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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Brian Cox

L.I.E. (2001)

Get out of Long Island the first thing you do.

Still affected by the death of his mother, Howie (Paul Dano) has been having a bit of a rough go at life, for the time being. His dad (Bruce Altman) doesn’t seem to get him and is too busy spending time with his new girlfriend, who Howie obviously detests, and his best-friend Gary (Adam LeFevre), who he also has a love for, plans on moving out of their small suburban town in hopes of achieving his dreams of being rich and famous. Howie wants to profess his love for Gary, but he finds it easier to just go around causing all sorts of shenanigans with him, like for instance, robbing random people’s houses. One person that they rob is Big John (Brian Cox) an older, very charming man who has a certain affinity for young boys and immediately takes a liking to Howie. The later, all confused as to who to love or care for, immediately takes to Big John, too, and they both forge something of a friendship that gets dangerously close to being something much more. But will the two take the plunge, or learn to just respect one another?

Did Howie get his candy yet? You know, like he was promised?!?

A part of me feels like a great deal of the positive reception and, dare I say it, hype around L.I.E. has to solely due with the fact that it was touching on some really disturbing taboos that no one could get away with. Sure, the movie got slapped with an NC-17 rating nonetheless, but mostly that was due to the fact that it dealt with homosexuality, pedophilia, and sex in general, all featuring characters who seemed to be clearly underage. You could make the argument that the movie’s just another case of Larry Clarke’s Kids, but that would actually be an insult to L.I.E.

This movie’s much more thoughtful, whereas Clarke’s was just over-the-top and disturbing, for the sake of being so.

But still, L.I.E. isn’t quite nearly as good as it should be. One of the main aspects holding it back is that it’s the directorial debut from Michael Cuesta and in ways, you can tell. The movie’s dark, dirty, gritty, and grainy look, while giving it a realistic-look and feel, also feels amateurish, especially when the movie decides to stylize itself up a bit more with random, floating montages. You could say that it’s “pretentious”, but it isn’t entirely; a good deal of the movie is small, contained and actually, subtle, but there’s the other deal that also seems like a first-time director having a bit too much fun with a budget and a script in his hands.

That said, when the movie does settle down, L.I.E. works as a thoughtful and smart character-study of two troubled people coming together in a surprisingly believable way. It helps that we get to know each character very well before they meet one another, however, it also helps that Cuesta was able to get both Brian Cox and a very young Paul Dano in these lead roles, because they don’t just work well together, but they are actually the heart and soul of the whole picture.

Which is saying something, considering that the movie itself is pretty damn dark.

Don’t do it! Or do. It’s okay!

As Big John, Cox has the really troubling job of making a despicable and disgusting character seem somewhat sympathetic. And well, it works – not only do you come to care for this heinous wreck-of-a-man, but you also actually seem to get charmed by him. A part of the charm is his act and how he reels people in, and Cox gets by on this in spades, while all still seeming like one creepy individual. There’s more to this character that, in all honesty, deserved to be explored, but as far as portraits of actual monsters go, Cox’s Big John remains one of the more fully-realized and well-done.

Which is a shame because despite him trying very hard, Dano’s Howie doesn’t quite resonate as much. See, one aspect behind Howie’s character is that he’s a whole bunch of things that teenagers at that age are; confused, naive, angry, upset, and constantly fluctuating between emotions and how it is that they feel at any given moment. We get to see a lot about Howie and Dano makes it all work, but then, Cuesta comes around to making there more to Howie, like how he writes poetry, understands certain pop-culture references, and watches old movies, that don’t quite work. The movie wants to make Howie more than he actually is – which is just another upset teenager – and because of that, it takes away from what was already a smart and understandable character to begin with.

Oh well. Both Dano and Cuesta would continue to go on and do much better.

Same is obviously said for Cox.

Consensus: By touching on some disturbing themes in a very in-your-face way, L.I.E. can often times seem a little cloying, but still works because of the smart, understated and thoughtful performances from both Dano and, especially, Cox.

6.5 / 10

Love at first face-piercing.

Photos Courtesy of: Alter Ego Entertainment

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The Corruptor (1999)

Chinatown’s good for everything but the night life.

NYPD Lieutenant Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is head of the Asian Gang Unit and his main job is to ensure that there is peace in Chinatown. After a turf war between the Triads and the Fukienese Dragons broke out in the town, Chen now really has hands full, with even more possible gang-warfare expected to break out and kill more and more people, most of all, innocents who just so happen to get wrapped-up in the fire. The city sees this, knows this, and recognizes that this is a huge problem, and not one that can be handled by just one cop all alone. That’s why they decide to send over talented agent Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), who knows how to get the job done, however, Chen isn’t having any of it; Wallace doesn’t like Chen much either, but he knows that there’s a job that needs to be done and because of that, he’s not going to let personal issues get in the way. But the two start to dig in on each other’s past more thoroughly and they begin to find out that the other has something dirty and controversial, making them wonder if they can continue to work together and stop this whole warfare from starting.

"So, uh, do we have to be friends, or something?"

“So, uh, do we have to be friends, or something?”

You have to feel bad for Chow Yun-Fat, one of the most exciting and iconic Chinese talents ever, because no matter how hard we try, the States just doesn’t get him. Or, if they do, they don’t give him the right material that’s not just worthy of his talents, but matches perfectly why people have loved him so much in John Woo’s films. See, the movies that he’s done, where he’s the lead and made out to be this big deal, don’t really match the same sort of craziness and excitement that Woo’s films have and allow for Yun-Fat to shine; movies like Bulletproof Monk, the Replacement Killers, Dragonball Evolution, and yeah, even the third Pirates of the Caribbean, all gave him something to do and kick ass, but it just didn’t match what everyone knew and loved him for over in China. What made him a bonafide star over there, for some reason, just didn’t translate over to here.

And it’s not like it’s his fault, either, because Yun-Fat tries as he might in all of these flicks, including the Corruptor – it’s just that these movies themselves don’t measure up. They’re not as crazy, not as wild, not as fun, and sure as hell not as entertaining as we’re used to seeing Yun-Fat and his movies and it’s why they feel like a sheer disappointments, considering what we know Yun-Fat himself can do.

But the Corruptor may be the better of them because it gives him a lot to do, in terms of action and acting, but still, there’s something missing.

For one, the Corruptor was clearly seen as Yun-Fat’s big break into the American-market and because of that, he gets a lot to do; he nails his English as well as you’d expect, the scenes where he has to throw guns around and kick ass, he shows off style in, and when it’s just him, sitting down, smoking a cig, he’s still pretty cool and charming. The man’s got presence for sure, it’s just that the Corruptor, oddly enough, just doesn’t know what to do with him, or better yet, even itself.

The Corruptor tries to be a lot of things, but for some odd reason, never seems to fully explore any of the numerous ideas. At one point, it’s a look into the deep, violent and bloody underground of Chinatown; at another, it’s a look at police corruption. At one point, it’s a drama about racism and prejudice and how it affects the workplace; at another, it’s about sons and fathers not connecting with one another and hiding secrets from one another. At one point, it’s this mysterious, crime-thriller where secrets have to be discovered and murders have to be solved; at another, it’s this slam-bang, crazy and violent action flick that likes killing people and blowing up cars.

Kind of confused, yet? Well, that’s sort of the point.

Chinese stand-offs are a lot wilder than Mexican ones.

Chinese stand-offs are a lot wilder than Mexican ones.

The Corruptor doesn’t know what it wants to be and it’s a shame because director James Foley is probably not the best one to make sense of this material. You almost get the sense that he was shooting and looking for something deeper, smaller and far more emotional, but once the studio got involved and realized the possibility of the bucks that they could rake in, well, he lost all control. Foley is best when he’s dealing with these tiny and sturdy character-pieces, and while the Corruptor still feels very much like a noir of his, it’s still clearly not up his alley and it takes away from what could have been a far better, more exciting and interesting movie.

Speaking of studio interference, it’s also obvious that Mark Wahlberg was thrown into the cast, just because he was a sort of big name at the time and the studio really wanted to ensure that people would flock out to see it. And even though Wahlberg is perfectly fine now and one of the best leading-men we have around, back in ’99, he wasn’t quite established; his acting wasn’t all that there, he seemed far too serious for his own good, and yeah, he didn’t show much versatility. And it’s a shame, too, because the scenes he has with Yun-Fat, you can tell that the two are clearly trying to make some sort of spark happen, but the script just isn’t there and neither are they. They’re there to collect a paycheck, move on and see what happens to their career next.

It’s a good sign for Marky Mark. Maybe not Yun-Fat, but hey, it probably doesn’t bother him much.

Consensus: Unfocused and rather conventional, the Corruptor gets by on the bits and pieces of a compelling story, as well as an always reliable Yun-Fat, but ultimately, feels like a missed opportunity to make something great and memorable.

5 / 10

"Yeah, elsewhere, I'm a pretty big deal."

“Yeah, elsewhere, I’m a pretty big deal.”

Photos Courtesy of: Film Critic, Esq.

Pixels (2015)

Nerds will save the world from ultimate destruction. Not Adam Sandler.

In 1982, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) thought he was the ultimate champ at arcade games. Turns out, however, he was wrong when he lost in the final round to the likes of Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage). Now, over 30 years later, Sam’s life is a bit depressing – he’s middle-aged, single, and works a job as a electronics repairman. His best friend, on the other hand, Will Cooper (Kevin James), just so happens to be the President of the United States, so at least he has that going for him. Everything in their lives change one day when, out of the blue, old-school video games start attacking them; nobody really knows why, but all anybody can make up is the fact that these attacks are serious and that cautionary action should be taken right away. But because beating these arcade games takes a certain type of skill and persistence, the U.S. Army can’t defeat them, which brings President Cooper to ask the aid of Sam, Eddie, Lieutenant Colonel Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), and a fellow gamer from the past named Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad). The fate of the world, now rests solely in their finger-tips.

All of the kiddies will love Q'Bert, until they realize that little 'effer curses up a storm.

All of the kiddies will love Q*bert, until they realize that little ‘effer curses up a storm.

Movies like Pixels make me wonder what’s wrong with me. Not just a movie-viewer, however, but as a person. See, while I am all for despising the likes of Adam Sandler and all of the pieces of utter feces he’s been putting out lately, there’s something about Pixels that I couldn’t help but like. Sure, I know there’s clearly a huge hatred for this movie already and more or less, I’m definitely in the minority of this thing, but for some reason, I enjoyed myself during Pixels.

If any of you readers want to write me off right here and now, I will not be offended. In fact, I would welcome you as smart, conscious human beings, who clearly know who they do and don’t want to read. However, for those of you who are at least slightly interested in where I’m going with this, then I say, thank you and please bear with me for as long as you possibly can.

Still here?

Good! Let’s get going!

As is, Pixels is better than most Adam Sandler movies we’ve been seeing in the past decade. I realize that’s like saying it’s better to get shot in the head, then to jump on a live grenade, but still, it’s something that needs to be said. Because while Pixels could have easily been another case where Sandler gets all of his pals together, both in front of and behind the camera, to just goof around and hurl whatever they want on the screen, for no other reason other than to take up people’s time, it actually doesn’t turn out that way. It’s still produced by Happy Madison, but rather than getting the most generic-of-generic directors around that Sandler usually aligns himself with, Chris Columbus steps up to the plate and does a relatively fine job at keeping the pace constantly moving.

Columbus, having directed the first two Harry Potter‘s and many other blockbusters, is already used to these kind of big-budget, wild extravaganzas. And though some people may already be fuming with anger that I even dropped the name Harry Potter in a review about an Adam Sandler movie, it’s not like this is so incredibly distasteful that it should never be watched. Believe it or not, there is a plot here that moves, there is some humor to be found that isn’t just Sandler’s same old brand of making fun of easy targets, and when you get right down to it, there are some fun performances from those involved.

Is that to say the movie is perfect? Hell to the no!

But like I’ve stated before, Pixels is in no way, shape, or form, quite like Sandler’s recent disasters. That’s not saying much at all, but when you go to an Adam Sandler movie and don’t have the feeling of wanting to rip out your ears, eyes and brain, then it’s definitely something that’s more positive than bad. Whatever that may mean for some of you, I do not know, but for me, it means that at least Sandler was able to get some help this time around and not make this into another Grown Ups, produced by Nintendo.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene's a whole lot funnier.

Just imagine Pac Man as the general public and this scene’s a whole lot funnier.

Like I alluded to earlier in my first paragraph, Pixels makes me wonder what’s so wrong with me? See, even though everybody on the face of the planet seems to be despising this one literally as soon as they walk out of the theater, for me, I couldn’t help but feel a little pleased. Don’t get me wrong, I realized that there were certain problems in the comedy-department as some jokes worked, whereas others totally failed, or that solid actors like Jane Krakowski, Sean Bean, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Cox are here to just practically do nothing, but to me, the overall fun feel of this movie was enough to let all of those issues slide-on by.

Because, once again, this movie could have been a whole lot worse, but thankfully, it wasn’t.

Maybe that’s a judge of my character, and less about others, but still, if there’s something wrong with me to where I enjoy certain movies like Pixels, and despise the absolute hell out of a movie like Paper Towns, then so be it. Everybody has their guilty pleasures, as well as their own minority picks; one person does not think the same about one thing as another person does, nor do most people conform to what others are sticking with because it’s, for lack of a better term, the majority to roll with. I, for one, have never been like that and don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

So if a silly movie starring Adam Sandler has to remind me of that, then so be it. I’ll keep being me, ya’ll can keep being yourselves.

So, have I lost all of my followers yet?

Consensus: Despite obvious problems in certain departments, Pixels is still entertaining enough to be one of Sandler’s better movies in recent memory, even if, once again, that’s not saying much to begin with.

6.5 / 10

I'll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrionne, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

I’ll only trust the girl from True Detective, Tyrion, and Olaf to save the world. That other person there? Yeah, not so much.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

 

Red Eye (2005)

Take the early flights. They always go by without a problem.

Lisa Reisart (Rachel McAdams) is a very busy girl who, when she’s not juggling time as the manager of very high-end hotel, is trying to keep up-to-speed with her dad and the rest of her family. However, she gets the sad news that her Grand-mom has just died and makes plans to flight out there to see her dad, as well as the funeral itself. Lisa gets on the plane without many problems, and it’s made even better by the fact that she’s met a guy (Cillian Murphy), who is quite charming in his own way. As they continue talking and the vodka gets consumed, Lisa begins to find out more and more about this mysterious man she just met at an airport and begins to realize that he met her for a reason; a reason that not only concerns her life, but a loved-one of hers as well.

More movies like Red Eye should be made nowadays. Why do I say that? It’s all pretty simple: It’s an 85-minute thriller, that is practically shot in real-time, features an understandable premise, keeps to it, and has us involved just about every step of the way. That’s why.

That said, it’s not a very sophisticated movie meant for heavy-thinkers, or for people who like to hold up each and every movie to some sort of cultural-significance of some sort; it’s the type of movie that you sit down, with or without others around you, get a bag of popcorn, watch, and just enjoy the hell out of. It’s not on the screen for a long time, so it’s almost impossible to get bored. And if you do, then I hate to say that you’re just not human.

That's how it starts: Two young, attractive people share the same attraction of being attracted to young, attractive people.

That’s how it starts: Two young, attractive people share the same attraction of being attracted to young, attractive people.

Then again though, I’ve been accused of the same thing too, so you’re not alone if that’s the case. What is the case here is that this is surprisingly directed from Wes Craven, which is “surprising” because it’s not necessarily a horror flick. Granted, Craven has dipped his pen into some “different” genre flicks before that weren’t just about Freddy Kruger or serial-rapists in the woods, but this one interested me because it had all of the conventions of what would set-up a very good horror flick, but decided to keep it at base with a thriller-approach.

For instance, the baddie here isn’t just a psycho who wants blood as the main course of his meal, or even craves human-flesh as a side-dish; instead, he’s more or less a terrorist that has a plan, is going to stick to it, and may even hold up his own end of the bargain. In that sense, Craven keeps the villain very humane, even if he is a totally evil son-of-a-bitch. Almost the type of evil son-of-a-bitch you could meet on the street, or, dare I say it, THE AIRPORT!!!

But what Craven does with this material is fun and great because he seems to really enjoy playing with the conventions of what we expect from a normal, run-of-the-mill thriller, as well as playing with us, the audience. Events in this movie that we expect to happen in our own mind-sets, sometimes don’t happen exactly the way we have as planned. And when they do, it actually feels deserved, rather than obvious or cliché. It almost feels as if Craven himself knows the ground-work that needs to be made for a good thriller, even if he doesn’t care to follow all of the steps that would make it differentiate from lesser-flicks of the same genre he’s toying with.

Basically, watching Craven do what he does best is a joyous time, no matter how you see it.

Is there anything really deeper or more thought-provoking to this material? Maybe. Much to my surprise, I found there to be a lot of post-9/11 paranoia here that made the flick seemed like it was trying to say more, but maybe it was just my imagination. It most likely was, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if Craven decided to throw some hints and clues in there as well. The guy surely is cheeky and even though this flick doesn’t play out in the type of tongue-in-cheek way most of his flicks surprisingly do, he keeps it just serious enough to be taken in as an actual thriller, with high-stakes involved, as well as just goofy and light enough to where you feel yourself thrilled by every move some character makes, whether it be a drastic or a regular one. Seriously, I was on board the whole time, and that’s really saying something for a movie as bare as this.

Swear to God, any of you a-holes run that fine specimen over, there's going to be some hell to pay.

Swear to God, any of you a-holes run that fine specimen over, there’s going to be some hell to pay.

Most of the credit does have to go to it’s two main stars here, especially considering that the whole movie is all about them, pretty much all of the time. Rachel McAdams plays pretty much two emotions the whole film (anger and fear), however, she handles both of them like a champ and gives us a character that’s smarter than she appears to be, especially when she’s thrown up in a corner at times, both literally and figuratively. She has a type of presence to her that makes her sweet and sassy, but also very knowing of her surroundings and watching her performance here makes me wish she made better decisions with her career as of late, rather than just trying to be “the next Julia Roberts” as some have touted her as being, I don’t quite see it, but hey, that’s just me. Take it or leave it.

As for Cillian Murphy, well, the dude’s been pretty much doing the same thing with his career ever since he first started out and it shows no problems whatsoever, mainly because he’s actually good at playing these slight odd, off-kilter types with an ounce of craziness in their systems. Murphy’s good here because he keeps you guessing, especially since you don’t quite have a full idea of what his plan’s going to fully be up until the final five minutes, and that’s why he’s so watchable. He’s a bad dude, that’s for sure, but he’s an interesting one and I think that’s more of a credit to Murphy’s acting skills, than the script itself, as minor as it is.

Consensus: The thriller-genre wasn’t shaken-up by Red Eye and it never will be, but it sure as hell is still worth the watch because it’s fun, quick, suspenseful, unpredictable in spots, well-acted by both McAdams and Murphy who command the screen as well as your attention, and shows one of the greats at the top of his “playful game”.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Too soon?

Ergh. Too soon, possibly?

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Manhunter (1986)

No eating of fava beans or Chianti’s here.

A sicko family-killer nicknamed “The Toothfairy” (Tom Noonan) is running wild and loose, and it’s up to retired-cop, Graham (William Petersen), to find out who this guy is exactly is, where he’s at, cuff him, and lock the son of a bitch away for good. The problem is that this killer is a lot smarter and trickier to find than he’s usually used to, which is saying a lot for the guy who locked away Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox) for good.

Okay, here’s the thing: Everybody knows the story of Hannibal Lecter because of the 1991 flick, but, believe it or not, this one came before and actually let the world know of the flesh-eating intellectual that is Dr. Lecter. This movie is rarely ever mentioned in today’s day and age of thrillers, especially ones with the character of Lecter involved, but it was one of the first and best examples of how you can put a serial-killer and cop-procedural together, and make them mesh so well.

And it’s all thanks to Michael Mann, who practically ushered in a wave of thousands-upon-thousands of shows that remind us that, yes, DNA is everywhere.

If you know Michael Mann, or have at least ever seen a Michael Mann flick, then you definitely the guy ain’t one bit of shy when it comes to showing how stylish he can be and how much he doesn’t care what you think. For some (such as myself), the style can get a bit over-bearing at times, but for a flick like this that seemed like it needed it to spice things up, then I was all aboard and not a tad bit pissed-off. Okay, that’s a lie. Some parts had me instantly pissed because of the corny, 80’s-synth, over-dramatic line-delivery, and foreshadowing of colors in the background or somewhere in each shot, but that just comes with the package when you put Michael Mann and the 80’s together. You gotta get used to it after awhile, which is what I did, much against my initial taste test.

There's a metaphor in here somewhere.

There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. Just look for the color blue, if you can spot it.

Mann’s direction is one of the key aspects to making this movie so great because he continually builds up tension and suspense, yet, never makes it seem like the story/case is ever going to be fully solved. He puts the detectives in the running-spot for completion, but somehow, the killer always seems one step ahead no matter what. You also actually get to feel for these cops because they aren’t dirty a-holes that can’t help but screw things over for others because they’ve got nothing else better to do. Nope, instead, they are just regular, everyday people, who have a job to do, families back at home, and will stop at nothing to complete their tasks and make the world a whole lot nicer, safer place to be in. In today’s day and age where we get some sort of crooked cop in almost every crime movie we see, it’s quite refreshing to see what it was like when we loved our men with badges, and didn’t think of them as scum who love donuts and pulling you over after curfew. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have beef with some of them, but hey, at least my gratitude was with these guys for the longest time, in all hopes that they would get this killer.

However, it’s a pretty hard decision to make, especially when you have a villain that is this cool, this smart, this sinister, and this creepy.

That’s all thanks to Tom Noonan who is not only insanely freaky as the Red Dragon, but intimidating as well. The guy’s got that lanky-build to him where he’s a towering-figure, but skinny to the point of where he looks like a living, breathing, and walking straw. And his looks? Well, let’s just say that Tom Noonan is the sexiest person in the planet, but that’s not a bad thing at all, because it works in his favor by making us more scared by the dude. Not only does he seem like he knows what he’s doing, but also knows how to send a message that he’s not be screwed around with either. Need an example? Try that scene where finds the reporter and tells him a little bit about himself; a scene I’m not going to go on about anymore, because it’s tense, heavy, and shocking, all at once and perfect at declaring the kind of individual we’re working with here.

Also, a lot of the credit for such a bad-ass villain has to go back to Mann, because the guy never over-exposes our villain at all. It isn’t almost until the half-way mark that we get our first glimpse at the guy, and even that’s not saying much since it’s only five minutes of him being a creep-o and getting involved in weird shenanigans. It’s an effective five minutes though, and actually makes you feel like this guy is never going to be found, no matter how hard these cops may try. You actually start to give up hope at one point, depending on the type of person you are, and almost come to the reality that the Red Dragon is going to get away with it all, and evil laugh his way into more murderous-pleasures.

Does that count as wearing women's clothing?

Does that count as wearing women’s clothing?

However, when you stand in the way of William Petersen – not everything’s going to be so easy. Peterson is a nice fit as our main detective here, because the guy has a lot going for him to where we understand the problems that may occur in his personal life, as well as his work life when he has to do such a thing as get in the minds of the serial-killers he’s chasing after. But the guy never seems like he’s losing it to the point of where we question him, his skills, or his determination catch this killer and put all of the murders to rest. Petersen does over-act at times and it seems like just another case of bad writing, equals bad performance, but overall, the guy had me cheering for him in the end, even if it was a hard choice between him and Noonan. Both are great, even if they aren’t together on-screen for very long. Still, got to love when the film just builds up to the meeting between two, opposite forces, and absolutely delivers like this flick does.

The best of the rest is definitely Brian Cox as everybody’s favorite charmer, Hannibal Lecter. Cox isn’t playing the role we all know Anthony Hopkins for, but is giving us his own impression of him, with a few tinkers here and there. With just the short-amount of screen-time, we see how he operates, how he thinks, how smart he is, and how he’s not to be trusted no matter what he may say or do to you that could be considered nice or humane. Cox owns every scene he has and keeps this presence throughout the whole movie, even when he isn’t around. Having a double-threat like Noonan and Cox together was awesome, and just gave me more faith in the baddies, rather than the goodies.

Consensus: As with most films from the ultra-cool decade of the 80’s, Manhunter suffers from some cheese-tastic moments, but ultimately kicks some fine ass when it comes to building up an air of mystery, tension, suspense, and a feeling that you don’t know who’s going to come out of this alive, dead, or barely scratched.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I want to eat you."

“I’m building up an appetite already.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Rushmore (1998)

Rebellion, love and angst. You know, the perfect mix for any 15-year-old.

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 15-year-old high school student who absolutely loves the hell out of his school, a little, privately-owned joint called “Rushmore”, that he’s in on academic-scholarship. He loves it so much, that he practically starts, runs and is apart of every group/activity there is to be apart of at the school, which definitely makes him feel inspired most of the time and probably look good in the eyes of future-colleges he aspires to go to, like Harvard or Oxford, but is taken a beating on his studies. However, he doesn’t really seem to care too much, since he sees himself as willing to pull any strings that he can in order to get what what he wants, when he wants. That’s why when the beautiful, yet mysterious teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams) comes along his way and stuns him, he can’t help but fall weak at the knees and do whatever it is that he can do to have her fall in love with him, despite the age-difference. Also, an older, but dedicated friend of his Herman Blume (Bill Murray) seems to take notice of her as well and even gets in the way of Max’s plans, which is exactly when things start to get very tense, very angry and very sad for all three of these individuals lives.

For anybody, high school is a pretty rough time. Not only is your body changing, but so is your mind and brain, and with that, you begin to think and feel differently than ever before. In other words: You begin to get older and grasp what it means to be “an adult”. That sounds scary and all (which it definitely is, so RUN AND HIDE!), but for some people, they can’t wait for that moment to come around when they finally get rid of that adolescence that’s been holding them down for so long, to where they can take that next step into adulthood where they’ll have more responsibilities, more ideas of who they are and most importantly, more freedom than ever before. For some, it happens quicker than others, but it does eventually happen and it’s kind of scary, dare I say it.

I'd pay to stay at that table.

I’d pay to stay at that table.

However, what happens when you’re already somewhat of an adult at an early-age? Well, that’s where Max Fischer comes into play and show you the result of what happens when a kid who is way too smart, way too knowing and way too tactical for his own age or good, just so happens to fall victim to one of the most powerful, earth-shattering forces in the world: Love. Yes, love is definitely one of those first baby-steps we take into adult-hood and needless to say, it’s not all that it’s made out to be, especially not in today’s day and age where most of the adolescent-relationships we see occur nowadays, only last for a year, or even less.

Anyway though, that’s besides the point. The point here, is that this is a Wes Anderson movie we have on our hands, folks, and it’s definitely one of the first instances in which anybody actually took notice of this guy and saw him as the real deal. Which is why it’s pretty interesting to have seen all of his films now (some of them, more than once) and see just what was to come with his style, his themes and his character-developments, all through this movie.

But as I could definitely go on and on about how Anderson’s work here, practically shapes-out everything that was next to come, I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on one aspect of his writing-style that Anderson seems to truly love and utilize more often than not, which is that he loves it when two opposing-sides/personalities, come together and clash head-on. Not only does he love writing us vibrant, lovable and colorful characters that are quite hard to forget, he also loves seeing them when they are at their lowest, or highest, in self-esteem. Because, honestly, whenever anybody is upset by anything, their anger usually gets the best of them and they show ugly-sides to them that they don’t ever want anybody to see. Anderson loves this about his characters and it shows that he loves to give his characters some depth, but also make us realize that they are actually people we’re dealing with here, faults and all, baby.

That’s why when watching a character like Max Fischer, you can’t help but feel like Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and exactly whom it was that he was doing it with. I definitely bet that back in ’97 or whenever this flick was made, that Anderson took a real bold step with choosing relative-unknown Jason Schwartzman for this lead role as Max Fischer, but it was a gamble that paid-off big time as not only did it make Schwartzman a bigger-name, but gave us such an iconic character in the form of Max Fischer – the character I think every teen, male or female, should shape a small part of their lives around, for better, and especially for worse.

See, what makes Max Fischer so interesting as a character is that you don’t necessarily know how to pin him down; he’s kind of cool, in a real nerdy, preppy-way, but he’s also kind of a jerk that steps over people’s feet, just to get by in the world and make himself better. However, on the other hand, he’s also really smart and despite being quite naive about the possibility of having this much-older woman be his special, one and only someone, there’s a part of him you can definitely see knows exactly what it is that he wants to do with life, and how he’s prepared to get by in the world. He’s got the look and body of a 15-year-old kid, but the mind of a 40-year-old, been-there-done-that kind of guy. He’s a little bit cool; a little bit nerdy; a little hopeless; a little bit selfish; a little bit arrogant; and a little bit too ambitious. However, the fact remains is that he is human, and more important: He’s a 15-year-old high school student that’s just trying to understand his life, one embarrassing situation at a time.

But as much as I could harp on and on about how rad and well-written Fischer is, the fact remains that Jason Schwartzman does a very awesome job with this role, nailing all the deadpan delivery Anderson needed to have this character feel a bit more raw, without ever trying to be too real. When he raises his middle-finger up to those who look down on him, you can’t help but want to get up and join him; when he tries to kiss Ms. Cross and gets denied, you can’t help but want to give him a hug and go get some ice cream with him; and most of all, when he’s trying to impress those around him and do cool things, you can’t help but want to join in on the fun, because he’s just that awesome to be around.

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

Bill Murray, being Bill Murray. What else could ya ask for?

So yeah, kids, if you need a role model in your life, look no further than Max Fischer. The kid’s got all of the answers. Or, at least some of them.

The one person you don’t want to have as a role model is probably who Bill Murray plays here, Herman Blume. By now, each and everyone of us know that Murray is a Jack-of-all-trades; not only can he be hilariously off-kilter and goofy, but he can also dial-it-back and be subdued, giving us a very humane, down-to-Earth person that we may have never thought was there in the first place. But back in ’98, before Wes Anderson came around, he was sort of just known to us as Bill Murray, a guy who can be, and is, downright hilarious. Here though, Murray finally got a chance to show everybody that he could actually act, and by doing so, he gave us a very sad, very emotional look at a guy who is just depressed with life. Herman Blume not only hates his kids, but he hates his wife, his job, his salary and even hates rich people, despite being one of them. That’s why when you see him absolutely light-up whenever Max is around, it’s sweet to see since you know that this is a down-and-out guy, finally finding someone he can connect with and be around, and not actually hate.

So when the two actually do start fighting over this gal, it’s amusing to watch, in a funny way, but also a bit sad since you know they are friends, and they are hurting one another’s feelings. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Well, I’d say so, because Ms. Cross is a catch for any guy that’s able to nab her down, thanks mostly to Olivia Williams perfectly-nuanced performance. She’s pretty, British, charming and pretty easy-going, but we do know that there’s a huge path of sadness just brewing all beneath her, and it makes you wonder if either of these guys deserve to be with her, or if she should just give up on dating alone and live the rest of her life in solitude and sadness. Doesn’t sound too ideal, but I guess when you have two wild cards like Herman Blume and Max Fischer fighting over you, then I guess it’s the only possible solution really.

Consensus: Wry, snappy and chock-full of angst, Rushmore finds Wes Anderson at his meanest, yet, still finds a way to give us characters that we can not only love, but identify with, making their adventures together all the more rewarding by the end.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

What a smug a-hole. But damn is he cool or what?!?!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)

Now you probably wonder what your parents must have really been like before you came around.

Eight years ago, Samantha Caine (Geena Davis) was diagnosed with amnesia, not having any clue of where she was, how she got to where she was, who the father of her baby was, and/or just what her previous life had been life. Therefore, she chose to live on in the arms and comfort of a man, raise her child, become a suburban house-wife, and practically be all nice, kind, civilized and as pleasant as you maternally can get. However, the past that she originally knew nothing about, begins to resurface when she gets into an accident and, yet again, hits her head on the ground. This is when Samantha begins to gain flash-backs to old memories she had, as well as old tricks that she used to know begin to pop-up in everyday, normal activities that she’s been so accustomed to as of late. But now, her past has come back to get her and somehow, she finds herself stuck with a sad-sack detective named Mitch (Samuel L. Jackson) on a run for their lives. Where are they going? It’s not quite known yet, but throughout this trip, Samantha’s act begins to wear thin and sooner than later, her old persona begins to come back up in surprising, sometimes even ugly ways; that “old persona” of hers is named Charly, and she’s one bad beotch.

Once the hair-color changes, ya'll best get the hell away.

Once the hair-color changes, ya’ll best get the hell away.

The whole joke surrounding this premise is that Geena Davis’ is an amnesiac that is learning things for the first time, just as we are, and it’s a joke that writer Shane Black runs rampant with. Sometimes more so than he should, but it’s always funny to watch and see how he brings out more about this character with her present, her past and why she’s the type of character we should watch and pay attention to. Black definitely doesn’t try to take this material too seriously, and for that matter, neither should we; both Charly and Samantha are such complete, total opposites, that it’s practically a joke in and of itself that they just so happen to be two personalities that one woman juggles around with.

But it’s a joke that never gets old and for that matter, neither does the movie itself. It’s always fun to watch one of these old-school, action-comedies that try to be all hip, cool and funny, just like as if they were another Lethal Weapon or Tarantino movie. However, while most of them did fail, this movie isn’t one of them as it definitely does play-around with the idea of an ridiculous amnesiac in the middle of all this corporate espionage, car crashes, murders, crime, twists, turns and so on and so forth. In some ways, the movie may actually throw a couple of shocks your way in terms of where the plot goes, but if you’re like me, you’ll lost interest in that part of the film real quick.

Rather instead, you’ll just pay attention to the action and the winning-humor Black throws has on-display here, considering that he’s one of the very few writers out that can turn a totally violent situation, filled with all sorts of death, blood, violence, gore and fear, and somehow find a way to make us chuckle at it, and look at it in a different light, all just by throwing in a wise-crack on the side. He also has that ability to over-do that style of his sometimes, as well, but I never found that to be the case here. In fact, I’d say that when the final-act was going on, I noticed that the laughs began to go away, just as soon as the plot itself began to get uber serious and the threat of death became more and more evident. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially considering that there are some very close-calls with this movie in which a character could bite the dust at any given second, but there was the rare occasion in which I just hoped that Black would throw in a little joke or remark here or there, just to lighten things up a bit.

I mean, hell, it’s a movie for god sakes! We want fun; we want action; we want heart; and most of all, we want some humor! Anything wrong with that!?!?

But like I was saying up-top earlier, the fact that Samantha is your quintessential, boring, settled-for-nothing and peaceful suburban mother, and Charly is tough, rugged, lean and mean, ass-kicking machine, is a total joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously, or even work. However though, not only does it work through Black’s script, but it also works through the way in which Geena Davis channels-on both personalities in some very unexpected, but entertaining ways. Davis has always been a radiant screen-presence on screen, so the fact that she’s this mother and wife, living in the winter-y suburbs of PA (woo-hoo) and is absolutely lovable and pleasant, is no surprise whatsoever. We’ve seen her do that act a million times and quite frankly, she owns it. If she continued to spend the rest of her career doing that, I don’t think anybody would cause a ruckus or even object to that.

Not smart, dude.

Not smart, dude.

But when the change comes around for Davis to start shaking things up a little bit, getting nasty and violent, it’s kind of shocking really. Sure, we’ve seen Davis play a bit of a meanie-wad before in movies, but here, she really goes for full-throttle with this role. She yells, curses, smokes, drinks, screws anybody she wants, lies, cheats, steals and will kill anybody if she so damn well pleases. If it weren’t for all of the cursing and smoking, you would have maybe been able to call her “the female Bond”, but nope, this is Charly, and she’s one gal you do not want to be on the opposite-end of a battle with. Which is strange considering that this is Geena Davis I’m still talking about here, the wholesome, loving and kind woman we always love to see show up in movies; but here, she’s a pretty bad-ass chick that can do anything she wants, no questions asked and it’s fun to watch Davis do this kind of role. It’s sort of a shame we don’t get to see her do much nowadays at all, but seeing her branch-out a bit and show her nasty side, really made you think about the type of leading-lady she actually was, and one that I wish showed her face around more.

Come back, Geena! Please! If not for me, then for all us Thelma & Louise fans out there!

As much fun as Davis may be to watch her play-around with the image we usually see her get stuck with, Samuel L. Jackson ain’t no slouch either. In fact, he actually has some wonderful moments too, playing the type of character we don’t usually see him try-out; the scared, rather wimp-ish type-of-guy that would more than likely give away his wallet and keep his trap shut during a robbery. And yes, that was a Pulp Fiction reference! Anyway, it was fun to watch Jackson here as he gives us a character that’s a bit of a coward when it comes to getting his hands dirty and taking chances, but when he actually does step-up to the plate and risk life-for-limb, you kind of have to give it to him. That, and also the fact that Jackson’s pretty dumb funny with him, giving some of the movie’s best lines, most of which can be found whenever he and Davis are on-screen together, working off of the other. Strange how you wouldn’t think, not even in a million years that these two would work wonders together, but somehow, they do and it’s what makes this movie just a tad bit better and easier to consume.

Consensus: Won’t be the most memorable action-comedy you’ve ever seen, but for nearly two-hours, The Long Kiss Goodnight will be well-worth your time with a funny script, a playful-feel from both Shane Black and Renny Harlin and two likable performances from both Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson, who are trying out new things you may not have seen them do yet before, yet they totally succeed at.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!"

“Bitch! You best watch where you pointing that thing!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

25th Hour (2002)

I just hope that, in the midst of all this, Sal’s window has finally been fixed.

Within the next 24 hours, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) will be going away to jail where he’ll most likely spend the next seven years of his life, after being caught with stashes of heroin in his couch. However, he doesn’t plan on spending the day in utter sadness, instead, he decides to spend it all with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), his dad (Brian Cox), his childhood buddies who couldn’t be anymore polar opposite from him (Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his loyal pooch. While Monty still has plenty going through his mind (like who ratted him out, how he’s going to survive his time in prison, whose going to look after his family, etc.), the whole day and night is dedicated to giving Monty one last amazing night that just so happens to also take place after 9/11. Yep, can’t forget about that.

Should come as no surprise to anyone that 9/11 was a pretty hot-button to press on with the media back in 2002, and it should come as no bigger surprise to anyone that Spike Lee was, and in ways, still is a very controversial director that lets you know about his view-point on any subject right away. The combination of both seemed like it would not only offend everybody still reeling from the aftermath of this horrific event in our nation’s history, but ruin this man’s career for the rest of his life, had he not treated this subject properly and with as much respect as he possibly could. I mean, think about it: It was only a year and some odd months after the Twin Towers were blown down, and already, a movie showing sights of Ground Zero was already coming out. Too soon, ya think!?!?!

Just a man and his dog. Doesn't get anymore peaceful than that.

Just a man and his dog. Doesn’t get anymore peaceful than that.

Well, come to think of it, this was a story taking place in NYC, and though it was a city full of paranoia, fear and anger, it was still Lee’s hometown, and he was not ever going to treat it with disrespect. However, this is no love-letter to the city either, as Lee definitely paints more than a few pretty upsetting pictures of the city he oh so adores and cherishes. There are many times he’ll cut-away to the constant hypocrisies of our time where we see many racist stand-points coming from the minds of citizens, practically hating on other’s because of their skin-color, race, religion or political ideas. And yes, of course I am talking about the obscenity-laced tirade Monty has in the bathroom of the bar in the beginning that is the voice of how most people felt during this time, and still do to this day. These aspects of daily society were always and criticized, but in the post-9/11 world, it felt like a protective-reflex that some of us still use to this day. It’s what changed our lives on that fateful day; Lee knows this, and he never lets us forget it. As we never should.

That said, despite Lee painting a beautiful, if not, terribly honest portrait of NYC, post-9/11-era, there is still a story to be had here, and a pretty damn beautiful one that continues to bring out more and more emotions within me, even as the viewings rank up. Monty’s life isn’t necessarily a complex one, but rich in emotion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a pretty simple life, that gets a pretty simple movie, yet, is only more than its means because of what Lee does behind-the-camera and the type of feelings he brings out. Not just with his direction, but with his characters and how they tell you everything you need to know about them, even right away when you first meet them.

The clearest example that I hate to give right off the bat, but so be it, is the character of Frank, played to perfection by the always amazing Barry Pepper. Right when we first get a glimpse of Frank, we already know who he is as a character, but most importantly, as a human-being. We see that he’s obviously a hustling, cocky a-hole that thrives on getting as much money from Stock Market investors as he can, regardless of whom it hurts and why. All he knows is that he wants more bang for the buck, so that he can go out at night, with some fine-ass-looking clothes, his brown-dyed hair and prey on whatever piece of filling he can find that not only suits his looks, but his egotistical mind as well. Right away, we judge him because he’s a prick, the same type we would love to be, but never actually admit to, and yet, we begin to see a human deep-down underneath those good looks, clothes and bundles of cash.

Once we realize that there’s more brewing beneath the surface of this greed-fueled a-hole, then everybody else starts to make sense as well. Rather than seeing Monty as a drug-dealing, hustler-and-bustler, we see him as a guy that took whatever he hand he was dealt the easiest, and went through with it anyway he could, all before it came crashing down and ruining his life. Sure, he got the sexy girl, he got the riches, he got the fancy car and heck, he even got the dog-companion, but he still didn’t get a chance to live as free as he planned to, which makes him something of a tragic character, despite you still not feeling all that bad that he got caught in the first place. It’s a sad reality, yes, but it is still a reality that he had to knew was coming down the pipe-line, and is one that he has to live with for the rest of his life. Whether he wants to accept it or not.

Exactly who I wish would show up to my "Going Away" party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

Exactly who I wish would show up to my “Going Away” party. Maybe without Spike hanging out in the background, though?

And while we get that Monty and Frank are real people, we begin to see the others flesh-out as well. Jacob, rather than being the quintessentially creepy, dorky teacher these types of movies love to throw judgment on, ends up seeming like the type of guy you actually root for, even if it is just so that he can bang his student in order to gain some confidence in his life; Naturelle may be called a “money grabber” and “gold-digging bimbo”, among many names, but after awhile, starts to seem like a girl who found the right man, fell in love and doesn’t want to lose a single ounce of him for five seconds, let alone seven, whole years; and then of course, we have Monty’s father who gets the same old, tired story about how he used to be a drunk and a bit of a shitty daddy once his wife passed-on, but doesn’t ever act like he’s trying to change for the good or that he’s trying to get rid of his past, because he knows that it’s there, he knows his mistakes, and he understands that he can’t keep spending the rest of his life trying to make-up for them, he just has to accept them, move on and hope for the best.

May not sound like the most beautiful, inspiring messages to be throwing around in a post-9/11 atmosphere like the one we have here, but it’s one that Lee artistically commandeers into making us realize our faults, mistakes and issues as humans, and has us wake up and realize that it’s in our blood to do these types of bone-headed decisions, and it’s not right to continue to blame ourselves, or anybody else around us. It’s time to move past it all, face the facts and see where life can take you. Once again, may sound like the most down-beat message ever presented in a flick of this sort of nature, but Lee finds just the right amount of gritty realism and humanity, to flesh both sides out, and have them come together in a perfect mish-mash that makes you happy and hopeful for the country we live in, and the people that inhabit it.

In that general aspect, Lee’s film takes on a bigger meaning than being just a story about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison, and instead, becomes the type of slap-in-the-face most of us Americans probably needed at that time, just like we may need now. Then again though, it is STILL about a guy who has 25 hours until he gets shifted-off to prison and, in case my character-descriptions didn’t already convince you yet, well, needless to say, the performances from everybody involved are some of the best that most of them have ever given.

Which, given the heavy-duty talent involved: Does actually mean a whole lot.

Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody by now, but, in case you needed to be reminded: Edward Norton’s a phenomenal actor and proves that, like usual, here as Monty Brogan, our troubled, yet sympathetic, former drug-dealer we spend the next two-hours-and-fifteen-minutes with (25 hours in his case, hence the title). Norton gives us a character that’s worth giving two shits about, even if we, as well as he, realizes that there were mistakes made in the past. Yet, he shows that there are signs of improvements and changes to be found, and therefore, makes him somebody that we want to see have his life turn around, but at the same time, can’t be fully convinced he deserves his “get-outta-jail-free-card” just yet. Maybe after the first two years for good behavior, maybe? Who knows where Monty would be at today. All I do hope is that he’s at least okay, wherever he may be, or whomever with.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

Eventually, we all reach the conclusion in our lives where our pet becomes a better friend than actual, childhood ones.

And just like Norton, everybody else in the cast is pretty damn wonderful as well. Rosario Dawson gives Naturelle that natural, Puerto Rican-beauty every character in this movie goes on and on about, and while she does show some signs of foul-play along the lines of Monty’s journey to self-reflection, she still seems like the type of girl that loves her man, no matter who he is, what he does or wherever he is. Philip Seymour Hoffman gets a couple of sweet, awfully uncomfortable bits as Jacob, the nerdy, English teacher who obviously doesn’t keep as in touch with Monty as much as he used to, but still shows enough signs of compatibility that it’s still believable enough as it is. Brian Cox is lovable and heart-warming as Monty’s daddy with issues, but whom still loves and cares for his son no matter what pitfalls he may have went through in the past, and the ones he may be having in the future.

However, as great as these performances (and trust me, there are a few more that should be seen, rather than just told about, trust me), none of them fully lead-up to what Barry Pepper does as that despicable piece-of-flesh I was referring to earlier, Frank. Pepper, who still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most underrated actors of our time, gets every chance to show how much of a huge douche this guy can be, while at the same time, still make us see the cracks within the facade. Sure, he’s totally against the fact that Monty sold drugs for half of his life and made money off of it, but isn’t that angry to where he won’t even be in the same room as him; he goes on and on about how this wild night needs to be all dedicated to Monty and nobody else, and yet, he still spends half of the night ogling at the bartender’s, as well as Monty’s own girlfriend’s, asses; and he even gets on people’s asses for not being as up-to-date with the good looks as he is, yet, he still can’t get past the fact that he’s getting older as the days go by, and eventually, time to settle down is going to be needed eventually. To say that Pepper deserved a nomination for this thing is a frickin’ understatement! He deserved a win, dammit! He was amazing here, and showed the world that not only could he make a terrible human-being somebody to care for, but still somebody that you could see as your own pal, even if times changed for both of you. Frank may not be the most moral human-being out there in the world, but he’s still a human-being nonetheless, and they all have emotions and feelings, right?

Consensus: More of a love-

hate letter to the city that Spike Lee obviously adores, 25th Hour still comes off as beautiful, emotional, complex and painful journey into realizing who you are, what you’ve become, who the people you surround yourself with are and where your life is headed, and whether or not you can actually choose that destiny to begin with. Sometimes however, as we all witnessed on September 11th, 2001, that choice is completely out of our hands.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

Not preachy. I promise.

Not preachy. I promise.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Red (2010)

They are old as hell, and not going to take it anymore!

Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has found himself in a bit of trouble when a younger, hot-shot CIA agent (Karl Urban) is hot on his trail. Rather than running away and hoping that he doesn’t get caught, Moses not only takes a possible gal-pal of his (Mary-Louise Parker) along for the ride, but also calls up some of his old pals as well. Some have been waiting for this sort of action all of their later-days (Morgan Freeman); others have just been lounging and relaxing in retirement (Helen Mirren); and well, frankly, others have never left the force and are still waiting to get attacked any second, at any time (John Malkovich). Together, they form the team that they once were and stop at nothing until they unveil the truth about their pasts.

The whole idea of having a bunch of old-farts, go back to their golden days and act all bad-ass and violent again has been just about done to death by now nor has it ever really worked. Most movies like that try so hard to be funny and zany with it’s presentation, that you too, have to laugh at it because honestly, just think about it: Would a small, petite thing like Helen Mirren be able to hold up a huge machine-gun? Well, maybe in the movies, yes, but in real-life: hell no! That’s why movies like these are made; they are supposed to make us laugh by how outrageous they are, supposed to make us feel happy for the old people getting in the spotlight once again, and most of all, supposed to make us feel like we can join in on the fun.

None of these factors that are supposed to work for this type of film, actually happen here, but I still found myself pleased for the most part. Weird, I know, but please do bare with me here.

Totally see the attraction....

Totally see the attraction….

The whole tone of the movie likes to play around with the fact that it’s goofy, but is also very laid-back. A little too laid-back, some may say. For instance, the plot is supposed to be filled to the core with non-stop twists, turns, moments of danger, panic, and heavy-breathing, but since the movie itself seems to take such a lax-approach to it’s material; we never really get to that part where we feel like all hell is going to break loose and that our beloved characters could perish at any moment. Heck, even when one does (and I’m not going to give it away, trust me) bite the dust, quite surprisingly too, I may add; the film plays it off with a shrug of the shoulder, a couple of shots (of Vodka, obviously), a couple of wisecracks about how they’re “too old for this shit”, or something along those lines, and then they’re back on with the story, action, and supposed humor. It’s an odd way to attack a film like this, especially when you’re supposed to have havoc occurring just about every second of it, and it somehow didn’t quite work.

But still, I can’t fault this movie too much because yes, I did have fun and yes, I did enjoy what most of what this flick had to offer me. Could it have been better? Bet your damn tushes it could have been, but I wasn’t going to be hating against this flick for something that it wasn’t, especially when I didn’t see much potential in it in the first place. That means, nope, I have not read the graphic novels that this movie is based off of, but coming from a person who knows what type of movies work and how they should, I know that this movie was not destined for anything more than a couple million at the box-office, some nice sales on DVD, and back to the box of forgotten movies (aka, WalMart $5 Dollar Bin).

But, much to my surprise, I was wrong. Dead-wrong, in fact, and one Golden Globe nomination later (then again, the Tourist was nominated that year as well), the movie screwed-away all of the nay-sayers and just had fun with itself. That was something I was very grateful for, especially when you take into consideration how freakin’ dumb and dull action movies can get nowadays, no matter what type of talent is involved. What makes it so much better to watch here is that not only is the cast the movie working with, very acclaimed and very strange for this type of material, but actually how the movie doesn’t let us forget that this is a dumb action movie that not only did they sign up for, but one that we did, as well. That sharing of fun and joy, is what makes this movie work and at the end of it, I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. Besides, who would pass-up a moment to watch John Malkovich run towards the Vice President with a bomb strapped to his chest.

Okay, maybe that was a bit too weird, but you see what I’m saying. It’s fun, for the sake of being fun, that it’s. Nada!

Even if the material is dumb and only made so that you’ll get the Extra Large popcorn and hopefully come back for a refill, the cast still doesn’t treat it like that, which does sometimes work, and sometimes doesn’t. More of the former than the latter, but the latter is more noticeable. I don’t want to say that Bruce Willis seemed like he was phoning it in here as Frank Moses, but it does seem like the type of performance that the dude has been giving us every so often. He squints, he makes random googly-eyes whenever possible, and just seems as if he’s itching to say everybody’s favorite line. It is John McClane, so you can’t go too wrong when you have Willis and a gun in his hand, but after awhile, the act does get stale and it seems that the dude is more or less just in the mood for getting a new summer house, rather than actually putting in any effort into making his character three-dimensional or fun to watch.

The one who really keeps his character interesting and begging for more is Mary-Louise Parker as his gal-pal, Sarah. Parker has never really got me much in the movies that she’s shown up in, but she does well here with the humor-aspect of her character, and also being able to make us believe that this chick could fall for a dude like Moss, no matter how dull or boring he actually may be, underneath all of the violence and espionage. Of course even for her age, she is still freakin’ smokin’, but looks aside, the chick’s got comedic-chops that are always worth checking out. Along with her other chops. Hayyo!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you're going to get. Okay, that's a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you’re going to get. Okay, that’s a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Helen Mirren doesn’t let Parker steal her spotlight as being the only chick that has something bad-ass to say or do, and gets to show us why she’s still so damn foxy, fun, vibrant, and awesome to watch, no matter what the hell it is that she does. Yes, she played the Queen no less than 7 years ago, and here she is, holding up a machine-gun and letting the mofo’s have it. Awesome. John Malkovich seems like his role as the paranoid, loose cannon of the group would be tailor-made for a dude who’s made a career out of these types of roles, but much to my dismay, played it straight most of the time. It was still entertaining to watch this guy play around with a character that’s a bit loopy in the head, but he never goes so far, to the point of where you can really tell this guy couldn’t wait to start killing people, something that, I think I speak for everybody else when I say, is what seems to go through Malkovich’s mind whenever he plays characters like these.

Lastly, rounding everybody else out here, is Morgan Freeman as the oldest dude of the group, who also happens to be diagnosed with liver cancer and is need of this fun and adventure the most. Freeman is good in the role, even if it doesn’t seem totally right for him, considering how unsubstantial his character is to the plot, and how half of the time the dude is just sitting around, smiling, and poppin’ B’s, as he checks out the house-maids “fix” the television. Yup, apparently when you get old, that’s all you have to live for: boners. Even if you are Morgan fuckin’ Freeman.

Consensus: Some of it tries to be more witty and wild than it actually is, but Red still stays fun, light, energetic, and well-acted enough to be worth a watch, even if you do just want a silly action movie, with non-other than Dame Helen Mirren holding up a machine-gun. Seriously, it’s so awesome to see occur on-screen.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

See what I'm talking about!!!

See what I’m talking about!?!?!

Running With Scissors (2006)

Cue the jokes about how this movie runs with scissors and ends-up tripping.

At the age of twelve, Augusten Burroughs (Joseph Cross) finds himself amidst Victorian squalor living with his mother’s doctor’s bizarre family, while she (Annette Bening) goes off and becomes a total drug-addict, amongst other fucked-up things. Oh yeah, and it’s hard for little Augusten since not only is he a poet at such a young age, but he’s a gay one at that. Yay!

I never read Augusten Burrow’s 2002 memoir of the same name, and despite what all of the literary hipsters that I know continue to tell me, I still don’t ever plan on reading it, either. I’m not much of a reader as it is but with material that’s all about people being all wacky and strange just for the sake of being so, definitely rubs me the wrong-way, especially when it’s done in a flick like this.

See, the fact of the matter is that you can make a movie about a bunch of near-functional nut jobs that can still be a bit whack-o in the brain department, but are at least likable and understandable enough to connect to. Writers/directors like Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach can do this, and do it very well, but writer/director Ryan Murphy is not one of them, nor does he come even close. Instead of making these characters a bunch of whack-o’s that you actually feel something for, as if they were normal, functioning human-beings, you just seem them as whack-o’s with nothing really nice to say or do throughout the whole, dreadful 2 hours.

All you do throughout this whole flick is see a bunch of crazies yell, hoot, and holler at one another, and just do a bunch of random crap to each other that would seem almost too weird to be true (but trust me, this flick wants you to believe it’s source material REALLY IS TRUE!), and in ways, totally is. You never, not for one second, actually believe that all you see on-screen is actually how things happened in real-life for Augusten and if it did actually happen, it sure as hell shows you that it wasn’t a story that needed to be shown on the big-screen in the first-place, mostly because there isn’t much here to hold onto. I would say that the characters are worth the shot of standing-by and listening to, but even that’s a bit of a far-stretch since they are only there to be nothing more than just a plot-device of sure craziness. Watching people act all wacky and wild can be fun every once and awhile to watch, but as time goes on, there needs to be more substance brewing from underneath and that is just not here.

"And that little bitch that played the psycho ballet dancer won! Ever since then, I haven't felt the same."

“And that little bitch that played the psycho ballet dancer won! Ever since then, I haven’t felt the same.”

Maybe the fact that I never read the memoir was the reason why I didn’t like it all that much, because there was a lot of crap that happened or was said here that I just didn’t understand. The whole idea of people looking at every single bit of life’s details with a clear-view and making something out of nothing, simply annoys the hell out of me in real-life, and even worse, annoys the most when I see it in a movie and that’s all I saw here. Everybody speaks as if they just got done reading Hemingway and felt the need to rant and rave about what life is all about, and it’s okay at first because it makes sense to why these characters are so strange, but it becomes to be a bit of a bore and unbelievable. You know, just like the rest of the characters and the movie itself. Heck, there’s even a scene where Brian Cox is checking out his crapola (be ready to hear that term sooner or later) and talking about what it’s shape, size, and formation means to his life and everybody else’s around him. Did I get it? No, but would I have had I actually took time out of my lazy day and read the memoir? Probably not. It’s just the type of writing that annoys me and shows that people have nothing else better to do with their way of contracting humor, then just showing a bunch of ridiculous and crude things to really shock you and make you feel as if you’ve seen something from another planet. However, I think I was on another planet when I saw this movie.

It’s even worse, though, when you take into consideration at how freakin’ uneven this whole thing is. My buddy and I were just bored one night, decided to watch this because it was under the “Comedy” section on On Demand, and for the first 30 minutes, neither one of us were laughing. We weren’t laughing because what the flick was trying to do and shove down our throats, wasn’t funny (even though it really isn’t a funny movie), but it was because there was nothing really funny actually happening. It was just a bunch of dark, sarcastic drama that I didn’t know whether or not I was supposed to feel weirded-out by or just go along with it and see if I ever lighten-up to the dead-pan tone and feel. I never did and to be honest, I don’t think the flick itself did, either, because there was just way too many moments where the film changed itself-up. One second, you’ll be watching a scene of some cooky lady eating doggy biscuits, and then after that, you’ll get some heartbreaking discussion between an estranged mother and son. It’s all-over-the-place and constantly changing tones from right-to-left and that is not as fun or entertaining as it sounds. It’s obvious and it never stops to be, and that’s why I just wanted somebody in this flick to die and spice things up. I’m sorry, it’s just the thought-process I go through when a movie sucks THIS BAD.

The only, real saving-grace to this whole flick is the ensemble cast of characters that do all that they can here, but in the end, fall prey to a terrible script and direction. Joseph Cross is fine as our lead, Augusten Burroughs, and is serviceable as a kid that obviously has a lot of problems with growing-up, being a poet, being gay, and not really having a connection with his mother. It should have been a lot more relateable for most kids going through, or have been through teenage-angst, but it’s oddly not. It’s just a kid having a problem with a mother of his that just so happens to be hopped-up all of the time. Hey, I don’t know if that’s everybody else’s life story but if so, well, you just may be able to find something to suit your fancy here.

Right about now is where breakfast would be the second-thing on my moment.

Right about now is where breakfast would be the second-thing on my moment.

Actually, the real stand-out of this whole cast is the woman who plays that same hopped-up mother, Annette Bening. Bening is great as this drugged-up, but somewhat schizophrenic that does all that she can to make herself happy, but in the end, just can’t. Bening can play a bitch like no other and she’s great in this role as a mother that’s never there and when she is, is like a freakin’ plague of problems. Yeah, she’s a mean, old woman that seems like she really deserves a nice kick in the teeth by not just me, but anybody, but regardless, it’s still impressive to see from here, especially considering the fact that the girl keeps all of the energy alive and well in this dead flick. And by “dead”, I mean Grateful Dead because let’s be honest, you may just want to be high for this movie. It would probably help a crap-load, although, it obviously didn’t help me with anything.

The rest of the cast is fine too, but none of them can really keep up with Bening. Brian Cox plays Dr. Finch, a slimy psychiatrist who seems to be doing people favors, but also has a bit of a dark-side to him as well that’s maybe not so favorable. Cox is great, what else is new by now? Evan Rachel Wood plays the skanky-looking daughter of his that definitely should have been in this movie a lot more, considering she brings a lot of fun and wit to the screen, when everybody else seems like they’re falling asleep (count me in on that nap). Same could almost be said for Gwyneth Paltrow as the total kiss-ass of the family, Hope, and definitely seems like she got a role for herself that displayed her looks, her beauty, and her knack for comedy. Sad thing is, she’s not that funny here. Not her fault, writer’s fault. I was also very surprised to see a very good performance from Joseph Fiennes, who plays the gay boy-toy of Augusten and just so happens to be the only boy of the Finch family. Fiennes rarely shows up in anything now but it was nice to see him when he was a bit wild, wacky, and free. Too bad he had to be all that, especially in a shit-pile like this.

Consensus: Despite that obviously seems like they’re game for this type of material, it really lets them down as every character is unlikable, distasteful, annoying, and terribly unbelievable, almost to the point of where the whole 2 hours and 2 minutes of Running With Scissors seriously makes you take that title into consideration with your own life. It’s a drastic way of thinking, but it’s the truth.

2/10=Crapola!!

Looks like my backyard, come hoarders season. Can't wait!

Looks like my backyard, come hoarders season. Can’t wait!

Coriolanus (2011)

Damn, Shakespeare is pretty hardcore if you think about it.

The original story revolves around the destiny of Gaius Marcius Coriolanus (Ralph Fiennes), a contemptuous Roman general who attempts to run for the Senate but fails. When his ensuing rage leads him to be banished from Rome, he must team up with his lifelong enemy, Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), to seek revenge and attack the city with his army.

Now, I will admit it, I am not the biggest fan when it comes to Billy Shakespeare. In school, whenever I had to read one of his plays, I put all my heart and soul into it, trying to understand what the hell he was saying, why it was being said, and wondering why everybody didn’t just say shit like, “Hello, how are you doing?”, instead of, “Howeth now areth browneth?”. Obviously that is not something they say in any of Shakespeare’s plays, but you get my drift. Basically, it’s freakin’ confusing sometimes to fully read and understand what Shakespeare plays are all about and 9 times out of 10, I would always find myself Spark Noting the shit out of his stuff. Sorry Billy, you’re an inspiration to writers all over the planet, but I don’t know what half of this shit means.

He's got the only chair in existence, apparently.

He’s got the only chair in existence, apparently.

So, that’s essentially why I was not looking forward to this flick because not only is this all based on one of Shakespeare’s last political plays, but everybody on-screen also speaks in the Old English dialect as well. After seeing Romeo & Juliet and practically despising it, I was ready to just turn it off and see what new episodes of Parks & Rec that they had on Netflix, but I decided to stay with it and you know what? Thank god for that, because this is exactly what I needed to understand and appreciate Shakespeare more, in a world where it almost seems like he’s treated as old-news, as evidenced by the homework that I used to do on him.

The reason why everything makes so much more sense here in a powerful way, is because we get to see anything and everything that Shakespeare is talking about. The script is basically line-for-line from Shakespeare, even though it’s oddly-adapted from John Logan, and because of that, we get to visualize everything that’s happening in this play, which allows Ralph Fiennes to run rampant as director and make every setting and every action, fit perfectly in with all of the dialogue. What really surprised me was the world that Fiennes created for this play, and how the grittiness and dirtiness of this setting, sort of fit in well with what Shakespeare was trying to say all those hundred years ago, and also, what’s sort of going on in our world nowadays.

In a world where uprisings in Egypt seem to happen all the time, a world where more people in America are beginning to join the Occupy movement, and a world where nobody seems to be happy with the job they have and fight back against the government, it’s surprising how universal and timeless this play comes off as despite being written in 1605. Civil unrest has, and probably always will be around no matter the country/region, and that’s what Coriolanus shows off perfectly. The world we live in may have a couple of changes here and there, but there will always be evil, there will always be revolts, and there will always be problems between the people and the government and the way that Fiennes lets all of this play-out in an understandable way, without ever getting rid of the original text is something very powerful in terms of previous Shakespeare film-adaptations.

"Bad Coriolanus, bad!"

“Bad Coriolanus, bad!”

Fiennes does a great job in allowing this story to tell itself off through amazing scenes where it’s just dialogue and nothing else. The misleading trailer pretty much screwed everybody over by promising a crazy-amount of action and blood in the same vein as The Hurt Locker, but that couldn’t be any further from the truth. There is, however, about 15 minutes worth of action but the rest of hour and 45 minutes, is just people straight-up chatting/yelling/talking/spitting about at one another, and as boring as that may sound, it’s not because it captures your eyes and engages you right from the start. That’s the great element that Fiennes brings to this source material and even had me clinching my pillow at numerous times by how tense it got with certain scenes. Seriously, this film is no joke in terms of Shakespeare and capturing the heart and soul of it, and that’s something we have to applaud Fiennes for, as a director that is.

As an actor, though, Fiennes deserves more applause because the guy is absolutely compelling from start-to-finish in this role and it’s almost un-like anything we have ever seen him do before. Fiennes’ career has been mostly all about him playing these normal-guy roles, but somehow branching out of them every once and awhile and giving us some crazy, shithead role like the one he had in In Bruges. That same role, is pretty much the same exact thing we get here but it’s a lot scarier because of how the character of Coriolanus just stands over everybody else in the film. When Corionalus first shows up, the guy silences a crowd of angry rioters, but not just by yelling and threatening them, he simply comes out, uses a small-voice, and tells them that they are useless in the world that he lives in, and he steps on them and their demands. Something that’s said like that, should totally assure you two things: 1.) this guy is a total dick, and 2.) holy shit, I should be scared of him.

That’s the initial feeling you first get when you see him, but it starts to change-up a bit as you start to see more and more layers peel off from Coriolanus and we realize that he’s just another flawed character in life, just like your and I. He kicks ass in war and we applaud him for that, but we know for damn sure that he can’t run a country; he’s all about pride and love for his country, but sure as hell doesn’t love the people that inhabit it; and he’s a guy who’s all about vengeance and seeking revenge on the country that banished him, but yet, would still kill his family if they got in the way. Coriolanus is not a very cut-and-dry character that could be determined as a good guy, or bad guy, actually nobody in this film could even be considered one, but having him at the fore-front of it all makes for one compelling piece of a character-study, and shows us exactly why Fiennes is the scariest freakin’ man on Earth, whenever he’s yelling and screaming at the top of his lungs. Doesn’t matter what he’s screaming about or how he’s screaming, it’s just that the fact that he is screaming, is what gets us.

Who says you can't be dangerous, but also look drop-dead sexy while doing so?

Who says you can’t be dangerous, but also look drop-dead sexy while doing so?

However, Coriolanus isn’t the most vicious S.O.B. in the film, despite what I may have you think. No, the one who really runs shit in this whole show is actually his mother Volumnia, played by the great Vanessa Redgrave, who absolutely steals every scene she is in. Redgrave is one of those actresses that I hear about all of the time, but never have really been given the chance to go out and see what she does best but I think may have to change that now because she is powerful as hell here. Every time this old gal steps into a scene, you automatically think it’s going to be another one of those goofy, old ladies that acts crazy because that’s all she can do, but in reality, with this character, you feel scared because you know she’s got something to talk about and she is not going to go away unheard from it, either. It’s a surprise that Redgrave didn’t get a nomination for Best Supporting Actress here, considering she took over the hard-job of scaring everybody’s pants off, despite being 75-years old. Damn can that woman act!

Another performance I was very surprised by was Brian Cox as Coriolanus’ chief advisor, Menenius, but not just because the guy is good (which he always is), but because the guy isn’t another villainous role for him to play. Say what you will about Cox and what he does as a villain, but the guy did need a new change of pace for him and I’m glad he got it here and took total advantage of it all. The other performance that really took me by surprise was Gerard Butler as Coriolanus’ arch-enemy, Tullus Aufilius. For the longest time, Butler has been showing up in shitty rom-com after shitty rom-com, and it left me wondering when the next time was going to be when we were actually going to see this guy be back to Leonidas-style bad-assery. Thankfully, Fiennes was thinking the same thing and decided to give him a very juicy role that not only shows this guy’s physical-intimidation he holds over people, but his way of speaking too. I can’t put my finger on it, but that Scottish accent just makes every single line of dialogue all the more compelling when it’s spoken out of Butler’s mouth and it’s great to see him get something like this. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to last very long at all.

The lamest one out of the whole cast that really surprised me was actually Jessica Chastain as Coriolanus’ wife, because for some odd reason, she just doesn’t seem to fit very well at all with the way everybody is speaking. That’s not to say that Chastain isn’t good here, because she damn well is, it’s just that comes off as the weakest-link in terms of making the Old English sound natural, and not as if you are on-stage trying to over-exaggerate the feelings going on throughout your whole system. Still though, she’s good with what she does and that cannot be taken away from her, even though it sounds like I sort of am taking it away from her. Oh well, I’m a dick.

My other complaint with this film that took me away from giving it a full 9/10, is that every time they would focus on a television discussion, it came off as corny and really unrealistic. I get that everybody’s supposed to be talking in the Old English-way, but whenever the news hosts would come on and start speaking in that tongue, it just bothered me and made me feel like I was almost watching a spoof of a Shakespeare adaptation. Then again, it’s another minor quibble from me and there’s plenty more I could go into detail about, but I’m not because I actually enjoyed this one more than I expected. That’s for damn sure.

Consensus: Coriolanus may have some wandering off as soon as they hear the Old English dialogue still kept in-tact, but for those who stay, will be open to a powerful, compelling, and hard-hitting character-study unlike any other Shakespeare adaptation ever that shows you not only can Shakespeare’s themes still be relevant today, but they sort of go along with what’s happening in our world and with our society.

8/10=Matinee!!

Some happy politicians right there. Just another day at the office for them.

Some happy politicians right there. Just another day at the office for them.

The Campaign (2012)

If only Ron Burgundy really did run for office. Do I hear the basis for a sequel…?

When long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major public gaffe before an upcoming election, a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. Their man: naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center.

If you are going to release an election comedy, the time right before the election would be a perfect time, really. Everybody is basically sick and tired of seeing what these candidates all have to say about themselves, their goals as president, what they think about the other candidates, how much of a wonderful family and dog they have, how they are going to lower taxes, blah, blah, and blah. So you know it’s time for a political satire, especially one with two of the goofiest and funniest comedic actors working right now, right?

You would expect a comedy about politics, being released very slightly before election-time, to have at least some sort of sides to choose or just plain and simple satire on politics themselves, but somehow, you get nothing here from that. Looking at director Jay Roach‘s track record (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Dinner for Schmucks), I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything that was necessarily considered biting, when it comes to satire department, but I wasn’t expecting something as safe and sometimes, soft like this. What bothered me the most about this flick is that there is so much room for political satire to the point of where you could almost make it up on your own, but for some odd reason, these guys never seem to go for it. To me, this seems like a huge, wasted opportunity that definitely could have given us a smarter look at the politics we see on TV today, but I guess they’re all fine with just settling for being funny.

Actually, this missed-opportunity probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t for the fact that this film definitely isn’t as funny as I was expecting it to be. There’s a lot of those dim-witted, goof-ball jokes that we are used to getting with Ferrell and his movies, but it just seems repetitive here, almost to the point of where Ferrell and co. felt like they ran out of material to joke around about, so they just tried to say the same jokes, over-and-over again but it a new fashion. This starts to get very tiring and actually, very boring, almost to the point of where I was actually looking at my “watch” (code name for phone, but don’t tell anyone) more than anything else on the screen. Which is a total shame because I usually have a ball with these guys, as I did with Dinner for Schmucks, a very underrated comedy, in my opinion.

But for when it did make me laugh, it sure as hell did make me laugh and that’s all I can give it credit for. Some scenes stood-out to me in particular, but the best was probably in the first 15 minutes where Huggins goes around his family-table and allows them to all share secrets that they have hid underneath the table for very, very long, and some of the stuff that just comes out of these people’s mouths are hilarious and dirty. It was a sure sign that I was in for something funny and everything else from the punching-baby sequence, to the vengeful political-ad videos, to the drunk driving incident, all had me laughing enough to say that I had a pretty enjoyable time, even if I feel like there could have been so much more to this material.

The real reason this whole film works is mainly because of the two comedic all-stars in the leads that always seem to give every role they have, their all and these ones are no different. Will Ferrell is basically playing-up the same buffoon he plays in every movie, but this time with a mix of his George W. Bush impression and some of Bill Clinton in there as well. It’s a nice little mix that Ferrell makes work by just being, well, Will Ferrell, and that’s all I really ask for when it comes to him and his comedies. Then, you have Zach Galifianakis as the heterosexual Marty Huggins, that just seems so sweet and nice, but can never catch a break because of Brady is always one-step ahead of his ass. Literally sometimes, too. Zach is always a funny guy and even though he hasn’t had many times to prove so outside of his roles as Alan, he proves that here and gives this Marty Huggins a lot of jeer-full goofiness to him, but not enough to the point of where it’s annoying and campy. Whenever these guys were on-screen together, I laughed my ass off and I sort of wish that they did a better movie to head-line together because this one sure doesn’t live up to what people would most expect from these two comedic fellas.

It was also nice to see Jason Sudeikis play a supporting, goofy role as the straight-man behind Cam Brady, Mitch. Sudeikis is funny, as always, but this time he allows all of the jokes play-out from Ferrell’s side of the equation and it’s nice to see what this cat can do when it comes to comedy, considering I haven’t been all that impressed by this dude as of late. Though, the highlight of the cast is probably Dylan McDermott as the evil campaign advisory, Tim Wattley. McDermott is good with this role because he plays everything with such a stern, serious look on his face that adds so many more laughs to this film, whenever it seemed like Zach and Will weren’t necessarily helping out the situation. What was even better was how they even compared him to Dermot Mulroney during this film, which I thought was funny because I actually thought he would have been a good fit for this kind of role.

Consensus: Though it’s satire never fully takes a bite, The Campaign still features a fun cast and a funny bunch of moments that are worth to see, if only for the two leads themselves.

6/10=Rental!!

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Never leave a spy alive, especially if that spy happens to be Will Hunting.

This sequel re-enters the shadowy world of expert assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), who continues to find himself plagued by splintered nightmares from his former life. Except this time, he has a bigger threat in CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen).

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you liked The Bourne Identity, you’re liking this one. As simple as that.

Director Paul Greengrass does a great job here with this material because instead of doing exactly what Doug Liman did with the first flick, he molds it himself. The first one without a houbt had action but focused way too much on its plot, which in turn took away from the little action there was. So what Greengrass does is just match the plot development it but tops it off with more action. And when I mean action, I mean action, baby! Yeah!

Greengrass films more than a few of the action scenes with his infamous “shaky cam” method, but it didn’t bother me as much here as I thought it would have; actually, it tweaked the film in just the right way. All of the fights that go down here feel like they were filmed by a drunken sports fan who just wanted to see some mono-e-mono brawls and happened to fumble in the right places for his camera. Maybe that doesn’t sound (look) so awesome right now but it really makes you feel like you’re there watching Bourne layeth the Smackedowneth on all of these CIA agents’ candy-asses. You can feel the action no matter how far away from the screen you are. The frenetic editing Greengrass did here may not be for everybody, especially the ones that were huge fans of the original, but most will appreciate the gritty vibe he brings to the film and if nothing else how good he is at filming a car chase.

This film isn’t all about its action though, because a lot of it actually is dedicated to its plot which keeps on moving and moving the plot along. If you saw the original, you will probably know everything that’s going on here in the first place, so therefore when all of these mysteries start to be brought up, solved, and twisted around like a curly fry, you can’t help but feel like you don’t know what’s going to go down next. So many things are being brought up here but somehow, it all works itself out and doesn’t become over-bearing.

However, as interesting as the story may have gotten to become, it was still pretty predictable in the end which bothered me. Yes, I know that this is all used for entertainment values and anybody going into these types of films expecting anything else but just pure, adrenaline-junkie action is a total dumb-ass, but I couldn’t get past the fact that almost every action sequence would pretty much end in Jason Bourne coming out on top no matter what the odds stacked against him were. Maybe the fact that I also know that there’s another sequel to this one is what had me thinking this too. Actually, that’s exactly what it is. Damn, I just wish I saw this when it first came out!

Other parts of this film I didn’t like was when the film tried to  get a little sentimental with some subplot about Boune’s first “job”. I don’t mind an action/thriller flick trying to be more than just that but the film tries to edge Bourne out more by giving him this plot to show that he really is a human and humans make mistakes. It comes up just about every 30 minutes when something strange goes down and when it’s all over, you feel like they totally dropped the ball on it. I don’t want to say how this whole subplot eventually plays out, bu the scene it ended with seemed to have left me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Don’t know what it was but definitely didn’t feel too right.

Matt Damon once again proves himself to be a good action star, and an even better action star as Jason Bourne. He is able to handle this “plain-looking” guy style but also be able to come off as a ruthless bad-ass whenever it comes down to him taking on other spies and the CIA. Bourne is also a bit more interesting this time around because we see him go from a defensive position to an offensive one, which allows us to root him on some more as he battles these CIA punks. Go get ’em Bourne!

Damon is also backed up by a pretty solid cast. Joan Allen is pretty awesome as Pamela Landy because she’s a strong character that doesn’t have to use her muscles to prove her ruthlessness, instead, she uses her brain and that’s a real tough brain to go against. Let’s also not forget to mention that she’s very sexy and a chick I wouldn’t mind going up against myself, if you know what I mean..? Rawr! If you have ever seen Brian Cox play a bad guy before, (which is almost every flick with the exception of Super Troopers) then his performance here as Ward Abbott will just be another example as to know what this dude is capable of and Karl Ubran gets some pretty bad-ass scenes where it’s just him looking all tough and ready to fight Bourne. Yet, none of them ever really stand a chance.

Consensus: Though it misses a couple of beats here and there, The Bourne Supremacy is still a solid action flick because it keeps the adrenaline moving at such a solid pace, that you rarely ever forget what you’re watching and you get more and more involved with the story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Bourne Identity (2002)

All he had to do was call up Ben Affleck and everything would have been A-OK. See what I did there?

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is a guy who has no past, may have no future, and who’s memory is blank. But now he is marked for death, caught in a maddening puzzle, racing for survival through the deep layers of his buried past into a bizarre world of murderous conspirators, aka, the CIA!

Believe it or not, but I have never seen any of the Bourne films before and trust me, I do feel ashamed about that. However, I’m not a huge spy guy either so that may have something to do with it as well.

What I liked most about this film and what I thought was very intriguing about it was how the spy dude that the story is centered around, is an amnesiac. This means that this guy has no idea what’s going to happen next, what he’s going to do next, or just whatever the hell is going on in general. Sucks, right? It’s particularly cool to see when he kicks the arse out of these two police officers kung-fu style and not only are we realizing that he’s one mofo to not mess with, but he’s also realizing it as well. I know it’s a little detail in the story but it makes it all the more interesting as we see all of the crazy twists and turns that this film makes without us ever really knowing what may pop-up or come to Bourne’s mind next. Definitely a lot of suspense to be had here and I have to give a lot of that to director Doug Liman, who obviously knows how keep a good amount of tension going on throughout the whole film even when it started to slow down a bit.

However, that’s also my problem with the film because I expected there to be so much more action and ass-kicking, that I was sort of let-down by it all. Don’t get me wrong, there is action to be had here and whenever it does happen, it’s pretty freakin’ awesome but when it’s spread apart very far in this movie. It does give the plot more development, as well as the characters and such but too much of it actually takes away from the film and comes off as a bit, well, should I say, boring. I know the word “boring” definitely isn’t what some of you were probably thinking while watching this flick but there was just something about it here that made me feel like I wanted to see some more ass-kicking, because when it does go down, the film gets a hell of a lot more intense.

What I do think is very notable about this film was the casting of Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Even though I’m not in love with him, I still do think that Damon is great at playing “the everyday man” and can definitely bring a lot more to his character no matter what the film may be, especially here considering this character is trying to find himself in this big world of intrigue and CIA agents roaming all about. Also helps that the guy did all of his own action stunts and is pretty damn good at it too. The casting of Franka Potente was also pretty neat-o to see too because she gives this film a very European feel and her scenes with Damon actually work with the chemistry they have. I couldn’t help to think that their whole love angle was a little forced though, but I guess when you have a male and a female who are just traveling together for reasons unknown, eventually some hormones are going to start flying all over the place.

I also have to give some love to two vets who are very good at playing villains in almost every film that they do but do exceptional jobs here: Brian Cox and Chris Cooper. Nothing else really needs to be said about them other than they do great jobs as bad guys. Case closed.

The two characters in this film that I didn’t think needed to be here at all were Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Wombosi and Julia Stiles as Nicolette. The reason Adewale’s character doesn’t matter to the story and basically served this plot for one purpose and one purpose only. It seemed strange that they even had him in here considering it didn’t do anything for the flick other than add another character to the equation, which didn’t even need to happen. Also didn’t help that the dude was over-acting out of his ass and I probably would have liked it just for him to go away in the first place.

The same thing can be said for Stiles in here as well because if you t0ok her part out of the film, it wouldn’t make a single difference to their plot or anything else here. And even when she does talk in this film, she sounds like a little whiny brat that seemed to get this job because of her daddy and it probably was also a little strange how the chick was 18 and looked it when she was playing the role of a CIA underground operation. Just how many other people my age are doing shit like that? If they actually are in the real world, then I need to quit doing this and start applying. See ya!

Consensus: The Bourne Identity does slow down at points, which can take away from the fun of the action that happens here, but is still none the less very entertaining, suspenseful, well-acted, and intriguing with the ending they leave you with which definitely gets me excited to see what happens in the next installments that I still have yet to see. I know, I’m a schmuck.

7/10=Rental!!

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Ring (2002)

This is the main reason why they stopped making VHS tapes.

A strange videotape makes it way around a circle of friends. Strangely, everyone who views the tape seems to die exactly one week afterward. After believing this to be a strange urban legend worthy of an article, cynical reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) watches the tape and shortly thereafter unsettling occurrences begin to happen to her. Is she slated to be the next victim of some kind of bizarre and seemingly supernatural force?

After seeing almost all of the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flicks, it’s very strange to see director Gore Verbinski doing a horror film that originated from Japanese. I also have to say that seeing this film for about the 7th time, it still remains quite freaky.

What works here so well is when it comes to the horror that this film has to deliver, it doesn’t feel cheap or something we’ve seen before. Verbinski is all about creating suspense rather than just throwing things right at you with the constant jump-scares just about horror flick has nowadays. You don’t know what’s going to happen next at most points and right when you think something is about to happen, Verbinski pulls the rug underneath you completely and every single time he does it, its something that works.

Another cool element about this flick is that it’s not only a horror flick but a mystery film as well. As the film moves on, we start to find out more about the story that lies behind the type and why all of the crazy shit that happens in it, happens in it and what it exactly means. Speaking about that tape, it’s freaky as hell and probably one of the freakiest things that I have ever really seen in a film in the past decade. If I woke up in the middle of the night and my TV had static on it, I would throw that damn thing out right away.

The problem with the story that is behind the whole video, is that it doesn’t really make much sense. It’s never explained why the mother does what she does to the daughter and why, and another thing I never understood is where the hell that the tapes of the girl in the psych-ward came from, if she was apparently dead. Still, without giving way too much away I just have to say that this film doesn’t hold up when it comes to its plot.

Another problem I had with this flick was that when you watch it for as many times as I have, it starts to lose it’s freshness. I won’t lie and say that barely any of the scares work, because I still got a little bit scared here and there by what I saw but to be honest, I couldn’t really get terrified when I knew everything that was going to happen. Also, why the hell would a mother leave a tape that if it is watched will result in a death sentence, around the house where her young son can watch it? Mommy of the year everybody!

Naomi Watts is fine as the slightly-bitchy but also very determined reporter, Rachel; Martin Henderson is a lot of fun to watch as her ex-boyfriend and investigative partner if you know what I mean, Noah; and let’s not also forget to mention the little cameo by Brian Cox who is always the man in no matter what he does. The one performance that seemed pretty blank was the one given by the kid who plays Aidan, David Dorfman. He seems more like a copy of the usual creepy little kid we see in every horror film and he just seems to be put in the film for that matter. But then again, he is just a kid so I guess I’m kind of a dick for beating this kid up.

Consensus: The Ring has its fair share of plot holes that don’t make sense, but Gore Verbinski creates suspense to the point of where you don’t know what’s going to happen next, and the mystery behind the whole story is pretty interesting as well. Don’t go see the sequel though. It blows.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

I will never be able to look at pumpkins the same again.

Halloween’s usually boisterous traditions turn deadly, and everyone in a small town tries to survive one night in pure hell … but who will still be alive in the morning? Several stories weave together, including a loner fending off a demented trick-or-treater’s attacks; kids uncovering a freaky secret; a school principal — who moonlights as a serial killer — poisoning his candy; and more.

I’m not quite sure exactly when this film came out, or when it even hit theaters but since it’s the right time for the season, I thought why the hell not!?!?

This is an anthology film feature all of these four different segments that aren’t really all that connected other than the fact that everybody seems to live pretty close to each other. This approach to the film worked because I constantly got that feeling of knowing what’s going to happen next because you get to see just what is going to happen, when maybe the first time around you were a little bit confused by what you didn’t see on-screen.

First-time writer/director Michael Dougherty does a pretty good job of keeping the feel and spirit of Halloween alive in this film because there are moments where this film seems like a lot of fun, and although it didn’t really scare the pants off of me, it really did keep me entertained as to where this guy was going to go towards next. A lot of this film is pretty messed up (kids getting killed) but somehow there is a fun touch to it that isn’t campy or tongue-in-cheek, it’s more just fun and that’s why I enjoyed myself.

However, the film did have some moments where I think it messed up and sort of dropped the ball. Each little segment has their own twist in there, which I thought was cool, but what I didn’t like is how too much of this felt more scary and serious without any real comedy added to it. The one segment with Anna Paquin I can think of was actually very funny the whole way through, but other than that, there wasn’t much of a balance between the two to get it perfect right away.

There’s also a lot of this film that doesn’t feel all that original and kind of bummed me out especially the segment about the kids at the site of the supposed “bus crashing incident”. This to me felt like it was directed by a whole different person because it spent its time on jump-scares, what we don’t see, and the run away and hide thingy that bothers me so much. This was a little annoying and by the end of the film, I feel like it totally drops the ball when it shows what that freaky little dude on the poster looks like without his mask. He looks really freakin’ weird (not in a good way), and I think the film could have really kept me a bit more freaked out if I didn’t know what the hell that creepy thing actually looked like.

The cast is here and there but they are all good. Brian Cox is awesome as the grouchy and grumpy old dude from the last segment; Anna Paquin is funny as well as pretty hot as the “virgin”; and Dylan Baker is probably the best out of the whole cast because he constantly kept me laughing and giggling even when he just killed a kid by feeding him a terrible chocolate bar. Yeah, it’s that disturbing sometimes.

Consensus: Trick ‘r Treat may not score the most points when it comes to originality and scares, but it keeps a fun tone and segments that bring a lot of twists and turns that you can’t help but have a fun time.

6/10=Rental!!

X2: X-Men United (2003)

The freaks are back, and surprisingly a lot better this time around.

Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his team of genetically gifted superheroes face a rising tide of anti-mutant sentiment led by Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox). Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) must join their usual nemeses Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to unhinge Stryker’s scheme to exterminate all mutants.

After watching the first X-Men film, I was bummed to say that it wasn’t as awesome as I once thought it was. Then, when I watched this, I realized just how awesome this one actually was.

Director Bryan Singer knows what he’s doing with this material here and takes the events of the first film and builds on them in such a way that when you see the credits you know that big things have happened. There is a lot of action here but there is also a deep story about being accepted in a world that won’t even look at you without judging you as well.

Singer knows how to balance a good story with some great action, and as the story kept getting deeper and deeper, the action kept on getting better and better, something I thought could never happen in a superhero film.

In the first one, I thought they focused too much on way too many characters, but here the movie is more focused on these characters throughout this moving story, and it doesn’t start dragging at all. This one actually felt more epic as well with its story and I guess that’s how all superhero films should be, but when you have something like Mutants vs. Army, you know you’re going to be in some pretty big shit.

The special effects are just plain awful (as in “awe full” – funny how a word can have two diametrically opposed meanings). Seamless integration with the live action, astounding in their inventiveness, so enticing that you want to be a mutant yourself. Exactly what special effects should be. They are worth the price of admission all on their own.

My problem with this film was that I did feel that there were some plot holes that I didn’t fully understand. Such as all these mutants can use their powers against a normal human-being and kill them right away, but when this young dude named Pyro throws fire balls at these people, nothing happens except a little sun burnt. These mofos should be dead! There were also some problems I thought that the plot had as it went along but I don’t want to give away too much here.

The cast from the first one is back, and better than ever actually. Hugh Jackman continues to be excellent as the angry and awesome Wolverine. The guy is not just dedicated, he’s frustrated but he never lets that stop him from finding the right thing to do, whether it’s protecting the weak or punishing the bad. Jackman totally improves his performance from the first one, and does a great job here as always. Patrick Stewart is also very good as Professor Xavier; the evil and maniacal Magneto, is played just so so well by Ian McKellen; and Brian Cox plays William Stryker, to the point as to where every time he was on screen, I just wanted somebody to beat his ass. All your other favourite mutants are also more interesting and more advanced than they were in the first film. Halle Berry’s Storm is sexier and more dangerous, while Famke Janssen manages to overcome Jean Grey’s hairdo (the worst I’ve seen on an actor in a long time) and really kick ass. The new mutant in this film is Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who is a little strange but at the same time very innocent and there’s something about him that you just like. Everybody else does a great job here too, there’s just so many to talk about though and so little time.

Consensus: Despite some plot holes, X2 is a total improvement from the first showing a lot more action, special effects, and a more deeper and darker story-line that will take you by storm (pun intended) and won’t let you go until the credits are up.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Troy (2004)

Now I know more about history.

In 1193 B.C., the love-struck Prince Paris of Troy (Orlando Bloom) kidnaps legendary beauty Helen (Diane Kruger) from her husband, King Menelaus of Sparta, setting the two nations on a fast-and-sure collision course for war and bloodshed. The Greeks, including Achilles (Brad Pitt), marshal their entire armada, sail to Troy and begin a decade-long siege. Eric Bana plays Hector, the leader of the Trojan forces, and Sean Bean is the wily Ulysses.

I’m not a huge reader of old Greek mythology, but I know my way around it. However, due to this film, I may want to give them all a second reading.

This film is really great to look at, and you do have a fun time. The set pieces and costumes are extremely beautiful, and you almost feel as if you are in ancient Greece watching all these battles go on. The battle sequences are awesome. If you love watching bows fly in the sky, and swords be thrown around like frisbees, then this is definitely the film for you cause the violence here is down-right bangin’.

The problem with this film is that when all the action is not going on, there really isn’t much else to this film to keep you entertained for long. I thought that the script was pretty lame, and there are a lot of lines that seem cheesy and cliche.

You also can’t really connect to these characters cause the film is more about the events happening, and less about the actual people involved. The film doesn’t really give you an idea as to who the bad, and the guys are, and it’s not that you can make up that assumption for yourself, the film doesn’t really let you in to figure that out. So by the ending, I didn’t feel any real connection to these characters, and their fates were kind of not as important to me. These actual historical figures seem more of action hero cliches rather than actual people, and that’s the problem cause you could have actually rooted behind some of these people if the film just let you. But you are never really given that chance.

The acting for me here was pretty good. Brad Pitt is oddly in this film, and it seems kind of strange, but I think this was his days before Angelina, so it’s kind of understandable that his career didn’t really pick up just yet. He’s good as Achillies and actually brings a charm to his character that I wasn’t expecting him to do with such a cheesy script, but that just proves his skills as an actor. I also liked Eric Bana as well, and thought that his performance as Hector, brought a lot of emotion to the film that it needed. Orlando Bloom was kind of a downer for me, cause his performance isn’t that good, and his character is even worse. I don’t know what he was trying to do here, but being compelling surely wasn’t one of them. Diane Kruger is alright in this film as well as Sean Bean, Brendan Gleeson, Rose Byrne, Peter O’Toole, and the always reliable Brian Cox.

Consensus: It’s beautiful to look at, and the action is exciting, but the film’s bad script, keeps Troy away from the emotional resonance that could have actually helped the film be more than just a standard action movie.

6/10=Rental!!

Adaptation (2002)

One of the worst, and most confusing writer blocks ever…well…written.

Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is a Los Angeles screenwriter battling enormous feelings of insecurity and impotence as he struggles to adapt The Orchid Thief, a book by Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep), whose main character, John Laroche (Chris Cooper), is searching for love. Add to the mix Charlie’s twin brother, Donald (also played by Cage), and you have a surreal, Spike Jonze-directed gem about the search for passion.

When it comes to Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze, they literally are two great minds that just cannot be controlled without a doubt. Just by seeing this film you can tell that they should do more and more films together, no matter what the subject matter.

At first, the film may seem really confusing, and it may have you keep on wondering: whats fact or fiction? However, the film is structured in a way that it actually feels like your in Kaufman’s mind, with the over head narration, constant imagination shots, and the fact that his brother keeps on popping up.

The screenplay is what really works here, because it shows that writing about yourself sometimes works. Now take it for granted, this is a historical fiction piece, but some elements show the fact that Kaufman really did start getting nuts while writing this screenplay and we start to feel it. The blending of comedy and drama really works, cause the comedy at times is actually very very funny, something you wouldn’t expect, and also the drama in this film almost brings a tear to the eye sometimes, while providing a lot of info about life itself, something you wouldn’t expect. The film is alive, because it keeps on inventing itself as it goes along, surprising and challenging us, showing us something we weren’t expecting.

I had only one problem with this film and it was sort of obvious, and it was the sudden change of tone by the last act. I don’t want to give too much away, however, it just feels like the ending had a sort of Coen Brothers, thriller/comedy feel to it, and didn’t quite match with the rest of the film.

The best thing about this film, that really elevates it to the highest power, is the wonderful performance by Nic Cage. He plays both Charlie and Donald Kaufman, and it is just one of the greatest dual roles of all-time. There is no fancy-shmancy make-up done to either of these characters, nor do we get a huge announcement of who this is, we simply know by the way Cage acts each one out. Donald is funny, witty, and aspires to be something Charlie already is, while Charlie himself is nutty, smart, and also is going through some crazy stuff, but we can tell who each character is.

There is also a wonderful supporting cast here. Chris Cooper, plays his best role ever, as John Laroche, the free loving flower nut, who at first seems like a total dick, but somehow by the ends becomes our favorite character. I was glad he won the Oscar, because its just a type of character that have could have been played totally wrong, however gives us the feel and passion that lies within this great character. Meryl Streep also has a good supporting performance, although I somehow feel her scenes with Cage could have been better, if given more time on-screen. Also, Brian Cox is in this, need I say more.

Consensus: Adaptation seems confusing at first, but ends up turning into a superbly-acted, witty, and heart-felt realistic fiction, showing that sometimes writing about yourself is better in some cases.

9/10=Full Pricee!!