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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2001

L.I.E. (2001)

Get out of Long Island the first thing you do.

Still affected by the death of his mother, Howie (Paul Dano) has been having a bit of a rough go at life, for the time being. His dad (Bruce Altman) doesn’t seem to get him and is too busy spending time with his new girlfriend, who Howie obviously detests, and his best-friend Gary (Adam LeFevre), who he also has a love for, plans on moving out of their small suburban town in hopes of achieving his dreams of being rich and famous. Howie wants to profess his love for Gary, but he finds it easier to just go around causing all sorts of shenanigans with him, like for instance, robbing random people’s houses. One person that they rob is Big John (Brian Cox) an older, very charming man who has a certain affinity for young boys and immediately takes a liking to Howie. The later, all confused as to who to love or care for, immediately takes to Big John, too, and they both forge something of a friendship that gets dangerously close to being something much more. But will the two take the plunge, or learn to just respect one another?

Did Howie get his candy yet? You know, like he was promised?!?

A part of me feels like a great deal of the positive reception and, dare I say it, hype around L.I.E. has to solely due with the fact that it was touching on some really disturbing taboos that no one could get away with. Sure, the movie got slapped with an NC-17 rating nonetheless, but mostly that was due to the fact that it dealt with homosexuality, pedophilia, and sex in general, all featuring characters who seemed to be clearly underage. You could make the argument that the movie’s just another case of Larry Clarke’s Kids, but that would actually be an insult to L.I.E.

This movie’s much more thoughtful, whereas Clarke’s was just over-the-top and disturbing, for the sake of being so.

But still, L.I.E. isn’t quite nearly as good as it should be. One of the main aspects holding it back is that it’s the directorial debut from Michael Cuesta and in ways, you can tell. The movie’s dark, dirty, gritty, and grainy look, while giving it a realistic-look and feel, also feels amateurish, especially when the movie decides to stylize itself up a bit more with random, floating montages. You could say that it’s “pretentious”, but it isn’t entirely; a good deal of the movie is small, contained and actually, subtle, but there’s the other deal that also seems like a first-time director having a bit too much fun with a budget and a script in his hands.

That said, when the movie does settle down, L.I.E. works as a thoughtful and smart character-study of two troubled people coming together in a surprisingly believable way. It helps that we get to know each character very well before they meet one another, however, it also helps that Cuesta was able to get both Brian Cox and a very young Paul Dano in these lead roles, because they don’t just work well together, but they are actually the heart and soul of the whole picture.

Which is saying something, considering that the movie itself is pretty damn dark.

Don’t do it! Or do. It’s okay!

As Big John, Cox has the really troubling job of making a despicable and disgusting character seem somewhat sympathetic. And well, it works – not only do you come to care for this heinous wreck-of-a-man, but you also actually seem to get charmed by him. A part of the charm is his act and how he reels people in, and Cox gets by on this in spades, while all still seeming like one creepy individual. There’s more to this character that, in all honesty, deserved to be explored, but as far as portraits of actual monsters go, Cox’s Big John remains one of the more fully-realized and well-done.

Which is a shame because despite him trying very hard, Dano’s Howie doesn’t quite resonate as much. See, one aspect behind Howie’s character is that he’s a whole bunch of things that teenagers at that age are; confused, naive, angry, upset, and constantly fluctuating between emotions and how it is that they feel at any given moment. We get to see a lot about Howie and Dano makes it all work, but then, Cuesta comes around to making there more to Howie, like how he writes poetry, understands certain pop-culture references, and watches old movies, that don’t quite work. The movie wants to make Howie more than he actually is – which is just another upset teenager – and because of that, it takes away from what was already a smart and understandable character to begin with.

Oh well. Both Dano and Cuesta would continue to go on and do much better.

Same is obviously said for Cox.

Consensus: By touching on some disturbing themes in a very in-your-face way, L.I.E. can often times seem a little cloying, but still works because of the smart, understated and thoughtful performances from both Dano and, especially, Cox.

6.5 / 10

Love at first face-piercing.

Photos Courtesy of: Alter Ego Entertainment

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Wendigo (2001)

Gotta watch for those deer and rednecks.

George (Jake Weber) is on assignment for his photography job and is supposed to head up into upstate New York and take some pictures. Seeing as how this could be a nice, lovely and enjoyable little vacation for him and the rest of his family, the three all decide to go up and enjoy some times in the wilderness. That is, well, until they actually get there. On the way up, they have some car trouble, run into a bunch of mean locals who don’t like out-of-towners coming into their place and taking over, and hit a deer. So yeah, not the best way to start out the trip, but it gets a bit worse. George’s wife, Kim (Patricia Clarkson), starts feeling more tense the more she’s up there, whereas the young son, Miles (Erik Per Sullivan), doesn’t quite know what’s going on. He’s imagining some weird, horrific things in his mind, but he doesn’t know whether or not they’re real, make believe, or things that just occur when you’re in this part of upstate New York. Either way, the weekend does not go by as expected.

It's okay, kid. Childhood will be over soon enough.

It’s okay, kid. Childhood will be over soon enough.

Writer/director Larry Fessenden does something very interesting with Wendigo, in that he makes a horror flick, that would be played for the art-house crowd. Meaning, he doesn’t just give us all the typical blood, guts, ghosts, ghouls and monsters right off the bat, just as we’d expect from your typical, standard horror-fare; in place of that this time around, there’s character-development, a sense of time, place, and mood. In other words, it’s smart film-making and writing, which isn’t something I can say too often about movies within the horror genre.

Then again, though, there is that final-act where Fessenden himself throws everything out the window.

But hey, let’s not talk about that right away. First, with the good stuff. For one, Wendigo has a very solid first two-acts, in that we’re never too sure where it’s going to end up, what it is, or better yet, what sort of genre is being played with. In a way, Wendigo‘s first two-acts are far more based in the psychological-thriller territory, as there’s some freaky and odd imagery, but never any actual idea that there’s going to be any sort of supernatural presence at play – what we get, is a bunch of random people, acting weird and rude, for almost no reason. It’s like a horror movie, but with real people, in place of all the monsters, which is actually a whole lot scarier if you stop and think about it.

But then, Fessenden ups the ante by actually, believe it or not, giving us characters that we can not just identify with, but actually come to learn to love and grow with, as time goes. Sure, these three protagonists are playing the standard, middle-to-upper-class, cutesy, harmless family, but there’s something heartfelt and interesting about their dynamic; there’s some signs that George may be a bit of a hard-ass and Kim may be smarter than she lets on, but for the most part, they’re a nice, lovely, little family to watch. And that’s why the first-half of Wendigo is spent on them, watching them as they interact with one another, with others, and just in general.

Just another harmless walk in paradise.

Just another harmless walk in paradise.

Once again, not all that groundbreaking stuff in film as a whole, but considering that this is a horror film we’re talking about here, yeah, some shocking and refreshing stuff.

But then, like I stated before, it sort of all goes out the window. This isn’t to say that Fessenden forgets to build up on the tension and suspense throughout, because he definitely does, but when it comes time to get the pay-off for all that suspense and anticipation, well, it doesn’t quite deliver. Without saying too much, Wendigo eventually turns into a full-on, all-out horror flick, that doesn’t hold back on any image and isn’t at all near being subtle. For a typical horror flick, I know that this is something to be accepted, but Wendigo isn’t that typical horror movie – it’s something far smarter and more interesting, yet, ends on a note that could have been mistaken for a Friday the 13th movie.

Okay, maybe it’s a bit harsh to say, but it’s a shame to watch a movie that you’re digging so much and trusting, and then, to have that rug pulled-out from underneath of you. It’s as if, in his head, Fessenden knew that he had a good movie to work with, but only knew at least 2/3’s of it, to put it to paper – the rest, as they say, was sort of made-up on the spot and that’s what seems to have happened with Wendigo. All of his hope, faith and strengths went into the earliest portions of the movie, but when it came to the home stretch and having us leave on a good note, well, he dropped the ball.

Don’t know why there’s so many sports metaphor, but so be it. I’m bummed.

Consensus: Even though Wendigo starts off as a smart, thoughtful and interesting horror-thriller, it eventually turns the other cheek and gets way too crazy and silly, abandoning any sort of hope one might have had for something new, or refreshing within the genre.

6 / 10

Oh, and what's this? Don't ask.

Oh, and what’s this? Don’t ask.

Photos Courtesy of: Horrornews.net

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Who cares if a person’s British or not? If they can say “puff” correctly, then I’m always satisfied.

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a sweet, pudgy, chain-smoking British gal who just can’t seem to meet the right man in her life that’s worth settling down with. She’s 32 and she’s running out of time which is why she somehow gets involved with both her boss (Hugh Grant) and that man’s mortal enemy (Colin Firth). Hilarity, love, and British wit ensues.

Usually British comedies have me laughing my fanny off quite much, but then they start to die down and lose the steam that they once had and thrived so much on. Not Bridget Jones’s Diary; it just continued to go on and on until all of the characters were built-up and the hilarious situations that could and just might happen. It was funny to see a British comedy not take any sidebars in getting a little dirty or risque and that’s what I liked the most. When I want to see my rom-coms, I want them to be a bit bad and naughty, but still a tad sweet on the side. In fact, that’s how most comedies should be, but honestly, so rarely are.

And that’s why Bridget Jones’s Diary is a little treat in and of itself.

So lonely. And that snow is making it so much harder to feel less depressed.

So lonely. And that snow is making it so much harder to feel less depressed.

But honestly, what works best about the movie is Bridget Jones herself. She’s a different type of character that we don’t usually see getting the sort of attention or limelight in rom-coms such as these; normally, she’s the single, but somewhat ugly best-friend to the leading female. But this is her story and it’s worthy of it, too, because she’s a little bit of everything all rolled-up into one woman: She’s mean, dirty, funny, rough, good-looking and most of all, chock full of personality. She’s basically the perfect gal and while the movie does make some jokes at the expense of her weight and rather heavy-set demeanor, they’re only used as a way to highlight the fact that she’s just like us and not your typical romantic-lead, hence why she’s all the more lovable and sympathetic.

And because of that, we actually do care for her journey into finding that one and special someone. Granted, it’s a typical rom-com in which she tries to search for that man of her dreams, comes up a bit short, and then has to figure out just who it is that she wants in her life once she’s given a choice, so yeah, in a way, it’s predictable, but it still works. Because we care for and adore Bridget Jones and whether or not she actually does find the love of her life by the end of the two hours, her ride is enjoyable, if not all that surprising. Most rom-coms seem to think that just pitting a few really good-looking people together and seeing whatever sparks can fly is enough, but it honestly isn’t – sometimes, what we need is characters that we can care about and see if they end up finding the one true loves, or if they just continue on into that harsh, but sometimes relaxing world of singledom.

Which, let’s be honest, is not all that bad. You get more time to spend with Netflix, am I right?

"Uhmmm.....me love? Would...uhm...you like to....uhmm...have sex? Uhm please?

“Uhmmm…..me love? Would…uhm…you like to….uhmm…have sex? Uhm please?

As our titular character, Renée Zellweger is, as usual, quite amazing. At the time, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that Zellweger herself wasn’t British and perhaps too pretty for the role, but the gal took it all one step further by doing her best to make herself “ugly” and gained a whole lot of weight and guess what happened? Well, she knocked the role right out of the park, by mixing a great deal of humor, heart and relatability that’s not too often seen in mainstream rom-coms of this nature. Sure, it helps that Bridget Jones herself is a good character to work with, but it also helps that Zellweger herself has perfect comedic-timing and can act like the Dickens whenever a hard, heavy and dramatic scene calls for her.

Then, as the two men who are seemingly fighting for her heart, are Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, are both pretty solid, adding a lot of fun and spirit to their roles, even when it seems like the script is sort of just letting them down. Still though, both are pretty solid at doing what they do, especially Grant who seems to really be relishing in the moment that he’s playing such a despicable cad, that it makes us wonder what’s the difference between fiction and reality with this guy. Is he like this in real life or not? I’ll leave you to decide, my friends. Firth is pretty solid too, even if I wish there was more to him than just a stone-faced, miserable dude that’s still trying to get over his ex. I know it’s hard and all but man, at least shed a smile here and there for once. It ain’t that hard.

After all, you got Renée Zellweger in front of ya.

Am I right?

Consensus: While it’s definitely a conventional rom-com, Bridget Jones’s Diary is still funny, heartfelt, and featuring an amazing performance from Zellweger that shows just the true talents she has.

8 / 10

Cheer up, Colin! You sour-puss! It's the holidays!

Cheer up, Colin! You sour-puss! It’s the holidays!

Photos Courtesy of: Miramax, Thecia.Com.Au

The Tailor of Panama (2001)

Always need a nasty spy to get rid of the neat ones.

Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), early in his life, used to be a con from Cockney. That was before he met his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), started a family, and most importantly, basically reinvented himself as a popular tailor to the rich and powerful of Panama. While his customers love his lavish and beautiful suits that he hand-crafts himself, they also love the stories he’s brings, with some of them feeling as if he’s more than just their tailor – he’s their friend. Or better yet, he’s a part of their family. The British realize this, especially spy Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a man who notices that Pendel is a very important pawn, in a very big chess game and does not let up one bit from getting each and every piece of info he can, at any costs. But Harry isn’t used to having so much pressure be on him and it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up in his face, as well as everybody else’s.

Still Bond no matter what.

Still Bond no matter what.

The Tailor of Panama is a perfectly serviceable spy-thriller that makes you understand why so many people love and hate John le Carré. One of the main reasons why people love his material so much is that he creates such fun and exciting yarns, that they’re hard not to get wrapped-up in. He tends to love writing about spies, and because of that, we get to sit by and watch as deep, dark and seductive stories of secrets, lies, and spy-hijinx occur. Sure, some of it may be too twisty for its own good, but there’s no denying that spies themselves are pretty confusing; they never know what they want to be and le Carré is there to try and make sense of them, without letting up on any sort of fun.

At the same time, a lot of people hate his work and this movie is another example of why.

For instance, people often complain that le Carré’s work can tend to get a bit too complicated and convoluted than it needs to be, and well, that’s kind of the case here. However, it doesn’t start out like that; director John Boorman takes his time with this setting, these characters, and also, give us a better understanding of what exactly is at-stake/going on. Even if this part doesn’t feel fully realized, the least we find out is that some bad, rich people are up to bad, rich people-like things, and it’s up to Rush’s character to stop it all. Of course, you can fill in the blanks from there, but yeah, it’s pretty simple for a short time.

But like I said, it all goes to hell once the actual plot itself gets going and we have to find out more about these shady and corrupt millionaires. As is usually the case with le Carré’s stories, what the reasoning and explanation of these evil-doings actually are, tend to be overdone, overcooked, and just so damn evil, that after awhile, you wonder why their first idea wasn’t to just nuke the whole world while they were at it. This is the part of the Tailor of Panama that bothered me, as everything leading up to it seemed to be light, breezy and semi-twisty fun. After the half-way mark, of course, it goes away and all of a sudden, we have to pay attention to each and every twist that comes around, even if they aren’t fully believable to begin with.

But thankfully, there is Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush here, who make it all worth our while.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

As Harry Pendel, Rush is having a good time, but he’s also got more of a character to play. He has to both be somewhat sinister, as well as naive and nerdy at the same time; something he pulls off quite well, especially in the later, more confusing portions. Though Jamie Lee Curtis may initially seem miscast here, she actually fits well as Pendel’s wife who not only makes the most money in the house, but also appears to be the one who wears the biggest and widest pants in the family. She doesn’t back down when the going gets heavy and she starts to catch on real quick, not only making her smart, but more than willing and up to the task of playing with the big boys.

Of course though, none of these two are any match for Brosnan and all that he does here as Andrew Osnard. On paper, Osnard is a snively, somewhat goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying; in the movie version, Osnard is a snively, totally goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying, but also enjoys stealing every scene known to man. Sure, a lot of what makes this character cool in the first place is the writing, but really, it’s Brosnan who makes this somewhat conventional spy character, literally jump off the screen, seeming like someone you wouldn’t expect at all in a story like this, nor would you expect him to be as funny or likable as he is. That’s probably why Brosnan, playing somewhat against-type, was the perfect choice here; he’s not likable a whole lot, but with enough of that winning smile and charm, he’s willing to shine the pants off of anyone watching.

Now, does that sound like true Bond to you? I think so.

Consensus: A tad too twisty and wild, the Tailor of Panama is a fun and exciting spy-romp, made all the better by the key performances from the talented cast, most especially the always vibrant Pierce Brosnan.

7 / 10

That's Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

That’s Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, MTV, Roger Ebert

Storytelling (2001)

Read me a story, daddy. Especially ones filled with rape, racism, and teenage angst.

Two different stories that never connect, are told to us through the parts known as “Fiction” and “Non-fiction”. “Fiction” is the story of a young college student (Selma Blair) who gets her emotions all wrapped up in a bunch when her boyfriend (Leo Fitzpatrick) breaks up with her, leading her to fall into the arms of her cocky, but charming professor (Robert Wisdom). “Non-fiction” is the story of a middle-aged, failing documentarian (Paul Giamatti) who gets inspired to make a movie, following a young, confused teenager (Mark Webber) and the rest of his dysfunctional family, that just so happens to have a lot more going on between them than meets the eyes.

Is it too wrong to say that she had it coming to her?

That blonde hair will drive any man wild

Todd Solondz movies are of required-taste and if you can get through them without batting an eye or feeling awkward, then good for you. For me, I still can’t help but feel like this guy is just messing with me, to mess with me. And I hate to say it, but it works well, even though I feel as if I’ve seen and heard it all by now. But still, he continues to push the envelope, even if that aspect of his directing makes him of a provocateur, and not a film maker.

Hell, even in this movie, he makes fun of what people have had to say about him in the past. They call him “shocking for the sake of being shocking”, “racist”, “a bigot”, and even go so far as to be called the dreaded “P-word”: “pretentious”. For a film maker like Solondz to take all of that criticism in stride, really does deserve some credit because he not only throws it right back in those hater’s faces, but even shows them why they may be right as well.

That said, this is where the movie hits its slippery-slope in the way.

The idea of having two, separate stories told in one movie definitely makes it feel like we’re going to get double the trouble with what Solondz has to offer, which is true, but not in the smart, sly way he’s done it before. Instead, all of the dirty stuff that happens here, feels deliberate, as if Solondz himself is trying really, really hard to get a reaction out of us, simply because the material he’s working with doesn’t have that much steam to pile on through. Both stories seem interesting on their own, and even the points he brings up go along with them as well, but it just feels like a missed-opportunity for Solondz to really give us something worth thinking about, rather than landing on the same, two feet that he landed with before.

And yes, you can expect there to be plenty of sex, awkwardness, explicit content, and random conversations about the slimy stuff in our bodies. And yes, sometimes, it works. Other times, it doesn’t. Storytelling feels like the kind of flick Solondz perhaps needed to get off his chest after something as ambitious as Happiness, but still, it also makes it feel more like a greatest hits album, rather than actual greatness itself.

Either way, the stories do sort of work.

With “Fiction”, the idea of young teens falling for an older demographic because of the seniority they show, is actually pretty scary. Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Solondz gets a little bit too ahead of himself, gives us an over-long sex scene (unedited, no red boxes in my viewing), and a couple uses of the “N word” that was supposed to get a rise out of us I assuming, but instead, felt like it was Solondz getting a bit too wacky and explicit for his own good. The aftermath of this scene is smart and funny, however, I still continued to scratch my head wondering, “What was the point of all that?” Is everything we write on paper already considered “fiction”, or is everything after that “real”.

No matter how many licks, we may never know the answer.

Then, we have “Non-fiction” which is oddly longer than the first entry into this flick and shows it’s length as well. It isn’t that I didn’t feel like there was an interesting bit of storytelling to be had here with the loser documenting the stuck-up, egotistical family, it’s just that the targets it’s meant to be satirizing doesn’t quite work as well because it’s all too obvious and easy. The idea of having a film maker, make a movie that’s already pretentious as it is, in your already-pretentious movie is so obvious, that it’s almost too dumb to really take seriously, so that when it does begin to go down the path of making fun of those people who have talked crap on Solondz work in the past, it feels more like a kid saying, “hate to say I told ya so!”, rather than somebody making a legitimate statement about the films he makes. Like I said before, it’s an opportunity that seems missed, even if this story has the most disturbing ending I’ve seen in a long, long time.

"Hi, it's me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again."

“Hi, it’s me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again.”

Yep, even Happiness‘ ending loses to this one.

Consensus: Even at a measly and meager 87 minutes, Storytelling feels like a collection of interesting things that Solondz can, and is perfectly able to do, however, with no real payoff.

6 / 10

Let's face it: we've all wanted to do the same thing.

Let’s face it: we’ve all wanted to do the same thing.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Sex and Lucía (2001)

Yes. There’s sex. And yes. There’s Lucía.

After learning that her boyfriend, Lorenzo (Tristán Ulloa), a talented but troubled writer, may have committed suicide, the beautiful Lucía (Paz Vega) decides to escape to a remote Spanish island. While she’s there, she decides to spend most of the time running around, all hot and naked on the beach, not giving a care who sees her, or who talks to her – she just wants some time alone to herself so that she can sit back and think about what went so wrong in her relationship in the first place. However, she does meet Carlos (Daniel Freire), a scuba diver, and Elena (Najwa Nimri), Lorenzo’s former lover. But Lucía doesn’t know this and after awhile, it becomes all too clear that possibly Lorenzo has something to do with both of these people’s lives. Not to mention that maybe Lorenzo has now found a way to have his real life play out onto the page, what with his second novel being highly anticipated and Lorenzo himself in desperate need for some fresh and bright ideas to work with.

It's all in the book!

It’s all in the book!

For the longest time, Sex and Lucía truly did tick me off. Honestly, it seemed like the kind of movie that, at its heart, was a simple, rather uncomplicated tale of love, remorse and forgiveness, but for some reason, writer/director Julio Medem doesn’t seem to want make it that way. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do, but for at least the first half-hour or so, I was wondering what I got stuck with.

Medem constantly moves the camera around a lot here, doesn’t seem to focus on one shot for any longer than five seconds at a time, and also doesn’t really seem all that interested in making sense of his characters, or the plot in which they live in. In a way, it’s as if Medem literally just picked us up and dropped us into this world that none of us really asked to be apart of, but for some reason, we’re getting it any way. This would have been fine and all, had the movie actually did something of actual interest in the half-hour, rather than just show people have contrived conversations about stuff we know little to nothing about, but nope, it was just boring, uninteresting, and most importantly, middling.

Then, something changed.

All of a sudden, about half-way through, Medem decides that he does want to slow things down a bit, start to focus on the finer points of the story and, wouldn’t you know it, he actually decides to fill us in on just what the hell is going on and what all of these damn characters seem to talk about. I don’t know if Medem himself was starting to get absolutely sick and tired of his wild style, too, but either way, he takes things down a notch and, slowly, but surely, Sex and Lucía, starts to work its magic. After all, at its heart, it’s a story about life, love, remorse, and forgiveness, so it can be all that silly, right?

Oh, Lucia. She's her own woman, for sure.

Oh, Lucia. She’s her own woman, for sure.

Well, that’s kind of the thing about Sex and Lucía – it wants to be both this smart, but emotional take on humans and their love, but at the same time, it also wants to be a sexy, fiery and crazy ride where people do crazy things, just for the sake of doing crazy things. There’s two movies within Sex and Lucía, and while one is clearly more seen than the other, they both still kind of don’t work simultaneously. You almost get the impression that Medem himself can’t help but be silly when push comes to shove, but also wants to show everybody that he’s just as serious as cereal. It doesn’t always work, but it’s admirable on his part, as it shows that all of the weird and nutty antics of the first half-hour, are gone and left to dry-up.

And this is all to say that, yes, Sex and Lucía, is a good movie.

However, it just matters what movie you’re going in to expect.

It can be sometimes wacky and random, but at the same time, it can also be smart and rather insightful. The culmination of what happens between Lucia and Lorenzo, from the hot and sexy early days, to the angry, confusing and weird later ones, is actually quite sad, if only because it’s honest and true. Most relationships don’t keep the spark going when they’ve been together for so very long; often times, it just goes away, only igniting every so often when both parties feel is necessary, or actually have the time for.

That’s why, for awhile, Paz Vega is pretty great as Lucia. We never get a full sense of who she is, but what we do know is that she’s a sweet, soulful and downright sexy creation who takes what she wants and doesn’t give a care in the world about anything else. However, as good as she is, her performance gets pushed to the side for some very long stretches of time, once we begin to focus on Tristán Ulloa’s Lorenzo, who is more like a tragic figure in one of the books he writes. Obviously, this is intended, but it works for this story, because it can be so, at times, dramatic and over-the-top, that you’ll wonder if you’re watching a soap opera, or a porno gone totally and completely wrong.

Either way, the movie is gorgeous to look at, so if you get past all of the other stuff, you’ll be fine.

Consensus: Two movies put into one, Sex and Lucía, wants to have its cake and eat it, too, and while it doesn’t always work at playing both angles, it’s still entertaining enough that it keeps hold of your attention.

7 / 10

Pretty world it is out there. And even prettier people, too.

Pretty world it is out there. And even prettier people, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Flavorwire, Nick Lacey on Films, Ivalow2010

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

KnightposterSir Lancelot always did prefer AC/DC.

Ever since he was a little boy, William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) has always wanted to be a knight and make something of his life. That’s why, when his master dies, William steps up to the plate and takes over his command; while this is obviously illegal to do, he’s going to get by on a phony name, as well as a certain type of skill in jousting. And after his first few matches, William, along with his fellow squire buddies (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk), get the idea that maybe it’s time to take this career a little more serious. After all, they’re gaining so much fame and fortune, that why should they even bother to stop? And now it seems like William has caught the eye of a princess (Shannyn Sossamon) who shares quite the chemistry with him. However, in the eyes of the man she’s supposed to get married to (Rufus Sewell), this is clearly not something good, which means that he will take whatever steps necessary into not just defeating William on the jousting-field, but off it, too. This is where William’s past comes to light and has him wondering whether or not his father would be proud of what he’s become.

Don't mess with these folks. I guess.

Don’t mess with these folks. I guess.

The whole gimmick surrounding A Knight’s Tale is that, yes, it’s a medieval story taking place in the 1400s, which also happens to feature characters speaking in modern dialects, references to modern-day culture, and, perhaps most infamously, a whole ton of rock music. In fact, if one were to go into this movie, not knowing absolutely anything at all, they’d probably be shocked to all hell; once these medieval characters start suiting up and, randomly, War’s “Low Rider” begins to play, it seems so random and completely out of nowhere, that you can’t believe it’s actually happening. Is it a bad idea?

Well, given the context of this movie – not really.

What works best about A Knight’s Tale isn’t just that it features rock music to push itself further away from the rest of the medieval action sub-genre, but also seems to exist in its own goofy universe. Writer/director Brian Helgeland has a nice understanding of what sort of humor works in a movie like this, and it was a nice change of pace to get a medieval action movie that wasn’t always so serious, all of the time. Instead, it had humor, cookiness, and above all else, rock music!

And honestly, the first hour or so of A Knight’s Tale is where it’s probably where it’s most promising. The movie takes its time with its story, allows us to get a fine understanding of these sometimes silly characters, and for the most part, doesn’t take itself all that seriously. While Helgeland doesn’t ask the audience of too much, he still does a nice job in giving plenty of joy to the two types of audience members out there who would see this movie – there’s, of course, the popcorn-friendly members who care about lots and lots action, while on the other hand, there’s also those more sophisticated types who appreciate when a fine joke or two is worked into a scene. In a way, there’s a little something for everyone here and it was nice to see a blending as odd as this, actually work out well.

But then, about half-way through, A Knight’s Tale changes up its tune.

For one, it loses any sort of focus on what made it so exciting and enjoyable to watch in the first place: Its keen sense of humor. Are there still some funny jokes placed in throughout the rest of the flick? Sure, but they come so very few and far between, that it almost seems like Helgeland ran out of funny material to work with. So, much rather, instead, he decided to focus more on our protagonist’s childhood and his soon-to-be-love-life; neither of which are actually interesting, but I guess because, after all, this is his movie, we’re forced to sit through and watch his life unfold before our very eyes.

One element that helps, though, is that William Thatcher, our main protagonist, is played the late, but definitely great Heath Ledger who, even after all of these years, had that certain aura about him that’s hard to really deliver back on. For one, he was a great-looking guy that clearly got the ladies’ and gay men’s butts in the seat, but there was more to him than just the good looks. Ledger also wasn’t afraid to make himself seem like the butt of the joke in certain scenes, nor was he afraid to show off his fun and adventurous side, even if that meant he didn’t always get the chance to look as manly and as tough as some producers probably would have liked for him to be. Either way, it’s still a fine performance from Ledger and reminds us all why he was so great to begin with, but even looking back at it now, it does feel like a bit of a mediocre role to work with.

Then again, Ledger, as always, makes it work.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Gosh. How I miss him so.

And as for the rest of the cast, they’re all lovely and enjoyable to watch, but like I said, the movie starts to fall for convention and lose focus about half-way through, and it leaves most of these members with much to fully work with. Shannyn Sossamon’s princess character is a bit different from the rest, in that she’s actually equipped with something of a personality and seems to share actual, loving chemistry with Ledger; Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk do that Abbott & Costello act quite well here; Paul Bettany is charming here, as usual, playing the author who knows how to make anything mundane, sound terribly exciting; Rufus Sewell is, once again, playing the baddie; and there’s also an early performance from Bérénice Bejo, as the princess’ right-hand girl. Even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, it’s still nice to see where her career got started. And in some ways, a whole lot more interesting, too, considering that she’s been nominated for an Oscar in the subsequent years and most of the members of this cast haven’t at all.

Except for Heath. Of course.

Consensus: Though the anachronisms are fun and add a bit of sizzle to a relatively lifeless subgenre, A Knight’s Tale begins to fall into the same old trappings of a sports movie plot. Except, this time, it’s jousting we’re talking about here.

6 / 10

What a man.

What a man.

Photos Courtesy of: Upside Down MoviesAntonia Tejeda Barros, Mettel Ray

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

AIposterIf this is the future, I don’t want anything to do with it.

In the near, not-too-distant future, global warming has caused massive flooding and heavily reduced the human population. Also during this time, a scientist by the name of Professor Allen Hobby (William Hurt) has started creating robots known as Mecha who walk, talk, and feel just as humans do. One robot in particular is David (Haley Joel Osment) ends up getting adopted by Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica Swinton (Frances O’Connor), who are still reeling from a injury their son, Martin (Jake Thomas), had and left him in a coma. Through David, Henry and Monica get the chance to help raise another child; one that, due to the technology embedded in him, no matter what, David will always and forever love them both. And for awhile, it seems to be going great, but once Martin wakes up, then all hell breaks loose for David and the rest of the Swinton family. This leaves David navigating through the rest of the world where robots are either left to slave their ways through raunchy jobs, or get destroyed for the public’s amusement. But no matter what, David wants to become a real boy and along with Joe (Jude Law), a robot gigolo, he believes that can happen.

Like with most families, the good times don't always last.

Like with most families, the good times don’t always last.

A lot of people have gotten on Spielberg’s case for A.I. and unreasonably so. For one, all of the odds were stacked against him as is with Kubrick wanting to make this movie, dying, and then having his estate pass off the rights to him. Another, is that Spielberg really had to make this appeal to a broad-audience so that he could not only make a “good” movie, but one that would also make rich people, even more rich (something that, due to the source material he was stuck to work with, was no easy task). And lastly, well, because he’s Steven Spielberg; while he can do whatever he wants, he still always loves to end things on a happy, if not overly-positive note.

Which, considering the bulk of A.I., is surprising.

What’s perhaps most interesting about A.I. is that it finds Spielberg in pure-creative form. While we start the movie off at a suburban household, we eventually get thrown into this huge, futuristic world, and this is where Spielberg really shines. This isn’t to say that the first-half of the movie doesn’t work as its own, because it does, but it also seems manipulative in that Spielberg needed a reason for David to be thrown out into this great big world, so therefore, had to create tension among characters who, quite frankly, are pretty stupid.

No seriously, take the Henry character, as played by Sam Robards, for instance. At the beginning of the movie, we see that he’s suddenly all about having a robot-boy come into their lives and fill the void that their unconscious son can’t for the time being. Monica, on the other hand, but soon turns the other cheek. Around the same time, however, Henry begins, for no reason or another, to despise the very idea of David and clearly wants nothing to do with the thing, so therefore, scolds it and refers to it in passing, as if it’s something they have to deal with, rather than embrace.

Uhm, excuse me, bro? But weren’t you the one who bought it in the first place?

Anyway, then the Martin kid wakes up, gets pissed-off that David is trying to be too much like him, and then, we’re treated (which, in this case, probably isn’t the right word, but whatever), to one of the more disturbing scenes Spielberg’s ever made. David is abandoned in a grassy, mostly deserted area of the woods by Monica, who does nothing but push and shove him away from her, professing that she wished she “taught him more about the world”. Considering that she never discussed this when David and her were spending so much time together, this seems random, but still, the fact that David – something manufactured to love unconditionally – is yelling, screaming, and clearly, “feeling” distraught, makes this scene hit harder than it probably should. After all, David is now lonely in this world and while he may not know what to expect, he’s still a young thing, and it’s hard to not feel an ounce of sympathy for him.

But like I said, once the movie gets into discovering this world more, Spielberg clearly starts to work his smart wonders in not only exploring its creepiness, but its downright bleakness. While Kubrick would have definitely envisioned a much darker, more disturbing future, Spielberg’s future is still pretty damn bleak; a future where huge crowds of hooting, hollering, beer-swigging crowds cheer over the destruction of malfunctioning robots for entertainment. Once again, the picture that Spielberg paints isn’t nice, or sweet, but because it’s Spielberg, it’s slightly a bit lighter than what Kubrick would have done and because of that, it’s always going to be held up to scrutiny.

However, it shouldn’t and that’s the problem.

One of the key themes within A.I. is loneliness. David being on his own for a solid majority of this flick (although, he does have the adorable Teddy by his side), this is especially clear. He has a quest for becoming a real boy, but because we know that this dream of his will never come true and the adventure will lead to almost nothing, it’s very sad to watch as he constantly tries to make himself, as well as those around him, believe in it. Though he’s a robot, he’s still a kid-like robot, whose wonder and amazement of the world around him can never be matched by any cynic old-head, like you or I.

"You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not 'anything', but you get my point, kid."

“You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not ‘anything’, but you get my point, kid.”

Once again, this is all sad and it’s supposed to be. Even Joe’s story, although random and not especially necessary, still seems to revolve around him making all sorts of sweet love to women, yet, still not have any true connections in the world and mostly just glide-on by. That he has nothing else more to make of his life other than that he was “a great lover”, already makes it clear that Joe is a robot, with nothing else to him but just that. Together, David and Joe find one another and seem to set out on a world that, quite frankly, doesn’t care about whether or not exist.

I’m getting depressed just writing about this. But I’m not mad, because that’s the point.

By the same token, though, Spielberg still screws the movie up by losing this idea about half-way through. Though the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, it takes a long while to get where it needs to get going and once it eventually does reach its drive, it feels like something of a cop-out. Spielberg decides to take us to the source of David’s creation and what’s supposed to be scary, shocking, and disturbing, just seems like an odd twist thrown at the end to create a drama, as if this were some sort of futuristic soap opera.

And then, there is, as we all know, the ending. Yes, this is the same ending that Spielberg still catches flak for, as well as he should. To be honest, it feels like something of a cop-out; the idea of having this story relate to Pinocchio’s already feels like that, but when Spielberg jumps into the future, many, many years later, and describes practically everything to us, it’s as if he doesn’t trust his audience anymore. Now, the same audience who sat by, watched and were disturbed by the sci-fi future he had to present, is now the same audience who is listening to Ben Kingsley rant on about exposition that doesn’t make any sense and would have probably been left better off not included.

Then, it just ends. David is treated to a dream that he always wanted, and even though the movie has reached almost two-and-a-half hours by this point, it still feels as if there’s something more to be explored. The outside world surrounding David, maybe, but still, there’s a certain incomplete feeling to A.I. that makes me not only want to watch it again, but possibly think harder and longer of where it could have gone.

But the movie, as it stands, still works – it’s just not nearly as great as it could have been had Kubrick been alive to have it made and see the light of day. Rather than fall for all of the sympathetic, melodramatic sap that hits the later-half, Kubrick would have found a certain path to go with that would have made it stuck around longer. But because he wasn’t around, the movie feels like it wants to tell a sweet ending, to a pretty bitter story.

The only way Spielberg insists on doing.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t reach the magnifying heights it could have with Kubrick alive to make it, A.I. is still bleak, dark and interesting enough to make up for the fact that Spielberg sort of drops the ball with the last-act.

8 / 10

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar...

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar…

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Hannibal (2001)

Should have just let him eat whoever he wanted to eat.

Ten years after getting away from practically everybody involved with law enforcement, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is enjoying his time, relaxing, looking at fine art, and walking through the breezy, lovely streets of Florence, Italy. Meanwhile, back in the states, Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is stuck in a bit of a pickle in which a drug-bust went incredibly wrong and violent – leaving the FBI to have to clean up the mess. But because Lecter can’t keep his appetite for Clarice down, he decides to send her a letter, which then leads her to start her own investigation into finding exactly where Lecter is. However, Clarice isn’t the only one. Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is also on his own search for an art scholar who goes missing, which may lead him to stumbling upon Lecter and having to decide whether he wants to arrest the man, or bring him in for a healthy reward granted by deformed billionaire, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman). The reason for Verger’s reward, is because he is one of Lecter’s last survivors around, and has the face, body, and voice to prove it.

Ew.

Ew.

So yeah. The Silence of the Lambs is, was, and will forever be, a great movie. There’s no way of getting around that. And as is usually the case when you’re trying to recreate some of the same magic from a precursor that’s as legendary and iconic as that movie was, the odds are not in your favor.

Such is the case with Hannibal, the sequel to the Silence of the Lambs, that came out nearly ten years later, starred someone new as Clarice, and had a different director.

Granted, Anthony Hopkins is still around and if you’re replacing the likes of Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme, with Julianne Moore and Ridley Scott, then not everything’s so bad. But honestly, if there was ever a reason for a sequel to not exist, it’s shown here. That is, after the first ten minutes in which some of the creepiest, most disturbing opening-sequences ever created, transpire and bring you right down to the level of knowing what to expect from the rest of the movie.

And the rest of the movie for that matter, is also pretty creepy. Because Scott is such a talented director, he’s able to make almost each and every shot feel as if it came right out of an art exposition itself and add a sense of eeriness, even if we’re literally watching a scene dedicated to two people just sitting around in a darkly-lit room, whispering about something, and not doing much of anything else. There’s a lot of scenes like that in Hannibal, and while it’s hard to really be excited by any of them, Scott tries his hardest to add a little more pizzazz and energy in any way that he can.

But it still doesn’t escape the fact that the movie’s still uneventful.

Sure, people are shot, killed, ripped-open, eaten alive, sliced, diced, and chewed-on, but is any of it really exciting? Not really, and that’s perhaps the movie’s biggest sin. The first flick may have been a dark, serious and chilly thriller, but there was still a bunch of excitement to the madness of tracking down Wild Bill, nabbing him, and taking him; while it took its time, there was still a feeling of tension in the air. That same tension isn’t really anywhere to be found here, even if the same feeling of general creepiness is – though it only comes in short spurts.

Most of this has to do with the fact that, despite there being maybe three-to-four subplots going on, there isn’t anyone that really grabs ahold of you and makes you want to watch it as it unfolds. Once again, Clarice is on the search for Dr. Lecter, but because there’s another story that runs along the same lines going on, it doesn’t actually seem all that important. Sure, she’ll get her arch-nemesis, but at the end of the day, does any of it really matter? The dude’s off the streets and not eating people anymore, but does that mean the killing is done once and for all?

This is a point the movie seems to bring up, but never actually go anywhere deeper with. Instead, it’s more concerned with seeing how many times Dr. Lecter can fool people into thinking that he isn’t a mean, sadistic, and brutal cannibal. In fact, hearing that, I realize that these scenes should be somewhat fun, if not, totally hilarious. But they aren’t. Instead, they’re just drop dead serious, grim, and uninteresting.

Stop saying her name!

Stop saying her name!

And that’s about it.

The cast does try their hardest, however. Hopkins, as usual, fits into the role of Lecter as if he never left it to begin with. He’s weird and off-putting, but at times, can also be incredibly suave and charming, especially when he’s speaking of disemboweled bodies. But, at the same time, we are getting a lot more of him, which means that it can seem to be a bit of overkill; whereas the first movie featured nearly 15 minutes of screen-time devoted to Lecter, Hannibal features nearly an-hour-and-a-half of him, which means that his act can get a bit old and stale as the time rolls along. Especially since, you know, he isn’t really growing as a character – he’s still killing, conning, and eating people, the way he always did.

The only difference now is that he’s a lot more laid-back than usual.

And though she tries, too, Julianne Moore really does have all the odds stacked against her playing this role that was definitely made a lot better, and more famously by Jodie Foster. Though Moore seems to be still playing into that same kind of ruthless aggression and dedication that Foster worked well with, it’s hard to get past the fact that she’s playing the same character, but it not being Foster. Ray Liotta shows up and, of course, plays a crooked cop that seems like he has nobody’s best intentions at heart and is fine, but once again, what else is new?

The best of the rest, though, is an absolutely nonidentical Gary Oldman as the disgusting and vile-looking Mason Verger. From the beginning, it’s difficult to recognize that Oldman is even in the movie (mostly do the ugly, but impressive make-up and costume job done to him), but after awhile, it’s obvious that it is him, and the performance works wonders from then on. Despite being able to only use his eyes and voice for his character, Oldman still gives off an deceitful feel that helps make it clear that, if the film was just about him and Lecter sparring-off in a duel of wit and evilness, then it would probably be better.

But sadly, that is not what we get and instead, we’re left reaching for our copies of the Silence of the Lambs.

Consensus: Despite trying its hardest, Hannibal cannot quite reach the same creepily entertaining heights as its predecessor and feels more like a waste for each of the talent involved.

5 / 10

It's okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

It’s okay, Jules. We feel the same way.

Photos Courtesy of: Screen Musings

Snatch (2001)

SnatchposterDoes anybody even know what a “pikey” is in the first place?

Set in the London criminal underworld, two stories are unfolding that, more often than not, just so happen to connect or intervene with one another. One plot deals with the search for a stolen diamond, whereas the other with a small-time boxing promoter named Turkish (Jason Statham) who finds himself under the thumb of a ruthless gangster known as Brick Top (Alan Ford). Of course, there is more than just meets the eye with this premise as many happenings and characters find themselves in-and-out of the story.

If you’ve seen one movie of Guy Ritchie’s, you’ve mostly seen them all. In ways, that’s a good thing, but often times, it can feel as if it’s a tad bit repetitive and over-done. But that’s not me talking, as I’ve come to appreciate the kind of style the dude’s worked with over the years and how it’s single-handedly help save some of his movies from being bore-fests.

Except for Swept Away. There was no way of saving that movie.

Who needs Apollo Creed, when you've got two drunk Irish morons.

Who needs Apollo Creed, when you’ve got two drunk Irish morons.

What Ritchie does so well, is style; it’s the same type of hip, kinetic, and goofy style that we saw in his earlier flicks but who cares? If it works, it works. Ritchie keeps the plot moving in an entertaining fashion, but at the same time, still keeps these plot-lines interesting. This makes it all the more with it when they all seem to converge with one another and make Ritchie’s writing a whole heck of a lot smarter.

Most of that smartness comes from the whole idea of this flick is just to be a big goofy take on the crime-noir genre by substituting all of those hard, mean characters, with lovable, colorful ones that we all actually care about. However, don’t have you think that Ritchie softens up because of this. Instead he lets all of the violence happen as if it normally would in any other film of this genre and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch, even if you do know what’s going to happen next.

Also, subtitles may definitely help at certain times, too.

I don’t know what it is about Ritchie piss so many people off because this guy really seems like he’s having a ball when it comes to him making movies. Does he have an energetic style that can sometimes be straight in your face? Yeah, but does that neccessarily make him a bad director? I guess it all depends on how you feel about watching movies. Either you want a slow human-drama about life and love in the world we live in, or you want a fast-paced, suspenseful, and wild gangster flick that takes no prisoners and makes no apologies for calling each other that dreaded “c-word”.

Yup. Totally not crazy.

Yup. Totally not crazy.

My problem with this film just lies within the fact that I think Ritchie does not stray far away from what he did with his debut and that’s sort of annoying, considering it seems a bit cheap once you think about it. Take for instance, Vinnie Jones’ character. Jones, as we all know and love, is basically type-cast as this wild, insane, and freakishly scary a-hole that would be able to rip your heart out with his teeth. Those are the types of roles the guy gets nowadays and without Ritchie, he wouldn’t have ever been known far-beyond his Rugby days. Therefore, it seems like Ritchie felt the need to not only place a same type of character as that in this movie, but also give Jones the same exact role that sort of comes off as lazy and a bit unoriginal in terms of casting. There’s a couple of other actors and characters here that seem like carbon-copies of the ones from Lock, but Jones was the one who really stood-out for me as the laziest of all, even though he kicked plenty of arse, as usual.

But even besides that, Jones is still good here. And the same goes with everybody else who shows up, utilizing their talents as actors for what would be ultimate challenging of handling Ritchie’s sense of dialogue. Though they may seem like odd choices at first, the likes of Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, and Rade Serbedzija, all do perfectly fine here and show that they’re charming enough to carry along the movie, even if Ritchie’s dialogue may sometimes get in the way of his actors.

However, their not prepared for the most inspired casting decision of this whole flick.

Brad Pitt as the illiterate “pikey” Micky O’Neill, may have seemed crazy, but eventually, you wonder why anybody would have ever thought that. Pitt’s whole act in this flick is to not make any sense no matter what he mumbles, but still be able to get what he’s saying across by the look on his face and the body language he displays. Maybe that’s a bit too much of a detailed study for a character that is first shown taking a dump right in front of his home, but Pitt nails it and makes every piece of dialogue he mutters out hilarious. So hilarious in fact, that the Netflix subtitles couldn’t even decipher what the hell he was saying but that was the point! It was funny, it made me laugh, and made me see what types of roles Pitt can do, and still take total control over even if he isn’t the main star of the show. Everybody else here, kicks some fine-piece of arse that’s worth mentioning but to be honest, just go out and see the ensemble for yourself. They are all so perfect together and you wonder how Ritchie was able to get them all to be in the same freakin’ movie in the first place.

Consensus: Though we’ve seen this style done before, Snatch still utilizes a lot of Ritchie’s strengths as both a writer, as well as a director.

8.5 / 10

Morgan?

Morgan?

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Room Reviews

The Score (2001)

Never trust a guy that is half your age. Especially if he has already done better movies than you.

Career-thief Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) is about to mastermind a nearly impossible theft that will require his joining forces with a clever, young accomplice named Jackie Teller (Edward Norton). The unlikely alliance, arranged by Nick’s long-time confidante Maximillian Beard (Marlon Brando), interrupts Nick’s plan to retire from crime and leads Nick to wonder whether or not this last job of his, will be the one to ruin them all.

When you got three acting powerhouses in one movie, you would expect there to be nothing else other than pure greatness. But sometimes, that doesn’t quite happen. Instead, you just get mediocrity, whether you’re willing to accept it or not. Even if the movie in question does star not just Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, but also Marlon Brando.

Seriously! Why isn’t this thing as spectacular as it sounds?

You wouldn’t think that the guy who voices Miss Piggy and Yoda would be helming a feature flick like this, but I guess Frank Oz is just chock full of surprises. Oz doesn’t do necessarily do anything new, neat, or flashy with his direction here, but did bring some well-earned moments of suspense and keeps the heist as involving as he can, without showing his cards too early-on. The heist, when it does happen, doesn’t take up the whole movie. The rest is actually dedicated to a lot of scenes with Norton and De Niro, who are butting heads and ego’s together on-screen. Which honestly, is a way better movie, because when you give two stars like these ones here free reign to just work with one another, only good can come from it.

"Now remember kid, don't try and upstage my ass."

“Now remember kid, don’t try and upstage my ass.”

However, though, it all comes back down to the plot of this movie, which services these talents, but also doesn’t do much of anything interesting either. All of the caper/heist conventions are here – guy tries to get away from his life of crime by pulling off one last job; guy doesn’t work well with others; partner isn’t all who he seems to be, etc. Basically it’s got all of the clichés that you don’t want to see in a crime thriller, especially this one, but you sadly get.

If anything, that’s what disappointed me the most here is that nothing was all that surprising with this plot and how it all eventually played out. We get a couple of tense moments where we don’t know where this film is going to go and we get a nice twist at the end that’s a bit surprising, but nothing else to really have me going, “Oh crap! You gotta see this movie with Bickle, Vineyard, and Don Corleone! Not only are do they kick-ass when it comes to the acting, but the plot is actually pretty neat-o too! Right on!”. Maybe the average movie-goer would say that, let alone, anybody else in the whole world, but the point is, this film should have offered plenty of more surprises than it actually gave.

But people, let’s not fool ourselves here, this film probably would have never gotten made and given a wide theatrical release had it not been for these three names: De Niro, Norton, and Brando. All of whom don’t disappoint, even if the movie sort of does. Robert De Niro gives a pretty solid performance here as the Nick, the old-timer just looking to get out of the “business”. De Niro doesn’t do anything special with this performance that he hasn’t already done in his long career, but it’s nice to see him actually give a commendable performance considering that seems to be very hard to come by with the crap he chooses today. Angela Bassett plays his girlyfriend, and as good as she may be, her character still comes off a bit random and unneeded, even if it does give De Niro’s character some reason for wanting to leave and star anew.

"Hey, didn't I play you once?"

“Hey, didn’t I play you once?”

Let’s face it, Bassett is black, beautiful, and rocks a sweet ‘fro whenever she wants. Why wouldn’t you want to retreat with her?

Marlon Brando isn’t in this film a whole lot, but whenever he is, he makes his presence be known. Brando plays an aging and severely over-weight crime lord that seems desperate to make sure that this last job works and it’s a role/character that seems superfluous if it wasn’t being played by anybody else. The difference here, is that it’s none other than Brando in the role and he makes it all work perfectly giving him plenty of great lines, tension, and water-drinking. This is his last film he was ever in and it’s a shame since it’s not exactly the perfect swan song that anybody with his type of career could have asked for, but at least it’s better than doing the Freshman 2.

The one who actually runs away with this flick is Edward Norton as the hormone-fueled kid that Nick is forced to work with, Jackie. Norton is always great to watch no matter who he’s playing and what I liked most about him here is that you know there’s something about this character that you can’t really trust, but you don’t know what it is because Norton is so good at playing those types of confusing characters. Norton is always a powerhouse in every film he does and could almost be considered a younger Marlon Brando himself, but in this film, he actually shows that he may be one-step ahead of the master and continue to give compelling performance after compelling performance.

Now, what about the movie?

Consensus: Though it may not offer many surprises, the Score mostly gets by on the power and strength of its leads, even if the movie itself does seem to be relying on them a tad too heavily to begin with.

7 / 10

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton's a comin'!

Look out, aging actors. Eddy Norton’s a comin’!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Legally Blonde (2001)

Is it really that easy to get into Harvard? Then, what the heck am I doing with my lame-o journalism degree!?!

Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) has it all. She’s the president of her sorority, a Hawaiian Tropic girl, Miss June in her campus calendar, and, above all, a natural blonde, but has one problem: No boyfriend. Why though? Well, because, according to him, she was “too blonde” for his liking. This automatically steers her career towards a different path where Elle decides that it’s time for her to study at Harvard Law, become a lawyer and, as a result of all this, win her man back. However, things are a lot harder than they may be this time around for Elle, especially when things aren’t handed-down to her right away, or even on a silver platter like she’s been so used to for all these years.

I gotta say, it’s been a long, long time since I last saw this flick and probably with good reason – it’s a total chick-flick that mostly deserves to be watched with gals around you (yes, Grand-moms count). But somehow, someway, I found myself chilling in my house all by my lonesome, one fine afternoon and decided to pop this in my “old school” DVD player and see how it does all of these years later. Thankfully, it still holds up, even though I still go by that golden-rule of needing a female next to me.

How most of my first dates go. Usually then followed by screaming, shouting, and wine thrown in my face.

How most of my first dates go. Usually then followed by excessive screaming, shouting, and wine thrown in my face.

God, I need to start going out more.

Anyway, Legally Blonde is one of those films that doesn’t really do anything new, original, or special with its premise, but doesn’t really need to because the fun of it is kind of in its simplicity. You get the plot you need, with the right amount of character-development on the side, and most of all, a nice array of laughs that can either totally blindside you by how actually funny they are, or are just worthy of a simple chuckle or two. Either way, it’s funny flick, that mostly gets by on its charm, as well as its characters who, although may be a bit one-note at first, do actually develop over time and we get to sort of care about as time goes on. Not too much, but just enough to where it’s okay to be interested in where this plot goes, for what reasons, and how it affects those involved.

I am definitely thinking a lot harder and deeper than this film than I should be, but so be it. Sometimes, it just happens and feels necessary, rather than just laying out why a movie works by simply saying, “Yeah, it’s funny and entertaining”. I mean, yeah, it is, but sometimes, there’s a little bit more reasoning as to why that is and here, I think it mostly has to do with the fact that these characters are a bit better-written then you’d expect them to be.

Take, for instance, the character of Elle Woods, in a star-making role from none other than Reese Witherspoon herself. Woods, the character, is your typical rich-girl cliche that every film pokes fun at – rich, stuck-up, always needs her hair to be done, always needs a pedicure, wants shiny things, has a keen eye for fashion, and constantly has a little pooch by her side. But surprisingly, the film doesn’t really poke too much fun at her for this and instead, has us sympathize with her and believe in her as she practically goes against everybody’s belief that the girl just didn’t have what it took to be a major lawyer, coming from the university of Harvard. Yes, it sounds pretty damn unbelievable, and in a way, still is, but this film definitely has you think otherwise for a good hour-and-a-half.

But the main reason why Woods works as well as she does, as a character, isn’t just because the movie treats her so gently, but it’s also because Witherspoon displays a great amount of charm and likability to her, that it’s almost way too hard to ignore. In today’s day and age, Witherspoon has definitely been a lot more miss, than hit as of late, which is why flicks like these are always nice little reminders that the girl is entertaining as hell to watch when she’s given good material, and isn’t trying too hard to play-up her klutzy, ditsy girl roles that seem to plague her in every rom-com she shows up in nowadays. She’s got great comedic-timing, looks quite gorgeous in the type of stuff she wears, and always seems like there’s a lot more to her than just beautiful blue eyes and long, blonde hair. That’s what everybody loved about Witherspoon in the first place and it makes me wish that she would just go back to that and give it a try once more.

Next week on, "Attorneys at Law"!

Tune in next week to see what happens next on, “Attorneys at Law“!

Just as long as that keeps herself away from pieces of junk like This Means War. Seriously, her, Chris Pine, and Tom Hardy will never, ever be able to live that down from my point-of-view. I would also include McG in that list but who the hell cares about that dude.

Co-starring as her “love-interest of sorts” is Luke Wilson who really feels like he stumbled up on the set randomly and they just decided to let him go. Wilson is a good actor that has a great level of charm when he feels like showing it and is given the right script, but here, the guy feels terribly misused and sometimes come out of nowhere with some of his lines. It’s almost like he’s playing in the background the whole movie, only deciding to show up once they movie decided that they needed a romantic-interest for Witherspoon because you know, all girls need a guy when they’re searching for the right career-path that not only makes themselves happy, but gives them a bit of self-respect as well.

Oh, how some ancient social norms never seem to go away.

Consensus: Unoriginal, obvious, and sometimes, so cliche that you’ll wonder if the writers are even trying, but somehow, Legally Blonde gets by on its inherent charm, which has to do with some of the likable script, as well as Reese Witherspoon’s lovely portrayal of Elle Woods.

7 / 10 =Rental!!

Werk it, ladies!

Werk it, ladies!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Ali (2001)

Float like a butterfly and sting like a, uhm, something. I forget.

Meet Cassius Clay, Jr. (Will Smith), a twenty-something boxer who is fresh, young and chock full of fight. He’s also got a bit of a mouth on him that doesn’t make him the most popular boxer among his fellow confidantes, but definitely makes him popular in the eyes of the media that wants to hear/see everything he says/does. But like it is with most celebrities in the public limelight, there usually comes controversy and Clay’s was filled with plenty of it. First came his name change; then, his alliance with Malcolm X (Mario Van Peebles); his numerous marriages and affairs; his defiance against joining the U.S. Army due to “religious reasons”; his relationship with known sports-commentator Howard Cosell (Jon Voight); and plenty more where that came from. All of this eventually leads up to the infamous fight he had with a boxer by the name of George Foreman, in which most people dubbed, “the Rumble in the Jungle”.

Some of you die hards out there may already take notice to the fact that I’ve reviewed this one before, but honestly, that was so far back when, I can hardly remember what I gave it. All I do remember is that I watched it, wrote a terrible review on it and hardly remembered anything after seeing it. That’s what happened to me with most movies back in those early, immature days of my life, but nowadays, when I see something, I give it my full, undivided attention.

So yeah, I decided to give this a re-watch because I knew there was something about I needed to see once again and decide what about it drew me back to it. And after having seen it, for a second time mind you, I can’t really come up with an answer. That’s not because I didn’t pay attention again this time; in fact, it was quite the opposite. I fueled up on so much coffee, I was about to jump right out of the window before seeing this. Meaning, that I was so ready to see this and be able to give it the response it’s worth and not something I put out those many years ago.

"West Philadelphia, born and raised, beyatch!"

“West Philadelphia, born and raised, beyatch!”

But nope. Somehow, nothing seemed to change. Sure, I remembered the movie a lot better now than I did before, but there’s just something odd about this movie and I think that all comes down to Michael Mann himself being the director. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Michael Mann as a director; in fact, I think he’s one of the better ones out there nowadays and I can’t wait to see what he’s got cooking next with this new film starring Chris Hemsworth. However, the problem with him is that when he’s feeling extra “artsy”, it gets in the way of his story – or, in this movie’s case, the lack thereof.

Which, for a biopic about one of sport’s most influential icons ever, means something. Not only do you get in the way of actually connecting to a character that some can deem “misunderstood”, but you don’t really allow there to be anything remotely interesting driving this character, or their story along for us to say. Throw on a two-and-a-half-hour run-time and you’re asking way too much of an audience, especially when you’re not giving them anything to really hold onto.

And that’s not to say everything Mann does here is bad – the look, sound and overall feel of this movie is, predictably, wonderful. You can tell that Mann didn’t take this as some sort of “paycheck gig” and throw in the towel (excuse the pun); he actually puts a spin on the look of this movie when re-creating the environment the United States in the 60’s. Even the boxing sequences themselves are pretty neat, but not in the way you’d expect them to be; rather than having the boxing bouts be full of hooks, jabs, punches, punches and hugs every single second, Mann focuses on what most boxing matches can be: Boring. Now, I’m not saying that boxing in and of itself is boring, but there can be the occasional lull in the action and Mann focuses on that quite well, almost to the point of where it’s too realistic.

Still though, I’ll take realism over any goofy, over-the-top boxing match (which is pretty much what the Rocky films ended up being).

But, like I said before, those bold moves don’t really work unless you can find a way to make the story work as well and that’s just what the problem is here. Mann literally places us right slap dab in the middle of Ali’s life without much rhyme, reason, or even a background on who this person is, why he is the way he is, and exactly who/what made him this way. A part of me feels like Mann was just assuming that all of us know this, or simply don’t care, which isn’t true; getting to know somebody famous and iconic from where they came from is probably the most compelling aspect behind getting a full picture of a person really is and why they’re so worth studying in the first place.

Here though, we just get Ali, who talks a lot, bangs a lot, fights a lot, and changes his mind about whatever it is that he believes in with the drop of a hat. Which, yet again, is another interesting spin Mann takes on this story, but it hardly ever goes anywhere. Instead, we just see Ali act this way and hardly ever get anymore development on it. And that’s pretty much how the rest of this movie plays out: Stuff happens, you never really get a reasoning behind it and it’s off to the next sequence of stuff happening. But while for most movies, from some directors out there (namely Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, etc.), this would work because of how exciting and compelling this stuff is, Mann goes at such a slow-pace, it’s downright dreadful to sit through at times.

For instance, did we really need a seven-minute concert performance by Sam Cooke to start the movie off? Better yet, did we need to see a whole, nearly ten-minute sequence in which Ali jogs through the streets of Africa? Sure, all of it looks and sounds pretty, but when it doesn’t really add much to the final product, what’s the point? By then, you’re just taking up space and precious time, so don’t bother with it!

The make-up department was just having a field day with this one I'm sure.

The make-up department was just having a field day with this one I’m sure.

Another problem that most seem to have with this movie that I can somewhat attest to is how Will Smith is doing more of a full-fledged impersonation of Ali, rather than an actual performance in and of itself. And while I don’t necessarily think Will Smith does a bad job in the role (he tries so very hard, it’s almost uncomfortable to watch at times because you never know if he’s going to sprain an acting-muscle), I can’t say that I think this performance is “Oscar-worthy” or even the best he’s given, ever. Regardless of what some may say, Will Smith is a very good actor when he wants to be and when he’s given the right material, and here, he just doesn’t have it. He’s supposed to sound, look, and act like Ali and he does a fine job at that, but really getting to the core of somebody the media usually portrays as a “misunderstood, yet incredibly influential icon”, is just not something he’s able to do.

Once again, most of that blame is put onto those who gave him this thin-material to work with, as well as Mann for not really pushing Smith harder than he’d ever been pushed before.

The same can sort of be said for the supporting cast as well, which has plenty of recognizable names and faces, yet, aren’t given much to do except just act like other famous people. Jon Voight, for no other reason than that he’s Jon Voight, was nominated for an Oscar here as Howard Cosell which, like in the case of Smith’s Ali, is nothing more than an impersonation aided by very well-done hair and make-up; Giancarlo Esposito shows up as Ali’s daddy and gets a few scenes to work, but seems like a lot of his stuff was cut-out; Mario Van Peebles has some impressive scenes as Malcolm X, but, yet again, is just doing an impersonation; and Mykelti Williamson, despite being quite hilarious as Don King, feels more like a caricature than an actual boxing promoter (much like the real Don King, I guess, but that’s not the point). The only one who really steps away unscathed is Jamie Foxx who, before this movie, was mostly known for his comedy, but at least shows that he had some dramatic-chops in his system as one of Ali’s trainers.

Makes total sense now why Mann would later cast Foxx in the much-better Collateral, but that’s another review, for another day, folks.

Consensus: While it’s clear that mostly everybody involved tries, Ali comes off more like an uninvolved highlight-reel of the famous boxer’s most famous and controversial moments, that would probably be more compelling to actually read in a biography, than everything here.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"You best watch what you say about Jaden! That kid's an intellectual!:

“You best watch what you say about Jaden! That kid’s an intellectual!:

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ’em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Pearl Harbor (2001)

Cause I’m proud to be an American, where Michael Bay makes crappy movies.

It was the morning of December 7, 1941, and as usual, everything was practically the same. Except, only a couple moments later, Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor, killing thousands and injuring more, thus beginning America’s own, official involvement with WWII. However, despite the movie being named after that horrific event in our history that we will soon never forget, the story isn’t too concerned with that. What the story is concerned with is the life-long friendship between two pilots, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). They’ve both been through thick and thin together from an early age, so they feel as if joining the U.S.A.’s Army Air Corps won’t even come close to putting a stranglehold on their friendship, however, they’re wrong. Dead wrong, to be exact and ironic. Because once Rafe volunteers to help out things for the British on their turf-war against the Germans, things go bad and Rafe winds up killed on the battlefield. This leaves Danny devastated, just as much as it leaves Evelyn Stewart (Kate Beckinsale), the little Navy nurse that Rafe shacked-up with before he went off to-duty. Now that Rafe is gone from both of their lives, the only thing that Danny and Evelyn can do is move on, which ultimately means that they have to start banging one another. Which is fine for quite some time, that is, until Rafe turns out to be alive after all! Dun dun dun!

And I do promise you that the Japanese planes do eventually come into play and start bombing the hell out of Pearl Harbor, however, you’ve got to wad through almost two hours of poor character-development, horrendous acting, a cheesy love-triangle that couldn’t be any less unemotional or compelling, obvious propaganda, war movie clichés where fellow soldiers make dirty sex jokes to one another, Japanese army generals looking as if they only sleep, eat and breath death and destruction, and Jon Voight in a rubber double-chin.

Yawn. Where's the explosions?

Yawn. Where’s the explosions?

And even then, yes, the movie still gets a slight recommendation from me.

I know, I know, I know! The flames from hell will rise up with that statement, but please do let me explain. I assure you: If I do not convince you that this is an “okay movie” in the most respectable, reasonable sense-of-the-word, then I give you the right to just automatically block my blog from your mind, for the rest of your natural-born life. Deal? Okay, then. Let’s get started, shall I?

Honestly, it makes sense why this movie was made: A similar, star-crossed lovers romance flick, that just so happened to take place around a disastrous time, in a certain place, Titanic, made a lot of big bucks and brought home almost every statue imaginable, so why not try to emulate that success once again, but this time, with an even more tragic event in our country’s history, the attack on Pearl Harbors? Better yet, why not get an auteur who can not only bring us the emotional-cues we need to fall in love with these dream-boats, more so than they’re falling for each other, but also give us a realistic, jaw-dropping look at what the bombings most likely did feel like: Michael Bay? Yeah, that decision just never sits right with me and while I can see why they did nab him for this movie (more on that later), there’s still apart of me wondering about better, more able choices out there. I can’t really come up with any on the top of my head that would have been able to handle both the romance side of the story, as well as the action-spectacle surrounding it, but Michael Bay is nowhere near one of those names, except for maybe the later aspect (like I said, more on that later).

That’s probably why this movie gets its ass kicked so much by viewers and critics, because while it may promise you an endless array of shit blowing up to pieces, it doesn’t occur for quite some time and instead, we’re left with a romance that’s as titillating as watching you’re grand-parents celebrate their 60th anniversary together. It’s dull, it’s dry, it’s uneventful and as much as I hate to say it, but the only thing that makes these scenes a whole lot better to get through, is that you know the Pearl Harbor attack is only right around the bend. Terrible thing to think about a real-life event and actually to be looking forward to it, but when you put your mind through something like a Michael Bay movie, where all sorts of strangeness takes precedence, then you just have to hope for the best and wait to see what comes around.

Which is exactly why when the Pearl Harbor attacks happened, even though I’ve seen it about a hundred million times now (two of those times were actually watching the whole movie, all over again), it still was able to send chills up my spine, scare my shorts off and make me realize that for what it’s worth, Michael Bay can still direct the hell out of his action scenes and have them come off as something that’s close to the real thing. I know a lot of people will probably get on this movie’s case, as well as my own for even recommending it in the slightest bit, about how certain things that are portrayed in these attacks, didn’t really occur in real life, but to me, that didn’t quite hurt my feelings about this movie. I understand that with a Michael Bay movie, you have to sort of expect all types of craziness to happen, regardless of it is real or not. I know it sounds crazy to say that about the Pearl Harbor attacks, but seriously, it didn’t get into my brain as much because it was a Michael Bay movie. If it was anybody else like say James Cameron, or Steven Spielberg, or anybody else for that matter, then it would be a totally different story and predicament. However, when you have a Michael Bay movie on your hands, you sort of have to treat it like you would a five-year-old who doesn’t get their way: Just let them act-up, piss, moan and do whatever else it is that they do, just as long as you remember to make sure they get back on the right path.

May be a terrible analogy, may not be, but what I’m trying to get across is that while Michael Bay can, and does make many, many mistakes with this movie, the fact that he was able to show the Pearl Harbor attacks in the best way humanly possible back in the beginning of the New Millennium, more than makes up for those said mistakes. In fact, I’d wager that if you were really that interested in seeing what these Pearl Harbor attacks are all about and how they look, especially without even watching the rest of the crap that comes before it, then just check it all out on YouTube. Probably easier and better for your mind, eyes, soul and time-management. But I’m a movie critic and I watch full-length movies, in their entirety. Which, in essence, means that when I watch a movie, I watch the full she-bang just in case I may miss something that I do, or don’t like.

And believe it or not, there’s actually one more aspect surrounding this movie that I did in fact like: The cast.

That's more like it! I guess? I don't know?

That’s more like it! I guess? I don’t know?

Actually, let me rephrase that better by saying, “the supporting cast”. See, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck (pre-directing days, people, so it’s alright to bash him if you want), though with their best intentions, absolutely suck the life out of this movie. Affleck is barely around since he “dies” in the first twenty or so minutes, only to show up an-hour-and-a-half later and do nothing else other than yell, shoot down Japanese soldiers and try to teach his best-buddy a lesson about banging his girlfriend while he was away, so I guess he doesn’t totally count. Which then leaves us to be stuck with Beckinsale and Hartness who have no chemistry whatsoever, can’t seem to get through even the shittiest of lines without struggling a bit and show no charisma at all. They just seem like they were thrown on a platter, told to talk to one another by their chaperon Michael Bay and did what they had to do so that they could collect that paycheck, go on home to their significant other, sweet-talk them into the next morning and get back to the day’s next events. Which, most likely, consisted of the same, meandering crap of boring us to death.

But since they suck so much, this does leave plenty of room for the supporting cast to charm the hell out of us, and that is exactly what most of them do, for better and definitely for worse. Alec Baldwin gets the “Affleck treatment” here as well, where he shows up for no more than five minutes in the first-half, does his bit, makes us laugh, and practically is non-existent for the next two-and-a-half hours, until he shows back up and does the same thing as before: Act nutty and steal the show. Cuba Gooding Jr. gets to do the same kind of stuff, except for the fact that he feels criminally underused in a film that could have used his warmth and charm to help the movie move along. However, he’s still fine. Same goes for Tom Sizemore who, once again, plays a gritty, raw and unfrightened military sergeant who isn’t afraid to bring out the big guns in the heat of the battle. Then we have Jon Voight as the previously-mentioned, rubber double-chin president, FDR, and is fine for giving us somebody that is obviously Jon Voight playing FDR, but is still enjoyable enough to give him a pass. Same goes for the likes of Jennifer Garner, Ewen Bremner, Michael Shannon, Colm Feore and heck, even Jamie King, who never does anything for me, EVER in any other flick. She’s just another set of beautiful, bright eyes and nice……talents, which probably made her the love of Michael Bay’s life for the whole time they were shooting. All until she got creeped out, told him to piss off and he was about done with her. Hey, not like it hasn’t ever happened!

Consensus: Undeniably hokey, badly-written, hollow and laughably idiotic at times, and yet, Pearl Harbor is still okay enough to watch, if only for the amazing Pearl Harbor sequence itself, and some supporting performances that have you forget about the awful leads practically doing nothing with what they’re given, which is even worse considering it’s a Michael Bay movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! Michael Bay rules!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! So I’ll just let it all out: Michael Bay rules!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

And Your Mother Too means a whole lot more than you think.

Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) are two teens in their prime. They have sex, they love it, and they use it to their advantage. Even better, it’s Summer so they can practically do all that they want with it, even if that means being able to take an unfulfilled wife (Maribel Verdú) along for the ride. And I don’t mean just the physical one, I mean an actual one that they decide to take to a beach called “Mouth of Heaven”. Whether or not they actually get there, is no concern of these two dudes. They just want to get banged and have a good time. Oh, what it feels like to be young again.

Anybody who has ever heard of this movie know it for the single fact that it contains a lot of nudity, sex, and dirty stuff going down, in, and around anywhere that you can imagine. And hell, even when the peeps aren’t bangin’, they are still talking about sex. So, basically, you have a movie that’s about 65% sex, and 35% a meaningful and engaging story. Doesn’t sound so bad, which it isn’t at all.

And when you have a co-writer and director like Alfonso Cuarón behind the mantel, you can always expect greatness whether in terms of writing, directing, or a little of both. What I love so much about Cuarón’s style is that he plays it so cool and subtle, by letting the story tell itself, but still has an eye that catches yours as well. He loves his tracking-shots and that is very abundantly clear in plenty of scenes here, but the way that he is able to capture certain images of Mexico, not only makes it seem more realistic, but beautiful in it’s own gritty way. This isn’t the type of Mexico we see in almost all movies. This is a dirty, infected, and sometimes, raunchy place that people live in, and yet, can still call “home”. That said, there still are plenty of shots that will catch your eye off the bat, but you never feel like you are in a world of glitz, glamour, and happiness. Yes, there is a degree of happiness going on, but it isn’t in the type of place you’d expect to see captured on film, and captured so wonderfully.

That, Alfonso Cuarón, man. He’s sure got a thing for beauty.

"Probably just those horny, young boys I went on a country-wide trip with in need of some more lovin'."

“Probably just those horny, young boys I went on a country-wide trip with in need of some more lovin’.”

Aside from the visuals, the real beauty of this flick lies within the screenplay that some may be surprised by. At first, the movie begins as your typical, goofy-romp of a bunch of young dudes who love swinging dicks, doing drugs, and getting any type of gals they can. They also like to pal around, talk about sex, and challenge each other to simple games like “Who can win a pool race?”, but it’s mostly concerning them committing the act of sex. It’s what takes over their minds, their bodies, and well, everything else that has to do with their life. They’re young, free, and nimble, so they can get away with all of that, without being pervy or disgusting. Basically, they are what I aspire to be in life. Poor old me.

Anyway, this movie starts off like that for a good 30 minutes or so, but then totally changes around and proves to be something more than what you’d ever expect from a movie that opens up with a shot of a dude and chick banging. Before I go any further, speaking of the banging, I have to give Cuarón some real, fine credit for not editing-out any of these shots and having them all play-out like real sex does. Yeah of course some will say that it’s pretty much soft-core porn and I wouldn’t argue against that, but it’s the way it’s filmed without any frills, that really caught me. You feel as if you are not just watching people having sex, but making love and sharing passions between one another. I know I make these sex scenes sound like they are so much more than what they actually are, but it is what it is. They aren’t just moments of sex sprinkled in so people can start poppin’ Woodies all over the place; they are included to show you how people can be love one another, by by trading emotions, while also swapping fluids and spit as well. Some deep, heavy shit, yo. I know.

But anywho, away from that and back to the story!

The story of these three people figuring shit out between one another, realizing there are more than just “d’s and v’s”, and learning more about life in the process, doesn’t sound like anything too original, but in a way, it is. The movie tackles the subject of growing up in a way you won’t see coming with how it shows you all of the true, adolescent insecurities men go through as they get older and struggle with who they want to be, but also what makes people really mean all that much more to the other. We see this friendship go through many, many crazy twists and turns, and whether or not they actually like each other is the least of our problems. What is, is how they can view the other person, and whether they can keep this “sex thing” going on, but have a life outside of it all. You think of the people you knew or still do know, and whether they could really be your best-pals, or just your sworn-enemies once you get right down to it. If you thought the hot and sexy scenes I was talking about up above was really, the story is so much more than that. It got me thinking, it had me understand more about sex, and the best thing of all, it had me re-think some situations where I had the encounter of sex in front of me, and chose to do whatever I wanted it with it. That’s right: My penis, my rules. Bitch.

The parts that did take me out of this story, were the ones where it tried to be a bit more than just a road movie about people boning. I get that the movie had some sort of agenda on it’s mind where it wanted to tackle a political-happening at the time of this movie taking place, but for me, myself, and I: it wasn’t catching on. I’ll get the movie credit for at least going out there and reaching for the sky, but it should have just stuck with its grounded, human emotions, rather than really going full-force with political messages. Political messages, mind you, that weren’t really all that subtle to begin with.

That crap aside, the cast is what really sells the hell out of this movie. We all know that Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal are the Spanish-movie buddies that we see together from time-to-time, but this is where they got their start at palling around so much, and what a beautiful start it was. It’s strange how both of them play two different guys, but yet, still consider themselves besties in the way that they can joke around with one another and do whatever they want to the other. Sort of like real besties, except with more banging. For instance, Luna’s character is a rich, smarty-smart that has his head on his shoulder a bit a more than Bernal’s. That’s not to say Bernal’s character isn’t all that smart either, but it’s more to say that the guy cares more about what goes on between the sheets, rather than the textbooks. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it seems like a certain age you hit, it’s all downhill from there. Then again, I wouldn’t know.

It takes two, or three to tangle. Which ever one you'd prefer.

It takes two, or three to tangle. Whichever one you’d prefer.

Despite their characters both being different in ways, they still seem like great pals and it’s no wonder why these two have teamed-up together so much since this movie came out. Their chemistry is very believable in the way that they are able to goof off of one another, without taking much offense, and also how they were able to speak so candidly about their true feelings for one another. They love each other like most dudes in most bromances should, but when is that considered “too much”? That’s the answer I continued to hear ringing throughout my head the whole movie and it’s a point that the movie touches on in a smart, but sensual way as well. Homophobes. be warned.

However, the one that really walks away with this movie and with these guy’s souls is Maribel Verdú, the wife that they pick up along for the ride. Not only is she the best character out of the whole bunch, but also the best performance in the way that she is able to do a total 180 with her character, and keep us guessing what she’s really up to. We know she just wants to get away from her married-life at home, and we know that she wants to be a little wacky and wild, but what else does she want to do? There’s always these intriguing questions that linger in our minds about her and they’re worth it, because this character has us believe her every step. She’s honest in the way that she looks at her life, but also in the way that she looks at their lives as well, and makes them wonder what it is that they could and should do to be the best that they can be. She’s like a mother to them, in a way. A very incestuous one at that, but you get my drift. Great performances, all around.

Consensus: The steamy sex scenes in this movie may detract some people’s minds from the real beauty and sadness inside Y Tu Mamá También that is not only a postcard for the back-alleys of Mexico, but also a love-letter to what it’s like to be living wild and crazy in the Summer, but realize it won’t last forever. Sort of like sex. See what I did there?

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Happy times. How they never last.

The happy times: How they never last.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

I guess being an orphan isn’t enough pain and misery for del Toro.

A young boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) gets dropped off at an orphanage near the end of the Spanish Civil War, where he doesn’t know that his parents are dead yet. So rather than risking limb-for-limb, he stays at the orphanage where there are fellow other kids, a headmistress that hies gold and other items for Communists (Marisa Paredes), a caretaker who’s a bit of a dick (Eduardo Noriega), and a doctor (Federico Luppi) who takes Carlos under his wing and teaches him the ropes of life and living. Carlos also runs into problems when he comes upon a ghost people have named “The One Who Sighs”, who is also a kid that apparently died there, once an explosive was dropped. It’s all too much for Carlos to take in, but to make matters worse, he also has to worry about a bully (Fernando Tielve) that’s constantly on his ass, at all times.

Despite this flick being placed in the category of “horror”, it’s very far from. Yes, it does have elements of a horror movie with the creepy sensation that a ghost-kid is running all over the place, but it’s nothing special that we haven’t seen done before, especially from a master like del Toro. del Toro makes the sad mistake of revealing a bit too much of this ghost, way too early to where we aren’t as scared as him, as much as we are used to seeing him and his fucked-up appearance. It sort of gets old after awhile, despite del Toro using plenty of impressive special-effects to dolly the kid up and make him look as sinister as you can get with a “kid ghost”. That said, the “horror” aspect of this movie is pretty weak, but that’s about it. Everything else in this flick is pretty damn good, especially if you love depressing stories that never end with the sadness.

So full of life and hope. Can't wait to see it crash and burn! Mwahahaha!!

So full of life and hope. Can’t wait to see it crash and burn! Mwahahaha!!

Yeah, those are the types of movies we all love.

del Toro is smart in setting up his story at the end of the Spanish Civil War, where it practically seemed like the country was at one with itself. Everybody was frantic, everybody was paranoid, and everybody felt like any second they lived on this planet, could very well have been their last. This not only spread throughout certain parts of the country, but throughout the whole, damn place, and it never seemed to end. Taking that note into consideration when seeing this movie has it do wonders because it feels like the type of movie could have actually been made around that time/area. It’s a very dark film that takes some surprising turns, even if it does get so dark, you wonder how nobody didn’t just kill themselves filming it. Especially del Toro who shows his appreciation for character-development and human-interest that was nowhere to be found in Mimic.

Every character here, good or bad, feels like they at least have a soul and act as if they would act if their backs were pushed against the wall because let’s face it, during this time: everybody’s backs were. Everybody was constantly on edge and wondering what was going to happen next, which is why it was such a nice refresher to get the view of that world, from the eyes and mind of young children; eyes and minds that are so innocent, that once bad shite starts happening all around, you not only feel dread for them, but damn near to tears because you know that they don’t deserve it no matter what. Once again, del Toro is making a film where kiddie-bops are the main characters and the ones that hold the glue together, but it works here because the story feels so realistic and central to them that you can’t help but feel more emotion for this story, even when it seems to be just a total and complete downer.

Now that I think of it, I don’t think I laughed once. Yeah, I know that del Toro probably wasn’t trying to make me laugh when he showed a little kid named Santi with his cut-open and blood spurting out, but this movie is almost humorless to the point of near-suicide. Obviously del Toro’s point isn’t to make us laugh, or giggle, or really enjoy ourselves, but more to tell a story that’s as dark as the devil it speaks of, but honestly; a little humor and a little lightness could have gone a long, long way. At times, I actually just felt like I was watching a director/writer take his story wherever the hell he wanted, added as many dreadful twists and turns as humanly possible, and ended on a note that would stick in our minds for awhile, but for reasons we don’t really understand. I have to give credit to del Toro for at least hitting those marks, and hitting them surprisingly well, I just wish everything wasn’t so damn sad throughout the whole time.

Not even a little smile or anything? Nothing?

As with most of these foreign films, you will be distracted at first by the fact that everybody’s speaking a language you can’t understand very well, so obviously you have to READ. Yeah, I know it sucks for the 21st Century-viewer, but after awhile of it being on, you get used to the words at the bottom of the screen and actually focus more and more on the fantastic performances we have on our hands here, from all across the board. Fernando Tielve has the hard task in making his young Carlos seem innocent, while also making him seem like a kid who’s on the verge of breaking out his cage and breaking everything/everyone in sight, and he does it well. You can tell that the kid has plenty of wonderment in his eyes and in his soul, and it may even bring you back to the days when you were a little kiddie, just wondering what was right and wrong about the world. Sometimes the “right” things of the world ended up being the “wrong”, and vice versa. That’s the way the world works, and watching as Carlos grips that reality feels heart-wrenching because he’s such a sweet, innocent boy, that you almost don’t want him to see the ugliness that’s truly out there. Still, Tielve handles it all very well and it’s a surprise the kid hasn’t shown up in anything since.

What's his problem?

What’s his problem?

The adults are also very good, if a bit one-dimensional at times. Eduardo Noriega plays Jacinto, the the former-orphan-turned-caretaker of the joint and is a total and complete dick, but never makes much sense as to why. Noriega is good in the role and gives us as much heart to this character as he can muster up, but it does seem like a harder task that was left to be undone as the character never really makes it clear why he’s such a dick, and does the things he does. Sure, he was abandoned as a little tike and left to finish his days in the orphanage, so why the hell is he constantly beating the shit out of every kid that just so happens to accidentally breaking something? I get you’re mad, but WHY THAT MAD!??!?!

Marisa Paredes plays Carmen, the headmistress, who also happens to be sleeping around with Jacinto, even though I never understood the reason or rhyme as to why and how. Oh well, at least Paredes is good and keeps her character from being more than just the “evil, old hag who hates little kids”. Easily could have gone down that road with her, but instead, she remains very sympathetic. Federico Luppi rounds out the impressive cast as Doctor Casares, the type of guy who has a heart, a soul, and a breathing body of one that cares for every soul on the face of the planet. Not only is the dude working with the best character of the whole film, but Luppi also gets a chance to show a bit of a darker side to this guy as well, one that you can’t help but applaud and stand behind, even when his motives and ideas become a bit questionable. However, that’s when Luppi shines the most and really kept me watching the scenes with him and Carlos, considering they could have easily been the corniest things since I’ve seen since the last time I watched All My Children.

Consensus: Even though it runs the gauntlet in probably one of the saddest movies I’ve seen in a long time, The Devil’s Backbone still feels like an honest, personal story from the heart and mind of del Toro, who knows what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, it’s just the methods that get a bit screwed up in conjunction.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Okay, maybe he wasn't the coolest guy in the flick, but he had some nice features to him.

Okay, maybe he wasn’t the coolest guy in the flick, but he had some nice features about him.

The Mexican (2001)

Should have just stayed in the States. Hell, they should have just stayed the hell together.

Jerry and Samantha (Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts) are a couple that obviously loves each other, but yet, still go to marriage counseling even though they don’t seem to need it and aren’t even married. Whatever though, that’s just how these two roll and like it, but what Samantha doesn’t like about Jerry’s rolling is that he’s not only a con, but has yet to leave the work of it because he’s trying to protect his ass, as well as hers. However, after originally screwing-up his “last job”, Jerry is given one more opportunity to make good and end it all when he has to travel to Mexico for an antique gun that seems to have more than enough history than Jerry, or his mob boss (Bob Balaban), expect. Since Jerry has to leave out on the job once again, he leaves Samantha all alone and with a whole bunch of worry in the world, especially when she’s kidnapped by a hitman (James Gandolfini) who specializes in bits and pieces of torture, despite him being a bit of a softy once you get to know him.

Movies like this get a bad-rap, as they should. Before this movie had names attached to it all and whatnot, it was originally going to be an independent production, with lesser-known names in the lead roles, and probably a smaller, tighter-budget than we see used here. However, Pitt and Roberts wanted to hang out with one another and so they thought, “What better way to take advantage of our star-power, then to just pick up a small, meaningless script, and run with it, just so we can have some fun and make money while doing so?” That may sound stingy and bratty coming from these two A-listers, but Christ, it’s something that can work for these two in a heartbeat and actually did. Nope, not just because they had the star-power to attract any type of audience-member in the entire world, but because the script was just simple enough that it didn’t matter whether or not the material they were working with was actually good; all that mattered is that people would see it, especially with these two in the lead roles.

Better cherish this moment. It's all you're going to get between these two for quite some time.

Better cherish this moment. It’s all you’re going to get between these two for quite some time.

So overall, no problems for anyone, except for maybe the actual movie-viewers themselves who have to sit through some meaningless junk like this. They’re the ones who end up suffering the most.

Which is exactly why movies like this have me pissed off to high heavens because I know there are plenty other great films, with great scripts, great acting out there, and were certainly released at and around the same time as this, but yet, would never get the same type of exposure as this one because it didn’t have the popular-names in it like this one had. It’s sad to think about, and maybe it’s not worth all of the crying over spilled-milk, but it’s a fact of life and a fact of Hollywood. However, I can’t bitch too much because the flick isn’t that good and is only good for the sole reason that it actually got Gore Verbinski’s career off-and-running, whereas Pitt’s and Roberts’ just stayed the same as its always been, if not gotten better (especially in Pitt’s case).

But see, what makes this flick such a strange star-vehicle, is that it honestly isn’t the type of mainstream flick you’d see get the type of release this did nor would you see it’s two leading-stars in. It’s a weird flick for the sole reason that with just about every new scene or sequence, the tone switches, and it does so in a not-so subtle-way. It begins as a rom-com, with bits and pieces of dark humor thrown in there for good measure; but once the first con is killed off and the threat of death is alive and well, then things take a turn for the worse and get very dark, very soon. Sometimes it will touch the idea of a mobster comedy, with slices of drama thrown in there for good measure, and then in the very next frame, will even go for a darker moment where somebody gets off’d in a very disturbing, harsh, and unfunny way, despite how hard this flick seems to be trying to pull the laughs out of us.

Verbinski is a talented director to make even the slightest bit of dark humor go a long, long way, but at this time, during this movie, he shows problems in keeping the light and blissful tone up, even when it takes detours into dark areas; the kind of dark areas you see explored in Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movies, but used in a better way because they have the slightest sense of how to make humor and bloody spurts of violence work and seem cohesive. Verbinski begins to lose all focus after awhile and although it continued to interest me, as if I didn’t know what was going to pop-up next, whether it’d been a twist or a tone, I still feel like it was a missed-opportunity on his and everybody else’s part to really allow this flick to get up, breathe, and stretch it’s legs. It just goes on and on and on, for a whole two-hours that I’m usually fine with if you can excite and entertain me, but this one didn’t seem all too concerned with me or that fact of the matter. It just did it’s thing, as if it was only made to collect money from hopeless movie-goers.

Which, sadly, it did. You poor, poor people, falling for the same old traps of Hollywood, time and time again.

Speaking of which, that idea sort of pisses me off, not because it’s as blatant or as obvious as it is 12 years later, but because the actual reason behind this movie being made and advertised as such a big deal, was useless considering that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts rarely are together on-screen here. What would have been shocking, but impressive on this movie’s part if the creators worked out negotiations with the stars beforehand, wrote the script, and kept it the way it was, even throughout filming, but knowing that the script was made way ahead of time and altered only slightly, loses it’s sense of originality. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me because if Michael Mann can do the same thing and get away with nothing but applause and unanimous praise for this decision, then so can Gore Verbinski dammit!

But the problem with this is that the movie has nothing else going for it, other than Pitt and Roberts. Which means that when they aren’t together, doing their thang and keeping us happy to finally see them together on the big-screen, even after all of these long-awaited years; there’s nothing really left worrying or caring about. When they’re together, they’re fun to watch and makes you feel like it would have been a better choice to watch these two play the same characters, in a small-indie where instead of venturing out in search of a gun, they stayed together, worked through their problems, and thought about their future, whether it be one spent together or separated. It would have been way, way more interesting and compelling movie than this one, but that’s all just “fantasy-talk”. The reality is that these two barely show up in this movie together and when they do, it’s the best parts of the movie, despite feeling like a sad-attempt to be on screen together because, well, they have to. It’s the rules of Hollywood, folks.

"Hey, whatever you do, do not put on "Don't Stop Believin', got it?"

“Hey, whatever you do, do not put on “Don’t Stop Believin’, got it?”

Separately, which is about 85% of the damn movie, they’re good if nothing new or groundbreaking that they haven’t already pulled-off before. Pitt’s nutty and goofy as the con that’s a bit too over-his-head, yet still knows what to do when the shit gets hot, and Roberts is a sassy and fire-cracker-of-a-lady, but still has those moments of pure sweetness to her that helps balance the character out in some sense of reality. Some, but not too much. Most of those moments come between the scenes of her and Gandolfini’s character, the hitman with a softer-heart than you might suspect from our first introduction to him.

With the recent, sad news of his passing, watching Gandolfini absolutely have a blast in a role like this and steal the movie away from it’s big stars, really brings a tear to my eye because the guy had so much talent, so much energy, and so much worth watching, despite what crap-fests he may or may not have shown up in. The fact is that this man was a great actor, and will continue to be remembered for years and years to come. Hopefully this movie doesn’t come to many people’s minds when they think of his work, but if it does, it won’t be such a sin because he’s easily the best part about it and gives it a reason worth watching.

Consensus: The Mexican will disappoint many average, movie-goers because Pitt and Roberts are barely together here throughout the whole two-hours and some-odd minutes, but what will disappoint others is that the tone never seems to find itself in one place, make it’s presence known, and stay there for the rest of the movie. It just constantly moves up, down and all around as if the creators knew they had to do something to keep fans happy that two of Hollywood’s most-beloved weren’t on the same-screen together for anymore than 5 minutes each.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

As of right now, it’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s summer, so why not?

In the summer of ’81, a liberal, Jewish camp finally comes onto their last day where everybody’s emotions are running high, low, or every which way but loose. However, not everybody’s aspirations they had for the summer got fulfilled, so for one last night, everybody decides to go crazy and as if they have nothing else in the world to worry about rather than having a good time with beer, sex, drugs, and friends. You know, the little things in life that matter. Screw all that other serious crap!

Summer camp, from what I have seen in other movies, or heard of from other people who have been to one, seems like it’s a pretty awesome place. I know, it’s probably weird for some of you out there to take in the fact that I have never been to a summer camp ever in my life, so therefore, I depend on movies like these to give me a good time as if I was right there. And from what I read, apparently writer/director David Wain has been to many summer camps but for some reason, seems like he never has been to an actual fun one with a film like this that is apparently based of his experiences.

I do have to give credit where credit’s due with this flick and say that for the most part, it can be pretty funny. There’s a lot of crazy gags going on here, zany characters flying in-and-out of the story, and random acts that are sometimes explained, and sometimes aren’t. But you know what? With comedy, you sometimes don’t need to explain what’s going on, just as long as it makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. There were many moments in this flick where I found myself laughing and enjoying myself because I could tell Wain definitely doesn’t take this material too seriously and gives us plenty of random moments that either work, or don’t. As simple as that.

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

Also, have always been a huge sucker for movies that take place during one full-day where almost anything and everything is possible. Always like to live life like that myself, which is even better when I see it transition-well onto the big-screen.

However, the film isn’t as funny as it should be and I think that’s because too much of this just feels like a really long, over-blown pilot to a new TV show, one that would probably be featured on the old days of MTV before Snooki and all of those other d-bags took over. 12-year old type of humor doesn’t bother me all that much, except for when it’s done right, but this film just seemed like it was trying too hard to go for that type of comedy and then would all of a sudden change itself into being a parody of a movie, that either nobody saw, nobody understood, and/or even cared about in the first place. It’s a weird mixture between potty humor and a parody, and the problem is that they never really come together to make this flick a full-feature and make it feel like it was chopped up into little, itty-bitty pieces that Wain and Co. thought would be funny. Little did they know that they were the only ones who actually got the joke.

Another big problem this film seems to have is that with a premise and idea like this film has, you would expect it to be a total wild ride of everything you would expect from a camp movie, but instead, you just get something that’s actually a little boring at times. The title sequence of this flick had me feeling like I was about to see something total insane, starting off with a bunch of camp counselors, hanging out around a camp-fire, smoking reefer, drinking some brews, making-out, and eventually, getting it on, all played to the tunes of Foreigner mind you. So basically, I was expecting something like that or the rest of the hour 30 minutes but I didn’t get that and even when there did seem to be a lot of energy in this flick, it happens and shows in certain spots. After seeing Wain’s recent flicks, (Role Models and Wanderlust), I can tell this guy has definitely upped his game on providing fun and wild moments in a film and keeping that going throughout, but it’s sort of obvious that this was his first flick as you can never tell if this guy knew what exactly he was doing behind-the-camera, other than just making a film he thought was really cool and funny. With his friends as well, which isn’t so bad, just as long as you and your buddies aren’t the only ones having fun.

Sadly, that’s what happens and it’s one of those cases where the high-faves stay on that side of the screen, and that side alone.

Never since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

Not since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

You would also expect a lot more from a star-studded cast like this, but somehow, they all get squandered with the exception of a few. Janeane Garofalo is alright as the head camp counselor, Beth, and she really seems to be in-tune with her comedic timing, even if this material doesn’t seem to suit her so perfectly; David Hyde Pierce essentially plays his usual role from Frasier, and is still entertaining to watch, but that stuck-up, nerdy-type doesn’t work so well here as it does with that quality show; Paul Rudd is funny as a lady-killing camp counselor known as Andy, and plays up that whole dick-head act about him very well but even he’s not as funny as he should be; Michael Showalter is here as the innocent, hopeless romantic, Coop, that seems like he should be a lot funnier and usually is, the problem is that his material just isn’t strong enough to have us care too much about him; and surprisingly, Christopher Meloni ends up being probably the funniest out of this whole gang, playing a traumatized, Vietnam-vet that talks and does more wild shit than anybody does in this whole flick. You know you’re movie is in some trouble when the dude from CSI is the funniest thing in it, then again, though Meloni’s the man and it’s about time that the dude got not just more quality-roles, but ones that showed how well he can make us laugh, because that’s a greatly-unappreciated talent of his.

Oh, and Bradley Cooper is in this movie doing something you will never, ever believe he does. It gets crazy, almost to the point of where you’re wondering whether or not your eyes are deceiving you or not. Because trust me, right here and right now: they aren’t. Bradley Cooper is in this movie, and he’s doing the most wild shit I’ve ever seen him do. Give him the Oscar now!

Consensus: Though it shines in some bright spots, Wet Hot American Summer should be a whole lot funnier, crazier, and smarter with what it jokes around about and even tries to parody. Not a terrible comedy by any means, just not as funny as it seems like it promises.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We caught you, Bradley! Can't run from this one!

We caught you, Bradley! Can’t run from this one!