Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

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

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

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

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

Black Kong. What a name.

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

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films


New York Stories (1989)

Now that I think about it, New York’s kind of lame.

New York is chock full of interesting little lives and stories that are just waiting to be heard and seen. One concerns a passionate, but confused painter (Nick Nolte), who is struggling to come up with new and interesting ideas, none of which are made any easier when his girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette), walks back into his life without promising to be everything that he needs. Another concerns Zoë (Heather McComb), a little schoolgirl who lives in a luxury hotel and constantly dreams about her father (Giancarlo Giannini) and mother (Talia Shire) getting back together, once and for all. And lastly, one concerns a New York lawyer named Sheldon Mills (Woody Allen), who thinks he’s finally met the love of his life (Mia Farrow), even if his overbearing mother (Mae Questel), doesn’t think so. This brings Sheldon to wishing that she’d just go away once and for all; his dream eventually does come true, except not in the way that he wanted, nor did he ever expect.

Paint it black, please.

Paint it black, please.

The biggest issue with anthology films is that you always run the risk of one portion being way better than all of the rest. In the case of New York Stories, given the talent on-board, it’s honestly a shock that none of the segments are really all that good; there’s one that’s more tolerable than the rest, but honestly, it’s sort of like grasping at straws. And yes, just in case any of you were wondering, New York Stories is an anthology flick featuring three, 35-40 minute segments from Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Woody Allen, respectively.

Let me repeat them all one more time.

Martin Scorsese.

Francis Ford Coppola.

And Woody Allen.

So, why the heck on Earth is this movie incredibly lame? Honestly, from what it looks like on the outside, all three directors had been wanting to do something together for quite some time, however, just never had the right time, or package to do so. Then, a hot-shot, studio exec thought of a grand idea, in having them all contribute to a three-part anthology flick, where people would all get drawn in by the fact that these three directing legends are somehow, slightly coming together on a project for the whole world to see.

Except that this was all happening in the late-80’s, and not the mid-to-late-70’s, when they were all at the top of their game. And also, rather than waiting for them to all have something worthy of filming and throwing into the movie, it appears that each director picked up whatever script they had lying on the ground, had an obligation, was forced to direct something, and just decided to roll with that. Sure, I’m speculating here, but after seeing the final product, I couldn’t imagine New York Stories coming together or being put-together in any other way.

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

Pictured: The future heir to the Ford Coppola legacy

For one, Scorsese’s bit is “meh”, at the very best. He gets a lot of mileage out of a neat soundtrack that seems to intentionally ram “A Winter Shade of Pale” down our throats, but honestly, there’s no meat to whatever story was supposed to take place here. Apparently, Nick Nolte and Rosanna Arquette’s characters are supposed to have some sort of sexy, fiery and ruthless relationship, but they don’t have any sex, and then Steve Buscemi shows up, and uh, yeah, I don’t know. Nick Nolte paints a lot and that’s about it. It’s boring, nonsensical, and most of all, uninteresting.

Words I never thought I’d describe something of Scorsese’s, but hey, such is the case.

Then again, Scorsese’s segment isn’t nearly as terrible as Coppola’s.

Yes, Coppola’s segment is notorious for possibly being the worst thing he’s ever directed in his life and, well, I can’t argue with that. It’s really bad, in the sense that it seems like Coppola had no clue of what to film, or actually do with the time and money given to him, so he just decided to make a movie for his kids. Sure, the character of Zoe is cute, but it’s placed in the middle of two, very adult segments that really, it serves no purpose or place in this movie altogether. Why anyone thought this was a good idea in the first place, is totally beyond me.

Heck, I don’t even think Coppola knows what to make of it still to this very day.

But thankfully, the smartest decision of New York Stories is to allow for Woody Allen’s segment to be the very last because, well, it’s the best. Once again, that’s not saying much, but it works because it’s quintessential Woody – light, breezy, simple, funny, and most of all, entertaining. The other two segments, despite appearing as if they were fun to film, don’t really come off as such; Woody, working with a really silly, almost cheeseball-ish plot-line, gets a lot of mileage out of looking like he’s enjoying his time filming this goofy story.

Does it save the movie?

Sort of. But if there was ever a reason to not feel optimistic of any anthology feature, regardless of talent involved, it’s New York Stories.

Consensus: Despite Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, and Martin Scorsese each having something to do with the final product, New York Stories sort of begins on a whim, continues with a snore, and ends on a somewhat likable whimper.

5 / 10

Every Jewish man's dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Every Jewish man’s dream and/or nightmare, come true. It depends on who you talk to, really.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The war is a jungle. In this case, literally.

It’s slap dab in the middle of WWII, or 1942 to be exact, and needless to say, a lot of lives are being lost. Bus most importantly, a lot of soldier’s lives are being lost, which is why a huge platoon is ordered to take the island of Guadalcanal. While this is no walk in the park, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the soldiers are literally forced to walk up the mountain, where they’ll most likely be meant by the opposing side, as well as a hail-fire of bullets. Among the many soldiers involved with this battle is Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a U.S. Army absconder who has gone “native”, as they say, living peacefully with the locals of a small South Pacific island. While Witt is clearly enjoying his time in the sun, it’s all cut short when he’s discovered by his commanding officer, Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), and forced back on the battlefield. However, there’s more at-play during this battle than just Witt, or Welsh. There’s Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who is having a real hard time making up his mind what the best cause or plan for warfare is, even in the heat of the moment; there’s Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas), a fellow soldier in a position of power, who also seems to be having an issue of what to do with it; and there’s Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), a soldier who’s reeling from a recent heartbreak in his life.



By now, most people know that Terrence Malick is the kind of director you can expect to give you the most ambitious, sprawling, and at times, confusing pieces of epic cinema this side of Kubrick or Kurosawa, but it wasn’t always like that. With his first two feature films (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Malick not only showed his keen eye for an attention to beautiful detail, but also for small, character-driven stories that barely even screech past 100 minutes and instead, keep things tiny, tight and mostly focused. But after spending 20 years away from making movies and doing whatever the heck it is that he was up to, it was clear that something within Malick changed.

And honestly, we’re all the better for it, because, yes, the Thin Red Line is not only Malick’s best film, but perhaps one of the best war films of all time.

Having seen the film at least three times now, I can easily say that it’s up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, when it comes to curating the list of “the greatest war movies ever made”, however, it’s a very different one. In a way, Saving Private Ryan is a far more conventional, Hollywood-ized war movie (although it’s still great), whereas Apocalypse Now is a far more disturbing, terrifying and twisted one (and yes, it’s still great). But what separates the Thin Red Line from these other two flicks is that it’s far more meditative, but at the same time, in its own way, brutal as all hell.

By putting us right along with the numerous soldiers on men on the battlefield, Malick doesn’t let us forget that, for one second, these soldiers aren’t in the nearest thing to hell. They don’t have the slightest clue who is shooting at them, from which direction, where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they’re next line of action is once they actually do get up to the top of the mountain – all that they do know what to do is to shoot, kill and try their absolute hardest to survive. This idea of frustrating, but horrifying confusion that these soldiers must have been going through is effective, especially since Malick keeps his eyes and attention set solely on the American soldiers, what they see, what they feel, and what they’re thinking about at that given time.

Oh, and not to mention, that these soldiers are literally engaged in action for a whole hour-and-a-half, which, when you take into consideration the three-hour run-time, evens out to being pretty action-packed.

However, the movie, nor is Malick all about that idea. No matter what happens in the movie, no matter who gets killed, or for what reasons, Malick never forgets to portray this war as an absolute slaughterhouse of not just lives, but psyches as well. Killing as many people as some of these soldiers do, can do quite a number on you; while that of course can start to happen when the fighting is over, it’s still something that can happen while on the battlefield as well. That’s why it’s not only shocking, but downright upsetting to see some soldiers here lose their minds, not have a single clue of where they’re at, or what they’re actually doing. There’s quite a few soldiers here and there that show up to prove this fact, but regardless, Malick drives home the idea that war is hell.

But even despite all of the violence and sheer ugliness of what’s being portrayed, Malick still finds ways to create some of the most beautiful, eye-catching images ever seen on the big screen. A part of me wishes that I was old enough at the time to see this when it was first in theaters; not just because it would have been great to join that short list of people who actually saw it in theaters when it was originally out, but because John Toll’s cinematography is so amazing, that it absolutely deserved to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Even though people are getting killed left and right, bullets are flying, and there’s no exact idea of who is where, Malick and Toll always find the time to capture the loveliness of the scenery this battle is taking place in.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don't see grass anymore.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don’t see grass anymore.

Of course, with Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s relationship becoming something of fact over the past years, the visuals have only gotten better, but it’s hard to deny that the Thin Red Line is easily his best-looking film to date.

But what makes the Thin Red Line perhaps Malick’s best movie, is the fact that it introduced everybody to the fact that he surely did not care at all about star-power, when it came to making his movies. Sure, he clearly doesn’t mind having the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, George Clooney, or John C. Reilly want to be apart of his movies, but at the same time, he still doesn’t feel like he’s at all inclined to feature them heavily, just because of their name recognition, or whatever other silly ideas Hollywood has about commercial appeal. Though, of course there’s a lot of infamy surrounding Malick’s casting-process and just exactly who he does leave in his movies (Adrien Brody is barely here, despite being lead on to believe he was the main star, and other stars like Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, and Martin Sheen were cut-out of the final product).

Honestly, it takes a lot of guts to cut-out someone like George Clooney, and feature a relative unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel, but guts is exactly what Malick has always had in his career and it’s great to see someone in his position to not give a flyin’ hoot about who is a bigger star than somebody else. Of course, it also helps that those that Malick focuses his final-edit on the most, all give great performances, given that a lot of the times they’re thrown in the mix because Malick forgot about them, or just felt like their time was necessary.

Caviezel is a suitable protagonist, who not only shows the inspirational faith within someone like Witt, but the sheer horror when he realizes the evilness to war; Elias Koteas’ character has many scenes where you don’t know what he’s thinking about doing next, but it’s hard to look away; Ben Chaplin’s character is easy to feel sympathetic for, even if he can be a bit hard to differentiate from Caviezel’s Witt; Nick Nolte, well, let’s just say that he’s the stand-out among the cast, showing just how a person in his position of power, can use to his advantage, for better, as well as for worse. Even then, however, when he’s faced with the reality of the harsh realities of war, he still believes that it’s something necessary to life, and even something to be celebrated. And even though he’s quickly told this is not the truth about life, he still smiles his way onto the next war.

And that’s just the way war works. You get past one, and guess what? Sooner or later, you’re onto the next.

Consensus: Beautiful, endearing, thoughtful, well-acted, and above all else, sad, the Thin Red Line is less of a tribute soldiers, and more of a key look inside the sorts of hell they have to go through, and the sort of effect it has on them, while not being nearly as preachy as I make it sound.

9.5 / 10

Let's play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie......

Let’s play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie……

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Third Person (2014)

Always heard Rome was the most romantic place to be on Earth. Turns out, eh, not so much.

A bunch of stories that, despite taking place in different places, are inter-connected through the power of love, children, and forgiveness. Or something like that. In one story, a middle-aged writer (Liam Neeson) has just left his wife (Kim Basinger) for a much-younger confidante of his (Olivia Wilde), and the two converge in a wild vacation in Paris. Another story, there’s a mysterious businessman (Adrien Brody) who meets a random woman (Moran Atias) in a bar in Rome and ends up getting thrown into her very dramatic life that leaves him wondering if he wants to continue on this adventure with her or not, or go back to his boring, subdued life in the States. And lastly, there’s a story of a young woman (Mila Kunis) who is finding it hard to get over a supposed crime she committed to a kid and is currently in the midst of a rough custody-battle with her ex (James Franco) over their child.

In case you couldn’t tell by now, Paul Haggis definitely likes to make his movies about “something”. Now the answer to what that “something” may be is a whole different question altogether,  but there’s always a feeling one gets when watching a Paul Haggis movie that all of what you’re seeing, is supposed to have a big, ultimate meaning at the end. And though people may have a problem with that, I for one have to credit someone like him for at least stepping out and trying to make his pieces more than just conventional-fare that doesn’t have much to think about when you get down to it. It’s risky for a film-maker, especially nowadays, to test the boundaries of cinema and see what can come out as the end result, even if said end result isn’t as perfect as the creator may have originally intended for it to be.

Oh, James. So serious. So "artsy".

Oh, James. So serious. So “artsy”.

That said, there’s something odd going on with Third Person that I feel like even Haggis himself loses a bit of control over.

For instance, all of the different subplots Haggis has going on here, there’s hardly an interesting one to be found. Sure, some of the themes he’s dealing with like adultery, love, forgiveness, and heartbreak may all be relateable, but they hardly add up to much other than being “about that kind of stuff”. Also, you can discuss these ideas and show how it all connects to your story, but if you’re not really doing anything to grab our attention in the first place, then what’s the point? Is it entertainment? Is it to tell people you like to think a lot about big, important stuff? Or, do you simply just need a format in which you can stand on your soapbox and preach for the whole world to hear?

Well, I’d say that in the case of Haggis, the later two options are definitely possibilities. Which is a shame because Haggis, as usual, has assembled a pretty solid cast on his hands here, it’s just that none of them are given much of anything interesting to do and also, it becomes very clear early on that their performances don’t mean diddly-squat to what it is that Haggis wants to say. In a movie like Crash, it was easier for the cast to shine and show that they could get in the way of Haggis’ moralizing, but here, with Third Person, mostly everybody’s trapped, can’t get out and eventually, just have to give in to the fact that they’re in Haggis’ control. And with that, it’s going to be quite difficult to break away from the rest of the movie and leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

The only one who I think does such a thing is Olivia Wilde and obviously, for all the wrong reasons. Yes, Wilde does get quite naked in this movie and definitely shows us that she’s got a wonderful body to go along with that wonderful face of hers, but her character becomes so unlikable and cloying, that you feel bad for Wilde, because you know she wants to win over the audience like she usually does in anything she’s in. But here, considering she’s playing a gold digger that goes for older, married-men, there’s already a feeling that she’s not a character we’re supposed to care for much and Haggis doesn’t stop trying to make that clear to us.

It’s just such a shame that Olivia Wilde had to be on the opposite end of that lesson. What a lovely, lovely woman she is.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

And as for the rest of the cast, everybody else is pretty much the same – nobody’s spectacular, yet, nobody’s bad either. Liam Neeson is the adulterating older man that decides to start sleeping with Wilde’s character and is okay, but his whole shtick of writing a book and not being able to complete it/get it published, gets old quick and shows that maybe Neeson wasn’t the best choice for this role; Adrien Brody makes a nice choice at choosing who he works with for once in a long while, but sadly, plays this role of a mysterious businessman with as much emotion as a cardboard box; Mila Kunis spends a lot of time yelling, looking befuddled, and constantly running around; James Franco does quite the opposite in that he stares, whispers certain sayings and acts his usual cool-self; and Kim Basinger’s hardly around enough to leave an impression to where we feel bad for her and the situation she’s left to deal with.

But at the end of all this, Third Person ends up being a trick movie, in that, everything we see, may or may not be how it actually happens. And somehow, all of these stories are connected, more so than we originally thought. It’s a neat trick that I applaud Haggis for trying here, but sadly, it doesn’t work and makes it clear that this director had a goal here, and it wasn’t to give us compelling characters or stories; just to lead us on a non-meaningful story, only to then pull the rug from underneath us at the last second.

Paul Haggis, you bastard. Brokeback Mountain should have totally won.

Consensus: Every minute of Third Person, it’s clear that Paul Haggis is running the show and not only does it get in the way of the cast, but gets in the way of creating an actual compelling narrative, that people could actually be affected by.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"And so I told him 'I will find you, and I will kill you.' Hahahaha!"

“And so I told him ‘I will find you, and I will kill you.’ Hahahaha!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to:

The Village (2004)

Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....

He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Quirkiness is everywhere, especially in India.

In the wake of their father’s death, three brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a steam-engine journey across India aboard the Darjeeling Limited and attempt to reconnect after years of physical and emotional distance. The trip also opens up old wounds and proves that the base instincts of sibling rivalry can never be completely erased.

Writer/director Wes Anderson is just one of those dudes that you either love or hate, although it’s weird with me. I don’t love him but I can definitely say that he has made some great flicks as well as some ones that maybe aren’t so splendid. This one is definitely placed in the latter.

The original premise is what you would expect from Anderson, and much like the plot, so is the rest of the film. All of Anderson’s quirks and signatures are here such as the running in slow-motion to a 60’s rock song, a Rolling Stones song coming on, very vibrant colors, family issues, and plenty of other strange things happening that we have to come to know and sometimes love with his flicks. This isn’t a huge disappointment to see since these signatures are what separates his rather generic story-lines from many other familiar ones out there. What the problem with this flick is that it’s uneven and really meanders during the middle act. I don’t know what was the problem here but the script didn’t hit any marks whatsoever whether it came to comedy, drama, or even quirky. It all just felt boring and nothing was holding my interest for the longest time.

When I say it’s uneven, I don’t mean that there are parts where it goes for the comedic chops and then just goes right onto totally dramatic territory, because they are actually pretty subtle with the dramatic stuff here, it just didn’t fit all that much. These characters are pretty dickish (what is to expected from Anderson) but the film tries so hard to have us care for these characters by the end that it’s too pushy. There will be a moment here or there, where it’s obvious that Anderson wants us to feel the pain and anguish that these characters feel, but instead we are left feeling nothing and even unmoved. It’s hard to connect to anyone and it wouldn’t have bothered me if they weren’t so busy bickering at each other for the first hour or so acting like one of them just stole their PS2 game.

However, there are plenty of moments to this flick that worked, which I think is Anderson’s fault. Anderson always has a knack for making beautiful-looking films go along with his darkly depressing subject material, and here is no different. His colors just pop-out at you with every shot, the camera itself glides back and forth and crash zooms like crazy as if it was a film from the 70’s, and the soundtrack itself provides plenty of tracks that go along with the setting as well as mood but also stay in your head long after the flick is over. Once again with Anderson, his films are barely hard to stop looking at because no matter what the subject matter is, the flick is always going to have something beautiful to see and gaze at.

As much as I may talk a bunch of ish on the script itself, I still can say that there are plenty of delightful moments to it as well that sort of make it the trip worth watching. The several moments of dry humor work because there are plenty of gags that come around subtlety in the film and it’s almost like the flick itself is testing you to see if you really are paying attention after all. Even the drama by the end starts to hit its mark mainly because Anderson is very good at showing sequences that not only move us but make us chuckle as well. There’s one impressive scene at the end played to the tune of “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones and without giving too much away, I just want to say it’s one of those signature Anderson scenes that make you forget about the rest of the film and have you only remember that.

The cast isn’t anything new here for Anderson, but they all do pretty well with his quirky material even though nobody is really gunning for anything new or improved when it comes to their acting. Adrien Brody is pretty good as Peter and is always able to convey any emotion that he has through his eyes, which helps his character out a lot here; Jason Schwartzman is pretty funny with his dry sense of humor that always seems to work but he’s much more mature with this role than we usually have seen him in here as Jack; and Owen Wilson is pretty much playing the same role he always does but with a more pretentious act here as Francis, but he still has great comedic timing and probably got the most laughs out of me the whole time. There’s also an extended cameo scene from Anjelica Huston as these dudes’ mommy, and she always gives that amazing performance that usually always clocks in underneath 10 minutes. As I’ve said before, everybody here is great but their not really trying anything new here to make us totally surprised.

Consensus: The Darjeeling Limited is well-acted and has its moments of pure drama and comedy, but everything feels too familiar with barely anything new or original to see here and the script is definitely one of Wes Anderson’s more uneven ones as of late.


Detachment (2012)

Maybe I was wrong when I said in the ’21 Jump Street’ review that high school sucks. Maybe I meant to say “public” high schools suck.

The film stars Adrien Brody as a disillusioned substitute teacher named Henry Barthes, who seems to have just as many problems as his apathetic students. When he inadvertently becomes a role model for the student body, he finds that he is not the only lost soul struggling to find meaning in this world.

It’s been a long, long time since director Tony Kaye has graced us with his presence and every time I watch ‘American History X’, which is a lot I may add, I can’t stop thinking to myself, “where the hell has this guy gone?”. Now, I know the answer and it’s simple: making great movies that are set in high school.

Former teacher, Carl Lund, wrote this story and from what I see here, this guy had a lot of hard shit to go through. I mean I don’t know what Lund had to go through as a teacher but from what I see here is that being a teacher is hard. Lund brings up a lot of questions about the public high school system but he never points any fingers or condemns anyone, he just shows that being a teacher is hard mainly because you try, you try, and you try to help out a student and in the end, they either don’t care enough or don’t care at all. This wouldn’t be so bad but the fact that these kids don’t care, eventually gets sprung out onto the teachers and then you basically have 40-45 minutes worth of class-time where neither anybody cares about anything and all your time in this world is wasted.

Since I go to a Catholic high school, I’m not too sure of what it means to have such problems like this but I can easily say that a lot of the public schools around me have started to fall apart just because of school districts that just want high grades from these students with no return and teachers continue to demand more and more money. Hell, actually, that’s happened at my school earlier in the year so it’s not just the public schools either, it’s all schools. This script is a pretty big wake-up call because it not only shows the struggles that teachers go through on a daily basis, but also the struggles schools have in general and just how bad everything really can get behind closed doors. It’s a pretty good look at high school, and it’s also a look that I haven’t seen before considering these types of films usually end with all of the slacker kids getting A+’s on their final exams.

Lund definitely found the right director for this material with Tony Kaye because he brings so much energy to this otherwise simple story. Kaye is a veteran of music videos and commercials and a lot of that skills show through is way of bringing so much flair and style to this material that at times, it may get a little over-bearing, but at other times you also have to realize that he’s making this film more tense and provocative. The film has a narrative that jumps around to all of Henry’s sub-plots (and trust me, there are plenty) and the way Kaye is able to show this sometimes through a documentary feel or either through having Brody speak to the camera indirectly by letting all of his frustration out. It definitely creates a lot of tension with this flick and it shows how well Kaye is able at stirring the pot but is also great at taking us out of that as well with a couple of amusing animated shots of what’s going through a lot of these teachers’ heads. They are all pretty funny to watch but they are also brutally honest in the way they show just how it must really feel to put up with all of the shit that they do sometimes. Still though, I’m not always behind teacher’s backs. Trust me on that.

The problem with this flick is that it won’t be for everybody considering there is so much sadness going on and around this flick that it almost is contagious. I didn’t really go into this flick expecting a light and happy-filled flick about how a teacher brings the spirits back to his students, but it can get a little too dark for me and even when the comedy does come around every once and a blue moon, it’s a totally huge surprise.

Another problem I had with this flick was that I think they somewhat over-do the whole “problems between teachers and students” thing a little too much. There are some moments that are genuine as hell and feel like they were taken right out of the classroom, but then there are other moments where somebody starts crying or acting outlandish a way that would probably get out a lot of emotion from the audience, but they sometimes don’t feel that genuine. There’s one scene in particular where Lucy Liu is this school counselor that is so fed up with her job that she just starts balling her eyes out while hooting and hollering at this one student and it seemed totally dumb, unbelievable, melodramatic, and pretty much poorly-acted from Liu herself. There aren’t many moments like this in the flick but when they did happen, I couldn’t help but think that they were a little too over-dramatic.

In recent time, Adrien Brody has taken apart of some questionable material ever since he won his Oscar in 2002 but this is probably his best performance ever since that win. Brody gives a likable performance that makes it easy for us to stand behind him as his life starts to unfold and he’s able to express so many emotions from happiness, to anger, to sadness, and he does it all by the use of his eyes which makes it all believable and real. It’s a great performance from Brody and one that reminded me just why he did win that Oscar in the first place.

As for the rest of the ensemble, they are all pretty good with the limited amounts of time each one is given. James Caan is amusing as the pill-popping teacher who finds a dark way of enjoying his days in school; Marcia Gay Harden feels real as the watered-down principal that is expecting to be fired soon; but the two kids out of this cast are probably the best with Sami Gayle and Betty Kaye both giving compassionate and realistic performances and every time each one of them is on-screen with Brody, the film always seem to light up.

Consensus: Detachment may have some over-dramatic moments, but with Kaye’s inspired direction, great acting by its huge ensemble (especially Brody in the lead), and a real examination at the public high school system, makes it a powerful and dramatic flick that will and definitely should serve as a wake-up call to teachers and students alike.


Predators (2010)

Oh, if only Arnie was still around to do this and wasn’t off with chicks that weren’t his wife.

Rugged mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) inherits command of an elite team of human fighters — including dorky-but-dangerous Edwin (Topher Grace) and tough-but-beautiful Isabelle (Alice Braga) — as they are hunted by a race of ruthless alien trackers known as Predators.

Being a fan of the original as I was, a sequel that was practically 20 years in the making almost seemed too cheesy to be true! Sadly, it just made me miss the governors and Apollo Creed so much more.

Director Nimród Antal does a very good job here playing with a formula that we already know, and making it very fun to watch due to his incredibly fun style. Antal knows how to make a film entertaining with some really cool visuals and some slick production designs that actually add a lot more to the environment, as well as the story and the action.

The first 30 to 40 minutes the tension is fully raised up as the characters are trying to gather up what’s going on, and what’s going to happen next, until the CGI dogs come out and it’s killing time! But then that energy is suddenly lost so we can have some down-time for these characters to talk and so we can actually care about them. This was fine since we need character development for this type-of film to actually give two-shits, but by the second or third time they have some down-time it’s nothing but annoying considering the fast pace that it goes through sometimes.

The premise itself also starts to fall into the usual and predictable way the first one originally panned out which was kind of expected, but for some reason I still thought it wouldn’t happen. Every character gets picked off one-by-one, the kill count goes up and lands on the characters you would expect it too, and the premise pretty much turns out the way you would expect it to. Also, the way these people begin to find out what’s going on here is kind of far-fetched considering a lot of it is trying to date back to the first one and seems nothing more than just to reference that superior film.

However, as bad as some of the writing and pacing may be, I still found myself having a fun time here especially with the action and just how it kept the pace going at a rapid speed. The predators this time around are also something that are a lot more menacing, and for once I actually just wanted those mother-humpers dead rather than not caring one way or another. I thought the way they were dudes in costumes, and not just CGI effects made it incredibly realistic (well, as realistic as this material can get), and kept me further excited when the action scenes were going down.

The characters may be more of character devices rather than actual humans, but the cast surprisingly makes it all better. Adrien Brody is fine as the tough-as-nails Royce, and although he’s the main bad mofo, I never really felt like he was in trouble; Alice Braga does a good job of keeping up with the dudes as Isabelle; Topher Grace is kind of funny and extremely dorky as Edwin; and Laurence Fishburne shows up about half-way through the film to show that he is still Morpheus after all these years and is pretty good but I just wondering one thing: why was he so fat when his character had been on that “planet” for so so long? I never understood but then again, the writing didn’t really seem to care either.

Consensus: The pacing may be off, and lacks any genuine surprises as well, Predators still has enough action-packed sequences, cool visuals and production design, and a quick pace that feels like a better sequel than those other pieces of crap that have come out in the past.


Splice (2010)

Basically a true sign of why Alien day-care wouldn’t quite work out.

Ignoring instructions from the pharmaceutical company that funds their research, groundbreaking genetic scientists Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody) continue with an unorthodox experiment to create a human-animal hybrid, a new life form they dub “Dren” (Delphine Chanéac). When they see their fantastical creation, Clive warns that it should be destroyed, but Elsa refuses — a decision she’ll regret when Dren makes deadly plans of her own.

In today’s day and age where we have stem-cell research, Dolly the sheep, and abortions happening all-over-the-place, it’s always good to get some science fiction that makes you think about all of that. Except, I only wished there was a better film to make me think.

Director Vincenzo Natali does a good job with this story giving it that mysterious feeling to it and having us wonder just how it is all going to end. I liked wondering just if this little human-alien was going to turn out more like E.T. or like Alien, because we get looks at both a kind alien and a dangerous alien.

The script is also pretty good when it sticks to the ideas of knowing what is right and what is wrong when it comes to scientific research. There are always science fiction films that show these experiments just being brutal but nobody ever saying what is acceptable and what is not. I thought this was pretty cool to see and hear considering we never get this in any of these shitty sci-fi horror films that come out every three times or more a year.

However, the script starts to really lose itself when it gets away from those ideas and more towards the plot, which in some cases is a good thing but here it really started to lose me. The film brings up things about Elsa’s mother, and how abusive she was towards her which kind of contributes to her way of living in the film but it is never really brought up again. The film also talks about how being a parent is tough, even if you’re kid is messed up. I didn’t care much about this because I was interested in Dren, and I think everybody else who watched this film was too so I have no idea why they bothered going down this direction.

Dren, however, is a very interesting character that I liked to watch and get to know more and more about as the film went on. I think she looks a little bit like Sinead O’Connor with a huge forehead tail and weird peg legs but that’s not much of a bad thing since the scenes with her are actually almost as interesting as any of the other ideas this film brings up. She doesn’t speak and only communicates through Scrabble letters which was pretty cool however, more could have actually been shown to describe her ways and actions.

Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley are fine here as Dren’s “parents” but considering the huge amount of talent these two actually have (hell Brody has an Oscar) I was expecting something more from both of these stars instead of just delivering lines. I would have also liked to see more of the film focusing on these two and their relationship to give us more of a liking for these character’s which is something I feel like it could have had easily if it just played out better.

For the most part, the film kept me interested and my eyes glued to the screen, it was only until the last 30 minutes where it actually lost me and oh god, did it really lose me! I can’t give away any major plot happenings but what you will see happen will probably make you laugh your ass off in the most unintentional way ever, because it did for me. After this problem, the film is basically doomed for the remainder and as soon as it turns all cliche and predictable there’s no real turning back and you know that this one had so much more potential.

Consensus: Splice works well with some interesting ideas and a good central character but the problem is that it’s never truly thrilling or dedicated to one idea, which sort of takes away from the cool premise and makes the bizarre last 30 minutes seem even worse. Not terrible, just flawed.


Midnight in Paris (2011)

After taking French for 2 years now, I finally have a reason to go and tour Paris. Thank you Woody!

Woody Allen focuses his lens on a young engaged couple (Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams) whose experiences traveling together in Paris make them begin to question the kind of life they want to live as a couple. There’s more to this plot, but I can’t tell you anymore I’m sad to say. You may just have to check it all out.

Woody Allen is one of my favorite writer and directors, and it’s just awesome to see him have a film come out during the big Summer blockbuster season and actually get this small film out there. You the man Woody!

My favorite thing about this film is just the overall delightful feeling which comes from Allen’s direction and writing. The first 5 minute silent sequence of Paris throughout a whole day is just beautiful and the way Allen films each little area of Paris is amazing. So basically right from the get-go, you get the total feeling that this is Woody Allen’s love-letter to the city of LOVE aka one of the most beautiful cities of the world. The whole film I just wanted to walk around Paris and every single place this film went made me feel so warm and cozy inside. I know that all may seem a little strange but Paris really is beautiful and the way Allen films it, almost makes it look even better.

The script by Allen is also something to praise as well. This is a very well-written script that features a lot of hilarious dialogue, as well as some nostalgia that will have you looking for your vintage vinyl players, and some insight to hit your brain also. Despite all the of the beautiful scenery here, the film is about living in the now and having a great time with what you have now, rather than just sitting back and brood on how the old days were so much better. It’s pretty funny hearing this message come from a guy who hasn’t put a single song in any of his films that have been after the year 1950, but with Woody, it’s still very relatable. Also, I was totally taken away with what happens to this premise. It really is awesome when you don’t really know what’s going to happen in a film before you see it.

The only real problem I had with this film was that I felt it was way too short and just happened very quickly. I guess I was just expecting more insight, and more plot development by the end of the film and with many of Allen’s films, I usually adore how he ends his films. Here, I didn’t really like the ending and I felt it was a little bit forced to bring out some more smiles for the people leaving the theater, which is not really a complaint, I just know that Woody almost always gets a great ending for whatever it is that he’s doing.

Owen Wilson is fantastic as Gil Penders, a screenplay writer who want’s something more. You would not really think of Wilson as a suitable Woody Allen stand-in because his persona is so easy-going, confident, and totally relaxed feel to him that it’s crazy to see how likable he is in this film. It’s been awhile since Wilson has got a good role lately but here he does a pretty stellar job at not at all phoning it in, and being believable when all this crazy ish is happening around him. Rachel McAdams is a total bitch as his fiancee Inez, but a good and hot one to say the least. The one thing about this film that also had me a little annoyed was how these two actually became so in love, in the first place since all they do here is basically argue and misunderstand one another. Inez treats Gil as a total moron and for me, I don’t care how fine the bitch is, if she’s disrespecting me, she is out the door. The rest of the cast is filled with some nice supporting performances/cameos from a couple of A-listers and up-and-comers, but when you see them, you’ll be totally surprised so I won’t say anything else.

Consensus: It may end very quickly than I expected, but Midnight in Paris is a charming and delightful comedy filled with beautiful images of the city of Paris, a great central performance from Owen Wilson, and an insightful script about living in the present, rather than harping on the past. You tell ’em Woody!


Summer of Sam (1999)

Good thing I was born in 1993, and didn’t live in New York.

During the sweltering summer of 1977, the notorious killer Son of Sam set New York City on fire, and a chance encounter with the homicidal maniac sends the life of a philandering Bronx hairdresser named Vinny (John Leguizamo) spinning out of control. As the authorities hunt the killer, Vinny’s life unravels amid a haze of suspicion, drugs and promiscuity. Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody also star in this tense crime drama from director Spike Lee.

Spike Lee has always been one of my favorites no matter what he’s directing really. He is very smart, innovative, and thought-provoking, but not without entertaining. Here, he does almost all of that.

There is a lot of stuff going on in this film, and for the most part Lee handles it all pretty well. It’s just that some parts feel like they shouldn’t have even been put in, and you can tell where the film drags. The editing seems like it could have been better, because the tone goes up and down, as well as the story.

However, Lee always steps up to the plate. He perfectly captures the fear and paranoia that was going through the mind of many New Yorkers during the Summer of Sam. He uses a lot of intense visuals, as well as some incredible set pieces, to really show you how everything back in those days, were so tense. The soundtrack also gives us more of a feel that we are in the 70s, and there are a couple of cool little musical montages to 2 songs from The Who, and it really is amazing. It’s always nice to see Lee branch out and do something different, while still making it fresh and enjoyable.

The problem with this film is that it is that for some viewers this may be too much. There is a lot of ugliness within this film that will take some people by surprise, and leave others in total disgust. I didn’t mind it at all really, but the many sex scenes, drugs, and violence will actually be hard for others to watch. For 142 minutes, I think some people will find themselves switching the channels about 30 minutes into it.

The acting is superb, especially from John Leguizamo. His sex-addicted, Catholic-guilt-ridden, married, adulterous, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up is out of control. Cool. Adrien Brody‘s sexually-confused, swinging, punk, radical, liberated, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up, Brit wannabe is more subtle, but equally as out of it. They both have great scenes when their together, and you can feel the real chemistry between these two, as we follow their two different lives. Mira Sorvino is beautiful, but also amazing as Leguizamo’s wife, and shows that she doesn’t need to be that goody-goody we all know her for, she can be equally as sexy, and tear down the house. Jennifer Esposito doesn’t do much anymore, and it’s actually a shame because she’s very good here, and it makes me miss her a whole lot more.

Consensus: At times, it’s a muddled mess, at other times brilliantly entertaining. Spike Lee handles this material with plenty of ugliness, but also with great visuals, and amazing performances from the cast.


Liberty Heights (1999)

Baltimore doesn’t really seem all that fun of a place after all.

“No Jews, dogs or coloreds,” reads the sign outside a public swimming pool in 1954 Baltimore. High school freshman Ben Kurtzman (Ben Foster) and friends find themselves confronted with anti-Semitism, racism and coming of age in a fast-changing world.

I like a lot of Barry Levinson’s films. I had a great time with Diner, Rain Man, and You Don’t Know Jack, among others. He’s always able to bring that sentimental feeling, as well as humor together, to show true stories in his life, that he lived with.

That’s the one thing about this film that really had me watching, was that it had a nice deal of humor as well as a nice deal of true drama. The film is about breaking boundaries, and going further then what you were expected of. It’s also about a great deal of race and ethnic problems going around.

The only problem was that the story never fully compelled me. I always felt there was so much more in this film rather than 3 stories about stepping over boundaries. I liked the story of Ben Foster, and the African American girl, cause it was so nicely played, and not just in an exploitation way, but handled with care. The other stories were so-so with me. The story with Joe Mantegna and his burlesque club, I thought was a total bore, and the sub-plot with him and Orland Jones that happens, was very quite random, and had no state of believability at all.  But I did enjoy the story of Adrien Brody, being the heart-breaking romantic, who tries so hard to find this one chick he loved.

The performances are good. I loved Ben Foster here, I thought he had so much energy, and resilience on screen, that it’s no surprise now he’s doing great in films now. Adrien Brody is always good, and is a charmer in this film, that you fall behind and you cheer him on. Joe Mantegna story line was too boring for me to actually watch his performance up close, but he was good in the end scenes. Orlando Jones pops in this film half-way through, and they try to make him a scary character, but he’s just too funny, and colorful (no pun intended), that it was hard to take him seriously at all.

Consensus: It has a nice script, as well as some good performances from the cast, but Liberty Heights doesn’t succeed fully with being something stronger than it should have been.


The Jacket (2005)

Do they really do this stuff if your insane??

Adrien Brody stars as Jack Starks, a Persian Gulf War veteran who has lost his memories to amnesia. When Jack is accused of a heinous killing, he realizes he must find a way to prove his innocence. Desperate to unearth clues about his past, he seeks a controversial treatment that allows him to go back in time — which turns out to be a heart-wrenching decision when he realizes he’s destined for tragedy.

There are plenty of things that this film could have done right. However, it chooses to do none of them, and just get more confusing as it goes along. I think this film had the idea that if you just add a bunch of crazy looking images, along with the more confusion, then you have a great psychological thriller that the crowd will be scratching their head so much. If that’s the case, then the film succeeded in that, but for all the wrong reasons.

I had no idea what was going on by the last act at all. Was he in the future? Was he just imagining this? What are the exact dates of the occurrences? Why am I still watching this movie? All questions had meaning but there were no answers. We get too many random montages of this guys “past life”, but none of them have any meaning nor explanation as to what this has to do with anything.

I at least enjoyed watching Adrien Brody on screen. Even though the screenplay is written very bad, he at least fines ways to bring out some charm within his character, and give us a protagonist we enjoy watching. Keira Knightly was so unintentionally hilarious on-screen. She was trying so hard to make sure her accent didn’t come out, so the whole time she’s like gargling, being really deep with her voice, and just sounding retarded when she’s trying to show emotion. The way these two fall in love is so quick and unbelievable that you just don’t care by the end of the film.

Consensus: The Jacket is highlighted by a good performance from Brody, but is confusing, illiterate, and at times just stupid, doing nothing but trying to confuse the audience for no reason.


The Pianist (2002)

Say what you will about Roman Polanski, but he can make great films.

Famed Polish concert pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) struggles to survive the onslaught of Nazi tyranny during World War II in this Roman Polanski-directed drama based on Szpilman’s memoirs. In spite of his well-known musical talents, Szpilman spends several years holed up in Warsaw, barely alive and subsisting on scraps, until grace comes in the form of a second chance — at music, at freedom and at life.

Polanski, yes he is a dirty man that has had so many hard troubles in his life. First he survived the Holocaust which is hard as hell, and his wife and baby were killed by The Manson Murderers. But the one thing I will say is that here with The Pianist he makes some of the finest piece of work I have seen in a very long time.

The film is a Holocaust film but it isn’t as preachy and obvious as you would expect. Almsot everything is shot from Brody’s point of view, including some great over-head shots of war, and it doesn’t take place in a gritty camp. The message isn’t so much about how bad the Germans were towards the Jews, we already understand that, no it was more about the luck and chances this man took for survival.

This film is very very very disturbing with all its blood and violence, but the way its filmed is such a beautiful way. Polanski doesn’t just show dead bodies on the ground over and over again so it catches your attention, instead he just shows these dead bodies and the characters themselves just push it off like nothing, and soon we feel the same effect as they did. There are just so many disturbing and utterly violent scenes that will leave you thinking more about how Jews were treated.

The only bad thing about this film is that since it is a Holocaust film, it is a huge downer. I mean if you want to feel depressed well then be my guest and watch this, but there are just plenty of moments in the film that are so bleak you actually start to have the same effect the characters are going through.

Adrien Brody really does give a knock-out performance here, now I can see why he won the Oscar. Before the Holocaust and everything before this was happening you can see how all of his emotions and mind change as all this terrible stuff is happening. By the end, Bordy does really well with just looking so bad and dirty, also with his physical performance as looking so injured and weak he can barely move.

Consensus: One of Polanski’s most personal films, with a wonderful performance from Brody, highly disturbing content that will leave you scarred, and beautiful scenes mixed with a different approach to the Holocaust film, even if it is a downer.

9.5/10=Full Price!!!!!

The Thin Red Line (1998)

Jeez, war films in 1998 took over the Oscars.

With an all-star cast — featuring Sean Penn, George Clooney, Nick Nolte and Adrien Brody — director Terrence Malick’s lyrical and beautiful retelling of James Jones’s novel about the 1942 battle for Guadalcanal was nominated for seven Oscars. With narration by Pvt. Witt (Jim Cavaziel), the men of C-Company become a tight-knit group as they each individually face the horrors of war to hold onto a key-positioned airfield.

The Thin Red Line, is basically a remake of the original 1964 flick, and to be truly honest after watching this film, I don’t think I will have to dig back into the archives and watch that.

Most War films over-exploit the gore and the violence of the war, but never really capture the feelings of the war within it’s soldiers. This film, captured all the feeling imaginable. We really do get to feel what these characters feel through a lot of emotional and overall beautiful images that are being narrated over by soldiers that are present in the film.

Immediately, I was caught up in this film, even in its first frame that features an alligator. It not once lost my interest until the very end where I did start to believe the moral story of good and evil started to wane on, and become a little boring and I didn’t that there wasn’t any material to work from.

Terrence Malick returns to film-making after his 20 year absence, and it doesn’t feel like he missed those years at all. He without a doubt capture the right emotion at the right time with every little scene. The cinematography that he worked on really made us feel the intensity of fighting an enemy that was hidden. Malick should’ve won Best Director for this film because although he doesn’t steer this film into perfection, he does steer into the right and very inspired direction.

Visually, this film is just one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. There are some scenes that are so beautiful, so touching, and so inspirational that I couldn’t just help but shed a tear. Some scenes as I stated before are over-lapped by little narration from the soldiers, but you almost forget about the speaking and can’t stop but gaze at how beautiful the look and feel this movie really does have.

The all-star cast really does a good job in this film and really do step away from their public images and create characters that we like and can relate to. Out of the whole cast Nick Nolte is who I really think does the best. He is angry, ruthless, and also very misguided and you can see that coming out of his performance. I wish that there was more time for these big stars to interact with one another but overall I was pleased with the way some of these characters were used. I also liked how the Japanese weren’t portrayed as these savage killers who have no souls. Instead, they were shown with having as much fear and terror as much as the U.S., and that’s what really separates this film from others.

The only complaint that I really do think killed this film to be as much as a success as Saving Private Ryan, was that there are way too many scenes of just down time. In SPR, the down time was actually interesting and you actually got a sense of what those characters lives we’re like before war. However, in this the down time is submitted to beautiful visuals but overall not very interesting dialouge that I thnk made this film not win one Oscar.

Consensus: The Thin Red Line is visually astonishing, incredibly-well directed, and features amazingly true messages about how the war turns people into animals. However, the film offers to much time for boredom and doesn’t quite connect as well as Saving Private Ryan.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

Summer of Sam (1999)

The film for people who don’t like Spike Lee’s other films.

During the sweltering summer of 1977, the notorious killer Son of Sam set New York City on fire, and a chance encounter with the homicidal maniac sends the life of a philandering Bronx hairdresser named Vinny (John Leguizamo) spinning out of control. As the authorities hunt the killer, Vinny’s life unravels amid a haze of suspicion, drugs and promiscuity.

I was surprised by this film because all of Lee’s other works are about race or politics in society. All of the other one’s also include a very large cast of black people which this one doesn’t actually I think there are only like 5 black people shown throughout the whole film, including himself. This change I liked a little bit better.

The film isn’t so much about “The Son Of Sam” himself, but more of the frightened atmosphere he created with his killings. This reminds me a lot about Do The Right Thing with less of a message. It produces some very entertaining visuals. Colors change along with the setting it takes place in and there are montages that feature some high quality looks at the city and the people who inhabit it as well. Lee shows with this film is that he knows where to put the camera and have it stay where it needs to be throughout and it is really dazzling to see him work.

The one huge problem I had with this film was that there was so much. This surely is one of Lee’s most trashy films with the “f” word used about 500 times, soft-core porn sex scenes, and violence beyond belief. It gets out of hand at points and I understand what Lee was trying to show but he shows in a way that were just disgusted.

Another thing with the film is how these characters aren’t very likable which in every Lee film he has. These characters all have a bad thing about them even if they seem normal. Everybody in this film seemed either immature or just low in society and you never feel sympathy for them cause their too busy screwing up their own lives, and really you don’t care what happens to them.

The screenplay as usual is highly entertaining, and you can tell these are real people talking, because you can see they know what’s going on and their scared but they can still add in some humor to brighten up the tone and make the film a lot better.

Performances from its main cast is very good. John Leguizamo does a good job and you can tell the frustration on his face with these killings and his urge to cheat on his wife. Most notably Adrien Brody who uncharacteristically plays the punk is the highlight as he plays a person that is fed up with the society he lives in and just wants to rebel and you can tell by through his actions and through his motives we feel fed up as well.

Consensus: With a highly energetic script, dazzling visuals, and great performances, Summer of Sam is good but too ugly for some viewers and surely not one of Lee’s best.