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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2002

The Good Girl (2002)

Catcher in the Rye makes everything better. Except life.

Justine (Jennifer Aniston) lives a pretty uneventful and boring life. She’s 30, working at a convenience-store, doesn’t have many friends, hobbies, and can’t seem to get pregnant with her husband (John C. Reilly) who, for the most part, seems to spend most of his time on the couch, smoking pot with his good buddy (Tim Blake Nelson). However, her life gets a little bit of excitement one day when, all of a sudden, she meets Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young, misanthropic, somewhat depressed, and altogether interesting teen that not only takes a liking to her, but shows her that there’s more to the world than boring suburbia. Eventually, the two strike up a relationship that goes beyond hanging out and reading Catcher in the Rye, but something far more passionate and serious, which leads to problems for both of their lives, although, mostly hers.

Yeah, Wal-Mart may have been a better fit.

The Good Girl will probably always be notable for it showing the whole world that, yes, Jennifer Aniston can indeed act. While she was good before in small, almost virtually unseen movies before this, and yes, even after this, this stood as the shining-spot on her filmography that not only showed she had some indie-cred, but could help us all get past seeing her as Rachel and, well, embracing her as a down and dirty actress.

And yeah, Aniston’s pretty great here. Her Justine is a rather sad and depressed figure, that is, of course, beautiful, but also has some small charms about her that shows just how lovely of a presence Aniston is when she’s on the screen. It does also help that she gets a chance to grow and show her true colors over time, making us see her for a sad figure we can, at the very least, sympathize with, but also realize has some issues that she sort of brings on herself. But of course, all the way through, Aniston shows she can be believable in all sides to this character and it made everyone hopeful that perhaps, just maybe, she’d continue down this path of taking on smart, interesting, and rather challenging film-roles.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

But still, this isn’t to take much away from the rest of the Good Girl. Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arterta, of course, work well with one another, in that they both capture the small town boredom and malaise, while also not forgetting to make us feel a little bit closer to these goofy characters over time. And it also deserves to be sad that while Aniston herself is very good, it’s everyone else around her who assist her, too, putting in just as much great work as her.

Pictured: The perfect life

And like before with White’s writing, every character seems like a type, at first, only to then show their true selves over time. John C. Reilly’s Phil, for a good while, is nothing more than a lazy, weed-smoking, idiotic bum who doesn’t really have much going for him and because of that, we sort of sympathize with Aniston’s Justine in cheating on him. However, as the film goes on, we start to see a more human side to the guy that not only makes us understand his behavior a bit, but oh wait, also sort of want to give the guy a hug and tell Justine to stop screwing around.

There’s a lot of characters like that, but his is probably the best example, probably because Reilly himself is so good.

Just like Blake Nelson, Deschanel, John Carroll Lynch, Roxanne Hart, White himself, and yeah, even Jake Gyllenhaal. Although, for Gyllenhaal’s character, it can’t help but feel like he’s working with a boring type we’ve all seen done before, except only this time, he’s supposed to be interesting on purpose and with good reason. Personally, it would have been nice to see Gyllenhaal and Aniston together in another movie, where they weren’t essentially playing types, but hey, they work well together, regardless.

And that’s all about there is to the Good Girl – it’s not White’s best, but everyone works well in it, so why not accept that for what it is? After all, the movie doesn’t set out to change the world, or shake things up, but more or less, tell us a small, somewhat relatable story about an affair, love, and living a happy life, even when that seems downright impossible. Sometimes, that’s all you need from a movie.

Even if, yeah, we expect a smidge bit better and more coming from Mike White.

Consensus: In the lead role, Aniston gives a memorable performance as a rather depressed, but charming cashier living in a small-town, that also helps keeps this somewhat mediocre tale of love and happiness above water.

7 / 10

Just do it already, honey! He’s hot!

Photos Courtesy of: This Distracted Globe

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Stevie (2002)

Always be a big brother.

After not seeing his younger friend for several years, documentary director Steve James decides to catch up with the Illinois boy he once mentored through the “Big Brother” system that so many schools adopt, yet, don’t ever seem to fully keep up with. Although, time has changed for both Steve James and Stephen Fielding. Steve is an accomplished, Oscar-nominated director, with a lovely wife and kids, whereas Stephen, at one time, a very dorky kid, is now a damaged adult who has had repeated problems with the law, with one serious charge that he possibly touched a younger relative in an appropriate spot. James knows this about Stephen, but rather than asking him why he did what he may have done, he decides to look back on Stephen’s life leading up to now, and tries to figure out just what went wrong.

Hey, it’s pretty hot out.

You’ve got to give it to Steve James for making a two-and-a-half-hour documentary about someone nobody else knows, but him. In that sense, he’s literally making a movie, for himself, and for his own conscience, so that he can help make sense of his life, his subject’s life, and figure out just what the hell went wrong along the line. Was it him? Was it Stevie? Was it Stevie’s family? Or, basically, was it just the way the world was turning for both parties involved?

In other words, this is basically one, long therapy-session for James, who also just so happened to film it all and release it for the whole world to see. A little pretentious and self-involved? Perhaps. However, Stevie, both the movie, as well as the person himself, are far from pretentious or self-involved, making it a bitterly long pill to swallow, but one that’s worth swallowing in the end.

That makes sense, right?

Either way, Stevie works best because it focuses on Stevie, just as much as it focuses on Steve James. See, the reason why the movie matters and is made in the first place, is because of their friendship and honestly, it’s a touching one. They both seem to genuinely have a love and respect for one another, even if time has passed them both by and they realize that while they were once big parts of each other’s lives at one point, that isn’t such the case any longer. James has gone on to make a name for himself and his family, whereas Stevie is still trying to grow up and keep his head out of trouble. It’s a sad, yet honest tale about how time passes, but somehow, those small relationships we had early on in our lives, still maintain and stay strong all of these years later, regardless of whether those involved with the relationship have changed a whole lot, or not.

In this case, yes, Stevie and Steve changed a whole lot, but they still find ways to connect and love one another, even if they’re still uncertain about where the time has gone for them. It’s an ode to their friendship and long-lasting bond, for sure, but it’s also one to the fact that the people we depend on the least, can sometimes be the ones to trust the most. Who knows if Steve James wanted to gain some fame and love from audience-members for reaching out to an old pal of his, or if he genuinely cared about his friend and wanted to shine a lot on who this special friend of his is?

Good old pals, reconnecting, almost two decades later. So okay, maybe not great pals.

Honestly, it’s hard to fully come to a conclusion of. A part of me feels like James is looking for adoration, but another part of me thinks that he’s genuinely sad and somewhat regretful over the separation he and Stevie have had for all of these years, so he just wanted his friend to have some shine in the spotlight.

Once again, I’m still not sure.

That said, Stevie, as a documentary, is still a smart and understated character-study about its subject, what brought him to become the way he was when the movie was being made, and whether or not he has any hope in this place we call “Earth”. While Stevie has no doubt done some heinous and terrible things, the movie does make the case that perhaps, just perhaps, it’s less of Stevie acting out and more of just the way of him acting the only way he knows how. James focuses on Stevie’s home life, with his family and his incredibly sweet and supportive wife, showing that no matter how hard he tries, there’s always someone, or something, pulling him back to do even more worse in the world. It’s sad to see, time and time again, but James knows this, so he offer small glimmer of hopes, in that we can see that Stevie knows he can do right and make up for his bad mistakes from his past, but when he will, or if he will, remain a whole entirely other question.

Maybe Stevie, 15 years later is coming soon?

Consensus: Though it probably didn’t need to be nearly two-and-a-half-hours, Stevie is still a smart, honest, and rather emotional character-study on its compelling, yet, incredibly flawed-subject, as well as on its director, Steve James himself, who actually offer some interesting spins on this story, too.

8 / 10

Doesn’t that look like someone who is in desperate need of a hug? Or a shave?

Photos Courtesy of: Kartemquin FilmsCritics At Large

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

High school sucks so much that, honestly, sometimes you just have to make your own excitement.

Accomplished high school student Ben (Parry Shen) seems to excel at almost everything and it’s absolutely boring him to death. When your Asian, living in the suburbs of California, and doing so well in school, honestly, nothing else really excites you anymore. But you know what does? Not being able to actually win something over, or, in Ben’s case, not being able to win over his dream girl, Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung). It’s all Ben can ever think about, so eventually, he decides to strike up an unlikely friendship with trouble-seeking tough guy Daric (Roger Fan), where he starts doing all sorts of bad and illegal stuff, along with various other members of the so-called “gang”. Eventually, these illegal ventures start setting their sights toward Stephanie, and her rich boyfriend Steve (John Cho), who has a proposition for these guys that, if they’re able to succeed with the plan, may make them all rich. But for some reason, it may not go as planned, being that Steve and Ben don’t necessarily get along in the first place.

Yeah, fairs can kind of suck.

Better Luck Tomorrow is a surprising film for many reasons. One, first and foremost, because it presents a different, intelligent view of Asian Americans that we don’t ever actually get to see in American movies, or better yet, in American high school movies. See, a lot of the times, the constant cliche with Asians in films such as these is that they’re so book-smart, can’t speak a lick of English, and are mostly used as funny, side-characters to help guide us through this adventure of watching a white protagonist, struggle and get through high school. Of course, this is just a rough generalization of what we’re used to seeing, but if any John Hughes movie is proof, then yeah, Asians have it bad when it comes to high school movies.

And that’s why Better Luck Tomorrow is so interesting, because it turns that whole viewpoint on the side and for once, shows us Asian Americans who are just like the white protagonists in all of those other movies, except in this case, they’re far more real and raw. These kids here don’t just curse, but they drink, they smoke, they have sex, they get naked, they commit crimes, and hell, they could even care less about their grades. Co-writer/director Justin Lin has made quite the career for himself taking on the Fast and Furious franchise, but if anything, he shows us that he has a unique and smart voice that isn’t just something we’ve seen, or heard before.

Or even if we have, it’s way different than ever before.

Choose Harold. Especially if he has a sick-ass moped. 

And in that sense, yes, Better Luck Tomorrow is a smart film that, honestly, doesn’t get made as much as it should. But then, there’s this other side of the movie that’s actually more about the tone, the feel and the actual plot itself which, believe it or not, still works. Better Luck Tomorrow starts out as your typical coming-of-ager where the guy dreams of getting the girl, but slowly and surely, starts to show its true colors; things get dark, real quick, but you actually believe them. The movie could have easily fallen apart trying to take itself more seriously, but Lin keeps it altogether, showing us that sometimes, when you’re young and feel as if you have nothing left to lose, chances are, you’re going to make some pretty awful, life-altering decisions.

The movie isn’t as hokey as I make it sound, though. Lin knows better then to dive into sentimentality, or to get all caught up in the usual cheesiness that comes with coming-of-age high school tales. There’s a certain feel and look for realism that not only makes the movie oddly relatable, but in a way, rather sweet. We get to see and understand these characters for all that they are, not just who, or what they represent, and it makes us easier to identify with them as troubled, confused and bored kids, as opposed to a bunch of types.

Still, the moral of the story? Well, I’m not so sure and that’s probably the movie’s biggest issue.

It’s hard to figure out just why the ending left a sick taste in my mouth, but it probably has to do with the fact that it just sort of ends, and that’s it. Yes, it’s neat that no real lessons are learned, or even, thankfully, taught to us, but there’s still an odd feeling of something missing. It’s as if the story itself wasn’t over, but just that Lin either ran out of money, or lost some footage, somewhere out there in the world. Either way, it makes Better Luck Tomorrow, what is otherwise a very fun, insightful and rather interesting coming-of-ager, feel weird – as if there was more to be had, but we just didn’t get it.

Consensus: By putting its focus on characters we don’t get to see in the spotlight so much, Better Luck Tomorrow opens itself up to a whole new, interesting world and promises of ideas, but also shows us that oddly fun and compelling tales like these are universal, regardless of race.

8 / 10

Guess what? These kids could probably kick your ass. You just didn’t know it.

Photos Courtesy of: Entertainment Weekly, Decider, Tropics of Meta

Whale Rider (2002)

Ride a bull, ride a whale. Ride life.

Only the males are allowed to ascend to chiefdom in a Maori tribe in New Zealand, which has been something of an ancient custom and never messed with. And for one man (Cliff Curtis), this custom is upset when the child selected to be the next chief dies at birth, leaving the twin sister, Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes), surviving and left to carry the hypothetical torch. The only issue is that the rest of society won’t allow it and it’s something that Pai, even at age 12, won’t back down from. With the help of her grandmother (Vicky Haughton) and the training of her uncle (Grant Roa) to claim her birthright, she sets out to become the next chief of her tribe and stand up for what she believes in is right. The only real person standing in her way is her ultra-traditional grandfather (Rawiri Paratene), who doesn’t believe in Pai at all, and surely doesn’t see her leading the tribe, like her father was supposed to do, all before he screwed it up by leaving the country and taking pictures all around the world.

Costume? Or, just another day at school?

Whale Rider feels like a movie made by someone making their debut. It’s slow, chock full of style, beautiful visuals, ideas, themes, and things to say, but for some reason, it just never fully comes together as well as it should. Which is odd because writer/director Niki Caro, for the most part, has made a good career for herself since this – even if this is considered to be her major breakthrough, it still feels like a movie that’s praised so much because of how different and unique it is, coming from completely out of nowhere, even if there are some truly troubling issues with it all.

And that mostly comes down to the fact that the movie just doesn’t know what it wants to say, do, or even be about. For instance, there are these ideas about new facing the old, or breaking tradition, or hell, even sexism, that actually work and seem like they could take the film in an interesting direction. But as soon as one of these themes are explored, Caro switches gears immediately, leaving her wandering eyes to pay more attention to the beautiful scenery that surrounds her characters, and not really make sense of the said characters themselves. There’s a lot of looking and sight-seeing, for sure, but much else?

Meh. Not really.

And it’s odd, because a lot of Whale Rider just seems to be beautiful visuals, small, almost-too-subtle character moments, over and over again. There’s no real driving momentum behind it – only just a very loud score and a way too quiet narration that’s supposed to guide us, but almost feels like it was thrown in there manipulatively during post because early screenings probably came back confused and abandoned. It’s not as if the movie doesn’t have an interesting style to it, but it’s just that there’s too much of the style; it’s the sign of a first-time writer/director getting their chance to work with everything at their disposal, not having a clear idea of how to work with it all, and somehow, just throwing it all out there.

Of course, some sticks and lands, but most doesn’t. What does stick and land are the actual performances themselves, most of whom are sometimes better than the material. At age 12, Keisha Castle-Hughes became notorious for being the youngest ever Best Actress nominee and with good reason – she’s smart, spunky, and entirely believable as a confused, angry, and eager 12-year-old who wants to impress everyone in her life, but unfortunately, just can’t seem to catch a break. She’s easily the most drawn-out character her and it helps that Castle-Hughes never seems like she’s trying too hard in a role that, normally, would have been way too directed, in hopes that the kid doesn’t go over-the-top or screw everything up.

Thankfully, she doesn’t.

“Don’t leave me daddy. Even if America calls for more drug-dealer roles.”

Another great performance comes in the form of Rawiri Paratene, but his character is also the same one I seemed to have the most problems with. See, it’s this idea that constantly runs throughout Whale Rider, in which we see the old school, not be able to get with the times, and face the new school, and it’s one that Paratene’s character stays solely in, not just coming off like a bit of a stern and stubborn dick, but a total and complete evil asshole. The movie wants to portray him as this broken down, sad, troubling, but yet, sympathetic older dude who can’t seem to get on with the way the world’s turning, but what I see is just an old grump, who’s practically rude and terrible to everyone around him and for what reasons? For the sake of tradition? The tribe? Just because?

Honestly, I never quite figured it out and it seems like just another instance of Caro dealing with something, but never fully realizing. There’s a lot of that in Whale Rider and it seems like a shame, because everything about the look, the magical, sometimes fantastical-feel to it, and even the gritty, raw moments of emotion, work, but when it comes down to everything else, the movie, as well as Caro, just don’t know where to go or what to do.

Oh well, at least it made money and reminded people that New Zealand movies don’t have to just be Lord of the Rings.

Consensus: For a movie with so much beauty and interesting ideas about, believe it or not, breaking tradition and feminism, it’s a shame that Whale Rider is so messy and unfocused to fully get itself together.

5.5 / 10

Whale rider? Or, rock rider?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, NZ on Screen

The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Just watch the X-Files.

John Klein (Richard Gere), a respected journalist, loses his wife (Debra Messing) one night, after she takes the wheel of their car and sees a strange figure attack her. Cut to two years later and John has found himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where there has apparently been many sightings/clues of a secret ghost out there, and John thinks he has the answers to all of the clues.

Saying that your movie’s story, no matter how creepy or strange it may be, is a “true story” or “based on a true story”, makes it seem like such a manipulative-way for the filmmakers to have us take the material more seriously. I mean, it did somehow work with movies like the Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust, but that was all because it looked and felt real, and also, nobody really had any idea whether to prove it false or not. However, stories like these where everything dark in the world seems to come up, doesn’t make it more freaky because it’s “based on a true story,” but instead, how about this, just makes it more dull.

However, don’t go up to director Mark Pellington and tell him that this material is, in fact, “dull”, because he’ll try his hardest to prove you wrong with any trick he can pull out of his director’s hat. Every chance that Pellington gets to make us forget what type of lame story we’re seeing, he capitalizes on it and gives us something to treat our eyes and for the most part, yeah, it actually works. The constant barrage of tricks and effects that Pellington pulls off aren’t all stuff we haven’t seen done before, but at least he makes a conscientious effort to really pull us into this state of paranoia and fear. You can tell that Pellington comes from a long line of directing music-videos, and it works for the overall atmosphere and tone of the movie.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is 'a brewin'.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is ‘a brewin’.

But just like most directors who have a music-video background, they just can’t quite get the narrative.

See, with Pellington’s direction,  no matter how hard he tries to keep our minds off of it, he still can’t get past the fact that this story is relatively boring. The pace is always off, with the plot constantly starting-and-stopping, and then never knowing how to pick itself back up again. Pellington knows how to freak us out, but to keep our interest is a whole other issue right then and there, and it’s hard to keep total invested interest.

As for the story, it isn’t terrible; there’s an idea of an mystery and having no idea what’s going to happen next, but it happens in such short spurts that it hardly almost matters. We get way too many scenes where it’s just Gere talking to some weird thing on the phone and says something disastrous is going to happen, it does end-up happening, and Gere runs around looking for an explanation by talking to random people as well as that weird thing. You can only watch Richard Gere run around, looking like a bewildered-fool so many times, and by the 45-minute mark of already seeing this 20 times, it’s hard not to be done here.

And oh yeah, Gere is terribly bland as John Klein and even though it seems like the dude should have more emotions and ideas in his because he for one, went through a terrible life-crisis like losing his lovely wife, somehow doesn’t. Instead, you don’t care about him, the paranoia he’s going through, the sadness he went through with his lost wife, and worst of all, you just don’t feel like the guy’s actually scared. Yeah, Gere puts on that scared-expression plenty of times, but it came to a point of where it seemed like the only skill the guy could pull out of his one-note bag of expressions and it made me realize why I have never cared for Gere in the first place.

Something I sure he’s really broken up about.

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Laura Linney is pretty dull here, too, as the country bumpkin police officer that made me want to give Frances McDormand a call. Linney’s does what she can, but all she really does is put the same expression on as Gere has, try to look scared the whole time, and in the end, somehow act like she’s the one after his heart and can save him from all of this pain and fear he’s had to deal with throughout the past two years of his life. I’d be able to believe that these two would have some sort of a romance between one another, if the film ever alluded to it throughout the whole two hours, but it rarely ever does and when it seems like Linney goes all goo-goo eyes over Gere at the end, it was just dumb and a contrived way for the movie to bring these two together at the end. An end that was, yes, pretty cool to look at, but also, an end that signified that this long movie was finally over and I could get on with my life, forget about Gere, forget about Linney, and hopefully, watch a better movie before the day was up.

Consensus: Mark Pellington is a fine director that does all that he can to keep us awake throughout the Mothman Prophecies, but the script and story think otherwise, and sort of carry everything down with a dead-weight of total and complete dullness.

3 / 10

What I should have done from this movie.

What I should have done from this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Spellbound (2002)

 

If you don’t know the place of origin, just consider yourself dead and gone.

After being sponsored by their hometown newspapers, eight young, bright and ambitious kids travel with their families to Washington, D.C., where they will compete in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Each of these kids excel at spelling and have a feeling that they’ll be able to put up quite the fight, however, with the national spotlight heavy pressure to perform from parents, teachers and their audience, the children struggle to advance toward the championship, as well as everything else that they can get like the accompanying scholarships and cash prizes. Each kid enters the tournament, not knowing what’s going to happen next, or who is going to win, but they do know that if they try hard enough, they may be able to pull it all off and bring home the prize. However, not everyone can win and unfortunately, a lot of hearts and souls will be crushed when it’s all over.

Spellbound takes a very simple approach and doesn’t really try to complicate anything by any means whatsoever. However, by doing that, director Jeffrey Blitz also gives us a sweet, delicate and rather insightful look inside the lives of numerous kids – all of whom, are different from the other in many ways – without ever resorting to cheap, unnecessary tricks. Simply. Blitz puts the camera and the lens on these kids, their families, their lives, and lets the drama all unfold.

"Eeeeeeeeeeeee."

“Eeeeeeeeeeeee.”

And yeah, in a way, Spellbound is pretty exciting and tense, especially if you don’t know the outcome of this tournament. Considering that it took place nearly two decades ago, it’s highly unlikely that you would know, but regardless, it still works. Blitz uses the championship to show how these kids, so young, so innocent, and so sweet, really do battle it out, lose their minds, and put everything on the line for this one honor.

And with it, we do get some truly great subjects.

What’s probably the most astounding element behind Spellbound is that Blitz never makes it clear who he likes the most, who he wants to win, or better yet, made it appear in such a way where we’d know exactly who won right from the very beginning of the flick. No one gets more attention than the rest, and no one really seems to be the heart and soul of what this movie’s all about or trying to say – basically, everyone is a main character.

And this allows for the actual tournament to have a little bit of heart involved with it, too. Rather than just watching a bunch of smart kids get up on stage and spell-out words that most of us don’t even know and not really caring, the movie demands our attention. We care for these kids and the outcome of their stories, because there’s more at-stake than just a competition – their livelihoods and bits of happiness are, too. Sure, this may not sound like much, but we’re talking about kids all under the age of 12, most of whom have been practicing and waiting for this moment their whole life. It may not totally matter to us and be everything in our lives, but for these kids, such is the case and it works in the movie’s favor.

"Hmmmmmmmmm."

“Hmmmmmmmmm.”

Where Spellbound does lose some muster is in the whole controversy that surrounded it and unfortunately, seem to be a little understandable.

For one, a lot of people saw Spellbound as, for the most part, a little phony. While the competition was no doubt real, critics felt as if there was a whole lot of acting and incessant dramatization over everything, from the kids, to the families, to the small conflicts that eventually ensue. And yeah, in a way, I can sort of see that; some families are way too goofy and over-the-top, while other character’s interactions with one another seem more staged for the sake of the movie and less like a germane thing that would have happened.

In this sense, then yes, Spellbound loses some points. After all, it’s a documentary that’s supposed to be documenting real life in front of our own very eyes, so for Blitz to take some cheap alleyways and short-cuts along the way, don’t really help. They take away from what is already a very entertaining and sometimes heart-warming flick about kids trying to spell really, really hard words.

That’s all he had to do.

Consensus: With a heavy heart inside of itself, Spellbound is more than just a documentation of the spelling bee and the contestants, but the hopes and dreams of young, ambitious kids who want to do something great with the world. But they’re just not old enough, though.

8 / 10

That's the look of a daddy who's going to have to do some major ass-whooping tonight.

That’s the look of a daddy who’s going to have to do some major ass-whooping tonight.

Photos Courtesy of: True Films

Gerry (2002)

Yeah, just bring a map next time.

Gerry (Casey Affleck) and Gerry (Matt Damon) for one reason or another, decide to head out into Death Valley. Though they feel as if they know the area pretty well and don’t need a map, they start to regret that decision just as soon as they start to forget where they parked their car was, or where the nearest bit of civilization was. While Gerry and Gerry aren’t too scared automatically, slowly but surely, without all that much food, water, or shade, they start to lose their minds a bit and come closer and closer to death itself.

Gerry is another one of Gus Van Sant’s more experimental films where instead of staying straight and narrow with a normal, easygoing convention like, I don’t say, a plot, he sort of just sets the camera down and lets people do things. Sometimes, they do exciting things, or other times, they just sit around, talk, act miserable, and yeah, do nothing. Gerry is the rare exception because there is a simple plot, and there is characters here actually doing something, but does that really make a conventional film? Not really and that’s where Van Sant’s direction comes in and balks at tradition.

Wait, which one's Gerry?

Wait, which one’s Gerry?

But does standing up to the man, flipping the bird, and doing your own thing really make a good film?

Not really, but it does make for a very interesting one and that’s why Gerry, despite having seen it maybe a month or so ago, has still stuck with me. It’s such a straightforward movie in the way that it moves, tells it story, and gives us an idea of who these characters, that it almost doesn’t seem like it’s trying – but look hard enough and guess what? Van Sant and company are trying really hard to bring people down on their level where they’re not just watching two guys wander the desert, looking for any sort of shelter they can find, but stay sane while doing so. The movie does play some tricks here and there with random mirages that don’t always work, but whenever it’s just Van Sant keeping his camera steady and focused on these two guys, as they walk and come closer and closer to dying of stravation, it’s so compelling.

Perhaps it’s more compelling than it should be, considering that nothing ever really happens in Gerry. Then again, that’s sort of the point; these two are literally looking for any signs of life that can save them and that’s about it. Whether or not they run into a bunch of evil, Russian villains on-the-run from the law and bringing all sorts of guns, violence and action with them, doesn’t matter – the movie really is, after all, about Gerry and Gerry. They’re lost in the desert and searching desperately for any bit of life.

Dirt nap. Literally.

Taking a dirt nap. Literally.

What’s more compelling than that?

Probably a lot, but really, the way Van Sant follows them both, slowly but surely, in wide-shots, close-ups, and of course, single-shots that literally last up to 15-minutes on some occasions, it draws you in so much that it’s hard to care about those other silly things like action, or violence, or yeah, twists and turns. After all, a movie like this doesn’t ask for the mainstream audience – it’s for the much more dedicated, arthouse fare who don’t need all of those extraneous add-ons that can sometimes drown films in their own overabundance. Van Sant’s previous flicks have known a thing or two about that and it’s worth saying that the more Van Sant doesn’t get in the way of the actual movie itself, the better.

The times where it does seem like he’s trying to be more stylistically demanding, it gets in the way of Gerry‘s impact. But really, it all comes down to Matt Damon and Casey Affleck as the two Gerry’s who, despite us not ever getting to know anything about them, except for the fact that they enjoy playing online role-playing video-games, they’re still sympathetic and interesting to watch. A lot of the script was improvised and you can definitely tell – one scene in particular that’s probably the longest shot of the whole flick features Affleck’s Gerry on a rock, trying to get down off of it, but doesn’t know how to do so, without breaking a bone in his body. It sounds silly, but the way the two interact with one another in a very tense situation, is not only entertaining, but downright telling. It tells us that these two probably are great friends and have a great camaraderie, even if they are probably going to rip each other’s heads off by the time the movie’s over.

But like I said, the movie isn’t totally about the performances – it’s more about Van Sant and the movie is probably better for it.

For lack of a better word, yes, Gerry is a sad, almost emotionally draining piece. Though it’s probably an-hour-and-a-half, it feels at least ten times longer than that, which is a good thing – it’s the kind of movie that asks for all of your interest and attention and if you give it, you will most definitely be thanked and pleased by the end. Sure, it’s still a depressing movie, but sometimes, depression can be a very compelling thing to watch, so long as it comes from a strong place.

Consensus: As sad as it’s involving, Gerry may not seem like it does much, but give it plenty of time and attention and trust me, it will work on your head for a long time afterwards.

8 / 10

Keep going boys. I think I saw a haystack some ways back.

Keep going boys. I think I saw a haystack some ways back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Barbershop (2002)

Everybody likes to have a little conversation while getting a trim.

On the south side of Chicago. Calvin (Ice Cube) runs a barbershop that he inherited from his deceased father. Since it’s been struggling for the past few years with funding and whatnot, Calvin himself views the shop as nothing but a burden and a waste of his time that he absolutely can’t wait to get rid of so that he can go on and move on with his own life for a change. Granted, there’s other people in the barbershop who may be upset or disappointed with seeing it gone and dead, but Calvin is just thinking for himself and his own life. And now, after selling the shop to a local loan shark, Calvin slowly begins to see his father’s vision and legacy and struggles with the notion that he just sold it out for nothing more than pure selfishness. However, on this one fateful day, a lot of other stuff that happens that begins to affect the others who work in the barbershop, as well as those who come to it, day in and day out, expecting a fine cut, some good conversations, and a greater feeling that they did something right for their community.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Barbershop isn’t, by any means, a stone cold classic in the comedy genre. It is, if anything, a small, simple and easygoing comedy that has a nice, breezy pace, doesn’t ask the hard questions, doesn’t demand the hard answers and, at the end of the day, also doesn’t forget to make its audience laugh. Sure, you could say that’s the deal with a lot of other comedies just like it, but there’s still a special feeling with Barbershop that, even after all of these years, makes me feel like it’s legacy may forever live on, just by how good-natured it is.

Once again, does that make it “a classic”?

Nope, but it does make it a perfectly watchable and fun movie.

This mostly all comes down to the talented cast and the fact that, a lot of them, all seem to get along and have a nice bit of chemistry between one another, even if their characters don’t always get along or seem like the best of friends. Ice Cube, for one, shows that he can be an awfully charismatic and fine lead when he isn’t glowering over those around him as Calvin, giving us a good enough character that we at least identity with him, but not too much of a presence to where he takes over the whole movie and makes us forget about everybody else. In a way, Cube is perfectly fine playing the straight man in this cuckoo’s nest of wild and crazy characters, and that’s why he deserves extra brownie points here.

If anybody is the one who steals the show away from everyone else, it’s Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie. Cedric is doing a lot of hamming it up here and while his character can definitely be taken in for small doses, those doses, as meager as they may be, are still fulfilling and healthy enough that they keep him funny, and the movie going at a fine pace. Much has already been said a lot about the tirades and rants that Eddie goes on and on with about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and more famously, Jesse Jackson, and with good reason – not only are they very funny, but they also prove to be some of the smartest comedy bits that Cedric has ever done (with the exception of everything he had to do or say in the Kings of Comedy).

Of course, some of that could have definitely been improved by Cedric and it would have been perfectly fine, but yeah, it doesn’t matter that he sort of steals the show. Everyone else here is still fine and charming enough that they at least make their presences known, even if they don’t take over the whole film. Peeps like Troy Garity, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, and plenty more all show up, do their things and remind us why they matter in a story like this.

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Even if, you know, the movie itself sort of jumbles them around a tad too much.

Because Barbershop is such a small, relatively contained comedy, it almost feels like a disservice to the rest of the characters that there’d be so much plot and twists and turns that are, for the most part, as predictable as they come. It’s as if director Tim Story didn’t trust his comedy enough to move and tide things along, that he felt the absolute need to have a whole robbery-angle and a love-story to accommodate it. Sure, these things are fine to have if you’re trying to build up characters, but it can also hurt when it’s taking away from some real moments of fun and laughter. If anything, it just breaks up the joy that everyone’s having and making them all realize that, oh yeah, there’s something of a story here that’s supposed to be told and yeah, it’s kind of lame.

But at the same time, Barbershop isn’t trying to light the world on fire, so even if it does take a few pratfalls here and here, at least it gathers itself back up, brushes off the leftover hair from the ground and continue on with itself, as if it’s not fazed and just having fun.

Or yeah, something like that.

Consensus: Though its over-reliance on plot can become a bit much, Barbershop is still a funny and enjoyable enough movie to get through, if mostly because of its charming cast.

6.5 / 10

I'd take a seat in that chair.

I’d take a seat in that chair, provided laughs were involved.

Photos Courtesy of: Youtube, Qwipster’s Movie Reviews, Superior Pics

The Son’s Room (2002)

SonsposterA son makes any family better. Even if he is a bit of a scoundrel.

Giovanni (Nanni Moretti) lives a relatively peaceful life with his family. While he suffers from all sorts of annoyances and craziness at his therapist job, he can always rely on going home and feeling relaxed with everyone around him. His wife, Paola (Laura Morante), doesn’t do much but sit around the house and ensure that everything is fine; his daughter, Irene (Jasmine Trinca), focuses most of her time on basketball and getting a good education; and his son, Andrea (Giuseppe Sanfelice), while normally a good kid, has been going through a bit of problems as of late. After getting called into school for a supposedly missing piece of fossil, Giovanni starts to question whether Andrea is the good kid that he raised to become. The rest of his family questions the same thing, all until they are struck with a tragedy that not only alters their lives completely, but makes them reconsider everything to come beforehand.

I think we all know what daddy's thinking.

I think we all know what daddy’s thinking.

If you’re looking for an all out, drag out, yelling, crying and slobbering mess of a movie, the Son’s Room is not that movie. What writer/director Nanni Moretti does very well is that he doesn’t allow for his movie, or his characters, to dive deep into the idea of guilt like we tend to see in films of this nature. Rather than having characters break down into terrible fits of sobbing, blaming one another, pointing the other finger, and just generally acting like and total complete messes, the characters instead play it down a whole lot more. Instead, they keep everything to themselves, only occasionally acting out in fits, but never overdoing it.

In a way, this is a lot more like real life. Not everybody on the face of this planet deals with guilt as if they were in some sort of daytime soap – sometimes, people deal with their own personal demons in their own way, where it’s much easier to bottle things up and keep it quiet, rather than let it all out for the whole world to see. Moretti could have easily allowed for the Son’s Room to break out into over-the-top and melodramatic hysterics, but thankfully, avoids any of these issues. He keeps everything much more focused and small, where not everybody’s breaking down into tears everywhere they go, but at the same time, nobody’s fully feeling great, either.

This is smart of Moretti and it keeps the Son’s Room, if anything, honest and raw.

At the same time, it’s almost too downplayed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very fine with a movie keeping its volume muted to where we don’t always get those typical conversations about guilt between people, but there comes a point where the movie has to do something, hell, anything to keep itself alive. Moretti opts more for keeping his focus tightly on these characters, but also doesn’t give them much to say or do; they all seem to just walk around, mope, kick dirt, and occasionally drop a tear or two. The movie may not want to go for those big, powerful emotions, but in by doing so, also forgets to even try and touch the audience anymore.

A father and son can't be beat.

A father and son can’t be beat.

It’s admirable that Moretti doesn’t try to overdo his hand too much here with the Son’s Room, but there’s a feeling while watching this movie that there’s maybe something missing to go over that sentimental hurdle. Once the actual tragedy comes in, the movie kicks itself into high gear and shows just how each and every character deals with their own sadness and guilt, sometimes, in their own, respective ways, but the movie then sort of drops itself down after that and leaves some of these scenes to linger on too much, or hardly having any sort of impact to begin with. Breaking down at your day job? Seeking out for former loves of the dead? Getting into fights at basketball games? I don’t know about you, but none of this really sounds or feels like actual heartbreaking moments of down and out tragedy, which is why a lot of the Son’s Room, while smart and subtle, also isn’t very moving, either.

If anything, it’s maybe too tiny and small for it’s own good.

However, Moretti deserves at least some credit for keeping the Son’s Room smart. He avoids the typical cliches that make stories like this nauseating and annoying. Instead of becoming a Lifetime movie, it’s much more like a docudrama, where we have characters that we can relate to, and maybe possibly identify with, and we just sort of sit back and watch how they live. This peering into some people’s lives is interesting, even if Moretti can’t push it to that next step to where we feel emotionally and physically moved. Instead, it’s just more interesting, and that’s about it.

Consensus: By keeping the focus smaller and detailed, Nanni Moretti allows for the the Son’s Room to be realistic, while also not impacting the viewer nearly as much as it probably would like to.

7 / 10

Miss those days of a family piled into the car, singing Italian songs.

Miss those days of a family piled into the car, singing Italian songs.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert, The Guardian, I Love Italian Films, Mountain Xpress

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Where can I find me a Greek gal?!?

Still unmarried at 30, Toula (Nia Vardalos) doesn’t have a whole lot going for her life. She’s been stuck working at her family’s restaurant for many years and whenever it seems like she’s getting tired of doing so and wants to leave, she somehow gets guilted into staying by either her parents, Gus (Michael Constantine) and Maria (Lainie Kazan), or anyone of the numerous first cousins and relatives she has, watching and judging her every move. But one day, Toula gets a job at a travel agency, where, one fateful day, she meets Ian (John Corbett), a teacher who takes a liking to Toula right away and asks her out. Of course, she says yes, and from there on, the two grow closer and eventually, wouldn’t you know it? They fall in love. Obviously, the idea of marriage is brought up and while both are clearly all for it, there’s only one issue that may stand in the way of Toula and Ian getting a chance to say their vows: He’s not Greek. And judging by how the rest of her family reacts when they hear he isn’t Greek, Toula starts to reconsider everything about her life.

The world's most attractive "normal" couple.

The world’s most attractive “normal” couple.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is obviously infamous for many reasons that don’t really have to do with the actual quality of the movie itself. Sure, it received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, but aside from that, what everyone seems to talk about with it is how it spent so much time at the box office, without it featuring any big names, franchises, or whatever else that makes a movie a huge hit. Not only was it an indie-hit, it was a hit that showed Hollywood why word-of-mouth can sometimes be better than just releasing your movie and tossing it out there for everyone to see, even if nobody does actually see it.

But regardless, the movie itself is just fine.

The best part of the movie is that Nia Vardalos’ screenplay clearly comes from a soft spot in her heart. This is clear, not just from the way she portrays the Greek lifestyle and norms, but her whole family as well. If you’ve ever met a Greek family, you’d know that a lot of the movie may be a bit of an exaggeration, but nonetheless, a lot of the running-gags are still pretty funny and do give us better understandings of who these characters are, as cartoonish as they may be. There’s the father who believes that Windex cures anything; there’s the cousins who don’t know how to tell actual, funny jokes; there’s the mother who always has to have the latest family drama; the aunt who seems to always get too drunk and tell-all with random strangers; and so on and so forth.

A lot of the movie is actually funny, which is why it’s sweet to see how Vardalos approaches these characters. While it would have been easy to make her family out to be old-timey and old-fashioned Greeks who clearly don’t live in the new millennium, Vardalos shows that a lot of the ideals and ways they live by are what make them stronger as a family. Sure, Vardalos shows that her family can be a bit annoying, but at the same time, still shows that a lot of what they do, is what makes them who they are – they aren’t apologizing for it and they aren’t asking to be accepted by anybody else who, well, isn’t Greek.

The lady's always take the wedding prep so seriously.

The lady’s always take the wedding prep so seriously.

And yeah, Vardalos herself is pretty solid in the lead role, too. Vardalos has this seemingly everyday woman way about her that makes her character easy to relate to, even when it seems like she may be the most normal character out of the bunch. Same goes for John Corbett’s Ian who, like with most John Corbett characters, is a likable, everyday guy who you would definitely meet on the street and strike up a conversation with. Together, the two have great chemistry and it’s easy to see why they’d fall in love and want to get married, even if the movie does seem to rush it a bit too fast.

But really, this story is less about them two and more about the other characters surrounding them.

Every member of Toula’s Greek family is funny and striking with personality. However, the one who really surprised me was Michael Constantine’s Gus. While the movie originally makes him out to be a bit of a controlling, sometimes overbearing father-figure, eventually, the movie begins to change its tune and show that maybe Gus, if anything, just loves his daughter and wants what’s best for her. He may be too concerned with her not being married and childless, but as the movie begins to show us, he’s only being like this because he truly does want Toula to be happy and, most of all, he wants to have a bigger, more loving family.

Just as any daddy wants.

Consensus: Though it’s a pretty average rom-com, Nia Vardalos’ smart and sometimes, very funny screenplay, allows for My Big Fat Greek Wedding to rise above plenty others in that tired genre.

6.5 / 10

Oh, you kids. So happy in love.

Oh, you kids. So happy in love.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Boomstick Comics, Zeenews.India

24 Party Hour People (2002)

PartyposterDrugs make everything better. Even annoying Brits.

Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan), from what most people thought, was just another TV anchor forced to do stories on wild animals and old people. But little did some of them know that, after all of the filming was done, Wilson was also a prominent agent for some of the biggest and best British bands of the early-punk and Madchester scene that spanned from the late-70’s, to the early-90’s. Not only did Wilson make the likes of the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays big names in the music biz, but he also help pave the way for how most night clubs should be able to handle these bands while, at the same time, still make a profit. But aside from the business aspect, Wilson also encountered some issues in his personal life, whether he was bouncing from girl-to-girl, drug-to-drug, or band-to-band, he always remained focused on making the music his first and only priority. Even if, occasionally, the bands themselves were a bit too much to handle. But no matter what, Wilson always relied on something to get him through even the biggest hurdles: Drugs. And wow, a whole lot of them, too.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

Oh, to be young and trendy again.

What’s perhaps the most interesting element of 24 Hour Party People that not only sets it apart from the rest of the musical biopic genre, but also enlivens things, too, is the fact that every so often, Wilson turns to the camera, lets us know what’s going on, what legend has said about a certain incident and mostly, just given his own voice and opinion on things. Not only does this make the movie self-aware, but it also helps make us realize that Wilson, despite his many negative personality-traits, is an honest and relatively understanding human being. However, what’s most interesting about what director Michael Winterbottom does here is that he doesn’t ever give us the full focus on Wilson’s life, even though that’s kind of expected.

Case in point, try the one scene where Wilson meets his ex-wife and child; while we’re expecting it to be a heartfelt, albeit sappy scene trying to make us see and understand Wilson as this kind, loving and caring human being, Wilson then talks to the audience, lets us know that he does have a kid, but also reminds us that this story isn’t wholly about him. In fact, it’s about the music he helped discover and bring to the masses, the parties that constantly arose, and just why it all matters these many years later.

And for that reason, 24 Hour Party People‘s kind of a blast.

Though Winterbottom has a hard task of trying to get the whole Madchester music scene into a near-two-hour-long film, without making it seem like he’s forgotten about anyone important, he somehow is able to make it all come together. Most of this has to do with the fact that Wilson’s constant narration and breaking of the fourth-wall, actually helps us connect the dots; some may say that it’s spoon-feeding the audience and pointing out the obvious, but I look at it as a way of Winterbottom letting us know that, don’t worry, no matter how many bands or names come into the foray here, he’ll still help us out. After all, the Madchester music scene was a crazy one, and if you don’t already know all of the bands and acts going into it, you’ll more than likely get lost in all the havoc and craziness.

Thankfully, like I said, Wilson’s narration helps us all out. And due to this, the movie’s a whole lot of fun. As usual with Coogan’s productions, there’s a lot of humor that comes out of some very dark and serious situations, while at the same time, the movie doesn’t forget about the harsh realities that this music scene brought on. Of course, with the movie featuring Joy Division, it’s obvious that they’d shine a light on Ian Curtis and his suicide, but other than that, there’s still plenty of other sad things that happen. People break-up, people get back together, people gain fame, people lose it, and most of all, people lose sight of their humanity.

Ian Curtis dances weird? You don't say!

There goes Ian Curtis giving hope to all white people who think they can dance.

But no matter what 24 Hour Party People is entertaining.

Maybe it’s not as heavy as it should have been, but considering it’s a musical biopic that doesn’t try to preach any ideas about drug addiction, or fame, or money, it’s definitely “different”, for lack of a better term. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s also got a nice bit of insight into how the world of music works, how people get into place when a certain craze is beginning to take over, and just how easy it is for people to get wrapped up in all of it. Though Wilson loves good music, first and foremost, he also loves money and making plenty of it, which is why it’s neat to see his perspective on what one has to do to ensure that their nightclub makes as much profit as it should. While this definitely takes the movie away from the music, and more towards the business of what went on around it, it still adds up to creating this whole scene and why it was so great to be apart of.

And like I made a mention of before, Coogan is definitely a fine source for us to follow and see all of this happen around. Coogan’s great at playing level-headed a-holes, but here, there’s a bit more to Wilson that makes him seem more humane than usual. Still though, this movie isn’t a biopic on his life, as much as it’s about all those countless bands and people he met, which is why the ensemble has some of the finest heavy-hitters in England. The likes of Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Andy Serkis (not in mo-cap gear), Lennie James, Shirley Henderson, and of course, plenty more, all give their two cents here, are fun, lively and round out a party worth being apart of and checking out.

Even if, you know, you didn’t get an invitation to it in the first place.

Consensus: With a smart, attentive eye to detail and facts, 24 Hour Party People isn’t just an insightful piece, but also a very funny, exciting film that perfectly captures the Madchester scene, the bands and all the other people who are alive and well during its reign.

8 / 10

Steve Coogan? Happy! You don't say!

Steve Coogan? Happy? You don’t say!

Photos Courtesy of: Stand By For Mind Control, Now Very Bad, VH Corner

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

KRussians love the cold, so what the heck could a little radiation do to them?

During 1961, when the Cold War was running hot and wild all over, the Russians needed a way to really hurt their enemy: the U.S. So, what they got all packed together was a newly-made submarine that packed nukes in hopes to add more blow and potentially come close to winning the war. They had a stubborn, but inspired captain (Harrison Ford), they had a co-captain that was just as inspired, but also more friendlier (Liam Neeson), and a butt-load of other fella’s that knew their way or two around a submarine, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s just say that radiation could start to leak out, infect the whole ship, and get just about everybody aboard sick or near-dying, that’s what.

I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Kathryn Bigelow and everybody else involved with the production of this flick got made, which is probably more of a sin for them, than it was a victory, since it had no chance of ever being able to connect with the mainstream, American audience. Why? Well, that’s because the story is focusing on a bunch of Russians during the Cold War, who were practically carrying weapons that were destined to hit us and us alone, while also trying to make us feel sympathy for them as each and every one started to die from the spilled radiation on-board. It does sound very strange once you get to thinking about it, but despite the cast, the crew, and the obvious, but hokey message behind it all, the movie was made, widely-released, and then got back the numbers that were apparently $35 million domestically, on a $80 million dollar budget.

"A captain always go down with his ship. Make sure somebody tells Chewwy that."

“On this mission, can I bring my trustworthy friend named Chewwy along?”

All of this number-throwing and speculation does eventually lead somewhere, and that’s to say that this is a movie that was destined for death right away. Nobody, not even the most hardcore hippie in the world wants to lay down their rights, views, or themes inside of their heads, and take some time and effort out of their days to watch a story about REAL Russians, who went through REAL problems, and actually, REALLY died. It’s asking a lot of Americans, and it came as no surprise to anyone that this movie bombed it’s ass out of the water, which should also bring up the question as to whether or not this flick was even really worth all of the hate/bombing?

Kind of, but not really.

The idea behind this movie that really keeps it moving and interesting is knowing that what you see really happened, no matter how much speculation there may or may not be. Granted, that usually comes with the material, but it’s something that is easy to forgive here since Bigelow actually seems to take a tender love and care with this material, and more or less expresses each and every one of these crew members as humans. They’re corny and one-dimensional ones, but knowing that these characters are in fact based off of real-life people, makes you feel a little bit more closer and more sympathetic to the material, even if you know that what they are dying from, most likely could have killed us, had they actually succeeded in getting to their destination. I guess that’s a spoiler but since I’m typing on this computer about this movie and you’re reading this, wherever you may be, that it isn’t totally a spoiler, as much as it’s a little tidbit that you may or may not know going on.

Okay, it’s not a spoiler! We didn’t get nuked, dammit!

Anyway, Bigelow has an assured direction and I’m surprised that despite her having an actual vagina, that her movies more or less are aimed towards men, and men alone. I mean hell, I think we only get one scene of some actual, female tail here and that’s probably for about a good two minutes or so. Everything else after those two minutes is practically dude, dude, dude and whether or not you’re the straightest dude out there in the world, then you may not want to bother with this, however, gay men will be in heaven right here, especially if they have a fetish for dudes with a Russian accent. Regardless, Bigelow’s choices for what material she wants to bring to the big-screen next is always surprising and usually impressive, considering what she does with that material once its up on the screen.

But something here tells me that I wish there was more effort along the way to make this more than just a standard flick about a bunch of dudes in a submarine that are arguing, yelling, and acting angry at one another, as they come closer and closer to death. The feeling of remorse and death is in the cold air throughout this whole movie, but it never swamped me as much as it swamped the characters in the actual flick. It just felt like I was watching people die, without barely any feeling whatsoever as to what was happening, or to whom. It just tallied-up it’s death-toll and continued to make it’s moves; almost sort of like a horror movie, but you can’t kill the slasher. He just continues to kill and kill away, no matter how hard you try to stop him or keep him away. Oh wait, that is actually a horror movie!

And it’s not like the reason I didn’t care was because I’m some political a-hole that can’t at least feel some sort of sympathy for the other side in any way, shape, or form; it’s just that the movie cares more about the submarine jargon and what these people have to do next, rather than the people themselves. That can create tension and suspense in the air, but that still doesn’t give us a lick of sympathy for these guys and in the end, it just felt like the film lost all of our hearts and minds, because it wanted to continue to rattle down what’s happening to the submarine and why, but never actually explaining it.

For instance, I don’t think I stand alone for when I say that I’m not very submarine-savvy, so, when I have a flick that’s telling me that this thing blew up in this part of the submarine, which also blew up this rod and so on and so forth, I’m practically left with my tongue half-way down my throat. I don’t know what half of these characters were saying, what it meant for them or the ship, and how they could get around the problem. I just sat there listening in, trying to understand, get a grip of what was going on, but ultimately come to the conclusion that everything everybody said was bad, bad, bad and would most likely lead to death, death, death, if they don’t get up off their asses, kick out their egos, and get to work right away. That’s what it came down to me understanding with this movie after awhile, and by “after awhile”, I mean a good hour-and-a-half. Then, I realized I had all but 40 minutes left of the movie, and I felt like I was missing out on something, somewhere around here.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about before, was the fact that this movie still got made, produced, and green-lit, despite featuring a premise that was surprisingly unheard of, especially from an American-made production. Well, one of the key reasons behind all that is mostly that Bigelow was able to rope in big star, Hollywood actors like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, who are, oddly enough, playing the two, main Russians-in-command here. It’s weird seeing both of these highly-recognizable stars don a Russian accent, but it’s even odder to see Ford because not only does the guy not do very well with the accent, but his whole act is just so polarizing to begin with.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

Think about it for a second, he’s Indiana Jones; he’s Han Solo; and hell, for God sake, he was even the President of the United States, so where the hell did the idea for this “American-hero” to be portraying a Russian that not only protected his country til the day he died, but also to any cost?!? Never made much sense to me and never seemed to work for Ford, or the character he was portraying. It seemed like a parody after awhile, as if Ford was payed a huge chunk of money just to goof-around and work with a spotty accent. Problem is, it wasn’t a parody and there was no joke here. It was mega-serious, all of the damn time.

Poor Liam Neeson too, because the guy actually does a serviceable-job here as the second-in-command (despite not even bothering with an accent), but has a character that’s so prideful and in-the-right all the time, that there never seems to be a moral dilemma for this dude as if he knows what he should do next, whether it would be the most moral move or not, or if he’s going to be able to pat his friends on the back. I got it from the first couple of minutes, the guy was a nice dude that obviously cared for his crew mates and wanted what was best for them, as well as his country, but it’s an act that got stale after awhile, as if he would have never made a bad call ever. Peter Sarsgaard remains the only other crew-member that’s the most recognizable, even today, and is okay, but really obvious as he plays the wussy that eventually stands up for himself and is forced to come up big when they need him the most. Corny.

Consensus: Bigelow’s intentions are surprisingly heartfelt and well-mannered, even if the rest of the movie that’s supposed to make K-19: The Widowmaker pop, lock, and drop it as if we are on-board with these guys, doesn’t do either of the three and just hangs there.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Even they know they deserve a better movie. Then they died.

Even they knew they deserved a better movie. Then they died.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70’s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ’em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Dahmer (2002)

Another reason why you never put your drinks down, or go home with creepy dudes.

Jeremy Renner plays Jeffrey Dahmer, who was also known as one of the most notorious serial killers of all-time. He killed over 17 men and boys, after he usually manipulated them into sex, drugs, and drinking, but also was able to get away with it for a pretty long time. Here’s a glimpse into his life, or at least his later-life that some may or may not find all that settling.

No matter who you, chances are that you have heard of Jeffrey Dahmer. Yeah, that dude was very messed up and going into this movie, that’s exactly what I was expecting. Sadly, I just got a really good glimpse of how freakin’ creepy Renner can be. You know, when he isn’t around, defusing bombs and such.

David Jacobson hasn’t done much since this movie hit the indie-theaters, which is a shame because the guy gives us a nice glimpse into the life of a guy that I’m sure none of really wanted to see for ourselves anyway, but yet, couldn’t keep away from neither. Why that is that we always want to see more and more about these sick, sadistic killers lives is beyond me. But then again, I’m the one who’s wondering and I’m also the one who not only watched the movie, but is reviewing it as well. So, screw me, I guess. Anyway, back to the review I just mentioned.

Jacobson does a pretty good job at keeping his direction very low-key, and never going anywhere near to over-exposing his subject. This isn’t your normal type of slasher movie where we see people constantly being hacked up into little pieces and then the killer eating them with ketchup on top, it’s more subdued in the way it tells the story, as if it most likely happened. I liked that approach and I like Jacobson’s very low-budget look that made it seem like this could be happening in any place, town, or city. There could even be people like this, who live right next door to you without you ever knowing. It was a nice way to touch on a subject like this and that’s honestly what I thought I was going to get, but that’s the exact problem with this flick: it never goes that extra mile.

How could you say "no" to a charmer like that?

How could you say “no I will not let you drug and rape me” to face like that?

When I say “extra mile”, I mean that this flick could have easily gone into extra depth about this infamous figure and showed us what really made him tick, but it never does. It does show us things that happened in his past that irked him and kind of set him to madness, but we never get inside of his head or see things the way he sees them. We get a couple of clear-cut examples as to when and how he went totally ballistic, but never anything to where I could say “oh, I see why he does this as a chore/hobby of his.” Now, I’m not saying that there should be or ever is any excuse to murder people, let alone 17 boys and adults, and there wasn’t any here at all, it just needed to give me something that I could hold onto when I was watching a person like Dahmer up on-screen. Jacobson seems to get the story, but not the subject if you know what I mean.

But other than not doing much with its subject, the film also suffers from being somewhat, dare I say it: boring. A couple of murders happen here and there, and we get a pretty crazy montage of Dahmer doing his dirty stuff with his boys in a midnight gay club, but other than that, nothing else really all that exciting happens. The movie just sort of meanders around from to scene to scene without any real genuine suspense or thrill behind it. Instead, we’re just sort of watching a guy be weird and plan to do some even weirder things. I didn’t go into this expecting a slasher along the lines of Halloween or Scream, but I just wanted something more to keep me glued. I guess I’m just a little brat because I have probably mentioned the word “more” about 10 times already in this review. Actually, if you have seen this movie, there’s something for memorable about that word “more” that comes into play in this movie. I don’t want to give it away but if you watch the movie, then you’ll understand. Until then, stay in the mysterious dark of not knowing.

"First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?"

“First, we smoke. Then, you die. Cool?”

This whole review that I’ve done so far may make it seem like I didn’t like this movie, but I actually didn’t mind it. That’s mostly thanks to the one guy who saved it all for me and really kept me going for this whole movie: Jeremy Renner as Jeffrey Dahmer. Renner has been a guy on my watch for the longest time and I definitely think he’s going to be the next best thing for Hollywood when the time comes around. However, it’s these roles in lesser-known movies that he does is what really gets my hopes up for him higher than ever before. Renner is absolutely amazing as Dahmer, because he plays it subtle, without over-reaching his grasps into how psychotic he can make this guy seem to be. He just is, plain and simple. Just looking at this guy from afar, would have you guessing right away that he’s crazy as shit, which he is but Renner gives him this very charming act that works not only the people in this movie, but us, the audience as well. He seems like you average, every day dude that just so happens to be one of the craziest mothaeffa’s around and Renner plays that to the brim, showing barely any emotions the whole time, but still being able to release a cold chill about him that settles in throughout the whole movie, even when it seems like everything is calm and collective. It isn’t, and just by watching Renner’s performance, you can tell that this guy has got presence whether or not he’s saying or even doing anything. He just needs to be there, on-the-screen, to really keep your pulse beating. Great performance from Renner and it’s honestly a role that should have gotten him way bigger, way back when. Thankfully, he’s on the top of the food-chain now, and it doesn’t seem like he’s coming down. Thank the movie heavens for that.

Consensus: Dahmer is one of those movies that makes you feel like it’s really going to get deep down inside the mind of a serial-killer, especially one as notorious as Jeffrey Dahmer, but it never hits that peak. It just sits there, acts a little weird, and lets Jeremy Renner take over the show. It’s not as bad to watch because Renner is so good, but there could have been more than just a weird guy, who did bad things.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He knows the drill.

Weaken the body, kill the person, get rid of the evidence. He knows the drill….

Bowling for Columbine (2002)

Never be able to watch Planet of the Apes the same way ever again. The original, by the way. Not Tim Burton’s crap-on-a-silver-platter.

After the Columbine Massacres occurred in 1999, the world as we knew it was all in a wrestle because of the whole idea that the two kids were able to get guns, get bullets, and get all the materials that they needed, with little to no problems whatsoever. Heck, they aren’t even half of the problem. Basically, everybody’s allowed to get a gun in certain states and all it requires is a couple of papers to be signed, a slight exam, and that’s it. You got your gun, you got your bullets, and best of all, you got your tool to fuel your madness, if you’re that type of person. Michael Moore takes a look at this issue, and like always: the insights are never sweet.

No matter what you may think about his political-views, the way he goes on walks, or how he makes the simple, joyous moment in the history of every film maker’s life, a walking-preach of what he thinks is wrong with the Bush administrationthe guy is still one hell of a film maker and you cannot deny that. This movie is the prime example of what the guy is able to do and it never, ever ceases to amaze me. No matter how many damn times I get the privilege to see it. And that is always an honor as a movie lover, as a movie critic, and as a person, in general.

The whole gun-control issue in America is a very big one, but that isn’t what’s all discussed here. In fact, Moore goes on other topics such as fear, the media, violence, racism, corporate associations, K-Mart, musicians, war, money, hypocrisy, and so many other topics that I can’t even remember, but best of all, he goes for the jugular on all of them. I’ve heard so many things about Moore being a guy that does not take any prisoners when it comes to presenting something in front of our eyes and it’s no different here at all. I don’t even know where to begin with this review so let me just get down to the simple basics, baby.

"You're next, George W."

“You’re next, George W.”

This film doesn’t always give us the cut & dry solutions to certain happenings like the Columbine Massacre or 9/11, but it provides us with enough evidence, real-life conversations/interviews, and discussions as to why it is happening and what is behind all of it. I never, ever thought I could feel so much for documentary’s topic like gun-control and what’s really going on underneath the silver linings, but Moore made me think and feel something different. He isn’t out there to just bullshit us and give us what he thinks are the right solutions to these problems; he pretty much tells us and gives us valuable examples, statements, and reasons to back it all up. Moore talks with a bunch of people on a lot subjects and some of which, may have you totally surprised by how they are portrayed here.

Dick Clark just is a total asshole when Moore tries to talk to him about one of his prime restaurants and honestly made me wonder why the dude was even bothered with in the first-place. Seriously, you may not like Michael Moore or want to talk to him, but you do not have to be this much of a dick to get your point-across! Charlton Heston starts off his interview with Moore, being all “pro-rifle this, pro-rifle that”, but once Moore really gets to him and tells him what’s up, Heston starts to run away like a little baby because he’s so flustered in his argument. I don’t want to get into spoiler-territory with what this dude says or how he acts, but it will surprise the hell out of you and have you think a lot differently about the dude that our grand-parents never stop talking about.

Marilyn Manson may seem like the oddest-choice for this documentary, in terms of his music or what he brings to the table, but actually brings out one of the best points of the whole film. He tells us what he feels like to be blamed for the Columbine Massacre, and what he would have done to stop those kids from even thinking of doing such a thing. It sort of humanizes the guy in a way, that I didn’t think was capable of remotely happening. And finally, there is Matt Stone who also shows up and gives a bit of insight into the town of where he lived in, and how it’s considered one of the nicest places to be, despite it’s violent up-rising. It’s nothing special, but to hear it from a guy like this, still made me happy. There are plenty of other interviews here with other random, but significant people (such as a dude who “supposedly” committed an Oklahoma bombing and seems like one dude you do not want to be giving any type of lethal weapons to) and they all provide the best amount of information and insight into the world we live in as well as the documentary itself.

But what I liked the most about this movie isn’t that it’s a documentary all about Moore spouting-out facts left-and-right at us, it’s actually pretty entertaining to watch and follow along with, if you have the stomach for these kinds of things. I was surprised by how much I laughed during this flick, but by the same token, surprised by how much I was also very disturbed by. For the funny moments in this flick, there’s a nice animated-segment that play’s in the same breath as South Park that’s obscene, but true in the way that are history has wrapped it’s strange head. But then, you get to the very sad and disturbing stuff we are shown, as we actually get a couple of montages where we see people actually killing others with plenty of guns, military-footage of the war, and a whole scene where we see the Columbine Massacre happen, from the surveillance-video in the cafeteria. You’ll be glued in from start-to-finish with everything that Moore talks about, brings up, and states, but it isn’t boring in anyway and would have me howling at one point, but totally have my breath taken away (not in a Berlin-way) by some compellingly powerful stuff that Moore would show us as well. Whenever you can make somebody laugh one second, and then have them almost close to tears the next second, that’s usually a good sign of being a great director. Not good, not okay, but great.

Michael Vick is smiling somewhere. Too soon?

Michael Vick is somewhere smiling. Too soon?

Where this film bothered me at was how much it talks about and where it goes. I know that in this review, I stated that I liked how Moore went from topic-to-topic to give us a clear and broad understanding of what he’s talking about, but I didn’t like how it was so jumpy with it all. I get it, all of these acts of violence and anger are somehow connected to each other through some sort of statistic, but can you stop jumping around every five minutes? Please?!?!

I know that this is one of Moore’s most known flicks (hell, it won him an Oscar for Christ’s sakes!) but it’s one that should be watched by everybody I think. There is so much anger, so much hatred, so much violence, and so much fear in our country that it’s almost too hard to handle sometimes. You see in the news all of the time, about how a black man robs a corner market, or how some woman was robbed by some hoodlum in the projects, or just how some act of violence was committed, in someplace, at some time, but we never see anything else other than that. Everybody sees the bad stuff in the world, but are there any other times where good happens in this world? Or do we just have to wait until a 6-year old goes off by shooting, and killing a fellow 6-year old until we have to realize that maybe some things need to change, and need to change now. I have never really given two shits about the whole “gun-control” issue we have had in America for quite some time, but it’s one that I look at in a more intelligent-way now thanks to Mr. Moore and I can assure you that the next time I go out to a shooting range, I’m making sure the gun stays away from everybody else except for me, myself, and I.

Consensus: Michael Moore may go all-over-the-place with his topic at points, but Bowling for Columbine is still one hell of a documentary that is entertaining with it’s constant shifts from humor to drama, powerful facts and statistic it backs up with for its idea, and an unrelenting idea of how America, is a country that is based on fear, violence, and guns. May be a hard pill to swallow, but your eyes will be opened afterwards.

9 / 10 = Full Price!! 

"You mean to tell me that South Park has never been blamed for a bad thing in it's entire run?

“You mean to tell me that South Park has never been blamed for a bad thing in it’s entire run?”