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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: David Krumholtz

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Went to Coney Island and Man, We’re People Annoying.

It’s Coney Island in the 1950’s and there are a bunch of people who are just doing their best to get by, whatever the hell that even means. There’s Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house and yeah, she doesn’t quite like it. There’s Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband who just wants the best for his family, even though he knows that’s easier said then done. There’s Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and instantly takes a liking to Ginny, despite her marital-status. And lastly, there’s Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Together, all four are just trying to get by, finding work, finding love, and oh yeah, finding a whole heck of a lot of issues along the way.

He could save me from drowning any day.

Wonder Wheel is, yet again, another one of Woody Allen’s less inspired efforts, although it does flirt with the idea of being something so much more and something so much better. And yet, it doesn’t. It sort of just sits there, stagnate, telling its story, its characters, conflicts, and just moving at its own even-pace. Which is odd, because Wonder Wheel is never all that funny to be a comedy, nor is it really all that sad or emotional to be considered a “drama”; it’s mostly just a bunch of dialogue, with bits that seem like comedy and drama, yet never reach that magnitude.

Which had me thinking, “Why doesn’t Woody Allen give television another try?”

I know that Crisis in Six Scenes was considered a bomb (though I didn’t mind it), but seriously, with so much TV out there that blurs the line between comedy and drama, there’s a part of me that wonders, with more time, effort, and care, Allen may be able to make a great TV show. Of course, though, you could say the same thing about the movies he makes, where each and everyone only takes a year to write, shoot, edit, and release, which is surprising for an 82-year-old man, but also obviously inconsistent. It’s almost as if every 7th flick or so from Allen is good, whereas all the others are just incredibly mediocre or fine.

And yes, Wonder Wheel is that movie where it seems like it Allen may have an inspired idea, but doesn’t really go there. He could have chosen to crack jokes about post-WWII America and the utter nostalgia that frames every inch of the beautifully-lit screen here, but instead, he settles for a story about four people, finding love and inspiration on Coney Island. If Allen actually cared, these characters would be compelling, but that’s the rub: It almost seems like he doesn’t. It’s as if everyone written here were already small sketches that he somehow got the green-light to make more of, but rather than working on said characters, he just continued to write more and more plot.

It’s like the Sopranos, with Jim Belushi, somehow.

And it’s a bit of a sad affair that, without the actors in it, would have been terribly boring.

But it isn’t and that’s because the cast all come ready to play and give it their all. Kate Winslet is going way wacky and over-the-top here as Ginny, but the woman sells it because she’s funny, a little sad, and a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Woody Allen’s heroines. For one, she’s older and going after a younger man, so already, she’s a ground-breaker, but yeah, she’s also an enjoyable presence in the movie that I would have loved to have seen in another movie that cared more about her. Justin Timblerake is fine as the lifeguard that Ginny falls for and while a lot of people have been ragging on Timberlake’s performance here, he’s okay enough to where he handles himself well, even among the crowd of talented people he’s stuck with.

But really, my favorite is probably Jim Belushi as the depressed and rather upset husband of Ginny. This character is interesting in that we’ve seen Allen play with these sorts of characters and make them completely awful human beings (see Danny Aiello in the Purple Rose of Cairo), whereas Belushi’s role as the husband is a lot more sad and sympathetic. Usually, these characters are mean and cruel, but this guy seems like he just wants a little bit more love out of life, isn’t getting it, but isn’t going to give up, either. He’s the kind of character who I wanted to give a hug, too, but once again, Allen steps a bit shy of actually giving this character more to deal with. It’s mostly just Belushi doing all that he can and he makes it work.

Wish I could say that about the rest of the movie.

Consensus: Never quite settling on a tone, Wonder Wheel is another middling-effort from Woody Allen, who seems to get by with beautiful visuals, a nostalgic setting, and solid cast, but can’t quite get his scripts to work.

5 / 10

Wrong attire for the beach, but hey, at least you’re here!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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The Ice Storm (1997)

Cheer up, suburbia. Have some sex.

1973 is winding down and you know what? Maybe it’s time for a little break. It’s Thanksgiving break and those living in the suburbs of Connecticut, when they’re not dealing with the cold temperatures and snow on the ground, are also dealing with one another. Ben (Kevin Kline) is a frustrated father who doesn’t like his job, but also doesn’t know how to seek love or happiness from his wife Elena (Joan Allen). So rather than trying to actually solve it by talking to her like the old days, he’s currently seeking fulfillment from his neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver). Meanwhile, his teenage daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), has some issues going on of her own, too. She’s currently playing weird sexual games with Janey’s son Mikey (Elijah Wood), making him act out in the usual ways that young, adolescent kids do. And there’s the older brother, Paul (Tobey Maguire), who has a huge crush on some girl in his class (Katie Holmes), but doesn’t know how to go about it, nor does he quite know how to even talk to girls, but is going to try anyway.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

Though it doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for this, the Ice Storm was actually one of the first “suburbia sucks” movies to start the boom that sprung in the late-90’s-to-early-aughts. Of course, a lot of the movies to follow were bland, unoriginal, and just downright depressing, but the Ice Storm, even without it being the starter-package, still sails above the rest. See, it does something with its message and its sadness, and it actually builds off of them; so many of the other movies that were soon to follow, seemed to just focus in on this aspect of suburbia and not go anywhere else.

It was just one emotion, the whole way through.

And sure, you could also kind of say the same about the Ice Storm, but it’s a much more deliberate mood-piece. It’s a slow-burner for sure, but it’s also a movie that takes its time for certain reasons, like building up characters and each of their relationships to one another; the fact that the movie has about five-to-ten core characters, really gives off that feeling of repression and suffocation, but in a way, draws us closer to these character. Ang Lee may be known for paying extra attention to the ways his movies look, but here, he shows that there’s a certain attention paid to characters that just can’t be matched.

What Lee shows is that, beyond all of the sadness, repression and claustrophobia, is that there can be some bittersweet moments of pure love and joy. At times, when it’s not trying to get us down in the dumps, the Ice Storm can actually be a funny movie, poking fun at both growing old and growing up, in a time and place where it seems like the experiences and feelings are almost identical. That’s not to say that the movie’s a dramedy in any sense of the term, but the movie isn’t just one long funeral – there’s bits and pieces of sheer happiness and joy, but because they are indeed so scattered, they truly do make those said moments all the more lovely and emotional.

And then, yes, there’s the ensemble who are all, as expected, pretty great.

Kevin Kline is so perfect as Ben, the upset and constantly nervous father who clearly wants the best for him and his family, but just also doesn’t know what to do anymore. With Kline, there’s always this feeling that he’s the cool and hip dad who never gets the respect he deserves and watching him here, you totally feel that – he’s just waiting to be noticed, recognized and if anything, appreciated. If he has to go out and find that for himself, then so be it.

Joan Allen plays his wife, Elena, and has a far more subtler role than him, but is still very effective in it. There’s this lingering sense of anger underneath everything that she does and it’s exciting just waiting around to see when she’s going to crack and lose her cool, once and for all. Sigourney Weaver’s Janey may also seem like a total villain at first, but the movie does humanize her in certain ways that’s not just surprising, but refreshing; here’s a woman, having sex with a married man, and while she doesn’t feel regret for it, she’s also not very happy about it, either.

Like everyone else, she’s just trying her absolute hardest to get by.

Sorry, Tobey. Don't have to go home, but can't stay here.

Sorry, Tobey. Don’t have to go home, but can’t stay here.

As for the kids, they all fair-off pretty fine, too, especially since most of them were the premiere young actors at the time. Christina Ricci is great as the sassy, overtly sexual Wendy; Elijah Wood is very fun to watch as the fellow teenage boy she constantly teases and plays around with; Tobey Maguire plays the older college student who isn’t sure just how to go about picking up girls and because of that, his awkwardness shines through in every scene; and Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz, in only just two scenes, really do come close to stealing the show, highlighting a great deal of adolescent sincerity that they were able to match in the following years to come, but not with the same amount of rawness.

But the real takeaway from the Ice Storm and these characters is that, yes, they’re performed and written well, but they’re also never judged. Because these characters are so sad and in such huge funks, they don’t always make the best, or brightest decisions – in most cases, they’re doing just whatever they feel will make them happy at that one exact moment in time. It would have been easy for a movie, let alone, its director to shine a light on them and frown, but instead, Ang Lee embraces them for all of their faults and realizes that they too, just like your or I, have issues and they’re just trying to wade through them all. They aren’t perfect, hell, they’re not even nice, but they’re real people and those are the kind that are very hard to find movies nowadays, or in general.

Consensus: With extra attention paid to its troubled characters, the Ice Storm is a sad, dramatic, but rather moving mood-piece about suburbia and all of those imperfect beings who inhabit it.

9.5 / 10

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in the Gutter, Awards Circuit

Sausage Party (2016)

I prefer my groceries non-verbal and dead, thank you very much.

Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage in a grocery store and just like every other product in this grocery store, they all dream of a better life, where they’re picked up by customers, taken out of their plastic wrappers, and brought onto “the promised land”. While no product has any actual idea of what lies ahead, once they are picked up and bought, their imaginations run so wild that they create a song and dance number to make themselves more attractive to the customers, or as they call them, “Gods”. For Frank, however, it’s less about being taken to this so-called “promised land”, and more or less allowed to finally have some sweet, sweaty and dirty sex with his girlfriend, a bun named Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig). But for some reason, as of late, Frank has been contemplating the world outside of the grocery store and because of this, he doesn’t really know if he wants to be taken to “the promised land”, leading him on this wild adventure of getting back on the store-shelves, while also ensuring that what he’s doing is right.

You know, what normal store-bought sausage franks think about on a regular basis.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The whole idea of Sausage Party is that it’s an R-rated, raunchy-as-all-hell, mean, vulgar, and nasty animated flick that’s mean to some sort of play on Toy Story, where inanimate objects walk, talk, and act, just like you or I, yet, at the same time, don’t really know much about the world around them, other than what they see in their small, contained worlds and possibly what their told. Honestly, it’s a genius idea that’s a lot more ambitious than it sounds and given the cast and crew involved, it’s a surprise that this didn’t come around sooner. Studios already have issues shelling out loads and loads of money to R-rated movies as is, let alone animated ones that are clearly not at all for kids, even if they’ll probably see the numerous ads, billboards and posters, wondering just what it’s all about and whether or not their parents can take them to see it.

Which is why Sausage Party, despite not being a great movie, is still a step in the right direction for more of these kinds of flicks to come out. Sure, they may be a better, or they may be a lot worse than Sausage Party, but still, they’re R-rated animated flicks, made by and strictly for adults. All of this garbage said, Sausage Party works when it’s trying to be a little more than what it appears to be on the surface; there’s lots of swears and cursing going on, some of which just feel like overkill, but there are also some nice little plays on this grocery-store world and puns, that make it feel like this movie had to take place with the kind of story that it has.

But then again, there’s also a slew of jokes and plays-on-words that are meant to be funny, but unfortunately, just aren’t.

Tequila's always fun no matter what form.

Tequila’s always fun no matter what form.

And really, that’s what it all comes down to when you’re working with a comedy – the jokes have to be funny and if they aren’t, then it’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times in which I laughed during Sausage Party, but there were also plenty of times that I didn’t, and it seemed disappointing, considering that everyone involved here are funny people and can make me laugh like a hyena, when they feel is necessary. The fact that they don’t always win me over with laughter, is fine, but when your movie is literally one joke after another, and a good portion of them don’t connect, it’s hard not to notice.

That said, Sausage Party still does work, because it’s got more on its mind than just talking-food – as was the case with This is the End, Sausage Party is a movie in which Apatow friends and company, all question their existence and wonder whether or not there is more to life than just what’s being presented to them. It’s a silly allegory, mostly due to the fact that it’s talking-food asking and looking for answers to these burning questions, but it’s an allegory that’s still smart and makes sense, given this story and these characters. There’s also all of this talk of race relations, religion and, believe it or not, politics, all of which don’t really feel necessary and don’t always work, but still make this more than what you’d expect it to be.

But still, Sausage Party isn’t trying to change the world we live in, and that’s okay. It’s a silly movie, that has fun with itself to the point of where it’s enjoyable and it doesn’t ask for much attention or thought necessary. The cast, as usual, is great, with Nick Kroll probably the stand-out as the Deuche, who sounds and acts like a Jersey Shore bro, as well as Edward Norton doing a very odd Woody Allen-impersonation. Not sure if the movie needed that later one, but hey, Edward Norton voicing a bagel is pretty cool, so I’ll take it.

I may not eat it, because that’s creepy, but I’ll take it.

Consensus: While not necessarily lighting the comedic world on fire, Sausage Party still works well with its creative idea, bringing out laughs and a surprising amount of food-for-thought while it’s at it.

7 / 10

Hungry now?

Hungry now?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I Saw the Light (2016)

If only Sr. had a chance to be ready for some football.

Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) was just another up-and-coming country singer from a troubled home in Alabama. However, through all of the pain and the hardship, the only way he got through it all was through song, which is why he decided to take his soul, his lyrics and most importantly, his voice out there on the road, for all sorts of people to love, praise and adore, even all of these years later. Backed by his supportive, but sometimes aggressive wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), Hank seemingly had it all; the fame, fortune, wife, and a nice house to-boot. Problem was, Hank had a pretty big problem with drinking and this often lead to erratic, wild behavior. For instance, he stopped showing up to shows that he was initially booked for, much to his fan’s dismay. And then, he started flingin’ around and looking at other dames that didn’t so happen to be his wife. Yes, it was all so self-destructive, but somehow, even at the end of a long day filled with booze, cigarettes, and women, he always finds a way to come back to his guitar and sing his heart out.

Sing it loud and sing it proud, Loki.

Sing it loud and sing it proud, Loki.

There’s only so much one can do with the musical biopic genre. That’s why, every so often, when we do get some rare exceptions and changes to the rule, they’re not only a breath of fresh air, but make it feel as if any musician’s life can be possibly covered in a film version. Many were skeptical of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton movie, however, that turned out to be one of the more exciting flicks of the past year. Now, it’s time for Hank Williams to get his time in the spotlight and unfortunately, it’s more of the same.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

In I Saw the Light director Marc Abraham goes for a darker route than we’re used to seeing with these kinds of movies. While we’re so used to getting a rise-and-fall story, where the highs are incredibly how, and the lows hit the bottom of the barrel, Abraham seems to really aim for the deep-end with this tale. And honestly, I think Williams’ story is more than deserving of it; you read his story, whether in a book, or on the internet, you can tell that Williams’ life wasn’t a very happy, nor pleasant one.

Sure, he did get a paid a whole slew of cash for creating some wonderfully catchy and soulful country tracks, and yes, everyone around him (who, let’s be fair, didn’t actually know him), wanted his talent and his life, but little did they know, that deep down inside, the man was hurting. That isn’t to say that he was perfect, which Abraham definitely embraces, but that also isn’t to say that his life was pretty unfortunate and watching the flick, it’s hard not to feel some ounce of sympathy for the guy.

Yeah, he cheats, he lies, he steals, he drinks too much, and he doesn’t always treat those around him in the besy ways imaginable, but how different is he from so many other people out there?

Regardless, yeah, I Saw the Light has taken a lot of flack for being a slow, sometimes boring movie – this is a point I won’t necessarily disagree with. However, I will also note that the slower, more meditative pace actually worked for me, as it brought me down to the same level and pace that Williams was living his life. Sure, the concerts and performances may have been chock full of fun, excitement and high times, but when the show was over, the lights were dimmed, and everyone went the hell home, what else was there for Williams to go back on home to? You can call him “selfish”, you can call him “a dick”, you can call him whatever you want, but there’s something compelling about Williams, his life off the road, and his home life that drove me to want to see more about him.

Then again, the movie also doesn’t really give us all that much to really work on and draw more conclusions about how terrible his upbringing was. There’s one key scene in which he shows up late to a concert, performs, and decides to spend a solid portion of it, going on and on about his family, his parents, and his childhood. It’s a sad scene, but it’s one that really brought home the idea of just how troubled this man was, hence why he was acting-out so much now that he was a fully grown-man. Issue with that scene is that we don’t really get much more insight into his life, or his childhood after that.

Keep the mic on you man.

Not every couple needs to have duets, Hank.

Basically, it’s just one scene, after another, of Hank Williams drinking, smoking, sexing, and acting like a brat, way too much.

Are these scenes all that interesting, or better yet, entertaining to sit by and watch? Not really, however, I will say that the movie gets a lot of mileage out of these scenes because Tom Hiddleston does a really great job portraying a broken-down, beaten-up soul in the form of Williams; someone who could charm the pants off of a sailor, yet, also make you hate him for doing so. Hiddleston gets a lot of the singing right, which helps add a certain level of legitimacy to the performance, but it’s also the things that he doesn’t sing or say, that really made me feel more for him and his character.

Why he couldn’t have been served with a far more attentive movie, really is a shame, because Hiddleston has got it in his bones to make a run for an Oscar.

There’s others in the cast who are pretty solid, too, like Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, and most of all, Elisabeth Olsen, as Hank’s former wife who not only wanted to manage his life, but be apart of his career as well. It’s actually interesting what the movie brings up about how Audrey couldn’t really sing, yet, she always insisted on lending her vocals on records and in performances – so much so that a lot of people heckled Hank about it. The movie seems like it wants to go down a more detailed path than just showing them arguing and fighting all of the time, but nope, it just leaves them at that.

Maybe there was more. But maybe, there’s more in another movie.

Consensus: With more attention placed on the sadder aspects of Williams’ life, I Saw the Light works as a more melodic musical biopic, yet, also doesn’t give its talented cast and crew enough material to really make wonders with.

5.5 / 10

If only he stuck around long enough for Monday Night Football.

If only he stuck around long enough for Monday Night Football.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Old Hollywood was so much more interesting.

Being the known and so-called “fixer” for Capitol Pictures during the 50’s, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has got a lot on his plate. One concerns a disgruntled director (Ralph Fiennes), who can’t seem to get his actor to deliver the right lines. Another involves a singing cowboy known as Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), who wants to be a bigger star and may also need a date for the premiere of his new flick. Then, there’s rising star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who suddenly becomes pregnant before production and is in need of someone to take care of her. And then, last but not least, there’s the issue of superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), someone who has gone mysteriously missing, while his latest film, Hail, Caesar!, is in the last stages of production. Reasons surrounding the why, or better yet, the who, of the capturing of Baird isn’t answered, but Mannix will not stop until he finds Whitlock and everything goes back to normal. However, there’s mounting pressure from all sides, especially when twin gossip reporters, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), come snooping around, wanting to know what the latest scoop is.

Nothing like a 50's-era 'stache.

Nothing like a 50’s-era ‘stache.

It’s nice to know that talented writers and directors like the Coen brothers are still trusted enough in Hollywood, to be allowed to do whatever it is that they want, with whomever they want, and however they want to. That’s why a movie like Hail, Caesar!, a polished, lovely-looking throwback and tribute to the old, post-war days of Hollywood where people were more naturally good-looking, all smoked, and seemed to be living lives of absolute luxury. And it’s no surprise that the Coens have actually gone so far as to make a movie like this, considering that most of their movies have an old-timey, screwball-appeal, but now, considering that their flick is placed in the early 50’s, they’re allowed to be as goofy and odd as they want to be, with the obvious wink-wink at the audience of what’s being made fun of.

Which is to say that, yes, Hail, Caesar! is actually a funny movie. There’s a lot of side-jocks, puns, and goofy occurrences that the Coens use here that make the movie not only entertaining, but also exciting. You don’t know what trick or trade their going to pull out of their hat next and it goes without saying, that while not all of the jokes or gags land, they are still seen as efforts from two people who clearly know and understand the form of creating a joke and allowing for it to land.

This is all mentioned to let the record state that Hail, Caesar!, the actual movie itself and not the movie-within-the-movie, is not a very good Coen brothers flick, but a fine one.

The main issue with Hail, Caesar! is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a energizing plot driving it. Sure, there’s a lot going on here, that Mannix, the protagonist, has to deal with and solve, but mostly all of the subplots come and go as they please, without their being much pushing everything forward. Rather than feeling fun, spirited and frothy, Hail, Caesar! surprisingly finds the Coens in a more subdued state, where they aren’t working as quickly as we’ve seen them before, but focusing more on the details of each subplot, as well as certain characters.

Which is fine and all, but nobody in Hail, Caesar! is really all that interesting, or as compelling of a character as the Coens may think. Mannix himself seems to be an intriguing specimen, who not only works as a collective fixer in Hollywood, but also a hardcore, dedicated family man, but really, he’s here to just service other colorful and sometimes, weird characters. Clooney’s Whitlock is clearly a take on Kirk Douglas, which doesn’t go much further than that; Johansson’s Moran is an old school dame, who definitely has a lot of sass, but not much more; and Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle, perhaps the standout of the flick, is perhaps the only given more to work with in general.

In fact, it’s the scenes with Hobie Doyle that work the most.

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

Whether he’s trying to nail a simple line in a very fluffy period-drama, or charm the pants off of his date, there’s something sweet and lovable about Hobie Doyle that not only makes you want to see more of him, but maybe wish that the movie was just about him and his rise in Hollywood. Ehrenreich is a likable enough presence to have us buy into the boyish charm of this character, while at the same time, still seeing him for a human being, even among all of the fakes and phonies that sometimes show up here. Though he’s been around the pond quite a few times, it seems like Hail, Caesar!, if anything, will be the launching pad for Alden Ehrenreich.

And everybody else is fine here, too. Actually, everybody who does show up, whether they be large roles, supporting roles, or simply, extended cameos, every member of the cast is clearly game for this material and want to add their own two cents in any way that they can. Is there perhaps too much of everyone here? Of course there is! However, it’s also sort of fun to watch the likes of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a Coen brothers movie – something I’d never thought I’d see, but I’m glad I did and could definitely get used to.

But really, that’s all that Hail, Caesar! is: Fun and fine.

The movie’s not particularly deep, or special in that it brings some new sense of fun and charm to the Coen brothers style. If anything, it just shows that they’re capable of doing whatever movie they want. So what if it doesn’t always work or constantly excite us? Sometimes, the best movies are those that set-out to just entertain and leave it at that! Is it disappointing considering what we know from the Coens?

Most definitely, but hey, I’ll take fun and fine, over depressing and boring any day!

Consensus: Hail, Caesar! won’t stand as the best film of the Coens storied-career, but still proves that their attention to humor, fun and detail will never go away, no matter what environment they’re working in.

6.5 / 10

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Judge (2014)

Usually it’s the dad bailing the son out of jail, not the other way around. But hey, I’m not from the South, so whatever!

Henry “Hank” Palmer (Robert Downey Jr.) is a hotshot lawyer who always defends the obviously-guilty, and somehow, always ends up winning. However, his shattered personal life is starting to catch up with his successful professional-career, when he hears news of his mother’s passing. This puts him on a journey to go back to where he started from; which, in this case, would be the small town of Carlinville, Indiana where, unsurprisingly, his estranged father (Robert Duvall) is still the town’s respected judge. But see, even his personal life begins to catch up with him when, on one fateful night, the Judge supposedly runs over and kills the town degenerate. And normally, nobody would care, because the guy was a total prick, but the family does and they’re taking the Judge to court! Not to mention, they’ve equipped themselves with one of the meanest, cruelest lawyers in the world, Dwight Dickham (Billy Bob Thornton). This seems like the perfect opportunity for Hank to stand up and defend his father, but since their relationship isn’t the most ideal, he hesitates. That is, until he realizes that maybe his father needs him, and now, more than ever before for reasons that will shock and shape his life, whether he wants to accept it or not.

So while this movie seems like total Oscar-bait from the plot, to the cast, and even to the subject-matter itself (courtroom genres are usually a big plus in the eyes of the 80-90-year-old Academy voters), there’s just one big element keeping it away from making that a reality: Director David Dobkin. Sure, to some, the name may not mean much. Well, let me put it in terms to make you understand: Dobkin is the director of such hits as Wedding Crashers, the Change-UpShanghai Knights, and Fred Claus.

Judge1

“Vera Farmiga with arm-tat” is totally “slumming it”.

Yes. Fred freakin’ Claus, everybody! The movie still finds a way to pop-up in everybody’s head, even if it’s as relevant as a box of Chia Pets.

And while at least more than half of those movies are fine, entertaining-pieces of cinema, they’re mostly all, immature, R-rated comedies that make people stand up, laugh, hit themselves silly, go home, and continue on with their everyday lives, but now continuously quote “that hilarious movie they saw with their buddies last weekend”. Those are the same kinds of people that, mind you, don’t really seem like they’d be all that enthused by the Judge, even if it does have a few of those “hee hee” moments.

But then again, I can’t hate on a director who wants to actually branch-out and try something new for once. Sometimes, the most unique movies come from those creators who were pigeon-holed as being a director of one certain genre and sticking to it, and decided to tell the world to “kiss off” and do something different, regardless of how much it would set people back. Though I’m drawing blanks on a few examples, I know they’re out there! But sadly, David Dobkin’s the Judge won’t be joining that list because this is a mess, and understandably so. Dobkin is a director that’s too inclined to just throw in a poop or fart gag, so that when he has to deliver on these strong, compelling moments of drama, they don’t quite mesh so well with the many scenes we get in which we think Downey’s character has possibly hooked up with his own biological daughter.

Not only does this create a jumble between tones, but it makes you wonder what could have happened, had the Judge been given a director that’s more comfortable with both sides of the table. Because, as much as I didn’t want to admit it, there are a few scenes of drama that are well-done and make some of this material, as well as the characters, slightly interesting. But then, moments later, after this touching scene has occurred, Dobkin will make a kind-of-a-joke about how Duvall’s character is incapable of controlling his bowels. And no, I am not kidding you, some of that is actually played up for a joke and it feels oddly-placed.

And that’s pretty much how the whole film is: Sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Most of this is because Dobkin isn’t all that capable of handling drama and comedy together, and also, because his movie just gets more and more conventional as it runs on along. Which was fine because I knew it was going to turn into that after a certain while, but nearly two-and-a-half-hours of waiting till a conclusion that we can already pin-point from a mile away, is a bit too much. Especially when one has to deal with all of the rough patches Dobkin goes through in order to build up to the predictable climax.

But if anything, the Judge makes you wish this kind of high-caliber cast had been given a better movie, because mostly everybody here is good, and sometimes, trying way harder than they need to. Though Robert Downey Jr. is, essentially, playing the same snarky character we’ve seen him do since the beginning of his career, there’s something slightly refreshing in seeing it done now, as an actual person, rather than as Tony Stark, or Sherlock Holmes. Not saying that either one of those characters are bad, but if it came down to RDJ having to play human beings for the rest of his life, as opposed to multi-million-dollar franchise “names”, I’d be happy with him just being Charlie Chaplin again.

RDJ just can't handle this right now. Like OMG.

RDJ just can’t handle this right now. Like OMG.

As long as he stays away from the drugs, that is.

Same goes for Robert Duvall, an actor who, because I haven’t seen him in quite some time, totally left my mind as being a capable actor. But here he is, pushing 83 and giving a good performance as the grumpy curmudgeon that is our titled-character. Though most of the movie is Duvall growling and looking pissed, the scenes he has with Downey Jr. feel like they come from a soft spot in both of their hearts, and to me, really struck a chord. Even if the rest of the movie was manipulative, over-stuffed, over-long, jumbled, and messy, these two being on screen together and just acting their behinds off was more than enough for me.

That said, David Dobkin should just stick to hand job-gags. Those seem to work out best for him in the end.

Consensus: Despite a strong cast trying with everything each and everyone of them have got, the Judge turns out being a jumbled-up mess of comedy, drama, family-dynamics, courtroom arguments, and ill-placed jokes, all coming to a predictable end.

 5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Grrrrrrrr!"

“Grrrrrrrr!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Mexican (2001)

Should have just stayed in the States. Hell, they should have just stayed the hell together.

Jerry and Samantha (Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts) are a couple that obviously loves each other, but yet, still go to marriage counseling even though they don’t seem to need it and aren’t even married. Whatever though, that’s just how these two roll and like it, but what Samantha doesn’t like about Jerry’s rolling is that he’s not only a con, but has yet to leave the work of it because he’s trying to protect his ass, as well as hers. However, after originally screwing-up his “last job”, Jerry is given one more opportunity to make good and end it all when he has to travel to Mexico for an antique gun that seems to have more than enough history than Jerry, or his mob boss (Bob Balaban), expect. Since Jerry has to leave out on the job once again, he leaves Samantha all alone and with a whole bunch of worry in the world, especially when she’s kidnapped by a hitman (James Gandolfini) who specializes in bits and pieces of torture, despite him being a bit of a softy once you get to know him.

Movies like this get a bad-rap, as they should. Before this movie had names attached to it all and whatnot, it was originally going to be an independent production, with lesser-known names in the lead roles, and probably a smaller, tighter-budget than we see used here. However, Pitt and Roberts wanted to hang out with one another and so they thought, “What better way to take advantage of our star-power, then to just pick up a small, meaningless script, and run with it, just so we can have some fun and make money while doing so?” That may sound stingy and bratty coming from these two A-listers, but Christ, it’s something that can work for these two in a heartbeat and actually did. Nope, not just because they had the star-power to attract any type of audience-member in the entire world, but because the script was just simple enough that it didn’t matter whether or not the material they were working with was actually good; all that mattered is that people would see it, especially with these two in the lead roles.

Better cherish this moment. It's all you're going to get between these two for quite some time.

Better cherish this moment. It’s all you’re going to get between these two for quite some time.

So overall, no problems for anyone, except for maybe the actual movie-viewers themselves who have to sit through some meaningless junk like this. They’re the ones who end up suffering the most.

Which is exactly why movies like this have me pissed off to high heavens because I know there are plenty other great films, with great scripts, great acting out there, and were certainly released at and around the same time as this, but yet, would never get the same type of exposure as this one because it didn’t have the popular-names in it like this one had. It’s sad to think about, and maybe it’s not worth all of the crying over spilled-milk, but it’s a fact of life and a fact of Hollywood. However, I can’t bitch too much because the flick isn’t that good and is only good for the sole reason that it actually got Gore Verbinski’s career off-and-running, whereas Pitt’s and Roberts’ just stayed the same as its always been, if not gotten better (especially in Pitt’s case).

But see, what makes this flick such a strange star-vehicle, is that it honestly isn’t the type of mainstream flick you’d see get the type of release this did nor would you see it’s two leading-stars in. It’s a weird flick for the sole reason that with just about every new scene or sequence, the tone switches, and it does so in a not-so subtle-way. It begins as a rom-com, with bits and pieces of dark humor thrown in there for good measure; but once the first con is killed off and the threat of death is alive and well, then things take a turn for the worse and get very dark, very soon. Sometimes it will touch the idea of a mobster comedy, with slices of drama thrown in there for good measure, and then in the very next frame, will even go for a darker moment where somebody gets off’d in a very disturbing, harsh, and unfunny way, despite how hard this flick seems to be trying to pull the laughs out of us.

Verbinski is a talented director to make even the slightest bit of dark humor go a long, long way, but at this time, during this movie, he shows problems in keeping the light and blissful tone up, even when it takes detours into dark areas; the kind of dark areas you see explored in Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movies, but used in a better way because they have the slightest sense of how to make humor and bloody spurts of violence work and seem cohesive. Verbinski begins to lose all focus after awhile and although it continued to interest me, as if I didn’t know what was going to pop-up next, whether it’d been a twist or a tone, I still feel like it was a missed-opportunity on his and everybody else’s part to really allow this flick to get up, breathe, and stretch it’s legs. It just goes on and on and on, for a whole two-hours that I’m usually fine with if you can excite and entertain me, but this one didn’t seem all too concerned with me or that fact of the matter. It just did it’s thing, as if it was only made to collect money from hopeless movie-goers.

Which, sadly, it did. You poor, poor people, falling for the same old traps of Hollywood, time and time again.

Speaking of which, that idea sort of pisses me off, not because it’s as blatant or as obvious as it is 12 years later, but because the actual reason behind this movie being made and advertised as such a big deal, was useless considering that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts rarely are together on-screen here. What would have been shocking, but impressive on this movie’s part if the creators worked out negotiations with the stars beforehand, wrote the script, and kept it the way it was, even throughout filming, but knowing that the script was made way ahead of time and altered only slightly, loses it’s sense of originality. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me because if Michael Mann can do the same thing and get away with nothing but applause and unanimous praise for this decision, then so can Gore Verbinski dammit!

But the problem with this is that the movie has nothing else going for it, other than Pitt and Roberts. Which means that when they aren’t together, doing their thang and keeping us happy to finally see them together on the big-screen, even after all of these long-awaited years; there’s nothing really left worrying or caring about. When they’re together, they’re fun to watch and makes you feel like it would have been a better choice to watch these two play the same characters, in a small-indie where instead of venturing out in search of a gun, they stayed together, worked through their problems, and thought about their future, whether it be one spent together or separated. It would have been way, way more interesting and compelling movie than this one, but that’s all just “fantasy-talk”. The reality is that these two barely show up in this movie together and when they do, it’s the best parts of the movie, despite feeling like a sad-attempt to be on screen together because, well, they have to. It’s the rules of Hollywood, folks.

"Hey, whatever you do, do not put on "Don't Stop Believin', got it?"

“Hey, whatever you do, do not put on “Don’t Stop Believin’, got it?”

Separately, which is about 85% of the damn movie, they’re good if nothing new or groundbreaking that they haven’t already pulled-off before. Pitt’s nutty and goofy as the con that’s a bit too over-his-head, yet still knows what to do when the shit gets hot, and Roberts is a sassy and fire-cracker-of-a-lady, but still has those moments of pure sweetness to her that helps balance the character out in some sense of reality. Some, but not too much. Most of those moments come between the scenes of her and Gandolfini’s character, the hitman with a softer-heart than you might suspect from our first introduction to him.

With the recent, sad news of his passing, watching Gandolfini absolutely have a blast in a role like this and steal the movie away from it’s big stars, really brings a tear to my eye because the guy had so much talent, so much energy, and so much worth watching, despite what crap-fests he may or may not have shown up in. The fact is that this man was a great actor, and will continue to be remembered for years and years to come. Hopefully this movie doesn’t come to many people’s minds when they think of his work, but if it does, it won’t be such a sin because he’s easily the best part about it and gives it a reason worth watching.

Consensus: The Mexican will disappoint many average, movie-goers because Pitt and Roberts are barely together here throughout the whole two-hours and some-odd minutes, but what will disappoint others is that the tone never seems to find itself in one place, make it’s presence known, and stay there for the rest of the movie. It just constantly moves up, down and all around as if the creators knew they had to do something to keep fans happy that two of Hollywood’s most-beloved weren’t on the same-screen together for anymore than 5 minutes each.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

This Is the End (2013)

If the world is going to end, please let me be surrounded by at least one of these guys.

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and a whole slew of other celebrities and friends come to a party at James Franco’s house and what’s supposed to be just a normal, get-shitty-with-it bash, all of a sudden turns into something incredibly deadly and dangerous. It’s actually the apocalypse that is occurring, but rather than going outside and running the chance of possibly getting killed, the guys decide to stay in the house in hopes that help will eventually come their way. What actually ends up happening is that the guys get absolutely sick and tired of one another and just pray that they get killed as soon as possible.

In the year 2013, when the Wolf Pack doesn’t even seem concerned with squirting out a laugh or two; Owen and Vince can’t recapture the glory days they once had; and that the only thing funny going on with Melissa McCarthy is how a critic refers to her as a “Hippo”, it’s nice to be reminded that comedy is yes, still alive and well, and best of all: still able to make a person hold their stomach while laughing. Then again, with everybody from the Judd Apatow crew, could I have expected anything less? Seriously, everybody here has, and probably will forever always be funny, but if you put them together in one movie, with one inspired-premise that makes them have to be around each other, and give them plenty of lee-way with who the director is (in this case, it’s both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg); then you have absolute hilarity that does not disappoint for a single bit.

Hyped it up quite enough for ya?

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Well good, because this movie is the best comedy of the year so far, and judging by what seems to be coming up in the future, probably the rest of the year. It’s well deserved too because year-after-year, we get a comedy that’s funny, makes us laugh, makes us have a good time, and reminds us why we like going to the movies, but never really does anything that’s worth remembering except for maybe a couple of chuckles here and there. Which means we rarely so often actually get a comedy that’s hilarious, is a hoot-and-a-half, and reminds us why comedies can be enjoyed so much, no matter what they’re about or who’s in them. Oh, and to make that even better; it’s an R-rated comedy at that.

It’s not a comedy that wants to appeal to a mass-audience and it’s sure as hell not a comedy that takes it’s R-rating with a grain of salt; this is a very, very hard-R, and rightfully so because when you have these dudes, playing caricaturized-versions of themselves, you need all the cursing, nudity, grotesqueness, smugness, evil, etc. you can get to really make a person laugh. In this movie’s case; it makes you laugh plenty more than you expected and that’s what I loved so much about this movie. It makes you laugh, and always has you guessing what’s going to come of next with this story, direction, humor, or just what the hell these guys are going to pull out of their sleeves next. After the first 10-15 minutes where we see Franco’s party get destroyed and there actually becomes a big-ass hole in the Earth’s crust, we are just hanging around a bunch of funny dudes that can’t take themselves as seriously as they would like to be portrayed and do whatever the hell they feel like doing next. And by “whatever the hell they feel like doing next”, I do mean, “WHATEVER THE HELL THEY FEEL LIKE DOING NEXT.”

This is an aspect of movies, never mind comedies, that we rarely see and it’s so hard to actually see a movie as blatant and obvious as this to take full-on pleasure in it. And trust me, I don’t mean “blatant” and “obvious” in the bad way either, I mean it in the way that these guys know that they’re making jokes out of themselves, and we know it too, so why not just join in the fun and have a couple of laughs while you’re at it? That’s how I felt throughout this whole movie, as each and every line that these guys dropped, whether it be improv or actual-dialogue written down on a page, just came at my stomach like a knife and had me howling for day’s on end. I’m still laughing thinking of some of the lines, and it’s almost too quotable to even remember. Everything everybody says in this movie, is either hilarious, random, or just so-stupid-it’s-funny, and it makes you wish that more and more comedies had the pride and joy to goof around with itself, almost as much as these guys are able to.

So, yeah, everything you’d expect to see and hear in a comedy coming from these dudes; you will see and hear. There’s plenty of drinking, dick-jokes, drug-induced trips, weed-smoking, violence, jerking-off, uses of the word “fuck”, pop-culture references (even to their own movies), and lines that come and leave so quickly, that you almost feel as if you have to watch it all over again just to see what you missed out on or what you think you heard correctly the first time, only to find out differently the second. It’s what to expect from these guys, and it only gets better, funnier, and more and more unpredictable, almost where it’s anybody’s game for the taking, it’s just time until somebody actually walks away with it all.

That’s why it’s so rare to get a comedy as brilliant and crazy as this that makes you laugh and hold your gut, but also one that still works even when it gets a bit sympathetic and action-y by the end. Since this is a horror-comedy flick, you have to expect there to be plenty of action, explosions, special-effects, and random bouts of violence you don’t see coming, but surprisingly, it works well with the rest of the tone as the movie seems to take itself just seriously enough that we are invested in what happens. It never gets serious to the point of where you need a tissue handy, but it does get a somewhat serious to where you can see that these guys still care about the story and the characters they’ve written, even if they are essentially themselves, just in a more Hollywood-ized version.

However, with top-notch comedy acts like these dudes, you can’t ever expect them to do anything serious or honest; you just have to let them roll and continue to make us laugh, which is exactly what each and every one of them does, in their own ways. James Franco plays up the whole “serious, artsy actor”-aspect to his public-image in the way that he’s obviously been the most successful and most respected out of the whole clan, yet, still acts like an idiot as if he was still playing that cool mofo, Daniel Desario. It’s funny to see Franco, who’s at the height of his career, still be able to make a joke or two at himself (I’m down for any Flyboys reference!), without really going too far that it seems like he’s desperate to gain back the respect from the comedy-crowd. Oh, and “the gay rumors” aren’t put to rest either, so take with that what you will.

Jonah Hill also plays up the whole fact that he got quite the big head around the parks when he got nominated for an Oscar those two years ago, and shows that he’s soften-up a mighty-bit since then. As time goes on though, Hill gets meaner and meaner, while still being able to maintain that softness to him that makes him so loveable, even when he is randomly being a dick. Seth Rogen is probably the one who doesn’t really get the most shine from the spot-light, but I think that was fine as hell for him since he was just sitting-back, relaxing, and directing the hell out of his buds, but also still having a great time while doing so. Even he gets a chance to make fun of himself as well, especially when, early on, a paparazzo says  “You play the same guy in every movie, right?” Classic, classic line.

They even get him to do the laugh. Yay!

"Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I'm James Franco beitch!!!"

“Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I’m James Franco beitch!!!”

Jay Baruchel plays what is essentially the Canadian outsider of the group that hasn’t really connected much with any of these guys, and has only lingered around Rogen for so long, that it’s almost became smothering. He’s funny, even though he is typically playing the straight-dude who’s thrown into a do-or-die situation with a bunch of idiots. Fun idiots, but idiots nonetheless. Danny McBride shows up and acts like the self-centered dick who’s upset with cumming everywhere like you’d expect from his latest-bouts with comedy, and shows that raw-edge we all love and know him for (except for maybe in Your Highness, which they even make another reference to as well!). And last, but sure as hell not the muthafuckin’ least is Craig Robinson as the sex-addled, black dude of the group that always yells, sweats, and says dirty things like “get your panties off baby!” Robinson is always hilarious in the shit that he does, which is why it’s such a joy to see him back in his prime, without anybody telling him exactly what to do and how to do it. He just free-balls it, and surprisingly comes up with the biggest laughs of all.

Of course, the movie is cameo-central which, as you could probably tell by the trailer, is hilarious and as unpredictable as the rest of the movie (Michael Cera’s as the coked-up, sex-fiend version of himself had me laughing long before the 20 minute mark). However, the movie doesn’t focus on that as much as you’d expect, and instead stays with these guys throughout the whole movie and shows that even though they have changed, gotten a bit more serious with their careers, and have “sold out” in ways they didn’t expect to when they first started out as young, brass, and ambitious funny-men, that they are still there for one another and will go-to-bat for anyone. Granted, there are on-screen relationships in this movie that aren’t as friendly (Franco and McBride hate each other and show it in probably the funniest scene out of the whole movie), but it’s the under-lining thoughts and feelings that count. You can tell that everybody here loves hanging out with one another and using a movie as an excuse to hang-out and pal-around, but whereas other times, it feels manipulative and cheap; this time, it feels right and deserved. Well deserved, actually. Keep comedy alive, guys. Please!

Consensus: Like with most comedies of this nature, it’s usually more sporadic than it is gut-bustingly hilarious, but with This is the End, it doesn’t matter since the comedy, as well as the rest of the movie, fires on all cylinders, takes no names, leaves none in return, and has you laughing until you seriously don’t know what’s next for these guys to make fun of. Then they make fun of it, and have you laughing even more since they pulled it off, and did it with flying colors.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.