Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Miles Ahead (2016)

He didn’t pee his pants, but he was still cool.

After taking over the world of jazz and music altogether, Miles Davis (Don Cheadle), for one reason or another, inexplicably left the public eye, left to scour and hang out in his apartment, where people couldn’t bother him, nor could they even ask him questions about the next album he’ll make. It was just Miles, his music, his drugs, his booze, and his occasional friend popping on through. One day, however, he gets a knock from Rolling Stone writer Dave Braden (Ewan McGregor) who absolutely insists on getting a one-on-one story with Miles, if not just for the music, but for the sake of his fans around the world. While Miles doesn’t necessarily agree to a story, he does allow for Dave to hang around with him on these next few days, where he’ll go to his label, get in fights with high-as-hell college kids, and think hard and long about the past love he had with a woman named Frances (Emayatzy Corinealdi) – someone he clearly still loves, misses and wants back in his life, even if she doesn’t want anything to do with him, or the drugged-up life he’s created for himself.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

Pretty fly for a white guy.

There’s no denying that Don Cheadle got to make the Miles Davis biopic he has been so clearly and passionately been trying to do for nearly his whole career. And thankfully, that kind of biopic isn’t the typical, run-of-the-mill pieces we’re all so used to and annoyed of. Sure, if you have an interesting enough subject to work with, I bet using the old formula of rags-to-riches may work, but for someone like Miles Davis, it doesn’t seem to fit. If anything, a biopic made about the man, the myth, and yes, the legend, needs to be as idiosyncratic, as unpredictable, and as wild as the man himself was.

And yes, Don Cheadle gets a chance to make that movie.

Does it always work? No, not really. But is it at least entertaining and a lot better than some of the yawn-inducing passion projects we’ve seen from Hollywood stars cut from the same cloth as Don Cheadle? Yes, and that’s perhaps its best attribute.

Throughout Miles Ahead, Miles Davis is seen as a bad-ass who takes his gun out, points it at people, kicks people’s asses, says what he wants, does what he wants, and doesn’t like to mince words or emotions with people he doesn’t care about, or at all. What Miles Davis wants to do, as we can tell from this movie, is just live the life he wants to live. That’s why, for the longest time, Miles Ahead plays very much like a toned-down, but relaxed character-study where, occasionally, we’ll get a random action-sequence with Miles Davis running for his life, or getting in a car-chase, or shooting random people, but we’ll still get those smaller, more humane moments of character where we get a chance to see Miles Davis as the man behind the legend.

Sure, we’ll see and get to hear a lot of what we expected from Davis, but at its heart, Miles Ahead wants to also show that there was a more painful and aching heart deep within Miles Davis that didn’t always shine through with the people around him, but was definitely around and made him the rough, tough and ragged some people obviously saw him as. That’s probably why, as Miles Davis, Don Cheadle was a great choice; Cheadle himself can do meek and mild quite well, as well being funny and gritty, all at the same time. Even when it seems like Miles Davis is a mean, almost despicable human being who doesn’t care for those who actually love and support him, Cheadle will show a small bit of humanity that will make us sympathize with this character a bit more, even while we’re laughing at everything he does.

That said, Miles Ahead is definitely an uneven movie.

There's always one lady to ruin a man's soul. This is that lady.

There’s always one lady to ruin a man’s soul. This is that lady.

You can definitely tell that Miles Ahead is Cheadle’s first movie as a director, because it doesn’t always tonally work. Certain sequences where someone’s shot, beat-up or severely injured, will be played for laughs, in a dark kind of way, whereas in the next scene, we’ll get a flashback to a time when life was lovelier and simpler for Davis. It’s good that we get these scenes and in a way, I don’t mind the scenes of violence and ass-kicking, but after awhile, you start to question what kind of movie Cheadle wanted to make. Did he want to make a heartfelt, detailed and emotional tribute to the man we all knew as Miles Davis? Or does he want to make a fun, exciting and wild tale about Miles Davis, someone who, yes made some great music, but also took plenty of pleasure in knocking people out when push came to shove?

Honestly, I never fully figured that out. However, I will give Cheadle credit for at least trying something new, fun and interesting with the biopic formula. Cause, if anything, I wished the movie would have been more about Davis hanging out/around with Ewan McGregor’s Dave Braden. McGregor, believe it or not, is actually quite charming here and gives Braden a personality that goes beyond just being an annoying, overly clingy journalist who just hounds Davis for answers to his questions. Together, too, they have a great bit of chemistry that is definitely unusual, but still works because they share something of an understanding that there’s a certain love of music between the two and therefore, they need a little excitement out of life. Even though Braden may not be a totally interesting character, he and Davis still feel like the oddest, if well-matched buddies ever put on the screen.

Especially in a musical biopic of Miles Davis.

Consensus: As Cheadle’s directorial debut, Miles Ahead works as a nice, well-acted change-of-pace from the typical biopic formula, but also feels a bit uneven and could have definitely benefited from a few reworkings.

7 / 10

Please let me drink with you!

Miles! I want to party with you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jane Got a Gun (2016)

But how easy was it for her to get that gun? Any background checks?

One morning, one just like any other one, where her husband has gone out for work, her daughter is playing in the front-yard, the sun is setting, the weather is nice, and there doesn’t seem to be a single chill in the air, something happens to Jane (Natalie Portman) that changes her life forever. Her husband (Noah Emmerich) ends up coming home, but with two bullet holes in him. Why did he get these? How? Who is to blame? Well, turns out that her hubby has been on the run from the law for quite some time and because of that, he’s been targeted by the ruthless and vicious John Bishop (Ewan McGregor), and the rest of his ragtag group of bastards, and now, they’re coming to finish off the job and, possibly, get rid of Jane, too. Obviously, Jane isn’t going to go down without a fight, which is why she knocks on the door of her ex-boyfriend (Joel Edgerton) to help fight off these evil baddies. Obviously, this brings up old feelings of love and remorse – something that doesn’t always go well with blood and violence.

Jane has her gun.

Jane has her gun.

At one point in time, Jane Got a Gun was promising to be a pretty awesome movie. With the likes of Michael Fassbender, Natalie Portman, and director Lynne Ramsay attached to it, it not only had some bright and shiny talents to make it sound good, but possibly be good, too. Then, things got fishy. For one, Fassbender left, then so did Jude Law, and though he was cast, Bradley Cooper was the next to hit the road. While this is clearly no good for any project, still, the fact that it still featured Portman, Ramsay, and Joel Edgerton was fine enough to make it seem still at least somewhat promising. Then, inexplicably, Ramsay left on the first day of shooting and ever since then, Jane Got a Gun has been a whirlwind of confusion, release date movements, under-seen advertising and, yes, a terrible box-office.

But who’s fault is that, really?

Sure, you could put a lot of the blame on the Weinsteins for allowing Jane Got a Gun to run as out of control as it did, but at the same time, this is just what happens when you’re working in Hollywood. People don’t always stick with projects, schedules conflict, and yeah, not every project turns out the way you want it to. The only thing you can hope for is that at least some part of the original vision is still to be found, and not totally abandoned because, well, it had to be.

And in the case of Jane Got a Gun, it’s obvious that the vision and final product that director Gavin O’Connor comes together with, was very different from Ramsay. Obviously, it’s clear what attracted Ramsay to a story like this; one about a strong, female character, front and center, taking over her life, kicking ass, and making baddies pay for it, all while in front of some beautiful landscapes. However, what would have been a very interesting movie with her take, gets lost in O’Connor’s, where it’s less about building the character of Jane and instead, showing us how terrible her life is, while focusing a whole lot more on the action than anything else.

Joel doesn't.

Joel doesn’t.

Which isn’t to say that the movie is nearly as bad as it’s made out to be. Sure, it’s disappointing, given the cast and crew involved, but at times, it can still be a enjoyable enough Western to where it doesn’t feel like the studio tinkered around with it enough to ruin it, nor does it feel like everyone involved was just cashing it in. Somewhere along the way, yes, Jane Got a Gun was probably left without any spirit or hope, but there’s some effort given on O’Connor’s part, where it seems like he wants to make a pretty Western, and does a fine job at that. Not to mention that some of the action is actually entertaining, as well as bloody – something that you don’t too often see in Westerns nowadays, unless they’re really trying to not make money at the box-office.

Oh, and the cast is pretty good, too.

Sure, nobody here really excels better than the rest, because the script doesn’t seem too concerned with actually building their characters, or giving them any distinct personalities, but hey, they work with what they’ve got and sometimes, that’s all you need. Portman does a lot of stern and somewhat scared staring as Jane; Joel Edgerton takes on his character with a sweeter touch; Noah Emmerich’s husband character doesn’t get to do much except rile in bed and occasionally make his presence known; and Ewan McGregor, as the main baddie of the film, tries to give at least something of a sinister spin, but other than a pretty bad-ass ‘stache, doesn’t make much of an impression. Once again, it’s not his, or anybody else’s fault here for not making a mark, but yeah, they’re all doing their things and that is, for the most part, fine.

However, while watching Jane Got a Gun, I couldn’t help but feel like nothing was really happening. Sure, there’s a story in which we’re told that a bunch of gun-slingin’ rebels are going to start coming for Jane and her loved ones, but there’s no real tension behind it. Also, there’s a whole bunch of flashbacks that are meant to help us understand these characters and their relationships a whole lot more, but for some reason, they don’t add much of any emotion or interest. It helps that we get at least some context, but when it’s so weak and underdeveloped as this, it’s almost like what’s the point?

If anything, just give us more action and violence. That’s the least you could try and do if you’re not going to give us anything of real intrigue.

Consensus: While not nearly the disastrous mess you’d expect from all of the production scandals, Jane Got a Gun is still a bit of a dull movie, not utilizing a cast to their full talents, nor ever getting its story off the ground.

5 / 10

But he'll teach her how to gun sling anyway.

But he’ll teach her how to gun sling anyway.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Island (2005)

Everyone’s afraid of dying. Or looking ugly, too, apparently.

Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) seems to be living the full and complete life that every person on the face of planet should be. Not only does he have a nice job, but keeps a steady diet, has a good amount of friends, a rather exciting night-life, and seems to be getting closer and closer to his goal of reaching “the Island”. “The Island”, for those who don’t know, is a vacation resort of sorts for those workers who show the best performance and are definitely deserving of being given some sort of gift. Issue is, “the Island” isn’t actually what it appears to be – cause, for one, there actually isn’t an Island. Instead, it’s just a lie that’s just told to Lincoln, as well as all of his other fellow friends and confidantes who live with him in this community of sorts. And once Lincoln becomes wiser to what’s actually going, he grabs his best, perhaps closest, friend from the community, Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), and sets out to discover the truth of what’s really going on and figure out why so many people are after him and trying to kill him. The answers to his questions aren’t what he wants, or expects, but still, questions he has to live with and make something of.

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

Make-out already and make Mikey happy!

For awhile, the Island is actually a pretty solid sci-fi flick. Sure, you could definitely make the case that it’s just ripping-off almost every sci-fi flick to have come out in the past few decades that also have to do with clones ( mainly Logan’s Run), but really, it’s hard to hate the movie for actually setting something interesting up. Even though to us, the audience, we know that each and everyone of these characters are just literal clones in this huge machine that doesn’t care one lick about them, seeing how they figure it all out, react to it, and find themselves getting out of and away from said machine is, believe it or not, compelling and exciting. There’s still a few plot-holes and silly moments here and there, but overall, the Island‘s first-half finds Michael Bay taking a backseat to his idiosyncratic tendencies and just allowing for the story to tell itself.

But then, as expected, it all goes to hell once Bay realizes that he’s making this movie and can do whatever he wants.

This means that, yes, there’s a whole lot of explosions, gunshots, cars flipping over for no reason, people yelling, carnage, and most of all, product placement. None of which are actually ever exciting, fun, interesting, compelling, or feel pertinent to the story; instead, they just feel like Michael Bay taking over the wheel and going crazy because, well, he can and who is going to stop him. After all, he’s the commander of his own ship, so why should he have to listen to others when they tell him that he may want to tone it down a bit on the general havoc his movies seem to wreak?

They wouldn’t because they’d be out of a job, that’s why!

Two Obi-Wan's? Look out, Ani!

Two Obi-Wan’s? Look out, Ani!

However, it should be noted that there is at least something of a thoughtful movie tucked deep down inside of the Island, which makes it slightly better than some of Bay’s worst, but not really. The idea of these clones having hardly any life or humanity for that matter, but yet, still feeling and expressing as if they were just like humans, is a neat anecdote that, once again, has already been touched on before in sci-fi, but here, still feels like it could make the story more than just another sci-fi blow-em-up, courtesy of Michael Bay. This especially comes into play during the later-act, when Lincoln wonders what it is about his existence that he wants to save, nor why it is that he cares so much about anything at all; somewhere, the movie’s crying out desperately to be hear and understood, but it’s not getting the right guidance from Bay and it creates a jumble of a movie that wants to be two different things, but ultimately, ends up becoming one thing – which is another hectic piece of action that only Bay can produce.

And like is the case with most of Bay’s movies, the Island features some very talented people, doing some not-so very good things with their time. However, if anything, it shows that Ewan McGregor is still a very good leading-man in an action film, even if the material isn’t always there for him. Sure, he’s charming and slightly cool, but he’s also likable and seems like a genuinely smart creation that, may not have the fullest idea of what’s going on, but is at least going to take some sort of initiative to figure something out and not just stand around all day, being dirty, yet, still looking pretty. As his romantic love-interest, Scarlett Johansson does what she can here with such a limited-role, but because she’s in a Michael Bay movie, she’s mostly used to look hot, run around, and get kissed by the sexy male lead.

Obviously, Johansson has more to do with her time nowadays, but still, it’s a tad disappointing knowing what we all know about what she’s capable of doing.

And yeah, the rest of the cast, like Steve Buscemi, Sean Bean, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Djimon Hounsou all show up and try to add a little something more to the proceedings, but really, they’re just around to deliver corny lines and that’s it. Bay doesn’t really care about them, nor does he really want to give any of them enough efficient things to do with their time – he just wants to see stuff blow up and people kiss.

Which is basically Michael Bay’s career in a nutshell.

Consensus: Despite a strong start, the Island soon turns into another one of Michael Bay’s crazy, overstuffed action pics that, once again, wastes the talent of everyone involved, most importantly, a smarter script that may be lying somewhere out there.

3.5 / 10

Just die already so we know it's the end of the movie.

Just die already so we know it’s the end of the movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Angels & Demons (2009)

Always blame the Church. They’re pretty easy targets.

A few years after the events of the Da Vinci Code, it appears that Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) is back to all sorts of dangerous adventure! However, rather than being called to the scene of a crime and getting falsely accused of it again, this time, Langdon is helping out with a case that may be a whole lot more complicated and serious than he had ever expected it to be. Surprisingly, four cardinals have been snatched from the Vatican and are now mysteriously hidden all over Vatican City; one of them will be killed each hour until midnight, which will then allow for a supposed bomb to go off and take out Vatican City. Over the course of this one evening, it is up to Langdon to figure out just who is committing all of these crimes and for what reasons. Is it just a bunch of angry, disillusioned people who want to raise some hell for good chuckles? Or, are these members of a religion that, in some way, shape, or form, feel betrayed by the Catholic church and believe that it is finally their time to step up and have their voices be heard, regardless of who they may kill in the process? Well, the questions are, apparently, all in the symbols.

Imagine this, for nearly two-and-a-half hours, and you've got the first flick.

Imagine this, for nearly two-and-a-half hours, and you’ve got the first flick.

Angels & Demons is an improvement over the Da Vinci Code, however, that isn’t saying too much. For one, it’s shorter. Another, it movies a lot quicker. These two factors come into play quite well because, when you think about it, you don’t really have much time to think about why or how hardly any of this matters; the movie itself isn’t harping on those facts, so why the hell should you?

With the Da Vinci Code, it was obvious that Ron Howard and co. set out to make a very serious piece of drama that definitely didn’t spell itself out as such. Here, Howard still seems to be playing in an ultra serious playing field, but also loosens up a bit; there’s a slight bit of self-awareness to the fact that none of what’s going on actually makes sense or matters, which helped the movie seem like actual fun. Rather than just trying to make sure that the audience members at home aren’t too tired just yet, Howard kickstarts this movie’s premise and gets going right away.

Which yes, was definitely the saving grace here.

Still, by the same token, I still can’t help but feel the same problems are around this time around. For one, the plot really makes no sense and it isn’t until the very end that you begin to wonder, “Huh?”. Granted, the movie isn’t totally relying on whether or not everything gets spelled-out in a perfectly clear manner or way, but it also wants us to follow along and think that it’s clever by doing whatever it’s doing. But whenever Langdon gets into a room, stares at stuff and starts speaking about its significance, I couldn’t help but not feel interested.

There were some interesting tidbits that Langdon made about the Illuminati here that most definitely worth the listen, but everything else, not only felt/sounded like bullshit, but didn’t do much to keep the plot going. Instead, it just slowed things down a bit so that characters could drop into unnecessary exposition. Like I said before, not much of that here, when compared to the first movie, but at the same time, still a whole lot more than there should be.

For instance, take Ewan McGregor’s earnest priest character. We have an idea of what he’s about and then, all of a sudden, the other cheek possibly turns and we’re left to think of whether or not he’s someone who can be trusted. The movie never makes a clear case of why this came to be, if only to say that they’re needed to be a baddie or back-stabber found somewhere – so what better person than Ewan McGregor? McGregor, here, is fine and does what he can with a role that seems like it was written for anyone who was willing to take a pay cut, but really, everything gets bogged down to so much speaking and yammering on about lord knows what, that it almost doesn’t matter if he’s in the role or not.

Obi-Wan went to Sunday school.

Obi-Wan went to Sunday school.

You could have put me in and it still may have not mattered.

As Langdon, Hanks gets to have a bit more fun this go around, as he’s not sitting around quite as much as he was before. Instead, a good portion of the movie finds himself running around all over Vatican City, looking for clues and, occasionally, giving us a small history lesson along the way. Truly, I wouldn’t mind having this around everyday of my life, but so be it. Tom Hanks doesn’t want to hang with me, no matter how hard I try.

And as for the controversial material that so plagued the first movie? Yeah, not much here, which is actually fine. The movie doesn’t really need to harp too much on what it’s trying to say or mean with its material. It’s more concerned with just being a bit of a goofy thriller that, yeah, may or may not make much sense at the end of the day, but at least has a bit more of a grin to work with this time around and doesn’t want to be too stern and serious for the older crowd out there.

Consensus: Angels & Demons is a slight improvement over its predecessor, which may not sound like much, but also means that it’s less serious and a little bit more in-touch with its crazy side.

5.5 / 10

A lot of popes, but no Francis.

A lot of popes, but no Francis.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

SithposterBlack, is always better.

It’s now been nearly three years after start of the Clone Wars and, well, a lot has changed. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) not only has long hair now, but is also married and expecting twins with Padme. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) is more scruffier than ever and is starting to notice something strange with Anakin. While he’s happy that his student has now become more powerful and skilled than he ever was before, he’s also realizing that there’s a bit of a rebellious streak in Anakin that doesn’t put him in the good graces with the fellow Jedis around him like Windu, or most importantly, Yoda. Still, despite all of this, the two now spend most of their time here hunting down the leaders of the Separatist Army across the galaxy. Because while they do have plenty of power with the Clone Army and band of Jedis, they still have to worry about the opposing forces as Chancellor Palpatine is now plotting to take over senate and reclaim galactic rule for the Sith. What makes him all the more sinister is that he’s looking to do so with the help of a new padawan of his own choosing – one of whom, if he has his way, may be Anakin.

Nobody's fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

Nobody’s fresher than Obi-Wan. Get that through your thick skulls.

So, finally. After wading through the other two disappointing prequels, we now get to the one that matters the most: Anakin turning to the dark side. And yes, for the most part, Revenge of the Sith is most definitely the best of the other prequels. Is that saying much to begin with? No, not really. But hey, it’s saying something that makes this movie not just an enjoyable watch, but also a pretty heartfelt one, too, for old and new fans alike.

For one, this is the installment where we see Anakin finally turn the other cheek and realize there’s a lot of evil inside of him. While the reasoning for him turning into a baddie and to start killing younglings, isn’t fully realized and more of just a, “Hey, people aren’t being nice to me, so it’s time to fight back”, but it still works in a way; we know to expect it, so when he does start going off onto the dark side, it’s neat and interesting to watch. While Christensen’s acting is, once again, a bit over-the-top and crummy, the good side of it all is that we’re not supposed to like or care for him this time – we’re supposed to dislike and hate him, so it actually works in Christensen’s favor.

For better or worse, I guess.

But what works best here is that George Lucas really seems invested in what this story will become and because of that, the action-sequences have another added element of drama and suspense that was hardly found in the other two prequels. We don’t know if Mace Windu is anywhere out there in the galaxy for the original trilogy, so when he starts to have a duel with Senator Palpatine, it’s not only exciting, but quite scary; we care for Windu and we actually want him to survive.

Same goes for that amazing, ultimately epic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Not only is it one of the best of the entire franchise (which is including the original franchise), but it also does a lot in that it tells us more about these characters through the way they battle one another. Anakin will occasionally get ahead of himself and miss a move or two, whereas Obi-Wan’s every move is as calculated as ever and ready for what’s next to come. Then again, he’s getting a lot older, so he can’t always handle Anakin’s energy, which is why, when watching the battle unfold, we wonder if Obi-Wan’s going to make a wrong step or two, and bite the dust. As I said, we know what to expect with Anakin and Obi-Wan in the later trilogy, but still, Lucas does something special here in that he keeps us expecting the unexpected.

Still though, the same issues with Revenge of the Sith, have been around for the past two installments. The script’s still pretty lame and filled with all sorts of silly lines that seem as if they came out of an episode of Young and the Restless; Padme’s and Anakin’s love story, once again, doesn’t breathe a single fresh air of truth and just continues to get more and more hackneyed as it goes along; and yeah, Palpatine himself, as played by Ian McDiarmid, gets way campy, way too quick. Thing is, though, it’s easy to push a lot of these issues to the side and just focus on the fact that, you know what, the movie’s actually pretty fun and emotional.

Yoda's still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

Yoda’s still bad-ass, but we get it! You talk backwards, bro!

And “emotional” is, honestly, not something we’d come to expect with these new installments, but like I said, Lucas does something here that works and helps this movie hit a lot harder than it should.

For example, that whole sequence in which the Clones initiate “Order 66”? Yeah, some pretty rough stuff to sit back, watch and not at all relax, too. What about the aforementioned scene of the murder of those younglings? Ten years later and you know what? That scene is still incredibly screwed-up. Even the scene when Anakin goes around the switchboard room of that Lava world and kills just about every bad person from the previous installments? Yeah, that’s a little hard to watch, too. Here, it seems like Lucas finally gave into his darker, more adult side and let everyone in this story, have it. He doesn’t hold back on hardly a single person and really, it’s actually quite brutal to watch.

To me, that’s perhaps the most impressive aspect surrounding this movie and while it does make me wish that the rest of the other flicks were just like it, I still can’t help but feel pleased that Lucas didn’t end on a terribly weak-note. Of course, people will get on the movie for trying to tarnish the legacy of the originals and not be anything more than just a bunch of obvious and manipulative cash-grabs, but personally, it’s nice to see these stories told. Could they have been done so with a better director and writer on-hand? Of course they could have! But Lucas gave it his all and while, at first, it didn’t hold, he eventually got the hang of things and it’s nice to see.

Now, it’s time for the original trilogy and oh boy, can’t wait.

Consensus: Revenge of the Sith is the best installment of the prequels, which may not be saying much at all, but does show that Lucas eventually got the hang of everything that he was doing and decided to remind his audience that this story was going to get a whole lot darker and more serious as it went along. Which, thankfully, it did.

8 / 10

See? Look! They're all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

See? Look! They’re all pals in the end, collecting hefty paychecks, one gig at a time.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

First is the worst and you know what? Second is not the best.

Taking place about ten years after the events of the Phantom Menace, we now see that Anakin (Hayden Christensen) has grown up quite a bit. Though he is still learning a lot under the guidance of Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor), he’s also beginning to understand his strength and power, while also using it for the greater good of the world. But now that Anakin’s a whole lot older too, that means that he’ll be experiencing life in different ways than ever before. That’s when Queen Amidala/Padme (Natalie Portman) reenters his life and reminds him of all those feelings he had for her when he was just a kid. And since Anakin is tasked with protecting Padme after an assassination attempt on her failed, he’s made to spend a lot more time with her in which he gets to know more about her, discuss life, politics, romance, and most of all, realize that he may actually be in love. While this is all going on, the Galactic Republic and Jedi council are also trying to prevent from there being an all-out war from a separatist movement with the help of a clone army.

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I'll leave that up to you to decide

Ripping-off Blade Runner? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

So yeah, is Attack of the Clones better than the Phantom Menace? Well, yeah, of course it is. But then again, look at how low the bar has been set. Then again, I do have to give credit to Lucas for at least stepping back up to the plate with the Star Wars franchise, seeing what he could bring to the next installment and, while maybe not totally listening to the haters and their complaints, at least giving them something that they can still enjoy, regardless of if they’re old or new fans of the franchise.

And by this, I mean Lucas gives us plenty and plenty of action.

Sure, the problems with the story and character-development are still here, but they’re not on such full-display as they were in Episode 1; instead, they’re now just used as filler to get us from one action sequence to the next. In all honesty, I would much rather have that, than to be stuck watching as Anakin grew up and as Jar-Jar goofed-around and generally pissed everybody off. Speaking of the later, he’s definitely thrown on the back-burner, although, at the same time, it’s still a tad ridiculous that he’s now playing Padme’s senatorial representative.

Still though, hardly anywhere Jar-Jar anywhere is fine, because, like I said, there’s still plenty more to focus on here. One of Lucas’ strong suits has always been his skill of setting-up and handling action set-pieces, which here, all seem to work out well. There’s a nice piece between Obi-Wan and Boba Fett that not only remind us how crafty and skilled of a Jedia Obi-Wan actually is, but why Jango Fett was considered such a deadly assassin in the later movies. While he’s only seen as a kid here, the movie still sets up the fact that he’d grow up one day to be a scary, trained hitman just like his daddy. Of course, the CGI, despite being somewhat choppy, still helps these scenes to be more intriguing and fun-to-watch, although they were still clearly miles away from having everything look genuine.

And of course, yeah, the movie still does a nice job at setting-up what’s to come with this story next and just how exactly this galaxy gets set into the Clone Wars. Though most of us expect it to come very soon, while watching this movie, it’s hard not to get tense and be curious as to where all the pieces of the puzzle fall. While prequels can get annoying doing too much setting-up and not actually delivering on anything, Attack of the Clones does a nice job in that it sets a lot up for the next, action-packed installment, while still giving people a lot to lock onto here and, overall, be entertained by.

Once again, it’s not a perfect installment, but it’s still far better than anything that the Phantom Menace tried doing.

However though, the one key factor that keeps Attack of the Clones away from going anywhere towards being considered “great”, is that Anakin’s a lot older now and is played by Hayden Christensen. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t really hate Christensen as an actor; sure, he’s definitely weak and doesn’t seem to have that certain screen-presence that grabs you from the very start, but I’m hesitant to call him “a terrible actor”. In movies like Shattered Glass and even to a certain extent, Life as a House, Christensen has shown that, with the right script to read from, as well as a talented director to help guide him along, he’s actually quite fine. Not terrific, but just fine.

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

Anakin and Padme? Eck! More light-sabers!

But what he’s forced to work with in Attack of the Clones, is what sets him so far back and really, Lucas doesn’t help much. Though the script here is nowhere near as cringe-inducing and as scattered as the first flick, Attack of the Clones still suffers from a lot of the poor-wording and corniness of what we can come to expect from Lucas, and it doesn’t help that Christensen is, more often than not, the one delivering these sorts of lines. That his story-line is mostly focused on a supposed romance he has with Padme, already makes it hard to watch, but the movie constantly gives Christensen nothing to do except bitch, moan and act as if he’s never had a conversation with anyone else in his entire life.

Which is a huge problem because, well, Christensen is supposed to be the leading-force of this movie – he is, as we know, going to become the one and only Darth Vader. So why he’s such an annoying pain-in-the-ass, is totally beyond me. All I do know is that Christensen spends the majority of this flick whining or kissing, neither of which he does so in a compelling way. Is his poor acting-skills to be blamed? Potentially, yes. But at the same time, I’m still not going to rag on him too much considering I’ve seen him do well before and really, with Lucas, sometimes, you’re just left to fend for yourself.

Which, sadly, Christensen seemed as if he had to do here.

Anyway, the rest of the cast seems like they’re trying too, but like Christensen, aren’t allowed to do much beyond the boring stuff Lucas gives them to do. McGregor is more believable this time as a more seasoned, skilled and disciplined Obi-Wan; Natalie Portman seems like cynical this time around as Padme and is, sadly, left to drop the same corny lines as Christensen had to; Samuel L. Jackson gets more time as Mace Windu here and shows why he’s more of a bad-ass than most of the other Jedi’s hanging around; and Christopher Lee, despite seeming like he was a last second call to fill out a villainous role, does a nice job as Count Dooku, showing us why he’s so menacing and deserving of being a baddie that our heroes can’t seem to defeat.

Oh, and yeah, we get more of Yoda here. Which, honestly, never gets old.

Consensus: Despite the occasional script and tonal issues, Attack of the Clones is still a step-above the Phantom Menace, which may not be saying much, but still says enough if you remember Jar-Jar Binks and all the pain and torment he caused.

6.5 / 10

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Literally and hypothetically looking up.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Death to Jar-Jar.

In order to tell the story in its fullest form, sometimes, you have to go to the very beginning. In this case, we start with two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are sent in to break up some sort of intergalactic trade embargo that’s going on and interrupting all sorts of people. However, while they’re on the case, they also manage to uncover a secret, scary plot by a bunch of aliens who’s sole plan is to take over the planet Naboo by sheer force and power. While all of this is going on, the two Jedi’s also discover the presence of two Sith warriors, who were thought to be long extinct by this point, but are still a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the Jedi’s end up crossing paths with small, young slave boy who has something about him that just makes them want to work with him to be the next great Jedi. The kid’s name? Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and he is destined to be “The Chosen One”. Even though certain folks like Yoda, aren’t too sure of the kid and make it their top priority to test him every chance they get.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

It’s become almost second nature to despise the Phantom Menace. When I was around six or seven and saw this movie, I’ll never forget the feeling; there was just a certain rush of joy and excitement that I couldn’t get out of my system. I was hooked from the very beginning and all I wanted to do was see it again. Then, once that happened, I got the awesome PS1 video-game, caught up on the other Star Wars flicks, and considered myself a fan for so very long. But now, after all of these years of constantly pushing it away and not wanting to admit it, I can easily say that, well, yes, the Phantom Menace is not a very good movie.

Does that mean it’s an awfully terribly crappy one that deserves every cop in existence to burned and steam-piled?

No, of course not. In fact, there’s very few movies that actually deserve that; while my mind automatically jumps to Adam Sandler’s flicks, even then, I still find something here and there to take away. With the Phantom Menace, you get the sense that because the movie had so much hype surrounding what it was supposed to be, that when it ended-up actually becoming something of a let-down, it wasn’t just a disappointment – it was a sign of the end of the world. That the movie and George Lucas was given as much money and time as he needed to make this movie and do whatever he wanted to with it, already puts everything into perspective: Like, is this really what he wanted to do?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a nice couple bits within the Phantom Menace that are still fun and exciting, even if they feel thrown in a jumbled-up mess. The pod-racing scene, of course, is neat to watch, even after all of these years; the Jedi-battle duel at the end is by far one of the very best of the franchise; and Liam Neeson, playing the almighty dad-like figure as he’s best known for, does seem like a genuinely nice and warm figure to have around. Do all of these factors add up to a good movie? No, they do not. However, by the same token, they at least help the movie out in ways that, quite frankly, people don’t give them enough credit for.

Once again, I am in no way saying that the Phantom Menace is a misunderstood masterpiece that people just wanted to hate because they could – what I’m saying is that, well, it’s pretty lame and misguided, but not terrible.

Most of this has to do with the fact that George Lucas, who returned to directing and writing after 22 years for this, doesn’t seem like he’s always clear of what he wants to do with this story, whom to put the main focus on, or set things up for the next two movies. It’s obvious that, from the very start, Lucas set-out to make a Star Wars movie that his kids could enjoy and because of that, we’re tragically forced to sit through and watch as Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin take over the film, and hardly bring out any emotions whatsoever. Everything’s already been said about Jar-Jar, his faux-Jamaican accent, and the fact that the movie itself couldn’t get enough of his slapstick, so without trying to beat a dead horse, I’ll just say that, yes, when I was six or seven, Jar-Jar was awesome – now, he’s just super annoying and makes you feel like you’re watching a different movie.

Someone misses Leon.

Someone misses Leon.

But really, I still can’t wrap my head around the casting of Jake Lloyd in the iconic role of Anakin Skywalker. For one, as much as it pains me to say this, Jake Lloyd can’t act; though the movie seems like it wasn’t helping him out much either, there’s still the impression that the kid doesn’t know how to read his lines without seeming like he’s confused and in need of some help. This isn’t me ragging on him and being a cruel, miserable a-hole, because it’s not just his fault, but why he was pushed so far to the front of the line for this role, is totally beyond me. There’s also the idea of why he’s so young to begin with, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

And what the real shame about Lucas putting all of his focus on the likes of Jar-Jar and Anakin, is that it takes away from the overall impact of the story. Because this is the first movie of the supposed trilogy, after all, it makes sense to start things off slow, easy-going, and relatively peaceful, but really, a lot of this film just seems meandering. It’s as if Lucas wasn’t ready to scare his audience just yet, so in a way to wind them all up, he just gave each and everyone a film that’s perfectly serviceable for the whole family. Of course it worked for me when I was younger, but now, it just feels like a waste of what a great opportunity this movie could have been.

Thankfully, it gets better from here on out.

Sort of.

Consensus: George Lucas clearly had some rust when making the Phantom Menace, which will always and forever be known as the unwanted and unloved “Annie and Jar-Jar Show”, despite it not being the end-all, be-all disaster people love to hop on the band-wagon and go on about.

4.5 / 10

"Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me."

“Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Shallow Grave (1995)

ShallowposterThere’s more to life than friends. Like money, baby!

Three ordinary, middle-class friends (Christopher Eccleston, Kerry Fox, Ewan McGregor) all share a flat together and, generally, seem to be having a good time. However, they’re are in search for a flat-mate who they can hopefully sponge off of when the time comes around. They search through some – most of whom, they make fun of and tease for being lame – until they eventually settle on a person that they feel safe enough to have around in the house. This silent man (Keith Allen) eventually settles in and, wouldn’t you know it? Within a day of his residency, the dude’s already OD’ed on a bunch drugs, leaving behind his naked-body, his belongings, and most importantly, a briefcase full of cold hard cash. Seeing as how they don’t want to lose the money, the three pals decide to get rid of the man by dismembering him and burying what’s left of the body. Surely, they think this is a smart idea that will leave them alone with nobody else, but themselves and all of the money they get a chance to spend, right? Well, time begins to roll on and it becomes clear that the money’s starting to change these friends for the worst, and will continue to do so, until it’s probably too late.

"Can't a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!"

“Can’t a man get a little privacy every once and awhile!”

It’s difficult to judge a director’s debut after having seen everything else they’ve had to bring to the table. Especially when that director’s Danny Boyle. Because obviously, in the past two decades or so, Boyle has turned out to be one of the most vibrant, exciting and interesting directors on this planet. Not only does he find new stories to work with, he also never seems to make the same movie twice. While most may seem like they’re going to be one thing, all of a sudden, about half-way through, Boyle himself decides that he’s bored and switches up genres.

This is the Danny Boyle us movie-fanatics have all come to know and love, which is why it’s a bit of a shame to look at his first film and realize that, well, he wasn’t always this great?

Sure, the Beach is a perfect example of Boyle-gone-wrong, but Shallow Grave still stands as his first film. So, with that said, yeah, it’s pretty messy. Like I mentioned before about Boyle liking to change genres up about half-way through his flicks, he does so here, but it’s not all that effective, nor is it really believable. That these three characters are as normal, plain and simple as you can get, the fact that they start to turn into wild, crazy and downright evil loonies, doesn’t make all that much sense. It would make sense if the movie ever made a mention of any of these character’s having something of a dark history or past, but because Boyle doesn’t seem all that interested in actually giving us a chance to know who these characters are, it just seems random and as if Boyle had a premise he needed to fulfill.

This isn’t to say that Boyle doesn’t make Shallow Grave worth watching, or better yet, fun, but after awhile, the style can run a bit deep. The camera, as expected from Boyle by now, zooms, runs, flies, and jumps all around scenes, and also gives plenty of beautiful moments that only the eyes of Boyle could have found. There’s a certain creepiness to the way the outside world is shown in such brooding darkness, that when we do eventually find ourselves in these people’s bright, shiny and lovely-looking apartment, it’s effective. It does drive home the point that Boyle wants to make with this story about how rich, fame and fortune can make anybody sell their souls and turn evil, but that falls on deaf-ears once all of the blood and gore comes around in the final-act.

Nobody in the cast is really to be blamed for that much, either.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

Imagine those kids living on top of you.

It’s nice to see Eccleston, Fox and McGregor in such early, fresh-faced roles, but they do seem as if they’re trying to compensate for some of the script’s problems. Though these characters are mostly obnoxious, self-centered and unlikable, doesn’t mean that the movie itself has to be bad; there are loads of movies that focus in on/revolve around mean, nasty characters and yet, still work. However, the difference between these characters is that we never get to see anymore light shine through them than just what Boyle’s presenting. We have an idea of who these characters are early on, but eventually, the alliances start to change, revelations are made clear, and people start getting hurt. When this all begins to happen, too, there’s supposed to be a feeling of some sort of emotional or remorse for what’s about to happen, but because we don’t really get a chance to find out who it is that these characters actually are, makes all of the bloodshed feel empty.

And once again, this isn’t to say that Shallow Grave is a bad film by any chance; that it’s a movie made by the hands of Danny Boyle already puts it higher on the list of most other films. But, having seen what he’s been able to do with such solid flicks like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine (or at least half of it, anyway), 127 Hours, Trance, and hell, even the Olympics’ opening-ceremony, it makes this movie pale a lot more in comparison. He was a first-time director trying to hone his craft, work his own sense of style and make sense of it, which definitely makes the movie an interesting one to watch, but by the same token, also makes you happy that Boyle eventually got his act together not too long after this.

Although, yeah, the Beach is a terrible movie.

That’s something I will always stand by.

Consensus: Seeing as how it was his directorial-debut, Shallow Grave remains an interesting, albeit mildly interesting picture in Danny Boyle’s filmography, although it’s clear that he had to brush up on his skills quite a bit.

6 / 10

"The more champagne, the merrier", somebody has had to say.

“The more champagne, the merrier”, somebody has had to say.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Mortdecai (2015)

Funny ‘staches, get it?

Lord Charlie Mortdecai (Johnny Depp) is an eccentric British chap who likes fine women, fine drinks, fine food, fine cars, and most importantly, fine art. So much so, that it’s actually gotten him and his luscious wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) into a bit of debt; $8 million dollars in debt, to be exact, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s most important now is that Charlie and his trustee, self-proclaimed “man servant”, Jock Strapp (Paul Bettany), track down a piece of stolen art, so that they don’t get nabbed by the MI5 agent (Ewan McGregor) for any wrongdoings that they may, or may not have been up to. However, what turns out as a simple case, gets so convoluted that nearly all of the enemies in Charlie’s life, which are many, start showing up out of nowhere – not to just gather a debt from Charlie, but possibly extract some vicious revenge for any wrongdoings he may have brought their way. It may seem all bad for Charlie, but because of ever-dashing wit and charm, he seems to look on the bright side of things, or something.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The joke here is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s interesting to note that at one point, believe it or not, Johnny Depp was actually targeted for the role of Monsieur Gustave H. in the Grand Budapest Hotel; the same role that would eventually be taken up by Ralph Fiennes. Looking back, it’s easy to see why Depp was considered for this lead role, as Depp’s certain exuberance with most roles that he tackles, seems to fit in with Wes Anderson’s world, for better and for worse. Though it’s hard to say whether or not Depp would have actually made Hotel better, the fact remains that it still would have been an interesting choice for him to take, especially considering all of the random, and sometimes inexplicably poorly-directed, dribble he’s been appearing in as of late. Save for maybe a slight cameo here and there, overall, Depp’s film choices as of late have not been anything spectacular.

And Mortdecai, as you may have already seen, is no exception.

But it’s rather strange that most of Mortdecai feels as if it is trying oh so very hard to be such a Wes Anderson movie, that it’s easy to believe that this could possibly had been Depp’s chance to take one under his belt and give it a go; although, to be fair, this would have to be a Wes Anderson movie that Anderson himself did not want to make and more or less was asleep through half of the proceedings. Director David Koepp shoots this with as much color, whimsy and slap-dash as you’d expect Wes Anderson to have created, however, there’s something missing here that most of Anderson’s movies seems to contain: Some kind of heart. Oh, and laughs, too. That’s a very, VERY big factor.

It makes sense why Koepp is going for here with this movie – in a way, he’s trying to create a silly, screwball-ish comedy ripped-out directly from the 60’s, and into the modern day and age for a new audience that may be able to appreciate what his parents were appreciating way back when. It doesn’t work, but for the first 15 minutes or so, it’s quite effective that it only took until I saw a modern-day, pro wrestling match between WWE wrestlers Sheamus and the Big Show, that I fully realized that this was not only taking place in a certain time period, but that the time period was actually the 21st century. Hiding when exactly this story’s taking place isn’t a neat conceit, as much as it’s just a lazy way of trying to throw your audience for a loop, seemingly because it’s all you’ve got.

And in the case of Depp and Koepp, in what’s their second team-up since Secret Window, there’s really not much for the audience to get a firm grip on, so any distractions that they can throw our way necessary is all that they want to do. Maybe less so in the case of Koepp, because while his film doesn’t have its funny bone working at all, nor does it seem to realize that there’s more to life than just testicle-gags, he seems to at least dress this movie nice and handsomely enough that it’s fine to look at. It’s even enjoyable to listen to, so long as nobody’s speaking or trying to make us laugh, because it never works.

But nope, I have to say that most of the problems to be found within this movie, and the one who seems to be trying so utterly and desperately hard to distract us is Johnny Depp – an actor who, I think we can all agree on, was one of the most talented, exciting talents working in mainstream Hollywood. Nowadays, it seems as though Depp has become nothing more than just a parody of his own-self, where he produces certain films that give him the leading-role, while also allowing for him to stretch his funny-wings as far as he can, even if th

The joke here is boobs.

The joke here is boobs.

ey are beyond their initial-reach. That’s not to say that Depp isn’t funny; the man definitely has a talent for making many normal circumstances seem all the more zany because of what he brings to the table, but here, as Charlie Mortdecai, it’s so obvious that’s he really going for it here, that it makes you uncomfortable.

Sort of like that uncle you don’t see too often, who constantly tells the story about how you peed yourself when you were over his house and rather than understanding it’s a story nobody wants to hear repeated when they’re 35-years-old, married, and with kids, he still persists on going through with it because, well, what the hell, it gets a few giggles out of the surrounding crowd. The difference between the sad and lonely uncle I’ve just described and Johnny Depp, is that maybe, in the off-chance that the uncle has bribed somebody beforehand, people are actually laughing along with said uncle. As for Depp, he’s the only one laughing. And giggling. And sneezing. And cavorting. And whizzing. And, well, you get it.

Depp’s doing a lot here, and while I give him kudos for at least trying his damn-near hardest, it gets to become downright annoying after awhile. The only ones who actually make some way for comedy are the ones surrounding him, and even they have hardly anything to work with. Paul Bettany plays Mortdecai’s “man-servant” (get it, cause it’s kind of referencing gay-stuff), who has a running-gag that he can’t keep it in his pants and is constantly banging random girls, that is, whenever Mortdecai himself is not accidentally injuring him; Gwyneth Paltrow, despite being absolutely despised by practically everybody with a computer and/or Twitter, is actually quite charming in movies still and it’s nice to see her bring some life to an otherwise forgettable character; same goes for Ewan McGregor who, with his character’s gimmick that he fawns after Mortdecai’s wife’s every move, brings some much-needed wit and spark; and Jeff Goldblum, god bless his heart, shows up for maybe five minutes and does nothing. Absolutely nothing.

God, now I really want to watch a Wes Anderson movie.

Consensus: Not only is Mortdecai unfunny, but it also highlights something of a career-low in Johnny Depp’s filmography where he’s taken it upon himself to be the center of attention and never let us forget that he wants to make us laugh, or happy, by any degrading means possible.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

The joke here is mustache, because well of course.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

August: Osage County (2013)

A family reunion at Orange County probably would have cooled everyone off just a tad bit.

After her dear hubby, Beverly (Sam Shepard), turns up dead at the bottom of a lake, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) is left alone, confused, upset and pissed-off at just why the hell the man she’s been married to for half of her damn life would leave her in such a horrific, unexpected way. And since the body has been found and claimed, that can only mean one thing: Funeral arrangements! Actually, better yet, that also means another thing: Family reunion! Violet’s three daughters come up for the funeral and, presumably, haven’t seen one another for quite some time, either due to the fact that they don’t like one another, or got too much already going on in their respective lives that they don’t really have much time to chat-it-up every once and awhile. The oldest, Barbara (Julie Roberts), is going through her own crisis of sorts with her failing marriage to college professor Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), and the fact that she can’t seem to connect with her 14-year-old daughter (Abigail Breslin) any longer; Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is the middle-child and practically the only one who decided to stay back and watch over mom, dad and the house, but also has a bit of a crisis on her own that just so happens to be more controversial than anything else going on here; and the baby of three girls, Karen (Juliette Lewis), is a bit of a gold digger that’s had plenty of flings in the past, but is now with a man (Dermot Mulroney) who is ten years older than her and may not be a perfect fit. There’s also plenty more where that came from, so just enjoy the show! Or play, whatever you want to call it!

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so much more.

Not since the release of The Phantom Menace has Ewan wanted to run and hide himself in a corner so badly.

Though I’ve never seen the play, from what I hear, it’s a stunning piece-of-work that yes, is long, but yes, is also worth seeing. And after being a witness to its film-adaptation, I think I might just have to. Which is very strange considering that this was actually adapted from the man who created the original play himself, Tracy Letts, and in case you couldn’t tell with Letts, the guy definitely has an ear for dialogue. Especially those of some pretty messed-up, dysfunctional people that you may not always like, but you can always watch, even in their most questionable moments.

That’s why after seeing two other film-adaptations of his plays (Bug and Killer Joe) I feel like the standard has been set for what a stage-to-film-adaptation can be, let alone one those of Letts’ own creation. Which is why when I saw the huge ensemble director John Wells put together here, I felt like I just could not miss out on this, not even for the world. And for the most part, I wasn’t wrong, because while plenty in this flick doesn’t necessarily work to the best of its ability, the cast consistently puts in great work, which is definitely something to commend, especially considering that they’re given dialogue to work with that is in and of itself a bit too taut and awkward for their own good.

Actually, the same could be said about the direction from Wells also, as this feels more like a forced-job than anything else. See, the complaints that I heard with both Killer Joe and Bug (moreso Joe, than Bug), was that too much of it felt “stagey”. Which is, in essence, exactly what it’s supposed to be, but not done so in a way that makes it feel like you’ve shelled-out money to just see a bunch of people do the same things that you could have seen them do on a big, ole’ stage. It’s quite tricky for a director to maneuver an adaptation around so much so that you don’t have too many scenes where a person will walk into a room, talk about god knows what for ten minutes, go into another room, talk about god knows what for ten more minutes, and then continue to do so until another person decides to take the throne, go into a room, and talk about god knows what for ten minutes. It all just gets to the point of where it’s been so rinsed-out and recycled, that you feel as if you’re on “dialogue-overload”, but not in the fun way you’d hear with a Tarantino, or Scorsese flick. Rather, you’re just hearing a bunch of people rant, rave on and ramble on about crap you don’t really care for, but sort of have to because it’s right in front of your face, and will continue to be so for the next hour or two, and you can’t do a single thing about it.

Hence why that feeling of being crammed-into a place you don’t really want to be at, with a bunch of people you don’t really care for, should have worked absolute wonders for this movie. However, Wells seems like he’s bit too much of a polished film-maker where everything is all nice, clean, frothy and pretty to look-at. Which may be fine for a movie about a family who gets along, rarely ever get into any sort of scuffles with one another and find a way to look on the bright side of any dark day. But this is not a movie about that type of family. This is a movie about a bunch of mean, twisted, dark, angry and sometimes sinister people that see each other as family, but don’t necessarily treat each other as such. Instead, they treat each other as punching-bags when they feel defenseless and have nobody else to poke-fun at or pick a fight with. And when the going gets good and one gets offended, then they bring everybody else into the fight, allowing there to be more and more victims in line for the slaughter.

That’s what I saw with this family, but it was pretty clear that Wells didn’t see that and instead, makes this more of a “commercialized flick” that has plenty of arguments that dive into some pretty dark places, but end on a goofy-notes that you’d see in a feel-good, “crazy family” movie. Even the poster I decided against using promises that there will be a cat-fight by at least some of the characters here, and it gives you the impression that this is going to be a light and happy-going movie, that still has a couple of lessons about life to bestow upon us. It certainly does too, but not the kind that make you feel like you want to hug your mommy, daddy or nearest family-member. But Wells didn’t seem to get that notion and the movie feels a bit disjointed as a result.

But that disjointed feel doesn’t just begin and end with Wells’ direction, it actually can be said the same for this very talented, very entertaining cast, which is a damn shame too, considering almost everybody involved puts in some great work. The main culprit who I think probably runs the highest-risk of getting caught in the cross-fire of this movie’s production is Meryl Streep who, once again, may be putting in an amazing performance here as Violet, still feels like she’s just going for the big, over-exposed sense of acting that we usually see her do from time-to-time, but don’t have much of a gripe with because, well, it’s Meryl Streep for lord’s sakes. That doesn’t mean she isn’t good or anything, she totally is, it’s just that every scene Streep is given to act her ass-off as Violet, she doesn’t hold-back and after awhile, you start to wish that she would just tone it down a bit. I get that she’s a bitch in the play and that’s probably how she was written in the first place, but Meryl’s a talented-enough actress to know that a character/performance can be adapted into many different ways, using many different styles of acting.

Same can be said for Julia Roberts as Barbara who, is definitely relishing her time in a role that we don’t usually see her do, seems like she’s going for the big, the loud and the over-exposed, rather than just taking it down a notch here and there. Roberts is still great and shows us why she doesn’t just have the looks, but the talents as well, but the problem remained that whenever her and Streep were on the same screen together, it seemed like they were both trying too hard to steal the spot-light from the other. It does make the slightest bit of sense when you take into consideration the fact that their characters are supposed to be constantly at-battle with one another, but most of the time, they just end-up in screaming bouts that only seem to go on and on and on, without much entertainment involved whatsoever. You’re just watching two of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses go up against one another and, for lack of a better word, do shop.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

The dinner table: Where it all goes down.

Some of it may be fun to watch, but after awhile, the act begins to get a bit old and you begin to wonder why one of them doesn’t just leave the other one’s sight for the rest of eternity. And don’t feed me that “family is everything” bullshit either.

While Streep and Roberts are more than likely going to be the sole-performances here that get plenty of the awards-attention (and in some cases, rightfully so as they definitely do put in some great work), I can’t help but feel like there are some far better, more in-tuned performances left out on the side, looking in while these two wild ladies go at it. Margo Martindale has been putting in great work practically everywhere she shows up, and does a fantastic job as Aunt Mattie, playing-up both sides of her act that we see many times. She can be either very, very sweet, with just a slight sense of sarcasm, or terribly mean and cruel to those around her. She’s great here and in ways, feels like she would have been a better casting-decision for the role of Violet than Streep. In ways. Chris Cooper is also great as her very calm, very peaceful hubby that you can tell doesn’t take much of crap from anyone, but surely isn’t the one to keep a fight going on once it’s already begun.

But somehow, the real stand-out among this whole cast is Julianne Nicholson who gets by on playing it soft, sweet and rather subdued, which is a shock considering all of the havoc going on around her. Maybe it was just that she was granted a better role than the others in this movie, but she was the one I resonated with the most and actually felt bad for, whereas everybody else seemed like just a bunch of mean a-holes that I didn’t want to spend another second with. Loved listen to them bicker and bat with one another, but if this was my own family, I think I would have to move away to a whole other state, let alone country.

Consensus: There seems to be a bit of a disjoint in the way in which August: Osage County is supposed to tell its story, which causes plenty of problems with its tone and overall message at the end, but watching all of these talented actors just do work with one another, whether it be small and subtle, or loud and over-bearing, is always worth watching, especially if some of those said “talented actors” just so happen to be Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Chris Cooper, just to name a few.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Cheer up, girls! It's not like two of you won't get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark....

Cheer up, girls! It’s not like two of you won’t get nominated, while the other gets left-out in the dark….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Black Hawk Down (2001)

Did the U.S. Army actually screw up for once? And come close to admitting it?!?! What is this?!?

It’s the fall of 1992 in Mogadishu, Somalia, and just about every citizen of that city is starving to death. Why? Well, powerful warlords are using starvation as a fear-tactic to knock down the weak, get the strong ones, and find out who is most loyal to fighting the good fight. This doesn’t seem like such a nice thing in the eyes of Americans, so it’s seems obvious that the next the U.S. army would take would be to go over there themselves and show them the right way to live and be socially acceptable. In order to do this, they need to capture a powerful warlord named Mohamed Farrah Aidid, the same warlord who declared war on the remaining U.N. personnel still left in his territory. Together as one, the U.S. Army Rangers, Delta Force soldiers, and 160th SOAR aviators all gang up to capture him in what is snow-balled as a “30 minute mission”, no more, no less. However, when one soldier (Orlando Bloom) makes the rookie mistake and gets badly injured in the heat of the battle, that’s when all of the forces begin to fall apart, lose formation, balance, and sight of what they’re in this land for anyway. Suddenly, a 30 minute mission becomes a whole day-affair with more than a few casualties, and families with members taken away from them, as a result.

"Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition."

“Exposition, exposition, oh, and before I forget to mention it: Exposition.”

So marks the fifth and most likely not going to be my final, viewing of this movie and needless to say, time has not done this one well. That’s less of a hit on this movie, and more of a hit on the type of pretentious movie reviewer I have become, but so be it! The fact of the matter is that even though the film has lost its steam in certain spots over the years, the spots that worked so well for me in the first place, still do work. And that all goes back to Ridley Scott’s direction which is, once again, nothing short of spectacular.

It’s common-knowledge now that Scott doesn’t just take a piece of material because he wants to get a new cover for his Jacuzzi; he takes it because he wants to, and feels so passionate about it that he’ll put his whole heart, mind, body, and soul into it. Sometimes, that can usually backfire on him, which is why he is one of the very few filmmakers working today to have director’s cut editions on almost all of his movies, but for the most part, the guy knows what he is doing behind the camera, and it allows for the viewer to take a peak inside of his mind, see what he sees, and wonder just how the hell he was able to cobble all of these pieces of film together to make one, long, cohesive story.

Maybe that’s why the movie won Best Editing all of those years ago. Just maybe.

But anyway, the landing-point for this tangent is that Scott, no matter how hollow the stories he works on may be, he himself, as a director and visual artist, is not. As soon as the movie begins, you feel as if you’re right there with each and every one of these soldiers just shooting the shit, cracking jokes, trying to prove whose ding-a-ling is bigger than the other’s, and so on and so forth. This starts things off on the right, if not more relaxed, foot, so that when things do start to get all crazy and jumpy, not only do we get hit with a sure rush of energy, but make us feel like all of the nice, happy, and playful vibes have gone elsewhere. This is where the material gets serious, and pretty damn violent as well.

However, the violence in this movie never oversteps its boundaries into “gratuitous” territory. Whenever a soldier dies, Scott clearly cares for this character and puts the spotlight right on them for however long that may be, and it gives you the general idea that yes, soldiers did die in this ill-planned raid, but also, fellow human-beings died as well. It’s sad, no questions about it, and that’s why Scott never takes his attention off the gruesome, gory details of this war/raid and has you feel as if you are right there, ducking every bullet within an inch of your life, just hoping that you have the upper-hand on your enemy, and it’s not the other way around. Sort of like warfare, isn’t it? Except that you aren’t actually participating in a war, you’re just watching it all play out, which is both comforting and tense at the same time.

So for right now, I think we’ve pretty much hammered in the fact that Scott is not to be blamed for any of this movie’s short-comings, because trust me, trust me, trust me: There are plenty to be had here. First of all, while I do respect that Scott shows the same type of respect and gratitude to those soldiers who lost their lives during that fateful raid, you never care for any of them. Or, let me try it like this: You’re never really given much of a reason to care in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to feel sympathetic as it is because they’re humans just like us, and were fighting a war, for us, however, nobody really seemed to be the most separate from the pack. Instead, every soldier, with the exception of a whole bunch of familiar faces, feels like the same person and they’re thinly-written persons at that.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah. Sorry, bud. Not buying it.

Take for instance, our lead guy in the midst of this whole battle, Josh Hartnett as SSG Matt Eversmann. Now, obviously Hartnett has never really been the type of actor to carry a film on his shoulders, which makes it strange and relatively reasonable why Scott would make him the main leader in an ensemble feature, but the kid’s never given a chance here with the lame character he has to work with. Not only does Eversmann start off with the most dull and plain motivations any character, in any war movie has ever had, but his whole arch never changes over time. He just sees the war for all of its gory, bloody despair and detail. Once again, another thoughtful pretty-boy who looks at the world as one big bargaining chip where discussion and finding a middle-ground is daily accepted among society, finds out that the world actually isn’t like that? Really?!?! Is that the type of writing we want to accompany a movie about a raid that the U.S. wrongfully envisioned and got caught with their wankers in their hands more than a few times? I don’t think so, but hey, I guess if you have Ridley Scott on-board as director, not much can really go wrong. That’s if you don’t listen to the characters when they speak, which is exactly the problem here with everybody.

Hell, even the most talented actors among this ensemble can’t even save some of these lines from coming off as terribly corny. Tom Sizemore comes close as the bad ass, tough-as-nails commander that, get this, casually walks to wherever he goes on the battlefield. This whole character gets by on Sizemore’s nasty charm, but it’s so ridiculous, that it almost makes you forget about the rest of the stars in this cast that get stuck with even worse characterizations. Jason Isaacs has a really, REALLY thick Southern drawl that never catches on; Eric Bana’s accent is even worse and makes him seem more like a surfer brah, than an actual self-righteous soldier; Jeremy Piven and Ron Eldard love to crack jokes to one another while they’re getting ready to drop off fellow soldiers into a play land full of guns, bullets, explosions, death, and all sorts of viciousness; Sam Shepard yells out orders from a comfy, cozy bunker somewhere very far, far away from where this is happening, and seems like the type of dick nobody wants to be around, on-or-off the battlefield; and Ewan McGregor’s desk-jockey character, as charming as he may be, has that one skill of being able to make a great cup of coffee. Dude would have been hella popular with Buddy the Elf, but in the middle of Mogadishu, where all sorts of guns are being discharged and explosions are, ahem, doing exactly that, does that really matter? Does that even need to be included in here? Actually, those are all rhetorical. The answer is no!!!

Consensus: Scott’s inspired, jumpy, frenetic, and chaotic direction makes Black Hawk Down a thrilling, exciting, and sometimes, scary war flick, but the script never goes any deeper with its message, motivations behind the actual proceedings, or even the real-life soldiers who were involved with it, most of whom deserve better attention and writing. Except for the coffee guy. Seriously, why was he around again?!?!?!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Must have been gnarly waves........dude.

Must have been gnarly waves……..dude.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

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

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

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

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

WEAK!! Start killing giants you bastard!

WEAK!! Start killing giants you lil’ bitch!

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

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

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

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

"Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!"

“Eat our shit, Peter Jackson!”

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

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

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

Yup, I just crapped my pants.

The Impossible (2012)

Apparently the English had it way worse than the rest of Thailand. Apparently.

Based on a real story, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as the parents of three sons as they are all caught in the aftermath of the humongous tsunami that struck Southeast Asia in 2004. They get split-up, with the oldest-boy (Tom Holland) and his mother on one side, whereas the father and the younger-boys are on the other. However, among all of the pain, destruction, and disaster  both sides set out to find one another and do, simply, THE IMPOSSIBLE. Come on, you had to know that was coming up.

The 2004 Tsunami is a disaster that is still fresh and clear in many people’s minds and in ways, still has people feeling the effects, even after all of these years. That’s why making a flick about this monster-Tsuanmi would still seem a little too soon for some, but it’s a lot more tastefully done than the advertising would have you think. To be honest, it’s probably a better use of the Tsunami than that piece of crapola Hereafter was. Hey, if you’re going to cash-in on a real-life disaster, do it the right way, not the Clint Eastwood way. And that’s why director J.A Bayona is suited so well for this material because not only does he handle the subject and topic with a real sense of class and decency, but he also shows it in the way that makes me feel as if I was right then and there while it was happening.

After seeing a whole Summer chock-full of the world being blown-up and countless other areas being turned to shit, I was very, very surprised to see that the very best use of any type of destruction for a movie in 2012 (no, not that Roland Emmerich piece of shite) came from a movie that uses only 10 minutes or so of it, and then it’s practically gone. We only get 10 minutes or so until the actual Tsunami comes and concurs, and it’s just one of those moments that occurred this year where I was grounded to the floor from start-to-finish. The reason that is, is mainly because everything I saw seemed so real with the waves coming in at a very realistic look and pace, and the scariest use of water I have seen in quite some time. You seriously feel as if you are right there with these people as they get hit by the Tsunami and I have to give Bayona a crap-ton of credit for putting me on the edge of my seat and having me feel like I was in for a wild ride of drama, sadness, destruction, and family-matters. I got all of them, but sadly, not the way I wanted.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

No matter what they threw at her, Naomi Watts was still the most beautiful creature on the face of the planet here.

After the Tsunami hits and we get to see the shitty situations these characters have found themselves in, everything, slowly but surely, starts to fall-apart. Maybe that isn’t the right thing to say because I was very involved with these characters, this real-life disaster, and the aftermath of it all, but then it almost seems to lose it’s focus. The story that we become first accustomed to is with Watts and Holland as he has to practically be the parent in this situation, because she can barely even walk and practically falling apart. This story-line was interesting as hell because you rarely get to see the kid parenting the parent in movies, unless it’s some teenage daughter teaching her dad all of the cool lingo that the Y-Generation, cool kids use. We see how a parent can put themselves below a child, be tended to, and how a child can actually do that while being successful, and yet, still be a child. It was interesting to see and I could tell that if this was how the whole film was going to play-out, then I was probably going to need to borrow the extra bag of Kleenex’s from the person next to me.

However, I soon forgot about a very key, important-factor to this flick: there’s a whole other side to the family! When McGregor shows up with the two, younger boys, then the flick becomes a bit conventional and melodramatic, almost to the point of where it’s off-putting. With Watts and Holland, it was rich, raw, and gritty, almost to the point of where you were cringing because somebody needed to throw water and soap on them, but when you get McGregor and his story of looking for his family, it takes everything down to something that feels as if it would be from a Lifetime movie or something. The eternal conflict that McGregor has to go through, is that he has to choose on whether or not to abandon his own children, to look for his wife and other child, and that’s it. He has to find them and if he doesn’t, chances are, they’ll be dead. I get that it’s a very real and true depiction of events that probably occurred to a plethora of families around this time, but still, it doesn’t make it the least-bit intriguing or surprising to watch, especially when all that I’m watching is a guy, walking around with a piece of paper in his head and asking people certain names. Yeah, should have just stayed with Watts. She probably would have gotten naked more, too.

The fact that this is a real depiction of something that real people had to go through, just makes this final-product a bit more distasteful in it’s own way. For instance, I find it relatively strange that the flick’s real-life story, concerns a family that was Mexican. Here, they are English and even worse, the rest of the film acts like it was hardest on them the most. Over a million people died that fateful day and some families are still reeling from the effects of that, so to sit-there and make a movie about a little, mighty family of mates that went searching for one another, does seem a bit rude to the rest of the people out there who died and were sometimes under the same circumstance as this very same family. I do have to come and realize that yes, this is a Hollywood production and yes, this is a real-life story about a real-life family, not the real-life event that actually occurred, but still, if I were one of the families who suffered from this Tsunami and saw this movie, I’d be a little ticked-off, quite frankly.

"You think I'm bad, you should see Anakin."

“You think I’m bad, you should see Anakin.”

Even though the actual, real-life family this story is based-off of is in fact, Mexican, the English cast that actually does take over this story still make it worth the while to watch and are easily the best elements to this flick. Naomi Watts is getting all sorts of hollers and praise for her role here as Maria, the wife/mother who can’t fend for herself due to a terrible disability, and it’s well-deserved hollers and praise, in my mind. Watts is always knocking roles like this out of the park, each and every single year, but here, she sort of shows the vulnerable-side to her character that can’t be the leader and owner anymore, and instead, has to sit on the back burner and try to stay alive, while her son cares and tends for her. Maybe it’s not as traumatizing of a performance as the one she gave in 21 Grams, but it’s still the cleaner, more mainstream-version of that same performance.

Ewan McGregor is an actor that has been very so-so over the last decade or so, but I think he’s gotten his career back on-track and is a great actor to watch, especially when he’s in such an act of desperation as his character is here. McGregor definitely still has the lovable sensibility to him that not only makes you feel like he’s a great father that loves his family for what they are, but will ultimately, end-up doing the right thing for every one in the end. There’s a scene with McGregor on the phone and without giving too much away and spoiling it for all of you cats out there, it’s probably his most powerful piece of acting he’s given ever since the days of Moulin Rogue. Maybe to some, that’s not saying much, but to me, it means the whole world. Good job, Ewan! Now stay away from the new Star Wars movies!

As compelling as McGregor and Watts are (and trust me, they are something to watch and behold here), the one who really stands-out the most is probably Tom Holland as the oldest-son. The kid starts off as a bit of a brat that can’t help but being a piece of crap to his parents and to his brothers, but has to change all that up once everything goes from bad, to worse, to absolutely dreadful. Not many kid actors working today could pull-off that transition from spoiled-brat, to powerful, adult-like child, but Holland does it and does it so perfectly that you really believe in whatever this kid does next. He’s a wonderfully kind specimen the way he cares for his mother and looks out for her, especially when she needs him the most, but is even kinder when it comes to helping others out in looking for their families, friends, and loved ones. Holland may, or may not slide-by with an Oscar nomination this year but if he does get one, I will not be mad in the least-bit because he’s never annoying, and he’s always real. Or at least that’s what it felt like.

Consensus: Focusing on one, English-family throughout this terrible disaster that occurred in 2004, does seem a bit insensitive to the ones who were effected the most by it, but The Impossible still provides plenty of rich, character-moments that are made even better by the cast and crew that make this flick, one step above your typical, soapy-drama.

7/10=Rental!!

Don't let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Don’t let the looks deceive you, this kid could kick your ass if he had to.

Haywire (2012)

Who needs acting when you can just beat the crap out of everybody around?

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is a highly trained operative who works for a government security contractor in the dirtiest, most dangerous corners of the world. After successfully freeing a Chinese journalist held hostage, she is double crossed and left for dead by someone close to her in her own agency. Suddenly the target of skilled assassins who know her every move, Mallory must find the truth in order to stay alive.

Seeing that this is definitely Steven Soderbergh trying to eff with our heads in by giving us a non-experienced actress with a whole lot to do for one flick, I didn’t know what to really think going in. However, with his first step into the action genre, I can definitely say that he didn’t eff with us too bad here.

The one thing that Soderbergh does perfectly here is give us an action flick that feels way different from any other one that has been released within the past year or so. All of the fight sequences are filmed wonderfully with no score whatsoever, just going with the flow of the punches, kicks, and breaks while also being filmed in a very wide lense to give it this realistic feel. Yes, fighting sequences that are somewhat realistic, crazy right? Soderbergh just plays and plays with the whole conventions of what we come to know and see as an action flick and it seems like an experiment rather than an actual film, but an experiment that does a pretty good job none the less.

I also liked how Soderbergh kept everything very minimal. The film basically consists of people running, shooting, and fighting, all to the glorious sound of jazz music that made me feel as if I was in a little club in New Orleans. The plot is very simple and there isn’t a whole bunch of talking about what’s going on, or even talking in general. Soderbergh doesn’t feel the need to spell everything out to us and instead of giving us a highly confusing plot, he backs it up with a lot of ass-kicking to keep our minds avert on the screen without ever losing us, after we have just realized that this far far different from what we have seen from any other action flick.

The problem that this film runs into is that when the action isn’t going down, things start to get a little dull. When the film starts to lean towards its plot and doesn’t really give us much action to hold onto, the film starts to lose us mainly because the story just isn’t all that interesting in the first place and to be honest, we have seen the same premise done before. I understand that Soderbergh and his writers weren’t trying to rely on the plot as much as they were with the action, but it still could have been handled a lot better to fully keep our attentions when people weren’t getting their faces knocked in.

Another main problem with this flick comes with the whole casting of MMA star Gina Carano. Carano did not have any prior acting experience to this flick and for a character like Mallory Kane you have to have somebody that can look the part, which she definitely does. All of her action scenes are awesome and she definitely looks like that chick you do not want to piss off one bit let alone screw over in a huge-ass CIA exchange. However when it comes to actually talking like a bad-ass, Carano can’t do that.

I have to give Soderbergh credit for not leaving this inexperienced actor out to dry with this material, because she could have easily just gotten chewed up in every single scene but it’s just that Carano doesn’t do anything here at all. Her character feels like a big block of wood that has no emotions and gives off the same voice to every single response. Now take it for granted, the “voice” in this flick is not the same one she has in real life (it was apparently dubbed) but even if it wasn’t hers, it still sounds terrible because almost every line she drops, she sounds like she’s reading them right off the cue-card as it is. I hope that Carano is reading this now and wants to beat the shit out of me, but honestly baby, keep to your MMA career. But damn is she sexy!

The rest of the cast is very good though, which I do think was very deliberate considering Soderbergh definitely knew he couldn’t sell a film on just one chick who nobody outside of the MMA world knew. Ewan McGregor seems to having a lot of fun as the slimy and evil Kenneth; Michael Fassbender isn’t around for much as you could probably tell from the previews (and even the poster) but he still is pretty good with his devilish charm; Channing Tatum does an alright job here as Aaron; Bill Paxton is nice to watch as John Kane considering I didn’t know he did movies anymore; and Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas show up here as the usual assholes they usually play in most of their recent films and do nice jobs as well. Basically, the whole supporting cast is great but it’s just a shame that Carano kind of makes us look past that with her stiff delivery.

Consensus: Haywire is definitely not the usual action flick we are so used to seeing nowadays, with realistic fight sequences, jazz music, and a very good supporting cast, but the problem this flick hits is with its leading star that can’t get through her lines and sort of just lets the whole film down in the process.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Beginners (2011)

I definitely have a lot of questions to ask my daddy now.

‘Beginners’ tells the story of Oliver (Ewan McGregor), a graphic artist coming to grips with the imminent death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who, at 75, has one last secret: He’s gay. Both inspired and confused by his father’s determination to find true love at last, Oliver tentatively pursues a romance with commitment-shy French actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent).

It sounds like a weird premise that a 75-year old man would come out of the closet, after being married to a woman and having a child for 45 years, until you find out that this was actually from director/writer Mike Mills’ own life. Talk about a “birds and the birds” talk with your dad.

The film is a lot difficult at first since it has all of these different story-lines and the way its told is through a non-linear story structure, but somehow Mills makes it all work and by the 20 minute mark, I  didn’t get confused one bit as to when and where this story was at. Mills creates a very self-aware film where it breaks down the fourth-wall many times, shows years through pictures, has Oliver narrate the film a little bit himself, and even allow the dog to talk with subtitles appearing on the screen. All of this sounds a little crazy to have in just one flick, but it somehow works so incredibly well and Mills does not once lose himself with all of these little quirks that he can so easily pull off here.

Another aspect to this film is how Mills is able to make us smile and laugh, but even when it gets onto its real emotional stuff, it works even more. I laughed a lot during this flick mainly because there was just a happy little sweet spirit to everything behind this story. The story is essentially about a dude reflecting on his dad’s death through his own life and love, but there is just so many sweet and charming moments that this film lets loose of that it’s almost too hard to pay attention to that part of the story.

However, when it does get to the emotional stuff, the story does leave a lasting impact. Mills goes into the fractured and sad soul of Oliver and we get to see how he feels about the world and why. There is a lot of emotional truth to a lot of these scenes that they have here in this flick and it will actually touch you and make sense mainly because Mills is so able to just let out all of the feelings hurt people have inside. The film tackles a lot of aspects to Oliver’s life but almost each subject ends with a poignant but truthful moment and even though it never had me crying, I still felt connected to a lot of what was going on. Even though my dad isn’t gay, or not that I know of…

My main problem with this flick is that it doesn’t really have any surprises to offer when the story first gets started. It starts with us knowing that Oliver’s dad is dead and for me, I think that was a little bit of a bummer considering I think the film would have really worked if it started from us having his father tell him that he was gay, and somehow be able to work in the love-relationship he has with Anna as well. However, the structure they had done for this film already isn’t so bad in the first place so for me to really complain about it, is kind of bogus.

Another problem I had with this flick is that I feel like a lot of what Mills does here, as a very stylish director, is somewhat pretentious. Yes, a lot of what he brings to this film and this story is very original, but at times I feel like he was just adding some of his own little artsy moments in there to put his own stamp on things. I thought having Oliver’s work-life sort of go down the tubes because of how sad he is getting, was sort of like Mills trying to put his life more and more into this story, considering that he is a graphic artist himself which is what kind of bothered me to begin with.

Ewan McGregor is an actor who almost seems terribly bored with every role he has been taking in as of late, but he somehow here makes this performance perfect as Oliver. I don’t know what there is about him but he’s just so subtle, so relaxed, and so real that he just fits this character so well and it’s really great to see him work on his comedic chops but also his dramatic chops considering that it’s been a long while since he’s gotten the chance to do so. Everybody who loved ‘Inglorious Basterds’ will notice Mélanie Laurent playing Oliver’s “girlfriend”, Anna. She is your usual quirky, eccentric, and pretty zany love interest that almost any rom-com has but she has an under-lining darkness to her that separates her and keeps her away from being a “type”. These two are great together and you can really feel their chemistry every time they hit the screen. Let’s not also forget the scene-stealing dog, played by Cosmo who creates this buddy-buddy relationship with McGregor that is unlike anything else.

It’s practically a given that Christopher Plummer gives a good performance here but he really does shine here as Hal, and it may just be the role that could nab him that Oscar after all of these years. Plummer doesn’t play this role with a lot of camp or any hoakiness that usually comes with a dude playing a homosexual man. Instead, he takes this role with a large amount of embrace that he is finally able to live the life he has wanted to for so long, and the way Plummer plays it all is not just a joy to watch, but also inspirational. There has been some talk for Plummer getting an Oscar for this and that is not something I would be against since he is so incredible here and you really just feel like this is a real person rather than the usual flamboyant caricature we usually get of a homosexual man.

Consensus: With a real heart at the center of its funky story, Beginners is a well-acted, gentle, funny, and moving portrait about it never being too late to have love in your life, no matter how old or young.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Why is Woody Allen getting so obsessed with death?

Howdie everybody! It’s the official beginning of school for me today and rather than actually getting too serious with my work, I’m still going to town at the reviews. Don’t worry, I’m not leaving you guys anytime soon.

Anywho, you know how the deal goes down, you check out my latest post on Boomtron, show me some love, comment, rate, or read and that’s basically how the cookie crumbles.

http://www.boomtron.com/2011/09/woody-allens-cassandras-dream-lacks-anything-that-stands-out/

Thanks peeps! Have a great Friday!

Big Fish (2003)

The most normal Tim Burton film if there ever was one.

William Bloom (Billy Crudup) tries to learn more about his dying father, Edward, by piecing together disparate facts from a lifetime of fantastical tales and legends of epic proportions. Ewan McGregor co-stars as the young Edward, a traveling salesman, with Albert Finney playing him as an older man.

Usually, Tim Burton is amazing when he’s on his game and gives us such treasures as Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, etc. But there are many countless other times where he is just lost and has nowhere to go but down with such trash like Planet of the Apes, Mars Attacks!, etc. This is one that falls in the category of him on his game a little bit.

This is a fairy tale mixed in with a lot of realism but still enough of that signature weirdness from Burton to make you remember that you are watching the same dude who did Batman. This film never seems to drag and that’s because Burton has such a vivid imagination that he can show such things as two Siamese Asian twins singing to Chinese Communists, a car underwater in a rain storm, a friendly giant, and plenty of other random and crazy things that happen but it all is done so well that you can’t help but smile.

At heart, this is actually a father-son drama that shows what happens when you tell too many fake stories, you actually end up becoming them. That right there I felt was a good message but how it all plays out in the end just didn’t do anything for me, much to my surprise. The ending is pretty obvious about 10 minutes in and to be brutally honest, it didn’t really have me choking up much in the end neither.

The casting in this film may be a bit flawed, but it still had it’s fair-share of good performances. Albert Finney is amazing as older Edward Bloom, but he’s playing him so much older and more sick than the character actually looks which kind of took me away from the film considering I liked the performance. Billy Crudup is OK here but could have done a lot more to add to the scenes with his daddy; Jessica Lange has some good scenes as Edward’s wife; Marion Cotillard is as amusing as ever as Crudup’s wife, Josephine; and Alison Lohman has some very good scenes as Edward’s wife, when she was younger.

I liked this cast even though they were a bit strange and to say the least I liked Ewan McGregor as Edward Bloom because even though his Scottish accent almost may seem to get a tad bit in the way of his deep Southern accent, I still really liked this performance from him. Edward Bloom is such a happy guy that loves telling stories because they make people happy. Everybody wants to hear the truth but everybody also wants to hear something that will make them happy and that is what Bloom is all about and Ewan totally throws himself into this great character’s mind. I don’t know if any of you have ever met somebody like Bloom, a person who just loves to tell stories and make the others around him laugh and smile, but I have and the power that the art of storytelling has is just a very beautiful thing and something that this film embraces so well.

Consensus: Though I didn’t feel as emotionally connected to this film as I would have liked to have hoped for, Big Fish is a good Tim Burton film that has some weirdness, a lot of happiness, and just a true message about the art of storytelling and how sometime hearing the fake story is better than hearing the truth at all.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Groovers & Mobsters Present: The Buddy Flick

So Fandango Groovers and Movie Mobsters have always been doing this little thing where they present a little type of film genre, and a couple of people choose what films to talk about, and I have just been chosen as one of those people. So here goes nothing.

Trainspotting (1996)

      “1,000 years from now there will be no guys and no girls, just wankers. Sounds great to me.” – Mark “Rent-boy” Renton

We have all heard and said before: “Drugs are bad”. However, being an addict of any drug isn’t always as bleak as it seems. I do not take any drugs, but I can easily say that no matter what, you never forget about the people around you. So when I was told all about this little piece, and how to contribute, I couldn’t think of a better “buddy film” than Danny Boyle’s 1996 trip into the drug world, Trainspotting.

The central premise behind Trainspotting is about an on-again-off-again Scottish heroin junkie named Renton and the eccentric group of on-again-off-again heroin junkies he hangs out with. This plot line may not make it seem as crazy, but I have to tell you, some stuff really gets out-of-hand, and not in a good way either. And yet, it’s not a bleak picture by any stretch, which made this so much more unusual of a film because everybody is so used to the dark and depressing anti-drug film that will more or less put you on drugs, rather than stir you away from it. There is a constant energy throughout this film filled with humor, gags, and of course, heroin. For every silly and fun moment, there is an equally sad and dark moment. Even though all of these people are on drugs, you still want to somehow hang out with them, because their just so darn lovable.

This was a launching pad for almost every one involved. Danny Boyle had only one film before this and now has a Best Director Oscar thanks to Slumdog Millionaire. Ewan McGregor is in so much, but mostly known as Obi-Wan. Ewen Bremner doesn’t really do much but pops up every once and awhile, Johnny Lee Miller was in Dexter, Robert Carlyle shows up in many films, and Kelly Macdonald has made a real career for herself in roles in stuff like No Country for Old Men, Nanny McPhee, and most famously, Boardwalk Empire.

Trainspotting is one of those films that just is so much fun to watch, even though it has some terribly depressing subject matter. Boyle does a great job of not rubbing our noses in all the crappy situations these characters are put in, he just tells us basically everything we need to know in order to figure it out for ourselves. Trainspotting may be dark but I can promise you, you will have a great time, and stay away from heroin forever.

If you all want to check out the other posts from this little piece, go here. Thanks everybody for reading!

Trainspotting (1996)

One film that must always be watched with subtitles on.

Danny Boyle’s explosive 1996 film tracks the misadventures of young men (played by a cast that includes Ewan MacGregor, Robert Carlyle and Jon Lee Miller) trying to find their way out of joblessness, aimless relationships and drug addiction. Some are successful, while others are hopelessly not.

When it comes to drugs, you shouldn’t get involved with them at all. Their bad news, they break lives one by one, especially heroin. Heroin is that hardcore drug that all the alternative rockers take such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, and Kurt Cobain, among others. It’s considered one of the heaviest drugs, that will change your life forever, but as this film shows, that it doesn’t always have to be terrible all the time.

The one great thing about Danny Boyle, with this film, is that his direction is just about flawless. Literally from the first shot, keeps this film going at a quick, nasty, and in-your-face pace that doesn’t stop until the last credit is off the screen. He does so well with conveying so many emotions with his setting, of depressed Scotland, and how gritty, and dirty is, almost as dirty as its inhabitants too.

My favorite thing about this movie that basically had me won over was it’s script, that worked on all levels. This film in a way is a dark comedy, with bits of comedy, as dark it may be, but they still do get you laughing. But the drama when it hits, oh lord, does it ever so hit, but it never gets too depressing to the point of where you can’t watch anymore, cause you may kill yourself. These characters are drawn out as unique, and realistic people, that you are basically put with in this film, and you don’t mind, considering that you can probably relate to some of these characters, considering their all heroin addicts. There’s some beautiful insight with this film, and as the film progresses, you start to realize the movie is less about drugs, but more about life, and how you should direct it. But the film also delves deep into the life of a drug addict, and the feelings, and ideas you get while your on it. You want to live this different kind of life, because that’s what drugs offer you, but as you start to see your life crumble, you try to build yourself back up, and start it all over, and be what you never wanted to be in the first place, ordinary. This film captures terrifically the struggles of being a drug addict, and eventually getting away from being an addict.

Ewan McGregor got his break with this film as Rent, and let’s just say he deserved it, and if anybody’s trashing on Ewan now, saying he’s a crumby actor, they can just look back at this film, and see he always has been great, just give him the right material. Rent is your ordinary, average drug addict, with plenty of ambitions, which makes him a great person for the film to revolve around. He’s very ordinary, and also interesting. Robert Carlyle as Franco, is simply hilarious, because he’s this tough-as-nails guy that will kick your ass in a second if you mess with him, and watching him stirring up trouble all the time, is so funny and enjoyable. Ewen Bremner as Spud, does a good job, playing a funny character, that we sympathize with early in the film. Johnny Lee Miller as Sick Boy, is kind of a dick, but that’s good, cause we’re interested when watching his character. Also, need I not forget to mention Kelly Macdonald as Diane, who isn’t in a whole bunch of scenes, but is still fun to watch, every time she is in them.

The only setback from this film is the Scottish accents are deep, and if you like to read sub-titles through your movie a lot, then this is certainly the movie to use it for. But even this is very, very, minor.

Consensus: Gritty, darkly humorous, painful, and altogether realistic true story of what drugs will do to you, that supports witha  great script, and direction, that is even better with the performances.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!

I Love You Phillip Morris (2010)

Never would I have thought that I’d see the day when I saw Obi-Wan and Ace Ventura smooching on the screen.

When upstanding Texas cop Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) realizes he’s gay, he changes his entire life and pulls a series of bold con jobs that lands him jail — where he meets his one true love, cellmate Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). When Morris is transferred to another prison, lovesick Russell mounts a series of jailbreaks just to be with his beloved soul mate.

This film has been all over the place for the past couple of years. It’s been getting edited, finding American distributors, and also trying to actually find a release. And although nobody will probably see this movie, you should really get out and try to.

The fact that this film couldn’t find an American distributor because it had “a lot of gay sexual sequences” is totally beyond me. Yeah, there is gay sexual happenings in this movie, but its not to the point of where your basically disgusted at everything that’s going on. In the first part of the film I was a little annoyed by how the gay stereotypes were all over the place, but they soon started to dumb down, and that’s what I liked the most.

This film is not flaming with gay material, it’s more about the sweet love story. This film had me laughing at a lot of parts, and really worked when it came to comedy all over the board, and not just gay sex jokes. Its sweet tone also is kept throughout the whole film, and you can actually feel an emotional connection to all of these characters, even though they may be a little messed up. The pace throughout is generally well-done, without moving too fast, or too slow.

But I honestly liked how the whole story was all true, and the con-man events that happen are even funnier. I think Steven Russell is just such a smart guy, that it was really interesting to see how his story played out into this film. He did many, many crazy things that I would have never have thought about, just to be with his boo, which was funny, and also sweet at the same time. Never have I watched a film and thought that I can do whatever want to do, and be who I want to be, I just got to be good at making stories up, and act really well.

The problem with this film is that the comedy and drama doesn’t quite balance out as well as I would have liked it to. By the end of the film you can kind of see that the film is relying too hard on the drama aspect, which kind of seemed strange, since this whole film itself was kind of goofy. But in the end, I guess it all worked out.

The best thing that this film has going for itself, is the fact that Jim Carrey is on fire (or flaming for that matter)! He is perfect as Steven Russell, and you can really see he is having fun actually playing a “character”. Everybody is so used to seeing Jim Carrey playing the usual Stanley Ipkiss, or Ace Ventura, that it really is a surprise when he can be an actual real-life person. I thought he was doomed, but he came back and showed me after all, why we all love him. It’s not the bravest performance ever, but he does a perfect job at mixing both his dramatic, and comedic aspect of his acting skills. Ewan McGregor is fine as Phillip Morris, as he plays this really gentle, sweet guy that just wants love. It’s great to see these two together on screen, cause they really do make it all work, and their chemistry is actually very solid, as strange as it may seem.

Consensus: Despite its flaws, I Love You Phillip Morris is a funny, fact-based, romantic comedy, that doesn’t exploit the homosexual love, and instead keeps it cute, with Carrey and McGregor doing great jobs in the leads.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!