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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Antoni Corone

Reservation Road (2007)

Still though, those little bastards gotta hurry their asses up off those buses!

Ethan and Grace Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) are more than happy with the way things have been going for their lives, but all of that happiness ends when their son gets killed in a hit-and-run accident. Even worse, the person in the car (Mark Ruffalo) who caused it, knows who they are, is still stuck with the guilt, and has yet to fess-up to what he’s done. That’s when Ethan decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out just who the hell is responsible for all of this pain and misery that has been inflicted on him and his family.

Even though the idea of watching a bunch of people go through grief and suffer through pain and agony doesn’t sound like the most exciting bit of an-hour-and-a-half I’d like to spend, you can never, ever go wrong with a cast like this. People know Phoenix to be the type of guy who takes rich and hearty-material that challenges himself, Ruffalo is always a guy that’s capable of taking anything the world throws at him and make it totally and completely work in his favor, and having Sorvino and Connelly round things out ain’t so shabby, either. So, the big question on your mind may be, “How the hell did all of this go wrong?”

My answer? “Script, man. Script.”

The main problem with this script is that even though it does pay attention to the problems its characters face on a day-to-day basis when it comes to dealing with their own levels of grief, the movie still feels the need to rush things up and make this almost like a type of thriller. That sounds all fine and dandy for people who want more than just a character-based story and want some action and excitement to go along with their tears and heavy-grieving, but for a movie like this where we essentially know what happened, who did what, and what the only way to end this could be, it’s a little silly and not all that thrilling. We know who killed the kid, who’s responsible, where this could go, and that this can only end in two ways, either death or imprisonment  so what the hell is all of the tension supposed to be there for?

Pictured: A guy who just got done thinking.

“Damn. Paparazzi.”

And it’s odd, because the tension in this movie is supposed to lie in the fact that everything this driver goes through in life, always has him ending up in one way or another, connecting with the kid’s family. For example, his ex-wife just so happens to be the kid’s sister’s music teacher that is totally superfluous to the plot, except to only include the always wonderful Mira Sorvino (more on her in a bit). Then, it gets even worse when Ethan decides to take the investigation into his own hands and get lawyers involved and in case you couldn’t tell where this is going, get ready, because guess what? The man who killed Ethan’s son, just so happens to be that lawyer he asks for help.

Shocked yet?

Anyway yeah, this movie is just chock full of coincidence-after-coincidence and they don’t seem to serve any other purpose to this story, other than to keep the audiences minds awake for when the flick decides to actually focus in on its characters. You could also argue that the flick only added in those thriller-elements to appeal to a larger-audience that wouldn’t really feel the need to venture out to some movie about a bunch of people crying and being sad all of the time, and if that is the case, well then that’s a damn shame because there is a lot of promise for this type of material to work, regardless of if it’s a mainstream, or indie production.

But regardless, it almost shouldn’t matter when you have a cast like this, because they’re supposed to be able to do no wrong. And that sort of happens, but not really. Joaquin Phoenix may seem a tad miscast at first as the grieving simpleton father of a suburban-family, but shows us differently when he unleashes those raw and honest emotions we always see in each and every one of his performances. You feel bad for the guy and you just want to give him a hug and tap on the back, whispering into his ear that “everything’s going to be alright.” It’s not Phoenix’s most daring role, but it was a true sign that he could play a normal, everyday dude.

Pictured: Sad actors

Pictured: Sad Actors

The same can definitely be said for Mark Ruffalo who never seems to phone-in a performance, no matter how crappy the movie may be, which is what happens here. Ruffalo is great as the driver that kills this boy and runs away without getting caught, because he makes you feel something for the guy, even though he is totally in the wrong, through-and-through. You can sort of see why a guy like him would run away from the punishment of being arrested, but after awhile, it does start to get a bit ridiculous that it hides this all for so long, and for all of the reasons that he apparently has to himself, as well. Still, Ruffalo prevails and shows why you can give him anything, and he can make it work.

Jennifer Connelly is simply used here to be another grieving character of the whole movie and does that very well. Connelly is always good in what she does and that’s why it’s so weird to barely see her around anymore, but it should always be noted that she’s a good actress, when the material is there. It’s sort of here for her, and sort of not, so it’s hard to fully judge her.

Oh and yeah, I previously mentioned Mira Sorvino and it isn’t because she does anything simply out-of-this-world with this movie (mainly because she isn’t given much to work with in the first place), but, without any type of spoilers or giving-away major plot-points (like it really matters), there’s this one scene with her and Ruffalo that is probably the most endearing and emotionally-truthful out of the whole movie, and it really took me by surprise. Rarely does this movie ever talk about how Sorvino’s and Ruffalo’s character used to be married and a loving-couple with one another, other than when they yell, fight, and argue with one other, but that one scene, that one moment between these two, not only made this movie just a tad better, but made me feel like there could have been so much more had they just dropped the whole death-of-the-kid angle and even went so far as to focus on Ruffalo’s character trying to actually get through the divorce and make ends meet. Sure, it’s not the movie we got, but man, I imagine wonders could have been made going down this road, especially with the always dependable Sorvino who, like Connelly, needs to be in more.

Much, much more. Come on, Hollywood!

Consensus: Even with a solid cast on-deck, Reservation Road can’t get its head together quick enough to where it fully works as a small drama about sadness and grief, or as a nail-biting thriller.

5 / 10

I guess he's going to start taking after his kid. Hayyoh! Okay, I'm done.

I guess he’s going to start taking after his kid now. Hayyoh! Okay, I’m done.

Photos Courtesy of: Focus Features

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Cape Fear (1991)

Criminals never forget.

When attorney Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte) knowingly withholds evidence that would acquit violent sex offender Max Cady (Robert De Niro) of rape charges, Max spends the next 14 years of his life in prison. And of course, while in the clink, Max has been thinking about that decision each and every day of his sentence, while on the other side of the bars, Sam has been living life with his wife (Jessica Lange) and young daughter (Juliette Lewis), who seems to be getting more and more rebellious as the years go by. But now that the 14 years are up, Max is ready to extract some revenge right from the get-go. However, rather than just beating the hell out of, or better yet, killing Sam, what Max does is spend every waking moment of his life and dedicating it all to stalking Sam, his family, and especially his friends. To Max, no one is safe and after awhile, Sam starts to realize that he’s going to have to come to some pretty drastic decisions if he’s going to protect the lives of those that he loves and wants to keep alive.

Bad lawyer.

Bad lawyer.

There’s nothing like watching an insanely talented director have the absolute time of their lives. It’s like watching a little kid in a Toys R Us, but rather that kid being limited to only buying a few items, the kid’s allowed to have the whole store. They can do whatever they want, however they want, and with all of these wonderful, fabulous and great toys.

That’s what it’s like watching Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear; the kind of movie where a master of his craft knows exactly what it is that he’s doing, having a lovely time with it all, and is barely ever going to let-up. And honestly, when you’re doing a remake on an already-great movie, that’s sort of the way you’ve got to go – you can’t follow the same, beat-for-beat, note-for-note, track-for-track, but instead, amp things up a bit differently. You can focus on a different plot-point altogether, bring out more interesting ideas of the story that may not have been discovered originally, and basically do whatever else you want with the story, so long as you stay true to heart and soul of the original. So few remakes actually abide by this rule, but despite the changes in story and style that Scorsese goes through here, he still sticks true to the original with an eerie tone humming all throughout.

But what’s interesting is that it’s different this time around.

Scorsese approaches the material as if it was an over-the-top, wild, wacky, crazy and unpredictable adventure into one man’s psychotic psyche – someone who doesn’t seem to have a moral compass anywhere to be found and because of that, is taking out the nice, somewhat innocent people. The original touched on this idea, obviously, but Scorsese really hammers it in, allowing for the character of Max to be as depraved and as sickening as humanly imaginable. Sure, it’s campy, it’s wildly insane, and it’s really schlocky, but you know what? It actually kind of works.

A good portion of that has to do with Scorsese’s quick pace, but another portion of that definitely has to do with De Niro’s committed-as-ever performance. Of course, working with Scorsese brings out the best in De Niro, but here, it’s unlike how we’ve ever seen him before – he’s definitely flirted with the idea of being a villain in other flicks before and after this, but never to the supreme extent that he goes with Max. The movie does try some avenues to have us, in the very least, sympathize with him and his stance, but for the most part, the movie knows that he is a monster, and so does De Niro, which makes every scene in which he’s just acting like the creepiest, most erratic person around, so damn entertaining.

It almost makes you wonder where all of the inspiration’s gone in the past few or so years.

Bad housewife.

Bad housewife.

Regardless, Scorsese doesn’t shy away from letting the rest of the cast have their moments, too, especially since they also get to have some development and not just become a typical white, suburban, upper-class family who plays golf and tennis. Nolte’s Sam has got some dark issues to work with, Lange’s Leigh seems to be struggling in her own ways, Lewis’ Danielle, while most definitely a teen, is also a little bit smarter than we’re used to seeing with this kind of character, making her one key scene with De Niro all the more creepy, and Illeana Douglas, in a couple or so scenes, shows true fun and spirit for a movie that seems to enjoy her presence, yet, at the same time, remind us that there’s something dark and grueling really behind all of this fun we’re having.

In fact, where Cape Fear works less is probably in the last-half, when Scorsese really loses his cool here. In a way, Scorsese wants us to see Max as a sort of Christ-like figure which, for a short while, is fine and all, but by the end, becomes such a major plot-point, that it’s almost unbearable to sit and listen through. We get the point as soon as it’s mentioned, yet being that this is a Scorsese movie, faith must be driven into the ground and because of that, the final-act of Cape Fear feels more like wild and over-the-top symbolism, on top of symbolism, and less of a thrilling, compelling and wholly satisfying to a wild ride of thrills, shrills, and shocks.

Still though, it’s one of the rare remakes that rivals the original and how many times can you say that?

Consensus: Wild, a little insane, well-acted, and always exciting, Cape Fear is the rare remake that works just as much as its legendary original does, especially what with Scorsese seeming to have the time of his life behind the camera.

8 / 10

Bad criminal. Or is that sort of obvious?

Bad criminal. Or is that sort of obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: the ace black blog

Wild Things (1998)

Drunk, alone, and horny? Turn this one on and you’ll have a new best friend.

Two high-school girls (Denise Richards and Neve Campbell) accuse their teacher (Matt Dillon) of raping them on two separate occasions. The guy tries his hardest to defend himself against this terrible case, but it’s not quite as it seems as we see from detective Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon). Even if Duquette himself may be up to no good, either.

To be honest, the only real reason this film is as popular as it once was (and maybe still is), was all because of the infamous threesome and a rare dong-shot all being placed in a big, Hollywood production. Not that there’s necessarily anything daring about two girls and a guy engaging some hot, steamy sex, or even a slight shot of some male genitalia, but being that this was a pretty big movie, it created quite the stir. But is there more here to at least enjoy other than that threesome?

Yeah, but not too much.

Former Bond girl there, folks!

Former Bond girl there, folks!

It’s been awhile since the last time I saw a whodunit and Wild Things is a classic example of a whodunit that’s made to just keep on getting more and more ridiculous as it runs along. The script, for one, is probably not the best out there and can seem really lazy at points. You would expect a sexy little thriller like this to have some ultra-sexxed up dialogue that ladies would be quoting to dudes everywhere, but instead, it just comes off like a corny B-movie flick that goes through the motions with all of it’s dialogue. So, basically everything you’d expect from your ordinary B-movie, you get here and it’s sometimes hard to watch and enjoy because it’s so damn laughable at points. Now, there is a certain thing to be said about that and that’s how I actually found myself having fun with it but still, when everybody is serious and you are pretty much the only one laughing, you have to feel like something was missing here or that these people just weren’t in on the joke. I think I choose both.

As for the little plot twists that seem to come out of nowhere, they’re okay and actually make this story a bit interesting. Since there are so many plot twists to be had here, you can’t help but think that the film sort of loses itself with being a bit too over-exaggerated with itself, but it at least creates a tense mood to surround everything. Some of the twists took me by surprise, and some of them still took me by surprise, but after awhile I started to think about them and realize that they made absolutely no sense to the story at all and may have just been thrown in there for shits and gigs after all. Hey, I’m all down for a couple of neat plot twists here and there to spice up the story, but don’t make it overkill!

Then, there is, of course, the infamous threesome which will probably go down as the film’s biggest claim to fame and I will cut it some slack on, because it’s pretty freakin’ hot.

Usually when I watch films when some raunchy sex scenes are happening right in front of me, I don’t really feel anything since I know that they’re all fake and they aren’t really engaging in any sorts of sex with each other. But for some odd reason, with Wild Things, it all felt too real and it was just as hot and sexy as I remembered it being all those years ago around the first time I watched it. I won’t comment on the infamous dong scene but for all of the ladies out there, you got your six degrees of Bacon, alright!

"What did you say about the Following possibly getting cancelled?"

“What did you say about the Following possibly getting cancelled?”

Speaking of Kevin Bacon (and getting away from his actual Bacon!), he’s actually the best out of the whole main cast because the guy can sell any role no matter what he has to do and you can almost feel like this guy was just laughing at everybody else’s acting in the film by how laughable they can all be. Those ones I’m talking about are Matt Dillon and Denise Richards who could be placed in the “so bad, they’re good” category for the respective performances they give off here. Dillon plays up that macho, hammy bullshit dude that nobody likes and the whole film, just seems like he’s phoning it in from start-to-finish where you don’t really see this guy being an evil genius, you just see him being a total schmuck. Then, you got Denise Richards who is terrible in this role as the main high school girl who starts all of this drama and deliver every line of dialogue as if it were a self-serious soap opera, but without any slight wink to the audience. Dillon has barely any of that, but at least some, as opposed to Richards being such a dull presence to begin with, the fun sort of get sucked-out.

Though these two are pretty bad at what they do here, they don’t fully bring the ship down and leave everybody else to dry. Neve Campbell at least has some nice touches with her sympathetic character that got the best treatment out of everybody here, but still somehow seems like she gets the short end of the stick at the end. But as good as she is, she stands nowhere near to how great Bill Murray is as Dillon’s ambulance-chasing attorney that absolutely takes the film’s script, wipes his greasy hands all over it, and leaves some sort of particles that make the film a whole lot more entertaining whenever he’s up on-screen. I’ve said it many, many times before, but Bill Murray is the freakin’ man and whenever the guy isn’t out chillin’ with RZA, or playing a zombie, the guy can still take small roles like these and make them the most memorable due to that perfect comedic-timing.

Makes me wish he was in the film more, but hey, I guess that’s why we all love Bill Murray in the first place.

Consensus: While it’s hot and steamy for sure, Wild Things does get a bit too bogged-down by its own plot-twists, to make this campy-ride feel like one that’s a bit too rampant and wild for its own good.

5.5 / 10

Keep being you, Bill.

Keep being you, Bill.

Photos Courtesy of: IMDB, Premiere.Fr

The Immigrant (2014)

Becoming a hooker and spending money on hospital bills. Ah, the American Dream.

When Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) comes over on a boat to America, she automatically runs into problems. Her sister (Angela Sarafyan) gets taken away and put into intensive care because she is believed to be “sick”; her aunt and uncle don’t want her staying at their place; and she is desperate fear of getting sent back to her country, which seems to be going through a wild period of violence, death and bloodshed. However, in comes walking the mysterious Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who makes her a deal: Come along with him and live in his place, as long as she agrees to work. Seems simple enough, until Ewa realizes that the job she’ll be doing is as a prostitute – the kind of job she doesn’t want to do, but pretty much has to, because she has nowhere else to go and needs to pay for her sister’s medical bills. So, Ewa goes along with the job, screwing, making money and staying loyal to Bruno; however, that all changes once a local magician by the name of Emil (Jeremy Renner) takes a bit of a liking to her and is not going to leave her alone. Bruno doesn’t like this and, as expected, leads to a bit of a strange love-triangle that spurs out of control, with devastating results.

James Gray loves these types of small, slow, and intimate character-pieces. With most of his movies, you get a sense that the premises should have the pace going a-mile-a-minute, but somehow, Gray finds a way to keep them mellowed-out and calm by paying attention to his characters. Violence and action does usually rear its ugly head, but its done in a way that feels realistic, if only because we’ve invested so much time and patience to these character’s and their lives, that it makes total sense why one would decide to commit an inappropriate act of sorts.

A rare case in which somebody as looked at Joaquin Phoenix as "their savior".

A rare case in which somebody looked at Joaquin Phoenix as “their savior”.

And in the Immigrant, Gray is in top-form, for lack of a better word. You get a sense that Gray isn’t trying to talk about one story in particular, but a plethora of stories that stem from the idea of the American Dream. As our world has made it out to be presented as, America usually seems like the type of country where dreams are made of – the kind of country that embraces individuals that want to do when they want, how they want to, and wherever they want to, because it’s a free country and just about everybody is allowed to be themselves to a certain extent. To be honest too, there’s nothing wrong with that vision – I live in America and, despite a couple of questionable decisions made on our President’s behalf more than a few times, I love it. Not to say that there’s any problem with other countries out there, but for one thing, I’m glad I was born and bred in the good old U.S. of A.

Gray doesn’t necessarily have a problem with America, either, however, he understands that the means for which a person needs to survive by, can sometimes be immoral and dehumanizing. Even in a place like America, the land of the free and the home of the Brave.

With Ewa’s story, Gray shows what it’s like for a person to feel as if they are leaving their troubled, horrible past behind themselves, only to then be thrown into a new world, better yet, a new life, where it seems like things may be even worse than before. Those who come to America, expect happiness, beauty and all sorts of pleasures that they may have not been able to receive in the previous country, however, the harsh reality is that sometimes, that’s not really the case. It’s a shame to say, but it’s the truth; and while times may have gotten better for those who want to come into America and become a “citizen”, some of it still sort of sucks, almost to the point where it makes sense why one would divert away from the standard, typical professions one expects another to take in for means of survival. And by that, I mean taking a job that would require one to have sex, deal drugs, or be involved with any type of immoral behavior, all for money.

Like I said before, I love my country, but there are sometimes certain aspects of everyday life that even I have to admit are in my country and cannot look away from.

Anyway, I know I’ve gotten past the fact that this is, yes, a movie, but it’s one that’s very thought-provoking. In fact, that’s all it may in fact be. Gray presents a well thought-out idea of what people perceive the American Dream to be, and allows it to live through the story of Ewa’s – a pretty sad one, I may add. However, the sadness gets to a point of where it’s almost too bleak to really be anything else except for that; we get that Ewa doesn’t have much of a chance to get a high-paying office job of sorts, but is it really that bad that she can’t practically go anywhere else without being taken in by police and thrown back on Ellis Island? I don’t know, but to me, it seemed like a bit of a stretch; almost as if Gray used it as a ploy to keep Ewa with Bruno, and try to create as much tension between the two as he could. It works, but it does seem deliberate, and because of that, a little less realistic.

However, with this small, but effective cast Gray assembles, we get fully-realized, understandable human characters that seem like they could exist even in today’s day and age, except with maybe fancier clothes and a knack for taking selfies. Leading the cast as Ewa is Marion Cotillard and, believe it or not, she is great. There’s just something about those expressive eyes of hers that you can feel the pain, the remorse, and the agony that’s going through this character at every point in time, that you want to hug her like you’d want to embrace a sad, little and lost puppy. But once Ewa starts to embrace this newfound lifestyle for all its worth, there’s a change in Cotillard’s eyes and her demeanor as a whole, and it’s astonishing to watch. Once again, it’s all through the eyes in which Cotillard lets us know and understand what Ewa is going through, and it’s a riveting performance, from one of the best actresses working today, who makes me feel like a failure at life for not being able to complete a full sentence in Spanish, let alone any other language for that matter.

"Ignore the top-hat and guy-liner, and you'll see that I'm a really cool guy."

“Ignore the top-hat, villainous-mustache and guy-liner, and you’ll see that I’m a really cool guy.”

Another one of our finest workers in the biz today, Joaquin Phoenix, gets plenty of chances to run wild with this material. Gray and Phoenix have done four films together now, and you can tell that both completely know and understand each other’s strengths and weakness as creators. Gray probably wrote a lot of this material for Phoenix to work with, but by the same token, it also seems like Phoenix just decided, “Aw heck with it!”, half of the times and just went crazy. That’s not a bad thing, because if there’s anybody I feel comfortable with doing that in any movie, it’s Phoenix, somebody who is probably a lot more bonkers behind the camera, than the characters he plays in front of it. Together, him and Cotillard create a relationship that’s weird and clearly not the best thing for either of them, but as time goes on, you can tell there’s a strong connection between the two and by the end, they feel almost inseparable, despite the circumstances made in how they met and how they stayed together for so long.

Another great actor in general, doing exceptional work here, is Jeremy Renner who shows up every so often and brings just enough charm and loveliness to this movie, to keep it away from being a total drab-fest. You can clearly see that he has affections for Ewa that are just and realistic, but you can also get a sense that maybe, just maybe, he has another trick up his sleeve and is trying to fool her, like Bruno fooled her. Then again, she’s not wrong in thinking that, nor are we as an audience: The world is full of selfish, manipulative and distasteful liars. Even in America.

Consensus: While, at times, exceptionally slow and dark, the Immigrant poises an interesting anecdote to the general perception of America with a well-written script, and a pair of exceptional performances from its cast, especially the always amazing Cotillard.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity."

“Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Sunlight Jr. (2013)

The true-story of people who call a Motel 6 “their home”.

Melissa and Richie (Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon) are old slackers just trying to get by in a world that’s moving a little too quick for them, and an economy that seems to be getting worse and worse. Melissa works at a gas-station/convenience store called Sunlight Jr., where she is constantly getting harassed by her dirt ball of a boss. But as crappy as that may sound, at least she’s the one with the job; on the other hand, Richie, due to the fact that he’s confined to a wheel-chair for reasons unknown, gets by drinking, going to the bar, fixing old VHS’s, trying to sell them and collect unemployment benefits for as long as he can. It’s not the ideal life for these two, however, it’s the only life that they can possibly have right now, so they stick with what they got. But once Melissa gets preggo, then things for this couple begin to get even more difficult by the days, especially since none of them can really control their emotions or their habits.

In case you couldn’t tell just by that synopsis right there, this one’s a pretty depressing and down-trodden thing to watch and get through, but somehow, it’s a movie that matters. Doesn’t make it perfect, or even worth watching, but if you’re in the right mood, at the right time, with the right ideas of knowing what to expect, then you got to give it a go. Here, let me explain some more.

In case you couldn't tell, they're sad.

In case you couldn’t tell, they’re sad.

What I liked so much about writer/director Laurie Collyer’s approach is that she never really finds herself jumping into over-the-top, melodramatic territory with this material, even though it definitely begs for that to happen. Every moment something bad or suddenly disastrous occurs to this couple, rather than showing us how heart-broken they must feel at that point in time, the movie takes the higher-road and shows that they have to move on, as quick as possible. The movie never settles on the fact that they’re poor, a little dumb and have the odds stacked highly against them, but rather, shows us that they know what’s going on in their lives and are trying their best to get past it. And if they can’t get past it, then they will sure as hell survive in it; that’s as much as they can do, and that’s all that they’re going to die.

However though, it wouldn’t be safe to call them “sympathetic” in the least bit, because they do make some bone-headed decisions. For instance, one scene here occurs about mid-way through where Melissa is told by her boss to not have her boyfriend behind the counter, counting the money and doing the job all for her. Two scenes later, that’s exactly what he’s doing, and why? Oh, well, it was all because she was tired, was in need of a nap and her boyfriend decided to step up to the plate and be a sweetheart. And by “be a sweetheart”, I mean, he risked her getting her beauty-sleep over having her job, making minimum-wage and being able to pay for his bum-self.

So yeah, it’s not like you feel totally sorry for these characters because while that scene was just one instance of their sheer stupidity at times, there are plenty more where that came from. But then again, they make some idiotic decisions that any human on this Earth would make, especially ones who probably make more than just $7.25-50-an-hour. They’re human-beings, they act silly sometimes, they don’t always use their heads and rather act on impulse. That’s how we all are, their only problem is that they have a mortgage to pay that they can’t keep up with and even worse, they got themselves a little baby on the way. Just adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that’s why this movie works as well as it does and should at least be seen; because while it does have some very dark, deep and depressing moments that wouldn’t be the nice pick-me-up you need after you just get laid-off from your cashier job at Mickey D’s, there is still some honest-to-god realism and hope thrown in there for good measure, and it works. It doesn’t just show you that you have to stick up for yourself and say whatever’s on your mind in order to get what you want and demand that respect; in fact, I’d say it’s about the opposite. It’s a movie about people who know when to take shit, how to dish it back out and when worse comes to worse, and their lives on the line, how to just keep their mouths shut and keep on a movin’. Don’t have anybody fool you, but THAT, my friends, is “the American way”.

Just realizing that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.

Just coming to the realization that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.

Hate to break it to ya, folks. But that’s the only way you’re going to get by in the world. And if you don’t think so, then just get a blog. Look what good it’s done me!

As down-trodden as this may all sound, the one aspect really keeping it alive and healthy are the performances from Dillon and Watts who, once again, show that if you give them a script worthy-enough of their talents, then they’re going to give you their all. And then some more. Dillon seems like he’s having a fun time being a charming loser, and gets a few scenes that seem more like he just said “screw it” to the script, and absolutely free-balled it. Makes me wish we saw more of him, as he’s a guy whom I still feel doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. As for Watts, she does pretty damn good also as Melissa, showing us a gal that’s really got the odds stuck up against her, and yet, will continue to fight to survive for as long as she can possibly stomach. After stinkers like Movie 43, Adore and that oh-so-terrible Diana, it’s nice to see Watts acting her hiney off again, and actually getting more out of it, than what she just puts in. Keep it up, girlie, and stay the hell away from biopics and comedy! Please.

Consensus: Don’t depend on Sunlight Jr. to get you happy and hopeful for the future, however, do expect it to be a nice slap-in-the-face for facing reality, realizing what one must and wants to do, and noticing how they are totally two different things altogether. Then again, that’s life. That’s what all the people say.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah! And he's in this, too! But he doesn't have a cross-bow with him, so boo!

Oh yeah! And he’s in this, too! But he doesn’t have a cross-bow with him, so boo!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Act of Valor (2012)

Keep on fighting the good fight, boys. But let’s leave that on the battlefield, and off of our silver screens.

This one’s going to be a little difficult to summarize, so just bear with me for as long as you can. A group of Navy SEALS are sent on a mission where they must rescue an undercover CIA agent who has been held captive. Once these SEALS finally rescue her, all safe, sealed and delivered, they realize that this little kidnapping scheme is part of something far more bigger than just your traditional threat to the United States army. Somehow, through someway, the Mexican drug cartel and terrorists come together on this plan to invade the U.S., with more than a few suicide bombers ready to press the button at any point in time. However, it’s up to this same group of SEALS to do whatever it is that they can to defeat the enemy, save our country and still a life to live where they can go back to their families, have dinner, make love to their spouses and in some cases, finally get to see their newborn baby. All in a hard day’s work of a Navy SEAL Marine. Hoo-rah!

I’m going to let you know right now, just as we start things off: If you go into this movie expecting something of an honest, realistic, slice-of-life look inside the lives of Navy SEALS, then you’re not going to get here. Everything you see or hear in this movie, is straight-up, pure propaganda that’s obviously been tinkered with many of times, just so soldier-hopefuls out there will get packed, grab their bags and get the hell out of the house, where they can go to their nearest recruiter and sign right up. If you take it in as anything else other than a propaganda-piece, then you, my friend, are indeed screwed, because trust me, that’s all you’re going to get.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

But that brings up the interesting question: If this is a propaganda movie made for those who want to contribute the war, and/or support our troops, is it wrong to NOT like this movie? I remember this discussion was going through the minds of many peeps when this movie first came out early last year, and while I didn’t even bother to check it out for myself, I still realized that maybe some day down the pipeline I’ll give this try. Fast-forward to Veterans Day 2013, and gosh, was my timing every so impeccable!

If you’re going to watch any movie today to get in you the fine spirit of paying your condolences to those who fought for us, then this is definitely the movie to see, if you haven’t already seen it. While there have been far more preachy and obvious movies made for the sake of propaganda, this one definitely takes the cake as it literally seems like there are no problems with any of the SEALS involved whatsoever. Every soldier that we get the slightest glimpse at is either on-point with every decision they make, smart, nice, easily pleased and always able to figure something right on the spot. They rarely ever get frazzled, pissed off, upset, jealous, selfish, scared, worried or even a little bit gung-ho with their weapons. Nope, they’re just the most perfect human-beings in the history of the world and some out there may call me a dick for making fun of that fact, but I’m just making an obvious note: People, this is no Restrepo. Trust me on that.

And since this is no Restrepo, that means we are subject to some pretty weak character-development and acting, which could have all been easily solved had directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh not decided to be so gimmicky and cast former active duty Navy SEALS. See, I get that these guys obviously wanted to show some real, hard-earned respect to these boys, so they thought by casting them in these lead roles, giving them a handful of lines, fake guns packed with stud bullets and some, to little back-story, that they’d be doing them a real slim; which is exactly what they’re doing. Nothing really wrong with that as it probably made them feel even more special than ever before, however, what may make those guys feel all mighty, high and proud of themselves, may make some of us who are stuck watching these guys be forced to commit such actions as emoting, or getting down their comedic-timing, or even just reading their lines, feel awkward and terribly uncomfortable.

This is another point that may earn more haters than lovers, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m a movie critic, not a fellow solider writing about my thoughts and feelings about these soldiers in the roles, and the movies they’re in. I’m simply just talking about the movie as a whole, and in that regard, the movie is god awful. It’s hard to listen to half of these guys say something, without laughing uncontrollably out-loud and wonder why McCoy and Waugh couldn’t just get real actors to do these roles, and just have the SEALS stunt-double for them, in order to still give us the real look and feel as if we are really seeing these soldiers go to work and talk like they normally would. But instead, we just get a bunch of guys who can’t act for crap, but can sure as hell throw out war jargon like nobody’s business. That’s what I’ll definitely give them credit for, but then again, something tells me a person like say, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or George Clooney would have been able to do that ten times more effectively.

Think long and hard, bud.

Think long and hard, bud.

Once again, movie critic, not a soldier.

Since I do keep reminding you that I am a movie critic, I think this is finally my time to stop bagging on this movie and get to the good stuff, which isn’t much, but still something that’s worth recommending for the hardest, of hardest action-junkies. Basically, minor bits and pieces of character-development and scenes of dialogue probably take up about 10% of this whole movie; whereas the rest of the 90% is straight-up, non-stop, action. And by “action”, I mean the full shebang: Guns, nukes, explosions, bullets, snipers, bombs, explosions, dudes getting shot in the head, POV shots, explosions, knives, blood, tanks, jeeps, explosions, and plenty more where that came from. For people who get their rocks off of seeing a terrorist get their head shot off by some camouflaged sniper, then this is definitely the movie for you as there’s plenty more where that came from, and hell, who am I to judge, because I don’t mind seeing that every once in awhile either. I didn’t really care for it much here since I felt like I got that same scene about hundred more times, but still, there is some fun to be had with this movie and its various amounts of violence, especially if you’re on our side. If you’re not, then you won’t like this movie, and in essence, you’re a traitor. That’s what I’ll most likely be told.

Consensus: The movie’s intentions are good, and the heart is in the right place, but Act of Valor still can’t help but feel like nothing more than pure propaganda for army-hopefuls to check out and suddenly be inspired to take action right away, whether that be through joining up, or simply donating. Either way, this movie wants your commitment, and it may or may not get it, all depending on the type of person you are.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

On a lighter, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us.  I know I will. I just won't be watching this movie while doing so.

On a more serious, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us. I know I will. I just won’t be watching this movie while doing so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net