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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Elijah Wood

I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

largLock the door next time! Come on!

When Ruth (Melanie Lynskey) decides that she’s had enough of it and quits her nursing job, she expects to live out the rest of her life the way she wants to. She can drink, smoke, read, listen to music, and eat ice cream all day, and not have a thing in the world to worry about. That all changes when one day, she comes home to her house burglarized, with some of her most treasured possessions gone, without a clue in the world of where it may have gone to. Though she does call the police, they don’t seem to really care, leaving Ruth to set out and find who robbed her house, by herself. But she soon realizes that it could be a very dangerous job for one woman to do by herself, leading her to invite random neighbor Tony (Elijah Wood) along for this adventure of sorts. Tony’s more than ready to crack down on these two-bit criminals, until the both of them learn that they are dealing with much bigger fish and they aren’t going to fry easily.

Or yeah, something like that.

He was a boy.

He was a boy.

Writer/director Macon Blair is making his directorial debut here and while you may not know the name, you definitely know the face. He’s been in both of Jeremy Saulnier’s movies (Blue Ruin, Green Room), and is slowly, but surely, making a name for himself out there in the indie-world, which is why it’s interesting to see him try his hand at writing and directing movies. Cause if anything, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore feels a lot like a Saulnier movie, but instead of being drop-deadly, bleakly serious, it’s got a bit of a comedic-edge to it.

Initially, the movie seems like any other indie-comedy, with long, silent breaks of weird bits and pieces of comedy followed in, but slowly, and surely, the movie starts to show its true colors. Blair’s writing is, at the very least, interesting here, because he never quite picks a genre that he wants to work with; it’s a dark comedy for sure, but how dark and how funny the movie is going to stay, is never quite sure. We get these brief signs that the story’s going to take a viciously upsetting turn, but when and where is never quite known, and the mystery of it all is quite compelling.

And then, it gets viciously upsetting and all of a sudden, it feels like a whole different movie entirely.

See, as much as I don’t want to do this, Saulnier’s two movies so far, have absolutely benefited from the fact that they’re mean and serious, almost from the very start. They don’t try to crack any jokes, make light of a situation, and they sure as hell don’t loll-gag. They get right to the point and don’t leave us waiting. And that’s why they both work as well as they do – the violence we eventually get in those movies is stark and chilling, but sort of expected and germane, because the mood of the whole piece was already stern in the first place.

She was a girl.

She was a girl.

That’s why Blair’s movie doesn’t quite gel as well as it should. It doesn’t take itself seriously enough to fully work as a deadly serious thriller, nor does it goof around enough to work as a comedy. If anything, it’s a weird, odd, and twisted version of the two and in that sense, it’s definitely worth watching. Blair’s ambition to combine these two genres, so to speak, doesn’t fully come together as well as he may have wanted, but it’s worth noting that he at least tries and is at least semi-successful.

Shouldn’t that account for something?

Where Blair got really lucky was in the casting of both Melanie Lynskey and Elijah Wood as this odd couple of sorts. Lynskey hasn’t always been considered “a scary presence”, but here, she shows that beyond her everyday woman appeal, there’s something meaner lingering. We don’t quite know what it is, or how it’s going to present itself, but we know it’s there and she’s interesting to watch because of that. Wood’s also very good in this role as Tony, a sort-of weirdo who knows karate and has numb-chucks. Normally, this kind of character would be used as a non-stop punch-line and never taken seriously, but Blair’s writing for him and Wood’s portrayal of him, shows that there’s actually a sweet soul stuck deep down inside of this goofy guy. He may think he’s a lot tougher than he is, but then again, who doesn’t? Together, the two have a nice chemistry that gets to play out in small, yet cute ways, showing that perhaps Blair could have just focused on them and left it at that.

Cause when Blair does show the “robbers”, of sorts, like I said, the movie acts very dark and serious. It also doesn’t help that these characters seem as if they’re from another movie entirely; one that’s way more over-the-top than this one here. So yeah, it doesn’t help them anymore and only takes away from Lynskey and Wood’s great moments together.

Consensus: With a darker edge than most comedies, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore is an interesting watch, but also uneven, taking a more sinister and meaner approach to its material that doesn’t quite gel so well with the funnier, more human bits of itself.

6.5 / 10

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Can I make it anymore obvious?

Photos Courtesy of: Collider

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The Ice Storm (1997)

Cheer up, suburbia. Have some sex.

1973 is winding down and you know what? Maybe it’s time for a little break. It’s Thanksgiving break and those living in the suburbs of Connecticut, when they’re not dealing with the cold temperatures and snow on the ground, are also dealing with one another. Ben (Kevin Kline) is a frustrated father who doesn’t like his job, but also doesn’t know how to seek love or happiness from his wife Elena (Joan Allen). So rather than trying to actually solve it by talking to her like the old days, he’s currently seeking fulfillment from his neighbor Janey (Sigourney Weaver). Meanwhile, his teenage daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), has some issues going on of her own, too. She’s currently playing weird sexual games with Janey’s son Mikey (Elijah Wood), making him act out in the usual ways that young, adolescent kids do. And there’s the older brother, Paul (Tobey Maguire), who has a huge crush on some girl in his class (Katie Holmes), but doesn’t know how to go about it, nor does he quite know how to even talk to girls, but is going to try anyway.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

When in doubt, trust daddy to carry you home.

Though it doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for this, the Ice Storm was actually one of the first “suburbia sucks” movies to start the boom that sprung in the late-90’s-to-early-aughts. Of course, a lot of the movies to follow were bland, unoriginal, and just downright depressing, but the Ice Storm, even without it being the starter-package, still sails above the rest. See, it does something with its message and its sadness, and it actually builds off of them; so many of the other movies that were soon to follow, seemed to just focus in on this aspect of suburbia and not go anywhere else.

It was just one emotion, the whole way through.

And sure, you could also kind of say the same about the Ice Storm, but it’s a much more deliberate mood-piece. It’s a slow-burner for sure, but it’s also a movie that takes its time for certain reasons, like building up characters and each of their relationships to one another; the fact that the movie has about five-to-ten core characters, really gives off that feeling of repression and suffocation, but in a way, draws us closer to these character. Ang Lee may be known for paying extra attention to the ways his movies look, but here, he shows that there’s a certain attention paid to characters that just can’t be matched.

What Lee shows is that, beyond all of the sadness, repression and claustrophobia, is that there can be some bittersweet moments of pure love and joy. At times, when it’s not trying to get us down in the dumps, the Ice Storm can actually be a funny movie, poking fun at both growing old and growing up, in a time and place where it seems like the experiences and feelings are almost identical. That’s not to say that the movie’s a dramedy in any sense of the term, but the movie isn’t just one long funeral – there’s bits and pieces of sheer happiness and joy, but because they are indeed so scattered, they truly do make those said moments all the more lovely and emotional.

And then, yes, there’s the ensemble who are all, as expected, pretty great.

Kevin Kline is so perfect as Ben, the upset and constantly nervous father who clearly wants the best for him and his family, but just also doesn’t know what to do anymore. With Kline, there’s always this feeling that he’s the cool and hip dad who never gets the respect he deserves and watching him here, you totally feel that – he’s just waiting to be noticed, recognized and if anything, appreciated. If he has to go out and find that for himself, then so be it.

Joan Allen plays his wife, Elena, and has a far more subtler role than him, but is still very effective in it. There’s this lingering sense of anger underneath everything that she does and it’s exciting just waiting around to see when she’s going to crack and lose her cool, once and for all. Sigourney Weaver’s Janey may also seem like a total villain at first, but the movie does humanize her in certain ways that’s not just surprising, but refreshing; here’s a woman, having sex with a married man, and while she doesn’t feel regret for it, she’s also not very happy about it, either.

Like everyone else, she’s just trying her absolute hardest to get by.

Sorry, Tobey. Don't have to go home, but can't stay here.

Sorry, Tobey. Don’t have to go home, but can’t stay here.

As for the kids, they all fair-off pretty fine, too, especially since most of them were the premiere young actors at the time. Christina Ricci is great as the sassy, overtly sexual Wendy; Elijah Wood is very fun to watch as the fellow teenage boy she constantly teases and plays around with; Tobey Maguire plays the older college student who isn’t sure just how to go about picking up girls and because of that, his awkwardness shines through in every scene; and Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz, in only just two scenes, really do come close to stealing the show, highlighting a great deal of adolescent sincerity that they were able to match in the following years to come, but not with the same amount of rawness.

But the real takeaway from the Ice Storm and these characters is that, yes, they’re performed and written well, but they’re also never judged. Because these characters are so sad and in such huge funks, they don’t always make the best, or brightest decisions – in most cases, they’re doing just whatever they feel will make them happy at that one exact moment in time. It would have been easy for a movie, let alone, its director to shine a light on them and frown, but instead, Ang Lee embraces them for all of their faults and realizes that they too, just like your or I, have issues and they’re just trying to wade through them all. They aren’t perfect, hell, they’re not even nice, but they’re real people and those are the kind that are very hard to find movies nowadays, or in general.

Consensus: With extra attention paid to its troubled characters, the Ice Storm is a sad, dramatic, but rather moving mood-piece about suburbia and all of those imperfect beings who inhabit it.

9.5 / 10

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Cheer up! Your celebrities!

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in the Gutter, Awards Circuit

The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

If I was an immortal and looked like Vin Diesel, I’d have no complaints.

After striking up a fight with a witch a really long time ago, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has now become something of an immortal witch-hunter. However, he only goes after the witches that are acting up and need a swift kick in the ass. Though Kaulder has been through it all in his over-extended life, he still finds ways to surround himself around friends that also serve as business-buddies, too. One such buddy is Father Dolan (Michael Caine), a local priest who finds the bad witches for Kaulder. The two have such a strong-bond that when Dolan turns up dead under mysterious circumstances, Kaulder can’t help but get to the bottom of it and see who is responsible. Eventually, this leads Kaulder to realizing that it’s a witch who is out to get him and will stop at nothing until she kills him once and for all. Kaulder is more than up to the task of taking this witch, head-on, however, he’ll need a little bit of assistance on the side from the likes of a fellow priest (Elijah Wood), and a trusted friend named Chloe (Rose Leslie), who apparently holds some neat powers that could come in handy.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Yeah, not really the movie, but okay.

Most people out there will say, and have already said, that the Last Witch Hunter is like playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons with Vin Diesel. While this is an appealing idea, I’m afraid, that this is nowhere near being the truth. For one, D&D is actually a fun game to not just play (once you get the hang of it), but to watch and be around (especially when those players seem to have such an undying passion and love for it). Also, seeing as how Diesel himself has, on countless occasions, professed his love for the game, it would make sense that he’d put his absolute heart and soul into making sure that this project of his own desire would turn out to be just as fun as the famous game he seems to be trying to use as a place-mat.

But sadly, none of this happens.

Ever.

So, don’t get all mixed up with what certain people say, because the Last Witch Hunter is a bore from beginning to end. And while I’m usually one for this type of fantasy-genre where dudes with swords, go up against witches, dragons, and all sorts of other baddies, when it’s done right, the problem is that director Breck Eisner doesn’t seem to know how to do that type of movie. Instead, it’s just a hodgepodge of random genres that never seem to come together and instead, make everything just cling and clang together, without hardly any spark to be made.

What makes it even worse is that the story never seems to make any sense. Though we’re placed in a modern-day setting where witches, witch-hunters and priests all have some sort of underground world in which they combat with one another, the movie suddenly goes back into time and it comes as a total shock. But not a good one, I’m afraid – instead, it’s more of the kind that feels like the writer’s got all tired and bored with what they were doing, so rather than trying to come up with some new, fresh ideas to keep the story moving, they decided to throw time-travel in there for good measure.

Does it work? Not really. Does it add any excitement? Not even close.

And a movie that features witches, flaming-swords, and dragons, yet, isn’t exciting, is a damn shame. Although, what’s probably the smartest ploy that the marketing team for this movie has been able to create, is by having Vin Diesel appear in a Viking-ish look get-up, with a wild bear, over-sized fur-coat, and bad-ass sword. Not only does it promise some crazy, as well as awesome action where Vin’s kicking all sorts of witch-ass in the good old days, but also make it seem like that’s going to be the bulk of the movie.

The genius behind that all is, is, well, that’s hardly even 15 minutes of the film.

That's not his cocaine, it's my cocaine!

That’s not his cocaine, that’s my cocaine!

Instead, we’re treated to watching as Vin Diesel plays a character who has, apparently, been alive for centuries-on-end, witnessed so many traumatic, legendary moments in life, and seen many people come and go, yet, not really care about any of that at all. Mostly, he’s just a smooth-talker who bangs hot stewardesses, drives a sexy car, and says witty things, for some reason. You’d think that after all that he’s been through, that he’d at least be somewhat affected and screwed-up, but surprisingly, he isn’t; he’s just happy to be around, still screwing hot babes and all.

Which is a shame, because we know that Vin Diesel can work with better material, when it’s given to him. Say what you will, but Vin Diesel has some real charm to him that works in movies that call on him for it – the Last Witch Hunter is not that movie. He tries to make this Kaulder dude seem hip, cool and likable, but because the movie accompanying him is so lame and random, he doesn’t get much of a chance to make any of that work. More often than not, he just seems bored and without a friend to play with.

Poor Vinnie.

Everybody else, too, sadly, faces the same fate as Diesel does. Michael Caine gets maybe ten or so minutes here and does whatever he can; Elijah Wood seems like he wants to have fun with this role as a dorky priest, but is thrown to the background, so that shoddy-looking CGI can take over; and Rose Leslie, despite featuring some of that same, feisty spirit she had on Game of Thrones, also seems like she’s lost in a movie that’s not too concerned with how good of an actress she is, and just how well she can hold a reaction-shot. And if that’s all that acting requires, then anybody could have been in the Last Witch Hunter, let alone, the talented people who sadly got tied-up into this.

Consensus: On the surface, the Last Witch Hunter promises to be a fun, exciting schlock-fest, but once you get past that, it soon becomes clear that it’s nothing more than just a terribly-misguided, ugly-looking, and boring piece of fantasy that doesn’t deserve who it has in it.

2 / 10

Huh? Eh. I don't care.

Huh? Eh. I don’t care.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Internal Affairs (1990)

Why can’t cops just be nice guys that do nice things for the sake of humanity? Just why!

A newly minted Internal Affairs officer, Sgt. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia), has come upon the fact that his old buddy from the Academy, Van Stretch (William Baldwin), might be in a bit of heat when him and his partner get caught killing a dude in cold blood. His partner, Dennis Peck (Richard Gere), is the one who bailed him out and has been bailing him out for quite some time, whether it be on the force or at home, with his wife and family. Together, they have a buddy-buddy relationship but knowing Peck, and the way that he is, it’s more than just that and Avilla finds this out the hard way.

Cop movies are usually the same thing, time and time again. So rarely do they ever shy-away from being like any other, that it’s almost like when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. The same can be said about this flick, however, there’s something more going on here than just a bad cop vs. an evil cop. It’s more of a game, than it is a movie and coming from director Mike Figgis, I wouldn’t expect anything less compelling or enthralling. And yes, I wouldn’t also expect anything less than sexy, that’s for sure.

What Figgis does well with this material is that he builds it up plenty, without really giving us a clue of what to expect of the plot or the characters. We get a first-hand account that both of these characters are pretty cut and dry; Avilla is a straight-shooter, who does his job, loves his wife, kisses babies on the forehead, whereas Peck is a bit of shady character that not only bends the rules to help out those who are close to him, but gets more and more of a steady income through odd-jobs on the side that actually consist of killing and hookering. Basically, you think you have these characters all figured-out for who they are, what you want them to be and what they’re going to mean to one another, but that all changes once more and more layers are peeled off, and you see who these cats really are.

Wow! Are they gonna kiss?

Are they going to go for it?

Now, that being said and all, the movie is not a sure thing for surprises; a couple of twist happen here and there that will take you by surprise, but overall, it’s a pretty conventional flick in the way things happen, and the way people reveal themselves. What is so surprising about this movie is what each and every character reveals about themselves, and how dark they can actually be. You think you have them all figured-out from being the “baddie”, to the “goodie”, and watching these two duke it out to see who’s the bigger and better man is a whole bunch of fun and what kept this movie going, even when it did get close to the usual conventions of what makes a cop movie, a cop movie.

They don’t get many scenes together, but everytime you see Avilla and Peck together on-screen, you know some bad and crazy shite is going to go down, and you have a feeling that it’s only a matter of time until all hell breaks loose and one of these guys can’t bounce back from it. It’s fun to watch because both Gere and Garcia have a dynamic that’s unbelievably entertaining to watch, but they also bring out more within these characters than you’d ever get from a movie that’s about the good guy trying to overcome evil and defeat the bad guy. It does come down to that eventually, but the movie and the performers keep it more than just that, every chance they get, whether it be a simple conversation, a battle of wits, a threat, or just the usual mind-games that they both stoop-down to playing, once the shit gets hot.

Actually, at some times, it was almost too hot for these two to be on-screen together as I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if they started beating the shit one second, and hooking up with one another the next one. Seriously, it gets pretty damn hot at times and it’s attributed to the fine performances from Gere and Garcia, both of whom have never really done much for me in the past, Gere especially who, as you all know, is not my favorite actor.

Yeah I know; he’s from Philly, he’s been in good movies, and he’s even been in a couple of Best Picture winners, but to me, the guy has only been doing the same act, time and time again, and it’s a real surprise that he didn’t play that same dude here as Dennis Peck. Then again, I think the way that the character is written, Gere didn’t have much of a choice other than to stretch out his acting skills and see what he could come up with because this dude is one, messed-up mofo of a guy. Like I said before, Peck starts off as a reasonable guy that does some odd stuff that may make you think twice about his morality, but once he shows who he really is and what he has the power to do, then Gere really takes over and shows us layers of Peck that you’d never expect to see from a guy who practically saves his buddy’s ass in the first shot of the movie. Peck continues to mess with Avilla’s mind, almost in a way that’s entertaining, as bad as you feel for the dude, and it shows that Gere can have fun with a role, do well with it, and also be able to make us actually care for a character that’s so despicable and immoral. Once we do figure out that this dude is bad news, then the character gets a bit too strange for my taste, but Gere continued to enthrall me and I have to give the dude credit, especially since I’m always hating on him.

No, are they!??!

No, but are they!??!

Not like he cares anyway, because who the hell am I?!?!?

I’ve never really given Andy Garcia much of a bad-rap in the past, mostly because he hasn’t really been in much stuff where he’s liable for scrutiny. He rarely ever is the leading-man in a movie, and even when he does, the movie’s so small that it’s almost too unnoticeable for me to even watch and review. That said, the guy’s very good here as Avilla because he not only plays up the straight-laced, calm and collective act that this character keeps for a good-portion of the movie, but also makes you believe that he may have to cut some corners just to prove justice. It’s that idea that the nicest and most moral character in the movie, the one your supposed to be rooting for, might just be a bit of a bad guy as well, is what makes this character more than just another detective who wants to be promoted, and more of a guy who wants to do his job and get his man, in anyway possible. Garcia keeps us guessing, just like Gere, but the thing is with this character, we don’t know whether or not he’s going to stay the same good guy we saw from the first shot, or if he’s going to get a bit nutso towards the end. You never know with him, and Garcia keeps us guessing.

The supporting cast is pretty solid as well, even if it is apparent that it’s more or less Gere and Garcia’s show than theirs. Nancy Travis is a fine fit as Avilla’s wife who may, or may not be sleeping-around on him and the mystery behind that idea and her character is what keeps her more interesting than just the ordinary character of “the wife that gets pissed because her detective is too busy solving crimes and not at home banging her”. Yeah, you know; that type of chick. Laurie Metclaf is also very good at trying to remind us that she isn’t always playing Roseanne’s sister, and can drop an F-bomb and be bad-ass like any other motha on the face of the Earth. She tries, it works, but it also does get obvious at some points. And of course, there’s Adam Baldwin here playing a fuck-up, who’s addicted to coke, beats his wife, kills people when they are unarmed, and doesn’t know how to keep his cool. Hm? Is it acting? Or is it just being a Baldwin? You be the judge on that one, my friends.

Consensus: Despite falling for some of the same trappings and conventions we have come to know and expect from the cop-genre, Internal Affairs still offers us something slightly new, exciting, and compelling to watch with two amazing performances from the leads, and a plot that spirals out of control, in all of the juiciest ways possible.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Nope, these two definitely are. Yes!

Nope, but these two definitely are. Yes!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Grand Piano (2014)

If giving the audience a great show isn’t enough inspiration, then how about your life?!?!?

A talented-pianist (Elijah Wood) finally returns to the big stage after suffering a nervous-breakdown nearly five years before. Apparently, he was playing one of the toughest, most impossible pieces every created, and in front of a sold-out, live crowd, he just couldn’t handle it all, leaving him to stay behind the curtain for quite some time, most likely shacking-up with his hot and famous actress wife (Kerry Bishe). Tonight, though, is the night where he tries to get all the magic back. Tonight, he’ll play along with an orchestra in hopes that he’ll be all fine and dandy, while also being able to win back the respect of his confidantes. However, while he’s playing, somehow, he begins to realize that somebody’s been messing around with his notes and sheet-music, threatening him by stating that if he messes up this piece by any note whatsoever, he, as well as his pretty wife will be shot dead by a sniper. Sooner than later, he is given an ear-piece where a random voice (John Cusack) comes through, yelling at him, shouting demands and making sure that everything goes to plan. Because if not, things aren’t going to be turning out too pretty.

The magic of movie-making is that you can literally do anything if you put your mind to it. It doesn’t matter how crazy, or out-of-this-world the premise may be, as long as you can keep on adding something new, fun, or even vibrant to the piece you’re working with, then plausibility doesn’t really matter. Well, in most cases that is. Mainly Hithcock’s films, where everything was over-blown, you just had to believe in it because the man himself took it all up with so much damn sincerity and heart.

"Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!"

“Quick! Gotta be back before intermission is over!”

However, while Grand Piano may not be anywhere near the same quality-like film in the same vein as a Hitchcock movie, it still deserves to be mentioned as something in which I feel like Hithcock himself would be a bit proud of. Sure, “Speed in an orchestra” doesn’t sound like all that of an appealing-idea, but if done right, it can turn out to be fun. Hell, even the original idea of Speed didn’t seem all that promising to begin with, but in the case of that movie, it continued to spin itself completely out-of-control; almost to the point of where we had to just surrender, let our imaginations run wild and enjoy the show.

That’s why that movie is considered an action-classic, something this movie may never, ever be considered, but still deserves to be seen, if only because it uses its unique-spin on the “ticking-time-bomb”-angle that most thriller use, and giving us all, as well as the budget itself, a run for its money. Sure, it’s an indie-film through and through – plenty of shots seem as if the CGI had been done through a DELL and the fact that we are condensed to this one and only place shows the limitations the film makers had on where they could exactly go with this story, but at the end of the day, it actually works well in the movie’s part.

It doesn’t matter that the movie doesn’t have quite nearly the budget of a Michael Bay flick; what matters is that it keeps our hearts racing, or blood boiling and our expectations dashed at any second. Most of this is predictable and better yet, often than not, you’ll be able to pin-point exactly when a certain character is going to come into play at what time, but there’s still plenty of times where you’re able to forget about that and just see what it is that director Eugenio Mira can really do to make us feel like we’re stuck in a situation we ourselves will never get out of. Though most of it is poorly-written and corny, we do feel like this and it helps that the movie always leaves us one step behind the baddie that’s doing all of this to begin with. Most thrillers forget that sometimes, being a smart audience-member, doesn’t always work and can sometimes be used against you. Especially once you’ve gotten on that high-horse, and can’t seem to get off of it due to how many damn movies you’ve seen.

I’m talking about me, of course.

"'Sup?"

“‘Sup?”

Speaking of the baddie, if there was any disappointing-factor of this movie, aside from the lame-o dialogue, it’s that John Cusack doesn’t get much to do other than just yell in Elijah Wood’s ear. Though I don’t consider this a spoiler, John Cusack does eventually get to show off that aging-mug of his, and while it’s definitely a face I was glad to see, I was ashamed that he didn’t really do much except get into a battle with whomever it was that he was fighting (I’m really trying not to spoil anything anymore). Just having Cusack in your movie is enough to make me pleased, but a little bit more of him would have went a long, long way. Actually, let me rephrase that: A little bit more of him doing something more than just talking into a walkie-talkie would have gone a long, long way and helped this movie give us a more memorable villain. Because, come to think of it, when do we ever get to see John Cusack embrace his dark-side? I mean, come on! Let’s make some good use of it, people!

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Elijah Wood in what seems to be his 50th movie in the past two years. Don’t take that as a complaint though, because not only does it show his range and his ability to show up in just about anything, but it also gives us more chances to see what this guy can do with every character he gets to play. Wood has never really lit the world on fire with his acting, but I don’t think he has to. He’s always sort of been there, being small and talking quietly, as if he’s absolutely petrified to have anybody hear him utter a word. That aspect of his acting works so well for this character and not only gets us on his side right quick, but also has us believe that he would turn the other cheek so quick and start fighting for himself. Once this does happen, it’s pretty rad and it makes you wonder what would have happened, had Elijah Wood been able to release these same type of anger-skills in the Lord of the Rings. Frodo would have definitely been more bad-ass, that’s for sure.

Consensus: You don’t have to surgically-remove your brain entirely, but just the parts of it that make you actually think like a normal, breathing human being would suffice when watching Grand Piano, which is basically Speed, with a piano. That is it.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Meh, rough crowd anyway."

“Meh. Rough crowd anyway.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug (2013)

Where’s the precious?

Picking up right where the last one left off, we see the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) still on the run from the orcs that are pursuing them. Halfway through their journey however, Gandalf decides to break off from the rest of the group, fearing that this rumored Necromancer will take over the whole land, and infect it with its pure venomous evil. As he’s gone off to do his own thing, this leaves Bilbo with the rest of the pack to venture off to the Lonely Mountain where they meet plenty of fun, exuberant, and yet, sometimes dangerous characters along the way. However, standing at the end of their journey is none other than the vicious dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), who is the sole foe standing between them and retaking the mountain. So it only makes sense that Bilbo have to go up there and settle the peace, right?

Despite all of the problems people had with the first movie and the whole 48 fps ordeal, the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey wasn’t all that bad. It was definitely a drawn-out movie that felt a bit unnecessary, especially considering that there was supposed to be two more movies for this said 100-page story. However, for what it was and for what it was worth, it was fun when it wanted to be and best of all, brought me back to the good old days of when I used to rollick to the movie theaters, just to place myself back in Middle Earth, even if that meant wasting half of my day doing so. So it sort of had a little bit of a nostalgic thing going on for me, which is why it didn’t kill my insides as much as it may have done to others.

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

Do a barrel roll! Come on!

All that aside though, now that we’ve got the first movie out of the way, which also means that all of the awkward plotting and setting-up of the story is with it, we finally have a sequel that should hopefully do what most sequels do: Tell the story, give us new characters, while still building ones that the homefronts have already been built for, but also, not forget about giving us the goods that usually make people happy with the movie in the first place. We get plenty of story and plenty of new characters, but what about the goods? The movie doesn’t totally shy away from giving us all of the fun, exciting and energetic bits of fantasy action and adventure we’re so used to having with these movies, but it also still feels like there’s something else missing here that was missing from the last movie, but was totally there, front-and-center with the original trilogy, and that’s an actual amount of tension and terror to be had.

Throughout the whole movie, I couldn’t help but feel like the wheels were spinning for this movie once again, but this time, without much surprise added to the mix. We get most of the same characters, doing the same things, for the same reasons and no sense that any second, these characters could be taken away from us at any moment. Now, that’s not saying that I’m some rabid animal who wants people to be dead at the drop of a hat, but there’s also nothing here that really felt like it got me over that hurdle to where I really felt like this was a story I could get involved with. Instead it just felt like a story I could watch as it played-out, but without any of the heart or emotion devoted to these characters or the actual proceedings themselves. You could practically say the same thing about the first movie, but I think that’s a tad different because we’re sort of used to that with first movies in a planned-trilogies. It’s sort of like learning how to ride a back and all for the first time after all of these years, in that you don’t actually need the training-wheels to assist you, but you may need a buddy or two to stand behind you just in case you go plummeting down.

Them, or a firm and trusty helmet. But you should have had that on already!

Anyway, back to what I was saying, basically, this movie didn’t really offer me anything new I didn’t already see with the first flick, with the exception of maybe a few new sights to see, characters and set-pieces. Fun set-pieces nonetheless like, for instance, the sequence in which we follow the dwarves as they are in a bunch of barrels, flowing down the river stream away from the orcs, but at the same time, also battling them in any which way they can, with some assistance from the elves as well, but still nothing really new or inventive to where I felt like Jackson really got back into his old school, Lord of the Rings mode. Nope, this is the Hobbit’s trilogy, or better yet, Bilbo’s, and his is a whole new breed of storytelling, if you will.

Even if that is the case though, and this is all about Bilbo Baggins, his adventure, his story and his splendid life and times with “THE RING!!!!!”, it’s sort of strange considering how only gets about fifteen or so minutes to where it’s just him and nobody else. But even stranger is the fact that it’s practically at the rear-end of this whole flick, and it’s easily the best part. Of course he had some help from his fellow Sherlock star (that bastard) but it’s still the most tense, most exciting and only time where I really felt like all of these different threads of story-lines were coming together, even though the part itself focused on one, which just so happened to be the main story we’re supposed to care about in the first place. Though Freeman’s great too, as he usually is, he still barely gets enough time in front of the screen to substantiate the fact that he is indeed who this story is all about, and he is the one we’re supposed to be rooting for and thrusting all of our emotions into. However, you just never feel that because Jackson’s got a hundred-million-bajillion other story-lines going on, none of which really seem to catch any real fire.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Beware whomever it is that Miranda Kerr decides to re-bound with next.

Same thing that I’m saying about Bilbo’s treatment, goes the same for Gandolf’s as well, which is an absolute sin since we know that Ian McKellen’s portrayal is absolutely the heart and soul that keeps these movies moving. Instead, we get introduced to a new characters like Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel, Luke Evans’ human character with the least human name, Bard, Lee Pace playing Legolas’ daddy-o, Thranduil, and the always pleasant and charming Stephen Fry, who shows up as the corrupt and lazy Master of the Laketown in which the dwarves and Bilbo find themselves hanging around in for some time. They all do fine and bring enough to the story to where I could see them having bigger roles in the next film and being fine additions. Yet, I also see myself not really caring too much, either. Once they took Viggo away from me and replaced him with some dude named “Richard Armitage”, then I knew I’d just never be the same.

With all of that said, and I now I’ve said and awful lot to really beat and batter down this movie, it’s still somehow a hair better than the first, if only because it now actually feels like we’re getting somewhere with this story and where it’s supposed to take us. Sure, there are some mishaps here and there that definitely got in the way of what could have been a very compelling and well-told story, had there been more focus placed on Bilbo and his fellow band of dwarves, but with the way they end it, it’s hard not to get a bit jacked-up for what’s next to come. The ending is very abrupt and along with what the consensus seems to be with Catching Fire’s, most likely people will be up in arms and upset; but to me, it feels like we’re actually getting somewhere with this trilogy that should have never been. However, if Peter Jackson wants to indulge himself a bit, then hey, I won’t stop him. Not like he’d listen to a two-bit, movie blogger from Delco anyway, but still. It’s the idea of power that counts.

Consensus: Just a tad bit better than the first, yet, still feels like there’s plenty room of improvement to be made with Desolation of Smaug with the cutting-down of its run-time, exposition and endless list of characters that don’t really seem to mean much, except that they’re just big names filling in the roles, and who doesn’t love that?!?!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I know! ONLY one movie left! Shocked, right?

He’s as shocked as we are that there’s only ONE movie left. However, it is Peter Jackson we’re talking about here, so don’t get too wrapped up in what you think.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90’s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Maniac (2013)

You’d be a bit of a nut too, if you were around mannequins every single day.

A creep-o named Frank Zito (Elijah Wood) obviously has a bit of problems, most of which stem from the fact that his mom banged/sucked/snorted anything that walked, but that’s the least of his mental-issues. The problem he runs into the most is the urge he has to go out, find a pretty, little lady that catches his eye, follow her until they are practically in the dark where nobody can see them, kill them, and chop-off their scalp. Frank does this so he can put the scalps on mannequins that he owns in his store, and pretends that they are like real people, having conversations with them and all. However, Frank’s distorted ways and actions are put to the test when he meets a French hottie (Nora Arnezeder) that he, guess this; actually likes her. Typical of the French to change your comfortable ways-of-living.

In all honesty, I have yet to have seen the 1980 original and despite peeps telling me that it’s rad and worth a look, I highly doubt I’m ever going to get to it. Don’t know why, it’s just the way I roll, especially with the horror genre, that is so hit-or-miss with me that I rarely even bother watching the movies that come out of it. Especially now, since every single horror movie seems like the same one before it and doesn’t offer anything new that I haven’t already seen done to the genre. However, not every horror movie has to be a ground-breaker in order to be considered “good”, right? Not really, but it sure as hell does help.

Where was my invitation that THAT party?

Where was my invitation that THAT party?

Anyway, what this whole rant means is that going into this, my expectations were pretty low but I was optimistic because I do like me some scares, some chills, some thrills, and a whole lotta blood, and knowing that Alexndre Aja was involved with this (serves as co-writer with director Franck Khalfoun), I knew to expect a crap-load of that last element, if not a whole lot more. However, then something happened to me as soon as the flick started. I realized that not only was it a very dark and mysterious type of horror movie, but it was one with a gimmick that I haven’t seen used before and sure as hell never expected to either.

The whole gimmick surrounding this movie is that everything is shown to you through the eyes of Frank himself, as if it was a found-footage movie, but without the conceit of a video-camera that just so happens to catch every bit of the action, without ever turning away or stopping the film. Instead, the camera is Frank’s eyes and mind, and we see all of the weird shit that he sees, does, and thinks about on a regular-basis. For most movies, this would probably serve as a really interesting way of telling your story, especially for a horror movie where the violence is right in-your-face, and you can’t look away, but it doesn’t work here and feels more gimmicky than anything else in the whole entire movie.

Granted, there were moments here that were pretty neat in it’s own sick, sadistic way. The gore is unrelenting and does not stop gushing, even until a wound has been punctured. Aja adds as much blood-flavored corn syrup to the proceedings without making it seem too obvious, for awhile at least, and then the flick hits that mark where it feels like all it has to offer is a new look at a horror movie, if only that means through the eyes of the killer. And like I said before, that idea is cool and can probably work wonders for many films that I think of, but here; it feels like a gimmick, for the sake of being a gimmick, in order to turn your mind and brain away from all of the problems it faces with direction and it’s script. Most of those problems go right to Frank himself who, despite being a crazy muthaeffa’, really isn’t all that interesting.

I’ll give Elijah Wood the benefit of the doubt, the dude’s pretty creepy as it is and easily makes me forget that he ever played Frodo in his life, ever. That’s a hard trick to pull-off and to do it with such creepy intensity, is something else to praise, rather than bring-down from glory. Woods make a good creep, one that I would probably like to see a whole other movie on that wasn’t placed within his head and seen through his eyes. Maybe one that’s just about him coming to terms with all of the bad, evil shite that he does and ends up crying himself to sleep at night because of? Maybe? Maybe not?

I wouldn't still bang, but he would. Good for him, I guess.

I wouldn’t still bang, but he would. Good for him, I guess.

Oh well, makes sense why Hollywood won’t return my calls.

All that said about Wood and his solid performance as Frank, the character of Frank just blows. He’s nothing new or different we haven’t already seen from the slasher-genre, and especially isn’t interesting since most of his problems stem from his mommy, and the fact that she banged just about everything in sight. Once again, it’s something that you always see in horror movies, but it doesn’t mean that I actually want to see a whole new character’s take on it, and watch as he goes through it in such a dumb way, that I almost want to see him scalp himself just for good-measure.

Even the fact that he begins to fall for this French cutie didn’t strike any chords with me, since it always seemed like he wanted to kill her as well. I guess since he doesn’t kill her right away upon first-meeting, automatically means that he’s head-over-heels for her, but I didn’t see it or really feel it. Which is a bad thing too, because isn’t this movie supposed to be taking place through his eyes and his mind? Yeah, something was not mixing well with this flick and it started to leave me bored, despite the actual murder-scenes being filled with just enough red paint and artistic-merit, that I found myself paying attention to it. Then again, like I spoke about before, it all feels like it’s here for no other reason than to distract us from the shitty story we have on our hands here.

Consensus: Despite there being plenty gore, blood, violence and murder to satisfy any horror-hounds mind and soul, Maniac uses it all to get past the fact that it’s seriously lacking in the script-department, as well as it’s gimmick that gets old and repetitive after the first 10 minutes.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

What French gal wouldn't fall for this man?

What French gal wouldn’t fall for this hottie?

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

A trip back to Middle Earth, means a trip that takes about 3 hours out of my day.

This is the begging tale of the journey of Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who embarks on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago lost to the dragon Smaug. Oh, and a band of dwarfs that accompany him as well. Can’t forget about those little fellas.

It’s a real shame that the only real hype surrounding this movie, is not just because it’s Peter Jackson’s return to Middle Earth in less than a decade, but mainly because of the 48 frames-per-second. Yes, in case some of you people out there don’t know, don’t care, or even know what to expect (I was sort of in the latter’s boat), 48fps is double the normal rate and makes it pretty damn obvious right from the start of this movie that everything is going to look a lot clearer, but sadly, a little too fast.

For me, this first ever experience of actually seeing a 48fps movie wasn’t as traumatizing as it has been to many others who have seen this movie, but it is quite distracting. Sometimes you forget about it, get used to it, and accept the fact that things are going to look a lot weirder then expected, but then it becomes obvious once again, especially a character is moving in a very, very fast-pace that almost makes it seem like Jackson shot this film, while on hefty-amounts nose candy. Once you get used to it, you sort of are able to enjoy the whole movie but it never goes away and I guess it was my fault for being curious and actually giving it a shot in the first-place. They always say, “curiosity killed the cat”, and even though I didn’t get killed by this movie, my idea of 48fps definitely did, and I will probably never see another movie like this ever again. Sorry Peter, you’re experiment didn’t work so well with me this time-around. I’ll stick to normal 3D for now.

"What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?"

“What do you mean I have to choose between this and X-Men? Again!??!?”

However, as much as I may talk shite on the whole 48fps-element to this movie, it makes the movie look a whole lot more beautiful, if a bit fake in some-spots. Everything looks so detailed, clear, and as good as the details looked in the past movies. Obviously, since Jackson has better technology and probably a hell of a lot more money to work with, he uses a crap-load of CGI that is impressive at some-points, but when you put in a film that is using 48fps, it doesn’t always work and makes scenes look as if they were filmed in-front of a green screen. Which in reality, they probably were, but you don’t want to have that going through your mind when you’re watching a movie about wizards, dwarves, trolls, and other mystical creatures. You want to feel as if you are there, rather than feeling like we’re watching a bunch of guys act in a studio, where biscuits and gravy are probably on a big-ass table in front of them. I wasn’t always picturing this idea in my head, but it popped-up quite a lot, more than I actually wanted it to.

Aside from the fact that the 48fps is more than just a controversial idea that Jackson had on his mind and actually went-through with, the film is still pretty good, even if you know everything that’s going to happen to these characters in the near-future. You know, because Jackson made the sequels to this book less than a decade ago. However, Jackson still seems to have a lot of fun returning back to the place that made him such a household name in the first-place and it’s great to see a lot of that fun and passion jump right-off from the screen, and onto us as we just sit there and have a good-time.

There isn’t an epic feeling to this story and in-fact, it actually starts off just as Fellowship of the Ring did. There’s a crap-load of back-story, exposition, and characters coming in and out of nowhere, and it takes awhile to get used to (as expected), but once the actual journey that these characters begin on starts, it becomes more and more entertaining as it goes along and it’s just great to see Jackson back in his comfort-zone and not trying to make teenie-boppers cry their little, fragile hearts over a young girl that gets raped and murdered. I’m talking about Lovely Bones in case you couldn’t tell, and I think that movie is just one, perfect-sign as to how Jackson maybe felt like he was a bit too big for his britches. Middle Earth is where he works best at, where he has the most fun, and best of all, is where he belongs in terms of making movies and entertaining stories.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

It seems like everybody was inspired by Katniss. Even dwarves.

However, when you compare it to what Jackson has done in the past, especially with Middle Earth, this film itself, really fails to generate the type of sparks and emotional fireplugs that those flicks had. It was cool to see a lot of these older-characters come into this story and make their impressions quickly and easily, but the other characters that they introduce, don’t seem to be as memorable or as lovable as those ones we look forward to see return-to-the-screen once again.

A perfect example of this statement would be the twelve dwarves that are key to this story and as entertaining and fun as they may be to watch on-screen, they don’t really come-off as memorable. They all seem sort of the same, with the exception of one, and they don’t really have us invested in them, quite as much as we had for characters of the same nature like Gimli or Legolas. They’re just there for comedic-relief and to have the kiddies out there in the world who want to see this, laugh a bit, just to get past all of the darker-stuff and it seems like a real waste of time. I wanted to get to know them more and understand how all of their personalities were different. Who was the smartest one? The ugliest one? The best fighter? The worst? Seriously, they all just seemed like clones of one another, as they all ate, drank, and slept huge and huge amounts, with nobody really being different. Just like my feelings with these dwarves, I wish there was more to this flick and despite it already being a prequel to films we have all already seen and loved to death by now, Jackson can only try to make us forget about them. Notice how I said the word, “try”, mind you.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Too much baggage for one guy to carry on his shoulders.

Martin Freeman was a pretty nice-choice to play a younger Bilbo, mainly because when we had an actor like Elijah Wood, doing satisfactory work as our main hero of the story, it wasn’t anything special but it was at least nice to finally get an actor that can actually ACT, and do some nice-work in terms of doing all of this goofy, Middle Earth stuff. Freeman is fun to watch as Bilbo and definitely hams it up in terms of playing-up the whole slapstick-side of his character and being there to provide us with a bunch of humor and heart, especially to a character who comes-off as sort of a dick in the latter-stages of his life. Some may say that Freeman is trying a bit too hard to be funny and over-the-top, and to that, I would have to say some of it is true, but at least he’s entertaining and kept me interested the whole-way. In terms of the rest of the trilogy lying on the shoulders of Freeman, I think we’re in good-support.

There are many returning-players to this flick, from the other ones, and even though they don’t all have as much screen-time as the new bloods, it’s still great to see them all back and alive again, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen seems to be having an absolute blast returning to play Gandalf the Great, once again, and for me, as a big fan of Gandalf, it was an even-bigger piece of enjoyment since this is an actor that seemed born to play this role and have us on his side the whole-way through. McKellen isn’t doing anything new, special, or even refreshing when it comes to playing Gandalf, but that was A-okay with me, because he is always the most memorable out of anybody that surrounds him.

Also, it was another real sight for sore eyes (literally) to see Gollum for on the big-screen once again and even though he doesn’t take over the film like he has in the past, his presence is still well-deserved not just because it’s Serkis kicking total ass again, but mainly because Gollum himself looks so realistic and perfect in the animation. Hey, the 48fps may be a huge-bummer, but at least the special-effects are great and that’s all that matters, especially when you’re sitting there and over-analyzing Gollum’s look to depth. I don’t think I saw a single pixel in his look. Impressive as hell.

Consensus: Though Jackson does tread in familiar-territory that we all know what to expect and get out of an experience like his return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is still fun and entertaining to watch, even if the whole idea of being filmed in 48fps can get a bit tiresome over time. After awhile, you do begin to get used to it but in my opinion, to avoid any distractions to the human-eye whatsoever, just give this baby a whirl in 3D, or regular 2D, especially if you want to save some moolah.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Next season's cast of Whisker Wars. It's gonna be a close one.

Next season’s cast of Whisker Wars. It’s gonna be a close one.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Finally, 9 hours of my life can finally be put to rest.

As Sauron’s dark army surround the citadel of Minas Tirith and hope wanes for all of Middle-earth, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continue their journey towards Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ring of Power.

After two movies that have already racked-up to being over than 3 hours each, it seems almost granted that the final-conclusion of this spectacular trilogy would end with a 3-hour and 21-minute time-limit. That’s right, ALMOST 3-AND-A-HALF HOURS! But what separates this long-ass time-limit from the last two, is the fact that you barely notice it one-bit, despite it being the longest of the three. Just goes to show you that long movies, aren’t always that bad to sit-through.

I think first things first to get this review going would be to give major kudos to director Peter Jackson who, like with the last two, does a magnificent job at showing us this beautiful world of Middle Earth, in all of it’s darkness, weirdness, and overall beauty. The sets, designs, make-up, costumes, art direction, and everything else, just look perfect and with this last movie, you needed that keen-eye for attention to detail that Jackson has to make a movie like this work, and it totally does. Obviously a lot more of this movie is dependent on special-effects and CGI, whereas the last two had it, but not a huge-amount, but it’s not distracting from the real beauty that lies underneath this movie and from what I hear, a lot of this was filmed naturally, which impressed me as hell since it seemed like some of these sets would have taken years to be built, and each movie came-out a year-apart from one another. That’s dedication to detail right there, folks, and it’s no surprise that that same dedication won Jackson almost every art and set-design Oscar that year, and rightfully so.

LOTR1

“What the fuck did you just say?”

However, Peter Jackson didn’t just win a bunch of secondary-awards for his work here on this movie, he also won Best Director and that’s not just because of his strong look and detail into this world he obviously loves, but mainly because the guy has the spirit and passion inside of him that makes this flick work, right about from the start. The reason I say “right about from the start”, is because the film obviously has a bit of a problem in the beginning, because it seems like it’s trying to find it’s footing in how it wants to start things-out. We get a couple of awkward cuts to Frodo and Sam being slightly homosexual with one another, to a pretty un-epic shot of Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Gimli, all slowly riding-down the grassy lands with their horses, but after that, it picks up it’s speed and momentum, and I was willing to forgive Jackson for all of this because it just continues to get better and better.

Once this movie picks up and knows exactly where it wants to go, it’s the freakin’ most epic, most entertaining, and most emotional-ride you will ever take in a movie. The movie cuts between the two stories of Frodo & Sam’s journey to Mount Doom and the defense of Gondor and Minas Tirith, and whereas the weaving in-and-out of stories took a lot of momentum out of the direction the last time-around, it works so perfectly because both stories have a great deal of built-up tension and emotions that run high in about every frame of this flick. Watching Sam and Frodo make their way to destroying the ring will keep you on the edge of your seat as they constantly continue to find hardships getting to their destination, and the Battle of Peleanor Fields is the other story that seems to be the centerpiece of this movie, and had my heart racing just as much as Sam and Frodo’s journey, even though they were both polar-opposites in terms of pacing and development.

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Quick! Who has been the most successful in the past decade? By the way, the two pictured are Orlando Bloom and Karl Urban. Okay, never mind. Dumb question.

In the Two Towers, the Battle at Helm’s Deep was an absolute joy to see play-out on screen because it built-up the intensity, the emotion, the action, and most of all, the fun in having two, opposing sides go head-to-head and watching as they are both equally-matched, and equally-as-smart as the other. It was probably the highlight of that whole movie, even if there was a lot more to cheer-on about, but the battle that takes place here in this flick (the Battle of Peleanor Fields), makes it look like a bunch of kiddies messing around in the playground. Jackson totally ups the ante with his direction by providing so much action, blood, and sometimes, gore to have us really involved, but also adds a great deal of heart and emotion to have us fully-invested enough, to the point of where our hearts are racing every time it seems like somebody is going to be the nest one to bite the dust. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie about 2 or 3 times before, but I was still gripping my sheets, wondering who was going to be next and it sent me shivers up my spine whenever I heard a loud, scary enemy come-through again and provide another threat to all of our heroes and favorite characters. Seriously, if you don’t feel any type of emotional-connection to these characters as they all become one-step closer to death in a span of 1 hour, then you my friend, are just as soulless and as dark as the enemies they are facing. Crappy metaphor, I know, but you get the point.

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Secretly, there’s weed in there. Or whatever the hell those Middle Earth snobs call it.

However, that key-battle in the center of this movie is only one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does and why Jackson got the Oscar in the first-place. There is so much going on-here that it would definitely be very easy to see how somebody would feel as if it’s too much at one-time, but Jackson evens it all-out so nicely so that we see everything that happens, why it happens, and gives us a bit of time to understand it all. Not many movies that have a certain-type of audience feel the need to do that because they feel as if it’s strictly for the fanboys to understand, and everybody else to ‘eff off, but not Jackson. No, he’s a different type of lad and I’m happy that he decided to take his time with this movie and lay everything-out on the ground for us all to get as soon as the story started to pick-up because when it gets going, it never stops and that’s when you find yourself having the best time of your life with this movie.

Another key-element to this movie that Jackson wisely allows, is that every character that we have gotten to know or see over the past 2 films, finally all get their own chance to shine, rather than having it be the Frodo and Gandalf show 24/7, which also means, all of the performances are fully-realized and some of the best of the whole trilogy. Viggo Mortensen kicks ass once again as Aragorn, and shows that he is not one prince to be messed-with, especially when it comes to somebody coming in between him, his buddies, and most of all, his gal that he is so far-away from. I may make Aragorn sound like a bit of a pussy with that description, but trust me, he’s not in the least-bit. Ian McKellen is awesome as Gandalf and shows how wise and warm he is, not only as a ruler, but as a character, as well; Orlando Bloom is good as Legolas, and shows us why the guy kicks just as much as Aragorn does; and John Rhys-Davies doesn’t quite get enough moments to steal the spotlight from everybody else like he did in the 2nd-movie, but he still has a lot of fun here as Gimli. Anybody I didn’t mention, don’t worry, they all did good, especially those little, fuckin’ hobbits.

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His ax is the best part of his character, without it, he’s just got one-liners about how small he is. Somebody find it, and quick!

In the past 2 movies, it seems as if Sam and Frodo are the only ones to really get the attention from Jackson in terms of character-development and actually meaning something in the whole grand scheme of things, but now, Jackson allows the other two as well to show what they’re made of. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are each great as Pippin and Merry, respectively, and show that they aren’t just about of immature jokers, they can actually put-up and shut-up when they need to and actually help move this story along, even if they are without their tree buddies that I missed very, very deeply. These two get a lot to do, but Frodo and Sam aren’t left-out of the equation, either, and their story is by-far the one I really connected to since it’s all about the limits of friendship and how far one will go to really help the other one out and hopefully, save their lives in the process. Elijah Wood has been a bit tweedy as Frodo in the past 2 movies, but really excels here and gives Frodo a bit of a mean-streak that actually has you fearful for Same, as well as Gollum. Wood has never been the star actor of our generation, but here, he shows us that he can act no matter how much he gives-off that softy-smile that really rang the wrong bells for me. Seriously, I thought the revelation at the end was going to be Frodo was in-love with Sam after all of this time, I swear it.

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“Yep, there go our careers as we know it.”

As good as Elijah Wood may be, Sean Astin is the one who really steals this show as Samewise Gamgee, and you know what? It’s about damn time this guy finally got his rocks off in these movies, because not only is Samwise as strong of a character as anybody else in this whole damn series, but Astin is also a great-actor too, and one that I feel like never really gets to show himself for all that he is because people still see him as Rudy. Samewise is such an awesome character to watch on-screen not just because he lays down the law for Frodo and tells him all of the obvious stuff about the ring, Gollum, and the evils that come-from both of them, but because you feel like this guy would do anything, I do repeat, ANYTHING, to save his friend’s lives, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed to be. Astin plays this up so perfectly and to watch him come-alive as an actor through Same, is a freakin’ revelation since this guy rarely ever gets the chance to and it’s sort of a shame that this guy never got an Oscar nomination for his work here because he’s understated, believable, strong-willed, and most of all, the emotional anchor that holds this movie down from being a “Nerd’s Only” love-fest.

If there is any reason why this movie deserves the high-rating I’m giving it, it’s mainly because it’s one of those rare-occasions where I’m reminded of why I love watching epic movies such as this: they take me out of the real-world I’m in, and place me into another no matter how unbelievable or fantasy-like it actually may be. After those first, 15-minutes that Jackson seems to struggle with are over, things only go uphill from there and show you exactly why you invested half-of-your-day to see the first 2 movies in the first-place. You love the characters, you love the mythology, you love the setting, you love the battles, and most importantly, you just love what Jackson does with this movie and how he never seems to disappoint any loyal fan of the original source material, or regular, moviegoer that just wants to be transported into a different world. He delivers on both ends of the spectrum and trust me, by the end of this movie, if you loved the first two, you will most likely shed a tear once you see your beloved trilogy come to a sweeping, but beautiful ending that couldn’t have been better, even if Jackson put a freakin’ cherry on top of it. Go out there and see The Hobbit this weekend, people! Lord knows I will be, regardless of if I want to or not. Trust me, I do.

Consensus: Despite being the longest out of the three (clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King still delivers on every end of the spectrum that fans, and moviegoers alike expect from these movies: beautiful sets and designs, fully-realized characters, dazzling action, an emotional story from start-to-finish, and especially with this one, a beautiful send-off to a trilogy we will most likely never, ever forget about, no matter how many prequels Hollywood and Peter Jackson want to churn out of their money-making asses.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

"I'm money, bitches."

“I’m money, bitches.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I may be a noob because I don’t know a Orc from a Uruk-Hai, but as long as we got elves, wizards, dwarves, monster-creatures, and trees all duking it out in one flick, I’m fine with not knowing.

Taking place literally 3 days after where the first one left-off, we follow three stories of our favorite characters and see how they all are separated, but go-out on their own quests as well. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum (choreographed by Andy Serkis), the ring’s former owner. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellen), before fighting at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

That’s a pretty lengthy-premise, hell, probably the longest one I have ever done, and hell, this is a pretty lengthy-movie. But even though it may clock-in at 2 hours and 59 minutes, just missing that day-changer by a measly minute, you still can’t help but have a great-old time watching all of your favorite fantasy characters, battle it out like nobody’s business. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking trees, too. Can’t forget about them.

Once again, as you could probably expect from the guy, Peter Jackson does a great-job at nailing each and every single, little detail of this setting down to it’s core. Everything just looks perfect the way it is and those swooping shots that seem to take over the film, do nothing else but put you in the mind-set that yes, you are in Middle-Earth and it’s time to get ready for a place that is filled with mystical-beings and happenings, but also a place that’s filled with a lot of darkness and war, as well.

Believe it or not, from a reader’s stand-point, this is the most controversial movie-adaptation of the three because apparently Jackson took some liberties of his own in changing up the story-structure, events, and even the characters as well. Obviously any person who has ever read these books and is expecting the exact, same thing on-screen are going to be a little pissed to see some things shook-up a bit, but I don’t think Jackson could have told this story any other way. What I mean by that, is that since there are three stories going-on at the same time, you sort of have to tell them all just like that, rather than telling one-story, being done with it, and moving onto the next without any transition to other stories. It can be done, but it wouldn’t have worked for this movie and that’s why I’m really glad Jackson kept all of these three stories to continue to go-on at the same time, without a break, or stop, or anything. It’s just got a beautiful flow to it and that’s because Jackson knows the story from head-to-toe and wants to show everybody his love and appreciation for it, even if he has to stick to his movie-rules and piss a couple of people off by doing-so. Hey, you can’t please everybody out there, Pete, but you sure as hell pleased the hell out of me.

I think where this film works so well compared to the first-one is the sort of tone and approach it takes to the story. You can definitely tell that this story is starting to get more and more tense as it develops and you can tell that there’s more of a drastic-feeling to every scene, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, who you’re going to have to say bye to, and just how far the story will progress in-time. You have a bigger, emotional-connection to everybody here and it’s not just about who’s going to get killed-off next, it’s about who are you going to miss when it’s all said and done. There is definitely a lot that’s worth standing-by and awaiting the next surprise, but it’s not all about surprises, twists, or turns with this story, it’s about the feeling of the world you’re placed into and whether or not you’re going to be able to stay-long and watch as all of your favorite characters risk their lives 24/7.

That’s why the infamous battle at Helm’s Depp is considered one of the best battle-sequences of the past-decade, there’s so much emotion, turmoil, and intensity going on behind it, that you can’t stop feeling like you are involved with it as much as the actual-characters themselves. Anybody that talks about this movie, always talks about this huge-spectacle of a battle and as they should, because it is absolutely awesome to be entertained by, and absolutely gripping to watch. You never know what’s going to happen next with this scene and you feel like anything could happen, and usually does actually happen. It’s filmed-beautifully, as well as you could expect, and just goes to show you that Jackson had an inspiration for how he wanted this battle to look and feel like and holy damn, if it wasn’t for this whole-sequence, I don’t know how much of this film I would have actually loved.

However, I shouldn’t really talk like the battle at Helm’s Deep is the only thing worth watching here, because it isn’t. Each and every other story that they throw at us is as epic, dramatic, and gripping as the one that comes before it, the only problem is that when it gets in the way of the battle-sequence, it slows things down a bit. I liked the story of Sam and Frodo continuing their quest with the Ring, and the two hobbits with the walking trees, but whenever they showed-up, it was usually to break-up the action that was happening during the battle and it felt a bit cheap, as it just took away from all of the excitement and intensity that we were feeling beforehand. I mean, yeah, these stories needed to be told and needed to be spliced-in with the main-one, but still, you can’t help but feel like they just dedicated a good solid 45 minutes to the battle at Helm’s Deep, and be done with it, rather than just jumping back-and-forth and breaking some of the fun.

That same person who you heard talking about this movie and mentioning the battle at Helm’s Deep, would also probably mention that this is the flick that first introduced the CG-driven powerhouse of Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. See, what most people at the time didn’t know was that Serkis donned the blue-suit for this role and encapsulated all of his movements, flow, and feelings all into this character to give him a realistic-look and feel. Instead, everybody else thought that it was just another case of the computers taking over the magic of Hollywood, and just using a bunch of special-effects that may look beautiful, but are still special-effects none the less. That’s what’s so amazing about Serkis as Gollum here, is that he just brings all of this feeling to a character and makes it seem very unbelievable how he was able to pull it all off so well. I also can’t forget to mention that Gollum looks as real as you’re going to get and it’s a work of art to watch and just gaze at. Yeah, technology is better now, but at the time, it was beyond art. It was a freakin’ masterpiece.

Ian McKellen was the anchor of the first movie, but is rarely here as Gandolf, even though he still kicks as much ass here in this movie, as we expected from him in that movie. Instead, that anchor is given-away to Viggo Mortensen who absolutely nails it as Aragorn. Viggo just has this look and feel to him that has you wonder what he’s going to do next, but yet, at the same time, still has you feel like you’re in safe-hands whenever he’s around. That’s why it was pretty freakin’ awesome to see him take over ship here a lot of times and just let everybody know that he’s the boss, he’s the man you don’t want to mess with, and most of all, he’s the man that’s going to slay all of these weird-looking, freaky creatures. Just goes to show you that Viggo really can scare anybody, whether he’s playing a Russian-mobster, playing Sigmund Freud, an ex-gangster-turned-family-man. Yeah, that last sentence pretty much puts Viggo Mortensen’s career into a nutshell.

Consensus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second-installment that hits, and hits hard with enough emotions, action, and characters running through, that you feel like you have a full grip and feel of this story, what’s happening in it, and what’s to come of it in it’s grand, epic finale. Return of the King, here I come!

9/10=Full Price!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012)

Chicks got to make up their minds.

Best friends and lovers since high school, Jesse (Andy Samberg) and Celeste (Rashida Jones) got married in their twenties and, after a few years of wedded bliss, woke up to discover that they love each other as pals but not as husband and wife. So Jesse moves on, while Celeste is left to wonder just what the hell did she do.

It’s a surprise that this flick hasn’t gotten a bigger distribution than what it already has, because the material here could probably end up making this a sleeper hit of the late Summer, much like (500) Days of Summer did way back in ’09. No, it’s nothing as brilliant and original as that, but it says the same stuff and makes you feel the same emotions, except there’s no Hall & Oates in this one. That already puts it a step-below.

What I think touched me about this story right off the bat was how honest it was about itself. I don’t know how much Jones and co-writer/co-star Will McCormack have experienced in their lives from the past, but it seems like they know a whole lot about relationships, how you make them work, and sometimes, how you can make them fall-apart just by trying to change that other person. There’s a lot here that speaks out to people who think they are too good for their soul-mate and think that it’s time to call it quits just because they aren’t up-to date with them, as much as they are with everything else in the world. There are plenty of people out there just exactly like that, and 9 times out of 10, those people start to realize that they made a huge mistake because they never once thought that the person they’d tried to get rid of, would eventually come back and be the person they always wanted them to be.  It’s a very true testament to not just how relationships work, but people as well, and Celeste and Jesse are no different from that.

What I liked most about this script was how every single part of this flick was set-up as a rom-com cliché. Gay best-friend? Check. Chick that needs to get her love-life back on-track but ultimately fails? Check. Witty best friend that tells it like it is? Check. Big speech at the end where the character tells everybody all that they have been through? Double check. The difference here is that this film sees those conventions, and sort of spins them on its head and give us a true tale of love being lost, love being unrequited, and love almost being found once again. The story I have been describing to you for the past 3 paragraphs now, may seem like a total drag but I can assure you that it’s not. There is a lot of material that is funny here and even though every once and awhile this film will show us something we have seen done before in thousands of other rom-coms, it still feels true to itself and to the situation these characters are in.

By the end, when this story started to show it’s true colors and what it was really trying to say, that’s when I actually started to feel a little emotion here and there. The whole idea of this chick getting fed-up with her old husband because he won’t grow-up and then wants him back, doesn’t seem that sympathetic, but the way it’s played out here makes it seem so and you feel for this Celeste character. Not only is she a very realistic female character that you could easily meet at a bar or somewhere in a downtown night club, she’s also a gal that feels some sort of emotions whenever her feelings are hurt and when she wants to just be loved. You don’t really see female characters in rom-coms go through the type of shit Celeste goes through here, and I think that’s what makes her development as a character, all that much better and smarter.

My problem with this script was that I did feel like they took a little bit too much away from Celeste, just in order to give-up some time to random side characters that could have honestly been cut-out. I liked Elijah Wood as the stereotypical gay boss/best-friend, but he doesn’t add a single thing to this whole product and if they were to get rid of him, I don’t think much would have been missed. Not saying that he’s bad or anything, it’s just that there isn’t much to hold onto when it comes to his character. The same could be said for Emma Roberts who plays a Ke$ha-like teen-star that just wants to rock-out with her whatevers out. Roberts is fine in this role too, but she doesn’t add anything either other than a bunch of dumb dick and butt gags that seem tired by the third time they even mention it. Other characters like Chris Messina as a hopeful boyfriend that will take Celeste out of her funk, and Will McCormick as the stoner buddy named Skillz, are all fun to watch but also seem like another example of this film having too many ideas and too many side characters that eventually take away from Celeste’s real problem at-hand: the chick can’t move on.

Andy Samberg finally gets his real taste at drama and plays it up very well, when he gets the chance to. Samberg, at-first, plays Jesse as his usual jocky, young-minded, goofy persona that always seems to take over his characters but by the end changes it up a bit and starts to grow-up into his own person that is just as confused with what he wants as Celeste is. Jesse’s whole story development seems a little forced (the guy already wants to have a family with this one girl after one date?), but Samberg makes it seem believable with a nice amount of honesty and sensitivity that is unlike anything we have ever seen from him before. It’s not one of those roles that really stands-out and shows that this guy can almost do it all, but it’s a nice way of showing that maybe there is a life for this guy after leaving SNL and doing a shit-fest like That’s My Boy.

The real star of this whole movie, as you probably predicted since she co-wrote it, is Rashida Jones as Celeste. Jones is an actress that we all know can be funny (just watch Parks & Recreation), but she has never really been given that great amount of drama to work with that makes her stand-out from the rest. This performance here is that game-changer for her as Celeste is not only a great character to play, but is also a great performance for Jones where she shows that she can make any character likable and easy to root for just by using her mysterious charm that she has about her. The scenes her and Samberg have are dead-on, as their chemistry is as perfect as you could get it, but when it’s just Jones allowing herself to be shown in such an uncomfortably sad light, it feels real as if Jones is just reliving a past break-up that she still feels terrible about. But even when she has to do the comedy act with her performance as well, she nails it there too and it just shows you that this lady has a very bright future in Hollywood. Hopefully, this is the film that shows it off, too.

Consensus: Celeste and Jesse Forever may suffer from too many ideas and characters but never feels too jumbled up due to a great script that shows the emotional turmoil you go through during heartbreak, as well as what can happen to one person when they realize that the person they got rid of in the first place, was probably the best person for them in the end.

8/10=Matinee!!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Maybe there are some chicks that I wanted out of my memory, maybe….

After learning that his mercurial ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), has undergone an experimental medical process to purge all memories of him, mild-mannered Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) opts for the same procedure. But during the operation, he decides he doesn’t want to lose what’s left of their relationship and tries to conceal her image in his memory cells.

The script here is done by Charlie Kaufman, who has done scripts for films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, so already you know this is going to be some crazy shit. And crazy shit, is exactly what you get here.

The one thing about this script that separates itself from other romantic comedies is that this is painfully honest at times. The sci-fi premise is used as a metaphor as to whether or not we would be better off eliminating that heartbreak from our lives. The fact is that we need heartbreak to learn from it and make sure not to make the same mistake again, and thus it makes us the person we are today. This script really does show love in a beautiful yet painful way because this love that Joel and Clementine has, isn’t a pretty one. This love/relationship isn’t one of those instant love-at-first-sight kind of deals, it’s more that for almost every single great memory of Joel and Clementine there is an equally painful one, one that I wouldn’t want, but not every single relationship a person has, is going to always be happy-go-lucky. This script is just so beautiful and breathtakingly honest because it shows that people change over time, and no matter how much you have your mind want to believe that truly do hate that other person, your heart will never forget that one person. I know it may sound cheesy and a little schmaltzy, but the way the film tells this fact, is just beautiful.

Let’s not also forget that another reason as to why this film works, director Michel Gondry. I don’t know how Gondry took a look at this script and came up with this piece of beauty, but I have to say he absolutely makes every single scene here, his own. Since this takes place in the mind, and as we all know, a lot of crazy things happen inside of our minds, Gondry has the opportunity to let some real trippy stuff happen on screen. The visuals are amazing and are amazing without hardly any use of CG special effects. There’s a lot of beautiful lighting tricks, setting movements, and just overall breath-taking scenes that take us inside of the mind, and give us this wonderful fantasy that life really is something you can’t imagine.

The cast here is also something to praise. Jim Carrey gets rid of his goofy faces, and give us a spot-on performance as the quiet, sweet, and endearing Joel. Carrey owns this performance because he has you believe that somebody this serious could actually have the type of relationship he has with Clementine, and go through all the things he does to keep her in his mind forever. Kate Winslet is almost even better as the eccentric and quirky Clementine, who actually carries her character into being more than just that zany chick, that is almost too hard to believe. Winslet is hilariously likable in this role, but at the same time believable, and wins the crowd over almost throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast in this film is good with the likes of Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and the always reliable, Tom Wilkinson.

Consensus: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is twisty and trippy, but beautifully filmed, with a brutally honest script that shows heartbreak as something in life we always need, no matter how painful, or rewarding. Perfect film all around for anyone who wants to get inside a mind, and possibly get inside their own. I wish I could say more about this film and it’s utter greatness, it’s just one of those things you have to see to believe.

10/10=Full Pricee!!

Happy Friday everyone!

9 (2009)

I don’t know how safe I would feel knowing that a bunch of potato sacks, were my last hope on earth.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a small community of rag-doll robots hides in fear from dangerous machines out to exterminate them. But when a brave newcomer named 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) joins the group, he inspires them to stand up and fight for their survival.

Right as soon as this movie started going, I knew I had seen this somewhere. It’s story is just so familiar that really, I couldn’t find any imagination within this film. Many sci-fi films like Terminator, Blade Runner, and even Star Wars all came up while I was watching this film. Also, I wasn’t that engaged with the story. But I can’t really blame myself for that reason, because in ways it almost seems like the story, and characters are second nature when it comes to the look of this film. Which sucks, cause I’m game for any kind of film, just give me a story to work with, which this did not.

However, the visuals are great. The look this film has is just perfect, because it looks and feels like a video game, a very very cool video game. Director Shane Acker has most of his attention centered at the detail of the look, and it shows very well. The film gives off this place of despair, and loneliness, and it does feel like that because Acker doesn’t shy away from showing us this brutal after-world.

There is also a great deal of action within this film that is stunning. You follow along as the action goes by, and you see it all happen, which is always good. But that is the problem with the film, because I don’t know who they had this centered towards. Kids may want to see it because of the animation, and cute little characters, but this is strictly a grown-up animation movie, which is just weird saying. There are scenes that show warfare, and dead bodies, and the bad things in this film, are genuinely creepy, and I can just see little kids, being freaked totally the fuck out by this film.

The characters as I stated before weren’t really developed, but the cast I guess is just so-so. Elijah Wood is alright as 9, John C. Reilly basically does what he has to do in a good way, Jennifer Connelly is just there, as well as Crispin Glover. The two that stand out for me are Christopher Plummer, and Martin Landau, mainly cause there voice actually fits the characters their portraying, and they do well with what their given.

Consensus: It may not have an engaging story to begin with, but it’s commitment to stunning visuals, as well as a gloomy mood, make this film work with older people, but not with kids.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Paris, Je T’aime (2006)

I love Paris, and I do want to go there. I just hope there isn’t so much love there, as it is in here.

Paris comes to life in this whimsical patchwork of 18 five-minute shorts united by a common theme — love in the City of Lights — and helmed by an international cast of filmmakers, including Gus Van Sant, Olivier Assayas and Alexander Payne. Natalie Portman plays an American actress who captures the heart of a blind student; Juliette Binoche is visited by a ghostly Willem Dafoe; Bob Hoskins solicits a prostitute’s advice on pleasing his wife.

The one thing about this film, is that there all just a bunch of short films, wrapped into a 2 hour film. There are so many stars, so many great directors here, that you would think it would be too hard to put them all into one film, when it could have been better, I still enjoyed it for the most part.

Some of the short stories are better than others, and not all of them are exactly about love. There are some very dark concerning with the deals about racism, drugs, homosexuality, death, and many more, and its not just one big love-fest.

The problem with this film is that some of these short stories just didn’t make any sense at all, and didn’t seem like they belonged. There was one with Elijah Wood, and this other chick as vampires, and it played out as a horror story, but made no sense as to why it was in the film, and what it had to do with the subject of love. There was one more, directed by Wes Craven, with Emily Mortimer and Rufus Sewell, that had to do with death or something like that, and it seemed just so stupid and took me right out of the film.

I have to give it to three directors who did the best with their showcases: Coen Bros., Alexander Payne, and Tom Tykwer. The Coen Bros. add in their own little flavor of whimsy, and it works with its hilarity. Alexander Payne strong fully closes out the film with a sad, but joyful, ode to Paris. However, the best here was indeed Tykwer’s who added in a great love story with Natalie Portman, but with a twist. The things he does with the camera in that short is just magnificent, and captured the whole essence that the film was going for.

Consensus: Some stories are better than others, and some had no intention of being there, but Paris, Je T’aime, works because there is enough wonderful whimsy, and love added to this spectacle.

7.5/10=Rental!!!

Everything is Illuminated (2005)

Elijah Wood will never be able to live down his role as Frodo no matter how good he is.

A young American Jewish man begins an exhausting quest — aided by a naïve Ukranian translator — to find the righteous gentile woman who saved his grandfather when his small Ukranian village (along with most of the populace) was obliterated during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941. Stars Elijah Wood, Eugene Hutz and Boris Leskin. Liev Schreiber directs.

The film is based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer, and telling just by the premise you wouldn’t think that there would be time for some humor, when really there are some actually funny moments.

The film blends a lot of funny absurdest comedy with its very dramatic undertones. I mean its a different type of comedy that does feel a bit dry and dark, but at times it really connects, but then at times it doesn’t quite hit the mark but it does lighten up the mood.

What is equally surprising is that it is not a comedy. It is, in fact, a touching and poignant story that celebrates the importance of remembrance, the power of secrets and the meaning of friendship. It does this by creating unforgettable characters and placing them in a historically rich environment.

The problem with this film is that I felt like way too many parts were just put in to just be artsy. Schreiber’s directorial debut does seem inspired and is actually impressive, but it shows way too many times he was going for the different and articulate look rather than just sticking with the original source material.

I didn’t like how the first 2/3’s of the film was based on ironic situational comedy, and then by the last 30 minutes was switched into this very depressing Holocaust drama. I think this turn right by the last act changed way too much about the film, and should have kept with its whimsical taste the whole way through.

Wood does give a pretty good performance here but doesn’t feel authentic enough. I feel like those glasses should have been removed from his character, cause not only were they a bit distracting, they just made his character look too much like a comedic effect person.

Consensus: Though it is pretty hit and miss with its whimsical flavor, Everything is Iluminated has a nice poignant story, that shows Schreiber can direct.

6.5/10=Rental!!