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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Anna Paquin

Finding Forrester (2000)

Forrester. William Forrester.

After novelist William Forrester (Sean Connery) discovers that a young athlete named Jamal (Rob Brown) is also an excellent writer, he secretly takes him on as his protégé. There, they develop something of an unlikely friendship. As they learn more about each other, they learn more about themselves, and ultimately, with the help of his new mentor, the basketball star must choose the right path between following his writing dreams or his hoop dreams.

Despite this being a Gus Van Sant flick, Finding Forrester‘s overall story itself is pretty damn conventional. Just in the same way that Good Will Hunting was, essentially, a simple inspirational tale of one small-time genius coming to know more about himself, the world around him, and how to use his smarts to his advantage, Finding Forrester is about the same thing, except this time, with a bit of a different focus than before. Rather than seeing the perspective from low-class, foul-mouthed boy from Boston, this time around, we have a 16-year-old black kid, living in New York. It may not seem all that different, but in a way, there’s short and tiny spins on the age-old story that makes Finding Forrester still work.

"Listen up, kid. Don't be like Mozart."

“Listen up, kid. Don’t be like Mozart.”

Then again, it’s not nearly as great as Good Will Hunting.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect that Finding Forrester offers to this story is that, for someone like Jamal, who looks like what Jamal looks like, and because of the kinds of perks that come with him, he’s never allowed to grow to his fullest potential. In today’s day and age, the issue with race is quite frequent, with many kids just like Jamal never getting their chance to shine and show the world what they can do, even they truly are the masterminds that they’re made out to be. Van Sant sees this small world of the private school system, kind of as this cold, dark and sadistic place where the usual people flourish, mostly because they have all of the money and connections to do so, but the outsiders, don’t. Instead, they are treated as outliers who need to get with the program, or else they’ll be thrown out immediately.

It’s quite sad to see this played out on screen, but it’s something I myself saw while going to a private school in my first year of college and unfortunately, it happens more often than you think.

Then again, Finding Forrester isn’t all that dark or dramatic, even though I make it seem that way; if anything, it’s just a darker, much slower drama than Good Will Hunting. And because of that, the movie definitely runs into problems with pacing, where it seems like it picks itself up to get going, then stops, then starts again, then stops, and then, for some reason or another, Van Sant himself gets distracted by whatever is working his mind and loses whatever build-up he was working with. In all honesty, this is a frequent problem with Van Sant and his movies, which is why it’s a huge issue with Finding Forrester and it’s two-hour-and-16-minute run-time – it comes close to feeling like every minute of it, mostly because Van Sant doesn’t always know when to cut a scene, or at least do any bit of a trimming.

But really, the movie, as well as the sluggish pace, is basically saved by the two leads and what they bring to this sometimes wonderful material. Sean Connery, as usual, is great as William Forrester and does everything he can to make this character more than just another one of those “out-of-touch, old dudes” who we tend to see in movies such as these. However, this is Sean Connery we’re talking about here and the guy doesn’t let you forget about his charm that never seems to go away no matter how many years pass, his comedic-timing that has never left him, no matter how serious he tries to be, and his handsome looks that still, even at age 82, makes him look as good as ever.

Spin a ball, you can spin a book. Or at least that's how I think it goes.

Spin a ball, you can spin a book. Or at least that’s how I think it goes.

May sound weird, but hey, so be it. Sean Connery’s a great talent and needs to come back for at least one more movie, so that we can all wipe the stink of the League of Extraordinary Gentleman away.

But as good as Connery is, Rob Brown doesn’t lose any ground here, either, and it’s one of the better debuts ever seen on film. As I’ve made a mention about Jamal before, he’s a good character because he is a smart, but yet, troubled that obviously knows the difference between right and wrong, but also is still a kid growing up in a place of society that doesn’t always accept him for what he is. Because of that, Brown has to do a lot of heavy-lifting that he works quite well with, showing a great deal of angst, as well as growth in a character that desperately needed it to seem believable. Brown’s had a good career since this, but honestly, he deserves so much work.

And together, Brown and Connery work well off of one another, showing a great deal of chemistry and fun between two people you wouldn’t expect to see that from. That said, the rest of the cast and characters are pretty awful and it’s a shame because Forrester and Jamal are truly compelling. People like F. Murray Abraham, Anna Paquin, Michael Pitt, and even Busta Rhymes, all show up here and do what they can with the material given to them, but a lot of their characters are so one-note and boring, that it’s hard to ever take them seriously, or care about whether they exist in this story or not. Abraham’s character is probably the most distasteful and while he’s a smart enough actor not to have a role like this jump into caricature, there’s still a sense that no matter what, this character will always be the villain in the movie. Same goes for Michael Pitt’s character and while she’s not necessarily considered a “villain”, Anna Paquin’s love-interest is just boring. The only one who seems to be trying anything different and at least somewhat succeeding is Busta Rhymes, but after awhile, he’s just left to give Jamal inspirational speeches that could have definitely been left to Connery.

Then again, a battle between Connery and Busta would probably make a better movie, as much as it pains me to say.

Consensus: Finding Forrester definitely suffers from being a lot like Good Will Hunting, in terms of subject matter and themes, but also benefits from a solid one-two punch of Sean Connery and Rob Brown, and their characters, even if the direction isn’t always there to pick them up.

7 / 10

"Yes, dog?"

“Yes, dog?”

Photos Courtesy of: Doeppi’s Blog

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The Good Dinosaur (2015)

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

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

Oooooh.

Oooooh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaaah.

Aaaah.

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

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

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

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

7 / 10

Oh, human? Nah.

Oh, human? Get out of here!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

So many freaks, it felt like being in Saturday detention once again.

In the post-apocalyptic future, mutants across the globe are hunted down and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, who are able to modify their powers depending on what mutant it is they are fighting. This makes the idea of mutants’ extinction almost a reality, forcing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to come up with a master plan: Send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to find the young version of himself (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of these deadly Sentinels (Peter Dinklage). That’s a lot easier said then done, considering the last time Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr saw one another, they almost killed each other, leaving the former unable to walk. But, with Wolverine thrown into the mix, they hope that they can smooth some things together and finish their master-plan, all in time before the Sentinels come around in the present day, and kill all that’s left of the X-Men. And to make matters worse, retro-era Magneto is predictably giving everybody a bit of a hard time when his ideals don’t mesh so well with the rest of the group’s. Oh, these Mutants, when will they ever learn to get along.

So, in other words, what this movie is trying to do is allow Bryan Singer to come back to the franchise that was basically consider “his”, and go back in time to where he could not only make us forget about the stink of the third and Origins, but also, show that this franchise can go on, even without him or many others attached to it. And, for the most part, it’s a noble effort on Singer’s part because you can tell that he honestly does “get” these characters, their plight, as well as their stories. Singer, all of his modern-day controversies aside, knows what it’s like to be looked at in a weird way, to be a social outcast, and what it means to be pushed away from the rest of society, which is not only why these characters still work for us, but also why the movie moves as well as it does.

"Yeah. I did that. Get at me."

“Yeah. I did that. Get at me.”

Because see, what Singer does so amazingly well here is that he gives us all of the characters we’re supposed to care about and allows them to have their smallish scenes of character-development. They’re nothing gigantic to where this becomes something of a character-driven piece; a little sign of compassion, anger, rage, depression definitely helps this go a long way. However, it’s enough to where there’s some sort of emotion backing all of the wild and insane action that happens throughout the most part of this movie. Which definitely makes this movie all the more satisfying and fun to watch – exactly how a superhero summer blockbuster should be.

Sure, I may have liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than some, but there’s a reason for that: Not only did the movie keep me excited, but it seemed like it genuinely knew what kind of movie it was being. Nothing more, nothing less – a quintessential, 90’s superhero movie that just so happens to be made for Generation Y. It worked for me, but it didn’t work for others. So hey, whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that while that movie knew it was a shallow piece of entertainment and didn’t try to go anywhere it wasn’t supposed to, Days of Future Past knows that it’s more than just a piece of carefree, sugar-explosion entertainment that one pays nearly-$20 to see at the end of a shitty day to make themselves feel better.

There’s real, actual heart and emotion to this piece, that not only has us reeling for the characters whenever their lives are at danger, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher.

Jeez, who woulda thunk it, right? Having a blockbuster in which we were given characters we genuinely sympathized with and for? Naw, get outta here!

But that’s what’s so wild about this superhero movie: It not only kicks, moves, and runs around like an action movie, but it also breathes like a superhero movie, in which we get to understand and see our “heroes” for all that they are worth, regardless of if we like them or not. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a total drag-fest in which Singer continuously hits us over-the-head with sadness and darkness, like in the vein of Christopher Nolan, because there a few ounces of light, fun, and frothy comedy to keep our spirits up and afloat; but there’s also plenty of drama to make us feel like the ride is plenty worth while.

And the ride is exactly what matters here, especially in the eyes of someone like Singer, who feels like he’s gotten the whole band back together. Which is not only great for him and those struggling-actors who need a bit more extra cash thrown into their bank-account, but it’s also great for us. Personally, I remember growing up on the first two X-Men movies and fondly remember seeing each and every character introduced to me. Granted, I was young and didn’t know much better, but when I did decide to re-visit both of those movies, I found myself rarely at all disappointed. Some tonal issues here and there messed me up, but that was just the older, more-advanced movie-viewer inside of me speaking; the young, ten-year-old kid, however, was going nuts and in total joy of what he was seeing.

That’s why when certain faces show up in this movie like Halle Berry as Storm, or even Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, I genuinely felt happy; not because people are still actually hiring Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, but because I was finally seeing the mutants I used to watch as a kid, back on the big screen, in all of their wildest form. It made me feel like a kid again which, as we all know, usually comes with its huge dosages of nostalgia and late nights of sobbing into my pillow. So yeah, it’s great to have the band all back together again, but what’s even better is that they’re all in the hands of someone who knows what to do with them.

Not some freakin’, low-rent, spoiled-brat chump who I will leave unmentioned. But you know who it is I’m talking about.

Like I was saying though, yeah, this movie. What works so well about not only seeing the cast back on the screen, altogether once again, is that they definitely work wonders with delivering some corny dialogue. Maybe less so for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who really does deliver some of the movie’s best and funniest lines when it’s just him having to get used to the 70’s and all; but definitely moreso for class-acts like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who have always made their long-winding speeches of unity, acceptance, and banding together actually seem honest and interesting. There’s no difference here, it’s just that they aren’t on the screen so much, considering that most of this movie takes place in the 70’s.

She must be feeling blue...

She must be feeling blue…

This is where we get to see the younger-versions of Magneto and Xavier who are, once again, played wonderfully by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender feels like he’s constantly on the verge of dropping his good-guy persona and straight-up turning evil on everyone’s asses, while McAvoy gets to play Xavier as a bit of a drugged-out bum that needs some sort of inspiration to keep him going. It’s nice that First Class was able to get these two in the first place, because they work pretty damn well here in this movie, even if some of their dialogue is rather clunky. Just a bit though. Nothing too much.

And yes, before I go on too much, I will say one thing, and that’s everybody’s favorite figure in the media, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Mystique, however, I feel like she’s given a role that’s rather one-note. The whole aspect surrounding Mystique’s character in this movie is that she’s constantly angry about something, and while we know what that something is about, it doesn’t give us much reason to like her character or even see J-Law doing much for that character. There are certain shadings to her anger, but nothing to the point of where I felt like this was the Oscar-winner coming out of her performance and making this something more; just pretty standard stuff that could have gone a much longer way.

Hell, while I’m at it, I could even say the same thing about the movie. See, what got me so wrapped up in its emotion was the characters and the fact that I was seeing all of my old, favorite mutants, back on the screen, together, once again. That made me happy and a bit emotional, but for the story itself, there wasn’t that push I really wanted. It never really seems to be about much, except for just being about maintaining one’s extinction? I mean, I guess? I don’t know, let’s work with that, shall we?

Anywho, I know it’s a dumb nit-pick and all but it’s what kept me away from loving the hell out of this thing. But it’s definitely the superhero blockbuster you should see this summer. Although, probably, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only a couple of steps away.

No takers? Okay, cool. I’ll shut up about that now.

Consensus: With an utter sense of glee and joy with Bryan Singer at the helm, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a fun and exciting summer blockbuster, but is also a somewhat heartfelt, emotional ride that brings back all of the characters we once loved and adored, for another installment. Whether or not it’ll be the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everybody’s back and the smiles it brings to the fanboys’ faces.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Back the office, once again. Shit."

“Back the office, once again. Shit.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Margaret (2011)

This is exactly what a teenager’s life is like: confusing as hell.

Anna Paquin stars as a 17-year old girl named Lisa Cohen who has to deal with her regular life as a conflicted teenager as well as the moral, legal and sexual pitfalls of the adult world. She struggles with what is right and wrong after taking witnessing the seemingly accidental death of a woman and fighting the ever-building guilt resulting from her role in it.

Holy hell is it a total surprise that I actually got the chance to view this movie! This film has been basically sitting on the shelf for about 6 years now, all because of the fact that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan had an over 3–page script, that made the movie run for as long as 3 hours. Apparently, the studios didn’t like this idea he had and they made him try to shorten up the run-time to make it under 2 hours. Surprisingly, nobody got their way because the film got cut-down to a 150-minute time-limit (all thanks to the master of swift editing, Martin Scorsese) and despite a pretty big-name cast, the film was released in limited theaters, barely even seeing the light of day. Thankfully, that’s what DVD-viewing is all about baby.

"Was somebody that pissed that I didn't show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners."

“Was somebody that pissed that I didn’t show-up in the new Bourne movie, that they had to go-off and spit in my food? Typical NYC diners.”

So after going over the whole history of this movie for you in that last paragraph, you would think that a production this troubled goes two ways: either it’s a unknown masterpiece that only people who go out there and reach for it, will love until the day they die, or, it’s just a bunch donkey crap, that should have just stay shelved. Somehow, the film is somewhere in the middle and I don’t really know where I stand on this flick just yet, however, being the dedicated critic that I am, I’m going to give it my all just for you kind souls out there who actually give a crap what I have to say about this little indie.

There’s a lot to this film, maybe almost too much, but from what I was getting most of the times with this flick worked for me because of Lonergan’s superb writing. This is a very dramatic but heartfelt story about a young girl who’s coming to terms with the world she lives in and she’s starting to realize just what this world is really like, for all of the good and for all of the bad. Obviously this isn’t something new, daring, or original but Lonergan makes every scene, no matter how random or awkward, seem real and to be honest, a lot of these scenes and what he’s having these character say, did ring true to me.

I am not a young lady, never have been, and maybe never will, but I can definitely say that a lot of Lisa’s problems that she goes through here aren’t just what young ladies go through, but young adults in general. Everybody around you just annoys you, you want to get your point out there to the best of your ability, everybody is out to get you, and at the end of the day, you just want to be understood and listened to. This is how a teenager thinks and Lonergan gets us inside the mind of a teenager, by showing us your typical, everyday one that just so happens to be dealing with one of the most traumatic moments in her life so far. She’s confused, she’s guilty, she’s angry, she’s horny, she’s misunderstood, she’s scared, and she’s so many other things, but this is exactly how a young person is, especially when you live in a world like the one Lisa lives in where everybody seems to be just at your neck, no matter what it is you do or say. This provides some real, heart-breaking emotional context for a character that seems so based in her own reality, that you just don’t want to see her have her heart broken when she realizes one thing about the world: it’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s a cruel, cruel world out there that you may have to be ready to fight off every once and awhile. Maybe that’s a little bit too much of my left-over teenage angst coming out, but it still seems true and reasonable considering the film I’m discussing here.

"I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!"

“I told you, I have no idea where Logan went!”

No matter how great most of that teenage angst stuff may be, the film still feels very stuffed together and I was sort of left wondering why they didn’t just take a risk and end up going with the 3-hour version instead. There is about 4 or 5 subplots here that could have been taken out, but instead, Lonergan leaves them in and has them pop-up at some of the most random parts throughout the flick, without us ever getting a chance to fully feel for them and get behind them. I get it, Lisa’s life is hectic and has a lot going on it, but did we really need those 5 scenes with her and her daddy (Kenneth Lonergan himself in a very greedy role) just talking about random ish? Or what about that little teacher-student “relationship” she may be trying to get with a hot and young male teacher, played Matt Damon? Oh, and let’s not forget about some of the random class-room scenes where Matthew Broderick actually gets mad over a kid totally schooling him in Shakespearean comprehension? There’s a lot of material that could have been easily cut-out here. Or, if they really wanted to, which they obviously didn’t, but if they did, they could have went with the 3-hour version that Lonergan proposed in the first place and we could have had a more coherent and understandable story that lays everything out for you all nice and even.

But even with this edited-down version that were given here, some of it almost feels like Lonergan’s coming on a little too strong with his numerous ideas and messages he’s trying to get across. There’s a lot of discussion about a post-9/11 New York that is very realistic, but also feels very random and pushy, as if Lonergan was trying to find a way to voice his own opinions about what’s happening to the area after that disastrous day, so thought the easiest way would to have kids yell and holler at each other about. Doesn’t feel right for this film, given the story itself, and I think Lonergan kind of loses his head a little bit with what he’s trying to say but after awhile, I just didn’t care and tried my hardest to get involved with this story, as crazy as it could be.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool, and especially wore a cowboy hat.

I wish all NYC bus drivers looked this cool. Especially with that cowboy hat.

Seeing this movie now, in the year 2012, you have to wonder what a bummer it must have been for Anna Paquin to just see her high-rising, dramatic acting career, go almost to nowhere because honestly, this is a phenomenal performance, if not, the best I’ve seen from her, ever (still haven’t seen The Piano so bear with me for a little while). Lisa Cohen is not a very sympathetic character and she definitely is not a very emotionally-grounded character, and it’s one that Paquin plays up perfectly on almost all-sides. We see Lisa for all that she feels, all that she does, and all that she wants to do, and even though not all of her choices may be the most morally correct, they are still her choices and we have to accept them for what they are because she is a human nonetheless. Paquin was about 23 when this film was made, so it seems a little strange for her to be off playing 17-year olds, but she pulls it off perfectly and makes you believe that she really is this confused and bewildered young woman that just wants to do what she thinks is right, even if it may not have the best consequences for all involved. Yeah, I know that Paquin’s got it big now with her role on True Blood, but this film would have definitely made us think twice about her acting, whenever we saw her kill some dude by kissing him. Rogue reference, in case you didn’t catch on!

While you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell from my whole review, trailers, or poster, this film is much more about Lisa’s mom then it is about her, and I think with good reason. J. Smith-Cameron is somebody I haven’t ever really seen too much of in movies and with a performance she gives here as Lisa’s mom, I have to say I’m going to look for her more now because this gal knocks this performance right out of the park. Even though I do think that some of her scenes, just the ones where it’s her all by herself, could have been cut-out, she still gives us a sympathetic mother character that wants nothing more but to connect with her daughter like she feels like she should, but no matter how hard she tries, she still can’t seem to break the ice between them and get them together, connecting once again. It’s a sad thing to see in a film like this because you know this is how it is for almost all mothers having to deal with young adults in the house and Smith-Cameron plays it up just about as perfectly as Paquin does with her own character. They also fight like a real mother-daughter combo and that’s pretty damn impressive if you ask me.

Consensus: With a time-limit that sort of jams everything together in a very incoherent way, Margaret can sometimes feel like a film that can never make up its mind about what it wants to do or be about, but it’s also much like it’s lead character, Lisa, played to perfection from Anna Paquin. It’s a little-known flick that makes me want to see it again, just as long as I can get a hold of the 3-hour director’s cut. That’s if they actually have one for this movie.

7/10=Rental!!

"Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I'm really scared."

“Walking through the streets of New York and nobody has yet to ask for me an autograph? Now I’m really scared.”

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Two people who have English degrees don’t seem to make the best couples.

Set in Brooklyn in 1986, this film captures with extraordinary immediacy the inner workings of the Berkmans. Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a once successful novelist and Joan (Laura Linney), have given up on their marriage, leaving their two sons Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16, and Frank (Owen Kline), 12, to grapple with what has become of the family.

When I think of films that have to do with divorce, I think of the classics like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ or ‘War of the Roses’, to name a few. However, never in my right mind would I thought that a film by the same dude who brought me ‘Greenberg’ would be added to that list as well.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach is a guy who’s films I can never really get into but with his script here, he shows some real talent that deserves to be heard. His script is filled with a bunch of humor, sarcasm, and witty puns that actually take your mind off the fact that this flick is essentially about a family falling apart right in front of our eyes. It’s strange to be laughing at something like this but the way Baumbach is able to make every single situation in this flick, come out almost funnier than the last is what truly is what makes him such an inspired writer in the first place.

The script also has a bit of a sweet side to it, which at first, is a little too hard to see since everybody is mean and nasty, but by the end of the flick you can really start to see it come out. The film has characters that aren’t very likable but by the end, they start to understand their short-comings for what they are and that’s where the film made a difference for me. I actually started to care what was happening between the members of this family just through how they show their pain and anguish over this divorce and it works because you somehow get attached to these characters. None of these moments are ever shown in an obvious or melodramatic way either, which is always one step above the normal Hollywood comedies we get almost every weekend.

The one fall-back that I did have with this flick was that Baumbach seemed like he just felt the need to be a little strange and weird with this flick and it doesn’t work. The whole idea that the one kid, Walt, is playing ‘Hey You’ by Pink Floyd an calling it his own without his parents or many other people not knowing that it’s actually by them seemed a little far-fetched for me since it is a pretty big song, and I don’t know, Pink Floyd is a pretty big band. Then again, I guess these sophisticated types just stayed at home and listened to opera all day.

Another example about the weirdness of this script is the whole sub-plot about Frank and his angst. First of all, he’s drinking beer just about every night and he constantly jizzes in his hand and wipes it all over random stuff in school. OK, I get it, the kid is having a hard time but does he really need to wipe his semen everywhere in order to show how upset and confused he is. This seemed like something for a whole different movie and this was just a little too weird and strange to actually ring true at all.

Where the film excels perfectly act though, is the performances given by all four of these performers. Jeff Daniels is great as the snobby, know-it-all, Bernard. The guy thinks he’s right even when he’s terribly wrong and it’s just funny to watch him go about his day and say things that obviously make him seem like a total pompous asshole. Daniels is great in this role and easily can make us laugh but he’s also still likable in a way and he’s a pretty cool guy, even though he can be kind of a dick. Laura Linney is also pretty good as Joan. It’s a really hard character for her to play, considering she has to make an extremely unlikable character, likable in some way but she pulls it off and makes her character seem like a real person rather than just another one of those confused woman that want sympathy all the time.

Jesse Eisenberg is great in this role as Walt, playing the usual fast-talking nerd he plays in every flick but he still seems like a young kid, as he actually was when this film was filming. Much of the film actually revolves around him and just to watch him take his father’s advice all the time and practically hate his mom as well, seemed very realistic and made Walt an easily relate-able character since I would have probably acted the same way as well. Owen Kline, son of Kevin Kline, is also very good as Frank and it’s a real wonder as to why this kid hasn’t done much more with his acting since he gives a very realistic performance as a young kid, even if his story does get a little too wild. The one scene-stealer in this whole film though is William Baldwin as the total goon, Ivan, a guy who made me laugh just about every time just by calling everybody around him “my brother”. Alec probably could have pulled it off better though.

Consensus: Even though some moments don’t really ring true, The Squid and the Whale still features great writing that mixes drama and comedy perfectly, with realistic performances from everybody involved that add so much more to these almost unlikable characters.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

I will never be able to look at pumpkins the same again.

Halloween’s usually boisterous traditions turn deadly, and everyone in a small town tries to survive one night in pure hell … but who will still be alive in the morning? Several stories weave together, including a loner fending off a demented trick-or-treater’s attacks; kids uncovering a freaky secret; a school principal — who moonlights as a serial killer — poisoning his candy; and more.

I’m not quite sure exactly when this film came out, or when it even hit theaters but since it’s the right time for the season, I thought why the hell not!?!?

This is an anthology film feature all of these four different segments that aren’t really all that connected other than the fact that everybody seems to live pretty close to each other. This approach to the film worked because I constantly got that feeling of knowing what’s going to happen next because you get to see just what is going to happen, when maybe the first time around you were a little bit confused by what you didn’t see on-screen.

First-time writer/director Michael Dougherty does a pretty good job of keeping the feel and spirit of Halloween alive in this film because there are moments where this film seems like a lot of fun, and although it didn’t really scare the pants off of me, it really did keep me entertained as to where this guy was going to go towards next. A lot of this film is pretty messed up (kids getting killed) but somehow there is a fun touch to it that isn’t campy or tongue-in-cheek, it’s more just fun and that’s why I enjoyed myself.

However, the film did have some moments where I think it messed up and sort of dropped the ball. Each little segment has their own twist in there, which I thought was cool, but what I didn’t like is how too much of this felt more scary and serious without any real comedy added to it. The one segment with Anna Paquin I can think of was actually very funny the whole way through, but other than that, there wasn’t much of a balance between the two to get it perfect right away.

There’s also a lot of this film that doesn’t feel all that original and kind of bummed me out especially the segment about the kids at the site of the supposed “bus crashing incident”. This to me felt like it was directed by a whole different person because it spent its time on jump-scares, what we don’t see, and the run away and hide thingy that bothers me so much. This was a little annoying and by the end of the film, I feel like it totally drops the ball when it shows what that freaky little dude on the poster looks like without his mask. He looks really freakin’ weird (not in a good way), and I think the film could have really kept me a bit more freaked out if I didn’t know what the hell that creepy thing actually looked like.

The cast is here and there but they are all good. Brian Cox is awesome as the grouchy and grumpy old dude from the last segment; Anna Paquin is funny as well as pretty hot as the “virgin”; and Dylan Baker is probably the best out of the whole cast because he constantly kept me laughing and giggling even when he just killed a kid by feeding him a terrible chocolate bar. Yeah, it’s that disturbing sometimes.

Consensus: Trick ‘r Treat may not score the most points when it comes to originality and scares, but it keeps a fun tone and segments that bring a lot of twists and turns that you can’t help but have a fun time.

6/10=Rental!!

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

This is where the mutants started to get annoying.

When scientists develop a miracle drug to treat unwanted mutations, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his heroic band of X-Men must battle a group of mutants known as the Brotherhood, led by Xavier’s former ally (Ian McKellen).

So after checking this whole series out, I’ve come to realize that Bryan Singer is awesome and Brett Ratner is stupid. Basically sums up this film pretty well.

The action is what really will hold you over this whole film, even though all of it looks like it was done for a video-game. There were a lot of cool special effects used here such as the Golden Gate Bridge being moved, a cool scene with a lake being turned inside out, and just about every single shot in the last 30 minutes. You get constant carnage left and right, and for the most part, it was good carnage and I could tell what was actually going on.

However, there’s not a real story here to keep me going. For some odd reason I felt bored for the first hour or so, just watching this story develop because nothing felt as meaningful or atmospheric as the first two did. I didn’t feel like Ratner really knew exactly what to do with all of these mutants and characters, so instead only focused on about two or three, and the rest were just sort of just shoved off to the side.

This one’s also a little bit more silly than the last two, which I didn’t really mind, but a lot of this just didn’t feel as genuine as Singer’s did. The screen-writers and directors took away what made the first two movies so good— the character story lines. The depth that the characters had in the first two movies was almost nowhere to be found in the third.

These interesting story lines were replaced by a movie completely full of “big booms”. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well filmed battle scene, they really help move a film along, but I don’t like it when they take the place of character plots. Ratner’s main problem is that he doesn’t know the difference between a glamorous action movie and a glamorous action movie with a well developed set of characters conforming to a great story, and sadly that plays out here.

The cast here is full of familiar faces such as Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Shawn Ashmore, and Anna Paquin. Plus there’s also some new faces with the likes of Kelsey Grammar (why?!?), Ben Foster, Vinnie Jones, and Ellen Page. Everybody here tries their best to their advantage but the script doesn’t even care if they are in this story or not and it doesn’t matter what they do with their lines, there all so cheesy and meant for the next big explosion.

Consensus: It may sound like I hate this film but I don’t. The problem with X3: The Last Stand is that it’s terribly weak compared to the first two because it’s more about the action, and less about the actual characters that inhabit this story. The action is good and the special effects will hold you over, but compared to Bryan Singer’s first two, this last installment is lame.

5/10=Rental!!

X2: X-Men United (2003)

The freaks are back, and surprisingly a lot better this time around.

Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his team of genetically gifted superheroes face a rising tide of anti-mutant sentiment led by Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox). Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) must join their usual nemeses Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to unhinge Stryker’s scheme to exterminate all mutants.

After watching the first X-Men film, I was bummed to say that it wasn’t as awesome as I once thought it was. Then, when I watched this, I realized just how awesome this one actually was.

Director Bryan Singer knows what he’s doing with this material here and takes the events of the first film and builds on them in such a way that when you see the credits you know that big things have happened. There is a lot of action here but there is also a deep story about being accepted in a world that won’t even look at you without judging you as well.

Singer knows how to balance a good story with some great action, and as the story kept getting deeper and deeper, the action kept on getting better and better, something I thought could never happen in a superhero film.

In the first one, I thought they focused too much on way too many characters, but here the movie is more focused on these characters throughout this moving story, and it doesn’t start dragging at all. This one actually felt more epic as well with its story and I guess that’s how all superhero films should be, but when you have something like Mutants vs. Army, you know you’re going to be in some pretty big shit.

The special effects are just plain awful (as in “awe full” – funny how a word can have two diametrically opposed meanings). Seamless integration with the live action, astounding in their inventiveness, so enticing that you want to be a mutant yourself. Exactly what special effects should be. They are worth the price of admission all on their own.

My problem with this film was that I did feel that there were some plot holes that I didn’t fully understand. Such as all these mutants can use their powers against a normal human-being and kill them right away, but when this young dude named Pyro throws fire balls at these people, nothing happens except a little sun burnt. These mofos should be dead! There were also some problems I thought that the plot had as it went along but I don’t want to give away too much here.

The cast from the first one is back, and better than ever actually. Hugh Jackman continues to be excellent as the angry and awesome Wolverine. The guy is not just dedicated, he’s frustrated but he never lets that stop him from finding the right thing to do, whether it’s protecting the weak or punishing the bad. Jackman totally improves his performance from the first one, and does a great job here as always. Patrick Stewart is also very good as Professor Xavier; the evil and maniacal Magneto, is played just so so well by Ian McKellen; and Brian Cox plays William Stryker, to the point as to where every time he was on screen, I just wanted somebody to beat his ass. All your other favourite mutants are also more interesting and more advanced than they were in the first film. Halle Berry’s Storm is sexier and more dangerous, while Famke Janssen manages to overcome Jean Grey’s hairdo (the worst I’ve seen on an actor in a long time) and really kick ass. The new mutant in this film is Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who is a little strange but at the same time very innocent and there’s something about him that you just like. Everybody else does a great job here too, there’s just so many to talk about though and so little time.

Consensus: Despite some plot holes, X2 is a total improvement from the first showing a lot more action, special effects, and a more deeper and darker story-line that will take you by storm (pun intended) and won’t let you go until the credits are up.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

X-Men (2000)

The beginning of the freaks!

Amid increasing fear and bigotry, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) provides a safe haven for powerful outcasts like Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Storm (Halle Berry), who are genetically gifted mutants — and the world’s newest, most persecuted minority group. In an explosive battle for freedom and honor, the X-Men take on Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his band of evil mutants, who relish the public’s paranoia.

Director Bryan Singer, who also did The Usual Suspects, does a good job with this material because he doesn’t get too chaotic with all of this action. The effects are seamless, not a big thing in these days of CGI, but still a difficult thing when dealing with human beings who keep moving around and talking. It’s good to watch a film where it isn’t always possible to tell which are the fake shots and which ones really happened. Now of course, there are action sequences here that are pretty awesome, but he also allows a lot of down-time for these characters to talk and be developed. However, that’s where my real problem with this film lies.

I liked how this is a film that’s based more on its characters than other superhero films, but there is almost too much time devoted to the characters. These characters were cool but the problem was that the film focuses too much on them and not the story so the big climax at the end, ends up being sort of anti-climactic.

I also felt like there was something missing from this final product because although they show all these different powers that all these different superheros have, it almost never seems to add up. It’s no secret that the studio rushed this film so it could make the summer blockbuster deadline. There are some lovely details that would’ve made this film extraodinary but didn’t make it thanks to the dollar driven movie studio.

Though, the main reason why I enjoyed this a lot is because I love X-Men, and even though the story may be a bit weak, you still can’t help but love all these characters. Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast as Wolverine because he has that total bad-ass look to him, and those funny side-cracks to him that just make him a likable superhero from the beginning. Patrick Stewart is also great as Professor Charles Xavier mainly because he’s just that lovable old man, who is always one step ahead of every one else. Ian McKellen is a perfect villain as Magneto, and brings out the devious attributes within Magneto that make him such a memorable villain. Everybody else here is pretty good too such as Halle Berry as Storm, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, James Marsden as Cyclops, Anna Paquin as Rogue, and the always sexy Rebecca Romijn as Mystique.

Consensus: The action is fun and the ensemble is perfectly acted, but the story is too centered on all these different characters, rather than focusing on a good story, but if you’re a fan of the comics you’ll have a good time.

6/10=Rental!!

Hurlyburly (1998)

Somebody get these celebrities a tampon.

Ambition, sex, money and drugs are part of an average couple of days for 1980s Hollywood players Eddie (Sean Penn) and Mickie (Kevin Spacey) — who maintain that things wouldn’t be so bad if they could only figure out the meaning of it all.

Hurlyburly is based on the 1984 play of the same name, and just by watching this movie, I don’t think I want to see that play.

There are many problems with this film that will catch fans off guard right away. The dialogue about nothing seemed to drag on forever. Hurlyburly is the story about some upper class California men searching for the meaning of life and wrestling with women problems… and the way these men seem to want to talk forever.

It also starts off somewhere but never leads to anywhere. These are people that are so addicted to drugs, saying rude shit, and basically fucking anybody that comes in their way, that you really can’t care too much for them. I didn’t want to spend time with these people, and I just wanted to get away and not be apart of their little ass-hole conversations.

Another thing as well, did these people even work. We see these guys working once, but we don’t even know what the job is, cause they just sit there. I wondered if these people were so rich, and so high profile with their celebrity status, and buying all these drugs, then where do they get the money from? I always just kept wondering.

I felt like the screenplay was written well. Well enough that we could get a lot of good performances from the all-star cast. Sean Penn is just basically terrific in this film, showing the effects of when your high on drugs and all the emotions that pour out from the sadness and pain of being famous. Kevin Spacey is even better with his bleach hair, and giving off that calm cool feeling guy we always know and love him for. There are other people in this cast that will make you happy to see such as Meg Ryan, Chazz Palminteri, and of course almost every film that Sean Penn is in, Robin Wright Penn.

Consensus: If you are going to watch Hurlyburly, watch it for the performances, especially the amazing one by Sean Penn, but other than that stay away unless you want a terrible trip, with terrible people, that you couldn’t give two craps about.

3/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!!