (2010)

Lies, cheats, and steals? Yup, total package.

Jack Abramoff lived life unlike most people. For one, he always had a dream and desire to be in a movie of his own, so in a way, he used his real life as an actual movie, in and of itself. When he was young, he was head of his College Republicans group, and then decided that he wanted to be something of a film-maker, acting as a producer on one such flick. At this time, however, Abramoff was very paranoid about Communism and the country’s certain enemies, so he decided to make right with the political power and throw all of his power, support, and most importantly, money, the way of certain politicians. In other words, Jack was a lobbyist and didn’t at all try to hide it, however, it’s his ways, codes and ethics that he chose to live by, that get him, as well as plenty others working with him, in the slammer.

Even if he was in jail for a measly five years.

"I do, solemnly swear, that I am a total deuche."

“I do, solemnly swear, that I am a total deuche.”

Once again, when Alex Gibney sees an injustice, his doesn’t just sit around, folding his arms, throwing chairs, and trying to get over it all with a tub of ice cream. Instead, he’ll get up, grab his camera, call-up his crew, and see just who he can get a chance to talk to and help himself, as well as us, the audience, understand whatever story there is to be documented and focused on. Because of this, Gibney has become a trustworthy and inspirational voice in the documentary world; sure, he’s like Michael Moore in the sense that he makes it clear of his agenda right off the bat, but he’s also more journalistic, allowing for these stories to just tell themselves as they are.

And Abramoff’s story is one worth telling, if not just for the interest-factor, but because it makes you more and more angry as it runs along, and more of the heinous details come to life. Gibney makes it obvious from the beginning that he doesn’t necessarily care for Abramoff, as much as he cares about what the guy actually represents – this idea that greed, respect and power, can all come to you in some sort of way, as long as money is involved. He doesn’t like how Abramoff single handedly used his cunning and conniving ways to get closer and closer to the Oval Office, and he especially doesn’t like how it seems like every person that Abramoff talked to, instantly fell for the guy.

But being mad can only get you so many places, especially when someone like Abramoff exists and still does, to this very day.

The movie doesn’t try to paint him in a sympathetic light, and nor should it; after all, he’s the one guy who ripped-off and screwed over Native American tribes for nearly a $1 billion, just so that he could get him and his buddies more cash in their pockets. Why? Well, it’s because they hard more smooth-talking to do with certain people in the political system and in order to make sure that they’re happy as you are, they need to have all sorts of money.

But things brings up a certain idea that I don’t even know if Gibney himself had intended to talk about:The idea that there is such as “too much money”.

In this sense, what I mean to say is that there’s almost too much money in the political system, and especially, in elections. Throughout the flick, we are told of who Abramoff gave money to run for campaign reasons, as well as how much the totals were, which are important facts, because they can be pretty startling. The movie never actually gets on the case of the Presidential election cycle system itself, as much as he brings up the fact that someone like Abramoff, who was ripping-off innocent people, left and right, was still able to give all sorts of money that his little, evil and angry heart desired to do.

Well, if Bush liked him, than he can't be that bad, right?

Well, if Bush liked him, than he can’t be that bad, right?

Once again, though: Is there such a thing as “too much”?

Gibney shows that all of the extra cars, women, houses, parties, and yes, money, can eventually lead a person to do all sorts of mean and detestable things that, even when they were young and inspired, didn’t ever think they’d become. In fact, if there’s a problem to be had with Casino Jack, is that we actually don’t ever get to chance to talk to, or hear from Jack himself. Sure, it makes sense – he was in jail and probably didn’t want to be bothered – but it also feels as if there’s something missing from here, when all is said and done.

Of course, there’s something to be said for the movie, in how Gibney allows for key-witness and character witness give their own ideas and opinions on Abramoff and his wrong-doings, allowing for us to make up our own conclusions of what type of person he is. This is fine, but really, it would have helped especially more, had Jack himself showed up to give his own two cents. Sure, those two cents could have been total lies and meant absolutely nothing, but the fact that he would have gotten in front of the camera, told us what he thought, and threw himself out there to be even more dissected than he’s already been, would have helped.

Maybe not him and his case, but the rest of the movie.

Either way, he didn’t need our help anyway.

Consensus: Gibney hits another winner, showing Jack Abramoff off in all of his actions and misgivings, all of which are as blood-boiling, as the last, questionable action to have come before. That said, why no Jack?

7 / 10

Oh, with a hat like that, never mind.

Oh, with a hat like that, never mind.

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Many galaxies from here will only know us by the Beastie Boys and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

After their near-death experiences with Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), everyone on-board of the Enterprise are finally ready to relax for a little bit and take care of whatever they need to care of. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is thinking about a career change, as well as is Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), and everyone else is currently thinking of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Either spend the rest of their days on the Enterprise, or finally get that one chance to settle down and allow for the universe to go on without them in it. However, they run into issues when Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator, takes them down and separates each and every one of them on a planet that they little to nothing of. But with the help of a local native, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). For everyone, they have to band together and take down Krall before his power takes over and ruins the rest of the galaxy.

The people's elbow, courtesy of Spock?

The people’s elbow, courtesy of Spock?

The first Star Trek reboot, was amazing and probably one of the very best movies of that very great year. Then, the second film came around, and even though it definitely divided a whole lot more viewers than the original, it still delivered the action, the heart, the emotion, and most of all, the sci-fi excitement that’s to be had with this beloved franchise. And now, after a few years or so of some starts and stops, Beyond is here and without J.J. Abrams, well, let’s just say that it’s not quite nearly as great as it once was before.

It’s not anywhere near being bad, either, but still, when you have to live up to those two movies, it’s pretty hard to defy expectations.

Then again, maybe Beyond isn’t trying to be as dramatic or as emotional as the first two. If anything, it’s surprising how the third installment of this franchise seems to be taking a lighter, more playful route than the first two; normally, you’d expect more heart-shattering, almost breaking twists, turns and breakthroughs, but instead, Beyond is more about bringing us back to these characters and showing us everything that they do best. And sure, while Justin Lin is no J.J. Abrams, he’s no slouch, either; he’s the kind of director that knows a thing or two about being able to balance out action, humor, and heart, all while staying true to the die-hard fans who will most likely look for every little thing to tear and pick apart because, well, they can and they want to.

And with this latest Star Trek reboot, the strongest and best aspect of these movies is the fact that these characters are so easy to love and be compelled by, even if they can seem a tad bit cartoon-y. However, Lin, as well as co-writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung know exactly what works best for them all: Give them their character trademarks to play-up, find a way to include them into the story, and yeah, let it all play out as smoothly as can be. It’s not the most challenging, or difficult formula to follow, but there’s something to be said for a movie where each and every character is as lovely as the last, and the cast, once again, is on-point each and every time.

The only thing that isn’t quite as on-point is the story, as well as our villain.

To say that Beyond is, for better or worse, episodic, isn’t all that difficult – in Kirk’s narration, he even mentions the word at the beginning. If anything, Beyond feels like an overextended episode of a Star Trek TV series (something that’s actually happening), where the good guys do their thing, carry their archs, run into problems, have to solve it, take down a baddie, and at the end of the day, come together where everything is all peaches and cream. Of course, that’s not exactly how Beyond plays out, from beginning to end, but it’s pretty close.

And yeah, there’s no problem with this because it does work out, but it also does feel a tad bit small, given the huge universe that’s surrounding this story and these characters. While the new addition of Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a welcome addition that will surely work out perfectly for the next few installments, it still feels like nothing really happens of any sort of importance. It’s fine and all, but really, did much happen when all was said and done?

Edgar Winter?

Edgar Winter?

Maybe, I don’t know.

What I do know is that, even after Khan in the second, Star Trek is back to where it started with the first movie, in having another weak villain, with a very good actor in said villainous role. First, it was Eric Bana, now, it’s Idris Elba, who is as charismatic and compelling as you can get, yet, is stuck behind a whole bunch of make-up here and meant to just yell and do bad things to people who probably don’t deserve it. Elba, like always, gives it all that he’s got, but the motivations aren’t really there and it’s an underwritten role, for someone who could have really made magic happen, had he been given the right material to work with.

But, once again, Beyond only suffers slightly because of this. The rest of the cast is great, with Quinto, Urban, Pine being the standouts, and of course, the late, great Anton Yelchin showing us why he was still fun to watch in a goofy role like Chekov, but so is everybody else. You really can’t say one person is better than the other, because they’re all here, showing us why they matter and why the Star Trek franchise deserves to keep on having more and more movies.

Hopefully with better villains is all. That’s all I’m saying.

Consensus: While a small step down from the first two movies, Beyond still offers up its fans plenty to have fun and cherish with the colorful, lovable characters, as well as a few exciting action-sequences, that are sure to make up for some of the busts we’ve had this summer.

7.5 / 10

God? Dad? Thor?

God? Dad? Thor?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire