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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Charlize Theron

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Were the 80’s really all that cool?

Agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) can take care of herself, regardless of if she’s on a mission or not. She kicks ass, takes names, and doesn’t really give a flyin’ hoot about authority, or who exactly she’s pissing off – in other words, she’s the total bad-ass. And she’s got a new mission somewhere in Berlin, where she’ll be sent alone to retrieve a priceless dossier from within the city, that is already going through its own changes, what with the Berlin Wall being prepared to being taken down and ripped apart. While there, she partners with station chief David Percival (James McAvoy), to help get her up and around Berlin, as well as clue her into who is to trust, and who isn’t. However, it becomes very clear to Lorraine that it doesn’t matter who you think you can trust, because you can’t trust a single person. Not even a fellow agent from Paris (Sofia Boutella), who may mean well, but also may have some dirty little secrets that she’s hiding from Lorraine, for the sake of her own agenda. Basically, it a cold, rough game of spies-versus-spies and we’re all just sitting by and watching it.

Uh, yeah. I’m going to leave this one alone and let it speak for itself.

Atomic Blonde absolutely wreaks and oozes with so much style, that it works despite itself. It’s the kind of movie that definitely tries so very hard to be “hip and cool”, but in a retro, 80’s-glam kind of way that eventually, you just sort of have to understand that that’s what it’s going for, accept it for what it is, and actually enjoy it. After all, it’s a movie set in the 80’s and feels like it could have been made in that decade, what with the glitzy, bright, flashy colors, talk of spies, Communists, and oh yeah, the New Wave tunes.

Oh man, the New Wave tunes. How could one forget?

Anyway, director David Leitch keeps with the spirit of the graphic novels here and it’s a smart move on his take, because Atomic Blonde, for all its plot issues, never takes itself too seriously. It’s a cold, dark, menacing, and sometimes brutally violent movie, but its tongue is placed firmly in its cheek and it never seems to forget that fact; the fact that we actually have a movie as violent as this, that’s also still able to crack jokes, is a surprise, considering the market for these kinds of movies seems to have been cornered by Tarantino. But nope, thankfully Leitch doesn’t forget where the story and style came from and yes, it helps this sometimes bitter pill go down easily.

Oh and of course, the action. Man, oh man, the action. Leitch is a smart director of action because he knows that in order for the violence/action to be grueling and compelling, well, we actually have to see it. All of the constant craziness of the shaky-cam doesn’t do anything else but cause constant headaches and confusion – sometimes, seeing someone get shot in the face, or kicked in the balls, without any jumping or crazy editing, makes a movie all the more fun. And with Atomic Blonde, there’s plenty of shooting, punching, kicking, bleeding, falling, and death, but because we can see it all, it’s a lot more fun and actually makes you feel it.

And yes, we can easily talk about the 8-minute or so sequence in which Charlize Theron literally goes around a stair-well, kicking a bunch of dudes asses in what appears to be a single-shot sequence. It’s clearly edited in a way to make you think that, but that’s besides the point: The point is that the action works and that’s all it needed to.

Clearly shot around the same time as Split. And yes, someone forgot to tell McAvoy.

And because of the action, the movie’s better off, because the story isn’t quite helping.

Of course, these kinds of spy-thrillers are best known for their MacGuffin premises, where an agent has to get something, from someone dangerous, in an even far more dangerous place, but that’s why the simplicity works so well. We’re used to it and not asked to care all that much about everything else. Atomic Blonde, in a way, sort of gets this wrong and sort of can’t seem to come up with a solid plot-line, mission, or even characters to fully help it out. Theron is a total and absolute bad-ass as Lorraine, but even she feels a little short-sighted; it’s as if the character was only given bullet-points of development on purpose for the sole sake of getting a sequel.

Still, Theron’s good at what she does here and one of the better actresses today who can make a lot of the silly dialogue, work. Other actors like James McAvoy and Sofia Boutella, while definitely talented, also feel like they don’t get a whole lot of time to fully develop, or go beyond the surface. Even Toby Jones and John Goodman, who spend most of the movie sitting at a desk and just spouting exposition, still feel a little more developed in their laid-back, grizzled ways – the others, not so much and it’s a shame. Perhaps, if the sequels do come around, we’ll get more.

Until then, who knows. Just watch and enjoy the ass-kickery.

Consensus: With so much style and action on frequent-display, Atomic Blonde is fun and consistently entertaining, even if it definitely needed some help on its script.

7 / 10

Do your thing, Charlize!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex.com

Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

Dark Places (2015)

When you bring Satan into any equation, chances are, it’s going to get crazy.

Many years after the rest of her family was killed by her older brother (Corey Stoll), Libby Day (Charlize Theron) is left very screwed-up. While she seems to be getting by, her memory still haunts her to this day and remains one of the reasons people only approach her nowadays. That’s why when a true crime lover (Nicholas Hoult) finds her and offers her a chance to share her accounts of the story, she’s initially against it, but realizes that she could use the money. While she’s remembering the case though, she soon starts to see the case a whole lot clearer now, where it may possibly turn out her poor brother didn’t actually commit the murders in the first place, and maybe, just maybe, it was somebody else. However, in order to get to those answers, Libby has to go back into time a bit, rehash some old wounds, and go back to those people who she’d much rather forget. And heck, even in some cases, they wished the same thing, too.

I'd allow for Christina Hendricks to sit at my dinner-table any day. She can't be my mom, though.

I’d allow for Christina Hendricks to sit at my dinner-table any day. She can’t be my mom, though.

With the huge success of Gone Girl, there’s a high demand for whatever Gillian Flynn can put out next and that’s both a blessing and a curse. Mostly, it’s a blessing if your name is David Fincher, however, if not, then mostly, it’s a curse. And no offense to writer/director Gilles Paquet-Brenner, but he’s no David Fincher. Someone who isn’t easy to be, I understand, but at the same time, it’s hard not to make a comparison when a movie such as this comes out and is easily trying to be a little hard to be like a much better, more entertaining movie.

And there’s the main problem that sets Dark Places aside from Gone Girl.

While I know it’s hard to expect a movie about a murdered family-members, Satanists, and the wrongfully convicted, there’s still something to be said for a movie like Gone Girl, where a dark and eerie premise, was still made watchable due to the fact that it was pulp cinema at its finest. It wasn’t just a quick and exciting movie, but it also felt like it didn’t take itself seriously enough to where you had to feel depressed afterwards; it’s all about murder, adultery, marriage, divorce, and crime, but at the same time, it’s still an incredibly entertaining movie.

Dark Places is a lot more serious than that movie, and as a result, is a whole lot more drab and meandering. Paquet-Brenner makes it seem like he’s really trying to aim for some sort of broken-heart at the center of this story, but what ultimately happens, is nothing. We never get to learn more about any of these characters than what’s presented to us on the surface, and when it comes down to who gets more focus, either the plot or the characters, the former most certainly wins out. Not that paying attention to a plot is a bad thing to have within a movie, but there needs to be engaging and compelling characters to help aid that premise along – something that Paquet-Brenner seems interested in trying to create, but doesn’t quite deliver on.

And it’s a huge shame too, considering that the ensemble here is pretty impressive.

I'm glad he's at least got facial hair, and not whatever the hell they're making him wear on his head in the Strain.

I’m glad he’s at least got facial hair, and not whatever the hell they’re making him wear on his head in the Strain.

Of course Charlize Theron can play this strong, but emotionally-unstable characters to a T by now, and her performance as Libby is no different. However, the role still feels so thinly-written for her, that it gets to become a bit of a bore, not to mention the fact that the movie tries incredibly hard to make us forget that it’s super model Charlize Theron we’re looking at here. I know that Monster did the same thing, but the make-up was so good, that it never once shot into my brain; Dark Places, instead, just throws jeans, caps, and sweaty shirts onto her, as if a way to over-compensate that they cast someone incredibly good-looking in a role as a tomboy.

And then, if casting Theron in a lame role wasn’t enough of a crime, then to have the likes of Nicholas Hoult, Corey Stoll, Christina Hendricks, Chole Grece Moretz, and Drea de Matteo be given the same problems, makes it all the worse. While Hendricks seems to get the meatier role of the bunch, her character goes through so many twists and turns at the end that it’s hard to keep up with who she is, what’s happening, and what is making her act the way she is. In all honesty, I saw her play a mom better in Lost River – a movie that clearly couldn’t give a crap if she existed or not.

And if your movie is already lacking in certain departments that Lost River had, you know you’re in trouble.

The only cast-member I left out of that long list of names who get screwed over by Dark Places poor-scripting, is Tye Sheridan, another young actor who seems to be more than just the real deal nowadays. Sheridan may be given the generic role of the angst-fueled teen, but he does wonders with it and shows that there’s more to this character than may be shown initially. Maybe he’s not a psycho, and more or less, just a kid who has some issues with girls and doesn’t know how to express himself in an understandable manner without acting-out or harming somebody in the process. In most ways, he’s like most ordinary teens and it’s interesting to see how this movie approaches that subject, even if, once again, it’s clearly more concerned the going-ons of what’s occurring with the mystery at the center. And honestly, there’s not much of a mystery to begin with. Once we see Moretz’s character acting all wild and insane, it becomes clear that she has something to do with it – it’s all just a matter of when.

Like, for instance, when the movie finally ends and you can go on back to re-watching Gone Girl for the 80th time.

Consensus: Despite the talented cast on-display, Dark Places is nothing more than a boring, uneventful, and uninteresting mystery-drama that has a whole bunch of twists and turns to boot, but nobody to really care about.

2.5 / 10

Yeah, totally not this girl.

Yeah, totally not this woman.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Let’s hope the real Earth doesn’t actually run out of water.

In the distant, post-apocalyptic future, where mostly all resources have dried-up, a tyrannical cult leader named King Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) practically runs a whole region of the desert. People obey his each and every order, even when he seems to be robbing them of such goods like water or oil. Though mostly everybody follows Joe, there’s at least one outsider by the name of Max (Tom Hardy); an ex-cop who follows his own sets of rules and guidelines, even though it eventually gets him kidnapped by one of Joe’s trusted minions (Nicholas Hoult). But for Joe to keep his legacy running, he’s kept a good amount of “wives” – one of whom is actually carrying his child. To transport these wives to a safer, better place, Joe has called upon his most trusted worker, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), who decides that she’s about had it with Joe’s ways and sets out on an adventure to take the wives elsewhere, where they won’t be treated as property, and can live on in perfect peace and harmony – something that doesn’t seem to be found too often in this world. Somehow though, the plans go awry and Max ends up tagging along with the group, and, needless to say, shit gets crazy.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the original Mad Max movies. While that’s not to say that I don’t find them at all enjoyable, which I do, it’s more that I feel like they’re a bunch of good ideas wasted on an smaller, 80’s-era budget. Sure, it’s a sign of the times, but considering George Miller could have made way more insane, over-the-top movies, had he been given a relatively meatier budget/resources to work with, then there’d be more to rant on and rave about with those movies. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I despise those movies in any fashion, it’s just that they could have been so much more.

What? He's not handsome-as-'eff or anything.....

What? He’s not handsome-as-‘eff or anything…..

Something that Mad Max: Fury Road is, and then some.

With this reboot of sorts, George Miller finally gets his chance to play with any toys he so desires. Whereas in the past, he was limited by what he can spend excess amounts of money and time on, Fury Road feels like Miller was finally given the opportunity of his life time; have a great time, do it with as much money and freedom as possible, and also, most surprisingly, get a chance to tell the same story over again. Given that technology has advanced over the past few decades, there’s a lot more neat things that Miller is able to do – now certain ideas that were deemed “insane” from the earlier movies, he now gets to do, but even more so.

What I’m trying to get across here is that Fury Road, for all it’s worth, is the kind of summer blockbuster any person could ask for. Not only is it fun, but it’s the kind of movie that’s so strange, so out-of-this-world, and so barbaric in every sense, that it’s actually kind of “cool”. No longer does the Mad Max franchise feel like it’s something that can only be enjoyed by a legion of cultees that are willing to admit that they’re fans in public – now, everybody gets a chance to enjoy Mad Max, the character, the world he’s placed into, and all of the crazy shit that surrounds it, and not feel weird. One could say that this is a disappointing sign of something that was so beloved and held sacred by a select few, going “mainstream”, and they may be true. However, another one could say that this is just a sign of something being made for a select few, being made for everyone and if that means we get more movies after this Mad Max, where creativity and oddness is embraced, rather than looked down upon from the masses, then I myself am totally for that.

I as much as the next person like to be weird and have my weird things for my own-self, but if that selfishness comes at a cost of not getting more of that, then I’m totally cool with it being passed onto others. So much so as the makers stay true to the original personality that made me love its weirdness so much in the first place. And even though I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I wasn’t quite “in love” with the Mad Max franchise before this, I still knew that it held much promise, had it been made in today’s day and age of film making.

A promise that, thankfully, was kept and acted upon.

Though I am definitely fine with saying that this movie’s a fun time and that you should definitely believe all of the overwhelming hype surrounding it, there is still a part of me that feels like certain parts of it could have been given a second look. Certain elements about the plot that aren’t ever made fully clear to us, that definitely should have to give the audience a better understanding of what’s at-stake and what’s next to come, would have definitely helped. It’s understandable that these women are all getting taken away from bad leader Joe, but where exactly are they going? Better yet, why are they going? We see how Joe acts towards most of the residents who live in his paradise of sorts, but we hardly see how he acts towards his wives, nor is it easy to make sense of why they so desperately need to get away from him and the world they are surrounded by.

Be careful who you break up with, Sean Penn.

Be careful who you break up with, Sean Penn.

Whereas this would have made any other action movie feel like a total waste of time, with Mad Max, from what I’ve been gathering reading about it from so many other people, it’s being glossed over. Why? Well, that’s because Fury Road is exceptionally wild, nuts and fun, where it takes so much time and effort to pay attention to what’s it doing to have you entertained, rather than paying attention to the details. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to get on a movie’s case for giving me an incomprehensible plot that, in hindsight, doesn’t make much sense, or even seems like it wants to, but there’s just something I wanted to address.

Once again though, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Fury Road is a very fun movie, nor does it take away from the fact that the characters are really well-done, despite them being as thin as the plot they’re working with.

Some people may be disappointed with the fact that Tom Hardy doesn’t speak too much here as the titular Max, but that works so well for him here – not because Max himself doesn’t need much explanation as to why he is the way he is, but because Hardy is such a compelling presence, that he doesn’t even need to speak to get people on-edge. He just needs to stand there, stare into space, and already, you’re hooked. Hardy has that certain aura about him that makes every scene he’s in, all the better and more thrilling, and here, he gets to portray plenty of that.

However, the one who may have one-upped him here is Charlize Theron as the absolute bad-ass, take-no-names, but also humane heroine Furiosa. A lot has been said about how Fury Road represents a very feminist-stance on the action genre, and while I don’t think that this is something that necessarily holds true, I still can’t get past the fact that the strongest character written here, both literally and figuratively, is a women. Granted, it helps that Furiosa is played by the very tall, slender and demanding presence of Theron, but it also helps that Furiosa has a reason for acting the way she does and it’s not made to be a certain point that Miller has been holding close to his heart and has been wanting to express for so long. That Furiosa wants to help these women because she wants them to be happy and not made an item of some maniacal leader, gives the character some semblance of complexity.

And well, also the fact that Charlize Theron can kick anybody’s ass, man, woman, or thing, it doesn’t matter.

Consensus: Wacky, wild, over-the-top, campy, but most of all, exciting and fun-as-hell, Mad Max: Fury Road represents everything that should be great with summer blockbusters, but so rarely do they actually become.

8.5 / 10

Dirty Aussies! Take a shower will ya!

Dirty Aussies! Take a shower, will ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Cider House Rules (1999)

Abortion, incest and ether – oh my!

Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is a young man who, for as long as he can remember, grew up in an orphanage. He was given to it when he was just a baby and taken in twice, but rejected and sent back both times, leaving the head of the orphanage, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), to take him in and teach him everything he needs to know about being a doctor. And by “everything”, I do mean, everything. See, the orphanage is more than just a place where a bunch of kids without any family run around, live in and wait to be adopted by curious families, because Dr. Larch himself actually allows there’s certain people to come in who want an abortion, which, way back when in the 40’s, was downright illegal. One couple in particular is Candy Kendall (Charlize Theron) and her soldier boyfriend (Paul Rudd), who interest Homer so much that he decides to leave with them and see what plan life has set for him next. Somehow though, that plan ends up being on an apple-picking farm, where he encounters all sorts of characters and even falls in love, although the happiness he feels, may not be the same for those that he left behind in the orphanage. Especially not Dr. Larch.

Director Lasse Hallström really did concoct a neat little trick here with the Cider House Rules – while the movie, on the surface, may appear to be an old-timey tale about exploring the world around you and all of the other possibilities, deep down inside, it’s a dark, somewhat rather disturbing tale about being lonely in a world, not knowing where to go with it next and how decisions we make, don’t just affect us for a short time being, but for the rest of our lives. Oh, and there’s a lot of abortions, too; which, to me, was shocking for the longest time in how Hallström presents this as something “illegal”, yet, thankfully doesn’t go any further into that fact and just lets it sit there. Almost as if it’s a fact of life that some people make, and others don’t.

Like everybody's favorite Robin said: Chicks really do dig the car.

Like everybody’s favorite Robin said: Chicks really do dig the car.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this movie surprised me once I really what it was actually all about, and also, what I was to expect from the rest of where it was going to go.

But there’s a slight problem with Hallström’s direction, and it’s not in the way that he pictures this story. In fact, quite the opposite – I loved the look of this movie. Not only does it have that old-timey look and feel that we’d get from a movie that was filmed in the 40’s, but the fact that it’s set in the rural lands of Maine makes it feel like something of its own nature (pun intended). In this part of Maine, people sort of go about, do and say as they please. There isn’t much of a hustle and bustle like there is in the city, nor is there a real sense of community like there can be in the suburbs. It’s just a bunch of people, separated from one another, who continue to live on in their own, sometimes secluded lives. Not only does that make it seem like Maine is an essential setting for this kind of story, but that it also gives us an even larger feeling of the loneliness sometimes felt from these characters; a point that this movie doesn’t drive home as much as it totally should have.

That said though, Hallström doesn’t get everything right, and that has more to do with the fact that the movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a real dark and heavy drama you’d see on AMC, or maybe even HBO, or a schmaltzy, sentimental piece of melodrama that you’d probably catch on the Lifetime, or Hallmark channel, had you been flipping through the tube. And because of that, the movie feels disjointed; there are plenty of moments in which a character will reveal something nasty or cruel that they did, but the next second later, we’ll get a montage of Tobey Maguire and Charlize Theron frolicking and cuddling in the woods. It makes you wonder who Hallström was trying to please here?

Was he going for the sappy, feel-good vibe that most families want to see, especially around the holidays (when this was released)? Or, does he want to have us think about our own lives and shed some light on the fact that what we think is out there, doesn’t really need to be seen at all? In a way, Hallström tries to have it both ways and it doesn’t always work. Sure, it’s an interesting piece that makes you wonder what would have happened to the final product, had Hallström and writer John Irving (original writer of the book, too) been on the same page the whole entire time (pun intended).

Because not only does it affect the tone of the movie, but it also has the cast feel slightly awkward in certain places where they shouldn’t. Michael Caine won an Oscar for his work here as the realistic-thinking, ether-inhaling Dr. Wilbur Larch, and though he is good, there’s a good portion of this movie in which he doesn’t even show up, leaving you to wonder just what the hell is he up to and why couldn’t we have had just a tad bit more time with him before we had to set off into the rest of the world. Even Tobey Maguire, despite being quite subtle in the only way he knows how to be (sometimes too much so), feels like the sort of character that lingers from place to place, doesn’t really have much of an emotional center, and is there for us to just see what he sees and experience whatever the heck it is that he experiences. Maguire has done this sort of role before and he’s fine with it here, but it still seems like there could have been more done to this character that would have made him somebody else other than just a “protected young guy who wants to see the world”.

Uh oh. Tobey's sad. I think we all know what's coming next.

Uh oh. Tobey’s sad. I think we all know what’s coming next.

The supporting players are better-off, considering that they aren’t paid attention to nearly as much, but even then, some just feel like window-dressing. Charlize Theron does a fine job as the Candy, the girl that eventually becomes the object of Homer’s affection, and while it’s easy to see why she is in fact the one he goes after, we don’t really get to know much more about her, other than that she likes a good time and a nice hump or two; Paul Rudd does some rare dramatic-work here as the boyfriend and isn’t around much to really show his chops off, but is charming enough that we feel bad for him when Homer starts banging his girl; and honestly, it was a shame to see two wonderful actresses like Jane Alexander and Kathy Baker be reduced to playing the “old, yet, sweet orphanage nurses”, whereas we all know they could have definitely done some real damage with a script that serviced them better.

But the one who really walks away with this movie and actually left something of an impression on me is a favorite of mine, Delroy Lindo. Lindo plays the head honcho of the workers from the apple-picking farm known as Mr. Rose and while, on the surface, everything seems all kosher and pleasant with this guy, deep down inside, we begin to find out that there’s something very wrong with him indeed. Which is why, when that area of his character explored, the movie really shocked me and, unsurprisingly enough, is exactly when Lindo’s powerhouse acting came in play. Because through Lindo, we see a truly damaged human being that believes what it is that he does, is regardless of if it’s right or wrong in the real, is his way, in his world and he doesn’t want anybody poking around in his business. It’s interesting to see where this character goes from when we initially meet his bright and smiling mug, to a sad and frowning one, but one could only imagine how much better it would have been for the character, as well as Lindo, had the material here been better.

Consensus: Inherently messy, the Cider House Rules had plenty of interesting ideas, as well as a finely-assembled cast to go along with it, but the script and the direction never seem to come together well enough to create a whole, cohesive story.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"And don't you dare thinking about stealing my cocaine."

“And don’t you dare thinking about stealing my cocaine.” (Now say that statement really fast)

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Yards (2000)

Screw family! I’d just stay in prison!

Leo (Mark Wahlberg), a recently released convict, finds himself on the right track as he has a job lined-up for him and everything. But that all goes South once he finds out that his boss and company are up to some shady-business. The business is owned by his uncle (James Caan) and ran mainly by his bestie (Joaquin Phoenix). So yeah, basically the guy is having a lot of problems being able to separate right from wrong and family from enemies, but to top it all off: His mother (Ellen Burstyn) is sick, and not getting any better. Isn’t coming home just grand?

This is one of those rare movies that somehow found it’s way of sinking in beneath the cracks, without anybody ever knowing about it or even mentioning it, unless they were some prestigious film critic that had the privilege to see it in theaters, or some ultra-fan of Marky Mark. It was just one of those movies that had its stars and its premise, but didn’t have the backing it would have had, had it been released in today’s world. Thankfully, that’s what On Demand is for – to remind me what an idiot I was before when I watched this movie.

In case some of you don’t know what I mean by that, I reviewed this movie a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and thought that the movie plain and simply blew. Now, maybe those weren’t my exact words or anything, but the fact of the matter was that I was bored, annoyed and just tired from watching this movie about a bunch of a-holes, act like bigger a-holes to one another, and make it seem as if family is some sort of reason for allowing a person to almost die. I wasn’t having any of it, and gave the movie a low rating. But after these years, I think I’ve come to realize that this is just one of those movies that’s a nice watch, but you got to be in the mood for it.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut on and everything.

Still has that Dirk Diggler cut going on? Oh, now I see what type of living he’s going to be making nowadays.

Even though the movie may be advertised as a slam-bang, action-thriller with Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime and Johnny Cash acting all sly on us, it’s totally not. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of Marky Mark, guns, violence, crime, and Johnny Cash to be found here, but it’s not the way that most mainstream movies would paint it as. Writer/director James Gray is a step above that in the way that he has everything all slowed down so that not only can you get in the mood for what’s about to unfold, but also get involved with the characters as well.

If anything, that’s what the movie really blew me away with: The characters. Gray captures what it’s like to be and live in a close family that does almost everything and anything for each other, even if that means sticking their heads in a little bit and killing some people in the mean time (hey, it’s family, right?). He shows how everybody interacts with one another, who likes who, who doesn’t, what their type of relationship is, the why, the where, the who, and the be, being, been. All of that fun and nasty stuff is included here to give us a full picture of what to not only expect from these family members, but why.

That’s why once everything gets all wacky and crazy at the end, it’s still somewhat believable because we feel like we know these characters, and can come to expect them to commit dumb actions, given the circumstances. Some are conventional and obvious with their actions, but the way they are painted with morally-corrupt souls, than just normal, generic assholes, is what takes you for a left turn. Not everybody is bad, but the ones that are, stay in your mind and really mess with it, especially just as everything begins to boil down as to “who is going to betray who next?”. That aspect of the movie is fun to see, but given the character-development, it’s more than just a bit entertaining.

However, Gray’s sense of style doesn’t always work with me. For my first, initial-viewing, the slowness bothered the hell out of me to the point of where I was snoozing left and right. After these years of seeing worse movies that take it’s slo-mo pill for the sake of being slow; I thought I’d get used to it. But that’s where I was slightly wrong. See, Gray’s style is that he lets a lot of scenes just linger on and on until they really get under your skin. That works for a good couple of scenes, but after awhile, it goes on too long and seems like it’s the only trick in the book that this guy had to play. I don’t mind when my action isn’t non-stop guns and explosions, but don’t slow everything down just to have it all settle in. With time, it will. Trust me, my friend.

A bastard, a bitch, and a poor child with no morally-right future. Now say cheese!

A bastard, a beotch, and a poor child with no promising-future. Now say cheese!

As slow as the movie was at times, it still didn’t take away from the final-product, nor its performances. Marky Mark was pretty solid as Leo because he isn’t called on much to do except to look concerned, and to brood the whole time with his angry face. He does it very well, even if it does feel like his character’s blandness gets lost in a sea of overly wild members of the cast like James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix. Caan is great as the slimy, untrustworthy step-uncle that seems like he means well and all, but in all honesty: Just wants money and fame. And he’ll do whatever it takes to get that dream of his. Whatta bastard. Joaquin Phoenix is fun to watch as Leo’s best buddie because he gets a chance to show that wild side we always see so much, but also show you how much a person can get so tangled in a web, without ever having a clear enough head to know when the hell to get out. Phoenix is good at showing those contrasting sides, and it’s what makes his character more than just a fuck-up. He’s a sympathetic fuck-up, at the most.

For the ladies, you still have a pretty solid troupe, but nobody really worth going crazy about. Charlize Theron is good as Erica, Leo’s cousin and Joaquin’s girl, because she’s able to get past the fact that she is a beautiful woman underneath it all, and just let her character win you over. She’s a bit grimy and dumb for staying with a d-bag like Phoenix’s character, but you see where she’s coming from and it’s not hard to feel for her once everything goes South. Theron’s always a capable actress, and doesn’t let herself get up-staged when she’s right next to vets like Faye Dunaway and Ellen Burstyn. Both are good for what it is that they are called upon to do, but that doesn’t seem as if it’s really saying much, once the ending hits you like a ton of bricks.

Consensus: James Gray may use a couple of the same tricks a little too much, but he still keeps The Yards interesting and compelling with it’s three-dimensional characters, the situations that they are put in and the decisions they are forced to make. Some of which, won’t make you too happy.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don't look like this.

Oh Charlize. How you always love to make men think you don’t actually look like this.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo,

Monster (2003)

Charlize Theron would definitely be the #1 hooker in America, but not #1 serial killer. Then again, she was both and she didn’t look like her normal, sexy, beautiful self.

Charlize Theron stars in true-life story of Aileen Wuaronos, a prostitute executed last year in Florida after being convicted of murdering six men. While Wuaronos confessed to the six murders, including a policeman, she claimed to have killed only in self-defense, resisting violent assaults while working as a prostitute.

So it seems like this Aileeen chick isn’t a real peach in the first place but the hot and sexy South African Charlize Theron is playing her, so it she can’t be that unbearable, right?

Writer/director Patty Jenkins tells this story in a pretty straight-forward way that doesn’t get in the way of anything here and that’s not so bad. Jenkins does do a nice job of showing us the dark and light side of Aileeen, and instead of just focusing on what we think she was like behind all of those murders, we get to understand her for a person that has been so knocked down by men and society, that the only possible solution could be is murder. There isn’t any real terribly graphic stuff to see here in the first place, but the film has this dirty/gritty look that takes you into the world that Aileen herself lived in for so long too. Still a surprise that Jenkins was actually going to direct the sequel to ‘Thor’ because the only action here is basically Theron holding up a pistol to some dudes’ head, and that’s just about it.

Since this is an actual serial killer, it’s somewhat hard to get involved with this story as well as Aileen, considering we know what she did and she had no problem with it either. Serial Killer movies can only do so much because they show you what actually happened with some character development to even out all of the grisly details, but it’s pretty hard to do that when the character isn’t a person that you can totally get behind. I mean yeah, she’s a hooker that has to kill these dudes in order to live for herself and her girly-friend and only does it because she had a messed-up childhood but she could honestly choose something else as a profession. The film shows her trying her hardest to actually do that but I honestly couldn’t have any sympathy for this girl either because even when she did get the moolah, she spent it all on cigs, beer, and occasionally a new place to stay.

I also found it a little strange that there is barely any light moments that occur during the last two acts of this flick. There is a pleasant love story that takes over the first two acts and it has it’s fair share of joyful and amusing moments to cheer us up, but it almost feel like it was just in order to get us ready for the dramatic and dark territory we were about to venture into. I don’t think all films about serial killers and murderers need to bring some light to the topic just in order to keep my attention, but the film just started to lose my interest a bit more and more as it went on.

Charlize Theron definitely deserved the Oscar back in ’04 for her role here as Aileen Wuaronos, because she totally gets lost in this insane and crazed, real-life figure. Her performance aside, the physical transformation she goes through is absoloutely stunning because this is what Charlize Theron looks in real-life, and this is what she looks like as Aileen. See the difference? It’s crazy how they got Theron to look so damn disgusting and gritty, but it’s also even crazier how amazing Theron is here as well. Theron jumps into this role at a 100 mph and never lets loose. She’s a very freaky gal that will definitely give you this tense feeling whenever she’s picked up on the side of the road and Theron is great at showing us just how intimidating a one-lady killer can be. Theron also has some real emotional scenes that may not have you win over any sympathy for her character, but they are still great scenes none the less and you start to realize that this Aileen chick, is a lot more human than the media may have you think so. Don’t really think I would pick up a chick that looked like Aileen and do a little something something, but then again, many other people would.

Christina Ricci is also very good as Aileen’s young and spoiled lesbian lover, Selby. Ricci looks nothing like the real chick, but she still has the emotional chops to carry her performance throughout the whole movie. Their love also works because you can feel that these two actually have something going on between them, even though one of them is serial killer. Good chemistry between two chicks that are usually hot in everything they do, but here, I didn’t think of them like that once.

Consensus: Monster features an amazing performance from Charlize Theron, that commands the screen the whole time she’s on-screen, but the rest of the flick is sort of lackluster and definitely isn’t as interesting when it comes to plot development since we all know how it ends, and also that everything is pretty damn grim.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Prometheus (2012)

Crews of explorers should just not go into space unless they are with a freakin’ army.

Prometheus centers around a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Let me just start off by saying that after watching Alien and realizing it to be the true sci-fi/horror classic that everybody has ranted about, I was very pumped for this quasi-prequel of sorts. Problem is, when you watch Alien, there isn’t really any need to see this flick.

What makes this “prequel” so different from many others out there, is that it’s directed by Ridley Scott himself. The thing with Scott, is that he won’t just go for a quick and easy job where he’ll just make some moolah. No, instead he’ll put his heart and soul into production that quite frankly, deserves it and that’s what makes this film better than plenty of the other prequels we see out there. Scott brings us back to the universe he made famous and expands it, answering more questions for us that we already had. But even though this film’s big selling point is it’s tie-in to Alien, it’s a real beautiful film to just gaze at.

Scott always has a great attention to detail and his production design for Prometheus just totally backs that up. There’s some cool, futuristic stuff here like space suits, vehicles, holographic displays, medical devices composed solely of robots, and plenty of other impressive treats to see here as well. Everything looks so dazzling, especially if you see it in 3D, where a couple of scenes may just take you by surprise by how you feel like you can just reach-out and touch whatever it is that’s on the screen. Some real beautiful stuff here, mainly because Scott feels something for this universe that he’s created and has given all of his might to make it work.

The problem with this flick isn’t really Scott’s fault, it’s more of the story itself. The core of this story is basically Alien done all over again. Crew wakes up out of deep sleep, spaceship lands on mysterious alien planet for some strange reason, crew discovers some ancient alien crap, alien force is awakened by them, people get others infected, and then they are all picked off one by one. It’s pretty obvious where this story is headed, because it’s pretty much the same thing around and that took away from the surprise factor for me. I knew that only a few were coming out alive and the only sense of guessing with this film, was who was it going to be. Sadly, I guessed right.

Even though this film is about 2 hours long, for some odd reason, a lot of it feels like there were some actual big scenes cut-out from the final product. The main reason for me saying this is because there’s a lot that goes down here, that makes no sense and seems somewhat random. One example is how Captain Janek is able to explain the purpose of aliens and what was inside of them so damn quickly. It almost comes out of nowhere, without any clues or signs to how Janek must have known this and comes off like a way to make the finale hit harder. Another example is how David knows how to work the Space Jockey devices without any faults whatsoever. How did he know how to do all of this? What, did he just learn it all by reading a bunch pictographs from Earth or is it just that he’s so totally uber smart cause he’s a robot and all? Not explained at all and it gets even worse when he can apparently speak the alien language fluently, as if he has been doing it his whole life. Yup, didn’t make any sense.

Scott does do a pretty good job with the pace of this film and I can easily see that he put a lot of effort into making this film thrilling, just like he did with Alien. However, there is a huge difference between both of those films and it’s pretty obvious considering the whole hour and 50 minutes of that movie was filled with tension out the wahzoo, whereas this one, had about 4 to 5 scenes of actual tension in it’s whole 2 hour run-time. I don’t know what it was about this flick that made it so different but for some reason, I wasn’t really on-the-edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next to these characters. I just sort of sat there and kept on waiting for Scott to really knock me out of my seat. Which was a shame too, because there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for Scott to do this but just ended up, well, keeping me somewhat satisfied. Somewhat satisfied is not something I want to feel with a product like this, especially when it’s coming from Ridley Scott.

As for the performances, everybody is good but nothing out-standing by any means. Noomi Rapace is fine as our leading lady, Elizabeth Shaw, but feels too much like Ripley and definitely isn’t as strong as her considering we never fully see her lash-out and get “tough”. She just runs away and screams, except for one scene that feels too much like the infamous “chest bursting” scene from AlienLogan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy, but is fine as Charlie Holloway even though the character comes off extremely dicky at times, to the point of where you don’t care if he lives or dies. Charlize Theron plays a villain for the second week in a row, but is more subtle and stoic this time as Meredith Vickers and does a good job with her, even though I think they could have done more with her. Idris Elba is good as Captain Janek and probably has the most likable personality on the whole spaceship.

Probably the stand-out performance from this cast would have to be Michael Fassbender as the robot David. David is a pretty unsettling character the whole way through this flick as you have no idea whether or not he’s going to be good or going to be bad. He’s also a character that sort of just goes his own way the whole movie and doesn’t really care about the others, but you still can’t let that get in the way of what you may think of him since we all know that robots in sci-fi movies usually aren’t the nicest “things” around. Thankfully, those results are told to us by the end but for some very brief moments, he kept me guessing and I think a lot of that is credit to Fassbender’s skills as an actor. Wish I had more to say about him considering he was the best but it’s just one of those good performances that are notable once you see the movie.

I usually love Guy Pearce in everything he does, but his casting here as Peter Weyland just didn’t seem like it belonged in this movie at all. Peter Weyland is an elderly character, so why did Scott feel it was necessary to cast a younger dude as him and just keep on stuffing his face with make-up and effects. First of all, it looks stupid and fake, and secondly, it just seems like such a waste of a talent like Guy Pearce.

Consensus: Prometheus has some great moments that dazzle and excite, but still has plenty of pot-holes that make this story more confusing, makes the characters seem very one-dimensional, and also make a lot of the genius opportunities Ridley Scott had here, seem to go right out the window.

7/10=Rental!!

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White’s about to kill a bitch.

In this adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White, the young woman destined to become the fairest maiden in the land. Threatened by that fact, the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) sets out to destroy her but she is unaware that Snow White is training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who was originally dispatched to kill her.

After seeing Mirror Mirror, the other Snow White adaptation that was pretty bad, I didn’t fully understand as to why we needed two movies of the same story. Actually, I still don’t but I can at least tell you which adaptation is a lot better than the other.

Any parent who’s thinking about bringing their kid to a Snow White movie can scratch that thought, because this movie definitely isn’t your normal fairy-tale you bring the whole family to. Most of that can be credited to director Rupert Sanders, who’s directing his first feature and gives this flick a very a dark and grim fantasy adventure, that makes it seem like the story of Snow White was mixed around with Lord of the Rings and a Game of Thrones episode. Sanders does a good job here with everything he’s given and takes his time setting up the story nicely, to keep a certain type of tense feeling going on throughout the whole movie. We all know how this story begins, gets going, and eventually ends, but Sanders kept me guessing somehow because he just seemed like a dude that would pull out something new or cool to add to this story and keep us entertained.

Sanders is also a great visual director and although I wouldn’t say he is as good as Mirror Mirror‘s Tarsem Singh, I would still have to say that he does a fine job with all of the beautiful visuals he throws at us here. The film’s tone is not only dark, but so is the rest of film so whenever color does come into play here, it looks gorgeous and is definitely something for us to marvel. There’s one scene in particular where Snow White goes into this very magical, dream-like forest called “Fairy Land”, where all of these purrty colors keep on flying around and almost makes you feel like you are there too. What’s even better is that it’s all in 2D and it still made me feel like I could just reach up and touch those little fairies. But hey, any macho dude reading this review thinking that those are the only things in this film that look good, can be sadly mistaken because there are some cool shots of a battle where the soldiers end up being broken into glass, another forest that has a lot of cool booby-traps that make you instantly high (or something like that), and even a nice shot of Ms. Theron getting nakey, and dipping herself in milk (or something like that). Trust me dudes, no T&A, but it will still hold you over if you can’t handle all of the fairy tale junk. Then again, why would any “real dude” be going out to see this one?

If there was a problem with this flick, it was that I felt it started to lose focus by the end and was losing my interest. Once the Huntsman is in the story, and the dwarves have been introduced, the film gets ready for the big, epic brawl between Snow White, The Huntsman, and their gang vs. Queen Ravenna, her crows that she ends up turning into, and her gang. You would think that since this movie is over 2 hours long, that there would be a butt-load of tension to make this battle go off the chain, but sadly, it didn’t really do much for me since I think they started to focus on too many other subplots. Actually, they didn’t even focus on Ravenna as much as I think they should have because every time she was actually on, you could feel like this movie was going to just lead-up to her final fight with White, which it did, but it just didn’t have me at hello like I was expecting. Maybe it’s just me though, and maybe I didn’t want a 2 hour long Snow White movie. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

What I can say about Ravenna, is that Charlize Theron was a perfect choice for her and seems like she’s having the absolute time of her life just chewing up the scenery here as our mean and evil queen. A lot of people said that they thought Theron was over-acting with this role, but what I think she is doing here is quite perfect considering this chick hasn’t ever really played a villain before (or at least one that we didn’t root for). She’s beautiful, we all know that, but I think Sanders saw that beauty in her the most and gives her some very beautiful scenes where it’s just her looking like an evil, but beautiful queen bitch that you definitely don’t want to piss off.

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart does an OK job as Snow White because she doesn’t really step outside of her comfort zones that we have all seen her play time and time again. She does have a lot more to work with here than she does in those Twilight pieces of shit, but she doesn’t really say or do much that makes us cheer her on the most out of everybody. In fact, the one I was cheering on the most was probably Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, who in the past two years after such flicks like Thor, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers, has proven to be a real talent. Hemsworth not only looks the part, with the scruffy beard and grungy-type hair and everything, but also sounds like a guy that would absolutely beat your ass if it came down to you or him to survive. Can’t wait to see what this guy pulls out next.

Let me also not forget to the mention the dwarves that are pretty fun to watch here, but aren’t given as much as they are in Mirror Mirror. It was pretty impressive to see actors like Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones being shrunk down to dwarf-size, but they come into the story a little too late for my liking and bring a bunch of humor that doesn’t seem to fit in so well with the rest of the flick. Still, they all do great jobs and I kept on wondering just how Sanders pulled off making all of these regular-sized peeps, seem so small. Maybe I did that a little too much, but at least it kept me watching.

Consensus: Snow White and the Huntsman may run on a little too long, but still features plenty of fun with its darkly epic direction from newbie Rupert Sanders, and a slew of fun performances, especially one from Theron who just seems like she’s having a ball. As she should.

7/10=Rental!!

That Thing You Do! (1996)

If only songs were as catchy and simple as this one.

In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry) — become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

Writer/director Tom Hanks is obviously a guy we all know, love, and care about when it comes to his acting but his writing and directing maybe was pushing it a little too far. However, have no fear, Hanks still is good no matter what he does.

What I liked about this flick was that the simple premise is showed in a very fun, entertaining, and nice way just like the bubblegum pop days of the early 60’s were before all of the drugs started popping on in and out. The story starts off as your usual “band gets bigger and bigger” story-line which was fun to watch because of how charming this script was, and the film keeps that charm going on throughout the whole flick. Hanks does throw in a little bit of satire against the whole music business, but it’s nothing too much to where he seems to be aiming too high.

But enough about the script, let’s just get to the real reason why anybody really remembers this movie and that is for the title song. It’s so catchy, so fun, and is played probably about 7 times throughout the whole flick but it’s not like “I’ve Got You Babe” in ‘Groundhog Day’, to where every time we hear it we want burn every single copy left of that song, it’s a song that’s just really good and actually seems like a song that would be on heavy-rotation during that time-period. There are a couple of other tracks in this flick that are pretty good, but this is the only one that I can remember having stuck in my head after it was over and while hell, even I’m writing this I kind of humming it now as we speak.

However, as good as good as this song may be, it’s also one of the bigger problems with this flick. The direction, writing, and attention is detail is fine the way it ought to be but there’s nothing else that really stands-out from this flick other than the song. It also didn’t help that by the end, there are a little bit too many parts where the film starts to dive into some lame melodrama and just gets really soapy and unbelievable. Then again, I wasn’t looking for anything that seemed like a realistic take on the lives of pop music stars during the 60’s, I just wanted a fun and entertaining flick, which is basically what I got.

I also liked how Hanks put the main focus on the dude that is essentially the back-bone of the band, the drummer. Being a drummer myself, I thought that this was pretty cool to see considering it’s always either the singer or guitarist in the band that hogs all the spot-light. Also, Tom Everett Scott is pretty good as Shades. I’ve seen this dude in plenty of other stuff but this is the only film that I can remember him best in because he’s pretty likable and seems like a dude I would love to jam with due to his love of jazz music. The guy also had a pretty good technique even though it wasn’t really him drumming obviously.

The other band-mates are all pretty good here with the likes of Steve Zahn playing his usual funny/sarcastic-ass character here as the lead guitarist; Ethan Embry being a lot of fun to watch as the semi-mentally challenged bass player aptly named T.B. Player; and Johnathon Schaech probably being the weakest of the bunch as the singer, because when shit starts to hit the fan for this band, he really just seems like he’s starting all of it, just to start it. Tom Hanks is also great as the band’s manager, Mr. White, which also probably helps considering he has the film’s best lines and seems like a dude I could trust with all of my money and fame; Liv Tyler is nice to watch, as always, here as Faye; and it was also really funny to see a very young Charlize Theron as Shades’ girlfriend. There are so many other people in this flick that I could mention but it’s honestly a lot more fun to just point at and think about who he/she is during the film.

Consensus: Though there’s nothing all that spectacular about the flick, That Thing You Do! is still a fun, charming, and well-acted tale of what all bands during the early days of the 60’s all dreamed, hoped for, and had to go through. Also, that song is just catchy as hell.

7/10=Rental!!

Young Adult (2011)

Fast-food, Diet Coke, the Kardashians, and writing novels for little shits to swoon over.

Charlize Theron stars an alcoholic writer of young adult novels who decides to return to her small-town in Minnesota to win back her high-school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson), a now happily married husband and father. This eventually leads her to another high-school classmate played by Patton Oswalt and a whole bunch of troubles.

Director Jason Reitman is a dude who’s films I can’t really get into all that much, even though he doesn’t really have a style to declare his “own”. However, this is probably my favorite of the 4 that he has done, and I can easily say that I think I can get into this guy.

Being the fact that this is written by Diablo Cody, I was expecting for this to be one of those snarky and annoying teen-lingo scripts that would just use cool and hip phrases of the time, rather than give me an actual story. However, Cody is showing some real transition as a writer as she gets by with a real character and some real situations that may actually seem too realistic for some people to get by. There are moments where the film lingers on some terribly uncomfortable dark comedy but Cody actually shows that she can be funny in scenes that should be a lot more serious. I liked this about Cody but when it comes to the actual story itself, she does an even better job.

The one thing about this story is that the whole time I just felt this under-breathing sadness. I never could fully put my finger on just what it was but for some reason, I caught this sad feeling that just stayed with me for the entire film until it actually showed up right in front of my face, and then I realized that this is a sad story after all. The main reason why this story is so sad is because Mavis Gary is a terribly unlikable character that is just very upset deep down inside and I felt like she was going to meltdown any second.

Take it for granted. Mavis is not a likable person: she drinks too much, is self-absorbed, doesn’t live in reality, and more or less lives her life without any consequences on any of the terrible and mean things she does and call me crazy, but I liked her a lot. Cody does a great job of creating this rich character that is a total bitch who you think you’d never ever root behind but as soon as the film starts to gear towards the end, you start to feel like you may actually like this chick, as did I. Mavis never apologizes for anything of the things she does and she never learns from her mistakes, which I think is a real big step for a Hollywood film to adventure towards considering its so hard to pull off in today’s world of cinema where every character is mean in the beginning, but soon has some epiphany by the end and we’re forced to believe it.

Mavis is also not just a bitch, but also a character that I could really feel for. She doesn’t understand that she’s an adult with a child’s brain that still wants to be able to do the things she used to do, even if that may mean that others don’t accept it either. Let’s not also forget to mention that she has no friends and she just sort of goes on about her days trying to write this really crappy final book for a teen series, or trying her hardest to win over her high-school sweetheart. Mavis had me wondering just what is really wrong with her until the end where we see these three scenes in a row where she not only totally breaks-down but reveals a lot about herself that made me almost want to just give her a hug. She may be a terrible person at heart, but deep-down inside there is a sad and lonely soul somewhere to be found and that’s where I think I connected not only with this film, but also with this character.

This is where Reitman comes in and shows his talents as a director. Reitman has a perfect balance of uncomfortable dark comedy to where you laugh a lot but also feel a lot to the point as to where you actually start to feel bad for laughing at these characters the whole time. I do think that the film should have definitely been a lot longer just for there to be more depth and give this story to breath but I still do think having it clock in at 94 minutes, keeps this film short, sweet (or rotten for that matter), and straight to the point.

If there was one problem that I had most with this film was the fact that there is a constant connection between Mavis’ life and her story that she’s writing. This seemed a bit obvious considering that the first time we actually see her start writing things down, is when she’s actually talking about her life and it’s nothing new that hasn’t already been done in films before, but hey, it can be forgiven because at least Cody wasn’t trying to bring in sayings that I used in AIM 9 years ago in as well.

It’s hard to believe that this is actually Theron’s first ever comedic performance and probably her first ever role where we can’t stand her. Except for maybe ‘Monster’ but she was probably just more scary there. Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary perfectly because she is obviously very attractive but still is a terrible person by the way she acts and just lets loose of the ugliness within her. Theron hits these great moments where she’s just being a total bitch by flirting with her ex-boyfriend right in front of his wife, or by sipping this rare alcohol from her “friend”, or just by simply just acting like she deserves everything in the world because she wrote some cheesy novels made for teen chicks. Mavis is, as I have already mentioned, terribly unlikable which Theron brings out very well but she also makes her character have more heart and get by her being a one-dimensional character. Theron owns here as Mavis and I definitely think she should get nominated.

Patton Oswalt is also an awesome addition here as Matt Freehauf, a guy who can’t seem to get past his high school days either. Oswalt plays this character perfectly with some very funny comments on how ridiculous Mavis is being but at the same time is totally honest with her about her and his own life. He seems like a natural when it comes to the comedy in Cody’s script, but when it comes to the more dramatic moments he is even better and shows us that he has a great balance as an actor. The on-screen pairing of him and Theron is unlikely but also features some of the best moments of the whole film and brought out the most in both of these great stars. I definitely would love if Oswalt got at least a nomination for his performance here.

Patrick Wilson is also just a regular but likable dude as Buddy Slade. Not much else to say really other than this guy is just generally cool and charming.

Consensus: Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman re-team once again for Young Adult and make it not only a funny, if uncomfortable comedy, but also a realistic and slightly moving story anchored by one of Theron’s best performances she’s given in a long time.

9/10=Full Price!!

North Country (2005)

Why does all-of-a-sudden every dude just get horny when they automatically see a chick here?

Based on an inspiring real-life event that took place in the 1970s, North Country stars Charlize Theron in another low-glamour but high-impact role as Josey Aimes, one of only a handful of women working in the Minnesota iron mines. Forced to labor under sexist conditions, she and her female colleagues decide to stand up against the unrelenting harassment from their male counterparts.

You’re probably sitting there now, wondering to yourself after you just read the premise and thought, “Haven’t I seen this before?’. And the truth is yes have, almost every two hours on Lifetime channel.

The film actually does have some moments where it was actually a bit up-lifting, which is probably because the way they depict the way these chicks are treated, was just absolutely terrible and I really wouldn’t wish it on anyone else at all. It’s also kind of sad that these events are actually true and it kind of makes me ashamed of the ways dude treat their women. But other than that, that’s all I felt from this film.

The main problem with this film is that director Niki Caro lets all of this just seem totally over-dramatized and so unbearably obvious that it makes the film almost seem like a really crappy soap-opera rather than an actual inspiration tale that changed the way women work with men forever. I didn’t really get a reason as to why these dudes acted like complete and such little boys with these girls, and the reason we’re actually given, is totally unbelievable and just forced.

I also never understood why any of these guys actually stood up for these chicks, instead of just sitting back and letting it happen. I mean, can every single guy in Minnesota not think for themselves and actually stand up for other human-beings when their being treated like pieces of shit? It’s also kind of weird in a film that basically preaches respecting humanity, it sure does have a lot of pain inflicted on its characters.

Charlize Theron is good as Josey Aimes and shows how her bitterness increases into something that makes her stronger as a woman, and gives her the power to fight back against these d-bags. The only thing is that we don’t see any other side of Josey other than this, and even though Theron plays her very well it’s kind of a disappointment to see what could have been a really complex and great lead, sort of one-note.

Frances McDormand is fine as Glory in her little feisty role that always works so well for her but isn’t in the film as much really; Sean Bean and Woody Harrelson are good as the only two men in all of Minnesota that seem like they actually have a soul; and Richard Jenkins and Sissy Spacek are both good as Theron’s parents. However, the best performance out of the whole cast is Jeremy Renner as this uber d-bag named Bobby Sharp, who Theron’s character went out with when she was younger and almost every scene he had, sort of started to give me the chills. Renner scores emotional depth in a character that would just seem like a total cliche and when the film was over, I remembered his character more than Theron’s actually.

Consensus: What could have been up-lifting and inspirational, gets totally bogged down by hokey, predictable, and sappy cliches that takes a lot away from what’s being talked about in North Country, which could actually seem very important had it been given better direction.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

The Road (2009)

After reading the novel over the summer, finally got to seeing this.

In the near future, the world has been virtually destroyed. From the ash-covered, post-apocalyptic remains of Appalachia, the Father (Viggo Mortensen) and Son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) take to the road in search of a better life. The Father’s health is failing, lending urgency to a journey impeded by nomadic bands of cannibalistic humans.

The Road is a film, much like the Cormac McCarthy novel, that is incredibly bleak and depressing. It is set in a world that is just full of disaster and death, and with having a son-father duo in the middle of it made it all the more emotional.

The set pieces really do look great here as I would have imagined. Director John hillcoat chose not to use CGI for the world which is a lot better considering it makes the disaster itself a lot more genuine with its look. Also, the film thankfully doesn’t tell us what happened at all to the world when the disasters started. This allows you to add your own horrific apacolypse happenings in your mind, and from what I was imagining was quite freaky.

However, I felt that way too many times Hillcoat was trying way too hard to win a bunch of Oscars. By putting all these little heart-warming scenes, and over direction at points, I didn’t feel the heart and nature of the novel come out in this film.

The film is bleak but not quite bleak enough. I felt like it was just going through the motions of when and how bleak and depressing it had to be. I feel like their giving the audience a lot much more of an easier time to sink all this time in, and not be quite true the heart and soul of the novel.

Mortensen is spectacular in this role as the dad here. He shows that he can handle a movie where there are barely any other humans, and make it seem believable. Kodi Smit-McPhee is surprisingly very well here as the son, as you can feel the confusion but also the despair of this poor child in his performance.

Consensus: The Road benefits from the commitment to the Cormac McCarthy novel, with powerful performances from its cast, but doesn’t quite capture the soul of the novel and feels like its just reading the letters.

8/10=Matinee!!!

The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Al Pacino is the devil and Keanu Reeves is his son. Yeah Right!!

When charismatic lawyer John Milton (Al Pacino) recruits the successful young attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) to his high-powered Manhattan firm, both Kevin and his wife (Charlize Theron) find life on Park Avenue seductive. That is, until strange things begin to happen. By the time the pair begins questioning John’s plans and who– or what — Kevin actually works for, it might be too late.

The Devil’s Advocate starts out very normal as lawyer moves into big city, and lawyer soon becomes one of them. The story starts out like it could be a thriller but soon falls into a huge story of evil, lies, and horror.

The movie seemed really confusing of why out of nowhere these people started just being evil and how they were evil in the first place. It worked as a thriller and that’s how it was for the longest time but then it started to spiral out of control when it started going towards the horror genre. The film was also way too long for my taking and I felt that some scenes were definably not needed. The twist ending never really made any sense either and I just felt like it added more confusion to this story in all.

Though those are the bad parts here are some good one. I like the production design of how it looked. There are some really good shots of New York and many other shots of statues coming to life, and they looked very good as well. The story does get very complex as it goes along. Despite me being confused when I followed through the story I enjoyed how it was engaging with its story.

Pacino and Reeves are also very good in this film as well. Pacino does a great job at playing an evil but calm guy and he gives a very energetic performance and shows he can make any film better. Keanu Reeves surprisingly does a good job as well if you can believe it. He is there to play the stand-up guy while everything else goes horribly wrong around him, and he shows he isn’t all good looks and that he can make a very strong and powerful performance. Also the supporting cast does well, most notably a young Charlize Theron who gives us a early view of her acting chops.

Consensus: Pacino and Reeves are game and so is the production, but the story tries to work as a horror film when it really could work as a thriller. The ending is very laughable too.

5.5/10=Rentall!!!