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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ben Foster

The Messenger (2009)

Possibly the only instance in which Jehovah’s Witnesses would actually be a welcome presence.

Partnered with fellow officer Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) to bear the bad news to the loved ones of fallen soldiers, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) faces the challenge of completing his mission while seeking to find comfort and healing back on the home front. Meanwhile though, he strikes up something of a relationship with a widow of a fallen soldier (Samantha Morton), who shows him that there’s truly something to live and be happy about with life.

Co-writer/director Oren Moverman uses the Messenger to get across two points: The pain and grief one feels after the death of a loved-one is greater than any hurt ever felt, and also, that life after the war is incredibly difficult. Are either points being made anything new, or necessarily fresh? Not really, but somehow the Messenger feels like a real, hard, honest, and raw indie that doesn’t back away from getting down to the hard truths of the hard psyche, as well as still attempting to build character along the way. In other words, it’s a movie right up my alley and it’s a perfect example of what can happen to your movie when you don’t have a very high, mighty and flashy script, but plenty of heart and emotion to make up for all of the style and the bang.

When you’re doing the job they do, fishing sounds perfect.

And because people still can’t seem to get enough of watching veterans cope with everyday society.

But is the Messenger an anti-war film? In a way, it is, but in other ways, it isn’t; the movie is never necessarily arguing about the war, why it happened, and what it’s true intentions were, as much as it’s just highlighting the fact that there were many souls lost during it, both home and on the field. Like the Hurt Locker, the Messenger essentially says that come back from the war, can’t escape it, go crazy, and end up losing their minds, only wanting to go back for me. It’s the same old song and dance every single time but this time, somehow, it feels different as Moverman takes a look inside the mindsets of all of these characters and we see sad people that seem to not be able to move on in life, all because they were sincerely crushed by the war. You feel for them, you understand them, and when it’s all said and done, you sort of end up hating the war because of what it’s done to these characters. Moverman never once gets preachy and instead, just lets us look at the view of the war from these character’s sides and make up our own decisions on our own. It’s a smart move on Moverman’s side and it’s great to see an anti-war film, that doesn’t try to spell it’s message out for you on-screen in every single shot, even though, yeah, we know what it’s trying to get across.

And playing these characters are some of the best talents working today. Ben Foster’s pretty solid in his lead role as Will Montgomery, someone who, obviously from the start, has issues. However, the movie, nor Foster ever ask for our sympathies, or our love. We feel for him enough as is and can feel his pain from a mile away – it makes the performance all the more gritty, as well as his character all the more believable.

All a vet needs is some pizza.

And if Foster being a good actor in the first place wasn’t enough, then he’s given two possible love-interests here, both are pretty amazing in their own rights. Samantha Morton is always tremendous and here, she’s even better, playing the widow who may or may not just be lonely and need some human connection, or generally actually like Will. The two have a nice bit of chemistry that does grow gradually over time, without ever making it seem all too clear just where it’s headed. Playing Will’s “other gal” is Jena Malone and while she doesn’t have a whole lot of time here, her presence is felt, just by the very few scenes she and Foster share, bringing more insight into who this guy really is.

But the real stand-out of this whole film and this whole cast, is in fact Woody Harrelson as Tony Stone.

Woody is, no matter what, always great to watch. He can be light and charming one second, but then, out of nowhere, scary and disturbing the next second. Here, he plays a little bit of both, with the later portions shining the most; he plays Tony as a stern, serious and by-the-book guy who seems like he’s never smiled in his life, but can also be quite the charming fella, too. Harrelson’s performance can get so intense sometimes, you never know when the acting begins or ends with him, making each and every one of the scenes he has with Foster, all the more suspenseful and compelling. They’ve worked together since this, so obviously there was no love lost, but come on, you can’t tell me they didn’t give each other a nudge every now and then, eh?

Who knows? We may never find out.

Consensus: Heartfelt and humane, while also never trying too hard to get its anti-war message across, the Messenger is a smart, well-acted, and emotional look at grief, loss, sadness, and of course, PTSD, yet, handled oh so perfectly well.

9 / 10

See? Like they definitely beat the snot out of one another during breaks.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

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

Couldn’t hurt, though.

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

8 / 10

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

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

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

Inferno (2016)

Dante had a point.

Famous symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) has had to deal with a lot in his life. But now, his greatest and perhaps most challenging journey awaits him when he has to follow a trail of clues that are loosely tied to Dante, the great medieval poet. When Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia and has no clue of where he’s been in the past few days, or how he got to where he’s currently at, he decides to trust in and team up with Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a doctor he hopes will help him recover his memories. Together, they race all across Europe to stop a billionaire madman (Ben Foster)’s prophecy from coming true: Unleashing a virus that could wipe out half of the world’s population. But the further and further Langdon gets on this adventure of sorts, the more he’s able to piece together bits and pieces of his memory and begins to realize what’s really going on and how he can possibly save the world, once and for all.

"Look deeper!"

“Look deeper!”

To be honest, the Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, despite looking great and dealing with some interesting ideas and issues about religion, faith, history, and art, don’t really do much. They’re incredibly mediocre flicks that get by on the fact that they’ve got Tom Hanks in the leading-role and are adaptations of famous Dan Brown novels. That’s basically it. The Da Vinci Code is just barely fine, whereas Angels & Demons is a tad bit better, if only because it’s so crazy and doesn’t try to take itself too seriously, but still doesn’t quite light the world on fire. And now, we have Inferno, the third installment in the Dan Brown film franchise that may, or may not, be done after this, and a part of me honestly doesn’t hope so.

For one reason and one reason only and that’s because Inferno, for all of its goofiness and sheer stupidity, is actually quite fun.

See, what this film has, that the other two have clearly been missing out on is this great idea of fun and excitement over this ludicrous material. It’s absolutely insane to believe that a historian could literally travel all around the world, piecing together artifacts and pieces of art, to help him stop a crime that’s about to wipe-out half of the world’s population. The first two movies dealt with the same exact thing, however, they’re so self-serious and melodramatic, that they almost feel like parodies written by talented guys who were just bored. This time, with Inferno, it seems like everyone involved is ready to have a good time and take everything that they have to work with and just not even try to make sense of it.

For that reason alone, it’s already a better movie than the other two; it doesn’t get too tied-up in the intricacies and twists of the plot, as much as it just tries and takes us to the next location, as smoothly and as quickly as humanly possible. Personally, that’s perfectly fine – the clues and hidden messages don’t always have to make sense, as long as they somehow move the plot along and aren’t harped on incessantly. The first two movies would find a clue, or hidden-message and try their absolute hardest to make perfect sense of them and give us a reason for why they matter – here, it doesn’t matter.

History happened, things happen here, get over it.

To me, that’s the real fun of Inferno. Ron Howard has always crafted these movies to look great, but has never done much else with them beyond that. Even he, too, feels as if he was just going through the motions, waiting to collect that hefty paycheck and be on with his day. However, he seems more interested and engaged with everything here, allowing for the energy to stay almost all throughout and barely let-up, even in the scenes where it’s just two or three people talking. Does he try to make perfect sense of the material and show us why it matters to everyday society? Not really, nor does he have to.

Nothing like evil Omar Sy.

Nothing like evil Omar Sy.

And same goes for the cast. Tom Hanks is, for lack of a better term, a movie star and is perfectly fine as Robert Langdon; he’s always seemed like he’s slumming in this role and not really giving a crap, which is still the same here, but it’s fine because it’s Tom freakin’ Hanks. Felicity Jones plays the usual smart gal that Langdon teams with and thankfully, has a little more to her than just pretty looks and having an impressive vocabulary. Even random bit roles from Omar Sy, Sidse Babbett Knudsen, and a really fun Irrfan Khan are effective, in that they are small players, in a very big story and help bring some life and energy to the proceedings.

The only real issue to be had with the cast was Ben Foster as billionaire Bertrand Zobrist, who also has a solution to wipe out half of the world’s population. While the idea of this may seem ludicrous and exceptionally evil, the character does bring up a few interesting points that warrant, honestly, a better movie. Why shouldn’t our world be scared with overpopulation? We’ve already taken out four or five species in our existence, so why shouldn’t we worry about what, or better yet, who’s next on the chopping block? The character doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, but the few times he does, it’s actually compelling and made me want to listen more and more.

Unfortunately, the character is stuck in a very silly movie that doesn’t care about thought, rhyme, or reason.

Which, like I said, is perfectly fine. I’ll take that over boring any day.

Consensus: Is it stupid? Indeed. But is it also fun? Yes, indeed. Inferno may not win intellectuals looking for a far more enlightening experience over, but it does help the franchise out in being more energetic and lively than its first two, quite frankly, boring installments.

6 / 10

"Quick to the Leaning Tower of Pizza! Or something!"

“Quick to the Leaning Tower of Pizza! Or something!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aceshowbiz

The Mechanic (2011)

Everyone needs a good mechanic. But for life.

Of all the high-order assassins in the business Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) may be the best there is, or that there has to offer. Bishop carries out his assignments with precision, detachment and adherence to a strict code, so that he never feels a single sting of emotion throughout his body when he’s completing these sometimes grueling and dangerous tasks. However, Bishop’s one and only true friend, Harry (Donald Sutherland), who also acted as something of a mentor, is tragically murdered, leading him to automatically think of who did it and just how they can be held accountable for their actions. Along for the ride is Harry’s son, Steve (Ben Foster), who is just as fired-up and upset about his dad’s death, but also knows that in order to extract revenge the right way, he’s going to have to listen to Bishop on everything he says, no matter what. And most of all, he’s going to have chill that energy down a whole lot.

I'm not worried. He knows why he's jumping.

I’m not worried. He knows why he’s jumping.

You’ve seen one Jason Statham movie and guess what? You’ve practically seen them all. Honestly, there’s not necessarily a problem with that; his screen-presence is still one of the most charming around that no matter how many times we see him beat the hell out of people, blow things up, and shoot big, heavy guns, we still love him and want to see more of him. Does that always mean that the movies themselves are all that great? Not really, but then again, they’re action movies – in today’s day and age, action movies hardly ever satisfy each and every person out there in the world, so the fact that Statham still does them and doesn’t show any signs of stopping, even while he’s nearing 50, is quite admirable.

And another reason why a movie like the Mechanic, as mediocre and fine as it may be, is also a solid reminder of what can happen when a Jason Statham movie actually seems to be trying.

For instance, the Mechanic is a little more than just another one of your typical Statham-vehicles – it’s also got another character to deal with that makes the movie more than just watching Statham do his thing. Ben Foster’s Steve is a solid character in a movie as crazy as this, because while he’s so incredibly high-strung and, honestly, over-the-top, there’s also still something of a bleeding heart at the center of this character. Sure, the movie could almost care less about how, or what he feels, but honestly, there’s something there with this character and it’s because Foster is such a good actor, that he’s able to make something as silly as this, the slightest bit meaningful.

Who can be balder?

Who can be balder?

Of course though, he also does a great job of creating some sort of chemistry with Statham, which looks as odd as it sounds. However, what’s so surprising about this pair, is that they actually do work well together; Foster’s wild card character, is a perfect match for Statham’s cool, calm and collected demeanor that never seems to falter. Together, the scenes of them shooting and taking down bad guys, while generic, also brings a certain flair of energy and joy because, as you can see, they’re having some fun here. Statham is, as usual, doing his usual act and is just fine at that, but Foster brings out a little something within him that, quite frankly, isn’t always seen from Statham.

Not totally a problem, but hey, every so often, it’s nice to get a reminder that Statham himself got his start on Guy Ritchie flicks and whatnot.

But either way, the action of the Mechanic is good enough for all of the junkies out there. It doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire (literally), but because director Simon West is more than capable of wading himself through all sorts of wild and crazy havoc, he does a fine job at making sure that it all works out. It’s effective in the kind of way that we can tell what’s going on, to whom, and what sort of effect it may actually be having on the characters involved. Yes, it sounds really stupid when speaking about an action flick, but it’s the small things like this that count the most and help make a seemingly conventional action-thriller like the Mechanic, seem like so much more.

Even if it is also just another excuse for us all to watch and admire all of the bad guys that Statham takes down and kills.

That, to be brutally honest, may never get old.

Consensus: Despite it still being conventional and predictable from the beginning, the Mechanic is still a solid Statham-vehicle that has all sorts of action and explosions, but also benefits from the much-accepted presence of Ben Foster.

6.5 / 10

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He's the 'Stath!

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He’s the ‘Stath!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Hell or High Water (2016)

Crime? Yeah. Keep it in the family.

Toby and Tanner Howard set out to rob a bunch of banks across the Texas region, but for what reasons? Toby (Chris Pine) has two kids that he’s got to support, whereas Tanner (Ben Foster), doesn’t really. The two are brothers who haven’t been in contact much all of these years, but for some reason, have now caught back up to do a bunch of a bank jobs, save up some money, and become all nice and rich. However, hot on their tail is aging, almost-retired Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges). While the brothers think they have the plan down to a T and are going to run into no mishaps along the road, of course, they do end up actually having some issues, whether it be poor-planning, or Tanner acting out in violent, sometimes dangerous ways. Either way, the bros have a plan that they’re going to stick to and stay alive with, even if Hamilton knows a thing or two about robbers of these sorts and isn’t going to back down from a challenge, even if his older age is telling him that it’s time to settle down and just retire already.

The bros that live together, grow competing mustaches together.

The bros that live together, grow competing mustaches together.

It’s nice to get a movie as relaxed and laid-back as Hell or High Water, yet, at the same time, still be tense and on-edge while watching it. Director David Mackenzie knows his way around a suspenseful sequence and doesn’t shy away from kicking up the action to high-gear, whenever he sees fit. However, he also makes the smart decision to slow things down whenever is necessary, so that we get a sense of this setting, these characters, their relationships, and just exactly what’s at-stake. Honestly, it’s movie-making 101, but for some reason, it still surprises me that we get so few of that in movies nowadays that when I do get it, it’s a nice and pleasant surprise.

Which is why, for the late-summer, Hell or High Water is definitely a nice jump of joy.

It’s not the kind of movie that breaks down barriers, or brings peace to the whole world, but it’s the kind of movie that shows how much can be done, with so little. Even when it seems like Mackenzie and writer Taylor Sheridan are way too comfortable and don’t really have anywhere to go, they all of a sudden pull something from underneath the rug and give us an action-sequence, a speech, or just a conversation between two characters that’s just as exciting as any of the shoot-outs or car-chases. Although, that isn’t to say that the shoot-outs and car-chases are fun and exciting, because they most definitely are, but they aren’t the bulk of the movie and that’s what matters most.

In a way, Hell or High Water is much more about some sort of political statement than any sort of popcorn crime-thriller; sure, it takes absolute joy in being all about sweaty Southern gals and pals cussing and shooting and robbing, but it also enjoys having a little something to say about these aspects as well. It’s a lot like a 99 Homes in that it speaks out against the government, the banks, and the whole entire system that would make two brothers feel as if they needed to rip-off of a bunch of banks, for whatever reason. The movie’s very hush-hush on their reasoning until a certain point (which, when it is revealed, makes a lot of sense and is pretty damn smart), but it’s more about how a world like ours can produce people to rebel and fight back against a system that’s constantly ripping them off and robbing them of their own goods and will.

It’s less preachy than I make it sound, trust me, but it’s still effective all the same.

That’s why a cast like this is so good and so needed to make sure that all of the material comes off organically; to have a bunch of silly, sometimes cartoonish Southerners go on and on about society and the United States government would get to be a bit old and not believable, but the ensemble does make it all work. But when they aren’t spouting-off their political ideas or beliefs, they’re also building their characters up to be understandable human beings, and not just goofy characters in a crime-thriller.

She's probably the biggest bad-ass of them all, and she doesn't even rob a bank. Or does she?

She’s probably the biggest bad-ass of them all, and she doesn’t even rob a bank. Or does she?

For instance, the brotherhood between Ben Foster and Chris Pine’s characters is so well-written, yet subtle, that you feel as if they’ve known each other their whole lives, have had issues in the past, but have gotten over all of them for the sake of growing older and allowing for bygones to be bygones. Foster is a compelling nutcase, whereas Pine is a lot smaller and understated, but all the more interesting, as we know that he’s got a head on his shoulder, but why he’s doing what he’s doing is always left in the air. It does eventually get answered, but really, it’s the mystery that keeps him so watchable.

And then, of course, there’s the always reliable Jeff Bridges, in full-on Rooster Cogburn-form, howling and cackling as much as he possibly can. But no matter what, he’s always lovable and fun-to-watch, even when it seems like his character may be running into caricature-territory. However, as good as he may be, it’s really Gil Birmingham who steals the show, offering a sweeter look into the life on an American that we don’t always see in movies, nor do we see get all that much attention as he does here. It’s the kind of quiet and contained performance that gets overlooked with so many big names and big performances, but it’s the kind that I loved and made me want to see more of, even if it’s just a supporting character.

Still though, he deserves his own movie and it’s one that I definitely wouldn’t mind watching.

Consensus: Small and understated, yet, still tense, exciting, compelling and most importantly, well-acted, Hell or High Water is a nice diversion from the rest of what the summer’s got to offer and definitely well worth a look.

8.5 / 10

Kirk got lost somewhere in Texas and hasn't called back yet. He's just having way too much fun.

Kirk got lost somewhere in Texas and hasn’t called back yet. He’s just having way too much fun.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Cinema Clock

Warcraft (2016)

Another day, another good video-game, another “meh” video-game adaptation.

Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by his fierce fighters, Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called that they call “the Horde”. Among them is one such orc named Durotan (Toby Kebbell), who not only has a new family on the way, but also appears to be more of a free-thinker than the rest of his fellow orcs. Sure, he’ll follow rules and orders, but he questions them, too, and doesn’t seem perfectly set out to just die for a cause he knows little to nothing about. On the opposite side of the spectrum, and looking to unite and protect Azeroth from these orc invaders is King Llane (Dominic Cooper), the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), and the powerful wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). As the two sides begin to battle one another and inch closer and closer to a finale, they also start to question whether or not all of this hate, anger and violence is the answer after all.

Orcs don't have dental plans?

Orcs don’t have dental plans?

So yeah, Warcraft is an adaptation of the video-games and really, I’m not going to get down to which ones it’s necessarily using as a platform, nor am I going to go into great deal about the video-game itself because, well, I don’t have much experience with it. Sure, I’ve played it once or twice and have, often times, enjoyed myself, but really, it just wasn’t my bag, unfortunately. I’m sure I’m not alone in that regard, but regardless, none of that really matters because it did nothing to my expectations for this movie, except knowing that it was another video-game adaptation.

However, this time, it was directed by one Duncan Jones.

Jones, in my mind at least, is still 2-0; Moon is a great movie and Source Code is just fine. However, what Jones shows as a director is that he’s willing and perfectly able to take simple genre movies and give us something completely different than what we can expect. Sci-fi is definitely the world in which he likes to lay-out and put his toes in the sand in, but he also aims for a little something higher, as he knows that sometimes, the best sci-fi isn’t the kind that alienates everyone except for the die-hards – sometimes, it’s what gets the alienated to feel apart of something that really matters.

That’s why Warcraft, while it may be definitely running and gunning for its key audience, does everything that I’m sure said audience expects. There’s a lot of magic; characters talking in strange languages we don’t understand; battle-scenes; and yes, a whole bunch of CGI. Does that make the movie bad? Not really. In fact, I’ll give Jones credit for at least doing almost all of these aspects well; the story may be incredibly lacking, but when the action is on the screen, it’s never boring and it helps that the powers these orcs and these human warriors have, is at least clearly enough spelt-out to where we understand what sorts of powers lie on both sides.

Then again, the story is pretty lame and it’s what causes the whole film to fall by the wayside.

Jones definitely seems like his main concern was getting us to believe in this universe and if that was indeed the case, then a job well done on his part. This majestical, fantastical world that Jones has made for the big screen not only works at capturing the imagination, but also makes you want to wonder about it more. While in the game, you could go almost anywhere and everywhere you wanted, here, we’re unfortunately to places that look great, but ultimately, we want to travel out into ourselves.

Poor, Paula. When will her agent just go away.

Poor, Paula. When will her agent just go away!

And honestly, that’s the biggest issue with these video-game movies, not just Warcraft. People want to play these games so much, that when they don’t feel as if they are, they aren’t enjoying anything. That’s why the action scenes, as few as they come by, are exciting and fun for the time being, because they give you that idea that you’re playing a video-game, as opposed to just watching one being played by somebody else. But whenever that action goes away, and the story kicks in, Warcraft loses any sort of sizzle, spice, or fun it had going for itself.

If anything, it can just be boring.

Cause honestly, by now, it doesn’t matter how much you dress it up, or what sort of different brand-name you give it, the battle between good and evil will always be the same. Warcraft wants to appear as if it’s some new breed of story-telling, but honestly, is just a less compelling take on something like Lord of the Rings, or better yet, the Hobbit. And if anything, those movies had something of a clear plot going on that made sense of everything – Warcraft tries to have that, but never makes sense of itself.

And really, I feel like Jones got lost here and was left without a paddle to swim with. He took on this project from the very beginning, so it’s not as if I feel sympathy for him, but honestly, it’s not hard to see someone struggling to keep their cool together, even when the rest of the film is falling around him. This isn’t to say that Warcraft is terrible either – for the key demographic, it gets just about everything right – but also, that’s about. Outsiders looking in may continue to look elsewhere because, for some reason, they missed-out on playing a video-game.

Shame.

Consensus: Despite getting everything right for the people who are going to trek out to see it, Warcraft still suffers from a boring story, a lack of strong characters, and never the sense that it wants to be more than just a “video-game movie”.

5 / 10

"FREEDOM! OR SOMETHING!"

“FREEDOM! OR SOMETHING!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Program (2016)

Come on, guys. Let’s cut Lance some slack. Dude dated Sheryl Crow after all.

Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as they like to say, came from nothing, only to then become something. Though he was just a small-time cyclist from Texas, eventually, Lance began to train more and more, to the point of where he was competing in national competitions like, well, for starters, the Tour de France. However, while he was definitely successful very early in his career, he ran into problems when it turned out that he had testicular cancer. Eventually, he got treatment and got back on his bike, except this time, it was with a whole new mission: To help those with cancer. With all sorts of support on his side from everyone around him, Armstrong created the Live Strong foundation, won the Tour de France a few more times, had all sorts of sponsors, was generally seen as “a hero”, and heck, was even in a long-term relationship with Sheryl Crow. It seemed almost as if Armstrong was the king of the world and couldn’t be brought down from his title. However, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) saw differently and was one of the key people in challenging Armstrong’s past issues with performance-enhancing drugs. These are the same sorts of issues that would ultimately prove his downfall in the public eye.

Cars vs. bikes. Who's going to win the transportation war?

Cars vs. bikes. Who’s going to win the transportation war?

By now, I’m pretty sure that nobody’s holding a “Lance Armstrong pity party”. The dude may have fought for a meaningful cause and won a slew of Tour de France’s, but was a jerk to mostly everyone in the media, anyone who associated themselves with him, and used his good deeds and charities to almost make an excuse for all of the performance-enhancing drugs he took. Oh, and not to mention, that he lied about almost all of this. So yeah, no time soon will everybody crowd around a picture of Lance, and memorialize the person who he was and cry on his behalf.

Some people may do that now as we speak, but it’s probably a very limited number.

However, that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about the Program: While it does treat Armstrong in a sometimes negative, almost mean light, it still has an effect and makes you wonder if all of this piling-up on him is, well, enough. After the Armstrong Lie, it felt like we already had Armstrong’s story and nothing else needed to be told, which is pretty true in this movie’s case, but director Stephen Frears does something interesting in that he turns the story around ever so slightly and make us think that maybe Armstrong, while not misunderstood, was attacked way too heavily. Sure, he was a cocky dude who brought a lot of these issues on himself for just not sticking to his guns, not staying clean, and gaining a God-complex, but at the same time, he still had some nice qualities to him.

I know that statement literally means nothing in most cases, but here, it means something; rather than painting Armstrong as this completely distasteful, immoral son-of-a-bitch, the movie shows that while he was most definitely a dick, he was one that also wanted to fight for a good cause. Also, the movie likes to focus on those around him, like Lee Pace’s Bill Stapleton, or Denis Menochet’s Johan Bruyneel, and show that they most definitely had a hand or two, or more, in constituting just how far Armstrong went with his success. While he may have wanted to use his wealth and notoriety for the greater good of society and to find a cure for cancer, those around him mostly just saw a piggy-bank that needed to be constantly tapped and used.

Once again, none of this is excusing the fact that Armstrong lied on many occasions, but it brings up some valid arguments about him.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

That’s why the Program, the movie, feels very mixed. In a way, we didn’t really need this story to be told to us, but because it’s a movie that exists, it’s hard to hate on it for existing. What I can hate on the movie for is not really offering anything fully meaningful to the debate of whether or not we should all, as a society, go back to letting Lance Armstrong into our tender arms. It makes you think if he was a total dick or not, but that’s about it; all the movie really sets out to do is tell Armstrong’s story once again, as if some of those at home didn’t already know a single thing about it, or him.

Also, what’s odd about the movie is how, even at an-hour-and-43-minutes, it goes by very quick. This isn’t something I note as a positive either, as a good portion of the film just feels like a Lance Armstrong highlight reel, where all of the good things he did, gets shown, as well as the bad things, and they’re just constantly put up next to one another, back-to-back. For instance, we’ll get a scene of Armstrong at a children’s hospital, being nice and sweet to the kids, but the next one, we’ll get a shot of him sticking a needle into his bum. While this may be effective editing, it still doesn’t help when there’s at least three or four of these transitions of seeing Armstrong do something nice, only to then have it all juxtaposed by him doing something bad.

We get it! What we didn’t see in the spotlight, was sometimes darker than what we wished!

As Lance Armstrong, Ben Foster is very good in that he’s doing a lot of acting and having seen Armstrong in plenty of interviews/public appearances, it almost doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, Foster is good and gives this all his every bit, but there’s a lot of yelling, and screaming, and posturing from Foster that I don’t feel was very necessary to this character, especially the real life Armstrong wasn’t totally like this. He was definitely a bit smarmy, in a way, but no way was he a total a-hole like the way he’s portrayed here. If anything, he was just a dull guy who had a lot of championships to his name, his own cancer foundation, and a severe drug habit.

That’s basically all there was to Lance Armstrong – the man, the myth, the cheater.

Consensus: Without making its own mind up on its subject, the Program feels a tad short-shifted, but with some good performances and entertaining, slightly easygoing pace from Stephen Frears, it gets the job done and may have you thinking a bit differently about Armstrong himself. Or, then again, maybe not.

6.5 / 10

He's a hero to us all. Now give me back my money for all those damn wristbands!

He’s a hero to us all. Now give everybody back all their money for those damn wristbands!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Finest Hours (2016)

Well, if pneumonia doesn’t kill ya!

Based on the true story of events that took place in February of 1952, a when a brutally strong storm hit the coast of New England. During this storm, an oil tanker, the SS Pendleton, found itself in a whole of trouble – meaning that they’re ship was literally torn in half. Captain of the ship, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck), as well as thirty two other men found themselves in the back half of the ship and were in desperate need of some help and attention. Because, well, the longer the ship stayed floating in the water, the more and more flooded it got, leading the men closer and closer to their own respective deaths. Obviously, nobody on the boat was happy about this, so they decided to make one last call for help, in hopes that somebody, even despite the terrible storm, would be able to come and save them all. Well, wouldn’t luck have it that a U.S. Coast Guard station hears it, and one person in particular, Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), decides that it’s his responsibility to save the day and make sure that all of these men get home alive and safely. But Bernie, as well as the other brave souls who go along with him, will soon find out that maybe their dream all along, just was that: A dream that maybe couldn’t ever come true.

He's so normally good-looking.

He’s so normally good-looking.

The Finest Hours is a better movie than people seem to be giving it credit for. Although that isn’t to say it isn’t without its faults, because, well, it definitely has problems. One such is that director Craig Gillespie seems like he’s trying to do a tad too much here, but never really fleshing each plot-line/subplot out to their fullest extreme. Gillespie brings us into the sort of old timey, nostalgic-tone of the early-50’s for the first half-hour of the movie where we see love, happiness and all sorts of novelty expressions of the old days, blossom and it’s a genuinely sweet little movie in its own right. It feels odd considering that we know the movie is going to have to do with a huge storm and ship at one point, but hey, it’s fine for a short while.

Then, it jumps right onto the ship and all of a sudden, we’re getting what is basically the prequel to the Perfect Storm.

Had this movie been released in 2000, right before the Perfect Storm, the Finest Hours would have been called that and it probably would have been a bit of a better movie (although the later is definitely better than the former). However, the Finest Hours is a movie that exists, features a huge boat, as well as a destructive storm that, believe it or not, is actually pretty scary; even though Gillespie literally goes from us watching as Chris Pine makes on some sweet girl, to then being thrown head-first into this dirty, sweaty, wet, and muggy ship, at the drop of a dime, it’s still surprisingly effective.

A bit jarring? Yeah, but it still somehow worked.

But most of this is due to the fact that Gillespie seems to put a lot of his focus onto the storm at-hand and it’s where the movie really excels. Though the CGI can look a bit shoddy, as well as incredibly dark at times, the movie still gives you this idea that, no matter how determined or empowered these guys may be, there may just be one too many odds stacked against them. Despite the fact that it’s based on a true story that most people probably already know about, it’s not hard to get wrapped-up in the characters, as limited as they may be, and the storm, watching as the two sides constantly duke it out.

Once again though, Gillespie’s focus does tend to lean back towards the characters and this is where the movie can sometimes lose its grove. Personally, I was all fine with the central romance between Pine and Holliday Grainger, but once Pine’s Bernie Webber is out on the water, Grainger’s character is sort of just left there to fend for herself, going from one random house to another, looking scared and beautiful at the same time. Why she wasn’t cast in Carol is beyond me!

But regardless, yeah, everything on-land is pretty dry and more often than not breaks up the tension of the movie. However, the storm/rescue sequences themselves are so compelling and tense, that they’re almost worth all the little breaks in between. That’s not to say that Gillespie could have probably made better, tighter movie without all of the stuff on-land, but still, it exists and it’s worth getting past, just to get to the good stuff.

Work that ship, Casey. Show big bro who the real Affleck is.

Work that ship, Casey. Show big bro who the real Affleck is.

And it’s not like the characters are played by any chumps, either, as everybody here is pretty solid.

Chris Pine is surprisingly playing against-type here as Bernie Webber, someone who is neither cunning nor charming, but just sort of the quiet and meek dude who always happens to be in the corner. Granted, it’s Chris Pine, with Chris Pine looks, so it’s hard for him to really play anyone as normal and everyday as someone who doesn’t already look like Chris Pine, but it’s fine because he’s at least trying with something different and, for the most part, it works. Ben Foster plays his pal, and doesn’t really have much to do or say, despite being in just about every scene. It’s a shame because we know so much more from Foster, but still, the presence is welcome.

And yeah, there’s a whole bunch of other character actors here to shake a stick at and be happy to see, but it’s really Casey Affleck and Eric Bana who steal the show – the former for good reasons, the later, for memorably bad ones. What Affleck does well here with his character is that he presents him as a smart, but determined man of very little words who doesn’t beat around the bush when the ship is sinking, but knows exactly how to save himself, as well as the rest of the crew on-board. There’s something comforting about his presence that makes him take over every scene and sort of just wish the movie was about him, his crew, and what’s always going through their minds.

Then, there’s Eric Bana who, sadly, is doing one of the worst movie accents of all time, although it’s not entirely his fault.

Okay, that’s a lie, because it pretty much is. However, I’m just trying to be nice to the guy because it seems like he’s got a lot to work with here. For one, he’s an Australian, trying to play a Texan, who just so happens to be stationed out in Boston. It’s initially odd because we don’t know what accent he’s doing, but after awhile, it becomes clear which one he is trying and it just never works, nor makes any sense. The movie could have definitely just placed him as a normal American from California or Montana, and Eric Bana would have been fine. However, they don’t do that and instead, Eric Bana looks and sounds so ridiculous.

Poor Eric. At least he got to be the Hulk in the new millennium before it was cool.

Consensus: Though the Finest Hours doesn’t always focus on the miraculous and surprisingly uplifting escape plan, it still works when it does, but then, doesn’t work when it’s looking elsewhere.

7 / 10

Ew! Bring back the hot and sweaty dudes!

Ew! Bring back the hot and sweaty dudes!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Lone Survivor (2013)

I wonder how many people got out of this alive?

It’s the summer of 2005 in Afghanistan and four Navy SEALS (Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitch, Ben Foster, and Emile Hirsch) find themselves assigned a covert mission: Find the vicious Taliban leader known as Ahmad Shahd and kill him. All four of these soldiers feel like it’s going to be another walk in the park, but soon, things start to go wrong once they seem not to be able to get their radio to work. To make matters even worse, they stumble upon a few local goat herders, whom they hold in captivity in fear of not knowing what to do just yet. However, working with their better judgement, the four decide that they shouldn’t hold them any longer, nor kill them. So, they let them go and continue on with the mission. Problem is, once they let these bystanders go, one of them actually goes right back to the local Taliban and gives up their cover, meaning that it’s these four Navy SEALS, against this whole army. In other words, it’s a fight to the death in which the Americans, for once, are out-numbered and may continue to be if they can’t get their stinking radio working.

Peter Berg’s been known to be a big advocate for our soldiers, which is why a movie like this just plainly reads “total propaganda”. Even if the story itself is real, with all of the right details thrown in there and such, it still seems like another case of Peter Berg getting his hand on a military story, making it for the masses and showing the rest of our society the heroes that are out there, fighting on a day-to-day basis, so that we can continue to live our lives in perfect, total harmony. Trust me though, there’s nothing wrong with that as we should all definitely pay our respects and gratitude to these soldiers who risk their lives day in, and day out. But a movie that’s basically telling me I need to, is never something that sits well with me, which is exactly what I thought I was going to be subject to here with, yet again, another Peter Berg “military” movie.

With or without guns in their hands, they're pretty damn boss.

With or without guns in their hands, they still look boss.

However, I was very wrong. I’m glad to be though because now seeing it, I can say that this is as honest, and as heart-wrenching of a tribute to our fallen heroes, as we’ve gotten for quite some time. Especially with one that doesn’t hold any obvious political-agenda; it’s just signaling a tribute to those who deserve it the most.

What Berg does so well with this true tale is by the way that he doesn’t really pander to any view-point in particular. Whether the people who see this more are for the war, or aren’t, it doesn’t matter as Berg clearly shows us that this is less a story about the actual war, the brutal killings and all sorts of other controversies that surround it, but more about the human-beings who get wrapped up into this war, feeling as if they are doing something right for themselves, their families and most importantly, their country. And they definitely are, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to watch as each and every one of these guys continue to fight for their lives, find the best possible way to make it out alive and make sure that whomever it is that’s on their side, walks across the finish-line alongside them as well. It’s more of a testament to how these soldiers are like brothers in a way and care more for the person next to them, rather than themselves. I don’t usually like that “hurrah hurrah!” type of stuff in these war movies and quite frankly, I don’t really fall for it, but here, with Berg’s attention to emotion, it felt real and authentic, without many strings attached. There were some over-dramatic moments that were clearly tugging at the heart-strings, but never to the point of where it was unbearable.

But what really sets this movie over that edge of being more than just your traditional, war flick, is in the way it portrays our infamous sequence-of-violent/horrific-events. It’s less sentimental than one might suspect, and really will test some audience’s patience as it gets very up-in-your-face, and never seems to shy away from the harsh facts of the reality of this situation.

For instance, the whole sequence between the SEALS and the rest of this Taliban army starts off on the top of a mountain, and at first, Berg makes it seem like these soldiers are invincible heroes that yes, do get shot, but also suck it in and walk away from it all, only to continue on with the shooting, the strategizing and the running away. Eventually though, the soldiers do begin to get more and more shot at, which also means, they begin to take more bullets wherever they just so happen to connect. Some take it in the legs, the back, the shoulders, the stomach, the head, and all sorts of other parts of the body that I don’t even want to get into or describe.

Nonetheless, this is when the movie really starts to hit you, and hit you hard. This is also where Berg’s direction really starts to excel in the way that it paints a portrait of just how bad a situation can get, once one unfortunate mishap continues to happen, after another, and nothing seems to be working well for one side, but perfectly for the other. You begin to feel a palpable sense of danger, just about the same time as the soldiers do and it takes you for a thrill, more times than often. Especially once the battle itself starts to spill out all the way to the bottom of the mountain, and people begin to start falling all over themselves, and getting injured even more, in horrific and gruel detail.

Though some may see what Berg does here as “too realistic”, it’s never gratuitous as if he were making a horror film. For example, some people’s ears are shown falling off; blood is seen spraying every which way but loose; and even eyes get enclosed to practically making some people blind. But somehow, it never seems over-done. Instead, it seems like Berg really does want us to get an idea of what it is that these soldiers went through on that fateful day, without trying to manipulate us in any way. Simply, Berg just allows for the scenes to happen, with barely any directorial-trickery or manipulative score added anywhere.

It’s just four Navy SEALS fighting for their damn lives, and it’s a compelling watch, every single second its on-screen.

Yep, they really do go there.

Yep, it goes there.

However, it should be noted that once the actual mountain-attack is over and done with, the movie does begin to get very conventional, and this is exactly where Berg begins to tug on the heartstrings. And usually, it would feel deserved, especially since we’ve already been through so much with these SEALS and seen them go through and, well, stay there, but it didn’t quite work as well as the first two-halves of the movie. Most of that simply has to do with the fact that barely any of these characters have much more to them than we see painted on a portrait for us in the first 30 minutes or so.

Despite this, the cast does very well with each and every one of their roles, despite never really getting any development beyond the bravery-side to their personality. Mark Wahlberg definitely does well with being macho and tough, but showing the capability of being smart as well; Taylor Kitsch is at least easier and less painful to watch here, then he’s been in his past three or four movies; Emile Hirsch brings a lot of his little-boyish charm that we’ve seen him bring to most of his movies, and it works wonders for his character here that himself seems a bit immature and a bit too out-of-his-reach; Eric Bana tries hard to hold-back on his Australian-accent, but does fine altogether as the one sergeant whose back at base, watching over all of the proceedings; and, if there is any stand-out to be found here, it’s Ben Foster as the one soldier who suffers through the most pain and agony out of them all, but never wusses-out or asks for mercy. He just keeps on trucking until he can’t truck on no more. Much like every other soldier did on that terrible, terrible day where lives were lost and families were hurt. But altogether, we stuck through it and will continue to do so until the end of time. ‘Murrica!

Consensus: Though it has all of the workings of a very obvious, ham-fisted war flick that’s trying to make its political stand-point known loud and clear for all to hear, Lone Survivor still sticks to the humanity of this real-life mission, in which many soldiers lost their lives and even though one came out alive to tell the story, the painful reality of fallen family members is still there and never going to go away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Next time somebody tells you that they created a free-verse poem, run far, far away from them!

In 1944, a young, aspiring poet named Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) goes away to college in New York and finds himself in a bit of a rut. Not only is he secretly gay and not able to fit in with the rest of the macho crowd that goes out to bars every night, get drunk and hope to land in some gals bed. That’s not Allen’s style, but you know what is his style? Running along with the young, free and wild souls of the college, which is why non-conformist Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) interests him so much, for many more reasons other than just sexual. Yes, there is that idea, but since Ginsberg isn’t totally out of the closet and Carr is with an older man (Michael C. Hall), it never quite materializes to anything more than just a curiosity. However, their relationship becomes something more very serious once Carr begins to lose his cool, and does something that will affect Ginsberg, and the rest of the group of poets around him for the rest of their poem-versing lives.

Seeing as that I’m not a huge fan of the Beat Generation, I do have to say that the story of a friend of these famous writers who was involved with a murder that practically happened around them, did sort of interest me, even if I knew what I was going to get with this movie most of the time. That meant that there was going to be lots of partying, smoking, drinking, sexxing, and spontaneous writing and shouting of ideas that seem to mean more then what they actually are. So yeah, as you can see, I wasn’t too fond of the subject material going in and worst of all, I just didn’t care all that much to begin with.

Harry? What happened to Hermoine?

Harry? What happened to Hermione?

But somehow, this movie interested me because it was less about the Beat Generation and how they wrote, and more or less the idea of growing up in a world where you practically live underground, away from all of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. See, probably the most interesting aspect behind this movie is that the movie never tells you right off the bat who Allen Ginsberg is, so if you were a person who didn’t know much about him beforehand, then throughout the movie, you’d get to know just exactly who he was, what he did and why he mattered to the rest of society and the arts. We see Ginsberg as a young writer, who aspires to be like his famous daddy, but you also see him as a kid that wants more out of this life, which makes it easy for us to understand why he falls so hard for Lucien in many more ways than one.

This approach to the story made it seem pretty neat because rather than basically showing us a sign of things to come for people like Ginsberg, or Jack Kerouac, or William Burroughs, the movie just focuses on their lives and who they were at that point in time. Obviously not much changed as time the future years went by, bu to get this small snippet in the lives of these guys, all before they began to be beloved by any college kid who smoked too much weed and had too much time on their hand, and seemingly, take the art world by storm. And yes, this is all coming from a guy who is typically not interested in learning anymore about these figures than I already do know, which is why I was all the more surprised leaving the theater, feeling as if I wanted to actually read more of these guys’ poems.

Shocking, I know. Let’s just hope that none of my football teammates are reading this right now.

However, what’s strange about this movie is that the very same thing I don’t like the actual people in this story for, the movie actually does do and it was probably the only times I really felt myself terribly uncomfortable and annoyed with it. Once the movie starts to show all of these young writers getting together, acting as if they are the coolest things since sliced bread and practically know everything about the Earth they live on from the tectonic plates, to the ocean currents, then I felt like I wanted to beat the hell out of them. They were just up their own asses, and I get that most young guys their age, especially around that time, probably acted the same way; but that still doesn’t mean I want to watch a film about all of that, especially when there’s so much more interesting stuff going on around it like, say, the Lucien Carr story itself.

"As we clasp our hands together, it's like two human souls perfectly entwined."

“As we clasp our hands together, it’s like two human souls perfectly entwined, in one perfect world full of insightful ideas and thoughts. You know, man?”

The fact that Lucien Carr is actually a real person and got away with such a heinous act, really still surprises me even when I think about it. You’d think that Lucien Carr would have just been a character inside these poets’ minds that they created in order to get past some sort of writer’s wall, but nope: Real dude, real problems, real murder. That’s why when you watch Dane DeHaan and see how charismatic he is as Carr, you’re ultimately surprised by what the hell drove this guy to do something so bad in the first place. We get the reasons why he decided to murder a person, but it still shocked me since he seemed like a bright kid, albeit, one with some anger issues. That said, DeHaan is great in this role and continues to show us why he is one of the most interesting, young talents we got working in the biz today. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And to be honest, Daniel Radcliffe ain’t too shabby either, playing a younger-version of one Allen Ginsberg. It would seem like a real hard obstacle for somebody as famous and as recognizable as Radcliffe to get past in playing an even more famous, more recognizable figure in American culture, but the dude gets over that problem right off the bat and you begin to share a sympathy with this cat as you know he’s just a poor, little sheepdog just sucking this whole new world in. However, he’s not the only famous face, playing a fellow famous face, Ben Foster and Jack Huston get their chances to live and shine as William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac respectively, and both do very well, giving us more personality behind the figure-heads, while also showing us the paths they would eventually take after this tragedy occurs around them. Everybody else in this wide cast do great jobs as well, even if David Cross playing Allen Ginsberg’s dad did seem like a bit of stretch; but a stretch I was willing to let pass since he wore his glasses. Without them, it would have been too distracting to say the least.

Consensus: You don’t have to be an obsessed and dedicated fan to the generation that Kill Your Darlings is glamorizing, but it definitely will help more since a lot of this concerns them, just being the people you read about them being in any book, poem or article you may or may not read. Either way, it’s an interesting slice-of-life in some very interesting lives, that would only continue on to get more and more interesting as they lived on.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)

Love makes ya do the darnedest things.

Ruth and Bill (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) are young, madly in love, and plan of having a baby together. That’s usually a tri-fecta for any couple, but it’s different for these two since they are both outlaws, and Bill is in jail for all of the crimes he committed and some of which, he didn’t. Fast forward to a couple of years later, Ruth is living her with her and Bill’s baby girl, while also living a life under the lingering-eye of a local deputy, Patrick (Ben Foster). However, things go back to normal, and by “normal”, I do mean bat-shit crazy once Bill escapes jail and intends on coming back to Ruth, his daughter, and living the life they once lived before. But it isn’t going to be so easy with the law and a bunch of hitmen on his tail.

Right from the start, it’s obvious that David Lowery takes inspiration from Terence Malick’s shoes of film making. The images are beautiful, wistful, and poetic in the type of way that you could only get with a dude who pays as much attention to his editing, than the actual filming-process itself, but Lowery is a new type of breed that may be more welcome than Malick is these days. To the Wonder featured all of the same pretty things we love and adore about Malick films, but the story just blew. So you have to wonder: If Malick isn’t being the best he can be, who’s next to take the reigns? Obviously David Gordon Green had all of the promise in the world that just squandered once he started smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew, so that only leaves one person right here, right now, and possibly for awhile, and that’s David Lowery himself.

"Don't worry, baby. If you come with me, I'll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?"

“Don’t worry, baby. If you come with me, I’ll take you away from this life of crime and killing and take you to one where we are constantly on-the-run and looking behind our backs at every corner. Deal?”

And yes, with the visuals, the sound, and the feel of this movie, it’s very Malick-y. It’s able to convey plenty of emotions just strictly through putting the camera in a certain position, barely moving it at all and just letting the images do the speaking for themselves. But he’s also very Malick-y in the way that he frames this story, if not better because at a surprising quick and fast hour-and-a-half, everything you need to, want to, and have to know about this story, just so happens to occur within the first 10 minutes and after that, it’s a free-fall from there of character-development, emotions, ideas, and themes, none of which ever seem to be over-shooting their guns either. For a first-time director with such limited resources, it’s a surprise that Lowery was able to hit as many marks as he was able to with a story that seems so familiar of outlaws and bandits falling in love and running from the law, but the stance and direction that Lowery takes is what makes it surprisingly fresh.

Rather than having this whole movie focus in on the relationship between Ruth and Bill, the how, the where, the what, and the when; we get only a tiny-bit of development between these two where we see how they obviously love each other and why, and then go straight to where they become separated, only to find that Ruth is pretty lax in her latter-days as a single-mommy. Believe it or not, after all of the hustle, bustle, action, and Jackson of the first 10-15 minutes, the movie calms down and gets very light, touchy-feely, and probably the most enjoyable since it’s all about the characters. And what makes those characters work as well as they do is how Lowery is able to make almost every character as interesting, or as likable as the one that came before.

Except for a couple of shady hitmen that come knocking through town later in the movie, there’s nobody here that’s really considered a “baddie”, which makes every conversation between whatever characters on-screen, interesting and compelling. Lowery’s script is great as he’s able to tackle the subject of love and at what lengths one would be able to pursue for it, but is also great at giving us a rich, detailed-characters that feel like real people, with real problems, and real feelings. Of course they’re more dramatic than the common-day folk, but at their core, they feel like people you could meet on the streets, especially the streets of Texas during the 70’s, where, you guessed it, this movie takes place. Obviously Lowery is a talent that needs to be watched from here on in and to be honest, once this movie hits the big-screen; I think we’re going to have ourselves a new David Gordon Green. Let’s just hope, as I said, he doesn’t start smoking hefty-amounts of pot and hanging with the Apatow crew.

Beware, David. Be very aware!

But as much as Lowery’s to be congratulated for the awesome work he’s pulled-off here, so is the cast that is just about perfection. Rooney Mara is a nice fit for Ruth, when she’s both a reckless troublemaker, and also a sweet, relaxed house-mommy-of-one. It’s nice to see that after a tough-ass performance in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Mara can still make us forget about all of that and actually get us paying attention to how nice and civilized she can be. Ruth is a character caring for and worth watching, especially since you know she means well and just wants what’s best for her and her daughter, regardless of whether or not the daughter actually sees her father.

Speaking of the daddy, Casey Affleck is also very good as Bill, the outlaw on-the-run. Affleck’s good here because he’s not only able to make us care for this dude by the sure fact that he just wants to see his daughter and his baby momma, but also that we feel like he won’t kill anybody just to do it. In fact, he makes it an apparent point not to do so, but yet, still finds himself doing so when push comes to shove. It’s just the way the world works and he tries to keep his head above it, but still gets sucked down in every once and awhile. Aiding Bill at one point, is Nate Parker as one of his ex-crime buddies who has now taken up a life as a bartender/owner. Parker’s been a star on the rise for quite some time now and it’s only a matter of time until the dude breaks-out and takes the whole movie world by storm. Until then, keep doing what you’re doing, baby.

Mustache = extra serious

Mustache = extra serious role

However, the best of the best for me was Ben Foster as Patrick, the local copper who not only takes a liking to Ruth, but also seems like he’s actually on Bill’s side, as much as he’s on the law’s side as well. People get on Foster’s case for being all about the yelling, the screaming and the larger performances that usually take more attention away from the movie or the character he;s playing, and more towards how over-the-top he is, but I’ve always stood by him no matter what, which makes this performance all the better because of how much he downplays it all. Patrick could have easily been a character that’s unlikable in the way that he’s thirsty for revenge and wants to bang the dude who shot him’s girlfriend, but it isn’t like that way with the character or with Foster. The dude’s actually really nice, seems to care about Ruth and would probably never do anything to hurt her or a fly, despite having a badge and a gun that may show otherwise. It’s great to see Foster finally getting more quality-roles and even though I wouldn’t say this is his best (this always does it for me) it’s still a step in the right direction for a dude who I think is criminally-underrated and due for some big roles. Hopefully my dreams come true. Hopefully.

If there was a problem I had with this movie, is that I think a little bit more time devoted to plot would have really benefited this flick. How it ends is pretty emotional and compelling, as the movie never seems to settle for a second, but it also feels rather abrupt, as if there was more here that Lowery didn’t leave in the final-cut or just didn’t bother shooting at all. Whether that may be the case or not, I have to say that something felt like it was missing from this movie and I still think about it now. Maybe I’m due for a re-watch sometime soon to fully get a grip? Just maybe I do but until then; that’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Consensus: With a short running-time of only an hour-and-a-half, you would assume that Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is just too packed-up for it’s own good, but it’s surprisingly brisk, deftly-paced, detailed, entertaining, and compelling enough to where you care for the characters, what happens to them, and where they might end up once the triggers have been pulled and the blood has been spilt.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"I'll never let go. Not even when you're in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.

“Bill, I’ll never let go. Not even when you’re in jail and having initiation time with Big Bubba.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

360 (2012)

Sex is apparently everywhere, especially when you’re on a computer.

This is a story about a series of different characters, that are all interconnected by one another through the subject of sex. That’s right, sex is everywhere. People have it, people do it, and there’s no escaping it no matter who you may meet in the world.

With a cast with 3 Oscar-nominees (fairly recent, too), director of one of the best flicks of the past decade (City of God), and a subject that seems universal discussed and portrayed (sex), you would think that a film like this would have no problems making it to theaters, kicking some box-office bootie, and even get some “talk” come Oscar-time. However, it’s able to be viewed by Video On Demand now before it’s limited theatrical release. Hmmm….

Maybe it’s just that I’m a sucker for these kinds of flicks in the first place (interconnecting story-lines), but there was something about this flick that seemed to be working quite well. First of all, director Fernando Mereilles is definitely not the type of director who just lets his story get in the way of his style and as bad as that may sound for most directors, it’s not for this guy. There’s not much style to actually been seen here in the first place, with the exception of a couple of cool split-screen tricks that show about 4 stories at a time, but he does allow there to be enough room for compelling stories, even if they aren’t all that way.

One story, in particular really kept me intrigued the whole time just to see how it played-out in the end, was the story that began with Anthony Hopkins connecting with a young Brazilain woman on a plane. Hopkins has always been one of the best actors to ever grace the screen in the say, past 20 years and he shows that type of skill with his performance here as an old, but wise man that knows the mistakes he has made in his life and doesn’t want others repeating them, either. There’s a lot of restraint in his performance, that may separate it from a lot of his other performances but I really can’t remember the last time I saw Hopkins get a role so meaty quite like this in a long, long time. That story soon starts to follow the young Brazilian woman (who is good, but I don’t know her name) as she meets a recently released from prison pedophile, played by Ben Foster in what I think is a role that shows his true talents as a dramatic actor.

Foster has always been on the g0ods with me ever since I first saw him beat the shit out of everybody in Alpha Dog, but this is where he proves me right in saying that this guy could very well be a huge name in Hollywood, he just has to be given the right material. Foster plays a man that is so trapped in a body and mind that he can’t seem to control at all, that whenever he’s on-screen, you feel like this guy is going to crack and you don’t want him to not just because he may be a little messed-up in the head, but because you generally feel like he’s a good guy. And it’s all played out very subtle, to where you don’t know when he’s going to crack and how but little things he does, just have you thinking the worse.This performance reminded me a lot of Jackie Earle Haley’s in Little Children, but they both seem very different in their own rights and both convey very different emotions right from the start of the flick. Foster makes this story compelling as it unfolds and watching him was the real treat of this flick.

As for everybody else in this cast, they’re alright, too, along with their stories. Lucia Sipsová plays a Slovakian prostitute and has a pretty interesting story-line that spins off another interesting one and Rachel Weisz and Jude Law have a so-so story as a bored, married couple that seems to be at the end of their road with one another. Both stories are well-acted, but certainly don’t get enough screen-time as they should, especially Weisz’s and Law’s that seems to start fairly late in the film, but somehow end very early, as well. Mereilles runs into this problem a lot with this flick a lot because even if some stories are very interesting, they aren’t allowed enough time to develop and have it’s characters gain our sympathy just yet. Not every story is a miss, but there aren’t as many hits as there should be anyway.

But perhaps the biggest problem with this flick that I had was the subject-matter itself: sex. Right from the very first shot, I thought that this was going to be one of those racy, dirty flicks about how people in the world just can’t get enough of sex and where they will go just to get some of it. Almost sounds like Shame, if Robert Altman had directed it but I can assure you, that the idea of that actually happening is probably a lot more interesting than anything this flick has to say about the subject of sex. Yeah, we get it, people do bad things when it comes to sex. Some make a living out of it, some get in trouble for it, and some just can’t get over their infatuation with it and even though the film teeters on actually doing something risky with this premise, it never fully delivers. Instead, this film just gives us a bunch of stories that will make you think of something while they’re going on but when they’re off the screen, they’re out of your mind and out for good.

Consensus: With an exceptional amount of good stories and performances from this large, cultural cast, 360 does deliver on giving us a drama that keeps our attention but when it comes to providing us with some major issues and themes about the world we live in where sex is everywhere? Nope, not really there.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Prometheus (2012)

Crews of explorers should just not go into space unless they are with a freakin’ army.

Prometheus centers around a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Let me just start off by saying that after watching Alien and realizing it to be the true sci-fi/horror classic that everybody has ranted about, I was very pumped for this quasi-prequel of sorts. Problem is, when you watch Alien, there isn’t really any need to see this flick.

What makes this “prequel” so different from many others out there, is that it’s directed by Ridley Scott himself. The thing with Scott, is that he won’t just go for a quick and easy job where he’ll just make some moolah. No, instead he’ll put his heart and soul into production that quite frankly, deserves it and that’s what makes this film better than plenty of the other prequels we see out there. Scott brings us back to the universe he made famous and expands it, answering more questions for us that we already had. But even though this film’s big selling point is it’s tie-in to Alien, it’s a real beautiful film to just gaze at.

Scott always has a great attention to detail and his production design for Prometheus just totally backs that up. There’s some cool, futuristic stuff here like space suits, vehicles, holographic displays, medical devices composed solely of robots, and plenty of other impressive treats to see here as well. Everything looks so dazzling, especially if you see it in 3D, where a couple of scenes may just take you by surprise by how you feel like you can just reach-out and touch whatever it is that’s on the screen. Some real beautiful stuff here, mainly because Scott feels something for this universe that he’s created and has given all of his might to make it work.

The problem with this flick isn’t really Scott’s fault, it’s more of the story itself. The core of this story is basically Alien done all over again. Crew wakes up out of deep sleep, spaceship lands on mysterious alien planet for some strange reason, crew discovers some ancient alien crap, alien force is awakened by them, people get others infected, and then they are all picked off one by one. It’s pretty obvious where this story is headed, because it’s pretty much the same thing around and that took away from the surprise factor for me. I knew that only a few were coming out alive and the only sense of guessing with this film, was who was it going to be. Sadly, I guessed right.

Even though this film is about 2 hours long, for some odd reason, a lot of it feels like there were some actual big scenes cut-out from the final product. The main reason for me saying this is because there’s a lot that goes down here, that makes no sense and seems somewhat random. One example is how Captain Janek is able to explain the purpose of aliens and what was inside of them so damn quickly. It almost comes out of nowhere, without any clues or signs to how Janek must have known this and comes off like a way to make the finale hit harder. Another example is how David knows how to work the Space Jockey devices without any faults whatsoever. How did he know how to do all of this? What, did he just learn it all by reading a bunch pictographs from Earth or is it just that he’s so totally uber smart cause he’s a robot and all? Not explained at all and it gets even worse when he can apparently speak the alien language fluently, as if he has been doing it his whole life. Yup, didn’t make any sense.

Scott does do a pretty good job with the pace of this film and I can easily see that he put a lot of effort into making this film thrilling, just like he did with Alien. However, there is a huge difference between both of those films and it’s pretty obvious considering the whole hour and 50 minutes of that movie was filled with tension out the wahzoo, whereas this one, had about 4 to 5 scenes of actual tension in it’s whole 2 hour run-time. I don’t know what it was about this flick that made it so different but for some reason, I wasn’t really on-the-edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next to these characters. I just sort of sat there and kept on waiting for Scott to really knock me out of my seat. Which was a shame too, because there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for Scott to do this but just ended up, well, keeping me somewhat satisfied. Somewhat satisfied is not something I want to feel with a product like this, especially when it’s coming from Ridley Scott.

As for the performances, everybody is good but nothing out-standing by any means. Noomi Rapace is fine as our leading lady, Elizabeth Shaw, but feels too much like Ripley and definitely isn’t as strong as her considering we never fully see her lash-out and get “tough”. She just runs away and screams, except for one scene that feels too much like the infamous “chest bursting” scene from AlienLogan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy, but is fine as Charlie Holloway even though the character comes off extremely dicky at times, to the point of where you don’t care if he lives or dies. Charlize Theron plays a villain for the second week in a row, but is more subtle and stoic this time as Meredith Vickers and does a good job with her, even though I think they could have done more with her. Idris Elba is good as Captain Janek and probably has the most likable personality on the whole spaceship.

Probably the stand-out performance from this cast would have to be Michael Fassbender as the robot David. David is a pretty unsettling character the whole way through this flick as you have no idea whether or not he’s going to be good or going to be bad. He’s also a character that sort of just goes his own way the whole movie and doesn’t really care about the others, but you still can’t let that get in the way of what you may think of him since we all know that robots in sci-fi movies usually aren’t the nicest “things” around. Thankfully, those results are told to us by the end but for some very brief moments, he kept me guessing and I think a lot of that is credit to Fassbender’s skills as an actor. Wish I had more to say about him considering he was the best but it’s just one of those good performances that are notable once you see the movie.

I usually love Guy Pearce in everything he does, but his casting here as Peter Weyland just didn’t seem like it belonged in this movie at all. Peter Weyland is an elderly character, so why did Scott feel it was necessary to cast a younger dude as him and just keep on stuffing his face with make-up and effects. First of all, it looks stupid and fake, and secondly, it just seems like such a waste of a talent like Guy Pearce.

Consensus: Prometheus has some great moments that dazzle and excite, but still has plenty of pot-holes that make this story more confusing, makes the characters seem very one-dimensional, and also make a lot of the genius opportunities Ridley Scott had here, seem to go right out the window.

7/10=Rental!!

Alpha Dog (2006)

Wiggers gone wild.

Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) controls the drugs on the well-manicured streets of his neighborhood. Where Johnny goes, the party, the girls and his loyal gang follow. When he’s double-crossed over missing deal money by raging hothead Jake (Ben Foster), Johnny and his gang impulsively kidnap Jake’s little brother, Zack (Anton Yelchin), holding him as a marker and heading to Palm Springs. With no parents in sight, they grow used to having the kid around, and Zack enjoys an illicit summer fantasy of drinking, girls and new experiences.

Writer/director Nick Cassavetes seems like he’s always trying to not be known as “the legendary directors son”, but it’s almost too hard to get by that. But with films like this, I have a feeling he can do it right.

The first hour of this film doesn’t really have anything going on other than show all of these asshole teenage kids, doing stupid and annoying teenage kid stuff. It was kind of annoying since we have all seen this done time and time before with no real originality here other than some kids drinking, smoking weed, and cursing up a storm like nobody’s business.

However, after the first hour the film starts to pick up and I think this is where Cassavetes really starts to show signs of a great director as well. Since this was based on a true story, the film is told as if it were a police investigation, watching this whole film as if it were looking for details, witnesses, and just the truth on what actually happened.

The script itself is kind of uneven but overall I found myself chilled with not knowing just what was going to happen next, and just how damn evil and dumb certain people can be. The whole time this film never loses sight of the people who it’s trying to portray. You get a real sense that these dumb-asses were so shallow in their mind-set that they could have easily just let him go back to his mommy and daddy, to then tell them he went off with a girl and got some pootang in the meantime. That plan would have worked but these asses instead let him hang around, get drunk, get high, get some ladies, and overall, just feel free to finally be away from that home of his. I was angry with these people and personally when a film can do that to me, it’s pretty good.

The only problem with this script is that for every chilling and good moment of emotion, there’s an almost unintentional funny moment that this film always seems to find. One of the highlights of this film and probably the best example of unintentional hilarity at it’s finest, is when Foster’s character goes into a party and absolutely beats the shit out of everyone around him, making him almost look like a ninja. The guy does a round-house kick to someones face, gets hit with a bottle then keeps going, and even knocks out a girl there or two. I mean this scene was awesome by how insane it was but it felt out-of-place for this film and was one of the various moments of unintentionally funny moments this film had.

This ensemble cast though, I must say does a pretty good job as well. Ben Foster is insane and crazy as Jake Mazursky, and owns just about every scene he has on screen, but it’s a shame that he has only about 4 or 5 scenes throughout this whole 2 hour film; Emile Hirsch is pretty good as our baby-faced villain, Johnny Truelove, who I actually truly hated; Shawn Hatosy is convincing as Truelove’s little sheep-dog, Elvis; Justin Timberlake gives a surprisingly good performance as Frankie; and Sharon Stone and Bruce Willis just basically are here to chew up scenery as they do so well.

Anton Yelchin is actually amazing in this role as Zack, who has this sort of too sweet voice that makes him seem a little fruity and geeky at first, but instead has you totally feeling so many emotions for him even by the end. Yelchin’s great in this role because honestly shows what a tied-up kid would do if he was able to live a little and just party all the time, without having to worry about parents, responsibility, or grades for that matter. I felt like I was watching an actual kid on-screen the whole time and as it goes on the film gets more and more disturbing.

Let, me also not forget that Olivia Wilde is in this too, showing off some pretty nice boooooobiesss too. And that’s always a watch in my book.

Consensus: Alpha Dog has some genuinely chilling and disturbing moments that are heightened by the whole ensemble cast that’s in this film, but too many times does this film get a little too laughable to take seriously and the characters just weren’t as likable except for two or three maybe.

7/10=Rental!!

Pandorum (2009)

A title that I heard this movie say about 30 times throughout the whole film.

Upon rousing themselves from hyper-sleep, Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster), a pair of crewmen assigned to work on a spacecraft, discover startling gaps in their collective memory — including who they are and what, exactly, their mission was in the first place. The plot thickens when they realize they’re not the only ones on board the ship.

I was very surprised by this film because I rarely remember when it first came out, and the posters did nothing to help me get ready what to expect either. Thankfully, I had a good surprise with this film.

Space-horror films are always the best because they really get that type of claustrophobic feeling in and director Christian Alvart brings that here very well. I always felt like there was no way out for these characters, and that they were always in danger almost every single turn they took. Alvart’s story he creates here is something that starts off very mysterious and weird, but then turns into this action and tension-filled horror flick that kept me wondering what was going to happen next.

I like how this film had a whole bunch of confusion that lead me to wonder why all of these things were happening, and how they all happened. These questions are left open for a good majority of the film and the way Alvart leaves it like this is a very brave thing to do considering that most of this would be very hard for most viewers to just stick with, especially if they don’t understand just what the hell is going on.

The only problem with Alvart’s story here is that there are an increasingly large bunch of plot holes that come with this film and its story, which are hard to ignore really. I didn’t understand as to why if these characters knew they were going to lose their memories once they got shipped away in their pods, they didn’t just leave a couple of little sticky-notes to have themselves be reminded of certain information that would seem very important for when they finally “woke up”.

Another thing I didn’t understand was why these ships would just leave one little button for somebody just to press and mess every little thing up. The first crew of the ship in this film go crazy, and one person actually presses the button to destroy the ship after he goes incredibly nuts, or suffers as they say, “Pandorum”. Plenty of submarines have this button, but it’s really, really hard to get to but why in the hell would they just leave that button for someone to easily press for something a whole lot bigger, and something that is apparently being used for a very important mission. Hell, a mission that is apparently going to impact the rest of mankind. There are more plot holes to be found but these were the two that bothered me the most of all.

I was able to get past these plot holes though because not only of Alvart’s story and the way he tells it, but with its very detailed and artistic direction he gave it. A lot of sci-fi films keep their spaceships usually gritty and disgusting to look at, but the way this spaceship looks is actually very convincing and what a spaceship may actually look like if it were going to be around in today’s world. The sets are real and the way all of the colors, some dark and some bright, actually blend in so well with the moody atmosphere this film was given.

Even though there is some really good-looking CG used in this film, I still couldn’t help but get bothered by the CG that was used on these monsters, or creatures, or whatever the hell you want to call them. These damn things are here just for the sake of being terribly gratuitous and disgusting, and look less lie actual creatures and more like lizards stuck through a condom. Yes, I did just say lizards stuck through a condom but once you see this film, you’ll know what I mean. Lesson learned here is that making your monsters completely and utterly disgusting, doesn’t make them anymore scary.

The cast here is very small but all do pretty well with what they are all given. Dennis Quaid gets top-billing for this film and is pretty good even though at the beginning, his character is just limited to staying in the control-room but soon gets more and more involved and that’s when we see Quaid’s chops really come out. The real star for this film is actually Ben Foster playing Bower, a guy who does everything in his will-power to find out just what the hell is going and does whatever he can to get out of this place safe. This guy can really make you believe in him and seem like he’s always one step-ahead of all of the baddies in this film, which is what Foster really can do well with any film he is in. Cam Gigandet was really annoying and bad as this other dude that comes later in the film, but he’s only here for a small bit. I still don’t know what so many people see in this little shit.

Consensus:Pandorum has its fair share of flaws and plot-holes that may bother some, but the story is mysterious and tense enough to keep any sci-fi die-hard watching, and wondering just what is going to happen next.

7/10=Rental!!

Contraband (2012)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.

Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.

The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.

I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.

Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.

Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Rampart (2011)

White men can’t jump, but they can certainly be corrupt cops.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is pretty much a huge dick-head. He has two ex-wives that he still somehow lives with, uses women like a new pair of shoes, corrupts the law, and has a past that is not the best track-record on any person, especially a cop. However, that’s all starting to come back onto him and he has to start taking it like a man, or at least just go crazy and drink.

Director and co-writer Oren Moverman is coming off of his debut-flick, ‘The Messenger’, which was one of my favorite films of the forgettable year of 2009 but somehow this one doesn’t hit that same cord here it did with me even though it’s also written by the same dude who did ‘L.A. Confidential’.

There have been so many “dirty cop” films in the past that it almost seems like a tired genre in and of itself but somehow this film stays away from the things we’ve seen before with a relatively interesting and different approach than we are used to. The film relies more on the actual guy, Dave Brown, rather than just showing us the non-stop gun fights, macho-man acts, and tiresome car chases, the film decides to show us how he is with all of the people around him such as the women in his life, his brother, and even the people that are trying to help him be a free and non-guilty man. It has a slight noir feel to it which was pretty cool because it’s never really been done before but I think that’s where my main problem where this film lied was.

The pace for this flick is incredibly slow for this type of material and as much as I don’t want to just sit here and rag on about how boring it was, I still couldn’t help the fact that I was checking the time about every 5 minutes at a lot of points. I would have liked a little bit more action, a little bit more mystery, and a little bit more drama to this film for me to actually have something that excited me but instead it was just very depressing to watch this dude’s life practically crumble in front of his eyes. The material isn’t something that’s all happy-go-lucky in the first place, but I still thought that there could have been a tad more done to this flick to spice things up.

The film also had some bright moments by the end but a lot of that shined away with another ambiguous ending that is becoming the next big trend in Hollywood but here it just felt like a cop out (pun intended) so they didn’t have to worry about disappointing audiences. There are many moments in this film where you think something is going to come to a dynamite resolution, but instead, the film backs off which kept me bothered especially for the contrived ending. Come on movie industry! Stop being so damn ambiguous!

Although the film’s story doesn’t do too much the film is actually very great to look at mainly because a lot of the unusual shots that Moverman takes here with this film. Sometimes the film will be up-close-and-personal on a character so much that you can see up their nostrils, sometimes the camera will be far away, and sometimes it will just be moving around the room to keep track of something happening. Either way the film has a lot of good camera-work here and a very random sex club scene is one that sticks out in my head the most. No, not because of the naked people ya pervs, but because it was actually shot beautifully. Duh….

The real reason to see this flick is one of the main and only reasons this film is being mentioned as much as it is, is because of Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown. Harrelson is a great actor and it’s taken awhile for him to actually have his own starring vehicle where he can just do what he wants which is where this film succeeds. Brown is a bigot, racist, homophobic, violent, and mean man that nobody wants to be around but how Harrelson can somehow make this guy likable by any means is a true testament to how great of an actor Harrelson is. There are also moments in this flick where Harrelson really lets out all of his emotions where you feel this character’s sadness but also his grief over all of the bad things he’s done over the years, even though he is still a mean spirit in the end. Harrelson should at least get nominated for an Oscar just because he is so incredibly good.

The rest of the supporting cast are all pretty good because they all get their moments to shine a little bit but having too many characters can be a little bother-some considering if you are just having them on-screen only when the main character talks to them. Nobody really felt fleshed out except for Brown, and maybe that’s the way the film wanted it to be so it definitely succeeded in that way.

Consensus: Dark, depressing, and very slow, Rampart will bother many people who just want a story but for some very good visuals, an interesting take on a premise that has been done time and time before, and a performance from Harrelson that is ruthless, terrifying, and beautiful at the same time is what makes it a real watch.

7/10=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!!

Liberty Heights (1999)

Baltimore doesn’t really seem all that fun of a place after all.

“No Jews, dogs or coloreds,” reads the sign outside a public swimming pool in 1954 Baltimore. High school freshman Ben Kurtzman (Ben Foster) and friends find themselves confronted with anti-Semitism, racism and coming of age in a fast-changing world.

I like a lot of Barry Levinson’s films. I had a great time with Diner, Rain Man, and You Don’t Know Jack, among others. He’s always able to bring that sentimental feeling, as well as humor together, to show true stories in his life, that he lived with.

That’s the one thing about this film that really had me watching, was that it had a nice deal of humor as well as a nice deal of true drama. The film is about breaking boundaries, and going further then what you were expected of. It’s also about a great deal of race and ethnic problems going around.

The only problem was that the story never fully compelled me. I always felt there was so much more in this film rather than 3 stories about stepping over boundaries. I liked the story of Ben Foster, and the African American girl, cause it was so nicely played, and not just in an exploitation way, but handled with care. The other stories were so-so with me. The story with Joe Mantegna and his burlesque club, I thought was a total bore, and the sub-plot with him and Orland Jones that happens, was very quite random, and had no state of believability at all.  But I did enjoy the story of Adrien Brody, being the heart-breaking romantic, who tries so hard to find this one chick he loved.

The performances are good. I loved Ben Foster here, I thought he had so much energy, and resilience on screen, that it’s no surprise now he’s doing great in films now. Adrien Brody is always good, and is a charmer in this film, that you fall behind and you cheer him on. Joe Mantegna story line was too boring for me to actually watch his performance up close, but he was good in the end scenes. Orlando Jones pops in this film half-way through, and they try to make him a scary character, but he’s just too funny, and colorful (no pun intended), that it was hard to take him seriously at all.

Consensus: It has a nice script, as well as some good performances from the cast, but Liberty Heights doesn’t succeed fully with being something stronger than it should have been.

5/10=Rental!!

11:14 (2003)

The same old techinique that gets better every time.

Even though they’re strangers, Buzzy (Academy Award winner Hilary Swank), Mark (Colin Hanks), Cheri (Rachel Leigh Cook), Jack (Henry Thomas) and Eddie (Ben Foster) will become part of each other’s lives — even if it kills them — in this innovative drama composed of five seemingly random story lines that intersect at precisely 11:14 p.m.

Though the technique of telling a non-linear story is as old as film itself, for the past few years it has been all the rage in the indie world with varying degrees of success.

Right from the beginning you will probably notice how unusual this film is. So many little things pop in and out that have no meaning whatsoever, but later on in the movie if you just wait you will notice there is a lot of explaining to these certain situations. The twists and turns keep it interesting enough to keep your eyes on the screen.

The film has some great writing that is a nice blending of dark comedy and thrilling dramatic aspects. I feel like sometimes the film tried too hard to be a dark comedy but didn’t quite hit the mark mostly because of the situation but overall a nice blend.

I felt too much like the film was a gimmick. Honestly, I couldn’t take the film as a serious piece of work cause there are moments when things just happen and doesn’t seem very believable. I thought having all these crazy events happen at exactly 11:14 just gave it a catchy title and really nothing else.

The acting is surprisingly effective from this small ensemble cast. Out of the whole cast I was mostly surprised by Swank who actually adds a lot of emotional depth to her character in one little scene. Swayze as usual woos me away with his great performance and makes me miss him even more.

Consensus: Though it has some non-serious plot holes, 11:14 benefits from an interesting story, witty writing, and enough twists and turns to keep your interest, even though it feels a bit too much like a gimmick.

7/10=Rental!!