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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2005

On a Clear Day (2005)

Swim upstream. Or down. Depending on your mood.

After losing his job at a Glasgow shipyard that he’s been working at for quite some time, 50-year-old Frank (Peter Mullan) doesn’t really have much going on in his life. While his wife (Brenda Blethyn) is practicing to become a bus-driver and become the soul bread-maker of the family, Frank is looking anywhere he can for a job, that doesn’t just pay, but also get him out of this funk that he’s been in ever since a tragedy hit him and his family many, many years ago. That’s why, even though a casual remark is made by a buddy of his, Frank gets an idea: to swim the English Channel. While it’s rather outlandish and silly, Frank is determined enough to make the dream a reality and with the help of his closest friends and of course, his loving and supportive family, Frank sets forth on a training regimen that will help him achieve his goal. But that goal is a lot harder to achieve when you already have so much baggage on land, in the first place.

Peter Mullan, or David Beckham? Nope, definitely Peter Mullan.

On a Clear Day is such a cute, little adorable movie that it’s hard to really point out any faults about it. Of course, there are quite a few, but at the end of the picture, do any of them really matter? Because while the movie isn’t as deep as it wants to be, nor is it ever really as smart, either, On a Clear Day, when all is said and done, is charming, nice, and rather enjoyable. It’s the kind of movie that’s safe, inoffensive, and essentially, perfect for the whole family, in the same ways that Disney movies are, but instead of talking cartoons, it’s actual, real life human beings.

And instead of singing, everyone’s just yelling in heavy Scottish accents.

But there’s not much of a problem with a heavy accent – in fact, half of the charm of On a Clear Day is from where it takes place and the overall setting. It’s a calm, easy and rather lovely little place where everyone knows each other and is able to lend a helping hand. However, on the other side, it’s also a dark, sometimes muggy town that sees people losing jobs, day in and day out, and more immigration to the big cities, than ever.

So is it really all that happy and lovely? Not really, but that’s one of the many aspects On a Clear Day hints at with itself. It never gets as deep, or as dark, or as depressing as it wants to, which is sometimes okay, but other times, it does feel like it’s keeping itself away from being better and much more thought-provoking. Does that make it a bad movie? Not really, but it makes it one that had plenty of promise to go to some deep, heavy places, but instead, chose the safe way out.

“Oi, ladeys. Who’s swimmin?”

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that. At least most would be pleased.

But then again, it’s hard to be mad at a movie like On a Clear Day when the cast assembled are so wonderful and fun to watch, that at the end of it all, it’s almost like, “Aw, who cares?”. Peter Mullan has been one of the more dependable acts in film today and honestly, it’s no shock; he can play down-and-dirty when he wants, but he can also brighten things up and play charming. Here, he gets to do a little bit of both, although, without ever showing one side too much and it’s actually quite nice. He makes us feel and understand the sadness that exists within Frank’s life, while also showing some glimmers of hope throughout. It’s a slight performance on his radar, for sure, but it’s also a sign that the man knows what he’s doing.

Brenda Blethyn is quite charming, as usual, in the role as his wife. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see a whole lot more of her, other than trying to talk to Frank and, on occasion, getting into arguments with him about his life and their history together. A much smarter movie probably would have focused on how both of their lives are affected, but eh, so be it. Blethyn still gets a couple of opportunities to show why she’s great in these smart, yet very strong women roles and it goes without saying that I wish there was more of her now.

Maybe some day. On a clear day, perhaps?

Consensus: While slight, small and relatively safe, On a Clear Day is also quite a lovely movie that doesn’t go as deep as it should, but does have a charming cast to make up for its issues.

6 / 10

Hey, Michael Phelps had to start somewhere, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Icon Pictures

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King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

An Unfinished Life (2005)

Bears bring everyone closer together.

After she gets in another fight with her boyfriend (Damian Lewis), Jean (Jennifer Lopez) decides that it’s about that time to get her daughter and get the hell out of dodge. They do, however, without much of a destination in mind at all. This leads Jean to her father-in-law, Einar (Robert Redford), and his huge farm that he shares with his best buddy, Mitch (Morgan Freeman), who is paralyzed from getting mauled by a bear – the same bear who still roams the streets of this small town in Montana that everyone seems to love and adore. While Einar is accepting of Jean and his grand-daughter, eventually, old memories of his long, lost and deceased son begin to come back, making him fight more and more with Jean, and in a way, basically just resenting her. It’s something that Jean doesn’t appreciate, however, Einar’s relationship with her daughter is fine enough, so she decides to get a job in town, get her own place, and allow for Einar and his grand-daughter to catch up. Eventually though, the boyfriend comes back and wants Jean to come back home with him, or else.

I don't know who's more in love: Me, or them two?

I don’t know who’s more in love: Me, or them two?

An Unfinished Life is, essentially, a Hallmark movie-of-the-week, but it’s a good one that looks great, has a very solid cast, and yeah, is a little sweet and tender in the middle. Sure, it’s corny, sentimental, syrupy and as sappy as can be, but it’s the right kind of sap – the kind you put on pancakes if you’re feeling fun, or the kind you put up with because you’re in a good movie. And yes, being in a good movie could definitely help you appreciate An Unfinished Life a tiny bit more, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it has its charms.

Then again, it is a Lasse Hallström movie, so it’s easy to be a little weary of how far the charms go.

But what’s interesting about An Unfinished Life is that a lot of it, for a good portion or so, really seems to be rolling along, without much of a plot in the mix. There’s some talk about this boyfriend coming back, a bear roaming about the city, and heck, even some conflict between the estranged family-members, but that’s about it, really. Hallström approaches this movie, thankfully enough, with his indie-sensibilities, that aren’t too focused on the bigger, more emotional things that happen, and more in-tuned with human characters, their relationships with one another and whether or not we actually care about them when all is said and done.

And with a cast like this, it’s kind of hard not to. Robert Redford is basically doing Clint Eastwood here, growling and scowling every so often, seeming like a general grump, but he’s great at it; he’s such a class-act that the moments where he’s supposed to appear as this sort of cranky dude, don’t really register as such, because we’re too busy loving the hell out of him in the first place. His chemistry with Morgan Freeman, who is also quite great, makes the movie a tad bit more magical, because you can tell that there’s a real love and admiration between the two. Whether or not that’s how it was in real life, I do not know, but it certainly shows here in this movie and gives us probably the best old-guy bromance I’ve seen in quite some time.

That said, there are weak spots to be found and it’s what ultimately does carry An Unfinished Life down when it was constantly going up and up.

"Duuuuuuuuh."

“Duhhhhhhh.”

Oddly enough, Jennifer Lopez doesn’t quite seem like the perfect fit here as Jean; she’s supposed to be this lean, mean, down, out and gritty gal who doesn’t take any crap from anyone and is her own person, but she doesn’t quite work. Lopez is beautiful and it’s hard to really take her as someone that could be misconstrued as a “trailer gal”. Also, before Homeland snatched him up and Hollywood finally decided they knew what to do with him, Damian Lewis is here and shows that his American-accent wasn’t quite there just yet and definitely needed some time to improve, making his scenes here feel odd and out-of-place.

In fact, after about the first hour or so, the movie does start to roll with something resembling a plot and it’s what takes the movie down a whole bunch of notches. What was originally working as a slow, but thoughtful character-study of many different people who all have a little something in common, soon becomes a melodramatic, over-written, and convoluted tale of lies, deception, anger and violence.

In other words, a Hallmark movie-of-the-week.

Dammit.

Consensus: With a solid cast and some thoughtful direction, An Unfinished Life works better than it should, all up until the final-act and it sort of switches gears, losing any sort of steam it had going for itself.

6 / 10

Keep on dreaming of Sundance, Rob.

Keep on dreaming of Sundance, Bob.

Photos Courtesy of: Vinnieh

Thumbsucker (2005)

Sucking thumbs are bad, but what about binkies?

Justin (Lou Taylor Pucci) is going through the usual growing pains that many teens his age have gone through before him and will continue to do so after him. The only small difference is that whereas most teens get by on focusing on themselves and trying harder to get better, Justin does so by sucking his thumb. It’s an odd habit he has, that eventually, his parents get him on some medicine, in hopes that he’ll not just kick the thumb sucking, but also become more focused in school. Thankfully for them, what they wanted does happen; eventually, Justin stops sucking his thumb, starts up a relationship with a girl (Kelli Garner), gets better at school, and starts winning all sorts of championships with his debate team. But eventually, all of the medicine begins to pick-up with Justin and it isn’t before long that he starts to spiral out of control, hurt those that he loves, and realize that he needs to grow up a lot sooner, but on his own and without any medicine to help him out.

Cut it out, baby!

Cut it out, baby!

Does Thumbsucker sound like some sort of metaphor for coming-of-age, growing up and realizing that you’re not a little baby anymore? Pretty much, yeah. Writer/director Mike Mills crafts what is, essentially, the 500th quirky, indie coming-of-age flick from the mid-aughts and while this one’s a little different in terms of its style, unfortunately, the story is pretty much still the same.

But sometimes, some of the same is fine. With Thumbsucker, there’s a feeling of familiarity here, but not just with the material itself – Mills does something neat in that he does paint Justin’s issues with growing up and accepting the world around him, as almost a universal thing that all kids at that age go through. Some can handle it quite well and get by with flying colors, whereas others, like Justin, have a rough time with it, suck their thumbs, and need a daily dose of whatever medicine they’re prescribed to get by and through another day. In a way, I make Thumbsucker sound like a melodramatic piece of Lifetime-trash, but it’s a little smarter than that.

For one, it’s got a neat style, yo.

For any of those who have seen Beginners or the recent 20th Century Women, they’ll know that Mills has a knack for telling a story in his own way, visually. Sometimes, this can get in the way of the material, but here, it does help it out, especially since a lot of what the movie seems to be talking about and covering, is a little dry. It’s a conventional tale that without Mills’ constant bits and pieces of art thrown in there for good measure, would have just been another run-of-the-mill coming-of-ager, but of course, it’s got that going for it.

Where Mills seems to lose himself a tad bit is in the story department, and not really knowing how to compact everything and everyone so perfectly well. For instance, Justin’s story is the clear focal point of the whole movie, but then, Mills also veers his head towards Justin’s parents, played by Tilda Swinton and Vincent D’nofrio, and then to Keanu Reeves’ hippie-dentist character, and eventually a little to Garner’s Rebecca character. Vince Vaughn’s teacher does get a moment here and there, but not his own subplot.

For a movie that barely even hits 90 minutes, it’s surprising how jam-packed this can be with story and that ends up becoming its own worst enemy. While Justin’s story is more than enough to maintain the whole flick, all of these other stories, like with the parents and their battle with aging, fidelity and staying happy, while are admirable, still don’t matter much. It’s as if we got the story of Justin, only to get to the parents themselves, only for the movie to realize that we have to hear about Justin a lot, too. It’s a constant back-and-forth that just didn’t quite work for me and made it seem like Mills himself was figuring out exactly where to go with it all, too.

Pictured: Not True Detective season 2

Pictured: Not True Detective season 2

Then again, the ensemble he’s put together is something else, so that helps, too.

Though we don’t get to see too much of him nowadays, Lou Taylor Pucci was quite the young talent and proves it with Justin. Here, Pucci has to act really angsty and smart, which could have definitely been annoying, but because Pucci plays this Justin character as a bit of a wild and loose cannon, it actually works to his benefit. It’s actually fun to watch him interact with those around him, as opposed to sad or boring. Kelli Garner plays the eventual apple of his eye and they have a nice bit of chemistry together, which would make sense considering they were going out around the same time, too, but that’s neither here nor there.

On the supporting side, Vince Vaughn does a nice job dialing down his persona, yet, still staying funny and heartfelt. If anything, all of Vaughn’s various attempts at playing it straight don’t quite come off as good as it does here and should be the calling-card he uses for future reference. Keanu Reeves, while still totally playing in his element as a bro-ish kind of dude, is fun to watch. And as the parents, D’onofrio and Swinton are good, too, even if their story could have probably had its own movie. Benjamin Bratt is around for a scene or two, makes us laugh and most of all, makes us wish he was around more.

Don’t think I’ve ever said that before, but hey, it’s the truth.

Consensus: While a tad too quirky and overstuffed for its own good, Thumbsucker is still a familiar, but also heartwarming coming-of-ager, assisted by a very good ensemble.

6.5 / 10

Always listen to Keanu when it comes to bro-ing out. Always.

Always listen to Keanu when it comes to bro-ing out. Always.

Photos Courtesy of: Movie Roulette 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The galaxy is vast, wide, and apparently, very British.

Everyday British dude Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is currently battling a bunch of contractors who literally want to build a bypass right where his house is. He’s sad about it and constantly rebels in any way that he can, but when he’s not even thinking about it, he’s taken aside by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who informs him that not only he’s an alien, but that the two have barely a minute left to live on planet Earth, as it is set to be destroyed any time now. And well, that’s exactly what happens – Arthur and Ford are then left to roam about the galaxy, until they’re then picked up by a random ship, holding Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy, his kind of, sort of, quite possible girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who Arthur had feelings for initially, and Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman), who seems incredibly depressed about everything around it. Together, the group must face-off against the Vogons, aka, those who were familiar for destroying Earth in the first place and don’t seem to be done just yet.

It's okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

It’s okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a piece of cult pop-culture that’s survived as long as it has, based solely by the fact that people still don’t seem to understand it just yet and are still, as we speak at this moment, trying to make sense of all the crazy, madcap and wild adventures that the countless stories had to offer. That’s why a movie made of this source material is already troubling as is – especially when you’re working on such a big budget and have to, essentially, please not just the fanboys, but everyone else who may seem interested in seeing a madcap sci-fi flick for the hell of it. And it’s also why Garth Jennings, try as he might, just feels kind of lost here.

He gets some stuff right, but for the most part, Hitchhiker’s unfortunately seems like another case of where a lot of people had to be pleased and because of that, the movie itself ends up muddled, somewhat disjointed and yes, even messy.

Still though, there’s some joy and pleasure to be had in the messiness.

For one, Jennings does keep the movie moving at a fine, efficient pace, to where it feels like we’re getting a whole lot of story, but it’s always constantly going. The movie also doesn’t just focus on the one plot in particular, as there are some truly weird, yet humorous sidebars that come in, bring in a little flavor to the proceedings, and leave soon so that they don’t get in the way of the movie. While it may be a little close to two hours, surprisingly, the movie breezes by and may actually sneak up on you with how quick it’s going.

At the same time, though, being quick and swift doesn’t make your movie good, or even hide away all of the issues that may be troubling it in the first place. And if there’s a huge problem to be found with Hitchhiker’s, it’s that it’s just not as funny as it think it is. Sure, bits and pieces pop-up in this one adventure and on the side that could be considered “humorous”, but honestly, they don’t always connect; most of the time, it feels like the movie’s just trying to out-weird itself, throwing another wrench at the screen and seeing how they could go any further. A bit involving a character’s two-heads is supposed to be played for laughs and shocks, but is a gimmick that gets old real quick and honestly, doesn’t even seem like a joke, but just a character trait.

Yup. Just one of those days.

Yup. Just one of those days.

And it’s a shame, too, because there’s clearly a whole lot of ambition here coming from Jennings and everyone else, but the movie ends up being about its plot a lot, its odd sense of humor, its even odder sci-fi, and yet, not much else. It is, essentially, an adventure, for the sake of being an adventure, but we never get a clear understanding of anything that’s going on beforehand, so that when we’re told of what’s going to happen and what the clear goal of this mission is to be, it just doesn’t connect. The movie takes a whole lot of time to set-up its weird puns and sight-gags, but forgets to actually build a comprehensible plot that makes the whole adventure, well, feel like an actual adventure, that doubles as a ride we don’t ever want to get off.

But we kind of do, just so that it would chill out and take some more time with itself to figure things out.

The cast are really the ones who save it, as it seems like everyone came ready to play, for better or worse. Martin Freeman is, as usual, perfect as our every man; Mos Def fits in perfectly, showing his goofier side for once; Zooey Deschanel plays it as a ruler and it kind of works, although you’d sometimes wish she would just crack a smile or something; Sam Rockwell goes way overboard, even though that’s probably what was called on him in the first place, so it’s hard to make sense of whether or not it was a good idea; and the voices of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, and plenty of others all show up, adding a little bit of zaniness and fun to the overall proceedings, almost making us wish we got to actually see them here, as opposed to just hearing.

Because seeing is believing, as all sci-fi lovers know. And Catholics.

Consensus: Odd and goofy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has its own style of humor that doesn’t always connect, making the over-packed story feel even a little more straining to comprehend or keep up with.

5.5 / 10

What a gang. Now why weren't they more fun?

What a gang. Now why weren’t they more fun?

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Don’t be greedy, people. Or, make stuff up.

At one point in their existence, the Enron Corporation, was one of the most powerful around. They had so much money and so much control, that not only did they start to itch out into the oil business, but they even went so far as to attempt to partner-up with Blockbuster. Even if the later deal didn’t necessarily go through, still, Enron was more than capable of biting the bullet on at least one occasion because, well, they were so rich, that they could afford to make a little misstep, here and there. Or, that’s at least what the numbers represented. Somehow though, as Enron started growing more and more over the years, more and more people started raising speculation about how legitimate they were, as well as how honest and by-the-books their numbers were. Needless to say, the rest of the world soon figured out the shocking results of Enron and it wasn’t at all pretty.

EVIL!

EVIL!

Alex Gibney is such a tremendous director who, it seems anyway, has a new movie out every year, covering a new subject/topic. And it deserves to be noted that almost each and everyone is almost as good as the one that comes before it, so much so to the point that you almost want him to make a documentary about whatever is going on in the world. Donald Trump? Definitely! War? Yeah! The air? Why not!

And heck, while we’re at it, why not just talk about Enron?

This is all surprising to say too, but Enron was Gibney’s first flick and he made quite a mark with it. While the story itself is such a clear-cut and dry tail of a major, big-body corporation getting way too ahead of themselves and folding underneath their own negligence, Gibney somehow finds a way to make it all compelling and, well, entertaining. After all, a story that follows the rise and fall of a once very powerful corporation, is only as good as its pace and man, does this thing move or what?

Gibney throws a lot of information at us, not all of it is fully comprehensible to layman’s ear, however, he figures out how to make it matter and at least somewhat understandable in a way, that it almost doesn’t matter what certain definitions are, for certain words. All that matters is that you’re able to pinpoint exactly when Enron became a powerful force, and when exactly the seams started to show, and people we’re realizing that maybe, just maybe, they weren’t all that they’ve made themselves out to be.

Sadly, not many more came after this.

Sadly, not many more came after this.

And really, the best parts of Enron, the movie, aren’t when we’re watching the rest of the world be singlehandedly fooled by Enron, the company – although, yes, it’s hard not get swept up in all of the excitement and energy – it’s when we start to see Enron start to become a bit of a joke and people are losing all sorts of hope in them. You can call it “sad” for sure, but what Gibney does best is show that even when Enron was falling apart and everyone had practically turned their back on them, there’s still something interesting in watching a company try its hardest to stay alive, well and positive, even in the midst of all sorts of hatred and adversity directed towards them.

Doesn’t make them sympathetic in the least bit, but it certainly does make you think: When did everyone become so awful and mean in this company?

Throughout the flick, we get a good bunch of interviews with people who were once apart of Enron and we get to see their side of the story; while it’s perfectly easy to just automatically throw blame on everyone who was in the company, it’s also another thing to understand that maybe not everyone in the company, was in on the scheme that was occurring beneath their noses. That’s why, to see Gibney try his hardest to humanize these people – most of whom had no idea about what was going on – it’s admirable. He’s not trying to make us feel sorry for them, but he’s actually just showing us that there were people who were in this company and as loyal as they could be and guess what? They still got screwed over.

It’s your typical story of a corporation: You’re loved and adored one second, next, your hated. In Enron’s case, it’s obvious why everyone turned against them, but in that sense, it’s still kind of sad. While they are not forgiven of every wrongdoing they had ever committed, most of the people in the company lost their jobs, their fortune and their beach houses, but most of all, the idea that a corporation could literally pick itself up, make a name for itself, and do whatever it wanted, and be successful at it, was destroyed. Now, thanks to company’s like Enron, the American Dream was no more and the business world of America would no longer be the same.

Thanks, fellas.

Consensus: A typical rise-and-fall story, Enron is a perfect example of just how good Alex Gibney can be when he’s got the juice to make a compelling story, all the more exciting and engaging with certain angles to spin and show.

8.5 / 10

Enjoy the pose while it lasts, buddy.

Enjoy the pose while it lasts, buddy.

Photos Courtesy of: SBS, Jigsaw Prods, Reeling Reviews

Paradise Now (2005)

Walking around all day with a bomb strapped across your chest would probably already feel like death.

Lifelong friends, Said and Khaled (Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman) lead a normal life, working together in a garage and never discussing politics or religion. Having sometime ago volunteered to become suicide bombers they now learn that they’ve been chosen for the next mission and that it will begin in only 24 hours.

Being that this is a terribly touchy subject, not many people feel the need to even go out there and give this film a shot because it tries to humanize people who do terribly heinous things. Is there a problem with that? No, not really. But the problem would be to not give this film a chance it so rightfully deserves in my mind.

Director Hany Abu-Assad does something different with this type of subject material that will get in anybody’s mind because he does one thing that nobody ever wants to hear or see: Sympathy for suicide bombers. Now, don’t get me wrong, those people who strap bombs to their chest just so they can blow it up (along with themselves) in crowded areas full of soldiers, innocents, and civilians are not the people we should feel totally sorry for. But, this film does show us that these people are still human beings none the less, and they all have the same types of decisions and consequences that we have as well, it’s just different in a way.

"Are you ready? No pressure or anything?"

“Are you ready? No pressure or anything?”

That’s what’s interesting about Abu-Assad’s direction, as he paints a portrait of two kids that we don’t really think we would be able to stand in a film like this, yet, he somehow gets us to feel sympathy for them even when it seems like they have no remorse or no care for the pain they are about to cause. These kids don’t really know what they’re about to do, until it finally comes up and then they are sort of left wondering just what the hell they wanted to do in the first place. We see that these two guys believe in violence for freedom, but then, that starts to change once they wonder that maybe, just maybe, all of the problems that these two sides are fighting about, could be resolved in many other, different ways rather than just going around and blowing yourselves up. It provides a lot of food for thought as it makes you see why these kids think the way they do in the first place, and then why they all of a sudden start to change their minds once they are actually confronted with the idea of death staring them right in the face.

You would think that a film that seems so pro-Palestinian would almost be unwatchable, especially if you’re an American, but that’s not really the case. The movie isn’t “pro” or “anti”, it’s just “human”. It takes the life of these humans first and foremost, beyond anything else resembling politics or institutions. The movie itself doesn’t seem to have a problem asking us the hard questions and allowing for there to be actual answers left in the air. It’s risky film-making, especially for subject material as troubling as this, but it works all the same.

Why more film-makers can’t bother to do this is beyond me.

"Can't breathe? Eh, well it's okay."

“Can’t breathe? Eh, well it’s okay.”

Perhaps where this film really falters is in it’s writing that sometimes comes off as very smart and insightful, but also seems a bit too dramatic. There are moments that occur in the latter half of the film, where certain characters start to break into long montages that don’t really seem like they would happen in real life, regardless of the situation. There’s one point where a character is literally just sitting down, starts talking about his dad, goes on about his childhood, and somehow ends up circling it all around to what he thinks is right and what he thinks is wrong about Palestine. It could have been a great and very memorable scene had it actually rang a true note at all.

But other than that, the rest of the film is quite fine. The most powerful aspect of this movie are the two performances given by Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman who both play the friends that have to go through with this whole suicide bombing. Both performances keep you on the edge of your seat because they both show you a lot about how they are, how they change, and what they may, or may not do next. There’s a great amount integrity to them that makes them seem like guys who really want to do this and believe in what they are doing, but then they all of a sudden start to have reservations and you see a bit of an innocent, scared side to them as you would probably see through any human being put in the same situation as them. They are both perfect together, and have a nice chemistry that feels like they’ve been life-long buds and it’s heart-breaking to think that these guys have all lived their lives together and are planning to end their lives that way as well, except they’re under a lot darker stipulations now.

Consensus: Paradise Now may be a difficult film, in terms of subject material, as well as presentation, but it gets by on the heart and humanity of its script, and emotional performances from its two leads.

8.5 / 10

"You see this place, man. One day, it's going to be all ours to blow up."

“You see this place, man. One day, it’s going to be all ours to blow up.”

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Escapist, Little Daya

Nine Lives (2005)

Due to the cosmos in the sky, me and some dude from Iowa share the same feelings for bleach? Right?

You know how a cat apparently has nine lives, well, so do women! Well, not actually, but the movie gives us nine stories, all surrounding a woman going through something in her day-to-day life, whether it be at the grocery store, the federal prison, her childhood home, her friend’s newly-acquired apartment, an ex-husband’s wife’s funeral, or so on and so forth. But somehow, in someway, each and every story is connected, rather it be through a character or some event that occurs.

Writer/director Rodrigo Garcia takes what could be a really ordinary, if sad, movie and gives it a little artistic twist by having each and every story filmed in one, single shot. It’s nothing fancy, glitzy, or shiny – just one shot as we watch everything’s that happening in front of our eyes. And yeah, it works. It may seem like a gimmick, but surprisingly, it’s one that ends up working out for the best of the stories, because it makes us feel like flies-on-the-walls, seeing what happens next.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that's ready to argue and fight about who's to blame for their falling-out before they hit college.

On aisle three, we have a reuniting-couple that’s ready to argue and fight about who’s to blame for their falling-out before they started college. Possible clean-up needed.

But with like I said, this is an anthology film and with most anthology films, not all the stories work as well as others. Does that make the whole movie bad? Nope, just a tad uneven and it causes a whole bunch of problems when your movie seems to have some great bits, thrown into a not totally cohesive whole.

And if anything, Garcia wants us to know that, the lesson of the story here is that, well, everyone is connected in some way, shape, or form. We just may not know it.

The movie blatantly points this out about once or twice, in two, different ways, which I didn’t mind because it was where the movie was supposed to be getting at, but then, it starts gets obvious. There comes a point in this movie where two characters are literally walking outside, looking up at the sky, and say how they are all connected through the stars and planets in the sky and in our universe. Whatever the hell that means, I’ll never know (especially when I’m sober), but it seems like the movie wanted us to believe that. Many movies movies like Short Cuts and Magnolia have said this before and it’s nothing new, or original – it just makes you seem like you’ve had a tad too much to drink and smoke.

But the central theme can be pushed to the side when you look at the solid cast, all of whom are fine, but with some being a whole lot better than others, solely depending on the stories they have to work with. The opening sequence with Elpida Carrillo as a prisoner who wants to talk with her daughter had all of the right ingredients to make a satisfying, start-off for what was to come, but instead, it seemed almost too much and melodramatic for the sake of being so. Carrillo also isn’t a strong enough actress to really pull this role off and makes it seem like she’s over-acting, even if she might be playing it genuine and raw. I wouldn’t know, because her performance wasn’t all that good.

But thankfully, it gets better. A whole lot better, in fact.

The best segment out of the whole movie, which also featured the best performances were Robin Wright (drop the Penn) and Jason Isaacs as two old flames, who finally meet up in a super market after all of these years. Both are amazing stars and can work material like this till the day they die, but what’s so good about this segment is how each performer shows something more insightful with their character, even as the seconds go by. Even more impressive too, when you take into consideration that just about every segment lasts under ten minutes or less. It’s strange how awkward it starts off, but ends on a happy, heartwarming note that may surprise some people by honest and real it feels.

"Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness."

“Please, come in and soak in our despair and unhappiness.”

Then, the next couple of stories are just okay, if a bit too dry for my sake. The story in which Lisa Gay Hamilton comes back to talk with a possible, sexually-abusive father is compelling, until she starts crying and over-doing it. After this, we see another story with a warmed-up lover in Holly Hunter, and the cold, cynical type of dude in Stephen Dillane as they go to meet old friends and what starts out pretty light and fluffy, becomes very dark and mean, but not in a good way. It’s odd how it transitions almost out of nowhere, which was too glaring to put aside, no matter how good the performances in the little segment were.

For all of you people who watched The Help, and thought that you needed more Sissy Spacek, well, no need to fear. She’s in both stories as a philandering wife of a paraplegic, played by the wonderfully amusing Ian McShane. Both stories are weak and just aren’t interesting, despite her being one of the greatest female actresses working today. But hell half no fear when the adorable, but sassy Kathy Baker comes to town as a woman who is in the stages of getting a mastectomy and takes all of her pain, frustration, and nervousness out on her husband. Baker is a pleasant to watch, because she’s always funny when she’s bitching and yelling at somebody, but the dynamic she shares with Joe Mantegna, who plays her hubby, makes it seem like a real life, married-couple, who really do loveone other and will be there with one another through thick and thin.

Really nice and sweet to see, especially in a movie that hasn’t been so light or hopeful in the first place.

The next sequence of the movie is probably the runner-up for the strongest sequence, with Amy Brenneman as a woman who goes to the funeral of her ex-husband’s wife, which may sound strange and all, but works because of that. Still, no matter how bizarre it may be for this gal to show up to her ex-hubby’s wife’s funeral, there’s still something sweet and endearing beneath it all that leaves you with a happy feeling in the pit of your stomach, rather than an empty one. Lastly, the movie ends with Glenn Close playing the mother of a little girl, played by Dakota Fanning, and is good, if a little weird because of the way it’s structured. However, the movie shows us why it was structured the way it is, despite it not fully working out to the best of its advantage.

Sort of like the rest of the movie, if you think about it.

Consensus: Certain stories work, whereas others don’t in Nine Lives, despite a well-acted ensemble and powerful moments of bleakness, but also sincerity as well. Still, how many movies can there be where it tries to tell us that every person on the face of this planet is connected, and doesn’t try to mention it at least more than two times?

6.5 / 10

Those eyes. THOSE EYES!!

Those eyes, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.com.au

Unleashed (2005)

Don’t make Jet Li angry. You won’t like Jet Li when he’s angry.

Danny (Jet Li) is a man-child who has been treated, raised, and brought up as a dog by his owner, Bart (Bob Hoskins). Bart has had Danny in his care since he was a little boy, which means that everything Bart tells Danny to do, he does, without any back-talk or adversity. But mostly what Bart tells and has Danny do, is to kill people whenever he needs some people to wiped-out, whether for money, or just for the heck of it. And to ensure that Danny stays in line, Bart’s installed this collar onto Danny’s neck that, whenever it’s on, means that Danny will stay relaxed and calm, but whenever it comes off, it means that it’s time for Danny to start killing anyone in his sight. Obviously, this is no way for a human being to live, which Danny sort of knows, which is why when he gets a chance to run away from Bart and the rest of his mob, he ends up in the arms of Sam (Morgan Freeman), an older, but kind blind man who wants to teach Danny the ways about the real world around him and how to live like any other normal person would. But too often does it become clear that Danny’s past will come back to hunt him, as well as Sam.

If Mario owns you, then just give up.

If Mario owns you, then just give up.

Jet Li is, in no way, an actor to take very seriously. Sure, he kicks a lot of butt, flies around, and generally seems to be the kind of cat you don’t want to mess with in everything he shows up in, but to be honest, his acting-skills are, for the most part, weak. Then again, that’s fine because it’s not as if you call up Jet Li to deliver your insightful, heartwarming tale about love and loss. No, instead, you call him up to participate in your live wire, fun, exciting, and booty-kicking kung-fu film where he may have to drop the occasional line of dialogue here or there, but really, you, nor the movie, are fully depending on him for that reason and that reason alone.

In a way, though, Unleashed sort of changes that.

While Li doesn’t have to do much of any heavy-lifting with his character of Danny here, the movie still depends on his presence a bit to give us this sad and frightened little creature of a man who, at the same time, can still kill each and every person in a room if he was demanded to. There’s plenty of the movie that focuses in on his background and his relationship with his owner-of-sorts, Bart, but Li himself still seems capable enough of making us believe in this character, even if his origins seem a little silly and far-fetched.

Does it really matter if he still trips up on his English a bit? Nope, not really. All that matters is that we get to see this Danny character as, well, a human being. Not just because a good portion of the movie is focusing on him and his constant interactions with the world around him, as well as other people, but because it adds a certain level of tension and emotion to the fighting sequences that, as you could predict with this being a Li movie, to transpire. But don’t be fooled – just because they’re fighting sequences in a Jet Li movie, means that they’re mindless and crazy. Okay, yeah, they’re definitely crazy, but there’s also that feeling surrounding these fighting sequences that makes us feel sad for Danny, the character, because we know he doesn’t want to fight, or kill anyone, but it’s the only thing he knows to do.

In a way, Unleashed is a very corny movie.

Jet's always had style.

Jet’s always had style.

However, it’s also a very fun one that, when it chooses to, takes some time away from all of the bloody, chaotic violence to develop its characters, as thin as they may be. This is to say that, yes, Li does a serviceable job here as Danny, but it also helps that he has the likes of Morgan Freeman, Kerry Condon, and Bob Hoskins surrounding him, always there to lend a helping hand to a scene if one calls for it. Freeman’s older, wiser character who seems to genuinely have a good heart, fits in well with the rest of the gritty atmosphere of the movie; Kerry Condon’s teenager character may be overly perky, but she’s never really annoying and instead, feels much more like an actual kid who is just happy to have a person to talk to; and Bob Hoskins, as usual, is mean, vicious and constantly chewing up the scenery. However, it’s the right kind of scenery-chewing where you know how far, is “too far”, and he also knows just how willing he’s able to sink deep into his character, without ever losing his sense of control.

And that’s basically all you have it with Unleashed: Four people, one story. Because of that, the movie can tend to feel a lot shorter than it actually is (100 minutes, to be exact), but personally, I have no problem with that. I’ll take a fun, but thoughtful movie any time of the week that’s neither too long, or too short. Sometimes, when something is just slap dab in the middle and just right, then that’s okay with me. The movie itself may think it’s something more meaningful and life-changing than just a fun kung-fu movie starring Jet Li, but at the end of the day, it’s the fighting sequences and the high-flying Li himself who are probably the most memorable, whether director Louis Leterrier or writer Luc Besson would like to admit or not.

Oh, and the late, great Bob Hoskins, too. Can’t forget about that mean S.O.B.

Consensus: A bit deeper than most Jet Li vehicles, Unleashed finds the famous kung-fu star digging deeper into his acting persona, to make for a far more entertaining action-thriller.

7 / 10

A conversation between two people that I thought I'd never see.

A conversation between two people that I thought I’d never see.

Photos Courtesy of: Martial Arts Action Movies.com, Pluggedin.com, Screwattack.com

Tsotsi (2005)

Babies bring out the best in people. Even heartened thugs.

Tsotsi (Presley Chweneyagae), another name for “thug”, is a South African hoodlum who lives a pretty rough life on the street where he constantly gets by on a code of violence, robbery, and in some cases, murder. Though Tsotsi and his gang of gangster buddies are quite known around their parks for being the kinds of guys you don’t want to be caught alone in an alleyway with, so far, they’ve been making good, hustling through the streets, which is why it’s almost no surprise that everyone they meet is absolutely afraid of them. However, late one night, after casually shooting a woman and stealing her car, Tsotsi discovers a baby in the back-seat. Having no clue what to do with it, he decides to take it home and care for it the best that he can. While he doesn’t know the slightest thing about reasonable childcare, he still finds the best ways imaginable, and in the process, learns more about himself and his own humanity as well. Then again, there is the fact that, at the end of the day, he’s still a criminal – one who, mind you, is being searched for slowly, but surely for the crime he has committed.

Uh. Yeah, I'll take the next.

Uh. Yeah, I’ll take the next.

Tsotsi won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar back in 2006, and while it may not have definitely been deserving of it (my choice would have been either Paradise Now or Sophie Scholl), there’s still something to see in that it presents a story that we’ve seen, time and time again, and give it a bit of a spin. Writer/director Gavin Hood takes what is essentially a redemption tale, but pack it with all sorts of grit, violence, and crime, that you hardly notice the heart it apparently has. In the first half-hour, actually, we see the title character himself, not just help kill one person, but intentionally injure two others, and do it all while seeming as if he has no problem for that. It’s actually quite shocking and disturbing to watch a character do and act this way, without any remorse whatsoever.

However, that’s why Hood’s portrayal of this Johannesburg ghetto is actually engaging.

We hardly ever do see movies about characters like these ones; the low-life’s, the scumbags, the crooks, the ones we’d much rather not focus on when we think of the society/world we live in. But the fact is that these sorts of people do exist and whether or not we want to admit, they are human beings and not only do they have all sorts of feelings, but they too have backstories that make them who they are today, whether it be peaceful citizens, or the same old evil-doers. That’s why Hood’s direction of where he takes this story, despite not being all that surprising, still works because it gives greater focus on the kinds of character that most movies shy away from, or afraid of ever trying to humanize.

Hood isn’t scared, and because of that, Tsotsi’s situation, while a tad contrived, still tugs at plenty of heartstrings. Most of this has to do with the fact that Presley Chweneyagae is so good in the role, that he feels like an absolute natural. While he has the perfect pissed-off face for the kind of bad person that Tsotsi is made out to be in the first-half, he also finds a way to make himself seem believable as a kind-loving, understandable human being. Sure, it takes him a bit longer to get in the swing of doing the right thing, but for the most part, the transition he goes through is believable, if not just because of the characterization we get from Hood’s screenplay, but because Chweneyagae himself feels like he fully becomes this character. We can hate him one second for doing something absolutely immoral and vile, while the next scene, find a way to reach out and sympathize with him, for doing something that isn’t just humane, but nice.

So rarely do we get these kinds of frustratingly compelling characters who, despite not always making the best decisions, still feel like real human beings we could meet on the street.

Where's Maury at?!?

Where’s Maury at?!?

And sure, while you wouldn’t want to meet a character like Tsotsi, or any others like him, on the streets, he’s still one that’s easy to believe in and not just a film-maker’s idea of what “a-bad-guy-turned-good-guy” is. Which is why when we do get all of the flashbacks and peers into Tsotsi’s life growing up, it really does help us see this character for all that he is; we may not like all of the decisions he’s made as an older person, but we still get a clear idea of where all those bad decisions came from. Hood isn’t forcing us to like this character, but it’s still pretty hard not to want to give him a hug.

As for the rest of Tsotsi, like I said, it’s pretty conventional stuff. Everything concerning the baby-kidnapping case itself seems a bit silly and almost like an afterthought. While it would have been incredibly controversial for Tsotsi to just get rid of the baby as soon as he found it was in his possession (because therefore, we’d have no movie), the movie also puts itself into a corner of not knowing how to resolve its conflict, or most importantly, come to an end. So therefore, we get this half-baked cliff-hanger that leaves more questions in the air, rather than it actually does answering. Sure, we get an idea of where certain character’s lives may go to after the movie is over, but there’s a still feeling that maybe Hood had one or two more scenes planned, and decided to just end it when he felt like he found the right bow to tie it all up.

Problem is, it isn’t the right bow and it’s not tied together perfectly.

Didn’t matter to the Academy, though, so who cares what I have to say!

Consensus: Despite taking on a slightly conventional path, Tsotsi still feels raw and insightful enough of a crime-drama to paint a clear picture of its protagonist and the other characters movies far too often shy away from.

7 / 10

Babies bring out the humanity in anybody!

Babies bring out the humanity in anybody!

Photos Courtesy of: Live Journal, Pop Matters, Mubi

The Island (2005)

Everyone’s afraid of dying. Or looking ugly, too, apparently.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) seems to be living the full and complete life that every person on the face of planet should be. Not only does he have a nice job, but keeps a steady diet, has a good amount of friends, a rather exciting night-life, and seems to be getting closer and closer to his goal of reaching “the Island”. “The Island”, for those who don’t know, is a vacation resort of sorts for those workers who show the best performance and are definitely deserving of being given some sort of gift. Issue is, “the Island” isn’t actually what it appears to be – cause, for one, there actually isn’t an Island. Instead, it’s just a lie that’s just told to Lincoln, as well as all of his other fellow friends and confidantes who live with him in this community of sorts. And once Lincoln becomes wiser to what’s actually going, he grabs his best, perhaps closest, friend from the community, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and sets out to discover the truth of what’s really going on and figure out why so many people are after him and trying to kill him. The answers to his questions aren’t what he wants, or expects, but still, questions he has to live with and make something of.

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

For awhile, the Island is actually a pretty solid sci-fi flick. Sure, you could definitely make the case that it’s just ripping-off almost every sci-fi flick to have come out in the past few decades that also have to do with clones ( mainly Logan’s Run), but really, it’s hard to hate the movie for actually setting something interesting up. Even though to us, the audience, we know that each and everyone of these characters are just literal clones in this huge machine that doesn’t care one lick about them, seeing how they figure it all out, react to it, and find themselves getting out of and away from said machine is, believe it or not, compelling and exciting. There’s still a few plot-holes and silly moments here and there, but overall, the Island‘s first-half finds Michael Bay taking a backseat to his idiosyncratic tendencies and just allowing for the story to tell itself.

But then, as expected, it all goes to hell once Bay realizes that he’s making this movie and can do whatever he wants.

This means that, yes, there’s a whole lot of explosions, gunshots, cars flipping over for no reason, people yelling, carnage, and most of all, product placement. None of which are actually ever exciting, fun, interesting, compelling, or feel pertinent to the story; instead, they just feel like Michael Bay taking over the wheel and going crazy because, well, he can and who is going to stop him. After all, he’s the commander of his own ship, so why should he have to listen to others when they tell him that he may want to tone it down a bit on the general havoc his movies seem to wreak?

They wouldn’t because they’d be out of a job, that’s why!

Two Obi-Wan's? Look out, Ani!

Two Obi-Wan’s? Look out, Ani!

However, it should be noted that there is at least something of a thoughtful movie tucked deep down inside of the Island, which makes it slightly better than some of Bay’s worst, but not really. The idea of these clones having hardly any life or humanity for that matter, but yet, still feeling and expressing as if they were just like humans, is a neat anecdote that, once again, has already been touched on before in sci-fi, but here, still feels like it could make the story more than just another sci-fi blow-em-up, courtesy of Michael Bay. This especially comes into play during the later-act, when Lincoln wonders what it is about his existence that he wants to save, nor why it is that he cares so much about anything at all; somewhere, the movie’s crying out desperately to be hear and understood, but it’s not getting the right guidance from Bay and it creates a jumble of a movie that wants to be two different things, but ultimately, ends up becoming one thing – which is another hectic piece of action that only Bay can produce.

And like is the case with most of Bay’s movies, the Island features some very talented people, doing some not-so very good things with their time. However, if anything, it shows that Ewan McGregor is still a very good leading-man in an action film, even if the material isn’t always there for him. Sure, he’s charming and slightly cool, but he’s also likable and seems like a genuinely smart creation that, may not have the fullest idea of what’s going on, but is at least going to take some sort of initiative to figure something out and not just stand around all day, being dirty, yet, still looking pretty. As his romantic love-interest, Scarlett Johansson does what she can here with such a limited-role, but because she’s in a Michael Bay movie, she’s mostly used to look hot, run around, and get kissed by the sexy male lead.

Obviously, Johansson has more to do with her time nowadays, but still, it’s a tad disappointing knowing what we all know about what she’s capable of doing.

And yeah, the rest of the cast, like Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Djimon Hounsou all show up and try to add a little something more to the proceedings, but really, they’re just around to deliver corny lines and that’s it. Bay doesn’t really care about them, nor does he really want to give any of them enough efficient things to do with their time – he just wants to see stuff blow up and people kiss.

Which is basically Michael Bay’s career in a nutshell.

Consensus: Despite a strong start, the Island soon turns into another one of Michael Bay’s crazy, overstuffed action pics that, once again, wastes the talent of everyone involved, most importantly, a smarter script that may be lying somewhere out there.

3.5 / 10

Just die already so we know it's the end of the movie.

Just die already so we know it’s the end of the movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

SithposterBlack, is always better.

It’s now been nearly three years after start of the Clone Wars and, well, a lot has changed. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) not only has long hair now, but is also married and expecting twins with Padme. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is more scruffier than ever and is starting to notice something strange with Anakin. While he’s happy that his student has now become more powerful and skilled than he ever was before, he’s also realizing that there’s a bit of a rebellious streak in Anakin that doesn’t put him in the good graces with the fellow Jedis around him like Windu, or most importantly, Yoda. Still, despite all of this, the two now spend most of their time here hunting down the leaders of the Separatist Army across the galaxy. Because while they do have plenty of power with the Clone Army and band of Jedis, they still have to worry about the opposing forces as Chancellor Palpatine is now plotting to take over senate and reclaim galactic rule for the Sith. What makes him all the more sinister is that he’s looking to do so with the help of a new padawan of his own choosing – one of whom, if he has his way, may be Anakin.

Nobody's fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

Nobody’s fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

So, finally. After wading through the other two disappointing prequels, we now get to the one that matters the most: Anakin turning to the dark side. And yes, for the most part, Revenge of the Sith is most definitely the best of the other prequels. Is that saying much to begin with? No, not really. But hey, it’s saying something that makes this movie not just an enjoyable watch, but also a pretty heartfelt one, too, for old and new fans alike.

For one, this is the installment where we see Anakin finally turn the other cheek and realize there’s a lot of evil inside of him. While the reasoning for him turning into a baddie and to start killing younglings, isn’t fully realized and more of just a, “Hey, people aren’t being nice to me, so it’s time to fight back”, but it still works in a way; we know to expect it, so when he does start going off onto the dark side, it’s neat and interesting to watch. While Christensen’s acting is, once again, a bit over-the-top and crummy, the good side of it all is that we’re not supposed to like or care for him this time – we’re supposed to dislike and hate him, so it actually works in Christensen’s favor.

For better or worse, I guess.

But what works best here is that George Lucas really seems invested in what this story will become and because of that, the action-sequences have another added element of drama and suspense that was hardly found in the other two prequels. We don’t know if Mace Windu is anywhere out there in the galaxy for the original trilogy, so when he starts to have a duel with Senator Palpatine, it’s not only exciting, but quite scary; we care for Windu and we actually want him to survive.

Same goes for that amazing, ultimately epic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Not only is it one of the best of the entire franchise (which is including the original franchise), but it also does a lot in that it tells us more about these characters through the way they battle one another. Anakin will occasionally get ahead of himself and miss a move or two, whereas Obi-Wan’s every move is as calculated as ever and ready for what’s next to come. Then again, he’s getting a lot older, so he can’t always handle Anakin’s energy, which is why, when watching the battle unfold, we wonder if Obi-Wan’s going to make a wrong step or two, and bite the dust. As I said, we know what to expect with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the later trilogy, but still, Lucas does something special here in that he keeps us expecting the unexpected.

Still though, the same issues with Revenge of the Sith, have been around for the past two installments. The script’s still pretty lame and filled with all sorts of silly lines that seem as if they came out of an episode of Young and the Restless; Padme’s and Anakin’s love story, once again, doesn’t breathe a single fresh air of truth and just continues to get more and more hackneyed as it goes along; and yeah, Palpatine himself, as played by Ian McDiarmid, gets way campy, way too quick. Thing is, though, it’s easy to push a lot of these issues to the side and just focus on the fact that, you know what, the movie’s actually pretty fun and emotional.

Yoda's still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

Yoda’s still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

And “emotional” is, honestly, not something we’d come to expect with these new installments, but like I said, Lucas does something here that works and helps this movie hit a lot harder than it should.

For example, that whole sequence in which the Clones initiate “Order 66”? Yeah, some pretty rough stuff to sit back, watch and not at all relax, too. What about the aforementioned scene of the murder of those younglings? Ten years later and you know what? That scene is still incredibly screwed-up. Even the scene when Anakin goes around the switchboard room of that Lava world and kills just about every bad person from the previous installments? Yeah, that’s a little hard to watch, too. Here, it seems like Lucas finally gave into his darker, more adult side and let everyone in this story, have it. He doesn’t hold back on hardly a single person and really, it’s actually quite brutal to watch.

To me, that’s perhaps the most impressive aspect surrounding this movie and while it does make me wish that the rest of the other flicks were just like it, I still can’t help but feel pleased that Lucas didn’t end on a terribly weak-note. Of course, people will get on the movie for trying to tarnish the legacy of the originals and not be anything more than just a bunch of obvious and manipulative cash-grabs, but personally, it’s nice to see these stories told. Could they have been done so with a better director and writer on-hand? Of course they could have! But Lucas gave it his all and while, at first, it didn’t hold, he eventually got the hang of things and it’s nice to see.

Now, it’s time for the original trilogy and oh boy, can’t wait.

Consensus: Revenge of the Sith is the best installment of the prequels, which may not be saying much at all, but does show that Lucas eventually got the hang of everything that he was doing and decided to remind his audience that this story was going to get a whole lot darker and more serious as it went along. Which, thankfully, it did.

8 / 10

See? Look! They're all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

See? Look! They’re all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Kinky Boots (2005)

I don’t care what gay men say, but Crocs are amazing.

With the sudden death of his father, it’s all up to Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton) to take over the reigns of his family’s traditional, Northampton shoe business called Price and Sons. But unbeknownst to the rest of the loyal staff, the factory is on the verge of bankruptcy. Charlie, in a chance encounter, discovers sassy cabaret star, Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who’s Soho world of outrageous fashion and stylish, erotic boots for men, opens his eyes to an alien new niche market that he may try to exploit to keep his family’s company alive and well.

Don't judge a book by its cover. 'Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Don’t judge a book by its cover. ‘Cause Chiwetel Ejiofor looks pretty good in that leather!

Pretty much I could just review this movie in one word, and that one word would probably just be: Formulaic. Seriously, every scene, every character-detail, every frame, every-line, every anything that happens in this movie, is obvious, predictable, and nothing new that you haven’t seen before. However, being “formulaic” doesn’t always mean “terrible”, especially when your movie has a bunch of dudes in stilettos and make-up, dancing and prancing around to all sorts of funky disco hits.

Which is basically Kinky Boots: All formula, but with enough flashy eye-shadow to keep you somewhat distracted.

But before I go on any longer, I might as well and just get it off my chest now and say that if it wasn’t for Chiwetel Ejiofor being in this movie, then there would have been little to nothing at all to talk about here at all. However, because he is in this movie and takes over the role of Lola, the movie is a lot more watchable and entertaining to watch. Ejiofor is one, diverse dude in terms of acting; the guy can, and probably has, played it all and he shows here that he’s not just a guy people take too seriously and all, because he can actually do comedy, and do it so well. It also helps that the character he’s playing, is also written well, too.

Lola is such a fun, lighthearted character that looks at anything everything around him in a way that’s pretty obvious when you take into consideration all of the other LGBT characters out there in movies, but Ejiofor does a great job with it and definitely kept me interested in where he was going with this character. There’s more heart to him as well, and even though it does seem obvious to have in a movie like this, Ejiofor actually makes us believe it’s true and have it come off as a bit less manipulative than you would expect.

Basically, in a nutshell: Ejiofor makes this movie better, everytime that he shows up on the screen and really, I wish there were more of him to go around.

Joel Edgerton ain’t so shabby either as Charlie Price, but definitely gets the far more boring character here. Nowadays, watching Edgerton appear in anything, adds a certain level of excitement as he seems to constantly challenge himself as an actor and have us see him in new, interesting lights. Here, as Charlie, he doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch his wings, and because of that, the performance comes off like a bit of a disappointment. Thankfully, the times have changed and Edgerton is taking over the world of Hollywood, one great performance at a time.

But still, it’s hard to really like this movie anymore because it’s just so darn cliché! But it’s also so darn cliché in that it begins to feel safe.

Gosh. What I wouldn't do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

Gosh. What I wouldn’t do to see these two in a movie nowadays, and away from this.

For example, the movie contains plenty of men, dressed in drag, with make-up, wearing stilettos, having fake breasts, and dancing to awful covers of famous disco songs from yesteryear. This all sounds like a relatively naughty, but frothy good time, but Kinky Boots still tries to keep it all well-meaning enough so that it can hold on to that PG-13 rating it’s been luckily slapped with. There’s a part of me that wants to feel proud of the MPAA for not jumping down this movie’s throat due to it featuring LGBT characters and slapping it with an unnecessary R-rating.

Then again, the fact that the movie is, at the center, very safe, also feels like it’s keeping itself away from achieving any sort of greatness it should have had in the first place. Sure, we get to see Lola for what the character is, but really, it can often feel like surface-material; just enough focus so that the general, predominately straight audience doesn’t get too uncomfortable when there’s a full-grown, masculine man trumping around on heels, singing Olivia Newton-John. I’m most definitely thinking about this a lot harder than I should, but for some reason, my mind just can’t get by this fact and it’s what’s keeping me from loving this movie more.

However, I did love the Broadway show. So much fun! So yeah, see that instead.

I guess.

Consensus: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s spirited performance is just enough to save Kinky Boots from staying stuck in its pile of conventionality, where almost everything you expect to happens, happens, except this time, it’s with more gay people.

6 / 10

It doesn't matter who's wearing the shoes - if they look nice and sexy, then that's all that matters.

It doesn’t matter who’s wearing the shoes – if they look nice and sexy, then that’s all that matters.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Sahara (2005)

Being in the desert is hot enough, but having Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz together might make things melt.

Master explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his goofy sidekick, Al Giordino (Steve Zahn), are two dudes that have known, explored, and been through everything else in the world together. However, this next mission they’ve come upon, may be their hardest one yet, and it gets even worse once a doctor, Eva Rojas (Penélope Cruz), climbs aboard for the ride to find a fabled coin linked to a historical legend, as well as stop the African waters from being poisoned by corrupt government-officers. But for Pitt and Giordino, it’s all fun and games, and just another chance for a wild adventure.

Here’s one of those movies that will always remain in infamy, but not for the reason those behind it may have wished for. The movie debuted nearly a decade ago and did pretty well. It debuted at #1, got an audience, and had McConaughey and Cruz back on top of the action-adventure world like they wished, but here’s the strange kicker: It still lost money. In fact, it lost a crazy ton of movie.

See, even though it was leading the box office, it grossed only a bit over $16 million, which is fine for most movies. Then again, most movies don’t cost around $160 million to make, meaning that this movie was a total bomb in every sense of the word. Hell, even to this day, it still hasn’t made all of it’s budget back and whenever you have a movie like that, you have to wonder: Did it really deserve all of those problems?

Well, in this movie’s case, I’d say, “maybe”.

Then again, that’s not to say that the movie is all that bad to begin with, it just tries so damn hard to be something else, without ever being anything at all. A bit confused? Well, let me sort of explain it. Despite never reading the novels that this movie is adapting, from what it seems, there’s a fine mixture of James Bond’s tricks and gadgets, with the wit and swash-buckling adventure of Indiana Jones. That sounds like a pretty damn awesome combination, especially when you have a cast like this, but somehow, it all got lost somewhere in the fold. It wasn’t that the movie totally got rid of this cool combination, but instead, didn’t know which one to side with the most.

Instead of having all of the non-stop fun and action, the movie decides to focus in on a plot that not only makes barely any sense once it goes on and on, but also preaches a bit too much. Yes, polluted water in poor countries like Africa is no joke, and not something that should be batted-away as if it doesn’t happen, however, the movie focuses on it too much, to the point of where the fun of the movie seems to go away. Then, you get to the humor of the movie, which has some fun jokes here and there, but in all, seemed strange and oddly-placed. It wasn’t like the humor wasn’t supposed to be in the movie, it just did not come at the right times and moments.

Put those two elements together, you have a movie that doesn’t really know what to do with itself, so instead, just focuses in on the action and the hot bodies and looks of Cruz and McConaughey. And yes, the action is fun, and yes, the bods are hot and sexy (much like the desert they spend most of their time causing havoc in), but it doesn’t amount to much more other than a movie that aspires so hard to be something, that it’s too noticeable to take in as a piece of legitimacy. I know I may sound a bit too serious for a movie like this, but if I wanted to see Indiana Jones, I would just watch all three (except that last one) in one day. I don’t really care to see a carbon-copy of it, which not only tries to capture the same charm and humor that made those movies such a joy to watch, but also the action scenes that feel like nothing more than a way to get our minds off of the preposterous plot in our hands here.

I could only imagine how hot those babies would be.

I could only imagine how hot those babies would be.

Although, I must say that watching McConaughey and Cruz give off some dull performances was not all that enjoyable, especially since both of these stars are sometimes the best parts of other movies that they show up in. McConaughey’s charm seems to weave in and out of a character that has plenty of wise-cracks, but not much of a heart, which makes him less of a human, and more of a superhero with a pretty body and face. Cruz is also a tad dull, which is a shame, because when she’s enjoying her work, it’s always a blast to watch. However, since her character is a nice, sweet doctor that cares for other people, we don’t get to see much of it. She’s much more reserved here, and even she seemed bored by it. She was just waiting for THAT moment to start yelling out in Spanish, and throw everybody else around her into a deep frenzy of unknowings.

Now, that would have been fun to see.

Thankfully though, there’s one person to save this movie and that’s none other than one of the most underrated actors of our generation, Steve Zahn. Zahn gets all of the sarcastic remarks down perfectly, but also seems like a smart cat that knows what needs to be done next, and will stop at nothing to see it actually happen. He acts like a stoner and listens to classic rock, but he isn’t that brain-dead, which comes off as a surprise, since the whole movie tries to make him seem like that. However, Zahn knows better than that and makes the material so much better than what he was given. Poor guy. Still waiting for that one, big break.

One of these days, I assure you, it will happen, Stevey.

Consensus: Despite its infamous legend, Sahara is an okay watch portrays hot people, doing hot things, in even hotter locations, even if none of it really adds up to a spectacular movie.

5 / 10

Saving the movie; one baseball-cap at a time.

Saving the movie, one baseball cap at a time.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Munich (2005)

When you need a job to be done, always call up the Hulk and James Bond.

During the 1972 Summer Olympics, nine Israeli Olympic athletes were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists, in front of the whole world to see. In retaliation to this, the Israeli government decided to launch a unofficial mission to take out those who were deemed “responsible” for the massacre, by any means necessary. Given the leadership role of the group is Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana), an Israeli Mossad agent, who leaves his pregnant wife (Ayelet Zurer), knowing that he is doing something that he can be proud of, even if the details are a bit shoddy. Joining him are the likes of Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciarán Hinds), Hans (Hanns Zischler), and a former toy-maker-now-turned-bomb-creator, Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz). Together, the men will unite and band together to take out those whom they are ordered to take out and while things start off promising, eventually, the hits begin to get a bit messy and leave these five men fearing for their own lives. Not to mention that Avner is starting to get in bed with some shady fellas who he uses as sources, but may also not be able to trust them full-well.

Can't get any closer fellas?

Can’t get any closer fellas?

For most of you dedicated DTMMR readers out there (all two of you), you’ll probably realize that I have already done a review of Munich a few years back. And nothing against that review or whatever, but I’ve definitely done some growing in the past few years. Not to mention that I’ve grown a fonder appreciation for Spielberg and all that he puts into his films; no longer is he just “the guy who makes good movies”, he’s now, “the guy who makes good movies and has some incredibly interesting ones, too”. Therefore, it made perfect sense to me to give this movie another shot and see how it is that I felt about it, all these years down the road.

And thankfully, my feelings have gotten better. Even if not everything’s changed.

Munich is, probably, Spielberg’s riskiest movie. Sure, some may say A.I. was, or the real hardcore fans will say 1941 may have been, but I’m afraid that they are wrong, because Munich most definitely is. With Munich, Spielberg was reported to have been given a budget of nearly $70 million, which is fine and not surprising at all considering that it’s Spielberg, but at the same time, when you take into consideration the factors at-play here, it totally is a shocker.

For one, Spielberg cast a largely international cast, with cast-members who weren’t well-known by large audiences (even Eric Bana himself wasn’t a huge box-office draw). Also, he focuses most of his movie on a bloody, violent and downright disturbing mission that does have to deal with the Munich massacre, but is in no way a re-telling of those events (which is something that most studios are looking for when they’re funding a movie). And lastly, if not the most important of all, it has no real end-point. Meaning, the Palestinians and Israelites, even until this very day, are still continuing on to battle and feud with one another, leaving the movie to feel, in a way, incomplete.

But, Spielberg being Spielberg, he makes it work.

A good hour or so of this movie feels like Spielberg getting a chance to make that gritty, dirty and overly-violent Bond movie he’s never been offered and the man takes every opportunity he can to make the feeling last. While this is a two-hour-and-44-minute-long movie, it doesn’t really take us all that long to get to the action of the plot and realize that people are going to be killed in some heinous ways and Spielberg’s not going to shy away from it a single bit. Though it should definitely be noted that the countless killings and murders in this movie are portrayed as horrifying and as shocking as they should be, Spielberg also doesn’t forget about the certain rush, or excitement one can feel when a plan is going into action. There’s a few scenes that highlight this, but they’re all tense to watch and remind us all what it is about Spielberg’s fun side that we miss so much of.

Still though, there’s a lot to this movie that’s very harsh and sad, which works well with Spielberg trying to get his message across and whatnot. From what it seems like with Munich, Spielberg does not think too fondly of the violent-relations that Palestine and Israel have with one another, nor should he; Spielberg knows that religion will continue to separate people till the end of time, but at the same time, he doesn’t believe that any of it should lead to senseless violence or deaths. In a way, Spielberg is basically using Munich as a way to get across his age old message of “everybody, let’s just get along”, but because this message is mostly specific to the never-ending issues between Palestine and Israel, it feels fresh and fully-realized.

Believe it or not, these guys could still kill you. Just let them finish their dinner first.

Believe it or not, these guys could still kill you. Just let them finish their dinner first.

No longer is Spielberg preaching! He’s actually got something worth while to say!

Of course though, what usually plagues Spielberg in most other movies, still follows him with Munich, in that he still hasn’t figured out a way to end a strong story, with a strong ending. There’s many endings within Munich, and while none of them are really bad per se, they mostly feel unnecessary and mundane; it’s almost as if Spielberg was like, “Hey, maybe the audience didn’t see my parallels to 9/11 the first time I brought them up. Let me throw another one in there!” Of course, if there’s a director to make any sort of 9/11 parallels to Israeli-Palestine conflict, then it’s Spielberg, but here, it feels over-done and too self-fulfilling – as if Spielberg realized how smart and nifty he was for connecting the literary dots, that he wanted the whole world to see.

But still, Spielberg makes more good decisions with Munich, than he does bad, and while that sounds like faint praise, I can assure you that it’s not supposed to. This is most evident with the cast and whom Spielberg decided fit which sort of roles perfectly, as minor and standard as they may have been. Daniel Craig, despite not being Bond just quite yet, still felt the pugnacious-feel of Steve so well that it would make sense if those in charge of who chooses the next Bond, saw this and decided to give the hunk a shot; Ciarán Hinds brings a certain warmness to Carl, even despite the mean things he has to do; same goes for Hanns Zischler as, well, Hans, another older-man who feels as if he’s being thrown into a situation he never asked for, but is happy to accept the challenge anyway; Mathieu Kassovitz’s Robert is perfectly nerdy that it makes it all the more disorienting to see what it is that he’s actually creating; and Geoffrey Rush, despite his accent really going in and out, still works well with the role as the government official you’re never too sure to trust or not.

Of course though, it’s Eric Bana who the movie depends on the most and he deserves it. Bana is, in other words, an underrated actor, I feel; while he’s never lit the screen on fire quite like he did with Chopper, the guy always shows up in movies, giving it his all, and continuing to show that he can blend in well with any director’s style. Bana’s done it all and it’s about time that he was given his own, dramatic-powerhouse to work wonders with! And that’s what he does as Avner; while the character isn’t necessarily made out to be as “heroic” as some of Bana’s other characters can sometimes be written as, there’s still a lot to this guy that makes you feel as if he’s got everybody’s best intentions at heart and doesn’t want anything bad to happen. Cause, after all, he’s just taking orders.

And also, allowing for Jews everywhere to get laid again.

Consensus: Despite a lackluster ending, Munich is a fact-based spy-thriller with emotion, a well-acted cast, and the usual dose of interesting anecdotes that Spielberg is able to orchestrate effectively.

8 / 10

Don't question Eric Bana. You won't like Eric Bana when you question him.

Don’t question Eric Bana. You won’t like Eric Bana when you question him.

Photos Courtesy of: Having Said That, One Shot, Amazon Web Services

War of the Worlds (2005)

“Stop using your technology now!”, he types on his laptop.

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary, blue-collar man doesn’t have the greatest life a man like he should have. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) doesn’t really trust him and is currently pregnant with her new husband; his kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), he doesn’t really see, so therefore, they don’t really connect with him all that much and usually end conversations with angry shouting; and his house itself, is dirty, unorganized, and a mish-mash of stuff he has no use for anymore. His life can be so miserable at times, that if an alien attack were to randomly occur, he’d probably be better off. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! The aliens do invade Earth and although their motivations aren’t known just yet, they’ve taken extra precautions and have deactivated every piece of technology on the planet, leaving each and every human to be scrambling all over, without any idea of what to do. This leaves Ray, along with his kids, to run around like chickens with their heads cut-off, too, but he’s inspired enough to try and find shelter, as soon as possible. Problem is, he’s still facing problems with his family and it might just linger in to the mission of getting to safety.

Tom Cruise running.

Tom Cruise is scared.

So rarely do we get to see Steven Spielberg lash-out any form of anger that may be within him. However, for the first hour of War of the Worlds, we get to see Spielberg at his angriest and, above all else, most playful. People are zipped to ashes; cars are flipped; buildings are destroyed; and everybody’s running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. On the other side of the camera, though, is Spielberg who, it’s not hard to imagine, may have had a huge, cheek-to-cheek grin while filming all of this.

Not only does he have the dough to play with whatever he wants to play with, but he’s doing so in a style that feels as if it’s also giving a big old “F**k you” to every other director out there who specializes in these kinds of summer, blow-everything-up blockbusters (basically, Roland Emmerich). While the carnage and destruction is fun and exciting to watch, Spielberg also doesn’t forget to show the impact of this, where he understands that people are, yes, dying right in front of our eyes. At the same time, though, he still can’t get past the sense of wonder of just how great everything looks, sounds and feels; while the alien spaceship special-effects feel a little weak, all of the terror that they do cause, doesn’t and helps make it capable of getting past those problems.

And honestly, the main reason why I’m focusing solely so much on the first hour or so of this, is because after it’s over, everything slows down, and we now have to focus on these characters a bit more, the movie gets pretty lame.

It’s almost as if Spielberg signed onto this in the first place, because all he wanted to do was chuck things around and see stuff blow up, but then, remembered that there had to be some form of a human story here, with actual, human-like characters, and instantly got disinterested in what he was doing. This makes the rest of the film, not only feel like a bore, but feel like Spielberg himself is just going through the motions, already too tired and strained from all of the effort he put into the first hour of this movie. Because with Spielberg, you can’t forget that when worse comes to worse, he’s always got to focus on that family-drama.

Which, in some cases, isn’t all that bad. Though it’s a plot-trope he tosses in more than he should, he does get these occasional bursts of smart energy where it seems pertinent to helping flesh the story out a bit more, and therefore, have the movie impact its audience a whole lot harder.

In the case of War of the Worlds and Tom Cruise’s on-screen family, it feels as lazy as Spielberg’s done before.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

For one, there’s nothing really interesting to this family that makes it easy for us to want to get behind them the whole way through and see if they end up surviving the whole disaster by the end. Cruise’s Ray character is so average, that it doesn’t really matter, because all he’s really doing, once you think about it, is just running around and ducking under and behind certain surfaces; Dakota Fanning’s daughter character yells and screams the whole time and it used as an obvious crutch for Ray to have to make tough decisions; and Justin Chatwin’s son character is such a pain-in-the-ass and annoying, that when it came around for the time to, possibly, leave the movie for good, I could care less. In fact, I wanted him to get the boot earlier!

Because these characters are so poorly-written as is, watching them as they try to survive this disastrous situation, really does not prove to be a fun time. There’s nothing to be compelled by, nor is there any real interesting bits of character-drama to be found; everybody’s just sort of feuding with one another because, well, they’re family and that’s what family’s seem to do. However, due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in the role of the patriarch and it’s his family we’re talking about, then of course you know how it’s all going to go.

I won’t say much more, but I think you get my meaning if you’ve ever seen a movie with Tom Cruise in the past decade.

Hell, even longer!

Then, as the plot progresses, Tim Robbins shows up in the movie as a weird, violent and overly dramatic dude who camps out in the middle of the woods, strapped-to-his-boots with guns and whatnot. Because Robbins’ character is all about having guns protect himself from whatever dangers may be out there, the movie paints him in such a crude-light, that it’s downright distracting. Robbins doesn’t help matters either, as he genuinely seems to be just over-acting as much as he can. And shame on Spielberg for not telling him when to tone it down, take it easy, or call for lunch.

Basically, he stopped giving a hoot and it’s not the kind of Steven Spielberg that I don’t think anybody wants to see.

Consensus: Despite a very strong first-half, War of the Worlds soon runs out of ideas, looses track of itself, and rely too heavily on familiar family-drama that’s shoe-horned in to just have us root and cheer on Tom Cruise, once again.

6 / 10

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Upside of Anger (2005)

Always depend on the neighborhood drunk to come in and save an upper-class, tense family-unit from falling apart.

Terry Wolfmeyer (Joan Allen) can be considered a “housewife”, however, she doesn’t act like one. She doesn’t work outside of the house and spends most of her day cleaning, getting ready to make dinner, talking to her daughters, and planning out their futures, but she has an icy-cool demeanor that’s very stand-offish, and doesn’t allow her to take any crap from anyone. Good for her, but not good for her husband who has apparently left her and the family to gallivant with his young secretary in Sweden. Terry, as hard of a lady as she is, starts to breakdown, liquor-bottle-by-liquor-bottle, and finds it hard to adjust to this new life of responsibility and action. But once former Major League Baseball star, now turned radio DJ, Denny Davies (Kevin Costner) shows up at the house looking to get drunk with her, Terry doesn’t find it all that hard, yet, she still has to accept the fact that her husband may be gone, and may never, ever come back.

While family-dramas don’t really do much for me unless they’re totally satirical or as dark as night (American Beauty), I do appreciate watching a family-dynamic on screen every once and awhile. My family, for instance, is a bit weird considering we all do our own thing, don’t eat dinner together at the table, and just go about our day but still talk, get along (relatively), and enjoy one another’s company when granted. That’s why most movies about your regular, suburban-family don’t do much for me in terms of emotional-connection, but I’m always open for the simple things in life; hence why I liked this flick as much as I did. Much to my surprise actually.

All women eventually succumb to the "Costner-charm".

All women eventually succumb to the “Costner-charm”.

Where I feel like writer/director Mike Binder’s script worked so well is in the ways he avoids all of the types of conventions we expect from family-dramas of this nature, and continues to just evolve its characters. Some are more interesting than others, yes, but most of the characters here are people worth watching, caring about and worrying to see if they’re ever going to reach their final-peak of happiness or not. You know that they can be happy, and have ways of being happy, but to see most of them go through this little raft in their lives makes you a bit uneasy to see and only hope for the best. Binder may not be the greatest writer out there when it comes to giving all of his characters dimensions and personalities, but the ones that he does get it right is with making you feel apart of the family.

For better, as well as for worse.

But like I was saying about the way he avoids all of those types of conventions, Binder doesn’t force-feed us characters that we should like and need to like, we just do, even if there are some reservations involved. For instance, try Denny: The dude’s not only a bit of a schmuck, but he’s bumbling one as well. Yes, his heart is in the right place, but it’s so obvious that he wants to bang Terry as soon as her hubby leaves her, it’s almost too much so to really be true. How the girls don’t kick his ass as soon as he walks through that door, day in and day out, was totally surprising. I knew I would have, but that’s just me. I’m a dick.

Like I was mentioning, though, Denny may have these problems that are more than noticeable to us, however, we don’t necessarily hate him, nor do we feel like he’s a reprehensible person that one could not believe Terry being attracted to in the least bit. He’s got a charm, he’s got a sweet-aura about him, and he likes to do good things, for people that deserve it the most. Sure, he doesn’t speak his mind when he should and how he should do it, but there’s still something sweet and endearing to this dude that makes him more than just that the wacky neighbor next-door that likes to do himself a little bit of drinking; although it is obvious that Binder likes to use that side to his character for yuks and chuckles, most of which fail.

However, I could also say that most of the charm and likability that comes out of Denny’s character, is mainly channeled through Kevin Costner who gives probably his best performance, post-Dances with Wolves (which isn’t saying much, but still). Costner’s got the shaggy-look, feel, and act down pat, and makes you feel for this bum, knowing that he could turn his own, as well as this family’s life around at any given moment. He just needs to put the bottle down for a second. And while Costner is great, no doubt about that, the one who really walks away with the show the most is Joan Allen, giving one of her best performances ever, among which there are many. How she did not get an Oscar nomination for this, I may never understand!

That Joan Allen: Takin' a drag and just lookin' spicy!

That Joan Allen – takin’ a drag and just lookin’ spicy!

Anyway, Joan Allen’s great as Terry for the sole reason that she’s not afraid to be a bitch, while also embracing her age. By the time this movie came out, Allen was pushing 50 and while she still shows that she’s hot in a fiery, “I’ll kick your ass” way, there’s no hiding behind prosthetics or a wig with this character. She’s 50, she looks it, she feels it, and quite frankly, she’s downright pissed-off about it. And how could you blame her? Not only is she getting older by the days that go by, but her hubby of 20 years just left her for a younger gal, and most of her kids can’t stand to be around her, nor have a conversation with her because she’s so mean and nasty at times about the decisions they make and the ideas that they have, that they just don’t even bother. I don’t blame them, but once again – Terry is a human being, and you know that there’s something nice and sweet about her. Allen is great at playing-up Terry’s mean, cold, vindictive side that comes out more often than it probably should, but allows us to see who she really is underneath all of that anger, and make us realize that she was once a happy lady at one time, and can still be again. It will just take some time, that’s all.

The gals playing her daughters are also very good, even though it’s obvious which ones Binder cares about the most, by giving some more interesting plot-lines and more screen-time. Alicia Witt plays the oldest, Hadley, and doesn’t have much to do her, mainly because most of her time in the film is spent-away at college where she soon falls in love and gets pregnant, giving us some of Allen’s best moments in the whole film due solely to her reaction this bomb being dropped; Keri Russell is good and sweet as Emily, the one who blows off college for a life in ballerina-dancing, and while Russell’s good in the role, she was about 30 when it was filmed, making it a bit hard to believe her as a young, 20-something college drop-out; Erika Christensen plays Andy, another daughter who doesn’t want to go to college, but has more of a promising future ahead of her because of the job she gets at Denny’s radio-station, where she begins a relationship with a much-older dude (Mike Binder himself, in a surprisingly touching role), and gets a chance to stretch her wings as well, giving us the most interesting gal out of the four; and Evan Rachel Wood is once again playing the young, angry, and rebellious teen we’ve all seen her play, but this time, to sure boredom and angst as the youngest, Popeye (yup, you heard me right), even though the “love-interest” that they set-up for her gives it a bit of interest every time she’s on-screen.

Consensus: While a lot of the melodrama that plays during the last half-hour does kill some of the momentum the Upside of Anger had going for itself, for quite some time, there’s still plenty of heartfelt, emotional moments between these characters to be seen, especially because most of them are written so well and in a way that isn’t just ordinary, or casual. There’s meaning to the way they are, and it works.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nothing like the opera to bring a dysfunctional family, along with their drunken friend, together, one for all.

Nothing like the opera to bring a dysfunctional family, along with their drunken friend, together, one for all.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Sorry, Jen. But together, these two are really hot.

After having a chance meeting in a foreign country some odd years ago (five or six, neither ever knows), John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) Smith live a comfortable life where either one talks to one another, yet, still live under the same roof and go to couples-counseling in hopes that things will get better between them two. However, when both find out that they are not only living separate, secret lives as super-duper spies, but that they are also part of feuding spy-agencies, then things got a whole lot more tense between the two; not to mention deadly. Oddly enough though, this newfound information ignites a spark between them both and for the first time in a long time, John and Jane both find themselves happily in love with one another, banging and eating all over the floor. Problem is, it may just be too late as the spy-agencies soon find out that these two are actually married in real-life and decide that it’s best to take them both out because it’s, “bad for business”. Whatever that means, right?

Herein lies the film that started it all; the famous, highly-attractive Hollywood couple that will be synonymous with Generation-Y’ers till the end of time; and definitely the duo that J-Aniston still wants to get back at all of these years later. Ladies and gentleman, here is the beginning of what we know to be known as Brangelina. Heck, it’s even got its own WikiPedia page! If that doesn’t just scream “culturally significant”, I can’t tell you what will!

Oh stop!

Oh stop!

With most movies that have more talk about what’s going on behind the scenes usually means that the final-product itself isn’t anything worth chatting about it either. It just serves as a platform for a conversation to get started on about; although today, one could just mention either Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie respectively and end up finding themselves still talking about their togetherness, and less about the actual movie that brought them all together.

And as you can tell, I’m doing the same exact thing I’m going on about, because it’s sort of the truth: The movie that brought these two superstars together, really isn’t all that memorable.

“But surely something must have been well-done enough to where it would actually attract such picky A-listers as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Dan? So what is the problem?”, you might respond with, and honestly, my answer might be a general, “I don’t know”. Maybe these two were attracted to the idea of starring in a movie together, or better yet, maybe they just saw plenty of big bucks in the idea as is. It doesn’t really matter because either way, the movie is still very “meh”.

Most of that has to do with the premise itself which, on paper, seems very promising, fun and witty, and for the most part, is. However, the movie knows this a little too much and can’t help but remind us each and every chance it gets that, “Our premise is so goofy and our co-stars are so in love with one another, that we can’t help but be pleased!” These are the types of movies that linger on being “smug”, and there are more than a few occasions in which Mr. and Mrs. Smith finds itself creeping over to that side.

What keeps it away from doing so on most occasions? Well, it’s the main selling-point this movie had to roll with in the first place: It’s lovely co-stars.

And yes, it’s also said that usually actors who hook-up in real life, have terrible chemistry in the movies they’re starring in together, but here, with Jolie and Pitt, that isn’t necessarily the case. They’re good together and you can really tell that the two have a little twinkle in there eye whenever the other is in the same scene with them, however, they don’t get to show it off too many times. Because the premise is sort of a joke in and of itself about this married-couple hiding their real selves from the other and not really doing much of anything together as a unit, Pitt and Jolie aren’t really given too many opportunities to do a whole lot of on-screen flirting. More or less, they’re spending scenes together in awkward silence, which yes, is the point, but after awhile, does seem like a waste of some incredibly talented-individuals, who just so also happened to be shaken’ the high hoots behind closed doors at the time.

Yet, the moment in which these two come alive, is when they both find out that their secret spies, which yes again, is the point; they’re bored with their simple, carefree home lives and just want to live a little. In a way, Pitt and Jolie, at the time of filming this movie, were probably the same kind of people – Pitt wanted an escape from his faltering-marriage with America’s Sweetheart, whereas Jolie herself was looking to settle-down a bit and get serious with somebody who didn’t wear her blood across their neck, and/or wasn’t her brother. Maybe I’m looking way too deep into this than I should (actually no, I totally am), however, I can’t help myself. Not just because I’m obsessed with these two and their career’s in general, but because there’s not much else to talk about with this movie.

No, seriously! Cut it out!

No, seriously! Cut it out!

Personally, they’re the only reason to see this. Any reason why you’d laugh during this would be because both Pitt and Jolie are charming enough to make even the dumbest line/moment work. Everything else is sort of a mess. Like, for instance, the whole action-sequences themselves aren’t filmed right; Doug Liman is a fine director that clearly knew what he was doing with the Bourne Identity, but doesn’t seem to realize that action scenes work best when we care about everything that’s going on and is at least given to us in a fun, exciting way. Here, bullets fly; grenades explode; punches are thrown; and upper-class, suburban homes burst into flames. And yet, I didn’t give a single hoot about any of it.

Except for Jolie and Pitt themselves, who are clearly doing fine without hearing anything I have to say.

Love ya Brangie. Sort of made that up, sort of didn’t. Whatever.

Consensus: Most of the talk surrounding Mr. & Mrs. Smith has to do with what happened in real life between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and basically, are the only real reason this movie deserves to be seen – a time-capsule for what everybody was talking about in the mid-21st Century.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Where the Truth Lies (2005)

The partners that travel, do everything else together. Even murder groupies.

Famed comedy-duo Lanny Morris (Kevin Bacon) and Vince Collins (Colin Firth) were at the peak of their fame during the tail-end of the 50’s. Morris was always the wise-cracking funny-man, that always acted-out and was goofy; whereas Vince was the reserved, kind and gentle British straight-man who was always there to apologize and make nice for Morris’ behavior. They were successful  had a lot of great shows; held a weekend-long telethon for a Polio charity that became something of a staple for television at that time; messed around with plenty of women; made a chunk of money; and seemed as if they could never, ever stop being rich, famous and powerful. However, one day, that did in fact happen when a dead body was discovered in one of their hotel bathtubs. Though both claimed to have no idea who the body was and how it even got there, it didn’t matter, the rest of the world already saw them as criminals, therefore, they were. Their fame died-down, they broke-up, and less than twenty years later, they’re reliving it all over again when journalist-turned-author, as well as Morris-Collins enthusiast, Karen O’Connor (Alison Lohman), comes into these guys’ lives, trying to get to the bottom of the story, but also getting mixed-up in a whole lot more than just the narrative of that night in question.

Wow!

Woah!

Back in the day, when this movie was first released, their was a lot of talk surrounding this movie and the fact in which it was rated NC-17 after the MPAA didn’t like what they saw. Writer/director Atom Egoyan, as predicted, was upset with this, so, as an act of rebellion and to also make a dignified-point, he released it without a rating at all. The scene called into question was a graphic sex scene in which Bacon’s character was indeed making some sweet lovin’ to a very-naked woman.

That doesn’t sound like much of anything different from what we usually see in movies nowadays, right? Well, here was the difference: Firth’s character comes up from behind during the scene and therefore, engages in a little bit of a threesome, although it doesn’t end like so. It’s a pretty quick scene, and given the run-time and plot itself, seems rather minor, but apparently, the MPAA didn’t like the homosexual ideas being tossed-around, therefore, they slapped it with an NC-17 rating. A rather unfair one, if you ask me, but then again, when was the last time the MPAA actually gave a movie a harsh rating and it made sense.

Okay, sure, Shame needed to be more than just NC-17, but that’s not the point!

Anyway, the reason why I highlight this aspect surrounding the film, than anything else, is because there really isn’t much else to talk about. There’s plenty more sex where that came from (even one including two women going at it), but that’s Egoyan really seems to color this film with to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack of spicy, saucy, neo-noir thrillers. If there wasn’t all that many sexual-escapades shown to us in the most straight-forward manner, then what we’d have would be just another, smoky, dark, and mean tale of celebrities doing bad things, ad there never being a clear answer as to what exactly happened when the lights went down, and who exactly was responsible.

As I’ve said before, that’s nothing new in the genre of thrillers, or even mystery-tales, and that’s why I think Egoyan threw in so much sex, drugs, nudity, lobsters, champagne, twists, turns and curve-balls (most of which, don’t even work); he doesn’t have much to work with, so he hides behind a coating-of-paint to give us the impression that we’re working with something else on a higher-level. Better yet, a different level, and it just doesn’t come off that way. Instead, it seems like a regular thriller, with too many twists by the end. Which is a bit of a disappointment, considering that the first act of this movie is actually pretty good and gives you an idea of what to expect of the rest of the movie.

It takes place both during and around 1957 and 1972, giving us the idea that this is going to be a classic-tale of mystery, intrigue, and what classified a person as a “celebrity” back in those days. Once again, it isn’t uncharted-territory, but Egoyan seems very interested in the look and feel of this movie, and for the longest time, I took the bait and followed along with him. He isn’t necessarily “basing” this story off of anybody in particular, but just any celebrity in general that may have been caught with a scandal that the mainstream media may, or may not have, heard about. Everything looks colorful, sensual, misty and as if all of the budget went into the production-design, without there ever really being a false-note to be heard or seen.

Then, sadly, it all goes downhill, especially during the 1972 story-angle that’s forced down our throats just about every ten or so minutes. The first problem with this angle is that the turns and twists continue to get thrown at us, and almost none of them make sense. They aren’t necessarily confusing that when we’re first told the explanation for something happening, we automatically scratch our heads; it’s more like once the twists actually get explained to us, then everything gets a whole lot more foggy. They also never seem to build to anything except that “celebrities lie”.

No shit! Tell me more!

WOW!

WOAH!

Another problem with this angle is that Alison Lohman is pretty bad in this movie. Usually, I think Lohman’s a sweet, heartfelt presence to have in a movie, but here, she’s given something she is not at all capable of being: Sexy. Not saying Lohman isn’t attractive (she totally is, I’d take her home in a heartbeat, heck maybe even bring up the topic of marriage), but what she has to do here is act, look, and sound like she’s a raspy, old school dame that would exist in those noirs released during the 30’s-to-the-50’s, but she’s just too small and innocent. In a way, it’s almost like she’s just a little girl thrown into this cold, dark and menacing world where grown-ups play and have no time for silly, little willy nillies like her. There are times when Lohman is okay, but her unenthusiastic-narration isn’t doing much to help her, and neither is the fact that she’s placed against two class-acts like Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth.

As usual, Bacon is great here as Lanny Morris, the wild, crazy and typical prankster in front of the camera, but more quiet and calm behind it. Bacon is great at being a lovable goofball, which is why it’s so effective once he has to turn the other cheek, be a bit of a dick and not really say much at all. It’s something we’ve seen Bacon do before and work really well with, and that’s no different here. As for Firth, he too is great at doing what he does best: Show a dark side to his collective and cool manners. Together, the two are great and seem like they could have really been a wonderful comedy-act to see in real life. In fact, if this movie really wanted to go for the gut, they could have just made it something of a biopic about these two talented guys whom worked together, traveled together, slept together, partied together and even committed crimes together, and it would have been such a better movie. However, what we have here is just a murder-mystery with a lame detective and a sex scene that hints at something more extreme, yet never materializes to much.

Like sex with me, I presume. Right, ladies? Or wait! No, that’s not right, ladies! Not at all!

Consensus: A little sexy, a little dark, a little mysterious, and a little entertaining for the first hour, Where the Truth Lies works well setting-up its story, which is why it’s such a shame once it all goes down the tubes during its last-half when unbelievable plot twists start showing up like clockwork.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh. Boo!

Oh. Boo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider, ComingSoon.net

The Ice Harvest (2005)

When your town has more than two strip-clubs, you know you need to get outta there!

In the small city of Wichita, on the eve of Christmas, Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer who makes a note of backing-up mobsters, has just seized $2.1 million from a mobster that employs him. However, Charlie can’t do all of this stealing on his own, so he includes Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), a guy who is more used to this type of stuff. The two originally planned on getting the money and high-tailing it right out of town, but there’s a huge snow-storm that hits them, making the roads nearly impossible to drive on. So, as befuddled as they may be, Charlie and Vic decide that it’s best if they just stick it out til the morning, lay low and make sure that the gangster whose been looking for both of them (Mike Starr), doesn’t actually get them, and everything will go according to plan. But, as we all know with these sort of heists stories, not everything works out so perfectly for everybody involved, and more often than not, ends with some blood being shed. Well, in this case, plenty of blood actually.

It’s a shame that Harold Ramis has left-us. No, not because there’s no longer any hope that he’ll show-up in the unnecessary Ghostbusters 3, but because he truly was a talent in front of, as well as behind the camera, that always seemed to know when it was right to hit our funny-bones, and when it wasn’t. Sure, most of us know that he made such comedic-classics like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and even Analyze This (I guess it’s considered a “classic” in some circles), but know of us really know that he had a bit of a darker-edge to him as a director; the kind of edge not many of us got to see until later in his career.

"Yeah, fuck life."

“Yeah, fuck life.”

Some would even say, too late in his career, but I digress.

When looking at a plot like this, you can’t help but automatically think of Fargo, or any other Coen Brothers flick ever made, because that’s exactly what it is: A dark comedy about people being bad, in a small-town and having to make some deadly decisions to ensure their safety. Of course though, what usually is able to make or break these flicks is in its way of being able to balance out the heavy, dramatic elements of the violence, bloodshed and death, with all of the humor that can usually come from a movie when you have likable, colorful characters involved with said elements. Here, Ramis is clearly capable of handling both sides of the coin, as we get from an early impression, that the movie is going to be all about whether or not these guys can get out of this town with the money, and try to stay alive as well.

Instead, what we eventually get here is a story about a guy we can’t particularly like, nor can we particularly hate neither in the form of Charlie Arglist. Same could be said for just about everybody else in this flick – most notably, a drunken-friend of Charlie’s (played by the always-lovable and cheery Oliver Platt), who also just so happens to be married to his ex-wife. The guy may make an ass out of himself throughout the whole movie, but it’s an act that never gets old, which is mostly thanks to both Platt’s acting, as well as the script being able to give him more than just what is on the surface.

But I couldn’t help see this in just about every other character here, which allowed for the movie to be more than just a small-time caper-flick. It gave us people to care about, even if they weren’t particularly likable or morally perfect, and best of all, heightened the story’s emotions just a tad bit more. Even if all of the back-stabbing, twists, turns, surprise deaths and double-crosses became a bit tiresome by the end, I still gave a crap about what happened to most of these characters, besides not wholly showing us why I should feel this way. I guess I just did, and I guess that’s attributed to Ramis and his way of being able to juggle heart, humor, violence, sadness and character-development, all while rarely missing a beat. And even if some beats were missed (like in the last half-hour when a familiar-face shows up and is too cartoonish for their own good), they weren’t too noticeable that they distracted me from all that worked so well with this picture.

"They call me, "Daddy Long Legs". Know why?"

“They call me, “Daddy Long Legs”. Know why?”

Though I could keep on talking about Ramis and practically give him a “tribute” of sorts, what it really comes down to with this movie what makes it work is John Cusack in the lead-role as Charlie Arglist. Cusack’s not really stretching himself here by playing a cold-hearted criminal, with slight ounces of humanity, but he does so well with it that you don’t really care if you’ve seen him go at this sort of thing. You get an early-impression that Charlie isn’t a good guy, but you still see that he cares for those around him, he just has a bad way of showing it most of the time. But still, as much as we dig deep into who this person is, we still get the idea that Charlie really wants that money, but most of all, he wants to get it while being alive. When watching, you won’t be able to help feeling the same either.

Same sort of goes for Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Vic, although it’s clear early on, just by the casting of Thornton alone, that he’s not always up to being good all of the time. Still, when we do get to see him, he keeps on surprising us and makes us think just what his next move will be, and how he’s going to affect Charlie, or anybody else around him. Connie Nielsen is also here as the stripper that Charlie is practically head-over-heels for, and is playing it like an old-school, noir dame where she smokes, talks smack and is always showing some skin. Heck, her name is even Renata! Doesn’t get anymore old-school than that! Anyway, she’s hot-as-hell, but also shows that her character may have a whole lot up-to-her-sleeve, that isn’t for the greater-good of Charlie’s well-being, nor anybody else’s for that matter. She’s just exactly like a real woman, screwing-up every man’s life that just so happens to be in her path. What a devil.

Consensus: Gets a bit too loose by the end, but for the most part, the Ice Harvest is a little dark, a little funny, a little mean-spirited, a little dirty, a little smug, a little sweet and pretty damn surprising in the way it goes about telling its plot, and introducing to us characters that have layers. Wow. A comedy with meaning. Gosh, I’m gonna miss Harold Ramis. RIP bud.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You'd have that same mug if you lived in Witchita, too.

You’d have that same mug if you lived in Wichita.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net