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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Frank Langella

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Be one with nature. Not with people.

Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), his wife Leslie, and their six children all live in the wilderness of Washington state. They’ve done so as a way of life for as long as the oldest has been around and because of this, they’ve taught their kids a lot about life. For one, they’ve learned how to survive, read, think for themselves, and take care of one another, without getting bogged down or too distracted by what’s going on in the overpopulated world outside of the woods. However, their lives all begin to change when Leslie suddenly dies and has a funeral back in her hometown, leaving Ben to bring the kids back around to not just see their real family, but the rest that the world has to offer. Of course, not everyone takes a liking to seeing Ben back around, criticizing those he hasn’t seen in years, but Ben doesn’t care – he’s too busy ensuring that his late wife gets the proper burial she deserves and so desperately wanted before her tragic death. But obviously, not everyone believes what Ben wants is the right, or better yet, proper way.

I'm pretty sure using phones is a big no-no when sticking it to the man.

I’m pretty sure using phones is a big no-no when sticking it to the man.

The first 20 or so minutes of Captain Fantastic are, honestly, pretty bad. Most of it takes place in the woods, with Mortensen’s character and his family all living away from the rest of society, loving every second of it, getting by and letting it be known that this is the way of life that ought to be lived. In a way, it felt like writer/director Matt Ross was saying the same thing, only through these characters; that living in an overpopulated society full of people, cars, restaurants, stores, etc., really isn’t what life should be all about. Instead, it ought to be lived vicariously through nature and appreciated for that alone. It was so nauseating to hear and watch that it had me feeling like it was time to just tune the rest of the movie out and hope that the best comes around.

But thankfully, it does.

Eventually, the story changes and all of a sudden, we’re given something of a “road movie”, in which Mortensen’s character and his family are out traveling, running into family-members that they haven’t seen in forever, or met, and trying to get used to these new surroundings. In a way, it’s a fairly more conventional movie than the one originally promised/planned, but it’s one that’s far more likable and well-done as it seems like, believe it or not, Ross has something to say and it’s that maybe living outside of society isn’t what it’s all made out to be. Perhaps, being and living around other human beings, doing things, communicating, interacting, so on, is really what’s the most enjoyable aspect about life in the first place?

Sure, it sounds so cheesy and obvious, but Ross brings this out in a very smart manner that isn’t ham-handed in the slightest. If anything, he gives us great, lovable characters and shows just exactly how they live their lives and get by, without ever trying for anything more. It sounds so simple and easy, and that’s because it is, but it still works so well that it’s hard to really get across, other than just to say, “Yeah, it’s a sweet and honest tale about life, growing up and accepting the world for what it is.”

Well, essentially.

"Freebird? Again?"

“Freebird? Again?”

And in it, Ross has assembled a pretty great cast, especially what with Viggo Mortensen in the lead as Ben Cash. What works so well about Mortensen here is that, underneath all the 70’s mop and beard, you can tell that there’s an earnest, lovely human being, however, he’s also a challenging figure. The movie is interested in exploring the ideals and history of this family, as well as it’s interested in just what goes on throughout this man’s head; he’s a barrel of contradictions who doesn’t always know what’s best for his kids, but at the same time, still doesn’t know what’s best for kids from other families. It’s not just entertaining to watch as Mortensen constantly plays around with what this character “thinks” is right, as opposed to what “is” right, but pretty interesting as you never quite know where he’s going to end-up next, metaphorically speaking.

Surrounding him is a pretty solid cast, though, who all measure up to his abilities. Certain talented folks like Ann Dowd, Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, and Steve Zahn are all perfectly cast as the family members that he casually runs into during this trip of his and all bring out a different aspect to this character, based solely on the way that they interact with and react to him. We get a sense that they’re all loving people, trying very hard to connect with someone that they just don’t know how to connect with, mostly because they don’t actually like him. Sometimes, showing us a character and the way they are with those around them, does a better job than just telling us, which may sound obvious, but it’s a rule that seems to be lost on a lot of writers and directors today, which is why it’s great to see Ross utilizing that here.

The only downside of the movie is, unfortunately, the family of kids themselves.

Actually, that’s wrong. All of the kids in the cast are fine, but there’s one who seems like he doesn’t quite measure-up as well and that’s George McKay as the oldest, Bo. McKay is fine and does what he can, but unfortunately, his American-accent is just awful. You can tell that he’s doing one and because this character has a lot of yelling/freak-out moments, it’s not hard to hear it even more and get distracted. Also, not to mention that the character’s subplot can be a little silly at times; the fish-out-of-water scenario is a fun bit, but the idea that this character is casually looking into colleges on the sly and trying to make something of his genius brain, not only feels ridiculous, but a lot like a ripped portion of Shameless. Either way, it doesn’t quite work and because it does take up a bulk of the flick, it can’t help but keep Captain Fantastic away from being great.

Still, it’s a very good movie nonetheless so yeah, see it. Please. It’ll make you laugh, happy and possibly, even cry.

Consensus: Heartfelt, sweet, funny, and well-acted, Captain Fantastic takes what could have been a very annoying plot, turns it on its head and makes something exciting and lovely out of it.

8.5 / 10

Those kids desperately need Netflix in their lives.

Those kids desperately need Netflix in their lives.

Photos Courtesy of: Cannes, Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

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All the Way (2016)

Oh, that LBJ. What a silly goose he was!

After JFK is assassinated, Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston) assumes the position as President of the United States. While it’s a controversial and heartbreaking decision, immediately, Johnson takes the position and makes it his own; promising more Civil Rights laws than even JFK ever promised. This leads him to talking with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Anthony Mackie) a whole lot, with some of their discussions ending with agreements, and other times, not so much. But while Johnson is out battling it with the Civil Rights activists and MLK, he’s also got to work his magic into winning the next election, which is nearly two years away. While for any President running for office again, there would be no issues, the problem for Johnson is that his Civil Rights bills are turning some people away from him, making him less and less loved among the blue-blooded Republicans. It’s all so very tense and crazy for Lyndon, but when push comes to shove, he knows that he can always fall back on his wife (Melissa Leo), who was there for him since day one and will continue to be do so, so long as he keeps his head on and doesn’t lose his temper too much.

He's white.

He’s white.

Oddly enough, All the Way isn’t going to be the last Lyndon B. Johnson biopic we get this year. The already-titled LBJ, starring Woody Harrelson as the titular President is currently being filmed and planned for a late winter release, which leads me to beg the question: Why? Why on Earth do we have not one, but two star-studded biopics about Lyndon B. Johnson? This isn’t to say that his presidency, or better yet, his character doesn’t deserve the attention, but at the same time, it’s hard to wonder why there are already two movies being made about the guy, when possibly one will do?

Then again, there is the case in 2012, where we had two Abraham Lincoln movies and those are definitely two stories that needed to be told.

Regardless, All the Way is an okay movie, but honestly, a lot of its impact is weakened by the fact that it almost tells the same exact story of Selma, but instead, puts it focus directly on the man white man of the story, the President of the United States. There’s no issue with that in terms of narrative storytelling, but after it having been hardly two years since the release of that much powerful, much smarter movie, I think it’s almost impossible not to compare the two, especially considering how ballsy and risky that movie seemed to be. In a way, All the Way is the kind of movie that would have been made and released before the 21st Century, where instead of focusing on the African Americans, their hardships, their strife, and all of the brutality they suffered, we focus on the one man who had all of the power in the world during this infamous and controversial time.

Also, it should be noted that in Selma, there was plenty of scenes dedicated to sitting there and watching as Lyndon B. Johnson himself handled conversations with Martin Luther King Jr. and other Civil Rights leaders, although at the same time, that didn’t take up the bulk of the movie. It still, however, provided a voice to Johnson who, from the viewpoint of that movie, as well as this one, was really just a guy trying to do the right thing, while also keep his ass in the White House seat. That’s smart and honest storytelling that doesn’t have an agenda, but more or less, try to tell a story, the best way it can.

That’s why All the Way is no Selma, by any means. However, I don’t think it wanted to be.

He's black.

He’s black.

Jay Roach seems like the one guy HBO calls on to deliver these made-for-HBO movies with politics somewhere, somehow involved, and he’s made a nice career out of it. For one, his movies aren’t glitzy, or glamorous, but more or less, just natural, well-told stories that need to be seen, but not necessarily on the silver screen. It’s actually quite odd to describe, but there’s that feeling while watching All the Way, where you know that it’s perfect for cable, but not so much for the big screen.

Why? I couldn’t tell ya. It’s just feeling.

But much like the play it’s adapting, All the Way is really a platform for Bryan Cranston to act his rump off and well, he’s great at it. Much like he did in Trumbo, Cranston is using a signature and odd voice to really get us into the mindset of who this person is and their kind of personality, and it works, again. While you can tell there’s some deal of over-acting that got transitioned over from the stage, Cranston still handles it well enough that we get the perfect idea for who this person is, especially during the smaller, more humane moments.

Most of these moments come from the scenes he has with his wife, played by Melissa Leo, who is both the voice of reason, as well as the dog whisperer to the sometimes wild and cranky Johnson. Leo’s great at these understated, yet emotional characters and it’s why she’s a perfect choice. Anthony Mackie also shows up as MLK, and in a much better, more focused movie, I feel like he’d be the performance to steal the show, but unfortunately, he isn’t given a whole lot to do. Now if it was Anthony Mackie in Selma, we may have had a whole different movie on our hands.

Consensus: With a good cast, All the Way is better than its route, conventional format makes it out to be, however, with Selma still clear in our minds, it’s hard not to compare the two.

6 / 10

But hey, they're pals in the end.

But hey, they’re pals in the end.

Photos Courtesy of: HBO

Superman Returns (2006)

ReturnsposterHe’s back and you know what? Those glasses are still working their charm!

Five years after exploring the deepest, darkest parts of the galaxy, Superman (Brandon Routh) finally returns back to Earth. Why? Well, it seems like his time had finally come for him to get back to his old ways and schedule. Miraculously enough, around the same time that Superman reappears, so does Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent. And through Kent’s eyes, Superman gets to see just how much life has changed in the past five years. For one, Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is now engaged and with a child, even if she still hasn’t quite gotten over Superman; Perry White (Frank Langella) still heckles Clark over giving him crappy stories; and Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey), well, is awaiting for Superman’s arrival so that he can launch his evil, dastardly plan of taking over the world and being rid of the super-dude, once and for all. Obviously, Superman won’t let this happen, but he’s going to have a lot of issues battling Luthor if he can’t get his personal issues in order, or if he can’t keep those that he loves, out of harm’s way.

The meet-cute knows no boundaries!

The meet-cute knows no boundaries!

But when you’re Superman, sometimes, that’s a lot easier said then done.

I’ve got to give Bryan Singer credit for going all out with Superman Returns. Not only does his fanboy love shine through each and every single scene of this movie, but even for those who may not already be on-board with Superman in the first place, well, he doesn’t forget to reach out to. In a way, Superman is the quintessential, perfect human being, except for the fact that he isn’t a human being – he’s an alien. While this may sound all cool and rad, especially if you had all of the skills and capabilities that Superman had, Singer shows that there’s something actually very sad about this fact.

After all, don’t forget that Superman’s whole family, let alone, his race perished within the first five minutes of the original 1978 flick. Now, it’s just him, all by himself, left to make up his own legacy for his own good, where nobody’s there to really care, love, or support him, except for maybe a select few. But once again, because he’s Superman, he can’t get too close, nor trust anybody quite as well – some people will try to take advantage of him, whereas others may not want to be bothered with a possibly dangerous alien from outer-space.

This inherent sadness is what drives Superman himself, and it’s also what drives a good portion of Superman Returns.

In a way, it’s not your typical superhero summer blockbuster, but at the same time, it sort of is. It isn’t because there’s so much more attention to the tenderness and the humanity of this character, rather than just how much ass he can kick, and what sorts of heavy stuff he can lift. Then again, it sort of is because Singer can’t help himself from getting lost in all of the crazy, high-intensity set-pieces that can be deafeningly loud, but still equally as effective. This mixture of two sides of Singer may not always work, but when it does come together, it comes together so well that it makes me wonder why they don’t just give every superhero story to Singer.

After all, the guy has done some pretty wonders with the X-Men, so why not anymore heroes?

Regardless, there’s a lot to really be touched by with Superman Returns in that it really does ask for us to reach out and feel something for Superman himself. This may sound almost too simple, it’s stupid, but you’d be surprised how very few superhero movies actually seem to try and get us care for their title characters, more than just because they’re going to save the day from the bad guy. Here, Singer shows that there’s more to Superman than just what meets the eye; sure, he’s good-looking, super-strong, jacked, and not the person you want to pick a fight with, but he’s so lonely in this vast, wide world where people don’t know what to do with him, and after awhile, it begins to take a toll on him and make him wonder what any of it is worth. Should he continue to fight the good fight for Earth? Or should he just stick it out all on his own?

What a happy gang of pals.

What a happy gang of pals.

Either way, Brandon Routh does a solid enough job as Superman/Clark Kent to where he doesn’t get in the way of the character. Routh has obviously received flack over the years for not amounting to much after this role, which is wrong, because not only does the guy have some charm to him, but he’s also a sympathetic figure, and not just another pretty-boy asking for our compassion. You can almost look at Superman here like a sick little puppy that needs a home, a bone, and somewhere to shed his fur. Obviously, this works in the movie’s favor, and it’s definitely because of Routh.

As the iconic Lois Lane, Kate Bosworth may seem too young at first, but eventually, she works well into the role and gives us the sense that she’s the same old kick-ass heroine that she was in the older movies, and comics; James Marsden plays her fiancee who may, or may not be a dick, but may also just be a simple, everyday guy thrown into the shadow of Superman; Frank Langella gets some fun moments and lines as Perry White; Parker Posey plays Lex Luthor’s right-hand-women Kitty Kowalski (Parker Posey), and does a nice job showing that there’s more humanity to her this time around; and as for Lex Luthor, well, Kevin Spacey does a good job in the role, however, there’s still a big issue with him.

A big, big one.

What’s bothersome about Luthor here is that, yes, he’s the stereotypical villain in a comic book movie, so obviously we can expect there to be some unbelievability. However, the plan that Luthor eventually hatches to take over the world, which would entail wiping out the rest of the human race for some reason, just seems so random and out-of-this-world. The movie seems to treat this as some grand master plan from Luthor, even though he is a crazed-loon and, for the most part, he doesn’t have the right head on his shoulders. While I could easily just pass this off as a small thing to nitpick at, it really doesn’t end-up that way and instead, turns out to take the bulk of the later-half of the story where the emotions are extra heavy and we’re really asked to pay attention.

It works, but still, it comes close to not doing so at all.

Consensus: With an extra bit of attention to the heart and soul of its title character, Superman Returns works both as a silly, yet exciting superhero flick, as well as a tender look at the loneliness these kinds of characters embody.

8 / 10

Still no glasses! Come on, girl!

Still no glasses! Come on, girl!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Ninth Gate (1999)

No babies and nobody named Rosemary. Just books.

A rare-book dealer named Dean Corso (Johnny Depp), is hired by bibliophile Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to validate a 17th-Century copy of The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, by Aristide Torchia. Dean takes it because it’s a lot of money, a lot of honey, and a lot of time to go sight-seeing, however, the only sights that he actually gets to witness are murders, crime, and some sort of Satanic-worship; all of which, he has no idea about until they all start pile up.

No matter where you are or who you’re with, any time you bring up Roman Polanski in conversation it’s always the same old stuff: “Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he raped that little girl, and then fled the country. Wow.” Now, I know that last sentence may seem like a satire and in a way, it is, but the fact of the matter stands is that having sex with any girl, under the age of 18 when you are way above that, is just wrong. A lot of people will defend Polanski and say that he just had a messed-up life stemming from his early days during the Holocaust and because of what the Manson’s did to his family, but it doesn’t matter. Rape is rape, and that’s just how it is.

Yet, whatever side of the discussion you may be on, you still can’t deny that Polanksi is one hell of a director. As a fan of film, I myself usually have to be able to create a seperate wall from the artist, from the person, and sometimes, it’s a lot easier said then done. But in the case of Polanski’s, it’s a lot easier because his movies are quite good and he always finds exciting ways to show the world that he can try something new, even at his age.

And like any other of Polanski’s flicks, the Ninth Gate starts off with a load of intrigue and wonder. A simple, everyday man is assigned a task that may baffle him, but at the same time, is almost too appealing for him to deny, so he takes it, and only finds out until it’s too late that he’s in way, way in over-his-head. That’s the way most of Polanski’s flicks play out and that doesn’t make it good, bad, or anything – it’s just what we’ve all come to expect from Polanksi and the guy at least does that aspect of his story very well. He sets up the plot, the story, the characters, and the setting that we’re supposed to get used to and always allows us to fully drop our expectations of what may come next, and just expect the unexpected to happen.

However, that same idea is sort of what killed this movie.

"It says I have to act normal?"

“It says I have to act normal?!?!?”

Where I think Polanski loses himself is somewhere around the middle-act. Before all of that, he had me on-edge, wondering where this story was going to go, how it was all going to go down, and what type of twist and turns Polanski was going to pull out of his dirty bag of tricks next. That all went away once the flick gets a little too ahead of itself, and then got a bit too over-the-top. There were so many scenes in this movie that made me feel like Polanski was going for some sort of dark comedy, but then the next scene would come around and have something so serious, something so strange, and something so dramatic that it almost seemed like both scenes were done by two entirely, different directors that either weren’t on the same page, or just didn’t know where to go with the story. Either way, something was screwed up with Polanski’s direction here and no matter how much the guy gave me to feast my eyes on, I never felt as compelled as I felt like I should have. Especially, when I think about how this is the same guy has made movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, The Ghost Writer, and a slew of other, tension-filled flicks.

Still, I don’t know whether or not I can blame Polanski’s direction, or just that the writing wasn’t there. It feels like the movie had a clear idea of what it wanted to do with itself from the first hour or so, but then had a change of heart and went with the wacky, supernatural thriller route that can either make or break movies. For Polanski, in the past at least, they have been able to make him, but for this movie right here: It just about breaks him.

Now, that’s not to say that this whole movie is terrible, because it’s actually relatively entertaining for a long while. There’s just a moment in time during this movie, where it feels like all points for originality were gone, and then Polanski put on the auto-pilot, doing weird and strange shenanigans with his story, but being able to get away with it because it’s what we expect of him. That can be all fine and dandy if it’s compelling and feels like it’s going somewhere with it, but it never does feel like that. It just goes on and on and on, and meanders until you feel like the movie is just about over. And then, it once again continues to go on and on and on until you really feel like it’s over. And then, it meanders once again.

What I’m trying to say is that this is a long movie, and it shows.

Actually, this DID creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Actually, this did creep me out. Only thing, I think.

Whenever there is a will, well, there is always a way and thank the high heavens that Johnny Depp was that way. In today’s day and age of the Sweeney Todd’s, the Jack Sparrow’s, and the Tonto’s, it’s always nice to get a slick reminder that Depp can still play low-key, and play it very-well. His performance as Dean Corso is pretty damn good, not just because it’s Depp being more subtle with his facial-expressions than he usually is, but because the character he is playing is more distasteful than likable, yet, Depp changes our perception of the dude by just being himself. I didn’t love the hell out of this guy by the end, but I do feel like his character goes through enough of a transformation that is not only somewhat believable, but pretty cool in how no matter how crazy stuff gets around him, no matter how close to death he seems, he still stays cool, calm, collective, and always like himself. It’s just another day for Johnny Depp, and we’re just there to sit back, relax, and have a good time watching him.

Frank Langella is as sinister as ever as the mysterious millionaire that hires Corso, Boris Balkan, and does what we always expect from the guy: Just be a bad-ass dude. Langella loves these types of roles and it’s pretty damn easy to see why, because he’s so good in them. You never know what this guy is up to next and for the most part, you never know if he’s being bad or not. All you do know is that he’s not the type of dude to trust and one that shouldn’t definitely be dealt with more through the phone, rather than in real-life. At least that’s how I’d handle my business meetings with the dude. Lena Olin is quite gorgeous as the wealthy widow that wants exactly what Corso has, and will stop at nothing to get it. Olin is a quality actress, I just feel like her role was a little too tame and could have went further into the depths of hell, much like I was expecting from a gal of her talents. Polanksi never seems to have a problem with his actors, it’s just more of the fact that he has a problem with keeping his story up and running for the whole time is where he hits a dead end.

Consensus: Since it is Polanksi and you know that whenever you walk into a film his, you are there to expect thrills, chills, twists, turns, and loads of craziness unlike any other director, there is some fun in watching all this craziness spill out over time, but The Ninth Gate is one that sort of goes on and on, without much reason or rhyme, just strangeness.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks THAT good.

No way Nixon actually reads books. And also has hair that looks that good.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Draft Day (2014)

You thought on-the-field was tough? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, ya pansy soccer fan!

Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) has it pretty rough for a man of his age and stature. He’s the general manager of the Cleveland Browns, a team that hasn’t been all that successful in quite some time; his girlfriend (Jennifer Garner) may possibly be pregnant; and to add insult to injury, the most important day in all of sports history, next to the Super Bowl of course, is coming up: Draft day. Oh yes, the NFL draft. Where dreams are both shattered and made, sometimes, even occurring at the same time. For Sonny though, his main problem isn’t just dealing with his boss (Frank Langella), the head coach (Denis Leary), or even the main-prospect he’s looking into (Chadwick Boseman), the main problem he’s having is getting the deal he wants, while also making sure that everyone around him is happy with his dealings at the end of the day. Not just him, or his co-workers, but the franchise as a whole. Which, if you know a thing or two about any sport whatsoever, is a lot easier said, then actually done.

I’d probably say that the biggest worry somebody will have when going into this movie is whether or not they know enough about the NFL, the draft, how it all works, and why it all matters. To put it simple, it’s like this: College ball-players get a chance to be drafted onto any NFL team that is actually in the draft, which also leaves these teams’ managers, scouters, whatever, to start making all sorts of deals and promises that they can’t clearly keep. But basically, what you have is a bunch of guys who bicker at one another, doing whatever they can to make sure the team they represent gets the best player, or, even more important, the better deal.

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

Aww! Look at K-Cost and J-Garn just being all adorable and whatnot over there. Those names have caught-on by now, right?

So, if you know all of that going into the movie, you have nothing at all to worry about. All you have to do now is just sit back and watch, because for the next two-hours, you’ll be treated to a bunch of grown-ups arguing, wheeling, dealing, yelling and do whatever the hell they can to make sure that they aren’t getting screwed-over in any way. The idea for the premise to revolve around that may seem pretty boring, which is why director Ivan Reitman throws in so many different strands of plot, but somehow, it actually works.

I’m not a huge football-fanatic, but I had my time where Sunday was dedicated to sitting in front of the TV, with chips, soda and my dad by my side. And that was before you all got spoiled with your RedZone, so don’t even give me any lip! Anyway, one of the events that got me more jazzed-up than the Superbowl, was actually the NFL Draft. Reason being is that for so damn long, about a year ahead in advance, there are so many predictions about how it is all exactly going to go down, in what particular fashion, that I couldn’t help but want to just wait and see what went down, and see if all of the predictions were absolutely right, or just a bunch of sports-writers getting too wild and crazy for their pay-grade.

That same feeling I had way back when, translated into my feelings with this movie, as I really did have no clue where this story was going to go, in terms of who Sonny was going to sign, who he was going to lose, if he was going to be fired, and whether or not everybody involved with the organizations would get what it is that they initially wanted. Not only did that keep me watching and interested, but it made everything else that was happening to Sonny, easier to get past, as poorly-written as most of it was. See, this is the type of movie where having Sonny deal with the problems that usually run rampant in a manager’s head come draft-time, isn’t enough. Instead, we need to have all these sorts of different subplots where Sonny is mean to interns; may possibly be a daddy; doesn’t pay his child-support; isn’t pleasing his mommy as much as he should; and so on and so forth.

While all of that may create more stuff to be happening during this movie, barely any of it feels worth our time. More often than not, it just feels like filler for a movie that could have easily been a lean, mean, hour-and-a-half indie in the same vein as Margin Call or Glengarry Glen Ross. Actually, there are times when this movie does feel very “Mamet-y” in the way the dialogue moves most of the plot, and how so many grown-up men love just being dirty and not always being honest when in circling-around a deal. Those moments of this movie not only rang true for me, but genuinely had me entertained. Sometimes, the conversations these guys have are funny; they’re sometimes insightful; and hell, even sometimes, they’re a bit emotional. But they always add something more to this story, which is where I feel like mostly everything else here doesn’t.

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants "peace".

I have a better time believing Skeletor as a Browns fan, than an actual guy who wants “peace”.

Most of what does work here can definitely be attributed to the fact that Reitman allows for these scenes of just straight-up dialogue, flow and roll as they please. However though, most of that definitely has to be attributed to the well-stacked ensemble Reitman was somehow able to assemble here, particularly Kevin Costner. I’m glad to see K-Cost back in the mainstream, however, 3 Days to Kill was not that type of movie I wanted him doing. It was fine and all (and the same could be said for him), however, that movie had more problems than it needed to have. Here though, Costner is actually given some good material worthy of his talents where he gets plenty to do. He gets a chance to be mean and a bit vindictive; funny when he’s using that comedic-timing of his that is almost nonexistent, but he somehow is always able to get by with; a bit romantic when he has some painlessly-cheesy scenes with Jennifer Garner; and even has a couple of moments as Sonny where he drops the facade of the hardcore, take-no-prisoners businessman, and just lets us see a heart and soul to this guy. The movie could have easily gone in a different direction with this character and had him come-off as flat as a football field itself (hayyoh!), but it doesn’t. It keeps its focus on him, who he is as a person, the type of person he wants to be, and how he gets by in the world.

Like I said though, K-Cost is just the beginning of the familiar-faces in this movie. There’s plenty more where he came from and they are all pretty damn fine. The previously mentioned Garner is alright as Sonny’s co-worker/lover/possible-baby-momma, who has to be a bit cute, a bit feisty, and a bit ballsy to make us believe that she could easily hang around a guy’s sport like football, all of which, Garner does a nice job with. She’s not annoying, let’s just put it that way.

Others include Denis Leary as the Cleveland Browns football coach that barely ever sees eye-to-eye with Sonny, yet, does have plenty of ground to stand on and make us see why; Ellen Burstyn is charming and lovely as Sonny’s mommy, who is clearly still grieving over the death of her husband, Sonny’s dad that he can’t seem to get out of the shadow of; Chadwick Boseman shows us why he is on the verge of near super-stardom right now with his role as a possible NFL-prospect Sonny looks into an awful lot; and Frank Langella, as you could imagine, plays the owner of the Cleveland Browns like the rich and powerful d-bag you’d expect him to play. There’s plenty more where that came from, but you may just have to wait around and see just who exactly does show their bright and smiling faces.

Consensus: May tack-on a bit more than it needs to, but when it comes to the actual process of drafting possible, football-prospects, Draft Day is entertaining, funny and heartwarming, which is thanks to both a charming script and cast, most notably Kevin Costner carrying the whole ship on his back.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Sort of like me at parties where I don't like anybody there. Actually, just parties.

Sort of like me at parties where I don’t like anybody there. Actually, just parties in general.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90’s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90’s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Noah (2014)

Thought he’d need a bigger boat. Guess not.

I don’t think I really need to state what this movie is about, but in case those of you out there have either been living under a rock for the past one million years, or just don’t pay attention to anything at all in the whole, wide world, here’s the plot: Noah (Russell Crowe) is a descendant of Seth, which means he is one of the very few nice men in the world that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and loves all things that are beautiful with the world. He loves nature, he loves his wife (Jennifer Connelly), his family and most of all, his God. So much so, that when he has a vision in his dreams that the world will be destroyed one day due to a huge flood, he decides to take matters into his own hands and prepare the right way. What is “the right way”, you ask? Well, that consists of building a giant-scale Ark that will hold two of every animal species known to man in order to have all of them continue on and live, even if the world itself is totally wiped-out. Things for Noah and his whole family seem to go fine, that is until Noah gets a little bit crazy with what it is that God actually wants him to do, against what it is that he thinks he should do.

As predicted, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding this movie. Many Christian-advocates have stood-up, said their peace about this flick and even though they haven’t necessarily been totally against it, per se, they definitely haven’t given it the glowing pass of approval neither. So basically, this movie may offend you, but then again, at the same time, it may not. It all depends on how in-touch you are with your faith and whether or not you actually want to see a full-length, feature-flick about a dude who built an Ark to preserve life for the rest of humanity.

Personally, I don’t want to see that kind of movie. But if Darren Aronofsky is directing it, then count me the hell in!

"Guess you didn't get the memo about '80's glam-metal hair-styles only', huh?"

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about ’80’s glam-metal hair-styles only’, huh?”

And if anything, the idea of having Darren Aronofsky direct this as a certain “passion project” of his, is definitely the most intriguing-aspect behind this flick. You’d never expect the same kind of guy who gave us scenes like this, or this, or hell, even this, to be so willing and dedicated to give his own, in-depth version of an as-old-as-time story that’s only about a few paragraphs or so long. But with Aronofsky, you can never, ever tell what his next move is going to be; whether it be what movie he decides to direct next, or what he actually does in his own movies, the guy is totally unpredictable. However, in today’s day and age of cinema, we need that, which is why when you get a Darren Aronofsky movie, it doesn’t matter what the subject-material is or how it’s going to play-out in terms of who it’s for – all you have to know is when, where, what time and if you’re able to see it right away!

As you can probably tell, I was very excited for this movie, just judged solely by who was making it and to be honest, that’s probably what kept this movie going for me. It seemed strange in the first place that a major-studio would actually back a biblical-epic directed by Darren Aronofsky in the first place, and seeing the end-result, it’s apparent why I had those ideas in my in the first place. Like all of Aronofsky’s movies, this is downright beautiful; from the visuals, to the amazing, sometimes over-wrought score from Clint Mansell, to even the biblical-imagery that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is able to make you understand what message it’s trying to convey, everything was given the right attention of detail it needed to seem like an actual story from this time and place, rather than just a cheap dramatization we’d get on the History Channel.

Even the actual story here, which Aronofsky clearly took plenty of liberties with, seems like something he’d do; the main character of Noah, here, has an obsession over doing what God wants him to do, even if it does make him absolutely insane. In fact, where this movie really gets interesting is when Aronofsky sheds a light on how Noah either does or doesn’t take God’s demands or ideas about saving humanity and getting rid of those who don’t deserve to live, as understandably as he should. In any movie, directed by anybody else who didn’t have nearly as bright a mind as Aronofsky, this message could have been handled terribly and even offend some out there, but what Aronofsky does is just show a character finding himself in a bit of a bind as to whether or not he should do exactly what he thinks God is telling him to do, or act as he should, a moral human being. Instead of seeing Noah as a Saint that did everything right, for every person around him, including God, we see him as a man that struggled with his faith, with the situation he was thrown into and how all of the pressure was thrown onto him to not only preserve these animals, but keep those around him alive and well, knowing that they’d die soon, and possibly even be the last ones alive on Earth.

Pretty freaky stuff, but I guess when you got the big G.O.D. backing you up, it doesn’t matter.

But as interesting as most of the things that Aronofsky does with this material, I still can’t help but feel as if a bit too much of it is over-blown beyond its means. For instance, Noah, as almost every epic, is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, and it feels like so. That isn’t good, not because long movies shouldn’t exist, but because this one feels unnecessarily long, when only a good hour-and-a-half of this movie is really worth seeing. Everything leading-up from when Noah has these dreams of the apocalypse, to when he actually gets the Ark up and running, is exciting, tense and exactly the type of viewing-experience I expected to have with something on this grand-of-a-scale.

"But in all seriousness though, honey, I'm fucking craving a hamburger. We gotta get rid of the pigs."

“But in all seriousness though, honey, I’m fucking craving a burger. We gotta get rid of the cows.”

However, all of the energy of this movie seems to fade out, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say where this story goes and how dark it gets, but it seemed like Aronofsky felt like he really needed to allow this movie to play-out as long as he possibly could, so threw in all sorts of subplots he could. This not only has it seem like it’s meandering and taking its good old time to get to a finale, but doesn’t really know where it’s going to end-up – much like Noah and the rest of his family on this Ark. I was still interested in seeing where this movie would go, but after awhile, I began to wonder if that moment would ever come around, and if it did, would it actually be satisfying, or just rushed and too safe for its own good.

Somehow, it placed somewhere in the middle, but I can’t say I was all that disappointed where it did go and end. Doesn’t offend too many people, but still keeps it a bit edgy and hard-hitting for those who want some deeper-meaning out of what they see here.

And of course, before I head-off into the sunset, I do have to give some credit to the cast for at least trying with what they’re given, as timid as some of it may be. Russell Crowe is perfectly-cast as Noah, showing all sorts of grit, manliness that makes you seem his as the type of guy you don’t want to mess with when it comes to the apocalypse, but also enough compassion to where you can sort of see that he’s a sweet guy behind the huge muscles and supreme fighting-skills. It was also nice to see Jennifer Connelly back in a movie with Darren Aronofsky, and actually get some worthy-material that has her shed those skills more than a few times, particularly in a scene where she basically tells Noah to wake up and snap out his crazed-daze. And as usual, Anthony Hopkins is a fine-addition to the cast as he brings a lot of fun, light and humor to a film that seemed so serious and over-blown most of the time. And he does it all by wanting berries!

Didn’t see that part in the original source-material, but then again, it’s been a long time since my Vacation Bible School days.

Consensus: While the first hour-and-a-half packs a exciting, tense and epic-punch that Darren Aronofsky is clearly able to deliver, the remainder of Noah does seem to meander and have no clue where to go, which may be more of a problem with the studio that helped produce it, rather than the creator himself, but it’s still a noticeable problem nonetheless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?"

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Oh, those Muppets. So hip, so meta, so cool.

It has finally happened! The Muppets are back and more popular than ever! The only difference now is that they don’t quite know what to do with all their popularity, that is, until booking-agent Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) walks into their lives and gives them an offer they can’t refuse: Come along with him, go on a world tour, sell every place out and sooner than later, they’ll be rich, famous and cool all over again. But, the only problem here is that none of the other Muppets know about what Dominic is really up to, which concerns breaking into art galleries all over the world, finding buried-treasure and becoming even more rich than ever before. Also, there is another part of the plan that consists of Kermit getting mistaken for a villainous thief known as “Constantine”, because they look exactly the same, although the latter does have a mole on his face. Either way, the switch-up happens and when Kermit is thrown into a Russian prison, the rest of the Muppets are left with nothing else to do but to just get on with the show and hope for the best, even if they do notice that something rather strange is going on with the “new” Kermit.

To clear things up right away, I absolutely loved and adored the hell out of the latest Muppets movie that came out some odd years back. Not only was it a return-to-form for those lovely puppets I grew up watching and knowing throughout all of my childhood, but it reminded me just how hilarious they actually were, despite me growing up a little bit. Their jokes were a lot more self-knowing, smart, witty, and even, dare I say it, meta. It showed me that the Muppets weren’t only here to stay, but that they could easily continue to have me smiling, laughing and having a great time with them, even as I got older.

For once, Ricky Gervais doesn't know what to say.

For once, Ricky Gervais is left speechless.

Heck, I even watched that holiday special they had with Lady Gaga and RuPaul a couple of months ago!

Anyway, that’s why when I was going into this, I expected to have the same bit of fun I had with the last movie, while still remaining a bit skeptical. Why? Well, because with the first movie, it seemed like there was a lot more at-stake. We hadn’t seen the Muppets pop-up in much for a very long time, nor did we get a movie of theirs for a whole ten or eleven years. So basically, the first movie was created as a tool as to see if these puppets were still popular, or, better yet, could even make some money for those powers-that-be. Thankfully, the movie did both! But that’s why I remained a little weary of what this movie was going to do and if it wasn’t going to stick to its guns like the latest movie did. I felt like they were probably going to try all that they could to strangle a laugh out of us and probably end-up straining themselves in the process.

But somehow, this wasn’t the case here, although some of my fears did come true here, if only a wee bit.

What I think works so well here, as it does with practically anything involving the Muppets, is the humor. It’s the type of humor that works for any and all ages. There’s the older, more-knowing jokes suitable for the more mature crowd; as well as there’s plenty of those slapstick jokes where characters are falling down, blowing stuff up and hitting each other over the heads with whatever they can find, for the younger crowd. It all works very well and barely ever lets up, even if most of those “thoughtful” jokes do, and will, go over most of those younger kids’ heads. Not saying so in a condescending way, just saying that it’s something that you have to expect with a Muppets movie. Or anything involving the Muppets whatsoever.

The next best aspect of this movie is definitely the music which seems like it only gets better the more and more you think about certain lines of lyrics. Sure, there’s nothing along the lines of “Man or Muppet” to be found here, but for what it’s worse, most of the tunes heard here are funny, well-written and better than most of the other crap you hear on the radio nowadays. I mean, seriously, who in the hell is “the Glitch Mob”!??!?

And I guess you could consider the cast to be the next best aspect of this movie, mainly Ty Burrell as a French Interpol inspector that works with Sam the Eagle on this whole big mystery of a plot and is always competing with him as who is the better Secret Service agent. Also, they battle it out on whose badge is bigger, which is a running-gag that never seems to get old. Burrell is probably the only who is more lively and energetic than some of the Muppets here, if only because he has the goofiest, showiest role of them all. Whereas Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey, despite the latter sporting a heavy-Russian accent, don’t really get to do much other than try their very few hands at being funny and holding believable reaction-shots with a bunch of puppets. That’s not taking anything away from Burrell at all, because he truly was hilarious to watch in a campy, over-the-top way. You know, the way you should be when you’re in the same frame as Ms. Piggy, or the Swedish Chef, or especially Kermit himself.

Okay, sure. I guess if the sight of Hornswaggle is a "Spoiler", than whatever.

Okay, sure. I guess if the sight of Hornswoggle is a “Spoiler”, than whatever.

The cameos themselves are all fine and dandy, if totally and completely random. However, that’s exactly what these movies live-off of. Some of the people who show up I’m scared to even give away or spoil, but just know, a few of them will absolute stun you and make you wonder just where the idea of putting this particular person the movie came from. Not all of them are great, but more often than not, they’re pretty strange, but in a good way that the Muppets are always known for featuring.

At the end of the day with this movie, I find myself being totally ecstatic about it, and then, other parts of me find it hard to remember it as perfectly as I did with the first movie. I guess that’s my fault for stacking 30 years of Muppets movies up against one another, but then again, I don’t think it is. As a fan, I think it’s alright to shine a light on the past, and see exactly where the franchise is going. For now, I’m content with the Muppets being around and making us laugh, but still, I hold a little hesitance in my heart, as I know that there could quite possibly be another Muppets from Space, just around the corner. Let’s just hope that’s just another case of me talking out of my backside, and not the harsh, brutal truth.

Consensus: As usual, Muppets Most Wanted assures that our favorite, lovable puppets are still funny and able to make us have a great time, although it is clear that some of the magic is fading away. If only some of it is.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

That "Walter" guy is still around? Meh!

That “Walter” guy is still around? Meh!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Good Night, And Good Luck (2005)

Television, where have you gone?

During the mid-1950s, there was a man by the name of Senator Joseph McCarthy who saw many people around him as “communists”. Those people he found to be affiliated with this political party, regardless as to whether or not he had substantial evidence, would be put on trial, questioned, manipulated and practically have their lives ruined, all without much grounds to stand on. Not many people liked to see this happen, however, not many people voiced their disapproval in hopes of not being considered a “communist” as well. There was one man, though, that saw wrong-doings being committed and he was a pretty well-known figure at the time, that definitely had enough power and respect within his own industry to where he could get in front of the television, speak out his mind and say what he has to say loud, proud, and in front of thousands, upon thousands all over the nation. That man, was Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), and he was more than willing to take on McCarthy and all of his fellow “red-baiters”; but, as most of us know when you’re taking on the bull, you’re going to eventually get the horns.

You have to hand it to George Clooney – when he isn’t being charming, swift, lovable and the coolest mofo on the face of this planet, he’s always finding a way to express himself in a way that makes us see him as more than just a pretty face, with a pair of fresh, shiny teeth. Sure, he’s got the looks to make it as an actor, and he’s definitely got the skills to make it as both an director and a writer, but believe it or not, the guy’s also got a pretty big head on his shoulders, with some very bright, very insightful ideas that he’s not afraid to let public to the rest of the world. In today’s day and age, where celebrities are getting all sorts of clatter for speaking out with whatever controversial opinion they may, or may not have, you have to give someone as famous, as well-known and as respected as George Clooney is to, most of the time, let everyone know what he thinks about where society is headed, and why he thinks it’s either in a good, or bad direction.

So much lung cancer.

So much lung cancer in that right room.

However, in this case, George comes down to the conclusion that we’re all going in the later-direction; don’t worry though, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as faint as it may be.

I guess what I am trying to get across here is that, as both co-writer and director, George Clooney definitely has a lot to handle in terms of giving us a real-life story, that mostly everybody knows about and, if we’re being brutally honest, may not be all that interesting to put to screen in a big, showwy way, with a whole bunch of familiar, attractive faces attached to the roles. But that problem soon goes away once we realize that not only does Clooney get past the problems of making a story as well-known like this, still interesting, but he also finds way to keep us entertained, while also informed on the side as well. For every point being made about how you should speak up for yourself, regardless of what others out there may be saying; there’s always a cool glance or two about how television during the 50’s was done, how a story was put-together, who it went through first and just why the ratings were so freakin’ crucial during that time. So for anybody who doesn’t give a lick about what Murrow may be saying about McCarthy and his “unjust allegations”, then have no fear, because there’s still plenty of people smoking, beautiful black-and-white cinematography to gaze, and plenty of lovely faces that all adapt quite well to the 50’s setting.

And the people that Clooney was able to get for this movie, including himself, all do amazing jobs with what they’re given, even though it’s fairly clear that their characters come second to whatever message Clooney wants to get across. There’s nothing all that wrong with that since that message is exactly why Clooney is making this film, but in the case of Murrow, you get the idea that we never get to know who this person really was, behind the camera and dead-pan tone; we just know that he’s a patriot and sticks to everything he says, no matter how many times people spit in his face about it (figuratively, not literally). Maybe that wasn’t Clooney’s point, but it does create a bit of a distance between us and Murrow, especially once we realize that it’s his story that really matters most, even despite all of the Left-Wing propaganda Clooney is shoveling down our throats (in a good way, I promise).

But it’s easy to get past this problem with Murrow, as well as every other character here, solely due to the fact that the people in these respective roles are great and can do efficient work, when given the shot to. David Strathairn really excels here at giving us more than just a simple impersonation of the man we all know, and delivers each and every single speech with passion in his heart, and a fire in his eyes, without ever showing too much emotion or feeling in the process; except only to smoke and inhale, that is. It’s surprising to see someone as notable as George Clooney take on the type of role that would have been perfect for a “character actor”, but he works pretty damn fine as Fred Friendly, giving us a restrained, off-to-the-side performance we don’t usually see from him. Then again though, this is his movie, so maybe he didn’t want to be hogging-up the spotlight a bit too much now, eh?

Everybody else is great too, and shows you that Clooney himself probably picked each of these people so damn delicately, right down to the very bone of the role. Frank Langella has a few, wonderful scenes as the chief executive of CBS, William Paley, the man who practically runs the whole show, but never censors Murrow one bit, giving him a clear-conscience in the name of journalism; Patricia Clarkson and Robert Downey Jr. show up and add some much-needed heart and humor to the proceedings as a married-couple trying not to get caught actually being married, due to it being against CBS policy; Jeff Daniels is clearly having a ball in his few scenes as Frank Stanton, another one of Murrow’s bosses who doesn’t like everything that goes down, but is still there to stand by and watch the fire-works occur; and lastly, Ray Wise does a pretty efficient job as Don Hollenbeck, CBS’s evening-news reporter who you just feel so bad for once you see him, and never lose a single ounce of sympathy for, all because you can tell this is clearly too much for him.

Basically, from the look, to the acting, to the setting; there’s clearly a little something for everyone here, and I think that’s where Clooney really excels at the most.

He gives us a story that is as thought-provoking now, as it might have been nearly 50 years ago, but not without giving those some moments where they can at least be interested in seeing why all of this matters, and how we, as a society, are being affected by all of this today. Because, once you think about it, Murrow isn’t just standing-up for his own right to free speech, but for all of ours as well. He does this in hopes that it will not only translate to news being spread more rapidly, but that we, as viewers, consumers and citizens, will grow smarter and more aware as to what is really out there, and what the truth is lying behind most controversies we see out there.

Aka, a total dick.

Aka, a total dick.

What all of this really comes down to is whether or not we’ve learned from our past mistakes, and if we’ve moved on to informing those in the best, clearest ways possible. Have we? I don’t know. The state of television surely isn’t a pretty one today, with the likes of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, or 16 & Pregnant, or even an easy target like Jerry Springer, not only taking up most of our television-screens, but our day as well as our head-space, and sadly to say, it seems like it will never end. Are these shows entertaining? Sure, why not! However, can they, or better yet, are they only made to as Murrow himself would say, “distract, delude, amuse and insulate” us? I definitely think so! Now, would Murrow, had he been alive today, be at all pleased with that?

Honestly, I do not think so, but Clooney isn’t trying to beat that horse over the head with a hammer that’s nearly about to break; instead, he’s just trying to show us that television, like all news formats, can still be important, interesting and worth watching. Though the art of journalism itself has definitely lost some credibility over the years, and in ways, changed its own meaning, it’s still out there for us to read, see or hear about, and rather than just sitting on our pie-holes and listening to what other’s are telling us what to think, we should be out there, right now, allowing ourselves to speak freely and make up our own mind about whatever feels right for us. Who cares what those over-paid, sponsored-up hacks from ABC have to say, go with what you think and never let your own opinion, no matter how unpopular or popular it may in fact be, get shut-down. Stick to your guns, speak your mind and never let go of your stance. If you can do this and keep to it, then you’re only influencing others to do the same, and therefore, continuing on the cycle of people thinking, speaking for, and overall, just being themselves.

Now that is something I feel as if Murrow would be quite pleased with.

Consensus: Smart, well-crafted and powerful in the message it’s trying to get across about the future state of television and information, Good Night, And Good Luck is basically a history-lesson with many attractive, talented people giving it to us, but it’s never a boring one, or one that rings false. Just sticks straight to the facts, much like Edward R. Murrow himself.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If this guy doesn't make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don't know who will. Surely not Glenn Beck!

If this guy doesn’t make you want to start smoking and speaking about politics, I don’t know who will. Surely not that joke Glenn Beck!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Unknown (2011)

Main reason why Neeson should have just taken that Abraham Lincoln role.

Liam Neeson stars as a man who regains consciousness after an auto accident only to discover that another man is impersonating him, and that no one — not even his wife (January Jones) — recognizes his identity as the real Dr. Martin Harris. Finding himself with an unexpected ally (Diane Kruger), Harris struggles to solve the mystery and hang onto his own wits, while also being stalked by anonymous killers.

When you have a mixture of ‘Taken’ and ‘The Bourne Identity’ for a plot, Qui-Gon Jinn as the lead, and a whole bunch of Nazis as your villains, it seems very hard for a film like this to not be entertaining but there is only so much I can take.

The whole premise itself tries to be like a thriller that is meant for adults but could have even targeted at teenagers due to how silly it is. The whole first hour builds up on this premise and actually does a great job with it. I felt a lot of tension during this first hour as I didn’t quite know what was going to happen next nor did I know where this film was going to end up, which is always a nice recipe for a good popcorn thriller. However, things just started getting way out-of-hand real quick.

Probably one of the main problems with this flick was the fact that there was too much starting-and-stopping going on here where they would focus on the plot and build it, then they would add in a random car chase or one-on-one brawl to spice things up a little bit. This to me was OK the first 2 times they did it, but then they just kept on doing it the whole damn time and I honestly just couldn’t stay attached to this plot because right when I would, they would throw in an action sequence just so I wouldn’t have been bored even though I wasn’t in the first place.

Another department where this film doesn’t quite work is the fact that I knew where this plot was going because usually when you have one like this, that usually means that you’re going to get a lot of silliness that eventually leads to an utterly ridiculous plot twist. The plot twist itself wasn’t too bad and I actually think it kind of worked in a way but once it is revealed then everything starts to turn into the ridiculous action-thriller cliches that we are so used to seeing nowadays. It seems like director Jaume Collet-Sera just likes putting in plot twists that somehow work and make sense but then likes to knock them down with being predictable. He did it with ‘Orphan’ and I guess he hasn’t learned much.

Liam Neeson always tries his hardest with everything he ever appears in and his performance as Dr. Martin Harris, is no different. There are plenty of ridiculous and overboard things that he does but Neeson makes it seem believable just by being the way he is. Still, at age 59, doesn’t seem a little unbelievable that this guy could still be considered an action star that can do half of the things that he does in all of his films. Maybe it’s time for him to start trying for Oscars again.

The way the rest of the cast looks, makes this film seem like we were going to get a real treat but nobody really adds anything to this flick either. Diane Kruger plays a non-German for a film that is set entirely in Berlin, which is a big problem especially when her Bosnian accent isn’t very good as she struggles through a lot of her lines; January Jones is very bad as Elizabeth Harris and REALLY struggles through her lines; and Frank Langella and Bruno Ganz are the only two that actually show some real talent and give off one of the best scenes of the film, even though that’s not saying much in the first place.

Consensus: Liam Neeson is good as usual and there are some good moments that work, but Unknown is just another silly, predictable, and uninteresting thriller that doesn’t do much with its intriguing premise and feels like it’s trying to hard to be an action flick that still tries to rely on the plot for more thrills, but instead offers up barely any.

3/10=Rental!!

Frost/Nixon (2008)

I would have definitely liked it more if they interviewed the Nixon from Futurama.

This is a period piece, that centers on little-known talk show host David Frost (Michael Sheen), who goes way out of his way to interview probably one of the most controversial and famous presidents of all-time, Richard Nixon (Frank Langella). This is the story of how those interviews went.

I really didn’t know too much about the Frost/Nixon interviews other than the fact that they both were interviews between two dudes. Goes to show you how much I paid attention in history class after all. Surprisingly though, this is not a history lesson and more of a film about the two dudes who were in these famous series of interviews together.

Director Ron Howard really gives it his all with this film because of the way he makes these interviews seem less like actual interviews and more like a boxing match of words between two famous figures. Howard keeps the tension building up and up on these interviews and gives us enough character development to realize just how much both of these people need these interviews. One for fame, the other for forgiveness and setting the record straight.

Another great element to this film that makes it so damn watchable is that it’s script is very very good with a lot intelligence, wit, and small doses of humor to keep us laughing and entertained. It’s basically a “talking heads” film where you just watch a whole bunch of people talk without anything really happening, but it’s a very fun one that relies solely on the fact that it can keep people glued into what Frost is going to ask, and what Nixon is going answer with. I never actually saw the play that this is based off of but apparently everything is taken verbatim which makes the transition from stage to screen even better.

The problem with this film that keeps it away from being anything perfect or amazing like it could have easily been is that I feel like Howard could have really went out-of-bounds with this film. Granted, this is a very small film where there isn’t really a lot happening other than these two guys talking but I feel like there could have been more of how the nation felt about these interviews, and more about other characters that are just sort of there.

I also never understood why Howard have the actors who portrayed these actual people, come off and randomly narrate what was happening and why. I feel like the film is trying to give a sort of documentary feel when in reality it could have just stayed away from that or even used the real-life people itself. We all know who the actors are and who the real people are, so there’s no need to trying to show us otherwise.

Michael Sheen is a lot of fun to watch as David Frost because this guy is sometimes at the lowest points of his life, but no matter what keeps a big olde smile on his face. Sheen reminds me of that very cheeky, very corny, but always funny British guy that always seems to think he’s better than everybody, and usually is depending on who you are talking. However, this film really does belong to the one and only Frank Langella as Richard Nixon.

Even though he doesn’t look like Nixon, Langella probably does the best performance/impersonation of the man that any other actor has ever done in their whole lives. Yes, Anthony Hopkins has played Nixon too, Langella is THAT GOOD. You notice the physical differences within the first 5 minutes but then you totally got lost in this guy because he really just sells this whole conflicted, and tormented soul that knows what he did was wrong but he can’t get past it with everyone around him always breathing down his neck. There is some pretty wild stuff that Langella does as Nixon, such as losing his temper like a 7 year-old would do if his mommy didn’t buy him ice cream, but it’s totally easy to see why Langella got nominated for an Oscar and hopefully he keeps on getting better roles from now on.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t achieve greatness, Frost/Nixon is still a great flick with two great performances, a clever script, and a direction from Howard that keeps this film tense and on its toes.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)

23 years later and money is still messed up.

Trader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) tries to mend the broken relationship between his fiancée, Winnie (Carey Mulligan), and her father, Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), while avenging the fate of his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella), by getting close to Wall Street’s new megalomaniac, Bretton James (Josh Brolin).

After seeing the first Wall Street, I realized just how much things with money in today’s world hasn’t changed at all really. However, it seems the cheese factor for this type of material hasn’t either.

Director Oliver Stone has always been a favorite director of mine because he always knows how to make any story seem interesting with his great use of style but here he shows that those skills are starting to fall apart. Stone relies too much on montages, almost the same ones we saw from the first one, and quick cuts that try to bring off some sign of rapidness in the Wall Street world but overall none of it actually works.

Having this film set in the time of the 2008 financial crisis seemed like a perfect move for this story but it doesn’t really actually explore that nor does it actually try to explore the relationship between Gekko and his daughter, or any other story for that matter. Basically all the little sub-plots here and there seem totally forced and actually muddled in the end since it doesn’t really seem like Stone knows what story to focus on the most or which one will have the most effect. So what he does is just have all the stories play out at once, but to no effect whatsoever.

With the first one too, the film showed a lot of the dark and mean sides to having business on Wall Street but none of that was really even here to glue me in by how gritty and bad everything is. The one-liners also don’t have the zing they once used to because it all seems so dated as if Stone were just trying to do what he did with the first one but none of it was actually funny or even catchy, just lame and at times just totally forced.

However, my only real favorite thing about this film is the actual performances from the cast. Michael Douglas seems like a natural in his role as Gordon Gekko and plays the anti-hero here rather than the villain but still makes it all work. Douglas knows how to make bad seem cool in so many ways and it’s good to see him do what he does best here. The sad thing though is that it really just feels like him playing the same character, just a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and a lot more grumpier.

Shia LaBeouf is the real star here actually playing his soon to be son-in-law Jake, who works on Wall Street and just so happens to be in a relationship with a Wall Street legend’s daughter. I actually liked Shia in this role because I think he handles a lot of the financial talk really well and gives us that idea that he really can hold a film on his own it only matters if he’s given a good enough role. Carey Mulligan is good at displaying any emotion just by using her face as Winnie; Josh Brolin is good as this dickish rival hedge-fund manager, Bretton James; and Frank Langella is also very good in a small, but powerful role as Lewis Zabel, a man way past his time. There’s also a small performance from Susan Sarandon here as well as Jake’s mom that doesn’t even seem meaningful to the story at all but more just to have an Oscar winner on the set.

Consensus: The cast may help this get through most parts, but Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has a crappy title (obviously), really piss-poor writing that doesn’t have any actual emotional depth or any connection to the characters, and has no real swift style that Oliver Stone has shown in many of his other films, especially the first Wall Street. A huge disappointment.

3/10=Rental!!

The Box (2009)

Honestly could this title get any more catchier??!!

A disfigured NASA employee named Arlington Steward (Frank Langella) informs Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur (James Mardsen) Lewis that they have 24 hours to decide if they want to push a button inside a box that will give them a cool million — but a complete stranger will die at the same time.

When I first found out that this movie was directed by Richard Kelly, who directed one of my favorites Donnie Darko, I was actually a little excited to see it. Basically Donnie Darko’s whole story is basically making fun of the horror film genre but putting more goofier stuff into it, but making it a better film all together. This film not so much.

To first start off the plot is really simple. You push the button, and someone dies right? Well yes, that happens but then out of nowhere it gets out of control with weird staring people, and secret alien organizations. The film gets a little too out of control, and gets really crazy.

Mostly I just found myself laughing at it sometimes. There are just some scenes that look and sound hilarious. The way events happen in this film are very strange, and will really make you laugh.

Another thing that made Donnie Darko so good that it wasn’t afraid to push a little bit of buttons with it’s fact of being raunchy, and a very controversial script. This film doesn’t do that at all. Yeah there are some scenes that could’ve given it an R-rating but it doesn’t go too far and in the end I feel like it was too afraid to go anywhere. It’s script is also very cliched, with a lot of the same lines already used in a lot of recent horror films, that I could’ve sworn I’ve heard already.

I really liked how the story was actually original and was interesting, but also imaginative, which kept me glued to the seat. Though at some points I was wondering what was going on, I couldn’t help but still watch and find out what happens in the end.

The cast does a pretty good job in this film as well. Mardsen and Diaz are very believable as a couple although they rarely show love, but the one who really stands out is Frank Langella. Langella does a very good job at being an actually creepy villian that isn’t very new, but also one that your terrified at overall.

Consensus: The Box is imaginative and interesting, but becomes too unintentionally funny and gets too out-of-hand with no basic message like Donnie Darko.

3/10=SomeOleBullShiitt!!!!