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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2004

Somersault (2004)

Growing up just got a lot harder.

Australian teenager Heidi (Abbie Cornish) is left with little choice but to leave home after she’s caught red-handed with her mother’s boyfriend. Without anyone in her life willing to help her out, or even talk to her, Heidi heads to Jindabyne, a tourist community where a lot of people are, yet, for some reason, Heidi still can’t seem to strike up a deal with anyone. No jobs, no places to sleep, nada. But then she meets Joe (Sam Worthington), a farmer who’s dealing with all sorts of personal problems at home and is more than happy to look for some sort of distraction in his life, even if it is in the form of Heidi. And yeah, the two get along real well, hell, even coming close to loving one another. But there’s some issues in Heidi’s life that constantly seem to come between her and happiness, as well as between her and Joe.

Just kiss and stop pretending to be happy!

Somersault is probably the dirtiest, grittiest, and naughtiest Lifetime movie ever made. It looks and sounds like one, yet, there’s people screwing, people getting naked, and people doing all sorts of drugs, to the point of where it feels like Lifetime After Dark, where the kids have all been tucked away and now it’s time for mom, dad and possibly, even the teenagers, to have a little bit of fun. This isn’t to say that the movie’s bad, by any means, but it is to say that it’s obvious there’s a market for these kinds of stories, and while most of them do deserve the big-screen treatment, some of them were probably better left off on the smaller-one.

Just like Somersault, unfortunately.

And this isn’t to say that there isn’t anything good with Somersault to be had, or better yet, seen. The lead performances from both Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington are, well, great. There’s a reason why both have taken a stab at starring in Hollywood flicks, to certain degrees of success, because here, they both exude a certain amount of charm, amidst all of the sadness and pain they may be feeling. Cornish’s Heidi is a self-destructive being who seems like she’s about to fall apart in every scene, whereas Worthington’s Joe is a chill and collected lad who may also be pretty damn depressed. Together, they create a nice little relationship that is cute because they’re both so young and clearly have no idea just how dark, cruel, and unrelenting the world can get, but also because they have nice chemistry. Sure, Worthington has become a bit of a dull-presence on the screen, but believe it or not, at one time, he was the real deal and Joe’s a perfect performance to show that.

But despite these two being as good as they are, the movie always seems to fall back on soapy, melodramatic convention that, honestly, seems to betray said good performances. Writer/director Cate Shortland clearly deserves credit for telling a story that so many people would stick away from digging deep into, but she does and never goes back. Somersault is a sad, somewhat depressing tale about even more sad and depressed people just trying to navigate through life and understand what it is that can make them happy.

See? That’s more like it!

Or, at least, that’s what I think the movie’s about.

Honestly, after awhile, it seems like Shortland sort of loses focus on what she was setting out to do, or even tell, and just wanted to see how far she could go, getting people to partake in a whole bunch of nudity and awkward sex. Sometimes, there’s something quite compelling about watching all of that, but in Somersault, it feels like a crutch; rather than developing the story even more and really figuring out what’s going on, the movie falls back, gives us sex, nudity, drugs, and doesn’t want us to ask anymore questions.

Once again, it’s really the performances keeping this together, because at the end, Somersault just feels like a Lifetime movie, made with all sorts of dark and heavy emotions that are maybe grittier this time around, but still don’t fully ring true. Why Heidi is the way she is, never makes sense, and just seems like a moody teenager who does too many drugs and alcohol. Whereas with Joe, he’s just a sad fella. Why should we care?

Consensus: Somersault tries to dig in deep, but despite two solid performances from the leads, it mostly falls apart by relying far too much on convention and melodrama, better suited for TV.

5.5 / 10

Put clothes on you crazy Aussies!

Photos Courtesy of: Alchetron

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My Date with Drew (2004)

A date with anyone? Where does one begin?

Aspiring filmmaker Brian Herzlinger has been in love with Drew Barrymore since he was a young boy. So in love that he even joined her fan club at a very young age, receiving all sorts of letters and pictures that drew him even closer and closer to his Hollywood crush. After buying a video camera from Circuit City, Herzingler and his crew have 30 days to find Barrymore, date her and return the camera for a full refund. Unfortunately, Barrymore is Hollywood royalty, and Herzlinger is just a guy from New Jersey. It will take every ounce of charm Herzlinger can muster to make his way through the minefield of agents, publicists and bouncers to reach his prize. But to make it even worse, Herzingler is constantly finding himself running into roadblocks, whether they be people who aren’t willing to help him out, or the simple fact and reality that he doesn’t have a job, needs money, and can’t do anything else involving this project without it. Needless to say, it’s an impossible mission, but it’s one that Herzlinger won’t stop trying to complete.

Uhm, why?

My Date with Drew isn’t necessarily the kind of hard-hitting, thought-provoking that it sometimes intends to be. You’d think that a movie about a guy trying his absolute hardest to get a date with his Hollywood crush, while not just creepy, would have a little something to say about the Hollywood culture, the stalker culture, and the relationships celebrities hold with their fans, and how far they can go, but nope, not really. It’s literally just a documentary of watching, waiting and wondering when, or even if, this dude is ever going to get a chance to date Drew Barrymore.

And is that okay? Yeah, sure.

Would it have helped to been about something deeper, or better yet, try to make this situation more interesting? Yeah, possibly, but even without any of that here, My Date with Drew still works because it’s entertaining and never seems to slow down. In fact, the idea that it doesn’t try too hard to harp on the hard-hitting, possibly serious issues a situation like this could bring up, actually helps it out in not taking away from the action, or what actually matters: Finding and dating Drew Barrymore.

Considering that the movie was made for a little over $1,000, it’s interesting to see how all of that money is spent, what it goes towards, and just how easy it can be to shoot a documentary on the cheap, even with such a subject as this. It’s an ambitious mission for sure, but it helps that the camera is there literally every step of the way, giving us a better idea of how one outsider could possibly get a date with Drew Barrymore (in the early-aughts, that is, times have definitely changed), and also never forgetting that the sole focal point of this project isn’t just Barrymore herself, or the movies she’s made, but Herzlinger himself.

But even with him, I’m still a little bit put-off.

Not because what he sets out to do is creepy, or even downright weird, because in a way, I kind of respect the guy – he knows that he’s being weird for having this crush and knows that going about this idea is even weirder, but still, he chugs along, trying his absolute hardest, leaving nothing off-screen. The camera is always there and Herzlinger wants it that way, so of course, we get to see a whole lot of him, hear him talk, and try to keep his cool persona, even when it seems like he’s creeping every person out around him. He’s a likable presence, too, which makes it all the easier to watch him in interviews, even when, once again, he’s literally asking random people within Hollywood about Drew Barrymore, and even they know it’s a little weird, but aren’t sure if they want to, or know how to say it.

Once again, why? You’re fine! She was married to Tom Green, after all!

But then there’s this other part of Herzlinger’s that’s odd and nothing to due with the whole Barrymore-aspect – it’s the persona he actually puts-off to the camera. There’s plenty of real, raw and rather genuine moments that Herzlinger shares for the camera, but then there are these other, like when he’s showing his body off to people, working out, having random conversations with needy exes, that it feels like he may be putting on a bit of an act. Or, if he isn’t, then it’s a wonder why he includes any of this stuff in this first place; the work-out/grooming scenes are tedious, and the whole ex-sequence within the film could have been taken out and not have at all changed the film, considering how random it is.

I’m not saying that the Herzlinger we get in the movie isn’t the real guy, but a part of me feels like, possibly, he’s acting a little bit.

Just a little bit.

Then again, maybe that was intended; maybe he wanted it to appear like he was this way-more charming guy than he actually was in real life and maybe, he was just doing it all for the sake of the movie and in hopes that he wouldn’t scare Barrymore away, had he actually gotten a date with her. Makes sense and okay, whatever, I’ll accept it. But still, there’s some weird stuff about him that goes beyond the Barrymore stuff that yeah, threw me for a loop, if only a bit. And then I realized that, “Oh wait, it’s about him, but also this date. So who cares?”

And it all got better from there.

Consensus: My Date with Drew isn’t particularly deep, but then again, doesn’t need to be with its entertaining idea, and likable, if flawed subject in Herzlinger.

7 / 10

My Date with Eric? Make it happen, Hollywood.

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes

Miracle (2004)

Who needs a college education when you could just defeat the Russians?

When college coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is hired to helm the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team, he can’t believe himself. At one stage, early in his playing-career, Herb was supposed to be on the same team, but was cut at the last second, making this opportunity seem like a second chance at success. While his wife (Patricia Clarkson) means that Herb won’t be quite the present husband for quite some time, she still supports him enough to where he can take the job and bring all of his hopes, dreams and aspirations to the young, talented whipper-snappers he has to work with. But Herb has a lot to deal with; the team is chock full of hot-heads who think they’re way better than they actually are, and in of their very first games, the team gets their rumps handed to them. So Herb decides to crank everything up a notch and put all of the guys through hell, even if they, as well as some faculty don’t fully support it. That said, Herb’s doing it all for a reason: To defeat the undefeated and incomparable Russian hockey team once and for all.

"Okay, so just get the puck in the net. Any questions?"

“Okay, so just get the puck in the net. Any questions?”

Miracle, on paper, seems like your traditional, syrupy, feel-good Disney sports flick where we know the heroes, the foes, the conflict, and the ending from the very first second of the flick. And on film, believe it or not, that’s actually how it all plays out, but there’s something more to it than just schmaltz and melodrama. Director Gavin O’Connor is smarter than just sitting down and shooting whatever is in front of him, so that he can collect that nice, big and hefty paycheck from the folks at Disney at the end of the day – a part of him feels and appreciates this true, inspirational tale.

And because of that, somehow, there’s more feeling and emotion to it all.

Sure, the movie is still conventional and hits every beat that a sports movie of this nature should indeed hit, but it hits them all so well, that they’re beats that are hardly noticeable. O’Connor does a lot with this sports genre, in that he has a lot of the conventions – like the supportive, but strict wife, or the training-montages, or the tough-as-nails-coach who isn’t loved by everyone, or the brassy, young talent who needs to be coached harder, etc. – and finds a way to put something behind them that allows for them to work. The fact that we already have a sense of nostalgia for this patriotic blend of America at the start of the 80’s sets in right away and hardly ever leaves, making Miracle feel like a cookie-cutter attempt at giving families “adult” entertainment, when in reality, it’s just a typical sports movie, disguised as something far more meaningful and honest.

If anything, it’s just a sports movie that does a nice job of surprising us, even if we know what’s going to happen. Most of that comes with Herb Brooks and Kurt Russell’s great performance of a simple and straightforward man who has a mission in his life, and will not at all stray away from whatever it takes to get him to achieve that dream. Brooks is a soft-spoken man, who has very little to say at all, but Russell does wonders with this kind of role in that he shows a hard, but passionate man who doesn’t seem to care what others may think or care about him – he just wants to win the gold, screw all of the haters. In a way, there’s something so incredibly awesome about that and the fact that O’Connor keeps the focus mainly on him, helps; we don’t normally get sports movies that take the coach over every other character, but here, it works well for the movie.

Uh, who?

Uh, who?

Then again, that does take away from the actual players themselves and, after awhile, does have them feel like a bunch of faceless “nothings”.

It’s admirable on O’Connor’s part to cast mostly unknown and inexperienced actors in these players’ roles, as it allows for us to see them as players, and not just famous dudes trying to play hockey, but he doesn’t help them out much. They don’t get a whole lot of development and the scenes in which they do get even a glimmer of any, they’re so poorly-done, it’s almost too obvious that it was a second-priority for O’Connor and writer Eric Guggenheim. Of course, anytime that the movie gets bored with these kids, it heads right back to the compelling Brooks, but it doesn’t help the movie’s case that it’s supposed to be about this one, miraculous team and all we really care about, or who we know the best and most, is probably the coach.

Once again, nothing wrong with that, but it also does take a whole lot more than just a very good coach, to win the gold.

Consensus: Even with the typical conventions of sports flicks firmly in-place, Miracle gets by on a tremendous performance from Kurt Russell, as well as a heart and emotion to the proceedings that make it feel more than just a soulless, big-budget retelling, destined for ESPN Films reruns.

7 / 10

If Kurt's happy, everyone's happy. It's just a fact of life.

If Kurt’s happy, everyone’s happy. It’s just a fact of life.

Photos Courtes

King Arthur (2004)

He’s Arthur, King of the Britons. Or, at least I wished he was.

The tale of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was one we all thought we knew, but somehow we didn’t. This is a new take on the story as we see Arthur (Clive Owen), Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Guinevere (Keira Knightley), and countless others battle Saxon invaders for control of what is now Britain. However, leading the Saxons is Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård), a man that you do not want to come toe-to-toe with.

In the beginning of King Arthur, director Antoine Fuqua puts a couple of lines on the screen to let us know that this movie is based on the King Arthur stories that have apparently been unearthed by countless archaeologists and historians. Basically, what the movie’s trying to say is that screw all you thought about, heard, or believed in about the story of King Arthur and his tales of heroism, because they are apparently not true.

Or, maybe they are? We actually don’t really know, because it’s all speculation.

Threesome?

Threesome?

But what’s not at all up for debate is whether or not this movie’s a good one, because trust me, it’s not.

The biggest issue with King Arthur is that it’s a little over two hours, but honestly, it feels way, way longer than that. While Antoine Fuqua isn’t necessarily a great director by any means, he still knows how to move a story when it needs moving; something like a take on the real life of King Arthur, desperately needed a nice push, or better yet, kick to help make it feel less like an useless history-lesson, and more like an actually nice bit of swashbuckling fun.

And even with the action here, sometimes, yes, it is pretty exciting, because Fuqua knows how to film action and make it as dirty, as gritty and as grueling as possible. He’s shown it before and it’s interesting to see him do it in this Medieval-setting, where it seems like he wouldn’t be as well-equipped without guns, cars and explosions to help him out. But like I said, the action can only help so much, especially when you don’t have a story to work with, or even tell.

Fuqua clearly wants to make a mean and moody piece here on the tale of King Arthur, which is fine and all, but it’s not handled well. He seems to want King Arthur to be the type of epic that Gladiator was, but doesn’t seem to have the brass balls to go that for with itself and really hit the tunes and notes that would make it really hard-hitting. Of course we get bucket-loads of blood, gore, and decapitated heads, but does that really give us an epic movie, or just a violent one? I’m aiming more towards the latter, but I could also see how this movie would be seen as an epic, if whoever that person is, perceived epics as stories about people with problems, who love to kill and chop people’s heads off, in the name of God and freedom.

Doesn’t seem, nor does it feel like an epic to me, but hey, I could be wrong.

Sure, the action itself is cool and Fuqua tries, but when you literally have a movie filled with, I don’t know, say, 15-20 minutes of pure-action, and the other hour-and-45-minutes is spent watching people we don’t care to learn about, care for, or even understand in the least bit, talk and wade through their problems, then yeah, it’s a problem. That’s even for the original version, though; in the director’s cut that I, unfortunately, had to sit through, features the same action, but with more blood and gore than ever before. Of course, Fuqua can do that right, but a story of this magnitude and attention does not service him in the slightest bit and it’s why King Arthur is, really, just a slug of a film.

In their spare-time, they create igloos and snowmen. Cause they're fun people with lively personalities....

In their spare-time, they create igloos and snowmen. Cause they’re fun people with lively personalities….

What’s even worse, though, is that he really doesn’t give the cast anything to work with. Keira Knightley is meant to be this fiery, sexy presence, despite never seeming like she’s taken a shower, nor ever making it seem like she’s as much of a bad-ass as she should be; Clive Owen just delivers his lines in a growl that’s highly reminiscient of Tommy Lee Jones’ worst; Ioan Gruffudd would come to be a whole lot more charismatic in his career, but here, he’s got nothing to work with and suffers because of it; Stellan Skarsgård always has fun when he’s playing a baddie, and this one as Cerdic is no different; Mads Mikkelsen is bad-ass as Tristan, but nothing else; Ray Winstone is playing the usual hard-ass he’s used to be playing by now here as Bors, and it’s pretty boring and odd, considering he’s talking like a Cockney-gangster, and he’s stuck somewhere in the Dark Ages; Joel Edgerton is all bearded-up and timid as Gawain, but yet, nobody cares; and Ray Stevenson is, well, what do you think happens to his character?

Yep, unfortunately, a poor-man’s Sean Bean, that Ray Stevenson is.

Consensus: King Arthur tries to take an age old story that we all know and love by now, and twist it around, but rather than seeming risky, dangerous, or even fun, it’s just boring and features talented, interesting people, doing nothing worth their effort, or time.

3 / 10

What the hell was Keira talking about? Her boobs are totally that big!

Avatar?

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Alexander (2004)

Some people let fame and fortune go to their heads. Others, just want to party and have a lot of sex.

Ever since he was a little boy, Alexander (Colin Farrell) was always a person destined for great and wonderful things like becoming the greatest empire in the world, at a staggeringly young age of 32. Of course, however, his path to greatness was a rough and troubling one, mired by all sorts of controversy and adversity that seemed to take him down a peg, even when it seemed like he was ready to take down everyone who stood in his way. There’s his mother (Angelina Jolie) and his father (Val Kilmer)’s legacy and how all of their accomplishments have overshadowed his impact; there’s his sexuality and how some people don’t ever know what it is that he likes to have sex with; and then, there’s also that need and utter desire he has that makes him want to kill nations and nations of people because they don’t praise him as the lord he so desperately wants to be praised as. Of course, all of this would be prove to be his ultimate demise.

"I know you love the blonde hair. All the girls do."

“I know you love the blonde hair. All the girls do.”

Alexander is not nearly as awful as people make it out to be. It’s probably Oliver Stone’s worst movie, but in that, therein lies an interesting movie that has a lot of good ingredients, a few rotten ones, and ultimately, doesn’t fully come together as perfectly as his other movies have. But does that make it absolutely, positively awful?

Not really.

And it’s because of Stone, that a movie like Alexander – one that would have been so slow and boring – actually comes off far more compelling than one would expect. Just as he’s shown before, Stone seems a whole lot interested in just what makes a legend like Alexander tick and become the man that he wants to eventually become; sure, the narrative of him from childhood, to his adult-years, don’t always mesh well and would have probably worked out better had they been shown in a more conventional format, but still, there is something of interest to this person here. Stone doesn’t always know what he wants to say about Alexander, or better yet, what point he’s trying to get across by telling his story in the first place, but there is something here, as small and as slight as it may be, that’s definitely worth watching and thinking about.

It’s just that it’s still hard to figure out just what that may be. Stone seems interested in judging this person solely on the fact that he condoned a whole lot of violence, yet, at the same time, didn’t know why or for what reasons, expect that it was all he was taught when he was just a little tike. But then, Stone also seems interested in how his sexual preferences may have also done a little something to make him seem like a weakling that couldn’t be trusted in the long-run. And then, of course, there’s also the fact that Stone seems interested in wondering just what it is about a person like Alexander that makes him feel like a God that can do no wrong, never die and still keep the love, respect and adoration of all those around him.

There’s a lot to think about and work with, but unfortunately, yes, the movie is also quite messy and doesn’t always make the best sense of what it’s trying to do or say.

And yeah, that’s a huge problem for Alexander, considering that it clocks in at nearly three hours, showing us that, once again, Stone is the King of excess, especially when it seems like there’s no real reason for the actual excessiveness in the first place. And hell, if there is a reason, it’s because Stone himself knows that he doesn’t quite know what he’s getting across with the material, so rather than trying his hardest to make a small, concise movie, he overloads it all, adding more bits and pieces of style that come and go as they please. It’s what we’ve come to know and, unfortunately, expect with Stone, even if it does sometimes feel like he’s got something of interest to work with here.

Their family is better than yours.

Their family is better than yours.

He just doesn’t know what it is, sadly.

But that’s why he’s got such a good cast to work with and, in ways, pick up the pieces whenever the narrative seems to flowing from one place to another. Colin Farrell is fine and hunky as Alexander, even if the character himself is written in so many different ways, that he almost feels like an entirely different person altogether, at random parts of the movie. Farrell gets past most of it, but he also feels like he’s struggling to make sense of just what Stone is aiming for here. As his parents, Val Kilmer and Angelina Jolie are terrific, vamping and hamming it up, showing us that Alexander definitely had two role models in his life, for better and for worse, and they made him who he is today, and honestly, the movie would have been a whole lot better just about them and their little dynamic.

Because once Kilmer and Jolie are thrown in the background, others like Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and the one and only, Anthony Hopkins show up and quite frank;y, the material just isn’t there for them. They all feel like added-on characters who show up because Stone wanted to work with them and, honestly, needed an excuse. Dawson’s got the most to do out of all these actors, but even she feels short-shifted, only made to give sad looks and take her clothes off. I’m not complaining, but trust me, there’s a whole lot that she can do.

In fact, so can everyone else here. Including Stone himself.

Consensus: Not quite the travesty as some have made it out to be, Alexander suffers from being messy and never always making the best sense of itself, yet, gets by on a few good performances and moments from the near three-hour run-time.

6 / 10

"Join me in this fight now and afterwards, we'll all get mangled!"

“Join me in this fight now and afterwards, we’ll all get mangled!”

Photos Courtesy of: The Ace Black Blog, Metro, Cine Cola

Beyond the Sea (2004)

Yup. Still can’t get that song out of my head.

Despite being told that he would not live past 15 years of age due to a heart condition, Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey) set out to leave his mark on show business, vowing to be a legend by 25. That is exactly what he did, and this is his story.

Is Bobby Darin a legend? Better yet, does there deserve to be a two-hour biopic made about him? To answer both questions, probably not. But that still doesn’t stop celebrities like Kevin Spacey from making movies about him, even if, at the end of the day, people will wonder, “why?”And yes, as is the case with most passion projects, Beyond the Sea feels like the kind of movie that probably didn’t need to made, but because it’s done by smart, dependable people, it’s not so bad.

I hope he sings that song about the sea!

I hope he sings that song about the sea!

Just a tad unnecessary, is all.

As writer/director/producer/star, Spacey has a lot to do and it’s surprising just how much effort he put into the way this thing moves. In a way, he wants to make a musical out of this flick, what with a bunch of wacky, wild, and fun dance-numbers taking place seemingly out of nowhere, but he also wants to make a warts-and-all biopic about this troubled celebrity’s life. Is it uneven? Yes. Is it messy? You betcha. But is it boring? Nope. Not really.

And honestly, that’s good enough for me, especially considering that mostly all musical biopics can be downright dull, regardless of whether or not you know the subject the movie is made about. But even so, there’s some glaring issues with the film, that seem to come directly from Spacey himself, in that he doesn’t always nail down the right tone. One of the best examples is a fight that Darin and his wife have, which plays out like a scene in a dark comedy, but ends up being very serious and mean with both of them ending up in tears. It’s a funny scene, that goes to being very strange and shows you that Spacey may have not had the right touch for certain scenes. Even when all of the dark drama does eventually come into the story, it somewhat bogs everything down and doesn’t even really seem interesting.

But if there’s the biggest issue with Spacey’s direction, it’s that, when all is said and done, we never really find out much about Darin himself. Sure, we know the guy has a heart problem, yes, we know the guy wants to be bigger than Sinatra, but what else is there? Occasionally, they’ll bring up the whole fact that he was apparently arrogant in real-life, but that rarely ever comes up or even shows. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any flaws of his pointed out throughout this film once. This isn’t me assuming that Darin was the devil in real life, but he sure as hell wasn’t no latter-day saint, either. Maybe because this was Spacey’s own way of paying tribute to a singer/songwriter he immortalized as a kid, but if you’re going to do a biopic, you might as well do it the right way and allow us to see the full picture.

I agree. What about John?

I agree. What about John?

After all, the more shades you show of a character, the more the audience is able to care for them when they, as Darin does, die.

As for Darin, he was only 37 when he died, so some people may be a bit thrown-off when they see Spacey, who was 44-years old at the time, playing a guy in his teens with tons and tons of prosthetic make-up. It’s goofy and sometimes distracting, but you know what? Spacey is somehow able to make it work by being as charismatic as he can be. Spacey has quite the knack for these darker roles where you just don’t like him, but at the same time, love that aspect about him. Here, you get to actually see him lighten-up some and let loose with a real life figure that seemed to go throughout life in such a frantic movement, that it’s hard not to enjoy and watch. Many will also be impressed that all of the songs are sung by Spacey himself, and the guy shows that he has the chops to not only direct, write, and star in his own movie, but the guy can freakin’ belt it out like no other as well.

Spacey’s got it all going for himself and watching him is worth the watch alone.

And yeah, others like Bob Hoskins, John Goodman, Sandra Dee, and Kate Bosworth all show up and give a little, but really, it’s Spacey’s show through and through. They know that, he knows that, everyone knows that. It’s a shame that it wasn’t more of Darin’s show, but honestly, did we need anything more than what we got? Or, can we assume that his life was the same as any other celebrity’s?

Who knows? Maybe there’s another Bobby Darin biopic out there looming on the horizon.

Consensus: Spacey does what he can to tool around the biopic narrative, allowing for Beyond the Sea to be a bit more interesting than the usual fare, but also seems to short Bobby Darin himself in not getting deep down to the root of who the person actually was.

6 / 10

Oh, that young whippersnapper. And Kevin Spacey.

Oh, that young whippersnapper. And Kevin Spacey.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Movie-Roulette

Barbershop 2: Back in Business (2004)

Sometimes, when you’re getting a buzz, you just want to be left alone in peace.

Nearly two years later and guess what? The South side Chicago barbershop is still up and running, mostly due and thanks to Calvin Palmer Jr. (Ice Cube), who decided that it was up to him to keep the legacy alive and running. And along for the continous ride with him are his lovely, loyal and entertaining employees – Isaac (Troy Garity), Terri (Eve), Ricky (Michael Ealy), Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze) and the newly-employed Kenard (Kenan Thompson) who may or may not have any clue on how to cut hair. Each and everyone of them have their own personal and workplace problems, and now, it’s only going to get worse, what with a new barbershop called Nappy Cutz moving in across the street. As Calvin tries to change the character of his business, Nappy Cutz, as well as gentrification become a threat to the surrounding community. However, Calvin also knows that it’s up to him, as well as those that love and support him to keep the spirit alive and well of the barbershop and not to let a little business-rivalry get in the way of a good thing.

Yup. Those paw prints will get a man for sure.

Yup. Those paw prints will get a man for sure.

Like I’ve said before, Barbershop was in no way, shape, or form, a solid, comedic masterpiece. If anything, it was just a fine and funny piece of comedy that didn’t ask for too much, and didn’t expect much in return; it just wanted to make the audience laugh, have a good time, and hey, if they learned a thing or two at the end of the day, then guess? All is well and right with the world.

And that’s one of the main problems with Barbershop 2 – it sort of loses that same heart and edge that made the first so lovely in the first place. As is the case with most sequels, there’s a lot more of everything that made the first movie such a joy to watch. That means, more characters, more subplots, more messages, more time spent, and most importantly, more jokes, no matter how hard they fall, or how much they may miss. Sequels in and of themselves have a bad rap, but comedy-sequels usually tend to be even more hated as they overdo almost everything and just become grating.

While I wouldn’t necessarily call Barbershop 2 “grating”, I wouldn’t call it the greatest 100 minutes I ever spent.

Most of this comes down to the fact that the movie isn’t really that funny, or better yet, nearly as funny as the first. A few jokes here and there, make their mark and bring out a chuckle, but plenty of them also come around, miss their mark and don’t really bring out much of any emotion. They’re just dull and plain jokes, for the sake of being told to remind people that this movie is, yes, a comedy.

And because of that, there’s maybe only at least 20 minutes where the movie’s actually funny. There’s one key sequence in which Robert Wisdom’s mayoral elect character comes into the barbershop for shameless advertising and propaganda purposes and it’s the funniest scene of the whole movie. I won’t spoil it here, but it constantly builds and builds and builds to an extreme where it’s almost too crazy to not laugh at, and it’s what every comedy should be like. A situation gets placed, the characters are set, and then, we watch it all play out in front of our eyes, waiting for the laughs to start hitting.

Beauty Shop > Barbershop.

Beauty Shop > Barbershop.

Eventually, they do, however, they don’t always last.

It’s a shame, too, because everyone here seems to be back, ready, and excited to have an even better time with the material here. Cube does his best to remain our eyes and ears of the story, which is fine, because he does it well; Eve is sassy and smart, as expected; Michael Ealy and Troy Garity’s characters still don’t get along and always seem to battle it out over something we don’t really care about; Kenan Thompson brings an added-level of zany fun that’s nice to see; Queen Latifah shows up, essentially, just to plug and prep us all for Beauty Shop, but is such a charming presence that it almost doesn’t matter; and yeah, there’s plenty more to choose from.

However, the one who gets the real time and dedication of Barbershop 2 is Cedric the Entertainer’s Eddie and with good reason. Not only was Eddie the best, most funniest part of the first movie, but Cedric himself is just so damn exciting and funny to watch, that it’s hard not to get wrapped-up in almost everything he has to do or say, even if it seems like he’s doing a whole bit of improv. Either way, Eddie gets more of a backstory that has to deal with the history of the barbershop and it’s a bit dull. Mostly, this is due to the fact that a lot of what we see is just flashbacks that, yes, build this character and this barbershop a bit more, but really, doesn’t do much but take time away from the other characters here, as well as add-on more minutes to an already rather long movie. Of course, Cedric is funny. Nobody’s denying that, but all of the backstory with his character seemed to go on for so long that, after awhile, I felt as if they were prepping us all up for Eddie’s own movie.

Surprised it never happened, but I can’t say that I’m too upset about it, either.

Consensus: Like the original, Barbershop 2 features a bunch of charismatic performers in nice roles, but doesn’t know how to use them as well, with so much going on, and nothing actually being all that funny.

5 / 10

Ice Cube just don't care anymore. He's cut way too much hair by now.

Ice Cube just don’t care anymore. He’s cut way too much hair by now.

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Man Jackson

I, Robot (2004)

IRobotposterIf Will Smith doesn’t trust technology, neither should anybody else.

In the year 2035, robots co-inhabit the earth with humans, acting on our every hand and knee. But before people start getting worried about whether or not they’re taking over, have no fear, because they are kept in line by a set of rules integrated into their make. For the most part, they revolve around not hurting humans, but also knowing when to allow for themselves to be destroyed, if that’s what a human believes that needs to happen. Even though everyone is in love with these robots and has one, one person who does not trust them is cop Del Spooner (Will Smith). He doesn’t hate them, but he doesn’t really trust them either, which is why when he’s called onto the scene of a supposed “suicide” of the creator of these robots, Spooner is quick to believe that it’s the robots, more specifically, a rather more intelligent one named Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). But nobody will believe Spooner and his suspicions, so he’s forced to take matters into his own hand and follow the case on his own terms. This, obviously, can lead to some very dangerous situations, where Spooner may have to put up with a lot of robots attacking him.

Robot1

“Attention!”

I, Robot deals with a lot of issues about the modern day that, in 2004, seemed a bit silly. However, nearly 12 years later, they have all but become a reality. While we don’t necessarily have robots walking around society, side-by-side with humans on a daily basis, technology, in and of itself, still takes over our everyday life. Most people you see on the streets, either have some sort of headphones in, or are caught staring down at their phones, swiping through whatever bit of information they want, or trying to win their next game of Candy Crush. Either way, what I, Robot discusses, is very much true to what is going on in today’s day and age, but at the same time, the movie doesn’t really even seem concerned with these types of ideas and themes.

Instead, it just wants to feature a whole lot of action, explosions, gun-shots, robots, and most of all, Will Smith screaming.

In other words, it’s a traditional summer blockbuster, that maybe, just maybe, has a little bit more going on beneath the surface than your usual, aimless popcorn fodder. As has been the case with mostly all of director Alex Proyas’ other films, he clearly seems interested in the visuals of his films, rather than what’s actually going on in the movies themselves, and this can sometimes help, rather than hurt his movies. There’s a few neat sequences here, like for instance, a car-chase through a tunnel, that grab you right away and show Proyas’ inspiration for visual-imagery, which is all the more surprising considering how old this movie’s CGI can look.

Sure, it’s dated and a bit sketchy at times, but still, it’s a movie from 2004 and for a movie then, it’s pretty damn impressive. It also helps that once the action does get going, the movie keeps a fun and exciting pace that’s hard to get past. The story itself is a bit conventional, as it starts out as a whodunit, to being something of a conspiracy-based sci-fi flick, but mostly, Proyas goes between the many stories quite well. He doesn’t really get down and dirty with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it affects our everyday lives, but he does bring it up just enough to have us think maybe a bit more than we normally would, had this been another blockbuster, by any other director.

Then again, it is a silly summer blockbuster, and there’s no way of getting around that.

Are we human, or are we robot?

Are we human, or are we robot?

By the end of I, Robot, it becomes clear where it’s going and can start to disappoint. Not to say that the movie was breaking down any genre-barriers either, but it is to say that once we realize that the movie is all going to be about Will Smith saving the human-race from extinction, it gets a bit over-cooked and crazy. You’d probably expect this, but it also can’t help but feel like something of a cop out.

However, it’s fine because throughout the whole movie, Will Smith is doing what he usually does: Charm the shorts off of every single audience-member. Though the script is pretty lame and feeds Smith some cheesy lines, he’s still confident enough of an actor to get through it all and give this Del Spooner character some sort of personality that makes us root for him more. There’s something of a backstory to Spooner, his hate for robots, and why he was called onto this case in the first place, that can tend to feel a bit tacked-on, but Spooner isn’t here to draw emotions – he’s here to be the hero of our story and have us stand behind him and hope that he kicks as much robot ass as he wants to.

That’s why the rest of the cast, as good as they may be, don’t really get a chance to stretch far and wide beyond the borders set around them. Bruce Greenwood, once again, plays the typical white guy in power that may be a villain, or may just be a general a-hole; Bridget Moynihan plays the possible love-interest of Spooner, who also happens to be a scientist for these sorts of robots and is at least sympathetic enough that we want to see her understand the issues about this corporation she’s working for and start hooking up with Smith; James Cromwell is barely around and he’s sorely missed; and Alan Tudyk does a solid job at voicing these robots, showing that there may be a slight bit of emotion underneath the intentional dull delivery of his lines.

Oh, and Shia LaBeouf is here and curses a lot. That’s fun. I think.

Consensus: Though it deals with some interesting ideas about technology running society, I, Robot, the actual movie itself, seems less concerned about them, and more concerned with blowing stuff up, which is fun for awhile, until it isn’t.

6 / 10

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Starsky & Hutch (2004)

Probably the tamest movie I’ve ever seen that says “coke” about 15 times. And I’m not referring to the soda, although if it were the late 1800’s, I would be referring to both I guess, right?

Detective David Starsky (Ben Stiller) is all about following the rules, getting the job, and having the law come out on-top, at any means necessary; Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson (Owen Wilson) is far different in the way that he’s so cool, calm, relaxed, and mellowed-out, that he doesn’t really care if he gets the job done or not, he just wants to look cool and smokin’. They’re polar-opposites, but they get strung together somehow and have to solve a drug-ring of coke on the streets, lead by millionaire Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn). Together, they have their fair-share of problems, but together, through the insistence on getting along and the help of their ears and eyes of the street, Huggy Bear (Snoop Dogg), they finally realize that the law always prevails. Or something of that nature.

It’s strange to think that a man who has been known for his fair share of R-rated, raunch-fests, Todd Phillips, would ever stoop so low as to go for a PG-13. But somehow, with this, he did and his struggle with actually trying to keep to that rating without over-stepping it at all. As I said up-top, there’s plenty uses of the word “coke” and nothing but; girls make-out with other girls; the F-bomb is dropped once (and randomly); partial-nudity is seen (sort of); and the word “shit” gets dropped about 5 or 6 times. It’s just strange because we know that when Phillips turns on the dirty-jets, he has a fun time and lets loose like no other, but what we mostly know is that when he does get down and dirty: he’s a lot funnier as well.

Whatta fun time!

Whatta fun time!

And trust me, it’s not that this flick isn’t funny, because it sure as hell does have it’s moments of comedic-inspiration that are more than likely going to win you over; it’s just that the tone itself is a bit uneven. What I mean by that is that the flick tries to go for a satire of an episode of the original Starsky & Hutch, and at other times, seems like it’s trying to be a straight-forward comedy that makes up it’s own jokes, is in it’s own little universe, and doesn’t even know about the other show. Hell, it even plays out like a failed-pilot of the original, except with more knowing-humor and a switch-up of the lead characters.

Since the movie never seems like it knows what it wants to be, or how for that matter, some comedy hits and some of it misses. More of it hits than actually misses, but knowing what Stiller, Wilson, Vaughn, Ferrell, and even Phillips are capable of, it comes as a bit of a disappointment. The jokes they use get a bit stale after awhile, especially the part where Starsky is high on cocaine and gets into a dance-battle, even though he doesn’t know he’s high, and become the same old, “70’s-fashion-was-so-corny”-type of humor. Nothing as witty or as smart as Zoolander or even Old School here, just a bunch of repetitive jokes made towards the decade it’s apparently supposed to take place in, even if it feels like we’re just watching a bunch of current-Hollywood stars play dress-up and act like their in the 70’s. I don’t know if being a tad bit anachronistic was the movie’s point or not, but if it was; it probably would have been a lot smarter and funnier in that case.

But in all honesty, I can’t discredit this movie too much cause the cast seems to be having fun and is mostly the reasons why we find ourselves laughing at times, despite it seeming a bit desperate at times. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are seemingly playing Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. They both seem to be enjoying themselves, not having to stretch their acting-muscles all that much, and getting a chance to dress in some fine, sexy 70’s digs. Together, they’re a bunch of fun and keep this movie cracking, but after awhile, you start to think how much of this movie was made because they really wanted to make a Starsky & Hutch movie, or how much of it was made as an excuse for the two to pal-around with one another? One has to wonder, and sometimes, it feels like the latter-aspect. It’s fun to watch them, but it feels like their having a bit more fun than we are and that poses a problem, especially when they’re trying to steal the laughs out of you.

Come on! Gimme more!

Come on! Gimme more!

On paper, having Vince Vaughn do his spastic, fast-speech act and Jason Bateman do his dead-pan act, team together, and play the smart, but slightly off-kilter baddies in a movie would seem like comedic-brilliance, but it never musters up any of the courage to really keep them funny or relevant all that much. Vaughn seems like he’s bored being serious and conning, whereas Bateman actually seems like he’s bored, and isn’t just using that to his and his character’s advantage. He actually seems like he’s bored and wants to get his check, so he could get the hell home and get ready to film another season of Arrested Development. Also, any movie that has thew chance to showcase Juliette Lewis and her comedic-talents as the dumb, trashy-chick in the movie, but squander that potential, has seemingly all but lost points from yours truly. The girl is not only a foxy mama, but she’s pretty damn funny, especially when she’s given the chance to be.

Others in this cast that show up do what they can like Snoop Dogg, who actually has some of the funnier-moments in the whole flick of funny people; Carmen Electra and Amy Smart show up to only make-out and provide some sex-appeal for a movie that didn’t need any, and when it finally got it’s chance to showcase it, made it seem more misogynistic than titillating; and actual cameos from the original guys, David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, who made it funny just being there, but once I got to thinking about it, made it almost seem like the film was making fun of them and how hell-bent-out-of-shape they seem to have gotten. Poor guys. Oh well, they probably got a nice, healthy paycheck from this. Just like Bateman. Although, needless to say, he probably made that paycheck last.

Consensus: Bits and pieces of Starsky & Hutch seem inspired enough to transpire plenty of inspired moments of comedy, but not too many as the flick struggles to make up it’s mind of what type of comedy it wants to be, or even make us laugh at all.

6 / 10

"1, 2, 3 and to tha 4, Huggy Bear is at tha doe."

“One, two, three and to tha foe, Huggy Bear is at tha doe.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Run, Denzel, run!

Denzel Washington plays Army Major Bennett Marco, a career soldier who grows suspicious about his experience in Desert Storm after Squad Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), son of the powerful Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), becomes a candidate for Vice President. Something feels very eerie about Marco, and both of the Shaw’s and that’s why Marco is going to go out and settle the truth.

Jonathan Demme is a very skilled director that can go from making movies about Neil Young, to making one about a pilled-up Anne Hathaway that loves crashing weddings, and make it all work out in his own way. Of course, like with most directors, the guy has had his fair share of blow-outs (The Truth About Charlie, anyone?), but I think it’s safe to say that he’s definitely had more hits than misses and this flick is one of those rare hits, that somehow misses a mark it could have hit a littler harder.

What makes this flick work is that Demme puts us in the same state-of-mind as it’s main character is in, and has us disheveled and confused as he is, and never lets us know exactly just what the hell is going on. We get a lot of dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, ideas, drug-trips, and plenty more devices that are used to mess with our minds, just like our main character’s as well, and that’s what Demme succeeds at the most. He keeps us in the dark with what we think we know, and what we expect to happen next in a flick like this.

And yes, it most definitely works.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

There are certain places that this movie goes, really will surprise you, in terms of twists and material. The twists are good and kept on flying when I thought they would end, but still added more and more layers of tension and mystery to a story that didn’t need it, but didn’t suffer from too much of it either. But in terms of material and where this flick goes with it, it can be pretty damn surprising. Certain things happen that you don’t expect to considering this is a mainstream thriller with A-list names and Hollywood producers, and you also don’t expect certain characters to get killed-off when they do. Basically, with a filmmaker and story-teller like Demme, nothing is as what it seems and you can’t seem to trust anyone. Once again, that’s the same sort of mind-frame that our main character takes and it’s a real delight to see that work so well by the inspired hands of Jonathan Demme.

Although, something just wasn’t clicking for me in the right ways that I was expecting it to. What I mean by that, is that the movie has all of these ideas, all of these mysteries, and all of these conspiracies to it, that enhance the plot as well as our confusion of what we think is actually happening, but never seems to get off-the-ground. The reason for that being is because it feels like Demme is so considered with laying down the groundwork of this story and telling us what he feels like we should know, that he never kicks the story into full-gear and having us feel like we are on a ride that’s never going to end, and shows no signs of it either.

Maybe the problem I had with this movie and this pace, was that I think I was expecting something more of a slam-bang, action-thriller, and that’s exactly what I did not get. This is more along the lines of a psychological thriller that takes it’s good old time to get where it needs to go, and doesn’t really worry about the people watching it, squirming in their seats and just waiting for the tides to change, and start having people beat the shit out of one-another and run away. That never happens and even when it does show signs of that actually occurring and speeding everything up: it still disappoints. If it wasn’t for this snail-like pace, Demme would have really been onto something here, but the guy just never lets his material move at a speed that cannot only gain our attention, but have us more intrigued in seeing where it all goes and ends-up.

Thankfully, we have an A-list cast like this to save the day and thank the heavens for them. When you see a movie that Denzel Washington stars in, you automatically assume that he’s going to be the downright lovable, cool-as-shit Denzel Washington that we see him play, and master in just about every one of his movies. However, he’s a little different and shows that the guy can play crazy, pretty damn well, mind you. The guy’s still got some charm to where you feel like he’s a good-guy underneath all of the lost-marbles, but you still don’t know what to make of where he’s going, in terms of character and his motivations. No matter where this character ends up, Denzel is always compelling and always makes it easy for us to root him on, as if it’s him vs. the world, and we are on red corner’s side, just hoping he comes out of this alive and without a single-scratch on that voluptuous forehead of his. Yeah, I went there and I make no apologies for it either, bitches.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

The one in this cast that I was really surprised by was Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, because not only does the guy portray his character’s smugness in such a way that really had me want to punch him in his corrupt-face, but he has the most challenging-role of all. For instance, Shaw is the type of character that is typically a bad guy because he looks bad, is on the bad guy’s side, and is rich, powerful, and smart. Pretty much any person that has those qualities in a movie, or life for that matter, fit the bill of being a total and complete villain that we just don’t like and want to see dead as soon as possible. I’m talking about in the movies, not real-life. Although I do think you could arrange that if you needed to.

But I digress.

What makes this character of Raymond Shaw so complex is that yes, he does fit the role of the type of guy you would normally hate and root-against in a movie like this, but there’s more to him than just that. You sort of feel bad for him because you can tell that he doesn’t really have the brightest-clue as to knowing what the hell is going on, and feels bad that he’s being played-with as a result of all of this confusion. Therefore, he has to take the higher, and sometimes more difficult road of taking everything he sees, hears, and thinks in stride and going about his business, but still having wonders in his head as to what the hell is right and what is wrong with his life. Schreiber plays this moral-dilemma so very, very well and shows the type of dimensions you can get with a character like this, no matter how one-sided he may seem on-paper. Schreiber is always a solid actor that continues to turn in good-work-after-good-work, and his role as Raymond Shaw, is one of the glaring examples of this.

Perhaps the one who really knocks this out-of-the-park, but didn’t surprise me as much was Meryl Streep as Raymond’s “mother”, Eleanor. I think it goes without saying that we all know and love Streep for being the powerhouse-force of in almost everything she does, but her performance as Eleanor shows a darker, meaner-side to the things that she can accomplish and show-off as an actress. She doesn’t necessarily chew the scenery, as much as she takes a look at it, contemplates whether or not to take a bite, and then, decides to eat the whole freakin’ thing and spit it right back out. Streep is the type of actress that can pull-off this hard-hitting woman role like gangbusters, and it was so glorious to see her play a character that isn’t all wholesome and happy; she’s actually pretty terrible.

Consensus: Demme doesn’t allow The Manchurian Candidate to fully pick itself up off-the-ground with fun and electricity in the air, but instead allows the eerie, and mysterious atmosphere kick in and mess with your minds as much as it’s messing with the lead character’s, and many other’s as well.

6.5 / 10

Rawr!

Rawr!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Mysterious Skin (2004)

“Alien life-forms” are usually my safe words as well.

Brian (Brady Corbet) is a shy introvert, obsessed by his own possible UFO abduction, while Neil (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a cruel and icy beauty who sexualises his every encounter. As each of them follows their own very different journey, they seek to come to terms with the incident that has scarred their current lives and, to their surprise, unites them, even when they least expect it.

With material like this, there’s a part of me that knows how disturbing it is and wants to say what it’s all about to warn those out there, but there’s also a part of me that knows that’s wrong. See, I’m a critic, but also a lover of movies and I know that the one key element to enjoying a movie is being automatically surprised, just as soon as you walk into something. That’s why I’m going to tip-toe around the big surprise this movie has to offer as much, and as well as I can.

So, for those who haven’t seen this movie yet, don’t worry, consider yourself free from spoiler-harm.

As for those who have seen the movie and are reading this, see how close I come to spilling the beans. I sure hope not.

My type of crowd. Except with more earrings.

My type of crowd. Except with more piercings.

Anyway, what really got to me the most about this flick, wasn’t just how director Gregg Araki handled this material, but how he filmed the whole thing. I’ve never seen anything else that this dude has done in his whole career, but he doesn’t seem like a guy I would like by just how unprofessional everything looks. The first 20 minutes where we are introduced to our character’s first 15 years of living is pretty neat and filmed with a very fast-paced direction that not only made me feel like I was in for something different, but also in for something that was going to be taking risks, as it should. Problem is, the fast-paced direction starts to leave the film and all of the quick-editing little tricks Araki utilizes here and there, soon starts to become a bit choppy where some scenes feel like they’re too rushed, and others just feel like they haven’t gone on long enough. Sometimes it’s better to actually focus on a plot-structure and let certain scenes just play out like they’re supposed to.

Now, to where this story effed up and oh, did it eff up alright. Usually when you have a tough subject like the one they deal with here, you, the director, have to show it in a way that doesn’t seem grotesque, but also doesn’t sugarcoat anything either. You just have to get it right slap dab in the middle and the problem is that Araki can’t seem to get there. Instead, it seems like this guy was trying to have his cake and eat it too, where he would show many dirty scenes with a people sexually mortifying one another, and then, in the next scene, change it all up by trying to tug at our heart-strings with a story that doesn’t feel so fully-developed. Basically, any type of movie where you have two men performing in a sexual act, people will feel uncomfortable, but it’s up to you as a director to not try and throw it in our eyes and make us feel like we need to leave the theater. Araki seems like he just wanted to shove a whole bunch of explicit sex scenes that would capture the people’s eyes, but then also give them something that may make them cry. For me, it didn’t work and it’s just another reason why I feel like this film really needed to be checked out before it went off and gotten released.

Also, where the hell was the message of this movie? In the first ten minutes or so of the movie, I got what this film was trying to say and even though the characters didn’t, it just seemed unneeded like all of the hour and 40 minutes was wasted. Though there’s a lot of frank-talk about sexuality and how the smallest change in a person’s cycle can have the biggest affect on them when they’re older, without them ever knowing it, I didn’t really feel like Araki got to that point. Instead, it was almost as if he got lost in all of the teens performing in naughty acts of sex, drugs, and violence. Almost as if he was trying to pull-off a Larry Clarke movie, but a bit tamer.

Notice how I used the term “a bit”.

This kid's supposed to be a geek? You don't say?

This kid’s supposed to be a geek? You don’t say?

Despite the problems I had with Gregg Araki’s student film-like direction, the performances of this film are what really saved me. Brady Corbet is solid as this young nerd Brian who believes that he was abducted by aliens when he was a little kid, but sooner or later, in a predictable fashion, we start to find out that it’s all one big cover-up in his head for something far more serious and disturbing. This story may not play-out as interesting as I may make it sound, but it still kept me glued to the screen because Corbet seems to play that innocent, dorky role very well, even though it’s obvious that this kid is a whole lot younger than the film makes him out to be.

But the real performance to watch for in this movie, and actually the only real reason to see this movie in the first place is the performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil McCormick. JGL has been, for a very long time now, a big up-and-comer in film and has proved role-after-role that he can do whatever he pleases and make the best of it. This was one of those early performances that showed he had the guts to tackle a role as emotionally-daring as this one where he pretty much goes around, bangin’ dudes for money, and showing no remorse over it whatsoever. JGL makes this whole character work just by being the risk-taker his character seems to be and a couple of scenes show that he’s more than just a kid who gets paid for getting frisky with dudes; in the end, he’s a kid that still has problems deep down inside of his mind all because of a childhood happening that scarred his life forever. It was great to watch JGL here and even though it’s by far, not his best performance ever, it’s one of the first ones that showed he had what it took to be a dramatic heavy-weight. Even if the rest of the film can’t really seem to keep up with him.

Shame on you, Gregg Araki. Shame on you.

Consensus: Disturbing and hard-to-watch as it may be, Mysterious Skin still feels like it’s not saying much about these ugly happenings, to justify exactly why we have to see so much of them in the first place, although it does give us plenty of reason to watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet.

5 /10 =Rental!!

Supposed to be his mom, folks! His mom!

Supposed to be his mom, folks! His mom!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Girl Next Door (2004)

Still convinced the girl I brought to prom was a porn star. Slept with everybody else, but me!

Matthew (Emile Hirsch) is a high-school senior who has high aspirations for his life in college and, hopefully, at Georgetown. But right now, at this moment in time, all he wants to do is remember something special about his life that he can talk on and on about for the rest of his days. Then Danielle (Elisha Cuthbert) moves in next door and suddenly, it all changes. Not only does Matthew come to understand his sexual innocence by gazing at Danielle’s perfect bodily-shape, but he also strikes up a friendship/relationship-of-sorts with her. Although, there’s just one problem that Matthew doesn’t find out about until it’s practically too late: She’s a porn star. And although Matthew eventually comes to accept this as a part of her life, he still brushes up shoulders with her ex-boyfriend/producer (Timothy Olyphant), who not only threatens to ruin the relationship he has created with Danielle, but Matthew’s whole future life and career as well. This is when Matthew decides that it’s time to nut up, or shut up, and depending on how you take that pun, you can pretty much guess where his next source of inspiration goes towards.

So yeah, basically, this is just Risky Business, but for the Gen-Y age where computers, cell-phones, and heavy-R ratings do exist. However, whereas that movie, despite being a sometimes crass and overly-sexualized film, at least had something to say about one coming to terms with their age, as well as their sexuality. Here, with the Girl Next Door, all we get are a bunch of nerds who crave sex and, despite never having had it before, still do whatever it is that they can to ensure that they lose their “V cards” before heading off to that next stage of their lives. Nothing wrong with that at all; in fact, it’s just a way of life which most people (mainly dudes) go through.

Being in a pool with a girl you're trying to get it on with doesn't end well. Trust me.

Being in a pool with a girl you’re trying to get it on with doesn’t end well. Especially if you’re trying ti “impress” her. Trust me.

However, there’s something not really all that there about this movie that makes it feel like it’s just about sex and porn, and that’s it. Sure, it’s a rom-com of sorts that likes to deal with young people trying to approach their sexuality in a certain manner that will get them laid, but there’s not much more beneath the surface. It’s exactly what it sets out to be and if that’s what you’re looking for, then yeah, you’ll probably enjoy this flick.

But that’s the problem with this movie: There feels like there could have been so much more here, had everybody involved just decided to put more time and effort into it.

For instance, the movie explores the pornography business in an almost complete and full matter; heck, the movie even pushes its attention towards a porn convention in Las Vegas. But rather than actually saying something remotely interesting about the state of pornography, where it’s heading and how those involved with such an distasteful business, are just like you and me, too. Instead, the movie decides to take the easy, relatively safe way out and just show us boobs, ass and girls hooking up with one another. For a frat bro that has a boner at just about the very second he wakes up, to the moment he decides to hit the hay, then yeah, this will probably be a near-masterpiece that absolutely speaks to their soul. However though, for somebody who wants a little bit more to their comedy, then there’s just hardly anything to firmly grasp.

And even worse, the movie’s not even all that funny. A few throwaway gags here and there, but honestly, the movie just isn’t very funny. It clearly likes to think it is – in the Van Wilder-sense where the sight of t’s and a’s are automatically followed by LOL’ing – but nothing really works in that regard. It’s just a stale comedy, reusing plot-devices and jokes we’ve seen before, yet never really spins them in a way that could make it seem like the story/movie itself could have only taken place in the new millennium. Then again though, to those who would probably want to see this, that doesn’t matter because as long as there’s naked chicks and a whole lot of sex-talk, then what else is there?

No seriously, what else is there?

Anyway, the only aspect of this film that seems even remotely interesting is its cast, and even then, mostly everybody feels wasted on material that just couldn’t be less concerned with them showing up and putting in all that they have in their might and power. Emile Hirsch shows that he was ready to step out of that childhood acting shell of his at this point in his career, and although it was a smart move on his part, the movie doesn’t seem concerned with giving him much to do except just be a nerd and react in slightly shocked manners. He does get one sequence of some finely-timed comedy where he’s high on ecstasy in a public event, but even that feels put-on, old, and tired, as if we had seen it a hundred times before. Because, most likely, we already have.

"Nobody fucks with the Olyphant."

“Nobody fucks with the Olyphant.”

And though I have to give it to the casting-directors for allowing Elisha Cuthbert to be like the absolute sex-pot that she appears to be, I have to wish that they’d given her so much more to do. Because sure, what she’s called on to do is act and look sexy and she does that quite well. But her character is just poorly-written in the way that we never find out anything about her past, why it is that she decided to take up the career as a porn star, why she wants out and why it is that she takes an interest in such a normal, typical dweeb like Matt. Cuthbert herself definitely seems like she wants to explore these character-traits, but sadly, it just doesn’t work in her favor.

The only person who really seems to come away unscathed from this is Timothy Olyphant, playing Danielle’s dangerous, slightly unpredictable bad boy of a producer that sees cash whenever he looks at her. Olyphant is always perfect at playing these types of slightly off-kilter, weirdo roles and while it’s a character we’ve seen him do before, it’s still a refresher in a movie that, quite frankly, isn’t filled with many. Except for showing us guys the occasional boob and butt, but honestly, that’s right at our finger-tips, every second, of everyday, so do we really need to watch a near two-hour comedy filled with some shots of it?

I say nope, but that’s just me. I’m a weirdo. I’d much rather watch a movie, than actual porn itself.

Consensus: Nothing more than a shameless remake of the far-better Risky Business, the Girl Next Door likes to think it explores more about the man’s psyche when it comes to sexuality, but in reality, it’s just another raunchy, unfunny teen-comedy.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Usually the kind of girls I bring home to my folks. Except not really.

Usually the kind of girls I bring home to my folks. Except not really.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Dreamers (2004)

Three’s always a better party.

American university student Matthew (Michael Pitt) arrives in Paris during the year 1968, having no clue what to do with himself. However, he loves movies and he’s young at heart, so he ends up going the local theaters, as well as to whatever protests the young kids are holding around there. That’s where Matthew runs into the wild and blissful Theo (Louis Garrel) and Isabelle (Eva Green), twins that do everything together (and I do mean everything). Being that they’re all the same age and have the same interests in music, food and movies, they both take a liking to Matthew and invite him over for a dinner that goes sour. However, Matt stays the night over and the next day, finds out that both Theo and Isabelle’s parents are gone, leaving the house all to themselves where they can do whatever the hell it is they want. Predictably, this leads to a lot rough-housing and misbehaving, but things get a bit serious once Matthew loses a game of “Guess Which Movie” and is forced to have sex with Isabelle; something he obviously wants to do, but not in front of her brother, and definitely not nearly as soon either. But he does, and that’s when things get a bit tense between the three.

You have to hand it to Bernardo Bertolucci, the dude sure does love his sex. But also, he sure does love movies. And in a smart way, he’s able to combine them both here into one story that’s a love-triangle of sorts; one that’s an ode to movies as a whole; and another that has something to say about the changing of times during this French New Wave period. To be honest, though his intentions are noble, Bertolucci’s combination doesn’t always work and you sometimes have to wonder how much of this movie-talk actually pertains to the story itself, but there’s something neat that he does with this film.

"Yeah, I think that's exactly where the cold sore is."

“Yeah, I think that’s exactly where the cold sore is.”

See, a lot has been made about it’s NC-17 rating and to be honest, it’s quite deserved. The sex itself isn’t too graphic to where it’s practically a hardcore porno, but it’s all the nudity that gets the rating. For a good portion of this movie, these characters are naked and just absolutely flaunting whatever they’ve got, while they’re dancing, talking about movies, smoking a joint, drinking wine, listening to music, or just doing whatever the hell it is that they want to do. Why is that? Well, it’s because they’re young and it’s the dawn of the French sexual age in which practically everybody banged everybody, they all had a fun time doing so, and nobody cared either way.

And while for most movies, that aspect would seem forced, as if the creator behind it was just trying to shock you by featuring numerous shots of pubic hair and penises, not here. Bertolucci loves what it is that he has on display here, whether it be the characters, the movie’s they’re referencing and sometimes acting out, or just whatever political ideals they express to one another. Sometimes it can be a bit pretentious, but I was able to give it a slide because that’s just who these characters were: Young, full of ideas, always wanting to have a good time, and not waste a single second of their lives.

To me, it was fun to watch. Not because I got to see Eva Green naked on numerous occasions (although that was definitely something of a plus), but because these kids were fun to be around. Even though they felt like they were deeper than they really were, there was something rather endearing about the way they handled themselves regardless of what it was they were doing. Sure, they could be lying naked on the ground, or all huddled together in the tub or something, but it never seemed to bore me. Maybe it was because their constant-references of classic films gave the film-buff inside of me an extra, energized boost, or maybe it was because I was just enjoying hanging around these kids, as if they were my own friends I’d be around (presumably with clothes off, of course).

But either way, they were just characters I liked to watch and listen to. It didn’t matter if they were up their own asses on whatever they thought was “right” or “wrong” for the world, it was more that they had ideas about the world in general and were willing to express them with such passion and frivolity. They weren’t going to back down from any argument, even if they seem destined to lose it and because I too was once in their shoes (still am, sort of), I couldn’t help but smile. They’re not dumb, but they’re not smart either; they’re just young people, man.

And believe it or not, they’re the future. So don’t piss them off, pops!

Speaking of these kids, all three are great. Previously mentioned Green gets to do a whole lot with her female screen-presence, which is more than just being naked and it’s something of a sight to see, because she commands the screen with everything she’s got. Her character isn’t an easy one to pin down and when you start to see that there’s more to the mystery that surrounds her, you start to feel for this character as, at the end of the day, she’s just a woman looking for a love in her life. And although that love in her life may be her jealousy-ridden brother, Louis Garrel still brings out enough in this Theo character to make it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy; he’s just very passionate about what it is that he believes. Pretty much like most young people really.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I've had with the older bro's of the gals I've bedded. Only slightly.

Slightly less awkward than the conversations I’ve had with the older bro’s of the gals I’ve bedded. Only slightly.

But the one who really does something with his character and almost walks away with this movie is Michael Pitt as Matthew. Pitt’s great here because he goes from awkward and shy, to being an absolute lovely, spirited presence that soaks up in the moment and actually has a thing or two on his mind that he’d like to get. In fact, by the end, he ends up being the voice of reason and had this movie gone deeper into that aspect, I feel like we could have really gotten a stronger character here. Even more importantly, maybe even a stronger movie.

Because like what I was blabbering on about earlier, not all of this film works; specifically, what point it is that Bertolucci is trying to get across through these characters, their ideas, their speeches and most importantly, what’s happening all around them. What he tries to do is that I think he tries to get a point across about why it’s important that these kids stick up for what they believe in and how they should go about doing so, whether it be through a peaceful or non-peaceful protest, and while it’s nice to see him shed some light on these ideas, they never seem to go anywhere. And even when they do, it’s almost too late in the movie to where it feels shoe-horned in there to give it a bigger sense of meaning.

You know, more meaning than just a bunch of kids being naked and having steamy, hot sex. Which is fine and all, because the scenes are lit perfectly and give you the sense that they are literally loving it in the moment, but when it tries to be something more than just that, it sort of stumbles. Maybe had Bertolucci just made this an even smaller, more intimate character-study of these three characters, we probably would have had a tighter, better with a more lasting impact. But sadly, we don’t.

We just have a whole lot of shots of Michael Pitt’s penis and Eva Green’s bum. So you can’t say that there isn’t something for everyone.

Consensus: While it would like to be deeper than it really is, the Dreamers still works in giving us three wonderful performances from the main cast, as well as presenting a story that touches on more than just a whole lot of sex.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Eat your heart out, Gen-X-ers.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Grudge (2004)

Do all Japanese boys sound like cats?

An American nurse (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is living and working in Tokyo and somehow gets exposed to a mystery virus. What makes the virus so mysterious is that it’s one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim, but with a black, shadow-y figure there to see you before you die. Basically, it’s just weird.

Everybody knows the story of the Grudge by now: American girl tries to help out old lady, old lady sees something, mystical figure pops-up with a Howe-weird, cat noise, and all hell breaks loose. That’s the age old story that every teenage girl, and dude who was trying to take them out for a good scare so they could cuddle-up with them when they got frightened, saw.

But here’s the aspect of the story that they don’t know: It actually kind of sucks.

With that being said, the movie can be a tad scary, if only because of where it’s set. The fact that the creators of this remake decided to keep the story in its original native land and only change up certain aspects of the story so that they could throw in Americans people would be easier to connect with and whatnot, was actually a smart idea because it gives you an unsettling feeling. Nothing against Japan or its inhabitants, but there is just something eerie and strange about a bunch of Japanese people staring at you from a far, far distance and giving you that feeling that they either don’t like you, are silently judging you, or want to eat you and your family for din-din. Not saying this thought comes to mind every time a Japanese person stares at me, but in this, it kind of is.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

Feast your eyes on what life after Buffy looks like.

However, when you get right down to it, that’s all the movie really has to offer. There are a couple of neat-o scares and chills to be had (that “after-work” scene was pretty damn tense), but everything else just feels like formula. The one film that this reminded me a lot of and probably for better, than worse, was the Ring. That movie, for all of it’s faults if you can find them, was creepy and something that made me feel a little bit tense when I would have to think about the next time turning off a static-y television-set. This movie, feels like a carbon-copy of it without any back-story worth mentioning, scares that don’t really get you at the right place and the right time, or any type of character that screams, hoots, and hollers like Naomi Watts could.

But then again, you have to beg the question, Can anybody? The answer to that is, I don’t think so. Heck, that’s why we have Naomi Watts in the first place.

Yes, little Japanese kids yelling in high-pitched, cat noises can be a little disorienting when you hear it the first two or three times, but after that, it’s just on-replay and never seems to end. Every time somebody would walk into the house, there would be movement upstairs, some sort of cracks and sizzles in the distance, a slight yelp from a ghost, the person would then pursue it, only to see a little boy, and have that little boy yell at them out of nowhere in that loud-ass voice I talked about earlier. It happens many ‘a times and maybe it could work on the types of people that are really, reelin’ in their chairs, scared to the high heavens, but on a person who doesn’t scared all that easily (yeah, I’m the shit) by material like this and knows what to expect next, then it doesn’t do anything nor does it serve any purpose. It’s boring, tedious, and goes to show you that the director may have decided to film all of this movie on his Lazy Sunday schedule, where everybody, including him, is still working with a hangover from the wild night before. Yeah, we all know those days and judging by the effort given by everybody in this cast and crew, I think they do as well.

Even though the characters aren’t here for anything else other than to just serve something resembling a story and serve the scares to come up, the performers do their best with what they’re given, even though it seems like a waste on this kind of material. Sarah Michelle Gellar is fine as the American nurse that gets all caught-up in this hubbubaloo that nobody needs to get involved with, not even Freddie Prinze Jr.’s wife, and she shows that disdain and annoyance on her face. But, she can also display the scared and shocked face well, too, and does that every chance she gets the opportunity to.

Honestly, just leave her. The "monster" isn't going to do shit anyway.

Honestly, just leave her. The “monster” isn’t going to do anything anyway.

Two very, very talented character actors pop up here as the kids of the crazy mother that sees things, William Mapother and Clea DuVall, and both are okay and definitely elevate this material to more than it aspires to be, but even I felt like taking them by the arm and being like, “Seriously? This is the type of crap you want to put on your resume to show that you have box-office appeal?”. Hey, good for them if it adds a couple of more bang to their buck, but for me, it just disappoints more than ever because I know they can do well with good material, but good material, this is not. The only hope I had for this movie was that they had the one, the mighty Bill Pullman here as some dude that randomly kills himself in the beginning and get’s a back-story later on, but it’s so goofy and so random, that it’s really just humorous. Pullman’s good and can do no wrong in my eyes, but even I felt like he was slumming this one down, big time.

Probably should have just stayed President of the United States and never even bothered stepping on Japanese soil.

Consensus: The Grudge isn’t quite the horror masterpiece it’s been made out to be by some, and instead, feels like a lazy retread of things we seen done many, many times before, and more effectively as well.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Yeah, I know I'm cool."

“Yeah, I know I’m cool.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Wolf Creek (2004)

This summer, kids, just stay home.

Three college graduates are finally ready to embark on their summer and all of the fun times that they could have. So, they decide that what better way to get started than to go back-packing in the mountains of Australia? Better yet, how about the infamous Wolf Creek, where the hike itself is apparently three-hours long and is practically in the middle of a desert! Yep, that sounds pretty great! And for awhile, it is – the three drink, party, kiss, sleep, camp, sit by a fire, play guitar, tell goofy stories, and look forward to what’s next lying ahead of them – however, things go a bit South once their car breaks down in the middle of this said desert. But, thankfully, there’s a local outback man by the name of Mick (John Jarratt) that assists them in their time of need. And for the longest time, that’s what it seems like is actually happening, despite the culture-clash between these young rascals and this older, stranger redneck-like man. Something weird happens though when the three wake up the next day, only to find themselves tied-up, trapped, and kidnapped by Mick, who isn’t exactly as kind and as helpful as he once seemed. Instead, he’s more of a murderer that loves himself a bit of torture. You know, for the fun of it.

Anytime a horror movie opens with “based on true events.”, you know you’re in trouble. Not because the movie is just making that up to give it some sort of significance (which it sort of is), but because you know that the real facts of whatever true story it’s talking about, will be lost in the shuffle of crazy, loose ideas that some director wants to throw onto the screen. Which is fine and all, if you’re doing a movie that isn’t based on some real, grisly killings that “allegedly” happened, despite their being little-to-no evidence found, or even witnesses, then you have to realize that your juggling fire.

Not a piece of obvious symbolism at all.

Not at all obvious symbolism.

By that, I mean that you can do what you want with a story, but once you throw that subtitle up there, you have a certain image to protect. You can get dirty and dark with the details of the story, but to mess around with it so much to the point of where it seems like a director is just using it to shock more and more people, feels wrong. And worst of all, almost reprehensible.

For instance, there’s a scene somewhere by the end that I won’t spoil too much, except only to say that it involves a knife and a spine. Maybe you’ve already heard of/seen it before, but either way, it’s a pretty graphic scene that shocked the hell out of me when I saw it originally. That’s the way most horror movies should be: Dark, disturbing, and as bloody as you want it to be, where you can get the viewer actually cringing. However, the more and more that I thought about this display of graphic violence, I began to feel like it was totally unnecessary, especially given, once again, the fact that this is “based on true events.”.

Sure, if that scene happened in a Eli Roth or Saw movie, people would have easily been going nutso for the rest of time (I guess they still are), but since this is supposed to be based on real-life, actual murders of young people, it seems gratuitous and takes on an even darker meaning than ever before. Which, I guess for a horror movie, is a good thing. But here, I didn’t see it that way. I saw a director, Greg McLean to be exact, using a “supposed” real-life tragedy to frame all of the bloody, gory images he’s had in his head for quite some time and was only waiting for that moment to shine and show everybody in the world what he has.

For the most part too, I can’t really get on McLean’s case too much, because it really does seem like he has the look of this movie down. Like with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (an obvious comparison, I know, but it’s all I got to work with right now), a lot of the action in this happens during the day, which somehow, gives it a creepier feeling. When it’s dark, you have no idea what to expect next, which is totally scary. However, with the day-time, you totally know what to expect next, and for some shocking reason, that works even more. McLean clearly has an eye for the long and moody outbacks of Australia, and paints them as how they should look: Lifeless, mean and unforgiving.

With that McLean definitely redeems himself as a horror director that knows what it is that he’s doing with the style of this movie, it’s just a shame that his material didn’t quite pop-off like it should have.

"Scope's are for wimps."

“Scope’s are for wimps.”

And while I’m talking about it, I think I should mention that while most of this movie was a little too much, it still worked when it needed to. It was a clever little game of cat-and-mouse that had some surprising twists here and there, even if the characters still made the same old, dumb mistakes like they usually do in these types of movies. For instance, at one point during the movie, a baddie is knocked-down, on the ground and clearly unconscious, so one of the victims decides to end him right then and there, you’d think, right? Well, yeah, you would definitely think it, but rather than finishing the baddie off, the person just runs away and hopes to god that the villain doesn’t wake up. Felt dumb to me and made it seem like this movie needed a story, just to justify its run-time and the ending it would eventually get to.

And when it does, needless to say, it’s what you’d expect – a whole lot more of that “true story” bullshit that doesn’t make much sense and almost makes this whole thing seem like a waste of time. It isn’t, but it sure as hell does come close.

Consensus: The fact that Wolf Creek takes most of its story away from what are supposed to be “real events”, makes all of its brutal, grisly scenes of torture and murder seem almost gratuitous, although it may still provide to be thrilling for some other viewers more-attuned to that type of stuff.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Crocodile Dundee, who?

Tourists better think twice now.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Ice-fishing is definitely a safer-bet.

Famous oceanographer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a man that likes to think of himself as something of a genius. He has many faults, yet, he never admits to them, and is starting to find out that it may just come and bite him. While he and his crew of rag-tag misfits get to embark on a series of wild adventures, soon, and totally out of the blue, walks in Steve’s estranged son, Ned (Owen Wilson), who he may, or may not have known actually existed in the first place. But, Steve sees this not only as a way to gain another loyal crew-member, but to spend some more quality-time and get to know the son he never knew was out there, which starts to become an after-thought once a journalist (Cate Blanchett) steps onto the ship and begins to catch both Steve, as well as Ned’s eyes. Also, on the side, they are looking for an exotic sea-creature known as the “Jaguar Shark”, who killed Zissou’s old-buddy. Problem is, nobody knows if it exists or not, not even he knows.

Even though I’m a fan of Wes Anderson, I have to say that even I can get a bit skeptical of his work. When you go into a Wes Anderson movie, you have to expect all of his trademarks, whether you like it or not. Sometimes, there is a slight spin on those said trademarks, but most of the time: What you see from a Wes Anderson movie, is most likely what you are going to get. And if you don’t like it, then suck it!

Or, if put in a nicer-way, just don’t pay to see it, or something like that.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

Only could these two be a father-and-son combo in a Wes Anderson movie and get away with not being similar in any way whatsoever.

And most of the problem with this movie is that nothing really seems to be working at all for Anderson, in probably the first hour or so. It isn’t that it’s boring because people are just standing around and talking, it’s more that it never seems to be going anywhere. It’s almost as if Anderson thought it would be easy enough to give us a bunch of wild, crazy and colorful characters, have them do their thing, and that would be enough to hold our interest, as we waited for something to actually happen. It began to worry me a bit, mainly because I know what can happen when Anderson gets a little too up-in-his-own-ass sometimes.

Yeah, it can get bad, people. VERY BAD.

However, things did in fact pick-up, and I think it occurred right when Zissou and his crew start their journey, wherever the hell it may lead them. Most of the charm that we see Anderson utilize so well when he’s on-point, gets done quite efficiently here, but it also seems to show everything coming together. Of course there’s a lot of the same close-ups and strange-cuts that we have come to know (and sometimes love, sometimes hate) from Anderson, but there was more originality to the way he framed certain scenes and gave it an extra-spunk of color that made this film a lot more goofy than I was expecting.

Actually, “goofy” is probably the perfect word to describe this movie as, mostly because that’s exactly what I saw it as once the whole journey began. Don’t want to give away what happens on this journey that spices everything up and makes it go into a totally different direction than I was expecting, but just like me, you’ll be surprised regardless and its a whole lot of fun as well. It seemed like Anderson really took a liberty with a story of his, put his trademarks on it and gave it an unpredictable feel that completely comes out of nowhere. In fact, it actually gets a bit darker, as many situations take on a very serious, very violent-turn for the worst. But it’s never tonally-jarring, and that’s why Anderson’s movie works as well as it does in the final hour or so, rather than in the first hour, where it doesn’t seem like he knows what to do, or where he’s going. He’s just moving along on the current. You know, sort of like a boat on the sea.

Though, what doesn’t work so well here is when Anderson decides that he really wants to touch our hearts by getting to the core of these characters, and how well it doesn’t translate. See, there are a couple of moments by the end where you realize that Anderson really wants us to start crying like big, effin’ babies and grab whatever towels near us that we can find; however, it doesn’t work that way. For the most part, I was having a good time with this just being as goofy as possibly could be, with some darker-elements under-lining it all, but once it took that other page that makes it a lot weightier, it didn’t feel right. Nor did it gel with everything else that happened before. Doesn’t make it terrible, just makes us, the audience, confused as to whether we’re supposed to laugh, cry, feel warm inside, angry, or all of the above. At the same time, no less.

But, like most of Anderson’s movies, it’s the cast that really shines here as he’s seemingly able to get a wonderful performance out of everybody he has here. And of course, that also means we get to see Bill Murray show up and do his dry-wit thing in a Wes Anderson movie, but this time, it’s playing Steve Zissou, who, in case you didn’t know, is based on a real-person. Still though, that doesn’t seem to faze him much since it’s practically the same type of performance we usually see from Murray, in all of his glory. Without saying anything at all, Murray is able to speak volumes to us about his character by keeping that sad, expressionless face throughout the whole movie, and still be the most likable character somehow. He’s a bit more of a dick-head here, than he is in other of Anderson’s flicks, but there’s still a bit more to who he is, why he is the way he is and what makes him a guy worth seeing a movie made about, that keeps us going with liking him and his company.

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsical features!

He sings David Bowie songs, but in French. Oh, the whimsy!

There’s also Owen Wilson who, much to everybody’s surprise here (including mine), is probably the one who steals this movie away from Murray as he seems like the perfect fit for a guy who is so innocent, so clean and so well-intentioned, that it’s so hard not to just love the guy right from the start. I’ll admit, Wilson has never been a favorite of mine but he totally had me won over here with a performance as Zissou’s long, lost son that he never met until now. There’s a lot of development to this character that makes him more than just another, “Southern bumpkin”-like character that he first starts off as coming-across, which makes it nicer and more pleasant to watch when he and his daddy do form a bond and continue to do son-father activities together. Even if the activities are shark-hunting and fossil-discovering.

Cate Blanchett plays the untrustworthy journalist, that’s doing a report on Zissou and his crew and handles a lot of the comedic-material very well, as well as having a believable romance with Wilson that I thought could have had its own flick, if at al given the chance to come to fruition. Willem Dafoe tests out his comedic-abilities as Zissou’s left-hand man, Klaus Daimler, and has a funny running-gag going on between him, Zissou, and Ned, where he just wants to be loved and treated like the best on the crew. It’s a side of Dafoe that I wish we saw more of, rather than just seeing the nutty, second-coming of Harry Osborne in everything that he does now.

Hold up, though! I’m not done, yet! Jeff Goldblum isn’t here as much as I would have liked as Zissou’s rival, Alistair Hennessey, but is still a lot of fun to watch as he just acts like, well, you know, Jeff Goldbum; Anjelica Huston is spicy (and surprisingly), very hot in her role as Zissou’s wife that doesn’t really want much to do with him since he’s such a fuck-up in his personal, and professional life; and it was a “nice welcome-back to the big-screen” for Bud Cort, who is a guy I haven’t seen awhile and does a nice job as Bill Ubell, the guy that’s forced to watch over production of this trip to make sure the funding of it is alright. Sadly, there was no Maude to accompany him. Wah.

Consensus: May not always work when it’s supposed to, but when the Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou finds a way to gel all of its different elements together, it’s a surprisingly fun, heartfelt time, with an extra-ounce of whimsy, due solely to Wes Anderson and his quirky ways.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So many ego's just going head-to-head right there.

So many ego’s just going head-to-head right there. And Bud Cort.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)

If only the world of journalism was this cut-throat, or entertaining to be around.

Everybody, meet San Diego’s top news anchor Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and come and see how good he looks. Yeah, Ron’s a bit of a fool of himself and definitely thinks he’s the greatest thing to come around since sliced bread, however, he isn’t alone. He has a fellow band of trusted and worthy reporters that hang around him and give him a lending hand whenever he needs it. Together, they work as a team and together, they’ve been practically #1 in the ratings, week-after-week. And everything seems to be going all fine and dandy, up until an inspired and determined female reporter, Veronice Corningstone (Christina Applegate), shows up and decides that it’s her turn to shine and become the first ever female newscaster. Mostly everybody scoffs at this idea, but once she proves them wrong and that she’s more than capable of telling the news and still having rather large, exquisite breasts, then the newscast team evolves and work with what they have, which also means that Ron’s out of a job. And to make matters even worse, Ron’s all alone and without his biggest and best buddy, BAXTER!!

Basically, plot does not matter at all with this movie. It’s only purpose is to actually move it from one outrageous, over-the-top joke to the next and while that would usually seek, kill and destroy any comedy out there, it does not do that to this one. Sole reason? It’s a dumb movie that knows it’s dumb and makes no apologies for it whatsoever. You sort of have to expect that going in, and if you don’t, then I don’t know what to say, you might be screwed over. Although, even to this day, it’s still hard to find somebody that doesn’t at least “like” this movie, let alone adore the hell out of it.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

How every blog expresses their sense of everlasting joy after receiving some life-changing news.

It’s going to be hard to write an honest-to-God, non-rambling-mess-of-a-review on this so if I do run into a couple of tangents along the way before reaching my usual “Consensus” part of the review, I do apologize.

Anyway, with this movie, you have to know what to expect, solely on knowing Will Ferrell’s brand of comedy. It’s going to be loud, crude, rude, stupid and fun for everybody involved, which also means you yourself, the viewer. That’s why it doesn’t matter how many times you see this movie, whether you stumble upon it on television or decide to give it a re-watch to hype up the second movie (now who would want to do that?), it’s always a rip-roaring, gut-busting and funny-as-eff watch. Sometimes, you may even have to watch it alone, mainly because you’ll be heckling so loud, you don’t want to disrupt all of the others around you and whatever uneventful they may be doing that doesn’t concern watching Anchorman (we also call them “losers”). That’s what I did, and I still had a ball.

However, I could go on and on about how funny this movie is, but to really pin-point down exactly what it is that I feel is so funny, I just have to get on about it with the cast because, if you think about it, they’re really the ones holding this fort down. Sure, I bet some of the lines of dialogue were scripted, but only the parts that mattered in order to move the story along from one scene to the next. Instead, half of this dialogue feels, and probably was, more ad-libbed than anything else. With movies where half of their dialogue comes from somebody’s improv, it usually can, once again, seek, kill and destroy any comedy, but, once again, not this one. And certainly not with this cast of funny and deranged comedic-geniuses.

Will Ferrell was the one who got this whole gang/movie together and it makes sense why: He’s easily the best part of it all, which is not an easy thing to just state. The reason why Ferrell works so well as he does as Ron Burgundy is because he knows exactly what it is that he’s trying to do, every step of the way. He sees the comedic-potential in him speaking to a dog, as if the two actually understand each other, and he just goes for the gull with it. Same could be said for his “Yazz flute” scene; could have easily been a one-note joke stretched way beyond its means, but Ferrell takes it to places that go higher, stranger and way better than one could ever imagine. Also, in the brief moments that this flick does tend to show some depth, you do realize that there’s maybe more to Ron than just a macho ‘stache and an expert-way at getting the ladies; maybe he’s getting sick of it? Ferrell shows that there’s more humanity and heart to this guy that feels like he actually longs for some sort of emotional-connection in his life, that doesn’t just consist of constant partying, boozing and whoring around (on Whore Island, of course); he actually may want to settle down, get hitched up, have some kids and live a very happy, luxurious life. It may be that I’m looking way too far into this, and chances are, I definitely am, but Ferrell is the one who anchors this movie, gets it to where it needs to go and practically made me laugh the hardest.

Which, once again, is not an easy thing for me to state considering the rest of the ensemble is equally as hilarious and scene-stealing as he is.

Paul Rudd, as usual, made me laugh just by how goofy he was here, playing the charismatic ladies man, Brian Fantana. If you give Rudd the spotlight and give him time to do his thing, he’ll make you laugh. You know this, I know this, he knows it, hell, we all know it! That’s why it’s no surprise in my mind to see how funny he is here, especially when he’s plugging something as outrageous as “Sex Panther”; which, in case you were wondering, is in fact real, and costs an awful lot of “keesh”. Bam! Two Paul Rudd movie moment-references in one sentence! And though he’s definitely not as much of a household name as the peeps surrounding him may be, David Koechner is still a laugh-out-loud riot as the hee-hawing sports man of the news team, Champ, and gave the idea of wanting a man to get an apartment with you, an even more homoerotic-feeling than it ever had before. He may be the weakest-link of the main-squad, but that’s less of a take-away than it sounds since he’s still damn hilarious.

And Brick. Oh, dear ol’ Brick. He loves his lamps, he pulls out random hand-grenades, he wants people to come to his pants party and best of all, he killed a guy with a trident. I think the less said about him, the best. Cause, in case you couldn’t tell, he’s awesome. Thank you, Steve Carell. You too, are quite awesome.

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as "that guy from the Colbert Report and Bruce Almighty".

Oh, the days for when Steve Carell was only known as “that guy from the Daily Show and Bruce Almighty“.

But you know what’s really surprising about this movie, besides it still being equally as hilarious this time around, as then the first time I saw it all those years ago, is that it’s a dude comedy that still has a pretty kick-ass female character in the vein of Veronica Corningstone, played to perfection by Christina Applegate. And you know, I have to give a lot of credit to Applegate for at least taking a lot of shots that she does here in this movie because while there are many jokes aimed towards her heine, her breasts and her lack of a penis, she goes along with them, takes them with her, and even dishes some out on her own, showing the boys that she can hang. She may not be as hilarious as the guys, considering her character is definitely more serious than anybody else in the bunch, but she still gets away with a couple of laughs and seems a lot tougher than any of the guys that surround her, which is saying A LOT for a comedy of this nature.

Trust me though, the cast does not end there, nor do the laughs. With this supporting cast, you get to see so many faces, some surprising than others, that you actually wonder if they’re actually there to be funny, or just show their faces and be ironic. The answer is both, but it’s perfect because they all get a chance to shine a bring a lil’ something to the table. For instance, the whole “Newsteam fight” is chock-full of cameos and surprises that I won’t dare to spoil for those who have yet to see this flick, but does more than just present us with a familiar-face and say, “Hey, look who it is! Isn’t that so crazy that he/she showed up to partake in this Will Ferrell-comedy?” Nope, instead, the whole movie keeps on giving us more and more of these faces to make us laugh, to make us love them more and also, have a great time. Which, at the end of the day, is what comedies are supposed to do in the first place. Sure, they can be thought-provoking comedies that have you toy around with the ideas of existentialism in your head, but that’s not how Will Ferrell and co. roll, so therefore, neither should you!

Consensus: Anything you’d ever expect from a Will Ferrell comedy, you get with Anchorman, and then some more randomness. So either take it, or leave it. Can’t go any deeper than that because the movie doesn’t want you to, and that was fine with me. Watch this, have a laugh or two, and stay classy. Or, if you stand on the other side of the spectrum, thanks for stopping by. But most importantly, stay classy.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

If more newscasters looked like this in the 21st Century, then I think online journalism would be ruined forever. Which means me!!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Just live life, don’t think too much and shut up! There, just saved you a near-two hours!

Environmental activist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy you just have to feel bad for. He’s the type that means well, but nothing ever seems to be working out well for him to the point of where he could just finally relax for a little bit. But nope, that is not the case, especially since he’s practically getting screwed over by a major corporation called Huckabees, mainly the head of P.R., Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad practically promised Albert that he would save a huge part of land so that they could plant all sorts of trees and beautiful things, however, Brad doesn’t care about that and just wants his money, so he plans on just planting a huge shopping-mall instead, with Huckabees dead in the center of it all. Albert’s pissed about that, but he’s also worried about these strange run-ins he continues to have with this tall, African American man, that he automatically thinks are more than just sheer coincidences, they might just give meaning to his whole life in the past, present and the future. That’s where “Existential Detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) come in and try to help him figure it all out, but since Albert’s a bit of a spastic nutcase, not everything goes as smoothly as planned.

Let”s just start things off on the right foot here: The movie is a mess, but it’s an intriguing mess, much like life is. There’s the hook, now on with the rest of this review.

They aren't supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

They aren’t supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

David O. Russell may be a very talented film maker and from what we’ve seen in these past couple of years, he’s really shown himself to be something of a man who can handle anything big or large. Sure, he’s had his freak outs many, many times before, but he’s made it clear that if you give him a huge cast, with a relatively simple, yet complex story, he can work wonders. However, when the story seems to be more than just simple and way more than just complex, then it becomes painfully clear that he can’t really hold his own and has to rely on his usually well-chosen casts. Which, once again, isn’t all that bad to begin with since everybody he gets to be apart of his ensembles are all great and do magnificent in his flicks, it’s just that there needs to be more substance to these stars doing shop, and regardless of what you may think with this material, there is no substance here. Please, do not be fooled.

See, while people will probably go out there and say, “this movie speaks volumes because of the types of questions it asks us about our current-existence, the lives we live and the world we live in”, is all a bunch of bologna. The movie seems so damn pleased with itself that it’s more than just your traditional, quirky comedy; instead, it’s asking bigger questions, that have to deal with bigger issues most people don’t get to thinking about on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside of the box either, it just has to be done right. Almost in the way in which Charlie Kaufman writes his movies: Strange, quirky and off-kilter, yet wholly insightful, emotional and more than meets the eyes.

David O. Russell, as much as it may surprise some, is no Charlie Kaufman and doesn’t have the ability to make this movie more than just a series of pretentious, heavy-thinking discussions about our existence on this planet. Those are the types of questions that usually come popping right up when a bunch of pals are saddled-around the campfire, smoking on the peace pipe, and that’s probably exactly where they should stay, especially if O. Russell’s going to be discussing them. I feel bad for getting on his case so much, because while there are some funny bits and pieces here, they mainly all stem from the fact that what’s happening on screen to cause these small pieces of laughter, is just because they’re pure random. Plain and simple. They don’t really work well towards the story or the type of message the movie is trying to get across (which is painfully clear, or not, who knows, who cares), and just seem like a bunch of crazy ideas O. Russell had rocking around in his mind and decided to go for the gull with here. Sometimes it works and amounts to nothing, sometimes it doesn’t and it just makes you feel bad for everybody involved.

Especially the cast. This poor, poor cast.

Better yet, I should just say poor Jason Schwartzman, because while I usually find him hilarious and entertaining to watch in whatever the hell it is that he pops up in, I couldn’t help but see him as annoying here. He always seemed to bitch and complain about everything in his life, never seemed like an actual character, with dimensions or emotions and seemed like the perfect type of guy that O. Russell could use as the straight-man for all of these over-the-top and crazy performances to play off of. And in that general aspect, the man gets what he wants, however, some of them fall short.

They're all jealous, Mark. Don't listen to 'em.

They’re all jealous, Mark. Don’t listen to ’em.

Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman come close to, but keep their heads afloat playing the two Existential Detectives, who basically just serve as Albert’s self-conscious; letting him know what’s right, what’s wrong, what does it all mean and how he can move on in his life, the right way. Together, they form a fiery and fun chemistry, but their roles do begin to get a bit repetitive, as they seemed to be saying the same things, over and over again, just with different phrasing and mannerisms. Jude Law also gets the bad-end of the straw as the sleazy Brad Stand, though he definitely relishes in the moment of playing somebody that would be as mean and detestable as a man of his looks golly-good looks would be. Naomi Watts seems to really be loving her time as Tom’s girlfriend, the scantily-clad model for Huckabees, and gets most of the laughs from her side of the spectrum. Worked wonders for her role, especially once her character goes through her own existential crisis and as you could expect, some hilarity ensues.

The only time actual hilarity within this movie does ensue, is whenever Mark Wahlberg shows up to steal the spotlight as Tommy, the oddball firefighter who drives everywhere in his bike, has something against petroleum, likes to start fistfights anywhere he goes, with whomever he sees and just seems to want to get his point across, by any means imaginable. Yeah, he seems like he’d be the most grating character on display here, but Wahlberg somehow gets him by on sheer charisma and willingness to make himself seem dumb. It’s very rare where you’d get a very good-looking guy like Wahlberg, who’d actually be willing to participate in something as strange as this, playing an even stranger character than we’d ever seen him play before, and trudge all trudge all the way to the finish line with it, while making us laugh all along the way. Wahlberg’s obviously shown his love for comedy in the past couple of years, but this was when he showed the world that he was more than just a nice set of guns, a catchy-as-hell song and a wonderful way of saying hello to mothers, he could actually entertain you and steal the show from heavyweights like Hoffman, Tomlin and yes, even Isabelle Huppert! Not even going to acknowledge the shock in that statement, I’ll let you take that one for me.

Consensus: There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script, full of pretentious ideas and performances from a very talented cast that don’t add up to much, even while they’d probably work wonders in a way better, less preachy movie.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net