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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Djimon Hounsou

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Where’s those Knights of the Round Table?

After the murder of his father (Eric Bana), young Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is sent off, via boat, to an island where whores and crime run wild. However, Arthur gets going with it all pretty quick and soon, he becomes the smartest, craftiest, and trusted people on the island that, practically, everyone is asking him for their help, in any way that they can. But there’s a reason for why Arthur is the way he is – he comes from royalty, yet, doesn’t know what it is, what it feels like, nor does he actually want it. He’s actually pretty pleased with his life and doesn’t feel the need to up-end it, only until he discovers that his power-hungry uncle Vortigern (Jude Law), who also killed his father, is looking for him and needs him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone. Arthur eventually does and leads to all sorts of action and violence that both sides will compete in until their deaths, but also know that there’s more to being a king, than just having power and fine jewelry. There’s also this thing called respect and honor, and stuff like that.

Just look at that get-up! Clearly the baddie!

King Arthur is a movie that a lot of people will, and already have started to, hate. This isn’t to say that those who don’t like it, aren’t wrong, because in fact, they’re probably; the movie is loud, dark, brash, stupid, random, nonsensical, and downright weird. But sometimes, can’t there be fun had in all of that?

See, Guy Ritchie is the kind of director who seems to take on anything he wants, so long as he can put his own little cool, suave stamp on it. It’s why his early movies, the Sherlock Holmes‘, and even Man From U.N.C.L.E. have worked so well for him, because he was able to do something neat and different with these pieces of work, and make them entirely his own. And yes, it also helps that Ritchie’s style, while definitely show-offy, is still fun to watch and brings a certain amount of energy.

Then again, maybe that’s just for me.

See, the first ten minutes of King Arthur are just so odd, slow and boring, that it made me want to check out very early on. But then, out of nowhere, Ritchie’s style kicks in, where everything’s quick, a little dumb, loud, and random, making it feel like we were watching Clash of the Titans, only to then change to channel to 90’s MTV. It’s silly, of course, but it works in moving this flick forward when in all honesty, other films just like it would have kept a slow, leisurely pace for no reason.

Does it totally work? Not really, but it does help keep the movie fun at times when it shouldn’t be. For instance, Ritchie makes Arthur and his cronies as just another group of his usual rag-tag bunch of gangsters, stealing, lying and killing, for their own gain. Granted, Arthur’s supposed to be the hero here, but listening to him and his pals telling a story, or better yet, a bunch of stories all at once, is quite entertaining.

Once again, this may all just be me, but for some reason, King Arthur was a little bit of fun for me.

The issues the movie seems to have is in making sense of its story, which is why, for two hours, the movie can be a bit long. There are times when it seems like even Ritchie himself can’t make sense of the story and why Arthur matters in the grander scheme of things; certain supernatural elements with witches, eagles, and bugs, all randomly pop-up and are supposed to mean something, but they really don’t. The movie hasn’t really told us much about it, other than, “Oi, yeah, this kind of stuff can happen.”

Poor Eric Bana. The man can just never catch a break.

Can it, though? I guess, and it’s why King Arthur, while clearly not a perfect movie, also seemed to need some more help on the story, even though it took three writers to apparently bring it around.

Still, King Arthur provides enough entertainment when it’s needed and it’s also nice to see the ensemble here having some fun, too. After the Lost City of Z, I began thinking of whether or not Charlie Hunnam was actually a good actor, or if he was just another good-looking guy, who also happened to be able to read lines. Here, I think he fits Arthur quite well; he gets to cool, calm, sophisticated, and a little arrogant, which, if you’re someone who looks like Hunnam, it probably works, and it does here.

Even Jude Law gets to have some fun as Vortigern, although he never quite gets the chance to go full “villain”. Sure, he kills innocents, gives people the bad eye, and yes, even scowls, but there’s never any key moment where it feels like the man is as despicable and as evil as he probably should have been. He’s basically just the Young Pope, but instead of preaching and having weird sexual feelings for nannies, he’s actually killing people.

So shouldn’t that make him more evil? I don’t know, either way, Law deserves to be meaner and badder.

Consensus: While it is no doubt a flawed, odd and at times, random piece, King Arthur also proves that Guy Ritchie’s hip and cool style can still work, so long as it isn’t being depended on to help out with the story, or other things that matter to making a good movie.

5.5 / 10

He’s still deciding on what accent to use, or if to even have one at all.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

But wait? He doesn’t fall down, or break his crown? Then, what’s the point of the song!

It’s been nearly a decade since Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård), or, as he likes to now be known as, John Clayton III, left Africa to live in Victorian England with his wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He grew up there when his parents were killed and was taken in by the animals living in the jungle, where he learned the values and ways of survival. Now, as an ordinary Englishman, with something of a heroic history, he tries to live a normal life and start a family, even if he and Jane seem to be having issues getting that done. Now, both Jane and Tarzan return to Africa to save their land from the evil and treacherous Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz), an envoy to King Leopold who is using the Congo for his own self-gain. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Rom plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds. Neither Jane nor Tarzan know this, which is why, with the help of George Washington Williams (Samuel L. Jackson), and their old friends and allies of the jungle, they both plan on saving the Congo, taking down Rom, and most importantly, saving the precious land for all that it is.

Eat your hearts out, men.

Eat your hearts out, men.

In all honesty, I’d feel like the Legend of Tarzan would be a much better movie, had the Jungle Book not already came out this year. Sure, while you could make the argument that they are totally two different movies, they still have plenty of features tied into one another; they’re both live-action reboots of the story, both stories have to deal with man-in-the-jungle, and they also both seem to feature a crap-ton of CGI to make up for the fact that they weren’t able to film actual lions, tigers, and elephants (mostly due to the fact that humans are terrible and continue to kill each and every one of them). That said, one is way less serious and dramatic than the other, and it also happens to be way better for that same exact reason, too.

Now, which movie do you think I’m speaking of?

And it’s not like there’s a problem with the Legend of Tarzan being a drop-dead serious, almost gritty reboot of a story that is, yes, serious and gritty, but there’s also something to be said for when your self-seriousness kills any fun or momentum you may have, while also not gelling fully well with the rest of the flick and what’s it trying to do. After all, the Legend of Tarzan is being heavily advertised as a fun, wild, and chaotic summer blockbuster; while it’s definitely a summer blockbuster, the other words like “fun”, “wild”, or better yet, “chaotic”, don’t really fit. Some bits and pieces of it can be considered “fun”, but they’re also too light and on-the-nose to really work with the rest of the film that’s more concerned with really putting us down in the dumps.

Director David Yates wants to approach this material in the same, epic-like way he did with the Harry Potter franchise, but the transition doesn’t work well; instead of being all wrapped-up in the dark and sometimes disturbing violence, you may actually get turned-off from it all, especially after the first five minutes and we’re already treated to a bunch of bloodless, PG-13 violence in which a bunch of people shot, stabbed and killed (one of which being, oddly enough, Ben Chaplin), for no apparent reason. When the action comes around, Yates does well – there’s one action-sequence in particular that happens on a train that reminded me a whole heck a lot of Snowpiercer – because he knows how to build it all up and focus on the stuff that works in the action-sequences. But everything that just so happens to take place in between, doesn’t always work because a lot of the script is weak and underwritten.

It's set in Africa, so obviously Djiumon has to be in it, right?

It’s set in Africa, so obviously Djimon has to be in it, right?

Take, for instance, the characters themselves.

Or, better yet, most importantly, Tarzan himself. As our half-naked hero of the hour-and-a-half, Alexander Skarsgård looks the part, what with his chiseled-abs and perfectly long, blonde locks, but I feel as if he’s not the right choice to play a character who is so clean-cut and good, that you could almost baptize him by the end. Skarsgård has that anti-hero look, where you know he can’t be trusted, but because he’s so good-looking, you get entranced by his aura and you fall for his evil games, again and again. Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way, but so be it. Either way, Skarsgård tries, but ultimately, he didn’t quite work for me.

Margot Robbie also doesn’t get much to do as Jane, although she does get to have more fun than Mr. Serious Tarzan does. Robbie gets a chance to show Jane a fiery, brass and smart gal who, yes, may need to be saved from her man, but also isn’t afraid to say a nasty thing or two to the baddies. And as the baddie, Christoph Waltz is basically doing what he always does, except this time, his character is a whole lot more evil and distasteful than ever before. However, because he’s so mean, despicable and downright cruel, the rest of the movie kind of falters; it wants to reach the pitch black depths of hell, but at the same time, also realizes that it has to appeal to family-audiences out there and whatnot. So, rather than getting a story that really does explore these important themes about colonialism, extinction, and black market trading, the Legend of Tarzan will get scared, back up five steps, and just decide to show Tarzan swinging around in his loin-clothe, grabbing random tree-branches and getting his ass kicked by gorillas, without ever sustaining any serious injuries of any sort.

Then again, in a movie like this, certain stuff like that almost doesn’t matter.

Until it does and it’s totally Yates’ fault for that. Rather than allowing for the Legend of Tarzan to be a silly, rumpus good time where Tarzan flies around in the jungle and Samuel L. Jackson steals every scene he’s in, sounding and acting like he’s in the year 2016 (which is basically what happens), Yates decides that the story needs to unforgivably stark and serious. There’s no problem with that, but you have to do it right to the point of where it feels earned. The Jungle Book did that, with the added-on bonus of song-and-dance numbers and guess what?

Yep, it still worked.

Take notes, Yates (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Consensus: Though it gets the action right, the Legend of Tarzan‘s tone is wildly off, trying to appeal to everyone and yet, not totally working as well as other jungle-themed reboots have done this year.

6 / 10

"Tarzan want to bone Jane."

“Tarzan want to bone Jane.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Island (2005)

Everyone’s afraid of dying. Or looking ugly, too, apparently.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) seems to be living the full and complete life that every person on the face of planet should be. Not only does he have a nice job, but keeps a steady diet, has a good amount of friends, a rather exciting night-life, and seems to be getting closer and closer to his goal of reaching “the Island”. “The Island”, for those who don’t know, is a vacation resort of sorts for those workers who show the best performance and are definitely deserving of being given some sort of gift. Issue is, “the Island” isn’t actually what it appears to be – cause, for one, there actually isn’t an Island. Instead, it’s just a lie that’s just told to Lincoln, as well as all of his other fellow friends and confidantes who live with him in this community of sorts. And once Lincoln becomes wiser to what’s actually going, he grabs his best, perhaps closest, friend from the community, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and sets out to discover the truth of what’s really going on and figure out why so many people are after him and trying to kill him. The answers to his questions aren’t what he wants, or expects, but still, questions he has to live with and make something of.

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

For awhile, the Island is actually a pretty solid sci-fi flick. Sure, you could definitely make the case that it’s just ripping-off almost every sci-fi flick to have come out in the past few decades that also have to do with clones ( mainly Logan’s Run), but really, it’s hard to hate the movie for actually setting something interesting up. Even though to us, the audience, we know that each and everyone of these characters are just literal clones in this huge machine that doesn’t care one lick about them, seeing how they figure it all out, react to it, and find themselves getting out of and away from said machine is, believe it or not, compelling and exciting. There’s still a few plot-holes and silly moments here and there, but overall, the Island‘s first-half finds Michael Bay taking a backseat to his idiosyncratic tendencies and just allowing for the story to tell itself.

But then, as expected, it all goes to hell once Bay realizes that he’s making this movie and can do whatever he wants.

This means that, yes, there’s a whole lot of explosions, gunshots, cars flipping over for no reason, people yelling, carnage, and most of all, product placement. None of which are actually ever exciting, fun, interesting, compelling, or feel pertinent to the story; instead, they just feel like Michael Bay taking over the wheel and going crazy because, well, he can and who is going to stop him. After all, he’s the commander of his own ship, so why should he have to listen to others when they tell him that he may want to tone it down a bit on the general havoc his movies seem to wreak?

They wouldn’t because they’d be out of a job, that’s why!

Two Obi-Wan's? Look out, Ani!

Two Obi-Wan’s? Look out, Ani!

However, it should be noted that there is at least something of a thoughtful movie tucked deep down inside of the Island, which makes it slightly better than some of Bay’s worst, but not really. The idea of these clones having hardly any life or humanity for that matter, but yet, still feeling and expressing as if they were just like humans, is a neat anecdote that, once again, has already been touched on before in sci-fi, but here, still feels like it could make the story more than just another sci-fi blow-em-up, courtesy of Michael Bay. This especially comes into play during the later-act, when Lincoln wonders what it is about his existence that he wants to save, nor why it is that he cares so much about anything at all; somewhere, the movie’s crying out desperately to be hear and understood, but it’s not getting the right guidance from Bay and it creates a jumble of a movie that wants to be two different things, but ultimately, ends up becoming one thing – which is another hectic piece of action that only Bay can produce.

And like is the case with most of Bay’s movies, the Island features some very talented people, doing some not-so very good things with their time. However, if anything, it shows that Ewan McGregor is still a very good leading-man in an action film, even if the material isn’t always there for him. Sure, he’s charming and slightly cool, but he’s also likable and seems like a genuinely smart creation that, may not have the fullest idea of what’s going on, but is at least going to take some sort of initiative to figure something out and not just stand around all day, being dirty, yet, still looking pretty. As his romantic love-interest, Scarlett Johansson does what she can here with such a limited-role, but because she’s in a Michael Bay movie, she’s mostly used to look hot, run around, and get kissed by the sexy male lead.

Obviously, Johansson has more to do with her time nowadays, but still, it’s a tad disappointing knowing what we all know about what she’s capable of doing.

And yeah, the rest of the cast, like Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Djimon Hounsou all show up and try to add a little something more to the proceedings, but really, they’re just around to deliver corny lines and that’s it. Bay doesn’t really care about them, nor does he really want to give any of them enough efficient things to do with their time – he just wants to see stuff blow up and people kiss.

Which is basically Michael Bay’s career in a nutshell.

Consensus: Despite a strong start, the Island soon turns into another one of Michael Bay’s crazy, overstuffed action pics that, once again, wastes the talent of everyone involved, most importantly, a smarter script that may be lying somewhere out there.

3.5 / 10

Just die already so we know it's the end of the movie.

Just die already so we know it’s the end of the movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Push (2009)

X-Men clearly did it better. They always do.

Due to a government experiment gone wrong, Nick Gant (Chris Evans) is what some call “a mover”. Meaning that, well, he’s able to move things with his mind. However, he’s been on the run at an early age and in a way to stay even further off the grid, he’s been holding up shop in Hong Kong. But due to a couple of bad decisions made on Nick’s part, he ends up getting found out by these sinister powers-that-be who want to kidnap Nick and take away his powers. Or something like that. Along with Nick is 13-year-old Cassie Holmes (Dakota Fanning) who is what people call “a watcher” – someone who can see the future and certain tragic events before they happen. So yeah, Nick and Cassie are on the run from bad and evil people, meanwhile, they’re trying to meet up and find Kira Hudson (Camilla Belle), who may have all the answers to the questions that they need answering so that they can defeat these villains and get back on with their lives. But as time rolls and Nick and Cassie start to talk with her more, they realize that Kira may not be who she is and better yet, actually may be playing on the same side of those people they’re on the run from to begin with.

Round 1, eh, who cares!

Round 1, eh, who cares!

I think.

The whole thing about Push is that it’s incredibly convoluted. Certain powers of these characters, when they’re able to use them, what keeps them from using them, is hardly ever explained; all we’re supposed to make up our minds about is that they do have powers and they want to use them for the greater good. This makes it all sound like an over-extended episode of Heroes which, quite frankly, I would have been totally fine with.

But nope.

Instead, what we get with Push, is an overlong, overly complicated, very silly sci-fi flick that doesn’t know where it wants to go, or even what it wants to be. While the movie does stage some flashy action-sequences, they come so few and far between, that they become an afterthought. Instead, the movie wants to focus on the inner-workings of these characters, what makes them tick and just how it is that they get by in a world that, honestly, doesn’t quite accept them for who they are or what skills they possess. Obviously, I’ve seen this all done way better in X-Men and it just goes to show you just how easy it is to make a tale like that.

But for some reason, no one on-board with Push seems like they want to give anything an honest effort. Director Paul McGuigan tries his hardest to give this movie a cool, slick feel, but overall, can’t overcome all of the issues that the script has going on. While he gets a lot of play out having his movie shot on location in Hong Kong, the shame about this all is that he hardly gets a chance to use it to its fullest extent. Sure, there’s a few chase scenes through fish markets and narrow, over-crowded streets, but really, these scenes aren’t ever around as much to make an impression.

In all honesty, we just have to sit around and watch as these characters piss and mope about whatever problems they have and, you know, it’s nothing to ever care much about.

Which is to say that yes, despite the script thrown at them, everyone in the cast seems to be trying. Chris Evans, pre-Cap, was still trying to find his feet in Hollywood and not be type-cast as “a poor man’s Ryan Reynolds” and though he tries to inject his character that winning personality and charm of his, it doesn’t help. That’s nothing against him, though – it’s more that Nick Gant, the character, is way too bland and boring to ever register as a strong protagonist that we get behind and cheer on until the very end. We just sort of watch him move things every so often, then cry, and that’s it.

Oh well. Chris Evans is doing better things now, thankfully.

Together, they're not scary. Like at all.

Together, they’re not scary. Like at all.

Dakota Fanning gets to play an against-type role as a cranky smart-ass who can see the future and despite her seeming like she’s having a good time with it, it’s a terribly annoying role that just goes on and on without ever ceasing. She’s not funny, over-bearing and if anything, ruins just about ever scene she’s in; which, in something already as dreary as this, is definitely saying a whole lot. None of this is against Fanning, because she’s clearly on-board with this character, but the movie itself thinks she’s so hilarious, that they keep her going with the wisecracks and none of them ever conjur up a chuckle or two. Instead, it’s just sighs. And then, the always bland Camilla Belle shows up, hardly do anything; Djimon Hounsou shows up and tries to be scary, but never does; and Ming-Na Wen is, yet again, another worker who can feel happy that she’s apart of the Marvel universe.

But regardless of these performances, the true problem of Push lies with its screenplay. Writer David Bourla never seems to make sense of anything that’s happening and doesn’t even seem interested; he’d much rather try to distract us with random scenes of action and mutant-like things that, because we’re never fully explained on where they came from or what they’re capable of, are random. Bourla also tries to dive in deep into what all of the mytholgy surrounding these characters mean, and really, it never goes anywhere. All we know is that the government was up to some shady dealings and now, they want their product back. 

Or something.

Seriously, I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell this movie meant and why it went, where it went. But instead of focusing on it even more than I need to and wasting more of my precious time, I’m just going to say that, yeah, Push blows.

That’s it.

Consensus: Despite some fun and flash to be found, Push is a mostly dull affair, without much understanding of what’s happening, nor anything happening of actual interest.

2.5 / 10

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what's best for you!

Run from her, Chris! Hell, run away from this movie! Do what’s best for you!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Yeah, those “other” Marvel heroes are just a bunch of pricks anyway.

After he sees his own, cancer-riddled mother die in front of his own very eyes, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is mysteriously captured by a spaceship. 26 years later, an older Quill, now sporting the name “Star-Lord” and dancing around to vintage pop-tunes on his Walkman, discovers a strange crystal ball that is apparently very dangerous and serious, considering it triggers off a group of evil people to come after him. So much so, that when he eventually gets into town and sell the thing for whatever money he can get, he ends up getting in a brawl with a woman by the name of Gamora (Zoe Saldana), as well as a giant tree named Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), and a talking raccoon they call Rocket (Bradley Cooper). The stunt eventually lands the foursome in prison, where they meet all sorts of trouble and unlikely pals, especially in the form of Drax (Dave Bautista); but what they end up finding out is that the artifact they were all fighting over, is being sought out after by a very powerful, very evil Kree radical named Ronan (Lee Pace) and his noble band of trustees. Together, the five decide to put away their differences for the time being and do all that they can to save the galaxy, one David Bowie track at a time.

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much. Honestly, that moreso has to do with the fact that every Marvel movie since the Avengers, has either been ranging from “mediocre”, to “hey, it’s fine and it’s fun, so what’s the harm, yo?”, and also the fact that it seems like, especially after this whole Ant-Man debacle, that Marvel is becoming more of a lackey-boy for the ultra, super, duper, powerful kingpins that are Disney and their ways of making people do what they want, when they want, and how they want.

“Don’t offend the kiddies!”, Disney may say. Or, something that seems to be more common, “Please do make sure that it ties-in with the AGENTS of S.H.I.E.L.D.! And by ‘please’, we really mean, ‘do it, or else we’re going to fire your ass and find somebody else who is willing to take orders and be happy with it!'”. And though some of this may seem overly-dramatized by yours truly, there’s something in me that feels like Marvel is just starting to become more and more like what others want them to be, rather than what they want to be, which, at first with Iron Man, seemed to be: A kick-ass, fun-as-hell, hilarious and exciting superhero movie that you could take the whole family too; as well as grand-mom and grand-pop if you got stuck with them over the holidays.

That's the thingy they need to find. That's all you need to know.

That’s the thingy they need to find. That’s all you need to know.

But that’s where James Gunn comes in and absolutely gives a big, old, flying “FUCKA YOU!” to Disney and Friends, and shows them that if it’s his movie, it’s going to be his rules and his ways of having fun. Which, for the most part, means we get a whole bunch of strange, slightly off-kilter gags and pop-culture references including Kevin Bacon; metaphors that aren’t metaphors; Jackson Pollack; the art of dancing; and, best of all, calling a raccoon, everything else that isn’t a raccoon. If that sounds very strange to you, then yes, you are at least somewhat sane. And if that sounds especially strange to you being that it’s all packed into a Marvel movie, then yes, you are even more sane and, would you like a cookie?

What I’m trying to get across here is that Gunn’s humor is a weird one and although some of it’s a bit tamer now so that the PG-13 can sit and stay with the movie, it’s still hilarious and nearly perfect for this world that he’s created. That this other “realm” (for lack of a better word without saying “galaxy”), is a wide, never ending and seemingly bizarre matter of space that seems to have a bucket of surprises waiting at every corner, shows Gunn is able to not only build on his characters and the action-sequences, but also this world that he’s created. Which, yes, for a Marvel movie, is very strange, yet, totally works.

Most of that has to do with the fact that each and every character we get here is likable, fun, vibrant and exciting in their own measly, little ways, but most of that also has to do with the fact that Gunn is the kind of writer and director that has a sense of humor that can work for practically anyone. Okay, maybe if you check out his first two movies (Slither and Super, which I definitely recommend), don’t necessarily back me up on that statement, but taking away all of those and just leaving this here movie as his one and only true example, then I’d have to say it’s a pretty impressive one.

Gunn’s funny, he knows he’s funny and he’s going to let us know about it every step of the way. However, whereas most of the other Marvel movies wink their eyebrows so much so that it seems like they’re going to have to be surgically put back into place by the end of its two-hour run-time, GOTG (short for the title, if you’re nitwit) is a different beast: It’s a funny movie, yet, doesn’t try to make you laugh in a charming way. It’s just weird and since it soaks up the sun and basks in its own weirdness, it’s hilarious to watch and listen to, as well as have an awfully fun time with.

Because, yeah, guess what??!?! Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn fun movie!

See, because while I’ve been going on and on so aimlessly about this movie’s humor and how effective it actually is, there’s an element to this movie that works, and can probably be shared among the rest of the Marvel crowd: It’s a fine action movie, if you want to look at it like that. There are hand-to-hand fights; spaceships flying throughout the sky and shooting each other; sword-duels; girls beating the crap out of each other; girls beating the crap out of the opposite-sex; raccoons shooting big-ass guns; walking, talking trees causing havoc; and etc. The only thing that’s missing was the only known wrestler in this movie giving somebody a Batista Bomb, but that’s for another movie, I guess.

And since I just mentioned a certain character in this movie, I think it’s best to now use that as a segue into my next part of the review which, unsurprisingly, also happens to be about the best element to making this movie work as well as it does: The characters and the actors that portray them. Because Gunn’s movie/script is a rather odd one, not only does he need a cast that has a comedic-bone anywhere located in their body – he needs a cast is absolutely able and willing to go that extra mile into trusting that his every move, is not only a benefit to them, but a benefit to how this whole movie plays out. “Well obviously, Dan. You no-sense-piece-of-shit”, you might retort back to me, but I have a reasoning for saying this.

Take the idea of a-list stars such as Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel doing voice-work here – not only are they big names that people flock out to the movie theaters to see – but you’d expect them to do more than what they’re given. In the case of Cooper, he voices Rocket as Brooklyn gangster, where it’s sometimes too hard to even recognize he’s doing the voice-work in the first place; as in the case of Diesel, all the dude has to do is say “I Am Groot” over and over again, and, occasionally, yell, scream and holler with that low-pitched bass we know he can do so well. Sounds crazy enough? Well, yeah, but that’s sort of the point. Also not to mention that Cooper and Diesel, with what they have to do, do it so amazingly well that I wonder just how the heck Gunn thought of them two in the first place. And even if he didn’t, then kudos to the casting-department on this decision!

Oh, and that he's the villain, too!

Oh, and that he’s the villain, too!

But an even bigger kudos should be given to them for giving Chris Pratt the star-making role the dude deserves, this time, as one Peter Quill. Or, as some of you may, or may not know him as, “Star-Lord” (and yes, that’s it’s own, whole joke, too). Pratt’s been a lovable presence on the screen for quite some time; rather it be the large one, or the small one, the dude’s shown us time and time again, he has the chops to not only give us a cool-as-hell character, that has a winning-personality. Here, Pratt’s able to utilize the warm, lovely charm he oozes so well on Parks and Rec., but is also able to use some leading-man prowess we have yet to see him do, yet still shows he’s capable of actually having it in the first place.

But he’s not a pansy of a character. He’s a bad-ass dude that knows how to get himself out of situations, even while he doesn’t always think them perfectly through. Same goes for Zoe Saldana as Gamora; not only does she get to be an ass-kicking lady with a mouth on her, she doesn’t let that be her only trait and has a personality that goes almost hand-in-hand with Quills’. And though people were initially rioting over the casting-decision of having Dave Bautista play Drax, needless to say, the dude’s great in it as he shows everybody he can definitely act, be funny and best of all, remind everybody why he was in the profession that he initially chose in the first place.

Altogether though, this movie mostly works because these characters, in their own, little, unique worlds, wouldn’t ever seem like they do fine together. That’s sort of the point, however, Gunn allows them to work off of one another and it’s probably the most fun-part of this whole movie. Sure, you can give me as many mind-numingly loud and outrageous scenes of stuff exploding, while other stuff is exploding elsewhere, and I’ll crack a grin or two. But if you can give me characters that I want to get know better, spend more time with, and just never leave the presence of, then you can count me in, take my money, sleep in my bed, bang my wife, whatever. As long as you can give me that, then I’m all fine and dandy.

And to have that spliced together with the best Marvel movie since the Avengers is, well, exactly all I could ever ask for and ever want.

More Batista Bombs next time, though. Please.

Consensus: Hilarious, exciting, and well-written, Guardians of the Galaxy is a downright good time that features some top-tier performances from a cast you’d be surprised works so incredibly well in the first place, yet, in the world of James Gunn, anything seems possible.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

The best line-up in a "line-up" scene since the Usual Suspects, and it's not even in the actual movie!

The best line-up in a “line-up scene” since the Usual Suspects, and it’s not even in the actual movie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)

These dragons are cool and all, but they ain’t got nothing on Spyro.

Five years after the events of the first movie, in which both dragons and townspeople of Berk decided to live together in perfect peace and harmony, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is now feeling a whole lot of pressure coming from his daddy-o (Gerard Butler) about stepping up and taking the throne. However, Hiccup isn’t functioned like that; he’d much rather continue to live the way he’s been living where he, his girlfriend (America Ferrara) and his lovely dragon/best friend in the whole wide world Toothless, can just roam around and have a great time. Problem is though, they realize that their freedom and happiness may be challenged when an evil man by the name of Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) starts sniffing around for dragons and finding whichever ones he can get, only to turn them evil and allow him to take over the world, once and for all. It’s a mission that both Hiccup and his father don’t want him to complete, however, they get distracted once Hiccup’s mother (Cate Blanchett) suddenly re-appears out of nowhere and brings promise of the family-unit coming together after all of this time. But will it be as perfect as they want it to be with an evil, raging maniac like Drago Bludvist hanging around and turning dragons against humans?

Though I wasn’t expecting much from it, the first How to Train Your Dragon really worked for me – it was everything that a Pixar movie (at the time, mind you) was, except a lot more beautiful in its sweeping ways. And thankfully too, the visuals haven’t changed a single bit; even if they have, they’ve only improved in the way every frame we get here, is all thought-out and feels tailor-made for something like 3D. Which yes, means a lot considering that so many movies that come out nowadays just post-convert their 3D for a higher price, which would result in more money back. Doesn’t always work (in terms of movies making their money back), but what it does do is make the movie look cheap, lazy and slapped-together like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich you’d put together before heading off to work in a hurry.

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christsakes!

Wow! Watch the PDA! This is a family-feature for Christ’s sakes!

However, the visuals here are amazing and if you have the budget to do so, I recommend taking a trip to the 3D theater lobby.

But as much as it may impress with its attention to visuals, HTTYD 2 (I guess that’s what I’ll call it from now on) has a story that really reaches beyond most movie’s sequels, where it’s presumed that everything that worked in the first movie, must happen again, but this time, louder, longer and more, more, more! That’s the name of the game with sequels, but here, you can really tell that the creators not only care about these characters and their personalities, but also the pre-historic world they’re placed into, where it’s almost like a fantasy-palace, yet, by the same token, isn’t.

Still though, that doesn’t matter because what the creators do here is create an adult story, somehow produced and marketed towards kids. That being said, this is the type of kids movie that may disturb some of them because of the very traumatic and unexpected stuff that happens here, but it’s also handled very well to where the kiddies won’t be traumatized for the rest of their days, pacing back and forth in some psych-ward. Somehow, it finds just the right balance somewhere in between where its easy enough for adults to feel comfortable with their kids watching and being of witness to, but may also have them covering their kiddies eyes.

Either way, it’s a judgement call, so do what you will, older person.

Anyway, like I was saying about the story, some of it is very dramatic and emotional, but it’s never done too much to where this seems like the most dark, depressing and bleak kids movie ever made. It has many ideas/themes about growing up, respecting your elders, being the best person that you can be, and a whole bunch of environmentally-sound messages thrown at us enough times to where we get the point, but never too much to where it seems like we’re being preached at. Like mostly everything else in this movie, it’s handled well and only keeps on leading you up to the moments in which you’ll be touched and maybe even tear-up a little.

Okay, who am I kidding?!? You’ll be tearing up a whole hell of a lot, but that’s just what happens when these kinds of animated movies are done right! They can affect any person who watches them – even if one of those people just so happen to be a twenty-year-old dude, who may, or may not be in touch with his inner-most soft side.

I’m not speaking about myself, either….

Once again, anyway, this movie’s pretty darn good. The only times where it starts to lose a step or two is by the end when I feel like it gets all wrapped up in its big, climactic war-battle that it doesn’t know how to tell the difference between “serious”, or “jokey”. This may sound like a weird complaint for a kids movie, but think about it: When you have any movie that features a battle scene in which many people/persons/things are being killed/destroyed, it’s hard to not think about those things while watching it. It doesn’t matter what the movie is, because it’s always hinted at us, and I feel like by the end of this movie, there’s a problem with separating that it’s a kids movie, that features many people being killed. We never see anybody getting killed in disgusting, graphic ways, but it’s sort of hinted at and it was hard to get past when it was happening on screen.

However, that could just be another case of my weirdness setting in and screwing everything up, so avoid that if you must.

Aw! It's going down!

Aw! It’s going down!

What’s also interesting about this movie is how the whole voice cast from the first movie returns for this one and how they’re all still pretty good. Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup very well in his slightly-neurotic way that isn’t over-bearing, but also doesn’t take you away from believing that he can stand-up for himself and those that he loves when he needs to. Also, I love that he’s a protagonist in a story that’s all about talking things out and reasoning, rather than just jumping right to conclusions and start killing anyway he sees fit.

As a result, that makes the villain, Drago Bludvist, seem dumb and almost as if he didn’t think everything out as perfectly as he should have. He’s reasoning for wanting to take over the world, rid it of all humans known to man, and capture every dragon by turning them bad, seems like something any villain would want to do, but when he’s given the chance to explain himself, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason or inspiration at all. I’m all for a baddie, being a baddie, for the sake of just being a baddie, but when a movie like this comes around and shows us that there’s more to a simple tale of humans and dragons being friends, then I expect more in return.

Because it’s very rare that you get an animated movie that knocks the socks right off of anybody that isn’t a kid. So yeah, go us older people!

Consensus: The ground that How to Train Your Dragon 2 covers may be a lot darker and heavier for kids, but nonetheless, they’ll be treated to a story that sweeps along with beautiful visuals, a lively voice-cast, and a touching heart at the center that will get anybody tearing-up. Looking at you, adults.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my "pet" isn't a dragon, it's this little d-bag.

Sort of like how my pet looks at me. Except my “pet” isn’t a dragon, it’s this little d-bag.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Constantine (2005)

Cigarettes are the devil.

John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) was born with a gift that gave him the ability to recognise the half-breed angels and demons that walk the earth in human camouflage. It’s not something he wanted, but it was the hand he was dealt, so there’s not much else he can do with it other than drive the demons off of this Earth from hurting humans, and just smoke his life away. He seems pretty content on spending the rest of his days like this, that is all until police detective Angela Dodson’s (Rachel Weisz) twin-sister jumps off of a balcony, plummeting to her death. However, right before she decided to go sidewalk-diving, she apparently turned to the security-camera watching her uttering his name. Dodson knows that there’s something more powerful going on here than just a sudden burst of suicidal thoughts, so she decides to ring Constantine up, despite his best wishes to, once again, be left alone to smoke and fight evil for the rest of his days. But now, Constantine realizes there may be a way to save Dodson’s sister’s life, even if that does mean putting himself clearly in harms way.

A lot of people have made a stink about this movie and the choice in which Keanu Reeves was to play the titular character of the famous comics, John Constantine. While I have never read the comics, meaning I don’t have much of an opinion as if he perfectly solidifies this character or not, it doesn’t matter because Keanu Reeves, no matter what bad stuff you may hear about him, is STILL a movie star, and can take any piece of material, find a way to make it interesting and be able to get people to watch him do what it is that he’s doing, despite us all knowing he’s not-that good of an actor. That’s the reality of it, but we should all just get by that right now and move on. Shall we?

Hey, at least she didn't leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Hey, at least she didn’t leave Darren Aronofsky for THIS co-star of hers.

Anyway, what this movie does do well is that it sets its story up with a unique tone. Seeing this movie and material from afar, some would probably bet this to be an overly-serious, religious-themed thriller that’s all about demons, gods, angels and all sorts of other biblical references to where you feel like you’re back in Sunday School, but the movie has a little bit of fun with itself, right before it dives right into that cheesiness. Constantine’s played-up more as an anti-hero that always has something nifty to say, has his pack of smokes handy and basically knows what it is that he has to do next, at any given time. The movie sets us up with this cool-as-molasses character right away, gives us a tone that’s at times goofy, but darkly so, and has us feel like if the rest of the movie continues on like this, we may just have ourselves a clear-defined winner of religious-themed, action-thrillers, among the other religious-themed, action-thrillers (of which there are many, I think).

However, about half-way through, once the real bulk of this story gets introduced to us, things begin to slowly go downhill. For starters, the movie is over two-hours long, which already gives you the impression that no matter what it is that this flick does with its story, it must do it quick and easy, just so it doesn’t feel like a three-hour epic along the likes of Ben-Hur or The Ten Commandments (and yes, I know those two are way, WAY longer than just “two-hours”). But needless to say, despite him having a clear-eye for what it is that he wants to tell us about this story and this main character, director Francis Lawrence still can’t seem to get himself away from all of the constant-exposition that usually brings these types of movies to a screeching-halt.

With a story of this matter, it’s not like you don’t need to know the ins, the outs and whereabouts of when Satan was born, how, where and why he matters now, it’s just that there is a more efficient way to tell that, among many other parts of the story, without having it seem like a total snooze-fest that’s so repetitive, you don’t even care if it makes sense or not. Instead, you just want to see this Constantine guy put his feet into water, grab a cat, start meditating and all of a sudden, be thrown into this dark after-world, where all he does is battle demons. Yes, that scene does happen and it’s pretty cool, but it’s in the middle of non-stop dialogue-heavy scenes where people just use a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, that can easily get passed off as “religious”.

Dumb, dumb, dumb, I say!

As we all know though, once the middle-half of a movie goes by and we feel as if we’ve been more-than introduced to this story and the characters that inhabit it, then things begin to get fun, and that’s the truth with this flick. While it does get really goofy and cheesy by the end with all of the CGI, the movie still kept me entertained and feeling as if I was just watching a piece of science-fiction, rather than something that was supposed to have a deeper-meaning because it used biblical-figures like Gabriel or Lucifer himself (perfectly given the nickname of “Lou”; whatta cool guy). Some may be enraged by me saying something like that, but it helped me get through the movie a lot easier. So crucify me if you must, but I was just trying to make the pill go down easier.

"Did I hear somebody talking about 'a machinehead'?"

“Did I hear somebody talking about ‘a machinehead’?”

And yes, I did use a “pill joke” there because Keanu stars in this and yes, he is like I said before: Stiff, tired and dull, but he’s still fun to watch. He makes Constantine the type of witty bad-ass a movie of this nature needs to move along and survive by, and without him, I don’t really know who else I could see doing it. Maybe if I read the comics I would know, but for right now, it seems like Neo was a pretty solid choice in the first place. Rachel Weisz, despite her credible acting-abilities, is sort of left without much to do other than work-off of the blank piece-of-paper that is Keanu Reeves’ screen-presence, but she makes it interesting enough, to say the least. Still though, this would be released in the same year that she won her Oscar, so I guess all was forgiven after awhile.

As okay as these two are in the lead roles, they’re sort of given the standard-roles where all they have to do is all act all plain and simple, amongst all of their crazy, bat-shit surroundings, which doesn’t just limit itself to the atmosphere and the story, but the fun and energetic supporting cast as well. Shia LaBeouf gets his first, real taste in mainstream cinema as Constantine’s lacky and shows that he has the ability to be charming and a bit annoying at the same time, but rightfully so; Djimon Hounsou plays a strange, voodoo-like conjurer called Papa Midnite, who doesn’t take sides between the angels and the demons, yet, sees himself leaning more towards the demons, just because the plot needs him to do so; Gavin Rossdale is charming as the cunning Balthazar, showing us that in the year 2005, he was still staying relevant by doing this and Gwen Stefani at the same time (bastard); Tilda Swinton shows up early on as the angel Gabriel, and isn’t heard from in quite awhile, until she shows up later and does what she does best; and Peter Stormare plays the infamous Lou, giving him all the likable, but evil charm we’d expect to see when Peter Stormare is playing the man also known as Satan himself. If that isn’t what the devil’s really like, then I have no clue what a better personification truly is!

Consensus: Juggles itself around with being overtly-serious at certain times, and campy-but-fun at others, but at the end of the day, Constantine is just a fun, cool-looking and feeling religious-themed action-thriller that somehow benefits from the deadly-charm of Keanu Reeves and the rest of his able cast.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!"

“WOAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Baggage Claim (2013)

Good thing she wasn’t afraid of flying, because otherwise, this would have been a hell of a lot longer.

For some odd reason, Montana Moore (Paula Patton) has just never been lucky in her life when it came to men. She’s always had boyfriends and some serious relationships, but they’ve just never panned-out much to be as serious as something like, say, “matrimony”. However, Montana’s little sister has just got engaged, which makes her see this as the time for a change in her life where she needs to find Mr. Right, even if that means going back to all of her exes. With her besties (Adam Brody and Jill Scott), Montana goes all around the world, hops from plane-to-plane, in hopes of meeting up with these guys while they’re flying up in the air. Most remember her and want to continue talking and being with her, however, some of them aren’t always winners.

So yeah, this is pretty much the African-American version of that dumb-ass, Anna Faris rom-com that came out a couple of years ago called What’s Your Number? If you don’t remember it, that’s fine, because you most likely aren’t alone but basically, it’s close to the same exact premise as this, just minus all of the black people, soothing R&B tunes, and the whole “baggage claimer” angle that seems as new as the Walkman. Anyway, everything I’m saying is practically rubbish because it doesn’t matter, just like this movie doesn’t matter. But in a weird, offensive way, it sort of does.

See, they make a man strip-down half-naked! Damn woman!!

See, they make a man strip-down to being half-naked! Damn women!!

See, what’s so strange about this material is how the film treats its main subject, making us believe that not only can somebody who looks and acts like Paula Patton, NOT find a dude that she could love and settle down with before she hit her 40’s, but that it’s right for somebody like her to find someone that she could love and settle down with. I get why her mother feels like she should, but that’s excusable. Once the movie starts to point its big finger at Montana and tell her that she must get married, she must find that special person, and that she must do it before her little sissy does, honestly, just felt wrong to me. And yes, this is coming from a dude.

It’s pretty weird to see that we could have a chick-flick, rom-com that actually speaks against a woman being her own, independent-being, and more for finding somebody that she can be with, mainly because she has to. Not because she necessarily wants to, but because she needs to so that she can prove a point and not look like such a unlovable wretch in front of every person she meets. To me, this all just felt wrong, and supremely outdated since feminism sure as hell has come a long way since, say, I don’t know, the 1950’s!!!

But honestly, this is just me trying my damn near hardest to try and get past the fact of the matter with this movie; the fact which is that it’s just not funny. I understand that most of these rom-coms are going to follow the same formula, with the same rhythms, beats, conventions, clichés, etc., but there has to be something, hell, anything to get me happy, laughing, and the least bit interested in this material as it’s playing-out. But no, nothing. I couldn’t find anything really, so I just paid attention to its central message, and realized that it’s a bunch of crap that no woman should take to heart, let alone even take notice to. And I get that most women will want to see this movie and think that it’s an empowering-statement of how women should be able to choose who they want to spend their lives with, regardless of what others/society think, but I don’t think that the movie even goes that far, let alone scratches that surface. It just wants to be a goofy, silly, and dumb romantic-comedy that’s supposed to have a meaningful heart, but comes off as somewhat mean-spirtied.

Not fully, but somewhat. However, I’m just going to quit it while I’m ahead because I sound like a complete nut talking about the meaning and understanding behind a movie like Baggage Claim.

Seriously, where has my mind gone?

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

I wonder what has HER so shocked. No, I seriously wonder.

Okay, anyway, as I was saying about the movie: Yeah, it’s pretty dumb and oddly-delivered, but the cast is good and charming, and I think that’s worth talking about, let alone praising. It should come as no surprise that Paula Patton would get a chance to have her own rom-com vehicle, seeing as that she’s been getting to be a bigger and bigger star by the role she turns in (and who she’s “sadly” married to), and she is charming enough to make her character work for awhile. Montana isn’t as much of a bore to watch as most of the female lead-characters in these dry rom-coms are, but she isn’t necessarily “different” either. She’s always running, always looking to get laid by the hottest man possible, and always has to fall over or hit something when she’s trying to be cool or swift. It’s the exact type of character you’d expect from a rom-com of this nature, but Patton pulls it off well and makes you forget about her character’s many, MANY, shortcomings.

And as for everybody else, well, they’re all fine and sometimes very charming, but ultimately, feel wasted on some pretty cruddy material. The only two who really deserve credit among this supporting cast is Jill Scott and Adam Brody as Montana’s two best-friends who bicker and bat with one another, yet, still love and help their friend whenever she needs it the most. There’s something endearingly sweet to them, but also hilarious to watch because they hold great screen-chemistry together and had me laughing whenever they had something to say. Especially Brody, who hasn’t been this funny since, like, like, LIKE, ever. Also, note to future film makers out there: Next time you put Djimon Hounsou in your movie, make sure the dude’s got some sort of facial-hair to cover-up his scary mug. I sound like a dick, I know, but the dude’s got a scary look to him when he’s trying to be nice and charming. Oh well, he can still sure as hell kick my ass, so I better watch what I say.

Consensus: One could get past the unfunny jokes, constant clichés, and downright predictability of Baggage Claim, however, with the sideways-message at the center, you can’t help but be a little turned-off, even when Paula Patton’s beautiful-self is on screen the WHOLE, DAMN TIME.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

She's looking for the best available escape-route.

Just look at her, she’s so looking for the best available escape-route.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Stargate (1994)

Let’s just stay in this universe and not fuck anything up. Thanks.

Prof. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) believes there is more to our humanity but yet, nobody will care to listen to him because they feel as if he is just another nut with a microphone, and a head that’s a bit too big for his britches. That said, somebody takes notice to this freak-o and makes him apart of a secret mission to uncover an ancient portal known as the Stargate. Along with a couple of soldiers, lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), they take a trip through this other dimension to see what’s shaking and baking and the answers they come up with are sure as hell not pretty.

We can all come to terms with the fact that Roland Emmerich isn’t the type of guy we can expect to see new-bread, highly-intellectual classics from, but at least we can expect one thing from him no matter what the story may be that he is tackling: fun, fun, and more fun. That’s all there is to it with Emmerich and even though Godzilla pissed almost everybody and their Chinese relatives off, and 2012 didn’t quite predict the future so well, at least the guy had fun with it, right? I’d say yes, but then again, I’m usually a sucker for these movies that don’t lose their enjoyment, no matter how stupid or idiotic they may actually get. This movie is the one where I drew the line with Emmerich and all of his stupidity that follows.

What I’m about to say is probably going to lose me a lot of street-cred but hey, so be it. The problem with this movie, right from the start, was that it was just so damn terribly boring, almost to the point of where I was actually contemplating turning it off, checking out another movie, and acting as if this one never came anywhere near me or my mind. I was very, very close to doing this but sadly, I stuck with it and it rarely ever got better for me. Emmerich tries his hardest by building up a story, showing us all the details, but also trying to leave some out for good fun, but it’s almost too much to where we don’t even feel like we know what the hell is going on at all.

Cool cut though.

Fresh cut though.

We get that these guys have to go to a different dimension, look for species, figure shit out, and take notes down, but that’s about it. Oh, and need I forget to tell you that Russell’s character has actually been given the direct order to bring a bomb with him and detonate it whenever he senses danger on this other universe. You know, a universe that may have human-beings alive on it and other materials that may be useful for the world we live in. Nope, just blow that shitty place up and act like it was all good in a hard day’s work. Because let’s face it, that’s what the military does, right?

That aspect of this movie seemed really stupid, but I was willing to drop my pants and my brain for a healthy-dosage of fun and entertainment, and I barely even got that. The first half of this movie is simply dedicated to these dudes running around this strange land, being acquainted with the natives, and trying to figure out what the hell is up with this land, even if there isn’t really anything wrong with it in the first place. This all plays out as if it was a shitty, low-budget remake of Dances with Wolves, but instead of having Navajo natives, they got these weird, slightly-colored people to speak total gibber and gabber, and consider that a “foreign language”. Seriously? That’s the best you could come up? Give me a damn break!

Don’t worry though, because it does get worse. As soon as the problems do actually show their faces, the movie still continues to make no sense as to why this person they have to face-off against is evil, why the hell he cares about these dudes showing up on their land, and just what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you could probably say that I was looking for a little bit too much in something that was just a typical, sci-fi yarn, but when a movie that is so focused and hell-bent on describing it’s ideas, plot, and exposition, I at least expect there to be some sort of reasonable explanation to it all. Not a whole lot, but just some, and this movie just never gave me that nor did it do anything to excite me. A couple of action scenes here and there fly by, but that’s about it and something felt like Emmerich just wanted to cut-loose, get crazy, and start blowing the shit out of random things like people, pyramids, and most of all, hairy monsters that are just there for show.

If there was any hope in this movie that it wouldn’t be the total shit-box I was expecting of it to be, it was at least that the cast could save the day, and apparently even that was asking way too much. James Spader is a very talented actor that can usually make any type of role work, but he just is so nerdy, so gullible, and so spazzy, that it gets to a point of where it’s annoying. I didn’t look at this guy in any other way, other than just by seeing him as the usual bookworm that thinks he’s way too smart, doesn’t know how to act in situations where the shit gets hot, and worst of all, doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Something tells me that a dude like James Spader doesn’t quite need help with the ladies but I guess Roland Emmerich saw something that I didn’t. Strange.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Thankfully, this is where Kurt Russell shows up to pick the slack up from here and shake things up, Snake Plisskenstyle. Okay, maybe his character here isn’t that awesome or cool for that matter, but it’s Kurt Russell being Kurt Russell, and for a movie and role like this: we really needed to see that come alive within the dude. Russell is constantly cool, a bit dangerous, a bit mysterious, but always bad-ass and shows that he can take even the shittiest-material, and make it his own little bitch. He seems like he really wants to get wild at some points, but he keeps it grounded and humane, just the way I like to see Russell play it. Although it doesn’t hurt to want to get up and start hacking people off left and right. Especially wouldn’t have hurt in this movie, anyway.

The strangest person in this cast, who still has me scratching my head as to whether or not he was actually good, or just plain and simply ridiculous was Jaye Davidson as the Egyptian king that wants this pretty place to himself, with nobody else’s grubby paws getting in the way. Davidson is the person most of you may now from the Crying Game (yeah, you know who the hell I’m talking about) and is fine here, but dresses so strange, looks so weird, and has this voice that’s a mixture between Barry White and Satan, that it just didn’t do a single thing for me and had me laugh at him the whole entire time. It seemed as if Davidson just got back from a drag-queen show every time he showed up on set and decided to now waste the time getting ready to suit-up, and kept the clothes he had on originally. Does it work? Yeah, maybe in a campy-way, but this movie isn’t campy enough and is always so self-serious that this villain, this performance, and this look that Davidson carries on throughout the whole movie just seems idiotic and totally out-of-place. Still have no idea why the hell this dude jumped off the face of the Earth after this movie hit, but who knows. Maybe he got stuck in another universe after all!

Consensus: Sci-fi junkies will probably eat this shit for breakfast, spit it right back out, and chew it up again for fun, but for a person who just wants a good story, realistic characters, and a bunch of fun and action, Stargate doesn’t even fill me up after the appetizers. It feels as if it wants to be a goofy, over-the-top movie but plays it so serious and so dramatic, that it never gets off the ground. It just stays there and sinks into the sand.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Trust me, it's a dude. I think...

Trust me, it’s a dude. I think…

Gladiator (2000)

Wanted to totally kick some ass after seeing this.

Tapped for the throne after the death of the emperor, Roman general Maximus (Russell Crowe) instead finds himself condemned to death by the late ruler’s power-hungry son (Joaquin Phoenix). Escaping execution, Maximus becomes a powerful gladiator, bent on exacting revenge in the ring.

Gladiator is that film that basically revived the swords and sandals epics, that come around every once and awhile, and with good reason too, because this film kicks ass.

Director Ridley Scott got inspiration for this film from a beautiful painting, and I have to say he does an amazing job with making a film, just from looking at a painting. The one thing that Scott does best is make this film visually stunning, while not forgetting to show some awesome action. The costumes, arms and armor look plausible, down to their tiny details. The battles are brutal and breathtaking. The city of Rome itself feels alive – dirty, chaotic, gaudy, beautiful, massive, sweltering. Scott is most known for paying too much attention to detail, but here it works, as he totally brings you into ancient Rome.

However, Scott totally takes over this film when the action comes on because he films it with just the right amount of shakiness to have us see everything that’s going on, and create a great tension within every action scene. This film is filled with blood and gore, but there’s nothing like watching swords, arrows, and chariots flying all around a Colosseum. You feel like your in the arena while all this action is going on because you can hear the cheers and chants from the crowd, and the constant clanging of weapons hitting together, and it all just feels so awesome.

People who watch this will love the action scenes, mostly guys, but if you’re looking for some story here, this has that too which separates from it other films of this nature. The good thing here about this story is that the screenplay isn’t all that bad. The story is rich in detail because the themes of revenge and corruptness within politics still ring true today, and do well with this story. The things these characters say aren’t campy or ironic, it all feels realistic and done very well.

My main problem with this film is a little nit-picky, but being very interested in history as I’am, I noticed plenty of historical inaccuracies that kind of bothered me. I understand Scott did this to create a more dramatic effect when the final clashes came around, but I couldn’t help but notice that people die here so much earlier then they actually did in real life. But I can’t give too much away, and I know I’m nit-picky this just kind of bothered me.

Russell Crowe is exactly what a bad-ass should look and act like. His role as Maximus is one of his best and probably most iconic because he does such a great job of combining that total bad-ass look that would make any of those American Gladiators crap their pants, but still has the dramatic skills to pull off the more heart-rendering scenes. Crowe won an Oscar for this, and even though he should have won it for something else, I was glad that he got something for this great performance. because we really do get behind Maximus the whole time. Let’s not also forget to mention Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, who is absolutely perfect as this vindictive and evil little son-of-a-bitch. There are scenes where Commodus character starts to dive into some strange material, but Phoenix keeps it very believable as he shows that he has the range to play some terribly evil characters, even if we have seen this role done time-and-time again. Connie Nielsen is also very good as Lucilla who is torn between doing the right thing, and doing what she can to not get caught by her asshole brother. Djimon Hounsou is here as Juba, and is the man here as well, and Derek Jacobi is good as well. But the real performances here to watch are the ones given by Richard Harris and Oliver Reed who give worthy swan songs, and make us realize just how great they really were.

Consensus: Gladiator may not be as perfect as some may claim, but Ridley Scott’s inspired direction keeps this well-acted, beautifully shot, and tremendously entertaining epic, on its toes by never once diving into cheesy or lame territory.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

Blood Diamond (2006)

Now I really don’t want to get my girl a necklace!

In war-ravaged Sierra Leone, diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns that a local fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) has stumbled upon a gigantic gem, and he offers to reunite the man with his family in exchange for the diamond. When Archer befriends a journalist (Jennifer Connelly) tracing “blood diamonds” that finance terrorist groups, he’s faced with a choice between riches and humanity.

Director Edward Zwick does a good job here of taking a story we have all seen before, but makes it all exciting and suspenseful. His visual flair works here with beautiful, and sometimes disturbing shots of Africa, as well as giving us some amazing action to watch as well. The action is pretty full-on with lots of urban and jungle guerrilla warfare, child soldiers, massacres of the innocents and gratuitous violence. Just what you want from a movie like this.

The one problem with this film is that the story isn’t as up to par with the directing. It almost feels like times they are exploiting the violence and disturbing happenings in Africa to get their point across. There are times when the film seemed way too preachy with it’s message about how we should stop going after diamonds, because of how deadly it really is. The plague in Africa is harsh, but this film brings that up way too many times to the point of where I was just saying: “I get it! Diamonds are bad!”.

This is a very ugly film with a lot of terribly disturbing shots of families and little boys being killed, little boys getting their arms chopped off, and plenty of other acts of violence that will have you turning your head, but also root on our heroes here to kill the bad-guys that are inflicting so much pain. At times, the film may be a bit predictable, but I didn’t care because I was having a lot of fun with this one.

This film is the exact moment where Leonardo DiCaprio said bye-bye to his Jack Dawson days. He totally inhabits the South African Danny Archer with that perfect accent, brutal intensity, and overall quick wit and smarts to have you fully believe he could pull all of this off perfectly. Djimon Hounsou is also perfect as Solomon who does whatever it takes to get right back to his family, and does a great job of showing that strong will of emotion every chance he gets. Jennifer Connelly plays the sexy reporter Maddy, and as always she does a good job, but it’s really the two big boys’ game in this film.

Consensus: Perfect performances from the cast, and exciting action sequences make up for the major problem that the story does get a little too preachy, as well as predictable.

8/10=Matinee!!

Never Back Down (2008)

If Ralph Macchio went to Fight Club, and if Pat Morita, was black.

When a quick-tempered teenager (Sean Faris) moves to a new town and faces the challenges of attending a new high school, he seeks solace in an underground fight club, where he’s taken under the wing of a mixed martial arts expert. Djimon Hounsou, Amber Heard, and Cam Gigandet also star.

Right away, you can already tell how this story is going to begin, linger on, and end. Every single thing here is cliched. The script is just how should I say, down right laughable at times, even when it’s not trying to be.

But who cares about that, let’s just see some fighting. And that is what we get, guys beating the shit out of each other. That is probably my only favorite part about this movie, the action is in your face, and fun. I wasn’t bored when watching these guys beat each other, and it’s all filmed with all these camera angles, but I still didn’t mind. Also, the soundtrack is bangin’, which is why most of the fight sequences are great, they add a lot more spunk to the actual fighting itself.

The acting here is pretty hammy about I guess it doesn’t really matter, since it’s really the action that is the star here. I believe the only reason they casted Sean Faris, and Amber Heard because they both look like Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson. I mean just look at them, and don’t tell me that they don’t look like those two. Djimon Hounsou brings some life to this film, and he is alright here, although at times, we can’t understand what he says, but who cares he can kick my ass just by raising his eyebrow.

This film really is just hilarious to watch mainly because its so dumb. There are times between the fighting where they’ll say fighting is not the answer, and then they’ll be kicking the crap out of some random dude the next minute. But all these movies have me asking one question: Where in the hell are the parents?? I mean these kids are getting their asses kicked on a regular basis somebody’s mommy has had to call an end to it sooner or later. And when these kids aren’t training, do they actually go to school?? I guess I’m thinking too much for a movie that’s about fighting.

Consensus: It’s hammy, cliched beyond belief, and dumb, but it’s fun. It provides plenty of good action, with an awesome soundtrack, and plenty of unintentional laughs that will keep you entertained.

5.5/10=Rental!!