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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Donald Sutherland

The Italian Job (2003)

If you’re going to pull-off a cool heist, your whole gang’s gotta be cool, too. It’s a known fact.

After a super, duper tricky heist in Venice, Steve (Edward Norton) turns on his partners in crime, and ends up killing skilled and legendary safecracker John Bridger (Donald Sutherland). Why? Well, Steve got greed and just wanted to keep all the gold for himself, and not try to cut in anyone else. The rest of the team that Steve ripped-off included leader Charlie Croker (Mark Wahlberg), driver Handsome Rob (Jason Statham), explosives man Left Ear (Mos Def), and tech geek Lyle (Seth Green), or, as he likes to be called “Napster”, now all vow revenge. But in order to totally get back at Steve and ensure that their heist goes down without a hitch, they enlist the help of Bridger’s daughter, Stella (Charlize Theron), so that they can get an inside-view into Steve, his life, and just where exactly he’s hiding all of that damn gold. But it’s known that Steve’s a tricky dude to mess with, and it’s why the gang’s really going to have to get their act together, in order for them to not just pull this all off and get the gold, but ensure that everyone’s alive by the end of it.

“Ayo Marky Mark, check this out. I’ll say hello to my motha for me, too.”

The Italian Job is a typical remake that’s modern, which means that it’s “hip”, “cool”, and totally unnecessary. But still, it’s also a bit of fun and when it comes to remakes of old-school classics, having a bit of fun means a lot, because most of the time, they’re just soulless, annoying and nauseating cash-ins. The Italian Job is different in that it doesn’t seem a whole lot of it was made solely for the money, but that it’s still got the same kind of look, tone and feel of all the other “gang-heists” movies.

Basically, think of it a more adult, somewhat smarter version of the Fast and Furious movies.

Which isn’t to say that the Italian Job is all that dumb of a movie, it’s just silly. But in that silliness, there’s a great deal of enjoyment to be had, mostly because F. Gary Gray knows that the best way to keep this material interesting, even when it’s silly, is to always be moving, never stopping and never focusing too hard on one aspect of element too much. We have a heist, we have a cast of characters, we have a baddie, we have a conflict, we have a plan, and that’s really all we need; Gray doesn’t get too bogged down in too many senseless subplots to where it feels like extra padding for a movie that does come a tad close to two hours.

But it’s a solid two hours that keeps up its energy throughout, so much so that you also realize that some of the key issues with the movie, like character-development, are left by the waist-side. Now, there’s a part of me that’s fine with the fact that each character sort of has their one characteristic/personality-trait and there’s not much else to them, but for some reason, it’s hard not to expect something a little more, especially from this well put-together cast. For instance, Statham’s Handsome Rob is pure Statham – silent, but scary, and that’s about all there is to him. Same goes for Seth Green’s “Napster”, who is just the goofy tech-y and yep, that’s it. Mos Def is also sort of like the comedic-support with Left Ear, but he’s got such stiff-competition from Green in that department, that often times, it feels like a lot of his stuff was cut.

And then, there’s the core trio of Wahlberg, Theron, and Norton who all, in any other movie, probably would have put on acting-class beyond our beliefs. But sadly, they’re stuck in a silly actioner that doesn’t quite care about how good of actors they are. As long as they are hot enough and can read lines, than it’s all that matters, right?

Honestly, public-transportation has been worse.

Well, yeah, I guess.

In 2003, it’s hard to believe that Wahlberg was still finding his inner-leading man, which is why his performance as Charlie Croker, while not bad, isn’t necessarily the strongest, either. Same goes for Theron’s Stella, who is basically there to be the hot romantic love-interest for Charlie to eventually learn feelings from. Theron was also in a weird spot in Hollywood where they knew she could act, but she was too busy getting these roles where she was just window-dressing because of her absolutely gorgeous-looks. Not that I’m complaining, but it’s obvious she was made for much, much more.

And of course, the same is clearly said for Norton who, even as the villain here, doesn’t get a whole lot to do. Still, Norton tries in what is, essentially, a paycheck gig that allow for him to take more risks with the smaller indie-flicks that he had always became so known and adored for. Even in the moments where we’re supposed to feel like this guy is a total and complete asshole, Norton’s not fully there and it’s weird, because it’s like we almost don’t care and just remember how effective he was in another good heist film, the Score.

But still, all of this talk about performances and characters, guess what? It doesn’t matter. The Italian Job gets the job done it set out to do, right. It doesn’t slow itself down and it sure as hell doesn’t try to appear as anything more than it already is – it’s just a fun, sometimes way too silly flick, with hot, talented people, being hot and cool.

And in that sense, yeah, it’s fine.

I just like to complain.

Consensus: Though it’s disappointing to see such a waste of a good ensemble, the Italian Job still delivers the right amount of fun, thrills and humor to have anyone happy.

7 / 10

As usual, the bro’s don’t know what to do when a tall, beautiful and smart woman comes around. Except Marky. He knows everything.

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex.com

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The Mechanic (2011)

Everyone needs a good mechanic. But for life.

Of all the high-order assassins in the business Arthur Bishop (Jason Statham) may be the best there is, or that there has to offer. Bishop carries out his assignments with precision, detachment and adherence to a strict code, so that he never feels a single sting of emotion throughout his body when he’s completing these sometimes grueling and dangerous tasks. However, Bishop’s one and only true friend, Harry (Donald Sutherland), who also acted as something of a mentor, is tragically murdered, leading him to automatically think of who did it and just how they can be held accountable for their actions. Along for the ride is Harry’s son, Steve (Ben Foster), who is just as fired-up and upset about his dad’s death, but also knows that in order to extract revenge the right way, he’s going to have to listen to Bishop on everything he says, no matter what. And most of all, he’s going to have chill that energy down a whole lot.

I'm not worried. He knows why he's jumping.

I’m not worried. He knows why he’s jumping.

You’ve seen one Jason Statham movie and guess what? You’ve practically seen them all. Honestly, there’s not necessarily a problem with that; his screen-presence is still one of the most charming around that no matter how many times we see him beat the hell out of people, blow things up, and shoot big, heavy guns, we still love him and want to see more of him. Does that always mean that the movies themselves are all that great? Not really, but then again, they’re action movies – in today’s day and age, action movies hardly ever satisfy each and every person out there in the world, so the fact that Statham still does them and doesn’t show any signs of stopping, even while he’s nearing 50, is quite admirable.

And another reason why a movie like the Mechanic, as mediocre and fine as it may be, is also a solid reminder of what can happen when a Jason Statham movie actually seems to be trying.

For instance, the Mechanic is a little more than just another one of your typical Statham-vehicles – it’s also got another character to deal with that makes the movie more than just watching Statham do his thing. Ben Foster’s Steve is a solid character in a movie as crazy as this, because while he’s so incredibly high-strung and, honestly, over-the-top, there’s also still something of a bleeding heart at the center of this character. Sure, the movie could almost care less about how, or what he feels, but honestly, there’s something there with this character and it’s because Foster is such a good actor, that he’s able to make something as silly as this, the slightest bit meaningful.

Who can be balder?

Who can be balder?

Of course though, he also does a great job of creating some sort of chemistry with Statham, which looks as odd as it sounds. However, what’s so surprising about this pair, is that they actually do work well together; Foster’s wild card character, is a perfect match for Statham’s cool, calm and collected demeanor that never seems to falter. Together, the scenes of them shooting and taking down bad guys, while generic, also brings a certain flair of energy and joy because, as you can see, they’re having some fun here. Statham is, as usual, doing his usual act and is just fine at that, but Foster brings out a little something within him that, quite frankly, isn’t always seen from Statham.

Not totally a problem, but hey, every so often, it’s nice to get a reminder that Statham himself got his start on Guy Ritchie flicks and whatnot.

But either way, the action of the Mechanic is good enough for all of the junkies out there. It doesn’t necessarily light the world on fire (literally), but because director Simon West is more than capable of wading himself through all sorts of wild and crazy havoc, he does a fine job at making sure that it all works out. It’s effective in the kind of way that we can tell what’s going on, to whom, and what sort of effect it may actually be having on the characters involved. Yes, it sounds really stupid when speaking about an action flick, but it’s the small things like this that count the most and help make a seemingly conventional action-thriller like the Mechanic, seem like so much more.

Even if it is also just another excuse for us all to watch and admire all of the bad guys that Statham takes down and kills.

That, to be brutally honest, may never get old.

Consensus: Despite it still being conventional and predictable from the beginning, the Mechanic is still a solid Statham-vehicle that has all sorts of action and explosions, but also benefits from the much-accepted presence of Ben Foster.

6.5 / 10

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He's the 'Stath!

Eat your heart out, ladies. Oh and guys, too. Definitely guys, because, seriously, why not? He’s the ‘Stath!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Who doesn’t want to go out and kill some Nazis?

Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) is assigned an unusual and top-secret pre-invasion mission: Take a small unit of soldiers convicted of felonies and turn them into a commando squad to be sent on a special mission. The mission is an airborne infiltration and assault on a chateau near Rennes in Brittany. And the incentives for those felons who survive the mission is that they will have their sentences commuted. It quickly becomes clear that both Reisman and his superiors regard the operation as a near suicide mission and expect that few, if any of the felons will return.

The first hour-and-a-half of the Dirty Dozen is as good as you can get. There’s plenty of action, jokes, and cool, macho-stuff going on between a bunch of guys that will just get any dude watching it, feeling inspired that they now have to act like this in order to get whatever it is that they want. Not saying that going around and shootin’ up Nazis left and right will get you anywhere, but acting big and tough like these guys seems like it could get you going somewhere in life even if it just by pure intimidation.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

Now he knows not to back-talk.

It’s the typical man movie, for better and for probably worse, depending on who you’re talking to.

Where this film works is the fact that it takes what we usually expect with a WWII movie, flip it on its side, and give us a flick that not only has a whole lot of humor, but also a bunch of violence that seems like these film-makers take pride in showing on the screen. Back in those days before this little ditty hit, WWII flicks were pretty grim, dark, and depressing, as they should be because that’s what war was. Instead, we get an action-filled ride with humor, murder, and a couple of really cool pieces of violence against the enemy at the time, and when it’s all said and over, we all jump up in the air and say, “Yay!”. It was a very risky move taking what was essentially a very touchy subject all those 22 years later, and make light of, but it works well because the movie’s not trying too hard to be funny in a way that’s offensive. It just has a light sense of humor that works, given the setting and all that.

However, as great as this film may be for totally taking these war movies conventions and giving them a nice “edge”, we still seem to get something very similar to them by the end of this flick just when they decide to get all serious on us. Right about the half-way mark, when it seems like all of these crooks have had their fun, had their training, and had their time to shine, they get shipped off to do the big mission they were assigned to do in the first place and that’s where things started to get a little fishy for me, just by how the tone switched up very dramatically.

Don’t get me wrong here, this film is barely ever boring, but it’s just that the last hour of this movie seemed to face problems with the fact that they couldn’t really escape the idea of some of these people dying combat, having their last words, and never being able to walk the face of Earth again. I don’t care what war flick you’re making, nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to come to this fact and show it in your movie, which is what this film does here, it’s just a shame that it takes more away from the film than actually give it any dramatic depth. We care for these characters and whenever one of them goes down, we feel for them, but it also feels very uneven. It’s as if director Robert Aldrich didn’t know how far he wanted to go with the comedy, nor did he know how far he wanted to go with the violence and death, either.

It’s sort of a mixture between the two and it doesn’t quite bode well for the final-half.

Either way though, the cast is pretty great, featuring a who’s who of absolute bad-asses.

Eh, don't look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson's there.

Eh, don’t look behind you but I think Charlie Bronson’s there.

Lee Marvin leads the movie Major John Reisman, someone who doesn’t take a single bit of back-talk at all, but he’s also not necessarily the hard-nosed drill instructor we’re so used to seeing and hearing in these kinds of movie. He’s not screaming or yelling curses, he’s not taking them down and making them all little playthings in front of everybody else, and he sure as hell isn’t making his soldiers be respectable to him and call him “sir” and whatnot. Basically, this guy doesn’t get on these cases about much and just makes a deal with them – you do your job, I’ll do mine, and maybe, just maybe, we can both get out of here alive and you may get free for good. It’s a pretty strong deal that this dozen makes with Reisman and what better person to make that deal than Lee Marvin. I got to tell you, this guy is cool and pretty bad-ass when he needs to be.

But honestly, Marvin’s just the tip of the iceberg, like I’ve mentioned before. There’s a whole slew of famous peeps from this dozen like Charles Bronson (before he started taking a hobby in vigilantism), Donald Sutherland (before Kiefer started trying to take his legacy), Telly Savalas (before he got his stint on Kojak), Jim Brown (after he just retired from kicking booty in football and before he started going off and kicking more booty in films) and John Cassavetes (before his indie film-making career took over the world). There’s plenty more that are apart of that dozen and they’re all amazing, and add side performances for Ernest Borgnine and George Kennedy to the supporting cast and you got yourself a bunch of dudes, who know what they’re doing, how to do it, and how to make it fun while still maintaining that level of respect that usually comes with the actors of these statures.

Wow. I’ve literally grown more hair on my chest.

Consensus: The Dirty Dozen suffers a bit from unevenness, but still features plenty of kick-ass moments of action, violence, blood, and Nazis being killed and also some great performances from a cast that is just filled with a who’s who of bad-ass, male actors from the 60’s.

8 / 10

If only I was as cool.

If only I was as cool.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins, FilmDROID

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Bows and arrows are the ultimate weapons for rebellion. Guns are better, but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

After the tragic events of the second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is, once again, left in total and complete shock. However, she’s not alone, as she was soon taken in by the rebellious District 13 and given the task to fight back against the malicious Capital, and its evil leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). And although Katniss is more than happy to fight back and get whatever revenge she can get on Snow and his legions of soldiers, there’s a couple problems holding her back. For one, District 13’s president, Coin (Julianne Moore), and her trusted lackey, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), not only want her to stand high and tall with District 13, but even be seen as the face of the new rebellion that will hopefully inspire many others to stand up against Snow and his regime. Also, after the last Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was kidnapped and taken in by the Capitol, who seems to be using him as a way to coax Katniss into just putting down her bows and giving up. Katniss wants to, so as to not hurt Peeta even more, but the problem is that she’s not the one fully in control – others are and it begins to show.

It’s safe to say that, by now, the Hunger Games film franchise has been pretty successful. Not just in terms of its box-office success, but also with those pretentious, unhappy human specimens we know as critics. Meaning, that it was only just a matter of time until one of these films, as it only takes one, had to screw it up for the rest.

And it’s quite fitting that it just so happens to be the first part of a movie that didn’t need to even have a first part to begin with.

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch? Say it ain’t so, J-Moore!

Trust me, too, this is coming from a guy who has never read a single page of one of these books; Hollywood thinks that since they have a cash-cow on their hands, that they should try their hardest and pan the movies out for as long as they can, as only a way to reel in more and more dough. They did it with the Harry Potter franchise, they did with those terrible Twilight movies, and heck, they were even thinking about doing it for the Hobbit movies, that is until somebody actually wised up and realized that it’s probably not the best decision to push that franchise any longer than it needed to be, especially considering that it’s all made from one single book. Just one, people! So why the hell did there need to be three, freakin’ movies at all?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying, here with Mockingjay – Part 1, it’s obvious that the powers that be behind it, wanted it to just go on for as long as it could, so long so as it all built-up to what would hopefully be the ultimate finale for this franchise next year, and it shows. That’s not to say all of the movie is bad, but when you have a film that goes on for so long which is, quite frankly, is pretty solid up to a point, and it just ends, it not only feels abrupt, but pretty disappointing. You can tell that, if they really wanted to with these movies, they could have made just one, three-hour epic that would, hopefully, put the bow-tie on the franchise once and for all. But nope, when big-wig, hot-shot Hollywood executives see dollar-signs, they can’t help themselves one bit.

Sort of like how I am in Dunkin’ Donuts. Only one, I promise myself, and then, a dozen doughnuts later, I’m wondering just what the hell happened to me and my thought-process. It’s a bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got to work with, people, so bare with me please.

But to get a bit away from the whole problem with this movie being unnecessary in the first place, I think it’s best to just dive right into what made it so good to begin with and, therefore, made the abrupt ending all the more enraging. See, what’s interesting about this flick, is that while it’s clear that it has the biggest budget in the world and can practically do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and with whomever it wants to, for some reason, Mockingjay – Part 1 has a very limited-scope which, dare I say it, makes it feel almost claustrophobic. Hardly do we ever get to see what’s going on/around the world of Panem and in these other districts, outside of maybe a TV monitor or through of what somebody says.

A perfect example of this is a very terrifying sequence in which District 13 gets attacked by the Capitol, leaving everybody inside scrambling, running, and trying to find any shelter that they can. While this is all going on, we hear the explosions hitting District 13 and we see the effect it has on the base from the inside, but we never see what’s exactly going on outside; what we see and hear, are just enough to scare us into an oblivion and have us expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s a well-done sequence that I kept on thinking about the most after I saw the movie, because it pretty much puts the rest of the movie into perspective: We are thrown into this tiny, nearly suffocating world and we can’t get out of it. We’re along for the ride with Katniss, even if that does, or doesn’t take her anywhere special.

Speaking of Katniss, once again, Jennifer Lawrence is great in this role and allows Katniss to be strong, smart, and also, humane. She hardly does something for her own self-interest and it makes us sympathize with her a lot more, even if she is playing with both Gale and Peeta’s hearts like a person putting a carrot in front of a rabbit on a treadmill. Still, she’s good to watch and brings a lot of development to a character that could have easily been just another little, whiny teenager who can’t decide if he loves me, or loves me not.

I'll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

I’ll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it plays around with the ideas of propaganda and how the use of it, if effective, can really drive people to do something, whether it be fighting for a cause, or just changing a certain lifestyle of theirs. Here, we get to see Katniss be constantly taken to all of these different Districts, where everybody is either dead, dying, or just bones underneath pieces of rubble. The way we’re supposed to feel about these tragic occurrences is supposed to be sadness, but because we know Katniss is being taken to these certain spots, only so that they can film her and show the rest of the world why her cause is worth standing behind, puts a slight comedic-twist on it. A dark one, but a comedic-twist nonetheless in a movie which totally needed a lot more.

This is where the likes of new recruits Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, pleasant returners Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their own level of depth to a story that deserves it. It’ll be interesting to see where the next film takes these certain characters, because while it’s easy to fall for Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, the older, much more established presences in these films are mostly what keeps the heart of these movies running. Not to hate on what Lawrence, Hutcherson, or Hemsworth do with their own respective characters, but if I had to, I’d watch a scene containing just Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jeffrey Wright, all sitting around in a room, talking about whatever was on their mind next.

Obviously that’s virtually impossible now, but what a treasure it would be.

But, like I said, while the ideas and themes this movie toggles around with may be interesting, and a hell of a lot more thought-provoking than we all get with half of the YA adaptations out there, there’s still that feeling that this movie is build-up, and hardly anything more. Director Francis Lawrence gives this movie a tone that’s dark, creepy, and slightly sinister, but the way in how the movie ends, just puts everything into perspective: This is all leading up to something a lot bigger and more epic.

See you next year, folks. Let’s hope that this is actually the end.

Consensus: Thought-provoking without being ham-fisted, exciting without being manipulative, and well-acted without ever focusing on one character more than the other, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 works for so long, all up until it abruptly ends, leaving us maybe ready for the next, but also disappointed that there had to be two parts in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Reign Over Me (2007)

At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.

Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.

9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.

I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.

Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ’em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.

However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.

Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.

The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.

However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.

However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.

Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.

6/10=Rental!!

The Hunger Games (2012)

The best way to have kids learn their lessons fast, is to just put them in a fight to the death. Then they’ll wise up, trust me.

In the story, a dystopic Capitol requires its twelve subjugated districts to pay tribute in the form of a teenage boy and girl who are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.

I must admit that I have no idea where the hell I was when this book was first published and created all this hype for a flick. However, what I did have an idea about was that it was a hell of a lot cooler and more bad-ass than that ‘Twilight’ garbage and that’s really all that matters.

For the whole first hour, things really weren’t taking off which is a problem, but at the same time I was still interested. I liked the setting this film made where the rich basically got richer and the poor got poorer (which is sort of how it is in today’s society, but you didn’t hear that from me). The setting is here and I felt very intrigued by seeing how these kids all trained for the games, how they got siked up for it, and just how they spent what could be their last days alive. However, the problem with a lot of this is that even though the film has all of this interesting stuff going on right off the bat, the film moves very slow and it’s a tad boring. I won’t sit here and say that I was dozing off at any chance, because my eyes were always watching the screen, but all of the important things said (like what these kids had to say about their lives possibly being put to an end) and important things shown (how these kids were defined by these situations), all sort of went down without any real emotional connection.

After this first hour though, the film really starts to pick up and that’s where Gary Ross‘ sturdy direction really comes into play. Ross has a lot to deal with here such as a big-budget full of eye-catching visuals and CGI effects, plenty of social themes to be shown without seeming to hit us over the head (‘The Lorax’ *cough* *cough*), and a crap load of violence that had to be bearable enough to supply a PG-13 rating but also please the fans of the book that wanna see some gore. Ross is easily up for the challenge by making each of his three different locations (poverty stricken areas, lavish metropolis-like looking buildings, and a forest that isn’t a normal one you would find in your state park) all look beautiful and bring you into this world that seems similar but at the same time feels like something you have never seen before. Ross is also a great action director because he’s great at speeding up the camera just when he wants to and bring some intensity to the scenes but is also able to slow it down and give us one of the better “trip scenes” that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s nothing spectacular or different that Ross is doing here but he seems pretty comfortable having to deal with so much pressure and so much money on just one movie by getting it done in a way that would both make regular movie-goers happy but die hards of the book as well. Good job Gary!

I also have to say for a film that has a premise where a bunch of kids are going around hacking each other to death all for their government, the film keeps the violence pretty toned down. There isn’t that much blood, there’s hardly any gore, and the violence is usually sped up so fast that you can barely make out what’s going on but when it does happen, it’s pretty disturbing. It definitely deserved it’s PG-13 rating but I can tell you that there are some stuff here that you’ll see that are pretty hard to watch but feels right to the story. It also may show us where I world is running towards with richer people looking for more entertainment in the ways of watching the lesser people practically kill each other, so you better all start working on your fighting and hunting skills.

My key problems with this film are just from a person who didn’t read the book, and probably didn’t fully “get it” like so many of you probably reading this did. Example numero uno is the whole love story between Katniss and Peeta. First off it all came off as forced, which at first was the intention but then it started becoming serious and that’s where I didn’t buy it. It practically comes out of nowhere and even when it does come around, the film makes it seem like these two kids have so much more to win for other than their lives, they also have their love. Maybe there was something that made more sense that I didn’t read but it just didn’t lock me in and have me believe in these two characters any more than I already did. Also, the little “love triangle” between these two and Gale (a totally underused Liam Hemsworth) didn’t draw me in mainly because it was too underdeveloped and didn’t really do anything for me either.

What sold me on this film though was the key performance from Jennifer Lawrence who is nothing but spectacular as Katniss Everdeen. This chick is endearing enough to where you can feel for her character, believable enough to not only make you feel for her character but also make it seem like she’s just an ordinary girl put into a real shitty situation such as this, a little smart assy to have you feel like she always has something witty to say, but also very tough where you think that she can win these “Hunger Games” and fend for herself even when things really seem like their going South for her. Lawrence gives a very well-rounded performance and doesn’t make this just seem like another character drawn right from the book, but an actual human being put into a life and death situation such as this. If ‘Winter’s Bone’ didn’t make her a star, then this definitely will and I’m glad that is the case.

As for everybody else, they are all pretty amazing too. Josh Hutcherson looks and fits the role as Peeta, and has you believe that this kid is always one step ahead of everyone else; Elizabeth Banks was goofy and flamboyant as Effie; Wes Bentley finally comes back from the dead (or wherever the hell he’s been since ‘American Beauty’) here as Seneca and gives a pretty solid performance even though he is upstaged by his awesomely-drawn tattoo/beard he’s got going on here; Woody Harrelson gives his usual witty but seasoned role as Haymitch; Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly very good as Cinna even though I had a feeling he was going to break out into “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which would have been perfectly suitable for the action scenes; and Stanley Tucci steals the show as Caesar Flickerman, the totally goofy-looking and smiley talk show host that seems to always be winning the crowd over, even though he’s a total cheese ball.

The only cast member that I thought was pretty lame was Alexander Ludwig as Cato. I don’t think it was necessarily Ludwig who played this character wrong it was just that the film basically made him out to be the most dangerous person in the whole “Hunger Games” and when they actually start, he’s pretty much absent from everything and has Seneca do more work for him. Then again though, I don’t think he was “the real enemy”………

Consensus: The Hunger Games probably would have been a lot better for me have I previously read the book, but without that, it features an inspired direction from Gary Ross, a great cast that all work wonders with their parts (especially Lawrence), and will be able to provide enough adventure, pathos, action, and themes for anybody who are big fans but also for people who just want a teen novel adaption that’s a hell of a lot better than those ‘Twilight’ pieces of shite.

8/10=Matinee!!

Space Cowboys (2000)

Grumpy Old Astronauts.

When one of the satellites launched in the 1960s malfunctions, threatening the earth with disaster if it crashes, an astronaut in his sixties (Clint Eastwood) is asked to go up to fix it, as he’s the only one familiar enough with the old technology.  He agrees under one condition that three of his pilot buddies from the old days (Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner) who were overlooked by the astronaut training program get to come along for this one last flight.

Right from the beginning, this film already had problems showing with its terrible black-and-white opening prologue in which four young men all speak with these old actor’s voices, that are apparently so obvious. So as you can see, a man who is in a very peak physical condition sounds like a 70-year old who’s been dipping, chewing, and smoking his whole life. However, it got better after this.

Clint Eastwood does a good job here of keeping this film moving at a slow enough pace to have us actually see all of the obstacles you have to go through for such a high-profile mission like this one, and also enough time to have us build characters to where we can actually feel something for these dudes. It’s a relatively slow film, but coming from Eastwood, I’ve seen a lot worse.

Let me also not to forget about how beautiful and amazing the special effects look as well. Thinking that this is an Eastwood film, who is very old at this time and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to go for a sci-fi film with great special effects, but somehow he ends up making this film look like these guys are actually in space after all. From the stars, to the moon, to the other planets, and even to the spaceship itself, everything looks real and beautiful and makes space this piece of art that you always imagine about but barely ever see in most films.

The problem with this film though is the fact that it’s script is pretty lame. Everything that happens here is all pretty cliche and you know exactly how its going to pan-out, even with the last act. Sometimes this doesn’t matter, as long as the film makes you enjoy yourself and take you away from the cliches, but here, too much of my enjoyment was centered on whether or not I could tell what was going to happen next and judging by the way this film was going, I knew exactly what was to happen. I couldn’t get into this film too much especially the last act where the whole film relies on the suspense element, even though we all know how it’s going to end anyway.

I also feel like the film never knew how to play with this silly plot. The twist of the premise here is that these guys are all old cooks, which could be a lot of fun in a not-so serious way, but the film can’t decide whether or not it wants to take this path or just play the plot straight. The gags were pretty funny but none of it ever seemed like it was genuine enough for the plot, and just used as a way to show us how cooky and goofy these old dudes actually were.

As for Eastwood the actor, he’s pretty good here as Frank Corvin; Tommy Lee Jones is also great at his usual miserable-like character, Hawk Hawkins (what a name); James Garner and Donald Sutherland are both very fun to watch as the other two old dudes as well. The performances aren’t bad and you can tell that they’re all having a lot of fun with these roles but Sutherland and Garner never really get that much attention when it comes to character development, which kind of bothered me. I would have liked to see all of these characters for who they are, so that when it came to a life-or-death situation, I could really root for them except just the two.

Consensus: Space Cowboys has some beautiful special effects, and a cast that looks like their obviously having a whole lot of fun, but there are moments where this film sort of just falls apart due to the predictable plot, and the way the film doesn’t know how to actually approach this plot.

5/10=Rental!!

A Dry White Season (1989)

The white man in Africa never gets no respect.

South African school teacher Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) seeks justice for the murder of a black boy in this political drama set against the backdrop of apartheid. When his gardener’s son is killed by a vicious police officer, Ben hires lawyer Ian Mackenzie (Marlon Brando) to prosecute the man. With the outcome of the case a foregone conclusion, Mackenzie butts heads with the system at every turn while Ben suffers personal alienation.

A Dry White Season is a story that shows a man who can no longer close his eyes to the injustice system that is happening so wrong around him. It also does contain a lot about the South African’s lifestyles and the difference of the whites and the blacks that inhabit South Africa. This film does do a great job at showing the whole spectrum of Africa and not just a few white descenders.

The one thing I lied about the film which may be a bad thing for some people is that it’s very graphic in its depiction of the brutality that goes on in South Africa. He shows children being harmed, adults being beaten, and shows all the scrapes and scars in their entirety and doesn’t shy away and show movie injuries, and that’s what I think makes the film a whole lot more effective and true.

The film falls a bit short for me because it relies too heavily on cinematic conventions. What I mean is that instead of focusing on a sweeping indictment of Apartheid and living conditions in the townships, the film tries treats Jurgen Prochnow’s character simply as “the bad guy,” and the movie suffers for it.

The music which I do not get very discouraged about was a big problem for me. This gave me the wrong feel during certain scenes where more current use of scoring techniques would have been more appropriate.

The acting in this film is superb. Donald Sutherland is up for the challenge and shows what it feels like to be an average white man who just won’t stand for the disgrace any longer, and creates a powerful but sympathetic portrait. Marlon Brando is amazing in his very brief performance and I think was misused as along with Susan Sarandon. Both show that they can act but they just weren’t given the right amount of screen action, and when you have two big name actors heavily titled on the posters they should be in the film more.

Consensus: A Dry White Season is a heavy-handed but very powerful film about the apartheid in South Africa that doesn’t shy away from showing the true reality of their lifestyles.

8/10=Matinee!!!!

Ordinary People (1980)

The American Beauty before American Beauty.

Devastated by the loss of their older son, well-to-do suburban couple Calvin (Donald Sutherland) and Beth (Mary Tyler Moore) are trying to rebuild their lives after their younger son, Conrad (Timothy Hutton), attempts suicide.

After reading the novel, I was really ready to see this movie. I heard it one Best Picture at the Oscars against Raging Bull, and I heard it is very close to the novel as well. What I heard was the total truth.

This drama is the one of the first films to show a upper-class suburban family in close. This film shows the problems go through shot in a way with such bitterness and sorrow that all of the movie’s real expressions fully come out through the screen.

Most of the movie is very similar to the novel which is rare, it features: the same dialogue, characters, and mostly same plot twists. Robert Redford’s directorial debut is surely fantastic and one of the best I’ve ever seen. He fully dissects this film with such a dark and raw emotion that he’s not afraid to show what these characters are inside. The best thing overall for Redford is that he allows this film to breathe, which in all forces the viewer to experience the film on a visceral level.

The acting us surely phenomenal as well. The performances are great from all but mostly the one that did it for me was 20 year old debuted Timothy Hutton. When I read the novel how I expected his character to act was how Hutton was he is effective, dramatic, troubled, but most all very sympathetic towards the ones around him and then we soon feel the sympathy for him, which in the end makes his character the one we can most connect to. Also, I was glad to see Mary Tyler Moore sort of step out of her comedian shadow and play a role that asked for so much force and she without a doubt delivered.

However, I did have some problems with this. I think they could’ve explored more of Conrad’s life in school such as his relationships with the other guys and his girlfriend, just like in the novel. Also at times I think they shined the light too much on Hutton and furthered away from the true story at hand and it was the parents.

The book is a great read but the film is a better watch, and is certainly one of the better film adaptations I have seen in awhile.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!

Backdraft (1991)

William Baldwin, Kurt Russel, and Robert De Niro all as firefighters, yea ok.

The movie tells the story of a group of Chicago firefighters at Engine 17, two of whom are brothers. Lt. Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell), the elder brother, is obsessed with the beating of the fires that he fights. He is always at the heart of the fire – the most dangerous part of the fire. During their life-saving, their also on the trail of a serial arsonist who sets fires with a fictional chemical substance, trychtichlorate.

When I first heard of the film and saw the poster I thought it was gonna be all about these firemen in their daily lives of fighting fires and how they do in their spare time. Instead I got a story of jealousy and sort of like a detective story. But despite this the movie is still great to watch and follow.

This film if not about firemen but more of fire itself. The fire scenes are great to watch especially with special effects used with the fire itself. Their is a sort of life giving to the fire and you can feel the gritty authenticity of the fire.

The cast is very star-studded but not used very well. Their are not enough scenes with the firemen just being firemen and we couldn’t get a full picture for each picture. Kurt Russel who is very underrated in my opinion does a very good job capturing the total aggressiveness of Bull McCaffrey. William Baldwin although is very awkward and dosen’t look like he fits in with the the rest of the cast. The scenes with De Morney and Russel are actually very well-crafted and it makes it all feel real. I thought De Niro was very misused and I thought he was just put in to put his name on the poster. Donal Sutherland who plays a psycho named Ron actually does a very good job as well and actually brought something to the screen every time he was on.

The second part of the films which soon jumps into the detective story of the finding out of who caused these fires. I personally thought this part was not needed, or been used in a better way.

Still this film is more exciting and fun than true and good. The exciting fire scenes make this film a great watch but other than those scenes, everything is just bland. Still its way better than that bore-fest Ladder 49.

7.5/10=Rental!!