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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 Whishaw

Paddington 2 (2018)

Marmalade and bears may just save 2018.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) has officially settled in with the Brown family and finds himself enjoying all aspects of life. However, he still wants to bring his Aunt Lucy to England, so she can see just what he’s been up to all of these years and why it’s such a blast. Problem is, it’s a lot of money for Aunt Lucy to make it all the way out to England from wherever the hell she is, so Paddington has to save up and do whatever he can to get her there. His plans change, however, when he’s framed for a stolen pop-up book, arrested, and thrown into jail. While the Brown family knows that sweet Paddington would never do such a thing, they do their best to investigate the cover-up and figure out just who would do such a terrible thing. Meanwhile, Paddington’s in the slammer giving it his all and trying to make the world a better place – not just for himself, but for the lonely, rather angry inmates who need a little bit of sunshine in their sometimes gloomy lives.

Isn’t this supposed to be the 21st century? What’s up with that damn landline!?!

Had Paddington 2 been released in any other year, it would have been a perfectly fine, funny, charming and entertaining little movie made for all ages, just like the first one. However, with all of the anger, hatred, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and general wrongness that continues to take over the world that we currently live in, Paddington 2 can’t help but feel like a breath of fresh air that everybody needs. It’s literally a movie about making the world a better place, loving those around you despite their differences, and most of all, having respect for each and everything that surrounds you, no matter what.

It’s literally a testament to love and happiness, which makes it all the more tragic that it was once a product of the Weinstein’s.

That said, it’s not their product anymore and with good reason: Paddington 2, as a movie, is way too good for either of those scum-bags. It’s a joyful, happy, entertaining, and rather hilarious movie that’s perfect for all ages, of course, but also a perfect watch for the older-people in the crowd who appreciate a lot more wit to their goofiness. Whereas a lot of kids movies released nowadays sort of dumb everything down so that it’s just the youngsters laughing in the crowd and absolutely nobody else, Paddington 2 remembers that the older ones in the audience deserve a chance to laugh, too, and that happens quite often here.

I chalk it up to great writing, but I also chalk it up to just typical British humor, where even the silliest of happenings, are somehow wittier and a step above smarter than most of what we see in mainstream American comedies. It’s what makes Paddington 2 a trip worth investing in, but another reason why it’s a movie made so that others can enjoy it, smile from cheek-to-cheek, and just feel a whole lot better about themselves and the people around them. It’s why movies exist in the first place, but it’s hardly brought to our attention.

Seriously. He’s insane. And I love it!

But Paddington 2 reminds us and honestly, we all needed it.

It also reminds us what you can do with an incredibly talented cast on kiddie-material, so long as the material is funny and just generally well-written. The ensemble from the original are all great here, with Bonneville being the general stand-out, but really, it’s Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson, the two newcomers, who show up, bring their A-games and steal the show. Gleeson is doing his usual rough and gruff act that works in spades, but it’s Grant who really tears away, playing the most manic and insane that we’ve ever seen him in a movie. Like ever.

Seriously. Grant’s had fun before in almost all of his movies, but it’s always come at a price. He’s always stammering, starting, stopping, and being a cad-like creature. But as Phoenix Buchanan, the would-be villain of Paddington 2, Grant unleashes a new beast that we’ve never seen from him before, where he goes all-out, has a total blast, and reminds us why it’s so much fun to still have Grant acting in movies, even if he’s not considered the handsome sex-symbol he still was. If anything, he’s just the handsome, older-gentleman who has seen the world, done that, and is just going to enjoy his latter-years, the way he wants to.

Hell, don’t we all?

Consensus: As a tribute to love and respect for one another, Paddington 2 is also a fun, hilarious, well-acted, and incredibly joyful adventure that’s literally worth it for the whole family. And I mean that.

9 / 10

“Put some clothes on, you bear!”, is something I’m told every time I go out to the clubs.

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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A Hologram for the King (2016)

Mid-life crisis aren’t always so bad. Sometimes, you just need to go to Saudi Arabia.

Alan Clay (Tom Hanks) is going through a bit of a problem in his life right now. He’s middle-aged, reeling over a divorce, having issues with connecting with his teenage daughter, has some weird hump growing in his back, and is now stationed in Saudi Arabia to sell a holographic teleconferencing system to the Saudi government. But the biggest problem for Alan seems to be that he just can’t connect with the world around him; he’s going through a great deal of culture-shock, but aside from a taxi-cab driver who shows him the land around him (Alexander Black), and a member of the Danish embassy (Sidse Babett Knudsen), he doesn’t really have anyone to hang out with, or better yet, talk to. And if that wasn’t bad already, the people in power that he’s supposed to be chatting with so that he can do his job, don’t ever seem to be around or ready to meet with him. However, it all changes one day when a doctor (Sarita Choudhury) helps him and begins to take a liking to him, showing him not just the beauty of Saudi Arabia, but the beauty of life, as a whole.

I think.

"Don't worry, Tom. You'll probably get another Oscar some time soon."

“Don’t worry, Tom. You’ll probably get another Oscar some time soon.”

A Hologram for the King is the perfect movie for your dad, if your dad is going through a really confusing time in his life. Say, for instance, he’s retired and doesn’t know how to take up any of his time now, has a new void to fill, and doesn’t know how to go about doing anything, let alone that, then yeah, A Hologram for the King is the kind of movie made strictly for your dad. It may get him out of his slump, it may not, but what it will do is offer a sometimes interesting view on the mid-life crisis.

But for others, it may not do anything else.

However, that’s less of a problem with age and more of a problem with the movie itself, as A Hologram for the King, despite having a lot to do, doesn’t have much to say about anyone or anything in it. This is surprising because, even in his lowest of lows, director Tom Twyker has always tried to make his material the least bit interesting, giving enough character details to go along with his spectacle. But in A Hologram for the King, it seems like he gets to swept-away with his location, his actors and his message, and forgets about how to make, well, a movie.

For example, there’s not really a plot to A Hologram for the King, except for a bunch of things that do, or better yet, don’t happen. While the movie likes to make a joke of the fact that this Alan Clay protagonist hardly ever gets to talk to the people he’s supposed to meet and talk to, after awhile, it gets to be a bit bothersome; it’s as if the movie itself doesn’t want to really do much of anything, or move along, so instead, it just constantly pushes back the expected. Maybe it’s unnecessary, but really, it made me feel as if the movie had no real plot and just wanted to show Tom Hanks being his lovable-self.

"Look! It's sand!"

“Look! It’s sand!”

And yes, Tom Hanks is doing just that and he’s perfect at it. Alan Clay is a pretty dull character, but Hanks is great at showing that there’s more to him that’s not just interesting, but pretty fun – even a random trip to the Mosque shows that Clay may have more to him than on the surface. But of course, the movie just sort of relies on Hanks so much, not really ever giving him a chance to actually work with a solid script, that it feels like he’s stretching at times. We get flashbacks and mentions of this character’s life before the flick and why he’s so sad, but really, none of it seems to register – Hanks tries to get that to happen, but the rest of the movie is so concerned with doing nothing, that it doesn’t matter.

But then again, there is a pleasant, almost easygoing feel to it that’s not terrible and can be entertaining. The self-discovery journey takes the movie in some crazy and odd places, but they’re not all that bad, or uninteresting – they do help make us see more of this character through the situations he gets into and how he acts in them. But really, the movie just wants to take its time, let Hanks do his thing, and that’s about it. There may be an important, almost life-changing message about growing older and accepting it for what it is, but I could never find it.

Maybe the message was that “going off to a foreign country, taking some pictures, seeing the sights, hanging with the natives, and drinking a lot will cure any sadness”, was it?

If so, this movie’s way better than I give it credit for.

Consensus: Despite a pleasant look, feel and pace courtesy of Twyker, A Hologram for the King never gets off the ground, due to its lack of a plot, or any actual emotions registering.

5 / 10

Hey, sometimes happiness is a simple drink in the middle of the day. Or so my old man tells me.

Hey, sometimes happiness is a simple drink in the middle of the day. Or so my old man tells me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Lobster (2016)

Crustacean, or everlasting love? Trust me, not as easy as you’d think.

After being dumped by his wife, David (Colin Farrell) has to find a mate in 45 days, or else he’ll be turned into an animal of his choosing. And to help him find the best possible mate, he gets taken to a fancy resort of sorts where he meets and hangs around with fellow other single people, all looking for that special someone before they too, turn into animals and roam their Earth as they so please. While there’s a few people David sets his sights on, eventually, he turns to the neurotic, but awfully fun woman (Rachel Weisz) who doesn’t really have a name, and no other discernible features, other than that she’s near-sighted, just as he is. The two eventually fall for one another and start to sense something real and passionate between one another, but there’s a bit of a problem. See, because they exist in this world where they have to prove their love to the rest of the world, they constantly have to battle with the conglomerates around them, that can either range from evil, controlling hotel managers, to evil, controlling rebellion leaders.

Take your pick, ladies.

Take your pick, ladies.

Though I saw it nearly three weeks ago, I can’t seem to get the Lobster out of my head. It’s the same feeling I had with co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’ last movie (Dogtooth), but for different reasons. With that movie, I couldn’t get out of my head the fact that I was so disturbed and surprised by it, that even a thought of its twists and turns, just absolutely shook me to my core. The more and more that I begin to think about that movie, the more I’m quite confused about whether I liked it (which I think I did), or I loved it for its brash boldness (which I think it was).

With the Lobster, I have the same thoughts running through my head, where I don’t know if I love the movie (which I come very close to doing), or if I just think it’s a tad better and more focused than Dogtooth (I don’t know).

If anything though, it should be noted that the Lobster is unlike any other movie you’ll see this year, for better, as well as possibly for worse, depending on who you are. The Lobster is a very odd hybrid of a movie that’s a combination of sci-fi, comedy, drama, romance, action, and murder, all of which come into play throughout the movie in some very effective doses and it’s hard not to get interested by each and every step that Lanthimos takes with it. On the surface, the Lobster likes to poke jokes at this world, the people in it and how it would never, ever happen, but at the same time, Lanthimos himself takes it quite seriously to where we actually get a feeling for the world we’re thrown into and constantly learn more and more things about it as it goes along.

There’s an small bit of detail concerning why there are so many animals walking around in shots in the movie and once it’s revealed to us why this is the case (in an incredibly subtle way, mind you), it not only takes on a whole new life as something tragic, but downright tearful. Lanthimos makes to show his characters for being the absolute worst that they can be when it comes to obtaining love and/or using it as a way to live another day as a human, but at his very core, he’s still a human being that also wants to appreciate these people for what they are, and the fact that they all have hearts, feelings and emotions, just like you or I. Even the whole angle of how everyone seems to fall in love with one another through superficial ways is, yes, played-up for laughs, but sooner than later, starts to get far more serious and telling, as people actually start to react to love in different, sometimes horrifying ways.

Of course, Lanthimos plays mostly all of this dark material up for laughs and you know what? I laughed.

I hated myself for it, but there’s something just so darkly sinister about all of this material, that it’s almost a joke how far and willing Lanthimos is to let this material get as pitch black as it can be, while still maintaining some sort of humor in the process. Sure, everything and everyone here is so screwed-up and disturbing, but hey, sometimes that can be a little fun; Lanthimos, like I said before, takes this material seriously, but also enjoys trying to poke holes in it, as if he was so in love with his creation, that he also wanted to destroy it so he didn’t seem like too much of a pretentious crap.

Basically how anyone eats on a first date.

Basically how anyone eats on a first date.

And I got to give it to Lanthimos for assembling a solid cast here, all of whom probably read this script and had no idea what the hell to expect, but we’re still so interested that they probably thought, “Hey, it’s an experience, right?” Colin Farrell is hilarious to look at as David, the chubby, pathetic protagonist we come to know, love and sympathize with, even when it seems like he enjoys doing terrible things; John C. Reilly shows up as a very sad man with a lisp who has barely any chance of finding his true love, but because he’s John C. Reilly, it’s hard not to hope and wish for the best; Ben Whishaw plays an overly aggressive man with a limp who will do anything to find true love and I do mean anything; Olivia Colman plays the seemingly fake hotel manager who orders so many people to fall in love, that you wonder if she actually is herself; Léa Seydoux plays a leader of the rebellious group who stays in the woods called “the Loners” and is as steely and as mysterious as they come; and yes, there’s Rachel Weisz, stealing the show as Short Sighted Woman (and no, I’m not making that up).

Weisz is great in just about anything, but here, she really delivers. For one, she’s playing a character that we’re never too sure about, but makes it appear as if she does have some semblance of humanity, that once her and David do start to connect and come together, in awfully hilarious ways, it is, believe it or not, quite romantic. The two do have chemistry and even though they’re placed in some obviously awkward situations, they both make it work and have us believe that true love in this world does exist, even if it all seems to make everyone go mad and do terribly evil things to one another.

But hey, maybe that’s how Lanthimos pictures love as: It makes people go insane and act out in ways that they’d never have done so before.

Still though, despite all of my clear love and adoration for this flick, there’s a part of me that wants to be angry at Lanthimos for not allowing for the Lobster to go any further than it could have.

In the last-act, the movie becomes very plot-heavy and starts to feel as if it’s really building up to something big, but then, well, sort of ends. Lanthimos does this quite a couple of times throughout, where it feels like he’s going somewhere with a certain idea, or plot-thread, but then, all of a sudden, backs away from it; I don’t know if he’s doing that on purpose to toy with us, or if he just gets bored easily, but its noticeable and can get a tad annoying. However, the way the movie end, while interesting, definitely leaves a lot up in the air and really, I don’t know if it needed to be. The movie was never really about a mystery – it was more about whether or not true love could exist in this world where it seems all so calculated and made-up from the very beginning.

Whether or not Lanthimos knew or thought that, is totally up in the air.

Consensus: For what it’s worth, the Lobster is unlike anything you’ll see all year, with a heartbreaking and hilarious script that doesn’t always deliver like it should, but in the off-chance that it does, it’s extremely effective.

8.5 / 10

It's like True Dective season 2, except holy cow, so much better.

It’s like True Detective season 2, except holy cow, so much better.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The International (2009)

Always trust in a Brit who looks and sounds like Clive Owen. Even when he’s spouting possibly unreasonable conspiracy theories.

After a fellow friend and confidante winds up dead under some incredibly odd and suspicious circumstances, Interpol agent Louis Salinger (Clive Owen) decides to take matters into his own hands. He not only joins forces with New York prosecutor Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts), but decides that if he’s going to take the International Bank of Business and Commerce, he’s going to have to get his hands a little dirty. This means not just doing some recon work, where he’ll be on the ground, but may also have to do some fighting and, possibly, killing. However, all is in the good name of putting an end to the powerful bank’s funding of terrorism. But as Salinger and Whitman begin to follow the money more and more closely from such lovely places like Germany, Italy, New York, and even Turkey, they both find their own lives at risk from those who will stop at nothing to protect their interests – meaning that, yes, there’s going to be a lot of rich, evil baddies looking to kill anyone and everyone, so long as they continue to remain rich and evil.

Yeah, stay away from Clive when he's got a gun.

Yeah, stay away from Clive when he’s got a gun.

What’s interesting about the International is that it seems to ask the heavy and hard questions that most action-thrillers of its same nature would hide from even bothering to bring up. What do we do, as a society, when the rich continue to get richer and use their gains for sinister-acts like terrorism? In the Night Manager, this question gets brought up quite a lot, where we see a billionaire deal in arms, yet, not give a single care in the world that he is, essentially, killing millions and millions of people. The International seems to take that idea one step further and show that there’s perhaps more at-play; maybe, just maybe, there aren’t just single, independent arms-dealers out there working all by their lonesome selves, but there are bigger corporations out there working to achieve the same things.

Except that, believe it or not, they’re protected by law enforcement for some reason.

In a way, yes, the International is your ordinary story of the one inspired and passionate man to take down the big, evil and rich corporation, but it also takes it a step further in showing that said big, evil and rich corporation can actually do whatever they want and possibly, end up living to tell the story at the end. After all, they’ve got practically everyone in their pocket, so why couldn’t they stop one peon of a person who, yes, may know some stuff, but who is going to listen to him? Especially when there’s nobody to actually listen to in the first place – something that these big, rich and evil baddies are quite capable of, as we’re made to believe.

But for some reason, the International is far too messy and crazy to really drive that point home. Sure, we get the idea that some real bad and powerful people are at play here, but after awhile, there starts to be so many baddies seen, heard from, and mentioned, that it’s not long before all of it gets incredibly confusing. We know that if somebody looks like a bad guy, based solely on who is cast in the role, then yes, they’re the bad people. However, the mission that Owen’s character goes on, where it takes him, and why, never quite gels or works in the grand scheme of things. We know he’s looking for bad guys and that’s about it – everything else is left up to us to pay attention to, or make up our own minds about.

That isn’t to say that the International doesn’t try to be something more than just your ordinary crime-thriller.

"First Pennsylvania, and now, the world!"

“First Pennsylvania, and now, the world!” *Banshee joke

Tom Twyker is a very interesting director who has made some very good films in his career, and also can’t help but make a shot seem as pretty as humanly imaginable. Anybody who has ever seen this movie will tell you one thing about it and that’s the whole Guggenheim sequence in which it’s basically just Clive Owen, facing off against a bunch of armed-baddies with machine guns. It’s an exciting sequence, even if it seems to come out of nowhere and not make much sense, but the constant winding around from Twyker’s camera is what keeps it watchable, as well as for the other scenes concerning action. Considering that some of the violence here is pretty brutal and bloody, Twyker could have easily made this out to be an ugly, gory blood-fest, but instead, he uses it all to juxtapose the sometimes lovely scenery surrounding his characters and the story.

Which isn’t to say that the movie gets by, solely on Twyker’s eye for art, but it’s something. Everything else about the International still, not only feels stale, but rather boring. A lot of information is thrown at us to decipher and think about, yes, but after the third or fourth back-stab from a secondary character we don’t really care much about, it was hard to really care or pay much attention. After all, the story was just going to find another way to make sure that it threw a random, seemingly inconceivable plot twist or two just to shake things up.

It doesn’t always work and instead, feels manipulative. Sort of like having Oscar-nominated actress Naomi Watts advertised quite heavily as being in your movie, but not do much with her, other than just keep her to the side of Clive Owen, and there to answer his beck and call. It’s nice to see Watts here, but it’s a bit of a disappointment, especially coming from someone like Twyker. Of course, Owen is fine in his role, where he does a lot of glaring, growling and sweating, but it also feels like he’s just working with a dull character, who is stuck in a plot that’s way beyond his, or anybody else’s reach.

Consensus: Despite some action-sequences working, the International never makes full sense of its convoluted, sometimes ridiculous story, leaving this all to just be a mess.

4 / 10

Coffee-meetings have never been so attractive.

Coffee-meetings have never been so attractive.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

What a dick, that Moby was.

Owen Chase (Chris Hemsworth) is the first mate of the Essex, a ship that’s set out for the sea where the crew on-board will go hunting whales for oil. While Chase is experienced and inspired enough to be the captain, due to political issues, he is not given that honor – instead, it’s given to George Pollard Jr. (Benjamin Walker), someone who is new to the sea and hasn’t ever captained a ship before. Regardless, Owen and the rest of the crew set out and while along the way, they discover a whale by the name of Moby Dick. Dick is not just huge, but actually quite violent and doesn’t appreciate the mates on this ship going around and spearing his fellow friends of the sea – therefore, Dick lets the crew have it. This leaves the crew, most of whom are awfully unexperienced, stranded and without any food, water, or possible resources to survive. This leads crew member to fend for themselves, start pointing the fingers, and, most of all, try to stay alive, by any means. Which, in this movie’s case, means a whole heck of a lot.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Moby’s got a lot on his plate when he’s going up against Thor…

Oh, and the whole story is being told to us through Brendan Gleeson’s character who, at a very young age (Tom Holland), was actually on the Essex and got to experience this all first-hand. Which, in all honesty, is a bit weird when you consider that Tom Holland is playing Brendan Gleeson, 19 years earlier; meaning that, the near-two decades that has passed, were some really rough and screwed-up ones. It doesn’t make much sense or seem all that logical, but I guess the idea is that, well, the dude saw some pretty screwed-up shit.

And that’s exactly what In the the Heart of the Sea is.

Most of the ads for the movie will have you thinking it’s just Thor taking on Moby Dick for at least two hours, but it’s actually a lot more different and slower than that. Instead, we get a tale that’s all about surviving at sea, and having to make some pretty rough, drastic decisions when push comes to shove and it becomes apparent that, well, you may be dead if you don’t, I don’t know, eat that person’s heart, or, I don’t know, stay on an island while everyone else is leaving searching for more help. Surprisingly, it’s a movie that’s more about human nature and how most humans act in situations that are as deadly and as scary as this.

Problem is, none of the characters in this situation, are actually ever interesting. What Ron Howard tries to do here is give us a small play-by-play of who these characters are, what they do, and just why exactly they may matter to the story. Hemsworth’s Chase is a noble, brave superhero that knows what decision to make at every step and is always down to tango with big whales; Walker’s Pollard Jr. is a bit cowardly, but also doesn’t want to be seen as just “another captain’s privileged son”; Holland’s Thomas Nickerson is such a rookie, that he can’t handle the sight or smell of whale guts and constantly seems to be heading towards for Chase for peer-to-student counsel; Cillian Murphy’s Matthew Joy, is Chase’s best buddy who, no matter what, always has a bottle of some sort of alcohol with him at all times, just in case; and Frank Dillane’s Owen Coffin is, well, just the asshole of the ship who, no matter what circumstance they’re in, always has the gull to open up his mouth and piss everyone off.

Basically, everyone here feels like they’re supposed to be a lot deeper than they actually are, but really, they’re just a bunch of stick-figures drawn onto a big boat and we’re left to watch as they suffer, get skinny, try to eat, grow big beards, stay dirty, and contemplate whether or not it’s time to call it a day and just die already. This all sounds like some pretty grim stuff, which it is, but it’s not really as involving as it should be, given the cast and crew involved. Hell, that cast alone is enough to get me all pumped-up, but the fact that Howard doesn’t really give them much, is a bit of a bummer.

aaaa

….Abe Lincoln (the vampire hunting version)…

We know they can all do better, so why are they stuck here?

That isn’t to say that In the Heart of the Sea is bad, it’s just a tad disappointing. I’m perfectly fine with the movie being a whole lot slower and more melodic by focusing on what happens to these guys after Moby Dick comes in and ruins their lives, as well as their ship, but in order for it to really connect, it has to be, at the very least, heart-wrenching. There was never that feeling here and it was an issue that constantly plagued this film, no matter what interesting avenues it seemed like Howard was taking.

But really, whenever the movie is focusing on the boys of the ship taking on and, in a way, battling against Moby Dick, it’s enthralling, fun, unpredictable, and most of all, exciting. We don’t know where these bits of carnage are going to lead, who is going to perish, and just what the outcome of it all is going to be, so we sit there, watch and wait to see what happens. This is perhaps where the movie’s most impressive, as it’s not only frequently beautiful throughout, but clearly has a love for the sea that’s hard to ignore.

Not to mention that there’s actually something of a message deep down inside of this movie about hunting whales for oil and it’s a noble one, at the very least. Given that the movie may get a tad preachy by the end, I don’t want to jump into saying that this is, first and foremost, a “message movie”, but there is something here that Howard has to say and it isn’t terrible. It just goes on to say that sometimes, nature deserves to stay the way it is.

Screw with that and well, who knows? Nature may bite back.

Consensus: Given the talented cast on-board, In the Heart of the Sea should be a more grueling and compelling watch, but aside from the sheer beauty and excitement the film has whenever the whales show up, the movie never gets a chance to be.

6.5 / 10

aaa

….and most importantly, Peter Parker.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Danish Girl (2015)

No Kardashian drama here. Just drama in general.

In the mid-20s, Danish painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) was living what appeared to be, the life. Married to his beautiful artist wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), was able to have as much fun as he wanted to, by going out to lavish parties, drinking all sorts of fine drinks, and, occasionally, getting a chance to dress up in women’s clothing to model for his wife’s paintings. At first though, it all seems like fun between a couple who clearly can’t be more in love. Eventually though, all of the fun begins to change and become, surprisingly, quite serious; now, instead of just having fun and wearing the women’s clothing for the hell of it, Einar is now wearing it all the time and doing it because he really feels the need to. Also, not to mention, that whenever Einar does dress-up, he does so under the persona of “Lili,”. Because, at is appears, Einar wants to be a woman, but considering that this is the early 20th century, it’s mostly frowned-upon and unheard of. But as his feelings become more conflicted with his feelings of being trapped in the wrong body/gender, friction between he and his wife start as they’re left to wonder what to do next with their relationship, as well as their own lives.

Wait? Stephen Hawkin?

Oh yeah. I can totally see the Stephen Hawkin comparisons now.

Around this time every year, there’s always that one movie that’s drenched in so much Oscar-bait, it’s almost embarrassing. These are, quite frankly, the kinds of movies that, on the surface, are pretty, handsomely made, edited, acted, and feature many “big” moments that demand your attention. But by the same token, these are also the kinds of movies that care so much about how many nominations they tally during awards season, that they forget what makes movies work so well in the first place: You know, things like heart, emotion, and most of all, importance. This isn’t to say that the Danish Girl, given the current world of media, isn’t important, but it is, at the same time, also the kind of movie we’re all used to seeing around this time of the year.

Meaning that, yes, the Danish Girl is safe, conventional, hardly surprising, and most obviously, accessible to just about each and every person who is the least bit interested in what this subject material is all about.

But I’m actually kind of conflicted in my feelings about that fact. For one, it’s nice to see a movie like the Danish Girl not be tied down by its subject material and instead, be able to tell its story the way it wants. Sure, there’s some full-frontal nudity and racy sex that will most definitely upset the elder ones in the crowd, but they don’t carry the movie down, or feel gratuitous; they work, given the context of the story. If anything, I’m more surprised that the movie itself wasn’t slapped with a NC-17 right off the bat, but hey, I guess there’s a true sign that we’re growing as a loving, caring and accepting society.

Still though, the Danish Girl is also too safe that it feels like it doesn’t really care about going hard or deep enough into this story to really have each and every person connect to it. This isn’t to say that unless you are in some way, shape, or fashion, trans, you won’t find something to be touched by with the Danish Girl, however, the movie doesn’t really set out to grab ahold of anyone. It has a story to tell here, which it does so well enough that it’s easy-to-follow and understandable, however, also feels like it’s just going through the same sorts of motions we’ve seen a story such as this go before.

It should also be noted that Tom Hooper, of the King’s Speech fame, directed the Danish Girl and clearly seems invested in what this story represents and discusses. That Einar’s constant need and desire to be accepted for who he was and not what others wanted him to be, is a universal enough feeling and idea that makes it easy for anyone to connect to. Granted, most of the Danish Girl is spent just watching as Einar goes from one scene to the other, trying harder and harder to hide his feminine ways, but still, given that this story takes place nearly a century ago, there’s something interesting to see and take note of; that everyone Einar goes up to to ask for “help”, is already prepared to fire up the lobotomy machine, or call up the cops, already gives you the right idea of just how controversial and forbidden homosexuality was.

"Why does he want me to paint him like one of my French girls?"

“Why does he want me to paint him like one of my French girls?”

This isn’t anything new, obviously, but Hooper presents it in such a way that’s neat to watch.

Problem is, like I said before, the rest of the movie moves at such a languid pace, it’s hard to ever get wrapped up. That’s a problem, too, because this tale of Einar’s own self-discovery, is supposed to be the one we feel apart of right from the very start – instead, it’s more of his wife’s story and just how she accepts the strange and unexpected turn her life has just taken. This isn’t to disregard Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Einar/Lili, as anything but good, because he really is; after awhile though, the character does become one-note and eventually, it’s easy to predict just how he’ll act when thrown into a certain situation.

The one I really couldn’t help but get wrapped up in was Alicia Vikander and her character’s story. 2015 has, for the most part, been Vikander’s year – she’s appeared in nearly 8 films this year, most of which, she’s done something new and interesting within each one. While this role is most likely to be her the one of hers that garners the most attention, there’s no denying the fact that she, as well as the role, deserve it. What’s so interesting about Gerda is how accepting and supportive she is of her husband, even despite the fact that he’s clearly starting to drift further and further away from her and more into his own world.

It would be easy to chalk Gerda up to being “annoying” and “pathetic”, because of for how long she decides to stick by her husband, no matter how much pain or turmoil he causes her, but it’s obvious from the very start, really: They’re in love. And when two people are in love, it’s hard for the other to just get up and leave, regardless of the situation. Though Vikander does so much crying here that I was actually worried her tear-ducts would just split open, she’s still so effective here that, if the movie wins for anything, I hope it’s for her. She’s the heart and soul of this movie that always seems like she knows what she wants the most, even in the most confusing of times.

Which is, yes, absolutely what love’s all about.

Consensus: Lush, well-acted, and relevant, the Danish Girl is a fine film that’s easy to admire, yet, at the same time, feels so safe and conventional, that it’s also easy to not ever actually get too involved with.

7 / 10

Perfect make-up partners!

Perfect make-up partners!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I’m Not There (2007)

Wow. Bob Dylan did more than just go electric.

I’m Not There is, basically, a movie about the many exciting, weird and crazy lives that Bob Dylan has lived throughout his lifetime. However, rather than following the traditional, biopic-structure of keeping it with one actor, all the time, the movie switches things up in having these characters take on different life-forms, with different actors, even though they’re all, you know, playing Bob Dylan. There’s a boy who roams the streets, with his guitar and playing anywhere they’ll allow him to, while all going under the name of Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) even though, he clearly isn’t who he says he is. There’s folk-singer Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) who was, at one point, the hip, new thing in music but has a spiritual awakening one day and realizes that he wants to do more with his life than just rock out. There’s Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger), another hip, young star in the world of entertainment who has a loving marriage to a French gal (Charlotte Gainsbourg), that soon starts to go sour once he begins to flirt with other ladies. There’s Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett), yet again, another hip, young musician who decides to get rid of his old ways and “go electric”, which leads all of her friends, family and fans to go crazy and reconsider their love for her. There’s Billy McCarty (Richard Gere), someone who may or may not have a rocky past to hide.

Not Dylan.

Not Dylan.

And through it all, there’s Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) – a dude who’s here to just say weird, cryptic things

It’s noble what Haynes is trying to do here with the story of Bob Dylan; rather than keeping things on a simple, narrow-path that we’ve all seen a hundred times in plenty of other rock biopics, he decides to have it be a whole bunch of different story-lines, at one time, with different actors, but seemingly still playing the same character. It may sound confusing on paper, but surprisingly, it’s relatively easy-to-follow when watching the movie. Right away, the movie makes it a point to remind you that you’re watching actors all play Bob Dylan, and while they may not necessarily actually be named “Bob Dylan”, they’re still different times in the life of Bob Dylan.

Once again, it’s easy to get once you see it all play out, regardless of how weird I may be making it sound.

That doesn’t make it anymore interesting, but hey, at least it’s a noble effort on Haynes’ part for trying to shake things up a bit with a genre that seems too comfortable.

One of the main issues that surrounds I’m Not There, is that nobody’s story is ever really all that interesting to watch or see play-out. While, once again, we know they’re all different versions of snippets of Dylan’s life, none of whom ever really stand-out as taking over the movie and making us want to see them the most. Usually, that’s the kind of issues these large ensemble pieces have – while some stories may be okay, there tends to be the one that takes over everything else and leave you excited for whenever that comes around again. Here though, nobody ever makes you feel that.

Instead, you’re watching a bunch of surprisingly boring characters, mope around, deal with issues that we don’t care about and quite frankly, have all seen before, biopic or no biopic. There are certain bits of style that Haynes tries to work with here to cover up some of the rough patches, but mostly, it seems like what he has to work with here doesn’t really go anywhere all that surprising, or at all interesting. Granted, most of us already know about the life of Bob Dylan, and whether you don’t or not, it doesn’t matter, because the movie doesn’t seem all that interested in telling you much about him, either.

All it really cares about is the music he made, which granted, is fine.

Not Guthrie.

Not Guthrie.

Bob Dylan is one of the greatest musicians of all-time. His music will forever continue to stand the test of time and while some of those out there may have issue with his voice, and the fact that, well he can’t actually sing anything at all, it almost doesn’t matter. The fact is, the man has created some great music and it’s on full-blast in I’m Not There. Which honestly, helps the movie out a whole lot more; it’s surprising just how well any song Bob Dylan goes with a montage, regardless of what may be in the montage or not.

So if Haynes was trying to make this as some sort of tribute to Bob Dylan, the musician, then he did a solid job. At the same time though, he doesn’t really go anywhere else with it, other than that. This isn’t to say that nobody in the cast seems to be trying, either, because they all do. But, for the most part, they all seem like they’re really trying to dig harder and deeper into these characters and give us more than just what’s being presented on the surface.

One in particular, of course, is Cate Blanchett’s nearly unrecognizable performance as Jude Quinn. While it’s easy to assume that it’s just Blanchett doing an impersonation of the young and brash Dylan (what with the iconic wig, sunglasses, jacket, and all), she actually goes a bit further and show that there truly was a tortured soul at the middle of it all. Though it was easy to just assume that he had it all coming to him, there’s still a nice bit of sympathy that’s easy to feel for this character. It’s less of a gimmick role, and much more of, yet again, another chance for Blanchett to run circles around everyone else in the movie.

Which honestly, I’ll watch any day of the week.

In fact, give me that whole subplot/movie with just Blanchett. I’m fine.

Consensus: Todd Haynes deserves credit for trying something different with I’m Not There, but overall, seems to not have the right idea of what to say about the life of Bob Dylan, or at least, present it in a manner that’s intriguing to those who may not already know enough about him to begin with. But hey, good thing they paid for them royalties!

5 / 10

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Comingsoon.net

Suffragette (2015)

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like much good has come of this.

During the early 20th Century, women in Britain were able to do a lot of things. They could work, get married, breed children, cook, clean, smoke, drink, and a whole bunch of other things that are most associated with living. However, the one, and perhaps, most important task that they could not, hell, were not allowed to do, was vote. Because of this, many women stood-up and let their voices be heard, spearheading the suffrage movement; it’s also the same movement that one woman named Maude (Carey Mulligan) doesn’t quite care for to begin with. For one, she knows that her job is valuable, her husband (Ben Whishaw) loves her, and that she doesn’t want to lose her, so she decides to just keep her mouth shut and move on. That changes one day, however, when she’s recruited by Edith New (Helena Bonham Carter) and brought to an appearance by the suffrage movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Now, Maude understands what the fight is all for, and although she risks not just her family, but her own life as well, she’s still very inspired to do the right thing and make sure that women are granted their given right.

"I wish I were a gal, too."

“I wish I were a lass, too.”

Like most other civil rights movies, Suffragette likes to point out just how ridiculous it was that a certain group of people couldn’t do something, because of an even more ridiculous ideology that, in hindsight, doesn’t seem to ever make much sense. In this movie’s case, the certain group is women, and the ideology is the right to vote; why women weren’t allowed to vote for so very long is based on pure sexism, but that’s about it. While it would have been one thing for the movie to dive deeper into exactly why so many British men/politicians thought that this idea was right, the movie doesn’t ever go for that.

Instead, it just focuses on a few stories of a few women who may, or may have not existed during this movement, but hey, that’s what movies are all for.

And honestly, the best parts of Suffragette are when it’s focusing on all the backlash these women received for making their voices heard. There’s something incredibly disturbing about watching a group of women getting beaten and clubbed by a group of policemen because they, “were felt as a threat”. There’s also the not-so violence backlash these women faced – whether it be through losing their jobs, their families, or being tossed aside from the rest of society as “trouble-makers” – it’s all sad, but serves a greater purpose to make the movie’s message go down a lot less smoothly.

But the problem with Suffragette is that it also deals with these women’s lives which aren’t all that interesting, if I’m being frank. Not to say that I had a problem with the movie trying to focus in on these character’s lives and show how they were affected by each and everything, but at the same time, it was still hard for me to wholly care when everything was laid out in such a conventional manner. Take, for instance, our lead protagonist, Maud, and her story; though I’m sure she shares her story along with many other women, hers, above all the rest, is given the most focus and attention because she doesn’t actually start out as a suffragist.

In fact, she was actually recruited into it all, and the hows and whys of that all, are probably a little more interesting than the character herself. Which isn’t to say that Carey Mulligan doesn’t do a solid job in this role, because she does, but still, it’s very much the same kind of Carey Mulligan performance we’ve seen her do a hundred times before, but in far more prettier clothes and wigs. She’s emotional, sad, and supposedly dirty and ragged, but somehow, her hair still finds a way to be in the right place at that right picture perfect time. Don’t worry, I’m not ragging on Mulligan for being beautiful, however, most of the movies that she does, can’t seem to help but pay as much attention to this aspect of her, and sort of put the rest of her versatility on the back-burner.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

No matter how much pain or strife she goes through, that Carey Mulligan is always ready to make sadness, beautiful.

The only exception to the rule is, of course, Shame, for obvious reasons.

And everybody else here is fine, too, if a tad underused. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she had a more fun and fiery performance here, but is mostly just called on for some witty one-liners to deliver when the movie needs a joke to clear the air; Anne-Marie Duff is also fine, but it seems like her backstory and what her character goes through during the duration of the film, is actually more interesting than Maude’s, but hey, that’s just me; Ben Whishaw plays Maude’s husband and, as expected, is sort of there to just serve as a needed window-dressing; Brendan Gleeson gets a meaty role as a police inspector who may, or may not be pleased with these suffragists, and to see how he constantly fights with himself over what the next best move to make, is very engaging; and Meryl Streep, despite being advertised heavily in the promotion for this movie, is hear for maybe five or ten minutes, and that’s about.

But, in true Meryl Streep fashion, she’ll probably win an Oscar for it. Just you wait.

In case you couldn’t tell, though, there’s a lot of interesting subplots going on here, but sadly, none of them get nearly as much attention as Maude’s does and that’s a bit of a problem. It isn’t a problem that Maude’s was actually given some attention to begin with, but because she’s the main one, and it’s not all that compelling, it does feel like she’s taking a bit away from the rest. Once again, she doesn’t ruin the movie, but she does keep it away from being as smart and as powerful as it could have definitely been, considering the message and all.

Consensus: Though the message is strong and the cast is fine, Suffragette still suffers from a less-than-engaging main story, that doesn’t always blend in well with the rest of the proceedings.

6 / 10

You go, girls!

You go, girls!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spectre (2015)

Hey, at least it’s not another remake of Home Alone.

After the events of Skyfall left him depressed and battered, 007 agent James Bond (Daniel Craig) is now back on the hunt, except this go-around, it’s on his own time. Because while things back at MI6 headquarters may not be going as swimmingly as he’d like, Bond is still going to make sure that he gets his job done, so that he can feel a whole lot better about himself. Or something. This time around, Bond, is going after a shadowy criminal organization who may, or may not, have had something to do with the death of M, and/or also may be connected to some of his past adversaries. But in order to follow the bread-crumbs, Bond will have to go through and meet all sorts of colorful characters. One, is Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) a psychologist he comes to have a relationship with, whereas another is a jacked-up, bulking henchman (Dave Bautista), who wants nothing more to do than just beat the hell out of Bond. There’s also Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), a man believed to be dead but for some reason, is actually alive and hunting Bond because, well, he’s evil and he can do that sort of thing.

Do you really need that gun to be menacing?

Do you really need that gun to be scary?

The Bond franchise has been around for such a long time that it’s no wonder that, every once and awhile, we get a crummy movie. While they don’t come every year and are, in ways, considered to be “events”, Bond movies can sometimes range from being “awesomely rad”, to just being “fine”. Though most people want to put Bond up on a peddle-stool that refrains from it ever being compared to any other thriller released, ever (because it’s Bond, dammit!), the fact remains: Bond movies, too, can also be mediocre.

Which is exactly what Spectre is.

But for the longest time, it isn’t. In fact, it’s actually a pretty solid Bond flick that reminds me of some of the best parts of Skyfall, which makes sense because Sam Mendes is thankfully back for another go-around. The best element that Mendes brings to these Bond movies is that he not only allows for the stories to be more dramatic and emotional, but also puts an over-emphasis on the “gritty” aspect of these movies that separates them from the rest of the pack. While there’s plenty of gorgeous-looking women, cars, martinis, dudes, guns, locations, and buildings, there’s still an inherent darkness to it all that makes it seem less like a glamorized version of being a high-class, smart and talented spy, but also more humane.

Sure, the glitz and the glamour is what Bond fans come to expect with these movies, but Mendes and the rest of the crew he’s with do nice jobs of keeping the stakes relatively high, while also building more complex relationships between these characters. This is also to say that the story, while a tad confusing at certain times, also stays compelling. While we’re never sure of where the story is going to end-up, we’re still glued to the screen enough that it doesn’t matter how much exposition they’re throwing at us – we’re just trying to see how and where all the cards fall. We know that there’s bad people involved with doing bad things, and that’s pretty much all there is to it which, given the complexity of most of the Bond story-lines, is fine.

But then, the movie gets a bit ahead of itself.

For one, Spectre is nearly two-and-a-half hours and after a long while, totally begins to feel like that. One of the main reasons for this is that the story takes a nosedive into being “slightly confusing”, to just plain and simply, “huh?”. Though it’s never made fully clear just where the story is going, and effectively so, too, the movie then decides that it wants to totally and completely throw the audience in the dark by giving us a villain in the form of Christoph Waltz who, literally, shows up outta nowhere, starts going on and on about Bond’s past troubles, and decides that he wants to do bad things to Bond because, well, it’s a Bond movie and there needs to be some sort of threat posed to Bond.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a Bond villain being as bad and as distasteful as he can be, but there has to be a reason. To just simply have some evil, cackling baddie show-up and start throat-punching every one in sight because the box for “bad villain dude” needed to be checked-off, isn’t a good enough reason – in fact, it’s what every Michael Bay movie has ever done. You could even make the argument that, even while Javier Bardem’s villain in Skyfall didn’t have much of a rhyme or reason for being around, he still at least served a greater-purpose in pushing Bond to his deepest and darkest limitations; in a way, he was baiting-and-switching him, which not only allowed for us to see Bond in a different light, but also give us a glimmer of hope that, hey, maybe the bad guy, for once, has a point.

That said, despite Waltz being a talented scene-chewer, he doesn’t have much to do with this villain and instead, is left to just rant and rave about Bond, all the bad things he’ll do to him, and other stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t care enough about. His only purpose here is to be some sort of obstacle for Bond to hurdle over, which seems kind of unnecessary, because Dave Batista’s henchman character definitely filled that requirement perfectly. He’s big, scary, menacing and totally bad-ass, and does this all without barely even speaking a word!

She's cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

She’s cold, mysterious and sexy. Never seen a Bond girl be that, ever!

He’s Bond’s rival because of his brawn, not his brawn, which in Spectre‘s case, would have probably been a better road to go down.

And because the movie is so fixated on what Waltz’s baddie is up to and concocting, the rest of the ensemble and story sort of gets thrown-off to the side and feels more like filler. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Ben Whishaw, and new-blood to the franchise, Andrew Scott (Moriarty!), all seem like they’re here because it’s a Bond movie, and well, Bond needs to have his adversaries on the side, just in case he needs a cool gadget or two. Same goes for Léa Seydoux who, despite being a charming, fiery-presence on-screen, also seems like she’s around because Bond needs a hot lady to bang and randomly, fall head-over-heels for. I won’t really go into too much detail about Monica Bellucci here, other than to say for a 51-year-old, the gal still looks great.

Now, why wasn’t she the Bond girl?

And for his fourth go as Bond, Daniel Craig still does a fine job at portraying both sides of this character. There is, of course, his exterior (the stiff upper-lip, the charm, the nice way with words, etc.), as well as his interior (the fact that he’s been through so much violence, disturbance and loss, that it’s beginning to take its toll on him). Even though Craig himself has been coy about whether or not this will be his final time donning the Bond penguin suit (personally, I think he’s got one more in him, but that’s just me), it still remains to be said that he’s still got some juice left in his system to be going through the motions, but at the same time, be able to show that there’s more to this character we deserve to know and understand.

Hopefully, we’ll get that.

Sooner than later, maybe.

Consensus: At nearly two-and-a-half hours, Spectre is overlong and jumbled, but still provides plenty of fun, exciting and tense, spy-oriented action that still makes it worth a watch.

7 / 10

Ain't nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond.

Ain’t nobody can rock the turtleneck quite like Bond. Except Jason Statham, of course.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Paddington (2015)

The bear’s still creepy.

After an earthquake hits his home in darkest Peru, a young, talking bear (Ben Whishaw) is forced to move elsewhere in life. His aunt suggests a fine place called London, where she was once told, many years ago by an explorer, that if they were to come and visit, they’d be accepted with open arms. However, it’s only the young bear who can come and visit, so that’s what he does in hopes of meeting that explorer and adapting to regular, human customs. As soon as the young bear shows up in London, though, he’s left alone and with nowhere else to go, that is, until he gets seen by the Brown family. While the mother, Mary (Sally Hawkins), is accepting of this homeless little bear who is desperately in need of a home, her husband, Henry (Hugh Bonneville), couldn’t be bothered. Eventually, he caves in and decides to keep the bear in their place until it can find its original owner. But also occurring at the same time is a taxidermist (Nicole Kidman) who finds out that this rare bear is alive and walking on London’s surface, which puts her deadly sights on him.

Oh, and he has a name, and it’s Paddington.

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

Somebody fetch this bloke some tea!

While I’m not all that familiar with Paddington, its history, and all of that, I have to say, everything leading up to this movie didn’t make me have anymore interest. Not only did Colin Firth leave about half-way through production, but the movie itself had to be pushed back from its holiday time-slot, all the way to the death ring that is January. Also, Paddington himself seemed a bit creepy and it didn’t help that the movie continued to advertise wacky, slapstick-ish hijinx surrounding him accidentally breaking stuff. Basically, nothing was looking good for this movie and it seemed like it would just be another failed attempt bringing the whole family together for movie night – a staple that should always be held.

Well, somehow, it all worked out.

There’s something inherently sweet about Paddington that goes past just being for the whole family. Sure, there’s plenty of jokes aimed towards both the kids, as well as the adults, but they aren’t the same types of jokes that the later would be ashamed in seeing come from something aimed towards kids. More or less, the jokes here that appeal to the adults in the room, are tricky, clever plays on words that seem to realize that, in order to have your audience laughing, you can’t just spoon-feed them everything. A slap, a hit, or a trip is fine and all for the kids, but don’t forget about the grown-ups who have to usually sit through these things; which is what writer/director Paul King doesn’t forget about.

But that said, the movie is still fine for kids to watch, if not more exciting. While Paddington, the bear, still rubs me the wrong way a bit, there’s no denying the fact that the kids who see this will become enthralled with him and why shouldn’t they? He’s live, walking, and talking CGI-bear that spouts words of kindness to those around him and, sometimes without ever trying to do so, ends up saving the day in ways he doesn’t expect. He truly is the kind of character that mostly all kids should see a movie about and it’s nice to see justice be done to him; and this is all coming from a person who didn’t know all that much about Paddington to begin with.

And voicing Paddington, Ben Whishaw does a fine job, portraying a certain style of fun and innocence that I don’t quite think Firth would have been able to portray quite as well. That’s not to say Whishaw’s better than Firth in ways, but here, for this specific role, it seems obvious that the former would take over the job of the later, if only because it seems like Firth would have been a tad too “royal” for a character as goofy as Paddington. Still, it’s a surprise that the people behind this were able to get Firth to do this in the first place, let alone have him already shoot half of his scenes before he eventually realized what he was doing and decided to just do a bunch of promo for Kingsman, as it should be.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

The effect Nicole Kidman still has on men.

There’s also plenty of human characters here too, and they also do fine jobs to where they don’t get over-shadowed by the bear, which would have been very hard not to have happen. Hugh Boneville’s character may seem like a stern tight-ass, but eventually, there are certain shades to him where we see that it all comes from a reason and believe it or not, there’s still some fun left in him; Sally Hawkins is equally delightful as his wife and gives some sort of personality to Mary that goes past just being kind and peaceful to all those around her; and Nicole Kidman, surprisingly, does a good job here as the villain of the story, playing up a comedic-side to her that we don’t usually see.

Or, if we do, it’s usually in something like Bewitched, where her skills are absolutely wasted, but if anything Paddington proves, it’s that Nicole Kidman should play more baddies, as well as be funny.

If there’s anything that keeps me away from giving Paddington the full-on, full-out praise that mostly everybody else on the face of the planet has been able to do, it’s that I felt as if the political themes and ideas were a tad bit odd, especially given the fact in how they were placed into the story. While the movie makes it a point to not make it a total point that there is in fact a bear walking all around the streets and nobody literally batting an eye, there’s something strange in how it seems like it’s discussing immigration, but not really discussing it at all. Paddington, the character, is all alone and left without much of a home, but it’s up to the government and possible suitors who may be able to take him in and make him their own.

A little odd, right? My feelings exactly, but then again, it’s a kids movie so little things like that probably should be disregarded.

In other words, just don’t listen to me.

Consensus: Fun, light and appropriate enough for just about every member of any given family, Paddington is a joyous and sweet little ride that offers up a likable character to a new generation of possible fans and with good reason.

8 / 10

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn't trust him home alone with my kids. But that's just me.

Cuddly and all, but still wouldn’t trust him home alone with my kids. But that’s just me.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Zero Theorem (2014)

We live in a world full of nothing. Now, go get some pizza!

Q (Christoph Waltz) is a programmer in the near-future, where everybody dresses like drag queens from the 80’s, interact to one another through computer-screens, and mostly don’t understand the world around them. Not Q, though, as he makes it abundantly clear on a few occasions that he does in fact believe that our lives, this world we live in, and the universe as a whole, leads up to nothing. Regardless of if he’s correct or not, he knows he has to prove this with a computer-program, but he finds himself getting more and more sidetracked as he continues to get closer to completing his assignment. For one, he meets a lovely, incredibly smokin’ hot girl by the name of Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), who he starts to fall in love with, even though he knows she’s a stripper and gets paid for a living to sweep guys like him off their feet. Also, to make matters a bit worse, he’s forced to work with Bob (Lucas Hodges), a young whippersnapper who has a lot to say and is trying to help Q out with solving this problem, but eventually finds himself trying to solve most of Q’s problems in real life. Which, at this current place in time, just so happens to be his affections for Bainsley.

"But I thought this was just a check-up?"

“But I thought this was just a check-up?”

Though I’m not a huge fan of Terry Gilliam and most of the work he puts out, I have to give him credit for at least trying to give his audience something more, something creative, and most of all, something ambitious that most movie-going audiences wouldn’t normally have the chance to see. Some say that about Christopher Nolan (I’m one of them), but it’s obvious that they’re both two different film-makers; they may seem to be working for the same movie-going audience, but when it comes to see who actually sees their movies and why, it’s a bit different. Nolan’s crowd is the accessible, more mainstream crowd, whereas Gilliam’s audience is a tad more limited, meaning that it’s definitely the stranger type of crowd who swarm to see his movies.

However, that’s neither here nor there. The only problem I seem to have with Gilliam’s movies is that, most of the time, his ambitions seem to lose themselves and go over our heads. Much rather than seeming smart or interesting, they just seem random and relatively insane. And though one could make the argument that maybe this is exactly what Gilliam is going for, a part of me knows this not to be true and instead, knows that Gilliam’s going for something with his movies – they just don’t always work.

That said, a movie like the Zero Theorem is one that I’m able to give a pass. Because while it’s goofy, over-the-top, campy, and seemingly crazy, it never lost my interest and seemed to beg questions that deserved to begged about in the first place.

For instance, is this world we live in now (or the near-future), more comfortable with interacting with a computer-screen, disguised as another human being, much rather than actually going out there and communicating with others, face to face? This is an honest question that deserves to be brought up and while it may be nothing new, Gilliam still brings it up in a way that’s relevant, but seems pertinent to the story. The fact that Q is a computer-programmer of some sorts (his job title is never fully made clear to us), makes it easier to understand why he’d not only be so infatuated with someone through the wonderful, lovely world that is the internet, but actually go so far as to get distracted about the beautiful, pleasureful things it can bring to one’s life.

And though this may all seem preachy, Gilliam keeps it away from being as such and it’s a smart move on his part. It’s not the only one, but it’s the one I found most noticeable.

Another person worth mentioning here is Christoph Waltz as Q who, in one of his first roles that isn’t in a Quentin Tarantino movie, actually impressed me with what he was able to bring to the script and his character as a whole. While it’s easy to fall for Waltz in most movies where he’s constantly speaking, and using that silver-tongue of his, here, Waltz is simply made to react to everything and everyone around him. This not only brings a lot of comedy to the film, but makes us sympathize a bit more with this character who, in any other movie, could have been made out to be some sort of sad sack, miserable a-hole that nobody would want to be around. But because he’s in this world wherein he knows that everything means nothing, you sort of feel bad for the dude and want him to cheer up, smile a bit, and possibly forget all about the meaning of life. Just living it is enough, honestly.

I'll let her check my heartbeat any time.

I’ll let her give me some medicine for that cough of mine any time.

And because it’s easy to feel for Q, it’s also easier to feel for the other characters in this movie, as strange as they sometimes may be. As Bainsley, the webcam hooker/stripper, Mélanie Thierry not only fits the role of being incredibly gorgeous, but also is quite charming, which makes it easy to understand why she’d fall for such a nut-job like Q. Same goes for the characters played by Lucas Hodges and David Thewils; though they don’t necessarily “fall” for Q in the same way that Bainsley does (that would have been a whole different movie entirely), they still feel for the guy and be present in his company. Some of it’s because they like to laugh at his expense, but some of it is also because they want to help the guy and make the world seem a bit brighter and better for him, even if they know that the task is almost impossible to complete. But nonetheless, they’re mostly all sympathetic characters.

Most of this is, yes, because the cast is very good at helping us understand who these characters are a bit more, but also because Gilliam gives them enough detail here and there, that not only shows us that he cares for them, but wants them to be happy in the end as well. Being the storyteller he is, he knows that he has to stick to how he wants his story to end first and foremost, but at the end of it all, he remains hopeful and cheerful that they’ll get the life they oh so desire. Even if, like Q, he still can’t help but scoff at what it all means.

If anything at all.

Consensus: Weird and over-the-top, the Zero Theorem finds Terry Gilliam in his comfort-zone, but still allows himself to breathe a bit more with detailed characters, ideas about the way our society is headed, and why, if at all, any of it matters.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Not Halloween, mind you. Just a normal Friday in the world of Gilliam-land.

Not Halloween, mind you. Just a normal Friday in the world of Gilliam-land.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Skyfall (2012)

When in doubt, just get rid of Marc Forster.

James Bond (Daniel Craig)’s loyalty to M (Judi Dench) is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat (played by Javier Bardem), no matter how personal the cost.

When Mr. Craig first jumped into the role as James Bond, people were severely pissed. They said he didn’t look like the type of Bond-like character, he didn’t was too small, and worst of all, he was blond! Oh dear! Well, all of those fools’ mouths were shut once Casino Royale came around and absolutely kicked-ass, going to show that not only does this franchise show some new promise, but so does Craig as well. However, all was fine and dandy until Marc Forster got his dumb hands on the franchise and decided to release Quantum of Solace. As most of you probably already saw, I didn’t hate that movie, but I didn’t love it much either. It was an okay movie, but something was missing from it to really make it feel like a Bond movie. But now that they’ve kicked Forster out of the director’s chair, and placed Sam Mendes in it, all is well for Bond and most of all, all is well for this franchise that will continue on through it’s 50-year history. Woo-hoo!

Having a director that is most known for character-dramas and theater work, definitely made me feel a bit a scared for how Mendes would actually handle all of the material, as well as how much would feel like an actual Bond movie itself. Thankfully, Mendes made me feel less scared right from the opening-sequence where it’s pretty clear that this guy knows how to film an explosive and fun action scene, without having people tilt their heads to see just what the hell is even going on. This is something that really made me feel happy as I knew I was back to seeing a Bond film and not a Jason Bourne one, where I would constantly have to deal with shaky-cam and the constant idea that I may have to leave the theater to puke my guts out sooner or later. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here but I think you get it: shaky-cam can be pretty damn annoying and it’s a great idea that Mendes decided not to use it and instead, go with the original look, style, and feel that we all know and love from the Bond movies.

Since 2012 does mark the 50th anniversary of Bond, there’s a lot of moments here that Mendes takes advantage of to give little winks and homages towards Bond movies of the past. All of these moments will easily make the die hard’s go ape shit in their seats, as it’s been pretty long since the last time anybody has saw 007 drive an Aston Martin in awhile, as well as do and say a bunch of many other trademarks that I won’t spoil here and it’s just great to see done on the screen once again. However, as much as this is a tribute to all of the Bond films that have come before it, Skyfall, is still it’s own original story that Mendes takes time to build up and up until every single action-sequence is filled to the brim with tension and suspense. Solace had absolutely no tension whatsoever, and was more fun to watch than nerve-wrecking, this one, on the other-hand, had me a bit fearful for Bond’s life and every scene where his life hung in the balance, I was scared as hell for the guy. It doesn’t get any more tense this year with an action movie and it’s really surprising to see that one of the best action movies of the year is done by the same dude who had a whole film revolve around Rose and Jack fighting and yelling at each other every time they’re around one another.

Aside from being the one of the best action flicks of the year, this also may have to go down as the most slickly-produced movie of the year as well. Every single scene just bleeds with cool and style that it’s hard to look away, even when things really seem to get dull, and most of that is thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins. Most of the action scenes here are filled with color and lavish-looking settings that you can’t help but feast your eyes on what you see beyond all of the violence and action going on with Bond, and it gets even better when hit the latter parts of the movie and we see the outer-lands of Scotland, and see just how muggy and dirty a place can be, yet, with a cinematographer like Deakins, can still ooze style. The whole film, from start-to-finish, oozes style and it’s just great to see that not just in a movie, but a Bond movie none the less.

But before I go on any longer about this movie, I still have to say that it doesn’t rank-up as one of the best Bond movies of all-time, even though it seems like every single person on the face of the earth is hailing it as that. I think my problem with this movie was that some moments just felt dull and a bit uninteresting and even though I was glad that they weren’t just constantly hitting us over the head with action-sequence after action-sequence like Solace did, sometimes I really felt like there was something needed to spice the movie up. These small, quiet moments, really took me out of the film and I think because of Mendes’ theater background, is the reason why there was so many in here and used to break-up the action. Still, when that guy wanted to pump-up the action, he sure as hell did just that. I just wish that he kept it going on throughout the whole movie like I expected him to.

Aside from that problem, Daniel Craig, for me at least, still ranks up there as one of best Bond’s because the guy just has it all going for him, especially here in this movie. Because the story is about Bond getting his skills back, showing a more vulnerable side to him, and letting us know that he’s not fully ready for combat just yet, Craig shows a more human-side to this character and allows for us to relate to him and connect with him on a human-level, rather than just a super, secret-spy that we look up to because he kills the baddies and bones the ladies. Yes, he still does commit both of those actions here in this movie, but that’s not what it’s all about with Craig’s Bond. This guy has got some issues, but at the end of the day, we still feel like he’s got what it takes to take down the evil-force that stands in his way, and be able to do it by getting down and dirty, but also still being able to stay in style.

And holy shit! What an evil-force that stands in his freakin’ way, man! I must admit, I thought the casting of Javier Bardem was a bit unoriginal since the guy is most known to American audiences as the bad guy from No Country for Old Men and to go from villain to villain seemed like a dumb-way to type-cast, especially for a talented actor like Bardem. However, once again like I was proven wrong with Mendes as director, I was proved wrong with Bardem as the our bad guy for the next 2-and-a-half hours, Raoul Silva. In No Country, Bardem played Ant0n as a total bad-ass that went about his evil ways in a sadistic, but subtle way, allowing Bardem to show the real evil inside of a character, without ever really saying or being up-front about anything. Here, as Silva, the guy is so over-the-top, so obvious, and so talky that I couldn’t stop but love the guy every time he showed up on-screen. Bardem owns the screen every chance he gets and he’s one of those rare villains that actually makes you fear him not because of the technology he has to hack into the super-secret system, but because the guy’s smart and malicious, but only in the right ways for a Bond villain. If Bardem was in this movie more, I would definitely be calling for some Oscar buzz, but he’s in it for around 20 minutes and that was good enough for me because the guy takes care of business every chance he gets and if I have to see him play another villain in another movie, then hey, I have no problem with that considering the guy is a welcomed-presence to everything he does.

I think it should come as to little or no surprise that Judi Dench is great here as M, and once again gives us a performance that shows how sassy and witty one gal can be, but also still be able to show some heart and humanity when need be. As with all of the Bond movies, every one needs a Bond girl, or two and that’s exactly what Craig has here in both Naomie Harris and the smokin’ hot Bérénice Marlohe. Harris, as usual, is good and shows a lot of strength to her character, but Marlohe, as hot and sexy as she is, isn’t really given much to do at all and is barely in the film as much as the advertisements may have you think. It’s a real shame too, because I could have literally stared at the gal the whole movie and not have had a single problem one-bit. I kid you not, people, this chick is hot! Then again, so was Denise Richards and we all know how that turned out.

Consensus: Skyfall is not the best Bond movie out of it’s 50-plus year series, but is one of the best action movies of the year and is a return-to-form for Bond, but also a way to show that this franchise has nothing to fear as long as they are under the guidance of Mendes and Craig.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Cloud Atlas (2012)

So, since we’re all connected to one another, does that mean Hugh Grant is connected to me??!?! Yes!

The movie explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Most of you folks out there have probably been seeing loads and loads of advertisements and whatnot for this flick and are probably thinking, “What the hell is this about?” I’m pretty sure my synopsis up there didn’t provide any such help for you either so let me just start off by saying it’s about a bunch of stories that all take place during the past, present, and future, and all connect to each other in slight, little-clever ways. There, now you have it so let’s get on with what makes this film one that the common-folk will hopefully see. I highly doubt my review will do anything to change the opinions of peeps, but there’s always hope, people.

This movie marks the long-awaited return of the famous directing team, the Wachowskis, but it isn’t all about them the whole way. They also share directing-duties with Tom Tykwer, but that doesn’t matter because you can’t really tell who’s directing who as neither of them really have a distinct-style of film-making, other than using loads and loads of CGI in their works. Not saying that’s a bad thing but it’d be a lot more obvious if you had a pairing-up between two directors like, say, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch. One person would be telling a story about a bunch of mobsters going off to whack some guy, while the other person would be telling a story about boogie-men, Roy Orbison songs, and live-walking bunnies. Hell, now that I think about it, that would make a pretty cool-ass flick. Anyway, I am toates off-subject here. Back to the freakin’ movie at-hand.

From what I hear through the grapevine, the original novel that this movie is based off of, has been apparently called unfilmable, which makes the direction between these three seem all the more eventful in the long-run. There about six-different stories that are told here, and all seem very understood and easy to follow, where you don’t really ever get confused as to what story is actually taking place and what the hell is going on in each of them. All stories are pretty simple to follow and even though some of them may have goofy sci-fi shit going on, you still get the gist of what’s going on.

And what’s so great about all of these different stories, is that each and every single one is about as entertaining and interesting as you could get. Granted, not all of the stories hold your attention as much (the one that takes place in the woods where everybody talks like they’re from the South, during the 19th century), but they all seemed to keep me glued to the screen and provided me with the right ingredients to have a good time. They also all seem to have their own personalities where there’s one story concerning romance, one story concerning a bunch of slap-stick humor (and it’s slap-stick done right, mind you), one story concerning sci-fi, futuristic action, and even one story that reminded me a lot of Death Wish, with it’s cool, 70’s-thriller vibe. In a way, there’s something here that’s for everyone and if you don’t find one story all that intriguing  then you can always depend on another one to come right out, and sweep you off your feet to get you right back into what’s on-screen. Great directing skills from all three of these peeps and it shows you that these guys still have it in them to make an entertaining movie, even if it is almost 3-hours long. Yes, you heard me right, people. 3-HOURS LONG. Bring the red bull, you may need it. But yet, it’s 3-hours that didn’t feel like it at all, so maybe you don’t. You know what? Bring it just in case.

However, as entertaining and interesting as this whole film was, I still felt a bit empty at the end of it all. The whole point of this movie was understandable, and it was how we all the same, underneath our skin. It’s a message that does get drawn-out very well in this movie with certain stories relating and connecting to another in a very small-way, but that message didn’t have any impact on me whatsoever when the movie was over. Some of the characters in the stories I did care about, but not to the point of where I felt like I was going to cry my eyes out if they died or anything. Maybe that’s sick-way of thinking when you see a flick like this but that’s how it all went down for me. No emotional impact, no emotional connection, no nothing. It was just a bunch of fun, entertainment that kept my interest.

But somehow, I felt like the Wachowskis and Tykwer were going for me than just that, which is why I felt like I missing something at the end. The score did give me that epic-feeling in the pit of my stomach and had me look to the screen with wonder, but how the hell was I supposed to connect to characters and to a story through just plain and simple score-music? I don’t know what was wrong with me during the viewing of this flick, but if you expect a huge, tear-jearker, than you may have come to the wrong-place. Bad/sad stuff does happen, but never to the point of where I felt like I needed an extra box of Kleenex on the way home. Maybe that answers the question for ‘ya. So, for all of you Nicholas Sparks fans, don’t even think about going to this after a bad break-up and expecting to relate.

Most of the fun of this movie that I already alluded to earlier, is watching the ensemble cast and seeing all of these different roles they pick-up in each story. See, in this movie, instead of just having a star play one character, in one story, and having that be their own pride and joy, they all get to play another character in each and every other story and all have different looks. Some are goofy-looking, and some are pretty neat-o how they all pulled it off (make-up and costume designs are sure to get an Oscar nomination this year), but overall, they all will probably have you staring at that one character and thinking to yourself, “Is that Huge Weaving in drag?”

And yes, in case you wondering, Hugo Weaving does actually show-up in drag here and it’s fun to watch him play it too, because the guy plays a villain in every, single story. But he’s not the only one having fun out of the cast, because everybody else is pretty much too. Tom Hanks shows up the most prominently in this flick and plays all of these different types and roles that we have never really seen from the guy before and it just goes to show you why exactly this guy is the face of-Hollywood, in a lot of ways. Halle Berry is another one who shows up the most prominently in this flick and shows us all why she deserves bigger and better roles like the ones she has here. It’s been awhile since Berry has actually took a nice, juicy-role that spoke to her true talents as an actress, and thankfully, the time has come to where we see it finally and she handles herself oh so perfectly with every story.

Out of this whole cast, it’s really hard to decipher who has the more-difficult tasks at-hand here, but I will say that the one I was most impressed with was Jim Sturgess who held his own pretty damn well throughout this whole flick. Maybe the guy didn’t do an amazingly spectacular job, but after appearing in shit like 21, Across the Universe, and One Day, the guy took me by surprise by showing me the depths he has as an actor and I look forward to seeing what else he can do in the near-future with his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, he steers clear of those soapy, melodramas that always seem to plague young, good-looking guys’ careers like his.

It should also be as to no surprise that Jim Broadbent steals the show in every story he has, and the one where he and a couple of fellow old-timers plan an escape out of an old-folks home is definitely worth the price of admission alone. Basically, everybody you see on that cast-list up there on the poster, is featured plenty of times in this movie that will have you pointing to the screen a crap-load of times. But on a sad-note, the coolest Brit of them all seems to get the short-stick a bit. Yep, that’s right. I’m talking about you Hugh Grant. I want to see more of you buddy, so show-up in more stuff!

Consensus: Cloud Atlas is a very, very long movie that’s filled with plenty of stories, plenty of characters, and plenty of ambitions that it’s set for itself, but is also a very entertaining and beautiful movie to watch as it never really leaves you bored when it’s all over. It may not be the most emotionally-impacting viewing-experience you’ll have this year, but it’s a great watch that will probably take-up half of your day. But, in a good way at least.

8/10=Matinee!!