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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Don Harvey

Small Town Crime (2018)

Big towns, small towns, medium-sized towns. Yeah, they’re all the same.

Mike Kendall (John Hawkes) used to be a cop, but because of a bust-gone-wrong, he lost his job and is now searching for that next great gig. However, he’s got a bit of a drinking-problem and no one really wants to take him on, so he mostly just goes about his life, drinking, hanging out, and doing his best to stay out of cases that he knows for a fact that he can solve. But when he finds a dead body on the side of the road, the juices begin to flow again for Mike and he decides that it’s time to take on another case, but this time, as a work-for-hire private-investigator. It’s not necessarily legal, because he’s not even licensed just yet, but he doesn’t care – he’s got a lead and he’s going to find out just what the hell happened to this body. Eventually, he unearths a massive cover-up and it becomes way more dangerous than he, or anyone else around him, ever expected it to be.

Uh oh. Look out, Johnny!

Small Town Crime is a very simple and easy-going crime-procedural that reminds me so much of a Elmore Leonard novel, it’s a shocker to see that it wasn’t originally one. Co-writers/directors Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms seem to know what they’re doing with this procedural-formula so much that, even when it seems like convention, the movie finds small, slight little ways to make it a step above the usual fray. For instance, we actually get to know these characters, their relationships with one another, and more importantly, just what this small town is like.

In other words, it’s a lot like Fargo, or literally any other Coen Brothers flick, but it doesn’t feel like a direct copy-cat. If anything, it’s a nice bit of style that’s similar, but still it’s own thing and for that, it’s an enjoyable watch. We care what happens to these characters, with this case, and the twists and turns that do come running at us make some sense and help keep the movie exciting, even when we realize that we’re in the third-act and things should be wrapping-up.

And at literally an-hour-and-a-half, it does. And it’s nice to have that: A movie that doesn’t overstay its welcome, but instead, plays it short, sweet, and a little fun.

Perhaps a sitcom in the future with these two? Or literally anything else?

Most of the fun, though, is attributed to watching John Hawkes get, for what seems like the first time in forever, a juicy, meaty leading-role as only John Hawkes could get. Mike Kendall is a bit of a loser, who doesn’t score much with those around him, is a little selfish, and has a drinking-problem, but the movie allows us to care for him and see why anyone would ever trust the guy. Of course, a solid portion of why we care for this guy is thanks to Hawkes being charming and lovable, literally both at the same time, but it’s also thanks to the Nelms’ for giving him a solid-role that reminds us why we need more of John Hawkes in the world, regardless of whether or not he’s starring, or supporting.

We just need him around.

And the rest of the ensemble is pretty great, too. It’s nice to see Anthony Anderson play it a little dark and serious as Mike’s best-buddy, as well as Octavia Spencer, playing Anderson’s wife and not putting up with any of Kendall’s shit. But it’s really Robert Forster, who shows up every now and then, who reminds us why he, like Hawkes, deserves to be around more. Of course, he reminded me a whole lot more of the Leonard-influence than anything else here, but that’s on-purpose; Forster is one of those great character actors who can take a small, bit-role, and make it the best thing in whatever he’s doing.

More of him, more of Hawkes, and while I’m at it, more of Small Town Crime. Please.

Consensus: Though it’s a small, rather simple procedural, Small Town Crime is still fun, enjoyable, and well-acted enough to make it a lot better and less conventional than it actually sounds.

7 / 10

Never have I ever saw John Hawkes as a bad-ass. That all changes now.

Photos Courtesy of: Saban Films

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The Thin Red Line (1998)

The war is a jungle. In this case, literally.

It’s slap dab in the middle of WWII, or 1942 to be exact, and needless to say, a lot of lives are being lost. Bus most importantly, a lot of soldier’s lives are being lost, which is why a huge platoon is ordered to take the island of Guadalcanal. While this is no walk in the park, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the soldiers are literally forced to walk up the mountain, where they’ll most likely be meant by the opposing side, as well as a hail-fire of bullets. Among the many soldiers involved with this battle is Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a U.S. Army absconder who has gone “native”, as they say, living peacefully with the locals of a small South Pacific island. While Witt is clearly enjoying his time in the sun, it’s all cut short when he’s discovered by his commanding officer, Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), and forced back on the battlefield. However, there’s more at-play during this battle than just Witt, or Welsh. There’s Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who is having a real hard time making up his mind what the best cause or plan for warfare is, even in the heat of the moment; there’s Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas), a fellow soldier in a position of power, who also seems to be having an issue of what to do with it; and there’s Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), a soldier who’s reeling from a recent heartbreak in his life.

Jesus?

Jesus?

By now, most people know that Terrence Malick is the kind of director you can expect to give you the most ambitious, sprawling, and at times, confusing pieces of epic cinema this side of Kubrick or Kurosawa, but it wasn’t always like that. With his first two feature films (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Malick not only showed his keen eye for an attention to beautiful detail, but also for small, character-driven stories that barely even screech past 100 minutes and instead, keep things tiny, tight and mostly focused. But after spending 20 years away from making movies and doing whatever the heck it is that he was up to, it was clear that something within Malick changed.

And honestly, we’re all the better for it, because, yes, the Thin Red Line is not only Malick’s best film, but perhaps one of the best war films of all time.

Having seen the film at least three times now, I can easily say that it’s up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, when it comes to curating the list of “the greatest war movies ever made”, however, it’s a very different one. In a way, Saving Private Ryan is a far more conventional, Hollywood-ized war movie (although it’s still great), whereas Apocalypse Now is a far more disturbing, terrifying and twisted one (and yes, it’s still great). But what separates the Thin Red Line from these other two flicks is that it’s far more meditative, but at the same time, in its own way, brutal as all hell.

By putting us right along with the numerous soldiers on men on the battlefield, Malick doesn’t let us forget that, for one second, these soldiers aren’t in the nearest thing to hell. They don’t have the slightest clue who is shooting at them, from which direction, where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they’re next line of action is once they actually do get up to the top of the mountain – all that they do know what to do is to shoot, kill and try their absolute hardest to survive. This idea of frustrating, but horrifying confusion that these soldiers must have been going through is effective, especially since Malick keeps his eyes and attention set solely on the American soldiers, what they see, what they feel, and what they’re thinking about at that given time.

Oh, and not to mention, that these soldiers are literally engaged in action for a whole hour-and-a-half, which, when you take into consideration the three-hour run-time, evens out to being pretty action-packed.

However, the movie, nor is Malick all about that idea. No matter what happens in the movie, no matter who gets killed, or for what reasons, Malick never forgets to portray this war as an absolute slaughterhouse of not just lives, but psyches as well. Killing as many people as some of these soldiers do, can do quite a number on you; while that of course can start to happen when the fighting is over, it’s still something that can happen while on the battlefield as well. That’s why it’s not only shocking, but downright upsetting to see some soldiers here lose their minds, not have a single clue of where they’re at, or what they’re actually doing. There’s quite a few soldiers here and there that show up to prove this fact, but regardless, Malick drives home the idea that war is hell.

But even despite all of the violence and sheer ugliness of what’s being portrayed, Malick still finds ways to create some of the most beautiful, eye-catching images ever seen on the big screen. A part of me wishes that I was old enough at the time to see this when it was first in theaters; not just because it would have been great to join that short list of people who actually saw it in theaters when it was originally out, but because John Toll’s cinematography is so amazing, that it absolutely deserved to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Even though people are getting killed left and right, bullets are flying, and there’s no exact idea of who is where, Malick and Toll always find the time to capture the loveliness of the scenery this battle is taking place in.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don't see grass anymore.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don’t see grass anymore.

Of course, with Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s relationship becoming something of fact over the past years, the visuals have only gotten better, but it’s hard to deny that the Thin Red Line is easily his best-looking film to date.

But what makes the Thin Red Line perhaps Malick’s best movie, is the fact that it introduced everybody to the fact that he surely did not care at all about star-power, when it came to making his movies. Sure, he clearly doesn’t mind having the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, George Clooney, or John C. Reilly want to be apart of his movies, but at the same time, he still doesn’t feel like he’s at all inclined to feature them heavily, just because of their name recognition, or whatever other silly ideas Hollywood has about commercial appeal. Though, of course there’s a lot of infamy surrounding Malick’s casting-process and just exactly who he does leave in his movies (Adrien Brody is barely here, despite being lead on to believe he was the main star, and other stars like Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, and Martin Sheen were cut-out of the final product).

Honestly, it takes a lot of guts to cut-out someone like George Clooney, and feature a relative unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel, but guts is exactly what Malick has always had in his career and it’s great to see someone in his position to not give a flyin’ hoot about who is a bigger star than somebody else. Of course, it also helps that those that Malick focuses his final-edit on the most, all give great performances, given that a lot of the times they’re thrown in the mix because Malick forgot about them, or just felt like their time was necessary.

Caviezel is a suitable protagonist, who not only shows the inspirational faith within someone like Witt, but the sheer horror when he realizes the evilness to war; Elias Koteas’ character has many scenes where you don’t know what he’s thinking about doing next, but it’s hard to look away; Ben Chaplin’s character is easy to feel sympathetic for, even if he can be a bit hard to differentiate from Caviezel’s Witt; Nick Nolte, well, let’s just say that he’s the stand-out among the cast, showing just how a person in his position of power, can use to his advantage, for better, as well as for worse. Even then, however, when he’s faced with the reality of the harsh realities of war, he still believes that it’s something necessary to life, and even something to be celebrated. And even though he’s quickly told this is not the truth about life, he still smiles his way onto the next war.

And that’s just the way war works. You get past one, and guess what? Sooner or later, you’re onto the next.

Consensus: Beautiful, endearing, thoughtful, well-acted, and above all else, sad, the Thin Red Line is less of a tribute soldiers, and more of a key look inside the sorts of hell they have to go through, and the sort of effect it has on them, while not being nearly as preachy as I make it sound.

9.5 / 10

Let's play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie......

Let’s play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie……

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Secret in Their Eyes (2015)

Does anybody in law enforcement love, or trust one another?

13 years ago, Ray Kasten (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was an FBI agent who had to work a very tough case. His partner at the time, Jess (Julia Roberts), had a daughter that went missing and wound-up dead. Automatically, everyone and their mothers started looking for suspects and while Ray knew he had the guy, locked and loaded, for some reason, said suspect was freed. The reasons behind this are a bit shady, but it left Ray, as well as his partner, and a confidante/possible flame of his, Claire (Nicole Kidman), in some tough situations. Now, in the present day, Ray believes he knows where this suspect is, what he does and just how he can get him back into the slammer, where he’ll hopefully live out the rest of his days in a jail cell. However, because Ray isn’t a cop anymore, he has to go through some legal hoops and curves to ensure that he’s not only doing everything by-the-books as humanly possible, but also to keep this suspect in jail and for good this time. Searching for this suspect also allows for Ray to get back in touch with former confidantes of his and remind himself of what it was that he left all those years ago.

Shades of gray = present. None = past. Got it?

Shades of grey = present. None = past. Got it?

Despite the original, 2009 Argentinian film having won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film all those years, for some reason, I just never got around to seeing it. Though I knew an English-language, big, bright and shiny, American remake is in the works and was more than likely going to tarnish the legacy of the original, I still couldn’t sit myself down in front of a screen and actually watch the movie. Call it bad timing, call it me being lazy, call it what you will – sometimes, stuff just happens.

But regardless of all that nonsense, having now seen the English-language, big, bright and shiny American remake, I’ve still got that feeling of not only wanting to watch the original, but also see how good it actually was to win the Oscar all those years ago.

See, for one, Secret in Their Eyes isn’t an awards-caliber movie; despite there being a nice amount of solid performances from just about everybody on-board here, the movie never once seems like it’s trying to reach for that infamous gold statue once. And in a way, there’s something refreshing about that, especially in a time like now, where it seems like each and every film was created for the sole purpose of being remembered and touted during the early winter of next year. Sometimes, it’s best to just have a solid, well-acted, and relatively fine crime-thriller and leave it at that.

And that’s exactly what Secret in Their Eyes is. It’s not setting out to light the movie world on fire, nor is it trying to have you remember by the year’s end and everybody’s trying to remember their favorite movies of the past year; it’s just trying to tell its story, give you a jump or two, make you think, and have you go home, feeling as if you spent a solid time at the movie. Though there is definitely a feeling that, considering the talented cast and crew involved, there could have been a bit more added to the proceedings, there’s also the feeling that it’s also not a remake made for purely cynical purposes.

That Secret in Their Eyes is targeted towards a much more mature, older audience, already sets it apart from most movies out there playing right now.

What’s interesting about the film is that we actually get a sense of who these characters are, amidst all of the troubles and turmoils this case may be bringing. Though it is a tad difficult to figure out which year we’re in (Ejiofor’s beard’s color is usually the clue), we still get a sense, through the relationships and personalities these characters have, of who they were both before, as well as after this horrendous murder. The movie doesn’t try to dig too deep, but because these actors are so good at what they do, they’re given that extra push that probably wouldn’t have happened, had some lesser-actors been cast.

Of course I’m not going to name any names, but you get the picture.

And of course, with the story, there’s a lot going on that can, in some ways, be interesting, and sometimes, not so much. There’s a chase-sequence that happens in and around Dodgers stadium that is absolutely breath-taking and exciting to watch. There’s also, now that I think about it, a very neat interrogating scene both Ejiofor’s and Kidman’s characters that have them stretching out the whole “good cop/bad cop” cliche and doing something intriguing with it. And while I’m at it, there’s a few other scenes that are pretty cool to watch, but really, that’s about it.

Which is to say that a solid hour or so of this movie is really solid – problem is, it hits nearly two hours. That means there’s another hour of this movie that’s not quite up-to-par as the other half. Therefore, while watching the flick, I couldn’t help but tune-out. The mystery at the center, although a bit simple and obvious from the very start, doesn’t take as many times as you’d expect it to, all up about until the final act and there’s two twists that seemed a little silly for a movie like this that was, already, way too serious and stern with itself. Granted, had there been a third twist, I probably wouldn’t have gotten up and left the theater, but thankfully, they just left it at two – as odd as they may have been.

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

Oh no, Julia! A gun? So against-type!

But really, the main reason Secret in Their Eyes works, is because the cast is so good. It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Chiwetel Ejiofor does give, once again, a fine performance here, but there’s also something troubling about his character that I didn’t particularly buy. For example, there’s an arch surrounding his character which concerns his character, in something of a relationship with Kidman’s character; while we’re never too sure or not on whether they actually did anything intimate that would make them more than just office pals, the movie continues to hammer it into our brains that, you know, something could have happened.

Why? Because their attraction for one another is strong!

Well, the problem with Ejiofor and Kidman is that they don’t really have a chemistry together. If anything, throughout the majority of the flick, they feel like two people who just started working together at the same time and are just getting to know one another, slowly but also, steadily. This would have been a fine feeling in the “past” portion of the flick, but they still act like this together in the “present” part of the story and it’s weird.

Separated from Ejiofor, Kidman does a great job in a role that gives her plenty to do. While her chemistry with Ejiofor is, like I stated before, lacking, she still finds time and space to make sure that her own characters get built enough so that we have a feeling of just who the hell she is. And also, there’s Julia Roberts really dirtying herself up for a role that, although may seem like pure Oscar-bait, actually isn’t. In a way, it just feels like Roberts wanting to try something new and have the audience see her as this character, and not the beautiful celebrity that she is.

And considering that her husband is the one behind the camera, it makes sense that she looks every bit as anti-celebrity as she sees fit.

Consensus: While Secret in Their Eyes is, one-half a fine movie, and the other half is a bit mediocre, it still adds up to a solid crime-thriller that benefits largely from a talented cast.

6.5 / 10

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he's involved with.

What a love-triangle Chiwetel may hope he’s involved with.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Taken 3 (2015)

This family should just never step outside ever again.

After a few run-ins with foreign thugs, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) can finally sit back, relax, and soak in that his family, for once in what seems like an eternity, is safe and sound. His daughter (Maggie Grace) seems to be spending some lovely time with her new boyfriend (Jonny Weston), as well as getting an education in college; his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), is also currently dating (Dougray Scott), but doesn’t know whether or not she should take it to the next level; and there’s even a possibility of their being another member of the Mills family. However, that all goes away once Bryan’s ex-wife mysteriously turns up dead and, wouldn’t you know it, Bryan’s the one who is framed for it. Without standing by and allowing for himself to be wrongfully imprisoned, Bryan takes justice into his own hands, goes on the run, and does whatever he can to clear his name. That means kicking a lot of ass, questioning a lot of folks, and figuring out just who the hell is behind all of this. Also trying to do the same is Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), somebody who believes Bryan is innocent, even if he can’t fully prove it just yet.

"Act your age, missy!"

“Act your age, missy!”

Unlike everybody else on the face of the planet, I was never so hot with the Taken franchise to begin with. Sure, it was a neat concept – place an aging-actor, well-respected actor in an action-packed, take-no-names role and just let him be as menacing and scary as humanly possible. However, both movies hardly ever did anything for me. The first Taken was too serious for its own good, and if we’re being honest here, Taken 2 may have been a bit better for me, if only because it was absolutely balls-out wild and hardly ever made excuses for itself. Action movies that are like always win my heart, even if they do feature one of their characters throwing random grenades all over a city.

But hey, let bygones be bygones.

Now, with Taken 3, it seems like the franchise has finally hit its peak, or I guess, lack thereof. The story itself always showed signs of getting old, tired and stale, and that’s exactly what this movie proves as fact. There’s no real story here, except that Liam Neeson is on the run in a Fugitive-kind of way, where we’re left to sit back and enjoy all of the crazy, adrenaline-fueled close-calls he runs into to protect his life, as well as his family members. Honestly, it’s kind of a bore to watch, which shouldn’t at all be the case.

Some of that problem is due to the fact that the story just isn’t all that engaging to begin with, but it’s also because Olivier Megaton’s direction is constantly irritating. Rather than allowing for us to see how an action-sequence plays out, who is affected in it and why, Megaton feels the urgent need to shake the camera up all over the place, and cut every single shot that comes the slightest bit close to hitting four seconds. In a way, it’s almost nauseating and makes it seem like Megaton knows he’s not working with anything worth writing home about, so he just does whatever he can to distract us, in the most manipulatively obvious way possible.

Where’s Tony Scott when you need him?

Also, let me not forget to mention that this movie is PG-13 in the worst kind of way possible. People get their throats slit, shot in the face, blow-up in car accidents, stabbed in the abdomens, and so on and so forth, and there is absolutely no blood to be found. I get that the powers that be behind Taken 3 wanted to appeal to a larger-audience, so rather than scaring the hell out of anyone who wanted to have a good old time at the theater and not think of the harsh consequences for such violent acts as these, they wanted to soften it all up, without showing any sort of ketchup whatsoever. Like with Megaton’s direction, Taken 3 is made solely to distract you from the real problems that may be lurking within the movie itself and rather than being sly, or even coy about it, it’s easy to pick apart every little problem it has, which makes it all the easier to see why this trilogy needs to end, and end now.

"Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired."

“Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired.”

Which is definitely a shame because this is the same franchise that helped re-invigorate Liam Neeson’s career. Say whatever you will about these movies, without the first Taken, we wouldn’t have the Liam Neeson we see and sometimes love, in today’s world, had it not been for the unpredictable popularity of that movie. It helps that Neeson brings some gravitas to this role and allows for Bryan Mills to feel more of an actual, living, breathing human being who also just so happens to be able to karate-chop people to death. However, here, in his third-outing as this character, Neeson seems tired and, dare I say it, bored. And he definitely should be. The guy’s had some of his best roles in the past few years, with a lot better movies, and from what it seems, there’s only more of them to come.

So, people, whatever you do, don’t feel bad for Liam Neeson. The dude’s going to be mighty fine for many years to come.

The ones who you should probably feel bad for are the likes of Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and new-to-the-franchise Dougray Scott. Because, honestly, I don’t know if either of these three are going to get anymore shots at glory like they have with these movies. No offense to Grace, but she’s never been the best actress for this role (especially considering she’s always looked 30, whenever she was supposed to be roughly around 17 to 21), and here, those problems show. She’s got at least one look on her face throughout this whole movie and she wears it to a T. Though I can’t say much about Janssen, due to the fact that she dies pretty early on, the relationship she has with Bryan borders on being friendly, to downright four-play and it makes you wonder whether these two are going to just let all of the bullshit go away and bang, right here and now. That’s the movie I would have liked to see, but sadly, didn’t. Oh well.

Then, of course, we have Dougray Scott, who has actually been pretty good in past movies, but is pretty terrible here. He’s forced to do some sort of American-accent that does not at all work one bit for him, and his character is so clearly not who he says he is at first, that when we eventually get to see some of his true colors come out, it’s no surprise to us whatsoever. And as for Forest Whitaker, he’s just here to service the plot, occasionally dueling out a nice bit of charm here and there. But mostly though, he’s left to just eat bagels.

And there’s your sales-pitch, everybody.

Consensus: With hardly any story to work with, Taken 3 is a relatively boring, aimless piece of PG-13 action, where people practically get beheaded, and there’s not so much as a pint of blood to be found.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

It’s okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Eight Men Out (1988)

Seriously Joe! What the hell?!?

Back in the 1919 World Series of baseball, 8 players from the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the series away, due to them being offered a butt-load of money. Did it really happen? Is it all true?

It’s a small synopsis, I know. Heck, it may even be one of my smallest ever. But that’s kind of the point: It’s so known and explanatory that I don’t really need to go on. All you need to know is that the 1919 World Series will live in infamy, and here’s why:

I’m not going to lie, but I am not the biggest baseball fan in the world. Do I like the sport? Yes. Do I enjoy watching a game from time-to-time? Most definitely! Who doesn’t? So yeah, of course I know the story behind the whole “Black Sox Scandal” – who was apart of it, what went down and what the outcome eventually was.

And to be honest, I didn’t really need to see it done all over again.

For somebody who comes from a long-line of making indie flicks in his spare-time, I have to give writer/director John Sayles for doing a nice job with a bigger-budget than he’s used to working with, and still not seeming like he goes overboard at all. Usually when little-known directors break out and get a big, paying gig, they get a bit carried away with what they want to do or say with their next feature. However, I don’t think Sayles does that at all.

Instead, where most of his money seems to go is right towards creating of the early 20th Century, where baseball, Apple Pie and swindlers was everywhere to be found. It couldn’t have been that hard considering all he had to do was get a bunch of retro-looking uniforms, find an old-stadium, and get some older-looking stuff to throw in there, but regardless, he does a nice job and proves that bigger, does mean better. That is, in most cases anyway.

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don't say?!?!/

Michael Rooker playing a d-bag? No! You don’t say?!?!/

Even when it comes to writing this flick, Sayles never really seems to lose himself and sticks true to what the dude’s made a career out of: Fine attention to enough of his ensemble. There’s a lot of talk surrounding this whole conspiracy these guys have caused and it adds another depth of drama that’s almost unexpected considering we know all of the details as to what does and what doesn’t happen. Every character has a bit of witty dialogue/banter with another character and it feels real, especially when you get two teammates talking to each other and having it almost feel as if you are watching two teammates talk it all out about the game and what they’re going to do next time and make it all better. For baseball lovers, this film would probably the ultimate pleasure, but for me, I could at least appreciate what Sayles was doing and how he just kept it simple and sweet, focusing on these guys the most.

Where I think Sayles runs into a problem with is that his story goes a bit too all-over-the-place at times and never really sets its sights on one character. Maybe he can’t be blamed for that problem, considering this is a whole baseball team we’re talking about here, but there could have been a bit more development on all of them, rather than focusing on just two or three, and getting rid of the rest only to have them show-up in the last five minutes as if they were there the whole time. The characters they do give us to sympathize with, have our sympathy, but not much else. They never really seem to have much of a conflict despite being involved with one of the biggest scandals baseball has ever had to deal with. Should have definitely came off a bit more tense and upsetting if you ask me.

The other problem I think Sayles runs into with this flick is the fact that in reality, we all know this story. People who don’t love baseball, barely even watch it, and couldn’t give two hoots about it all know the story of what went down during the 1919 World Series. That’s why it comes as no surprise to anyone when certain characters in the film are all upset by how they’re losing on-purpose. It’s a bit hard to watch some of these guys put themselves through so much to lose a game, but after awhile, it just becomes repetitive and feels like Sayles doesn’t have much hope for his own material, so he just relied on the typical baseball scenes to cool everybody off and keep them distracted. It kept me distracted for a short amount of time, that was, until I realized that there was no real core to the story’s heart.

It was just one big and simple conspiracy theory that we all knew about beforehand and didn’t find a new life in shaking things up this time around.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Somebody just give him a hug already! And more chewing-tobacco if at all possible.

Where the film really succeeds, is in it’s ensemble cast that all do their best with what they’re given. Out of all of the characters, John Cusack comes off as the most-developed and sympathetic player as Buck Weaver, the one teammate who never took money from anyone and still got the blame thrown on him. His character is probably the easiest to get behind and it’s one of the first instances where we actually got to see Cusack flesh-out of his high school, dream-boy phase and actually man-up for once. He’s good with that here and comes off as the best character. The other character I was interested in a lot too, was David Strathairn as pitcher Eddie Cicotte, one of the most complex characters of the bunch. The reason why Cicotte is interesting to watch is because his character really isn’t a bad dude that just wants to be an asshole cause he loves to (unlike some of the other people on his team), but instead, is left with a problem where he knows he may never, ever get another shot at playing big-time baseball again and tries whatever he can to keep it going on and on, until he just can’t play anymore. It’s nice to see that in a character here, and Strathairn was definitely the perfect choice for the role.

There are others in this cast that do great jobs with their roles, but the one I was mostly disappointed in was D.B. Sweeney as “Shoeless” Joe Jackson. Instead of giving Jackson his own movie, or even a big part in this one, he’s sort of reduced to the unsung hero that just sort of sits in the background role that we have seen so many times before in sports movies, and almost never works except if you want the crowd to cheer. What bummed me out about this was how it seemed like Jackson was the most interesting and complex out of the whole team and was never really given that chance to shine and show his side of the story. Granted, the guy was a bit of a dummy, but a dummy that we could have still, somehow, fallen-behind and cheered-on as his world started to close in around him.

Hey, at least the game of baseball has found new ways to make controversy for itself, right?

Consensus: If you’ve seen one sports movie, hell, let alone, a baseball movie, then you’ve seen Eight Men Out without really knowing it. Although Sayles’ writing and casting-decisions does find a way to separate itself from the rest of the bunch.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It doesn't matter who did what, they're all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

It doesn’t matter who did what, they’re all dicks. Thanks for ruining sports forever, guys!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Casualties of War (1989)

A poor man’s Platoon. But that ain’t so bad.

In director Brian De Palma’s Vietnam-era war drama, a young soldier (Michael J. Fox) suffers a crisis of conscience when the men on his patrol callously rape and murder a Vietnamese girl and then try to cover up the crime.

This late 80’s gem is actually based off a horrific event where 4 soldiers actually raped and then murdered a Vietnamese girl, but the 5th one chose not to.

Director Brian De Palma is most known for taking his style over substance in most films, but here he actually stays on track and goes for a bigger understanding. I expected this to be a huge, big-scale, Vietnam war epic, but instead it’s a small, singular story that’s more about the themes instead of the glitz and glamor of most war films.

The bitter lesson of this film is that its not always enough to have morality on your side, you also have the power to back up your beliefs and what you stand for. The film is about this small group of sliders where they have become so angry, and so vicious, that they don’t even consider any Vietnamese person, human beings. The film shows the harsh effects of what all this hardened violence can do to a person, and sometimes make them turn for the worst. You also have to wonder how you would act if you were put in the same situation, as I still do not know what I would exactly do.

My main problem with this film that really took away from my overall experience was the beginning and end of this film. It starts off with Fox on a subway, visibly alive, and having a flash-back as to what happened during his time in the war. This already has us know that Fox is alive throughout the whole story, and ultimately takes away from the film’s tension that it tries so hard to go for. The conclusion is also so up-lifting, gentle, and unconvincing that it really does seem tacked on to this film and took my self away from the harsh reality of war that this film gives off.

It must have been hard for some people to actually believe Michael J. Fox here as Pfc. Eriksson, even though he’s always known as Marty McFly. As the film goes on, you understand how courageous he is in standing up for what he knows is right, and doesn’t once back down from any of these guys, as intimidated as he may be. Sean Penn is amazing in this role as Sgt. Meserve, the vindictive squad leader who is filled up with so much venom and hatred from all these months in the jungle, that he is able to absolutely oppose his will on the others, and he convinces us that he can do that. We also get some very early roles from the likes of John Leguizamo, John C. Reilly, Ving Rhames, and the evil Don Harvey.

Consensus: Casualties of War has a poor opening and beginning that may take away from the film, but it soon becomes a morality tale, heightened by great performances from the cast, and themes about war that will stay in your mind.

6/10=Rental!!