Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: David Denman

Power Rangers (2017)

We’re already on 90’s nostalgia?

In Angel Grove, there’s a threat lying somewhere in the sea and her name is Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). What does she intend on doing? Well, it seems like she wants to destroy the world and there’s only one team that can stop her: The Power Rangers. But who are exactly are the Power Rangers? Well, they’re a rag-tag group of teenagers who, through sheer chance and a Saturday detention, are all gifted with special powers that make them ass-kickers. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the star-quarterback who, after totaling his car, is stuck with an ankle-bracelet and has to throw away all hopes of a college scholarship; there’s Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a former cheerleader who wants to become something much more than just another one of the “bad girls”; there’s Billy (RJ Cyler) an autistic loner who doesn’t have many friends, but is incredibly smart and great with technology; there’s Trini (Becky G), who may be something of a rebel herself, for certain reasons; and then, there’s Zack (Ludi Lin), a teen who has to deal with his mother slowly dying and wants to do all that he can to make her last few years, happy ones. As one, they must band together to take down Rita and save the world.

Hologram or not, always listen to whatever Bryan Cranston says.

Even though it didn’t work wonders at the box-office and isn’t perfect, I sure do hope that the Power Rangers is granted a sequel. It’s the rare blockbuster reboot of a nostalgic series that’s smart, funny, diverse, and kind of fun, but never seems like it’s trying too hard to be something it isn’t. There’s references, Easter-eggs, call-backs, and hell, a few cameos from the old series that could have easily been lame fan-service, but instead, just feel like a nice way to remind the older fans of what once was the Power Rangers, and what’s soon to be next Power Rangers.

Or maybe not. Who knows?

Either way, I certainly hope so.

Cause what’s interesting about Power Rangers is that it’s a superhero flick, mixed with a bit of a high-school drama where the drama actually brings some heart, heft, and emotion to whatever the hell else is going on with the sci-fi. In fact, it’s very rare, but the characters here are much more interesting than any of the action, or exposition that gets thrown at us. Director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins seem to actually care about these characters and rather than just having them written off as “types” that we’re so used to with these kinds of high school flicks, they become so much more; the fact that they are more, than what they represent, is even more of a welcome change-of-pace for a genre that seems to skip by this sort of stuff, even if it matters.

And though they’re all ridiculously hot and sexy, the cast is actually quite good in their roles. Everybody brings a great deal of charm and fun into roles that could have been boring and lifeless, with Cyler being the particular stand-out, balancing funny and sadness, sometimes, altogether and at once. They all seem to get along, too, with the chemistry working much more as they get used to one another and understand just who the other person is, where they come from, and why they deserve to be looked at as more than just another “jock”, “slut”, or “nerd”.

Eat your heart out, Michael.

That said, it’s not all great.

When it comes to the exposition and all of the crazy action, Power Rangers can lose itself a bit. While I know that this is the one thing that most fans will want to see with a Power Rangers movie, it’s a bit disappointing that some of it can be so silly and over-the-top, yet, not really fit with the rest of the movie. Like, for instance, Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa – while she’s clearly having cackling her way through every line, she’s not in the right movie. She’s perfect for a Michael Bay flick, for sure, but one where it actually seems like some heart and soul went into everything else, it doesn’t mesh.

Even the action itself by the end seems like a rehash of the Transformers movies, except this time, with a lot more cohesion and less chaos. It’s still fun and well-done, but once again, it still feels like filler for a movie that was trying to do something slightly more than we’re used to seeing. Does that in and of itself warrant it a sequel? Most definitely. But unfortunately, Hollywood may disagree with me on that.

Oh well. Another treasure of my childhood gone to waste, before my very eyes.

Consensus: With more time and care put into the actual heroes themselves, Power Rangers is much better than it has any right to be, even if the action and sci-fi stuff can get a tad tiresome.

6.5 / 10

So hip. So trendy. So not the 90’s. Boo!

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate Films

Advertisements

Logan Lucky (2017)

NASCAR just got actually, well, fun.

West Virginia family man Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) has got a lot of issues right now in his life and money’s just holding him back from everything. He just lost his job, he’s got a bunch of child-support payments to pay, and oh yeah, may lose his house. Basically, he’s in a pinch and the only way he can see of getting out of it is walking in on a large sum of cash. But how? Well, that’s why he decides to team up with his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to steal money from the Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Jimmy also recruits demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them break into the track’s underground system. But of course, this takes a lot of planning, not just with Joe Bang being in the slammer and needing to be broken out, but because the heist is supposed to take place during the most popular NASCAR race of the whole year. How the hell can they pull this off? Will the Logan family-curse continue to live on?

It’s all in the facial-hair.

Though he technically hasn’t been out of the game since his so-called retirement after Side Effects in 2013, there’s just something nice and sweet about having Steven Soderbergh back to making movies again. Sure, it helped that Logan Lucky is a solid movie and a return-to-form for Soderbergh, but even if it wasn’t quite the joy it turned out to be, it would still remind us why it’s a good thing to have Soderbergh around in our world, making movies, as opposed to not having him around and making movies. The man is an artistic genius who finds a way to make what he wants, when he wants, however he wants, regardless of fame, fortune, or budget constraints.

Basically, he’s what any aspiring film-maker hopes to be. And Logan Lucky is, like I said before, a solid reminder of that.

And it’s not like Logan Lucky is a perfect flick; the comedy bits can be a bit straining and stupid, the pace meanders for awhile, and the characters, other than the Logan brothers, don’t feel as developed as they should be. But that said, it’s still a fun movie that shows us the lighter-side to Soderbergh that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. No, he knows breaking down genre conventions, or boundaries here, but what he is doing is offering us a good time, no alcohol or illegal substances required, which is a nice thing to have in the late-summer movie season, when it seems like everything’s getting a whole lot dumber and more dull.

Bond who?!?

But nope. Logan Lucky is anything but dull. It shows that Soderbergh isn’t afraid to goof on himself on a bit, while still giving us all of the trademarks we’ve learn to love and expect from him. The score is still jazzy; the pace is still breezy; the camera-work is still tight and efficient; and the performances, while not always working, are still surprising. Sure, Driver, Tatum, and Keough are great as the dynamic trio, but it’s pretty cool to see the likes of Hilary Swank, Katie Holmes, Jim O’Heir, Sebastian Stan, Seth MacFarlane, Katherine Waterston, and most of all, Daniel Craig, show up here and try to bring some light and fun to these proceedings.

Once again, not all of these performances work – Seth MacFarlane’s role as a British manager who loves social media, for some reason, feels incredibly out-of-place – but it’s a nice ensemble that reminds us all what Soderbergh can do when he’s just having fun. It helps that the story plays out in an exciting, thrilling manner, with the heist itself continuing to get more and more compelling to watch, but it’s all about the tone and the mood, and in Logan Lucky, it’s a fun one.

That’s all it needed to be and that’s all it is. Stop asking for anything more, people!

Consensus: Stepping away from his much more serious pieces, Logan Lucky is a solid return-to-form for Soderbergh who shines, utilizing a talented ensemble and having an overall good time.

7.5 / 10

Finally. A bright new future with Stevie back.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)

Michael Bay: A true American.

On the evening of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2012, a huge group of Islamic militants were angry and upset for obvious reasons and decided to attack the American diplomatic compound, that was, at the time, holding U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. However, they didn’t just top there, they soon went onto target a nearby CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, which was supposed to be super, duper top secret, but for some reason, got leaked out because of some lookie-loos. And even though they weren’t supposed to get involved in the first place, and told constantly to “stay-put and not leave their post” a bunch of CIA security contractors decide that it’s their time to shine and end this brutality and violence before it gets too late and crazy for anyone to stop it. Issue is, it already is too late and now it’s not only up to these CIA security contractors to risk their lives, but to also ensure that they save the U.S. Ambassador.

He's a hero.

He’s a hero.

And yeah, the rest as they say, is well-known history.

Michael Bay loves the absolute hell out of America. So, it makes sense that he would actually take time out of his busy schedule of robots beating the hell out of one another, oiled-up dudes, and general misogyny, and give us, as he probably likes people calling it, “a heartfelt tribute to the soldiers of Benghazi, as well as those who put their lives on the line for the greater-good of society.” And don’t worry, this isn’t me taking a stance on who is to blame for what happened at Benghazi, nor what could have been done better to prevent anything of that nature from happening at all, because really, the true story is about the soldiers who decided to take-up arms and protect their fellow friends and allies, even if it was absolutely clear that they were out-numbered and most likely, not going to make it out alive.

Which, yes, means that this subject calls for some very overly-patriotic, preachy moments where America’s soldiers look like true heroes, in the midst of all the blood, carnage and chaos – which is what Bay absolutely delivers on. And while this is something we expect from him in an cringe-inducing way, here, it actually works because well, these were real people and they do deserve to have the spotlight shined on them for what it is that they did, regardless of what your political affiliation may be. Even though Bay does make each and everyone of them seem like perfect human beings who have lovely wives, kids, dogs, and personalities, it’s still easy to get past because you remember that, once again, this is a true story and these people were in fact, and still are, real.

At the same time though, being a well-deserved tribute doesn’t mean that your movie is at all “good” – just more thoughtful than usual.

Especially when your name is in fact, Michael Bay.

This is all to say that 13 Hours, despite Bay trying his hardest to put some thought and senselessness into the proceedings, is still a gory, crazy and hyper-violent shoot-em-up, where instead of getting the usual Bay caricatures, we have actual soldiers and Libyans, going toe-to-toe, in a literal battle of whose grenade-launcher is bigger and more effective. In other words, it’s exactly like every other Michael Bay movie, which can tend to mean that there’s a lot of explosions, gun shots, and people dying – none of which we actually get to see in a manner that’s effective or, especially, coherent. However, it isn’t always like this, as the setting-up of what initially went down in Benghazi, although a bit dramatic, is still compelling and, most importantly terrifying.

Hell, he's a hero.

Hell, he’s a hero.

But then, it all goes away once Bay starts letting stuff explode and be loud for the hell of it. There’s no problem with this, in terms of factual accuracy, as I’m pretty sure this is exactly what happened in Benghazi, but after awhile, it becomes deafening, repetitive, and tiring – none of which Bay probably intended to actually happen, but such is the case when you’re delving out way too much action/violence and not really offering us anything much else. That Bay seems more interested and taken away with the sheer violence of the events, he focuses less on the meaning of it all; this is alright, as we never know whether he’s trying to make a point or not about war being the right means for ending a conflict, but still, it’s not like he’s even trying, either.

Once again, nobody expects substance from Bay, but given the source material he’s working with, you’d expect a tad bit more.

Nothing too much, but just a slight bit.

Still though, it’s not a terrible movie – just a very misguided one that clearly finds Bay wondering which side of him he wants to show. Maybe there’s a more thoughtful, smarter side to Bay that we don’t ever get to see in the loud, bombastic blockbusters he usually puts out, or maybe, he’s just that over-grown man-child who likes to watch things hit one another, go “brash“, then look at boobs, make sexist jokes, and waste the talents of each and every talented actor who was in desperate need of paying the bills in some way, or fashion. Honestly, the later side of Bay is probably the only side of Bay, but after seeing 13 Hours, it’s not hard to imagine that quite possibly, there’s a bit more underneath the surface that’s worth getting somewhat invested, hell, interested in.

Then again, maybe not.

Consensus: While 13 Hours may show Bay trying a bit harder than ever to give this material the right amount of heart and sentiment it deserves, he still falls into the same motions of constant over-the-top and hectic violence, that’s never as compelling or exciting as Bay may want it to be.

4.5 / 10

But you know what? They're all heroes. If just for one day.

But you know what? They’re all heroes. If just for one day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Gift (2015)

High school is life.

Married couple, Simon and Robyn Callum (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), have been encountering some problems as of late with their marriage, so they decide to move back to where Simon grew up. One day, during shopping, a person by the name of Gordon Mosley (Joel Edgerton) comes up to Simon, to see if he remembers him from high school. Long story short, Simon kind of does, but kind of doesn’t, either. Plenty of time has passed, but to be a nice guy, Simon decides to invite “Gordo” over a fine dinner one night. It isn’t until long that both Robyn and Simon start to see that there’s something odd and off-putting about Gordo; he constantly leaves them gifts and comes over unexpectedly, asking for Simon, but stays longer than he probably should. Eventually, Simon gets tired of this and lets Gordo have it, which is when they think everything’s over with. However, Robyn’s fish are killed, her dog goes missing, and randomly, she starts having panic-attacks, which leads Simon to think that it’s all Gordo causing this and nobody else. But the main question remains: Why would Gordo go all this way to push himself into some dude from high school’s life, some twenty-odd years later?

A-hole.

A-hole.

Despite there being plenty more out there to see, I tend to believe sometimes that I’ve seen plenty of movies. Some were better than others, of course, but that’s not the point of my rambling – the point is that I think, after all the movies I’ve seen, I’ve come to know a lot about what to expect with certain movies. Therefore, when a story starts to lean down a certain direction, my brain automatically turns to the most conventional solution because, well, I’ve seen it all before. In all honesty, I wish I didn’t always think like this with movies, because it actually sucks a lot of the fun out, but so be it. I’m a miserable sack and I blame it all on movies.

But I digress.

The same directions that I’ve just alluded to, are the same ones I saw appear on countless occasions during the Gift. However, what’s different from this movie, as opposed to so many other ones out there that I’ve had the displeasure of seeing, is that it goes down a different way that I didn’t least expect it to. For instance, when Gordo starts showing up unexpectedly, inserting himself into this little couple’s life together, and making it known that he wants to be their friends, my brain was already saying, “Oh great. Here we go. He’s going to creep this family out so much that, eventually, they’re going to have to let him know straight-up, that their relationship is over. Then, Gordo’s going to get all crazy, start harassing the family, creeping them out plenty more, until, there’s a final battle between both sides that’s bloody and senseless.”And heck, once the dog ended up missing and the fish were killed, my mind had already turned off and let me knew that, yup, the Gift was going to be nothing different from any of the other “creepy neighbor thrillers” out there.

Once again, though, I was pleasantly surprised to see that, time and time again, writer/director Joel Edgerton turned down a different street and instead, opted for more fresh ways to tell this pretty familiar story. Take, for example, the characters Edgerton has created here – nobody here, even though the movie may sometimes lean a certain way, is considered to be a “good guy” or a
“bad” one. Mostly, everyone is just a person who may have better morals/social skills/earnings/personal issues/etc. than others and that’s all there is to them. This not only helps the movie feel like it’s more than just a thriller, but a character-study, as well heighten the tension in the air because, quite frankly, we start to care for these characters.

We care for them, not just because the movie wants us to, because after a bit of time, we get to know each and everyone of them. But it’s never over-done; we get certain, little inklings about a person’s life to where we’re able to conjure up exact ideas of how these people may be. And even though, it’s never fully clear who these people are. Maybe that was the cynical point Edgerton was trying to get across, but either way, it’s still an interesting thought to have in a movie that, honestly, could have been all about this couple getting terrorized and the creepy guy, continuing to be creepy.

Edgerton is a smarter talent than that and it goes without saying that, this being his debut and all, I’m quite impressed.

Not because Edgerton finds himself more off-screen, than in front of it, despite this being his movie and all, but because he seems to understand what it takes for a movie to be both smart, but also fun-in-a-silly-kind of way. This is especially evident in the final act when it becomes clear that this is less of a story about a creepy people being creepy, and more about how bullies continue to be bullies, no matter how old or experienced they get. Though the movie itself is smart and complex, the message it sends across, isn’t; however, it’s handled in a way that makes it seem like Edgerton was actually trying to say something here, as simple as it may have been.

Sweetheart.

Sweetheart.

But still, the characters here are strong enough that it doesn’t matter if Edgerton trips up on making sense of this movie. As Simon and Robyn, Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall are, respectively, very good here and help create their own characters well enough to where we see them as separate human beings, and not just a couple. To me, this was probably the most important aspect to making these characters work; while it’s easy to say that they’re in love, hence the fact they’re married, it’s what they do when the other’s not around that makes them into their own person and allows us to see them for all that they are.

For instance, whenever Simon’s not around, Robyn casually goes on a job around her neighborhood, re-organize the house, work on her computer, and do whatever else she feels like doing when she’s home all alone. Though these may seem unimportant when watching them, after awhile, the film uses this as a way to develop her character and make it known that, you know, she’s just a simple, sweet and easy-going gal; she may have had past problems with drugs, as we get more than enough hints at throughout, but overall, she’s a lovely gal. In fact, she’s probably so lovely, that it becomes almost baffling as to why she decides to stick with someone like Simon who, being played by Jason Bateman should already tell you, is a bit of a dick.

In fact, he’s a huge dick.

While this may seem like the same kind of role we’ve seen Bateman do a million times before, there’s something darker and meaner about this character that makes it feel slightly “different”. Instead of all is snarky comments being played for laughs, they’re now played for serious breaks of silence, where he makes a room a whole lot more tense for just saying what he feels and thinks. Bateman’s great here and it shows that, when given a solid script, the dude really can deliver. Same goes for Hall who, by now, we understand to be a pretty great actress. She not only handles the American-accent well, but also allows us to see that there may be a bit of a darker side to this character too, even if it doesn’t always show.

But perhaps, the best character of the bunch is, no surprise, the one being portrayed by the same dude who created this movie to begin with.

Though it’s made clear to us early on that Edgerton’s Gordo may be a bit of a weirdo who is best left in his own, little world of weirdness, rather than jumping in other people’s, there’s still something about him that makes him a character worth watching. While he may be socially awkward and odd at his worst, he is, in no way, a person who seems capable of murder, or any of the heinous acts he’s accused of throughout the flick. And once it becomes clear that he’s not really a bad person, we start to feel bad for him a whole lot more and wish that, not only would someone give him a hug, but also take him out, buy him a beer, and develop a long-standing relationship with him.

Still though, the dude’s still a mystery to us by the end and it’s what makes the Gift perhaps more thought-provoking than most thrillers of this nature that I’ve seen in quite some time.

Consensus: Working as both a character-study, as well as a psychological thriller, the Gift is a smart, complex and tense tale echoing in a new writing/directing talent in the form of Joel Edgerton.

8 / 10

Strange guy.

Strange guy.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Men, Women & Children (2014)

“Technology’s the devil”, in case you haven’t heard that from your grand-parents enough already.

The world in which we live in is changing everyday and technology’s a big reason for that. However, the big question remains: Is it good that we have technology around us, affecting our lives so much? Or, simply put, is it bad and making us disconnect from those around us? Well, the answers don’t come easily, especially for a handful of people living in a Texas suburb. Take for instance, there’s the married-couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) who hasn’t felt that love or passion for one another in quite some time; the photographer mother (Judy Greer) who so clearly loves her daughter and the passion she has for acting, but can’t help but lead her the wrong way; another mother (Jennifer Garner) who may be a bit too over-protective of her daughter and how she uses her forms of technology; a high school sophomore (Ansel Elgort) that quits the football team to focus more on his personal life, which leads him to falling for an outcast (Kaitlyn Dever); and lastly, a young teenage girl (Elena Kampouris) who is curious about sex for the first time in her life and will do anything to experience it, even if that means risking her own life. Oh yeah, and it’s all narrated by Emma Thompson, for some odd reason.

There hardly ever comes a time when I find myself following the rest of the status quo and agreeing with just about everything others have said. That’s not how I roll with movies, music, TV, video-games, and just life in general. I have opinions that I’ll make up for myself and stick to them until I wake up one day and think differently.

Now, with that being said, when I found out that everybody has been practically trashing on this movie here, I was surprised. Not because it seemed like it was a return-to-form for a favorite of mine, Jason Reitman, but because it featured an ensemble cast so good, that it was almost too hard for me to believe that any of them would agree to do something that’d be considered “utter shite” (well, except for Adam Sandler, but hey, he’s trying to get better!). But such is the case here with Men, Women & Children and rather than going into it and expecting it to hate with all my might because of what plenty others have been saying, I decided to stick to my guns, go in with a clear mind, and see how me, myself, and I felt walking out.

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds' heads!

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds’ heads!

And well, wouldn’t ya know it? I quite liked it. In fact, I came close to loving it on a few occasions. And then I didn’t. But the moral behind this story here, folks, is always make sure to not get bogged down by what others may, or may not, be saying. It only gets you further and further away from what matters most: Your own feelings regarding anything.

But like I was saying, there’s definitely something fishy about this movie. For instance, I find it rather strange that Reitman would go for a story that, yes, could be considered timely because of how much it uses technology as a moral stand-point for its story, but in all honesty, actually feels somewhat dated. These types of movies that try to warn us about the dangers of technology seem like they were running wild all over Lifetime or Oxygen way back when. That’s not to say that these types of stories don’t matter nowadays, because no matter what, technology will always be relevant in each and everyone of our lives, but I could have definitely done without a another “technology is evil” movie that just disregards its own message when it’s telling us, the audience, to actually engage in conversations on social-media networks to continue the conversation about the movie we just saw.

A tad ironic, but hey, whatever. The world’s not perfect, and the same thing goes for this movie. Because see, since this is an ensemble-piece, that means one thing: Not every story will be interesting. Though I’d like to hope for that in every movie I see in which different stories take place over the course of one film, the fact of the matter is that it usually doesn’t happen. And such is the case here, because out of the, well, I don’t know, say nine or so subplots, at least four-and-a-half of them are actually somewhat compelling. The others are sort of just there to take up space and allow us to see actors do, well, just that. Which isn’t such a bad thing, especially when you have a cast this good, but every so often, the movie makes you wonder what could have happened, had there been a lot more attention given to the development of these characters and their stories, much rather than the whole obvious message surrounding them and hitting us in the face.

For instance, try the story of Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt’s subplot; in movie terms, their characters are the quintessential aging married-couple: Bored, unfulfilled and always horny, yet somehow, not for one another. There are brief instances in which this story could take a couple of really dark, shocking turns, but since it has to rely on the story’s gimmick of making it all about technology, the movie then jumps into the whole “dating services” aspect of the internet that so many movies have touched on, and also more effectively. Now, that’s not to say that neither Sandler or DeWitt put in bad performances (Sandler does pretty well at playing subtle here, although I was a bit upset by there being hardly any shopping-aisle dances), but you can tell that, had they been given much more to work with, they could have come close to stealing this movie away from the rest of the group and have us actually twisting our heads and thinking.

Well, more to work with, and probably if there hadn’t been any technology used in the first place.

Cause honestly, the aspect of technology placing itself into these stories doesn’t always work and, quite frankly, doesn’t feel wholly necessary. Now, I get that this is an adaptation of a novel that deals with the same problems and what have you, so I understand why Reitman didn’t want to totally take out the aspect of the idea that made it so “unique” in the first place, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just a cautionary tale of how most of us don’t talk to one another and, occasionally, do bad things. Does that mean that technology is always involved with these problems in life? Hell to the no! So, to make every person’s problem in this movie in some way or another, have something to do with technology and its usage, just felt pointless and really took away from the emotional impact that so many of these stories had initially promised.

That’s not to say that these stories don’t deserve to be told, but they don’t deserve to be done so in such an off-putting, slightly over-bearing way either, in which technology always has to rear its ugly head in, somehow, or someway.

Hey, at least they're sleeping in the same bed, right?!?!?!

Young lovers of the world, look close, this will be you one day. Don’t argue, just accept.

And it should be noted that Sandler and DeWitt’s story aren’t just the only ones that get, pardon my French, get the shit end of the stick; a few others show plenty of promise early on, only to have all of that go the way of the Dodo about half-way through. Elena Kampouris’ subplot about a teenage girl with image and sexual issues is alarming, but gets a bit insane by the end that it starts to feel like Reitman’s driving right back into the melodrama he loved so much with Labor Day. The same could sort of be said for a subplot involving a young teenage kid who literally can’t get an erection or perform the act of sex, if it isn’t at all like how he views it as in the various pornos out there on the web. Once again, it’s another honest, true-to-life story, but just feels corny by the end, especially when we see how crazy it pans out to be. And the Jennifer Garner subplot concerning the over-protective mother was just stupid from the very beginning, and only made worse by the fact that Garner’s nerdy-mom shtick gets real old, real quick.

Though the stories that do hit, actually hit pretty hard, if not for the reasons that Reitman had probably intended. Probably the best, most interesting, most compelling, and most lovely subplot of this jumbled-up movie is the one between Ansel Elgort’s ex-football player and Kaitlyn Dever’s social outcast who both, through pure chance, just end up falling for one another. Not only is this the one true story that’s the closest to my heart (high school romance hardly ever disappoints this sentimental soul), but it’s the one story that feels like it’s the closest to Reitman’s heart, too. Both Elgort and Dever’s characters, with as few scenes we get with them together, feel like they would be attracted to each other and not just for the sole reason of having sex, getting it out of the way, and moving on. They’re both lonely, sad, and tormented young souls that need somebody, or someone to talk to, regardless of how it’s done. It also helps that Elgort and Dever have great chemistry and feel like fully fleshed-out teenagers in a film that, honestly, didn’t seem too concerned about in the first place (Elgort is especially amazing and wins me back from his over-the-top nature in the Fault of Our Stars).

But even then, this story seems to get a bit wacky by the end when it relies too much on the idea its presented itself with and takes a bit of steam away from the real heart of the best story it had to offer.

But since I’m going on so much about what Reitman does wrong here, I do have to say that I’m happy to see him at least slightly back in his usual-form. Granted, this isn’t a typical comedy like we’re so used to seeing him do like before, but it’s at least a minor step in the right direction to where he’ll hopefully be able to blend comedy and drama so well, that you have a hard time being able to discern one from the other. That’s the old Jason Reitman we all loved and awaited to see what he had up his sleeve next and it’s the Jason Reitman we all want back, in full-fledged form.

Right, guys?

Consensus: At times, Men, Women & Children can feel like a typical, over-exaggerated after school special about the horrors of technology, but thanks to a solid cast and a few interesting subplots, it is able to get through its various plot-hoops and holes.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fair Game (2010)

Does anybody in the CIA ever smile? Better yet, do anything pleasant whatsoever?

Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) and Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) live a relatively comfy-life together in Washington with their two kids. She works for the CIA and is currently in the middle of an important mission that would allow for her to receive info on possible terrorists’, whereas he’s a former United States diplomat who takes pride in making sure that he gets his point across in any way possible, regardless of how unpopular it may be amongst the post-9/11 society. But their lives change in a drastic way when Plame allows for her husband to get sent on a mission to Niger, where he would inspect certain yellowcake uranium to see if it was being made for the construction of nuclear weapons. Wilson does not think so and lets his voice be known, however, his strong-willed opinion is practically ignored when the President of the United States himself decides to go after Africa anyway. This drives Wilson into a bout of late-night madness where he writes an op-ed for the New York Times, uncovering what it is that he saw and he believed. The White House catches wind of this and to say the least, they are not happy. Therefore, they decide to take matters into their own hands and drop their almighty power and weight on Wilson, as well as Plame, even going so far as to uncover her as an “CIA Agent”. That’s something that should never be unveiled to the public, but when you’re the United States government, you can practically do whatever you damn well please.

Though most of those may think otherwise, I do keep up modern-day politics and all sorts of happenings. But even for me, I had no clue of this story about Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson, and I can bet you donuts to dollars that not many others do either. Which is definitely an element you have to take into consideration while making a movie about it, whether it be a documentary or full-on narrative-flick: It must be as interesting and feel just as important as the film-makers behind the camera think so.

She blends in real nice.

She blends in real nice.

Here, director Doug Liman clearly feels a passion and an anger with this injustice done to Plame and Wilson, and because he feels it’s important, that feelings brought out onto us. However, it isn’t done so in a needy, obvious way that has Liman practically grabbing you by the head and saying, “Pay attention to how important this is!” Many movies of the same nature can and will do that, but thankfully, Liman doesn’t fall for that trick and instead, allows us to follow through the story in the easiest way possible that not only makes it understandable to any regular citizen, but also to anybody who has heard a bit about this story, but didn’t know all the nitty, gritty details of it.

And in making sure we follow along with the story and actually give a hoot about it, Liman focuses most of his attention on the core of this story: Plame and Wilson themselves.

See, it’s easy for a movie like this to get all sorts out-of-whack when there’s as much CIA-talk/espionage/back-stabbing/bullshit that goes on here, and while that does distract from the main reason why this movie’s worth seeing in the first place, it’s not terribly distracting. We still get an idea and feel for who these two people were before all of this havoc came into their lives, and just exactly why it did in the first place.

It would have been real easy for us to hold plenty of judgement against Joe Wilson for speaking his mind and landing his whole family in hot water, when he was assuredly guided to do otherwise, but the movie makes it seem like he needed to. Joe Wilson was the type of man who didn’t want to stand by all of these wrong-doings occurring around him and he sure as hell wasn’t going to stand by while it happened to him and those that he loved. It should be noted that Sean Penn is great as Joe Wilson, although there is one key problem with this casting and that’s because Joe Wilson himself does seem a lot like Sean Penn, the guy in real life. Especially towards the end, when Liman decides to hell with subtlety and starts really preaching to the choir, and gives us many scenes where it’s just Penn ranting, yelling and raving about how we all, as a society, should stand up for what we believe in and not get knocked down by the power of the metaphorical “man”.

"So I said to her, "FuckyoufuckingbitchI'llkillyou." Funny, right?"

“So I said to her, “FuckyoufuckingbitchI’llkillyou.” Funny, right?”

There’s nothing wrong with these scenes or what it is that they are trying to get across, per se, it’s just hard to separate a character Sean Penn is playing, from the person Sean Penn is in real life. Heck, there’s also another scene in which Wilson himself comes pretty close to beating the shit out of a reporter/paparazzi! Art imitating life? Maybe, maybe not. But what I do know is that Sean Penn was a wonderful choice for the part of Joe Wilson, for better or worse.

That’s not to say Naomi Watts is chopped-liver as Valerie Plame either, it’s just that she gives the type of performance we expect to see from Naomi Watts: Strong-willed and emotional, yet, still keeps a lid of silence on all of it. Watts is always great and it’s no surprise that she and Penn have a very comfortable, relaxed chemistry together, considering that they starred together in two movies before this. Together, they build a couple that has an understanding between what’s expected of a married-couple with kids, as well as what is expected to ensure the safety of them and their said kids. They’re the quintessential couple, except that this time, they’re practically facing off against the whole United States government. And while Liman realizes that this is a challenge for them (hard to believe, I know), he still realizes that when everything in life seems to be working against you, the ones you can always fall back on are your loved ones.

Even if they just so happen to be Sean Penn.

Consensus: Fair Game clogs itself up a bit way too much with unneeded subplots, but the arch of the story, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame, is done well and effectively, to where we stand behind them with every decision they make, regardless of how risky it may or may not be.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

 

"Honey, can you do me a favor and shut your mouth? Maybe just for a few minutes?"

“Honey, can you do me a favor and shut your mouth? Maybe just for a few minutes?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Jobs (2013)

You’re trying to tell me Steve Jobs was NOT God?!?!?

This is the story of Steve Jobs (Ashton Kutcher). Some of you may know him as that guy who died two years ago, others may know him as the man who founded Apple and the world has never been the same since. That latter-choice is mainly what he’s remembered for, although you wouldn’t be wrong to go with the first one either because he did die two years ago, due to stomach cancer. Anyway, that’s the end of his story, the beginning of it all begins with his early days of getting kicked out of college, being a hippie, doing a lot of acid, and starting his own computer company in his garage with fellow iconic nerd Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). Then, once powerful businessman Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) came strolling through, poking his nose into Jobs’ business, then he, along with the rest of Apple, got big. Almost TOO big some would say, especially for Steve himself who was considered very difficult to work with and always wanted perfection, at the expense of the others around and supported him. That would all come back to catch up with him though, in a way that not only blind-sided him, but the rest of the technology world as well.

The story of Steve Jobs seemed almost destine for the big-screen. Think about it: How many people do you see out-and-about with iPods, iMacs, or iPhones? The answer is somewhere in the millions and it shows you the type of effect/influence this man had on our world. He changed the way we see, hear, and feel everything, not just computers, music, or video-games, EVERYTHING. The man was a visionary, and it still saddens me to this day to see him go. What saddens me even more, is that his legacy will most likely live on in made-for-TV movies like this; the problem being, this isn’t a made-for-TV movie. It’s released to the general, wide public, in order to inform the world on the person Steve Jobs was and why his story matters, but at the same time, not doing either of them. It just tells a story, and that’s it.

"Can we get a munchies break, man?"

“Can we get a munchies break, man?”

All we really get here from Joshua Michael Stern’s direction with this material is that Steve Jobs was a very smart dude, but at the same time, a dick. Which I will admit, I liked. It takes a lot for a biopic like this to not sugarcoat its main subject, and I liked that it showed Jobs as a dude that didn’t work well with others, for reasons that weren’t anybody else’s fault but his own. He was a perfectionist, arrogant, always felt like he knew what to do and how to do it better, and didn’t want to be anything or anybody that disagreed with him. From the stories that I’ve read and heard of Jobs, a lot this rings true, which is why I’m glad that Stern went for that aspect of the man’s story, but that’s about it.

Everything else we see here, like his failures and his victories, all play out without little to no emotion, insight, or compelling arguments as to why it matters at all in the least bit. Seriously, as soon as Jobs and the rest of his ragtag group are given their first task to create a keyboard and sell it to the wide audience out there, we are told it does something cool in a way that only full-on computer geeks will get and understand. As for the rest of the human-population that can’t tell the difference between a Dell or a PC, are going to be at a loss for words, which is wrong to do for a biopic of this. A lot of people have been bringing comparisons between this and another technology-centered biopic, The Social Network, and although I wanted to side-step away from that obvious route, I just can’t help it because at least that movie did everything right, that this movie could not do.

It gave us a reason to care, with fully fleshed-out characters; it made us understand why all of these inventions mattered, and still do in today’s world; and made us feel the hurt and the pain once the back-stabbing and betrayal began to happen between co-workers, and old friends. That movie, was a near-masterpiece and watching a misguided biopic like this only made me realize just how well-done that movie honestly was. This, on the other hand, while not being terrible like I had originally imagined it being, still can’t seem to get to the core of the events it’s depicting, or the person it’s about himself.

For instance, rather than this being a movie about Steve Jobs the person, it’s more about Steve Jobs, what he did, and how he did it. Not how he felt or who he was, but what he got done in time for everybody to check it out. In a way, it just traces all of the accomplishments he had over the years, while also shedding a dim-light on some of the biggest happenings of his life. Probably the most important event of his life was when Bill Gates “supposedly” ripped-off one of Jobs’ models, putting him into a total fit of rage and anger. You’d think that the tension and building-up to this one scene would be somewhere along the lines of Peter Parker on the verge of beating the shit out of JT, but it was the farthest thing from. Instead, we just got a simple phone-call from Jobs to Gates, where the man left an angry voice-message, saying he’s pissed and all of that other enraged crap, and that was it. Never alluded to once again, and just left to pan-out in mid-air. That’s not the only instance where we get something important in Jobs’ life alluded to, and never brought up again: There’s the fact that he was adopted, and didn’t want anything to do with his first-born; what he did in his meantime when he was first fired from Apple (and subsequently founded Pixar); and the fact that he abandoned and ripped-off of most of his co-founding friends within Apple.

Plenty more where that came from, and even though they do touch on those subjects in this movie, they never go anywhere deeper than just a nod, a wink, or nothing at all. Maybe just a mention, and that’s it.

Oh my gosh! It's Kelso! But he's old! And bald!!

Oh my gosh! It’s Kelso! But he’s old! And bald!!

However, I’d say that the only memorable part about this whole movie is Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal of Steve Jobs, which in and of itself isn’t even the best part of the movie; it’s just interesting per se. Because let’s all face it: I highly doubt I was alone in the world being skeptical and nervous hearing that Michael Kelso would be playing none other than Steve Jobs, a widely-regarded genius of the modern-day, right? And that’s not a hit against Kutcher at all; in fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I “like” the dude. He’s funny, he’s got charm, and seems like he can pull off some nice bits of acting when he needs to, but I think it may be just a little too drastic for him to go for the gut with a performance that’s centered all around him, what he can do as an actor, and how spot-on he can portray this famous figure. Some of it, surprisingly, Kutcher does well with, especially the gaunt-walk Jobs supposedly had and the way he was able to sound-out certain vowels. That “impersonation”, if you will, is good for him and he does a nice job with, but when it comes to getting to the meat of the performance and of this guy, then he loses all credibility.

Most of that blame is partially on the script, as well as the direction, but it’s also on Kutcher because I always saw him “acting”. Not once did I really see him BECOME Steve Jobs. I just saw him playing Steve Jobs, and try really, really hard at it as well. The make-up and facial-hair looked good on him and was able to make us see him as Jobs, but that’s all because it’s a neat little trick of the director, and not because Kutcher is that talented of an actor. However, I can’t hate on the guy too much because he surprisingly bearable to watch here, and it’s the type of performance that makes me wish I see him in more daring, challenging roles in the future, but as for right now: Just stick with saying choice words like “dude” and “sweet”, and you’ll be all good.

As for the rest of the stacked-cast, they all do fine as well and in certain spots, bring out the best within Kutcher’s acting skill. Josh Gad especially, playing Steve Wozniak in a way that makes him a rather rotund, but lovable nerd that knows what’s right for the technology world, but also has morals to where it’s no surprise to see him and Jobs have a bit of a battle on what constitutes “business, without being personal”. Also, it was very nice to see Dermot Mulroney get his best performance in what has seemed like ages. Seriously, why is this guy not getting bigger and better roles nowadays?!?! The man obviously deserves it, and shows so here. Whatever, it’s probably just me.

Consensus: While Jobs doesn’t stray far away from the ugly side of it’s main figure-head, it surely doesn’t do him many favors either in terms of getting to who the person was, why he was that way, why he mattered, why what he did mattered, and why we should fully believe Ashton Kutcher as a dramatic force to be reckoned with.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ's "Sexiest Man of the Year" recipient.

Steve Jobs: Also former GQ’s “Sexiest Man of the Year” recipient.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

After Earth (2013)

Hey Jaden! Welcome to Urf!

During a post-apocalyptic Earth, a father and son (Will and Jaden Smith) find themselves stranged and without a sense of direction after a crash landing. With the father critically injured, it’s up to the son to embark on a dangerous journey so the duo can return safely home. However, what the son doesn’t know is that the world isn’t what he thought it was, and all of the beautiful wonders that were once there, are all gone and feature madness and panic in-place.

After seeing all of the happenings, all of the chicks in the waters, and the airbenders that just so happen to be last, I have finally come to my destination: seeing M. Night Shyamalan’s recent-movie. And after all of those barf-fests, I have to say: this one is not as bad as those others. Hell, even with all of them combined, it’s still better (seriously, the three scores added up are less than 5). Then again, me taking a bath with my rubber duckies for an hour and a half is probably better too, but coming from the dude who’s name has came to be followed by shrieks of fear of horror; it’s a step in the right direction.

Not the best step, but still a step nonetheless.

That said, there is a lot here that doesn’t work as well as it should. Take the plot, for instance. Basically, this whole movie is just seeing if Lil’ Jaden can get from point-A-to-point-B, as he steps through obstacles, finds foes in his way, and eventually begins to run out of health-packs, that will help him stay alive on the quarantined-Earth. Instead of sounding like an actual movie with real character development and drama, it all feels like a video-game where we are just watching somebody else play for 90 minutes, not hand over the controller, and make us watch because he’s the one who pays the cable bill every month. Yeah, I know dicks like that, and that’s what I felt like when I was watching this movie. So much so, I honestly expected there to be a little box up at the top of the screen, letting me know how much life I had left, and when I could use my “Turbo Boost”.

"You fuck this business opportunity, you're grounded."

“You fuck this business opportunity, you’re grounded.”

It wouldn’t have honestly been so bad neither, had the movie been as thrilling as you’d expect from M. Night; but it just wasn’t. You know how everything’s going to turn out just by the sugar-coated feel tone and feel of this movie; no real twists and turns come to play, which is especially surprising for M. Night; the characters are thinly-written; and the rummages that are left of Earth that these two are stranded on, is terrible-looking with it’s cheap CGI, uninteresting use of special effects, and a setting that didn’t feel like a huge part of the world, but just a little part of the woods that I could easily find for me and my buds to drink at. Usually, it doesn’t bother me when the film has cheep-CGI and doesn’t have anything new or original to show me when it comes to delivering it’s action, but at least make me feel something, if anything at all!

The characters aren’t really worth caring about or rooting for, even if the movie totally twists your arm to do so. And by “the movie”, I mean Will Smith his damn-self! I get that Will wants the best for his kid, Jaden, and to be honest; the kid isn’t all that bad of an actor. Sure, he’s not as strong or as charismatic as a presence of his daddy, but the kid’s got spark that could eventually turn into a whole bunch of fire, which, in a way: could almost make him close to being his daddy. However, only time will tell with this one, but somebody should definitely tell that said daddy so!

The problem with this movie isn’t just that it’s weak at trying to make us care, it’s that about 90% of it is dedicated to watching Jaden run around, sprint, look scared, be brave, and feel no fear, which is fine for what it is, but then he starts talking, and emoting, and expressing emotions, and trying to carry this flick, and it just does not work. The movie would have been fine had they given the flick to anybody else in the world, but this kid is not that person as he can not put this flick on his back, and get us along for the ride. He feels like a flat hero, that has the same intentions as any hero we’ve ever seen before, and it leaves a bad taste in your mouth because you know none of that shit matters to Big Will. He just wants to give his son the chance to get out there and noticed for the whole rest of the world, so that they too, can latch on to the charm and likeability that he once, and still has to this day. It’s just a shame that it didn’t quite work out like Big Will had planned, because this kid definitely seemed like he was trying. Maybe a bit too hard, but at least

I’ll give him an ‘A’ for effort. Okay, maybe an ‘A-‘. Yeah, that feels about right.

As for Will, the dude’s still fine for what he has to do with the limited-time he’s given. Granted, half of the movie is dedicated to him just telling Jaden what to do, as he lays there in agony and pain, waiting for his damn leg to heal. But even through all of the dullness, Will still does fine and shows us why we all love him so much in the first place. It does feel like this guy could be doing more with this movie, rather than just handing it over to his son, but at least we weren’t witness to another one of his yells. Thank the heavens for that.

In a couple years, "The Lizard King" will be an appropriate nickname.

In a couple years, “The Lizard King” will be an appropriate nickname.

Also, can somebody please tell me what the fuck was up with those accents of theirs? It was like a mixture between French and English, even though they still had that American-spunk to them. Didn’t quite get it, and sort of made the performances a bit worse.

However, with all of this shit being said, I still have to say that I enjoyed myself through a portion of this movie, and I think you can too if you just throw down your expectations a bit. After seeing all of M. Night’s true-stinkers over the past week or so, I’ve come to realize that this dude may never, ever have the chance to come back and show the world what true skills as a film maker he has. But I still do think that his chance lies somewhere over the rainbow, one that is very, very far away and nearly-unreachable. But still: he may be able to get it one of these days and achieve his dream and true vision. He has not achieved that one bit with this movie, but (and it is a BIG one), the man at least seems to be having fun with this movie, and allowing us to join in a bit too. It is nowhere near being perfect whatsoever, but compared to what M. Night’s done in the past decade: it’s almost a near, freaking masterpiece.

Consensus: The plot to After Earth takes it down a whole bunch of notches that it nearly dies from it’s own pain, but it’s better than what we’ve seen recently from M. Night, and it’s glad to see him at least enjoying the work he’s putting out on-display for all of us to see and rather have fun with. Could have been a hell of a lot better, but if this is as good as we are going to get for now: I’m content. For now!

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Alright, Will. Enough with the serious face. You're the Prince of Bel-Air!

Alright, Will. Enough with the serious face. You’re the Prince of Bel-Air!

The Nines (2007)

Should have just stayed in the box, Ryan.

Ryan Reynolds, Melissa McCarthy and Hope Davis appear in multiple roles which combine into three intertwining stories: A popular TV actor is under house arrest in “The Prisoner”; a TV producer struggles to launch a new series in “Reality Television”; and a video-game designer seeks help for his stranded family in “Knowing.”

I never really knew much about this flick other than that it’s been sitting on my Netflix queue for quite some time and that it wasn’t half bad since it had a 3 1/2 star rating. Thankfully, Netflix didn’t let me down. Or, well, not that I think just yet. Still questioning whether or not this thing really had me all ecstatic in the first-place.

Writer/director John August definitely started this flick off on the right foot with his first part, called “The Prisoner”. What I liked about this was that it was pretty funny, a little goofy, but also very strange how there was some weird ghost-like vision going on throughout this whole part and it made me wonder what I got myself into. There was a lot of questions that I kept on asking myself but then as soon as I thought the answer was coming up, Part 2 and 3 came around, then I got totally confused out of my ass.

It seemed like August definitely had a vision and clear-cut idea of what he wanted to do with all of these three intertwining stories, but for some odd reason, they seemed like they were all lost half-way through the second part. There are so many ideas being brought up, so many questions being asked, and so many different subplots coming from out of nowhere, that after awhile it became tiresome for me to handle it all in and try to understand just what August was throwing at me. The dude definitely had some bright ideas here but they all seemed to get jumbled up with whatever else came to his mind at the time of his filming.

And as confusing as the flick got, the ending left me with barely anything to feel. The last 10 minutes start to get very sappy and almost too serious because the whole film had this serio-comedy thing going on for the first two parts, then it suddenly just drops it for dramatic sake and it was a real let-down since August was doing pretty damn well with the comedy aspects here. It also bothered me that the everything was explained at the end, but I never really understood that either. The number 9’s significance to this story is explained but it seemed somewhat random and a lame excuse just to have some significance to the story. And the whole main twist at the end just seemed like a good idea on paper, but once it was played out on the big-screen, it comes off as way too pretentious and artsy for my liking. I didn’t really know what August was trying to do with these twists and the explanations to this story, but I definitely didn’t feel moved or inspired in any way shape or form.

However, with all of that said about the confusing twists and dumb-ass explanations, I still was very intrigued and entertained by this flick mainly because of August’s structure. The first two stories were very well-done and I mostly liked the second one because it put a cool spin on the whole “reality TV show” look and showed just how ugly and mean the entertainment business can be. Yeah, does it seem a little too random for something like this? Of course, but August’s writing kept me intrigued in wondering what was happening next. Also, sometimes if you pay close attention, you can sometimes catch little hints here and there about what’s really going on as other characters start to utter certain types of dialogue that has already been used in the film before and it was pretty cool to pick that up and see what August could do with this story. Shame that it ended up where it did, but it still had me entertained and that’s all that really matters.

One of the major hypes around this film was about whether or not Ryan Reynolds could carry a whole film all by his lonesome-self. Thankfully, he does just that. Reynolds is so damn good with all three of his roles he has in this flick and shows his range that goes almost all-over-the-place in terms of emotions. Still, I always bought what character Reynolds was playing and it made me realize that he does have some real talent, he just needs to get the right type of roles. Hope Davis was also very good in her roles and I don’t ever really remember her being as sexy before, as she is in this flick, and Melissa McCarthy (aka big chick from Bridesmaids) is also great here and brings a lot of humor and heart to each one of her characters, one of which, is actually herself. All three are great and play each of their roles very well, but in the end, it’s more about August’s style and what he can do with this wacky and wild story and it gets in the way of some rich performances from a pretty narrow, but interesting cast. Oh well, at least McCarthy’s been nominated for an Oscar already. I guess she’s beat these two to the punch.

Consensus: The Nines shows that Ryan Reynolds is definitely able to carry a film on his own, and definitely had me more interested in it’s crazy story than I originally thought I was going to be, but it gets way too confusing in a way that seems almost intentional from writer/director John August. However, I was never bored and maybe that’s a positive.

6/10=Rental!!