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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Catherine Keener

Into the Wild (2007)

Run away. Far, far away. And piss off everyone you ever knew.

After graduating as a top student at Emory, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) decides to, essentially, throw any idea of a career away. His very wealthy parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) cannot believe this, but they don’t have enough time to digest it all, what with Christopher literally being out on the road the next day, on his way to the Alaskan wilderness. Christopher doesn’t bring much with him, as he leaves mostly everything back in his house, with the exception of money, his backpack, and oh yeah, most importantly, his notebook. While on the road, Chris meets all sorts of wacky and wonderful characters, all of whom make some sort of a difference on Chris’s life, showing that he may truly have something to live for and above all else, may want to get back into society once he has completed his self-fulfilling mission. But, that may not happen for Chris, as he’s already risking life and death in the first place, while everyone back at home clamors wondering just when he’s going to come home, if ever again.

Be one with birds.

Into the Wild is probably the best film Sean Penn has, or ever will, make in his career. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t expect to work, especially not from an actor-turned-writer/director who has something of a shoddy, relatively fine filmography in the first place. There’s a certain bro-y attitude to Penn, the person, that makes him perfect for this material, but also not; to approach McCandless’ the right way, you sort of have to keep an objective view, never letting your own thoughts or opinions, as a storyteller, shine through.

And of course, it helps that the man himself wrote everything down while he was on this never ending trip of his, therefore, it appears as if we are literally watching him go from one adventure, to another. There’s no clear sign that Penn is trying to say how great it is that he got the chance to just let it all go and soak up the scenery, nor is there a clear sign in him saying that it was a terrible decision for the man to make in the first place, for all of those involved who weren’t him; in a way, Penn leaves it all up to us to decide, while he shows us both sides of the argument. Sure, it was great that he got to see the world and really couldn’t have given a crap about material things in life that waited for him back at home, but at the same time, he really did just get up and leave one day, without ever really telling anyone of where he was headed, when he’d be back, or what his reasons were.

In other words, he’s a bit of an a-hole.

But Into the Wild does work because it doesn’t always portray him as such, or if at all, during certain times. Mostly, McCandless remains something of a blank slate that has enough personality to matter to this story, but it’s really all about those that he meets on this wild and crazy adventure, mostly all of whom are exciting and charming to watch, bringing a little something extra to this journey. Vince Vaughn gets a chance to shed some dramatic-muscles as Wayne, a dude who gives Chris a job for a short time and may have something tricky up his sleeve; Catherine Keener is sweet as an older-gal who’s finding it hard to connect with her husband; Marcia Gay Harden and William Hurt, despite playing types, also show some more heart and emotion to said types; Jena Malone plays the sister back at-home who knows and trusts her brother enough to take on this situation with a smile on her face; Kristen Stewart shows up late in the game as a possible love-interest for Chris and shows him that there truly is something beautiful to life; and Hal Hollbrook, in what has to be the most heartbreaking performance I’ve ever seen, plays an older fella who picks up Chris, instantly takes a liking to him, and surprisingly enough, sheds all for him, as well as us. It’s a rich, raw and surprisingly gritty performance from someone who, honestly, we didn’t think needed to prove anything more to us, but here he is, essentially, stealing the show.

Be one with the sky.

Which isn’t to say that all of these people steal the show from Hirsch, either. He’s quite good here, showing that there’s more to this character than just a wannabe-hippy who can’t deal, man. In a way, he’s a lot like most kids who are fresh out of school and desperately need something to do, somewhere to go, and some sort of option/goal in life to have them continue on to live and be happy. Could his decision have gone down better and more thought-out? Sure thing, but it still shows that there’s a reason for what he did, and not just because he wanted to.

Man.

Anyway, Penn deserves the most credit here, taking a very ambitious, long and sprawling tale of one dude discovering himself, as well as the world around him, and never making it seem like it’s wheels are spinning. It’s constantly moving, always touching on interesting characters and points, never harping on any of them too much, and overall, just making us feel closer to this guy and more invested in his journey. We know where he goes, we know how it ends up, and we know how his story ends, but for two-and-a-half hours, Penn allows for us to forget about this all and just revel in the scenery, the people, the vibes, and yeah, of course, the sweet, soulful tunes of Eddie Vedder, in what has to be one of the better soundtracks from a movie in the past decade.

Consensus: While it may not have been easy to take this tale and give it the deserving film treatment, Sean Penn is somehow able to do so with Into the Wild, showing a certain skill for storytelling and character detail that makes this journey all the more compelling and interesting, even if we know just how it all ends up.

9 / 10

And definitely be one with your impeding and foolish death.

Photos Courtesy of: The Mind Reels, Linkedin

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Get Out (2017)

Stay away from the white ‘rents house. Always.

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Alison Williams) have been dating for quite some time. So, this obviously means that it’s time for Chris to meet her parents – something they’ve both been holding off on, because well, Chris is black and knows how these sorts of things go. Rose brushes it off and it makes sense; her parents, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener), both seem like well-intentioned white people who, sure, may not always say the best, most appropriate things, but love their daughter enough to know that if she loves Chris, well, he’s got to be something special. But Chris starts noticing some odd things going on around the house, like with the house-workers both being black and very odd, as well as some of the other black people in/around the area. It’s all very surreal to Chris, but maybe, maybe he’s just overreacting. Until he realizes that maybe something incredibly bad and dangerous is going on here, and it’s up to him to figure it all out, way before it’s too late and something bad happens to him. Whatever that may be, he doesn’t know. But he sure as hell isn’t going to stick around and wait to see what happens.

Young happy couple. Time to ruin their lives.

Young happy couple. Time to ruin their lives.

It’s crazy that someone like Jordan Peele had Get Out within him; all of those years of creating and writing some hilariously biting and funny satire, behind it all, there was a dark, rather sick and twisted soul who wanted to get his voice and vision out there for the whole world to see. It’s actually shocking how different Get Out is from what you’d expect from Peele, but to take it one step further, but also by how different it is from so many mainstream horror movies. It’s as if the movie was made on a hand-shake agreement between Peele and the studios, where he would give them the funny bits of his persona, only so that they would invest and allow his freak-flag to fly.

And yeah, it pays off. For the most part.

The one interesting aspect surrounding Get Out is that you never quite know where it’s going to go, both in terms of its story, as well as its tone. That can sometimes back-fire, but for the longest time, Get Out is a suspenseful, tense and rather exciting horror-thriller that doesn’t try to grab out at us with the big, loud and obvious shocks and scares that we’re so used to seeing with horror movies of this same kind (although there is that conventional scene early-on of the couple running into a deer for a jump-scare, but it’s easy to forgive). Instead, Peele shows a resistance in giving us everything we need to know about this story, and slowly builds this story, giving us small, itty, bitty clues and hints into where this story may be headed and what the overall shocker’s going to be.

It’s the kind of suspense-horror that the genre doesn’t quite utilize that much anymore – in a way, it’s as if Polanski’s influence has come and gone out the window, once it appeared like he himself left the genre in the back-burner. But Get Out does suspense right, never letting us forget where the story may head, as well as what it’s trying to say about numerous things, like race, gender, and the class-system in our country. But it’s interesting that Peele doesn’t quite hit us over the head with these points; you’d think that a movie about black people being practically whitewashed would be a lot more irate and angry, but instead, Peele uses it as a platform to discuss further more troubling issues about identity and losing one’s self-respect.

White parents. Nice and presentable on the outside, evil and heartless on the inside.

White folks: Nice and presentable on the outside, evil and heartless on the inside.

Oh, and yes, we are still talking about a horror movie here, folks.

So yes, Peele should definitely be commended here for taking the horror-aspect of the story and working it for all that he’s got. The only regard where Peele seems to lose himself and show a bit of a room to grow in his debut feature, is that he doesn’t quite nail the comedy down as much as he thinks he does. Lil Rel Howry – who is a scene-stealer in the Carmichael Show – plays Chris’ best buddy who is, for the most part, seen having phone-conversations and that’s about it. He’s funny and the scenes in the first-half that we get of him work and help break-up the tension every so often, but then it gets to become a little tiresome, with a whole ten or so minutes dedicated to watching this character make dick and sex jokes.

Howry’s timing is on-point, but the movie’s is not. It doesn’t do much but take away from the momentum that the movie has going for itself and just seems like cheap laughs, for no exact reason other than to have cheap laughs. Maybe in a far less serious movie, it would have been fine, but Get Out is not that movie. It’s very deep, very dark, very serious and very drab, and it deserves to be that way, with some comedy sprinkled throughout – not whole segments.

But hey, Peele’s just getting started and he’s constantly going to be creating. I’m excited to see just where he sets him ambitious sights next. Whether it’s in a comedy, or another horror movie, remains to be seen.

Can’t wait to see, though.

Consensus: Even with some narrative flaws here and there, Get Out is still a suspenseful, unpredictable and chilling horror-flick that also proves Peele to be a talent to keep a look on when he’s behind the camera.

7.5 / 10

White people will do this to you.

White people will do this to you.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)

It’s like they always say, “If you can’t make it in bed, you can’t make it in life.”

Jason Patric, Ben Stiller, and Aaron Eckhart play a trio of pals who regularly get together and talk about sex and/or women, but they all have their own personal lives that somehow find their ways of mashing together. Stiller is having problems with his gal-pal (Catherine Keener), who just so happens to be finding her own lust with a fellow lady (Natassja Kinski); Eckhart is also having similar problems with his woman (Amy Brenneman), minus the whole lesbian-angle; and Patric is just enjoying his life as a total, misogynistic stud that gets what he wants, how he wants it, and doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about what anybody thinks.

Basically, he’s portraying me.

No matter what Neil LaBute may be talking about and whether or not you agree with what he says or not, there is still one element about each of his films that cannot be argued: They are incredibly well-written. Such as is the case here where not only do we get a plainer look and view inside the world of sexual-politics, but an even plainer one at the world of relationships, whether they be same-sex or opposite sex. Basically, what it seems like LaBute is trying to say here, is that all people, regardless of what different walks of life they may have come from, still can never, ever be alone and still walk through the motions of life, without ever really taking anything in or actually feeling genuine. Why? Well, because people, as a whole, are weak and hate it when they’re alone.

Yup, total lesbians.

Yup, total lesbians.

Maybe that’s me reading into the material, or maybe that’s exactly what LaBute’s actually going for, but either way, it’s all very bleak and depressing. Although, LaBute knows this and gives us something to hold onto with rich characters that may not be the nicest of people out on-display, but are still people that you feel like you could meet a book-store (whichever ones still exist), go out for coffee, chit-chat for a bit about life, love, and all of the finer things, end the conversation, exchange numbers, and never have contact with again. The reason for that being is just because they just seem too terrible or inhumane to surround yourself with.

Yet, they are all still watchable and easy to connect with, even if they don’t always seem like the ones with the biggest heart.

Take, for instance, Ben Stiller’s black hearted-role here as Jerry, may make it seem as if the guy is trying to stretch out his acting muscles and see what he can do when there’s more depth to his act than just goofy voices and faces, but it’s more or less the same act around, just this time: More cursing and screwing. Stiller does the usual awkward, nerdy-shtick and as much as it may work for his character, it’s still terribly annoying to have to watch, let alone listen to and it makes you feel utterly no sympathy for the guy whatsoever. Then again, that’s probably the point to begin with, so if anything, it’s more of a strength.

Aaron Eckhart, on the other hand, is doing something completely different from what we saw with him from In the Company of Men. Not only because he put on so much weight to really fit the role of the insecure, middle-aged man, but because he was so sympathetic and likable, whereas in Men, he was a total and complete dick you didn’t give a single crap about. Eckhart’s character is such a bone-headed doofuss, that you really do feel terrible for him and just want to give him a big old hug, just in hopes that he will at least put a smile on and be able to sustain an erection for his lady. Shows that the guy has some range as an actor, while also giving us a look at the nicest, most-endearing character of them all.

And trust me, that’s saying a lot.

The best out of the trio of dudes is Jason Patric, as the misogynistic, nasty lady-slayer (not literally, mind you) that seems to get along with virtually no one, yet, always finds people to be around him and even better, still finds gals in his bed. Patric is so amazing here because he always seems like the guy who really knows what he’s talking about and doesn’t care about whether or not you believe him on anything he says. He’s just doing him, and it’s great to not only see that in a character actor of high-prestige like Patric, but to also see that in a character in general. There are a couple of scenes where he really releases all hell on these people around him and not only does it make you feel as if he’s the type of guy you would never want to be stuck inside of an elevator with, but also the type of guy you don’t want in your life, mostly because he’ll just call you out on all of your dirty laundry. Patric is by-far the stand-out of this whole movie and completely owns every scene he has.

Outside of the men's locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that's where all the hell breaks loose.

Outside of the men’s locker room, problems never arise. But inside, that’s where all the hell breaks loose.

However, the guys seem to be the ones who get the most attention out of LaBute, as the gals don’t really seem to get all that much love, despite them all being pretty damn good with what they do. Catherine Keener’s character seems terribly bitchy and blunt, but also seems a bit like the voice of reason that you need in a movie like this, where not only everybody is at each other’s jugulars, but also where everybody seems to be talking a bit too much for sore ears. Playing her lesbo-lover is Natassja Kinski and is okay with what she’s given, but still seems one-dimensional and more or less just given a role to fulfill the non-stop quirk of there being a scene where almost every character goes up to a piece of art, asks the same questions, and gives their critique on it. Like Kinski, Amy Brenneman does fine with her role, but she’s almost too moody to be taken in as anyone, let alone an actual, three-dimensional character in a movie like this.

So, yeah. Here, it seems like maybe LaBute drops the ball a bit on presenting fully-layered women characters, as opposed to the men.

But don’t worry, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Consensus: Like most of LaBute’s flicks, Your Friends & Neighbors features a solid cast working with some mean, nasty and grueling stuff, even if not all of it feels as powerful as his debut.

8.5 / 10

This scene will make you want to go to the library. Yes, it's that awesome.

This scene will make you want to go to the library. That is, if you can find one.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Accidental Love (2015)

accidentalloveposter“Stephen Greene” is the new “Alan Smithee”.

Small-town, roller waitress Alice (Jessica Biel) seems to have most of her life in an ideal position. She’s happy, about to be engaged to her boyfriend (James Marsden), and has promises of a simple, painless life that she can hopefully grow old, fat and relax with. However, that all changes when a nail-gun strikes her head; which shouldn’t be much of a problem, except that Alice doesn’t have insurance. Meaning, when Alice is on the operating-table, she is denied the surgery that would allow for the nail to be taken out of head and have her healed. Alice isn’t very pleased with this, so in an act of anger, she joins up with a group of fellow victims who all hope to get free healthcare from the U.S. government. But, in order to have their dreams fulfilled, they need to have some sort of political representation – which is what they find in with congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal). Birdwell seems like he means well and honestly wants for Alice, as well as many others, to be healed, but he soon realizes that there’s plenty of problems standing in his way that may not allow for this to happen.

Without diving too much into the production history of Accidental Love, I’ll just try to keep it as simple as I can possibly be. Accidental Love, who’s initial title was the much-better Nailed, was directed by David O. Russell back in 2008 when, out of nowhere, finances fell through and filming for the movie, which was nearly 80% finished, was cut-off. Many, like myself, felt like the movie would never see the light of day and would join the long list of other movies that sound incredibly promising, but have been held back because of certain problems; whether they be legal, financial, publicity, etc.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

So, with all that said, should Accidental Love seen the light of day?

The answer is a “no”, but it’s not a strong or direct one. Instead, it’s a disappointing one, because somewhere, if you squint long and hard enough, is a smart, entertaining, and incredibly funny satire that Russell seems to excel so well in. But that’s when you really force your eyes to do so; if not, you’ll most likely just find a choppy, messed-up, slightly interesting movie that seems to deal with important issues, yet, still doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

Honestly, there’s no telling if Accidental Love was a good movie even before things went awry in its production-department, but you can tell that everybody involved with it seemed to be game for some sort of wacky comedy. Whether or not that comedy actually works, is a totally different subject to talk about, but there’s no denying that the solidly impressive ensemble Russell was able to assemble here had no clue what they were doing. They did, and they’re totally game – it’s just that the movie isn’t.

Though I’m still not sold on Jessica Biel’s talents as an actress just yet, I have to giver her at least a portion of credit for dialing it all the way up to 11 with this performance and hardly ever coming down to a lesser-notch. She’s loud, over-the-top and camping it up, and even though the jokes don’t land when they’re at her expense, it’s clear that Biel was at least in on them and didn’t want people to think otherwise. Same goes for Jake Gyllenhaal who, in recent years, has proven to be on the more consistently engaging screen-presences we have working today, and here, seems like he’s just having fun. He, like Biel, is only doing what the script calls for him to do, but he seems so happy doing so, that the character flirts with the idea of being more than just a caricature of whom Russell was setting out to make fun of.

And for the rest of the cast, much is the same. Tracy Morgan’s funny; James Marsden’s funny; Catherine Keener’s funny; Paul Reuben’s funny; and hell, even Kirstie Alley’s funny. There’s no denying that everybody here seems to be having fun with where Russell takes them, and what he does with them, it’s just that the movie they’re working in doesn’t seem to gel. Like, at all.

Which is understandable, considering what happened behind-the-scenes. The movie seems like the kind of hatchet job that a studio would only perform, had they honestly felt as if they had something of a hit on their hands. But Accidental Love, believe it or not, never seems like a hit. And I’m not just talking from a critical stand-point – I’m speaking from the financial one.

Who are we making fun of here?

Who are we making fun of here?

Being nearly seven years after its initial release-date, Accidental Love feels awfully dated, especially in terms of its subject-matter. Living in the post-Obama society that we live in now, talking about, making fun of, and even trying to make a point about healthcare, its benefits, and its draw-backs, feel a little too late to the game. Are these points worth bringing up for people to hear and sometimes laugh at? Sure, but it’s all been said and done before, and sometimes more effectively so.

That being said, the movie isn’t totally terrible, miserable experience for people to sit through and watch.

Like mostly all of Russell’s movies, he seems to revel in the delight of having his characters just act wild, yell at one another and go seemingly more and more insane as the time rolls on by. Some of that can be fun to watch here, but for the most part, it seems spliced together in a movie that’s concerned with everything, yet not anything, at the same time. It wants to be clever and sly about the point it’s trying to reel on home about healthcare; it wants to be a touching, sweet tale about a relationship between two unorthodox individuals that might blossom into something beautiful; and it also wants to be farce about a bunch of goofy people, being just that.

Yet, it’s never any of these. Just a jumble.

Consensus: While not nearly as embarrassing as its shoddy production history may have you think, Nailed, err, I mean Accidental Love seemed like it had an objective early on, yet, ends up being nothing, about no one, and doing nothing for those who watch it.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Eventually, we all get old and die. Tell me, what else is new?

After New York theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) hits it big with his “version” of Death of a Salesman, the question on everybody’s mind is: What’s next? However, he’s the only one who doesn’t have that question anywhere near his mind at the moment, mainly because he’s got a lot of crap going on that he can’t escape from. His artist wife (Catherine Keener) just left to Berlin with his 4-year-old daughter; his box-office worker Hazel (Samantha Morton) is flirting up a storm with him; he just got hit in the head by a pipe and found out that it may be a deadly sign of things to come (meaning death); and he just received a grant to make his next big play inside of an area the size of a football stadium. Caden’s brain is so wracked and sad, however, that he does eventually come up with an idea that may take some by surprise, but makes total sense when you take his whole life into perspective: Caden plans on making the play about his whole life, including the most eventful moments, and all of the people he meets and greets. Self-indulgent? You bet your ass it is!

Going into this movie and knowing that Charlie Kaufman is not only just writing this movie, but directing it as well, should already get you in the right frame-of-mind, and make you expect the unexpected, even if the unexpected is totally, and utterly random and pretentious. But such is the case with Kaufman, who’s the type of writer whose style should not work at all, but somehow does, mainly because he’s had such talented directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry being able to pick up the pieces and frame them in a somewhat comprehensible way, where not only do the heavy-set ideas hit our brains at maximum-speed, but the story itself just works, regardless of if we get it or not. Those two are just obvious examples, as I’m sure they are many more directors out there who “get” enough of what Kaufman does with his writing, and what he’s trying to say. However, when it’s just him running the show, and no outside interference or inspiration, then things get very, very shaky as a result.

Aside from PSH, let's see which one ends up turning out to look like this once they got older.

Aside from PSH, let’s see which one ends up turning out to look like this once they got older.

Then again though, like I said before: It’s Charlie Kaufman, and you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. So that means that there’s no need to fear, this won’t be one of those reviews where I get on the movie’s case for being non-stop pretentious, self-indulgent and preachy, because I expect that from him. Instead, it’s going to be more of a review on how easy Kaufman’s writing seems to be. See, the movie is less about a guy making a play of his life, as much as it’s more about how life itself is a play, and we are all just characters within it, going about our emotions, our action, and our decisions in a way that were pretty much spoon-fed to us from birth; they’re just starting to show now. And with that idea in mind, I have to give Kaufman plenty of credit. Not only can the dude look at the human-existence, but the reason we have to live, with a sour-puss attitude and grin on his face, but he can also show us that life is pretty damn sad, no matter how times we try to avoid that sadness with the simple things in life.

Very depressing, I know, but there’s just something about Kaufman’s writing that makes it so wonderful and honest that you can’t help but be entranced, nor not be interested in hearing what he has to say. You just listen, watch and learn gracefully, as if you’re watching a fellow human-life happen right in front of your own, very eyes. Which, in a way, you pretty much, and that’s where I hit my problems with this movie and where it was trying to get at.

The problem with this movie isn’t that it’s depressing or it makes you look at your own life, as well as the other’s around you, with a dour-look, but how it just seems to only reach for that idea as a point to be made. We always know where Kaufman’s getting at with this material; he feels that life is a sad, miserable experience that we live through, but we live through it nonetheless, so why harp over the meaningless things like break-ups, divorces, and lost-loves, just live life! And yes, it is very sad and cynical in it’s own way, but Kaufman never seems to be bringing anything much else to it other than that. There are shiny and bright rays of hope and happiness to be found somewhere in the finer-lines of this story, but anytime they get a chance to pop-up and show themselves, Kaufman comes right back down with his swiping-hand of negativity, showing us that we shouldn’t be happy with what we see, we should cry, pout and kick cans all day because of it. Maybe he’s not that much of a dick about it, but he comes pretty close at times, and it just shows you why this is the type of writer that can do some major business when he has a helping-hand with the direction; but when it comes to his own shot at glory, and giving it his all, he sort of stutters into his way of balancing out the happy, as well as the sad times in life.

Surely there’s plenty of both elements in everybody’s life, but it sure as hell isn’t always sad, Charlie. Get a grip, man!

"Why yes, I am reading "Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Musings about Everything That Has to Do With It." Have you heard of it before?"

“Why yes, I am reading “Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Musings about Everything That Has to Do With It.” Have you heard of it before?”

And while it’s disappointing that things didn’t turn out better for Kaufman’s direction, it’s even more disappointing to see the awesome cast he was working with here, and how little most of them, minus the few exceptions, are given. One of those said few exceptions, Philip Seymour Hoffman as our main, mid-life crisis man for the next 2 hours: Caden Cotad. Hoffman is great at playing these sad-sack, miserable characters that don’t care much about the life they live, nor the little things that make it worth living, but he feels like he’s channeling the same emotions every once and a little while. He seems never crack a smile, no matter what the occasion may bring. However, he seems to be able to lure every women he meets into bed with him, make her the happiest gal alive, show her her own faults, make her sad, push her away, lose her, and then never see her again. That’s a non-stop cycle that continues to revolve around every so often, and it got as annoying to watch, as much as it did to see Hoffman put on the same saddened, depressed-look on his mug. It works when the humor within Kaufman’s script comes to show, but not when we’re supposed to care for this guy, as well as the fellow women he falls in love with.

Many of which, may I add, are played by extremely talented, and great actresses, who are given material that could have easily benefited them more, had Kaufman himself seemed to actually give a crap about them, or life. Catherine Keener does her usual, “I’m old and artsy, but I’m also bored and impulsive, therefore, I’m a bitch”-act, and does it well; Samantha Morton is a bit of a sweetie-pie as one of Cadence’s first loves, one who lives in a burning house, that constantly burns throughout the whole movie (whatever sort of metaphor that’s supposed to be, I still can’t wrack my brain around); Michelle Williams acts like a bit of a bitch as well, but shows some compassion for the way she feels towards Cadence and their relationship that isn’t so present with the other gals in this flick; and Emily Watson has moments of fun and spirit, but doesn’t get much more time to really allow for her character to breathe or shed any meaning as to why she’s even shown. The only one who really seems to be livening up this material is Hope Davis, as Caden’s therapist who shows up from time-to-time, does something weird or goofy, tells him to read her expendable, self-help books and leaves him on his way, hitting all of the right tones you need from an odd, Charlie Kaufman movie. Problem is, she isn’t in it enough and doesn’t get the chance to really let loose on material that could have easily used it from her, Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and even Dianne Wiest. Seriously, how do you misuse Dianne Wiest!!?!? She’s so precious!

Consensus: The sad points of our weak, pathetic lives that Kaufman obviously makes in Synecdoche, New York don’t make the movie too depressing to get-through, they just don’t add much flavor or energy to a flick that could have really benefited from some, had it had the director to really make it pop-off the screen, and into our minds and laps to chew on for a long, long time.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Public transportation would make anybody depressed.

Public transportation would make anybody depressed.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Begin Again (2014)

Just pick up anything and play! But don’t forget to cover something from Frozen. That seems to be the “hip” thing to do nowadays.

After Dan (Mark Ruffalo) gets dropped from the music label he helped build, the man dives into a bit of a drunken-stooper. And somewhere along the night, he ends up in a bar where he hears a song being performed by a small, rather sweet British gal by the name of Greta (Keira Knightley). Though the people around him don’t really think much of her song and only use her as background music, Dan sees, hears and feels potential, which is why he doesn’t hesitate a single second to get her information right after the performance. Though she’s a bit reluctant to start diving right into recording and all that, Greta eventually gives in and Dan finds any which way he can, with anybody he can find with enough time on their hands, to help him record at least two or three songs of Greta’s own doing. But both of their troubled-pasts may come back to haunt them if they aren’t lucky enough, especially in Greta’s case where her ex-boyfriend (Adam Levine), also just so happens to be the hottest and coolest, up-and-coming talent out there in the mainstream today.

After finally seeing Once and really enjoying all that it set out to be, I must say, I was relatively excited for another movie in which John Carney would be jumping back into the world of musicals. However, where as that movie was a small, intimate musical that looked as if it had been made for a dime and a Big Mac, this one is a lot larger, broader and definitely with a bigger-budget. All that aside though, all that matters is that the songs are not only catchy, but actually good and feel like they build to something more than just a couple of neat hooks here and there. There has to be emotion, there has to be feeling, and most of all, there has to be inspiration for the songs we hear and the reason for which they exist.

You know it's true love when they start taking selfies together.

You know it’s true love when they start taking selfies together.

A sort-of musical that comes to my mind is Inside Llewyn Davis which, through the songs played by that titled-character, we got a glimpse into who he was and what it was that he felt as a person. Sure, the songs themselves were catchy and well-constructed, but there was so much more heart and soul put into them, that it felt like a person really letting us know who he was, rather than some dude who is trying to be heard on the radio. You know, not like the songs that we have here.

And yes, that is to say that most of the songs here are catchy, in that, as soon as I left the theater, I was humming the tunes to the songs, but totally forgot about them as soon as I got into my car and hooked up my iPod to the aux. But that’s also to say the songs never really feel like they’re giving you more information about these characters than we already know, or have heard alluded to before. Save for the opening-track that Greta plays about feeling lost and abandoned in the Big Apple, which actually gives us a clear view into who this character is and why it is she feels this way. Every other song, though entertaining to listen to for the time being, don’t really have much of an impact.

Which, for a movie that prides itself on its love for music and the thrill one gets when they are in the act of creating something, is definitely a disadvantage. Especially considering that with his previous-musical, Carney was able to construct something sweet and everlasting that could be connected with, even if you weren’t a musician to begin with. Here, it feels like in order to really connect with any of these characters, or what it is that they’re making, you have to at least have some foot in the door of music, or else it may not matter much to you whether or not they all end up getting a record deal at the end.

Also not to mention that Carney is extremely sentimental here with his script; it’s the conventional story of a girl, fighting all against the odds stacked up against her trying to make it big, while the man she’s investing her future in is still suffering from his divorce and the disconnect he feels with his daughter. If you’ve heard of that plot-line before, don’t worry, so have I and Carney continuously milks it for all that he’s got, even if he knows he’s soaking up in the sap. Which can be fine if there’s more sentiment added onto the sap, but here, we get some thinly-written characters who are here to just service the plot, aka, “the jams”, baby.

"Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!"

“Who needs that mainstream crap like producing an album in a studio?!? Fresh air is all you need, man!”

Which wouldn’t be such a problem with most movies, but when you have a cast this stacked, it makes you wonder just how nice that paycheck was looking. Mark Ruffalo is okay as Dan and has some nice one-liners, but feels like he’s too amped-up on coffee most of the time, which is rather strange considering he’s supposed to be playing a down-and-out bum with a drinking problem; Keira Knightley is given more to do as the meek and kind Greta, while also showing off her mighty fine pipes which service these songs for what they are; and Hailee Steinfeld for what seems like the umpteenth time I’ve seen her playing an angst-fueled, angry teenage girl that clashes with all adults around her, does a nice job and shows that she’s one of the better, brighter talents out there.

The one who actually surprised the hell out of me here was Adam Levine as Greta’s ex-boyfriend who, believe it or not, cheats on her and leaves her for a big career in music, where he loses his identity and even grows a big, hip beard. Sound like somebody you know? Anyway, what’s so good about Levine here is that while it could have been quite easy for him to just play his normal deuchy-self, the guy does well showing us a true character that not only loves his girlfriend, but actually wants to see what this whole rock ‘n roll lifestyle is about. In a way, he feels more human than anybody else here which, I imagine for most significant-others for other big-time musicians out there, may in fact be terrifying.

Consensus: Light, frothy and pleasant for its near-two hour run-time, Begin Again may not ask much of its audience except to just enjoy the numerous songs it plays, which, depending on the kind of viewer it’s speaking towards, may or may not be enough.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Hide the cone. Don't want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Hide the cone. Don’t want Dairy Queen calling its lawyers up.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

About Last Night… (1986)

There comes a time when you have to turn-off the R. Kelly, and start talking about “feelings”. Yuck!

22-year-old Chicagoan Danny (Rob Lowe) loves the single life it hurts so much. His co-worker also happens to be his best pal (Jim Belushi); he’s good-looking; gets all sorts of ladies; likes to be the life of the party; makes a good and honest living as a grocery-food seller; and he’s practically just all by himself, but he doesn’t care too much since things seem to be going so well for him as of right now. But one day, during one of his many drunken-binges at the local-bar called “Mother’s”, Danny spots a mighty-fine looking-chick by the name of Debbie (Demi Moore) and he can’t help but fall head-over-heels for her. He gets her name, number and even a date with her, even though her bestie (Elizabeth Perkins) is more than adamant about her decision, especially with a guy like Danny. Fast-forward a couple of months later, and already, Danny and Debbie are moving in, falling in love and getting very, VERY serious. However, once you throw emotions into the mix of any relationship, not only is everything heightened, but when they end, they don’t just float-away in the air; they fall, face-down on the ground, leaving absolutely nobody alive or left-in-place during its wake.

He's so unattractive that he's the perfect wing-man who'd probably be happier than you at the end of his life. Yeah, whatever you do, don't try to be like that guy.

He’s so unattractive, he makes the perfect wing-man who’d probably be happier than you at the end of his life. Yeah, whatever you do, don’t try to be like that guy.

Sounds a bit harsh, I know, but isn’t that what love’s all about? You meet someone, you start swapping fluids, you fall in love and sooner than later, things begin to go South where every bad decision you make kills you, just as much as it kills your significant-other. It sucks, it’s painful and it’s absolutely one of the most memorable experiences a human being could ever put themselves through, but, it’s something we all need to feel and experience as human beings.

However though, I don’t mean to start this review off as any other review I’ve ever done about a romantic flick, where I start getting all personal, emotional while spreading some of my hard-hurting insight of the painful game of love, because truly, this isn’t the type of movie that deserves all of that yammering. Instead, this movie deserves the type of yammering in which I wonder, just how the hell does this flick get a remake!?!? It’s not even like this one is all that good to begin with, let alone, get a re-boot, with new stars, a new angle and, from what I see, a new tone.

But, this is not a review on that movie, and instead, this is a review on this movie, the original About Last Night…, and how it just doesn’t really do much at all with its premise. Sure, the idea of two people meeting-up, going-out and eventually falling in love doesn’t exactly sound like the most inventive, creative premise to ever be drawn-out and shown to the rest of humanity, but when that type of story can be done right, it’s a pleasure for all to listen, learn and see if they can relate to these character’s in any way. If not through their first moments of falling in love, but through their moments where you sympathize with them over the harsh reality of love, and how it’s so damn killer once it seems to start going away.

That isn’t this movie, and although it definitely likes to think so, it barely even comes close. Most of that has to do with the fact that Debbie and Danny are just such poorly-written characters to begin with, that when they begin to fall for the other, we don’t really care or believe it. First of all, it all happens over the span of what seems like four or five months; the same five months that are shown to us in a montage where we get to see them frolic around parks, laugh, smile, kiss, have passionate sex in the bath-tub, eat food, smile, laugh, kiss, frolic around the streets of Chicago, walk around in the nude, and have even more passionate sex, but this time, they keep it in the bedroom. In some people’s eyes, I guess that’s what can constitute “a relationship”, let alone, “love” in and of itself, but I hardly believed these two together for a single second and found myself really trying to see if I could find any reason to care for these two at all once things started to go haywire for their sweet, little budding-romance – but I just couldn’t.

Too much of this just looks, feels and sounds so artificial, especially once we find out that Danny’s dream is to be a lifelong restaurateur, which is not only totally tacked-on by the final-act, but thrown in there to create some spice and anger between he and Debbie; as if their relationship being as bland as a piece of cardboard wasn’t enough to give them reason to fight, argue and practically hate each other as the days go by. It’s a shame to see that too, because I don’t usually try to go into romantic flicks like this, just looking to hate it and pick it apart, piece-by-piece, limb-from-limb, but barely anything was going good for me.

The only real saving-grace to be found in this movie that made it slightly better, just solely by their presences and showing up enough times to make me crack a smile or a chuckle, were Elizabeth Perkins and Jim Belushi, as the stereotypical, loner-friends who don’t care for relationships and just want to live their lives, their way, without anybody tying them down. Maybe more so of Perkins’ character, as she truly is a total bitch that, at times, can be a bit ridiculous with how upset and jealous she gets over Debbie’s newfound romance with Danny – almost to the point of where you wonder if some freaky, lesbo-secrets are going to be unearthed. Still though, as unpleasant as her character definitely is more times than she ought to be, Perkins made her the least bit sympathetic and somebody worth liking, because she seemed to always speak her mind and stick by whatever it is that she said; even if she was just being an asshole.

She's so disapproving, and most of all, right!

She’s so disapproving and right!

Jim Belushi, on the other hand, absolutely steals this movie every time he shows up, and just made me more than happy to see his lovable grin, receding hair-line and alcoholic beverage placed oh so firmly in his hand. Belushi has never really blew me away as the type of guy I’d expect to make me laugh my ass off, just by the sheer fact of him showing up and being “funny”, but with the rest of the bunch he was thrown into here, he pretty much had no choice but to make me laugh and love the hell out of him. He loves to keep the party going, talk about any “broads” he may, or may not have banged in exotic ways, and also just wants to hang-out with his good old buddy Danny, who couldn’t be less concerned with what really matters, and that’s keeping it cool with your bros.

Just another case of a whipped man. Am I right, fellas?

Speaking of this said whipped man, Rob Lowe, god bless his heart, definitely gives it his all as Danny, but nonetheless, comes up very, very short here. Laughably so, too. You can tell that Lowe’s trying to stretch himself out here as an actor and not just get by on his good looks, but when he has to be cool or charming, you wonder if he just watched Grease about ten times before filming began; and when he’s trying to emote and be all serious, it makes you wonder if he’s ever been in a relationship before, let alone in one with a chick. I know, I know, I know! Rob Lowe is definitely all fine and dandy nowadays, and sure as hell likes the ladies, but here, he’s pretty damn bad and it’s hard to watch after awhile. Even Demi Moore gets off somewhat Scott-free because he’s so lame here. Even though she’s not nearly as bad as he is, she tries a bit too hard to yell, scream, shout and cry, and seems like she just heard that her dog died, while also menstruating at the same time. I know that that’s of an image for ya, but if you can draw the picture inside your warped, twisted minds, you can probably guess just how unpleasant it is to actually be a witness of.

Consensus: Die-hard romantics may get a little something more out of About Last Night…, then say, I don’t know, your die-hard cynic, “love sucks” a-hole, but so be it! It’s not a very well-written, nor insightful movie that just gives us characters we don’t really care for to begin with, and never seem to care for, even when it seems like their own world together comes crashing down and gone forever.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, I apologize. They bang in the bath-tub, while the shower is on. My mistake!

Okay, I apologize. They bang in the bath-tub, while the shower is on. My mistake!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider,

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

Captain Phillips (2013)

Move on over, Captain Jack. There’s a new king of the seas!

Rich Phillips (Tom Hanks) is your everyday boat captain. He’s a family man, he knows what’s right with the world, what isn’t, he’s strict, he’s determined, he doesn’t quite play-well with others, but he’s cautious to a certain point. However, the cautious-nature that makes him who he is may help him out this time when four Somalian armed-pirates jump aboard his ship and take hostages, demanding money. Phillips is more than able to oblige, but he realizes that these four are some insanely dangerous people you do not want to mess with, especially when they have AK-47s pointed directly at his face. But Phillips doesn’t allow for that to get in his way too much and finds the solution to their problems by giving them all of the money he has in his vault; all $3,000 of it. Obviously, as you could expect, the pirates know that they can’t go back with that chump-change and needed a bigger bang for their buck. So, like any normal-thinking human-being anchoring a hostage-situation, they decide to kidnap Phillips and put his life on the line so that they can get more money through ransom. They don’t realize though, it ain’t that easy when you’re working the U.S. army, baby! And Richard Phillips too, but this isn’t even his story, right?

"Jenny?"

“Jenny?”

While many out there (myself included) have been a bit skeptical of Greengrass’ career and how long his “frantic, shaky-cam” gimmick would run dry, the man always finds a way to keep us coming back for more. More for him, more for the material he chooses to adapt, and best of all, more for the disastrous, real-life situations he chooses to display and re-create, if you will. The man did it with United 93, one of the most dreadful, yet, powerful pieces of cinema about 9/11 you’ll ever see, and hell, despite the story not being as known to me as that deadly tragedy was, he does the same thing again with Captain Phillips, the true tale of a man who threw himself into a deadly situation and somehow, someway, came out by the skin of his teeth.

That’s not a spoiler, by the way. So please, please do not get all up in my grill, because in all honesty, it doesn’t matter. Knowing the outcome beforehand or not knowing won’t make a single lick of a difference because Greengrass, using any skill he has in his tool-belt without over-doing it, makes this movie so freakin’ tense, so sweaty, so gripping, and so suspenseful, that you may even, at one point, wonder just what the hell is going to happen. So many movies that are based on real-life events try so hard to make you feel that tense in the most manipulative ways possible, but not this one. Greengrass knows better and believe it or not, seems like he’s learned from his mistakes and dials-down a lot of his gimmicks.

No loud, swelling music trying to make you feel a certain way; none of the infamous “crack-cam”; no fake emotions trying to make you see Phillips story from all sorts of perspectives; and thankfully, not a single piece of forced-patriotism thrown onto us, as if Greengrass wants us to be chanting, “U.S.A.!!! U.S.A.!!!”, by the end of it. And even if that was the case, it probably still would have worked because he finds a way to make you gain hope in anybody who’s just trying to survive this situation and save Phillips life if they can. Even Phillips himself who, despite being played by everybody’s favorite actor, doesn’t really come off as the nicest guy in the world, yet you still care for him.

And you can totally credit that to Hanks’ utter-charm that has him win over anybody he meets, in real-life or in the movies, but you can also credit that to Greengrass for giving us a guy who feels real, doesn’t feel like the happiest/most pleasant person on the face planet, and may even be a bit of a dick. Yet, you still care for him and realize that every step he makes, good or bad, may be a step he takes to his grave or to his warm, cozy bed at home. Either way, he’s going to get out of this situation one way or another, and he will stop at nothing to make sure he comes out of this alive. And if not, well then, he’ll make sure he’s the only one because it’s his ship, his decisions, and his life that he’s throwing out on the line. Nobody else’s and if that doesn’t make him a natural-born hero, then I don’t know what the hell does!

But, like I was saying about Tom Hanks, you know you love the guy in almost anything he shows up in (Larry Crowne included) because lord knows I do. Problem is, the man hasn’t really been showing much of his talent lately. Sure, he’s taken some interesting projects here and there, but nothing to the point of where I was reminded why this man is usually regarded as one of the best working today, best of all time, and why the hell he won two Oscars, back-to-back! Needless to say, I was a bit worried seeing him here as Richard Phillips as it seemed like the type of role that would have had him talking all of the time, being loud, trying to be charming, and not allowing me, not for a single second, to get past the fact that it was Tom Hanks playing a role.

Which one's blackbeard?

Which one’s blackbeard?

Instead, Hanks totally showed me up, and I’m glad he did so. Not only did he have me believe that he was this frightened, desperate man in this very tense hostage-situation, but he also had me believe that he could get out of it alive if he just used his smarts and brains a bit. Granted, he’s not the nicest guy in the world, like I said before, and we don’t get to know too much about his background other than that he loves his wife, his kids, and is scared that the times are changin’. But that small crap doesn’t matter because Hanks gives one of his best performances in the past decade or so and it gives me more and more faith in him as his career continues to chive on.

As for those “Oscar whispers” he’s getting, he totally deserves all of them and should get a nomination, no matter what. Hanks was great throughout the whole movie by the way he was able to still have us care for him without using his insane-amounts of charm, but nothing measures up to the last 5 minutes of the film, and what he does in front of the camera. You’ll be hearing a lot of people talk about these final moments for quite some time, and with good reason: They’re so emotional, so effective, and so inspiring, that you’ll be absolutely astonished how Greengrass and Hanks were able to come together and make it work so damn well, and in such a realistic, honest matter as well. Just watch these final minutes and you’ll see what I mean. One of the best, most memorable scenes of the year that I’ll most likely be remembering for years to come.

As for the rest of the cast, with the exception of a 5-minute role from Catherine Keener as Phillips loving, but barely seen wife, it’s character-actor central, with the occasional unknown thrown in for good measure. Everybody in this cast is good, but the one that really caught me off-guard was newcomer Barkhad Abdi as Muse, the leader of these Somalian pirates, and the one that takes charge early on. The one aspect behind this movie that could have really tore it down was how completely one-sided its view-point could have come off as being, and while Greengrass sure as hell doesn’t support these pirates actions, he still shows them as human-beings doing something so inhumane and so evil like threatening somebody’s life, but also giving them reasons for why it is that they are doing so. Greengrass never tries to make us feel bad for them to the point of where it’s near-Liberalism, but he does hold his hand out to them a bit more than usual, more for Abdi who you feel the worst for, because you know he’s not a bad guy, he just does bad things due to outside influence. Still, they were Somalian pirates that tried to kill a man for money. That immoral behavior should never be forgiven, no matter who commits it.

Consensus: The story is one we may all know, yet, Captain Phillips is still one of the most compelling, most tense thrillers of the whole year with plenty of food-for-thought and a Tom Hanks performance that anchors the material the whole through; keeping it humane, grounded, and placed in a sense of reality, as if we are really seeing this happen in front of our faces, the way it’s meant to be seen and understood.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

"No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!"

“No no no! I forbid you from eating mah box of chocolates!”

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

Enough Said (2013)

Aka, White People Problems.

Single divorced parent Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a nice life, but it is rather lonely at times. She doesn’t have much of a personal life, but instead chooses to hang-out with her married-couple pals (Ben Falcone and Toni Collette) as they go from party-to-party on weekends. At one of these parties that Eva attends, she meets a Oliver (James Gandolfini), a rotund, but very charming and nice dude that doesn’t seem like her type, but she decides to take a gamble with just because she has the time and is able to do so. However, at the same party, she also meets and strikes up a friendship with famous poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) who, wouldn’t ya know it, just so happens to be Oliver’s ex-wife that he obviously is still very bitter towards, just about as much as she is. Though Eva finds this out pretty early-on, she doesn’t quite know what to do with this new-found knowledge, so instead, she decides to just listen to all of the bad things about Oliver coming from Marianne’s mouth, while she also tests it out on her own in the meantime. Hilarity, and sometimes heartbreak, ensues.

Obviously, as I’m sure we all know by now, most of this movie will be plagued by the recent-passing of its main star, James Gandolfini, and even as bright and sunny as this movie can be, it puts a huge shadow over it. Every time you’re watching a scene that he’s in, no matter how much he may make you laugh, smile, or do a little of both at the same, you still can’t help but get that nasty, but sad feeling out of the back of your mind that yes, he’s gone, and yes, this is one of his last performances ever put on screen. Very upsetting, however, the movie itself does not fall victim to such events that ocurred after filming. Instead, it is its own product, one that lives and breaths off of the good vibes from everybody involved, not just one person in particular, and it still works in that sense.

$20 down already!

Oh, I see: “The old, hole-at-the-bottom” trick. That Gandolfini sure was a dirty devil.

Still though, it is very, very sad. Okay, I’m done with that. On with the rest of the review/movie!

While most of you may already know this, I’ll say it again just for the sake of possible, “newer” readers: I am not a huge fan of Nicole Holofcener. Now, take with that what you will since I’ve only seen 2 of her movies (this one not included), but I just feel like all of her movies are all of the same thing, minus a couple of characters here and there. However, something struck me as odd with this movie and its premise as it seemed like Holofcener was going for more of a sitcom with the idea of a woman finding out all of her new boy’s secrets, problems, and negatives from his ex-wife, while he has no idea, but that’s only used as a stepping-stool for what Holofcener REALLY wants to touch on.

Basically, when you get past it all, this movie is about love and how it will never leave one’s life, even if they feel like it’s all but lost from their own. You can give up, try again, give up, try again, and so on and so forth, and I think that’s the beauty of life. Watching as these two, over-50-year-olds rediscover love and the simple pleasures of life really brought a grin to my face. It’s really sweet to see them figure themselves out once again, just as much as it is to watch as their relationship blossoms, but the movie is more than just a romantic-dramedy, and I think that’s where Holofcener sort of loses herself, and sort of doesn’t.

The reason why I don’t feel like she loses herself over this material is because she definitely has something to talk about, and for once, it’s not another agonizing portrayal of the white, liberal guilt I’ve been so used to seeing with her movies. Sure, the topics and themes like your kids going off to college, losing connection with you, and fully growing-up isn’t anything new to be touched on, let alone, heavy material to really get the crowd reaching for their Kleenex’s, however, Holofcener seems like she really cares about what she’s writing, and you feel that tender love and care the whole time. When the point she wants to get across is seen, it works and makes this movie more than just a simple story of two people meeting up, kissing, and falling in love.

However, Holofecener sort of does lose herself with this material when she seems to cram a bit too much into this movie for one’s own well-being. For instance, rather than just having the subplot about Eva’s one and only daughter losing connection with her as she gets ready to move off to college be the main one, Holofcener decides to throw another one in there for good measure, concerning her daughter’s best friend who spends more time at her place, than her own actual home. The subplot got old, made no sense, and just felt awkward, especially when it was resolved and brought almost nothing to this story, or its overall meaning. It just was included because it seemed like Holofcener had some time on her hand. That, and she was also going through a mid-life crisis, so why not include some teen-adult bonding, eh? I don’t know, didn’t work for me, but it probably will for many others.

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Like I was saying before though, the presence always lurking in the back of this movie’s frame is James Gandolfini and for a good reason too, because he’s great here as Oliver. Not only is Gandolfini so lovely, charming, and funny to watch, but he’s also a bit of a softy too, so much so, that you actually believe it when his feelings get hurt over the smallest thing said or done to him. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Soprano would ever begin to ball-out and cry because some girl he just met made fun of him for not knowing how to whisper in a movie theater, but damn, he sure as hell had me believing! This may not be his last role ever on film, but either way, it’s still a sad goodbye considering what a talent he truly was, one that deserved all of the credit he got.

But I’ll be damned if this is just Gandolfini’s show, because it honestly isn’t in terms of performance and story. This story is mainly surrounding Eva and all of her problems, and while this character could have been painful to watch considering she has random bits of awkwardness that come out of nowhere at times, Julia Louis-Dreyfus still makes her believable enough to be interested by, and charming enough that she’s fun to watch, regardless of if she’s being a meanie or not. This is probably Louis-Dreyfus’ best movie-role to date, and even though that isn’t saying much, the girl still proves to us that she’s got the comedic-chops to make us hold our guts, while also still have the ability to come off as somebody that just wants love in her life, no matter if the person meets all of her heavy-set standards or not. The chemistry these two have is a beautiful thing to watch, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up when they share their first smooch! In fact, I double-dog dare ya! Just try!

Consensus: While most of your attention will be fixated on James Gandolfini and his wonderful performance, Enough Said is more than just a kind-of swan-song for its male-lead, it’s a pleasant, sweet, and gentle look at love, and how it will never leave one’s life, no matter how young, or old they are.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Please Give (2010)

Leave the homeless be! They’re already fine living their simple, care-free lives.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) seem like a happy couple because not only do they own a mid-century antique furniture shop where they sell stuf for a much larger price than they originally get it at, but because they see nothing really wrong with their lives. Sure, they take stuff from families who just had somebody die, but they aren’t exploiting them and even give them some cash for their problems as well, so they can rest easy on their conscience, right? Well, for some reason, Kate still feels guilty about all of this and begins to start helping anybody that she can, especially her neighbors (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall) who aren’t really fond of her because of the fact that their 91-year-old grandmother (Ann Guilbert) lives in the house that she owns. Meaning basically, when she croaks, then they get the house back and are able to sell it for whatever they want and do whatever they want with it, which obviously rubs the granddaughters the wrong way, as you could expect.

I must admit, even though I’ve only seen two of her flicks so far (this one included), I don’t really see the whole appeal behind Nicole Holofcener. She’s a good writer and is more than capable of stacking together a very talented ensemble, but she seems like she has a little too many ideas crammed into one, less-than-2-hour movie, and doesn’t seem to go anywhere with them. Like I said, this is coming from a guy who has only seen 2 movies of hers so far so take with that what you will, but I feel as if I’ve seen two, realized that they both sort of share the same ideas and plot-points in ways, than I’ve practically seen all of them. While Enough Said looks like a bit of a change-of-pace for her, once again, I’ll expect to see somebody complaining about how much or how little money they have, and/or start talking about how they’re getting older and how they have no control over it.

"Hey, hey, hey! We're just a happy, old-time family from Manhattan. Love us, please.

“Hey, hey, hey! We’re just a happy, simple-minded family from Manhattan. Love us, please.”

But those aren’t bad things to talk about in movies, regardless of if it’s over-and-over again, because they’re problems actual, real-life people have. Which, in a strange way, made this movie a bit more interesting to watch because even though it gives us characters that aren’t all that pleasant to be around as they bitch and moan about their financial issues, it still gives us a reason to care or at least be interested by them, just by the way they’re written. There’s more than meets the eye with these characters, and even though most of them aren’t happy people, you can tell that they are capable of being happy, and making those around them happy as well. At times, it may seem like it’s hard for them to do, but you know they’ll be able to in the near-future, and I think that’s what really kept me going with this movie.

Holofcener could have really thrown it in my face and given me characters that I didn’t give a shit about, and made me watch them as they throw their misery and unpleasantness on others around them, but she doesn’t allow for that to happen. She allows them time to grow, experience life, and realize that there are bigger problems out there in the world which, believe it or not, are more important than a $200 pair of jeans. But Holofcener also does something else with these characters where she does have a sort of playfulness with them; one in which she isn’t making fun of the way they overreact to little happenings, but at the same time, she’s not really supporting it either. It’s strange, but somehow, some way, it works well in the movie’s favor. It allows plenty of room for character-development, some emotional moments, as well as others that are rich with dark-comedy. Take, for instance, the awkward birthday party that goes oddly astray once the liquor is brought out. It’s a funny scene, but also a very dark one for reasons I won’t give away, but will open your eyes to what the rest of this movie can and will do.

However, this is a very slight movie that I don’t think you need to see right away, but definitely should if you’re just hanging out and slumming around the house. Everything that happens to these characters by the end, can sort of be seen a mile away, but it never rings false. It just sort of happens, with enough humanity to seem believable, despite it being as obvious as humanly possible. But, that’s life, and sometimes, things just happen the way you expect them to happen. Maybe not in the way you had originally imagined, but still with the same result.

Like with most of Holofcener’s films, Catherine Keener obviously plays a big role in it, which isn’t such a terrible thing to have because Keener has been a solid actress for as long as she’s been working, and she’s able to turn any character into a likable, sympathetic person. Even though the main conflict that Keener’s character has is that she can’t stop “giving” to people who seem as if they are in need of something. For example, one of her main quirks is that she gives money away to homeless people that she sees on the street, except that sometimes, they aren’t even homeless. Wouldn’t be so bad either if all she did was give her money away to the homeless people that need it, but she won’t even give her daughter money that she oh so desires and has been desiring for quite some time. The fact that this character can’t stop helping and reaching-out to others is a problem that nobody should care about, nor ever want to see a whole movie surround itself around, but Keener makes it ring true and Holofcener never judges her character for the over-dramatic gal that she is. Sometimes the movie will throw a joke making fun of her ways, but never anything that could be deemed as “disrespectful” or even “mean”. They both keep Kate likable and sympathetic enough to where you sort of want her to wake up and change her ways, even if that means giving the homeless $5, instead of $20 . Hey, any change is a good change, especially for her!

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Caught in the act of actually appearing in a good movie.

Everybody else gets the same fair-treatment as Kate and Keener, even though it’s obvious that Holofcener’s heart truly lies with her. Oliver Platt is, as usual, fun and fluffy playing Kate’s husband who’s a bit more realistic with the way he lives and spends his money, however, also has a bit of problems too that are shown throughout the movie and make you wonder if he’s a nice guy, or not. Amanda Peet gets a meaty-enough role that’s worthy of her talents as Mary, the more stubborn granddaughter of the two and seems to really be enjoying herself with this material, while also being able to get past all of the high times, and give us some substance that a character like hers so desperately needed in order to be considered “tolerable”, and she pulls it off very well. It’s been awhile since I’ve really seen Peet do something that’s as dramatic as her work here, and it makes me wish she would take these types of roles more often.

Rebecca Hall plays her younger sister, Rebecca (original), who’s a lot more meek, quiet and sweeter, even though there’s an underlying sadness to her that you can’t help but make you feel as if you want to hug her, hold her, and just tell her that life will go on and she’ll be happy. Hall’s good in this role, even though it feels like she could have easily been the main character in this movie, and it probably would have been better had she been. However, that’s not what happened, so what the hell do I need to complain about?!?! Nada, that’s what!!

Consensus: Though the problems the characters in Please Give face may be a little over-dramatized, the emotion and heart is still there enough to make you feel for them, rather than belittle them for being so self-loathsome all of the time.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Believe it or not, G-Mom's the happiest one out of them all.

Believe it or not, G-Mom’s the happiest one out of them all.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Croods (2013)

I know men from the prehistoric age are “cavemen”, but what about the ladies. Cavewomen? Oh dear, this review is going to be awkward.

The Croods are a loving family that finally get their big chance to go on a road trip and see what else is out there in the world for them. But their problems fall-through when their cave is destroyed, leaving them with the idea of finding a new home and discovering what else is out there to offer them in this large, vast world of beauty, and sometimes, ugliness. Maybe I made it a bit more dramatic, but you get the drift.

Any movie that concerns a family being stuck in the Stone Age, cannot run away from the comparisons to the Flintstones. I mean, let’s be honest: we all love the show but can nothing ever come close to achieving the type of fun and hilarity it did? Anything at all? Well, it doesn’t seem to matter since the kids love purrty things flying at their little heads, cool-looking animals, spending all of mommy’s and daddy’s money, and seeing 3D movies, and isn’t that who this movie is made for? Exactly. So shut yo ass up all of haters.

With animated-flicks like these, you can’t go in and expecting a masterpiece like it seems Pixar delivers on, but you can go in and expecting and good time and that is what I had with this movie here. Kids love this type of stuff, but can the parents that sit along and watch? Of course, but most of this is all for the kiddies and they’ll eat it all up like they usually do with animated-pics like these. The movie looks beautiful because it’s filled with colors, crazy-looking creatures, and a bunch of exotic-locations that seem like they were done with the attention to detail in mind. The 3D is fine for what it is, but not something worth shelling out the money for, unless your kids just so happen to be really nagging you about it. In that case then, go for it and tell them to shut the hell up. Hopefully, they abide.

It's called METHOD.

It’s called METHOD.

No matter what though, the movie always has a nice look to it, but also a feel to it as well. There isn’t anything here that will necessarily go over the kids heads, nor it will it seem to be deemed “inappropriate” by any on-looking parents. It’s jokes are purely based in physical humor where people get wacked over the heads with trees, rocks, and cliffs; it’s characters all love each other and do the right thing for one another; and the message is more than you’d expect from traditional, kiddie-fare. The movie shows kids that it isn’t so bad to want to experience the world for yourself in some ways, and to never be scared by what may be out there. It’s nothing new, groundbreaking, or interesting, considering the type of stool it’s delivered on, but it still brings a little more something to the table than you’d might expect it to, especially for the kids that may have newly-found wonders about the world. But no need to fear, parents, the kids are still going to want to hold and hug you, when it’s all said and done.

Still, I have no clue as to why the hell I’m writing this review as if I’m talking to actual parents that may want to take their kids to see this. They don’t read this blog and I’m sure of it! But if you do just so happen to read this, take your kid to see it and see how they feel. I was in a movie theater full of a bunch of youngsters that not only went, “Aaaah” every time something came off the screen, but left with their parents, hugging, crying, and kissing. That idea that a movie can still instill the hearts of love between family members made me happy to see, even if it came from a movie like this. Then again, isn’t that what the movies are made for? So we can all be happy, love one another, and realize a little bit more something to our lives then we realized were there before? Okay, maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on this so never mind. Just go see this and be happy, dammit!

Some may find it strange that they got a cast like this, to animate a movie that doesn’t seem to have anything else going for it other than a bunch of visuals that the kidddies may want to go see, but I have to give it to each and every one of them. Since the cast of speaking-characters is so small, so is the cast but at least they all do fine jobs at having us care for them, and understand their personalities as a whole, family-dynamic. Nic Cage may scare some people off, due to the fact that he hasn’t been very successful as of late, but don’t be fooled because he’s probably the best thing about this cast, voicing the father of the fam. Cage doesn’t have a powerful voice, but he has one that makes you feel like this guy is has nice-intentions, even if he gets a bit lost in his own ass at times. Also, the enjoyment of having Nic Cage voice this character is that the character himself, actually does some crazy and wild things that made me laugh, if only because of the faces and moves I expected Cage would have been making, when he recorded this. It’s funny, especially if you like Nic Cage when he’s being, well, Nic Cage.

Awww yeah. Mom and dad gotta leave.

Awww yeah. Now we know where we all came from.

The rest of the cast is fine, but nobody really as special as the one and only Cage-meister. Emma Stone seems to be having buckets of fun as the free-spirited, but curious teen of the fam; Clarke Duke is still nervous and twitchy as the dumb-headed bro; Cloris Leachman is nasty and a bit sparky as the aging, but never dying grandmother; Catherine Keener is pleasant as the almost, nonexistent mother of them all; and Ryan Reynolds seems to like being cool, swift, charming, and so damn dreamy, even if it is only his voice we can hear, and his body nowhere to be found. I’m still pretty sure the ladies won’t mind that.

Consensus: If you’re a person that likes to go to the movies alone to have a bit of fun, live in another world, and forget the misery you actually live in (yes, some of us do have that), then The Croods will be a fine fit for you, but mainly for the families, the kiddies, and the ones who need to please others. Non-sexually, that is.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

It's about to get all prehistorical up in this bitch.

It’s about to get all prehistorical up in this bitch.

Friends With Money (2006)

Those Sex and the City bitches ain’t got nothing on these high-class, L.A. housewives. They may have more money, though.

Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener star as a quartet of west coast, life-long friends who have achieved a level of comfort in their lives and have now settled into a life of designer clothes, charity events, and caring for the men (and offspring) in their lives. But as they approach ‘a certain age,’ unsettling things are starting to throw their comfortable lives off balance.

Having a bunch of spoiled, rich women in one movie talk about their non-stop problems with life, money, relationships, and being happy is not my cup of tea, nor is it many other guys’, either. This is strictly for the women out there in the world and whether or not you’re broke, got a crap-load of moolah, or are somewhere in between, you will probably be able to relate a lot more to this flick than us, asshole-like men. By no means is it a “chick flick”, but it’s still a movie that pertains to women, and women only, and the only thing that may interest the dudes here is any possibility of seeing some nudity. Other than a slutty-maid outfit that Jen wears about half-way through, there’s nothing else so flee away, men! Flee!

It may seem weird that I’m talking about this movie, being a movie that’s strictly for women to enjoy, relate to, and understand more than the typical, average dude, whereas I just watched and am now reviewing it, and I’m a dude. I know, it’s weird but I was interested to see this because I wanted to think there was more to this than just a bunch of women, very-wealthy women, I may add, moping around and acting like they can’t buy $200 pair of boots to turn that frown upside down. Yeah, they are humans just like you or me but watching these gals just complain about nothing other than the fact that their money can’t buy them happiness, did nothing for me and had no effect on my money-saving skills. That’s right, people, I’m still cheap and this movie couldn’t make me re-think otherwise.

Sorry men that are being forced to see this, this scene is the only action you're going to get for the whole night.

Sorry men that are being forced to see this, this scene is the only action you’re going to get for the whole night.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on this movie, because in all honesty, it is very well-written from writer/director Nicole Holofcener and definitely made me laugh a couple of times, but those times were very few and far between. Other than that, Holofcener just throws at us a bunch of moments where these gals cry over spilled milk and problems with their man, that never seem to go away since the man, according to half of these stories, “is the reason for all problems in a relationship”. Now excuse me! I don’t mean to stick-up for the whole male-race or anything and say that we’re not all bad, because trust me, we are, but that doesn’t mean that the women don’t cause some of the problems in the relationship as well. I don’t know, this flick seemed to be pointing the finger at the wrong-person and in all honesty, there probably didn’t even need to be a finger pointed either. It could have just showed both sides of the coin and how they both cause problems, but no, it was mainly the women who got the love and showmanship, not the dudes.

However, the film isn’t all that bad and if you are looking for a movie that’s all about it’s characters and what they say, then this definitely may be your right up your alley. It wasn’t excruciating or boring to watch, it was just relatively dull and it felt like there could have been more to these characters, more to their stories, and most of all, more to the meaning of what the hell this story is trying to get across with it’s message. I get it, as you get older, you begin to get more cranky with the world and the people that surround you in it, but do we really need to watch a bunch of rich gals have that problem? I don’t really think so and even if we do, in today’s day and age, it doesn’t really spell-out all that well for people who are dying trying to make ends meet, and you got a couple of women that can’t get over the fact that their coffee hasn’t been brought-out to them in 2 minutes. Ladies, there are not only starving people in China, but they are starving people that are probably living right-by the dumpster of the restaurant you’re in so calm the hell down!

The only real saving-grace to this whole movie is probably the cast, that does all that they can to make this movie and script work. Jennifer Aniston isn’t as quirky, or overly annoying as she usually is with most of the roles she takes, and does a nice-job at the center of this whole movie as Olivia. Aniston definitely does a nice-job of combining both dramatic and comedic-elements of her sets of skills to make this character work, but in the end, she sort of falls a little flat mainly because her character is such a bum, almost to the point of where it’s unbelievable. It’s understood that a character that has no direction in life can get very easily side-tracked by dumb stuff like boning dudes you don’t really care about, or smoking way, way too much weed for your own good, but there comes a point where it’s enough to pick yourself-up and say, “I need to move-on with my life”. Aniston’s character, Olivia, never really does that and once again, even if there are people out-there that can relate to her character and the walks of life that she goes through, then good for you, but for me, it just annoyed me.

"We really need to get Oscars."

“We really need to get Oscars.”

Joan Cusack is fine as the comfortably-settled trust fund baby, and does what she can with a role that doesn’t really stretch-out her gills as an actress, but still feels like a waste of a really good talent. Her story, basically serves little to no purpose as to why it’s even included in the movie, let alone, made a big deal in chunks. Cusack and her hubby, played by Greg Germann, are probably the happiest-couple of the whole flick and for that, I feel like they just didn’t belong. Shame, too, because Germann and Cusack seem like they would have made an awesome, older-couple in any other movie.

Catherine Keener is fine as the television writer who can’t seem to get along with her husband for more than 5 minutes, and does what she always does: provides some funny sarcasm, that only hits you when you expect it. Keener is the only character here who really goes through any type of real or huge transformation that’s worth seeing, and she handles it with grace and care. I didn’t care much about her story-line, mainly because it was so obvious of where it was going to go with itself, but she interested me and therefore, I cared about her character more. Why the hell isn’t she in more movies? Seriously?

She's holding the next generation of the Coen's. Handle with care.

She’s holding the next generation of the Coen’s. Better handle with care.

Last, but certainly not least if Frances McDormand as the oldest-gal of the whole-group, Jane, and definitely steals the show from everybody else. McDormand is a blast to watch because she’s cranky, angry, and always has something to say without any type of filter whatsoever. McDormand is an actress we usually just see as the wise-cracking lady that you do not want to go toe-to-toe with in a battle of wits, and that’s probably the best part of her character, considering it’s what makes her problems and actions so much more believable than everybody else’s. Some will say it’s nothing new or refreshing we haven’t already seen from her, but hey, that’s fine with me as long as she continues to make me laugh and entertain me.

Consensus: The cast is what really saves Friends With Money from being another annoying, self-important piece of writing that would have been a lot better as a novel, rather than an actual, full-length feature-flick that has a very, very limited-audience of who can connect to.

5/10=Rental!!

Now we know who to blame for this movie ever being released! Damn you, AMC!

Now we know who’s to blame for this movie ever being released! Damn you, AMC!

Out of Sight (1998)

The beginning of what some people may call “The Clooney”.

Meet Jack Foley (George Clooney), the most successful bank robber in the country. On the day he busts out of jail, he finds himself stealing something far more precious than money, Karen Sisco (‘s heart. She’s smart, she’s sexy, and unfortunately for Jack, she’s a Federal Marshal. Now, they’re willing to risk it all to find out if there’s more between them than just the law.

I guess back in 1998 the names Clooney and Soderbergh didn’t draw that much attention considering this was a pretty big box-office flop. If it was released in today’s world, the film would have been doing some major work but I guess everybody just has to get their start somewhere.

The film is adapted from a Elmore Leonard book that I have not read but from what I hear, is just exactly like the same tone and pace that this film gives it. What I liked about this writing is just how funny it was without being too obvious and that there was still a lot of suspense, mystery, and crime to be happening. I mean everybody in this flick is a little bit goofy, just like the situations they get themselves caught up into but for some reason the film didn’t seem uneven with its wacky humor and awesome heist and action sequences. Let me also remind you that this is a story that actually has some believability to it where I could actually see certain things like this happening if these certain people were to actually be put into these situations. Then again, I’m not saying that your average con-men/bank robbers look like George Clooney or do many Federal Marshal’s look like Jennifer Lopez, I’m just saying that a lot of what happened here doesn’t seem too insane for a flick.

The film is also perfectly directed by Steven Soderbergh, who took one big-step out of the indie world that he caught himself in and did a great job with just about everything here and finding a way to give it his own cool style. His style makes the film feel like a 70’s crime flick with the sort of funky music playing in the background and the grainy-looking camera he uses that looks as if it was used for filming some old school porno’s back in the day. It’s a really cool style but it’s also the fact that this film just breathes cool where everything you see works.

There are plenty of heist and action moments that this film works perfectly with but it’s the romance that I keep on remembering the most about. The romance is perfectly handled here, which was a total surprise to me in the first place, but the fact that Clooney and Lopez get into a discussion about how in ‘Three Days of Condor’, the romance felt forced and too quick and then they have the same exact romance. What I liked about this element is that the scenes are laced in here perfectly to the point of where it doesn’t feel like the film is just shoe-horning it all in there. It’s also pretty sexy if you think about it and it’s one of those romances between two different characters that seems to work even when the film constantly shifts in between them both fighting one another on opposite ends.

My only problem with this flick that actually didn’t take away too much but it still had me bothered was the fact at just how much this flick reminded me of ‘Jackie Brown’ and I think it’s just one of those cases that since both films were adapted from the same author, that they both kind of give off the same style. Tarantino’s flick was witty, suspenseful, filled with a cool style, and had his usual signatures that he features in just about all of his films but here, it’s kind of the same with a little bit of different touches. Hell, both films even have Michael Keaton playing the same role in both so it’s pretty obvious that I would get some déjà vu.

The main reason why this film works though is because of its awesome all-star cast that shines with every single star. George Clooney broke out with this role as Jack Foley, and would continue playing that same role for the next 13 years but to be honest he’s great here. He’s sly, funny, sexy (for the ladies, not for me..then again maybe for me), and everything he does here he seems to be having a blast playing this bad guy that we can’t help but to love considering he seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody else. Jennifer Lopez is also equally as good as Karen Sisco. She is basically the same person as Jack Foley, instead she is all for the law rather than against it. They both work great together and the romance between them I was talking about earlier I don’t know would have worked with anybody else in these roles. Every scene they have is more memorable than the one that came before it and it’s kind of a bummer that Lopez hasn’t really done much else that’s worth noting since this flick.

Don Cheadle is also good as a dick playing Foley’s main opponent in the heist-game, Snoopy; Ving Rhames is the man and surprisingly very funny as Buddy; Dennis Farina is J. Lo’s dad and it’s surprise to see him playing someone else other than a gangster; Albert Brooks is barely in it but still good; and there is even some nice little side-spots from Steve Zahn, Catherine Keener, and a very young Viola Davis as well. Everybody here is great and they all seem to be having a ball with their performances which added more to my enjoyment of this flick as well.

Consensus: Out of Sight may remind me of Jackie Brown, but Soderbergh’s stylish direction and everybody’s performances here make this one of the most exciting, fun, and enjoyable crime comedies I have seen in a long time and it still makes me wonder just why this didn’t get much money in the first place.

9/10=Full Price!!

Cyrus (2010)

Who doesn’t love their mommy?

John C. Reilly plays a divorced man who thinks he’s found just the right woman (Marisa Tomei) to help him recover and move on. Unfortunately, the woman’s son, played by Jonah Hill, has no interest in allowing another man into their lives — a stance he proceeds to demonstrate in a variety of obnoxious ways.

I had no interest in this film when it first came out since its done by Jay and Mark Duplass, aka the guys who started this whole “mumble core” movement, so therefore I had no real interest. Then of course HBO had to come on by and I couldn’t help myself.

The Duplass Brothers do a pretty good job with this film because they know how to balance out humor, heart, and romance together all well. There are funny moments in this film but there more about being all cringe-inducing and awkward, which didn’t bother me because it made it all feel realistic. I mean when a kid says “don’t fuck my mom” at the first din-din, that’s just a little weird, especially if you keep calling your mom by her fist name.

The problem I had with this film was that I did feel like I was going to throw-up by how much the Duplass Brothers’ moved their camera around all over the place. It constantly zooms in and out, and even gets out-of-focus at times too and feels like it’s trying too hard to be realistic and just be a straight-up indie film with it’s hand-held camera. I felt like I was watching Tony Scott going indie for a second, until I realized that this film is about a guy and his girl’s son having a feud, not a train–on-the-run or any high concept like that.

Another problem I had with this film was that I felt like a little bit of it meanders right in the middle for no reason and kind of loses focus with its weird pace. The film is constantly building and building until Cyrus is gone for about 15 minutes, and they we focus on this relationship and it just feels a tad off. I don’t know what it was but the middle part of this film just seemed oddly misplaced and could have done better.

I don’t know if this film really had a script by any chance, because it more or less just feels like The Duplass Brothers just got the whole cast together, told them where the film was going to go, and they just let everybody do their own thang, which I think worked. There are a lot of moments in this film that just had me laughing by how goofy and weird this plot could get and honestly I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was some crazy incest angle in it here either. The film isn’t afraid to express its weirdness, which is something you don’t see in many films nowadays, especially with big-names like this one. It’s weird but not too weird for anybody just to watch and enjoy.

John C. Reilly is great as the perfectly named, John, because he plays this sweet, tormented, and overall likable dude so well that he doesn’t seem like he’s doing the same ridiculous act over again, it’s more or less just him being the nicest guy you could ever see in a film. Jonah Hill is the freakin’ man as Cyrus, because he’s playing a lot more of a subtle role than we’re usually used to him playing but I have to say that it was great to see him play silent and weird, and still be very funny. Both are great together because they create this little feud that starts off small with a pair of John’s shoes getting taken but then spills out into them just about beating each other. Just the scenes of them two staring at each other and practically try to win over the same woman’s heart, definitely had me laughing and entertained by these two.

As for the ladies here, Marisa Tomei is very good as Molly. Tomei has been in the game for awhile and it never feels like she’s doing the same role all the time and she plays Molly with that certain type of broken, but accessible beauty character very well to the point of where you believe that her character could really feel this much for her son and her boy-toy. Catherine Keener isn’t really doing much as John’s ex-wife, Jamie but she’s fine with what she’s given. I kind of thought how weird it was that John and Jamie were still good pals even though she left him or something and I don’t know I feel like once you’re done, it’s done. No best friends thing.

Consensus: Cyrus suffers from some annoying indie problems, but it features a simple story with heart, awkward humor, and performances from the whole cast that feel genuine and perfectly picked for each of their characters.

7/10=Rental!!

Trust (2011)

It’s official, my kids are never going to have any communication devices whatsoever.

After curious and vulnerable teenager Annie (Liana Liberato) falls into a trap set by an online sexual predator named Charlie, her family begins to disintegrate, uncertain how to cope with such a devastating tragedy. Utterly consumed by rage, her father (Clive Owen) sets out seeking vengeance.

This is the sophomore directorial effort from David Schwimmer, aka Ross Geller, and it’s pretty strange to see him go from a comedy like Run, Fatboy, Run to a film with little or no comedy at all. However, I don’t think you could have said the same about Run, Fatboy, Run.

Schwimmer doesn’t really bring anything new to this subject material other than the IM’s between Annie and Charlie popping up in the corners of the screen. It also shows how such devices like Smart phones, internet, and blackberries have made teenage crushes constant and almost all time consuming. My problem with his direction is that the cinematography seems like it was done by someone who just got out of film school, and looks like a TV-movie almost.

Now the problem with this film that I had was the script where it became very frustrating at points because so many times it won me over and other times where it just had me roll my eyes. The goods about this script is that the scenario is believable thanks to To Catch a Predator and how Charlie reels Annie in completley making her seem incredibly vulnerable and totally clueless to everything seems realistic since a lot of kids don’t know what to do with their first “love” and just go along with what the other person says.

However, my problem lied within the fact that the actual “rape” itself could have been avoided as soon as Annie figured out that this dude was a little creepy in the beginning. Take it for granted, there are girls out there who don’t actually think that every guy they talk to on the internet is a total creep but it seemed so obvious here when the dude started changing his age from 17 to 23 to 28 and then till she found out he was 35. When they actually meet up too, and she sees him for what he is, she could have easily just ran the fuck out of there, called daddy, and Mr. sex offender would have had a nice little meeting from a certain Mr. Chris Hanson.

This may all sound a bit biased since I’m not a very well-known on the subject of girls going through puberty and everything but there were so many red flags here that just seemed completely obvious and I thought she had a bigger head on her shoulder, other than just showing me complete stupidity when she was talking to this Charlie dude in the first place.

Although this is a big problem, the film kept winning me back when there were just completley dramatic and moving scenes that really kept me glued to the screen. Sometimes family dramas can be totally cliche, corny, and predictable but Trust has scenes where the family just lets it all out on one another, whether it be a hissy fit, a cry-fest, or a screaming match, grief is shown very well here from all of the family members, including the parents. Parents coping with grief isn’t something that’s shown very often, except for in maybe films like In the Bedroom, but the way the film plays out a lot of the scenes actually worked for me and made this more than just another touchy subject film gone wrong.

Schwimmer does know how to direct actors though, and very well I may add. Annie is played by new-comer Liana Liberato, who’s very good and I’m pretty sure we will be hearing her name a lot more due to this performance. She’s very good here because she channels all the emotions that a teen going through a crisis like this would and she does is believably rather than just soaking up the cheesiness. Although her character made a lot of dumb choices throughout the film, Liberato made me believe her more as this teen and never let’s anybody from the rest of the cast steal her spotlight.

Clive Owen and Catherine Keener are amazing as Annie’s parents and make so many of the scenes these two have together, alone, or with Annie, just perfect. Owen has always had that sense of rage and misery within all of his characters, but he does it so well here and Keener just does what she always does in every film but it never loses it’s flavor. Another good performance is from Viola Davis as Gail, Annie’s therapist and although I would have liked to see more scenes with her, Davis still owns.

Consensus: Director David Schwimmer makes Trust a very well-acted and at times emotionally honest film about coping with grief, comforting one another, and getting past a terrible happening within a family, but the problems here lie within the script as too many moments feel too obvious to believe and just seems like with a lot more better touches, could have had so much more tension.

6/10=Rental!!

The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

Really makes me wanna get it on! Any takers?

Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell) has a pleasant life with a nice apartment and a job stamping invoices at an electronics store. But at age 40, there’s one thing Andy hasn’t done, and it’s really bothering his sex-obsessed male co-workers: Andy is still a virgin. Determined to help Andy get laid, the guys make it their mission to de-virginize him. But it all seems hopeless until Andy meets small business owner Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mom.

This was the directorial debut for the man we now call, Judd Apatow. The guy went on to direct Knocked Up and Funny People. Even though this isn’t as good as them both, it still is frickin’ hilarious.

My favorite aspect to this film is that it’s script is basically just one running gag for about two hours, but somehow Apatow and company make it work. The humor here is gross-out, disgusting, sexxed up, but sometimes insightful, and always hilarious. There are plenty of one-liners that you’ll find here, as well as some funny little hits on Michael McDonald, horse shows, hood rats, and the movie Gandhi that are all funny as hell, and although they may not always hit the mark you still find yourself cracking up at everything these people say. This could have easily gone the wrong way, and just have been one bad sex joke, after another, but it never seems to get old.

However, there’s more to this film than just a bunch of dick and sex jokes. There’s actually more of a sweet tone to this film that works out for this film because in between all the raunchiness, there is actually a caring, little love story here. It’s not just about this dude trying to bag a bitch, but more about him actually having a meaningful relationship with somebody and falling in love. It all sounds pretty corny, but just to watch how Apatow pulls all this off is something great to see.

My only problem with this film is that it does run on for a bit too long. The version I watched was 2 hours and 13 minutes, which made some conversations run on longer than others, and by the end you feel like this runs on about 10 minutes too long. Speaking of the end, what the hell was up with that ending? I didn’t really get the whole “Age of Aquarius” song number at the end, and to be truly honest, I don’t think anybody else watching this did either.

Not only did Apatow become a star after this so did the whole cast. Steve Carell makes his first star turn as the geeky, but lovable Andy Stitzer, and makes all the scenes with him hilarious. Nowadays, it’s almost hard to see him as anything other than Michael Scott, but no matter what he is in, he is an absolute riot to have up there, and this first big role for him proves it. Catherine Keener is good as the main romantic interest, Trish, but my only problem with her is that I feel that her character was a little too sweet for this type of movie, but despite that Keener is always a delight to have. This film also put so many other talents on the map such as Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Romany Malco, Jane Lynch, Kat Dennings, Leslie Mann, Elizabeth Banks, and a little cameo from a very young Jonah Hill. All do great jobs with the material their given, and thanks to this film, are all getting big-time paychecks from so many other films.

Consensus: Some of it may run on too long, but The 40-Year-Old Virgin has a great combo of a hilarious script filled with raunch and vulgarity, and a sweet story at the bottom of it all, with plenty of great moments with this funny cast.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Your Friends & Neighbors (1998)

What a bunch of assholes.

Director Neil LaBute excels at creating cynical characters loosed in an unredeemable world. Jason Patric plays a narcissistic stud who swaggeringly comes on to anything in a skirt. Oh yeah, and he’s a jerk to his friends (Ben Stiller, Aaron Eckhart), too.

This is written and directed by LaBute who created a storm with his first film, In the Company of Men, which is about two guys taking advantage of this one woman. And, needless to say this film isn’t any different.

I think the one thing about this film is that it paints a great portrait of sex and love. Much of this credit goes to the writing from LaBute who gives us this darkly funny dialogue about these couples and how each one betrays the other with sex. Basically the film is all talking, and it stays interesting at most points with its dialogue.

But that is also where the problem lies. The film is so so talky, that nothing else really happens other than screwing and talking(which in some ways can be considered the same thing, I gotta million of em!). And for some people who don’t like these dialogue filled movies, they will find themselves at a lost here, much ado to the incredibly slow pace.

Also, though the film is very funny I actually didn’t find it to be very happy by the last hour or so. Actually, mostly the film made me depressed with the ways these people were actually carrying themselves. The film doesn’t show any bright sides to these people’s lives and although they make a lot of sex, and talk about love, they never seem in love and are never happy no matter what they do.

The one thing that really did it for me was the performances from the stellar cast. Throughout the whole film I was just simply astonished by Jason Patric as the misogynistic doctor. He plays the utterly unlikable and cocky of a character that at times you want to smash his face in, but at other times you want to be like him. There is one scene where its just him for like 10 minutes and he really just gives it all out there, and its great. I also found Stiller to be equally as awkward and nervous as he is in other movies playing himself and wasn’t surprised here, and I liked Eckhart as a guy that I felt so sympathetic for in the end, that I just wanted to give him a big hug. Catherine Keener, I though was a huge bitch in this and I really didn’t like her character at all, and I found myself wondering as to why anybody would want to even be with her, there’s probably one scene where I was actually glad she was upset after it, cause she is such a bitch.

Consensus: With great performances from the cast, and realistic/funny dialogue, Your Friends & Neighbors give a good look on relatinships, but shows a bleack and slow-moving film that will sort of bore some people by the end.

6/10=Rental!!

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

There’s a one inside of us.

Max (Max Records) imagines running away from his mom and sailing to a far-off land where large talking beasts — Ira, Carol, Douglas, the Bull, Judith and Alexander — crown him as their king, play rumpus, build forts and discover secret hideaways. Voices by Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, and many others.

Once in a lifetime a very noble director will get a hold of a wonderful children book and really turn it into something magical, this is close to what I thought I was going to have.

I had a really hard time with this film overall. I was expecting a beautiful, exciting adventure from the out-of-this world mind from Spike Jonze. However, all the hype that the film was getting it quite didn’t live up to what I was expecting. Well, I guess adapting a movie from a 10 page book, isn’t the easiest thing to do.

The emotional depth this film goes into is perfect and really handled well in this film. There are just some really profoundly beautiful scenes that really do shine with emotion and old natural beauty. Jonze connects the character of Max to all the other Wild Things, and shows how both of their lives are both equal in every single way, and how they can both learn from one another. Jonze even goes as far as to sort of get adults thinking about these messages about childhood, and how they felt at their age as well.

The only problem I had with this film is that it just wasn’t as powerful as it could’ve been. There were so many scenes that could’ve been handled better if the right attitude was given towards it. In most of these scenes I almost thought that Jonze was going to pull off the scene and really make it memorable. However, Jonze takes another road that doesn’t seem like the best solution for it.

Another problem I had with this film was that although there is a lot of kid-friendly elements to this film, I don’t think that kids will quite have a ball with this film. This movie is more about the message of Max, and most kids won’t look at this. They’ll look at the Wild Things and how scary they look, and the little fun montages, not necessarily the message that Jonze was really going for here.

The little things of this film we’re really good add-ons however. I liked the soundtrack with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I thought all of those songs really did connect to the mood of each scene. The visuals that combine the elements of people in costumes, CGI, and animations. They look real and actually could get a nomination cause of how spectacular they look.

Max Records, who plays little Max does a good job at showing some future star quality. Though he can be a little annoying at some points, I really did feel like he was one of the more realistic protagonists in a film in a long time. The voices in this film are good as well, but the best has got to be James Gandolfini as Carol. He really does give the emotion that is needed to play this character and overall has a more effective job than any other of the Wild Things.

The ending that most of you all know from the book, is not as emotionally-charged as you would think. I left the film with a very bad taste cause of the ending, because overall it was just a lame ending for a very powerful movie.

Consensus: Spike Jonze, doesn’t deliver on every spectrum, but does create a very true, emotionally-powerful fable about what it’s really like as a child and the kind’s of turmoil they face at such a young age.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Capote (2005)

Watching Seymour Hoffman play Capote, is something out of the ordinary, weird, but out of the ordinary.

The film follows Capote’s life during the making of his acclaimed book, In Cold Blood. It shows the stories behind the main story and Capote’s relationship with the prisoners that are being wrote about.

The film paints a fascinating human portrait of this mysterious but ver loveable author, Truman Capote. The one great element of this story shown is how one Capote soon falls in love with one of the prisoners, Perry, and the film shows his love for him but also his need for him to die. Because if Perry doesn’t die Capote has no story.

If you would’ve told me this was directed by Scorsese or Mann, I would’ve believed you but this directorial debut from Bennett Miller is so well done. Bennett Miller shoots some the scenes with such a look that you can feel the emotion that Capote is feeling at that time during the scene. May biographical films are usually dry and familiar but Capote, on the other hand, is full of life and in praise of joy for this great writer.

This is honestly one of the greatest performances in the past 10 years of any film. Philip Seymour Hoffman gives this landmark performance, and the amazing thing about his performance is that he’s not simply doing an impersonation but he is getting to the heart and the core of Truman Capote. Mostly making us feel what he is feeling at that particular moment in time. Surely a very marvelous performance that defensibly deserved the Best Actor win. Also im very suprised they put Harper Lee’s character in, but im also pretty glad because Catherine Keener does a very good job at portraying her with such sensibility and a person who can see right through Capote and who’s also very critical of him cause she knows what he is capable of doing.

Though this film is great it’s not perfect. Bennett Miller may show a small flair with certain actors, but there’s a flatness to the manner in which he frames some of the scenes. I also felt the film dragged in spots. At times I didn’t feel to absorbed by Capote’s real world that he lived in, which could’ve been a game breaker for me.

This film boasted by a speechless performance from Seymour Hoffman, and a well-written portrait of a unspoken author. Capote succeeds in many ways that many should see, even if it does drag at times.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!