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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Eddie Marsan

Their Finest (2017)

Now I definitely don’t need to see Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

It’s Britain, 1940, and needless to say, the war is hitting them pretty hard. Men are being shipped-out randomly, bombs are dropping everywhere, resources are drying up, families are being torn apart, and it just doesn’t seem like the good old days any longer. It seems like everyone is sad, depressed and absolutely unsure of what to do with their lives, which is why the British Ministry of Information decides to step on in and change all that up the only reliable way they know how: Making movies. And one such movie they commission is a supposed true story of heroism and bravery that occurred in Dunkirk, France. Of course, the movie-version of these said events get all wrapped-up and twisted around, to the point of where the original story isn’t even found anywhere, but the message of the tale is simple: Greater and better times are ahead and can still be found now. And crafting that film is writer Catrin (Gemma Arterton) who finds herself constantly battling it out with fellow writers, like Tom (Sam Claflin), actors, like Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), and fellow women in the office, like Phyl (Rachael Stirling) who give her crap for her gender and how she handles herself. But all she’s trying to do is make the best, most inspirational movie she can make, no matter what.

How could you not fall for the chum?

Their Finest is one of the most charming movies I have seen in quite some time and it doesn’t even seem like it’s trying. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie; it’s so smug, likable and sweet, that it’s almost begging for our adoration before the opening-credits roll onto the screen. But for the most part, it’s the time, the place, and the nostalgic message that makes it feel like Their Finest doesn’t have to even try – it’s homework of charming and pleasing the pants off of the audience is already done for itself.

That said, it’s still a wildly lovely movie that even without the time, the place, the nostalgic message, it would still work. Sure, those things certainly help, but mostly, Their Finest works because it’s a movie that has a heart as big the bombs that are constantly being dropped out throughout. Director Lone Scherfig and writer Gaby Chiappe come together in an interesting way that doesn’t shy away from the dark, brutal, and grueling reality that the war presented for everyone involved, but it also doesn’t shy away from the fact that there was some happiness and light to be found through it all.

It’s like an overlong episode of Boardwalk Empire, except the polar opposite – everyone around the main characters are sad, but the main characters themselves, somehow, through some way, are happy.

It all works, though, and never appears too cloying, or overly cutesy; it all feels earned and just earnest enough that it knows it’s harsh reality, without ever trying too revel in it, either. The movie is, plain and simple, just sweet and lovely – like a Pastri that you know you shouldn’t have, but also can’t keep yourself away from, either. That may not be the best way to describe Their Finest, but trust me, just know this: It’ll be hard not to smile the whole way through. Even when the movie’s sad (which it can be on countless occasions), it’s still kind of cheerful.

And it mostly all comes down to the characters and what they represent. In what has to be her best role to-date, Gemma Arterton finally gets a chance to prove that she can be awfully sweet and charming, when given the right material to work with. As Catrin Cole, we see a character that’s still figuring herself out, trying to make some sort of a mark in the world and above all else, trying to remain happy, hopeful and optimistic towards a brighter, better future. It’s a role that could have been easily grating and annoying in anyone’s hands, but it’s one that Arterton works so well with, that you immediately fall in love with her and her infectious spirit.

Gemma, have you ever seen Atonement? Get out of the subway!

And it’s also easy to see why everyone in the film does, too.

Sam Claflin, once again, proves that he’s quite possibly the most charming and handsome British guy working today, aside from Henry Cavill, as Tom, and shows quite a nice little chemistry between he and Arterton. The relationship may go into obvious places, but because they’re so good and cute together, it doesn’t matter – we want them together, no matter what. Bill Nighy is also the stand-out as the one actor in this whole production who can’t seem to know or realize that he’s a little too old to be quite the superstar he once was. The character could have easily been a cartoonish buffoon, but there’s a lot of heart and warmth in Nighy’s portrayal, that it works. Same goes for everyone else who shows up here, adding a little bit more personality and light to the whole proceedings.

But if anything about Their Finest really works for me, it’s the message that, no matter what happens to you, the outside world around you, or anybody, anywhere else in the world, the movies will always be there for you. Sure, it’s a sentiment that’s not as relevant as it may have been in the early-1940’s, when practically everyone and their grandmother needed a little cheering up, but it’s still the same kind of sentiment that resonates for any film-lover. Movies have always been made, and will always continue to be made, to take people away from their real lives, and place them somewhere lovely and magical, and provide the perfect distraction. Sure, there are movies that are made not to do such a thing (aka, documentaries), but the ones that really take you out of the real world and give you hope and ambition, well, then those are the ones that deserve to be seen, no matter what’s going on around you.

It’s what movies were put on this Earth to do in the first place and it’s why they will always hold a special place in each and every living person’s life.

Consensus: Sweet, endearing and ridiculously nostalgic, Their Finest wears its heart and humor on its sleeve, with even better performances to show for it.

8.5 / 10

Making movies have never been so, ehrm, British.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010)

Is there such a thing as “a job going exactly according to plan”?

Two kidnappers, Vic (Eddie Marsan) and Danny (Martin Compston) have a secret, super duper shady plan of holding the daughter of a rich businessman hostage. Why? Well it’s a known-fact that she’s got a lot of money attached to her name and that her daddy would be more than willing to throw down any hefty sum of money to get her back into his arms and make sure that everything’s okay and fine. And for the longest time, the plan goes together perfectly. The daughter, Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), is found, kidnapped and put away silently in this bed and tied-up. She’s given food to eat, a pot to piss and/or do other stuff in, and a bed to sleep in, even though she doesn’t have much else choice to do much else. And hell, her father seems to not have contacted the cops and willing to meet-up to exchange the money. So yeah, it seems like everything’s going perfectly according to plan, until, well, it doesn’t and all of a sudden, everybody starts to turn on one another and question the other’s motives.

When your hostage is this pretty, it's hard to not get your emotions wrapped-up in a bunch.

When your hostage is this pretty, it’s hard to not get your emotions wrapped-up in a bunch.

The first thirty or so minutes of Alice Creed is actually quite interesting. We see a lot of planning going into setting the room and stage-up for where the abductee will be taken, but we don’t hear these guys utter a single word. We know that they’re setting up for a kidnapping, due to the title, but because everything so perfectly and meticulously planned-out, it’s actually quite chilling, while also intriguing because, well, this is how one would want to create a hostage situation. Granted, I hope to never be involved with one, but if I were to all of a sudden be in a huge pinch for money, I’d probably use this movie’s first half-hour as a guideline on what to do.

And even when Alice Creed, the character, does end-up getting kidnapped, it’s still interesting. We have no clue why this character is getting kidnapped in the first placed, how it all happened, and what kind of relationship these characters have with one another, if any at all. We don’t ever see the actual kidnapping itself, so yeah, the mystery’s always up in the air, but what do these characters mean to one another? Are they all pals doing these secret things to one another? Or are they all just strangers, set-up to ensure that no problems ensue with said kidnapping?

Well, eventually, we begin to get the answers to these puzzling questions and sadly, that’s about the same time when Alice Creed, the movie, gets to be a bit of a bore.

After a certain moment, it becomes clear that writer/director J Blakeson is perfect at setting the stage up for what could be a very interesting, if sometimes exciting thriller, but doesn’t really know where to go after all the said setting up. There’s plenty of twists here, which is fine, but after about the ninth or tenth, it becomes to be a bit of overkill. Which wouldn’t be such a problem if the actual twists and turns were the least bit believable or interesting, but most of them feel placed-in as a desperate way of spicing things up, or just ripped from other movies that are, in some cases, many times better than this one.

The only interesting aspect of the movie that stays as such probably throughout, is the actual cast themselves. Considering that there’s literally nobody else in this movie, other than three ones we get in the first half-hour, it goes without saying that they should probably all be solid actors, doing exceptional work, in a movie that’s in desperate need of it. And with Alice Creed‘s case, that’s definitely the case, even if the script itself doesn’t offer them much room to breath or stretch their limbs out.

But to be honest, it’s hard to talk about all of these characters without spoiling just exactly who, or what they mean to the overall story.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

Gemma Arterton’s Alice Creed is a bit of a whiny, stuck-up rich girl who clearly isn’t used to being put into a situation like this, but then again, how could she be? Eddie Marsan’s Vic is a tough-as-nails, quiet, and brooding baddie who doesn’t have anytime for jokes or games, and just wants to get this all over and done with, as well as he should. And Martin Compston’s Danny is, well, the softer and sweeter of the two baddies, even though it becomes awfully clear why he is and ultimately, ends up showing something of a softer side throughout the rest of the movie.

Each one here is fine and do exactly what they should in a movie that doesn’t seem to be all that well-equipped to help them out, but it’s a bit disappointing, because this movie could have been a very interesting, character-driven thriller. However, because it’s all about where the plot is moving, what can happen to keep things fun, and what sort of twists and turns can come out of nowhere, it never gets the chance to be anything. Maybe, just maybe, the movie’s a bit too big for its own good and doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “downplaying”, but really, that’s expecting a tad bit too much. After all, Alice Creed is just another low-key thriller; it may not be wanting to be a smart, intriguing character-piece about what people do in situations like kidnappings, but it certainly could have been and it’s a bit disappointing that it didn’t take itself any further.

Especially since, well, the groundwork was already laid-out quite well.

Consensus: Given the solid cast on-hand, the Disappearance of Alice Creed feels more disappointing than it should, given that after the first half-hour, it loses all direction and sense of what keeps a plot interesting, and that’s believability.

5.5 / 10

Kidnappers take lunch breaks?

Kidnappers take lunch breaks?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, B Movies

Concussion (2015)

Nobody can stop Will Smith! Not even the NFL!

Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith) is a Nigerian immigrant who performs autopsy’s in Alleghany County. Not only is he brilliant, but he’s also dedicated to his job so much that he believes that even the smallest detail can matter when it comes to deciding why a person did something, or just how exactly they died. But when NFL legend Mike Webster (David Morse) winds up dead from an apparent suicide, Omalu stumbles upon a shocking discovery: Although Webster was only 50-years-old, he was acting in ways that a man nearly 30 years older would be acting with Alzheimer’s. Except, here’s the kicker, Webster didn’t have Alzheimer’s; instead, he just took one too many hits to the head and it’s here that Omalu decides to study this idea himself, forcing him to put in his own time and money into the project. Eventually, it all pays off and Omalu discovers that Webster, along with countless other NFL players are dealing with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and now, it’s up to Omalu to let the NFL, as well as the rest of the world, know of the dangers it promises. However, being a billion-dollar corporation, the NFL decides not to listen, which leaves Omalu to take matters into his own hands. Matters which, honestly, can tend to do more harm than actual good.

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Is Jada Pinkett upset about this? Or approving? Who knows with those crazy cats!

Whistleblower movies, despite their importance and relevancy, no matter how many years go by, always seem to have a tough time working as well as they should. For one, it depends on the cause; if people feel as if the cause someone is “blowing the whistle” about, doesn’t have enough of an impact, then they won’t care once all goes to hell. Speaking of everything going to hell, it’s quite obvious that once the word gets out and the whistleblower’s identity is made known to the big, bad and evil corporation being spoken-out against, then they will go through all sorts of tense, almost life-threatening situations that will have them rethink the decision they made to open their mouths up in the first place.

Concussion is that same kind of movie that goes down the same alleyways and roads, but at the same time, that doesn’t defeat the fact that the cause it’s fighting for isn’t important. It’s just that, you know, what with Spotlight coming out this year and all, we’ve seen just how well “the whistleblower” movie can be made. While there’s no denying that the Catholic Church covering up countless acts of sexual abuse is perhaps a more jaw-dropping and intriguing topic to go at, Concussion makes it very clear that the issue going on currently with the NFL isn’t one that’s going to go away one day and that be the end of it. Instead, it’s going to continue to go on and on and on, until there’s not a single sane mind left in the NFL and just about every player imaginable, has either completely lost their minds, or killed themselves.

In other words, the NFL does not look pretty in Concussion, which makes me wonder just what was apparently cut-out in the first place to ensure that Sony didn’t face any legal action on behalf of the NFL.

Regardless, the NFL, as portrayed in Concussion, is not a very loving, caring or kind organization – instead, they’re nothing more than just a bunch of heartless, greedy creatures who are more concerned with the thickness of their wallets, rather than the well-being of their own players that make them so rich to begin with. That CTE and brain trauma within the NFL is already a very current and already developing issue, sort of makes Concussion feel like it’s missing out on some bits and pieces of info, but for the most part, it gets right, what it needs to get right.

For one, writer/director Peter Landesman does not lose sight of what makes this story hit (pun sort of intended) as hard as it does. There’s a few scenes where Landesman shines the focus on Dr. Omalu and shows just what it is exactly that’s going on wrong with these player’s brains and why it is that this problem can’t be seen right away, but rather, after the player is already dead and gone. Even though we see plenty of these real life circumstances play-out in the film, it’s still effective to hear it all come from the mouth of a person who clearly seems to know what he’s talking about, as well as a person who actually cares.

Yet, like I said before, the NFL does not play well, according to the film, and it’s what sets up a pretty tense battle between Dr. Omalu and the billion-dollar corporation.

"Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don't you dare bring up Jaden."

“Hi, my name is Will Smith. Don’t you dare bring up Jaden.”

It’s the typical David and Goliath story that, we so often see, yet, don’t actually get all that wrapped-up into. Here, Landesman makes it clear early-on that he’s behind Omalu’s back every step of the way and shows that he’s just trying to make things better – not just for himself, or the NFL, but for the players who make a living off of playing football for said organization. However, there’s no pretentiousness or inferior complex to be found with Omalu; he simply just wants to keep more and more players from dying, which is why he cares so much to begin with.

Not to mention that he wants to be a fully-fledged and adored American citizen, which the film smartly focuses on and brings up every so often. Still though, if there’s an issue with Concussion, it’s that whenever the film focuses on Omalu’s own personal life, with his girlfriend and her own problems, the movie seems like a bit of a drag and not all that interesting. It’s not that it doesn’t feel pertinent to the story, it’s just that it lacks the same kind of angered energy found in the parts of the movie where it’s Omalu trying his hardest to remind those within the NFL of what’s going on and why they should stop acting like fools, pay attention already, and accept the fact.

This is, of course, to say that as Dr. Bennett Omalu, Will Smith is great. Then again, how could he not be? The dude’s charismatic as hell and, every chance he gets, gives a subtle power to Omalu that you really do feel for this guy, even when it seems like his voice is being heard loud enough, or even at all. The fact that Smith himself is adopting an African accent for this role made me a bit worried, but honestly, after the first five minutes, it was easy to forget that I was watching the Fresh Prince and instead, was just watching as one simple and kind man, singlehandedly tried to take down the NFL.

While time will tell if he’s still fully successful or not, there’s no denying that Concussion will have you look at the NFL in a way different light than ever before.

For better, but mostly, for worse.

Consensus: Despite a few hiccups in the narrative, Concussion benefits from a strong central performance from Will Smith, as well as a relevant message about how it’s maybe time for the NFL to wake up, smell the cauliflower, and gain a conscience.

7 / 10

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting already!

Just turn away, Will. And pay attention to what your kids are tweeting, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Gangster No. 1 (2000)

All gangsters are cool. Even the crazy ones.

Malcolm McDowell plays an unnamed Gangster who, through him, we’re being told this story. He finds out that his mentor, Freddie Mays (David Thewlis) is finally getting released from prison. This is when we’re brought back to the year, 1969, where he tells us the story of when he was a young gangster (Paul Bettany) and practically climbed through the ranks of the British mafia.

It seems like whenever a gangster flick comes out, they’re always unnecessarily compared to other, sometimes better gangster flicks that came before them. For instance, if one has a bit of humor in it, it’s often considered a rip-off of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Or, if one is quick-as-lightning, it can be sometimes looked as a carbon copy of Goodfellas; and if there’s a flick that’s takes its time, and prefers more of the slow-burn approach, it’s then compared to the Godfather, no matter what. Basically, gangster flicks have it tough and it’s only made worse by the fact that it’s getting a whole lot harder to tell these kinds of stories in fun and fresh ways.

When does Malcolm McDowell not look pissed-off?

When does Malcolm McDowell not look pissed-off?

But what about a gangster flick that’s more like American Psycho?

Now, that’s something new, which is why Gangster No. 1 is a pleasant surprise.

Director Paul McGuigan deserves credit here because he doesn’t try to be like any other types of gangster flicks out there, nor does he over-do anything, either. There’s no hip soundtrack, nor are there any bits of wit to break-up the tension when things get too serious; it’s very straight-forward gangster movie. However, it is, in no way, a boring or conventional one; it’s a surprisingly ruthless piece that, once it gets going, starts spinning faster and faster, only until that wheel eventually breaks loose and becomes a wild ride where you have no idea where it’s going to end up and how. The story may not be as unpredictable as I may make it sound, but what really makes this film tick is the style (or lack thereof) of the violence in this film that no matter how gruesome or tense it got, it keeps you glued.

One scene in particular that stays clear in my mind is the one where “the Gangster”, finds a rival mob-boss, and slowly tortures him. Heard it done before? Of course, but there’s a surprising twist with it: It’s told in the victim’s view-point. It may sound gimmicky, but surprisingly it’s effective as every little piece of pain that gets inflicted onto him, almost feels like it’s getting inflicted onto us. The blood for that scene just shoots out everywhere, the camera is constantly moving rapidly, but yet, still stays on the violence happening, and there’s even a nice little pop tune playing in the back to remind us just how more sinister this piece of torture truly is. Anytime you have pop song in your violent movie, always make sure to play it during the most violent scene.

Always ironic. Always awesome.

And while that was just one scene in particular, the rest of the movie works because McGuigan doesn’t seem to try too hard to make this separate itself from the plenty other gangster flicks out there.

But if there was something here that bothered me, it was the narration from Malcolm McDowell, that honestly, was heard one too many times. At first, it didn’t seem like much of a problem because it placed us in the story and setting, but after awhile, it just became over-bearing and pointless to where it just seemed like half of the stuff he said was profanity. He even goes as far as to describe one scene while it was happening and it just seemed like over-kill and probably could have been done a lot better without really having to explain the needless things. Then again, they were probably just trying to put us in the mind of a psycho killer, which honestly, we kind of get the drift of after the first ten or so minutes.

Gangsters? Or Wanksters?

Gangsters? Or Wankers?

And before I forget to mention it, why the hell did everybody look the same with some nice make-up on after the 30 years, but Paul Bettany completely changes into McDowell. Everybody in this cast gets some fake, gray hair, a couple of wrinkles in their skin, and a very fragile voice, but the main Gangster is the only guy that gets fatter, has a bigger head, has a terrible five-o’-clock shadow, and is still yelling, pissing, and screamin’ all of these years later. Maybe people don’t change after 30 years and still stay their same old, crazy selves, but it seemed a bit unbelievable to me that after 30 years, these people would all still look and act the same, as well as holding the same, old grudges they held before.

Maybe I’m just not a true gangster.

Though it may not sound like I was happy with him doing anything here, McDowell is still quite solid in this role as the aging, but still vicious gangster. It’s obvious that they placed him in the role of an older, and much more crazier psycho (*cough cough* A Clockwork Orange *cough cough*), but he kicks ass with the role still and made me laugh whenever he seemed like he just felt like dropping the C-word for no good reason at all.

But it’s Paul Bettany, playing the younger version of him, who steals the whole show. Bettany has a lot to work with here because he gets to show a lot of evil and dark aspects to this guy, while also showing a lot what makes us love him so much in the first place. However, a lot of that lovely shite he usually has in those other flicks, isn’t as showy here and we get to see what he can do whenever he gets angry and just feels like gutting somebody up into little pieces. We’re never made to feel sympathy for this cat, which works; he’s not asking for that and that’s what makes him so much more bad-ass. Now, will somebody please give Paul Bettany one more leading role and just act like Priest doesn’t even exist.

Consensus: Without trying to be too flashy or shiny, Gangster No. 1 is still an effective, surprisingly fun gangster flick that puts us inside the mind of a psycho killer, and allows for Paul Bettany to work wonders with the meaty role as said psycho killer.

7.5 / 10 

Silent, but deadly. Yup. Obvious one, I know.

Silent, but deadly. Yup. Obvious one, I know.

Photos Courtesy of: Nick Tentis, Film4, Mubi 

God’s Pocket (2014)

Philadelphia is full of scum. Take that from a person who lives there and yet, loves it so!

Philadelphia, circa the 1970’s where the mob has practically taken over all business. And a fella by the name of Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is one of those mobsters who does his business, moves on, and goes back to his wife, Jeannie (Christina Hendricks), to make sure she’s happy and pleased with the life he’s made possible for her. However tragedy strikes for them both when Jeannie’s kid ends up dying in a surprising “freak accident” at work. Though there’s a lot of speculation concerning that “accident” and whether or not it was actually a cover-up, Mickey has to find enough cash to make sure that his wife’s kid gets the best funeral possible and also, that he’s able to do so without having to split any heads in the process. Problem is though, he’s owed money by a lot of people, and there comes a point where you have to stop being nice, and start taking action in order to get what you want.

Or you know, something like that.

Honestly, though there seems to be a plot on the surface here, the truth is, there really isn’t. I mean yeah, this Mickey fella has to find a way to squander up a certain amount of cash so that his wifey-poo’s kid can get the funeral she wants him to have, but you can sort of tell about half-way through that the movie doesn’t really know if it wants to pay much attention to that, or anything else in this movie for that matter.

Most of that has to do with the fact that this is the directorial-debut by one John Slattery who, if you don’t know by now, so charmingly plays Roger Sterling on Mad Men. And that’s why it’s really hard for me to trash on this movie because you can tell that Slattery wants to make a good movie and definitely has the potential to make one in the near-future if he decides to continue to go down this road of being behind the camera, but this sadly, is not that film.

5 o'clock shadow = struggling alcoholic.

5 o’clock shadow = struggling alcoholic.

Because honestly, it’s just that Slattery doesn’t quite know how to make the blend between comedy, drama, and bits of violence, seem all put together in a cohesive manner. To say this thing is messy, is to say you get wet when you step out in the rain without an umbrella; it’s pretty obvious. But what makes this movie worse than just something of a mess, is that it’s too dull to ever be considered “an interesting mess”. And this is where, as much as it pains me to do so, where I get a tad mean on Slattery because it just seems like he doesn’t really know where to go with this material, nor does he know of what to actually say about any of it, or the characters that inhabit it; he’s sort of just a pedestrian to all that’s happening.

And honestly, that’s not so bad for some movies out there, considering they have a great cast on their hands. Which is why this is an even bigger surprise to me, considering the ensemble Slattery’s been able to cobble up together here. Of course we all know that John Turturro is good at playing the sneaky, gangster-type, but rather than doing anything interesting with that role here, it’s more of a case in where you can sort of see him going through the motions without much heart or inspiration. Same goes for the always lovely Richard Jenkins who plays a journalist with a bit of a drinking problem. Though it’s a pleasure to see Jenkins on screen and acting like his usual smarmy-self, his subplot really doesn’t add much to this movie and feels unnecessary, especially when you consider how much time it’s actually taking away from the real story at-hand here, which is Mickey getting all of that money for this funeral.

And yes, while that plot seems ripe with all sorts of excitement and fun, Slattery’s direction doesn’t really get to portray any of that. Instead, it’s just a slow, uninteresting bore that you can tell wants to say something about these low-life characters, but in the end, isn’t really saying anything at all. In fact, if I had to really dig deep underneath this story, I’d say that Slattery actually glamorizes these characters a bit as being constantly funny, cool, and able to use violence whenever they want. Now that’s fine and all when you have well-written characters, but here, there’s nobody to really care for, nor even really pay much attention to.

Well, at least she's still like Joanie in THAT sense.

Well, at least she’s still like Joanie in THAT sense. Heh heh.

Same goes for the character of Jeannie who we’re supposed to care for the most, but instead, don’t really care for, because we don’t get much of her to begin with. We just see that she’s devastated with the news of her son’s passing and we’re supposed to build our opinions about her around that idea. It didn’t quite work and although you can tell Christina Hendricks is clearly trying to break away from her Joan Harris-image, it more or less feels like she’s not trying hard enough. Or that she doesn’t have much to really work with in the first place.

That could definitely be the sole reason and it’s an even bigger shame, too, because this movie will also go down as one of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s films. And, above everything else, is the true disappointment of this movie – giving one of the most compelling presences of the past decade or so, and hardly giving him anything to work with. Though Hoffman is totally trying his hardest with this Mickey character, in the end, he’s just a weak-character that’s like any other, low-time, two-bit gangster: He’s a nice guy, but also has some dark shadings as well. That in and of itself is a total convention of the mob-tale and it’s made even worse by the fact that a person who could do something with that convention and spin it in an interesting way, doesn’t get a chance to do so.

Not his fault of course, just bad material that he didn’t deserve.

Consensus: Everybody involved with God’s Pocket seems to be trying, but in the end, is just a disappointing mess that makes the mortal sin of not bringing anything interesting to the audience’s heads while on screen.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Hard not to get a bit teary-eyed over this picture. Just sayin'.

Hard not to get a bit teary-eyed over this picture. Just sayin’.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The World’s End (2013)

Well, if we’re all going to die soon, might as well go out with a bunch of drunken nerds.

After failing to complete “the Golden Mile”, some 20 years earlier, old high school friends Gary (Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), all reunite to try to recreate, and hopefully finish, their epic pub crawl. However, time hasn’t done any of them any good, and they’ve all found themselves losing connection with one another, becoming working members of society, getting old, getting responsibilities, getting kids, getting wives, and etc. Except for Gary, who is a recovering drug-addict that practically forces them into this whole reunion of sorts, which, surprisingly, seems like it’s going well for quite awhile; that is until they all begin to realize that something is rather amiss with their hometown. Not only is everybody acting weird, but everybody they ever knew is still there. What could be the cause to all of this? And hell, what are they going to do to make sure they stay alive throughout the whole night? Eh, just keep on drinking.

Well everybody, there does it! The World’s End marks the end of what everybody knew as “The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, and what a trilogy it was! Shaun of the Dead started things off perfectly, not just making fun of horror movies, but showing the heart and the fun that could be had with those certain movies if you took them seriously; and Hot Fuzz pretty much did the same thing, but instead of it being horror movies, this time it was buddy-cop movies, male-testosterone and all. And last, but sadly least, we have this movie and it’s surprisingly different from the other two, and not because it’s a lesser-product, but mainly because it isn’t spoofing any sort of movie genre or idea. It’s basically it’s own wild beast, and for that, it deserves a whole slew of credit.

There's a reference on that map somewhere. I can just tell.

There’s a reference on that map somewhere. Way too much significance placed on it to not be.

But also, more credit should be given to this flick because it’s exactly everything you’d expect from Wright, Penn, Frost, and co.: quick, funny, full of sight-gags, action-packed, witty, and best of all, has an underlining heart and soul to it’s final-product that really helps even it all out. Nothing here in this movie will necessarily surprise you in terms of its sense of comedy, action, or where the story-line goes and why, but what it will surprise you with is how damn dark it can somehow get. And I don’t mean to use the word “dark” in a bad way either, it’s more of a welcome addition to a trilogy that needed some serious dosage of it, especially for the last installment.

For instance, if you take the whole character of Gary King into thought, he is essentially a very damaged, sad and messed-up person, yet, is able to get past on the sure with and charm of Pegg. Gary has not only become a loser ever since his grand days of high school were up, but he’s become something of a explosive device, just waiting for his time to blow up and disintegrate into the air. We see that he misses his lads, he wants to relive those glory days, and will stop at nothing to get them back, but yet, also doesn’t have an ounce of morality located anywhere in his soul, which therefore, makes him a hard character to really root for or connect with. Yet, he’s a human, and you can tell that out of everybody involved, he needs this reunion the most, as if it’s sort of a way to give his life some meaning and a reason to live.

If you haven’t been able to tell just yet, yes, this is some very dark stuff, but Wright uses it to his advantage by touching on all of the emotional-notes that worked so well with the past two, and to make matters even better: The dude seems to really be living it up behind-the-camera.

It’s fairly obvious that Wright is the real deal when it comes to fast-paced, punchy, and movies that MOVE, but here, he shows total and complete in control in his material, and allows for his it to get even weirder and weirder as it runs along. What starts out as a movie along the lines of Beautiful Girls, somehow becomes Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and it’s as bizarre of a transitioning as you’re expecting, except that it’s more fun and entertaining to watch here, rather than what’s probably playing in your head. Once it gets revealed to us just who these “things” are, it’s an all-out fest of jumps, thrills, chills, and epic throw-downs (especially the first scene in the bathroom where it’s 5-on-5, no holds barred), that will probably bring you back to what Wright did 3 years ago on his own with Scott Pilgrim. Just goes to show you that as time goes on and he gets more projects under his belt, Wright is growing into being his own type of director, and showing us that he will continue to do so, regardless of if it’s with his fellow, British pals or not. All we have to do now is wait for what he has in store with Ant-Man, and then he will totally be the finest director working today.

But as I said before, this is sadly the lesser of the three, and I think that reason is because the switch in tone is so obvious and a bit jarring, that it’s too hard not to get past. I won’t give away what happens, or what’s revealed to us when we realize what’s really going on underneath it all, but I will tell you that it definitely changes the way the movie works, and how it becomes serious. There’s an sense of seriousness and heart to this material that shines through in certain spots, but once we realize that something’s wrong with the night’s proceedings, then it gets very serious and dare I say it, “melodramatic”. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was still fun, exciting, and full of yucks and chuckles, but the tonal-change in the middle that we’ve come to see and expect from Wright’s flicks isn’t as subtle here, and it definitely changes the mood and the overall outlook of the rest of the flick.

With that said, it’s still an Edgar Wright flick, and with that being said: The cast is still full of a bunch of heavy-hitters that show they can be dramatic, but still hilarious as well.

"Aye! We're British, and we're here for a couple of pints and a few smokes, lad!" British enough?

“Aye! We’re British, and we’re here for a couple of pints and a few smokes, lad!” British enough?

Case in point: Simon Pegg. Everybody knows that Simon Pegg is a funny guy, and everybody knows that he can use his British wit and charm to his advantage, but what really surprised the hell out of me here was how deep he went with this character, not just showing us a damaged-soul, but one you can feel an ounce of sympathy towards, even if he would never, ever feel it towards you. Pegg really gets to the bottom of who this guy is, why, and where he will most likely be going with his life, but while he’s at it, also seems to be living it up, dialing it up to 11, and totally letting loose on his comedic-chops. Everything the guy says, does, and even thinks about is hilarious, and it shows that not only is Wright growing as a director, but Pegg’s growing as an actor, one that can get to the root of any character, given the right material, time and place.

Same goes for Nick Frost who, believe it or not, is actually playing the straight-man to Pegg’s crazy and wild antics as Gary. Frost has never really shown us resilience in his acting, but he shows it here and makes us realize just what we’ve been missing out on all of these years. He’s funny, sweet, a bit sad, but also a bit bad-ass when the movie needs him to be. and it just goes to show you that Frost is growing up alongside his fellow mates as well. However, Pegg and Frost are just the beginning of what’s a very good, very well-equipped, and very attuned cast to the material they’re working with here, as it seems like everybody else involved knows what they’re getting themselves into with this movie, how to play it off, and why they have to give it their all, and never let up. Not for a second. It’s kind of strange actually, because yes, even though I have seen Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan all be funny and light with some of their roles, I’ve never quite seem them as much in a full-on comedy-mode as they are on in here, and it allowed me to see them in a different light where they can do this funny stuff, but also allow for us to take them in as actual characters as well. Not just a bunch of goofballs, but people, and I think that’s a smart decision on Wright’s part on casting these highly-acclaimed, “serious” British actors. Or at least just Marsan and Considine; Freeman’s more of a clown than those two.

And don’t be fooled either, just because Rosamund Pike is the only gal of the group, doesn’t mean that she goes down without a fight. In fact, just the opposite. Not only is she as knowing of the humor as the dudes are, she also shows that she can mess-around with the best of them, and even get her hands a bit dirty if need be. She’s funny, very sexy, and also, very fiery, and reminds me of the type of chick I wouldn’t dare to mess with. Also, I highly doubt it needs to be said, but I’ll go for it anyway, just be on the lookout for everybody in this cast, because they’re all familiar-faces you’ve seen before and will surprise the hell out of you here, as they are all having a great time, and allowing you to enjoy the whole movie even more than before.

Consensus: The World’s End, or as others will know it as “the inevitable finale to The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy”, may not be as polished as the two prior installments, but is still full of the same madcap hilarity, fun, excitement, action, and typical glee that we have come to love with these movies, while also offering us some real heart and emotion to the proceedings as well.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

They're all drinking in-sequence! See, I told you they were all buds!

They’re all drinking in-sequence! See, I told you they were all buds!

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

“Giants, ain’t got shit on me!”, says the little kid from About a Boy.

Jack (Nicholas Hoult) is a young farmer who ends up taking a bribe from a snarky monk, for some magic beans. Jack doesn’t think much of it, until he goes home, drops some of the beans, and it rains. Yeah, you know what happens next. The beans end-up leading to a land populated by giants with a taste for human flesh, and they have the princess (Eleanor Tomlinson), captured and it’s up to Jack and the King’s royal-men to save her and get rid of those damn giants!

In a way, I can totally see why so many people aren’t looking forward to this movie as much as I was would be expecting. It does seem silly, it does seem stupid, it does see overly-reliant on CG, and does seem like a random-time and place for a movie like this to come out, but that’s all that advertising. That’s why, in another way, I have no idea why so many people aren’t looking forward to this. I mean, first of all, it’s directed by Bryan Singer, it’s written by Christopher McQuarrie (the two did the Usual Suspects together), and it features a new-take, on a classic-tale but told in the type of way that doesn’t alienate older-viewers, but doesn’t cater to the younger-ones either. It’s somewhere in there, slap-dab in the middle and it works perfectly for a movie that could have easily gone South, real quick, had they decided to take the darker-route. Thankfully, they didn’t and stayed straight to the source-material that I’m sure all of us grew-up loving. If not, get off your asses, and read that shit! You haven’t experienced childhood until you have.

Anyway, aside from that point, I have to say that this movie is a huge bag of fun in the sun! Okay, maybe no sun is involved because it is the beginning of March, but nonetheless, it’s still a hell of a wild ride, straight from the imaginative-mind of Bryan Singer. Here’s the thing about this movie: it doesn’t cater to a certain crowd, yet it’s the type of film you can bring your kids to, mainly boys. Why? Because it’s got all of the right-ingredients that a boy at that age should oh so desire: action, fun, humor, giants, fart jokes (not as eye-rolling as it sounds), swords, guys speaking in funny-accents, and a whole lot more where that came from. If that doesn’t sound like the perfect piece of cake to allow your kids to take a bit out of, I don’t know what the hell will!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you bastard!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you lil’ bitch!

Some may rag on this flick for not going any-deeper than just being a loosey-goosey, fun, and wild romp about the Jack and the Beanstalk-tale, but who needs that when you have Bryan Singer just playing around with the material that it seems like he actually enjoys? Seriously, the guy is having a ball with this material, and in-return; so are we. He never lets loose of the action and never loses his mind on what type of movie he’s making. He’s always making a wacky and crazy movie that has a bunch of people, hunting-down giants, and sometimes, vice versa. You can’t ask for much more, unless you want the Usual Suspects-Singer. If you go in and expect that type of Singer, then you’re going to come out of this with a huge slap-mark on your face saying, “WRONG!!”. It’s just a fun-as-hell movie. That’s it.

I could beat this horse to death with all of the shit that I’m saying, but it’s the truth: this movie is just fun. Take for instance, the fact that I saw this at a 11 a.m. screening on Saturday, not expecting anything other than a movie that would be okay, so I could sleep my hangover away. However, that’s where the surprise came. The movie woke me up instantly, and didn’t lose me for a single second. Sure, it started-off pretty slow and made me feel like I was in for a ride that I would most likely doze-off for, but as soon as Jack gets those treacherous beans, it’s a total and complete party, right from there. Singer never loses the sense or style of that party, and always kept me alive, awake, happy, and above, entertained. I can’t give this any more credit. Just go see this movie and be ready to see the return of Bryan Singer. The guy knows exactly what he’s doing with a story, how he wants to film it, and how he wants to keep the spirits alive while doing-so. If there is any increment in my mind that the guy can handle the next X-Men, this is the reason why I think so. Now, I just cannot wait!

As for the cast, they all seem to be up-to-pace with all of the fun and wild times that Singer’s having behind-the-camera. Nicholas Hoult is charming as the naive Jack that has to grab his pair, and beat the shit out of some giants. He does do some of that, but not enough to where I was feeling like, “Wow, this character really is a slayer.” Don’t get me wrong, Hoult’s good and all, it’s just that I wish Jack was doing more slaying of giants, like the title promised.

Instead of Jack doing all of that bad-assery business of slaying the fuck out of giants, all of that is left up to Elmont, playued by the awesome Ewan McGregor. Say what you will about the questionable-choices the guy has made in the past, but Ewan McGregor is a very, very likeable presence that always keeps my attention on him whenever anything’s going down, and he just so happens to be located in the same scene. McGregor seems to be having so much fun playing the charming, but bad-ass soldier that doesn’t take “no” for an answer, and never lets his target get away. He’s not as sadistic as I may make him sound, but McGregor does have a cool character that can kick ass, take names, chew bubblegum, and spew-out hilarious one-liners, like nobody’s freakin’ business. Where the hell was that in all of the Star Wars movie, dammit!!?!?

"Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!"

“Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!”

Stanley Tucci is another one that seems to be having a lot of fun in his role, but instead, is more of the bad-guy here and absolutely revels in it. Tucci is a great screen-presence to have on-screen, but to watch him chew the hell out of the scenery and spit it back out, was just a blast to see, and probably an even bigger-blast to perform. Tucci’s good at playing weird-o bad guys (*cough* The Lovely Bones *cough*), but a simple one that’s just evil for the darn-sake of being evil, is even better in my book. The only one who feels like a bit of a waste is Ian McShane, who really seems like he just wants to break-out his shell, get loose with it, and just start being the bad-guy himself. Instead, he’s all wrapped-up in that King’s armor that makes him look more like a freakin’ egg than any type of ruler, but hey, at least we get to see those devil-ish eyes. God, they still scare me to this day.

Consensus: Jack the Giant Slayer is not what you think it to be from the misleading trailers and advertisements  It’s not a waste of time, it’s fun, it’s exuberant, it’s made for the whole family, it never loses it sense of joyfulness  and even better, just never loses what it’s all about in the first-place: complete and utter entertainment. Don’t bother with the 3D, but if you’re bored and got nothing else better to do with your life than watch highlight clips of the Oscars, then give this bad-boy a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

The Illusionist (2006)

Sorry, ladies. Leave the magic tricks to the men.

When word of famed-magician Eisenheim’s (Edward Norton) astounding illusions reaches the powerful and pragmatic Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the egotistical-ruler attends one of the magician’s shows in order to debunk Eisenheim during the performance. However, when the Prince’s intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician on-stage, a dormant love affair is rekindled. That’s where Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) steps-in to clear the air and find out just what the hell is going on here.

Back in the golden days of 2006, there was not one, but TWO movies made about 20th century magicians (the second-one being Christopher Nolan’s far-better The Prestige). Apparently, David Blaine or Criss Angel just weren’t cutting it for the movie-going audiences and they needed more magic, more illusions, and more bullshit! And even though Neil Burger is nowhere near the type of director Nolan is, and probably forever will be, at least the guy keeps us believing in that everything we see is real, no matter how much CG they may use. Oh, it’s actually fictionalized-tale? Could have fooled me. NOT!!

All kidding aside, the guy, Burger as I could probably assume he loves to be called, actually does a fine job with this material because he is able to not only keep us wondering just what the hell is going on here, but where this story is going to end-up lastly. It’s not easy to see the twists and turns coming and that’s where the fun of Burger’s direction seems to lie: the element of playing with his audience’s minds and expectations, much like the illusionist this story is all about. However, maybe I’am a bit biased in my own way and found more to reach for than mostly other-viewers.

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The 20th Century Version....

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The Royal Days….

I have to say, I love movies about con-men and in a way, magicians are sort of shoved into the same category as them. Therefore, fore me, watching as this magician would pull-off tricks and illusions to play with the minds of everybody who cared to go out and see him, really interested me and had me wonder just where exactly Burger was going to go with this story. Some places he takes you; you expect, whereas others; you don’t. All you do know is that Burger seems to have a fiery-passion for this material and it shines through in every, which way. Also, make sure to pay close-attention to all that’s going on here because it may just help you in the end. That’s the only piece of advice I’m giving away, and it’s all for free. Sadly.

Then again, the fact that Burger loves this material so much, you know, magicians playing tricks on each other, you sort of start to lose reality of what this story is actually about: a love between two people that can’t be together. It’s the age-old story of two kids that knew each other when they were young, fell in love, had their first, awkward kiss together (trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from you youngsters), and vowed to always be together, until they eventually are separated by two walks of life and class-situations. To be honest, there isn’t anything wrong with the story here, it just doesn’t get as much as love and dedication as the whole mystery does. It’s obvious that maybe Burger needed a little som-som to back-up all of his fun and games, but it doesn’t work or even have you give a lick about the forbidden-love between these two. You sort of just want them to bone, get it over with, and shut-up about the whole thing and move on with their lives. That would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then a bunch of people just moping and pissing around about how they can’t be with the one they love. I love Scarlett Johansson, but you don’t see me bitchin’ about that every, damn day, now do ya?!??! Didn’t think so. Get over it!

Half of the problem that I had with this plot-line, also had to do with the fact that Jessica Biel can’t act for shit, and when she tries too hard: this is what we end-up getting. Not a good thing to witness at all. Every movie I see this gal in, I always want her to blow me away, show me something more from her that I never, ever thought she had, and just make me believe in her once again as an actress (I don’t know when the first time was), but she just can’t pull that off here, no matter how meaty the material may be. Around all of these heavy-weights, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb and it’s very, very noticeable. I can’t even blame Burger either, because every obvious and predictable line this flick they throw at her, she hits it as if she was in a day-time soap, or better yet, still on another episode of 7th Heaven. Now, I think is the time to fully give-up on Biel as an actress and just face the fact that half of the roles that she’s offered, her hubby JT should just take mainly. May be a bit far-fetched for some people to believe in, but the guy can do no wrong. Let’s just face that fact and live our lives a little bit better now.

Even though Biel is bad, everybody else seems to be on their A-game. Hell, with a cast THIS GOOD, I actually wonder what the hell even drew Burger to cast Dullsville-Biel in the first-place. Was it the looks? Was it the possibility of the nude scene? Was it because he was secretly having a fling with her that JT didn’t know about? Or, was it just because she was a big name and that’s what this movie needed to get any sort of viewers whatsoever? I’m going with the former. But anywho, back the cast at-hand.

Edward Norton is, as usual, good as Eisenheim and gives the guy a very dark, mysterious-path that never gives us the easy answering of knowing whether or not the guy is good, or bad. His intentions are never clear, and you never really have the idea in your head that he’s doing all of these magic tricks for the entertainment of others or the money, but something more. He’s an interesting character that I wish we got to see more of, other than just realizing who that person is that makes his knees weak. He even gets pushed to the back-burner somewhere around the final-act, as the movie takes it’s own detour into mystery-thriller territory and sort of forgets all about what makes him a living, breathing character. It’s still a fun, last-act, but a very disappointing one if you take Norton and the character he was playing into consideration.

Biel's facial-expressions tell it: she what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Biel’s face tells it all: she has no idea what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Rufus Sewell, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever, plays Crown Prince Leopold, the corrupt and bastard-like ruler of the land, who soon hopes  become king of the empire one day. Obviously, you know this guy is going to do evil and sadistic things throughout the large-portion of the flick, however, you sometimes get teentsie, tiny surprises of emotional-depth with this guy that seems real, honest, and more than just the traditional villain that we are used to seeing in these types of movies. But even though that depth and insight of that character comes out every once and awhile, it starts to be shoved back into him, just so the plot can move along and make him feel like he’s more and more of a dick, rather than a human-being. There’s a scene by the end with him where I really feel like I was starting to get the full picture of who the heck this guy really was, underneath all of the royalty and fancy-shizz, but sadly, it was a little too late for me and for him to really get the credit he deserved. Even if Sewell did a great-job with this character, I still feel like the script didn’t accompany him as well as it started-off as being. Poor guy, at least he still will forever and always be type-casted as that dick from now on.

The one who really steals the show in this whole movie, however, is in-fact Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl. Uhl was a character that I thought was going to be the straight-up dickhead of the whole movie that was corrupt, mean, terrible, and ridiculous with all of the things that he did and used to his power as head of the police force. However, things for him, just like the plot itself, start to change and we see more of a moral-compass shell out of the guy, which was anymore than I ever expected. Giamatti plays this up so perfectly as we have no idea whether or not to trust this guy, believe he will do the right thing, or even, do anything reasonable to make his job and life seem like it has some sort of meaning. Watching Giamatti go through this internal conflict with himself was something of a work of magic (heehee), and it goes to show you that the guy can play anything he wants, and still have that pure-bread, lovable personality to him, no matter how dark or mean the character may be. Swell job, Paul. Swell.

Consensus: The Illusionist may not work when it comes to being about the love between our two main-characters, mainly because it doesn’t feel developed as well as the all of the fun and games of the magic-tricks, but with a superb-cast (minus Biel) and an inspired direction from Burger who seems to really enjoy this material, you have more enjoyment than you expect.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Fuckin' rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!"

“Fuckin’ rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!”

Gangs of New York (2002)

Even without guns and cars, I’d still be pretty freakin’ scared to go toe-to-toe with a gangster from the 1800’s. Especially, if they were in-character the whole time.

Taking place in New York City around the 19th Century, the son of a gang leader named Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes back to his hometown in order to avenge his father’s death. He plans to do this by killing the leader of the Natives, a simple and kind fellow named Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). By the way, the “simple and kind” statement, was bullshit. The guys fuckin’ crazy.

Apparently, this was a “dream project” for director Martin Scorsese for about 5 or 6 years that took longer than he expected to actually get made. Like all dream projects we have in our minds, we joggle them around forever, and actually crash-down to reality and realize, “oh shit, this is going to take longer than I ever wanted to”. Yeah, even directors feel that way and yes, even Marty Scorsese apparently too. It was reported to cost over 100 million dollhairs, took months and months to build actual sets of the film, needed to go through tons of editing, and was released in December of 2002, a year later than it originally had planned. Usually when this kind of crap happens, this usually shows trouble with the overall film quality, regardless of who the actual director is. Thankfully, Marty is unlike any other and that’s all that matters.

What I liked most about this flick is how Marty tackles the same exact style of gangsters, crooks, and bastards in the 1880’s, the same way he would with the ones of the 1900’s. There’s a very fast-paced essence and feel to the whole film that keeps you on-edge as to what’s going to happen next, what characters are going to be finito by the end, and when this final-battle between the two opposing sides is actually going to occur. Now, does it look and feel like an actual Scorsese flick? Not really, but that’s what’s so interesting about the guy. He’s able to change-up certain trademarks he has about himself and give a new story, a whole different type of look and feel you wouldn’t quite expect from him. It does get pretty damn violent at times, so there’s the obvious trademark for ya, but regardless of how many trademarks are shown in here, it’s still pretty damn entertaining to watch even if you have seen it over 5 times and can calculate everything now, like yours truly.

"Hurry up, Cameron. Let's get you out of here before Marty changes his mind."

“Hurry up, Cameron. Let’s get you out of here before Marty changes his mind.”

However, as many times as I have sat-down and watched this 2-and-a-half-hour-movie and been entertained by it, I still can’t deny that there lies a whole butt-load of problems brewing beneath the surface. First of all, one of the biggest hints that this film was going to have trouble with itself was the fact that it has three writers working on it (Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan). Usually, that spells out trouble and that’s exactly what we get here as this film tackles a bit more than it can get away with. In fact, it actually seems like these writers were all given different subjects to write about, understand, and bring back to Marty so they could make one, big, and long epic about life in NYC in the 1800’s. That idea, in case you were confused by what I was saying, does not work here as it’s too many ideas, with too little of a pay-off.

The whole idea is about gangs that hide out and cause havoc in New York, which makes a compelling and entertaining watch on it’s own, but then, once you add all of those other ingredients in, it get’s a bit over-stuffed to the point of where you have no freakin’ clue what this movie is trying to talk about or even convey. Is is about a young dude getting revenge on the guy who murdered his dad? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about a possible “romance” between this young dude and untrustworthy gal? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the history of New York in the 1800’s? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the war and how everybody had to take part in it? Yes, well, sort of. Or, is this flick all about how politics usually came into play with the gangs and how they all acted around one another? Once again, yes, well, sort of. As you can tell, this film touches on too many subjects, adds in too many subplots, and juggles too many ideas, which shouldn’t have been such a huge problem, given the time-limit offered to the script, but somehow it just does not work altogether and seems jumbled around like the best bits of an musician’s career. However, these “best bits”, aren’t really the best. They’re slightly mediocre to say the least.

Probably the most compelling story of all should have been the whole revenge tale with this young dude going after the man that killed his father when he was a child and he vowed at nothing to stop him from succeeding at that. However, that whole story seems a bit half-baked considering we barely get to see the young dude with his father as a kid; barely get to see how all of this has an effect on him as an slightly older dude and constantly being in that man’s presence; and barely get any tension except for the last 20 minutes where everything really comes into play. And heck, even that final stand-off doesn’t really count, for reasons I can’t state.

Speaking of the ending, some people freakin’ despise it and count it as one of the worst of all-time (and once you see it, you’ll know why), but I actually thought it was a pretty clever way to allow it to tie into history and give it more of an importance in terms of how we view New York City now, and how it really was. Yeah, it wasn’t the best way that a genius like Scorsese could come-up with and yeah, it may have dropped the ball on some fun and excitement, but it still was pretty neat to see how everything was going to be tied around in a nice little bow at the end. It comes off as a nice reminder that NYC has history and is a beautiful place to live, which was an idea that some people may have brushed-off to the sides during the lean days of ’02.

Despite all of this bad talk, I still had a lot more fun with this flick because of the performances from an impressive ensemble that Marty always has a knack for casting well. Leonardo DiCaprio proves he is able to take on a stronger, more dramatic role as a young kid going through a bit of a crisis and makes Amsterdam a believable, and compelling character to watch. It’s also better since the guy is easy to get behind and can practically kick anybody’s ass, but doesn’t get too in-over-his-head like most characters of this same-exact convention usually do. The kid may not always have a huge ounce of charm to his look and personality, but it’s Leo, and the guy is always great to watch on-screen and you can’t help but root for Amsterdam as things start to go from better-to-worse, sooner than later. Then, there’s Cameron Diaz, who I am not a very big fan of but is serviceable in a role that could have easily gone to any other actress and still been as good or entertaining. That’s not really a good thing or bad thing, it’s just that her character doesn’t offer much to really intrigue you and Diaz doesn’t help us with that much, either.

I'm afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

I’m afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

But despite these two, the one who really steals the show is none other than the man, the myth, the effin’ crazy man who stayed in-character the whole time during the making of this flick: Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting, or as my dad likes him to be referred to as, Bill the Butcher. Cutting is a very fun character to watch and the fact that he’s played by Daniel Day just makes him all the more compelling to keep your eye on as every chance he gets, he proves to you why this guy can never be trusted and why so many damn people in the city fear him for the things he can do. Cutting is a bit caricaturish, but Daniel Day makes sure it doesn’t get too over-the-top and strangely, keeps the guy human and believable in his own, sadistic way. There’s the one memorable scene that really touched me where he’s talking to Amsterdam about the only man that was worth remembering that he killed (Amsterdam’s father) and it gives us a wonderful look-see into a man that does some pretty terrible and evil things, but still feels something for the people he kills, even if they are his biggest enemies. Daniel Day is electrifying in this role and makes it all the more fun to watch, but sadly, he is probably the only interesting character of the bunch, and he’s the freakin’ bad-guy you’re supposed to despise!

Consensus: Gangs of New York struggles with way too many ideas, themes, and a bunch of plot-points that never come fully-realized, but has a very entertaining feel and vibe to it, that places you in this setting of New York City during the 1800’s, and features compelling performances from everybody involved, including the magnetic Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting/the Butcher.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Come on Ethan, I thought you didn’t need women.

Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty to train new IMF agents and start a life as a married man with his new squeeze (Michelle Monaghan). But he is called back into action to confront the toughest villain he’s ever faced, named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.

If you have seen the first two Mission: Impossible movies, liked them, had a good time with them, and didn’t get bored watching Cruise play cool, then chances are, you are going to like this one, have a good time with it, and not bother one-bit that Cruise is playing cool, once again. Actually, I could just use that one-sentence to sum-up my whole review and be done with it, but since I am a critic and I just spent 2 hours of my life watching this thing, I’m going to take away 5-7 minutes away from your life, just so you can read what I have to say. It’s a sort of domino effect, but trust me, you don’t really have to read this. I’m probably just going to go on and on about Katie Holmes and how right she was. Seriously, take a drink every time I mention her name. The review will be a lot better.

Anywhoo, after highly-stylish directors like Brian De Palma and John Woo took over the last two installments, J.J. Abrams comes up on-board and gives his first-shot at directing a full-length, feature movie. Before this, Abrams was known for creating Alias, Lost, Felicity, and other popular TV-shows that people loved and fan-boys went oogle over, which makes this movie all the more interesting to watch now, considering this is also the same guy that went on and brought Trekkies back to life almost three years ago. It’s great to see a director that obviously loves these old-school action movies, but yet, doesn’t forget to throw some of the newer-stuff in as well to fully get us going and have us feel like we’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

"Felicity's graduated, bitch."

“Felicity’s graduated, bitch.”

Thankfully, that is exactly what Abrams brings to the table here and right from the first-sequence where Hunt and his gal get tied-up and interrogated, you know you are in for a real, real action-treat. Actually, after that scene, the movie doesn’t really ever seem to slow down. We get a bunch of non-stop, tense action-sequences that seem to pull out something new each and every time, and a couple of twists and turns that are sure to have you wondering what’s going to happen next, but in the good way that actually makes sense and not confusing like the first-one. Basically, it was a great choice to bring Abrams along for the ride on this one and it’s obvious that the guy knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful action-scene that will have you gripping your seat, even if you do know how it’s going to end. That’s the sign of a good action director, actually, let alone, director none the less.

However, if you do not like these movies chances are, you’re not going to like this even more. It’s not as stupid as the others, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely feels like a plot-line that wasn’t really thought-out well enough for an action movie of this caliber. For instance, it’s never really brought to my attention what was so bad about this Davian guy in the first-place. Yeah, he’s got weapons and materials of mass-destruction, but I never really saw any of that put to test nor did I really see him actually go to work on any of that whatsoever. I just heard that the guy was bad, realized he was a bit of a dick, and I guess, just assumed that he wasn’t a guy that plays on the good-side. There’s a whole bunch of other problems with this plot that didn’t seem to really make all that much sense to me but in the end, I soon realized that it didn’t matter a lick and all that did matter was watching Ethan Hunt be as cool, as he might as well can be.

Faster than a speeding bullet coming from an Chopper, he's Ethan Hunt dammit.

When you have Scientology on your-side, you can out-run anything. Even speeding bullets.

Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt like he always does: cool, swift, witty, sneaky, and most of all, smart. Cruise plays this role like no other, has no intentions on leaving, and you know what? I don’t really mind it all that much, either. Yeah, the dude’s getting old and a bit funny-looking in terms of botox but the guy still can play this role in his sleep and have us love him, no matter what crazy shit he does or says in his personal life. At the time of the release of this movie, I know that was a bit hard to get by but to me, it doesn’t make much of a difference now and never really did.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, but the one I was really impressed by most of all was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, the main-villain that Hunt is forced to mess with. What makes Davian so different from the others, is the fact that the guy holds no remorse for the things he’s done or is about to do, and plain and simply looks at you in the face, tells you he’s going to put a bullet through it, and says so with no emotion or expressions whatsoever. You really feel like this guy will hold you up on his promise when he’s going to get right down to business and kill you, and that’s why this guy was so freaky to watch and most of all, actually seemed like a legitimate threat to Hunt after all. I will say that his character doesn’t meet the smartest demise of all, but before all of that, Hoffman is electric, fun, and very sinister to watch, in a way that makes me wish he played more villainous-type roles. In a way, I guess he does but oh well, doesn’t matter because the guy can act.

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

The only one in this cast who really stuck-out like a sore-thumb and seemed to bring everything down was Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s new lady-friend, Julia. I don’t know if it was Monaghan’s acting, her writing, or just the shoddy-development for her character, but I didn’t give a crap that she was there, why she was there, or what really even was going to happen to her in the end. Abrams tries very hard to throw at us that Hunt is not only doing this mission for the safety of country, but the safety of his heart as well and as appealing and relateable as that may be for some audience-members watching, I for one, didn’t really buy it and give a single-crap whatsoever. If you want to know why, just go on back to my M:I-2 review and you’ll see why I don’t think Hunt should play around with gals. That is it.

Consensus: Mission: Impossible III is probably the best of the whole series because of it’s electric-direction from Abrams, tense action-sequences that never seem to end, and fun-loving spirit for both old, and new action-movies of the world and makes you feel like this is a series that will never run out of a steam, just as long as they stay fresh with new-directors coming on-board and keep Cruise in-line. Oh yeah, by the way, Katie Holmes. Drink up, people!

8/10=Matinee!!

"Employ me again, Tom. Please?

“Employ me again, Tom. Please?

Me and Orson Welles (2009)

You don’t have to be a dick to be an actor, but it seems like a good excuse.

Seventeen-year-old Richard Samuels (Zac Efron) spends his days dreaming of the bright lights of Broadway. Richard happens upon Orson Welles (Christian McKay) and his fledgling Mercury Theatre company. Richard impresses Welles and lands an unpaid bit part in the Mercury’s forthcoming run of Julius Caesar. He is taught the ropes by a beautiful, ambitious production assistant, Sonja (Claire Danes). Richard falls into Sonja’s womanly charm almost instantly.

Now I haven’t checked out every single  piece of work this legend (Orson Welles) has to offer, but from what I hear there seems to be three things about him: he 1. was talented, 2. was very big on his ego, and 3. was a huge dick. But hey, you can probably get away with number 3 when you’re considered one of the greatest actors and directors of all-time.

I was a tad disappointed to see that Richard Linklater  directed this without adding anything of his own writing, but it didn’t matter too much once I realized just how fun and charming a flick like this can be. I have only been a part of  2 or 3 plays and I can easily say that Linklater definitely nailed down what it’s like behind-the-scenes of one. Everybody’s constantly rushing, getting tense, and trying so hard not to mess up their lines that almost anything the slightest thing makes you crazy or pushes you to forget everything. All of that continuous hustle-and-bustle from the first rehearsal to the final show is captured here perfectly; the passion of the people who surround the play is so present that it brings you into this place that makes you forget it’s the miserable thirties.

But who am I kidding?! The real reason this film works so damn well is because of Christian McKay‘s larger-than-life performance as Orson Welles. I have never heard nor seen McKay before but I think he definitely nails everything about Welles from the gruff in his voice, to the ways his eyes move when he’s mad. Welles (as portrayed here) is a genius but is also very egotistical in the way that he only wants the show done his way, and anybody else who dares to argue against his vision will either be kicked to the streets or used for their opening night, then kicked to the curb. Welles may have been a guy that only cared about himself, and himself only, but he also shows a lot of talent when it came to getting just about every detail right and the performance from McKay only proves that to be even more true. McKay doesn’t just sound or act like Welles, he is Welles and for the whole time I was watching him, I couldn’t get past the fact that who I was watching right now wasn’t actually Orson Welles himself. Definitely a performance that should have made him a lot of a bigger name but I guess it was the film’s limited release that sort of screwed him over in that case.

However, as amazing as McKay as Welles is here, he’s also the biggest problem with the flick because when it isn’t on him and is focusing on all of this other junk, it sort of gets a little fluffy and uninteresting. All of the stage stuff was fun to watch but when they started focusing on the story outside of it all, I really started to lose my interest as I found this coming-of-age story to be rather, —bland. It seems like the writers here just borrowed from a whole bunch of other coming-of-age flicks, and found their ways to throw them in there without any real interest in actually moving the plot along. Basically, it’s just here to give us another story that isn’t all about the stage but that’s what I started to miss out on and I think if Linklater at least wrote this, it would have been a lot better.

Claire Danes is pretty good here as Sonja and definitely is a lot happier in this role than she was in Shopgirl. Zac Efron is also good in his role too as Richard (how cute, Linklater), but he definitely sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes right down to it. It’s not that Efron is bad, it’s more that he is just way too Hollywood for this role and movie, and the costuming just looks a little too goofy on him. He definitely has charm: charm that we will see more of in upcoming years, but like wise he doesn’t seem anywhere near the perfect fit for this role.

Consensus: Me and Orson Welles is at its best whenever it focuses on the behind-the-scenes stage antics of 1937 Manhattan and McKay’s perfect performance as Welles, but whenever the focus goes towards its fluffy and bland coming-of-age story, things get a tad uninteresting.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White’s about to kill a bitch.

In this adaptation of the classic fairy tale, Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White, the young woman destined to become the fairest maiden in the land. Threatened by that fact, the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) sets out to destroy her but she is unaware that Snow White is training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who was originally dispatched to kill her.

After seeing Mirror Mirror, the other Snow White adaptation that was pretty bad, I didn’t fully understand as to why we needed two movies of the same story. Actually, I still don’t but I can at least tell you which adaptation is a lot better than the other.

Any parent who’s thinking about bringing their kid to a Snow White movie can scratch that thought, because this movie definitely isn’t your normal fairy-tale you bring the whole family to. Most of that can be credited to director Rupert Sanders, who’s directing his first feature and gives this flick a very a dark and grim fantasy adventure, that makes it seem like the story of Snow White was mixed around with Lord of the Rings and a Game of Thrones episode. Sanders does a good job here with everything he’s given and takes his time setting up the story nicely, to keep a certain type of tense feeling going on throughout the whole movie. We all know how this story begins, gets going, and eventually ends, but Sanders kept me guessing somehow because he just seemed like a dude that would pull out something new or cool to add to this story and keep us entertained.

Sanders is also a great visual director and although I wouldn’t say he is as good as Mirror Mirror‘s Tarsem Singh, I would still have to say that he does a fine job with all of the beautiful visuals he throws at us here. The film’s tone is not only dark, but so is the rest of film so whenever color does come into play here, it looks gorgeous and is definitely something for us to marvel. There’s one scene in particular where Snow White goes into this very magical, dream-like forest called “Fairy Land”, where all of these purrty colors keep on flying around and almost makes you feel like you are there too. What’s even better is that it’s all in 2D and it still made me feel like I could just reach up and touch those little fairies. But hey, any macho dude reading this review thinking that those are the only things in this film that look good, can be sadly mistaken because there are some cool shots of a battle where the soldiers end up being broken into glass, another forest that has a lot of cool booby-traps that make you instantly high (or something like that), and even a nice shot of Ms. Theron getting nakey, and dipping herself in milk (or something like that). Trust me dudes, no T&A, but it will still hold you over if you can’t handle all of the fairy tale junk. Then again, why would any “real dude” be going out to see this one?

If there was a problem with this flick, it was that I felt it started to lose focus by the end and was losing my interest. Once the Huntsman is in the story, and the dwarves have been introduced, the film gets ready for the big, epic brawl between Snow White, The Huntsman, and their gang vs. Queen Ravenna, her crows that she ends up turning into, and her gang. You would think that since this movie is over 2 hours long, that there would be a butt-load of tension to make this battle go off the chain, but sadly, it didn’t really do much for me since I think they started to focus on too many other subplots. Actually, they didn’t even focus on Ravenna as much as I think they should have because every time she was actually on, you could feel like this movie was going to just lead-up to her final fight with White, which it did, but it just didn’t have me at hello like I was expecting. Maybe it’s just me though, and maybe I didn’t want a 2 hour long Snow White movie. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

What I can say about Ravenna, is that Charlize Theron was a perfect choice for her and seems like she’s having the absolute time of her life just chewing up the scenery here as our mean and evil queen. A lot of people said that they thought Theron was over-acting with this role, but what I think she is doing here is quite perfect considering this chick hasn’t ever really played a villain before (or at least one that we didn’t root for). She’s beautiful, we all know that, but I think Sanders saw that beauty in her the most and gives her some very beautiful scenes where it’s just her looking like an evil, but beautiful queen bitch that you definitely don’t want to piss off.

Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart does an OK job as Snow White because she doesn’t really step outside of her comfort zones that we have all seen her play time and time again. She does have a lot more to work with here than she does in those Twilight pieces of shit, but she doesn’t really say or do much that makes us cheer her on the most out of everybody. In fact, the one I was cheering on the most was probably Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, who in the past two years after such flicks like Thor, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Avengers, has proven to be a real talent. Hemsworth not only looks the part, with the scruffy beard and grungy-type hair and everything, but also sounds like a guy that would absolutely beat your ass if it came down to you or him to survive. Can’t wait to see what this guy pulls out next.

Let me also not forget to the mention the dwarves that are pretty fun to watch here, but aren’t given as much as they are in Mirror Mirror. It was pretty impressive to see actors like Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones being shrunk down to dwarf-size, but they come into the story a little too late for my liking and bring a bunch of humor that doesn’t seem to fit in so well with the rest of the flick. Still, they all do great jobs and I kept on wondering just how Sanders pulled off making all of these regular-sized peeps, seem so small. Maybe I did that a little too much, but at least it kept me watching.

Consensus: Snow White and the Huntsman may run on a little too long, but still features plenty of fun with its darkly epic direction from newbie Rupert Sanders, and a slew of fun performances, especially one from Theron who just seems like she’s having a ball. As she should.

7/10=Rental!!

21 Grams (2003)

I don’t know what these people are selling, but I sure as hell don’t want 21 grams of it. Teeehee

’21 Grams’ interweaves several plot lines, around the consequences of a tragic automobile accident. Sean Penn plays a critically ill academic mathematician, Naomi Watts plays a grief-stricken mother, and Benicio del Toro plays a born-again Christian ex-convict whose faith is sorely tested in the aftermath of the accident.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu is a director I’m sort of mixed with even though I have already seen three of his four films already, including this one. Still, seems like a good enough director but at the same time, very much into making everything look absolutely filthy.

When it comes to the technical sides of things, Iñárritu knows what to do. The film looks very dirty, grainy, and makes it almost seem as if everybody in the film needs a bath but it works and gives this film a sort of ugly feeling where nothing good will come and happen to these characters. The film also has some very razor-sharp editing that cuts away at some very good moments but mind you, this is not a very fast-paced film by any means, it is a long slow-burner that keeps you watching even when you think your out.

When it comes to the emotional side of things though, Iñárritu also seems like he knows what he’s doing. The film is very dark, sad, and very depressing but there is still a lot we can feel for these characters because each of them all had or still have something terrible eating at them from the inside. Iñárritu keeps all three of these characters’ motives tucked inside of them and it’s actually up to us what we think they will do next and whether or not they are actually good people. At times, it can be hard to feel anything for these types of characters but by the end, you really start to feel their pain and anguish, which is something that almost draws you closer to them.

The problem with all of this is, everything here is told in a non-linear way where it constantly jumps back-and-forth between past, present, and the future. This of course, has its negatives as well as its positives. The positives about this is that this way of approaching the story sort of gives it that feel of a jigsaw puzzle where one second we see two people happy, then the next second we see one of them getting shot, and it all feels confusing at first but after awhile you start to get used to it and connect all of the pieces anyway. I like these types of films that use this different kind of approach and it was pretty neat to see it used here but then again, it did have its negatives that were a little too big.

First of all, I think the whole idea of having this film’s narrative jump around from one scene to another was just because Iñárritu he wanted to spice up the premise that could have easily been a straightforward melodrama. If it was a film that just told its stories in the order that it happened, it would have still been easily as good as the final product here and I think that Iñárritu just did this because he knew that he needed to do something new and cool with this material to make it stand-out. Secondly, this point basically goes along with my first point in saying that it’s pretty pointless after all but then again, it did keep me a little bit more interested than I expected so I can’t talk total ish. However, my last problem was probably the biggest of all and took me away from the film as a whole.

I already stated that I could actually feel something for these characters because of all this bad stuff they had happen to them, but what really took me away from really getting inside of them and understanding how they felt was this narrative structure. The problem with this structure and this story was that the flick requires us to feel something for these characters by seeing all of these things that occur over a different time-and-place every 5 seconds, which doesn’t really allow them to build any real character arc because of the fact that one second they could be happy as hell, then the next second they could be crying like a little beotch, and then the next second they could be getting it in with their significant other. By the end of the first hour, the flick starts to get more linear but it can’t really do much for the fact that this flick jumped around a little bit too much and did damage not only to its characters, but also the audience watching it as well.

What took my mind away from this though was the amazing performances by everybody involved. Sean Penn plays Paul Rivers, playing the quiet and sophisticated type that we don’t usually see him play, but he does a great job here and is amazing at showing vulnerability with any of his characters no matter who they may be. Benicio Del Toro is amazing as Jack Jordan, the one dude who has an inner fight with God. With any other actor, this conviction from this sort of character would have been too hoky and too annoying but Del Toro makes it seem believable and shows what it’s like for the other person who causes the pain to someone else. Del Toro lets it all out with this performance and even when he seems like he’s going to do something terribly wrong and evil, you start to think otherwise once you realize that his character is actually a good guy after all.

Probably the one performance that shines throughout this whole flick is Naomi Watts as Cristina Peck. This performance is nothing short of amazing because Watts is able to show us a character that is practically falling apart right in front of our eyes, and it seems real and believable. Watts is asked to do a lot with her character here such as go through all of these different emotions over the course of 2 hours and it shows her exceptional range and vulnerability as an actress. Watts really tears out her soul for this whole flick but you can’t help but to feel something for her considering her whole life is practically turned to shit and it’s just great to see an actress in top-form like never before.

Consensus: 21 Grams features powerful performances, a dirty and grainy look, and a story that conveys plenty of emotions but the structure is also a problem for this flick because it not only takes away from the character arch of these people but also just feels pointless and put in here for no other reason other than to spice things up.

7.5/10=Rental!!

War Horse (2011)

Damn this kid really loves this horse. I mean he reaaaaaaaaaally loves this horse.

This is a tale of a horse named Joey who is remarkable that he starts off just a little guy in England to then be transported off into the war in France. His owner, Albert (Jeremy Irvine) goes all-over-the-world to come and find him as Joey goes throughout the world, meeting new people and gaining new life experiences.

What director Steven Spielberg has always been able to do is tug at our heart-strings no matter what the story may be. Here, he tries a little too hard for that but in the end it’s too hard to hate on a Spielberg.

The problem right off the bat with this flick was that it gets very corny, very early. You get these moments where we see just how amazing Joey is as he can row out a field, or follow his owner just by hearing a simple bird-call, or even just by walking over a piece of wood and then a huge sweeping score comes in just to let you know how magical and beautiful these moments are when in reality they are just plain and simply cheesy. I think I got the fact that Joey was a horse that was unlike any other, after about the first 10 minutes but the film just kept hammering away at this and it becomes an annoyance after awhile.

Another problem with this flick that I actually think Spielberg ran into himself was the idea of how and who was going to make this appeal to everyone. On one hand you have this very emotional story about a horse who goes through everything that is adapted from a Tony-winning Broadway play, but on the other hand you also have this very grim and disturbing tale with soldiers being killed left-and-right and horses being put away in a not so happy matter after there is no use for them anymore. What I’m trying to say here is that it’s pretty hard to center a film out there that seems like it’s for the whole family, when you have these certain darker moments that may scare away the younger people of the family.

This problem is what leads Spielberg to making a very tame film that gets by with clichés and eye-rolling moments. Take for instance the scenes between the grandfather (Niels Arestrup) with his granddaughter are scenes filled with dialogue that should be playful and come out a bit corny especially when the grandfather tells her a story about a bird flying home, which seemed totally cheesy especially considering the fact that the grandfather was kind of being a dick to her also. There are also plenty of other moments where this film just totally flames you with the manipulative moments that are supposed to make you feel something incredible but instead usually just make you want to punch whoever wrote this film.

However, when it comes to Spielberg, this guy always seems to come out on top no matter what it is that he does. The one element to this film that makes it the most watchable throughout all of these cheesy moments is the beautiful look this film has. Spielberg gives this film the epic scenery it deserves and with so many beautiful colors coming at you in every scene, it’s almost too hard to look away. Spielberg is not only just great in showing how beautiful this film can be but also very gritty as the film starts to get darker as we get more into the war which not only show Spielberg’s fine attention to detail but also how he is able to actually capture the feel of WWII but also WWI, which means that the Vietnam War is only about two movies away from being covered.

The film also shows that even though Spielberg tries to manipulate the hell out of his audiences, he still has that sympathetic bone in his body to make us care about what he is showing us on screen. The whole story basically shows Joey being the horse-version of ‘Forrest Gump’, going from one owner to another and each story somehow getting better and better as it goes on. What this horse Joey goes through is hard to watch sometimes but always made me feel something not just by how great he is, but just how useful he is even though he’s just viewed at as another horse. I’m not going to try to get into the whole “all living things should be treated the same” speech that it seems like I’m leading myself into but regardless of that, the story of Joey will make you feel something deep down inside of you and it’s all thanks to Spielberg because he always knows how to make anybody feel something.

It seems like every person who has seen this film or reviewed it is mentioning the no-man’s land scene between the British soldier and the German soldier where they meet to free Joey from barbed-wire and it really is worth mentioning apart from this flick. This scene is probably one of the best that has been in a Spielberg film in the past 10 years and it shows just how well he is able to show two conflicts being calmed down or resolved just by simply taking it easy or even just coming together to help a certain someone or something that may be in harm’s way. It’s a very powerful scene and one that makes this stand-out from recent war films.

Something else that Spielberg does here that really works is how he barely uses any big-names for his cast but that works incredibly well for the film since it keeps our minds on Joey. Jeremy Irvine is good as Albert and gives him this innocent boy act that works and makes us feel for his character when him and Joey actually get separated; Emily Watson is probably the most familiar face as his mother, and she’s great as well; and Tom Hiddleston is also very good as Captain Nicholls, even though some people may not be able to get past the fact that it’s Loki playing a British war Captain. There are many other performers here but nobody else that really stands out except for Irvine, and even he isn’t anything all that memorable.

Consensus: War Horse is heavy-handed, corny, and built on upon tons and tons of clichés, but somehow Spielberg is able to make this story heart-warming with a beautiful look, and some very good scenes that will make you feel more for this story as it goes along.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.

7/10=Rental!!

Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

British people are just so funny!

London teacher Poppy Cross (Sally Hawkins, in a Golden Globe-winning role) is eternally cheerful, but when someone steals her beloved bike, she takes up driving and gets paired with Scott (Eddie Marsan), an instructor who’s her polar opposite. The relationship is strained till Poppy’s bright personality attracts a co-worker, making Scott unexpectedly jealous.

Director Mike Leigh is always known for making true tales, that feature dark drama, but also a great deal of comedy in between. With his he does that so, but not without providing us one of the most lovely, and amusing female characters in quite some time.

The main source of praise here is Sally Hawkins, in a total tour-de-force performance here as Poppy. Poppy is a very likable and memorable character because she is easily the most joyful, playful, and pleasant movie character that has graced the screen in a while. A lot of crazy things happen to Poppy in this movie: she gets her bike stolen, she has to take driving lessons from the most uptight, toxic person one could ever meet, and she talks to a deranged hobo, among other things. Yet even throughout all that, she still smiles, cracks jokes, and keeps her head high. This movie is basically a showcase of Poppy’s unwavering optimism, even when times are at their toughest. But its not just Hawkins that shines, Eddie Marsan does a great job as well. They play these two completley different people, who somehow find ways to argue, as well as entertain the audience with their perfect comedic timing. By the end, there’s one scene by Marsan that is just perfect, and makes you feel so much more with this character.

The screenplay is great as well. It’s funny, with constant jokes just flying out the wahzoo, but there is still a great deal of seriousness to it. The movie shows how we should laugh at every moment in life, dark or funny, but we should also not to forget to take some things seriously in life. That idea is brought up in many points, but not as well as I would have liked it. The ending could have been a lot better, and I wish there was a bit more to it, than just what I got.

There were also some scenes I didn’t quite get and I don’t know why they were put in their other than to just show Poppy, being funny. There’s a scene where she talks to a hobo, so random, and made no sense, as well as another scene, with this bad kid, who is beat at home, that could have been really powerful too, but it didn’t end on anything, and felt like a waste.

Consensus: Happy-Go-Lucky may have some problems with its overall message, and story, but is funny, swiftly written, and features incredible performances from Hawkins, and Marsan, who feed up the screen every time their on it.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!