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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: 2011

Alps (2011)

We all get the grief we think we deserve.

A bunch of free-spirited and desperate actors get together and form something of an acting coalition. In it, they’ll impersonate dead people, for the living family-member’s who are left to pay for this kind of service. It’s made to help out with the grieving process and for awhile, that’s all it seems to be. It’s a little weird and creepy, but most people seem to be getting stuff out of it, so there’s no problem with that, right? Unfortunately, it all begins to change when even the actors start to lose loved-ones and begin using the same business, to help out their own grieving-process. Others, like a gymnast (Ariane Labed), go so far as to completely inhabit their “roles”, almost to the point of where they can’t really decipher between what their actual lives are, or what are the lives they’re being paid to live and reenact are.

Fix that mascara, girl! Get in the role!

They say that half of comedy, isn’t the joke, or even the meaning, but more of timing. And if that’s the case, then co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has perhaps the most wicked sense of comedic-timing ever seen. Sure, his jokes, what they mean, and what they represent, are dark, messed-up, cruel, and generally upsetting, but the way in which he tells each and every joke, where the jokes are placed, how they come-up, and the general feel of the jokes, are what matters most and where he is at his most effective.

And with Alps, Lanthimos never once forgets to make every joke land and connect. Sure, it’s funny as is, the jokes themselves, but really, it’s his timing that’s a thing of beauty and puts it beyond just normal, everyday humor – it’s much more subversive and, in a way, brilliant. Does that make Alps, as a result, a great movie?

Well, not really.

It’s definitely funny and what Lanthimos is trying to get across with his many jokes, is smart and interesting, but at the end of it all, it is just a one-joke premise and movie. It talks about and even pokes a lot of fun at the grieving-process, the lies we tell ourselves to get over loss, and how it doesn’t really matter whether that person is lost or not, because we’ll always find ways to forget about them, or better yet, replace them, and it’s smart with it. Lanthimos isn’t afraid to mock ordinary life and make us not just laugh at ourselves, but hate ourselves at the same time.

Method?

It’s quite brilliant, like I said before, but really, it’s all that Alps can handle and maintain throughout its very short run-time of 90-minutes. And with those 90 minutes, all we really get is the same joke, over and over again, although, of course, with different iterations each and every time. It still works and oh yes, is very funny, but that’s all it is: Jokes. Again and again.

Is there any heart? Not really and that’s probably where the one issue comes from.

Of course, Lanthimos isn’t setting out to make a heartfelt, or even sweet tale of regret, grief, and loss, but it definitely wouldn’t have hurt, either. To just have your movie being darkness and subversiveness, throughout the whole time, honestly, can only go on for so long. The only idea of a sense of conflict we get is guessing who is paying for this service, who isn’t, and just whether or not what we are seeing is actually a joke, or not. It’s interesting, sure, but if that’s all you’ve got, there needs to be a tad bit more. And it’s not as if I’m the kind of movie-viewer who can’t handle disturbing stuff like this – trust me, I’ve seen far, far worse – but really, there comes a point in the movie where there’s no real plot, no real conflict, or even any real movement.

It’s just one joke, again and again, told in different forms, ways, shapes, or fashions.

It’s a good way to spend a stand-up bit. But for a whole movie? Not really.

Consensus: While poking fun at grief and loss in a very funny, almost too disturbing way and manner, Alps gets by on being original and quite different, but also feels a tad bit too long because of the limitations of the material itself.

7 / 10

Always hug it out. Even if it is with your pretend-relative.

Photos Courtesy of: Haos Film

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In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011)

War is bad. But rape is worse. Right, people? Come on!

Danijel (Goran Kostic), a Bosnian Serb police officer, and Ajla (Zana Marjanovic), a Bosnian Muslim artist, are lovers who find themselves dancing and having a great time one night. Then, the Bosnian War breaks out and all of a sudden, there is literally death and destruction everywhere, forcing both of them to be on opposite sides of the battle. And as the conflict and violence engulfs the Balkan region, they find themselves actually coming closer and closer to one another, without either even knowing. And a few months later, while serving in the Bosnian Serb army, Danijel once again encounters Ajla when troops under his command take her from the apartment she shares with her sister. He takes her in under his own and, in a way, protects her. But at the same time, he’s also still taking advantage of her and her desperation to live and save the lives of those around her. What will keep these two together? Or better yet, what will separate them?

“Always stay warm.”

No matter what, you have to give Angelina Jolie some credit. She’s one of the biggest names in Hollywood and yet, for some reason, when she gets behind the camera, she doesn’t go the usual route you’d expect. Instead of taking safe, relatively light, star-studded pictures (like she could easily do), she takes these dark, disturbing, and rather queasy tales of violence and the ugly sides of humanity.

Have any of these movies really been good? Not quite, but hey, at least she’s got some spunk and in ways, that’s sort of all that matters, right? Kind of. But for her debut, you can’t help but notice that there’s a lot that needs to be worked on.

Anything that does need to be worked on, however, isn’t from behind the camera.

As usual, Jolie knows how to frame a shot and, of course, has an eye for detail. This may sound like obvious and faint praise, but it really isn’t; being able to ensure that your movie looks, sounds, and feels like it’s a top-notch production, is pretty hard. She allows for everything to come together, in front of the screen, that doesn’t make it seem like it’s coming from a newcomer, but from someone who has been watching, studying, and waiting, desperately. That passion, that inspiration, and yes, that drive, is worthy of being commended for.

But then you get to the script that she worked on and yeah, that’s where the problems really show. Because while this is no doubt an anti-war movie about the inhumane actions that took, and continue to, take place in the Bosnian War, it also, at least, attempts to be a love story about two people, torn apart by war and violence.

The perfect love. According to Angelina Jolie, that is.

But is it really?

See, what’s odd about this so-called “romance” that we spend all of five minutes seeing develop, before literal bombs explode and we’re all of a sudden, off to war, is that most of what we see developed between them, has mostly to do with rape and violence. There’s no love, no heart, no passion – just a lot of kicking, screaming, and well, I’ll say it again, raping. It’s actually really off-putting and while you could try to make the assumption that Jolie’s trying to make some sort of statement, all of that gets chucked out of the window when, after being forcibly held down and raped, Ajla begins to draw Danijel a loving little portrait of him, as he lays on the bed and looks on.

And this doesn’t happen once, but numerous times, almost to the point of self-parodying. And it’s weird, because Jolie doesn’t seem to ever realize that none of this works, or even registers as much as she may want it to. She thinks that there’s a sweet, almost universal point being made about how, no matter what sort of conflicts exist in this world, true love will overcome all.

Silly, right? Well, also, take into consideration that at least half of this movie is dedicated to watching people suffer, be suddenly killed, and better yet, thrown off ledges. It’s the kind of movie that’s dark and disturbing, and in that sense, Jolie nails just what she’s going for. However, when it comes to the “love” side of the story, just nope, it doesn’t register.

Better luck next time, right?

Consensus: Definitely a surprisingly admirable and noble effort on the part of Jolie, In the Land of Blood and Honey also doesn’t quite work as being both an anti-war and love story, making it seem like a hard swing and a miss.

4.5 / 10

“So in this next scene, I want you to kill people. But also be sympathetic and sweet. Cool? Thanks.”

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

The Kid with a Bike (2011)

Every kid needs a bike to get by in life.

Abandoned by his father and practically everyone else around him, young Cyril (Thomas Doret) begins to act out in anger, causing all sorts of havoc and constantly finding himself in trouble. In a way, it almost seems like it follows him everywhere he goes and it’s as if Cyril will never be able to escape the darkness that swallows up his whole life. However, there is one light to be found in Cyril’s relatively bad life: His caretaker Samantha (Cécile de France), who took the opportunity to watch over him on something of a whim and is finding a lot more than she can chew. But seeing as how Cyril’s got nowhere else to go, but an orphanage, or even worse, a juvenile delinquent center and becoming another little boy involved with the system, she decides to stick with it and realizes that it may be worth it. And after much time together, yeah, Cyril gets used to Samantha, her rules, and the way she lives her life, which is relatively peaceful and nice, by his standards. But as per usual, Cyril’s past always comes back to bite him in the rear-end when constant attempts to connect with his dad seem to turn sour and piss Cyril off even more.

Good luck watching over that kid.

The Kid with the Bike is one of the Dardenne’s more interesting flicks, because it not only seems to have something resembling an actual plot, but seems to be a lot sweeter and more optimistic than their other flicks. Sure, it’s about a young whippersnapper who causes all sorts of problems, gets into trouble, and doesn’t have the best life imaginable, but it also has some solid glimmers of hope, too. In fact, a good portion of the movie is dedicated to Cyril getting better at life, at family, at love, and at realizing that there’s more to everything than just sitting around all day and being mad at the world around him.

Sometimes, it’s best to just smile and be grateful, as easy as that may be to say.

And yes, as usual, the Dardenne’s keep up with their naturalistic approach, where it seems like the movie’s a documentary, and yes, it works. But what really keeps the Kid with the Bike compelling is Thomas Doret in the lead role of Cyril, who proves to be a smart kid, despite also being chock-full of angst. The Dardenne’s have a knack for casting talented young actors in their somewhat difficult roles, because half of what they’re doing is just showing, rather than just saying; you can say that’s all of acting, but when you’re a kid, and half of what you’re being told to do is simply just standing there and reacting, it’s a pretty hard feat to pull off. But Doret does just that, showing that there are true, honest, and relatively sad layers beneath Cyril’s sometimes infuriating actions.

Brat.

As is usually the case with Dardenne protagonists, Cyril doesn’t make the best decisions, but because he’s a kid and is so hot-headed, it sort of works and makes sense. And considering she could have easily turned into a silly, sappy type that these types of stories love to have, Cécile de France feels real and honest as Samantha, a gal who doesn’t know what she’s gotten herself into, but knows the end results of what happens if she walks away, so she sticks it out, the best that she can. The two have a lovely little bit of chemistry, seeming as if they’re getting to know, as well as love one another, gradually over time, with the usual hurdles having to be climbed over.

But hey, that’s how family.

But the reason why the Kid with the Bike isn’t, in my book, considered one of the Dardenne’s best, even though it can come very, very close, is its cop-out of an ending.

And that’s all I’ll say about that. Just see it and you’ll know what I’m saying. Hopefully.

Consensus: Despite a folly ending, the Kid with the Bike is typical of the Dardenne’s, in that it’s sad, honest, heartfelt, and surprisingly warm, given the underlining of darkness always there to be found.

8 / 10

Well, maybe he’s got some charm.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Interrupters (2011)

See? Not everybody has to kill each other.

In most cities throughout the country, there’s a great deal of violence that’s hard to turn away from. It’s tearing apart families, destroying societies, and most of all, killing many, many people who don’t deserve any bit of violence done towards them (not that anyone deserves to die, or be hurt in the first place, but you get my drift). This is when CeaseFire came together in hopes of doing one thing and one thing only: Interrupting violence. Made up entirely of ex-gang members who’ve done their time and seen the error of their ways, CeaseFire’s mission is to put an end to the violence epidemic among the youth of one of the harshest, meanest cities in the whole country, Chicago, by mediating conflicts before they escalate into murders. And while some people want to learn how to better themselves, as well as their own community, others don’t think that they can. After all, some feel as if they are too far along in life to turn back time and become peaceful, carefree members of society.

How wrong they are.

Hero #1

The Interrupters could have easily been the preachiest, most nauseating documentary ever made. It’s about how violence can be stopped through simple, small and kind actions, as well as action can be made, just not in the violent sense, to ensure that everyone walks away from a situation better and happier about their lives. It has the look and hell, even the feel of this kind of documentary that’s not necessarily hitting any sort of new nail on the head, but instead, just hammering away at one obvious point, again and again, until our minds are numb to it all and we just accept that this is how the world works, when in reality, it doesn’t.

And yes, the Interrupters can be a hard movie to get used to, especially whatever your preconceived notions about inner-cities, violence, and gangs, and all that jazz are. Even I myself went in with a little trepidation, having lived in Philly for quite some time, knowing what works, what doesn’t, and what’s all a hoax for middle-class white people, such as myself, to feel better about themselves.

But even I was shocked by how much the Interrupters, both the documentary, as well as the group themselves, work.

In fact, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before; in a time where violence seems to be happening every second in the world and is broadcast everywhere the next, it’s rather sweet and reassuring to see that there are people out there trying to stop this violence, once and for all, by any means. But what’s even more shocking is to see how it all plays out and, well, works – the movie is much more about the wins and success of the group, rather than the losses and defeats, however, both sides of the equation are shown here. The Interrupters shows us a group who’s mind-set it is to stop violence from occurring by calming people down and talking everything out, which sounds all hokey and stupid, until you actually see it work and somehow, all the cynicism goes away.

Hero’s #2 and #3

It’s as if, yes, the world can be changed through some heartfelt, meaningful conversations.

But the Interrupters is honestly more than just about this group, all the good that they’re doing, and what they can do for communities, but about the strength of the human condition in the first place. The fact that the group is run by ex-cons, who not just go out of their way to save people’s lives, but also put their owns on the line, is honestly surprising, but the fact that they all seem to know what they’re talking about and are 100% dedicated to making this group and its efforts work, is all the more shocking. It’s as if these people were tossed to the side as soon as they got out of jail, but rather than getting down in the dumps, they decided to make a difference and change people’s lives, the way they probably wish theirs would have.

It’s hard to go into specific examples, except to just know this: Everyone here is a flawed, but lovable human being. They try to make the world a better place and because of that, it’s hard to ever have issues with the things that they’ve done, said, or witnessed in the past. They’re past it now and are in desperate need to save people’s lives. If that doesn’t earn them at least some small bit of forgiveness, then I don’t know what does. Just stop the violence, people.

Please.

Consensus: Even at the center of the Interrupters, lies a hokey message about how we can all get along, but through the stories we hear and see play-out in front of our own eyes, it can’t help but feel honest, raw, and reassuring that all life is beautiful, no matter what kind.

8.5 / 10

Oh and of course, hero #4.

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

The Big Year (2011)

These people care about these birds a lot; that is, until they find  that white stuff on their cars. You know what I’m talking about.

Three men (Jack Black, Owen Wilson, Steve Martin), each facing their own personal challenges, try to outdo one another in the ultimate bird-watching competition in 1998. However, bird-watching gets in the way of what’s best in their lives and has them rethinking their dedication and craft.

The whole idea and premise behind The Big Year? Well, it’s real. Every single year, a group of avid birdwatchers go around competing against one other to see who can spot the most birds in some set area. Doesn’t sound like the most happening thing to do on the street, but these people could all be doing something a lot worse with their time, right?

Either way, it makes you think: Did we really need a movie about bird-watchers?

Brian?!?

Brian?!?

Probably not and judging by all of the trailers/posters/ads, it’s made abundantly clear that everyone behind it were trying their damn near hardest to make sure that absolutely nobody knew this was a bird-watching movie, because really, who would want to go out and see that? Seriously. It doesn’t matter who you have, or how good the movie may be – movies about a group of bird-watchers, just isn’t all that exciting to the general audience. And it actually wouldn’t have been such a problem what the material was about, had the movie itself actually just been good, but that’s the icing on the cake, because it just isn’t.

Director David Frankel is your typical layman’s director who shows up to work and doesn’t do much, which probably made him the perfect candidate for the Big Year, a movie that’s so happy-go-lucky and cheerful, that it’s almost nauseating. Being cheerful isn’t always such a bad thing, though – sometimes, it can work in your movie’s favor – but the Big Year relies so much on its slapstick and humor, that it just doesn’t connect. The moments that the movie wants to be funny, just doesn’t work or even register as, well, “comedy”. It’s a problem that never ceases throughout the whole flick, making it all the more of a chore to sit through.

But trust me, it actually gets kind of worse.

Once Frankel takes this story into straight-on drama mode, things start to get really unbearable as all of these dumb stories converging together. The story behind Wilson’s character is probably the dumbest, because here he is being the #1 birder in the world (which is something he deserves credit for, I guess), and he can’t even choose whether he wants to be with the birds or with his wife. Need I remind you, his wife is played by the ever so gorgeous Rosamund Pike who always seems to always look the same as each and every single year goes by. So right then and there, the film tries to pull you into this story and give itself a dilemma – one that, mind you, would be solved if this dude was actually placed in real life. “Goddess or birds?”, seems to be the main dilemma and well, I think it’s pretty simple to figure that one out.

But it’s not just Wilson’s character who gets this type of treatment, everybody else gets it too and it’s only worse when you have three comedic stars like Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, and Jack Black, basically all kicking themselves in the ass just for anything resembling a laugh. Steve Martin used to be one of the funniest and most daring guys in comedy, but now, he’s stuck doing old-man, grandpa roles where his performances consist of him being ultra-serious, with his once-in-awhile signature dance. That dance is priceless, but when he pulls it out here, it comes out of nowhere and didn’t make me laugh at all.

Tim?!?!

Tim?!?!

Then of course, there’s Jack Black who everybody seems to hate, but I for one, don’t. I’ll give Black some love here and there because the guy can be good when he’s given the material to work with, but is really scraping the bottom of the barrel here. He plays his usual “zany” role where he does all of this wacky stuff, and says weird things and why is that, you ask? Oh, because he’s the 36-year old slacker that doesn’t have anything else better to do with his life or his money, instead of just waste it all on bird-watching. Black is probably the most bearable to watch out of the whole cast, but that is really not saying much.

 

But fine, Wilson, Martin and Black all putting in terrible performances? That’s fine. I can accept that because they’ve given terrible ones before and guess what? They’ll continue to do so. The real stab that hurts harder and harder that I think about it is the fact that there’s so many more people in this cast, like Tim Blake Nelson, like Dianne Wiest, like Brian Dennehy, like John Cleese, like June Squibb, like Anjelica Huston, like Rashida Jones, and like so many others, that honestly, deserve a whole hell of a lot better. Why they’re here, why they’re stuck with this crap material, why they needed the money so bad, well, is honestly a hard question to answer.

All I do know is that it’s over with and they’ve all moved on. For the most part.

Consensus: Unfunny, poorly-written, and a waste of everyone involved, the Big Year deals with an odd premise, takes it way too seriously and never knows just what to do with itself.

2 / 10 

"Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas."

“Nope. Not a good movie in sight, fellas.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

I Am Number Four (2011)

I feel like Number 666 is pretty damn cool. Where’s that person’s movie?

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) seems like an ordinary teenager, who wants to live long, prosper, have a great time, find some hot chicks, drink, party, and just do what every other teenager in the whole entire world wishes for. However, he’s very far from ordinary – in fact, he’s an alien on the run from merciless enemies hunting him and the eight others like him. So in order to make sure that he doesn’t get found out by this group of baddies, he and his guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant), have to constantly go from town-to-town, changing their identities and staying as hidden and as unseen as they possibly can. That’s easy for Henri to do, but for John, he just wants to be out there in the world, living life like a typical teenager, which leads him to start going to the local high school, where he meets an falls for the cutest girl at the school (Dianna Agron), but at the same time, also captures the attention of the school-bully (Jake Abel), who isn’t afraid to start some stuff with John whenever he oh so feels the need or desire.

Basically, it’s high school, but you know, with aliens.

"Trust me, I'm hot."

“Trust in me, I’m hot.”

Just like Disturbia was D.J. Caruso’s junior-Hitchcock, I Am Number Four is definitely his junior-Spielberg. Everything in it just breathes, hell, screams Spielberg; the high school-setting, the angsty, misunderstood teenagers, the aliens, the government conspiracies, the monsters, etc. It’s as if Caruso felt the need to start trying out whatever famous director’s style he could go for next, regardless of whether or not he actually had the talent to do so, so in a way, it’s an admirable effort on his part.

Issue is, I Am Number Four also feels a whole heck of a lot like every other YA adaptation that tried so desperately hard to recapture the same magic and success as Twilight did and because of that, it definitely feels like a step-down for someone who is a pretty competent director. After all, Caruso gets a lot right here that other Spielberg-wannabes have tried to aim for; the high school and its characters are compelling, if also somewhat realistic, and for awhile, the mystery of these aliens, their powers, and all that stuff, is interesting enough to stick around for. But then, the movie also dives really, really deep into the mythology which, honestly, doesn’t matter, or work.

I Am Number Four is the kind of movie that probably works best, when nobody takes it serious – the director, writers, cast, everyone. It’s so goofy and weird that often times, it would have probably been best if the movie made itself out to be something of a parody of these YA adaptations, and then decided to turn the other cheek and become its own genre-flick, like say Shaun of the Dead, or even Airplane. But of course, that isn’t the case here – instead, we get a relatively self-serious movie that doesn’t always know how to tone down the sci-fi mythology that nobody can understand or care for, nor does it know when the best time for some fun character-stuff needs to happen.

Then again, maybe that’s just a problem with me – expecting human stuff out of a YA adaptation.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

Metaphor for technology? Eh, probably not.

But still, Caruso does offer up enough to make the movie, at the very least, an entertaining piece of mainstream trash that doesn’t need to be thought about long, especially considering that all it really wants to do is set-up more and more sequels to come. And considering that this is the film-business, is that such a problem? It isn’t if you have something to really work with; Twilight got five movies, whereas I Am Number Four only got one and honestly, there’s something wrong with that. A part of me feels like if I Am Number Four got the opportunity to expand on its universe, hire some better writers and whatnot, that it would have grown on to be something better than just another YA-knockoff that people forget about after a week or two.

It probably wouldn’t have been the next Hunger Games in any way, shape or form, but it would have at least been somewhat of an enjoyable diversion, right? Cause with the cast, the movie could have definitely done more to add some sizzle and spice to the whole YA-genre. Alex Pettyfer, despite always having to work with an odd American-accent, is perfectly fine and hunky as Four, or the apt-named, John Smith; Dianna Agron’s pretty-girl-who-takes-pictures-so-yeah-she’s-interesting character is boring, but she does enough of something with it; and yeah, Timothy Olyphant is a blast to watch, making the best of what he can, even going so far as to infuse any bit of humor that he can find in the creases. Everyone here is fine, but sadly, they never got the next opportunity to see what they could do next with this story, this franchise, or even this world.

Oh well. At least we got another Divergent movie coming out sometime soon.

So that’s good, right?

Consensus: Too serious to be campy, and too weird to be hilarious, I Am Number Four is an okay diversion from the rest of the YA-fare, but unfortunately, also doesn’t have much of its own identity to help itself out and break away from the rest of the pack.

5 / 10

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Wow. Alex must not really want Isabel in his life. Deuche.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Mechanic (2011)

Everyone needs a good mechanic. But for life.

Of all the high-order assassins in the business Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) may be the best there is, or that there has to offer. Bishop carries out his assignments with precision, detachment and adherence to a strict code, so that he never feels a single sting of emotion throughout his body when he’s completing these sometimes grueling and dangerous tasks. However, Bishop’s one and only true friend, Harry (Donald Sutherland), who also acted as something of a mentor, is tragically murdered, leading him to automatically think of who did it and just how they can be held accountable for their actions. Along for the ride is Harry’s son, Steve (Ben Foster), who is just as fired-up and upset about his dad’s death, but also knows that in order to extract revenge the right way, he’s going to have to listen to Bishop on everything he says, no matter what. And most of all, he’s going to have chill that energy down a whole lot.

I'm not worried. He knows why he's jumping.

I’m not worried. He knows why he’s jumping.

You’ve seen one Jason Statham movie and guess what? You’ve practically seen them all. Honestly, there’s not necessarily a problem with that; his screen-presence is still one of the most charming around that no matter how many times we see him beat the hell out of people, blow things up, and shoot big, heavy guns, we still love him and want to see more of him. Does that always mean that the movies themselves are all that great? Not really, but then again, they’re action movies – in today’s day and age, action movies hardly ever satisfy each and every person out there in the world, so the fact that Statham still does them and doesn’t show any signs of stopping, even while he’s nearing 50, is quite admirable.

And another reason why a movie like the Mechanic, as mediocre and fine as it may be, is also a solid reminder of what can happen when a Jason Statham movie actually seems to be trying.

For instance, the Mechanic is a little more than just another one of your typical Statham-vehicles – it’s also got another character to deal with that makes the movie more than just watching Statham do his thing. Ben Foster’s Steve is a solid character in a movie as crazy as this, because while he’s so incredibly high-strung and, honestly, over-the-top, there’s also still something of a bleeding heart at the center of this character. Sure, the movie could almost care less about how, or what he feels, but honestly, there’s something there with this character and it’s because Foster is such a good actor, that he’s able to make something as silly as this, the slightest bit meaningful.

Who can be balder?

Who can be balder?

Of course though, he also does a great job of creating some sort of chemistry with Statham, which looks as odd as it sounds. However, what’s so surprising about this pair, is that they actually do work well together; Foster’s wild card character, is a perfect match for Statham’s cool, calm and collected demeanor that never seems to falter. Together, the scenes of them shooting and taking down bad guys, while generic, also brings a certain flair of energy and joy because, as you can see, they’re having some fun here. Statham is, as usual, doing his usual act and is just fine at that, but Foster brings out a little something within him that, quite frankly, isn’t always seen from Statham.

Not totally a problem, but hey, every so often, it’s nice to get a reminder that Statham himself got his start on Guy Ritchie flicks and whatnot.

But either way, the action of the Mechanic is good enough for all of the junkies out there. It doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire (literally), but because director Simon West is more than capable of wading himself through all sorts of wild and crazy havoc, he does a fine job at making sure that it all works out. It’s effective in the kind of way that we can tell what’s going on, to whom, and what sort of effect it may actually be having on the characters involved. Yes, it sounds really stupid when speaking about an action flick, but it’s the small things like this that count the most and help make a seemingly conventional action-thriller like the Mechanic, seem like so much more.

Even if it is also just another excuse for us all to watch and admire all of the bad guys that Statham takes down and kills.

That, to be brutally honest, may never get old.

Consensus: Despite it still being conventional and predictable from the beginning, the Mechanic is still a solid Statham-vehicle that has all sorts of action and explosions, but also benefits from the much-accepted presence of Ben Foster.

6.5 / 10

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He's the 'Stath!

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He’s the ‘Stath!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Polisse (2011)

See, not all cops are terrible, immoral human beings!

The men and women who work in the Child Protection Unit of the Parisian police see and deal with a lot on a regular basis. They not only deal with the stress of their jobs but the inevitable fall-out in their personal lives-breakdowns, including, but definitely not limited to, divorce, adulterous relations within the force, and most importantly, depression. After all, seeing the world through some of this abused and endangered children can do quite a number on a person, and when you’re seeing it about a dozen times a day, eventually, all of that pain and turmoil can begin to take a toll on you. As is the case with mostly every member of the Parisian Police, they deal with a lot, but they also have such a strong unit that even when they do run into issues, whatever they may be, they always come together and help each other. But sometimes, as is most of the cases here, that doesn’t always happen and often times, the members can feel betrayed and left-out, without a hand to hold, or a shoulder to cry on.

Uh oh. Some bad person's going to get it.

Uh oh. Some bad person’s going to get it.

A lot of Polisse, honestly, feels like a documentary. Writer/director Maïwenn does something smart and interesting with her material in that she allows for it all to be filmed in all-too real way, where we’re literally flies on the walls, watching as this police unit do everything that they do during a normal working day and night. She doesn’t pass any judgement on any character, she doesn’t paint any person as a sort of a “caricature”, and she sure as hell doesn’t get in the way of everything that’s happening; if anything, her camera is just there to be documentation for all that these policemen and woman have to put up with on a regular basis.

And yes, it can get pretty brutal.

But once again, Maïwenn does something interesting with the material in that she doesn’t allow for it all to get so bogged down in the sadness and misery of the proceedings. While the cases that we hear and see play-out can sometimes be all too disturbing and screwed-up, Maïwenn shows that this, yet again, another day in the life of these men and women. She’s not lionizing them and making them out to be perfect human beings, nor is she really making it seem like what they do is the hardest job of all – she’s just showing that they have a job to do and it can be, often times, a pretty miserable one.

Even if the movie itself doesn’t get too bogged down in the sad aspects of the story, the lives of some of these characters can be, and it’s interesting that Maïwenn put her focus on these characters in the first place. Normally, whenever watching a piece on child-abuse cases and scandals, the focus is normally put on the abused and the abuser, without much variation of the form. Here, however, Maïwenn puts her focus on, honestly, the people who really matter the most; they’re the ones who follow the case from the very beginning and do whatever it is that they can to find the person responsible, and stop them before they continue to go on and cause more pain and harm to children.

If anything, they’re the heroes of the story, but how come they don’t often get the spotlight they deserve?

The kid looks up to the police now, but wait till they get a little older and start to see the world.

The kid looks up to the police now, but wait till they get a little older and start to see the world. Sadly, it may not last.

Either way, Maïwenn paints them all in an honest, never shying away from their issues, as well as what makes them so good at their job in the first place. While it would have been incredibly easy for Maïwenn to show each and everyone of these characters as near-perfect human beings, without a fault in their systems, she goes one step further and shows that, in some ways, they’re more screwed-up than you’d expect – sometimes, it’s because of the job, sometimes, it’s not. They don’t always make the right decisions and they sure as hell don’t always know when enough is, well, enough, but they do their jobs to the best of their ability and they got the job done.

Sometimes, isn’t that all you really need?

Of course, the ensemble cast of characters work best because of the cast working with them, some of whom get more love and attention than others, which is fine, because they’re all good. Joeystarr plays Fred and has some of the more emotional and powerful scenes of the whole flick, showing just how his own home situation can come out onto the work that he’s doing in bad, unprofessional ways; Karin Viard plays Nadine showing an emotional vulnerability unseen in the rest of the characters; and while she’s considered an out-lier by the rest of the characters, Marina Foïs plays the photographer, documenting this group as they all pal around together and try to make ends meet on the job, showing a lot more insight than you’d expect.

But really, what makes all of these characters work so well together is that there’s a real feeling of love and connection between them all, making it feel as if they really are a family, that can’t be toyed with or destroyed, no matter how many harrowing experiences come in their way. The movie, once again, doesn’t make them out to be perfect human beings, but shows that sometimes, having the hand of your fellow man or woman, is sometimes what helps people out the most.

All it takes is a little hand-holding.

Consensus: Polisse doesn’t shy away from the gritty and upsetting features of its story/cases, but it also shows us real, honest characters that don’t so often get the attention that they probably deserve.

8.5 / 10

Hey! That's not UPS!

Hey! That’s not UPS!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Beaver (2011)

Cockney-accented beaver-puppets always help get through depression.

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is at a crossroads that most men at his age come to. He doesn’t know if he’s happy or not, what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he especially doesn’t know how to talk to those around him. However, he finds a way to cope with all of these issues by picking up a beaver puppet and, by using a cockney accent that makes him sound straight out of a Guy Ritchie flick, interact with each and every person around him. While his wife (Jodie Foster) is happy about it because he’s now talking to them, Walter’s oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) isn’t too hot about the idea; then again, he’s going through some problems of his own where he doesn’t know what he wants to do after high school and mostly passes the time by writing papers for fellow students. And for a little while, Walter’s new method of coping with his depression seems to be working out for him, as well as those around him, but sooner or later, there does come a point where the facade begins to run thin and people start getting weirded-out by the dude talking with a puppet.

Is this a light-hearted dramedy, or Panic Room?

Is this a light-hearted dramedy, or Panic Room?

The Beaver could have been a bigger movie, but man oh man, did it have some terrible timing. Yes, the Beaver came out a little after Mel Gibson’s racist and misogynistic freak-out and because of that, sadly suffered. The movie could have been wildly released to a whole slew of theaters, could have made a bigger dent at the box-office, and hell, it could have even gotten some critics and fans back on the Gibson Train. However, that didn’t happen and it’s a shame, because the Beaver’s a better movie than some give it credit for.

Of course, it’s by no means a masterpiece, but for what it is, it’s a small, sweet and sometimes funny look at one man’s depression, and how he uses a silly-looking puppet to guide him through it all. Does it make perfect sense? Not really, but the fact is that Jodie Foster directs the movie in such a lovely way, what with it’s breezy pace and all, that it didn’t really bother me how far it wanted to go with this premise.

After all, the movie itself is nearly an-hour-and-a-half, which does make it seem awfully brief.

However, Foster is a capable enough director to allow for material such as this, to work. It doesn’t hit us over-the-head with constant metaphors, nor does it try to be anything more meaningful and life-affirming than just a simple, down-to-Earth tale of one man’s issues. You can call it “hokey”, or “sappy”, or whatever you want, but there’s no denying that the movie’s enjoyable, so long as you aren’t expecting to have your life changed by the end.

But there is a feeling that movie could have been more, if I’m being truly honest. Everything involving Gibson and the beaver is perfectly fine and actually adds a lot of fun to the movie, but whenever it tries to focus more on Yelchin’s character, the movie drags a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes that he has with Jennifer Lawrence can sometimes be pretty good, if only because they have dynamite chemistry, but after awhile, they begin to show up at times that almost seem unnecessary. A movie that was already short as is, could have, somehow, been trimmed down to an even shorter run-time.

And this isn’t to say that Yelchin, Lawrence, or anyone else that isn’t Mel Gibson aren’t good, because they are. However, it also feels like Foster herself may be struggling with where to go with these two stories, how to connect them, and how to make them both simultaneously interesting. The fact that Yelchin’s character is a bit of a slacker without much inspiration in his life, already makes his story-line seem a tad bit more interesting, but the supposed love-interest he has in Lawrence kind of takes it away from being as such. Lawrence herself is quite good, but you also get the feeling that she’s got more charisma and personality than this thinly-written role may have for her.

Some of this doesn’t matter because, when you get down to it, it’s really Gibson’s show and he makes it worth watching.

All personal issues aside, there is no denying that Gibson himself is a charismatic performer who, when given the right material to work with, can not just work wonders, but make you realize that he truly is a star who can do everything. He can do tough-guy bravado, he can do sweet, sensitive guy, and he can definitely do everyman simpleton, and while he only gets a chance to show-off the later, it’s still a good reminder that hey, he’s still a good actor, no matter what sort of trash comes out of his mouth behind-the-scenes.

Well, someone's career is about to take off...

Well, someone’s career is about to take off…

As Walter Black, he gets another chance to be funny, but also show that there’s a more dramatic side to him as well. I’m sure the original script was aiming for a darker-tone, what with Walter acting out in public with a puppet and all, but Gibson takes the material and has a ball with it. He’s not only funny with that pitch perfect accent, but he also gives you the idea that there is a sane and normal-thinking human being underneath all of the acting-out. While he may not fully show it, he’s still there and it’s enough to make you want to see where he goes with the character next.

Of course, it’s a bummer that Jodie Foster doesn’t get much to do as Walter’s wife, but then again, it’s her movie that she directed. She doesn’t feel like she needs to get in the way of Mel’s show and it’s a smart maneuver. Next time, however, I would definitely appreciate more Jodie Foster.

Can’t get enough of her, honestly.

Consensus: Without trying to change the world and the people existing in it, the Beaver is a sweet and likable little dramedy, featuring a great performance from Mel Gibson – someone who is, despite all of the controversy surrounding him, a good actor.

6.5 / 10 

Oh, Mel! What a silly goose he is!

Oh, Mel! What a silly goose he is!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

For the last time: Yes, you can kick it.

A Tribe Called Quest were a hip-hop/jazz-fusion group in the late-80’s/early-90’s who didn’t necessarily tear it up on the charts, but were respected enough that they’re legacy long lasted anyone or anything that may have been #1 at the time. Over the course of eight years, they released five albums – almost of all of which are near-masterpieces and considered to have changed the game of rap – went on tour, made plenty of money, and began to build bigger and bigger names for themselves. After all, Q-Tip, Phife, Jarobi, and Ali were just a bunch of kids from New York, looking to do something with their lives and music was the clear way. However, after plenty of inner-group tension and fighting, the band eventually went their separate ways, with plenty of bad blood felt between certain members. Obviously, every member would go on to do their own thing and poo-poo an idea of a reunion ever occurring, until, well, they do actually reunite, get back on-tour, start performing, and, believe it or not, teasing a soon-to-be-released sixth album. It seemed like everything was going great for A Tribe Called Quest again, but sometimes, old wounds stay open.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

Somebody must have not gotten the memo about the hats.

A Tribe Called Quest is probably the most important hip-hop group in all of the game of rap. While a lot of people will probably fight me to the ends of the Earth about that – to which I say, “bring it on” – the fact remains that A Tribe Called Quest created this innovative sound that was, in a way, their own. They were this nice hybrid of jazz, rock, rap, alternative, funk, and blues that wasn’t heard before, or hasn’t really been heard of since and it’s a shame, too, because so much rap nowadays could benefit from that. Don’t get me wrong, the rap game is still alive and well in today’s day and age, but still, there’s that slight feeling that it’s missing the same tenacity and style that A Tribe Called Quest had.

Even if you don’t like rap, they’re still a band that you have to at least respect; for doing what they did in the rap-world, at a time when it seemed like people were still belting out “Hammer time!“. They were slowly, but surely changing the way most of us listened to hip-hop and while you may not say that they’re absolute “originators”, they still did so much with the term “hip-hop”, went above and beyond it, and well, made a respectable name for themselves. You can’t despise hip-hop as much as you’d like, that’s up to you, but you’ve got to hand it to A Tribe Called Quest.

Hence why they’re documentary is still pretty great, even if it doesn’t quite reach the genius of the band themselves.

Michael Michael Rapaport, aside from being a pretty solid actor, seems very much at-home with his directorial debut here and it’s an interesting one. Clearly he has a love and affinity for the band and in that case, probably wouldn’t want to go too far and push these guy’s buttons, especially when there’s plenty of buttons to in fact push, but nope, he goes to the extra limits to see just what is on these guys’ minds and how they feel about certain other members of the band. Sure, he gets down to the nitty and the gritty of how the band started and all sorts of other lovely insights into how some of their most iconic sounds and raps were created/originated from, but he also goes the extra mile in seeing just what makes them all tick, whether it’s ticking in a good way, or bad way.

For a lot of people, they still don’t have the slightest idea why the band did originally break-up and exactly why there’s bad blood between anyone in the first place. What Rapaport shows is that, between Q-Tip and Phife, there was plenty of anger and resentment, however, it’s not always like that. After all, they’re not just band-mates, but buddies that love the same thing in music and work perfectly off of one another. Say what you will about musicians having a sort of God-complex – which Q-Tip definitely has – they have the ammunition to change a lot of people’s minds and worlds, which is why when Q-Tip and Phife were together, and on, they could have changed the world around them.

Of course, they did seem to fight an awful lot, too, so maybe changing the world’s a bit of a pipe dream.

Spin the black circle, Q-Tip.

Spin that black circle, Q-Tip!

But still, the movie shows that there’s not just a beautiful creative-process to the guys, but a real heart and soul to what makes them live and want to create music. Rapaport gets some of the deepest, darkest secrets from these guys, but it never seems exploitative; as a fan, you can sense that he’s so interested in just what the hell happened with these guys and how they’re still touring, even if, you know, there’s still some anger between them. He isn’t asking as a journalist, or gossip columnist, per se, but more as an admirer of fan boy, which sort of makes me wish the movie featured him just a tad more than it actually did. Then again, it’s not his story, so it makes sense why we don’t get a lot of him in the first place.

After all, it’s A Tribe Called Quest’s story and it’s a story worth listening and seeing, regardless of if you’re already a fan in the first place or not. It definitely helps if you’re a fan to begin with, as some of their more pointed moments are talked about at great lengths and it’s quite salivating, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Like the band’s music, the documentary is made for anyone to listen to watch, enjoy and take a little something out of. If you come away liking the band a whole lot more than you did, or taking on a newfound love of them, then good.

Just know that they were one of the greatest hip-hop acts to ever take the mic, which makes Phife Dawg’s passing all the more tragic.

RIP Phife. You’re always on point.

Consensus: Regardless of if you’re already a fan of A Tribe Called Quest or not, Beats Rhymes & Life will do a lot inform you about the band, as well as give you an inside scoop on some of the band’s inner-turmoils and dramas, without ever overdoing it, but instead, always appearing as a tribute to the one-of-a-kind act.

8.5 / 10

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Did somebody forget to tie their shoes?

Photos Courtesy of: Cut the Crap Movie Reviews

Red Riding Hood (2011)

He won’t puff, nor will he huff. But he’ll probably just moan.

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a young girl living in a small, peaceful little village with her parents (Billy Burke & Virginia Madsen) who plan to keep her safe from any harm that may come her way. The only reason why I even mention this to begin with is because this village of hers was, many, many years ago, attacked by a big, bad, and blood-thirsty wolf. Why? Well, nobody knows, but they don’t want to take any chances so they settle something of a peace treaty with him. They stay in their neck of the woods, he stays in his own, and that’s about it. Problem is, the wolf is hungry again and decides to come back to the village and wreak all sorts of havoc. This leaves the small village no other choice than to call upon the likes of a werewolf-hunting priest (Gary Oldman), who is a bit of a pro at these sorts of things. However, he begins to take a stranglehold on the village and leave everybody wondering just who is the beast. Is it the sexy, but mysterious Henry (Max Irons)? Or, is the sexy, mysterious, but also angry Peter (Shiloh Fernandez)? Or, quite simply put, is it Valeria?

Oh, what drama!

Sexy-ish.

Sexy-ish.

One of the biggest problems with Red Riding Hood, among many others, I assure you, is that it has no reason to exist. Sure, you can say that about a lot of movies made by Michael Bay, but it’s also kind of incorrect; his movies are created solely for entertainment and because he has a gigantic hard-on that he needs to be rid of. While his movies may borderline near-stupidity, they still have reasons for existing, even if the reasons themselves may be incredibly silly.

But in the case of Red Riding Hood, I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. What it seems like producers in Hollywood wanted was nothing more than just a Twilight-ized version of the old folklore tale, Little Red Riding Hood. One reason it was made to begin with was most definitely for money, but then again, I bring up the question: How? How could something that seems so odd, nerdy and better yet, limited, in terms of whom it may actually reach and intrigue, be given all this money, with all this sort of talent, just for the hope that it will bring in all the same sort of big bucks that director Catherine Hardwicke was able to reel in with Twilight?

Well, whatever the reasons may be, who knows. And honestly, who cares!

Because really, Red Riding Hood‘s a pretty crummy and whether or not it exists, doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it’s a pretty terrible movie that seems to have been dead from the very first second it arrives on the screen. While I can assure you that I was not in the least bit expecting a masterpiece of any sorts that discussed the interesting ways that humans and nature can interact and learn how to get along, I still wasn’t expecting something to be as boring as this.

Which is a big shame, because we know that Hardwicke is a fine director. However, here, it doesn’t seem like she’s actually directing anything; scenes just sort of happen and everything rolls on in a continuous fashion. There’s no real tension, no real fun (with a few exceptions), and most of all, there’s no real drama. Meaning, most importantly, there’s no romance to be felt, which is exactly what it seems like producers were going for in the first place. That the handsome male duo of Max and Peter are as dull as they come, already spells out problem for Valerie, as it seems like the movie wants to be smart about how it treats her viewpoint and the way she tells this story, but in the end, is only concerned with which dude she wants to bang first.

And that’s not normally something I have a problem with, but here, it was so boring that I didn’t even care whose bone got jumped, by whom, or even when it happened. I just wanted the movie to stop happening and end.

Sexier.

Sexier.

This is all to say that throughout Red Riding Hood, I felt extremely bad for the cast and crew involved, as it seems like most of them were definitely strapped for cash and needed something to pay their heating bills. Amanda Seyfried is always an interesting screen presence, but most of the movie here takes her personality away and leaves her to just be on the side as everything else sort of happens around her. Which, like I said before, is a big shame, because it’s a fantasy tale, told by the viewpoint of a woman, but sadly, they go nowhere with this character, or Seyfried’s talents as an actress.

Same goes for just about everybody else who dares to show their face in this. Virginia Madsen and Billy Burke are just hanging around as the parents, only called on for emotional cues; Fernandez and Irons are just hot, and that’s about it; Julie Christie tries as the grand-mom, but really seems to be in a whole other movie, completely; and Lukas Haas, well, is just here. The only one who dares to make this movie any bit better is, unsurprisingly, Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s always a great performer, but here, it seemed like he came ready to play and didn’t care what everybody else in the movie was doing. Oldman probably saw that the movie was about the classic Riding Hood tale, realized that it was probably a bit of a goof, did it, and decided that, because he’s Gary Oldman and all, can do whatever the hell he wants. So what if everybody else around him is sulking and drop-dead serious? Gary Oldman has a voice to use and holler with, so screw all that other nonsense! I wish I could say that I was sad to see Oldman in this movie here, but honestly, it seemed like the guy was having a blast and helped me to sort of do so, as well.

Although, when he’s gone, everything else about Red Riding Hood falls apart and that’s about it.

So be it.

Consensus: Despite the onslaught of talent, Red Riding Hood is too dull, aimless and boring to actually do much of anything fun or interesting with its old tale and instead, try its hardest to appeal to a broader audience who, quite frankly, probably won’t be interested in this anyway.

2.5 / 10

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Oh, man! Sexy as hell! More Oldman! More! More! More!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Project Nim (2011)

Despite the poo-throwing, chimpanzees are still like us.

Meet Nim – he’s a little chimp that was taken from his mommy when he was just under two weeks, given to a family full of people, and all for the sake of a science-experiment, done by Herbert S. Terrace, professor of psychology at Columbia University during the 1970’s. What Terrace was trying to experiment with Nim was to figure out whether or not a chimp could figure out how to speak full sentences, by adapting and being brought up into a human world. And so far with Nim, things are good, but after awhile, they start to go South. Both literally and figuratively.

Whenever you see a little chimp on TV, the zoo, or anywhere else for that matter, you see how they interact with you, one another, and to the rest of the environment that surrounds them. It’s crazy to think that our species somehow adapted from them and became big, old, and dirty things, just like them. However, at the same time, it’s pretty simple to see why we could have adapted from them to be what we are because of how similar we are in certain ways. This movie doesn’t just show that, but it makes us wonder whether or not people should actually even go through with seeing that for themselves. Yes, no matter how tempting it may be to dress a little chimp up in your tighty-wighties, it may not be right in the long run.

Just a tad bit of food for thought.

The fact that chimps are so similar to us in many ways, is only barely touched on as director James Marsh doesn’t seem all that concerned with figuring out whether or not they are us, but more as to whether or not they can be us. You think that raising something, anything to be like you, to live by your rules and standards, with no matter how hard you try, will work, but that’s the problem: It usually doesn’t. That’s what happens here with Nim and his life, but it isn’t the way you’d expect it to all play out.

Hey, come on! It was the 70's.

I’ll just have you all know that she is not a teacher assigned to teaching Nim; she was just so stoned during the 70’s that she’s actually trying to talk to him.

Many questions are brought up in the way to make you think for yourself, rather than having Marsh and all of the subjects point to you and tell you what you should have planted in your mind about this real life situation. For instance, one of the big questions goes right back to the beginning: Was it right for Nim to be brought up as a human in the first place? Obviously the chimp was there for medical research, so maybe, yeah it was right in the name of science, but what about humanity? Well, that’s where things start to get a little fishy and complicated.

See, taking any living thing out of their element/space, will most likely not be met with positive reception. Yes, that living thing may learn how to use the bathroom, speak, and get things done the way they need to, but it surely may not be fully happy with where it is, had it been in its original spot in the first place. I sound all vague for the sole reason that I’m not just talking about Nim and what they did to him in the first place, because Nim is only the clearest, most popular example. I’m talking about everyone, everything, and hell, anything, for that matter. If you take anything outside of this world, whether it be a human or an animal, you are most likely going to run into some problems down the road with that living thing coming back to it’s original-self. Which, in the case of chimps, is a pretty scary thing because those mofo’s can do some damage.

Real damage, too.

That’s what brings me onto my next question that this movie brings up and that’s whether or not the way Nim acted in his later-years was because of the fact that he was constantly shipped from person-to-person without any sole figure to care for him long enough to leave a lasting impact? Or simply, if because the actual teaching itself was bad. Seeing Nim go from a new person, almost as each and every year goes by is heartbreaking to watch in many ways, but mainly for the fact that we know that the chimp is only going to act out a bit more and be even more confused, especially when you put him in a spot that he isn’t used to, and is trying to shake the cobwebs off the from the old place he use to stay and be accustom to. It’s sad because we know if we were Nim, we would have no clue as to what the hell to do with our lives and probably be just as confused as him, but considering it’s a chimp and he’s supposed to be watched over by “professionals”, it does make you wonder about the people involved, more than the actual experiment itself.

Like all pre-teens, Nim just wants to get behind the wheel and show all the ladies his new caddy.

Like all pre-teens, Nim just wants to get behind the wheel and show all the ladies his new Caddy.

Every person that was a ever a substantial part of Nim’s life, all get to share a bit of the spotlight here in a way I wasn’t expecting. The family that was there first for him, to the professor that monitored his whole experiment, to the people that were trying to run experiments on him by using needles filled with HIV and hepatitis – they all get a chance to tell their side of the story and it’s well-done too. As I said before, Marsh never gets in our face and tells us what we need to think about each and every person. He just hands out these people to us on a silver platter, gives them a chance to tell their story, and allows us to make up our own minds about what the hell we should think about them.

This device also allows for us to see who the people really, truly were that cared for Nim, who cared enough to just get their names in the papers and record-books, and what people just did not give a single crap at all about a sign-language speaking chimp. I won’t give away the people that you see as bastards and what people you see as latter-day saints of the animal world, but you will see just how wrong it is for some people to treat an animal, regardless of the importance behind the poor thing. Sure, it’s an animal, but that doesn’t mean that they are any lesser than us. Every person in this movie knows that simple fact, but they just don’t care too much about. They don’t care too much about Nim, they don’t care too much about the research, and they sure as hell don’t care too much about actual animals, either.

That’s why when we see Nim get all pissed-off and angry at the people that pushed and tugged at him all of his life, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the furry dude. It’s downright scary sometimes, but we know where it’s all coming from and you don’t point the finger at him, as much as you do to the fellow ding-bats that didn’t really bother too much with him. But, when Nim is happy and when things begin to look up for him, you feel a certain sense of joyfulness and pleasure in the simple things in life. Simple things like playing, hugging, kissing, eating, climbing, sharing, talking, communicating, etc. All of those things in life are as simple as you can get, and it reminds you just how beautiful the world can be, if you can look at them through innocent, little eyes like Nim’s. Sure, he was a chimp that was experimented on to see if they could get him to form full-on, grammatical sentences, but he was also a chimp that showed everybody what it was like to live the life of somebody that just wanted to be happy, to understand the world around him, and pretty much, get everything that he wanted.

Hmm.

Now, who does that sound like?

Consensus: What you think is just a simple movie about a chimp-experiment gone somewhat wrong, turns out to be a thought-provoking tale of what makes us living, who is to blame for it, and whether or not all things deserve to live life in the shoes of others, all packaged into Project Nim, one of the most heart-wrenching documentaries about animals, that you don’t need to see on the Discovery Channel.

9 / 10

Now why can't I do that and not be slapped in the face?!?!?

Now why can’t I do that without being slapped in the face?

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Conspirator (2011)

Where have I heard this story before? Well, nowhere actually, but see what I’m trying to get across in a not-so subtle way?

Mid-April 1865, stage actor John Wilkes Booth (Toby Kebbell) assassinates President Abraham Lincoln during a production of Our American Cousin. We all know this, who the hell doesn’t, but what most people don’t know is the story surrounding the other conspirators in this assassination, one of which was a woman wrongfully accused all because her son was one of those conspirators. That gal’s name was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), her son was Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), and she ran a boarding house in Washington that Booth, along with the other conspirators in this assassination frequently stayed in, and where the plan was most likely hatched. Whether or not Surratt really did conspire to kill the President isn’t quite known yet, but Union war hero and attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is assigned the task to defend her to the best of his ability, by any means necessary. At first, Aiken doesn’t think it matters because she’s guilty in his eyes, but after awhile, he starts to see that there is more brewing beneath the surface here with this case, and he will not stop until justice is so rightfully served.

In case you don’t know by now, Robert Redford is a pretty political guy, and he takes his liberal-stance very seriously. So seriously, that most of his flicks seem to come off more as history lessons, rather than actual movies, with real, interesting, and compelling narratives driving them along. That said, the guy’s got plenty of power in Hollywood to do whatever he wants, when he wants, with whomever he wants, and how he wants to, which makes total sense why a real life story like this would get such a star-studded cast, with such a preachy message, that it’s no wonder why it got past almost every producer out there in the world.

It’s Robert Redford, are you going to deny his movie?

Did a woman who's being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn't necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

Did a woman who was being wrongfully convicted for a crime she didn’t necessarily commit really need to be dressed in all-black throughout the whole movie?

That’s why, as intriguing as this story is, you know exactly where he’s getting at with every part of this movie. For instance, Redford is obviously making a lot of points about the similarity between this case and the ones of post-9/11 hysteria that was more about finding anybody who was even close to being guilty, and make sure they pay the price so that the rest of the country can begin to feel like a safe and peaceful place like it was meant to be. Honestly, it’s a nice analogy that Redford uses, the only problem is that we get it every step of the way. So instead of being a movie that’s filled with a compelling story, characters, and emotions, it just feels like a history lesson where we’re being talked down to, as if we don’t know all about the problems our world of politics is facing today.

And it should come as no surprise that this was Redford’s first movie since doing Lions for Lambs, which was more of a thesis, than an actual movie, so I at least have to give the guy credit for cobbling up something of a story together and making something out of it. While I don’t want to get into discussing that movie anymore than I already need to, I will say that this movie does show Redford improving more as a film-maker who has a point behind his movies, even if they are extremely heavy-handed and as blatant as you can get. While that does seem weird to say about a guy who has a Best Director Oscar to his name, as well as plenty of other great movies he’s written and directed under his belt, it seems like something that needs to be said considering how damn preachy the guy gets, both in real life and with his movies.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that it’s better than Lions for Lambs.

There, happy? I rest my case!

The only way that this movie survives throughout it’s near-two-hour-running-time is because its cast is so stacked to the brim, that you can’t help but want to watch and see what they’re able to pull out of this. James McAvoy was a great choice as Frederick Aiken, the type of guy you feel like would make it big as a lawyer-type in today’s society, but just didn’t have much leeway to get past all of the head-honchos back in those days. McAvoy is good at handling the determined, passionate character that Redford doesn’t bother to cut any deeper with, but I still think that’s better than nothing consider he can get-by in scenes against heavy-hitters like Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, and most of all, Robin Wright.

"Attica!!! Oh, shit. Wrong history class."

“Attica!!! Oh, crap. Wrong history class.”

However, it should be said that it couldn’t have been too hard for McAvoy to get by in his scenes with Wright because she doesn’t do much talking really. Instead, her performance is strictly consisting of cold stares, a lot of frowning, and just looking like she’s about to lose it at any given second – which isn’t such a bad thing because the gal handles it very well. I’ve always liked Wright in all that she’s done and I feel like she gets a great chance to give it all she’s got, even in a way that didn’t need to be over-the-top or totally blown out-of-proportion. This is a especially surprising given the fact that this character could have easily gone that way, and to even worse results being that this is a Redford flick, and he usually seems to sympathize quite heavily with wrongfully convicted.

And since I’m on the subject of the cast, I have to say that the rest of this ensemble do pretty good jobs with their roles as well, even if some do feel a bit off here and there. Those two in particular are Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood who both feel as if they’re a bit too modern for this type of material, and don’t really fit in well. Maybe for Wood’s character, that’s probably done on purpose, but for Long, whenever it is that he shows up with his fake mustache that looked like it was ripped right off the face of Burt Reynolds, it feels like a total curse on him, whoever is around him the scene, and the movie itself. Not saying that he ruins the movie just by the pure simple fact of his presence being noted, but just because it feels like a piece of stunt-casting that back-fired on Redford, as well as Long himself; a very underrated actor that has yet to be given the full-on pleasure of taking a complex role and making it his own. Maybe one of these days. Just maybe.

Just hopefully not in a Robert Redford flick, is all.

Consensus: The true story that the Conspirator is telling is a very interesting, compelling tale that may stand the test of time, but as for the preachy, history lesson disguised as a full-length feature-flick? Not so much.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, "You are innocent, until proven guilty.""

“Okay, what I want you to do in this next scene is point to the camera and say that, “You are innocent, until proven guilty.'”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Bullhead (2011)

Guess there’s an underground mob out there for everyone. What a world we live in.

The underground meat market in Belgium is full of all sorts of trouble and corruption, which, for some, makes lives total hell. One such life is Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts); although most of the problems he has in the present day, stems from an tragic incident that occurred early in his life. While hopped-up on all sorts of drugs, pills, steroids and whatever else can help him get through the day, Jacky realizes that the world he knows as the cattle-trade business, is going to be shaken up a bit now that a supposed “meat inspector” has been killed. Although the rest of his associates around him go nutso and find out any way they can get past the fuzz, totally unscathed and unharmed, Jacky couldn’t be too concerned as he’s more or less trying to move on with his messed-up life. And this usually involves him pining after a girl he’s known since he was little that he wants to be with, but doesn’t know if he can push through this travesty of a life that he has.

In case you don’t already know this by now and are wondering if I acted like a dummy and left anything out, well, surprise, surprise! I did! See, while most of Bullhead is centered around this Jacky character, the life he has had and the one he lives now, there’s a good portion that’s also dedicated to this on-going police-investigation that concerns a childhood friend of Jacky’s. And the reason why I chose not to include this synopsis up above is all because, honestly, it’s not what really gets this flick moving.

Cheer up! Stop feeling so blue...

Cheer up! Stop feeling so blue…

In fact, if there was anything that really took me away from loving this movie more than I probably should have, it was the fact that this subplot constantly reared its ugly head. And that’s not to say it wasn’t pertinent to the story; it definitely was and showed that this meat-trafficking business was as brutal and as unrelenting as any other shady business. However, whenever the movie really seemed to be paying attention to Jacky, his plight, who he is and how he gets through life on a day-to-day basis, it felt emotional, powerful and consistent, especially in terms of how interesting it could get by just being as simple as the sky. But whenever writer/director Michaël R. Roskam decided that it was time to throw in this gangster-lite tale, it just seemed to get in the way of a good thing.

Maybe had this story been all by itself, in its own movie, its own run-time and its own general basis to do whatever it wanted, whenever it wanted and how it wanted, then maybe we’d have a way better movie on our hands. But being a person who is supposed to judge a movie on the merits presented to me, and not what it could have been in my mind, I guess I have to take into consideration that this movie isn’t perfect. Doesn’t mean I have to be happy about. Sure as hell doesn’t mean I have to not mention it whenever I bring it up into conversation with my peeps. But what it does mean is that this movie could have been so much better, had they just decided to cut out a good portion of this movie that was, well, for lack of a better word, “conventional”.

But, like I was saying, the movie itself here, people!

And like I was saying about this movie here, while it seems like two stories converging into something of a relatively uneven movie, the one story is so compelling and powerful, that it’s hard for me to really walk away from this film and not say that it deserves to be seen. The reason for this to, is all because of this character, Jacky, and how the movie paints him as. Yes, because while he may be involved with this underground meat-market trading business where he jacks up his cattle on constant steroids and HGH hormones (though, to be fair, not nearly as much as he seems to do to himself), there’s still something about him and his complexities that draw us to him just about every second he’s on screen.

Some of that has to do with what happened to him as a child (which we do eventually find out and is easily the most disturbing scene in a movie that I’ve seen in quite some time), but some of that also has to do with the fact that he just wants to live his life, and a full one at that. Even if that does mean creepily shackin’ up with a girl he hasn’t seen since he was nearly 12 or so. Or, hell, even if that means using steroids to have that perfect, muscular-build to look and feel “masculine” – it doesn’t matter because to him, this is his way of living. He makes money illegally, yet somehow, it’s hard for us to really put that on the side and just realize that this is a very sad person who we can not only help but feel bad for, but even come close to rooting for whenever it seems like he’s getting close to hitting his personal goal of “being a normal person”.

Metaphor, I guess.

Metaphor, I guess.

It’s the way Jacky’s written that makes us think this; he’s not always the most moral guy, making the right decisions, but when he gets a chance to do somewhat of the right thing, he does and moves on with his life. However, most of the reason why Jacky is such an interesting, wholly complex character, is because Matthias Schoenaerts is so great as him, feeling, looking and basically, just being a person that you’d imagine who would live a life as sad and as painful as he has. Schoenaerts has become something of a bigger name since this movie came out, and it’s easy to see why – there’s something cold, dark and mysterious about his presence with Jacky that makes us feel like we must get to know him each and every second he’s around.

Some people get this way with Tom Hardy, but mostly everybody was like this with one Marlon Brando. And trust me, I know those two comparisons are pretty ballsy ones to make, but seriously, I feel like Schoenaerts and the work he puts in here is actually deserving of it. If only somewhat, that is. He practically carries this movie on his own, busted-up back and shows you that it’s not what you say with your words, it’s more of how you carry yourself from scene-to-scene, with your own body-language. Schoenaerts is great at showing us somebody who literally feels awkward and unknowing of the world around him, so much so that when it comes to having conversations with those not within his underground meat-market circle, he’s a blabbering, nervous mess. But rather than having these scenes play out like an intentional, hella-awkward comedy, Schoenaerts and Roskam make these moments hard to watch and listen to; you know he’s trying to make things right and it’s just not at all working out for him.

But, then again, that’s why we have such a thing as “heroes”, “villains”, and a little word called “anti-heroes”. Those we don’t want to like, sympathize, or even care for, but we as normal, everyday human beings can’t help but do so. It’s just in our nature.

Consensus: In Bullhead, there are two opposing stories ramming against one another, and while one is clearly not interesting, the main one featuring Matthias Schoenaerts in a stellar performance is what keeps this movie interesting, emotional and worth watching, if only for when he himself is around.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Silly, Mathais! That's not potty!

Silly, Matthias! That’s not potty!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Trip (2011)

Good food and My Cocaine impersonations: All you need in life.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are two British actors and comedians that have worked together many times before and, for some odd reason, the two decide to go on a trip together. Though it was initially planned to be just Coogan and his girlfriend on the trip, she left to go back to America, leaving him to bring somebody he can’t necessarily consider “a friend”, but not somebody he “dislikes”; basically, just a “confidante”, if you will. Anyway, the two embark on a journey of Northern England where they eat all of the finest food, drink some of the most splendid wine, chat it up with the most delightful people, and even go for a bit of sight-seeing as well. However, the two mostly just spend their days battling each other in constant games of wits, career-choices, and most importantly, various impersonations that one thinks is better than the other.

A simple a premise, as well as a simple movie. Usually that works for me, but sometimes, it can feel like a crutch that the makers of the movie can’t help but fall back on, anytime that it tries to get darker, or more serious than it had originally promised. Thankfully though, director Michael Winterbottom and co-writers Brydon and Coogan themselves, make the Trip something just a tad bit more than what it could have easily been, with no consequences whatsoever: A fine, timely and splendid good time with two hilarious people.

However, rather than just focusing on how funny each of these guys are together and in their own respective, little worlds, the movie actually goes deep into who they are, and what makes them sometimes at odds with one another. For instance, we all know that Coogan fancies himself being a miserable prick, and here, basically playing himself, that’s all he ever is. He constantly gets down on those around him, criticizes everything he sees and never seems fully fulfilled with his life or his career. Then, take the bright, smiley, optimistic and relatively pleasant Rob Brydon who is nearly the opposite of Coogan. The only glue really keeping them together and on speaking-terms is their love of comedy and making people laugh; whether it be themselves, or a huge, paying crowd.

Don't know if selfie, or trying to get service.

Don’t know if selfie, or trying to get service….

Pitting these two together, and sometimes, against one another, is interesting because Winterbottom never really has these two go head-to-head in a way that would make it seem like they could beat the shit out of one another after the other messes up a Roger Moore impersonation. Nope, none of that unrealistic shite here! Instead, they more or less just get at each other’s necks every so often, making fun of their personalities, and saying whatever comes to their mind first, without ever having a filter of what not to say in order to not offend the other too much. But even after they trade barbs, they’re back on the road, in a restaurant, or in a park, walking, talking, eating, joking around, and impersonation people as if nothing had ever happened.

They’re the typical friends that aren’t the best of friends, but are good enough together that they relatively enjoy each other’s company. And because so much of it resembles a real, actual friendship between both Brydon and Coogan, it’s hard to ever forget which is true about their relationship together, or better yet, when exactly are they done “acting”. See, because they wrote this together, it’s difficult to draw the line between “fictionalized”, and “real”. The line between the two is blurred many times here and it’s nice to see that not only can these two bounce jokes off of one another like it’s nobody’s business, but that, at the end of the day, they seemingly don’t really have a problem with the other.

Even if they do, it’s probably a small problem that’s best not to even elaborate on, mostly because that would just entitle there to being more and more countless celebrity impersonations.

That said, because Brydon and Coogan are so good together, the movie’s very funny. Although, it’s not constantly funny. There’s a part of me that was enjoying this, but wasn’t necessarily laughing as much as I thought I should have. Their constant impersonations were funny and definitely got me laughing-out-loud more than a few times, but when it came to tossing and turning, in a non-stop fashion – eh, not so much. But I thought about it long and hard and I realized that’s fine; like life, when two people engage in conversation, it’s not always snippy, snappy and crackling dialogue between them both. It does drag and it does get quiet at times, and that’s how life is. Even if the two people are as extremely funny as both Brydon and Coogan; they’re human beings after all and no human being can be hilarious, all of the time.

Occasionally funny is good enough.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

How I assume we all look while trying to pull of the perfect Bond villain.

And I used the word “drag” earlier because the same could be said for the movie itself. There are moments in this movie where I felt like, despite it moving at a fine, sometimes languid pace, the movie never really gets off to where it wants to go that, by the end, it felt like just a nice time spent with two very funny people and that was it. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when the two screen-presences are as funny as the two fellas here, but there is a feeling that it could have been cut-down by size, just by a bit. If they did so, it wouldn’t have felt like such a slog at times that, once it was all said and done, it felt more like a trip that we were getting ready to go home for, rather than one we never wanted to end.

But I do have to give the benefit of the doubt to Winterbottom who, essentially, made a near two-hour movie of three hours of footage. Surely, it couldn’t have been an easy task, but it’s one that Winterbottom mostly succeeds at. Maybe it would have worked on TV like it had originally done, but it still feels suitable enough to not totally notice the various cracks and folds hiding underneath the editing. Sometimes, they’re noticeable and sometimes, they’re not. But most of the time, you just don’t care. You laugh, check out some sweet sights, get incredibly hungry and just have a relatively good time with two very funny Brits.

Damn. Wish my friends were as funny, or could do a killer Anthony Hopkins.

Consensus: While the Trip isn’t consistent in terms of its hilarity, or its interest-factor, it still proves Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan to a lovable pair that work so well together, we can’t wait to see it again.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Aw. What besties!

Aw. What besties!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Guard (2011)

Why can’t more cops be this cool?

An unorthodox Irish policeman named Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. As you could imagine, things don’t gel so well between the two as one’s kind of a dirty, lazy drunk that likes to sit around on his romp while everybody else solves crime, whereas the other one wants to get on the case right away, no frills attached. Not to mention that there’s a bit of a race problem between the two, seeing as how Irish, when they get drunk, well, tend to say some stuff that aren’t always nice.

While I was watching this movie, something really strange happened to me. While watching this movie and found a lot of similarities between this and In Bruges because right from the start, it’s pretty obvious. You get a bunch of lovely accents, Brendan Gleeson acting like a charming fool, dark situations, blood, violence, and they’re all done for laughs.

Another strange happening that occurred to me was the other day before I saw this movie, I was actually checking out the drug-induced trip that was Spun, and thought to myself, “Wow, this director seems like he’s making a music-video. I wonder if he was one of those before this movie? Hmm?” Sure enough, it turned out that the director of that one was, and better yet, that the writer/director of this movie, not only was trying to make a movie like In Bruges, but was also the freakin’ brother of that same writer/director! Goes to show you what I know and it made me feel like I was on-top of the world of with my movie knowledge, that will probably all get thrown-back in my face once I go to the next local Quizzo and fail miserably at the “Movie Round”.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink 'em out.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink ’em out.

Yeah, that’s reality for me, folks, and it’s not something I, nor my parents are too fond of being true.

Damn. What a disappointment I am.

Anyway, similarities aside, the writer/director of THIS movie, John Michael McDonagh still does a great job in his own right and starts us off perfectly with what we’re to expect from the rest of his movie. There’s definitely a very goofy side to this movie that isn’t afraid to show itself, poke a little fun at the whole buddy-cop aspect, and also make a lot of the more serious cliches of a crime movie, seem totally stupid and ridiculous. Like his brother, John Michael seems to be playing around a bit with the conventions we are all so used to seeing from movies of this nature and it kept me on edge wondering where he was going to go next with this story, and what exactly he was going to throw at me next. While making me laugh, I presumed.

That’s why this film’s humor, is so rich in the way it’s delivered. We’ve all seen dark comedy used in crime movies, especially from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but this movie really uses the dark comedy aspect to its strength and doesn’t seem forced in the least bit. Rather than giving us an act of violence and trying to make it all light by adding a cheeky line in there, John Michael still uses the same exact formula, but instead, makes it feel deserved and pretty goddamn funny if you ask me. I liked this film’s sense of humor, and it mostly just all felt very Irish to me as everybody is mean, cruel, and pretty damn depressed. That is, until they get a couple of Guinness’ in your systems, and then they’re a bunch of partyin’, happenin’, drunken fools.

Like true and tried Irishmen.

Where I think John Michael screws up a bit with this movie and the tone he’s going for is whenever he decides to get a tad bit more serious on us, and sadly, it doesn’t work. Most writers/directors are able to make the transition from goofy, lighthearted comedy, to straight-up, serious drama, but I don’t think he is one of them. For instance, any time the movie focused on Boyle and the meetings he would have with his, equally-as-cheeky mother who was slowly dying, the film got very dry, very serious, and very boring for me to actually keep my interest. Some people can make this transition work, but if you can’t, it’s just all the more glaring in the end as we never really catch on to any of the actual drama John Michael has in store for us. Instead, we just want the guy to keep on throwing more and more comedy at the wall, without worrying who it does, and doesn’t offend.

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

However, when it comes right down to it, I cannot, for a second go wrong with an all around solid performance from Mr. Brendan Gleeson himself, who is just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. Gleeson has always been a guy that’s known for his dramatic-power in big-budget dramas where he usually plays a supporting character, but when it comes to comedies, he’s just as good, if not better just because of this undeniable amount of likability to him that shines through every scene he has here. Right from the start, you know that this cop isn’t going to be your usual, heavy-duty copper that takes everything so seriously. He’s more of a reasonable dude that doesn’t take everything so damn seriously, likes to make sarcastic jokes, and most of all, just likes to have a wee bit of fun for the hell of it. Now why couldn’t someone like him pull me over on the Freeway, Thanksgiving Eve?

Bastards.

And while it does seem weird to see Don Cheadle, of all people, in a very Irish-flick, the point is sort of in that description; he’s meant to be out-of-place and therefore, we draw jokes at him. It’s also a joke that hardly gets old, which mostly has to do with the fact that Cheadle and Gleeson work so well together, they seem like two guys you could really see connect together, given under circumstances of course. But watching as they build some sort of a friendship/connection, is interesting enough and gives more substance to a movie that could have been a down-and-out comedy, with bits and pieces of violence and action sprinkled in.

Consensus: Though the tone can be a bit all-over-the-place at times, the Guard still works because of its goofy sense of humor that, never gets annoying, nor takes away from giving us a lovely chemistry between the unlikely pair that is Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink. That's it.

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink…… That’s it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Another Earth (2011)

So, you’re trying to tell me that there is another Dan the Man? I gotta meet this a-hole!

After a terrible incident, brilliant MIT astrophysics student Rhoda Williams (Brit Marling) lands herself in jail for quite some time. That’s why when she gets out, not everything is as normal as she once had imagined. But, she eventually strikes up a relationship with a composer who has just reached the pinnacle of his profession (William Mapother), even though he is suffering from a severe bout of depression. Also to add a bit of insult to injury, there’s a duplicate Earth that appears in the sky that nobody on “real” Earth has any idea to make of it, although there’s plenty of discussions and ideas floating all around.

The whole idea behind this movie, is a pretty cool one to say the least. There’s this other planet, that features imitations of us, doing the same things we do, acting the same way we do, and even living out our lives the same way we do. Even as unlikely as that may be, it’s still pretty cool and gives this flick a sci-fi edge that can’t be ignored.

However, I wish the actual creators of this film knew that because holy hot damn does this baby not make sense!

Okay, first of all, let me just start off by pointing out where this film did not make single bit of sense to me. The times that they explain “Earth version 2” makes no sense because it seems like the planet has seem to come out of nowhere. I highly doubt that a planet would just pop-up in our atmosphere without anybody realizing anything in the first place, and then come so close to our planet, without ever causing any chaotic imbalances. For example, Earth version 2 is so close to our atmosphere that it pretty much seems as if it’s going to hit us straight-on and nothing ever changes. The waves don’t pick up, fires don’t ever ignite, light never changes, and hell, there wasn’t even gusts of wind that ever seemed to get vicious.

"It says that I have to be 'moody and silent'. Now, how the hell do I do that?"

“It says that I have to be ‘moody and silent’. Now, how the hell do I do that?”

Granted, the whole film looked miserable with it’s hand-held approach, but nothing ever seems to put these people in danger by the fact that this other planet may possibly collide with their own. I’m not a huge science fan or anything, but even I myself know a thing or two about our globe and what would happen if any other the size of our own came close to us. Maybe a science-major knows more of this than I do, but if so, then so be it. I might just be ignorant and all.

Anyway, all that science-babble aside, the movie’s pretty fine. It just takes awhile of getting used to once you realize that this movie isn’t going to be sci-fi based at all; it’s just going to feature some elements to make a rather human-story, seem even more human.

The main theme behind this flick is the idea of being forgiven because of the proposition of another life being out there. The idea of another life is obviously replaced by the symbolism of the other Earth that’s out there and still offers up the same ideas, but it’s well-done and thought-provoking. Can we be forgiven for something as terrible as the act committed here in this movie in another life? Or, will the guilt of that act always be with us no matter where our minds, bodies, or souls travel towards? It brings up a lot of good points and I liked the way director Mike Cahill brings that out in this production that literally seems like he got it made in his backyard.

Granted, there are a lot of scenes and moments in this flick that come off as a bit pretentious where these people all seem to be talking way too philosophically about nothing, but in the realms of the atmosphere that Cahill creates, it seems reasonable and that’s what I liked most about this flick. It is a very grim tale, but it also shows you the ways that certain people forgive others and forgive themselves in the meantime. The romance that is even created between these two, feels real because they both need each other in their lives but there is still an ounce of mystery and tension because there is that one big secret that keeps them apart and the way they get through it is something that came off as very real.

But then when you have a story like this, along with a pretty neat idea about another Earth being out there, you would think that this film would really pack an original and emotional punch but somehow just doesn’t. The explored territory is dramatic, but not very original or refreshing. The way this relationship goes between these two people is at first interesting because it’s usually how all strangers start off by getting to know one another, but then there is this one scene that sort of blows that whole romance-angle out of proportion and makes it seem a bit melodramatic. That bummed me out too because it seemed like this film was really going to hit that romance angle hard, along with that other Earth idea, but instead comes off as a bit disjointed where one subject gets more attention than the other. Could have really went somewhere, but just never fully amounts to the greatness it could have achieved.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

B Rabbit in 20 years.

The real greatness behind this film lies within Brit Marling as she not only co-wrote this flick, but also stars in it as Rhoda Williams. There’s something about Marling that caught me off-guard right from the start where she seemed like this type of gal that has a lot more to her, rather than just being a plain, simple, and pretty blonde. Instead, she seemed more complex than that and her character shows that. Rhoda is pretty much a mess and there are a lot of key scenes where we see how she lives with the life she now has after this horrible incident and it comes off as very interesting and in a way, I would have liked to see her own film dedicated strictly to that idea. Marling always seems like a compelling figure in this film and I felt totally behind her character even though she committed this horrible act and it’s just another layer that was able to added onto her already three-dimensional character.

Then, there’s William Mapother, who is always good in everything he does and proves it once again here. It’s crazy to see the transition this guy goes through from being a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, to all of a sudden changing up his ways and becoming more stand-offish to people after this horrible incident. It seems very real, as that’s how Mapother plays it as so, but how he starts to go back to his old ways and look at life with a smile again, also seems very realistic and shows you how complex this guy can be in his own right. They had a nice chemistry together that didn’t just seem like two people who were lonely and needed a nice hump or two, but more of a connection to a human instead. It’s a really nice element to this flick and I could have only wished they focused on that a lot more.

Consensus: The premise is interesting and the performances are wonderful, but Another Earth does suffer a bit from not going further, and digging deeper into the promise it creates.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Damn seagulls always ruining a great shot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Cold Weather (2011)

Detectives are so mainstream, man.

A forensics-science major named Doug (Chris Lankenau) returns to his hometown of Portland and shares an apartment with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Doug doesn’t really have much ambition with his life, so he takes what he can get, even if that is getting a job at a local ice factory, where he meets a dude named Carlos (Raúl Castillo). Together, they form a nice friendship that kind of hits a rough-patch when Carlos starts trying to aim his sights on Doug’s ex, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), but not as much of a rough-patch as when the gal goes missing. In search of Rachel and a sense of life itself, the three all go running around like crazy, as if they were younger, smaller-budget versions of Sherlock Holmes themselves, which makes it even more ironic since they read him on a regular-basis.

The whole idea behind this flick is obvious, but also smart in a way as well. It’s a mumblecore movie, which means we get a whole bunch of scenes featuring young, twentysomethings just sitting around, drinking and/or smoking, talking about how much life blows, how much their parents blow, and when they aren’t doing that, they’re mostly just staring into space, contemplating what to do next with their lives. Most mumblecore movies seem to be like that, which gets it down for us on a real level, one that we can connect with a lot easier than most of these big-budget, shallow, mainstream flicks. However, this mumblecore is slightly different from the rest because not only does it play with the conventions of the same genre it’s to be considered apart of, but actually ends up being a mystery-thriller. But hold up, because the joke isn’t quite done yet. Rather than it being a movie about an actual mystery, with actual reasons for a bunch of thrilling moments, the movie features zip of that aspect.

"Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I've had ever since I turned 22."

“Wow. This pipe has given me the most excitement I’ve had ever since I turned 22.”

That’s right, the whole 96-minutes of this flick is basically about nothing. However, that’s the whole point of this flick: Nothing. Right when we meet these characters, we realize that most of them live empty, boring lives where the most excitement they have is either playing poker with two or three friends, getting drunk, or going to Star Trek conventions that feature some of the lamest characters of the whole franchise. It does take place in Portland, so it should come as a surprise to almost no one that these people are so bored and tired with their lives, which makes it all the more reason for them to get all hyped-up over the possibility of a crime that needs to be solved. I almost feel guilty calling it “a crime”, because once we actually find out what’s happening behind this mystery and all, it comes off as a bit of a disappointment by how uneventful and smart it actually is.

Then again though, that’s sort of the point of this movie.

Writer/director Aaron Katz seems to have a good grasp on what makes any movie, no matter how big or small, interesting. Yes, there are plenty of scenes where these characters are seemingly doing nothing, talking about nothing, and planning on doing nothing the next day and so on and so forth, but it feels honest and realistic. Also, Katz never shines a bad light on these characters either. So what if they’re uninspired and constantly dry? They’re actual people, you know? They have feelings, want to do human things, and also want to have fun every once and awhile as well. Showing these characters in that type of light is what saves this flick from being uninteresting and also gets it out of the genre of mumblecore, since most flicks associated with that genre either give every one who watches it a bad vibe right after.

However, that could just be me.

All of that can especially be said for our main protagonist, Doug, played very well by Chris Lankenau. I’ve never seen Lankenau in anything ever before in my life and I don’t think I will again anytime soon, however, the guy does well with a character that could have easily been a totally unlikable person from the start. Doug seems like he has all of the promise in the world to make something of his life, but is a bit of a loser in the way he just sits around, mopes all day, and gets lame-ass jobs that don’t pay much or give him much to do anyway. Then again though, that’s life so you got to take what you can get. But there’s a nice naturalism to Lankenau that made me feel like I was watching a dude practically play himself, without any strings attached. I don’t want to say he has much charisma going for himself to carry this movie, but he does have enough moments where you wonder if he ever acted before-hand, or just tried something out as a hobby. Wouldn’t be surprised by either decision of his.

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

Life is catching up with you, indie-boy. Better start running for the suburbs!

The same type of naturalism that Lankenau has going for himself can be said about the two other actors in this movie, Trieste Kelly Dunn and Raúl Castillo. Dunn is great as Doug’s sister because there’s something about her that makes you not want to like her, but you still do because she’s just as bored with life as Doug is, she just has more to show of it. The scenes with them together are great and probably connected with me a bit more than the usual, average person because of the relationship my own sissy and I have. Sometimes we get pissed at one another and can’t believe how ridiculous the other one’s being, but we love each other, are always there to talk to, and like to have a good time with as well. That touched me, not just because of my own relationship with my sister, but because the writing between them two are the best moments, and Dunn and Lankenau feel like an actual brother-sister combo.

Castillo is also very good as the buddy that Doug makes at work, and actually has you believe that these two random people would spark-up a friendship, despite it occurring practically overnight. Castillo has a certain sense of naturalism and likability to his act and character that makes him seem like the only dude from this movie that could break out and make something of his career, just as long as he continues to get more juicy roles. Fingers crossed on that one. The one person of this cast that I didn’t mention is not mentioned for a reason and that’s Robyn Rikoon as the gal who goes missing. Despite having a name that sounds like she was a long, lost member of the Loony Tunes, Rikoon’s able to be taken seriously for a good chunk of the movie, until shit gets a bit serious and her acting goes a bit overboard. I don’t want to say how or why, but just to let you know that out of everybody else in this cast, she’s the only one seems to actually be “acting”, which is a problem for a movie that’s trying to be so real, and came close to pulling it off so well.

Consensus: Most will wonder why Cold Weather is so aimless and pondering with its premise, but soon will actually begin to realize that’s the point once the tension, the mystery, and the actual story begins to kick in.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yup, I'm bored already."

“Yup, I’m bored already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Submarine (2011)

Don’t ever trust the girl in the red coat.

14-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) has a lot going on in his life at this point in time. He’s found himself very much attracted to a mysterious girl he knows named Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige); he’s got a new neighbor (Paddy Considine); and is beginning to realize that his parent’s marriage is slowly, but surely, falling apart. Oliver may be you and a little naive, but he knows what he wants in life, and that’s to have love coming at him from all sides. Therefore, that means he’ll have to be able to handle his problems with both his parents, as well as the object-of-his-eyes. Though it may seem like an easy-task for Oliver at first, given the fact that he’s had everything mapped-out ever since the initial thoughts came to mind, he’s going to realize you can’t just plan life to go as exactly as you want it to. Sometimes, problems arise, over-lap one another and give us a choice as to what is better for us, and what matters most.

Gosh, what I would do to be 14-years-old again, man! I mean, jeesh! It seems like it was just yesterday that I was getting ready for that big, brave, new world they call “high school”, expecting the worst, but wanting the best. The same world in which I knew I wanted to meet the girl of my dreams, fall in love, get good grades, be happy, and still be able to maintain my youth throughout it all. And yeah, I guess that sort of happened (depending on who it is you ask), but that’s not what matters here.

But what I’m trying to get across with that whole random rant about my expectations going into high school and approaching the next stage of my life, is that the feelings of being young and youthful is exactly what resonates so well with me for certain movies, and that is exactly what happened here with me and Submarine.

Yes, 80's mullets are still funny to look at.

Yes, 80’s mullets are still funny to look at.

Right from the very beginning, I felt like this was a Wes Anderson-clone with more naturalistic-realism thrown into the bit. That’s not to say that Anderson’s movies aren’t filled with real people, doing real, believable things, but for the most part, his movies do usually consist of people living lives inside the head of nobody else’s but his own. They’re fun, they’re light, and most of all, they’re charming, but they’re so whimsical, that they could never, ever be real people. That is, unless they were the biggest, most annoying hipster kids on the face of the planet.

Here though, writer/director Richard Ayoade feels like he’s going for more of a connection with his work and place us inside the real lives, of real people; more specifically, real kids that, believe it or not, feel just like you or I. Sure, Ayoade more often than not jumps into some wacky bits that dive deep into the mind of its narrator, Oliver himself, but they’re there for the sake of being day-dreams and images inside the head of Oliver. And for the most part, they’re used to show us just how wild Oliver’s imagination can be, therefore, making us believe more in the creative, ingenious ways he is able to finagle his way from fixing his parent’s marriage, to then fixing whatever problems he may be having with his girlfriend.

In fact, who really makes this movie work is Oliver Tate himself, played so effortlessly by Craig Roberts. Roberts was clearly a young kid while filming, which makes a lot of sense when you see how it is that he reacts to everything around him. It would have been real easy for Ayoade and Roberts to come together and make Oliver Tate an annoying, too-smart-for-his-own-good-and-age type of kid, but they don’t bother with such conventions as that. Instead, they give us a kid who is definitely smart and wise a year or two beyond his peers, but still doesn’t know nearly as much about life, making decisions, facing consequences, falling in love, feeling heartbroken, being dedicated, than he thinks he does.

Then again, weren’t we all like that at one point in our lives? Hell, come to think of it, some of us still are probably like that! I know I am! That’s why it makes so much sense when and feels honest when Oliver begins to grasp life itself, tries his hardest to make sense of it and at least give it all he’s got. He’s sympathetic, he’s likable and he’s sort of cool, but he’s also a real-life kid I could have seen myself hanging out with and maybe even talking to a few times in the early days of high school. Then, as time went on and I became a total jock, I would have left him at the “weirdo lunch table”. Sorry to state it like that, but hey, it was high school. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in them parks, man.

Like I was saying though, Roberts is always doing a good job with Oliver, having us believe in him as a character, as well as a 14-year-old that’s going through some growing pains almost nearly as much as his girlfriend is, Jordana Bevan. Everything I said about Roberts and his performance, is pretty much the same for Yasmin Paige and her performance – fun, likable, charming and most importantly, believable at all the right times and ways. They have a nice chemistry despite being young actors in a movie that’s sort of all dependent on them and their ability to make this work, but it clearly doesn’t phase them one bit.

As for the adults, they’re all detailed and layered just about right, although, if anything, their conflict with the story was one of the main problems I had with this. First of all, let me just say that Sally Hawkins, Noah Taylor and even Paddy Considine all do fantastic work with their roles. They could have easily been dull in hopes that the kids’ personalities would just take everything over and get our minds away from the older-heads, but that’s not what happens. They’re just as, if not sometimes, even more charming than the little kiddies they’re sharing the same movie with.

However, where my problem with this movie comes in is how Ayoade handles both subplots, yet, never fully feels committed to either. The whole subplot about Oliver trying to win the affection of Jordana takes up most of the first-half, and is easily the best part of the whole movie. It’s sweet, tender, lovely, romantic and has plenty of choice tunes from Mr. Alex Turner himself. What else can I say about that!?!?

Parents: So boring, so drab, so whatever.

Parents: So boring, so drab, so whatever.

But once that plot sort of settles-down a bit and put on the back-burner, then the whole “possible affair” angle comes up and the movie gets a tad bit messy. Some of it still stayed charming, likable and fun, but for the most part, I could tell that a lot of what Ayoade was going for, didn’t really end up showing itself by the end. He tries to juggle these two strands of plot, and while they seem like they’d be an easy act to move around with, he seems to get his ideas and themes lost in a bit of a jumble.

In all honesty, it’s difficult to explain my problems with this movie, without describing everything, word-for-word, scene-for-scene, but just know this: Once the young love angle sort of chills out, so does this movie, and it’s kind of a bummer. Not saying that the movie as a whole is a bummer, I’m just saying that you should realize what you’ll get yourself into. Especially if you’re longing for nostalgia like me.

Damn being old!

Consensus: If you’re going through something of a mid-life crisis, Submarine, for the most part, will do you in and make you long for the good old days of falling in love for the first time, going into school, dealing with angst, and all that jazz. However, it’s not always focusing on that and when it doesn’t, it gets a tad messy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Damn you, young love! You get me everytime!

Damn you, young love! You get me everytime!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Sitter (2011)

I think I’d hire “skinny Jonah Hill”, over “fat Jonah Hill” as my baby-sitter. Just more trust-worthy for some reason.

Noah (Jonah Hill) is practically the last person you want watching your kids. He’s mean, rude, brass and doesn’t really care about those around him. He’s just selfish and makes everybody around him feel like crap. But this time, he may have met his match when he is called on to babysit three of his next-door neighbors for a whole bunch of money. Sounds easy and simple, right? Well, not exactly, especially not when you have a bunch of sneaky, manipulative kids such as these ones here.

I hate to ask it, but what the fuck, David Gordon Green?!?!

I mean, yeah, I know he isn’t reading this now so who the hell cares, but seriously, this is a travesty for someone to go from creating this, to then creating such an abomination as this!

Were they both done by the same person? Or, did one just put his name on one, and decide to have somebody else take over the job and use Green’s name anyway, because of some “pull” he may have with the studios? I honestly have no clue. And to be truly honest, I shouldn’t be caring as much as I do right now. It just ain’t worth it! It just ain’t!

I know my little tirade up there may make it seem like I’m in love with everything Gordon Green has ever done and even agree to the fact that he’s been touted as “the next Terence Malick,” but believe it or not, I’m actually far from being that type of person. Out of all of his flicks, I probably liked Pineapple Express the best and that’s coming from me in a sober state-of-mind as well. Everything else except for All the Real Girls, is pretty so-so for me, but all that aside, this is pretty terrible, even by his standards.

Devil in sheep's clothing.

Devil in sheep’s clothing.

Where Gordon Green misses the mark on this flick is that it just isn’t funny. Some bits and pieces here are raunchy fun, but other times, it just feels like they’re being lazy and trying too hard to shock us into thinking, “Oh dear, it has kids peeing, pooping and blowing up stuff, so it has to be shocking!” I didn’t give a shit whether kids were apart of the raunchy comedy or not, they weren’t making me laugh and the same goes for the “jokes” that Green felt the need to throw every damn time he felt bored, or whatever.

And to add on top of that crappy humor, the sympathy-route this movie takes just slows everything down and comes off as terribly shoehorned in. These kids apparently all needed their own dimensions so whenever the film starts running out of ideas, they just throw the kids in there and try and make us feel bad for them, in a way that almost comes out of nowhere. There’s no real message here, no real nothing, but instead it just feels like a lazy attempt at Green trying to make us feel something for anybody in this movie when the fact of the matter is: We just don’t.

Those poor kids.

Now, I can’t go on and on about this flick and say that I didn’t laugh here and there, because I did. It’s not a god-awful terrible movie that’s unwatchable, but it’s definitely something that never seems to get off the ground. The whole idea behind Hill taking all of these kids out one night in a haze of debauchery and craziness, sounds like it should be an absolute blast from start-to-finish, but it never really goes there. Instead, it just gives us a raunchy laugh or two, show us something going wrong, and maybe even allowing there to be time for these characters to break-down and shed some of their tears, as if that wasn’t contrived enough for them already. It continues at this pace throughout the whole movie, but it’s never fun, it’s never exciting, and it’s not extremely long. Which is weird considering that the movie itself only clocked-in at 81 minutes. However, they also happened to be the longest 81-minutes of my entire life.

Well, except for that one time where me and an ex of mine had to wait for her parents to leave the house for the night so we could do a little lovin’ upstairs, but that’s besides the point!

The only real saving grace to this whole flick has to be Jonah Hill, in one of his last, “truly-fat” roles. Hill, no matter what type of junk he’s given, always does a great job with the humor and that is no exception here. He plays that “lovable loser with a heart” act like no other and makes this film better with his dead-pan delivery. Other times, it seems like he over-does it a bit with the constant words of wisdom he tries to give to these kids, but that’s more or less the script’s fault than Hill’s really.

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy's so cool and he just knows it!

Still, how could you have a problem with that face. The guy’s so cool and he just knows it!

Poor Jonah Hill. Oh well, at least he’s made up for his misfortunes since this.

Other than Jonah Hill, the other one who shows up in this flick a little too much is Sam Rockwell who really disappointed me here considering just how much I love him in, well, just about anything else he does. Rockwell plays the angry, strange drug-dealer that wants his $10,000 from Hill and practically goes all-over-the-place looking for it while trying to keep a hold on them as “best-friends”. This whole idea for Rockwell sounds rich and like a nice way for him to do some goofier-stuff that we haven’t quite seen from him as of late, but yet, that doesn’t happen. Instead, he’s just obnoxious, loud, and annoying to the point of where you don’t want to see him at all anymore. It’s a shame, too, because this guy has perfect comedic-timing and can make any line sound witty, but he just doesn’t here. I think that’s more of the fact that the script just blows and doesn’t do anything to help him, or anybody else in this flick.

Poor Sam Rockwell. Oh well, at least he’s continued to do everything he’s done since the beginning-of-time: Being the coolest mofo ever known to man!

Consensus: The only thing keeping the Sitter alive at all, is Jonah Hill, and even his character gets pretty annoying and unfunny, right from the very start. Much like the rest of the movie, really.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn comedy!

R.I.P. to the sort of, kind of, maybe, good old days of looking morbidly-obese but still relying on your comedic-timing to get you by. Damn Hollywood and their judgmental ways!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net