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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 Schnetzer

Goat (2016)

For a few thousand up-front, they’ll be your friends for life.

The summer before his life changes forever and he starts college, Brad (Ben Schnetzer) goes through a very traumatic time in his life where he is robbed and carjacked by a pack of thieves he knows nothing about. Brad isn’t ready for the real world just yet and begins to have second thoughts about actually going to college, until his older brother, Brett (Nick Jonas), promises him that everything will get better once he joins up at his frat. Brad doesn’t really know what he wants to do, but he wants something to get all of his anger out, so he decides to pledge which, at first, is all fine and dandy. The guys all get to know each other, drink, party hard, and have sex with all sorts of hot chicks. But after pledge week is over, it all gets very dark, very twisted, and very serious, with pledges having to do all sorts of cruel and messed-up things to one another, in hopes that they will become apart of this frat, and most importantly, the brotherhood that the frat promises.

Crazy times with the one relevant Jonas bro!

Crazy times with the one relevant Jonas bro!

Though it’s incredibly hard to find, Todd Phillips’ Frat House documentary truly is an eye-opener for those who never got to experience a real-life frat for what it was, or even actually saw one and only learned of how they were from movies and such. Whereas a lot of movies will glamorize these free-wheelin’ lifestyles chock full of booze, drugs, sex, parties, bro-bonding, and countless other events of full-on debauchery, the documentary showed that there was a more sadistic side to all of these supposed wonderful and great things. Instead of making it seem like a fraternity is the way to go for any college male looking for the perfect set of friends and parties, it showed that maybe, just maybe, going to the library and staying in isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, you won’t have nearly as many psychological issues when you graduate and are ready to actually begin with the rest of your life.

But anyway, the reason I bring up that movie is because a good portion of it feels as if it’s all been brought to film in Goat, even though co-writer/director Andrew Neel has drawn most of this from his real-life experiences in fraternities. And because of that, the movie still feels real; everything we’re seeing isn’t done in the usual, over-the-top manner, but instead, with a keen eye for certain details about this lifestyle that makes you feel like you almost are watching a documentary at certain times. Neel is a smart director though, in that he opts to never really get too close to everything here, even though he definitely could have with all of his experiences in real life; while it would have been easy for him to paint his wild and crazy times in a frat as “rad” and “awesomely awesome”, he opts more for sitting back and saying, “well, maybe it was kind of screwed-up”. But at the same time, he’s not.

See, there’s this detached feeling to the proceedings that take place during Goat and it makes a lot of what’s happening all the more compelling to watch. The movie could have easily gotten on a high horse and made it out to be that frats are the worst things to happen to college life since the cafeteria (which, it may honestly be), but it doesn’t try to get across a message in any way, shape or form. After all, the movie understands that for some of the dudes apart of the frat, it is their lives and without it, they would sort of be nothing; James Franco’s small, but powerful cameo as a former brother who shows up for a little to drink and forget about his wife and kid, shows that this frat lifestyle never goes away, no matter how far away you get from it.

It’s actually kind of scary, but it’s even scarier once you remember that frats still do exist at colleges and they’re still doing a lot of what they’ve been doing since they ever started.

"Don't blink, or take a shot of some warm liquid."

“Don’t blink, or take a shot of some warm liquid that’s totally not urine.”

That said, Goat is also a movie that needs to have a story, and not just be one scene of hazing, after another, and yeah, this is where it kind of falls apart. Neel is great at setting up the scenes for these seemingly unpredictable moments to happen, but when it comes to actually getting across some sort of story, in which there are random acts of violence and even a death, it all comes off as a little melodramatic. Not to say that these sorts of things don’t show the true danger of frats, but they also do so in a way that makes it feel a bit like an afterschool special – albeit, one with a whole lot more cursing, drinking, and nudity.

But thankfully, the performances do help it out. Ben Schnetzer is a very young talent who constantly keeps on showing up in interesting stuff, even if the movies themselves don’t always work. Here, as Brad, he gets to do a lot by showing us this truly nerdy guy who may or may not have a darker side to him, but wants to get it out in any sort of way that he can. Some ways, he reminds me of a few kids I knew going to school, who despite seeming like your normal, everyday geek who came and went to class, didn’t say a word, and seemed to keep to himself, all of a sudden was a part of a frat, bro-ing out, drinking hard, having all sorts of crazy sex, and acting like a crazy and out-and-out maniac. Brad’s that guy and Schnetzer is great at making us wonder just where he’s going to go next. Same goes for Nick Jonas’ Brett, who gets a whole lot more sympathetic as he goes on, showing that this cold, dark and awfully cruel world of fraternities can have some honest souls who don’t want to see their friends roll around in feces and dirt just to get into more parties for free.

Sometimes, they just want everyone to have a good time and not lose their own self-worth.

Consensus: Dark, disturbing and shocking, Goat works as an eye-opener for those who aren’t used to seeing fraternities depicted in this way on the screen, even if its accompanying story doesn’t always seem to be as interesting.

7.5 / 10

If you're waking up to this, it's time to get to class ASAP.

Just bro’s being bro’s.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Billboard, Brightest Young Things

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Snowden (2016)

It doesn’t matter if you’re awkward and kind of nerdy – if you can type fast, the world is yours.

Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) was just another typical, young dude from North Carolina who had an obsession with Ayn Rand and most of all, wanted to be in the Army and serve his country. However, due to a disability that made it so that any pressure applied to his legs would almost certainly cripple him for life, he had to opt-out for something that he was far better advanced and skilled in: Typing. That’s when he heads up to Virginia, where he learns a thing or two about network systems, hacking, and most importantly, how to maintain confidential information. And for Snowden who, at first, felt like he was doing a justice for his country, this was the perfect life to live; he was a patriot, a hard-worker, while making lots of money, as well as some sweet money with his supportive, but also incredibly liberal girlfriend Lindsay Mills (Shaliene Woodley). This all begins to change for Snowden when he not only realizes that the government is using its resources to destroy the lives of, quite possibly, innocent people, but also spying on each and everyone of its citizens for reasons that he apparently doesn’t have the clearance to hear the answers to.

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Edward Snowden. War hero?

Did we really need a Snowden biopic after Citizenfour? Not really, but much like with Man on Wire and the Walk (yet again, another JGL flick), did we really need a movie about Philippe Petit? Probably not, but sometimes, it does help to get a little more info and attention on a subject who, for some reasons or another, may actually need, or deserve it. In Snowden’s case, this is especially true – while he will, in no way, ever be a forgotten person of our times, his cause and what he believes in still seems to be forgotten about, even when people seem to be putting more and more of an over reliance on WikiLeaks, despite all of the issues going on with that website and what it publishes to the rest of the world.

That said, Citizenfour is probably the go-to movie for finding out everything you need to know about Snowden, the person.

Or better yet, by checking out the web itself, even if the government is spying on you actually do it, that is.

But regardless, the tale of Edward Snowden, as done by Oliver Stone, isn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s by-the-numbers and rather conventional, but because the tale of Snowden, how he became someone we know about, why he got there, and where he had to go through, is actually very interesting. Even if you do a small Google search on Edward Snowden himself, you may find one or two things that you didn’t already know about, discovered here – but then again, you may not. Either way, it’s less that Snowden is a meaningless movie, it’s more of a movie that isn’t doing anything particularly ground-breaking, yet, doesn’t have to – it’s telling a story of a person whose life in the past decade or so, has become quite the compelling one.

And while Stone is typically known for the kinetic, sort of crazy outrage in movies such as these, believe it or not, he’s actually a lot more chill and relaxed here – rather than running off the seams, trying to tell us more and more about the paranoid state of mind one must be in while working for the government, Stone keeps everything on even-ground along with Edward, allowing for us to see, hear and think everything that he’s seeing, hearing and thinking at the same time. It actually works in the movie’s favor, especially since a lot of Snowden’s tale is, unfortunately, about a lot of inner-angst, depression and paranoia that only he seemed to feel and for us to feel as if we are one step closer to him, actually works with the movie.

That said, the movie does lack in actually giving us more to the characters surrounding Snowden, even including Snowden, too.

Love at first bit.

Love at first bit.

As Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does the best that he can – because he’s playing someone with as much personality as a pebble, he has to dial down all of the charm and fun that we’re so used to seeing from him. However, even with the deep-voice and awkward twists and turns of his body, the performance still works; there’s not a whole lot of heavy-acting moments where he loses his cool and stops the whole movie dead in its tracks, but there’s still enough to watch and be compelled by, even when everyone and everything else around him seems not to be so up-to-snuff.

Case in point: Shaliene Woodley and her performance as Snowden’s girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. Of course, Woodley’s a great actress and lovely as all hell, but still, even her good looks and chemistry with JGL can’t help Mills from seeming like just a case for Stone to get all sorts of liberal opinions and views out there, and also challenge Snowden’s viewpoint and career. It’s too preachy to really work, but it does help that it’s all being done through Woodley, who is able to show some sort of heart and emotion with a character who, quite frankly, needed a whole lot more of it.

After all, she’s a real woman and is the love of Edward’s life. So why not a little more?

As for the rest of the heavily-stacked ensemble, they all fair fine, but once again, they aren’t nearly as developed as they should be. Zachary Quinto and Melissa Leo play the distraught but always interested Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, respectively; Rhys Ifans is hamming it up completely as Snowden’s seemingly evil boss; Ben Schnetzer has a good couple of moments as a fellow hacker within the CIA that teaches Snowden a thing or two and wakes his eyes up; and yes, believe it or not, with barely even ten minutes of screen-time, Nicolas Cage does a pretty solid job evoking a sense of pride, playing one of Snowden’s peers who, like everyone else around him, teaches him something about life. It’s cheesy, but hey, it still kind of works.

Consensus: Perhaps the movie we didn’t quite need, yet still actually get, Snowden is very much a play-by-play of what we can expect from a traditional biopic, but still benefits from an interesting store and a solid lead performance from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, unfortunately, has to do a lot of acting, for a lot of people.

7 / 10

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing....

And he just keeps typing, and typing, and typing….

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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 Riot Club (2015)

Rich kids get a bad rap. They’re just like you or I – except with lots more money, is all.

Milo Richards (Max Irons) is a first-year student at Oxford University and doesn’t really know what his place in the world, let alone at college. But he knows that he wants to start something up with fellow freshman Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who shows him that being popular and cool doesn’t matter once you’ve got someone special in your life. However, that doesn’t register with Milo, as he still finds himself drawn to certain people in and around the University that are deemed “cool”, or typically “posh”. That’s why when a group of young, rich hot-shots from other universities recruit Milo for what they call “the Riot Club”, he doesn’t go against it; in fact, he allows it. Once Milo’s apart of this group, he acts out in all sorts of ways he never quite expected himself to act out in the first place: Running, cursing, breaking things, partying, and generally causing all sorts of havoc. Eventually though, all of the good times Milo has with the club start to come to a close when he realizes that all of these fellas are up to no good and are absolute menaces to society – something Milo doesn’t want to be, nor associate himself with.

What we have here is another case of an interesting premise, and a movie that doesn’t know what to do with it, or how to go about saying what it wants to say in a smart, understood way. Instead, the Riot Club is a movie that wants to be two, completely different things: A) It wants to be the pint-sized version of the Wolf of Wall Street where young, British whippersnappers go around drinking, sexxing, and causing all sorts of chicanery for the hell of it, and B) It wants to be a cautionary tale for kids out there to not conform so easily to what all of the cool kids are doing, no matter how fun it may seem. The later element is a thoughtful one, but when it’s thrown-up against a movie that wants to praise the same assholes it’s talking out against, then there becomes something of a problem that’s hard to get by.

"To asshole d-baggery!"

“To asshole d-baggery, lads!”

This is a shame, too, because the Riot Club just so happens to come from the hands of Lone Scherfig, a director who seems to have fallen on the forgotten-path of life since One Day. Scherfig does a solid job of setting these characters up to be total and complete jackasses that, despite all of the fortune and fame that they may have, are absolute dicks that nobody wants to be around, let alone spend up to two hours with. However, Scherfig seems like she actually wants to hang out with them for two hours and because of that, the movie becomes a mess.

We want to not like these characters because of what they stand for – Scherfig knows this, too. However, she doesn’t allow for these characters, for the first two-halves that is, actually show their dark sides. They’re just young, rambunctious, and rowdy kids that like to cause mayhem wherever they go because, well, they can. They’re rich, spoiled and don’t have an absolute care in the world and while Scherfig may want us to like them, it’s very hard to.

That’s why when, all spoilers ahead, these d-bags get their comeuppance, it doesn’t feel organic. It feels thrown in there because Scherfig, realizing what sort of movie she was setting out to make, didn’t want to make it seem like she liked all of these characters to begin with. So, she shows them acting like a crazed lunatics that, when they have a little too much to drink, break down walls, throw tables, and beat the shit out of anybody that steps into their way. The way this is all shown at the end is a bit too cartoonish to take seriously, and not to mention that it’s all highly unbelievable.

Literally, these characters go from yelling, hooting and hollering about being rich and cool, but then, literally moments later, they’re acting like crazed lunatics in the midst of a prison riot. This would make sense of Scherfig ever made a hint of this throughout the whole piece, but she doesn’t; instead, we just see how these guys are dicks and that’s it. There’s no sign at all that they may be dangerously violent and possibly even lash-out on random, innocent people like they begin to do in the later-parts of this movie, for no reason whatsoever.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Professing your love on a roof? How original, mate.

Maybe this is how these groups are in real life, I don’t know. All I know is that it takes an awful lot for people to start acting the way these characters do later on.

But honestly, all of the problems with the Riot Club would have been if Scherfig gave us someone worth reaching out towards and rooting for, but sadly, we don’t really get that. Sure, she gives us a sympathetic protagonist in Milo, but once you get down to the brass-tacks of this character, you realize that the only reason he’s written at all to be sympathetic, is because he doesn’t do nearly as much drinking, smoking or bad-assery as these fellows. He still does it when push comes to shove, but all he’s really got to live for is a girl and I guess that’s why he doesn’t partake as much in these hellacious activities.

That doesn’t really give us a character worth sympathizing with, let alone actually caring about, which is a huge problem where not only everybody seems to be unlikable, but are hard to really differentiate from one another. One character, played by Sam Reid, is the gay one who constantly hits on Milo, no matter how much he turns him down, but that’s pretty much it. Everybody else, from the likes of Sam Claflin to Douglas Booth, all are the same characters and hardly have any character-traits that make them seem more complex than the others. Not that there’s much to them to begin with, but hey, a little dimensions would’ve helped.

Consensus: Nobody in the Riot Club is likable, which is sort of the point of the movie, and sort of not, which makes it a non-interesting, repetitive mess.

2.5 / 10 

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we're all screwed.

The bright, young faces of the new world. And for that, we’re all screwed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pride (2014)

Just be yourself, drag and all.

It’s 1984 and in the UK, a lot of people are angry. Most importantly though, the miners. They feel as if they are not being paid enough, or represented like they should be, so therefore, they decide to start up a strike and get their voices heard. Another group who demand the same are a bunch of prideful and accepting homosexuals who, much rather than being spit on, mocked and ignored, decide that if they’re going to get what they want, they have to go out and join another group who wants the same thing as they do. This is when the young leader of the group, Mark Ashton (Ben Schnetzer), coins the name for the campaign, “Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners” (LGSM). Though, of course, once the miners themselves find out who the group is, they deny them and want nothing to do with them. But thinking on their feet, the LGSM decide to travel out to another group of on-strike miners in a small village in Wales where, at first, they get all sorts of strange looks and stares. Eventually though, most of the town begins to warm up to the group and they all become a family of sorts. But like with most families, there’s always going to be problems and it just so happens that the LGSM may not be ready for all the ones standing in the way of getting what they want: To be heard and understood.

The general idea surrounding most movies that concern a certain group of people/persons, usually is, if you aren’t in the same demographic as the people being depicted on the screen, then you have nothing to relate to. “Because you aren’t black, means that you can’t relate or at least sympathize with a slave,” is something I casually hear in angry, shout-filled arguments about movies that I try to stay away from, and it ticks me off. Not only is it wrong, but I even have a solution to that idea, in a way to shut all the naysayers up for the rest of their days: I’m a human being, isn’t that enough?

McNulty's back! And now he's pretending to be Omar!

McNulty’s back! And now he’s pretending to be Omar!

And that’s exactly the kind of idea I had in my head while watching Pride – sure, I myself am not a gay man, but I know what it feels like to want to be heard and understood, even if it was just through a simple disagreement I’ve had with a family-member or co-worker. Maybe that’s wrong of me to compare the exchange of words I may have with someone in a day in my life, to the plight of all gay and lesbian people out there across the globe, but to me, it feels necessary. Not only did it have me sympathize with just about everyone here, but it also made me realize that this is how I’m supposed to feel.

Another general idea to go along with the one I presented up about two paragraphs ago, is that it’s hard for one to enjoy a movie that’s so limited in its audience-appeal; being a film-goer/lover, I know this to be especially false. As long as the material is presented to me in a way that I can enjoy, or at least find somewhat interesting, I don’t care if you have a story about stomping possums for an-hour-and-a-half; just give me something good, and I’ll roll with it. And that’s why a movie like Pride worked for me – I didn’t need to enjoy it only by being gay, but by appreciating a good, well put-together movie when I see one.

And in case you couldn’t tell by now, Pride is a good, well put-together movie. Which surprised me because, after seeing the trailer, I expected this to be nothing more than a manipulative, feel-goody tale about a group of outspoken people that stood up and got their voices heard that we usually see hit the cinema screens, but thankfully, that’s not how it was. Well, at least not totally, anyway. The problem with Pride is that it can get a bit sappy at times and rather than trying to be subtle with what it’s trying to get across about every man, woman, and being on this planet just sticking together and loving one another, regardless of gender, race, or sexual-preference, it hits you right over-the-head. Especially on more than a few occasions.

But, then again, there is something to be said for a movie that presents a lot of these moments in an over-the-top, preachy-way, yet, still somehow works and is able to put a smile on your face.

Take, for instance, a scene in which Dominic West’s character, Jonathan Blake, decides to break the ice at a benefit for the group by dancing all over the dance floor, flaunting it like nobody’s bizz, and letting pretty much everybody in the venue know, yep, he’s gay. This burst of dance obviously gets everybody else involved and all hyped-up, but it’s not just the gays and lesbians who join in on the fun – there’s actually two very straight, very masculine miner-boys who, throughout the whole movie prior to this, kept their distance from the homosexuals, but now, realizes that looking flamboyant and, overall, being a good dancer, attracts a whole bunch of horny, hot woman, who are just looking to grope the next best dancer they can find who isn’t named Usher (mind you, this was before Yeah!, but you catch my drift). So obviously, they decide to be actual friends with the group that’s supporting them, in hopes that they’ll get all the dancing-lessons they oh so desire.

Is this corny? You betcha! But is it also slightly lovely to see two different sides of society, come together, all in the name of dance? Oh, definitely and that’s how mostly all of Pride is. It’s corny, but sometimes, so corny that you can’t help but fall in love with its inherent corniness and even mistaken it for “having charm”. Which was fine to me, because the movie presents us with enough rich and tender dramatic moments that tell us how hard it truly was for each of these people to get disrespected because of who they were, to go along with the happy-go-lucky ones where everybody’s smiling, drinking, sexxing, and just overall, having a grand time.

Oh, those daft old ladies laughing makes my stomach warm up. And also want tea.

Oh, those daft old ladies laughing makes my stomach warm up. And also want tea.

Oh, and they’re dancing, too, but I think I’ve made that clear enough by now.

And though the movie can get deep a couple of times, especially when it talks about the oncoming scare of HIV and how nobody’s really doing anything to stop it from wiping out just about everybody it infects, it still doesn’t want to take us away from the fact that this is a sweet, simple story, that hardly ever rings a false note. Sure, there’s a couple of villainous-homophobes that were literally a mustache-twirl away from going full Bond, but even they seemed like they had reasons for being so against same-sex relationships, as misguided as they may have been. Same even goes for the townspeople who eventually grow to like the gays and lesbians; they have clear, understandable intentions for wanting to help their cause, yet, still not totally be thrown for a loop in terms of what they want in life. All they really want to do is lend a helping hand to people who seem like they need it the most, which, to me, isn’t just the real beauty and crowd-cheering praise I can give this movie, but to humanity as a whole.

Okay, now I’m getting sappy.

Consensus: By not trying to be anything it’s not, Pride feels like the sort of feel-good, pick-me-upper that deserves to be seen by anybody who wants to laugh, tear-up a bit, and at the end of the day, feel good about living in the world that we do, where humans inherently feel the need to do the right thing.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Not 80's enough.

Not 80’s enough. Needs more colored mo-hawks.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Book Thief (2013)

WWII occurring right outside your window? That’s okay! Get away from it all through reading!

Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) is just a young girl when her brother dies, and her mother runs-out on her. Sucks, but at least she has two foster parents, Hans and Rosa (Emily Watson and Geoffrey Rush) that are more than willing to take her in, take care of her, look after her and make sure that she follows their rules, as if she was their own child. Hans takes more of a liking to Liesel than Rosa, but that’s only because the latter’s a bit of a meanie and doesn’t take anybody’s crap, but she does mean well. After much time, Liesel eventually gets used to her new surroundings where she gains a new friend, Rudy (Nico Liersch), and actually becomes quite involved with reading and stealing books, all because this was during the Nazi-Germany era, and books were considered “wrong”. And since this was Nazi-Germany, that also means that plenty of Jewish people were usually captured, taken away and put “somewhere” they had no clue of, nor did anybody else around them. This is when Liesel meets the runaway Jew that Liesel’s family is hiding (Ben Schnetzer), whom she actually strikes up a friendship with. But being that this is in and around the time of the war, things weren’t always so smooth and relaxed in Germany, and more often than not, Liesel and her foster-parents run into a bit of problems with the paranoid law.

"Ugh! Like you're so annoying, blond-haired German boy!"

“Ughz! Like you’re so annoying, blond-haired German boy!”

Oh, and before I forget to not even mention this, the whole story is somewhat narrated by what is supposed to be considered “Death”, but is also voiced by the highly-entertaining Roger Allam. I tell you this because not only is it the most appropriate usage of voice-narration I have ever heard, but it’s also one of the many reasons why this movie isn’t that good. Not meaning that it’s total and utter “Oscar-bait” , and nothing more, but do know that there is a reason why this movie was released around Thanksgiving, is about the WWII, features a lot of talk about the Holocaust and even has a score by John Williams.

I mean, come on people! It’s obvious that this just has every ingredient for the recipe that is “Oscar-bait”! However, it isn’t terrible, and here’s why:

It’s pretty clear what this movie set-out to do right from the beginning: Put a human-face on those who were on the side of the Germans during WWII. We rarely ever see this in movies, but when we do, it’s usually by a German film company, or some low-budget, independent production that wants to get their message out, clear and fair. However, this is a pretty big-budget flick, with some heavy-hitters involved with it, so you can definitely be curious about how director Brian Percival handles this material; and for the most part, he does some good things. But then again though, he also does some very bad things that truly do ruin this movie from being a little bit better in hindsight.

What I liked the most about Percival’s direction is that he definitely gets into the eyes and mind of our protagonist, Liesel. Not only does she not fully see the real, actual horrors that are going on all around her, but she refuses to really accept them for what it is that they really are. That’s why when you see little kids like her, her friend Rudy and countless others, all “heiling Hitler” because it’s what their “parents told them to do”, it’s a bit sad. Yes, it’s a no-brainer that kids are influenced by what it is that they see elders around them do and preach as “being the correct thing to do”, but it’s a bit more disconcerting when those kids in fact are from Germany, and are being influenced by elders that are, from what we usually see, Nazis.

And most of the time when Percival is getting right down to being what his movie is about and painting this little village in the heart of Nazi-Germany as something out of a fairy-tale, as if it all played inside of Liesel’s head, it’s somewhat interesting. It’s still a kids movie that has more for the adults, than it could possibly have for them, however, it’s smart in some of the directions it takes and why. But then comes the bad moments when this movie does in fact realize it’s about a war-torn Nazi-Germany, when everybody was in fear of if they were going to get suspected next of some evil, wrong-doing that would label them as a “Communist”, and have them go away for a long, long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that seeing this so many times in countless other movies makes this seem a bit “boring”, because that’s just wrong, but I will say that it definitely didn’t have me reeling with emotions like those countless other movies have. There’s plenty of ham-handed moments in which the movie tries to make a political-statement; and then at other times, tries to discuss the reality of humanity, and what lengths one will go to ensure it stays the moral; and then, lastly, there’s always that crutch of making this a crowd-pleasing, easy-going movie for the whole family to see, despite it also being around and during one of the more disturbing periods of any country, let alone Germany. I get the fact that it’s a PG-13 movie that’s trying it’s hardest not to offend or fully scare anybody half to death with the images they could have definitely gone so far as showing, but there seemed to be too much sugar-coating here, and less actual “realism” thrown into the proceedings.

"And the cow j-j-j-jumped over the-the-the moon...."

“And the cow j-j-j-jumped over the-the-the moon….”

And on top of that, the movie just juggles too much, that by the end, when the whole “gotcha!” ending does happen, you won’t be able to find yourself caring too much. That’s not to discredit the actors in this movie at all either, especially since they are all fine with what they’re given, no matter how small or big. Geoffrey Rush feels fun, full-of-life and vibrant as Hans, the type of guy that wouldn’t quite work-out fully as a daddy, but is a nice enough guy to charm even the blackest of holes; one of those “blackest of holes”, also just so happens to be Emily Watson’s Rosa, who is a bit of a hard-ass, but still heartfelt enough to see that she really does care and support others when they need it the most; and child-actress Sophie Nélisse does a relatively nice job as Liesel, especially considering that a lot of this movie depends on her to have a wide-range in which she has to go from happy and joyful, to absolutely scared, at the drop of a hat. She’s not always good, but she’s a kid, so I’ll give her time where time is due.

Anyway, like I was saying, it’s not all their faults, because they’re all fine and dandy; it’s just that when the movie ends, there doesn’t seem to be much learned, thought-of or even point to the whole proceedings. Yes, I am sure that there were plenty of German citizens that felt awfully terrible during this time of war, but what else is there to that? Not much else, and you’ll probably be wondering if this movie ever really needed to be made, or if made, made with a stronger, more compelling heart at the center of it, cause quite frankly, a family movie isn’t going to fully cut-it when it comes to a story like this. Then again, I didn’t read the book, so what do I know? No seriously, somebody tell me. I need all the help I can get!

Consensus: Some interesting and rather compelling choices were made on the behalf of the Book Thief to give it that extra “oomph” it so clearly needs to be more than just another story about Nazi-Germany, the Holocaust and WWII, all played to the fine tuneage of Mr. John Williams himself.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

MCDBOTH FE003

Obviously took place before the arrival of the iPad.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net