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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Bruce Greenwood

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017)

Takes one whistle to blow.

Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) was just any other ordinary man, living in America, trying to do right by his country. He worked for the FBI, believed in the values the country was founded on, and mostly, wanted peace, love and harmony. He also wanted a happy marriage with his wife Audrey (Diane Lane), and to find his daughter Joan (Maika Monroe), so that she could come home once and for all and they could go back to being the perfect, little family. But soon, Felt will find out that like his family, the United States government can’t just be put back to perfect, because, in all honesty, it wasn’t even perfect to begin with. It’s a realization that shocks him and forces him to take matters into his own hands and do what we all call “leak”.

And the rest is, I guess, history.

“Don’t worry, honey. No one’s kidnapping you today.”

With three movies under his best (Parkland, Concussion, this) writer/director Peter Landesman shows that he has knack for assembling ridiculously impressive ensembles for fact-based, true-life dramas that seem like they’re more important than they actually are. Parkland was a movie about the different viewpoints on JFK’s assassination, but mostly just seemed like an attempt at doing Crash, but with a twist, whereas Concussion was a little bit of a better movie in that it tackled a hot-topic issue with honesty and featured a great Will Smith role, but ultimately, felt like it came out too early and would have been better suited as a documentary.

Now, Landesman is tackling Mark Felt, his life, and the whistle that he blew on the United States government and it’s about the same thing going on again: Big cast, big situations, big history, but almost little-to-no impact.

And that’s the real issue it seems like with Landseman – he’s good at assembling all of the pieces, like a cast, a solid story to tell, and a nice look to his movies, but he never gets to their emotional cores. They feel like, if anything, glossy, over-budgeted reenactments your grandparents would watch on the History channel and have about the same amount of emotion going on behind them. Every chance we’re being told that “something is important”, it mostly doesn’t connect and feels like Landseman capitalizing everything in the script, but never trying to connect with the actual audience themselves. It’s one thing to educate and inform, but it’s another to just do that and forget to allow us to care, or even give us a reason.

“Yo bro. You’re gonna want to hear this.”

Which is a shame in the case of Mark Felt, the movie, because at the center, there’s a real heartfelt and timeless message about how we need men like Felt to stand up to Big Daddy government, tell important secrets, so that the citizens of the U.S. know just what sort of wrongdoings are being committed on their behalf. Landseman clearly makes his case of who’s side he’s on here, which is also the problem, but his admiration is nice: We need more Felt’s in the world, especially when it seems like our government is getting involved with shadier and shadier stuff.

Issue is, that message is left in a movie that never gets off the ground for a single second.

Cause even though the cast is stacked and everyone here, including a solid Neeson, are all good, the material gets in the way. It’s too busy going through the bullet-points of who everyone is, what their relation to the story is, and why they’re supposed to matter, that we don’t actually get to know anyone, especially Felt himself. He himself feels like another bad-ass Liam Neeson character, but instead of finding people and killing them, he’s just taking information in and leaking it out to the presses. It’s really all there is to him here, as well as the rest of the movie.

Shame, too, because we need more Mark Felt’s in the world. Regardless of what those in power may want or say.

Consensus: Even with a solid ensemble, Mark Felt never gets off the ground and always feels like it’s too busy educating us, and not ever letting us have a moment to care.

3 / 10

Oh, what could have been. Or hell, what can be. #Neeson2020

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics

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The Post (2017)

What’s a newspaper?

After her husband kills herself, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) becomes the first female publisher of a major American newspaper with the Washington Post. And for awhile, under her tutelage and before, it was a relatively cozy, carefree newspaper that was fine as it was, but never really pushed the envelope, so to speak. But in the early-70’s, the times were about to change with help from editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), who wants for the paper to be more than it is. That’s why when he finds about Dan Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) and his report about the war in Vietnam, he races right for it, even when the New York Times had the same story, same person, and same source, yet, because of outside government interference, weren’t allowed to roll with it. Which begs the question: If it’s that jaw-dropping and controversial, why should the Post put it out? Better yet, should they be allowed to? This is what ultimately comes between Bradlee and Graham, as the two not only ruffle each other’s feathers, but practically the whole world’s, too.

On the edge of history and they couldn’t be anymore chill about it.

The Post feels so very much of the time in which we’re currently living, that it makes me happy that it’s out now, as opposed to a whole year or so later. For one, the political-climate, hopefully, will be much different, but also, who knows what’s to come of modern-day journalism as we know it? President Trump, his administration, and all sorts of rich right-wing Republicans have made it known that they do not like the way journalism is in today’s day and age and with every outlet we see swallowed-up, comes another notion that the world of journalism may be changing to becoming less and less based on actual fact, and more biased, depending on who’s paying the bills.

It’s scary and downright terrifying, especially for a journalist like myself, and it’s why the Post works as well as it does. It deals with these issues of journalism that feel very of the time, despite the movie being set in the early-70’s, but it also doesn’t forget to tell a story, with compelling characters, and make sense of why it’s so damn relevant and above all else, matters. The Pentagon Papers’ publishing changed the way journalism is read and seen and it’s why the Post, despite not quite reaching the same heights it sets out to hit, still gets the job done in reminding us why it all matters.

It also does a solid job of reminding us that Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest journeymen directors of our time and that will never change, regardless of age, time, or hell, subject-material.

Ah, the good old days of when you could smoke everywhere and anywhere! BRING. THEM. BACK.

Even at the ripe age of 71, Spielberg may not find ways to surprise us, but he finds himself tackling something surprisingly a little more taut, small, and contained, that it’s exciting when the movie finally takes off. Sure, the first-half is meant to help introduce us to these characters, the setting, and the climate, but once we get past all of that, it’s balls to the walls and rather exciting, in only the way Spielberg can do. It’s cheesy and there’s still no doubt in my mind that Spielberg is definitely playing within his wheelhouse again, but what a wheelhouse it is.

It’s also great because Spielberg is working with such a solid ensemble here, that almost every second of it is ripe with a great deal of enjoyment. Hanks is perfect as Bradlee, totally dialing in on this man’s brash, raw, and rough attitude that made him one of the best writers/editors of our times, whereas Streep dials it all back, yet, is still equally as effective as Katharine Graham, the sole woman in a man’s world/game. In fact, her story/performance is the true heart and soul of the Post, as we get to know and understand why the breaking of this story matters, and why, her being the owner of the paper itself, matters. She’s a woman, doing her best to stick with a job and a social-environment that would be much happier seeing her in the kitchen, getting dinner ready; the Graham we get here, wouldn’t be caught dead near a oven and it’s another sign that Streep, believe it or not, is one of the greatest actresses of all-time.

Shocker, right?

The one issue that keeps me away from absolutely loving and adoring the Post, like I probably should, is that it all leads up to this one moment that we know is coming and when it does come, like true Spielberg-fashion, it doesn’t know how to end. It harmonizes and goes on, and on, and on, making it seem like Spielberg, and co-writers Josh Singer and Elizabeth Hannah are just going to make their points known about every little issue that they possibly can and it becomes a little bit too much. There comes a moment when the movie needs to end, but it doesn’t and it instead, goes on longer than it needs to, almost to the point of self-importance. A part of me thinks that this has to do with it being pure Oscar-bait, but another part of me feels like these people just have a soapbox to stand on and they aren’t getting off of it.

And while I’m always fine with that, especially when I agree with the preaching, sometimes, enough is enough. Point taken. Move on.

Fin.

Consensus: Like you’d expect from Spielberg, the Post is entertaining, well-acted, and smart, that it culminates in a timely, somewhat important history-lesson, doubling itself as a crowd-pleaser, too.

7.5 / 10

“Well, print it.”

Photos Courtesy of: 20th Century Fox

Gerald’s Game (2017)

Lock her up!

Jessie (Carla Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood) have been married for quite some time, and as is with an aging-couple, they’ve run out of a bit-of-steam. So, they decide to spend a little weekend away in a cabin together, with barely anyone else around, hanging out, and possibly, having lots of wild and crazy sex. Or at least, this is something that Gerald thinks is going to happen, until he ties up Jessie to the bed and she doesn’t like it. But not taking a hint, Gerald goes for it anyway and soon, he keels over of a heart-attack. Now, Jessie is left all alone, in that room, tied to a bed, without any hopes of getting out. What’s a girl to do? Figure out a way to get out, by any means imaginable? Or sit there, think about her life and talk to dead people, who are constantly ragging on her for the past mistakes she made as a kid?

Obviously, she goes for both.

“Watch. Me. Flex.”

Gerald’s Game is the kind of movie that, as a 20-30-minute short, probably would have worked like gangbusters. It would have been short, sweet, tight and very tense. But instead, we get a 100-minute movie that feels over-stretched, long, meandering, and oh yeah, pretty boring. It’s the kind of movie that so many people get disgusted by because it’s dealing with hard-to-take ideas about sexuality, pedophilia and rape, but really is just a bore.

And it’s a shame because it seemed like director Mike Flanagan was really going somewhere interesting and cool with his career. He was taking the horror-genre, finding new and smart ways to spin it around, play with conventions and never let us forget that, oh yeah, horror stories like this can sort of be fun. While Gerald’s Game isn’t necessarily a “horror” story, it’s still one with darker, harsher undertones that makes it feel more vicious, somehow. Still, that doesn’t save the movie from feeling like it’s just spinning its wheels, figuring out where to go next, and exactly what to say.

Cause at the end of the day, what does it have to say?

Rape and incest is bad? That it has long-term effects? Marriage isn’t always pretty, despite the sometimes lovely appearance to the common-man? Don’t trust your elders? Honestly, I don’t know. It wants to pass itself off as a character-study of one woman who, for basically the whole run-time, is tied to a bed-frame, stuck talking to herself and imaginary beings that constantly egg her on, but really, don’t have much of anything to say. They just sort of hoot and holler at her for no reason because, uh, they’re dead and angry? Right?

See? So much better now.

Once again, not sure. The only thing that I am sure of is that without Carla Gugino, the movie would have been a whole lot more awful than it actually was. Gugino, for many years now, has constantly been putting in great work, but it’s mostly on the side; here, as Jessie, she shows us that she can carry a whole movie entirely on her own, staying swift and interesting to watch practically the whole way through. Due to this character’s possible mental-illness, Gugino has a lot of showing to do and she gets by with it just fine, even if the script doesn’t entirely help her out in those regards.

Same goes for Bruce Greenwood who, despite always being a welcome-presence, is just shirtless here the whole time and it doesn’t really matter. He’s just sort of there to instigate and piss-off Jessie, and that’s it. It’s a bit of a waste for someone like Greenwood, who can really make sleazy so charming, when he gets the opportunity to. It’s not like Henry Thomas here who, in flashbacks, really does himself in as a total creeper and it works. While Thomas still has the childish looks, there’s something darker and more sinister here that’s hard not to take notice of.

If only the rest of the film was that easy to take notice of.

Consensus: Despite a solid performance from Gugino, as well as Thomas, Gerald’s Game suffers from being way too mean and nasty, without much else going on, except a very limited plot and slow-moving pace.

4.5 / 10

Don’t mess with Brucie’s body. This is what happens.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)

Well, maybe Bond is a lot cooler.

It’s been a year since we last caught up with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and well, let’s just say, things are still kind of the same. Baddies still want to kill him and he’s still got to find ways on how to not only kill them, but save those lives around him. And while he’s definitely looking forward to living a life on the straight-and-narrow, he’s pulled back in when a new threat arises in Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), a dangerous, but very light and happy drug-dealer who’s trying to end this war on drugs as we know it. Back with his usual band of misfits, like Merlin (Mark Strong), Eggsy is ready to stop Poppy once and for all, but this time, with the help of another spy company, Statesman. And if that wasn’t enough for Eggsy, it turns out that his mentor Harry (Colin Firth), who he had long thought was dead, is still alive and trying to get his skills back. But that’s obviously going to be a lot harder than he expects, especially what with this mission continuing to threaten more and more lives.

Somehow, it works.

The first Kingsman, while definitely in poor-taste, was no doubt a Matthew Vaughn film, for better and for worse. It was stupid, loud, dirty, dark, violent, and oh yeah, pretty fun. It’s the kind of movie that didn’t really know if it wanted to be smart, or just plainly dumb, but either way, it was fun and got by mostly on the charm of its game-cast, as well as Vaughn himself who takes this kind of material, makes it his own, and doesn’t allow for us to forget about that. There’s something actually kind of awesome and relatively brave about that, because while so many people will get on his case for his mistreatment of women and other issues within society, he still doesn’t care; he takes it in stride, moves on, and continues to make some fun movies.

That’s why the Golden Circle is a bit of a disappointment, especially coming from his side.

For one, it’s a sequel which, already, causes some problems. Meaning, it’s louder, more over-the-top, longer, and densely packed with so much stuff, it’s almost overkill. I get Vaughn’s enthusiasm for having the opportunity to hang with these characters again and in a way, it makes it feel like less of a hack, studio-job, and much more of a passion-project, but there’s so much going on here, it can’t help but feel stuffing. At nearly two-and-a-half-hours, Vaughn may have a lot to say and a lot to do, but in all ends up jumbling together, making the first one seeming like a tight, well-paced adventure.

This new one, unfortunately, takes too many weird side-roads to get where it needs to go, especially since the script isn’t nearly as smart as it may think it is. The first one ran into that same kind of a problem, where it’s almost like it thought it had something neat and smarmy to say about intelligence movies of its nature, but really, just wanted to shoot people and objectify women. Once again, if that’s your bag and you can pull that off, then good for you,

Hey, everyone. See this? It’s Julianne Moore having fun. Let her have more of that!

The first one could and did. This one? Maybe not so much.

Still, every opportunity I get to think of the problems I had with this movie, in terms of its story and jam-packed story-line, I still remember that there’s a lot of fun to be had with it, too, in particular with the action-sequences that Vaughn has no problem with making so absolutely insane and crazy, it’s hard to expect it anywhere else. There’s just a certain bit of flair and energy to these sequences that aren’t found much elsewhere, and it’s hard not to get swept-up in it all, even if you know that when they’re done, it’s time for 20-25 minutes of more random bits of dialogue.

But hey, the ensemble seems to be having fun with it, so is that entirely a problem? Well, not really. Taron Egerton fits this role of Eggsy like a glove; Firth shows back up and gives us a bit more depth to a character that I think we already had enough of; Strong comes back and brings some heart and fun to a character that deserved more depth and, finally, got it this time around; Julianne Moore gets the opportunity to vamp and have fun here as Poppy Adams, and yes, makes every moment worth it; Pedro Pascal proves to be a bad-ass as another secret-agent, Jack Daniels; Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, and Halle Berry, despite a whole lot of promise by the ads, aren’t in this whole lot, although they make the best with what they can; and oh yeah, there’s a secret musical-guest that’s a pretty nice addition and a whole lot of fun. Don’t know if it’s a spoiler or not so I’ll just shut up and say that this person, along with everyone else, made the experience a little bit better.

Not a whole lot, but a little bit. And that’s all that really matters.

Consensus: Bloated and overly ambitious, the Secret Circle, unfortunately, suffers from a great deal of sequelitis, but due to Vaughn’s knack for exciting action and a fun cast, it still works.

6 / 10

Somehow, skiing just got pretty bad-ass.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Gold (2017)

Greed is sort of good, so long as your ugly, bald and fat.

After his father dies, Kenny Wells (Matthew McConaughey) is left without much to do in his life. He was so successful for so very long, but now, without the inspiration of his dear old daddy to help him out, he’s basically hitting rock bottom, drinking, smoking and eating a whole lot more than he used to. Even though his wife (Bryce Dallas Howard) is there to cheer him on every step of the way, there’s still something just dragging Kenny down and not making him able to catch that big break just yet. Then, out of nowhere, it hits him: Set out on an adventure to the uncharted jungles of Indonesia and look for gold. Kenny feels that this idea is great enough that he could get funding from just about any person with half a brain – unfortunately, that doesn’t happen. Instead, Kenny has to reach out to a local businessman, Michael Acosta (Édgar Ramírez), to help him on this adventure and see just what kind of gold mine they’re actually working with here. Turns out, there’s a whole lot of it hidden, and now, it’s up to Kenny and Michael to get it all out, make a whole lot of money, and not get dragged down by other various greedy sons-of-bitches.

"Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away."

“Trust me, bro. I can smell the gold. Or it could be my liver rotting away.”

It’s interesting to compare Gold and director Stephen Gaghan’s last movie, Syriana, to one another because while they definitely have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many ways, too. For one, they’re both movies that preach about billionaires, greedy businessman, and the whole mentality of making more money, by any means, at whatever costs. However, while the later was far more ambitious, taking on what were basically four different subplots all at once, it also happens to be the far more boring of the two.

Gold, on the other hand, is quite a wild ride.

The only issue is that it does take some time to get going. For at least the first hour or so, it seems like the movie doesn’t quite know what it wants to be; does it want to poke fun at this overweight, balding businessman who can’t seem to get the idea that he’s just lost “it”, or, does it want to celebrate him for the courage, the drive and bravura that it takes for him to get up, each and every day, expecting to make millions and millions of dollars? Gaghan, for the longest time, seems like he doesn’t quite know and it’s why the first-half of Gold is probably going to start people off on the wrong foot.

Because after said first-half, things are a whole lot better, in that they’re quicker, more interesting and most of all, just fun. After a short while of not knowing what it wants to say or do, Gold eventually figures out that making there’s some true joy and loveliness to be had in making all of this money; it seems as if it’s never going to end and basically, the world is your oyster. Gaghan cranks up the pace and all of a sudden, rather than having a dark, dramatic and rather slow piece about businessmen doing whatever they can to stay afloat, we get a dark, yet, slightly comedic, and rather exciting piece about businessmen making all sorts of money and having a great time doing it.

What? You're telling me you wouldn't trust this guy with your livelihood?

What? You’re telling me you wouldn’t trust this guy with your livelihood?

It’s not hard to get swept up in all of this fun and excitement, either, which is why Gaghan deserves praise for knowing just how to tell this story, the right way. Because even while it’s all fun and games, the movie still does have a little something to say about the ridiculousness and cut-throat world that all of these men seem to inhabit and it turns the movie on its head a bit. Of course, the Founder explores the same ideas and probably does a better job, but the fact that Gold does, at the very least, try and discuss these very real issues, is smart and makes it feel like something far more different than one would expect from the first-half.

And yes, it also gives McConaughey to have a great time with this role, too.

Of course, Gold will probably be best remembered for the absolute dressing-down and uglying-up of McConaughey in a role that gives him weird teeth, a potbelly, and a balding hair-piece. While it may seem like a showy-stunt to show us all just what lengths McConaughey will go to, it still works for the character; this Kenny Wells can be so vile and disgusting at times, it’s hard not to feel irked by him, if only by his appearance alone. That said, McConaughey is more than capable of showing the dark sides of this character and it’s hard to take your eyes off of him, even when it seems like the movie’s getting a whole lot more nuts and convoluted.

And yeah, the rest of the ensemble is pretty amazing, too. Édgar Ramírez has a nice chemistry with McConaughey, making it seem like the two could be more than just business-partners, but actual buddies; Bryce Dallas Howard doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but does have a few moments to shine; Corey Stoll and Bill Camp show up as vindictive and toothless Wall Street dudes and are perfect at it; Bruce Greenwood has an odd British accent, for some reason; Toby Kebbell puts on a weird American accent, for some reason; and yeah, there’s more.

Just know this: Gold is fun. End of story.

Consensus: Despite starting off relatively weak, Gold gets going and shows us that greed isn’t good, but with a great cast and lively pace, it’s hard not to enjoy.

7 / 10

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

See! Making money is fun! Now shut up!

Photos Courtesy of: Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire

Thirteen Days (2000)

Next time, let’s just take all of the nuclear devices away from possible enemies.

For thirteen very long, very crucial, and very tense days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. While there were plenty of questions in the air, almost nobody had a single answer, which is what kept the world, or most especially, the United States, on the edge of their toes, taking each and every precaution there was. Of course,I’m speaking of the apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, which would turn out to be the “Cuban Missile Crisis”, and it was an issue that was fought long and hard, from just about every person in the White House at that time. There was, obviously, President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) who, when he wasn’t facing controversies surrounding his risque personal life, also had a lot to handle with being the positive face of the country. However, there were more powers at-work than just JFK when it came to this crisis of sorts. There was the Special Assistant to the President, Kenneth O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), who was also dealing with some troubles at home, as well as Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Steven Culp), who was clearly in the shadow of his brother, but also was trying to find a way to solve each and every issue in his own way, while maintaining a level head.

Who can out Boston-accent the other?!?

Who can out Bawhstan the other?!?

Thirteen Days is, essentially, a two-and-a-half-hour long movie in which a bunch of middle-aged men sit around, smoke cigars, have the occasional shot of Scotch or two, yell, and have discussions with one another about Cuba. That’s basically it. While I’m most positively sure that won’t work or sound at all appealing to younger, more explosion-driven audiences, for someone like me, believe it or not, who values a well-told story with emotional fireworks, as opposed to the actual physical ones, then yeah, it actually works/appeals to me.

Won’t for everybody, but hey, screw everybody!

What director Roger Donaldson does best is that he allows for us to feel suspense and intensity, even while we clearly know what’s to come of this story, how it’s going to end, who is going to live, who is going to perish, and most importantly, what life lessons will be learned when all is said and done. Certain movies like Titanic, or Apollo 13, or a more similar one like JFK, all toy with the perception and idea of reality, what we know of history, and uses it as a springboard to actually get us involved and invested with the story. Somehow, even though we know a good portion of history and had to, sadly, go through all of those years in the backs of classes, wondering who the 15th President was and never remembering, there’s still that feeling that not everything will go exactly as according to plan. Donaldson won’t take any huge risks like re-writing history, but the simple idea that he actually could, makes Thirteen Days all the more exciting.

Even though, yes, it is just a bunch of dudes talking to one another.

And yes, even at two-and-a-half-hours, maybe the movie’s a tad too long. There’s certain facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis that were apparently unearthed for the first time in this movie and because of that, the movie goes on beyond just being a re-enactment. But at the same time, it’s still doing a lot of re-telling, without ever putting its own narrative-spin. In a way, it almost feels like Thirteen Days works as something that would work best on the History channel, as opposed to a full-length, big-budget (although you wouldn’t always know it), feature flick. We never really get an investigative eye into what happened and what we still perceive to be as history, but mostly, just a “Hey guys, this is probably what happened when you were all duck and covering under your desks.”

Then again, maybe Thirteen Days doesn’t need to be anything more than a slightly glamorized re-telling of what may or may have happened. There’s just a certain feeling I can’t help but embrace where I wonder, being in the 21st Century and all, whether or not we should ask more questions about our history, where we come from, and what made us the country that we are today. Granted, maybe these are the types of questions that only I would like to hear answered, or possibly explored, but for some reason, watching a movie paint a nearly God-like portrait of Bobby and John Kennedy, still feels like a missed-opportunity. We should be able to paint a little closer and hold-up the lense to what we see as our nation’s history.

"Marilyn or Jackie tonight?"

“Marilyn or Jackie tonight? Hmmmmmm.”

If we can’t do that, then what’s the point of re-telling stories like this all over again?

Inform the public? Re-live the golden days when time was a lot simpler and somewhat more paranoid? Make a quick buck?

I don’t know, really. This isn’t to say that a movie like Thirteen Days, one that’s well-acted, exciting and believe it or not, fun, without ever trying to showcase a car-crash or actual action-sequence, doesn’t deserve to exist, but hey, push a little harder or further next time. I’m not saying put RFK or JFK on a stake and make them apologize for their ways, but an extra discussion or two about what was the right move, what wasn’t, and what deserves to be talked about to this day.

After all, if schools cease to exist, and all we have to rely on is movie’s for education, then why not dig a bit deeper?

Consensus: Without ever trying to be manipulative, Thirteen Days still works as a sometimes tense, almost exciting re-telling of an infamous time in our nation’s history that maybe, just maybe, there should be more of a discussion about.

7 / 10

Cuba best recognize that this is who they're messing with.

Cuba best recognize that this is who they’re messing with.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

I, Robot (2004)

IRobotposterIf Will Smith doesn’t trust technology, neither should anybody else.

In the year 2035, robots co-inhabit the earth with humans, acting on our every hand and knee. But before people start getting worried about whether or not they’re taking over, have no fear, because they are kept in line by a set of rules integrated into their make. For the most part, they revolve around not hurting humans, but also knowing when to allow for themselves to be destroyed, if that’s what a human believes that needs to happen. Even though everyone is in love with these robots and has one, one person who does not trust them is cop Del Spooner (Will Smith). He doesn’t hate them, but he doesn’t really trust them either, which is why when he’s called onto the scene of a supposed “suicide” of the creator of these robots, Spooner is quick to believe that it’s the robots, more specifically, a rather more intelligent one named Sonny (voiced by Alan Tudyk). But nobody will believe Spooner and his suspicions, so he’s forced to take matters into his own hand and follow the case on his own terms. This, obviously, can lead to some very dangerous situations, where Spooner may have to put up with a lot of robots attacking him.

Robot1

“Attention!”

I, Robot deals with a lot of issues about the modern day that, in 2004, seemed a bit silly. However, nearly 12 years later, they have all but become a reality. While we don’t necessarily have robots walking around society, side-by-side with humans on a daily basis, technology, in and of itself, still takes over our everyday life. Most people you see on the streets, either have some sort of headphones in, or are caught staring down at their phones, swiping through whatever bit of information they want, or trying to win their next game of Candy Crush. Either way, what I, Robot discusses, is very much true to what is going on in today’s day and age, but at the same time, the movie doesn’t really even seem concerned with these types of ideas and themes.

Instead, it just wants to feature a whole lot of action, explosions, gun-shots, robots, and most of all, Will Smith screaming.

In other words, it’s a traditional summer blockbuster, that maybe, just maybe, has a little bit more going on beneath the surface than your usual, aimless popcorn fodder. As has been the case with mostly all of director Alex Proyas’ other films, he clearly seems interested in the visuals of his films, rather than what’s actually going on in the movies themselves, and this can sometimes help, rather than hurt his movies. There’s a few neat sequences here, like for instance, a car-chase through a tunnel, that grab you right away and show Proyas’ inspiration for visual-imagery, which is all the more surprising considering how old this movie’s CGI can look.

Sure, it’s dated and a bit sketchy at times, but still, it’s a movie from 2004 and for a movie then, it’s pretty damn impressive. It also helps that once the action does get going, the movie keeps a fun and exciting pace that’s hard to get past. The story itself is a bit conventional, as it starts out as a whodunit, to being something of a conspiracy-based sci-fi flick, but mostly, Proyas goes between the many stories quite well. He doesn’t really get down and dirty with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it affects our everyday lives, but he does bring it up just enough to have us think maybe a bit more than we normally would, had this been another blockbuster, by any other director.

Then again, it is a silly summer blockbuster, and there’s no way of getting around that.

Are we human, or are we robot?

Are we human, or are we robot?

By the end of I, Robot, it becomes clear where it’s going and can start to disappoint. Not to say that the movie was breaking down any genre-barriers either, but it is to say that once we realize that the movie is all going to be about Will Smith saving the human-race from extinction, it gets a bit over-cooked and crazy. You’d probably expect this, but it also can’t help but feel like something of a cop out.

However, it’s fine because throughout the whole movie, Will Smith is doing what he usually does: Charm the shorts off of every single audience-member. Though the script is pretty lame and feeds Smith some cheesy lines, he’s still confident enough of an actor to get through it all and give this Del Spooner character some sort of personality that makes us root for him more. There’s something of a backstory to Spooner, his hate for robots, and why he was called onto this case in the first place, that can tend to feel a bit tacked-on, but Spooner isn’t here to draw emotions – he’s here to be the hero of our story and have us stand behind him and hope that he kicks as much robot ass as he wants to.

That’s why the rest of the cast, as good as they may be, don’t really get a chance to stretch far and wide beyond the borders set around them. Bruce Greenwood, once again, plays the typical white guy in power that may be a villain, or may just be a general a-hole; Bridget Moynihan plays the possible love-interest of Spooner, who also happens to be a scientist for these sorts of robots and is at least sympathetic enough that we want to see her understand the issues about this corporation she’s working for and start hooking up with Smith; James Cromwell is barely around and he’s sorely missed; and Alan Tudyk does a solid job at voicing these robots, showing that there may be a slight bit of emotion underneath the intentional dull delivery of his lines.

Oh, and Shia LaBeouf is here and curses a lot. That’s fun. I think.

Consensus: Though it deals with some interesting ideas about technology running society, I, Robot, the actual movie itself, seems less concerned about them, and more concerned with blowing stuff up, which is fun for awhile, until it isn’t.

6 / 10

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Reach for the sky, Will. And oh yeah, keep yelling.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

I’m Not There (2007)

Wow. Bob Dylan did more than just go electric.

I’m Not There is, basically, a movie about the many exciting, weird and crazy lives that Bob Dylan has lived throughout his lifetime. However, rather than following the traditional, biopic-structure of keeping it with one actor, all the time, the movie switches things up in having these characters take on different life-forms, with different actors, even though they’re all, you know, playing Bob Dylan. There’s a boy who roams the streets, with his guitar and playing anywhere they’ll allow him to, while all going under the name of Woody Guthrie (Marcus Carl Franklin) even though, he clearly isn’t who he says he is. There’s folk-singer Jack Rollins (Christian Bale) who was, at one point, the hip, new thing in music but has a spiritual awakening one day and realizes that he wants to do more with his life than just rock out. There’s Robbie Clark (Heath Ledger), another hip, young star in the world of entertainment who has a loving marriage to a French gal (Charlotte Gainsbourg), that soon starts to go sour once he begins to flirt with other ladies. There’s Jude Quinn (Cate Blanchett), yet again, another hip, young musician who decides to get rid of his old ways and “go electric”, which leads all of her friends, family and fans to go crazy and reconsider their love for her. There’s Billy McCarty (Richard Gere), someone who may or may not have a rocky past to hide.

Not Dylan.

Not Dylan.

And through it all, there’s Arthur Rimbaud (Ben Whishaw) – a dude who’s here to just say weird, cryptic things

It’s noble what Haynes is trying to do here with the story of Bob Dylan; rather than keeping things on a simple, narrow-path that we’ve all seen a hundred times in plenty of other rock biopics, he decides to have it be a whole bunch of different story-lines, at one time, with different actors, but seemingly still playing the same character. It may sound confusing on paper, but surprisingly, it’s relatively easy-to-follow when watching the movie. Right away, the movie makes it a point to remind you that you’re watching actors all play Bob Dylan, and while they may not necessarily actually be named “Bob Dylan”, they’re still different times in the life of Bob Dylan.

Once again, it’s easy to get once you see it all play out, regardless of how weird I may be making it sound.

That doesn’t make it anymore interesting, but hey, at least it’s a noble effort on Haynes’ part for trying to shake things up a bit with a genre that seems too comfortable.

One of the main issues that surrounds I’m Not There, is that nobody’s story is ever really all that interesting to watch or see play-out. While, once again, we know they’re all different versions of snippets of Dylan’s life, none of whom ever really stand-out as taking over the movie and making us want to see them the most. Usually, that’s the kind of issues these large ensemble pieces have – while some stories may be okay, there tends to be the one that takes over everything else and leave you excited for whenever that comes around again. Here though, nobody ever makes you feel that.

Instead, you’re watching a bunch of surprisingly boring characters, mope around, deal with issues that we don’t care about and quite frankly, have all seen before, biopic or no biopic. There are certain bits of style that Haynes tries to work with here to cover up some of the rough patches, but mostly, it seems like what he has to work with here doesn’t really go anywhere all that surprising, or at all interesting. Granted, most of us already know about the life of Bob Dylan, and whether you don’t or not, it doesn’t matter, because the movie doesn’t seem all that interested in telling you much about him, either.

All it really cares about is the music he made, which granted, is fine.

Not Guthrie.

Not Guthrie.

Bob Dylan is one of the greatest musicians of all-time. His music will forever continue to stand the test of time and while some of those out there may have issue with his voice, and the fact that, well he can’t actually sing anything at all, it almost doesn’t matter. The fact is, the man has created some great music and it’s on full-blast in I’m Not There. Which honestly, helps the movie out a whole lot more; it’s surprising just how well any song Bob Dylan goes with a montage, regardless of what may be in the montage or not.

So if Haynes was trying to make this as some sort of tribute to Bob Dylan, the musician, then he did a solid job. At the same time though, he doesn’t really go anywhere else with it, other than that. This isn’t to say that nobody in the cast seems to be trying, either, because they all do. But, for the most part, they all seem like they’re really trying to dig harder and deeper into these characters and give us more than just what’s being presented on the surface.

One in particular, of course, is Cate Blanchett’s nearly unrecognizable performance as Jude Quinn. While it’s easy to assume that it’s just Blanchett doing an impersonation of the young and brash Dylan (what with the iconic wig, sunglasses, jacket, and all), she actually goes a bit further and show that there truly was a tortured soul at the middle of it all. Though it was easy to just assume that he had it all coming to him, there’s still a nice bit of sympathy that’s easy to feel for this character. It’s less of a gimmick role, and much more of, yet again, another chance for Blanchett to run circles around everyone else in the movie.

Which honestly, I’ll watch any day of the week.

In fact, give me that whole subplot/movie with just Blanchett. I’m fine.

Consensus: Todd Haynes deserves credit for trying something different with I’m Not There, but overall, seems to not have the right idea of what to say about the life of Bob Dylan, or at least, present it in a manner that’s intriguing to those who may not already know enough about him to begin with. But hey, good thing they paid for them royalties!

5 / 10

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

But yeah, definitely Dylan.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Comingsoon.net

Truth (2015)

Just get a blog. You can make anything up!

As producer of the well-known and landmark news program 60 Minutes, Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) had plenty of huge stories to work with and break to the public. One in particular came around the time of the 2004 Presidential Election, in which files were leaked to Mapes that practically said that then-President George W. Bush didn’t actually complete any of prerequisites needed to become a member of the National Guard and instead, received special treatment. Knowing that she has something hot, heavy and ground-breaking on her hands, Mapes goes through all of the proper channels to ensure that the story is in fact true, but also worth sticking her neck out for. After time, she does find out that this story is true and, without any more time wasted, she gets the national news anchor, Dan Rather (Robert Redford), to break the story once and for all. Which it does and it breaks down as many barriers as CBS expected it to, if not some more. But then, people start questioning the evidence, which means that it isn’t before long until they start questioning every aspect of the story, from the information, to the leaks, and to Mapes’ own personal political beliefs themselves.

"Is my eye-shadow fine?"

“Is my eye-shadow fine?”

There’s about one too many speeches in Truth that feel just like that: Speeches. In Aaron Sorkin pieces, whenever somebody breaks out into a speech, it may sound so incredibly random and obvious, but you roll with it because Sorkin’s writing can be so compelling, that people stopping whatever they’re doing to lace into a five-minute monologue about die-hard Republicans, for some reason, feels believable. It’s Sorkin’s universe and if somebody wants to ramble on and on for no reasons other than to get a point across, then so believe it.

Problem is, Truth wasn’t written by Sorkin and could have definitely benefited from that. Not just because there’s so many speeches here that feel ham-handed or silly, but because they come at inappropriate times that don’t add much to the actual story the movie’s telling, other than to get some a political viewpoint across. And within Truth, there’s a very interesting story to be told and more often than not, it does get told; however, because it has such an agenda to get across, it feels like it’s doing a dis-justice to said story.

Then again, though, it is a movie about journalism and as most of you may now, I’m an absolute sucker for those kind,

That’s why, whenever Truth focuses in on the pre-publishing sides of getting a story together (mapping everything out, finding sources, following the money, etc), it’s a very entertaining look inside how a news outlet as widely-known and ginormous as 60 Minutes, gathered up all their info to make a story. Once again, you don’t have to be a journalist to appreciate these scenes, but if you are one, these scenes will all add a certain level of excitement; though we all know how the story ends when everything is said and done, there’s still a slight feeling that things may go down smoothly that makes it all the more enjoyable. Take away all of the political maneuvering the movie does tend to take, and deep down inside, you have a solid piece of how 60 Minutes brought together one of its biggest stories, decided to go with it, and watch as all the pieces fell.

Had it stayed like this, too, Truth would have been great. However, it doesn’t and that’s when it starts to get very preachy and become something else entirely.

To say that writer/director James Vanderbilt may have had an agenda when creating this movie, is an absolute understatement – the dude has an ax to grind and wants everybody to know! Which, in a way, is fine. Had this movie been about a fictional story, that closely follows this actual, real life story, it probably wouldn’t have felt pushy. But, because Vanderbilt is using this true 60 Minutes story, and the eventual fallout, as a place-mat for his thoughts and feelings, it comes across as off-putting.

While it’s fine that Vanderbilt had a point to prove with this story and didn’t just go through the same motions of telling it as straight as possible, there’s still a feeling that he’s taking more away from the actual impact the story could have had. Take, for instance, Cate Blanchett’s Mary Mapes, someone who feels as if she deserves her own biopic by now, starring Blanchett, of course. Mapes, from what we’re told in this movie, is a tough, rugged, and dedicated journalist who is so willing to go to the deepest, darkest depths to make sure that her story is heard, that she sometimes risks losing those closest to her.

Gasp! Journalism!

Gasp! Journalism!

Sounds corny? Well, that’s because it is.

However, Blanchett being Blanchett, is so terrific here, that I hardly even cared to notice. Instead, I just let her do her thing and see what more I could find out about this character as the story rolled along. But, as the movie continues, we start to get more and more scenes of Mapes breaking out into yammering speeches about the state of journalism, politics, and ethics – all of which don’t feel pertinent to telling the story and instead, the perfect time for Vanderbilt to get on his soapbox and yell for a little while. The movie does bring up some interesting points about political bias’ mixing with journalism, but at the end, all they do is hint at the possibility that Mapes may, or may not have, overlooked some facts with this story, just to get her political point across. Whether or not this is true to begin with, remains to be seen, but it’s not really a point that seems to work or feel well-thought out.

The same problem goes for Dan Rather, who is, oddly-enough, played by Robert Redford. The movie never really digs any further into portraying Rather as anything more than just a great, lovable guy who is willing to tackle any story, so long as Mapes was there to okay it. Redford’s fine here, however, it’s too distracting to see him play someone else who is already so famous to begin with. And given that they aren’t given a whole lot to do, Elisabeth Moss, Dennis Quaid, and Topher Grace all do fine in their respective roles as the fellow journalists who helped to layer-out this story into being more.

But honestly, Truth is mostly Vanderbilt’s time to stand up, speak and drop the mic.

And that’s it.

Consensus: Boasting a solid cast and interesting look inside an infamous event in journalism history, Truth is two-halves of a great movie, until it gets preachy and can’t seem to keep its mouth shut.

7 / 10

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Gasp! Even more journalism!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Good Kill (2015)

Trust me, those aren’t ants you’re shooting at.

Former Air Force pilot Thomas Egan (Ethan Hawke) now operates flying drones that literally spy on enemies and, when needed, can drop missiles on whoever the pilot deems as necessary, all from the comfortable confines of some place far from the actual battlefield. While Egan gets a chance to go back home to his wife (January Jones), kids, and lovely little suburban home in Nevada, he still feels the pain from being ordered to kill so many faceless, almost random people for reasons he doesn’t understand. And in a way to numb his pain, his drinking only increases on and on. With a new soldier working in his unit (Zoe Kravitz), Egan now has to wonder whether or not he wants to keep at it with the job he has. While it’s safe and cozy for all those involved, he still doesn’t like to be safe and tucked-away when he’s supposed to be in an actual plane, or on the battlefield, actually fighting the good fight. Eventually though, all of this anger and confusion begins to not only take a toll on his marriage, but his allegiance to the United States Army.

Drone warfare has been highly controversial since the early days of its inception. While some people think it’s an easy and much safer way to keep our troops alive and well, some people also feel that it’s a cowardly way of fighting a war and just leads to more and more people, sometimes innocent, sometimes not, being killed for reasons that aren’t fully realized. Because honestly, how could you ever know if that little person you see walking around on a screen be a terrorist, or at least affiliated with some sort of terrorist organization? You wouldn’t unless you were told they were by some higher-ups, and even then, do they really know for sure?

Just don't cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don't.

Just don’t cheat on her, Ethan. Just please don’t.

Honestly, not really and that’s the idea that writer, director, and hell, even producer Andrew Niccol taps into.

It’s interesting to see someone like Niccol, a film maker who is most known for sci-fi explorations like Gattaca, In Time, and the Host, tap into something that is as low-key and subdued as this. While he is still dealing with technology, the movie is more about one person’s own struggle with getting along with the times and realizing that, no matter how hard he may try to have it be otherwise, this is his current job and if he wants to keep on protecting his country, then he’ll have to stick with it. So, in a way, it’s like most of Niccol’s other movies, but the fact that it takes place in the actual United States of America in 2010, to be exact, and is very passionate about its message, makes it feel like something a tad bit different.

And with that being said, Niccol actually does a fine job here with Good Kill. While his writing of actual conversations between people may need some help, the ideas and themes that he presents here are still effective and disturbing in a way that was done in another war flick that caused much more stir than this, American Sniper. While it’s definitely not fair to compare Chris Kyle’s real-life actions to a Thomas Egan’s fictional ones, but the messages that both movies seem to get across through their “heroes”, seem quite similar; while they are committing what some may seem as “heroic acts”, they themselves don’t see it as such.

Because of that, they are, simply put, screwed up in the head.

Whereas with Kyle, he could hardly function in day-to-day activities, so much so that even a fellow soldier thanking him for saving his own life, doesn’t even register with him, Egan has a more negative problem. Kyle may have been mentally messed-up, but he still passed it off as nothing and continued on throughout his day – with Egan, he drinks, smokes, listens to hard rock music, and doesn’t know how to even talk to anyone he surrounds himself with, whether it be his wife, kids, or neighbors that just want to have a simple chat. And through Egan, Niccol shows that even though the soldier’s who are designated to handling drones, still don’t get off too easy, because they have no clue who it is that they are dropping missiles on, other than from what they’re told.

And this is where the movie gets a bit messy, because Niccol keeps his objectivity at bay for as long as he can, he starts to lose it a little bit and point the finger a tad too much. For instance, the drone sequences themselves are tense and compelling, but at the same time, whenever the government figures step into them, also feel incredibly preachy. Egan is told to kill dozens and dozens of people that he doesn’t know, or never will know, and because the voice telling them to do so is Peter Coyote, already, it feels like Niccol’s making a movie where the government are the big and bad guys.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood's playing a character that's pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Once again, Bruce Greenwood’s playing a character that’s pissed off for some unknown reasons.

Surely this taps into some of what Niccol has made a point in his past movies, but here, it feels manipulative. It’s almost as if having Egan clearly screwed up from everything that he has to do while driving a drone wasn’t enough, Niccol had to make some villains out of the situation. Even Bruce Greenwood’s Colonel character starts out as someone who understands what it is that he has to do and that’s only to take orders, but eventually, turns into this Army “who-rah” stereotype that seems like it would be better placed in a Michael Bay movie, rather than something as thoughtful as this.

But even so, Greenwood’s fantastic in the role and shows some even darker, more messed-up shadings to that character, than Egan even shows. And for that matter, Ethan Hawke is pretty solid in that role, too, because he never goes over-the-top with the role, even though the script clearly seems to be begging for it. Rather than yelling, screaming and punching things to show his frustration with the job that he has to do, Hawke simply downplays Egan’s problems and struggles, and therefore, is all the more effective.

The only who doesn’t seem to be taking a page out of Hawke’s book is January Jones as Egan’s wife. While Jones tries with this character, far too often does she come off as naggy and annoying. It’s easy to understand that she’d be upset with the fact that Egan’s away from home a lot, sometimes because he’s partaking in all-nighter drink binges, it’s also another for her to be complaining and whining about who it is that makes it easy for you to live, where you live. That said, Jones tries and seems like she’s at least trying to fill this thinly-written character with some Betty flavor.

Way too soon. I know.

Consensus: With a thoughtful approach from Niccol, Good Kill brings up some interesting ideas about drone warfare, but also seems lazy in actually doing anything else with those ideas other than just presenting them and leaving it at that.

7 / 10

As I imagine everybody's faces looking while playing COD.

As I imagine everybody’s faces looking while playing COD.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Core (2003)

CoreWhen the world is about to end, trust cellular-devices. Oh, and Hollywood.

After a couple of freak accidents all around the globe, scientists come to the mind-boggling conclusion that the Earth’s core will stop rotating, allowing for the world to all go to shit. So in order to continue the spinning, a group lead by Dr. Josh Keyes (Aaron Eckhart) and astronaut Rebecca “Beck” Childs (Hilary Swank) go down there to stop the disaster. However, like with most of the times when people try to prevent natural-disasters from occurring, mother nature fights back, and she fights with vengeance. Or, something like that.

I’m not a huge science-buff, but I passed a couple of those classes back in school and I even learned a little bit. Nothing too much, but just enough to know that the Earth revolves around the sun and that there is a crap-ton of water on our planet. You know, the simple and easy things. That’s why when I see a flick and people get on it’s case about not being smart or “correct” about the science it uses, I don’t really care nor do I ever notice. That sort of stuff just doesn’t bother me as much, especially when the flick’s dumb and stupid, such as is this one.

God's finally had it!

God’s finally had it!

But that’s where the problem of this movie lies: It’s so stupid, so dumb, and so innate, that the terribly thought-out science that it uses as it’s axle, is so noticeable and distracting, that it’s almost too hard to even enjoy. To think that the Earth’s core can suddenly stop rotating, for no explanation other than “we did it” or some failed earthquake machine, really made me laugh and wonder just what these writers were thinking when they even bothered jotting down words on a page. Hey, they know more science terms and jargon than I do, but that being said, at least I know what actually can and cannot happen with them. That’s why this movie’s so hard to get through, because everything you see, hear, or even feel, is just of the lowest common-denominator of dumb.

However, there are many movies out there that can be considered “so bad it’s good”, which is why I could recommend the movie just for that fact alone, but nothing else. You can’t expect much from a movie that gets it’s science so wrong, that almost every star in it’s ensemble strains themselves to explain certain things about it, why something’s happening, and how they can fix it, or stop it. For that matter, we’re straining ourselves in return, just to get through this damn thing because even though we know it’s been on for awhile, we still have to face back to reality and realize that the flick is over 2 hours and 4 minutes. Did not need to be at all, considering they jump right into the actual “mission”, about 30 minutes in, leaving any type of character-development or background on the ground, never to be picked up, and only used when the movie needs it to justify certain characters dumb-ass actions.

By “actions”, what I mean is that once one character dies (who I will not spoil, even if you can probably tell a minute or two before it actually happens), it becomes almost like a slasher-flick, where instead of their being a masked-killer or psychopath going around and hacking people up, it’s the Earth’s core itself. This can provide some bits of fun and excitement for people who probably have never seen a disaster flick or know what happens to a certain character, right after they say “I’ll be right back”, but for a d-bag critic like me; it doesn’t fly so well and only twists the knife in harder and harder as each and every character meets their doom. Even the actors themselves feel like they may be just slumming it up for a paycheck, which once again: Makes it even more disappointing to watch.

Obviously back in the early ’00’s is the only time a movie could be lead by Aaron Eckhart and that’s a shame too because the guy’s a quality actor who’s been kicking some fine ass for years, but in smaller indies, and is only seen by a larger-crowd when he does big, loud, and stupid blockbusters (with the exception of this one). Here, it’s apparently clear that Eckhart’s doing whatever he can to make this character/material work more than it should, but he just falls prey to it’s utter crapness, that he comes out the most laughable of all. Best example, a character that’s very close to his, perishes and leaves him yelling, while crying, and demanding his character to come alive. It’s all so laughable to watch, that it’s almost painful, especially because Eckhart, as I said, is a quality actor that knows how to make anything work. However, he can’t help himself or the film that he’s in here.

Alien?

Alien?

Hilary Swank on the other hand, well, she does the same thing except isn’t given that much to work with so it’s not as bad to watch as Eckhart. Still, it feels like a conventional-role for a gal that deserved better things, and still does to this day. Others in this cast fare a bit better, mainly because they aren’t given much development and actually seem to “enjoy” the crap they’re working with. However, it’s weird to watch everybody here act because they all seem to be in a different movie, where apparently lines are a lot easier to read, without it all coming out as total gibberish.

For instance, Stanley Tucci plays a scientist who is something of a celebrity in his field, and plays it up like the star that he is. Tucci’s funny, a bit mean, and very mawkish, but it all works because that’s who the character is, and Tucci gives him a soul that continues to show. I can’t say the same thing about Richard Jenkins’ role as General Purcell, but man does that guy love to deadpan. Every scene he’s in is hilarious and it’s just because of his lovely-presence being felt or around the screen. Nobody else in this movie fares any better than him. No not the uncharismatic DJ Qualls; no, not the highly underrated Delroy Lindo; and no, sure as hell not one of the world’s strongest female-presences working today, Alfre Woodard. Richard Jenkins is the one who steals the movie and kept me laughing and entertained every time he was on the screen. As for the rest of the movie, eh, not so much. Sorry, B-movie lovers.

Consensus: You could deem it as such “a terrible movie that it’s almost watchable”, but the Core suffers from a terrible scripting, sad-sack acting from a heavy-stacked cast, and poor science, that it’s almost too much of a strain to even be bothered with, regardless of if you’re bored, drunk or high one night or not.

4 / 10

"Coming up ahead we have some sort of blue stuff here that needs to be looked at or explained as to what the hell it is."

“Coming up ahead we have some sort of blue stuff here that needs to be looked at or explained as to what the hell it is.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Captive (2014)

Hide yo wife, hide yo husband, and most of all, hide yo kids.

Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) leaves his young daughter inside the back of his car to go and pick up some pies for dessert later, and moments later, he comes back to find out that she’s not there and is nowhere to be found anywhere in sight. How could this happen? Better yet, why? Well, that’s when two detectives (Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman) jump onto the scene and investigate every inch of this case that they can, even if they end up rubbing Matthew the wrong way quite a few times. Still though, they remain dedicated to finding this little girl, even if literally means exploring certain avenues that they wouldn’t normally go down. But now there’s a problem: One of the detectives has gone missing, which not only hinders the effectiveness of this case, but now puts another one at the top of the pile. Meaning that Matthew may never get to see his little girl again. This is when he decides to spring into action and take matters into his own hands, even if that means risking his own life.

I don’t get why people still constantly want to work with Atom Egoyan. Sure, I understand that the guy has made some top-notch films back in his day, but from what I’ve been seeing of him recently, they aren’t well-done. Most importantly though, they contain top-dollar ensembles who, in better movies, would make any film nerd want to get out their cushioned-seats, hop onto their bikes, and get to the nearest movie theater that’s actually playing one of his movies. But sadly, they do nothing but just disappoint. That’s why when I went into the Captive, I expected it to be bad, regardless of how bright and shiny that cast-list may seem.

The beautiful babies I'd imagine these two as having.

The beautiful babies I’d imagine these two as having.

But here’s the real kicker, everyone: I actually enjoyed the Captive.

Although, yes, most of the times, I know I wasn’t supposed to. See, there’s something strange going on with this movie and the way Egoyfan frames it, in that we literally get to see who the villain is in the first five minutes, whether or not the girl is actually alive, and which detective has gone missing. Over time though, the narrative jumps all over its time-line to where the actual abduction is actually somewhere around the half-hour mark, which is, for some odd reason, just after we’ve been introduced to one of the detectives and their job-meeting. This continues on for a good part of the movie to where we’re told to put the pieces of this puzzle together in our own ways, which isn’t necessarily a hard task to complete, it’s just an unnecessary one.

Why Egoyan felt the need to tell this story using a nonlinear method, is totally beyond me. In fact, it makes no sense at all, considering that we’re supposed to have some sense of tension with this case, who did it, why, and when they’re going to get caught. Other than the last aspect, we already know everything and it seems random that Egoyan would choose to use this device.

However, that said, when the film gets going and starts to tell its story in a conventional manner, it surprisingly gets better. But, once again, it got better for me in the way that it wasn’t supposed to. Because, for starters, this movie is quite over-the-top. Sometimes, certain lines that are supposed to hold a great deal of emotional heft, come off as too melodramatic, and we’re watching an episode of One Life to Live. Which isn’t really because of the cast, it’s mostly because the material they’re given is sometimes so goofy, that they can’t help but over-act and dial it up to nearly eleven. Though being unintentionally hilarious is bad thing for any movie to have, it worked for me here with the Captive and at least gave me plenty of chances to laugh-out-loud, even though I knew full well I wasn’t supposed to.

It isn’t like this all of the time, but when it is, I found myself enjoying myself. For better, and for worse.

But then something even stranger began to happen with me and this movie – it got better. And no, this does not mean that the laughs stopped, but more so that the tension that was supposed to be there throughout the whole piece, surprisingly showed itself and made me wonder where the story was going to go next. There’s a neat sequence in which Reynolds’ character may have possibly found his kid’s nappers and decides to sternly confront them, mono-e-mono. Not only is it a nice bit of acting on his part, but it’s then followed by a fun, relatively exciting car-chase that goes all over the snowy streets of Canada, where apparently nobody else seems to be driving. But that’s neither here nor there.

And I guess now would be the part to discuss the cast here and to say that while mostly everybody’s good, they’re stuck with material that’s clearly beneath them. Case in point, Ryan Reynolds. See, as of late, Reynolds has been making a huge effort to break away from the big bucks and the mainstream flicks, and just test himself as an actor, by taking smaller, more indie-based flicks. It’s not only interesting to see his choices, but to see what he does with them and how he’s able to still be his own, charming-self, yet, blend in well with a director’s certain sense of style.

"Yes, ma'am. It's what the kids are currently calling it 'memes'."

“Yes, ma’am. It’s what the kids are currently calling it ‘memes’.”

Here, in Egoyan’s film, Reynolds gets a chance to be funny at certain times, but is still incredibly believable as the grieving father who will literally do anything to find his kid. He’s not necessarily trying anything new that he hasn’t tried before, but he’s still exceptional in a film which, quite frankly, didn’t deserve him or all the effort he seemed to put into this performance. Same goes for Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson who try their hardest as the two detectives assigned the case, although their characters feel a bit underdeveloped, even though Egoyan focuses his main sights on them and what it is that they’re up to.

Sadly though, not everybody fares as well-off as these three. Like I said before about the script being cheesy and mostly over-the-top, this usually entails certain cast-members to read their lines either by yelling so dramatically, you wonder if they’re making fun of the script, or if they’re just confused about why Egoyan is even bothering with it in the first place.

The perfect example of this is Mireille Enos as Matthew’s wife who has a few break-down scenes where she’s yelling at and beating Matthew because she believes it’s all his fault their daughter is lost. Enos is a great actress and is one I always love to see because of how much she challenges herself, but here, she’s so wacky, I couldn’t hold back my laughter during a scene which, obviously, seemed like it didn’t ask for that. Kevin Durand and Bruce Greenwood are two other victims of Enos’ same problem, except that they have it worse seeing as how they’re the baddies and all, and one of them even has a mustache.

Come on, now! That’s like the oldest trick in the book!

Consensus: Poorly-written, unintentionally hilarious, and a waste of a very talented cast, the Captive may be ridiculous, but it’s fun to laugh at, enjoy for as long as it’s on the screen, and most likely forget that you ever saw.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The local truck stop. That's usually where all the bad shenanigans go down.

The local truck stop. That’s usually where all the bad shenanigans go down.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Devil’s Knot (2014)

When you hear Metallica blasting through somebody’s speakers, run as far away from them as you can!

We’ve all heard this story before, but only through documentaries, so here it is again, I guess: Three boys in West Memphis went out for a little while and promised they’d be back by 4:30. 4:30 goes by, and less than a day later, they are found dead, naked, and tied-up at the bottom of a lake nearby their houses. Families, friends, neighbors, and people in general, are all upset about this travesty, but they know that justice needs to be done. This is when the police come up with enough evidence to arrest and hold a trial for three boys, all of whom were thought of as being the killers of these three little boys. Only reason? Because they looked, dressed, and talked differently, and had some ideas about Satanic-cults than most people like to feel comfortable with. Though mostly everybody believes that these are in fact the boys who committed this murder, one man, a private investigator (Colin Firth), doesn’t, and for some odd reason, decides to take this case on his own, pro-bono and all. What he finds out is not only are there some sheisty pieces of evidence left alone and barely even thought of, but that most of these stories just don’t add up.

As many of you may know, last Thursday, I reviewed the documentary about the West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis, and I found out two things: a) Arkansas cops can be really dumb, and b), that everything I read about that case beforehand was true and therefore, didn’t really needed to be forced down my throat once again. However, I chose to watch the documentary anyway, and realized that there were some things I didn’t quite know about and was definitely happy enough to see brought to light, especially after all of these years of barely hearing anything, except for the fact that *spoiler alert* the three boys convicted of these murders, weren’t actually even the murderers and finally let free.

"Please, shut the fuck up."

“Please honey, shut the fuck up.”

That’s why it’s no surprise to see that an actual, narrative-film was made of this controversial case, and it’s not an even bigger surprise to see so much talent get behind it either. However, what is a surprise, is how bad it is.

And that’s not really anything against Atom Egoyan as a director, because you can tell that his intentions are well-driven and noble, to say the least. He isn’t really trying to bring up any new claims about this case that we haven’t heard before, and he surely isn’t trying to point the finger at anybody in an obvious way that may give us the impression that he a certain stance that he’d like to make known to the general-public. Nope, instead, he’s sort of just presenting this case, this story, and these people, exactly how it was, what happened, and whom they were.

The only problem is that none of it is at all interesting. Egoyan tries and tries again, but the problem is that there’s already been four documentaries made about this case, so what the hell is the point anyway? Sure, there’s one piece of evidence about a bloodied-man walking into a local Bojangles restaurant that I had never heard of before, but that seems to come, go, come back, go, and then all of a sudden, show up at the last second, as if it was the most meaningful piece-of-evidence of all.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled enough already with all of this ungodly amount of info I have stored-up in my brain about this case, so maybe that’s why this movie didn’t do much for me. But in all honesty, the movie as a whole, really doesn’t work. It isn’t that it’s boring because it doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of excitement for this case, but because it seems like the type of made-for-TV movie that you’d see Lifetime or Hallmark doing, except only with a few more dirty words and blood thrown into the mix. Oh, and the big-named cast as well, but really, they’re just here to collect a paycheck, I’d like to think.

Aside from all of that though, this movie doesn’t really do much at all. It’s less about the actual people involved with the case (like Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin), and more about the case itself, making it seem more like a police-procedural than anything else. Which, yet again, would be fine and relatively interesting, had those documentaries never been made before in the first place; but they have, and therefore, it’s nothing new to see or hear when we find out that the cops are pulling whatever strings to ensure that these three boys go to jail. It’s less shocking here, and more like it’s just grand-pop telling us the same history-lesson, over and over again, without much variation in the details. I love my grand-pop and all, but seriously, the stories get old quick if you don’t do anything to spice them up. That’s just a fact of life, though.

Sorry, G-Pops. You da man.

Anyway, the movie does pay attention to some people involved with the case, mainly Reese Witherspoon as Pam Hobbs, a mother of one of the murdered boys. Witherspoon tries to settle into this gritty, Southern-bumpkin mama that loves her family, just as much as she loves justice being done, but aside from the extra poundage she clearly put on, nothing here that she does really feels genuine or even interesting. She just yells, cries, faints and uses a lot of shocked-expressions on her face, and that’s it. She tries and she tries again, but her character isn’t worthy of our attentions, as horrible as that may sound coming from me.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Southern Colin Firth is definitely more of a deep-thinker than English Colin Firth.

Another character that gets a hell of a lot of attention, for no other reason other than that he’s played by Colin Firth, is private investigator Ron Lax. Firth has a troubled-role in which he has to disguise his English accent to fit with his newly-acquired Southern one, and it doesn’t always work. Aside from that, his role is sort of bland – he’s just there to get all of the facts straight, and figure out what to do with this case, as well as his own personal life. Like Witherspoon, Firth tries, and he tries again, but sadly, the material given to him just doesn’t do much of anything for him at all.

And it gets even weirder, because believe it or not, this cast is actually jam-packed with recognizable and talented faces, it’s just that they don’t do much. Alessandro Nivola has the role as Terry Hobs, Pam’s husband, who in real-life, actually has the most controversial role in the case as a whole, but doesn’t have any of that hinted at all, except maybe towards the end with one shot. That’s it. Other than that, all he has to do is have his inevitable “freak-out” scene, comfort his wife, and that’s it. Lame, I know. Same goes for notable stars like Mireille Enos, Dane DeHaan, Elias Koteas, Kevin Durand, and worst of all, Amy Ryan. I think it should be a golden-rule by now that whenever you have Beadie Russell in anything, you must always use her to the best of her ability. No questions asked.

Consensus: Devil’s Knot tries to be more than just a regurgitation of everything we’ve heard and seen done before in countless documentaries, but the final result still ends up being a dud and not doing much of anything at all for the talents in front of, or behind the camera.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Give 'em a break! It was the early-90's for godsakes! New Edition was still considered "cool".

Give ’em a break! It was the early-90’s for godsakes! New Edition was still considered “cool”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Endless Love (2014)

Stupid teenagers. Just study, go to college, get a good job, settle down and shut up!

Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) is just another ordinary, simple teenager that suffered a tragedy when her older brother died. Since then, Jade has practically been a shut-in, devoting her life to the books, her studies, her family who clearly needs her and a future that she may hold at Brown. Sounds all good for this recent, high-school graduate, but there’s just one big problem: She doesn’t have any friends. Not a single one. That’s why when she begins to lock eyes with the brooding, brutish David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer), she decides to invite him to her grad-party and to also be her “summer fling”, for lack of a better term. Together, the two build a nice romance that’s built upon the summer bliss, however, her over-protective daddy (Bruce Greenwood) doesn’t want someone like David ruining his little girl’s bright future. This is when he starts to take matters into his own hands by not just having a detective look into this kid’s checkered-past, but also let him know that when it comes to his daughter, he’s the one who gets to say “yay”, or “nay”. Not him, dammit!

Apparently this is a remake of a 1981 film starring Brooke Shields, a movie that I not only didn’t even bother checking out, but didn’t even know about until I actually looked up information about what the hell this movie was about. Needless to say, I might just never check it out, all because after watching this, I don’t think I can handle another sappy, melodramatic tearjerker about teenagers falling in love ever again. Not now, not ever!

Wait till they find out they've been swimming in a vest-pool of leeches this whole entire time.

Wait till they find out they’ve been swimming in a vest-pool of leeches this whole entire time.

So yeah, I have a lot of problems with these types of movies, however, being a bit of a youngling myself, I find it somewhat easy to relate to these types of movies where I watch kids, who are a bit older than me, fall through the same steps that a younger-version of myself one went through. There’s the looks, the butterflies in the stomachs, the awkward first-dates, the even more awkward small-talk, the idea of falling in love and ultimately, the act of sex. I have, and I bet most of you out there have been through the same song and dance, and it doesn’t matter how many times you see it, it never seems to get old.

Which is why for the first 20 or so minutes of this movie, I have to say, I wasn’t too pissed-off. Sure, there were plenty of faults in which certain characters said and did dumb things that would never, ever happen in real-life, but I let it all slide-by because I actually enjoyed watching these two get to know another, hang-out and basically fall-in love. A bit contrived, sure, but Alex Pettyfer and Gabriella Wilde were at least fine enough together that I didn’t mind the more saccharine of this movie, as well as their performances.

Speaking of which, being that these two are both models, it only makes sense that we get to see plenty of scenes where they run-around, half-naked, smiling, being pretty and swapping plenty of spit. When all that the film is concerned with, is letting them do that, I can’t really rain on either of their parades. Wilde has the face of a woman that the camera can’t help but focus on just about every single second she’s is in a scene; and Pettyfer, though he’s proven to be used better in far more interesting-material, does what he can to show that the dude is not only a hunk that can with this shy, introverted gal over, but every other woman around him. Hell, even the lady who play’s Wilde’s character’s mom, Joely Richardson, looks like she wants to bang him half of the time!

But as soon as the romance between these two starts to get more and more serious, where other threads start to show up, the movie really gets ridiculous, but not in a fun kind of way either. You’d think that a movie where a house burns down, a zoo is broken into, a man is punched, two dads argue, people get arrested and restraining-orders are handed-out, would be the slightest bit of wacky, insane fun, right? Nope, this movie is just dull, uninteresting and plainly put, boring. The romance we began to fell in love with before, starts to get bogged-down by a bunch of people fighting and acting like jackasses over nothing, as well as more melodramatic moments where we see a bunch of characters looking and acting sad, all to the sweet tuneage of hip, cool indie-bands like the Bird and The Bee.

Why they would even bother putting anything from their wonderful discography into utter garbage like this, is totally beyond me. Sure there was a pretty penny to be made for it though, so I’ll give them that.

Mainly though, this movie’s problems just boil down to the fact that Jade’s daddy is a total, and complete dick, throughout the WHOLE, GODDAMN MOVIE. Once or twice would have been fine, but time and time again, the guy just seems like he’s about to break something if people don’t listen to him, or that somebody stole his lunch money. Either way, the guy never seems like he’s in a good-mood, and even when we do think there is the slightest redeeming-quality to him, that all gets shoved right out the door when we realize that maybe he’s not the perfect husband he proclaims to be. You can call that a spoiler if you want, but I don’t care!

"You're not going to be with my daughter, and you know why? Because I forget to shave today. That's why!"

“You’re not going to be with my daughter, and you know why? Because somebody else accidentally used my toothbrush today. That’s why!”

This movie sucks and what really ticks me off about it so much is that it probably gave me the first actual, “bad” performance I’ve ever seen from Bruce Greenwood, and he isn’t even really terrible to begin with. It’s just that his character is so thinly-written, so one-note and just so mean to everyone around him, without anybody ever standing-up for themselves and letting him know that they are sick and tired of his shit, you have to wonder just why it is that Greenwood even decided to take this character, work with him as long and as passionately as he seemed to, and just why exactly did he even agree to do this in the first place. Was it money the money? I don’t think so, because I sure as hell think that he’s still making plenty of moolah from not only showing up in the first Star Trek, but the second one as well. Or, was it because he was actually given the chance to work with a class-act like Robert Patrick? I’d like to think so, although the two only share one scene together and it might just be the most memorable, if only because they’re so good in general, that you look forward to seeing them clash heads once and for all. And when it finally does seem like the chance has finally come for them to look at each other square in the eyes, yell-out some insults at the other and just try to decide whose dick is bigger, nothing happens. Greenwood just hands Patrick a note, walks away, with Patrick looking at him in utter disgust/shock. And that’s about it.

What a freakin’ bummer, man!

Consensus: Hopelessly-in-love teenagers who want to spend a romantic night at the movies for Valentine’s Day may find themselves welling-up during and ready to make-out with their significant-other after watching Endless Love, but for those of us who may be single, may have standards when it comes to movies, or who knows a flaming pile of dog shit when they see one, will probably be glad they don’t have anyone to go back to for this special day, except for maybe the latest magazine of GQ or Maxim, depending on what your preferences are.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Wait till a crocodile comes up and snatches them both.

Wait till a crocodile comes up and snatches them both. Be even more awesome than the leeches.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

Khan or not, it’s still STAR TREK!!! So, shut up!!

The crew of the Enterprise is back! But this time, they are under the guidance of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine). Whether or not that’s a good thing, people believe in him and will go about his every word. However, his leadership is put to the test when the Fleet is wiped out by a mysterious enemy (Benedict Cumberbatch). Kirk and his crew don’t back down and instead, lead a manhunt to capture “a one man weapon of mass destruction”.

4 years ago, J.J. Abrams did something that no person in their right mind thought was possible: he made Star Trek cool. Yep, that’s exactly right: the dude who brought us Felicity, brought us the most-accessible, and by far, most entertaining Star Trek movie of the whole franchise. I know I may be making some mortal-enemies with that last statement there, but let the record state that I am not a big Trekkie, have watched the show on numerous occasions  and have seen about three or four films (at least what I can recall anyway). So yeah, I’m not the biggest Trekkie out there in the world, so yeah, maybe my opinion doesn’t matter in terms of what’s the best and what isn’t of the whole franchise, but do you know who’s opinion does matter? The regular, movie-going audience that got hooked with the last one, and can’t wait to see what this one has got going on, that’s who!

And I think it’s quite safe to say that they are going to have a great time with the latest check-up. Or, at least I hope, because I sure as hell know I did.

The odd aspect behind this whole movie it’s that Abrams doesn’t go balls-to-the-walls with changing anything up here. Instead, we get sort of the same formula for the first one, except a bit of a darker tone. However, I don’t want to really say it’s darker just because the stakes of human-life are a bit higher, but I definitely want to say it’s more “emotional” than the first one, which was more happy-go-lucky in the way that it didn’t want to bother people too much. Basically, this movie is just like the first, but do not take that as insult whatsoever, because I loved that about this movie.

I hate to say it, but Shatner never looked THIS stunning while holding a laser gun.

I hate to say it, but Shatner never looked THIS stunning while holding a phaser.

Abrams knows the type of movie he wants to make, and he knows that he’s got to have a little bit of everything for everyone. Yes, even those damn Trekkies get their shout-outs every once and awhile too, and it’s not just the obvious ones neither. There’s a shit-ton of action, some romance, a lot of humor, some sexiness, some drama, and a bunch of scenes that actually may scare you, just by how unexpected they are. But no matter where Abrams takes this movie, it always remains fun in the type of way that you almost feel like you can’t keep up with this movie. It’s sort of like when you’re running, and your friends show up next to you in their hot-ass ride and challenge you to a playful, but somewhat-serious running vs. driving race, and you continue to run your heart out, even though you know at the bottom of your slowly-dying heart you don’t have what it takes to beat the car, let alone even come close to catching up with it. You know what I mean? Kind of? Well, that’s what this flick reminded me of: running-up against my friend’s hot-ass ride.

Don’t get me wrong, neither, because that is nowhere near being a bad thing, especially during the beginning of what seems to be an already-promising Summer. Abrams always gives us something new to view, whether it be some beautiful visuals or something popping-out us in 3D, it doesn’t matter, because it’s always thrilling. In some cases, you could almost say that this movie has too much action, but to that, I’d probably say, “ehh.” The reason I’d say that is because you wouldn’t be wrong with that statement whatsoever, however, I’m the type of person who doesn’t mind their action done when it’s always electric, entertaining, tense, and can keep me as glued to the screen as I was here.

Seriously, even though I know everything’s going to be cool with each and every one of these characters, and whether or not they’re fates will be decided in a gloomy-way by the end, I was still on-the-edge-of-my-seat, just wondering what was going to happen next, to whom, and how the rest of the U.S.S. Enterprise was going to feel after all of the tears have been dropped. Okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far, but it was what I was feeling, while I sat all crumbled-up with my large-ass soda and popcorn. I was feeling comfy, cozy, and all easy inside, and then this movie came on and had to ruin everything for a simple man like myself. However, that’s not a negative either. I had fun with this movie, no matter what Abrams decided to throw at the screen and see what stuck, and it just goes to show you that this guy really does have the mastery and the craft to voice a new generation of Star Wars fans for many, many years to come.

Still though: what’s going to happen to his Star Trek franchise? Who knows? Only time will tell on that one, my friends.

"Don't worry, I have all this shit planned out."

“Don’t worry, I have all this shit planned out.”

Just like the first movie, this Star Trek entry may have the explosions, the cool-gadgets, the Klingons, and the fireworks to catch your pretty, little eyes, but in reality: it’s all about the characters and which ones mean the most to each other. Just in case you were questioning whether Spock and Kirk made up, hugged, and got over their differences, no need to worry; because they haven’t. Yup, they still bicker, argue, and trade quips against one another about choosing logicality-over-impulse and it’s as enthralling to watch as it was in the first movie. It never gets old, despite them having a fight about five or six times here, and you always wait to see what layer of this character is going to peeled-off next, so that the other can capitalize on the vulnerability of the other and show their strength. It’s not all serious though, it’s played for fun and games, but there’s something still really strong between these two that obviously keeps them on the same ground, united, and, well, “friends.” Believe it or not, these two are friends, and this movie shows that many-upon-many of times, all of which, are as compelling and heartwarming as the last. No, Kirk and Spock do not start making-out, but if they did, the reaction would have been filled with more claps than boos.

The two cats playing those iconic characters, respectively, Chris Pine and Zachary Qunto, are still amazing at what they do and show that they have fully grown into these characters with much ease and skill. Pine is as brass as he can get as Kirk, but still shows some ounces of humanity every once and awhile that has us feel like the kid is learning as time goes on, and the stakes continue to get higher for him, and his crew. Quinto is also great as Spock, showing just how smart and thought-provoking he can be with what he says, what he stands for, and what he stands against. Quinto has pretty much mastered the hell out of this role by now, and it’s no surprise that once things start getting a little hectic for Spock in the end, Quinto owns it and makes us feel like Spock will, and forever always be: a bad-ass. I mean, after all, I do own this t-shirt, so I think I know when the guy’s bad-ass and when he’s not. Rarely ever is he the latter.

As for the others along for the adventure, not all of them get as much screen-time as they did with the first movie, but still show each of the acquired-skills and how they all come into play with this story, at least once or twice just to remind us that they are there. Zoe Saldana is good as Uhura, as her and Spock’s relationship is once again, tested to see if they really are worth sticking around and getting all hyped-up over, or if they should just focus their attention on space, and shit like that. A bit obvious for a story like this to go down that route, but both stars handle it like professionals and easily make it a relationship worth caring about, even when danger stares both of them in the eyes, even without a blink. And yes, we all know that Alice Eve’s Carol will eventually play a bigger-role in the franchise sooner or later, but for right now, she’s just here for this and this alone. She’s good when she is called on to do something, but that’s very rare when she isn’t just posing in some misogynistic movie-scene. Not a huge feminist by any stretch of the meaning, but I do know when unneeded is exactly that, and that scene was. At least she’s hot, though.

"No need to fear, baby, I got this. Oh, I mean, uhm....don't worry female human-organism, I will conquer this predicament."

“No need to fear, baby, I got this. Oh, I mean, uhm….don’t worry female human-organism, I will conquer this predicament.”

Even though they don’t get as much adoration and love like they did in the first one, everybody else seems to get their one moment in the sun, and milk it for as long as they can. Simon Pegg is a bigger-part in this story, than he was in the last, and has a great time with the role, but isn’t his usual jokey-wokey self. Yes, Pegg’s definitely funny as Scotty, but the guy helps out a bit more with these plans that makes him less of a fool, and more a smarty-pants, that does smarty-things. Karl Urban is a laugh-out-loud riot as Bones, and shows why his comedic-timing is a thing to behold, even in the darkest of situations. I guess it’s still nice to see when the guy isn’t judging drug-addled crooks, the dude’s still got time to patch everyone up. John Cho gets to have his moment to play in the sun and sand as Sulu, but is mainly there to steer the ship when it needs that ripe-steering, and Anton Yelich is barely even here as Chekov, but I think that’s on-purpose for the whole fact that not many people really care for the dude. Chekov, I mean, not Yelchin. Although, I wouldn’t be too sure that the Trekkies don’t have it out for that guy either. Those mofo’s are crazy.

Most of the hooplah surrounding this movie isn’t about whether it’s good or not, or even better than the first; it’s mainly been all around if the main villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, will in fact be Khan or not. Without diving into any more about this character that may land me in some hot lava, I just want to say that the man is great with this role as he always seems to be one step ahead of everybody else on the Enterprise, and does whatever the hell he can to keep his name, his pride, and his destination clear in sight. The guy’s got some real scary eyes that demand your attention, and it works. You never quite feel like this dude’s going to get away with anything he plans, which in it’s own right, doesn’t make all that much sense to begin with, but you don’t care. All you know about this dude is that he’s a baddie, doing baddie things, and not so much as leaving a post-it for saying “sorry.” Yeah, I know, right? What a total dick!

Has to be Khan, right? I don’t know. I’ll leave that one to you, my friends.

Consensus: Regardless as to whether or not it fully fits in line with the die-hard Trekkies or not, Star Trek Into Darkness is one hell of a ride that’s jam-packed with thrills, emotion, humor, beautiful special-effects, and a feeling that this franchise can, and just might go anywhere and it will always be awesome. Let’s just hope that J-squared doesn’t get too wild ‘n out with Star Wars.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"Don't worry guys, in 2 more years, I will have totally forgotten about all of you."

“Don’t worry guys, in 2 more years, I will have totally forgotten about all of you. But anyway, while we’re at it, CHEEESE!!”

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)

All you need is a little hug and support from daddy, and you won’t start robbing banks.

Handsome Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt motorcyclist at the circus who returns to an upstate town where he meets up with a former fling of his (Eva Mendes), only to find that she has a baby of his. In need to support his child and soon-to-be family, Luke decides to start robbing banks and pulling off heists with a buddy of his (Ben Mendelsohn). After this, we see the cop who runs into a problem with Luke, Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), and how he deals with the corrupt cops in his jurisdiction, while also keeping his head afloat. And we also see two kids, Jason (Dane DeHaan) and AJ (Emory Cohen), meet up together in high school, develop a friendship, and realize that there may be more between them that they never thought was possible.

Not only is this movie hard to describe with it’s synopsis, but it’s also even harder than hell to review it. Why? Well, it’s one of those flicks that just so happens to be built on the idea of it’s twists, it’s turns, and it’s surprises, which therefore means, any type of spoiling of those said twists, turns, or surprises, would not only be a crime against me as a critic, but a crime against you as readers. Also, it’s pretty damn hard to review, because I still don’t know how or what I still feel about it all.

What made me think this flick was going to be close to the second-coming of Christ, was not just the kick-ass trailer or the wonderful reviews it’s been getting so far, but was because of it’s director: Derek Cianfrance. Many people know the dude from his directorial-debut, the perfect date movie, Blue Valentine, and know that the guy has a knack and flair for telling an effective, compelling story just by using characters, plot, details, and dialogue. That’s it, and it’s nothing more. That’s why when it came to him tackling a flick that was like a mixture of the Godfather and the Town, I had no problem with it all, mainly because the guy seems like he knows what he’s doing and seems like he’d do anything that’s far from being deemed “conventional” or “predictable”. Granted, we’ve only seen him do one movie so far, but if that’s the consensus the guy has to work on: it’s pretty damn solid, I”d have to say so for myself. Sadly, this movie doesn’t come close to hitting his last. Sadly indeed.

Ryan Gosling: stackin' his money, layin' low, and chillin'.

Ryan Gosling: stackin’ his money, layin’ low, and chillin’.

But without jumping down it’s neck about the bad, let’s get into the good that will most likely lead into the bad. Rather than jumping back-and-forth from story-to-story without ever making it clear as to what the hell’s going on or how are these peeps’ paths going to cross next, we get three stories, that are told in their own, separate formats, without barely any interruptions at all. The first story is about Luke and how he handles being a daddy, but also a bank robber at the same time. Not only is this the most exciting story out of the three, but it’s also the best. The main reason being because it’s filled with so much energy, entertainment, tension, suspense, and emotional heart, that it gets you ready for what you think you’re about to witness. You automatically think that this whole movie is going to play-out like this first story where we all get all the action and flair, but still some grounded-sense of reality and depth, but that’s not how it all plays out.

Instead of doing the smart thing and keeping up with this sense of intensity, Cianfrance takes the film down a notch and keeps it grounded in the sense that we are watching a movie, and a tad predictable one at that. After we switch gears over to Cross’s story, we start to see the movie delve more into the conventional-side of itself where we see police corruption, people with badges doing mean things, and worst of all, Ray Liotta playing a sincerely, despicable human-being. He’s good at it, but can’t we put Tommy Vercetti up to something else nowadays. How about a role as an inspirational father-figure that does sensible acts for the rest of society? Huh? Not buying it? Oh well, at least I tried.

Anyway, where this flick takes a turn for the worse is not just because it begins to get, dare I say it, generic, but because it seems so obvious. Without telling you exactly what happens or how, there are certain elements of the plot that seem to be so predictable, that it gets to the time of where I could literally pin-point exactly who knew who, how they knew them, and how they were going to tell each other how they knew one another. It got to be a bit of annoyance and seemed more like Cianfrance took the idea of conveniences between two characters, as a way to show us that there’s a twist coming up, or something that we don’t seem to expect, but yet; we do.

That’s not to say that the whole film is like this, because as a matter of fact, most of it is damn good I have to say. There are moments where I was literally on-the-edge-of-my-seat without any other thought or idea that would take me away from this movie, anywhere near my head, and it completely compelled me. And that’s not just the Gosling parts, that’s the whole movie and it surprised me with what Cianfrance was able to bring up next, and how. The guy doesn’t depend on his dialogue here as much as he did with his last flick, but the atmosphere and mood is still there to mess with you and because of that, I have to still give the guy kudos for always allowing us to set our sights on something worth watching here. Can’t say that about many film makers who churn-out a movie a year, but thankfully, I can say it about this dude.

Same one from Hangover?

Same car from Hangover?

The problem is, after two hours and thirty minutes (yes, that’s how long it is), I was still left with an idea in my head: what the hell was that all about? The ideas and themes of there being issues between a father and a son, how we all look out for one another, and how hard it is to stay true to yourself in a world of evil and hate, are abundantly clear and here, and hit us in the face as much as beers to an alcoholic, but never seem to be worth the wait for. Honestly, when all of these stories do finally get the chance to come together, make some sense, and have us make up our minds on what to think of, it feels like a bit of a waste, mostly because nobody really solves anything. Gosling’s story ends a bit too quickly for us to feel like his life’s problems are solved, Cooper’s goes on and on without any clear happiness in sight, and the final story seems like it was all made for us to see how tension still arises, even as the new generations come alive.

It made no sense to me as to why this flick was named the way it was. The Pines definitely serve some sort of metaphor for each of these characters and the way they go about their business, but it didn’t seem reasonable. Certain things are said, and are left unsaid, but they never felt right. As the film continued to go on and on, these characters begin to pull off acts and stunts that not only seem unreasonable, but almost stupid. I get that people can deal with grief and sadness in all sorts of ways, but there comes a point in this flick where it just doesn’t make sense any more and feels like instead of dealing with real human-beings that have feelings, emotions, and a sense of right and wrong, we are dealing with a bunch of wacked-out peeps that act solely on a gut-feeling of anger and violence, without rhyme or reason. There are people out there who live like this, but in a flick like this, it didn’t seem right and didn’t make sense when you take the whole ending into actual consideration. If none of this makes sense to you now, please, go and see this movie and realize that there is a message to what I’m saying, as confusing and as bum-fucked as I may sound.

Thankfully, the ones that hold this flick together is the more-than-able cast of heavy-hitters that do what they do best: be compelling, no matter who it is that they are playing. The person from this cast that I think of the most when I say that, is without a doubt Ryan Gosling as Handsome Luke. Gosling not only uses that innate-likeability to his favor here, but also shows us that he still has the able chance to still scare the sheets off of us, and never know whether we can root for him, or boo him. Gosling has what it takes to make this character work and makes him the most fascinating out of them all, mostly because he strives to be more than just a convention: he actually has a beating-heart that doesn’t always make the right decision every step of the way, but at least tries to make up for them.

Eva Mendes plays his sugar-bunny that’s good, in probably the most-dramatic and compelling role we have ever seen her play before. Not only does Mendes do a perfect job at being able to not look hot or sexy, as hard as that may be for her, she also never forgets to remind us that this is a troubled and lonely woman, that we never lose sympathy for. Ben Mendelsohn is also a butt-load of fun and joy to watch as his buddy, a former-robber who helps him out nowadays, but don’t be fooled: this guy has a mean-streak to him that shows in a despicable-way.

Reminds me of the type of kids I'd hang out with in school. Except they didn't look like Leo DiCap. I did....

Reminds me of the type of kids I’d hang out with in school. Except they didn’t look like Leo DiCap. I did….

Bradley Cooper is great as Avery Cross, the cop with a heart. Cooper really does well at being the type of guy we can feel for and trust, even when he doesn’t seem to do the right thing, and makes you understand why the guy has such a hard problem to think for himself, or take matters into his own hands. He gets to be a bit of a self-righteous dick by the end of this thing, but no matter what, he always stayed true to his character, his motivations, and what he strives for in life. Rose Byrne plays his wife, that I wouldn’t say is still in dullsville here, but doesn’t seem to have much to do other be a chick that never stops complaining about how he’s a cop and always has the chance of dying on the job. You did marry him, didn’t you? So why the ‘eff you bitchin’ at him?!? Let a guy do his job and get that money, money!

Lastly, the performances from Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen as the two kids that meet-up in school, is good in the way that it paints an interesting portrait of what it’s like to meet someone, and not have any idea what to expect from them, but that’s about as much as I can tell you right there. Just know this, DeHaan is great and definitely uses that angst-fueled look to his advantage, and know that Cohen tries to do the same, but his character is too much of a dick for us to really care about him at all. Okay, I think you know enough by now. Time for me to shut up and just go the hell home.

Consensus: With a more-than-reliable cast, suspenseful mood, well-written characters, and interesting plot-changes, The Place Beyond the Pines never loses focus on it’s story or what it’s trying to convey about it’s character, but loses grip with reality and begins to get more and more theatrical and obvious as it goes along. No matter what, you will feel compelled by this, but it starts to shy-away sooner than later.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Lucky-ass baby.

Lucky-ass baby.

Flight (2012)

As if landing a plane was a real challenge for Denzel.

Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot who miraculously lands his plane after a midair collision, saving the lives of hundreds of passengers. But as more details emerge, Whitaker becomes the focus of the investigation about what truly happened on that plane.

You have to wonder if Robert Zemeckis got as tired as we did watching all of his family, motion-capture movies, because right in the first scene of this movie we see a chick in full-on nudity (yes, pubic hair and all), Denzel slugging down a brew or two, and then, even going so far as to snort a line of cocaine. Pretty shocking to see once you think how this same guy directed The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, not all too long ago. However, Zemeckis is sick and tired of motion-capture movies (thank God) as well as making movies for families. He’s going back to making the types of movies he wants to make, that are strictly to be seen by people who vote for Oscar nominees  Good job, Robert, you got ’em again.

If there is any credit I have to give to Zemeckis, it’s that the guy doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to how he focuses on this character of Whip Whitaker, who, as you may already know from the trailers, is a very, very flawed man. Something else you may already know from the trailers is that there is a pretty intense plane-crash that is as tense and as suspenseful as you’re going to see for a long, long time. The last plane-crash sequence that ever hit me as hard as this was United 93, and before that was probably Cast Away, another movie directed by Zemeckis that shows the guy hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to providing tense, plane-crashes that has you gripping onto your seat as much as the characters in the actual movie are.

However, let me get back to what this film really is about: Whip Whitaker. The most powerful element behind this movie is Whitaker himself, his alcohol addiction, and how Zemeckis allows that to be shown on-screen. Zemeckis doesn’t shy-away from the fact that this guy has a drinking-problem and keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering just whenever this guy will actually kick the addiction, or just simply rot away like many other addicts out there. This would all make it too easy to hate the guy and not give a shit what happens to him, but Zemeckis doesn’t paint it that simply, and makes this more than just a standard, portrait of a flawed-man. It has layers and that’s what’s so important about this movie.

The idea that this guy Whitaker, got onto a plane, drunk and high, but landed it in the safest way possible by killing only 6 people in the whole-crash definitely leaves some food-for-thought as to what should really happen to this guy. Yes, he endangered everybody by putting himself on-board of a plane under the influence of some drugs and booze, but does that really matter when the fact still remains is that he still saved many lives that day and is probably the only pilot that could have done so? This idea and theme that comes on throughout the whole movie leads you to wonder and to think just what is right, what is wrong, and what should happen to this guy who did both, a bad thing and a good thing at the same time. You never know what answer this film is going to end on and you never know exactly what it’s standing on Whitaker really is, but what you do know, is that this guy has some real problems and it’s hard to think about him as anything else other than a dangerous drunk that did a heroic deed, but also an evil one as well.

Even though I may make this film seem like a Sundance-type, character-based drama from the hand of Robert Zemeckis, it doesn’t stay like that and definitely turns into what could be considered a Hollyw0od-type, character-based drama from the hand of Robert Zemeckis. What I mean by this is that for a good hour or so, the film feels very subdued, very subtle, and very ambiguous with where it’s going to go, what it’s trying to say, and how it’s going to all play-out, but somehow, the story loses that and becomes the typical shit we always see from Hollywood. The whole idea of this guy being a drunk, knowing it, and never making excuses for it is pretty fresh to see in a big-budget flick like this one here, but that idea starts to go away as he gets a tad too nice towards the situation and almost feels a bit shoe-horned in. Especially that second ending where it seems like Zemeckis wanted to really have us happy by the end, and give us an ending that sent us away with a smile on our faces and a brighter out-look on life. I’m not the type of person that wants a sad, depressing story that ends on a dark-note, but come on, certain stories don’t deserve to be cheapened-up because big, ‘ol Hollywood says so. Come on, Zemeckis you’re better than that.

And something else that Zemeckis is better at too, is picking good music for his movies and that is something that he does not showcase well here at all. Every single piece of music here is just another song that hits you on-the-nose with what it’s commentating on and how it affects the scene. For instance, every time Goodman shows up, Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” starts blasting as to show us that something bad is coming Whitaker’s way, and should be played more for laughs. Another example that annoyed me to death was the use of Joe Cocker’s “Feeling Alright”, every time Whip decided to snort a line and walk down a hall-way with his signature-strut. Okay, I get it Zemeckis. Denzel is high and is feeling alright, no need to tell me with the use of Joe Cocker’s voice. There’s other examples as well, but these were the two that really got to me and kept bothering me every time they just so happened to be blasted through the speakers.

Where Zemeckis fails though, is where Denzel Washington passes and it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen him give in a long, long time. It’s been awhile since Denzel has actually played a role that’s really showcased him as the powerhouse he is known to be. A couple of middle-of-the-road thrillers sometimes show this, but not the full-extent that this character-drama does and I’m so glad that Denzel is Whip Whitaker, because I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played this role and make it work as well as Denzel does. See, even though the guy is constantly-drunk, doesn’t care about it, knows that he’s bad fool, and knows that he can stop whenever he wants, he is never unsympathetic. For some odd, dumb reason, you still care for this guy and root for him, so much to the point of where every time he picks up a bottle or you see a bottle around him, you gasp or shake your head by how quickly the guy went right back to his old ways.

It starts to get even worse when you think about what Whitaker did before the plane-crash, and after and how it shows that not only is this guy a troubled, piece of garbage, but is also a man that is a hero in a way and used his better-judgement for something that saved the lives of many people on that plane as well. Whip Whitaker is as complex and as three-dimensional as you’re going to get with a character this year, and thanks to Denzel, the guy is watchable the whole time. Denzel is just about in every single scene in this movie and that is not a complaint whatsoever because it is a thing of freakin’ beauty to watch Denzel just act his off in a way that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. We see everything in Denzel’s acting-skills come out here for show, like when he gets mad, or when he gets sad, or when he gets happy, or when he’s just being the coolest, sliest, mother ‘effer in the whole film. Honestly, I could go on and on and on about Denzel and how great he is here as Whitaker but to not bore the hell out of you, I’ll just leave it at the fact that Denzel may very well be looking at an Oscar-nom come later this year, which is something I cannot wait for. Even though he may not win, I still think he deserves that damn nomination because he is absolutely terrific here.

Denzel’s supporting cast is also pretty damn good, too, even though none of them really rank-up to the type of “Oscar-caliber” that he does. Kelly Reilly co-stars as a strung-out junkie that meets and sticks with Whitaker for the most-part, and is a very interesting character to watch as we see her cope with her own, personal demons, as well as Whitaker’s as well. They both work very well together, and I think that Reilly deserves more roles like this even though I was a bit suspect of her Southern, Georgian accent. Don Cheadle brings a lot of power to his role as the crack lawyer that’s brought to protect Whitaker from serving any type of jail-time and does exactly what you’d expect of the guy: act his ass off. Still, I wish that Cheadle would up his game again and see what he can do with leads again.

Bruce Greenwood seemed like the most interesting character out of the whole bunch because his first-scene with Whitaker really had me tearing up by the end of it, because it showed the level of friendship these two have and how Greenwood stands beside him the whole-way. I wish that more of the film was like this one scene, in particular, but damn was it still great to see and witness. John Goodman does exactly what he did in Argo, and steals just about every scene he’s in and gives some of the funniest lines in this whole drama. Then, the one that really surprised the hell out of me was the small-cameo from James Badge Dale as a cancer-patient who shares a smoke with Denzel and Reilly, and gives the type of role that makes you think about him, long after he’s gone. It’s not just how he acts is what makes us think about the most, it’s what he says and how the reoccurring theme of God and the actions he bestows onto continues to play-out throughout. It’s a role that deserved to be as long as it was, mainly by how powerful and though-provoking it was left as.

Consensus: Robert Zemeckis definitely loses himself by the end of Flight, mainly because he gives into what Hollywood likes to consider “happy”, but still features a top-notch performance from Denzel Washington, in one of the best character-studies of the year and in one of the better performances I have seen so-far. Not a perfect movie, but still a very good one none the less.

8/10=Matinee!!

Star Trek (2009)

Just when I thought ‘Star Wars’ was so much better, J.J. Abrams has to just make me reconsider.

The film follows James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) aboard the USS Enterprise as they combat Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the United Federation of Planets. The story takes place in an alternate reality due to time travel by both Nero and the original Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

The one thing that J.J. Abrams does perfectly here is that he takes everything that every Trekkie knows and love and doesn’t ignore it and act like it never happened, instead, he’s spiced it up with extra energy on everything across the board like action, story, mythology, special effects, and basically everything else you need in a film. Basically, J.J. Abrams is going to be the next George Lucas and hopefully that’s said with more praise rather than negativity, considering Lucas hasn’t been the most reliable sci-fi director in the past 13 years.

This is definitely one of the films in recent memory that has made me actually want to go out and be a kid again. Abrams injects this flick with a great deal of fun and energy to the point of where almost every single scene is as entertaining as the last. The constant space-ship shoot-outs, the hand-to-hand combat brawls, and the blowing up of just about everything in sight gives this film that epic feel of a thrill-ride that is sure to please just about anyone. So if you’re a Trekkie, a person who hates being called a Trekkie, a person who thinks that ‘Star Trek’ is a poor man’s version of ‘Star Wars’ (I can easily say that I’m one of them), or just a person who appreciates a good old sci-fi/action flick, this film will definitely entertain the hell out of you as it did for me.

It also helps that the special effects are by far some of the best I have seen in the past couple of years. The film is constantly moving around all-over-the-place but there are moments where this flick just stops and lets us sit back and look at these beautiful, CGI images of space, the space-ships themselves, or just what a planet looks like from space itself. There are even scenes where there’s a free-fall from space and it just looks damn near gorgeous but also make you hold your breath considering how real and stunning it looks.

Where this film also works is its script because it can handle just about everything perfectly. The fact that the writers didn’t want to offend any Trekkies out there is something definitely worth noting. It doesn’t just ignore the events of the first 10 films and almost pretend as if they never happened or start from scratch like that, it actually acknowledges them and say that they happened in an alternate time-line. Which in a way is restarting its series but also continuing it and giving them the right to do whatever the hell it is that they want with this material. Definitely the right way to give the series a reboot because it doesn’t offend anybody and doesn’t confuse anybody either.

There is a lot of humor here that works well and doesn’t feel shoe-horned one bit like many action-action flicks try to do. There’s plenty of funny scenes and moments such as a moment where Bones keeps injecting Kirk and he has an allergic reaction to it, a moment where Chekov messes around with the voice recognition computer, any plenty of moments of endless rejections of Kirk by Uhura, and just so many many more scenes that actually had me laughing my ass off and it didn’t feel like it was trying too hard by any means. There are also a lot of other emotional moments as well that will probably bring any real Trekkie to tears. Before the opening credits even pop-up, we are treated to an awesome space-fight where Kirk’s mother gives birth to him and his father is killed in a space crash. I don’t want to say that this made me close to crying but it is definitely a scene that feels genuine and starts off the film perfectly.

My only gripe with this flick was that the villains for this story felt terribly lame. These Romulan people have these Mike Tyson face-tattoos happening and looked like a bunch of angry cave-men. They are always grumpy and totally unforgettable and uninteresting but then again the film is really trying to just give us villains that will make this film work and no matter what, we all know what’s going to happen at the end so who cares really. It’s just a shame that they have a good actor like Eric Bana playing a role where he practically yells and hollers about something new the whole time.

I was also very impressed by how perfectly Abrams handled this ensemble cast as well. Chris Pine references but doesn’t do a parody of William Shatner but brings a lot of swagger, cockiness, sarcasm, and boyishness to the role instead. It’s a very fine line and he struts right down it and makes this one of the better leads for a sci-fi flick I have seen in a pretty long time. Zachary Quinto is also seamless as Spock, channeling Leonard Nimoy (who also appears in the flick as well), channeling both his logical side of things as well as human side to perfection. It’s definitely a great role for both of these guys considering the flick is basically counting on them to give more than just impersonations and it’s something they handle perfectly.

It was also great to see every other character here do a great job and get a chance to have their own moments as well. John Cho is good as Sulu and kicks some ass in a sword fight; Anton Yelchin is funny channeling his inner Russian, while saving the day with his math skills as Chekov; Karl Urban steals almost every scene he’s in as Bones, and just lets the comedic timing; Simon Pegg is also hilarious in a lot of his scenes as the quirky engineering genius, Montgomery Scott; and Zoe Saldana gets to strut her stuff every once and awhile as Uhura. There are so many other little performances here given by stars that you have seen somewhere else but this main ensemble is what really makes this flick work as well.

Consensus: Star Trek is a perfect reboot of the series with exciting action, humor, great performances from everybody involved, impressive special effects, and a fun-loving spirit that will not only entertain and be loved by Trekkies, but also will bring in others who aren’t that familiar with the material already.

9/10=Full Price!!

Meek’s Cutoff (2011)

The Indie version of ‘Unforgiven’.

Set in 1845, this drama follows a group of settlers as they embark on a punishing journey along the Oregon Trail. When their guide leads them astray, the expedition is forced to contend with the unforgiving conditions of the high plain desert.

I never thought that the computer-game that I had so much fun with back in the days of computer class, that the real story its based off of was so depressing. I mean having to kill all of your livestock right from the get-go for food and having people die of the chicken-pox all the time wasn’t very fun in the game, but in real life it must have really blown.

The poster right there is pretty bad-ass but it gives you the wrong impression. You think that Michelle Williams is going to be blowing fools up this whole time but you soon realize that it takes about an hour to reload the gun in the first place, and killing fools is the last thing on these peoples minds. Honestly, this whole story is just about these settlers looking all over the place for some water. That’s it but for some odd reason it actually works.

Director Kelly Reichardt seems like she was pretty fed-up with all of the non-stop, gun-slinging, and bar-hopping cowboy fools that take over Westerns in today’s world, so she makes this whole flick make it seem like real life. The film is terribly slow and within the first 5 to 10 minutes where nobody’s speaking, you wonder just what the hell you got yourself into in the first place but Reichardt does well with this considering she’s not trying to sell us something fake, she’s actually giving us something that we could use as a “source” for our next history project. The Oregon Trail was real boring and this film moves at just the right snail-pace to give us that feel of just how damn bored and thirsty these effers really were.

Let’s not also forget that this film has some very beautiful landscapes that almost remind me of some wallpapers I would have for the backgrounds on my old computer. We see all of these huge sheets of land where there is barely anything but sand and then it shifts right towards another shot of the sun shining on a prairie giving us this feel of they were totally alone and had nowhere to go. Considering that actual dialogue is pretty rare in this film, the shots actually add a lot to this flick when it comes to its mood and how its approached.

The problem with this film is that since it is so damn slow, there are plenty of moments where I just dozed right off. I mean I don’t know if I wasn’t in the right mood for this film or what, because I did like this film but there were moments where it just felt like this film dragged on and on and on to the point of no return. I get the fact that Reichardt was trying to do something new and hipsterish with this material but in all honesty, there has to be some sort of tension for this flick to actually keep us involved. I also could have done without the whole score because even though it was a tad eerie, I think they placed it random times and really could have been even more effective had there been no music at all.

Also, don’t let me forget the ending which just pissed me off. The film leads up and up and up until we finally get to a place where we weren’t expecting one bit and then it just ends without ever telling us anything about what happened to these settlers. This ending bothered me because I felt like the whole time this film was just leading up to its tension-fueled final moments, but instead it just sort of ended and lost all of the momentum it somehow gained, which was something I was not expecting in the least bit. Another problem was that we never actually get any info on what happened to all of these settlers and I guess we were just supposed to go look it up ourselves, which I did do so I guess I’m the sucker really.

The characters were pretty good and everybody is pretty good, they just don’t have much dialogue for it. Michelle Williams is obviously the star of the show and she’s very funny, realistic, and brave and she does a great job with the material she’s given. One performance I was not expecting to be so good was the one given by Bruce Greenwood as Stephen Meek . Greenwood is almost unidentifiable with his huge beard, wild hair, and mountain-man look but every time he’s on screen, you see him as this dude and it shows a real talent with his acting. I’ve never ever really taken Greenwood as an acting threat but he’s very good here and his scenes with Williams are great, I just wish there were more of them really.

Consensus: Meek’s Cutoff is very good to look at and features a very cool approach to the whole Western genre, however, the slowness may bother a lot and put them to sleep, and the ending isn’t a satisfying conclusion really.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Dinner for Schmucks (2010)

Maybe I need to start having dinners where funny people show up and do funny things. Be a lot better than my past couple of Thanksgivings.

Tim Conrad’s (Paul Rudd) boss hosts a dinner party where he invites his friends to bring along the saddest, most pathetic loser they can find. But when the ultimate schmuck Barry (Steve Carell) arrives, his actions somehow turn everyone else into the losers.

This is based on a French film that I still have yet to see, and even though i had tremendously low expectations going into, I actually really liked it.

Director Jay Roach (Meet the Parents, Austin Powers) has a big knack for putting a nice guy in an excruciating situation that just keeps on getting more bizarre and more bizarre as the film goes on but I still found myself laughing at almost everything that was going on. The set pieces are used incredibly well because this is a film that isn’t afraid to be weird and then get weirder some more. I laughed so much here that I surely was totally surprised by the end of the film.

Roach also directs this film with a surprising sweetness even when it’s too busy relying on farcical misunderstandings, I never actually found myself at what Roach was trying to sympathize with. The friendship that Tim and Barry actually create is funny but at the same time a very sweet thing and you see how these have each others backs in many situations which makes this film a lot more than just a crazy bizarro fest after all.

However, what really stung me as weird with this film was that it tells us it’s not right to laugh at schmucks but for the whole hour and 54 minutes, that is exactly what you are doing. This seemed very strange to me as I had no idea what Roach was trying to convey across the film and when everything was over, I just kept wondering if I should feel guilty or not for laughing.

Another problem here was the actual tone itself, which at first I didn’t have a problem with but it does start to actually go all-over-the-place and take away more from the comedy and sweetness aspects of the film. Also, the chick in this film named Julie played by Stephanie Szostak is pretty lame and I didn’t really find anything about her that was so damn amazing for Rudd to keep on fighting for her and having the film itself go back to her.

Steve Carell is always somebody that has me laughing no matter what it is that he does and his role as Barry is just downright hilarious. What sets Carell apart from a lot of other comedians is that he can play a total moron, while still being able to tug at your heart-strings just by being so damn lovable. Barry is a wild and crazy little bird that at times wasn’t always a total dipstick, which had me truly not knowing just what he was going to do next. Paul Rudd is incredibly likable and although he associates with total jit-bags, played so well by Bruce Greenwood and Ron Livingston, you’re still pulling for him. Rudd stands there with a straight-face while everyone else around him is goofy, but he still has his moments where he is just downright hilarious as well.

The rest of the cast filled with plenty of other comedic heavy-hitters are great as well. Jemaine Clement almost steals the show as the artsy freak, Kieran Vollard and just provides that signature weirdness that just doesn’t let us take his character seriously at all; Lucy Punch is also good as Darla and has some insanely sexy scenes; Chris O’Dowd is also good here as Marco the blind swordsman; and Zach Galifianakis plays Therman, an auditor that can control your mind, and his scenes with Carell are some of the funniest in the whole film.

Consensus: The tone may be a little shifty and the central message is very strange as well, but Dinner For Schmucks has a hilarious cast, some very funny moments, and an unabashed sweetness to it that actually brings much more heart to this material than I actually expected.

8/10=Matinee!!