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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 Olsen

Ingrid Goes West (2017)

Every generation needs their own Rupert Pupkin.

Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza) is a mentally unstable girl who, after a recent stint in a clinic, finally gets out into the real world, only to then fall back into the same spell of obsession that she did before. This time, the object of her affection is social-media influencer Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen). Her Instagram account is highly-followed, full of bright, shiny pictures, and full of all sorts of daily inspiration that Ingrid seems to need and want. To make it even better, Taylor responds to one of Ingrid’s comments, giving her the idea that it’s time to head out to L.A. and find out if Taylor will be her friend. And with an inheritance of over $600,000, she’s willing to make that dream a reality. The only issue is that Ingrid will have to make something of a persona up, to where she will be seen and accepted by Taylor as a friend, possibly even best-friend – a title that Ingrid has wanted from someone over the course of her life, not just one person in particular.

Who hasn’t done this? It’s so sweet…..I think.

Ingrid Goes West is an interesting movie because it doesn’t necessarily seem to be commenting on social-media, as a whole. It would have been easy for it to fall down the same rabbit-hole of many other countless shows and movies, where the idea of social-media is a harmful, awful place where nothing in this world is private and everyone’s soul can be seen with just a click of a button or two. Is that such an evil thing? Maybe. But what Ingrid Goes West shows us is that it’s honestly how one uses social-media, is what makes it such an evil and despicable platform in the first place.

That said, as goofy and as crazy Ingrid Goes West gets, it still feels firmly placed in reality, where these archetypal characters all feel real, honest, and humane, even if they are awful pieces of crap. Take, for instance, Taylor Sloane herself – she’s the typical valley girl who has a solid Instagram account, with pictures of the sun, pretty trees, houses, her brunch, oh and of course, Joan Diddion books. She seems harmless and actually, pretty nice, but what the movie shows us is that there’s more to her than usual, in both good ways and bad. She’s the kind of woman who seems sincere on the surface, but beneath the surface, she’s just as arrogant and as insecure as all of her followers may be, and therefore, in a way, isn’t she manipulating these kinds of feelings for her own betterment?

Ingrid Goes West asks this question, as well as many others, but it works so well is because it all feels so honest and real.

Not once does co-writer/director Matt Spicer seem like he’s not with the times, or doesn’t know what he’s satirizing. Sure, by the time the movie reaches the third-act, thing spiral pretty much out of control and the movie gets a little bit weaker, but even then, it still feels like Spicer is fully wrapped-up in this awfully twisted, sick kind of world where B-level artists, photographers, and performers all hang around one another, act like they’re having a great time, loving each other all, when in reality, they’re just as conceited as the other. So yeah, if there is anything that Spicer is poking fun at here, it’s not social-media, but those who use it to make themselves seem way more talented and much more spiritually woke and inclined than they actually are.

All Gen-Y hipsters love themselves some Joan Diddion. Or so they say.

But still, as much preaching as Spicer may seem to be doing, the movie itself is still funny and a little sad. Once again, that idea of reality shines through each and every scene to where we go from laughing at one of Ingrid’s ridiculous antics and how deep she sinks herself into this lie, but then we come to the realization that it seems all too real. There are many more Ingrid’s out there in the world, and they don’t just have to be beautiful and compelling.

They can just be as depressing as you’d expect someone who falls in love with a social-media personality to be.

That said, Ingrid is probably Aubrey Plaza’s best performance to-date, because she kind of bucks the typical performance we’re used to seeing from her. No matter what, Plaza’s always enjoyable to watch, but she always seems to be playing the same bit role, where she’s always dead-pan, odd, and off-kilter. Here, she digs into something more primal and creepier, making Ingrid a damaged and battered human being that we sympathize with, but also fear for, too. She’s a dangerous beauty, but also a sad one, at that, and it’s Plaza’s role for the taking.

Elisabeth Olsen is also pretty great in a role that, in other hands, in another movie, probably would have been awfully one-note. While we know from the very start that Taylor Sloane is absolutely full of her pretentious bulls**t, it also doesn’t forget to make us see her as humane who, just like you or I, may be wanting something a bit more than she already has. We never come to like her, but she’s still compelling, in that there are literally a million other Instagram profiles just like her, getting away with all the same junk as she does.

What a time to be alive.

Consensus: As weird as it is timely, Ingrid Goes West is an honestly brutal and raw attack on those who use social-media to their benefits, for better and for worse, while also not forgetting to be a funny, incredibly well-acted tragicomedy.

8 / 10

#PeaceLoveandHarmony

Photos Courtesy of: Neon

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Wind River (2017)

Those poor white people. Right?

US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is sent to the Wind River Indian Reservation, where he will hopefully be able to track, find, and kill a bunch of mountain lions who have been killing all of the livestock. While searching for them, he stumbles upon the body of a woman, who, from what it seems like, was raped, possibly murdered, and left to freeze in the below-zero snow. After catching wind of this, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who seems like she’s not just unprepared for the harsh winter of Wyoming, but for this case in general. Because she doesn’t really know the area that well, how to navigate through it all, and/or whether what the rules are, she depends a lot on Cory, who is also now taking an extra interest in this case, for personal reasons. The two begin to stumble upon a rather dark and vicious secret lying within the mountains and makes them not just question their own humanity, but the United States’ history, altogether.

FBI? Really?

Wind River is the directorial debut of writer/director Taylor Sheridan who, both with Sicario and Hell or High Water, seems to have found his niche. He loves these tales of crime, violence, and darkness that start off slow and melodic, only to then burst into full-fledged blood, guts, bullets, octane, and guns. And it’s interesting because while Wind River feels a lot like those two other movies, something is oddly missing.

Still don’t know what it is, but you can feel it.

Either way, as a director Sheridan is fine; he captures the deadly cold of this winter-y landscape and shows it as a solid backdrop for even more viciousness and deadliness that we eventually start to see. He gets a bit out-of-hand with all of the visual symbolism and expository dialogue, but as a whole, he knows when to shut up, give us action, characters, and a plot that’s interesting to follow along with. And I know that sounds like film-making 101, but you’d be surprised how many movies screw things up for themselves, just by getting a little distracted by other stuff that doesn’t matter.

Wind River, as a whole, is a pretty straightforward tale of humans acting at their worst, but also at their best, and because of that Sheridan does a lot with very little. He’s able to draw us into this setting, understand its history, the characters, and why these characters matter. Renner’s Cory, while feeling like he may have initially been a Native American in the first few drafts, still works as a white guy because he has a certain connection this land, to these people, and to what they represent; it also helps that the movie does sort of call him out for trying to be a white savior, making it seem fine that he’s a white guy, trying to save the day. Sheridan’s writing isn’t very stylish, but he’s got a certain noir-aspect about him that works in making us know everything we need to know about these characters, without getting too carried away.

Eh. Doesn’t look so bad.

It’s constantly moving and that’s why Wind River works.

And as Cory, Renner is quite good; he’s his usual charming-self, although he doesn’t overplay that too much. He’s still a screwed-up guy who has had to deal with a lot in his life and doesn’t allow us to forget about it. His chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty good, in that the movie never allows it to get too romanticized or cloying. They’re just both trying to figure out this case, who the baddies are, and do their jobs, like normal, everyday human beings who want to make the world a better place.

Olsen is also very good in this role, despite being very young and seeming in-over-her-head. But then again, that’s sort of the point, so it works out well; Gil Birmingham, who shined last year in Hell or High Water, has a nice few emotional scenes that work well; Graham Greene, as usual, is great, giving us a lot of comedy to go along with a lot of the seriousness; and Jon Bernthal, in a few scenes or so, does a great job, too. However, it’s his role and a few others that I have a problem going on further about because, well, the movie sort of surprises us with these characters randomly by the end.

But hey, just see it and you’ll know what I’m speaking of.

Consensus: Cold, dark and pretty brutal, Wind River may not measure up to Sheridan’s past two movies, but still fits in well with them, providing plenty of solid thrills, to go along with the chills.

7 / 10

Always depend on the whites to come in and save the day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

I Saw the Light (2016)

If only Sr. had a chance to be ready for some football.

Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston) was just another up-and-coming country singer from a troubled home in Alabama. However, through all of the pain and the hardship, the only way he got through it all was through song, which is why he decided to take his soul, his lyrics and most importantly, his voice out there on the road, for all sorts of people to love, praise and adore, even all of these years later. Backed by his supportive, but sometimes aggressive wife, Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), Hank seemingly had it all; the fame, fortune, wife, and a nice house to-boot. Problem was, Hank had a pretty big problem with drinking and this often lead to erratic, wild behavior. For instance, he stopped showing up to shows that he was initially booked for, much to his fan’s dismay. And then, he started flingin’ around and looking at other dames that didn’t so happen to be his wife. Yes, it was all so self-destructive, but somehow, even at the end of a long day filled with booze, cigarettes, and women, he always finds a way to come back to his guitar and sing his heart out.

Sing it loud and sing it proud, Loki.

Sing it loud and sing it proud, Loki.

There’s only so much one can do with the musical biopic genre. That’s why, every so often, when we do get some rare exceptions and changes to the rule, they’re not only a breath of fresh air, but make it feel as if any musician’s life can be possibly covered in a film version. Many were skeptical of N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton movie, however, that turned out to be one of the more exciting flicks of the past year. Now, it’s time for Hank Williams to get his time in the spotlight and unfortunately, it’s more of the same.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

In I Saw the Light director Marc Abraham goes for a darker route than we’re used to seeing with these kinds of movies. While we’re so used to getting a rise-and-fall story, where the highs are incredibly how, and the lows hit the bottom of the barrel, Abraham seems to really aim for the deep-end with this tale. And honestly, I think Williams’ story is more than deserving of it; you read his story, whether in a book, or on the internet, you can tell that Williams’ life wasn’t a very happy, nor pleasant one.

Sure, he did get a paid a whole slew of cash for creating some wonderfully catchy and soulful country tracks, and yes, everyone around him (who, let’s be fair, didn’t actually know him), wanted his talent and his life, but little did they know, that deep down inside, the man was hurting. That isn’t to say that he was perfect, which Abraham definitely embraces, but that also isn’t to say that his life was pretty unfortunate and watching the flick, it’s hard not to feel some ounce of sympathy for the guy.

Yeah, he cheats, he lies, he steals, he drinks too much, and he doesn’t always treat those around him in the besy ways imaginable, but how different is he from so many other people out there?

Regardless, yeah, I Saw the Light has taken a lot of flack for being a slow, sometimes boring movie – this is a point I won’t necessarily disagree with. However, I will also note that the slower, more meditative pace actually worked for me, as it brought me down to the same level and pace that Williams was living his life. Sure, the concerts and performances may have been chock full of fun, excitement and high times, but when the show was over, the lights were dimmed, and everyone went the hell home, what else was there for Williams to go back on home to? You can call him “selfish”, you can call him “a dick”, you can call him whatever you want, but there’s something compelling about Williams, his life off the road, and his home life that drove me to want to see more about him.

Then again, the movie also doesn’t really give us all that much to really work on and draw more conclusions about how terrible his upbringing was. There’s one key scene in which he shows up late to a concert, performs, and decides to spend a solid portion of it, going on and on about his family, his parents, and his childhood. It’s a sad scene, but it’s one that really brought home the idea of just how troubled this man was, hence why he was acting-out so much now that he was a fully grown-man. Issue with that scene is that we don’t really get much more insight into his life, or his childhood after that.

Keep the mic on you man.

Not every couple needs to have duets, Hank.

Basically, it’s just one scene, after another, of Hank Williams drinking, smoking, sexing, and acting like a brat, way too much.

Are these scenes all that interesting, or better yet, entertaining to sit by and watch? Not really, however, I will say that the movie gets a lot of mileage out of these scenes because Tom Hiddleston does a really great job portraying a broken-down, beaten-up soul in the form of Williams; someone who could charm the pants off of a sailor, yet, also make you hate him for doing so. Hiddleston gets a lot of the singing right, which helps add a certain level of legitimacy to the performance, but it’s also the things that he doesn’t sing or say, that really made me feel more for him and his character.

Why he couldn’t have been served with a far more attentive movie, really is a shame, because Hiddleston has got it in his bones to make a run for an Oscar.

There’s others in the cast who are pretty solid, too, like Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, and most of all, Elisabeth Olsen, as Hank’s former wife who not only wanted to manage his life, but be apart of his career as well. It’s actually interesting what the movie brings up about how Audrey couldn’t really sing, yet, she always insisted on lending her vocals on records and in performances – so much so that a lot of people heckled Hank about it. The movie seems like it wants to go down a more detailed path than just showing them arguing and fighting all of the time, but nope, it just leaves them at that.

Maybe there was more. But maybe, there’s more in another movie.

Consensus: With more attention placed on the sadder aspects of Williams’ life, I Saw the Light works as a more melodic musical biopic, yet, also doesn’t give its talented cast and crew enough material to really make wonders with.

5.5 / 10

If only he stuck around long enough for Monday Night Football.

If only he stuck around long enough for Monday Night Football.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to let them fight.

After years and years of constant controversy over their extreme efforts to stop evildoers in the world, the Avengers are now facing public scrutiny. So much so that now, the government wants to find a way to intervene with their ways in how they go about stopping the evil, while also making sure that no innocent, kind citizens get killed in the process. This new rule sets the group apart; while Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is all about it for the sake of still being able to stop villains from taking over the world, Captain America (Chris Evans), on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same way. Of course, there are others in the group who feel the same as either side, but they’re coming to a point now where they don’t know if they can stay together as a single unit without someone getting hurt. And now, what with Bucky (Sebastian Stan) back in the picture, Cap wants to protect him in any way he can, even if that means having to take down fellow friends and confidantes that he could once trust.

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them....

I know someone in DC who could probably beat all of them….

Which means, yes, they all brawl.

A few months ago, there was a huge backlash against Batman V. Superman. Most of the reasons had to do with the fact that it basically just sucked and that was about it. Of course, none of these people were ever wrong, but for me at least, I was a tad bit kinder on it because it set out to make a superhero movie that, yes, was ultimately messy, but asked certain questions and toggled certain ideas that we don’t typically see in superhero movies. Should there be superheroes in the world in which we live in? And if we can’t help the fact that they are, what can we do to stop them, or better yet, decrease their power and danger to our society? Get rid of them altogether? Or put little rules and guidelines for them to follow, so that they don’t go around killing thousands and thousands of citizens as if it was, yes, 9/11 all over again.

Obviously, these are the same kinds of questions and ideas that Civil War plays with in its own mind, but where BVS screwed-up with, they actually deliver on. Not only do they ask the goddamn questions, but they also seem interested in solving it, even if the only way to do so is basically through fist fights and banter-battles. For once, we see characters and superheros who, for the past few years or so, have been nearly untouchable and almost too close to being perfect, but somehow, Civil War finds a way to have them all shine in different lights. Even though this is supposed to be his movie, Captain America actually comes off more like an unlikable child here who doesn’t get his way, so therefore, has to resort to punches, kicks and throwing his shield.

Then again, nobody else is perfect here, either. And well, that’s sort of the point of this story.

Falcon punch!

Falcon punch!

What the Russo Brothers do the best job of here is that they allow for the story to do its usual checklist of things we see in these kinds of superhero movies, but does them way better than those movies. While new characters and subplots are being brought to our attention, the Russo’s never allow for it to get too jammed-up to where we have no idea what’s the conflict with which character, for what reasons, and when we can expect it all to get resolved. In Age of Ultron, the movie was admittedly way too overstuffed and overlong to really make sense of its mayhem and therefore, it suffered. The action itself may have been fun and well-done, but because there was just so much going on, with so many damn people, it was hard to really care for any of it, especially when you’re still trying to pinpoint who matters and why.

The Russo’s, thankfully, don’t have that problem. Even though they’re working with a wide arrange of characters and stories to work with, they somehow are able to have it all work together in a cohesive manner, that when the action does eventually come around, you care. Not only do these characters get their opportunities to shine and show why they’re genuine ass-kickers, but give us a little background on who they are and their personalities. Even for characters like Hawkeye and the Vision, who you may feel have overstayed their welcome, still come around to show us that they’re around and actually matter to a story as overcooked as this.

Does this make Civil War perfect? Nope, but it definitely makes it the best Avengers movie since the first Avengers.

Which is saying something, because all of the Marvel movies have been fine and done their jobs well. That isn’t to say that they haven’t all felt like they were doing the same things as the one that came before it, but regardless, it still doesn’t matter, because it seems like Civil War gets Marvel right back on-track. Though a lot more is left up in the air this time, the feeling that everything has changed and gotten a whole lot more serious with this universe and these characters is still around and it’s what makes me genuinely excited for what’s next to come.

Cause yes, obviously, we’re going to get more of these movies, whether you like it or not.

Consensus: Exciting, tense, smart, and believe it or not, interesting, Civil War does everything that Batman V Superman tried to do, but hits every nail on the head and reminds us why this universe can be so great to be apart of when they’re firing on all cylinders.

9 / 10

Hey guys, I know you're kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain't cool. Let's fight fair here.

Hey guys, I know you’re kicking ass and all, but 2-on-1 ain’t cool. Let’s fight fair here.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Godzilla (2014)

When you trade in Heisenberg for adult-Ferris Bueller, you’re in good shape.

15 years ago, Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) lost his mother (Juliette Binoche) in a freak-accident that had to do with some sort of radiation break out. His father, Joe (Bryan Cranston), has been living the past couple of years trying to figure out just exactly what happened, and whether or not this is a sign of terrible things to come. Just around this time that he and his son reunite, a giant-sized creature comes to life, knocking out just about everything in its path, including electricity. The scientist behind this whole experiment-gone-wrong is Dr. Ichiro Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) who believes that there is another creature out there just waiting to be heard from and to, if possible, stop these creatures from destroying everything, and everyone in its path. That said creature? Well, I’ll let this guy take the pleasure of announcing it for you.

It’s been a long time since Roland Emmerich practically destroyed the respectable, and totally cool name that was in Godzilla (a little over 15 years in fact), and in order for this movie to be awesome and hyped-up like it has been for quite time, that needed to be happen. Not only did it need to show Hollywood that messing with an international-product can sometimes be risky, but doing it to the point of where you’re practically disrespecting the culture it comes from, is definitely a big old “no no” when trying to deliver a form of entertainment. Hasn’t stopped big-time, fast-talking money-makers in Hollywood before, and it sure as hell won’t stop them from committing the same acts again, but with the disaster of that movie, it puts a clearer-emphasis on just how much “better” they were willing to make this latest re-boot seem.

And thankfully, “better” is exactly what this re-boot is, and by quite a lot as well.

Hey! That's not Flynn back there!

Hey! That’s not Flynn back there!

Sorry, Jean Reno. You’re still Leon in my book, so that’s got to count for something.

Anyway, as for this new Godzilla, what works so well for it is how it doesn’t really give us the main attraction until about half-way through. Sure, we here his name dropped a few times (surprisingly by a Japanese actor), we see his thorny back and tail, and we even get plenty of glimpses at his huge feet, stomping on large-scale buildings and practically turning them into total rubble. However, we rarely ever get to see him in a full-on form until the half-way mark, and it’s totally worth the time and patience we as audience members are asked to have when it comes to seeing just exactly who this movie is made after. It’s a constant build-up that director Gareth Edwards racks up tension, just about the whole time with, and once we see what Godzilla actually looks like in this new edition (he’s really cool) and get to hear him use that ferocious screech that scares the pants off of any 5-10 year-old, then it’s on with the plot and all sorts of other shenanigans Edwards has to get into.

Yet, for some reason, the movie is never uninteresting. It can be a bit of a drag at times, but it never gets to the point of where I was bored neither. Which, for a summer blockbuster, is nothing new, but somehow, this time felt different than it has for the past two weeks.

First of all, it was a giant-scale, monster movie that delivered the goods on just about every level that Pacific Rim failed to do. We have human characters that are actually interesting; a script that doesn’t constantly hammer-us over the head with corny lines; monster-brawls that aren’t a constant happening, but still show up from time to time to liven things up and remind people why they came to see this movie in the first place; and a sense that we’re placed into a world that is a lot like the one we live in now, yet, we don’t really think too much about reality with. We just sort of get sucked into this world, even if it is our own, and it’s a really thrilling experience to go through.

You actually get the sense that even though Edwards himself doesn’t shy away from having a little bit of fun and pleasuring himself in all of the constant explosions of things like cars, buildings, race-tracks and Navy ships, that he wants to provide an heavier-emphasis on “the government” in this movie itself. In any movie, good or bad, we always see the government being shown as either “good”, “bad”, or somewhere in the middle of both. My opinion is that it’s a bit of a slippery-slope to jump into, all because a director can easily make it seem like their using it to their advantage to get up on top of their soapbox for a good two hours and force everybody to listen up, but here, Edwards is only using them as a tool to keep the plot, the action, and the ideas moving. It was weird to never get a glimpse at the President during this time of obvious crisis, but I guess that’s made for another movie, at another time.

Either way, the movie still steps itself into as much realism as it can, even when it’s all about large-ass monsters, beating the hell out of one another and terrorizing whole cities,  and this is where I think the movie worked its most magic. Yeah, it was definitely thrilling and yeah, it looked beautiful, but I never really lost a sense that everything I was seeing was perfectly calculated in a way that didn’t seem hokey, or as if Edwards himself was just making up the rules as he went along. Some science majors may have a bit of a problem with this movie in how it explains certain happenings, in certain ways, but for the most part, I didn’t really find myself second-guessing anything of what any character said. I just sort of nodded my head, went along with it, and tried my hardest to enjoy the ride, and I’m glad I decided to do so, because it totally worked out for me in the end. Even when Godzilla wasn’t around to wreck everything in his sight.

But enough Godzilla already, that little monster him, let’s talk about the humans in this picture! Mostly, I have to applaud Gareth Edwards for putting together a nice ensemble of talents that aren’t necessarily the biggest names in all of Hollywood, but definitely have enough charisma and energy to keep a movie like this moving, and steeped in some sense of emotional. In fact, believe it or not, most of that emotion seems to come from Bryan Cranston as Joe Brody. Yes, that may be hard for some of you Breaking Bad fans to realize and accept (sarcasm, clearly), but Cranston easily has the best, most gripping moments in this whole scene. He’s likable, a bit weird, off-kilter, cool and a total dweeb, but he gets a chance to play all of these sides to his character in such a small fraction of space, that I was so happy to see him here in the first place. Didn’t really much matter to me that he isn’t in the movie a whole lot, but at least he gave me someone to empathize with and at least root for.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn't cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

What? Did you think that Hollywood was so insensitive that they wouldn’t cast at least one Japanese actor? Shame on you.

Because, to be honest, nobody else in this movie really gave me that much of a chance to do the same. Not saying that nobody tried to, it’s just that their material may have been lankier than others is all. For example, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a hot, young, and charming actor that wants to be more than just Kick-Ass – now he’s ready to get muscled-up, kick some ass, and do it all without a goofy-looking, DIY-mask and costume. Can’t say that it hasn’t worked out for him in the past, but here, his character is a bit unengaging. He isn’t an unlikable character by any means, it’s just that he’s a bit of a dull hero to have in the first place, that also happens to be in the army as is. Would have been a lot neater to see this story from a regular-man’s perspective, but I guess we wouldn’t have been able to see all of those cool, high-flying scenes we’ve been getting treated to in the trailers.

And sadly, the same sort of goes for the rest of the cast. Juliette Binoche gets the same treatment as Cranston does, although reasonably so; Elizabeth Olsen plays Taylor-Johnson’s wife that has to tend to their damn kid all of the time, while still maintaining her job as a local nurse (go figure); David Strathairn doesn’t always feel right as Admiral William Stenz, a man-in-command who is constantly shouting out orders and demands; and Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins play two scientists that are practically the first to get started on this huge project of theirs, and seem like the over-educated dopes a movie like this needs to point the big finger at. They just want to see what happens with scientist, rather than just doing anything about it, and because of their fascination, thousands and thousands of people are at risk for their lives.

Oh science, what a beautiful thing to waste.

Consensus: Though we don’t get to see too much of the title-character, Godzilla still benefits from exciting action set-pieces, an engaging story that feels slightly believable, despite being about monsters fighting one another, and enough good performances from the cast, to make this a summer blockbuster you must see to get the bad taste of the 1998-version out of your mouth.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Oh, shut up already and buy me a new pair of underwear, would ya!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Oldboy (2013)

oldboyWe get it! IT’S HAMMER TIME!!

After he screws up with a major client, advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) knows that there is only one way to ease the pain: By getting utterly and completely plastered. He does this, but after falling asleep in the streets, he somehow finds himself trapped inside of a cellar, disguised as a hotel room. Doucett is obviously bewildered as to what the hell is going on, why and who is doing this to him, but all of those thoughts get thrown to the side once he finds out, via the television in his room, that his wife was raped and murder, allegedly by him, leaving his three-year-old daughter an orphan. Doucett has know idea what the hell to do with his life, but after several attempts at trying to get out “the easy way” he decides that he wants to live and continue to train his mind, body, soul and hatch out a plan to escape. However, he wakes up one random day in a box out in the middle of nowhere, with only a phone, a couple thousands dollars and some clue as to where to go. From there, he’s told that he must find the man who did this to him, but also, find out why this happened to him. The results, as you may suspect, are utterly shocking.

Oh yeah, and a hammer does come into play at one point or another.

"And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!"

“And I thought being an Olsen sister made me messed-up in the head!”

Everybody’s been awaiting this moment, and here it finally is: The American-made remake of the near-perfect, 2003 Park Chan-wook South Korean flick, and as you could expect, people will be furious. I was too, not just because there were actual ideas of a remake being talked about, but that they were actually being pursued and were even touched by the likes of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg. Yes, I know that they are two very talented guys in the business and would have done all that they could to make this piece of film work, but I highly doubt that their sensibilities (especially the former’s) would have done justice to the original tale. But time went on and once Spike Lee got attached to the flick, I felt like maybe, just maybe there’s something to see here; and lord, being a huge Spike Lee fan (of his movies, that is), I definitely went in with some happy and hopeful expectations. I expected it not to be as good as the original, but I still expected it to hold some weight on its own, considering that Lee is one of the most important, most original directors we’ve had the pleasure of being graced with in the past two decades.

And you know what? That’s pretty much what I got, except with some disappointment.

Most peeps are going to be pissed about this movie and already write it off as “useless”, “unneeded and just plain “stupid. And to be honest, none of those words of slander are wrong, nor are they right. They are simply just fans of the original’s mind-sets going in, but knowing that this isn’t going to be word-for-word, shot-for-shot exactly like that movie going in before-hand, definitely helps you know what to expect and where to be surprised by, as it sure as hell helped me out to get through this flick. Well that, and being a huge fan of Spike Lee’s directional-skills.

While there definitely isn’t the constant trademarks we usually see from Lee in this flick (with the exception of a near-two second infamous “dolly shot”), there’s still that dour, sad feel we usually get to see and feel from his movies. The original tale of Oldboy is not a very pretty one, and with every chance he gets, Lee never forgets to remind us of this. The violence is bloody, in-our-faces and definitely quick like it needed to be, however, it’s never gratuitous and gives us the impression that Lee wants to stick to his guns with the original, while also not letting-go of what made it such a fun time to begin with. And although he did screw-up the all-mighty, all-known “hammer sequence”, I’ll still give him a pass because he gives us an American-made remake that doesn’t feel like a cash-grab, and more of something along the lines where an original auteur wanted to try his hand at mainstream films once again. The results may not be as spectacular as they were with his last “big” flick, Inside Man, but they are still interesting nonetheless.

But that’s when the problems with this remake do begin to arise. Once Lee has to put his mind on the story, how it develops over time, why and whether or not it totally invests us in all that’s happening, it kinds of screws up and loses some tension. Granted, I’ve seen this story happen before, so obviously mind was a bit turned-off to some of the twists here and there that may be shocking to newcomers, but even then, when Lee decides to change the story up-around a bit, something still didn’t feel right. We get this whole new back-story as to why this is happening and the mystery in which our main characters go out to discover the truth, actually becomes something rather conventional and unexciting, which isn’t because I knew what was going to happen, it’s just because there was nothing really all that interesting surrounding it. It was just a bunch of people hiding, running around and looking for clues, but in all-too-serious matter, as if Holmes and Watson needed to be called to the scene, and pronto!

See, while the original wasn’t necessarily a comedy that made light of the situation that this dude was imprisoned, alienated, framed for murder and sent back out into the wild after all of these years, there were still moments where you could tell that the creator wasn’t taking himself too seriously, only when needed. And it worked, to great-effect because it gave us something that knew the type of audience it was going to please, and didn’t try to steer-away from them one bit. Here, it felt like Lee needed a dash, or hell, even a sprinkle of some lightness to go around, rather than just making this a very deep, dark and depressing affair, with barely any signs of hope or happiness involved. May sound like a weird complaint, I know, but some smudges of light would have went a real, REAL long way.

The cast Lee chose may not be the heaviest-hitters out there in the world today, and they sure as hell aren’t the household names the producers probably intended on originally having, but with whom they have, they made the best out of it, especially even in the smaller roles. But playing the biggest role of all is James Brolin as Joe Doucett, the type of despicable human-being you learn to hate in the first couple minutes, then begin to actually like as time slightly goes on. Brolin’s good at keeping Doucett’s heart and humanity well in place, but he can only go so far with that when all the guy wants is to get revenge on the man that ruined his life, while also trying to find his daughter. The rugged look and persona that Brolin has, does well for Doucett when he has to throw-down and get his hands a little bloody, however, I never quite felt as bad for this guy as I did for Hwang Jo-yoon’s portrayal in the first one. Some of that may have to do with the fact that Brolin’s character has barely any little-to-no personality once he gets out of captivity, or that he looks like he could take on anybody and anyone with his quarterback-shoulders, but overall, I just didn’t feel as attached to Doucett as I should have. I felt bad for him, but I was never rooting him on, which is a little weird for a revenge-thriller.

It's like The Rock's awesome tat, except it's permanent. I mean, so is The Rock's, but...aw, you get it!

It’s like The Rock’s awesome tat, except it’s permanent. I mean, so is The Rock’s, but…aw, you get it!

The one real improvement in terms of characters from the original is with Elizabeth Olsen as the young, sweet-natured, but damaged girl that falls for Doucett, just as soon as she meets him once he’s roaming around the free world. Olsen’s a good actress, so she definitely has that going for her, but also, the character feels a lot better-written this time around, making her more of a “person”, and less than just a “fantasy-image” that most older dudes seem to have for ladies half of their ages. Nope, she’s actually a sad, hurt and wounded bird, just looking for a nest to settle into and be sheltered by and she may have found that with Doucett. Michael Imperoli shows up as Chucky, Doucett’s old buddy from awhile ago and does a nice job portraying the type of guy that’d be there for his friend, even after all of these years has gone by, but begins to seem like a bit of an unbelievable dick, just as time goes on.

Last, but certainly not least though, we have Sharlto Copley as Adrian Pryce, the crazy Brit who has put Doucett through all of these problems to begin with, and only wants to prolong them some more. Copley’s a very interesting talent as he shows up in certain movies, and you can almost never pin-point down, exactly where the hell you’ve seen him from before and whether or not he’s played the same character twice. Basically, he’s the type of versatile actor modern-day flicks need nowadays, and he does a stellar job giving us the sick and twisted, but passionate individual Adrian Pryce. While the portrayal and development for Yoo Ji-tae’s character in the original was a bit better, Copley does all that he can with this character and gives us a menacing figure, that never feels like he isn’t capable of taking control, however he wants, at any given time. Same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as one of Pryce’s most-trusted lackeys, Chaney, except that he definitely says “motherfucker” a lot more. Not than just Pryce, but more than anybody else in this flick. But then again, I think we’ve all come to expect that by now and we love it!

Consensus: No doubt in my mind is telling me that this Oldboy remake isn’t better than the original, however, my mind is also telling me that if you are at all interested with seeing how it turns out, given all of the talent involved, then you should definitely give it a go since it’s better than expected, with a couple of questionable choices here and there.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Thus it begins.

Fine. “It’s hammer time.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Next time somebody tells you that they created a free-verse poem, run far, far away from them!

In 1944, a young, aspiring poet named Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) goes away to college in New York and finds himself in a bit of a rut. Not only is he secretly gay and not able to fit in with the rest of the macho crowd that goes out to bars every night, get drunk and hope to land in some gals bed. That’s not Allen’s style, but you know what is his style? Running along with the young, free and wild souls of the college, which is why non-conformist Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) interests him so much, for many more reasons other than just sexual. Yes, there is that idea, but since Ginsberg isn’t totally out of the closet and Carr is with an older man (Michael C. Hall), it never quite materializes to anything more than just a curiosity. However, their relationship becomes something more very serious once Carr begins to lose his cool, and does something that will affect Ginsberg, and the rest of the group of poets around him for the rest of their poem-versing lives.

Seeing as that I’m not a huge fan of the Beat Generation, I do have to say that the story of a friend of these famous writers who was involved with a murder that practically happened around them, did sort of interest me, even if I knew what I was going to get with this movie most of the time. That meant that there was going to be lots of partying, smoking, drinking, sexxing, and spontaneous writing and shouting of ideas that seem to mean more then what they actually are. So yeah, as you can see, I wasn’t too fond of the subject material going in and worst of all, I just didn’t care all that much to begin with.

Harry? What happened to Hermoine?

Harry? What happened to Hermione?

But somehow, this movie interested me because it was less about the Beat Generation and how they wrote, and more or less the idea of growing up in a world where you practically live underground, away from all of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. See, probably the most interesting aspect behind this movie is that the movie never tells you right off the bat who Allen Ginsberg is, so if you were a person who didn’t know much about him beforehand, then throughout the movie, you’d get to know just exactly who he was, what he did and why he mattered to the rest of society and the arts. We see Ginsberg as a young writer, who aspires to be like his famous daddy, but you also see him as a kid that wants more out of this life, which makes it easy for us to understand why he falls so hard for Lucien in many more ways than one.

This approach to the story made it seem pretty neat because rather than basically showing us a sign of things to come for people like Ginsberg, or Jack Kerouac, or William Burroughs, the movie just focuses on their lives and who they were at that point in time. Obviously not much changed as time the future years went by, bu to get this small snippet in the lives of these guys, all before they began to be beloved by any college kid who smoked too much weed and had too much time on their hand, and seemingly, take the art world by storm. And yes, this is all coming from a guy who is typically not interested in learning anymore about these figures than I already do know, which is why I was all the more surprised leaving the theater, feeling as if I wanted to actually read more of these guys’ poems.

Shocking, I know. Let’s just hope that none of my football teammates are reading this right now.

However, what’s strange about this movie is that the very same thing I don’t like the actual people in this story for, the movie actually does do and it was probably the only times I really felt myself terribly uncomfortable and annoyed with it. Once the movie starts to show all of these young writers getting together, acting as if they are the coolest things since sliced bread and practically know everything about the Earth they live on from the tectonic plates, to the ocean currents, then I felt like I wanted to beat the hell out of them. They were just up their own asses, and I get that most young guys their age, especially around that time, probably acted the same way; but that still doesn’t mean I want to watch a film about all of that, especially when there’s so much more interesting stuff going on around it like, say, the Lucien Carr story itself.

"As we clasp our hands together, it's like two human souls perfectly entwined."

“As we clasp our hands together, it’s like two human souls perfectly entwined, in one perfect world full of insightful ideas and thoughts. You know, man?”

The fact that Lucien Carr is actually a real person and got away with such a heinous act, really still surprises me even when I think about it. You’d think that Lucien Carr would have just been a character inside these poets’ minds that they created in order to get past some sort of writer’s wall, but nope: Real dude, real problems, real murder. That’s why when you watch Dane DeHaan and see how charismatic he is as Carr, you’re ultimately surprised by what the hell drove this guy to do something so bad in the first place. We get the reasons why he decided to murder a person, but it still shocked me since he seemed like a bright kid, albeit, one with some anger issues. That said, DeHaan is great in this role and continues to show us why he is one of the most interesting, young talents we got working in the biz today. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And to be honest, Daniel Radcliffe ain’t too shabby either, playing a younger-version of one Allen Ginsberg. It would seem like a real hard obstacle for somebody as famous and as recognizable as Radcliffe to get past in playing an even more famous, more recognizable figure in American culture, but the dude gets over that problem right off the bat and you begin to share a sympathy with this cat as you know he’s just a poor, little sheepdog just sucking this whole new world in. However, he’s not the only famous face, playing a fellow famous face, Ben Foster and Jack Huston get their chances to live and shine as William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac respectively, and both do very well, giving us more personality behind the figure-heads, while also showing us the paths they would eventually take after this tragedy occurs around them. Everybody else in this wide cast do great jobs as well, even if David Cross playing Allen Ginsberg’s dad did seem like a bit of stretch; but a stretch I was willing to let pass since he wore his glasses. Without them, it would have been too distracting to say the least.

Consensus: You don’t have to be an obsessed and dedicated fan to the generation that Kill Your Darlings is glamorizing, but it definitely will help more since a lot of this concerns them, just being the people you read about them being in any book, poem or article you may or may not read. Either way, it’s an interesting slice-of-life in some very interesting lives, that would only continue on to get more and more interesting as they lived on.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Liberal Arts (2012)

Once I’m past 30, man, my life is going to suck.

Jesse (Josh Radnor), a 35-year-old college admissions officer from New York City who loves literature and language, returns to his alma mater in Ohio to attend a retirement ceremony for a beloved professor (Richard Jenkins). While there he meets nineteen-year-old girl named Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), whose love of literature thrills him. They become pen pals, among other things and realize more about their life than anything ever before.

I’m not going to sit-here and lie to all of you, because quite frankly, that’s just not how I roll my dice and I never intend on doing. So, by saying that I’m just going to state that when it comes to movies about trying to hold onto your youth and staying cool, I can’t really find much to relate to. I mean I’m 19 years old, I still go to college, I still take classes, I still drive my own car, and sadly, I still live under my parents roof. So that’s why when it comes to a story about an older-dude, trying to go back to his glory days and see what he can do with a much-younger gal, not only am I bit horrified (age-gaps in relationships bother me, I don’t know why), but I also find it hard to be able to reach out and say, “Hey, I know where you’re coming from, man.” Obviously, I’m probably not the only one who feels like this but it was just something that kept-on going throughout my head as I was watching this and what made it even weirder, was the fact that I actually liked the film for that reason. Very strange thing for me, indeed.

"Alright, well, your sisters are 3 years older than you so that's not so bad, right?"

“Alright, well, your twin-sisters are 3 years older than you so that’s not so bad, right?”

This is the sophomore-effort from writer/director Josh Radnor and I have to be frank with you, I don’t really like the guy. That’s not to say that I don’t think he has talent or isn’t funny, but I was just never a huge fan of How I Met Your Mother, and even when I did actually stop-by to check-out an episode or two, he never really came off as funny to me. He tried a bit too hard it seemed and it was almost like that TV show was going to be his only claim-to-fame. However, it seems like I am terribly wrong with that idea because the guy actually has a great talent behind-the-screen and even though I didn’t check out the guy’s first movie, I still think it’s easy to say that I look forward to seeing what this guy can do.

One of the main points about this whole flick is how people, men especially (trust me), try to play both sides of the fence when it comes to mentor-teacher relationships. They try to be hip, with it, and cool, like all of the youngsters out there, but at the same time, they can’t help themselves to throw a little bit of wisdom down there for short measure and still feel like they deserve the equality and respect because they are older and apparently, know more. I’m not saying all older-people are like this, but it’s obvious that this is how most of them feel and that’s why this movie is intriguing  because it walks a fine-line between being all about being young, once again, but at the same time, also shows you that you sort of have to embrace the fact that you’re getting older, and your glory days are sort of behind you now. It’s a very true-statement to humans and the way of life, and the way that Radnor goes about it in this flick really surprised the hell out of me, mainly because it seems believable.

Before any of you out-there begin to write this movie off as a piece of garbage because it shows a relationship between two people that are 16-years-apart from one another, don’t worry, because Radnor sort of shows how it as well. What I mean by that is that Radnor understands that this “sort of” relationship between these two people is a bit ridiculous in terms of the age-gap, but also makes it seem pretty reasonable because they actually share a lot in-common and it makes you wonder if Radnor is ever going to take that plunge into her bed, or just her brain. There is some-bit of suspense to that, but while you’re waiting, you can also just sit-back and realize that these two don’t just have to be boyf and girlf, they can actually be very, very good-friends that can help each other in the world and how to make it better for themselves. It’s a nice relationship, that is treated more as a friendship and shows you that sometimes, a man and a woman can have more of a connection between each other by sharing thoughts and ideas, rather than fluids. If, you get what I’m saying.

You know how we can tell he's having a mid-life crisis? Facial hair.

You know how we can tell he’s having a mid-life crisis? Facial hair.

Radnor’s ideas are very well thought-out and very pleasant to see play-out, in terms of his easy-going direction, but the film as a whole, just doesn’t seem to stick with you, quite as much as the scenes between Radnor and Olsen. A lot of the scenes where it’s just Radnor talking to other people about life, growing-up, and reading literature, feel like they came right from his brain and obviously from a guy that knows what he’s talking, but is also trying to sound a lot like Woody Allen but less realistic in how people actually speak. Some people here work in montages and speak as if they’ve been waiting to say these witty lines for days on end and as entertaining and funny as it may be to hear in a movie like this, it sort of comes off as a bit unrealistic. People who love literature and read about a book-a-day, would definitely have open discussions about the meanings and themes behind certain pieces of it, but still, would they really get right down to it by quoting random lines and it’s significance and meaning to actual-life as a whole? Maybe they would, I guess it all depends on the type of person you’re talking about, but here, it doesn’t really quite work and shows you that maybe Radnor has some areas he needs to work on.

However, the most believable aspect behind this whole movie is actually the friendship between Olsen and Radnor, and I think that’s mainly because their chemistry is so perfect. Olsen works perfectly as Zibby, because she has this look and act to her that seems wise beyond her years, whereas Radnor has this boyish charm to him that makes him seem like a guy that’s tired with getting old and just wants to live it up a bit. Watching them work together is great and really has you thinking about how much you can’t blame the guy for being so attracted to her in the first-place and may just have to go for the relationship, despite the 16-year age-difference between the two. Yeah, I’m a big believer in that those types of relationships just creep me out and rarely ever work but for this one, I was able to let my guard down just a tad bit and that’s why I enjoyed this film, as well as the relationship a lot more.

"To bone, or not to bone?", is the real question at-hand in this scene.

“To bone, or not to bone?”, is the real question at-hand in this scene.

Playing the aging-professor of Radnor’s is Richard Jenkins, who, once-again, gives a fabulous performance that shows the guy being the coolest and hippest old dude out there. Some of the scenes with Jenkins really struck a chord with me, since it’s obvious to see how and why somebody would get so caught-up in teaching other people all you know and it just shows you the type of skill and talent Jenkins has as an actor. Allison Janney is alright as the stand-offish professor of Radnor’s who shows up every once and awhile, and acts like a total bitch and as good as she is at playing it, it’s a bit annoying considering it’s an act she does quite-well and a bit too often for my liking. The most surprising one out of this whole cast is probably Zac Efron as the hippie who shows up on campus whenever Radnor is around, and they just chill-out, talk, and trade some soul-secrets with one another. Efron’s very good in a small-role like this and it has me happier to know that not only can this guy dance and sing, but he can also act and make his presence one that you’re happy be around. Hopefully it continues on-and-on for him, as I’ve always had hope in him, no matter how much The Lucky One still stays in my mind.

Consensus: Though it’s ideas and themes about growing-up and trying to stay cool don’t stick with you as much as they intend-to, Liberal Arts still proves that Josh Radnor is not only just a likable guy in-front of the screen, but knows how to write and direct a movie that shows him for what he used to be, wants to be, and gives us a feeling like we will soon be hitting the same mid-life crisis this guy seems to just be hitting, as of right now. Poor guy.

7/10=Rental!!

I think this is the rare instance where I say that Allison Janney is the hottest one out of the four.

I think this is the rare instance where I say that Allison Janney is the hottest one out of the four. If only Olsen lost the preppy, school-boy look.

Silent House (2012)

I guess the Mary-Kate & Ashley finally got tired of hearing about their much more talented younger sissy.

Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen), retreat back to an old family home for renovations before her family sells the house. The windows are boarded up, doors are locked from the inside, the power doesn’t work, the landline service is non-existent, and the wireless signal is terrible. Then she hears noises and everything goes from bad to worse all in a course of 88 minutes.

In all honest, without knocking this film down in any way shape or form, this is essentially a gimmick horror flick just made to be different from what we usually see with this genre. It’s all filmed in one-shot (or so they say) and takes place in real-time. Pretty cool gimmick and one that is pulled off pretty fine if you ask me.

For the first hour or so, this flick had me strapped into it’s creepy and tense atmosphere. Co-directors Laura Lau and Chris Kentis do a great job here of capturing all of horror here in one-shot, following Sarah as she roams around her house as everything gets creepier and creepier around her. It felt like another found-footage horror flick by how close this camera just followed her but it worked in giving us a view that was intimate, up close, and made it even freakier to sit through considering we didn’t know what to expect next. There is definitely plenty of chilling moments that will get you and make you feel on the edge of your seat (I know, it’s a tired statement) but from a technical stand-point, it’s pretty impressive what you can do with one shot the whole time, even though there may be a couple of invisible cuts here and there.

I never saw the original so I went into this flick expecting something new and original and in a way that’s what I got, but in another way, I couldn’t help but think that they just didn’t do their best job with this material. This is a cool combination of both a home invasion and haunted house flick but the difference here is that we have no idea what is in the house, how it’s in the house, and just what it wants to do. This is a pretty good mystery that the film has going on for pretty long and what makes it even better is that it is apparently based on a true story so there was definitely some shock to that.

However, what dropped the ball for me was the explanation for all of the things that happened at end. I don’t want to get into any great detail about the end and I definitely don’t want to spoil things but it was definitely a little bit more obvious than I thought it should have been. There are a couple of subtle hints that made me think of what was going to be the out-come at the end and it was a little dumb to place these in there because as much as I knew something was up, I still knew that this flick was going somewhere with the little hints it kept throwing by us. For some, it may totally surprise but for others, it will just come across as lame but then again, that’s maybe what the original flick had already done in the first place so who am I to blame these directors for that misfortune?

Another problem with this ending isn’t so much of the explanation as much as it is the fact that the film doesn’t really make much sense once you realize what is really happening. There are certain films out there where you get a mind-boggling twist at the end and can go back again to watch it and realize that it all makes sense after the second watch, but this is not that because even though I have not seen it twice, I’m still thinking about it and realizing that it doesn’t make any sense. Once again, I don’t want to spoil anything and get into any details but once that ending comes up it’s just a bummer and seems very unrealistic, even though it was based on true events. I wonder just how true they really were.

At the heart of this flick though, is none other than Elizabeth Olsen, who makes this film and her character better than they had any right to be in the first place. She’s likable, easy on the eyes, and very believable as this girl Sarah. She pulls off every scene she is given here and makes it really easy to be on her side even when she does start to make some shocking questionable choices. Olsen is just a natural with this performance and it’s great to see her go through such range and hopefully she continues to get more and more jucier roles like this and get a whole bunch of people behind her.

Consensus: Silent House may have a big problem with its ending, there is still a creepy, tense, and shaky atmosphere this film gives off with it’s one-shot approach and Elizabeth Olsen is once again great in a role that asks a lot, in which she delivers on.

6/10=Rental!!

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

The one thing I kept wondering the whole time was whether or not anybody got showers.

The film stars Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a girl who runs away from a cult only to be picked up by her sister and brother-in-law. As she tries to get used to being back in “normal” life she starts get flash-backs of the past, and it starts to eff with her, thus effing with everybody else around her. Let’s not also forget that this chick is as paranoid as a kid looking up porn in a public library.

Going into this film I knew to expect a good performance from an Olsen sister nobody knew about, and a lot of cult freakishness. Sadly, I still don’t know what to think of this film.

This is a real upsetting film that will probably make you more sad than actually on-the-edge-of-your-seat. Right from the opening scene you know you’re in for some real dark ish to be going down and having a cult there, makes it almost even more grim, but that is where my problem with this film is.

The film brings out a lot of points about how vulnerable people can be and how weak-minded most people are as well, but I think this was just a case where writer/director Sean Durkin just wanted me to feel like I should go snuggle in my warm, big, and cozy bed. He definitely did a good job at this but there could have been more to it. This premise can be used very effectively and can do a lot of creepy wonders if you have the right vision but this film kind of left me cold, as if I had no reason to really see this film other than to be utterly depressed out-of-my-mind.

The writing also felt pretty repetitive because it was the same constant thing where Marcy’s sister and her husband would just yell at her because she wouldn’t tell them anything, then Marcy would get paranoid about something, and then they would do the same thing over and over again. I think if they focused more on these characters rather than just the situation itself, the film could have really done some real damage to its viewers but it also felt like Durkin didn’t know what to do with this strong plot and just focused on a bunch of random silence and yelling. There could have been a whole lot of cooler things they could have done with this premise but when you just do the same thing over and over again without getting anywhere the first time around, then that’s where I have my problem.

Despite my problems though, I feel like Durkin did a great job behind the camera and really worked on keeping the grim material, grim. Everything is all dark and faded to bring out this glum look for the film even when Marcy does escape the cult and it gives us this sort of feeling like she will never escape. There were also a lot of cool shots where Durkin has one scene in the present, transition over to a scene in the past and it creates this dark mood that’s subtle. It’s a shame this guy didn’t know what to do with his script because he sure as hell knew how to film it.

Speaking of Elizabeth Olsen, she’s pretty much awesome here as Martha. This is her debut role and what she has to do for it is very hard since this character is so battered and tortured that Olsen is actually forced to basically bring out any type of commanding force to this very complex character. She owns that and I think she has a future in the movie-business, I just hope that not all of her films are like this really. John Hawkes is also pretty menacing and freaky as the cult leader, and Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy are pretty good as Marcy’s sister and brother-in-law.

The ending is also another topic of conversation that many people were pissed about because it does just happen, without any real tension but just being ambiguous. I wasn’t as pissed with this ending considering this is what to expect now from all art-house flicks but it’s also a great ending that adds a lot to a film that doesn’t try to spell everything out for the audience. The whole ride to the ending was a bit sloppy but I can at least give some props to a film that you can find a lot of meaning out of. It wasn’t my cup of tea but hey, I’m just one dude.

Consensus: Martha Marcy May Marlene is a grim flick with some great acting from Olsen and Hawkes, but the film itself feels repetitive and a plot that really could have gone so many more places than it actually went and just stayed in this film.

5.5/10=Rental!!