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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Alan Tudyk

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Most cold-blooded killers are, after all, misunderstood.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been on the run, gun slingin’, robbin’, killin’, and committing all sorts of crimes that have him number one on every person’s bounty list. However, Wade is a pretty ruthless man, to where he can get away from anyone looking to reel him in for justice; it also helps that he’s got the helping hand of his band of fellow thugs, especially his go-to-guy, Charlie (Ben Foster). But eventually, Ben gets caught by the local law and ready for the 3:10 train to take him to Yuma. But in order to get him there, he’ll have to be transported among many lines, where everyone is looking to take Ben down and get a little piece of the reward-money pie. However, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is just looking to do this so that he can get some money, save his farm, and go home to his family, where he can feel like a responsible man again. As expected though, the trip goes through all sorts of bumps, bruises, and plenty of violence, where one thing leads to another, and it’s never very clear if Ben will ever get on that train and behind bars, like he should.

"Hold it! I'm not Batman here, but other places. Kind of."

“Hold it! I’m not Batman here, but other places. Kind of.”

3:10 to Yuma is the rare kind of Western that not only revitalizes the genre, but also proves why it’s so great in the first place. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the genre, make up new rules, and play by its own game, but instead, take everything that you know and love from all those other classics, bring them together, and let you have a great time. It’s as if it’s own beast, entirely, even if, yeah, it’s actually a remake, too.

Still, even if 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the most original story out there, it more than makes up for it in all the thrilling, exciting and rather unpredictable action-sequences that take place over its two-hours. James Mangold is a perfect fit for this material, because he knows exactly how to make it all crackle and pop, without ever seeming like he’s out of his depth. Even though Mangold sure does love to jump around from genre to genre, with sheer reckless abandon, it seems like the action-genre may be the one he sticks with, not just because he seems to enjoy it the most, but because he actually seems to know what he’s doing with it, as opposed to those like Michael Bay, or McG.

Why on Earth did I just mention McG’s name?

Anyway, moving on. 3:10 to Yuma more than gets by with its action, but at the heart of it all, and perhaps what makes it more than just another fun and exciting romp through the Old West, is that it’s also the tale of two interesting, challenging, and complex men. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in great work here, going beyond the silly accents, and showing that there’s more to these two guys. Crowe’s Wade may be a ruthless, toothless (not really, he has quite the set of chompers), and almost sadistic killer, but he’s also got a set of morals and he’s quite the charmer. Whereas, on the other side of the coin, Bale’s Dan is a man with plenty of morals, a simpleton, and family man, but at the same time, won’t hesitate to kill, if he ever has to.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Both men are different, yes, but they’re also quite alike in many ways, too, and it’s what makes 3:10 to Yuma quite compelling to watch.

Even when the action is gone for a short while and everyone’s sitting around a fire, eating beans, chewing the fat, it’s still entertaining to watch; the cast is so good, the characters so well-defined, and the script is actually polished. And with Bale and Crowe’s performances, we get to see two men who, despite being on opposites of the social spectrum, still respect the other enough to know where they come from, what their ideals are, and why they are, the way they are in the world. It almost comes close to a bromance, except for the fact that they do try and kill each other every so often, but even then, who knows.

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

But anyway, aside from both Crowe and Bale, the ensemble’s a pretty good one. A very young Logan Lerman shows that he can hold his own as Dan’s son; Dallas Roberts plays the sheriff who has to take Wade in with Dan and shows that even the scrawniest of men, with a gun, can still kind of be bad-ass; Peter Fonda shows up and brings some class; Kevin Durand is, as expected, pretty crazy; Luke Wilson has a fun cameo; and Ben Foster, as Wade’s right-hand man, is so crazy, so deranged and so evil, that he almost ends up stealing the show. But still, it’s Bale’s and Crowe’s show to the end and when they’re together, their scenes never stop igniting the spark and make you wish that they’d work together more and more. It doesn’t even have to be in Westerns.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

Consensus: Even if it’s still a Western through and through, 3:10 to Yuma is a tense, exciting and incredibly well-acted piece of entertainment.

8 / 10

Look at 'em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Look at ’em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

We’re like all connected, man.

After her mother is killed and father (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken from here at the age of 16, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has set her sights out on for her whole life to take down the Empire, in whatever way she can. After receiving a random message from him that he has plans on how to destroy the almighty Death Star, Jyn sets out with a group of fellow rebellious souls who, in one way or another, want to hope for a better world and future that isn’t so controlled by the Empire. One such person is Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Captain who has definitely done a whole lot in his life that he’s not proud of, but knows to push all of that to the side in hopes that he and the rest of these ragtag folks will be able to hurt the Empire where it hurts the most.

Oh yeah, and it’s somehow all connected to A New Hope, which isn’t a spoiler and trust me, you won’t soon forget about, considering that the movie seems to remind us just about every second that it’s all tied together, through some way. Which isn’t all that bad because yes, it is a prequel of some sorts and yes, it is taking place within this universe that we all practically know by heart, so it would make obvious sense that they would try and tie it all in, make constant references, and give greater context to things we’ve been mulling over since the first one was released nearly 40 years ago.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

That said, a movie should stand on its own, prequel or not, and honestly, that’s where Rogue One sort of falls short.

You basically have to know everything that they’re talking about here and if you don’t, well, then you’re going to feel left out. The one good aspect surrounding the fact that the movie hearkens back to the original so much is that director Gareth Edwards films the movie to where it’s kind of goofy and light, but at the same time, still incredibly stylish and polished to where it still feels especially modern. In fact, it’s hard not to look at Rogue One and see not just how much money was put into it, but how much time, effort and care was put into assuring that the movie had the look and feel of the other movies, yet, still sort of its own thing.

Sure, it’s a movie that connects one too many times to the other flicks and has to remind us incessantly about the larger universe that we already definitely know about, but when this baby’s moving and not focusing a whole lot on what it’s plot is going to turn out to be, it’s quick an enjoyable ride. Edwards definitely knows how to film action -whether it’s on the ground, or in space, or between a bunch of foot-soldiers, or androids – and to do so in a manner that’s compelling, as well as comprehensible, is definitely a step-up from the rest of what we get in the world of summer blockbusters and shaky-cam.

Then again, as good as the action may be, there’s still something that Rogue One lacks in and that’s good, substantial and above all else, memorable characters that, in the many, many years to come, we’ll never get out of our heads and/or stop quoting.

Basically, I’m talking about another Darth Vader, or Han Solo, or Yoda, or hell, even Luke, which doesn’t of interest to Rogue One. And okay, yes, that’s fine – I understand that it’s hard to sometimes strike gold twice when it comes to lovely, absolutely memorable characters and of course, they have a high order to work against, but still, anything would have helped here. Not just a certain trait that lasts long in our mind, but anything.

Rogue One seems to know how to bring all of these shady, random characters from all walks of life together, give them a mission to work towards and basically leave it at that. There’s nothing to any of them, with the exception of a particular set of skill that they’re able to utilize in the heat of the battle, which makes it feel like we’re watching a bunch of characters that we’re supposed to like, sympathize with, and root for, all because of what they’re doing, but it’s kind of hard when we don’t really know any of them. We get some small bits and pieces among the whole talented ensemble, but it still feels like perhaps the movie is holding back on something to keep us glued on to me, until it eventually shows its hand and, well, there’s not much there.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

We’re supposed to care and roll with it, because well, it’s fun and it’s Star Wars. So why should we complain?

Well, it’s easy to complain when you have the talented likes of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, and Jiang Wen, all doing material that allows them to have a few lines or so every once and awhile, along with a lot of kicking, punching, shooting and fun stuff like that. And of course, I’m not complaining that the movie takes their fighting habits, over their, I don’t know, real life, human habits, but it definitely doesn’t help that every character feels like sketches of someone/something far more interesting that either wasn’t filmed, or cut-out of the final product entirely.

Yen’s blind jedi-like character is pretty bad-ass and honestly, makes me want to see him more and more, but blindness and ass-kicking is pretty much all he gets; Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO droid is memorable because he’s a lot like C3PO, but much more violent and witty, stealing most of the scenes it’s in; Luna’s character tries a little hard to be Han Solo and mostly just feels like a far distant cousin; Ahmed’s barely here; Mendelsohn and Mikkelsen are pros at trash and can elevate anything that they’re working with; Whitaker is pretty bad here, but it seems like he was left without much to do; Wen is there to aid Yen’s character and gets to partake in some bad-assery, but what purpose her serves is never fully explained; and yes, Jones’ Jyn Erso, while not necessarily the most memorable heroine to exist in sci-fi, she still gets the job done, showing us someone we can trust in, but also want to know more and more about, in between all of the planning, and shooting, and killing.

Maybe I showed up to the wrong movie.

Consensus: Stylish and exciting, Rogue One definitely delivers on the epic, grand-scale action that’s become synonymous with Star Wars by now, but also substitutes most of that for a standalone story, with well-written, memorable characters.

7 / 10

True besties.

True besties.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Moana (2016)

Tattooed-men aren’t so scary after all.

Ever since she was just a little girl, Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) has always longed for the outside world. She, her family, and the countless other folks have been living on this one single island, far away from the rest of the world, surviving all on their own and never running into any issues. However, it seems like all of their worst nightmares are coming true, when all of a sudden, the food starts to go bad on the island and the fish are nowhere to be found. Moana believes that the best way to get this finished is to set out and find the once-mighty demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson), who may be able to finally save their island and ensure that nobody dies. But getting from point A, to point B, is very difficult and along the way, both Maui and Moana run into all sorts of issues, whether it’s with fellow travelers, or with one another.

Disney princess? Maybe.

A Disney princess to kick all of the other’s asses.

No matter what, there’s no denying that Moana has some pretty great tunes. Getting Lin-Manuel Miranda definitely helps as all of the songs, whether serious or funny, all have a very fun sound and feel to them, that not only shows that some real effort was put into them, but they weren’t just used for filler. Most of the time, with these musicals, it can sometimes feel like the songs barely serve a purpose, other than to just have the voice-actor show off their pipes, but here, each and every song serves a purpose, whether it’s to give insight into a certain character, or give us a better idea of just what the hell they’re thinking at that one exact moment in time.

Sure, there’s no “Let it Go” to be found here, but is that such an issue?

Regardless, the music of Moana is so good that, honestly, it wasn’t hard to wish that the whole movie had just been one, long musical, from beginning to end, without any breaths, pauses, or sighs anywhere to be found. Cause despite all of the hype surrounding it, not only is Moana a very conventional tale that we’ve seen a hundred times before, but it can also get kind of boring and random; after awhile, all of the fantasy elements seem to come out of nowhere in a way that makes you think that the people behind the flick are just making things up because, well, why not. After all, they’re making a movie for little kids and sometimes, making sense or having a rhyme/reason for doing the things that you do, just shouldn’t matter.

But yeah, to be honest, Moana itself is a little boring – the adventure can sometimes be fun and the various evil-doers that they meet along the way do prove some real creativity and spark within the writer’s room, but for the most part, it felt very plodding to me. It honestly seemed like they had the songs written, performed and knew what they were working with, so instead of creating a great story first and throwing all of the songs in there, they just used the songs to connect the dots. I could definitely be wrong, but from afar, this seems to have happened, with a good portion of the story seeming like an excuse just to get to the next musical-sequence and keep everyone awake.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

The ocean just spoke to her. Or something weird and sort of insane like that.

And yeah, I get it, I’m definitely a Grinch for not being in love with this movie. I get it.

It’s not even like the movie isn’t great to look at, because it is; Disney seems to be getting more and more visually appealing each and every time, combining different animation styles, almost to the point of where things begin looking like real life. And the voice-acting from the whole gang, especially Johnson as the sometimes prickish Maui, is actually all good, but honestly, they’re sort of wasted on a story that does random things for the sake of moving itself along. It has a clear objective that we can all see from the start, which is normally fine, but getting there doesn’t have to be such a slog, does it?

Better yet, it doesn’t have to be such a conventional one, right? Either way, Moana reminds me why animated movies can sometimes be real great when they have a smart head on their shoulders and actually care about what they’re doing, and why they can be so annoying to watch when the exact opposite is happening. Hopefully this isn’t a constant thing with Disney.

Consensus: With great visuals and some very catchy tunes, Moana can be entertaining, however, also has a very conventional story that sometimes doesn’t make sense, nor seem like it wants to, all in favor of just getting to the next track.

6 / 10

Yeah, don't mess.

Yeah, don’t mess.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

Zootopia (2016)

It’s like the actual United States of America. But with animals!

From when she was just a little bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) was always told that she wasn’t going to amount to much. Because of that adversity in her life, Judy trained for years and years to become a cop in the wonderfully huge and grand melting-pot that is Zootopia, a place where all kinds of creatures can live together in perfect peace and harmony. Eventually, Judy’s dream comes true and she finds herself living in Zootopia, with a solid job as a cop. However, she soon finds out that her job won’t amount to much other than just putting tickets on people’s cars. Though she’s disappointed by this, Judy still remains restless and ready to take on any obstacle she meets out there in the real world, which leads her to Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly and cunning fox, who she has a fear of, just based solely on the fact that fox and rabbits aren’t supposed to get along. Using Nick, Judy discovers a missing otter’s case, which leads her to uncovering a greater conspiracy that involves the police chief, the mayor, and plenty other people in power.

Don't call her "cute". Even if, yes, she totally is.

Don’t call her “cute”. Even if, yes, she totally is.

Last summer, when Inside Out came out, a lot of people were going on and on about how it was, essentially, a “kids movie for adults”. And they weren’t wrong. Sure, the animation, the colorful and wild-looking characters were clearly to attract the kids and get them interested in the first place, but really, the plot, the message and the mechanics of it all weren’t really for kids. After all, no kid would have been able to understand “the id”, “the psychosis”, or anything of that psychological nature, nor would they ever be able to understand just what the characters were searching for, or trying to accomplish. In some ways, that’s why I loved the movie, however, I also realize that perhaps the movie was maybe just a tad too smart for its own good, or even for its own audience.

That said, Zootopia is the kind of animated movie made to grab kids’ attention, but really meant to connect with the older-ones who get stuck bringing their kids in the first place.

And that’s a good thing. For one, Zootopia is a solid animated movie that, yes, looks as great and as detailed as ever. Every character, from the sloths, to the lions, to the cheetahs, the foxes, to polar bears, to the bunnies, to whichever you want to call them, all look lovely and pleasantly cartoonish. However, my main adoration for this movie comes in the way it approaches its universe. It’s the kind of movie that has a smart and relatively interesting idea, but rather than using it to rely on a lame plot or kiddie-jokes, instead, it goes balls to the walls with what it can do.

The story is a cross between a police procedural and coming-of-age-tale, but instead, with a rabbit and a fox in the interracial buddy-cop roles. And while for any lesser-movie, they’d just have that idea and leave it there, Zootopia decides to run wild with it and allow for the movie to build both of these characters up, give them personalities, and allow for them to go on throughout this whole world. After all, certain parts of this world that the movie has created for itself is so inventive and creative, that after awhile, it becomes clear that the movie’s dealing with a lot, but not really losing control of itself.

It has a message. It has a message. And most importantly, it has a story.

Granted, the story can sometimes go on and on and for the sake of telling the movie’s central message (racism and treating others for what they look like, and not who they are, is bad), but it still kept me interested. The movie brings up other points about gentrification, xenophobia, and social-classes that do hit, but it isn’t always actually about them; if anything, it’s just using them as a way to make their story feel and sound more important than it may already be perceived as. Of course, one could go on for days with think-pieces out the wahzoo about what Zootopia is trying to say, but none of it really matters, because guess what? The movie’s just a fun piece of animation.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

Sure, it’s definitely made with the adults in mind, but it’s also a good movie for kids in that there’s a lot of the typical humor you’d expect for them to laugh at and love. However, there’s also smarter, more witty jokes aimed at the adults that have to deal with the social and racial constructs of this world, references to movies like the Godfather and Chinatown (among others), and the fact that each and everyone of these animals are supposed to be portraying an aspect of the real world. It’s all so goofy, but so much fun that you don’t care how far they go with these ideas.

You’ll just be happy that someone’s thinking this creatively for once.

And this is all the more surprising considering that there’s at least three directors (Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore) and two writers (Jared Bush and Phil Johnston) working together. Normally, this spells out an uneasy, messy and uneven bit of trouble, but surprisingly, everybody came together here to create some neat and funny ideas, without ever seeming like they’re just throwing stuff in for the sake of it. And yes, the voice cast is also pretty solid, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is bright and sunny; Jason Bateman is as cool as a cucumber; Idris Elba is brass and brawny; and yeah, there’s others. Just know that Zootopia is a fine piece of animation that, if you haven’t already, just check it out.

It has something to say, but more importantly, has something to do with itself, rather than just waste your time because it’s already gotten your money.

Consensus: With smart ideas and messages about the real world we live in, yet, using animated animals to take humans places, Zootopia is not only cute, but awfully inventive and interesting, even when it seems to be preaching an awful lot.

8 / 10 

Oh, sloths. So silly.

Oh, sloths. So silly. Yet, a little creepy-looking.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I, Robot (2004)

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

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

Robot1

“Attention!”

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

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

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

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

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

Are we human, or are we robot?

Are we human, or are we robot?

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Don’t tell me, but they die at the end. Right?

Imagine a world where the dinosaurs didn’t die and instead, continue to roam the planet as if nothing ever happened. Humans are other species exist, but for the most part, the dinosaurs are the dominant ones. And in this alternative timeline, lives an Apatosaurus named Arlo (voice of Raymond Ochoa), who isn’t nearly as a strong-willed or smart as his older brother and sister. His parents knew this at an early age, which is why they’ve always tried to push him into taking more care of himself and being there to help the family when help is needed. However, for the most part, Arlo’s father (Jeffrey Wright), has always been there to save the day and pick up Arlo’s slack. After a tragic event that leaves Arlo forced to have to pick up his own slack, as well as more responsibilities, he meets a small human who he doesn’t know if he can or can’t trust. But regardless of this, he gets lost and taken away from the rest of his family, which leaves him no other choice than to trust this little human to get him back home, where he can be safe, sound and help his family finish stocking food and shelter for the winter. Issue is, the trip home is going to be a brutal and scary one, which is why Arlo and this human may need to trust each other more, even if they don’t like it.

Oooooh.

Oooooh.

With Inside Out, you could say that Pixar has been on something of a roll, as since the release of Cars 2, they haven’t done so well. Which is to say that any Pixar movie from now, until the end of time, that’s considered to be “good”, will be fine enough; the bar isn’t raised as high anymore and for now, we’re just hoping that they continue to make good movies and not get caught up in their own system again. Sure, even though Inside Out was an amazing movie, it still came after a time where we don’t fully know just yet what to expect from Pixar.

But now we know that the Good Dinosaur is, well, good Pixar.

And that’s all it needs to be, really.

As usual with Pixar, everything about the Good Dinosaur is beautiful to look at. Because the movie is dealing with large landscapes, with hardly anything in them but trees, mountains and water, it’s surprising to see just how much the movie actually brings to the table in terms of what it wants to pop-out at us and have us gasping, wondering just how they made it all look so great. But then again, that’s the beauty of the animation team at Pixar – they make the kinds of movies they want and they don’t give a damn, all they want to do is make sure that they’re something worth looking at.

But honestly, this should come as no surprise to anyone knowing Pixar, but it deserves to be said because the story here isn’t nearly as surprising, or breath-taking as the visuals. If you take a gander at it, the Good Dinosaur is another re-working of the Lion King, where instead of having lions, we have dinosaurs, and instead of it just being Simba all by his lonesome for awhile, it’s now Arlo, accompanied by a cave boy human named Spot. It’s obvious from the very start just what’s going to happen with the story, where it’s going to go, and what sort of messages it’s going to push along, but surprisingly enough, it still kind of works. It’s not all that original and can, in some ways, appear to be “the Lion King for the new age”, but overall, it’s still a heartfelt story told with power and emotion that made that movie so damn great to begin with.

There’s no dancing, singing, or Nathan Lane, but hey, it’s got dinosaurs and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Still though, despite the story not winning points for originality, there were still plenty of moments where, like usual, Pixar found a way to have me reaching for the box of Kleenex and making sure nobody was looking at me. But what’s so surprising about this is how it seems like they’re not trying at all. One scene in particular has Arlo and Spot communicating with one another about their own family-units, but because neither speak in a language the other can understand, they just use the ground and a few sticks. It’s the one scene in this movie where it was obvious that the people in Pixar were reaching for my tears, but I didn’t care – it worked, it was effective, and it didn’t seem like they were trying to show off anything at all.

Aaaah.

Aaaah.

The only issue that seems to persist in the Good Dinosaur is that because they’re dealing with so many deeply heavy emotions and feelings, that whenever they try to throw comedy in to lighten things up, it doesn’t always feel pertinent to the story. Of course, it’s understandable why some of the comedy is here, what with this being Pixar and their a family-oriented company, but still, the comedy tries a bit too hard and if anything, comes in at unnecessary moments. When we see Spot and Arlo getting along with one another and building something of a friendship, it’s light, goofy and playful, just like we expect from Pixar, but other times, like with the characters Sam Elliott and Anna Paquin voice, it just seems obvious that Pixar wants people to laugh and forget that so much death has already occurred in such a story as this.

But no matter what, it’s the lovely friendship between Arlo and Spot that makes it worth watching. The heart is still plenty in-tact for a story like this, but it’s really them who make us wonder just where they’re going to go together. If anything, if there’s to be a Good Dinosaur 2, I’d be fine to see, if only because this one leaves plenty room open for new, inspiring things to happen.

Or, Pixar could just give us a Cars 3 and ruin everything they’ve been trying so desperately build back up. It’s their choice, I guess.

Consensus: Gorgeous-looking, but also heartfelt and sweet, the Good Dinosaur may not be a slam-dunk for Pixar like Inside Out, but still features plenty positive attributes that make us understand why they’re so trustworthy to begin with.

7 / 10

Oh, human? Nah.

Oh, human? Get out of here!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Trumbo (2015)

Wow. Communists make the best screenplays.

In 1947, there was nobody hotter than Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While he wasn’t the one you’d see on the screen, he was still the one responsible for so many great flicks, that people come to love and appreciate his work. But after this, people started to worry about his politics. See, Trumbo, as well as a few countless others of his closest friends and confidantes, were all blacklisted for showing their support for the Communist regime. Because of this, just about everybody who was blacklisted, were told to come forward and give away more names – for those dedicated few who didn’t, they risked never working in Hollywood ever again. Trumbo was one of those people, however, he still found a way to keep on working and turning out scripts, without ever jeopardizing the studios he actually wrote for. Through the next few years, Trumbo will write some of the very best screenplays, to some of the most iconic and revered movies of today’s day and age, however, all of that hard work and hardly any play begins to take a toll on Trumbo, as well as his loving, caring family who depend on him and his talents.

Wife = good.

Wife = good.

A lesser film, by a lesser director probably would have just kept the story limited to just Trumbo being accused of being a Communist and leaving it at that. However, because Trumbo isn’t a lesser film, and because Jay Roach isn’t a lesser director, there’s more going on with Trumbo’s life that the movie continues to focus on. And while the movie may definitely benefit from having a source as strong and as interesting as Trumbo to make their movie about, it still deserves to be said that Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz entertainment that shows us everything we despise about the industry, as well as the things we love.

Sure, maybe it’s more of love than hate, but hey, it’s still a pretty place that anybody would want to be apart of, if they had the talent to pull it all off.

But like I said, Trumbo is all about Hollywood at a certain period and time that was, on one side, very exciting and glamorous, but on the other, quite scary as well. What Trumbo does best is that it highlights the absolute paranoia and fear those within Hollywood feared due to the Communist blacklisting; while most of those associated with the biz were also Communist sympathizers, they weren’t allowed to come out and say so because, well, they wanted to continue to work. There’s a select few of insiders with Trumbo’s group of trusted allies that all seem to be on the same page, initially, but slowly and surely, start to peter-off and throw the other under the bus, just so that they can continue to work and make as much money as they were before. While we may not share a whole lot of sympathy for these attractive stars and celebrities, there’s still a certain feeling of some sadness when one or two of them have to suck their pride in, accept their lashings, and move on with their careers.

At the same time though, Trumbo is still, first and foremost, a small biopic of a movie legend that, honestly, not many people remember or still treat as an inspiration.

Though it’s interesting to see how Trumbo, the man, handles all of the negative press and attacks he gets for being a Communist party sympathizer, it’s even more so when the later part of his career comes into play and he’s stuck writing crappy scripts, for crappy production companies, and sometimes, making great scripts, for great companies, but not being able to take any sort of credit. It’s both fun and exciting to watch, while, at the same time, a bit heart-wrenching because we know that Trumbo deserves all of the credit and praise for these scripts, but just can’t actually go out into the world and say so.

Not to mention, it’s great to see a flick that focuses on, most of all, a screen-writer. So rarely do screen-writers get the credit that they so rightfully deserve – especially those from the older-days of Hollywood. While there were a few directors who directed their own screenplays, for the most part, directors made scripts that they picked-up and decided to go from there – due to this, not a lot of screen-writers got the whole credit that they deserved. With Trumbo, Roach not only shows that it’s definitely up to the writer themselves, to tell whether or not a piece is going to work.

Because, quite frankly, if you don’t have a good screenwriter, what good is your movie anyway?

Journalist = bad.

Journalist = bad.

As Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston does a nice job of taking what could have been, at first, a very over-the-top impersonation of the real life figure, but then takes it one step further and digs deeper. There’s a lot more to Trumbo than just a bunch of witty-lines, humor, and a fancy ‘stache; the dude’s actually getting to become a bit stressed-out and screwed-up from writing all of these screenplays and not being able to take any credit for them. Cranston’s good here as he not only shows the light-hearted, fun-loving side to this man, but also the sometimes angry, almost spiteful side as well.

And everybody else surrounding Cranston is quite good in their own roles, too. Though Diane Lane isn’t asked much to do, she still gets some bright, shining moments as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, who wants nothing more than for her family to be happy and peaceful; Helen Mirren is nastier than ever as Hedda Hopper, the most hated journalist at the time and shows just why she was so despised, but why she was also always getting dirt on those around her; Louis C.K. has a couple of nice scenes with Cranston as one of Trumbo’s buddies who is involved with the Communist-sympathizing party; and Michael Stuhlbarg does a good job at giving us more to Edward G. Robinson, but never fully lapsing into an impersonation that seems like a parody.

If there’s anything about Trumbo is that, when all is said and done, it’s a fine piece of cinema, but that’s about it. Having focused on Dalton Trumbo and looking at all the work that he’s created over the years, the movie definitely doesn’t live up to the legacies, but as it is, it’s still a fine piece of showbiz entertainment. People laugh, people cry, people learn lessons, people get better, and most importantly, people make a lot of money. That’s about all there is to showbiz, which is why that’s all there is to Trumbo.

Consensus: Maybe not setting the biopic world on fire, Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz drama that doesn’t step too far out of its comfort-zone, but also benefits largely from having such a talented cast on-board.

7 / 10

Screenwriter = always good.

Screenwriter = always good.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Knight’s Tale (2001)

KnightposterSir Lancelot always did prefer AC/DC.

Ever since he was a little boy, William Thatcher (Heath Ledger) has always wanted to be a knight and make something of his life. That’s why, when his master dies, William steps up to the plate and takes over his command; while this is obviously illegal to do, he’s going to get by on a phony name, as well as a certain type of skill in jousting. And after his first few matches, William, along with his fellow squire buddies (Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk), get the idea that maybe it’s time to take this career a little more serious. After all, they’re gaining so much fame and fortune, that why should they even bother to stop? And now it seems like William has caught the eye of a princess (Shannyn Sossamon) who shares quite the chemistry with him. However, in the eyes of the man she’s supposed to get married to (Rufus Sewell), this is clearly not something good, which means that he will take whatever steps necessary into not just defeating William on the jousting-field, but off it, too. This is where William’s past comes to light and has him wondering whether or not his father would be proud of what he’s become.

Don't mess with these folks. I guess.

Don’t mess with these folks. I guess.

The whole gimmick surrounding A Knight’s Tale is that, yes, it’s a medieval story taking place in the 1400s, which also happens to feature characters speaking in modern dialects, references to modern-day culture, and, perhaps most infamously, a whole ton of rock music. In fact, if one were to go into this movie, not knowing absolutely anything at all, they’d probably be shocked to all hell; once these medieval characters start suiting up and, randomly, War’s “Low Rider” begins to play, it seems so random and completely out of nowhere, that you can’t believe it’s actually happening. Is it a bad idea?

Well, given the context of this movie – not really.

What works best about A Knight’s Tale isn’t just that it features rock music to push itself further away from the rest of the medieval action sub-genre, but also seems to exist in its own goofy universe. Writer/director Brian Helgeland has a nice understanding of what sort of humor works in a movie like this, and it was a nice change of pace to get a medieval action movie that wasn’t always so serious, all of the time. Instead, it had humor, cookiness, and above all else, rock music!

And honestly, the first hour or so of A Knight’s Tale is where it’s probably where it’s most promising. The movie takes its time with its story, allows us to get a fine understanding of these sometimes silly characters, and for the most part, doesn’t take itself all that seriously. While Helgeland doesn’t ask the audience of too much, he still does a nice job in giving plenty of joy to the two types of audience members out there who would see this movie – there’s, of course, the popcorn-friendly members who care about lots and lots action, while on the other hand, there’s also those more sophisticated types who appreciate when a fine joke or two is worked into a scene. In a way, there’s a little something for everyone here and it was nice to see a blending as odd as this, actually work out well.

But then, about half-way through, A Knight’s Tale changes up its tune.

For one, it loses any sort of focus on what made it so exciting and enjoyable to watch in the first place: Its keen sense of humor. Are there still some funny jokes placed in throughout the rest of the flick? Sure, but they come so very few and far between, that it almost seems like Helgeland ran out of funny material to work with. So, much rather, instead, he decided to focus more on our protagonist’s childhood and his soon-to-be-love-life; neither of which are actually interesting, but I guess because, after all, this is his movie, we’re forced to sit through and watch his life unfold before our very eyes.

One element that helps, though, is that William Thatcher, our main protagonist, is played the late, but definitely great Heath Ledger who, even after all of these years, had that certain aura about him that’s hard to really deliver back on. For one, he was a great-looking guy that clearly got the ladies’ and gay men’s butts in the seat, but there was more to him than just the good looks. Ledger also wasn’t afraid to make himself seem like the butt of the joke in certain scenes, nor was he afraid to show off his fun and adventurous side, even if that meant he didn’t always get the chance to look as manly and as tough as some producers probably would have liked for him to be. Either way, it’s still a fine performance from Ledger and reminds us all why he was so great to begin with, but even looking back at it now, it does feel like a bit of a mediocre role to work with.

Then again, Ledger, as always, makes it work.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Alright. Going back to closing my eyes again.

Gosh. How I miss him so.

And as for the rest of the cast, they’re all lovely and enjoyable to watch, but like I said, the movie starts to fall for convention and lose focus about half-way through, and it leaves most of these members with much to fully work with. Shannyn Sossamon’s princess character is a bit different from the rest, in that she’s actually equipped with something of a personality and seems to share actual, loving chemistry with Ledger; Mark Addy and Alan Tudyk do that Abbott & Costello act quite well here; Paul Bettany is charming here, as usual, playing the author who knows how to make anything mundane, sound terribly exciting; Rufus Sewell is, once again, playing the baddie; and there’s also an early performance from Bérénice Bejo, as the princess’ right-hand girl. Even though she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, it’s still nice to see where her career got started. And in some ways, a whole lot more interesting, too, considering that she’s been nominated for an Oscar in the subsequent years and most of the members of this cast haven’t at all.

Except for Heath. Of course.

Consensus: Though the anachronisms are fun and add a bit of sizzle to a relatively lifeless subgenre, A Knight’s Tale begins to fall into the same old trappings of a sports movie plot. Except, this time, it’s jousting we’re talking about here.

6 / 10

What a man.

What a man.

Photos Courtesy of: Upside Down MoviesAntonia Tejeda Barros, Mettel Ray

Welcome to Me (2015)

As long as you’ve got money, you can film whatever you want.

After winning the lottery, Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), who has borderline personality disorder, decides that she wants to spend it on exactly what her life’s dream has been: Have her own talk show. It doesn’t sound too harmful, except for the fact that it’s going to feature nobody else but her own-self, in which she will air her own feelings out about life to the live audience, as well as the rest of the world watching home, with also offering glimpses into her past and how it’s made her who she is today. While it’s mostly all inappropriate, Alice is willing to throw as much money as she wants at the network’s producer (James Marsden), and considering that they need the money, there’s not too many problems. However, eventually fame and fortune go to Alice’s head where she soon forgets about those who helped her get such a firm grasp on reality in the first place, like her best friend (Linda Cardellini), her possible boyfriend (Wes Bentley), and especially, her therapist (Tim Robbins); all of whom want to help Alice, yet, don’t know how to communicate with her in an effective manner that gets her to stop thinking of her own-self for once.

"Hey, Alice? Maybe don't say 'fuck' on the air?"

“Hey, Alice? Maybe don’t say ‘fuck’ on the air?”

I’ve got to hand it to Kristen Wiig. Even after the huge success of Bridesmaids, she could have easily taken any money-making, big-budget, mainstream comedy pic and become something of the female equivalent of Will Ferrell: It doesn’t matter if the movies you make are any good, as long as people are seeing them and making money, then that’s fine. With Wiig, though, she’s proven herself to be more interested in these very challenging, relatively low-key indies that not only challenge her as an actress, but to allow us, the audience, to see her in this new light. While the results can sometimes range from bad (Girl Most Likely), to fine (Hateship Loveship), to good (the Skeleton Twins), there’s no denying the fact that Wiig isn’t afraid to step up to a challenge and see what she can do with herself as an actress.

Even if, like I said before, they aren’t quite spectacular to begin with.

That’s the case with Welcome to Me, however, it’s hardly Wiig’s fault. Wiig is fearless in every sense here with her portrayal of Alice Klieg – since her character is a little loopy, Wiig gets a chance to try out her dry sense of comedy, but in a more bizarre, slightly disturbing way. But also, because her character is mentally messed-up, we’re treated to Wiig giving her certain layers and shadings that writer/director Shira Piven’s screenplay may not have had in the first place. With Wiig, it’s easy top say that this character works because while Alice may not be a sympathetic character, there’s still something compelling about watching her profess her feelings to whomever will listen to her and it makes you feel a tad bit more sad for this character. Even though she does some pretty terrible things throughout the majority of the film (and for no reasons whatsoever), there’s still a feeling of care for this character, and I think a lot of that credit can be given to Wiig’s talents as an actress.

Then again though, her performance would have been a lot better off, had Piven herself been able to make up her own mind about this character, seeing as how it’s sort of a mess how she’s handled. For one, there’s something very deeply upsetting about Alice Klieg’s life that’s portrayed to us in a manner that’s either too dark that it can’t be funny, or too funny, so therefore, it can’t be dark or dramatic. In a way, Alice’s life is presented to us that gives us insight into why she acts the way she does, what’s affected her over the years, and how exactly she’s trying to cope with it in the present day – all of which, are very revealing, but for some reason, Piven doesn’t know what to do with all of these insights.

In most cases, Piven focuses on Alice’s life as it’s some sort of a joke that, yeah, may have featured some traumatic occurrences here and there, but oh look how silly and awkward she is! In a way, it’s like Piven’s constantly wrestling with two different movies, and rather than making up her mind and sticking straight to one, she constantly flirts with both.

One has a beard, the other doesn't. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One has a beard, and the other doesn’t. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One movie is a dark comedy about a messed-up individual, getting the chance to say whatever she wants to the mass-media audiences, all because she has enough money to do so. As you can probably tell, this is a little satirical bite on the way our mainstream media has turned into nowadays with the likes of Dr. Phil and Oprah, who may not actually have any wise pieces of info to send-off to its audience, but have just the right amount of dollars to make people listen to whatever they have to say. While this idea may be a bit dated in the world we live in now, it still works in the context that Piven presents because the TV executives portrayed here know that what Alice is doing is outlandish, ridiculous and everything wrong with the modern state of television, and yet, can’t do anything about it.

Everybody’s making money, so what’s the big deal?!?

Then, on the flip-side of the equation, there’s another movie that discusses Alice’s life and how her current personality reflects all that she’s gone through. While there are certain bits and pieces of this that shine through in the final product that’s still interesting, it’s still not nearly as well-rounded as what Piven does with the satirical edge. While Piven wants to discuss Alice’s problems to their fullest extent, she still can’t help but laugh and point at whenever there’s a scene in which she has sex with some random stranger, blurts out obscenities, and seem to not be able to grasp anything in her life. Piven doesn’t seem like she’s fully capable of handling this character and it’s a bummer, because not only does Alice seem like she’s a well-done character, but because Wiig is, once again, more than willing to go as far and deep as she can.

Poor Wiig. You’ll get ’em next time!

Consensus: Wiig and the rest of the ensemble do fine in Welcome to Me, but due to the uneven tone and messy direction, it never looks as fully polished as it should be, no matter how many lovely names it has attached to it.

6 / 10

Life.

Life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Science isn’t cool, but you make lots of money. So there is that.

Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a 13-year-old engineering prodigy who gets by solely on making money fighting in illegal, robot-fighting leagues. Though this is obviously a total waste of his talents, he doesn’t care because he’s a kid. Meaning, he’s lazy, stubborn, and does whatever the hell he wants; that’s even if those around him, including his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) knows it so and tries to urge him to change his ways before it’s too late. Eventually though, the older-bro knocks some sense into him and wouldn’t you know it, Hiro creates a robot that’s able to build itself into anything you tell it to. Hiro plans to unveil this master project at a local science-fair which, if he wins, gives him free admission into the university that his older brother went to and excelled at. However, that all changes when an evil, nefarious baddie blows up the fair, solely to just take Hiro’s invention and use it for his own good. But during the process of the explosion, Tadashi also perishes, leaving Hiro with plenty of grief in his life and no inspiration to carry him any further with his project.

Where's this at whenever I'm drunk?!?

Where’s this at whenever I’m drunk?!?

That’s all until he meets his Tadashi’s creation that he left behind: A large, rather tubby inflatable robot by the name Baymax (Scott Adsit), who’s sole purpose is to heal those around him. And trust me, though he may not seem like much, Baymax deserves his own paragraph because he single-handedly makes this movie worth watching. That’s not to say there’s nothing else to see with this movie, but whenever Baymax is around, taking everything every character says literally, and just being an all around lovable tub of balloon, Big Hero 6 really hits the marks it sets out to knock on in the first half-hour.

But, when he isn’t around, the movie slightly falters. Then again, though, it doesn’t totally take away from the movie because, once again, Disney has created itself a wonderful little piece of animation that is, in every sense of the word, beautiful. It’s light, colorful, and most of all, fun to look at. Though the movie is set in the fictional, futuristic-city of San Fransokyo, it feels and looks like it could have taken place on the actual streets of San Fransisco, but in the China Town part that is. While saying a Disney animated flick is pretty, isn’t necessarily anything new or groundbreaking, it still deserves to be said because so many animated pieces out there don’t have nearly as big of an imaginative mind as this movie does with its vision, and it’s absolute pleasure to watch.

That said, however, the rest of the movie isn’t nearly as up-to-par. Most of this has to do with the fact that, yes, us, the audience, have been so spoiled by such Disney classics as Up, Toy Story 3, Wreck-it Ralph, and even last year’s Monsters University, that whenever something doesn’t quite hit the emotional-mark that those set out to hit and succeeded at actually nailing, it feels like a bit of a disappointment. Not to say that Big Hero 6 is the lesser of these animated movies, but it’s quite obvious that it does have to grasp at some straws to really create lumps in our throats, whereas with those movies, it seemed somewhat effortless; almost as if they knew the legions of audience members would be entering them, for the sole sake of crying their eyes out.

Once again though, it all comes down to this simple question: Is Big Hero 6 enjoyable?

Well, yes it is. So long so as you’re not expecting it to break any new ground with the animated-form. It’s just bright, chirpy, fun, and heartfelt enough to win over any audience-member who goes in, already expecting to hate it because it’s either, a) not like the old days of animation where people actually drew their cartoons, or b) because it’s made for kids. And while I definitely agree with that later sentiment, not all of Big Hero 6 is meant to just appeal to kids and everybody else be damned; it’s meant to be watched and entertained by all, which is exactly what it works as.

Can’t say nothing more, and I can’t say nothing less.

So, I’ll just continue on talking about Baymax and how great of a character he is, because honestly, there’s something special here about this character that I wasn’t expecting. For instance, just look at how simple his design is – he’s nothing more than a bug chunk of white, with two black circles connected by a black line, and yet, he’s the most emotive character of the whole piece. In fact, his design is so simplistic, it’s practically a downright crime because of how much time and effort these other animation creators put into their characters, in hopes of giving them a chance to jump off the screen, be seen as iconic, and loved for years and years to come.

Like Mega-man, except huge and a lot more cuddly.

Like Mega-man, except huge and a lot more cuddly.

However, with the creators of Big Hero 6, they set out to make Baymax as simple as humanly possible, and it totally works. Not just for the character, but for the movie itself, although I definitely want to sent out much respect to Scott Adsit who channels Baymax’s kindly sweet voice so well, that when he does start to feel some sort of emotion, you can tell by the certain pitch in his voice. In fact, if there was ever a moment I came close to crying, it was during a few scenes with Baymax and his way of showing love and admiration for those around him.

If only there were more robots like him. And I’m not just talking about in movies, I’m talking about in real life, folks.

As for the rest of the voice cast, everybody’s fine and pretty much all do what they are told to do: Add some life to these already animated characters. Ryan Potter is chock full of spunk as the angst-fueled Hiro; Daniel Henney seems like a sweet guy as Tadashi, although I was a bit skeptical of him speaking in some broken form of English, whereas his little bro, Hiro, was speaking it perfectly as like you or I; and of course, T.J. Miller is here as Fred, a stoner who just hangs around the science geeks all day, everyday, and is practically the comedic-relief of the movie.

That is, whenever Baymax isn’t around to steal the show from him. Because nobody does such a thing.

Consensus: In terms of what we’ve seen recently from the world of animation, Big Hero 6 doesn’t break any new ground, but it doesn’t need to either, considering it’s fun, light, sweet, and overall, worthy of letting the whole family see.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

This is all I need. Seriously.

This is all I need. Seriously.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Frozen (2013)

As if any of us needed anymore reminding with how freakin’, deadly cold outside it is! Thanks, Disney!

When they were both wee-little girls, Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel) suffered tragedy at the hands of the other girl, and scarred them for the rest of their lives. So much so that Anna has never quite been able to forge-back the relationship she used to have with Elsa. Instead, she’s told to keep her distance, make herself pleased in any way she can and just wait until Elsa is finally crowned Queen of Arendelle, and is given the right to be wherever she wants, with whomever she wants. Anna sees this is a way to break out of that big, old and lame castle, and have some fun for a change! However, Elsa’s mysterious powers of unexpectedly being able to turn everything around her into ice sends her away from the rest of the village, while still leaving them in the blistering cold without much heat to keep them alive and well. However, Anna comes to the rescue, and with a lending-hand from handyman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), she may just be able to save the day, even if she does eventually realize that it’s going to be a harder task when so many people want her and her sissy dead, and the throne all for themselves.

She's a woman who turns almost anything and everything around her, into solid ice. So basically, she's one of my ex-girlfriends.

She’s a woman who turns almost anything and everything around her, into solid ice. So basically, she’s one of my ex-girlfriends.

Hate to say it and sound like a cynical ass, but animated movies don’t really do much for me nowadays. Sure, I like them when I do eventually get a chance to see them, but it’s been quite some time since the last time I found myself foaming at the mouth by just the thought of a new animation flick. Some of that blame can be put on for Pixar and the fact that, in the past couple of years, they’ve been dropping the ball more than usual, but most of that other blame can be also put on the fact that I’m getting older, more miserable and without any kids by my side (at least ones that I ACTUALLY father). So therefore, it’s more that I’m just some old, cranky dude that doesn’t like bright and shiny things that make little kids happy; in fact, I frown upon them and scream out “Bah humbug!”

But, like I predicted, what I expected to happen, did in fact happen: The animated movie that I was not looking forward to a single bit, surprisingly, did a lot for me and had me smiling for practically the whole time.

While most of you out there won’t be surprised by me saying this, I sure as hell am because while I do fancy myself actual, good animated flicks, this one did not seem to have the makings of that said animated flick whatsoever. But surprisingly, I found myself smiling more and more as it went along. Though I didn’t initially know it was a sequel, the surprise was well-worth it as each and every song, though not memorable, still had me astounded by how fun, up-beat and impressively-done most of them were. Sure, some of them aren’t going to be known as the “Under the Sea” of this generation’s kiddie-bops, but they still get the job done in being fun, light, quick and straight-to-the-point, in hopes of not drowning out the minds of its target-audience too much.

And in order to know that I was fully and honestly enjoying myself with these songs, I’ll have you know: The feet were tapping, and the fingers were dancing. There! Now you know I had a great time with this movie, but most importantly, these songs!

This movie’s charm isn’t just in the way that it’s songs are buckets of fun however, because believe it or not, despite the story being just another re-working on “The Snow Queen” fairy-tale, there’s actually some subtle, original nuances to be found in the pits of this story that you may not find in other animated flicks of this same nature. For instance, without spoiling too much just in case any die-hard cinephile out there who is still interested in seeing this movie is reading, the movie does, somehow, and in someway, end up coming to the conclusion that a gal doesn’t always need a man in her life to get the job done. The only person she needs to rely on the most is her, her brain and the resources she has around herself. Yeah, I guess those said “resources” could include a member of the male gender, but that’s not the whole point of this movie. The whole point of this movie is that these lady characters eventually come to realize that they can get the job done, or at least, finish their objective by just doing what they think is best for themselves.

Now obviously, there is a love story that needs to be here in order to still spit-out positive messages for the whole crowd, but it’s not done in a hackney-way that feels like it was just thrown in there. Surprisingly, the romance between these two main characters that I refuse to mention, because it may just surprise the heck out of you, feels honest and heartfelt enough to be worthy enough of its own movie. Heck, maybe even its own, live-action rom-com? Highly doubt we’ll get it, but here’s holding out some hope for the future, baby. Here’s hoping!

Just found out a little thing called "Global Warming" exists.

Just found out a little thing called “Global Warming” exists.

If anything, too, this movie deserves the ultimate credit in reminding me why Kristen Bell is such a lovable presence to have in a movie, regardless of whatever form it may be in. She can either be showing up for a small cameo, in a lead role, or voicing a character, but whatever it way it may be, she’s still pleasant enough to have around because she is one hell of a charmer. She gives Anna her fun and spirited sense of energy that never leaves this character, especially even when she’s singing her damn heart out. Don’t know if I’m just an imbecile or what have you, but I never knew that K-Bell could actually heckle to skies like she did here, and I have to say, color me surprised and impressed on that one. Girl can belt it out like it’s nobody’s business. That’s for damn sure.

The rest of the voice cast is pretty damn lovely to have around, too, with each and every one throwing their own two cents in their for good fun and measure. Josh Gad steals the show each and every time he shows up as Olaf, giving us the impression that this guy is still so pleased with himself in everything that he does, yet, we still enjoy his presence enough not to care too much; Jonathan Groff is also a nice fit as the hard-working Kristoff, who builds a nice rapport and chemistry with Bell’s Anna, regardless of whether or not they were actually in the studio next to each other, recording and whatnot; and Alan Tudyk proves to the world, once again, that he can do no wrong when it comes to voicing these outrageous characters. The only weak-link in this cast that I can come even close to finding is Idina Menzel, and before you all flame me in the Comments section, it’s not because of her singing (we all know that could NEVER be true)! The only problem with her voice is that when she was talking, and not singing her lungs out, you could tell that she was a lot older in the voice than what the character was actually called onto be. Now personally, I don’t know how old Elsa’s character was meant to be, and it probably didn’t matter, but when you have somebody’s voice as high-pitched and youthfully-sounding as Bell’s, it’s kind of hard not to sound like a older, more tough and rugged gal. May be a weird complaint, but it’s something I realized. However, it didn’t matter to me too much after long, because, well, I mean just listen to this! JUST LISTEN TO IT! BLOODY HELL!!

Consensus: Not the greatest animated flick Disney’s churned out in the past couple years or so, but regardless, Frozen is still a pleasant, joy-filled time at the movies that’s easy on the eyes, ears and mind, as it teaches some worthy life-lessons you don’t often see in current animated flicks that come out every once and awhile.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

NO! Don't fall for it, honey! All men are liars, cheaters, thieves and philanderers! Right, kids?

Don’t fall for it, honey! All men are liars, thieves and philanderers! Right, kids?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

42 (2013)

Thanks to Jackie, white men all around the world can now make excuses for missing their shot at the big-time.

Whenever you see a professional sports team on the television, most of the players are African Americans. Yeah, some whites here and there, but mainly African Americans, but it never, ever used to be like that. However, thankfully, one man had to knock that barrier down and that one man’s name was Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Without him, we wouldn’t have blacks and whites playing aside each other in such sports as basketball, football, baseball, and so on and so forth, but it was harder than expected. That’s why Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) comes in to make sure that Jackie is above the people who criticize him and not stooping to their racist ways. Cause when in doubt: one must always listen to the guidance of Han Solo. Always.

Jackie Robinson’s story is an amazing and inspiring, but best of all; it’s all true. For so long now, we hear stories of these famous legends that have seemingly changed the world we live in, and yet, we always hear some stories about them whether they be a bit of a scandal or negative in anyway. That’s why it’s so nice and somewhat refreshing to get a story on a person that stayed true to himself on, and off the field. Not saying that Robinson was a saint-like person 24/7, but given what we know about him through books, interviews, and videos; the man was a wonderful that broke down color barriers for us all.

It’s such a wonderful person and story, that it’s honestly a real wonder to myself as to why it’s taken Hollywood so long to jump on this man’s story, and give him the biopic treatment. I mean, there was some B-movie in where he starred as himself, but from what I know so far: no movie has been made about Jackie’s life. That’s where writer/director Brian Helgeland comes and changes that all up. Not like Jackie changed the world of sports, but you see what I mean.

Is he a player on the Dodgers or a roadie for the Blue Man Group? Still can't tell.

Is he a player on the Dodgers or a roadie for the Blue Man Group? Still can’t tell.

What I liked most about Helgeland’s approach was that the guy focuses on Jackie, his life, and the way he plays baseball, but doesn’t allow it to get too corny to the point of where it’s almost insincere. Most sports movies that have to do with a figure in a certain sport that changed the way it was played or viewed as, usually get their image skewered in a way that makes them look as if they were the second-coming of Christ, with little to no flaws, and an incapability of saying/doing the wrong thing. However, this movie does not paint Jackie as that. From all that we know, the guy was a great person but he had problems coming to terms with the way the world treated him; he was constantly freaking out when people booed the hell out of him for being black; and he never got to share those heartfelt-experiences with his teammates, like they all did with one another. Nope, the guy was sort of a loner and seemed to be really upset by the way the world was looking at him, but he never really let it get to him fully.

That’s why I thought it was great to see this movie not just paint him as a person, but a kind and believable one at that. A lot of reviewers have been getting on this movie for not going any deeper into the psyche of Jackie Robinson and not exploring what really made him human, but I think that’s not the point of this movie. Granted, I would have liked to see some more development of Jackie, his home life with his gal-pal, and his troubled-times on the road, but those are all minor nit-picks in the grander scheme of things. The way that the movie handled Jackie’s story was a respectable one, but also a very honest one in where it shows us what this man had to go through in order to break down those barriers, and in the end: makes you see his legend even more.

So, with all of that said: is it an inspirational movie? Maybe the movie isn’t as inspirational as the true-life story is, but yeah, it still works. You feel for Jackie whenever he gets knocked-down and continues to get back up for more where you see him struggle by not being able to say a lick to anybody around him. For that alone, you really get behind the man but once he starts rackin’ up the points for his team and he really begins to turn on the skills; then it just gets better. After all of this, it becomes not only an entertaining baseball movie that has a great time with all of the hits, the runs, and the steals (in baseball terms at least), but a movie that takes it’s subject seriously and doesn’t feel the need to drop a bunch of gooey-tasting syrup down our throats. Some moments are like, but not all. And for that, I have to give Helgeland a crap-load of kudos for telling the story the way it was meant to be told, and not getting lost in the mix of conventionality. That could have easily happened, too. But thank the movie heavens that it didn’t.

Another smart-decision that Helgeland made as director was by actually casting an unrecognizable person as Jackie Robinson. And an even smarter-decision on his part, was getting a guy that actually pull the roll off perfectly. Chadwick Boseman is the name, ladies and gentleman, and it’s a name you should remember for awhile because he’s so great here, that it’s hard to imagine anybody else playing this role, without anybody in the crowd being able to get past the fact that it’s somebody we all recognize and can put our finger on immediately. Nope, not Boseman and what a find this guy truly was. Not only does he have the skills to make it seem like Jackie was a really nice guy at heart, but also have the chops to show us how much it really did take him to hold-back and not go all nutso on every a-hole around him. Just the look in his eyes would get me, and that’s the sign of a talented-actor at work. Maybe I’m selling him a bit too much here, but for me, I feel as if this guy’s going to get more and more roles as time goes on. And if not, oh well. Then he’ll just have to join the line of “promising, young black actors that never quite made it”. Right behind Rob Brown, of course.

"Go out, and get 'em Rock...erhh....I mean Jackie!!"

“Go out, and get ’em Rock…erhh….I mean Jackie!!”

Then, you go right-off the field and into the manager’s office where you find Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, in the type of role that you’d never, ever expect him to play, but he pulls off stunningly. Seriously, I thought that this was going to be one of those roles where an aging-star takes to stretch out his skills, but instead comes off like he’s trying too hard to make it seem like you don’t notice him, when we all do but that’s not this performance at all. If anything, this is probably Ford’s best role in a decade (yes, even better than this), because it finally seems like the guy is having the time of his life for once in awhile. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Ford actually take a role such as this, and just make it his own, but not without hiding himself underneath the character to where we can’t get past the fact that it’s “Indy in a bunch of make-up and a fat-suit”. Instead, we see Branch Rickey in his duck-like cackle, his huge eyebrows, and his business-like way of negotiating things. His story may seem a bit “dickish” considering his character is all about getting a black player on the team for money, but after awhile, we see more about this person that may surprise you. Not just because this person actually seems to have a heart and soul, but because it’s so surprising to see that Ford can still pull-off dramatic scenes that make you come close to crying. I didn’t shed a tear at all throughout this movie, but I came pretty damn close at one point and that’s all thanks to Ford.

The rest of the cast is pretty damn good too, even if they don’t have as much screen-time as Boseman and Ford. Lucas Black is great as Pee Wee Reese, one of the only Dodgers players that seemed to have a soul; Christopher Meloni seems like a perfect-fit as the strong, but understandable GM, Leo Durocher; John C. McGinley is awesome to see on the big-screen once again playing the Dodgers’ play-by-play commentator Red Barber, nailing every line and wit the man had to offer; and also be on the look-out for a relatively nice supporting performance from Ryan Merriman as Dixie Walker, one of the last players on the Dodgers who couldn’t get used to Jackie’s stay on the team. Name not ringing a bell, okay then, see if you recognize this. Oh, how time flies by.

Consensus: 42 isn’t the definitive-movie about Jackie Robinson’s life on, and off the field, but it’s still supported well by a perfectly-casted group of stars, a script that shows us the harsh realities of the man’s life, while also the bright spots of it as well, and also throw some inspiration at us. Not a home run by any means, but at least a ground rule double.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Christmas Card-worthy.

Christmas Card-worthy.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Freed the slaves, led a nation through a war, hunts vampires, and has two movies coming out about him in the same year. What can this guy not do!

He freed the slaves and led the Northern states through America’s Civil War. His legacy as the greatest president of the United States endures to this day. But Abraham Lincoln’s life as the world’s greatest hunter of the undead remained a secret – until now.

You’re enjoyment level of this movie solely depends on if you are able to accept the potential idea of Honest Abe slaying vampires. If you can accept the goofiness and fun in that idea, then you will have fun here, but if you think it’s stupid and want a real biopic on the 16th president, then you may want to wait till December.

Going into this, you have to expect an insane amounts of wild and dumb stuff to happen, and that’s pretty much what Timur Bekmambetov delivers on, for the most part. I was a little worried that the tone of this film was going to be too serious for the source material, but it worked out fine just because Bekmambetov seems like he’s totally game for showing Honest Abe, wheeling an axe around and killing a bunch of blood-suckers. But while everything else is serious, the action sequences are totally over the top. In a good way, might I add.

There’s this one, really cool memorable sequence where it’s Abe facing off against his rival vampire that takes place among a CGI-horse stampede. It is probably one of the dumbest action sequences I have ever seen in any movie, strictly because it just defies the law of physics, but it’s so much fun and it’s also something I have never seen done before in a movie. Let alone, a movie about a former president of the United States. There’s also another memorable sequence by the end where it’s Abe facing off against a bunch of vampires on top of a locomotive train. Yes, we’ve all seen a bunch of action sequences/fights take place on top of trains while they’re moving, but there’s just something insane about the feel of this movie and it kept me going along for the ride. Sadly, that ride started and stopped way too many times for my liking.

As fun as this plot was, sometimes I felt like it could have been more of exactly that. Do we get Abe wielding an axe around and killing vampires? Yes, but did I want to see more ridiculous things go down rather than just another interpretation of Abe’s life, with the mix of vampires? Yes, of course. There were times where I really felt like this film delivered on it’s promise of being ludicrous and fun, but then there were times when the film just slowed down for me and got a little too serious for it’s own good. Maybe it wasn’t being too serious, maybe it was more just that the film decided to focus on Abe’s life too much and totally forget about the action parts in-between.

Another problem I had with this film was the way it looked. Thank the lord that I didn’t decide to see this in 3D because I would have probably been more mean to this movie in my review, and also would have felt like I just wasted 12 bucks that I’ll never, ever get back no matter how long I work the corner. Seriously, this film does look like shit and I think I made the right (“cheap”) decision in getting the regular, 2D tickets. This film just looks so dull, with it’s dark and eerie look to it that has it come off as a really, low-budget adaptation of the book. Also, every time a single person would throw a blow or wield in a weapon in a fight sequence, the slow-mo would kick in and this bothered me to high heavens. Does it look cool? Yes, but not all of the damn time. Take a page out of Zak Snyder’s book and realize that you can make an action scene look cool with slow-mo, but you just can’t do it every single action starts up. My humble advice: find the earliest showing at your theater, go to it, buy regular 2D tickets, sit at least 4 rows back, and enjoy. That’s what I did and it didn’t do so bad but it made me realize just how shitty everything in this film looked.

The whole time throughout this flick, I kept on watching Benjamin Walker play Abraham Lincoln and kept on thinking that he looks exactly like Liam Neeson. Well, the funny thing is that he did play a younger Liam Neeson in Kinsey, but that’s not to say that the dude doesn’t make a name for himself on his own terms. He has a likable presence where you feel like he could easily be the next president of the United States, even if he does have this dark secret behind him. Actually, I though Walker was at his best when the action scenes were going down because I thought he looked pretty damn bad-ass and also seemed a lot like what Lincoln would actually be like, had he have to fight off vampires all of the damn time. Not a star-making role by any means, but a good one that hopefully gets his name out there and farther away from Neeson’s.

Playing his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has some nice parts playing his strong-willed wife, but a lot of the other times she seems like she’s just there on-display and to give Abe a love interest. Well, a love interest that just so happened to be his wife of 20+ years but you know what I’m saying. She didn’t really mean much to this story. It was also cool to see Rufus Sewell playing yet again, another villain as Adam, the lead vampire that Abe despises the most. Sewell is obviously good in this role and definitely under-plays it well but starts to seem like less and less of a threat by the end of the film, mainly because it seems like every other vampire is after Abe’s neck.

Consensus: You’re enjoyment level of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, will most likely depend on whether or not you are able to accept that title and it’s wild premise, but if you can, it’s fun, crazy, filled with memorable action, and has a nice leading role from Benjamin Walker.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Everything that Battle: Los Angeles should have been.

The third installment in Michael Bay’s trilogy travels back to 1969’s historic moon landing, when Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 cohorts touch down in the Sea of Tranquility … and discover what appears to be a downed Transformers craft. Flash forward to the present, and the Decepticons are ready to exact revenge on Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots. Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, the Autobots’ human ally.

To get myself ready for this one I went through the whole series. The first one was pretty good; the second one was unbearable; and this one was the best of the whole series. And although that’s not saying much, I still had fun.

The world of Michael Bay consists of explosions, sparks, fire, giant robots, sexy chicks, destruction, and the craziest things that you thought could never happen in real-life. Bay does a great job here as director because he actually keeps the story pretty easy to understand, and a very simple story at that. This is a lot darker than the past films and although the comedy wasn’t as funny I still chuckled, and there was a nice balance between the story and the actual silly stuff.

The action here comes and goes within the first hour, but once that hour is gone, the rest of the film is just insane. You have robots beating up robots, guns blasting, cars flipping, buildings collapsing, and for once I could actually tell just what the hell was going on. There are also some really good action sequences that will keep your eyes glued to the screen and just make you scream “baddassery” at the screen right when the scene is over. The action never stops, and you watch all this chaos and destruction happen but at the same time, you won’t feel annoyed with no plot development or the fact that just about everything you see is special effects. Basically the payoff is bangin’, and I promise you, you won’t leave this film feeling like you didn’t get any action.

Although, the main problem with this film is that it is 2 hours and 34 minutes long and after awhile that starts to take a toll on you. I don’t mind when films are that time-limit as long as their entertaining me, but even though I was entertained with this one, I felt like they needed to wrap it up pretty soon because there was a time that I felt like this film could have ended at any time.

However, when it did end, it was so completley abrupt. I think that they probably budgeted this film so high to the point of where they had almost no money left they just decided to end it, in order to avoid conflicts for money. And of course, in the end, there’s the obligatory U.S flag waving proudly in the wind. You love your country Mr. Bay, we get it already. No need to shove it down our throats along with outworn speeches of freedom. He is so damn patriotic sometimes, I think he almost forgets that he’s talking about a movie about robots that turn into cars, and beat the shit out of each other.

Shia LaBeouf does what he always does well; just make exaggerated faces, scream like a girl at times, and put on that angry face that we can laugh at but you know what, that shtick never gets old. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replaces Megan Fox and is surprisingly quite charming and sexy; Josh Duhamel seems like he’s trying so hard to be Timothy Olyphant; Patrick Dempsey hamms it up pretty well as Dylan; Tyrese Gibson is whatever as Epps; and John Turturro is less annoying in this one than he was in the second one, which is very good. The rest of the cast features a lot of random names such as John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, and the most random of all, Frances McDormand. I don’t think I could have ever imagined Frances McDormand talking to a robot in my life, but somehow, Bay has a way of getting Oscar winners into his shit.

Consensus: Since this is a Michael Bay film, many will hate it for being chaotic and insane, but this time I could tell what was going on and even though the first hour may be a little lame, it picks up and becomes the epic, and most action-packed final installment we could ever ask for from these robots.

7.5/10=Rental!!