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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Giovanni Ribisi

Lost Highway (1997)

Sometimes, you’ve just got to get off the road. Like, way off the road.

Cool and happenin’ jazz musician Fred (Bill Pullman) lives a pretty fine life with his lovely wife (Patricia Arquette). But for some reason, he constantly keeps on thinking that she’s having an affair, driving him to go a little bit nuts in the head. However, he is shocked when he discovers that she’s dead and is being framed for it all, without he himself knowing whether or not he actually did it. Meanwhile, I think, there’s a young mechanic named Pete (Balthazar Getty) who is suddenly drawn into a web of deceit by a temptress (Patricia Arquette) who is cheating on her gangster boyfriend (Robert Loggia). Are these two tales linked? And if so, by what?

Uh. I’ll take my chances at a Motel 6.

Lost Highway is, no surprise, another one of David Lynch’s mind-benders that probably takes more time to watch and decipher it, again and again, than is probably necessary. However, there’s also some fun to be had in that, what with the movie not forgetting to constantly throw small hints, clues and little bits and pieces at us that may or may not tell us the whole story, or may just lead us down a path towards more darkness and confusion than ever before. Then again, there’s some fun to be had in that, especially when Lynch himself seems to know of the maze he’s taking us on, rather making stuff as he goes along, as he can often sometimes seem to do.

And in Lost Highway, there’s some fun to be had, but also some annoyance, too. In a way, it’s hard to really pin-point what it is about this movie works and what doesn’t, as much as it’s easy to say what’s hitting its mark the way it’s intended to, and what isn’t. For Lynch here, it seems like he’s got the mood down perfectly; there’s a creepy air of neo-noir mystery, coldness, and darkness that actually makes it more interesting to watch, despite the slow pace and sometimes meandering story. But Lynch clearly put a lot of effort into the way the movie look, felt and sounded, with all aspects being top-notch and creating a very paranoid, sometimes eerie aura of danger lurking somewhere underneath, and it pays off.

Then, you get to the story and well, there’s a lot to be desired.

It’s not that Lynch made a mistake in telling these two different stories and demanding that we make the connection in our times, by ourselves, it’s just that they aren’t all that interesting to watch. Bill Pullman’s story has some interest-factor because of it seeming like an attack on the male-psyche, whereas Balthazar Getty’s seems to sort of go nowhere. It’s as if Lynch was so enchanted with Arquette in the first place, that he didn’t really care how much mileage he could get out of her – so long as she was willing to act in two, somewhat different roles, then so be it.

Like, is she even real?

And well, there’s not a problem with that, either, because Arquette is quite good in both roles, playing up her beauty and sweetness, as well as her possible viciousness and danger, too. Arquette’s dual roles, while showing her off as being both sleek and sexy, also give her a chance to fool around with the audience, not allowing us to know whether or not she’s a good person, a bad one, or even a person at all. After all, she could just be a figment of these two guys’ imaginations, as well as our owns. The movie doesn’t always make that clear and while it’s a solid job on Lynch’s part for keeping that guess up and about, it’s also a solid job on Arquette’s too for never losing our attention.

But it does deserve to be noted that Lost Highway, by a certain point, at least, does seem to have painted itself into a corner that it can’t get out of and when it’s all done, there’s a big question-mark left. While you can say that about practically every other Lynch flick, it feels more frustrating here, where it’s as if Lynch himself didn’t have the answers or conclusions, but instead, just wanted to take his good old time, going wherever he oh so pleased. Sure, that’s fine, mostly because it’s an entertaining and compelling watch, but sometimes, a little help here and there could definitely help.

Actually, I know they do. But hey, that’s why I am me and David Lynch is, thank heavens, David Lynch.

Consensus: Odd, creepy and downright freaky, Lost Highway highlights Lynch at his most subversive, but also shows that his knack for storytelling doesn’t always pan-out as well as he may intend.

7 / 10

Yeah, don’t ask.

Photos Courtesy of: Jay’s Analysis

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Boiler Room (2000)

Sometimes, Charlie Sheen’s swagger is just needed.

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi), is university drop-out who doesn’t have much going for his life. However, determined to prove his worth to a demanding father (Ron Rifkin), he decides to take a job at a small brokerage firm and, through his time there, begins to become something of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for lack of a better term.

Writer/director Ben Younger literally wears his Glengarry Glen Ross and Wall Street influences on his sleeve, that the man doesn’t even try to hide it. In fact, a few times, the man actually shows clips of the movie, in Boiler Room, where the characters here are seen actually saying the same lines of those movies. In a way, you want to call him a “rip-off artist”, but at the same time, you don’t want to, because he’s not hiding it; he’s letting us know, right off-the-bat, that these characters, as well as himself probably, look up to these movies, these characters, and these ideas of capitalism, that they don’t care if they look like copy-cats.

"Wait, what?"

“Wait, what?”

They’re making money, baby and that’s all that matters!

Regardless, Younger as a director and writer, is a pretty solid one. There’s a certain energy to the movie that’s hard not to get wrapped-up in, because as our characters are making more and more money, the more the movie picks up its pace. In a way, it’s the junior-version of Wall Street, but it works so well because Younger is constantly reminding us that none of those influences matter; sure, they’ve helped him to where he’s at with this movie, but hey, so what? Just party, bro.

But honestly, where Younger really starts to fail is in the actual story department itself.

Younger seems as if he knows a thing or two about keeping up the brisk pace and how to have fun with these sometimes detestable characters, but when it comes to actually slowing things down, focusing on these characters, their lives and their motivations, he loses a bit of his step. For example, try the terribly-forced “romance” between Ribisi and Nia Long, who don’t seem to have any chemistry at all, any reason to be together, or anything really holding them together once things go South for both of them. It annoys me that films like these feel the need to add in a romantic subplot, just to appeal to women and hoping that they don’t get alienated from this movie but the bad news is that they already will. No girl will be attracted to a movie about a bunch of young, hot, cool, hip, and rich dudes in suits that make millions and millions of dollars, so it’s hard to imagine ladies wanting to come out and see something in the first place, because oh my gosh, Giovanni Ribisi and Nia Long make-out!

And then, the story begins to get a tad bit more predictable as it rolls on along. Boiler Room is obviously a rags-to-riches story, or so to speak, and because of that, it follows a very plain and conventional plot-line. Ribisi’s character starts at job, starts getting really rich, starts getting cocky, and eventually, one bad thing happens after another, until he’s broke, near-dead and without a pot to piss in. It’s all very formulaic and try as he might, Younger can’t help but get caught up in doing the same stuff we’ve seen done before, many, many times.

"Yeah, I'm done with action flicks. Maybe."

“Yeah, I’m done with action flicks. Maybe.”

Despite this, the cast is quite good and help keep the ship afloat.

In a rare lead role, Giovanni Ribisi kicks some fine stick-selling ass as Seth Davis. Ribisi gets a bad-rap sometimes for taking roles to the next level of over-the-top and making them terribly campy to the point of where it’s cringe-inducing, but some will be surprised that this kid can hit it out of the park when it comes to being subdued and very charming. You like Seth Davis right when you see him and even though his character motivations may get mixed around in a bender a bit too much, you still like both him and Ribisi. Wish that this movie made Ribisi the top mainstream act that everybody thought he was going to be, but I don’t think it bothers him if he’s second-in-command.

Everybody else is fine as hell, too. Vin Diesel is a scene-stealer as Chris Varick, the guy who teaches Seth the ways of the stock broker, and it’s a great dramatic role for Diesel that shows the guy has a terrible amount of charm and humor in him, that makes all of his characters work. The guy may be stuck doing Fast and Furious for the rest of his life, but at least we know that we can depend on him to pull out something like this or Find Me Guilty to remind us of why the guy has such a presence about him in the first place.

Nicky Katt plays the “stereotypical dickhead role” as the one guy who doesn’t really like where Seth is going in his success and it’s an obvious character, but a fine performance from a guy that I see in everything and still haven’t been able to match the name with the face. Let’s also not forget the fine, little cameo from Ben Affleck that practically seems like a total rip-off of Alec Baldwin’s cameo from Glengarry Glen Ross, but still works here because it seems like Affleck is having a total ball here and that’s always a joy. There’s a bunch of others in the cast like Scott Caan, Tom Everett Scott and Jamie Kennedy, all playing the young hotshots within the firm and are all perfectly cast.

Consensus: Boiler Room is, initially, a fun, exciting and thrilling ride, but soon turns preachy and predictable, which makes it feel a little uneven.

6 / 10

"Stop. Over. Acting!"

“Stop. Over. Acting!”

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

Results (2015)

Staying fit is a lot harder than finding a possible mate.

Trevor (Guy Pearce) runs a local gym where people are trained to make themselves better in ways that they can’t even imagine. That’s why, after still reeling from a divorce, incredibly rich guy, Danny (Kevin Corrigan), decides to come into his place one day, and ask if he can start getting up on a training-program. While Danny’s a bit weird, Trevor still feels bad enough for the guy that he gives him one of his most talented, most passionate trainers, Kat (Cobie Smulders); somebody who he actually had a relationship with in the past, but unbeknownst to the both of them, never amounted to much. So even while Kat realizes that something is a bit strange about Danny, she still decides to work with him, seeing as how he definitely has the money to pay for it all. However, one fateful night, Kat and Danny get a tad bit closer than either of them two ever expected to, and that’s when relations get a bit challenging between all parties involved. Which honestly, couldn’t come at a worse time for Trevor, who is currently in the process of expanding his business.

Writer/director Andrew Bujalski has been in the indie/mumblecore scene for quite some time and now, just like his fellow counterparts (Lynn Shelton, Joe Swanberg, and Drake Dormeus, among others), it’s finally his time to go big. By big, I don’t necessarily sell his own soul to the devils that are incredibly rich Hollywood producers, but in that I mean it was time for Bujalski to break out of his shell a bit, get more established names and, in a way, make sure that more than just a handful of people see his movies. While some may see this as a way of “selling out”, to me, it doesn’t matter, so long so as the new movies stay in the same spirit as the earlier ones that came before.

What I imagine every woman's reaction is to speaking with Guy Pearce. Lucky bastard.

What I imagine every woman’s reaction is to speaking with Guy Pearce. Lucky bastard.

And believe it or not, Results is very much a Andrew Bujalski movie. For better, as well as for worse.

In a way, Results is Bujalski’s way of holding up the magnifying glass to those who care so much about the tone, the look and the feel of their bodies, and dig deeper beneath the surface. While it would have been quite easy to poke fun at these types and show how most of them are all stupid, muscle-bound freaks who don’t have much going on in their lives other than vanity, Bujalski shows that you can’t always judge a book by their cover. It sounds corny, but it’s a sentiment that holds true no matter which type of person you look at.

Such is the case with Trevor, the gym owner who wants to make it big. Rather than being a silly, overly cheery Aussie, he’s more of a sad, lonely and needy dude who has aspirations to make his career, as well as his life, better, but also knows that in order to do so, he may need to find that special someone of his. Same goes for Kat, although, more or less, she knows that she’s lonely and needs a suitable mate in her life, however, by the same token, she doesn’t care too much to actually search for one; she’s too busy running and being pissed-off at everyone.

And between these two characters, Bujalski is able to draw a connection that’s clearly on the romantic side, but he doesn’t hit us over the head with it. We know that they were, at one point in their lives, casually seeing one another, but it was never anything serious to where they felt like they needed to give it another shot. However, we’re only told this through a few lines or so – everything else is made up for us to make up our own conclusions on and even then, it doesn’t seem Bujalski wants to put all that much effort in either.

In all honesty, he’s more interested in the character of Danny, played by the highly underrated Kevin Corrigan.

If Cobie Smulders was touching me, you'd bet I'd have the same look on my face, too.

If Cobie Smulders was touching me, you’d bet I’d have the same look on my face, too.

Now, while I agree that a movie solely dedicated to Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders constantly flirting and toying around with one another would have made for an engaging and entertaining flick, there’s no problem with adding on another one, especially if the one is as strong as Danny. With Danny, Corrigan gets to show us that there’s more sides to his acting ability than most of us had been able to see before and it’s interesting, because this character hardly ever fits into the narrative. However, the shit storm that he creates, is what keeps this movie rolling and altogether, interesting.

That isn’t to say that Bujalski misses a few steps along the way, because he definitely does. Like with most of these mumblecore-ish movies, they feel as if they’re meandering and taking as much time as they want, regardless of who is watching them. And here, Bujalski doesn’t change a thing. In a way, this can be very frustrating, especially since we have a feeling that there’s a small lick of emotional material hidden underneath, but at the same time, it also gives us more and more time to focus on these characters, who they are, what they’re going through, and why exactly they’re worth our time and interest.

And with a cast like this, how could you argue?

Though it’s an odd combination, it’s surprising that Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders work together as well as they do here as Trevor and Kat, respectively. While it’s easy to see that both of these characters are alike in ways that they don’t even know, it’s also easy to understand why they wouldn’t work out so magically in the first place, either. She’s a lot more blunt and obnoxious, whereas he’s more quiet and peaceful in day-to-day-activities. However, together, they somehow work and it’s fun to watch Pearce and Smulders beat around the bush with one another so damn much that it will definitely make some want to yell.

Like all the good movies make people do.

Consensus: The slow pace and meandering direction may make Results feel a bit longer than it should be, but due to the intimate details and wonderful cast, it’s still worth watching.

7.5 / 10

Great. More scenes of attractive people, playing attractive people, flirting.

Great. More scenes of attractive people, playing attractive people, flirting with one another.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Selma (2014)

Believe it or not, there’s actually more words after, “I have a dream“.

In 1965, racial tensions in the United States were very high, most importantly though, in the South. A region of the country in which, even though blacks were legally allowed to vote, they still had to jump through all sorts of law abiding rules and regulations that was obviously set out to make sure that their race, and only theirs, wouldn’t be allowed to vote and therefore, not have their voices be heard like any other citizen. This is when Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) decided that it was time to step in and allow for his voice to not only be heard, but acted on as well. Most importantly though, MLK travels Selma, Alabama of all places to arrange a march that would not only get the attention of everybody’s eyes and ears, but also President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)’s, and would hopefully drive him to make some severe changes to the voting-process. Although, as one could expect, LBJ wasn’t always down to change certain voting restrictions, especially with the looming pressure of possible voters and fellow confidantes like George Wallace (Tim Roth), J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C. White (Giovanni Ribisi), among many others.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Contrary to what some may believe, Selma isn’t necessarily a biopic about MLK, his life, his achievements, and everything else that transpired when he was alive, and what soon followed afterwards. Instead, it’s much more of a film in which a good portion of MLK’s life is documented, yet, never fully chronicled to make it just his, and his own; there’s plenty more people apart of this story, helping out to create a larger, more thought-out picture than just being standard. The same could actually be said for the civil rights movement(s) that Selma seems to portray – it wasn’t just one person who is single-handedly credited with all of the accomplishments, it’s everybody who was there to help that one person out and make sure that his dreams were fulfilled, as risky as they sometimes may have been.

And in the world that we live in now, honestly, Selma couldn’t be anymore relevant. And to be honest, director Ava DuVernay fully knows this, which is why this movie hits as hard as it does, but without ever seeming like it’s pandering in any sort of way. Surely DuVernay sees and understands the civil rights movement as a significant time in our history (as well as she should), but rather than making it a simple and easy history lesson that any fifth-grader could teach to a class of hundred or more, she strives for something more difficult and ambitious. While DuVernay portrays the civil rights movement, and those behind it all, as smart and inspiring, she also shows that the tactics that would eventually land most of these participants in hot water, not just with the government, but with fellow members of their own race.

For white people who got involved with the civil rights movement, they suffered threats, day-in and day-out from fellow Caucasians who believed that it wasn’t their right to get involved. The black people suffered this, too, and definitely a lot more worse, but as the movie portrays it, it wasn’t just the white people that blacks had to deal with on a regular basis, it was actually some people of their own race. DuVernay shows this with the inclusion of Malcolm X, and as small as it may have been, it’s a smart move on her part to show that some people preferred to side with X’s way of violence solving any and all problems, whereas some others preferred to stick with MLK’s way of not fighting back and instead, using peace as the best medicine to ridicule those who use violence to their benefit. In a lesser film, each and every person of the same race would have gathered, hand-in-hand, and marched happily together, but in DuVernay’s much smarter film, sometimes, they’re at-war with themselves.

But this is just me getting further and further away from what Selma really does here, and that’s portray a brutal, yet significant time in our society’s history, without ever shying away from some of the more dark and dirty aspects that would push certain people away from seeing this. We’ve seen white cops beating on black people in movies (and sadly, in real-life, too) done before, but the way in how DuVernay shows the sheer terror and madness is not only disturbing, but downright terrifying. It not only opens our eyes a little more to what this film is setting out to do, but also puts into perspective what is really being fought for here, rather than just telling us and trusting that bit of info as is.

Like I mentioned before, though, there’s a good portion of this movie that likes to argue against what most of us may know, or think we know, about the civil rights movement and how all those apart of it acted. For instance, not every person in this film is a clear-cut good guy, or a bad guy; they’re, simply put, just people that had a foot in history and all had their own goals, whether they may, or may not be desirable to us watching at home. This is especially clear in the case of LBJ who yes, definitely seems like a racist, but is also a politician, meaning, that he knows he has a lot at stake here in terms of his voting numbers come re-election time. While it’s made clear to us that maybe LBJ’s morals aren’t in the right places, he is still trying to give MLK what he wants, just in his own way. They may not be perfect and they may not always get the job done, but they’re still efforts on his part and that’s more than he can say for many other white politicians during that time.

The same said for LBJ, could definitely be said for MLK, which is definitely surprising considering that you’d expect a piece praising the figure for everything that he did while he was alive, and the influence that still holds precedence in our society today. DuVernay instead dives a bit deeper into the man of MLK, what made him who he was, and how exactly he got through this tough time in his life. And with this, we see that he wasn’t always the perfect man; he was a shitty husband who fooled-around a bit too much, didn’t always step to the front-line like he had initially promised, and got a little big-headed for his own good. But nonetheless, MLK was MLK, a man who accomplished more than what anybody expected of him when he was alive, and it’s a true testament to the person he was, rather than the person people want us to see and believe in.

Round 2. Fight!!

Round 2. Fight!!

Doesn’t make him any less of a good person, it just makes him a person, first and foremost.

And as MLK, David Oyelowo is pretty outstanding. This isn’t too surprising considering Oyelowo has been churning out amazing performances for the past couple years or so, but it truly is great to see him tackle a role that so many people think we already all think we know of, and do something different with it. Because MLK isn’t made out to be the most perfect human specimen ever created in this movie, we see certain shades to his persona that we don’t get to see in his speeches; sure, the speeches are here and they are downright compelling to watch and listen to, but they aren’t what make this person. What makes this person is that he stood up for what he believed in and, at any cost, tried to make his dream a reality. He had many of bumps in the road, but ultimately, he prevailed in getting what he wanted, even if he definitely did gain some enemies in the meantime. Then again, who doesn’t?

Though there’s more to the cast where that came from and rightfully so, too. The previously mentioned LBJ is done well by Tom Wilkinson who fits perfectly into the role and constantly makes it seem like this man is going to explode at any second; Carmen Ejogo has a few strong scenes as MLK’s wife, Corette, and shows the painful side to being the one who is constantly left-at-home, when your significant other is off, fighting the good fight, and constantly allowing you and the rest of your family to be threatened; Tim Roth is pretty damn campy as the overtly-racist man that was George Wallace, although he does with it just enough scenery-chewing that there’s no need for the mustache-twirl; and honestly, plenty more where that came from.

In fact, so many more to talk about that to put one over the other would just be an absolute disservice to each and every performer who shows up here, ready to perform and give it their all with their roles, no matter how small or large they may be. But above all though, it’s DuVernay who deserves the most credit for handling this large ensemble and giving just about every member something substantial to do and add another layer onto a story that, quite frankly, is already very engaging to begin with. Although there are plenty of hiccups to be found on the road leading to the final-act here, DuVernay still brings us a solid depiction of the Selma marches, how they affected us as a society then, and how they do it to us now. Because seriously, the years may change, but the stories remain the same.

Who knows when the change will come. Let’s just hope it’s soon.

Consensus: Smart, powerful, and well-acted by just about everybody involved, Selma is a complex, detailed-look into the civil rights movement that knows it’s important, but never shoves it down its viewer’s throats.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

When they mean "strength in numbers"? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

When they mean “strength in numbers”? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Gangster Squad (2013)

The most violent game of Cops and Robbers I’ve ever seen played.

Sean Penn plays mob king Mickey Cohen, a ruthless gangster who runs the entire city of Los Angeles, including the cops and politicians under his control. Determined to bring him down is a small, secret task-force spearheaded by Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling).

After the Aurora shootings occurred over last Summer, I was pretty bummed to see that this flick would be pushed-back, due to the fact that it actually featured a movie theater shooting itself. It looked like a nice mixture between L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables, with just a dash of present-day, digital-era filmmaking, and to top that, it boosted a pretty solid cast. However, it doesn’t matter when I saw this flick, all that matters is that I did see it and it’s nothing special. Yep, now I’m sort of glad it waited til now.

It’s pretty strange to see that director Ruben Fleischer would actually take this material, considering it’s not really something he has done in the past. This is the same guy who brought us Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, which are both movies that feature a crap-ton of action and humor, but yet, never made me feel like I was watching the work of a guy that could be the next De Palma or Lumet. I was right. It’s not that Fleischer doesn’t hold his own when it comes to the action, because he definitely does and make it as bloody as can be, it’s more or less that there’s nothing else more to it. It’s pretty cool to see a bunch of crooks get their asses beat to a bloody pulp and watch all of the new, sadistic ways it can happen, but after awhile, it just seems like that is all this flick has going for itself.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it's going down.

Meet me in the paaaaark, it’s going down.

Hell, even at one-point during the movie, somebody actually begs the question, “why?. Why is this violence happening?” Well, the answer to that is simple: Hollywood and making money, baby! I never expected this flick to ever bring-up a point that I was thinking the whole time, and that’s that these police officers are doing just as much dirty work as these crooks are doing, but yet, are being applauded and praised for it, all because they have a gun and a badge. It definitely brings up a great question as to why should they be allowed and who’s right and who’s wrong. However, those points are a little too smart for a movie like this where people get their heads drilled in and eaten by dogs. Both of which, actually happen, and all due to the excitement and glee of it’s audience.

But, that excitement and glee, isn’t all that bad when it’s done right. Yeah, Fleischer really does drop the ball on providing more of a moral important/emphasis on all of the violence and ass-kicking, but for the most part, he keeps things alive and well with just enough action to have us cured for whenever this story feels the need to take a nap, here and there. You get the blood, you get the guns, you get the punches, and you get the explosions. What else could ya ask for? And if there is something else could you ask for, why the hell would you? Seriously, it’s the dead of Winter and if this is the best we are going to get, then hey, I’ll get a piece of popcorn, soda, my nice jammies, sit-down, relax, and freakin’ revel in it. You can’t ask for much else, so you might as well just enjoy it.

If there was a big disappointment with this movie, it’s the fact that the cast is so stacked and so filled to the brim with A-listers that are usually hitters, more than missers, that it’s really disappointing to see them work with a lame-o script like this. Josh Brolin is the leader of the Gangster Squad, and of the movie, if you think about it, and does a serviceable job as a pretty tough-guy that can do his work, wants to do what is right, but yet, go back home to his lovely wife and be the husband that she wants. Brolin is always a likable presence to watch on-screen and even though I felt like this character could have had more done to him to make us feel like we really know him from the inside and out, it’s still a lot more development than anybody else in this damn movie.

Well, him and Ryan Gosling, of course. Gosling is great as the sly, but charming cop that doesn’t even originally plan to be apart of this gang, but actually does and thank the high heavens for that, because the guy not only makes the gang better, but the movie in-return. Gosling just has this look to him that not only makes him the coolest guy in the room, but also the nicest guy, too, and you feel as if no matter what crazy shite gets thrown his way, he will still always end-up doing the right thing. The little “romance” he has with Emma Stone feels like it could have really sparked, like it did so well in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but just doesn’t. Instead, most of their scenes are them just having melodramatic-argument-after-melodramatic-argument, almost to the point of where it doesn’t matter as to whether or not they stay together, because it won’t be for long.

I'd take that drink.

I’d take that drink.

The reason they do argue so much, is because Stone’s character is with Mickey Cohen, played by Sean Penn in his most entertaining-role in the longest-time. When this movie was originally supposed to come out, I thought that it would give Penn a nice Oscar-push for Supporting Actor since he was playing a person so evil, so malicious, and so bad, that he could have easily gotten a nomination. However, since his flick doesn’t even come close to qualifying and now that I’ve seen it, I can say that he doesn’t even come close, but that’s still not a bad thing. This isn’t as much of an Oscar-caliber performance, as much as it is just a fun performance that seemed like Penn wanted to do for the longest-time, just so he could get away from the heavier stuff in his career. Is it perfect? No, not really, because the guy is still over-the-top and cartoonish, but at least he is always entertaining to watch and that was more than I could really say about him, when he was impersonating another famous figure; Robert Smith. Yeah, I guess people want to forget about that movie now.

The rest of the cast has a bunch of big names that have all been amazing in the past, and hell, maybe even the past year, but yet, aren’t given all that much to do. Nick Nolte is absolutely wasted as the head of the L.A. police department and shows up for about 10 minutes, tells Brolin what to do, and sounds like he’s still looking for that lung after all of these years. He’s alright, but damn, is it a weak role for an actor that always gives 110%, with everything he’s given. The rest of the Gangster Squad features the likes of Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, and Robert Patrick, all of which do their best with what they can but in the end, sort of feel like they should have been given a lot more to do. Especially Mackie, of all people, who really feels like he should have been a big star by now, he just hasn’t found the right juices to get it flowing.

Consensus: Though it is nothing more than a movie about bad guys and good guys facing-off, against one another, Gangster Squad is still a bunch of fun that has a retro-vibe and feel, even if it feels like it should be more with the load of talent it has in-front of and behind the camera.

6.5/10=Rental!!

"Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!"

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

Lost In Translation (2003)

Japan has never looked so boring.

The film revolves around an aging actor named Bob Harris (Bill Murray) and a recent college graduate named Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) who develop a unique closeness after a chance meeting in a grand Tokyo hotel.

I remember the first time that I ever watched it, and I didn’t get it. Maybe I was too young (8th grade) or maybe I was just way too sleepy, either way, I didn’t love it as much as so many other people have said over the years. About 4 years later though, I loved it! Funny what time can do for certain people, especially a movie geek like me.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola definitely brings a lot to the table here and deserved the Oscar she got that year. Coppola adds so much attention to detail in just about every scene where it’ll either be one of these characters just staring off into space, but the song in the background or lighting fit the mood perfectly. She focuses on all of this detail and probably the best decision for this film that she made was actually putting it in Japan, considering it seems like the craziest place ever. Yeah, Coppola pokes a lot of jokes at just how goofy and crazy Japanese culture can be, as well as a lot of the surroundings, but she also shows this country as a haven for people to be free with themselves and paint it as this beautiful place to be, even underneath all of the sadness of these American people. Never been to Japan, and I don’t know when or if I ever will, but if I do go, I’ll definitely use this flick as my travel guide for all of the sights to see.

However, it’s Sofia’s attention to the writing that really took over me with this flick. So much of the film here consists of these characters holding back, not saying anything, and just letting a lot of the silence take over each and every single one of their scenes, which may be too subtle for some people but it’s also the best quality of her script. There are plenty of moments that are just dedicated to these characters not saying anything at all, but whenever they do speak, they give off some real and raw emotional dialogue that just feels natural, as if you almost couldn’t have written a lot of this stuff. It also shows a lot about these characters and a lot of human truths as it talks a lot about our needs and desires in our lives, and the feeling of needing to be connected with other people out there in the world. It’s a theme that many other flicks tend to shy away from, but this is one that Sofia hits head-on, even if she doesn’t have her characters practically spell it out for you. Check can’t act for shit, but she sure as hell can write and direct, and that’s all that matters to me.

Everything here is pretty great and works very, very well except for the fact that sometimes this pace does have the occasional lull here and there. Actually, the film picks up a lot of steam somewhere in the middle part of it and then it just starts to slow down and it sucks all of the life out of itself. However, it’s not that big of a complaint considering it happens maybe once or twice here, and the rest of it just somehow took my mind away from it.

The real reason this film works as well as it does is mainly because of Bill Murray, who probably gives his best performance ever as Bob Harris. Murray is a guy we all know who can be funny and outrageous, but he’s also an actor that can do a lot by just being subtle and not even speaking at all, just staring into space. Of course he’s hilarious here and it’s just a whole bunch of fun to watch as Bill Murray goes around this film, making just about every single person here laugh and not even make it seem like he’s even remotely trying. Actually, that’s whats so amazing about this performance here is that he doesn’t even feel like he’s saying lines, everything is just coming off so naturally and it fits so damn well with Coppola’s script. Sometimes I think they didn’t even tell Murray that there was a film crew following him at all times during the filming and they just show a whole bunch of footage of him walking around and interacting with all of these random people as if he wasn’t even in a soon-to-be Oscar nominee.

It sucks that he didn’t win for this flick either because even though Bob Harris is a very complicated, and messed up dude, he has a good heart and much of that credit has to go to Murray and the emotional depth he is able to fall towards. There are definitely plenty of scenes where you see Murray as the sad dude but he doesn’t over-play it and make it seem like he’s trying, because once again, he’s playing it naturally and that’s what I love so much about Murray in just about every flick he does, especially here. Hopefully he’ll get his Oscar some day because I know he’s getting closer and closer dammit!

As great as Murray is though, he doesn’t run away with this film and never return. In fact, Scarlett Johansson is also pretty damn good as his new friend, another sad character named Charlotte. Johansson was so young during the filming of this flick (17 I think) and she’s pretty much asked to play a more mature character and gives off an amazing performance that may not be as effortless as Murray, but still has enough to it that makes you realize she has the chops to pull off a leading role. Her character is sad and bored, but is also a very sweet, nice, and lovely lady that I can definitely see hanging around Bill Murray in real life. May have never actually happened but by the way these two were hanging out and getting along here, I could definitely something was going on.

Consensus: Lost in Translation is a very subtle film, but is also one that will touch you and make you laugh with its natural performances from Johansson and Murray, pitch-perfect direction from Coppola that makes me want to venture out to Japan, and a screenplay that talks about many things, yet focuses on a friendship between two people that could never have happened anywhere else, had they both had not been bored out of their minds in Japan. Yet, how much fun they did actually have together.

9/10=Full Price!!

PS: It’s my birthday today, so I hope you like this post extra more now!

Ted (2012)

If only I could get my plush doll Spider-Man to start talking and doing cool shit.

The film centers on a 35-year-old man (Mark Wahlberg) who must deal with the cherished teddy bear (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who came to life as the result of a childhood wish… and has refused to leave his side ever since.

The one reason why I wasn’t really looking forward to this film as much was mainly because it’s the directorial debut of Seth MacFarlane, aka the creator of Family Guy, aka a show I’m not too fond of. I don’t know what it is about me and that show, but I just don’t find it all that funny and consider other animated-shows like Futurama or South Park to be a lot funnier and wittier when it comes to their jokes. But somehow, I caught myself laughing….a lot.

The idea of having a pot-smoking, foul-mouthed teddy bear seemed like something that would be funny for the first 10 minutes, then just falter out after that and get boring, but somehow, MacFarlane doesn’t allow that to happen mainly because he’s allowed to do whatever the hell he wants with this material. That’s right, no FCC, no rules, and no standards to live by, he’s allowed to do whatever the eff he wants to do with this story and he obviously is enjoying this newly-found freedom because almost every scene is filled with fart jokes, poop jokes, sex jokes, gay jokes, pot jokes, and plenty of other jokes raunchy jokes that you can shake a stick at.

But the difference here with all of these raunchy jokes in this movie, from say, another raunch-fest like That’s My Boy, is that this film actually has some cleverness behind all of the raunch. It’s not just all about making people go “ewww” or squirm at the sight of a dude’s penis, it’s all about making people laugh their asses off at something dirty, but something that’s also very funny and witty. They do the same thing in The Hangover and even though that film and this one are somewhat different from one another, they both show you can still be clever, even if a good majority of the jokes are centered around dudes smoking pot and farting.

However, it’s not all about being dirty that makes this film funny, no, there’s actually plenty of other funny stuff going on that doesn’t concern any bodily fluids. There’s a couple of great movie references to such flicks as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Van Wilder (random, I know), Superman Returns (another random one), Airplane!, and even the 80’s cult classic, Flash Gordon, which actually plays a big part in this film as well. There are plenty of other references here that I’m sure I forgot to mention but it’s also still the same exact kind of snarky humor from Family Guy and that confused me because I laughed at just about everything here, but I barely ever laugh at that show. Maybe it’s just the foul language that makes everything funnier. Oh yeah, there’s also a reference to that show as well that seemed clever. Once again, I’m using that word “clever” in a review of a movie that’s about a talking bear.

Probably the best, and worst thing about this movie, is in fact Ted, the CG bear voiced by Seth MacFarlane. It’s obvious that Ted was going to pretty much steal every single scene, but what really got to me was just how consistently funny this freakin’ character was. Sometimes when you have certain characters like this, they are very funny at points but miss the mark at others, Ted, just about made me laugh each and every single time he opened up his stitched mouth. Not only did he have the best lines in the movie (obviously) but some of his insults that he flings at almost everybody around him were sometimes so mean and cruel, that I couldn’t believe I still liked him in the end. MacFarlane, of course, does a great job with this voice-role and it’s actually surprising just how good Ted, the CG bear actually looks in this film. I don’t want to go as far to say that he looked freakin’ realistic along the lines of Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I really couldn’t find a single flaw in the animation they had made for him/it.

Sadly though, Ted is such a great and funny character to have on-screen that whenever he isn’t the film falters and definitely isn’t as funny as you would have liked it to be. It’s not like the rest of the cast isn’t game, because they sure as hell are, it’s just that you laugh so much at Ted and all of the crazy shit he says, that whenever he isn’t around you’re left wondering where he is and what he’s up to. Maybe MacFarlane focused on writing so much funny stuff for his own character, that he sort of left the others all in the dust.

Also, the flick starts to get less funny by the end and lose its originality points when the story starts to dive into Ted getting his ass captured by a childhood admirer of his (another crazy role for Giovanni Ribisi, maybe his weirdest, and that’s say something). I get it, they needed to bring this story-line in to give it some tension by the end, but Ribisi’s character is sort of forgotten about for a good hour or so that when he comes back, we just don’t give a crapola and just want Ted to go back to smoking pot, having sex with chicks, and doing coke. You know, the fun stuff.

But as good as MacFarlane may be as Ted, Mark Wahlberg still shows that he’s great at doing comedy, once again with his role here as John Bennett. Wahlberg is great at delivering comedy but mostly at playing the straight-man, which he does here perfectly and it definitely helps out a lot of the scenes whenever Ted isn’t around and it’s just Wahlberg, being Wahlberg, which isn’t a bad thing because it’s obvious this guy is having a ball with this role. Mila Kunis is also pretty funny as Lori and shows that she still has some great comedic timing to her as well, and I like how they didn’t make her character one of those bitchy-types that hate on their mans for having another friend that get’s in the way of their “alone time”. Nope, she’s actually a pretty cool chick that just wants a guy who wants to settle down. Typical woman, that’s why I’m done getting married after three unsuccessful attempts. Or maybe it’s four?

Consensus: Even though it starts to lose some flavor in the last act, Ted is still a very funny and raunchy comedy that shows off MacFarlane in a new light. It’s a new light where he’s able to say, do, and act whatever he wants and not have to give a crap at all, who say’s he’s not allowed to. Still, doesn’t mean I’m going to start watching a becoming a fan boy of Family Guy. Not a chance in hell, my friend.

7.5/10=Matinee!!

The Virgin Suicides (1999)

*Spoiler Alert*: not all of them are quite the virgins that the title makes you think. Teeehee

This is the story about a group of teenage boys who delve into the mysteries of womanhood through their discovery of a personal diary belonging to the beautiful Lisbon sisters. The five girls, Cecilia (Hanna R Hall), Lux (Kirsten Dunst), Bonnie (Chelsea Swain), Mary (AJ Cook) and Therese (Leslie Hayman), are aged 13 to 17 respectively. Through the diary the boys start to learn about the girl’s lives, coming to hold the girl’s collective memories and experiences as their own.

Writer/director Sofia Coppola is just one of those directors that has her own type of style, and it’s either you love it or you absolutely loathe it. Somehow I found myself in the middle but this flick definitely makes me think more of her in a good way.

This premise isn’t a very happy and light one, but Coppola gives it this stylish and compelling treatment that is sure to win anybody over right away even as grim as the material may be. Copp0la perfectly matches the look and feel of the 70’s with all of the tacky designs, poofed up hair, and rockin’ soundtrack, but there’s just something that Coppola brings here that makes it worth noting more than just a fine looking period piece. Some shots in this flick are beautiful to look at, with Coppola bringing plenty of real-looking hand-held camera footage that gives it this realistic look, but there are also some shots that are not just beautiful but also devastating. There’s a lot of color in this flick but also a lot of darkness and even though the story may take place in a sunny part of Detroit, I couldn’t still help but be placed inside this dark, sheltered, and cooped up world that these girls also had to live in as well.

Coppola also shines when it comes to creating a compelling story that shows 70’s suburbia for what it was for some families, and the effects it would have on the children. The film’s subject material is very disturbing (I mean suicide is never a fun subject to talk about) but it’s not like Coppola depends on that to have us feel something for these characters. We sense that there will be dread coming on its way soon but we can’t help but get lost in these girls’ stories and just how they are constantly being strangled by their parents control, just so they can be safe from the cruel and outside world. I liked how we see an outside view telling us about this story because it doesn’t give us every single little detail about these girls’ lives, but just the right amount to where we are actually able to connect parts of the puzzle together and understand what really made these girls tick after all.

Where the film really shined for me was how it accurately showed the way two opposite sexed teenagers react with one another. Being a young adult like myself, my awkward teenage years are pretty much behind me but I can remember those days when it was so hard for me to actually talk to girls because all that I could keep on thinking about was how big their boobs are. Yes, if you were a teenage boy, you always thought like this no matter what girl you were talking to and this film shows that incredibly well here. I loved when this film focused on these girls and their reactions to other people, especially boys, and it also made many moments that through me off guard by how darkly funny they were. It’s about suicide, but it’s also quite funny. Good job Sofia!

Where this film really lost me was about the last act when the film really starts to stumble and I think lose some steam. The main story-line that has to do with the high-school hunk and Lux, was probably the highlight of the movie for me, so when that seems to go bye bye, the film also seemed to say the same thing to creativity as well. Instead of actually making a compelling ending, Sofia depends more on making everything look cool that seems more like her attempt to get past the fact that she can’t come up with an ending that will truly hit us where it hurts. The motives of these girls also come up a little too late for us to ever really believe in it in the first place, and when they show this random-ass party where all of these rich people are partying with gas-masks seems exploitative and unneeded. I think if they ended the film a little earlier it would have had a better effect overall, but it was just a shame that the last act seemed to just drag.

What really got me into the authenticity of this flick was the fact that almost everybody that’s cast here, were all pretty damn close to the ages of the characters they were playing. This is a huge cast, that features some familiar faces we have seen before but there is only a couple that really stand-out for me. Kirsten Dunst is amazing here as Lux, the sexy and bad girl of the family and just about every scene she has feels real and how a teenage girl would act, if she was given a chance to just break-out. Josh Hartnett is also great in the role as the high-school hunk, Trip, and he was such a delight every time he popped up on-screen that I honestly wish they had more of him but then again, the amount that he did actually have felt right. James Woods and Kathleen Turner are also great in these roles as the mommy and daddy and even though their characters may not be as fully fleshed-out as I would have liked to have seen, they still were very restrained which is a huge surprise from both of them.

Consensus: The Virgin Suicides may start to disappoint once it comes to its final act, but Sofia Coppola’s debut still features a stylish direction that adds so much more to this compelling story than just your usual teenager story, as well as the great ensemble cast that feels real and authentic as if you are watching real people on-screen.

8/10=Matinee!!

That Thing You Do! (1996)

If only songs were as catchy and simple as this one.

In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry) — become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

Writer/director Tom Hanks is obviously a guy we all know, love, and care about when it comes to his acting but his writing and directing maybe was pushing it a little too far. However, have no fear, Hanks still is good no matter what he does.

What I liked about this flick was that the simple premise is showed in a very fun, entertaining, and nice way just like the bubblegum pop days of the early 60’s were before all of the drugs started popping on in and out. The story starts off as your usual “band gets bigger and bigger” story-line which was fun to watch because of how charming this script was, and the film keeps that charm going on throughout the whole flick. Hanks does throw in a little bit of satire against the whole music business, but it’s nothing too much to where he seems to be aiming too high.

But enough about the script, let’s just get to the real reason why anybody really remembers this movie and that is for the title song. It’s so catchy, so fun, and is played probably about 7 times throughout the whole flick but it’s not like “I’ve Got You Babe” in ‘Groundhog Day’, to where every time we hear it we want burn every single copy left of that song, it’s a song that’s just really good and actually seems like a song that would be on heavy-rotation during that time-period. There are a couple of other tracks in this flick that are pretty good, but this is the only one that I can remember having stuck in my head after it was over and while hell, even I’m writing this I kind of humming it now as we speak.

However, as good as good as this song may be, it’s also one of the bigger problems with this flick. The direction, writing, and attention is detail is fine the way it ought to be but there’s nothing else that really stands-out from this flick other than the song. It also didn’t help that by the end, there are a little bit too many parts where the film starts to dive into some lame melodrama and just gets really soapy and unbelievable. Then again, I wasn’t looking for anything that seemed like a realistic take on the lives of pop music stars during the 60’s, I just wanted a fun and entertaining flick, which is basically what I got.

I also liked how Hanks put the main focus on the dude that is essentially the back-bone of the band, the drummer. Being a drummer myself, I thought that this was pretty cool to see considering it’s always either the singer or guitarist in the band that hogs all the spot-light. Also, Tom Everett Scott is pretty good as Shades. I’ve seen this dude in plenty of other stuff but this is the only film that I can remember him best in because he’s pretty likable and seems like a dude I would love to jam with due to his love of jazz music. The guy also had a pretty good technique even though it wasn’t really him drumming obviously.

The other band-mates are all pretty good here with the likes of Steve Zahn playing his usual funny/sarcastic-ass character here as the lead guitarist; Ethan Embry being a lot of fun to watch as the semi-mentally challenged bass player aptly named T.B. Player; and Johnathon Schaech probably being the weakest of the bunch as the singer, because when shit starts to hit the fan for this band, he really just seems like he’s starting all of it, just to start it. Tom Hanks is also great as the band’s manager, Mr. White, which also probably helps considering he has the film’s best lines and seems like a dude I could trust with all of my money and fame; Liv Tyler is nice to watch, as always, here as Faye; and it was also really funny to see a very young Charlize Theron as Shades’ girlfriend. There are so many other people in this flick that I could mention but it’s honestly a lot more fun to just point at and think about who he/she is during the film.

Consensus: Though there’s nothing all that spectacular about the flick, That Thing You Do! is still a fun, charming, and well-acted tale of what all bands during the early days of the 60’s all dreamed, hoped for, and had to go through. Also, that song is just catchy as hell.

7/10=Rental!!

Contraband (2012)

Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch are back except this time, they’re robbing people!

Mark Wahlberg plays Chris, a former drug smuggler who must revert back to a life of crime when his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss (Giovanni Ribisi). To settle the debt, Wahlberg’s character assembles a team of crooks and does what he does best: smuggling contraband.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormàkur seems like a pretty inspired choice for a flick that seems so simple and could have easily been done by a schmuck like Joel Schumacher or someone else of that kind. However, it doesn’t matter who the director may be, it still needs to work which is something this film kind of does and doesn’t do.

Kormàkur starts this story off pretty well with just the right amount of mystery, energy, and suspense to fill the air. The plot does take its time getting to where it has to go but the action scenes, when they come, are very well-done. Notice how I said ‘when they come’. Still though, they are used to actually to move this plot along and not just used as an action flick device that we usually come-and-get. Also, I love heist films so going into this, I wasn’t expecting much else other than some really cool and tricky heists which is what this film provided enough to satisfy me and keep me guessing.

The problem with most of these action scenes, as fun and exciting as they truly may be, for some reason it’s filmed with the annoying shaky-cam that we always see and hate, but is used to create a feeling here that doesn’t work. Whenever action hits this flick, the camera always moves around at a rapid and paranoid pace, as if it kept constantly looking around each corner, making sure not to get caught pulling off the heist itself. The shaky-cam is obviously something I hate no matter what the film may be, but here it didn’t seem needed considering how slick the action sequences are in the first place.

I also think another problem with this film is that for some reason the direction and screen-writing never really seem on the right page at all. The film is marketed as a silly and dumb action flick but it’s a lot much more smarter than that and sometimes teeters on drama. When I mean drama though, I mean the kind of drama where they try to really discuss some real issues about family, betrayal, and alcoholism. Let me remind you, I am talking about the film called ‘Contraband’. The film could have honestly been a thriller, heist, drama, and action flick but for some reason, the film doesn’t know how to jell all of that together in the right way in order for it to seem reasonable and not so uneven. It also doesn’t help that the plot stops and starts so many times to the point of where I just wanted the damn boat that they were in to blow up just for the action to stay constant.

Mark Wahlberg is pretty reliable as an actor here to pull of this good-guy role as Chris, to where it isn’t an obvious attempt at making a former criminal seem like a hero. Actually, he doesn’t really do much here that we haven’t seen him do already but watching Wahlberg play in his comfort zone isn’t so bad in the first place. Kate Beckinsale plays his wife, Kate, and she really does try to give some weight to her character but she doesn’t really do much here and just comes off as a plot device for Chris to have a race-against-the-clock situation.

Giovanni Ribisi seems like a strange choice for the villainous role here as the thug Tim Briggs, but he’s actually very good with his eccentric and sometimes crazy acting style to make this bad guy a bit more menacing than I was expecting, and always entertaining; Ben Foster is also great as Sebastian, Chris’s best friend, who has a battle with alcoholism and always strides in these kind of roles; and it was also nice to see J.K. Simmons doing a role that was humorous but also never made you forget that he was a total dick-head as Captain Camp.

Consensus: Contraband features many problems with its script, tone, and annoying camera issues, but the cast somehow rise above the material and make this crime/thriller/action/heist/drama flick a very entertaining, if flawed one to say the least. But hey, it’s January and I was at least entertained rather than feeling depressed.

6.5/10=Rental!!

The Rum Diary (2011)

As a pirate, and now as a journalist. I’m starting to think that Johnny Depp the human may just like rum.

Eager to flee his humdrum life in 1950s New York, booze-loving journalist Paul (Johnny Depp) moves to Puerto Rico and begins writing for a local rag, but his life becomes unhinged when he falls for a gorgeous woman (Amber Heard) and clashes with her shifty fiancé (Aaron Eckhart).

Even though I have never seen ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas‘, I have heard nothing but good and crazy things which is why I was kind of anticipating seeing a film with Depp playing another Hunter S. Thompson character. However, I think I need to check out Fear and Loathing instead.

Director Bruce Robinson does his best to make this adaptation at least mildly amusing but just can’t do too much in the end. There are moments of humor that kept me laughing, and other parts where I like how they down-played all of the humor but the problem with this film is that the drama kicks in and it’s just so dry and boring that the film almost seems a bit uneven. Nothing really happens the whole time, or at least that’s what it seems like and although I was watching I still had no idea where this film was trying to go, let alone actually say.

My real problem with this film is that nothing ever really felt at stake and instead of wondering just where this story was going to go in a suspenseful kind of way, I tried to understand just why the hell this film was meandering. If Depp’s character, Paul joins these bad-guys and practically sells his soul to the devil, then something not too good will happen. That not too good thing never popped up once and I never even cared if he joined them or not. What was even more annoying was how the film had these little constant bits of energy that seemed like a total amount of fun, but then they would get knocked down by some real dry drama or moments of nothing really happening to the point of where I actually heard a yawn.

Remember that awesome, kick-ass trailer? Yeah, I did too, and I felt cheated when I found out that this was just a lazy attempt at trying to re-create the craziness that I hear Fear and Loathing did.There’s probably one scene where there are drugs taken and probably the funniest and most memorable of the whole film, and I never quite understood why the film didn’t keep on going for that constantly weird and crazy vibe that it could have easily benefited from.

Although, I may knock on this film a whole bunch I still did have some fun with this film and that’s probably because the beautiful sights of this film. The film takes place in 1960’s Puerto Rico and it really feels like a love-letter to it with all of the sun-lights, wide-open beaches, and ridiculously sexy mama citas that were all over the place. Hell, even the poor and little under-belly of Puerto Rico looked nice and that seems really really hard to do. If only the beauty of the cinematography could have got translated to some of its direction and writing.

At the beginning of the film, I thought Paul Kemp was going to be an incredibly quirky and funny dude but after the opening scene, Johnny Depp plays Kemp fairly low-key, which will probably disappoint a lot of people. He’s more of the silent observer in this film and doesn’t drink as much rum as the title and cool poster would have you think at first. This isn’t a bad performance by any means, but it’s fairly just disappointing since I would have liked to see him get a little zanier and a lot more fun to watch.

I’m also a little bothered at the fact that Depp is playing a dude that’s just starting out in his career as a journalist, when in reality, Depp is 48. Yes, I know it seems totally insane that Captain Jack Sparrow is old enough to be a 21st Century pop-pop and it gets even weirder when he starts this romance with Amber Heard’s character, who is about 25 herself. Maybe I was the only one who was a tad bothered by this but he seems to be getting too old for some of these roles and I think it may be time for roles that suit him a lot better, whatever they may be.

Speaking of Amber Heard, she’s pretty disappointing here as Chenault although she uses her sexiness to her advantage. She’s been so much better in a lot of other films and it’s a real shame when the film sort of totally gets rid of her by the last act. Aaron Eckhart plays her boyfriend, Sanderson, and is a total and complete disappointment in this film because he just a one-note character the whole time, which takes a lot more momentum out of this film. Giovanni Ribisi plays a drunken dude named Moburg and is a lot of fun on-screen, even though his character seems totally random considering the tone of this film; Richard Jenkins is a lot of fun to watch as Paul’s editor-in-chief and gives a surprisingly smart speech on Puerto Rico that was one of the few moments that actually interested me; and Michael Rispoli plays Paul’s new best-buddy, Sala, and really keeps the moments he and Depp have on-screen, some of the best and funniest moments of this film.

Consensus: The Rum Diary has its moments where it can be fun, beautiful to look at, and have feature some very good performances from the whole cast but has an uneven tone that sort of meanders over its whole 2-hour time-limit and feels like a film that could have been so much better, if it had so much more rum-drinking that the previews and poster were suggesting.

5/10=Rental!!

Middle Men (2010)

Goodfellas; if instead of mobsters, they had naked chicks.

After spotting a big financial opportunity in the future of Internet pornography, straightlaced entrepreneur Jack Harris (Luke Wilson) enlists his pals Buck (Gabriel Macht) and Wayne (Giovanni Ribisi) to help him develop an online billing company specializing in adult entertainment. But as the firm takes off, Jack finds some unexpected kinks in the business of kink — including mobsters, the FBI, con men and terrorists.

Internet porn is something everybody uses, especially in today’s world but it’s funny to see how when internet came about and everything, that porn wasn’t the first thing on everybody’s mind for it.

The best aspect to Middle Men right away is it’s script which really does work. While the script isn’t as quick-witted as some films about a major technology breakthrough like The Social Network, the film still moves at a good pace with enough clever lines of dialogue following each other well. Also, in a time where so many movies want to be about sex and violence but don’t really have the guts to follow through with it, the writing on Middle Men has an edge that keeps it exciting throughout all the laughs.

The problem with this film that it seems a lot of others had was that you may find it the same exact formula that was used in such films as Boogie Nights and Goodfellas, but for me, the formula worked here. The story moved well and it didn’t really leave out any details about what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. The narration from Wilson may seem a bit annoying at first because it does pop-up about every 30 seconds but I thought actually helped turn the plot and keep the naughty bits of this film going. The soundtrack is also bangin’ because songs that you haven’t heard in awhile come out of nowhere here and bring you back to a time like this film portrays.

My problem with this film that I actually had was that some of it feels a lot duller than other parts of the film and by the end for some reason, it becomes more of a suspense film rather than an actual tale of how internet porn all came to be. I get that this is an actual true story, but for some reason it just played like a bad suspense thriller that I already knew how was going to end so therefore all the mystery was lost.

Another problem with the film is that we see Wilson’s character in the beginning as this wholesome, nice-guy Texas family-man but he soon changes as he gets himself caught up in business with these two morons and for a reason why he changed, was not explained. This character transition of character made his character seemed disjointed and unexplained and what the real problem here is that the film tries to show this character in a slimy light, and positive light. For some reason, either way didn’t really work out.

Luke Wilson is here as Jack Harris, who (finally!) lives up to his potential as a leading man, which we haven’t really seen since Bottle Rocket. He brings humility and likability to a ‘smartest-guy-in-the-room’ character that makes you identify with Jack Harris’ succumbing to the chaos surrounding him and  root for him to get out of it. His character may kind of have problems but Wilson knows how to keep this character likable and actually believable.

Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht are OK together as the two moron-savant programmers but nothing really special. They actually started to annoy me by the end of the film because their constant rambling and over-acting didn’t seem funny anymore, as much as it was just trying too hard for laughs. James Caan is brilliant with his turn as the shyster Las Vegas lawyer, Jerry Haggerty. The rest of the cast is backed up by good performances and cameos from the likes of Terry Crews, Kevin Pollack, Kelsey Grammar, and Laura Ramsey.

Consensus: Some of it is a bit messy, and a bit disjointed, but Middle Men also features some very good writing that gives us great detail about internet porn, while still providing good performances from the whole cast, especially Luke Wilson who shows that he can handle a film well too.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Public Enemies (2009)

Finally, Johnny Depp actually plays somebody normal.

Set during the Great Depression, it follows the final years of notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) as he is pursued by Bureau of Investigation agent Melvin Purvis (Christian Bale). It also depicts Dillinger’s relationship with Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard), as well as Purvis’s pursuit of Sparrow associates and fellow criminals Homer Van Meter (Stephen Dorff) and Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham).

Michael Mann is known for directing action-packed thrillers such as Heat, and Collateral, but they were always shot in modern times, with less of a story, here he gets to change up the time, and focus on more story. Which was not a very good idea after all.

I think the one problem with this film is that it is kind of bland, mainly because it’s based on a real-story. Everybody knows what happens to these guys, and it just do anything really fun or inventive to change the pace of our minds with the film. Another problem was the use of an HD camera for this film. The shaky camera takes a lot away from the film, and the pixels, and annoying close-ups, do start to run its course by the first hour mark. I also knew it was a bad idea, cause I kept asking myself: they had hand-held cameras back in the 30’s? Nothing looked as realistic as it could have, with a real camera.

Still I got to give it to the Mann(pun intended), he is still the king of action sequences. Since these dudes are robbing banks, Depression style, of course we get a lot of shoot-outs, and to say the least their actually very fun to watch. There is this one sequence where it takes place in the forest, and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. Not as great as Heat’s bank robbery, but still great none the less. I also thought he did a good job of showing the known hysteria, and panic that was in the depression, as Dillinger and the boys, started to rumble up on the bank robbery’s.

Johnny Depp does a great job at playing an actual real person for once in a long time. He plays Dillinger as sort of an anti-hero, that’s funny, charming, but also very smart, and lethal with what he does, and does a great job at playing this character. I was pretty disappointed by Christian Bale‘s performance here, and I thought his attempt to make a Southern accent, was pretty dumb, and annoying. It sucks but I think he wants this to be his forgotten role. Marion Cotillard is great here as well, and her and Depp create this lovely chemistry that seems so real, that by the end, you can just feel the love between these two. Other actors that do a good job in this are Giovanni Ribisi, Billy Crudup, Stephen Lang, and a random cameo from Channing Tatum.

Consensus: There are obvious faults here within Public Enemies, but they are somehow over-shadowed, by the great action sequences, and wonderful performances from the cast, minus Bale.

7/10=Rental!!!