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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Cameron Crowe

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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Aloha (2015)

This time, it means goodbye.

After being away for many years, defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) returns to Hawaii where he sees people from the past that haven’t been in contact with him for nearly 13 years. People such as a former flame of his (Rachel McAdams), former co-worker (Danny McBride), and person who used to employ him and now, may need him more than ever, business tycoon Carson Welch (Bill Murray). However, Brian is now setting his sights on the future when he’s partnered-up with Air Force pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone), who is supposed to take him all around Hawaii, guide him through certain places, and overall, get to make his stay a whole lot more comfortable. The reason being is because Brian’s in Hawaii to oversee the launch of a weapons satellite that comes strictly from Carson Welch’s own pocket. While Brian realizes that this is illegal, he still has to go through with it considering that he has nowhere else to go, or nothing else to do; Allison, on the other hand, knows this is wrong and despite her feelings for Brian, can’t find it in her to stand by such a decision.

Or, you know, something like that.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Fly. Fly far away from here.

Honestly, the plot synopsis I just wrote is a bit of a stretch, because I’m still not sure what exactly this movie was all about. None of that has to do with the fact that I didn’t have my cup of coffee beforehand, or was constantly on my phone – it’s all due to the fact that whichever studio heads decided to chop Aloha up, chopped it up real good. Meaning, that any sign of what may have been Cameron Crowe’s original idea for a movie, gets totally lost in something so messy, so incoherent, and something so odd, that it made me feel bad for just about everybody involved.

However, regardless of what you may hear or see, it’s not terrible. The reason for that being is because the cast actually seems to be trying and although a lot of what they do here doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole, it’s hard to be angry at everybody here and blame them. Especially since, in most instances, they’re the main reasons the movie’s worth being watched.

Like, for instance, take Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character who is actually supposed to be Asian, but we’ll leave that alone for now. Stone, as usual, is fun, light, perky, and charming as hell. It’s seemingly impossible to despise her presence in anything she shows up in, and although Allison is a lot like Kirsten Dunst’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl in Crowe’s Elizabethtown, I found her a lot more believable, if only because Stone made her so. Even when she starts to have feelings for Bradley Cooper’s character, it comes from a place of adoration and respect, and isn’t just because she wants to bang the hottest the guy who just so happens to step into Hawaii.

Because if that were the case, clearly she’d be gunning for Bill Murray. Like, come on. No competition whatsoever.

And of course, Bradley Cooper’s fine, too. Brian Gilcrest seems like the same kind of challenging, incomplete, and imperfect protagonist that Crowe loves to write about and while he may not get the movie that say, someone like Tom Cruise deserved with Jerry Maguire, Cooper still tries, time and time again. Same goes for the likes of Danny McBride, John Krasinski, Bill Camp, Alec Baldwin, Rachel McAdams, and most of all, Bill Murray, who, oddly enough, is saddled with a villainous role that never seems to actually step over the line from being “bad”, but instead, just stays like the Bill Murray we all know and love.

But most of the problem with an ensemble this so finely stacked, is that they don’t get much to do in Aloha. Perhaps in the original cut that featured a lot more character moments, as well as explanation of just what the hell Brian Gilcrest is doing in Hawaii in the first place, but not here. Instead, what we’re stuck with here is an odd movie that wants to be so many things at the same time, and while it slightly succeeds at one of them, the rest feel useless and just thrown in there for the sake of taking up time.

Which is especially odd, considering that the movie’s hardly even two hours.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

Please hook up. Make this some bit of interesting.

In a way, you could say that Aloha would have probably benefited from another half-hour or so, just so that we could have gotten more of whatever Crowe had initially written-out. The elements with Stone and Cooper were fine as is, so no tampering needed to be done with them, but what about the whole love-angle between Cooper and McAdams? That was probably the juiciest part of this whole movie, where our protagonist has to deal with the missed-opportunities he has to face in his life now, and instead, it’s treated as a minor subplot in the grander scheme of things. Instead of learning more about this character’s past through the way he interacts with those around him, we get to see him constantly battle with whatever demons are taking over his mind during this “mission”.

Once again, the movie never makes clear of what said mission actually is, up until it’s actually happening and even then, it’s still never clear. This is just another example of a studio not liking a final product, getting scared, and instead of working with the creator on it and seeing what could work best, they decided to mish and mash it up anyway that they saw fit. That isn’t to say that Crowe doesn’t at least deserve a partial amount of the blame, because he does, but it’s also to point out the fact that sometimes, movie studios really can rip apart anything that they want.

However, Crowe can be blamed, too. With Crowe’s movies, his dialogue usually feels heightened in the sense that we know that the dialogue his characters use, aren’t actually how real people talk. But for some reason, you sort of wish real people did and for that reason, it’s interesting to hear what they have to say next and how they say it. Some of Crowe’s earlier films are great examples of this, but lately, he’s gotten a bit ahead of himself and now, it’s starting to seem like he’s trying to recreate that piece of magic he had with “You Complete Me“.

Either way, it’s a dragon that Crowe should stop chasing, because it’s not helping himself out, or the actors that are forced to utter his stupid lines.

Consensus: Aloha isn’t a total and complete, unwatchable misfire, but it does feel as if it’s been tampered with too much to the point of where it takes away from the story, the message, and the talented cast that deserve better.

5 / 10

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

The love triangle that deserved a better movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Say Anything… (1989)

That Peter Gabriel sure has a way with women.

The film follows the relationship between Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), an average student, and Diane Court (Ione Skye), the valedictorian, immediately after their graduation from high school and how they work out their social differences to become a couple. Problem is, Diane’s father, James (John Mahoney), seems to be going through some personal problems that get in the way of what they have. Still, they just so happen to be in love and know that no matter what kind of curveballs life throws them, they’re going to duck out of the way of them and keep on swinging. This movie has nothing to do with baseball, but I just felt like using that analogy.

The 80’s was a decade where high-school rom-coms ran rampant in the theaters, just about every single weekend. Some were great, and some were not so great. However, others made an effort to try and change the conventions of the rom-coms ways. Not only did they add an extra-amount of heart and depth, but actually gave us three-dimensional characters to root for as well. It’s a shame though that it had to happen during the last year of that corny-as-hell decade.

Cameron Crowe is pretty big hotshot now, but made his directorial debut here with this flick, which was a great way to start off a pretty good film-making career. There’s nothing real flashy or significant with what it is that he’s doing behind the camera that’s really worth noting in the first place, but what is worth talking about is his writing for this unlikely high-school flick. That premise up-top probably makes it seem like the same old junk where we see two little teens fall in love, have sex, do funny teenager things, run through a problem where they can’t be with one another, and end up being together by the end. That’s sort of here and sort of isn’t, but what does make this one somehow different is that it doesn’t feel fake and every single step is takes with it’s story, feels believable as if you’re watching a honest relationship bloom right in front of your own two eyes.

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Teenagers having sex?!?!? NOOOOO!!!

Right from the start where we see Lloyd call up Diane and ask her out, in a weird way, we are somehow hooked and from then on, it feels like these two are spending time with each other, getting to know one another, and becoming attached to each other, in a real way that any teenager would do. Hell, not even just teenagers, I’m talking about people in general, too! This is a timeless story that shows two kids, falling in love and facing the hard-ships that usually come with young love, but the film never seems like it’s taking any cheap-shots at us to make us feel bad for these two when things start to go wrong. You believe these two together and it gives you a little warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach whenever you see them together. Maybe I’m the only one who felt like that, but that’s just me showing my hopeless-romantic side. We all have it, I’m just the first to admit it.

Despite being made and taking place in the 80’s, the film still holds up and doesn’t at all feel like it’s part of that, as I stated before, “corny-as-hell decade”, which is probably a good thing because you can still watch it to this day and relate just as much as kids were doing way back when this sucker hit theaters in ’89. There’s a lot of that pre-Generation-X talk that goes down here with all of the discussions about not having a set future or anything and that’s slightly refreshing to see in a movie that came from the days where John Hughes movies kicked ass. These kids sound like real kids and aren’t trying to be the next frickin’ Stephen Hawkins, Jane Goodall, or Bruce Wayne, they’re all just being regular kids that don’t have any set plans on their future. And when you think about it, who does?

The only real set-back to this whole film was that there are essentially two stories going on here at the same time, and even though they both feel believable and honest, one still took me away too much from the other. There’s this whole story about how Diane’s father is going through scamming-problem at work and even though it fits into the story and makes you believe everything that happens afterwards, it really takes you away from this sweet love story these two have going on and it bothered me because I was enjoying watching them the whole time. Honestly, if the whole film was just about them two having a relationship, going through all of the problems that normal teens do go through when “love” comes into play, I would have had no problems whatsoever, but when you start bringing in another story to distract us from that, then it’s a bit disappointing. Then again, life is random and it seems like that’s the exact point this movie’s trying to get across from the fore-front.

John Cusack was always doing his own thing back in the 80’s and the teen/high-school genre was his area to reside in, without having to move a finger. That’s not to say that the guy didn’t own those roles, but it did seem like he was getting pigeon-holed after awhile and was in need of for a change, which is why it comes as a big surprise that he didn’t annoy the hell out of us here with Lloyd Dobbler, a role that really made him break-out of that mold and start really taking his career seriously. Why? Well, it’s because Cusack is so lovable and understandable as Dobbler, and also able to give him a sense of maturity that showed a man at the top of his game who was getting a lot older than the characters he was playing. There’s this line of sincerity that comes out almost every second he’s on-screen, and you never lose sight of what he wants, even when it seems like he even has. What was so remarkable and lovable about this character was that Dobbler isn’t your ordinary, happy high-school kid that knows what he wants to do for the rest of his life. Hell, in fact, the kid makes a point about not knowing what to do other than try and take up a career in kick-boxing. He’s just one of those kids out there that doesn’t have any motivation to make up his mind now, but what he does want to do is love and to be loved by this one and special someone, Diane.

And what a special someone she is.

Show off.

Show off.

Diane is of course, at the beginning, a total priss that was valedictorian, barely talked to anybody outside of her richy-rich friend circle, and is even going to England for college. Basically, this girl does not fit Dobbler’s loner-type but they make it work through their chemistry, and mainly by how great Ione Skye is here by giving us a three-dimensional character that actually seems like a girl that would fall for this guy, even though everybody else around her has no idea as to why. It’s a shame that the last thing I saw Skye in that was remotely as big as this was a bitty-part in Zodiac, because I think she had some great skill as an actress and did very well portraying a character with so much heart and honesty that made us fall in love with her simultaneously with Dobbler.

Then again, it couldn’t have been too hard to fall for a dude that’s willing to bring out a freakin’ jukebox while you’re trying to sleep. It’s more creepy now, than it was then, but damn, if I was alive back in ’89 when this first hit the big-screen, I would have been using this on all the ladies. Heck, I still do, it’s just that the cops are more than likely to show up than the chick I’m playing the tunes for. Stupid love.

Even though his story-line did get a tad bit in the way of the actual story, John Mahoney still plays his role as Diane’s dad very well. Mahoney does a great job with this material because he plays her father, almost like a friend and the conversations they have together feel realistic and honest, just as many father-daughter relationships usually are. I would’t know because I’m not a girl (yet) but just by talking to my parents in a very honest way about my life and what I do in my off-time, I can see that a lot of this stuff feels real. Also, Lili Taylor is pretty good in her role as Lloyd’s bestie, Corey, and also made me wonder just where the hell she went with her bright-ass career.

Consensus: Say Anything… may have a few distractions here and there in its story, but Cameron Crowe’s assured-direction, honest script, and timeless story that always seems to ring true, makes it all worth it in the end and one 80’s teen rom-com you have to keep a hold onto, no matter how many times you hear that freakin’ song or some dude using it to pick up some chick.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality-band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

Oh, and thanks to Cameron Crowe, we now have a quality band who gives out quality tracks such as this and this. Thanks Cam!

Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)

Oh, where did the grunge go?

This is the story about one of the greatest alternative rock bands of all-time. No, fuck that! This is the story about one of the greatest ROCK bands of all-time, Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam and I, well, we go way, way back to the days of grade school just when I was starting to get into “rock music” again. I remember I was going through this huge-ass 90’s alternative music phase where all I would listen to had to either sound like grunge, be associated with grunge, or had to be released before April ’94 (aka the month grunge died, for good). And Pearl Jam was definitely always on my listening list because of just how awesome they were and how much I respected them for all that they stood for and did for the past 20 years. I actually went to one of their concerts when they came around Philly in ’08, and it was probably the first time I ever smoked pot. You know what, it definitely was. Yeah, those were the golden days of being that young, brass, slightly-rebellious, but always fun kid that wouldn’t stop singing “Jerreeeemyyy spokeeeee innnn claassss todddayyyy!!” So, yeah, pretty much in a nutshell; Pearl Jam is one of my favorite bands and needless to say, this documentary made me realize that fact once again.

I don’t think anybody else could have ever done this film, other than the one and only Cameron Crowe. When the dude wasn’t out building zoo’s with Matt Damon and Scar-Jo, he was actually close friends with the band, has always been at their shows, done interviews with them, and hell, even included them in his 1992 flick, Singles. That’s why I think it’s pretty safe to say that this guy knows these guys well enough to the point of where he could get these types of interviews out of them and make them feel at home whenever they talk about their history, the thick, the thin, the good, the bad, the painful, and just about everything else they have been through as human-beings, friends, and as band mates  I also have to give a lot of credit to Crowe for assembling all of these insane amounts of rare-footage where we see the earliest shows, sound checks, behind-the-scenes footage, and even Eddie’s first demo reel that he ever submitted to these guys, and subsequently, got him in the band. It’s all edited together so wonderfully that it makes you wonder just how the hell Crowe found all of this existing footage and found a way to make it all come off as one cohesive flick, rather than a jumble of Crowe showing us what he found and how cool he thinks it is.

"Hey, Eddie? Do you mind moving over more to the right? You're sort of ruining my shot here."

“Hey, Eddie? Do you mind moving over more to the right? You’re sort of ruining my shot here.”

Although, if there is one thing I have to complain about with this flick that kept me away from fully loving it was the later parts of the film where it seems like they don’t really climb into what happened to Pearl Jam’s career from 2002-on. They do discuss some parts of it, but they never really go fully in depth as they did with the 90’s, which is understandable because it’s no doubt that Pearl Jam was at the peak of their popularity during that time, but you never really get the essence of what these guys are up to doing with their lives in later parts. But if anything, it actually makes me want to listen to the latter albums a lot more now, almost as much as I did with the 90’s stuff so maybe that’s making a positive out of a negative.

But despite this slight problem, the real reason to see this flick, other than the crazy footage that Crowe finds or even Crowe himself, is all because of the band itself: Pearl Jam. Anybody who has ever or is currently a fan of this band, will love this movie because it’s all about these guys from start-to-finish, with a couple of interludes to other icons of the grunge era here and there, but it’s nothing too much that will distract you from what’s really focused on here. Perhaps what’s so damn interesting about these guys in the first place is not only how they make their music (without any outside inspiration), but how they have lasted with pretty much all of the same members for the past 20 years. Even in a day and age where bands seem like they’re ending over stupid shit like the usual conflicts between two mates, or contract negotiations, or not making enough money, it’s great to see a band like Pearl Jam still be around with everybody who started it all, still intact. And this may not be a huge surprise to you, but trust me, just watch this movie and see what happens to them over the course of these 20 years. You’ll be surprised to see that any of these guys actually still want to make music.

Nothing like a relaxing walk on the beach for a burnt-out musician.

Nothing like a relaxing walk on the beach for a aging-rocker.

Maybe if this movie doesn’t win you over, that is if you’re not a Pearl Jam fan before seeing this, then it may give you inspiration to use for your own band, if you ever start one because these guys really do have some intense dedication, not only to each other, but to music as well. What always pisses people off about Pearl Jam is how they reacted to all of this stardom in the first place. They didn’t want to make music videos, they showed up to glamorous music shows like the Grammy’s and basically told them to go ‘eff themselves, and couldn’t handle being known as the new faces of rock, along with guys like Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain. Some of this would probably annoy people considering they make all of this damn money and all they do is complain about what comes along with it, but that didn’t bother me as much because these guys really do seem like they just want to do their own thing, regardless of whether or not others like it or not. These guys have stayed together for a very long time and they have also been doing things their own way for as long as I can remember, regardless of what other people think, so it’s pretty damn inspiring when you see this and knowing that in today’s music business, that’s a very hard thing to find. Look at Pearl Jam and don’t just see a band that knows how to rock with their artistic-cocks out; but instead, see a band that does whatever they want, whenever they want, and never once, not even for a second, decide to call it quits and sell-out. Well, maybe all except for that last album, which I thought sounded kind of “poppy” but hey, that’s just me, people.

Consensus: Pearl Jam Twenty may not win over any new fans looking to see whether or not they really do care for the alt-rock genre, but if you do love Pearl Jam, or are at least familiar with their music, you’ll find yourself not only entertained but also inspired by these guys’ story and just how they’ve made it through 20 years, despite everything that has happened to them and around them as well. Rock on and prosper. That’s what I always say and it seems like they do also.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Say cheese, as well as hello to our next album: "Fuck Conformity."

“Say cheese, as well as hello to your next album: “Fuck Conformity.”

We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Wow they really run that house like a zoo. Thank you, I know I’m funny.

‘We Bought A Zoo’ is based on the Benjamin Mee memoir of the same name and an actual true story. It tells the story of how Mee (Matt Damon) and his family used their life savings to buy a dilapidated zoo and restore it to its former glory.

What is with the films that are coming out that have to do with a father taking over his family as the wife dies (this, ‘The Descendants’) or ones that have to do with animals (this, ‘War Horse’)? Oh wait, it’s the holidays and everybody needs some good old cheer even though I’m not buying it.

Cameron Crowe returns to the big-screen after 6 years and being a fan of films such as ‘Jerry Maguire’, ‘Vanilla Sky’, and ‘Almost Famous’, I was excited to see him come back but he could have chosen something a lot better but thanks to him, it’s a lot better than I could have imagined. The film itself is co-written by Aline Brosh McKenna who has done fairly light-comedy flicks but you can almost tell where Crowe inserted his own writing and lines in. The main character is a writer (though he doesn’t do much of it), he’s going through a mid-life crisis of sorts and is dealing with the loss of his wife while raising an adorable child. Oh and let’s not forget that there are also the little speeches that characters give each other about life and just living it out to the fullest.

Although this all may sound cheesy and predictable (which in a way it is), Crowe somehow makes this film believable and entertaining to the point of where you do start to get involved with this story. The story is cliched beyond belief but there is just something about all of these characters that makes you smile and make you feel like you are apart of this zoo as much as anybody else on-screen. Crowe also out-lines the film with a lot of humor that is sometimes very witty, sometimes very obvious, and other times very dark (such as the Chilean miner reference which came out-of-nowhere). I think because of Crowe, this film isn’t as bad as it should be.

The problems that this film runs into is its dramatic moments where Crowe stumbles quite a bit. Since this is a family flick, Crowe feels the need to bring in these ultra-sappy and corny moments where a character is saying something sweet or giving another montage about their own feelings. It gets even worse when the score starts to blast on in every sequence something cute or bubbly happens. Maybe if they didn’t have the stupid score, I would have smiled at more scenes but it’s so cloying and distracting that I honestly just wish Crowe used the soundtrack for ‘Almost Famous’ instead. Could you imagine a zebra running around to the tune of Tiny Dancer?

Another problem I had with this film was that I think Crowe didn’t know how to trust his audience here so he just hits people over the head with everything he’s trying to show and do. When Benjamin does something dumb, there is automatically something there to hit his head or fall down from or when Benjamin starts to think about his deceased wife, she pops up right away. Crowe tries to spell everything out for us and instead of letting us think about it for ourselves, we have to get constant visuals of whatever is happening just so Crowe doesn’t lose us.

However, the power with this flick really lies in Matt Damon’s performance as Benjamin Mee, and it’s great to see him once again in top-form. Damon has the perfect balance of charm, humor, and normal look to him that makes him seem like a real dude with real emotions and even though his daughter sort of takes away any moment he has of being funny, Damon still seems like he knows what he’s doing. Scarlett Johansson is great to watch as Kelly, and the romance between her and Damon is really under-played which I liked because judging by the previews, I automatically knew I wouldn’t have been able to believe it and I still didn’t.

The rest of the cast is great with everybody getting a chance to strut their stuff. Thomas Haden Church is funny and brings a lot of wit to his character as Benjamin’s big-bro, Duncan; Patrick Fugit is back on the big-screen with a chimpanzee over his shoulder the whole time as Robin Jones; Angus Macfadyen is funny as the Scottish crazy-man, MacCready; and John Michale Higgins plays his arch-nemesis, Walter Ferris, who shows his perfect comedic timing with just about everything he says or does. The one disappointing performance and plot I was bothered by was the sub-plot between Elle Fanning and Colin Ford which seems very forced the whole time, even though the film constantly brings it up. Fanning has been really good in the past two films I’ve seen her in so for her to kind of just be a one-note character was a real disappointment, but hey, she’s got more films way ahead of her.

Consensus: We Bought a Zoo mainly benefits from Cameron Crowe’s writing and the fun performances from the cast, especially a very likable real Matt Damon, but is also way too sentimental and tries too hard to get us to feel something with constant speeches about life and spelling everything out for us.

6/10=Rental!!

Vanilla Sky (2001)

I thought Tom Cruise was confused in Eyes Wide Shut, but damn was I wrong!

David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all: wealth, good looks and a gorgeous woman (Cameron Diaz) on his arm. But just when he’s found true love with warmhearted Sofia (Penélope Cruz), his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he loses everything … or does he?

Vanilla Sky is directed by Cameron Crowe, and this is a remake of a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes. Once again, an American director is remaking a foreign classic, however, this is not so bad compared to others of that demographic.

I think my favorite element of this film is Crowe’s direction. It seemed kind of odd having his guy direct this type of material, but he has a bigger budget this time, and he spends it all so dearly. The film starts off all normal, with a sensational shot of a deserted Times Square, but then the car accident happens, and that’s when shit gets out of whack. However, it’s also so well done.

The film gets a lot of ish talked on it because it doesn’t make all that much sense the first time around, but that’s because you won’t be able to get it really the first time around. It’s one of those films that right from the beginning you have to pay close attention to every little detail, because they eventually will come back up later in the film. I also found myself finding a lot of beauty within this film, and some shots are just so perfect the way they look, and gets you this idea that you are in dream-like state of some sort.  There are little clues to the real idea behind this whole story that you kind of have to look at, and at first you’ll be totally confused but if you can look past all the confusion and look at the clues underneath it all, you’ll find a real, brilliant message from the story.

The message is that the world we live in, is it just a dream, and if so how far do our dreams go, until they become nightmares. David Aames is a douche who thinks he’s got it all, but then in a quick second he loses it all, and creates this world of fiction where everything is perfect, and means something. What does reality consist of? This film searches for those answers and although they may not be telling you them right in the open to your face, it’s the idea of looking at everything and thinking is where the real beauty of this film lies.

My only gripe with this film is that I do feel like their are times where the film loses itself. Especially the ending since it kind of gives everything in a way that we aren’t really expecting. I feel like Crowe gives too much of a conclusion to this story and the reason as to what is happening, but somehow you can’t be too sure really. This is a minor complaint, because even though I feel like I have the whole story already thought out, I can’t be too sure honestly.

Tom Cruise does a lot with David Aames here, and it’s not easy stuff to do in the first place. Cruise has to play this narcissistic asshole, that goes through a whole bunch of transformations as he starts to have no idea just exactly what the hell is going on. His character gains a lot of depth, and many of the more emotionally intriguing scenes are from Cruise, and his crazy, balls-to-the-walls performance. Penelope Cruz is very likable here as Sofia, and you can see why Cruise’s character fell in love with her after all. Cameron Diaz is sickly sexual as Julianna, and brings out the films best performance because her character is so disturbing, and crazy that you almost feel like she is a big nightmare. There’s also some nice little side performances from the likes of Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Timothy Spall, and the always creepy in any film Tilda Swinton.

Consensus: It may be too ambitious at points, but Cameron Crowe’s fearless direction brings out intelligent points about dreams, the life we live, among others, and the performance add more dimensions to this film than you expect.

9/10=Full Price!!

Singles (1992)

Seattle Grunge may not be the most romantic music out there, but for these people, it’s the closest thing their going to get to Marvin Gaye.

A group of twenty-something friends (Matt Dillon, Kyra Sedgwick, Bridget Fonda, and Campbell Scot), most of whom live in the same apartment complex, search for love and success in grunge-era Seattle.

Writer/Director Cameron Crowe is a very smart person. His two films Jerry Maguire, and Say Anything.., are perfect examples of films that blend smart comedy, with realistic romance. With this one, he does an OK job to say the least.

The one thing Crowe does with this film is that he shows these real people talking about real stuff, and expressing their real feelings. You get a real sense of how love is, and sometimes not supposed to be. Crowe plays out some little director tricks to give us the feeling of how it feels to be in love, and how we all react to when we are in love. There’s also a lot of Generation X nostalgia that will tell you how these people feel about the future, and what they expect from it.

Although, I think Crowe didn’t know what to do when it came to comedy. Yeah, there’s a little laugh here and there, but it’s all too random. There are just moments where something weird happens, and yeah, it turns out funny, but it’s so useless.

Also, the soundtrack is pretty rockin’, with grunge greats like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains, but the music never plays a huge part in this film which kind of bums me out. I wanted to hear more insight on how this dirty, and dark music, made these people feel, and how they connected to it.

The performances from the cast we’re very good. Bridget Fonda is good, as this cute, likable girl that falls for the heavy grunge rocker, Cliff, played by the always amusing Matt Dillon. He’s as usual funny, but he’s also kind of a dick, but its not off-putting, he knows that he is. Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick do the best jobs together in this film. They are both aimlessly in love, but they don’t know how to approach it, nor do they know how to express, cause they have recently been hurt. It’s great to see these two on-screen together, and it all feels so real. We also get great cameos from Paul Giamatti, Jeremy Piven, Bill Pullman, and the most random one yet, Tim Burton. Yeah, the director dude is in this, and I have no idea why.

The only problem with a lot of these characters is that it never gets fully in-depth to who these people really are. Yeah, we get to hear about their past love-life, but we walk into their lives with an open-mind, but get nothing in return. We guess their all good, and nice people, they just all need love. I guess…..

Consensus: Aimless, and not enough depth, stops Singles from being a great romantic comedy, but it has good performances, and a very smart script that shows real people, talking about real feelings.

7/10=Rental!!

Jerry Maguire (1996)

The real d-bags, behind the other real d-bags.

After years of successfully navigating the shark-infested waters of sports management, Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) experiences a crisis of conscience and leaves his high-powered job behind, with one loyal football client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and a starry-eyed co-worker (Renée Zellweger) in tow.

Jerry Maguire is a film that I see all over the world, is quoted all the time. Lines like: “Show me the money“, or “You had me at hello“, are phrases that never go away. So I finally get to see what all the quoting is about, and what do you know, there are reasons for this to be quoted non-stop.

The main reason this film works is because it is covering a lot of ground, but yet does not seem to get lost in all of it. Wonderful writer/director Cameron Crowe, who has great films like Say Anything…., and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, blends a wonderful deal of almost of almost everything for all to like. The humor in this film starts off strong, and does start to fall by the last act, but its witty appeal in the first 2 acts, is what makes it fun. The romance is even better, as it gives us a romance that at first doesn’t look like its going to happen, but somehow the script makes you have faith in it, and your cheering for it to work. Also, the overall sports element, that will have all dudes from around the world happy. We never get a huge picture on the world of sports like the other two elements, however, we still see what happens behind all these big-time athletes and what goes into them being big stars, and how much effort it really is. Crowe makes this film have a lot of likability, and most of that is due to the heart-warming feel, the film gives off.

However, I still feel like the editing was a bit flawed. It almost feels as if there are two films in here: one about the cut-throat operation of sports agents, and another one about the romance between two lost souls in a way. Both stories could have been made into completely separate films, and although it isn’t a huge flaw, I still feel the sports agent story could have been brought on more. Also, the romance between Cruise and Zellweger does feel a bit rushed and pushed into the viewers face, but I mean it works, obviously. But you can see they rushed into it, and may not be the best couple which kind of ruined the overall appeal of the romance for me, but not that much.

Tom Cruise gets a lot of crap for playing total jackasses like Jerry Maguire, but hey, he fits the role. Jerry is a deuche, and cares a bit too much about his job, and the chicks he bones (what else did you expect, it’s a Tom Cruise film), but by the end, he starts to go through a transition that is overall believable. Also, his charm is what adds a lot more to the likability of the character, so we’re not just stuck there watching a total ass, be big, rich, and have happiness. I hate how people will always be talking ish on Cuba Gooding Jr., saying he didn’t deserve the Best Supporting Actor win, but compared to him and Ed Norton‘s performance in Primal Fear, he is great. He is funny, and adds a lot of spunk to his character, that isn’t just because all black men are funny, but you can tell this guy is trying his hardest to be the next big thing in football, and its kind of great to see the chemistry between him and Cruise, cause they may seem so opposite, but they both share one love, money. It sucks that he isn’t doing crap, other than shitty straight-to-dvd movies, but he’s bound for a come back. I just know it! I have faith in you Cuba!! Renée Zellweger has never really been my favorite actress, but she gives out a breakthrough performance here, and gives us that cuteness she always does so well, and would help her later in life.

Consensus: Jerry Maguire may get caught up a bit too much, but blends a great deal of romance, sports, and witty comedy, backed by great performances from the cast, to create a likable, romantic dramedy helmed by great Cameron Crowe.

8/10=Matinee!!!!

Say Anything (1989)

Very first Gen-X romantic comedy.

A budding romance between noble under achiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and high school valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) is threatened when Diane’s overly possessive, disapproving father (John Mahoney) interferes with their relationship. With a prized scholarship to study abroad hanging in the balance, Diane must find a way to make both men happy.

The one thing that I first realized about this film was that the whole love part of the film didn’t feel exploited or shown in any wrong way.

The film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who also made one of my other favorite high school comedy films, Fast Times At Ridgemont High. Crowe shows us with his screenplay that he knows how young people talk, interact, and even how their moods change from time to time. Crowe also shows the randomness of life, with the uprising things that happen in life when you have fallen in love.

The one thing that really touched me about this film was it’s sense of realism. It all seemed so real with it’s underlying messages about the future, and the little father-daughter relationship. All of it felt so real and not so much of as it was a really dumb film.

Unfortunately for me, this film flopped like a dead fish. It tripped over its own heels, alternately over-dramatic and sappy love story. One minute were on the edge of our seats with her father under investigation, the next minute Lloyds sobbing over her in the rain. Sometimes I felt like the film moved away from it’s comedy element and just stayed a little too much on the romantic element.

I do have to give a lot of props to John Cusack who is so good at playing that lovable loser that we all know and love him for. He makes this character a lot more likable because of his desperate attempts to have this girl like him, and also his little insight on how he interacts with his family. I also enjoyed John Mahoney and thought he gave a very good portrayal of a father trying to come to terms with his own life and his daughter’s life.

Consensus: One of the best Generation X films. Though it’s not perfect it shows a great realistic look on love with a fresh screenplay and a very likable performance from Cusack, Say Anything is one of the best modern romantic comedies in a long time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!!

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

How Sean Penn got his start, by playing a stoner.

The film follows a school year in the lives of freshman Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh), freshman Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) and their respective friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus), who believe themselves wise in the ways of romance and counsel their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters also includes Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a perpetually stoned surfer, who faces off against uptight history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who is convinced that all of his students are on “dope.” Stacy’s brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), is a popular senior who works to pay for a car.

The cult classic of all-time. If you want to see one of the first big high school party movies, well here you go.

There are so many scenes that are just unforgettable and also very quotable. The way these character interact with each other is exactly gold, each scene provide a great deal of laughs that will make you laugh for ends on end.

The film also has some very important messages in this film, that is overlooked due to all the crazy humor. It shows very well the little important messages, about love, work, and most of all school. With many scenes that are featured with sure stupidity but also hilarity, it also shares some insight on everything that’s important in high school.

There were times though when I think the comedy was a bit too stale if it even was there. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s story was kind of a bummer for this story and hummed down a lot of the humor and in a way became way too melo-dramatic about a comedy with Sean Penn playing a stoner.

Sean Penn is the main reason to see this film. His legendary performance is hilarious and every time he is on screen it makes the film a whole lot better. Though I didn’t get enough of him I still liked it every time he was on. Though the rest of the cast does a good job as well with acting its Penn who really does over shadow everyone.

This film’s cult status has surely been imitated about 500 times. I think that without the success of this movie there wouldn’t be any other of these coming-of-age high school films. Surely it doesn’t stand the test of time and will remain a classic among all.

Consensus: Very funny that features a legendary performance from Penn, the film does show the little details on what really matters in between the lines of high school.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!