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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Dylan Baker

Catfight (2017)

Sometimes, you just need to duke it out with former besties.

Ashley (Anne Heche) is an artist who doesn’t quite have the recognition, nor fortune that she wants. She makes weird, outsider-like paintings that some people enjoy, but others don’t, and nine times out of ten, those happen to be the people who actually buy paintings in the first place. She’s trying to have a baby with her girlfriend (Alicia Silverstone), but of course, the process is a lot more difficult than she’d expect. So, to make ends meet, she works as a caterer and one night, meets an old friend of hers, Veronica (Sandra Oh). Veronica’s got a bit of a messy life, too; her husband resents her, her son doesn’t think she’s cool, and yeah, she drinks way too much. Both of them immediately strike up a conversation at this party, but also realize that they probably don’t like each other much, either. So, as one does, they brawl it out, leading to disastrous consequences for both of them, that will alter the course of their lives.

Somewhere, deep down inside the black hole of Catfight, there’s a joke, but for the life of me, I just can’t seem to figure it out. Is it that all friends hate each other? Is it that comas are funny? Is it that violence is funny? Is it that homophobia is funny? Is it that death is funny? Or art critics? Or artists themselves? Or, I don’t know, just life kind of funny?

Anne’s ready.

Honestly, I still don’t know and that’s sort of the problem with Catfight – it’s the kind of movie that thinks it’s way funnier and clever than it actually is, but never really makes sense of its own hilarity, or cleverness. It sort of presents a few jokes and expects us to take different meanings away from said jokes, when in reality, there’s not much to them. Writer/director Onur Turkel seems to have an interesting mind in how he’s able to craft and balance certain different genres, tones, and moods here, but he doesn’t know how to make sense of them; to go from a dark comedy, to a serious, sad and depressing drama takes a lot of guts and skill to pull-off effectively.

And unfortunately, Turkel seems to only have the guts. The skill may have to come later.

Sandra’s ready.

Regardless, Catfight does have some interesting bits and pieces scattered throughout, but that’s just the problem – they’re too scattered. Originally, it seems like Turkel wants to explore how these two women, while definitely different, are also alike in many other ways, too, showing that they’re both sad, miserable and stuck in ruts that they don’t know if they can get out of. That aspect of the story is a compelling one and it helps that both of the leading-ladies are quite good in the roles, too (more on them in a bit). But then, out of nowhere, the movie decides to shoot for being something sillier, more violent, and above all else, just stranger.

In fact, yes, Catfight can definitely be classified as “strange” – it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, but tries its hand at so many different things that eventually, it’s just gone way too off-track. The only thing guiding the ship along are Heche and Oh, both of whom have always been, and are here, great. It’s actually kind of great to see them two here, because while time and Hollywood may have forgotten about them, us film-lovers haven’t and it’s nice to see them get two starring-roles once again, because they’ve always been incredibly talented. It does help that they get meaty roles to work with and show off their range, but it also helps that they remind us why they deserve to be in more stuff, regardless of “Who’s Hot”, and “Who’s Not”.

So to speak.

But like I said before, their performances, as good as they are, seem to be stuck in a movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, what it’s about, or what it’s even trying to say. Attempting to figure this all out on your own, honestly, may be the real entertainment of the movie, but it also makes you wonder what could have happened, had the movie been sharper, more defined, and just clearer with us, and itself. It’s not all that hard to ask of a movie and it should always happen, regardless of how wacky or wild you want your material to be.

Consensus: Even with two solid performances from the always reliable Sandra Oh and Anne Heche, Catfight doesn’t know what kind of a movie it wants to be and ends up taking both of them on a ride that they, or us, probably didn’t ask for.

6 / 10

But oh wait, now Alicia’s ready! Ding-ding!

Photos Courtesy of: The Dullwood ExperimentLongroom

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Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

The Tailor of Panama (2001)

Always need a nasty spy to get rid of the neat ones.

Harry Pendel (Geoffrey Rush), early in his life, used to be a con from Cockney. That was before he met his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), started a family, and most importantly, basically reinvented himself as a popular tailor to the rich and powerful of Panama. While his customers love his lavish and beautiful suits that he hand-crafts himself, they also love the stories he’s brings, with some of them feeling as if he’s more than just their tailor – he’s their friend. Or better yet, he’s a part of their family. The British realize this, especially spy Andrew Osnard (Pierce Brosnan), a man who notices that Pendel is a very important pawn, in a very big chess game and does not let up one bit from getting each and every piece of info he can, at any costs. But Harry isn’t used to having so much pressure be on him and it’s only a matter of time before it all blows up in his face, as well as everybody else’s.

Still Bond no matter what.

Still Bond no matter what.

The Tailor of Panama is a perfectly serviceable spy-thriller that makes you understand why so many people love and hate John le Carré. One of the main reasons why people love his material so much is that he creates such fun and exciting yarns, that they’re hard not to get wrapped-up in. He tends to love writing about spies, and because of that, we get to sit by and watch as deep, dark and seductive stories of secrets, lies, and spy-hijinx occur. Sure, some of it may be too twisty for its own good, but there’s no denying that spies themselves are pretty confusing; they never know what they want to be and le Carré is there to try and make sense of them, without letting up on any sort of fun.

At the same time, a lot of people hate his work and this movie is another example of why.

For instance, people often complain that le Carré’s work can tend to get a bit too complicated and convoluted than it needs to be, and well, that’s kind of the case here. However, it doesn’t start out like that; director John Boorman takes his time with this setting, these characters, and also, give us a better understanding of what exactly is at-stake/going on. Even if this part doesn’t feel fully realized, the least we find out is that some bad, rich people are up to bad, rich people-like things, and it’s up to Rush’s character to stop it all. Of course, you can fill in the blanks from there, but yeah, it’s pretty simple for a short time.

But like I said, it all goes to hell once the actual plot itself gets going and we have to find out more about these shady and corrupt millionaires. As is usually the case with le Carré’s stories, what the reasoning and explanation of these evil-doings actually are, tend to be overdone, overcooked, and just so damn evil, that after awhile, you wonder why their first idea wasn’t to just nuke the whole world while they were at it. This is the part of the Tailor of Panama that bothered me, as everything leading up to it seemed to be light, breezy and semi-twisty fun. After the half-way mark, of course, it goes away and all of a sudden, we have to pay attention to each and every twist that comes around, even if they aren’t fully believable to begin with.

But thankfully, there is Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush here, who make it all worth our while.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

Always need a good tailor who eavesdrops way too much.

As Harry Pendel, Rush is having a good time, but he’s also got more of a character to play. He has to both be somewhat sinister, as well as naive and nerdy at the same time; something he pulls off quite well, especially in the later, more confusing portions. Though Jamie Lee Curtis may initially seem miscast here, she actually fits well as Pendel’s wife who not only makes the most money in the house, but also appears to be the one who wears the biggest and widest pants in the family. She doesn’t back down when the going gets heavy and she starts to catch on real quick, not only making her smart, but more than willing and up to the task of playing with the big boys.

Of course though, none of these two are any match for Brosnan and all that he does here as Andrew Osnard. On paper, Osnard is a snively, somewhat goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying; in the movie version, Osnard is a snively, totally goofy spy who likes booze, women, and partying, but also enjoys stealing every scene known to man. Sure, a lot of what makes this character cool in the first place is the writing, but really, it’s Brosnan who makes this somewhat conventional spy character, literally jump off the screen, seeming like someone you wouldn’t expect at all in a story like this, nor would you expect him to be as funny or likable as he is. That’s probably why Brosnan, playing somewhat against-type, was the perfect choice here; he’s not likable a whole lot, but with enough of that winning smile and charm, he’s willing to shine the pants off of anyone watching.

Now, does that sound like true Bond to you? I think so.

Consensus: A tad too twisty and wild, the Tailor of Panama is a fun and exciting spy-romp, made all the better by the key performances from the talented cast, most especially the always vibrant Pierce Brosnan.

7 / 10

That's Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

That’s Pierce, alright! Always sneaking up on ya in the water!

Photos Courtesy of: Rotten Tomatoes, MTV, Roger Ebert

Happiness (1998)

Is all sex good? Or only some? Ugh! High school didn’t teach me anything!

Three sisters (Jane Adams, Laura Flynn Boyle, Cynthia Stevenson) all seem to be facing problems in their lives, but they aren’t the only ones. A husband (Dylan Baker) is struggling with being the right role model for his son, while also struggling with his pedophile-like ways; a socially-awkward man (Philip Seymour Hoffman) can’t bed the woman he wants the most; and an aging, married couple (Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser) run into problems when one-half decides to sleep around and see whether or not they can be happy.

As is usually the case with Todd Solondz’s movies, almost every aspect of these stories are in some way, form, or shape, disturbing. It doesn’t matter whether they concern two people coming together, finding love, or some aging-couple trying to figure out if they are good enough for one another, because somehow, someway, Solondz is going to find his way to make it as disturbing as he can. For most writers/directors, this blatant attempt at really messing with our general taste for decency would seem rather showy and annoying, but for Solondz, it can sometimes works very well because the characters in his flick tend not to have much decency, either.

Just go for it, bro. What have you got to lose?

Just go for it, bro. What have you got to lose?

Then again, when you’re human, who needs such a silly thing as “decency”?

And that’s basically the whole point of Happiness: What it means to “be human”. A lot of the movie has to deal with sexual coming-of-age, masturbation, pedophilia, aging, philandering, and all of that other happy, joyful stuff, but the movie still treats all of these matters with some respect. Rather than having each story seem like it could only happen in a movie, where people speak and act as if they are in a movie, Solondz makes it seem like every character is a real-life person, you just don’t know it because underneath the whole charade and appearance, their real selves are waiting to come out.

Solondz knows that he is uncovering some real, brutal truths about what makes us human here, and he does not shy away from it in the least bit. This is refreshing to see because you need a guy who’s going to slap you in the face, tell you what’s going on in reality, and never let you forget about it. Sometimes, the grotesque dirty talk can be a tad overboard, but he still kept it grounded to where you could see people having conversations like this everyday. It’s just all a matter of what type of people I’m talking about because, as this flick will show you, there are some strange human specimens out there that are just waiting to be noticed, loved, and find happiness.

But hey, we’re all human, so don’t we all deserve a little bit of love, respect, and, well, happiness? Solondz argues this idea, but because his writing is so smart, it works. We care for these characters and understand them, even if we know that they’re sad and sometimes vile creatures.

And yes, the cast is so good that it helps us watch them more and more.

Out of the whole flick, Dylan Baker probably has the hardest role to make work, because of how creepy and unsettling his character is, but yet, also has to stay relatively sympathetic as well, to sort of make us feel like we can see where the hell he is coming from when he wants to touch little boys. It’s not supposed to work, but somehow, he makes it work. As the perfectly-named Bill Maplewood, Baker plays that type of dude you see in the park with his family, that looks so regular, happy, and joyful, but, deep down inside, is the most dark and disturbing soul imaginable. He’s that one in a million dude that seems to find away to hide who he really is from the outside world. Baker not only makes this guy creepy as hell, but also makes him seem like a real person in the way he is so desperate to make himself pleased and happy, that he will go to the end of the Earth to achieve it. It’s not an easy role, but it’s one that Baker plays with effortlessly, allowing us to see everything there is to see about this man.

But yeah, he’s not the only solid one in the cast, as there’s plenty more.

The era of blind dates; they'll never end.

The era of blind dates; they’ll never end.

Playing another creep in this movie is Philip Seymour Hoffman as that weird dude in high school, who you never talked to, got shoved into lockers, was too afraid to take showers after gym class, and never spoke a word to anybody. However, the thing about Hoffman’s character in this movie is that he seems like the quintessential geek that always looks at porn and breathes down the hot girl’s neck, but you feel as if there is more to him than just that heavy-sweating and non-stop boners. Hoffman makes this guy interesting, as if more and more layers are going to be popping out of him at any second, but you never really get that and to be honest, we didn’t really need it. We see how he can be nice and find his true, inner-self, but there does come a point where you wonder just who he really is, other than that nerd you stay away from on the street.

And then there’s Jane Adams as the youngest of the three sisters who seems to be having the most problems with her life, for the main reason that she just can’t seem to get a grip on things. She knows that she wants to be happy, make money, be loved, find that special someone, start a family, and be successful, but she just doesn’t know how. The story that she has where she gets all hot and ready with a student of hers (Jared Harris, who has an odd Russian accent here) doesn’t really light up the screen, but the way she acts and looks the whole movie does. You can tell she’s confused, scared, and upset with where her life has gone, but you can also tell that she’s searching for the answers whenever they come to her quick enough.

Only time will tell with this poor soul.

But those three performances are, unfortunately, where the compliments for this cast and these characters somewhat stop, because they don’t all work. The problem I seemed to have had with Solondz’s framing-device is that there seem to be about five different stories going on at the same time, and maybe only two-and-a-half of them are even interesting. The others? Ehh, not so much.

The one story that should have really re-located our hearts to our stomach should have been the one with Ben Gazzara and Louise Lasser as the old, married-couple that are hitting an incredibly rough patch. So rough, that the one thinks that it’s time they call “a break” for a bit. What’s bothersome about this subplot is that it’s rarely focused on, but when it is, it seems to bring everything else down with it because it doesn’t tell us anything new or doesn’t even seem to be turning it’s wheels. It seems to just give Solondz a bit more freedom to play around with old people banging. It doesn’t work and only took away from the film. But there’s other stories here that are at fault as well, but mainly it’s Solondz’s.

Once again, he wants to disturb us, and that works.

Mission accomplished, I have to assume.

Consensus: Not everything in the dark and disturbing Happiness works perfectly well, but it’s amazing cast really does allow for these characters to come off the screen.

8.5 / 10

Daddy's got some issues he's got to work through.

Daddy’s got some issues he’s got to work through.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Aflixionado, Claude’s Corner

Confirmation (2016)

Note to self: Keep Coca-Cola cans away from possible sex-deviants.

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas (Wendell Pierce) for the Supreme Court of the United States to replace Thurgood Marshall, who was getting ready for retirement. This decision was ultimately met with loads and loads of controversy, with some seeing it as a racial issue, with others just seeing Thomas as not the right guy for the job. One person who ultimately didn’t give it another thought, until she was brought back into it all, was Anita Hill (Kerry Washington). Hill worked as a secretary for Thomas some few years back and while she had certain issues with him, she never bothered telling the press or anything. What she wanted to do was keep it to herself, keep her job, and just live a simple, quiet life, teaching the law to college kids. However, once the word gets out that Hill will be making a statement against Thomas for sexual harassment, the press lights up, accusing her, as well as him for all sorts of things. There’s a whole bunch of players at work with the case, but the one most importantly is Joe Biden (Greg Kinnear) who, at the time, was working as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and also struggles with calling every decision right down the middle, and also remembering not to tarnish the good name of the United States of America.

It's all about the hair-pieces.

It’s all about the hair-pieces.

There’s no denying the importance of the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings. While Hill herself lost the hearings and was basically held out to dry by all of her fellow colleagues and confidantes, there’s no denying that, after the fact, it spearheaded a movement in which more women, and especially those of color, testifying to sexual harassment issues and were granted positions of power that they deserved. And in today’s day and age, nearly 25 years later, the case is still relevant to a lot of the issues what women most go through, not just in the workforce, but in general.

But for some reason, Confirmation is hardly important. If anything, it’s just an overdone, overcooked, well-acted, and dramatic re-telling of the events that transpired within and around the Anita Hill hearings – the kind that HBO are most known for creating. While I’m all for Anita Hill getting the attention she deserves, what’s interesting is that Confirmation doesn’t just focus the story on her, but instead, decide to look elsewhere.

Perhaps most surprisingly is that it actually asks us to somewhat sympathize with someone like Clarence Thomas.

And in Confirmation, it’s clear that Thomas may have been possibly attacked out of nowhere and wrongly. After all, it’s not Anita Hill herself who comes forth with the story of her and Thomas, but instead, it’s government agencies wanting dig up some dirt on Thomas himself and figure out if they can bury him as soon as possible, or keep him around and gain respect. In a way, you could make the argument that Thomas was randomly attacked, but at the same time, there’s no denying that Thomas did something wrong, in that he sexually harassed an employee of his.

I don’t care which way you paint it, but there’s no way I’m going to sympathize with someone like that.

But Thomas isn’t the only one who gets an unfavorable light shined on him. Another famous political figure here is Joe Biden, as played by Greg Kinnear, and while it initially seems like the movie is going to take a surprisingly hard-headed approach to him, the movie decides to back out of that original plan. Instead of showing Biden to bit of a coward during the hearings (which, if you watch the footage, he was), the movie tries to show him as just a puppet, who’s strings were pulled and prodded by some very powerful puppeteers. Honestly, this may be at least some bit of the truth, but there’s no denying the fact that Biden, at this point in time, acted in an unprofessional and despicable manner, and to not put a greater focus on that fact, almost seems like the creators making an apology for him, if only because they support him now.

The look of a guilty, if very horny man.

The look of a guilty, if very horny man.

All political issues aside, it doesn’t matter – Biden, as well as everyone else surrounding him, acted in a wrongful manner. And yes, this is exactly what Confirmation shows, in an over-sensationalized way and manner – aka, the kind that HBO has always been known for doing and can, on occasion, really work well with. The issue here is that a lot of what would be interesting and thought-provoking about this case, these people and what transpired, instead just seems like a point-by-point coverage. With something like the People vs. O.J. Simpson, we’re not just getting a retelling of the case and all of the people involved with it, but were also getting a closer, more detailed look inside the lives and instances that actually occurred.

Here, with Confirmation, it just seems like something you’d be able to hear through a power point presentation.

Sure, having a stacked and well-acted cast like this is definitely appealing and allows for some of these people to appear more than just famous figures, but does it really matter when all you’re doing is just using them as points? Everybody here does their thing, but nobody’s ever really allowed to rise beyond the material, especially considering that a lot of it is just covering certain bases that many people already know about.

If anything, just watch the documentary Anita. It paints a better portrait of the woman, the case and everybody else involved with this travesty.

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Confirmation can’t help but feel like a dramatic retelling of a story most of us know by now, but with barely any new, or interesting avenues taken.

5.5 / 10

Why nobody else has tried to bring that dress back into the fashion world is beyond me.

Why nobody else has tried to bring that quaint, little dress back into the fashion world is beyond me.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Thirteen Days (2000)

Next time, let’s just take all of the nuclear devices away from possible enemies.

For thirteen very long, very crucial, and very tense days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. While there were plenty of questions in the air, almost nobody had a single answer, which is what kept the world, or most especially, the United States, on the edge of their toes, taking each and every precaution there was. Of course,I’m speaking of the apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, which would turn out to be the “Cuban Missile Crisis”, and it was an issue that was fought long and hard, from just about every person in the White House at that time. There was, obviously, President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) who, when he wasn’t facing controversies surrounding his risque personal life, also had a lot to handle with being the positive face of the country. However, there were more powers at-work than just JFK when it came to this crisis of sorts. There was the Special Assistant to the President, Kenneth O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), who was also dealing with some troubles at home, as well as Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Steven Culp), who was clearly in the shadow of his brother, but also was trying to find a way to solve each and every issue in his own way, while maintaining a level head.

Who can out Boston-accent the other?!?

Who can out Bawhstan the other?!?

Thirteen Days is, essentially, a two-and-a-half-hour long movie in which a bunch of middle-aged men sit around, smoke cigars, have the occasional shot of Scotch or two, yell, and have discussions with one another about Cuba. That’s basically it. While I’m most positively sure that won’t work or sound at all appealing to younger, more explosion-driven audiences, for someone like me, believe it or not, who values a well-told story with emotional fireworks, as opposed to the actual physical ones, then yeah, it actually works/appeals to me.

Won’t for everybody, but hey, screw everybody!

What director Roger Donaldson does best is that he allows for us to feel suspense and intensity, even while we clearly know what’s to come of this story, how it’s going to end, who is going to live, who is going to perish, and most importantly, what life lessons will be learned when all is said and done. Certain movies like Titanic, or Apollo 13, or a more similar one like JFK, all toy with the perception and idea of reality, what we know of history, and uses it as a springboard to actually get us involved and invested with the story. Somehow, even though we know a good portion of history and had to, sadly, go through all of those years in the backs of classes, wondering who the 15th President was and never remembering, there’s still that feeling that not everything will go exactly as according to plan. Donaldson won’t take any huge risks like re-writing history, but the simple idea that he actually could, makes Thirteen Days all the more exciting.

Even though, yes, it is just a bunch of dudes talking to one another.

And yes, even at two-and-a-half-hours, maybe the movie’s a tad too long. There’s certain facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis that were apparently unearthed for the first time in this movie and because of that, the movie goes on beyond just being a re-enactment. But at the same time, it’s still doing a lot of re-telling, without ever putting its own narrative-spin. In a way, it almost feels like Thirteen Days works as something that would work best on the History channel, as opposed to a full-length, big-budget (although you wouldn’t always know it), feature flick. We never really get an investigative eye into what happened and what we still perceive to be as history, but mostly, just a “Hey guys, this is probably what happened when you were all duck and covering under your desks.”

Then again, maybe Thirteen Days doesn’t need to be anything more than a slightly glamorized re-telling of what may or may have happened. There’s just a certain feeling I can’t help but embrace where I wonder, being in the 21st Century and all, whether or not we should ask more questions about our history, where we come from, and what made us the country that we are today. Granted, maybe these are the types of questions that only I would like to hear answered, or possibly explored, but for some reason, watching a movie paint a nearly God-like portrait of Bobby and John Kennedy, still feels like a missed-opportunity. We should be able to paint a little closer and hold-up the lense to what we see as our nation’s history.

"Marilyn or Jackie tonight?"

“Marilyn or Jackie tonight? Hmmmmmm.”

If we can’t do that, then what’s the point of re-telling stories like this all over again?

Inform the public? Re-live the golden days when time was a lot simpler and somewhat more paranoid? Make a quick buck?

I don’t know, really. This isn’t to say that a movie like Thirteen Days, one that’s well-acted, exciting and believe it or not, fun, without ever trying to showcase a car-crash or actual action-sequence, doesn’t deserve to exist, but hey, push a little harder or further next time. I’m not saying put RFK or JFK on a stake and make them apologize for their ways, but an extra discussion or two about what was the right move, what wasn’t, and what deserves to be talked about to this day.

After all, if schools cease to exist, and all we have to rely on is movie’s for education, then why not dig a bit deeper?

Consensus: Without ever trying to be manipulative, Thirteen Days still works as a sometimes tense, almost exciting re-telling of an infamous time in our nation’s history that maybe, just maybe, there should be more of a discussion about.

7 / 10

Cuba best recognize that this is who they're messing with.

Cuba best recognize that this is who they’re messing with.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

2 Days in New York (2012)

Falling in love with Julie Delpy is a lot harder than it actually sounds.

Though Marion (Julie Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) didn’t end up working out, they still live close enough to one another now where their son can see one another and go back-and-forth. Of course, this also means that now Marion has to live in New York, where she soon starts up a new, relatively serious relationship with radio DJ Mingus (Chris Rock). Mingus has a kid of his own, so they’re able to relate and get along just like normal, simple-minded adults who fall in love generally do. And now with Marion’s latest art gallery about to be open to the public, she decides to invite her family from France, all the way over to the states. While Mingus is open to meeting this wacky family of hers, he has no actual clue what he’s getting himself into when they actually show up and basically run all sorts of havoc in and around his life. Marion’s father (Albert Delpy), can’t help being overly sexual, especially with the recent passing of his wife, whereas as her sister (Alexia Landeau) is now sleeping with her ex-boyfriend (Alexandre Nahon) – two people who also can’t stop smoking pot everywhere they go.

Always depend on Chris Rock to have the Kleenex handy.

Always depend on Chris Rock to have the Kleenex handy.

Though it wasn’t a perfect movie in the least bit, 2 Days in Paris was still, for what it’s worth, a very funny, but insightful look inside a relationship that was, as we could all see, on its last limbs. The movie had a great balance of wacky, somewhat over-the-top humor, but found a way to balance it all out with the smart, but sad details of the central relationship and how both partners can sometimes realize the separation occurring, but are too afraid or too comfortable with one another to do anything about it. What also helped that movie is the fact that it was co-written, directed, and starred the lovely, likable, beautiful and incredibly charming Julie Delpy, in her prime-form.

So rarely do we get a chance to see Delpy in the States, whether it’s in one of the Before movies, or, surprisingly enough, the latest Avengers flick, that when she does show her bright and smiling face in something, it’s an absolute joy. That’s why 2 Days in New York, really does feel like a movie I want to like, more than I actually dislike. Delpy herself clearly loves these characters, as well as the nutty situations they get themselves into just for the sake of it. She definitely takes a lot of her inspiration from the likes of Woody Allen and Billy Wilder, wherein the enjoyment can be had with watching as these colorful characters seem to ruin every aspect of their, or someone else’s life, realizing it and then trying to make amends for it all, while still not ever turning nice or into a different person.

Issue is, 2 Days in New York isn’t as deep as it likes to think it is.

Most of this has to come down to the central tone of the movie. There was a certain feeling of uneasiness in Paris that made it feel like more of a dark comedy, rather than an all out, broad piece of comedy. In New York, all of the subversiveness that made the original movie hit so much harder, is basically gone to the wind, so that Delpy’s goofy French relatives can act out and basically make Mingus’ life a living hell. While it was a lot easier to believe this in Paris (considering that it was Adam Goldberg who was actually visiting), now, the characters seem just like a simple pains in the asses who need to be told to “shut the ‘eff up and leave”.

And what’s worst of all, Delpy’s Marion feels a whole lot more annoying than usual. Rather than her being a sympathetic and sweet character we feel bad for because she’s trying to do the right thing and is instead, getting pulled into her senseless family drama, now, she’s making up all sorts of stories and lies, as well as acting-out in public because, well, that’s just what the situation calls for. There’s a running-joke in which Marion says that she has brain tumors, just so that she can get out of a confrontation with her neighbors, that doesn’t really start anywhere, nor end up anywhere (although it does give us a funny bit from Dylan Baker), and shows that Marion’s actually kind of annoying.

Who'd you take a run at? I'm having trouble deciding.

Who’d you take a run at? I’m having trouble deciding.

Never would I have ever thought I’d be using the word “annoying” in the same sentence when describing a Julie Delpy character, but such is what happens in a movie like 2 Days in New York.

And even though Chris Rock is normally fine and funny, no matter what he does, the fact that he’s playing the straight-man here can get a tad bothersome. Sure, it’s neat to see Rock try something new and interesting for a change, but his Mingus character just comes off as boring and never seems actually engaged with the rest of the movie, or Marion for that matter. It’s almost as if Rock and Delpy had just met moments before the camera’s started rolling and they were told to “act in love”. It never feels real and makes the emotional stakes feel low and less meaningful than they did in the original movie.

But at the end of the day though, I did laugh. Not a whole lot, but just enough to make me feel as if my time hadn’t been wasted and I had been on a small trip of sorts that I maybe wouldn’t want to take again in the future, but I’m glad I got a chance to see once more.

Consensus: Delpy herself clearly has a sort of love for these characters, but 2 Days in New York lacks any sort of emotional weight or hilarity to keep it tonally even and entertaining, despite everyone seeming like they’re having a fun time.

5 / 10 

The family that lives in chaos together, well, sleeps together, too.

The family that lives in chaos together, well, sleeps together, too.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

Selma (2014)

Believe it or not, there’s actually more words after, “I have a dream“.

In 1965, racial tensions in the United States were very high, most importantly though, in the South. A region of the country in which, even though blacks were legally allowed to vote, they still had to jump through all sorts of law abiding rules and regulations that was obviously set out to make sure that their race, and only theirs, wouldn’t be allowed to vote and therefore, not have their voices be heard like any other citizen. This is when Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) decided that it was time to step in and allow for his voice to not only be heard, but acted on as well. Most importantly though, MLK travels Selma, Alabama of all places to arrange a march that would not only get the attention of everybody’s eyes and ears, but also President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)’s, and would hopefully drive him to make some severe changes to the voting-process. Although, as one could expect, LBJ wasn’t always down to change certain voting restrictions, especially with the looming pressure of possible voters and fellow confidantes like George Wallace (Tim Roth), J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C. White (Giovanni Ribisi), among many others.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Contrary to what some may believe, Selma isn’t necessarily a biopic about MLK, his life, his achievements, and everything else that transpired when he was alive, and what soon followed afterwards. Instead, it’s much more of a film in which a good portion of MLK’s life is documented, yet, never fully chronicled to make it just his, and his own; there’s plenty more people apart of this story, helping out to create a larger, more thought-out picture than just being standard. The same could actually be said for the civil rights movement(s) that Selma seems to portray – it wasn’t just one person who is single-handedly credited with all of the accomplishments, it’s everybody who was there to help that one person out and make sure that his dreams were fulfilled, as risky as they sometimes may have been.

And in the world that we live in now, honestly, Selma couldn’t be anymore relevant. And to be honest, director Ava DuVernay fully knows this, which is why this movie hits as hard as it does, but without ever seeming like it’s pandering in any sort of way. Surely DuVernay sees and understands the civil rights movement as a significant time in our history (as well as she should), but rather than making it a simple and easy history lesson that any fifth-grader could teach to a class of hundred or more, she strives for something more difficult and ambitious. While DuVernay portrays the civil rights movement, and those behind it all, as smart and inspiring, she also shows that the tactics that would eventually land most of these participants in hot water, not just with the government, but with fellow members of their own race.

For white people who got involved with the civil rights movement, they suffered threats, day-in and day-out from fellow Caucasians who believed that it wasn’t their right to get involved. The black people suffered this, too, and definitely a lot more worse, but as the movie portrays it, it wasn’t just the white people that blacks had to deal with on a regular basis, it was actually some people of their own race. DuVernay shows this with the inclusion of Malcolm X, and as small as it may have been, it’s a smart move on her part to show that some people preferred to side with X’s way of violence solving any and all problems, whereas some others preferred to stick with MLK’s way of not fighting back and instead, using peace as the best medicine to ridicule those who use violence to their benefit. In a lesser film, each and every person of the same race would have gathered, hand-in-hand, and marched happily together, but in DuVernay’s much smarter film, sometimes, they’re at-war with themselves.

But this is just me getting further and further away from what Selma really does here, and that’s portray a brutal, yet significant time in our society’s history, without ever shying away from some of the more dark and dirty aspects that would push certain people away from seeing this. We’ve seen white cops beating on black people in movies (and sadly, in real-life, too) done before, but the way in how DuVernay shows the sheer terror and madness is not only disturbing, but downright terrifying. It not only opens our eyes a little more to what this film is setting out to do, but also puts into perspective what is really being fought for here, rather than just telling us and trusting that bit of info as is.

Like I mentioned before, though, there’s a good portion of this movie that likes to argue against what most of us may know, or think we know, about the civil rights movement and how all those apart of it acted. For instance, not every person in this film is a clear-cut good guy, or a bad guy; they’re, simply put, just people that had a foot in history and all had their own goals, whether they may, or may not be desirable to us watching at home. This is especially clear in the case of LBJ who yes, definitely seems like a racist, but is also a politician, meaning, that he knows he has a lot at stake here in terms of his voting numbers come re-election time. While it’s made clear to us that maybe LBJ’s morals aren’t in the right places, he is still trying to give MLK what he wants, just in his own way. They may not be perfect and they may not always get the job done, but they’re still efforts on his part and that’s more than he can say for many other white politicians during that time.

The same said for LBJ, could definitely be said for MLK, which is definitely surprising considering that you’d expect a piece praising the figure for everything that he did while he was alive, and the influence that still holds precedence in our society today. DuVernay instead dives a bit deeper into the man of MLK, what made him who he was, and how exactly he got through this tough time in his life. And with this, we see that he wasn’t always the perfect man; he was a shitty husband who fooled-around a bit too much, didn’t always step to the front-line like he had initially promised, and got a little big-headed for his own good. But nonetheless, MLK was MLK, a man who accomplished more than what anybody expected of him when he was alive, and it’s a true testament to the person he was, rather than the person people want us to see and believe in.

Round 2. Fight!!

Round 2. Fight!!

Doesn’t make him any less of a good person, it just makes him a person, first and foremost.

And as MLK, David Oyelowo is pretty outstanding. This isn’t too surprising considering Oyelowo has been churning out amazing performances for the past couple years or so, but it truly is great to see him tackle a role that so many people think we already all think we know of, and do something different with it. Because MLK isn’t made out to be the most perfect human specimen ever created in this movie, we see certain shades to his persona that we don’t get to see in his speeches; sure, the speeches are here and they are downright compelling to watch and listen to, but they aren’t what make this person. What makes this person is that he stood up for what he believed in and, at any cost, tried to make his dream a reality. He had many of bumps in the road, but ultimately, he prevailed in getting what he wanted, even if he definitely did gain some enemies in the meantime. Then again, who doesn’t?

Though there’s more to the cast where that came from and rightfully so, too. The previously mentioned LBJ is done well by Tom Wilkinson who fits perfectly into the role and constantly makes it seem like this man is going to explode at any second; Carmen Ejogo has a few strong scenes as MLK’s wife, Corette, and shows the painful side to being the one who is constantly left-at-home, when your significant other is off, fighting the good fight, and constantly allowing you and the rest of your family to be threatened; Tim Roth is pretty damn campy as the overtly-racist man that was George Wallace, although he does with it just enough scenery-chewing that there’s no need for the mustache-twirl; and honestly, plenty more where that came from.

In fact, so many more to talk about that to put one over the other would just be an absolute disservice to each and every performer who shows up here, ready to perform and give it their all with their roles, no matter how small or large they may be. But above all though, it’s DuVernay who deserves the most credit for handling this large ensemble and giving just about every member something substantial to do and add another layer onto a story that, quite frankly, is already very engaging to begin with. Although there are plenty of hiccups to be found on the road leading to the final-act here, DuVernay still brings us a solid depiction of the Selma marches, how they affected us as a society then, and how they do it to us now. Because seriously, the years may change, but the stories remain the same.

Who knows when the change will come. Let’s just hope it’s soon.

Consensus: Smart, powerful, and well-acted by just about everybody involved, Selma is a complex, detailed-look into the civil rights movement that knows it’s important, but never shoves it down its viewer’s throats.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

When they mean "strength in numbers"? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

When they mean “strength in numbers”? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.

Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."

“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hunting Party (2007)

They always say “journalism is a dying form”, so if there’s some extra-cash involved, then by all means do what you can.

During the 1990’s, big time, war-reporter Simon Hunt (Richard Gere) and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard) went all around the world, gaining footage and covering stories in war-torn countries. They hot, big and making all of the big bucks, but after a public-meltdown on live television, the two parted ways. Duck ended-up making a name for himself moreso by becoming a producer of sorts; whereas Hunt practically vanished into thin air, barely to ever be heard from again. One day, however, while Duck and a new assistant of his (Jesse Eisenberg) are out in Bosnia covering the war, Hunt suddenly shows up, telling them that he has a plan to kidnap the infamous war criminal known as “the Fox”. The reason being? Well, one reason is to get a big story and put Hunt’s name back in the mainstream-line of news-reporting; but another reason is also to get a lot of money from those who want “the Fox”. And honestly, they’re task wouldn’t seem so hard in the first place if this was a man who was as easy to find as a cow in a grass-field, but nope. He’s protected by hundreds and hundreds of his own cronies, who are just waiting for some dudes to come snooping around in business that clearly isn’t theirs.

At the end of the Hunting Party, there’s a credits-sequence in which director Richard Shepard makes it totally clear exactly what it is that he’s trying to say with this story. He makes a mention of how the U.S. government is, “apparently still looking for Bin Laden”. He puts an extra-emphasis on the word “apparently”, giving us the impression that the CIA really isn’t paying attention to a matter such as this, and instead, wasting their good old time on cases like who stole cousin Mikey’s five dollar-bill or something of that nature. But whatever it is that the CIA is actually looking at, doesn’t matter; what does matter is that they aren’t totally searching for Bin Laden, and more or less just sitting on their asses, telling everyone else it’s their “main priority”.

Ah, the 80's. I think.

Ah, the 80’s. I think.

Well, the movie’s a bit dated in that regard. Which, I can’t really hold against the film to begin with, but this way of ending the whole show gave me a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Which, yes, is strange, because if anybody out there knows me, they’ll know I’m nowhere near being the biggest advocate for the well-being of the U.S. government and everything it is that they tell me as a member of society. However, the fact still remains that we caught Bin Laden, therefore, making whatever snobby statement Shepard is trying to make at the end of this movie, practically null and void.

But by this happening, it makes me feel like the past 100-minutes I had just spent with this movie, this story and these characters, almost useless, considering it was actually about something else entirely. See, I don’t want to give too much away about the end to this movie and how everything turns out, but much rather than being a thriller, with some dark comedy placed in throughout, it ends up being one, near-two-hour preach from the creators about how the U.S. government isn’t really doing their jobs and we should all pay attention to what’s really going on behind the scenes and everything else that we’re told.

Sure, it’s nothing new we haven’t heard before, but here, it felt pretty cheap for Shepard to bring this up totally out-of-the-blue by the end. Not because it didn’t fit right with the story he was actually telling, but because the story itself was actually an intriguing one to begin with, and to just stop us, open up our eyes and tell us that it’s all about something else entirely different, makes it seem like this movie doesn’t ever need to be seen in the first place, nor does this story itself even need to be told.

So, in essence, this is a movie that doesn’t need to be seen. Like, at all.

Not for the good performances from the finely-assembled cast; not for most of the humor that actually made me laugh; and not even for the sometimes, rather-tense plot.

Nope, it should all be seen for the point that Richard Shepard is trying to bring home by the tail-end.

Which is totally strange considering something like this hasn’t happened to me in awhile – where I, at first was really digging a movie, only to have that totally change because of something that happened right at the very end of the movie that rubbed me the wrong. I honestly can’t remember the last time that that happened, which probably goes to show you how truly rare it is, but such a controversy happened here, with my feelings regarding this movie and whether or not I should recommend it to those out there who give a damn about what I think is “good”, and what “isn’t so good”.

Now bust a move!

Now bust a move!

So, with that said: Do I think this movie is worth seeing? I want to say yes; I really do. But, at the same time, I want to say no. The reason I want to say “yes”, is because there actually is a very interesting story at the center of all this, especially if you’re a journalist, or at least aspiring to be one. It’s cool to see a movie that actually somewhat glamorizes the life of a journalist; the money, the hotel rooms, the women, the booze, the money, the breaking-stories, the feeling of doing something right for the world you live in. But also, by the same token, it still goes to show you the type of lengths journalists will go to in order to ensure themselves that they have a story in the first place, even if getting the certain bits and pieces of information for that said story, may result in some very serious, very drastic consequences that could put one’s life at risk. That’s something you don’t too often see a movie show about the lives and careers of journalists, and I’m glad that this movie decided to show that side. Maybe that’s just my personal feelings, but that’s just what I like to see.

But, the reason why I say “no”, mostly has to do with everything I stated up-top: There’s really no point to this story other than to make a point. A point which, mind you, isn’t wholly based on fact. Sure, the U.S. government took quite some time in finding Bin Laden, but the fact remains: We found him, where he was living, he’s dead. End of story. Is there some stuff out there we’re not being told about this case on purpose? Of course there is! How could there not be? However, the fact remains is that we found him, he is gone from our planet and there shouldn’t be any more grumbles about that. I swear to you, I’m not one for standing straight-up for the U.S. government, but in these cases, I feel like I may need to get on my soapbox a bit as well.

So suck on that, Richard Shepard!

Consensus: Taken into context with what we know now, the Hunting Party doesn’t wholly stand in total and absolute truth, which ruins the rest of what this movie has to offer in terms of story, performances and overall entertainment-value.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Must be a local KFC around here somewhere."

“Must be a local KFC around here somewhere.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Fido (2006)

I don’t think as many people would have gotten on Michael Vick’s case if he had zombies fighting each other.

Set in the 1950’s, the story takes place years after a radiation cloud took over the Earth and allowed the dead to walk again (aka zombies). But a company named Zomcom has finally made it able to allow zombies to not only be servants and do all of your chores, but also be your friends in ways, too. Little Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray), has finally found a friend to confide in named Fido (Billy Connolly), problem is, he’s a zombie that actually threatens mankind, something my dog has yet to do.

Take a Leave it to Beaver episode, give him the dog Lassie, have it directed by George A. Romero, and this is what you may come up with. Sadly, for all of you Zombie-genre lovers out there, it’s just not quite as awesome as one would expect. But having a zombie as a pet would make for a great show-and-tell.

Basically, this is a one-joke premise but writer/director Andrew Currie milks it for all that he’s got. The whole joke behind this film is that zombies walk around as normal citizens doing normal citizen-like activities such as taking out the trash, delivering milk door-to-door, grilling some burgers on the grill during a BBQ, and even providing some twisted and sick-minded people some lovin’ at night as well. It’s an original way of telling a zombie satire and for the most part, Currie makes it work because he always plays off of these 50’s-like caricatures that have been done so many times in plenty other films, but this time just provide more humor due to the twist.  I laughed a good amount during this film, which really took me by surprise since it seemed too obvious, but there were some nice touches that Currie gave this film for that ultra-retro 50’s look and feel.

But as good as funny as this may be, there’s always something here that’s left to be desired. They milk this premise just enough to make me laugh and enjoy myself, but they never go the full distance to where I was surprised at the turns they took with this story. You can tell where this story is going to go from start-to-finish, how, and why exactly it is and that was a total bummer considering this could have been a nice blend of humor that mixes itself up nice with a horror movie as well. In fact, that horror element was barely there at all because any time it seemed like the film was going to go for a full-out, zombie scare-fest, it sort of just cut it out as quick as possible and made it seem like Currie played it a bit too safe.

I wasn’t expecting to be totally scared out of my mind with this material, but to me, zombies are some of the scariest mothereffers even when it comes to horror (even if they are the oldest trick used in the book). So when a film comes around with zombies in it, regardless of how they’re used, I’m expecting to be a little scared at the fact that they’re running rampant, eating people, and spreading their virus. The problem here, is that I didn’t feel any tension whatsoever and I was barely even scared by the fact that these zombies could start to eat up this whole entire, little town of Willard (teehee).

Also, for all of you gore-loving son of a bitches out there, there’s enough of that here to satisfy your dirty needs, but even that feels a bit tamed. Yeah, there’s a couple of chewed-up limbs here and there, but nothing where I literally wanted to throw-up. I never feel like that with that when I watch horror movies, but I would always like to. That’s a real shame too, since this film is rated-R and I don’t really think that Currie would have had anything to worry about, had he gone on a bit farther with the gore-pushing.

The performances by everybody in this film was the real strong-point and I think one of the elements that entertained me the most. Carrie-Anne Moss is great as the subdued mom that starts to come out of her shell a bit and become a cool mommy, once things start to get a little twisty with her hormones. No trust me, it doesn’t go in the direction with her character that you may think but it would have been a lot more cool and twisted had it done so. Dylan Baker plays her a-hole husband, and he’s great as well playing a daddy that doesn’t seem to know how to even do the right thing for his son and can’t stop complaining about the fact that his daddy almost ate him once. Billy Connolly was also great as Fido, in a more subdued role where he has to use a lot of growling and facial expressions to really convey what his character’s intentions, even if he is just a damn zombie. That actually makes it a bit harder for him, but he still pulls it off very well. K’Sun Ray was fine as little Timmy Robinson, and doesn’t really seem to be one of those little, annoying child-actors that we usually get in movies like these. Oh yeah, and Tim Blake Nelson is here as one of those twisted and sick-minded people I mentioned earlier. That guy is always a blast to watch.

Consensus: The cast, comedy, and original premise make Fido a lot more entertaining, but it never goes the full distance to be flat-out gory, sick, twisted, or even scary for that matter, and that’s one of the most disappointing factors of this could-have-been comedy-horror classic.

6/10=Rental!!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Don’t take taxis during rush hour. This is what will probably happen to you.

Neal Page (Steve Martin) is a high-strung advertising executive who needs to get from New York to Chicago in a matter of two days, for Turkey Day. Many things go bad for Neal and he ends up being stuck with a very nice, eternally sunny, and somewhat intolerable dude named Del Griffith (John Candy), a shower-curtain salesman. Things go from bad to worse, and Neal is stuck with Del in trying to get back to his crib for the turkey. And honestly, who wouldn’t be rushing home for Thanksgiving dinner? Yummy yummy.

John Hughes is a great writer and director and those are the two strengths that are shown here incredibly well, especially with his writing. The whole script here is basically watching this tight-ass be tormented by horrible situations that honestly do go from bad to worse and a guy he always seems to sneak away from, but in the end, he always ends up being right back to where he started from. It’s a formula that is very obvious but somehow Hughes makes it work.

The humor here is hilarious because I just loved seeing a buddy-comedy that had funny situations mixed with a lot of the usual jokes that come from two guys who are polar opposites. Del is talkative, loving, and always happy, while Neal is somehow always tense, annoyed, angry, or just bothered by everything going on around him. This clash between two characters creates a whole lot of fun for the film but then again, I do love road films, so my opinion could be a bit biased.

What really adds to this film is the fact that the humor is under-lined with some sentimental moments, but it doesn’t feel forced or corny in anyway. Hughes is able to draw out these characters so much that by the end of the film, we really do understand them and care for them and hope that no matter what they are both happy, which may sound a little cheesy now but the film spends so much time with its comedy that when it actually does get a little soft, it surprisingly works. The ending is quite a heavy one and I think that’s a real surprise and tribute to what a true talent John Hughes was as a screen-writer.

My problem with this film was that it was a little too obvious that there is a lot more to this guy Del, then we actually think. Without giving anything away, we never really find out where this guy is going, why he’s going there, and just how the hell he ends up going the same way as Neal the whole film. This to me seemed pretty obvious and I think if Hughes wanted to really shock us, he could have just been a bit more mysterious with the character of Del.

There was also this one scene where we find out the big “twist” if you want to call it that, at the end of the film. The scene doesn’t last long and I think for the film to really give this hard-hitting emotional impact on the audience, the scene needed to be help up longer before we started getting into the real heavy ending. Then again, I could just be nit-picking like a the highly-esteemed movie critic that I always am deep down inside.

The main reason why this film works is because of the great performances given by Steve Martin and John Candy who give some of their most memorable performances of their careers, and that’s saying something. Martin is great as the stuck-up Neal, who always seems to be freaking out at everything, and there are also many other scenes where he gets to show his true comedic talent. If you don’t believe me, just watch the F-bomb scene, then you’ll see what I mean. Just wish the dude would step away from ‘Cheaper By the Dozen’.

Candy has never been better as Del and it’s probably my favorite performance from him (beating out ‘Uncle Buck’) because he’s just so damn likable. The guy is always happy, looking on the bright side of things, and whenever something bad seems to come his way he always finds his way of sneaking out of it and bringing out a positive. Candy has a lot of funny lines and funny scenes where he gets to show his playfulness on-screen, but it’s really about the heart that Candy brings out inside of Del that works. You can tell there is something underneath Del, and there are a couple of scenes that hint this and the way Candy shows it is just perfect and real showing of how great he was with both comedy and drama. If I was stuck with John Candy on a two-day trip, I can easily tell you it would be a hell of a time though!

Consensus: Planes, Trains and Automobiles uses a formula we have all seen before but somehow Hughes makes it even more hilarious than it has any right to be, which is also with some thanks to Candy and Martin who are perfect in these roles, bringing out both comedy and heart within their own characters. Perfect Thanksgiving film.

9/10=Full Price!!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Trick ‘r Treat (2008)

I will never be able to look at pumpkins the same again.

Halloween’s usually boisterous traditions turn deadly, and everyone in a small town tries to survive one night in pure hell … but who will still be alive in the morning? Several stories weave together, including a loner fending off a demented trick-or-treater’s attacks; kids uncovering a freaky secret; a school principal — who moonlights as a serial killer — poisoning his candy; and more.

I’m not quite sure exactly when this film came out, or when it even hit theaters but since it’s the right time for the season, I thought why the hell not!?!?

This is an anthology film feature all of these four different segments that aren’t really all that connected other than the fact that everybody seems to live pretty close to each other. This approach to the film worked because I constantly got that feeling of knowing what’s going to happen next because you get to see just what is going to happen, when maybe the first time around you were a little bit confused by what you didn’t see on-screen.

First-time writer/director Michael Dougherty does a pretty good job of keeping the feel and spirit of Halloween alive in this film because there are moments where this film seems like a lot of fun, and although it didn’t really scare the pants off of me, it really did keep me entertained as to where this guy was going to go towards next. A lot of this film is pretty messed up (kids getting killed) but somehow there is a fun touch to it that isn’t campy or tongue-in-cheek, it’s more just fun and that’s why I enjoyed myself.

However, the film did have some moments where I think it messed up and sort of dropped the ball. Each little segment has their own twist in there, which I thought was cool, but what I didn’t like is how too much of this felt more scary and serious without any real comedy added to it. The one segment with Anna Paquin I can think of was actually very funny the whole way through, but other than that, there wasn’t much of a balance between the two to get it perfect right away.

There’s also a lot of this film that doesn’t feel all that original and kind of bummed me out especially the segment about the kids at the site of the supposed “bus crashing incident”. This to me felt like it was directed by a whole different person because it spent its time on jump-scares, what we don’t see, and the run away and hide thingy that bothers me so much. This was a little annoying and by the end of the film, I feel like it totally drops the ball when it shows what that freaky little dude on the poster looks like without his mask. He looks really freakin’ weird (not in a good way), and I think the film could have really kept me a bit more freaked out if I didn’t know what the hell that creepy thing actually looked like.

The cast is here and there but they are all good. Brian Cox is awesome as the grouchy and grumpy old dude from the last segment; Anna Paquin is funny as well as pretty hot as the “virgin”; and Dylan Baker is probably the best out of the whole cast because he constantly kept me laughing and giggling even when he just killed a kid by feeding him a terrible chocolate bar. Yeah, it’s that disturbing sometimes.

Consensus: Trick ‘r Treat may not score the most points when it comes to originality and scares, but it keeps a fun tone and segments that bring a lot of twists and turns that you can’t help but have a fun time.

6/10=Rental!!