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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Alec Baldwin

Paris Can Wait (2017)

Be yourself, momma!

Anne (Diane Lane) is in Cannes with her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin), a prominent movie producer. As the festival ends she learns that the vacation she and her husband were supposed to go on in Paris will be slightly delayed as they need to go to Budapest first. They plan to fly to Paris, but the pilot suggests Anne not fly due to an ear infection. Michael’s producing partner Jacques (Arnaud Viard) offers to drive Anne to Paris himself. But here’s what Anne doesn’t know, or better yet, expect: Jacques is going to take it upon himself to not just wine and dine her, but also even take her to bed. Why? Or better yet, how could he? Well, it’s because he’s French and that’s just the sort of wacky things that they do, right? Anyway, Anne doesn’t know whether to be flattered, or appalled, but mostly, just wants to be left alone where she can take pictures, enjoy the food, the scenery, and occasional good conversation that gets so very deep, she doesn’t know if she’s made the right decisions in her life.

Should it be Alec?

Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie to take your older-relative out to this summer. If they don’t want the slam-bang, loud action of the blockbusters, then give them something small, quiet, sweet and relatively carefree that doesn’t ask for much except just your undivided attention for, oh, I don’t know, say an-hour-and-a-half, if even that. Which means that it’s a fine little movie in its own right, but does that make it really any good?

Not really. But once again, think about your older-relatives. They like movies, too, and why should they be forgotten about? Why? Because they don’t care for Transformers? Or some dude swinging a web? In this general sense, then Paris Can Wait is probably the most perfect movie around: Inoffensive, simple, and easy-to-follow. It’s not setting out to hurt, kill, or maim anyone, but then again, should it?

Better yet, coming from the matriarch of the Coppola family, shouldn’t it do that, and a whole lot more?

Yes, probably, but as is, it’s fine. Writer/director Eleanor Coppola has set out to make a small movie that tries to discuss all aspects about life, love, growing old, having regrets, and yes, appreciating everything around you, but doesn’t really seem to touch on any aspect all that much; it’s as if she’s treading along, hoping to catch something deep, dark, and rather emotional, but doesn’t. And as a result, we’re left with a movie that’s about so many different, small things, but not totally about a whole lot much else.

Or some French creeper?

It’s a shame, too, because at the center of this tale is a really great performance from Diane Lane who, is still just as beautiful as she was in Francis Ford’s the Cotton Club, but also a lot wiser and smarter of a performer. As Anne, Lane, gets the opportunity to show us a sad and, at times, confused older women who doesn’t quite know if she’s happy with the life she’s lived, but also knows that it’s a little too late to change everything up and act as if it never happened. There’s a very surprisingly and emotional scene involving Anne in a church and it’s a great bit of acting from Lane and probably the best part of the movie.

In other words, it comes out of nowhere and actually goes somewhere.

Something that, unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t follow through with. Sure, it’s enjoyable and a feast on the eyes, ears and probably even, the heart, but at the end of the day, it’s just a piece of time passing by. And what would you much rather do with your time left on this planet: Watch a mediocre movie starring Diane Lane? Or, actually live and experience life, go to Paris, drink wine, eat fatty food, have sex, be naked, and yes, just enjoy things around you?

But hey, don’t forget about those older-relatives. They’re what really matters, after all.

Consensus: With a solid lead performance from Diane Lane, Paris Can Wait gets by as an enjoyable diversion to whatever else is out there in the cinemas (hey, remember those?).

5 / 10

Aw, who cares, Diane! Just take those pics, gal!

Photos Courtesy of: Citizen Charlie

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Married to the Mob (1988)

Sometimes, the ladies have to do the wackin’.

Angela de Marco (Michelle Pfeiffer) is fed up with her gangster husband’s (Alec Baldwin) line of work and wants no part of the crime world. Which is why when said husband is killed for having an affair with the mistress of mob boss Tony “The Tiger” Russo (Dean Stockwell), she and her son head out for New York City where they will hopefully not just get away from the life they once knew, but start a new one, far, far away from the blood and violence of the mob. Unfortunately, Tony can’t allow for Angela to get out of his sights and makes it his mission to track her down and get rid of her, in hopes that she doesn’t go off squealing to the feds. Sure, Angela would never do it, because she is done with that part of her life, but she ends up meeting a young handsome fella named Mike (Matthew Modine), who, unfortunately, for her, also happens to be an FBI agent. And it’s Mike’s job to make sure that no harm happens to Angela, but at the same time, he can’t help but fall for her, wondering what could happen if he didn’t have the job title and the badge and could, you know, be a normal, everyday person.

Is Alec Baldwin 30 here, or 16? Can’t quite figure it out.

Was Married to the Mob the first, or better yet, the last stab Hollywood took at tackling the mobster-comedy? Not at all, but it’s definitely been a genre long dead by now, only because there seems to be so much you can do with it. The jokes have been made, the wise guys have been made into caricatures, and yeah, every convention has been spoofed. It’s hard to imagine a world where one of these was coming out a year, let alone, in the golden days of film, almost every week, and it’s also hard to imagine one actually nailing its mark in the days of 1988.

But that’s why Married to the Mob is such a lovely movie, all of these many years later.

For one, it’s the true sign of director Jonathan Demme knowing what to do with silly material and not forgetting to lose his sight of what matters, what works, and what doesn’t. Much like in the same vein of Something Wild, Demme takes a pretty conventional story, and somehow, turns it completely on its ear, with a crazy-mad bit of energy that hardly ever seems to let up, with jokes, puns, and wit to be found, without ever getting past the fact that there’s a story at the center. And like that movie, Married to the Mob does eventually get darker and far more serious, but still, somehow retains its screwball roots – it’s the kind of movie a lot of parody directors try to make work, but just never hit the mark with. Demme did that so often, that you almost hardly noticed and it’s why Married to the Mob, while maybe not his best film, at least shows what sort of magic the guy could bring to silly material such as this, without ever seeming like he was trying too hard.

So serious. Yet, so retro. So it’s cool, right?

And of course, yes, there’s also a lot of praise to the ensemble, too, all of whom, make the best of this fun, light material that makes everyone seem like they’re having the times of their lives. It’s hard to imagine a world where Michelle Pfeiffer wasn’t a bonafide star, but back in ’88, right before Married to the Mob came out, she was struggling to make her name known for the whole world to take notice to. And that’s why it’s no surprise that her lead role as Angela de Marco made her into that star that we all know and love so much now. It’s the perfect role for Pfeiffer, in that she gets to be sweet, a little ditsy, but also absolutely charming and fun to watch, maintaining a crazy great deal of sexuality, as well as vulnerable. In a way, she’s a bit better than the fluffy material, but still, she makes it work by seeming like she’s in on the joke, while also not forgetting that there’s strides to be made with a character such as this.

Same goes for Dean Stockwell, having a great time as Tony “the Tiger” Russo. Is this a caricature? Most definitely, but Stockwell hams up every aspect of this character that it’s a joy to watch, because you never know when he’s going to snap and lose his cool, calm, and collected demeanor. Mercedes Ruehl plays his wife who is a lot more unhinged and crazy, but also gets some of the biggest and best laughs. Meanwhile, Matthew Modine is good as a romantic-lead who has a nice bit of chemistry with Pfeiffer, and Oliver Platt, in one of his first big roles, plays his partner, nailing that comedic-timing we all know and adore.

Basically, everyone is doing a great job here, having some fun, and yeah, also realizing that what they’re playing with may be a little bit more serious. But Demme doesn’t push it too much, so, neither do they.

Man. What a director.

Consensus: Light and a little fluffy, Married to the Mob isn’t exactly as serious as it may end up getting towards the end, but through it all, remains funny, charming, and surprisingly smart for a typical screwball mobster comedy.

8 / 10

Can’t blame ya, Dean. It’s Michelle.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDBRoger EbertRoweReviews

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

jonathan

Sell, or die.

Four salesmen get the wake-up call of their lives when corporate decides to wake them up with the highest seller in the company (Alec Baldwin), over to their dingy office to not just motivate them, but also warn them: If they do not sell the right amount real estate that’s necessary, well, then they’re fired. This shocks everyone to the core and leaves each salesman left to fend for themselves, by any means necessary. There’s George (Alan Arkin) and Dave (Ed Harris), two guys who seem to have each other’s backs, even in all of the thick of this; there’s Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), who can hang with the best of them and get any person to buy, just based solely on his charm alone; there’s old-timer Shelley “the Machine” (Jack Lemmon), who’s been in this business long enough to know just how to sell, but has been having a rough go as of late; and then, finally, there’s John (Kevin Spacey), who is, essentially, their boss, but is mostly there to just go back to corporate and tell them all what these guys are doing, who’s providing the best results, and most importantly, who gets to stay, and who gets to go.

I'd love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

I’d love to have a drink anywhere near these two. Seriously.

Glengarry Glen Ross is great for many reasons, the main being David Mamet and his way with words. Sure, it’s no surprise to anyone who has ever seen a Mamet movie that the guy knows how to script smart, somewhat tough-guy dialogue for people you wouldn’t expect to saying it, but watching and especially, listening, to each and every person talk in Glengarry Glen Ross, is truly a joyful experience. It’s like listening to an old pro, just go on and on about his experiences and life lessons, without it ever seeming hacky, or annoying – you want to hear gramps go on and on, so long as there’s more coffee being provided.

In Glengarry Glen Ross, you don’t need the coffee. All you really need is the great ensemble assembled here, all of whom, honestly, are pretty great. And this deserves to be pointed out, too, because in a lot of Mamet’s movies, you can tell when there are those people who can do his dialogue justice, and others who just can’t seem to get it. Due to his dialogue being so mannered and stern, sure, some actors come off as if they’re trying too hard, or not getting the point, but when you have those actors who do know what they’re doing and know how to handle the material, then it’s an absolute delight to listen to.

Which is why, I reiterate again, there’s no bad performance to be found anywhere here.

Everyone’s perfect for their role and it’s the rare gamble wherein a bunch of big names took on Mamet’s material, and they were all pretty great, without a single weak one anywhere in sight. Al Pacino does a superb job as the slimy, but smarmy and charming Ricky Roma; Alan Arkin is interesting to watch as the sort of meek and mild salesman, who seems as if his fighting days are long over; Ed Harris plays a rather sensitive role as the one salesman who is trying his best to stay afloat, but also seems to realize that his career has gone down the crapper; Kevin Spacey is good in a rare against-type role as a rather cowardly boss who has to do a lot of heavy-lifting for his job, doesn’t like it, but hey, has to get paid somehow; and of course, yeah, Alec Baldwin’s cameo is pretty amazing and legendary, but there’s no reason to go on about it. You’ve seen it, you’ve loved it, and you’ve probably quoted it a hundred times before, so there’s no reason to beat that horse.

We got it. Sell.

We got it. Sell.

But really, the stand-out for me, and the one who should have gotten more attention, was Jack Lemmon and his performance as Shelley, or as some call him, “the Machine”. Later-day Lemmon wasn’t filled with all that many bright spots, where he saw himself in more old grandpa roles, rather than the kind that challenged him more and showed that even in his old age, he could still hang with the big boys. And in Glengarry Glen Ross, he got to show that; the character of “the Machine” is a rich one in the first place, but Lemmon dives deep into him, with all that he’s got. “The Machine” is a sad, unfortunate man who sees his life and his career slowly running away from him, but he doesn’t sit around, he doesn’t pout, and he doesn’t ask for any sympathy – he goes out there and tries to sell, dammit. Lemmon makes us see the unbearably sad limits this character will go to, not just to stay successful, but somewhat relevant, as if his name will forever be remembered in the world of salesman.

It’s sad to think that such a thing exists.

The only thing that keeps Glengarry Glen Ross away from being the perfect piece of film making that it sometimes flirts with the idea of being, is that it’s pacing is a bit off. Director James Foley does a nice job of giving us a dark, eerie and noir-ish tone to the whole movie, without ever taking his attention away from the actors and their craft, but sometimes, it feels like it’s less of a play, and more of just a bunch of conversations happening, that we get to hear somehow. Not much of a story and when they do try to give us something of that, it doesn’t quite register. All we want to do is hear and watch these guys try to sell real estate, as well as their lives.

Sometimes, that’s all we need to be happy in a world like this.

Consensus: With amazing performances all around and an absolutely biting script from Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross works as one of the better stage-to-film adaptations that has some ripples, but overall, transitions quite well.

8.5 / 10

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Oh and yeah, you need those things, too.

Photos Courtesy of: LIDA’S FILM BLOG

Rules Don’t Apply (2016)

When you’re Howard Hughes and pissing in Mason jars, you can do whatever you want.

It’s 1958, and Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins), a devout Baptist beauty queen from Virginia arrives in Hollywood, her eyes chock full of hopes, dreams and wonders of possibly taking over the movie world. She gets picked-up at the airport by Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who will soon be her permanent driver and aspires to achieve the same sort of fame and fortune that Marla does, however, it’s a tad bit different. Together though, the two form a connection and affection for the man who is employing them both: Billionaire, womanizer, and famed aviator, Howard Hughes (Warren Beatty). They’ve both heard all of the crazy stories and don’t quite know what to believe about Hughes, but what they do know is that he’s a very hard man to see, track down, or better yet, even have something resembling of a conversation with. He’s so mysterious, that it’s almost like he doesn’t exist. However, the two eventually do cross paths with Hughes in some very odd, strange ways that change both of their lives forever and may also crush whatever it was that they expected from Hollywood in the first place.

After what’s been nearly two decades, it’s nice to have Warren Beatty back in our lives and on our screens, regardless of how short-lived it may be. As an actor, Beatty has always been a master at playing any sort of role, whether dark and dramatic, or light and fun, bringing the best to whatever flick he’s in. As a director, he’s far better. Ambitious, smart and always equipped with something to say, Beatty doesn’t just take on directorial projects for the hell of it – he needs to have a reason to tell a story and a certain passion within it.

He loves his hats.

He loves his hats.

Which is why for all its faults, flaws and obvious issues, Rules Don’t Apply, despite the awful title, still deserves a watch.

It’s unfortunate though, that Rules Don’t Apply has been in the works for so long, because it clearly shows; with nearly four editors on-tap here, there’s obvious moments where it seems like the movie was cut, pasted and messed around with way too much. Certain scenes play too long, too short, or sometimes, literally make absolute no sense. Does this have more to do with the directing/crafting of the movie itself, or more to do with how the movie was edited and perhaps made to reach some sort of arbitrary standard for the studios involved? Whatever the answer may be, it doesn’t matter; the fact remains that Rules Don’t Apply is still a pretty messy, uneven piece that has the look and feel of a movie that’s been tampered with one too many times.

Still, however, it’s a movie that deserves a watch, mostly because there are certain aspects and elements to it that are interesting and do work. Beatty seems to craft two different stories simultaneously; there’s the love blossoming between Marla and Frank, and there’s the crazy and wild persona of Howard Hughes that sometimes finds its way of getting between that. Aside from the other, they work and are incredibly compelling, but together, they don’t quite hit the same notes. Most of this has to do with it being very clear from the get-go that Beatty is more invested in Hughes himself and less of how Marla and Frank come together – their romance, while cute and sweet at times, also feels like a macguffin just to give us a sneak-peek into the secret and weird life of Hughes.

In a way, Beatty wants to explore the sheer hypocrisy and sadness that lies within such a system and place like Hollywood, where it seems like a lot of promises are made, a lot of money is thrown around, and a lot of people talk, but nothing actually happens or get done. It’s not necessarily original, but it is interesting to watch, mostly because we see it all play out through the dough-eyed eyes of Frank and mostly, Marla. But in another way, Beatty also wants to show us that someone as crazy, as insane and as certifiably nuts as Howard Hughes, did exist, have power, have control, had a whole lot of money, and mostly, got by in life based on the pure fact that he was labeled a “mysterious genius”. Rules Don’t Apply constantly seems to be battling with itself over what to say, but mostly, just ends up presenting two different sides to a coin that we’re not really sure about, which leaves it feeling slightly unfinished.

Still, it’s hard not to watch.

Don't be too happy, kiddies. Howie's always watching.

Don’t be too happy, kiddies. Howie’s always watching.

Beatty, the actor, seems to be having the time of his life as Hughes, lighting up the screen with his casual weirdness that we’ve never quite seen from him before. At nearly 80 years of age, it’s interesting to see Beatty try something new on for size and work with this odd, idiosyncratic person and give us a compelling performance; we feel as if we’re supposed to trust him because of how he speaks, but we also know that he’s insane and because of this, is unpredictable. Beatty plays at this idea very well and has us constantly wondering just where he’s going to go next with this performance and how it’s going to factor into the movie as a whole.

It also helps that Beatty doesn’t allow for his performance to get in the way of Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich, who are both pretty amazing here. Though Ehrenreich seems to be on the rise what with the Han Solo movie coming up, it’s really Collins who surprised me the most, giving us a character who is so bright, so bubbly, so charming and so lovely, that it’s hard to imagine watching her dreams shatter before her very own eyes. If anything, a movie about her life and brief touch with stardom would have been its own move, but of course, Beatty himself does have different intentions and can’t seem to help himself, leaving Collins’ performance, while very good, seeming like a missed opportunity.

Then again, there’s a whole slew of others that seem to literally show up, do their thing and then leave, all with the drop of a hat. Certain players like Annette Bening, Candice Bergen, Matthew Broderick and Taissa Farmiga get a few scenes to help develop their characters a bit, but others like Paul Sorvino, Ed Harris, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Amy Madigan, Steve Coogan, Dabney Coleman, Paul Schneider, Haley Bennett, and trust me, more, all have nothing to do. It’s as if they could have only shown up to film for a day and we’re allowed to have that scene put in. If that was the case, it’s impressive that Beatty was able to get such a wildly eclectic group of people to come out and work, but also a tad annoying cause all it does is add to an already rather stuffed flick.

Something Hughes himself probably wouldn’t have had a problem with.

Consensus: With so much going on, Rules Don’t Apply can’t help but seem uneven, but does benefit from a few good performances, as well as a welcome return from Beattty himself.

6.5 / 10

Behind every crazy man, is one who is trying so hard to translate everything that's being said.

Behind every crazy man, is one who is trying so hard to translate everything that’s being said.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, News Report Center

Boiler Room (2000)

Sometimes, Charlie Sheen’s swagger is just needed.

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), is university drop-out who doesn’t have much going for his life. However, determined to prove his worth to a demanding father (Ron Rifkin), he decides to take a job at a small brokerage firm and, through his time there, begins to become something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for lack of a better term.

Writer/director Ben Younger literally wears his Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street influences on his sleeve, that the man doesn’t even try to hide it. In fact, a few times, the man actually shows clips of the movie, in Boiler Room, where the characters here are seen actually saying the same lines of those movies. In a way, you want to call him a “rip-off artist”, but at the same time, you don’t want to, because he’s not hiding it; he’s letting us know, right off-the-bat, that these characters, as well as himself probably, look up to these movies, these characters, and these ideas of capitalism, that they don’t care if they look like copy-cats.

"Wait, what?"

“Wait, what?”

They’re making money, baby and that’s all that matters!

Regardless, Younger as a director and writer, is a pretty solid one. There’s a certain energy to the movie that’s hard not to get wrapped-up in, because as our characters are making more and more money, the more the movie picks up its pace. In a way, it’s the junior-version of Wall Street, but it works so well because Younger is constantly reminding us that none of those influences matter; sure, they’ve helped him to where he’s at with this movie, but hey, so what? Just party, bro.

But honestly, where Younger really starts to fail is in the actual story department itself.

Younger seems as if he knows a thing or two about keeping up the brisk pace and how to have fun with these sometimes detestable characters, but when it comes to actually slowing things down, focusing on these characters, their lives and their motivations, he loses a bit of his step. For example, try the terribly-forced “romance” between Ribisi and Nia Long, who don’t seem to have any chemistry at all, any reason to be together, or anything really holding them together once things go South for both of them. It annoys me that films like these feel the need to add in a romantic subplot, just to appeal to women and hoping that they don’t get alienated from this movie but the bad news is that they already will. No girl will be attracted to a movie about a bunch of young, hot, cool, hip, and rich dudes in suits that make millions and millions of dollars, so it’s hard to imagine ladies wanting to come out and see something in the first place, because oh my gosh, Giovanni Ribisi and Nia Long make-out!

And then, the story begins to get a tad bit more predictable as it rolls on along. Boiler Room is obviously a rags-to-riches story, or so to speak, and because of that, it follows a very plain and conventional plot-line. Ribisi’s character starts at job, starts getting really rich, starts getting cocky, and eventually, one bad thing happens after another, until he’s broke, near-dead and without a pot to piss in. It’s all very formulaic and try as he might, Younger can’t help but get caught up in doing the same stuff we’ve seen done before, many, many times.

"Yeah, I'm done with action flicks. Maybe."

“Yeah, I’m done with action flicks. Maybe.”

Despite this, the cast is quite good and help keep the ship afloat.

In a rare lead role, Giovanni Ribisi kicks some fine stick-selling ass as Seth Davis. Ribisi gets a bad-rap sometimes for taking roles to the next level of over-the-top and making them terribly campy to the point of where it’s cringe-inducing, but some will be surprised that this kid can hit it out of the park when it comes to being subdued and very charming. You like Seth Davis right when you see him and even though his character motivations may get mixed around in a bender a bit too much, you still like both him and Ribisi. Wish that this movie made Ribisi the top mainstream act that everybody thought he was going to be, but I don’t think it bothers him if he’s second-in-command.

Everybody else is fine as hell, too. Vin Diesel is a scene-stealer as Chris Varick, the guy who teaches Seth the ways of the stock broker, and it’s a great dramatic role for Diesel that shows the guy has a terrible amount of charm and humor in him, that makes all of his characters work. The guy may be stuck doing Fast and Furious for the rest of his life, but at least we know that we can depend on him to pull out something like this or Find Me Guilty to remind us of why the guy has such a presence about him in the first place.

Nicky Katt plays the “stereotypical dickhead role” as the one guy who doesn’t really like where Seth is going in his success and it’s an obvious character, but a fine performance from a guy that I see in everything and still haven’t been able to match the name with the face. Let’s also not forget the fine, little cameo from Ben Affleck that practically seems like a total rip-off of Alec Baldwin’s cameo from Glengarry Glen Ross, but still works here because it seems like Affleck is having a total ball here and that’s always a joy. There’s a bunch of others in the cast like Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott and Jamie Kennedy, all playing the young hotshots within the firm and are all perfectly cast.

Consensus: Boiler Room is, initially, a fun, exciting and thrilling ride, but soon turns preachy and predictable, which makes it feel a little uneven.

6 / 10

"Stop. Over. Acting!"

“Stop. Over. Acting!”

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

Ghosts of Mississippi (1996)

MissippiposterIf it don’t fit, equit. Or something of that nature, right?

On a late night in 1963, black activist Medgar Evers (James Pickens Jr.) was gunned-down and killed in front of the hotel where his family was staying. While each and every sign of evidence pointed to the self-proclaimed racist Byron De La Beckwith (James Woods), somehow, he got off with barely even a slap on the wrist. Obviously, African Americans were up in arms over the decision, but also knew that they had no chance of winning it again, due to a completely racist court and jury system at the time. Many years later, Medgar’s late wife (Whoopi Goldberg) is shipping her case around to any firm that will listen to her and take her issue seriously. Some obviously don’t, but one person who does is Bobby DeLaughter (Alec Baldwin), an assistant District Attorney, who happens to be married into a very racist family. However, despite the unpopularity of the case, DeLaughter takes it on and experiences all sorts of issues in the process. But no matter how bad or heinous it may get, he’s inspired and passionate enough to know that he’s got one job and that’s to gain some sort of vengeance fro Medgar Evers. Even if that does mean risking his own career to do so.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV.

Just another simple night, sitting around and watching TV with the fam.

What really hits the hardest at-home about Ghosts of Mississippi, is about how so much of it seems and feels relevant to today and what’s going on out there with racial relations in society. Without going on for too long and ranting, let’s just put it like this: Racial travesties like what happened to Medgar Evers, still happens to this very day and it’s the government itself who seems more than willing to try and cover everything up.

However, regardless of if you choose to look at the movie with a modern eye or not, there’s no denying that Ghosts of Mississippi deals with some racial issues that aren’t just still around today, but more than likely help to make the case for “not much has changed”. Black and white people still can’t get along; there’s still a clear divide of injustices; and there’s still cops out there killing black people, and not getting locked away for it. Ghosts of Mississippi was clearly released way before all of these issues became front-and-center news for every news outlet, but it still holds a certain bit of relevance to everything that’s going on out there in the world and the kind of equality we’re all still fighting for.

Anyway, there. That’s all the preaching you’re going to get.

But despite its great relevance, Ghosts of Mississippi isn’t always a great movie; Rob Reiner is a smart director, but here, he decides to play it less than subtle and doesn’t always make the best decisions, from a narrative-perspective. For one, the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours long and the only reason it feels like it, is because a solid portion of it is spent on Baldwin’s lawyer character. This is fine, because yes, he was the main lawyer in the case and, in a way, the main heart and soul of this story, but I feel like Reiner went a bit overboard with this character. When it becomes clear that DeLaughter will be single due to the case he’s taking on, the movie decides to introduce a new female character that he can flirt, fall in love with, and marry eventually.

While yes, this probably happened in real life, the fact that it literally takes up at least 20 or so minutes of the film, without showing or telling us anything new about this DeLaughter character that we didn’t already know from the first half-hour, gets to be a bit bothersome. More time could have clearly been dedicated to DeLaughter looking further and further into the case, as well as Goldberg’s Myrlie Evers. Both Baldwin and Goldberg are good in these roles and give them a lot to work with, even if it can sometimes feel like they’re limited to doing anything more.

That Alec Baldwin - always the liberal in the room.

That Alec Baldwin – always the liberal in the room.

But really, the character I wanted to see more and know about, was James Woods’ Byron De La Beckwith – one of the more despicable human beings in film history.

While it’s hard to make the case for a character who is so clearly evil, despicable and guilty of every bad thing he has ever been accused of in the history of his life, there’s something about the way Woods plays him that makes him interesting to watch. Sure, he can go a tad over-the-top and crazy with this character, but maybe, just maybe that’s how he was in real life? Maybe he did go on TV and pronounce his hatred for black people, regardless of the fact that he was in the midst of being accused of killing one some many odd years ago? Or, maybe he didn’t?

I don’t know, honestly. There’s a lot about this story that seems fishy and not all that believable, but whenever Woods was on the screen, I stopped caring. He’s s mean and nasty, that you almost wonder if Woods can take it any further, until you realize that, well, yes – yes, he can.

Which isn’t to say that he sort of steals this movie, but at the same time, yeah, he kind of does. The message at the center is still clear and heard, if a tad obvious, but Reiner gets by solely on a case that keeps us interested, even when it’s clear where it’s going to go, who is going to win, who is going to lose, and just what lessons about life and race relations are going to be learned.

As it turns out, none whatsoever. Which is makes Ghosts of Mississippi, unfortunately, something of a tragedy.

Consensus: Ghosts of Mississippi doesn’t always keep itself interesting, but with a solid cast and relevant themes about race and society, it hits pretty hard.

6 / 10

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Evil, everyone! Evil!

Photos Courtesy of: And So It Begins, Jonathan Rosenbaum

Concussion (2015)

Nobody can stop Will Smith! Not even the NFL!

Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a Nigerian immigrant who performs autopsy’s in Alleghany County. Not only is he brilliant, but he’s also dedicated to his job so much that he believes that even the smallest detail can matter when it comes to deciding why a person did something, or just how exactly they died. But when NFL legend Mike Webster (David Morse) winds up dead from an apparent suicide, Omalu stumbles upon a shocking discovery: Although Webster was only 50-years-old, he was acting in ways that a man nearly 30 years older would be acting with Alzheimer’s. Except, here’s the kicker, Webster didn’t have Alzheimer’s; instead, he just took one too many hits to the head and it’s here that Omalu decides to study this idea himself, forcing him to put in his own time and money into the project. Eventually, it all pays off and Omalu discovers that Webster, along with countless other NFL players are dealing with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and now, it’s up to Omalu to let the NFL, as well as the rest of the world, know of the dangers it promises. However, being a billion-dollar corporation, the NFL decides not to listen, which leaves Omalu to take matters into his own hands. Matters which, honestly, can tend to do more harm than actual good.

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Whistleblower movies, despite their importance and relevancy, no matter how many years go by, always seem to have a tough time working as well as they should. For one, it depends on the cause; if people feel as if the cause someone is “blowing the whistle” about, doesn’t have enough of an impact, then they won’t care once all goes to hell. Speaking of everything going to hell, it’s quite obvious that once the word gets out and the whistleblower’s identity is made known to the big, bad and evil corporation being spoken-out against, then they will go through all sorts of tense, almost life-threatening situations that will have them rethink the decision they made to open their mouths up in the first place.

Concussion is that same kind of movie that goes down the same alleyways and roads, but at the same time, that doesn’t defeat the fact that the cause it’s fighting for isn’t important. It’s just that, you know, what with Spotlight coming out this year and all, we’ve seen just how well “the whistleblower” movie can be made. While there’s no denying that the Catholic Church covering up countless acts of sexual abuse is perhaps a more jaw-dropping and intriguing topic to go at, Concussion makes it very clear that the issue going on currently with the NFL isn’t one that’s going to go away one day and that be the end of it. Instead, it’s going to continue to go on and on and on, until there’s not a single sane mind left in the NFL and just about every player imaginable, has either completely lost their minds, or killed themselves.

In other words, the NFL does not look pretty in Concussion, which makes me wonder just what was apparently cut-out in the first place to ensure that Sony didn’t face any legal action on behalf of the NFL.

Regardless, the NFL, as portrayed in Concussion, is not a very loving, caring or kind organization – instead, they’re nothing more than just a bunch of heartless, greedy creatures who are more concerned with the thickness of their wallets, rather than the well-being of their own players that make them so rich to begin with. That CTE and brain trauma within the NFL is already a very current and already developing issue, sort of makes Concussion feel like it’s missing out on some bits and pieces of info, but for the most part, it gets right, what it needs to get right.

For one, writer/director Peter Landesman does not lose sight of what makes this story hit (pun sort of intended) as hard as it does. There’s a few scenes where Landesman shines the focus on Dr. Omalu and shows just what it is exactly that’s going on wrong with these player’s brains and why it is that this problem can’t be seen right away, but rather, after the player is already dead and gone. Even though we see plenty of these real life circumstances play-out in the film, it’s still effective to hear it all come from the mouth of a person who clearly seems to know what he’s talking about, as well as a person who actually cares.

Yet, like I said before, the NFL does not play well, according to the film, and it’s what sets up a pretty tense battle between Dr. Omalu and the billion-dollar corporation.

"Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don't you dare bring up Jaden."

“Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don’t you dare bring up Jaden.”

It’s the typical David and Goliath story that, we so often see, yet, don’t actually get all that wrapped-up into. Here, Landesman makes it clear early-on that he’s behind Omalu’s back every step of the way and shows that he’s just trying to make things better – not just for himself, or the NFL, but for the players who make a living off of playing football for said organization. However, there’s no pretentiousness or inferior complex to be found with Omalu; he simply just wants to keep more and more players from dying, which is why he cares so much to begin with.

Not to mention that he wants to be a fully-fledged and adored American citizen, which the film smartly focuses on and brings up every so often. Still though, if there’s an issue with Concussion, it’s that whenever the film focuses on Omalu’s own personal life, with his girlfriend and her own problems, the movie seems like a bit of a drag and not all that interesting. It’s not that it doesn’t feel pertinent to the story, it’s just that it lacks the same kind of angered energy found in the parts of the movie where it’s Omalu trying his hardest to remind those within the NFL of what’s going on and why they should stop acting like fools, pay attention already, and accept the fact.

This is, of course, to say that as Dr. Bennett Omalu, Will Smith is great. Then again, how could he not be? The dude’s charismatic as hell and, every chance he gets, gives a subtle power to Omalu that you really do feel for this guy, even when it seems like his voice is being heard loud enough, or even at all. The fact that Smith himself is adopting an African accent for this role made me a bit worried, but honestly, after the first five minutes, it was easy to forget that I was watching the Fresh Prince and instead, was just watching as one simple and kind man, singlehandedly tried to take down the NFL.

While time will tell if he’s still fully successful or not, there’s no denying that Concussion will have you look at the NFL in a way different light than ever before.

For better, but mostly, for worse.

Consensus: Despite a few hiccups in the narrative, Concussion benefits from a strong central performance from Will Smith, as well as a relevant message about how it’s maybe time for the NFL to wake up, smell the cauliflower, and gain a conscience.

7 / 10

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting already!

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Scientology be damned when Ethan Hunt is on the case!

Now that the IMF has been disbanded for the fact that they are considered unreliable and dangerous, superstar agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is forced to go rogue. However, Ethan believes that he has got another mission left in him that will take him to ultra shady group that is “the Syndicate”. Ethan has an idea that the Syndicate is apparently up to no good and is planning on wiping out the entire globe, but in order to stop this from happening, he needs to get to the head of the group (Sean Harris) – which, considering how top-notch and professional this group is, is a lot easier said then done. But Ethan is inspired enough to take matters into his own hands, even if that means bringing some of his old friends and colleagues around one more time, even if that means that their jobs will be at-stake in doing so. However, another problem standing in Ethan’s way is a fellow agent by the name of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who he isn’t quite sure of which side she’s actually on. Which not only spells problems for Ethan’s mission, but also his heart that seems to be taken a bit with this mysterious lady.

Unlike most movie franchises out there, each installment of Mission: Impossible feels as if they are their own kind of movie, rather than just a carbon-copy of the one that came before it. With the first, we got Brian De Palma’s version of Hitchockian Bond movie, filled with all sorts of gadgets, twists and turns; in the second, we got John Woo’s wild and crazy action-thriller, chock full of explosions, fire, and yes, even doves; with the third movie, we got another one of J.J. Abrams’ frenetic kind of thrillers that seemed so intense, that they were about to blow-up from all the intensity; and then, with the fourth movie, we got Brad Bird’s version that hearkened back to the glory days of old school blockbusters, where times were a lot simpler then. Now, with the fourth movie, as being directed by Christopher McQuarrie, we get a slightly gritty-take on the Mission: Impossible story, which is what most people know McQuarrie to do well with.

Look out, Bourne!

Look out, Bourne!

However, at the same time, it’s still a solid action-thriller in its own right, regardless of if it follows some sort of style-pattern. Sometimes, all you need is a whole heck of a lot of action and fun thrown into your sometimes confusing story, just to make sure that everything works out as fine as can be. The Mission: Impossible movies, from what it seems, will continue to last on for another couple of years (so long as Cruise continues to sign-up for them), and honestly, I’m fine with that; it’s constantly finding new and interesting ways to re-invent itself, pick up some neat tricks along the way, and continue to set the bar for action-thrillers in its same vein.

Sort of like the Fast and Furious franchise, except for the kind of crowd who prefers wine, as opposed to Colt 45.

And in no way is that an insult to either groups of these movies; not only are those franchise’s movies fun, but they can be enjoyed by practically anyone who decides to check them out and see what they’re working with. You don’t need to see all of the Fast and Furious movies to enjoy just one, just like you don’t need to do the same for these Mission: Impossible movies – they sort of just work on their own. That’s how most action movies should be, and while it sounds incredibly easy, it’s a whole different story when watching a bad thriller and realizing that the action stinks, the story stinks, and basically, just everything else about it stinks.

If you can’t do an action movie right, then what can you do?!?

Because even though these movies have something of a plot to work with, it’s really just about the set-pieces and how far they can keep the audiences invested, regardless of how far-fetched they can get. This happens many of times in Rogue Nation, where we see scenes of Hunt holding his breath underwater for nearly three minutes straight, dangle above a French opera without a single person taking notice, or, as famously-known, hang on quite loosely to an airplane as its taking air. There’s plenty more where these examples come from, and while they may all sound ridiculous, they’re still a whole bunch of fun to sit through, watch, and think of what’s going to happen next; even if, you know, it’s already fully well-known what’s going to happen to some of these characters by the end of the tale.

There's definitely more than a little Captain in her.

There’s definitely more than a little Captain in her.

And even though Rogue Nation may be a bit of a step-back for the franchise (especially after the fantastic and very surprising Ghost Protocol), it still is, once again, a very solid action-thriller. It gets just about all of the beats right in terms of the action-department, is just long enough to not overstay its welcome, and seems like it’s still staying true to its heart by giving us the character moments in between all of the running around and explosions to make things seem a whole lot more human for the meantime. Do we really need them? Not really, but they’re fine to fall back on if you need to take a chill pill and just watch as a bunch of people talk to one another, spouting all sorts of exposition that don’t mean much else other than just, “We need to catch the bad guy and this is how we do it”.

That’s literally what every line of dialogue in Rogue Nation ends up leading towards, but there are a few surprises to be found along the way.

But the surprises don’t necessarily come from the likes of Tom Cruise, or Jeremy Renner, or Simon Pegg, or Ving Rhames, or even Alec Baldwin – they’re all fine, it’s just that who they’re playing (with the exception of newcomer Baldwin), has been done before and doesn’t feel like any sort of variation. They’re are all perfectly serviceable in a movie that’s more or less concerned with how deep of a situation it can throw its hero into, only to allow for him to break out of it in some miraculous way, nearly ten minutes later.

Nope, the real surprise of this cast comes from the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, someone I haven’t seen before, but here’s to hoping that now, that’ll change. Ferguson not only acts the part of a bad-ass, femme fatale that may or may not be playing both sides at the same time, but also looks like it, too. Much has already been said about how the Ferguson’s image is getting sexualized by the advertising for this here movie, but honestly, I think it works in her favor. Not only is Ferguson gorgeous, she’s also in incredible shape to where when you see her riding a motorcycle in tight leather, you don’t just automatically think of how hot she looks, it’s more about how much she could probably kick your ass. Also, the fact that Ferguson is something of an unknown actress to most of the mainstream media, works in her character’s favor as she could literally go anyway; there’s no pre-made clause that states she has to be the hero at the end, or gets the man. She’s not a huge actor just yet, so therefore, the mystery stays in her favor.

Although, let’s hope that she doesn’t continue to stay a mystery for too long.

Consensus: Rogue Nation is another exciting crowd-pleaser to add to the Mission: Impossible name, even if it’s not nearly the best the franchise has had to offer.

8 / 10

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Aloha (2015)

This time, it means goodbye.

After being away for many years, defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to Hawaii where he sees people from the past that haven’t been in contact with him for nearly 13 years. People such as a former flame of his (Rachel McAdams), former co-worker (Danny McBride), and person who used to employ him and now, may need him more than ever, business tycoon Carson Welch (Bill Murray). However, Brian is now setting his sights on the future when he’s partnered-up with Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who is supposed to take him all around Hawaii, guide him through certain places, and overall, get to make his stay a whole lot more comfortable. The reason being is because Brian’s in Hawaii to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite that comes strictly from Carson Welch’s own pocket. While Brian realizes that this is illegal, he still has to go through with it considering that he has nowhere else to go, or nothing else to do; Allison, on the other hand, knows this is wrong and despite her feelings for Brian, can’t find it in her to stand by such a decision.

Or, you know, something like that.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Honestly, the plot synopsis I just wrote is a bit of a stretch, because I’m still not sure what exactly this movie was all about. None of that has to do with the fact that I didn’t have my cup of coffee beforehand, or was constantly on my phone – it’s all due to the fact that whichever studio heads decided to chop Aloha up, chopped it up real good. Meaning, that any sign of what may have been Cameron Crowe’s original idea for a movie, gets totally lost in something so messy, so incoherent, and something so odd, that it made me feel bad for just about everybody involved.

However, regardless of what you may hear or see, it’s not terrible. The reason for that being is because the cast actually seems to be trying and although a lot of what they do here doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole, it’s hard to be angry at everybody here and blame them. Especially since, in most instances, they’re the main reasons the movie’s worth being watched.

Like, for instance, take Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character who is actually supposed to be Asian, but we’ll leave that alone for now. Stone, as usual, is fun, light, perky, and charming as hell. It’s seemingly impossible to despise her presence in anything she shows up in, and although Allison is a lot like Kirsten Dunst’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl in Crowe’s Elizabethtown, I found her a lot more believable, if only because Stone made her so. Even when she starts to have feelings for Bradley Cooper’s character, it comes from a place of adoration and respect, and isn’t just because she wants to bang the hottest the guy who just so happens to step into Hawaii.

Because if that were the case, clearly she’d be gunning for Bill Murray. Like, come on. No competition whatsoever.

And of course, Bradley Cooper’s fine, too. Brian Gilcrest seems like the same kind of challenging, incomplete, and imperfect protagonist that Crowe loves to write about and while he may not get the movie that say, someone like Tom Cruise deserved with Jerry Maguire, Cooper still tries, time and time again. Same goes for the likes of Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Bill Camp, Alec Baldwin, Rachel McAdams, and most of all, Bill Murray, who, oddly enough, is saddled with a villainous role that never seems to actually step over the line from being “bad”, but instead, just stays like the Bill Murray we all know and love.

But most of the problem with an ensemble this so finely stacked, is that they don’t get much to do in Aloha. Perhaps in the original cut that featured a lot more character moments, as well as explanation of just what the hell Brian Gilcrest is doing in Hawaii in the first place, but not here. Instead, what we’re stuck with here is an odd movie that wants to be so many things at the same time, and while it slightly succeeds at one of them, the rest feel useless and just thrown in there for the sake of taking up time.

Which is especially odd, considering that the movie’s hardly even two hours.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

In a way, you could say that Aloha would have probably benefited from another half-hour or so, just so that we could have gotten more of whatever Crowe had initially written-out. The elements with Stone and Cooper were fine as is, so no tampering needed to be done with them, but what about the whole love-angle between Cooper and McAdams? That was probably the juiciest part of this whole movie, where our protagonist has to deal with the missed-opportunities he has to face in his life now, and instead, it’s treated as a minor subplot in the grander scheme of things. Instead of learning more about this character’s past through the way he interacts with those around him, we get to see him constantly battle with whatever demons are taking over his mind during this “mission”.

Once again, the movie never makes clear of what said mission actually is, up until it’s actually happening and even then, it’s still never clear. This is just another example of a studio not liking a final product, getting scared, and instead of working with the creator on it and seeing what could work best, they decided to mish and mash it up anyway that they saw fit. That isn’t to say that Crowe doesn’t at least deserve a partial amount of the blame, because he does, but it’s also to point out the fact that sometimes, movie studios really can rip apart anything that they want.

However, Crowe can be blamed, too. With Crowe’s movies, his dialogue usually feels heightened in the sense that we know that the dialogue his characters use, aren’t actually how real people talk. But for some reason, you sort of wish real people did and for that reason, it’s interesting to hear what they have to say next and how they say it. Some of Crowe’s earlier films are great examples of this, but lately, he’s gotten a bit ahead of himself and now, it’s starting to seem like he’s trying to recreate that piece of magic he had with “You Complete Me“.

Either way, it’s a dragon that Crowe should stop chasing, because it’s not helping himself out, or the actors that are forced to utter his stupid lines.

Consensus: Aloha isn’t a total and complete, unwatchable misfire, but it does feel as if it’s been tampered with too much to the point of where it takes away from the story, the message, and the talented cast that deserve better.

5 / 10

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Still Alice (2014)

Everybody’s a little forgetful. Especially my ex-girlfriend. I mean, it was my birthday for gosh sakes!

50-year-old Dr. Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) lives a pretty good life. She has a loving husband (Alec Baldwin), lives in a comfy home, teaches at Columbia, has three, grown-up kids that constantly stay in touch with her, and she seems to have it all figured out. However, that all changes one day when she begins to realize that she’s forgetting certain things. Not just any certain things, but things that she used to know or at least, should know. Though it’s only tiny pieces of forgotten knowledge, Alice still doesn’t take any chances and decides to go to the doctor to take a test. She gets the results a week later and finds out that she’s been diagnosed with a rare case early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She, as well as the rest of her family, is absolutely devastated. But they all soon realize that they have to take advantage of the time they have with their mother now, before it’s all too late and Alice has forgotten just about everything in her life.

It’s a shame that certain movies such as Still Alice, are generally regarded as “made-for-TV specials”, only because of their plot, or what it is that they decide to talk about. Usually, movies about people with certain dramatic, life-altering diseases, are thrown onto Lifetime to be seen by housewives from all over the globe, where they’ll go “ooh” and “ahh”, and think it is maybe the greatest piece of film they have ever seen. This assumption of mine may not be right, but for the most part, movies about diseases, usually get tossed to the TV-screens, so that the heavy-hitters can play where the big boys play, and that’s the cinema’s.

Look out, paparazzo, Alec Baldwin 'a comin'.

Look out, paparazzo, Alec Baldwin ‘a comin’.

But with Still Alice, there’s finally an exception to the rule that proves it doesn’t matter what disease-of-the-week your movie seems to be discussing or highlighting, if it is good, then people will see it, regardless of what form they decide to do so. In this case though, it’s on the big screen, with noticeable, big-hitter names like “Julianne Moore”, “Alec Baldwin”, “Kristen Stewart”, and yes, even “Kate Bosworth”, and still seems like it could be played on TV.

The main reason of that has less to do with the material and more of just the way it’s cheaply-shot by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, but regardless, it’s still a movie that discusses a real life, actual disease and does so in an efficient, thought-provoking way. It hardly ever gets over-dramatic and it doesn’t really even seem to paint its main character, Alice, as any kind of miracle woman, that so tragically gets hit with this disease. Sure, it’s very sad and I wouldn’t wish this disease upon anyone (or any disease, for the record), but Alice, as portrayed in this movie, isn’t a wonderful lady. She’s a nice one, but she’s like you or I – she makes mistakes, she acts selfish and, especially when finding out about this disease of hers, starts to take advantage of the situation to get whatever it is that she wants, from whomever she wants.

This may give the impression that Alice is a terrible woman who nobody would ever want to see a whole movie dedicated to, let alone one including her struggle with getting past a life-changing disease such as Alzheimer’s, but the movie doesn’t try to push that off on us. She’s a normal, everyday woman that you’d meet on the street, but the sad reality of her life is that she has this disease and it’s making her life, as well as those around her, a living hell.

So yeah, it’s pretty sad material that we’re working with here, but Westmoreland and Glatzer don’t ever seem to let this go too far to where it’s downright depressing and preachy. They both show the problems one faces with Alzheimer’s, how they can try to overcome it, and/or what others can do to help that person who is currently struggling. They take their sweet time with this character and her disease, and it never seems “Hollywood-ized”, nor does it ever seem like it’s pandering to anyone, at any time.

Especially not when Westmoreland and Glatzer begin to discuss the darker layers of this story and what the disease can do to those afflicted with it. For instance, there’s a surprising amount of detail that goes into Alice’s plans for her suicide, when she’s going to do it, how she’s going to do it, and just whether or not she’ll even remember. Had this been shown strictly on television first, I can assure you, we probably wouldn’t have seen this aspect developed, or better yet, even brought up in the first place. But considering that this is a feature film, Westmoreland and Glatzer are given a hell of a lot more free reign to dig deep into the problems one person may definitely have if they’re ever diagnosed with this same problem.

It’s not only eye-opening to a dense idiot such as myself, but also helps us appreciate Alice, the character here, a whole lot more.

Because, see, like I said before about Alice and the way she’s written in this movie, she’s not perfect, but she’s real and that’s what matters the most. Some of this has to do with the way Alice is developed, but most of it is because of Julianne Moore and the way she searches long and hard to get to the center of this woman, and how it’s hard to ever take your eyes off of her. However, don’t be fooled by the marketing of this movie, this isn’t a very showy performance from Moore; it’s just a near-perfect showing of what she does best, when given the right material to do so with: Act her rump off.

A couple of weeks ago, in my Maps to the Stars review, I discussed how Moore, to me at least, felt like the type of actress who is usually solid in anything she does, but she’s hardly surprising. She’s always good, but when was the last time you walked away from a movie going, “Wow. That Julianne Moore performance really took me out of my seat”? I can’t think of the last time either, so don’t feel ashamed, my little friend, but I will say that her performance in Still Alice may just be so, which is hugely surprising considering there’s hardly ever a moment here that makes it seem like she wants to grab a hold of the audience’s throats and remind everybody that she’s an actress dammit, and a great one at that. Instead, Moore down-plays just about everything that happens to Alice here and because her condition is one that works its way, slowly but surely, it’s extremely effective and reminds you of good acting, when it isn’t trying to tell you so.

Now, of course there’s been a lot of buzz going on surrounding Moore’s work here and how it might finally, after all of these years, gain her an Oscar, but all that aside, it’s still a very good performance. Moore’s ability to be subtle and show us the pain deep down inside of Alice, each and every time she gets confused about something she doesn’t know, is heart-breaking. She makes us understand that this condition is downright terrifying for the person who has it, and that they can literally forget where the bathroom is in their own home that they’ve had for over two decades. It’s incredibly sad to watch, but Moore gives a raw feel that’s not entirely begging for our attention, but more or less, daring you to take your eyes away from her, no matter what scene she’s in.

"Okay, mom. I swear I'll stop doing YA adaptations."

“Okay, mom. I swear I’ll stop doing YA adaptations.”

And though this is obviously Moore’s show from beginning to end, the rest of the cast is pretty good, too, even if some don’t get as much to do as others. Alec Baldwin, believe it or not, actually gets the chance to play a loving, adoring, and dedicated husband who, sadly, has been thrown into a situation he himself does not know if he can handle. In fact, I’d say one of the more interesting insights this movie delves into is how the person with the disease isn’t just the only one who’s hurt, but much rather, those who love and support that person as well. Sometimes, even worse because the others are at least conscious of what’s going on and realizing that they’re losing someone that they love; whereas, in some cases, the person with the disease understands what is happening to them, at least accepts it, moves on, and appreciates all that they have left on this planet.

With Alice’s family, it’s interesting to see who is actually able to handle this transformation in her life, and who exactly isn’t. A perfect example of this are the two sisters, played by Kate Bosworth and Kristen Stewart (who is pretty great in this movie and makes me want to see more of her, of course, but on a smaller-scale); the former’s character is a neat, classy and professional lawyer who is, for the most part, the up-tight one of the two, whereas the later’s character is more of the family wild child who does what she wants, when she wants to, regardless of how much influence her parents try to throw into her future. Oh, and even worse, she’s living in L.A. as a part-time actor. If that doesn’t get parents’ blood boiling, I don’t know what does.

Anyway, you’d think that because Bosworth’s character has already has such success with her life as is, that she’d be the one to step right up, know what to do with her mother, and exactly how to handle it in an efficient way. However, that’s the exact opposite of what happens here, as it’s more of Stewart’s somewhat-reckless character that takes the reigns as her mother’s most dedicated and understanding caretaker, all the more proving that it doesn’t matter who you think a person may, or may not be from the way they generally are, see how they are when they react in a moment of crisis and then you’ll know exactly who they are.

Then again though, that’s how it usually is with family. You never know what you’re going to get, but you can always depend on love being there.

Consensus: Without overdoing the melodrama, Still Alice (which is a terrible title, I must say) is an effective, thought-provoking piece about early onset Alzheimer’s disease that not only gives us one of Julianne Moore’s best performances, but also proves to be an insightful look into how family-dynamics change, especially once one member seems to have lost it all. Literally speaking, in this case.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Have been in your situation many times, honey. Don't feel bad.

Have been in your situation many times, honey. Don’t feel too bad.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Best way to coax your family into loving you again? Fake your death. It’s working for Andy.

The Tenenbaums aren’t your ordinary family, but then again, they don’t pretend to be either. The hierarchy of this family is Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who isn’t necessarily the nicest, most up-front, or responsible guy in the world; in fact, he’s kind of an ass. This is why (or from what we know of) he gets kicked out his own house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston), leaving behind his three children – the adopted oldest Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow); the over-achieving; ambitious middle-son Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller); and the relative-favorite of Royal’s, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson). For years, Royal doesn’t speak to them or see them at all, which leaves them to grow-up full of angst, disappointment and all sorts of mistakes that make them resent him a whole lot more. However, Royal wants to change all of that as soon as he can once he realizes that he might just be dying of cancer, and is given six weeks to live. Though his kids and even his wife, have all moved on with their lives, they somehow find their way back into the house they all once lived in, which is where all of the various ego’s and heads start to clash.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn't one of them.

He may be too old for some shit, but slaying white women isn’t one of them.

It’s pretty known among fans of him, that if you’re able to get past all of Wes Anderson’s various quirks and just accept his style for what it is, then you can actually find there’s a lot more rewarding-features to what he does. Not just with a story, or in the way he puts so much effort into the look, but to the actual characters he has in the story, as miserable and as unlikable as they sometimes can be. But I like to think of the characters he creates, as not just being considered “unlikable” or even “loathsome”, but maybe just “human”, with all of the nasty, dirty features added-on that we don’t always want to see or be reminded of actually being capable of having. Maybe it works for me and has me go to bed easier at night, but that’s always my advice to anybody who wants to watch one of his movies, especially the Royal Tenenbaums – aka, my long-time favorite of his.

I could start this review off pretty obvious and just start diving into Anderson’s sense-of-style, but I think I’ve done that more times than I ought to. Instead, I’m just going to dive right into what makes this movie kick, push and feel: The characters. Wes Anderson, although he doesn’t always look too fondly at the world, or those around him, definitely appreciates the people he places into the world of his own. It’s small, contained, quirky, heartbreaking, funny and full of all sorts of spontaneity that even the most hyper-active person may not be able to handle. That’s why the characters he creates and invites to be apart of this world of his own creation, aren’t just ones we have to pay attention to, but are filled to the inner-core with all sorts of small, tiny moments where we see them for all that they are, and who it is that they show the others around them as being.

The perfect example of this would definitely have to be Royal Tenenbaum himself, played with perfection by Gene Hackman. We’ve all seen Hackman play an asshole in a movie before, but here, as Royal, he really gets the chance to stretch that image of his own making and give us a glimpse inside the life of a man who realizes that he’s just too lonely to carry-on in this life without anybody around him any longer. Well, that, and the fact that he’s gotten kicked out of his apartment, may have him thinking of his family as well, but the fact remains that he now knows what it is that he wants with his life, and that’s just to remind those around him that he not only loves them, but wants to actually be with them for once in his life. He may not always say, or do the right things; hell, more often than not, his actions are quite reprehensible to say the least. But once we see Royal for the man he wants to be and clearly wasn’t for the most part of his life, you can’t help but want him to be happy and be loved by those around him, even if they can’t quite bring themselves to having that feeling for him. Instead, they’re more content with just being “fine” towards him; but so is he, so no problems whatsoever.

But what makes Royal such a lovable guy, is that Anderson knows he isn’t perfect and definitely deserves to have life slap him in the face a couple of times, but also doesn’t forget to let him have those small moments of victory where everything in his life that’s possible, seems to be working out for him. Same goes for everybody else in this movie though, as you can tell that Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, really did put all of their efforts into making each and every character somebody worth remembering, or caring about, especially once emotions, as well as tears, are shed.

Even the character of Etheline, who could have easily been an angry, vengeful ex-wife, ends up being a woman that not only loves her family, but also wants to be able to move past all of the problems they’ve faced in the past (which in this case, there are plenty of ’em). Also, the same could be said for Henry Sherman, the guy who wants to marry Etheline, who does show various bouts of jealousy on more than a few occasions, but also doesn’t want to lose the lady he loves, especially not to a swindler like Royal. But, like I said, he’s still a guy that’s backed-up by plenty of human-emotion, that never ceases to show itself in some hilarious, yet brutally honest ways.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

I guess in this case, we can all make an exception for incest.

And that’s mainly where Anderson’s writing really comes to perfection. Not only is the guy hilarious with many of the deadpan, over-the-top one-liners he has his characters deliver, but he makes them seem so damn serious and down-trodden, that you can’t help but laugh at them. They are all human beings, yes, but ones that may take themselves a bit too seriously, despite being absolutely surrounded by all sorts of light, vibrant and pretty colors. That’s why a character like Eli Cash, played wonderfully and ever-so charmingly by the aforementioned Owen Wilson, sticks out amongst a group of sad-faces like Margot, Richie and Chas. Doesn’t make them any less likable or anything, because Anderson appreciates their sadness towards life and all of the perks that come along with it; and even when they do smile, or laugh, or decide to just let life’s wonders work its magic on them, it doesn’t just surprise us, but makes us happy that they themselves are actually happy as well. It makes us feel all the more closer to them and gives this story an extra oomph of emotion, that so clearly comes into play by the end.

Even when you do think that Anderson is going to get too big for his britches and get almost too dark with the possibility of suicide, he somehow comes out on-top, showing us that life, despite all of the heartbreak to be found, is still worth living, mainly due to the company you surround yourself. I mean, sure, Margot may rarely ever crack a smile, and the only time she does is when she’s around the man she loves, her brother Richie (although they do claim, on various occasions, “they aren’t related by blood”). Yeah, sure, Chas may never seem to live his life with a sign of hope or happiness, despite being surrounded by a bunch of people that do love him. And yeah, sure, Richie may look at life with a frown, despite not really having an understandable reason to. But what all of these characters have in common, isn’t just that they are apart of the same family, it’s that they have lives they don’t feel too gracious of having and most of the time, take it all for granted. However, once they realize that everything with life isn’t as bad as they unreasonably make it out to be, or that there are people with worse conditions in their life, then they can’t help but shut up, move on and crack a grin or two.

Those moments are mainly when Anderson shines the most, as well as the brightest. Making this family one you can’t help but love, although you can still take note of them being a dysfunctional bunch. Although, I for one have definitely seen worse. Just saying.

Consensus: Wes Anderson’s sense of characterization is what really makes the Royal Tenenbaums a heartfelt, hilarious, lovable and near-perfect delight to sit-through, although you never lose the sense that these are people, and not just characters written completely and totally for-the-screen. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but you get my drift.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Who doesn't remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Who doesn’t remember the days when grand-pop used to take them on trips on the back of a garbage-truck?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ’em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Hunt for Red October (1990)

We hated the Russians so much, we just cast Scotsmen in their roles!

Soviet naval officer Captain Marko Ramius (Sean Connery) is a pretty big deal, especially since he himself, along with the rest of his crew are aboard the submarine known as “Red October”. What makes this sub so special is that it’s able to move so silently throughout the ocean, without ever being detected by a fellow ship or submarine. It can practically get from point-A-to-point-B, without a single hiccup or interruption to be found in between, which is probably why the U.S. government freaks out so much when they have the slightest idea that Ramius, along with his ship and crew, may be heading for the States in hopes that they’ll blow-up Washington and send us a message we’ll be soon to never, ever forget. However, most members of the U.S. government have no clue who Ramius is, or the type of man he truly is; all of them, with the exception of one CIA agent Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin). See, Ryan believes a theory that Ramius isn’t actually coming to America to blow us up, but rather to escape his country in hopes that he can start anew and get away from all of the pain, hardships and suffering he’s witnessed over there in Russia. Problem is, Ryan’s going to have to do a lot of convincing, to a lot of people, and may have to do it all before the Russians themselves pick-up the pace with Ramius’ ship and get rid of him for betraying them.

"Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide."

“Brrr, baby. Itsch cold outshide.”

It seems like adapting a Tom Clancy novel can be a hard task to go through with, especially considering his books are so dense and rich with detail, jargon and exposition. That’s why most of these Jack Ryan movies that are made, usually try to center on the well-known CIA Agent-character himself, in hopes that they don’t have to put that much of an eye on the technology Clancy himself loves to chat about, but also piss-off those devout readers of his, just in case you have to change some things up in the process. But that’s not the department where director John McTiernan doesn’t screws up; in fact, from what I hear, he stayed pretty damn loyal to the source-material, which must have been very hard considering there’s all sorts of stuff going on here, and sometimes, all at once.

To start things off though, I have to be honest and tell you all like it is: The first 20 or so minutes of this are pretty hard to get into. Not only is the movie relatively slow as molasses, but there’s a lot of talking going on here that you don’t know what it’s all really about. I got that the movie itself was trying to set-up character’s, give us a bit of insight into them and have us locked and loaded for what was to be the premise for the rest of this movie, but oddly enough, I felt like I may have stumbled upon the middle-half of the movie, where we’ve already been introduced to everything it is that we need to know with this story, the characters and the central-conflict at hand. And I’ve already seen this before, so to have that problem occur once again, made me feel like I was surely making a mistake, one that I should have left as another “one and done” deal.

But, as I expected it to, things began to sort themselves out and this is where McTiernan’s skills as a director come into play, as he’s somehow able to rack-up tension, just by throwing little bits and pieces of information at us. When a couple of people are speaking about what options they have next on the table for themselves, I couldn’t help but feel riveted and wonder what conclusion all of these peeps were going to come to. Most of the time, hell, I didn’t even know what they were talking about, or even how they gained all of that information in the first place, but I trusted McTiernan enough as a director to where I knew that wouldn’t bother me and I’d just have to pay attention a bit more.

That’s why “paying attention” is exactly what you’re going to have to do with this one, because the more you figure stuff-out, sometimes along with the characters in this film themselves, the more the tension amps-up and absolutely sucks you in. Submarine-thrillers seem to always do the trick for me nowadays, but this one really got to me as I could practically taste the sweat dripping off of each and every one of these dude’s foreheads, feel the heat from the steam running all throughout the submarine itself and the constant clinging and clanging of the steel up against, whatever it was that it was constantly clinging and clanging against. I felt like I was right there, watching the ride, enjoying the show and in the middle of a dire situation that just seemed to get more and more suspenseful and unpredictable as it went along, even if I already knew what the outcome was going to be beforehand.

And that, my friends, is exactly when you know a thriller is doing its job, and doing its job correctly. God, I wish John McTiernan would get out of the clink, come back and continue to make movies. Because, I don’t know about you, but I think some people may need him around for another flick or two.

Just saying, legal system.

"Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!"

“Damn you, Charles. You sunk my battleship, once again!”

Another reason why this thriller works so well too, and in many ways, why it isn’t as dated as most movies from the year of 1990 are and/or ought to be, is because it doesn’t really take any political-stance on the Cold War itself. We see plenty of development on the sides of both the Americans, as well as the Russians, and while the former may get a tad better treatment than the latter, it still should be noted that the flick never makes it out to seem like these Ruskies are the types of soulless, blood-sucking nuke-nuts that the media may have portrayed them as. Sure, they went into the war with their weapons and heads held high, but they were also fighting for their families, friends and most importantly, their country. Hate to start sounding like a die-hard liberal over here, but it’s a nice change-of-pace to actually see from a movie for once in which we aren’t given a clear-cut, black-or-white situation with these two sides. We see them both as humane, for better and sometimes, for worse.

Acting as channels for both of those sides are the performances from Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery, who both play on both sides of the coin, but also seem to understand one another as human-being, as well as tactical soldier. This is infamously Alec Baldwin’s one-and-done stint as Jack Ryan, and while I wouldn’t say he is amazing here, he certainly isn’t terrible neither. Actually, I’d just put it simple and state that Baldwin’s fine, and while I do think that, in recent time, we’ve seen him come-off a lot better as a supporting-player, much more than the star of the show, he still does a nice job as Jack Ryan, giving us a guy that has the brains to think his way into, and out of any particular situation, and even if he may not have the skills to succeed in a fight, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty a bit. Over the next couple of flicks, this element to the character of Jack Ryan would begin to change and evolve into a more “fuck yeah”, action-y type of character, but it still worked well for Baldwin nonetheless.

The one this movie really works wonders for is Sean Connery who, despite obviously trying to hide his thick Scottish-accent, really does give a certain heroic-pose and feel to Marko Ramius, even though he may definitely make some questionable decisions as Captain of the ship, here and there along the way. Still, through it all, Connery seems like the type of guy you’d be able to trust when he’s at the helm of all this, and be able to spit some inspiration into your hearts, even when he clearly knew the shit was about to hit the fan. However, there’s a reason for why he stays so calm and never clams-up throughout this deadly situation, and it’s one that humanizes him and makes us see that Connery can work with anything. Just throw him a script worthy of his talents and watch him spin the wheels. Gosh, I truly do miss him.

Consensus: May not be the quickest, most punchiest thriller you’ll ever see in your life, but it still stands, and stands in high-order that The Hunt for Red October is an exceptional thriller that gets down the meat of the situation, while never forgetting about making it fun, exciting and worth while for everybody involved, especially the audience sitting back at home and using their brains as hard as they can.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Old-school computer-programming must have been a hoot!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Pearl Harbor (2001)

Cause I’m proud to be an American, where Michael Bay makes crappy movies.

It was the morning of December 7, 1941, and as usual, everything was practically the same. Except, only a couple moments later, Japanese planes attack Pearl Harbor, killing thousands and injuring more, thus beginning America’s own, official involvement with WWII. However, despite the movie being named after that horrific event in our history that we will soon never forget, the story isn’t too concerned with that. What the story is concerned with is the life-long friendship between two pilots, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett). They’ve both been through thick and thin together from an early age, so they feel as if joining the U.S.A.’s Army Air Corps won’t even come close to putting a stranglehold on their friendship, however, they’re wrong. Dead wrong, to be exact and ironic. Because once Rafe volunteers to help out things for the British on their turf-war against the Germans, things go bad and Rafe winds up killed on the battlefield. This leaves Danny devastated, just as much as it leaves Evelyn Stewart (Kate Beckinsale), the little Navy nurse that Rafe shacked-up with before he went off to-duty. Now that Rafe is gone from both of their lives, the only thing that Danny and Evelyn can do is move on, which ultimately means that they have to start banging one another. Which is fine for quite some time, that is, until Rafe turns out to be alive after all! Dun dun dun!

And I do promise you that the Japanese planes do eventually come into play and start bombing the hell out of Pearl Harbor, however, you’ve got to wad through almost two hours of poor character-development, horrendous acting, a cheesy love-triangle that couldn’t be any less unemotional or compelling, obvious propaganda, war movie clichés where fellow soldiers make dirty sex jokes to one another, Japanese army generals looking as if they only sleep, eat and breath death and destruction, and Jon Voight in a rubber double-chin.

Yawn. Where's the explosions?

Yawn. Where’s the explosions?

And even then, yes, the movie still gets a slight recommendation from me.

I know, I know, I know! The flames from hell will rise up with that statement, but please do let me explain. I assure you: If I do not convince you that this is an “okay movie” in the most respectable, reasonable sense-of-the-word, then I give you the right to just automatically block my blog from your mind, for the rest of your natural-born life. Deal? Okay, then. Let’s get started, shall I?

Honestly, it makes sense why this movie was made: A similar, star-crossed lovers romance flick, that just so happened to take place around a disastrous time, in a certain place, Titanic, made a lot of big bucks and brought home almost every statue imaginable, so why not try to emulate that success once again, but this time, with an even more tragic event in our country’s history, the attack on Pearl Harbors? Better yet, why not get an auteur who can not only bring us the emotional-cues we need to fall in love with these dream-boats, more so than they’re falling for each other, but also give us a realistic, jaw-dropping look at what the bombings most likely did feel like: Michael Bay? Yeah, that decision just never sits right with me and while I can see why they did nab him for this movie (more on that later), there’s still apart of me wondering about better, more able choices out there. I can’t really come up with any on the top of my head that would have been able to handle both the romance side of the story, as well as the action-spectacle surrounding it, but Michael Bay is nowhere near one of those names, except for maybe the later aspect (like I said, more on that later).

That’s probably why this movie gets its ass kicked so much by viewers and critics, because while it may promise you an endless array of shit blowing up to pieces, it doesn’t occur for quite some time and instead, we’re left with a romance that’s as titillating as watching you’re grand-parents celebrate their 60th anniversary together. It’s dull, it’s dry, it’s uneventful and as much as I hate to say it, but the only thing that makes these scenes a whole lot better to get through, is that you know the Pearl Harbor attack is only right around the bend. Terrible thing to think about a real-life event and actually to be looking forward to it, but when you put your mind through something like a Michael Bay movie, where all sorts of strangeness takes precedence, then you just have to hope for the best and wait to see what comes around.

Which is exactly why when the Pearl Harbor attacks happened, even though I’ve seen it about a hundred million times now (two of those times were actually watching the whole movie, all over again), it still was able to send chills up my spine, scare my shorts off and make me realize that for what it’s worth, Michael Bay can still direct the hell out of his action scenes and have them come off as something that’s close to the real thing. I know a lot of people will probably get on this movie’s case, as well as my own for even recommending it in the slightest bit, about how certain things that are portrayed in these attacks, didn’t really occur in real life, but to me, that didn’t quite hurt my feelings about this movie. I understand that with a Michael Bay movie, you have to sort of expect all types of craziness to happen, regardless of it is real or not. I know it sounds crazy to say that about the Pearl Harbor attacks, but seriously, it didn’t get into my brain as much because it was a Michael Bay movie. If it was anybody else like say James Cameron, or Steven Spielberg, or anybody else for that matter, then it would be a totally different story and predicament. However, when you have a Michael Bay movie on your hands, you sort of have to treat it like you would a five-year-old who doesn’t get their way: Just let them act-up, piss, moan and do whatever else it is that they do, just as long as you remember to make sure they get back on the right path.

May be a terrible analogy, may not be, but what I’m trying to get across is that while Michael Bay can, and does make many, many mistakes with this movie, the fact that he was able to show the Pearl Harbor attacks in the best way humanly possible back in the beginning of the New Millennium, more than makes up for those said mistakes. In fact, I’d wager that if you were really that interested in seeing what these Pearl Harbor attacks are all about and how they look, especially without even watching the rest of the crap that comes before it, then just check it all out on YouTube. Probably easier and better for your mind, eyes, soul and time-management. But I’m a movie critic and I watch full-length movies, in their entirety. Which, in essence, means that when I watch a movie, I watch the full she-bang just in case I may miss something that I do, or don’t like.

And believe it or not, there’s actually one more aspect surrounding this movie that I did in fact like: The cast.

That's more like it! I guess? I don't know?

That’s more like it! I guess? I don’t know?

Actually, let me rephrase that better by saying, “the supporting cast”. See, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck (pre-directing days, people, so it’s alright to bash him if you want), though with their best intentions, absolutely suck the life out of this movie. Affleck is barely around since he “dies” in the first twenty or so minutes, only to show up an-hour-and-a-half later and do nothing else other than yell, shoot down Japanese soldiers and try to teach his best-buddy a lesson about banging his girlfriend while he was away, so I guess he doesn’t totally count. Which then leaves us to be stuck with Beckinsale and Hartness who have no chemistry whatsoever, can’t seem to get through even the shittiest of lines without struggling a bit and show no charisma at all. They just seem like they were thrown on a platter, told to talk to one another by their chaperon Michael Bay and did what they had to do so that they could collect that paycheck, go on home to their significant other, sweet-talk them into the next morning and get back to the day’s next events. Which, most likely, consisted of the same, meandering crap of boring us to death.

But since they suck so much, this does leave plenty of room for the supporting cast to charm the hell out of us, and that is exactly what most of them do, for better and definitely for worse. Alec Baldwin gets the “Affleck treatment” here as well, where he shows up for no more than five minutes in the first-half, does his bit, makes us laugh, and practically is non-existent for the next two-and-a-half hours, until he shows back up and does the same thing as before: Act nutty and steal the show. Cuba Gooding Jr. gets to do the same kind of stuff, except for the fact that he feels criminally underused in a film that could have used his warmth and charm to help the movie move along. However, he’s still fine. Same goes for Tom Sizemore who, once again, plays a gritty, raw and unfrightened military sergeant who isn’t afraid to bring out the big guns in the heat of the battle. Then we have Jon Voight as the previously-mentioned, rubber double-chin president, FDR, and is fine for giving us somebody that is obviously Jon Voight playing FDR, but is still enjoyable enough to give him a pass. Same goes for the likes of Jennifer Garner, Ewen Bremner, Michael Shannon, Colm Feore and heck, even Jamie King, who never does anything for me, EVER in any other flick. She’s just another set of beautiful, bright eyes and nice……talents, which probably made her the love of Michael Bay’s life for the whole time they were shooting. All until she got creeped out, told him to piss off and he was about done with her. Hey, not like it hasn’t ever happened!

Consensus: Undeniably hokey, badly-written, hollow and laughably idiotic at times, and yet, Pearl Harbor is still okay enough to watch, if only for the amazing Pearl Harbor sequence itself, and some supporting performances that have you forget about the awful leads practically doing nothing with what they’re given, which is even worse considering it’s a Michael Bay movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! Michael Bay rules!

Convince you yet? Probably not, but so be it! So I’ll just let it all out: Michael Bay rules!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Rich people can be sad too, they just are able to water it down in martini and lemons.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all: The rich husband (Alec Baldwin), the lavish lifestyle, the money, the looks, the riches, and all of that fine and happy stuff. However, like most good things, it all came crashing down in an instant and left Jasmine bankrupt without anywhere else to go in the world, except for his lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins)’s house. There she pries more, than actually gets her act together and begins to find out that having to take care of yourself doesn’t mean just making money, it means taking responsibility for your actions and not drinking your life away. Or maybe that’s just what I gathered. Actually, it more than likely is.

Woody Allen has had his fair share of hits, and he sure as hell has had his fair share of misses, but I still remain loyal to the guy as he always brings whatever he can to the big-screen, with his witty writing, and a stacked-cast that always gets on-board with anything he does. He just has that type of power that will get anybody going and for a little while, with Midnight in Paris, had everybody back on their feet, waiting to see what he would do next, as if the King had returned to his throne. However, then To Rome with Love came around, and everybody realized that maybe Paris was just a flash-in-the-pan for Woody. Maybe, just maybe.

She's still good enough for me.

She’s still good enough for me.

However, Woody’s not going to give up without a fight and is back yet again with Blue Jasmine, the type of flick it seems like anybody would make if they had some spare-time in their schedule to just make a movie, hang out with some big names, and get paid while doing so. That’s not to say that the movie’s good or bad, it’s just to say that the flick carries that type of lax-feel and pace where everybody involved seems to be happy and more than ecstatic to be working with a screen-legend like Allen, but at the same time, doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either. They’re just working to work, which is entertaining since everybody’s fun and happy, but it doesn’t really get this material up off the ground as it should.

For awhile, actually, I felt as if the movie I was watching was more of a stone-hard drama than any bit of witty and quirky comedy that we’re so used to associating with Allen’s flicks. That could have just been so since with Cassandra’s Dream and Match Point, he’s shown us that he can do a dark drama, regardless of if it fails or not. So that’s exactly why I felt like I was watching a drama right from the get-go. Obviously, there’s plenty of moments where Allen allows the humorous part of his script to creep in whenever it so pleases, but there’s still a seriousness to this final-product that I at least appreciated more than anything Allen’s done in awhile. He treats Jasmine, as well as every other character with tender, love, and care, it’s just that they don’t really pop-out at us like they should.

Case in point, our main character herself, Jasmine. Jasmine is the type of character that seems perfectly fit for Allen because he’s able to show us all of her flaws, as well as her positives as well. The former gets presented more than the latter, but that’s not to say that the former doesn’t rear it’s beautiful head in every once and awhile neither. We get to see enough of Jasmine that it allows us to care for her and sympathize with her, even when she’s constantly ragging on everyone for not being exactly like her in every which way. She’s not the type of gal I would want to be stuck with near the punch bowl at a party, but I definitely wouldn’t mind having a casual conversation with her every once and awhile, just to do a quick game of catch-up and see who’s more miserable than the other. With that game, she may win, but it would come pretty close.

So I guess it’s safe to say that Jasmine is an interesting enough character to have a movie revolve around her and her all of her misery and self-indulgence, but the movie doesn’t seem to really go that deep enough into her psyche as to what makes her, well, her. We see what she’s done in her past, how she’s gotten over it, and how terribly she was treated to be such a witch in the present day, but it still didn’t feel right to me. Something, whatever it was, wasn’t perfectly fitting with the tone and the art of this character and I wish I got to know more of her, rather than just snippets of what seemed like a pretty mean person, but a meanie that actually had somewhat of a soul. Allen can do well with these types of characters when he’s focusing on just them and them alone, but he moves the focus all around to where we see more of the supporting characters, rather than her. Which is fine, if they were just as interesting enough as her, but they just aren’t.

That’s not to say that the ensemble doesn’t work well with these roles, because they really do, and make the movie a whole lot better just with their presence being felt. Cate Blanchett gives a great performance as Jasmine as she’s able to capture all of the types of moods and feelings that go through this gal, most of which are abrupt and random, but still realistic enough to warrant some amount of sympathy. As I’ve said up above, Jasmine is an interesting enough character to want to watch a whole movie about her and her ways of getting her life back together, and that’s because Blanchett is able to make us loathe this character, while also feel like she could do a hell of a lot better in her life, if she just lowers her guard a bit and smiles. Then again, with the past that she’s had, you’ll see why maybe putting a grin on that face may be a little easier said then done. Got to give Blanchett a lot of credit for this role, not because she’s able to be funny, mean, and sympathetic all at the same time, but she’s not afraid to “ugly herself up” either.

Assuming she didn't have a problem with his profession.

Assuming she didn’t have a problem with what he does for a living.

Sally Hawkins plays her sissy, Ginger, and is good at playing the trashy-type that’s very different from Jasmine’s stuck-up self. Hawkins has always been a treat to see in any movie she shows up in and it’s good to see her working in something again, especially with Allen. They both comment each other well, as she hits the funny-marks her character is supposed to, while also giving us a nice glimpse inside the world of a lady that just wants as much love and respect as her sister does, she just doesn’t demand it as much. The always-loveable Bobby Cannavale plays Chili, her boyfriend that Jasmine despises, and does a nice job being funny and a bit sweet at the same time. Any movie would have painted this guy as a dick, but here, instead we see him as a guy that just wants to be with the woman he loves and will stop at nothing to do so, even if that means getting a little bitter at times. Especially with Jasmine.

The rest of the cast is fine as well, even if some of their work is only comprising of “showing up on screen for a bit, and then going away seconds later”. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s ex-hubby, Hal, and plays up the d-bag type of character we know and sometimes love him; Louis C.K. almost steals the show playing against-type as a possible match-made-in-heaven for Ginger, which is funny because all he does here is try to play it all smooth and cool, both of which Louis is not, but plays it so well if not just for laughs; Andrew Dice Clay, another random comedian thrown into the mix, is fine as Ginger’s ex-hubby who doesn’t really do anything funny but is good for what he has to do with the material he’s given; Peter Sarsgaard is serviceable as the object of Jasmine’s eyes, and actually feels like a genuinely nice guy that would love and care for her when she needs it the most; and Michael Stuhlbarg is odd and strange as head-dentist of where Jasmine works and does exactly what I said he had to play, and does it well.

Consensus: Though there’s plenty of pleasing moments from Woody’s script, as well as the fine cast that he’s assembled, Blue Jasmine comes off more as a somewhat mediocre flick from his library, if not one that held plenty of potential.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"I have a hangover, somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please."

“I have a hangover. Somebody get me a bottle of sparkling Burnetts please.”

Running With Scissors (2006)

Cue the jokes about how this movie runs with scissors and ends-up tripping.

At the age of twelve, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) finds himself amidst Victorian squalor living with his mother’s doctor’s bizarre family, while she (Annette Bening) goes off and becomes a total drug-addict, amongst other fucked-up things. Oh yeah, and it’s hard for little Augusten since not only is he a poet at such a young age, but he’s a gay one at that. Yay!

I never read Augusten Burrow’s 2002 memoir of the same name, and despite what all of the literary hipsters that I know continue to tell me, I still don’t ever plan on reading it, either. I’m not much of a reader as it is but with material that’s all about people being all wacky and strange just for the sake of being so, definitely rubs me the wrong-way, especially when it’s done in a flick like this.

See, the fact of the matter is that you can make a movie about a bunch of near-functional nut jobs that can still be a bit whack-o in the brain department, but are at least likable and understandable enough to connect to. Writers/directors like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach can do this, and do it very well, but writer/director Ryan Murphy is not one of them, nor does he come even close. Instead of making these characters a bunch of whack-o’s that you actually feel something for, as if they were normal, functioning human-beings, you just seem them as whack-o’s with nothing really nice to say or do throughout the whole, dreadful 2 hours.

All you do throughout this whole flick is see a bunch of crazies yell, hoot, and holler at one another, and just do a bunch of random crap to each other that would seem almost too weird to be true (but trust me, this flick wants you to believe it’s source material REALLY IS TRUE!), and in ways, totally is. You never, not for one second, actually believe that all you see on-screen is actually how things happened in real-life for Augusten and if it did actually happen, it sure as hell shows you that it wasn’t a story that needed to be shown on the big-screen in the first-place, mostly because there isn’t much here to hold onto. I would say that the characters are worth the shot of standing-by and listening to, but even that’s a bit of a far-stretch since they are only there to be nothing more than just a plot-device of sure craziness. Watching people act all wacky and wild can be fun every once and awhile to watch, but as time goes on, there needs to be more substance brewing from underneath and that is just not here.

"And that little bitch that played the psycho ballet dancer won! Ever since then, I haven't felt the same."

“And that little bitch that played the psycho ballet dancer won! Ever since then, I haven’t felt the same.”

Maybe the fact that I never read the memoir was the reason why I didn’t like it all that much, because there was a lot of crap that happened or was said here that I just didn’t understand. The whole idea of people looking at every single bit of life’s details with a clear-view and making something out of nothing, simply annoys the hell out of me in real-life, and even worse, annoys the most when I see it in a movie and that’s all I saw here. Everybody speaks as if they just got done reading Hemingway and felt the need to rant and rave about what life is all about, and it’s okay at first because it makes sense to why these characters are so strange, but it becomes to be a bit of a bore and unbelievable. You know, just like the rest of the characters and the movie itself. Heck, there’s even a scene where Brian Cox is checking out his crapola (be ready to hear that term sooner or later) and talking about what it’s shape, size, and formation means to his life and everybody else’s around him. Did I get it? No, but would I have had I actually took time out of my lazy day and read the memoir? Probably not. It’s just the type of writing that annoys me and shows that people have nothing else better to do with their way of contracting humor, then just showing a bunch of ridiculous and crude things to really shock you and make you feel as if you’ve seen something from another planet. However, I think I was on another planet when I saw this movie.

It’s even worse, though, when you take into consideration at how freakin’ uneven this whole thing is. My buddy and I were just bored one night, decided to watch this because it was under the “Comedy” section on On Demand, and for the first 30 minutes, neither one of us were laughing. We weren’t laughing because what the flick was trying to do and shove down our throats, wasn’t funny (even though it really isn’t a funny movie), but it was because there was nothing really funny actually happening. It was just a bunch of dark, sarcastic drama that I didn’t know whether or not I was supposed to feel weirded-out by or just go along with it and see if I ever lighten-up to the dead-pan tone and feel. I never did and to be honest, I don’t think the flick itself did, either, because there was just way too many moments where the film changed itself-up. One second, you’ll be watching a scene of some cooky lady eating doggy biscuits, and then after that, you’ll get some heartbreaking discussion between an estranged mother and son. It’s all-over-the-place and constantly changing tones from right-to-left and that is not as fun or entertaining as it sounds. It’s obvious and it never stops to be, and that’s why I just wanted somebody in this flick to die and spice things up. I’m sorry, it’s just the thought-process I go through when a movie sucks THIS BAD.

The only, real saving-grace to this whole flick is the ensemble cast of characters that do all that they can here, but in the end, fall prey to a terrible script and direction. Joseph Cross is fine as our lead, Augusten Burroughs, and is serviceable as a kid that obviously has a lot of problems with growing-up, being a poet, being gay, and not really having a connection with his mother. It should have been a lot more relateable for most kids going through, or have been through teenage-angst, but it’s oddly not. It’s just a kid having a problem with a mother of his that just so happens to be hopped-up all of the time. Hey, I don’t know if that’s everybody else’s life story but if so, well, you just may be able to find something to suit your fancy here.

Right about now is where breakfast would be the second-thing on my moment.

Right about now is where breakfast would be the second-thing on my moment.

Actually, the real stand-out of this whole cast is the woman who plays that same hopped-up mother, Annette Bening. Bening is great as this drugged-up, but somewhat schizophrenic that does all that she can to make herself happy, but in the end, just can’t. Bening can play a bitch like no other and she’s great in this role as a mother that’s never there and when she is, is like a freakin’ plague of problems. Yeah, she’s a mean, old woman that seems like she really deserves a nice kick in the teeth by not just me, but anybody, but regardless, it’s still impressive to see from here, especially considering the fact that the girl keeps all of the energy alive and well in this dead flick. And by “dead”, I mean Grateful Dead because let’s be honest, you may just want to be high for this movie. It would probably help a crap-load, although, it obviously didn’t help me with anything.

The rest of the cast is fine too, but none of them can really keep up with Bening. Brian Cox plays Dr. Finch, a slimy psychiatrist who seems to be doing people favors, but also has a bit of a dark-side to him as well that’s maybe not so favorable. Cox is great, what else is new by now? Evan Rachel Wood plays the skanky-looking daughter of his that definitely should have been in this movie a lot more, considering she brings a lot of fun and wit to the screen, when everybody else seems like they’re falling asleep (count me in on that nap). Same could almost be said for Gwyneth Paltrow as the total kiss-ass of the family, Hope, and definitely seems like she got a role for herself that displayed her looks, her beauty, and her knack for comedy. Sad thing is, she’s not that funny here. Not her fault, writer’s fault. I was also very surprised to see a very good performance from Joseph Fiennes, who plays the gay boy-toy of Augusten and just so happens to be the only boy of the Finch family. Fiennes rarely shows up in anything now but it was nice to see him when he was a bit wild, wacky, and free. Too bad he had to be all that, especially in a shit-pile like this.

Consensus: Despite that obviously seems like they’re game for this type of material, it really lets them down as every character is unlikable, distasteful, annoying, and terribly unbelievable, almost to the point of where the whole 2 hours and 2 minutes of Running With Scissors seriously makes you take that title into consideration with your own life. It’s a drastic way of thinking, but it’s the truth.

2/10=Crapola!!

Looks like my backyard, come hoarders season. Can't wait!

Looks like my backyard, come hoarders season. Can’t wait!

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

The St. Patty’s day leprechaun would have definitely made this a different type of movie.

The movie centers on a group of heroes with extraordinary abilities, thatmust join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of the children all over the world against the evil ideas of the Boogeyman (Jude Law). The heroes up against these terrible ideas just so happen to be Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Other than the Avengers and Justice League, there aren’t many other groups of heroes/characters that are worth being brought to the big-screen to team-up. I mean, yeah, maybe there is but no team really comes as quick to my mind as much as every child’s favorite pieces of fairy-tale story-telling: holiday heroes. Yes, even though you may not believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, or that spooky piece-of-shit that lives underneath your bed, kids still do and will not find it hard to believe that these same characters, can bring on a can of whoop-ass every once and awhile if they wanted to. Yeah, that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: holiday characters, beating the shit out of things. Get ready for some questions that need to be answered, mom and dad!

I wasn’t really looking forward to this film from the get-go mainly because the trailer seemed to take itself way, way too seriously. I mean think of it, you have Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost all piled into one movie and you’re going to show me how they band together to fight evil? I don’t think so and better yet, where’s all of the fun in dreaming of about one of these days watching all of your favorite childhood, holiday characters come onto the screen and hang-out with one another? There should be some fun and judging by the trailer, it seemed like the fun was a tad too serious for my taste. Thankfully, I was wrong, dead-wrong to be exact.

There’s actually a lot of fun to be had in this story, mainly because the plot shows all of our favorite characters as what they are, gives them each personalities, specific traits that make them so special in the first-place, and how they are all going to band together and fight this bad evil that seems to be taking over the world and the little kiddies that inhabit it. It’s fun to see Santa and the Easter Bunny just mess around with one another, but it’s even better to watch how they use their respective skills of climbing down chimneys and throwing eggs to help each other out and work as a team. I loved seeing that, and I can assure you that kids will too because it’s something you don’t get to see everyday until you fall asleep and can only dream of it. Yes, anybody over the age of 12 can still dream of Santa and the Easter Bunny, so bug off!

And as you would expect, the visuals and animation is just beautiful. Since I didn’t see this in a free screening, you know I sure as hell didn’t see this one in 3D but if I did, I would have probably loved it because this is so beautiful-looking. It’s crazy to see two movies come out in the same weekend where both are filled with beautiful-visuals, yet, are used so differently. Life of Pi uses it to enhance the story and make you feel as if what you are seeing is all real without any preservatives added, whereas this movie, doesn’t use it to show you that everything is real, but to place you in a small, animated world where everything is colorful, wild, and most of all, beautiful to look at. Both films are beautiful, but they are both beautiful in their own, different ways which definitely has me wondering whether or not 3D film making is ever going to go away.

However, like Life of Pi, this movie sort of runs into a problem with it’s story that seems a bit manipulative and not utilized very well. It’s a fun movie, no doubt about it, but when you have all of these characters come together, you feel like there should be more inventiveness and originality used to where you feel like that’s something you could have never done, had you been given a pad, a pen, and a plot-line to write-on about. It’s a bit obvious with where it goes and doesn’t really make sense as to why it does go there. It just does. Maybe that also has to do with the fact that the times that this movie does try to be funny, it doesn’t really gel very well and even though they weren’t really going for the hilarity-angle of the final-product, I still feel like some of the times they tried were way too obvious and painful to not mention. Also, those elves were so obviously a rip-off of the freakin’ Minions from Despicable Me, almost to the point of where they just hit each other the same way. Way, way too obvious but hey, it will most likely get the kids laughing.

Where I think this movie really lost me was how I thought about it afterward, and barely remembered a thing from it at all. Yes, I enjoyed my time when I watched the movie and yes, it was a great animation-flick, but nothing as memorable as it should have been. Maybe it was because I did the “double-movie day” that I usually do every once and awhile and this was the first of the two and that’s why I didn’t remember much, or maybe the fact that I saw Red Dawn after this and my mind went and good mood went elsewhere, but writing this review about 3 days later, reminds me of just how little I actually remembered. It’s enjoyable, no doubt about it, but once it’s all said and done, then it’s gone from your mind without anything to really stick their forever.

Even though the overall-product wasn’t great, the voice-casting actually was. Casting Alec Baldwin as Santa and have him voice a Russian-accent seemed very, very strange at-first, but actually worked quite well for Baldwin and the character, and gave Santa a persona that was larger-than-life in a way. It’s also better because I didn’t think it was Alec Baldwin voicing Santa, I actually thought it was Santa, right there in front of me, on-screen. He does exist! I knew it! Chris Pine is pretty solid as Jack Frost but the voice did seem a little too heavy and hoarse for a character that looks like a little boy that doesn’t have any muscles and instead, has super-powers. Still deciding on which one’s better. Hugh Jackman seems to be having a ball as the Easter Bunny and always seems like he wants to fight somebody, no matter what the situation is. Maybe that’s how Hugh Jackman is in real-life? And if so, that would be really bad-ass of the guy. Isla Fisher is fine as the Tooth Fairy but not really funny or exciting to watch, she’s just there. And last, but certainly not least is Jude Law as the Boogeyman who has a vicious, if creepy sound to his voice that works for the character, even if the guy is a bit annoying with how much he hammers on the idea of him being a bad-guy, doing bad things, and always tricking people. I get it! The Boogeyman is bad! I knew that since I was 5, and I know it now!

Consensus: It may not be the ultimate team-up movie you’d expect in a year where The Avengers have reigned supreme, but Rise of the Guardians is still the same type of fun, excitement, and good-feelings parents and their kids want, especially around the holidays.

7/10=Rental!!

To Rome with Love (2012)

Come back to America Woody! Spare all of these other countries of your quirkiness!

The film is made up of four distinct vignettes of people in Italy —some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors—and the romantic adventures they get into.

After last year’s sleeper-hit, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen seemed like he was destined for a real comeback and people would start taking him seriously again. Sadly, he sort of knocks that reputation back down in the ground.

This whole film is played off as a bunch of skits, that just take place over one movie without any real connection to one another, other than the fact that they all take place in the same city. This would have totally worked perfectly if any of these skits were as interesting as they seemed to be. Allen’s writing is usually funny and witty, but here, a lot of it feels forced and a lot of the skits get drawn-out a little too much to the point of where it’s over-kill and you just want him to move onto the next story. Problem with that, is the next story is probably more lame than the one that preceded. Therefore, you just have a bunch of skits that don’t work and you can’t really look forward to.

I usually get Allen’s sense of humor, which in some cases, I did here as well, but I don’t think there was a single serious moment in this film. All of the drama here, is downplayed and made to be like it doesn’t exist just because these characters and these stories are too zany and wild for it. To me, I thought there could have been some more emotional honesty to this product, especially when you have stories about couples that are sleeping around on one another. Now I wasn’t asking for Allen to get down and dirty with his dramatic self, but I was just asking for a bit more drama here than I actually got.

Although, as lame as this film may be, most of it is made better because of the cast, some of which are great, and some of which that just don’t hit the right notes. Woody Allen‘s long-awaited return to the front of the screen, is probably the highlight of this movie, not only because he knows how to sell his own material perfectly, but because it seems like his character will never grow old or get annoying. He’s just Woody Allen being Woody Allen, and that’s all I asked for. Well, that’s all I asked for when it come to the acting department. Penelope Cruz brings a lot of flair to her role as a sexy call-girl, in one of the stories that actually is a lot more interesting and could have been played out in it’s own film alone.

Another good performance from this cast is from Alec Baldwin, even though it was very unsure what the hell his character actually was in this movie. He comes off as a narrator for this one story involving Eisenberg, then everybody else sees him and can communicate with him, but then he just sort of shows up out of nowhere, like a ghost who just won’t go away. I really didn’t get this character and what made it even worse was that the story he was in, totally sucked. Honestly, when you have two talents like Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page together in a Woody Allen movie, you would expect them to be hilarious, passion-driven, and believable, but sadly, none of that happens for either of them. Eisenberg’s shtick doesn’t do much and Page comes off as an annoying pretentious actress that just wants to hear herself talk and I get that is what the film is trying to convey about her, but that doesn’t make me like her anymore than I already did. Also, no passion between them whatsoever and I would have much rather seeing Eisenberg and Gerwig in a film together, all by their lonesome selves.

Oh, and I must not forget about Roberto Benigni, who I haven’t seen in quite some time and probably has one of the dumbest skits in the whole movie, which is really saying something. His plot is basically all about him being this random celebrity that people want to know more about, girls want to sleep with, and little kids want autographs from, but it’s never made clear exactly why that is and exactly what’s so extraordinary about this guy in the first place. Benigni’s a lot more tied-down in this role and doesn’t let himself get too crazy with this role, but when he does, it’s annoying and it just made me wish he stayed away from this film with the remains of Pinocchio. Don’t worry, this movie is better than that one.

Consensus: It’s obvious that Woody Allen loves Rome and all of its beauties, but he never shows that through his writing or direction here. Instead, everything comes off as forced, contrived, lame, boring, and nothing all that exciting to stay around for and watch again. It’s just a lazy Woody Allen. Boooo!

3.5/10=Crapola!!

Rock of Ages (2012)

If only life was played to the music of Def Leppard, then all girls would feel the need to pour some sugar on me. If you know what I mean.

This movie tells the story of small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough) and city boy Drew (Diego Boneta), who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the heart-pounding hits of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison, Whitesnake, and more.

I’ve never been a big fan of the 80’s but from time to time, I’ll find myself rocking out to a couple of hair metal tunes like “Cherry Pie”, “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, and plenty of others. So the idea of having a musical taking place around that era and focusing on that music, didn’t really have me reaching out for my “nostalgia money” but hey, nostalgia isn’t all that bad.

Director Adam Shankman is a guy who knows how to do musicals and bring out the most energy in them. Everything looks so colorful, the dance numbers have people running all over the place while pulling off some neat Michael Jackson-like moves, the editing is choppy but gives the film this frantic feel to it, and a hell of a lot of camp to be had here as well. I mean whenever anybody talks about the 80’s, you can’t get past the fact that everything in that era was just so corny and goofy, but also, so perfect for that time period. That aspect is what this film plays off of and I think Shankman did a pretty damn good job recreating this era to the point of where I felt like I actually was watching a story in the 80’s, not just a dramatization on what might have been.

But if you’re going to see this film, you’re not going to be bothered with the camp of purty colors that are on display. Nope. You’re definitely going to be seeing this film because you love 80’s music, or just music in general and if that is the case, then this is a perfect fit for your music loving heart. Every time the film would start to get lame and focus on its “story”, a kick-ass musical number would just come right in to bring my attention back onto the screen, get my feet tapping, and simulate all of drum parts for each and every song. Everybody in the theater that I was with, kept looking at me but I didn’t care because I just could not help myself once people starting belting out lyrics to “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, “I Wanna Rock”, and even, yes, “I Want to Know What Love Is” (hey, don’t judge that song can get to you, man). Some of the songs aren’t used in the right context here and some even weren’t made yet by the time that this film takes place in, but either way, I could not stop rocking out and I came to realize that the 80’s was a pretty cool time for music. Never thought I’d be saying that.

The problem with this film is that whenever people aren’t jamming out to some choice tracks, everything starts to get boring and terribly dull. The center story, that the rest of the film takes place around, is beyond cliché where we see a young girl come all the way to Hollywood to be a huge singer, only to fall in love with another young, up-and-comer. Boring! This is something we have all seen done before and nothing else is really changed here with the exception that this love is surrounded by 80’s tracks, but even they couldn’t get my head past the weak-ass story. I actually think I dozed off a couple of times, only to be awoken by the loud, thunderous sounds of the music that would bring all of the fun this movie needed.

The film also doesn’t have much to say about the 80’s, let alone the music that took over this decade. Maybe I was going for something more than what I really needed from a musical like this but I think that the film could have done more with it’s whole 80’s premise, rather than just showing us how cool it was. It would have been a nice mixture of Rock Star and Hairspray, and even though that may not sound so wickedly cool and fun, it still would have offered more insight to its decade than this film did. Also, 2 hours and 4 minutes is sort of pushing it a little too long, especially when you have a musical that’s just strictly for the 80’s crowd.

What really made this film such a blast though, aside from the 80’s tracks, was the strange ensemble that came out believable and made this film a whole lot better. Malin Akerman is delightful and sexy as the “Rolling Stone” reporter that gets involved with a big-time rocker; Mary J. Blige may not be the best actress out there but she sure as hell can sing, which that’s all this film needs; Paul Giamatti is slimy and slightly evil as Paul Gill, but who else could play that type of character; Catherine Zeta-Jones is over-the-top as Patricia Whitmore, the wife of the Mayor, but is entertaining and has one sick-ass dance number that brought me back to her Chicago days; and Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand both have a lot of fun with each other as the two club owners, but I think needed more time on-screen as well. As for our little tikes in the leads, Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta, they are delightful to watch but kind of get blown out of the water by this phenomenal supporting cast. Mainly, one in particular.

Tom Cruise as hair metal icon Stacee Jaxx, was not only a perfect bit of casting for Mr. Cruise here but also the best part of this whole movie. Lately, Cruise has been taking more and more roles that show him sort of making fun of his own image and this is one of those roles where he gets to play around a bit with that image, but also be able to release his inner rocker. His voice may sound a little too weak for some of these songs that he performs, but it doesn’t matter because the guy takes over the screen whenever he’s on and also has a pretty credible character arc to him as well. It’s nothing like Magnolia, but it’s still the only arc for any character in this movie and it’s used well because it’s Tom Cruise dammit! Honestly, Tom Cruise has one last, big Oscar for him somewhere and even though it may not be this role, I know it’s still coming up soon regardless.

Consensus: Rock of Ages may have a weak story that makes the era its portraying more dull than it has any right to be, but the non-stop 80’s tracks are filled with energy and fun, and feature some great performances from this impressive ensemble cast of characters, especially an intense Tom Cruise.

6.5/10=Rental!!