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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dash Mihok

Before I Wake (2018)

So, I don’t know, maybe don’t adopt? Or something?

Mark (Thomas Jane) and Jessie (Kate Bosworth) have been wanting to desperately have a kid, but they just can’t, so they decide to adopt a cute and nice little eight-year-old named Cody (Jacob Tremblay) who, inexplicably, has been without a family for quite some time. And while it takes awhile for them to get used to each other, eventually, they begin to grow into their own little family, where they mess around, get along, and generally have a great time together. But that all begins to change when weird, downright spooky things begin happening and no one really knows why, except for Cody himself. And then, it all becomes evidently clear why Cody has been by his own for so very long and Mark and Jessie have no idea what to do. Should they give him back and move on to the next kid and hope that there’s not some evil spirits following them around? Or stick it out with Cody and treat him as one of their own, fight these spirits, and live together in perfect harmony?

There’s mom.

Before I Wake has, infamously, been trapped in release-hell for the past few years and I’m not really sure why. The movie isn’t all that awful to the point of where the studio involved would feel ashamed to ever release it, nor is it really all that great to begin with. It’s the kind of movie that gets made, doesn’t have much hype behind it, and of course, due to some other random business-reasons, gets lost in the shuffle, is known and/or talked about, and eventually, gets released to the wide masses. But why did Before I Wake take so long?

No clue. And really, I don’t care. Had the movie stayed on the shelf longer, I would have been perfectly fine with that, because while I do appreciate how Mike Flanagan is trying to single-handedly change the game of horror, after this and Gerald’s Game, I hate to say but I’m growing a little worrisome. Granted, Gerald’s Game was a tad more inspired than this here Before I Wake, but both suffer from the same problem in that there just isn’t much of a story to really work with; Before I Wake does, thankfully, benefit from a solid family-dynamic, but never focuses on it enough to where it’s completely effective, the way it should have been to heighten the emotional drama.

Instead, it’s much more focused on the ghouls, ghosts, and butterflies that mysteriously begin to pop-up and yeah, it just takes away from everything else.

There’s son.

Of course, I’m not one to say that Before I Wake didn’t need all this horror in the first place, because it’s most certainly Flanagan’s wheelhouse, it just doesn’t feel necessary. It’s like the Babadook in that we actually deal with some real issues about love, about family, and about surviving together, as one, except that Before I Wake only occasionally passes on these ideas and themes, only to then get distracted by the spooky stuff. And it doesn’t work, really, because the spooky stuff either doesn’t make sense, or isn’t even all that scary; it’s a little cheesy, a little schlocky, and because we don’t totally care about what happens to the characters, a little dull.

That said, the cast gives it their all, with Thomas Jane putting in a pretty great performance as the dad of the family. Jane seems like he’s in a totally different movie where he’s cool, funny, and always one step ahead of the plot. Which is why it’s a shame that he gets saddled with a role that, honestly, would have been better in a much more character-based drama. Kate Bosworth is good, too, in that she has to handle a difficult role in being the matriarch of the family and it works. Tremblay is fine, too, although, because he was so young and because his role wasn’t all that demanding, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Or, at least, not as much as he would continue to do in the next few years or so. Something everybody else involved with this movie would be doing.

Thankfully.

Consensus: Though it does aim for some heartfelt notions about love and family, mostly, Before I Wake‘s a dull, unemotional, and unscary horror flick that could have stayed on the shelf for a lot longer, or even, forever.

4 / 10

Oh, and there’s a ghost-creature. Or something.

Photos Courtesy of: Relativity Media

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The Thin Red Line (1998)

The war is a jungle. In this case, literally.

It’s slap dab in the middle of WWII, or 1942 to be exact, and needless to say, a lot of lives are being lost. Bus most importantly, a lot of soldier’s lives are being lost, which is why a huge platoon is ordered to take the island of Guadalcanal. While this is no walk in the park, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the soldiers are literally forced to walk up the mountain, where they’ll most likely be meant by the opposing side, as well as a hail-fire of bullets. Among the many soldiers involved with this battle is Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a U.S. Army absconder who has gone “native”, as they say, living peacefully with the locals of a small South Pacific island. While Witt is clearly enjoying his time in the sun, it’s all cut short when he’s discovered by his commanding officer, Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), and forced back on the battlefield. However, there’s more at-play during this battle than just Witt, or Welsh. There’s Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who is having a real hard time making up his mind what the best cause or plan for warfare is, even in the heat of the moment; there’s Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas), a fellow soldier in a position of power, who also seems to be having an issue of what to do with it; and there’s Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), a soldier who’s reeling from a recent heartbreak in his life.

Jesus?

Jesus?

By now, most people know that Terrence Malick is the kind of director you can expect to give you the most ambitious, sprawling, and at times, confusing pieces of epic cinema this side of Kubrick or Kurosawa, but it wasn’t always like that. With his first two feature films (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Malick not only showed his keen eye for an attention to beautiful detail, but also for small, character-driven stories that barely even screech past 100 minutes and instead, keep things tiny, tight and mostly focused. But after spending 20 years away from making movies and doing whatever the heck it is that he was up to, it was clear that something within Malick changed.

And honestly, we’re all the better for it, because, yes, the Thin Red Line is not only Malick’s best film, but perhaps one of the best war films of all time.

Having seen the film at least three times now, I can easily say that it’s up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, when it comes to curating the list of “the greatest war movies ever made”, however, it’s a very different one. In a way, Saving Private Ryan is a far more conventional, Hollywood-ized war movie (although it’s still great), whereas Apocalypse Now is a far more disturbing, terrifying and twisted one (and yes, it’s still great). But what separates the Thin Red Line from these other two flicks is that it’s far more meditative, but at the same time, in its own way, brutal as all hell.

By putting us right along with the numerous soldiers on men on the battlefield, Malick doesn’t let us forget that, for one second, these soldiers aren’t in the nearest thing to hell. They don’t have the slightest clue who is shooting at them, from which direction, where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they’re next line of action is once they actually do get up to the top of the mountain – all that they do know what to do is to shoot, kill and try their absolute hardest to survive. This idea of frustrating, but horrifying confusion that these soldiers must have been going through is effective, especially since Malick keeps his eyes and attention set solely on the American soldiers, what they see, what they feel, and what they’re thinking about at that given time.

Oh, and not to mention, that these soldiers are literally engaged in action for a whole hour-and-a-half, which, when you take into consideration the three-hour run-time, evens out to being pretty action-packed.

However, the movie, nor is Malick all about that idea. No matter what happens in the movie, no matter who gets killed, or for what reasons, Malick never forgets to portray this war as an absolute slaughterhouse of not just lives, but psyches as well. Killing as many people as some of these soldiers do, can do quite a number on you; while that of course can start to happen when the fighting is over, it’s still something that can happen while on the battlefield as well. That’s why it’s not only shocking, but downright upsetting to see some soldiers here lose their minds, not have a single clue of where they’re at, or what they’re actually doing. There’s quite a few soldiers here and there that show up to prove this fact, but regardless, Malick drives home the idea that war is hell.

But even despite all of the violence and sheer ugliness of what’s being portrayed, Malick still finds ways to create some of the most beautiful, eye-catching images ever seen on the big screen. A part of me wishes that I was old enough at the time to see this when it was first in theaters; not just because it would have been great to join that short list of people who actually saw it in theaters when it was originally out, but because John Toll’s cinematography is so amazing, that it absolutely deserved to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Even though people are getting killed left and right, bullets are flying, and there’s no exact idea of who is where, Malick and Toll always find the time to capture the loveliness of the scenery this battle is taking place in.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don't see grass anymore.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don’t see grass anymore.

Of course, with Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s relationship becoming something of fact over the past years, the visuals have only gotten better, but it’s hard to deny that the Thin Red Line is easily his best-looking film to date.

But what makes the Thin Red Line perhaps Malick’s best movie, is the fact that it introduced everybody to the fact that he surely did not care at all about star-power, when it came to making his movies. Sure, he clearly doesn’t mind having the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, George Clooney, or John C. Reilly want to be apart of his movies, but at the same time, he still doesn’t feel like he’s at all inclined to feature them heavily, just because of their name recognition, or whatever other silly ideas Hollywood has about commercial appeal. Though, of course there’s a lot of infamy surrounding Malick’s casting-process and just exactly who he does leave in his movies (Adrien Brody is barely here, despite being lead on to believe he was the main star, and other stars like Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, and Martin Sheen were cut-out of the final product).

Honestly, it takes a lot of guts to cut-out someone like George Clooney, and feature a relative unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel, but guts is exactly what Malick has always had in his career and it’s great to see someone in his position to not give a flyin’ hoot about who is a bigger star than somebody else. Of course, it also helps that those that Malick focuses his final-edit on the most, all give great performances, given that a lot of the times they’re thrown in the mix because Malick forgot about them, or just felt like their time was necessary.

Caviezel is a suitable protagonist, who not only shows the inspirational faith within someone like Witt, but the sheer horror when he realizes the evilness to war; Elias Koteas’ character has many scenes where you don’t know what he’s thinking about doing next, but it’s hard to look away; Ben Chaplin’s character is easy to feel sympathetic for, even if he can be a bit hard to differentiate from Caviezel’s Witt; Nick Nolte, well, let’s just say that he’s the stand-out among the cast, showing just how a person in his position of power, can use to his advantage, for better, as well as for worse. Even then, however, when he’s faced with the reality of the harsh realities of war, he still believes that it’s something necessary to life, and even something to be celebrated. And even though he’s quickly told this is not the truth about life, he still smiles his way onto the next war.

And that’s just the way war works. You get past one, and guess what? Sooner or later, you’re onto the next.

Consensus: Beautiful, endearing, thoughtful, well-acted, and above all else, sad, the Thin Red Line is less of a tribute soldiers, and more of a key look inside the sorts of hell they have to go through, and the sort of effect it has on them, while not being nearly as preachy as I make it sound.

9.5 / 10

Let's play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie......

Let’s play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie……

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

I Am Legend (2007)

Carlton would have faired-off much better.

Virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) and his doggy Sam, are left to roam throughout the rest of a desolate NYC, just after a virus has hit the Earth and pretty much wiped-out any signs of human-life throughout the globe. And how did it all start, you ask? Well, Neville himself actually caused the beginning of it through a new treatment that was going around to cure cancer, but instead, turned almost all humans into walking, roaring, angry, pissed-off, and rage-infested monsters that only come out at night, when there’s no sun anywhere to be found in the sky. Neville continues to search for a cure and to stay alive, but more than often, he finds himself coming up on loose-ends, without knowing when the clock is finally going to stop ticking and he’s going to give up, or when he’s finally going to get rescued. And yet, he continues to wait and wait, and wait.

What sets this flick apart from most of the other mainstream, zombie-invasion flicks out there is that this may have a crap-load of money, crap-load of places to film, and a crap-load of filler-scenes, but don’t be mistaken, this is not necessarily the type of mainstream, zombie movie you’re used to seeing and wasting $10 (plus more if you include over-priced snacks) on. Somehow, this one goes a bit deeper than that in the sense that it shows you this man, Robert Neville, practically all alone in this world by himself. There may be others out there looking for him, or searching the world for a cure or a way out of this crisis, but from what he knows, he’s the only one left alive.

Just a typical walk with his dog through a deserted NYC. Typical, is what I say and typical is what I mean.

If only every dog-walk I’ve ever been on with my pooch was as peaceful as this. No plastic bags needed at all. What a dream that would truthfully be.

In a way, due to Francis Lawrence’s approach for a good-chunk of the movie, you feel as if you’re watching something along the lines of Cast Away, minus Wilson and the Palm trees. Right as the movie begins, you’re thrown right into this world of pure-silence, where, if something or somebody was moving around, you’d be able to hear it just through the sheer-lack of anything else happening at all. It’s sad, yes, but Lawrence also injects some fun and humor to make up for the fact that this is essentially: One dude, one dog, and one deserted city, all to themselves. Which also means, plenty of time to golf wherever you want, steal whatever you want, from wherever you want and even get the chance to make-up fake friends with mannequins, where you can have imaginary, one-sided conversations to make it feel like you live in a normal, everyday-like world. Sucks that it isn’t true, but Neville doesn’t harp on this sad reality too much, and just takes everyday as he goes along, not knowing when its all going to come crashing down at any given time.

While this is all strangely, un-Hollywood-like, eventually, Francis Lawrence does realize that he has a huge budget to work with, and that ends up becoming the movie’s biggest-issue, despite all some impressive shots in the beginning. The fact that Lawrence was able to make NYC look like this post-apocalyptic, deserted wasteland is something to applaud, yet, given the fact that he was probably given a mucho amount of moolah to spend, it isn’t anything that noteworthy. Then again though, it’s still cool to see done on the big screen, especially since you can tell a lot of effort obviously went in to the way it looked, felt and seemed to be sought as a realistic look at the world’s end.

But like I said, the big budget ends up killing Lawrence’s ambitions because not all of the CGI here works, and instead, comes off as rather dodgy, where it seems like most of the attention was put into NYC itself, and less of the rage-infested vampires themselves. Given that the movie cost a lot of money, this is a beat of a disappointment, but then again, we have come a long, long way since the late-days of 2007, so maybe I shouldn’t get on this movie’s case too much about the special-effects being as up-to-par with what I’ve seen in the post-Avatar movie world. Though it was a bit hard to get past some of those problems, I eventually realized that at the end of the day, it’s better to just embrace the hard-effort put on by Lawrence and his crew, and look at the positives.And then that ending happened.

Without spoiling it all for you peeps out there who have yet to view this movie and see its ending, I’m just going to let you know on a little fact that the theatrical-release’s ending, is way different from the original, far-better ending. In the original ending, we get this sense that what Neville is fighting is more than just a bunch of angry, vampire-like things that are hungry for human-flesh and are chomping at the bit for their next flavoring-session, instead, he’s fighting something that somewhat resemble humans, with enough heart, humanity and understanding to come to terms with; but with the original ending, it’s all played-out as if it was some big, loud, action-packed, HURRAH moment that could have only come along with a big-budget, mainstream Will Smith movie, and not something that’s a little smarter and different, like we were initially promised from the first hour or so.

"Jesus! After 3 years, there is still no delivery-guy!"

“Jesus! It’s been three years now, and these assholes still haven’t realized where I live!”

I’m sorry if I may have ruined the ending for some, but honestly, I don’t feel as if I have. You can check out the original ending online somewhere, I bet, and you can most likely make up your own mind. But as for me, the original ending should have been used, and is a lot more effective than just something that the major-studious probably forced to Lawrence to have, just so that “some” audiences could feel like they got their large helpings of soda and popcorn fully-deserved.

That said, the one aspect keeping this whole movie together, through the worst of times, and the best of times, is none other than the star of the show himself: Mr. Will muthafuckin’ Smith. Some people may not know this, but in case you don’t and need a simple reminder, let me let you in on a little something: Will Smith is freakin, bonafide movie star. He truly is, and he shows that he not only is capable as a charming fella that you’d love to spend time with, even if the world has practically turn to utter-crap, but that you’d be able to trust every judgement he makes. There are some questionable choices throughout this movie he decides to go through with, but you always get the sense that he’s doing it for the better for himself, for his trusted-doggie Sammy and the rest of mankind, or at least what’s left of it. We know he’s a good guy, and even though he practically spurred this whole infection on in the first place, it’s relatively easy enough for us to forgive him now because he’s making up for it in a hard-hitting way. Yet, he’s not asking for our sympathy and doesn’t want everybody to know how damaged he is, he just wants to survive and save the rest of the world from being fully-contaminated and ruined. Whatta man. Great performance from Smith that obviously gets a lot of attention as being that he’s the only human we see on-screen for awhile, but still makes every single second with him count and be believable.

Consensus: I Am Legend, despite all of the pit-falls it hits with its patched-on ending and dodgy-CGI bits, is still one hell of a survival flick that never leaves you feeling like you know what’s going to happen next, no matter how many times you’ve seen it (fifth time for yours truly).

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

When he's not kicking ass and taking names of the monsters that surround his city, Will Smith usually takes a break, chill-out, and see what's new in the world of the Apocalypse.

When he’s not kicking ass and taking names of the vampires that inhabit NYC, Will Smith usually takes a break, chills out and check out what’s new in the world of the Apocalypse.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Punisher: War Zone (2008)

Who’s being punished here: us or the criminals?

Former FBI agent Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) still has not been able to get over the murders of his family. Therefore, he takes his anger and revenge out onto the streets where he continues to tally-up a vigilante record that makes every cop in the state of New York, jealous and on the look-out for any suspicious activity. The latest leader in suspicious activity occurring in NYC is Jigsaw (Dominic West), who used to have a pretty face that all the ladies used to love, but is now ruined, all thanks to THE PUNISHER!!

After 3 movies, and no success whatsoever with the box office or the critics, it seems that the Punisher character may have to be put to rest and left in the comics. Why? Well it’s simple: the guy’s just too goofy of a comic book hero. Actually, scratch that. He isn’t even a “hero”. He’s just a dude that goes around, killing people, in the name of what he believes is right. Oh, and it’s always bloody, gory, and not for the faint of heart. That means that these types of movies, are usually made for the older, R-rated crowd, so fuck the little kiddies who want to see shizz like this and that. This is the real shit, men! If you don’t like it, then back off and take your snobbery elsewhere!

Some of you may be a bit confused as to where the hell I was going with those last couple of sentences right there, but don’t be alarmed: I am too. What I’m trying to say is that this character is hard to adapt to the screen successfully for the sole-reason that the character itself has such a fan base that is so divided, it’s hard to really get the name or product out there. That’s why when a film like this comes around, it isn’t made for the New York Film Society or any other group as prestigious as that; it’s made for the bumbling idiots that like when people get their heads smashed in just for the sake of it. No, not psychos. But people who like to see it played out on film where nobody is harmed. I hope at least.

Where all the lovin' goes down...

Where all the lovin’ goes down…

That’s why seeing a movie like this is so hard because being a critic that has a standard built-up after all of these years, it’s so damn hard to just drop it all down, and let a completely dumb movie like this take over. After awhile, I got used to it and it did, but that’s REALLY saying something. To say that this movie is stupid, would be the equivalent to patting it on the back and giving it a cookie for being a good boy. THIS MOVIE IS FREAKIN’ IDIOTIC! I kid you not!

If you don’t know this within the first five minutes, you might just be screwed for the rest of the hour and a half because this is as low on the totem-pole as you are going to get. The script is almost non-existent by how utterly dunce-like this is and makes every piece of dialogue seem like each one of these actors (talented ones, mind you) are just stretching their inner-souls to make something useful come out. Whoever wrote this movie, I feel bad for you and your career because this is like an IQ level of 48 and lower. I kid you not. It’s freakin’ stupid. That’s if you haven’t been able to tell by now.

However, you don’t see a movie about a vigilante that goes around, “punishing” people for the sake of revenge for a well-written script, with perfectly-rounded characters, and an emotional-arch. You want to see blood, guts, guns, bullets, violence, necks snapped, explosions, heads smashed in (like I said before), and campy-as-hell people getting their insides taken out. That’s the type of stuff you want to see and if that’s it: you’re gonna have a field day with this one. Can’t say that I didn’t have fun either, it’s just that this is one of those flicks that is sometimes so hard to get by with all of the terrible qualities, that the positive qualities that make it fun and exciting, really seem to fade away.

But taking this type of movie in as it is, you could do worse. Actually, A LOT WORSE. With a movie like this, you can’t expect much and expect to get much out of it. You just go in, get ready to see some people shot, stabbed, hacked-up, or murdered in any type of way, and expect to smile or go “oooooooohhhhh” by the end of it. Those are the types of people that this movie is made for, and even though I can’t say I’m one of them, I still do appreciate a nice, mass-slaying every once and awhile. Not always, but when it’s done in a fun, unadulterated-way, then I’m rarely ever disappointed.

Even though I’m a huge fan of Thomas Jane as the Punisher and in general, I still have to give some kudos to Ray Stevenson for at least giving Castle some snarl and edge to him that you didn’t really see quite as well last time. Granted, that movie was more concerned with painting Castle as a human-being that still struggled with the reality that everybody he practically knew has been massacred, but that’s not what this movie, or this version of Castle is about. Even when the movie does try to tackle themes and ideas like that, it fails miserably. Thankfully, Stevenson keeps his head above the water and it’s a shame that this guy doesn’t get more leading-roles his way.

Actually, on second thought, I saw somebody who looked exactly like this the other day.

Actually, on second thought, I saw somebody who looked exactly like this the other day. I also just so happened to be in Skid Row that “other day”.

Then, on the other side of the coin, you have Dominic West as Jigsaw, and god is this guy chewing the scenery! I mean, every single second he is on-screen, he sounds so ridiculous with his over-the-top, New Yarrrrk accent, and has the goofiest-look that I couldn’t even take seriously after awhile. I get why the guy looks the way he does and I understand why the comics made him that way, but for everybody in this movie to just sit-around him, and act normal as if he doesn’t look like a freakin’ cheap-o, Halloween mask I’d get if I was in a total rush for one before I got sloshed at my dorm room party. West is okay, but this material for him just blows and makes me wonder if he lost a bet, or was just trying to stretch his wings out a bit and get some mainstream exposure. Whatever the predicament was, I feel bad for him and everybody else in this flick that actually took the bait to work with this screenplay. Screenplay, in the sense that it’s just a bunch of words, thrown-together on a page with a bunch of scenes labeled; “Bam! Boom! Bop! Crash! Bang!”

Consensus: If you want a movie that’s going to satisfy your dramatic, and emotionally-powerful needs; then Punisher: War Zone is nowhere close to doing that. But if you want action, blood, gore, and cheesy one-liners, then you’ll be in-store for a bat-shit crazy time.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

With facial hair: not Newman. Without facial hair: Newman.

With chin hair: not Newman. Without chin hair: Newman.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Man, I’m glad to be from Philadelphia.

Bradley Cooper stars as a sad sack loser named Pat trying to get back on his feet after suffering a mental breakdown. When he meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own, an unexpected bond begins to form between them.

As many of you out there may know, I’m a proud Philadelphian through and through, and to see and hear about a big-budget, Hollywood rom-com be filmed around my parks was surely something that had me interested. I mean honestly, it’s been awhile since the City of Brotherly Love has had a good movie come from it’s native-land in a long, long time and that’s why I was a bit skeptical of just how well this one would do, despite it’s somewhat generic premise. Then, a miracle started to occur right in front of my eyes, as the reviews started to tricked in and I realized: this movie could be the next Rocky, in terms of representing Philly and making all of those who live there, proud to be apart of a city that deserves all the love and praise (in some ways). Then, lastly, another miracle came my way and made me realize something: I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

Yes, I just used the “L word” and with good reason, because this film is exactly what I wanted in a rom-com/character-drama. Director David O. Russell steps out of the boxing ring, and into the streets of Prospect Park (holla!), which may definitely seem a bit odd at first considering this is a character-drama that focuses on people who have problems and don’t really do much about it except talking, and not just go into the ring and beat the shit out of each other, but in a way, you can almost tell that the guy is as ever comfortable as he has ever been with material like this. See, earlier in the review, I stated that this was a “big-budget, Hollywood rom-com”, but I was wrong. Dead-wrong. Actually, it’s more of a very indie-like, rom-com that down-plays everything that we have come to know and expect from any movie of this unoriginal genre, and thank O. Russell for that because that’s the real charm behind this movie.

Right from the first-shot of this movie, I couldn’t help but be swarmed in by all of the fun, humor, and wittiness of this setting and script and as soon as more and more characters became introduced to the story, I knew that I was only getting started on this wild-ride. Every piece of dialogue between these characters is always fun, always interesting, and always something that feels realistic and believable, especially when you actually consider the characters. The real risk O. Russell takes with this movie and these characters, is that he introduces us to people that aren’t exactly the most likable or lovable people we would want to watch a movie about, let alone spend 2 hours with, but somehow, the script makes you forget all about that and you really see something underneath all of the humor, goofiness, and weirdness of these characters, you actually see a heart to it all.

What I loved so much about this flick is how it takes a look at love, through the eyes of a heart-broken man, that has literally been pistol-whipped by love, and can’t figure out just how to go back to the life he once had and make right with everybody he knew, so instead, he just goes back to his old ways and tries to convince everybody that he is the same dude he was 8 months ago when he was shipped-away to crazy town. However, sooner or later, as predictable as it may sound, this guy eventually has to come to terms with what is true and what is not, and eventually that takes a toll on his life and what he thinks he should do with it. This idea of picking yourself back-up from a broken-heart and broken-life, by doing whatever you can to make yourself better each day-by-day is an idea that really resonated with me, as I can definitely say that there have been many times throughout my life where I’ve realized I can be happy in my life if I just allow myself to be better as each day goes by.

However, as corny and gooey as I may make this sound, this film is definitely not all about that. This love that is eventually carried-out, is not something we are used to seeing in movies and what’s even weirder is what the script brings into the fore-front of this love and what gets in the way of it. To be short, without giving too much away, the film combines crazy people, dancing, and the Philadelphia Eagles all into one movie and shows you that as weird of a combination that may be, you give it some real heart and depth, than anything can freakin’ work. I loved this film for showing me, once again, that making your life better is certainly on you but can also be used by allowing yourself to help others and have others help you. It’s a beautiful message that may seem as conventional as they may come, but this film carries it out in a way that isn’t and makes you re-think about where your life/love-life may be heading, and how you can make everything around you, well, better. I know, I know, I’m corny as can be but seriously, this film will make you feel like there is nothing wrong with you, or the world you surround yourself with.

I also think that most of the feelings I have for this movie mainly come from the “romance” between the two lead characters: Pat and Tiffany. First of all, Pat and Tiffany are not necessarily a romantic-couple, even though they may show signs of it. In their own, strange ways, they are both a bit crazy and off-kilter from the rest of the world, but the feelings they share about the things around them has them connect on a way that makes you believe in them as people that could definitely meet and be friends, but also be together, fall in love, and make themselves, and everyone else around them better as well. The whole movie is pretty strange in the directions it goes towards, and that’s mainly thanks to these two and it’s just great to see a rom-com about a couple that doesn’t necessarily fall in love right on impact, and can’t really show each other the type of love-signs we have come to expect from generic characters in these types of movie. Pat and Tiffany is the perfect, anti-rom-com couple that makes it all the more disappointing that once things do get a bit conventional and soapy by the end, it’s a bit too hard to believe or be satisfied with. However, it’s not to the point of where I felt like the whole movie was ruined for me. Just a tad bit of it was. Just a tad bit, mind you.

Despite that itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, little problem, these characters are still great to watch together, especially considering the cast that’s behind them all. Bradley Cooper probably gives his finest performance yet as Pat, by showing that he can let-loose with his manic-energy that definitely shows he still has that pitch-perfect comedic-timing, but also shows a bit of a darker side to him as well. For Cooper, lately, there hasn’t really been a film that’s showed him off a true, dramatic-force to be reckoned with and it’s more that his comedy-skills have been used a hell of a lot better, and showed-off more than I expected. However, his role as Pat allows him to break free from that mold, give us a character that is a bit off his rocker, isn’t always the nice guy when it comes to certain situations and choices that he makes, but also, always allow us to feel some sort of sympathy for the dude as well. Cooper gives off what could possibly be his closest shot to an Oscar nomination this year, and you know what, I think the guy deserves that at least because he nails this role to a “T” here and it’s just great to see him finally break-out and combine what he does best: comedy and drama.

I was a bit skeptical of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, because the character is definitely supposed to be a lot older than Lawrence’s 22-years of age and would seem a bit weird considering that Cooper is 37, but surprise, surprise, Lawrence makes this work like no other. What’s so beautiful about Lawrence here is not only is she able to really have us believe in this gal that could be so weird and cooky, but also have us believe that she is as old and damaged as she is. Tiffany is not the easiest character to really get right from the start as you can tell that she has some problems that may need more fixing than just a simple dance-competition, but Lawrence is so natural with this gal that you can’t help but want to reach your hand out to her, even when Pat doesn’t seem to be. Lawrence is everything you would want her to be in this role and yet, it’s something that we have never seen from her before. She’s vulnerable, but never asking for sympathy; she’s sad, but never mopey; she’s smart, but never condescending; she’s weird, but never to the point of where she’s considered “crazy”; and she’s good-looking, but never to the point of where you wouldn’t believe her is as this older, sadder-woman that comes to terms with the life she lives and where it’s going. Basically, in a nutshell, Lawrence is perfect for this role and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for her role here, then I’m really going to be ticked off. Seriously, this girl has tons and tons of amount of promise going for her and I’ve already forgotten about House at the End of the Street. Even though, I can’t believe how I remembered that title.

As much as this is Cooper and Lawrence’s show, everybody else on the side still gets their own chances to shine and jeez, am I ever so glad for that, because their just as good too. Thank you so much David O. Russell, for giving us a meaty-role for Robert De Niro that shows us why everybody loved the guy so much in the first-place. De Niro plays Cooper’s OCD-like father that can’t seem to ever miss an Eagles game, and is absolutely terrific in a role that shows how much one man can love a son, but also want the best for him and try to give him advice on how to make his life better. It’s a role that shows De Niro at his finest, that we haven’t seen from him in a long-time and as much as he may down-play it, he still lets loose a bit and still makes us laugh our asses off whenever he does the signature crunched-up face. Man, you gotta love De Niro!

As for his wife, played by Jacki Weaver, she’s great as well and shows us a lighter-side to her acting-skills, by giving her character a delightful smile that only wants what’s right for her boy and her family. Oh, and I forgot to thank David O. Russell for something! Thank you so much for bringing back Chris Tucker to a mainstream movie that isn’t co-starring Jackie Chan and reminding us why the guy is so damn funny in the first-place. Yeah, Tucker may have lost his signature, high-pitch voice that mostly everybody hated (even though I loved) and has definitely packed on a couple of pounds for good measure as well, but still shows us that he has that great comedic-timing that makes me wonder why the hell he isn’t in more stuff. Does his character matter all that much to the plot? Hell no, actually, if you got rid of him, nothing in this movie would ever change one-bit but it’s Chris Tucker, man! The guy’s hilarious and I want to see more of him.

Consensus: With a heart as big as the state of Philadelphia (not terribly big, but still big none the less), a message that hits the heart, characters that interest the hell out of you right from the start, and a script that balances quirky, comedy, drama, and romance altogether, Silver Linings Playbook is exactly the type of feel-good movie you want to see this Winter-break, especially if you have ever longed for someone to tell you that your life is worth it and is something that’s meant to be made better not just by others around you, but yourself, as well. Definitely go out there, and go see it. Especially, if you’re from Philly. Then again, I feel like that’s obvious enough already.

9/10=Full Price!!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Batman and Iron Man together at last! Except this time, Batman actually is gay.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Junior) is a thief posing as an actor who teams up with tough-guy private eye Perry Van Shrike (Val Kilmer) and frustrated actress Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan). They stumble upon a murder, which is when the comedy starts to ensue.

When you take elements of a noir, mix it together with dark comedy, action, a little bit of love, and a whole lot of satire and put in one flick, it seems like it would just be another jumbled up piece that would turn out to be just another lame rip-off of ‘Pulp Fiction’. However, c0-writer/director Shane Black is definitely a guy you can depend on for originality.

The film starts off with this very self-aware narrative that shows us all of the things we should know about this story, and makes it a point to point out all of the obvious stuff that pop-up later on in the flick. This was a hilarious way to start the flick off because it got me in the right mind-set of how the comedy was going to be, how frequent it was, and that I also wasn’t going to see something I’ve seen before. Black is a writer that I hear so much about and I can really tell that he has some real talent because with each and every single frame, he keeps on bringing more and more fresh ideas to this story to the point where you think anything can happen, and it actually does.

Despite bringing some fresh and new air to this type of flick, there is also a huge amount to laugh-out-loud here, which is exactly what I did. There’s a lot of gay jokes here to be heard but they work incredibly well, the tongue-in-cheek humor that shows these characters basically talking like they are in another crime-action flick works and doesn’t seem overly used at all, the one-liners just come out like crazy, and you can’t laugh at how funny Black is when he’s poking fun at Hollywood. We always get those flicks that make it abundantly clear that Hollywood is just a huge scam but this flick tells it in a very funny and different way where Black brought up funny statements such as the fact that every girl from a little farm-town makes it “big” or that everyone in these bars look like celebrity impersonators, just felt like the best kind of satire that actually had me laughing. It’s also one of those flicks that pokes fun at people getting shot and killed but that still made me laugh. I don’t know what it is with this guy, but Shane Black is really earning points from me.

My only gripe with this flick is that I do feel like the film tries a little too hard to give us a complicated plot so it doesn’t become one of those stories it’s making fun of. Yes, the plot is a mystery but it gets way too complicated to the point of where I had no idea who the hell this chick was that they were searching for, let alone, if she was alive or dead. All I wanted to see was what would happen to our three main characters and I guess that’s where my favorite parts of this flick came from.

Robert Downey Jr. is absolutely awesome as Harry Lockhart because he plays Downey the way we want to see him played. The character, Harry himself is pretty interesting but it’s not his character arch that made him interesting, it was the charisma and charm that Downey gives off in his performance that gets you behind this guy right from the start. Once again, it’s one of those mile-a-minute/tweeker talks that we usually get from him but it works well for his character and it’s just so much fun to see Downey having a ball with a character like this.

However, what really surprised me was how he actually took the back-burner from a dude none as, Val Kilmer. Yes, The Val Kilmer takes this film from Downey and practically makes it his own with his hilarious performance as Gay Perry (yes that is his name). Kilmer is an actor that is known for choosing some really good roles but then at the same time, known for choosing some real shit roles but I think he found his niche here as the sarcastic-as-hell, gay cop that just elevates this film beyond belief, every time he shows up on-screen. Don’t let me take any credit away from Downey because I think he was awesome here equally, but it was Kilmer who just brought so much energy, so much fun, and so much humor to this whole flick that it really made me crack-up at just about everything he said, even when he was being serious. The chemistry is also a lot of fun to watch too considering that they are supposed to be hating each other for a good part of the flick but they still end up having that buddy chemistry that worked so well for Black in the past.

Michelle Monaghan is surprisingly awesome as Harmony Faith Lane, Harry’s love-interest. I was very surprised when I actually found myself laughing at Monaghan’s character here because not only is she fine as hell but she’s got some great comedic timing to her as well and makes her character seem more than just another one-note, action flick love-interest that starts off strong but then starts to fade away from the picture slowly. I also couldn’t stop thinking about how much Emma Stone actually looks and sounds like her but I hope that Stone stays on the path she’s on, considering Monaghan hasn’t really had a good flick in awhile.

Consensus: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is an original piece of work that combines mystery, crime, action, romance, and tongue-in-cheek comedy that works on almost every level especially with its great lead performances and gets me more and more excited to see what Black and Downey Jr. are going to do with ‘Iron Man 3’.

8.5/10=Matinee!!