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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Ellen Page

Tallulah (2016)

tallulah-posterStick with your own babies.

Tallulah (Ellen Page) has had a pretty rough life for a girl her age. Been on the streets and living in her van for a year now, she finds solace in her boyfriend (Evan Jonigkeit), who helps her out in ensuring that they continue to live on the street and be as free as they want. However, the two break-up one day and Tallulah is left with nowhere to go and absolutely no one to turn to. So, the next best thing, she believes, is her boyfriend’s mother, Margo (Allison Janney), who is surprised to find Tallulah on her door-step in the first place. After being denied once by Margot, Tallulah decides, for one reason or another, to visit her again, but this time, with a newborn baby in her arms. Why? Well, just because she knew that the baby’s mother (Tammy Blanchard), didn’t give a damn about it and was more or less not going to take care of it. However, Margo doesn’t know this and instead, believes Tallulah when she insists that it is her and her son’s baby. Meanwhile, the police are looking everywhere for Tallulah, trying to find this baby, while Tallulah and Margot get more acquainted.

Oh god. Ellen Page and her baby troubles.

Ellen Page and her baby troubles? Again?

Personally, I love the new entertainment-industry we live with today. It’s interesting that online streaming-devices like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and all of them, can not only create their own content for the world to see, but actually offer up something to see. Many people have ranted and raved about why this is such a big issue for the entertainment-industry as a whole, but it’s my own belief that it’s a good thing for the industry, as it allows for smaller, lesser-known stories to be told, talents to be seen, and products to be watched. Sure, you can make the argument that some of them aren’t even all that good (Crackle’s the Art of More, anyone?) and probably don’t deserve to ever see the light of day, but isn’t there something special about getting a chance to see what every provider can offer?

Even if the results happen to be as “meh” as Tallulah?

Cause after all, even though it definitely wasn’t produced as such, Tallulah is a low-budget, Sundance indie that would have probably never gotten the kind of audience, had it gone through the same old, usual crap of screenings and theater-showings. Is there anything wrong with going out to the movies to see a flick? Definitely not. But more and more people are getting scared of actual, big-time theaters themselves because, quite frankly, it’s really hard to promote your small movie if it’s just “meh”.

That’s why Netflix is here to save the day with Tallulah, a movie that is, in case you couldn’t tell by now, perfectly “meh”; it’s the kind of flick that wants to deal with real-life issues, like love, divorce, and motherhood, while also trying to develop its own characters. It’s successful in the later-portion, mostly due to the fact that the cast is so good. However, while watching Tallulah, there was a strange feeling I got where I thought to myself that I was supposed to be liking it more than I actually was.

See, it’s the kind of indie that’s so conventional, but likable, that you can’t really hate it. However, by the same token, it’s hard to really praise and love it, because you know that there’s plenty other better movies out there, sometimes, with the same cast. Obviously, I’m talking about another Janney-Page team-up involving a plot-driven baby movie like Juno, but still, that’s neither here nor there.

What I’m trying to say is that Tallulah, is fine.

Eh, whatever. Watch your baby better next time.

Eh, whatever. Watch your baby better next time.

It can be funny and it can be heartfelt at times, but it never tries to aim higher than that, and it kind of brings itself down because of that. For instance, there’s this weird dream-sequence involving characters floating through the air, that’s supposed to be some sort of symbolism for how they’re getting torn-apart by life, or something, and it just never connects. Same goes for the whole subplot involving Tammy Blanchard’s mother character; while it’s nice that the movie bothers to even include this in the first place, it also takes up a lot of time and doesn’t really bring much to the movie. Blanchard is a good actress, however, her character is so thinly-written and boring, that after awhile, I was rooting against her, more than I was rooting for her and her possible reunion with her baby.

Then, of course, there’s Ellen Page and Allison Janney who are, as expected, great. Page’s role as Tallulah isn’t all that different from what we’ve seen her do before, but she still nails it and makes me glad to see her so charming and lovely again, as opposed to how moody she was in Freeheld and Into the Forest (that’s another movie that came out this week and I’m not doing a review on it because, honestly, it’s bad – like, really bad, so stay away). Janney is also great, showing a different side to her than we usually see, as a stern, and sometimes stand-offish woman, yet, we also grow to love her, the more we get to know about her.

Together, the two are the best thing about Tallulah. They’re relationship builds over time and feels real, honest and organic; they don’t start by loving one another, but they grow to learn how to do so and it helps their characters grow over time. While I would have probably loved to have seen a movie about them connecting, even without the baby, it still doesn’t matter – the baby serves a purpose and allows for them to come back together. The movie itself can sometimes feel like it’s bringing them down, but if anything, the two get past it and allow for themselves to be great.

Even if the movie they’re in, isn’t necessarily “great”.

Consensus: Easygoing and well-acted, Tallulah is a fine dramedy, even if it’s script isn’t always strong as its actors.

5.5 / 10

Jason Reitman - look what you're missing.

Jason Reitman – look what you’re missing.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Freeheld (2015)

Love one another. Also, stop being dicks.

Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore) was a loyal, dedicated and passionate cop in Ocean County, New Jersey. She was respected and adored by her peers, was best-friends with her partner (Michael Shannon), and when it came down to getting the job done, she did everything she could to make that happen. However, the one fact about her life that she had to hide and, ultimately, caused her to lose a lot of respect from those said peers, was the fact that she was gay. Nobody knew about this little tidbit in her personal life until she was diagnosed with cancer and wanted to pass off her pension benefits to her partner, Stacie Andree (Ellen Page). Problem was, board of chosen freeholders didn’t see that as “right”, due to the fact that Hester was gay, so instead, decided to shut it down. Devastated by this news, Laurel knows that there’s nowhere else to go with her voice then to the court again, but this time, with more and more people by her side, voicing their opinions on her, and showing how she is granted this god-given right, no matter who she holds up a home or romantic relationship with.

Awkward first encounters between two very attractive people. So sad.

Awkward first encounters between two very attractive people. So sad.

It’s a shame that, no matter how kind, or smart, or meaningful the message they’re trying to get across may be, message movies, generally, suck. Actually, that’s not correct; they’re just not all that good. Most of the time, message movies come off like after school specials that you’re more likely to see on Lifetime or TLC, than actually anywhere on the big screen, where your money, attention and time is absolutely needed.

And Freeheld, like other message movies, feels just like that. However, that’t not to say that the movie, to use a word I used earlier, sucks, it’s just that, considering its good intentions, its solid cast, and an interesting director (Raising Victor Vargas‘ Peter Sollett), it’s disappointing. That doesn’t mean that they’re message isn’t worn across their sleeves, or that they don’t get it out clear enough, it’s just that it feels lacking in an actual story, with genuine, relateable characters.

Everybody here, from Laurel, to Stacie, to Laurel’s partner, and especially to the freeholders, all feel as if they’re stand-ins for a message. Laurel, of course, is the hero of this story who, after all of these years of putting her life on the line for the greater good of Ocean County; Stacie is the misunderstood little girl who is in desperate need of love, comfort and a hug; Laurel’s partner, Dane, is the gold-hearted friend of Laurel who stands by her no matter what; and the freeholders are, as expected, mostly just a bunch of ignorant dicks, with the exception of Josh Charles’ character, who feels a little more conflicted than the rest, but also begins to break into speeches that people probably think how conservatives actually talk. This isn’t to say that the cast doesn’t at least try with these types, but by the same token, it’s just a shame to see them all having to perform within these compounds where, maybe, just maybe, they’re allowed to branch out and make something new or interesting of these characters.

But sadly, they’re mostly all one-note.

Moore’s Laurel has hardly a bad bone in her body; Stacie doesn’t get as much attention as she should, but seems like she means no harm to anyone; and Dane is just a nice guy. Moore’s fine, as well as is Page and they share a nice bit of chemistry together, but Shannon is really the only one who seems like he’s really giving it his all here and coming out just fine. Well, it was especially nice to see Shannon play, once again, a normal, everyday dude, but to also see him shed some of his more sensitive angles that we don’t usually get a chance to see him dance with. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when he’s yelling and giving people those crazy eyes of his, but it’s always nice to see it when he plays a guy who seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly because he wanted to.

No, this is not some unsold CBS pilot.

Not an unsold CBS pilot.

And for some reason, even though Freeheld‘s been hiding him in all of the ads, but Steve Carell is actually here as Steven Goldstein, the founder of the well-known advocacy group, Garden State Equality. Carell is funny here and constantly makes every scene he’s in, exciting and entertaining, but still feels like he’s just playing more of a caricature you’d see in a parody of Goldstein on SNL, rather than an actual person himself. Still, he made me laugh and his constant use of “sweetheart” and “honey” makes some of the most masculine-of-masculine men in the movie shiver, which is always fun to watch.

Homophobia. Fun? Who knew!

Anyway, other than the cast who clearly seem to be on their A-game here to make something work, Freeheld is all too concerned with passing its message along, that it just feels like a conventional bore. There are more types here than just the ones I mentioned up-top; there’s the overly-homophobic, downright rude cop who disowns Laurel from the very beginning, there’s the angry people who come to intimidate Laurel and Stacie for causing such a ruckus, there’s the closeted cop who begins to find courage once Laurel pleads her case, and yeah, there’s probably more that I forgot to mention.

But you get the point – this movie is as cliché as you can get. It has a nice heart and I more than agree with the point it’s making, but it does so in such an ordinary, run-of-the-mill way, that it makes me wonder why they even bothered making this movie to begin with? Because surely, they wanted to bring some interesting points up about humanity and the way of life, right? Or did they just want to make a movie about a lesbian woman’s final years and how she fought for equality, without any grey areas thrown in whatsoever?

I’m thinking more of the latter in Freeheld’s case, sadly.

Consensus: Not without its heart in the right place, Freeheld brings an emotional story to the big screen, but doesn’t seem to do much with it that’s interesting, challenging, or anything that we haven’t already seen before many, many times before, in many other message movies in the same vein.

6 / 10

Pictured: Good vs. Evil

Pictured: Good vs. Evil

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

So many freaks, it felt like being in Saturday detention once again.

In the post-apocalyptic future, mutants across the globe are hunted down and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, who are able to modify their powers depending on what mutant it is they are fighting. This makes the idea of mutants’ extinction almost a reality, forcing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to come up with a master plan: Send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to find the young version of himself (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of these deadly Sentinels (Peter Dinklage). That’s a lot easier said then done, considering the last time Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr saw one another, they almost killed each other, leaving the former unable to walk. But, with Wolverine thrown into the mix, they hope that they can smooth some things together and finish their master-plan, all in time before the Sentinels come around in the present day, and kill all that’s left of the X-Men. And to make matters worse, retro-era Magneto is predictably giving everybody a bit of a hard time when his ideals don’t mesh so well with the rest of the group’s. Oh, these Mutants, when will they ever learn to get along.

So, in other words, what this movie is trying to do is allow Bryan Singer to come back to the franchise that was basically consider “his”, and go back in time to where he could not only make us forget about the stink of the third and Origins, but also, show that this franchise can go on, even without him or many others attached to it. And, for the most part, it’s a noble effort on Singer’s part because you can tell that he honestly does “get” these characters, their plight, as well as their stories. Singer, all of his modern-day controversies aside, knows what it’s like to be looked at in a weird way, to be a social outcast, and what it means to be pushed away from the rest of society, which is not only why these characters still work for us, but also why the movie moves as well as it does.

"Yeah. I did that. Get at me."

“Yeah. I did that. Get at me.”

Because see, what Singer does so amazingly well here is that he gives us all of the characters we’re supposed to care about and allows them to have their smallish scenes of character-development. They’re nothing gigantic to where this becomes something of a character-driven piece; a little sign of compassion, anger, rage, depression definitely helps this go a long way. However, it’s enough to where there’s some sort of emotion backing all of the wild and insane action that happens throughout the most part of this movie. Which definitely makes this movie all the more satisfying and fun to watch – exactly how a superhero summer blockbuster should be.

Sure, I may have liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than some, but there’s a reason for that: Not only did the movie keep me excited, but it seemed like it genuinely knew what kind of movie it was being. Nothing more, nothing less – a quintessential, 90’s superhero movie that just so happens to be made for Generation Y. It worked for me, but it didn’t work for others. So hey, whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that while that movie knew it was a shallow piece of entertainment and didn’t try to go anywhere it wasn’t supposed to, Days of Future Past knows that it’s more than just a piece of carefree, sugar-explosion entertainment that one pays nearly-$20 to see at the end of a shitty day to make themselves feel better.

There’s real, actual heart and emotion to this piece, that not only has us reeling for the characters whenever their lives are at danger, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher.

Jeez, who woulda thunk it, right? Having a blockbuster in which we were given characters we genuinely sympathized with and for? Naw, get outta here!

But that’s what’s so wild about this superhero movie: It not only kicks, moves, and runs around like an action movie, but it also breathes like a superhero movie, in which we get to understand and see our “heroes” for all that they are worth, regardless of if we like them or not. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a total drag-fest in which Singer continuously hits us over-the-head with sadness and darkness, like in the vein of Christopher Nolan, because there a few ounces of light, fun, and frothy comedy to keep our spirits up and afloat; but there’s also plenty of drama to make us feel like the ride is plenty worth while.

And the ride is exactly what matters here, especially in the eyes of someone like Singer, who feels like he’s gotten the whole band back together. Which is not only great for him and those struggling-actors who need a bit more extra cash thrown into their bank-account, but it’s also great for us. Personally, I remember growing up on the first two X-Men movies and fondly remember seeing each and every character introduced to me. Granted, I was young and didn’t know much better, but when I did decide to re-visit both of those movies, I found myself rarely at all disappointed. Some tonal issues here and there messed me up, but that was just the older, more-advanced movie-viewer inside of me speaking; the young, ten-year-old kid, however, was going nuts and in total joy of what he was seeing.

That’s why when certain faces show up in this movie like Halle Berry as Storm, or even Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, I genuinely felt happy; not because people are still actually hiring Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, but because I was finally seeing the mutants I used to watch as a kid, back on the big screen, in all of their wildest form. It made me feel like a kid again which, as we all know, usually comes with its huge dosages of nostalgia and late nights of sobbing into my pillow. So yeah, it’s great to have the band all back together again, but what’s even better is that they’re all in the hands of someone who knows what to do with them.

Not some freakin’, low-rent, spoiled-brat chump who I will leave unmentioned. But you know who it is I’m talking about.

Like I was saying though, yeah, this movie. What works so well about not only seeing the cast back on the screen, altogether once again, is that they definitely work wonders with delivering some corny dialogue. Maybe less so for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who really does deliver some of the movie’s best and funniest lines when it’s just him having to get used to the 70’s and all; but definitely moreso for class-acts like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who have always made their long-winding speeches of unity, acceptance, and banding together actually seem honest and interesting. There’s no difference here, it’s just that they aren’t on the screen so much, considering that most of this movie takes place in the 70’s.

She must be feeling blue...

She must be feeling blue…

This is where we get to see the younger-versions of Magneto and Xavier who are, once again, played wonderfully by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender feels like he’s constantly on the verge of dropping his good-guy persona and straight-up turning evil on everyone’s asses, while McAvoy gets to play Xavier as a bit of a drugged-out bum that needs some sort of inspiration to keep him going. It’s nice that First Class was able to get these two in the first place, because they work pretty damn well here in this movie, even if some of their dialogue is rather clunky. Just a bit though. Nothing too much.

And yes, before I go on too much, I will say one thing, and that’s everybody’s favorite figure in the media, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Mystique, however, I feel like she’s given a role that’s rather one-note. The whole aspect surrounding Mystique’s character in this movie is that she’s constantly angry about something, and while we know what that something is about, it doesn’t give us much reason to like her character or even see J-Law doing much for that character. There are certain shadings to her anger, but nothing to the point of where I felt like this was the Oscar-winner coming out of her performance and making this something more; just pretty standard stuff that could have gone a much longer way.

Hell, while I’m at it, I could even say the same thing about the movie. See, what got me so wrapped up in its emotion was the characters and the fact that I was seeing all of my old, favorite mutants, back on the screen, together, once again. That made me happy and a bit emotional, but for the story itself, there wasn’t that push I really wanted. It never really seems to be about much, except for just being about maintaining one’s extinction? I mean, I guess? I don’t know, let’s work with that, shall we?

Anywho, I know it’s a dumb nit-pick and all but it’s what kept me away from loving the hell out of this thing. But it’s definitely the superhero blockbuster you should see this summer. Although, probably, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only a couple of steps away.

No takers? Okay, cool. I’ll shut up about that now.

Consensus: With an utter sense of glee and joy with Bryan Singer at the helm, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a fun and exciting summer blockbuster, but is also a somewhat heartfelt, emotional ride that brings back all of the characters we once loved and adored, for another installment. Whether or not it’ll be the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everybody’s back and the smiles it brings to the fanboys’ faces.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Back the office, once again. Shit."

“Back the office, once again. Shit.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Juno (2007)

Just as long as you’re a quirky hipster-teenager, not a single person will be mad at you for being preggo!

Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) isn’t your traditional, normal high school teen in the way that she holds herself. She knows a lot about people, life and society to the point of where people cast her a bit as an “outside”, however though, that doesn’t bother her because she’s just happy being herself, in her own, wide world of quirkiness and faux-clever pop culture references. But now her world is about to be shaken-up a bit now that she’s been impregnated by her best-buddy, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). He clearly has no idea what the hell to do when he hears this news, and neither does she, but she decides not to take “the easy way out”. Thus bringing her to the idea of having the baby, but then giving it right to hopeful parents Vanessa and Mark (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman), who have been wanting a baby for quite some time, and have even gone as far as to place ads in the papers. It seems like the right thing for Juno to do, however, she still can’t help herself from causing a bit of ruckus in the meanwhile.

Many people have spoken-out against this movie for being what is clearly a “mainstream attempt” at trying to do a quirky, hipster movie, that you’d most likely see in a small, run-down movie theater with at least five or six other people, and then hear about years later, with it gaining a cult-following and loyal fan-base and such. Reason being, the script by Diablo Cody is filled to the core with numerous amounts of slang, phrases that seem like they’d only come from “hip” people’s mouths and more inside-joke pop culture references than you or I could ever shake a stick at. Hell, it even opens up with a rotoscoped credit-sequence, done to the tunage of Barry Louis Polisar.

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

Look at that thing! So rad, man!

If that doesn’t scream, “Hey, look at me! I’m hip! I’m cool! I’m “with it”!”, then I don’t know what does.

Usually whenever a movie has me thinking this in the first couple minutes, it’s usually all downhill from there. But that wasn’t the case here. Surprisingly, Cody’s writing began to work more and more, even when more of an onslaught of absolutely random references came into play. However, that also made it so much more entertaining to watch as I could not only find myself laughing, but feel like I’m in the presence of real teenagers who sure, talk a bit funnier and more colorful than you or I, but act and behave as if they were us. Early pregnancy aside, I could still see myself talking, hanging out and getting to know some chick just like Juno, and being picked to pieces for either saying something really dumb, or being intimidated by her presence. But I could say the same thing about meeting Juno, about everybody else here.

The fact is, although its a rather showy script, it’s always believable and never loses that sense that we are placed into a world that exists in the 21st century, with characters who have grown-up on Nickelodeon, Slurpee’s and the almighty “Hamburger Phones”. Yes, they do exist and yes, they are awesome.

But once all of the playful wit of this movie leaves, then comes in the huge heart it has and it really takes you by surprise. One second you could be laughing at how Juno tries to match wits with some older dude about how Iggy Pop is such a bad-ass, to then be soaking your eyes out crying because of some beautiful speech her dad gave to her about finding that one and only special someone and why that does inf act matter. The movie definitely plays with that balance more than a few times than it ought to, but Cody and Reitman seem like they have a perfect idea of when the right time to play a moment up for laughs is, and when it’s the time to start letting the tears flow. More often than not, the former got the best of me, but the latter came in with a surprising thunder and really touched. Especially during the last ten or so minutes when the whole story, all of the characters and subplots, come together and get tied-up in a nice, neat little bow-tie.

How perfect that is to see actually happen in a movie for once.

Of course though, the one’s who really make this movie work so well, just as much as both Reitman and Cody do, is the ensemble cast, mainly Ellen Page in the lead as “anti-hero” of sorts, Juno MacGuff. Page got a lot of praise for this role, and some could say it made her a bon-a-fide “star”, and while I’m not up for a discussion on whether or not that’s fully, entirely true (it isn’t), I will say that Page deserved all of the chatter being made about her because she fits this role like a glove. She’s quick, funny, and always up to say something you don’t expect her to, but she’s never a big meanie. Sure, she can be a bit of a sassy-pup to those who deserve it, but to everybody else around her, you know, the one’s that actually matter and care for her, she’s always kinder to and definitely doesn’t take of them for granted. She’s unpredictable for sure, but she’s never a “bad person” per se, which is what I think makes her so damn likable and watchable in the first place. That, and the fact that she’s edgy, without being overly so. Good for Page though, as I think that she’s a solid actress who is sadly still trying hard to live this iconic-role down. One day, I think, she will. But until then, we have this to adore and appreciate.

Please be my parents! Please!!

Please be my parents! Please!!

Michael Cera also does a nice job as Paulie Bleeker, despite still being in that “George Michael“-frame. However though, he was good at showing what a guy like him would do if he was suddenly thrown into the same situation that he is obviously incapable of handling. Also, the relationship that he and Juno have is a very well-done one which would have made for its own interesting rom-com. Even the friendship Juno has with her bestie, played by Olivia Thirlby, is well-done because she’s just as sassy, if not more than Juno’s snarky-ass, which also makes their time together all the more enjoyable to watch.

But this isn’t just a movie for, and starring all teenagers throughout the world! Believe it or not, there are some performances from adults here, and for the most part, they’re pretty outstanding. As I’ve mentioned before about his one scene, J.K. Simmons is great as Juno’s daddy that isn’t the typical toughened war-vet, hard-ass daddy you usually see in these types of movies. He definitely loves his daughter and accepts her for everything that she is, despite her making one dumb decision and getting pregnant as a result. Still though, he stands by her and wants what’s best, without getting in the way too much. Same for Allison Janney’s step-mom character who isn’t the evil, cackling step-mom that holds everything against her step-daughter for not being biologically related to her. In fact, one could say that she’s more concerned and protecting of Juno, and doesn’t want people bad-mouthing her all because she’s a teenager, who just so happens to be pregnant. Even the two performances from Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner are great too, and, believe it or not, would have definitely worked in their own, little movie. However here, they’re both believable as a married-couple that may not be perfect together, but definitely seem to want the same things in life and within each other, even if their vision does get a bit blurred at times.

Mainly though, everybody works perfectly together and makes this something more special than just an-hour-and-a-half rom-com with pregnancy involved somehow. I would have definitely liked to seen more of this cast do what they do best, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when I have a cast that is this good, and given this much meaty-material to work with. If only more ensemble-pieces handled its cast as well as Reitman does. If only.

Consensus: Most will definitely know if Juno is right for them or not, judged solely by the first ten minutes. But if you just so happen to be one of those people that take the bait and enjoy the show, you’ll find yourself not just happy you stuck-through, but ending it all with a smile on your face and a warm feeling in your stomach, like coming-of-age, rom-comers should do.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

That's to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

That’s to all ya haters out there. You know who you are, too!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Touchy Feely (2013)

If Rosemarie DeWitt wants to touch me, she can be my guest. Hell, she can be my wife!

Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt) is a woman that “feels” for a living. She gives massages to people, and they consider her one of the best and most worthwhile, mainly because she has that touch and feel for what it takes to give a good back-rub, or something like that. However, once Abby loses her touch, she finds herself in a bit of a funk that not only jeopardizes her job, but her relationship with her boyfriend (Scott McNairy). While on the other side of things, her brother, the up-tight, socially awkward dentist Paul (Josh Pais), seems to have gotten her “touch” and “feel”, therefore, giving him an ability to cure almost anybody’s problems they may have with their mouths. This boosts his self-confidence a bit, and may actually give him the chance to talk to his daughter (Ellen Page), and find out what she really wants to do with the rest of her life, rather than helping him out fixing cavities.

Writer/director Lynn Shelton has been something of an indie-darling, and practically, the go-to-gal for an indie-dramedy that’s not just funny, but heartfelt and insightful into human-relationships, and the way we all function. Humpday and Your Sister’s Sister are perfect examples of this, not just because those are her last two flicks before this, but because they show exactly the same type of balance of heart, humor, and humanity that I talk about. She knows how to make us laugh, while also having us cry by the end of the story, all because she gave us characters worth paying attention to and caring for. However, all of that goes right out the window here, as it seems like not only has Shelton gotten a bigger budget in her palms now, but that she’s also found a way to try and mesh her indie-style, with something that’s more mainstream and accessible to the wider audience.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can't "talk" to me about it, while she's doing it.

She can use those hands on me anytime she wants. She just can’t “talk” to me about it, while she’s doing it.

Sadly, it doesn’t work.

And what doesn’t allow it to work is that this flick doesn’t have a single-beat that feels real, honest, or even believable in any way. It’s all quirky, all of the time, and done for a cheap-set of laughs that not only don’t amount to anything, but build characters that you can’t really reach and grab; mostly because they feel like one-dimensional characters. But I’m not saying they’re unlikable per se, it’s just that they don’t feature any type of realism to the way they act, speak, or go about their daily-life that makes you feel as if they are just like one of us, except more good-looking and talented. That’s how I felt with Shelton’s past two movies, and it’s what I expected to feel here, except, it didn’t happen. The story just went on, and on, and on, and on, and then, ended.

Which is a shame because you can tell that the cast seems to be trying. Rosemarie DeWitt is as charming and as cute as she’s ever been, and gives Abby a sense of down-to-earth honesty that makes her feel like a person, but the script takes over and makes her sort of a weirdo that feels all sorts of emotions a little too much. More than your average person should FEEL. And it was enjoyable to watch at times because DeWitt made it that way, but when you have a character that does such actions like tells her boyfriend to take off his shirt, only to walk away seconds later, bang him in her brother’s bathroom (and visibly too), and take ecstasy, only to get pissed-off when the boyfriend considers it “a random choice of actions”, you have to wonder just how unpredictable a character can be until they’re annoying. For me, I got annoyed of her pretty quick; and not just because I hate people that are like her character, but because she shows no rhyme or reason for the way she is. She knows that she can be unbearably odd at times, but never takes a second to think about why, or apologize to the people she loves the most, who are also sometimes the ones she hurts the most.

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they're hipsters!

Near-tears at an indie music show? You bet your righteous ass they’re hipsters!

Same kind of goes for the rest of the cast as well, even though they are all just as thinly-written as she is, just with less charisma. Scoot McNairy feels like the type of cool, hipster boyfriend that should be winning all of the ladies’ hearts with his good-looks, his sweet voice, and scruffy beard, but somehow comes off as a bit of a wimp, the type of dude you wouldn’t expect to see with Abby or last as long with her as he has. Granted, they do make a mention to how he was “the rebound” for her, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that his character doesn’t seem to really stand-up for himself when he needs to and tell his girlfriend how he feels, at any given time. Ellen Page plays Abby’s niece, who is also the same girl who has eyes for McNairy’s character and seems like she should have that whole “angst-ridden teen” thing down by now, but feels like she’s too much of a negative Nancy to really qualify as a teen, or a character worth watching either. She’s just here and you can tell that Shelton cared about her character and her story the least. Poor Juno, we all know she’s better than this.

Surprisingly though, the only one who walks away with this movie and makes it somewhat watchable, is the least-known name on the cast-list, even though he may be the most noticeable considering of how many pieces of work he’s shown up in all of these years. The name of the face is Josh Pais, who plays the weird, quiet, and oddly-placed brother of Abby, and does what he can with this role, neurotic twitches and all. You can tell that the heart of the movie lies with this dude, and you know that Pais is capable of making us laugh at this dude, then have us want to give him a hug when all is said and done too, however, you also know that this material doesn’t seem like the type of “breaking out” piece that he may have needed so late in his career. He’s a bit of a goofy and plays all of the weirdness of this guy very well, but it doesn’t amount to much, as his character never seems to learn anything that may have needed to be learned, in order to change the way he viewed life, his sister and what his daughter wants to do for her future. There’s a sign it may happen, but it never seems discovered and that’s a real shame. His character, the most beloved one out of them all here, also ends up having no real revelation and just goes about his daily-life as usual. Boring, and slightly depressing.

Consensus: While it certainly isn’t terrible and can be watched for some good performances from this talented-cast, Touchy Feely is probably Lynn Shelton’s weakest movie to-date, and shows her in a bit of a muddle, wondering what to say about each character, how to say it, and when it should all end for them, but ends up not really saying anything at all. Maybe that’s how life is? Actually, I don’t know!

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"So...uhm....awkward, right?"

“So…uhm….awkward, right?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The East (2013)

Can’t trust those Occupiers! You never know if one of them just so happens to be a vampire.

A secret informant, Sarah Moss (Brit Marling) who works for a group of private companies trying to protect their image and sales, is assigned her latest task: which is to go undercover, and become one of the members of the extremist group known as “The East”. They are lead by a charming, yet inspired leader (Alexander Skarsgård), and thrive on showing all of these companies for what they are. However, Sarah knows what needs to be done and will not stop at anything, until she stops this group from completing their final “jams”. But that’s easier said then done, especially when love and morals come into play, which is exactly what hits Sarah clear in the face.

Here’s one of those movies that seems like it could literally be happening right now, right from underneath our noses, but we would never know about it. Why? Well, that’s because there’s some form of rebellion going on everywhere in our world and it would be almost no surprise to me after awhile if the government starting cracking down on some of these groups/organizations, for causing what they consider “acts of terrorism”. Whether or not I actually believe in that, will be totally left up for you to make up your mind’s own, but that also means that a movie like this has it’s homework done already for itself. All it has to do is tell it’s story, gives us it’s characters, and give us it’s reasons, and not fuck up.

Somehow, the movie couldn’t hold up it’s end of the bargain.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she's getting taken into. Because you know, she'd totally be able to identify them.

God forbid she actually see the creepy, fogged-up woods she’s getting taken into. Because you know, she’d totally be able to identify them.

But, that being said, the movie still does start off pretty damn well if I don’t say so myself. What director Zal Batmanglij (good thing I’m typing that, and not saying that) does well is that he gets us involved with the story right off the bat, by showing us what these extremists are all about. They’re a bit inhumane, but, they also show what they are doing for a reason so maybe, just maybe there is more to them then just simple, old-school rebellion. And there is, but Batmanglij still likes to keep us wondering where this story is going to go next, and what areas of it’s message is it going to focus on.

There’s plenty of humanity to be found within these activists, but what really makes them work as a whole is that the causes that they are fighting for, feel honest and not a bit for show. They really do feel like their environment is being cheated out of a system that’s mean-spirited, corrupt, and impure to the rest of the world that surrounds them. When any movie tries to tackle a subject like this, I get terribly annoyed as it just comes off as a piece of “preaching, in the form of a movie”, but this movie handles it well because it shows both sides of the coin very well, with enough attention and care to what the one side, says to the other, and vice versa.

The idea that these activists are torturing and doing harm to these corporate big-heads for the same type of shit that they accuse them of doing, does get brought up many times and you have to wonder: who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the activists have a reason to be mad and you can see why they would want to put an end to the pain and suffering that is being caused, but is their way, the right way? Or, is it simply the only way to get shit done?

The movie continues to rattle that question around, almost as much as you’ll be doing the same in your head, and it’s only made better by the fact that the movie feels like it could go anywhere, at anytime, with just about any character. Everybody gets their chance to show what they really mean to the group, and who they really are underneath all of the anger and rebellion, which makes it enough for us to at least care about what it is that they decide to pull off next, and whether or not they will come out alive or unpunished for their ways. Brit Marling has this certain feel to her as an actress that makes her almost feel like she’s up in the sky with the birds and pretty clouds, but here, she feel like she’s brought back down to Earth where she can at least get done, whatever she is told to, and lets up for no one. Obviously, she gets wrapped up into all of the hum-drum of these activists and see why their way is sometimes the better way, but it feels more realistic and believable with Marling in the role, rather than some other cute, air-head that could have made the character barely passable to watch.

Playing the leader of the group she’s over-watching, is the incredibly-tall Alexander Skarsgård as Benji, the world’s least-intimating male name. Skarsgård was okay as the leader, because he’s able to convey a sense that he’s a nice dude, underneath all of the evil-looks and thoughts. However, it was conveyed in a way that made him that way, just so it could give him and Marling’s character a reason to bang and fall in love. It didn’t feel like it was needed for the story, if only for that, and didn’t really give him a clearer-enough arc. If anybody deserved to be banging Marling’s character, it was Toby Kebbell as one of the most-important members of the group, who used to be a doctor in Africa, until he was surprisingly harmed by one of the medicines he was given over there, making him shaky and twitchy all of the time. This physical set-back already makes the character seem sympathetic, but the way Kebbell brings out more and more humanity out from within this guy, really makes you feel as if he’s the one who deserves all of the good things in the world, even Marling’s tush.

Hey, can’t go wrong with that, right?

"Pass it to the right, man."

“Pass it to the right, man.”

But as three-dimensional and well-acted some of these characters may actually be, the plot is what really matters here, which makes the ending all the more disappointing. See, if you were paying attention, you may have noticed that the big idea behind this flick was whether the group’s ways of handling their acts of rebellions were right or not? Well, as much build-up and details the movie may have given that message throughout most of the run-time, is all slapped-down by the last 15 minutes in a way I did not expect to see coming. And not in the type of way where I liked the surprise, but in the way where I thought it was a cheap way of getting out of being anything remotely close to insightful, or thought-provoking into where it went.

Can’t say much else other than that, but everything leading up to that was pretty solid in it’s way of getting me involved with it’s characters, their motivations, and what each and every one of them had to say, but the movie shakes a blind-eye towards that all. It sort of makes you feel like the first hour hour and 45 minutes, was made for nothing else other than a bunch of things to make you think, only to have them thrown out of your mind, as soon as things get really complicated for these characters and the movie itself. I guess the movie didn’t want to really offend anybody that may care for this type of material, but there could have been more of a thought-process into what could have been the best and most effective way to go out. The way they chose: nowhere near it and ultimately left a bad taste in my mouth going out. Poor me.

Consensus: There are plenty of ideas, thoughts, and feelings that The East plays with, as well as a relatively-compelling plot-line, but it all gets shut-down after about the hour and a half mark, and then all of a sudden; the movie doesn’t seem to care for any of those elements anymore, and just wants to play it safe without really going any deeper.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bed-room houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghinis around town.

They bonded so much during filming, that they actually joined Occupy Wall Street. Nah, jaykay. They went back to their 6 bedroom houses, took a dip in their in-ground pools, and drove their fine Lamborghini’s around town.

To Rome with Love (2012)

Come back to America Woody! Spare all of these other countries of your quirkiness!

The film is made up of four distinct vignettes of people in Italy —some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors—and the romantic adventures they get into.

After last year’s sleeper-hit, Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen seemed like he was destined for a real comeback and people would start taking him seriously again. Sadly, he sort of knocks that reputation back down in the ground.

This whole film is played off as a bunch of skits, that just take place over one movie without any real connection to one another, other than the fact that they all take place in the same city. This would have totally worked perfectly if any of these skits were as interesting as they seemed to be. Allen’s writing is usually funny and witty, but here, a lot of it feels forced and a lot of the skits get drawn-out a little too much to the point of where it’s over-kill and you just want him to move onto the next story. Problem with that, is the next story is probably more lame than the one that preceded. Therefore, you just have a bunch of skits that don’t work and you can’t really look forward to.

I usually get Allen’s sense of humor, which in some cases, I did here as well, but I don’t think there was a single serious moment in this film. All of the drama here, is downplayed and made to be like it doesn’t exist just because these characters and these stories are too zany and wild for it. To me, I thought there could have been some more emotional honesty to this product, especially when you have stories about couples that are sleeping around on one another. Now I wasn’t asking for Allen to get down and dirty with his dramatic self, but I was just asking for a bit more drama here than I actually got.

Although, as lame as this film may be, most of it is made better because of the cast, some of which are great, and some of which that just don’t hit the right notes. Woody Allen‘s long-awaited return to the front of the screen, is probably the highlight of this movie, not only because he knows how to sell his own material perfectly, but because it seems like his character will never grow old or get annoying. He’s just Woody Allen being Woody Allen, and that’s all I asked for. Well, that’s all I asked for when it come to the acting department. Penelope Cruz brings a lot of flair to her role as a sexy call-girl, in one of the stories that actually is a lot more interesting and could have been played out in it’s own film alone.

Another good performance from this cast is from Alec Baldwin, even though it was very unsure what the hell his character actually was in this movie. He comes off as a narrator for this one story involving Eisenberg, then everybody else sees him and can communicate with him, but then he just sort of shows up out of nowhere, like a ghost who just won’t go away. I really didn’t get this character and what made it even worse was that the story he was in, totally sucked. Honestly, when you have two talents like Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page together in a Woody Allen movie, you would expect them to be hilarious, passion-driven, and believable, but sadly, none of that happens for either of them. Eisenberg’s shtick doesn’t do much and Page comes off as an annoying pretentious actress that just wants to hear herself talk and I get that is what the film is trying to convey about her, but that doesn’t make me like her anymore than I already did. Also, no passion between them whatsoever and I would have much rather seeing Eisenberg and Gerwig in a film together, all by their lonesome selves.

Oh, and I must not forget about Roberto Benigni, who I haven’t seen in quite some time and probably has one of the dumbest skits in the whole movie, which is really saying something. His plot is basically all about him being this random celebrity that people want to know more about, girls want to sleep with, and little kids want autographs from, but it’s never made clear exactly why that is and exactly what’s so extraordinary about this guy in the first place. Benigni’s a lot more tied-down in this role and doesn’t let himself get too crazy with this role, but when he does, it’s annoying and it just made me wish he stayed away from this film with the remains of Pinocchio. Don’t worry, this movie is better than that one.

Consensus: It’s obvious that Woody Allen loves Rome and all of its beauties, but he never shows that through his writing or direction here. Instead, everything comes off as forced, contrived, lame, boring, and nothing all that exciting to stay around for and watch again. It’s just a lazy Woody Allen. Boooo!

3.5/10=Crapola!!

Hard Candy (2005)

Chris Hansen has just shit his pants.

Hayley Stark’s (Ellen Page) a smart, charming teenage girl – but even smart girls make mistakes. She’s hooking up in a coffee shop with Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson), a guy she’s met on the internet. And even though he’s a cute, smooth high-end fashion photographer in his early 30s, Hayley shouldn’t be suggesting that the two of them go back to his house alone. When they get there, Hayley quickly finds some vodka and starts mixing screwdrivers. She even suggests a photo shoot and strips off some clothing. Everything is going well for Jeff… until his vision blurs and fades, and he passes out. What happens after this is all hell breaking loose as Hayley rains a terror on Jeff.

Basically, this film starts off like something you think you’ve seen done a million times before but then turns into a cutting thriller that almost seems like it could go anyplace at anytime. The subject matter of pedophilia is pretty effed up as it is, but I think everything they deal with here, is a lot more effed up than I could have ever imagined.

Despite being an effed up movie in the fore-front, deep beneath all of that is a character-driven drama that messes with your head about who you should feel sympathy for: the victim or the predator. That line is blurred many times throughout the whole flick as you constantly feel like one person is in the wrong for what they’re doing, but then again, you can’t help but think that this person has a reason for doing what they are doing mainly because of what they know and have against the other person. The film gets terribly uncomfortable when it comes to the decisions of who you think should get the sympathy and what that other person should do. Sometimes, I even felt guilty for sympathizing with the person I felt sympathy for but that’s the way that this flick messes with your mind and makes you think to how you would feel if you met one of these people in your life.

The film’s screenplay does bring up a lot of questions but mostly it is made just to have us on-the-edge-of-our-seats the whole entire time. Right when you think something is going to happen, director David Slade just pulls the carpet from right underneath us and gives us a scene we weren’t expecting to see next but it’s so tense and suspenseful to the point of where we can’t even sit still and watch this. It keeps on getting more twisty and more twisty as the film goes on and I think Slade did a good job at making it seem like this flick could honestly just go about anywhere and anyplace to where I just gave up predicting what was exactly going to happen next.

Let me also not forget to mention that this flick also has some very hard scenes to watch due to the extreme levels of torture that actually come around, especially one scene in particular that I refuse to say anything more about. These scenes were very effective but at the same time provided the biggest problems for me when it came to this flick. First of all, the conversations that these two have are effective enough so to just throw some torture in there seemed a bit like a cheat. Secondly, it was pretty obvious that Jeff would never really be able to do anything terrible to Hayley considering that Page was pretty young when this film was going on and I think that Slade would have had a lot more problems to deal with rather than just his subject material, if he showed anything that had her fully harmed in anyway.

However, my last point is brought up in the situation we have with the character Jeff. Yes, this character is pretty much a slime-ball who basically came to this little “meeting” to do nothing else other than bring a young girl home and try to mess around for a little bit. The guy is a shit, no doubt about that, but there are things that happen to him that I feel are very questionable. The levels of torture that this guy has to go through seemed like it was a little too torturous even for a person like Jeff himself. Maybe I’m not the right person to make that call considering I have never been through any sort of sexual experience with an older person, but then again I’m just thinking like a human. Things get terribly bad for Jeff to the point of where he is given a decision at the end and I don’t know what I would do in his situation, but by the same token, I don’t think a person should ever put to these types of limits and in the end that’s what the film is trying to show us. I probably missed the point of this flick, but I still think that this film went a little too far with its torture as well as when it came to Jeff’s circumstances. Poor pedophiles, they just want to be loved. Then again, they should watch who they message next time.

This film is essentially two people going at it with one another for a whole hour and 40 minutes but it works because of the two stars that portray them. Patrick Wilson is great in this role as Jeff. One of the main reasons why this guy is so good here is because even though we know right from the start that this guy is a dirt, he still makes us question whether or not he’s the monster we perceived him to be in the first place. Wilson constantly toys with our feelings and emotions towards how we feel for him, but it’s also a lot of the more emotional scenes that rang true for me as well considering that this is an actor that we rarely get to see so so up-front in our faces with sadness and confusion.

The real stand-out for this flick though is Ellen Page here as Hayley, aka every pedophiles worst enemy. Page is amazing here because she totally makes us think twice about her in every way. There are moments where a lot of the things she does is very questionable (honestly, how could a person plan out something like this so perfectly?) but she seems so hip, smart, and intelligent for her age that it’s also quite believable. She’s a chick that always seems one step ahead of Jeff, and even the audience, and it’s also one of those performances where Page really seems like she’s too smart for anybody’s good. She practically commands every scene and never loses sight of what this script and film was trying to say and convey.

Consensus: Hard Candy is exactly that: it’s perfectly-acted, hard to watch, tense, and makes you think about the world of internet chat and how we view sexual predators in our lives. Yes, it can get very gruesome at times but it still is a flick that will have you question certain things about how you think and feel, and if any film can do that to me then that’s a good one in my book.

8/10=Matinee!!

 

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

This is where the mutants started to get annoying.

When scientists develop a miracle drug to treat unwanted mutations, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his heroic band of X-Men must battle a group of mutants known as the Brotherhood, led by Xavier’s former ally (Ian McKellen).

So after checking this whole series out, I’ve come to realize that Bryan Singer is awesome and Brett Ratner is stupid. Basically sums up this film pretty well.

The action is what really will hold you over this whole film, even though all of it looks like it was done for a video-game. There were a lot of cool special effects used here such as the Golden Gate Bridge being moved, a cool scene with a lake being turned inside out, and just about every single shot in the last 30 minutes. You get constant carnage left and right, and for the most part, it was good carnage and I could tell what was actually going on.

However, there’s not a real story here to keep me going. For some odd reason I felt bored for the first hour or so, just watching this story develop because nothing felt as meaningful or atmospheric as the first two did. I didn’t feel like Ratner really knew exactly what to do with all of these mutants and characters, so instead only focused on about two or three, and the rest were just sort of just shoved off to the side.

This one’s also a little bit more silly than the last two, which I didn’t really mind, but a lot of this just didn’t feel as genuine as Singer’s did. The screen-writers and directors took away what made the first two movies so good— the character story lines. The depth that the characters had in the first two movies was almost nowhere to be found in the third.

These interesting story lines were replaced by a movie completely full of “big booms”. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well filmed battle scene, they really help move a film along, but I don’t like it when they take the place of character plots. Ratner’s main problem is that he doesn’t know the difference between a glamorous action movie and a glamorous action movie with a well developed set of characters conforming to a great story, and sadly that plays out here.

The cast here is full of familiar faces such as Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Shawn Ashmore, and Anna Paquin. Plus there’s also some new faces with the likes of Kelsey Grammar (why?!?), Ben Foster, Vinnie Jones, and Ellen Page. Everybody here tries their best to their advantage but the script doesn’t even care if they are in this story or not and it doesn’t matter what they do with their lines, there all so cheesy and meant for the next big explosion.

Consensus: It may sound like I hate this film but I don’t. The problem with X3: The Last Stand is that it’s terribly weak compared to the first two because it’s more about the action, and less about the actual characters that inhabit this story. The action is good and the special effects will hold you over, but compared to Bryan Singer’s first two, this last installment is lame.

5/10=Rental!!

Super (2011)

Basically Kick-Ass with a lower-budget.

When his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in league with a drug dealer, average guy Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) dons the guise of a superhero, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt and tries to keep a tagalong comic-book store clerk (Ellen Page) from becoming his sidekick. But it’s hard to be a superhero when all you’ve got to work with is a pipe wrench.

When I first saw the trailer for this way back when, I didn’t buy it, and just thought it was going to be a complete rip-off of Kick-Ass. In a way it is, but it still works.

Writer and director James Gunn is very good here with this already pretty dark story, and putting some comedy into it and heart here. It starts off as a parody of those super-hero films that we all see, but then turns into one of its own and dives into some very dark and disturbing places. I have to say some of this comedy doesn’t work because it’s almost too terrible to even laugh at, but I have to say I felt uncomfortable at times, and I think that’s what the film wanted to do.

There is also loads and loads of blood, gore, and just really hard-to-watch violence. Some of it will keep you watching and actually rooting for more, while others will just have you totally horrified and taken aback by what you see. Basically, if you’re squeamish, don’t see this film.

My main problem with this film is that Gunn tries to make the audience actually feel bad for rooting this violence on which I did not understand. I guess that Gunn was trying to comment on how we see violence in our every-day life and it’s basically glorified, but this film is pretty much doing the same exact thing here. I didn’t get what he was trying to say, if anything at all, and to be truly honest I think that Gunn could have done a better job of getting his point across.

Rainn Wilson is totally awesome here as Frank aka Crimson Bolt, and is playing this character very straight-laced and normal, with barely anything funny, but he totally gets lost in the character. Wilson is good at making this loser, who turns crazy and wants vengeance, seem believable and actually likable. I think Wilson should keep on doing more roles like these because they actually do work. Liv Tyler is here and does a good job at just being there. Kevin Bacon is great at playing this slime-ball, Jacques, and although he is a total asshole, he still manages to bring laughs out. Nathan Fillion is funny here as The Holy Avenger, the Christian channel superhero who fights off evil. However, Ellen Page is the real delight in this film as Libby who comes out of nowhere and you expect her to be really annoying, but somehow is a great character which Page plays to perfection and her best scenes are with Wilson where they just are total opposites, but seem believable friends.

Consensus: James Gunn’s supposed message may get a little messy, especially towards the end, but has some very dark laughs, a good story, and great acting that keep us involved with this sometimes gruesome superhero tale.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Whip It (2009)

Roller Derby looks like it frickin’ kills. Especially if your a chick, cause then your nails are always breaking.

Escaping her smothering mother’s (Marcia Gay Harden) beauty pageant plans for her, small-town Texas teen Bliss (Ellen Page) joins an all-girl roller derby team in Austin and begins living a thrilling double life as Babe Ruthless — a life that might catch up with her.

So this is Drew Barrymore‘s directorial debut, and you can tell. The film is much like her, not too creative, but very cute, I could just see her behind the scenes going in her little voice: “Yeah we’re going to skate”. She’s alright with her first film, but she doesn’t know how to set a tone, or pace all that well.

There would be moments in this film, that would move pretty fast, but then it would just get dreadfully slow, and your starting to actually hope they would just go to the roller derby scenes. But the sad thing is, they aren’t even that fun to watch. They are so poorly choreographed, and the camera work is pretty cool, you can’t help but think that you should be feeling so much more excitement when your watching chicks, on skates, beating the hell out of each other.

The screenplay, I thought could have been a little bit better. I will not lie, some parts did have me laugh, but other than that, I found this story nothing new. I’ve seen it all before, and the problem is that the film doesn’t do much else to take my mind away from that. It’s heart is in the right place, and the scenes with Bliss and her mother, work very well, because of how true they are, but it almost seems wasted in a film about chicks on skates.

Ellen Page may get on most people’s nerves, but she’s actually very good in here, and less annoying than you would expect her. Marcia Gay Harden does an even better job playing her mother that just can’t accept her passion, and the scenes these tow have are great together, as noted above. I also liked seeing Daniel Stern, back in action. Juliette Lewis plays that mean, snobby, bitch we all know and love/hate her for, and she doesn’t shy away from that act at all here, and well it’s still good. The guy who plays the coach, Andrew Wilson, just reminded me of bearded Owen Wilson, when in reality, that’s Wilson’s brother. He does a good job here, and I think he should try to pursue more small, comedic roles, but he needs to get a new shtick, so he doesn’t get annoyed about his brother. There are also nice other supporting roles from Eve, Kristen Wiig, Alia Shawkat, and Jimmy Fallon, doing what he does best, acting like a total nut ball.

Consensus: It’s an overly familiar story, that is showered down by a pace, and tone that may annoy some, but it’s heart is in the right place, and the performances bring a lot to the table.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Inception (2010)

I don’t mind to sound corny or anything, but this movie really is a dream come true.

Inception deals with the concept of sharing dreams with Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb, a conman who enters the dreams of others and steals ideas from their subconscious (known as “extraction”) for unknown employers. After a lengthy career in dream thefts and being away from his family, Cobb is offered a job of the seemingly-impossible task of “inception,” the crime of implanting an idea instead of stealing one, and he assembles a crew (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Ken Wantanbe, Ellen Page, and Dileep Rao) to pull off the perfect crime with hopes of being able to return home.

Christopher Nolan, would probably be known to your everyday person, as the guy who directed The Dark Knight. That is true, but he is also the director of plenty of other movies, that the everyday person may not know about, that totally mess with your mind. Films like: Following, Memento, The Prestige, and Insomnia. In this, he combines both of his different styles together, and gets my favorite film of 2010 thus far.

The script itself has all the elements of The Matrix. There’s a lot of talk about life, and how we are living a dream-world, and our minds create illusions for ourselves, and all that other hickory-doo. However, it comes out in such a good way, that it’s too hard to ignore. It never shows us the “What if…” side, but always brings up the side about dreams, and our illusions, and how we make things up in our world, just to make ourselves feel better with the life we have, and what would we do if someone was to take them away from us. It makes you think a lot, almost too much for a damn summer blockbuster, and I might just think twice about my dreams when I wake up the next morning.

The plot, at first, may confuse the crap out of so many people, hell, it confused me, but after awhile you start to get a whole feel for the film, and you understand what’s going on, how everything happens the way it does, and although the answers may never be fully explained to you through words, you kind of make assumptions as the film goes along.  It doesn’t hold your hand the whole time, but yet, it doesn’t let you go, and fall behind, creating a wall between the material, and the audience, which is hard for any psychological thrillers in today’s film world.

But any film can have a good script, and cool plot, but still boring as shit. This is where this film is different from all others of the same kind. The action scenes were also very good. They were more stylized and tense than bombastic, something along the lines of James Bond, where Nolan obviously draws inspiration from, and I thought that it worked perfectly well for a film with this kind of concept. The tense situations the characters get into toy with the minds of the audiences without throwing them out of the film, and when bullets and fists start flying, you get treated to some of the most unique action scenes. But it’s not just the fight sequences that make this film fun, it’s the visuals, and all the tricks Nolan has up his sleeve to make things unique. The visual aspects in this film will take your breath away. I liked how Nolan, in a world where 3-D is on every the big screen every damn weekend, he sticks it straight, with the original 2-D visuals, which I think I loved more than any 3-D film I’ve ever seen. He uses a lot of CGI, but it doesn’t look like it at all, it really does look these people are walking around in a world, that they have created themselves, and as they start to change it around, it looks even cooler, cause your wondering, just how they made this seem all realistic. My favorite scene that rightfully shows how great of a director Christopher Nolan can be with the setting, and many tricks, is the fight scene in the hall-way. If you saw the first trailer, you have seen what some of it looks like, but the whole scene with that makes you think: “How in the hell did they do this?”. It is literally the greatest film sequence I have seen in awhile, probably one of my favorite Top 5.

The whole ensemble cast is what really lifts this too. Leonardo DiCaprio, is well, what you would expect him to be, is great as usual. He plays that sort of troubled, straight-forward guy in almost all of his movies, but it’s never really seem to have worn out. The film may be advertised as the Leo show, when in reality, its the rest of the cast, that keeps us in. Ellen Page ditches her smart-ass teen days, and actually shows some good acting skills, giving us a look at the potential she has, as a serious actress, although she will always be remembered as Juno. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is one my favorites, is showing up in more stuff, and is good to see on-screen cause he handles a lot of the big dramatic scenes, really well, almost showing up Leo. Yes! I said it! Gordon-Levitt vs. DiCaprio on PPV. That’s something I would always pay to see. Tom Hardy is good here, bringing a lot of funny moments to the film, but not without showing he is still a bad-ass, and can whoop some booty. Ken Watanabe is also good, however, I couldn’t understand him a lot, he still doesn’t lose his composure while on-screen. Cillian Murphy, another one of my favorites, shows up and gives some more good scenes, with an American accent, that actually seems real. It was also good to see Marion Cotillard, playing a different type of role, than the strong female lead. She is playing a crazy chick, and is shown in some pretty dramatic scenes, but she still holds her own, and I have to give her props for that, cause I could see plenty of actresses messing that up. I was disappointed to see Lukas Haas, Michael Caine, and Tom Berenger, get little bitch roles, but it’s whatever, I was glad with the cast they got.

The film is not perfect, the film doesn’t show us a glimpse into these characters lives. They don’t have enough in their roles to show how great they are or how great they can really be. But despite that, I still had a good time watching these actors perform all together.

Consensus: Inception is the rare summer blockbuster that has almost everything you could want in a film: fun action, interesting plot, original screenplay, unique and stylish visuals, inspired direction, and wonderful performances from an ensemble cast. It’s not perfect, but it’s damn sure as hell close to it.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!!

Smart People (2008)

I wish some of these people were actually smart.

An unexpected romance with a charming former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) and a surprise visit from his wild adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church) conspire to turn the life of widowed professor Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) upside down in this witty dramedy from director Noam Murro. But after nursing his bitterness for so many years, is the self-absorbed academic ready for change? Ellen Page and Ashton Holmes co-star.

Surprisingly, the film actually brings out a couple of well-earned laughs. With its sardonic tone about academics, this film may come as to be, well no pun intended, too smart for some people with its humor.

It is dark and at the same time witty. The wit barely ever loses its flavor throughout the whole run time. A movie that expresses the point that smart people too, can be quite stupid, and that a high IQ isn’t the only thing that makes you smart, there are things that can’t be learned through books.

However, how the film starts out as a witty dark comedy, starts to turn into what we call predictable hell. The last act is very very conventional among these romantic comedy terms. During the end, I kind of had a feeling where this film was going, and I must say I wasn’t too pleased cause at times when I found the film to be spot-on about dysfunctional families, it was off the mark with its romance.

Dennis Quaid really gives a very smart, and admirable performance here as the guy who wants to change his life, but strictly can’t. Haden Church basically owns pretty much every scene he’s in, and brings out this hip slacker dude that all comedies find funny. I just had a problem with Sarah Jessica Parker and found her very miscast here, cause she doesn’t show much emotion during the scenes that allow her to show it off, and when she does it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.

Consensus: Smart People is a witty, and at times dark comedy about education and family, but falls by the third act, and may achieve some problems with its romantic comedy sub-plot.

6/10=Rental!!!