Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dermot Mulroney

The Mountain Between Us (2017)

At least they have a dog.

Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) are two people who desperately need to board their planes. He’s about to save somebody’s life in a very critical surgery, whereas she has a wedding to get to. However, their flight gets cancelled when, due to stormy weather, the skies just aren’t totally safe to go through. But Alex has a plan and that’s to board a charter plane, between her and Ben, and a pilot (Beau Bridges) that she entrusts to get them where they both need to get to, safely and without any issue of hitting the storm. However, halfway through the flight, the pilot suffers a stroke and they crash somewhere out in the middle of the wilderness, without any signs of life anywhere to be found. Both survive and although Alex has an injury, it’s nothing too serious that Ben can’t help out. Now, it’s just up to the two to survive and do what they can to make it through this awful predicament they are in, even if they aren’t wholly sure if they’ll ever get out of this alive, or even sane.

Is this considered the “meet-cute”?

The Mountain Between Us is the kind of melodramatic, sappy, and cheesy piece of fluff that Hollywood so rarely makes anymore, in that it’s actually not awful. Think a Nicholas Sparks movie, but instead of having subplots about cancer-striken parents or abusive husbands, you have two people who are, for the sake of the matter, just trying their best to survive. Oh, and a cute little dog, too.

Can’t go wrong with the dog.

Which is to say that the Mountain Between Us is just another case of big Hollywood having enough time and money on their hands to make something that’s corny and a little silly, but in a way, that’s fine. The movie isn’t trying to be high-art in the slightest, nor is it really trying to pass itself off as a Oscar-winner. It’s just a simple, sometimes stupid, but always enjoyable romance, laced with a little bit of survival. Coming from director Hany Abu-Assad, who has made two great flicks in Paradise Now and Omar, it can seem like a step-down, but considering how many prized foreign-film makers screw up their English-language, American debut, it’s a moderate side-step.

It’s not perfect, of course, but that hardly matters because when your movie is almost two hours of just Kate Winslet and Idris Elba on the screen, does anything else matter? You can say that this movie does try very hard to force all of the weight on the back of these two stars, their good-looks, and their inevitable chemistry, but what’s wrong with that? Stars like Winslet and Elba were made for movies like this, where plot and the script sort of come second to their good-looks and their great acting-ability, so that even if a film wasn’t to care all that much about other stuff, like plot, or making sense, it’s not a total crime.

Trust me, she’ll be in safe hands with a man like that. Rawr.

The fact is that they’re still here, doing their absolute best and in this case, that’s enough.

The rest of the movie is, as I’ve said, silly and if you think long and hard about this even in the slightest, yeah, it doesn’t hold-up. It’s the kind of movie that looks pretty because it was shot on-location, but once you actually get to thinking the geography of where these two are, how they have to survive, and where they have to go to stay alive, yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense. It’s as if the film-makers thought that the audience wouldn’t care too much because we’d all be too busy sinking into the beautiful eyes and faces of Elba and Winslet and didn’t care about too much else. Of course, they aren’t wrong about that, but maybe for some others out there, like me, a little bit more comprehension and plot can go a longer way.

But hey, it’s Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, looking hot, sexy, and beautiful, while falling in love and trying their best to survive in harsh winters.

Oh, and a little dog, too.

Consensus: Not to be confused for high-art, the Mountain Between Us mostly relies on the charms of Winslet and Elba to get by, even when its script is clearly lacking in certain aspects.

6 / 10

Come on, Kate! Don’t just hold onto the man! You don’t need him!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Advertisements

Undertow (2004)

com

After his wife tragically dies, John Munn (Dermot Mulroney) moves with his sons Chris (Jamie Bell) and Tim (Devon Alan) to rural Georgia in hopes of getting away from their pain and agony, and instead, focus a life on raising pigs. Both Chris and Tim themselves are dealing with this awful amount of grief in the only ways they know how; Chris constantly rebels and fights with his dad, whereas Tim, who looks up to Chris, wants him to stop being such a jerk and just get along. Then, life for the family changes a bit when Uncle Deel (Josh Lucas) returns from a long-stint in jail. While Deel seems like a charmer to have around, he’s still got a great deal of resentment towards John, for not just stealing the woman that he loved, but possibly being the favorite of the two sons. It’s because of this that Deel sees an easy way out tries to steal a stash of gold coins, but then, another tragedy happens, breaking the family apart even more and forcing both Chris and Tim to fend for themselves.

It’s hard to hate someone this handsome.

Undertow isn’t David Gordon Green’s worst, nor is it his best. It’s somewhere slap-dab in the middle of being just mediocre enough to be seen, but also, a little too dour and disappointing, considering all of his other work. It’s still small and gritty, like we know best from him, but it’s also got this darker, more sour-feeling that’s not always seen and because of that, it can be a little off-putting. Granted, nobody really expected to have a good time from a David Gordon Green film before the arrival of Pineapple Express, but still, it goes without saying that Undertow is a pretty morbid movie.

And usually, yes, that’s a good thing.

But not here.

One of the main issues with Undertow that no matter how hard he tries, Green can’t seem to get past, is that it never quite picks-up the momentum it wants. Going for this dirty, dark and gritty Southern-Gothic look and feel, Green really sinks himself deep into a tale about murder, family-issues, and the loss of life. But what does he do with any of that?

Rather than having anything smart to say about grief, or death, or anything of this nature, the story mostly relies on the two kids, on-the-run, trying their best to keep away from their cartoonishly evil Uncle. It’s supposed to be an exciting, almost adventurous piece of thriller, but really, it never goes anywhere we either don’t see coming, or really care about. It’s as if Green set-out to make something smarter and deeper, but really just get all wrapped-up into the beautiful scenery that he could kind of care less about really exploring certain stuff.

It also doesn’t help that, unfortunately, the performances aren’t all that good, either.

As I just mentioned before, Josh Lucas’ Deel is a pretty over-the-top and wild character that, from the very beginning, is so evil and dastardly, it’s almost no shock what he begins to do next. The movie does attempt to give him some development for being the way that he is, and why he’s so bitter, but it doesn’t quite register – it almost feels like Green trying to make up something for him being an evil bastard, rather than just having him be an evil bastard. Even Lucas himself tries, however, he can’t quite get past how thinly-written this script and this character is.

Yup. There’s that sour-puss look we all know and adore.

Same goes for Jamie Bell and especially Devon Alvan as the two youngsters here. Bell fares better-off because he’s actually a very good actor and is capable of being both intimidating, as well as vulnerable, at the same time. But Alvan just doesn’t quite have it. Like was the case with Lucas, the script doesn’t quite help them out, but Alvan’s delivery and performance is in a much goofier and sillier movie than is offered here and just feels absolutely out-of-place. You can almost feel Bell trying his damn best to carry each and every scene he has with him, which makes it just a bit harder to watch.

But not for the intended reasons, though.

All that said, there’s still something about Undertow that’s worth watching and it’s that Green has a knack for finding beauty in even the darkest of stories and yes, he finds it here. Even when it seems like the story, the characters, or hell, the conflict is ever going anywhere, Green keeps things moving as best as he can, making it, at the very least watchable. Is it more of a disappointment because he followed All the Real Girls with this? Most likely, but he has done worse, so maybe time has been sort of kind to this.

Sort of.

Consensus: Without much of a narrative-drive, Undertow can sometimes feel like a predictable slog, but is at least helped out by Green’s need and want for trying something new and invigorating, even if it never fully pays off like he wants it to.

5 / 10

Nothing like an annoying little brother to ruin the older brother’s adventure.

Photos Courtesy of: MGM

Burn After Reading (2008)

Never trust those who are “too fit”.

When CIA Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) gets demoted from his job, he decides that it’s time to start the proceedings on his memoir. Somehow, though, the disk containing all of this information falls into the hands of two gym employees, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), both of whom clearly have no idea what they’re going to do with this disk. But they both have the right idea to blackmail Cox for some money, even if they don’t know how to go about it, nor what the actual proceedings are. Meanwhile, Linda herself is in search of a better life that isn’t just working in the gym. Currently, she’s trying to fund her cosmetic surgeries, as well as someone to love in her life. Through various dating websites, she meets the charming and likable Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), and the two hit it off immediately. Strange thing is that Harry, despite being married, also happens to be shackin’ up with Osborne’s wife (Tilda Swinton), which leads the whole situation to end up in some real weird, sticky situations, sometimes with them leading to violence and all sorts of bloodshed.

"Malkovich? Malkovich?"

“Malkovich? Malkovich?”

At this stage in their career, the Coen brothers can practically do anything that they want and nobody is going to tell them otherwise. They have enough Oscars under their belt, have made their studios enough money, and have earned enough respect in the biz to say that they want to make about anything, and everybody will fall for it, hook, line and sinker. As is the case with most writers and directors, they’ve had some mediocre films, as well as some amazing films, but mostly, they’ve made films worth checking out and taking time out of one’s day to watch, because a Coen brother’s movie is, quite frankly, better than a lot of other stuff out there.

And Burn After Reading is the exact reason why they are so beloved.

Though, at the same time, the movie doesn’t show the Coen brothers really working with anything new, or ground-breaking; instead, they’re taking on the whole spy genre, making a farce out of it, and rather than having real, actual spies involved, the movie’s just about a bunch of regular, everyday people who are, yes, goofy and sometimes idiotic. However, they are all searching for the same thing: Money and power. To the Coens, this is perhaps the most interesting aspect about the human-condition, in which seemingly normal people, can be driven so ridiculously mad by the prospect of wealth, that they’d do almost anything to achieve it and rule their own little world.

At the same time, though, rather than being all sad and serious about it, the Coens add a lighter touch onto that whole idea, giving us characters that aren’t just colorful and likable, but also interesting. Sure, some of these characters may come off as very schticky and thin, but the Coens also show how that they’re personalities make who they are and determine every decision that they make throughout the movie. Some characters are, obviously, smarter than others, but nobody here is actually a good person, and there’s something inherently fun and entertaining in watching all of these characters get caught in a crazy web of lies, murder and deception, just for the hell of it.

It also helps that the cast is pretty great, too.

As usual, the Coens work with some of their own regulars who, by now, have mastered the art of the “Coen speak”. George Clooney is exciting, but also very weird as Harry, who always seems to have an issue with the food he eats, as well as an odd obsession with wood-panels; Frances McDormand’s Linda is a total polar opposite of what we’re used to seeing her play, giving us a naive, sometimes sad character who always tries to stay upbeat, no matter what the situation may call for; and Richard Jenkins, as Linda’s boss who can’t seem to stop falling over her, makes you want to give him a hug just about every scene he’s involved with.

We get it, Brad: You're really in-shape!

We get it, Brad: You’re really in-shape!

But the newcomers to the Coen’s also handle their material well and show why they deserve to be in their movies a whole lot more. John Malkovich does a lot of cursing and yelling as Osborne, and it’s so much fun to watch and listen that I didn’t care if his character didn’t get as developed as I would have liked; Tilda Swinton’s character is a bit bitchy and mean, but also seems like she’s got more going onto her that would have been interesting to see developed more, but for what it is, this is all we get and it’s fine; and Brad Pitt, well, let’s just say he sort of steals the show. Not only does Brad Pitt seems like he’s so eager and excited to be apart of a Coen brother’s movie, but he also seems like he really wants to see what’s more to this character that he’s playing – something that isn’t quite seen in the rest of the movie.

Pitt’s Chad, for the most part, doesn’t really care about gaining any sort of money or respect, he’s just around for the fun of it all. That’s clear from the very beginning, once we realize that there’s a certain zaniness and energy to him that’s hard to ignore. This is mostly all thanks to Pitt who, using his grace and charm, shows that while a meat-head like Chad can be lovable, he can also be one you sort of feel bad for, once the situation he’s involved with gets to be a bit too crazy and over-the-top for his own good. There’s something about Chad that I wanted to see more of, but really, what I got was fine enough.

And that’s basically all that there is to say about Burn After Reading: It’s fine, and although you wish you saw more, that’s all you really need.

But hey, don’t just listen to me, let J.K. Simmons tell you all about it.

Consensus: Though it’s not exactly breaking down any barriers, Burn After Reading still finds the Coen brothers in a fun, hilariously wicked spirit that maintains their sense of odd energy the whole way through.

8 / 10

How can these two not have a ball together?

How can these two not have a ball together?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, IFC

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

These younglings don’t know how old-heads get down.

With less than a week to go before his wedding, Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) has good knowledge of how he wants the rest of his life to go down. And even though he’s definitely looking forward to getting hitched to his high-class, but very pretty fiancee (Julianne Hough), all of those happy feelings and thoughts are put to the side once he learns that his grand-mother has died. Heart-broken and sad is Jason’s grandpa, Dick (Robert De Niro), who Jason reluctantly volunteers to drive to wherever he wants. Problem is, Jason gets duped into taking his grandpa to Daytona Beach, for Spring Break of all times. Turns out, grandpa has been in desperate need of some fun as of late and now, with his late wife being gone, he now finally has the chance to do so. While Jason isn’t all about allowing his grandpa go around, smoking, drinking, and bangin’ whatever, he also doesn’t want to keep his grandpa away from having some fun on his own time as well. This also gets Jason to thinking of his own life and how, at one point in his life, he wasn’t so uptight and by-the-books and, believe it or not, really fun and exciting to be around – something his grandpa reminds him of all the time.

Why are Grandpa's always doing this?

Why are grandpa’s always doing this?

Movies like Dirty Grandpa are the kinds I, for one reason or another, want to stick up for. The main reason being is that it’s an R-rated raunch-fest that does, says, or acts whatever way it wants to, regardless of what others may think, say, or be offended by. In other words, Dirty Grandpa is exactly like the aging-grandfather you invite to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner – you know he’s going to say a lot of inappropriate, borderline racist stuff, but you just let him go because, well, he’s old and doesn’t really know that he’s doing or saying anything wrong. You could totally make the argument that those behind Dirty Grandpa know exactly what they’re doing and saying is, by far, wrong, but you could also make the argument that absolutely none of them care.

And that, to me, takes a lot of gut to actually create and deliver on.

Cause in today’s day and age where political correctness is shoved aside as a means to not offend a certain demographic, Dirty Grandpa pulls down its pants, flips the bird, and says, “screw you”, to each and everyone of those people who may be offended by what the movie’s making cracks about. Granted, it’s not hard to get offended by Dirty Grandpa; whether you’re white, black, male, female, obese, skinny, attractive, ugly, gay, young, old, or whatever, you’re going to get made fun of and be somewhat offended. Sure, some may call this “crass”, “mean”, or just downright “despicable”, but is there always a problem with that? Can, sometimes at least, that same crassness, that same meanness, and hell, that same despicability, be at least somewhat funny?

In Dirty Grandpa‘s case, it can sometimes be, but at other times, not really.

But really, the parts of Dirty Grandpa that are in fact, funny, worked for me enough to get past the other issues with the movie like say, I don’t know, the fact that it has no general regard for anyone person’s feelings or emotions. Basically, what Dirty Grandpa sets out to do is make fun of those they decide to because, well, they can, so why not? It’s not hard to hate a comedy who’s general position is to make fun of everyone around them, but it’s also not that much harder to hate one when it isn’t actually being funny – Dirty Grandpa, though, in some cases, was at least funny enough that I didn’t care and let all of those sensitivity issues fall by the wayside.

That said, if you’re offended by Dirty Grandpa, you definitely should be pissed-off and upset. There’s no denying that the movie does and says a lot that can definitely land itself in hot-water that’s hard to swim out of and honestly, for the most part, there are jokes that are so painfully stupid and obvious, you’ll want to leave the theater for about five seconds, just so that you can wash away the agony from said terrible joke. Then again, there will be another joke or two that comes by that is, surprisingly, actually funny and delivers on the mark it sets out to hit, which is why I stuck through and decided to give this thing the benefit of the doubt.

From one hunk, to another.

From one hunk, to another.

Which is all to say that, thanks to De Niro and Efron, Dirty Grandpa works better than it probably ever should.

Efron’s been desperately trying to get away from his teen-idol image and carve-out a more serious, mature look for him which, seems to be working. In Dirty Grandpa, he does more of a job of making fun of himself than anything else, and it’s actually quite fun to watch. Clearly, he knows that he’s the sexiest, hunkiest person in the room, so he doesn’t mind getting naked, or poking jokes at his ridiculously-ripped and chiseled body at his own expense. After all, he’s the butt of the joke, but really, he’s the one that all the ladies still want to be with so it’s fine, I guess.

But as much as Efron may try, it’s De Niro who actually gives it his all and seems to really make this thing work. Granted, Dirty Grandpa probably shouldn’t work at all, but because De Niro seems to be enjoying his time so incredibly much, it’s hard not to crack a smile or laugh whenever he’s on the screen. He’s dirty, raunchy, disgusting, and a bit annoying, but most of all, he’s De Niro having fun and being spirited at the same time which, if any of you have seen what he’s put out in the past couple of years, means a lot. The movie may not be fully up-to-par but hey, seeing De Niro have some fun, allows me to have some fun, as well.

Just don’t tell anybody I said that.

Consensus: Not at all politically correct by any means and definitely a mixed-affair, Dirty Grandpa sets out for the shock laughs than anything else and can, for the most part, make them work, if only because De Niro and Efron seem to be having fun.

5 / 10

Whatta party.

Whatta party.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

Ghosts are such a pain, you know?

Before the infamous haunting of the Lambert family, there was a young girl by the name of Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott) who went through a lot of the same problems. Her, her brother, and her dad (Dermot Mulroney) all live together in a small and cramped apartment, where the recent death of the matriarch of the family still holds a bit of weight around them all. Since Quinn misses her so much, she tries to contact her dead mother by going to local ghost whisperer, Elise (Lin Shaye), who has now turned her back on this business as she has now lost her own husband. However, she makes an exception thinking there will be no harm, nor any foul from this decision. She was dead wrong about that! Instead, Elise has now turned the angry spirits onto her and Quinn, where they have now taken over Quinn’s room and promises to never leave her alone, all until she is theirs forever. Elise will make sure that this happens, but by doing so, that also means she’ll have to go back to her old ways, which was, from what we know, pretty dangerous to begin with.

The Insidious franchise, as a whole, kind of pisses me off. While I understand the appeal in all three of these movies, I never fully understand why so many people give them a pass. The first one was a fun piece of low-budget horror that most definitely benefited from the fact that it was a 21st century horror movie that didn’t have a gimmick attached to it, and was actually good. Then, the second one came around and felt like it was trying to capture that same fun feel of the first, but at the same time, couldn’t avoid tripping over itself in trying to enhance the story and keeping it moving.

Don't go down there!

Don’t go down that hallway!

Now, with this third one, it just seems like everybody involved may have gotten as tired of it as me.

That isn’t to say that Insidious: Chapter 3 is a bad movie, because it isn’t; at least, not for the first hour or so. Unlike the past two movies, this flick takes its good old time to get to the action, where instead of offering a whole bunch of spooks and scares to get the ball rolling, it mostly focuses on developing characters. Initially, this may seem like a waste, but as time goes on, it eventually pays off as it gives the audience a better view of these characters, their personalities, and why exactly they should matter to us.

Heck, even the scares work relatively well. Rather than throwing one scary object at us, after another, writer/director Leigh Whannell takes it easy, relaxes a bit, and lets it all play out in a slow, melodic fashion. Once again, many may be bothered by this approach to a genre of film that should be blasting at the seams with frenetic energy, but as time rolls on (which it will definitely do), it ends up working in the movie’s favor. I always say that more horror movies should take the slow-burn approach to delivering their scares as it definitely keeps on racking up the tension, without ever seeming like it’s losing its audience.

And that’s what this movie is for the first half, and then it just drops the ball; much like the other movies.

Where Whannell seems to lose a bit of sense here is that he mistakes pulling back curtains and giving us three second glimpses of weird-looking figures as being terrifying, and doesn’t realize that they may just be goofy to look and point at. Whereas most horror directors realize that they’re working with campy, B-movie material and hardly ever shy away from that fact, Insidious does’t know whether or not it wants to explore these silly moments more, or take them as serious as heart-attack. The same issue happened with the other two, where it seemed to be so odd and outrageous, that it was surprising when the movie itself didn’t seem to take it as some sort of a joke.

And this is a problem because for the last-half or so, this is exactly how the movie plays out. Elise ends up taking a trip into “the Further”; Elise starts seeing some weird images; Elise fights with demons; and eventually, Elise gets the demons away (or so she thinks!). It’s not that the formula is broken, so therefore, it should be fixed, it’s just that there doesn’t seem to be much life left in them to where they’re fun to see toyed around with every so often. Recent horror movies like the Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and my favorite of the year so far, It Follows, all take notice of this idea and decide to do something about their sometimes familiar story-lines.

Don't look under that bed!

Don’t look under that bed!

Insidious now feels like it’s a bit behind the curve and it needs to get along with the times.

However, considering that this is a prequel, some have been considering it the last of the series. Which, isn’t a total shame, because it’s definitely overstayed its welcome now, but will definitely leave behind a solid legacy for Lin Shaye, an underrated character actress that seems to finally be getting her due now. It’s odd that someone like Shaye would be the main draw and practically, the poster girl for this franchise, but somehow, she has and the movies are better for it. Shaye’s the only one who seems like she’s fully into the material that she’s working with and while the movie makes the mistake of taking her a tad too seriously, she’s still good enough to where it works for her and her character. In fact, it makes her seem all the more bad-ass.

And because we get more time with her this time around, we’re taken away from the rest of the characters. Though Dermot Mulroney and Stefanie Scott seem to be trying, their characters don’t have much more depth other than just, “normal, everyday human beings who are scared of ghosts”. Mulroney tries to breathe some life into this boring dad role, but eventually, has to sit on the side lines and watch as Lin Shaye cleans house.

Which isn’t that much of a problem, because she does it all so well.

Consensus: If Chapter 3 is indeed the finale to the Insidious franchise, it won’t be a tearful goodbye, but it will leave behind a legacy of being an mediocre movie that could have been so much scarier and fun, much like the other two.

5 / 10

Don't follow her!

Don’t follow her!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Young Guns (1988)

Apparently, all you have to do to make the Brat Pack look tough, is give them guns.

In 1878, six rebellious young men are roaming around the West, kicking ass, taking names, all to avenge the death of their ranch owner. Their names? The Regulators. But most people know them by their leader, Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez), the toughest gunslinger in all the land.

Westerns are cool, right? But what about Westerns from the 80’s, that feature stars from The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

Uhm, never mind. Westerns aren’t so cool anymore.

Although, as much as I may crap on this movie in the next few minutes or so, there is no denying that this movie can sometimes actually be fun, if only when it’s paying attention to the actual action and nothing but. Director Christopher Cain obviously knows what he wants to do with this material, as cheesy as it may be, but takes chances here because he’s not all that afraid to be a little bloody, a dirty, and in-your-face at the same time. There’s a great amount of energy that’s brought to this flick every time the action pops up, which also gives more credit to the powers that be who were behind this not backing down and slapping it with the PG-13 rating. Westerns aren’t supposed to be pretty, or even lovely – they’re supposed to be ugly, dirty creations where even uglier, dirtier creations inhabit it and there’s something worth commending on the part of Cain for at least noticing this, even if it is for only when the guns are shooting, bullets are flying, and people are dropping like flies all over the place.

Eh. Take it easy, not-Martin Sheen.

Eh. Take it easy, not-Martin Sheen.

Problem is, once the action ceases, the movie’s true problems begin to show.

Right from the start of the flick, you know that it’s going to be corny (it’s an 80’s flick), but the movie really delivers on the cheese, and then some. The script is made out to where these guys think their all tough by waving around guns and talking like rough, ragged grown-ass men, when in reality, they look a little too pretty and handsome to even be considered a bunch of dirty gun-slingers, making them all unbelievable as protagonists. Let alone, ones that are supposed to be some of the most terrifying shooters in all the land. Even if they called up Clint Eastwood, it still would have been hard to see these guys as anything but stars of high school 80’s classics, as most of them were by this point.

What’s even worse about these characters though, is that we never ever really get the chance to care about them. Which is of course to say that the writing for them is terrible, but at a certain point, it doesn’t even seem like the movie’s even trying. Instead, it seems like the creators behind it thought that just by casting these well-known, likable stars in these roles was enough to make them at least somewhat sympathetic, but that’s not what happens here. In order for us to root for these characters, you have to give us more than just a pretty, recognizable face; they need to have something of personalities, and not just any kinds, but ones that are worth getting behind.

Because, for the most part, the scenes with them are just dedicated to constant talking about their lives, women, and shootin’ folks, but it’s written in such a goofy way, it’s hard to ever take any of it seriously, let alone even care. The movie deserves some credit for at least trying to hash these characters out into being more than just stereotypes, but because the script doesn’t work, they seem exactly like that – just a bunch of hammy, macho d-bags who have too much time on their hands.

Not even Jack Palance could save this. Shame.

Not even Jack Palance could save this. Shame.

Speaking of these a-holes, the cast tries and tries again with these poorly-written characters, but just can’t seem to overcome the inherent problems plaguing this movie at nearly every turn. Of course, Emilio Estevez probably has the best performance out of the bunch as Billy the Kid, but even he got on my nerves after awhile. In most folklore that you read about the Kid, we’re always told that he was a cocky, arrogant prick, which may or may not be true to begin with, but that doesn’t make for a compelling lead protagonist. It just leaves us with someone not worth caring about one bit. Though Esteves may have the most charisma out of the whole ensemble, but that’s not really saying much when you take a look at the rest of the buffoons backing him up.

As for the rest, nobody really does much. But then again, they aren’t given much to do, so I guess they could only do what they were told. Kiefer Sutherland spends the majority of this movie either moping, yelling, dreaming over some random Asian gal that he meets for three minutes and falls in love with, and it gets real old, real quick; Lou Diamond Phillips plays the stereotypical Native American character that instead of shooting, throws knives, and goes on and on about his heritage and what his people had to go through, which, yet again, gets real old, real quick; Charlie Sheen has some nice moments, because he’s Charlie Sheen for gosh sakes, but they are very few and far between and doesn’t take away from the fact that he doesn’t have much in him to make this movie a whole lot better; Dermot Mulroney barely does anything here other than look dirty and chew a lot of tobacco; and Casey Siemaszko is just here and doesn’t really do much, which is pretty much a perfect summation of his career as a whole.

Poor guy. I hope he still gets some cash from this to get him through the day.

Consensus: There’s a gritty, raw and sometimes incredibly violent Western tucked inside of Young Guns, but it hardly ever comes out in a full-on, effective form, mostly due to the fact that the ensemble aren’t given anything to do.

3 /10 

Come on, boys! Real men don't cry! You pansies!

Come on, boys! Real men don’t cry! You pansies!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

August: Osage County (2013)

A family reunion at Orange County probably would have cooled everyone off just a tad bit.

After her dear hubby, Beverly (Sam Shepard), turns up dead at the bottom of a lake, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is left alone, confused, upset and pissed-off at just why the hell the man she’s been married to for half of her damn life would leave her in such a horrific, unexpected way. And since the body has been found and claimed, that can only mean one thing: Funeral arrangements! Actually, better yet, that also means another thing: Family reunion! Violet’s three daughters come up for the funeral and, presumably, haven’t seen one another for quite some time, either due to the fact that they don’t like one another, or got too much already going on in their respective lives that they don’t really have much time to chat-it-up every once and awhile. The oldest, Barbara (Julie Roberts), is going through her own crisis of sorts with her failing marriage to college professor Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), and the fact that she can’t seem to connect with her 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) any longer; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle-child and practically the only one who decided to stay back and watch over mom, dad and the house, but also has a bit of a crisis on her own that just so happens to be more controversial than anything else going on here; and the baby of three girls, Karen (Juliette Lewis), is a bit of a gold digger that’s had plenty of flings in the past, but is now with a man (Dermot Mulroney) who is ten years older than her and may not be a perfect fit. There’s also plenty more where that came from, so just enjoy the show! Or play, whatever you want to call it!

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so much more.

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so badly.

Though I’ve never seen the play, from what I hear, it’s a stunning piece-of-work that yes, is long, but yes, is also worth seeing. And after being a witness to its film-adaptation, I think I might just have to. Which is very strange considering that this was actually adapted from the man who created the original play himself, Tracy Letts, and in case you couldn’t tell with Letts, the guy definitely has an ear for dialogue. Especially those of some pretty messed-up, dysfunctional people that you may not always like, but you can always watch, even in their most questionable moments.

That’s why after seeing two other film-adaptations of his plays (Bug and Killer Joe) I feel like the standard has been set for what a stage-to-film-adaptation can be, let alone one those of Letts’ own creation. Which is why when I saw the huge ensemble director John Wells put together here, I felt like I just could not miss out on this, not even for the world. And for the most part, I wasn’t wrong, because while plenty in this flick doesn’t necessarily work to the best of its ability, the cast consistently puts in great work, which is definitely something to commend, especially considering that they’re given dialogue to work with that is in and of itself a bit too taut and awkward for their own good.

Actually, the same could be said about the direction from Wells also, as this feels more like a forced-job than anything else. See, the complaints that I heard with both Killer Joe and Bug (moreso Joe, than Bug), was that too much of it felt “stagey”. Which is, in essence, exactly what it’s supposed to be, but not done so in a way that makes it feel like you’ve shelled-out money to just see a bunch of people do the same things that you could have seen them do on a big, ole’ stage. It’s quite tricky for a director to maneuver an adaptation around so much so that you don’t have too many scenes where a person will walk into a room, talk about god knows what for ten minutes, go into another room, talk about god knows what for ten more minutes, and then continue to do so until another person decides to take the throne, go into a room, and talk about god knows what for ten minutes. It all just gets to the point of where it’s been so rinsed-out and recycled, that you feel as if you’re on “dialogue-overload”, but not in the fun way you’d hear with a Tarantino, or Scorsese flick. Rather, you’re just hearing a bunch of people rant, rave on and ramble on about crap you don’t really care for, but sort of have to because it’s right in front of your face, and will continue to be so for the next hour or two, and you can’t do a single thing about it.

Hence why that feeling of being crammed-into a place you don’t really want to be at, with a bunch of people you don’t really care for, should have worked absolute wonders for this movie. However, Wells seems like he’s bit too much of a polished film-maker where everything is all nice, clean, frothy and pretty to look-at. Which may be fine for a movie about a family who gets along, rarely ever get into any sort of scuffles with one another and find a way to look on the bright side of any dark day. But this is not a movie about that type of family. This is a movie about a bunch of mean, twisted, dark, angry and sometimes sinister people that see each other as family, but don’t necessarily treat each other as such. Instead, they treat each other as punching-bags when they feel defenseless and have nobody else to poke-fun at or pick a fight with. And when the going gets good and one gets offended, then they bring everybody else into the fight, allowing there to be more and more victims in line for the slaughter.

That’s what I saw with this family, but it was pretty clear that Wells didn’t see that and instead, makes this more of a “commercialized flick” that has plenty of arguments that dive into some pretty dark places, but end on a goofy-notes that you’d see in a feel-good, “crazy family” movie. Even the poster I decided against using promises that there will be a cat-fight by at least some of the characters here, and it gives you the impression that this is going to be a light and happy-going movie, that still has a couple of lessons about life to bestow upon us. It certainly does too, but not the kind that make you feel like you want to hug your mommy, daddy or nearest family-member. But Wells didn’t seem to get that notion and the movie feels a bit disjointed as a result.

But that disjointed feel doesn’t just begin and end with Wells’ direction, it actually can be said the same for this very talented, very entertaining cast, which is a damn shame too, considering almost everybody involved puts in some great work. The main culprit who I think probably runs the highest-risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of this movie’s production is Meryl Streep who, once again, may be putting in an amazing performance here as Violet, still feels like she’s just going for the big, over-exposed sense of acting that we usually see her do from time-to-time, but don’t have much of a gripe with because, well, it’s Meryl Streep for lord’s sakes. That doesn’t mean she isn’t good or anything, she totally is, it’s just that every scene Streep is given to act her ass-off as Violet, she doesn’t hold-back and after awhile, you start to wish that she would just tone it down a bit. I get that she’s a bitch in the play and that’s probably how she was written in the first place, but Meryl’s a talented-enough actress to know that a character/performance can be adapted into many different ways, using many different styles of acting.

Same can be said for Julia Roberts as Barbara who, is definitely relishing her time in a role that we don’t usually see her do, seems like she’s going for the big, the loud and the over-exposed, rather than just taking it down a notch here and there. Roberts is still great and shows us why she doesn’t just have the looks, but the talents as well, but the problem remained that whenever her and Streep were on the same screen together, it seemed like they were both trying too hard to steal the spot-light from the other. It does make the slightest bit of sense when you take into consideration the fact that their characters are supposed to be constantly at-battle with one another, but most of the time, they just end-up in screaming bouts that only seem to go on and on and on, without much entertainment involved whatsoever. You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity. And don’t feed me that “family is everything” bullshit either.

While Streep and Roberts are more than likely going to be the sole-performances here that get plenty of the awards-attention (and in some cases, rightfully so as they definitely do put in some great work), I can’t help but feel like there are some far better, more in-tuned performances left out on the side, looking in while these two wild ladies go at it. Margo Martindale has been putting in great work practically everywhere she shows up, and does a fantastic job as Aunt Mattie, playing-up both sides of her act that we see many times. She can be either very, very sweet, with just a slight sense of sarcasm, or terribly mean and cruel to those around her. She’s great here and in ways, feels like she would have been a better casting-decision for the role of Violet than Streep. In ways. Chris Cooper is also great as her very calm, very peaceful hubby that you can tell doesn’t take much of crap from anyone, but surely isn’t the one to keep a fight going on once it’s already begun.

But somehow, the real stand-out among this whole cast is Julianne Nicholson who gets by on playing it soft, sweet and rather subdued, which is a shock considering all of the havoc going on around her. Maybe it was just that she was granted a better role than the others in this movie, but she was the one I resonated with the most and actually felt bad for, whereas everybody else seemed like just a bunch of mean a-holes that I didn’t want to spend another second with. Loved listen to them bicker and bat with one another, but if this was my own family, I think I would have to move away to a whole other state, let alone country.

Consensus: There seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the way in which August: Osage County is supposed to tell its story, which causes plenty of problems with its tone and overall message at the end, but watching all of these talented actors just do work with one another, whether it be small and subtle, or loud and over-bearing, is always worth watching, especially if some of those said “talented actors” just so happen to be Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, just to name a few.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Cheer up, girls! It's not like two of you won't get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark....

Cheer up, girls! It’s not like two of you won’t get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

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

Stoker (2013)

Family is weird.

India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) is a young girl who suspects her mysterious uncle (Matthew Goode) is up to some sheisty-dealings after he comes to live with her emotionally unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) following the death of her father (Dermot Mulroney). But instead of feeling outrage or horror, this friendless girl becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the main hype for this movie is surrounding the fact that this is South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), making his American feature-film debut and shows something to all of the other foreign directors that seemed to get thrown into the mix when they have to take crap material in the states. It seems to happen to every foreign-language director who makes a splash elsewhere, but Chan-wook is different. This is his film all the way through, and it’s usually for better, and for worse. Depending on the type of person you really are and what you like. Me, I’m still on the fence.

What makes this movie work is that it does have a very, very mysterious atmosphere and tone about it to where you have no idea what’s going, and exactly who’s behind all of these weird shenanigans that have been going on. From the get-go, it’s pretty obvious that not everything is as it seems to be, but that didn’t matter because it’s more deliberately-used, as Chan-wook allows his flick to build up more steam and tension as it goes along. For me, I always thought I knew where this story was going, how, and what they were going to reveal to me next, but that’s only because I’ve seen a shit-ton of movies. This movie actually surprised me when it was able to take leaps of death that I wasn’t in the least-bit expecting, and I have to give Chan-wook a bunch of credit for that, because it’s something that some of our finest, working-directors in America still don’t have the courage to pull-off just yet. Not saying that he’s better than anybody, just saying that the guy is able to show the brass balls he hides within. Or underneath his pants, physically too. Either way, the guy’s got guts.

"Ladies, I'm ready to fuck. Sort of."

“Ladies, I’m ready to fuck. Sort of.”

Chan-wook also does a great job in keeping this flick so damn interesting, and not just by the story; but by the visuals. Every shot in this movie feels like it could be paused, taken-out, and displayed on a coffee table in some shop or some person’s house, and have everybody who picks it up, staring and gazing at it for day’s on end. Chan-wook not only gives this flick a plethora of beautiful colors to keep your eyes on-screen, but shows us some nice, visual-treats that he takes out of his goodie-bag. Certain scenes loom really cool, other scenes, just look very artsy-fartsy. But regardless of what you may deem them as, you still cannot deny that this flick is always interesting and always intriguing to watch, and if not for the story, then to see what Chan-wook can have our eyes feast on next. Trust me, you’ll see.

But something just didn’t feel all that right with this movie and I think I have my finger on what it was: it’s tone. See, this is one of those flicks where everything is dramatic, everything is eerie, and everything and everybody feel like they’re just being loopy, just for the sake to move the story along. Now, I know this type of story-telling does very, very well in the foreign countries, but in the states, it feels weird. For instance, there’s a bunch of staring and awkward-grinning between a bunch of characters that could be deemed as creepy and horrific in some, other countries because there’s a certain “art-essence” to it, but here, in the states, it just feels over-the-top.

In most cases, I was able to drop this idea from my head and just focus on the story and whether or not it I was interested, but other times it just felt like it tried too hard. Whether or not Chan-wook meant for that to happen, or that’s just his way of filming, is all beyond me. But watching this flick, you’ll almost feel like it’s parody at points, where people are just giving each other looks that the Dramatic Squirrel has been doing for a whole decade. Okay, you’re right. I’m sorry for putting this movie and that celebrity in the same sentence. He really is THAT COOL.

Where this film really counts, is in it’s cast who all do fine-as-hell jobs with all of the weird-shite that they are given. And yes, that does mean a lot for this movie. Mia Wasikowska always shows up in a whole bunch of movies that I actually get the privilege to see, and so far, she’s never done anything to really impress me. Sure, she’s cute and she has the promise to be the next, Amy Adams-type of gal, but so far, I haven’t seen anything from her that really had me calling till the cows came home. She’s always come off as sort of bland and dull, and never seems like she wants to liven-up the material and allows everybody else to do otherwise. Her performance as India marks the change in my perception of this gal. I’m sorry, Mia. You have my respects.

"I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton's Alice in Wonderland."

“I spy, with my little eye, a copy of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.”

Wasikowska is awesome as India because she has to do a lot of strange brooding and stares to enhance her character and the type of mood she sends off to the others around her, but that’s something she’s very good at. She feels like a natural at just being weird outcast, but also the look and feel of a gal you do not want to fuck with, especially if she has a sharpened-pencil in her hand. A lot of the scenes where she is just standing there, silent, and not saying much, still compelled me, because I always felt like there was more to this character than she was letting on and what would you know it: I was right! Wasikowska definitely stole the show in this movie for me, and hopefully won’t let me down with whatever she’s got piled-up next.

Matthew Goode is also amazing as her strange-o uncle, Charlie, who has never been mentioned or seen, until now. Goode is good (teehee) at playing-up the whole suave look and easy charm that all of the characters in his movies display so well and it adds another level of weirdness to a character, that we already know we can’t trust. He’s not the type of guy you want on your side, but you start to realize that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t as bad as they make him out to be. Just a bit fucked-up in the head. Whether or not you are able to go along with that aspect with that character is totally up to you, but I like how Chan-wook showed me more to a character that wasn’t just all about being odd, but sexy at the same time. Ladies, get ready to double-bag the panties for this one. You’re gonna need ’em for Mr. Goode. Aw yeah.

The biggest disappointment of this whole movie is probably watching Nicole Kidman play second-fiddle to not just these characters, but this story as well. Don’t get me wrong, Kidman is good as India’s mom and chews a bit of scenery when she gets the chance to, but there isn’t much else to her and sort of comes of like a total bimbo, in the grander scheme of things. You never get the full feel or essence that she was ever a nice lady beforehand, and you never get it after the movie, so why the hell do we need Kidman in the first-place? I’ll tell ya why: she’s a big name, she’s a good actress, and she may attract some people to see it where names like “Goode” and “Wasikowska” won’t. Sorry, peeps. But it’s the hard-to-honest truth. Same goes to Jacki Weaver. Why the hell was she even here?

Consensus: Certain parts work and others parts don’t, but no matter what, Stoker is at least a fun, interesting, and always-vibrant English-language debut from Park Chan-wook who shows us that he definitely has some of getting used-to with the way we handle business in the states, but still isn’t a person I have to worry about lowering my expectations for any time soon.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dramatic Squirrel ain't got shit on me."

“Dramatic Squirrel ain’t got shit on me.”

The Campaign (2012)

If only Ron Burgundy really did run for office. Do I hear the basis for a sequel…?

When long-term congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) commits a major public gaffe before an upcoming election, a pair of ultra-wealthy CEOs plot to put up a rival candidate and gain influence over their North Carolina district. Their man: naïve Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), director of the local Tourism Center.

If you are going to release an election comedy, the time right before the election would be a perfect time, really. Everybody is basically sick and tired of seeing what these candidates all have to say about themselves, their goals as president, what they think about the other candidates, how much of a wonderful family and dog they have, how they are going to lower taxes, blah, blah, and blah. So you know it’s time for a political satire, especially one with two of the goofiest and funniest comedic actors working right now, right?

You would expect a comedy about politics, being released very slightly before election-time, to have at least some sort of sides to choose or just plain and simple satire on politics themselves, but somehow, you get nothing here from that. Looking at director Jay Roach‘s track record (Austin Powers, Meet the Parents, Dinner for Schmucks), I knew that I wasn’t going to get anything that was necessarily considered biting, when it comes to satire department, but I wasn’t expecting something as safe and sometimes, soft like this. What bothered me the most about this flick is that there is so much room for political satire to the point of where you could almost make it up on your own, but for some odd reason, these guys never seem to go for it. To me, this seems like a huge, wasted opportunity that definitely could have given us a smarter look at the politics we see on TV today, but I guess they’re all fine with just settling for being funny.

Actually, this missed-opportunity probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if it wasn’t for the fact that this film definitely isn’t as funny as I was expecting it to be. There’s a lot of those dim-witted, goof-ball jokes that we are used to getting with Ferrell and his movies, but it just seems repetitive here, almost to the point of where Ferrell and co. felt like they ran out of material to joke around about, so they just tried to say the same jokes, over-and-over again but it a new fashion. This starts to get very tiring and actually, very boring, almost to the point of where I was actually looking at my “watch” (code name for phone, but don’t tell anyone) more than anything else on the screen. Which is a total shame because I usually have a ball with these guys, as I did with Dinner for Schmucks, a very underrated comedy, in my opinion.

But for when it did make me laugh, it sure as hell did make me laugh and that’s all I can give it credit for. Some scenes stood-out to me in particular, but the best was probably in the first 15 minutes where Huggins goes around his family-table and allows them to all share secrets that they have hid underneath the table for very, very long, and some of the stuff that just comes out of these people’s mouths are hilarious and dirty. It was a sure sign that I was in for something funny and everything else from the punching-baby sequence, to the vengeful political-ad videos, to the drunk driving incident, all had me laughing enough to say that I had a pretty enjoyable time, even if I feel like there could have been so much more to this material.

The real reason this whole film works is mainly because of the two comedic all-stars in the leads that always seem to give every role they have, their all and these ones are no different. Will Ferrell is basically playing-up the same buffoon he plays in every movie, but this time with a mix of his George W. Bush impression and some of Bill Clinton in there as well. It’s a nice little mix that Ferrell makes work by just being, well, Will Ferrell, and that’s all I really ask for when it comes to him and his comedies. Then, you have Zach Galifianakis as the heterosexual Marty Huggins, that just seems so sweet and nice, but can never catch a break because of Brady is always one-step ahead of his ass. Literally sometimes, too. Zach is always a funny guy and even though he hasn’t had many times to prove so outside of his roles as Alan, he proves that here and gives this Marty Huggins a lot of jeer-full goofiness to him, but not enough to the point of where it’s annoying and campy. Whenever these guys were on-screen together, I laughed my ass off and I sort of wish that they did a better movie to head-line together because this one sure doesn’t live up to what people would most expect from these two comedic fellas.

It was also nice to see Jason Sudeikis play a supporting, goofy role as the straight-man behind Cam Brady, Mitch. Sudeikis is funny, as always, but this time he allows all of the jokes play-out from Ferrell’s side of the equation and it’s nice to see what this cat can do when it comes to comedy, considering I haven’t been all that impressed by this dude as of late. Though, the highlight of the cast is probably Dylan McDermott as the evil campaign advisory, Tim Wattley. McDermott is good with this role because he plays everything with such a stern, serious look on his face that adds so many more laughs to this film, whenever it seemed like Zach and Will weren’t necessarily helping out the situation. What was even better was how they even compared him to Dermot Mulroney during this film, which I thought was funny because I actually thought he would have been a good fit for this kind of role.

Consensus: Though it’s satire never fully takes a bite, The Campaign still features a fun cast and a funny bunch of moments that are worth to see, if only for the two leads themselves.

6/10=Rental!!

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Grey (2012)

First he takes on the kidnappers, then the Nazis, and now THE WOLVES!

After narrowly surviving a deadly plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, a band of oil riggers must fend for their lives in the ice and snow. But thanks to wolves that view their presence as a threat, they aren’t alone.

Even though January to February is basically the toilet bowl of movies, there is always one guy who prevails as the winner. And no, there is not that much ass-kicking as the trailer/poster may have you think.

The plot here isn’t anything all that new that we haven’t already seen done before but co-writer/director Joe Carnahan brings something different to it. Carnahan does a great job here with this slick, dark, and stylized flick capturing a great look and feel right off the bat. All of these shots from the ice and snow in British Columbia look beautiful but it’s still not something you can gaze at as if it was a Terrence Malick considering the tone is still very dark itself. Let me also not forget to mention that this film also has one of the best plane crashes that I have seen as of late.

There is a lot in this film that will keep you riveted because these guys are basically trapped in the middle of somewhere, where all of these wolves are ready to feast at any second which is what gives it this paranoid and tense feel the whole film. There is always this big sense of dread in the air and you know that something just is not going to go right with this situation that they are put in and the film will catch you at a couple of parts and keep you completley riveted.

The film also doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action junkies that will probably go out and see it considering that there is plenty of awesome action/thrilling sequences but don’t let it fool you, there is still a lot of character development as well that worked very well. Carnahan may pack this film to the top in tension but when it comes to the guys talking about life in general, he lets everything slow down and then he somehow becomes very subtle with the way he moves his camera around but never loses track of what these guys are saying. I can’t say that there are too many moments where we get to understand these guys from the inside and outs but for a survival action flick, I can definitely say that these characters felt like real-life people rather than just the usual side-character in an action flick that nobody cares about.

My only problem with this was that when they started getting all philosophical and started talking about God and faith, then it started to really ring false to me. I don’t know what it was but there was just something about a bunch of bearded dudes sitting around a fire, freezing their asses off talking about whether or not they believe in God or no that kind of made me scoff and realize that this film was aiming a little too high. I also thought that this was a little unneeded because the whole flick they don’t even make one mention of it at all but when they do, then the film becomes this huge spiritual experience where we have just about every guy cursing God. Hey, I don’t mind a flick when it tries to be more than a just mindless action flick, but don’t try and get too serious with me.

Another problem I had with this flick wasn’t so much of the flick itself rather it being the advertising itself. Everybody who saw the trailers for this flick knew that there would be some sort of stand-off between Neeson and the wolves, when in reality, that sort of happened and sort of didn’t. I don’t want to get into any specifics and give anything away but it was always in the back of my mind the whole time so that once I got disappointed, the disappointment was sort of in the back of my mind as well. Also, knowing that this is a Neeson action flick that is made mostly for him, we all know that he has to basically live out all of the crazy events considering that he is the main star and basically it’s just like you’re watching people die left-and-right as if it was a slasher flick but instead of a teenager killer, it was either the wolves, snow, ice, or mother nature herself.

Being that this is an action vehicle for Liam Neeson the film really relies on him for a lot here and I have to say that this is definitely one of the better performances I have seen from him as of late. Neeson plays Ottway, who is a character that’s a little bit different from his other action heroes. He’s a lot more troubled, very depressed, and scared but also still very knowledgeable and brave which is something that Neeson pulls off perfectly in this whole flick. Neeson makes everything in this flick look so easy and it’s just great to see him playing an actual person again rather than a secret CIA dude who has a certain amount of trained skills. If this film was released in October to December, it definitely would have garnered him some buzz for Best Actor but hopefully his name will still come around this time around next year. Then again, it’s very unlikely but still, I think he should deserve some love at least. There is also a lot of other performances here given by some familiar faces I was incredibly happy to see such as Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, and many others who add a lot to their characters almost just as much as Neeson does.

Consensus: Even though it tries to aim a little higher than it should, The Grey is still an impressive survival flick from the stylized and tense hand of Joe Carnahan, that gives this film characters that we care for and the jolts and scares that work almost every time. Definitely my favorite flick of the year so far and even though that’s not saying much, I still think it was a pretty big surprise.

8/10=Matinee!!

J. Edgar (2011)

Even wearing his mom’s clothes, Leo is still the man.

Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this riveting biopic as J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime FBI director as notorious for his overzealous methods of law enforcement as for the rumors regarding his cross-dressing and close relationship with protégé Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

J. Edgar Hoover is a dude I know about and it’s cool to finally see someone bring all of his crazy myths and legends up on film. The problem is that I wish it was as good of a film as I was imagining.

Director Clint Eastwood knows how to direct an emotional and compelling story, and he brings that to this film here with a great deal of moments where it shows J. Edgar not as a genius, but more of in an negative light, which is something you barely ever see in biopics. He’s a very sad dude that has terrible problems of paranoia, controlling everything, and trying to get all of the attention for himself. It’s hard to imagine a film that would basically talk ish on its subject but to be honest, this guy was a nut-case if a smart one at that.

Another element to this film that everybody was buzzing about before it came out was how apparently they would be talking about J. Edgar’s sexuality. The film does not exploit this by any means and I think handles it very delicately because it has a lot of the subtle touches that the film is trying to show and probably the best and more emotional scenes of this film actually have something to do with that gay-love angle. It’s finally great to see a big Hollywood film with a lot of talent in it, so able to actually show homosexuality without hating or making fun of it.

The problem with this film is that even though there are moments where this film clicks, other times it just plain and simply misses. One of the problems with the film is that it’s story is told through a very-old Hoover talking to numerous ghost writers, telling his side of the story to almost everything in his life, and this isn’t the most original idea but it’s not such a bad one either. However, sometimes they would go back-and-forth between the past and present time, which not only became annoying but also a major take-away from the film considering that the story jumps around so much, we can never fully get ourselves into one without going to the other one. I think if they told this film from Hoover being young and then watching him as time progresses, then the story would have been a lot better.

Another major problem is that I feel writer Dustin Lance Black emphasized so well on the whole homosexual-angle that when it came to telling the story of Hoover, he kind of lost his way by trying to go for too much without any connection. The film almost feels like a “Best of J. Edgar Hoover” series where we see all of the famous cases that he was apart of, all the controversies, and all the rumors, but we never actually know how the film wants us to feel about all of this and just exactly what this film is trying to say. I felt a little bit dragged on especially by how slow the story was and I think that it gets very jumbled with the actual story of Hoover, except for his fancy of women’s clothing.

My last problem with this film is the fact that it is about 2 hours and 17 minutes long which in some cases, isn’t so bad, but here I felt like I was dying a slow-and-somewhat painful death. The film has about 5 endings and I couldn’t help but look at my cell-phone every 30 seconds to check what time it is and to see when this film was actually going to end. I wouldn’t have had such a problem with the time-limit if the film didn’t lag along at a snail’s-pace and over-stayed its welcome by at least 20 minutes.

It’s a real shame though that this film couldn’t have done any better with critics, because it really could have done Leonardo DiCaprio‘s amazing performance as the man himself, some justice. At first, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get past the thick-accent and the obvious make-up, but somehow DiCaprio makes this very troubled person, an almost larger-than-life persona who totally sinks into this character and after awhile I stopped seeing him as Jack Dawson and more of Hoover. He won’t win, but I’d like to see him at least get an Oscar nomination for this.

Armie Hammer is also exceptionally well as Clyde Tolson, Hoover’s right-hand man. Hammer has a great look to him where he always seems like he’s one step ahead of everybody he is with and throughout the whole film he uses that to his advantage. The scenes these two share together are great and you can really feel the chemistry and almost sexual tension between them both build-up as the film goes on. Their scenes together were the best mostly because they were believable, and handled in such a way that it didn’t seem shoehorned but more of natural when you have two guys who are with each other all the time, with some very dark secrets.

Oh, I lied, I had one more problem with this film as well. The make-up looks exceptionally well on Leo because he really seems like how old-man Hoover would look like, but Hammer is a different story. The guy’s make-up design looks more like a burn victim mixed with Eric Stoltz from ‘Mask’. It’s very weird to see and Hammer’s performance as older Tolson isn’t any better considering he does these random twitches and jitters that apparently every old man that Armie Hammer has ever seen does.

Consensus: The film has its fair share of flaws: it’s story goes from one place to another, it’s too long, and the make-up is exceptionally bad. However, J. Edgar features great performances from the cast, especially a compelling DiCaprio, as well as a certain love angle that feels right with this material and makes this seem more emotionally connected, when other times it seemed distant.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Family Stone (2005)

Reason why I don’t ever bring my ladies around to the crib during Christmas.

Although their relationship works in the city, things begin to fall apart for buttoned-up Manhattanites Everett (Dermot Mulroney) and Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) when they visit the suburbs for the holidays to stay with Everett’s family. Sarah’s first meeting with Everett’s parents (Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson) proves so traumatic that she calls in her sister (Claire Danes) for backup — a move that only makes Christmas more complicated.

I was completley surprised by this film. Now I remember seeing this way back when, and at least enjoying it for that matter, but I didn’t take it all in. Now that it’s Christmas time, I really do like this one.

The one thing that really shocked me was how good the writing actually is. There are plenty of moments of well-deserved humor, that will either have you chuckling, or laughing out loud, all depending on your type of comedy. However, there are also plenty of touching moments that may tug at some heart strings.

I think the best thing about this film is that it’s all about family. How everybody in it, no matter how crazy, or nuts they may be, you care for them all. It’s set in Christmas and shows a lot of the shenanigans that can occur during this time, but the real treat is watching how each and every family member interacts with each other. You feel like your apart of the family, and that’s not a bad thing, cause you like them all.

However, my one main problem with this film is that it’s tone awkwardly shifts all over the place. There are moments of humor, but then there are just very, very serious moments, that really get to you, and you wonder just what kind of film is this. It plays back and forth between comedy, drama, and also tragedy, but the constant shifting was kind of annoying, but it didn’t ruin my experience. I just knew it could have been way better.

The ensemble cast is what really had me watching the whole time. Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson are perfect as this aging couple that really just wants there family together, as they hold a secret that’s very near, and dear to them. Sarah Jessica Parker is actually very good in a role that requires here to be charming, but also awkward, with a hint of confusion, and she surprisingly pulls it off pretty well, which I was not expecting. Dermot Mulroney as usual is just amazing here, providing plenty of key dramatic scenes. Luke Wilson also brings humor with his perfect comedic timing, and this film is no different. Rachel McAdams plays a pretty mean person in this film, but then she starts to grow on us, and we start to actually enjoy her presence. Claire Danes pops up, and her character is likable, mainly also thanks to Danes’ appeal.

Consensus: The ensemble is strong, and the writing has many funny moments, as well as touching, but the awkward shift in tone for this film provided too much confusion as to what it wanted to be.

8/10=Matinee!!!

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)

Damn I cannot wait till I get married, I can only hope it’s to Cameron Diaz too.

Food writer Julianne Potter (Julia Roberts) panics when she receives word that her longtime platonic pal, Michael (Dermot Mulroney), is finally getting hitched, to a debutante named Kimberly (Cameron Diaz). Realizing her true feelings for Michael, Julianne enlists assistance from her gay companion (Rupert Everett) and sets out to sabotage the wedding, making a last-minute play for her man.

This film totally took me by surprise. Here I was expecting, a really cheesy, dumb, and unfunny romantic comedy chick-flick. But as gay as I may sound I actually liked this film.

Alright folks, before you all start calling me gay, because I liked a romantic comedy starring Rupert Everett, and Julia Roberts, go over to my main boys at TalkingFilms. So go on over and check them out, and get the skinny.

http://www.talkingfilms.net/from-the-vault-my-best-friends-wedding-1997

Later everybody!

About Schmidt (2002)

Whoever knew Jack could be so damn depressing of an old man.

When insurance actuary Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) retires and his wife dies, he looks for life’s meaning on a road trip to his daughter’s (Hope Davis) upcoming wedding to a waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). But Schmidt can’t seem to get anything right. En route to the wedding, he shares his life through letters with a Tanzanian boy he’s sponsoring for 73 cents a day — and soon, Schmidt discovers renewed purpose.

I remember when I first saw this when I was very young with my grand father, and I didn’t quite understand it. But now that I have grown older I understand it all, and I’m so glad.

This film is mostly all about being old, and accepting your life that you have made for yourself. Sure, it doesn’t seem like such a different idea of themes but the way this film shows it makes it so fresh. Honestly, there are plenty of scenes where I almost caught myself just choking up. There is a great deal of comedy in this movie, but also a wonderful amount of tear-jerking drama as well. Though I’m not a retired old man, I still felt like I could connect to what Schmidt was saying, and it made me feel even more upset, but upset in a good way.

The direction from Alexander Payne is really good here cause he doesn’t label out how we should respond to the actions of Schmidt. Things happen and we are supposed to think about it rather than given this mood of how to think about it. The writing is also very realistic, in how it shows the satirical look at things, with a very dark sense of humor, which gives bigger laughs throughout the whole film.

The one real reason why this film works is because of all the characters that are involved. The film does get a bit slow at points which does take away some interest, but it works in favor. I felt so in love with this character and I knew him inside and out by the end of the film. Nicholson is just so perfect in this role and totally just amerces himself into this person, and although it is one of his most serious roles to date he still makes you laugh with some of his lines. Kathy Bates who plays the other mother-in-law, is so funny and witty, and she does something of how she can just turn her charm on and off without her character even acting like it happened.

The ending in this film is what seals the deal for me. I won’t give anything away but once you see it, it will make you think about your life, and what have you done for others to make a difference.

Consensus: About Schmidt is a bit slow, but features one of the best performances from Nicholson, great realistic writing, and some funny moments balanced with some serious tear-jerking scenes that will make you think all about life in general.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!!