Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Tag Archives: Diego Luna

The Bad Batch (2017)

Cannibals gotta eat, too.

In the near-future, where it seems like the rest of the world is either on the brink of self-destruction, or already there, lies an odd area outside of Texas where there are no rules, laws, or jurisdictions whatsoever. And in that case, that means anything goes, where anyone can do whatever it is that they have to do to survive. It’s surely not the easiest place for anyone out there, and especially not a small, seemingly innocent girl by the name of Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who just gets dropped in the air, only to then lose an arm and leg, very shortly afterwards. Why though? Oh, because there’s cannibals lurking just about everywhere you look in this awful wasteland and it’s up to Arlen herself to not just stay away from these terrible folks, but not become one of them herself. And while there, she meets someone named Miami (Jason Momoa), a Cuban who may look like a sinister and mean son-of-a-bitch, but in reality, just wants his daughter back – the same daughter that Arlen has in her company with good reason.

In a post-apocalyptic world where human flesh is desired, don’t worry, supermodels survive.

The Bad Batch isn’t so much of a mess, as much as it’s just a simple, pretty ordinary movie that strains to be something strange, odd, weird, and hella different, but in reality, is just like many other Mad Max rip-offs ever made in the past few decades. It’s grimy, hot, dirty, mean, grotesque, weird, and packed with a whole lot of wide, sweeping shots of the desert, but there’s one key ingredient missing: Excitement. See, without any of that, you just have an ordinary, everyday thriller that longs to be something way different and out-of-this-world, but ultimately, is just so slow and boring that it feels like it’s being made-up on the spot, but without all that much time, thought, rhyme, or reason of why everything’s playing out the way it is.

Okay, so yeah, maybe it’s a bit of a mess.

But still, the Bad Batch isn’t as bad as people have been making it out to be; if anything, it’s just a two-hour-long movie that feels longer and probably could have been cut by at least 30-to-40-minutes and no one would have been the wiser. Of course, you’ve got to give it to writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour who, after achieving some surprising success with A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, seems to have gotten total and complete creative-control with this here, for better and for worse. It’s nice that she was willing to make such an impact with her equally odd and strange debut, but whereas that movie seemed like it had somewhere to go, even while it was making itself up as it went along, this one seems like she doesn’t really have the slightest clue of where she wants it to go.

Then again, you can’t totally blame her. Not only does Amirpour have a bigger budget this time, but she’s got a bigger cast, scope, and yes, way more toys to play around with. In that sense, then Amirpour makes it worth her while; the movie looks muggy and disgusting, but deservedly so, as if it may have been taking place on the outskirts of Thunderdome, but still seeming like it’s own place. If there’s anything that Amirpour achieves here, it’s a nice general sense of the world that she’s created and the characters she’s given us to help make sense of this messed-up, sickening and twisted world.

I don’t know, Suki. May be a little too much man to handle.

That said, it does take awhile to get through it all which, ultimately, keeps the Bad Batch from fully getting off the ground. And it’s not even that it’s a terribly boring movie – there are some nice bits of tension that seem to work themselves out, the more drawn-out they are – it’s just that it takes so long to actually get going to where it needs to get going. There’s not much of a story to begin with, but then again, there wasn’t much of one with Amirpour’s debut; that movie had the benefit of going down certain weird and crazy avenues, while definitely random, made the movie all the more interesting to watch.

The Bad Batch doesn’t quite know where it wants to go, or what it’s actually interested in and therefore, it makes it harder for us, the audience, to get all that interested, either.

And it’s a shame, too, because Amirpour shows that she’s capable of handling a bigger-budget, with a bigger-cast and scope, it’s just that her story isn’t totally there. Had at least 15 minutes of the pauses and silences been cut-out, the Bad Batch would have been a tighter, much more compelling ride through this deserted wasteland. But as it stands, it’s just way too long, without all that much of a direction in sight.

Unlike, of course, any of the Mad Max‘s. Sorry, Ana Lily. Next time, I can feel it.

Consensus: With a bigger-budget and names, the Bad Batch shows Amirpour can handle more on her plate, except nail down tone, story, and well, pacing. Aka, the essentials for making a solid, exciting and relatively compelling thriller.

5.5 / 10

Oooh. Cheeky.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire


Before Night Falls (2000)

Us writers, and the wild lives we live.

Reinaldo Arenas (Javier Bardem) had a hell of a life that never ceased to be filled with energy, excitement, and altogether, tragedy. It started when he was born fatherless in 1943, and ended with him dying of AIDS in his NYC apartment in 1990. Everything else that happened in between, such as the love affairs, the constant novels being written, and the plenty of arrests in his life, are all apart of his unique story that, once again, was all a tragedy.

It’s hard for a movie to make us feel any type of sympathy for a character, especially when we know what we see is a biopic and it’s supposed to span a long amount of time. Sometimes the directors/writers have to get down and dirty and give us something that’s unique about this person, or the least bit sympathetic for that matter, in order for us to even give a flying fuck about the subject, or the movie itself. It’s very hard to pull off, and pull off well, but sometimes you don’t even need that aspect of your script to make the subject, or the movie work. Sometimes, all you need is a great actor playing the subject to take things over.

And that’s exactly what we have here with Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas.

Honestly, if it weren’t for Bardem’s amazing performance here as Arenas, I don’t think I would have cared for this person, or this movie at all. We all know that Bardem can act his ass off by now, but back in the early days of post-Y2K: People had no freakin’ clue who this guy was and what all of the fuss was all about with him. He had a lot of buzz going on over in his native-land where he was constantly getting nominated and winning awards, but he never quite broke out into the states. That is, until this movie came around and as they say, “The rest is history”.

Yup, totally gay.

Talk about style.

Bardem is given the simple task here of having to look as if he’s feeling pain and on the verge of absolute-depression, every second, of every scene. For some, it may repetitive, but for me, I noticed something really remarkable here. It isn’t that he’s just using the same look and expression on his face the whole time, it’s more that he’s adapting to the story, the same way the real Arenas would have. There’s always a sad, dark grin on his face the whole movie, even when he’s happy and having a good time, but there’s something more underneath it all that you’re able to latch onto right away, not just because you’re able to tell that is a peaceful soul that shouldn’t be hurt because he’s gay, but because Bardem gives him that soul.

As time goes on for Arenas and the story begins to go through its many dramatic shifts, the performance only begins to pick up more and more heart and emotion, and that’s when Bardem really lights the screen on fire with every ounce of gasoline and brimstone he’s got. The guy’s a class-act of an actor because he’s able to take any type of role somebody has to throw at him, and find a way to make it his own, while also giving something resembling a heart and soul. A soul that we may have to search hard to actually spot, but one that you’ll be able to chalk-up to his ability as an actor and always being able to make his presence more than enough. The dude’s been great for awhile and it’s great to see where it all started.

God, I wonder what we’d do without this guy.

However, I did have a reasoning for talking about Bardem so early on and it wasn’t because he was the main attraction of the whole flick, it’s because he’s probably the best thing going for it since the rest of the flick is a bit of a mess in terms of editing and cohesion. For instance, we jump-forward in time on more than a few occasions where it isn’t that we know what Arenas has been up to in the years prior that we probably missed, but more that we are sort of just plopped-down and left to make up the conclusions ourselves. In some films, this can work, but with a biopic that’s asking us to pay attention to this human-being at the center of the story, it just feels distracting. It’s almost as if we’re paying too much close attention to putting the pieces of the puzzle together, and not the subject himself.

One second, he’s in prison, and then the next second, he’s out and has already written ten books. Sometimes, I wouldn’t even know when he was writing a book, or just writing poetry for the hell of it. The movie never makes that clear enough and it seems because it’s more focused and interested on Arenas’ sexual escapades and the constant trysts he had with other dudes. It’s not wrong to be interested, but it takes away from what was already a brutally honest about depression and grief, especially in this one man’s life. Bardem makes him unique, but he does it so effortlessly.

This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t and even worse, fails at doing so.

No, he did not die from hypothermia.

No, he did not die from hypothermia. Although that would have been tragic as hell.

Like I said before, without Bardem, who knows what the hell would have happened with this flick. He holds it altogether like Gorilla Glue and never lets loose of it, even when the fragmented story-structure tries to pull his weight down. And that’s not to discredit the rest of the cast either, because everybody else does fine – it’s just that the movie isn’t all that concerned with them, and only uses them as window-dressing. Like, you know, for show.

Olivier Martinez probably gives his best performance as Arenas’ most beloved lover, Lazaro Gomez Carriles, and shows that he has a soft side to his act that we may not see in the muddled-crap that he does nowadays; Sean Penn shows up in what is basically an unrecognizable performance that didn’t even seem like him when he was on the screen, but had me do a check-up and I realized it totally was him; Michael Wincott was a fresh face to see on the screen as the main artist who stands-up to the government, and roots for his writing buddies; and last, but sure as hell not least is Johnny Depp, playing dual roles, both of which are surprisingly good. The first one is a transvestite who Arenas takes a liking to in the prison and has one of the more bizarre scenes of the whole flick, and the second one is him playing a Cuban officer that’s a bit strange as well, but a tad bit more vicious than what we’re used to seeing from Depp. There’s plenty more names where those came from, but they all are fine for what they have to do, but it’s Bardem who really keeps the show on the road, even when the direction from Julian Schnabel gets in the way.

Consensus: If it weren’t for Javier Bardem’s amazing performance as Reinaldo Arenas, who knows what the hell would have happened to Before Night Falls, but with him in the lead role, the movie is surprisingly engrossing, heartfelt, and all the more tragic because of the life the real-life figure lived and even died from.

7.5 / 10

Don't lie, you'd hit it. Especially if you were stuck in a Cuban prison.

Don’t lie, you’d hit it. Especially if you were stuck in a Cuban prison.

Photos Courtesy of: Grandview Pictures

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

We’re like all connected, man.

After her mother is killed and father (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken from here at the age of 16, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has set her sights out on for her whole life to take down the Empire, in whatever way she can. After receiving a random message from him that he has plans on how to destroy the almighty Death Star, Jyn sets out with a group of fellow rebellious souls who, in one way or another, want to hope for a better world and future that isn’t so controlled by the Empire. One such person is Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Captain who has definitely done a whole lot in his life that he’s not proud of, but knows to push all of that to the side in hopes that he and the rest of these ragtag folks will be able to hurt the Empire where it hurts the most.

Oh yeah, and it’s somehow all connected to A New Hope, which isn’t a spoiler and trust me, you won’t soon forget about, considering that the movie seems to remind us just about every second that it’s all tied together, through some way. Which isn’t all that bad because yes, it is a prequel of some sorts and yes, it is taking place within this universe that we all practically know by heart, so it would make obvious sense that they would try and tie it all in, make constant references, and give greater context to things we’ve been mulling over since the first one was released nearly 40 years ago.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

Leia and Han? Kind of. But more British and Hispanic.

That said, a movie should stand on its own, prequel or not, and honestly, that’s where Rogue One sort of falls short.

You basically have to know everything that they’re talking about here and if you don’t, well, then you’re going to feel left out. The one good aspect surrounding the fact that the movie hearkens back to the original so much is that director Gareth Edwards films the movie to where it’s kind of goofy and light, but at the same time, still incredibly stylish and polished to where it still feels especially modern. In fact, it’s hard not to look at Rogue One and see not just how much money was put into it, but how much time, effort and care was put into assuring that the movie had the look and feel of the other movies, yet, still sort of its own thing.

Sure, it’s a movie that connects one too many times to the other flicks and has to remind us incessantly about the larger universe that we already definitely know about, but when this baby’s moving and not focusing a whole lot on what it’s plot is going to turn out to be, it’s quick an enjoyable ride. Edwards definitely knows how to film action -whether it’s on the ground, or in space, or between a bunch of foot-soldiers, or androids – and to do so in a manner that’s compelling, as well as comprehensible, is definitely a step-up from the rest of what we get in the world of summer blockbusters and shaky-cam.

Then again, as good as the action may be, there’s still something that Rogue One lacks in and that’s good, substantial and above all else, memorable characters that, in the many, many years to come, we’ll never get out of our heads and/or stop quoting.

Basically, I’m talking about another Darth Vader, or Han Solo, or Yoda, or hell, even Luke, which doesn’t of interest to Rogue One. And okay, yes, that’s fine – I understand that it’s hard to sometimes strike gold twice when it comes to lovely, absolutely memorable characters and of course, they have a high order to work against, but still, anything would have helped here. Not just a certain trait that lasts long in our mind, but anything.

Rogue One seems to know how to bring all of these shady, random characters from all walks of life together, give them a mission to work towards and basically leave it at that. There’s nothing to any of them, with the exception of a particular set of skill that they’re able to utilize in the heat of the battle, which makes it feel like we’re watching a bunch of characters that we’re supposed to like, sympathize with, and root for, all because of what they’re doing, but it’s kind of hard when we don’t really know any of them. We get some small bits and pieces among the whole talented ensemble, but it still feels like perhaps the movie is holding back on something to keep us glued on to me, until it eventually shows its hand and, well, there’s not much there.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

Sorry, Darth. Not as vicious anymore.

We’re supposed to care and roll with it, because well, it’s fun and it’s Star Wars. So why should we complain?

Well, it’s easy to complain when you have the talented likes of Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, and Jiang Wen, all doing material that allows them to have a few lines or so every once and awhile, along with a lot of kicking, punching, shooting and fun stuff like that. And of course, I’m not complaining that the movie takes their fighting habits, over their, I don’t know, real life, human habits, but it definitely doesn’t help that every character feels like sketches of someone/something far more interesting that either wasn’t filmed, or cut-out of the final product entirely.

Yen’s blind jedi-like character is pretty bad-ass and honestly, makes me want to see him more and more, but blindness and ass-kicking is pretty much all he gets; Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO droid is memorable because he’s a lot like C3PO, but much more violent and witty, stealing most of the scenes it’s in; Luna’s character tries a little hard to be Han Solo and mostly just feels like a far distant cousin; Ahmed’s barely here; Mendelsohn and Mikkelsen are pros at trash and can elevate anything that they’re working with; Whitaker is pretty bad here, but it seems like he was left without much to do; Wen is there to aid Yen’s character and gets to partake in some bad-assery, but what purpose her serves is never fully explained; and yes, Jones’ Jyn Erso, while not necessarily the most memorable heroine to exist in sci-fi, she still gets the job done, showing us someone we can trust in, but also want to know more and more about, in between all of the planning, and shooting, and killing.

Maybe I showed up to the wrong movie.

Consensus: Stylish and exciting, Rogue One definitely delivers on the epic, grand-scale action that’s become synonymous with Star Wars by now, but also substitutes most of that for a standalone story, with well-written, memorable characters.

7 / 10

True besties.

True besties.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Blood Father (2016)

Daddy knows best.

John Link, is an ex-convict (Mel Gibson), who is just trying to get by in life. He runs a tattoo parlor out of his trailer, located somewhere in the outskirts of Southern California, attends local AA meetings, and most of all, hangs around his local trailer-park community, not trying to lose his cool after all of the crazy stuff that he’s seen or done. But now, it seems like life is coming back to bite him in the rear-end and this time, John may have to push back. After he gets a call from his estranged daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), he has to grab her, get her out of trouble, and basically, go on the run from her drug-dealing boyfriend (Diego Luna) and his vicious cartel of ruthless, sometimes toothless gang of thugs who go around the state, shooting anything, or anyone that resembles John or Lydia. Because why? Because why the hell not!

Bearded Mel.

Bearded Mel.

With Taken having ended its franchise last year (even though there’s supposed to be a TV-adaptation out soon), it seems like the “old-guy-goes-around-killing-people” sort of sub-genre is coming to its demise, so to speak. Sean Penn’s the Gunman was a notorious bomb, Bruce Willis had a movie out this year called Precious Cargo that nobody saw and apparently, followed roughly the same plot-line, and now, we have Mel Gibson in the old guy game, with Blood Father. And while that may sound like a running-joke on some sort of annoying podcast, I kid you not, it isn’t.

In fact, Blood Father is quite the real deal.

It’s the kind of stinky, schlocky and silly B-movie thriller that all of those other movies I mentioned tried so desperately hard to be, but yet, were far too serious and “meaningful”, to even come close to. Blood Father is the kind of movie that winks a lot at the audience, knows what it is, doesn’t pretend to be much else other than what it is, and most importantly, get its job done in under 90 minutes. Most of those other movies I mentioned earlier, almost all clock in at two hours and yet, they still don’t quite hit the same highs as Blood Father does in its first five minutes, let alone, its whole 88 minutes or so.

Does that mean it’s perfect? No, not at all. But what it does mean is that director Jean-Francois Richet knows exactly what he’s making and isn’t trying to settle for anything more, or anything less. While it was definitely a huge risk casting Mel Gibson in a lead role, especially when all you really want for your low-budget, independent thriller is recognition and attention, he makes up for it in taking a balls-to-the-walls style that barely lets up. In a way, that can sort of come back to bite him; the moments that the movie does settle itself down to have conversations between daddy and daughter, it feels like it’s checking off something on a list. It’s as if the movie knows that it has to have this stuff, in order to tell a good story and keep the plot moving, even if, to be honest, it doesn’t totally work.

That said, the energy, excitement and absolute craziness of the action here is hard to ignore. Richet knows how to shoot an action-sequence, without doing non-stop cutaways and fast-edits to make it seem more hectic than it actually is – sometimes, a simple close-up or tilt will do just fine and get the same feeling across. He showed the same thing in his remake of Assault on Precinct 13 and not much has changed here, what with Blood Father is always moving somewhere and barely ever stopping, except for, like I mentioned, when it does.

And you know what? Say what you will about him, his personal life, his beliefs, and what he’s said to cops, Mel Gibson is still a movie star, dammit.

Clean-shaven Mel.

Clean-shaven Mel.

Sure, Hollywood may have forgotten about him and shooed-him away as the drunk Uncle nobody really talks to, or keeps in contact with, except for when it’s absolutely necessary, like at Thanksgiving, but Gibson himself hasn’t forgotten about himself, nor has he let go of what made him such a compelling actor in the first place. All that rough, tough and gruff that was there before, is still here and even as he gets older, there’s something inherently charming, even exciting about watching a middle-aged Gibson curse, shoot and kill his way through whatever stands in his way. He looks crazy and you know what? The movie makes him appear as such, too, and it’s hard not to love this character, everything he does, or says, even if you know, full well, that he’s got to get his morals in-check.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid, too, with random bit-players showing up in key roles and making this seem more like a joint-affair and not just “Mel Gibson owns the world”. Erin Moriarty may not be the best actor for this role as Lydia, but her character’s at least more believable than whatever the hell Maggie Grace’s was doing and/or saying in the Taken movies, so she’s already winning; Michael Parks and Dale Dickey show up as Gibson’s former pals from back in his bad boy days and are both perfectly slimy and icky; Diego Luna’s villainous character is cheesy, especially after he suspiciously comes back to life after what seems like a life-ending gun-shot to the dome in the first five minutes, but still does what he can; and William H. Macy, as Gibson’s buddy/sponsor, Kirby, is as perfect as they come and in all honesty, a better movie would have just said “screw you” to all of the violence and killing and just focused on the budding friendship between Kirby and Link.

Then again, probably not, because all of the violence and killing is pretty rad.

Consensus: Crazy, wild and never pretending to be something it isn’t, Blood Father is chock full of B-movie goodies, with a gruff, but engaging Mel Gibson tying it all up.

7 / 10

And oh yeah, intimidating, slightly dangerous Mel. The one we all know and, sometimes, love.

And oh yeah, intimidating, slightly dangerous Mel. The one we all know and, sometimes, love.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Cesar Chavez (2014)

Hail Cesar!

César Chávez (Michael Peña) was a man that believed in sticking up for himself and his people, even if it didn’t mean having to take matters into your own hands. César had a problem with the way Mexican farm-workers were being treated; they made very little, worked for very long and if they decided not to work any longer, then they would be forced to go back to their native country. So yeah, of course César saw this as “wrong”, which is why he decides not to stand for it any longer and get together as many of people he possibly can on his side, to face-off against the powers that be – aka, the head of these major companies making these workers work so hard, long and without much of a reward to show for it. Throughout César’s mission, he goes through his usual ups, his downs and even finds himself questioning whether or not there’s any reason to fight for a cause/group of people, that are clearly out-matched, out-numbered, and out-of-their-element when it comes to how the government does things and if they do so in a moral way, or let the sound of money and pride get in the way of doing what is right.

Well, there you have it, folks. It needed to happen sooner or later, but we have finally gotten the César Chávez biopic. Is it the one we deserve? Eh, not really, but I guess if there is one thing that this movie gets right, it’s that it informs those of us out there as to why this man mattered, why his cause was just and how much his impact has been felt on the world today. With that aspect of the film taken in and thought about, then yeah, director Diego Luna (yes, the actor) gets the job done. No questions asked.

"Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?"

“Twenty-on-one, brah. What you gonna do?”

However, when it comes down to giving us a heartfelt, emotional and complex story about one man’s struggle to fight for what he believes in, as well as staying true to himself, his values and those who are close to him? Eh, I wouldn’t say so.

See, where I think Luna runs into the problem with this movie is that he clearly loves and has so much respect for César Chávez in the first place, that you never get an sense that we’re watching a movie that’s trying to get us to know exactly who this man. Much rather, we get the story about what this man did, those he cared for and why he believed in sticking up for his people. That’s all we really get and even though I wasn’t expecting Diego Luna to throw out some random bits or pieces of info that would have César Chávez look as if he was a downright, despicable human being, I still would have liked to seen a little more detail into the mistakes he made along the way.

Sure, we get to see that he runs into conflicts with his wife, but only because she feels as if she’s being tied-down too much and not given the time to stretch her own wings and fly around for a bit. And sure, we get to see him have problems with other members of the group, but only because where as he wants to rebel in a calm, sophisticated, no-violence way, they all want to take out their dukes and start rumbling a bit. Oh, and sure, we see how much the law-enforcement acted so wrongly against him, as well as the rest of the group, but that’s only because their a bunch of racist, bigoted Southern assholes that have nothing else better to do with their time, money or house-maids, then just take out their shotguns and wailing it around some.

You get the point now? It isn’t that Luna paints César Chávez as the most perfect person on the face of the planet, but it doesn’t really do much to show him at his faults either. Apparently he wasn’t that great of a father to his son either, which comes and goes as it pleases and only seems desperately thrown in there to create some more conflict and family-drama, when in reality, we don’t really need anymore of it at all. All we really need is an honest story about a man we should know a whole lot more about coming out of, than going into, but somehow, it ended up just being the same. Even for someone like me, who only knows the man of César Chávez, his influence and his impact, through the beautiful workings of WikiPedia.

Ah, what a wonderful and nifty tool it is to have the internet exist in today’s day and age. How wonderful indeed.

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

Cause with that hat, how could you not be a dick?

If there’s anything really worth seeing this movie for, it’s mainly for the fact that Luna makes a smart choice in giving Michael Peña a rare chance at a lead role for once and a lifetime, and the guy does an okay job with it. I can’t really say that it’s anything spectacular or even better than what we’ve seen him do in some smaller, supporting roles, but with what material he’s given, which is rather thin, Peña delivers. Same goes for America Ferrera who fits-in perfectly as Chávez’s wife, even though she’s given the conventional-role of “the house-mother that sits at home all day, does nothing and just wants to be apart of something fun and exciting”. It’s a role we’ve all seen written a million times before, and somehow, Ferrera makes it a bit more watchable and even creates a realistic-piece of chemistry between her and Peña.

The supporting cast has a whole bunch of familiar-faces, which are great to see and all, but none of them really stand-out among the rest; which, once again, may have more to do with the script, rather than their own acting-abilities. Rosario Dawson shows up every once and a blue moon during this as one of Chávez’s most-trusted supporters; Wes Bentley plays a free-lovin’, hippie lawyer-brah that backs up Chávez when he needs all the help he can get; and out of everybody here, the one who made the biggest impression on me was John Malkovich as one of the owners of these major-companies that Chávez and his people are speaking-out against. Malkovich is clearly soaking up the sun as, who is presumed to be, the baddie, but he actually gives a nice moment of humanism where we see him talk about his days of growing up as a Scandinavian immigrant in America, and how he had to work his way up the ladder to become the man who he is today. It doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s being a total and complete, money-grubbing prick that doesn’t give two hoots about his workers, their families, or their livelihoods, but it definitely does throw us a curve-ball in terms of the way we view this character. Love it when that happens in any movie, and I wish there was more of that in here.

Consensus: Though it boasts a few fine performances worth seeing, Cesar Chavez feels more like a tribute to the man, rather than an actual narrative, where we get to see him for all that he was, good qualities, as well as bad ones, alike.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Still pissed somebody hasn't filled his glass back-up yet.

Still pissed somebody hasn’t filled his glass back up yet.

Photo’s Credit to:

Y Tu Mamá También (2001)

And Your Mother Too means a whole lot more than you think.

Tenoch and Julio (Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal) are two teens in their prime. They have sex, they love it, and they use it to their advantage. Even better, it’s Summer so they can practically do all that they want with it, even if that means being able to take an unfulfilled wife (Maribel Verdú) along for the ride. And I don’t mean just the physical one, I mean an actual one that they decide to take to a beach called “Mouth of Heaven”. Whether or not they actually get there, is no concern of these two dudes. They just want to get banged and have a good time. Oh, what it feels like to be young again.

Anybody who has ever heard of this movie know it for the single fact that it contains a lot of nudity, sex, and dirty stuff going down, in, and around anywhere that you can imagine. And hell, even when the peeps aren’t bangin’, they are still talking about sex. So, basically, you have a movie that’s about 65% sex, and 35% a meaningful and engaging story. Doesn’t sound so bad, which it isn’t at all.

And when you have a co-writer and director like Alfonso Cuarón behind the mantel, you can always expect greatness whether in terms of writing, directing, or a little of both. What I love so much about Cuarón’s style is that he plays it so cool and subtle, by letting the story tell itself, but still has an eye that catches yours as well. He loves his tracking-shots and that is very abundantly clear in plenty of scenes here, but the way that he is able to capture certain images of Mexico, not only makes it seem more realistic, but beautiful in it’s own gritty way. This isn’t the type of Mexico we see in almost all movies. This is a dirty, infected, and sometimes, raunchy place that people live in, and yet, can still call “home”. That said, there still are plenty of shots that will catch your eye off the bat, but you never feel like you are in a world of glitz, glamour, and happiness. Yes, there is a degree of happiness going on, but it isn’t in the type of place you’d expect to see captured on film, and captured so wonderfully.

That, Alfonso Cuarón, man. He’s sure got a thing for beauty.

"Probably just those horny, young boys I went on a country-wide trip with in need of some more lovin'."

“Probably just those horny, young boys I went on a country-wide trip with in need of some more lovin’.”

Aside from the visuals, the real beauty of this flick lies within the screenplay that some may be surprised by. At first, the movie begins as your typical, goofy-romp of a bunch of young dudes who love swinging dicks, doing drugs, and getting any type of gals they can. They also like to pal around, talk about sex, and challenge each other to simple games like “Who can win a pool race?”, but it’s mostly concerning them committing the act of sex. It’s what takes over their minds, their bodies, and well, everything else that has to do with their life. They’re young, free, and nimble, so they can get away with all of that, without being pervy or disgusting. Basically, they are what I aspire to be in life. Poor old me.

Anyway, this movie starts off like that for a good 30 minutes or so, but then totally changes around and proves to be something more than what you’d ever expect from a movie that opens up with a shot of a dude and chick banging. Before I go any further, speaking of the banging, I have to give Cuarón some real, fine credit for not editing-out any of these shots and having them all play-out like real sex does. Yeah of course some will say that it’s pretty much soft-core porn and I wouldn’t argue against that, but it’s the way it’s filmed without any frills, that really caught me. You feel as if you are not just watching people having sex, but making love and sharing passions between one another. I know I make these sex scenes sound like they are so much more than what they actually are, but it is what it is. They aren’t just moments of sex sprinkled in so people can start poppin’ Woodies all over the place; they are included to show you how people can be love one another, by by trading emotions, while also swapping fluids and spit as well. Some deep, heavy shit, yo. I know.

But anywho, away from that and back to the story!

The story of these three people figuring shit out between one another, realizing there are more than just “d’s and v’s”, and learning more about life in the process, doesn’t sound like anything too original, but in a way, it is. The movie tackles the subject of growing up in a way you won’t see coming with how it shows you all of the true, adolescent insecurities men go through as they get older and struggle with who they want to be, but also what makes people really mean all that much more to the other. We see this friendship go through many, many crazy twists and turns, and whether or not they actually like each other is the least of our problems. What is, is how they can view the other person, and whether they can keep this “sex thing” going on, but have a life outside of it all. You think of the people you knew or still do know, and whether they could really be your best-pals, or just your sworn-enemies once you get right down to it. If you thought the hot and sexy scenes I was talking about up above was really, the story is so much more than that. It got me thinking, it had me understand more about sex, and the best thing of all, it had me re-think some situations where I had the encounter of sex in front of me, and chose to do whatever I wanted it with it. That’s right: My penis, my rules. Bitch.

The parts that did take me out of this story, were the ones where it tried to be a bit more than just a road movie about people boning. I get that the movie had some sort of agenda on it’s mind where it wanted to tackle a political-happening at the time of this movie taking place, but for me, myself, and I: it wasn’t catching on. I’ll get the movie credit for at least going out there and reaching for the sky, but it should have just stuck with its grounded, human emotions, rather than really going full-force with political messages. Political messages, mind you, that weren’t really all that subtle to begin with.

That crap aside, the cast is what really sells the hell out of this movie. We all know that Diego Luna and Gael García Bernal are the Spanish-movie buddies that we see together from time-to-time, but this is where they got their start at palling around so much, and what a beautiful start it was. It’s strange how both of them play two different guys, but yet, still consider themselves besties in the way that they can joke around with one another and do whatever they want to the other. Sort of like real besties, except with more banging. For instance, Luna’s character is a rich, smarty-smart that has his head on his shoulder a bit a more than Bernal’s. That’s not to say Bernal’s character isn’t all that smart either, but it’s more to say that the guy cares more about what goes on between the sheets, rather than the textbooks. Again, nothing wrong with that, but it seems like a certain age you hit, it’s all downhill from there. Then again, I wouldn’t know.

It takes two, or three to tangle. Which ever one you'd prefer.

It takes two, or three to tangle. Whichever one you’d prefer.

Despite their characters both being different in ways, they still seem like great pals and it’s no wonder why these two have teamed-up together so much since this movie came out. Their chemistry is very believable in the way that they are able to goof off of one another, without taking much offense, and also how they were able to speak so candidly about their true feelings for one another. They love each other like most dudes in most bromances should, but when is that considered “too much”? That’s the answer I continued to hear ringing throughout my head the whole movie and it’s a point that the movie touches on in a smart, but sensual way as well. Homophobes. be warned.

However, the one that really walks away with this movie and with these guy’s souls is Maribel Verdú, the wife that they pick up along for the ride. Not only is she the best character out of the whole bunch, but also the best performance in the way that she is able to do a total 180 with her character, and keep us guessing what she’s really up to. We know she just wants to get away from her married-life at home, and we know that she wants to be a little wacky and wild, but what else does she want to do? There’s always these intriguing questions that linger in our minds about her and they’re worth it, because this character has us believe her every step. She’s honest in the way that she looks at her life, but also in the way that she looks at their lives as well, and makes them wonder what it is that they could and should do to be the best that they can be. She’s like a mother to them, in a way. A very incestuous one at that, but you get my drift. Great performances, all around.

Consensus: The steamy sex scenes in this movie may detract some people’s minds from the real beauty and sadness inside Y Tu Mamá También that is not only a postcard for the back-alleys of Mexico, but also a love-letter to what it’s like to be living wild and crazy in the Summer, but realize it won’t last forever. Sort of like sex. See what I did there?

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Happy times. How they never last.

The happy times: How they never last.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Elysium (2013)

In the future, we can trust that Jason Bourne will be RoboCop and save the day.

It’s the year year 2154 and basically, the planet Earth has gone to shit. So shitty, in fact, that the most of the better-off citizens have now fled to an ideal, carefree space-station Elysium, where they don’t have to worry about injury, disease, poverty, being dirty, or anything at all for that matter. Because they run such a tight ship up there, mainly thanks to the Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster), nobody from Earth gets into their atmosphere or comes even close to polluting it. Their so well-off, that everybody down on planet Earth is just struggling to get by and make ends meet, especially factory-worker and ex-con Max DeCosta (Matt Damon), who now has an even bigger burden on his back of only being allowed 5 days left to live, due to a mishap at the factory he works at. In order to get back at the high-priced, corporate-heads that seemingly ruined his life and wanted nothing to do with him, Max has found a way to become super-strengthened, brutal, and ready for a fight, in hopes that he can take over Elysium, save his life, and gain many others on Earth, citizenship to roam about and have the same benefits as the ones on Elysium. However, when you have a whole space-station against you, as well as a ruthless mercenary (Sharlto Copley) who’s hungry for blood, the objective may be a lot harder for seemingly a one-man-army.

Yeah, sorry for the long-ass synopsis but I can’t help it. This movie got me pumped-up and still has me going a little bit crazy in the head! Not because it was confusing, mind-numbing, or psychological in any way, but because it’s straight and pure, sci-fi action-flick that we could only get during the last month of summer, and done so well by the same man who made a relatively similar blockbuster 4 years ago with District 9: Neil Blomkamp. That’s right, even though there are no aliens in refugee camps here, there’s still plenty of themes and ideas that Blomkamp likes to tuggle with, but also have some insane action go on as well, which is some of the best, most thrilling I’ve seen all summer. Don’t get me wrong, these past 3 months haven’t been lame or action-less at all, but they haven’t necessarily had me jumping in my seat quite as much as this one did throughout it’s hour-and-40-minute time-limit.

"Taste these apples, rich people!!"

“Taste these apples, rich people!!”

Honestly, it all just goes to show you what type of writer/director you’re working with here with Blomkamp as the guy seems like he has a vision, sticks to it, makes his points, but never gets over-preachy and forgets about what really matters the most about this flick: The enjoyment-factor. Plenty of times you can just hear Blomkamp’s material crying out, “immigration is bad”, “the government’s corrupt”, and even a little bit of “we are “the one percenters””, but it’s never over-done to where we stray away from the thrills and chills of this action, which is made even better by Blomkamp’s grand-eye for detail to creating this world and making it his, even if isn’t the most original thing out there in the world. Pretty much, you can tell that instead of there being aliens living in these run-down shacks, there’s humans, and also robots, however, Blomkamp keeps it interesting using CGI that almost looks too real to be taken as science-fiction. Even the little utopia of Elysium seems like it could be happening right outside in space right now, that’s how impressive these visuals are.

But enough of the visuals, back to the movie itself. What works here the most is that no matter where this story goes, no matter how many twists it throws at us, or hell, what it has to say about what it’s all a metaphor for; the movie never ceases to be thrilling. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for the longest amount of time, and even though there’s a couple of soft spots here and there for character-development and exposition, the movie continues to move and move at a rapid speed that you’ll feel like you’re all wrapped-up in this race along with Max and the rest of his friendly-followers. The world looks beautiful and realistic enough to bring you in, but it’s the pace and the energy that Blomkamp brings which keeps you there, and rarely ever lets you go. You’ll root for the good guys, even when they stand-up against the biggest and the worst obstacles in their way; and you’ll shiver in fright whenever you see a baddie coming from a mile away, putting you in the place of knowing something that the goodies don’t know. That feeling is what makes, but can also break most action-thrillers, but it does more of the former to this one and it’s a testament to Blomkamp’s direction for never settling for less and always going for the loud, thrashing sounds of bullets, explosions smacks, grabs, punches, breaks, and whatever the hell else the man has to throw at us or his characters.

Basically, in a nutshell: Blomkamp is the type of director, in general, that you have to keep your eye on. The man’s already two movies down, and he’s taking the sci-fi game by storm. Hell, he’s taking movies by storm! Just watch out for this guy. I’m telling ya!

First, we had a respected, quality-actor like Brad Pitt take on a “genre flick” earlier this summer with World War Z, and now his buddy here, Matt Damon, has done the same thing; except the fact that Damon’s may have been a better choice for him and his career in the long run. Damon’s general likability, and every-day look and feel of his acting repertoire, works so well for this character and has you immersed in Max and his story right away. We get that he’s a troubled guy, who grew up as an orphan, dreamed big, but had very little happen for him, and as hackneyed as that may sound, Blomkamp and Damon make it work and comes off as sympathetic. We feel for Max right from the beginning, and we follow him as he goes through whatever he has to do to stay alive, keep his morals in check, and also save other’s lives as well. Max isn’t a perfect human-being in the least bit, he can actually be kind of selfish at times, but he feels like a human-being nonetheless, and a very compelling one to watch as well. It probably also helps that Damon is always down for looking the part of a total ass-kicker, and it’s nice to see that his trimming-down days didn’t stop with the end of the Bourne franchise. Tack on a head full of nothing but skin, and you got a scary mofo; something I’d never thought I’d say about a performance coming from the always lovable Matt Damon.

"Gee, blimey! I'm wicked haaardcorre. That's Scottish enough, right?"

“Gee, blimey! I’m wicked haaardcorre. That’s Scottish enough, right?”

The person in this movie who I can say is easily the exact opposite in terms of character and acting here is Sharlto Copley as the mean, lean, blood-thirsty mercenary assigned the unofficial, but official task of killing Max before he goes too far into the system. In all honesty, Copley is so over-the-top, so crazy, and so insane with this role, that he ends up just about stealing the whole movie, despite him being totally out-of-place among the rest of the flick. Any lesser-actor probably would have been a freak-show you couldn’t love to just sit, point, and laugh at, but Copley, with about 3 movies I’ve seen him in so far, shows that he’s capable of making a total nut-job, actually frightening to be around, rather than a total joke from beginning to end. You know that once he shows up, bad shite is going to happen, and nothing’s going to bode well for the people he’s pursuing, which makes him all the more detestable, but also utterly and completely watchable. The scenes with him and Damon, whether they are chatting, fighting, or macho-posturing the shit out of the other, are filled with much deserved tension and suspense, as if the movie itself is going to rip apart and just let these two go at it for days on end.

The only one in this cast that I couldn’t really care for all that much was surprisingly Jodie Foster as the snarly, evil Secretary Delacourt. And trust me, it’s not that Foster gives a bad performance per se, hell, I think she’s incapable of doing so, but it something does seem to be a bit too weird about her character, from the accent that she forces out with every line, and what her real motivations are behind all of the sneaky crap she’s pulling. It was also probably more disappointing to see Foster in such a role that was meant to be so meaningful to the rest of the story, but somehow, wasn’t. From the trailers and even the posters, you’d think she’d have a bigger role everything, but she sort of takes the back-seat to some of the biggest, most pounding scenes, even if you know she’s somewhere in the background. Her presence is felt, but almost in the sense that you know she’s just waiting to act her ass off, yet, isn’t given the chance to. It’s all fine and wondrous because we’re able to be distracted by the rock-solid action and suspense, but it still feels like something is missing, and it’s Ms. Foster herself. Or at least more of her.

Consensus: Despite featuring most of the same ideas and points Blomkamp studied, and did a lot better with, in his first flick, Elysium still grabs ahold of you with it’s compelling, emotional story, continues to work it’s tension up, until it’s about to practically explode and take you down with it. That’s a good thing, by the way.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

And you call that, "gay"?

And you call that, “gay”?

Casa de Mi Padre (2012)

Spanish is such a fun language to speak, especially if your Ron Burgundy.

This film tells the story of Armando Alvarez (Ferrell), a struggling ranch owner whose fortune seem to turn when his younger brother Raul (Diego Luna), a successful businessman, shows up to save the property. But when Armando falls for his brother’s fiancee (Genesis Rodriguez), and Raul’s business dealings turn out to be a bit shady, all hell breaks loose as they find themselves in the crosshair of Mexico’s most feared drug lord, the ruthless Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal).

It seems like Will Ferrell is able to do anything as long as it consists of him doing anything funny or that makes him look utterly ridiculous. This film does both but not as well as I or the film itself would have it liked it being.

This is basically one long parody of those corny-ass, Spanish television shows you would see at around 1 p.m. and it actually is very funny even though it could be said that the film is just using one joke, over and over again. There is a lot that they parody with this flick (all of the sets and animals look so damn fake!) and it made me laugh much like I was expecting. But it’s not just a satire because there are plenty of moments where it seems like straight-up low brow humor that we have seen from certain Apatow flicks. It’s a funny combination of both styles of comedic writing and they both come together pretty well.

Some people are actually complaining about how the script is so dumb, but that’s pretty much the point. The whole film focuses on pointing little jokes here and there at how over-dramatic these certain stories can get and it works in that way. It had me laughing, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely could have had me laughing a hell of a lot more. However, that’s what brings me onto my biggest problem with this flick.

Since the film is essentially a one-joke premise, there is a part where the film really starts to run out of steam and feel as if it was long, extended SNL skit. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely laughed plenty of times but there were other times where I felt like the jokes started either totally missing the mark or just trying too hard to be funny that it almost seemed like the film was actually straining itself. It also gets bad when certain jokes go on a little too long like where they explain what a scene would have been like if it weren’t for the fact that it was a little too crazy for its budget. That may sound funny on paper, and it’s actually funny in the film itself but it runs on just a tad too long like the director didn’t know when it was time to end his punch-line.

What also was sort of a total let-down was the fact that this flick looked like it was going to be one big ridiculous comedy that just got more and more dumb as it went on, but for some reason, I couldn’t help but think it’s not as ridiculous as the plot and advertisements may have you think at first. Of course you have Ferrell speaking Spanish and a whole bunch of other moments where it seems like they are being over-dramatic just to be funny, but for some odd reason it just never crossed that boundary into utterly ridiculous territory. Maybe I expected too much, but then again coming from Ferrell, I should be expecting this sort of stuff. And lots and lots of it.

I must say though, it was great to see Will Ferrell explore his comedic talents with his way of trying to speak in Spanish and even as unbelievable he may be at that language, it still doesn’t matter because he’s very funny playing that lovable, big, goofy dude we all know and love him for. Gael García Bernal is also quite funny as the notorious drug kingpin villain that we always get in these sort of flicks; Diego Luna is having a pretty good year so far with this and ‘Contraband’; and Génesis Rodríguez is so damn hot that I didn’t really pay attention much to her performance rather than just her rack. Still though, good performances from everybody speaking in their native tongue, except for Ferrell obviously.

Consensus: Casa de Mi Padre features some very funny moments that will either leave you crying or just chuckling thinking about it long after the movie is over, but there are times where the jokes seem to go on for too long and the fact that it isn’t consistently funny may be a bit of a draw-back, especially when you consider that Will Ferrell is in it.


Contraband (2012)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.

Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.

The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.

I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.

Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.

Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.