Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Charles Dance

Me Before You (2016)

Billionaire playboys always find love. Who cares if they’re in a wheelchair?

Young, brash, sexy and rich banker Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) had it all. However, on one fateful day, he lost it all when a motorcycle ran into him, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. Of course, he’s got plenty of money from his parents and whatnot, so he doesn’t have to worry too much about being left in the dirt, but still, he’s miserable, annoyed and pissed-off at the situation that he’s left in. To make sure that he doesn’t get too sad and start making brash decisions, Will’s mom (Janet McTeer) decides to hire a caretaker, Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), to also act as his friend. Lou is a bit of a light and quirky figure, who enjoys everything there is to life, even if her family isn’t well-of and has to constantly battle to stay alive in the middle-class. While working for the Traynor’s, Lou spends most of her days assisting Will as much as she can, even if he wants nothing to do with her. But after awhile, Will begins to lighten up to Lou’s energetic ways and accepts her for what she is. This leads the two to having some grand times, doing everything and anything that they want, ignoring the fact that Will may never be able to walk again. It’s a method that works for quite some time, until the reality of the situation comes into focus.

Those dragons definitely aren't fashion experts.

Those dragons definitely aren’t fashion experts.

Me Before You comes at an unfortunate time where Nicholas Sparks and John Green adaptations come out every year or so. Sure, while there are people who love and adore those kinds of movies, getting choked-up every time a person scream their love for another, even if the other person they’re saying “I love you” to, happens to also have a life-threatening disease or disability, for the most part, they don’t do much to freshen the romance drama. They’re all mostly by-the-numbers and conventional tales, that reach for the tears, get them, and make you feel like crap afterwards.

However, those same issues with the current state of the romance drama is the main reason why Me Before You works as well as it does.

Director Thea Sharrock and writer Jojo Moyes come together in a way that makes this romance feel familiar, but for some reason, because the characters are so well-written and done, there’s something interesting to watching them come together, hate one another at first, start to lighten up after awhile, and, of course, end up falling in love. Sharrock and Moyes know that this type of romance has been done hundreds and thousands of times before, however, they don’t seem to be trying to make any new statement about love, life, or even those with disabilities.

Even though it’s a tad dispiriting to see that the one who is actually stuck in the wheelchair for all his life is basically a billionaire living in a castle, as opposed to, I don’t know, say, a middle-to-lower class citizen living in a broken-down, beaten-up row home in the city, Me Before You gets by because it’s charming. It’s humor hits when you least expect it to and, believe it or not, it’s heart is in the right place; the movie does set out to make each and everyone of us cry, and well, it kind of delivers on that.

James Bond? Maybe?

James Bond? Maybe?

Once again, though, it’s all because the characters, from the two love-interests, to everyone else around them, are all clearly defined and interesting, even if they originally seem like types.

Sam Claflin is as charming and as hunky as can be as Will that, despite the fact that he’s in a wheelchair practically the whole movie, you still fall for the guy. Sure, he’s a bit of an a-hole at first, but given his situation and the life he used to live, you sympathize with him, rather than wanting him to shut up and stuff some money-bags in his mouth. And although she doesn’t get a whole lot of opportunities to do so on Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke is so damn lovely and pleasant as Lou, that it surprised me. I had a feeling she was always capable of charming the pants off of me, but as Lou, we really get to see a bright, bubbly and sweet girl who may not have a single bad bone in her body and rather than it seeming like cloying, or annoying, Clarke plays it just well enough to where you believe this gal could be this fun-spirited and lively about the world around her.

And together, yes, their chemistry is quite great. They’re both very attractive Brits, so yes, it’s only obvious that they’d have wonderful chemistry with one another, but it still works, regardless. The two characters help make each other better over time and while it doesn’t happen right away, gradually, they begin to draw closer and closer that, by the time the final act comes into play, and all of a sudden, the idea of a tragedy occurring yet again becomes all too real, we’re involved.

In a way, we feel like we’re in this same relationship with them and it’s hard not to get swept-up in it all.

That said, the final-act will most definitely make or break some people, for better, as well as for worse. Without saying too much, Me Before You gets awfully ballsy, asking the hard questions and giving us even harder answers. It’s nice to see this kind of risk in a rom-com as pleasant as this, but it worked for me. It felt like it was meant for this kind of story, even if the message at the end of it all was a tad hokey and odd, all things considering.

But hey, just see it for yourself. Give your money to this and not to another Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

Please.

Consensus: With a fiery chemistry between its two lovely leads, Me Before You works as a rom-com that’s pleasant and sincere enough to work as both as a romance, as well as a comedy, although it never plays either hand too much.

7 / 10

Is this a wedding? Why is she wearing red? Oh no!

Is this a wedding? Why is she wearing red? Oh no!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)

It’s like the Walking Dead. But with people who clearly bathe.

In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. On one side, there’s the rich and powerful human beings who have their balls, drink their tea, and get on with life as if there’s no issues, whereas on the other, there’s flesh-eating, walking and sometimes, talking, zombies who are always hungry for their next meal. Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) lives on the side of the humans, obviously and is something of a master of martial arts and weaponry, who not only finds herself interested in, but joined with Mr. Darcy (Sam Riley), in fightin against the zombies. While, in all honesty, Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, she respects his skills as a zombie killer and finds that appreciation soon turning into affection – something that neither party thinks they are quite ready for. But while these two are busy figuring out if they’re going to wipe out all of the zombies together, or not, there’s Mr. Wickham (Jack Huston), who is trying his absolute hardest to figure out a way to live side-by-side with the zombies, and not have there be any issues or harm done to either side. He too wants Elizabeth, but also has something of a troubled history with Darcy and his family that carries into his life today.

Uh oh. Somebody's now gone and pissed-off Cinderella!

Uh oh. Somebody’s now gone and pissed-off Cinderella!

Let’s be honest: A movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to work. Even the book itself, doesn’t quite work. Sure, it’s a clever joke – Jane Austen story that just so happens to feature zombies in between all of the kissing and lavish parties – but it’s one that can also grow tired, if you don’t find interesting, or clever ways to keep it worth telling, again and again. That’s the issue with the book, just as it’s the issue with the movie; there’s an idea that the movie wants to have it both ways, but also doesn’t know if it wants to settle on any one side in particular.

For one, it clearly wants to be a Jane Austen adaptation, where the heart, the romance, and the tragedy is felt through every frame of the picture. But, at the same time, it also wants to be a silly, rumpus and sometimes, funny, zombie flick where people all dressed-up in 18th century attire go around, slaying zombies everywhere they look. Both movies on their own can work, but together, they just don’t mesh well and honestly, director Burr Steers has a difficult time of adjusting between the two stories.

Is it necessarily his fault? Not really.

As I said before, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was never going to really work as a movie; it doesn’t really have any clear-cut audience that it would appeal to most, and for those people who it may appeal to, will still probably find themselves wanting more. While there’s plenty of romance, and kissing, and extravagant parties here, there’s not all that much zombie killing and action which, after awhile, can get to be a tad bothersome. After all, it’s a movie with “zombies” in the title, which makes it seem as if it’s going to take that very seriously and do everything it can to deliver on its promise.

But unfortunately, it doesn’t. Instead, it just constantly has a battle with itself as to whether or not it wants to be a period piece, as well as a zombie action-flick. Which isn’t to say that the movie takes itself too seriously; there’s quite a few moments of actual hilarity, but they’re mostly all reliant on Austen’s actual source material and not the added bonus of having zombies involved with the story as well. Sure, you can’t be mad at the movie for wanting to tell its timeless tale, but you can’t also expect the movie to be all about that side and forget about the whole zombie-angle too, right?

I don’t know. Either way, I think I’m losing track of my point.

Yummy.

Yummy.

The point is that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a misguided attempt at a fun, almost goofy movie. It’s neither fun, nor goofy, but instead, just boring. Steers has shown that he has a knack for comedy with flicks like Igby Goes Down and 17 Again, but when it comes to action, he seems ill-prepared and advised. The fact that we don’t get much action to begin with is a problem, but the fact that we hardly get to see any of it when it is actually happening, is also a whole other problem that makes it appear like the action was a second-thought for Steers. Maybe it was, or maybe it wasn’t, but either way, it’s hard to get enthused about a movie that doesn’t do much of anything.

Of course, the cast is here to try and save the day, but unfortunately, they too are kind of left in the cold. Lily James is bright and bubbly as Elizabeth, but after this literally being her fourth or fifth period piece in a role, I think it’s safe to say that maybe it’s time for James to shake things up. Maybe her appearance in Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver will be that change-of-pace she so desperately needs, but either way, yeah, it’s time for a new gig. Same goes for Sam Riley, too, who despite showing a great deal of promise in Control, nearly a decade ago, hasn’t quite shown any bit of charm or personality in the subsequent years. Maybe that’s too much to ask for, but he’s quite dull here and it really makes me wonder if it’s just him, or the terrible script he’s given to work with.

It’s probably the script, but hey, I’ve got to ask these questions, people!

There are others like Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, and Lena Headey who all show up and their stuffy outfits, who all do fine, but it’s really Matt Smith who brings some fun and excitement to the proceedings. In fact, had Pride and Prejudice and Zombies been a lot more like his character, it would have been a much clearer, and more exciting movie. But instead, it’s a misguided attempt on cashing in on a trend that, honestly, seemed like it died nearly a decade ago.

Am I wrong?

Consensus: There’s two movies within Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and none of them quite work whether together, or apart, making it a very uneven and dull film, that tries to have it both ways, but ultimately, fails at having it either way.

3 / 10 

Jane Austen always did love bad-ass chicks.

Jane Austen always did love bad-ass chicks.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

Mad scientists don’t tend to be charming. Or good-looking, either.

Though he works as a hunchback in the circus, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) dreams of doing something more with his relatively pathetic and sad life. One day, everything changes when a young medical student by the name of Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) literally jumps into his life, whisks him off and takes him under his wing as a close friend, as well as confidante in whatever science project he’s working on. Though Igor isn’t always too sure just what the hell Victor is always up to, he knows that it interests him and something that he wants to be apart of; however, Igor also wants to be able to finally live his life, once and for all. This means that he starts to see an attractive gal (Jessica Brown Findlay) who takes his heart, as well as his world by storm. While this is all happening, though, Victor is currently on the run from the police, who want to take him up on charges of having his experiments go a bit too far and doing more harm, than actual good.

Oh yeah, and it looks like these two are going to start making out and bang a whole lot.

Oh yeah, and it always looks like these two are going to start making out and bang.

In all honesty, I really don’t want to write about Victor Frankenstein. You may have realized that once this review goes on and I just continue to ramble on and on about unnecessary things that may, or may not have something to do with this movie, so that’s why I’m letting you now. This is not a movie I want to talk about, or really dedicate 1,000 words to, but you know what? Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what I want and it’s more about what each and everyone of you dear readers (all five of you) want. And if what you want is to know whether or not to see Victor Frankenstein, well then, I’m here to help out.

Even if, you know, you shouldn’t really go out to see Victor Frankenstein.

While I know I may make the movie sound like a terrible piece of garbage, in all honesty, it really isn’t – it’s just an incredibly dull, jumbled-up mess of some good movies, and other bad ones. What director Paul McGuigan seems to be doing here is combining dark comedy, creature-features, dark, gloomy period-pieces, and drama, all into one movie; it’s an admirable attempt, at best, but judging by how the movie turns out, it’s quite easy to tell that none of these elements were meant to work well together. Again and again, McGuigan tries to make each and every story development gel together in some way, but mostly, it seems like he’s losing himself in the process.

Which is to say that no real element here actually works or feels fully flesh-out enough to register. If anything, the movie is much more concerned with being an eerie, creepy, and rather over-the-top creature-feature that Hammer, back in its heyday, would have definitely loved to create. But then, you take into account all of the needless character-drama, random bits of comedy sprinkled throughout, and odd, but obvious homoerotic feelings here, and it just feels like a mish-mash of, possibly, a better movie out there?

I don’t know.

See, what’s odd about Victor Frankenstein is that it feels like a movie made for no one. While it would have been a solid horror flick filled with jumps, scares and boogie-men, the movie feels like it wants to go a bit further than that. However, at the same time, it doesn’t; instead of actually becoming more dramatic about its characters and their situation, the movie back-tracks and focuses on the gooey, disgusting creatures that they create together. Though there’s plenty of action here, none of it is ever fun, tense, or scary in the way that the movie wants it to be – although, I will admit, it is quite loud. In fact, it’s so loud that afterwards, my ears were ringing for quite some time.

Like a lot.

Like a lot.

And then I saw Creed and everything got better.

Life.

My ears.

My self-esteem.

Everything.

Like I said before, as you can probably tell, I don’t really care much about Victor Frankenstein; while I’m absolutely all for what this movie was trying to be initially, after awhile, it loses so much of its original heart and soul, that I stopped caring. The only reason I continued to stay awake and actually watch, was because Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy are such good actors, it’s hard for them to ever be boring. While this is maybe less so in Radcliffe’s case (who is, sadly, given the unfortunately boring role of Igor), McAvoy still lights up the screen every chance he gets as Dr. Frankenstein. The movie may have annoyingly written him off as a quick-witted, funny scientist, who also happens to be mad, McAvoy makes it work and see this well-known character in a new light. Sure, he may be a bit crazy, but he sure does know how to get a party started.

Radcliffe, on the other hand, feels as if he was just given a set of guidelines to follow, told not to inch away from it, and decided that it was probably best to listen. Granted, I’m not raining on his parade for following his job and being a good worker, but still, he’s definitely a whole lot more boring to watch when compared to what McAvoy is doing here. Not to mention Andrew Scott who, like he does on Sherlock, gets to really play-up the weird eccentricities of his character, even though he’s supposed to be the smartest one of the bunch. While this movie may not definitely ruin Radcliffe’s “adult” movie roles, it still shows that he may have to take a few more extra steps in ensuring that he doesn’t get stuck doing unnecessary junk like this.

Then again, if the money’s good, how can you blame him? How can you blame anyone?

Consensus: Even if it tries to do something different with its story, Victor Frankenstein can’t seem to make up its mind of what it wants to be about, or who it’s targeted towards. So, it just ends up being a mess.

4 / 10

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where's that at for the holidays?!?

In fact, it probably would have made for a better movie. Now, where’s that at for the holidays?!?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Child 44 (2015)

Hey guys? Don’t forget to feel bad for Communists, too.

In the early 1950’s, during Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union, MGB Agent and war hero Leo Demidov (Tom Hardy) discovers that there’s a series of child-murders occurring in the area that nobody’s really paying attention to. But before he can ever get a chance to bring it to his superiors and going ahead with the investigation, his wife, Raisa (Noomi Rapace), is accused of being disloyal to the government and giving certain secrets away. Though Leo is not currently happy with his wife, he still sticks by her because he loves her and that’s what a husband ought to do. Problem is, this puts him the same problems that she’s in, which then has them demoted to a militia position in the gritty, rusted and ragged town of  Volsk. Here, Leo is under the command of General Nesterov (Gary Oldman), who doesn’t know whether or not he can trust Leo, but knows that they’re both fighting the same battle as they discover, yet again, another dead boy by the side of the train-tracks. With Nesterov’s approval, Leo sets out on his own adventure to discover who this killer is and stop him before he takes anymore victims.

How on Earth does a movie with the likes of Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Jason Clarke, Charles Dance, Vincent Cassell, Joel Kinnaman, Paddy Considine, and hell, Gary Oldman only get $600,000 on its opening weekend? Though I understand that not all of these names are household ones that could most definitely open up to heavy-hitting box-office runs, there’s still a part of me that wonders just why the hell something that attracts so much attention like this could go so far under the radar? Because even if a movie is bad, it’s not $600,000-bad, right?

Just think of the Drop.

Just think of the Drop.

Well, kind of.

See, the main problem with Child 44 is, despite the onslaught of talent in front of the camera, director Daniel Espinosa and screenwriter Richard Price can’t seem to make up their minds about what they want to do with this movie. Though I’ve never read the novel, I know that it’s quite long novel, and to try and condense it into a two-hour movie, may not have been the best choice – especially since what’s supposed to be the central plot-line of the story (serial killer on the loose), is basically an afterthought. This is alright if Espinosa and Price wanted to focus more on the paranoia that surrounded Russia during this time, but the two don’t even seem that interested in talking about that, either.

Instead, Espinosa is more interested in how bloody and violent he can make some of these sequences, which makes huge sense when you remember that this is the same guy who directed Safe House. That movie, just like this, was helped incredibly by the fact that there was some thought and care put into how the action-sequences were orchestrated and what effect they gave off to the audience; here, they seem spliced in as Espinosa couldn’t control his blood-loving urge. Price, on the other hand, is trying to make something of a meaningful drama, but once he realizes that Espinosa could care less, he basically gives up, too.

So basically, everybody involved with Child 44 gave up about half-way through.

Which would probably be a smart idea for the audience too, however, there seems to be a lot more of an effort from the rest of the cast. The only downside of having a cast this good, in a movie like this, is that they’re all disappointingly saddled with some terrible Russian-accents, which can sometimes vary from being okay, to downright indecipherable. There is some joy to be had in listening to these actors try their hardest to nail down the right tone for their ill-put accents, but it takes away from the movie; there’s so much going on, with random twists, turns and revelations coming at us every second, it’s hard to take note of them when there’s no clue of what the hell anyone is saying to begin with.

Or Lawless.

Or Lawless.

And don’t get me wrong, everybody tries. But when the movie that’s supposed to be aiding them, seems to have no idea of where to go, what’s the point? Tom Hardy seems the most interested out of everyone, and it’s only because of him that this movie stays watchable. While there’s something inherently flawed about how this guy goes through his day-to-day life in such a vicious and inhumane manner, it’s nice to see how he interacts and holds a relationship with his wife, as played by Noomi Rapace. Rapace and Hardy were great together in the Drop, which makes me wonder if they were filming both movies side-by-side and already knew which one to give most of their time and effort to. Though the Drop and Child 44 are two different movies, Hardy and Rapace are easily the main reasons to see both of movies, even if the former is at least four times better than the later.

And everybody else that isn’t Rapace or Hardy are, well, fine. Once again, they’re trying, too, but it goes nowhere to help them. Jason Clarke is in the movie for maybe five minutes and has the worst Russian-accent of them all (so yeah, good riddance); Joel Kinnaman’s character is such a one-note villain that, I imagine, it would have been hard for any skilled-actor to make something interesting out of this character than just a black heart, let alone Detective Holder; Vincent Cassell is, as expected, just evil; Paddy Considine is as weird and twisted as he’s supposed to be; and Gary Oldman shows up as the more sympathetic communist in the movie, even if he gets short-shifted being able to do anything more.

So in other words, watch for Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace. Or, screw this movie altogether and watch a better flick containing the same combo: the Drop.

Or don’t do either. Suit yourself.

Consensus: Child 44, despite boasting an impressive cast, never gets itself together as too many strands of the plot come in, only to fall apart moments later, then start back up after someone’s blood is shed because it’s a movie about Russian communists.

3 / 10

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Or hell, Game of Thrones. Just watch anything else!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Woman in Gold (2015)

The Nazis just can’t help themselves when they see a lovely portrait, apparently.

Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, has stood the test of time and will forever be known as one of the art world’s finest paintings ever created. However, during the Nazis raid on Vienna before WWII, it was confiscated and hidden for many years, all until Austria decided to start showcasing it in is museums. An elderly Holocaust survivor living in Los Angeles by the name of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), notices this and is ashamed. Why? Well, because the subject of that painting was her aunt and she rightfully believes that the painting belongs to her, in the name of her family and late, great aunt. But for some reason, the Austrian government isn’t budging and doesn’t want to give it back, so this is when Maria calls into a son of one of her friends, E. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), who doesn’t seem all that involved with the proceedings to really give all the juice that a high-level case like this would need. However, Maria is inspired enough to try and get him to change his mind so that he will see this is not only her battle, but all of Jewish people’s.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she's astonished by whatever is in front of her.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she’s astonished by whatever is in front of her.

With last year’s the Monuments Men, we got to see the art world portrayed as it almost had never been before: On the gritty and war-torn landscapes of WWII, where people were constantly killing each other left and right, yet, to ensure that a sense of culture would stay alive and well in the years to come, a group of inspired art enthusiasts set out to retrieve pieces of art work that they believed were to be burned away by the Nazis. It was an interesting premise, for sure, and while the movie may have not done it all justice, there was still this intriguing aspect surrounding WWII that isn’t just discussing the obvious; even though everybody is acting in heinous, sadistic ways, that does not mean we have to lose sight of what makes us who we are. And somehow, art is exactly what represents that.

However, this is all just me talking and not at all what this movie discusses. Instead, it has more to do with Maria Altmann, the person, rather than the whole idea that the Nazis stole and most likely destroyed more than half of these foreign countries pieces of art. And for what? Just to prove how mean and grotesque they are? Or was it just to ensure that they would be the tale-tellers of history for generations to come, understand and listen to?

Maybe, maybe not. But hey, look how witty that Maria Altmann was!

Or, at least, that’s what I imagined was going through this movie’s mind as it seems to be more concerned with the lovely, little witticisms Altmann, the character, has to offer. Which is to say that Helen Mirren, for what it’s worth, does a solid job in this role in that she shows us the never ending sadness behind this character that hardly ever seemed to left, even when she did get a chance to escape Vienna and save herself from impending doom. But even with that brave act on her part, still comes the realization that everybody she came to know, love and spend most of her time around in her younger years, are all gone; maybe if they weren’t killed during the Nazis reign, maybe they are now. Maria Altmann is a lonely woman who is literally trying to hold on to whatever source of family or love she has left in her life.

However, this is all me looking deeper and deeper into what is, essentially, a buddy-cop dramedy with Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren; which, trust me, isn’t as fun as I may make it sound. Sure, they fight the baddies (in this case, the Austrian government), they bicker, they solve problems, and along the way, get to know more about each other through revealing conversations about their past or their feelings. All that’s missing is any bit of emotion.

Actually, that’s a lie. Because the only time that there is any emotion at all to be found, is whenever we flashback to Altmann’s life in Vienne, both before, as well as during the time where the Nazis came around and started terrorizing everything and everyone they ran into. There’s a sequence that runs for at least ten to 15 minutes where the younger-Altmann (Tatiana Maslany) and her hubby (Jack Irons) are on the run from the Gestapo, which is thrilling and exciting, even if you don’t expect it to be. Because we know that Altmann ultimately survived escaping from Vienna before the Nazis got to her first, this shouldn’t work one bit, but somehow, it totally does and felt like a solid diversion from whatever the hell Riggs and Murtagh were doing or talking about.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

And I guess there is something to be said by the fact that Reynolds, like Mirren, at least tries with this character, but he isn’t given much of anything else to do except whine a lot and then, seemingly out of nowhere, gain the courage to fight against the Austrian government once and for all. Even Katie Holmes’ performance as his character’s wife, feels like she’s there just to pump him up and give him inspirational pull-quotes that will ultimately do everything for him, but nothing for us. Which is all a problem, especially when you’re begging and pleading with us to be involved with Altmann’s tale of tribulations.

Although Simon Curtis does genuinely seem to care for this story and the outcome of it all, it never seems like he’s putting absolutely all of his heart into it. Instead, he’s just sort of going through the motions of how we’re supposed to feel somewhat compelled by this type of story, until we realize that Curtis himself is using it as material to talk about the fact that there are plenty more paintings out there, either hidden or in plain-view, that were taken away from their rightful owners during the time of war. Once again, this is probably the most interesting notion that the movie seems to highlight, yet, never actually seems to care about.

Instead, he just wants us all to laugh at the cheeky woman that was Maria Altmann, who is about as funny as my alcoholic uncle on New Year’s Eve.

Consensus: Going through all of the motions you expect it to go through, the Woman in Gold seems to suffer from the lack of any sort of emotion, even if both Mirren and Reynolds seem to be digging deep and far to find any of it.

4 / 10

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Imitation Game (2014)

Being liked by others is so overrated.

During WWII, when Britain needed him the most, number-crunching genius Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) stepped up to the plate. However, it wasn’t easy for a fella like him. In Bletchley Park, Turing became involved of a top-secret program where he, as well as a few select others would try to decipher the German’s Enigma Code. Not only would it help them understand what the Nazi’s were going to do next, where and when, but it would also give the British an upper-hand in the war and possibly even allow them to win it. But problems arise with Turing’s personal life, as he’s definitely not well-liked by those he works with and, mostly due to his secretive homosexuality, hardly ever opened-up to those around him. The one exception to his rule was fellow number-cruncher Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley), who Turing develops something of a friendship with, even as hard as it may have been for him. But the fact of the mater remains: There is a war that needs to be fought and won, and Turing was not going to stop one bit in finishing it once and for all. Even if his own life and reputation depended on it.

"Quick! I need a three-letter word for 'being twee'!"

“Quick! I need a three-letter word for ‘being twee’!”

Everything about the Imitation Game screams “Oscar-bait”, and reasonably so. It’s not just produced by the incredibly sneaky and conniving Weinstein’s, but looks and feels just exactly like the King’s Speech. It’s handsomely-made with its production-values matching every single bit of detail it’s mean to portray; features a lead character that has many personal problems that may, or may not, hinder his effectiveness at the job he’s called on to do; and there’s even a female love-interest thrown in the mix as well. Overall, the movie has a very old-fashioned feel to it, that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie I could see with my grand-mom and pop-pop, rather than seeing all by myself, or with my buddies, after we’ve had a few at the local bar.

But that doesn’t necessarily always mean a bad thing – it just means a thing. A movie can absolutely, positively hit every beat you expect to hit, yet, still not be bad. It’s just conventional and easy to predict a mile away. Once again, nothing wrong with that, especially when it’s done in the right way it should be.

And that’s where the Imitation Game works most of its magic – it has an old-time look and feel, but feels like it actually moves along at a fine pace, building both its plot, as well as its characters. Mostly though, it works with the former, in that it develops this lead character, Alan Turing, in a way that’s respectful enough to the history that he holds behind him (and reasonably so), but also shows us that well, yeah, the dude wasn’t perfect and more or less, had many problems that ended up getting in the way of his day-to-day human connections. Didn’t make him a terrible person, but just a person who possibly you, nor I would ever want to get stuck with talking to at a dinner-party.

If it was Benedict Cumberbatch playing any other character, then yeah, I’d totally want to hang out with him all day and night. But as Alan Turning? Sorry, Ben!

But, anyway, like I was saying about Turing here – the way he’s written and developed over time is well-done. We see him in all sorts of shades, and while they all may not be effective in their own ways, they still at least give us a bigger-impression of who this person was and why he matters to any of us, whether we be from Britain, the United States, Germany, or Niagara Falls. The movie definitely spells itself out as being important in nearly every frame, but it never became bothersome to the rest of it; it’s just a story about a person who deserves to be appreciated.

Though, there is something to be said for a movie that clearly wants us to sympathize and even identify with its lead character, yet, have him act in such ways that don’t seem believable, even by today’s society standards. For instance, back in the old days of England, being gay was considered “a crime”. It didn’t matter if you were a nice citizen who paid your taxes, lived a comfortable life and hadn’t done anything bad to anybody, ever; if you were gay, you were considered a bad person who needed to be locked away, or ticked, tooled, and played around with, as a way to hope that the government would be able to “get the gay out of you”. In case you couldn’t tell by my writing, it sounds all so very ridiculous and crazy, but that’s just the way the world was back then and it’s the way we, as a society, have to live with in knowing and understand as fact. Doesn’t mean we can’t move on from it and grow as a better, more well-adjusted society, but it also doesn’t mean that we have to forget about it neither and act as if it never existed in the first place.

What bothers me though about the way Turing’s written here, is that they make him out to be a guy who not only seemed like he had relatively serious case of Aspergers, but was openly letting people know that he was a homosexual, if push ever came to shove. My problem with this wasn’t that he told people and they were mostly fine with it, but it was more that he was telling people about it in the first place, even if it meant he would be locked away and possibly drugged-up for the rest of his entire life. This isn’t mean throwing out my own personal opinion, because it feels and reads-off as phony, especially given that the rest of the movie wants to be seen as something of a history-lesson.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soliders in this scene.

I could only imagine the total of men and women who auditioned for the roles as the soldiers in this scene.

The bits and pieces about Turing actually cracking the code, what he and the rest of his crew had to do with that code, and for how long, were very interesting and seem like they’re trying more to actually inform the audience about history, much rather than actually give them an interesting, compelling story. It works as being such, to be honest, but for the most part, it feels and reads-off as being pretty legitimate and interesting. However, while the other bits and pieces about Turing’s personal life and how those around him approached it, while interesting at first, slowly dissolved into seeming unreasonable and almost like a liberal’s apology for all of the bad things the past had done to certain people of a certain group/demographic. It didn’t fit right with me and made the movie as a whole, feel like it was just taking a lot of liberties with its story.

That said, where the movie got very interesting was whenever it portrayed the relationship between Turing and his possible love-interest, Joan Clark. Though the movie has a bit of a hard time portraying someone as beautiful and charming as Keira Knightley as “plain”, it still gets by on showing how these two interact with one another, why there’s something of an attraction between the two, and why it’s a total shame that they can’t be together in an acceptable way. They both clearly have an attraction to one another, even if it isn’t simply by attraction. Knightley also does a solid job with a character who feels like she’s trying so very hard to be accepted from her male counter-parts, but ends up being a sweet, somewhat sad girl who just wants to be loved, even if it isn’t in the most ideal way imaginable.

Just anything would suffice for her and because she’s such a bundle of joy, it would suffice for us, too.

Problem with Knightley being so good here, with such a small-role, it makes Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Turing seem a bit one-note, although that’s maybe not fully his fault. The way Turing is written here is to be made out like some sort of weirdo, who doesn’t communicate with those he’s supposed to be communicating with, and even when he does, doesn’t know how to do so in an normal manner. Sometimes, it seems like he has Aspergers, other times, it seems like he as Autism. And while the movie never fully says what Turing’s problem was when it came to socializing, it still feels like the kind of character we’re supposed to be rooting wholeheartedly for, yet, we never get the chance to understand well enough to do so. That doesn’t mean Cumberbatch isn’t good in this role, it’s just a shame that he wasn’t given a whole lot more meat to chew on.

All in all though, what the Imitation Game is, is a tribute to the legend of Alan Turing. A man who deserves to be known by many more people and here’s to hoping that maybe this movie will give everybody a chance to. Even if, you know, a Wikipedia read will probably do some a lot more justice.

Consensus: While ordinary and by-the-numbers, the Imitation Game still presents an interesting enough view into the life of a man people should know more about, regardless of whether or not he’s portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more computer-devices.

Pretty much Sherlock. Except with more shirts and ties.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Scoop (2006)

People love their magic, like they love their murder. That’s something people say, right?

Up-and-coming American journalist Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johansson) gets the story of a lifetime when deceased journalist Joe Strombel (Ian McShane) somehow contacts her from the afterlife. The story goes like this: He knows that this wealthy, very powerful man Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman) is the man behind all of these brutal murders that have been occurring around England and granting him the nick-name, “the Tarot Card Killer”. Though Sondra is slightly hesitant at first to believe in this, she takes the bait anyway and gets a local magician (Woody Allen) to join her. Together, they’ll pretend to be a father-daughter combo and try to win over the heart of Peter Lyman, while simultaneously looking for any clues, hints, or pieces of evidence they can find to make this story big and at least somewhat “legitimate”. But as time goes on, and the rouse gets to be a bit tiring, Sondra begins to fall for Peter, and even entertain the idea that he may in fact be the killer. This is not an idea the magician wants to put to rest, but it may be too late.

It’s kind of a known fact that despite Woody Allen being able to release a movie, just about every year, they’re not always amazing. And now that the guy’s getting way up there in age, the moments where he strikes gold are becoming more and more rare. Therefore, it’s up to us as an audience to appreciate all of the work that he does, because even though Woody Allen may not make great movies all of the time, a not-so good Woody Allen movie, is still way better than your usual, average bad movie.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

Aussies: They sure do clean up nice.

But somehow, this is the one that’s right on the verge of being considered “crap”, to being just “meh”.

And that’s not to say that this is Woody’s worst flick I’ve seen of his (Cassandra’s Dream was pretty god-awful), but it’s his most recent that I’ve seen of his that’s left me wondering just where all of his creativity and energy went. Surely he could have come up with something more than just a normal story about a journalist falling in love with her subject, while a murder-mystery occurs on the side? Maybe he was trying to hint at the idea of irony and how sometimes, things we don’t expect to happen, or better yet, people we don’t expect to act a certain way, do happen/act that way? Or maybe, he was trying to harmonize on the importance of life and how we all should savor it while we still can?

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m giving the guy a bit too much credit here. Because yes, even though this movie is not terrible, it still seems like Woody’s retreading on familiar waters. We’ve already seen Woody Allen make fun of the rather snobbish upper-class in Small Time Crooks, so whenever Woody takes it upon himself to make a few wisecracks towards them as a whole, it not only feels like he’s just yucking it up for no good reason, but also that he’s running out of ideas to write about or even explore. Even the lead Sondra Pransky, is basically just the female version of him and how he acts.

That’s not to say that ScarJo isn’t fine with this impersonation of sorts, it’s just that she’s just sort of there to take up a role that could have easily been done by Woody himself; although, to be honest, it would have been strange to see him constantly flirting and making out with the buff and macho Hugh Jackman. Then again though, it’s never too late to try something new out every so often!

And although I do kid around here and get on Woody’s case a bit, he’s sort of the best part about it. He’s quintessential Woody Allen and that’s always a pleasure to watch on the big screen, especially since all he does is act like a cynical, miserable bastard, yet, still be able to show some compassion towards those around him that treat him well. He had me laughing on more than a few occasions and it’s just goes to show you that it doesn’t matter how old Woody may get, the guy’s a charming little fella that seems to always play to his strengths and have himself coming out on top.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s selfish or anything, because Woody is more than welcome to giving the rest of his cast their own opportunities to shine, but none of them really leave as much of an impact as he does. Like I mentioned before, ScarJo is fine at playing a lovely-looking nerd that not only gets up swept up in the idea of love and romance, but even gets to forget who she is at one point. This was, of course, before Johansson became a dependable, respectable name in the business, so there are a few rough patches here and there, but most of that, I think, has more to do with some of the awkward-phrasing of the script and the lines she’s given, where she’s made to sound like Woody Allen, but just can’t pull that off perfectly.

I'm sorry. You were saying?

I’m sorry. You were saying?

Then again, nobody really can. That’s why we have Woody Allen in the first place.

Also, it was nice to see Hugh Jackman be the dashing man that he is and show us that even though there’s a lot mystery surrounding who he really is, you yourself can’t help but be charmed by his lovely ways. Makes it a lot easier to sympathize with our lead once she gets swept up in his life, but also makes you forget that he could be the prime suspect in this murder case after all. Ian McShane is also given a relatively major role as the deceased journalist who gives Pransky the story hints in the first place and is fine with what he has to do, but it’s pretty disappointing just to see him show up every once and awhile, say something vague and literally then disappear into thin air, because, well, he’s dead and the Grim Reaper doesn’t like it when dead people come back and talk to those who are living.

Honestly, now that I think about it, I would have much rather liked to seen a movie where the Grim Reaper himself and Ian McShane squared-off, mono-e-mono. Written and directed by Woody Allen, of course. The one and only.

Consensus: Not Woody Allen’s best, nor his worst, Scoop is rather pleasing because of its cast, but feels like a tired and tried piece of material that we’ve seen Allen himself do much too often in far better films of his own.

5 / 10 =  Rental!!

"I hate the media. All they do is get on people's cases. Like, I don't know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter."

“I hate the media. All they do is get on people’s cases. Like, I don’t know, say if a guy starts going out with his adopted-daughter.”

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Swimming Pool (2003)

All would have been fine, had there been a lifeguard on duty.

British mystery writer Sarah Morton (Charlotte Rampling) has hit a creative blockade where she doesn’t know what the hell to do with her next novel, and as a result, finds her life spinning out of control. That’s why when her publisher (Charles Dance) decides to let her use his French country house for solitude and inspiration, she jumps on the opportunity right away. And it’s great for her as soon as she gets there: She’s settled in, relaxed, drinking, eating, flirting with local waiters, and best of all, writing pages for her next big novel. Whatever that novel may be about, is a total mystery and that’s how she intends to keep it. So when her publisher’s daughter, the young and vibrant Julie (Ludivine Sagnier), crashes the house and decides to hang around, Sarah’s left befuddled; she’s upset that Julie is around and ruining her peace and quiet, but she still can’t kick her out because, technically, it’s her house. So basically, Sarah just decides to stick with it and be as peaceful as she can be sharing the same house with Julie, as hard as that may be. Somehow too, she also finds inspiration for writing through Sarah’s life, which has a strange way of sometimes spilling out from the page, into their real-lives.

Plenty has been made about Swimming Pool, which is all due to the twist ending. I knew this going in and needless to say, I don’t understand what all of the fuss is about. I get that it’s a vague, ambiguous ending that pulls the rug from underneath us, just as soon as we think we’re all fine, dandy and safe, but then again, so is the whole movie.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Looks like the only women I take home from the bars. Except less attractive and less French. Actually, just less of everything.

Co-writer and director Francois Ozon wants us to believe that everything we’re seeing is straight-forward, natural and actually happening in real life; however, what we don’t know is that he’s sometimes playing a trick on us. However, sometimes, he isn’t. That’s the beauty of Ozon’s direction and I like how it’s never a clear-cut solution to whatever our questions may be while watching this. Is everything we’re seeing real? Or, is it just a bunch of fantasy-sequences tied together through a story of an old lady wanting to get a new book for her publisher?

Honestly, we may never, ever know the truth. But there’s some fun in that, isn’t there?

Anyway, all that shish-gab-bob aside, the movie itself is a fine thriller, with and without all of the twists and turns. See, because Ozon’s direction is a tricky one to say the least, we’re constantly left wondering what’s happening, and whether or not it’s actually real. For awhile, that’s fun to play around with, all until it becomes a gimmick that Ozon himself latches onto a bit much. But, as soon as it seems like he’s just constantly beating a dead horse, Ozon does something neat in that he makes this more of a character-study of our main “protagonist”, Sarah Morton.

See, what’s cool about Sarah Morton is that we get to see an old, crabby woman who clearly doesn’t like talking to others, nor being disturbed. But by the same token, she wants to feel appreciated, loved and beheld. This is clearly evident early on when we are introduced to her character by a fan saying that she not only recognizes Morton, but even asks her a question about the novel itself. Morton, as shrewd as she can possibly be, denies being that writer the fan knows she is and just leaves the conversation. Moments later, she shows up to her publisher’s office, and seems like she totally needs a hug, as well as some comfort from the rest of the world.

So, there’s two ways of going about it with this character: Either she’s a total stuck-up, snobby, old witch? Or, she’s just an old lady that doesn’t have much going for her life, is pissed that she can’t write her next “masterpiece”, and is at a bit of a crossroads, per se?

What Ozon does is that he shows her off as both sides, and through this vacation-away at this French country house, we get to see certain layers of Morton in ways that I didn’t expect. Most of that has to do with the way this character is written, but most of it also has to do with the way in which Charlotte Rampling plays her. In case you don’t know by now, Rampling’s a great actress; she has that resting bitch-face going for her, yet, when she branches out and wants to have fun, you can’t help but smile and feel happy for her. That’s why when I knew Rampling was in this movie, playing Sarah Morton, I thought it was a perfect bit of casting.

However, as the story develops, and there’s more shading done to Morton, we realize that there’s more to Morton than just an old lady who can’t have fun, or have a peaceful conversation with anyone around her. She’s just an old lady who wants peace, quiet and relaxation, and when she does in fact get that, she’s as happy as she possibly can be. So through Morton, we not only get an interesting portrait of a trouble, somewhat unlikable character, but we get to see a female character, in the lead role that’s never really judged in any way. Which, considering some of the choices Morton makes throughout this movie, is saying a whole lot and is really accredited to Ozon’s direction and how he just lets the story play out, without trying too hard for much of anything.

"She's right behind me isn't she? Sheeeit."

“She’s right behind me isn’t she? Sheeeit.”

And that’s not to say that Rampling just completely owns this movie the only way she knows how to do, because Ludivine Sagnier is also very good as Julie. For some, it may help that she’s practically nude for the whole movie, but for other, less-perverted viewers, Sagnier does something well in the way that she’s able to give us the simple cliche of the young, brash, sexually-energized, and troubled-girl that we see so often, and allow her to branch out more as a girl who can take care of herself on more than a few occasions.

In a way too, as much as this may be a mystery-thriller, it’s also a bit of a psychological-thriller because of the mind games these two play on one another. Sure, Rampling and Sagnier work well together, despite their clear differences, but what makes them so interesting to watch, is that their characters have both appreciation, as well as resentment for one another. Morton is an old, somewhat miserable lady that seems like she never likes fun; whereas Julie can’t help but have fun all of the time, even if that means being constantly naked and banging any guy that takes one look at her body in a sexual-way. The two clash heads on more than a couple occasions, but it’s never over-played to where you see the strings – it’s all hinted at, and as a result, it’s something to think about and chew on for quite awhile.

Even if that ending may still piss some of you off.

Consensus: Though it’s disguised a thriller full of all sorts of twists and turns, Swimming Pool is also a fascinating thriller, pitting two completely different characters against one another in a way that some won’t expect to see happen, nor end the way it does, as ambiguous as it may be.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Old vs. new. Who ya got?

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Your Highness (2011)

Weed + Swords = Kind of fun.

Your Highness is about a wayward prince (Danny McBride), his slightly less wayward brother (James Franco) and a warrior princess (Natalie Portman) out to save them from themselves. The blue-blooded slackers embark on a quest to save their father’s kingdom from doom, encountering sorcerers, dragons and Zooey Deschanel along the way.

If you think it’s been awhile since the last “big” stoner comedy, well smoke em if you get em for this film that reunites some of the crew from Pineapple Express. Trust me, it’s not that funny.

The one thing about most stoner comedies is that if their funny if you aren’t baked, because no matter what, everything is almost going to be funny when your high. I went with my good friend Bill who smoked before seeing this and he had a good time, he just didn’t think the weed really did anything for him, and he wished it was actually a lot funnier for non-smoking, and smoking members of the audience. I couldn’t have said it any better.

Most of the dialogue is improvised so therefore from all of these raunch kings we get a lot of swearing, dick jokes, homoerotic gags, and barely any medieval dialogue. I thought most of this was funny and I chuckled at it, however the jokes were pretty in-your-face about it, and it kind of got annoying. Many of the jokes actually could have been better here too if they actually wrote some of them down, instead of just letting this cast just curse non-stop. Honestly a curse word, when used right, is very funny. However, if you keep on doing it all the time for laughs, and putting one in almost every single other sentence, it becomes an annoyance and just makes your writing seem lazy.

Writer/director David Gordon Green of Pineapple Express, does a good job here of making believable set pieces and adding a lot of fun action here too keep us entertained. My main problem with this film is that he doesn’t keep our full attention on this film, and I really did find myself lost within a lot of dry spots where barely any comedy was happening, as well as any action. Maybe, just maybe the special effects could have been a little bit better too, but that’s just me being nit-picky.

The cast for the most part is pretty good. Danny McBride is hilarious here as Thadeous and brings out the most humorous and well-deserved laughs. His character seems like the only real human here, and McBride has the signature “real guy” attitude that has us believe that. James Franco plays Fabious who is very funny here saying outrageous things, while keeping a straight face. Natalie Portman is also pretty bad-ass as Isabel, and although she isn’t do anything remarkable here, Portman can still show she can play that bad, sexy type well. Zooey Deschanel actually received a top-billing for this movie but is underused and I feel like they could have used more of her quirkiness to really benefit this film. Others in the cast that do a fine job are Justin Theroux, Toby Jones, and Charles Dance.

Consensus: There are moments where you will laugh, and the action with the cast will have you enjoyed, but the non-consistent laughs, as well as the problems with the screenplay (if there is one), make this a slight fun, unmemorable stoner comedy that you’ll have some fun regardless of being baked or not.

5.5/10=Rental!!