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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Amy Adams

Justice League (2017)

Just not the same without Superman. He’s not in this, right?

After the rather tragic death of Superman (Henry Cavill), the world is in desperate need of a superhero. And with the current uprising of evil super-villain Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds), the world is in desperate need and they need it quick. Enter Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who decides that it’s time to get together all of the best and most powerful of superheros to take down this foe. There’s Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), who we know has supreme strength and can kick all sorts of ass, when she isn’t playing with the heart and emotions of Bruce. There’s Aquaman (Jason Momoa), who can not only talk to fish, but kick all sorts of ass, too. There’s Barry Gordon, aka Flash (Ezra Miller), who can run just as fast as he runs his mouth. Then, there’s Victor Stone, aka Cyborg (Ray Fisher), who uses his robot body to do, well, whatever he damn well pleases with it. Though it takes some time, the gang gets together and decides that it’s best to save the world from ultimate destruction, but for some reason, they’re just not as powerful as they think. All they need is one more hero and they’ll be set.

But who?

When you need a Quicksilver, but your movie just not funny enough. Or at all.

No matter what, I am always rooting for DC. While Marvel is clearly kicking all sorts of ass in the superhero-movie world, I still hold out hope that one day, DC will give them the opponent they probably need and deserve. And with this past summer’s Wonder Woman, hell, I thought that maybe DC was getting their act together and was ready to put up a fight. Then, after Zack Snyder had to tragically bow-out, and they were able to gather up the talents of Joss Whedon, things were looking even brighter and better. It seemed like, oh man, DC showed up to the duel and was ready to go all the way, last corporation standing, do or die.

Unfortunately, quite the opposite happens.

In fact, Justice League seems like another five steps back, when it should have definitely been the same amount, but at least forward. But for some reason, the same issues that have been plaguing their past few films (except for the aforementioned Wonder Woman), seem to still be coming up: Their just too uneven and disjointed to fully work as one, cohesive whole. Whereas Marvel seems to have a formula that they will never stray away from, it’s one that works; their movies are the right combination of humor, action, quirkiness, character-work, drama, world-building, exposition, and excitement that when they decide to mix it up every so often, it never feels like it’s going to fail. It’s a near-perfect formula that works for them each and every time and it’s the same kind of formula that DC is trying to imitate, but just can’t seem to completely comprehend.

One of the main reasons for that, at least here, may be that Whedon’s script and Snyder’s direction just don’t mix-and-match well. Like, at all. For instance, Snyder’s direction is so gloomy, so serious, and so moody, and Whedon’s bits and pieces of script are so light, silly, and in ways, meta, that they feel like two different movies. One is trying to be Dawn of Justice (not as bad as people say, especially compared to this), and the other is trying to be both Avengers movies (both are pretty solid).

And like I said, the two just don’t fit.

Just kiss already! Get this testosterone done with already!

There are some moments of pure fun and excitement to be found, however, they are incredibly fleeting. After the initial half-hour and we’re done with all of the annoying exposition, world-building, and sort-of origin-tales, the movie sort of comes together in that the gang’s all in one place, fighting, picking each other’s look apart, and oh yeah, actually building character. It takes so long to get to this point, that when we’re actually there, it’s hard to notice – but when it is there, it’s quite fun and worth watching.

Same goes for the action which, regardless of who directed it the most or not, still works. Each superhero gets to show-off their own superpower and it feels worth it. It’s almost enough to get past the fact that the movie seems sorely underwritten and so rote, but hey, at least it’s not a total slog, right?

If anything, Justice League has me at least somewhat curious to see what they do next and where they go with these solo films. After all, the main reason why some of these characters just don’t work is because we hardly even know them in the first place; Cyborg’s backstory is constantly being brought-up to us and it just gets to be annoying, because we don’t care. We’re supposed to be getting those movies in the upcoming future, but we sort of need them desperately and now.

Cause without them, DC’s just not going to be able to put up the fight that they oh so want to put up.

Consensus: Even though they get an “A” for effort, Justice League is another sign that DC has a lot of work to do, especially on its characters, its script, and its oversall management of their promising franchise.

5.5 / 10

The male-gaze is back, fellas. Yay for misogyny!

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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

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

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

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

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

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

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

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

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

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Arrival (2016)

If they can’t speak English, can’t trust ’em. Right?

On one random day, for unexplained reasons, multiple mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft touch down across the globe. What do they want? What are they? And what the hell could they possibly do? No one quite knows, which is why, as expected, the government gets on it immediately. And in doing so they, they put together an elite team including linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams), mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker), to help investigate these matters and see if there’s any harm going to be done to planet Earth. No one quite knows how to communicate with these extraterrestrial beings, but Louise believes that she’s able to and starts figuring out what they’re language is, how to decipher it and yes, how to figure out all that they’re feeling or saying. It’s not an easy task, and with the rest of the world watching, sitting on pins and needles, not sure of what to make of these things, it becomes extra stressful for Louise. However, she has a plan and knows that it’s always best to treat outsiders with the utmost respect and dignity, especially if they could exterminate your whole population with the drop of a hat.

Hey, Am? Yeah, something weird over there.

Hey, Am? Yeah, something weird over there.

Another year and guess what? Another Denis Villeneuve movie. While saying that may make it seem like I’m discouraging the fact that one of our brighter, more inspired directors of today’s day and age continues to make a movie each and every year, it’s not meant to. As opposed to someone like Woody Allen, who churns out flicks because he’s got nothing else better to do and well, has the money, Villeneueve’s movies seem like they took forever to direct, are handled with care, and yes, for the most part, pretty damn good. Sure, at the same time, they’re dreary, sad, sometimes, violent, and yes, a little disturbing, but hey, they’re mostly all good movies and they deserve to be appreciated as such, right?

Anyway, with Arrival, it’s interesting to see Villeneuve sort of in a new light. He’s tried out the thriller genre by now, so instead of just focusing his sights on that, he goes towards sci-fi and it’s actually surprising how different this flick is from his others. While it’s still thrilling and sometimes unpredictable, it’s not dark, it’s not dreary, and it sure as hell isn’t ultra-violent – it’s actually quite heartfelt and inspiring.

Yes, for a movie about so-called aliens, I’m as shocked as you are.

What it all mostly comes down to though, is that Villeneuve himself never keeps us as informed as viewers, as we ought to be. Like Louise and all of these other characters, we don’t quite know what these beings what, or what they’re put on this planet for – what we do know is that they’re here, on Earth, and they may pose something of a threat. However, it’s interesting to watch as Louise and all of these other scientists get together and try to communicate with these beings in a relaxed, peaceful, and sometimes civil manner.

Most of the time, with sci-fi flicks especially, we see that the alien-beings up in the sky are evil and out to get the human race, but it’s a little different here; the aliens here look different, for sure, but they also have different intentions that we haven’t quite seen, or heard before in sci-fi movies of this nature. Even the layout of the pod is interesting; it’s literally one dark room, with a clear-glass and totally left up to our imagination – it’s dreamy, beautiful, but also terrifying, and seeing this on the biggest screen possible, honestly, the better.

Do scientists really look this sexy and cunning?

Do scientists really look this sexy and cunning?

Oh and yeah, Arrival is quite thrilling, but not in the way that you’d automatically expect. There’s some guns, there’s some explosions, there’s some running, there’s some running, and yeah, there’s some cursing, but it’s not all played-up for dramatic-effect because Villeneuve had nothing else better to do – it all feels earned. The movie’s main source of tension and excitement mostly comes through not knowing what to expect next and constantly waiting for this situation to get out-of-hand and spiral out of control, which it sort of does, but not in the way that you’d expect. Villeneueve and writer Eric Heisserer are constantly flipping the script on sci-fi conventions here that it is, yes, smart, but also interesting to watch, as we never quite know where they’re going next, nor does it seem like they know, either.

They’re just having way too much fun living life in a sci-fi flick and well, I can’t blame them.

The only aspect the movie sort of falls a tad apart in is the fact that it relies a little too heavily on this final-act twist that, for all the red herrings, curve-balls, random dream sequences, and symbolism, is still obvious and doesn’t quite pull the rug from underneath us. It’s hard to really be mad at a movie for not having a solid final-act twist, but there’s also something to be said for a movie that seems to harp on it so much and so often, that after awhile, it becomes annoying. We get what the movie’s getting at and because of that, it feels overdone.

Still, the cast is quite great here. Amy Adams is a sweet and peaceful presence as Louise, but also hints at having something of a darker side to her; Jeremy Renner plays the hip, cool and joking scientist that aids her in all of her work and has a nice bit of chemistry with her; Forest Whitaker shows up as the as the army Colonel, making it seem like he’s going to be the evil, dispirited villain of the story, but surprisingly, doesn’t turn out that way; and Michael Stuhlbarg, despite not being given a whole bunch to do, still has some fun as the coordinator of this mission and it’s just nice to see him around.

Consensus: Despite a weak final-act, Arrival is interesting, thrilling and smart, while also feature another win for Denis Villeneuve, one of film’s more compelling talents who seems to be challenging himself more and more with each flick he does.

8.5 / 10

Yeah, so what?

Yeah, so what?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, TwiCopy

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

My money’s on the guy who can fly. And no, not like a bat.

After nearly destroying all of downtown Metropolis after his brawl with General Zod (Michael Shannon), Superman (Henry Cavill) isn’t quite loved by the general public. The media portrays him as either a “hero”, or a “dangerous alien”, government officials are calling for him to testify to his actions, and even those close to him, like Lois Lane (Amy Adams), still aren’t sure if he’s making the best choices. One person who would definitely agree with Lois is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), CEO of Wayne Enterprises, and one of the many people who were affected by Superman’s mayhem of destruction. Seeing as how his whole company got screwed-over by Superman, without so much as a “sorry”, or “I.O.U.”, Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands and go after Superman himself, but this time, as Batman. Meanwhile, evil-genius scientist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is conjuring up his own dastardly plan of sorts, but doesn’t seem to keen on letting those in governmental power know what it is. Obviously Superman and Batman got their issues to settle, but with Luthor somewhere in the background, they may have to push it all to the side and focus on the rest of humanity.

"Hero! Hero! Kill him!"

“Hero! Hero! Kill him!”

I’m going to be nice to Batman v Superman. Even after all of the anticipation, hype, and expectations built-up for this thing, it seems like a lot of people are, predictably, not liking it, which isn’t the only reason why I’m going to give it a break. One reason is that it’s a tad better than a lot of people seem to be giving it credit for in that it’s as dark, as serious and as brooding as you can get with a superhero movie. While Christopher Nolan may not be directing (he’s actually producing), his style is seen everywhere – the overbearing Hans Zimmer score, the countless shots of superheros looking into the distance and being sad, daddy issues, and, oh yeah, the seriousness.

Oh, so very serious.

But that’s one of the main reasons why I dug Batman v Superman in the first place – it’s not trying to crack jokes, wink at the crowd, break the fourth-wall, or make it seem like they’re out to provide knee-slappers. What it’s trying to do is give you this story, these characters, and do so in a very serious, almost unrelenting manner. The world painted here by Zack Snyder is a gritty, cold and bleak one, which definitely works, given how the first ten minutes start-off with us seeing just all of the destruction Superman caused at the end of Man of Steel. While Snyder himself may have caught a lot of flack for using that movie’s last-half as some sort of mindless 9/11 allegory, here, he shows that there’s actually a heartbeat to all of that pain and demolition; it’s not just about blowing things up for the sake of blowing them up, but showing that there’s a consequence for these kinds of actions.

That’s why, if anything, Batman v Superman seems to be, for the longest time, very anti-Superman. If it wasn’t for the first ten minutes portraying his act of retribution as something harmful to the rest of society, the following hour-and-a-half questions just what kind of being Superman is, whether or not he can be trusted, and why his better judgement may get the best of him if he’s not paying close enough attention. So rarely do superhero movies nowadays seem to hold a mirror up to their own characters in a way that Snyder, and co-writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer do with Superman and it brings up some really interesting ideas and questions about the idea of a superhero in and of itself.

Like, for instance, would we trust someone who could literally all kill us one day so easily, even if he was just saving us from every cataclysmic event? Or, would the fact that he’s always saving our butts give him enough privilege to do whatever he oh so pleased? And if not, then what would he have to do to ensure that he’s not just free-wheeling on his own? Set-up governmental rules for him to follow by? Or, just let the people decide?

Batman v Superman brings all of these questions ups and while there doesn’t seem to be much interest in actually answering them, the fact that they’re still brought-up at all means a lot.

And most of this is just to get past the fact that the rest of Batman v Superman is pretty messy and odd, even by Snyder’s standards. At two-and-a-half-hours, there’s so much, with so many, going on here, that it’s almost impossible to talk about it all to great length without spoiling something, or just getting lost in the shuffle of this movie, but just know this, there’s so much going on here that it’s basically too much. Snyder doesn’t know how to settle things down enough to where we get a few subplots and leave it at that; instead, the movie has at least five or six subplots going on, all surrounding the main, important one at the center with Batman and Superman coming to battle.

"I see youuuuuuuu!"

Way to hide, bro.

Speaking of them two, the battle they do eventually have is, pretty nice. In fact, all of the action here is pretty well-done and looks great, which is no surprise because Snyder knows his way around a good shot. It’s just that the movie literally takes two-and-a-half-hours to actually get to the ultimate showdown between Batman and Superman, when it definitely doesn’t need to. The movie already makes itself pretty damn clear what Bruce Wayne is going to be doing for the next hour, which is, chasing after Superman, so why take up all of our time, give us subplots of characters we don’t give a hoot about, and further prolonged the battle we’ve all been waiting so desperately for?

Don’t get me wrong, the fight is definitely awesome and it’s not like I would have preferred it if the fight had been in the first five seconds, but still, there’s too much time dedicated to senseless stories, when it could have been dedicated to developing both Superman and Batman more. And while you could definitely make the argument that we already got enough development with Superman, a part of me walked away feeling like Superman was a bit of a dick in this; when everyone is up-in-arms about all of the destruction he caused to the city, he literally says nothing and continues to fly around the sky, pouting, and, every so often, crying on Lois’ shoulders. No inspirational speech, no selective reasoning, no mic-drop speeches, no nothing.

He literally just takes it and leaves everyone to hate him and question him.

If anything, it’s Ben Affleck’s Batman who fares a lot better than most of the people here. As an older, much more grizzled Bruce Wayne, Affleck gets a chance to show a more seasoned-side to himself than we’ve seen in recent time and it works. While there was a public outcry over Batman being handed to Affleck, he shuts them all up by showing, not only is his Batman a freakin’ bad-ass that will literally stab a guy, or shoot him in the face, but will also take no mercy on whoever has done him wrong.

Screw these Justice League movies! Give me the solo Batfleck movie now!

Consensus: Messy and at times, incoherent, Batman v Superman has gotten its haters for a reason, but for those willing to look past its many weaknesses, will also see a very dark, very serious and very exciting superhero movie that gives us a solid new beginning to the DC franchise, that can hopefully pick up the pieces a bit after this.

6.5 / 10

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot and sexy tango that would be.

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot, sexy tango that would be.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Big Eyes (2014)

So, wait? “Tracing” isn’t actually considered art? Bollocks!

After many years of putting up with an abusive relationship, Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) wakes her daughter up, packs their bags, gets in the car, and heads straight to the city of San Francisco, where she hopes to make a living with her odd, off-kilter paintings of children with largely-proportioned eyes. However, Margaret soon has a wake-up call when she realizes that selling paintings is not only hard if you don’t know how to sell them, or to whom, but also if you’re a woman who wants to be taken more seriously in the world of art. That’s when charming businessman, and occasional painter, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz) steps into her life and practically takes her, as well as her daughter, by storm. They get married and, wouldn’t you know it? The two start actually selling their paintings and gain some notoriety in the meantime. Except, that the paintings they’re selling aren’t just Margaret’s, but that they’re Margaret’s, being passed-off as Walter’s, and by none other than Walter himself. It’s an obvious dilemma, but one that falls into some strange, crazy places along the way.

He paints.

He paints.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been impressed by a Tim Burton movie. Most of that has to do with his over-bearing style that hasn’t been fresh since Sleepy Hollow, and some of that also has to do with the fact that the guy can’t seem to get enough of that bro-mance he has with Johnny Depp. But now, for the first time since 2003, Burton has stepped away from his life with Depp and seems to be getting back to his older, Ed Wood-ish days where he not only focused on real life, actual human beings, but give us a humane, relatively normal view into their lives. While it may sound ordinary and boring, for someone like Burton, that’s sort of the point. In order to show the world that you’ve still got the story-telling talent that made you so well-liked and appreciated before, sometimes, you just have to go back to the basics of what made you famous in the first place.

That’s why, after many years of disappointment, after disappointment, it seems like Burton’s back on-track. For how long, is a whole other question entirely, but for now, let’s just suck up Big Eyes for all that it is: A solid, well-told, and overall, well-done biopic about a very strange, but very true real life story.

Without diving in too deep and getting even myself lost in what I’m trying to say, I’ll just note that Big Eyes is a pretty-looking movie. Every set-piece feels and looks exactly like how the bright, lovely days and nights of the 50’s would feel and look, but that’s not what makes this movie to begin with. What mainly does it is the fact that Burton keeps his eye on the story here, as well as its characters, and hardly ever branches away from it. While one could say he’s doing himself a slight by holding back and telling this story as by-the-numbers as one could get, for someone like Burton, that isn’t a bad thing.

In fact, Burton shows resilience here that I haven’t seen from him in quite some time, and it works for the movie as it allows for this story to tell itself, and dive in deeper to some of the more interesting aspects of itself. For instance, the movie makes it clear that while there were many female artists successfully working in the 1950’s, most of them didn’t have the type of sales-pitch to certain people to not only make them rich, but well-known by more people than just their peers, but also by people who don’t usually pay attention to art in the first place. Mostly what Margaret Keane paints are creepy-looking children that’s meant to mean something, yet, what that something means, we never know.

However, that’s sort of the point Burton’s trying to drive home here – it’s not that the art is saying or doing anything spectacular, it’s more so that it was famous and sold really well to those who liked to impress their fellow friends and confidantes at fancy, extravagant dinner-parties. In other words, the art world is based on people’s bullshit and what’s sort of interesting about what this movie does is that it actually explores the notion that maybe that bullshit is exactly what somebody like Walter Keane thrived on. He loved the spectacle of art, and didn’t really care about whatever message it was trying to get across; simply, he just wanted it to make people happy. And for some reason, that’s what Margaret’s art: Made people happy, even if they didn’t know how or why. It simply just did.

But while Burton touches the surface of this idea, there’s a slight feeling that it doesn’t go down this road as much as it should. This makes sense considering how close the still-living Margaret Keane seemed to be during the making of this movie, but it also takes away from what could have been a very thought-provoking piece about the world of art, why it’s important, and just why someone like Walter Keane was able to exploit for all that it was worth, even if he didn’t mean to intentionally do so. However, like I said before though, Burton still keeps this story fun, light, and interesting, even if it seems like he’s just going by on what the time-line presents him with. That’s not a bad thing, per se, especially because the story itself is quite fun and interesting, but it made me wish there’d been more of a push and shove into actually developing these characters, as well as their situations just a bit more.

Though, to be honest, I’ll take a pleasant Burton-piece over another Johnny Deep team-up, any day of the week.

And I do wholeheartedly mean that, too.

She paints.

She paints.

Where Keane’s lives and personalities get the most attention are from the performances by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams, who are both fine in this movie, even if they both seem like they’re in two different movies altogether. Waltz is probably the clearest example of this as his Walter Keane is all over-the-place – and I do mean that in the literal-sense. Right from when we’re introduced to him, we get the sense that Walter Keane is a bit of a sneaky fella who may be using Margaret for his own well-being, or may be a simple, nice guy who actually has an attraction to Margaret that doesn’t concern him seeing dollar-signs. Either way, the guy clearly seems to be off-his-rocker every time he is around other people and you never know whether or not it’s all an act to make himself seem likable, or he really is just this nutty, energetic of a bro.

The movie never fully hits a specific landing-strip on what it wants to say about Walter Keane, except that he was clearly the bad guy in this story. That said, Waltz is usually great at playing a bad guy in any story, and also even being able to bring out some humanity within as well. And that’s exactly what he does here as Walter Keane, except that he’s incredibly hammy and over-the-top, for better, as well as for worse. For better, because he actually brings a lot of fun and excitement to the character of Walter Keane who, from what I’ve read, was pretty much that kind of person in real life. And, for worse, because he seems to be trying his hardest to steal every single scene away from Amy Adams and her incredibly subtle performance. Though it’s always intriguing to see what rabbit Waltz is able to pull out of this character’s hat next, it mostly seems to take away from what’s a very powerful performance from the always great Adams, although you wouldn’t know it.

Adams down-plays her role as Margaret and does a fine job at it, so much so, that it actually makes it understandable as to why a meek, mild woman such as herself would actually marry such a hyperactive and wild charmer like Walter Keane. They aren’t the perfect match for one another, but they’re both there for one another in a time where they seem like they need someone the most; to love, to cherish, to hold, and to also pay rent. So yeah, to me, it made sense why Margaret would actually take a sacrifice in her life and marry Walter, even if that meant she’d be sacrificing a whole lot more than her time – her art. Art which, to begin with, was already nice and pretty to look at, but anything more would just be too much.

Hey, sort of like this movie! Wow!

Consensus: Oddly enough, Big Eyes finds Tim Burton at his most restrained and simple, yet, it works wholly because the real life story he’s covering is an odd and complex one, but also fun and interesting into the certain areas it goes.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We all paint!

We all paint!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Should we blame the tax-payers for the war in Afghanistan? Wait a minute, that’s us!

Texas congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is one hell of a wild guy. He loves his ladies, he loves his booze, he loves his blow, but most of all, he loves the one main thing that’s nearest and dearest to his heart: His money. Eventually though, all of those fun times and partying, soon catch-up with him when a scandal between him and two strippers gets leaked to the public-media. Miraculously somehow, he beat the rap. How? Well, let’s just say he got two very smart and powerful friends of his, Joanne Herring and Gust Avrakotos (Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman), to help him fund resistance fighters in Afghanistan as they fought with the Soviets. Seemed like a pretty good idea to Charlie at the time, but little did he know of the consequences.

Pretty sure most of you know exactly where this story goes and is most likely going to end-up, considering after about two decades of Charlie Wilson’s high-minded ideas, we are still feeling the effects. That’s obvious to us all now, but back then, not many people knew of what would happen down the road and thought that everything that this man Charlie was doing, was the act of a Saint-like creature. Maybe so at the same time, but look where we are now.

But I digress. Being that this a movie all about politics and most of it takes place in the rooms where most of our politicians duke-it-out in a “Whose Ego is Bigger” competition, it would only seem right that Aaron Sorkin be given the reigns to write this movie and given a chance to do everything that he does best: Write snippy, snappy screenplays. And that’s all pretty on-display here, but with a slight twist this time around. Being that is the true story of Charlie Wilson and how he single-handedly manipulated his way into a war, was way beyond me and something I just could not believe. However, I did some research, and surprise, surprise! Most of it as all true and it’s only Sorkin’s job to not only show us that, but to also keep us entertained as well.

They're soooo gonna bone.

They’re so gonna bone.

The script never loses steam, as you can just tell that Sorkin is firing on this story from all cylinders. Yeah, there were certain moments where this flick got a tad too serious and had to show us the true problems with Charlie and all of the people around him, but not too much of it is placed on them and instead, what we get to see a lot of is Charlie being a slick, charming and sometimes, conniving politician. It’s all fun to watch and if anything, is actually a bit insightful since we get to see him slime his way around the office, without ever really saying what it is that he’s all about, or what it is that he truly feels. We don’t even really know if he’s a good guy or not, but what we do know is that he’s a smart guy that is in the position that he’s in for a reason. Got to give major kudos to Sorkin for making another political story that’s apparently based on “fact”, and making me feel like I was right there from beginning to end to see it all go down.

The other-half of the kudos has to go to the cast, whom are all great, do what they do best and make this script seem legit, as if they could have really been speaking this lingo themselves. Tom Hanks in the role of Charlie Wilson may seem like a bit of a miscast, considering the guy we all know and love as our everyday type of dude that just so happens to be a movie star, is in his first scene drinking, doing blow and hanging out with strippers. It’s a bit of a surprise to see Hanks play this cad-like dude, but Hanks’ charm always shines through and makes Charlie Wilson a great person to watch. You can’t really assure yourself that you’re going to like him at all by the end of the movie, but to watch Hanks use that inexplicable likability to his advantage and make everybody else around him, fall in love with him as quick as we all do, is a true testament to the actor’s skills. We all know by now that Hanks is a great actor, but even for someone like him, it’s great to see him stretch his wings a bit.

Julia Roberts plays his “gal-pal” of sorts, Joanne Herring, and doesn’t stretch herself nearly as much as Hanks, but is still entertaining to watch. Roberts just feels like she’s one of these bad, naughty girls that knows what it is she wants, knows what she likes and knows how to get it, so what does she do? She does whatever is possible to acquire her needs and not only does it work because she is still smokin’, but because the girl has a look and feel to her that is so damn spicy. Sorry if this sounds like all I am doing is complimenting Julia Roberts on how mighty fine of a dime she is, but she did a nice job here and I’m just giving her credit where it’s definitely due.

The one out of this cast that really stood-out is Philip Seymour Hoffman as the CIA agent, Gust Avrakotos. Hoffman’s first scene where we see him yelling and arguing with his boss, is exactly what we expect from this guy and the meshing of his skills as an actor, with Sorkin’s skills as a writer, is like a match-made-in-heaven. Hoffman is so slimy and sneaky, that you never quite know what the hell this guy is up to, whether or not it’s the right thing to do, or what he has up his sleeve next. However, at the end of the story, he ends up being the guy with the best conscience of all of these people, and will definitely surprise you. He cares about humanity and he sure as hell cares for his country, but he also cares about getting the job done and doing everything right. Hoffman is a perfection in this role and I don’t really see how they could have casted anybody different for a person like this. Whether or not the real Gust Avrakotos was actually like this, is beyond me, but Hoffman makes this guy the one you can’t wait to see show up, speak, make fun of somebody, and just be a dick, like we all know and love him as being.

"Bring up a 10-bag, A.S.A.P.!

“Bring up a dime-bag, ASAP!

Despite all of the great, wonderful and beautiful things I may be saying about this movie, there’s still something in the pit of my stomach that’s holding me back from liking it just a bit more. See, with this lightning-quick pace we get from both Sorkin and director Mike Nichols, there’s never a moment where we actually get some time to sit-down, relax and let it all sink in. We understand the how and the why what we are seeing is relevant, but it never fully hits us like it should, mostly due to the fact that Nichols’ direction definitely seems to be hiding behind the fact that his material may not be all that weighty to begin with, or just a bit messy.

And don’t get me wrong, I think I’ve already made it clear-enough that I absolutely adored Sorkin’s script, it’s just clear that there could have been a lot more development with this material and the political-point it was trying to make. I wasn’t asking for anything along the lines of a Michael Moore documentary, but a bit more of a high-light on what was coming down the bend would have gone a long way. That, and the movie’s overall balance of comedy and drama. However, when you have an Aaron Sorkin-scripted piece of material, you have to be happy and just embrace for what it is. I guess.

Consensus: Sorkin’s witty and snappy script, the ensemble cast and ideas made about current-day politics are all terrific and all, but that’s all Charlie Wilson’s War is content with being: An enjoyable time, with not much else added to the proceedings. Just a whole bunch of pretty, shiny and entertaining stuff to show us.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman's increasingly-large forehead.

Ahhh! The beaming light off of Hoffman’s increasingly-large forehead!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Her (2013)

If Scar-Jo was my computer, then yes, I’d consider it. Her, or Bea Arthur.

Somewhere in the not-too-distant future, L.A. writer Theodore Bwombly (Joaquin Phoenix) finds himself in a bit of a rut. After his wife (Rooney Mara) asked for him to sign the divorce papers, he’s been a bit slacking in terms of getting a move-on with that, his love life, or just getting out there and meeting new people in general. I guess you could consider him “antisocial”, although he does still hang-out and pal-around with an old friend of his (Amy Adams); but other than that, he’s practically all alone up in his big apartment, where he sits around, plays interactive video-games and even ends some nights with eventful bouts of late-night chats with complete and total strangers. This all changes once he discovers a new operating-system by the name “OS1”, which promises him “the closest thing he’ll ever get to a real, honest human-connection”. Theodore believes this, downloads the system and eventually, is graced with the presence of Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) who, at first, Theodore feels a bit odd with. Which, yes, is expected considering that she’s just a speaking-system that he just so happens to be stuck with, but over time, the two begin to grow closer as they help each other out in ways they never expected to, like in discovering life, love, the pursuit of happiness, and heck, even sex. So yep, it gets pretty crazy and passionate, but eventually, like most romances do, problems do arise, uncertainties are brought into the equation, and feelings are hurt; and a relationship with an operating-system doesn’t make that any further from happening. In fact, maybe even more likely to happen.

Must've been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

Must’ve been real bummed-out about not getting the role of Mario in the upcoming film-adaptation.

I know some of you may have already been lost at “human falls in love with operating-system”, and trust me, with anybody else behind this, I would have been too. However, this is not just directed, but written by Spike Jonze and from what I can tell you, the guy’s pretty damn amazing at what it is that he does, especially when it comes to making magic with something as odd and as unique as this. But considering that Charlie Kaufman isn’t around to lay-down the ground-work for him this time around, it makes you wonder: Can Jonze handle all of the pressure when it’s placed upon himself, or, does he simply fold and make this something that’s “too strange” for anybody to even like?

Well, for the most part, Jonze succeeds. And then some.

First things first, this movie would not work at all if it weren’t for the fact that Jonze himself was actually able to get us to believe the relationship that our main character Theodore has with his operating-system. It makes a slight bit of sense that someone as sad, lonely and clinically-depressed as Theo would actually have a relationship with somebody he wouldn’t have to see, touch or even impregnate in order to fall in love with, but it makes total sense why it is that he falls for her, and why it is that you actually want to see them together in the end, despite all of the obvious problems surrounding that outcome.

For instance, like what most relationships are based-on, is the way in which both companions actually do something for the betterment of the other. Theo allows Samantha to experience life in its finest, most complete-form; whereas Samantha allows Theodore someone he can vent-out to, be encouraged by, gain some insight from and most of all, actually connect with. Sure, she definitely is a computer when you get right down to it, but she’s more than just a bunch of data filled with numbers, codes and chips. She’s actually a “thing” that has feelings, emotions, wants, needs, pleasures, desires, dreams, ideas, insecurities, doubts, and anything else you could name that a normal, everyday human-being would have. The only difference here is that she’s an operating-system that you can talk to and engage with through a little speaker in your ear, or anywhere else.

In fact, I’m only going to say this now considering I’m already on a roll and I kind of want to get this out of the way, is that the problem I sometimes had with this movie was that it wasn’t always clear how Theo and others around him could constantly chat-it-up with Samantha, despite it obviously being clear that he needed an ear-piece in, in order to do so. I don’t know, maybe it was something that I missed, but once others could hear Samantha as perfectly and as understandably as Theo did, it kind of had me scratching my head. Didn’t bring this movie down an awful-lot, but did bother me a tad bit whenever it showed up.

Anyway, back to the good stuff, of which there is plenty more of!

Like I was saying though with the relationship between Samantha and Theodore, although it may clearly be an odd relationship between two, highly unlikely candidates, Jonze makes it work solely through the way in which he channels ordinary feelings, emotions and happenings that go on during any relationship, whether it be good ones, or bad ones. While doing this though, he also channels through the step-by-step process in which a relationship builds into being over time, which is something that surprised me the most in how honest, and sometimes heart-breaking it was to take note of.

At first, the relationship is blossoming with countless acts of sex during the day; plenty of late-night talks that go on and on about seemingly nothing; getting comfortable with another person to the point of where you think you know them from the inside, to the outside; aspirations for the future in which one party would be able to meet the other parties’ friends, families, confidants, etc.; the action of getting a place together, moving and even looking for a house pet by any chance; and even the slightest, yet clear discussion about the possibility of moving even more forward and “getting serious” about what it is that these two people into question have together, that possibly, could last forever.

That all seems like the quintessential, go-to sets of standards of what it’s like to be involved with a romance when its first stages, and when it begins to move further and further on into being something deadly, freakin’ serious. It’s what we all know and live by, and that’s just the way basic humans are. It’s neither good nor bad; in fact, I’d say that it’s freakin’ beautiful.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

Nice to see a recent-movie in which Amy Adams has more than one-layer of clothing on.

But, as we all know, there are those problems that casually show up when two people get together and start swapping as many emotions with one another, as they do fluids and it seems like it’s nearly unavoidable, no matter how perfect you think you got it. Eventually, tensions do arise when people start to experience new things; change in ways that they themselves realize, but are too scared of telling the other person; passions begin to go away; eyes start to linger elsewhere; minds don’t seem to cling together as well anymore as they used to, and instead, more or less clang together; and the worst of all, finding something, and/or someone else that seems better for you in many more ways than one.

These happenings are usually what one can expect when a relationship that was once beautiful, passionate, romantic and heartfelt in every sense of the word, suddenly goes South. And what sucks the most is that you don’t know how, you don’t know why, and you sure as heck don’t know what to do in order to you to stop it from ending and being tarnished in the ground forever. All you know is that what it is you have with this person, is real, honest, lovely and altogether, very painful when you get to look at it. When a relationship ends, it doesn’t just end with a whimper, but it ends with a bang in which a connection that two people shared together, seems like it could be gone. And in some cases, possibly gone forever.

Yes, it’s all so very sad and yes, it can be avoided in some situations (trying to re-ignite the flame by getting freaky with it, bringing in the shrink, asking for advice, etc.), but in reality, it’s inevitable. I truly do hate to sound like the miserable, cynical, “love sucks” a-hole that would much rather watch a movie about two people falling in love, than actually going out there into the field, making myself known and experience some lovin’ for myself, but that truly isn’t the case here. I’ve been in plenty of relationships (or in some cases, “something” that was close enough to being one), with plenty of different gals over the year to realize that this transition from absolute adoration for the other person, may not always last. And sometimes, it may even get so ugly and negative to the point of where it’s not even worth sticking around for. But people do try, and more than likely, they succeed and end-up sticking with that special someone of theirs forever and ever, or at least for a very long time.

But that’s what life is all about: Finding someone, getting to know them, falling for them, handing yourself to them on a silver-platter, realizing that they’re everything you could want in the world and basically, just finishing it by sticking together, or calling it quits. Either way, it’s a fact of life that I’ve been through many of times, and although I’d like to think that each and every time I step up to the plate, I’ve learned something new, tricky or life-changing about “The Game of Love“, reality hits me with a curve-ball and reminds me that I really don’t. But hey, that’s not a bad thing. That’s just life; I’m human, you’re human, we’re all human and that’s what humans do: We make good decisions and we make mistakes, but we always get back-up and ride the horse again.

That’s why watching the relationship between Samantha and Theodore develop over time to the point of where I wouldn’t see “an operating-system and a human falling in love with one another”, but rather, “two emotional, sensitive and compassionate-beings falling in love with one another, that also happen to be an operating-system and a human.” And to see these two as they realize who it is that they are when they’re around the other, and certainly away, really did touch me and had me remember all of the relationships I’ve had in the past. But most importantly, I thought about the memories: The good times, the bad times, the sexually-active times, the romantic times, the frustrating times, the upsetting times and how each and every one has shaped me into the person who I am today. Not just in the relationship-world, but in the world in general.

Jonze taps into this reality about our lives oh so beautifully, that isn’t all about the heart, the romance, or the drama, because, believe it or not, there is actually plenty of comedy to be had here. Most of the comedy to be found here stems from the fact that everybody in the future relies more on technology than ever before, but they aren’t cheap jokes. Like it’s not the type of, “Oh, look how funny it is that that person can’t stop texting at the table,” joke, but more sophisticated in the manner that Jonze shows us that we rely on technology so much, that it would totally break-down our lives if it were to go away in some shape, or form. It’s funny, but it’s also true. Brutally so, too.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we've all been there.

The dreaded ex that haunts your dreams and daily-life for the rest of your existence. Yeah, bud, we’ve all been there.

Also, one aspect of this movie that a lot of the laughs seem to come from are with the performances of both Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson who both have some pretty hard tasks on their hands, but handle it effortlessly and make this a romance one won’t soon forget. Though Phoenix has never been known as the main source for comedy, but here, he’s pretty damn funny, but in a subtle manner. The way he uses his eyes or facial-expressions to make clear to us whatever emotion it is that he’s feeling, really worked for me and not only made me crack-up more than a few times, but made me feel more for this character of Theodore, who, in essence, is a hurt, beaten-up, heart-broken man that’s left with just about little to nil direction left in his life of where it is that he wants to go or what it is that he wants to do next with it. However, he’s not a boring loser and after awhile, once we get to spend more time with him and see who he is as a person, we realize that he’s just a really nice, fun-loving type of dude that used to be cool, happenin’ and the life of the party; it’s just been awhile since he’s been able to do so and he’s finally getting that chance. Phoenix is wonderful here and for a guy who has been of his for a long, LONG time, let’s just say that I’m happy to see my man Joaquin not only lighten-up the mood a little bit, but smile as well.

Sheesh! When was the last time we saw that dude crack a cheek-to-cheek grin on his face?!!?

As good as Phoenix is though, he somehow gets over-shadowed by the fact that Scarlett Johansson, using only her voice, is able to make us think-up, dream-about and visualize a character of who it is that she would be, as Samantha. I don’t know if I’m alone or not in this voice, but I’ve always thought that Johansson had a wonderful voice and it was about time it was put to the test that was more than just her singing out some classic, gold oldies. Now, we have her voice that practically takes up half of what we hear in the movie, but it never gets old and the character itself, is written so richly, that you understand why somebody like Theodore would fall head-over-heals for it. Heck, you may even ponder the question yourself! Regardless, the chemistry the two have together is pitch-perfect and not only makes you believe in their relationship when it’s beginning to pick-up speed, but when it surprisingly starts to fall-apart. They both seem perfect together and like they know what the other person wants in a relationship, but you know that with them, like with any other relationship out there in the world, conflict is inevitable, and so is the parting-ways between two people. It’s just all a matter of moving on, remember everything that you’ve been through and knowing that life does, and will continue on, that is really important.

Consensus: Her may have a weird premise on-paper, but it works out as perfectly as any other romance put-to-screen in a long while and will more than likely bring a few tears down the cheeks of many on-lookers, as well as having plenty of high-school sweetheart’s getting drunk-dialed in the middle of the night from a sobbing, incoherently rambling ex of theirs. But that’s perfect though, because love truly does make one person do the darnedest things.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who "that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself", was. And then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Everybody on that beach was probably thinking who “that weird guy walking, smiling, laughing and talking all by himself”, was. Then they realized it was Joaquin, so they no longer were curious anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Junebug (2005)

Families from the North are so boring.

High-class gallery owner Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) meets a young, charming guy (Alessandro Nivola) and they instantly fall in love. They don’t really get the chance to know each other fully, but they do know that they want each other, and badly. So, why not tie the knot while the emotions are telling you to? Well, they do! But once their done with the honey-moon, all of the sex, and all of the other lovin’ that goes on, Madeleine has to get right back down to business and start recruiting for his next art-show, which somehow brings all the way to North Carolina. The artist she wants has an odd style, but that doesn’t matter because she’s unique so obviously Madeleine can’t pass up on that. Oh, and also, her hubby’s family just so happens to live there as well, which means that she gets the chance to meet the fam-squad, in all their Southern-glory.

Judging by what you read up there for that synopsis, you are probably already thinking that it’s going to be another goofy, wacky take on what would happen when a Northern, uptight, richy-rich had to be stuck with the backwood crazy in-laws. That is sort of the take on the movie, but it’s not as goofy as you may think. Because remember, it’s an indie flick, and if you know your indies, trust me, they aren’t going to play by the rules. But in a way, for once in my life, I sort of wish that they did.

A lot of the stereotypes you expect from a movie about meeting the in-laws is here: The disapproving mother; the mad, slightly jealous brother; the in-law that tries so hard to be nice, but instead becomes smothering; the reserved father, etc. And to be honest, all of the stereotypes ring true well-enough to where you understand why these characters act the way that they do when they’re around certain people. However, they also seem a bit tired here as the film tries too hard to make us feel for these characters/stereotypes, when it isn’t really doing anything in the first place. The script itself had some very high moments where I was expecting them to go a certain type of direction and really get us involved with these characters and their lives, but instead, the film would just cut-away or throw something quirky in there for harm’s sake. I get it, these Southerners are goofy, but that doesn’t mean that everything they do has to be stupid, silly, and/or out-of-this-world. They can be just like you or me and have a normal conversation, about normal things, and go through their days as everyday, normal people. Seriously, I’m no Southerner myself, but if I was, I’d be a bit offended with this.

"What's your name? Aww, fuck it. Let's get hitched!"

“What’s your name? Aww, fuck it. Let’s get hitched!”

I have to give the film some credit though, because it does try to bring some heart and emotion out of these characters, which it does succeed surprisingly well in. But most of that is thanks to the actors portraying them, the problem is something with the script that just isn’t giving them the brilliance most of them deserve. Something by the end of the movie happens, and I won’t say what, but it’s pretty sad and the film tries to capitalize on the emotion of it by showing all of the characters different perspectives on it, but strangely, it was a very detached moment I had with the flick. Yeah, it was kind of upsetting to see some of these characters all upset about something bad that has just happened, but did it make me care anymore? No, not really. Maybe with the exception of maybe one or two characters out of the whole slew, but overall, I just did not feel attached. Like something was missing, or that my copy of this made a skip by accident.

But it wasn’t the fact that these characters didn’t do much for me, it’s also the fact that the direction seemed a bit lazy. Director Phil Morrison seems like he’s trying so damn hard to make us feel like we are right there in the South by constantly having this movie move at a slow, death-like pace to get us in-touch with the way these Southerners live. You know, because no matter what happens during a Southerners’ day, they never feel the need to move around, run, or move at a fast-paced speed. It’s always got to be slow and steady, and with a film like this, trust me, it doesn’t win the race.

See what I did there? I’m a cheeky motherfucker sometimes, I gotta say.

As much as I’m ragging and tagging on this film, I can’t say that I absolutely hated it. The reason I say that, is mainly because of Amy Adams in what is one of the most energetic and spirited performances I have ever seen this gal give, which is saying a hell of a whole lot. I’m not going to lie, Adams has not always been a favorite of mine but she has never really been a hater of mine, either, if that makes any sense. I’ve always appreciated the amount of energy and class she’s been able to give in countless movies where everybody else seems like they’re just snoozing the whole time, and hey, she’s also got four Oscar nominations to show for it too, so you can’t go wrong with her on that boat. Her role here as Ashley, the extremely pregnant sister-in-law who, right from our first glimpse of her, absolutely lights up everyone and everything else around her in the movie, and doesn’t let-up neither. No wonder why the Academy felt like she deserved a nomination here!

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Not pregnant, but, PREGNANT.

Ashley is one of those goofy, naive characters that shows up in a movie or two and just annoys the hell out of some people, but Adams plays it different. You could almost say that all of the annoyance and constant wackiness to her character has something underlining it all and it’s an impending sadness within herself that really makes this character click the whole way through. We constantly see her struggle with being pregnant, not having a hubby that wants a baby with her, and jnot being able to get the love in return, that she seems to give so much away of. It’s a sad character if you really think about it, but Adams successfully disguises that with her sunny-side-up approach to everything in this movie, making her performance/character definitely the most memorable aspect of this whole thing. Honestly, she has to be because I just wrote two freakin’ paragraphs about her. And I never do that!

Then again, due to Adams being so lively all the time, she actually, slowly but surely, steals the show from everybody else and it’s pretty evident as to why: None of these characters have anything really going for themselves that’s worth shining a light on in the first place. Embeth Davidtz is the only one who comes remotely close to doing so as Madeleine, a character so nice and beautiful, that it’s hard to see why the family doesn’t love her right after the introductions have been made; Allesandro Nivola tries his hardest as George, but, despite being the main character that this story mainly surrounds itself around, he’s rarely in it and when he does show-up, seems a bit misplaced from the rest of the material; Benjamin McKenzie shows up as Johnny, George’s brother, and barely speaks at all throughout the whole film and is too much of an asshole to really have a care for at all; and Celia Weston plays Peg, George and Johnny’s mama, who’s good in some spots, but in others, seems like she’s trying too hard to be that disapproving mother who doesn’t think any girl is good enough for her boy. Trust me, that act, gets way, way old by about the 17th girlfriend. Give it up mommas!

Consensus: The more and more that I think about Junebug, the more I feel like it’s just a mixed-bag with plenty of smart ideas and moments of inspiration, but yet, never knows what to do with them, or how to have them all come out in a smart, effective way. The only way this movie is smart and effective, is all through Amy Adams’ break-out performance, which goes to show you why we’re still in love with her, all these years later.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

He can walk?!?!?

He can walk without crutches?!?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Man of Steel (2013)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman going in really, really slo-motion.

After his mother and father (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) are killed and destroyed, along with everything else on his home planet of Krypton, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lands on a farm in the middle of Kansas, owned by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). While he’s on Earth, he finds out who he really is, what his powers are, what he’s supposed to do with them, and what could be made of them. However, he those are just ideas and questions juggling around in his head, as he, nor anybody else that knows of his secret powers are quick to give the answers to any of them. So, in spite of the life-saving abilities he has as something that’s not from planet Earth, he decides to lay low with a bunch of seamen (not that type, pervs), that is, until General Zod (Michael Shannon comes back from his home planet to unleash his wrath and anger on Clark, along with the rest of the human-beings on planet Earth, some of which, especially fame-hungry journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), he cares about.

Superman, no matter what your stance is on the Marvel Universe, is the definitive superhero of our time. So definitive, that it’s almost way too hard to make a movie out of him, because you never know what you’re going to get right about his story, what you’re going to get wrong, what you missed completely, and what isn’t the right way to develop his story and all that he can do. He’s had plenty of movies, comic books, and even his own WB television series (top of the food-chain right there), but nothing has ever seem to really get him right in terms of the who, the what, the where, the when, the why, and all of the finer-details in between all of the sci-fi talk and hooplah.

Something tells me that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer all knew this and had the bright idea that some justice needed to be done! However, they haven’t quite done it the justice that even the big man in spandex would approve himself, but he would at least give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re getting there and it’s only a matter of time until we are taken by the Clark, as much as we were with Peter and Bruce, not too long ago.

"Don't worry, guys. I think I got this one."

“Don’t worry, guys. I think I got this one.”

Give it some time and just let it happen. It will. If not now, then definitely, maybe later.

Where most of this “justice” comes from is in the first hour or so of this movie, that not only packs on all of the exposition and back-up info we need to, even if we already do, know about our man of the 2 hours and some-odd minutes, but gives us plenty more themes and ideas to tackle. We never think in our minds, but if somebody like Superman was to ever come into our lives; we would not have the brightest clue what to do with him, other than just push him to the side and be scared that he might just turn on you. That’s exactly the type of idea this movie touches on, and while we’re still in the period and time where our superheros are crying, more than they are actually kicking some baddie-butt, at least it can still be done in a well-deserved, original way that makes us gain more respect and gratitude for this character.

It all gets better too once Clark begins to see more of what’s on the in, rather than the out (even though he isn’t doing so bad with that aspect). The attention to detail of who this character is and why, all makes sense, seems logical, and doesn’t have you scratching your brain or throwing your hands up in the air because you felt like they couldn’t come up with anything smart, so just went with their gut-feeling and threw it all up. It works, it makes sense, and it keeps this story fresh, and full of new ideas; exactly what I expected when you got three minds like Nolan, Snyder, and Goyer on the job.

However, once things get hairy and the movie hits that hour-mark; things begin to change up a wee-bit, my friends, and not in the good way either. See, with the first hour of this movie, we really got a look and feel for Superman, who he was as a person, what he was feeling, why we should care for him, and root for him to do the right thing and stand up for Earth, even though we know that’s exactly what his brave-ass is going to do (what’s a superhero for anyway?). It’s dramatic in the way that it knows it’s a movie about a guy who flies around with a cape, but takes itself seriously enough to where you feel the story and all that it’s trying to get across, but it all goes away once the three minds I alluded to earlier, realized that they were still making a movie about “a guy that flies around with a cape”, and couldn’t have it be smart, enlightening, or a powerful experience in the least bit. It had to be loud, angry, violent, chaotic, special-effects-fueled, and most of all: a summer flick movie.

Yes, yes, yes! I know that I may be going against this flick bit too much by coming at it’s neck for being a summer flick, that is actually released in the summer, but I’m not rolling like that. What I’m angry at this flick for doing, is getting me all hyped-up, ready, and locked-up for an experience unlike any other superhero movie I’ve seen in some recent time, but what I got was something that started off with more than enough originality to soak us up, away from the sun, but got rid of them once the explosions and fighting came in. Which, trust me, isn’t a bad thing because I love the occasional beat-down as much as the next bad-ass motherfucker, but I have to say that this flick, with the way that it’s done and at the capacity it’s constantly at; it’s a damn shame. Everything was working so fine too, and then Warner Bros. had to (possibly) screw it all up.

Damn, major, Hollywood producers!

"In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!"

“In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!”

But the movie does deliver on it’s goods when it comes to being an action movie, with superhero’s doing superhero-like things, it just seems like a bit of a bummer after the incredible start we got. With that taken into the mind, Snyder still does a nice job at showing all types of carnage and destruction, without ever having it look too campy or using that dreaded slo-mo of his. The man also shows that he’s more than capable of being subtle with what he wants to say, and how he wants to get his words across, without literally spelling them out on the screen or having the character say it for him. Snyder seems like he’s changing and evolving more as a filmmaker and it has me anticipate more and more what’s next to come of him and his career. And I’m not just talking about the next Superman movie, I’m talking about whatever he decides to do next as a project. No matter what, sign me up and get me a Redbull!

An aspect of this movie that Snyder handles perfectly, is the impressive ensemble he’s been able to put together. Henry Cavill leads the day as Superman/Clark Kent and does a serviceable job as the man with the big red cape, but here’s the thing about him: he isn’t given much to do. When it comes to being a superhero, having those sort of traits, and making us feel like this guy could, and would go to bat for our race of humans, had he been pushed into doing so, but he isn’t given much else other than that. Cavill’s definitely a charming, handsome-looking dude, no doubt about that one, but something still felt like there should have been more given to this guy, in order for him to really work his ass off. Just like with Snyder’s direction, I hope to see it get better and better as the sequels come piling in.

Despite her being a tad too old to play young, hot-shot journalist of the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Amy Adams is still great because she has that fiery-attitude of hers that meshes well with the character, as well as being an equal of sorts to Superman. She doesn’t fall head-over-heels for the dude right away, it takes some time and some development to really have them fall in love, and I have to say that it was pretty damn effective by what they were able to do with them both. Nothing spectacular, but better than what we’re used to getting with superhero/human romances. Laurence Fishburne plays Perry White, her boss, and is good, but really serves no purpose in this movie other than to be Perry White who’s there to give Lois a hard-ass time, run when the shit gets heavy, and remind us that he’ll probably play a bigger part in the sequels as well. I look forward to it, but as for now; I wait and I wonder. Just like I do with everyday-life.

"Perry White", get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, "Perry WHITE".

“Perry White”, get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, “Perry WHITE”.

A lot of people praised the hell out of the decision to cast Michael Shannon as General Zod and although I think it was a smart move since this guy can be completely bonkers when he wants to, I still feel like there’s a better performance from this dude, lying within all of the yelling and screaming. Zod definitely has a moral-dilemma here that’s supposed to make us wonder if what he’s planning on doing is the right, or the wrong thing, however, the movie only seems to touch that surface and go nowhere else with it. It’s just Zod being a dick, and although I like Shannon playing a dick, especially one that just so happens to be General Zod, it’s not like I haven’t seen this type of performance done before, done better, and done by Shannon himself.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents, aka, the people who take Clark in as a wee, little boy, and both are fantastic. I thought Costner’s role was going to be shoe-horned in because he’s a big, but aging-star, but he did well with the role and provided plenty of emotion, depth, and understanding for the character of Clark Kent, that carries on mostly throughout the film. Lane is also great because she provides the same type of emotional-attachment to Clark, and never feels like she’s over-doing the earnestness. And lastly, we have Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Clark’s real daddy, and in a day and age where Crowe can’t seem to do anything right by anybody’s imagination, it’s nice to be reminded that not only can do the dude still act and have us bring some tears to our eyes, but also kick some ass when he needs to. Just stay away from the microphone, buddy, and all will be fine with your career and respect you oh so desire.

Consensus: Though it definitely starts off great, with just enough attention to exposition, character, story, and heart, Man of Steel eventually takes a detour into the loud, action-y, stupid, and brainless exercise that we’re used to getting with superhero movies, but feels like a bit of a disappointment now, knowing what could have been, and still might be, seeing what the sequels can do next.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well, he just broke the vault so that's considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude's gonna get pinched with a lifer.

Okay, well, he just broke-open the vault so that’s considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude’s gonna get pinched with a lifer.

Stoker (2013)

Family is weird.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a young girl who suspects her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) is up to some sheisty-dealings after he comes to live with her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) following the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). But instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the main hype for this movie is surrounding the fact that this is South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), making his American feature-film debut and shows something to all of the other foreign directors that seemed to get thrown into the mix when they have to take crap material in the states. It seems to happen to every foreign-language director who makes a splash elsewhere, but Chan-wook is different. This is his film all the way through, and it’s usually for better, and for worse. Depending on the type of person you really are and what you like. Me, I’m still on the fence.

What makes this movie work is that it does have a very, very mysterious atmosphere and tone about it to where you have no idea what’s going, and exactly who’s behind all of these weird shenanigans that have been going on. From the get-go, it’s pretty obvious that not everything is as it seems to be, but that didn’t matter because it’s more deliberately-used, as Chan-wook allows his flick to build up more steam and tension as it goes along. For me, I always thought I knew where this story was going, how, and what they were going to reveal to me next, but that’s only because I’ve seen a shit-ton of movies. This movie actually surprised me when it was able to take leaps of death that I wasn’t in the least-bit expecting, and I have to give Chan-wook a bunch of credit for that, because it’s something that some of our finest, working-directors in America still don’t have the courage to pull-off just yet. Not saying that he’s better than anybody, just saying that the guy is able to show the brass balls he hides within. Or underneath his pants, physically too. Either way, the guy’s got guts.

"Ladies, I'm ready to fuck. Sort of."

“Ladies, I’m ready to fuck. Sort of.”

Chan-wook also does a great job in keeping this flick so damn interesting, and not just by the story; but by the visuals. Every shot in this movie feels like it could be paused, taken-out, and displayed on a coffee table in some shop or some person’s house, and have everybody who picks it up, staring and gazing at it for day’s on end. Chan-wook not only gives this flick a plethora of beautiful colors to keep your eyes on-screen, but shows us some nice, visual-treats that he takes out of his goodie-bag. Certain scenes loom really cool, other scenes, just look very artsy-fartsy. But regardless of what you may deem them as, you still cannot deny that this flick is always interesting and always intriguing to watch, and if not for the story, then to see what Chan-wook can have our eyes feast on next. Trust me, you’ll see.

But something just didn’t feel all that right with this movie and I think I have my finger on what it was: it’s tone. See, this is one of those flicks where everything is dramatic, everything is eerie, and everything and everybody feel like they’re just being loopy, just for the sake to move the story along. Now, I know this type of story-telling does very, very well in the foreign countries, but in the states, it feels weird. For instance, there’s a bunch of staring and awkward-grinning between a bunch of characters that could be deemed as creepy and horrific in some, other countries because there’s a certain “art-essence” to it, but here, in the states, it just feels over-the-top.

In most cases, I was able to drop this idea from my head and just focus on the story and whether or not it I was interested, but other times it just felt like it tried too hard. Whether or not Chan-wook meant for that to happen, or that’s just his way of filming, is all beyond me. But watching this flick, you’ll almost feel like it’s parody at points, where people are just giving each other looks that the Dramatic Squirrel has been doing for a whole decade. Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry for putting this movie and that celebrity in the same sentence. He really is THAT COOL.

Where this film really counts, is in it’s cast who all do fine-as-hell jobs with all of the weird-shite that they are given. And yes, that does mean a lot for this movie. Mia Wasikowska always shows up in a whole bunch of movies that I actually get the privilege to see, and so far, she’s never done anything to really impress me. Sure, she’s cute and she has the promise to be the next, Amy Adams-type of gal, but so far, I haven’t seen anything from her that really had me calling till the cows came home. She’s always come off as sort of bland and dull, and never seems like she wants to liven-up the material and allows everybody else to do otherwise. Her performance as India marks the change in my perception of this gal. I’m sorry, Mia. You have my respects.

"I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton's Alice in Wonderland."

“I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.”

Wasikowska is awesome as India because she has to do a lot of strange brooding and stares to enhance her character and the type of mood she sends off to the others around her, but that’s something she’s very good at. She feels like a natural at just being weird outcast, but also the look and feel of a gal you do not want to fuck with, especially if she has a sharpened-pencil in her hand. A lot of the scenes where she is just standing there, silent, and not saying much, still compelled me, because I always felt like there was more to this character than she was letting on and what would you know it: I was right! Wasikowska definitely stole the show in this movie for me, and hopefully won’t let me down with whatever she’s got piled-up next.

Matthew Goode is also amazing as her strange-o uncle, Charlie, who has never been mentioned or seen, until now. Goode is good (teehee) at playing-up the whole suave look and easy charm that all of the characters in his movies display so well and it adds another level of weirdness to a character, that we already know we can’t trust. He’s not the type of guy you want on your side, but you start to realize that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as bad as they make him out to be. Just a bit fucked-up in the head. Whether or not you are able to go along with that aspect with that character is totally up to you, but I like how Chan-wook showed me more to a character that wasn’t just all about being odd, but sexy at the same time. Ladies, get ready to double-bag the panties for this one. You’re gonna need ’em for Mr. Goode. Aw yeah.

The biggest disappointment of this whole movie is probably watching Nicole Kidman play second-fiddle to not just these characters, but this story as well. Don’t get me wrong, Kidman is good as India’s mom and chews a bit of scenery when she gets the chance to, but there isn’t much else to her and sort of comes of like a total bimbo, in the grander scheme of things. You never get the full feel or essence that she was ever a nice lady beforehand, and you never get it after the movie, so why the hell do we need Kidman in the first-place? I’ll tell ya why: she’s a big name, she’s a good actress, and she may attract some people to see it where names like “Goode” and “Wasikowska” won’t. Sorry, peeps. But it’s the hard-to-honest truth. Same goes to Jacki Weaver. Why the hell was she even here?

Consensus: Certain parts work and others parts don’t, but no matter what, Stoker is at least a fun, interesting, and always-vibrant English-language debut from Park Chan-wook who shows us that he definitely has some of getting used-to with the way we handle business in the states, but still isn’t a person I have to worry about lowering my expectations for any time soon.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dramatic Squirrel ain't got shit on me."

“Dramatic Squirrel ain’t got shit on me.”

On the Road (2012)

Boys will be boys. Especially, the ones that have tons of sex and never shower. Yeah, those ones, too.

In 1947, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) is a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), a free-spirited, fearless, fast-talking Westerner and his girl, Marylou (Kristen Stewart). They travel the world and meet-and-greet with numerous people, while also, exchanging in bodily-fluids along the way.

Having already gone through 4 years of high school and even dating a girl for over a year who actually read and loved it, I’m still surprised that I haven’t read Jack Kerouac’s landmark novel that defined a generation. From what I hear and see of other people who have actually read the book, it’s a life-changer and will definitely have you looking at everything around, in a slightly-different, if not more, rambunctiousness way. I don’t know if that makes me unqualified to watch a movie such as this, but after seeing it, I’ve come to realize that maybe it would have just been better to leave the book where it was in the first-place: on the top-shelf of some low-rent, book-store, for some young bohemian to pick-up and obsess over next.

Director Walter Salles definitely knows the type of material he’s adapting here, and by doing-so, has made this one, gorgeous treat from start-to-finish. Since the flick takes place over a couple of years, in many, many different parts of world, you definitely get a full feel of what the outside world looks, especially through the eyes of such youngsters as these. Salles knows how to make any scene beautiful and seem as if he read the book, had an idea for how he wanted it to look, and just went for it all, and in that aspect, he succeeds. If anything, this movie is a treat for the eyes, and sometimes, the ears because of the classic, jazz-tracks scattered throughout.

"Hey, we're just two, good-looking guys, looking for a good time. What's so wrong with that? I mean, other than the fact that we're really, REALLY close?"

“Hey, we’re just two, good-looking guys, looking for a good time. What’s so wrong with that? I mean, other than the fact that we’re really, REALLY close?”

However, that’s where the problem of this flick lies. It definitely has the same sounds, the rhythms, and the look of a movie that would be adapting it’s source material from Kerouac, but in the end, just doesn’t have the feeling. Maybe I’m a bit biased to be talking about the feeling of the novel vs. the feeling of the movie, since I have not read the novel, but knowing what it does to people, their minds, and how much of a game-changer it was, I think I have the right idea in my head to fully understand that this is not the flick that will be changing anybody’s minds, lives, or central-thoughts for the longest time. Hell, even after 2 weeks or so, you might just forget about it.

Actually, that’s a bit too harsh for this flick because although it does definitely have it’s bad, it definitely does still have it’s good, even if the bad does out-weigh the good. For instance, Salles’ direction takes a great-aim at the beautiful landscapes that surrounded these characters and the journey they went on, but when it comes to making a point about the world we used to live-in, and the way these characters get through: well, it drops the ball. You see, the movie starts-off very quick and fast-paced, then dials-down, then goes back-up, then dials-down, and so on, and so forth, until you feel like Salles is just toying around with your interest-meter and whenever he feels like he’s losing you, he’ll just throw a sex scene in there or two. Yes, back in those days, young and free people had loads and loads of sex, but this flick almost makes it seem like a safe haven for when people were just bored, and by “people”, I mean the characters in the movie, and the audience that sits-back and actually watches this.

In a way, you almost feel like Salles is just sort of going through the motions as a director, because even though he knows how to make a film pretty damn purrty, he doesn’t know where to start and end his story, on as high of a note as Kerouac apparently did. It’s not really boring, per se, as if it’s almost just a dull piece of filmmaking that never really lifts off the ground, unless it’s characters actually are, and even at that point, it still seems like a bit of a cop-out. Regardless of if you’re a fan of the material or not, you’re going to be a tad disappointed with the small-amount of emotions this movie makes you feel, if any at all. Once again, did not read the novel, but that’s what I heard it did to those who read it.

Without R-Pats, Bella or Rupert in her life anymore, K-Stew can finally do what she's always want to do: dance!

Without R-Pats, Bella or Rupert in her life anymore, K-Stew can finally do what she’s always want to do: dance!

The only, real interesting-aspect of this flick was the actual cast-members themselves. Sam Riley impressed the hell out of me as Ian Curtis in Control, but seems oddly-dry, almost to the point of where he’s just a bummer of a dude to watch. He’s boring, talks in a very New York-like accent with a couple uses of lingo here and there, and just doesn’t really have much to bring to the story, other than the fact that he’s there to take notes and eventually make the book of the story we are all seeing right in-front-of-our-own-eyes. I was really disappointed by this dude, but I was very, very surprised by Garret Hedlund as Dean Moriarty.

Hedlund, in everything that I’ve seen him in, has not really been the actor you can rely on to save your movie from total damnation as he’s sort of come-off as very bland throughout the years, but here, he totally makes you re-think that with a performance that’s fearless, fun, wild, sexy, but also, very humane in it’s portrayal of a dude that just can’t slow down the brakes and sort of has that back-fire on him. Moriarty isn’t a type of character you can really feel sympathy for because all he does is cheat on his wife (that’s bearing his two children), have random bits of sex with people’s he’s just met, get high all of the time, and not really do much else nice for the others around him. He’s not necessarily a dick, as much as he’s just a dude that seems like he’s living a bit too much in the crazy world, rather than the real world. Yeah, I know, the real world sounds boring but after awhile, this guy begins to realize that maybe he should have just chilled-out every once and awhile and if not that, then at least made sure you don’t have any responsibilities waiting for you, around the corner. Hedlund really brings the energy and fun to this movie and I just continued to keep on waiting for this guy’s presence to show, back-up on-screen for me to see.

We only get a naked K-Stew this time around, rather than a naked K-Dunst. Boo!

We only get a naked K-Stew this time around, rather than a naked K-Dunst. Boo!

Kristen Stewart plays his gal-pal, Marylou, and what seems to be another piece of stunt-casting, actually turns-out well for the movie, her character, and Stewart as well. Stewart is good here as Marylou because she gets to do more than just mope around and touch her hair, she actually has a wild and free soul to her that makes you feel as if she’s just like Moriarty, except a bit more innocent. Amd yes, for all of you guys that have been wanting to first their eyes on her whole-self since the days of Panic Room, she does indulge in some sweet, and spice sex-scenes where she does get naked and do a bunch of other, wild things, but it’s all right with the context of her character and her performance, as well. Hopefully, K-Stew can keep this going but who the hell knows where her career might go, post-Twilight.

Consensus: The trio of leads save On the Road from just being another shallow and dull attempt at trying to adapt one of the greatest novels of all-time that made people think and see the world differently, whereas here, with this movie, you’re only going to see K-Stew differently when she has her clothes on in movies now. Hey, that’s all I could really garner up from this one.

6/10=Rental!!

Still trying to master the art of smoking cigarettes while writing.

Still trying to master the art of smoking cigarettes while writing.

Trouble with the Curve (2012)

“Getttt offffff of myyy fieeeeld.”

The film centers on an aging Atlanta Braves scout (Clint Eastwood) who is starting to lose his sight and goes on a last scouting trip with his reluctant daughter (Amy Adams), who, in her own time, becomes slightly involved with a rival scout (Justin Timberlake).

Not only does it seem like Dirty Clint has lost his mind (talking to chairs and all), but the guy’s also losing a lot of energy and steam to not only make movies, but to star in them as well. That’s why it is heavily rumored that this may be his last flick, ever, and thought what better way to go out then give the directing duties over to a first-timer he’s been working with for over 12 years. Problem is, there is a better way to go out: make your own movie because you got the skill to do so jackass!

First-time director Robert Lorenz doesn’t really do anything spectacular with this material whatsoever. It’s a generic, boring, and dull-looking film that doesn’t bring-out anything neat or different in it’s story-line, either. Now, I know Eastwood was no master when it came to directing flicks (hell, his last directorial effort was  J. Edgar, and we all know how that did) but at least the guy put some heart, emotion, and feeling into his work. This Lorenz guy doesn’t really seem like he has any of that and is just trying to see what he can do with himself behind the camera this time. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this was another George Lucas situation where he plays the head-producer behind the flick, but is automatically the director in his own way because he takes over every decision that was made. Actually, I would be surprised because this doesn’t seem like something Eastwood would just churn out, no matter how old or goofy he gets.

A lot of the people going into this flick will probably expect a baseball drama along the lines of last year’s fall-hit Moneyball (even though it talks-out against using a computer for statistics), or the classic baseball tearjerker, Field of Dreams, but will end-up most likely being disappointed with how little baseball action there is. I knew it wasn’t going to be a full-out baseball movie where bats were hitting balls, peanuts were being chewed, and tobacco was being dipped, so I wasn’t all that bummed when it started focusing on the actual-story at-hand but I kind of wish they did something more with this generic story. Right from the first scene, you can tell where it’s all going to go. It’s going to follow the same patterns you would expect from a family-drama like this one here and any chance the film actually gets to surprise us, it either tries and fails, or doesn’t even try at all. It’s sort of like this flick trudges along, like a baseball game between two teams that suck, but you only went to go and see because the tickets cost less than the whole McDonald’s Value menu combined together. Been there, done that and don’t want to go back to it again.

The story itself was also quite repetitive and never seemed to fully make sense with itself. There’s this constant problem that Clint has with getting old, then Adams tries to help him, he gets mad, growls at her, she gets mad, leaves, and then they are back together in the next scene acting as if nothing had just happened between them. I don’t know how most families work out most of their problems but if my mom or dad basically tells me to piss-off, I’m not going to be sitting with them at a baseball game, telling them how everything’s going. I’m going to tell them to kiss my ass and ask for somebody else to help. Then again, I may not be the most lovable son out there, but you get my point. Then, the ending pops-up and it seems as if nothing was fully resolved. Well, yeah, in a way it was but nobody ever really comes out of this feeling like a changed-person and never really admits to doing any wrong in their lives, ever. It’s almost as if this film/story never happened which is a shame because these stars make the best of it and deserve a hell of a lot better.

Clint Eastwood (in which I hope isn’t his last role) does a great job playing the usual, cranky old man that people have come to know and love him for, but this character has a bit of an emotional ting to him that makes his character a bit more accessible. Granted, a lot of the film has Clint doing his usual “growl”, and non-stop yells at random people, but he has a bit of a soft-side to him that you see very early on and continues to show various times throughout the whole flick. It’s a nice performance from Clint, but not one of his best and I hope that he doesn’t decide to end a stellar career on this one because I think, and this is just my opinion, he’s got one more solid performance left in him that may give the Academy voters a bit of a run for their money. Don’t know if I’m ever going to actually get to see that but that’s why I keep my fingers crossed.

Amy Adams is fun to watch as his everyday woman, that has a bit of that tomboy-ish act to her that separates her from most gals. Adams is good here and offers up plenty of real and honest emotion, and most of her scenes with Eastwood feel genuine enough to make me believe in that story only, but I couldn’t help thinking how much more powerful and special this role would have been, had it been given to Sandra Bullock in the first-place like they originally planned. Obviously, that whole idea would just change-up the whole movie in general, but it would have been more interesting to see her in a dramatic role, opposite of a legend like Eastwood. Still though, I can’t take too much away from Amy as she does do a nice job with what she’s given.

Everybody has this terrible hate for Justin Timberlake which in ways, I do see, but at the same time, I don’t because the guy is just so damn likable. Timberlake is a lot of fun in this role because he seems like a genuinely nice and fun guy to be around, and brings out a lot of energy and spirit in most scenes that seem a bit boring and generic. His whole love-story with Adams seems a little tacked-on, but they have a nice chemistry that makes you believe in it and makes it a lot more fun to watch their scenes. There’s a whole bunch of other actors that show-up in this flick and all do their parts well, but also seem like they just decided to do this movie because it had Eastwood in it. That’s not a terribly bad thing, as this film really isn’t, but it also shows you the type of impact Eastwood still has on everybody in the business. Yes, that’s right, even Matthew Lillard.

Consensus: There’s a crowd-pleasing feel to Trouble with the Curve that will have the audience happy, as well as the great performances from the talented cast, but is also too predictable, too repetitive, too manipulative, and too disappointing to be anything that really hits you hard and seems like a flick that Clint better not end on.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Master (2012)

Move over Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise officially has a new arch-enemy.

A charismatic intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter named Freddie Quell  (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man, but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor.

Whether you’re a Scientologist and have been waiting to protest outside of every movie theater across the nation, have been waiting to see the return of “normal” Joaquin Phoenix, or have been waiting to see what writer/director P.T. Anderson has kept himself busy with over the past 5 years, chances are, you’ve been pretty amped for this flick, as well as I have been. I mean hell, I reviewed two movies, from the same director, for the past two days! I rarely do that, and I was definitely willing to make an exception for this guy just because he once again, proves that he is one of the best directors we have working in America today. Without a doubt.

One thing that could be said about this tale (but not taken away from, however) is that a lot of it plays out in the same vein as There Will Be Blood. Don’t believe me? Okay, well think about this: instead of oil, you have religion; instead of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, you have religion-starter Lancaster Dodd; instead of the loose-cannon Eli, you have the loose-cannon Freddie; and instead of the relationship between Daniel and Eli being at the fore-front, you have the relationship between Freddie and Lancaster. The only difference here is that Freddie and Lancaster actually seem to get along with one another, rather than drinking each other’s milkshakes. But I digress.

Whatever way you want to look at this film, you cannot deny the artful skill and compelling nature that lies behind every frame of this movie that Anderson beautifully constructs. From a technical standpoint, this film honestly could not be any better as certain scenes will just have you forgetting about what’s going on screen by how beautiful and wonderful they look. Anderson captures the look and feel of the 50’s as if he actually took a DeLorean back to those days, along with his film crew, and just started filming right on the spot. The long landscape shots that Anderson captures are even more beautiful and breathtaking as the ones he took in There Will Be Blood and I highly suggest you see it in the 70MM way it was meant to be seen in. I would like to complain and say that it was almost distracting how wonderful this film looked sometimes because it really does take your eyes off the action at-hand, but I can’t diss art and that’s exactly what Anderson has painted here.

Then of course, you got the score from Johnny Greenwood that uses the same exact trifling with sounds as he used in There Will Be Blood, but this time almost plays out a bit differently as Anderson gets back into the grand scheme of things by allowing pop-music to ironically poke it’s head into some key scenes that will probably fit any type of emotion Anderson was going for in the first place. No, there’s no Sister Christian or Aimee Mann songs to jam out too, but still some nice quality tunes that shows Anderson is the perfect guy for when it comes to meshing music with scenes.

One of the biggest buzzes surrounding this flick is whether or not this is Anderson’s take on the early days of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. There are a whole bunch of similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology, but Anderson never seems like he feels the need to go so far and just openly describes what it is and that was a pretty brave step coming from Anderson as he could have taken as many cheap-shots as he wanted to with this subject material. However, this does give him plenty of room and opportunity to talk about religion and whether or not this “Cause” is actually good for any of the people that follow it. You can tell that these people love being able to believe in something that makes them feel like they live in a beautiful and wondrous world, but at the bottom of it all though is the fact that some of this may just be all based on a bunch of lies. But still, even though this seems like an area that Anderson can get into and almost badger the hell out of, he smartly doesn’t and allow the viewers to make up their own interpretations about whether or not this religion is the right one to follow. Once again, another brave move by Anderson and shows you why he is in fact, one of the smartest-working writers and directors on the planet. That’s right, ON THE PLANET.

But as much as this film may seem to be about this underground religion and all of the effects it has on its people, this film is really all about the relationship between the two main characters: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Both are very, very different from one another as one is the leader of a smooth-talking, happy-all-the-time “religion”, and the other one is just a drifter who can never seem to control his anger, or his drinking for that matter. This contrast between the two characters is probably one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of this whole flick because we see them both work wonders for each other in ways that we thought weren’t even imaginable from the first meeting the two. They actually care for each other and both want what’s best for them, even if they don’t fully make it work every single time they try. One scene that comes to my mind the best when I think of the relationship between the two is when Dodd actually tells the cops to not hurt Freddie, even after he continues to beat the ever loving crap out of them all. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the whole film not because it’s a turning-point for the whole direction in where the story was headed, but because it shows you the depths of the relationship these two have together.

What I think makes the relationship between them both the most memorable, is the fact that they are played so brilliantly by its two leads: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was so damn happy to see Joaquin back in full-on acting mode because it’s performances like these that make me realize the type of talent this guy has that shouldn’t be wasted on a faux-rap career. Phoenix is mesmerizing as Freddie Quell because he brings all of that vent-up frustration and strangeness that he had with his “character” in I’m Still Here, and let’s that play-out in a way that’s as memorable as it is compelling. You can tell that this guy is going to flip any chance he gets the chance to and it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have the best conscience out there, either. However, there are a couple of key scenes that show Freddie in a very sympathetic light that may have you understand why this guy is always so off his rocker. He comes off as a fully-realized character that has plenty of sides to him and you honestly can’t take your eyes off of. This performance is nowhere near the type of actor’s play-day performance Daniel Day-Lewis had with Plainview, but it’s still something that’s worth loving and remembering come Oscar time.

Then, you got Hoffman playing the type of Plainview-like character as Lancaster Dodd, a character that couldn’t have honestly been played by anybody else except for Hoffman. Hoffman does a great job with Dodd because he plays the character, like a guy that has so much charisma, so much heart, and so much warmth to him that it makes you realize why everybody feels so close to him that they could follow him and every word he speaks out. He’s almost reminiscent of Orson Welles in a way of how he’s all tight-lipped with his speeches and rarely ever loses his cool, but when he does, it’s one of the more memorable scenes since we see this character slowly start to unravel right in front of our eyes. It’s not like this character is treated like an evil piece of crap that nobody should care for, but is instead shown off to be a guy that believes in his own way of life and wants to spread that across to everybody else. Yeah, that could be viewed at as a bad thing but the film never quite portrays it as that and it’s another brave step Anderson was not only able to take with this story, but this character that Hoffman has also fully-realized in his own charismatic way.

Some may be surprised to see that Amy Adams doesn’t have a bigger role here as Dodd’s wife, Peggy, but does a nice job giving her character a very dark turn that I wasn’t expecting in the least bit. Still, out of the other two, she sort of comes off as the weakest-link and could have used a bigger and better role to be more substantial to everything that’s going on and the plot itself. Everybody else is good here too, and I like how Anderson made every character in this cast worth something and have their own moment, even if it may only be for a second or two.

So, here I am, going on and on and on about this flick and how amazing it is and you are probably sitting there wondering, “Oh em gee! Is he going to give it the prized 10/10 I haven’t seen in God knows how long??!?!”. Well, no. Sorry to burst your bubble everyone but this film did still have some problems in its own right and it’s that I think the emotional connection for this film was a bit more off this time around, probably due to the fact that the story is always weaving around and whatnot. With Daniel Plainview, it was easier to follow this character and know him for all that he was because it mostly just about him doing his own, evil thing, but here, the story goes back-and-forth between Freddie and Lancaster so much that it was a bit hard to build-up the tears when that ending came around. Also, there was this really strange scene that had to do with Amy Adams, Hoffman, and a bathroom that is still fresh in my mind because it made no sense and seems to be a bit misplaced in a film that seemed to really go for it all, in terms of being sane and keeping itself in reality. Still though, minor quibbles if you ask me.

Consensus: The Master could easily be a title that director P.T. Anderson is giving himself, because that is exactly what this guy is. Everything from the visuals, to the landscapes, to the score, to the performances, to the fully-developed story, to the religion movement; all are done with the masterful craft of Anderson and is sure to be one of the films to watch out for, come Oscar season.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Muppets (2011)

Eff you Alvin and eff you Smurfs, these are my real child-hood heroes.

In this flick, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his brother Gary (Jason Segel) and friend Mary (Amy Adams) must raise $10 million to save the Muppet Theater from Tex Richman (Chris Cooper), a businessman who plans to demolish the Muppet Theater to drill for oil.

I’ve always been a Muppets fan ever since I was a little kid so when I heard they were finally coming back after all this time away from the limelight, you know that the little kid inside of me jumped up-and-around in the little Kermit the Frog undies like a kid on Christmas day.

Basically this film is one big excuse for Segel to pal around with all of his child-hood friends and give us a whole hour long episode of The Muppets, but it doesn’t feel like just one big excuse for anything, it feels like an actual film that could bring them back.

The plot itself has been done over millions of times but what really separates this film from the others is how tongue-in-cheek and self-aware everything is that just about every single ridiculous happening in this film seems so normal and made me laugh my ass off. There is a lot of winking at the camera but it didn’t seem over-used and there are little subtle moments where you can tell that they all know they are in a movie, which adds so much more fun to this film’s comedy. I mean hell if you just see the trailer, they tell you right away that The Muppets aren’t popular in today’s world but somehow they are able to bring back all of the wit and charm that made the original fun for kids and adults alike but there are still some other little pieces of humor that are made for the new generation as well.

Another aspect of this film that worked was the music and how great all of the songs were. The music supervisor for this flick was Bret McKenzie, from ‘Flight of the Concords’, and you can tell that he has some great talent in song-writing. There are plenty of original and fun tracks here such as “Life’s a Happy Song”, “Man or Muppet”, “Pictures in My Head”, and plenty more memorable tracks that I had humming in my head after the film was over. The best thing about all of this music is that it’s not only fun to listen to but when you watch, there are still a lot of funny things happening in these musical numbers which you barely ever see in musical-like films of today’s world. No matter who or what you listen to, you can’t resist some toe-tapping here.

Jason Segel is apparently one of the biggest Muppets fan ever and it shows because this whole film he just has this one big and goofy grin on his face the whole time as Gary. The guy is really having the time of his life and thanks to that, I was too. Amy Adams is very innocent and sweet as Mary who sometimes will come out of nowhere and make a very funny comment then do some out-of-character song. The problem with their story-line is that it kind of gets lost about 20 minutes into the film and we start to care less and less about their “love story” and more if The Muppets are going to be able to pull this show off after all. Chris Cooper is also a total bad-ass as Tex Richman, which is a great role for Cooper because he gets to be a little goofy and show off some of his rapping skills that he’s been hiding for so long. Yes people, Oscar-winner Chris Cooper has a rap solo in this film. There are also dozens of cameos from plenty of A-listers that are sure to make anybody go, “Ooooh, look who it is!”.

The main reason why The Muppets works though is because in the end it’s really all about how you can still be fun, hip, heart-warming, and even a little cool if you just stick to a formula that you have been doing for about 30 years. The Muppets are not mean, they use humor but never to hurt anyone it’s more of to just make people laugh and have a good time which is probably one of the best things about them. In today’s world, comedy relies on raunch, mean comments, slurs, and so many more bad things, but The Muppets are simple: they are funny, without ever offending or hurting anybody’s feelings. To do that in any decade is awesome, but to be able to do that in 2011 and be the best comedy/family-film of the year, is probably one of the best achievements that this film has to offer. This is a PG flick that is for the whole family because they can all have fun and thanks to Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and everybody else, I had a great time too.

Consensus: The Muppets is all about having a good time with humor, great musical numbers, dozens of hilarious cameos, and a lot of heart to make you feel like you are watching all of your favorite Muppets together once again and hopefully this time, they are here to stay.

9/10=Full Price!!

Julie & Julia (2009)

Food: the quickest way to a man’s heart. Remember that one ladies.

A woman verging on thirty (Amy Adams) and frustrated in a temp secretary job takes on a yearlong culinary quest: cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” She chronicles her trials and tribulations in a blog that catches on with the food crowd.

I do not cook, I wish I really could because then I could have so much more food that I wanted, but I don’t. However, I do love food, and that is why throughout this whole film, I was just holding my stomach.

It seemed like a challenge for the makers of this film, because they are taking two sources of material, and making it into one and I think that’s where the problem lies. The setting of post-WWII Paris where Julia Child’s story takes place is so intoxicating, that every time we cut away we to New York, I couldn’t wait to get back to it. At times, I just felt like these were two movies about the same subject, copy-and-pasted together.

However, despite this problem with the film, I still found myself enjoying a lot of what’s going on here. I think the overall pleasant mood to this film, and the fact that it just does everything with a smile, is what works here. The whole time I was expecting a standard “chick flick” that was going to be all about cooking, which it was, but it was all so fun to watch, and I had a better time than I actually expected.

Meryl Streep as you can already tell just from seeing that she’s in this film does an amazing job as Julia Child. I had no idea who this chick was before this movie, but after wards I checked her out, and I must say Meryl nails it. She is so alive and flamboyant here that I went from thinking of her as just the PBS cooking lady to somebody who could confront all of life’s challenges with a smile. Amy Adams is her usual cutesy-bootsy self here as Julie, and although her story isn’t as interesting as Streep’s, she still does a good job here and brings out a likability to her character. Also, it was awesome to see Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina up in herre doing great jobs at playing the main-boos for both of these gals, because they are always a pleasure to see, and here they are not different.

Consensus: Streep’s great performance, and along with the overall happy and joyous mood, Julie & Julia is an enjoyable, if flawed treat. See what I did there…

6/10=Rental!!

Doubt (2008)

Catholic High Schools used to be so crazy.

Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) begins to have doubts about doting priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who seems to have become overly involved in the life of a young African American pupil. But Flynn isn’t the only one she doubts. Is she overreacting to the situation, or is there truth behind her convictions?

I’m so glad that I didn’t grow up in the 80’s and go to Catholic High Schools, or my ass would have beaten up on a daily basis.

So this is dapted from a stage play by writer/director John Patrick Shanley, and I must say that he does do a good transition here, but it still feels all too much like a play. There were moments here that just didn’t seem like they were just staged and not actually happening right then and there. I think it’s just me that has problem with these stage adaptations but for the most part, I can’t help but wonder when the curtain was going to come down half of the time.

However, this is one damn good screenplay. One of my favorite things about this screenplay is that it doesn’t tell you what exactly happened, but through conversation and ambiguous remakes, you kind of have to make up your own mind of what did, and what didn’t happen. There’s that certain mystery element to to this film that works here, and it keeps you guessing throughout the whole film, especially when it’s over. Debates will spark up after this, and I can’t say that I’m still not wondering what exactly happened.

It’s the top-notch cast here that really shines. I love Meryl Streep in anything she does really, and here she plays the most evil and manacle nun I think i have ever seen, in film and real-life, with Sister Aloysius. She really is the biggest bitch ever, and is so mean and cruel, but somehow you can’t take your eyes off of her, and that’s all thanks to Meryl and her amazing skills. Philip Seymour Hoffman is also here as Father Flynn who does a great job at making this character someone we like, but at the same time, someone we can’t be too sure about. I think the one scene that everybody talks about when they see this is that amazing scene where these two basically yell and holler at each other for about a half-an-hour, and I must say it was some intense ish up there. Both are two of the best working in the biz today, and they absolutely knock it out of the park. Amy Adams plays Sister James, and gives her that signature cutsie innocence that we all know her for so well. But the real show-stealer here is Viola Davis. This chick comes completley out of nowhere and with a running time of about 10 minutes, you cannot forget her after it’s over. She takes the one whole scene she has with Meryl and makes her run for her money. That, my friends, never happens.

Consensus: At times, Doubt feels a bit too staged, but the screenplay is lifted by this terrific cast, that will have you in heated discussion long after it’s over.

8/10=Matinee!!

Oscar Predictions and Thoughts for 2011

So as everyone among the film community know, it is Oscar time babyyyyy!!! So that means get ready for some of the biggest upsets, wins, and probably tearful moments of the year. It was a great year in the film, and this is what has all come down to it people. The big night, and here are my predictions, I hope I do well.

Best Animated Feature: Will Win: Toy Story 3 Should Win: Toy Story 3 Wild Card: How To Train Your Dragon

Best Documentary Feature: Will Win: Restrepo Should Win: Restrepo Wild Card: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Foreign Language Film: Will Win: In a Better World Should Win: Dogtooth Wild Card: Biutiful

Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short: Will Win: Can’t say I care too much

Best Editing: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Black Swan

Best Cinematography: Will Win: True Grit Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Visual Effects: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Alice in Wonderland

Best Sound Editing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Unstoppable

Best Sound Mixing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Social Network

Best Art Direction: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Costume Design: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Alice in Wonderland Wild Card: True Grit

Best Makeup: Will Win: The Wolfman Should Win: The Way Back

Best Original Score: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Inception

Best Original Song: Will Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Should Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Wild Card: I See The Light (Tangled)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: 127 Hours

Best Original Screenplay: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld Should Win: Melissa Leo Wild Card: Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor: Will Win: Christian Bale Should Win: Christian Bale Wild Card: Geoffrey Rush

Best Actor: Will Win: Colin Firth Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg Wild Card: James Franco

Best Actress: Will Win: Natalie Portman Should Win: Natalie Portman Wild Card: Annette Bening

Best Director: Will Win: David Fincher Should Win: David Fincher Wild Card: Tom Hooper

Best Picture: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Toy Story 3

I must say that this is a pretty solid year for the Oscar’s this year. All the nominees look just about right the only problem is how will the picks turn out? This year, everything seems like it’s coming down to Old School (The King’s Speech) vs. New School (The Social Network). The past couple of years The Academy (I hate that word) has been looking more towards hip, new films to win it’s Oscar Best Picture. Films such as Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and American Beauty have all been unconventional new films that have seen their taste of Best Picture gold. But there has also been countless period piece wins for films such as Gladiator, Shakespeare In Love, and The English Patient. Also, many other major award shows have already presented the Best Picture win to The King’s Speech which is really chasing up people’s noses, as many other award shows have been choosing The Social Network as theirs. In my opinion, I liked Inception more than both of them, and yeah it’s nominated, but in all honesty it has no chance of winning. When it comes down to it I think that The Social Network should win, because it is an age-defining film, that went from being known as “The Facebook Movie” to being known as the top contender for every Oscar it’s nominated for. I hope that The Academy goes for the new school, because if they had The King’s Speech win, everyone would feel robbed really.

As for Best Actor, I think that Firth deserves to win for all his years dedicate to films, but Eisenberg fully deserves it. I think what the Academy is doing more and more now, is honoring actors & actresses not for just a certain performance they had, but their careers and saying that it’s their time. I don’t mind seeing stars like Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet, or Colin Firth win an Oscar, because of the career they have but I’d rather see the “best performance of the year award” go to the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

When it comes to the Best Actress category, it seems like Natalie Portman is the sole winner for here, as she has won almost every single Best Actress nomination at every award show. However, there is once again that little idea that it’s Annette Bening’s “time” to win, as she has been nominated twice, and still has not won yet even though her career has been going on for so long. I want Portman to win, and most likely she will, but I still have a feeling that The Academy may pull something out of their pockets and surprise us all with a Bening win.

I’m very disappointed that my main man Christopher Nolan was not nominated for Best Director this year. He was snubbed for The Dark Knight, and now he’s being snubbed again, and it just pisses me off knowing that certain directors that do such a good job with daring material, don’t get the credit they deserve. I think if Nolan was nominated, he should have won, but I know it’s The Oscars, and not everything works out the right way.

This year had great films, and I’m glad to see that the Oscars have turned out to be this way. I loved 2010 as a year, and the films made it awesome. Here’s to 2011, and let’s just hope that the Oscars are awesome.

Thanks everybody for always reading, and keep on checking!!

The Fighter (2010)

Just shows you that crack is not always whack. I mean just look at Christian Bale. The guys freakin’ Batman.

Mark Wahlberg stars as boxer “Irish” Mickey Ward and Christian Bale as half brother and trainer Dicky Eklund in this inspiring drama based on the fighter‘s rise from working-class Lowell, Mass., to world-class welterweight champ. After a string of defeats, Mickey rediscovers his fighting will with help from Dicky — a once-talented pugilist battling drug addiction.

There hasn’t been a very good boxing movie lately. Now that other “sports” like UFC, MMA, hell even Professional wresting for that matter have taken over mainstream, people have sort of forgotten about boxing. Especially in the film world, but thanks to this, it makes me want more of them.

Director David O. Russell is known for being a huge dick off-screen, and hasn’t really done much else that people know, but because of this film, I think he has finally broken into the mainstream. And it’s with all good reason, he does an amazing job at making this one of the most entertaining pieces of the year. It’s more of a character study than it actually is a boxing film, but it still delivers on plenty of fun, family escapades for us to watch. Also, it was really neat to see the match sequences to be filmed in the digital style that HBO used to use back in the day, and it really did make it all look legit, and not just another boxing film fight sequence.

The screenplay works really well too providing us with a lot more comedy than I expected.  There is also a lot of themes that touch on the element of family, which play out so well. You laugh, you cry, but most of all, you love your family, and in the end they always have the best intentions. This film the way it is written, and the way it all plays out, just seems so real. Although you know how this story is going to turn out, you still cannot stop watching, and getting attached to these characters. Everything just seemed very real, and there are barely any moments that feel like they were just put on for the big-screen.

The one main problem I had with this film is that I think it could have gone longer. I know that’s a weird complaint, because many people will probably complain about how it is almost too long, but for me I wanted more somehow. That sounds greedy, and spoiled, but the ending didn’t fully satisfy me to the point of where I was just jumping for joy. This is a weird complaint, I know that, but I just wanted a longer run time.

The main reason to see this is it’s amazing cast. Mark Wahlberg does the straight-man act that he does in a lot of films, but hey it’s not so bad. He is an easy guy to like, and you can tell his frustration with his family, and boxing career. This gives us more of a reason to rally behind him, and keep on watching, which is what all boxing movies need. Amy Adams really steps out of her “goody goody two shoes” light, and gets dirty, bad, and sassy. I loved her performance, and her quick delivery with every line is not only believable, but its also funny, and we actually as fans want to go out with her. Let’s not also forget Melissa Leo who is just perfect as the asshole Mom, who just can’t handle being a nobody. Her performance I loved. But………

The real show is right next to Marky Mark on that poster up above. I have always liked Christian Bale, when people give him shit for his douche bag ways off the screen, and cocky attitude, I have always appreciated almost everything he does. And now all that love that I have given him finally pays off, as I have just seen his best performance, and probably one of the best performances of the year. I loved this performance so freakin’ much. Bale is silly, sad, gritty, crazy, fearless, skinny as a toothpick, but also likable as your any other average Joe. You believe all the little tics, and weird things he says and does, and he commands your attention, and well you gotta give it to him. His character, Dickie Eklund, just couldn’t give up the limelight, and with this performance neither can Bale, cause he steals it. Every scene he is in, he just commands almost every time, and I sure as hell hope he gets an Oscar, cause he is just one of the biggest and best joys to watch on screen.

Consensus: The Fighter may be a story you have seen before, but the inspired direction, and amazing ensemble performances from this cast, make this treat, a fun-filled, entertaining boxing movie, that made us realize we missed this genre too much.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

Sunshine Cleaning (2009)

What happens when CSI leaves the area of a crime scene, well these two chicks come to clean the mess up.

Former high school cheer leading captain Rose Lorkowski (Adams) is a thirty-something single mother who cleans houses for a living. Wantingto send her trouble-making eight-year-old son Oscar (Jason Spevack) to a private school, Rose decides to take her married lover’s advice and get into the “lucrative” business of crime scene cleanup.Rose convinces her disillusioned, underachieving sister Norah (Blunt) to join her in the enterprise, which she calls “Sunshine Cleaning.”

As watching this film I wondered to myself “have I seen this film before”. Then I said this is a lot like Little Miss Sunshine. It’s pretty obvious too since both have dysfunctional families, Alan Arkin playing the weird but wise grandfather, the titles are very similar (“Sunshine”), and they both have the same producers working. Though this film has a bit of a different feel to it.

At times, I felt the quirky moments in this film were forced and just put in for the sake of this being an indie film, and you know all of them have to have quirky moments.

The film does very well in inserting humor into this at times very serious and dramatic story.The central message of this film is how families can provide strength in times of need. I felt like this message was brought up well throughout the film, just not as effectively as Little Miss Sunshine.

Amy Adams finally steps away from those side characters and proves in a very strong performance, that she can be the leading woman and still make it a great watch. Very credible is Emily Blunt co-starring in a film as a lost stoner who doesn’t know what to do with her life. She totally abandons her English accent and does a great job with her American accent, and she does a great job as well. Alan Arkin plays that crazy father we all know him as, but he still does a credible job as a father who loves his family despite the hard times.

The film shows laughter in hard times, while still maintaining that sense of reality. The film is not afraid to leave some questions unknown which is something now-a-days that is very critical, and I respect this film for taking a chance.

Sunshine Cleaning is a winning combination of heartbreak and quirky humour.

8/10=Matine!!!