Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: 2003

Mean Creek (2003)

Kids can be brutal.

A group of misfit kids celebrate their youngest member (Rory Culkin)’s birthday, but are doing more than just letting the good times roll. Instead, they use the birthday as an excuse to mess with a bully (Josh Peck) and teach him a lesson or two about picking on kids who are younger and smaller than him. However, the kids don’t realize what they’re getting themselves into, especially when shite gets a bit too serious for their own good.

Throughout my high school days, I never really saw any bullying, ever. Yeah, of course I would see the occasional “booking” of a nerd going to math class, or a “taco” of another person’s book bag, but nothing too serious to the point of where I felt like some kid was going to get killed because of it. I said the same things and stated my ideas on the idea of bullying in that documentary, Bully, and all this time later, nothing still has changed. That’s why I’m glad I stayed away from being bullied or doing the bullying, just so I didn’t have the problem of seeing a kid go bat-shit like this.

First-time writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes does a magnificent job with this material, and makes a surprisingly moral tale out of a group of just 6 kids. Some of these kids are nice, some are kind hearted, some are bad, some are evil, and some are just plain evil. The film starts off like you’re going to see this bully finally get what’s coming to him, but in little time, you start to realize that this kid isn’t such a terrible person after all. In fact, he’s just as troubled as the dicks that put him up to this whole screwing with. But it’s not him that’s the only one that has problems, everybody else does too and if they don’t have problems, they at least have something that ticks away at them until the point of where they are absolutely losing their shit. This fascinated me because I thought that this flick was just going to be a mixture of Stand By Me and Bully (Larry Clark’s movie), but what I got instead, really tug at my brain and made me think a little bit.

It’s hard, actually, really too hard to make the “right” decision on what you would do if you were ever stuck in the same situation these kids get themselves caught in. Estes shows that these kids obviously can’t decipher between what is morally-correct and what is the best thing for them to do. I know that may sound similar, but trust me, when you’re a kid and you’re stuck in a situation like this one, they become two entirely, separate things. Yet, what also had me thinking about this film more was how Estes doesn’t really sympathize with any person in particular. Actually, everybody gets their own chance to show sympathy for their character and it’s very hard to choose who is the “right” person out of this situation. I know I’m being very vague about this “situation” but it’s really something you want to have no idea about going into.

My main complaint is that the second act is probably the most tense, if not the best part about this flick. Other than that, the other two acts (first and last) all pretty much suffer from being a tad too boring and predictable. The first act is obviously building up to what is essentially going to be our “party between the kids and the bully” so of course, the film takes its good old time, but maybe it was a little too good for it’s own self and that’s what bothered me. Then, the second act comes around and that’s when everything gets better and you really feel like this film has taken off of the ground. However, all of that goes to crap and then we get another slow/tedious-paced act that feels like Estes just wants to lolly-gag around with his film because he didn’t really know where to go after all of this.

It’s also a huge bummer considering everybody, myself included, pretty much guesses what happens to these kids on their little “party”, and that the only thing that’s really unpredictable is what they choose to do afterwards. You sort of know where it’s going to go after this all because there is only one way to go from here. It works as a thinking piece since it shows people doing the right things, and also doing the wrong things, but altogether doing something that only humans would do, especially in your right mind. But as a thriller; not really. Still don’t want to give it away even though I feel like I already have but it’s still pretty freakin’ easy to know just what the hell is going to happen, how, why, and when.

Such good friends.

Such good friends.

What I was really surprised about with this film was how good the performances were by this very young cast, most of which we’re under 20 around the time of filming. Rory Culkin plays the sweet and meek Sam, a kid who wants to get revenge on this bully but just can’t find any anger out of his heart to ever hurt another kid, let alone, a bully. Honestly, no matter how messed up and crazy those Culkin kids can be, they sure know how to act they’re asses off, even if they are only 8. Scott Mechlowicz was pretty damn awesome as the macho, slightly insecure dude named Marty and has that River Phoenix-thing going for him, which makes me surprised that he isn’t in more stuff as of late. The kid owns that bad-boy look here and even though I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s a hunk, he’s got good looks that could definitely win over the ladies and make him a household name in some cheesy, Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Not saying that’s the right path to go down, but it wouldn’t hurt. Okay, yeah nevermind. Maybe it would. Don’t do that.

Actually, the best out of this cast would probably have to be Josh Peck as the bully, George. Right from the start of this flick, you feel sorry for this kid because you know that he’s not a bad kid, he just has some serious mental issues that he can’t help no matter how bad he tries to fit in with this group of kids. He actually tries so hard to the point of when he does feel rejected, he starts to lose his temper and finds that the only way of covering himself is by spouting out insults at the other people. Obviously no normal kid with a head on his shoulder would act like this, but George isn’t a normal kid and that’s what sad. This film shows that bullies, no matter how mean or cruel they can be, are still humans too and should be treated as such. Peck is great in this role and I definitely wasn’t thinking about Drake Bell when I watched this, which was something that totally shocked me since I loved that show. As a kid, of course….

Consensus: Mean Creek suffers from being deliberately slow and predictable in its first and last act, but regains its momentum through heartfelt performances from this young cast, superbly-written moral themes about the right thing to do, and is also a solid reminder by just how cruel and ruthless young kids can be to one another, no matter who the victim is.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wife beater = bad ass.

Wife beater = bad ass.


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Being on a ship isn’t always swashbuckling fun.

Russell Crowe is Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey, renowned as a fighting captain in the British Navy, and Paul Bettany is the ship’s doctor, Stephen Maturin. Their ship, the HMS Surprise, is suddenly attacked by a superior enemy. With the Surprise badly damaged and much of his crew injured, Aubrey is torn between duty and friendship as he pursues a high-stakes chase across two oceans.

Anybody who ever hears the words “ships” and “pirates”, automatically think of Captain Jack running rampant all over the seas, with his pet monkey on his shoulder. However, how do people feel whenever they make a story like this, with adults in mind? Answer is, more rum!

Director Peter Weir did a great job with accurate depiction of what it would really be like to stay on a ship like this, way back when. All these people do all day is stare at the ropes of the boat and the stars in the sky, then eat, sleep, drink, occasionally have a battle, and then go back to eating, sleeping, and drinking all over again. It seems very tedious, which is an emotion that Weird conveys very well and it’s a real change of pace we usually see from the fun, hip, and energetic movies about pirates out on the seas, having a grand old time. I also liked how we never knew who the enemy was in this story, considering we never know exactly who the hell these guys are going to face up against. Could be an army. Could be a leper boat. Hell, it could even be Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. But either way, it was still as much of a mystery to me as it was to these guys in the movie.

Let’s also not forget to mention that Weir’s attention to detail is what made this a sight to see the whole film. Weir definitely has a great eye for what looks good and what doesn’t and with a film that takes place on a boat, that’s something to be commended for. The opening shot is absolutely stunning and got me ready for the rest of the shots I was going to get. Long, beautiful, and sweeping shots of the sea and land around it, really made me feel like I was out there with them and took me to this world where I never knew what was going to happen next or where I was going to be, just exactly like these people on the ship thought. Maybe I’m thinking about the cinematography a bit too much here, but when you have something that looks as pretty as this one, you can’t go without at least talking about it. I mean hell, just check out this shot right here. Now try and tell me that that isn’t something that catches your eye! By the way, it’s all real, no CGI. Don’t see that very often.

Even though Weir’s direction really brought me into the mood, the story itself didn’t do much for me and I have no idea who’s fault that was. First of all, the story is pretty slow and even though it does pick up every once and a blue moon, you still can’t help but feel like there should be more character development to have us care who lives, who dies, and who ends up getting put at the bottom of Davy Jones’ locker (which basically mean’s dead, but I just wanted an excuse to use that term). Whenever somebody died, and the crew had a huge ceremony for them, I didn’t really know or even care about it all that much because nothing really happens with these characters to drive this story on. It’s strange too, because even though action doesn’t take up the film, all of the other scenes weren’t really dedicated to the crew members or their character development, instead, the film just sort of lingered around. Weird, I know, plus add on a two hour run-time and you got yourself a boat ride that may over-stay its welcome by a good 45 minutes or so. Give or take.

Another strange aspect of this story, and probably its strongest was Russell Crowe as Captain Jack Aubrey. Once again, Crowe turns in another impressive and strong performance that shows he is able to convey so many emotions, no matter who he is playing. The character of Aubrey isn’t a very likable one, but Crowe somehow finds his way to get him by with a wee bit of charm and it worked on me, and then it didn’t. The problem with this character is that this guy goes through so many problems over the course of the flick, that it almost seems like he is a bit bi-polar. There’s those scenes where we see him being the commanding officer of the ship and is inspired to beat the enemy, then we see him being jealous towards his friend and not allow him to do what he wants to do (some random story about collecting newfound insects, that didn’t do much for me), and then he goes a little control freak-ish when he starts to lay down the law on some of the crew for not being respectful enough to him. However, at the end of all of this we get a shot of him feeling triumphant as if he was just another hero of the seas, when throughout the past 2 hours we get a glimpse at a person that seemed like he had a lot of control issues and went with his pride a bit too much. But the film tried to play him off like some great, heroic figure? Didn’t get it but I guess that’s why Weir hired Crowe to do the job since he’s always a great watch.

Another performance that almost steals the spotlight from Crowe is the one given by Paul Bettany as Aubrey’s supposed “friend”, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Bettany and Crowe last appeared in A Beautiful Mind together, where it was obviously Crowe’s show which was supposed to be the same plan here, instead, Bettany comes close to almost stealing the spot-light from him. Bettany easily as one of the best character arcs here because this is a dude that just wants to help everybody out on the ship, is very real with Jack and the crew, and just wants to see some damn animals! His character definitely sticks a lot of sense into Crowe’s face and it’s a real wonder why Bettany didn’t get an Oscar nomination for this one because his character was really the only one I actually cared about. Everybody else could get captured by Black Beard and I wouldn’t have given a rat’s ass.

Consensus: With a couple of good performances from the cast and a beautiful vision from Peter Weir, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World definitely should hit a lot harder than it does, but due to a lacking script without a confused central character and barely little, or no character development, the film just ends up being a mildly entertaining 2 and a half hours spent. Next time, just call up Johnny Depp.


Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Days Later (2003)

When in doubt, make ’em fast.

28 days later after a rage-virus has swept the area and turned every infected person into crazy zombies, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma in the deserted intensive care unit of a London hospital. He soon meets up with a fellow survivor, Selena (Naomia Harris), and both embark on a journey to get themselves the hell out of London, and also, be able to get themselves out alive.

I’ll never, ever forget the first time that I saw this movie. I was probably in 8th grade, and it was late at-night (on a school-night of course), and I stumbled upon the beginning of this flick on FX and thought to myself, “It’s 10 o’clock. Should I watch this movie for the next 3 hours and be extremely tired tomorrow, or should I go to sleep, catch it another time, and get my 9 hours of perfect sleep? Hmmm….” Thankfully, I went with the first option and to be honest, it didn’t matter how late it was because my ass wasn’t getting any sleep at all that night after watching this. Seriously, that movie kept me up all night and at one-point, I was afraid to even go to the bathroom because it was a dark hallway, and I thought I heard noises. Little did I know that it was just my dog, but still, you couldn’t have told me that at that time and place because I was so wrapped-up in what I just saw that my mind wasn’t taking anything else in.

This whole dumb story about me and my first-viewing with this flick may come off as random and unneeded, but in my case, it totally is. See, I rarely ever get scared by horror films because I for one, know that they aren’t ever grounded in-reality. Iconic horror characters like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, and etc., don’t scare me because I know they aren’t real and most likely, never will be real. But, what really scared me about this movie was how it didn’t have those elements, instead, everything felt, looked, acted, and played-out, as if it was all real and could actually happen in a world like ours. Yes, I know it all sounds pretty freakin’ goofy that I would assume a zombie apocalypse would ever run rampant in our world and go out like this, but seriously, just think about it: they don’t even have to be zombies, they can just be a bunch of infected human-beings that have no control over anything in their minds. Seriously, it could happen and if it doesn’t, I will be glad to be proven wrong, but that is why this movie scared the utter bajeebers out of me 5 years ago when I first saw it, and that’s why it still does now.

Most of the credit for scaring the hell out of me has to go to Danny Boyle and what he does with this material. Instead of making this your typical zombie-movie where all we see is a bunch of people shooting blood and guts, we get an actual story-based type of approach that not only fits the characters in it, but also the mood that Boyle has set for us as well. Right from the beginning with those iconic shots of a deserted London, we know that we are placed in a post-apocalyptic world that is sad, depressing, and as dark as you’re ever going to get with any other film of this nature, and the way Boyle sets it off is exactly how he allows it to all play-out.

Of course we all know what a post-apocalyptic world looks like: no people, no civilization, no order, and in some cases, no nothing, but there’s something so realistic-feeling about this world that Boyle paints that has me still frightened to this day. See, it seems like this could happen any day, any place, at any time, and it doesn’t matter where it begins or where it ends because it’s going to sweep the globe as soon as possible. That’s the way you mostly have it with any type of zombie/virus movie, but this one is different because it feels like a real-threat. These people can run, they can hide, and they can do whatever they want, but one of these days, they may not be so lucky and end-up biting the dust sooner than they may think. This urgent sense of danger and doom surrounds this flick in every single shot, and it never goes away, which is why I’m still clinging to my pillow as we speak.

None of this would ever feel so realistic and dangerous if it wasn’t for Boyle, and this guy sure as hell doesn’t lose that idea in his head. See, the best thing about Boyle is that he isn’t just a type of director that shoots the scenes, gets good performances from the cast, and calls it a day. Nope, this guy is all about everything else in-between all of that and it shows so perfectly here. The digital-camera brings an extra grainy-look to the flick that puts us inside of this cold and dark world that never seems to have a bright day; the music comes in at times at makes you feel happy, then makes you feel sad, and then makes you feel like your about to go crazy by how tense everything is (I’m talking about you, tunnel scene); and the color-schemes that Boyle chooses for each and every scene bring out a certain amount of beauty to each scene, as dark and hideous as it may be (the red dresses during the last-act just freakin’ popped-out at me). Basically, when it comes right down to it, Boyle is a guy that looks at everything in a flick, makes it better, and gives it his own little stylistic touches that in some ways, may come off as too “artsy”, but in other ways, it comes off as fan freakin’ tastic.

But, let’s not forget people, this is not your typical zombie story that we have all seen a hundred times before-hand, because believe it or not, there’s actually a story here that talks about something more than you might expect from a movie about a bunch of ragged-up killers on the loose. The film talks about how it sometimes takes a devastating act like an apocalypse  or a break-down in society to show you who evil human-beings can be. This point is never really hammered-through to you until the last 45 minutes when the story takes a dramatic turn, but you get an essence of that the whole time throughout and you also feel like the only way most people can get through such terrible events like this, is by love and friendship with the people around you. That’s why the “romance” here works, because it’s shoe-horned in and quick for a reason, people need each other in the world no matter what. There’s also a juicy little piece of context in here about how we, as people, have been killing each other for years and years and years, but now have to actually go-forth with that in a society where that’s the only-option. It’s a fairly obvious point you can pretty much gather right from the first scene or two, but it’s still one worth mentioning because it goes beyond what you normally expect in a movie about zombies.

Jeez, I feel like I’ve gone on way too long about this movie but the fact is, after seeing it over 8 times now, I still can’t get enough of it and look at each and every scene as if it was just another piece of art that Boyle chose in his mind and was somehow able to paint it all out onto film. The sturdy story that takes over the first hour or so, does change-up drastically by the last hour and becomes more of an action/thriller type of movie but even that still works, even if it is a bit conventional. Still, though, I realized there was a lot more to this plot than just blood, guts, and violence, and in a way, all of that shit that does go down in the end sort of justifies it’s point and by what it’s trying to say. Trust me, the plot-conventions and cliches are more than you think they are, and that’s the whole beauty and uniqueness of this movie.

Boyle also did something very daring and smart with this movie and chose people for the roles, that were the normal people you’d see in movies like these, let alone in movies in general. I mean now, these people are pretty big-stars, but before this, they looked like nothing else except for just real people, that were stuck in a real world, and tried their hardest to find happiness in it. Cillian Murphy does a great job with his role as Jim because the guy starts out as such a wimp, and dumb-ass that seems to be a bit way too in over his head with the world he has yet to get a grasp hold onto, but after awhile, builds up enough courage and steam of his own to actually have you believe that this guy can really stick up for himself and survive in this world. The transformation Jim goes through isn’t touched-upon enough, in my book, but is still shown in a believable and understandable way, thanks to both Boyle and Murphy themselves.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a nice line-up that all do perfect jobs with the limited-material that they’re given. Naomie Harris plays Selena as a bad-ass that would kill you in seconds if she had to, but also shows there’s a lot vulnerability to her as well that makes her seem more well-rounded as a human-being rather than just a straight-up, vicious beotch; Brendan Gleeson is a delight to watch as Frank, the loving father that always seems to look on the bright-side to any situation and kept me smiling the whole time he was on-screen; Megan Burns wasn’t so good as the daughter, but I think she was supposed to underplay this role a bit so I can’t be too hard on her; and last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Eccleston as Major West, a guy who comes off as a knight in shining armor right from the start, but starts to slowly change your mind about him and you never, ever know what this guy is going to do next. I like that with characters and I think Eccleston handles that well and shows to be more of a human-being, rather than just showing off as a villainous d-bag.

Consensus: Maybe, just maybe, I’m in the minority with this one but 28 Days Later is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. The world that Boyle paints is as devastating and frightening as it gets; the characters are more well-rounded and developed than the script actually gives them credit for; the scares and chills get to you by the utter feel of realism that shoots-out in every frame of this picture; and the message about who we are as humans and what we’ll do to live-on in life is as heartbreaking and brutally honest as it can get. Definitely go out there and see it, not just to be scared, but also to be a bit enlightened as well.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: High Tension (2003)

I don’t care who you think it may be showing up to your door at 4 a.m, you always gotta bring a weapon or crazy shit like this happens.

Marie (Cécile de France) and Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco) are two young women intent on spending a quiet weekend in the country with Alex’s family. When a brutal killer turns up and abducts Alex, slaughtering her family in the process, it’s up to Marie to save her friend before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

This is one of those infamous horror movies from the early 21st Century that dared to push the limit. This, along with other splatter-horror flicks like Hostel, Saw, The Descent, and many others just said, “Hey horror! We’re going to make you one bad-ass mothatrucka again and get you away from all of those sissy, J-horror remakes that are all rated PG-13.” Okay, maybe none of them said those exact words but it doesn’t matter, because these guys really pushed the element and one of those main directors who did was Alexandre Aja.

Now if anybody has seen Piranha 3D (the original that came out in 2010, not that sequel shit that ruined my eyes) you have to know what this director can do. He offers some blood, gore, tension, sleaziness, but altogether, a fun time. Here, that is exactly the case and it provides for one of the more enjoyable and tense pieces of horror that I have seen in quite some time. The story starts off boring with a bunch of lame-ass English dubs that almost make this movie look like a Bruce Lee kung-fu movie from the 70’s and I really thought it was going to be a whole distraction. Then, one of the girls start to masturbate and it’s really just random and I thought to myself, “Jeezus, this film is just losing more and more points by the minute.” But then, there’s a knock at the door, and then thankfully, that’s when everything really started to come together in one, full-swing.

One thing you should be warned about with this flick is that it is downright disgusting at points. Aja does a good job of keeping the violence very subtle at times, but when the guy wants to get in-your-face about it, then he doesn’t leave anything out at all. Not a single organ is left unseen here and it is at times, very gruesome and discomforting to watch, but it was pretty neat how he allowed the gore to bring real color to some scenes that seemed like it needed it. There’s this one scene that I’m pretty sure many of you people have seen where one of the girls gets into a car, and the bad-guy with the buzz-saw comes after her and just shreds-up the driver of the car and it creates a huge blood-splash that goes everywhere in the car. It’s a very wonderful shot and one of the very few instances where Aja knows how to use his gore to his effect and strength.

Seeing that this film is called High Tension, I went in expecting that and that is exactly what I got with this flick. The whole element behind this film that intrigued me was how most of it is shot in real-time where we are simply following the events as they happen and there is barely anything ever left out. This allows us to feel like we are right there for this torturous ride and some of the scenes that Aja places in here, just gave me chills going all throughout my spine and it had me wondering just what was going to happen next. Sadly, what happened next was probably one of the main elements about this film that pissed me off.

The whole film for about an hour or so, was absolutely kicking ass and I really could not get enough of it but then, for some odd reason, Aja felt the need to add in a nice little twist because all horror films need one, right? In horror films, people can’t just kill people because they like it, right? Without giving too much away, the twist at the end makes this whole film seem pretty dumb and almost very unbelievable. It’s sort of like the horror film Silent House that came out recently, it has a twist that’s supposed to be one, big clever change-up of the whole story, and it doesn’t add anything else other than a bunch of confusion from people who don’t need it, especially when they are just letting their brains rot on horror movies. It wasn’t so bad to the point of where I was almost fed-up with the whole film, but it definitely changed my opinion on my final score.

As for the acting, it’s pretty good even though they aren’t really given much dialogue to work with here. Cécile de France has a good look as Marie because she doesn’t really seem like the type of strong-willed chick that would be willing to stay alive and face-off against this dude, but somehow she shows a great deal of strength and aggression in a role that actually needed it, in my opinion. I also have to give bonus points to the guy who plays the killer because he doesn’t really get the chance to show his full face until the very end, but the whole time he is just terribly intimidating and scary, and it was a pretty good idea on the part of Aja to give us a faceless killer. Just adds more creepiness to him as a whole.

Consensus: Though the plot twist really shakes things up by the end, and in a bad way, High Tension still delivers on the, ahem, tension, blood, and gore that helps further the plot more and more into one sick journey that never seems to stop.


Lost In Translation (2003)

Japan has never looked so boring.

The film revolves around an aging actor named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a recent college graduate named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who develop a unique closeness after a chance meeting in a grand Tokyo hotel.

I remember the first time that I ever watched it, and I didn’t get it. Maybe I was too young (8th grade) or maybe I was just way too sleepy, either way, I didn’t love it as much as so many other people have said over the years. About 4 years later though, I loved it! Funny what time can do for certain people, especially a movie geek like me.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola definitely brings a lot to the table here and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Coppola adds so much attention to detail in just about every scene where it’ll either be one of these characters just staring off into space, but the song in the background or lighting fit the mood perfectly. She focuses on all of this detail and probably the best decision for this film that she made was actually putting it in Japan, considering it seems like the craziest place ever. Yeah, Coppola pokes a lot of jokes at just how goofy and crazy Japanese culture can be, as well as a lot of the surroundings, but she also shows this country as a haven for people to be free with themselves and paint it as this beautiful place to be, even underneath all of the sadness of these American people. Never been to Japan, and I don’t know when or if I ever will, but if I do go, I’ll definitely use this flick as my travel guide for all of the sights to see.

However, it’s Sofia’s attention to the writing that really took over me with this flick. So much of the film here consists of these characters holding back, not saying anything, and just letting a lot of the silence take over each and every single one of their scenes, which may be too subtle for some people but it’s also the best quality of her script. There are plenty of moments that are just dedicated to these characters not saying anything at all, but whenever they do speak, they give off some real and raw emotional dialogue that just feels natural, as if you almost couldn’t have written a lot of this stuff. It also shows a lot about these characters and a lot of human truths as it talks a lot about our needs and desires in our lives, and the feeling of needing to be connected with other people out there in the world. It’s a theme that many other flicks tend to shy away from, but this is one that Sofia hits head-on, even if she doesn’t have her characters practically spell it out for you. Check can’t act for shit, but she sure as hell can write and direct, and that’s all that matters to me.

Everything here is pretty great and works very, very well except for the fact that sometimes this pace does have the occasional lull here and there. Actually, the film picks up a lot of steam somewhere in the middle part of it and then it just starts to slow down and it sucks all of the life out of itself. However, it’s not that big of a complaint considering it happens maybe once or twice here, and the rest of it just somehow took my mind away from it.

The real reason this film works as well as it does is mainly because of Bill Murray, who probably gives his best performance ever as Bob Harris. Murray is a guy we all know who can be funny and outrageous, but he’s also an actor that can do a lot by just being subtle and not even speaking at all, just staring into space. Of course he’s hilarious here and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Bill Murray goes around this film, making just about every single person here laugh and not even make it seem like he’s even remotely trying. Actually, that’s whats so amazing about this performance here is that he doesn’t even feel like he’s saying lines, everything is just coming off so naturally and it fits so damn well with Coppola’s script. Sometimes I think they didn’t even tell Murray that there was a film crew following him at all times during the filming and they just show a whole bunch of footage of him walking around and interacting with all of these random people as if he wasn’t even in a soon-to-be Oscar nominee.

It sucks that he didn’t win for this flick either because even though Bob Harris is a very complicated, and messed up dude, he has a good heart and much of that credit has to go to Murray and the emotional depth he is able to fall towards. There are definitely plenty of scenes where you see Murray as the sad dude but he doesn’t over-play it and make it seem like he’s trying, because once again, he’s playing it naturally and that’s what I love so much about Murray in just about every flick he does, especially here. Hopefully he’ll get his Oscar some day because I know he’s getting closer and closer dammit!

As great as Murray is though, he doesn’t run away with this film and never return. In fact, Scarlett Johansson is also pretty damn good as his new friend, another sad character named Charlotte. Johansson was so young during the filming of this flick (17 I think) and she’s pretty much asked to play a more mature character and gives off an amazing performance that may not be as effortless as Murray, but still has enough to it that makes you realize she has the chops to pull off a leading role. Her character is sad and bored, but is also a very sweet, nice, and lovely lady that I can definitely see hanging around Bill Murray in real life. May have never actually happened but by the way these two were hanging out and getting along here, I could definitely something was going on.

Consensus: Lost in Translation is a very subtle film, but is also one that will touch you and make you laugh with its natural performances from Johansson and Murray, pitch-perfect direction from Coppola that makes me want to venture out to Japan, and a screenplay that talks about many things, yet focuses on a friendship between two people that could never have happened anywhere else, had they both had not been bored out of their minds in Japan. Yet, how much fun they did actually have together.

9/10=Full Price!!

PS: It’s my birthday today, so I hope you like this post extra more now!

Monster (2003)

Charlize Theron would definitely be the #1 hooker in America, but not #1 serial killer. Then again, she was both and she didn’t look like her normal, sexy, beautiful self.

Charlize Theron stars in true-life story of Aileen Wuaronos, a prostitute executed last year in Florida after being convicted of murdering six men. While Wuaronos confessed to the six murders, including a policeman, she claimed to have killed only in self-defense, resisting violent assaults while working as a prostitute.

So it seems like this Aileeen chick isn’t a real peach in the first place but the hot and sexy South African Charlize Theron is playing her, so it she can’t be that unbearable, right?

Writer/director Patty Jenkins tells this story in a pretty straight-forward way that doesn’t get in the way of anything here and that’s not so bad. Jenkins does do a nice job of showing us the dark and light side of Aileeen, and instead of just focusing on what we think she was like behind all of those murders, we get to understand her for a person that has been so knocked down by men and society, that the only possible solution could be is murder. There isn’t any real terribly graphic stuff to see here in the first place, but the film has this dirty/gritty look that takes you into the world that Aileen herself lived in for so long too. Still a surprise that Jenkins was actually going to direct the sequel to ‘Thor’ because the only action here is basically Theron holding up a pistol to some dudes’ head, and that’s just about it.

Since this is an actual serial killer, it’s somewhat hard to get involved with this story as well as Aileen, considering we know what she did and she had no problem with it either. Serial Killer movies can only do so much because they show you what actually happened with some character development to even out all of the grisly details, but it’s pretty hard to do that when the character isn’t a person that you can totally get behind. I mean yeah, she’s a hooker that has to kill these dudes in order to live for herself and her girly-friend and only does it because she had a messed-up childhood but she could honestly choose something else as a profession. The film shows her trying her hardest to actually do that but I honestly couldn’t have any sympathy for this girl either because even when she did get the moolah, she spent it all on cigs, beer, and occasionally a new place to stay.

I also found it a little strange that there is barely any light moments that occur during the last two acts of this flick. There is a pleasant love story that takes over the first two acts and it has it’s fair share of joyful and amusing moments to cheer us up, but it almost feel like it was just in order to get us ready for the dramatic and dark territory we were about to venture into. I don’t think all films about serial killers and murderers need to bring some light to the topic just in order to keep my attention, but the film just started to lose my interest a bit more and more as it went on.

Charlize Theron definitely deserved the Oscar back in ’04 for her role here as Aileen Wuaronos, because she totally gets lost in this insane and crazed, real-life figure. Her performance aside, the physical transformation she goes through is absoloutely stunning because this is what Charlize Theron looks in real-life, and this is what she looks like as Aileen. See the difference? It’s crazy how they got Theron to look so damn disgusting and gritty, but it’s also even crazier how amazing Theron is here as well. Theron jumps into this role at a 100 mph and never lets loose. She’s a very freaky gal that will definitely give you this tense feeling whenever she’s picked up on the side of the road and Theron is great at showing us just how intimidating a one-lady killer can be. Theron also has some real emotional scenes that may not have you win over any sympathy for her character, but they are still great scenes none the less and you start to realize that this Aileen chick, is a lot more human than the media may have you think so. Don’t really think I would pick up a chick that looked like Aileen and do a little something something, but then again, many other people would.

Christina Ricci is also very good as Aileen’s young and spoiled lesbian lover, Selby. Ricci looks nothing like the real chick, but she still has the emotional chops to carry her performance throughout the whole movie. Their love also works because you can feel that these two actually have something going on between them, even though one of them is serial killer. Good chemistry between two chicks that are usually hot in everything they do, but here, I didn’t think of them like that once.

Consensus: Monster features an amazing performance from Charlize Theron, that commands the screen the whole time she’s on-screen, but the rest of the flick is sort of lackluster and definitely isn’t as interesting when it comes to plot development since we all know how it ends, and also that everything is pretty damn grim.


The Station Agent (2003)

Poor Miles Finch. He’s so sad.

Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) wants to be left alone. But at 1.3 metres, fading into the crowd is an almost impossible task. Born with dwarfism, Fin has responded to the unsolicited attention that his condition attracts by choosing a life of separation. Solitude, however, is fleeting and when Fin finds his isolation threatened he retreats deeper into his self-contained world by taking up residence in an abandoned train depot in rural New Jersey, USA with two people he meets: Joe (Bobby Cannavale) and Olivia (Patricia Clarkson)

Writer/director Tom McCarthy seems like a dude that doesn’t have any problems going on in his life if I had to judge him by the movies he has made. They are all easy-going, and straight-forward with a very pleasant feel to just about all of them. This was his first and shows everything that I just talked about.

McCarthy’s script has a great sense of humor that isn’t laugh-out-loud hilarious but is still able to get a few chuckles here and there. Everything just seems so pleasant that when he starts throwing jokes at you, they catch you off guard and you realize that this flick is a little funnier than you imagined it being in the first place. It finds a way to put a smile on your face in any way whether it’s focusing on Fin checking out trains, or focusing on the friendship that forms between these three, very random bunch of people. It does start to get a little darker when it shows how Fin gets fed up with all of the bull-spit about how everybody is making fun of his size and I think it works for this story since one of the main themes behind it is all about overcoming the worst that life has to throw at you by getting up and doing whatever makes you happy, with whoever you want it with too. Nice little life lesson courtesy of Mr. McCarthy.

The problems I had with this film that the script also features plenty of moments where we just see characters doing nothing but sitting there. We get these long, quiet scenes of watching these characters either just stare off into space, smoke a couple of ciggies, drink a little bit of coffee, watch Fin go on long walks on the train-tracks, or just sitting down and reading a book. I get that not every film has to have non-stop talking and never let go of it’s dialogue but there were definitely plenty of scenes here that could have been put to good use rather than just clogging them up with random scenes of silence.

There was also a bit of a problem in the script when McCarthy starts to use some manipulation by the end in order to have us care more for these characters. The film deliberately throws in the whole angle about how Olivia’s youngest son died just so we can gain some more sympathy for her than we already did. Besides there’s so many scenes that are just dedicated to her and her sadness, that it was kind of a bummer that we didn’t see or even have any sympathy scenes for Joe considering he was the character that I liked the most. I don’t think it was wrong to include the whole story about her deceased son, I just think it was sort of lame to throw it in there and try their hardest to gain our sympathy, that’s all.

It’s such a shame that Peter Dinklage doesn’t get more roles because this guy is one hell of an actor. The character he plays, Fin, could have been played by any other actor, but the fact that Dinklage is a dwarf playing a dwarf, adds a whole other dimension and allows us to see the world through his eyes. It sucks what this guy has to go through everyday because of his height. The guy gives a great performance here, as he does with every film, and makes this transition from total loner who just wants to be left alone to a caring friend with problems, seem believable. If I saw him on the streets, I wouldn’t be staring at him because he’s a dwarf, I’d be staring at him because he’s a totally underrated actor that doesn’t really get all of the love he deserves.

However, he’s not the best performance here. That honor actually has to go to Bobby Cannavale‘s performance here as the talkative and friendly Cuban named Joe. Cannavale is so likable here because he’s a guy that just wants to have a nice talk with a person, get to know them, and by the end of it, get to call them his friend. He has a whole bunch of enthusiasm and energy that he brings to the screen every time as he constantly makes sex jokes towards Fin and also takes him out of his shell a bit too. It’s a shame that they make this guy seem like an annoying piece of shit by the end of the movie because if there was anything wrong with him here, it was that he wasn’t around as much as I would have honestly liked. Patricia Clarkson also has another great role here as Olivia, a woman who is battling with depression but still finds ways to be charming and nice. Clarkson is always good in everything she does, and her performance here is no different.

Consensus: The Station Agent may try too hard to gain our sympathy but it makes up for that with a heart-warming and likable piece of work, that is funny, and well-acted by everybody involved, especially Cannavale and Dinklage who should be in a lot more roles than they are usually given.


Confidence (2003)

Audiences that go to see a movie always loved getting lied to, especially if it’s from the movie itself.

Jake Vig (Edward Burns) is a sharp and polished grifter who has swindled thousands of dollars from the unsuspecting Lionel Dolby (Leland Orser) with the help of his corrupt crew. However, Lionel wasn’t just any mark, he was an accountant for eccentric crime boss Winston King (Dustin Hoffman). Never one to shy away from a challenge, Jake offers to repay The King by pulling off the biggest con of his career.

Con movies are just so much fun to watch no matter who or what is involved and this flick is no different. However, something also tells me that it should have been a little bit more different.

Director James Foley doesn’t try to do anything new, cool, or improved with the whole con man/heist genre but he does know how to still jazz it up a bit. Although the film deals with a lot of dark subjects such as death, scamming, and robbing, the film still maintains a great deal of humor that keeps it moving with a pace that not only tells the story but also gives you something to laugh at. It’s a heist film that doesn’t really try to take itself too seriously and even though it may get a little carried away with trying too hard to be humorous, in the end, I still found myself laughing and enjoying myself.

What usually makes and breaks these heist flicks is if the actual heist at hand can be taken seriously and could actually happen in real-life with just the right amount of detail the flick is giving it. In this film’s case, it works and it’s very entertaining to see how much detail this film goes into with its actual heist. Some people may not be able to believe that everything here could have happened as neatly as it does here, but the film makes a comment about that and says that if everybody is on the right page and has the right lines, then everything will basically go according to plan. With this flick, that statement is very true and not only was the heist very well-planned but it was also neat to see all that had to go into this one as well.

My problem with this flick is that it isn’t exactly the most original one out there and I think that the lack of surprises was what took me out of this flick. Here and there, the film would give me a little surprise/twist that would catch me off guard, but too many other times I knew exactly what was going to happen, why it was going to happen, and just exactly what the aftermath was going to be. I mean it’s kind of hard to pull out something incredibly original when you got heist flicks like The Sting, The Italian Job, and even The Grifters just showing you all types of originality.

I also think that the reason there were barely any surprises whatsoever with this flick was the way that it was structured. The film begins with Jake being held by gun-point by Morris Chestnut (of all intimating black dudes out there) and he is basically telling us how and why he is in the mess that he’s in. That was fine considering it gives us a bit of mystery to why he is close to being killed but then we see Weisz’ character, who obviously has something to do with the reason he’s being held-up and it sort of just makes it pretty obvious that nothing is going to end up going right for this heist no matter what these guys try to do and that things are basically going to go down as planned. Then again, sometimes it’s not so bad knowing exactly what’s going to happen because it can be fun, but sometimes you can’t just spell out everything that’s to come within the first 5 minutes.

The cast is actually what raises this film higher and made it a lot more fun to watch. Edward Burns is great as the smart, charming, and just straight-up cool con artist here as Jake Vig, and it’s a real wonder as to why the hell this guy hasn’t gotten bigger roles considering he’s actually very good at holding a film down on his own; Rachel Weisz is pretty good here as his main squeeze, Lily, and she gets to show some comedic chops as well; Andy Garcia is pretty strange and goofy as the detective who’s tracking down Vig, named Gunther Butan, and he’s good as well; and Dustin Hoffman is very good as this creepy and snarky kingpin known as The King, and it was really cool to see Hoffman in a role that was not only funny but also very sinister and evil as if this guy could just go crazy one second and blow your head off right away. There’s a whole bunch of other people in this cast that are great too and they all elevate this film from just being another heist flick.

Consensus: Confidence may not be the most original and surprising heist flick out there, but the cast is charming, the direction from James Foley is fun and fast-paced, and the whole heist itself has just enough attention to detail and believability that it makes this film a hell of a lot better than it had any right to be.


The Shape Of Things (2003)

Those artsy chicks will always eff with your life.

When shy, insecure English student Adam (Paul Rudd) begins a relationship with radical art student Evelyn (Rachel Weisz), she takes charge of his life and brings about extreme emotional — even physical — changes in him, stirring the suspicions of his closest friends.

Writer/director Neil LaBute is a dude that seems to have fallen off his rocker within the past couple of years making flicks like Death at a Funeral, The Wicker Man, and Lakeview Terrace. Personally, I don’t know what the hell has been up with him but I think it’s time to take a look at how he was before he started losing his mind.

It’s great how LaBute structures this flick as a romantic comedy and ends up making it something that’s almost like a horror flick. With many of LaBute’s flicks we get many themes and points about humans and the emotions they have in top discussion and with this one here, it’s no different. LaBute brings up points about how we view love as. Love is something that most people would do anything for and it is definitely something that changes people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst. Here, we see it in two different ways: with Adam losing weight and being a lot happier, but then we also see how he isn’t making his own decisions and basically gets bullied around into doing things he doesn’t really think he’s capable of doing. Love is definitely something that’s powerful but it’s also shown and discussed here in a way that may think twice about the person you love or that loves you. Love isn’t the only subject discussed here but it’s the only one I came out thinking about because of the reality-based truth that LaBute brings out about it. There’s a whole lot of darkness and meaness behind this though and I couldn’t help but think that LaBute knew exactly what he wanted to say, how he wanted to just let it all out through these characters, and when exactly he wanted it to happen in the film. It may not seem that hard to make your words count but there’s just so much timing that goes behind it all that makes LaBute’s writing oh so perfectly.

LaBute actually adapted this film his own play and instead of making it into one big theatrical presentation, he actually just makes it exactly what it was in the first place. The film is about an hour and a half with 11 scenes taken place in 11 locations and a cast that has only four speaking parts. Yes, this is definitely like a play but I didn’t feel like this film was claustrophobic or quiet at all and keeps just about every scene moving with dialogue that pulls you in right from the get-go and never fully lets go. There’s definitely a lot of talking going on here but it’s talking that feels like real people talk rather than just another piece of “cinema talk”.

I will say though that there are some parts of this flick that I didn’t really like even though the writing definitely kept me distracted. Every time the film would transition from one scene to another, LaBute would bring out this random punk rock song that made it seem like I was watching a TV sitcom or another one of those crappy American Pie straight-to-dvd flicks. I honestly think that he could have just went from scene to scene with just silence and it would have been fine but it sort of made me feel like I was watching a whole different flick because of the music and then that all changed once the ending came up.

Another problem I had with this flick and my only complaint about this great script was that I couldn’t find myself caring much for any of the characters here except for maybe Adam, but even then, he was a little too chumpish. What LaBute does with all of his films is that he gives us characters that are just plain and simply bad people, and when I mean bad I mean like unmoral, and let us watch them as shit happens to them and they do shit onto other people. This usually works because it’s so damn interesting to watch things play out but for some odd reason I couldn’t help but think that this flick was really hard to watch just because these people were either total dicks or just people that you can’t really sympathize with. I will say though that this is one of LaBute’s specialties with just about every single one of his flicks and that’s not really something that I can say that I wasn’t expecting from a film that was done by him.

The four speaking roles are also great and make this film a lot better to watch then expected. Paul Rudd is very likable and goofy in a more nerdy than we’re used to seeing him here as Adam, and the transformation he goes through is believable but also very sad. This guy starts out as a total schlub of a guy but then starts to build up some confidence and self-esteem in him as soon as Evelyn walks into his life and then we start to see him lose weight and become a better person. Rudd is great at playing these types of likable and awkward dude roles but there’s an under-lining sense of darkness here beneath the surface and I think he gives one of his best performances that I’ve seen from him.

Rachel Weisz is also perfectly cast as Evelyn because she’s just one tough bitch that’s hard to like and enjoy but at the same time, you can’t help but realize that her presence throughout this whole flick is always known. We feel her in the room when she is around; we feel her presence when she isn’t around; and the other characters are always talking about her whether they criticize what she thinks or what she’s doing to Adam. Basically this chick is always brought up in this flick and with good reason because she’s a character that is so damn hard to read and is also one of those characters that always blurts out the truth whether or not it’s the right time to do so.

Gretchen Mol is also great in this role as this sweet girl, Jenny. It was such a huge surprise to see Mol do very well in a role that’s emotionally demanding because half of the time that I usually see her, she just gives the most wooden performance of all and totally fits this role well. Fred Weller is also perfectly cast as Phillip, aka one of the biggest dickheads I have seen on the screen in a pretty long time. Yes, Evelyn is pretty unlikable here but Phillip is even worse and just about every time I just wanted somebody to slump the hell out of this dude considering how condescending and pretentious he is. Still though, Weller is great with this character and once again, LaBute picked another great star for this role.

Consensus: The Shape of Things is definitely one of those flicks that has a whole lot of talking but features some great commentary on the way the world works with love, life, art, and what one person would do in order to be with the one that they loved and also features a great cast that ticks away just about every scene. Let me also not forget that there is a HUGE twist at the end that is definitely memorable and will have you thinking for a long, long time afterwards.


Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)

Don’t eff with a chick that dresses like Bruce Lee. Especially if shes waving around a sword.

The Bride (Uma Thurman) was once part of a group of world-class female assassins until her employer, Bill (David Carradine), and other members of the group turn against her and have her shot. Five years later, she awakens from her coma. She heads off around the world seeking revenge with plans to kill each person involved, saving Bill for the grand finale.

Take it from Quentin Tarantino to take what is essentially a simple, and pretty standard revenge story and give it the style that harks back to the good old days of 70’s kung-fu action movies, spiced up with many other random styles that Quentin just feels like throwing in there.

What I loved most about this flick was how the fighting, action, and blood were filled with so much energy and were better than half of the shit I’ve seen in the past 10 years, that I wanted more of it. Right from the beginning we get a nice little fight between The Bride and her second target on her list and it seems goofy because of all of the swooshing you hear when they move, but it’s so vicious and so brutal that it’s hard to laugh especially when these chicks are very close to just gutting the other person out. It’s a very minor scene but it’s one that starts the film off on the right foot and the action just keeps getting better by getting more vicious, more violent, and a hell of a lot more bloody. The blood is insane in this flick and it may be a bit ridiculous how Tarantino just makes every single kill have blood shoot out from these people, but it still gives this film this cool and deadly look that could only be achieved with an R-rating. Actually, it’s more of a very hard R-rating, one that only Tarantino can get because he’s the freakin’ man.

As we always get with Tarantino flicks, there are plenty of homages and influences seen here and they all work perfectly. The whole film is basically one big kung-fu movie that reminded me of the days when I would just sit home and watch all of these Bruce Lee flicks where he would be either taking on 50 dudes at once (no homo), or he would be getting kicked in the chest by one of Lew Alcindor’s big feet. I can definitely tell that Tarantino did the same thing when he was a little kiddy and his inspiration just runs throughout this whole flick with a giddy and original feel to it. However, it’s not just kung-fu movies that this flick seems to be harking back to, you get a bunch of blaxploitation homages, spaghetti western moments where the score is just over-powering, a random ass anime scene that may seem weird but is just as brutal as the rest of the flick, and even a little bit of nods to his own previous work such as Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I don’t know how he does it but Tarantino is the master at taking everything he knows and loves about movies, and putting them all into one crazy and madly original flick.

There was only problem I had with this flick and it was one semi-cheap scene where we see Bill in the classic villain mold which is a bit unnecessary. I don’t really think I’m giving too much away talking about this scene but it shows one of Bill’s associates, Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), sneaking into The Bride’s hospital room about ready to poison her while she’s sleeping. However, at the last second Bill calls it all off, saying that she “deserves better than that”. I thought that this was kind of a cheat way just for the story to continue and to show the reason why The Bride continued to live on and basically cause havoc to everybody on the planet. Also, wouldn’t a real assassin know how ruthless she is? So why wouldn’t he just off her right then and there? Regardless though, it’s only one scene but it still was at least the only negative I could come up with.

Uma Thurman is the perfect choice as The Bride because she just fits that deadly and sexy look so well. Uma is tall, sexy, blond, sweet, great to look at, but she can also be very scary and look like she’ll be hugging you one second like a sweetheart and then chopping your head off the next like the vicious killer she actually is. It also helps that her story is very easy to get behind because the chick was practically left for dead by all of these people and who wouldn’t want to get some good old revenge? Tarantino knows how to make great characters for leading ladies and it’s definitely one of the rare occasions where I actually found myself scared of a female character in quite some time.

The film really only focuses on two villains here (Vivica A. Fox and Lucy Liu) and they are both very good at playing these evil roles, especially Liu who I think had her best performance ever in this flick. She plays O-Ren Ishii and is one of those samurai sword waving villains that you always see in the kung-fu movies and seem cheesy as hell but never do you take them as seriously as you take this chick. Liu plays this character very well because she’s very quiet a lot of the times and more or less let’s her killing do the speaking for her. It’s a shame that Liu hasn’t really gotten the right roles after this but I guess that’s what usually happens to you when your biggest blockbuster hit was Charlie’s Angels.

Consensus: Kill Bill: Volume 1 shows Tarantino in top-form with a style that is bloody, violent, vicious, and shows every single one of his influences in a way that not only shows what he loves but also creates a wholly original flick on its own. Definitely can’t wait to see Volume 2.

9/10=Full Price!!

21 Grams (2003)

I don’t know what these people are selling, but I sure as hell don’t want 21 grams of it. Teeehee

’21 Grams’ interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Sean Penn plays a critically ill academic mathematician, Naomi Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Benicio del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a director I’m sort of mixed with even though I have already seen three of his four films already, including this one. Still, seems like a good enough director but at the same time, very much into making everything look absolutely filthy.

When it comes to the technical sides of things, Iñárritu knows what to do. The film looks very dirty, grainy, and makes it almost seem as if everybody in the film needs a bath but it works and gives this film a sort of ugly feeling where nothing good will come and happen to these characters. The film also has some very razor-sharp editing that cuts away at some very good moments but mind you, this is not a very fast-paced film by any means, it is a long slow-burner that keeps you watching even when you think your out.

When it comes to the emotional side of things though, Iñárritu also seems like he knows what he’s doing. The film is very dark, sad, and very depressing but there is still a lot we can feel for these characters because each of them all had or still have something terrible eating at them from the inside. Iñárritu keeps all three of these characters’ motives tucked inside of them and it’s actually up to us what we think they will do next and whether or not they are actually good people. At times, it can be hard to feel anything for these types of characters but by the end, you really start to feel their pain and anguish, which is something that almost draws you closer to them.

The problem with all of this is, everything here is told in a non-linear way where it constantly jumps back-and-forth between past, present, and the future. This of course, has its negatives as well as its positives. The positives about this is that this way of approaching the story sort of gives it that feel of a jigsaw puzzle where one second we see two people happy, then the next second we see one of them getting shot, and it all feels confusing at first but after awhile you start to get used to it and connect all of the pieces anyway. I like these types of films that use this different kind of approach and it was pretty neat to see it used here but then again, it did have its negatives that were a little too big.

First of all, I think the whole idea of having this film’s narrative jump around from one scene to another was just because Iñárritu he wanted to spice up the premise that could have easily been a straightforward melodrama. If it was a film that just told its stories in the order that it happened, it would have still been easily as good as the final product here and I think that Iñárritu just did this because he knew that he needed to do something new and cool with this material to make it stand-out. Secondly, this point basically goes along with my first point in saying that it’s pretty pointless after all but then again, it did keep me a little bit more interested than I expected so I can’t talk total ish. However, my last problem was probably the biggest of all and took me away from the film as a whole.

I already stated that I could actually feel something for these characters because of all this bad stuff they had happen to them, but what really took me away from really getting inside of them and understanding how they felt was this narrative structure. The problem with this structure and this story was that the flick requires us to feel something for these characters by seeing all of these things that occur over a different time-and-place every 5 seconds, which doesn’t really allow them to build any real character arc because of the fact that one second they could be happy as hell, then the next second they could be crying like a little beotch, and then the next second they could be getting it in with their significant other. By the end of the first hour, the flick starts to get more linear but it can’t really do much for the fact that this flick jumped around a little bit too much and did damage not only to its characters, but also the audience watching it as well.

What took my mind away from this though was the amazing performances by everybody involved. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, playing the quiet and sophisticated type that we don’t usually see him play, but he does a great job here and is amazing at showing vulnerability with any of his characters no matter who they may be. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jack Jordan, the one dude who has an inner fight with God. With any other actor, this conviction from this sort of character would have been too hoky and too annoying but Del Toro makes it seem believable and shows what it’s like for the other person who causes the pain to someone else. Del Toro lets it all out with this performance and even when he seems like he’s going to do something terribly wrong and evil, you start to think otherwise once you realize that his character is actually a good guy after all.

Probably the one performance that shines throughout this whole flick is Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck. This performance is nothing short of amazing because Watts is able to show us a character that is practically falling apart right in front of our eyes, and it seems real and believable. Watts is asked to do a lot with her character here such as go through all of these different emotions over the course of 2 hours and it shows her exceptional range and vulnerability as an actress. Watts really tears out her soul for this whole flick but you can’t help but to feel something for her considering her whole life is practically turned to shit and it’s just great to see an actress in top-form like never before.

Consensus: 21 Grams features powerful performances, a dirty and grainy look, and a story that conveys plenty of emotions but the structure is also a problem for this flick because it not only takes away from the character arch of these people but also just feels pointless and put in here for no other reason other than to spice things up.


Daredevil (2003)

“He may be blind, but he can still see evil.” Maybe one, of the 100 cheesy blind references this film makes.

Attorney Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) is blind, but his other four senses function with superhuman sharpness. By day, Murdock represents the downtrodden. At night, he is DareDevil, a masked vigilante stalking the dark streets of the city, a relentless avenger of justice.

Ever since ‘Spider-Man’ came out in 2002, it seemed like the superhero genre had taken off with almost every superhero known to man either getting a film, or in discussions for a film. However, I don’t really think that choosing a blind dude as your next big block-buster was the best idea.

Writer/director Mark Steven Johnson did a pretty good job here with keeping to the whole dark and gritty atmosphere. Right from the beginning, you know that everything is going to be pretty glum and depressing, which is always different to get with a superhero flick and it’s nice to actually see him stay close to that mood rather than trying to lighten it up all that much. The action scenes he has here are also a lot of fun and bring a great deal of eclectic energy to the film when it probably needed it the most. Yes, the are a little confusing to watch with way too many fast-cuts, but they still were fun to watch and really what kept me watching in the end.

The problem with this flick is that when its not sticking to its mood and the action itself, the film starts to get a little goofy and not in a good way. The film does take itself seriously so when you have these people that are moving, jumping, and swaying around a place like they were trained acrobats, it starts to seem a little unbelievable and cartoonish in a way. I mean I get that superheros are obviously a lot more trained when it comes to moving around than the average human but there’s only so much that I can believe and actually take seriously. Still, this is just one of the problems with the script.

Another problem with this script was that it obviously just seems a little too cheesy and poorly-written for my taste. I wasn’t going into this film really expecting a Shakespearean-like experience when it came to these characters speaking but I still would have definitely like to hear a lot less blind references and more focus on the actual plot itself. The lines, as well as the moments themselves, can get pretty cheesy after awhile but where it really bothered me was the romance between Elektra and Daredevil. They obviously have this fire between them that just strikes up sex, but the story never really allowed them to take that route with all of these melodramatic sequences where he would be able to finally see her through the rain. Lame.

This is what also lead into one of my main problems with this flick and that was it’s rating. The film is obviously a lot darker and grittier than a lot of other superhero flicks I have seen as of late but it still had to go for that PG-13 rating to interest all audiences, which is where I think the film itself messed up on. The violence definitely could have been a lot more dirtier and violent and the sexual tension between Daredevil and Elektra should have been so hot, that it would even have me poppin’ a b. I know that there is a version of this film out there that’s unrated, but I just think the film should have been R-rated from the start and at least take a shot at being a more grownup kind of superhero flick.

Ben Affleck bulked up very well for this role as Daredevil and he’s actually pretty good. He seems like a pretty simple, nice, and everyday dude that just so happens to be blind and still have the ability to knock the hell out of mafia members in a bar. Affleck did this character a lot better than I expected and it’s a shame that he may never do this character again because with a better script, he could have done wonders really. Jennifer Garner is ok as Elektra because she does what she can with this role, and the chemistry between her and Affleck was good (so good, that they now are married), it’s just that she gets some pretty crappy writing by the end of the flick and she’s not really the best actress to cover it all up anyway.

Michael Clarke Duncan is menacing and scary as Kingpin and he just feels like one of those villains that’s so mentally and physically powerful, that no matter what happens to him, he always comes out on top. Colin Farrell is also fine as Bullseye because he’s also a victim of some pretty bad writing as well even though he’s definitely an actor that is able to cover it up a lot better than Garner. Sorry Ben, please don’t kick my ass.

Consensus: Daredevil has a dark and gritty tone to go along with it and action scenes that contain plenty of energy, but the script is written too poorly to be any different from any of the other superhero flicks, except the fact that the superhero himself is a blind dude. I also think that this is one of the very rare, superhero stories that could have at least benefited from an R-rating.


American Wedding (2003)

Forever hold your last piece. That’s right, your last piece until the reunion.

With high school a distant memory, Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are getting married — and in a hurry, since Jim’s grandmother is sick and wants to see him walk down the aisle — prompting Stifler (Seann William Scott) to throw the ultimate bachelor party. And Jim’s dad (Eugene Levy) is reliable as ever, doling out advice no one wants to hear.

With the reunion come around soon, I thought that it would be a great idea to check out all three of the main ‘American Pie’ flicks and screw those other straight-to-dvd pieces of crap. Straight-to-dvd always blows.

Going into this flick you have to realize what you’re going to get right off the bat and that is exactly what this flick does and makes no apologies for that which is fine for me. There’s a whole bunch of gross-out gags that are actually disgusting and you can tell that the writers’ intentions are to actually make people hurl this time around. I usually don’t get disgusted by certain gags like these ones in movies, but there was one scene where it actually had me gagging just a bit. Just a bit though. Despite being disgusting though, they are still pretty funny and a couple of scenes where we find Jim and Stifler getting caught in some pretty messed up situations had me laughing just about every time they showed up. Didn’t have me laughing my ass off by any means but there was definitely a huge amount of chuckles that brought a big smile onto my face.

What I also liked about this film was how there was still an under-lining sweetness here that made all of the ugly things going on here, seem not so bad after all. In the 2nd movie, the best part of it all was the sweet, little romance Jim and Michelle had going on and every time their romance showed up it made me smile. Here, the film touches on that and it was just really great to see two sweet hearts come together and finally say their vows together. I think it’s just great to see these two finally end up perfectly together like we’ve always wanted to see them and that adds a lot to the film’s tone.

However, my main problem with this flick was that I also felt like they didn’t really focus on them that much and the film was more about Stifler then anything. Don’t get me wrong though, Stifler is the effin’ man and had me laughing with just about everything he said but it was Jim and Michelle’s wedding after all and I think they deserved moire of the spot-light. I also felt like they barely went over any of the problems that would come inside two people who were about to get married such as whether or not either of them are having cold feet or not, or just whether or not they want to go through with this. Sounds like a little bit too much to ask from an ‘American Pie’ movie but there still could have been some more here.

 Seann William Scott is great as Stifler though and is easily one of the main reasons why this film works because he’s an asshole, a dick, and total pompous asshole that just wants to get some ladies in his bed but he gets to show a little bit of his nice side too. He doesn’t turn around 180 degrees and say he’s sorry for anything but he shows a bit more heart in here than we expected and that’s all that matters. Everybody else here is great too but it’s really strange how the whole original gang is all missing. I get it that not everybody wanted to come back and possibly couldn’t have for this third flick but it just felt even stranger that barely any mention of them or where they are that couldn’t make them apart of this wedding was made at all. It all just felt weird without the original gang here but then again, I guess that’s why they’re having this reunion after all so I guess that’s all that matters.

Consensus: American Wedding is exactly what you can expect from the 3rd flick of its series: gross-out humor, Stifler acting like an ass, and an under-lining sweetness. The problem with this one though is that it’s a little bit too much about Stifler and could have focused a lot more on Jim and Michelle, aka the two peeps who were actually getting married here.


House of Sand and Fog (2003)

What would have happened to Gandhi, had he decided to live in America.

When her husband dumps her, the emotionally unstable Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) finds her house in the California hills seized in foreclosure and put up for public auction by local authorities, including a sympathetic sheriff’s deputy (Ron Eldard). An exiled Iranian air force colonel (Ben Kingsley) buys Kathy’s “dream” house at a bargain price for his family. But Kathy is obsessed with getting it back.

Having a home and being able to call it your own has to be a great thing so it’s not wonder why so many people would actually go the ends of the Earth to get it back, when its taken from them. I have never had a house that I can call my own (only mansions, holla!) but I can easily say that if I do have one in the future, I’m paying those damn taxes!

This was the debut for Vadim Perelman who actually does a pretty good job here with a story that seems very hard to actually sit, watch, and enjoy. Both of these characters have certain traits to their personality that are very ugly and unlikable which makes it a lot harder to really get behind when character, considering they could be doing something nice one second and then the next they just do something so despicable to make you feel like you want to beat them the hell up. Perelman makes every single twist within this story just as shocking as the last, and our opinions on these characters change within every second which makes it hard for anybody to actually be deemed “likable”. It’s a very hard story with some very hard characters to stand by but somehow Perelman makes it all work.

The film is also done very well in a technical way by Perelman as well. The cinematography looks beautiful and just about every shot features little hints of fog, darkness, and this glum look that really does add a lot to the films feel. You never feel like something here is going to go right with this story and these characters and that’s mainly because of just how tense and suspenseful this film got after awhile which is a real surprise as to why Perelman has only done one other film after this, which was apparently a bomb. I mean I’m not saying that this is a perfect direction by any means but it’s very tense and he keeps the story going at a nice pace for us to feel a lot of what’s going on and it’s something that the horror genre may need right about now. Just saying though.

The one problem with this film though is that something about the screenplay just feels a bit off when it’s more about the plot rather than the cops. The story constantly jumps back-and-forth between Behrani along with his family and Kathy along with her dumb-ass cop boyfriend. I liked Behrani on screen and I also liked some of Kathy’s scenes as well but the angle with her cop boyfriend who seemed like a total dickhead in the first place, didn’t interest me one bit and the fact that they kept on going back to this story really annoyed the hell out of me since the tension sort of got lost. I also can’t forget to mention that the performance Ron Eldard gives as the cop, feels very wooden and a lot of his scenes feel like they should have some sort of dramatic feeling, but instead got lost by the fact that he’s not a very good actor, which is surprising because he was awesome in ‘Super 8’.

Earlier I mentioned before how the film is difficult to really enjoy considering that both of these characters are a bit unlikable in their own ways but for some reason, Kathy’s story just did not do anything for me at all. Kathy is obviously messed up, sad, and heartbroken but she is a total dumb-ass the whole time who should have just payed her damn bills and stop whining like a little bitch in the first place. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she just let them take her house and didn’t put up a fight about it but she just constantly keeps on coming back for more and more annoyance talking about how she was cheated and that her house is her house. She’s not really a character we can sympathize with, but then again, who else in this film actually is!?!

The main reason why this film works is because of the two performances here given by its two lead performances. Ben Kingsley is great here as Behrani channeling just about every emotion there is to be had in this character. This guy is one who obviously was a hot-shot in his native country, but then soon moves to America where he is basically a nobody and has to struggle with so much such as pride, anger, and just the frustration that actually comes to him when he buys this house. Kingsley is so precise and good at what he does here that it’s no wonder that he got nominated for an Oscar and makes a lot more of the hokier scenes this film has at times, seem very real and heart-wrenching.

Jennifer Connelly is also just about as perfect as Kathy who plays that sad character we usually see her play but since she’s the lead now, she’s allowed to do a lot more now with her character and does a great job just about every time on-screen. Even though I couldn’t like her character and sympathize with her, I could still like Connelly here considering she puts a lot on the line in this flick showing just about the best of her depression with an under-lining sense of happiness that comes to her in the middle. She’s riveting in almost every scene and there was almost just one part where I really felt like I was going to sympathize with her, but then I just didn’t. Shame that she didn’t at least get a nomination for this flick.

Consensus: House of Sand and Fog may suffer from a script that starts to lose its focus at points, but it’s still incredibly well-acted by Kinglsey and Connelly, who both give performances that divide us between who we like more and who is in the right, and who is in the wrong.


Seabiscuit (2003)

With this and ‘War Horse’, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of all these damn horses!

Former bicycle repairman, Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) made his fortune introducing the automobile to the American West and owned a small knobbly-kneed horse called Seabiscuit. Howard teamed up with a half-blind ex-boxing prize fighter, Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire), who became the horse’s jockey and a former mustang breaker Wild West performer called The Lone Plainsman aka Tom Smith (Chris Cooper), who became the horse’s trainer.

Just by looking at this film you should know just what you are about to get right away. Yes, this is another sports film that is of course about the underdog, or in this case, the underhorse and there’s not much different here. Still, it’s a sports film that works none the less.

Director/writer Gary Ross doesn’t try to do anything new or even original with this material, other than just give us a nice story about “the little horse that could” and that’s not all that bad considering it’s a fun film. Everybody loves to see the long shot win so when you watch these characters and of course Seabiscuit himself try their hardest to do whatever it takes to win the next race, you can’t help but root for everybody involved because you know that it’s a true story and a great story at that.

Ross also doesn’t try to be subtle with this, which in most cases would bother the ever lovin’ hell out of me, but for some reason that wasn’t the case here. Ross constantly keeps knocking us over the heads with everything he’s trying to say and get across with this story: whatever mood these characters are feeling, the American public feels as well; Red and Seabiscuit are basically the same characters but in different life-forms; and Red long lives for a father that left him when he was a child which means you can start to see Charles father him. Ross does everything here to get these points and ideas across in the most obvious way possible but I think it added a lot of emotion to the story by making this more than just a flick about a horse that wins races, it’s more about how America felt during the Depression and how events such as a race-horse, gave hope to almost everyone who needed it the most.

The racing scenes I may add are very fun and filmed incredibly well to the point of where it looks like actual footage but there were problems with the fact that they just sound too unrealistic. I know this sounds like a weird complaint but being a person that has and still does play sports all of his life, the fact that you can have some a horse gallop behind you and it sounds like there is about 400 horses doing the same thing kind of bothers me. I get it, they want to capture the intensity of the whole feel and atmosphere of what it feels like to be out on that track but I highly doubt another jokey could hear anybody as perfect as they hear each other, while racing, and there is race going on itself. This isn’t just a problem with this film, it’s a problem with almost all sports film and the fact that the over-emphasizing of sounds hasn’t left that genre yet, still shows us that we still can’t have a realistic sports film that shows you what’s its really like to be out there in action.

Let’s also not forget to mention that this film is an astounding 2 ½ hours, where we don’t even get introduced to the h0rse until 45 minutes in. I kept watching the time and wondering just when I was going to see the horse itself, but I guess Ross was more focused on showing Peter Parker getting the crap kicked out of him playing a boxer. It also sucks that when the film actually ends, its very abrupt and we don’t really get a chance to see what happened to these characters. Usually these types of films end with a few words up on the screen but for some odd reason we were just left with the cold shoulder. Then again, I guess that’s why they call it ‘Wikipedia’.

The cast is also very impressive and carries this film through a lot. Tobey Maguire is a great fit for Red, this angry and frustrated type that seems a little weird at first but actually is a real human-being that actually has faith in this horse, which is just about contagious. Jeff Bridges is a whole lot of fun as Charles Howard who always seems to be so jolly and happy throughout the whole film, but when something bad happens, and oh does it ever, you really feel it coming right from his heart. This is one of those times where Bridges just looks like he’s taking advantage of a role that just suits his likability so damn well. Chris Cooper is also great as Tom Smith, a guy who seems like he cares about horses more than he does humans, but he sort of takes the back-burner to everybody else here and it’s a shame since his character was probably the richest when it came to being passionate. William H. Macy also has a fun little role as a radio announcer, Tick Tock McGlaughlin, and perfectly captures the sound, look, and act of a 1930’s radio broadcaster.

Consensus: Seabiscuit is a flick that is fun, entertaining, inspirational, and very well-acted by everybody involved, but it’s a little too long for my well-being and there are too many opportunities to really capitalize on the emotions here, that sort of just don’t work like you’d expect them to.


Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

Being Jack Nicholson has to be awesome.

Sixty and still sexy, Harry (Jack Nicholson) is having the time of his life, wining, dining and bedding women half his age. When he agrees to go to the Hamptons with his girlfriend (Amanda Peet), plans go awry when her playwright mother, Erica (Diane Keaton), stops in unannounced. While the living arrangements are awkward at first, Harry soon discovers there’s nothing wrong with — and plenty good about — acting your age.

Writer/director Nancy Meyers is known for her usual, old-school rom-coms such as It’s Complicated, The Parent Trap, and What Women Want among others. Out of all of those ones I’ve seen, none have really been amazing but still fun which isn’t something I could say for a lot of other rom-coms that come out just about every Friday.

The film has a good balance of comedy and drama which starts off very well in the beginning of the film. It’s more a comedy of manners, where people say certain goofy things, they wouldn’t normally say so there is that sort of nervous laughter thing going on but it still works and actually had me laughing.

The romance aspect of this film also works well too because it actually has a little sweet tone to it, that is even better because of the smooth pace this film is given. However, the whole charm and sweetness of this film doesn’t run on forever, and soon starts to fall down the “cheesiness-ladder” quicker and quicker than I expected. There are moments that feel way too over-dramatic, which is something I expected from this chick-flick but come on, it got to be a little too much at points.

There is a scene where these two have sex and after wards they both start to cry, which at first, I laughed because I thought the film was doing a joke or trying to be humorous, until I realized that the film was serious when it showed these two grown-ups crying after a little session of doing the dirty. This had me unintentionally laughing as well as the ending, which feels way too over dramatic and heavy when it’s compared to the beginning and how this film first started off.

It also looks as if it was made on the same set as those really cheesy and lame soap commercials where they show somebody just running down the beach with their “man”. This wasn’t a total bother, I could just tell that the whole set was a little too bright for me and I found it a little hoaky to begin with.

When it comes down to it though, Jack & Diane can act. Jack Nicholson is the total man as Harry Sanborn, this old playboy who doesn’t date over 30. He’s the man in this role and almost every line is just totally charming because it has him saying the lines. I don’t even think he really needed an audition, he just got the part as soon as he said yes. Diane Keaton is also very good as Erica Barry, a woman who hasn’t been in “the game” for quite some time and is brought back into it by Harry. Her performance is also great because she finds a way to balance out that cuteness, hilarity, and that endearing real soul behind her character and shows that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can still be a fine and sexy lady. Their chemistry is great and it’s just total fun to see these two together on-screen.

Consensus: Something’s Gotta Give has two great performances from Nicholson and Keaton, as well as some funny and sweet moments, but feels overly dramatic and has scenes here that may seem unintentionally funny, depending on how you look at them


Phone Booth (2003)

Could have been perfect advertising for Boost Mobile.

Slick New York publicist Stuart Shepard (Colin Farrell) picks up a ringing receiver in a phone booth and is told that if he hangs up, he’ll be killed. Turns out Shephard is being watched by a rooftop killer with a sniper rifle — and the little red light from an infrared rifle sight is proof that the caller isn’t kidding.

Director Joel Schumacher is known for his duds (‘Batman & Robin’, ‘The Number 23‘) and his studs (‘Tigerland’, ‘Falling Down‘), however, what’s to happen if he has just a film that’s right in the middle of everything else. I can say that its probably better than what he released earlier this year.

The premise here is simple and could have easily been used wrong but somehow, Schumacher really does keep this plot moving and tension-filled the whole entire time. There are constant twists right at every corner of the story, and you don’t know what’s going to happen next or how each person is going to react and it just will really keep you going.

I think Schumacher’s best element with this film was how he keeps the camera constantly moving, and never lets loose. It’s all told in real-time and the film never steps away from Stuart and the phone booth which will give you this sort of “no way out” feel.

The voice of the bad boy is also a lot louder than everybody else around him and you constantly hear him, which I think is very truthful because when you are put into a situation like this, you only hear what the dude on the phone is saying and everybody else around you is sort of silent. I thought this added a lot to the film and to have Keifer Sutherland as the voice was just a perfect choice altogether, because that laugh is just so damn sinister!

The problem I think this film runs into is that it kind of loses focus as to what it wants to be and who exactly its trying to focus on. It felt like the movie was trying to show that we should all re-examine our lives because what we do everyday could be wrong to others, but to have that shown in a film where a guy has a sniper locked on a dude in a phone booth seems a little strange. Also, just because the guy apologizes and admits his wrong-doings doesn’t mean he’s naturally just a changed man, he’s just more honest.

Another problem with this film was that it’s focus was kind of on both of these two and it wasn’t necessarily well-executed to say. The film spends time basically trying to get us to empathize with b0th rather than with just one and this sort of divides us because we don’t know who to care for and who to not care for. There are signs that this killer isn’t a real bad dude and has reasons for these things that he does, but they are more or simply just left open, with nothing to really cover it in the end of the overall product.

Colin Farrell is the freakin’ man as Stuart in this film and I think this is what certified his star-power. Farrell starts off like a total hot-shot asshole that has no real compassion for the bad things that he does, and constantly tries to weasel his way out of the situation he’s in until he’s basically forced to come full-force with his mistakes and acts in anyway a normal human being would. Farrell controls himself with this film and doesn’t over-act it by any means at all, which is definitely something to applaud because I know so many other actors would have.

Consensus: The direction and acting is what keeps Phone Booth tense and entertaining, but the focus seems a little bit too divided and there isn’t much that this film really tries to answer by the end of the film either.


Countdown to Claus: Bad Santa (2003)

Good old mall Santas. Beating the crap out of teenagers.

Criminals Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) disguise themselves as Santa Claus and his elf and travel across the country to major malls, using the good will people have toward Santa to rob the mall stores blind. The problem is, Willie can’t stand kids. Their plan still progresses beautifully until the two reprobates meet an introverted 8-year-old boy who reminds them of the true meaning of Christmas.

To many people out in the world, Christmas is a time to spend with your friends and family, thinking of gifts and sharing them with others. This film is not the one for those kind of jolly people.

Director Terry Zwigoff is pretty good at making these laughs very dark and ones you almost sort of feel bad for laughing at in the first place. It’s a very funny film in that almost everything you see and hear is very twisted in its own right but that’s not to say that everything is dark and not for anybody. The humor is relatively juvenile and it’s not for any type of intellect out there to realize that this Santa is a total dick.

Although there is a lot of crass and dark humor, the films starts to reveal some heart to it. The story between the little fat kid and Willie starts off rather annoying but as time goes on, it gets a lot more sweeter and even though I knew this is where the film was trying to go, I really did feel like it was earned rather than forced. This whole story goes on with a bunch of swearing, sarcasm, booze, and anger so for it to actually get a little bit of a sweet story about a kid who needs a “daddy figure”, felt like a nice little moral side that works for the flick.

My problem with this film is that I feel like there were so many opportunities where they could have capitalized a little bit more on this rather than just spending the last 20 minutes to really focus on it. The story was right there in front of their faces and they kind of just let it go the whole time without ever really acknowledging it until it obviously seemed necessary. Also, the little fling that Willie has with a hot and sexy chick named Sue (Lauren Graham) seemed a little too weird how she was all obsessed with Santa and just the way she acted had me a little creeped out by here, but she was still smokin’.

As the film goes on, the story started off a little bit ridiculous then it starts to get more and more unbelievable, which I know is weird considering I’m talking about a film where a dude is dressed up like Santa goes and robs malls, but I still couldn’t get by it. I never understood just how Willie and Marcus got away with all of these robberies if they kept posing as the same guys throughout every mall they went to. Wouldn’t somebody eventually realize that these guys are stealing from every mall they go to and try to put out a notice? Another problem with this flick is that I never understood why Willie didn’t just go back to his hotel after he waited all of that time for the “cops” to get out of there. However, I guess I’m just being a dick once again.

Billy Bob Thornton probably gives one of his best comedic performances of all-time as Willie. Willie is an alcoholic, pisses in his suit, shows up to work drunk, lies, steals money, steals cars, beats up children, treats some poor little chubby kid like a piece of crap, and bones chicks in the parking lots (not saying that there’s anything wrong with that) but somehow Thornton makes this guy seem so likable. He’s just drunk the whole time being an obnoxious dick to everyone around him but Billy Bob plays it perfectly and I just wished that he would get more roles that were more about him being a low-life dick rather than a sophisticated, more civilized dick.

Tony Cox is very fun to watch as Marcus, because not only does his character get a little dark by the end but him and Thornton have great chemistry together that carries on perfectly throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast includes Bernie Mac playing a cocky mall cop, Cloris Leachman playing a Grandmom who just wants to make sandwiches, and the late John Ritter playing a nosy mall manager.

Consensus: Though there are some moral voids in Bad Santa, there is still some very funny black comedy that works well with the plot, and with Billy Bob Thornton’s dark but somehow likable performance as Willie.


Countdown to Claus: Love Actually (2003)

Who loves Christmas? Almost every single British star apparently does.

I would give this huge plot synopsis but there really is so much here. Basically, everything in a nutshell, a lot of British folks fall in love with one another and Christmas starts to approach, which as everybody knows, means they all have to basically let their hearts out and tell the truth.

When I say there is a lot of stories in this flick, I mean there are a lot but I think director Richard Curtis does a fine job of handling all of these stories at once. He knows how to structure all of these stories together so well that they don’t seem too overwhelming to take in or repetitive for that sake. He doesn’t drop the ball as much as I would have expected him to but when it comes to handling dozens and dozens of love stories in just one flick that runs at 129 minutes, let’s just say that he’s no Robert Altman folk.

Where I think this flick gets messed up on is the fact there are way too many stories in this film and rather than just singling out every tiny story that it had, I’ll just tell you that there are some good bits and other bad ones. Some stories were obviously better than others, however, there were some that seemed unneeded because even though they were all comedies at heart, they also had a lot of downer dramatic elements to them as well.

There were also many moments with this film that seemed so cheesy and schmaltzy that I wanted to punch somebody in the face as soon as I heard another British bloke say, “I love you” to a chick they’ve known for only 2 days. The whole story with Liam Neeson and his step-son is really creepy and the whole fact that he’s telling his son to go and get it like a man, seemed a tad strange to me and almost like the film was trying way too hard to be cute.

The last of my problems with this flick is that it is very uneven. The abundance of stories would have been a little bit more enjoyable if they actually had some evening out with all of the stories but the problem here is that some stories go on for awhile and then you never see the other ones again, until you’ve almost forgotten about them completely. The whole Keira Knightley love-angle seemed very minor in this flick and although that one flash-card scene was cool, the film only has about 3 scenes of this little “romance” brewing up. Too many times I would wonder just where a certain story would have gone, and then when it came up I practically almost forgot about it.

Still, even though I’m ragging on this flick a whole hell of a lot, it still won me over. Despite some of schmaltzy moments there is a lot of heart-warming stuff going on here and each little story in their own right, is original and interesting. Take it for granted, there are some lame ones and others that plain and simply don’t belong because they either take up space or aren’t as interesting when it comes to having you smile when the supposed “love” is supposed to be going on. But not only are there a whole bunch of moments that had me tummy feel are warm and cuddly, there were also plenty of laughs to come along with this flick and even though they start to decrease by the end, I still felt myself happy.

The reason this film also works is because of the huge ensemble cast that Curtis has brought together. Everybody here does a great job with the ones who stand-out such as Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Colin Firth as a writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, and Emma Thompson as a wife that is getting played with. Everybody here was great to watch and it was just awesome how everybody got to play around with their roles for a little bit, even if they weren’t really doing anything ground-breaking. Let’s not to forget that Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead is up in herrre and the always lovely Mr. Bean. People should get the notion that you should put Atkinson in every single British film. The damn guy is always funny!

Consensus: Love Actually is very uneven, and has stories that are better than others, but Richard Curtis still handles every story well here with heart-warming and comedic moments that are heightened even more by the charming cast.


Shattered Glass (2003)

Damn, I’m scared to be a journalist now.

This fact-based film depicts the rise and fall of disgraced magazine journalist Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen), a staff writer at The New Republic and a contributor to Rolling Stone who ultimately fabricated many of his stories, which led to his downfall.

Writer-director Billy Ray takes a film that I had some little interest in at first, and totally takes it into places I was not expecting in the least bit. I mean because it does have Anakin Skywalker in it, and he just blows.

Ray does a tremendous job of telling the story: giving us the facts of what exactly happened, the tough world of journalism, and even a little character study of a sociopath. This all may seem a little too much for a story that’s about a dude lying, but it brings so much more depth to this story that as it developed more and more, I found myself more and more intrigued by this film.

I, myself, actually want to be a journalist and I found this to be a big warning for all journalists out there to not make up phony stories, even though sometimes they would be nice to hear. It’s not necessarily about making people happy with the stories, it’s more about telling the truth, and how we should all never try to make things up as they go along just for some kicks. This theme is amazing because the fact is that today reporters at every publication seem to be exposed for doing the same thing. You’d think the lesson would have been learned eventually, but it hasn’t.

The film doesn’t show Stephen Glass as this total dick-head of a dude who messed with his stories to be “fun”, he’s actually just a kid that messed up big-time and wanted nothing more to make people happy when they read his stories. I mean I actually did sort of feel for this kid, as did everybody in this film because this Glass kid, was so charming and nice that when the ish really started to hit the fan, everybody stuck up for him, except for the editor who was downright embarrassed when he let such fake stories go by him. This brings up some moral questions as to how you would feel if you were ever put in the same situation and how you would respond it.

However, the problem with this film is that even though they show us a nice-portrait of this kid Glass, we never really get inside of his mind except for a couple of dumb foreshadowing scenes. When this kid was on-screen, I was actually on the edge of my seat as he tried to cover up more and more of his lies and then saying it was just because he was in a state of panic. This all was interesting and the film could have actually went deeper into this character more to actually have us understand just why he did what he did, but the film never really does.

We get all of the who’s, the what’s, and the when’s of the story, but never exactly the why part. I think Glass wanted to just get his stories read and make people happy, but never understand as to why he lied about so many of his stories, and what lead him to continue the lies as it seemed like things were going from bad to worse for him. Was he a little crazy? Was he just trying to make it big? Or was he just an insane kid that never really got paid attention too that much because he was so charming? I never understood why Glass exactly did what he did, and that’s what kind of took me away from this tale to make it a little less interesting.

Judging by the poster to the upper-right, you probably already gave up all hope on this film because of that big head you see. Yes everybody, that is Hayden Christensen, but I have to say his performance as Stephen Glass is probably his best ever, and although that’s not saying much, it’s still great in and of itself. The melt-down for Stephen Glass is a slow one but the way Hayden handles it is very believably, especially the way he manipulates almost every one around him to the point of where of no one knows because its terribly subtle. Stephen Glass didn’t seem like a bad kid, just confused and way-over-his-head and Hayden’s performance is so terrific that it almost makes me forget about Anakin. OK, maybe I won’t go that far.

Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Chuck Lane, the editor who finds Glass out for all of his lies. Lane is a great character because you can tell that he’s going to have some real impact on this story by the end of it, but you just don’t know how, and the way Sarsgaard handles every scene he has is just brilliant. Lane tolerates Glass the most even when the kid lies to him with every statement that comes out of his mouth, which is sad, because Lane really is the one who seems like the actual voice of reason here that knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and knows what has to be done. Great performance from Sarsgaard who is easily becoming one of those signature supporters you need in almost any film.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with the likes of Chloë Sevigny and Melanie Lynskey playing Glass’ two best girly friends; Hank Azaria as the nice and understanding former editor, Michael Kelly; and Steve Zahn and Rosario Dawson are also very good as the two people who find all of the information out that Glass is lying about.

Consensus: The film may have missed a major up-grade in showing us more about the person of Stephen Glass, but other than that, Shattered Glass is phenomenal with great writing and insight into the world of journalism, and great performances from the whole cast, especially Christensen and Sarsgaard, who provide so much context for their characters by the end, that we actually know more about them then the actual story.