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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 Crudup

Alien: Covenant (2017)

It’s basically Jason X, but in space. Oh, wait. Jason X was in space. Never mind. So basically, it’s Jason X.

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy so that they can continue on with the human race, but this time, elsewhere, members aboard of the colony ship, Covenant, seem to be going just fine. However, disaster strikes when they’re ship is hit, killing the Captain (James Franco), leaving a new one to take his place (Billy Crudup). The odd thing about this Captain, however, is that he believes a little too much in faith, which makes him a bit detested by the rest of the crew, which would be fine and all normally, but makes their situation all the more heated when they discover a new planet. Rather than just continuing on with their journey, they decide to check out what this new planet is all about and believe it or not, it’s not exactly what they expected. Instead, it’s the planet where the dreaded Prometheus expedition crash-landed all of those years ago, and still harbors David (Michael Fassbender), the scariest robot around who is still, somehow, on and being creepy.

Tell me, could you hate a face like that?

The fact that Covenant is better than Prometheus, may not be saying much. The later is a flawed movie that, yes, while brimming with all sorts of ambitious ideas and themes about life, faith and science, also didn’t have much a plot, and even worse, lame characters. It was a sight to see on the big screen, but also felt like a hollow experience, made all the more disappointing by the fact that it was done by Ridley Scott, aka, the dude who kick-started the whole Alien franchise in the first place.

But now, Scott seems to be back in his comfort-zone with Covenant, the kind of Alien movie you’d expect an Alien movie to be. It’s tense, exciting, silly, scary, gory, and at times, pretty wild, but at the same time, also feels like every other horror movie we’ve ever seen done before, where instead of Freddy, or Jason, or hell, Leatherface, we’ve got a bunch of aliens, running around and taking people that we don’t care about, off one-by-one. Now, is that disappointing, too? Or, is it just something to expect?

Either way, Covenant can be a good movie to watch, for quite some time, because like Prometheus, it’s clear that a lot of attention and detail was put into how slick and cool the movie looked. But unlike Prometheus, it has some characters to care about (sort of), and most of all, a plot that’s easy to fall in-line with. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little conventional, with all sorts of exposition flying left-and-right, but it’s less of a metaphysical experiment than Prometheus was so, once again, it’s better.

But still, a tad bit disappointing. I don’t know why, either.

Not Ripley, but still has an odd hair-do. For some reason.

Because honestly, Scott does a solid job here. He knows how to racket up the tension, he knows how to take advantage of an A-list cast, and most importantly, he knows how to still shock and surprise us, but still, there’s a feeling had with the movie that’s all the same beats hit, again and again, time after time, and now, it seems like it’s just running out of ideas. Then again, maybe it’s not; Covenant does set itself up as a sequel, but also shows us that there’s a much larger, much grander universe out there, just waiting to be explored with more and more movies to follow.

So in a way, Covenant is like a refresher-course for those who were worried of the Alien franchise blowing and not having any reason for its return. Scott seems to have a genuine interest in where these stories can go and eventually, lead to, even if it seems like he’s taking his good old time, taking an opportunity to give us another trapped-in-space-by-aliens-tale, rather than, you know, exploring more and more.

Then again, it’s entertaining. it’s hard to have an issue with a movie when it’s doing that.

Even though, yes, it is a bit frustrating to watch such a talented and awesome ensemble, essentially, be left to just spout out a bunch of sci-fi gibberish, when they aren’t giving us frightened and freaked-out reaction-shots, but hey, it’s nice to have them around, right? The one who gets away the most is Michael Fassbender playing, get this, dual roles as one robot, and another one. But there’s a key difference in the way the two are – David is a cool, sophisticated robot with personality, whereas the new one, Walter, is much more advanced in that he doesn’t think for himself and is, basically, as dull as a doorknob. It works for Fassbender who has fun, both as a the square-edged dork, as well as the charmingly freaky David, and makes his scenes, genuinely intriguing, because you never know where they’re going to go, or lead to.

Something this movie needed more of, but once again, was still entertaining.

Consensus: While not necessarily a game-changer for the franchise, Covenant is still a fun, intense and rather exciting entry that showcases Scott doing what he does best, even if there is some disappointment in him not trying a bit more of something, well, new.

7.5 / 10

Everyone’s waiting, Ridley. Now kill ’em!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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20th Century Women (2016)

Women rule. Boys don’t drool, but they don’t rule, either.

It’s 1979 and Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) is going through some growing pains. Now that he’s growing up more and more, he’s starting to see the world for the sort of ugly, sometimes evil place that it can be, but he’s also realizing some beautiful things about it, too. This is mostly through the women that surround him, day in and day out. His mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening), stands by him every step of the way, smothering and protecting him from the outside world; Abbie (Greta Gerwig), when she isn’t dealing with her own problems, takes him out to rad-as-hell, incredibly violent and crazy punk shows; and Julie (Elle Fanning), while admittedly a friend, also gives him that idea that they could be together, forever, but she’s also a little too busy having sex with random a-holes who don’t care about her nearly as much as Jamie. There’s also William (Billy Crudup), who tries to be something of a father-figure to Jamie, even if he’s got his own problems with growing up, too. Altogether, they create an imperfect, dysfunctional family of sorts that all love and respect one another, but also find it very hard to get by in day-to-day life.

Beach makes everyone better.

Beach makes everything and everyone a little bit better.

20th Century Women is, thankfully, Mike Mills’ least stylish movie. It also happens to be perhaps his most heartfelt, with fully-realized, smart and honest characters that aren’t hiding behind a behind a bunch of twee style-points and narrative-conceits. Due to this, it often feels like the typical indie we’d expect from one Wes Anderson, however, it doesn’t quite reach those great, emotional highs – if anything, it’s a movie that stays so put in the lows of life, that it’s actually more realistic.

And yet, there’s still a style to this that can sometimes actually get in the way of the story itself.

For instance, we never quite know where the story’s going to go, end up, or even what sort of flow it’s going to follow through with for the whole two hours or so. It’s actually somewhat refreshing to get a movie that doesn’t have any need for such silly things like formula, or convention, but like I’ve stated many times with stylish movies, clearly trying to make their mark, they also can come close to ruining any sort of emotional power that they may have otherwise built on. 20th Century Women is an odd movie in that it constantly interrupts its own flow, but in doing that, it’s constantly telling us more about these characters, their lives, their relationships with one another, and just where America was at the time.

In all honesty, it’s hard to really hold much against 20th Century Women, because even when it does come close to being downright irritating, it still gives something else to chew on, so to speak. It’s not a slow movie and it’s definitely taking its time for unknown reasons – it’s just telling a story, the way it can only be told, shedding light on each and every person we see. It not only makes us feel closer to these characters, but makes us gain a sense of emotional attachment to them, as well as their surroundings.

Because if anything, the movie’s plots a little funky and doesn’t really seem to be all that focused, but a part of me thinks that was the point of what Mike Mills was doing. In life, there’s no clear objective, no one set standard or rules, and there’s sure as hell no just one obstacle to overcome and everything in life is all okay. Life is a constant stream of series of events, happenings and moments that you can’t predict and never quite see coming, which is actually the beauty about life in and of itself.

How many decades is Greta going to conquer next?

How many decades is Greta going to conquer next?

The same kind of beauty that, in its brightest, shining moments, 20th Century Women really harps on.

But Mills is a smart director in that he doesn’t always get in front of camera and let everyone know it’s his show and that’s it – he’s got such a good cast that it would almost be sacrilege to get in their way and not allow them to do what they do best. Annette Bening turns in another great performance as a mother-figure, who may not be a total hippie, but also may not be a pushover, either. It’s an interesting narrative that she constantly plays with this character and shows us that Bening can play all sides to a character, no matter how big, or limited her role may be.

Greta Gerwig also shows up and is quite good as the rather punk-ish gal going through all sorts of issues and problems, yet, isn’t a total sap that ruins every scene she’s in; Elle Fanning continues to get better and better and shows it here as the apple of Jamie’s eyes, who may love him like he does, or may be simply just using him as a total friend and that’s about it; Billy Crudup gives one of his better performances in recent-memory as the bro-y super of the building they’re all living in and feels like he could have had his own movie, but because he’s here, he’s just another one of the great, highly interesting stories; and as Jamie, Lucas Jade Zumann, despite having a lot of talent to battle, more than holds his own and makes it very clear that he’s going to have a bright and shining future in movies.

Especially if he can hold his own in a movie filled with as many heavyweights as there are here.

Consensus: 20th Century Women may bounce around a tad too much with its style, but mostly gets by on the sheer strength and warmth of its cast and message.

8 / 10

Nothing like a slightly over-bearing mother's love.

Nothing like a slightly over-bearing mother’s love.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jackie (2016)

Thanks for the fashion tips. Now, get out!

After the tragic and sudden assassination of her husband, First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) has to deal with a lot over a certain period of time. For one, she has to ensure that the rest of her family is alright. Secondly, she has to make sure that her husband’s funeral isn’t just one of the most memorable of any other assassinated President before him, but the best ever. And then, yes, she’s also got to do her absolute hardest to hold onto her sanity, even when it seems like this certain situation in particular wouldn’t call for it. However, no matter how bad life gets, all that Jackie wants is for her husband’s legacy to live on, regardless of what sort of mistakes he made in the past.

Jackie may seem, on paper, like your traditional, ordinary biopic of someone that we think we know so much about, but in all honesty, actually don’t, however, it’s anything but. What director Pablo Larrain does here with Jackie’s story is that he frames it in a way where we get to see small, fleeting glimpses into her life, through certain parts of it, as opposed to getting the rags-to-riches story that we so often get hit with. And sure, there’s nothing wrong with the kinds of biopics that take on those structures to tell their story and to tell a little more about their subject, but with Jackie, an odd structure actually works, as it not only has us feel closer to her than ever before, but also see what really lied beneath the legend.

We still see you.

We still see you.

Sure, most people think of Jackie as this reversed, sometimes not-all-that-bright women who was just lucky to marry the man who would eventually be President of the United States, and a fashion icon, but the movie shows us that there’s much more to her than that. We see that she not just cared about preserving the legacy of the past Presidents who came before her own husband, but also wanted to carve out a legacy for herself as well; rather than just being seen as this harpy wife who stood by her husband, even while he was off, strutting his stuff with many other women, she wanted to be seen, be remembered, or at the very least, be thought of as someone who was intelligent and cared all about the appearances of her and those around her. It’s actually very interesting to see this side to her, as we get a clearer understanding of what her real, actual beliefs and aspirations were, and end up sympathizing with her a whole lot more.

Okay sure, it’s not that hard to sympathize with a woman who has literally just lost her husband right slap dab in front of her, but still, Larrain crafts this story awfully well.

It’s odd though, because while even just focusing on her so much may already seem sympathetic, Larrain still asks a whole lot more questions about her, than he does answer. Like, for instance, why did she stay by her husband for all those philandering years? Was it all for show? And speaking of the show she put on, did she actually care so much about past Presidents, or did she just use that all as a way to show that she was so much more than the First Lady? The movie brings the questions up, never answers them, but at the very least, it does show that Larrain isn’t afraid to question his subject more than actually glamorize her and for all that she was able to do while in the White House.

Damn journalists. Always ruining the sorrow and grief of famous widows.

Damn journalists. Always ruining the sorrow and grief of famous widows.

And as Jackie, Natalie Portman is quite great, however, it does take awhile for it to get like this. Because Jackie herself had such a mannered, controlled and signature way of speaking and presenting herself with those around her, Portman has to do a lot of weird and awkward-sounding pronunciations throughout the whole flick. Her first few scenes with Billy Crudup’s character are incredibly distracting and make it seem like it’s going to overtake the whole movie, but it does get better after awhile, especially when we see her actually show emotion and use her persona to make the situations around her better. Sure, Portman gets to do a lot of crying, smoking, drinking and yelling, but it all feels right and not just another Oscar-bait, showy performances that we so often get around this time.

And while it is definitely Jackie’s story, a lot of others still get attention to paid them as well, like with Peter Sarsgaard’s incredibly sympathetic take on Bobby Kennedy. While he doesn’t always use the accent, regardless, Sarsgaard does sink deep into this character and become someone who is almost more interesting than Jackie, only because we don’t get to spend every single waking moment of the run-time with him. In a way, there’s a certain air of mystery to him where we aren’t really sure what his motives are, how he actually does feel about his brother’s death, and just what the hell he wants to do now with his life.

Somewhere, there’s a Bobby Kennedy biopic to be made and if so, Sarsgaard ought to be there.

Although, yeah, that damn Bobby title’s already been taken.

Consensus: Smart, insightful and compelling, Jackie presents us with an interesting look into the life of its famous subject, while never forgetting to show the possible negative sides to who this person may have really been.

8 / 10

You look great, Natalie. You don't need three mirrors to prove it.

You look great, Natalie. You don’t need three mirrors to prove it.

Photos Courtesy of: Silver Screen Riot

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

Can’t give anyone authority. Especially college bros.

In the 1970’s, Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo (Billy Crudup) conducted a psychological experiment that would forever have his name, as well as the study, remain in infamy and controversy. In the study, a handful of paid volunteers were picked to play “prisoners”, whereas another handful of paid volunteers were picked to play “guards”. Both groups were to simulate a prison in which the guards would treat the prisoners, just as guards would treat prisoners in any real life, day-to-day situation; they would pick-on, torment, toy, tease and punish the prisoners for doing whatever it is that they did, or basically, didn’t do. Because the guards are encouraged to go as far as they can without physically beating the hell out of any of the prisoners, most of the prisoners would tend to act-out and rebel a bit, even if they knew, in all honesty, it wasn’t going to do them any good. Watching all of this transpire, Zimbardo looks to find out why it is that people, when given the position of power, use it to their advantage and act the way they do, and why it is that the prisoners who are being powered-over, don’t fight back or ever question, “why?”.

"Lookin' at something, fellow former-child star?"

“Lookin’ at something, fellow former-child star?”

Movies like the Stanford Prison Experiment are very lucky that everything that they depict, are basically what happened. While the movie states that it is, “based on a true events”, for the most part, it actually is; there’s a few bits of dramatic licensing taken here, most of which, are incredibly obvious and a bit unnecessary. However, everything that seems to be shown in the film, actually appears to have happened and is one of the main reasons why such a study as this still stays in people’s discussions, even after 44 years of it actually being performed. But the main reason why people like us, you know, millenials and hipsters and whatnot, are still talking about this social experiment is because, well, it will always stay relevant, no matter what happens to the world around us.

For instance, what the social experiment, as well as the movie itself, brings up about humans is how, when we’re given just a little bit of power or control in our grubby paws, we will, mostly, run wild with it and take absolute advantage of every second we’re granted security of that strength. Others, of course, will say to themselves, “Ah, who cares. Everybody’s equal, so why should it matter who is considered ‘better’ than others?”, but really, it’s the opposite side of the coin that’s perhaps the most disturbing and thought-about position that really makes a social experiment like this ring so true.

And yeah, the experiment itself, is also basically why the Stanford Prison Experiment works as well as it does.

Because it’s focused solely on the actual study itself – one that was already tense, unpredictable and compelling to begin with – it would only serve it justice to give the movie based off of its events, the same treatment. That a solid portion of the movie takes place in one, narrow hallway, already puts director Kyle Patrick Alvarez in a bit of a tough position where he needs to keep things exciting, but at the same time, not go too overboard with it. Rather than trying to make sense of some of these character’s decisions or choices, no matter how questionable they may get, he just shines a light up to them and lets them tell their own stories. Obviously, there are certain situations and predicaments that occur here that are a bit over-the-top, but still, there’s a ringing sense of truth throughout that works and keeps the movie engaging, even when it seems to be just the same thing happening, over and over again.

But like I said before, the reason why this experiment is still so talked about, is because it puts you, yourself, in the position of these people and make you wonder one thing: What would you do? Had you been put into the position of the guard, would you have just not cared, gone through the motions, and just be around to accept your money when all was said and done? Or, would you savor this moment, piss the “prisoners” off, basically torture them every step you get, and constantly remind them of who is in-charge, while at the same time, driving them slowly, but surely, crazy?

Those are the looks of some very guilty people.

Those are the looks of some very guilty people.

And hell, while we’re at it, what would you do as a prisoner? Would you just take it all, keep it all to yourself, and constantly remind yourself that “this is just an experiment”? Or, would you go crazy and try your absolute hardest to get the hell out of said “prison”, as soon as possible, by any means necessary? The movie, just like the experiment itself, brings these questions up, doesn’t know whether to answer the questions or not, but instead, just let them make a point for themselves.

In ways, you don’t know how people would act when thrown into these positions, which is what makes the Stanford Prison Experiment all the more shocking.

Though, there is something to be said for the later-part of the movie where it becomes clear that this experiment may have gone a tad too long, and all we’re doing is waiting around and watching as a bunch of young adults, torture and play around with other young adults. While we know that a fine amount of what’s depicted here in the film, actually did happen, by this point, when the two-hour mark has been well hit, it starts to become like overkill where we understand what the movie is trying to say, but can’t help itself from going further and further. This is less of a problem with the actual experiment itself, and more of on the movie, but still, it goes without saying that there’s only so much pain one can consume over a certain amount of time.

Which is, once again, probably something to be said about humans and makes me trust everybody a whole lot less.

Consensus: Thought-provoking, tense and somewhat enraging, the Stanford Prison Experiment takes an infamous study, gives it the nonjudgmental light it deserves, and allows for us, the audience, to think about what they’d all do in the same situation.

8 / 10 

It's like fraternity hazing, but instead, everybody's getting paid and losing their minds a whole lot more.

It’s like fraternity hazing, but instead, everybody’s getting paid and losing their minds a whole lot more.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Glass Chin (2015)

Don’t be afraid to bag groceries for the rest of your life. There’s some pride in that.

Down-on-his-luck ex-boxer Bud Gordon, was commonly referred to as “the Saint”, but he’s been anything but. He’s got a girlfriend (Marin Ireland) that he’s trying to settle down, but can’t stop cheating on her; has a job as a boxing-trainer, but still can’t keep himself away from working as a guy who looks for loansharking victims; and wants to open back up a restaurant of his that was recently closed down, but in order to do so, he has to rely on whatever the odd, eccentric gangster J.J. (Billy Crudup) tells him what to do and when. Bud may not have a perfect life, but he’s just getting by and wants to continue to do so, even while his night job with his “co-worker”, Roberto (Yul Vasquez), gets more and more dangerous by the minutes. Eventually though, it all comes to a head and Bud’s left to wonder what his next move should be – either, risk everything in his life, or take another easy pay-out for himself and his possible new restaurant? Bud doesn’t know what to do, but he’s going to rely on his ability to do the right thing, even if he doesn’t know what that is just yet.

"Hey, we get Freud, too."

“Hey, we get Freud, too.”

Everything about Glass Chin sounds so very familiar and generic, but somehow, writer/director Noah Buschel finds interesting little ways of how to spin it just so that it doesn’t come off like that one bit. Instead of making this movie about how an ex-boxer found redemption both in-and-out of the ring, it’s more about how this ex-boxer copes with making enough money to support him and his girl, with whatever work comes his way. Though, once again, that may all sound conventional, it doesn’t come off that way; more or less, it seems like the kind of movie made about people we don’t too often see get the spotlight quite as much.

These types of characters here in Glass Chin are mostly all down-on-their-luck, not just Bud, but they have so much more to them that makes them worth watching. Sometimes. they enjoy a little movie, other times, a nice night on the town, getting plastered and reminiscing on the old times. These characters here may all have their quirks that set them apart differently from one another, but they’re all placed into a certain group that’s similar and it makes me appreciate these kinds of movie all the more.

Though Buschel had every opportunity to make this movie so much more than it appears to be, he fights the urge to do so and mostly, just keeps his attention set firmly on Bud and all that happens with him and his life. And by “firmly”, I do mean as-firm-as-a-glove; Buschel has a neat style here where he performs a lot of long takes, sometimes likes to go with a close-up on a character’s face who seems like they’re talking directly to you, and other times, make the colors so jumpy and distinctive, that the characters themselves fall into them.

However, no matter what tricks Buschel uses, there’s always somebody talking here. And it’s always intriguing to hear and watch as it moves the plot along.

Because even though a lot of these characters could be generally considered “the numbskulls of society”, they occasionally drop a smart line about life every now and then, just to remind you that they do an awful lot of thinking, too. They aren’t just placed into one area of society, forgotten about, and allow for their brains to fry – they’ve think, too, and you know what? They want to let others know.

Sometimes, what these characters say or talk about, can border on unique, or plain and simply odd, but it’s always interesting to listen to. Buschel has a knack here for writing dialogue just how these sorts of people would talk, even if they do sometimes go on rather long tangents that either, seem to go nowhere, or have a point, but take forever to get there. The one character that this is proven so perfectly with is Billy Crudup’s slimy and weird J.J.; though you know he’s definitely up to no good and is more than likely to screw Bud up in any way he sees fit, there’s something oddly charming about him to where you just want to believe that he may be as nice of a guy as he presents. You know he isn’t, but still, you hold-out some form of hope.

A little too intrigued by that light.

A little too intrigued by that light.

Same goes for each and every other character here.

Corey Stoll’s Bud seems like a dope that doesn’t always use his head when it comes to making any sort of decision, but you just hope that his mind is in the right place for this moment in his life and that he’s not going to screw it all up due to greed; Yul Vasquez’s Roberto may or may not be on Bud’s side, but you have a feeling he is looking out for the guy, even if it’s to save his own ass; Marin Ireland’s Ellen wants to stay by her man, but he continues to test her patience with all of the screwing around and disappointing that, even if it’s sad to think of her doing so, she might have to get going, pack up her stuff, an leave Bud once and for all; and Kelly Lynch’s Mae is, just, well, sexy. Can’t expect much else from her.

Each member of the cast is good here and give their characters certain level of dimensions that you definitely won’t see coming. Sure, some are more interesting than the other, but they all matter to the story and prove that if you have a good enough cast and characters to work with, then the plot will sort of fall as it pleases to do so. All of the other stuff is just unnecessary used for those who can’t handle themselves if something isn’t blowing up, or if a person’s getting shot.

Those are the kinds of people not made for Glass Chin and that’s why there’s something so special about it.

Consensus: With a talented cast at work, Glass Chin goes farther and beyond its basic-cable premise, and becomes an insightful, dramatic glimpse into the live’s of character’s we don’t always get glimpses of.

8 / 10

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Imagine Creed, but without pushing-70 Sly.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Blood Ties (2014)

Never go against the family. It don’t matter if you’re Italian, Irish, Jewish, Scandinavian, or Purple! You just don’t do it!

After being released from jail for murder, Chris (Clive Owen) is looking towards his newfound freedom with a bit more hope and ambition in his eyes. He doesn’t want to go back to the world of crime, so instead, takes a job at a small-time mechanic where he cleans the floor, scrubs toilets, and takes out the trash; however, when he’s not doing such fine and exciting activities, he’s chatting it up with the young assistant they have there (Mila Kunis). However, one thing leads to another and Chris, through luck-of-the-draw, finds himself back in the world of crime where he’s hustlin’, dealin’ and killin’, like a true New York gangsta, circa 1974. Which, for Chris, would be fine, however, his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), just so happens to be a cop who is constantly getting heckled for being there for his brother and still associating with him, even when it becomes clear that he may be the main-suspect in a couple of crimes happening throughout the city. But, it’s family. Whattayagonnado?!??!

We’ve all seen it before – the 70’s crime-drama, with all sorts of drugs, gangsters, guns, cops, hot gals, New York – but there’s some refreshing about a good, old-fashioned crime flick. I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve been watching a bit too much of the Wire and can’t stay away from movies about a bunch of cops and robbers, and the evil, little maniacal ways both sides try to screw with one another; but I absolutely fall silly for it. That is, most of the time, when it’s done right.

It was the 70's, so by that time, this was 'ight.

It was the 70’s, so by that time, this was ‘ight.

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that co-writers James Gray and Guillame Canet clearly have an idea for what it is that they want to do with their movie, which will probably please some by its simplicity, or, absolutely bore others. There are some bits and pieces here where you’ll feel the more-than-two-hour time-limit that it has, but other times, you might just not give a hoot, because each and every one of these performances are so compelling to watch in the first place.

But, then again, most of that has to do with the wring which, necessarily, isn’t all that flashy to begin with. However, where Gray and Cane’t writing-styles really come together is in the building of tension through human-relationships, rather than just through a bunch of shoot-outs or heists. Everytime you see Chris and Frank in the same room, or anywhere near being in the same vicinity of one another, you automatically feel like all hell is going to break loose, regardless of if they see each other or not. There’s just a sense, or a feeling in the air that these are two brothers that love each other until the day they die, but definitely can’t stand to be around the other, especially when one seems to have a lot more shit on the other for “selling out”.

Yup, if you’ve ever had a problem with a sibling of yours (brother, sister, father, mother, house-pet, etc.) this is the movie for you. Then again, most of whatever James Gray touches turns out to be that way. Another aspect about his movies that will probably kill some viewer’s minds is how he takes his near and dear time; not just with this story, but with these characters and who it is that they are. This was fine for me – not because I’m familiar with Gray’s work and expected it, but because most of the characters are written in a way that makes you actually care about them, and see whether or not this story gets so out-of-hand that bodies start dropping and emotions start flying, along with bullets, most likely. Though it may take awhile to get where it needs get going to, Gray and Canet keep this movie flowing at just the right pace: Not necessarily a snail-like speed, maybe the tortoise-who-beat-the-hare pace.

Dumb analogy, I know, but it’s all I got, people! All I got!

Where most of this movie loses points in, is that it’s not really anything spectacular or terribly original to where you can differentiate it from the rest of the crime-dramas that come out every now and then, especially ones that take place during the 70’s. Don’t get me wrong, the look and feel of this movie definitely transported me to the deep, dark and dirty days of 1970’s-era NYC, but the story itself, minus the inclusions of cell-phones, could have literally taken place at anytime in the Big Apple, after say, I don’t know, the 1930’s or 40’s. It’s just that conventional, but that doesn’t make it bad really; just makes you wish Canet and Gray decided to play-around a bit more, rather than just spending all of their time on the characters.

He's not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won't come over and beat us to within an inch of our lives.

He’s not getting up anytime soon. Just let him stay and hopefully he won’t come over and beat us within an inch of our lives.

Then again though, can’t hate on them too much, because the characters they were able to draw-up here, are what keeps this movie in balance. Which is to thank both Gray and Canet, as well as the awesome ensemble. Don’t know if anybody else out there saw Clive Owen playing a “rough and tough, NYC gangster, bad-boy” coming, but hey, the guy does a great job with it. He’s not only able to hide his British-accent very well, but he’s also able to make us crap our pants even more when he shows up and not totally know what to expect from him next. He’s a bit of a live-wire that does have his chill moments, but it’s clear that they are very few, and far between.

As for Billy Crudup, who plays his cop-brother Frank, he does a fine job giving an unsympathetic character enough substance to where we can get on his side, even if we don’t particularly agree with him. See, the main problem that his character has is that he’s got this whole subplot going on with Zoe Saldana’s character, in which they used to date, and he’s all of a sudden, thrown her latest boy-toy in the slammer for “reasons unknown”. Therefore, we kind of see Frank as a bit of a manipulative dick that uses his power and authority for the betterment of himself and his wee-wee (you know, a cop), but Crudup is at least able to let us slide by that problem with his character and realize that, at heart, he’s a kind guy that goes through thick and thin for the ones he loves. The only thing that’s getting himself into some foggy-water is that the people that he loves and sticks up for, aren’t the best cast of characters.

Since I was just speaking of Saldana, I think it should be noted that where this flick really screws up in, is that it doesn’t take much care of its female characters. It’s weird, too, because when you have such heavy-hitters as Mila Kunis, previously mentioned Saldana, Marion Cotillard, and even Lili Taylor in your movie, and you don’t do much with them, except them give them a couple of scenes where they stray near the boys, does seem like a huge waste once you really get down to it. And it’s not even like the writers made these females out to be as nothing other than “whores”, “sluts”, or, “total and complete beotches” (well, except for maybe Cotillard’s character who is literally a “whore” and screws guys for money; therefore, making her a “slut”); it’s more that the writers just didn’t take the time to give any of them much more than what you see on the surface. They are strong-willed, smart and independent, but you don’t see that fully play-out to where everybody gets a say in this story.

It’s just simply a boy’s show. Which is why we also have James Caan here as well. Can’t ever go wrong with that guy just showing up and doing his thing.

Consensus: Though conventional and, in certain ways, unoriginal, Blood Ties is still able to get by solely on the well-written characters, and the ensemble that give most of these characters lives worth checking out. If only for two-hours out of your day. That’s all.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Billy, I love you like a son. But don't ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?"

“Billy, I love you like a son. But don’t ever go against the family. Hahaha! See what I did there?!??!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Come on Ethan, I thought you didn’t need women.

Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty to train new IMF agents and start a life as a married man with his new squeeze (Michelle Monaghan). But he is called back into action to confront the toughest villain he’s ever faced, named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.

If you have seen the first two Mission: Impossible movies, liked them, had a good time with them, and didn’t get bored watching Cruise play cool, then chances are, you are going to like this one, have a good time with it, and not bother one-bit that Cruise is playing cool, once again. Actually, I could just use that one-sentence to sum-up my whole review and be done with it, but since I am a critic and I just spent 2 hours of my life watching this thing, I’m going to take away 5-7 minutes away from your life, just so you can read what I have to say. It’s a sort of domino effect, but trust me, you don’t really have to read this. I’m probably just going to go on and on about Katie Holmes and how right she was. Seriously, take a drink every time I mention her name. The review will be a lot better.

Anywhoo, after highly-stylish directors like Brian De Palma and John Woo took over the last two installments, J.J. Abrams comes up on-board and gives his first-shot at directing a full-length, feature movie. Before this, Abrams was known for creating Alias, Lost, Felicity, and other popular TV-shows that people loved and fan-boys went oogle over, which makes this movie all the more interesting to watch now, considering this is also the same guy that went on and brought Trekkies back to life almost three years ago. It’s great to see a director that obviously loves these old-school action movies, but yet, doesn’t forget to throw some of the newer-stuff in as well to fully get us going and have us feel like we’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

"Felicity's graduated, bitch."

“Felicity’s graduated, bitch.”

Thankfully, that is exactly what Abrams brings to the table here and right from the first-sequence where Hunt and his gal get tied-up and interrogated, you know you are in for a real, real action-treat. Actually, after that scene, the movie doesn’t really ever seem to slow down. We get a bunch of non-stop, tense action-sequences that seem to pull out something new each and every time, and a couple of twists and turns that are sure to have you wondering what’s going to happen next, but in the good way that actually makes sense and not confusing like the first-one. Basically, it was a great choice to bring Abrams along for the ride on this one and it’s obvious that the guy knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful action-scene that will have you gripping your seat, even if you do know how it’s going to end. That’s the sign of a good action director, actually, let alone, director none the less.

However, if you do not like these movies chances are, you’re not going to like this even more. It’s not as stupid as the others, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely feels like a plot-line that wasn’t really thought-out well enough for an action movie of this caliber. For instance, it’s never really brought to my attention what was so bad about this Davian guy in the first-place. Yeah, he’s got weapons and materials of mass-destruction, but I never really saw any of that put to test nor did I really see him actually go to work on any of that whatsoever. I just heard that the guy was bad, realized he was a bit of a dick, and I guess, just assumed that he wasn’t a guy that plays on the good-side. There’s a whole bunch of other problems with this plot that didn’t seem to really make all that much sense to me but in the end, I soon realized that it didn’t matter a lick and all that did matter was watching Ethan Hunt be as cool, as he might as well can be.

Faster than a speeding bullet coming from an Chopper, he's Ethan Hunt dammit.

When you have Scientology on your-side, you can out-run anything. Even speeding bullets.

Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt like he always does: cool, swift, witty, sneaky, and most of all, smart. Cruise plays this role like no other, has no intentions on leaving, and you know what? I don’t really mind it all that much, either. Yeah, the dude’s getting old and a bit funny-looking in terms of botox but the guy still can play this role in his sleep and have us love him, no matter what crazy shit he does or says in his personal life. At the time of the release of this movie, I know that was a bit hard to get by but to me, it doesn’t make much of a difference now and never really did.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, but the one I was really impressed by most of all was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, the main-villain that Hunt is forced to mess with. What makes Davian so different from the others, is the fact that the guy holds no remorse for the things he’s done or is about to do, and plain and simply looks at you in the face, tells you he’s going to put a bullet through it, and says so with no emotion or expressions whatsoever. You really feel like this guy will hold you up on his promise when he’s going to get right down to business and kill you, and that’s why this guy was so freaky to watch and most of all, actually seemed like a legitimate threat to Hunt after all. I will say that his character doesn’t meet the smartest demise of all, but before all of that, Hoffman is electric, fun, and very sinister to watch, in a way that makes me wish he played more villainous-type roles. In a way, I guess he does but oh well, doesn’t matter because the guy can act.

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

The only one in this cast who really stuck-out like a sore-thumb and seemed to bring everything down was Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s new lady-friend, Julia. I don’t know if it was Monaghan’s acting, her writing, or just the shoddy-development for her character, but I didn’t give a crap that she was there, why she was there, or what really even was going to happen to her in the end. Abrams tries very hard to throw at us that Hunt is not only doing this mission for the safety of country, but the safety of his heart as well and as appealing and relateable as that may be for some audience-members watching, I for one, didn’t really buy it and give a single-crap whatsoever. If you want to know why, just go on back to my M:I-2 review and you’ll see why I don’t think Hunt should play around with gals. That is it.

Consensus: Mission: Impossible III is probably the best of the whole series because of it’s electric-direction from Abrams, tense action-sequences that never seem to end, and fun-loving spirit for both old, and new action-movies of the world and makes you feel like this is a series that will never run out of a steam, just as long as they stay fresh with new-directors coming on-board and keep Cruise in-line. Oh yeah, by the way, Katie Holmes. Drink up, people!

8/10=Matinee!!

"Employ me again, Tom. Please?

“Employ me again, Tom. Please?

The Watch (2012)

These aliens probably came right down to Earth looking for Judd Apatow, and found these guys. I actually feel bad for the aliens on this situation.

The film revolves around four everyday suburban friends (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and Richard Ayoade) who team up to form a neighborhood watch group so they can escape their dull family lives one night a week. But when they accidentally discover that their town has become overrun with aliens posing as ordinary suburbanites, they have no choice but to save their neighborhood — and the world — from total extermination.

The alien-invasion premise isn’t anything new or original by any means, but when you have a cast like this and a bunch of writers that know they can knock it out of the park when it comes to comedy, you should be expecting something a whole lot better than your ordinary, average fare. Sadly, it’s the exact opposite.

I have no clue who this cat Akiva Schaffer is but what I can tell, just by watching this flick is that it seems like he was really depending on the efforts of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, and Jared Stern’s script to make this flick work more than it should have, which in a way, it kind of does. This is, once again, your piece of R-rated comedy that has a lot of cussing, a lot of dirty stuff being thrown around, and just a whole bunch of moments that can be considered “raunchy”, even though the film never fully explores that territory. For the most part, this film can be pretty funny and you can that there is a lot of Judd Apatow-influences going on here with the whole “conversational humor” aspect of this flick, but the problem is that it doesn’t really work all that well, except with some exceptions.

The one comedy, that is sort of like this one, that I remember seeing was Horrible Bosses, which was a very funny movie but also tried a bit too hard to fall-back on that whole “conversational humor” aspect, that Apatow has pretty much nailed now. It didn’t really work there because it tried too hard to make that there only source of comedy, but here, that seems like that’s all they can do with a couple of extra dick and sex jokes added to the mix as well. The film tries so hard to be funny by having these guys say ridiculous and vulgar things, but the problem is, that they just aren’t as funny as you feel like they could be if they were in a different movie and maybe had different people delivering the lines. A couple of times I did catch myself laughing, and laughing pretty loud I may add, but this material never seemed to go anywhere beyond that. This is also one of those disappointing cases where the funniest lines are in either the trailers or TV spots, that we’ve all seen about 10,000 times.

Another aspect of this film that I noticed was how it seemed like it could have had a lot more fun with its premise than it really had. There were a couple of times where the film seemed like it was going to go down that road of pure insanity, which would have easily bumped this up a hell of a lot more, but instead, it just sort of lulled its way onto the next scene without anything really exciting going on. The one character in this flick, played by Vaughn, just wants to hang out with the guys, shoot the shit, talk about girls, get shit-faced, and have a good time. If the film honestly followed that character’s intentions, it would have been so much more entertaining and funny. However, it just stayed somewhat boring and it only got worse once that lame-o third-act came around.

If there is anything that really saves this film from being total crapola, it’s the impressive cast here that seems to make everything they say funny, except I still feel like they should have been a lot funnier. Ben Stiller is, once again, playing up that nervous, jittery shtick that seems to work in some spots but in others, just seems annoying and unneeded when you have a plot that could just get really freakin’ crazy at any second. Vince Vaughn is around here playing up his fast-talking, crazy shtick that always seems to work but it also feels like it was forced in a way and was used in a lot better in flicks when he was trying to pick up gals or be the coolest mothertrucker at the party. Maybe, dare I say it, he’s getting too old for it now! Nooooo!

Jonah Hill, God bless him, is probably the saving grace to this cast and to the whole movie as he shows that he still has the near-perfect comedic timing that can work with any character he plays, no matter how bizarre or weird they may be. It’s crazy to say this, but I think Hill may be the next best thing when it comes to comedy, because not only can he show how hilarious he can get no matter who he works with, but he also shows a lot of versatility when he has to approach these dramatic, softer roles as well. Guy keeps getting better and better, and it only seems to go up-Hill for him in the future. See what I did there? Seeing Richard Ayoade being on the top-billing for the promotion, I was expecting him to possibly steal the show and give a little taste of his weird, British sense of comedy. It works here, but only when the film allows him to and it’s a real shame because I actually did think that this was going to be the break-through performance this guy needed to fully break into the Hollywood mainstream like he deserves to. Oh well, maybe next year.

Consensus: Even though there are some bright and funny moments here and there in The Watch, they are also very few and far between one another and for some reason, don’t really work because the script feels like they need to be funny with unoriginal dick, sex, and fart jokes that are as old as Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn are getting. Trust me, that’s old, too.

4/10=Crapola!!

Big Fish (2003)

The most normal Tim Burton film if there ever was one.

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward, by piecing together disparate facts from a lifetime of fantastical tales and legends of epic proportions. Ewan McGregor co-stars as the young Edward, a traveling salesman, with Albert Finney playing him as an older man.

Usually, Tim Burton is amazing when he’s on his game and gives us such treasures as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, etc. But there are many countless other times where he is just lost and has nowhere to go but down with such trash like Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks!, etc. This is one that falls in the category of him on his game a little bit.

This is a fairy tale mixed in with a lot of realism but still enough of that signature weirdness from Burton to make you remember that you are watching the same dude who did Batman. This film never seems to drag and that’s because Burton has such a vivid imagination that he can show such things as two Siamese Asian twins singing to Chinese Communists, a car underwater in a rain storm, a friendly giant, and plenty of other random and crazy things that happen but it all is done so well that you can’t help but smile.

At heart, this is actually a father-son drama that shows what happens when you tell too many fake stories, you actually end up becoming them. That right there I felt was a good message but how it all plays out in the end just didn’t do anything for me, much to my surprise. The ending is pretty obvious about 10 minutes in and to be brutally honest, it didn’t really have me choking up much in the end neither.

The casting in this film may be a bit flawed, but it still had it’s fair-share of good performances. Albert Finney is amazing as older Edward Bloom, but he’s playing him so much older and more sick than the character actually looks which kind of took me away from the film considering I liked the performance. Billy Crudup is OK here but could have done a lot more to add to the scenes with his daddy; Jessica Lange has some good scenes as Edward’s wife; Marion Cotillard is as amusing as ever as Crudup’s wife, Josephine; and Alison Lohman has some very good scenes as Edward’s wife, when she was younger.

I liked this cast even though they were a bit strange and to say the least I liked Ewan McGregor as Edward Bloom because even though his Scottish accent almost may seem to get a tad bit in the way of his deep Southern accent, I still really liked this performance from him. Edward Bloom is such a happy guy that loves telling stories because they make people happy. Everybody wants to hear the truth but everybody also wants to hear something that will make them happy and that is what Bloom is all about and Ewan totally throws himself into this great character’s mind. I don’t know if any of you have ever met somebody like Bloom, a person who just loves to tell stories and make the others around him laugh and smile, but I have and the power that the art of storytelling has is just a very beautiful thing and something that this film embraces so well.

Consensus: Though I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to this film as I would have liked to have hoped for, Big Fish is a good Tim Burton film that has some weirdness, a lot of happiness, and just a true message about the art of storytelling and how sometime hearing the fake story is better than hearing the truth at all.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Total chick-flick, but hey sometimes chick flicks aren’t so bad.

After deciding to reshape her life, Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) travels the world in search of direction. She heads to Italy, India and Bali, indulging in delicious cuisine while seeking the true meaning of self-love, family, friendship and forgiveness. Along the way, she meets a bevy of characters and, possibly, her true love.

I’m probably the only human being alive who still hasn’t read this book, and for the most part after seeing this, I don’t mind if I ever do.

This is writer/director Ryan Murphy‘s second adaptation of a book, and I don’t think he quite knows how to get to the emotional core of a story. The film looks very, very good with beautiful shots of Italy, Indonesia, India and the vibrant colors and glorious shots really do have us feel like were right there with her in this place.

However, the scenery may look beautiful, Murphy still doesn’t know how to direct this film in actually becoming something involving. At times, the plot and the flow of the story felt very fragmented to me, as if I kind of felt like I was just jumping from location to location with Julia, and there was no depth to the story. I didn’t feel totally involved with this story, because Murphy doesn’t do a good job at actually creating a love story we can all care about. I must say though that there are many times where I actually had a good time with this film with some moments actually having me laugh, and a little bit inspired.

This chick gets out of her marriage one day and just says I want something new, and decides to run off to all these beautiful locations to search for love in her life, and the meaning of it all. I wish I could do something like this, and just not give a damn about anything, because going with the flow is so much better than caring about so many things in your life.

Julia Roberts is perfectly cast as Liz because she can talk to you about pizza like she’s your best friend, and you totally forget she’s a movie star. She’s not over the hill, but she is over the bullshit and watching her in every scene was great. The only problem is that I feel like the film doesn’t do her much justice because we needed more insight to her life before all this changing started happening, to actually get a real sense of who she actually was. Still, somehow Roberts as always makes this babe very likable.

The men in her life all seem like premise conveniences but they all have that charm to do something about it. Billy Crudup’s character, Stephen, is kind of an ass, but you can kind of see where he’s coming from in all of this. James Franco does an alright job as Liz’s boyf David, and although the writing kind of makes him out to seem like a drag, he still does try with this character. Javier Bardem plays Felipe, who is just sly, sexy, and cool. His chemistry with Roberts is very good, and actually had me believe these two when they were together on screen. Viola Davis doesn’t get enough scenes like I would have hoped for, but she tries her best. However, the best out of the whole supporting crew is Richard Jenkins, the guy who shows up in about 10 films a year. He plays Richard (unique name) from Texas, and right from the get-go you are laughing your ass off at everything he says, so you think he’s just going to be the comic relief of the whole film, but it’s actually more than that. His character has a lot more of an emotional depth than you would expect and Jenkins sells it so well, in a perfect scene that totally won me over. This guy is always amazing in no matter what he does.

Consensus: The cast does their best with this script, and the scenery is just beautiful to look at, but the film feels a little bit too shallow to involve us in this emotional romantic story, and parts feel more rushed than others. However, there are still some pleasant moments, and you will enjoy yourself if your looking for a good date movie.

5/10=Rental!!

Watchmen (2009)

I just cannot get enough of blue schlongs!

Zack Snyder directs this adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s graphic novel set in a parallel Earth in 1985, where superheroes are prohibited from using their powers despite the threat of nuclear war. When one of their number is murdered, however, the outlaw heroes — including Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup), Silk Spectre (Carla Gugino), Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) and Nite Owl (Patrick Wilson) — unite to defend themselves.

So after seeing this movie the first night it came out, I really did like it, but this didn’t fully satisfy me. So I took it upon myself to read the graphic novel this is based on, and I’m so glad I made that decision.

This is a film that everybody said was un-filmable, due to the graphic novel being so dark, different, and so disturbing, some felt that this could never make into the mainstream. However, Zack Snyder proved everybody wrong, and in all honesty does a very good job at doing so. He uses a lot of slick production values, to have all the outfits fit the certain time, and convey a certain emotion. He also stays true to the graphic novel and keeps this film dark, but not without getting rid of mainstream viewers.

The main problem with this film is that although it does stay somewhat true to the original source material, there were many faults about it. First of all, it can be viewed at as way too slow. There were moments in this film, where they just kept hammering away at one scene, and I was just waiting and waiting for the next scene. Secondly, there are way too many stories with this film. In the novel, a lot was going on, but it was handled so nice and carefully. However, in this film it was handled in such a messy way, that it didn’t quite know how else to put it up on film, so they just felt like knocking it on screen when they felt like it. Lastly, this film can get ridiculous.

In the novel, Dr. Manhattan’s “man-part”, is a little nub that catches out eyes every once and awhile, but in the film, it’s this huge, dangling thing, which in a way hurts the movie. Almost every scene he’s in, your watching that thing, and it takes away from the seriousness of the film, and makes it almost comical, seeing a big blue wang. I did like the soundtrack though, cause it fit a lot of the moments, but there was one un-needed sex scene, played to “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen. It was really random, and the way the sex scene looks, just really makes me laugh thinking about it.

Though despite all these little problems I still did fairly enjoy myself. The film was long enough to fully cover the whole story, and that at least kept me happy. Also, knowing that this was a Snyder film, I was expecting plenty, and plenty of slow-mo. And that’s exactly what I got. It wasn’t bad, because it did fit well with a lot of the action, and the violence is bloody, gratuitous, and altogether a lot of fun to watch.

I liked a lot of the performances in this film, from a fairly unknown ensemble. Patrick Wilson is good here as Nite Owl, cause he plays a guy that wants to do something with his life again, but doesn’t have the right emotion, and Wilson plays it all well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, brings a lot to the film, considering he is the main reason for this film. Billy Crudup here as Dr. Manhattan isn’t really playing this film, more as a voice. But his voice matches the overall feeling, and tone that Doc has. Matthew Goode reminded me of a Jude Law in this role, and he does good at playing this stuck-up asshole. Malin Akerman is the weakest part of this film, and doesn’t bring much to this film which sucks, cause a lot of emotional scenes are placed on here. The best story, and performance here is from Jackie Earle Haley, who plays the iconic Rorshach. He’s funny, dark, and could kick your ass in any second, and I just loved watching him on screen every time.

Consensus: A hard piece to adapt in the first place, Watchmen provides a lot of action, good performances, and pretty cinematography to hold you over, it just may not be the most enjoyable 2 hours and 40 minutes of your life.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Public Enemies (2009)

Finally, Johnny Depp actually plays somebody normal.

Set during the Great Depression, it follows the final years of notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he is pursued by Bureau of Investigation agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). It also depicts Dillinger’s relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), as well as Purvis’s pursuit of Sparrow associates and fellow criminals Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham).

Michael Mann is known for directing action-packed thrillers such as Heat, and Collateral, but they were always shot in modern times, with less of a story, here he gets to change up the time, and focus on more story. Which was not a very good idea after all.

I think the one problem with this film is that it is kind of bland, mainly because it’s based on a real-story. Everybody knows what happens to these guys, and it just do anything really fun or inventive to change the pace of our minds with the film. Another problem was the use of an HD camera for this film. The shaky camera takes a lot away from the film, and the pixels, and annoying close-ups, do start to run its course by the first hour mark. I also knew it was a bad idea, cause I kept asking myself: they had hand-held cameras back in the 30’s? Nothing looked as realistic as it could have, with a real camera.

Still I got to give it to the Mann(pun intended), he is still the king of action sequences. Since these dudes are robbing banks, Depression style, of course we get a lot of shoot-outs, and to say the least their actually very fun to watch. There is this one sequence where it takes place in the forest, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Not as great as Heat’s bank robbery, but still great none the less. I also thought he did a good job of showing the known hysteria, and panic that was in the depression, as Dillinger and the boys, started to rumble up on the bank robbery’s.

Johnny Depp does a great job at playing an actual real person for once in a long time. He plays Dillinger as sort of an anti-hero, that’s funny, charming, but also very smart, and lethal with what he does, and does a great job at playing this character. I was pretty disappointed by Christian Bale‘s performance here, and I thought his attempt to make a Southern accent, was pretty dumb, and annoying. It sucks but I think he wants this to be his forgotten role. Marion Cotillard is great here as well, and her and Depp create this lovely chemistry that seems so real, that by the end, you can just feel the love between these two. Other actors that do a good job in this are Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, and a random cameo from Channing Tatum.

Consensus: There are obvious faults here within Public Enemies, but they are somehow over-shadowed, by the great action sequences, and wonderful performances from the cast, minus Bale.

7/10=Rental!!!