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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dustin Hoffman

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Family’s enough competition as is.

Danny Meyerowitz (Adam Sandler) is going through a bit of a rough-patch in his life. He and his wife are separated, his daughter (Grace Van Patten) is going off to college to hopefully continue the family’s long legacy of being artistically-sound, and he just lost his home, forcing him to have to move back in with his father, renowned sculpture-artist Harold (Dustin Hoffman). And by doing so, he also becomes closer with his sister, Jean (Elizabeth Marvel), and stepmother, Maureen (Emma Thompson). It’s not too happy of a time for Danny and while his father knows this, he doesn’t quite help the situation out much, either. Then enters Danny’s half-brother, Michael (Ben Stiller), who his father loves and adores a lot more and for very obvious reasons – Michael is a lot more successful and Harold happened to marry his mother twice. While the two aren’t really supposed to get along, they eventually try to tie the binds between them and get over the long years of familial strife and continue on the Meyerowitz legacy. Or at least, whatever is left of it.

“No! I’m funnier!”

Is Noah Baumbach a pretentious film-maker? A part of me likes to think that he is, but another part of me likes to think that he isn’t. While there are certain movies of that I don’t care for (Margot at the Wedding, Greenberg), there are others that I do (everything else), and it mostly all comes down to how unfathomable and unlikable his characters are. And in mostly all of Baumbach’s films, that seems to be the case.

It’s pretty interesting, really, that he’s chosen to have his protagonists be challenging, somewhat unsympathetic human beings that, while we dislike the time we spend with them, they’re still human and compelling. After all, the characters are either just like us, or like people we know, and while we may not want to spend two-hours with them, there’s no denying the fact that actually spending time with them is rather refreshing. So yeah. I don’t know if the fact that enjoys having his movies centered around these awful characters makes him pretentious, it just makes him, as well as his movies, a bitter pill to swallow.

But one that you’ll probably be fine with afterwards.

And while in the Meyerowitz Stories, there’s no really awful, unlikable, and reprehensible character here, they’re all kind of annoying and a little deuchy. Then again, that’s sort of the point. Family itself is raised on the notion of competition and who’s more successful than the other, so when these characters all start bragging to one another about their great noble achievements, however small they may be, sure, it may be a little tiresome, but it all comes from a soft spot in their hearts that we can, at the very least, relate to.

Baumbach’s a smart enough writer to at least know and understand that each of these characters all have something going for them, as well as a little something going for them. For instance, while Danny’s made out to be a bit of a loser, he’s also got a stronger connection to his daughter and most other humans than perhaps his half-brother, Michael will ever have with another person. On the flip-side of things though, Michael’s also a lot more successful in his life and probably always will be, whereas Danny seems like he’ll never get up off the couch and do something extraordinary with his life because, well, he’s never had to, so why start now? It’s an interesting contrast that follows just about every character in this movie, and while it may make them a wee bit over-bearing, they’re still honest and raw.

So much sarcasm.

And oh yeah, because of the ensemble, fun to watch, too.

Especially in the case of Danny, who gets a great performance out of Adam Sandler, for once and a blue moon. But what’s interesting about Danny is that he’s basically every other Adam Sandler character the guy’s played in the past two decades or so: He’s a man-child who doesn’t know if he ever wants to grow up, how to do it, and is kind of sad. But in this case, the sad-sack has a lot more to him than just childish hi-jinx, as he’s much more likable and sympathetic, and not just an all around dick. It’s great to see Sandler in this kind of role, where he’s literally forced to act and actually do something, and it shows us all that, yes, he’s still got it, and when the Netflix money runs out, he can always turn back to arthouse, character-driven roles. So long as it’s not something like the Cobbler.

Ben Stiller is, as usual, pretty good, too, playing another sort of dick-head who seems like he’s got his whole life in-check, but really doesn’t. Stiller’s done a great job in his outings with Baumbach and while this isn’t his most challenging, it still shows us that he and Baumbach help each other out in working better for the two. Together, Stiller and Sandler have a sort of anti-chemistry that, even though they’re not supposed to like each other, they sort of do and it’s quite a lovely little sight to see. After all, these are two of comedy’s greats, finally together, once again, but instead of yucking it up for the nosebleeds, they’re actually playing three-dimensional, fully-realized characters.

Wow. Funny how times change. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Consensus: With a talented ensemble and a group of interesting characters, the Meyerowitz Stories is an honest, funny, and sometimes look at family and all of the hostilities that go along with it.

8 / 10

Invite me to that reunion. Oh wait. Maybe not.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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Dick Tracy (1990)

What a Dick that guy is.

Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) is the type of detective all men of the law aspire to be. He’s charming, smart, inspired, always on the good side, gets whatever lady he wants, and always finds a way to catch the baddies before they cause anymore harm in the world. But he might just have met his match with “Big Boy” Caprice (Al Pacino). Caprice has practically taken over the crime world by himself, and made almost every sort of illegal activity occur. With Tracy on his tale, though, times may change for Caprice.

I’ve never fully understood why this thing didn’t become a series of movies rather than just a movie that seemed to promise one. Apparently, Beatty has been hyping one up for a long time and is still fighting producers and creators as to whether or not he still owns the name/title Dick Tracy. Who knows? Maybe 26 years later ain’t too late?

Regardless, Dick Tracy came to us back in the day when comic book movies used to not be so serious and dark, and instead were just goofy, campy, and over-the-top. However, they were also knowing about it so it wasn’t just a strange movie from start-to-finish, it had reasoning for being so silly. That’s the smart approach Beatty thankfully takes here and is one of the key aspects to Dick Tracy being more than just another conventional comic book flick.

"Go fish."

“Go fish.”

Cause we’ve got way too much of that now.

It all starts as soon as we’re introduced to the character of Tracy, what he does, how he does it, and where he does it. He gets a call on his watch about somebody missing, leaves the play he is at with his gal, comes back five minutes later after scoping the scene out, and acts all natural and cool. If that doesn’t at least have you chuckle, then don’t even bother with this movie because that’s all there is here. Just goofiness, through and through, and that’s what keeps it relatively fun.

The only time the movie does seem to lose its sense of “fun”, is when it decides to focus its story on so many other elements that weren’t needed. Throughout the whole movie, we get to see Tracy’s miniature-sized side-kick, “The Kid”, pal around, hang out, and help Tracy solve crimes. The only problem is that he’s an orphan and orphans are supposed to be thrown into the orphanage as if they were garbage. Most of the movie concerns whether or not Tracy will end up falling for the tricks and keeping Kid, or getting rid of him and doing what the law says. It’s a dilemma that we’re supposed to care about, but just don’t. Kid is actually sort of annoying because all he does is yell, scream, and shout that there is some crime needing to be stopped. He’s a joyful, little lad, but it got annoying, real quick. And yes, is having “the Kid” loyal to the comics? Of course, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work.

But as the film goes on, it continues to entertain but bore at the same time. It’s very confusing actually because you never know what type of film Beatty is trying to go for. You know he’s trying to make a wacky, wild romp that’s based on some nutty source-material, but he never quite goes all out. Certain parts of Dick Tracy are really silly and weird and seem like the perfect fit for the kind of over-the-top, wild romp that comic books seem to promise. But then, there’s a bunch of subplots that continue to complicate the story and make it seem like we’re supposed to be caring about this more than we actually are.

After all, what everyone comes to Dick Tracy for, in the first place, is to have a little bit of fun. Take that away and what the hell is the point?

The ladies love Dick.

The ladies love Dick.

Thankfully, the cast always keeps things together. Despite being nearly 53 at the time and initially seeming like an odd fit, Beatty works well as Dick Tracy. There’s always been something about Beatty’s cool, calm and breezy charm, that makes you trust and like the guy, but also never feels like he’s macho-posing for the hell of it. It works for the character and makes Tracy seem like a good guy. Granted, in a time where superheros reign supreme and show up almost every, single summer, it’s a bit unexciting to get a superhero that just shoots a Tommy Gun and figures out predicaments pretty easily, but it’s simple. You don’t need a superhero that has some sort of inner-problems going on with his life, or something taking away what he can and cannot do with his special talents. You just need a guy that does right for the world he loves, does whatever he can, continues to fight until no more, and leave it at that.

Simplicity at its finest, folks.

But really, it’s Al Pacino who walks away with this all here. As “Big Boy” Caprice, Pacino spends literally each and every scene yelling and acting way over-the-top. But, it works. Pacino loves to scream and shout himself through a role, but while that can sometimes feel unnecessary in mostly everything he does, here, it works for the whole movie. The tone, whenever it’s focusing on him, is played for laughs, so we never need to take him seriously. Pacino’s in this crazy, little pulpy world that doesn’t care how much he screams, or how loud it is – it just cares how much fun he’s having.

Everybody else in this movie deserves a pat on the back for the same thing as well, even if they only show up for a good couple of minutes. James Caan is here for five seconds to look cool, mobster-ish, and intimidating, only to walk off and get blown-up by a secret car bomb; Paul Sorvino shows up in tons and tons of make-up, only to be betrayed and thrown in a tub of concrete underneath the ground; the late, great Charles Durning is playing a cop that Tracy can trust no matter what; and last, but sure as hell not least is Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles, who does exactly that. It’s funny to see, especially because you know Hoffman is enjoying himself while doing so. Oh and Madonna is quite the sexy, fiery presence that the movie oh so promised on in all of its advertisements, proving that she could definitely act, given the right material to play around with.

Consensus: Beatty’s direction may be too all-over-the-place for such goofy material as Dick Tracy to make it work wonders, but it always stays fun, light, goofy, and knowingly over-the-top, without ever making apologies for being so. It’s just pure, unadulterated fun.

7 / 10

All these gangsters and no pasta?!? What the hell?!?

All these gangsters and no pasta?!? What the hell?!?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Den of Geek

Hero (1992)

HeroposterEveryone’s a little super. Just look closely and stop judging!

Bernie Laplante (Dustin Hoffman) is known as a cheap-skate, a swindler, and just all around rat, who can’t be trusted with anything, or anyone. However, he makes the first selfless gesture of his life when he helps save injured passengers from a roadside plane crash. Before he can get any sort of recognition or praise for this righteous act of heroism, he vanishes into thin air, feeling as if he’s got nothing else to offer. But Bernie is very wrong, because not only are people out there looking for him, but most of all, the one, the only reporter Gale Gayley (Geena Davis) is now interested in finding this mystery man who put his own life at risk. And in by doing so, she announces a $1 million prize for anyone who is willing and able to step forward. But when handsome vagrant John Bubber (Andy Garcia) takes credit, Bernie now feels like it’s time to speak up, even while all of the media is centered on this one story.

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

Hero is a sloppy film in that it balances out a lot of what it wants to say, do, and actually be, but still, it all comes together because, when you get right down to it, it’s an enjoyable movie, with some great performances to be found. Sometimes, that’s honestly all you need in a movie, no matter how messy, muggy, or dirty it may actually be.

Okay, maybe that’s not always the case, but you get my point, right?

Anyway, what Hero benefits from the most is a great cast on-deck who feel as if they are more than capable of taking on this material and giving it all that they’ve got, even if they do sometimes feel like they’re far much better than the material itself. Hoffman especially is great in the lead because while he’s definitely an unlikable and pathetic bum, who constantly steals and rips people off for his own self-gain, he’s still likable and fun to watch. This is the beauty of Hoffman – give him a gritty character, a bunch of unlikable traits, and still, watch him as he works wonders into making him the most lovable guy in the whole world. The script always wants to give you the sense that there’s good in this man, but Hoffman does away with them in smart moves; you almost get the sense that Hoffman would have preferred for this character to have been more detestable and mean, but unfortunately, the movie is too light and quick on its feet to really get down and deep into those dark waters.

If anything, it wants to play around, have some fun, make jokes, but also be “about something”, which is what kind of ruins it in the end.

Cause honestly, Hero is the kind of movie that, yes, on the surface, it’s about something, but for some reason, the direction from Stephen Frears doesn’t seem to show that. If anything, Frears seems more interested in having fun with this situation and watching it spiral more and more out of control; it’s like a Capra crowd-pleaser, but obviously, a lot more modern. However, that’s the central issue with Hero – it never fully feels like it’s as funny, or as light as it should be, nor does it feel like it ever gets as dark or serious as it should.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

What Hero seems to be talking about here is how the media portrays certain people as being hero’s, for the sole sake of ratings and attention, even if, deep down inside, these people are evil and ugly human beings, really. There’s been plenty of movies made about this topic and honestly, given today’s world of media, you don’t even need movies to know this – just turn on the tube and you’ll see what picture the world paints of celebrities and athletes. That said, it is hard to get down on David Webb Peoples and his script for trying, because Hero is the rare big-budget movie, with A-list stars, that’s more than willing to ask the hard questions.

Sure, it may not give the answers it oh so desires, but sometimes, all you need is a little question to make it all matter most.

Anyway, Hero‘s messy, but it’s a fun and, at times, interesting mess. It is something of a redemption story that, because of Hoffman and his dedication to his craft, is a lot smarter and sweeter than it may have intended to be. Even all of the media stuff, as wild and hectic as it can sometimes get, still works because of Geena Davis, in full-on charm-mode, showing us a character who may be sad, deep down inside, but is still looking for that story of her lifetime to make her feel somewhat complete as much as she possibly can. The movie never gets as deep with her as I make it sound, but trust me, there’s something there, if you look close enough.

And yeah, even Andy Garcia is fine; while comedy has never been his strong suit, there’s something to this character that makes you hate him, but also like him as well. The movie is filled with characters like these and it’s actually quite refreshing to watch; we know we’re supposed to like them, but there’s still factors and ideas about them that make that much harder to be a reality. Why more and more movies can’t feature these kinds of attributes is beyond me, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Doesn’t matter the decade it comes from.

Consensus: Albeit messy, Hero still benefits from a great class, interesting ideas, and an entertaining approach to a premise that could have easily been boring, preachy and sad.

7 / 10

All of the men can't wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

All of the men can’t wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

Photos Courtesy of: Rob’s Movie Vault, Virtual History, Cineplex

The Program (2016)

Come on, guys. Let’s cut Lance some slack. Dude dated Sheryl Crow after all.

Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as they like to say, came from nothing, only to then become something. Though he was just a small-time cyclist from Texas, eventually, Lance began to train more and more, to the point of where he was competing in national competitions like, well, for starters, the Tour de France. However, while he was definitely successful very early in his career, he ran into problems when it turned out that he had testicular cancer. Eventually, he got treatment and got back on his bike, except this time, it was with a whole new mission: To help those with cancer. With all sorts of support on his side from everyone around him, Armstrong created the Live Strong foundation, won the Tour de France a few more times, had all sorts of sponsors, was generally seen as “a hero”, and heck, was even in a long-term relationship with Sheryl Crow. It seemed almost as if Armstrong was the king of the world and couldn’t be brought down from his title. However, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) saw differently and was one of the key people in challenging Armstrong’s past issues with performance-enhancing drugs. These are the same sorts of issues that would ultimately prove his downfall in the public eye.

Cars vs. bikes. Who's going to win the transportation war?

Cars vs. bikes. Who’s going to win the transportation war?

By now, I’m pretty sure that nobody’s holding a “Lance Armstrong pity party”. The dude may have fought for a meaningful cause and won a slew of Tour de France’s, but was a jerk to mostly everyone in the media, anyone who associated themselves with him, and used his good deeds and charities to almost make an excuse for all of the performance-enhancing drugs he took. Oh, and not to mention, that he lied about almost all of this. So yeah, no time soon will everybody crowd around a picture of Lance, and memorialize the person who he was and cry on his behalf.

Some people may do that now as we speak, but it’s probably a very limited number.

However, that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about the Program: While it does treat Armstrong in a sometimes negative, almost mean light, it still has an effect and makes you wonder if all of this piling-up on him is, well, enough. After the Armstrong Lie, it felt like we already had Armstrong’s story and nothing else needed to be told, which is pretty true in this movie’s case, but director Stephen Frears does something interesting in that he turns the story around ever so slightly and make us think that maybe Armstrong, while not misunderstood, was attacked way too heavily. Sure, he was a cocky dude who brought a lot of these issues on himself for just not sticking to his guns, not staying clean, and gaining a God-complex, but at the same time, he still had some nice qualities to him.

I know that statement literally means nothing in most cases, but here, it means something; rather than painting Armstrong as this completely distasteful, immoral son-of-a-bitch, the movie shows that while he was most definitely a dick, he was one that also wanted to fight for a good cause. Also, the movie likes to focus on those around him, like Lee Pace’s Bill Stapleton, or Denis Menochet’s Johan Bruyneel, and show that they most definitely had a hand or two, or more, in constituting just how far Armstrong went with his success. While he may have wanted to use his wealth and notoriety for the greater good of society and to find a cure for cancer, those around him mostly just saw a piggy-bank that needed to be constantly tapped and used.

Once again, none of this is excusing the fact that Armstrong lied on many occasions, but it brings up some valid arguments about him.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

That’s why the Program, the movie, feels very mixed. In a way, we didn’t really need this story to be told to us, but because it’s a movie that exists, it’s hard to hate on it for existing. What I can hate on the movie for is not really offering anything fully meaningful to the debate of whether or not we should all, as a society, go back to letting Lance Armstrong into our tender arms. It makes you think if he was a total dick or not, but that’s about it; all the movie really sets out to do is tell Armstrong’s story once again, as if some of those at home didn’t already know a single thing about it, or him.

Also, what’s odd about the movie is how, even at an-hour-and-43-minutes, it goes by very quick. This isn’t something I note as a positive either, as a good portion of the film just feels like a Lance Armstrong highlight reel, where all of the good things he did, gets shown, as well as the bad things, and they’re just constantly put up next to one another, back-to-back. For instance, we’ll get a scene of Armstrong at a children’s hospital, being nice and sweet to the kids, but the next one, we’ll get a shot of him sticking a needle into his bum. While this may be effective editing, it still doesn’t help when there’s at least three or four of these transitions of seeing Armstrong do something nice, only to then have it all juxtaposed by him doing something bad.

We get it! What we didn’t see in the spotlight, was sometimes darker than what we wished!

As Lance Armstrong, Ben Foster is very good in that he’s doing a lot of acting and having seen Armstrong in plenty of interviews/public appearances, it almost doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, Foster is good and gives this all his every bit, but there’s a lot of yelling, and screaming, and posturing from Foster that I don’t feel was very necessary to this character, especially the real life Armstrong wasn’t totally like this. He was definitely a bit smarmy, in a way, but no way was he a total a-hole like the way he’s portrayed here. If anything, he was just a dull guy who had a lot of championships to his name, his own cancer foundation, and a severe drug habit.

That’s basically all there was to Lance Armstrong – the man, the myth, the cheater.

Consensus: Without making its own mind up on its subject, the Program feels a tad short-shifted, but with some good performances and entertaining, slightly easygoing pace from Stephen Frears, it gets the job done and may have you thinking a bit differently about Armstrong himself. Or, then again, maybe not.

6.5 / 10

He's a hero to us all. Now give me back my money for all those damn wristbands!

He’s a hero to us all. Now give everybody back all their money for those damn wristbands!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

All the President’s Men (1976)

Can’t trust journalist nowadays. They’ll do anything for a quick dime!

Obviously based on true events, political operatives working for President Nixon broke into the Watergate Hotel to spy on the Democratic National Committee. Two low-level reporters by the names of Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) come upon the story and have no clue what to do with. Because one’s an experienced journalist, and the other one isn’t so much as so, they aren’t really gelling together well and therefore, the story is being left with a big question-mark. That is, until Woodward gets a reliable tip and, as their editor (Jason Robards) tells them, follow the money that they begin to investigate the event and the mystery surrounding it. Eventually, the two discover that there’s an elaborate scheme at hand that involves all sorts of political espionage, sneakiness, and illegal activity, all being directed from, none other than the White House. Being the dedicated journalists that they are, Woodward and Bernstein go the most extreme lengths to ensure that their story hits the presses and is able to see by the rest of the world. Even if that does mean, on many occasions, risking their own lives and safety in the process.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Yup, journalists are always on phones.

Being a journalist helps make movie like All the President’s Men all the more great to watch. While there’s no doubt in my mind that somebody else who may not at all be involved with the world of journalism could, and most likely already has, found something to love and adore about the movie, it’s still something special to me that has me connect to this movie all the more, each and every time I check it out. For example, that certain rush and adrenaline that goes all throughout your body when you stumble upon a story that, at first, may not seem like much, but eventually, turns into something far more greater and powerful than you ever expected it to be. Then, to go out, follow your sources, catch up with people, back-up facts, put more info in the story, edit it time and time again, try your hardest to get it published, have to edit it one last time, chop it up as much as can be, and publish it for you, as well as the rest of the world around you to see, is just one of the many lovely feelings I get as a journalist.

So with that said, yes, All the President’s Men is a great movie for journalists who love to write stories and all of the other extra work that goes into them.

However, in its own right, it’s also a great movie that deserves to be seen because, well, it’s so damn well-done.

For one, it’s a thriller that is, believe it or not, thrilling. The reason I say “believe it or not” is because for anyone who has ever picked up a piece of paper or passed 8th grade history, will now exactly what the historical significance behind the Watergate scandal was and the countless other, ins and outs surrounding it. And because of that fact, All the President’s Men could have been nothing more than a glamorized, Hollywood-retelling of the story, but it’s actually not; in fact, most of what the movie is actually about, has less to do with the breaking of the story itself, and more about what certain emotions and feelings the story actually brings along.

Though the suits aren't always that nice.

Though the suits aren’t always that nice.

Of course, seeing as how this is directed by Alan J. Pakula, it’s obvious that a lot of All the President’s Men surrounds that idea of being paranoid in a society where, whether you want to admit it or not, the government is always spying on you and everything you do. You may want to believe that they’re spending all of your well-earned tax money on institutions such as school, the army, and programs to help out those who need it the most, but really, they’re just screwing everybody over. While I know that I sound like the kid who has gotten stoned one too many times, this is the same kind of point that the movie brings up and in an effective, never-hacky way.

The scenes where Woodward and Bernstein are out, covering their bases, trying to get more info, and meeting up in some of the shadiest spots to do so, are all filled with a certain bit of intensity that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next even though, you know, you know exactly what is going to happen at the end. The story’s going to be told; Nixon is going to be made an example out of; and Bernstein and Woodward are going to become the legends that they so rightfully deserve to be. However, there’s a certain chill in the air that makes it seem like Pakula can, and most definitely will, switch things up at any moment he sees fit. And honestly, because the movie’s so interesting and compelling, I wouldn’t have had much of a problem with that; but because he sticks to the story and all the facts within it, makes it all the more of an impressive job of directing on his part.

Not to mention that, Redford and Hoffman themselves are quite solid here, as well. Though we’ve come to see Hoffman and Redford in more interesting roles in the time since they starred in All the President’s Men, it still goes without saying that these two are talented pros and make every second count. It also helps that their personalities allow for us to distinguish between the two and understand why they make the certain choices that they do throughout the majority of this flick; Hoffman’s Bernstein is a bit sneakier, whereas Redford’s Woodward, likes to keep things on the straight and narrow, even if he does begin to realize that that’s sometimes easier said then done in the world of journalism. And yes, that world is indeed one where even the most easy-going, level-headed dudes can, whether they intended to or not, break a person’s life in-half, all for the goal of telling a story the public needs to see.

So yeah, people. Start writing!

Consensus: Engaging and exciting, despite everyone knowing what happens at the end, All the President’s Men is both, a smart-thriller, as well as a nice bit of social commentary about the way our social climate worked and still does, even to this very day.

9 / 10

But yeah. Those phones, though.

But yeah. Those phones, though.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sleepers (1996)

Never mess with a hot-dog stand, kiddies.

Lorenzo “Shakes” Carcaterra (Jason Patric), Thomas “Tommy” Marcano (Billy Crudup), Michael Sullivan (Brad Pitt), and John Reilly (Ron Eldard), are all childhood friends from Hell’s Kitchen who, after many years, haven’t really kept in close contact. Most of this has to do with the fact that, when they were younger, they were all sent to a juvenile delinquent center, where they were both physically, as well as sexually abused by the wardens there. Many years later, one of those wardens (Kevin Bacon), gets shot and killed in a bar late one night and guess who the shooters allegedly are? Yup, John and Tommy. Seeing as how they’re buddies are in the right to have shot and killed the warden, Shakes and Michael concoct a plan: Get Michael to defend the dead warden and have their old local mafia gangster, pay-off a lawyer (Dustin Hoffman) who will do the job that needs to be done, where both John and Tommy shine in a positive light and aren’t convicted. However, moral dilemmas eventually sink in and make everybody rethink their decisions – not just in this one particular moment, however, but through their whole life in general.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he's doing.

Trust Dustin, guys. He knows what he’s doing.

There was a constant feeling I had while watching Sleepers that made me think it was just so “movie-ish”. Like clearly, a case like this couldn’t ever be true – and if it was, it sure as heck didn’t deserve the oddly-sentimental tone that Barry Levinson gives it. Despite there being a chock full of talent both behind, as well as in front of the camera, Sleepers just never resonates, mostly due to the fact that it all feels too sensational and over-wrought – something I would expect material of this nature to be.

However, that isn’t to say that Sleepers is a bad movie, because it isn’t. For at least an hour or so, Sleepers is actually a smart, disturbing, and interesting coming-of-ager that doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel of the kinds of movies that have come before it, but at least put you in the same position of these characters, so that when they do all eventually get back together some odd years later, we’re already invested in them enough as is. When the kids are transported to the juvenile delinquent center, it’s made obvious that the movie’s going to get a whole lot more heavy and mean, and it still worked.

Though maybe the big reveal of having these kids sexually abused was a bit campy, it still worked because it added a certain sizzle to a story that, quite frankly, needed one. Whenever you put young kids and pedophiles in the same story, most often, the stories tend to get quite interesting and thankfully, that’s happening with Sleepers. While I sound terrible for typing what I just did there, it’s the absolute truth; in hindsight, Sleepers is two meh movies crammed into one, with one being a lot more gripping to watch, then the other. That’s not to say that the courtroom stuff of the later-half doesn’t bring about some form of excitement, but because it all feels so phony, it never quite works.

Now pedophiles being in-charge at juvenile delinquent centers? That’s something I can definitely believe in!

Still though, the later-half of the movie brings Sleepers down a whole bunch. For one, it’s hard to ever believe, not in a million years, or even in places like Syria, that there would be a case as blatantly perjured and/or one-sided as this. Sure, the movie tries to make it understandable that a public-defender could get away with doing something like this, so long as he kept-up appearances, but I don’t believe I heard Brad Pitt’s character stand-up and yell “Objection!” once. For the most part, he’s just sitting there, looking determined, tense and most of all, pretty. That’s what we expect from Brad Pitt, of course, but it doesn’t help make the case seem at all legit, even though the movie seems to be depending on that.

"I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore."

“I do solemnly swear to yell at Focker anymore.”

Then, there’s Levinson’s direction that, honestly, is pretty odd. Though Levinson makes it clear that the boys killed a person that raped them when they were kids, the fact remains that they still killed plenty of other, probably innocent people. So, to just stand by them and say, “Well, that guy had it comin’ to him”, seems a bit weird; the guy whose death is being contested over was a bad person, but what about all of the others? What if these two guys are just, regardless of what happened to them when they were younger, bad apples that need to cause some sort of ruckus by killing others? Does that make them worthy of being stood-up for?

The movie never seems to make that decision and it’s a bit of a problem.

But, like I said, the cast on-deck is fine. It’s just unfortunate that most of them don’t have a great deal of heavy material to work with. Jason Patric and Brad Pitt both seem like they’re trying hard to make everybody take them seriously, but sadly, it just ends up with them being a bit dull. Ron Eldard and Billy Crudup, on the other hand, also don’t have much to do except just look mean, mad and ready to pull out a pistol at any second.

The more seasoned-pros of the cast do what they can, too, but as I said, they get lost a bit. Kevin Bacon is in full-on sicko mode that’s fun to see him playing around with, even though his character is quite the despicable human specimen; Dustin Hoffman gets some chances to shine as the inept lawyer of the case, which works because of how laid-back his persona is; and Robert De Niro, with the few scenes he gets, seems to inject some heart into this story that’s definitely needed. He doesn’t help push the movie over that cliff it so desperately seemed to be searching for, but he does the ticket just enough.

And that’s all any of us want from Bobby D, right?

Consensus: Sleepers is, essentially, two movies into a two-and-a-half-hour long one that is occasionally interesting, but ultimately, ends up seeming to silly to be believed in or compelled by.

6 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Enjoy it while it lasts! Each one of your careers are going to go in some very different directions.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Holiday (2006)

It’s always those attractive celebrities who need the most love during the holidays.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both women who seem to be going through the same sorts of problems, even though both live in different countries. The former is from London, and had an affair with a man (Rufus Sewell) who has just recently gotten engaged; whereas the later is L.A.-bound and has a boyfriend (Edward Burns) who cheated on her. They both feel hopeless and upset, and with it being the holidays, they have no clue what to do next with their lives other than sit around, mope, and cry. However, Amanda has an idea that will also affect Iris: She wants to take a trip to London and Iris wants to take a trip to L.A. So the two concoct a plan where they’ll switch residencies for the time being and live in the other’s shoes. This all happens, but what surprises them both is how they end up meeting new people and, believe it or not, start striking up some romances of their own. Iris starts to see a film composer, Miles (Jack Black), whereas Amanda starts to hook-up with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Both are happy and enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they’ll eventually have to get back to their real lives, and it’s something that may keep the relationship’s away from being anything more than just “some fun”.

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

And honestly, that’s all there really is to this movie in terms of complications or tension. There’s no big twist thrown at the end to throw the whole plot and/or its characters into a whirl-wind of chaos, nor is there any sort of hurdle that these characters have to get over in order to make themselves feel fulfilled. It’s honestly just a bunch of hot-looking, attractive people, flirting, dating, smooching, sexxing, and then, oh wait, having to then come to terms with the fact that they’ll be living in separate parts of the world in a few days.

That’s it.

A part of me should be pleased that writer/director Nancy Meyers didn’t try too hard to make this movie anymore complicated than it needed to be. So rarely do we get movies that are literally about, what it’s about, and don’t try to stray too far away from that original-plot. So in that general aspect, Meyers does a fine job of giving the audience, exactly what they’re seeking for.

But at the same time, there still needs to be a bit more of a plot to make up for the fact that this movie is over two-hours long. However, it’s not the kind of two hours that flies on by because of the company the movie keeps; it’s every bit, every hour, every minute, and every second of two hours and 16 minutes, which is to say that it definitely needed to be trimmed-down in certain areas. The main which being the scenes that Iris has with her older neighbor (played by the late, great Eli Wallach). Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are nice, charming, and sweet, but as a whole, they don’t really add much to the final product; we just sort of see that Iris is a kind, loving and caring gal that’s nice to old men.

Once again, that’s it.

The scenes that she has with Jack Black’s Miles, tell more about her, her personality, and the kind of lover she is – the scenes she has with Wallach, thankfully, do not. However, Winslet, as usual, is as lovable as she’s ever been; it certainly helps that Iris is a strong-written character to begin with, but it also has to do a great deal with the fact that Winslet can handle both the comedy, as well as the more dramatic-aspects of the script, whenever she’s called on to do so.

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

Diaz herself is quite fine as Amanda and also does the same as Winslet does: She balances out both the heavier, as well as the lighter material well enough to where her character stays consistent with the movie’s emotions. It’s not a huge shocker to know that I’m not a big fan of Diaz, but she’s actually quite enjoyable to watch here, because she doesn’t always over-do her act. Her character may be a bit stuck-up, but that’s the point; to see the cracks and light in her personality shine through, makes her all the more likable and sympathetic, regardless of where she comes from.

But this isn’t just a lady’s affair, because the men who do show up, also give their own, little two cents to make the Holiday work a bit more than it should. Black isn’t as grating as he usually is, and Law, the handsome devil that he awfully is, also shows certain layers deep inside of a character that could have probably been as dull as a box of hammers. Thankfully, he isn’t and it helps the relationship that his character and Diaz’s strike-up.

Problem is, though, it’s that run-time.

Also, not to mention that the movie doesn’t really make any reason for its existence. There are a few occasions where it’s funny, but for the most part, it’s just particularly nice. Nice does not mean “funny” – it just means that the movie can be seen by practically all audiences, regardless of age. Nancy Meyers always makes these sorts of movies and while they may not necessarily be lighting the world on fire, they’re just pleasant enough to help any person watching, get by. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a kid, an adult, a senior citizen, gay, straight, bisexual, married, single, widowed, engaged, in a “it’s complicated“, or whatever. All persons from all walks of life can enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie.

That alone does not make them amazing pieces of film – it just makes them accessible.

Consensus: With a likable cast and fluffy-direction from Nancy Meyers, the Holiday is fine to watch and relax to, even despite it being way too long, and feeling as such.

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Cobbler (2015)

Soles and souls. Get it?

Small-time cobbler Max Simkin (Adam Sandler) lives a simple life to where he goes about everyday the same. He goes to work; fixes shoes; has coffee; talks to a neighbor of his (Steve Buscemi); and continues the same pattern, the next day and so on and so forth. It’s not great, but Max is a very relaxed dude, so he doesn’t fret about it too much. That’s why, when suddenly, he puts on his father’s old pea-coat and jumps in somebody else’s shoes and realizes that he can look, sound and be somebody that’s not him, but the shoe’s owner, then he can’t help but give this newfound trick a whirl and have some fun with it. However, what starts out as a little bit of fun to get him out of his somewhat boring, uneventful life, Max then finds himself way in over his head when he gets involved with some shady gangsters, and even shadier real estate agents who might be looking to destroy his old neighborhood. This then leads Max to spring into action and use his talents for the greater good of not just those around him, but society as a whole.

It’s understandable why a lot of people despise Adam Sandler and what he’s become. At one point, he was the brightest, best thing to hit the comedy world, but slowly but surely, he began to take on vanity projects that literally just became humorless paid-vacations for him and his buddies, that people, for some reason or another, would still throw shackles of money at, just so that they could see what variation Sandler and co. would make on the fart joke next. However, with last year’s Blended box-office receipts not being exactly what he maybe originally had hoped for, Sandler seems to be, ever so slightly, heading back to his old ways, taking up smaller-projects that not only challenge his audience to see him in a new light, but also challenge him as an actor.

You've been caught, Crawley!

You’ve been caught, Crawley!

And I, for one, am all down for this. Punch Drunk Love is not just one of the better rom-coms of the past decade or so, but also shows that Sandler isn’t just a good actor, but one that can really take over a film, while also showing us darker, more frightening sides to his persona that may have not been there before. Of course, in the years since, Sandler’s hands at drama haven’t always paid-off, but more often than not, he finds his own ways back to the genre, reminding us all that Sandler, first and foremost, is an actor. Even if Men, Women, and Children wasn’t everybody’s favorite, but you can’t discredit Sandler for that, as he was fine in it.

So, with all that being said, I think it’s obvious to know that I was definitely looking forward to the Cobbler. Not because it featured a premise that didn’t seem something out of Sandler’s wheelhouse, but because it was directed and co-written by none other than Thomas McCarthy himself; the kind of film maker that doesn’t just take a paid-gig for the hell of it. He takes time with his movies, which is why a huge part of me had high hopes for this movie and seeing where it took Adam Sandler, the actor, next.

Sadly, it all blew back in my face.

See, the Cobbler may seem like it has promise on the surface – it’s a whimsical take on the old saying that your mom, dad, grand-parent, teacher, inspirational-figure has said to you in the past, “Walk in another person’s shoes and then judge them.” Well, the premise here is that saying, but told literally. Adam Sandler gets in people’s shoes, turns into them, and goes around all of New York City causing all sorts of shenanigans. Sometimes, this leads to him just walking around with a shit-eating grin on his face and dining and dashing out of fancy restaurants, but for awhile, it’s entertaining.

Then, things get real weird, real quick. There’s a possible murder that may or may not happen in the middle of this movie and as soon as it occurs, the tone totally changes from being light and lovely, to dark, disturbing, and even mean. Without saying too much, the murder that occurs is bloody and in-your-face, which then hints at there being a more dangerous story to be told underneath all of this goofiness, but soon, the movie abandons that. Instead, it keeps itself going with the humor and wacky hijinx, that have all but lost their favor; in fact, they feel like a cop-out to get past the fact that we literally just witnessed some character’s murder on the screen. Now, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to laugh it off as just a simple whatever?!?

Uhm, sorry. Last time I checked, when a character suddenly gets killed in a movie, it should be treated as drama, and not just as a passing-joke amongst pals.

So, after this, the movie then decides it needs to have baddies for Max to defeat and by this point, the comedy is so far gone that it’s not at all funny, even if it tried to be. The one-joke premise of this character walking in other people’s shoes and turning into them, turns stale and gets old by about the third time he tries to steal somebody’s bundles of money. But then, the movie gets darker when we’re introduced to violent street gangs and Ellen Barkin’s character; who are both connected in a convoluted manner that I didn’t even bother to think about the second it was introduced to me. All I knew is that both sides owed each other money somehow and we’re both looking to do bad things, to seemingly innocent people.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

Better than Cheese? Maybe.

But, like I said before, by this time, the movie had already lost me. Which makes me wonder: Just what the hell was Thomas McCarthy doing being stuck with this junk? Better yet, why did he write this to begin with? It would make sense if he was just enlisted to be the director solely for money purposes (although I generally think this was considered “an indie”), but the fact that he actually co-wrote with this with somebody else, already shows that he had some hope in these uneven, uninteresting material to begin with. Whatever the reasons behind McCarthy’s decision to take this movie and make it his own, is totally left up in the air, but all I have to say is that I’m really looking forward to Spotlight later this year.

Which brings me to the next aspect of this movie worth discussing, and that’s Adam Sandler himself. It’d be hard to hate on Sandler here, because he’s literally doing what it seems like the director’s calling on for him to do: Act bored. That’s the way his character is written and I guess that’s exactly how Sandler plays it. Not to mention, it’s a tad hard to really judge Sandler’s performance here, considering that the majority of this movie features his character playing other character, which means that Sandler’s presence gets thrown to the sidelines in favor of some recognizable character actors.

Oh, and Method Man.

Yes, Method Man is in fact a key supporting player in the Cobbler, which actually works against and for the movie. It works for the movie because Method Man’s actually a solid actor, but least when you expect him to be here. Sure, he’s good at playing an a-hole gangster that constantly seems like he’s about to beat the crap out of someone if he doesn’t get his way, but when his character’s soul gets taken over by Max, it’s actually where most of the humor of this movie comes from. Method Man has to play a sweet, more nerdier-version of his character, which is both interesting and odd, but still worth watching because he does well with it.

Then, on the other hand, the movie doesn’t know whether they want to make this character a good guy, or a bad one. He’s a dick that beats his wife, robs people, and threatens lonely, little cobbler’s like Max, but at the same time, there’s still not enough backing-information to make it okay for us to see him get treated the way he does in the later-half of this movie. And even though there’s many more supporting players in this movie (among them are the likes of Dan Stevens, Melonie Diaz, and even Dustin Hoffman), when Method Man ends up becoming your most memorable one, you’ve got something of a problem.

But you’ve got a bigger one when Method Man actually becomes the best part of your said movie.

Consensus: Promising in its premise, the Cobbler wants to be light, funny, and whimsical, yet, goes through so many tonal-transformations, that it makes it very hard to get involved with what happens, let alone actually laugh.

2.5 / 10 

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich prick, you.

Laugh it off, Sandler. You rich mofo, you.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Chef (2014)

Is it me, or has my stomach just been ripped to shreds?

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a professional chef working in a place that allows him to make whatever sort of menu he wants to and command the kitchen the way he wants, however, he still butts heads with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) every so often. Still though, cooking food for plenty to enjoy is what Carl lives off of and loves; maybe even more than life itself. So, he just goes with the flow most of the time, and lets people know that he knows a thing or two about making some grade-A quality grub. Problems arise though when Carl goes head-to-head with a popular food blogger (Oliver Platt) who absolutely trashes him in a scathing review. This brings Carl to not only confront him in an anger-filled, rage-like way, but to also quit because he doesn’t like the way things are going with the restaurant. This brings Carl to a crossroads in his life: either a) apologize to his former-boss, get his job back, and continue to take orders from schmucks who don’t know the difference between a crepe and a pancake, or b) start up his own food-truck business in which he has command over everything, and may even get a chance to rekindle a relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony).

Decisions, decisions for Mr. Carl Casper, and plenty of Cuban sandwiches to eat along the way.

Before I get into the actual details of what I felt about this movie, first thing’s first: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT come into this movie on an empty-stomach. As if that wasn’t already obvious enough by the plot, the foodgasms-filled trailer, and heck, even the title itself, just know, you must eat a hearty meal before seeing this. I don’t care if it’s a home-cooked meal, something you picked up on the go from Burger King, or a small bowl of Ramen Noodles (gotta think about the college kids here) – just do not see this movie without at least a meager amount of food in the pit of your stomach.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Because, if you don’t, you’ll be screwed. No matter what goes on in this movie, you’ll constantly be thinking about what you’re going to have when you get home, be getting constant head and stomach-aches, and maybe even think that that $13 large popcorn may do the trick to cure whatever hunger problems you may be having. You may enjoy the movie still, for sure, but all will be in your mind is how much longer this film is going to go on so that you can go home, and cook up some fresh Hot Pockets and call it a night.

And the reason why I’m harping so much on the idea of eating food before seeing this, because you don’t want to be distracted during this movie. Trust me, it’s a pretty good one that you don’t want to forget about because you couldn’t get that half-slice of pepperoni left-over in your fridge, out of your mind. You’re going to want to enjoy yourself during this movie, because, quite frankly, that’s what Jon Favreau wants you to do. Sure, he also wants you to rub your tummy like you’re playing an old-fashioned game of “Simon Says”, but he also wants you to enjoy the fun-filled spirit of this movie, and just about everybody in it.

Pretty fitting that it’s released in the summer, eh?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that with Chef, Favreau clearly isn’t trying to go for anything life-changing. There’s a lot of talk about him changing his life, being a better mate, being a better father, and being a better person that’s open to criticism, but it’s all there in sprinkles to make it seem like this story is more than just Jon Favreau and friends laughing, cracking jokes, and making food for nearly two-hours. Don’t get me wrong, that type of movie actually excites me, but I could probably do the same thing with half of my buddies, spend less money, and maybe even have a better time than simply watching these peeps do it.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’d totally have a better time hanging out with the likes of John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. Sorry to any of my friends that are reading this, but what can I say? They’re rich and they’re funny. Can’t ever go wrong with that!

High-lighting the cast would actually probably be the best way to go about with this movie, because they really are the reason why this movie works as well as it does. Sure, Favreau’s style and script is very funny, charming and heartfelt at times, but anybody can make an alright script; it’s the cast you work with, and how much they are able to elevate into being something more that really matters. And here, with this ensemble, which is basically just anybody Jon Favreau’s ever made a movie with (i.e. partied and did blow with), with the exception of Vince Vaughn. Pretty weird, right? You have just about anybody in the biz that Jon Favreau can call “a friend”, and yet, no Vince Vaughn.

Guess Couples Retreat really tore those two apart. Oh well. RIP Vince and Jon. Maybe one of these days they’ll be money again. Who knows.

Anyway, like I was saying about the cast, everybody that shows up here is fun and entertaining to watch, even if they only show up for a little over five minutes or so. Case in point, Robert Downey Jr.’s near-cameo as Carl Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband, who is the type of character you’d expect to see RDJ to play: Weird, off-kilter, goofy, fast-talking, and always acting as if he’s on another planet. However, with the limited screen-time, he makes it all so worth the while and leaves us wondering why the hell he doesn’t just do more movies without superheros and Guy Ritchie. I mean seriously: Come back to being a human, RDJ! There’s nothing at all wrong with that, dammit!

#RDJSwag

#RDJSwag

Others that pop-up ever so slightly too, are folks like Scarlett Johansson as Casper’s possible love-interest, who, weirdly enough, looked like my sister with her black hair, black bangs, black dresses, and tattoos. So every time the two would be hooking up or doing anything remotely sexual, I automatically got creeped-out. But hey, I guess my sister could do a lot worse, so good for her if that ever does happen! Dustin Hoffman also shows up for a small bit as the Casper’s boss that, can be a bit of a dick, but in reality, is just trying to keep his business afloat and do whatever’s best for his joint, even if that means getting rid of some of the best talents it may have to offer. You know, sort of like a real business man.

Also to mention, again sort of, is Oliver Platt as the critic that gives Casper a written-dialogue spanking that is actually a lot more terrible than some of the reviews I’ve seen on sites like Yelp, but still feels real, especially in the way Casper reacts to him in a way that’s both cruel, funny, and a bit sad, considering Platt’s character is a critic, doing what he does best: Critiquing. Sofia Vergara shows up as Casper’s ex-wife who is very wealthy and seems like she’d be a total shrew, but is actually supportive and nice to Casper, even when he seems to be a bit of a dick to everyone around him; Emjay Anthony is a good fit as Casper’s son who is a bit needy at times, but still feels like a kid who just wants to hang with his dad and get to know him about more; and, in case I didn’t need to re-iterate this anymore than I already have, it’s always lovely to see John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale show up in anything, and here is no different. They’re funny, exciting, cool, and always bringing the room’s volume up to at least an 11. My heroes.

But, in the middle of all this is Jon Favreau, who, considering this is a movie he single-handedly wrote, directed and put together all himself, could have easily made this a movie where he gets to do all of the heavy-lifting and show why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. Rather, Favreau is kind and allows everybody else to work off of him and get the most attention from the crowd; while in honesty, he’s the real heart, soul, and charm of this movie. As a whole cast, they make it better, but with Favreau at the dead-center of it all, just acting like that normal, everyday-man we all loved seeing him act like before, he keeps it all grounded and sincere. Without him, this movie would have never been made. Yet, without him, this movie wouldn’t have been so lovely to watch. Nor would it have been as delicious to look at neither.

Yum.

Consensus: Not the deepest movie ever made, yet, Chef is still able to slide by with a charming ensemble, well-written script, and many food delights to make you reconsider the next time you ever think McDonalds is a suitable dinner.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, well my dad's a government worker. So take that.

Yeah, well my dad’s a government worker. So take that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Being John Malkovich (1999)

If it’s 15 minutes, then sure, give me Malkovich. However, if it’s FOR LIFE, then give me Brad Pitt!

Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) is a sad, bored and out-of-work puppeteer that eventually gets tired and fed-up with all of his wife’s nagging (Cameron Diaz) and decides to get a job as a file clerk at some place where he works on the seventh-and-a-half floor of the building. There, Craig focuses his attention on his work, but also mostly on a smart, sexy and very intimidating co-worker named Maxine (Catherine Keener) who he continues to try and win over, but always to no avail. One day though, at the job, Craig finds a whole new meaning to his life when he discovers a portal behind a huge file-desk that leads to John Malkovich’s brain, where he can only stay for fifteen minutes, until he is dropped onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. Strange, right? Well, it gets even stranger once Maxine and his Craig’s wife find out about this portal, where, through some way, somehow, they end up falling in love with the other, almost to the point of where it gets Craig very jealous and able to use anything in his power to break them apart and be the apple of Maxine’s eye.

And poor John Malkovich, the man just gets thrown right into the middle of it all.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven't bathed in two weeks.

So adorable together because they both seem like they haven’t bathed in two weeks.

So let’s face it, nobody in their right minds would ever believe that something like this could ever happen in the real world, let alone any world for that matter. Science would get so wrapped up into its own twists and turns that eventually, the world would just blow up as a result. Okay, maybe it’s not that severe or crazy, but you get the point: No way in hell could something like being inside of John Malkovich’s mind for 15 minutes ever happen, but that’s the whole point behind this movie. Once you can get past that measly fact, you’ll realize that there’s so much more to Charie Kaufman’s script than just plain and simple weirdness, and actually realize that this is all about the human-condition in which all of us humans from all over the world, no matter what time-period, all long to be somebody else.

Even if that person is indeed, John Malkovich.

Really random choice of a celebrity to have your movie revolve around and include more often than not, but that’s probably what makes this movie so unique; it doesn’t go for the typical ways of telling its story like you’d expect. Sure, once everything starts out and we get a glimpse at what a sad-sack loser this Craig guy is, who can’t seem to nab this hot chick at work, can’t seem to make any money, can’t please his wife, can’t get her pregnant and just can’t seem to do anything even remotely close to “right”, it seems to be like a down-beat character-study of a genuine loser. Then, once that portal is found out, the movie switches in a way that you’d probably never expect it to on a first-viewing, but still adore once you get to the second, or the third, or the fourth time around.

But like that sudden plot-twist right slap-dab in the middle, the movie whole movie itself is chock full of surprises that keep on giving and showing up in ways that never seem to lose you. Everything that plays out inside of Kaufman’s mind may not be the most realistic ideas imaginable, but they sure are fun, clever and original, so who cares about realism and science and all that crap! Just let a crazy idea, run on even crazier and see where it goes! That’s the motto I’d like to think Kaufman had in his mind while he was writing it, but also inside of Spike Jonze’s as well when he was adapting this, which must have been no easy-feet to begin with.

However, knowing Jonze from his background in some rad-ass music videos, the guy definitely knows his way around a camera and how to make anything work, regardless of how cooky it is. I mean now we know this as nothing more than a mere fact, but back in the days of ’99, he was nothing more than an actor-turned-director, who had plenty of ideas and aspirations with what he wanted to do, just nothing to really break off into the world with. But he found it here with Kaufman’s script and we’re all better human-beings for it because while he’s able to play around with genre-conventions and what we usually can expect from stories like this to play out, Jonze cuts to the core of what, or whom, runs this story and make it matter. I’m talking about the characters here, and how each and every one of them aren’t just a bunch things set in-place for the plot to run laps around, but actual human-beings with emotions, feelings, ideas and wonders about other lives out there that can’t help but get all excited and curious about this whole new “Be Malkovich for 15 Minutes”-thing.

But think about it, wouldn’t you be, too?

Anyway, what I’m trying to get at here is that Jonze knows exactly who these people are and why they are the way they are. Some people want to feel like somebody else for the sole sake that they can get away from their small, meaningless lives that are usually full of non-eventful happenings. And whether or not that’s actually true to begin with, doesn’t matter, it’s the fact that anybody wishes they could be anybody, somebody new and different for at least a day. Of course famous people are always on the top of that list, but usually, it’s just that any person in the world longs for a new life full of surprises, love, adventure and all sorts of new experiences that that person may have not been able to have in their old life. Yeah, this all sounds like I’ve been puff, puff, puffing away on the magic dragon, but we’ve all wanted that at one point in our lives. Heck, I want it right now! Oh, R-Gos! You hunk of man, you!

Oh, the third-and-a-half floor? Yeah, that's another name for "Interns".

Every building has a seventh-and-a-hath-floor. It just ends up being where most of the interns get thrown away to before termination.

And that’s exactly the type of people who these characters are in this movie: They long for something more, something that isn’t concerned with their own lives and somebody else’s. John Cusack’s Craig is exactly like that, and while you do feel bad for the guy at first, you do begin to feel like maybe he’s using this new-found freedom for the worst, rather than the betterment and you do begin to not like him. But that’s more of a compliment than a take-away, because with this type of flick, you need to know exactly whose going to use the power to their ability and for the right reasons, or the exact opposite, and take advantage. While Cameron Diaz’s nearly unrecognizable character may go through those same types of shifts at times as well, she too still comes out like a human-being, with a very soft, inner-core that just wants to be loved, be somebody else, but also, still be able to hold grip on reality if she must. Together, the two feel like a realistic, honest and rather innocent couple, that makes it all the more sad when they eventually get broken apart by this fascination with both Malkovich, and this other gal named Maxine, played by the always wonderful and terrific, Catherine Keener.

Keener is always good at playing these slightly snobbish, but also painfully honest characters and she hits it hard on the head right here. Maxine does not pull-back once she sees something she doesn’t like, disagree with or feel comfortable with, and I like how she had no filter whatsoever, yet, making her the perfect object of both of Craig and his wife’s’ affection. She’s so different and mean, that she just has to be the girl that they want to spend the rest of their lives with and be excited about seeing everyday. However though, while it would have been easy for Keener to play it up as this one-sided, cruel and nasty bitch, there is an emotional side to her that begins to show and we realize that maybe her character is the one we’re supposed to be caring about all of this time?

Then again, maybe not as it’s definitely none other John Malkovich himself who deserves all of the love, credit and sympathy for many reasons, but the main which being that he actually decided to do something as weird as this and thankfully for him, it all paid off in spades. Not only is Malkovich the strangest, most random guy to have a movie like this have be its center, but he seems so willing to do anything here. He’s always been a solid actor who, time and time again, has proven that he can surprise us by showing depth and emotion, even in the most sickest and evilest of characters, but he really took me by surprise here when he started to s play-up all of these different sides to his “character”, yet, never feel like he’s just yucking it up for the camera. When Craig jumps into his body, you see a man that is ultimately infused with an endless supply of energy and happiness, and it makes you feel happy for Craig, but also for Malkovich himself as he’s clearly having the time of his life, playing what seems to be his greatest role ever: John Malkovich. Casting doesn’t get anymore genius than that.

Consensus: Strange? You bet your ass it is, but that shouldn’t have you take yourself away from seeing Being John Malkovich, one of the most originally mind-bending movies ever made, with a inner-core to its characters and message that makes it feel more than just a gimmick, but an actual life-lesson as well. Minus all of the sappy and manipulative chord-strings.

9.5 / 10 = Full Price!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

MALKOVICH MALKOVICH!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo,

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Just live life, don’t think too much and shut up! There, just saved you a near-two hours!

Environmental activist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy you just have to feel bad for. He’s the type that means well, but nothing ever seems to be working out well for him to the point of where he could just finally relax for a little bit. But nope, that is not the case, especially since he’s practically getting screwed over by a major corporation called Huckabees, mainly the head of P.R., Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad practically promised Albert that he would save a huge part of land so that they could plant all sorts of trees and beautiful things, however, Brad doesn’t care about that and just wants his money, so he plans on just planting a huge shopping-mall instead, with Huckabees dead in the center of it all. Albert’s pissed about that, but he’s also worried about these strange run-ins he continues to have with this tall, African American man, that he automatically thinks are more than just sheer coincidences, they might just give meaning to his whole life in the past, present and the future. That’s where “Existential Detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) come in and try to help him figure it all out, but since Albert’s a bit of a spastic nutcase, not everything goes as smoothly as planned.

Let”s just start things off on the right foot here: The movie is a mess, but it’s an intriguing mess, much like life is. There’s the hook, now on with the rest of this review.

They aren't supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

They aren’t supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

David O. Russell may be a very talented film maker and from what we’ve seen in these past couple of years, he’s really shown himself to be something of a man who can handle anything big or large. Sure, he’s had his freak outs many, many times before, but he’s made it clear that if you give him a huge cast, with a relatively simple, yet complex story, he can work wonders. However, when the story seems to be more than just simple and way more than just complex, then it becomes painfully clear that he can’t really hold his own and has to rely on his usually well-chosen casts. Which, once again, isn’t all that bad to begin with since everybody he gets to be apart of his ensembles are all great and do magnificent in his flicks, it’s just that there needs to be more substance to these stars doing shop, and regardless of what you may think with this material, there is no substance here. Please, do not be fooled.

See, while people will probably go out there and say, “this movie speaks volumes because of the types of questions it asks us about our current-existence, the lives we live and the world we live in”, is all a bunch of bologna. The movie seems so damn pleased with itself that it’s more than just your traditional, quirky comedy; instead, it’s asking bigger questions, that have to deal with bigger issues most people don’t get to thinking about on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside of the box either, it just has to be done right. Almost in the way in which Charlie Kaufman writes his movies: Strange, quirky and off-kilter, yet wholly insightful, emotional and more than meets the eyes.

David O. Russell, as much as it may surprise some, is no Charlie Kaufman and doesn’t have the ability to make this movie more than just a series of pretentious, heavy-thinking discussions about our existence on this planet. Those are the types of questions that usually come popping right up when a bunch of pals are saddled-around the campfire, smoking on the peace pipe, and that’s probably exactly where they should stay, especially if O. Russell’s going to be discussing them. I feel bad for getting on his case so much, because while there are some funny bits and pieces here, they mainly all stem from the fact that what’s happening on screen to cause these small pieces of laughter, is just because they’re pure random. Plain and simple. They don’t really work well towards the story or the type of message the movie is trying to get across (which is painfully clear, or not, who knows, who cares), and just seem like a bunch of crazy ideas O. Russell had rocking around in his mind and decided to go for the gull with here. Sometimes it works and amounts to nothing, sometimes it doesn’t and it just makes you feel bad for everybody involved.

Especially the cast. This poor, poor cast.

Better yet, I should just say poor Jason Schwartzman, because while I usually find him hilarious and entertaining to watch in whatever the hell it is that he pops up in, I couldn’t help but see him as annoying here. He always seemed to bitch and complain about everything in his life, never seemed like an actual character, with dimensions or emotions and seemed like the perfect type of guy that O. Russell could use as the straight-man for all of these over-the-top and crazy performances to play off of. And in that general aspect, the man gets what he wants, however, some of them fall short.

They're all jealous, Mark. Don't listen to 'em.

They’re all jealous, Mark. Don’t listen to ’em.

Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman come close to, but keep their heads afloat playing the two Existential Detectives, who basically just serve as Albert’s self-conscious; letting him know what’s right, what’s wrong, what does it all mean and how he can move on in his life, the right way. Together, they form a fiery and fun chemistry, but their roles do begin to get a bit repetitive, as they seemed to be saying the same things, over and over again, just with different phrasing and mannerisms. Jude Law also gets the bad-end of the straw as the sleazy Brad Stand, though he definitely relishes in the moment of playing somebody that would be as mean and detestable as a man of his looks golly-good looks would be. Naomi Watts seems to really be loving her time as Tom’s girlfriend, the scantily-clad model for Huckabees, and gets most of the laughs from her side of the spectrum. Worked wonders for her role, especially once her character goes through her own existential crisis and as you could expect, some hilarity ensues.

The only time actual hilarity within this movie does ensue, is whenever Mark Wahlberg shows up to steal the spotlight as Tommy, the oddball firefighter who drives everywhere in his bike, has something against petroleum, likes to start fistfights anywhere he goes, with whomever he sees and just seems to want to get his point across, by any means imaginable. Yeah, he seems like he’d be the most grating character on display here, but Wahlberg somehow gets him by on sheer charisma and willingness to make himself seem dumb. It’s very rare where you’d get a very good-looking guy like Wahlberg, who’d actually be willing to participate in something as strange as this, playing an even stranger character than we’d ever seen him play before, and trudge all trudge all the way to the finish line with it, while making us laugh all along the way. Wahlberg’s obviously shown his love for comedy in the past couple of years, but this was when he showed the world that he was more than just a nice set of guns, a catchy-as-hell song and a wonderful way of saying hello to mothers, he could actually entertain you and steal the show from heavyweights like Hoffman, Tomlin and yes, even Isabelle Huppert! Not even going to acknowledge the shock in that statement, I’ll let you take that one for me.

Consensus: There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script, full of pretentious ideas and performances from a very talented cast that don’t add up to much, even while they’d probably work wonders in a way better, less preachy movie.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Quartet (2012)

Sing it loud and sing it proud, just don’t have a heart attack.

Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly are retired opera singers who annually put on a concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, however the arrival of Jean (Maggie Smith) disrupts the equilibrium.

With the release of this flick and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012 was the year for the oldies to go out to the movies, and have just as much fun as all us little pieces of craps did with our major blockbusters and swirling epics. However, seeing both movies now, I’ve come to realize that maybe the best way to treat our elders with respect, would be to give them better movies. I mean, after all, they deserve the best of the best, don’t they?

Movies like these, where the old-fellers take center-stage and act in all of their senior-glory just bother the hell out of me. It’s not that I don’t have love or respect for my elders, but it seems like all of these movies treat the subjects all of the same, and Dustin Hoffman is no different. This is Hoffman’s directorial debut and at age 75, the guy may seem a bit late to the game and it sort of shows. I’m glad that the guy took the back-seat in this movie and allowed his story to practically, tell-itself, but this to me felt like it just moved at the same, exact-pace that it’s subjects were: slow and tiring.

There’s nothing wrong with a movie that’s all about taking it’s darndest time to get it’s footing and tell it’s story, but this one just moved at such a slow-pace, I was actually falling asleep. Yeah, maybe the fact that it was a 10 a.m. screening and the fact that I had roughly around 5-hours of sleep may have nailed it in for me, but none the less, there was just nothing here in this movie that really kept me going. It’s just a bunch of old people, acting old, being old, and all being played to the tune of “cute”. I get that these older-peeps are a tad goofy in their later-days, but does every damn action they make or word that comes out of their mouth have to be so damn cute and practically played for laughs!!?!? I mean, hell, I’m 19-years-of-age and I can tell you, in all honesty, that half of the shit I say in life is as funny, if not more humorous than what any of these geezers have to say, but since I’m not older and losing my touch with reality, it just doesn’t quite hit the same marks as it does for them.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Not only does that fact pertain to this movie, but in real-life as well and it bothered me that the first-hour or so of this movie was just played for laughs, and rarely ever was there a serious sub-plot to come around. Actually, the film did seem like it was working on some sort of sub-plot where the old-folks home was running into a bit of problems of folding under, but they were scrapped as soon as Smith’s character rears her ugly head on in-here, and was a bit of a bummer. The idea of having a sub-plot where a bunch of old folks have to battle-it-out for their living-space to stay alive and well, may not be the newest or coolest thing on the street, but it probably would have added ten-times more interest to the whole movie. Or at least, more interest than Hoffman’s direction seemed to have.

Maybe getting on Hoffman’s case all this much is giving him a bad-rap because even though the guy doesn’t do anything revolutionary with this material, he still doesn’t do anything bad with it, either. It just feels like it could have been directed by anybody, myself included. I don’t know if that’s a hit on Hoffman’s direction or not, but if there was more of an effort on the dude’s part, I feel like this material would have been elevated a great deal and probably wouldn’t have been so boring. Maybe “boring” is a bit of a brutal word, and you could easily state that this just isn’t the type of material that was meant for my young, unappreciative mind, but still: I know what I like and I know what I appreciate with movies, and this movie just did not have that “it factor” to really keep me alive and well. I could easily make a joke about that relating to this movie, but I think I’ve bashed this movie a bit too much as it is.

If there is any type of silver lining located in this movie in any place, anywhere at all; it’s the marvelous cast that Hoffman has on-display here for our-eyes-only. Billy Connolly is a wild old man who constantly finds himself flirting with the fellow nurses, and even going so far as to ask the gardeners if they have any weed stashed-on them. If anybody in this flick has the right comedic-bone in the right part of their body, it’s Connolly as the guy continued to have me laugh, even if his character was a bit of a cliche to have in a movie like this. The old guy that still lives by his boner, is always a joy to watch in any movie, and Connolly actually makes the most out of it, especially with a script that seems to be relying on that aspect the most, just for comedy’s sake.

Tom Courtenay was great as the old man that still finds a way to keep in-touch with not just reality, but the current-society as well and finds many ways to obsess over both opera and hip-hop. Courtenay has a bit of an obvious character here, as well, but he’s very good at playing that type of older-man that’s more knowing of the world around him, what it is, what has passed him by, and how it is all changing, right in-front of his own eyes. He’s great in this role and easily the most likeable character of the whole bunch, especially when Maggie Smith comes into the story to wreck shit up in the old-folks home, as well as his insides.

"Uhhh, where am I?"

“Uhhh, where am I?”

Smith is, once again, playing that older, crankier-version of herself that is a fine-fit for an actress of her stature, but after awhile, it does get a tad old. That’s why it’s so great to see her as an actress when she turns the other cheek, and becomes a nicer-gal, even if the mean-streak is still there. I have to say, she didn’t have me laughing at her quite as much as I did in Hotel, but she still kept me happy with what she was doing on-screen and much like the rest of the cast here, had the script come alive. Pauline Collins is also a bunch of fun to watch as the more zanier lady of the home, and does whatever she can to get a laugh out of us, even if it just played-up because of her cuteness. However, in her case, I was willing to make an exception, mostly because she is a little bit of a cute, old lady. Nothing like my grams, though!

Consensus: The royal cast makes Quartet better as it trugs along, but it’s still slow, tired, dull, and pretty damn boring, especially if you’re a young d-bag like me that just wants life to move at a fast, quick pace where the party don’t stop, until everybody is passed-out. In this case, “passed-out”, usually means one thing: death.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, here's the idea: just be cute."

“Okay, here’s the idea: just be cute.”

Confidence (2003)

Audiences that go to see a movie always loved getting lied to, especially if it’s from the movie itself.

Jake Vig (Edward Burns) is a sharp and polished grifter who has swindled thousands of dollars from the unsuspecting Lionel Dolby (Leland Orser) with the help of his corrupt crew. However, Lionel wasn’t just any mark, he was an accountant for eccentric crime boss Winston King (Dustin Hoffman). Never one to shy away from a challenge, Jake offers to repay The King by pulling off the biggest con of his career.

Con movies are just so much fun to watch no matter who or what is involved and this flick is no different. However, something also tells me that it should have been a little bit more different.

Director James Foley doesn’t try to do anything new, cool, or improved with the whole con man/heist genre but he does know how to still jazz it up a bit. Although the film deals with a lot of dark subjects such as death, scamming, and robbing, the film still maintains a great deal of humor that keeps it moving with a pace that not only tells the story but also gives you something to laugh at. It’s a heist film that doesn’t really try to take itself too seriously and even though it may get a little carried away with trying too hard to be humorous, in the end, I still found myself laughing and enjoying myself.

What usually makes and breaks these heist flicks is if the actual heist at hand can be taken seriously and could actually happen in real-life with just the right amount of detail the flick is giving it. In this film’s case, it works and it’s very entertaining to see how much detail this film goes into with its actual heist. Some people may not be able to believe that everything here could have happened as neatly as it does here, but the film makes a comment about that and says that if everybody is on the right page and has the right lines, then everything will basically go according to plan. With this flick, that statement is very true and not only was the heist very well-planned but it was also neat to see all that had to go into this one as well.

My problem with this flick is that it isn’t exactly the most original one out there and I think that the lack of surprises was what took me out of this flick. Here and there, the film would give me a little surprise/twist that would catch me off guard, but too many other times I knew exactly what was going to happen, why it was going to happen, and just exactly what the aftermath was going to be. I mean it’s kind of hard to pull out something incredibly original when you got heist flicks like The Sting, The Italian Job, and even The Grifters just showing you all types of originality.

I also think that the reason there were barely any surprises whatsoever with this flick was the way that it was structured. The film begins with Jake being held by gun-point by Morris Chestnut (of all intimating black dudes out there) and he is basically telling us how and why he is in the mess that he’s in. That was fine considering it gives us a bit of mystery to why he is close to being killed but then we see Weisz’ character, who obviously has something to do with the reason he’s being held-up and it sort of just makes it pretty obvious that nothing is going to end up going right for this heist no matter what these guys try to do and that things are basically going to go down as planned. Then again, sometimes it’s not so bad knowing exactly what’s going to happen because it can be fun, but sometimes you can’t just spell out everything that’s to come within the first 5 minutes.

The cast is actually what raises this film higher and made it a lot more fun to watch. Edward Burns is great as the smart, charming, and just straight-up cool con artist here as Jake Vig, and it’s a real wonder as to why the hell this guy hasn’t gotten bigger roles considering he’s actually very good at holding a film down on his own; Rachel Weisz is pretty good here as his main squeeze, Lily, and she gets to show some comedic chops as well; Andy Garcia is pretty strange and goofy as the detective who’s tracking down Vig, named Gunther Butan, and he’s good as well; and Dustin Hoffman is very good as this creepy and snarky kingpin known as The King, and it was really cool to see Hoffman in a role that was not only funny but also very sinister and evil as if this guy could just go crazy one second and blow your head off right away. There’s a whole bunch of other people in this cast that are great too and they all elevate this film from just being another heist flick.

Consensus: Confidence may not be the most original and surprising heist flick out there, but the cast is charming, the direction from James Foley is fun and fast-paced, and the whole heist itself has just enough attention to detail and believability that it makes this film a hell of a lot better than it had any right to be.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

Is this usually what happens when two very good-looking people marry each other?

Ted (Dustin Hoffman) is a career-driven yuppie until he finds out his dissatisfied wife (Meryl Streep) is leaving him and their 6-year-old son. But just as Ted begins to love being a full-time parent, his wife reappears to reclaim the boy.

Divorce is not something I have ever had to deal with in my life but from what I hear, it’s not a very nice thing to be put through. I know this through many people I know and hearing their experiences and thoughts on what happened, really makes me feel something towards them but feeling something towards a film that’s about divorce seems very, very hard. However, when you got something like this, it’s not hard at all.

Even though this is definitely not the first and definitely not the last film to use divorce as a plot, the one thing that separates this flick from all of the others is the fact that this feels real right from the get-go. All of these emotions that these people feel, all of the heart-breaking things that these people say, and just everything that everybody goes through in this film feels real and genuine except for being just another schmaltzy Lifetime made-for-TV movie. Much of this is testament to writer/director Robert Benton, who not only adapted this from the novel but directed this as well and supplies plenty of very dramatic moments but also a bunch of funny ones as well, which gives it this light side that does a really good job at keeping us happy even though it can get very sad at some points.

The whole time I was watching this film though, I couldn’t stop but try and reflect on a little bit of my own life and just realize how true this film felt. When I looked at Ted and how he cared for his son and would do anything just to tend to him, I saw my father and when I looked to the little bratty Billy, I saw myself and how that bond between us was strong no matter what because he loved me and I loved him. There are so many damn memorable scenes here that just stick in your mind but they felt like something that I would do as a kid with my dad, and the emotions that just ran out through every scene just hit me hard and strong.

What is also great about this script and its direction from Benton is that the film isn’t a very easy one for answers and barely chooses any sides. As soon as the mother leaves her son and husband, it’s pretty easy to paint her as “the bad guy”, but as the film goes on you see that some of the blame for her leaving could be also put on the father as well. The film doesn’t show us how their relationship was before this divorce, so we are able to draw up our own conclusions on to how they were before all of these problems started to actually occur. This may make it harder for some people to say who’s right and who’s wrong but when it comes down to the actual real-life feelings of losing a loved one and feeling how the other one feels, it feels like the only way to approach this sort of material considering how one-sided it all could have been.

The one problem I had with this film was the fact that the mother sort of seemed very one-dimensional the whole film. Even though I did hate her for the longest time until I saw her side of the story with everything, I still have to say that all she does throughout this film is complain about how she needed to find herself, realize who she was, and yadda yadda yadda bullshit. It would have been fine if she said it just once and left it at that, but it seemed like when anyone actually spoke to her that she just constantly kept whining and complaining that it was a real wonder to how was this chick even happy in the first couple years of marriage.

Regardless of that little problem though, the cast is just about perfect and what really serves as the icing on the cake for this flick. Dustin Hoffman is perfect as Ted. Hoffman is an actor I’m very so-so with not because I don’t like him, it’s just because I don’t think there is anything really special to him other than nailing down the whole ‘Rain Man’ thing perfectly, but here he totally makes me re-think that. Hoffman is just one of those incredibly likable dudes that seems like the perfect fit for this dad who wants to do everything to make his son happy but also be successful at what he does and how he can’t accomplish that is almost too hard to watch at times. His more dramatic scenes though are what really works and everything he says about he feels, what he’s going to do, or what he wishes he could do, feels realistic and he definitely deserved that Oscar without a doubt.

Meryl Streep is also great in a very young role as the mother, Joanna. Yeah, she’s kind of a weird itch for leaving the son and father in the first place but as time goes on we start to see her for more as a troubled human-being rather than just another nervous wreck who seems like she should be put into a clinic. I also have to give a lot of props to Justin Henry as the son because he actually holds his own between these two Oscar-winning stars and doesn’t seem like that overly annoying, too-smart-for-his-own-age kid act that we usually get with young actors.

Consensus: Kramer vs. Kramer is superbly acted by just about everybody involved and the direction feels right because we never take one persons side over the other, but where this film works is in the screenplay where it shows real people, with real problems, doing real things without ever seeming unbelievable just for the sake of dramatic sake.

9/10=Full Price!!

Straw Dogs (2011)

Those Mississippi rednecks are so much more vicious than those ones from England. Well that’s if  there are such things as rednecks from England.

David Sumner (James Marsden), a Hollywood screenwriter moves with his newly wedded wife, Amy Sumner (Kate Bosworth), to her hometown of Blackwater, Mississippi. During their stay they meet with Amy’s former high school sweet heart Charlie (Alexander Skarsgård) and his red neck friends. Of course hunting is in season and jealousy arises pushing everyone to their breaking point.

Having been a fan of the original Sam Peckinpah film, I went into this with very high expectations even though I knew everything that was going to happen. However, when it comes to remaking classics, I will never trust writer/director Rod Lurie ever again.

The original is all about the idea of non-violence and how far that idea will go until somebody eventually snaps and decides to take violence into their own hands. This film does not really express that idea one bit, instead, it just wants to be over-the-top. There is no subtlety here at all with this flick as we find out what the meaning for the term “Straw Dogs” means, seeing that all of the rednecks are basically one-note villains the whole time who do barbaric things such as hunting when it’s not hunting season or cutting the antlers of deers, and having a random sub-plot with a mentally-challenged kid, played by Dominic Purcell, that eventually leads into the grand-finale.

The film is very obvious with many parts that have David just looking terribly out-of-place. I mean the guy has the fancy Jaguar, listens to the orchestrated music, has a problem with people coming into his house and talking to him, and puts on a robe and slippers just to go out onto the ladder to talk to the guys working on his roof. I mean I got it that he was a nerd, but to constantly hit me over the head telling me what he is, was just annoying.

Where Lurie messed up with this film is that he spells way too many things out and where he could have actually developed characters and made their relationships understandable, he just focuses on trying to build up tension. Building up tension is fine in many cases, but here, we need something for us to actually be able to root for these characters and understand why they are the way they are and why these people are doing the things that they do.

However, I can bag on Lurie too much considering there good elements to this film as well. There are moments where the film will just focus on the couple of David and Amy, where you think it will just be them expressing their love and trying to be all cute but instead you get some pretty interesting moments. One moment is when Amy is running around in barely anything and is mad that the guys are looking at her (but come on, could you blame them?!?) but David then replies by telling her that she should have wore bra. This pisses her off and for once we see David looked at into a negative-light from Amy’s point-of-view which I thought was very intelligently handled because you don’t get to see much of that with any film that has a married couple, let alone couple, actually talking or being like that with one another in a very well-handled way. Lurie has many moments where he shines but others he just drops the ball.

If you have already seen the original then it’s basically known that the infamous rape scene is in here and it is used in a different way then it was in the original which is not a very bad thing because it was still used for great effect. Lurie makes this rape scene seem very graphic and very hard-to-watch which it should have been even if it was handled in a “tasteful way”. After this happens, the film starts to pick up some steam. Lurie creates some very good tension with many of these scenes including the end where the shit practically hits the fan. This was used a lot better in the original, but I still found myself behind this couple and cheering every time something cruel happened to the bad-guys.

However, my problem with the last act is the fact that I think it happens way too quickly and suddenly for it to actually make any real sense. I mean everybody gets real pissed, real quick and it almost seems like this violence was just something they always resort to when they don’t get their way. The ending is also way too abrupt where I was kind of hoping for some sort of epilogue or resolution to where we see David and Amy all happy that they got past all of these rednecks. It was a great build-up for Lurie but in the end of the film, he actually just loses it which was a tad disappointing.

Having James Marsden fill the shoes of a role that was originally played by Dustin Hoffman is like going from Pepsi to Max Cola, but I think this is the best I’ve seen him yet. Marsden is playing this sensitive and very soft guy that is trying so hard to prove to his hot, new, and young wife that he’s got what it takes to be “one of the guys” even though he doesn’t want anything to do with hunting or getting sweaty. When Marsden goes crazy at the end of the film, you feel the tension and anger coming off of his character and that works a whole lot considering that this character needed that psycho look in him.

Kate Bosworth is also a pretty good choice as Amy because she is both sexy and flirtatious at the beginning of the film, but then soon becomes very damaged and scared by the end of the flick. This is probably the best I’ve seen Bosworth, which isn’t saying much but she still is good here with the transitioning of her character. Her real-life boy-toy Alexander Skarsgård plays the main bad-guy Charlie who is staring intently about 50% of the whole film but is still pretty good. I thought that James Woods was completely over-the-top in his scenery-chewing role as the ex-football coach who starts almost all of this shit every time he’s on screen and just kept making me wonder on whether or not I should have laughed or taken his role seriously.

Consensus: The cast does a fine job with their roles and the tension builds up very well in the last half, but Straw Dogs is a remake that suffers from being too obvious, glorifying its violence to the point of where it seems almost forced, and moments where Rod Lurie loses his ideas of what he’s trying to say and instead just leaves them hanging without any real explanation as to why they were in the film in the first place. Stick with the original.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Last Chance Harvey (2008)

Can Mommy and Daddy’s romance actually be fresh and new?

Dustin Hoffman stars as struggling jingle writer Harvey Shine, an aging father who risks losing his job to attend his daughter’s London wedding, only to discover that he’s not exactly welcome. While seeking refuge in the airport bar, Harvey meets a lonely statistician named Kate (Emma Thompson) and finds himself thrust into an unexpected romance.

I was surprised by this film because I wasn’t expecting to actually like something so obvious, and generic as this. The writing does a good job of actually having us believe that these two can fall in love with each other over a short amount of time, just through understandings and conversation. I especially liked how it was all dramatic in the beginning, but then as soon as these two meet, everything spices up, and I actually found myself laughing more than I expected.

The film does get a bit too generic and formulaic, which disappointed me. I thought at one point it was going to turn for the worst, and actually be something different from what I’ve seen before, but instead it backs right into the formula of a “romantic dramedy”. Also, way too sentimental by the end, and may have you sometimes cringing by all the schmaltz as well.

The real treat here is to watch these two legends do amazing work, as they always should. Dustin Hoffman is great as the chump Harvey, that just wants to make everything but somehow just can’t, through a series of unfortunate events. There are some scenes where he really belts out the emotional part of his performance and does a great job, delivering the best scenes of the movie. But I don’t want to give away too much. Emma Thompson is awesome as always, using the witty and snappy girl personality to her advantage here, and brings out the charm within Hoffman. I actually found their chemistry was the main reason this film worked, cause although the script isn’t terrific, their genuine and hilarious chemistry brings out the best within this film. These two do good jobs at actually having us believe that these two “old” people can actually still find that certain someone.

Consensus: Though the predictability and schmaltz may be in effect here, Last Chance Harvey is uplifted by the good screenplay, that has perfect chemistry between Hoffman and Thompson, who are the top of their game.

7/10=Rental!!

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

I wish my life was narrated by some British chick. Actually come to think 0f it, scratch that.

As best-selling novelist Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson) struggles with how to kill off her main character, IRS auditor Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) begins hearing her voice in his head and slowly realizes that he must stop his own death. Crick’s world turns upside down as he tries to persuade Kay to change the ending of her novel, all while getting closer to a quirky baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal) he’s auditing. Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah co-star.

Since the new best thing for Will Ferrell is coming out this Friday, The Other Guys. I’d thought it was time to look at a film that people basically forgot about because Ferrell isn’t his crazy self.

The best thing about this film is it’s screenplay is very rich and original. It’s a mixture between comedy, drama, and a little hit of romance, and all of it works. The comedy is smart, it’s not flat-out in your face, and sometimes its a lot more dark than you would expect. The drama works so well here, because it makes you think about life. Are we destined to be killed, and we just don’t know it, or are we bound to change it? Those questions are raised as well as others, about making life something that it should be, filled with happiness, and beauty.

Although I liked the screenplay and thought it was witty, I felt like it showed and told us too much. The final 20 minutes are effective, but it gives too much away, shows us whats to happen, and we don’t guess what’s going to happen next, and we’re just waiting for it to happen. Also, like Harold’s life, the film can’t decide whether it’s a comedy or tragedy. The film leans more towards a comedy in a way, but it doesn’t feel that way at all, especially towards the end.

Will Ferrell will disappoint a lot of fans with this performance, but here he is still funny. Although he’s calm, relaxed, and subtle, he is still funny just not the center of attention, and more of the center of all the jokes. His character goes through a huge transition, and it’s a very easy character to like, and watch as his life changes. The rest of the cast is where the humor lies, and it’s all in good hands. Dustin Hoffman seems like he’s having a fun time as this cooky, but intelligent literary writer. Queen Latifah isn’t given that much to work with, but she takes advantage of her time on screen. Maggie Gyllenhaal is funny, but true, and her romance that develops with Ferrell is funny, but never forced, and likable. Emma Thompson knocks her performance out of the park, as the writer with writer’s block. She’s funny, but it’s also great to see how tragic her life is, compared to Harold’s, and how both of them play it off.

Consensus: For some, it will seem to sappy and undecided of what it wants to be, but Stranger Than Fiction breathes air into a new taste of story-telling, with its original story, and great performances, especially a toned-down Will Ferrell.

8/10=Matinee!!

Ishtar (1987)

Yeah, the words “ish” and “tar” are two great words combined to describe this movie.

When their goldbrick agent books a gig in — of all places — the Middle East, foundering American lounge singers Chuck (Dustin Hoffman) and Lyle (Warren Beatty) surprisingly garner success — and get ensnared in a secret mission with a CIA agent (Charles Grodin) and local rebel leader (Isabelle Adjani). And just when they think they’ve outfoxed the bad guys, they end up roaming the desert with their survival in question.

So basically this film stars two great stars, who all have Oscar quality, and a great female director in Elaine May. So how could this all be such a mess?

The one problem with this film is that it doesn’t understand that its one joke that it plays through the whole movie, isn’t funny!! Now take it for granted that its not as terrible for the first 30 minutes, and actually some jokes do work, but they go on too long. Beatty and Hoffman can’t sing at all, they know it, the film knows it, the audience knows it, hell, everyone knows it! And even by the third act, they are still singing, even though their deserted.

Now the part that really doesn’t work at all, is when the film dives into a political thriller esque film. This part really threw me off, cause none of it was ever exciting, and barely none of it brought out any good themes about politics. Basically by the time their in the desert nothing is happening, other stupid camel jokes, and dumb subplots. It is all too much of a bore.

Hoffman and Beatty, gob bless their souls, who try so hard to actually bring some laughs out, but fail and fail miserably. I think they were miscast here and although they try, they don’t have any singing ability and don’t have enough good improv to make these scenes where its just them to, any better.

Consensus: Ishtar is a bore-fest, that starts out promising, but ends into a just completely jumbled, poorly-acted, and unfunny mess of a film, if you want to call it that.

2/10=SomeOleBullShiitt!!

The Graduate (1967)

A film for all cougars saying it’s alright.

Dustin Hoffman (in his first major film role) turns in a landmark performance as a naïve college graduate who is seduced by a middle-aged neighbor (Anne Bancroft) but ends up falling in love with her beautiful, young daughter (Katharine Ross).

I have heard and seen many great things about this movie and how great it truly is, and to be honest I can’t quite say I will go against that but I won’t call it the greatest.

The film starts out as a great and wonderful comedy that is all about being awkward and very situational. The writing here is top-notch with a lot of funny little quirks to go along with a lot of ironic humor. But the best thing about the screenplay that it also speaks a lot about actually staying committed to one person for the rest of your life, which I found to be the most brutally honest aspect of the film.

I feel like the problem here is that the genration gap is the big problem. This film was back in the 60’s where everything was goody goody and of course this movie was hilarious back then. But now looking at it the satirical look at these characters doesn’t quite hold up since it does seem a bit dated now in the 21st century. Also, the score from Simon & Garfunkel had its moment, but the same song was played about 4 times in this movie and I found it to be a bit annoying to say the least.

Director Mike Nichols does give out a great job here at the directing chair and shows that he knows how to direct. The way he positions the camera in some scenes, it was very different at the time and can still be viewed as different nowadays but the way he uses these camera angles to convey a sort of emotion works so well. The way the film changes at the end with the drama and sort of romantic comedy way did push me back a little bit but not too much to where I was totally appalled.

Hoffman is very good here in his first big role. He plays this character Ben with such awkwardness, that you can’t really at all hate this character cause he is just way too nerdy but at the same time funny. In my opinion I found Anne Bancroft to be actually very better-looking than her daughter and she plays this role with such sexiness and deviously, that she is probably one of the better female performances I have seen in awhile.

Consensus: The Graduate doesn’t quite hold up today as it did back then, but still has gret writing, inspired direction, and wonderful performances from Hoffman and Bancroft.

9/10=Full Price!!

Straw Dogs (1971)

Controversial back in 1971, not much has changed in today’s world.

Astrophysicist David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) and wife, Amy (Susan George), move to England to get away from the violence in America. But the Sumners learn that things are no better on the other side of the pond when local construction workers intimidate and exploit the couple. The trouble turns into a bloody battle when David — who discovers a feral and vicious side of himself — is forced to defend his home after Amy gets raped.

So this film caught my attention cause it was released along the same time as A Clockwork Orange, and Dirty Harry which were both violent films. And somehow, this one sticks in my mind the most.

First of all the story is just so rich. It starts off as a normal story of a couple who moved to Ireland, and then things just get out of hand one by one, and then it gets crazy. You really feel the need to cheer Hoffman on as he is the total innocent victim in all of this.

Director Sam Peckinpah really does give his best and most controversial effort. He shows this violence in such a way to where its not being exploited but as a symbol for the violence that was uprising in the world. The last 30 minutes will just have you so amazed as to how beautiful this scene is, even though it is so damn violent.

The violence didn’t really turn me off that much, if at all. I wanted to see this Irish assholes (sorry dad) just dead and in such a horrible way too. The one disturbing scene is the infamous rape scene which will surely test your boundries of what you think you have seen before in film. The scene is very very disturbing, and will actually have you turning away from the camera.

Dustin Hoffman is on the top of his game here as the nerd who has always been running away his whole life, and finally gets a chance to face his fear and does it so well. His wife played by Susan George does surprisingly well, especially in the rape scene where at first she is in pain, but soon starts to be pleasured, and was played so realistically and well.

The only problem I had with this film was one part where when she gets raped, and doesn’t tell her husband about it. He just wonders and tells them to all stop working there without him really knowing what happened in the first place.

Consensus: With controversial violence and rape, Straw Dogs is a beautiful character study, that shows violence happening in such a way that isn’t disgusting, but more of genuine. One of Peckinpah’s best efforts, and Hoffman in top form.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!