Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Category Archives: 9-9.5/10

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

It’s better to be an outlaw, than a conformist.

Back in the day, when he was a kind, fun-loving and good-natured man of society, Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) had to witness helplessly as his wife and child were murdered by Union men all led by Capt. Terrill (Bill McKinney). It destroyed Josey so much that he automatically set-out for revenge, joining the Confederate Army and lending all of the crazy and violent services that he had to offer. But when the war ends and all of his fellow Confederates decide that it’s the best time to lay down their arms and surrender, Josey outright refuses. Reason being? He doesn’t trust a man like Terrill and with good reason, because as soon as the Confederates their arms, their gunned-down and killed by Terrill. Now, Terrill sets out to take down Josey Wales, once and for all and make sure that he doesn’t spread his hate or anger any longer, or to anyone else in particular. But this is exactly what happens when Josey, along his trip, meets all sorts of colorful and lovely characters who ends up not just calling allies, but family, even.

Chief? And Clint? Wow. Words can't explain.

Chief? And Clint? Wow. Words can’t explain.

Westerns are sure to scare a lot of people away, mostly because of the time and attention they take to actually fully enjoy them for what they are. This is the case with a good number of Westerns, whereas other ones just plain and simply stink, are way too slow for their own good, and feel like the same movie we’ve seen before, just with more horses and gun-battles. But that’s why Clint Eastwood’s Westerns are things to be admired and loved, even – they’re the kinds of plays on the genre that you automatically assume is so calculated and precise, that anything against the genre would fall flat on its face.

But even in 1976, long before his Oscar win for Unforgiven, Eastwood proved that the Western genre was not at all dead and in a way, could still make all sorts of wonders. But what’s probably most interesting about what Eastwood does here, is that it doesn’t seem like he’s doing much, especially when it comes to his directing; all he really does is tell a story, keep the camera as still as possible, and yeah, just let everything happen as it should, in front of the camera. It sounds as simple as can be and definitely is on the screen, but it works so well because the story itself is a compelling one, going into places you least expect it to and doing certain things that you don’t expect it to.

Why is that? Well, it’s because Westerns seem so ordinary and plain, that yeah, it’s hard to get a really good one, right?

Well, incorrect. Kind of. What works best about Outlaw Josey Wales is that it has something to say about the nature of violence, murder and death, but doesn’t try to hit you over the head with it. The Native American shown here are all sympathetic human beings, not the usual savages we see in flicks such as these, but instead, mostly just people who want peace and love with their fellow man and women. Josey Wales, the movie as well as the character, shows that it’s possible, especially when the two sides have a common enemy and are more than capable of laying down their arms against one another and joining hands, whether it’s to frolic in nature, or to take down the white man, once and for all.

Either way, it’s a heartwarming message that’s actually thrown into a movie that’s chock full of violence, blood, gun-shots and rape. But does it still work? It surprisingly does, as the type of Western Eastwood here paints, isn’t a terribly endearing or lovely one, but mostly, one that would exist in the real world. As is the case with every society you live in, there are some bad apples and there are some good ones, too. Unfortunately, the bad ones do outweigh the good ones, but those good ones are around to take them down and make sure that no more wrongful deaths or murder occurs.

But all this said, when you get right down to it, Josey Wales isn’t a movie that’s all about the message or trying to prove a point  – it does do what every good Western does and that’s offer plenty of gun-slinging violence and action for each and every person to enjoy.

I bet he feels lucky.

I bet he feels lucky.

And as a director, Eastwood truly does know how to make these scenes pop and sizzle with the right amount of fun, but also heinousness that makes some of these callous acts of violence seem disturbing. While he is no doubt giving the gun-loving audience a taste of what they all want and oh so desire, he is also making it done in a way where you can tell that he’s not all for the violence and is, in a way, trying to also pass some blame and judgement on it all.

Either way, as a director Eastwood is terrific here, and yes, even better as an actor. Once again, he’s not doing anything we haven’t seen him do before, but he still owns it all so well, sometimes, without even saying anything. All he has to do is spit out his tobacco, glare at people, and give a little growl, and guess what? His presence is felt throughout the whole thing. It’s honestly why Eastwood is still considered such a bad-ass and why an iconic figure like him was always welcome in anything resembling a Western.

But while this could have definitely been Clint’s show from start-to-finish (after all, he did direct the movie), what’s perhaps most admirable about him as a director is how he’s able to lend the screen to the rest of the cast and have them show off all that they can do and bring a little bit more fun and fiery energy to the proceedings. Sondra Locke plays Laura Lee, a supposed love-interest that doesn’t quite work, but is still compelling enough to watch; Paula Trueman plays the cooky and always batty Grandma Sarah, who starts off as something of a caricature, only to turn out to be an honest, living and breathing person; and as Lone Watie, Chief Dan George is perfect, nailing every bit of humor and heart that this character has to offer, while also maintaining a pitch perfect odd-couple chemistry with Eastwood. In a way, they’re like the perfect, little, crazy family.

They all love one another, but man, they sure can shoot.

Consensus: As far as Westerns go, the Outlaw Josey Wales isn’t just action-packed and fun, but heartfelt, emotional and smart, offering a perfect showcase for what Eastwood can do as both actor, as well as director.

9 / 10

And that, my friends, is how a perfect friendship gets started.

And that, my friends, is how a perfect friendship gets started.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDFB, Quotes Gram

Klown (2012)

The best role models are always the most random.

Frank (Frank Hvam) is trying so desperately to prove to his girlfriend that he’s father-material, even if everything that it seems like he’s doing is proving otherwise. He surprises her with sex in the middle of the night, and he’s seen as a perv; he gets nice and pretty things, and he seems like a sugar daddy; he shows his soft side, and he’s seen as a softy. But this time around, Frank wants to prove that he’s got the goods to make a solid father and in order to prove this, he decides to kidnap his girlfriend’s 12-year-old nephew, Bo (Marcuz Jess Petersen), on a little trip of sorts. Normally, this would be all fine, dandy and relatively sweet, but where Frank’s taking Bo is on a trip that he and his friend Casper (Casper Christensen) call “Tour de Pussy”. Though Casper is initially against Bo coming on the trip, as well as he should be, he eventually gives into the fact and embraces it – doing everything that he normally would, with Frank occasionally joining in on the festivities.

Learning how to swim, but in the Danish way.

Learning how to swim, but in the Danish way.

A movie like Klown makes me wonder why more comedies in America aren’t nearly as good. It’s the kind of comedy that gets everything right, that not only every comedy should get right, but every movie in general; it’s got hilarity, a little bit of heart, some neat little twists and turns, and most of all, likable and well-written characters that you actually do want to watch more of. And heck, it even clocks in just under an-hour-and-a-half, making it the rare short movie that, quite honestly, I could have watched for another hour or two.

Can’t remember the last time I said that about a movie, let alone, a comedy.

But that’s the magic of Klown – it’s the one rare exception to most R-rated, raunchy comedies out there that seem as if they’re just trying so desperately hard to make its audience laugh, that they fall over themselves, laying in a puddle of their own filth. Some people love that, which is fine, but for me, I prefer the raunch to come from a smart, special place, where it all feels earned and is as disgusting as you can usually get. Call me a sick individual, or whatever you want, but trust me, when raunch works in a movie, it can work like gangbusters and that’s one of the real beauties of Klown – it’s raunchy-as-all-hell, but man, does it ever work.

If anything, Klown could definitely be described as a crazy mixture of Curb Your Enthusiasm, with a real Adult Swim tone and feel; the situations that these characters get themselves into are, yes, a little predictable and expected, but they’re so subversive, so wrong, and so damn evil, that they’re incredibly hard not to enjoy or laugh at. Case in point, there’s quite a few times here where you know the punch-line is going to be coming very, very soon, but because it’s been so jacked-up over time, and there’s a real great bit of energy to the whole film, that you just laugh your pants off when the time comes.

Yeah, doesn't get anymore embarrassing.

Yeah, doesn’t get anymore embarrassing.

In fact, Klown is so chock full of laughs that it’s really difficult to pin-point the funniest moments.

And that, my friends, is when you know you have a great comedy on your hands – it doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh and because of that, it works oh so perfectly. But really, I’ve got to give all of the success of Klown, to both Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen, who not only star in the movie as crazy versions of themselves, but even wrote the damn thing, too. To say that these two are some sick, twisted and messed-up individuals, would be predictable and not quite right; they’re screwed-up, but they’re also incredibly talented in knowing how to write a quick, entertaining movie, but also never forgetting about their trademarks. While I’ve never seen the show that this movie is based on, if anything, it makes me want to check it out, just to know what these two guys have to offer to the world of comedy and also, whether or not they’re funnier to watch than most American products out there.

Call me unAmerican, call me what you will, but if something’s funny, I’m going to watch it and enjoy the hell out of it. Regardless of where it comes from.

Consensus: Downright vile and almost inhumane, Klown is the sort of comedy from the wrong side of the tracks that so rarely gets made, yet, also doesn’t ever seem to work well, with nearly as much heart, humor and subversiveness as it has.

9 / 10

One, big, happy Danish family.

One, big, happy Danish family.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aidy Reviews

Elephant (2003)

On that fateful day, did anyone go to freakin’ class?

Taking place in Watt High School, in the wee-hours of the day, high-schoolers such as John, Elias, Jordan, Michelle and many more, all go throughout their day like they usually would. Hanging out, relaxing, and maybe shootin’ some b-ball outside of the school. However, today is not like every other day. See, today is the day that two kids (Eric Deulen and Alex Frost) wake up, decide to skip school, bring a whole army of weapons instead, and just shoot it up.

Remind you of any similar situations?

He's roaming.

He’s roaming.

Could Elephant be about Columbine? Most definitely. But nearly thirteen years after its release, could it also be just about every other school-shooting tragedy in America? Without a doubt and honestly, that’s the scariest reality of Elephant – Gus Van Sant set-out to capture the same kind of overwhelming dread and sadness that existed with that tragedy and in a way, it’s also what predicated so many of these other tragedies.

Not much has changed in this world and whether or not he was hitting at that, Van Sant’s Elephant will, unfortunately, forever be a relevant piece.

Most people (like myself) usually complain about Van Sant’s deliberate pace where it feels like he’s just slowing things down, because he doesn’t have anything else better to do. But for Elephant, it works because it’s deserved. Instead of making this a flick where we see everybody and everyone in this high school, we only get a couple of glimpses into the lives of some of these people where they aren’t really doing much at all, except we feel as if we know who they are, what they represent, and everything they are ever going to be (foreshadowing maybe?). Most of this flick is downright dedicated to Van Sant following these characters as they walk through the halls, talk to other people, not go to class, and do what they usually do on a regular, typical day of school, but the fact that you know something is up, always stays clear in your mind.

The atmosphere that Van Sant creates here is unbelievable. At one side, you have the character-based aspect where we get to know these characters for a bit, start to feel a little something for them because they’re at that part in their lives where older people begin to feel nostalgic for their youth and get jealous, and with that we get to understand just where they stand in the cliques and groups of high school. That’s effective here, because Van Sant is able to make us feel something for these people, solely based on the fact that we know what happens to them, and also, that they feel like real  human-beings that are just wandering around their school like most of us have done and still do. It’s a slow pace, but it works, because we feel like flies-on-the-wall for this one, very unfortunate and sad day.

But then, on the other side, you have this one aspect in the back of your head where you know the shootings are going to happen, you know the kids are going to come into the school, and you know people are going to start dying, but the movie does so much twisting and turning with these characters and all of their different view-points, that you never know when and you never know how. In a way, you could almost declare this as a “thriller” where Van Sant really lays on us the fact that we know something is going to happen, but the “when” really eats at us inside. And since you wait for these shootings to actually happen, the tension just continues to build-up inside of you as you feel like every second you spend with these characters, is a second that could be their last alive.

It’s downright unsettling, but that’s sort of the point.

He's roaming.

He’s roaming.

To say that the shootings in this movie are “disturbing”, is an understatement. I have seen plenty of disturbing movies in my past, and most have all freaked me out to the high heavens, but the shootings in this movie did it for me in a way that they just didn’t. That’s mostly because these deaths captured here, on-film, seem almost too real to be faked, or actually put into a film; Van Sant doesn’t glorify them, in a slam-bang action kind of way. There’s not even all that much blood, but when there is, it isn’t made out to be like a horror flick, with guts and gore spread-out all over the walls. They are shown as if somebody was actually getting shot where they fall back, lie on the ground, and practically bleed to death.

By doing this, not only does Van Sant have us feel like everything we are watching is real, but also puts us right on the ground with these fellow kids as they continue to scramble for their lives, because they never know when they might lose it next. By far, the climactic-shootings in this flick are some of the most disturbing scenes I have ever seen in my life and it’s done with no flair, no glitz, no glamour, and sure as hell no special-effects. It’s done in the most realistic-way possible and I have to give Van Sant the highest kudos for going with that direction, and never making it seem like a thriller, even though in my head, it definitely was.

Speaking of the shootings themselves, they provide no easy answers to what happened and that’s alright.

Just like the case of Columbine, a lot of pundits, parents, organizations, etc. all pointed the fingers towards the typical things like rap, TV, and Marilyn Manson. Does this actually mean that this is what drove the guys to go to school with Uzi’s and shoot the whole school up? Probably not, but that’s why Elephant is smart – it never points a finger, nor does it bring any closure. It just shows us that there were two kids who decided that, one day, for one reason or another, they had enough and just wanted to raise some hell and havoc at their school.

Why? We may never fully know, but that’s sort of how the world works: There are no easy answers. It’s a sad reality, but yet, it is the world we live in, where people can be shot and killed, for no real reasons given.

Consensus: Stoic, effective, compelling, and disturbing, Elephant is Gus Van Sant at his most tender, showing the horror of this one great tragedy and never shying away from the darker, gritty details of it.

9.5 / 10

And he's staring. Yup. Typical high school.

And he’s staring. Yup. Typical high school.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, And So It Begins

Schindler’s List (1993)

Not everything’s in black and white. Except for, well, this movie.

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) was a German industrialist and Nazi party member, who came to Krakow in 1939 and capitalize on everything that was happening in this area at that time. Schindler is already a rich man, but he sees a way to get richer, so he decides to use various Jews who are being pushed from one ghetto to another, to his good use. Not only does he employ them for the easiest tasks, but he’s making all sorts of money off of it, too. With the help of Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Schindler is basically able to keep going with this form of slave labor. However, what makes Schindler less terrible than he sounds, is the fact that these workers are called “essential”, meaning that they stop in the factories, and away from the gas-chambers. While Schindler doesn’t care too much about this at first, eventually, once he begins to see all of the pain and cruelty the Nazis are making the Jews suffer through, he decides to wage a small war of sorts, trying to get every single Jew he can find into his factories, so that they don’t have to die. Sometimes, it works. Other times, unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Yes, people: Liam Neeson did act before Taken!

Yes, people: Liam Neeson did act before Taken!

It’s difficult to do a review on Schindler’s List because, well, what else is there to say about it? By this point, it’s basically like reviewing water – “Yeah, it’s pretty good and all, right guys?” Some people obviously don’t like it, but others still and to this very day, love it with all of their hearts. Is there any problem with that? Absolutely not, as it’s one of the very rare movies that, no matter how many times you see it, still is able to conjure up feelings of anger and rage that only grow stronger as the movie goes on and on.

Then again, why you’d want to watch this movie more than once is totally up in the air!

Regardless, what Schindler’s List proved back in the day, and especially now, was that Steven Spielberg wasn’t afraid to get as heavy and as dark as he possibly could. Sure, the Color Purple showed some people the truly messed-up and scary feelings he was battling deep down inside of his soul, but if anything, Schindler’s List releases them on full-blast. No man, woman, or child is safe from Spielberg here and that’s how it should be when doing a movie on the Holocaust; there’s no bright, shining sun here, it’s all sadness, almost all of the sadness.

But like I said, it needed to be, in order to get what it’s trying to say, which is basically as simple as can be: The Holocaust was a terrible time for our world. While this may not be any groundbreaking news to anyone out there who has ever picked up a book or a newspaper, still though, Spielberg really does make you feel the chaos and wretchedness of the Holocaust, without ever pulling back. One sequence in particular is when the Jews are all moved from their ghettos, to the camps, and while you assume that the sequence is over once all of the Jews are in the camps, all safe, warm, and cozy, surprisingly, it isn’t. It continues to go on, while showing more and more Jews who tried to stay behind and hide in their homes, all get caught, gunned-down and treated awfully, even if they were trying something incredibly admirable.

This is all to drive home the fact that, yes, the Holocaust was horrible. Spielberg’s camera constantly focuses in on everything happening, without ever making it seem like we’re watching a movie of his, or a movie in general, and more or less, a viewpoint from someone who was actually there. This makes the movie all the more terrifying and also give you that feeling of suffocation that, no matter where you go, you cannot hide from the Nazis.

They love it that way, too.

Spielberg is smartest when he tones himself down and here, he totally does. The cheesy, overly sentimental moments, at least for the longest time, are all turned down so that Spielberg himself can just focus on the story, these characters, and most of all, this setting. It would have been very easy for Spielberg to pass judgment on each and every Nazi here, but believe it or not, he actually just shows everything for what it is; people get killed for stupid reasons, Nazis act out in vicious, inhumane-like ways, and human rights are violated every way from Tuesday, and yet, no judgement from Spielberg. He shows everything as it is, just as it would have been back in the day, which makes the movie all the more disturbing.

But Spielberg doesn’t just wallow in the sadness – in fact, he does feature a story here and a pretty compelling one at that.

He's just English enough to be classified as "German".

He’s just English enough to be classified as “German”.

What’s perhaps so interesting about Oskar Schindler and his story here is that we never get a full grip on just who he is, what he cares about, what he believes in, or exactly why it is that he’s doing all that he does here. Sure, he definitely wants to profit off of the helpless Jews and he also wants to have a whole lot more power to his name, but does he really care about all of this so much? The movie never makes a clear decision on what it is that Schindler is all about, and that’s perfectly fine; Schindler is as much of a mysterious to us, as he is to those around him. We watch him interact with Jews and Nazis alike, acting and speaking in two, entirely different manners; with the former, he’s soft and caring, whereas with the latter, he’s respectful, but also tricky and figuring out any way he can con these men into giving him what it is that he needs, or better yet, wants.

In fact, after watching Schindler’s List for the, ahem, second time, I’ve come to the conclusion that Oskar Schindler wasn’t entirely a good person and that’s alright – in fact, he’d probably prefer it as such. What’s so great about Liam Neeson’s performance is that while he always appear to be the hero in the story, the things that he does and says don’t always show this; sure, he was trying to save Jews from being wrongfully killed, but at the same time, didn’t he just want to make a quick buck without having to pay anyone else for it? Neeson makes us constantly think that the man is some sort of later-day saint, without ever fully converting and showing off his good features, and allowing for us to be confused by just who, or what kind of man this guy was?

The questions remain long after the movie, but still, they’re worth bringing up.

It’s also worth bringing up that Spielberg allows and dedicates some time to the Nazis and, incredibly, allows for them to be fleshed-out as much as they can possibly be fleshed-out. What Spielberg is trying to show with these Nazi’s, is that even though they’re going around, killing Jews because of silly orders they were given, sometimes, they don’t always like to do that; most of the time, they’re just bored, teen-like guys who need to blow-off some steam and don’t really have any other way that doesn’t involve shooting people for no reason.

Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Amon Goeth shows us exactly what it is that we need to know about these Nazis. While he himself is a terrible excuse for a man, the movie also shows that there is some breath of humanity in him that, despite never coming out, does exist. Fiennes is startling in this role; being both scary, twisted and naive, all at the same time, but never overdoing any of it. He could have definitely been an over-the-top, wacky and wild Nazi villain, but he plays it at just the right level to where we definitely hate him, but also realize that he’s a human being and unfortunately, he has way too much power and time on his hands.

Then again, same could be said for Hitler.

Consensus: Smart, provocative, well-acted daring, disturbing, and downright emotional, Schindler’s List is the high-mark in Spielberg’s career, and with very good reason.

9.5 / 10

Finding Dory (2016)

Stop getting lost, you damn fish!

Nearly one year after finding Nemo and returning him home safely, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras) and Marlon (Albert Brooks) have figured out a way to stay close to one another, where they can always be there for each other, just in case something goes awry again. And because of Dory’s short-term memory-loss, this means a whole lot, what with her always wandering off, never having a clue of where she’s at, or even what she’s doing. At first, it’s just small things that Dory gets mixed up with, but one day, she somehow gets lost in the ocean, leading her to some sort of aquarium where she encounters all sorts of lovely and colorful characters of the sea. But while Dory’s there, she begins to remember that she accidentally left home when she was young and is now just remembering that her parents may be looking for her. So Dory does whatever she can to find her parents, while seeming to forget everything that’s happening and relying on the help and kindness of former friends she knew when she was younger, as well as a new pal, the crabby octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill).

You da man.

You da man.

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t expecting much from Finding Dory. Say what you will about the original and how good it is, but compared to a lot of other Pixar flicks, it’s probably the weakest of “the very best” (which may sound silly and like a non-complaint, but does mean something when you compare almost all of the Pixar movies side-by-side), and not to mention that a movie that literally substitutes “Nemo”, for “Dory” and features, yet again, a lost fish in need of being found and saved, already sounds boring, unoriginal, and most of all, unneeded. If anything, I was expecting another Cars 2.

Which is why I can say that I’ve come out Finding Dory more than pleased to announce that it’s way better than I expected and yes, another home-run for Pixar.

In fact, it may be better than Finding Nemo.

I know, shocking, right? Well, the reason why Dory works a little better than Nemo is because the groundwork has already been laid-out and it would have been easy for everyone involved here to just rehash the same story again, without any bit of excitement or freshness added to the proceedings. But somehow, Finding Dory finds neat, creative and interesting avenues, peaks and valleys to tell its story, without ever seeming like its hitting the same beats the original did – even if, yes, it totally is. Where as any other sequel would have just done the typical thing that most sequels do to popular flicks (more of everything that made the original so charming), Dory changes certain things up; it not only introduces new characters that absolutely rival the lovely ones of the first, but also adds on a new setting that goes beyond and out of the sea, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace.

And this obviously all to say that Dory‘s story is pretty damn exciting; once we get the idea that Dory loses her train-of-thought/memory about every minute or so, the movie plays out like a G-rated Memento of sorts, with her asking people certain things that may help her quest out a bit more and also, thinking long and hard about where she came from and what’s next. It’s actually pretty fun to watch and it’s absolutely difficult not to get wrapped-up in all the excitement and anticipation, watching and waiting for Dory to reach her destination. And with that destination, we’re never too sure what’s at the end for her; while every other movie of this nature that makes it abundantly clear that their adventure will turn out good and give everyone a happy ending, the way Finding Dory is structured, makes you believe that possibly, quite possibly, Dory may not reach the goal that she wants.

She may complete her journey, but she may not get what she wants and honestly, that’s the one main reason why Finding Dory moves at such a great pace, that it almost never slows up.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

If there are times that it does, it’s only to give us more backstory on certain characters, as well as Dory’s own life. And because this is her own solo movie, Dory gets a whole lot of attention here that really works and makes us feel for her a whole lot more; while a whole movie dedicated to her character, I must admit, had me feeling as if she was going to be grating the whole time, actually works in hindsight. The movie shows us that Dory’s story is a sad one and though she is indeed a fish, you could take her story and place it in a human’s life, and it would still hit hard. Pixar movies work best when they have you relating to their inanimate characters and here, Dory hits a real sweet spot that I didn’t expect to see coming.

That said, Dory’s not the only character worthy of attention here. In fact, it’s Ed O’Neill’s Hank character that just about steals the show, making his one-dimensional grump of an octopus, actually come-off as a sweet, endearing and sympathetic figure, even when it seems like he’s acting out in pure self-interest. Of course, Albert Brooks is here as Marlon, but he’s pushed to the back of sorts, so that DeGeneras and Dory can get all of the attention and it’s fine, but honestly, I kept coming back to Hank and had that feeling that we may, sooner or later, be seeing Finding Hank sooner or later.

Hopefully sooner, than later, and not another thirteen year wait like we had with this one.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, compelling and above all, exciting, Finding Dory finds a fresh new voice in this well-worn story, making it a Pixar classic and better than the first.

9 / 10

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy.

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy. One movie is fine, but two?!? That’s too much!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Inside Job (2010)

Can’t trust anyone. Not even mom and dad.

The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 will always and forever be considered one of the most heart-breaking, tragic moments in recent memory. Director Charles Ferguson, using his smarts, his wit and his intelligent ways, acts like a journalist to figure out just how the hell it all happened. After all, from what Ferguson can tell is that this was a problem almost everyone within the financial world expected, however, no one wanted to actually accept as fact and continue living their very rich, luxurious lives as is, uninterrupted. And these are the same kinds of people that, through Ferguson, will be called-out and shown the error of their ways, yet, will they ever learn anything? And while we’re at it, what about the country as a whole? Will we ever learn anything, either? Or, will we just continue to keep on bailing out the some fools who put us in these financial messes in the first place?

Tisk tisk tisk.

Evil.

Evil.

It’s actually quite odd watching Inside Job after the Big Short since, in a way, they’re kind of the same movie. They both are dealing with the financial crisis, how it happened, who as to be blamed, what was trying to be done in order to stop it, and a little bit of the result. However, what made that movie more accessible, aside from all of the big-names in the cast and whatnot, was the fact that it actually lended a helping hand to the everyday movie-goer out there who may have not known some of the trickier titles of certain things associated with the finanical world. Don’t get me wrong, director Charles Ferguson, solely through the sooting, yet smart voice of Matt Damon, tells us certain things we need to know in order to give us a clearer and better understanding of what the hell everyone’s talking about, and what it’s ultimate reason for existing is, but there’s not nearly as much hand-holding here, as there was in the Big Short.

Which means, yes, be ready to be a tad confused. However, watching this after the Big Short definitely helped me, as there were a lot of key phrases and terms that I needed to know going in, and considering that I already did know them, it was basically smooth sailing from there on out.

Well, then again, not really.

See, Inside Job is dealing with some pretty infuriating material and real-life consequences here, and it also makes it an even harder pill to swallow when you consider that Ferguson is not backing down, or away, from a single part of it. Every person he has the chance to interview, he does; every small detail that helps explain what happened with this financial crisis, he tells; and every finger that needs to be pointed, well, he points. Ferguson is the kind of documentarian that the world needs more of – not because he has the balls to actually go up to a person who may need a hard line of questioning and actually do said thing, but because he takes a lot of narrative choices on what is, essentially, dry material. Some people out there in the world may not give a single lick about finances or mortgages – Ferguson knows this – and in trying to have some of us actually care, like at all, he reminds us that all of these issues are still going on in the world we currently live in and unfortunately, they’re not getting much better.

Eviler.

Eviler.

Okay, maybe there has been some improvement since 2010, but still: Ferguson knows and understands that this is a huge issue that needs to be discussed and addressed, but he also doesn’t want to be the only person doing it. He wants to fill everybody in on all of the corruption and all of the wrongs that have been committed from those who, honestly, should know better. But instead, they’re more concerned with whether or not they have three yachts, instead of two, rather than caring about how all of the riches and rewards they get and benefit off of, other people lower down the food chain, take the hard end of.

Yes, Ferguson is clearly on a soap-box here and he should definitely be allowed to be – the guy has something that he wants to say, but really, just allows for the people he interviews, or, in some cases, doesn’t interview.

After all, some of the guiltiest people that Ferguson has no issue of mentioning, either don’t show up on camera at all, or when they do, they’re absolute dicks about it all. A few people, for instance, actually seem as if they’re nice, easygoing people who are absolutely pleased with participating in a documentary about the financial-crisis and the world of finance. However, that all changes when Ferguson himself decides to switch things up, ask them the hard questions about their guilt and their professionalism, and all of sudden, their moods change. There’s quite a few people in this movie that happens with, to great comedic-effect, but the point has been proven: These people are guilty and they deserve to have their faces shone in the spotlight.

Cause, like we’ve said before, they’re the reasons for our economy’s downfall. And yet, we’re still the ones we’re paying for and caring about, if only because they dug themselves too deep into holes that they couldn’t get out of. Either way, despite all of this ranting and raving, yes, please see Inside Job, if you already haven’t done so. It will make your blood boil and your wallets bigger.

Consensus: Smart, intense and exciting, Inside Job is the right kind of documentary that doesn’t back down from asking the hard questions, while searching for whatever answers it can find in this sometimes confusing world of finance.

9.5 / 10

Evilest, More Evil, and Most Evilest of them all.

Evilest, More Evil, and Most Evilest of them all.

Photos Courtesy of: CTCMR

Wall-E (2008)

Save the world. Save the robots. Get off your rumps.

It’s been nearly 700 years and yep, us humans have destroyed the planet we all loved and called “home”: Earth. After years and years of negligence and laziness, Earth has become nothing more than just one huge, ever-expanding trashcan. But where have all the humans gone? Well, somewhere up in the sky, they’ve all retreated to a paradise of sorts, sitting down on their lazy butts, getting fatter and fatter as the days go by, eating and drinking everything that comes in their way, and being able to move around, solely by a chair. But while they’re all enjoying the heck out of their fat lives up in the sky, trash compactors are left on Earth to clean up their mess and make life on Earth sustainable again. However, it appears as if all of the trash became too much for the trash compactors, as only one still exists and seems to be working: Wall-E. And yes, being all alone on Earth can definitely be a problem for a little robot like Wall-E, who wants nothing more than some sort of love in his life. Eventually though, he gets that in the form of Eve, a robot sent down from the paradise-in-the-sky who may, or may not have sinister intentions for Earth, the human existence, or even Wall-E himself.

But don’t tell him that! That boy is smitten!

True love if I was ever able to see it happen between two bots.

True love if I was ever able to see it happen between two bots.

Anyway, yeah, Wall-E‘s another typical Pixar home-run, in that it makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think, and it makes you happy and absolutely proud that there’s still a small part of you that’s still a child. You may work a typical, 9-to-5, have a wife, kids, dog, car, and drink beer, but deep down inside, you’re still a six-year-old kid who wants to hold his mommy’s hand when he gets sad. Or then again, maybe you’re not that at all.

Either way, you get my point: Pixar has been working with this formula for as long as they’ve been around and guess what? Wall-E is no different.

But there’s a little something more to it that makes it worthwhile in the long-run.

You can tell that director Andrew Stanton definitely has a huge affinity for silent films, as well as the classics of yesteryear, in how he appreciates the simplistic messages of love they spout-out, and also likes how they all rely on an emotion and tone, told solely through the way everything looks. Automatically, when you’re thrown into this new and desecrated Earth, there’s already this sad, lonely and depressed feeling when watching Wall-E, all by his lonesome, do nothing but clean-up, watch old movies, long for someone to hold hands with, and have conversations with a invincible grasshopper. Then, all of a sudden, Eve comes in and everything seems a lot more goofy, joyous and believe it or not, hopeful. Yeah sure, the Earth is close to being nearly destroyed, but hey, at least these two robots found their possible soul-mates, right?

Well, that’s why Stanton’s direction is so smart here; he does a lot without telling us anything us, but rather, just showing us everything we need to know. Eve talks in perfect, Siri-like English, whereas Wall-E barely makes sense and for some reason, it’s better that way; hearing these two speak to one another isn’t the point of this flick, or even their romance. In all honesty, it’s all about the raw and sweet emotions that the feeling of love, or that idea of being connected with someone out there in the world can make you feel. Sure, call it maybe a tad too serious for a Pixar movie, but hey, what can I say?

This is the kind of stuff that gets me going.

Such a cuddly little robot. Until he kills you and takes over the whole world.

Such a cuddly little robot. Until he kills you and takes over the whole world.

Of course, about halfway through, the movie’s tone changes from carefree and pleasant to, of course, more convoluted, tense and plot-heavy, but for some reason, it still works. It definitely shouldn’t – the change is so drastic, that it almost feels like the powers at be got to Stanton and had him get things going – but where the movie goes without itself after this switch is interesting. It certainly does become an obvious farce, but it’s a funny one that drives home its environmental message as well as it could have, without totally pointing and wagging its finger in your face.

Okay, maybe the movie is trying to tell us humans to “stop leaving your trash everywhere and sitting on your rumps all day”, but still, is that not supposed to be something we should hear? I mean, heck, I’m sitting down now as we speak and I already feel like I’ve got to get up and do something with my life. Wall-E knows that it has a story and a plot to work with, aside from all the gooey and heartfelt emotions running throughout, but the mix-and-match between both sides gels so well together that, honestly, I’m shocked.

But at the end, Wall-E still takes itself all the way home.

While it definitely gets a tad bit lost in some odd and relatively annoying political shenanigans involving Fred Willard (!) as the President of the United States (!!!), Stanton is still able to bring us back to where we were at in the beginning: Wall-E searching for that one and special someone to sit down and watch movies and hold hands with. It will bring a tear to your eye the right way and it will remind you that true love does and can most definitely exist.

Even if the true love does exist between two robots in a post-apocalyptic future version of Earth.

Consensus: Fun, hilarious, smart and tender, without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to be any of them, Wall-E drives home an environmental message that matters, while also not forgetting about what really makes a great family flick for everyone in-mind.

9 / 10

Pictured: America, circa 2026

Pictured: America, circa 2026

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Screen Musings

Finding Nemo (2003)

Animals lose their kids, too. It’s not just humans.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is an obsessively overprotective Daddy clownfish, but with good reason. Some time ago, when he and his late wife had just welcomed all of their children to the sea, because they weren’t paying enough attention, somehow, they all got swept away, and the wife died. There was one left, however, and it turned out to be Marlin’s sole child: Nemo. And needless to say, yes, Marlin is very uptight and worried about Nemo, so much so that Nemo himself feels as if he needs to venture out there into the world a whole lot more than he’s allowed to. However, all of that adventuring gets Nemo caught by a bunch of humans and thrown in some dentist’s office fish-bowl. For Nemo, this is a new world, but it’s one that he doesn’t quite love just as much as he loves the sea. But Marlin will not stop until he finds Nemo and brings him home safe, once and for all – now, though, he’s got the help of a fellow fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras), who may actually be more of a problem than a solution.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

How I imagine Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneras talk to one another in real life.

Finding Nemo came out at a time for Pixar that was definitely crucial. They were still hitting it out of the park with each and every flick they offered, but by 2003, you could start to tell that maybe, just maybe, Pixar’s appeal was starting to wane. Sure, a sequel to Toy Story works perfectly, because who doesn’t love talking toys, but talking sea-creatures? And one that involves one fish being lost and, hopefully, found?

Well, regarldess, none of this talk matters. Finding Nemo wasn’t just a hit commercially, but it also showed that everything Pixar was able to do with their first couple of movies, they were still able to carry-on with and remind everyone that they were the voice and brand-name to be reckoned with when it came to the world of animation. Nowadays, it seems as if they’ve fallen a tad off the ladder, but still, Finding Nemo, as it still lies, works.

The visuals, for one, are as beautiful as they ever have been. Given that the story literally takes place under the sea, it only makes perfect sense that every bit of Finding Nemo be as eye-engaging and beautiful as the bit before it. Heck, even after it being over 13 years of this thing being out and about, you’d think that at least some portion of it looks dated, or doesn’t quite hold-up; technology has, believe it or not, gotten a whole lot better and Pixar has definitely shown this. But nope, it’s still a beautiful movie.

And I’m not just talking about the visuals, either, although they are quite great to look at.

The greatest aspect of Finding Nemo is that it wears its heart on its sleeves practially the whole way through. It all starts off somber, tragic and absolutely upsetting for the first five minutes, but sooner than later, turns into this pleasant, relatively sweet story about overcoming one’s fears, adversities, and own handicaps to get something in life, as well as making one’s self better. While, yes, you could most definitely chalk that same message/theme to every other Pixar movie ever released, the fact remains that it still works and hits close to home here, even if you also get the idea that maybe Pixar wore it on a bit too strong?

Maybe? Eh?

Then again, maybe not. What Finding Nemo works best in is that it allows for its story to hit the emotional archs and all that, but also bring on the funny, too. There’s so many silly and lovely side characters that, honestly, it’s not hard to want to see a movie about them. There’s the sharks going through AA for blood; there’s the sea turtles who live the rock ‘n roll lifestyle like bro-ish surfers; and most especially, there’s the sea creatures stuck in a fish bowl who want nothing more than to escape this unforgiving prison. Of course, Finding Nemo gives all of these characters their chances to shine, but what matters most is that none of them feel like throway gags that Pixar thrown in there to create more toys, or because, well, they were bored; each and every character serves a greater purpose to the story and helps it move along.

Cowabunga dudes!

Cowabunga dudes!

And yeah, while I’m on about the characters, I might as well say that the voice-casting is probably the ballsiest, yet, smartest bit of casting Pixar has ever done. Albert Brooks’ gruff, yet slightly neurotic voice is perfect for the overly neurotic and scared Marlin, who is easy to warm up to, especially since we know that Brooks is such a lovely presence on the screen. But it’s strange that he was cast in the role, because honestly, he wasn’t all that big at the time of this release; it’s hard to say if Finding Nemo helped revitalize his career (he’s not on the screen at all and half the people who saw it probably have no clue who Albert Brooks is), but hey, if it’s a role that utilizes him well, then so be it.

But really, the star of the show is Ellen DeGeneras’ Dory.

Now, despite this too being a voice-role, Dory’s the character that definitely regenerized DeGeneras’ career for the greater good of society. The character allows for her to get as high-pitched and silly as she wants, without ever seeming as if she’s over-doing it to a huge exteme. In fact, it’s the right bit of goofiness and charm that works well for this character, as well as DeGeneras, because even if we do want to strangle Dory at times, it’s still hard not to want to see her and be around her more.

Probably why she’s getting her own flick, now that I think about it.

Consensus: Just as you’d expect from Pixar, Finding Nemo is a heartfelt, sweet, honest, fun, and downright hilarious tale of adventure, family and love, which is what makes it all the more great.

9 / 10

Yeah, now you're lost.

Yeah, now you’re lost.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let them fight.

After years and years of constant controversy over their extreme efforts to stop evildoers in the world, the Avengers are now facing public scrutiny. So much so that now, the government wants to find a way to intervene with their ways in how they go about stopping the evil, while also making sure that no innocent, kind citizens get killed in the process. This new rule sets the group apart; while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is all about it for the sake of still being able to stop villains from taking over the world, Captain America (Chris Evans), on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same way. Of course, there are others in the group who feel the same as either side, but they’re coming to a point now where they don’t know if they can stay together as a single unit without someone getting hurt. And now, what with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) back in the picture, Cap wants to protect him in any way he can, even if that means having to take down fellow friends and confidantes that he could once trust.

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them....

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them….

Which means, yes, they all brawl.

A few months ago, there was a huge backlash against Batman V. Superman. Most of the reasons had to do with the fact that it basically just sucked and that was about it. Of course, none of these people were ever wrong, but for me at least, I was a tad bit kinder on it because it set out to make a superhero movie that, yes, was ultimately messy, but asked certain questions and toggled certain ideas that we don’t typically see in superhero movies. Should there be superheroes in the world in which we live in? And if we can’t help the fact that they are, what can we do to stop them, or better yet, decrease their power and danger to our society? Get rid of them altogether? Or put little rules and guidelines for them to follow, so that they don’t go around killing thousands and thousands of citizens as if it was, yes, 9/11 all over again.

Obviously, these are the same kinds of questions and ideas that Civil War plays with in its own mind, but where BVS screwed-up with, they actually deliver on. Not only do they ask the goddamn questions, but they also seem interested in solving it, even if the only way to do so is basically through fist fights and banter-battles. For once, we see characters and superheros who, for the past few years or so, have been nearly untouchable and almost too close to being perfect, but somehow, Civil War finds a way to have them all shine in different lights. Even though this is supposed to be his movie, Captain America actually comes off more like an unlikable child here who doesn’t get his way, so therefore, has to resort to punches, kicks and throwing his shield.

Then again, nobody else is perfect here, either. And well, that’s sort of the point of this story.

Falcon punch!

Falcon punch!

What the Russo Brothers do the best job of here is that they allow for the story to do its usual checklist of things we see in these kinds of superhero movies, but does them way better than those movies. While new characters and subplots are being brought to our attention, the Russo’s never allow for it to get too jammed-up to where we have no idea what’s the conflict with which character, for what reasons, and when we can expect it all to get resolved. In Age of Ultron, the movie was admittedly way too overstuffed and overlong to really make sense of its mayhem and therefore, it suffered. The action itself may have been fun and well-done, but because there was just so much going on, with so many damn people, it was hard to really care for any of it, especially when you’re still trying to pinpoint who matters and why.

The Russo’s, thankfully, don’t have that problem. Even though they’re working with a wide arrange of characters and stories to work with, they somehow are able to have it all work together in a cohesive manner, that when the action does eventually come around, you care. Not only do these characters get their opportunities to shine and show why they’re genuine ass-kickers, but give us a little background on who they are and their personalities. Even for characters like Hawkeye and the Vision, who you may feel have overstayed their welcome, still come around to show us that they’re around and actually matter to a story as overcooked as this.

Does this make Civil War perfect? Nope, but it definitely makes it the best Avengers movie since the first Avengers.

Which is saying something, because all of the Marvel movies have been fine and done their jobs well. That isn’t to say that they haven’t all felt like they were doing the same things as the one that came before it, but regardless, it still doesn’t matter, because it seems like Civil War gets Marvel right back on-track. Though a lot more is left up in the air this time, the feeling that everything has changed and gotten a whole lot more serious with this universe and these characters is still around and it’s what makes me genuinely excited for what’s next to come.

Cause yes, obviously, we’re going to get more of these movies, whether you like it or not.

Consensus: Exciting, tense, smart, and believe it or not, interesting, Civil War does everything that Batman V Superman tried to do, but hits every nail on the head and reminds us why this universe can be so great to be apart of when they’re firing on all cylinders.

9 / 10

Hey guys, I know you're kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain't cool. Let's fight fair here.

Hey guys, I know you’re kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain’t cool. Let’s fight fair here.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Green Room (2016)

What’s worse sitting in? The green room? Or, the waiting room?

The Ain’t Rights are a punk band trying to make it big on their own. By showing up at and playing random bowling alleys, coffee shops, and basements across the country, they’re able to make a living and still be happy with what they do, even if it seems like they’re living off of any scraps they can find. But finally, they feel as if their big break has finally come with Oregon, where they have a pretty solid gig booked through a local college station. Problem is, it doesn’t quite work out and the guy who is seemingly responsible for it getting screwed up, wants to make amends by getting them a gig somewhere out in the deep, dark woods, where they’ll be playing for a whole slew of Nazi skinheads. While the band is initially against this idea, they realize that they need the money and could probably work well in the venue. However, once they get there, everything that they expect to go wrong, goes wrong and now, they’re stuck in a situation that none of them know how to get out of alive, or without losing some sort of body-part in the process.

It's more teal than anything, but yeah, I guess you could consider that room "green".

It’s more teal than anything, but yeah, I guess you could consider that room “green”.

Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier’s debut (Blue Ruin), wasn’t the greatest movie ever made, but seemed to do so much, with so little, that it left me surprised and excited. It took what was supposed to be a very conventional revenge story, gave it a greater sense of mystery, suspense, tension, and emotion that doesn’t seem to come with those kinds of stories anymore, and it had me absolutely on-edge for what the guy had to bring next. After all, he can do small wonders with a tired-formula like the “revenge-thriller”, what’s not to say that he can’t do it for every genre, right?

Well, I was absolutely right to get excited because Green Room isn’t at all what I expected it to be, and I loved it for that.

To be honest, Green Room isn’t nearly as deep or as meaningful as Blue Ruin may have been; there aren’t any moments of bare, human-drama, nor is there any actual insight into the human-condition, other than just what happens when you give scared people weapons to play with. But honestly, that’s fine; Green Room is most definitely its own kind of beast that doesn’t need a lot of character development, or heartfelt themes about life and love to get by. What it needs to do is keep its audience excited, tense, and frightened as to what’s going to happen next to all of these characters next.

And yes, that’s exactly what ends up happening. But while I may definitely may make the movie seem like just an action-thriller, without hardly anything brewing underneath the surface, don’t worry, there’s something more to scratch at. Sure, you may have to really dig your fingernails in, but eventually, you’ll find something worth holding on to that makes all of the blood, guts, gore and overzealous violence not seem like a waste of time, money and blood squibs.

After all, it seems like Saulnier knows that he’s dealing with some crazy, over-the-top material and doesn’t try to hold back from that one bit. In all honesty, when the plot gets going and heavy, it’s as bone-chilling and as suspenseful as any thriller/horror flick I’ve seen in quite some time and it never seems to go exactly where you think it is. Saulnier creates this terrifying air that anything bad can, and most likely will, happen here – it’s just a matter of when, where and to whom that makes this movie even more rough.

But trust me, in this case, “rough” is a good thing.

Saulnier may have a lot of violence here, but really, he isn’t using it because that’s all he’s got, or that’s all he wants to say; the violence is as in-your-face, shocking and realistic as you’d believe it, that it almost makes this story harder-to-watch. We don’t get much character-development here for everyone, but for the few that we do, the idea that they could literally be killed-off at any second, makes Green Room all the more of an antsy picture. In a way, you get the sense that Saulnier is tormenting us, while simultaneously, having the time of his life behind the camera, but it seems a lot less manipulative than I make it sound.

What Green Room is, essentially, is a grimy, dirty, disgusting and trashy grindhouse flick that doesn’t try to be anything else but that. Sure, there’s an opportunity here for Saulnier to make a point about race and the divide it creates in this country, but that’s for a much different movie, and not here. What Saulnier really wants to do is give the audience all of the violence in the world, while also reminding us that even if we do like what we see and are getting something of a kick out of it, that there are human lives at-stake here.

Jehovah's witnesses, they are not.

Jehovah’s witnesses, they are not.

Sounds really depressing and serious, but somehow, it works so perfectly.

Oh and yes, the cast is pretty great, too, even if there are some odd, almost questionable decisions made. Everyone in the band is fine and even though none of them are really given much more depth than just “scared kids who think they’re a lot tougher and angrier than they actually are”, it’s still easy to feel something for them in this crappy situation and almost want for them to all make it out alive by the end. You know it’s not really possible, but still, there’s a feeling that’s way too hard to deny. And yes, while Anton Yelchin and Alia Shawkat are fine fits, oddly enough, it’s people like Imogen Poots and Patrick Stewart who, honestly, don’t really fit too perfectly into this story.

Don’t get me wrong, both are pretty good, but Stewart seems like he can’t decided on whether or not he wants to do an American accent, or stick with his British one, as well as the same for Poots. Maybe this is more of a nitpick than anything, but it was a tad distracting, especially when we were getting these brief moments of actual honest, down-to-Earth character development. What’s most surprising is that the best of the bunch is probably Macon Blair, who was the star of Blue Ruin and seems to be the least experienced out of everyone here, yet, also brings the most depth and understatements to a character who is really hard to pull off. We never know what side he’s on, if he’s telling the truth, and whether or not he’s really just being taken advantage of, but really, it’s hard to take your eyes off of him.

More of him, as well as Saulnier, please.

Consensus: With a gritty, absolutely brutal tone, Green Room takes no prisoners and doesn’t let go of its audience, until everyone feels as dirty and as ugly as the movie’s characters can be.

9 / 10

"She wouldn't dance with another! Woo, when I saw her standing there!"

“She wouldn’t dance with another! Woo, when I saw her standing there!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Girlfight (2000)

Girls can do anything as good as boys. Including kicking butt.

Diana Guzman (Michelle Rodriguez) is a no-nonsense, take-no-crap teenager who has a bit of issues. For one, her mother’s dead, so she’s forced to live with her disapproving father (Paul Calderon), and her rather meek brother (Ray Santiago). Needless to say, Diana is very angry with the life she has, and her only way of actually getting any bit of intensity out, is through boxing at her local gym. While her father would not allow for Diana to box, he still pays for her brother to box and train at the gym – funds that she uses in her favor, while he goes off and does his own thing. Eventually, Diana starts to get better and channel her anger in a way that’s a lot less hectic, but more controlled. This leads Diana to start boxing in actual, small-time matches, but because she’s a girl in a very male-populated sport, she’s never taken nearly as seriously as she should be. Looking through this all is fellow boxer Adrian (Santiago Douglas), who takes a liking to Diana right away. However, their love for the sport of boxing eventually comes between them and their left with thinking of whether or not they should go on further together, or separate and allow for their own boxing-careers to play out.

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Watch what you say about the third season of Lost!

Everything about Girlfight just screams “cliché”. Angry, young adolescent finds a way to channel her anger through boxing; father disapproves; nobody else takes her seriously; eventually, she starts to train more and get better; and, oh yeah, she then finds herself a love-interest. If anything, people will probably see Girlfight as the female-version of Rocky, however, they would be totally wrong; though the movies aren’t wholly different, they still differ in terms of their perspective, as well as their heartfelt take on a subject we’ve seen one too many times before.

And they’re also both pretty great movies in their own right, without ever being too showy or flashy about it.

Where Girlfight gains most of my respect is through the way in how writer/director Karyn Kusama uses a lot of her very limited resources to her advantage. From what I’ve read, the budget was around $1 million and because of that, it leaves Kusama dealing with a lot of low-budget issues. Certain shots seem too grainy, or poorly-choreographed, and yeah, certain scenes go on a lot longer than they probably should because it’s too expensive to take a scene elsewhere, but for some reason, it all works. You can feel the bleeding heart and love Kusama has for this story, these characters, and, surprisingly, this sport, that all of the raw emotions you get, feel and see, all come together so perfectly.

It’s also worth mentioning that even if the story does seem to be a bit conventional, Kusama defies all of the predictable aspects that we’ve come to expect with stories of this same nature. Not every fight is an absolute, balls-out, gory slobber-knocker like we’re used to seeing movies portray them, just like Diana herself isn’t an unstoppable, can’t-be-tame beast; sometimes, she loses, and other times, she loses her cool. But she will, on some occasions, win a fight, if not in the most spectacular way imaginable. While, for some, this may not be the most exciting bit of action, it still provides a nice layer of realism that makes us feel closer and closer to this world than ever before; Kusama could have easily lost her head and just made the movie all about the ass-kicking, the bloody faces, and the crushed-souls, but instead, she uses boxing as a way for Diana to channel her emotions and make herself something of a better person.

It also helps that Diana is a great character from the very start and Michelle Rodriguez, in her debut role, is spectacular.

What works so well about Diana is that she isn’t asking for our love, our sympathy, or our hearts. If anything, she just wants us to shut the hell up, let her do her thing, and lead us to make up our own conclusions about her. While the movie may make it seem like she’s going to be a typical, moody and angsty teenager (with a dead mother and daddy issues, no less), the movie instead shows that she’s got a lot more to her. Sure, she uses boxing as a way for her to vent out all of her frustration with the world she lives in and the life she’s been given, but at the same time, she also wants something a tad bit more out of life than just kicking ass, taking names, and getting fit. If anything, she wants a better life, to feel loved, to feel needed, and above all else, to be respected.

Boys?!?! Ew!

Boys?!?! Ew!

After all, the boxing-world in which she moves around in isn’t so accepting of her in the first place. While they don’t necessarily push her to the side and show her the way to the kitchen, nobody also takes her all that seriously. Kusama isn’t trying to make some sort of feminist-heavy statement, but at the same time, she’s also showing just how much this adversity can lead to someone wanting to prove themselves a whole lot more. Yes, this all sounds so very corny, especially for a sports movie, but I trust you, it’s very far from.

And yeah, it goes without saying that Michelle Rodriguez is amazing here. While in recent years, Rodriguez has become something of a “type” (the bad-ass, take-no-names female supporting character), it’s nice to see where she got her start and why she’s become known for that kind of role. As Diana, Rodriguez shows a very rough and tough side to a character who you’re clearly scared of, but also want to know more about. Through Rodriguez, we get to see more of a vulnerable and sweet side to this character than we ever expected; some of the best scenes are between just her and the love-interest, where instead of trying to be all cutesy, they’re just two kids, feeling one another out and figuring out whether or not they want to make a go of this thing that they’ve got going together. Rodriguez allows us to see all sides to this character and it’s a shame that she doesn’t really get nearly as many juicy roles in today’s day and age.

But I’ll forever and ever continue to hold out hope that she one day reaches the same great acting-heights that she did with Diana Guzman.

Aka, my kind of lady.

Consensus: On paper, Girlfight may seem like every other sports movie ever made, but with attentive and smart attention to details, characters, a sheer avoidance of clichés and conventions, and a star-making performance from Michelle Rodriguez, it’s anything but, and then some.

9 / 10

Corn-rows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Cornrows are enough to make any opposing male-figure squeal.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDB, Indiewire, Cineplex

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The war is a jungle. In this case, literally.

It’s slap dab in the middle of WWII, or 1942 to be exact, and needless to say, a lot of lives are being lost. Bus most importantly, a lot of soldier’s lives are being lost, which is why a huge platoon is ordered to take the island of Guadalcanal. While this is no walk in the park, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the soldiers are literally forced to walk up the mountain, where they’ll most likely be meant by the opposing side, as well as a hail-fire of bullets. Among the many soldiers involved with this battle is Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a U.S. Army absconder who has gone “native”, as they say, living peacefully with the locals of a small South Pacific island. While Witt is clearly enjoying his time in the sun, it’s all cut short when he’s discovered by his commanding officer, Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), and forced back on the battlefield. However, there’s more at-play during this battle than just Witt, or Welsh. There’s Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who is having a real hard time making up his mind what the best cause or plan for warfare is, even in the heat of the moment; there’s Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas), a fellow soldier in a position of power, who also seems to be having an issue of what to do with it; and there’s Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), a soldier who’s reeling from a recent heartbreak in his life.

Jesus?

Jesus?

By now, most people know that Terrence Malick is the kind of director you can expect to give you the most ambitious, sprawling, and at times, confusing pieces of epic cinema this side of Kubrick or Kurosawa, but it wasn’t always like that. With his first two feature films (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Malick not only showed his keen eye for an attention to beautiful detail, but also for small, character-driven stories that barely even screech past 100 minutes and instead, keep things tiny, tight and mostly focused. But after spending 20 years away from making movies and doing whatever the heck it is that he was up to, it was clear that something within Malick changed.

And honestly, we’re all the better for it, because, yes, the Thin Red Line is not only Malick’s best film, but perhaps one of the best war films of all time.

Having seen the film at least three times now, I can easily say that it’s up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, when it comes to curating the list of “the greatest war movies ever made”, however, it’s a very different one. In a way, Saving Private Ryan is a far more conventional, Hollywood-ized war movie (although it’s still great), whereas Apocalypse Now is a far more disturbing, terrifying and twisted one (and yes, it’s still great). But what separates the Thin Red Line from these other two flicks is that it’s far more meditative, but at the same time, in its own way, brutal as all hell.

By putting us right along with the numerous soldiers on men on the battlefield, Malick doesn’t let us forget that, for one second, these soldiers aren’t in the nearest thing to hell. They don’t have the slightest clue who is shooting at them, from which direction, where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they’re next line of action is once they actually do get up to the top of the mountain – all that they do know what to do is to shoot, kill and try their absolute hardest to survive. This idea of frustrating, but horrifying confusion that these soldiers must have been going through is effective, especially since Malick keeps his eyes and attention set solely on the American soldiers, what they see, what they feel, and what they’re thinking about at that given time.

Oh, and not to mention, that these soldiers are literally engaged in action for a whole hour-and-a-half, which, when you take into consideration the three-hour run-time, evens out to being pretty action-packed.

However, the movie, nor is Malick all about that idea. No matter what happens in the movie, no matter who gets killed, or for what reasons, Malick never forgets to portray this war as an absolute slaughterhouse of not just lives, but psyches as well. Killing as many people as some of these soldiers do, can do quite a number on you; while that of course can start to happen when the fighting is over, it’s still something that can happen while on the battlefield as well. That’s why it’s not only shocking, but downright upsetting to see some soldiers here lose their minds, not have a single clue of where they’re at, or what they’re actually doing. There’s quite a few soldiers here and there that show up to prove this fact, but regardless, Malick drives home the idea that war is hell.

But even despite all of the violence and sheer ugliness of what’s being portrayed, Malick still finds ways to create some of the most beautiful, eye-catching images ever seen on the big screen. A part of me wishes that I was old enough at the time to see this when it was first in theaters; not just because it would have been great to join that short list of people who actually saw it in theaters when it was originally out, but because John Toll’s cinematography is so amazing, that it absolutely deserved to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Even though people are getting killed left and right, bullets are flying, and there’s no exact idea of who is where, Malick and Toll always find the time to capture the loveliness of the scenery this battle is taking place in.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don't see grass anymore.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don’t see grass anymore.

Of course, with Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s relationship becoming something of fact over the past years, the visuals have only gotten better, but it’s hard to deny that the Thin Red Line is easily his best-looking film to date.

But what makes the Thin Red Line perhaps Malick’s best movie, is the fact that it introduced everybody to the fact that he surely did not care at all about star-power, when it came to making his movies. Sure, he clearly doesn’t mind having the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, George Clooney, or John C. Reilly want to be apart of his movies, but at the same time, he still doesn’t feel like he’s at all inclined to feature them heavily, just because of their name recognition, or whatever other silly ideas Hollywood has about commercial appeal. Though, of course there’s a lot of infamy surrounding Malick’s casting-process and just exactly who he does leave in his movies (Adrien Brody is barely here, despite being lead on to believe he was the main star, and other stars like Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, and Martin Sheen were cut-out of the final product).

Honestly, it takes a lot of guts to cut-out someone like George Clooney, and feature a relative unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel, but guts is exactly what Malick has always had in his career and it’s great to see someone in his position to not give a flyin’ hoot about who is a bigger star than somebody else. Of course, it also helps that those that Malick focuses his final-edit on the most, all give great performances, given that a lot of the times they’re thrown in the mix because Malick forgot about them, or just felt like their time was necessary.

Caviezel is a suitable protagonist, who not only shows the inspirational faith within someone like Witt, but the sheer horror when he realizes the evilness to war; Elias Koteas’ character has many scenes where you don’t know what he’s thinking about doing next, but it’s hard to look away; Ben Chaplin’s character is easy to feel sympathetic for, even if he can be a bit hard to differentiate from Caviezel’s Witt; Nick Nolte, well, let’s just say that he’s the stand-out among the cast, showing just how a person in his position of power, can use to his advantage, for better, as well as for worse. Even then, however, when he’s faced with the reality of the harsh realities of war, he still believes that it’s something necessary to life, and even something to be celebrated. And even though he’s quickly told this is not the truth about life, he still smiles his way onto the next war.

And that’s just the way war works. You get past one, and guess what? Sooner or later, you’re onto the next.

Consensus: Beautiful, endearing, thoughtful, well-acted, and above all else, sad, the Thin Red Line is less of a tribute soldiers, and more of a key look inside the sorts of hell they have to go through, and the sort of effect it has on them, while not being nearly as preachy as I make it sound.

9.5 / 10

Let's play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie......

Let’s play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie……

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Deadpool (2016)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Carol (2015)

Once you work in retail, you’ll fall right out of love with everyone.

In New York City, during the 1950s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works as a sales-clerk for a department store that excels during the holiday season. While she does aspire to be a photographer, most of her life surrounds this job, and the possibility that she and her boyfriend (Jake Lacy), may be heading out for Europe some time soon. However, Therese’s life gets turned upside down when she meets an older woman by the name of Carol (Cate Blanchett). Though Carol is currently going through a divorce with her husband (Kyle Chandler), she’s still tied to her child and doesn’t want to lose her in the proceedings, due to claims of affairs she had with other women. Despite this, Carol is still drawn to Therese and vice versa, so because of that, the two decide to see if they can make something of this relationship, despite it being the 50’s and time hasn’t quite caught on yet. But no matter what, Therese and Carol decide to leave their former lives behind for a little while, head out on a road trip, and eventually, see if they should be together and make this thing work, if it’s just another sordid fling for Carol that she wants to try out with a younger woman.

She's faking it.

She’s faking it.

Given the relationship, as well as the nature of it, Carol could have easily just been one crazy sex ride from beginning to end. Wistful glances from afar? Slight breezing of hands? Curious smell of perfume? Oh man! Already sweating just typing it all!

But surprisingly, but at the same time, unsurprisingly, writer/director Todd Haynes handles it all with ease, care, and above all else, delicacy.

See, for one, Carol concerns itself with a romance tale that most people, new and old, may already feel square-ish about – not due to the fact that it concerns two women, but one who is much older than the other and clearly looking for some hot, young meat to sink her teeth into. And from the very start, that’s exactly what Carol seems like; while our titular character definitely has enough reason for wanting to experience something younger and much more lustful, there’s also a good enough reason why she may just be after Therese in the first place and that’s just for a little bit of fun sex. No shame in that, however, Haynes makes it perfectly clear that to Therese, this is no game.

In fact, if anything, it might be love.

And from here on out, Carol takes a wide turn away from being infatuation, to deep, dark and heavy romance that, despite being seen as constant HLA, is actually very far from. In fact, if anything, it’s plenty more subdued that, despite one key scene that’s not just beautiful, but perfect in describing how it is to make love to someone you actually love for the first time, the whole movie’s just a lot of shared-looks and beating around the bush (pun intended, I’m sorry). Nobody in Carol outright declares their love for one another, nor do they ever make it clear just what they’re full intentions are; all that they do know is that they’re feeling something and going wherever it takes them next.

Which is to say that yes, the two people I’m talking about the most is indeed Carol and Therese, as portrayed both perfectly by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, respectively. Much has already been made about who is the lead character here and who isn’t; no matter how you put it, both characters are given just as much as attention, detail and focus as the other, so regardless, they’re both fully-developed, well-rounded characters who you get a sense of from the very start and gradually continue to know more about, as the story progresses. Haynes could have easily left these characters at just the surface-level, but instead, takes more steps into showing us how they are together, as well as when they aren’t together, which is perhaps what matters most.

And by the same token, allows each actress to dig deeper and deeper into who these characters exactly.

As the titular Carol, Blanchett finally feels as if she’s really building a character here and not just “acting”, with a capital A. Don’t get me wrong, Blanchett is an amazing actress who can never not be good, but lately, it seems like most of her roles have just been about placing her in a spot and letting her do her thing. Nothing wrong with that, but after awhile, it starts to get tiring and, in a way, boring for the actor themselves. That’s why, as Carol develops, we get to see Blanchett go down certain avenues with this character that we don’t expect and get to witness for the first time, which not only makes her seem fresh to us, but also real and believable. While we want to be upset with her and judge her for leaving her family and giving into temptation, to see how truly happy she is in her own skin, when she doesn’t have to hide or shelter herself, is a perfect reason to think otherwise and that’s why Blanchett’s performance truly is amazing.

As is she.

As is she.

As for Mara playing Therese, she’s even better. Therese, on-paper, seems like a meek, mild-mannered girl who doesn’t have much to say or do with her life, and generally seems to be just floating about. However, as we start to understand more and more about Therese as the movie progresses, we see that she’s just a sad, little confused girl who has no road to lead her on, nor a person to fully lean on; she’s just going with the flow, but desperately in need of a plan that it’s making her depressed. Mara’s great in making us feel the sympathy for this character, but never overdoing it, and it’s why her performance, while maybe not as showy, is perhaps the most effective.

Together, the two have great chemistry, from the beginning to the very end.

Because Carol is a movie that deals with a relationship, as its developing, its interesting to see it from the initial, building stages, to what it eventually becomes, if anything at all. There’s no real form of chemistry; there’s just a lot of awkward pauses, phrasing and stutters that don’t really go anywhere, except to show that you’re just as flustered as the other person. You’re getting a feel for the other and you’re just seeing to where it all could go. That’s why, when Carol and Therese first meet, get together and see what they can do about the spark between one another, it feels honest and believable – not like a “meet-cute” scenario where they hit it off right the bat.

This is mostly due to the fact that, yes, both Carol and Therese have issues of their own going on, which basically all just boil down to being about men. However, what Haynes does well here, is that he fleshes out these two character’s stories well enough to where they’re not just worth caring about, but sympathetic. Kyle Chandler’s Harge seems like a genuinely upset and heartbroken man who was lied to and sort of toyed around with, only to just now realize that he’s got no direction in life and basically hopeless. Same goes with Jake Lacy’s Richard, a guy who so clearly and desperately wants Therese in his life, but doesn’t want to overthrow his hand, nor get forgotten about, either – he just wants to be with her, love her, marry her, have kids with her, and do whatever else couples do.

If that doesn’t sound at all sweet or romantic, then go elsewhere and stay away from Carol, you heartless wench.

Consensus: Elegant and beautiful, in both its visuals, as well as its story, Carol features a lovely, but compelling romance, as portrayed perfectly by both Blanchett and Mara.

9 / 10

But together, neither is! It's just love, baby!

But together, neither is! It’s just love, baby!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Revenant (2015)

It’s a jungle out there.

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

"Look out, Academy."

“Look out, Academy.”

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

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

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

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

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

Which is, well, humans are evil creatures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then again, when is he not?

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

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

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

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

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

9 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

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

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

Who does Quentin like more?

Who does Quentin like more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

Behind the camera is fine too, Quentin.

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

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

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

Gosh. Wish that guy was still around.

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

9 / 10

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

Everyone’s got daddy issues.

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

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

Empire1

“Something holding you down, you feel?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See? Luke’s a bit more bad-ass now.

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

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

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

And that’s it.

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

9 / 10

'Nuff said.

‘Nuff said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

Murray1Hangin’ out with Bill Murray is the only Christmas gift a person needs.

Due to solely to the fact that his agent permits it, Bill Murray is forced to hold a Christmas show that’s supposed to broadcast live for the whole world to see. While none of this should be a problem for such a seasoned-pro like Murray, he’s incredibly uneasy about it because, well, nobody’s going to actually be there to participate. There’s a huge snowstorm going on in New York City that has closed all roads or forms of transportation, leaving Murray to handle the show all by himself. Then, as the night progresses, Murray soon realizes that maybe there’s more to Christmas than just being a miserable, annoying and sad Grinch; sometimes, it’s about making those around you feel better and happier about the time of the season. That’s why, despite being stuck inside of the Carlyle Hotel, Murray makes the best out of it, hanging around, drinking, singing, and meeting all sorts of people that he would have never expected to meet, had this been any other normal night. But because this is Christmas, anything is possible.

Phoenix + Paul Shaffer? Why not!

Phoenix and Paul Shaffer? Why not!

At under just an hour, A Very Murray Christmas is the kind of variety show that I love to see, yet, so rarely get. While most movies starring Bill Murray have been touted as being “more time to hang-out with Bill Murray”, A Very Murray Christmas is exactly that; we’re literally thrown into this one night of his life, forced to hang around him, and watch as he interacts with everyone he encounters during this one, fateful night. For those who despise Murray, obviously, this will not be their cup-of-tea. However, for those on the exact opposite side of the fence, it’s exactly the party you want.

It’s also the kind you don’t want to ever end, which is why the 56-minute run-time, feels almost too short.

Granted, Netflix and director Sofia Coppola have all been touting A Very Murray Christmas as nothing more than just a Christmas special and leaving it at that, but still, more time spent with Bill Murray being, well, Bill Murray, is time well-spent. So, why not spend as much of it as we can?

That’s why, despite it being odd that I’m reviewing something seen as “a special”, and not exactly “a movie”, I can sit right here and type away, saying that A Very Murray Christmas is not just a great Christmas special, but a great time altogether. It’s as if Coppola herself remembered how much of a great time it was to work with Murray on Lost in Translation, that to not just get a chance to hang with him again, but also allow for other people to see what she loves about him, she conned Netflix into giving her as much freedom and money as they possibly could to help her make this special and do whatever the hell she wanted to do with it.

Wanna throw Phoenix in there as musicians-disguised-as-chefs? Sure, why not! Hell, how about Dexter Poindexter as a bartender who sings and dances? Or, better yet, why not just have Jenny Lewis be here as a waitress who can do everything that Bill Murray can do? And heck, while we’re at it, why not just have a sort-of dream-sequence featuring George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, and tons of half-naked women who can’t wait to maul Bill Murray?

For the most part, as you can probably tell by now, A Very Murray Christmas was made to just have fun, throw stuff at the wall, and see just what sticks. And mostly, everything that Coppola throws at the wall, sticks; there’s a bit early-on concerning Michael Cera as a manager who wants Bill Murray that seems to come out of nowhere (even given the rest of the special), and is only around to poke jokes at the Monuments Men (which is, yeah, fine), and doesn’t really matter. All we want to see is where this special will go next, who is going to sing what song, and just what the hell Bill Murray is going to be up to.

I'll join in!

Rich people having fun makes me sad.

And well, because this is his special, first and foremost, it makes total sense that Bill Murray’s the best part of it all.

While I’m not sure how much of this special was scripted, it sure as hell just seems like Murray, being Murray, decided to throw it out the window and just do whatever he oh so pleased. There’s something absolutely joyous in watching this because, well, he brings out the best in those around him; the previously mentioned Phoenix have a nice duet with Murray that amounts to Murray just egging everyone on and teasing them. Phoenix is loving, Murray’s loving it, Coppola’s obviously loving it, and hell, for that matter, we’re loving it, too!

Everybody else who shows up in A Very Murray Christmas all seem like they signed-up just to have fun and hang around with a dear old pal of theirs, which makes the special feel all the more pleasant. Everyone who shows up either gets a chance or two to make their presences known, and add a little flavor to the whole special. Most of it’s funny and hardly ever disappoints, even if, occasionally, it does just feel like a bunch of attractive, insanely talented people getting together and doing whatever they want.

But you know what? It’s the holidays and I will never have a problem with that!

Just next time, please, invite me. I promise I’m a fun guy.

Consensus: A Very Murray Christmas may be short with hardly even hitting an hour, but is still filled with all sorts of joy, humor and unpredictable excitement that it’s more than worth the time you take out of your day to check it out. And if you don’t want to do it for me, then fine – just do it for Bill. He’ll be happy.

9 / 10

Seriously. Don't ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Seriously. Don’t ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Ratatouille (2007)

Some French people are so pretentious, that they’d actually think a rat who cooks food is “neat” and “ground-breaking”.

Though Remy (Patton Oswalt) is a rat stuck living the countryside, where he has to search for and steal whatever sort of grub he can find, he still dreams of doing something better with his life. In this better life of his, not only is he appreciating his food more, but also making it himself and dedicates plenty of his time to reading a cookbook from the late, but well-known Chef Gusteau (Brad Garrett). One day, however, Remy is forced to take up a different path than he normally does and, much to his surprise, finds himself in Gusteau’s restaurant’s kitchen. Here, Remy feels as if he can let his talents run wild, but how can he? For one, he’s a rat, and as most people know, rats and kitchens don’t quite go well. Then, there’s also the fact that he’s a rat and can’t be understood by humans. So yeah, the odds are stacked-up against Remy, but once a new chef named Linguini (Lou Romano). Despite Linguini’s awkward persona and general lack of prior experience in the kitchen, Linguini happens to be Gusteau’s kid, which gets him the job in the first place. But because Linguini is so desperate and willing to keep his job and make sure that he doesn’t disappoint his supposed father, he actually decides to take lessons from Remy and learn how to not just be a better cook, but in the process, become a better person, as well.

Take that dairy!

Take that dairy!

It’s still surprises, even until this very day, how an idea like this worked? I know it sounds so simple, but really, a movie about a rat making food? It’s so stupid and silly, in fact, that somehow, it made perfect sense why it would all work out. Because Ratatouille is, of course, a Pixar picture, there’s going to be a whole lot more effort, heart and emotion put into play; not to mention that because Brad Bird works on it, there’s going to be a chock full of inspiration, as well.

Which is exactly what Ratatouille is.

Pixar movies, from the very beginning, have always followed a sort of pattern that they so rarely stray away from. Granted, there are certain variations on the structure but, for the most part, there’s always this general sense that every Pixar movie is made out to be the very same as the last one, given the obvious differences in terms of plot, characters and general location. But it’s hard to get on Pixar’s case because they’ve always been known to kick some fine ass; though they definitely had a rough streak of three years-in-a-row with Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, they still bounced back with Inside Out, showing that not only were they able to get back their creative-genius, but remind people why they fell so hard and deep in love with their movies to begin with.

It’s honestly a manipulative system, but it’s one that I will always continue to fall for, so long as Pixar continues to churn out actual, good movies that don’t feel like they exist to sell a whole bunch of T-shirts and toys.

Even though, yes, that’s exactly what they’re made for.

But despite all of this, Ratatouille is the kind of Pixar movie that makes you wonder just how they do it all. Because, for one, Ratatouille is a funny movie in that it’s not only just cute, but quite witty; there’s certain jokes that are clearly written in a smart-enough way that only an adult paying attention would be able to understand. Of course there are definitely jokes made for the younger-ones out there, but they mostly have to do with obvious slapstick – the adults are the ones who get treated to jokes about French people, food, and critics.

Speaking of which, Ratatouille isn’t just a movie based on the pure humor and fun of its gimmick. Sure, watching Remy and Linguini get together, work in tandem, and create all of these fancy dishes for even fancier people, is more than enough to make you want to step into the kitchen and whip up your own concoction, whatever it may be. Though we’re all talking about CGI food and whatnot here, it’s still hard not to get wrapped-up in everything and start to feel the adrenaline and fun one gets while creating something and absolutely loving every second of it.

Once again, this is an animated flick I’m talking about here, people.

But then again, it’s Pixar, so we all know what I’m talking about.

Like I was saying before, the heart of Ratatouille is what really helps it out in the end. What’s perhaps most interesting about Ratatouille is that there’s no real one, key moment where the water-works are demanded to start working. In other Pixar movies, this is very much the case; the first Toy Story has Buzz realizing that he’s an actual toy and not a real astronaut from Star Command, Monsters, Inc. has that tearful goodbye with Boo, and, as everybody knows, Up has the first ten minutes. Of course, there’s plenty more of these moments in other Pixar movies and I promise you, they don’t sound as obvious as I may make them out to be – you just know to expect one when you’re watching a Pixar movie.

That’s why it’s so strange that Ratatouille, despite featuring some nice moments of heart and kindness, doesn’t really have one of those moments. Then again, it doesn’t need one, because it’s already as sweet and as endearing as can be. Bird, despite working with animated characters who look like over-the-top caricatures, is able to give each and everyone their own bit of back-story/personality that makes them feel like actual characters with personalities that we can identify with.

Rats are cute and all, but they shouldn't be allowed in kitchens. No matter if they sound like Patton Oswalt.

Rats are cute and all, but they shouldn’t be allowed in kitchens. Regardless of if they sound like Patton Oswalt.

The most perfect example of this is the prestigious food critic, Anton Ego, as voiced by the late Peter O’Toole. As most people know, critics don’t always get the soft side of the blade in movies – that’s why, whenever a movie comes out that portrays critics as being something other than miserable, cruel sad-sacks that hate their own lives so much, that they have to project their negative feelings onto other people’s hard work and dedication, it’s quite a lovely surprise. Here, we get the feeling that Anton is, yes, a very intimidating and picky figure, but, just like he states in the movie, it’s all for a reason. He loves food so much, that when he gets food that he doesn’t like or think is actually “good”, he spits it back out.

He loves his trade and he will do anything to ensure that the best players in said trade, continue to get the praise they deserve.

That said, Ego isn’t the only one who gets the lovely treatment here. Remy, as voiced by the lovable Patton Oswalt, goes through an awful lot of transformations here that help this character develop, despite being just a talking-rat; Linguini may have that nerdy shtick, but also seems to have it all come from a soft place in his heart, which helps make his growth, as a character, seem all the more believable; and Ian Holm, as the constantly paranoid and crazy Chef Skinner, also seems like he loves cooking so much, that he will do anything to make sure that his legacy stays alive and running, by any means. There’s plenty of other recognizable voices and nice characters here, both of which, go hand-in-hand oh so perfectly.

And you know what? Despite there being no big moment in Ratatouille, I still teared-up and awful lot!

Damn you, Pixar!

Consensus: Ratatouille is another addition to the long list of Pixar flicks that are not only funny, entertaining and heartfelt, but also have an endearing, rather inspirational message about always doing the right thing and being your best self. It’s typical Pixar, but hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

9.5 / 10

Paris. Still a beautiful place to see. So do it.

Paris. Still a beautiful place to see. So do it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire