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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Brie Larson

The Glass Castle (2017)

Every family’s a little crazy. Obviously some, more than others.

Though Jeannette Walls (Brie Larson) grew up to be a smart, tough and powerful gal writing for a column, she had quite a rough upbringing. Her parents, for lack of a better word, were hippies in the sense that they didn’t care too much about certain materialistic things. You know, things like a house, or bills, or even school. This led Jeannette and her relatives to having to grow up by themselves and save up money, day in and day out, in hopes that they’ll one day make it out. And the father, Rex (Woody Harrelson), was probably the biggest problem of them all. Not only did he love himself a drink, but he was so controlling, he wouldn’t let anybody out. The mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts), was just always there, painting, and trying her hardest to ensure that her family stayed together. Honestly, it was a lost cause which is why, when Jeannette grows up, she doesn’t really want much to do with her parents. But the older she gets, the more she realizes that no matter how hard she tries, her parents and her family’s legacy is something that she can never, ever avoid.

Daddy’s little girl. So long as daddy ain’t drinkin’.

The Glass Castle is an odd movie that felt like it should be a whole hell of a lot darker, meaner and more disturbing, than it actually plays out. It’s literally a story about a drunken-deadbeat of a father who forced his family to stay in poverty, not really depend on anything but him, and as a result, sort of scar them for life. And that story, as is told, kind of works; the Glass Castle has an honest way about telling its story where we get the sense that no matter how many years go by, the scars will still always be there.

But that’s only one aspect of the story. The other aspect is this notion that the movie also wants to praise the drunken-deadbeat father for being charming, thinking for himself, and always being able to provide an argument in a justified manner. It’s almost as if we’re supposed to hate him for all of the awful, almost unforgivable actions that he commits throughout the two hours, but also love him for these faults, too. Once again, it’s odd and it never quite works together, and it’s all the more disappointing considering that this is coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton who, a few years ago, shook the airwaves a few years ago with Short Term 12.

Which also starred Brie Larson who, for some reason, feels wasted here, as does everyone else.

She turned out all right. Right?

The only person in the cast who gets to do the most is Woody Harrelson and oddly enough, even he feels like a problem for the movie. Though it’s not entirely his fault – the writing’s too confusing – it still shows us that no matter how hard he tries, even Woody Harrelson’s charm can’t save a character who is, at the end of the day, an asshole. We get constant flashbacks of him being something of a nice father, who tells his kids to inspire more, but we soon find out that he only says that because he can’t support them in any other way. We also get constant flashbacks of him connecting with Jeannette and we get the sense that they truly did have a loving relationship growing up, and constantly depending on one another, but then we also find out that the father didn’t want her to leave the nest and sabotaged her career, at one point.

It’s really weird, honestly. And it feels like the movie never quite makes up what it wants to be about, or hell, what it even wants to say, about us, about this family, and about family as a whole, in general. The story itself is compelling and, on occasion, we’ll get some small glimmers of material that could have been further explored, in a much darker, much more adult-oriented movie, but the Glass Castle also feels like it’s playing very much for the made-for-TV crowd. It looks and has better acting than one of them, but it’s just as messy and uneven, making it a missed opportunity on all fronts.

Go back to indies, Destin. Please.

Consensus: While the original source-material leaves plenty of room for promise, the adaptation of the Glass Castle is a confused, mish-mash of melodrama, sap, and mixed messages about family, alcoholism, and coming-of-age.

4.5 / 10

“Who needs gas? Or electric? Or water? Or school? Or hell, anything else! We got family!”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Free Fire (2017)

Did someone say “bang bang”?

Two different groups of thugs get together to finish up the deal on a bunch of guns. Seem simple enough, eh? Well, unfortunately, that doesn’t quite go as planned when the groups begin to feud for some odd reasons and then, eventually, and seemingly out of nowhere, begin shooting at one another. But why? And better yet, who is to be blamed for all of this craziness and havoc?

Co-writer/director Ben Wheatley thinks he’s definitely a lot smarter and humoruous than he actually is, which is why his movies, for the most part, have left me feeling a tad bit dry. Sure, they’ve got inspiration and definitely some creativity, but they mostly feel like mixed-bags where Wheatley tries a lot of different things at once and doesn’t quite come out on top, looking as clean and as smart as he thinks.

Still so cool.

It’s nothing against him, as a person, because I’m sure he’s a cheeky and lovely fella to be around, but it also seems like he’s a lot wittier than he may be. Does he take extra steps to put himself into a corner with the kinds of movies he takes on? Oh yes. Does he at least show a surprising amount of ambition? Definitely. Does he always seem to know what he’s doing? Not quite, and that’s why Free Fire, while still something of a slightly mixed-bag, also works a lot better than his other flicks because, well, it is actually as witty and humorous as it think it is.

Which is definitely saying something.

Cause honestly, the premise is basically one overlong gun-battle and while it can get to be a little tiring after hearing gun-shot-after-gun-shot, it also sinks so much into your brain that it works. Eventually, the sound just becomes background noise to these characters constantly plotting, yelling, and figuring out ways how to get out of this situation alive, get off with all the guns, and also, get rid of the ones shooting at them. Sure, is it maybe too simple for its own good? Most definitely, but it still works because Wheatley and co-writer Amy Jump seem to know what it is that they’re dealing with here and it works.

In other words, it’s a fun movie. It’s actually kind of funny, but also pretty barbaric and disturbing when it needs to be, and it draws us even closer into the twisted, sick and warped mind of Wheatley. Could he have possibly have toned-down all of the constant shooting and instead, I don’t know, given us something along the lines of a one-on-one battle? Probably, but still, it’s hard to complain about a movie that doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot, yet, still entertaining. It so rarely happens to me with a movie, so it’s great when it does.

Somehow, they have time for laughs?

And yes, the awesome ensemble is to be thanked for that, too.

Because everyone’s got their own one little trait, it works in the long-run. Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley are the bad-ass Irishmen; Brie Larson is the woman who constantly keeps on getting underestimated, but always proving herself; Jack Reynor and Noah Taylor are scummy dudes; Sharlto Copley, in one of his best performances to-date, is the stylish, yet annoying South African who takes things too seriously; Babou Ceesay is his very hard-to-understand partner; Jack Reynor is pugnacious and always looking for a brawl; and in probably the best performance, Armie Hammer stays cool and stylish, even with all of the killing and violence surrounding him.

With a great cast such as this, would you expect a bit more than just quips and shots fired? Probably, but once again, it still kind of works. Wheatley knows how to shoot this action to where we can tell what’s happening, even when it’s sometimes not all that clear, but he also knows how to draw us in on the tension, by upping the stakes and keeping surprises up his sleeve. It can be viewed as pretentious, but compared to his other movies, it’s probably the least stylish and obvious he’s ever been, which means yes, it’s good.

Pretty damn good, to be honest.

Consensus: As simple as it may be, Free Fire still gets by on its fun, humor, and perfectly put together cast who work well in this crazy atmosphere.

7.5 / 10

Don’t take her Oscar away just yet.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

If it’s not on Google Maps, chances are, you should stay away from it.

It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is close to an end, and Bill Randa (John Goodman) a senior official in a super secret government organization known as Monarch, finally sees his opportunity to capitalize on achieving one of his biggest missions yet: Going to the mysterious Skull Island and figuring out what sort of threat is out there. After much arm-twisting, the government finally gives Randa the tools and resources he needs to get there, which means that he gets the army, the weapons, as well as the experts to help guide him along on this possibly dangerous island. One person Randa seeks out and pays to help him is world-renowned traveler James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), who doesn’t know what’s there on Skull Island, either, but doesn’t like the sounds of it, which is why he demands for his pay to be doubled. Meanwhile, on the mission, is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who can’t wait to see what’s out there, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of the Army who isn’t too happy about what happened with the war and isn’t ready to let that go. Not even a gigantic, monstrous and incredibly violent ape known as Kong.

Kong best look out.

Kong: Skull Island is so entertaining, so quick, so visually impressive, and so fun that, even with all of its flaws, I’m willing and absolutely able to just let bygones be bygones and praise the film as it is. Because even though the script is silly, underwritten, and not at all up to the task of aiding and abetting this talented ensemble, the direction from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is so thrilling, it’s hard to care so much. After all, do you really go to a King Kong movie for the well-written, three-dimensional, and emotionally complex characters? Or, do you go to a King Kong movie for the vividly gigantic monsters beating the absolute hell out of one another and terrorizing any human that tries to stand in their ways?

Honestly, it’s not bad to have a little bit of both, but fine, Kong: Skull Island wants to stick with the later, so whatever.

Either way, Kong: Skull Island is still a very fun movie and a lot of that is credited to Vogt-Roberts because he takes what could have been a very soulless, almost boring job of rebooting the tale of Kong and instead, adds some life, flair (literally), and energy into it. One of the most notable and interesting aspects Vogt-Roberts adds here is that Kong: Skull Island is, on one hand, a monster movie, in which people run away and try to kill a monster, but on the other hand, it’s also a Vietnam War movie, in which some cold cut rock classics from the early-70’s blasts out from the speakers, everyone’s a little scared and paranoid, and yeah, the temperature is hot, sweaty and downright miserable. In a way, Vogt-Roberts wants to make the Apocalypse Now of monster movies and while he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he still shows us all something new and original can be done with the monster movie.

And because of this, there’s an energy to Skull Island that’s hard to resist and shove-off. Even though it’s absolutely clear from the get-go that the script is going to be shoddy, silly and downright stupid, there’s just something about the look and feel of this all that’s easy to ride along with and enjoy. Even those who want to see Kong in all of his finest form, will be pleased to know that he’s seen a whole bunch throughout and doing all the sorts of things that you’d expect him to do in a movie involving him; there’s smashing, crunching, chewing, roaring, pounding, beating, breaking, punching, kicking, throwing, eating, and oh yeah, crying. Kind of.

But not from these fools.

Regardless, those who complained about 2014 Godzilla not having enough of said title character, then sit down, shut up and feast your eyes on the creature that you’ve all been so desperately wanting to see.

That said though, like I’ve said before, the script is just, uhm, how should I say this? Lame. But it’s not terrible in that it’s hard to listen to, ruins the movie, and sucks all of the fun out of it; it’s more that it feels like a leftover script from the 90’s, right around the time Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden, everyone wanted to make a big-budget, effects-heavy monster movie. Meaning, there’s a lot of cheesy one-liners; a lot of characters who have basically one personality-trait to them and it basically defines them; a lot of contrivances; a lot of scenes that need more explaining; and oh yeah, a lot of random bits of silliness that seem to literally come from out of nowhere.

And it’s weird, too, because the cast here is so well-done and impressive, that it’s a bit of a shame. No one’s bad here, honestly, but because the net has been cast so far and wide, no one true performance really gets to shine above the rest. The only ones I can truly think of doing this are probably John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s just because they get maybe two or three more sentences than the rest of the cast to explain themselves and allow us to get to know them a tad bit better. Others like Hiddleston, Larson, Goodman, Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, and an oddly miscast Thomas Mann, all fall by the waist side and it’s a sign that the movie may have cast a smaller net, or have been longer.

Still though, for a movie that clocks in just under two hours, it makes for a good time. Just don’t try and think too hard, like me.

Basically, don’t be me.

Consensus: Even with an awfully wacky script, Kong: Skull Island gets by solely on the pure energy and fun from its direction, as well as an interesting take on the monster movie genre itself.

7 / 10

Oh wait. Never mind. He can’t be stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Room (2015)

Give me a free Netflix account and I’ll stay in a room for as long as you want.

Being held captive for five years, Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) and her five-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay), have come to terms with the situation that they’re living in. For the past five-to-seven years, they’ve been living in this warehouse that they call “Room”, and find interesting ways to make life for themselves in there as vibrant and as lovely as humanly possible. But now that Jack is getting older and, as Joy hopes, wiser, he’s going to have to start coming to terms with what’s “real” and what’s “make believe”. For instance, Jack doesn’t know that there’s actual life beyond Room, and this is something that Joy tries to hammer into his brain so that he too, will get the urge to want to get out of this place and back into the real world. And since Joy thinks he’s ready, she gives Jack a few tasks and it’s up to him, to see whether or not they get out of Room alive and well, or if they fail, yet again, left to rot away in this little little prison cell that they’ve been sadly thrown into.

It's so hard....

It’s so hard….

Movies like Room, are the type that I love to talk about, but at the same time, ones that I hate to review. For one, it’s the kind of movie that deserves to be seen, hardly knowing anything about going in. While so many of the ads and trailers for this movie have done everything but keep it subtle and unknown to the general audience just what happens with the plot and where it goes once it gets past the half-way mark, I, to those of you who may be reading wherever you are in the world, will do everything in my strength not to say just what happens in Room. Cause, from what mostly everybody knows, is that Room has something to do with a mother and son being locked-up and kept in this square-box.

That’s basically it.

Anything else about this movie, it’s probably best to steer clear of knowing about, because it not only ruins any chances of knowing what to expect from this movie, but by the same token, being able to suck it all in. Because in all honesty, Room snuck up on me and most likely, it will on you, too. You think you’ll have a general idea of where the story is going, see the wheels turning, and then, all of a sudden, you’ll have no clue and feel like possibly the dumbest person in the room. However, rather than feeling terrible and depressed about this fact, you’ll soon change your tune once you realize that it doesn’t matter, because Room, the movie, is so amazing.

It’s the kind of movie that plays with so many raw, gritty emotions, but handles them in such an effective, smart way, that it not only makes you want to praise director Lenny Abrahmson for not allowing this material to get as sappy and as melodramatic as it could have been, but also want to cry your eyes out. And honestly, the latter is what I did – on many occasions. While it’s not necessarily difficult to make me tear-up at a movie, it’s also not an easy feat, either; there has to be a certain feel of emotional connection and believeability to start the water-works.

Which is why they started so many times throughout Room. There’s these small, individual moments of absolute human-to-human emotion and heart that, quite frankly, I found incredibly hard to handle. But the movie never plays any of this up, ever; instead, it plays everything so low and matter-of-factly, that you’ll hardly notice that it’s working its magic on you.

That’s just the kind of movie Room is: You won’t expect it to work as well as it does, but honestly, that’s the real beauty of it, as well as many other smaller movies like it.

Which is why it’s so great to see Brie Larson get so much love and acclaim for it, as I feel like she’s literally on the verge of breaking-out and taking the whole world by storm. As Joy, Larson gets plenty of hard and heavy acting to do, but it never feels overwrought, or even obvious, as if she’s got the Oscar voters watching on-deck; instead, she feels exactly like a woman in her position would feel. While she wants to love and protect her son from every cruel thing that the world has to offer, she also doesn’t want him to forget that the world can actually be cruel and is, in ways, not as fair as it’s made out to be on TV.

And speaking of her son, Jacob Tremblay, despite being hardly eight when this flick was being made, gives a superb performance as Jack. What’s so smart about the character of Jack is that, well, he actually isn’t smart. Nor, for that matter, is he the kind of smart-ass, precocious child character we’re used to seeing in movies; rather, he’s just a kid who has no idea what sort of situation he’s into, except only to know what he wants to know or has been made to believe through TV, or certain things his mommy has told him. What makes this performance so spectacular, isn’t that he plays up this naivete with the wonderful sense of child-like wonder we so rarely see from actual child actors, but how he acts when he’s told that this world he lives and believes in, is nothing more than just pure fantasy. He’s upset, heart-broken and above all, confused. Which is exactly what any kid is like when they find out something they’ve been made to believe as true, actually isn’t.

...to find pictures that don't spoil Room.

…to find pictures that don’t spoil Room.

*cough cough* Santa Claus *cough cough* Easter Bunny *cough cough* any other mystical figure who comes to give you treats or gifts *cough cough*

And while I know that I’m being ridiculously vague with this whole review, but really, it’s for your own good. Just know that Room, is a near-masterpiece. There are certain bits of the story that felt maybe a tad too unexplained, but really, they’re basically just moments and ways for me to complain about stuff that doesn’t matter.

Just, please, pretty please, do yourself a favor and see Room.

Please.

Consensus: Smart, effective, well-acted, and most of all, emotional, Room plays with a lot of big, heavy feelings, yet, never over-does any of them and instead, feels like a human story everyone can connect to and take something out of, regardless of if they’ve ever been in the same situation as the characters, or not.

9 / 10

So I'm just gonna keep it like this.

So I’m just gonna keep it like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Digging for Fire (2015)

Buried treasure is a perfect metaphor for one’s mid-life crisis.

Tim (Jake Johnson) and Lee (Rosemarie DeWitt) are, for the most part, a happy couple. They have a child together, and even though they can’t necessarily agree on what education is the best for him, they still love one another enough that it’s only a slight problem. But having been married for so long can make a person feel a bit suffocated; which is why Lee decides to take it upon herself to head out on a little relaxing trip of her own. This leaves Tim at home, all by himself, for the whole weekend – which he more than takes advantage of. For one, Tim throws a banger full of booze, drugs and women, and then, all of a sudden, discovers a bone and a gun in his backyard. Where it’s come from, he doesn’t know, however, Tim is more than inspired to find out just what the hell else is hidden underneath the dirt that surrounds him and his pad. Meanwhile, Lee herself is having some bit of fun as she goes out gallivanting one night, and stumbles upon the charming Ben (Orlando Bloom), who immediately takers her breath away and makes her ponder whether or not marriage is actually cut-out for her in the first place.

If he can smoke...

If he can smoke…

You could make a fair argument that Joe Swanberg tends to make the same movie, over and over again. While he does switch-around the plots, for the most part, everything is exactly as mumblecore-ish and as simplistic as you could expect it to be. When you go into seeing a Joe Swanberg movie, you expect something with a fly-on-the-wall approach, where it may seem like nothing’s happening, or that it ever will. To some, this can annoy up to high heavens, but for others, such as myself, it’s truly a treat to watch in amazement.

Even if, sometimes, the end results aren’t always so great as you’d hope.

But that isn’t to say Digging for Fire isn’t a good movie from Swanberg in any sort of fashion – in fact, just the opposite. Compared to last year’s Happy Christmas, it feels as if Swanberg has more of a story to roll with here and even though he’s only using them as a way to pass through his metaphor about growing old and marriage itself, it’s still done in such a way that didn’t seem manipulative. Are the rusty gun and odd-looking bone symbolism for how tired and worn-out these two main characters feel? Or, are they just story-telling devices that Swanberg utilizes to make us think that something crazy, or better yet, shocking is going to happen around then, until we realize that, well, not really? Does it really matter?

Nope, not really. And the reason that is, is because Swanberg knows how to tell a story by standing back and letting everyone in front of the camera do the talking for him. Though Swanberg apparently co-wrote this script with Jake Johnson, a part of me still feels like that doesn’t account for anything; there are still many patches throughout this movie where it’s evident that everybody’s just riffing on whatever they feel should come next in the scene that they’re currently filming. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complaint, seeing as how I usually love the spontaneity Swanberg’s able to draw-out of his performers using this directing-approach, but it does make me wonder how much better some of these films would be, with a little more push here and there in the creative-department.

But, that said, Digging for Fire still works enough as is because it is, for one thing, a funny movie. Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that, in addition to the two main stars, the likes of Sam Rockwell, Mike Birbiglia, Melanie Lynskey, Anna Kendrick, and Chris Messina show up for a little while, but it also has some part to do with the fact that Swanberg takes Tim’s life and main dilemma seriously. Basically, the main question is why Tim’s going to town on digging into the yard? Does it really matter what Tim finds?

Maybe.

Then, so can she dammit!

Then, so can she dammit!

But whatever Tim does find, Swanberg makes it a point to keep himself more invested on what goes in and around Tim’s life and while they may be all a bunch of fun to laugh and be around, it’s Johnson’s Tim who always comes off as the more charismatic figure. For one, his character is given the most background info in that he seems like a bit of a boring, tied-down, but after a little while, shows that he’s capable of having a great time and being the life of the party when he’s called on to do so. Sure, he’s still got a wife and kid, but he won’t hesitate one second to snort that line of coke. Johnson does well with this character in that he shows he’s both smart, but a bit dopey at the same time, and it makes you hope that, even if it isn’t as memorable as he hopes, whatever he finds underneath all that dirt, at least gives him some satisfaction in life.

Of course, because Johnson’s role is so well-done, Rosemarie DeWitt does seem to get cheated here a bit. It’s one thing if DeWitt’s scenes just aren’t that interesting, but she hardly gets that much time on the screen. There’s the first-half of the movie and then, randomly, she’s nowhere to be seen until the final act where she’s now out on the prowl herself. DeWitt’s still solid in this role and shows that she’s able to work with not that much, but at the same time, makes me wish that Swanberg and Johnson, gave her character just as much time and effort as they gave the Tim character.

Like I alluded to before, though, there’s a lot of funny and famous people who show up here, all of whom, do fine. Rockwell is his usual killer-self; Birbiglia is nerdy and twitchy; Brie Larson is cool and full of personality; Kendrick is, for some lovely reason, a bit of a skank; and oh yeah, Orlando Bloom shows up. See, here’s the thing about Orlando Bloom: It’s not that I think he’s a bad actor, per se, it’s just that he hasn’t even really had time to grow out of being anything more than just Will Turner. You could say that he had Elizabethtown, but honestly, nobody had that movie to work with. Bloom shows up here for a short time as an object of Lee’s affection and does a solid job, given the time that he’s given to work with. He’s cool, suave, charming and most of all, not annoying. To me, this shows that maybe, given some time on his part, Orlando Bloom could start showing different layers of his acting-talent, if given the right chance and time to do so.

So, please guys! Try and do that if you can!

Consensus: Though Digging for Fire is typical Swanberg-fare, it’s still funny, insightful, and well-acted enough to where it feels like there was a bit more effort on not just the part of Swanberg’s, but the unexpectedly star-studded cast as well.

7 / 10

And they might as well, too.

And they might as well, too.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Trainwreck (2015)

There’s more to life than booze. Like pot.

When she was younger, Amy (Amy Schumer) was always told by her dad (Colin Quinn) that monogamy is nearly impossible. Many years later, she’s seem to taken that note of advice to heart, where mostly every other night, she spends it drinking, smoking, partying, and going home with some guy that she doesn’t even remember the next morning. Her sister (Brie Larson) has turned out for the best with her husband (Mike Birbiglia) and step-son, but Amy just can’t seem to bring herself to want and/or be happy with those sorts of things – she’s already too happy enjoying her independence. That all begins to change, however, when Amy’s assigned a story for her magazine on a sports doctor, Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Though it’s not necessarily smart for a journalist to get involved with her subject, Amy just can’t help herself one night and sooner than later, realizes that she’s in something that she’s always fought so hard against: A relationship. But because Amy is so commitment-phobic, she’s finding it hard to not let her personal issues get in the way of something beautiful she and Aaron could have, even if he too struggles with it from time to time.

It’s hard to make a good romantic comedy nowadays. Sure, a movie can try its hardest to spin the genre on the tops of its head so many times, in so many fancy ways, that even the most downbeat and depressed person can find something to be happy about. But sometimes, what ultimately ends up happening is that the movie turns out to be a pretentious piece of bull that’s trying so hard to please you in an ironic way, that it’s downright annoying. I’ve seen many rom-coms in my life that have been different enough to work (500 Days of Summer), I’ve seen many that try to be hip and cool, but just turn out to be gag-inducing (plenty of indies), and that will probably never change.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

Cheers up, ladies. You deserve it.

However, there’s no denying that Trainwreck‘s a good rom-com.

Even in today’s day and age.

What Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow both do perfectly together here is that they blend their own certain styles of humor that it feels like one, cohesive whole, rather than just a splattering of ideas thrown at the wall like spaghetti. Schumer actually wrote this script and while most of it may definitely seem like the normal kind of banter we expect from Apatow projects, it’s surprisingly mostly coming from Schumer’s pen, paper, and mind. Sure, there’s definitely some improv to be found among the talents on-display here, however, Trainwreck is Amy Schumer’s baby, through and through, and there’s nobody who can get in the way of that.

Which isn’t to say that Judd Apatow tries to sneak in and take it all away from her – in fact, it’s all quite the opposite. Apatow allows for there to be many moments dedicated solely to just Schumer herself, acting, being charming, and building this character, rather than relying on non-stop scenes of people just rambling on and on about whatever comes to their mind first. Though this aspect of Apatow’s movies can still illicit laughs, here, it would have mostly felt unnecessary and random.

Because at the center of Trainwreck, there’s this fully-realized and developed female character who feels as if she was written in a smart way that she’s not only relateable to anyone out there, but still human enough to not be judged as harshly as she herself may want you to. That the movie doesn’t slut-shame Amy’s character, nor make her forget about the errors of her ways, proves that Schumer set out to make a human, rather than just a character that can stand in while everyone around her cracks jokes and moves the story right on along. Like I’ve said before, it’s totally Schumer’s movie and it’s better off because of it – she never forgets what’s driving this story, nor does she ever let herself take over the screen too much.

Which is to say, that when she’s letting others deliver the funny, they more than do so.

You’d think that with a cast as varied and nuts as Trainwreck, that there’d most definitely be some weak-spots to be found among the group, but somehow, that doesn’t happen. Every performer who shows up is more than up to the task of delivering the funny, making their presence known, and then leaving to let the movie get on with itself. And the reason why I used the word “performer” is because it’s a little hard to classify a group of actors, when you’re talking about the likes of John Cena, or Lebron James, or even Amar’e Stoudemire; okay maybe Cena’s more believable as an “actor”, considering his profession, but as for the other two, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen either show-off their thespian skills before.

However, both of them, as well as plenty of others are pitch perfect with their comedy. Especially James, who comes off like the sassy best-friend type that these kinds of movies seem to have, but instead, because it’s Lebron James and the writing’s a whole lot more knowing, it never comes off like a conceit. Instead, it just comes off as Lebron James being very funny in a role that, believe it or not, was written perfectly for him. Sure, he’s playing a heightened version of himself, but at least he can actually “play” around in the first place, yuck it up, and not take himself at all too seriously.

Kobe's not this charming. Trust me.

Kobe’s not this charming. Trust me.

Good for him, because who knows? When that basketball career of his dries up, there may be a bigger, brighter future out there for him in front of the camera.

So long as he doesn’t get stuck with starring in a Kazaam remake.

Anyway, Lebron’s not the only one who gets a chance to shine and show the comedy-world what they are capable of doing, and why you can depend on them some more in the future. Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller (lovely little We Need to Talk About Kevin reunion, if there ever was one), Vanessa Bayer, Randall Park, Dave Attell, Marisa Tomei, Jon Glaser, Method Man, Daniel Radcliffe, and 100-year-old Norman Lloyd, among others, may or may not seem like the perfect choices for your rom-com, but they somehow assert themselves well enough here that they prove why they are. As usual with Apatow’s movies, some roles tend to lean more on the excessive side (Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert and Chris Evert), whereas other go unseen (Barkhad Abdi and Jim Norton were apparently cast), but there’s no denying that Apatow’s able to draw out some of the most odd, sometimes shocking moments of comedy from these talents, whether you expected any of them to deliver on them or not.

But at the center of all the mayhem occurring with this ensemble, is Amy Schumer and Bill Hader who not only have perfect chemistry, but really give some personality to these otherwise stock characters. Schumer’s boozy, free-wheeling character seems like she’s on the brink of self-destruction, but the movie makes it clear that it’s not necessarily a problem for her, nor is it a problem for us; Schumer’s just so charming and funny about everything, that it hardly registers at all that she’s slowly dying on the inside. Same goes with Bill Hader, who’s Dr. Conners feels like he could be the butt of every joke, yet, turns out to be the smartest character of them all. And even then, he’s got some problems worth solving.

Then again, don’t we all?

Consensus: As is the case with Apatow movies, Trainwreck is a tad overlong, but is still hilarious, well-acted, and insightful enough that it’s maybe his most polished work to date and proves that there’s plenty of room to grow for not just him, but Amy Schumer as well.

8 / 10

People in love - so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

People in love – so happy and joyful. It makes me sick!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gambler (2014)

Albert Camus and gambling. How could I have not seen the similarities before?

Literary professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t seem like he’s happy about his life. For one, his grand-father just died and has practically left him little-to-no money. Bennett also happens to have a gambling problem, that gets him into all sorts of trouble with powerful kingpins of the underground poker world. And, to make matters slightly worse, he has a job that he absolutely hates, where all he does is practically yell at each and everyone of his students, telling them that not only are they “not great”, but they’re also wasting his precious time. So yeah, Bennett doesn’t necessarily have the best life in the world of all person’s lives, but he does have a possible-girlfriend (Brie Larson), a very rich mom (Jessica Lange), and nearly seven days to settle all of his debts before it’s too late. But a week isn’t so bad if all you have to do is cobble up a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? Well, wrong.

One of the main problems with the Gambler lies solely within the lead character himself, Jim Bennett. For starters, he’s not a very likable, nor sympathetic one to say the least, but he also is quite repetitive without hardly any rhyme or reason. And then, there’s the fact that Mark Wahlberg, of all people, was cast in this role as a literary professor at what seems to be a very prodigious university somewhere in California. Both go hand-in-hand with what makes the Gambler a poor movie, but they’re both hard to describe to a person who hasn’t seen the movie. It just feels, while watching it, very mis-matched and awkward. Almost like a blind date you set up between two mutual friends; you know that they may have similarities and be a nice match, but you’re not sure how they’re going to approach one another.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

It’s a bad simile, I know, but it’s all I got to work with since this is a very frustrating movie.

First off, the lead protagonist of Jim Bennett isn’t a very likable one, which is fine and all if a movie at least shows us that there is something to him that’s not only interesting, but turns him into something of a tragic-figure. However, the writing for Bennett is too repetitious and simple to make him as anything but; Jim Bennett is, simply put, a dick. But he’s the worst kind of a dick – he’s that kind of rich, self-entitled, whiny dick that you see at a dinner-party, who everybody crowds around and listens to all because he seems like a smart, know-it-all dude, when in reality, he’s just a bone-head who pisses, moans, and cries about everything in life, when he doesn’t really need to. Everything’s been practically handed to him on a silver spoon and the only problems that he ever faces in life, are ones that are completely made because of him and nobody else.

Yet, the movie makes him out to be some sort of martyr that we’re not only supposed to feel bad for because he’s so pissed off and angry about life, but also because he apparently has a gambling problem; one that’s never really brought out well enough to be classified as such. What I mean is that while you see certain movies about people with addictions, mainly gambling addictions, you know that they are, the way they are, is because they love the trill of winning whatever big con it is. In the case of gambler’s, they love the excitement of winning a bet and absolutely chase that for as long as they can. Here though, with Bennett, we never see his utter joy and/or pleasure for winning; we just see him bet a lot of stupid hands in the game of Blackjack, lose, and then continue to dig himself in a deeper-hole for no other reason other than, well, he can.

To me, this not only makes him an unlikable, nearly insufferable character to watch and have to stick with for two hours. Not to mention, it also wastes the talents of Mark Wahlberg, an actor who, when given the right material to work with, is strong and impressive, but seems like he is way out of his depth here as, get ready for it, a literary professor who may have reached his mid-life crisis already. I know it sounds like a joke, but judging by how this movie portrays Bennett, as well as the rest of its story, it isn’t. It’s pure, unabashed drama, and it’s hard to take in as fact or compelling.

You’d think that casting-directors would think twice about putting Marky Mark in roles of teachers, but oh well.

Though, to be fair, I have to hold back on the hate of Marky Mark’s performance, because he’s not all bad; you can tell by the fact that he lost about 60 pounds, that he truly is trying with this role. But the problem remains that he’s just not believable enough in this role as a professor who just preaches about the monotony and shit-heap reality that is life. There are some instances in which we see the good, old school Marky Mark come out (mostly in scenes where he’s acting smarter than the person he’s talking to and/or ready to brawl), but overall, it’s a mixed-bag of a performance, that could have easily been avoided, had Wahlberg not been cast in a role that clearly doesn’t suit him well.

Then again though, it all comes back to this character of Jim Bennett; he’s not nice, not interesting, and sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to make this movie work. He’s just a blank-slate, that’s made even worse by the dumb, idiotic decisions he makes in life that not only impact his own life – one that he’s already made pretty clear he doesn’t care for. But, even worse, he impacts those around him who love him, care for him, and actually care about their own, relatively pleasant lives as human beings. He doesn’t care, so therefore, we’re supposed to care.

And because we don’t care about him, or the actions he makes, there’s hardly any tension to be found in the Gambler. Sure, some of the scenes where Bennett’s betting his life away on what seem to be ordinary games of Blackjack, do have some real suspense to them, but it’s only because of the way they’re filmed. It’s not that we’re held in suspense because Bennett may actually die if he loses whatever hand he’s playing with, but because director Rupert Wyatt actually seems to care for how this film looks and feels. Even if his lead character is terribly-written, he’s still trying and that, for the most part, at least made it watchable.

"The King stay the King." Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

“The King stay the King.” Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

Although, Wyatt isn’t the only one trying here. It’s the rest of the supporting cast that show up every so often to not only make things a little bit brighter, but make a lot of these self-important speeches the script frequently lapses into actually interesting. John Goodman has the brightest end of the stick as a bald loan shark that Bennett meets with on a few occasions, and talks about how America is build on “fuck you”. It’s a lovely bit that adds some flair to this film, but also counts as one of the rare speeches here that actually works and doesn’t seem like the writer behind it is just trying his hardest to sound smart.

The one’s who don’t really come away as nicely as Goodman does with his speeches, are Michael K. Williams, Alvin Ing, and Anthony Kelley; with the former two playing actual mob bosses who Bennett runs into conflict with, and the later just being a student of his, who is constantly on the discouraging end of Bennett’s many rants about paying attention in class and not trying to get by in the academic-world because of athletics. None of these characters really seem believable, and it’s even more evident once they open up their mouths and start going on about stuff we either don’t care for, or have much of a foundation to really build our own feelings on. We’re just sort of sitting there, wondering what it all means, and end up not caring at all.

The only impressive part about this supporting cast is that the two female roles, played by Jessica Lange and Brie Larson, actually feel pertinent to the story and add some dramatic-heft to a piece that definitely needed it. Lange plays Bennett’s mother and has maybe two dramatic scenes where you can definitely tell she loves and cares for her dastardly son, but wants to be rid of his problems and hopes that he does to. And Larson, who I’m glad was cast here, at least makes some sense of her character’s motivations, especially when we’re supposed to believe somebody as lovely and chirpy as hers would fall for someone as downtrodden and inexplicably depressed as Bennett. They are two fine performances in their own rights, that go a long way.

Especially for something as disappointing as this.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining and interesting, but mostly, where the Gambler loses points in is because its lead character is terribly-written, and suffers even more from a miscast Mark Wahlberg playing it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ladies, don't act like you aren't impressed.

Ladies, don’t act like you aren’t impressed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Don Jon (2013)

The Jersay Sha craze ain’t ova yet!

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) likes to think of himself as the modern-day Don Juan, and with all of the game he’s got, how could he not?!?! Not only does he bed some of hottest women all of New Jersey has to offer, but he’s also got a pretty nice body, charming personality, well-off job as a bartender, sweet moves on the dance-floor, and cleans his house non-stop, as if it was his morning day ritual. Actually, what am I talking about? It is! However, thrown into the mix is his fair share of porn that he can’t stop watching and loving, all for the sake that it gives him the sort of “real” feeling he can’t get with actual, real-life sex. You know, with a normal human-being. But all that begins to change when he meets the girl of his dreams in the form of Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) and realizes that he needs to quit his addiction if he wants to settle down and get serious with this girl. But if you’ve spent most of your adult-life jackin’ it on the daily, it’s a little easier said then done.

I have to admit, as much as I am a whole-hearted fan of JGL’s, even I snickered a bit when I heard that he would not only be writing and directing a movie that’s practically about the modern-day version of Don Juan, but that he would be starring in that role! The guy doesn’t have the hottest looks out there, and it would seem almost too hard to take in the same kid from 3rd Rock as this total sex-machine that gets any girl he wants, when he wants, and how he wants it (sometimes). What my point is, is that it seemed like it was going to be too hard to buy into JGL being this sexy, stud-muffin, but he surprisingly made me think otherwise.

And not just because of his performance either (no matter how good it is); his direction and writing also have a little something to do with that as well.

It's those ladies in red that always get you when you're high-tailing it at the club.

It’s those ladies in red that always get you when you’re high-tailing it at the club.

What I liked so much about JGL’s direction is that he does tend to go for the flashiness of his material more than often, but that was fine because it showed that the dude had a way to convey whatever it was that he wanted about his story, and it could totally be understood by the audience. Certain audio-cues, visual-gags, and even lines will be repeated in a way that makes you see what he’s trying to do as a director, while also have you realize that the repetitive nature of the movie is done on purpose, almost, in a way, to show you how dull and meandering Jon’s life can be at times.

He goes, day in and day out, with the same old routine: He wakes up, jacks off, cleans his house, jacks off, goes to the gym, jacks off, gets dressed for a night out on the town, jacks off, picks up a sweet honey, takes her home, rightfully bangs her, but as soon as it’s over, he’s right back to jacking off. The only time that routine shows any signs of changing is on Sunday when he wakes up, jacks off, yells at the fellow drivers on the road, goes to church, asks to be resolved of his sins (which mostly concerns jacking off and pre-marital sex), goes back to his family’s house, argues with them, goes home, and jacks off some more, basically continuing the cycle he had once before.

While this may all seem like it gets boring after seeing it 10 times for the first 5 or 6 minutes, JGL finds a way to keep on spinning it in a way that’s interesting, as well as entertaining. Interesting, because it gives us a further glimpse into the character of Jon, all that he does, and how much of a waste his life seems to be, despite him not being able to notice; and entertaining, well, because the movie’s pretty damn funny when it wants to be, especially when it’s showing the more painful realities of sex, especially when somebody uses it more as recreation, rather than love, or to feel love. Basically, it was a bold choice on the part of JGL’s, but he shows us that he’s capable of making material work and be understood by its audience, even if he is doing the same thing over and over again. It has a point though, and I think that’s where I give most of the credit to JGL in terms of his writing and direction coming together.

Nice job, bud! Always knew you had it in ya!

However, after the middle act, it becomes abundantly clear to us that this is in fact JGL’s first movie behind the camera and typewriter, as it does get very, very messy towards the end as it begins to substitute laughs and jokes, for more melodrama and insight, despite it not really working out well. There’s something that happens about half-way through the movie that feels like it’s routine and generic, just so that JGL’s story can prove something known about how predictable rom-coms are, but it somehow doesn’t play-out that way. Can’t say what it is, but what I can say is that it’s a surprising step that he took with this material, and initially, made it very interesting. But then it begins to play itself out, lose some of its personality, and before you know it, you have a movie that doesn’t know how to end, what to say, or even what it’s whole product leading up to this final minute was supposed to mean to. We know what it’s supposed to mean to Jon, but what about to us? I don’t know, I feel like I’m treading some very thin ice here because I’m coming very close to giving away what the hell happens in the middle, but for the sake of my loyal readers out there, I just won’t. But when you do see this movie, you’ll understand and you may see my point. And if not, well, then I’m just an idiot. So be it.

Just look at him. So proud that he got Julianne Moore in his movie. Smug bastard.

Just look at him. So proud that he got Julianne Moore in his movie. Smug bastard.

But anyway, back to the good things that JGL actually pulls of with this movie, and the main one being is his performance as Jon. Like I said before, it seemed like a total ego trip coming from a guy who seemed like he had enough sense not to get too deep into his own head, but the dude shut me right up once I heard him talk and act. JGL totally becomes Don Jon, in every sense of the word: He’s in good-shape, tan, got that Jersay-accent going on, seems smooth and slick with the ladies, and makes you believe he could really pull these many ladies back to his crib, only to then start jerking the curtain behind their backs after he’s done with them. Yes, the “porno addiction”-angle does seem a bit far-fetched at times, but JGL makes enough sense of this flaw in Jon’s view-point that you can easily get past it all. All that matters is that JGl was able to make us believe him as a tuned-up, sexy mofo, and he succeeds. Good on his part. Once again, can’t believe I ever doubted him in the first place.

The rest of the cast seems as willing to go along with the material as JGL is, even if most of them have goofier, more over-the-top roles. Scarlett Johansson does well with the part of a spoiled, Jersey girl who’s so used to getting anything that she wants based on her looks, and provides us a nice foil for Jon’s character, making it interesting to see how they both play-out as a couple, rather than just two young, horny people that can’t get enough of one another’s good-looks. Not to mention, she looks insanely hot here, but you knew that already. Julianne Moore’s role as Edith, a woman who goes to night-classes with Jon may at first, seem like a lame role for an actress of her stature, but once the story gets going and we start to see more of her, we realize that she’s great in the movie, even if her character seems more like a contrivance, rather than actual living, breathing person. That’s enough of that, though, as I’m heading into some spoiler-ish material.

Also worth mentioning is everybody that plays Jon’s family: Tony Danza, Brie Larson, and Glenne Headly. Danza has never been funnier as the scuzzy, but charming dad that’s exactly like Jon in every which way, with the exception of the grey hair and saggy skin; Headly is a bunch of fun as the high-strung, overly needy mother; and Larson, who’s been having a stellar year so far, proves to us that she’s the most interesting character in a film, even when she only has one line in it. Can’t wait to see more from this girl, and if you want to know why, just read my Short Term 12 review. Please.

Consensus: Being that Don Jon is JGL’s directorial debut, you can excuse some of the messiness that occurs in the last 20 minutes or so, but instead take notice of just how funny, clever, and thoughtful the movie is way before that, showing that the guy has some serious skills behind the camera, as well as in front, even when he is playing against-type.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"We da family. Say cheeeeezzzzeee!"

“We da family!! Say cheeeeezzzzeee!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Short Term 12 (2013)

Next time, just hug it out. That always seems to work better.

Grace (Brie Larson), a twenty-something supervisor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers, has a bit of a wild past behind her, but is looking bright and hopeful towards her future. For starters, she loves her job and loves dishing out advice to any kid who needs it; she also is happily in love with her boyfriend/co-worker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), and looks to spend the rest of her life with him. On top of that, she’s just happy in general and is living the easy-going life like all young, twenty-year-olds should. However, when Grace finds out something that could alter the course of the rest of her life, she’s thrown a curve-ball as she has no idea what to do. And as if matters couldn’t have gotten any worse, well then, they do once things at the foster-care facility begin to get a bit shaken-up once a new, very troubled girl named Jayden (Kaitlyn Dever) shows up, and does not follow along with the rest of the other kids. But like Grace was and in ways, still is, there’s a lot more to the act that she uses as a front, and Grace will find the best possible way to get to the bottom of it, by any means possible.

Little flicks like this remind me why I love watching movies so much. Especially the movies you don’t know much about going into, except for the fact that it’s supposed to be good and that’s all. That’s exactly what happened to me going into this flick: I knew it was going to be good and I expected the best, and that’s exactly what I got. Except maybe a bit more. Like I said though, this is why I love watching movies; this is why I love not knowing too much before going in; and best of all, this is why I love having a movie blog where I tell everybody about little movies such as Short Term 12 because, let’s face it, most of you out there probably never have, and never will hear about this until it randomly pops-up on Netflix.

Well, that is until now. So consider this you’re wake-up call, fellow movie-lovers.

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

Want to REALLY help that kid? WEAR A HELMET!!

The balance this movie strikes between heart and humor is pitch perfect for many reasons, the main which being that it’s present in every scene. Watching these characters go about their day, say what’s on their mind and show what they feel or want to give to the others around them, is very interesting and touching, mostly because it all feels real and natural. A lot of this material has been touched-on before, but done in a way that’s almost like made-for-TV movie way. This time, it’s shown as painfully honest and as bleak as it can be, without any strings attached whatsoever. What you see is what you get with most of these characters, and some of them will take you by surprise with just how troubled and messed-up in the head they truly are.

However, such as is the fact with life, and it’s a fact that writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton doesn’t shy away from, nor does he throw in our face. He lets us understand these characters, the situations they’re thrown into, and gives them the circumstances for which they can choose to live by, if they have to. Cretton allows for this material to go into some very dark, disturbing places, but never lets go of it too far to where it feels like we’re watching a different movie. Don’t be fooled by words like “bleak” and “painfully honest” scare you away from something that’s actually more light-hearted and happy than it may sound; it just takes awhile to get to get you to realize how light-hearted and happy it truly is.

However, like I stated before: Such as is the fact with life. You never know when it’s going to make you happy, and you sure as hell never know when it’s going to make you sad. Sometimes it happens out of nowhere, and sometimes you can predict it, but just don’t have the right amount of power to stop it. And that’s not a judgement-call-of-character on you as a human-being or anything; it’s just the way we are wired. Cretton really shows us that being human, for all of its negatives and its positives, really is a beautiful thing that we should not take for granted. Some people don’t have the same type of life as you do, so stop bitchin’ about your WiFi not being located! Get out there, do something with your life, and make a difference!

Sorry if this review is sounding more like a preach, and less like a review, but that’s just what happens when I see a movie that allows me to think as much as this one did. But like I said, it’s a review, so on with the movie itself, folks!

I think where this movie really hits it’s sweet-spot is in the way it continues to hammer us down with emotion-after-emotion, and yet, never fully kills us to where we can’t watch anymore. Granted, by the end, it did get a bit too repetitive where I felt like I was watching the same conversation, happen with the same people, for the same reasons, but that’s just me being nit-picky. If I really wanted to judge this movie on it’s full merits, I’d tell you that it’s a very funny movie, that focuses on the witty interplay between it’s characters, but also doesn’t lose sight that most of them have, and still are, hurting to this day.

No other statement could have been truer for the character we have here of Grace, played so perfectly by Brie Larson, in a performance that I hope garners her more recognition and notice than just being known as “that Indie darling”. In fact, I have seen Larson’s face in quite a number of indies, most of them good, so it comes as to almost no surprise to me here that she’s great here, but the movie she chose is even better. Not only does the movie offer Grace all of the extra-baggage she needs to seem fully-dimensional and understandable in the way that she leads her life and why, but also allows Larson to show everything about her acting-ability that should make her a star by now. It won’t, but it’s worth a shine of hope I’d say.

"Are you even trying anymore with that facial-hair?"

Only thing in between them and their passionate kiss? His slacker/pseudo-hipster beard.

Everything about Larson is great here: She’s funny; she’s angry; she’s smart; she’s emotional; she’s dedicated; she’s a bit sexy; she’s sweet; and most of all, she’s hurting. Like all of us, Grace is hurting on the inside and rarely ever shows it. However, she does throw subtle hints to everybody around her and uses it as a way to connect with the kids she tends for, but not in a way to make her seem “cool” or “hip” with the kids; but more as a way to draw similarities between her and another person going through the same motions she went through. There’s a couple of beautiful scenes here where Grace really gets to the core of her character, as well as the others around her, but the best in my mind is when she gets a fairy-tale told to her from the newest, most troubled kid of them all. It’s a scene that starts off a bit funny, but gets very disturbing and sad by the end of it, where we see not only Grace’s true emotions come out, but the movies’ as well. We see Grace do all that she can to make everybody else’s life around her easier for the sake of mankind, and it mostly works. She forgets about herself sometimes and has to depend on herself for happiness, and like most of us, she can’t find it easily and usually tends to lash-out irrationally at the ones around her that mean the most.

In other words: Grace is like you or I. She’s a damaged soul, but she’s also very lovely to the ones around her and knows that with each and every smile you have and get a day, means a better life for you, and many more. Brie Larson makes Grace this thought-provoking, sweet and beautiful to watch, and if I don’t at least put her in my “Top Crush List” now, I don’t know what I’ll do.

And even though I may make it seem like this is just Larson’s show, and nobody else’s, don’t be mistaken, cause it isn’t. John Gallagher Jr. shares a loving, if sometimes playful chemistry with Larson and allows us to see him for a bit of a goof, but a charming one at that. Then again though, he’s not all fun and games. He does tend to get serious at times, and those scenes are probably the best of the movie because they’re more concerning him and Grace’s relationship, the type of movie-relationship that I really cared for, believed in, and was rooting for the whole time, even if it’s made evident to us that they’ve been together for quite some time and are happily in love. But still, you want them to stay together, forever. Kaitlyn Dever is also great as Jayden, the newest kid who’s brought in and causes a bit of a trouble, but is still smart, fresh, and funny enough to hold our interest. But, like with Gallagher Jr., her character isn’t all fun and games, and can get very touchy, and very sad at times, both of which feel earned and honest. Pretty much like this whole movie,

Consensus: Many will resonate towards Short Term 12, not because it touches those most affected by abuse and neglect, but because it teaches us all that having emotions, being inconsistent, laughing, crying, hugging, and feeling, are all apart of what makes us humans, and for that life-lesson, it’s a beautiful movie that deserves to be seen, especially for younger kids who need to see that they aren’t alone and can easily always look for help, if needed.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"I'll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you'll toates be cool."

“I’ll help you. Stop listening to Jay-Z and Eminem, and try on some unknown, underground stuff. Then you’ll toates be cool.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Spectacular Now (2013)

Drinking and partying hard every weekend when you’re in high school is considered “bad”? Somewhere, I’m calling B.S.!

Sutter (Miles Teller), no matter how many people want to deny it, is the perfect example of a high school senior. He does not know what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he doesn’t actually care much at all neither. He’s just happy to live in the moment, be with his girlfriend (Brie Larson), drink a hefty amount of whatever he can find, and be ultra-popular among adults and fellow kids. However, all of the partying and good times do eventually catch up with Sutter, and not only does he lose his girlfriend, but begins to see his grades fail way beyond his reach. But after a heavy night of binge-drinking with some of the best in town, Sutter is suddenly awaken (literally and mentally) by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a quiet, shy, and low-key girl that reads sci-fi and Manga novels. This makes her the ultimate nerd and the complete opposite of Sutter’s high-strung, loud-mouthed ways, but somehow, they hit it off quite well and realize that there’s more to each other than they could have possibly ever knew was there in the first place. Especially Sutter, who finds something within him awoken with this new relationship.

With this summer’s The Way, Way Back, The Kings of Summer, and now this; it seems as if teens have an awful lot to learn from this year. Almost each of these flicks concern teens coming-of-age with whatever responsibilities they have to deal with, while also learning a thing or two in the process. However, what’s separated them all is the tone and the material involved. Way, Way Back is a lot more comedic, with the occasional moment of heartfelt drama; Kings of Summer, despite being my least favorite out of the three, was more jokey and didn’t take its premise very seriously, until it soon realized that there needed to be a point behind the whole product, and shoved it in there for a good measure; and now we have The Spectacular Now, the type of film that takes its subject seriously, but never over-does it. Not saying that those other ones do, but there’s just something about this movie that really clicked with me, and made it my favorite coming-of-age drama from the whole summer.

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all "cute" on us!

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all “cute” on us!

There’s going to be plenty more where this came from, but it’s still nice to know that they can be done, and be done well. John Hughes is smiling somewhere. I can tell.

Director James Ponsoldt isn’t a name you’ll know right away from hearing it uttered, but definitely should, especially by the end of this review. Last year, with Smashed, Ponsoldt tackled the rough subject of alcoholism in its grittiest way yet. It offered us a solution to all of the problems, but still showed them off in a very far, very unreachable distance, that it made the whole movie seem rather depressing, yet very true and realistic as well. As someone who has seen alcoholism around him very much in his life, it touched me and had me remember all of the times I had to hold somebody’s head over a trash-can/toilet, just because they were too busy out getting plastered all night. But this isn’t a review about that movie, it’s one about this movie, The Spectacular Now, but I can assure that the themes and issues that the flicks tackle, make them very similar, but very different in the ways they go about talking, or mentioning it.

For instance, the movie never utters the word “alcoholic”. Not even Sutter himself, who seems like he knows how much he drinks, how much he loves to drink, and why he does so, but yet, never comes to admit to himself that he has a problem and needs help. And to be brutally honest, it doesn’t seem like he needs all that much help with that aspect of his character, as much as he does with everything else in his life. What Ponsoldt does well with this character and this flick is that he tackles all of the problems that most teenagers face when they are about to get ready and leave for college; but never dramatizes them in a way that we’ve seen done a million times before, in lesser, coming-of-age flicks. Sutter has a problem with drinking, yes, but he also has an even bigger problem with living for the future and taking the rest of his life into hand. He knows that he needs to be the life of the party for now, because that’s all that matters, but is it going to matter 10 years down the road, except for maybe when he shows up at the reunion, still drunk off of his ass? Not at all, but Sutter doesn’t want to hear that, and honestly, he’s like every other teen out there I’ve ever met, including myself.

No young person, female or male, wants to admit that they don’t have everything planned-out and ready-to-go. Every young person likes to think that they’re out on top and nobody can take them off of their high-horse; but that’s when reality comes in, slaps you in the face, and has you wake up, realizing that you have the rest of your life to live, and the countdown starts NOW. That’s where this movie really hit me, because for the first hour or so, it’s somewhat fun, comedic, light, and playful with its material, its characters, and what it’s ultimately going to set-up, but once the reality of the situation of all of our lives, including Sutter’s, sets in; then, the movie becomes very dark, very dramatic, and very sad, almost in a way that shocked me by how far Ponsoldt decided to go.

It’s a teen-drama in the sense that kids do party, kids do drink, kids do have sex, and kids do go to school and plan for college, but it’s also a teen-drama in the sense that it’s not like a movie; and more like a life-lesson on what could happen to anyone, at any moment. However, it’s far from being that hokey or ham-fisted as most of those “message movies” are. This one, instead, really touches on the ideas and themes that are present in all young teen’s lives, allows it to tell itself, and never holds our hand or tells us directly what’s happening. It’s almost like we’re watching real life happen in front of our eyes, with all of the good and bad decisions made along the way. For that, I have to give this flick a super, duper high-five! Not just because it’s smarter than your average, run-of-the-mill teenage-drama (which it totally is), but because it touches on an idea that most of us are afraid to admit is there, and sometimes prevails: Failure. Yep, that dreaded “F word” has a funny way of showing its own face around every once and awhile, and this movie does not shy away from that fact either.

But believe it or not (because you sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to tell from my constant bickering), this is a movie about two teens getting acquainted, finding out who the other person really is, falling in love, and doing all of that other, cutesy-bootsie stuff that most people who fall in love do. On that note, it serves its job, even if I did feel like the ball does get dropped a bit at the end once a middle-twist shows up, and totally changes the movie’s view-point around. Can’t say much as to what it is, or how it happens, but trust me, when it does occur, you’ll feel the movie’s weight drag right from underneath you, and pull you down as it continues to develop more and more. That’s a good thing, by the way.

Like I said though: The romance at the center of this flick. Despite this seeming like another one of those “popular guy falls in love with nerd, nerd finds out her inner-beauty, popular guy realizes he’s been a jerk his whole life and conforms at the end”-stories, it totally is not. Ponsoldt touches this aspect of the story with as much sensitivity as a real-life, blossoming-relationship would be. There’s the insecurities; the awkward conversations; the initial action of sex; and the first meeting of the family-members. However, it’s all played with about as much sincerity and honesty as most of your relationships may have been, and it touched the inner-romantic side of me, while also made me realize all of the good times, as well as the bad ones, that I spent with a few of my honeys during high school. Quite a lot I had, just don’t ask them if they did go out with me or not.

What really makes this relationship between these two work so well and believably, is that Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are both very charming when they’re together, and even when they aren’t. More in the case of Teller, but I’ll get to him in just a few bit, as for right now, we have Woodley to discuss here, who is not only the most adorable, sweetest female to grace the screen this whole year so far, but really out-does the Oscar-worthy performance she gave in The Descendants. Not only is she less brass and sassy as she was in that flick, but she also has more of a heart to her here, one that feels like it deserves love, even if it is from this dude who’s just trying to figure out what he, as well as life’s, all about. She’s a nerd in the sense that she doesn’t talk to many people and reads weird stuff that us cool kids wouldn’t dare get caught skimming-through in the cafeteria, but she doesn’t wear glasses, she rarely differs in her personality from the beginning to the end, and she isn’t in need of a major makeover that drastically changes her appearance, making her sexier and more desirable than ever before. None of that, at all. Instead, we just have Woodley here to give us a beautiful look at a young, small-town gal who wants to do nice things for the people around her, and deserves all of the love in the world, regardless of who it comes from. Wonderful performance from the gal, and I hope she bounces back from being bounced out of The Amazing Spider-Man sequel.

That Marc Webb sure is a heartless bastard.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

Although, the one performance here that this movie depends on the most is Miles Teller’s as Sutter Keeley, aka, the guy everyone wants to be, but just never amounts to actually being in high school. Sutter has it all and knows that he does, yet, he doesn’t quite take advantage of it while he still can, because he’s constantly drunk and acting like an ass. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re young, but like what many people tell him throughout this flick: You have to get serious every once and awhile, and stop always being a jokester. Whenever Teller is being funny and/or charming, he’s perfect at it, and feels like a younger-version of Vince Vaughn (without saying “baby” at the end of every sentence).

He knows how to work the humor and the fun of this character, but also knows how to get to the deeper feelings as well, and never loses sight of what’s really going on behind this guy’s wild times, as sad as they may be to go face-to-face with. With that, Teller is amazing and I really cannot wait to see where his career goes from here, as it seems like the guy knows how to be lovable and funny, but also have us care for him too, despite his character not being all that sympathetic or smart. Sutter does partake in some questionable actions, as well as very lazy ones, you still feel for him and understand where he’s coming from; all because he, like you, were at one time or still are, a teenager and coming to grips with what the real world out there is like. Some of it’s pretty, some of it ain’t. But that’s the world for ya, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

However, it’s also the rest of the ensemble cast that perfectly rounds out this movie, and makes it even more brutal and realistic in its scope and vision. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a few nice scenes as the older sister of Sutter, a girl who was probably just like him at one point, but has finally escaped that world and married into the money world; Brie Larson plays Sutter’s ex-girlfriend, which would be an easy role for any actress to work with just by being bitchy and annoying, but Larson isn’t and gives this character an sympathetic-route that I didn’t expect to feel for her at all; Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sutter’s mommy, a damaged woman who obviously loves him for what he is, but is a bit too broken-down to fully merge herself into his life and take charge; and last, but sure as hell not least, Kyle Chandler has a perfect 10-15 minutes of screen-time as Sutter’s daddy, a guy who’s just as messed-up as him, if not worse, and it totally hits a soft spot with him, as well as you. Overall, perfect cast that helps hit you with a harder blow, had it been handled by any lesser-actors.

Consensus: The obvious trappings of a coming-of-age, dramedy are definitely present in The Spectacular Now, but are rarely used because it’s a lot smarter with its hard-hitting and brutal, yet realistic view of what it’s like to be a teenager, see what’s next to come, and not want to let go of the past, as much as it may pain one to do so.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Again with the "cute"! Damn teenagers!

Again with the “cuteness”! Damn teenagers!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

A 2-hour-long wet dream for any video game nerd out there. All that’s missing: Bewbs.

In Toronto, 22-year-old bum Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is trying to make it big with his garage band Sex Bob-omb, lives with his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), and has just recently fired up a relationship with a young high school student named Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), even though everybody around him disapproves of it. Everything’s going all swell between Scott and Knives, that is until Scott has a dream of a girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a quirky, color-haired American gal that seems all to good to be true. Thing is, she isn’t something only dreams are made of, SHE’S FREAKIN’ REAL!! This obviously gets Scott’s heart beating up and down, and his mind going berserk, so he does what any love-struck dude would do: He pursues her in hopes of being her new love-interest. However, in order to do so, he needs to defeat her 7 evil exes with any trick he can pull off. Which ultimately means, a lot of “KAPOWS”, “WHAMS”, and “BAMS”.

No “THANK YOU, MAMS”, cause honestly, that would just be way too meta.

For the third time since it came out, I have watched Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and why I never decided to chalk-up a review for this until now, is totally beyond me, although I think I may have a clue as to why. There’s something about Edgar Wright movies that just intimidate the hell out of me; so intimidating, that I’m scared to even bother writing reviews about them, and feel more better just telling people that I’m a fan of them through conversation. It seems like every Wright flick has its own core audience that understands every joke, every pun, every piece of wit, and just about everything thing about it, so much so that any person who doesn’t quite “get it” or even like it for that matter, is ultimately “a noob”. Maybe that’s just all in my head (most likely is), but that’s the main reason why I have yet to write a review of this flick.

Got her with the old, "Do you know the history of Pac-Man" line. Works like a charm every time.

Got her with the old, “Do you know the history of Pac-Man?” line. Works like a charm, every time.

That is, until now. Three years after the fact, and just in time for The World’s End.

Never reading any of the graphic novels going into this, I have to say that I went in, originally, not knowing what to expect, other than sure mayhem. Why? Well, because it is directed and co-written by Edgar Wright who, as you may or may not know, is the creator of two of the funniest comedies from the past decade: Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. So yes, going into it, I knew that I was going to have to be watching the screen the whole time just to see and spot out all of the visual-gags, and get ready for what would be a very quick and fast movie, one that would not slow up for me or hold my hand, guiding me through to where I wasn’t left behind. If I missed a joke or two, Wright wouldn’t stop doing what he was doing so I could keep, so therefore, I knew I couldn’t either. However, despite Wright’s style being practically the same from every one of his other movies (meaning that they’re all hilarious, including this one), there’s something a tad bit different to the approach that he takes with this flick.

Rather than being a full-on parody of a certain genre, then becoming a film that could easily be considered apart of the same genre he is mocking, Scott Pilgrim is more of a straight-forward story that doesn’t make fun of any certain genre; instead, it combines two different types of styles that we usually see done in movies, but never to the full extent as they are done here: Video games and comic books. Right from the beginning of this flick, you can tell it’s obviously going to be an ode to video games; where when characters get hit, there will be words like “BOOM” and “BANG”, along with a bunch of frenzied colors gracing the screen as well. Even other action words like “RIIIING” or “THONK” show up, but here’s what surprised the hell out of me here: It never gets boring to see. Instead, Wright finds a way to make each and every one of these aspects of his style work and continue to spring out more inventiveness within his project, even if it is solely for the gamers out there that grew up on Zelda, and know the Final Fantasy II theme song by heart. I’ve never considered myself a full-fledged “gamer” of sorts, but this movie made me feel like I was watching one on screen, and a very fun and hilarious one at that.

And yes, there are plenty of comic book trademarks here, but not as obvious or as over-zealous as the video game trademarks. With that said, the movie still has plenty of fun with its manic energy that, not even for a single second, let up. There do come the moments in this movie where it has to slow down and give us a little bit of characterization and development, just so that we care a bit more, but even then the story still never cools down. It continues to fire more and more jokes, gags, and funny quips at us, all while feeling like an honest and heartfelt story about a dude just trying to overcome his own mishaps with love and life, and just be with the girl of his dreams, literally. Which actually surprised me because even though the flick never gets too serious or meaningful in the least, it still has a story placed well into the middle somewhere, that goes beyond just being about “a dude facing off a bunch of evil ex-boyfriends”. It’s more about a guy coming into his own, realizing how much of an ass he was in the past, and best of all, still learning that love is the most sacred thing to behold in your life, and you shouldn’t let it go, not even for a second. Some pretty soapy stuff, but it has a meaning for being present and I have to give Wright credit once again for at least tackling a the rom-com genre, and giving it a new vision, while providing the same kindred thoughts and spirits as well.

But like I said before, this movie is fun, fun, fun, and that must never be forgotten. Everything you expect to see from an Edgar Wright movie is here, if not more than that. Obviously there’s going to be a generational-gap between the people that did love the hell out of this, and the people that hated its guts, but that’s neither here nor there. What is “here”, is the matter of fact that this flick knows what type of movie it is, and continues to find new, improved, and refreshing ways to tell its story, while also giving us just the right amount of adrenaline and craziness we need to really get involved with it. You can be a “geek”, and love this; and you could be just a normal, average dude who enjoys movies for the sake of entertainment, and still love this. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll enjoy the hell out of this, and continue to find more and more aspects about it that you love about it.

That IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Yes, that IS how people dress in Toronto. So disgraceful!

Case in point: Me. I’ve seen it about three times by now, and it continues to get better and better. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve finally got a handle on what good humor is, or maybe its just that I’ve wised-up in the past couple of years and came to notice that Edgar Wright is one of the freshest voices we have in the movie world, and it’s better to embrace him, rather than be away from the rest of the pack and say “I don’t get him”. Maybe that’s it. I still don’t know. I love this movie, let me just leave it at that, okay dammit!!?!??!?

It seems pretty obvious though, that if you’re going to have a movie strictly dedicated to nerds from all over the globe, that it’s only right to include none other than everybody’s favorite celebrity nerd in the lead: Michael Cera. For most people, hearing Cera’s name attached to anything just gets them waving their hands up in disapproval, which makes sense. The guy definitely hasn’t done himself any favors by practically George Michael again and again, role after role; however, from my side of the room, I like what Cera does with these roles and even though he is still awkward, still a bit nervous, and always not-so sure of himself here, he’s still amusing and shows that he can prove to be a bit of a toughie as well. Also, surprised to see that he was playing that wasn’t the smartest guy in the room, or even the whole movie for that matter. He’s a bit of an bumbling idiot when it comes to certain decisions, and shows that he can still get by using his typical trademarks you may, or may not, love him for, but also spice it up a bit as well. Nothing too drastic in terms of what he does as Scott Pilgrim, but the dude seems really comfortable and seems really deserving of the honor of playing every nerd’s favorite superhero, that isn’t Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman (if you get my drift?).

While Cera’s doing his thing in the lead, everybody else on the side do their things as well; the difference with them is that they not only seem to be having more fun, but absolutely living it up in the moment, no matter how long they have on screen. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pretty rad as Ramona Flowers, not just because she’s every hipster dude’s dream woman, but because she handles the dry sense of humor with perfect ease and resilience that it’s not hard to see her popping-up in more of Wright’s features; Keiran Culkin was an absolute riot as Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace, and handles the humor perfectly as well, while also adding his own bits of charm; newbie Ellen Wong is a great fit for Knives Chau because not only is she funny, but she’s quite endearing and cute as well, making it easier for us to get past the fact that she does become a bit stalker-ish by the end; and lastly, nice to see Brandon Routh actually do something with his career and life after donning the cape and spandex for Clark Kent, but also be very funny and show he may have a future in comedy, if he decides to wake up and smell the moolah burning. Those are the ones that just came to my mind first, but honestly, if you think long and hard enough, you’re going to find more and more people in this movie that just knock it out of the park. Everybody’s hilarious, everybody has something to do, and not a single cast-member feels wasted. Not even Mark Webber. Now honestly, when was the last time you saw that guy being funny?!??!?

Consensus: The central demographic for this movie may ruin some viewers, and win the hearts of others, but it can’t be argued that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the perfect example of a movie that never lets up for anything or anyone, while also being hilarious, and always offering us something new to see or enjoy every time we watch it. Third time for me, and I’m still finding stuff out!

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

I guess "Finish Him!" wasn't in the script? Boo! Points taken off!

I guess “Finish Him!” wasn’t jotted down in the idea book? Boo! Points taken off!

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

21 Jump Street (2012)

High school sucks.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as young and clueless police officers who go undercover at a high school to investigate a drug ring, effectively giving them the opportunity to relive their student lives all over again.

The idea of remaking an old TV show as a movie doesn’t seem too promising. However, all of those problems were gone as soon as I saw the hilarious Red-Band trailer for this one and then I got to see the actual film itself and it was so much better than I expected.

The whole structure of this flick is pretty simple: put two bros in uncomfortable situations, have them run into a problem, and then have a nice, but action-packed resolution. However, that structure doesn’t go down so easily here considering it doesn’t go for the cheap laughs and isn’t afraid to poke a little fun at itself in the meantime. This is one of the funnier flicks that I have seen in recent time because it has raunch that is deserved, jokes that hit the mark just about every time, and a bit of satire about how high school really is in today’s world which definitely hit a lot closer to home for me and seemed so true. Everything is so much different today from what it used to be and instead of the philosophical, softer kids being the ones you shoved in lockers, they are now all of a sudden the cool kids that find their ways as being hailed at the end of the year as “the one most likely to succeed and be uber cool”. It’s something I see in school today and even though I’m not really trying to complain about it, I just still find it funny that a film that takes place in high school is able to hit the mark so perfectly.

What’s really strange about this flick is that it’s actually from the directing duo of Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, aka the guys behind the animated hit ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’. It’s definitely a strange pick-up for these guys to go from kiddie flick about obesity to an R-rated comedy but they somehow are able to make transition work with their strange ideas to keep this flick moving. The film isn’t unpredictable by any means but there is so much here that seems so funny and original, that you wonder exactly why none of this hasn’t been done before and just why it’s so easy for these two dudes to do it and comedy director veterans still can’t hit the right marks. One funny example from this flick is the drug-montage scene they have here. Every flick that has to do with drugs in one way or another all have a weird montage, but this film takes that one step further and makes it so much more funnier than it had any right to be and that’s just one scene. There are so many more like them that made me laugh like crazy.

However (yes, there is always a however), as fresh as this flick may be, it does start to falter by the end as it dives more towards action and loses a bit of its comedic edge. I didn’t mind this as much considering the action is surprisingly very good but everything ends so predictably that it’s a shame considering this flick really had me thinking I was about to see a new and original twist on this type of formula, only I never got that. It also seemed a little strange that Hill’s character starts to get more and more attracted to Brie Larson’s high school character even though she’s a little too young for him. Then again, it could happen so don’t mind me.

The main reason why I was looking forward to this flick in the first place was because of the strange pairing of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, and they both deliver in their own little ways. Hill is once again hilarious here (in a slightly less fatter way) and makes it seem like comedy can come to him so easily no matter what the script demands. Then again, a lot of it does start to seem like it’s just improv, which is definitely a lot better for Hill considering he owns that. I was also incredibly happy to see my main man Channing, finally get a role that suited him with his action and comedic skills. Tatum was hilarious in the strange flick, ‘The Dilemma’, and it was great to see him show his comedic skills once again, this time playing up his meat-head look for laughs. Both of these guys play-off of each other perfectly every time they are on-screen together and it was such a blast to see these guys having a blast that I wanted more of them on-screen. So glad these guys were able to nail these roles considering Hollywood has been really finding it hard where to put them lately.

The supporting cast is also great and all play up their own comedic skills to add more to the flick. Ice Cube is funny as the predictable, angry black chief that always seems to be yelling and dropping the F-bomb every time the film focuses on him but he plays that up perfectly and hopefully this will get him back in doing better comedies than ‘Are We There Yet?’; Dave Franco has a funny performance here as the wise-ass high school kid, Eric, and reminded me so much of James Franco that it was too funny to be true; and Rob Riggle has his hilarious moments as the creepy gym teacher that always seems to be effing around with these kids. There’s also a totally memorable cameo at the end of the flick that’s perfect but I don’t want to give anything away because it is definitely something has to be seen to be believed.

Consensus: 21 Jump Street isn’t really doing anything to re-invent the buddy-action comedy wheel, but the chemistry between Hill and Tatum, the rapid fire humor, and the fresh and brutally realistic look at the present-day high school make this a comedy that actually will make you laugh consistently.

8/10=Matinee!!

Rampart (2011)

White men can’t jump, but they can certainly be corrupt cops.

Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson) is pretty much a huge dick-head. He has two ex-wives that he still somehow lives with, uses women like a new pair of shoes, corrupts the law, and has a past that is not the best track-record on any person, especially a cop. However, that’s all starting to come back onto him and he has to start taking it like a man, or at least just go crazy and drink.

Director and co-writer Oren Moverman is coming off of his debut-flick, ‘The Messenger’, which was one of my favorite films of the forgettable year of 2009 but somehow this one doesn’t hit that same cord here it did with me even though it’s also written by the same dude who did ‘L.A. Confidential’.

There have been so many “dirty cop” films in the past that it almost seems like a tired genre in and of itself but somehow this film stays away from the things we’ve seen before with a relatively interesting and different approach than we are used to. The film relies more on the actual guy, Dave Brown, rather than just showing us the non-stop gun fights, macho-man acts, and tiresome car chases, the film decides to show us how he is with all of the people around him such as the women in his life, his brother, and even the people that are trying to help him be a free and non-guilty man. It has a slight noir feel to it which was pretty cool because it’s never really been done before but I think that’s where my main problem where this film lied was.

The pace for this flick is incredibly slow for this type of material and as much as I don’t want to just sit here and rag on about how boring it was, I still couldn’t help the fact that I was checking the time about every 5 minutes at a lot of points. I would have liked a little bit more action, a little bit more mystery, and a little bit more drama to this film for me to actually have something that excited me but instead it was just very depressing to watch this dude’s life practically crumble in front of his eyes. The material isn’t something that’s all happy-go-lucky in the first place, but I still thought that there could have been a tad more done to this flick to spice things up.

The film also had some bright moments by the end but a lot of that shined away with another ambiguous ending that is becoming the next big trend in Hollywood but here it just felt like a cop out (pun intended) so they didn’t have to worry about disappointing audiences. There are many moments in this film where you think something is going to come to a dynamite resolution, but instead, the film backs off which kept me bothered especially for the contrived ending. Come on movie industry! Stop being so damn ambiguous!

Although the film’s story doesn’t do too much the film is actually very great to look at mainly because a lot of the unusual shots that Moverman takes here with this film. Sometimes the film will be up-close-and-personal on a character so much that you can see up their nostrils, sometimes the camera will be far away, and sometimes it will just be moving around the room to keep track of something happening. Either way the film has a lot of good camera-work here and a very random sex club scene is one that sticks out in my head the most. No, not because of the naked people ya pervs, but because it was actually shot beautifully. Duh….

The real reason to see this flick is one of the main and only reasons this film is being mentioned as much as it is, is because of Woody Harrelson as Dave Brown. Harrelson is a great actor and it’s taken awhile for him to actually have his own starring vehicle where he can just do what he wants which is where this film succeeds. Brown is a bigot, racist, homophobic, violent, and mean man that nobody wants to be around but how Harrelson can somehow make this guy likable by any means is a true testament to how great of an actor Harrelson is. There are also moments in this flick where Harrelson really lets out all of his emotions where you feel this character’s sadness but also his grief over all of the bad things he’s done over the years, even though he is still a mean spirit in the end. Harrelson should at least get nominated for an Oscar just because he is so incredibly good.

The rest of the supporting cast are all pretty good because they all get their moments to shine a little bit but having too many characters can be a little bother-some considering if you are just having them on-screen only when the main character talks to them. Nobody really felt fleshed out except for Brown, and maybe that’s the way the film wanted it to be so it definitely succeeded in that way.

Consensus: Dark, depressing, and very slow, Rampart will bother many people who just want a story but for some very good visuals, an interesting take on a premise that has been done time and time before, and a performance from Harrelson that is ruthless, terrifying, and beautiful at the same time is what makes it a real watch.

7/10=Rental!!