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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Billy Bob Thornton

One False Move (1992)

Small towns always need a little excitement.

Ray (Billy Bob Thornton), an immoral thief who always seems to question everyone and everything around him; Fantasia (Cynda Williams), Ray’s girlfriend who doesn’t always seem to take the violent way out, but more than often, doesn’t know what else to do; and Pluto (Michael Beach), an smart, yet, cold and calculated killer who isn’t afraid anyone, are all criminals who have been on the run for quite some time. Together, they’ve taken out friends of Fantasia’s, either to get money, drugs, or a whatever other valuables they can find, not only leaving a huge and disturbingly long trail of blood behind them, but making them public enemy number one, essentially. Eventually, the LAPD gets more and more involved, the more and more bodies start turning up, leaving them to trigger and target Fantasia herself. On the case are two detectives, Dud Cole (Jim Metzler) and John McFeely (Earl Billings), who both travel out into the middle of nowhere in Star City, Arkansas, because it’s where they believe Fantasia will bring her fellow criminals to. While there, they meet the eccentric and sometimes silly police chief Dale “Hurricane” Dixon (Bill Paxton), who has always dreamed of one day becoming a big city cop and seems to finally be getting the chance to do so. However, the case itself may be way too out of his league.

See what I mean?

One False Move starts off with perhaps the most disturbing first 15 minutes of as movie I have seen in quite some time. It’s a family, watching the home videos that they just filmed moments ago on their video-cameras, get a knock at the door, go to see who is at the knock, and slowly, but surely, each member of the family is either stabbed to death or killed, all while these tapes are playing the background. In fact, one person’s lifeless body lies right in front of the TV, while tapes of said person talking about how happy they are continue play. It’s harsh, brutal, unrelenting, and just downright mean, but it’s also the rare case of an indie-thriller really taking itself one step further to get down underneath our skin.

That said, it’s also the darkest and perhaps most ugly One False Move gets, which thankfully, doesn’t keep it away from being a solid flick in its own right. It’s just not nearly as upsetting.

Anyway, director Carl Franklin does a nice job here with the script from Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson, by letting and allowing for everything to play out. Rather than trying too hard to focus on certain details of the story, the case, the murders, or even the characters, he sort of sits idly by and let them tell us themselves. And because of that, we get a lot of interesting material that we don’t often see in thrillers of this nature; we get an slew of interesting, three-dimensional characters, we get a plot that could literally go anywhere, at any time, we have a story that has, at the very least, more of a meaning than just “bad people deserved to be locked-up”, and oh yeah, bloody, surprising violence that matters more because, well, all of these things work and they matter.

It’s important to note what works here, because One False Move could have been a very easy movie to figure out, in terms of where it’s going, or what it’s going to be about. Had it been so easy, the movie would have just been another, typical action-thriller with plot twists and turns that don’t actually matter; instead, it’s a movie with some heart, emotion, crime, violence, and oh yeah, tension. It comes together mostly all perfectly well by the end, showing that in order for a crime-thriller such as this to work, all you really need is extra attention paid to the things that matter most.

“Stop thinking about the pony-tail, baby. It’s what’s in.”

Like, once again, characters, all of whom are played exceptionally well by all involved.

As the three criminals, Thornton, Beach and Williams all do good jobs in helping us get inside the mind of these sometimes cruel and unforgiving characters. While they’re never sympathetic or nice, they still at least show some colors you wouldn’t often get in a movie like this. Like, for instance, rather than seeming like a simple peon who is tired of the whole world stepping on him, is actually more of just a sissy who has a gun and some homicidal tendencies, which mostly has to do with the fact that he’s egged on by those around him. Beach is also impressive as Pluto, who is more detestable and downright evil, but shows signs of reasoning for it all. Meanwhile, Williams is effective as Fantasia, showing that there’s some sadness there, which makes her the most sympathetic out of the three, even if we’re never sure we can trust her.

However, the real standout of the movie has to be Bill Paxton, who on pure sheer charm and excitement, basically steals every scene he’s in. Sure, it helps that Paxton’s working with the most well-drawn character of the bunch, but Paxton shows some true heart, soul, and energy here and brings it to a movie that’s so drab and depressing at times, it’s a wonder if it knows what humor it is. Thankfully, it does and Paxton is the one to bring it, showing a real spirited soul within Dale Dixon and makes you not only see him as a good cop, but a good human being in general, who wants to make the world a better place, and intends to do so, all with a smile on his face and a beer in his hand.

Man, Bill. We miss you already.

Consensus: Dark, intense, and unpredictable, One False Move proves to be an effective thriller, but also gives us great performances and characters to help even things out, too.

8.5 / 10

Small-town cops get no respect.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, The Fanboy’s Perspective, Paperblog

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Blood In Blood Out (1993)

Trust your brothers. Half, or not.

Growing up on the streets of East Los Angeles is pretty rough, especially if you’re a Chicano kid. You’re always being looked at by cops, you’re always seen as a gang-member, and you’re always seeming to be looking for trouble. For three brothers, this is especially the truth. There’s Miklo (Damian Chapa), who leads their gang and seems to have the most violent tendencies out of the three; there’s Cruz (Jesse Borrego), the artist of the three who aspires for something bigger and better, even if his own family and gang-life may bring him down; and then there’s Paco (Benjamin Bratt), who knows that he wants something more out of life, too, but just doesn’t know what yet and because of that, is stuck thinking about what sort of career he wants to explore. All three of them try to navigate through life and survive on the streets, however, when you have a gun in your face, that’s a lot easier said then done, which is what happens to one of the brothers, leaving the two left to pick up the pieces back at home, while the one is at jail, gaining a whole new outlook on life. And not in the good way, either.

Self-portrait?

Self-portrait?

When you’re movie is nearly three hours long, you have to try really hard to have us, the audience, make sense of that. You can’t just have one large movie, with all of this material written for it, and throw it at us, expecting us to take it all in and be fine with it – this is literally three hours of our lives. Three hours we may never, ever get back; it’s fine if it’s an hour-and-a-half, or maybe even two hours, but three is really asking much and that’s sort of why Blood In Blood Out doesn’t totally work.

Had it been literally an hour shorter, it probably would have been an exciting, compelling and relatively heartfelt look inside the lives of three men and the adventures that their lives took, but with that extra hour, it’s overlong, drawn-out, and honestly, kind of dull. It’s the kind of movie where, had it been shorter, would have been fine, warts, flaws and all, but as a three-hour movie, it’s sort of hard not to get by them; you start to pick apart the puzzle a little bit more, piece by piece, until you realize that there’s something wrong here and you’re getting closer and closer to figuring out what. And then, you do, because you had all of the time in the world and well, what else were you going to do with your time?

Oh, watch the movie? Okay, yeah sure, but Blood In Blood Out doesn’t really have all that much going on within it.

For the most part, it’s a pretty conventional tale that will, every half-hour or so, bring out some true excitement and liveliness, but for the most part, tells this familiar story in such a slow-pace, it’s hard to really ever get caught up in it all. Not to mention that the movie does take on three different subplots, neither of which are ever all that interesting, with the exception of Miklo’s trips to jail; there, the movie becomes an interesting, if overly familiar prison-drama that’s got all of the standard stuff we expect from prison-dramas of the same nature. But for some reason, in that story at least, there’s a sense of realism and grit not found in the other, too, and helps keep things afloat when, quite frankly, they start to drown.

And as director, Taylor Hackford doesn’t quite have enough skill to make all of this material work and stay alive, in a three-hour production. It’s clear that a lot of this could have been trimmed-out, taken out, left on the editing-room floor, and somewhere to be found on the DVD extras, but nope. For some reason, Blood In Blood Out is nearly three hours and it never makes the case for it to be that way.

Is it possible to be moody, gritty and hot, all at the same time?

Is it possible to be moody, gritty and hot, all at the same time?

Of course, there’s a lot of brutal and bloody violence to be seen and shocked by, but at what cost? The movie is portraying prison the same way it’s always been portrayed as and it’s not really doing much else, either. The other two stories are supposed to be this small, dark and sometimes sad tales about guys growing up and finding out more about their lives, but it just doesn’t quite work – we don’t feel anything for these characters and we sure as hell don’t really see them as anything more than just cliches.

The only aspect about them barely getting them by is the ones who play them.

Damian Chapa has a lot to do as Miklo and does a fine enough job with it, but like a few others, he does tend to go a little over-the-top, almost to the point of where it’s laughable. There’s something about the look in his eyes and his bulky-presence that carries him from scene-to-scene, but there’s also something about how he yells almost every line of dialogue, that also ruins said eyes and presence. Jesse Borrego doesn’t fair much better as the artsy Cruz, who battles with drug-addiction and being ripped-off by agents, and yeah, it doesn’t quite matter, because, well, who cares. Benjamin Bratt is probably the best out of the three, because when push comes to shove, he downplays almost the whole thing. His character is far more responsible than the other two and because of that, it’s not hard to sympathize with him as best as we can.

Now, why couldn’t we have gotten his own story for one, little movie?

Consensus: At a nearly three-hour run-time, Blood In Blood Out more than wears out its welcome with familiar, dated subplots about violence, prison, gangs, racism, drugs, and all of that other fun stuff we learned about in high school.

4 / 10

Strike a pose!

Strike a pose!

Photos Courtesy of: Crime Movies, Grantland

U-Turn (1997)

uturnposterNext time, wait for the rest stop.

While on the road to who knows where, Bobby (Sean Penn) has a bit of car trouble and has to pull over into the nearest gas-station/mechanic he can find. Of course, this leads him right into the lovely, yet wacky little town of Superior, Arizona, where he’s told that his car will have to stay around for a few more days so that it can get inspected and get all of the right parts it needs to continue to run. Bobby’s not happy about this, but he can’t do much about it, so he decides to set up shop in town for a short while, and in doing so, attracts a whole lot of unwanted and crazy attention from the local folks who clearly seem to be pretty interested in what a city boy like Bobby’s doing around their parts. One person in particular is the sexual and dangerous Grace (Jennifer Lopez), who decides that she wants to run away with Bobby and start out a new life for her. The only issue is that her husband (Nick Nolte), controls almost everything that she does and will not let her out of his sights, regardless of who stands in his way.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

U-Turn is the perfect movie for someone like Oliver Stone to direct right after making something as loud, bombastic and overstuffed like Nixon. Because with U-Turn, you can tell that Stone’s getting back down to his roots, catching his breath, and enjoying this sick, dark and twisted world that he seemed to love and be so fascinated with in Natural Born Killers. And sure, while U-Turn is no way in the same league as that near-masterpiece, it’s still a fun little piece of noir-trash that reminds us what can be done when you have some good material, with a director who knows how to handle it all so well.

Of course, Stone has been better and worse before, but still U-Turn shows us that, once again, Stone knows a thing or two about these dark, gritty and messed-up tales about small people, in small towns, doing some pretty cruel and evil things to one another. Stone of course makes this little town of Superior all the more zany and crazy than we’d ever expect right away, but it works in the movie’s favor; every character we run into and get a glimpse of, despite seeming like over-the-top cartoons, still have this smallest sense of danger in their bones that makes it feel like they could step into the story at any second and cause all sorts of damage. It’s what most thrillers in the same vein strive for, but because Stone has a certain eye for these kinds of movies, it works a whole lot more.

Then again, it is a very disgusting movie that, at times, sure, can test our patience for what we’re capable of seeing and accepting for an upwards of two hours or so.

That said, Stone is having fun here and honestly, that can be sort of rare. There’s this small glimmer of a message about Native American tribes and the fact that they were kicked off of their land, but the movie doesn’t make it a top-priority to get on any sort of soapbox and preach to the audience – it’s rare for an Oliver Stone movie to do that, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace because it helps not take away from the cast and twisty, turny plot, and also allow for us to enjoy the movie a whole lot more, all its shortcomings with plot aside.

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Sean Penn is a nice addition to the world of Oliver Stone and even though it’s not a more spirited and crazy performance like we’re so used to seeing from him, as Bobby, it almost feel like he didn’t have to be. In a way, he’s sort of the cool, calm and collected one in the middle of a group full of nuts, wacko’s and fools, which suits Penn a whole lot, even if it is also a whole bunch of fun to see him freak-out every so often. Same goes for Lopez, who is playing the typical femme fatale we see in these sorts of flicks and does a solid job playing up that sexy, vivaciousness of her, making us wonder if we can, or can’t, trust her.

But then, there’s the rest of the ensemble who seem to be a little more ramped-up than Lopez and Penn, which is perfectly fine because it suits them all so well.

Powers Boothe and his eyes steal every scene he’s in, because of how scary he is; Jon Voight has a few heartfelt moments in the middle of a wacky and wild movie; Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes seem as if they walked off of the set of a sitcom as two young lovers who constantly keep on running into Bobby; Billy Bob Thornton seems spirited and awake as the town mechanic who seems to be enjoying his chances of ripping Bobby off every chance he gets; and yes, Nick Nolte is as dastardly as can be, playing Grace’s husband, snarling and howling every line that comes out of his mouth. But you know what? It works. We’re supposed to be repulsed by this guy and Nolte is perfect at delivering it all.

If only he and Stone worked together more.

Consensus: As wild and as crazy as Stone has been, U-Turn also shows off his most vile and inhumane piece that is definitely not his smartest movie, but still a bunch of fun, if in the right mood for it.

7.5 / 10

Yeah, Sean can't be bothered because he's just too cool, yo.

Yeah, Sean can’t be bothered because he’s just too cool, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: DVD Dizzy, Horror Cult Films

School for Scoundrels (2006)

Just go out there and try to make it, fellas. What’s the worst that could happen?

Roger (Jon Heder) is a pushover New York City meter maid who can’t score at his job or with his attractive neighbor, Amanda (Jacinda Barrett). He’s basically a lovable loser, but a loser nonetheless. A close friend of Roger’s suggests that he go to a self-help class run by the angry Dr. P (Billy Bob Thornton), who teaches lessons about self-esteem to the biggest losers in the city. There, Roger develops his inner-beast and sooner than later, starts charming the socks off of Amanda. However, while this may be good for Roger, it’s also bad for him, as Dr. P doesn’t like competition, and definitely enjoys taking people down, especially classmates of his. That’s why Roger is absolutely horrified and pissed that Dr. P starts taking Amanda off of his hands and for his own good, making up all sorts of lies and stories about who he really is. Roger may not like this, but knowing what he knows about himself now, is more than up to the task of taking down Dr. P once and for all, and when all is said and done, possibly get the girl of his dreams.

"Nice to meet you. Now let's get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight."

“Nice to meet you. Now let’s get this damn movie over with. New CSI is on tonight.”

Say what you will about what Todd Phillips’ career has turned-out to be, but back in the day, before 2006, he was quite a hot and very interesting commodity. After making two controversial documentaries (Hated, Frat House), one concert flick (Bittersweet Motel), and three raucous comedies (Road Trip, Old School, Starsky & Hutch), it seemed as if Phillips was ready to try something new with his career. Of course, this meant that he would take on a slightly more romantic-comedy route and in that, came the remake of the 1960 classic, School of Scoundrels.

And unfortunately, it brought on a lot of the hate that still haunts him to this day.

Because really, the biggest problem with School for Scoundrels isn’t that it’s a romantic-comedy, it’s that it doesn’t even register as either; the romance is never there between any of the leads and the comedy sure as hell doesn’t even work, give or take a few moments here or there. If anything, it’s the kind of movie where it seems like Phillips is trying to make something work here, but really, both sides don’t connect or even go well hand-in-hand. Had the movie been a lot more vicious and mean like his other comedies, it probably would have worked a lot more, but for some reason, it seems like Phillips has to play nice and soften things up a bit, which doesn’t quite work for anyone in the flick, most importantly, him.

And it’s a shame because you could do a lot with a remake of School of Scoundrels; the subject-material is just interesting enough to comment on sexual mores, but it’s also ripe enough with a lot of comedy to poke fun at masculinity, femininity, and what constitutes as either. Surely, that movie isn’t the one that Phillips had in mind while working here, but still, it’s a disappointment when you watch and know what could happen, had the ones involved given more time, attention and care to really working with the material. Even the dressing-down of the men (by constantly using the term “f**got”), seems cheap and lazy – it’s as if all of the funny jokes and gags that Phillips had to offer were found in his three previous flicks and that’s all he had to offer.

But honestly, the main reason why School for Scoundrels is a bit of a bummer, is because its ensemble is so talented, so funny, and so entertaining in so many other movies, that here, to just watch them all flop around and not have much to do, is quite dispiriting.

Ha! Ha! Right?

Ha! Ha! Right?

To name just a tad few, aside from the two main stars, School for Scoundrels features Paul Scheer, Horatio Sanz, Sarah Silverman, Todd Louiso, Aziz Ansari, Michael Clarke Duncan, David Cross, Matt Walsh, Jon Glaser, Ben Stiller, and so many more that, on many, many occasions, have proven to be hilarious, however, here, they’re just not. Most of them try and make something out of seemingly nothing, but most of the time, the movie’s uneven script and direction just leaves them high and dry – Silverman may be the only one who gets away with any sort of laughs, which mostly has to do with the fact that she’s seemingly playing the usual bitch-y sort of role she’s always played.

But then, of course, there’s Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder, and yeah, they just do not work well here. Billy Bob Thornton turns in another one of his lazier roles, where you can tell that he’s just doing this flick for a paycheck, reading his lines in the driest way possible, all so that he can go off, hop back in his trailer, and take another nap. He’s supposed to be this incredibly pompous, but smart a-hole, but doesn’t come off as either; Billy Bob being an a-hole is normally a blast to watch, but here, he just doesn’t seem spirited enough to bother.

And then there’s Jon Heder, who, yes, is pretty awful.

But honestly, I don’t know if it’s really his fault; he’s supposed to play this character that’s a total nerd, but also turns out to be something of a bad-ass once the plot gets going and just can’t pull it off. The movie constantly tries to make it work, but Heder just doesn’t seem to have that ability in his acting-skills to make that work, so instead, he just flails around and acts a lot like Napoleon Dynamite. It’s a shame, too, because aside from Dynamite, Heder can be funny, but he just doesn’t have the goods here.

Sadly, out of everyone’s careers here, his was probably affected the most and never to be heard from again.

Consensus: Despite its talented cast and crew, School for Scoundrels wastes them all on an unfunny script, that doesn’t know if it wants to be romantic, mean, or stupid, so instead, tries to go for all three and fails completely.

2.5 / 10

My thoughts exactly, guys.

My thoughts exactly, guys.

Photos Courtesy of: Pop Matters, Rotten Tomatoes, Christophe Beck

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

War can be funny, right?

Kim Barker (Tina Fey) works as a boring cable news producer and needs something more out of life. Even though she has a serious relationship with her boyfriend (Josh Charles), it’s still not nearly as fulfilling and there’s that feeling in the pit of her stomach where she knows that she can do more with her life – she just doesn’t know where that’s at yet. That’s why, in 2002, when the opportunity presents itself, she decides to take up a daring, but ultimately ambitious new assignment in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she’ll not only cover the war, but experience more to life than what was waiting for her back at home. And while it takes her some time to get used to her uncomfortable surroundings, eventually, Kim finds herself not just inspired to go out and find the best story possible, but to also open herself up to those around her. This is when she befriends the likes of Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie), a fellow journalist, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman), a Scottish war correspondent, and Fahim Ahmadzai (Christopher Abbott), a citizen of Afghanistan, who is also there to help her navigate throughout the city and understand the ideals. While this seems hard at first, Kim eventually gets the hang of it all, until it becomes almost too real that the situation’s she’s dealing with are very serious, and almost scary.

Tina or Margot? A lot harder than you think, men and women!

Tina or Margot? A lot harder than you think, men and women!

You know, just as you’d expect from a war.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is a very odd duckling of a film. For one, it seems a lot like Eat, Pray, Love in that it features a relatively middle-aged woman, coming to a crossroads in her life, not knowing what she wants to do with it, where she wants go with it, or who she wants to spend it with, so decides to take one giant leap that her old formal-self would have never even imagined. On the other hand, it tries to be a serious, melodramatic and important statement about the war, Afghanistan, and relations between both countries. Both movies, work fine on their own, but together, well, it’s unfortunately a huge mess.

It also just so happens to be one that no matter how hard she tries, Tina Fey just can’t seem to get past. Though Kim is, essentially, a lot like the other protagonists Fey has portrayed in the past, she still is, at the same time, a “type” that we’re pretty used to seeing. She’s got a bit more attitude and sass to her than usual, but really, Kim is made out to be our conduit for this great new environment that so many movies have discussed and portrayed in the past, but not nearly as much as in a comedic-light. Fey does a fine job as standing in for us and just allowing for the movie to happen, but really, it’s a forgettable performance that basically gets lost in the fact that this movie has way, way too much going on in it.

None of which, mind you, actually gel together in a cohesive manner.

While it’s admirable that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa want to make something considered to be “funny”, out of the Afghan war, it doesn’t work well. Mainly, this is due to the fact that the jokes are, yes, very stale and not to much, quite offensive and odd. I’m all for jokes hitting a hard spot and not being in the best taste imaginable, but when you’re dealing with the war, Afghanistan, and their certain ideologies that aren’t shared by the rest of the world, there’s a fine line you tread between being “funny”, or “mean-spirited”.

In all honesty, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot doesn’t seem like a very mean-spirited movie, per se, however, its casting proves otherwise. Not only does the movie feature an Italian-Spanish actor like Alfred Molina, as a native, but even goes so far as to make us think the same of Christopher Abbott as one, too, who isn’t just Italian and Portuguese, but, as you can clearly tell by looking at the color of his skin throughout the whole movie, absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, white.

"Now, please. Tell me what this war is all about? Because really, the script didn't actually tell me. In fact, nobody working on this movie did, or actually seemed like they could."

“Now, please. Tell me what this war is all about? Because really, the script didn’t actually tell me. In fact, nobody working on this movie did, or actually seemed like they could.”

Heck, at least Molina’s got a tan going on – Abbot’s still pale as if he just walked off of the set of Girls!

And while the movie tries to make these two characters at least somewhat endearing, it still feels very weird to watch them work with these accents and, at the same time, still make us believe that they’re playing these natives who are much wiser and understanding than the other, whiter characters in the movie. This is all to say that no cast-member does a bad job, really, it’s just it’s obvious that the movie doesn’t care about what they have to do, and instead, allows them pass-off poor jokes about race, war, and sex.

And none of this would have been a problem, had the movie been the very least funny, but it isn’t. Not to mention, it’s also not very smart, either. All of the points it tries to bring up about the war (which come very few and far between), don’t really seem to make people think anything differently than what we see in the news. Fey’s character is made out to believe that Afghanistan can be and is starting to become, a brutal place – not just for women, or white people, but for everyone who is living there. While this is especially true of their environment, the movie touches on it every so often, as if it feels like it’s inclined to do the job, rather than actually wanting to do so.

If anything, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot wants to discuss the Afghanistan war, nearly as much as Our Brand Is Crisis wanted to talk about the FNB and Bolivia.

And when your movie is being compared to that movie, well, let me just say that you’re not in good company.

Consensus: By working both a whimsical rom-com, as well as a super serious, meaningful war-drama, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot has a lot to deal with and doesn’t know what to do with either side, nor its talented cast.

2.5 / 10

Who wouldn't fall for Watson over in Afghanistan?

Who wouldn’t fall for Watson over in Afghanistan?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015)

Silly Americans: Always ruining elections.

During the 2002 Bolivian elections, politician Pedro Gallo (Joaquim de Almeida) was in desperate need of some help. His campaign wasn’t so succesful, he was made out to be a fool in the press, and basically, didn’t have a shot in hell of winning this election. So, in a pure act of desperation, he called upon the help of Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock), a controversial figure within the political-campaign world because of how far and able she is willing to go to ensure that her candidate not only wins, but actually proves to be the one person everyone must trust, no matter what sort of shady facts may be lying in said person’s past. However, Jane is a bit of a mess; she’s not only battling depression, but also not very sociable and relies more on sitting off in corners, rather than giving her own two cents in when it’s so desperately needed. Now, to make matters even worse, Jane’s going up against political consultant Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton), a former confidante of hers who she has more than a few drops of bad blood. With Candy on the opposing side, Jane feels more dedicated and passionate than ever to winning this election, even if that does mean that she has to do a bit of soul-searching on her part to understand just what this election actually means to the Bolivian peoples.

Bald vs. Bold.

Bald vs. Bold.

There’s something about Our Brand is Crisis that makes it so annoying to watch, which is that it thinks everything that it’s saying about how political elections are nothing more than just shameless, utterly ridiculous self-promotion and lying, is smart or new. Neither of which, it actually is, but nobody seemed to tell director David Gordon Green, writer Peter Straughan, or producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov. Like the latter two did with the Men Who Stare at Goats, they’re helping to produce a story that they think has some satirical bite, but in all honesty, just doesn’t.

Instead, it’s just boring, dull and most of all, predictable.

Which is a bit of a shame because it seems like there was some promise here. Granted, the fact that Green was attached should have already brought some interest in, but from what it seems like here, he’s doing nothing more than just a for-hire job, where he’s told to stay within the lines, never itch out, and always make sure that the audience knows what’s going on. Nothing here shows that Our Brand is Crisis is a David Gordon Green, which may work in his favor further down the road when he wants more people to forget about the types of mainstreams bombs he can sometimes produce, and focus more on his smaller, more indie-based flicks he came to prominence with.

You know, everything that the Sitter isn’t.

But still, it’s clear that from the very start, Green had no chance in hell of making this work. The script by Straughan is, for lack of a better word, unfunny. The movie thinks that pointing its finger at these characters and waving it around in a mocking way should bring laughs, but it doesn’t because nothing here is ever funny, nor is it ever well-done. The whole movie is supposed to be surrounding how desperate and willing this campaign team is to have their electoral win, so they stoop as low as they can get, but for some reason, the movie never seems to want to focus on that. Sure, we see Joaquim de Almeida do some foolish things to make himself look better and more approachable, but really, the movie is mostly focused in on this Jane character who isn’t really all that interesting to begin with.

"Oh my! Something interesting is calling!"

“Oh my! Something interesting is calling!”

To be honest, nobody in this movie is ever actually interesting, per se, but at least they aren’t given as much of a full-dimensional arch as Jane is. Granted, Sandra Bullock is more than up to the task of making this character work and seem any bit of likable, but she just isn’t. There’s been a lot of talk about how this character was originally written for a man that, only until Sandie expressed interest, they decided to change the character up as well, which makes perfect sense. Had this role been filled with a man, there’d probably be less prat-falls, throwing up in trashcans, and random freak-outs – however, because there’s a woman in this role, and it just so happens to be Sandra Bullock, the movie feels the need to have her do all of these things, as if she’s in the third Miss Congeniality.

Not a, you know, supposedly smart and witty political satire.

It isn’t just Bullock who gets the shaft when it comes to actually being able to work with solid material worthy of her talents – in fact, there’s a whole, interesting supporting case to prove that. Anthony Mackie, as usual, is as charming as ever, but never feels like he matters enough to the story that when he suddenly becomes the ghost whisper to Bullock’s Jane, it’s random; Ann Dowd has a few fun scenes, but mostly, just sits around in the background; Billy Bob Thornton is acting like a dick here and that’s pretty much it; Joaquim de Almeida is given a lot to do, but at the same time, not really, because all he’s doing is presenting a character that we’re not supposed to know much about to begin with; Zoe Kazan does a lot of translating and speaking Spanish in a sort of dead-pan that made me miss Zooey Deschanel; and of all the rest, Scoot McNairy is probably the only one who gets the most laughs, if only because his character is played up for so much stupidity that it reminded me of Lacey from Pootie Tang.

And whenever a movie is able to make me think of Pootie Tang, I can’t be that mad.

Consensus: Considering the current political climate, it’s disappointing to see that not only does Our Brand is Crisis feature anything smart to say of political elections, but also isn’t all that funny or interesting, either, wasting a solid cast and crew who have better places to be.

3 / 10

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Being hungover? Rom-com trope #72!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Astronaut Farmer (2007)

AstronautposterThe moon landing never happened anyway. So keep on dreaming, bro.

For as long as he’s been alive, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has always wanted to travel to the moon. Although he was a NASA pilot for a little while, he had to step out due to personal issues at the time. Now, Charles is trying to create his own spaceship that he can launch into space. It seems like a pipe-dream, but Charles is inspired so much, that he won’t take “no” for an answer; even though friends, confidantes, and hell, even his wife (Virginia Madsen), tell him it’s impossible, he doesn’t listen. When Charles’ plans get leaked to the world wide web, eventually, as they tend to do, the FBI finds themselves getting involved. Though Charles is not, from what people know, a terrorist planning on nuking the entire Earth, the government still doesn’t want to take any chances and keeps track of Charles’ everyday comings and goings. And hell, even though Charles has got the rest of the world behind him and his journey, the government still does not want to budge. This is a challenge that Charles accepts and stands against, even if it risks his own life, as well as those that he loves and cares for so much.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

The whole time while watching the Astronaut Farmer, I kept on waiting for the subscript to start/end the movie saying something along the lines of, “based on a true story”. Does a story about some small-town farmer creating his own rocket and trying to launch it into space sound plausible? Not entirely, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor that I’ve never heard about it before. Crazier things have happened in this land we call Earth, right?

But the subscript never shows up.

The Astronaut Farmer is literally an idea written by Michael and Mark Polish, which is interesting to say the least. Silly? Sure, but it’s obvious that they’re both trying to aim for that you-can-do-anything-that-you-put-your-mind-to sensibility that so many Disney films seem to rely on. Through Farmers’ own journey of trying to get into space and do what he’s always wanted us to do, the Polish bros. are trying to get us to think of our dreams and have the idea that we too can make them come true, so long as we have enough heart and inspiration deep down inside of our souls.

And this is all fine and good, but the movie never seems like it earns that feeling of absolute and divine inspiration. Instead, it’s just a really old-timey, almost-retro story that may have a heart to work with, but never seems to go any deeper than the surface. Which is kind of a shame considering that the Polish bros. debut (Twin Falls Idaho) also dealt with the same sort of strange premise in a mindful way, but also gave us more to the story than just what was presented.

Here, it just sort of feels like everything and everyone is one-note, without there being any gray area left for the audience to decipher themselves.

The only interesting aspect of this story where it seems like the Polish bros. themselves are conflicted of a certain character-trait is with Farmer himself. While the Polish bros. clearly love and adore the character of Charles Farmer, his ambition, his heart, and his never-say-never attitude, the idea that, if he isn’t successful with his trip to space and does end up dying in the process, what will he leave his family back on Earth with? Because he’s put so much gosh darn money into this spaceship, he’s already bled them dry, so what could they possibly do without him around to keep the money flowing in? Will they be left high, dry, and without a fork to use? Or will they get by just fine because, well, Charles Farmer always has a tricky plan up his sleeves?

Take a guess of which conclusion the Polish bros. come to.

"It's okay, honey. If you die, don't worry, cause we're all screwed."

“It’s okay, honey. If you die, don’t worry, cause we’re all screwed.”

Like I’ve said though, I don’t mind the simplicity of most tales, but this one in particular doesn’t seem to really concern itself with much else other than, “dude wants to travel to space and he’ll stop at nothing to achieve that”. While it would have been interesting to see a complex, almost flawed-figure presented, Charles himself is painted in such a lovely portrait, that it’s almost like they’ve could had him run for president at the end, win, create his own world where everybody and their grand-mothers are allowed to travel into space, and it would seem uplifting, smart and, above all else, believable. It’s painfully clear that the Polish bros. don’t have much of a narrative-drive to go any further and it hurts the characters so much, that even the ones who may have some sort of interesting plight to show, it just makes it seem like a waste.

For instance, Billy Bob Thornton, surprisingly playing a good-guy, does what he can as Charles, but because the dude is so blue-eyed and optimistic, it just becomes irritating. Virginia Madsen, despite her character seeming as if she initially has something interesting to say, doesn’t really go anywhere you don’t expect her to, except by her husband as he possibly kills himself in the process of living his life-long dream. And then, as her daddy, Bruce Dern shows up as the voice of reason who, you might expect to be against the idea of Charles going out into space and risking his own life, but is instead happy that he’s doing it because, as he says, “he shares the dreams with his family”.

Yawn.

The only people in this movie that I could identify with were the FBI themselves – which, for a movie such as this, is not what’s supposed to happen. The FBI, as written by the Polish bros., are painted to be these sort of big brother, negative Nancies that are always trying to get on Charles’ case and tarnish his dreams forever, but in all honesty, they have a point for thinking the way that they do. Though Charles may not be a huge threat to the government per se, there’s still something incredibly dangerous and crazy about his idea of going out into space with his own, homemade spaceship that makes it understandable why they wouldn’t want him up in the sky to begin with. This may seem like I’m thinking too hard, but honestly, the Polish bros. want us think of this as some sort of “could-happen” tale that, if someone puts their heart, mind, body and soul into an idea long enough, that it and the rest of their wildest dreams can all come true.

Yawn again.

Consensus: Though its heart may be in the right place, the Astronaut Farmer is too implausible and one-dimensional to really inspire the people that it wants to, but instead, make them feel happy that there aren’t more Charles Farmer’s trying to release DIY spaceships into the sky.

4 / 10

"Kids, don't be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can't possibly happen to anyone."

“Kids, don’t be so scared, because Gravity was fiction. That can’t possibly happen to anyone.”

Photos Courtesy of: Superior Pics

Entourage (2015)

Eight seasons and a movie?

Having just divorced after nearly 10 days, Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) now has his eyes set on writing, directing and starring in an adaptation of Jekyll and Hyde, which will just be called Hyde. However, Vinny’s ambitions are so large and demanding, that the movie needs a bigger budget to feel “right” enough for him to give the go ahead with. Cue in Vinny’s long-time manager, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who is still happy with his family, but still needs to convince financiers that the movie deserves more money because it’s considered, well, “a masterpiece” (his words, nowhere near at all mine). However, Ari and Vinny’s lives aren’t the only ones happening here as Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), and Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) all respectively have their own trials and tribulations to get through. E is can’t seem to find it in himself to stop sleeping around with random girls, and settle down with his very pregnant ex-love Sloan (Emmanuelle Chirqui); Turtle wants to settle down with someone again, but that special someone just so happens to be Ronda Rousey; and Drama, as usual, can’t seem to catch a break with any casting directors.

Oh, how sad they must all be.

"Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!"

“Hey, guys? A little help here because my back is killing me!”

Let’s cut the crap and get right down to it, everybody: Entourage, the show, wasn’t all that it’s been made out to be. Was it fun? Yes. Was it entertaining? Yes. Was it anything else deeper or more meaningful than that? Not really, and I guess, there was some appeal in that. Most fans who tuned in to watch the show on HBO every week, didn’t want to see heartfelt, intimate emotions portrayed on the screen; they just wanted to see how these four fellas would stay rich, party it up, stay rich, and bang whatever hotties they could find. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but where I have a problem with that idea is that, all of a sudden, people make Entourage out to be as some sort of sitcom classic along the lines of such treasures as Seinfeld, or Arrested Development, or Friends, or hell, even another, much better HBO program, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

And these are the exact reasons why I wasn’t at all that stoked with this movie finally being made. Now, that isn’t to say that just because I’m crapping on everything that has to do with Entourage, means that I not only hate the show and feel as if everyone should to – that’s just not true. The show was, at points, interesting to watch, and occasionally made me laugh. However, I also do realize that the show carries on a lot of die hard, full-on fans that have been anticipating a movie event such as this ever since it had its finale nearly four years ago. Sometimes, there are fans who like shows for just being what they are, not what they could be, and there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just that what Entourage is, or better yet, represented about all things having to deal with society, is pretty sickening.

Which is all the more strange to say, considering that I’m talking about a show that came on the air no less than eleven years ago.

Yeah, chew on that for awhile.

See, with Entourage, the show, as well as the movie, all we do is watch these thinly-written characters grab-ass with one another, while, at the same time, try to grab any hot model’s ass, spend thousands and thousands of dollars, and have basically no worries in the world. Now, of course, there was still a lot to see with the Hollywood/movie-making side of the spectrum (more on that later), but lets be honest, neither Doug Ellin nor Mark Wahlberg could really care about these angles as much because, at the end of the day, everything was fine. Girls were slept with and sometimes treated like yesterdays garbage; everybody stayed rich; Vincent was looked at as a superhero of sorts; and everybody was happy. That’s literally every episode of Entourage in a nutshell and it’s the same with this movie.

Which is, obviously, to say that the movie feels like nothing more than an overextended episode with hardly any arch carrying it along – it’s just one scene, after another, that occasionally meanders onto another self-important plot-point that’s nearly forgotten about in the next frame. Normally, this happened in the show, but there wasn’t all that much of a problem considering that each episode was hardly above 25 minutes. But, when you’re movie is nearly two hours, there’s a huge problem in that it feels like nothing is getting accomplished. It’s literally just a bunch of attractive people walking around L.A., doing normal things that people in L.A. do.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

The gang is all back together and they look so excited.

Once again, this will most definitely please fans of the show and have them wanting, hell, pleading for more, but for anybody who was already “so-so” on the show to begin with, it’s nothing more than another clear sign as to why the show shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did and should stay dead in the water as it is. But like with the show, if there were any saving graces, it was whenever Jeremy Piven showed up as the foul-mouthed, yet excessively obnoxious Ari Gold to do and say whatever he was saying or doing, and with the movie, there’s no difference. In fact, I was probably happier to see Piven here, if only because it’s been awhile where I’ve seen him get a lot to do on the big screen.

And also, well, because he would save the movie from being an utter and total bore.

Piven as Gold has always felt like the smartest man in the room, no matter how brash the decisions he made, were. He would hurl out insults at some of the most important people around him; wouldn’t think twice about ditching an important family engagement just so that he could have a dinner with some Hollywood exec; and he would always stay loyal to his wife, no matter how hard it was for him to do so, especially in a place like L.A. Here, there’s not much of anything new for Piven to try out as Ari Gold; all he has to do is stick to the same old song and dance, which is fine because it worked so often before. And like they always say, why fix what’s not broken?

But then, this puts into perspective how lame the rest of the performances are from the rest of the core performers. Adrian Grenier has always had that one expression and tone as Vinny and it never changes, which isn’t good; Kevin Connolly has always felt like a smart-ass as E, which isn’t good; Jerry Ferrara has always been the overly eager one as Turtle, which isn’t good; and Kevin Dillon has always been the creepiest, most perverted one of the clan, which isn’t as bad as the others, but still isn’t all that great, either. While some could make the argument that maybe this is less of a problem with the performer’s, than it is with the material for not challenging them enough, I would probably have to say you’re right.

However, by the same token, if they haven’t been challenged for the past decade or so, either, so why even bother trying to do so now?

Consensus: Like the show, Entourage, the movie, feels like it’s never really going anywhere, nor is it trying to offer anything new to the viewer, but instead, just rely on the same old tricks and trades that allowed the original show to stay on way longer than it maybe should have.

2 / 10

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Ride off in the sunset, boys. Please try and stay there, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Dead Man (1995)

Less dames, more drugs. The way Westerns should be.

William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a small-time accountant who was promised a job in the town of Machine, so he decided to leave his simple life in Cleveland to go out and get it. Problem is, when he arrives, it’s too late, so he decides to spend the rest of his night with drinking, some sex and murder. Wait, what?!? Yes, believe it or not, this little, scared man William Blake actually shoots another man (Gabriel Byrne), who also happens to be the son of a very wealthy business-owner (Robert Mitchum), who then, as a result hires three hitman to find Blake and kill him. Though William Blake has no idea where he is going while on the run, he receives assistance from a local Native American by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer), who keeps on confusing him with the poet William Blake and doesn’t ever seem to want to stop speaking in metaphors or what have you. It’s never made clear exactly where Nobody is taking William Blake, but along the way, they meet a whole bunch of crazy characters. Some are good, and some are just downright bad. So bad that William Blake may have to break-out of his shell and start shooting people up once again, like he’s being advertised as often doing.

Jim Jarmusch is clearly a guy whose style is for his certain type of audience. Doesn’t mean it can’t necessarily work for those who are considered to be “outsiders”, but that does mean it may be a bit harder for those people to actually understand his movies for what they are, be able to discuss them at hip wine-tasting parties, and, believe it or not, actually “like” them.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere, they'll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

If anybody has ever taken public transportation anywhere in the 21st Century, they’ll know that times truly have not changed a single bit.

Yes, believe it or not, such a thing does exist where you watch a movie and come to like it, even if it some of those out there don’t necessarily feel your same feelings. Which, as much as I hate to say it, is exactly what happened with me and this movie; I know that plenty of people love, adore and hold it as a “classic”, but for me, I just couldn’t hop aboard that train. Though I admire Jarmusch for having a vision that doesn’t glamorize the western like so many movies we see do, I’m still confused to hell as to just exactly what this movie means, or even if everything I saw happen, did in fact happen.

And while that feeling usually sits well with me while watching certain movies, I felt like this one sort of skates by on that idea, rather than developing beyond it. Sure, you can throw me all sorts of narrative-curveballs to confuse the heck out of me just for the sake of doing so, but once it seems like a person is just doing so in order to jazz the whole piece up a bit more, then it doesn’t wholly work for me like it should. That’s just me though, and when it comes to the disagreement between me and this movie, I can’t help but hold a grudge against it.

But where Jarmusch’s vision does work is in, like I said before, the way he paints a pretty strange and bizarre portrait of the old-school West. Sure, there’s what we usually see in any Western – hookers, gun-slingers, booze, saloons, Native Americans, cowboys and beans, but they’re all shown in a way that’s a lot more muggy than what we usually see. That mostly has to do with the black-and-white font Jarmusch uses, but most of it also has to do with the fact that this movie dives into some pretty strange places that may definitely surprise someone seeing this for the first time.

Certain characters will be killed-off in such a care-free, nonchalant way, that it almost seems like Jarmusch is just making it up as he goes along; which is a bit jarring at first, but still totally works for the movie. It’s almost like watching a real life Western play-out in front of your own two very eyes, where people get shot, people die and they’re forgotten about just like that. Maybe it’s too realistic? I wouldn’t say that, but it’s definitely a change-of-pace for someone who was brought-up on all the great Spaghetti Westerns of the world.

Represent, yo.

But then again, like I said before, for every neat, relatively normal sequence Jarmusch introduces, there’s a strange, off-kilter one that follows it and it doesn’t always work. Instead, it feels like he got a bit bored and decided to throw some neat, little style-points in there for good measure. But rather than enhancing the story, it only makes it seem like he was high while filming.

Once again, maybe that’s just whatever my weird mind-frame makes up as it goes along, but it’s my thoughts nonetheless.

At the center of all this craziness (believe it or not), is Johnny Depp as William Blake, in what is a pretty low-key, surprisingly normal performance from a guy whose made a whole career out of doing the exact opposite. Maybe moreso now, than before, but still, watching Johnny Depp play a normal, human being is a bit refreshing, because it makes it still seem like he hasn’t totally lost his mind and is always waiting to make us see him in a new, refreshing light. That is, whenever he stays the hell away from Tim Burton.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he's way past that age-difference.

That actress laying next to Johnny is Mili Avital; she is nine years younger than he is. As we all know, he’s way past that age-difference now.

Anyway, what’s so cool about the character of William Blake is that he starts-off so dorky and simple, that when he starts to turn the other cheek and take matters into his own hands, it’s pretty believable because he doesn’t do it in a jarring way. He sort of just changes one subtlety about him, and that’s about it. He just continues on being William Blake; except instead of being a scared, little accountant from Cleveland, he’s a sly, skillful gunslinger from the town of Machine (and no, I am not making that up). I guess you’d never consider Johnny Depp to be “bad-ass”, but there’s something about his performance as William Blake that makes it seem like maybe you could.

There’s plenty more in this cast where Depp comes from, and each and every face is as lovely to see as the last. Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, the Native American that comes to save the day for William Blake and kind of, sort of, maybe becomes his best-friend along the way, despite not really connecting with him all that much; Michael Wincott plays a hitman who doesn’t know when to shut his trap, yet, is still entertaining to listen to; Iggy Pop, Jared Harris and Billy Bob Thornton show up as a bunch of dudes that want to bang J-Depp; and Alfred Molina gets a lovable, but small bit as a salesman that isn’t all he appears to be. The familiar faces run deeper than those that I’ve just mentioned, but don’t worry, they’re all fine. Even as weird as it may be to see Gabriel Byrne for all of five seconds.

Consensus: While it’s definitely for those who adore every single, little thing about Jim Jarmusch’s directorial-style, Dead Man still works as a different kind of a Western you don’t usually see portrayed in the movies, where everybody is still getting shot and killed for money, but it’s a lot more depressing and acid-induced.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sad to say, this isn't the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Sad to say, this isn’t the only time J-Depp tried to look like a Native American.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Ice Harvest (2005)

When your town has more than two strip-clubs, you know you need to get outta there!

In the small city of Wichita, on the eve of Christmas, Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a lawyer who makes a note of backing-up mobsters, has just seized $2.1 million from a mobster that employs him. However, Charlie can’t do all of this stealing on his own, so he includes Vic (Billy Bob Thornton), a guy who is more used to this type of stuff. The two originally planned on getting the money and high-tailing it right out of town, but there’s a huge snow-storm that hits them, making the roads nearly impossible to drive on. So, as befuddled as they may be, Charlie and Vic decide that it’s best if they just stick it out til the morning, lay low and make sure that the gangster whose been looking for both of them (Mike Starr), doesn’t actually get them, and everything will go according to plan. But, as we all know with these sort of heists stories, not everything works out so perfectly for everybody involved, and more often than not, ends with some blood being shed. Well, in this case, plenty of blood actually.

It’s a shame that Harold Ramis has left-us. No, not because there’s no longer any hope that he’ll show-up in the unnecessary Ghostbusters 3, but because he truly was a talent in front of, as well as behind the camera, that always seemed to know when it was right to hit our funny-bones, and when it wasn’t. Sure, most of us know that he made such comedic-classics like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day and even Analyze This (I guess it’s considered a “classic” in some circles), but know of us really know that he had a bit of a darker-edge to him as a director; the kind of edge not many of us got to see until later in his career.

"Yeah, fuck life."

“Yeah, fuck life.”

Some would even say, too late in his career, but I digress.

When looking at a plot like this, you can’t help but automatically think of Fargo, or any other Coen Brothers flick ever made, because that’s exactly what it is: A dark comedy about people being bad, in a small-town and having to make some deadly decisions to ensure their safety. Of course though, what usually is able to make or break these flicks is in its way of being able to balance out the heavy, dramatic elements of the violence, bloodshed and death, with all of the humor that can usually come from a movie when you have likable, colorful characters involved with said elements. Here, Ramis is clearly capable of handling both sides of the coin, as we get from an early impression, that the movie is going to be all about whether or not these guys can get out of this town with the money, and try to stay alive as well.

Instead, what we eventually get here is a story about a guy we can’t particularly like, nor can we particularly hate neither in the form of Charlie Arglist. Same could be said for just about everybody else in this flick – most notably, a drunken-friend of Charlie’s (played by the always-lovable and cheery Oliver Platt), who also just so happens to be married to his ex-wife. The guy may make an ass out of himself throughout the whole movie, but it’s an act that never gets old, which is mostly thanks to both Platt’s acting, as well as the script being able to give him more than just what is on the surface.

But I couldn’t help see this in just about every other character here, which allowed for the movie to be more than just a small-time caper-flick. It gave us people to care about, even if they weren’t particularly likable or morally perfect, and best of all, heightened the story’s emotions just a tad bit more. Even if all of the back-stabbing, twists, turns, surprise deaths and double-crosses became a bit tiresome by the end, I still gave a crap about what happened to most of these characters, besides not wholly showing us why I should feel this way. I guess I just did, and I guess that’s attributed to Ramis and his way of being able to juggle heart, humor, violence, sadness and character-development, all while rarely missing a beat. And even if some beats were missed (like in the last half-hour when a familiar-face shows up and is too cartoonish for their own good), they weren’t too noticeable that they distracted me from all that worked so well with this picture.

"They call me, "Daddy Long Legs". Know why?"

“They call me, “Daddy Long Legs”. Know why?”

Though I could keep on talking about Ramis and practically give him a “tribute” of sorts, what it really comes down to with this movie what makes it work is John Cusack in the lead-role as Charlie Arglist. Cusack’s not really stretching himself here by playing a cold-hearted criminal, with slight ounces of humanity, but he does so well with it that you don’t really care if you’ve seen him go at this sort of thing. You get an early-impression that Charlie isn’t a good guy, but you still see that he cares for those around him, he just has a bad way of showing it most of the time. But still, as much as we dig deep into who this person is, we still get the idea that Charlie really wants that money, but most of all, he wants to get it while being alive. When watching, you won’t be able to help feeling the same either.

Same sort of goes for Billy Bob Thornton’s character, Vic, although it’s clear early on, just by the casting of Thornton alone, that he’s not always up to being good all of the time. Still, when we do get to see him, he keeps on surprising us and makes us think just what his next move will be, and how he’s going to affect Charlie, or anybody else around him. Connie Nielsen is also here as the stripper that Charlie is practically head-over-heels for, and is playing it like an old-school, noir dame where she smokes, talks smack and is always showing some skin. Heck, her name is even Renata! Doesn’t get anymore old-school than that! Anyway, she’s hot-as-hell, but also shows that her character may have a whole lot up-to-her-sleeve, that isn’t for the greater-good of Charlie’s well-being, nor anybody else’s for that matter. She’s just exactly like a real woman, screwing-up every man’s life that just so happens to be in her path. What a devil.

Consensus: Gets a bit too loose by the end, but for the most part, the Ice Harvest is a little dark, a little funny, a little mean-spirited, a little dirty, a little smug, a little sweet and pretty damn surprising in the way it goes about telling its plot, and introducing to us characters that have layers. Wow. A comedy with meaning. Gosh, I’m gonna miss Harold Ramis. RIP bud.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

You'd have that same mug if you lived in Witchita, too.

You’d have that same mug if you lived in Wichita.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Divorce isn’t all about breaking the others person’s heart, it’s mostly about breaking their bank accounts.

A fabulously successful Los Angeles divorce attorney, Miles Massey (George Clooney) who is so sated on success, that he doesn’t quite see enough time for recreational activities like hanging out with friends, going to the bar, getting laid, or hell, even finding his one true, and only love. He doesn’t care much for that stuff anyway, but if it ever came around his way, then so be it, but just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his business and his path-to-success. Now though, Miles may get exactly what he wants in the form the much-divorced Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a hard-headed woman pursuing financial independence through serial matrimony, except it may come with a price. That price? His heart, which as we all know, when one is placed solely in the firm grasps of a woman, nothing good can ever come of it. Poor guy.

The writing/directing brother duo known as the Coen Brothers, are pretty much known for wacky, twisty dark comedies, that feature plenty of weirdness and violence to go along with their final-product. You know this, I know this, hell, we all know this! However, what we don’t really know about them all that much are their passions for anything even remotely close to “rom-coms”. But here we have a rom-com, featuring two of the sexiest, most vivacious stars of the past ten years, and we have the Coen Brothers leading them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Men, hate to say it, but another good one bites the dust.

Men, hate to say it, but another good one bites the dust.

That’s because it is. But it’s “Coen Brothers strange” and yes, there is such a thing.

The are in which I think the Coens get most of a bad-rap from this movie in is that it’s pretty obvious what they’re setting out to do here, and that’s to make a mainstream rom-com, obviously with their own little stamps of originality here and there to spice things up. They aren’t necessarily trying to spellbind an audience that may not know what to expect from their types of movies, nor are they trying to piss off their most loyal, nearest and dearest fans neither; they’re simply trying to make a movie that can be somewhat be enjoyed by anybody who cares enough to give this one a shot. And while the end-result may not be all that perfect, there’s still plenty of interesting stuff going on here that makes it easy to understand why no matter what type of stunt they’re trying to pull, a Coen Brothers movie is always worth watching. For one reason or another.

For instance, take the premise: It’s fairly dark in the way it looks at the world of love, lust and money, and how it’s all connected in a terrible web of lies and deceit. Not the happiest, most pleasant premise out there to-date, but it’s what you get from the dudes who put a dead dude in a wood-chipper. The Coens seem like they have a lot to discuss when it comes to the discussion of how money just makes people happy, regardless of if they’re in love or not. Usually, money solves everything, not love. Hate to say it, but for some peeps, that’s nothing other than the truth, and to see the Coens tap into this idea, while also springing-up some fun, twisty and surprising plot-points, made this a better watch then I expected.

However, it cannot be argued that this movie is still a bit messy, all due to the fact that it’s a rom-com, trying so hard to be in fact, a rom-com. It’s not that I took points off because the Coen Brothers were trying something new and inventive with something we’ve seen done a hundred, million times (hell, it’s practically what we see their movies for in the first place), it’s just that the transition from this strange, sort-of love story, to the mysterious, cold and dark story that Clooney’s character gets wrapped up into, isn’t as smooth. Once again, it seemed like the Coens may have had a bit too much on their plate to chew on, but this time, instead of having all these different strands of plot, story and development going on, it’s just two stories and they never quite converge the way they should.

Like I said before though, it is a Coen Brothers movie, and for what that’s worth, there’s still plenty of non-stop chuckles, pieces of dry wit and overall fun to be had here, it’s just obvious that these guys have done far-better stuff before. Especially with premises that didn’t at all resemble a silly, stupid rom-com. Seriously, I hate those damn things! Hate ’em!

Somebody grab me a damn fan!

Somebody grab me a damn fan!

George Clooney plays the same role here, that he plays in every other one of his movies: The fast-talking, slick, charming guy that makes every other slouch in the room, look like they just got out of the freakin’ dumpster. But, even though that’s what he may seem like at first, you’ll be a bit surprised to see that he’s a lot more stranger-developments going on with this guy, that make you see him for a bit of a different cat altogether. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Miles Massey, in his own way, is a bit off-kilter and neurotic, something we don’t usually see Clooney play, especially given the fact that the ladies couldn’t ever imagine him as being something other than the most handsome, most charming dude in the world. Heck, I don’t blame them, because I even freakin’ see it! But watching Clooney try something new, is one thing, and it’s another to actually see him pull it off, which he does so effortlessly. You really do begin to feel something for this Miles Massey guy and even though he majors in taking the wounded’s good-earned money in every cheap, dirty way he can, there’s still a part of you that wants him to find that dream girl of his. Even if she is somebody as devilish and vindictive as Marylin Rexroth. Ooh, that name. Just gets me all hot, bothered and scared, everytime I hear it.

And with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the role, it’s easy to see why. No seriously, “seeing” is exactly what you’ll be doing everytime she’s up on-screen because she just nails that perfect eye-candy a movie like this needed. Therefore, when Massey started to fall for her, it was easy to see why, especially since every other dude around her started to fall weak at the knees as well. Yeah, a side of me wishes that there was more to this Rexroth character other than just an untrustworthy, gold-digging tramp, whom you don’t want to be messing around with Massey’s vulnerable heart, but I still can’t find anything bad to say about the gal’s performance. She’s spicy, nasty and willing to get down and dirty if she needs to make herself happy. In other words: She’s the type of girl all us men are afraid to be with, yet, we just can’t say “no” to. Rawr.

Consensus: Take with it what you will, Intolerable Cruelty is probably the Coen Brother’s most mainstream movie they have ever done, but still shows all of their usual trademarks for what they are, while also giving us some fun turns by the whole cast, especially a very charming and likable duo of Clooney and Zeta-Jones.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Something tells me the over-abundance of red means something despicable is about to happen. Just a hunch.

Something tells me the over-abundance of red means something despicable is about to happen. Just a hunch.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Parkland (2013)

We got Bobby, but now, here’s Johnny! Sort of.

When JFK was assassinated in Texas, the whole nation was left in a widespread panic of not knowing what to do next, how to pick themselves up from such tragedy and what would be the best way to move on. But before any picking up and moving on could be done, there had to be some simple procedures done, like finding out who killed JFK, who that killer’s family was, who the person filming the incidence was, how they can keep it away from the media, an so on and so forth. Basically, this is a look inside the various lives that were affected after JFK’s murder, and how most of them coped with the disaster in many different ways, sometimes some were more positive than others. But the ones who were negative, they really were hit hard, as you’ll soon see.

The JFK assassination is something that no matter what type of person you are, history buff or not, will always interest you. All controversies about whom did it, why and whom with, there are still some very interesting facts about it that many of us have yet to even know about, while some are still being unearthed. It’s strange to think that even 50 years after the fact that we’re still getting bits and pieces of info about what really happened, who was behind it and possibly just if it was all a ruse or not, is really surprising. However, one must remember that it’s the U.S. government we’re dealing with here, folks. They can’t always be trusted.

About to have themselves a bloody good time. What? Too soon?

About to have themselves a bloody good time…….. What? Too soon?

Anyway, those said interesting little facts about this well-known assassination is probably what does this flick some good in the first place. For starters, it gives us a glimpse inside the lives of a bunch of people we’d never expect to see get a movie made about and it actually allows them to have their story shown. Some get better than treatment than others, but overall, everybody here has a story to tell, and they are all somewhat worth watching and paying attention to, even if the direction doesn’t quite follow suit with that the whole way through.

Some have been having problems with this movie because it’s considered “overstuffed” and “jammed”, and I can’t say I disagree. With a movie that runs just about under an-hour-and-a-half, showing all of these stories, with all of these different, familiar-faces, definitely does come across as “too much to take in”, especially when you pretty much know that the material would benefit a lot more from something like a miniseries or hell, even a longer movie. The stories that are interesting get the most attention here, but the others that don’t, still feel like they have something that we would want to see or take notice of, yet, they aren’t really given much time of the day.

For instance, there’s this one story the movie focuses on that features Ron Livingston playing an FBI agent that knows all about what’s happening with the president, who killed him and where they can nab him, but we never actually see him go out onto the field, actually gathering info, clues, hints, or anything else that would probably help him get a clearer view of the case. This subplot also leaves more questions than actual answers as it becomes clearly evident that the movie, in some way, shape or form, is suggesting that Oswald didn’t act alone and had to have some outside-help in order to kill the president. Personally, I agree with this sentiment, but I feel like when you have a movie that’s dedicating its legacy to an event, as well as to a public, iconic figure no less, that it may not be right to choose sides. Then again, I’m always down for when things get shaken around a bit, so who the hell am I to even talk, you know?

Other than Livingston’s character’s story, there are plenty of other ones to that get the light of day, most are a lot more interesting than the one I just mentioned, and some far more deserving of their own movie or hell, one-hour running-time. The one story I’m mainly talking about is the one in which James Badge Dale plays Oswald’s brother that somehow gets wrapped up into all of this, all because he shares the same last name as the man who killed the president. The movie paints a nice picture of this conflicted man who knows what his brother did was wrong, and yet, still can’t bring himself away from totally abandoning him and leaving him out to dry. Because honestly, let’s face it: Family is family, no matter what.

Dale is not only great in this role, as he is in all of the 50 movies he’s shown up in in the past two years, and really gives you the sense that this is a good-natured citizen who knows what’s right, and what’s wrong, and yet, still can’t help but get thrown under the bus all because of who his brother is and the dirty act he committed. While Dale’s performance is very nuanced and subtle for this type of material, Jacki Weaver, playing Oswald’s crazed attention-whore-of-a-mother, is a little more nutty and over-the-top, but is still worth watching because if you watch any of the interviews with the real-life figure, you’ll see that she more than just hits the nail on the head. She absolutely bangs it in with utter force.

The rest of this studded-ensemble is a bit of a mix-bag, which is less of their fault, and more of the film’s because it doesn’t quite utilize their skills as well as it should have, which is a damn shame, considering the type of true talent we have on-deck here. Colin Hanks, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden all play the nurses and doctors that examine both JFK one day, and Oswald the other, which gives us a nice contrast between the two, even though the characters themselves are never fully sketched-out to be more than scared fellas and gals. They all try, but their characters are thin. Billy Bob Thornton gets a chance to show up on screen and do his bit for a short while as the FBI agent assigned to figuring out what happened here and how they can fix it all up in a neat and tidy bow. Nice to see Thornton do something where he isn’t either a total and complete a-hole, or for that matter, a total and complete dirtball that has no sense of normal hygiene or normalcy.

"Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he's dead!!"

“Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he’s dead!!”

The one who I was most surprised by, not because he was bad or anything, but by how uninteresting his story actually was, was Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder who, if you don’t know by now, was the poor individual who had the displeasure (or pleasure, in some crazy mofo’s minds) of not only filming the assassination, but to be the one the media and FBI came to first, throwing away any price he would deem desirable. Giamatti is great in this role, as usual, giving us a distraught, scared old man that doesn’t quite know what to do with himself for the time being, but definitely doesn’t want to wake up and smell all of the real harsh realities that the world brings. While I felt these sad, emotional connections coming from Giamatti’s performance, I never quite felt that for his story, which actually felt like it could have been given its own movie, and maybe even be up for some Oscars along the way as well. However, we may never get to see that happen. And if we do, it won’t be with Giamatti. Poor guy. He so deserves better.

And don’t even get me started on Jackie Earle Haley as the priest who gives his final blessing to JFK’s corpse. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, and is by far one of the strangest aspects of this whole cast. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say the movie as well.

Consensus: The approach Parkland brings to its infamous event, surely is one of the far more interesting aspects going for it, but can’t help but feel disappointing once you realize how under-cooked, short and jammed-up it is, and even worse, it didn’t need to be either.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

How he didn't recieve an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me......What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

How he didn’t receive an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me……What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Hey, I don’t blame Bond. I’d be pretty pissed if Eva Green was taken away from me.

Returning once again, James Bond (Daniel Craig) battles wealthy businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a member of the Quantum organisation, posing as an environmentalist who intends to stage a coup d’état in Bolivia to seize control of the nation’s water supply. Bond seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and is assisted by Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), who is seeking revenge for the murder of her family.

After falling in love with Casino Royale right from the first-shot on, I realized that the only way to keep this “new” Bond series going-strong, would be to up the ante a bit and give us some more action, more intensity, and most of all, more of Bond just being cool. That last one isn’t really hard to do, but the first two can sometimes be pulled-off well and other times, cannot. Sadly, I think director Marc Forster took this idea of “more, more, more”, and decided to just go to town with it and that’s where I think the film/”new” series takes it’s sudden-dip.

See, what makes Bond so cool is that the guy is able to do all of this crazy, violent crap that definitely makes you go “Ouch!”, but is also able to pull off some sly and witty stuff like faking people out, getting in between buildings without being seen, and just being the ultra-sneaky spy we all know and love him to be. However, all of that violent crap starts to take over the film and as fun as it may be to watch, you can’t have a Bond flick with over 15 minutes of non-stop action, already happening in the first 30 minutes of the actual-movie. That makes it seem more like an action-thriller that is more about being thrilling, rather than being a Bond flick and as weird as that may sound, yes, they are both two different types of films in their own right and I think it comes off more as Bourne movie.

A lot of people complained that the last one felt a bit too much like a Bourne movie with all of the non-stop shaky-cam work, crazy stunt-work used, and high-flying, action set-pieces, and sort of getting rid of the old-school, classy-way that Bond usually does his line of business. However, as much as I agree with that statement, I can definitely say that some of that is true because it is a very gritty, actiony thrill-ride that delivers more action than it deserves class, but at least it had the classic, Bond class. This film, somehow, doesn’t even seem to really have that. It goes on and on and on with Bond killing almost every single person that walks into his way, without him ever getting a chance to ask question them or interrogate them in any way possible, and to top that off, the story makes no sense despite picking right up 5 minutes after the first-one ended.

In a case like this, I think it’s easy to blame the writers, the producers, and the companies who were behind this movie, but I think the one to really blame is Foster of all people. For people who don’t know who the hell Marc Forster is, well, let’s just say that he’s a guy that’s most known for directing character-based dramas like Stranger than Fiction, Monster’s Ball, and the Kite Runner, among others. To be honest, the only type of action that happens in any of those movies is when Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton decide to get down and dirty, late one night, so why the hell would they decide to give this guy a Bond movie that’s all about guns, cars, violence, girls, and Bond? Seriously, it’s not like the guy does a terrible job or anything, it’s just that it’s pretty obvious that the guy brings nothing new to the table in terms of action or story-development, and instead, has this movie come off like a failed-attempt at trying to create a Bond spin-off for a far, far away future. It’s no surprise that this guy’s screwing up World War Z now, because he sure as hell came close to screwing this one up, big-time.

But as much as I may get on Forster’s case, and this movie’s case, I can’t lie anymore because I really did have a fun time with this flick and all of it’s action. Some of the set-pieces are a bit unbelievable and ridiculous, but you know what? So were some of the ones in Casino Royale and that’s what sort of made me love that movie even more, so I can’t really get on this film for all of that crap either. At the end of the day, it’s still a James Bond movie that definitely features plenty of thrills worthy of seeing and worthy of being in a Bond movie, and even though they sure as hell aren’t as memorable as Bond playing poker, they sure as hell keep your attention on the screen for as long as it can.

And come to think of it, as much as this film may not be worthy of his skills, Daniel Craig still kicks plenty of ass as Bond and shows us exactly why he was chosen for this role in the first-place. Craig, no matter what all the haters may say, just has this dirty and tough look to him that makes you scared for the baddies that go up against him in brawls, but also has this charming and swift look that makes you feel like he is the coolest guy in the room, and definitely the type of guy you would go up to and try to conversate with, but no words would come out because he is simply that cool and intimidating. Maybe I put too much thought into this guy’s look and role, but I don’t care, because Craig is awesome.

Olga Kurylenko plays his “Bond girl” and is alright for the most part, even though she really has nothing to work with here other than a forced, sympathetic-route her character takes. I just want to know why the hell Craig doesn’t bone her, instead, goes off to bone Gemma Arterton as some red-headed, secret-spy that shows up for 5 minutes, gets laid, and is practically gone from the rest of the movie after that. I mean you put them side-by-side, Olga definitely takes the cake and it’s a shock to me that Bond would make a silly-mistake like this. Once again, gotta blame it on Forster. That guy should know Bond, and Bond’s taste in women. Damn you!

Matthieu Amalric plays Greene, the typical Bond-villain that we need in these movies to make it work and although he does what he can, the character is too thinly-written. It’s a good thing that Greene isn’t your typical Bond-villain, where all he does is twirl his mustache and hat and make huge, unbelievable promises of destroying the world around him, however, I felt like we sort of needed that in order to hate this guy even more and actually feel scared for Bond. Yeah, Greene does do some bad things, but never to the point of where I felt like Bond needed him to kill him right-away, or else all hope was lost. Also, the guy was a bit of a softy and I even think M could have kicked his ass, just as much as Bond could have.

Consensus: Quantum of Solace is definitely fun, entertaining, and a relatively mediocre addition to the Bond series, but still feels like it should have been so much more, instead of just settling for typical, action-thriller conventions, two-dimensional characters, and choices that seem to come from a place that isn’t all about Bond, and more about making a lot of money and making it quick. Hey Hollywood, news flash for ‘ya: It’s a James Bond movie, therefore, it’s already going to make a shit-load of moolah at the box-office. Now shut up, and let James get back to work!

7/10=Rental!!

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Barbers are definitely some cruel people.

Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) goes about the business of cutting hair with a stoic resignation. He’s stuck in a rut and has no clue how to get out. When Crane discovers that his bookkeeper wife, Doris (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with Big Dave (James Gandolfini), her boss at Nirdlinger’s department store, the gears of change start turning.

Take it from the Coen Bros. to take us back to a time that seems so simple, so clean, and so nice, and make it seem like everything other than that.

This is one of those flicks that show the Coens basically giving a little tribute out to the good old days of black and white cinema noir, and it actually feels like one that would have been made back in those days too. The cinematography is beautiful and I think it was used for a great mood because I couldn’t have expected this being filmed in anything else other than black and white. The score is also great not because it sounds cool but because it’s actually made up of a bunch of actual pieces of orchestra music that adds a lot to the dark mood as well. Technically, the Coens do a fine job here and made me feel like I needed to blow some smoke while watching it just to get in the mood.

The story itself is a pretty slow one at first, but after awhile it actually builds up to a story that you sort of get involved with. Everything here is pretty straight-forward but I couldn’t help myself wondering just what was going to happen next and what road this film was actually going to try and go down. I can’t say that this is a suspenseful thrill ride by any means, but it’s still a flick that has a story that keeps on moving on and on as it goes. It will also probably make you feel a lot better than your life because things go from bad to worse for this dude Frank, and it pretty much made me thankful for everything I have in my life. Never thought the Coens would be able to make me think that but hey, they can work wonders when they want to.

The problem with this film isn’t that it’s not good, because it’s a very good flick, it’s just that it’s very hard to actually care what happens. Yes, I did like this story and where it went with its direction but when it came to actually having some sympathy for these characters, there just wasn’t anything touching me at all. Ed, our central character, is a pretty numbed-out dude that doesn’t talk much and doesn’t really have many emotions in this flick and it’s hard to connect with somebody like that considering it seems like he doesn’t really care all that much either about what’s going on with his life and where it’s taking him. His wife, Doris, also seems like she doesn’t have much going for her life other than running around on her husband which makes it even harder for us to care and even Big Dave has dreams but even those are pretty boring and mediocre. Basically, it’s a film that you can try your hardest to like and connect to one of these characters, but in the end, it’s just going to come off as empty.

As for people that are looking for a fun time with a Coen Bros. flick because they saw ones such as ‘True Grit’ and ‘No Country For Old Men’, well then you have to look a little further than this one. The film is very slow and even though I do feel like they needed the time to actually develop these characters as well as the story, there were other times where I felt like certain scenes just ran on a little too long with nothing else but just silence. Also, the 116 minute time-limit may also add insult to injury for that as well but then again, this isn’t the Coens having a fun time.

Billy Bob Thornton is his usual self in this flick as Ed Crane (great name), which is what adds a lot to this character and film as well. Billy Bob isn’t exciting, he barely shows any emotions, he smokes in about every single frame of this flick, and he’s a character that just seems like he doesn’t care at all about anything but it’s also what makes this character work. It may have been hard to feel anything for him but I was still able to like Billy Bob playing Crane because even though we may always seem him play the same character in every flick no matter what, it still never really gets old and still seems fresh especially when he’s playing a barber.

Frances McDormand is also good as his wife, Doris, and she adds a lot of sass and coolness to a character that is pretty unlikable, only because she is committing some infidelities; James Gandolfini is pretty much here as Big Dave and not doing much else other than just being there; and Tony Shalhoub practically comes out of nowhere and steals this flick by the end of it and made me laugh a hell of a lot more than I actually expected in a dark and sad film like this.

Consensus: The Man Who Wasn’t There shows the Coens in a good-form with fine performances from the cast, nice touches for its score and camera-work, and a nice story that builds up more and more, but also has characters that you may find it harder to connect with which makes it even harder for you to care what really goes down in the first place.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Monster’s Ball (2001)

Those beautiful black women just love those redneck freakoids.

The story is about Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) who is an embittered prison guard working on Death Row who begins an unlikely but emotionally charged affair with Leticia (Halle Berry), the wife of a man under his watch on The Row.

For the first hour or so, nothing was going right for me with this flick. I knew that it was going to be a slow-ass flick right from the start but the film barely felt like it was moving at all. It has this very dark and depressing feeling to it right from the start, which will kind of throw you back a bit but somehow, somewhere there was happiness and hope in this story, and then it suddenly started to grow on me. Damn Billy Bob!

I think the main reason why this flick got better in the way that it did was because of its script. This a very character-based flick that focuses on these gritty, dirty, and sad people that all need something in their life, whether it be love, family, or just a nice little bang here and there. The script just feels very human in the way how everybody deals with their problems and it’s also one of the rare cases where the the screenplay decides to take a step back from actually having non-stop talking but focus more on the quiet side of this story which spoke louder to me than any of the racist crap Frank Barone was saying here.

The problem with this flick is that I don’t think the direction here from Marc Forster does the script justice. Take it for granted, there isn’t anything really flashy here done by Forster to get in the way of the material at-hand but he feels very unfocused. There will be moments where it focuses on this nice romance between Billy Bob and Halle, then will go towards the racism she faces, then towards the fact that she has little or no money, and then it will go right to Billy Bob being sad about something. There were too many times where I feel like the film constantly brought up all of these other things that these characters were feeling, which in all honesty, were definitely not as interesting as the romance between Berry and Billy Bob, especially when they start boning in everybody’s favorite sexy time scene.

Where the flick did work was at the center of it all: the romance. The romance between these two feels subtle and something that would happen between two 8th-graders almost but then it really turns into something serious, heart-breaking, and very very real. I liked this romance that these two had going on because it showed just how much they needed each other at a certain time in their lives and even though they both may not be the same person, they still feel hurt and need someone or something to take their pain and anguish away. However, whenever they are on-screen together, you can feel the romance and deep-down inside, was this sweet little love they had going on which really worked for me.

Halle Berry won the Oscar here for Best Actress and even though I can’t recall seeing any of the other performances from that year, I have to say that I think the Academy made the right decision. Berry lets it all hang loose as Leticia. She’s sad, vulnerable, full of pain, anger, remorse, but also very optimistic for the future and feels like a very real person when it comes to how she wants to be treated. Berry is a very stunning chicky but she lets the grit take over here and she dives into this character without any fake steps. Her emotions are almost all-over-the-place but Berry makes us sympathize with this character and actually feel something for her no matter what. Amazing performance from Berry and one that truly did deserve the Oscar.

Billy Bob Thornton was pretty good here as Hank, even though when he is being compared to Berry, his character is definitely the one you least remember. It’s not that this is a bad performance by any means, it’s just that Billy Bob isn’t really doing anything other than playing sort of a dick that somehow changes half-way through, even though we don’t really realize it until his own daddy brings it up. Speaking of his daddy, Peter Boyle is quite good as the totally racist dad, even though it was kind of funny watching him spout out the N-word left and right; Heath Ledger is also good in this flick as Hank’s son, Sonny, and is very chilling every time he is on-screen; and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs does a nice job as Lawrence, Leticia’s husband, and doesn’t really over-play any of the lines like rappers-turned-actors usually do.

Consensus: Despite a slow beginning and feel to the film, Monster’s Ball starts to pick up with a very sweet romance in the middle of the story, great performances from the cast, especially Berry, and a script that doesn’t try too hard but still is able to make us feel something for these characters.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Countdown to Claus: Bad Santa (2003)

Good old mall Santas. Beating the crap out of teenagers.

Criminals Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) disguise themselves as Santa Claus and his elf and travel across the country to major malls, using the good will people have toward Santa to rob the mall stores blind. The problem is, Willie can’t stand kids. Their plan still progresses beautifully until the two reprobates meet an introverted 8-year-old boy who reminds them of the true meaning of Christmas.

To many people out in the world, Christmas is a time to spend with your friends and family, thinking of gifts and sharing them with others. This film is not the one for those kind of jolly people.

Director Terry Zwigoff is pretty good at making these laughs very dark and ones you almost sort of feel bad for laughing at in the first place. It’s a very funny film in that almost everything you see and hear is very twisted in its own right but that’s not to say that everything is dark and not for anybody. The humor is relatively juvenile and it’s not for any type of intellect out there to realize that this Santa is a total dick.

Although there is a lot of crass and dark humor, the films starts to reveal some heart to it. The story between the little fat kid and Willie starts off rather annoying but as time goes on, it gets a lot more sweeter and even though I knew this is where the film was trying to go, I really did feel like it was earned rather than forced. This whole story goes on with a bunch of swearing, sarcasm, booze, and anger so for it to actually get a little bit of a sweet story about a kid who needs a “daddy figure”, felt like a nice little moral side that works for the flick.

My problem with this film is that I feel like there were so many opportunities where they could have capitalized a little bit more on this rather than just spending the last 20 minutes to really focus on it. The story was right there in front of their faces and they kind of just let it go the whole time without ever really acknowledging it until it obviously seemed necessary. Also, the little fling that Willie has with a hot and sexy chick named Sue (Lauren Graham) seemed a little too weird how she was all obsessed with Santa and just the way she acted had me a little creeped out by here, but she was still smokin’.

As the film goes on, the story started off a little bit ridiculous then it starts to get more and more unbelievable, which I know is weird considering I’m talking about a film where a dude is dressed up like Santa goes and robs malls, but I still couldn’t get by it. I never understood just how Willie and Marcus got away with all of these robberies if they kept posing as the same guys throughout every mall they went to. Wouldn’t somebody eventually realize that these guys are stealing from every mall they go to and try to put out a notice? Another problem with this flick is that I never understood why Willie didn’t just go back to his hotel after he waited all of that time for the “cops” to get out of there. However, I guess I’m just being a dick once again.

Billy Bob Thornton probably gives one of his best comedic performances of all-time as Willie. Willie is an alcoholic, pisses in his suit, shows up to work drunk, lies, steals money, steals cars, beats up children, treats some poor little chubby kid like a piece of crap, and bones chicks in the parking lots (not saying that there’s anything wrong with that) but somehow Thornton makes this guy seem so likable. He’s just drunk the whole time being an obnoxious dick to everyone around him but Billy Bob plays it perfectly and I just wished that he would get more roles that were more about him being a low-life dick rather than a sophisticated, more civilized dick.

Tony Cox is very fun to watch as Marcus, because not only does his character get a little dark by the end but him and Thornton have great chemistry together that carries on perfectly throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast includes Bernie Mac playing a cocky mall cop, Cloris Leachman playing a Grandmom who just wants to make sandwiches, and the late John Ritter playing a nosy mall manager.

Consensus: Though there are some moral voids in Bad Santa, there is still some very funny black comedy that works well with the plot, and with Billy Bob Thornton’s dark but somehow likable performance as Willie.

8/10=Matinee!!

Countdown to Claus: Love Actually (2003)

Who loves Christmas? Almost every single British star apparently does.

I would give this huge plot synopsis but there really is so much here. Basically, everything in a nutshell, a lot of British folks fall in love with one another and Christmas starts to approach, which as everybody knows, means they all have to basically let their hearts out and tell the truth.

When I say there is a lot of stories in this flick, I mean there are a lot but I think director Richard Curtis does a fine job of handling all of these stories at once. He knows how to structure all of these stories together so well that they don’t seem too overwhelming to take in or repetitive for that sake. He doesn’t drop the ball as much as I would have expected him to but when it comes to handling dozens and dozens of love stories in just one flick that runs at 129 minutes, let’s just say that he’s no Robert Altman folk.

Where I think this flick gets messed up on is the fact there are way too many stories in this film and rather than just singling out every tiny story that it had, I’ll just tell you that there are some good bits and other bad ones. Some stories were obviously better than others, however, there were some that seemed unneeded because even though they were all comedies at heart, they also had a lot of downer dramatic elements to them as well.

There were also many moments with this film that seemed so cheesy and schmaltzy that I wanted to punch somebody in the face as soon as I heard another British bloke say, “I love you” to a chick they’ve known for only 2 days. The whole story with Liam Neeson and his step-son is really creepy and the whole fact that he’s telling his son to go and get it like a man, seemed a tad strange to me and almost like the film was trying way too hard to be cute.

The last of my problems with this flick is that it is very uneven. The abundance of stories would have been a little bit more enjoyable if they actually had some evening out with all of the stories but the problem here is that some stories go on for awhile and then you never see the other ones again, until you’ve almost forgotten about them completely. The whole Keira Knightley love-angle seemed very minor in this flick and although that one flash-card scene was cool, the film only has about 3 scenes of this little “romance” brewing up. Too many times I would wonder just where a certain story would have gone, and then when it came up I practically almost forgot about it.

Still, even though I’m ragging on this flick a whole hell of a lot, it still won me over. Despite some of schmaltzy moments there is a lot of heart-warming stuff going on here and each little story in their own right, is original and interesting. Take it for granted, there are some lame ones and others that plain and simply don’t belong because they either take up space or aren’t as interesting when it comes to having you smile when the supposed “love” is supposed to be going on. But not only are there a whole bunch of moments that had me tummy feel are warm and cuddly, there were also plenty of laughs to come along with this flick and even though they start to decrease by the end, I still felt myself happy.

The reason this film also works is because of the huge ensemble cast that Curtis has brought together. Everybody here does a great job with the ones who stand-out such as Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Colin Firth as a writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, and Emma Thompson as a wife that is getting played with. Everybody here was great to watch and it was just awesome how everybody got to play around with their roles for a little bit, even if they weren’t really doing anything ground-breaking. Let’s not to forget that Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead is up in herrre and the always lovely Mr. Bean. People should get the notion that you should put Atkinson in every single British film. The damn guy is always funny!

Consensus: Love Actually is very uneven, and has stories that are better than others, but Richard Curtis still handles every story well here with heart-warming and comedic moments that are heightened even more by the charming cast.

7/10=Rental!!

Puss in Boots (2011)

I can’t ever look at my cat the same again.

Voiced by Antonio Banderas, the dauntless feline of legend goes on an animated adventure to purloin a priceless golden-egg-laying goose. To help him on his mission, Puss brings along his friends Humpty Dumpty and the super-stealthy Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).

Having a spin-off of the famous ‘Shrek‘ series seems like a hard thing to accomplish with any film, but it seems like no matter what, cute little kitties always prevail victorious. I know I sounded really soft right there but still, it’s true.

Even though this is a spin-off, I still felt like this was a lot better than the last two films of that series and probably because it just didn’t try too hard at all for anything especially the humor. The jokes felt natural and were very funny without trying to make any Hollywood in-jokes or jokes that went way too over the little kids that inhabits these films heads.

Another reason why it’s so fun is because it just looks and feels like it. I didn’t see this in 3-D but I could tell that it probably looked so beautiful with all of the vibrant colors they had displayed in almost every scene. There are some scenes where it is taking place in a desert, in the sky, or in a small Mexicano town, and just about every scene looks very detailed and gorgeous. There’s also plenty of action that keeps this plot going as it almost never stalls and just feels over-done because the action comes so often and frequent in case this film had any chances of slowing down.

This film also works especially if you love cats or have a cat, like myself because there is so much they do with cats here it’s not even funny. A lot of the crazy things that cats do all somehow come into play with this story and made me laugh and probably appreciate my little cat named Henry, a lot more. Things they do such as howl in the middle of the night and driving people around them crazy, or following shiny lights, or even giving those little cute eyes whenever they want or need something. No matter what the crazy thing was, the film made me have a whole lot more fun with the whole cat angle as well. Also, I’ve never ever wanted to actually go up to the screen and actually pet it more than I ever have with this film. I mean Puss just looks so soft and cuddly, how could I not?

The problem I think that this film runs into is that I was expecting exactly what i got, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but then again it’s nothing special like it could have been. I think the problem that this film ran into was that everybody knows the whole formula this film goes through because what it is spun-off of. This sounds dumb to some, but for me I guess I just would have wanted some originality when it came to what it was trying to do with its story.

Another thing that kind of kept this film away from being taken to the next level was that it is essentially a 70-minute film stretched into a 90-minute film, which to some may not seem like a total problem but it does drag on just a tad too long for my own liking. By the end, I kind of more or less just wanted the film to get on with itself. I was also pretty bummed that there’s no real mention or any reference to the other ‘Shrek‘ films which I would have really liked but hey I guess you can’t really judge a film on what it doesn’t have and more or less what it does.

The cast for this film is also very good especially Antonio Banderas as our furry little hero for the nest hour 30 minutes. This is basically Zorro as a cat the whole time, but Antonio keeps him funny, suave, and overall just a totally cool and lovable kitty. He’s a fun character and its really easy to see why they would want to do a film that’s just all about him, instead of continuing the story about the donkey and the ogre.

Salma Hayek joins him as Kitty Softpaws and does a great job with her first time at doing a voice for a film. She has a lot of fun energy that goes very well with her character and how the animation makes her look. Zach Galifianakis is pretty funny as Humpty Dumpty and doesn’t really do much else but how his voice sounds adds a lot to the overall look and feel of this character and what I would expect him to actually sound like. He looks more like a Conehead rather than an actual egg, but hey, he still looks like Humpty Dumpty would. There are also other voices such as Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris as Jack & Jill and director Guillermo del Toro as Moustache Man / Comandate.

Consensus: Puss in Boots may not be ground-breaking, or wholly original but for a spin-off it features a lot of humor, fun, and beautiful animation to give this a very fun treat for kids, adults, and cat lovers everywhere.

8/10=Matinee!!

Bandits (2001)

Second best bank robbers, behind Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.

Two bank robbers, charming Joseph (Bruce Willis) and neurotic Terry (Billy Bob Thornton), battle over the affections of Kate (Cate Blanchett), a housewife they kidnapped before one of their big heists. Gaining notoriety as the “Sleepover Bandits,” the partners then force a reality TV show host to cover their 15 minutes of fame while they go on a crime spree — Kate in tow.

Director Barry Levinson usually does a lot of  good films that are all very talky so it was kind of cool to see him touch a thriller, with some talking there too. However, it’s not the best thing he’s done.

The script here is at times very good and other times, just plain weak. I liked how the film doesn’t take itself way too seriously with all the robberies and there is a lot of funny things that are said and done which will surprisingly have you laughing. It’s sort of like a combination of The Odd Couple and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it surprisingly works well. Let’s not also forget the little twists and turns that keep this film entertaining especially when the action is happening as well.

The problem with the script here is that the film is about 2 hours long and the script can’t really keep itself going for that long. By the end, there were many dry spots where they started to rely too much on slapstick and just weak comedy. The film also acts a little cute by showing barely any blood while the robberies take place, but that’s just dumb because blood or no blood, there’s nothing at all about robbery and kidnapping that’s wholesome.

However, the main reason this film actually works is because the cast is so damn likable. Bruce Willis is awesome as the straight-man, Joe Blake. Willis practically plays the same guy in every film ever since his Die Hard days but it never stops working for him and here it works even more because while the whole film is a tad goofy, he always plays it straight and never seems out-of-place. Billy Bob Thornton is a riot as Terry Collins, who is so up-tight about everything that it’s almost too laughable to be taken seriously. Thornton does a great job here playing a character that some people would usually get irritated of quickly, but thanks to Thornton’s appeal, the character is the best in the whole film. Cate Blanchett is sexy as well as very good as Kate Wheeler and doesn’t let the guy’s steal her spotlight one bit and has many funny moments although I think the little love triangle was kind of stupid. But it brought more the story so I can’t be hating that much.

Consensus: Though it’s script may start to get weaker as the film’s last act starts to come, Bandits is still very funny and entertaining because of it’s playful feel to the material, and the amazing trio of leads, that make these characters so much more likable than they had any right to be.

6.5/10=Rental!!