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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Aaron Taylor-Johnson

The Wall (2017)

Trumps worst nightmare.

U.S. soldiers Allan “Ize” Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena) answer a distress call in the desert of postwar Iraq. Out of nowhere, gunshots erupt, leaving Shane badly injured and Allan with a bullet in his leg. Forced to take cover behind a crumbling stone wall, Isaac now finds himself in a fight for survival against an unseen sniper who has all of the advantages.

The Wall is one of those lean, mean, tight, and incredibly small thrillers that don’t get made as much as they probably should. See, most of Hollywood believes that the best way to achieve some chills and thrills, is solely through big, loud, explosions of action, CGI, and exposition that doesn’t really matter. It isn’t always the case, but for the most part, Hollywood has let the American thriller down and it’s up to folks like Dough Liman to try and save it.

Lots of experience from COD.

Unfortunately, the Wall isn’t quite the saving grace you could hope for.

If anything, it’s a very small movie that flirts with the idea of being incredibly compelling and fun but, other than at least 20 or so minutes of actual intensity, the movie sort of just sits there and coasts by. It seems like, at any point, it’s going to take off and go somewhere crazy and relatively fun, but just as soon as that’s promised, for some reason, things slow back down. It’s weird, too, because you can tell that Liman wants it to take off of the ground – it’s just that he either doesn’t know where to go, what to do next, or basically, just didn’t have enough money to do the sorts of things he wanted to do.

After all, Liman shot this whole thing practically on the sly, without anyone really knowing of its existence, nor what it was going to be about, which is a noble decision on the part of Liman’s, but it also may have taken the movie back a bit. The budget is smaller than most thrillers of this nature and because of that, some of the more ambitious things he may have been tempted to do, probably couldn’t have happened. And it’s not like I have issues with small movies such as this, just sitting in one location for the whole run-time, but that’s literally what happens in the Wall for at least half of its hour-20 run-time: Sits.

The only aspect of the movie that makes it all worth saving and sticking around for is Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the lead role.

Wait. Why is there a picture of air?

And I think it should be stated by now, people, that Taylor-Johnson is a pretty great actor. Sure, he’s a hunk, a pretty-boy, and most definitely the crush of every girl out there who has ever laid their eyes on him, but all that aside, the guy can handle any role put at him. His role here finds him doing a lot of heavy-lifting all by himself, without much assistance from those around him, and it deserves to be noted that he makes it all interesting to watch. We don’t get much background about his character, other than the fact that he’s a soldier and loves America, but Taylor-Johnson gives us the promise that there’s something more there, just waiting to be revealed; add that to the fact that he’s a soldier, trapped in a deadly-position, without much of a way out, and yeah, he’s awfully sympathetic.

Which is why the Wall, though it doesn’t really get as deep as it probably should have, definitely seems like the kind of movie that wants to say something about war, the military, or even foreign affairs, but at the same time, sort of only skirts by all of these ideas it probably had brewing in its mind. The Iraqi soldier speaking on the radio the whole movie, constantly reminds us, the audience, about the United States and their constant insistence on getting involved with other country’s business and while it is no doubt a true and honest sentiment, it’s told to us through someone who is, either nonexistent, or basically, just a victim. There’s not much else to him, so because of that, we’re sort of just left with the idea that he’s a sick human being who wants to see soldiers killed, because, well, why not.

May be a case of me nitpicking, but I don’t know. At least some of those mainstream, Hollywood, big-budget thrillers have a little bit more on their mind than just shooting, blood, action, violence, and xenophobia.

Consensus: Even with a solid lead performance from Taylor-Johnson and a few solid thrills, the Wall crumbles under the weight of its own rather small ambitions and, of course, budget.

Hurry, Aaron! Save that air!

5 / 10

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life is depressing, then you die. It’s that simple.

Despite the big house and even bigger bank account, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is still incredibly sad about something. Her second husband (Armie Hammer) constantly leaves for business trips, when in reality, he’s just having sex with other women; she doesn’t keep in-touch with her teenage daughter; and she’s still feeling some sort of guilt from having cheated on her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). But for one reason or another, he sends her a transcript of his latest novel and it absolutely haunts Susan’s life – in her dreams, at work, at her house, seemingly everywhere. And why is that? Well, it just so happens to be a random tale about a husband (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a wife (Isla Fisher), and a daughter (Ellie Bamber) who get ran-off the road by a bunch of mean, dirty and foul Southerners. What does this novel have to do with Susan’s life? Well, she doesn’t quite know, but the more she continues to read, the more she starts to think about her own life and all of the countless decisions she should have, or shouldn’t have, made.

It’s been nearly seven years later since famed fashion-designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man and well, he’s been sorely missed. While that movie not just proved to be a great acting showcase for the always underrated Colin Firth, it also proved to the world that Ford was more than just one of the biggest, most notorious names in the fashion-world. His aspirations and ambitions with his career went further beyond designing pretty clothes and making a heap-tons of money – he had a skill for directing movies and guess what? It all showed.

I don't know, so don't ask.

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

But what’s so interesting about A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, his latest, is that Ford shows he doesn’t just have a knack for crafting beautiful visuals, but also knows how to make, well, a movie, with a good story, good acting, and most importantly, emotion. This time around, however, Ford’s creative-skills are put to the test in that he takes on what is, essentially, two movies into one; there’s the dark, depressing character-drama about sad and lonely rich people, and then, there’s the even darker, but far more grueling and violent Southern-revenge thriller. What do the two have to do with one another?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that all out.

However, there’s no denying that Ford crafts a very interesting, if at times, hard-to-watch movie. While it’s easy to give him credit for making the one story about the sad and lonely rich people and making it somehow work, it’s not as easy to give him credit for the Southern-fried revenge-thriller. The two are very hard movies to make, side-by-side, but somehow, he pulls it all off; both stories and compelling and also seem like they could have been their own movies.

Which is also the very same issue with Nocturnal Animals, in and of itself. For one, it takes a lot on, and handles it well, but also runs into the problem of having one story-line be fare more intriguing than the other. It happens to almost every movie with countless subplots, but here, it feels more disappointing, because they’re both very interesting to watch; it’s just that one clearly has more juice than the other.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

And yes, I am talking about the Southern-fried revenge-thriller, although, it doesn’t make me happy to say that.

See, with that story, Ford is able to transport himself into far more deadly material, where anything can happen, at any given time. Just the introduction into this story, with the couple getting pulled-off to the side of the road and essentially terrorized over the course of ten minutes straight, still plays in my head, just by how truly disturbing it is. But it continues to get better and better, asking harder questions and not giving all that many answers, either.

But then, there’s the other-half of Nocturnal Animals and it’s still good, yet, also very different. It’s slower, more melodic and and far more interested in building its characters. And is it successful? Yes, but it just so happens to be placed-up, side-by-side with this other movie and it makes you wonder whether or not they should have been put that way in the first place? The book in which Tom Ford is adapting does, but I don’t know if it transitions well to the screen, where we literally have two entirely stories being told to us, with two very different styles.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m still racking my brain around Nocturnal Animals.

If there’s anything I’m for sure certain about, it’s that Tom Ford is no fluke of a director and has, once again, put together a pretty great cast. Amy Adams gets a lot to do with very little, as the very cold and mean Susan Morrow who, through certain flashbacks, we do see develop over time and become more human to us; Jake Gyllenhaal plays her ex-husband as well as the daddy in the book very well, even if they are, two different performances, both seeming to be emotionally draining; Aaron Taylor-Johnson has always been fine in everything he’s done so far in his young career, but here, is absolutely bone-chilling and scary as the one psychopath from the story; Michael Shannon pops up as the Texas Ranger from that story and is clearly having a ball, yet also, showing off a great deal of heart and humanity in a story that, quite frankly, could have used more; and others seem to pop-up, like Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and Andrea Riseborough, and do whatever they can, but sometimes, have such limited screen-time that it’s a bit of a shame.

But hey, maybe that’s just me being extra needy.

Consensus: By working with two movies at once, Tom Ford expertly crafts Nocturnal Animals into being a dark, dramatic and sometimes disturbing emotional-thriller that may not fit perfectly together, but does offer up some really great performances.

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Ties definitely have a lot more use than just making one look professional.

Young and ambitious English Lit. major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) fills in for her roommate to conduct an interview with the young, brash and handsome millionaire that is Christian Grey (Jamie Dorman). The two have their interview and, believe it or not, hit it off quite well; so well, that Grey begins to start asking Anastasia out on dates that she can’t believe to be true. However, seeing as Christian’s a nice guy who means well, Ana decides that going out on a date with him wouldn’t be so bad. Then, she gets the idea to spend the night over his place and possibly even lose her virginity. That’s not so bad, either. But then, the tides begin to change when Ana realizes that there’s something creepy, even mysterious behind Christian’s persona; which, as a result, has something to do with the way they make love and whether or not Ana is willing to go through some of the more extreme prices she has to pay for Christian Grey’s price. But is it all worth it?

There’s something about Fifty Shades of Grey that seems a tad edgy, even by today’s movie’s standards. It’s an R-rated, mainstream flick that’s adapting some of the naughtiest, grimiest material that most house-wives read and fantasized about day in and day out. I’ve never read the original source material, but from what I’ve heard, I probably wouldn’t like it. Like, at all.

Hot.

Hot.

However, I’m not the target-audience for this movie, which is why it won’t just hit the top of the box-office by the end of the weekend, but might break all sorts of records in the process. Women from all over the world will be flocking to any movie theater they can find that’s playing this movie, which calls into question: Is any of it worth it? Well, like I said before about it being slightly edgy, especially so for a mainstream flick, there’s plenty of sex here. It’s an R-rated movie in that we see plenty of boobs, butt, bush, S&M, and plenty of spanking. But is it enough to warrant somebody’s undivided attention for nearly two hours? Especially when the main reason everybody is coming to see this for in the first place, only takes up about 20 minutes of screen-time?

Well, people, there’s such a thing as “hard R”, and then there’s such a thing as “soft R”.

And sadly, this adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey leans more towards the later.

However, don’t get me wrong, even though this material clearly isn’t made precisely for me, I went into it expecting anything to happen, both good and bad. Which, for the first half-hour or so, there was surprisingly more good than bad. Some of this, I feel, has to do with the fact that the powers that be behind this movie insistence on getting an unconventional choice of a director like Sam Taylor-Johnson to take over the reigns for this story.

Though Taylor-Johnson has only one film to her name (Nowhere Boy, which is pretty solid), there’s something here about what she does with this material that makes it seem like she actually cares how it looks and feels. There’s a certain airy-breath to this film that fits well with the Seattle setting and makes some of these scenes seem as hot and sweaty as they should be feeling right from the start. There’s one scene in particular where Ana and Christian are going over the paperwork for their upcoming escapades, and while this scene could have been as conventional as they come, Taylor-Johnson films it in a dark, somewhat eerie view that adds a certain layer of promiscuity to a movie that clearly is going for that as is.

Also, not to mention that Taylor-Johnson focuses long and hard enough on these two characters that we at least get some semblance of who they are as human beings, and exactly what they are when they are together. Maybe less so with Christian Grey (more on that guy in a minute), but it’s definitely the case for Anastasia Steele, who is probably made a lot better by the fact that she has the lovely, charming and vivacious Dakota Johnson portraying her. In case some of you out there didn’t know by now, Johnson is the daughter of both Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and while she may not totally look like her dad (thank heavens), it’s easy to see the similarities in terms of looks and the way she handles herself on screen, with her mommy.

But it should be noted that Johnson is clearly her own force of nature that seems like she could be as famous, if not more so, than her famous mom, because not only does she have the face a movie camera could love, but she’s able to make us, the audience, believe in every piece of sappy writing she’s forced to deliver here. On paper, Anastasia Steele is another boring, female character that falls for the hot, young, and rich dude that opens up her eyes to pretty houses, pretty cars, pretty parties, and most of all, pretty sex. And the fact that Anastasia is a virgin, makes it all the more nauseating to even type. But somehow, Johnson is a capable enough actress who is able to bring some semblance of humanity, or believability to this character that not only allows for us to sympathize with her every step of the way, but even wish she would just make the right decisions in life.

Once again, this role shouldn’t work, but she actually does, which probably has to do with Johnson’s well-done performance.

Hot.

Hot.

Now, as for the role in this movie that doesn’t work, it’s Jamie Dorman as Christian Grey, every girl’s favorite slap-happy millionaire. There’s a part of me that felt bad watching Dorman here; for starters, he wasn’t even the initial choice for this role, so already, my heart kind of goes out to the day. Second of all, he’s forced to work with an American-accent that he’s clearly not at all comfortable enough with. But then, the real problem is just that this role is way too dull; too much so for even someone like Dorman to take over and make better. Which, once again, makes me feel bad for the guy, because he’s definitely trying to bring out any shred of humanity to be found within this guy, but he’s as plain as a piece of plank.

Not to mention, the guy hardly gets naked. Like, at all. And while this may not be a problem for other heterosexual men out there, it is for this heterosexual man. No, it’s not because I want to see man-junk whenever the opportunity possibly arises itself, and no, it’s surely not because this past episode of Looking seemed to disappoint me. No, it’s more that when you have your female character getting spanked, licked, banged and kissed, and have her be full-on naked throughout pretty much all of it, and hardly ever dress-down her male counterpart, except to maybe show us his bum, or an ever so sudden bush shot, it goes from being hot, to downright distasteful. If one person is going to get fully naked in a movie about sex, then so should the other! Not this jeans-wearing crap!

But that’s just a little problem that only I may have, and if that’s the case, then so be it.

However, that’s not where the problems for this movie end, because as the story progresses and we’re supposed to feel all messed-up and emotional over what’s happening to our two lovers, it becomes obviously clear that maybe Taylor-Johnson herself got discouraged and just gave up altogether. The movie’s nudity isn’t necessarily safe, as much as it just becomes tiresome and boring, whereas it should be sizzling, hot and spicy, just about every time we see a body-part in all its naked-glory. The story also goes into some strange areas where it’s clear that they want to discuss what a hot-and-heavy relationship like this can do to one person who isn’t totally used to it, but all sorts of food-for-thought points the movie tried to make, go right out the window once we’re left with the same abrupt ending that Mockingjay: Part 1 gave us. And guess what? Just like that movie, we’re definitely getting a sequel, if not a few more.

Except that, this time, I’m not really looking forward to what’s coming next.

Consensus: Not as titillating, as much as it’s just boring, Fifty Shades of Grey shows early promise of being better than you’d expect it to be, but then turns for the worst once it becomes clear that this movie’s all about the thrusting, and less about the emotions. Sort of like how sex with me is.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Wow. Too hot.

Wow. Too hot.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Godzilla (2014)

When you trade in Heisenberg for adult-Ferris Bueller, you’re in good shape.

15 years ago, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) lost his mother (Juliette Binoche) in a freak-accident that had to do with some sort of radiation break out. His father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), has been living the past couple of years trying to figure out just exactly what happened, and whether or not this is a sign of terrible things to come. Just around this time that he and his son reunite, a giant-sized creature comes to life, knocking out just about everything in its path, including electricity. The scientist behind this whole experiment-gone-wrong is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who believes that there is another creature out there just waiting to be heard from and to, if possible, stop these creatures from destroying everything, and everyone in its path. That said creature? Well, I’ll let this guy take the pleasure of announcing it for you.

It’s been a long time since Roland Emmerich practically destroyed the respectable, and totally cool name that was in Godzilla (a little over 15 years in fact), and in order for this movie to be awesome and hyped-up like it has been for quite time, that needed to be happen. Not only did it need to show Hollywood that messing with an international-product can sometimes be risky, but doing it to the point of where you’re practically disrespecting the culture it comes from, is definitely a big old “no no” when trying to deliver a form of entertainment. Hasn’t stopped big-time, fast-talking money-makers in Hollywood before, and it sure as hell won’t stop them from committing the same acts again, but with the disaster of that movie, it puts a clearer-emphasis on just how much “better” they were willing to make this latest re-boot seem.

And thankfully, “better” is exactly what this re-boot is, and by quite a lot as well.

Hey! That's not Flynn back there!

Hey! That’s not Flynn back there!

Sorry, Jean Reno. You’re still Leon in my book, so that’s got to count for something.

Anyway, as for this new Godzilla, what works so well for it is how it doesn’t really give us the main attraction until about half-way through. Sure, we here his name dropped a few times (surprisingly by a Japanese actor), we see his thorny back and tail, and we even get plenty of glimpses at his huge feet, stomping on large-scale buildings and practically turning them into total rubble. However, we rarely ever get to see him in a full-on form until the half-way mark, and it’s totally worth the time and patience we as audience members are asked to have when it comes to seeing just exactly who this movie is made after. It’s a constant build-up that director Gareth Edwards racks up tension, just about the whole time with, and once we see what Godzilla actually looks like in this new edition (he’s really cool) and get to hear him use that ferocious screech that scares the pants off of any 5-10 year-old, then it’s on with the plot and all sorts of other shenanigans Edwards has to get into.

Yet, for some reason, the movie is never uninteresting. It can be a bit of a drag at times, but it never gets to the point of where I was bored neither. Which, for a summer blockbuster, is nothing new, but somehow, this time felt different than it has for the past two weeks.

First of all, it was a giant-scale, monster movie that delivered the goods on just about every level that Pacific Rim failed to do. We have human characters that are actually interesting; a script that doesn’t constantly hammer-us over the head with corny lines; monster-brawls that aren’t a constant happening, but still show up from time to time to liven things up and remind people why they came to see this movie in the first place; and a sense that we’re placed into a world that is a lot like the one we live in now, yet, we don’t really think too much about reality with. We just sort of get sucked into this world, even if it is our own, and it’s a really thrilling experience to go through.

You actually get the sense that even though Edwards himself doesn’t shy away from having a little bit of fun and pleasuring himself in all of the constant explosions of things like cars, buildings, race-tracks and Navy ships, that he wants to provide an heavier-emphasis on “the government” in this movie itself. In any movie, good or bad, we always see the government being shown as either “good”, “bad”, or somewhere in the middle of both. My opinion is that it’s a bit of a slippery-slope to jump into, all because a director can easily make it seem like their using it to their advantage to get up on top of their soapbox for a good two hours and force everybody to listen up, but here, Edwards is only using them as a tool to keep the plot, the action, and the ideas moving. It was weird to never get a glimpse at the President during this time of obvious crisis, but I guess that’s made for another movie, at another time.

Either way, the movie still steps itself into as much realism as it can, even when it’s all about large-ass monsters, beating the hell out of one another and terrorizing whole cities,  and this is where I think the movie worked its most magic. Yeah, it was definitely thrilling and yeah, it looked beautiful, but I never really lost a sense that everything I was seeing was perfectly calculated in a way that didn’t seem hokey, or as if Edwards himself was just making up the rules as he went along. Some science majors may have a bit of a problem with this movie in how it explains certain happenings, in certain ways, but for the most part, I didn’t really find myself second-guessing anything of what any character said. I just sort of nodded my head, went along with it, and tried my hardest to enjoy the ride, and I’m glad I decided to do so, because it totally worked out for me in the end. Even when Godzilla wasn’t around to wreck everything in his sight.

But enough Godzilla already, that little monster him, let’s talk about the humans in this picture! Mostly, I have to applaud Gareth Edwards for putting together a nice ensemble of talents that aren’t necessarily the biggest names in all of Hollywood, but definitely have enough charisma and energy to keep a movie like this moving, and steeped in some sense of emotional. In fact, believe it or not, most of that emotion seems to come from Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. Yes, that may be hard for some of you Breaking Bad fans to realize and accept (sarcasm, clearly), but Cranston easily has the best, most gripping moments in this whole scene. He’s likable, a bit weird, off-kilter, cool and a total dweeb, but he gets a chance to play all of these sides to his character in such a small fraction of space, that I was so happy to see him here in the first place. Didn’t really much matter to me that he isn’t in the movie a whole lot, but at least he gave me someone to empathize with and at least root for.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn't cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn’t cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

Because, to be honest, nobody else in this movie really gave me that much of a chance to do the same. Not saying that nobody tried to, it’s just that their material may have been lankier than others is all. For example, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a hot, young, and charming actor that wants to be more than just Kick-Ass – now he’s ready to get muscled-up, kick some ass, and do it all without a goofy-looking, DIY-mask and costume. Can’t say that it hasn’t worked out for him in the past, but here, his character is a bit unengaging. He isn’t an unlikable character by any means, it’s just that he’s a bit of a dull hero to have in the first place, that also happens to be in the army as is. Would have been a lot neater to see this story from a regular-man’s perspective, but I guess we wouldn’t have been able to see all of those cool, high-flying scenes we’ve been getting treated to in the trailers.

And sadly, the same sort of goes for the rest of the cast. Juliette Binoche gets the same treatment as Cranston does, although reasonably so; Elizabeth Olsen plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife that has to tend to their damn kid all of the time, while still maintaining her job as a local nurse (go figure); David Strathairn doesn’t always feel right as Admiral William Stenz, a man-in-command who is constantly shouting out orders and demands; and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play two scientists that are practically the first to get started on this huge project of theirs, and seem like the over-educated dopes a movie like this needs to point the big finger at. They just want to see what happens with scientist, rather than just doing anything about it, and because of their fascination, thousands and thousands of people are at risk for their lives.

Oh science, what a beautiful thing to waste.

Consensus: Though we don’t get to see too much of the title-character, Godzilla still benefits from exciting action set-pieces, an engaging story that feels slightly believable, despite being about monsters fighting one another, and enough good performances from the cast, to make this a summer blockbuster you must see to get the bad taste of the 1998-version out of your mouth.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Sadly, as much as it pains to me admit it: Jim was right.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still the same old, lovable dork everybody remembered him as being three years ago. He still wants the ladies, he’s still awkward with his dad, and he still tries to save the day dressing-up as his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. However, times have changed since everybody’s favorite, real-life superhero came out and started saving the world, one dead drug-dealer at a time; now, it seems like everybody on the street who’s ever wanted to do something nice, is dressing-up as their own creation and getting ready to go head-to-head with the various baddies who run throughout New York City. Heck, they even have their own team, which is lead by the mysterious, but deadly force of nature known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Things start to get a little shaky however, once Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), aka, the Red Mist comes back to seek his revenge for his daddy’s death, but this time, has a new name and a dangerous posse along with him for the ride, wreaking havoc and disaster everywhere they show up. With Kick-Ass, the rest of his team, and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), D’Amico’s war-path of revenge may come to an end.

Despite it having its haters, I rather enjoyed the original Kick-Ass. It definitely had its moments where it went a little too far with its action, and definitely felt like it was a lot cooler than it actually was, but overall, it was fun, exciting, gory, and a nice change-of-pace from the usual, CGI-driven superhero flicks we usually get, and got that fine summer of 2010. Hence why I was looking forward to this sequel so much, even if it felt like the type of movie that didn’t need a sequel, nor did it really need to expand on its story. But you know what? It’s the summer; it’s action-y; and it’s Kick-Ass, so why the ‘eff not?!?

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Well, here’s why not….

Nice transition on my part, I know.

Where I feel like this flick definitely hits its problems in, is its tone. The first movie took its violence seriously, but never too seriously to the point of where we couldn’t laugh or at least be amused by the image of some druggie getting decapitated. The point of Matthew Vaughn’s direction in that movie was to show violence in a form that didn’t make you feel guilty, but showed you violence that still meant something, without being overly-exploited. Here, under the new wing of Jeff Wadlow, it feels overly-exploited and nonsensical, which wouldn’t have been bad had the movie not tried taking itself so seriously at times. I get that the movie isn’t trying to condone these (sometimes) disturbing acts of violence, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it should really be glamorizing it all that much either.

But as the movie goes, it then continues to gets weirder with its view-point and its tone; which I thought wasn’t possible at all, but apparently I was dead wrong. What happens with this movie is that it gets very, VERY serious, and throws in pieces of action that would make any die-hard, action-junkie jump in the air, fists raised, but at the same time, also is too disturbing for anybody to really cheer for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pulling a Jim Carrey here and/or getting soft in my old age or anything, it’s just that I know when you can mix comedy and action together, in order to make the transition between the two seamless, and this movie’s transition is noticeable, if not off-putting. A scene by the end when one of these superheros named Night Bitch (witty, ain’t it?), gets attacked by the main group of baddies, and is shouting, screaming in fright, and looks like she’s about to be the victim of a very vicious, a very scary rape. I don’t know about you, but to put a “hinted” rape scene in any movie, whether it be a comedy or a drama, gets me feeling a bit uneasy, especially when it’s thrown into a movie like this, where it seems like they’re going for the yucks, but also the “Hoorahs!” and the “Yays!” of its heavy-male demographic.

However, I realize that I’m sounding more and more like a prude here, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead of myself and before I lose my membership to Hardbodies Gym. Anyway, what I was saying about this movie is despite the tone being oddly “off”, the movie still has its moments of sheer fun and visual-grandeur, maybe it’s just not as smartly-written or as thoughtful as the first movie. Maybe so, but that said, it’s still a good movie that will have you all ready for the inevitable, final show-down between the goodies, and the baddies. Which is credit to Wadlow as the director, because even though we know where this story is going to go and how it’s most likely going to end, he throws in his own subtle-tricks of amping-up the story’s tension, little by little, piece by piece. For that, I have to stop busting his balls and give credit where credit’s due, but I also have to say that Matthew Vaughn was such a better director for this material; one that I hope they are able to get back if/when they make a third.

Look out, Aaron. You don't want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage's.

Look out, Aaron. You don’t want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage’s.

Though we all know he’s one sexy mofo underneath that whole, “I’m a total geek! Just look at my glasses and frizzy hair” facade, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still serviceable as Kick-Ass, even though he isn’t given much heavy-lifting to do with this story. Instead, that honors given to Chloë Grace Moretz who not only steals the show when she’s being the feisty, fiery, little bad-mouthed gal that she is known as with Hit Girl, but also when she’s just living the life of a 15-year-old, high-school freshman. Yes, believe it or not, Moretz is getting a bit older and it’s about that time for her to start taking on more mature roles, and if this counts as the beginning for her, well, then she’s off to a pretty good start. Not only is it funny to watch her try to fit in with “the cool clan” of her grade, but to watch as she fails, time and time again. Sometimes it’s hard to watch because of how true it is about certain social-cliques within high-school, but Moretz’s unabashed sense of knowing that she can whoop any of their asses, makes it all the better just to sit back, and wait for her to extract her revenge whenever she sees fit. And when she does, trust me, it’s going to be deserved, if not disgusting. VERY disgusting, that is.

While Nicolas Cage isn’t here to steal the show like he did in the first one as Big Daddy, Jim Carrey is more than able to take his spot and do a little bit of scene-stealing as well, even if it isn’t the type of performance you’d expect from the guy. Not only is Colonel Stars and Stripes a bit of a nut when it comes to violence and the way he uses it on his victims, but he’s also a bit of an endearing figure, especially when we find out that he’s an ex-mobster, now turned born-again Christian. It’s a very strange role for Carrey, one that he doesn’t go too over-the-top with, but still owns and has a great time with. Shame that he abandoned any type of love or support for this flick, because the movie could have really benefited from it. And even though he’s still treated as more of a joke than he was in the last one, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is still enjoyable to watch as Chris D’Amico, now with his new name: The Motherfucker. Not much originality lies in the pens of those script-writers, but at least they know how to make a joke work a couple of times.

Consensus: Though the first one added an extra feeling to its punch, Kick-Ass 2 still delivers on the action, the violence, the humor, and the fun turns from its cast, but also doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serious superhero movie with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it, or a comedic superhero movie, with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"When the camera's are on, I'm your best friend. No need to worry. But when they're off, ehh, go fuck ya self!"

“When the camera’s are on, I’m your best friend. No need to worry. But when they’re off, ehh, go fuck ya self!”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Anna Karenina (2012)

Think of this as one, big act of revenge courtesy of Sienna Miller.

The story centers around Anna (Keira Knightley) – a Russian wife and aristocrat who visits her brother in Moscow after his wife accuses him of adultery. While mediating between the two, Anna finds herself romantically drawn to the affluent bachelor Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) and the two begin a tumultuous and passionate affair that will challenge the rigid social structures they live under and bring Anna to the depths of despair and isolation.

I don’t think I’m in the minority at all when I say that I don’t enjoy watching period-pieces, especially one that’s done by Joe Wright. Yes, even though the guy has made some pretty impressive movies of the year and always has something flashy and beautiful to show-us, I still can’t help but feel like the guy should be spreading his wings more and going for action-thrillers like Hanna, rather than going back to the period-pieces that made him so famous in the first-place. However, maybe a period-piece by Joe Wright is all I really needed to have me less-hateful of them in the first-place. Then again, maybe not. It’s probably just that period-pieces are way too boring for my fast-paced, 19-year old soul.

Even though this may come off like a normal period-piece that’s no different from any other one that has came-out in the past-decade or so, Wright brings us something new, something fresh, and something that’s worth taking a second-look. See, what’s so unique about what Wright does with this material in the first-place is that he stages the film as if it was all a play. Characters, situations, and events may change, but the setting rarely ever does and rather than just filming all-over-the-globe and having places look like 19th century Russia, Wright keeps it condensed into one, theater-room that brings a new level of art to it, but will also confuse the hell out of you, as it did to me.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I kept wondering to myself why everybody was acting and dressed differently, but still in the same-spot as they were before. Of course, as time went-on, I started to realize that this obviously wasn’t the case and it was just a stylish way of Wright trying to get our minds off of the fact that this is yet, another period-piece, with soapy melodrama to spare, but hey, I gotta give the guy some kudos. If it wasn’t for Wright directing this flick with his sharp-eye for color and design, then I don’t think this film would have held my interest as well as it did. That, and also the fact that Wright keeps this story moving at a pretty quick-pace that doesn’t seem slow-down for anything in this movie, which I liked it because it was a fresh-approach to a period-piece that I feel like I needed to fully be entertained by.

Sadly, this quick-pace doesn’t stick and after about the first hour or so, the story starts to really take a toll on you with it’s snail-like pace that rarely goes anywhere with itself. Like most period-pieces and the stories that inhabit them, this story’s tale of love, lust, and passion during a frowned-upon fling doesn’t generate anything new or exciting that we haven’t ever seen before and even though it’s like that throughout the whole-movie, it didn’t really seem to bother me because of the distraction Wright had on my mind. However, once that distraction was lifted, I felt like I could see all of the problems with this story and how it seemed to linger-on as if it had somewhere to go with itself, but needed a good shove here and there to actually do it.

Thankfully, Wright does give the story that occasional shove every once and awhile, but it’s not enough and the latter-half of this flick just really started to bore me away, like I usually expect from period-pieces of this nature. The story isn’t anything new, but I was expecting a different-look at the theme of adultery and finding the real you through it, however, none of those sparks ever seem to be lit. Instead, we get a bunch of scenes where Knightley just runs around, cries, throws temper-tantrums, gets jealous really easily, and has a bunch of panic-attacks that could have almost had her back to the psych-ward that she was in last year with A Dangerous Method. Actually, come to think of it, that would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then just Knightley acting all bi-polar because she needs her bones to get jumped. Crazy Knightley for the sake of being crazy = good. Crazy Knightley for the sake of just banging a gong and getting it on = not good. That’s as much of a surprise as to me as it must be to you, I know but it’s the truth.

Even though her character was one that I started to care less-and-less about as the flick went-on, Keira Knightley is still great as Anna Karenina and shows us why she deserves roles like these. Knightley has always been this actress  that I’ve liked and saw a lot of promise in, yet, she never really seems to break out of that crap-mold that she always finds herself in with flicks like The Jacket and Domino. However, it seems like whenever she has to put on some old-school, pieces of cloth for a role, she’s always on top of her game and nails it just about every time. I think she’s an actress that deserves more credit because of the way she can handle weird roles like Karenina, and make her the least-bit likable and surprising with where her motivations go and don’t go.

Playing the eye of her affection, is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who seems to really be crankin’ it up as of late with all of these strange-roles he’s been taking as of late. Kick-Ass was obviously the one flick that had us all notice him, but then he takes something as wacky and weird as his role in Savages, and now this! The guy definitely likes to expand himself and see what he can do and he does that very-well here as Count Vronsky. Vronsky was a pretty-interesting character right from the start because he’s very sly and very mysterious, but he never lets his guard-down long enough for somebody to capitalize on it. That is, only until Karenina does and then all of the interest I had with him was just lost as he and her both seem to go through a pretty obvious, pit-fall in their relationship and as much as I would have like to sympathize with both of them, I just didn’t.

The guy who I did actually sympathize with here, was in fact, Jude Law as Karenina’s much-older hubby, Alexei Karenin. What surprised me the most about Law and his performance here as Alexei was that he doesn’t play the type of “jealous husband who’s being cheated-on” role like we are so used to seeing in movies of this nature. Law actually down-plays himself very well and only allows his emotions and feelings to come through his facial expressions and actions, rather than words. Law is definitely the most interesting out of the bunch and really made me feel sorry for him because even though some of it his fault for being such a dull, and boring dude, I couldn’t help but feel like the guy wanted nothing else other than to be loved and not cheated-on like he is by Anna. I would have said look for Law to be nominated for an Oscar by the beginning of next year, but due to this film’s already, mediocre-performance, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we won’t have to look at all. Shame too, because I think Law’s been due an Oscar for quite some time now.

Consensus: Joe Wright definitely adds an extra-level of style and beauty to an otherwise, ordinary and empty period-piece, but Anna Karenina still fails to deliver on the emotional fire-works that it’s premise seemed to promise, as well as interesting characters that we actually care about and have sympathy for as they go-on, with all of this lust and adultery.

6/10=Rental!!