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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Brendan Gleeson

Trespass Against Us (2017)

So many daddy issues. Just hug it out. Or, have a beer.

Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) lives with his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and kids in a trailer somewhere on a Gypsy-mountain along with fellow family-members and friends. Needless to say, the rest of society down below the hill they all live on, don’t quite like or care for them, so Chad, his wife, his kids and his father Colby (Brendan Gleeson), have all had to make ends meet for themselves and survive the only way they know how. This usually leads to a lot of crime and robbery, most of which Chad handles on his own, so that he can continue to provide for he and his family. But all of the crime, the arrests, and constant trouble from the law eventually not just take a toll on Chad, his father, and his wife, but his kids, and it’s up to Chad to figure out when enough is enough and prove to be something of an admirable father-figure for his kids. But at the same time, giving up the life of crime is a lot harder, especially when you have all sorts of responsibilities to fulfill, and a father who doesn’t approve of his one son trying to get on the straight and narrow.

Bad dad.

Trespass Against Us is an odd movie, in that it tries to jumble around a lot of ideas, tones, and plot-threads, but for some reason, never draws any of them out enough to where they’re actually interesting enough to survive on their own. Director Adam Smith seems like he’s dealing with a lot of issues about family, love, devotion, and faith, but at the end of the day, mostly just finds himself portraying a movie about dirty, smelly people, trying to remain dirty and smelly, but also be a little bit nicer. In that sense, it doesn’t quite work, because there’s just so much else going on and coming at us, that after awhile, it’s hard to really figure out just what the hell the movie is about.

If anything, it’s about how good of an actor Michael Fassbender can be, even when working with junk-material.

And unfortunately, that is the case with his role here as Chad, a put-upon father who doesn’t quite know what to do, or where to go with his life, nor how to actually grow up and start providing the smart, responsible way. But the problem with this character is that there’s so much surrounding him that doesn’t make sense – for instance, he’s old enough to break away from his controlling father, so why doesn’t he? Why is he stuck staying by him, committing crimes, and constantly hurting his family? It doesn’t make much sense and although Fassbender tries, the character just isn’t totally there for us to ever fully sympathize with him, or better yet, even care.

Still bad.

Same goes for Gleeson’s character who seems like a Jerry Jones-type, with a very thick Irish accent who, in all honesty, you can’t understand half of the time. In fact, that goes for a lot of the other characters surrounding Chad; they’re all supposed to be these dirty, scummy and idiot-like people who don’t know how to speak, or control themselves like normal, everyday citizens,. I didn’t have a problem with this aspect of them, I just had an issue that the movie didn’t do much to further develop them, or explore why they are the way they are. Often times, we’ll focus on this for about a minute or two, and then drop into another character, or another plot, and try to explore that.

After awhile, it just becomes an annoyance.

And that’s a shame, too, because Trespass Against Us had promise within its many plots, but it just never comes together in a smart way. It all feels like the movie wants to focus on the difference these Irish Gypsies face with the rest of society around them (which is probably the most interesting thread of story that the movie has to offer), but doesn’t; instead, it just discusses Chad, his family, and how he’s trying to grow up. But once again, it’s still just not developed.

Ugh.

Consensus: Despite good performances, Trespass Against Us is many different things all at once, yet, for some reason, it just never comes together in an interesting, compelling way.

4 / 10

Gee. Where have I seen this pic before?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Keeping it Real

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Live By Night (2016)

Alcohol kills. Literally.

It’s the 1920’s in Boston and Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) wants to make a name for himself, and get out of the shadow of his father (Brendan Gleeson), a Boston police captain. By doing that, he starts robbing banks and taking out local gangsters, getting his name more known, of course, but also putting him on a lot of people’s radars. Eventually though, once Joe does his time in the slammer and gets out, it’s the 1930’s and more people want to get drunker than ever before. What ends up happening is that Joe gets sent to Tampa, where he and his best buddy (Chris Messina), will watch over rum-business, make sure people are drinking it, buying it, and not trying to start any scuffles. However, when you’re a bootlegger, things aren’t always going to go as planned and when you’re with a lovely lady, like Graciella (Zoe Saldana), you’re going to continue to have issues – not just with racist locals, but sometimes, even with your own bosses. This is something that Joe realizes right away and has to start acting quickly, or else he, as well as everyone else that he loves, may soon be killed.

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Live By Night isn’t nearly the disaster, or awful train-wreck, so many have been calling it. If anything, it’s just a sure sign that Ben Affleck, like many other great directors/actors/writers/artists/human beings before him, is capable of giving up, admitting defeat, and being a disappointment. Sure, say what you want about his acting resume, as a director, Affleck has rallied-up an impressive roster behind the camera; Gone Baby Gone, the Town, and Argo are all pretty great movies, highlighting that Affleck knows what it takes to make a solid, exciting and compelling piece of film. Are they all perfect? Nope, of course not, but they get a lot more right, than they don’t.

And there’s the ugly stepchild known as Live By Night, that shows Affleck’s directing skills that he continuously building on and on as the years and projects have gone by, perhaps, came back to stab him in the back a little bit. But what’s odd about Live By Night is that it’s not a bad movie because of what Affleck does, it’s more of what he doesn’t do, or better yet, include.

For instance, Denis Lehane’s book could probably be adapted into some sort of miniseries, let alone, its own show altogether.

There’s a lot of subplots, relationships, characters, ideas, and messages toggled around with here, some of which are very interesting to watch and see how they play-out, but unfortunately, they’re all packaged within a movie that’s just a little over two hours, not allowing for there to be enough time and attention devoted to ensuring that each and everyone of these points gets the eyes that they deserve. Don’t believe me? Well, take for example, halfway through the flick, our lead protagonist, Joe Coughlin, goes to prison for what seems like a pretty heavy sentence and then, in the next scene, he’s out and ready to continue on with the rest of his life.

But there’s more of that going on here. Certain characters pop in and out, who are supposed to have some sort of overall meaning to Coughlin, his life, and his work, but for some reason, they are harped on for about ten to fifteen minutes, forgotten about and never to be heard from again. It’s odd, because it seems like Affleck himself knows that he’s got a lot on his plate and seems like he has an eye for this period’s detail and style, but it never quite translates to the story. It feels too jumbled, messy and sporadic, as if it’s not ever safe to get too attached or involved with one major plot-point or character, because they next scene, it/they could all be gone.

What a preacher's daughter!

What a preacher’s daughter!

Which isn’t to get past the fact that Live By Night is an entertaining movie, it’s just sometimes too random for its own good.

It’s a shame, too, because Affleck shows that he can still direct a somewhat compelling movie, all obvious issues aside. There’s a few gun-battles that are tense and fun, there’s a car-chase sequence that’s well-staged, and yeah, there’s even some compelling moments involved with Coughlin and how exactly he runs this rum-business. But like I said, there’s probably six or seven hours worth of material, all cut-up, jumbled and put together in a two-hour piece, that also feels like it’s trying hard to get everything out there, but doesn’t know how to package it correctly.

Even the ensemble, as talented as some of these people may be, don’t always get-off quite easy. Affleck is fine as our lead, although never quite as magnetic as he should have been; Zoe Saldana and Sienna Miller are sultry and sexy, but that’s about it; Elle Fanning’s character has an interesting complex, but it ends on such a silly note that it’s easy to forget about her; a porky and relatively plump Chris Messina shows up as Coughlin’s cousin/go-to man who feels like he deserved so much more attention than he got; Brendan Gleeson shows up as Coughlin’s very Irish dad and feels like he wandered off the set of Assassin’s Creed and thought about collecting a nice paycheck; and Chris Cooper, despite trying very hard as the town’s preacher, oddly enough, gets a whole lot to do, then leave in such a manner that feels rushed and a total betrayal of the character himself.

Oh well. At least Miguel’s in it for about five minutes.

Consensus: With so much going on and to explore, Live By Night can’t help but feel like a jumbled-up mess, albeit, one with a great look and feel to it, that occasionally stirs some sort of emotion resembling excitement.

6 / 10

Walk away from it, Ben. You'll be okay.

Walk away from it, Ben. You’ll be okay.

Photos Courtesy of: GQ, Are You Screening, Metro

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Wait, seriously? An apple?

Right after he is put to death, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) all of a sudden wakes back up to Dr. Sophie Rikkin (Marion Cotillard). He is told that he is being held at a facility as a member of the Assassins, a secret society meant to fight and protect free will from the Templar Order. It’s also used as a way for Rikkin to figure out the scientific-method on how to stop violence from occurring in a person’s mind and hope to eliminate that threat altogether – her father (Jeremy Irons), meanwhile, wants to get his name in the papers and constantly goes head-to-head with Sophie on where the experiments seem to be going. But like I said, Cal is able to travel back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, where he can kick all sorts of ass for the sole sake of finding the Apple of Eden. While time goes on, however, Cal’s memories of his earlier life begin to come back and he starts to develop certain ideas in his head about how he doesn’t want to be locked-up and forced to do all of these missions for someone else’s sake – he wants to live.

Who needs a sword when you have long, flowing locks like that to do the killing?

Who needs a sword when you have long, flowing locks like that to do the killing?

Or yeah, something like that.

Any video-game adaptation, no matter how good, or promising the material from the video-game may have been, always turns out to be pretty crummy. There’s a general idea that there has yet to be a virtually acceptable and agreed on “good” video-game movie, although there have definitely been some moderate ones that were fine as is, yet, in the world of mean-spirited and angry critics, still get mixed reviews (Prince of Persia). And yes, I’d be a fool if I didn’t say that all of the hatred and skepticism towards video-game movies doesn’t get to me – even one of my absolute favorite games of all-time, Max Payne, was made in to a pretty bad movie that I, for some reason or another, try to make a case for.

But honestly, there’s no case to be made for any video-game movie. They all kind of suck and honestly, they’re kind of pointless.

Until, well, now.

Surprisingly, there’s something about Assassin’s Creed that probably shouldn’t have worked for me, but somehow, I left it thinking about more positives, than actual negatives. Perhaps the smartest decision that went into Assassin’s Creed, the movie, was that it got a hold of director Justin Kurzel right away, because without him, or his artistic integrity, who knows what would have happened here. Just as he did with last year’s Macbeth, every shot is somehow filled with a certain beauty, yet at the same time, still getting across this idea of darkness lying underneath. In a video-game movie, it’s very easy to just play it safe and try to make everything as joyful and as pleasing as possible, but Kurzel doesn’t forget that the promising source-material he’s working with can get pretty dark and ugly.

Which is to say that there’s also a certain joy to the film, too, especially when the action gets going. For a lot of video-game movies, it seems that the general complaint is that they aren’t nearly as fun as the video-games themselves; that in and of itself is a pretty silly criticism, because well, a video-game is a video-game, and a movie is a movie. Still though, Assassin’s Creed doesn’t take much time getting right to the hectic violence and action as soon as possible, giving us the idea that we are indeed watching a movie, who’s origins also seem to come from a video-game.

Then again, the game was a hard “MA”, whereas the movie, is a bloodless and odd-looking PG-13.

Macbeth flashbacks and wow, they are not pretty.

“Michael, you can’t leave. You helped produce this.”

Does it ruin the experience? Sort of, but not a whole lot, because Kurzel does keep it moving, even when he’s focusing on a rather convoluted and heavy plot. That said, what Kurzel does well here with the story is that he focuses on it enough to make it actually seem like there’s something to fall back on and not just have there be so much damn violence and action, without any rhyme or reason; the movie even does attempt to get darker and deeper with its philosophical ideas about life, death and faith, which doesn’t work, but hey, at least the movie’s trying, right?

Maybe it’s easy to be nice to Assassin’s Creed because it’s compared to everything that has come before it, but if so, that still doesn’t get me past the fact that I enjoyed what I saw, regardless of the obvious holes to be found. It’s nearly two hours and while it could have definitely felt like every second of it, Kurzel keeps the pace going enough to where we get enough character and plot development, as scarce as they may be, as well as more than enough action. What I’m essentially trying to say is that what could have been a total and absolute slug of a film, moves at an efficient enough pace to where you don’t get caught up in all of the silliness and obvious mistakes the movie is making trying to make sense of some sort of a plot.

And of course, there’s no getting past talking about Assassin’s Creed, without discussing the on-slaught of talent here who are, unfortunately, not given a whole lot to do.

Fassbender as the iconic Cal Lynch is a bit dull, if only because the character himself seems to be so charmless, that it feels like Fassbender has to really bring himself down for this kind of role; Cotillard seems a whole lot better than the material she’s working with, but tries, and her and Fassbender have some nice chemistry; Jeremy Irons is, as usual, pretty mean and menacing; Michael K. Williams shows up as a fellow assassin who befriends Cal and is playing a more compassionate character than we’re used to seeing from him; and Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling show up for a few scenes, do what they can, collect their paychecks, and head on out. In fact, the same could be said for just about everyone else here, but hey, at least they’re here, right?

Man, I’m getting way too soft in my old age.

Consensus: Even with the holes of the plot, Assassin’s Creed does feel like a step above the usual video-game movie, with plenty of action, fun, beautiful visuals, and solid cast-members who seem like they could be doing more, but try with what they’ve got.

6.5 / 10

"Yeah, we may have overdone it with the tats."

“Yeah, we may have overdone it with the tats.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Tailor of Panama (2001)

Always need a nasty spy to get rid of the neat ones.

Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), early in his life, used to be a con from Cockney. That was before he met his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), started a family, and most importantly, basically reinvented himself as a popular tailor to the rich and powerful of Panama. While his customers love his lavish and beautiful suits that he hand-crafts himself, they also love the stories he’s brings, with some of them feeling as if he’s more than just their tailor – he’s their friend. Or better yet, he’s a part of their family. The British realize this, especially spy Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a man who notices that Pendel is a very important pawn, in a very big chess game and does not let up one bit from getting each and every piece of info he can, at any costs. But Harry isn’t used to having so much pressure be on him and it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up in his face, as well as everybody else’s.

Still Bond no matter what.

Still Bond no matter what.

The Tailor of Panama is a perfectly serviceable spy-thriller that makes you understand why so many people love and hate John le Carré. One of the main reasons why people love his material so much is that he creates such fun and exciting yarns, that they’re hard not to get wrapped-up in. He tends to love writing about spies, and because of that, we get to sit by and watch as deep, dark and seductive stories of secrets, lies, and spy-hijinx occur. Sure, some of it may be too twisty for its own good, but there’s no denying that spies themselves are pretty confusing; they never know what they want to be and le Carré is there to try and make sense of them, without letting up on any sort of fun.

At the same time, a lot of people hate his work and this movie is another example of why.

For instance, people often complain that le Carré’s work can tend to get a bit too complicated and convoluted than it needs to be, and well, that’s kind of the case here. However, it doesn’t start out like that; director John Boorman takes his time with this setting, these characters, and also, give us a better understanding of what exactly is at-stake/going on. Even if this part doesn’t feel fully realized, the least we find out is that some bad, rich people are up to bad, rich people-like things, and it’s up to Rush’s character to stop it all. Of course, you can fill in the blanks from there, but yeah, it’s pretty simple for a short time.

But like I said, it all goes to hell once the actual plot itself gets going and we have to find out more about these shady and corrupt millionaires. As is usually the case with le Carré’s stories, what the reasoning and explanation of these evil-doings actually are, tend to be overdone, overcooked, and just so damn evil, that after awhile, you wonder why their first idea wasn’t to just nuke the whole world while they were at it. This is the part of the Tailor of Panama that bothered me, as everything leading up to it seemed to be light, breezy and semi-twisty fun. After the half-way mark, of course, it goes away and all of a sudden, we have to pay attention to each and every twist that comes around, even if they aren’t fully believable to begin with.

But thankfully, there is Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush here, who make it all worth our while.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

As Harry Pendel, Rush is having a good time, but he’s also got more of a character to play. He has to both be somewhat sinister, as well as naive and nerdy at the same time; something he pulls off quite well, especially in the later, more confusing portions. Though Jamie Lee Curtis may initially seem miscast here, she actually fits well as Pendel’s wife who not only makes the most money in the house, but also appears to be the one who wears the biggest and widest pants in the family. She doesn’t back down when the going gets heavy and she starts to catch on real quick, not only making her smart, but more than willing and up to the task of playing with the big boys.

Of course though, none of these two are any match for Brosnan and all that he does here as Andrew Osnard. On paper, Osnard is a snively, somewhat goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying; in the movie version, Osnard is a snively, totally goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying, but also enjoys stealing every scene known to man. Sure, a lot of what makes this character cool in the first place is the writing, but really, it’s Brosnan who makes this somewhat conventional spy character, literally jump off the screen, seeming like someone you wouldn’t expect at all in a story like this, nor would you expect him to be as funny or likable as he is. That’s probably why Brosnan, playing somewhat against-type, was the perfect choice here; he’s not likable a whole lot, but with enough of that winning smile and charm, he’s willing to shine the pants off of anyone watching.

Now, does that sound like true Bond to you? I think so.

Consensus: A tad too twisty and wild, the Tailor of Panama is a fun and exciting spy-romp, made all the better by the key performances from the talented cast, most especially the always vibrant Pierce Brosnan.

7 / 10

That's Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

That’s Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, MTV, Roger Ebert

In the Heart of the Sea (2015)

What a dick, that Moby was.

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

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

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

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

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

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

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

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

aaaa

….Abe Lincoln (the vampire hunting version)…

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10

aaa

….and most importantly, Peter Parker.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Suffragette (2015)

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

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

"I wish I were a gal, too."

“I wish I were a lass, too.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 / 10

You go, girls!

You go, girls!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

AIposterIf this is the future, I don’t want anything to do with it.

In the near, not-too-distant future, global warming has caused massive flooding and heavily reduced the human population. Also during this time, a scientist by the name of Professor Allen Hobby (William Hurt) has started creating robots known as Mecha who walk, talk, and feel just as humans do. One robot in particular is David (Haley Joel Osment) ends up getting adopted by Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica Swinton (Frances O’Connor), who are still reeling from a injury their son, Martin (Jake Thomas), had and left him in a coma. Through David, Henry and Monica get the chance to help raise another child; one that, due to the technology embedded in him, no matter what, David will always and forever love them both. And for awhile, it seems to be going great, but once Martin wakes up, then all hell breaks loose for David and the rest of the Swinton family. This leaves David navigating through the rest of the world where robots are either left to slave their ways through raunchy jobs, or get destroyed for the public’s amusement. But no matter what, David wants to become a real boy and along with Joe (Jude Law), a robot gigolo, he believes that can happen.

Like with most families, the good times don't always last.

Like with most families, the good times don’t always last.

A lot of people have gotten on Spielberg’s case for A.I. and unreasonably so. For one, all of the odds were stacked against him as is with Kubrick wanting to make this movie, dying, and then having his estate pass off the rights to him. Another, is that Spielberg really had to make this appeal to a broad-audience so that he could not only make a “good” movie, but one that would also make rich people, even more rich (something that, due to the source material he was stuck to work with, was no easy task). And lastly, well, because he’s Steven Spielberg; while he can do whatever he wants, he still always loves to end things on a happy, if not overly-positive note.

Which, considering the bulk of A.I., is surprising.

What’s perhaps most interesting about A.I. is that it finds Spielberg in pure-creative form. While we start the movie off at a suburban household, we eventually get thrown into this huge, futuristic world, and this is where Spielberg really shines. This isn’t to say that the first-half of the movie doesn’t work as its own, because it does, but it also seems manipulative in that Spielberg needed a reason for David to be thrown out into this great big world, so therefore, had to create tension among characters who, quite frankly, are pretty stupid.

No seriously, take the Henry character, as played by Sam Robards, for instance. At the beginning of the movie, we see that he’s suddenly all about having a robot-boy come into their lives and fill the void that their unconscious son can’t for the time being. Monica, on the other hand, but soon turns the other cheek. Around the same time, however, Henry begins, for no reason or another, to despise the very idea of David and clearly wants nothing to do with the thing, so therefore, scolds it and refers to it in passing, as if it’s something they have to deal with, rather than embrace.

Uhm, excuse me, bro? But weren’t you the one who bought it in the first place?

Anyway, then the Martin kid wakes up, gets pissed-off that David is trying to be too much like him, and then, we’re treated (which, in this case, probably isn’t the right word, but whatever), to one of the more disturbing scenes Spielberg’s ever made. David is abandoned in a grassy, mostly deserted area of the woods by Monica, who does nothing but push and shove him away from her, professing that she wished she “taught him more about the world”. Considering that she never discussed this when David and her were spending so much time together, this seems random, but still, the fact that David – something manufactured to love unconditionally – is yelling, screaming, and clearly, “feeling” distraught, makes this scene hit harder than it probably should. After all, David is now lonely in this world and while he may not know what to expect, he’s still a young thing, and it’s hard to not feel an ounce of sympathy for him.

But like I said, once the movie gets into discovering this world more, Spielberg clearly starts to work his smart wonders in not only exploring its creepiness, but its downright bleakness. While Kubrick would have definitely envisioned a much darker, more disturbing future, Spielberg’s future is still pretty damn bleak; a future where huge crowds of hooting, hollering, beer-swigging crowds cheer over the destruction of malfunctioning robots for entertainment. Once again, the picture that Spielberg paints isn’t nice, or sweet, but because it’s Spielberg, it’s slightly a bit lighter than what Kubrick would have done and because of that, it’s always going to be held up to scrutiny.

However, it shouldn’t and that’s the problem.

One of the key themes within A.I. is loneliness. David being on his own for a solid majority of this flick (although, he does have the adorable Teddy by his side), this is especially clear. He has a quest for becoming a real boy, but because we know that this dream of his will never come true and the adventure will lead to almost nothing, it’s very sad to watch as he constantly tries to make himself, as well as those around him, believe in it. Though he’s a robot, he’s still a kid-like robot, whose wonder and amazement of the world around him can never be matched by any cynic old-head, like you or I.

"You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not 'anything', but you get my point, kid."

“You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not ‘anything’, but you get my point, kid.”

Once again, this is all sad and it’s supposed to be. Even Joe’s story, although random and not especially necessary, still seems to revolve around him making all sorts of sweet love to women, yet, still not have any true connections in the world and mostly just glide-on by. That he has nothing else more to make of his life other than that he was “a great lover”, already makes it clear that Joe is a robot, with nothing else to him but just that. Together, David and Joe find one another and seem to set out on a world that, quite frankly, doesn’t care about whether or not exist.

I’m getting depressed just writing about this. But I’m not mad, because that’s the point.

By the same token, though, Spielberg still screws the movie up by losing this idea about half-way through. Though the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, it takes a long while to get where it needs to get going and once it eventually does reach its drive, it feels like something of a cop-out. Spielberg decides to take us to the source of David’s creation and what’s supposed to be scary, shocking, and disturbing, just seems like an odd twist thrown at the end to create a drama, as if this were some sort of futuristic soap opera.

And then, there is, as we all know, the ending. Yes, this is the same ending that Spielberg still catches flak for, as well as he should. To be honest, it feels like something of a cop-out; the idea of having this story relate to Pinocchio’s already feels like that, but when Spielberg jumps into the future, many, many years later, and describes practically everything to us, it’s as if he doesn’t trust his audience anymore. Now, the same audience who sat by, watched and were disturbed by the sci-fi future he had to present, is now the same audience who is listening to Ben Kingsley rant on about exposition that doesn’t make any sense and would have probably been left better off not included.

Then, it just ends. David is treated to a dream that he always wanted, and even though the movie has reached almost two-and-a-half hours by this point, it still feels as if there’s something more to be explored. The outside world surrounding David, maybe, but still, there’s a certain incomplete feeling to A.I. that makes me not only want to watch it again, but possibly think harder and longer of where it could have gone.

But the movie, as it stands, still works – it’s just not nearly as great as it could have been had Kubrick been alive to have it made and see the light of day. Rather than fall for all of the sympathetic, melodramatic sap that hits the later-half, Kubrick would have found a certain path to go with that would have made it stuck around longer. But because he wasn’t around, the movie feels like it wants to tell a sweet ending, to a pretty bitter story.

The only way Spielberg insists on doing.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t reach the magnifying heights it could have with Kubrick alive to make it, A.I. is still bleak, dark and interesting enough to make up for the fact that Spielberg sort of drops the ball with the last-act.

8 / 10

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar...

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar…

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Calvary (2014)

Catholicism is still “a thing”? Could have swore Kabbalah was going to take the world by storm.

Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) is the priest of a small town in Ireland. He’s a stand-up guy who gets a joke quickly, has a daughter (Kelly Reilly) that he loves and cares for so very much, has a past that’s none too pretty, and is always there to try and make those around him happy. So when he hears somebody utter in confession that they’re going to give him a week, until they take him out to the beach and kill him, it’s a bit of a shock. However, that’s sort of the point as the killer states that they want to kill a “good priest”, rather than a bad one who did bad stuff like rape, or any sort of sexual abuse. Though Father knows who this person is, he doesn’t spill the beans and instead, lives this whole next week of his life, as if it was his last. Because, hell, it might as very well be.

And if you want to have some fun with that plot-synopsis up above, you can include the term “drinking beer”, at the end of every sentence because it totally fits. It’s a movie that takes place in Ireland, a very poor part of Ireland to be exact, and well, features a whole lot of drinking, smoking and dancing, like all Irish men and women are known to be doing. Take it from one, will ya?

"Say your forgiveness, one more time."

“Say your forgiveness, one more time.”

Anyway, what’s so interesting about this movie isn’t the premise (although it comes pretty close), it’s more in watching how each and everyone of these characters in this small town, interact with one another; particularly Father Lavelle. And because he is our center-of-command for the movie, we spend time with him and see everything he sees, encounter who he encounters, and goes through whatever he is going through at that particular time. It’s a necessary move writer/director John Michael McDonagh needed to pull off, because in order to get where this character is coming from, we’d need to see what it is about him that makes him such a likable guy.

Well, for starters, it’s the fact that it’s Brendan Gleeson playing him. I don’t know if any of you know this by now, but Brendan Gleeson is a big, lovely guy, no matter what the movie it is that he shows up in. Here, as Father, he gets to show that warm charm we all know and love him for, although, this time, it may be a bit darker. This character is a very broken and troubled guy, but what he does best is that he never throws his problems onto those around him. He’s the one there for the listening, so he’s going to keep on doing that, no matter how many church-goers it has him lose.

So yeah, Gleeson’s great as Father Levelle, but it’s also the rest of the cast that’s pretty phenomenal as well; which mostly has to do with the fact that, in the way they are written, they have a sort of one-note personality, but use it so well that it hardly ever seems to be poorly-written or lazy. Most of them just seem like real people you’d meet in a small, Irish town like this. Presumably getting absolutely wasted at the local bar, but hey, that’s what one expects in Ireland, right?

Playing Father’s confused, near-suicidal daughter is Kelly Reilly and she’s a lovely little gal, showing that there’s more to her than just a possible basket case; Chris O’Dowd plays a joking-butcher whose wife sleeps around on him; Isaach de Bankolé plays the man who she’s sleeping with; M. Emmet Walsh plays a very old, nearly-senile old man; and Aidan Gillen plays a doctor that doesn’t believe in God, and even if he does, he doesn’t think he’s not all as nice as he’s been made out to be in other pieces. The whole supporting cast is great and show up every so often, work with this script, make it funny and liven the tone up, because once it gets down and out, there’s hardly ever a moment for it to come back up and alive, and waiting for us to smile and jump for joy because of it.

Which is to say that it’s bleakness is what actually bothered me. And I’m not saying that in the way that it made me want to stopped being so depressed, but I’m saying that because, after awhile, the movie only seems to go one way. Early on, there was a nice juggle between comedy and drama, but later on in the movie, the drama took over and it got darker and darker with each and every second.

"No more killing, son."

“No more killing, son.”

But I didn’t know why? I understand that John Michael McDonagh wanted to present a portrait of a better, more friendlier-version of the Church and the fathers who work their butts off everyday just to make sure we’re happy with who won American Idol. And he keeps at this for quite awhile, but eventually, it makes you wonder, why so bleak to begin with? Better yet, why did the ending have to be such a drag to where it felt like it deserved the constant clock-checking. Not to say the later portions of this movie are even bad, it’s just that when this movie has a clear idea on its head, it goes for it and doesn’t really change things up.

Which is a bit of a shame, because the first-thirds of this movie is pretty funny. Even if the situations they were thrown into, or talk about, that may have seem dark, the movie still found a way to rub its comedic-bone off of all of us. It’s what you’d expect from a movie by the brother of the writer/director of In Bruges, but it’s something I’d also totally expect from a group of Irishmen.

By the way, the drinks are on me.

Consensus: As it gets deeper and deeper into its own mystery, Calvary loses its meaning, but for the most part, because of the well-written characters and wonderful performances from the ensemble, it mostly works.

 7 / 10 = Rental!!

The redder the hair, the more related they have got to be.

The redder the hair, the more related they have got to be.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Guard (2011)

Why can’t more cops be this cool?

An unorthodox Irish policeman named Sgt. Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring. As you could imagine, things don’t gel so well between the two as one’s kind of a dirty, lazy drunk that likes to sit around on his romp while everybody else solves crime, whereas the other one wants to get on the case right away, no frills attached. Not to mention that there’s a bit of a race problem between the two, seeing as how Irish, when they get drunk, well, tend to say some stuff that aren’t always nice.

While I was watching this movie, something really strange happened to me. While watching this movie and found a lot of similarities between this and In Bruges because right from the start, it’s pretty obvious. You get a bunch of lovely accents, Brendan Gleeson acting like a charming fool, dark situations, blood, violence, and they’re all done for laughs.

Another strange happening that occurred to me was the other day before I saw this movie, I was actually checking out the drug-induced trip that was Spun, and thought to myself, “Wow, this director seems like he’s making a music-video. I wonder if he was one of those before this movie? Hmm?” Sure enough, it turned out that the director of that one was, and better yet, that the writer/director of this movie, not only was trying to make a movie like In Bruges, but was also the freakin’ brother of that same writer/director! Goes to show you what I know and it made me feel like I was on-top of the world of with my movie knowledge, that will probably all get thrown-back in my face once I go to the next local Quizzo and fail miserably at the “Movie Round”.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink 'em out.

Ladies, eat your hearts out. Or, I guess in this case, drink ’em out.

Yeah, that’s reality for me, folks, and it’s not something I, nor my parents are too fond of being true.

Damn. What a disappointment I am.

Anyway, similarities aside, the writer/director of THIS movie, John Michael McDonagh still does a great job in his own right and starts us off perfectly with what we’re to expect from the rest of his movie. There’s definitely a very goofy side to this movie that isn’t afraid to show itself, poke a little fun at the whole buddy-cop aspect, and also make a lot of the more serious cliches of a crime movie, seem totally stupid and ridiculous. Like his brother, John Michael seems to be playing around a bit with the conventions we are all so used to seeing from movies of this nature and it kept me on edge wondering where he was going to go next with this story, and what exactly he was going to throw at me next. While making me laugh, I presumed.

That’s why this film’s humor, is so rich in the way it’s delivered. We’ve all seen dark comedy used in crime movies, especially from the likes of Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, and countless others, but this movie really uses the dark comedy aspect to its strength and doesn’t seem forced in the least bit. Rather than giving us an act of violence and trying to make it all light by adding a cheeky line in there, John Michael still uses the same exact formula, but instead, makes it feel deserved and pretty goddamn funny if you ask me. I liked this film’s sense of humor, and it mostly just all felt very Irish to me as everybody is mean, cruel, and pretty damn depressed. That is, until they get a couple of Guinness’ in your systems, and then they’re a bunch of partyin’, happenin’, drunken fools.

Like true and tried Irishmen.

Where I think John Michael screws up a bit with this movie and the tone he’s going for is whenever he decides to get a tad bit more serious on us, and sadly, it doesn’t work. Most writers/directors are able to make the transition from goofy, lighthearted comedy, to straight-up, serious drama, but I don’t think he is one of them. For instance, any time the movie focused on Boyle and the meetings he would have with his, equally-as-cheeky mother who was slowly dying, the film got very dry, very serious, and very boring for me to actually keep my interest. Some people can make this transition work, but if you can’t, it’s just all the more glaring in the end as we never really catch on to any of the actual drama John Michael has in store for us. Instead, we just want the guy to keep on throwing more and more comedy at the wall, without worrying who it does, and doesn’t offend.

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

You have to ask yourself: Does he play the villain?

However, when it comes right down to it, I cannot, for a second go wrong with an all around solid performance from Mr. Brendan Gleeson himself, who is just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Sgt. Gerry Boyle. Gleeson has always been a guy that’s known for his dramatic-power in big-budget dramas where he usually plays a supporting character, but when it comes to comedies, he’s just as good, if not better just because of this undeniable amount of likability to him that shines through every scene he has here. Right from the start, you know that this cop isn’t going to be your usual, heavy-duty copper that takes everything so seriously. He’s more of a reasonable dude that doesn’t take everything so damn seriously, likes to make sarcastic jokes, and most of all, just likes to have a wee bit of fun for the hell of it. Now why couldn’t someone like him pull me over on the Freeway, Thanksgiving Eve?

Bastards.

And while it does seem weird to see Don Cheadle, of all people, in a very Irish-flick, the point is sort of in that description; he’s meant to be out-of-place and therefore, we draw jokes at him. It’s also a joke that hardly gets old, which mostly has to do with the fact that Cheadle and Gleeson work so well together, they seem like two guys you could really see connect together, given under circumstances of course. But watching as they build some sort of a friendship/connection, is interesting enough and gives more substance to a movie that could have been a down-and-out comedy, with bits and pieces of violence and action sprinkled in.

Consensus: Though the tone can be a bit all-over-the-place at times, the Guard still works because of its goofy sense of humor that, never gets annoying, nor takes away from giving us a lovely chemistry between the unlikely pair that is Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink. That's it.

A black guy and an Irish dude walk into a bar, and they drink…… That’s it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In Bruges (2008)

Who knew Bruges was such a happenin’ place! Full of fun, murder and all!

After a job goes terribly wrong, hitmen Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) are sent away to Bruges to let the heat die down. This also allows for their boss (Ralph Fiennes) to think of their next move, so that while they’re in Bruges, not only can they enjoy the various sights, but they can wait on his call for further instructions of what to do next. In the meantime, the two hitmen go sight-seeing, although against most of Ray’s wishes; instead, he would much rather like to drink, do drugs, find some pretty ladies and have as much fun as one possibly could while vacationing in a place like Bruges. Luckily for Ray, there’s a local film crew around town filming something with a dwarf and a pretty gal (Clémence Poésy) that he automatically takes a liking to. However, the aftermath of his one job still continues to mess with his mind and threatens to ruin any possibility of being sane he may have. To make matters even worse, when the two guys eventually do get their call from the boss, it isn’t a pleasing one and may actually pit the two seemingly good friends up against one another.

But hey, that’s business, mate.

It’s a very rare occasion in which a movie that I have seen more than a handful of times, can not only just make me laugh nearly as much as I did the first time around, but can also keep me on edge as to where the story is going next. And with In Bruges, it’s an even rarer-occasion, because, generally, the film leans on its constant plot twists that take over the last-act of this movie; plot twists that I have seen many times before. So for a movie to excite me all over again, as if I was just watching it for the first time in my life, truly is a work of magic.

I think we all know she's in for a wild night ahead of her.

I think we all know she’s in for a wild night ahead of her.

Because, the fact remains, In Bruges is one of the better dark-comedies of the past decade, and not too many people know about it. Even if they should, they don’t. But while that may seem like a meaningless “idea that I think is actually a fact”, there’s something endearing about that aspect that works wonders for this movie.

For instance, the movie prides itself in being contained to this one, rather small part of Bruges; a place you didn’t think was a perfect setting for a film, but somehow, totally is. It’s a place that the movie mocks on more than one occasion, but also shows that there’s some beauty in the land these guys are vacationing at. I don’t mean in just the numerous museums or churches these two guys see, I mean in the people they meet and the things that happen to them, both good and bad. What I’m basically trying to say is that Bruges itself, becomes something of a character in a movie that’s named after it and it creates a small vortex of a world that, as they say in the movie, “Seems like you’re in a dream.”

All that philosophical shite aside (working on my Irish over here), this movie is still entertaining-as-hell no matter how many times it’s watched. You so rarely get that with any movie, but when you see as many movies as I do on a regular basis (more than any normal human being should ever have to), certain movies just fade in your mind and you lose the ability to love them all over again. However, with In Bruges, that ability isn’t anywhere to be found; in fact, I think I may love the movie even more now, then I did way back when I saw it in the early days of ’09.

Certain jokes I can catch up on quicker now, the story makes a whole lot more sense, and the performances from the trio of lead veers quite closely into being “perfect”; especially from Colin Farrell, the actor I’ve always had faith in, and here is exactly the reason why.

As Ray, Farrell is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode and destroy everything around him. You get the sense that he’s a young, brash asshole that doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut, nor knows how to act like an adult, but that’s sort of the point of the character and makes Farrell act even better than before. He’s a bit of a punk that does and says bad things throughout the majority of this movie (as hilarious as they sometimes may be), but knows that they are bad, wrong, they should not be done, and at least wants to move on from those mistakes and see if he can turn his life around.

In other words, he’s a bastard with a conscience, and every single second of watching Farrell play him is a total pleasure.

Even more of a pleasure to watch is Brendan Gleeson as the older, much more experience hitman that’s something of a father-figure to Ray, although the movie doesn’t hit us over the head with that idea. Instead, it just allows us to see Ray and Ken as two guys, who have the same job, and are mates, yet, they are in a bit of a sticky situation that can go either way. They don’t know, and they don’t necessarily care. They just want to take each day as they come and both characters express that feeling in two very different ways. For Ray, spending his day is all about getting drunk, having a shag or two with a lady, and just overall, having a grand old time. Whereas for Ken, he’s much more simpler in that he likes to read a book or two, explore the land around him a bit, and at the end of the day, go to bed while watching the tube.

They’re both opposites, yet, they are very good friends that understand each other and at least try to make sense of where the other one comes from. Watching them speak to each other about such stuff like either Belgium art, guys who sell lollipops, kung-fu, is constantly fun and entertaining, while very interesting because we see certain shades of their characters come out that we didn’t expect to ever see, all throughout their conversations. It also helps that Gleeson and Farrell have a lovely chemistry that never feels false. Not even for a single second.

Look out, Oskar!

Look out, Oskar!

And to make matters even better, we have Ralph Fiennes here as the foul-mouthed, constantly pissed-off boss of theirs that isn’t around a lot, but when he does show up, is around to only take care of business his way. We hardly ever see Fiennes do a performance as nasty or as eccentric as this, which is what exactly makes it such a pleasant, if totally unexpected surprise. But what Fiennes is able to find in this character is some ounce of humanity that makes him more than just a dirty, cold-blooded killer; the dude has a code/conscience, and all he’s doing is following through with it. He’s a mean old son-of-a-bitch, but he’s at least a human one, and the fact that we get to see that aspect of the character is truly a testament to the kind of actor that Fiennes is.

But honestly, I’m going on and on about the cast, without mentioning the one who is really responsible for this whole thing coming together so perfectly: Writer/director Martin McDonagh. Sure, McDonagh’s style of blending dark comedy with humane-drama, and bloody violence, has all been done numerous times before, but there’s something oh so refreshing about McDonagh here that makes me wonder not only why he doesn’t do more movies, but also why many more writers and directors haven’t followed suit? Because what McDonagh does so amazingly well here, is that he finds out what makes us laugh, what makes us cry, and what keeps us on the edge of our seats when watching movies, and combine them all together to make a movie accessible enough for anyone to see.

I mean, I’m not saying that In Bruges is the perfect pint of Guinness for either mom, dad, or your younger sibling, but what I am saying is that if you and your pals are hanging around late one night, need something to watch that will not only interest you, but have you downright laughing and enjoying yourselves, then you could do worse. Far, far worse.

Moral to the story: Watch this movie and thank me later.

Now go!

Consensus: Hilarious, fun, superbly-acted, exciting, surprising, and sweet in spots you don’t expect it to be, In Bruges is a near-perfect dark-comedy/thriller more people need to see in order to realize just how much crap is truly out there in the world that everybody knows, and why little gems like this go so unnoticed, for so very long.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Something in that image doesn't fit with the rest of it....

Something in that image doesn’t fit with the rest of it….

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Filth (2014)

Still trust your local police department?

Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is one twisted individual. He likes to party hard; screw just about any woman that’s capable of walking, regardless of if they’re married or not; manipulate his way into getting what he wants, from whomever he wants; do as much blow as humanly capable; and do what helps him, and forget those around him. And you know what else there is about him? He’s a detective that’s trying his hardest for a promotion that’s been spurred on by his wife’s hopes and wishes. Bruce knows that if he puts his mind to it, that promotion will be his, and life will be grand for he and his family once again. However, as time goes on, Bruce’s mind starts to get more and more warped up into things that may not even be real – they just make him go all the more ballistic than he really is. Those around him start to take notice and wonder if he’s not only right for the job in the first place, but also if he’s just right in the head in general. Bruce doesn’t care though. As long as there’s plenty of booze, blow, women, and rave music around, then he’s all fine and dandy. Fuck everything else.

I guess the best way to start this review off would be to talk about what really make this film stand-out, and that’s James McAvoy himself. See, with James McAvoy, I’ve always felt like he’s been a good actor, he just has yet to have that role where he’s really showed the world what he’s got and his range. He’s always been the confident pretty-boy in just about everything he’s showed-up in and more often than not, ended up doing a nice enough job to where I didn’t care if he was just playing the same role he’s played before; he’s just always been James McAvoy, playing James McAvoy, in a very James McAvoy-y role.

Oh dad.

Oh dad.

And to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that – so many actors (like Christopher Walken) just live their lives off of playing the same persona, time and time again, regardless of if the character is a different one or not. It’s just that they have this certain “charm” to them that makes their performance all the better and more charming, hence why they’re not changing anything up to begin with. Why fix what’s clearly not broken, right?

In McAvoy’s case, it’s not that there wasn’t anything broken in the first place, it’s just that things were looking to get a tad bit boring on his part. Thankfully, with this role as Bruce Robertson, McAvoy has finally found the role that will not only have everybody look at his pretty-face in a whole new light, but may even have some people thinking of that, with the right role, in the right movie, he could even be an Oscar-contender. I know, a pretty bold statement, but just viewing his work here, I can totally see it.

What McAvoy does well as Bruce Robertson, is that he always lets us know he’s having a good time, yet, never gets away from the fact that there’s an under-lining sadness and depression to it all. Early on, we know that something’s a little iffy with Bruce’s home-life (we hardly ever see him and his wife together, and whenever we do see her, it’s in a strange, flash-back fashion that has her talking directly to us), so it’s clear that all of the good/wild times Bruce is having, definitely seems to have a deeper meaning to it all. Is he doing all of this to get the promotion and ensure that his marriage will stay put? Or, is he just doing all of this rambunctious, crazy shite because he’s a deeply dark, upset, and messed-up dude?

It’s a little bit of both, but what McAvoy does here, and he does well, is that he’s able to turn it on, and then turn it off. He’s able to be the life of the party, that’s always the first one to bring out the coke or whip out his cock; but he’s also the last one to go home without anybody by his side, nor a shoulder to cry on. He’s a sad man, we know this and because of that, we sort of sympathize with him, even while he does do some mean, nasty, and cruel things to others that clearly just want to be a friend of some sorts to him. McAvoy uses Bruce Robertson as a tool to show everybody that he’s not only a very scary-presence to be seen, when given the right material, but that he’s able to make us see him as a bit of a good guy, as well as a bit of a bad guy.

The conclusion we end up coming to with this character at the end, is totally up to us, the viewer. But there’s no doubt in my mind that everybody can come to the same conclusion with McAvoy’s performance in saying that it’s pretty damn spectacular.

It's like Reservoir Dogs, except for the fact that everybody's talking in ways you can't ever understand.

It’s like Reservoir Dogs, except for the fact that everybody’s talking in ways you can’t ever understand.

The problem is that while McAvoy’s great, the movie itself necessarily isn’t. What works so well for the rest of Filth is that it is, for the most part, constantly moving and on its feet. Much like another Irvine Welsh adaptation, Trainspotting, we get an colorful-narration from somebody who clearly seems like their hopped-up on something fun, some sort of music in the background that keeps everything moving, and a bunch of lines that come and go so quick, you may have to either pause and rewind just to get everything clear, or just decide to move on and enjoy the ride while it’s on and running. And that’s why, for what it’s worth, Filth is a pretty good time; there’s hardly ever a moment where the film slows down the brakes to a total halt, and even if it does come close to doing that, it’s only because it wants develop characters and their relationships with others a little bit more.

Nothing wrong with that at all, except for the fact that the movie never really has anything interesting to do with its characters, except for Bruce Robertson of course. The ensemble the movie’s put together is great and really helps the characters grow and be something more than just typical cliches, but nobody can really overcome it all like McAvoy does, who clearly has the best-written part in the whole movie. Eddie Marsan gets a chance to bring some pathos to this material, as well as Imogen Poots, but for the most part, everybody’s pretty wacky and zany, as if they were in some version of a cartoon. Except with this cartoon, there’s more sex, drugs, and boozing.

Which, once again, is all fun – everybody loves a good party, and who doesn’t love them even more when attractive-people are the ones involved with it? Me! I just wish there was just more to this party than just all of the favors we’re promised at the door.

Consensus: The main attraction of Filth is clearly James McAvoy and his wild and crazy performance that sheds some emotion here and there, however, everything else is clearly not as up-to-par, nor is it really all that interesting to make you want to see more of it. You just sort of want McAvoy to keep on getting nuts and have absolutely no shame whatsoever.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Don't worry, James. You're still looking fine.

Don’t worry, James. You’re still looking fine. You lucky bastard you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Village (2004)

Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....

He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!

The Company You Keep (2013)

People get old. Even hippies.

Jim Grant (Robert Redford) is living the life that most men of his age should. He has a job, he has a kid, he has responsibility, and he seems to have no problems. That all turns inside-out once a fellow acquaintance of his (Susan Sarandon) turns herself over to the police for a crime she and others committed almost 30 years ago. Grant may or may not have been apart of it, but before he can even turn himself clean, young and reckless journalist (Shia LaBeouf) decides that it’s his time to shine and accidentally “outs” Grant as a former member of an underground movement that had something to do with the death of a bank-teller, those fateful 30 years ago.

This reminds me of one of those thrillers that should have been made, and probably would have made more sense in the 70’s. Due to the fact that a lot of this movie has to do with some hippie-talk, paranoia, and discussions of “the man”, it only seems right that a certain generation that had everything to do with those themes, would be the perfect time for a story like this to take place. However, that’s not where Redford decides to take it and instead, shows that everybody gets old, age-wise, but their beliefs still stay the same. That’s right, we’re most likely going to be stuck with hipsters for the rest of our lives. Hip, hip…..

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at with this movie is that it seems like the aging (and it’s showing) Robert Redford likes to direct movies and better yet; likes to direct movies about something political. Obviously Lions for Lambs was a crack-pot of ideas, thoughts, and themes that he loved to shout at everybody, as if they didn’t already think war killed people, but hey, that’s all fine and dandy once you get underneath it all. This movie is probably less concerned with politics, and more about actually being a thriller, that has a lot of people speaking in code, talking about the past, and running-away from the policia. In that aspect of the film: ehh, it’s okay. But to be honest, going into a movie like this, with the cast he has assembled (seriously, just look at it!!), and knowing that it’s coming from the grips of Redford, you can’t expect greatness. Just expect a good time that is a perfect time-killer, and leave it at that.

"Hello? 911? Yes, I'm serious. I'M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK."

“Hello? 911? Yes, I’m serious. I’M HAVING A FUCKING HEART ATTACK.”

However, that’s not to say that all is forgiven in the end. Nope, there are still a bunch of problems with this flick and that’s the fact that most of this just is not all that interesting. There are about three story-lines going on here at once, with one being the most interesting, the other starting off strong and then running it’s course, and then the last one ending up on being “ridiculous”. The most interesting story-line of the whole movie is definitely LaBeouf’s journalist character as he leaves his conscience on the side, for the hopes that he will make it big and get his story on the front of the paper. This was not only the most interesting because of where it went (in and out of the newsroom), but because LaBeouf is so good in it.

I’ve always stood-up for LaBeouf in most movies that he’s done in the past and even though I will admit, the guy surely isn’t lovable and probably isn’t all that easy to work with, I still have to say that he’s very good when it comes to putting himself into a role, and making it work. This is that role where he totally surprised me and from what I read: others as well. LaBeouf is perfectly-cast because he uses that cocky, brash-attitude of his that we see used so many times whether it be actually in a movie or on the streets, and show how it can affect one person when they work and when they aren’t working. I’ll admit that the ending for this character felt a little bit half-hearted with it’s attempt to give him a heart and soul (journalists have none), but LaBeouf keeps his head above water and makes this his movie. But when the movie moves away from him, then it gets bad. Not too bad, but bad nonetheless.

Redford is still a good actor and has that wit and charm that makes him a likable guy to watch on-screen, but he’s pushing 76, which means the guy’s getting old. Also, that means that it’s getting a bit harder and harder to believe that a guy of his age and his build, could really last a whole flick where he’s out-running the cops, Bourne-style. Out-smart them? Sure, I could believe that. But running away from them every chance he gets? Eh, there’s only so much I can and will believe in. That whole aspect where he’s on the run starts off interesting, but loses steam as quickly as Redford does when he’s running those laps (heyyo!), but it’s not the worst story-line in the whole movie.

Out of the three, the worst story-line I’d have to say was the one where every single person that Redford’s character in this movie talked to, talked about the old days and never seemed to get a grip with reality and realize that they aren’t young, whippersnappers anymore. Every person that he reconnects with, either has grown-up, or totally stayed in the same motto of life where the man got them down and they did everything for a valuable reason. Whether or not Redford actually believes in this hippie bullshit is totally beyond me, but I can only hope not, considering it’s so preachy, so stupid, and just so annoying to hear, especially coming out of the mouths of such old folks. Not saying that old people don’t have these same opinions or beliefs or anything, just saying that it’s a bit hard to believe in.

Jew-fro and all, the kids got it made.

Jew-fro and all, the kid’s got it made.

Having a ensemble cast like this, however, may spice things up a bit to the point of where it’s not so bad to listen to these characters speak their “government speech” anymore. Peeps such as Nick Nolte, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Brendan Gleeson, Terrence Howard, and Sam Elliot show up to do their thang, but so do some ladies like Brit Marling, Anna Kendrick, and Julie Christie. Everybody in this movie is good with what they do, no doubt about it, and it’s not like they were needed for anything else other than a couple of scenes to do on the weekend, just to help out their old pal, Robbie (I hope that’s what his friends call him). For that matter, it’s fun and exciting to watch, especially since you know that there is always another welcome face, just right around the corner waiting to be spotted. Nice to know that Robbie also still has some pull with stars nowadays, as well.

Consensus: It may not always work, and is downright ridiculous at times, The Company You Keep is still an entertaining movie that has the well-acted ensemble to back it up, as well as a story that takes a couple of twists and turns you don’t really see coming, regardless of how how much you can or cannot take it in and believe it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Oh yeah, and THE TUCCCC!! is here as well.

Gangs of New York (2002)

Even without guns and cars, I’d still be pretty freakin’ scared to go toe-to-toe with a gangster from the 1800’s. Especially, if they were in-character the whole time.

Taking place in New York City around the 19th Century, the son of a gang leader named Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes back to his hometown in order to avenge his father’s death. He plans to do this by killing the leader of the Natives, a simple and kind fellow named Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). By the way, the “simple and kind” statement, was bullshit. The guys fuckin’ crazy.

Apparently, this was a “dream project” for director Martin Scorsese for about 5 or 6 years that took longer than he expected to actually get made. Like all dream projects we have in our minds, we joggle them around forever, and actually crash-down to reality and realize, “oh shit, this is going to take longer than I ever wanted to”. Yeah, even directors feel that way and yes, even Marty Scorsese apparently too. It was reported to cost over 100 million dollhairs, took months and months to build actual sets of the film, needed to go through tons of editing, and was released in December of 2002, a year later than it originally had planned. Usually when this kind of crap happens, this usually shows trouble with the overall film quality, regardless of who the actual director is. Thankfully, Marty is unlike any other and that’s all that matters.

What I liked most about this flick is how Marty tackles the same exact style of gangsters, crooks, and bastards in the 1880’s, the same way he would with the ones of the 1900’s. There’s a very fast-paced essence and feel to the whole film that keeps you on-edge as to what’s going to happen next, what characters are going to be finito by the end, and when this final-battle between the two opposing sides is actually going to occur. Now, does it look and feel like an actual Scorsese flick? Not really, but that’s what’s so interesting about the guy. He’s able to change-up certain trademarks he has about himself and give a new story, a whole different type of look and feel you wouldn’t quite expect from him. It does get pretty damn violent at times, so there’s the obvious trademark for ya, but regardless of how many trademarks are shown in here, it’s still pretty damn entertaining to watch even if you have seen it over 5 times and can calculate everything now, like yours truly.

"Hurry up, Cameron. Let's get you out of here before Marty changes his mind."

“Hurry up, Cameron. Let’s get you out of here before Marty changes his mind.”

However, as many times as I have sat-down and watched this 2-and-a-half-hour-movie and been entertained by it, I still can’t deny that there lies a whole butt-load of problems brewing beneath the surface. First of all, one of the biggest hints that this film was going to have trouble with itself was the fact that it has three writers working on it (Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan). Usually, that spells out trouble and that’s exactly what we get here as this film tackles a bit more than it can get away with. In fact, it actually seems like these writers were all given different subjects to write about, understand, and bring back to Marty so they could make one, big, and long epic about life in NYC in the 1800’s. That idea, in case you were confused by what I was saying, does not work here as it’s too many ideas, with too little of a pay-off.

The whole idea is about gangs that hide out and cause havoc in New York, which makes a compelling and entertaining watch on it’s own, but then, once you add all of those other ingredients in, it get’s a bit over-stuffed to the point of where you have no freakin’ clue what this movie is trying to talk about or even convey. Is is about a young dude getting revenge on the guy who murdered his dad? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about a possible “romance” between this young dude and untrustworthy gal? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the history of New York in the 1800’s? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the war and how everybody had to take part in it? Yes, well, sort of. Or, is this flick all about how politics usually came into play with the gangs and how they all acted around one another? Once again, yes, well, sort of. As you can tell, this film touches on too many subjects, adds in too many subplots, and juggles too many ideas, which shouldn’t have been such a huge problem, given the time-limit offered to the script, but somehow it just does not work altogether and seems jumbled around like the best bits of an musician’s career. However, these “best bits”, aren’t really the best. They’re slightly mediocre to say the least.

Probably the most compelling story of all should have been the whole revenge tale with this young dude going after the man that killed his father when he was a child and he vowed at nothing to stop him from succeeding at that. However, that whole story seems a bit half-baked considering we barely get to see the young dude with his father as a kid; barely get to see how all of this has an effect on him as an slightly older dude and constantly being in that man’s presence; and barely get any tension except for the last 20 minutes where everything really comes into play. And heck, even that final stand-off doesn’t really count, for reasons I can’t state.

Speaking of the ending, some people freakin’ despise it and count it as one of the worst of all-time (and once you see it, you’ll know why), but I actually thought it was a pretty clever way to allow it to tie into history and give it more of an importance in terms of how we view New York City now, and how it really was. Yeah, it wasn’t the best way that a genius like Scorsese could come-up with and yeah, it may have dropped the ball on some fun and excitement, but it still was pretty neat to see how everything was going to be tied around in a nice little bow at the end. It comes off as a nice reminder that NYC has history and is a beautiful place to live, which was an idea that some people may have brushed-off to the sides during the lean days of ’02.

Despite all of this bad talk, I still had a lot more fun with this flick because of the performances from an impressive ensemble that Marty always has a knack for casting well. Leonardo DiCaprio proves he is able to take on a stronger, more dramatic role as a young kid going through a bit of a crisis and makes Amsterdam a believable, and compelling character to watch. It’s also better since the guy is easy to get behind and can practically kick anybody’s ass, but doesn’t get too in-over-his-head like most characters of this same-exact convention usually do. The kid may not always have a huge ounce of charm to his look and personality, but it’s Leo, and the guy is always great to watch on-screen and you can’t help but root for Amsterdam as things start to go from better-to-worse, sooner than later. Then, there’s Cameron Diaz, who I am not a very big fan of but is serviceable in a role that could have easily gone to any other actress and still been as good or entertaining. That’s not really a good thing or bad thing, it’s just that her character doesn’t offer much to really intrigue you and Diaz doesn’t help us with that much, either.

I'm afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

I’m afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

But despite these two, the one who really steals the show is none other than the man, the myth, the effin’ crazy man who stayed in-character the whole time during the making of this flick: Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting, or as my dad likes him to be referred to as, Bill the Butcher. Cutting is a very fun character to watch and the fact that he’s played by Daniel Day just makes him all the more compelling to keep your eye on as every chance he gets, he proves to you why this guy can never be trusted and why so many damn people in the city fear him for the things he can do. Cutting is a bit caricaturish, but Daniel Day makes sure it doesn’t get too over-the-top and strangely, keeps the guy human and believable in his own, sadistic way. There’s the one memorable scene that really touched me where he’s talking to Amsterdam about the only man that was worth remembering that he killed (Amsterdam’s father) and it gives us a wonderful look-see into a man that does some pretty terrible and evil things, but still feels something for the people he kills, even if they are his biggest enemies. Daniel Day is electrifying in this role and makes it all the more fun to watch, but sadly, he is probably the only interesting character of the bunch, and he’s the freakin’ bad-guy you’re supposed to despise!

Consensus: Gangs of New York struggles with way too many ideas, themes, and a bunch of plot-points that never come fully-realized, but has a very entertaining feel and vibe to it, that places you in this setting of New York City during the 1800’s, and features compelling performances from everybody involved, including the magnetic Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting/the Butcher.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Apparently Cruise can do it all. Yes, even kung-fu.

American and British IMF teams join forces on the hunt to find a stolen virus. However, one by one the members on the teams start ending up dead. Can Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) find out who this assassin is and stop their deadly plans? From the crowded streets of Madrid to the busy harbour of Sydney, the chase is on.

With the first Mission: Impossible movie, I liked it because it was fun but felt like it was a huge disappointment considering that it seemed like the director, Brian De Palma, wasn’t really able to go full-throttle with his direction, and had to ease-in to what Hollywood wanted. Well, if Hollywood has it’s ways, they usually get rid of those types of people and bring in others. John Woo, you’re up next, buddy. Good luck!

Actually, if I was to compare both De Palma and Woo to one another, which is stupid but for the sake of a juicy-review, I would probably have to say De Palma is the better director by-far. However, if I had to compare the two to who is a better-suit for this type of material, I’d have to go with Woo. The guy is known as the go-to-guy when it comes to directing action movies and even if that honor has sort of been passed-down to others over the years, you still can’t deny or forget when this guy was always the person you’d want to direct a loud, stupid, but fun action-movie. That’s why Woo actually makes this film a bit better, however, it doesn’t start-off like that at-first, no sireee.

Where I was really losing my interest with this movie was the first 45 minutes or so, when nothing seemed to be happening. Yeah, the plot was moving-along and setting the grounds for what we would have to know, in order to understand everything more clearly, but it was all so damn boring. People were talking, melodrama was thrown at us, and worst of all, Ethan Hunt was sort of acting like a total-pussy. Like I get it, the guy has fallen for this chick and wants to be with her but can’t because of this high-profile mission, but there is no need to spend literally, 15 minutes on that whole idea. Ethan Hunt is way too cool for that, and doesn’t need his D getting bogged down by some, little sweet who’s off boning another guy. Now, it’s not really her choice but still, stop crying, do your job, and maybe, just maybe in the end, you can have some sweet-old celebration sex for the good of it all. Hey, that’s how I look at things, baby.

I will say, that after those excruciatingly boring, first 45 minutes, the movie does pick-up a little and that’s where I think Woo’s fun-direction really starts to kick-in. What makes this movie so much fun is the fact that Woo knows the type of material he’s working with, and makes no excuses for making it as idiotic and dumb as you can get with an action movie. A lot of stunts and sequences will have you scoffing your asses off at the implausibility of all that’s going on, but to be honest, that’s whats to be expected of these movies by now and it’s just so much fun to watch because Woo adds in his own, little trinkets of style in there every once and awhile. You get a lot of slo-mo, you get a lot of explosions, you get a lot of kung-fu, and most of all, you get a lot of random pigeons flying around certain scenes for more of a dramatic-effect. It’s pretty neat how Woo is able to make a Mission: Impossible movie, but still, not without putting his own stamp on the movie and showing everybody that it’s his own work, and if you don’t like it, then don’t go and give him or Cruise your money. Trust me, everybody did anyway.

And speaking of Tom Cruise, the guy still owns it as Ethan Hunt, which is something that probably comes to nobody’s surprise whatsoever. Hunt is cool, swift, and smart here, and even though I didn’t like the fact of how much time they spent on him and his heart going through a lot of pain, I still couldn’t help but think that the guy was going to pull-it-all together in the end, and come out on-top at the end of the day. Still, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women, so stay the hell away, gals.

The gal who I keep on ranting and raving about is played by Thandie Newton, and even though she isn’t anything all that special to watch and fall in love with on-screen, she’s still okay and whatnot. I wish that the film made her more of a sly bad-ass in her own right and focused on that element of her character, but too much of that time was just spent-on her being all sad and acting like the damsel in distress that Hunt didn’t need around to get in the way of his shit. Once again, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women.

What Ethan Hunt does need, however, is a pretty kick-ass villain and that is what he does not get here with Dougray Scott. To be honest, I’ve never seen this guy in anything else before, but I don’t really look forward to seeing that stuff either because the guy’s pretty lame here. I don’t know if it was the crappy-writing, the evil-plan he had in his head (basically, it’s just a bad-guy that has a deadly-virus he’s going to unleash on the rest of humanity, because you know, bad-guys hate everything), or his acting plain and simple, but something was not gelling well with this character at all and I just wanted Hunt to kill him as soon as possible. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing to feel for a villain, but then again, I still feel like some of that hate should be directed towards the actor and what he’s able to do with that role and that is something that Scott didn’t seem like he was all that capable of. Oh well, Ethan Hunt still kicked his ass.

Consensus: Even though it’s just a tad better than it’s predecessor, Mission: Impossible 2 is still stupid, loud, and occasionally boring,  but still features some slick style-points from Woo, and the always welcome, return-to-form for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, once again proving that this guy can kick anybody’s ass. Katie Holmes’ next hubby, you best look-out mofo.

6.5/10=Rental!! 

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Days Later (2003)

When in doubt, make ’em fast.

28 days later after a rage-virus has swept the area and turned every infected person into crazy zombies, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma in the deserted intensive care unit of a London hospital. He soon meets up with a fellow survivor, Selena (Naomia Harris), and both embark on a journey to get themselves the hell out of London, and also, be able to get themselves out alive.

I’ll never, ever forget the first time that I saw this movie. I was probably in 8th grade, and it was late at-night (on a school-night of course), and I stumbled upon the beginning of this flick on FX and thought to myself, “It’s 10 o’clock. Should I watch this movie for the next 3 hours and be extremely tired tomorrow, or should I go to sleep, catch it another time, and get my 9 hours of perfect sleep? Hmmm….” Thankfully, I went with the first option and to be honest, it didn’t matter how late it was because my ass wasn’t getting any sleep at all that night after watching this. Seriously, that movie kept me up all night and at one-point, I was afraid to even go to the bathroom because it was a dark hallway, and I thought I heard noises. Little did I know that it was just my dog, but still, you couldn’t have told me that at that time and place because I was so wrapped-up in what I just saw that my mind wasn’t taking anything else in.

This whole dumb story about me and my first-viewing with this flick may come off as random and unneeded, but in my case, it totally is. See, I rarely ever get scared by horror films because I for one, know that they aren’t ever grounded in-reality. Iconic horror characters like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, and etc., don’t scare me because I know they aren’t real and most likely, never will be real. But, what really scared me about this movie was how it didn’t have those elements, instead, everything felt, looked, acted, and played-out, as if it was all real and could actually happen in a world like ours. Yes, I know it all sounds pretty freakin’ goofy that I would assume a zombie apocalypse would ever run rampant in our world and go out like this, but seriously, just think about it: they don’t even have to be zombies, they can just be a bunch of infected human-beings that have no control over anything in their minds. Seriously, it could happen and if it doesn’t, I will be glad to be proven wrong, but that is why this movie scared the utter bajeebers out of me 5 years ago when I first saw it, and that’s why it still does now.

Most of the credit for scaring the hell out of me has to go to Danny Boyle and what he does with this material. Instead of making this your typical zombie-movie where all we see is a bunch of people shooting blood and guts, we get an actual story-based type of approach that not only fits the characters in it, but also the mood that Boyle has set for us as well. Right from the beginning with those iconic shots of a deserted London, we know that we are placed in a post-apocalyptic world that is sad, depressing, and as dark as you’re ever going to get with any other film of this nature, and the way Boyle sets it off is exactly how he allows it to all play-out.

Of course we all know what a post-apocalyptic world looks like: no people, no civilization, no order, and in some cases, no nothing, but there’s something so realistic-feeling about this world that Boyle paints that has me still frightened to this day. See, it seems like this could happen any day, any place, at any time, and it doesn’t matter where it begins or where it ends because it’s going to sweep the globe as soon as possible. That’s the way you mostly have it with any type of zombie/virus movie, but this one is different because it feels like a real-threat. These people can run, they can hide, and they can do whatever they want, but one of these days, they may not be so lucky and end-up biting the dust sooner than they may think. This urgent sense of danger and doom surrounds this flick in every single shot, and it never goes away, which is why I’m still clinging to my pillow as we speak.

None of this would ever feel so realistic and dangerous if it wasn’t for Boyle, and this guy sure as hell doesn’t lose that idea in his head. See, the best thing about Boyle is that he isn’t just a type of director that shoots the scenes, gets good performances from the cast, and calls it a day. Nope, this guy is all about everything else in-between all of that and it shows so perfectly here. The digital-camera brings an extra grainy-look to the flick that puts us inside of this cold and dark world that never seems to have a bright day; the music comes in at times at makes you feel happy, then makes you feel sad, and then makes you feel like your about to go crazy by how tense everything is (I’m talking about you, tunnel scene); and the color-schemes that Boyle chooses for each and every scene bring out a certain amount of beauty to each scene, as dark and hideous as it may be (the red dresses during the last-act just freakin’ popped-out at me). Basically, when it comes right down to it, Boyle is a guy that looks at everything in a flick, makes it better, and gives it his own little stylistic touches that in some ways, may come off as too “artsy”, but in other ways, it comes off as fan freakin’ tastic.

But, let’s not forget people, this is not your typical zombie story that we have all seen a hundred times before-hand, because believe it or not, there’s actually a story here that talks about something more than you might expect from a movie about a bunch of ragged-up killers on the loose. The film talks about how it sometimes takes a devastating act like an apocalypse  or a break-down in society to show you who evil human-beings can be. This point is never really hammered-through to you until the last 45 minutes when the story takes a dramatic turn, but you get an essence of that the whole time throughout and you also feel like the only way most people can get through such terrible events like this, is by love and friendship with the people around you. That’s why the “romance” here works, because it’s shoe-horned in and quick for a reason, people need each other in the world no matter what. There’s also a juicy little piece of context in here about how we, as people, have been killing each other for years and years and years, but now have to actually go-forth with that in a society where that’s the only-option. It’s a fairly obvious point you can pretty much gather right from the first scene or two, but it’s still one worth mentioning because it goes beyond what you normally expect in a movie about zombies.

Jeez, I feel like I’ve gone on way too long about this movie but the fact is, after seeing it over 8 times now, I still can’t get enough of it and look at each and every scene as if it was just another piece of art that Boyle chose in his mind and was somehow able to paint it all out onto film. The sturdy story that takes over the first hour or so, does change-up drastically by the last hour and becomes more of an action/thriller type of movie but even that still works, even if it is a bit conventional. Still, though, I realized there was a lot more to this plot than just blood, guts, and violence, and in a way, all of that shit that does go down in the end sort of justifies it’s point and by what it’s trying to say. Trust me, the plot-conventions and cliches are more than you think they are, and that’s the whole beauty and uniqueness of this movie.

Boyle also did something very daring and smart with this movie and chose people for the roles, that were the normal people you’d see in movies like these, let alone in movies in general. I mean now, these people are pretty big-stars, but before this, they looked like nothing else except for just real people, that were stuck in a real world, and tried their hardest to find happiness in it. Cillian Murphy does a great job with his role as Jim because the guy starts out as such a wimp, and dumb-ass that seems to be a bit way too in over his head with the world he has yet to get a grasp hold onto, but after awhile, builds up enough courage and steam of his own to actually have you believe that this guy can really stick up for himself and survive in this world. The transformation Jim goes through isn’t touched-upon enough, in my book, but is still shown in a believable and understandable way, thanks to both Boyle and Murphy themselves.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a nice line-up that all do perfect jobs with the limited-material that they’re given. Naomie Harris plays Selena as a bad-ass that would kill you in seconds if she had to, but also shows there’s a lot vulnerability to her as well that makes her seem more well-rounded as a human-being rather than just a straight-up, vicious beotch; Brendan Gleeson is a delight to watch as Frank, the loving father that always seems to look on the bright-side to any situation and kept me smiling the whole time he was on-screen; Megan Burns wasn’t so good as the daughter, but I think she was supposed to underplay this role a bit so I can’t be too hard on her; and last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Eccleston as Major West, a guy who comes off as a knight in shining armor right from the start, but starts to slowly change your mind about him and you never, ever know what this guy is going to do next. I like that with characters and I think Eccleston handles that well and shows to be more of a human-being, rather than just showing off as a villainous d-bag.

Consensus: Maybe, just maybe, I’m in the minority with this one but 28 Days Later is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. The world that Boyle paints is as devastating and frightening as it gets; the characters are more well-rounded and developed than the script actually gives them credit for; the scares and chills get to you by the utter feel of realism that shoots-out in every frame of this picture; and the message about who we are as humans and what we’ll do to live-on in life is as heartbreaking and brutally honest as it can get. Definitely go out there and see it, not just to be scared, but also to be a bit enlightened as well.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

And Jack Sparrow thought he was witty.

With the “Pirate of the Year” awards around the corner, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of scallywags take to the high seas to find a bounty worthy of entering the awards. Instead they find a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who informs them that their beloved parrot is in fact a rare dodo, a discovery priceless in the scientific world.

This is the latest flick from Aardman Animation, aka the witty Brits from ‘Wallace & Gromit’, and ‘Chicken Run’, which means, in terms of comedy, this film has a whole lot to live up to. But when you touch something like pirates and try to make them goofy, it more or less just comes off as being another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick, except in stop-motion form.

What I can say about this flick is that even though it’s not as hilarious as previous efforts done by this gang, the film still stands on its own two feet and made me laugh quite a number of times. The film brings out plenty of pop-culture references (such as a very memorable about ‘The Elephant Man’) but it doesn’t feel like overkill because these Brits have such great comedic timing. So many animated films, ever since the days of ‘Shrek’, have all tried to incorporate a bunch of dumb pop-culture jokes into their stories just for a quick joke but have usually come off as annoying and cheeky. Here, we get a good amount of that but it’s used in a way that seems like it’s actually moving the plot forward and keeping the laughs moving. Hell, we even get a funny montage played to the tune of “London Calling” by The Clash, which is always great to hear in any movie but it’s used to good effect here.

This is more of a film that centered towards little, American kids which means there is still plenty of fighting, action, and cool things for the kids to go “oooh” and “aaah” at. Since this is Aardman, you can pretty much expect that the stop-motion animation will be in top-shape, which it is, but the real bummer here was that they do sort of get away with using some CGI here as well. I know it sounds like something dumb to point out but these guys are the last things that stop-motion has left (unless Wes Anderson decides to give ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox Part 2’ a try) so I think it would be a huge shame if these guys just walked out on it now.

Also, with a comedy that is actually just about 86 minutes long, I was expecting a lot more of it to be filled with jokes and plenty of that dry British charm that we all love so nearly and dearly to our hearts. Instead, a lot of it starts to run dry by the last act where everything comes together in another, predictable fight where pretty much every character shows up to drop a funny line here and there. I don’t want to say that this bothered me completely, but if you have already seen the trailer as much as I have, I would like to let you know that a lot of the funny parts from this movie are already in there. So if you haven’t seen the trailer (and if you’ve been to the movies within the past month, it’s got to be pretty damn hard) don’t watch it and check this out because you’ll probably be laughing a lot more than I did.

It surprised me, but I couldn’t really tell right off the bat that it was Hugh Grant voicing The Pirate Captain here, but when I did notice it, I thought it was a great role for him considering this guy never does such a kiddie thing like this. Grant still sounds very Grant-ish with a whole bunch of nervous stammering as the usually, less-than-bright kind of character he usually plays in these flicks. I also have to say that it was pretty cool to see Grant not try to be all goofy as Captain here and try to do what Johnny Depp. Instead, he goes right back to the good old days when pirates were a bit goofy but still cool deep down inside.

There’s a whole bunch of other big British names like Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and plenty more doing great jobs with their voices here even though Jeremy Piven seemed very miscast here as another pirate. His voice is so distinct and so deuchy that this character almost comes off as too serious and too obvious that it maybe didn’t clash well with this light tone that the film was giving off so much. In any other film though, Piven would have been fine to have.

Consensus: The British charm of these Aardman flicks may not be as strong here as it is with so many of their other flicks, but there is still a lot of fun, adventure, and dry humor to hold not only the kids over, but the parents who bring them to this film as well.

6/10=Rental!!

The Raven (2012)

Apparently Poe likes Peter Gabriel too.

‘The Raven’ finds Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) teaming up with a detective to search for a serial killer who has kidnapped the author’s fiancee and has gone on a murder spree that mimics the author’s work.

Edgar Allan Poe is by far one of the most influential writers ever when it comes to the world of horror. Even though I have only read and heard a couple of his writings, I can easily say that for his time, he was very different and many people in today’s world definitely take notice to that. That’s probably why it would be best for some of people to see this flick.

Director James McTeigue does know do one thing right with this period piece here and that is, make it look and feel as dark as you can possibly get it to be. The mood here is very somber as if it was one of Poe’s gothic tales straight from his mind, put out onto film. McTeigue also helps this tone out with a bunch of beautiful set designs that take you into 19th Century Baltimore. Seems like a random place to actually have a whole bunch of mystery, murders, crime, and poetry going on but somehow, McTeigue was able to make it all work and feel as if we were there watching all of this crazy ish go down.

I also have to say that a lot of the gore here, was used to great effect. In a day and age where we have films constantly trying to tone it down for a friendly PG-13 rating for the big box office take in, it’s pretty relieving to see a “horror” flick take so much pride in its gore and barely leave anything out whatsoever. It’s very gruesome and has a couple of scenes that reminded me of ‘Saw’ but with a cooler, 19th Century spin on it that worked as well. The most memorable scene of gory torture probably came from when they use a pendulum here that is not only really brutal, but also really clever by how the poor slob they use to kill, is actually a critic. Here I am, a critic, sitting in the press screening for this movie, seeing a fellow critic get his insides hacked up! Now I am definitely going to watch what I say next about what movie and what actor/actress.

Problem with this flick is that behind all of the beauty, it’s pretty much your standard thriller film that doesn’t really even deliver the goods on that at all. The whole whodunit side of this flick seemed half-baked in the first place because not only did it seem like it ripped off plenty of other mystery thrillers, but it also didn’t bring any tension to the flick either. If a film is going to go down the road of being a whodunit, then it should run with the idea by messing with the audience, giving us clues, giving us twists, and just having a whole bunch of fun with its silliness. Or, you can just not do it all, which is what I think that this film should have done after about the first 30 minutes it started talking about this mystery and the killer.

At the center of this mystery, the flick also tries to stuff a love angle down our throats and instead of giving us more reason to see Poe and his lady friend together, it didn’t carry much steam and sort of made me care less and less about what happened really. Alice Eve looks very sexy and obviously tries her best with the material that she’s given, but her chemistry with Cusack was barely even there. This wouldn’t have been such a shame if the film didn’t rely on this courtship to make this mystery stronger, but they do, and for that reason it sort of just didn’t hold my interest as much as the rest of this flick did. Come to think of it, I actually nodded off a couple of times but please, don’t tell the other critics that.

John Cusack definitely didn’t seem like the type of person that was destined to play Edgar Allan Poe, but then again, who is? Cusack brings a lot of energy and humor to a person that we only know through a bunch of eerie and creepy stories. Yes, Cusack brings him to life with a lot of flamboyancy to him but also made him a compelling person to watch which bummed me out more considering that I think this guy could have definitely done a lot better if the film was just based on Poe’s life, rather than just his final days surrounding some mystery. Then again, the box office returns for this flick may not be so hot so I guess we won’t ever get a chance to see that flick, will we?

Consensus: Gory, entertaining, and featuring a very good performance from John Cusack, The Raven is definitely an enjoyable flick about a figure in literature we don’t know much about, but with a weak script, weak whodunit subplot, and weak romance, the film feels like it should have been more of a biopic rather than one just disguised as a mystery thriller.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Safe House (2012)

Van Wilder ain’t got shit on me!

Denzel Washington plays the CIA’s most dangerous traitor, Tobin Frost, who stuns the intelligence community when he surfaces in South Africa. When the safe house to which he’s remanded is attacked by brutal mercenaries, a rookie (Ryan Reynolds) is forced to help him escape.

Heyoooo everybody! So I got this new review up and running but once again it’s not here, it’s on another website called “Philmalot!”. It’s a big movie site for all Philadelphia-area writers and it’s a site that I’m proud to say that I have started writing for even though there’s been plenty of them.

Anywhoo, go on over to the site and check my review out, show me some love by putting a little something something in the comments, and just go on over and check the rest of the site out because it’s pretty rad. Check out the link here:

http://philmalot.com/2012/02/14/film-review-safe-house/

Thanks everybody! Happy buy your woman something really expensive day!!