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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: George Clooney

Suburbicon (2017)

Racism and bigotry. Only in the late-50’s, right?

It’s the late-50’s and everybody in America seems to be happy. In this particular case, it’s Suburbicon, a small, yet quaint suburb where everyone is joyous, lovely, nice to one another, and oh yeah, very white. So much so that when a black family moves in, all hell breaks loose. But while this is all happening, there’s the Lodge family who, in their own ways, have another tragedy to deal with. Gardner (Matt Damon) has just lost his wife to a duo of robbers and now has to bounce back, as does his son, Nicky (Noah Jupe), who doesn’t quite know how evil and dastardly the world is just yet. However, he soon learns this fact of life when he finds out that not only is his father shacking up with his aunt (Julianne Moore), but that the two are planning on sending Nicky away to a boarding-school of sorts. But why? Nicky doesn’t quite know yet, until those robbers start coming around and expecting more money – something that Gardner doesn’t want to do, but at the same time, doesn’t have much of a choice.

“Clean this up, you animal!”

And oh yeah, there’s a lot of racism on the side, too.

Deep in the center of Suburbicon is a really tight, lean, mean and relatively fun darkly-comedic thriller that feels exactly like a rip-off of the Coen’s. Which is obviously purposeful because, for one, the Coen’s wrote this, but also feel as if they’re treading familiar waters, poking fun at suburbia, the hidden secrets we all tell ourselves, and just how one incident, can snowball into many, many more. It’s typical Coen’s and it works.

But then, there’s all of the racist-stuff to go along with it and yeah, that’s where Suburbicon falls apart. And it isn’t that what director/co-writer George Clooney brings to the table isn’t meaningful; this notion of the 50’s that we all have is sweet and dough-eyed, yet, it was also very troubling, especially in terms of social-issues. Is this an altogether crazy and shocking surprise to anyone that’s ever taken a history course, anywhere, at any time? Not really, and it’s why Suburbicon, while well-intentioned, drops the ball.

Also, Clooney probably isn’t the best director for this kind of tricky material, either.

After all, he’s not the kind of director who’s known for his subtlety, nor for his skill of blending together different genres, tones, and moods. Look at every movie he’s directed, save for Good Night and Good Luck., and you can tell that they’re taking on a lot and honestly, it’s too much for George to chew. He does an admirable, serviceable job on all of those other flicks, but he seems to always get stuck in a hole where he doesn’t know where to go with his movies, nor what he’s actually trying to get across. He’s just a messy director and while I want to give him credit for taking risks, he hardly ever sticks the landings.

And that’s the case with Suburbicon, although, because he’s working with a Coen brother’s script, he’s a lot better off. Whenever the movie isn’t focusing on the social-issues about race and religion, it’s actually kind of fun and a little twisted, but whenever it is, it’s ham-fisted, obvious, and not all that surprising. What’s weirder though, too, is that Clooney and co-writer Grant Heslov seem to be going for some kind of satire that gets so over-blown, so crazy, and so insane, it doesn’t hold-up. It’s as if Clooney didn’t think he was getting his point across enough, so he had to literally bang us over the head with a hammer to make us woke.

Save us, Oscar. Please.

Nobody’s doubting that you’re woke, George. Just shut up about it already and make a good movie.

But at the end of it all, what saves Suburbicon, aside from the Coen’s side of the script, is the cast who all seem to be trying very hard to make this work. Matt Damon has a lot of heavy-lifting to do as Gardner Lodge, the dorky, seemingly square father of the family and has to show a darker, meaner side as the time goes on and it works. In a much tighter, much more focused movie, the performance would be better, but as it stands, it does what it needs to do and Damon’s good. Julianne Moore’s role is fine, too, although her character is a bit more silly and weird, which sort of fits, and sort of doesn’t. Either way, after this and Kingsman, it’s nice to see her playing around with some light and funny roles for a change.

But the real stand-out is probably Noah Jupe who, like with the rest of the cast, given a much more focused movie, could have really made miracles. Still, as the meek, mild and relatively sweet Nicky, who is starting to realize the whole world around him is crumbling, Jupe gets a lot of mileage out of simply standing in a scene and reminding us that he’s a kid, after all. There’s a certain sweetness to him that keeps some heart left in this movie, even when the rest of it seems to be getting wrapped in blood and guts. It’s a role that has me excited for what he next on his plate, so long as hoping it’s in a movie that gives him much more.

Oh, and Oscar Isaac is here for maybe two scenes and easily makes them the best.

Then again, when doesn’t he do that?

Consensus: Try as he might, George Clooney just doesn’t have the strongest chops to make Suburbicon, an already uneven and messy bit of satire, gel perfectly, but still gets by on some cheap thrills and a game cast.

6 / 10

“Honey, I won’t be home for supper tonight.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Good German (2006)

Who needs Nazis when we can just face ourselves?

Jake Geismar (George Clooney), an Army correspondent, helps his former lover, Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett), comb post-World War II Berlin for her missing husband, who is wanted by not just the American forces, but the Russian ones as well. However, the plan to find him gets a bit out-of-whack when Jake’s driver, Tully (Tobey Maguire), a soldier with all sorts of connections to the black market decides that he wants to get involved with finding this guy, while also getting some of his own issues solved in the meantime. Still, Jake and Lena want to find their man, so they trust Tully as much as they can, until it becomes an all-out, drag-out battle between good, evil, Nazis, Americans, and Russians. Basically, it’s a good old-fashioned war and it’s up to all the players involved to get out of it, alive and well.

Did men really look that handsome? Probably.

There is no denying that with the Good German, Steven Soderbergh is paying an homage to the noirs of yesteryear. The look, the feel, the sound, hell, even aspect-ratio, feels as if it was transported from the 40’s and brought right to our screens again. It’s a seamless production that obviously cost a lot and it shows – there’s not a single flaw to be found in the way everything looks and just goes to show that Soderbergh, despite how much flack he may receive for it, truly is a neat-freak. He knows what he wants and he gets it.

Shame he just didn’t get his way in the story.

Cause once you get past the glossiness of the production, the Good German just doesn’t work. It’s style works and is neat, but the story, the characters, the conflicts, the twists, the turns, the revelations, the possibility of anything ever making sense, just never fully come together. It feels as if the production itself was rushed, either to get the movie done in time for awards season, or that the production was so dedicated to making the flick looking great, that they forgot to really focus on the sort of stuff that matters.

And with a lot of Soderbergh bombs (which there aren’t many), that seems to be the one issue: The script just isn’t there. A good portion of this has to do with him not always writing his scripts and in the case of the Good German, which was written by Paul Attanasio, this is especially the case. It tries to take on so much, with so very little context, and in a run-time that should feel light and almost breezy (105 minutes, mind you), for some reason, it feels longer. Most of this is due to us not really knowing what’s going on with these characters, this mystery, or even what’s at-stake; the fact that the whole movie begins with us looking for some character’s husband, already shows you that there’s a problem.

No! Do something fun!

Then Tobey Maguire shows up and yeah, it’s hard to really figure everything out.

Which isn’t to say that Maguire is a problem for the movie, because in hindsight, he’s probably the best thing for it. His character is so goofy, wild, and unpredictable, that he feels like he deserves his own movie, where the focus is primarily on him, trying his best to navigate throughout this world that just doesn’t know what to do with him. Maguire’s best in these sort of unhinged performances and his performance as Tully, is up there with one of his best.

But once again, he just doesn’t have a movie to fully service him like he deserves. And because he’s so off-the-wall, it’s easy to see that he doesn’t fully fit in with everything else going on around him. For instance, in the context of what the movie’s trying to do, his out-of-control performance doesn’t really connect and feels like something of its own different creation, one that’s obviously more interesting and fun to watch, than whatever the hell the Good German turns into, with Clooney and Blanchett giving, unfortunately, boring performances. They, like everyone else here, try, but the script’s just not there and when that happens, what’s the point?

Oh wait. That’s right. A paycheck. Never mind.

Consensus: Even with the style down perfectly, the Good German can’t quite get past the “homage” phase, and into becoming something of its own that’s compelling, interesting, and worth watching.

3 / 10

“We huntin’ Nazis.”

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

Money Monster (2016)

Don’t take money advice from the television, ever.

Financial TV guru Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a pretty beloved and trusted individual. While he’s overly pompous and clearly in love with himself, he’s entertaining enough that people actually want to see him talk about the stock-market and give his tips and pointers on who to invest in. But after awhile, all of the betting, predicting and fun comes to a grinding halt when a guy named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) shows up in the studio during a live-taping, armed, dangerous and demanding answers. To what? Well, turns out that Kyle put all of his money into a company that went bankrupt and apparently, Lee and his show are the ones to be blamed. So, for as long as he’s possible able to, Kyle plans on being live on the air, holding a gun to Lee’s head and waiting for some answers to his questions from those people who are perhaps the most responsible. Meanwhile, in the studio, Lee’s longtime director (Julia Roberts), is doing her absolute hardest to keep Lee alive, while also making sure that the truth gets out there about these big banks and corporations that make so much, feeding off of the middle and low class.

Who's hotter? And no, it's not subjective!

Who’s hotter? And no, it’s not subjective!

Money Monster, if anything, has a very intriguing premise that you could a lot with. And, for the first twenty or so minutes, it seems like the movie’s going to do just that. Jodie Foster may not always be the most competent director out there, but what she does right in the beginning of Money Monster is set the stage, with the right bits and pieces of character, plot, setting, and mystery that makes it feel like wherever it goes next, you’ll be on-board from the very beginning, up until the end. And heck, the fact that it’s main agenda is to call out those responsible for robbing this economy blind, without ever fessing up and/or apologizing, made it all the more exciting to watch.

And then, well, it all goes downhill.

Unfortunately, Foster loses control of what could have been a very taut and intense thriller. While it may seem like, from the very beginning, that Money Monster will just be a small, contained thriller, it turns out, that the movie wants to be a lot bigger than just that; after awhile, it starts incorporating more and more subplots about Kyle’s personal life, a bank that’s involved with Kyle’s situation, the owner of that bank, a trusted employee of that bank, TV culture, rich vs. poor, and yes, so much more. In a movie that’s barely an-hour-and-a-half, and, for more than half of that, features two dudes in a TV studio, it’s already too much.

Which is fine if you want your story to have a greater importance than just being “crazy guy decides to hold TV studio hostage”, but it doesn’t work here. Any of the ideas/subplots the movie brings up don’t always mesh well and, more often than not, just seem as if they’re thrown in there to create some bit of tension or excitement. However, what’s infuriating about Money Monster is how the promise in having a thrilling and sometimes, fun, thriller was there from the beginning, it just gets lost in a sea of conspiracy theories that seem half-baked, twists and turns that come out of nowhere and make absolutely no sense, and paper-thin characters that we never grow to learn, or even care about.

Save for George Clooney as Lee Gates.

It’s obvious that Lee Gates is supposed to come across as a hybrid between Donny Deutsch and Jim Cramer, but after awhile, you almost forget about this idea and just take the character, and the performance, for what it is. This is mostly due to the fact that no matter how hard he tries to make us think differently, George Clooney is an absolute movie star who can play any role and do just about anything, with anyone, regardless of how thin a script may be. And yes, this script is very thin, but somehow, Clooney finds ways to make this character fun-to-watch and listen to, while also interesting, in that we want to figure out more about him when he isn’t on the screen, talking about money and acting like a jackass. We get inklings of that sprinkled throughout, but none of it is as compelling as it should be, even if Clooney tries his hardest to make it as such.

"Hey, agent? You've got to get me out of the states, man. These roles suck."

“Hey, agent? You’ve got to get me out of the states, man. These roles suck.”

And the only reason why I go on and on about Clooney so much is that he’s really the best part of the whole thing, and especially the cast. Julia Roberts is fine, but doesn’t really do anything we haven’t seen before; Jack O’Connell is working with the weirdest Brooklyn accent, and doesn’t ever have much depth to him; and in what has to be the most bafflingly unexplained accent since whatever the hell Kevin Costner was doing in Robin Hood, Caitriona Balfe speaks in such a way here that I’m still scratching my head about it. I know that she’s Irish, and you get brief glimpses of that in her speech here, but other times, it’ll sound like she’s trying to do an American-accent, but because she’s Irish, she just sounds more like a really sad Texan. Then, other times, her English is so off that she just decides to go for Irish. I don’t know if the movie was making it appear as if she was from Ireland, but honestly, every moment she was on the screen, I was so distracted and mind-boggled that I could hardly care about anything else that was happening at the moment.

Then again, that’s how I felt throughout most of the movie.

If anything, I give a movie like Money Monster credit for being, yes, a real-time thriller that at least attempts to attack those on Wall Street. Foster may not know how to handle all of the different threads of plot here, but what she does know how to do is get her point across; it’s as ham-fisted as can possibly be, but it’s still nice to see in such a mainstream flick as this, where the people in the movie, are probably a lot richer than the people they’re supposedly fighting out against.

But who cares? It’s Hollywood.

Consensus: Despite it having something to say, Money Monster really loses control of its promising premise, with an overabundance of story, a poor script, and a frenzied direction that doesn’t always know when to slow down, or make sense of things that are happening.

4 / 10

Show 'em the money, George!

Show ’em the money, George!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Thin Red Line (1998)

The war is a jungle. In this case, literally.

It’s slap dab in the middle of WWII, or 1942 to be exact, and needless to say, a lot of lives are being lost. Bus most importantly, a lot of soldier’s lives are being lost, which is why a huge platoon is ordered to take the island of Guadalcanal. While this is no walk in the park, it’s made all the more difficult by the fact that the soldiers are literally forced to walk up the mountain, where they’ll most likely be meant by the opposing side, as well as a hail-fire of bullets. Among the many soldiers involved with this battle is Private Witt (Jim Caviezel), a U.S. Army absconder who has gone “native”, as they say, living peacefully with the locals of a small South Pacific island. While Witt is clearly enjoying his time in the sun, it’s all cut short when he’s discovered by his commanding officer, Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn), and forced back on the battlefield. However, there’s more at-play during this battle than just Witt, or Welsh. There’s Lt. Col. Tall (Nick Nolte), who is having a real hard time making up his mind what the best cause or plan for warfare is, even in the heat of the moment; there’s Capt. Staros (Elias Koteas), a fellow soldier in a position of power, who also seems to be having an issue of what to do with it; and there’s Pvt. Bell (Ben Chaplin), a soldier who’s reeling from a recent heartbreak in his life.

Jesus?

Jesus?

By now, most people know that Terrence Malick is the kind of director you can expect to give you the most ambitious, sprawling, and at times, confusing pieces of epic cinema this side of Kubrick or Kurosawa, but it wasn’t always like that. With his first two feature films (Badlands, Days of Heaven), Malick not only showed his keen eye for an attention to beautiful detail, but also for small, character-driven stories that barely even screech past 100 minutes and instead, keep things tiny, tight and mostly focused. But after spending 20 years away from making movies and doing whatever the heck it is that he was up to, it was clear that something within Malick changed.

And honestly, we’re all the better for it, because, yes, the Thin Red Line is not only Malick’s best film, but perhaps one of the best war films of all time.

Having seen the film at least three times now, I can easily say that it’s up there with the likes of Saving Private Ryan, or Apocalypse Now, when it comes to curating the list of “the greatest war movies ever made”, however, it’s a very different one. In a way, Saving Private Ryan is a far more conventional, Hollywood-ized war movie (although it’s still great), whereas Apocalypse Now is a far more disturbing, terrifying and twisted one (and yes, it’s still great). But what separates the Thin Red Line from these other two flicks is that it’s far more meditative, but at the same time, in its own way, brutal as all hell.

By putting us right along with the numerous soldiers on men on the battlefield, Malick doesn’t let us forget that, for one second, these soldiers aren’t in the nearest thing to hell. They don’t have the slightest clue who is shooting at them, from which direction, where they’re supposed to go, what they’re supposed to do, or even what they’re next line of action is once they actually do get up to the top of the mountain – all that they do know what to do is to shoot, kill and try their absolute hardest to survive. This idea of frustrating, but horrifying confusion that these soldiers must have been going through is effective, especially since Malick keeps his eyes and attention set solely on the American soldiers, what they see, what they feel, and what they’re thinking about at that given time.

Oh, and not to mention, that these soldiers are literally engaged in action for a whole hour-and-a-half, which, when you take into consideration the three-hour run-time, evens out to being pretty action-packed.

However, the movie, nor is Malick all about that idea. No matter what happens in the movie, no matter who gets killed, or for what reasons, Malick never forgets to portray this war as an absolute slaughterhouse of not just lives, but psyches as well. Killing as many people as some of these soldiers do, can do quite a number on you; while that of course can start to happen when the fighting is over, it’s still something that can happen while on the battlefield as well. That’s why it’s not only shocking, but downright upsetting to see some soldiers here lose their minds, not have a single clue of where they’re at, or what they’re actually doing. There’s quite a few soldiers here and there that show up to prove this fact, but regardless, Malick drives home the idea that war is hell.

But even despite all of the violence and sheer ugliness of what’s being portrayed, Malick still finds ways to create some of the most beautiful, eye-catching images ever seen on the big screen. A part of me wishes that I was old enough at the time to see this when it was first in theaters; not just because it would have been great to join that short list of people who actually saw it in theaters when it was originally out, but because John Toll’s cinematography is so amazing, that it absolutely deserved to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. Even though people are getting killed left and right, bullets are flying, and there’s no exact idea of who is where, Malick and Toll always find the time to capture the loveliness of the scenery this battle is taking place in.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don't see grass anymore.

The grass is always greener, well, whenever you don’t see grass anymore.

Of course, with Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki’s relationship becoming something of fact over the past years, the visuals have only gotten better, but it’s hard to deny that the Thin Red Line is easily his best-looking film to date.

But what makes the Thin Red Line perhaps Malick’s best movie, is the fact that it introduced everybody to the fact that he surely did not care at all about star-power, when it came to making his movies. Sure, he clearly doesn’t mind having the likes of Woody Harrelson, John Cusack, George Clooney, or John C. Reilly want to be apart of his movies, but at the same time, he still doesn’t feel like he’s at all inclined to feature them heavily, just because of their name recognition, or whatever other silly ideas Hollywood has about commercial appeal. Though, of course there’s a lot of infamy surrounding Malick’s casting-process and just exactly who he does leave in his movies (Adrien Brody is barely here, despite being lead on to believe he was the main star, and other stars like Mickey Rourke, Bill Pullman, and Martin Sheen were cut-out of the final product).

Honestly, it takes a lot of guts to cut-out someone like George Clooney, and feature a relative unknown at the time, Jim Caviezel, but guts is exactly what Malick has always had in his career and it’s great to see someone in his position to not give a flyin’ hoot about who is a bigger star than somebody else. Of course, it also helps that those that Malick focuses his final-edit on the most, all give great performances, given that a lot of the times they’re thrown in the mix because Malick forgot about them, or just felt like their time was necessary.

Caviezel is a suitable protagonist, who not only shows the inspirational faith within someone like Witt, but the sheer horror when he realizes the evilness to war; Elias Koteas’ character has many scenes where you don’t know what he’s thinking about doing next, but it’s hard to look away; Ben Chaplin’s character is easy to feel sympathetic for, even if he can be a bit hard to differentiate from Caviezel’s Witt; Nick Nolte, well, let’s just say that he’s the stand-out among the cast, showing just how a person in his position of power, can use to his advantage, for better, as well as for worse. Even then, however, when he’s faced with the reality of the harsh realities of war, he still believes that it’s something necessary to life, and even something to be celebrated. And even though he’s quickly told this is not the truth about life, he still smiles his way onto the next war.

And that’s just the way war works. You get past one, and guess what? Sooner or later, you’re onto the next.

Consensus: Beautiful, endearing, thoughtful, well-acted, and above all else, sad, the Thin Red Line is less of a tribute soldiers, and more of a key look inside the sorts of hell they have to go through, and the sort of effect it has on them, while not being nearly as preachy as I make it sound.

9.5 / 10

Let's play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie......

Let’s play a game! Guess which one out of three has a significantly less amount of time in the movie……

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Old Hollywood was so much more interesting.

Being the known and so-called “fixer” for Capitol Pictures during the 50’s, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) has got a lot on his plate. One concerns a disgruntled director (Ralph Fiennes), who can’t seem to get his actor to deliver the right lines. Another involves a singing cowboy known as Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), who wants to be a bigger star and may also need a date for the premiere of his new flick. Then, there’s rising star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who suddenly becomes pregnant before production and is in need of someone to take care of her. And then, last but not least, there’s the issue of superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), someone who has gone mysteriously missing, while his latest film, Hail, Caesar!, is in the last stages of production. Reasons surrounding the why, or better yet, the who, of the capturing of Baird isn’t answered, but Mannix will not stop until he finds Whitlock and everything goes back to normal. However, there’s mounting pressure from all sides, especially when twin gossip reporters, Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), come snooping around, wanting to know what the latest scoop is.

Nothing like a 50's-era 'stache.

Nothing like a 50’s-era ‘stache.

It’s nice to know that talented writers and directors like the Coen brothers are still trusted enough in Hollywood, to be allowed to do whatever it is that they want, with whomever they want, and however they want to. That’s why a movie like Hail, Caesar!, a polished, lovely-looking throwback and tribute to the old, post-war days of Hollywood where people were more naturally good-looking, all smoked, and seemed to be living lives of absolute luxury. And it’s no surprise that the Coens have actually gone so far as to make a movie like this, considering that most of their movies have an old-timey, screwball-appeal, but now, considering that their flick is placed in the early 50’s, they’re allowed to be as goofy and odd as they want to be, with the obvious wink-wink at the audience of what’s being made fun of.

Which is to say that, yes, Hail, Caesar! is actually a funny movie. There’s a lot of side-jocks, puns, and goofy occurrences that the Coens use here that make the movie not only entertaining, but also exciting. You don’t know what trick or trade their going to pull out of their hat next and it goes without saying, that while not all of the jokes or gags land, they are still seen as efforts from two people who clearly know and understand the form of creating a joke and allowing for it to land.

This is all mentioned to let the record state that Hail, Caesar!, the actual movie itself and not the movie-within-the-movie, is not a very good Coen brothers flick, but a fine one.

The main issue with Hail, Caesar! is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a energizing plot driving it. Sure, there’s a lot going on here, that Mannix, the protagonist, has to deal with and solve, but mostly all of the subplots come and go as they please, without their being much pushing everything forward. Rather than feeling fun, spirited and frothy, Hail, Caesar! surprisingly finds the Coens in a more subdued state, where they aren’t working as quickly as we’ve seen them before, but focusing more on the details of each subplot, as well as certain characters.

Which is fine and all, but nobody in Hail, Caesar! is really all that interesting, or as compelling of a character as the Coens may think. Mannix himself seems to be an intriguing specimen, who not only works as a collective fixer in Hollywood, but also a hardcore, dedicated family man, but really, he’s here to just service other colorful and sometimes, weird characters. Clooney’s Whitlock is clearly a take on Kirk Douglas, which doesn’t go much further than that; Johansson’s Moran is an old school dame, who definitely has a lot of sass, but not much more; and Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle, perhaps the standout of the flick, is perhaps the only given more to work with in general.

In fact, it’s the scenes with Hobie Doyle that work the most.

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

You can do it, George! Let that emotion out!

Whether he’s trying to nail a simple line in a very fluffy period-drama, or charm the pants off of his date, there’s something sweet and lovable about Hobie Doyle that not only makes you want to see more of him, but maybe wish that the movie was just about him and his rise in Hollywood. Ehrenreich is a likable enough presence to have us buy into the boyish charm of this character, while at the same time, still seeing him for a human being, even among all of the fakes and phonies that sometimes show up here. Though he’s been around the pond quite a few times, it seems like Hail, Caesar!, if anything, will be the launching pad for Alden Ehrenreich.

And everybody else is fine here, too. Actually, everybody who does show up, whether they be large roles, supporting roles, or simply, extended cameos, every member of the cast is clearly game for this material and want to add their own two cents in any way that they can. Is there perhaps too much of everyone here? Of course there is! However, it’s also sort of fun to watch the likes of Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in a Coen brothers movie – something I’d never thought I’d see, but I’m glad I did and could definitely get used to.

But really, that’s all that Hail, Caesar! is: Fun and fine.

The movie’s not particularly deep, or special in that it brings some new sense of fun and charm to the Coen brothers style. If anything, it just shows that they’re capable of doing whatever movie they want. So what if it doesn’t always work or constantly excite us? Sometimes, the best movies are those that set-out to just entertain and leave it at that! Is it disappointing considering what we know from the Coens?

Most definitely, but hey, I’ll take fun and fine, over depressing and boring any day!

Consensus: Hail, Caesar! won’t stand as the best film of the Coens storied-career, but still proves that their attention to humor, fun and detail will never go away, no matter what environment they’re working in.

6.5 / 10

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

No, C-Tates. We salute you!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Take it from rappers, being imprisoned makes you a better musician.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) all escape from jail to embark on a buried-treasure that Ulysses himself declares that he hid and is safe and sound somewhere. However, they have an awful long way to go before they get to the treasure, which means that they have to go through a lot of hoops, meet a lot of shady characters, and most of all, try to stay away from the police’s sights. Obviously, this sounds a lot easier said then done, but everything and anything seems to be happening around the same time that these three are heading out for their adventure. For one, they unintentionally become a popular folk band, then, they get mixed-up with the KKK, make an African American friend by the name of Tommy Johnson, have a run-in with Baby Face Dillinger, and, most importantly, meet the acquaintance of some very lovely ladies. But no matter how many holes may stand in the way of these guys’ trip, they never forget about the treasure that’s just awaiting for them to seize and make their own.

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

There’s no denying that the Coens have a certain love and adoration for their characters, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or over-the-top they may, or can get. Some people say that they make fun of said characters, as well as their settings, but I tend to disagree with this notion, as it’s clear from the very start that the Coens find something very interesting about each one of their characters that they draw and create, as well as the world around said characters that seem to take on a whole personality on its own. In O Brother, it’s clear that the Coens have a soft place for the sweaty, mugginess of Depression-era Mississippi that’s less about making fun of people who talk funny, but more about embracing some of their more old-timey notions of life.

Obviously, the Coens are a bit subversive about this idea, too, with featuring a story all sorts of violence, racism, and blood, but they don’t ever lose their sense of fun here. They also never seem to sell themselves short; rather than making this just a one-note premise in which these stupid characters get away with everything that comes their way, they show that there’s some trouble and difficulty for these characters to get from point A, to point B. Of course, O Brother is, first and foremost, an adventure flick and it’s nice to see the Coens give as much attention to their characters, as much as they do to the jokes and random sequence of events.

For instance, Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete may all seem like your typical, bumpkin idiots, but really, the Coens show that there’s more to them.

Not only do they have hearts, but they all do seem to genuinely care for one another that makes it easy to see why they’ve got such a strong bond in the first place. As a result, we want to see these three together more and more, not just because they’re fun to watch (which they are), but because there’s something warm, soft and cozy about knowing these three pals are all together and because of that, nothing will go wrong. Of course, things don’t always turn out that way, but still, watching and listening to these three characters was more than enough to stick around.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain't gonna work.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain’t gonna work.

And let’s not forget to mention that George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson all do fantastic jobs in these roles, seeming like they’re very interested in who these characters are, past the backwater-stereotypes. Clooney, however, is the one who really seems like he’s having the time of his life, smirking, snarling and laughing in just about every scene he’s shown, where you get the idea that he could not wait a single second to work with the Coens, nor could he get enough of the fact that his character is, in some ways, the smartest out of the three. Clooney gets to use a lot of big words and articulate a whole lot, which may not sound like it works, but surprisingly, does, and it just goes to show you what Clooney can do when he’s a bit unhinged and less caring about appeasing a certain demographic.

There’s more people in this film, like John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and others, who show up here, do their thing and show that they’re worthy of being around, which makes O Brother all the more exciting.

There’s not a huge world out there for the Coens to work with, but it’s all up to their own choosing. While O Brother is certainly not the Coens best movie, it’s still their most ambitious as it shows that the studio had no problem funding their vision and idea for this movie, even if every period detail seems perfectly picked to the bone. And with more money and freedom to do what they want, they run wild. Sometimes, the goofiness, other times, it doesn’t; when the movie is supposed to be deep and serious, it can’t help but stumble and make you wonder where all the smiles and charms went. But still, it’s a Coens brother movie, which mostly always means, it’s worth seeing.

If not for them, then at least do it for the soundtrack.

Consensus: Perhaps not the Coens best, yet, at the same time, still very much an exceptional piece of work from the power duo, O Brother shows they not only have a keen eye for attention to detail and character, but also their odd sense of humor that still hits.

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Burn After Reading (2008)

Never trust those who are “too fit”.

When CIA Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) gets demoted from his job, he decides that it’s time to start the proceedings on his memoir. Somehow, though, the disk containing all of this information falls into the hands of two gym employees, Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), both of whom clearly have no idea what they’re going to do with this disk. But they both have the right idea to blackmail Cox for some money, even if they don’t know how to go about it, nor what the actual proceedings are. Meanwhile, Linda herself is in search of a better life that isn’t just working in the gym. Currently, she’s trying to fund her cosmetic surgeries, as well as someone to love in her life. Through various dating websites, she meets the charming and likable Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), and the two hit it off immediately. Strange thing is that Harry, despite being married, also happens to be shackin’ up with Osborne’s wife (Tilda Swinton), which leads the whole situation to end up in some real weird, sticky situations, sometimes with them leading to violence and all sorts of bloodshed.

"Malkovich? Malkovich?"

“Malkovich? Malkovich?”

At this stage in their career, the Coen brothers can practically do anything that they want and nobody is going to tell them otherwise. They have enough Oscars under their belt, have made their studios enough money, and have earned enough respect in the biz to say that they want to make about anything, and everybody will fall for it, hook, line and sinker. As is the case with most writers and directors, they’ve had some mediocre films, as well as some amazing films, but mostly, they’ve made films worth checking out and taking time out of one’s day to watch, because a Coen brother’s movie is, quite frankly, better than a lot of other stuff out there.

And Burn After Reading is the exact reason why they are so beloved.

Though, at the same time, the movie doesn’t show the Coen brothers really working with anything new, or ground-breaking; instead, they’re taking on the whole spy genre, making a farce out of it, and rather than having real, actual spies involved, the movie’s just about a bunch of regular, everyday people who are, yes, goofy and sometimes idiotic. However, they are all searching for the same thing: Money and power. To the Coens, this is perhaps the most interesting aspect about the human-condition, in which seemingly normal people, can be driven so ridiculously mad by the prospect of wealth, that they’d do almost anything to achieve it and rule their own little world.

At the same time, though, rather than being all sad and serious about it, the Coens add a lighter touch onto that whole idea, giving us characters that aren’t just colorful and likable, but also interesting. Sure, some of these characters may come off as very schticky and thin, but the Coens also show how that they’re personalities make who they are and determine every decision that they make throughout the movie. Some characters are, obviously, smarter than others, but nobody here is actually a good person, and there’s something inherently fun and entertaining in watching all of these characters get caught in a crazy web of lies, murder and deception, just for the hell of it.

It also helps that the cast is pretty great, too.

As usual, the Coens work with some of their own regulars who, by now, have mastered the art of the “Coen speak”. George Clooney is exciting, but also very weird as Harry, who always seems to have an issue with the food he eats, as well as an odd obsession with wood-panels; Frances McDormand’s Linda is a total polar opposite of what we’re used to seeing her play, giving us a naive, sometimes sad character who always tries to stay upbeat, no matter what the situation may call for; and Richard Jenkins, as Linda’s boss who can’t seem to stop falling over her, makes you want to give him a hug just about every scene he’s involved with.

We get it, Brad: You're really in-shape!

We get it, Brad: You’re really in-shape!

But the newcomers to the Coen’s also handle their material well and show why they deserve to be in their movies a whole lot more. John Malkovich does a lot of cursing and yelling as Osborne, and it’s so much fun to watch and listen that I didn’t care if his character didn’t get as developed as I would have liked; Tilda Swinton’s character is a bit bitchy and mean, but also seems like she’s got more going onto her that would have been interesting to see developed more, but for what it is, this is all we get and it’s fine; and Brad Pitt, well, let’s just say he sort of steals the show. Not only does Brad Pitt seems like he’s so eager and excited to be apart of a Coen brother’s movie, but he also seems like he really wants to see what’s more to this character that he’s playing – something that isn’t quite seen in the rest of the movie.

Pitt’s Chad, for the most part, doesn’t really care about gaining any sort of money or respect, he’s just around for the fun of it all. That’s clear from the very beginning, once we realize that there’s a certain zaniness and energy to him that’s hard to ignore. This is mostly all thanks to Pitt who, using his grace and charm, shows that while a meat-head like Chad can be lovable, he can also be one you sort of feel bad for, once the situation he’s involved with gets to be a bit too crazy and over-the-top for his own good. There’s something about Chad that I wanted to see more of, but really, what I got was fine enough.

And that’s basically all that there is to say about Burn After Reading: It’s fine, and although you wish you saw more, that’s all you really need.

But hey, don’t just listen to me, let J.K. Simmons tell you all about it.

Consensus: Though it’s not exactly breaking down any barriers, Burn After Reading still finds the Coen brothers in a fun, hilariously wicked spirit that maintains their sense of odd energy the whole way through.

8 / 10

How can these two not have a ball together?

How can these two not have a ball together?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, IFC

A Very Murray Christmas (2015)

Murray1Hangin’ out with Bill Murray is the only Christmas gift a person needs.

Due to solely to the fact that his agent permits it, Bill Murray is forced to hold a Christmas show that’s supposed to broadcast live for the whole world to see. While none of this should be a problem for such a seasoned-pro like Murray, he’s incredibly uneasy about it because, well, nobody’s going to actually be there to participate. There’s a huge snowstorm going on in New York City that has closed all roads or forms of transportation, leaving Murray to handle the show all by himself. Then, as the night progresses, Murray soon realizes that maybe there’s more to Christmas than just being a miserable, annoying and sad Grinch; sometimes, it’s about making those around you feel better and happier about the time of the season. That’s why, despite being stuck inside of the Carlyle Hotel, Murray makes the best out of it, hanging around, drinking, singing, and meeting all sorts of people that he would have never expected to meet, had this been any other normal night. But because this is Christmas, anything is possible.

Phoenix + Paul Shaffer? Why not!

Phoenix and Paul Shaffer? Why not!

At under just an hour, A Very Murray Christmas is the kind of variety show that I love to see, yet, so rarely get. While most movies starring Bill Murray have been touted as being “more time to hang-out with Bill Murray”, A Very Murray Christmas is exactly that; we’re literally thrown into this one night of his life, forced to hang around him, and watch as he interacts with everyone he encounters during this one, fateful night. For those who despise Murray, obviously, this will not be their cup-of-tea. However, for those on the exact opposite side of the fence, it’s exactly the party you want.

It’s also the kind you don’t want to ever end, which is why the 56-minute run-time, feels almost too short.

Granted, Netflix and director Sofia Coppola have all been touting A Very Murray Christmas as nothing more than just a Christmas special and leaving it at that, but still, more time spent with Bill Murray being, well, Bill Murray, is time well-spent. So, why not spend as much of it as we can?

That’s why, despite it being odd that I’m reviewing something seen as “a special”, and not exactly “a movie”, I can sit right here and type away, saying that A Very Murray Christmas is not just a great Christmas special, but a great time altogether. It’s as if Coppola herself remembered how much of a great time it was to work with Murray on Lost in Translation, that to not just get a chance to hang with him again, but also allow for other people to see what she loves about him, she conned Netflix into giving her as much freedom and money as they possibly could to help her make this special and do whatever the hell she wanted to do with it.

Wanna throw Phoenix in there as musicians-disguised-as-chefs? Sure, why not! Hell, how about Dexter Poindexter as a bartender who sings and dances? Or, better yet, why not just have Jenny Lewis be here as a waitress who can do everything that Bill Murray can do? And heck, while we’re at it, why not just have a sort-of dream-sequence featuring George Clooney, Miley Cyrus, and tons of half-naked women who can’t wait to maul Bill Murray?

For the most part, as you can probably tell by now, A Very Murray Christmas was made to just have fun, throw stuff at the wall, and see just what sticks. And mostly, everything that Coppola throws at the wall, sticks; there’s a bit early-on concerning Michael Cera as a manager who wants Bill Murray that seems to come out of nowhere (even given the rest of the special), and is only around to poke jokes at the Monuments Men (which is, yeah, fine), and doesn’t really matter. All we want to see is where this special will go next, who is going to sing what song, and just what the hell Bill Murray is going to be up to.

I'll join in!

Rich people having fun makes me sad.

And well, because this is his special, first and foremost, it makes total sense that Bill Murray’s the best part of it all.

While I’m not sure how much of this special was scripted, it sure as hell just seems like Murray, being Murray, decided to throw it out the window and just do whatever he oh so pleased. There’s something absolutely joyous in watching this because, well, he brings out the best in those around him; the previously mentioned Phoenix have a nice duet with Murray that amounts to Murray just egging everyone on and teasing them. Phoenix is loving, Murray’s loving it, Coppola’s obviously loving it, and hell, for that matter, we’re loving it, too!

Everybody else who shows up in A Very Murray Christmas all seem like they signed-up just to have fun and hang around with a dear old pal of theirs, which makes the special feel all the more pleasant. Everyone who shows up either gets a chance or two to make their presences known, and add a little flavor to the whole special. Most of it’s funny and hardly ever disappoints, even if, occasionally, it does just feel like a bunch of attractive, insanely talented people getting together and doing whatever they want.

But you know what? It’s the holidays and I will never have a problem with that!

Just next time, please, invite me. I promise I’m a fun guy.

Consensus: A Very Murray Christmas may be short with hardly even hitting an hour, but is still filled with all sorts of joy, humor and unpredictable excitement that it’s more than worth the time you take out of your day to check it out. And if you don’t want to do it for me, then fine – just do it for Bill. He’ll be happy.

9 / 10

Seriously. Don't ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Seriously. Don’t ask. Just watch and enjoy the holiday season.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Tomorrowland (2015)

On second thought, It’s a Small World is definitely a lot cooler.

After teenage science enthusiast Casey (Britt Robertson) receives a mysterious pin, she does what any normal person would do in the same situation: She picks it up. However, once she picks it up, she all of a sudden gets taken to a bright, beautiful and mysterious, new world that takes her somewhere in the future. However, she has no clue how this is, what else the pin can do, or above all, what does it all mean. Eventually, Casey gets the news in the form of an eleven-year-old robot named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who tells her that she was chosen to have the pin and has to make sure that it doesn’t get taken away from her once all of these mysterious robots begin to attack her. Now, Casey and Athena have to travel to parts unknown to find a reclusive inventor by the name of Frank (George Clooney) who may, or may not have all the answers to what Casey can do to ensure that these evil robots stop chasing her, and also save the human race from possible extinction.

Brad Bird’s been wanting to film Tomorrowland for quite some time. You can see this from the way he’s built this beautiful world, to how giddy he is while moving along the plot, and especially to when he tells the audience that no matter what they do in their lives, that anything is possible. Tomorrowland is the movie that Brad Bird has been dreaming of making for so very, very long and now that his dream has finally come true, he can’t help but be extremely ecstatic to share this dream with anyone who is willing to see it for themselves.

Problem is, the dream isn’t as exciting for others as it may be for him.

New cult.

New cult.

Part of this problem comes from the fact that Tomorrowland‘s story is so muddled and confusing, that taking time out of your day to pick it apart, piece by piece, still may not help you understand it any more. The general gist is that something bad is going to happen to planet Earth (as they’re usually is), and somewhere down the line, robots get involved. Honestly, that’s all I can tell you that I was able to gather because while Brad Bird clearly loves telling this story, the way in how he explains it, doesn’t quite register as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Bird still puts effort into this thing. When it comes to the action and adventure side of the story, all of the thrills are here and are to be enjoyed by any member of the family. Bird clearly hasn’t lost a single step of his creative skill for effective action sequences that started in the Incredibles, and only heightened with Mission: Impossible 4, and it does the movie some justice. Because even while things in the plot department may not always click, whenever the action shows up, it livens everything up and all of a sudden, everything gets better. Things are quick, fun, and exciting, all without seeming too difficult to understand.

However, once the movie gets right back to the story, it goes back into being an odd mess of exposition that doesn’t matter, sci-fi mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make sense, and characters that aren’t more than what they present on the thinly-veiled surface.

And this isn’t me just going on and on about how a movie like Tomorrowland, something so mainstream, ambitious and made for Disney families, should be as simple and easy-to-decipher as possible, but when you’re devoting a lot of time to building a world and a circumstance for visiting this world, there needs to be more time in certain plot-details. To simply scratch the surface and just say, “Hey, it’s science fiction,” doesn’t work; in fact, it feels like a cop-out. Rather than just keeping it simple, from the story, to the world, or even to what was at-stake to begin with, Bird tries to take it one step further by digging in deep to the mythology and it only seems like a waste of time. While he and Damon Lindelof may have thought what they were doing and/or writing about was smart, it only proves to be a problem for anybody expecting something that’s light, fun and fine for the whole family.

Also, not to mention that the movie ends on such a melodramatic note, that it makes it feel like a whole other movie entirely. Whereas a good portion of it feels like it wants to be a sci-fi flick akin to something Spielberg would create, another portion of this turns into being an inspirational, message movie about staying creative and constantly challenging one’s self to push themselves further in a creative manner. It’s a noble message, for sure, but feels like it comes out of nowhere and is just tossed in there so Bird didn’t feel so guilty for not being able to do much else.

House is in the........ehrm...house.

House is in the……..ehrm…house.

And of course, this isn’t to say that because Tomorrowland is a disappointing misfire, means that the cast is to be blamed, too, because that isn’t the case. In fact, some of them make the ride all the more pleasant and easy-to-watch, aside from all of the head-scratchers the plot throws at us.

George Clooney doesn’t normally take big-budget, mainstream extravaganzas like this too often, so for that reason alone, it’s interesting to see him here as Frank. But as always, Clooney’s in his element: he’s funny, charming and suave when he needs to be, but also feels like the only one keeping the heart and soul of this movie alive whenever Bird seems concerned with everything else. Hugh Laurie, another one who doesn’t take up these kinds of movies, either, shows up every now and then to be “the baddie” and that’s basically it. He’s fine with it, but the material he’s given is where the movie really starts to get preachy, so it’s a shame.

And Britt Robertson, despite me having never seen much of her before in other stuff, does a solid job as Casey. While her character is the typical “movie nerd” who is quirky, yells a lot, and generally knows a lot of stuff without being too mature, Robertson makes her likable and enjoyable, rather than annoying and over-the-top. Her character could have easily gone this way, but Robertson keeps her head up above the water and doesn’t allow that to happen.

Wish I could have said the same thing for Bird, but I’ll leave him alone for now.

Consensus: With a confusing story-line, sentimental message that’s random, and a cast that isn’t pushed far enough, Tomorrowland is a disappointing mess that shows Bird is solid at action, but in terms of telling a coherent, effective story, he still needs some polishing done.

5.5 / 10

Take it down a notch, George! It's a family film!

Take it down a notch, George! It’s a family film!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Morning Glory (2010)

If Indiana Jones and Annie Hall told me what was going on in the world everyday, the world would be a better place.

Becky (Rachel McAdams), a young, high-strung TV news producer feels as if she has it all, but somehow doesn’t. She gets let-go from her current job at a New Jersey local news station, and can’t seem to find a way to make a living in today’s economy. That is, until she’s hired by one of the least-rated morning news programs called Day Break. Becky’s first decision is to fire one of the co-hosts (Ty Burrell), but leaves the other, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), without anybody to help her out. By searching through thick and thin, Becky ends up with getting snobby, old-timer Mike Pomeroy (Harrison Ford) to do the job, but his old-school business of telling the news (you know, the stuff that matters) clashes with producers, his fellow co-host, and the ratings. Can Becky save her job, but the show as well? Oh no! Who knows?

I can probably assume that just by reading that synopsis up top, you can already bet just where this bad baby is going. Obviously, she’s going to struggle, run into some problems, find a way to get past those problems, run into more problems, and at the end of the day, possibly learn a lesson or two and make others feel happy for themselves. It’s the typical plot-line we are so used to following and it’s nothing that this movie doesn’t strive for, so what the hell could be the problem?

Well, believe it or not, nothing really. Just that it’s so typical, it barely even lasts in your mind, almost to the point of where you could probably go right on over to The Today Show, watch the Roker say some random shit about the weather, and not remember that you actually saw a movie that was sort of about day-time talk shows. However, the weirdest thing about this movie is that it wants you to remember it, and know the message it is trying to get across.

Don't even think of it you dirty, old bastard. She's mine!!!! I hope!!

Don’t even think of it you dirty, old bastard. She’s mine!!!! I hope!!

Yes, this movie does have a message here and as honest as it may be, it’s still freakin’ obvious because they actually say what it is once during the film. There’s a scene here where McAdams’ character tells Ford’s character that he has to get used to the fact that news isn’t what matters, it’s what’s entertaining that matters, so he better get used to it and man-up. That wasn’t word-for-word verbatim of what she said, but it’s pretty damn close and it made me wonder just what type of agenda this film had on it’s mind. It seemed like it was just gunning for a conventional, happy little movie about a girl finding her place in the world, but it went for so much more that it shocked me.

Not in the good way, either.

It’s a very strange predicament this movie runs itself into. It doesn’t seem to really want to be the type of movie that makes you think about the state of journalism and where it’s going (Spoiler alert: to hell), but at the same time, when it’s not making us chuckle or feel all cozy inside the pit of our tummies, it’s trying to do exactly that. The idea that news-programs can survive off of ridiculous stunts being caught on live-television is a bit dumb, but it’s very true because honestly, when was the last time you saw Matt Lauer actually ask a person about their feelings on the legalization of marijuana? Or abortion? Or college loans going up? Or anything of that matter that people actually give a hoot about?

Anybody?

Yup, didn’t think so.

As I said, it’s a very weird road this movie decides to go down, but it does it with enough charm that I can’t say that I hated myself for watching it. Can’t say that about a lot of movies, so when that idea actually does come into my head and stays; well, it’s a nice, little feeling that reminds me why I love watching and reviewing movies so much. Then again, with all of the movies that I do watch and review, it can be a bit hard to take pleasure and be happy with the little things, and the little movies in life that put a bit of a smile on your face. That’s not to say that this movie had me grinning cheek-to-cheek, but it’s pleasant in the way any good chick flick should be.

Speaking of ladies, ain’t that Rachel McAdams a beauty to behold? This gal really is something else because not only is she charming, but she’s able to make such a conventional, obvious character like “the career-woman who puts her love life on the back-burner”, seem sympathetic and adorable in her own, cutesy-way. McAdams just has that spark to her that makes you get on-board behind character right away, no matter what type of dead-ends she may hit on her path to being successful and happy. This is one role that could have easily been given to somebody like Jennifer Garner or Katherine Heigl, and probably would have had me searching for my remote under every seat-cushion, but it wasn’t given to them. It was given to McAdams and the girl really gives the role all she’s got and make it work, despite her character being one big cliché, after another.

The romance she has with Patrick Wilson also seems slightly forced, even though they both seem to be trying to make it work for the movie’s sake. Still, I have to give it to a movie that can not only feature McAdams’ tush in one shot, but the charming Patrick Wilson as well. That one shot, shows that there’s something in this movie for everyone: boys, girls, straights, gays, you name it. You know exactly the shot I’m talking about, because it’s the only thing anybody ever remembers from this damn movie.

"Should we talk about the latest gun reform, or what the hell Kim and Ye's baby is going to be called? The latter? Okay, thought so."

“Should we talk about the latest gun reform, or what the hell Kim and Ye’s baby is going to be named? The latter? Okay, thought so.”

But perhaps the best performance out of this whole movie has got to be Harrison Ford as the old, cranky newsman; Mike Pomeroy. As most of us saw with 42, it seems to be that old Han Solo has still got some acting-skills left in his bag of goodies, and he shows it here quite well. Not only is the guy funny by acting all crotchety and mean, but he’s also a bit endearing as well, because we see what happens to a man that put his career in front of everything else, and can’t really come to terms with where his life has actually ended up. Okay, maybe that was a bit more deep than anything the movie actually tried to get across, but hey, it’s what makes Ford still a solid actor, even after all of these years of shooting Greedo first and getting nuked in fridges.

The only one in this cast that feels like a bit of a waste is Diane Keaton, who seems to really be having a ball as the older, but still-foxy co-host of the show. Keaton’s still got the looks, the charm, and the comedic-timing to still make her character work, it’s just a shame that her character sort of gets thrown to the side, just so Ford can live long and prosper. Guess it was needed, but damn did I miss myself some of old-school Diane!

Consensus: Everything in Morning Glory is calculated, manipulative and obvious from the very start, but at least it’s still charming, much ado to the fine cast that seems ready to make us happy and smile.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

And Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

And once again, Diane be like, “Oh mah lawwddd!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

The Monuments Men (2014)

Tell ’em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!

During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?

George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!

"Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?"

“Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?”

But I digress….

While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.

So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…

Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.

But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.

Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.

She's French, she's willing and best of all, you probably won't ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn't you tap that?!?!?

She’s French, she’s willing and best of all, you probably won’t ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn’t you tap that?!?!?

Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.

Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!

Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?

Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!"

“Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Leatherheads (2008)

Total fiction. George would never do anything that would harm that beautiful, majestic face of his.

Believe it or not, back in the mid-20’s, football was not as big of a thing as it is now. Or, should I say that it was “big”, but it sure as hell wasn’t considered as a professional type of sport that you could play, be respected for, and actually making a living off of. Hell, some fans and players probably still wish the sport was still like that today, but hey, whattya gonna do? Dodge Connelly (George Clooney) was one of the aging-stars in this time and era who finds out that his team is folding under because of budget-restrictions and lack of money coming in and out. However, along with a sneaky reporter (Renée Zellweger), he hatches up a plan to get a very popular college player, Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski), on his team so that the team can get back to playing and that he may get some money in his pocket. But once love is thrown into the situation, then nothing ever goes as planned.

George Clooney obviously loves old movies because, well, let’s face it: everybody still considers him, to this day, “the next Cary Grant.” So, when you have a comparison like that, you have to at least take pride in it, especially when you’re as talented and powerful as Clooney is in Hollywood. Literally, the dude could say that he wanted to a movie about him and another dude taking reading the phone-book for two hours, and with a snap of his finger, everybody would be on-board, already having a release-date ready. That’s just the type of person Clooney is, and even though he never lets you forget about it, I can’t say I hate it because the guy makes good movies, stars in good movies and never seems like he’s just phoning it in for the sake of doing so. 110% is what Clooney always puts in, and even though it may not always work, at least he tries, right?

"Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some."

“Ladies and gentleman, I think we have just been spotted planning a three-some.”

Being that this is his third outing as director, Clooney had a lot to live up to and making a movie about football back in the 20’s seemed a bit odd. But hey, it’s George Clooney, so what the hell can go wrong? Well, to be honest, not much, but what does go wrong, hits you straight in the face and makes you wonder why he made something like this in the first place. It’s not like it was a terrible move on Clooney’s part to make an old-fashioned movie, about the early days of pro-football, but the question remains: Why?

The areas of this movie that Clooney’s skill works very well is in the first hour or so of this movie, which is when we are being introduced to our characters, our story, and our setting, all of which are finely detailed in their own rights. But obviously, Clooney’s strong-suit here is in starting this movie on the right foot by allowing the comedy and goofiness of this all to just keep us entertained and not really take itself too seriously. It’s funny, quick, witty and very screwball-ish that it doesn’t seem disingenuous to the plot or it’s characters. Hell, it takes in 1920’s, so why not just make a movie that could have been seen or made during the time of flappers and Prohibition?

You know, the good old days.

Nonetheless, most of this is pretty damn entertaining because Clooney never settles for anything less when it comes to capturing the right tone and feel of a screwball comedy that could have easily been made by Billy Wilder, had he been alive in ’08. The problem with this movie is that when he does begin to get further and further away from the screwball elements of this movie, a into more darker and dramatic-territory, then things get a little hectic.

And this occurs around the hour-mark, because this is when the tone really gets lost in the shuffle of trying to be frothy and playful, while also focusing on these characters and the harsh-realities they have no chance of escaping. I know that the movie is supposed to be all about how the game of football changed from being a small hobby on the side that a bunch of guys who loved doing it, to a sport that almost everybody and anybody aspired to be apart of, all for the riches and expenses, rather than the fun of the game, but that point came and went as it pleased. Clooney didn’t seem to bother to focus on that aspect of the story as much as he wanted to with the love-triangle; the same love-triangle that started off fine, but just got nonsensical. I can handle it when characters act like idiots because a little tail is thrown their way, but after awhile, I kept on wondering, “Why are these guys still fighting for this chick, when it’s clear who she wants to fully be with?” I don’t know, maybe it was just me.

But even though the dude does screw up being a director this time around, at least he’s good as the leading man and shows that he still has the wit, the charm and the perseverance to make any role of his work. Dodge Connelly is a bit of a strange role for Clooney, but not as obvious because you can still tell the guy loves the sport that he plays, loves what he has to do, and really wants the money. He’s the type of fast-talker you don’t want to see at a Christmas party because he’s too busy talking your ear off about how you and him should get together some time, look over the paper-work, and see just where they could go next with this idea of his. However, he’s still a guy we like, which is solely due to the fact that Clooney just has that “thing” about him that makes him so cool to begin with.

Even with all of the mud and gook, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Even with all of the mud, George still finds a way to be the sexiest mofo on the planet.

Renée Zellweger is also a blast to watch and listen to as Lexie Littleton, an untrustworthy reporter for the Tribune, who shows all of the fiery sass and sexiness that we’ve always seen from her in past rom-com roles, but never really got to see placed in a period where all ladies acted and talked like this. Okay, maybe Chicago, but to me, that doesn’t count because half of her lines were sung, rather than spoken. Nonetheless though, the gal’s great here in the way that she’s able to hold her own against the dudes, show-off some of that brassiness to her act that we haven’t seen in awhile, and also make us feel a bit more for her than we should. Even though I don’t like it, most journalists seem to get a bad-rap in movies and for once, it was nice to see a movie that portrays a journalist as a person that loves their job, and does whatever they can to get the right facts, by any means necessary.

John Krasinski is also here as the happy-go-lucky, always positive-thinker, Carter Rutherford. I’ve always had an admiration for Krasinski because the dude is able to make us like him, even when his character is a bit off of his rocker. It’s also nice to see him not play a character that’s practically Jim, and seeing him just shine it up as Carter, make us fall in love with him almost as much as everybody else in this movie does, reminds me why I go to bat for the guy every chance I get. Then again, it’s a role that’s seemingly there so that everybody else can work around it, respond to it, and do a lot better than, so maybe it’s not the role-of-a-life-time for the guy like many, including himself, may have hoped. It’s still good though and makes me hope he’ll challenge himself a bit more in the future.

Consensus: Being that Leatherheads doesn’t just star Clooney, but also has him directing as well, you should already know it’s a good movie, while definitely still not as good as we’ve seen the dude do in the past. Namely, three years ago with Good Night, And Good Luck.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Stop being so happy!!

Just trying to make the moments he has next to George last forever. Don’t blame him.

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

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)

One could only imagine the type of dirty dealings Alex Trebek does on the side when he isn’t correcting dorks.

Many out of you out there probably know who Chuck Barris (Sam Rockwell) actually is just by his pop-culture relevance. He hosted the Gong Show, created the Dating Game, was infamous for his crazy personality on-and-off the screen and, from plenty of sources, apparently had a long-standing battle with drug-addiction that not only took over his professional, but most of his personal life as well. Oh and he was also a spy for the CIA too, apparently. Yeah, didn’t think about that one now did ya?

Whenever Gong Show reruns would show up when I was around, I’d always be wondering what the hell was up with the host. The guy always seemed like he was one step behind on everything else that was going on around him, which would have only made more sense if it was just that he did blow two seconds before the cameras began rolling. Much to my surprise though, the guy was actually part of the CIA, wrote an autobiography about it and even had a movie directed about his wild and crazy life. This is where I started to have second thoughts about this guy; but nope. My opinion still remains: Chuck Barris is a frickin’ nut.

Like the old joke goes: "Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude's bought her a martini."

Like the old joke goes: “Julia Roberts walks into the bar, and automatically, every dude bought her a martini.” Or something of that nature.

Much more of a surprise to me was to find out that not only was there a biopic made about his wild life and times, but that it was also directed by one George Clooney. Apparently, Clooney found something quite interesting about this guy’s life that he wanted to make a movie about it all, adapting from the Barris’ own autobiography; and therein lies the problem.

See, since most of this is coming from the point-of-view of Barris and not really anybody else around him, we never know what’s real, what’s real fiction, what’s a bunch of crap that he just made-up in his head and what was done by Clooney, all for the sake of entertainment-purposes. Thankfully, most of it all seems legit in Barris’ own, twisted way and because of that, the movie comes-off as more of a biopic, rather than just a sensationalized, Hollywood story about a top-dollar guy in the showbiz. It’s a little bit weird; it’s a little bit twisty; it’s a little bit sad; it’s a little bit compelling; and it’s a little bit interesting. Which, when put altogether, made it worth watching for awhile.

But still, I was actually very surprised by the fact that even though this seems to be one of those wacky, larger-than-life stories you’d only get in the movies, but is also happens to be true, it still happened to be like every other conventional story where a guy has hope in this world, shows signs of promise, does well for awhile, then, sooner than later, begins to self-destruct by one bad decisions, after another. Can’t say I hold it against this film or Clooney too much, considering all that he’s doing is actually giving us the story that he read and whole-heartedly believes in, but material like this should be popping off of the screen. Not seeming like something we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but this time, just so happens to focus on a pop-culture icon thrown into the ring of the CIA. Strange and oddly compelling as it sounds, sadly, it does not play-out that way.

On top of that, too, the story itself doesn’t really get started-off until the first hour. As a director, Clooney seems like he has a nice mixture of Scorsese and Sodebergh going on here, and it made this movie move quick and light, while also still focusing on a character and a story that would begin to get more and more interesting, just as it unraveled. Where Clooney excels the most with this material is in all of the showbiz/behind-the-scenes stuff because it gave me a great glimpse of how hard it was for Barris to actually get any of his shows off the ground, and how hard it may be for anyone out there who ever had a single, creative idea in their mind and wanted to see what they could do with it.

However, where Clooney mis-steps is in that kept on going back-and-forth between three elements of this story that didn’t seem to mesh so well. One was a romantic sub-plot he has with a couple of ladies that he finds cool and charming; the other is about his life as a TV game-show host; and the last one is about his CIA shenanigans. All do quite well in their own, respective fields, but spliced together, it feels uneven as if you couldn’t quite tell where George wanted to go with this material. Did he want it to be a biopic? A comedy about showbiz during the 70’s? A character-study about where this guy came from and his mind? Or, just a simple tale about the CIA, and all of the intrigue that goes along with it? Not saying you can’t focus on all of these elements and pack them into one, completely whole story, but there’s a better way to go about doing so, and yet, still making it compelling in every which way.

Then again though, it should be noted that this was George’s directorial-debut and while he may have not done the most perfect job in all of the world, it’s still impressive enough to see why he’d go on to make many other movies in the near-future. Not all of them were great, but they are still as interesting as this and it goes to show you what one guy can do if he doesn’t just have the looks and the talents, but the aspirations and ambitions as well. For that, I give George credit, even if it may seem like I’m ragging on him quite a bit.

I’m really not though, George. I’m not nearly half of the man you are. If only.

But what this movie gave us the most, was a solid look at Sam Rockwell and just exactly who the hell he was. As Chuck Barris, Rockwell nails everything perfectly – his goofy-demeanor, off-kilter sense of humor, and overall weirdness he carried on throughout his day-to-day activities. He’s a nut-ball for sure, but he’s not necessarily a likable one. Actually, better yet, he’s a bit of a dick, an unapologetic one at that, which makes it a bit hard to care about this guy at first. However, Rockwell is so believable and charming as Barris, that you almost forget about all of the morally questionable choices he’s made throughout the bulk of this movie. At one point, you actually feel bad for him considering he is so out-of-his-league and just not at all ready for what the world of the CIA has to throw at him. Though we never do quite know exactly what did, or what didn’t happen in Barris’ life, we still feel for the guy and see him as a human, and not just another Hollywood hot-shot, who got too big for his britches and ended-up getting in all sorts of trouble. Rockwell was great here though, and totally does carry this movie on his own two shoulders.

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right then and there!

Fine wine and Scrabble with Drew. Think we found a new talk-show right here!

Makes me even happier to see that he’s still putting in great work today.

Though, I do have to say that Rockwell does have a bit of help from his co-stars, one of which is Clooney himself as the main, CIA-operative that gets Barris involved with all of these sheisty dealings in the first place. Clooney’s good and definitely up to his old-school charming ways, but after awhile, just felt like a plot-contrivance that would conveniently show up to deliver bad news for Barris, just when things seemed to be going jolly-good for the guy. It was also awesome to see Rutger Hauer as one of Barris’ fellow-agents out in the field that definitely provides some near and dear insight, but soon becomes to be a bit of a mysterious guy himself, and not in the good way mind you. Still though, it’s great to see Hauer getting some meaty-material, as the dude definitely deserves more of it.

This isn’t just a man’s show though, because there are some ladies here that get a chance to show up, strut their stuff and shake the boys’ party up a bit. Julia Roberts started-off pretty good as another CIA Agent that Barris meets out there in the field, but soon becomes every other role that we’ve seen her play, time and time again. Sad to see, but I guess I’ve expected it by now, right? Then there is Drew Barrymore as Penny, Barris’ long-lasting girlfriend of sorts and is fine, even though her character is a bit weak here. It isn’t Barrymore’s acting that’s the problem, but it seems like her character was written in a way in which she always tells Barris that he needs to knuckle down, even though he never does so; seems to always stand by his side, even if he just continues to bang other chicks right from underneath her nose; and basically, just never get himself clean and off-the-grind. Actually, one time, it happens right in front of her face, and yet, she doesn’t say anything until five minutes later! Made no sense! All she had to do was a grow a back-bone and leave that bastard! Especially when I’m out there on the market! Like, holla!

Consensus: There seemed to be plenty of promise in the source material of Chuck Barris’ life, but sadly, despite all of the best intentions of Clooney, Charlie Kaufman and the good ensemble, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind just never seems like anything more than just your standard, traditional biopic with lots of CIA-stuff and showbiz-satire thrown into the mix. Other than that, not much else.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

There's always got to be that one last guy who never gets the hint that "the party's over".

There’s always got to be that one, last guy who never gets the hint that “the party’s over”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Divorce isn’t all about breaking the others person’s heart, it’s mostly about breaking their bank accounts.

A fabulously successful Los Angeles divorce attorney, Miles Massey (George Clooney) who is so sated on success, that he doesn’t quite see enough time for recreational activities like hanging out with friends, going to the bar, getting laid, or hell, even finding his one true, and only love. He doesn’t care much for that stuff anyway, but if it ever came around his way, then so be it, but just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his business and his path-to-success. Now though, Miles may get exactly what he wants in the form the much-divorced Marylin Rexroth (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a hard-headed woman pursuing financial independence through serial matrimony, except it may come with a price. That price? His heart, which as we all know, when one is placed solely in the firm grasps of a woman, nothing good can ever come of it. Poor guy.

The writing/directing brother duo known as the Coen Brothers, are pretty much known for wacky, twisty dark comedies, that feature plenty of weirdness and violence to go along with their final-product. You know this, I know this, hell, we all know this! However, what we don’t really know about them all that much are their passions for anything even remotely close to “rom-coms”. But here we have a rom-com, featuring two of the sexiest, most vivacious stars of the past ten years, and we have the Coen Brothers leading them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

Men, hate to say it, but another good one bites the dust.

Men, hate to say it, but another good one bites the dust.

That’s because it is. But it’s “Coen Brothers strange” and yes, there is such a thing.

The are in which I think the Coens get most of a bad-rap from this movie in is that it’s pretty obvious what they’re setting out to do here, and that’s to make a mainstream rom-com, obviously with their own little stamps of originality here and there to spice things up. They aren’t necessarily trying to spellbind an audience that may not know what to expect from their types of movies, nor are they trying to piss off their most loyal, nearest and dearest fans neither; they’re simply trying to make a movie that can be somewhat be enjoyed by anybody who cares enough to give this one a shot. And while the end-result may not be all that perfect, there’s still plenty of interesting stuff going on here that makes it easy to understand why no matter what type of stunt they’re trying to pull, a Coen Brothers movie is always worth watching. For one reason or another.

For instance, take the premise: It’s fairly dark in the way it looks at the world of love, lust and money, and how it’s all connected in a terrible web of lies and deceit. Not the happiest, most pleasant premise out there to-date, but it’s what you get from the dudes who put a dead dude in a wood-chipper. The Coens seem like they have a lot to discuss when it comes to the discussion of how money just makes people happy, regardless of if they’re in love or not. Usually, money solves everything, not love. Hate to say it, but for some peeps, that’s nothing other than the truth, and to see the Coens tap into this idea, while also springing-up some fun, twisty and surprising plot-points, made this a better watch then I expected.

However, it cannot be argued that this movie is still a bit messy, all due to the fact that it’s a rom-com, trying so hard to be in fact, a rom-com. It’s not that I took points off because the Coen Brothers were trying something new and inventive with something we’ve seen done a hundred, million times (hell, it’s practically what we see their movies for in the first place), it’s just that the transition from this strange, sort-of love story, to the mysterious, cold and dark story that Clooney’s character gets wrapped up into, isn’t as smooth. Once again, it seemed like the Coens may have had a bit too much on their plate to chew on, but this time, instead of having all these different strands of plot, story and development going on, it’s just two stories and they never quite converge the way they should.

Like I said before though, it is a Coen Brothers movie, and for what that’s worth, there’s still plenty of non-stop chuckles, pieces of dry wit and overall fun to be had here, it’s just obvious that these guys have done far-better stuff before. Especially with premises that didn’t at all resemble a silly, stupid rom-com. Seriously, I hate those damn things! Hate ’em!

Somebody grab me a damn fan!

Somebody grab me a damn fan!

George Clooney plays the same role here, that he plays in every other one of his movies: The fast-talking, slick, charming guy that makes every other slouch in the room, look like they just got out of the freakin’ dumpster. But, even though that’s what he may seem like at first, you’ll be a bit surprised to see that he’s a lot more stranger-developments going on with this guy, that make you see him for a bit of a different cat altogether. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Miles Massey, in his own way, is a bit off-kilter and neurotic, something we don’t usually see Clooney play, especially given the fact that the ladies couldn’t ever imagine him as being something other than the most handsome, most charming dude in the world. Heck, I don’t blame them, because I even freakin’ see it! But watching Clooney try something new, is one thing, and it’s another to actually see him pull it off, which he does so effortlessly. You really do begin to feel something for this Miles Massey guy and even though he majors in taking the wounded’s good-earned money in every cheap, dirty way he can, there’s still a part of you that wants him to find that dream girl of his. Even if she is somebody as devilish and vindictive as Marylin Rexroth. Ooh, that name. Just gets me all hot, bothered and scared, everytime I hear it.

And with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the role, it’s easy to see why. No seriously, “seeing” is exactly what you’ll be doing everytime she’s up on-screen because she just nails that perfect eye-candy a movie like this needed. Therefore, when Massey started to fall for her, it was easy to see why, especially since every other dude around her started to fall weak at the knees as well. Yeah, a side of me wishes that there was more to this Rexroth character other than just an untrustworthy, gold-digging tramp, whom you don’t want to be messing around with Massey’s vulnerable heart, but I still can’t find anything bad to say about the gal’s performance. She’s spicy, nasty and willing to get down and dirty if she needs to make herself happy. In other words: She’s the type of girl all us men are afraid to be with, yet, we just can’t say “no” to. Rawr.

Consensus: Take with it what you will, Intolerable Cruelty is probably the Coen Brother’s most mainstream movie they have ever done, but still shows all of their usual trademarks for what they are, while also giving us some fun turns by the whole cast, especially a very charming and likable duo of Clooney and Zeta-Jones.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Something tells me the over-abundance of red means something despicable is about to happen. Just a hunch.

Something tells me the over-abundance of red means something despicable is about to happen. Just a hunch.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Act of Valor (2012)

Keep on fighting the good fight, boys. But let’s leave that on the battlefield, and off of our silver screens.

This one’s going to be a little difficult to summarize, so just bear with me for as long as you can. A group of Navy SEALS are sent on a mission where they must rescue an undercover CIA agent who has been held captive. Once these SEALS finally rescue her, all safe, sealed and delivered, they realize that this little kidnapping scheme is part of something far more bigger than just your traditional threat to the United States army. Somehow, through someway, the Mexican drug cartel and terrorists come together on this plan to invade the U.S., with more than a few suicide bombers ready to press the button at any point in time. However, it’s up to this same group of SEALS to do whatever it is that they can to defeat the enemy, save our country and still a life to live where they can go back to their families, have dinner, make love to their spouses and in some cases, finally get to see their newborn baby. All in a hard day’s work of a Navy SEAL Marine. Hoo-rah!

I’m going to let you know right now, just as we start things off: If you go into this movie expecting something of an honest, realistic, slice-of-life look inside the lives of Navy SEALS, then you’re not going to get here. Everything you see or hear in this movie, is straight-up, pure propaganda that’s obviously been tinkered with many of times, just so soldier-hopefuls out there will get packed, grab their bags and get the hell out of the house, where they can go to their nearest recruiter and sign right up. If you take it in as anything else other than a propaganda-piece, then you, my friend, are indeed screwed, because trust me, that’s all you’re going to get.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

Off into the sunset, and hopefully away from a movie career.

But that brings up the interesting question: If this is a propaganda movie made for those who want to contribute the war, and/or support our troops, is it wrong to NOT like this movie? I remember this discussion was going through the minds of many peeps when this movie first came out early last year, and while I didn’t even bother to check it out for myself, I still realized that maybe some day down the pipeline I’ll give this try. Fast-forward to Veterans Day 2013, and gosh, was my timing every so impeccable!

If you’re going to watch any movie today to get in you the fine spirit of paying your condolences to those who fought for us, then this is definitely the movie to see, if you haven’t already seen it. While there have been far more preachy and obvious movies made for the sake of propaganda, this one definitely takes the cake as it literally seems like there are no problems with any of the SEALS involved whatsoever. Every soldier that we get the slightest glimpse at is either on-point with every decision they make, smart, nice, easily pleased and always able to figure something right on the spot. They rarely ever get frazzled, pissed off, upset, jealous, selfish, scared, worried or even a little bit gung-ho with their weapons. Nope, they’re just the most perfect human-beings in the history of the world and some out there may call me a dick for making fun of that fact, but I’m just making an obvious note: People, this is no Restrepo. Trust me on that.

And since this is no Restrepo, that means we are subject to some pretty weak character-development and acting, which could have all been easily solved had directors Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh not decided to be so gimmicky and cast former active duty Navy SEALS. See, I get that these guys obviously wanted to show some real, hard-earned respect to these boys, so they thought by casting them in these lead roles, giving them a handful of lines, fake guns packed with stud bullets and some, to little back-story, that they’d be doing them a real slim; which is exactly what they’re doing. Nothing really wrong with that as it probably made them feel even more special than ever before, however, what may make those guys feel all mighty, high and proud of themselves, may make some of us who are stuck watching these guys be forced to commit such actions as emoting, or getting down their comedic-timing, or even just reading their lines, feel awkward and terribly uncomfortable.

This is another point that may earn more haters than lovers, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m a movie critic, not a fellow solider writing about my thoughts and feelings about these soldiers in the roles, and the movies they’re in. I’m simply just talking about the movie as a whole, and in that regard, the movie is god awful. It’s hard to listen to half of these guys say something, without laughing uncontrollably out-loud and wonder why McCoy and Waugh couldn’t just get real actors to do these roles, and just have the SEALS stunt-double for them, in order to still give us the real look and feel as if we are really seeing these soldiers go to work and talk like they normally would. But instead, we just get a bunch of guys who can’t act for crap, but can sure as hell throw out war jargon like nobody’s business. That’s what I’ll definitely give them credit for, but then again, something tells me a person like say, I don’t know, Brad Pitt or George Clooney would have been able to do that ten times more effectively.

Think long and hard, bud.

Think long and hard, bud.

Once again, movie critic, not a soldier.

Since I do keep reminding you that I am a movie critic, I think this is finally my time to stop bagging on this movie and get to the good stuff, which isn’t much, but still something that’s worth recommending for the hardest, of hardest action-junkies. Basically, minor bits and pieces of character-development and scenes of dialogue probably take up about 10% of this whole movie; whereas the rest of the 90% is straight-up, non-stop, action. And by “action”, I mean the full shebang: Guns, nukes, explosions, bullets, snipers, bombs, explosions, dudes getting shot in the head, POV shots, explosions, knives, blood, tanks, jeeps, explosions, and plenty more where that came from. For people who get their rocks off of seeing a terrorist get their head shot off by some camouflaged sniper, then this is definitely the movie for you as there’s plenty more where that came from, and hell, who am I to judge, because I don’t mind seeing that every once in awhile either. I didn’t really care for it much here since I felt like I got that same scene about hundred more times, but still, there is some fun to be had with this movie and its various amounts of violence, especially if you’re on our side. If you’re not, then you won’t like this movie, and in essence, you’re a traitor. That’s what I’ll most likely be told.

Consensus: The movie’s intentions are good, and the heart is in the right place, but Act of Valor still can’t help but feel like nothing more than pure propaganda for army-hopefuls to check out and suddenly be inspired to take action right away, whether that be through joining up, or simply donating. Either way, this movie wants your commitment, and it may or may not get it, all depending on the type of person you are.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

On a lighter, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us.  I know I will. I just won't be watching this movie while doing so.

On a more serious, less cynical note, remember those who fought and died for us. I know I will. I just won’t be watching this movie while doing so.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90’s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Gravity (2013)

Who else would you want to be stuck up in space with other than good ol’ George and Sandra?

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or hell, they can’t hear you do much of anything if you’re stranded out in the middle of the vast universe, which is what happens to both to rookie medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and smart and skilled Commander Matt Kowalksky (George Clooney). After debris from a nearby crash comes to attack their ship, both are left not having any damn clue as to what the hell to do except trust one another and use each other’s skills to the best of their ability. The only problem is that she’s always panicking and not ready for this type of excitement and havoc, hence why it makes the job of getting home safe and sound a bit harder. However, if Stone can reach deep down inside, to the inner-levels of her soul, she’ll find a brave woman that’s ready to fight for her life.

As you can see, I definitely tried my hardest right there to stretch this out as possible as I could, but in case you’re still confused, let me lay down the law for you like this: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney get lost in space. There, that’s it. In a nutshell! Bada-bing! Bada-boom! Seems simple enough, right? Well, it totally is, but what makes this movie not-so simple in its own way is that it’s directed by Alfonso Cuarón who, if you don’t know already, has a keen-eye for detail and finding the inner-most beauty in anything he’s filming.

Face it, it's as close as your average, everyday male is ever going to get to being with Sandra.

Face it, it’s as close as your average, everyday male is ever going to get to being with Sandra.

He did it with the near-catastrophic, post-apocalyptic vision of the world in Children of Men; he did it with a bunch of horny Mexicans venturing all throughout paradise with Y Tu Mamá También; and hell, he even did it with A Little Princess, showing us the imaginative mind of a young girl! So why the hell not space? I mean, there’s simply nowhere else for the guy to go out and explore except for up, up, and up. However, if anybody can make a 90-minute-movie dedicated solely to getting lost in space and somehow make it appealing both visually and emotionally, then it is sure as hell him.

Where Cuarón excels in the most, above all else, is his vision. The movie really does seem like it was filmed somewhere up in outer space and doesn’t make you think twice about what you’re watching, where you’ve been placed, and just how you got there. This movie could have easily gone down the “Hollywood route” and made this come off as just two big-time stars getting lost in space while looking as bright and as beautiful as possible, but Cuarón wouldn’t have it that way, and that’s exactly the way he got. Just the way space itself looks, from the alignment of the stars, to the way the planets spin so slowly, you just feel as if you are lost in space along with these characters, and begin to expect the worst, but hope for the best. The camera glides all throughout this action as it’s happening, giving you the idea that not all thrillers need their cameras to be shaken until they break just to get a rise out of an audience. All you need is some simple tricks of the trade, an acute eye for what’s appealing, and a wonderful pair of ears that allows you to hear everything and anything, just as its happening. Almost as if, you got it, you were right there along for the adventure. I definitely sense plenty of Oscars for visual effects and all of that yiddy-yadda for this in the future, and I have no problem with that whatsoever because it’s obvious that Cuarón put a lot of work into the way this film looks, and he should definitely get some love and adoration for that.

However, it isn’t just looks all the way, there is actually a story to be had here, and as ordinary as it is, it still gets you and never lets loose of you the whole time.

Right as soon as we’re placed into this movie, automatically, we get a somewhere near-17-minute tracking-shot that did not lose my attention for a single second and needless to say, neither did the rest of the film. Once the ship is hit and these two get taken away from one another in space, you are brought right into the story, thinking of all the worst things possible that could happen, and are also left imagining what might happen next, regardless of whether or not this is a Hollywood production. You just automatically feel tense, as if there’s a knot in your stomach that won’t go away, and that’s what Cuarón wants. He isn’t necessarily playing with us, as much as he’s constantly spinning us around (sometimes literally), having us expect what we usually know from movies about survival in a not-so natural instinct, and continue to throw us curveball-after-curveball, while giving us the cheerful, happy moments we as an audience, oh so deserve.

You’ll feel tense at every step-of-the-way and if you can appreciate what Cuarón puts in front of you in terms of visual grandeur, then you’re going to love the hell out of how this movie makes you feel. It’s the go-to definition of what a big-budget, Hollywood movie, with big names, and an inspired premise, as simple as it may be, should to, and then some.

"One day, that planet will be all mine."

“One day, that planet will be all mine.”

But here’s the weird thing about me and this movie: When I originally left the theater, I was automatically thinking 9, like how the hell could I not?!?! Not only was it a gut-punchingly tense movie, but it also had plenty of emotional moments that made it all the more compelling and easy to care about. But when I began to think about it, I started to think that some of the writing for this movie was in fact sloppy, and probably really manipulative. For instance, rather than giving the character of Ryan Stone the simple dilemma of having to try and get out of space in one piece and alive, she also had to have a kid of hers die and make her seemingly numb to the rest of the world that surrounds her. Not only is this is a bit hokey, but it seemed like such a lame-excuse to write Stone as someone more than just your average, ordinary astronaut; she just HAD to have a cause and/or reason for surviving, and that in and of itself felt a bit ham-handed, not something I’d expect from Alfonso Cuarón. Maybe from his son, Jonás (who he co-wrote this one with), would, but not Alfonso. I know him too well.

That said, I can’t take any of that away from Sandra Bullock at all considering that she gives a great performance that’s both physically, and emotionally demanding of her every talent. Bullock definitely shows hints of that inner-charm she has, but that’s all down-played to give us a female that won’t give up and stop fighting for her life, even when the obstacles set in front of her seem like they’re almost too mighty or powerful to hurdle-over. Stone sounds like a corny character, or maybe I just make her sound that way, but Bullock gives her a believeability to her that makes her easy-to-root-for and understandable as a human-being when she has to make some questionable decisions on her path to living. George Clooney is also very solid as the gruff, wiser astronaut of the two and displays that same old type of charm and likability that we love to see from the dude, and the scenes between him and Bullock make the friendship/relationship between these two characters seem more worth caring for. Now, why the hell these two won’t just get hitched and whisk off together in real-life, is totally beyond me! However, that’s for TMZ to gossip about. This is DTMMR, bitches! We couldn’t care less about that crap!

Consensus: Gravity may be stretched upon its very limits at times, but most of the time, it is a very compelling, intense, and utter-beauty of a flick that demands you pay attention to it, and feel like you’re along for the ride, even if you don’t want to be at times.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Their love knows no limits.

Their love knows no limits.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Hey, at least robots and aliens will remember your movie 1,000 years from now.

Best Worst Movie is a documentary that follows the lives of the stars of a notoriously bad movie from 1990 called Troll 2.  Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t, but either way, it’s considered one of the worst movies, if not, the worst of all-time. Some high-acclaim, right? However, the movie isn’t just about that historical-train wreck, it’s about the people involved with it, most importantly, the film’s most recognizable actor George Hardy who is not an actor working in the industry at all, but is a dentist from Alabama who just auditioned for the movie on his day off and got the part.

Believe it or not, I still haven’t had the time in my life to check out the terrible masterpiece that is Troll 2. Of course I hear all of these bad and hilarious things about it and I’ve seen plenty of YouTube clips over the years, but I have never sat down and been able to go through this train-wreck. I think it’s because I like loading myself with movies that are either ones that I know are good, ones that are okay, ones that are middling, or ones that are worth my time. I don’t always win, but at least I know what I’m getting myself into. I think knowing that I’m possibly going to view and watch the worst movie of all-time, in a sober state-of-mind nonetheless, is sort of where my mind takes me other way. But heck, if this documentary does make me want to do something, it’s call-up all my friends, get a couple cases, sit-down, find this somewhere on the inter-web, and have an absolute ball.

What’s so surprising about this documentary is that was all put together by Michael Stephenson, a dude who played the kid in the original Troll 2, and you have to give him a lot of credit for it as well. Not only does it give you a sense that this kid knows the story he wants to tell, but will also treat it with love and respect that so many people have been giving it over the years. Yes, people do have love and care for shitty movies, whether you’d like to soak that in or not. Stephenson practically tracks down every single person that was part of this production and basically what makes this flick because each and every one of them are as colorful and fun as the last one.

Classic.

Classic.

First off, there’s the Italian director Claudio Fragasso, who can’t seem to just admit that this film blows and instead, continues to call it a “misunderstood masterpiece”; secondly, we got former-mental patient, Don Packard, who had a small role in the film and is a guy who seems like he’s on a total other planet, but also comes back down to Earth when he realizes just how special he is to everybody who has seen this movie; and lastly, there is also the leading lady, Margo Prey, who wants barely anything to do with this movie such as screenings, interviews, reunions, etc. and just can’t seem to get her head around the fact that her acting career may just be over with. It all sounds so sad, which in the director’s case: it is. However, it isn’t all played for laughs or sobs, as every single interview/person is treated with the a certain-sense of gratitude that rather than poking fun at these people for ever taking part in something so horrendous. Instead of showing them as complete and utter jokes, it shows them as human beings just wanting a shot at the big-times, had a chance, went for it, and just so happened to be in the worst movie of all-time. Doesn’t happen to everybody, but just could if you aren’t careful.

This is exactly the case for the leading man of Troll 2: the man, the myth, the happiest guy on the face of Planet Earth, George Hardy.

Every single person that was apart of that movie, are as compelling as the last, but none are as memorable as George Hardy for the sake of reason that Hardy is so damn lovable right from the start and almost never ends. Hardy first got apart of Troll 2 when he found out there was a spot for acting and right when the film was over, he went back to his dentist profession where he continued there, even till today. Hardy is such a likable guy because he’s always smiling, saying “hello” or “good morning” to every single person he sees, makes light out any situation like filling in cavities for little kids, and never had any real hopes for becoming the next George Clooney. However, once this movie starts to develop a larger cult following than he could have ever imagined, Hardy starts to get that feeling in the pit of stomach where he wants to live up his 15 minutes of fame no matter what. It was really cool to see how such a regular, everyday guy like Hardy could get swept-up in something like this but still, it’s very believable and entertaining because Hardy seems to be in on the joke the whole time, and does whatever he can to keep himself out there and keep the memory of this flick still alive and well. However, I don’t think he realized that maybe he doesn’t even need to, the film will probably be around forever no matter what.

"Well, we thought since Comic-Con's a couple months away, might as well."

“Well, we thought since Comic-Con’s a couple months away, might as well.”

The film isn’t all about these eclectic cast of characters though, it’s actually more about how a film can be so bad, so terrible, and so god-awful, but also, so fun and still find an audience over 20 years later, where some people even start to consider it a “masterpiece”. I know it seems crazy to say this, but this movie actually had me believing that at one point by how damn passionate people are about this movie and to see Troll 2 constantly keep on showing up at little private screenings/festivals, really shows you just how loved this film is today. I’ve never seen Troll 2, but this film made me actually want to go out there and see just what the hell all of these people are getting stuck ranting and raving about, even until this day.

If there was any problem I had with this flick is was that by the end of it all, it started to lose my interest mainly for the fact that it starts to get a tad bit darker and focus on the sad elements of being apart of a movie like Troll 2. The whole movie before all of this was funny, fast-paced, and very light with its subject, but it all started to go away quickly. Also, I think it could have talked a bit more about getting into movies and how to avoid hurdles like Troll 2 in a career, but it still did it’s best with what it gave us. It didn’t want to become a sob-story about not want to do in Hollywood when you got all of that promise in front of you, so good for them.

Consensus: With a funny, light approach and filled with plenty of larger-than-life personalities, Best Worst Movie is a tribute to what has been considered one of the worst movies of all-time, and shows you just why it’s considered this, but also never loses the essence of why so many people just love it for exactly that.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Just let it go, man. Your career's done before it ever started.

“Oh, how I thought of burning this to shreds so, so many times.”

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

God, I wish I was as cool as these guys. I seriously do.

Dapper Danny Ocean (George Clooney) is a man of action. Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New Jersey penitentiary, the wry, charismatic thief is already rolling out his next plan. Following three rules – don’t hurt anybody, don’t steal from anyone who doesn’t deserve it and play the game like you’ve got nothing to lose – Danny orchestrates the most sophisticated, elaborate casino heist in history. This is where the fun begins in Ocean’s eyes, and you know what? His eyes do not deceive him a single-bit.

Heist flicks are and have always been a favorite of mine, and to feature a cast with the likes of Clooney, Damon, Cheadle, Pitt, Mac, Reiner, and even Affleck (Casey, that is), you know I was even more excited because it seemed like the perfect-opportunity for a bunch of guys to just pal-around, have a good time, and pull-off some neat-o heists. However, just to make sure that this isn’t one, long bro-sesh from start-to-finish, we got Steven Soderbergh at the helm to keep everything under control and honestly, what better man to do that then the guy who has made one of the greatest heist/crime flicks of all-time, Out of Sight? Well, you could probably argue Tarantino or Scorsese, or plenty of others, but if you were to really get down to the nitty-gritty of it, I think you would be pretty damn fine with having Soderbergh behind it all, because I definitely was.

Having a guy like Steven Soderbergh doing your film means one thing and one thing only: it’s going to have a crap-load of style. And that’s not really a bad thing at all, because with a generic and relatively conventional story like this, you need that to add more pizzazz and spice to the whole-product, even though it’s obviously apparent that’s what Soderbergh is relying on the most. However, it didn’t get in the way of material and you can’t help but just love the fact that Soderbergh gives the flick a more-polished look than you are used to seeing with heists, but also realize that it makes the setting it takes place-in, all the more beautiful and smoother in it’s own, coolio way. Soderbergh is the man of being cool, looking cool, and filming cool, and he was definitely the perfect-choice for material like this.

Yes, that is Carl Reiner right next to Bernie Mac.

Yes, that is Carl Reiner right next to Bernie Mac. Somewhere, the comedic-gods are smiling.

There’s also a great-deal of fun and entertainment that Soderbergh brings to this flick and it’s not just all about the style, either, it’s more about the actual heist itself, and keeping you constantly wondering, guessing, and figuring-out how it’s all going to play-out in your mind and on-screen. Soderbergh definitely does a little-job of trickery here and there with this heist and the twists and turns it takes, but that just adds more to the overall enjoyment of what we all see and it’s perfect since everything until then, was all just one, big lead-up to what was going to go down. We see bits and pieces of how this heist is going to go down, but not enough, so that when the heist does go through and we see everything that goes-down, we’re not only surprised, but pretty gripped to our seat, as you don’t really know how it’s going to turn-out for this cats in the end. Sooderbergh has as much fun with this as his cast does, but by doing-so, he allows us to just revel in his enjoyment in making the material and it’s no surprise that the guy came-back for 2 more of these flicks. However, more on them later as the reviews keep on coming, so just you wait DTMMR readers/follows out there!

Topping-off this cake of coolness, with a sweet, little cherry on-top is the cast that is filled to the brim with the coolest mofo’s on the planet, and some, you have yet to even know are cool just yet. George Clooney is the brains behind the whole operation as Danny Ocean and is cool, lean, and suave, exactly as we know and love him to be. Clooney sort of takes the background in this flick and allows the rest of his cast to show-off and do their thing, but whenever he gets a chance to show why he’s so cool, he does it with perfection. Damn that George Clooney. Playing the “other” brains behind the operation is Brad Pitt as Rusty Ryan, a dude that knows it all, can walk the walk, and talk the talk. Pitt’s good at playing cool and smart, we all know him for that, and we all love him for that. ‘Nuff said about that. Matt Damon is the new-blood of the gang and does a great-job at playing up that cocky-rookie look to him, while also being able to put-up, when shut-up time is right there, in front of his face. Not the most memorable performance from Damon but the guy sure as hell can act and make any role, seem like the perfect-fit for him.

Playing the opposite-side of these fast-cats is Andy Garcia, aka, the guy who owns the casino that they are robbing, Terry Benedict. Garcia is a tough-guy that you really feel like can’t be out-smarted, no matter who the person/people doing the out-smarting are. Garcia’s got a lot of intimidating-looks in those eyes and you never quite know if he’s going to pull-off the win in the end, or just give it to Ocean’s dudes. Once again, it’s a tense-ride to the finish that you never quite know where it’s going to end-up or how, for that matter. Julia Roberts is fine as Benedict’s gal/Ocean’s ex-gal, but does her usual, “I’m-Julia-Roberts-And-My-Shit-Don’t-Stink” act that some love her for, some hate her for, and some are just tired and bored of her for playing so much. Me, I linger somewhere around the latter and as juicy and spicy as the scenes with Clooney may be, her character is still Julia Roberts, playing Julia Roberts.

Everybody else in this cast is pretty damn fine as you’ll see a crap-load of familiar faces pop-up, do their thing, and be done with it and continue onto the road. Seriously, everybody is good except for Don Cheadle as Basher, who is supposed to be channeling this wry, British-accent that goes in-and-out like a you know what, and is even more distracting to this character, because every time he’s talking, it just sounds like Don Cheadle trying hard to sound British. And yes, Cheadle does have a very distinctive voice that is easy to point-out as to when it’s real, when it’s being fake, and when it’s trying to be British. Oh well, I guess this cat needed to have one bad performance to throw in there for his whole filmography. Bastard.

Arms crossed = cool

Arms crossed = cool

As fun and exciting as this flick may be, you really do just end the film, happy as a fly, and continue on with your day as if nothing happened. In a way, that’s not such a terrible thing to have in life, considering it’s a happy-thought, but in other ways, it’s a bit of a disappointment  considering the cast and crew that was on-display here. Yes, it’s fun, exciting, and entertaining for the 2 hours it’s alive and well on the big-screen, but other than that, you don’t have much else to really hold you over or make you think of anything afterwards either. I don’t know, maybe I was just expecting a bit too much more than I was given, but I definitely feel like there should have been more for me to seize-onto at the end, no matter how conventional or obvious it was trying to be.

Consensus: Ocean’s Eleven is no game-changer in terms of heist movies, but is still entertaining, fun, exciting, well-acted, and just really, really cool, almost to the point of where you feel cool for watching it but you soon realize, that you’re just a poor college student who drives a 2005 Scion, and has about $20 in your wallet as you speak. Yeah, I’m speaking from my point-of-view, but if only I wasn’t. If only dreams really could come true, after all.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Can grow a way better porn 'stache than Ben. Suck it bigger brothers out there!

Can grow a way better porn ‘stache than Ben. Suck it, Big Ben!