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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 1995

Friday (1995)

I guess the hood ain’t such a bad place to live after all.

Craig (Ice Cube) spends most of his days doing nothing, staying unemployed, and just trying to get by in life, constantly chilling with his boy Smokey (Chris Tucker). However, the day that comes between Thursday and Saturday hits and for some reason, there’s something different about the day that isn’t like every other one.

By the mid-90’s, the hood subgenre of film became a bit of a joke. The themes, the violence, the stereotypes, etc., had all been played-out so much so that by a point, there was even a Wayans spoof on it all. What once had been a reliably sad and effective genre of film-making, soon became a bit of a stale product, that only seemed to get worse with each and every attempt at creating something close to resembling Boyz N the Hood.

Every neighborhood’s got a dude like this.

Which is why, at the time, and of course, now Friday is such a breath of fresh air.

Sure, is it a “hood film”? Yeah, it is, but it’s a different kind of one. It doesn’t really try to lay down some life-altering message about getting out of the hood and making a better future for yourself, nor does it ever seem to try and ever take itself too seriously. If anything, it’s just a smooth, relaxed, and downright silly comedy about one day in the hood, where some good stuff, some bad stuff, and some wacky stuff happens in, of all places, the hood.

And yes, Friday works because of that; it’s a very chilled-out kind of movie that doesn’t rush itself, doesn’t have too much of a plot to really get going with, and it sure as heck isn’t running too long with its barely 90-minute run-time. And none of this is a bad thing, either – most comedies, like John Waters always says, should barely be 90 minutes and Friday works well for that reason. A lot of the gags are so quick and random, that they somehow just work and come together, because the movie doesn’t harp on them too much, just like it doesn’t slow itself down with jokes, either. And it all matters, too, because, well, the jokes are actually pretty funny in and of themselves.

Which is why it’s hard to go on and on about Friday without talking about the one and the only, Chris Tucker.

Gotta get down on….

I think it goes without saying that Tucker makes Friday as funny as it can get. He’s often the scene-stealer, using his high-pitched squeal and delivery to make any joke land, as well as seeming like the funniest guy in the room, amongst a pretty funny crowd. It’s not really known how many of his lines were scripted, or how much everyone involved just trusted him to do his thing, but whatever it was, it works and it’s because of Tucker that even when Friday seems to meander a bit too far away from itself (which it often does), it still comes together in the end.

Which isn’t meant to take away from everyone else here, but yeah, when compared to Tucker, it’s hard not to notice. For instance, Ice Cube plays the straight-man, and seems to be having fun, even though often times, his role seems to just be used as the protagonist we see everything through. John Witherspoon is also a lot of fun as his daddy and kept me laughing every single time he showed up but also provided a lot of insight into how daddy’s usually are with their older, bum-like children. Nia Long is also nice as, once again, the romantic love-interest in a hood flick, while such comedic-greats like Michael Clarke Duncan, Faizon Love, and Tiny Lister, and oh, of course, Bernie Mac, all show up, do their things and remind us why they’re so funny in the first place.

But where Friday doesn’t hold up for me (and granted, I have seen this movie about four-to-five times now), is that it’s direction is a bit sloppy, however, with good reason. At barely 25 years of age, F. Gary Gray took over Friday and seemed like he didn’t have to do all that much, but somehow, the movie is still a bit messy. The best aspect of the movie is how, for the longest time, there’s really no plot and nothing needing to drive it by, but by the end, all of a sudden, there’s a plot, there’s a serious conflict, and there’s a, unfortunately, message that we’re all supposed to learn from. If anything, it feels lame, tired and annoying, and it seemed to only happen because Gray was just getting started and needed to get his foot in somewhere.

Thankfully, he did.

Consensus: Even with a slightly amateurish direction, Friday still works because of its odd gags, relaxed, yet pleasing tone, and of course, the exciting cast, led by a stand-out performance from Tucker.

8.5 / 10

Damn, indeed.

Photos Courtesy of: Filmaholic Reviews

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Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Technology is rad.

Motoko Kusanagi is an android cop with a human brain working the streets of a future Japan and trying to make sense of her existence. After all, she’s half-human, half-robot, doesn’t really know how she’s alive, is able to do a lot of the things that she does, and doesn’t quite know how it all ends. In other words, she’s going through an identity crisis of sorts, but is always loyal to getting rid of all evil-doers in the world. And one of her most difficult missions to date, is findiong and getting rid of “The Puppet Master”, a super secret cyber criminal who illegally hacks into the computerized minds of cyborg-human hybrids, getting them to do whatever he so pleases. What makes this mystery person so darn deadly is that they are able to modify the identity of strangers, leaving Motoko pondering her own makeup and what life might be like if she had more human traits, while also creating all sorts of a wide-spread panic amongst the government and military.

Is this considered nudity?

A part of my movie-soul feels like it’s missing out on something because I haven’t seen all of the animated classics from Japan that I probably should have. Sure, a big fan of Cowboy Bebop, and of course, have seen mostly all of Miyazaki’s flicks, but there’s still a great deal of others that have come and gone by my head, without me thinking another second of it. Some of this has to do with the idea of not being able to take an animated-flick of these natures as seriously as other animated flicks, or let alone, regular films in general, but another part of it has to do with a part of me feels like these movies may be too closed-off to fully reach out to someone like me who, for instance, may want to shake myself up a bit and see more that’s offered.

Case in point, Ghost in the Shell.

It’s not that it’s an easy movie to like, or even dislike – it’s just a hard movie to actually understand or get to the bottom of, and that is honestly the biggest issue. The movie seems to pride itself way too much on the fact that it’s confusing, vague, making up certain rules and guidelines as it goes along, and ponders all sorts of crazy questions about life, one’s existence, and most of all, technology. It’s an overload of ideas and story that seems like it’s not really doing much, but constantly throwing us for more loops, time and time again. It actually isn’t until the final-act that things start to make some lick of sense, but even by then, it may be a tad too late to the point of where it’s a wonder what the point was in the first place.

Was it to confuse us? Was it to actually have us question the world in which we live in? Was it to have us think longer and harder about our existence on this planet? Or, honestly, was it just to distract us from the idea that what we’re really watching here is a bunch of robots trying to kill one another, for no real reasons whatsoever?

Ew. I think. Maybe?

To me, it feels a whole lot like that last option and it’s a shame, too, because Ghost in the Shell looks, sounds, and feels great.

It’s just that, you know, it doesn’t always want to make the best sense for anyone who may be new to it. And sure, you can call me an “idiot”, or “someone who just doesn’t know how to pay attention”, but I can assure you, that is not the case – there was a part of me that constantly keep watching and listening for even the slightest bit of detail or thread that I could pick up on and follow, but sadly, it just never seemed to come around.

Does that mean the whole movie was a pain? Not really because, as I’ve said before, it’s a movie that looks great, with animation that still stands the test of time, action that can sometimes go from chaotic, to beautiful, and believe it or not, some neat characterizations that, in a much more clearer and defined movie, probably would have given them more to work with. Our lead protagonist of Motoko Kusanagi is an interesting one because, just like herself, we constantly watch her and question her mortality; we’re not sure if she’s more human than robot, more robot than human, or just a total robot without any human features, except for what’s programmed into her. There’s a nice conversation that she has on a roof-top between her and a fellow man-bot, and it’s fun and kind of sweet, which I wished that there was more of.

Which probably goes to show you that, yeah, I was already expecting something out of an anime flick such as this, that I probably shouldn’t have been.

Oh well. I’ll continue to grow, I guess.

Consensus: Even with some wonderful visuals and action, Ghost in the Shell is also, unfortunately, way too chaotic with its premise to fully make sense of everything that it’s meaning to do, or trying to say to us.

6 / 10

There’s more to the world than just robots.

Photos Courtesy of: The Vault

The Crossing Guard (1995)

Grief makes you crazy. Literally.

After his daughter is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Freddy Gale (Jack Nicholson) is left, unsurprisingly, heartbroken. He drinks a lot, goes berserk, and yeah, patiently waits the day that the driver John Booth (David Morse) is out of jail. It’s something that no one around Freddy can support – not even his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston) – but Freddy doesn’t need their support. He’s grieving and he is in desperate need of said grief to go away, so that when the day comes around to taking care of business, he can do so with a happy mind. Eventually, Booth does get out of prison and he’s come to terms with his accident; he’s apologetic and regretful, and honestly, just wants to move on. He gets a job, starts going to meetings, stays away from bad stuff, and oh yeah, he’s even got himself a girlfriend (Robin Wright). Still though, Freddy doesn’t care. The past six years have been nothing but hell for him and he’s going to let John know it, by any means necessary.

“Yeah, agent? Get me a much louder role next time.”

The Crossing Guard is a tad bit different from Sean Penn’s the Indian Runner, in that it does have a slower, more melodic story to work with again, but this time around, he’s actually developing something about it. As opposed to just giving us something resembling a story, things resembling characters, and issues resembling conflicts, everything matters and is exactly what it seems. There’s conflict, there’s development, there’s characters, and above all else, there’s a drive.

Where that drive ends up may be problematic, but hey, at least it’s going somewhere in the first place.

Where Penn gets the most mileage here is out of the cast, all of whom are terrific. Nicholson’s Freddy is one of the most dramatic and dressed-down performances the man has ever given and it’s a surprise how well he pulls it off, without much of any of the usual gimmicks to be found. His dark persona does work for this character, as we know that there’s something truly upsetting and mean about this character, but there’s also a lot more sadness to him than anything. We see it come out in honest, shocking ways, that show Nicholson can work well, even if he is sort of playing a bit against-type.

Then again, with Nicholson, was he ever a “type”?

It’s a Sean Penn movie from the mid-90’s, so of course Robin will be around, half-naked.

Anyway, Huston gets some solid moments, too, as the ex-wife who, essentially, just yells and hollers a lot. But hey, she does it like a pro. David Morse’s John is also more sympathetic than he would have been in other movies, but it still works to Morse’s skill-set, as we get to see a heart and soul behind the sadness and darkness. We never fully get to know the demons lying inside of this guy, but the ones that we do see and identify, are still interesting. Robin Wright is also fine as his supposed love-interest, who may mean more to the overall story, but mostly, just seems like someone to be there for Morse’s character when all is said and done.

As for the rest of the movie itself, it’s still pretty good, but we also get the sense that Penn himself is constantly growing and learning as a writer/director. Here, with the Crossing Guard, he gets the idea of grief down perfectly and realizes that it’s not us ourselves who make us the most sad in these troubling times, but those around them. Penn doesn’t hide away from the fact that what this Freddy guy is dealing with is some pretty brutal stuff, and rather than trying to sugar-coat as a Lifetime after-school special, he films it in all of its raw, unabashed irony. It’s quite a surprise to get in a movie such as this, and shows that Penn, when he’s not telling a meaningful story, is also not backing down from approaching his story in a much harder manner.

The issues is that by the final act, things get a little screwy. It’s hard to say how, or why, for any of these matters, but just know that the Crossing Guard does eventually dive into thriller-territory and it feels odd. It’s as if Penn himself was so enamored with the character-drama, that he also sort of felt obligated to deliver on the action and supposed violence that a tale like this would promise. It’s a shame, too, because the message it delivers at the end is a smart and meaningful one.

It’s just a shame it had to go through that last act to get there.

Consensus: With pitch perfect performances across the board, the Crossing Guard works as a smart, disturbing look at grief and depression, but also botches its final act.

7.5 / 10

He doesn’t look so bad for a child killer.

Photos Courtesy of: HotFlick.net, Pop Matters

Heavy (1995)

The more, the merrier.

Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) works in a pizza shop and doesn’t really talk to anyone around him. While he gets along with most everyone, it has to do with the fact that he’s so shy and big, nobody really knows how to really talk to him, or what to say. Because for Victor, life is just something to get through on a day-to-day basis and it doesn’t really matter about much of anything else. But his life sort of changes when a new girl, Callie (Liv Tyler), comes into town and begins working at one of the local taverns in the area. Immediately, Callie takes a bit of a liking to Victor – it may not be love, infatuation, or anything sentimental, but it’s enough to give Victor some life and hope. But Callie has some issues going on in her own life, in that she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, either. The two end up forging something of a friendship that helps the two navigate through life and realize that there truly is some sweetness out there in the sometimes dark and brim world.

Writer/director James Mangold has had quite the career, mostly because he’s never really seemed to pin himself to one genre in particular. When he’s not making action-heavy, big-budget spectacles (the Wolverine, Knight & Day), he’s actually out there making subtle, slightly arty dramas (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line). And of course, when he’s not making those movies, he’s off trying his hand at other genres, like Westerns (3:10 to Yuma), fantasy rom-coms (Kate & Leopold), and twisty, Hitchcockian-thrillers (Identity).

"Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don't call me, 'Steve.'"

“Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don’t call me, ‘Steve.'”

And then, there’s his debut, which is perhaps his most different movie, but unfortunately, probably his weakest.

For one, it shows that Mangold definitely knew how to create a sense of time and place. Heavy is a very sad, depressed and at times, moody flick. Mangold puts us in this small town, where it’s not exactly bright, shiny, or even happy – it’s just a lot of rain, clouds and frowns. There’s hardly any light in the sky, nor is there much of any light in the people’s faces. In a way, they’re all kind of miserable and at a stand-still, not knowing where they want to go, what they want to do, and how to go about the rest of their lives.

Which is fine for a mood-piece, if that is exactly what you’re going for, but at nearly two hours, Heavy wears out its sad and repressed welcome. After all, Mangold presents this small part of the world and doesn’t have much else to offer; the sweeping shots of the forest and mountains underneath dark clouds of rain, while beautiful, are also incredibly repetitive, not adding much to the story except an obvious bit of symbolism. Which isn’t to say that it’s a pretty movie, because it is, but beautiful landscapes can only go so far.

Especially when you don’t have much of a story to actually work with.

And that seems to be what’s happened with Heavy. Mangold has a good idea of how to frame and show a story, but actually telling it and allowing for there to be any sort of drive behind the narrative, he doesn’t quite seem to have the knowledge of here. Cause if anything, Heavy isn’t just a heavy movie, but it’s a slow one, that doesn’t really seem to have much to say, or anything to really show. It’s just a bunch of sad people, being sad and trying their hardest not to be sad anymore.

Or something like that, I’m not quite sure. It’s basically the most picture perfect Sundance movie ever made: Moody, dark, gritty, and basically just depressed. It doesn’t have much of a reason to be, either, but Mangold clearly doesn’t know that and pounds hard on the darkness.

Cheer up, Liv! You're always going to be rich!

Cheer up, Liv! You’re always going to be rich!

If anything, the performances do help this movie out a whole bunch, even when it seems like there’s no real character-development or strong writing to even help them.

Case in point, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Victor. Vince is a pretty accomplished character actor, who shows up every now and then in those sloppy, country bumpkin-ish roles. Here though, he’s actually pretty thoughtful and rather sweet as Victor, never going too far to say much of anything, but always getting something across by just the look on his face, or the slight-movement of his brow. It’s actually the perfect kind of small, subtle performance, for this small, rather subtle movie, the only problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, so of course, it’s a great performance put to waste.

Same goes for Liv Tyler as the object of Victor’s affection. At this stage early on in her career, Tyler was more of a cute mystery – we didn’t quite know if we could trust the characters she portrayed, nor did it seem like she did. And here, she’s quite good in a role that doesn’t quite measure up to much, except being pretty, moody, and nice to almost everyone around her. Pros of the big-screen like Shelley Winters, who plays Victor’s sometimes controlling mother, and Debbie Harry, as the co-worker who’s a bit of a problem to everyone, work out well here, but they, too, like the rest of the movie, just seem underdeveloped.

Oh well. At least Mangold would eventually get his act together.

Consensus: Even with the beautiful cinematography, Heavy just never fully comes together as both a visually and emotionally satisfying movie, but instead, only resulting in the former.

5 / 10

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Damn. Life kinda sucks.

In a small New England town, where everyone knows each other, their family history, and business, Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) works as a housekeeper for the rich but sometimes heartless Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). Vera’s a crabby woman who says and does what she wants, which is something that Dolores puts up on a day-to-day basis and has been for at least two decades now. However, when Vera turns up dead, the cops all look right towards Dolores and want to know just what her motive was. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter, Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a well-respected New York City journalist, decides to visit her old town and mother and investigate the matter for herself. As Selena continues to dig deeper and deeper into this case, as well as into her own mother’s past, she realizes that there’s a lot more involved with her family-history than she, or the cops, know. Something that may explain why she is the way she is all of these many years later.

It seems like a lot of people have problems with movies if they’re “too depressing”. Sometimes, it seems like a movie has to be right amount of dark, stark and serious, but also the right amount of light, heart and humor, to make it seem more like a balancing-act. While in some cases, sure, this may be true, but for a movie like Dolores Claiborne, there doesn’t need to be much light, heart, humor, or even fun – all it needs to be is a dark, stark, serious and yes, damn depressing flick.

"Don't look at me with those wild eyes, Daffy!"

“Don’t look at me with those wild eyes, Daffy!”

And in that way, sure, it works.

Director Taylor Hackford seems to get enough right then wrong here, considering that he’s adapting some very rough and disturbing material from Stephen King. While it’s hard to dive into this movie without saying many of the spoilers that do eventually come to light, just know this: You probably won’t be expecting it and that’s because Hackford seems to do a good job of hiding the mystery from us. Sure, the movie may tell us some stuff too early on to really have us gripped, but there’s still an aura of mystery surrounding the movie, even in the more simpler moments.

That said, there’s something odd about Dolores Claiborne, and it seems to come through the actual material itself. In a way, the story is an absolute horror-story, except, without ghosts, goblins, or ghouls, there’s real life, dirty, despicable and disgusting human beings. In a way, the later is far more scarier than the former, which is why a story like this can be and is, chilling. But Dolores Claiborne is odd in that it doesn’t know whether or not it wants to be an all-out horror flick, a dark Southern Gothic, an over-the-top thriller, or a small, subtle drama about families and the secrets we all keep.

All by themselves, they make for some very interesting movies. However, together, they just don’t quite mesh.

Hackford’s good with the mystery here, but he isn’t the most subtle director in all the world, which can sometimes lead to his far more darker and messed-up scenes, somewhat coming off as silly. There’s a very loud score that screeches every time something bad or dramatic happens, and it almost seems like a parody after awhile; it gets worse by the end of the flick when character revelations are coming to us and half of the time, we’re hearing the bombastic score and nothing else. While a story like this probably isn’t asking to be as downplayed as I make it sound, there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t know when to chill it on the theatrics and just trust the story, and the actors to speak for themselves.

After all, there are a lot of heavy-hitters here and for the most part, they all do fine. But before I jump into one performance in particular, I just want to talk about accents in movies: They’re hard to pull-off. I get this. You get this. They get this. We all get this. However, there’s an issue with your movie when there’s supposed to be one sort of signature accent that each and every character should have and, well, for some reason, they don’t. Everyone’s speaking differently, despite being from the exact same place, everyone seems to be trying hard, and yeah, everyone seems to be forgetting about them halfway through.

It happens in a lot of movies, but it’s never hit me as hard as it did with Dolores Claiborne, the one movie where not a single person has the same accent going for them. Due to every character here basically being from this New England town, there’s a lot of hard “a’s” and “r’s”, and while two people in particular seem to get it down perfectly, others like John C. Reilly, David Strathairn, and especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, not just struggle with it, but never seem to let us forget about that neither; Reilly sometimes sounds British, Strathairn, while chilling, sounds like a cartoon, and Leigh, seems like she doesn’t know whether she wants to fully commit to the accent, or not. Instead, it all just sounds like everyone’s getting started with the accents and aren’t quite ready to film them just yet, but Hackford himself didn’t care and just started filming anyway.

Symbolism?

Symbolism?

Regardless, they just don’t work.

End. Of. Story.

Okay, maybe not the actual end because if there is one person who not just gets the accent right, but just about everything else, it’s Kathy Bates. It’s probably no surprise at all that Bates can do great work with a role as a hard-ass, rough-nosed woman who doesn’t take any crap from anyone around her, but there’s more to her than just a tough shell – we soon start to realize that under the hard-exterior, lies a sad, tortured and vulnerable who just wants to be loved, or better yet, even held. It’s the kind of role that, in a much better movie, would garner a lot of Oscar-buzz, but unfortunately, because the rest of the movie is so wild and crazy, it unfortunately takes away from Bates’ powerhouse-of-a-role more.

Oh well. Kathy’s still bad-ass no matter which way you put it.

Consensus: With a dark, brooding atmosphere and great performance from Bates, Dolores Claiborne works, but is also hampered by the rest of the ensemble, as well as Hackford’s tendencies to go a little overboard when it isn’t necessary to do so.

6.5 / 10

Nice green-screen. What? Was New England nowhere to be found?

Nice green-screen. What? Was New England nowhere to be found?

Photos Courtesy of: Cinesnatch

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Why can’t people just date like they used to?

When Elinor Dashwood’s (Emma Thompson) father dies, her family’s finances are absolutely crippled, leaving her and her family to think fast of where they’re going to end up next, or better yet, who they’re going to marry. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) is torn between the handsome John Willoughby (Greg Wise) and the older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman). She seems to not care who she ends up with, because all she really wants is to have some fun, be happy, be loved, and most of all, be taken care of for the rest of her days. On the other side of things, Elinor doesn’t have the best options, even though she’s definitely in love with one Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), who also happens to be previously engaged to another woman to marry. Through this all, however, Elinor and Marianne come together and realize that there’s way to be happy and pleased with life, with, or without husbands.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don't tell them that.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don’t tell them that.

Sense and Sensibility is probably the best period-piece ever made. Sure, there’s a lot of stuffy people out there in the world who probably sneer at certain flicks of this nature, because they don’t feature any action, violence, or explosions – or at least, not in the physical, literal sense – and prefer to focus on more things like characters, plot, emotion, and most importantly, language. If it’s not your bag, then fine, but to say that it’s a terribly boring genre in and of itself is wrong; when done right and to near-perfection, they can be quite the most exciting, most emotional things to watch.

Take Sense and Sensibility, for obvious reasons: While it may seem boring and overstuffed, in just a little over two hours, it does so much. It’s funny, heartfelt, romantic, sweet, sad, passionate, beautiful, exquisite to look at, perfectly acted, and most of all, directed with such a smart, detailed look, that it honestly feels like Ang Lee hardly even showed up to the set.

Which is, yes, a good thing.

What it shows is that the material was already there and all that Lee himself had to do was just stand there, keep the camera in-place and of course, focus on the action; while that sounds incredibly simple and easy, which it is, there’s also something to be said for a director who gets literally every shot correct. There’s not a dull moment, or misplaced shot to be found – Lee knows how to make beautiful scenery look even more impeccable and it’s the main reason why Sense and Sensibility may remain his best movie. It’s not flashy, or overstuffed with the sort of visual flair that he’s known for using – it’s just plain and simple, but still compelling in each and every way known to man.

 

Don't trust all men, Kate. They're swine.

Don’t trust all men, Kate. They’re swine.

And it also all comes down to the fact that the ensemble cast is so perfectly assembled, that it’s hard to find the single best, even if it does come sort of close. While Emma Thompson may not have wanted to be cast here in the first place (she’s also co-writer), she’s still amazing as Elinor. Thompson’s one of the best around, but what she does so well here is that she finds small, subtle ways to get her character’s feelings of sadness and regret across, but never actually has to say it; throughout the whole movie, she’s constantly on the verge of tears and one step closer to losing her marbles, and watching as Thompson constantly battles with that, is incredibly moving.

She was great in Howard’s End, but honestly, she could have won the Oscar for this, too.

Anyway, there’s also a very young, very spirited Kate Winslet as Marianne, being as lovely and as charming as we’ve ever seen her before, working as the perfect counterpart for Elinor’s more reserved-self. The fellas aren’t so bad, either, with Hugh Grant playing the perfect Edward, and never letting us know just whether he’s a slime or not, and the late, great Alan Rickman, playing Colonel Christopher Brandon, who may have a far more obvious route of going with his character, but to watch as he constantly battles himself over his love for Marianne, is quite the watch.

But really, it all comes down to the actual meaning of Sense and Sensibility, which isn’t just that, “Rich, white people will always fall in love,” as much as it’s actually about, “Don’t stop giving up on love and finding whatever path your life will take you.” Sure, it sounds all incredibly corny and sappy, as if you’re almost reading a self-help guide, but it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound; there’s a true bleeding heart here, that shows us many people can be sad, even if they are rich. It’s not a matter of how much money, or mansions you have, as much as it’s about what sort of love you’ve got in your life and what it does for you, day in and day out.

Okay, yeah, it’s a little sappy, but man, it works.

Consensus: Smart, heartfelt, sweet, well-acted, and most of all, never boring, Sense and Sensibility is the ultimate peak of period-dramas, showing Ang Lee’s great balance of humor, mixed with pathos and romantic-drama, and never missing a mark.

10 / 10

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Photos Courtesy of: Decider, Frock Flicks, The Rush Journals

Nixon (1995)

nixonposterHe was a crook, but then again, aren’t we all?

U.S. President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins) definitely had all sorts of controversies in his life and career. And those constants issues with the general public and those around him actually lead-out into the rest of his life, even going so far as to drive him a little nutty. But no matter what, his wife, Pat (Joan Allen), whenever he needed some love and comfort the most, even if he wasn’t quite so sure that he could always trust her. Of course though, despite some of Nixon’s best moments as President, his career and legacy would, ultimately, be destroyed because of the infamous incident that everyone, for future generations, will come to know as “the Watergate Scandal”.

So basically, yeah, Nixon is Oliver Stone’s attempt at trying to make some sort of biopic on the life, times and ultimate career of Richard Nixon. And honestly, it makes sense – if there is any director out there who could understand the mind and brain-space of someone who has been hated and despised over the years, it’s definitely Stone. But don’t be fooled by the term “biopic”, as Nixon is anything but conventional, even if that term is exactly what it promises to be.

"Hey, Anthony? Yeah, tone it down just a bit."

“Hey, Anthony? Yeah, tone it down just a bit.”

And that is, honestly, it’s biggest problem.

Stone has a lot to work with here and even at a staggering three-hours, it feels like we got more than enough. For what it’s worth, Stone doesn’t back down from showing us the image of Nixon, both professional and personal, that we’ve all come to know and expect by now. He has to make a lot of dirty, incredibly questionable choices and decisions on behalf of the entire country and because of that, he starts to get a little crazy and act out in ways people don’t expect him to. Stone doesn’t seem to be fully judging him for who he is, or better yet, what he represents, and that’s what works best in the movie’s favor; it’s setting out to tell us a little more about the one President that most of the country has learned to grow and dislike more with each and every passing year, and not shy away from some of the more grittier, meaner aspects of his life.

And because Nixon doesn’t back away from the not-so pretty things about Nixon’s life, it also can sort of seem like it has nothing to really say about its central-figure. Even though Stone tries his absolute hardest to fool us into thinking that this isn’t another one of those typical biopics we tend to get around Oscar-season, what with the quick-editing, non-chronological format, etc., it’s still not hard to look at this as, yet again, another biopic of someone that we think we know, but don’t know every little detail about, to the day that he took his first breath, to his last one. But the movie also begs the question: Do we really need all of this? Is there a point to this never ending focus on this one man in particular?

Well, the answer is yes and that’s because Anthony Hopkins is the one playing the lead role.

"Okay, maybe I'm a little bit of a crook. Just a little bit, though."

“Okay, maybe I’m a little bit of a crook. Just a little bit, though.”

Which is, yes, definitely fine, because no surprise here, but Hopkins does a terrific job as Tricky Dick. Of course, Hopkins himself has a lot to do and work with, playing up the usual mannerisms of Nixon, without seeming like a cartoon and still sinking into the role, despite not looking a single thing like him, but still, there’s something missing here. It’s a performance that does a lot of shaking, yelling, standing, and heavy-lifting, but it’s also one that seems to just be about the actual actor, and not about the actual character/person being portrayed or brought to us. Watching Hopkins do what he does best is a treat, but still, when he’s clearly not working with solid material that gives him more than just another chance to chew the fat, it’s a bit of a slog to watch. It’s almost as if we walked into an empty-theater, just to watch Hopkins himself rehearse and go over his lines, but rather than letting us go out the doors and into the real world, the doors are locked and we’re somehow trapped, forced to watch and be inspired by the thespian that is Anthony Hopkins.

Sure, that may not sound as bad to some, but watching it all play out in Nixon can get to a bit tiring.

Especially when the movie is, like I said before, is a little over three hours long. And while it’s not the Hopkins show the whole way through, what with the likes of Joan Allen, Powers Boothe, Paul Sorvino, James Woods, and Ed Harris all showing up and doing their things, it still feels very much like a vanity-project that was created solely for Hopkins and no one else. Stone may have had something interesting to say about Nixon’s actions, his public-appeal and how he’s become a “crook”, but it gets lost in between every scene that features Hopkins screaming and hooting at the top of his lungs. Sure, that’s enjoyable to a whole bunch of people, but when there’s no real rhyme or reason for all of the hooting, hollering and screaming at the top of the lungs, then it just gets tedious.

Which is something that I’d never thought I’d have to say about a Hopkins performance.

Consensus: Despite a warts-and-all depiction of Nixon’s story, Nixon still feels very much like a movie created solely so that Anthony Hopkins could work shop the whole entire three hours and make himself happy.

6.5 / 10

See? He's a happy Dick!

See? He’s a happy Dick!

Photos Courtesy of: Cydney Cornell, The Ace Black Blog

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

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

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

Meryl photogenic? No! You don't say?

Meryl? Photogenic? No! You don’t say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10

Sordid affairs have never looked so sweet.

Sordid affairs have never looked so sweet.

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

 

Get Shorty (1995)

Be cool. Not the sequel. Just be cool in general.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami mobster who gets sent by his boss, “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), to collect a bad debt from someone who Bones a whole lot of money. However, Chili’s not just going out and roughing up any normal dude, he’s going out to meet the one, the only Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a Hollywood producer who specializes in all sorts of flicks, but most importantly, horror flicks. And Chili meets Harry’s leading lady (Rene Russo), he can’t help but fall a little head over heels for her. So of course Chili wants to join up in the film-business and eventually sells his life story to Harry, and a few others in Hollywood. Sooner than later, Chili finds out that being a mobster and being a Hollywood producer really aren’t all that different, even if one does concern more ass-kicking than the other. Oh and while this is all going down, Bones is still out there looking for his money – something he will not let go of until it is in his hands.

Don't get too close, Rene. You have yet to be "audited".

Don’t get too close, Rene. You have yet to be “audited”.

It’s easy to do a Hollywood satire. All one really has to do is find some sort of way to say that “Hollywood is a sick, evil and cruel place where people with barely any talent flourish, and those who actually do possess a certain level of said talent, don’t.” It’s that simple and honestly, it’s why so many showbiz satires can sometimes feel tired, even if they are funny; Birdman was the latest showbiz satire that actually had a bite and sting to it that worked and made me laugh, beyond just being mean.

And yeah, Get Shorty‘s got a lot of bite to it, too. However, by the same token, it’s not trying to pass itself off as a Hollywood satire, through and through. If anything, it’s a fun, sleek, and cool crime-comedy, that also just so happens to take place in Hollywood, with actors, actresses, producers, directors, screen-writers, dolly-grips, interns, and etc. But it’s not as silly as it sounds – somehow, writer Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld find the perfect combo of action, comedy, drama, romance, and satire that, yeah, may not always make perfect sense, but still works out smoothly.

Which is more than I can say for some other Hollywood satires who really try to take on too much, without ever realizing that they have a story to continue with beside their mean-spiritedness. But really, underneath all of this, Get Shorty is just a fun movie that’s hard not to be entertained by. Frank’s script, when he isn’t riffing on any of the mechanisms of Hollywood or the film-business in general, is funny and features a great list of colorful characters that more than make up for some of the dull moments in the movie’s languid pace.

John Travolta, when he actually seemed to give a total damn, did a great job as Chili Palmer. There’s a sense of coolness about Travolta that, despite current controversies, we tend to forget actually exists, but here as Chili Palmer, he showed that off perfectly. At some points, he’s supposed to be this mean and tense figure, but then, he changes into being someone nicer and more charming. Some people may not believe both of the sides to this character, but it works, because Travolta could somehow be both menacing, as well as likable at the same time.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Where all of that has gone, is totally beyond me.

Anyway, he also has wonderful chemistry with Rene Russo who, as usual, is great here. The movie does kind of deal with the fact that her character is an aging actress in Hollywood, but doesn’t seem to be getting on her case – if anything, it makes her more sympathetic and makes us want to see her and Chili run off into the sunset at the end. Why she wasn’t around for the second movie, is totally beyond me, but then again, it may be more of a blessing than a curse.

Everybody else is pretty great, too. Gene Hackman seems to be having a lot of fun as the perfectly-named Harry Zimm, someone who is actually quite infatuated with the lifestyle that Chili seems to live; Danny DeVito is pitch perfect as Martin Weir; Dennis Farina gets plenty of chances to curse and act psycho, which is always a treat; Delroy Lindo shows up and he’s always good; and there’s even a few, oddly surprising cameos that seem to come out of nowhere, yet, still work.

Get Shorty is the kind of movie that may seem dated, considering it’s over a decade old, but it still works. The breezy pace helps a lot of the movie’s heavy-lifting and moving, feel as if we’re spending a lot of time with characters that we can learn to love, forgive and forget that they can sometimes be evil human beings. They may not be as lovely to learn about as they were in Elmore Leonard’s original book, but hey, they’re still fine as is.

Heck, they’re way better than whatever happened in the sequel.

Seriously, stay away from that movie.

Consensus: With a smart script and charming performances from the solid cast, Get Shorty is more than just another satire with jokes aimed at Hollywood for giggles, and it’s what matters most.

8 / 10

"I've got this great idea. How about a sequel?"

“I’ve got this great idea. How about a sequel?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Qwipster

Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

Dollhouse1Growing up was actually pretty weird. Like, did I actually do all of those things?

Middle-school student Dawn Weiner (Heather Matarazzo) is having a lot of growing pains that seem to all just be piling-up on each other, one after the other. She’s not only teased and bullied at school for looking the way she does, but when she goes home, the kind of place she expects to be “a sanctuary” of sorts, she gets heckled and criticized there by all of her family. Basically, she can’t win, no matter where she goes; after all, she’s the middle child between her nerdy older brother Mark (Matthew Faber) and her perky younger sister Missy (Daria Kalinina), who seem to gather all of the attention from their desperate parents. But now Dawn feels as if she’s got something going on for her life when she meets a cute, but much older boy (Eric Mabius) whom her brother knows and doesn’t want around Dawn. However, the only person who she seems to get the most attention from is the local bully named Brandon (Brendan Sexton III), who not only threatens to rape her, but seems like he actually wants to hurt her. That is, until the two actually do meet up and for some reason, Dawn’s life may be forever changed.

Weird kids never get the window seat!

Weird kids never get the window seat!

Todd Solondz is definitely a writer/director with a style of his own that, if you aren’t more than willing to accept and roll with, his movies can tend to be a miserable slog. With the exception of maybe Happiness, all of Solondz’s movies seem to hold shelter under the same umbrella where characters are constantly terrible to one another, saying mean, cruel and nasty things, and generally acting out in weird, sometimes sadistic ways. Solondz wants to say a lot with this stylistic choice of his own and for the most part, it can work, but other times, it can feel like he’s straining himself just to be more and more miserable than before.

Welcome to the Dollhouse feels like the perfect middle-ground for Solondz and his trademarks – for better, as well as for worse.

While a solid portion of the story wants to deal with a coming-of-age tale, there’s also another portion that seems perfectly fine with just seeing how far and willing these characters are able to being absolutely awful to one another. For instance, Dawn is clearly the least-liked out of her whole family, so much so that her parents clearly favorite the younger one over her and also want to rip down her playhouse she has out back. There’s some humor in the idea that no matter how hard Dawn tries, she can’t get a break from the rest of her family, but it’s also a joke that gets replayed way too often, and after a short while, just becomes cruel.

Solondz may show us that he does care about Dawn, at the end, throughout, it’s kind of hard not to think that there’s at least some part of him enjoying poking the stick at Dawn when she’s down, out and in need of an arm to pull her back up. Some may disagree with this notion, but it’s what continued to bother me throughout the movie – in fact, more so than any of the times that the Brandon kid dropped the word “rape”. In a way, Solondz is trying to poke fun at the reason for why that word is being used, especially from that character – everything else, especially the stuff that seems directed at Dawn, mostly seems like him getting his rocks off for the sole sake of getting his rocks off.

That said, Heather Matarazzo is quite great as Dawn Weiner and it’s no wonder why she actually did something with her life and career after this. At only 12 years of age, Matarazzo is able to find just the right bits and pieces of subtlety to make Dawn more than just your average nerdy, little girl; she’s got a heart and soul to her that wants to be loved, but is also damn confused about what love actually is. Solondz may throw a lot at her, but Matarazzo is a smart enough actress, even at such a young age, that she gets through it all, making us love this character even more, flaws and all.

Typical family din-dins.

Typical family din-dins.

The rest of the characters don’t fare as well as Dawn, but some at least show some semblance of humanity that’s very hard to come by in Solondz’s movies.

Matthew Faber’s Mark is just a nerd who can’t seem to do anything with his band; Daria Kalinina is basically told to play a brat and, well, as Missy, that’s exactly what she does; Eric Mabius is good as Steve Rodgers, highlighting that this guy may actually just be a genuine nice dude, even if Dawn is a little creepy; and then, there’s the aforementioned Brandon, as played by Brendan Sexton III. His character, as well as his subplot, is perhaps the most interesting thing that Welcome to the Dollhouse has going for it, because it not only surprises, but also is a little sweet, too.

Initially, the relationship that Brandon has with Dawn may seem just like another bully-nerd kind of thing going on, eventually, it starts to show different shadings. It shows that, at his heart, Solondz really does care about these young characters and how they connect with one another, even if they really don’t have a single clue how to express their connection, or even got a single clue of what’s going on. Some of Solondz’s more affectionate moments come out in the scenes between Dawn and Brandon, and honestly, I would have been fine with a movie just about them both.

Obviously, minus all of the usual despicable Solondz trademarks.

Consensus: With enough attention to its character, Welcome to the Dollhouse gets by on what could have been perceived as Todd Solondz getting too deep into his character’s own depression and misery, even if it can sometimes come off that way.

6 / 10

Love at first hate.

Love at first wet willy. 

Photos Courtesy of: The Vern’s Video Vortex, Design Sponge

Safe (1995)

It’s like Bubble Boy. Without a bubble. Or a boy.

Carol White (Julianne Moore) lives a pretty carefree, unexciting life in California with her husband (Xander Berkeley) and stepson. The solid majority of her days consist of finding out which couches’ colors work best with living rooms and figuring out which diet to go on. So, yeah, basically, Carol has nothing to worry about. That all changes one day, however, when she starts to wheeze uncontrollably; though she goes to the doctor to get everything checked out, it turns out that there’s nothing really wrong with her. However, Carol isn’t fully convinced of this, so she looks into the matter herself, and the result she finds out is a bit unexpected, if random. For one, it seems that Carol is allergic to the 20th Century; meaning, there are certain chemicals, gases and irritants that get into her system, make her sick and have her lose control of her breathing. While everyone around Carol thinks that she’s losing her mind and/or is just looking for attention, she herself still knows that her condition is real and wants to find anything that can help her get better and possibly be cured. But where she goes to find these solutions, don’t always pan-out so well.

Pretty, curly hair does not distract.

Pretty, curly hair does not distract.

Todd Haynes doesn’t necessarily direct Safe, as much as he just guides it on along. There’s a very simple story here that, in Haynes’ own, no-frills way, doesn’t ever try to dig too deep into; instead, he just allows for it to be told as straight-forward as possible. However, by doing so, there’s something off about Safe that makes it a movie worth thinking a whole lot about; while it would be easy to classify it as a boring, incredibly slow disease-of-the-week flick, there’s so much more going on in between the folds and lines that make it seem like so much more.

In a way, you could classify Safe as “a thriller”, but at the same time, you couldn’t – while the movie definitely has all of the tension and unpredictability of a thriller, Haynes isn’t really depending on that to tell his story. Sure, the synth-inspired score is eerie to a fault, but despite it, the rest of the movie seems to just be focusing on what happens to Carol next – whether or not it excites you, is generally just up to you and what gets you going. For me, watching this story unfold, before my very own eyes, and to know that Haynes wasn’t trying to be at all pretentious with his style, kept me wide awake and watching.

Granted, I had no clue where the story was going, but that wasn’t the point.

The point of Safe, from what I can gather, is to depict the alienation one woman can feel when she is on the brink of extreme madness and everyone around her knows it. While Carol is, initially, a pretty dull character who doesn’t really have much of a personality, through this disease that she “catches”, we begin to see her develop more and more. We witness and understand the sadness, as well as the shock that she goes through her when she starts to realize that, due to all of these excessive bouts of sickness, she’s starting to lose those around her that she considers loved-ones and friends. What’s perhaps most interesting about Haynes’ direction here, is that he not only doesn’t give us much about Carol, but also doesn’t give us anymore to know about these fellow characters surrounding her, either – they are, in retrospect, just as much of a mystery to us, as they may be to Carol.

And as Carol, it’s definitely worth stating that, as expected, Julianne Moore is great, but it’s a relatively different role for her. For one, it’s not very showy; rather than getting a plethora of scenes dedicated to where she just constantly yells, rants and raves about her disease and the issues she’s having with it, Carol is much more subdued and written-down, which probably works best for her, in all honesty. It’s best that Carol, the character, doesn’t need to spell everything out for us to get the clear picture that yes, she’s feeling terrible and most of all, not doing so well in life.

But because Moore is such a good actress, she channels all of these emotions of sadness and despair in such a way that, despite us not really knowing much about Carol apart from her disease she’s been struck with, it’s hard not to feel a little heartbroken because of it. Moore lost a bunch of weight for this role and because of that, you get the sense that Carol could literally pass-out or fly away at any second; she’s clearly not in the right head-space to enjoy anything about life, so why would she actually continue to keep up with her original diet? But gimmicks aside and all, Moore is superb here and it’s no surprise why she decided to work with Haynes again on Far From Heaven and I’m Not There, as the two seem to bring out the best within one another.

While I’m on the subject of Carol, though, I do think that now is the best opportunity to discuss a problem I found with Safe that kept me away from actually loving it a whole lot more than I should have, and it was its discussion of the disease itself.

How I feel whenever I come home and literally have nothing to do.

How I feel whenever I come home and literally have nothing to do. Except Netflix, of course.

You know, the one where you’re literally allergic to everything surrounding you.

Believe it or not, it’s actually a real disease, which is why it’s so interesting to see someone, let alone, a person like Carol, go through it all and come to grips with all of the side effects of the said disease. What’s perhaps most interesting about is the discussion that Haynes seems to bring up with the disease: Is Carol really sick? Or, is she just another lonely housewife looking for attention? And also, even if the disease is real, does it take physical-form that carries on from one body to another? Or, does it all exist in somebody’s head and the only way for a person to get rid of the disease is to make themselves feel better and more sane?

I’m honestly still battling with myself just what party Haynes sticks with and it’s actually a bit disappointing. In the later-half of the movie, Haynes dives in deep into the idea of therapy as rehabilitation and it’s not only interesting, but also quite smart. However, he seems to just leave it there for us, the audience, to pick up on and it feels like a bit of a cheat. It’s almost as if Haynes himself seemed like he had something to say about this disease, but knew that he’d piss some people off by doing so, so instead, just allowed for it all to play-out as normal as humanly possible. Once again, have no problem with this, but I would have definitely liked to seen more about the disease and what it actually is.

Especially considering that, you know, when’s the next time someone’s going to make a movie about a person with MCS.

Consensus: Anchored by an amazing performance, but never over-done performance from Julianne Moore, Safe feels like the kind of real-life thriller that’s intriguing to watch and dissect, even if there are certain style-contrivances holding it back from reaching that pure level of excellence.

8 / 10

Yep. Still not getting any better. Sorry, hon.

Yep. Still not getting any better. Sorry, hon.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Four Rooms (1995)

People will do anything for a tip.

It’s the first day on the job for Ted the bellhop (Tim Roth), and from what it seems like, it won’t be a very pleasant one. Early on, he gets told the ins, the outs, the what to do’s, and the what not to do’s on the job by an aging, supposed retiring bellman that gives him an idea of what he should expect taking people’s luggage up to their room, answering their phone calls and the most important of all, waiting on them for a tip. So with this all out of the way, Ted gets ready for one of the biggest and most hectic nights of the year, New Year’s Eve. And what do you know it? Ted’s night ends up being an eventful one, albeit one that he finds his life threatened on more than a few occasions. But it’s all in the good name of a sizable tip, right?

Like with most anthology films, the idea here seems smart and somewhat nifty: Get at least four low-key, up-and-coming indie film-makers, give them a budget and give them free reign to basically just strut their stuff for no less than 20 minutes each, slap the Miramax logo on it, and release it to the mass-audience. Seemed like a really promising idea that could have worked wonders for all of the film-makers involved, but somehow, it more or less just ended up killing two promising careers, while just injuring two others.

Take a wild guess as to whose career’s were killed, and which ones were just injured for a short while. Not that hard I guess, but let me just tell you through my usual-way of reviewing anthology films; taking it one-by-one, segment-by-segment. Shall we?

Random twitching example #2.

Random twitching example #2.

1. The Missing Ingredient – This is the one that starts it all off, and that’s not a good thing at all. In short, this segment is easily the worst. It made me feel like I made a huge mistake actually even bothering with this movie. Director Allison Anders gives us a cool idea in which a coven of witches who need male sperm to complete their ritual and just so happened to choose Ted as he comes stumbling on in. While the ground-work was there for this to be not just hilarious, but all sorts of weird and cooky, in a fun-way, Anders doesn’t even bother going anywhere with this. Sure, for horny dudes, there is plenty of hot boobage to be seen, but for anybody who wants a little bit of craziness mixed with their covens, will be most likely disappointed as Anders seemed to really drop the ball with this, and not know what’s considered “funny”, and what’s considered “boring.” Easily the worst out of the four, but it’s not like the next one is a peach neither.

2. The Wrong Man – Things seem to get a bit better with this segment, however, not by much. Director Alexandre Rockwell keeps things small and subdued, but not anywhere near being considered “sweet”, as this whole segment just meanders endlessly, without ever really moving outside of the actual hotel room it’s placed in. The whole story is in which a married-couple (Jennifer Beals and David Proval) basically plays this little sex-game where he pretends that she’s been screwing around him and picks out whatever poor fellow just so happens to stroll through that door, interrogate him, wave a gun in front of his face, take his pills, and basically, just scare the shorts off of him. There are moments in this segment where the wheels seemed to be turning and there seemed to be some moments of promise, but once the segment is all said and done with, I couldn’t help but feel like it went on a bit long. Especially once Beals’ character just started yelling out any term for the word “penis” she could think of right away. Sure, it made me laugh (probably my first one), but it was only because it was a random moment of creative spontaneity that the first segment didn’t seem to have.

Thankfully though, it does get better from here and begins to feel like something worth watching, rather than the first two awful-pieces.

3. The Misbehavers – Antonio Banderas plays a tough and sinister father-of-two that wants to take his wife on a night out on the town, in hopes of getting laid and therefore, igniting the spark in their marriage that probably sizzled-out once kids came along and screwed everything up. But, knowing that these same kids can’t come out with them, he decides to intimidate Ted intoi watching over them, and making sure that they “don’t misbehave”. It seems easy, and with the price for this little mission being $500, it seems even easier. However, with these two kids, nothing is quite as easy as it seems and eventually, the room itself starts to smell and once that happens, all hell breaks loose. So yeah, the plot-line for this segment is dumb, but with Robert Rodriguez behind-the-wheel, it’s anything but. Actually, that’s not true. It is still dumb, but in a “fun” way in which one can only associate with Rodriguez and his style of film-making. It starts off simple and small, but as time goes on, and Rodriguez really gets the brain working, you can see just how much havoc he can throw on top of the other and once all is said and done and we get the final-line of this segment, you know that, if anything, the whole movie was it at least worth it for just this whole time-span of 15-20 minutes. It doesn’t even matter if the last segment blows, all we know is that this is the segment people should be wanting to see and talk about.

When you do have a movie in which "the chick from Say Anything" gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something "to watch".

When you do have a movie in which “the chick from Say Anything” gets and stays topless for more than five minutes, I guess you have something “to watch”.

But of course, the last segment is done by none other than Quentin Tarantino himself and, as we all know, the guy has a bit of a thing for stealing the spotlight of movies, and his segment here is no different.

4. The Man from Hollywood – The plot-line is simple: Ted stumbles upon a bunch of fast-cat, Hollywood big-shots (Bruce Willis being among them), who con him into doing something for a hefty price, as idiotic as the act may be. Oh, and there’s a bet involved somehow, someway. Basically, being that this is a Tarantino-segment, you can expect a lot of witty lines that involved pop-culture, violence, sex and a bunch of other talk that doesn’t sound like it’s coming from actual human-beings who grace us with their presence on the same planet we call Earth. That said, considering the rest of the film that came before this, it’s a blast to watch, keeps you interested, laughing, a bit tense and overall, entertained as if Tarantino was the one they really were leaning on for this to work and that’s exactly what they got. In hindsight, it’s not the best thing that Tarantino has ever done or touched (especially when also speaking of his acting), but when you place his segment against the three others, his definitely comes out on-top and a reason to see this whole film. Although you do have to get through two shitty segments, and one pretty good one.

And through all of these segments, there’s none other than Tim Roth himself acting his ass off through them, which is not a good thing. For some odd reason or another, Roth is given the order to carry-out this overly-used, spastic-twitch of his that carries on throughout most of his segments in which he stammers and bumbles more than Hugh Grant on a bad day. It gets old real quick and just becomes random, as if there was no other reason to make this character interesting than to just have him do and say all of these odd things. Roth tries, but he can’t help but suffer due to doing whatever it was that he was told. However, when he’s told to dial it down a notch and just let the segments for speak themselves, is usually when he’s at his most watchable, as well as the same could be said for the movie itself. And mostly, this occurs during the last two segments. Strange how things work themselves out, right?

Consensus: If you counter in the fact that only two of the four segments in Four Rooms work, then I guess you could consider this “watchable” in the least bit. But, then again, if you want to save yourself some precious time, effort and/or money, then just watch the last two segments somewhere on YouTube. I’m sure you’ll be able to find them somewhere.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a party I'd like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don't do anything I wouldn't do! Woo hoo!

Talk about a party I’d like to involved with on New Years Eve. Speaking of which, Happy New Years Eve everyone. Get out, get trashed, but most of all, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Woo hoo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Desperado (1995)

Once you accept the money, then it’s time to sell your soul and join the mainstream.

Taking place after the first one with a new cast but relatively same story, a gun-toting mariachi (Antonio Banderas) travels to a Mexican town in search for the man who killed his lover and shot his right-hand, the same hand he used to be able to make sweet, sweet music with. After the mariachi shakes things up in town, the local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) wants him dead and, if at all possible, brought to him so that he can be the one to do the righteous act of slaying. And so, the rivalry between the two heats up with the drug lord getting more and more paranoid, and our mariachi gets more and more cornered by all sorts of crooks, yet, is also able to find solace in the loving and caring arms of a gal who runs the local library (Salma Hayek). However, there’s something about this chicky that strikes the mariachi as strange. Could it be that she is in-debt to this local drug lord, or maybe, just maybe, is it that they share something a little more personal than just strictly doing business?

After he hit the big bucks and fame with his shoestring budget debut, El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez found himself prime and ready for big-budget, Hollywood filmmaking where not only would he be able to call the shots anyway he would want, but with anybody he wanted to. But as we all know, once some little nobody all of a sudden makes it big and gets his hands on whatever he wants, then things sort of go downhill from there. And to add insult to injury, we all know that simply “remaking” your first movie, with a bigger budget and cast on-display, is an even more drastic move on anybody’s part, especially Rodriguez’s.

Where the hell's the turtle?

I guess Rodriguez was just “too big” for the turtle anymore.

I guess you can’t blame Rodriguez too much for wanting to play it safe and practically do what he did no less than 3 years before, because even though his name was out there for the whole world to take notice to, the guy was still only 27 years old. And for a guy that young to be making movies this big, it has to be a pretty overwhelming feeling. I couldn’t imagine it, but who the hell am I, right? However, fear doesn’t excuse laziness, and that’s exactly the type of problem Rodriguez runs into with this movie.

It isn’t that the movie’s necessarily boring because it goes over everything that happened in El Mariachi, it’s more because Rodriguez doesn’t know how to give his story more substance in order for us to care. Instead, he just gives us piss-poor character-development that doesn’t do much for the actors in terms of what they have to work with, and also gives us too many scenes where people are doing more talking, than actual shooting, killing, or anything violent of a sort. Which is fine, as long as you can hold somebody’s interest with actual interesting, entertaining dialogue, which is not what Rodriguez gives this movie or the characters. Most of them seem to just ramble on and never go anywhere, except only to move the plot from one gun-battle sequence, to the next.

But then again, those gun-battle sequences I’m talking about, are pretty damn fun and flashy when they happen, and probably shows Rodriguez’s most inspired pieces of filmmaking to-date. So many wild and wacky stunts that defy human or scientific logic; so much blood that you could practically fill a pool with; and better yet, an unpredictable feel to each and every scene where you feel as if any character you see, could practically be offed at any given second. For instance, without giving too much away, a couple of characters who are introduced for a good and solid 2 minutes, suddenly bite the dust out of nowhere, which keeps you on-edge and ready to see what happens next with this plot, and the characters that inhabit it. This is where the fun of the movie really lies, and it’s what we have all come to know and love about Rodriguez, even if most of his films seem to only consist of these scenes, if done in a more over-the-top, balls-crazy way. But even then, they’re still fun and exciting to watch, and bring out the best in him. Hence why I can’t wait to see Machete Kills.

Hey, at least there's no Australian-accent.

Hey, at least there’s no Australian accent present.

And as much as I may get on Rodriguez’s case for taking the easy way out and doing nothing more than “remaking” his first movie, I have to give the guy credit because he found a suitable-enough cast to do it with and keep me interested by. Antonio Banderas was such a perfect choice to replace Carlos Gallardo (who still shows up as a fellow mariachi and band member to Banderas’ character) because he’s able to give us more substance to a character that feels like it needed none, yet, we’re still okay with seeing. Banderas has the look of an action-hero, that’s as tough, nasty, and vengeful as you can get, but also displays a certain heart and sweetness to him that gives you the idea that yes, this dude is not some cabron you want to mess with, but does have a heart when you get right down to the core of him. And the fact that Banderas did all of his own insane stunts, gives this movie even more of a feel of sincerity, despite it still being outrageously crazy and off-kilter at times. However, it also proves that Banderas is the hunk of a Mexican man-meat that almost any lady faints over. They just have to make sure that Mrs. Melanie Banderas isn’t around, or else catfights will most likely ensue.

The rest of the cast is good, even if they don’t get the chance to sink their tooth into their respective roles quite as much, or as well as Banderas does. Joaquim de Almeida plays Bucho, the drug lord who wants this mariachi dead, and displays a ruthless killer you don’t want to mess up a deal with. He and Banderas create a nice rivalry full of suspense and thrills, despite only sharing the same screen for no less than 5 minutes, and even then, it’s still pretty damn intense! Salma Hayek is fine as the gal that the mariachi takes a liking to, and vice versa, even if she doesn’t get much to do. Also, who the hell is going to believe that Salma Hayek not only reads books every single day, but also owns and continues to keep a library up and running? Sorry, just seems unbelievable to me. And there are quite a bit of nice cameos to be seen here, especially ones from people you’d know to see in a Rodriguez movie. Fellow pals like Steve Buscemi, crazy Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, and even Cheech Marin all show up, and do okay jobs with what they have to do; which still isn’t much, but it’s enough to make us happy to see their shiny faces. Okay, maybe not Trejo’s, but you get my drift.

Consensus: Exactly what you’d expect a big-budget, longer, and more attractive remake of El Mariachi to be like, except only that Desperado doesn’t feature anything much more interesting to watch other than a couple of fun action scenes, and alright performances from the cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don't you forget!

Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don’t you forget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

A Little Princess (1995)

Don’t know about these kids, but the I had when I was little were a bit more screwed-up. It’s a guy thing.

Smart, bright, and imaginative 10-year-old Sara Crewe (Liesel Matthews) always believes in fairy-tales, even when things in her real life aren’t so bright. However, she has the support of her daddy (Liam Cunningham) to make her happy and that’s all that counts. And that’s very true, but when that said daddy of hers get shipped-off to fight in WWI, Sara is left at the same girls’ school in New York that her late mommy went to. At first, Sara seems to really like it there since her stories of wonder and the inexplicable make her something of a cult-favorite at the school; but when her daddy is allegedly “killed” in battle and all of her trust-funds are no longer valid, Sara is left somewhat of an orphan. But the mean, despicable, and downright evil Miss Minchin the Elder (Eleanor Bron) decides that she could use dear little Sara around her establishment for cooking, cleaning, and all sorts of other chores that no little 10-year-old should have to do so excruciatingly, but so be it. It’s either in there or the streets, right?!?!? Even through the thick and the thin though, Sara still finds a way to get past it all and somehow look at everything with an optimistic smile, and a brain that’s full of imaginary dreams that sometimes do come true, and sometimes don’t.

If that's what every room in a girls home looks like, somebody find me the make-up and bows ASAP!!

If that’s what every room in a girls home looks like, somebody find me the make-up and bows ASAP!!

With Gravity coming out this Friday, it’s very interesting to see where Alfonso Cuarón first got his foot in the Hollywood film-making business, but also how none of that has been altered or changed over the years. For instance, all of the flowing tracking shots we have come to know and love from Cuarón’s flicks are still present here, as well as his perfect attention to detail and beauty to any setting, and it only seems to make the material better as a result. And nearly two decades later, not much has changed for this guy or his style, instead, he’s just evolved and become the beloved film maker we want to, hell, we need to see more of nowadays. Especially if he’s going to make kids movies like this.

And much like in the same vein as Hugo two years ago, this is more or less a kids film with plenty of art, plenty to look at, and even plenty enough for the adults who, if they ever get roped into seeing this so that their kids will shut up for an-hour-and-a-half, will have something to pay attention to every once and awhile. However, that’s probably asking a bit too much of the adult, since the story and screenplay itself is standard kiddie-fare, with dream-sequences, little girls being princesses, playing around, laughing, smiling, dancing, and overall, just doing what little girls do in movies like this, made for fellow little girls out there. That’s fine and all, but it does leave the parent wanting more if they aren’t the “artistic type”; then again, nothing’s wrong with that in the first place, that’s just me being a picky-bugger. That’s all it comes down to.

Anyway, as I was saying about this movie, it’s a bit more imaginative than other kiddie-movies, and it definitely features a plenty a more inspired direction that makes the movie itself feel like it was wanted to be made in the first place, and not just done so that the Hollywood company can make some sweet cash off of these little tikes and their desperately-loving parents. Cuarón gives this material all of the right amount of visual flair, splendor, and beauty that you could ask for in a movie about imaginary princesses, princes, and Creatures of the Night and really helps you pay attention. Which did mean a lot since the story itself is rather dry, if not conventional at times. That’s why it’s always worth it when you have a director that cares for the material and wants to make a good movie, even if all the other factors around him continue to battle him at wits end.

I know I sound like a cynical a-hole and all, but seriously, nothing else really seems to be saving this movie other than Cuarón’s direction. Yes, there is absolutely, positively, nothing “wrong” with this movie in terms of who should watch it and whether or not it will fully suitable for the whole family (it’s rated G, after all), it just doesn’t do the types of wonders most kids films do for all members of the family. The little girls of the fam-squad will be pleased, but as for us younger and older dudes, boredom may come very close and I feel like that’s where it hits its road-block. Just doesn’t appeal to all senses, and maybe I’m a d-bag for not being able to get past that, but so be it.

Now you all see why I’m still single. Well, that, and because I don’t pay child-support.

Cause she just really wanted to get "out there" in the country during WWI.

Cause she just really wanted to get “out there” in the country during WWI……

But the key to every kiddie-flick is whether or not the performances from the young cast work, and for the most part, it’s a very mixed-bag, as you’d expect from a movie where half of the cast were just potty-trained no less than a couple months before. Liesel Matthews does a nice job in such a young role as Sara because she has to play up the fact that she’s a young girl, who is a bit rebellious, a bit knowing of the adults, as well as her fellow girls, and seems like the type of kid who’s a bit smart for her britches, but she isn’t annoying about it. Shame that she didn’t do much after this movie, but hey, who knows if she’ll ever make that desired comeback only a handful of people have been waiting for.

Then, of course, there’s the adults that are pretty good too, even if the characters they have to work with are either thin, or totally one-dimensional. The character I’m mainly talking about is Miss Minchin the Elder, who is like a mixture between Cruella de Vil and the Bride of Frankenstein; she looks, sounds, and acts as evil as you can get with a woman of her age, and yet, she still has the power to run and facilitate a privileged girls school, that rich people continue to send their daughters to. Though Eleanor Bron does indeed try with this character, she felt too one-sided as if she couldn’t go a day without yelling at some little girl for crying when she fell down the stairs, or threatening to throw them out on the streets to rot and die if their parents don’t continue to pay their bill. In the context of a kids movie where you need a villain that’s this over-the-top, mean, and distasteful to want to see fail at the end, she works, but in terms of a story that goes deeper than just what it presents, she fails. Luckily, the rest of the movie didn’t, all thanks to Mr. Alfonso Cuarón who seems like he’s obviously onto way bigger, and way better things.

Consensus: The kids will probably love the hell out of A Little Princess if you threw it in their face for an afternoon, however, it may be a bit hard for an older-viewer to pay attention to if they sort of, kinda, maybe have to. Except, it is pretty. That much is true.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, at least it shows the kids that you can hold the hand of a black person. That Alfonso Cuaron, so peaceful.

Hey, at least it shows the kids that you can hold the hand of a black person. That Alfonso Cuarón, so peaceful.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

I never pay prostitutes to have brains. Just enough low self-esteem that they’d consider to be with me.

Lenny (Woody Allen) and Amanda (Helena Bonham Carter) are in love and want to start a family. However, Lenny’s not quite ready for that yet so they decide to adopt a child named Max. A couple of years go by, Lenny is feeling neglected from Amanda, but is always there for Max and surprised by how smart and knowing he is. That intrigues Lenny so much that he starts to begin a search, behind Amanda’s back, for Max’s birth-mother and finds out that she’s a porn star/prostitute named Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino). Lenny is obviously shocked by this result but he doesn’t let it get to him, and tries to change her so that she can meet-up to his vision and leave the life that she’s been living, despite it being the only way she can manage a steady-income. While Lenny is off being a counselor of sorts, Amanda’s off on her own having her own sort of affairs, main which being one with her art-gallery owner (Peter Weller).

An “okay” Woody Allen movie, is better than no Woody Allen movie. That’s all there is to say about the man, especially since he churns out a movie every year, gets an even-more stacked-cast than before, and continues to find more and more interesting ideas for his stories, and how to tell them. They don’t always work, but it’s always nice to see the guy back on the big-screen, no matter how regular or average the film he’s working with may be. Although some may definitely disagree with me on this: Yes, Mighty Aphrodite is average and regular.

Mighty1

“32 years younger? Good enough for me.”

As usual, what I always like about Woody’s flicks is that the guy has a keen sense of humor, no matter how dark or grim the subject-matter may be. Which is weird considering how the movie starts off light and straight-forward with him and his girl adopting a kid. It feels like a film that’s a bit too innocent and sweet, especially coming from the finger-prints of Woody Allen himself. Thankfully, once the movie goes about 20 minutes into itself, we are then introduced to a whole other story-line that makes the film any bit of being memorable. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you: Ms. Mira Sorvino herself as the screechy-voiced prostitute herself, Linda Ash.

See, I can’t go on and on any further without mentioning her right off the bat because she makes this movie. Sure, Woody’s good, his writing is inspired, and everybody else in the cast has their bright and shiny moments, but it’s this woman who takes this movie, brings it up by the grips of her hands, and never lets go of it, even when she isn’t on-screen. Her presence is always felt in this movie, and that’s a good thing because she keeps it hilarious and fun, while also giving it it’s right amount of heart and sympathy as well. Of course this is Mira’s best performance, not only because she won the Oscar for this, but because she hasn’t really done much after this. And hell, even the stuff that she did do with her career, was nowhere near as challenging or as exciting as this role.

She’s given the hard task of taking a character that would be easily considered “annoying” and “bothersome” by about the first 10 seconds of screen-time that we spend with her fine-ass, but surprisingly, the girl keeps her rompy, to where it’s almost like a whole person herself. Easily, without a doubt, she could have been played-up for just a bunch of laughs as if she was more of a caricature that we usually see in these types of flicks that concern a low-bit, NYC hooker, but the combination of Woody’s sharp-writing and Sorvino’s general likability, is what keeps this character more than just a cliché. She actually has a heart and soul that you feel for, not because she’s way too in over-her-head with certain things, but because she actually does plan on being a person that makes a difference in someone’s life, even if it does concern still hooking around and whatnot. Sorvino’s so good here, in fact, that knowing that she hasn’t really done much with her career ever since, makes it all the more better because it’s the snap-shot of brilliance that comes every once and awhile.

Did that hype the performance up enough for ya?

"So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?"

“So uh, yeah. You do stuff, right?”

As I said though, saying that she’s the best part of this movie isn’t too discredit any other aspect of this movie that makes it work. It’s a joint-effort and more than likely, the flick works. Woody’s always been, and probably forever will be, a welcome-presence of the big screen, even if it is a bit odd to see a 60-year-old man, adopt and raise a child as if it was the most casual act of kindness on the entire face of the planet. Others are good too, especially the highly-underrated Michael Rapaport, who plays a boxer at a gym that Lenny cons into going out on a date with Linda and has the under-lining, good-boy sweetness to him that allows you to get past the fact that he’s a total idiot. Then again though, she is too and watching them together is probably the high-lights of the movie. In fact, those scenes are so good, as sparse as they may be, I probably wouldn’t have minded seeing one whole flick just surrounding them and their blossoming relationship. Now that would be a Woody Allen flick I’d be very excited to see, but probably may never, ever get.

The ones in this cast who I don’t think worked were very small problems here and there. I like F. Murray Abraham in just about everything he does, and is even good here, but the whole act that his legion of cult-singers narrate the story and tell us what’s lingering at the end of it, as if it were a Greek, modern-tragedy, got old and only took steam out of the flick. Also, it served as a pitch perfect example of what it’s like when Woody can get a little too up his own ass and seem a bit pretentious. And before I go and forget to mention it, Peter Weller, as snarling and oozy as he may be, feels like he’s here more than nothing else to be a dick, and nothing but. Come on, Woody! You can do better than that!

Consensus: Whenever Mira Sorvino isn’t on the screen at all, Mighty Aphrodite isn’t as sharp or as entertaining, but when she is around, for us to set our eyes on, she’s fun, exciting, hilarious, and heartfelt, in only the type of way an Oscar-winning performance could be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"One day, I'm going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career."

“One day, I’m going to be a star and do something with my post-Oscar career.”

The Brothers McMullen (1995)

I’m telling you, us Irish guys know our women, and beer. Definitely more of the latter than the former.

Three Irish-Catholic brothers (Edward Burns, Mike McGlone, Jack Mulcahy) from Long Island, New York, all love the hell out of each other and would do anything for the other. However, they also have a lot of problems that they need to let out every once and awhile. Whether it be the wife at home giving them a hard time, the kids are getting up your ass, or you feel as if you’re getting too old for this shit anymore, they are always there. That’s what brothers are for and that’s what these ones do for one another. Why? Cause they Irish, they Catholic, and they are, above else: McMullens.

Is it me, or does it seem like Edward Burns deserves more roles? This flick pretty much put him on the map back in the day and all because it was pretty much his brain-child: he directed it, wrote it, funded it, produced it, advertised it, gave birth to it, and practically did everything else one person can do a for movie. Heck, I even think the guy played the bagpipes for the score? Probably didn’t, but it’s always a nice thought. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that this is his baby and it’s a film that shows this guy has some real talent, so any problems here, are all put onto him. Thankfully, there’s not too much I can throw against his Boston-ass.

What I liked most about this flick was Burns’ writing and just how natural it felt. Take it for granted, this whole movie is dedicated to a bunch of dudes just sitting around, shooting the shit, talking about what’s on their minds, what’s on their weenies’ minds, and what they think about when the ladies aren’t around. That would definitely bore the hell out of some people, but not me. I actually enjoyed everything that these guys talked about and a lot of it came off as very true. I know I may sound like I’m jumping the gun here because I’m only 19 years of age (for now, ladies?) and I wouldn’t know a single thing about love, marriage, sex (I sort of do now, ladies?), or kids for that matter (I hope I don’t, ladies!!??!?!), but what I do know, is men (sounds a little strange, but you know what I mean). And what I know most about men is that they all talk like about their problems in this sort of way, and react to their problems just like they do in this flick as well. It all feels real and that’s one of the best things that this movie has to offer.

It was the 90's! Give the guy a break!

It was the 90’s! Give the guy a break!

Other than knocking down a pretty solid screenplay, Burns also does a great job behind the camera even though he doesn’t do anything flashy. There’s this very grainy look that makes the film seem as if it’s filmed in documentary style and made me feel like I was there, with these guys while they go through all of this tough shit with their lives. But other than the look, nothing else Burns does here gets in the way of the story which is great. Oh wait, there was that annoying-ass Irish music score that came in almost every single 5 minutes that obviously was there because it went along with the theme of these guys being Irish and all, but did it really need to be here? Especially in a film like this. I don’t know, it just bothered me because it made me feel like I was watching Braveheart.

The only other annoying aspect of this flick was how sweetie-pie everything begins to get by the end of the movie. Before the last 30 minutes or so, these characters were hard-hitting, talking about all of this bad shit, and actually doing some bad shit while they were talking about it, but by the end: it all goes away. Then, once the paths have apparently been cleared, we get some cheesy scenes where everything end nicely, with a little cherry at the top. A bit too too nicely you may wonder? Damn skippy! But trust me, I’m not trying to give away any spoilers here or anything, but you’ll start to see it all once a certain-part in the end shows up. d

Bummer too, because everything Burns was doing here beforehand felt honest and real. It’s almost as if he was speaking for men all-over-the-globe (especially from New Yaaark, booo!), and to see him sort of cop out in the end and get all sentimental with us, seemed like a bit of a cheat. Kind of as if Burns was too afraid in going that extra-mile and really hitting us dudes where it hurts the most (you know where that is, ladies). Also, while I’m at it, why not bag on Burns some more? To top that all off,  they played it all of with some crappy and depressing track from Sarah McLachlan. You know, that chick that makes you want to kill yourself for not saving an animal from the pound. Yeah, no reason for her to be in this kind of a flick, let alone, any flick for that matter. Please don’t find and kill me, SPCA. Please.

"So, yeah. I told her, "why don't we bring another chick to bed?" For some reason, she didn't budge."

“So, yeah. I told her, “why don’t we bring another chick to bed?” For some reason, she didn’t budge.”

Aside from all of that though, Burns lifts himself up with a pretty good performance that definitely makes you wish you saw more of his character around, but then again, you got to give it to a guy who isn’t trying to just steal the spotlight in his own show. Instead, he gives it to two other dudes that play his brothers, Mike McGlone and Jack Mulcahy. Both of these guys are good here and it’s a real shame that, along with Burns, they haven’t really been doing much. Well, that is except for McGlone who I see from time-to-time in Geico commercials. That’s right, one second the guy is in a critically-acclaimed film that premiers at Sundance, and the next second he’s cuing up jokes for Elmer Fudd. Funny where your career will eventually take ya, that’s why I stay far away from Hollywood and relish ion the days of appearing in small, indies. Hopefully that stays and hopefully I start making money. Aww, fuck it! I’m going to Hollywood and moving out of my parent’s basement!

Consensus: With plenty of great insight to what really goes on inside dudes’ heads, Edward Burns makes his directorial debut, The Brothers McMullen, a very funny and realistic comedy that touches on some hard-hitting issues with life for the male-gender, it just doesn’t know how to resolve them in a realistic-way. Or maybe it was realistic, who knows.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Always count on that one chick to ruin the bro-talk.

Always count on that one chick to ruin the bro-talk.

Home for the Holidays (1995)

Who cares about family when you got a plate full of turkey right in-front of you?

Claudia Larson (Holly Hunter) is a divorced, single-mom who just lost her job and now has to fly home for the traditional family Thanksgiving Dinner in Baltimore. Thing is, her parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft) are a bit out-of-whack, her gay-brother (Robert Downey Jr.) likes to start a whole bunch of trouble, and her sister (Cynthia Stevenson) doesn’t like anything that anybody else does.

Ohhh, Thanksgiving. The family, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the corn, the butter, the bread, and most of all, the fights. Yes, not matter how perfect your family may be, there are always fights to be had around this joyous time because let’s face it, any time you get a group of people together, to sit-around and eat dinner, there’s going to be some words thrown around and about and that’s just the way it works. Me, on the other hand, I eat, talk, watch football, and that’s it. If my family fights, then so be it because I know I’m not getting myself involved and I’m sure as hell not missing out on some turkey, that’s for damn sure. To be honest though, I think eating turkey was something that was more interesting to think about than watching this movie.

Jodie Foster went behind the camera for the 2nd time with this flick and you can sort of tell that she’s connecting with this topic through her own experiences with her, and her family, especially around Thanksgiving. Now maybe since Foster was such a big-name at such an early-age, maybe she didn’t really have nice, little, suburban-cooked meals of turkey with her ordinary-family of regular-day people, but you can definitely tell that she enjoys that aspect behind Thanksgiving because it shows a lot in this film, and there’s just a certain easy-going feel to it that makes it so pleasant of a watch. All holiday movies are cheery and happy-go-lucky, and this one is no different but it’s something about the family-dynamic that this movie nails so well that got me all cheerful.

All of the interactions these characters shared with one another, all felt real for about the first hour or so. I liked how everybody in this family, knew each other, had their own ways of communicating with one another, and didn’t hold-back when it came to expressing their real-feelings about something, whether it be each other or the world around them. That’s how a real family is and I liked watching everybody just talk and be themselves around one another, even if themselves was just a selfish, condescending piece-of-crap that you wouldn’t want to be around, let alone spend all of Thanksgiving Dinner with. I don’t know how many actual, normal Thanksgiving Dinners Foster has had in her life, but I can definitely tell that she enjoys the look and feel of a believable family-dynamic and how everybody gets that all families are wacky, dysfunctional, and always, I do repeat, always fight about something stupid or meaningful.

However, this whole realistic family-dynamic doesn’t go on forever. After the first hour of this movie, it seemed like Foster sort of lost what she was going for originally, and just decided to make this one, long soapy melodrama and sort of abandon all of the realistic, family-stuff that was going on before. I liked when the family was arguing and how they couldn’t decide on what to eat or not, but I didn’t give a single-crap about how the father remembers the good old days and how he could wish to go back in-time and do them all over again. I’m sorry, but it didn’t interest me and it seemed like Foster lost herself because instead of focusing on the whole family and what they’re all about, she focuses more on Claudia as time goes on and as good as interesting as she may be at-times, she’s never fully-developed.

You have to give Holly Hunter a lot of credit for really nailing her roles as Claudia. Claudia is a bit of nut-job that obviously has problems with her professional and personal life, and even though that is touched-on within the first 20 minutes or so, it never feels like we really care all that much to begin with. Then, the film starts to really focus on her and what’s going on with her life, and it makes no sense as to where all of this crap is coming from. I get it, she’s a bit sad, and she misses her daughter, but what does that have to do with her and her personality. I didn’t get what Foster was touching on with her and even though Hunter is very-good here, I still wish that her character was more fully-developed and wasn’t used so randomly.

Everybody else in the cast is pretty good, too, and to be honest, a lot more interesting than Claudia in-ways. Robert Downey Jr. seems like he’s having a ball as Claudia’s trouble-making brother, Tommy, and just uses that “talking-really-fast” shtick oh so well here as he does everywhere else. Him and Hunter have a nice chemistry that really does feel like they are brother and sister, and that they have always loved each other through thick-and-thin and just watching them together was great to see, especially since Downey was probably all coked-up out-of-his-mind while he was doing this. Anne Bancroft plays the mother, Adele, and is very, very good as we all know her as being and just nails the whole cooky, paranoid mother-role very-well. Hell, in a way, it even reminds me of what my mom may be in the near-future but I’m not banking on it. A super young-looking Dylan McDermott shows up here as Leo Fish, a friend of Tommy’s, and he’s okay but he seems way too comfortable with this family, way too quick. Literally, as soon as the guy stops in, he starts making wise-cracks to Claudia about how much of a hell the house has got to be and it’s obvious that he wants to get into her parents, because why else would he randomly be talking to her like that, but it didn’t seem believable. Instead, it just came off as a bit creepy and if he was a guy that one of my relatives brought over for dinner, I’d probably want him the hell out. Then again, it’s Dylan McDermott and I’d be pretty honored if the guy showed-up in my house in the first-place so never mind that noise that I’m spraying.

Consensus: Home for the Holidays has the look and feel of a cheery, good-spirited holiday movie, but also feels like it’s trying to go for a bit more and instead, bites off a little bit more than it can chew.

6/10=Rental!!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Gobble Gobble!

Kids (1995)

Being controversial does not make a good flick.

The film follows teens over the course of two days during the mid-1990’s where the HIV/AIDS epidemic started to run rampant. Telly (Leo Fitzpatrick) is on a mission to deflower as many virgins as possible with an addle-brained theory that boffing first-timers will protect him from contracting HIV. Trouble is, he already has it.

As everybody knows director Larry Clark is a dude that loves to shock people with his constant showings of teens shirtless, doing drugs, banging a lot, and just doing evil things that parents don’t think they would normally do. In ways, this works for me, but in others, it just doesn’t even seem like it matters.

Yes, this film is an eye-opener for parents if not one of the first flicks to do that, so I will give Clark that. There’s a lot of dirty stuff that goes on here that is very shocking, but it’s also somewhat true considering I see a lot of this now that I am in my last year of high-school. Now I don’t know any kids that go around deflowering chicks like Telly here but I can say that the weed smoking, the drinking, and the constant partying with sex everywhere is definitely what goes down in high-schools in real-life. It’s not as effed up as this flick makes it out to be but in reality, this stuff does happen and I think that’s where the film at least had me at.

However, despite this realistic view, the film still had its major flaws that took me out of this film completley. Within the first 10 minutes we realize that the two main character, Telly and Casper, are not only the biggest assholes in the world but two kids that have no redeeming quality about them whatsoever. It’s not like they didn’t seem realistic, because I may actually know some kids that are just like this, but it’s the fact that they are so unlikable makes you just wanna beat the crap out of them the whole film and actually pray that they do. These are the types of kids you see messing with old people on the boardwalk and get themselves bootie-raped in jail because they weren’t wise enough to watch the eff they say in the clink. It sucks because we spend the whole film watching them to do stupid shit considering they are terribly unlikable but then again, not every main character in films have to be likable.

Another problem with this flick is that even though there is so much damn shock-value, everything still feels rather dull. There are moments here that are totally devoid of plot and just have these characters talking frankly about their sexual experiences, smoke weed, and drink beer for long-ass periods of time. I’m not saying that this sort of stuff isn’t done amongst teenagers, but after about the 3rd time in the first 30 minutes you see these kids getting high and talking about boning, then it just gets old real quick. I also couldn’t help but think that I highly doubt kids talk about how they are going to find every virgin and have sex them and then talk about how they did it and whatnot. I don’t really think actual kids talk about this kind of stuff but writer Harmony Korine apparently does.

Clark was pretty smart in choosing actual young, teenage actors for these roles because it actually makes us feel like were watching real kids up on-screen rather than some 30-year old who’s trying to play a sophomore in high-school. Chloe Sevigny is good here as Jenny, and her story is not only the only actual sight of any heart in this flick but it’s also one of the more realistic; Rosario Dawson also shows up in one of her first ever appearances and that’s pretty cool too; and Justin Pierce is actually pretty good as Casper, but it’s a shame that the kid died 5 years later because he seems like he could have actually done something with his career.

Most of you probably noticed that I didn’t even mention the main character, Telly. One of the main reasons for that is because the actor who’s playing Telly, Leo Fitzpatrick, can’t act for shit. Telly is a character that is supposed to be a total stud because of his sly moves, sexy look, and just overall cool act but Fitzpatrick is neither of them. Instead he says every word as if he was reading notes he wrote on his hands before filming, he’s skinny as Kate Moss, and the things he says is laughably bad and I don’t know if that was actually intentional or not but I caught myself laughing a whole lot at what this dick-head was saying to these girls just to get them in bed. Hell, they should have called me up for this role even though I was probably 2 at the time but still, I got more game than this joke for a kid.

Consensus: Kids has shock value and rings true in certain elements, but feels rather dull mainly because the script features moments that have no actual development of plot, or even its awfully flawed characters for that matter and the lead actor, Leo Fitzpatrick, can’t act one bit and we have to watch him struggle the whole 90 minutes.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Seven (1995)

Pitt being Pitt, Morgan being Morgan, Spacey being Spacey, and Fincher being Fincher. Hell yeah.

Two homicide detectives are on a desperate hunt for a serial killer whose crimes are based on the “seven deadly sins”. The seasoned Det. Sommerset (Morgan Freeman) researches each sin in an effort to get inside the killer’s mind, while his novice partner, Mills (Brad Pitt), scoffs at his efforts to unravel the case.

David Fincher is a total mad-man and I think he has only gotten better as the years have gone on, but it’s great to see where it all started.

This film is straight-up messed up however, it is also a very smartly written one to say the least which is a lot of thanks to writer Andrew Kevin Walker, who did a lot of junk before and after this film but somehow got thing clickin’ at the right time and place. The film shows the characters always one step behind the killer so we’re constantly left wondering how is this damn guy so freakin’ smart and we don’t quite know what he’ll do next. It fully keeps you on the edge of your seat, until the grand finale comes up and then were left with, “Wow”.

However, it’s not the smarty-pants that the killer has is what’s so good about this screenplay, it’s the fact that it is actually horror/thriller film that has something to say. The killer’s motives really stuck into my head because he is only doing this to people that are not innocent, but more as to people who deserve it because of the hurt and pain they push onto others so subtly. This film will mess with how you view the world and most of all will take you inside of the mind of the serial killer it’s showing, which is unlike any thriller I have ever seen before. What the killer says is still in my mind and will stick with yours probably too.

The real reason this film works though is Fincher’s direction, that is almost nothing short of brilliant. His use of lighting still works in any film, and especially here because he knows how to make any place, no matter where it may be, and just make it the most dirty, grimy, and disturbing place you have ever seen on film. The thing is though, that he’s making Chicago look like this shit-hole where it doesn’t stop raining for a whole week. All of Fincher’s visual flairs add to the depressed and dark setting of this film and just about every sequence is thrilling just by the way he keeps the tension and mystery going.

Oh and let’s not forget the opening title sequence to the remix of the song “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Like that damn song didn’t already have me creeped out. Thanks Finch.

I also liked the fact that we never actually got to see any of the killing’s happen, and more of just the aftermath of these grisly murders. There’s a lot to be shocked by after seeing this film, and although I have seen this about 4 times now, I have to say that I still get a little grossed out by what I see. Others may like this, may despise it and this is one of those films where it’s just “not for everybody”. That can be said for a lot of Fincher films except for maybe his last two that came out, but with The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, I think he’s back on-track for grossing people out again.

The cast is also nothing short of magnificent either. Brad Pitt is great as the young, cocky, and headstrong cop David Mills who wants to get the bad-guy at any way possible, and Morgan Freeman is even better as William Somerset, the laid-back, seasoned cop who plays the voice of reason every time Mills gets a little loose with it. They’re contrast of old school vs. new school is amazing to see on-screen and they work together so well having me actually believing them as a real-life detective team. The real shining star of this whole film is probably Kevin Spacey, who you will probably be stuck remembering long after the final credit reels off the screen. I can’t say much else about this role, but this is easily the best performance from the whole film by just how much he gets into not only the character’s heads, but also the audiences head as well.

Consensus: Although it may not be for everybody, Seven is still one of Fincher’s best with a tension-filled atmosphere, brilliant script, superb writing, and a grand finale that will be sure to stay in your mind way long after the film is over.

9/10=Full Price!!