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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Elizabeth Banks

Power Rangers (2017)

We’re already on 90’s nostalgia?

In Angel Grove, there’s a threat lying somewhere in the sea and her name is Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). What does she intend on doing? Well, it seems like she wants to destroy the world and there’s only one team that can stop her: The Power Rangers. But who are exactly are the Power Rangers? Well, they’re a rag-tag group of teenagers who, through sheer chance and a Saturday detention, are all gifted with special powers that make them ass-kickers. There’s Jason (Dacre Montgomery), the star-quarterback who, after totaling his car, is stuck with an ankle-bracelet and has to throw away all hopes of a college scholarship; there’s Kimberly (Naomi Scott), a former cheerleader who wants to become something much more than just another one of the “bad girls”; there’s Billy (RJ Cyler) an autistic loner who doesn’t have many friends, but is incredibly smart and great with technology; there’s Trini (Becky G), who may be something of a rebel herself, for certain reasons; and then, there’s Zack (Ludi Lin), a teen who has to deal with his mother slowly dying and wants to do all that he can to make her last few years, happy ones. As one, they must band together to take down Rita and save the world.

Hologram or not, always listen to whatever Bryan Cranston says.

Even though it didn’t work wonders at the box-office and isn’t perfect, I sure do hope that the Power Rangers is granted a sequel. It’s the rare blockbuster reboot of a nostalgic series that’s smart, funny, diverse, and kind of fun, but never seems like it’s trying too hard to be something it isn’t. There’s references, Easter-eggs, call-backs, and hell, a few cameos from the old series that could have easily been lame fan-service, but instead, just feel like a nice way to remind the older fans of what once was the Power Rangers, and what’s soon to be next Power Rangers.

Or maybe not. Who knows?

Either way, I certainly hope so.

Cause what’s interesting about Power Rangers is that it’s a superhero flick, mixed with a bit of a high-school drama where the drama actually brings some heart, heft, and emotion to whatever the hell else is going on with the sci-fi. In fact, it’s very rare, but the characters here are much more interesting than any of the action, or exposition that gets thrown at us. Director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins seem to actually care about these characters and rather than just having them written off as “types” that we’re so used to with these kinds of high school flicks, they become so much more; the fact that they are more, than what they represent, is even more of a welcome change-of-pace for a genre that seems to skip by this sort of stuff, even if it matters.

And though they’re all ridiculously hot and sexy, the cast is actually quite good in their roles. Everybody brings a great deal of charm and fun into roles that could have been boring and lifeless, with Cyler being the particular stand-out, balancing funny and sadness, sometimes, altogether and at once. They all seem to get along, too, with the chemistry working much more as they get used to one another and understand just who the other person is, where they come from, and why they deserve to be looked at as more than just another “jock”, “slut”, or “nerd”.

Eat your heart out, Michael.

That said, it’s not all great.

When it comes to the exposition and all of the crazy action, Power Rangers can lose itself a bit. While I know that this is the one thing that most fans will want to see with a Power Rangers movie, it’s a bit disappointing that some of it can be so silly and over-the-top, yet, not really fit with the rest of the movie. Like, for instance, Elizabeth Banks’ Rita Repulsa – while she’s clearly having cackling her way through every line, she’s not in the right movie. She’s perfect for a Michael Bay flick, for sure, but one where it actually seems like some heart and soul went into everything else, it doesn’t mesh.

Even the action itself by the end seems like a rehash of the Transformers movies, except this time, with a lot more cohesion and less chaos. It’s still fun and well-done, but once again, it still feels like filler for a movie that was trying to do something slightly more than we’re used to seeing. Does that in and of itself warrant it a sequel? Most definitely. But unfortunately, Hollywood may disagree with me on that.

Oh well. Another treasure of my childhood gone to waste, before my very eyes.

Consensus: With more time and care put into the actual heroes themselves, Power Rangers is much better than it has any right to be, even if the action and sci-fi stuff can get a tad tiresome.

6.5 / 10

So hip. So trendy. So not the 90’s. Boo!

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate Films

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

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

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

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

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

They’re not wrong, but still.

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

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

Even way after the credits end.

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

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

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

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

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

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

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

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

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Magic Mike XXL (2015)

Bigger, longer, uncut. And I’m not even talking about the movie itself.

A few years after Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) left his fellow stripper bros in Tampa, he’s struggling a bit to say the least. Sure, he finally got his dream job of owning his own custom furniture company, but can’t even afford to pay his one employee’s insurance, and not to mention, is living all by himself after his girlfriend (Cody Horn), left him because she “just wasn’t ready yet”. Eventually, the Kings of Tampa reach out to Mike and ask him if they’ll come along and join them as they travel from Tampa to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for their last show before they bow out and get on with their real lives. Mike’s hesitant at first, but he soon gives in and realizes that the trip’s going to a lot harder to complete than he expected; problems arise, women come and go, and friendships are maintained. However, what Mike wants to do the most is break away from what his old boss, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), made him and the guys do. Instead, he wants to dance, shake, jive and strip the way he and his boys know how – it just takes a little creativity is all.

No matter how many people got on my case about it, I never tried to get the past that I actually quite enjoyed Magic Mike – or, as it was known back in the summer of 2012, “the male stripper movie”. Sure, it was filled with half-naked dudes, dry-humping, and dancing on top and/or around women, but because Steven Soderbergh was attached to it, it was surprisingly something more. While it was definitely a movie that featured males stripping to their skivvies for money, it was also a smart tale about growing up in the U.S. and living the American Dream anyway that one person can. Some prefer to work boring 9 to 5, whereas others prefer to get nearly naked for all sorts of women throwing dollar bills at them left and right.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

Bro time is the best time. With clothes on, of course.

With Magic Mike XXL, it’s less about the actual American Dream and more about the dream of, “man, being a male-stripper would be kind of cool”.

Because Soderbergh isn’t around this time again to direct (he does shoot the thing, as you can plainly tell in each and every shot), the movie feels more like it wants to be just a good time, without all that much thinking having to be done in the process. And that’s fine because director Gregory Jacobs understands that most of the people who come to see Magic Mike (see, not critics), may not care about whether or not there’s a heartfelt, compelling story about the human condition placed underneath – he knows that people will just want to see these guys dance, take their clothes off, and look buff as hell. Nothing wrong with that, honestly, it’s just a bit of a disappointment considering that the first one was actually a bit of a surprise by how much it sort of went against its target-audience; something most love and appreciate Soderbergh for.

But like I said, this isn’t a Soderbergh movie and even though the whole story of Magic Mike may not be as deep as the first, it’s still a bunch of fun to watch. The stripping scenes, as predicted, are a lot of fun but seem as if they’re more ridiculous and extreme this time around. That the plot is centered around these guys going on some sort of road trip, we’re now able to peak into all of these neat, little worlds where these guys can sometimes excel. We get to check out a drag club, a mainly African American club, a huge house filled with rich, older women, and, believe it or not, an actual convention for male strippers.

Highly doubt those exist, but for this point in time, I’ll let it all slide.

And with these new set-pieces, Jacobs gets his chance to light the screen up with as much crazy, over-the-top stuff as he wants, and it all makes sense. The art (or in this case, I guess lack thereof) of male-stripping is that you get as wild and as sexxed-up as you possibly can be, because the crazier and more fun you are, the more tips get hurled at you from incredibly horny women. Because male-stripping is such a wacky occupation to have secured in the first place, Jacobs finds himself in a safe place where he can go the extra mile with all of these stripping-sequences, and still be considered “believable”. I’m definitely sure that Jacobs and the rest of his crew weren’t wholly aiming for that element to the story, but it’s the little attributes like that, that help certain movies such as this all the more entertaining to watch.

Also, it helps that you have a solid cast to help work things out, which Magic Mike XXL does, and then some. Considering that Channing Tatum was basically playing a slightly heightened version of himself in the original, it’s no shock that C-Tates plays Mike this time around, the exact same way as before. He’s cool with the ladies, a good dancer, and all around bro that likes to party, but also wants a little more out of life than just fine women, fine cars, fine booze, and fine parties. Sure, we’ve seen Tatum challenged a whole heck of a lot more in the past couple years, but in all honesty, that doesn’t matter considering he’s fine as is here.

Eh. I've seen better.

Eh. I’ve seen better.

Now, when I first heard about Magic Mike XXL, I was very disappointed (but not too shocked) at the fact that neither Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, or Alex Pettyfer would be returning to their original roles here. While most of them are surely missed, the movie still does a fine enough job of filling up their roles, even if too manipulatively so. Though Horn isn’t here as Mike’s girlfriend, Amber Heard is sent in to pick up the pieces as a hipster-ish chick named Zoe, who sweeps Mike off his feet by how “artsy” and “cool” she seems to be with her tats and camera. Heard’s fine here, but her character does feel unnecessary, especially considering all she does is show up, flirt with Mike, and offer him something of a romantic love-interest to look forward to when he’s done his little trip.

But other than that, everybody else is fine and more than welcome to participate in the proceedings.

Most people who moaned and complained about the fact that the original didn’t give a whole lot of development to the characters of Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, or especially, Kevin Nash – well, have no fear. Not only do these characters get plenty of development here, but they even get some of their own moments to shine and reveal something about their personalities. Bomer’s character likes to sing and meditate; Manganiello’s wants to settle down, get married and have a family; Nash’s wants to be, oddly enough, an artist; and as an added-on bonus, Adam Rodríguez’s new character, Tito, likes Frozen Yogurt and wants to sell it in the future. Other characters show up such as Jada Pinkett Smith’s Rome, who had something of a relationship with Mike in his early days, Donald Glover’s Andre, who wants to sing, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss as Malik, who doesn’t have any development, other than that he’s probably the best dancer of the bunch, aside from Tatum himself.

It’s all so incredibly goofy, but it works well because it seems like it wants to make these characters more than just caricatures of puffed-up beefcakes – they’re actually human beings, like you or I.

And yes, we’re still talking about “the male stripper movie” here, folks.

Consensus: While not as exceptional as the first, Magic Mike XXL still provides plenty of fun for anybody looking to see these characters strip-down, dance and hump all the ladies, while also still getting opportunities to talk about their lives.

7 / 10

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it's back to the real world.

Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies. Cause after this, it’s back to the real world.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Love & Mercy (2015)

Dude should have just stuck with the surf rock genre. Clearly, it was going places.

Beach Boys member Brian Wilson is covered at two points in his life, both of which seem to unveil certain problems he faced with his wild personality. In the 60’s, he was a lot younger (Paul Dano), and decided that it was time for he and the rest of the Beach Boys to test the waters out and see what they could do next with their sound. This lead to Pet Sounds, which ultimately, lead to a whole lot more tension within the band, and left Wilson to start losing his mind a little. Then, in the 1980s, Wilson is a bit older (John Cusack), but also under the watch of self-appointed therapist Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), which means that his life and every decision he makes, is being monitored so that Landy can keep track of what it is that Wilson does, regardless of whether or not it’s actually worrisome to his health. However, one fateful day, Brian meets a car saleswoman by the name of Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) and automatically knows that he wants to be with her. However, due to his “condition”, and also the fact that Eugene doesn’t like it when he disobeys certain rules, Brian’s left to act out a little.

Not crazy.

Not crazy.

I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people know about Brian Wilson, the music he created, his personality, his career, and all of the controversy that came along with the decisions that he’s made throughout it. Some of it’s good; some of it’s bad; and some of it is, well, just what you get when you have a small-time musician who all of a sudden gains tons and tons of success, whether they wanted it or not. Sometimes, they go crazy – other times, they just blow it all away on drugs, guns, beer, women, and end up dying because of so.

Hardly do you ever see a musician go from being small, to big one day, without any screw ups occurring between, or after the fact.

But this is all to prove a point about the idea of the rock biopic itself: In all honesty, it’s sort of becoming tired. Sure, it’s nice to see high-quality actors like Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, and Paul Giamatti, among others, take over the roles of some of these more famous types, but when you have a figure as famous and as notorious as Brian Wilson at your forefront, are you really trying to shed some light on anything new about him, his personality, or the music he created? Not really, and it shows so often here in Love & Mercy.

While this isn’t to say that the movie’s bad, it does, by the same token, still make it seem conventional, even if director Bill Pohlad tries very hard to make sure that this doesn’t happen. But even though it does, Pohlad still doesn’t forget the idea of what makes movies like these so interesting, is that all you need is a compelling angle to make things sizzle and spice a whole lot more. While that doesn’t wholly happen here, there’s something neat about watching the likes of Dano and Cusack just sink into these roles, playing practically the same person, without hardly looking anything alike, and still coming off as believable.

Now, once again, that’s talking about the acting, and less about the actual story itself and how it’s structured. The structure is, like I’ve said before, typical of these sorts of movies. We get a flawed musician who has a bit of problem, tries to get past it, and faces plenty of adversity from those around him due to this problem that he features. This is what we’ve all come to expect with these kinds of movies and it’s a bit of a shame, because you’d think a movie about such an innovator like Brian Wilson, wouldn’t try to walk the same patterns that some of Wilson’s fellow members always seemed to bring up and argue about.

Either try to change things up? Or stick to the script and do what people like? This is the main question of at the end of the day, but even I know if it’s able to make up a conclusion.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Still not totally crazy just yet.

Which makes sense because the movie seems all the more infatuated with its performances, rather than any actual surprises in the narrative. As mentioned before, Dano is very good in the role as a younger version of Brian Wilson, where we get to see him in the studio, working with just about each and every person he employed to help out with his wild and crazy project ideas. He sinks right into a role that we think would be hard to do, but comes off as the right amount of odd ballish and sincerity, even if he is still a bit on the cooky side.

As the older version of Wilson, John Cusack puts in a great performance that he hasn’t seem to interested in giving for quite some time. However, what works so well for Cusack here is that he isn’t afraid to make us feel unsettled by Wilson’s demeanor, but also realize that he’s actually something of a sweet guy once you get beneath all of the weird mannerisms. Though it’d be easy to suggest that the real life Melinda Ledbetter would have fallen and gotten married to Wilson so quickly because of his name and the money, in the movie, you’d be wrong. Banks and Cusack have legitimate chemistry where it seems like, even despite the significant problems in Brian’s personality, they still want to make it work.

And of course, there’s Paul Giamatti, who is absolutely milking it to death as Dr. Eugene Landy. Because Landy was a pompous joke in real life, the movie really plays up the fact that it may have been him after all, that was the true psycho – not Brian. While the movie makes this strong argument (and Giamatti is very helpful in that effort), there’s still a part of me that feels like he was maybe a bit too wild and crazy to be taken as seriously as the movie wants us to take him. Sure, Giamatti’s scary, but Landy? Puh lease. It’s just another rich dude, scamming to make himself even more rich.

What else is there to know?

Consensus: Even despite the conventional format of Love & Mercy, the well put together cast helps keep it thoughtful, entertaining, and interesting, all at the same time.

8 / 10

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Oh yeah, toates crazy. No doubt about it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Every Secret Thing (2015)

If a baby isn’t yours, don’t take it.

After their eighteenth birthdays, Ronnie (Dakota Fanning) and Alice (Danielle Macdonald) finally get a taste of the real world as full-grown adults. When they were young, they kidnapped and accidentally killed an infant that, due to the fact that they were so young and didn’t seem to know any better, weren’t tried as adults and were forced to serve sentences in juvenile delinquent centers. Although both seem to have understood what they did was wrong, their troubled pasts may never escape them – especially when a similar case occurs in which another biracial infant is kidnapped. This is when Detective Nancy Porter (Elizabeth Banks) steps onto the scene to figure out just whether or not these girls are involved with this case, or if they’ve actually been keeping up-to-date with day-to-day society and still not acting up in any sort of shady way. However, Porter soon realizes that the problem may be less with the girls, in particular, and more with the mother of Alice, Helen (Diane Lane), a woman who is very persistent in pleading her daughter’s innocent, but also doesn’t shy away from having her learn some hard lessons about life, either.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you've got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

Slab on as much make-up on her as you want, no matter what, you’ve got the wrong Fanning sister to work in your movie.

The problem with movies like Every Secret Thing is that there’s too many of them out there. Better yet, there aren’t just movies with cops, crooks, cases and mystery, but actually loads and loads of TV procedurals that you don’t even have to get up out of your seat, or pay money for. Law & Order, CSI, Blue Bloods, you name it, guess what? It’s probably a police procedural that people would rather stay at home to watch, rather than actually physically go out and pay for. Makes sense in some cases, but that’s also why we have a movies to begin with.

Mostly, what movies are supposed to do, that some TV can’t do, is elevate it to a certain level. Sure, you can have a mystery-cop story for a flick, but it has to be something as suspenseful as humanly possible, or even innovative in a certain manner that would make sense for it to be on the big screen that you’d pay for, and not just a smaller one that you didn’t have to bring out the wallet for. And basically, that’s the problem with Every Secret Thing – it’s all been done before.

Except for the whole baby-killing element to its story. That’s pretty messed up that I’m pretty sure that some networks wouldn’t want to touch.

But either way, there’s just something about Every Secret Thing that feels so ordinary, that everything about it just starts to make it feel like a drab. While this isn’t a very pretty, uplifting story, there should still be some sort of excitement or intensity in the fact that not only is there plenty of misery to go around, but also, that there’s actually something of a mystery to constantly pick and prod at. There is a central mystery here that keeps the movie rolling, but honestly, after a little while, it’s the only thing that keeps the movie the least bit of interesting.

For instance, the characters are pretty boring; which is especially more disappointing considering that the cast is pretty stacked with talent that usually works at making things better. Elizabeth Banks is saddled with the boring copy-type of character that’s short on words and is a hard-ass, so that she can pay attention to every aspect of her case, without losing a slight hint of what could be a possible reveal. It’s cool to see Banks take on what is practically a humorless role, but it doesn’t quite work, if only because we don’t get to know anymore about this character other than that she’s a cop.

That’s it.

Mamma's always there. Somehow.

Mamma’s always there. Somehow.

The same can be said for Nate Parker and his character, although there is a small attempt at giving him more dimensions, but it doesn’t quite go anywhere. There’s a brief argument that Parker’s character has with Common’s, in that Parker’s is wondering whether or not Common’s kidnapped his own daughter, for one reason or another; it’s simple protocol, but the way Parker’s character just continues to berate him, makes it feel like there’s something deeper and darker going on there. Whatever it was, it all goes away in the next five minutes as it’s made abundantly clear that the movie is more concerned with the actual case and the possible culprit, rather than anybody else.

And because of the attention being so diverted towards Ronnie and Alice, the movie suffers. Fanning is fine as Ronnie, except that she doesn’t have much to do; on the flipside though, it’s Danielle Macdonald who has a lot more to do as Alice and there’s already a problem to begin with. Not to sound terribly mean, but Macdonald’s not a very strong actress. It’s clear on many occasions that she’s trying and trying, but she just doesn’t have the skill to make an odd character like this work. That she’s at one point, almost psychotic, and at others, a wise and knowing smart-ass, makes it hard to play this character in a believable manner as is, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that Macdonald doesn’t do a solid job here.

May not be all her fault, but man.

The only one who walks away from this, knowing that she at least somewhat helped, is Diane Lane. As Alice’s mother, Lane gets a chance to camp it up in a way that we haven’t seen from her in a long time. But then again, at the same time, this character still has a semblance of heart and humanity where we see that she really cares and loves for her daughter, however, is incredibly frustrated with whatever she’s gotten herself into and how she’s continuing on to live life. She may be a tad bit on the angry side, but it all seems to stem from a heartfelt place in her core and that’s what makes her worth watching and, at least, rooting for.

More than I can say for the rest of them.

Consensus: Without being exciting, thoughtful, or even mysterious in terms of where its story goes, Every Secret Thing serves no real purpose other than to highlight the fact that Diane Lane needs to be in more stuff.

2 / 10

My thoughts exactly.

My thoughts exactly.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Pitch Perfect 2 (2015)

Is it cool if dudes call each other “pitches”? If not, I’ll make it happen.

After embarrassing themselves in front of a huge, national audience, especially including President Obama himself, the Barden Bellas now find themselves hit with the reality that they may not be allowed to participate in anymore professional acapella competitions. However, by finding a loophole, they realize that they continue to work and perform together, it’s just that they’ll have to compete in the global tournament in order to do so. Which doesn’t sound so bad considering that they are a very talented team, but with them going up against the rest of the world, and the fact that now everybody in the group is dealing with problems of their own, they’re also dealing with the idea of not wanting to sing anymore. Becca (Anna Kendrick) now sees her music career popping-off in a way that she’s always wanted it to; Chloe (Brittany Snow) doesn’t know if she wants to leave school yet and, as a result, be leaving the Bellas behind as well; and Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson), well, who knows with her?

The first Pitch Perfect was fine. So many people, over the past couple of years at least, have made it out to be some sort of comedy classic that went straight from being a beloved by cults, and straight into the mainstreams with it’s lovely songs, therefore, altering the fact that the movie itself wasn’t anything special. Sure, it was funny, had snappy musical-numbers, and featured the awe-inspiring moment that will forever change the way how people use red solo cups, but get past all of that, you’ve just got a middling movie that’s better than a lot of what we see nowadays.

So much tension.

So much tension.

So with that said, the idea of there being a second one wasn’t exactly jumping at me as an amazing idea, but then again, this movie isn’t really made for cranky wankers like me. It’s made for the adoring fans who hold the first movie so near and dear to their hearts, so much so that they actually went out of their ways to start their own acapella groups. Which is to say that when they do see Pitch Perfect 2, they’ll be more than pleased. There’s a lot of singing, dancing, and jokes made at the expense of Rebel Wilson’s rotund physique.

Does that make the movie bad? Not really, but like so many other sequels out there where the same things seem to be happening, and there’s hardly any differentiation between the two movies to be found.

But with this sequel, if there’s one attribute that makes it mildly interesting at best, is the fact that Elizabeth Banks is making her full-fledged directorial debut with it, and it’s not as bad as some actor’s first movies can be. That may sound like a lame thing to say, but it’s the truth – because Banks was taking so much on her plate as was, it’s impressive to see her handle it all with ease. She isn’t necessarily doing much else that’s different from the first movie, but that doesn’t matter so much because there are quite a few moments that are genuinely funny.

Having worked with Judd Apatow and co. many times in the past, it makes sense that Banks would understand what it takes to make people laugh, and what can be seen as funny. In the spirit of the first flick, some jokes are mean-spirited and seem to come completely out of nowhere. Other times, they’re the same gags that either go nowhere. There’s an Asian character here called Lilly Onakurama, who is from the first and, just like in that movie, speaks with a very quiet and tender whisper which, if you listen close enough to, will be able to realize that all she’s saying is weird, almost psychotic things. There’s also another character from the first one here named Stacie Conrad, and because she’s a butch lesbian, everything she does or says is overtly sexual and masculine.

Are any of these gags funny? Not really, but once again, the crowd whom this was made for, clearly do.

So smug, Banks.

So smug, Banks.

The only instances in which this movie can actually be funny is whenever Rebel Wilson takes the stage. While Wilson may have been a tad too overexposed after the success of both the first movie, as well as Bridesmaids, which lead to the ultimately disappointing Super Fun Night, there’s no denying that she has a comedic-talent that strays away from being just all about her physical presence. Sure, she enjoys making a fat joke about herself every once and awhile, but it’s used in a snarky, condescending tone that makes it actually funny, as well as smart; therefore, helping her character’s humor hit all the more harder whenever she’s thrown into situations where she’s called upon to be, well, funny.

Banks finds ways to use Wilson here that work for the later, as well as the movie itself. There’s a rather extended sequence in which Fat Amy sings to her love-interest and while it goes on and on, it’s awkward, weird and presented in such a way that it works, much like most of Apatow’s movies do. Though with Wilson getting most of the attention here, it takes away a bit from the likes of Kendrick and Snow, who try to make their presences known, but ultimately, slip a bit through the cracks; especially Snow, whose character I didn’t even know had a subplot going on until the final strand of the flick.

With Kendrick, we get to see Hannah record and possibly get into the music business, which also introduces another new character by the name of Emily Junk-Hardon (yep), played by the very talented and cheery Hailee Steinfeld. Steinfeld is growing into becoming more and more of a likable presence on-screen, which is why I wasn’t too disappointed seeing her character get a lot more screen-time than Kendrick’s; not only can she sing, but she also knows how to be funny, without overdoing it. Which, in the world that Pitch Perfect presents, means a whole heck of a lot.

Just don’t tell its core audience that. Don’t even dare, actually.

Consensus: Much like the original, Pitch Perfect 2 features snappy dialogue, impressive musical numbers, and an okay sense of humor, although it hardly does much else to be different.

6.5 / 10

You go, pitches!

You go, pitches!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

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

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

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

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

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Walk of Shame (2014)

Ugh. Like who even does one-night-stands anymore?

Meghan Miles (Elizabeth Banks) is a news-anchor that wants to get her big break in the world of journalism. One day, she finds that opportunity taken right away from her, dashing all of her hopes and dreams, so what does she do? Well, she decides that tonight is the night she is going to get absolutely plastered, do whatever she wants, with whomever she wants, and not even think about tomorrow, because who the hell cares, right? Sounds like a dandy decision in the moment of everything, but when Meghan wakes up the next day, she finds out that not only has she gotten the job that she thought she wasn’t going to get, but that she has no car, no phone, no wallet, no idea where she is, and strapped with nothing more than her car-keys and a skimpy, yellow dress she borrowed from one her friends. Also, to make matters even worse for the already-unlucky Meghan: She has to be at the newsroom, prepped-up and ready-to-go, in less than four or five hours. Sucks right? Well, trust me, it gets a whole lot worse for Meghan, who also happens to be roaming the streets of L.A., where all sorts of grit, crime and mischievousness is occurring.

There’s one plot-line I somewhat left out there up top, and with good reason. I sort of mentioned the fact that Meghan goes home with some guy, has sex with him, and wakes up the next day, barely knowing who this guy was, what she was so attracted to in the first place, and basically moving on with her life, hoping that she gets to her job, on time and able to make a big name for himself. Notice how I didn’t mention who the lucky man was that Meghan went home and eventually had sex with that night? Well, there’s a reason, because it’s James fuckin’ Marsden.

Yeah, they have no chance at all of getting lucky tonight. Like totally.

Yeah, they have no chance at all of getting lucky tonight. Like totally.

And yes, if you’re a woman or gay man, you know exactly who James fuckin’ Marsden is. Simply put, the dude is a pretty handsome fella’, and that’s just for dudes. For gals, it’s probably a whole lot more detailed and explicit about their feelings for and towards him. But regardless, the fact is that Elizabeth Banks, a very beautiful woman in her own right, goes home with the total hunk that is James Marsden and it makes total sense. He’s smart, she’s smart. He’s hot, she’s hot. He’s got a million-dollar-smile, she’s got a million-dollar-smile. So on and so forth, you get it.

What I’m trying to get across about this one-night-stand is not only does it make sense why these two would want to bang each other in the first place, but it’s the only thing in the entire movie that makes the least bit of sense. Because trust me, as soon as Banks’ character leaves Marsden’s apartment, she’s thrown into a crazy, wild-fire world where all sorts of walks-of-life inter-connect with one another, and make a difference in this one white girl’s life. Yeah, we’ve all seen that premise done before, and some cases, done to absolute perfection, but for the most part, this is not one of those times.

In fact, it’s the furthest thing from, and there’s nobody here to really be blamed except for writer/director Steven Brill himself. See, what Brill does here is that he gets a very talented, very funny cast together that can make lemonade out of lemons, given the right material, in the right time, at the right place, and with the right other people around them, lending a helping hand. Here, everybody seems like they’re either trying too much, or not trying enough. Which isn’t to really get on the cast’s case, because, like I said before, it’s Brill who should be blamed. His script is unfunny, most of the time borderlines on being offensive or racist, and ends on such a falsely-sappy note, that I actually wanted to go back and see if the movie tried to be serious at one point during it’s hour-and-a-half running-time, until I eventually got sober five hours later and realized that this wasn’t the right decision I should be making with my life.

And yet, there are still some people here who end up looking a whole lot worse than him. And yes, the most glaring example of that is definitely Elizabeth Banks, whom I felt so bad for the whole time. I don’t know if anybody knows this about me, but I love Elizabeth Banks. She is, without a doubt, the most charming leading-lady we have working in film today and it honestly surprises me that she would take something as bland, as dull, and as fumblingly-unfunny as this. I want to assume that the paycheck was almost too grandiose to ignore, but there’s still a part of me that feels as if she really wanted to do something like this, if only to prove that she could carry a movie on her own two shoulders. You know, like a real woman, and not with some dirty, disgusting, hormone-fueled man getting in the way and trying to help her out.

Oh mah god! Average, middle-class white girl can't connect with urban, street thugs. The hilarity!

Oh mah god! Average, middle-class white girl can’t connect with urban, street thugs. The hilarity!

No! See, Elizabeth Banks doesn’t want that shit, so instead, she decides to take this road alone and it’s probably one of the worst decisions of her career. She does try with this material here, time and time again, but her character is just so unlikable and screechy, that I just did not give a shit. She has a lot of physical stuff to do here, and while I definitely applaud Banks for flinging herself like a long-dart just to get a slight whimper from the audience, it comes off as if she is trying way too hard to make unappealing material, well, appealing. Which, as I sort of said, would have been all cool and rad if Banks’ character was likable at all to watch as she goes and roams throughout the streets of L.A., lost, dazed, confused, and totally hopeless, but I did not give a flying hoot one bit. I just wanted her to either get to the station, report the news, and shut her damn mouth; or, better yet, get totally lost, end up hitch-hiking a ride with a random, bumble truck-driver, and having the movie just end there, without us knowing at all what happened to her next and whether or not there will be a sequel (even if we totally know, and we just don’t want to admit it to our more-sensitive friends and family members).

Most likely, there won’t be, and we’re better as a society for that.

Consensus: Though just about all of Walk of Shame is terrible, unfunny, disgusting, and downright appalling, it’s biggest and, depending on how you look at it, it’s best undoing is the fact that it misuses Elizabeth Banks, giving her material that’s not even worth her eye-sight, let alone her five-to-six weeks out of the year.

1.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

They don't deserve one another.

Eh, unrealistic.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

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

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

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

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

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

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

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

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

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

I rest my case.

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

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God, how time has changed.

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

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

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

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Remember those small, yellow things you used to “accidentally” stick up your nose as a kid? Yeah, they have lives you know.

Normal, everyday Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is controlled, run-by and practically dominated by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). In this plastic world, everyone is to wake up, follow their day throughout a precise set of instructions and guide-lines, always smile, swallow overpriced coffee, go to work, be happy about it, get that paycheck, sing terribly-catchy, yet excruciating pop-songs like “Everything is Awesome” and go home to watch mind-numbing sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?“. It’s so painfully dull and monotonous, but nobody cares, nor does anybody fret, because quite frankly, nobody knows any better; not even poor Emmet, who is just like everybody else. But things begin to change for Emmet once he stumbles upon an an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. He knows nothing about it, but he’s soon picked-up by the rebellious ass-kicker known as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and is told that the fate of humanity lies in his hands, and his hands only. In better words: He IS the “chosen one”, and it’s up to him to stop Lord Business’ maniacal ways.

The plot is the same old, cookie-cutter stuff that we’ve seen done in a million other movies (*cough cough* Star Wars), but that doesn’t matter because it’s all used so that the directors can get all sorts of these LEGO-pieces together and see what sort of magic they can make-up next. Needless to say, for a kid who has played with LEGO‘s all throughout his childhood, it was an honor to see the likes of 2002-era Shaquille O’Neal, rub shoulders with none other than Batman himself. And no, I do not mean that ACTUAL Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Wayne got next to one another, showed their faces to the camera, and rubbed shoulders; I mean that their LEGO figures did.

Basically, he's like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

Basically, he’s like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

And that’s where all of the fun lies with this movie, whether you like it or not.

Chances are though, going into this, no matter how idiotic you may think the idea of LEGO movie being, you’re going to be laughing, be having a great time and totally surprised by what this movie does; not just with its animation, which is quite stunning to look at pick-apart, wondering just how they were able to film it all, but with its script, that displays hilarious wit at a non-stop pace. Most of the jokes here, are made solely for the adults that will most likely get roped into seeing this, and there is no problem with that whatsoever, because there’s a lot of humor here that had me howling like a banshee in my seat. I mean hell, there’s even a joke about how they refer to one character as “Michelangelo, the artist”, and another as “Michelangelo, the Ninja Turtle.” Now, if that doesn’t make you at least crack a smile or two, then I have no freakin’ clue what will!

But there’s definitely plenty out there for the kiddies as well, which doesn’t mean that there’s just a whole bunch of slap-sticky, or fart jokes to make them giggle – there’s a whole bunch of action, fun and excitement that gets thrown into this, all because you can tell that both Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly care about the audience that this movie is being made for. Sure, you could argue that a LEGO movie actually does exist, solely to sell more toys and merchandise, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. However, the movie isn’t just an-hour-and-a-half ploy trying to grab your arm, snatch your wallet and long-dart you to the nearest Toys R Us or Wal Mart; it’s actually an animated-flick that’s pretty damn hilarious, fun and always able to gain your attention, no matter how many times you may have to remind yourself that you are in fact watching LEGO‘s, up on the big screen.

It’s a strange feeling that even I had a problem getting through on occasion, but I knew one thing: I was just happy knowing they weren’t actually MY LEGO‘s. After all of the abuse and torture I put those poor things through, lord only knows that if they ever became animated and alive, they’d come after me, and with a vengeance, too! Same goes for my sister’s Barbie Dolls!

Although, that may be a different story entirely….

Anyway, moving on!

Though it is hard to go on and on without talking about the voice-cast, I do have to give all of them credit because they do some energetic, spunky work here that definitely makes you see their wild and goofy figures brought to life. Chris Pratt is growing up more and more each day into the perfect “everyday man”, even if in this instance, it just so happens to be a LEGO; Elizabeth Banks sounds as sexy and dangerous as she should as Wyldstyle, almost too sexy and dangerous for a kids movie where young boys will most likely be present in viewing; Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, by basically just being Gob Bluth, disguised as Bruce Wayne; it’s neat to see someone like Morgan Freeman lending his voice to an animated-movie as goofy as this, but you know, the guy gives it his all and really seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself; the same being said for Morgan Freeman, can practically be said about Liam Neeson who seems like he was definitely a bit tipsy during the voice-over recordings, but hey, it made it enjoyable to listen to; and if there was one weak-link to be found in this voice-cast, it’s probably Will Ferrell, who is definitely as harsh he should be with a name like “Lord Business”, but the act gets stale after awhile and you can sort of tell that Will Ferrell himself is enjoying this a bit too much. Maybe somebody like Nic Cage would have done this guy total justice. Actually, not “somebody”, definitely Nic Cage.

Look! That's the joke I'm talking about! And there's even a ghost in the background! Sweet, right?

Look! That’s the joke I’m talking about! And there’s even a ghost in the background! Pretty sweet, right?

But being that this is an animated movie, which is more often than not, being marketed towards the whole family, there obviously has to be a message learnt here, which there is. However, that may also be where my main problem came from – the way in which it kept on hitting me over, and over head with what message it was trying to get across. Granted, Miller and Lord take a very bold-step in the last-act with a twist that I honestly can’t say I saw coming (one which I won’t spoil here), but it’s one that didn’t feel necessary. Reason being is that whatever this movie was trying to tell us about “expressing ourselves no matter how strange or different we may be from the rest of the crowd around us”, all felt like something we understood right after Wyldstyle steps in and decides to shake things up with this story. Clearly this movie wanted to be more than just your typical, fun-for-the-whole-family animated-fare, but rather than being a simple, ode-to-love flick like the Croods, it ends up going for more of a Lorax-feel, that got a bit too preachy and a bit too strained with what it was trying to say. Doesn’t mean the fun didn’t stop, but it definitely did bother me a whole lot and took me away from most of the action that was happening on screen, most of which happened and was said so fast, I couldn’t make-out half of what was going on.

But you know what? That’s the fun of it, everybody! So definitely do make sure to go out and see this! Just make sure you have at least one cup of coffee to assure yourself that you’ll be able to catch almost anything and everything that Lord and Miller are throwing at you. Because do trust me: They’ll give you everything. Even the kitchen-sink.

Consensus: Almost anything and everything that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have at their disposal, they’ll launch at you, and then some with the LEGO Movie, but it’s always fun, exciting, hilarious, appropriate for all ages, and most importantly, as quick-as-a-Jack-Rabbit. So make sure to keep up and not get too distracted by too much butter being on your popcorn!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw "Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another", but also with "The Statue of Liberty right next to them"?!?! Like, super rad!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw “Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another”, but also with “The Statue of Liberty right next to them”?!?! Like, super rad!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

As of right now, it’s hot, it’s wet, and it’s summer, so why not?

In the summer of ’81, a liberal, Jewish camp finally comes onto their last day where everybody’s emotions are running high, low, or every which way but loose. However, not everybody’s aspirations they had for the summer got fulfilled, so for one last night, everybody decides to go crazy and as if they have nothing else in the world to worry about rather than having a good time with beer, sex, drugs, and friends. You know, the little things in life that matter. Screw all that other serious crap!

Summer camp, from what I have seen in other movies, or heard of from other people who have been to one, seems like it’s a pretty awesome place. I know, it’s probably weird for some of you out there to take in the fact that I have never been to a summer camp ever in my life, so therefore, I depend on movies like these to give me a good time as if I was right there. And from what I read, apparently writer/director David Wain has been to many summer camps but for some reason, seems like he never has been to an actual fun one with a film like this that is apparently based of his experiences.

I do have to give credit where credit’s due with this flick and say that for the most part, it can be pretty funny. There’s a lot of crazy gags going on here, zany characters flying in-and-out of the story, and random acts that are sometimes explained, and sometimes aren’t. But you know what? With comedy, you sometimes don’t need to explain what’s going on, just as long as it makes you laugh and enjoy yourself. There were many moments in this flick where I found myself laughing and enjoying myself because I could tell Wain definitely doesn’t take this material too seriously and gives us plenty of random moments that either work, or don’t. As simple as that.

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

PTSD has never been so hilurrrious!

Also, have always been a huge sucker for movies that take place during one full-day where almost anything and everything is possible. Always like to live life like that myself, which is even better when I see it transition-well onto the big-screen.

However, the film isn’t as funny as it should be and I think that’s because too much of this just feels like a really long, over-blown pilot to a new TV show, one that would probably be featured on the old days of MTV before Snooki and all of those other d-bags took over. 12-year old type of humor doesn’t bother me all that much, except for when it’s done right, but this film just seemed like it was trying too hard to go for that type of comedy and then would all of a sudden change itself into being a parody of a movie, that either nobody saw, nobody understood, and/or even cared about in the first place. It’s a weird mixture between potty humor and a parody, and the problem is that they never really come together to make this flick a full-feature and make it feel like it was chopped up into little, itty-bitty pieces that Wain and Co. thought would be funny. Little did they know that they were the only ones who actually got the joke.

Another big problem this film seems to have is that with a premise and idea like this film has, you would expect it to be a total wild ride of everything you would expect from a camp movie, but instead, you just get something that’s actually a little boring at times. The title sequence of this flick had me feeling like I was about to see something total insane, starting off with a bunch of camp counselors, hanging out around a camp-fire, smoking reefer, drinking some brews, making-out, and eventually, getting it on, all played to the tunes of Foreigner mind you. So basically, I was expecting something like that or the rest of the hour 30 minutes but I didn’t get that and even when there did seem to be a lot of energy in this flick, it happens and shows in certain spots. After seeing Wain’s recent flicks, (Role Models and Wanderlust), I can tell this guy has definitely upped his game on providing fun and wild moments in a film and keeping that going throughout, but it’s sort of obvious that this was his first flick as you can never tell if this guy knew what exactly he was doing behind-the-camera, other than just making a film he thought was really cool and funny. With his friends as well, which isn’t so bad, just as long as you and your buddies aren’t the only ones having fun.

Sadly, that’s what happens and it’s one of those cases where the high-faves stay on that side of the screen, and that side alone.

Never since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

Not since the Avengers came out last year has there been a bigger team-up of total and complete deuche bags.

You would also expect a lot more from a star-studded cast like this, but somehow, they all get squandered with the exception of a few. Janeane Garofalo is alright as the head camp counselor, Beth, and she really seems to be in-tune with her comedic timing, even if this material doesn’t seem to suit her so perfectly; David Hyde Pierce essentially plays his usual role from Frasier, and is still entertaining to watch, but that stuck-up, nerdy-type doesn’t work so well here as it does with that quality show; Paul Rudd is funny as a lady-killing camp counselor known as Andy, and plays up that whole dick-head act about him very well but even he’s not as funny as he should be; Michael Showalter is here as the innocent, hopeless romantic, Coop, that seems like he should be a lot funnier and usually is, the problem is that his material just isn’t strong enough to have us care too much about him; and surprisingly, Christopher Meloni ends up being probably the funniest out of this whole gang, playing a traumatized, Vietnam-vet that talks and does more wild shit than anybody does in this whole flick. You know you’re movie is in some trouble when the dude from CSI is the funniest thing in it, then again, though Meloni’s the man and it’s about time that the dude got not just more quality-roles, but ones that showed how well he can make us laugh, because that’s a greatly-unappreciated talent of his.

Oh, and Bradley Cooper is in this movie doing something you will never, ever believe he does. It gets crazy, almost to the point of where you’re wondering whether or not your eyes are deceiving you or not. Because trust me, right here and right now: they aren’t. Bradley Cooper is in this movie, and he’s doing the most wild shit I’ve ever seen him do. Give him the Oscar now!

Consensus: Though it shines in some bright spots, Wet Hot American Summer should be a whole lot funnier, crazier, and smarter with what it jokes around about and even tries to parody. Not a terrible comedy by any means, just not as funny as it seems like it promises.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

We caught you, Bradley! Can't run from this one!

We caught you, Bradley! Can’t run from this one!

Spider-Man (2002)

May 3, 2002 will officially go down as the day the nerds came back to rule the Earth, as well as the box-office.

This tells the age-old story of science whiz kid Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), who is in love with his next-door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson (Kirtsen Dunst) and wants to do something successful with his life. That all changes when he gets bitten by a radioactive spider and then he becomes the web-swinging hero who we all know and love: Spider-Man. Problem is, there’s a certain person named Norman Osborne (Willem Dafoe) who stands in the way of him.

I don’t even know why I bothered writing out a little synopsis for this flick because all I probably had to do was just say; “this is the story of Spider-Man”, left it at that, and there would have been no confusion whatsoever. But for all of you younglings that apparently loved The Amazing Spider-Man, well, I got a bomb to drop on you: this is better. Yes, Andrew Garfield is a hottie, I’ll give ya that one.

If any of you peeps out there did read my review that I did for that flick, you could probably tell that I held this series up above everything else and that these flicks actually have a close spot to my heart, as I saw them when I was only about 8 and started getting into my movie watching days. However, now that I watch this film, I do realize that some of this may not work-out as perfectly as I thought when I was just a little tike but it still holds up 10 years later and with great reason: it set the bar the for every other superhero flick that came out after this. May have been a little risky saying that but seriously, think about all of the other superhero films that came out after this and just notice the format that they follow.

Director Sam Raimi deserves a lot of credit for taking this film, when it seemed like nobody else would, and gave it that “fun” element that all of the fan-boys craved from this story. Raimi takes a lot of time to develop his characters, their relationships, and what they mean to this story, but he also doesn’t take it too seriously by allowing there to be plenty of light-hearted moments of comedy, that can sometimes border on camp (the good kind, though), and give us some high-flying action we wanted to see in the first-place. There’s a lot of cool scenes with Spidey, flying throughout the sky and even though they may not look all that real, they still are a lot of fun and it’s great to see what it looks like up there whenever he does fly around on his webs. And even when the action kicks in, you can feel a certain amount of fun energy come right from Raimi’s direction. That’s what makes it pretty obvious that this guy loves the character of Peter Parker/Spider-Man and just cannot wait to get the chance to show us on the big-screen. Sometimes the film may go a bit over-board with it’s goofiness, but it’s all in good, old-fashioned, Raimi fun. And that was A-okay with yours truly, folks.

Could have used more tongue, I always say.

Could have used more tongue, I always say.

But back to what I was talking about before in how Raimi allows there to be a story here, because that’s one of the major assets to this flick. I have always thought that Spider-Man has had some of the most likable and endearing characters ever written for a comic, and it’s great to see that come out so well on-screen. Parker is obviously a loveable kid and you’d have to be the freakin’ devil to find anything wrong with him. He isn’t a Saint, but he’s just a lovely kid that you could have over for dinner, and ask him to clean the dishes because you wanna take an early-nap. Nobody has yet to ask me to do that, so the kid’s gotta special! However, what makes this kid so damn special is the little dramatic scenes between him and MJ that get your heart swooning, the scenes with him and Aunt May that show you that the ladies (young or old) think he’s adorable as hell, and it’s the scenes with Uncle Ben that makes you realize that this kid is going to have a lot on his plate as his life goes on. These little snippets of drama that occur here in this flick, make this story all the better to follow through on and pay attention to because you know that these characters are people you love to watch, and you can’t wait to see how they’re relationships develop over time. Mucho kudos to Raimi for giving us a bunch of comic-book characters that feel more three-dimensional than an actual comic-book. Yeah, that was cheesy but I think you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

Going back to Peter Parker, though, Tobey Maguire was probably the most perfect choice of casting you could ever get and it’s total surprise to me now, why the hell people were so against this in the first place. Obviously Maguire wasn’t a huge name in Hollywood and didn’t even really have a leading role in one until this point, but Raimi saw something in Maguire that made this character work wonders and give us a superhero that is not only loved by all out there, but also one that feels very realistic in the way he acts and how those acts change over time as he grows older. Parker starts out as this nerd who one day dreams of being a huge scientist (much like daddy Parker), but still can’t get past the fact that everybody picks on him and bullies him all for one reason: he’s geeky. But then his life changes once he gets bitten by this radioactive spider and that’s when we start to see a realistic transformation, not only in Peter Parker, but in Maguire’s performance as well.

It didn’t matter which side of this character he was playing, whether he was Spider-Man or not, Maguire owns every layer there is to this character and gives us a hero to root for and feel like is one of us. He’s a nerd, yes, but he’s also a kid that genuinely has good intentions in his life and it’s understandable why he wants to help all of the innocent people he does ends up saving. Maguire handles all of the action elements in this character that makes him somewhat of a bad-ass but also handles a lot of the character elements to him too, that make him seem more like a regular-guy that has to put up with some major responsibilities in his life, all because of one little, radioactive spider. It’s a total shame that Maguire has been trying his damn near hardest to get out of this type-casted role as the lovable geek, but I think with a choice role in Brothers (best part of the movie, in my opinion) and a big role coming-up in The Great Gatsby, he may have finally found a way to break out of that mold and I really do hope that he does because he deserves it. God, I love that kid.

Kirsten Dunst plays the apple of Peter’s eye, MJ, and she does a fairly solid job at a character that could have been one of those annoying, “save me, save me” female characters that these superhero flicks always seem to have. I remember as a kid, I fell in love with her and thought she was the hottest thing to ever grace the screen since Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians (please, don’t ask) and I still think that holds up to this day even if I do think that the romance between her and Peter seems a bit phony. It doesn’t seem very clear why Peter loves her so much in the first place, other than the fact that she’s a hottie that he may actually have somewhat of a chance to be with. Maybe with the rap-sheet that I got, I have no room to be dissing on a guy about what traits about ladies tingle his spider-sense, but this just seemed like Peter wants her only because she’s good-looking and that’s all.

Big pimpin'.

Big pimpin’.

James Franco plays Parker’s nerd-o buddy, Harry Osborne and seems like he’s hamming it up just a bit, but it’s not until later where we see his true colors come out. However, I think that should be saved for another review, my dears. J.K. Simmons was also another perfect choice of casting as J. Jonah Jameson as every-line he says, made me laugh my ass off and even better, he actually looks like J. Jonah from the comics! Perfect choice right then and there!

And the last piece of perfect casting goes to Willem Dafoe for his role as Norman Osborne, aka The Green Goblin. Dafoe is perfect for this villainous role because he just looks like a freak show in the first place, but also plays up a lot of the elements that makes this character tick so much in the first-place. There’s a lot of weird stuff that Dafoe has to go through with this character, but he handles it perfectly even if the big distraction with this villain is that he looks so freakin’ ridiculous. Honestly, with a budget this big, you don’t think they could have come-up with anything better other than a distracting plastic mask that looks like some piece of over-priced junk I’d get at Halloween Adventure for $30! I don’t think I could have come up with anything better than what they got for him here, but there could have been something that looked a little more menacing. Just a little bit more. Machine-guns, maybe?

Consensus: Though it may not hold-up as perfectly as I once imagined it did, Spider-Man is still a fun and entertaining superhero ride from start-to-finish with a light and breezy feel from Raimi that shows his passionate love for Spidey, characters that we actually care about, a story that touches us in a way, and a bunch of performances that are all very, very good, especially Tobey Maguire’s iconic performance as Peter Parker.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Damn Trick 'R Treaters that try too hard.

Damn Trick or Treaters that try too hard.

Movie 43 (2013)

Not all celebrities are prudes. Only the ones with Oscars are.

The central story is about how a deranged writer (Dennis Quaid) forces a studio executive (Greg Kinnear) to make his movie. But before any moves actually take place on it, we get to see what the actual-product is as the writer reads it out to us and the executive. Basically, it’s just one dude’s shitty idea, all for us to see and cringe at. Yay!

Sketch-comedies never seem to work, that is, unless you just so happen to be drunk, horny, wild, and ready for a good-time. However, I don’t think it will matter if you’re any of those things: you may never, ever enjoy this movie. Okay, maybe if you’re 12-years-old, and love to hear the word “balls” in almost every sentence  then yes, you might just have a freakin’ ball with this thing. But if you are above that age-limit in anyway, shape, or form, this is going to be one cringe-inducing trip for you. Whether you like it or not. I’m going to guess your most likely to side with the latter.

Any movie can tell a ball, poop, or fart joke like it’s nobody’s business, but it’s all how you do it and literally; this film just cannot do it in the right way where you laugh, chuckle, or even get that they just made the joke. Almost every single skit in this movie has at least one use of the word “ball” or “shit” and it gets annoying, probably around the time the first skit kicks-in and you realize that you’re going to be tormented to the core of your stomach, with non-stop raunch jokes that do nothing. Apparently, everybody who ever worked on this movie, all thought that the idea of somebody having a certain bodily-fluid sprayed all-over-their-face was downright, hilarious and it’s a huge-shocker that it never dawned on any of these people that maybe, just maybe, the type of material that they are working with, just isn’t funny enough to suit a 6-to-7-minute sketch, let alone a whole movie full of ’em.

"Today's lesson is, "How to NOT choose shitty movies like this".

“Today’s lesson is, “How to NOT choose shitty movies like this”.

And also, the idea of having a movie so chock-full of sketches where big-named stars just demean themselves to the lowest, common denominator, almost seems so old-school, it’s not even worth it paying the money to go out and seeing. I mean, you can probably go onto Funny or Die, College Humor, Cracked, or even YouTube for that matter, find big-celebrities, doing some crazy shite for laughs, and actually having there be; ACTUAL LAUGHS. Here, in this movie where it’s just one, long presentation of a bunch, you get probably one-or-two laughs and that is literally all because the jokes that they use in the film that are actually funny, were already used 100-times before in all of the trailers/commercials we have either seen or heard, 100 times before. Going out to see this movie is already a crime, but actually going out to pay for it, is like a freakin’ cardinal sin. Especially when you know that more-quality humor is laying right there for you, at your fingertips.

Even if the delivery is god-awful, at least some of the placement is okay. For instance, some skits actually seem to have some promise like the one where Robin (Justin Long) actually stands up for himself and gets involved with a Superhero speed-dating event, where other, actual superheroes show-up to mingle and hopefully, get laid. This idea seems like it’s planned to be a butt-load of fun, especially if that idea came from Joss Whedon, but sadly, it comes from the makers of this shit-pile and before you could say the word, “kryptonite”, the sketch has already lost itself in saying the word “bush” or “shit”, one way too many times. I mean, when you got Wonder Woman and Batman talking to each other about how they fucked and it never amounted to anything but Batman running-away and never calling again, you would expect non-stop hilarity, right? But nope, instead it’s all about having Robin still be played-out as the softer, gayer-one of the two and if you didn’t think that joke was over-played by now, trust me, just wait for the rest of the movie.

However, without the promise of an interesting-idea, most skits just fall from grace, right from the very start. The skit where Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott both find and capture a leprechaun (played by Gerard Butler, in CGI-form), in hopes to get some gold, starts off pretty bad. Apparently the director, Brett Ratner (in case you haven’t been surprised yet), thought that the idea of having a leprechaun spew-out a bunch of dirty words was funny enough to last a whole sketch, especially one where it seemed like it’s main actors would actually sparkle in. Sadly, they just don’t do anything for the sketch, or the movie itself and the way it all ends is so dark and savage-like, that it really left me with a bad-taste in my mouth, which is very shocking since the rest of the film just couldn’t. I want to spoil the ending of that sketch for you so you understand what I’m blabbering all about, but sadly, I am a critic and I have morals, people. But still, don’t see this movie because I won’t spoil it for you.

"No, I'M in this movie?!?!"

“No, I’M in this movie?!?!”

The idea of having all of these different stars being packed into one movie where all they do is completely raunchy and dirty shit (sometimes literally), may make them seem cool and on-the-edge, but in reality: it’s just a poor-decision. I guess it’s really strange to see heavyweights like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman in a skit about a dude with balls on his neck, or a skit with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts playing parents of a home-schooled kid that give him the full, high-school experience with sex, drugs, abuse and all, but it’s even stranger to see peeps like them actually stoop themselves so low as to actually make this material work. I don’t know if they knew this right from the initial script-read, but this is terrible-material they are working with here so instead of giving it their all and actually going to town with whatever energy or sense of purpose they can muster-up to make this work, they seem almost as if they forcing it out, almost like a kidney stone (and yes, it is THAT painful to watch). Nobody here really out-shines the other and probably the only person that really made me laugh and surprised the hell out of me from this whole cast was Will Sasso, who shows-up, does his thing, reminds us that he is still alive, and actually made me laugh. I was terribly and utterly surprised, but he was the real spectacle to see for me. Everybody else can suck my nut because I hated this shit, and I hated watching them try to act in it!

Consensus: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the star-studded cast fool you, Movie 43 is one hell of a bombshell that begins on a lame-note and ends on an even-worse one that makes you feel like you’ve just been hit over-the-head with somebody’s foreign parts, and not in the fun, or pleasureful way, either. It’s the type of way that disturbs you and scars you for life. That is, until you see an equally as bad movie and that’s, going to be very hard to come by for some time I think.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

The Next Three Days (2010)

Save me, Maximus!

Life seems perfect for John Brennan (Russell Crowe) until his wife, Laura (Elizabeth Banks), is arrested for a gruesome murder she says she didn’t commit. With the rejection of their final appeal, Lara becomes suicidal and John decides there is only one possible, bearable solution: to break his wife out of prison.

It may seem a bit strange that director Paul Haggis would return to the director’s chair after two character-driven flicks like Crash and In the Valley of Elah, to do something very action-oriented in a way that would remind me a bit of the Bourne movies. Total change-of pace if you ask me, but a pretty intriguing one, none the less. However, this is also the guy who wrote Casino Royale and I think he should have kept it that way and try not to stretch out his action skills anymore teaming up with this dude, because he said he was an “Oscar-winner”.

What I liked about Haggis’ direction here is that he does have a good combination of character-driven drama and a suspense-thriller for a combination that sort of evens each-side out. We first start this flick off by focusing on Crowe, how he’s struggling with being a single father, having a wife put in jail wrongly, and it basically just sets up a lot of sadness for his character and the situation he so sadly found himself so involved with. But underneath all of that, there’s also a very interesting prison-escape drama that shows how Crowe goes around, checking for all of the clues on how to get his wife out successfully without any problems whatsoever, and it’s so interesting and well-done, that it actually made you wonder just how the hell this guy was going to pull it all off in the end, if at all. Prison-escape movies are always fun to watch, but it was really cool to see that aspect, used on the outside, from a guy who’s trying to break somebody out, and not really being able to tell how smoothly everything will go. Definitely a good combo for Haggis, but sadly, it all ends up losing it’s way about half-way through. Oh well, at least it was intruiging for the longest-time.

Mainly the problem with this flick is that it can be very hard to buy at times, especially the main bond between Crowe and Banks. As soon as we step into the movie, we see Banks and Crowe at dinner together, then in no less than 5 minutes later she gets hauled out by cops and that’s pretty much all of the love we get see come from them. That’s right, only 5 minutes of them actually being loving and happy together and we’re supposed to buy the fact that Crowe would go the ends of the Earth to save his wife from prison. Who knows, maybe they had one of the most beautiful marriages that any person has ever seen, but with the very limited-amount of time they have together on-screen, I found it very hard to actually believe Crowe would do what he ends up trying to do for her.

However, that’s not the only part of this movie I didn’t buy. The whole film revolves around Crowe and whether or not he can pull off such a plan as the one he has mapped out on his wall (so original) but I couldn’t really believe much of that either. The film does show him doing certain things to gain pieces of information that ultimately help him out with this plan and gaining more information, but it was never fully-developed to the point of where I understood how he could make it all happen to begin with and even worse, only showed-up every once and awhile. In fact, the whole escape itself by the end was really just based on coincidences that Crowe just so happened to find himself running into by sure luck. Crowe’s character had so much time to think everything through and to get everything right, but by the end, everything just happens in a very messy way and like almost every obstacle he got through was just another piece of perfect-timing, that was just a bit too perfect for my taste, really.

Now I say all of this crap but I did have a certain bit of fun with the very fast-pace this film was going through. As implausible and coincidental things may get for this plot, Haggis kicked up the volume and the speed of this movie and kept it going perfectly where I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat for a good time. That’s why I can’t go too far into how much this film didn’t make sense to me, because I like prison-escape movies and seeing the sensitive-edge Haggis brought to it, kept me interested. However, a lot of that is lost on some very obvious twists this film goes through.

Russell Crowe is one of the best-working actors today and can make almost any character he plays, work. His performance as John Brennan may be the only exception to that statement. My problem I had with this character wasn’t necessarily Crowe’s performance itself, but it was more or less the essence and nature of the character he was playing here. Brennan is such a meek, awkward, and shy dude that it really seemed “out of his element” and unbelievable whenever he would just decide to g0 around and start doing crazy shit just, in order to help his wife escape from jail. I can understand what a man does and thinks when he’s pushed to the edge, but I never saw that for Crowe and that’s a surprise because this is a guy who’s known for beating the shit out of people in many other films as well as real-life (telephone-throwing joke right there). This performance really surprised me and I think with other actors it would have worked, but when you get a tough-ass like Crowe, ehhh not so much.

One performance that really took me by surprise was Elizabeth Banks as his wife. Banks is always one of those very cute, very funny, and very sexy ladies that pop-up in these raunchy-comedies, but she shows she has a lot of dramatic depth here and makes her character seem a lot more believable than Crowe. Hopefully she continues to get more and more dramatic roles that fit her, and no, I do not mean Man on a Ledge. Liam Neeson is also here as a former prison escapee that helps out Crowe and is easily one of the best and most memorable parts of this flick even though it only lasts for 4 minutes. Oh, and Olivia Wilde is here as the only model, single mom in Pittsburgh. Wilde is a random character to have for this movie and what made it even worse and just added to the implausibility of this movie, was the fact that Olivia Wilde, was playing a single-mom! What the hell! If this is what single moms look like in Pittsburgh, get me my 2005 Scion right now! I’ll be there soon, ladies! Just you wait.

Consensus: The Next Three Days starts off pretty-strong with a great combination action, mystery, suspense and character-drama, but the script really starts to lose itself about half-way through with all of its implausibilities, strange coincidences, and unbelievable character relations, especially the ones between Crowe and Banks, who was supposed to be the core-relationship for us to really connect to this movie and actually give a damn.

6/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Slither (2006)

Do small monsters like the ones here ever attack a big city?

The sleepy town of Wheelsy could be any small town in America, somewhat quaint and gentle, peopled with friendly folks who mind their own business. But just beneath the surface charm, something unnamed and evil has arrived, is growing, and has came to take over the small town. Nobody knows what they are, but they look like small-leeches that go right for the brain.

Even though it’s not right to judge a person after only seeing one-piece of their work, to me, writer/director James Gunn seems like one fucked-up individual. Super was one of those very violent flicks that did work, but still, it was so violent that was at-times hard to watch even if it was all played for dark and sinister laughs. His directorial debut is sort of the same-thing, except this time, with even more stuff to make you look away from the screen. But it’s Halloween, so what are ya gonna do?

What I liked most about Gunn’s direction and what he’s able to do with this sickly material is that he doesn’t ever shy away from doing anything that would practically make a person sick. Everything you see in this film is disgusting, gross, slimy, juicy, and altogether, just plain and simply over-the-top, but what saves it is that constant winks and nods at the audience that Gunn gives and makes this material more fun to be around. Gunn knows the type of movie he’s making and even knows the movies that he’s making several homages to, so that obviously doesn’t stop him from just letting loose on some crazy, wild horror fun that take the B-movie audience, says “Hey! Look at me!”, and allows them all to do so with a great time ahead of them.

You got all of the typical horror movie elements you need to make a successful one: blood, guts, gore, action, violence, semi-naked women, corny-lines, over-the-top situations, and many, I do repeat, many moments that will probably have you saying, “What the hell did I just see?”. But the best part of it all, is that it’s done in such a fun way that you just decide to go along with the ride and believe it or not, may actually have you finding yourself laughing at a lot of what goes on in this flick, as did I. Gunn has a perfect knack for comedic-timing and knowing when and how to place them into certain scenes, and not once did I feel like he dropped the ball on that element one-bit. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have hurt if he gave a couple of more funny lines here and there, but with what he did, I was fine with and that’s all that mattered to me.

The problem I think I had with this movie was that there was little to no surprises with this material one-bit. It seemed like Gunn had all of the right material in-place for a movie that could have literally went anywhere with itself, with any character, and any plot-twist whatsoever, but instead, just played it straight by giving us a story that’s simple, easy, predictable, but still fun. Hell, the only time I actually felt a decent-level of suspense throughout the whole damn film was when one of the gals is in the bathtub and the little leeches are coming after her. That whole sequence kept me on-the-edge of my seat and was the only time during the whole movie where I felt like something bad was going to happen to this character, but then again, it was only 3 minutes out of the whole hour and 36 time-limit. That leaves us an hour and 3 minutes left of just unsuspenseful, but fun piece of horror-entertainment.

Also, anybody looking towards this film for some great spooks, chills, and scares whatsoever, are going to have to look elsewhere. I don’t know if this is necessarily considered a problem with the film since it’s sort of what separated it from the usual crap I see out there time and time again, but anybody going to see a horror film with monsters and zombies, are probably going to come out a bit disappointed in seeing a zany and loopy shoot ’em up that doesn’t really care about scaring you in the least bit. Once again, not a big problem for me, but for those horror freaks out there (and trust me, I know there are plenty), you may be a bit ticked off.

Most of the laughs that actually occur in this film, are mainly because of the fun-loving cast that Gunn has been able to assemble. Nathan Fillion is always a delight to watch with whatever it is that he does, and his performance here as Sheriff Bill Pardy is no different. Fillion has some of the best-lines in the whole film, but his comedic-timing is what really makes him so much fun to watch as every crazy situation the guy gets thrown into, he surprisingly somehow finds his way out of it with a quick quirk here and there. Playing opposite of him is the equally as-funny, Elizabeth Banks, as Starla Grant. Banks, no matter what junk she’s in, always has the best comedic-delivery out of everybody in the film and even though she is still playing a bit of a straight-woman here with this role, she still gets to show-off her comedic-chops every once and awhile to remind us why we all love this girl so much in the first-place.

Playing her d-bag, evil husband, Michael Rooker, shines at another one of his “villainous roles” that reminds you why so many people type-cast him as a bad man in the first-place, the guy’s so great at it you. I don’t know when the next time will be when I see Rooker play “the nice guy next-door” role in a movie, but if I never do get that, I won’t be too bummed considering the bad-guy roles are basically what he was meant to play. Don’t believe, watch Henry, then you’ll see. The other dude in this flick who had some of the better lines and stole just about scene he was in was Gregg Henry as the foul-mouthed talking mayor. Any guy who can make me laugh at the way he says “cock sucker” is always a winner in my book and that’s why it was so much fun to watch him work his magic with this zany script.

Consensus: People expecting a full-out, scare-fest will most likely be disappointed in what they see in Slither, but people looking for a fun, entertaining, wild, self-knowing, bloody horror ride from start-to-finish, should look no further and give this baby a shot.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Pitch Perfect (2012)

Still can’t get that freakin’ Ace of Base song out of my head. Grrr!

The film follows Beca (Anna Kendrick), a girl who arrives at her new college and finds herself not right for any clique. She discovers her voice when she somehow is muscled into the school’s a Capella group where she becomes the secret weapon for the school’s female team.

Now that Glee has taken over the world of television, and the world in general, it seems like every form of popular-entertainment is getting it’s own movie, to poke it’s head out to show that it’s around and pretty cool to be apart of. Somehow, a capella is now cool because of this movie.

Where I think the strength of this movie lies in is the fact that it’s able to have fun with itself and goof around for the short-time it’s on-screen. Everybody knows that a movie about a bunch of people just breakin’ out in the middle of nowhere and expressing themselves through song-and-dance numbers is strange, and you know what? So does this film and it doesn’t seem to apologize nor try to hide that fact. There are a lot of witty and sly jokes about gay people, fat people, and nerds, but the best jokes are the dirty ones that seem to come out of nowhere, and have you wonder what the hell type of movie they were going for. This type of confusion may poison most films, but somehow doesn’t poison this one and actually kept me on my toes wondering just what this flick was going to pull out of it’s ass (amongst other things) next.

The other strength of this movie is mostly within what this film sets out to show in the first-place: a capella singing numbers. Honestly, a capella has always been impressive to me but I never thought that a whole film could be made around it, while still being fun and enjoyable to listen to considering the whole idea of having a person voice a drum beat just doesn’t do much for me except make me want to try it at home. Maybe that’s a good thing, actually, but I know that I wasn’t looking forward to the types of songs they had ready for this flick and surprisingly, I was having fun with all of them. There isn’t one particular type of genre of music that this film focuses on and sings, instead, it’s mostly just a bunch of meshes between songs that are old and new, and some are great to hear back on the big-screen, while others just plain and simply annoyed me. In one of the most memorable scenes from the whole flick, the gangs face-off against one another in an underground match-up place/thingy, and start off by singing that annoying Rihanna songs about S & M, only to thankfully be saved by that Blackstreet song I haven’t heard since VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s Countdown. Not all of the choices terrible, and if they are, the film knows this and soon just changes it.

But where this film does seem to fail is in it’s actual-plot that just didn’t do anything to surprise me. The plot goes by it’s normal-structure where everything that you could expect to happen, does eventually happen, and just about no one learns anything at the end of the day. By the end of the flick, there is this scene where all of the gals huddle together and talk about their feelings, and what could have been a very special scene that was not only funny, but heartfelt as well, just seemed uber manipulative in the way it was trying to get us to see these girls for more than just a bunch of really good singers. I didn’t care if they could sing good, sing bad, or didn’t even speak, I just wanted them to be funny, that’s what I got, and that’s all I wanted. No extra drama needed, thank you very much.

That’s sort of a shame because every character here is charming and has their own, little special thing going on for them but then again, none of them ever felt fully fleshed-out for me. Even Beca to an extent was a boring character, not just because she wasn’t fleshed-out enough, but because her character is too stand-offish to even be likable or watchable for that matter. She goes around the whole flick, acting all serious while everybody’s acting weird, tries way too hard to be a bad-girl that doesn’t give into anybody that tries to help her, and almost feels like she could easily pass as a lesbian at one-point. Seriously, Beca is a boring character and it’s kind of hard to want to see her succeed with these group of gal-pal singers, and get the man at the end of the day. A man, who may I add, is totally too cool and happy for her miserable ass.

Even though this character is pretty lame, Anna Kendrick does try her hardest with it and in ways, does a very good at making this girl more than just your ordinary, boring underdog you need in any movie where there is a competition at. Her singing skills are obviously very good and so is her drama, but she’s a bit too old to be playing a freshman in college, especially one that barely has any friends or who hasn’t gotten impregnated yet with looks like that. Woo-wee! Playing that guy that tries to go for her is Skylar Astin as Jesse, a character who feels more fully-fleshed out than her and the typical guy that I could actually find myself hangin’ out with. Astin and Kendrick have a nice chemistry, and whenever Kendrick actually smiles with him, it’s the only obvious time where you can tell she’s having a nice time with a role that seems very dull and boring.

Everybody else, other than Kendrick, fares better with the material, especially the rest of her group of gal-pal singers. Rebel Wilson who seems to be on a roll as of late with each and every one of the goofy performances she puts out every 2 or 3 months, is fun as hell to watch as the awkward but brutally honest Fat Amy. Wilson obviously has the best comedic-timing out of everybody else in this flick, and it’s great to see her stretch it all out once again in a role that seemed fit for her fright from the start. Oh, and I can’t forget about John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks as the two color-commentators for the a capella competitions, who seem to come straight-out of a Christopher Guest film with reprehensible lines and all. Still though, they always got the laughs from me.

Consensus: Pitch Perfect has a very boring center and very predictable story to tell, but still kept me laughing with everything they threw at us, especially some of the most enjoyable singing performances I have heard in a film in a long, long time.

6/10=Rental!!

People Like Us (2012)

When you have Olivia Wilde in your life, trust me, no re-thinking has to happen.

The film stars Chris Pine as Sam, a struggling salesman whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. In the course of fulfilling his father’s last wishes, he inherits $150,000 which he must deliver to the sister he never knew he had (Elizabeth Banks). As their relationship develops, Sam is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about this family–and re-examine his own life choices in the process.

To be honest, who wants to see a family drama in the dead-beat middle of the Summer. People love the action, the explosions, the robots, and the CGI, but do people really want to venture out and see what could have been one extended conversation on an episode of Oprah? Well, if it’s this good, then yeah.

This is the directorial debut of Alex Kurtzman, writer of films like Transformers and Star Trek, and it’s a very different kind of film for him, obviously, but he makes the best of it with heartfelt writing. This is a story we have all seen done 1,000 times before (angsty adult returns to an unwelcome home) but there’s just something refreshing about this writing that makes it feel new and original in it’s own way. We spend a lot of time with these characters, figuring out why they are the way they are, and what really gets underneath their skin. This attention to character, makes us feel more attached to them so when the more soapy, melodramatic moments start coming around, we don’t feel like we’ve been cheated one bit. In fact, it comes off as an honest look at how families are with one another, especially when times goes on.

The film also balances out it’s light-hearted message very well, where it doesn’t seem like its too preachy or obvious. Of course a lot of the moments in this film are calculated and you could probably tell how the story was going to end and why right from the first shot, but you can’t help but enjoy seeing a film that obviously has its heart in the right place. And let’s be honest, plenty of flicks have their hearts in the right places, but it’s how they pull it off and make it all work out is what really matters and here, it makes the final product so much better. It’s also another rare feat when you see a film that’s so directed towards adult filmgoers, that you can hardly even believe it features such big stars and is getting a big release date, such as this one right here. Yeah, I went to go see it in theaters but that’s just because I needed some time away from all of the hustle and bustle of the Summer blockbusters.

However, as emotionally true and rich this film could be with its writing, something was just missing by the end. I don’t know what it was, but it was like some secret ingredient was supposed to be there for me to get me to feel like I’m about to ball my eyes out, but that ingredient never showed up. Instead, the last 30 minutes where everything starts to get really dramatic and emotional, I just sort of sat there and felt bad for these characters but never really felt the pain along with them. That sounds a little weird that I would be complaining about not feeling their pain, but when you have a flick like this, you should feel so close to these characters, that you feel everything that they do no matter what the feeling may be. As you can tell, I just came back from a yoga class.

I think the main reason why this film didn’t effect me as much was because of some of the subplots that seemed to just work their ways into the main story. One in particular, was Michelle Pfeiffer’s death-scare that comes out of nowhere and feels totally manipulate, maybe even the most manipulative thing in this whole movie. Come to think of it, her character just really bothered me as I could never fully get invested her by how standoffish and mean she was with her son. I get it, the kid doesn’t come around very often but love and enjoy him now, because you never know when that mothaeffa is going to get tired of your shit and never come back. At least that’s how I think, don’t tell my mommy. Another subplot that we didn’t really need was the one with Pine’s girlfriend, played by the always stunning Olivia Wilde. Wilde does what she can with this role, but it’s just another character/plot we didn’t really and only softened the emotional blow the film tries to take at the end.

No matter how damn unlikable this character can get, Sam is still a very watchable and likable person, mainly because of the charm that is within Chris Pine. Pine has this uncanny ability to make this sometimes very selfish character, seem like a type of dude that you can care for and worry about, even if he does make some dumb-ass decisions. I don’t know what it was about him here, but he made me want to watch him more and I think he was a perfect fit for this role and I look forward to him doing more dramatic roles such as this, and staying away from garbage like This Means War. Still can’t believe he said “yes” to that movie.

Over the years, Elizabeth Banks has been trying her damn near hardest going all-out on these dramatic roles just to get her name out there and I think she pulls it off perfectly here with her character, Frankie. There’s always this under-lining sense of sadness that you can tell is within her, but Banks never fully shows that until one memorable scene where she just lets it all out and shows exactly why she has been hurting for so long and why exactly her life sucks so much. But you never just like her because you pity her, you actually feel like she’s a good person and just wants to be happy with her life in anyway that she can. Banks can definitely be taken seriously as a dramatic actress, and if she gets the right role down the road, could even be considered for an Oscar. Then again, you never, ever know.

Consensus: The ending may not be as emotionally satisfying as I would have liked to hope, but People Like Us features some strong writing that balances out all of its characters perfectly, string performances from the cast that make these characters worth watching, and a rare sense that this film is made for the intentions of making people happy and showing how lives, no matter how bad or miserable they may be, can always be lifted up by some familia. Perfect little message for the kiddies and adults.

7/10=Rental!!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

Getting knocked up sucks but I guess the sex is fun, right?

This is a look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn’t always deliver what’s expected.

Once again, Hollywood has decided to give us a whole slew of stars and jam them into one rom-com. However, it’s not as bad as New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day and Gary Marshall isn’t direction so that’s good, right?

Going into this flick, I wasn’t expecting much (pun), probably because I’m a dude and dudes don’t care about all of that pregnant ish except for if the baby is theirs or not. Hate to say it, but it’s true fellas. But I was pleasantly surprised by this flick and I think a lot of that has to do with director Kirk Jones‘ way of giving every story a purpose of their own. I’m glad that this flick focused more on one certain issue to connect all of these characters with, rather than just one day or some stupid holiday, but I’m also glad that the flick didn’t really fall into the pit-falls of absolute cheese that most of Marshall’s did. Each story has their own bits and pieces of humor, but they also have some heart to it that sometimes feels fake, and other times doesn’t. It’s definitely a mixed bag here but I think I’m just going to go off and talk about each of the stories individually, rather than focusing on all of them at the same time. Let’s see what I can do here.

1) The one story between Anna Kendrick and Chace Crawford, was a story that was interesting at first, then continued to lose more and more steam as it went along. The whole idea of these two having a one-night stand and wondering whether or not they’re a good fit for the other, is a pretty interesting story in and of itself, but whenever the flick focuses on it, it starts to become a major downer and just took my mind off of it more and more. It’s the one story that doesn’t go the obvious route, but that wasn’t really a good thing considering how the film handled it. Crawford doesn’t seem like he’s better than this material, but Kendrick does and that’s what really sucks to see because this damn chick was nominated for an Oscar about 3 years ago! Come on Anna!

2) The other story about Cameron Diaz hooking up with her reality show dance partner, played by Matthew Morrison, is not necessarily a downer as it’s more just bland and uninteresting every time it’s up on-screen. Diaz is a reliable actress when it comes to comedy, but Morrison seems so damn stiff with her on-screen that he makes it seem like he’s scared to be around her. Then again, I would be too, considering all they do throughout this flick is bicker and fight about stupid shit. Maybe this is how real-life couples act whenever one in the relationship is pregnant, but here, they almost never seem stop and it’s a real wonder as to how the hell these two will do when they have to worry and care about another life. Glad they weren’t my parents and it would suck even more considering I still have a chance with Diaz. I know it. She knows it. We all know it. The chick just has to come to her senses, that’s all.

3) Another story that was pretty lame was between Jennifer Lopez and Rodrigo Santoro, who both play a couple that can’t have a baby, so they decide to adopt one from Ethiopia. Lopez is good, but seems like she was trying too hard to gain some laughs and Santoro also seemed very stiff every time he was around. Actually, I think the problem with his performance is that I couldn’t really understand him all that much with his Spanish accent that makes him sound like he is just learning English. Then again, maybe he is and maybe I’m just a dick. This story is also a downer and one I didn’t really care about but got so much better whenever they focused on Santoro hanging out with the “Dudes Group” with Rob Huebel, Thomas Lennon, Amir Talai, and Chris Rock as the leader of the park. Every time these guys were on-screen, I always laughed and that’s mainly because of Chris Rock. This guy always, no matter what flick he’s in, shows that he can get at least one laugh out of the crowd before the camera goes black (another pun intended), and even though he’s confined in PG-13 territory here, he still delivers on all of the laughs. Funny stuff with these guys but I just wish they did more of that and eliminated the whole J-Lo story altogether.

4) Probably my favorite story out of the whole flick, and maybe even the one that’s worth the price of admission alone, was the one with Elizabeth Banks and Ben Falcone, who play a couple that seems to be really struggling with pregnancy because of Banks’ hormones going up-and-down all of the damn time. Both of these stars are hilarious throughout this whole flick and made me laugh with everything they did, whereas about 5 other stars from this cast probably would have made me jump off of a bridge by how hard they tried. Banks is always reliable when it comes to comedy, but it’s Falcone who really surprised me as he showed he had great comedic timing (something else that I saw from him in Bridesmaids) and could make you care for his character just by being the sweet guy. These two have great chemistry together and easily won my heart over. Whenever they introduced the story-line between Falcone’s dad, played by Dennis Quaid, and his much-younger wife (Brooklyn Decker), I also laughed even though I think they forced the whole “dad and son are constantly in competition” thing a little too much but it still worked because Quaid and Decker both have fine comedic timing. This story was the best and even when it gets into dramatic territory by the end, it surprisingly worked which was something I wasn’t expecting from a movie like this at all.

Consensus: What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a very passable flick with some moments of genuine comedy and heart, but also isn’t very original in the way it offers a look at pregnancy and all of the problems that come along with it. My idea: get rid of every story, except for Banks and Falcone’s story, combine that with the “Dudes Group”, and keep the father angle with Quaid and Decker, and you got comedy gold. Or at least something that’s ten times better than those Gary Marshall flicks.

6/10=Rental!!