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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Han Soto

Fantastic Four (2015)

Any person looking to direct movies one day, stay away from Marvel.

Ever since he was a young kid, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has always wanted to use science for the greater-good of the world and one day, during his high school’s science fair, he finally gets the chance to do so. When Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) walks up to Reed and propositions him with the idea of working for him, in his laboratory, on a full-time scholarship, Reed has no chance but to accept the offer. Reed soon joins in with the likes of Storm’s two children, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the adopted Sue (Kate Mara), and an intelligent recluse by the name of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). All of these intelligent brains combined, work on a teleportation device that takes them to a dark and scary world full of clouds, rocks, and lava. Eventually, their project works, but one day, when they decide to travel out into the world on their own, things go awry with everyone involved. Reed becomes a floppy man that can stretch any part of his body, Sue can become invisible and create force-fields, Johnny can fly and light himself on fire, Reed’s childhood buddy, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), becomes a huge, rock thingy, and von Doom, who sadly gets left behind, is able to control things using his mind and power. After this incident, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Why we're people pissed-off at this casting-choice.....

Why we’re people pissed-off at this casting-choice….

So yeah, there’s already been lots and lots of problems surrounding Fantastic Four and mostly all of it can be chalked up to the fact that, once again, Marvel and a director of their choosing, don’t seem to get along. In this case, it’s Josh Trank who had to suffer from all of the chipping, chopping and rules of Marvel. Which is a total shame because Trank’s first flick, Chronicle, was a fun, entertaining, and surprisingly smart superhero movie that fell back on its genius ways of telling a story, rather than relying on a big brand-name that people can spot on any billboard from a mile away. And while it would make sense that Trank getting a chance to make another movie about young people becoming superheros would be another home-run, sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Except it’s not always as bad as it may have been said to be.

For at least the first hour or so, Fantastic Four seems like Trank’s movie full and through. It takes its time building characters, showing their relationships with one another, and giving us a certain amount of time to get used to them, the story they’re involved with, and get a chance to see just what may occur once everything goes South (as we know these movies tend to do). This earlier-portion of the movie is where Trank’s, Simon Kinberg’s, and Jeremy Slater’s writing seems to be at their best; not only does it seem like we’re going somewhere with this story, but we’re getting a chance to get a feel for these characters so that it’s easier for us to connect with them and relate. It may take awhile to get where it needs to get, but it’s funny, entertaining and, at the very least, interesting.

Then, things go awry.

After the gang goes to this parallel universe lazily titled “Planet Zero” and everybody’s got their own, respective super powers, then something strange happens to the movie. For some reason that I can’t explain other than the mandatory re-shoots that were needed for this project, the government somehow gets involved, Reed Richards runs away, and out of nowhere, Doom finally comes into play and starts blowing up each and every person’s heads. Why that is, we never get a chance to know, but when we see Doom get put back into the story after being away from him for about a half-hour, it’s as sinister and as scary as scenes with Dr. Doom should be.

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

But then, all of that seems to go down the drain once we get an eventual battle with Doom and the Four, and eventually, it becomes as clear as day that he’s so easily beatable. Rather than feeling like a film where an opponent seems to get the better of his rival(s), whoever edited the final-half of this movie make it seem like a boss fight in a video-game. Before defeating the bad guy and beating the game, you may have to go back and restart the level a few times, trying different combos and buttons out, all before you do get the chance to beat him and moving on with your day as if you have truly accomplished something revolutionary.

I’d expect that with a battle between Mario and Bowser, but not Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four.

And it’s a shame too, because with the ensemble that Trank was able to get together for this, it seems like a missed-opportunity that he wasn’t able to get more out of each and everyone of them. Don’t get me wrong, everybody here is fine and seem like they’re on the same page when it comes to reading the script and performing it, but each and everyone of their own talents get lost in a mess of a final-act that doesn’t know how to wrap itself up. In the end, everything that happened before makes it feel like it was all just a lead-up to next week’s episode, where the Fantastic Four will, once again, battle against a certain evil, have problems along the way, break-off, get back together, and once and for all, beat the super, duper villain.

And even though there’s already a sequel planned for this, something tells me plans may get scrapped. Which, to be honest, isn’t something I want. To me, deep down inside, there seems to be a good, entertaining, and relatively smart Fantastic Four movie just lurking around somewhere in the darkness. But because the powers that B from Marvel got involved, everything went to shit and we’re instead left with an incredibly mediocre superhero movie that serves more as a cautionary tale, rather than a celebration for the fans of these comic book characters getting to see them on the screen once again.

Only time will tell though.

Consensus: After about the first hour or so, Fantastic Four becomes the trainwreck you’d expect it to be, but for a good while, it’s entertaining and compelling, until all of the fun times go away and we’re left with plenty to be desired.

5 / 10

So, what else can he stretch?

So, what else can he stretch?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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The D Train (2015)

High school reunions are a joke and sometimes, so are the people who you see there.

Self-proclaimed chairman of his high school’s reunion committee, Dan Landsman (Jack Black), wants to be the exact opposite of what he was many years ago in the 9th-12th grade: Cool. He hasn’t ever had that feeling, because after high school ended, he got his pregnant (Kathryn Hahn), took the first job he could find, and basically, never let home in the first place. That’s why when he sees a former classmate of his, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), in a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen, Dan gets the brilliant idea: Get Oliver to come to the reunion and have the reunion itself be a fun, memorable time, all due to Dan himself. However, what that takes is a lot of planning and maneuvering around to get Oliver from L.A., all the way back to home; although Dan is totally up for it too, he may have some problems in the way of his boss (Jeffrey Tambor). Not to mention, Oliver himself may not want to even come at all – something that Dan is able to change, but it all comes at a cost.

While this seems like a very sparse premise, the fact is that there’s something that occurs about half-way through the flick that makes up what’s to become the rest of the movie after it. It’s something I can’t discuss as it will simply spoil the rest of the movie, but do know this: What may seem like a small plot-point, something that could definitely be traded-in as a passing-gag, eventually turns the movie into something very serious and dramatic. Almost too much, would one say?

How I spend every reunion I've ever had to attend.

How I spend every reunion I’ve ever had to attend.

I’m not sure, but there’s something about this drastic step that the D Train that makes it smarter than most comedies. But in hindsight, does it work?

Well, not really. The reason being, too, is that it seems like where co-writers and directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel get mixed up is that they have a neat premise and know what they want to do and say about it, but instead of going anywhere interesting, or better yet, intelligent with it, they just use the most broad example they could find and figure out ways to make the jokes just string off of that. Don’t get me wrong, the jokes that both Paul and Mogel are able to cobble up work and definitely shed some light on the whole bromance subgenre of movies that I’d never see Apatow’s crew bothering to touch.

However, what it ultimately turns out to be is something of a disappoint. See, while Paul and Mogel make it seem like they’re going to discuss the whole idea about growing up, getting out of high school and doing something for yourself, the D Train instead goes somewhere else that feels lazy. It’s as if Paul and Mogel didn’t want to make its audience think too much while laughing, so instead, they just decided the best way to cure all that was to just go for the easiest jokes possible. Once again, the jokes do work and I’d be lying if the movie stopped being serious after this half-way point, but after it all, it made me wonder why there wasn’t more attention given to what seemed like the original intentions Paul and Mogel had.

Though, there is something to be said for a comedy where we get to see plenty of range come from the likes of Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, and most especially, James Marsden, that doesn’t just include them mucking it up. Because, for the most part, everybody here is funny and clearly shows they have a great sense of humor to work well within the confines of this script, but they also dig deep into these characters and make them seem like something more than just caricatures. They’re actual humans, albeit, ones with plenty of problems that they may not be able to ever get past.

Such is especially evident in the case of Black’s Landsman, who not only borders on the verge of being incredibly creepy, but may definitely have some self-esteem issues of his own that may not bode well for the rest of his family. I won’t divulge what it is exactly that I am discussing, but Landsman’s obsessive nature is odd and off-putting at times; however, he never becomes a terribly unsympathetic character. There’s a reason for why he acts so insufferably cruel and manipulating to those around him and it’s what keeps most of the moments where he’s just acting like a dick, therefore digging himself deeper into holes he can’t get out of, not only fun, but interesting in what it does to develop this character.

Same goes for Hahn’s character, Stacey. Not only does she love and support her man until the end of their days, but also realizes what it is about him that she loves so very much, even if he can be a bit of a sad sack. She’s not just there as window-dressing to give Landsman a reason to come back home every so often, but she’s actually a genuinely sweet person. And even though most of the easy, softball jokes constantly rely on Tambor’s boss character being present, you can’t help but enjoy what’s happening to his character, as well as sympathize with the dude.

Trust me, sit closer to the soul patch. It works well.

Trust me, sit closer to the soul patch. It works well.

Then, of course, there’s James Marsden.

I’ll admit it, I’ve never been a huge lover of James Marsden; it’s not because he gets the women that I can only dream of having, it’s not because he’s incredibly handsome as hell, and it’s not because he got to do kissy-face with Famke Janssen back in the day, it’s just that I’ve never been fully impressed with his capabilites as an actor. Sure, the dude’s charming and, more often than not, is able to make me laugh, but I’ve never walked from something he’s been involved with and have gone, “Wow. That James Marsden sure is something.”

That may change now. Not just because Marsden’s hilarious here (which he definitely is), but literally gets to the bottom of the heart and soul of this character, without ever making it seem like he’s trying too hard at all. Oliver Lawless stands in the place of every high school jock who peaked in the 11th grade: Was the life of the party, everybody wanted to be friends with, and had high aspirations for, but when the time came around to actually moving on and doing something with their life, totally fell apart. Marsden’s Lawless may be cool, handsome-as-eff, and suave with the ladies, but is also pretty sad with what he’s become and how he can hardly even get Dermot Mulroney to talk to him. Marsden shows layers to this character that I don’t even know were there to begin with, and because of that, I will forever look forward to seeing what Mr. James Marsden has for me next.

Whether the movie be good, bad, or just, middling. Kind of like this.

Consensus: The D Train flirts with interesting ideas that challenge R-rated comedy standards, but doesn’t do enough justice to them and instead, relies heavily on the charming and likable cast to pick up the pieces.

6.5 / 10

How I imagine everybody feels standing next to James Marsden anywhere.

How I imagine everybody feels standing next to James Marsden anywhere.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Focus (2015)

All it takes is a few really good-looking people to make you forget about your Rolex.

Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) is a seasoned vet at the art of conning people. He’s been in it for so long, however, that he feels like maybe it’s about time that he starts to settle down and focus on the bigger picture: Actual life. But such is the problem with the life of a con man – you can’t be trusted, which, as a result, means you can’t trust anyone else. It’s pretty sad, but at least you have a lot of money. This all begins to change for Nicky when he meets young, bright, bubbly and downright beautiful grifter, Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie), who wants Nicky to teach her the tricks and the trade of pulling off the perfect con. Nicky has no problem with this, because he believes Jess is smart enough and more than capable, but has one major problem: He may be in love with her. Which isn’t just bad for business, but bad for him, as a person. And Jess may feel the same way, but the two never fully know until it’s all too late.

Movies about con men, women, people, etc., all suffer the same problems: They’re fun, flashy and twisty, but sometimes, they get a bit too over-the-heads and can end up becoming a convoluted mess that doesn’t fully add up. One of the rare exceptions to this rule is the classic-caper, the Sting, which definitely helped get through some of its slower-patches with its attention to detail and character, but still had enough twists and turns to fuel us up when we needed it the most, but never overdid it either. It wasn’t the large bed, nor was it the small one – it was the one, slap-dab in the middle that was just right.

How could say "no" to that face? Hot damn!

How could say “no” to that face? Hot damn!

Focus is not one of these movies, and yet, I have a hard time complaining about it much.

For one, it’s a very exciting movie. It’s quick, light-on-its-feet and hardly ever slows down, even when the characters do get to talking about their emotions and so on and so forth. Even then, though, these moments are still neat to watch and pay attention to, because you never quite know whether one is actually being themselves because they want to actually be genuine for once, or if they’re just putting up an act so that they can get what it is that they want. This actually happens during a couple of instances in this film, and it helps speed things along smoothly enough to where we’re not nit-picking every single mistake, or contrivance this movie makes up. Because, trust me, there are plenty to be had here.

There’s one sequence that takes place during the Super Bowl that’s not only the most memorable of the whole movie, but features some of the more tense sequences I’ve seen in something that doesn’t include much gun-play, car-chases, or violence, for that matter. What happens is that we see Smith’s character, Nicky, constantly throw down bets just to have a ball at the game, because he’s with Robbie’s character and, like most women (apparently), she doesn’t give a lick about the sport of football. The bets start off nice, sweet, and playful, like any good two pals would do, but then, once another party walks in on the betting-pool and realizes that they can have some fun while spending plenty of dimes, then the bets get more extreme, the money gets larger, and eventually, we’re left having no clue where the hell this is going to go, why, and who is going to be on the receiving-end of this bet.

I won’t say much more about it, except that it’s the most excitement I’ve had during a movie in quite some time and that’s because it’s unpredictable. Most movies of this nature definitely strive for that, but instead, seem so tailor-made to make sure that everybody has a big, happy smile leaving, so therefore, they’re going to get the pleasing solution to whatever problem may come into the protagonist’s way. Here, it’s never fully clear whether we’re going to get the happy ending, or the sad, dark, and depressing one.

And because of that, Focus hardly loses an ounce of steam. Even if, you know, there’s plenty that goes on here in it that seems to be wildly unbelievable and over-the-top, that it ever happening, or being as intricately planned-out as it is made out to be, hardly ever rings true. But that just shows you what can happen when you make your movie as fun and as exciting as this: You can have some of the biggest, widest, most gaping plot-holes ever seen on the face of the planet, and if you allow us, the audience, to laugh, enjoy ourselves, and come close to even crying, then don’t worry, all is well.

For the most part, that is.

Stop looking so fresh, Will Smith.

Stop looking so fresh, Will Smith…….

But where the movie really racks up the points in winning us over is with the pitch perfect casting of both Will Smith and soon-to-be-star Margot Robbie, in the leading roles. Though the age-gap between the two is nearly 22 years, that didn’t bother me as much here, as it does with some of Woody Allen’s movies, because the two have surefire chemistry that barely hits a false note. Sure, you could make the argument that even when the age-difference between the two spouses in Woody Allen’s movie hit almost 30, they can still seem believable and understandable because of good chemistry between the two, but here, it didn’t seem as creepy. Or, at least, the movie didn’t have it written-out to be that way.

For instance, once we see these two together, automatically, you can tell that there’s some sort of spark between the two. It could be all made-up for the con; it could be genuine attraction; or, it could be love. Whatever it is, Robbie and Smith seemed like they really enjoyed working with one another both in front of, as well as behind the camera, because every opportunity they have to make some bit of this feel heartfelt, they go for it. Even if you know Smith’s character is just messing around with Robbie’s to get her to do what he wants for a con, or whatever, there’s still a small feeling that he actually wants to be with her. As unlikely as that may be.

Which is to say, yes, Will Smith does wonders with a role that, quite frankly, could have been so corny and forgettable, had it been played by most other movie stars. But Smith, giving it all he’s got, fits into this role so perfectly that you believe him both as the calm, cool and confident smooth-talker that’s able to get through any con with the use of his fast-working brain, as well as a guy who sincerely wants to settle down in life and possibly even get out of the conning business, just for that reason alone. There’s a heart to this character that makes him worth watching, and it’s where Smith’s performance really takes hold.

But the one who really walks away with this one, is the fiery, the hot, and the engaging woman who is Margot Robbie. Most may know Robbie from the Wolf of Wall Street and while that’s a solid highlight of what she can do, here, as Jess Barrett, she is constantly taking this movie over. Not only does she use her unbelievably lovely good-looks to her advantage to get what she wants, but she too, just like Smith’s character, feels like an actual person that wants everything there is to offer in life. Sure, she wants to con people and make some money in the process of living that life of hers, but at the end of the day, she still wants to have a husband, a family, and even possibly, a life that she can feel safe and comfortable with living.

See, con men – they’re like you or I. Just with a lot more cash lying around.

Consensus: The twists and turns can sometimes border on ridiculous, but Focus always keeps its cool by depending on the engagingly fun and frothy chemistry between Smith and Robbie, while also giving them a fun movie to work all their sly moves in.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Another successful night at the bars for Will Smith. Of which I bet he has plenty.

Another successful night at the bars for Will Smith. Of which I bet he has plenty.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Left Behind (2014)

When the world’s in panic, trust in Nic Cage. Just make sure there’s no bees around.

It’s like any other normal day in the sweet lives of these few humans. A daughter (Cassi Thomson) oh so desperately wants the attention and love from her father that she hasn’t gotten since she was a little girl; the father, Rayford Steele (Nic Cage), is a bit of a dirt-bag in that he takes his wedding-ring off before every flight, only so that he can fool around and tell terrible jokes to young, blonde and busty stewardesses; and his wife (Lea Thompson), on the other hand, is at home, thumping the Bible and speaking the good Lord’s word. But this one day is all of a sudden turned right around for the worst when, unexpectedly, loved ones begin vanishing. Kids, adults, male, females, transvestites, everyone! It’s like some sort of “Rapture” that nobody has any explanation for, except that the Gods must be angry, or something. But the speculation can wait because Rayford Steele has a plane to land, and plenty of passengers to get on the ground safely and in one piece. That is, if they don’t already start killing one another off with their paranoid minds in the first place.

So, if you didn’t already know by now, this movie is a faith-based one, in the sense that it’s centered towards the kind of crowd who goes to these types of movies where they can go to hear and see about all sorts of God-like things that they can’t consume all at once on Sunday morning. That, or they just want to see Nic Cage doing a movie, that’s already a remake of something starring the almighty Kirk Cameron.

"Nice! Wait till HuffPo gets a load of this!"

“Nice! Wait till HuffPo gets a load of this!”

And yes, you heard me right on that people: Nic Cage is starring in a movie that was originally written with Kirk Cameron in mind. It’s kind of a shame really, but seeing where Cage’s career has been as of late, I can’t say that I’m too surprised. Actually, that’s a lie, cause I’m totally shocked and I honestly have no idea why the hell Nic himself would get involved with such propaganda like this! Let alone, a movie that’s really terrible.

However, with most of the movies he does, Cage finds a way to make the most terrible-aspects, the least bit entertaining, or somewhat interesting, in his own, Cage-y way. He yells, breaths heavily, smiles oddly, makes weird faces and just all around, over-acts like the king that he is. The problem is that this isn’t really the kind of movie where he can get away with that, because not only does the material hardly ever call on him to be all crazy and such, but even he himself seems tired and lifeless, as if he’s just totally in this for the paycheck and nothing but. That could rightly be the case, but when I see my movies with Nic Cage, paycheck-gigs or not, I want to see some effort, man!

Here though, Nic himself is sort of sleep-walking through a role that could have been played by anybody and quite frankly, doesn’t really need him. Or anybody for that matter. In fact, if I really had to go down deep into this movie, I’d say that it was a piece of garbage. And no, that’s not because I’m some sort of atheist that hates anything having to do with God, his word, or his holy followers – I just am not a fan of bad movies. And this here, my friends, is a bad movie.

But it’s not the kind of bad movie you and your buddies should sneak out to late one night, drunk/high, and expect to have a great time with. Because yes, even though there are plenty of laugh-out-loud scenes here where the typically insane occurrence will show up on screen, only to go away a second later without hardly any rhyme or reason, the movie’s messiness just ends up ruining any bit of fun that could have been had here. Not saying that the movie had to be a joke from beginning to end, but there’s a point in which your film ends up being more than just silly, and just bad. And such is the case here: It’s bad, and sometimes laughably so, but not enough to where I’d say go out there and see this one with glassy-eyes.

In fact, just don’t bother seeing this. Sure, to its audience, it may have the right message and it honestly may make them feel all warm and gooey on the inside, but for the others that may actually want to pay a couple of bucks to see the next Nic Cage-starrer and seemingly have no idea of what they are getting into, they’ll be pissed. They’ll be bored and though they’ll get plenty of chances to just point and laugh at the screen, it’s not enough to justify seeing this.

Even the whole angle of this being a faith-based movie doesn’t even come into play; there are mentions of God and faith in heavy-handed ways, but honestly, you could look at this as another, run-of-the-mill disaster story that has the ill-chance of taking place on a plane practically the whole time. Add on the fact that every character is terribly-written and the performances from some of the actors playing them are, honestly, even worse. I’ve already talked enough about Nic Cage, but the rest are just pitiful, almost to the point of where it makes sense why they were cast in this movie in the first place: They probably didn’t cost much to begin with, and it pretty much shows.

"Ah! Please don't crush me, New Testament-quote!"

“Ah! Please don’t crush me, New Testament-quote!”

Though I wasn’t expecting much out of him to begin with, Chad Michael Murray is god-awful as the “investigative journalist” that, for one reason or another, every spectator treats him as something of a celebrity. I’m assuming he’s being made out to be the next Anderson Cooper or something, but to me, it seemed hard to believe that ladies panties would be dropping just for some dude who stepped on foreign soil and covered a story. That stuff, my friends, are stories of the past, I’m afraid to say.

But Murray isn’t the only whose bad, Cassi Thomson is awkward and her one scene with Cage is probably the best, only because most of his manner-isms come out and make the scene better. And that’s pretty much it for the whole film really: Cage makes it better. But even then though, he’s sort of there just to service a script that doesn’t deserve him. It’s all bad, from beginning to end, and it makes you wonder just why exactly did Cage sign up for this in the first place. Especially after doing something as wonderful as Joe.

Oh, Nic. Your mind truly is a mysterious one.

Consensus: Irate, laughable, and over-the-top with what it’s trying to get across, Left Behind is another faith-based drama that wants to be about something important and meaningful, without ever really allowing us to be entertained in the first place.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Only one man to save humanity....

Only one man to save humanity….

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Ender’s Game (2013)

Kids will be kids, until they have to lead an army into battle. Then they’re just immature adults.

An alien race called the Formics has attacked Earth, and as you could presume, the citizens of that said planet aren’t too happy. So, that’s when they decide to set-up a military school in which they will enlist pre-teens to learn the tricks of the trade, be tested, be challenged and be the best that they can truly be, so that one day, they too can get a chance to fight in the war. The reason why a school like this even exists is because the government feels as if they get kids, whose minds aren’t as developed or as complex yet, then there will be no problems whatsoever with the enlisting or training-process. However, that’s where a boy named Ender Wiggins (Asa Butterfield), comes in a screws everything up. Not only does Ender have something special within him that lead Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) can see, but also has a bit of an open-mind to any situation he finds himself in. Sure, that impresses a lot of the instructors, but doesn’t make him the coolest kid on the playground. But, it’s fine because Ender doesn’t care, all he cares about is putting his skills to the test and see if he can take out the Formic threat once and for all. Like with most war-fare though, there do come some prices one must pay.

So yeah, a lot has been said about this movie, but then again, it’s not necessarily about the movie itself. Nope, it’s more about how author Orson Scott Card himself was a bit of a loony and took it upon himself to let everybody know that he’s homophobic. Personally, whatever the guy wants to say or do, is fine by me. Sure, he may be a bit shallow and narrow-minded, but he’s a human, he’s entitled to his opinion and quite frankly, he didn’t make this movie, so why should I care? What I should care about here is the actual movie I have on hand here, and if it actually does its job in being some sort of meeting between Harry Potter and Star Wars, as I heard it being compared as.

Oh, young love. But they'll be dead soon, so whatever.

Aw, young love. But they’ll be dead soon, so it’s whatever.

It doesn’t meet those standards, but it’s not a total bomb. Here’s why:

For the most part, this flick is kind of weird. Director Gavin Hood clearly knows that he’s working with some heavy-duty source-material here that may not entirely be for kids, nor may it not entirely be for the adults either. In fact, Hood himself finds a bit of a problem in trying to find a cohesive, senseless juggle between the two demographics: For the kiddies out there, we have a few scenes of other kids playing video-games, goofing around with one another and getting into tiny scuffles; as for the parents, we have all sorts of war-fare, mixed with thought-provoking ideas about the humanity kept in one’s mind during war, the act of genocide itself and war crimes. So yeah, if you like your teen, sci-fi-thriller to be mixed with plenty of social-commentary, this is definitely the film for you.

However, it doesn’t quite work out that way, all due to the fact that we never know what this movie is working-up to, nor do we know what it’s trying to say. Most of the actual interesting stuff that does occur in this movie, probably happens in the first-hour when we see Ender go through this military school, where’s he’s made an example of, gets picked on and in some ways, picks fights with fellow students. It’s also interesting, if not tonally jarring, to see a movie that so clearly makes it a point to dehumanize these kids, just so that they can be “better soldiers”. A bit scary when you think about it happening to these small, innocent kids we see on-screen, but it’s even more frightening when we realize that it is actually happening out there in the real world that we live in. In some cases, maybe even right outside your door-step.

But like I was saying though, the movie makes it a point to always “be about something”, but at the same time, never seems like it’s really going anywhere with its countless bits of action or scenes where we see a bunch of kids yelling out random codes/jargon/exposition, in order for it all to make a lick of a difference. We know that whatever threat these kids are battling, is something that may be deadly and strike them at any moment, but instead of actually seeing these kids go to war and get their hands a bit dirty, we’re just watching them go through simulations. Sure, the simulations, as well as everything else in this movie, look mighty pretty and definitely have you feel like you’re right there in the moment, but they’re just simulations. Meaning, they aren’t the real-deal, so why in the heck do we have to have a film that builds up to that, and only that?

And then, the strangest part of this movie comes through when we get a “shocker” of an ending in which we see that the government itself is up to some sheisty-dealings. Won’t give too much away as to the “how’s” and the “why’s”, but I will say that it didn’t surprise me much here. Also, the notes that the movie ends on are some pretty interesting ones that you wouldn’t quite see in something that’s as slightly aimed towards kids as this is (ideas about sacrificing thousands of fellow soldiers for the almighty “win”, risking anything and everything, etc.), but then it also seems to just straggle those ideas out, in a way to make us realize the actual tension this story is supposed to be creating. It never materials to much, other than just a bunch of smart ideas, that probably would have been better, used in a far less-messy movie. Not to say that it’s all pretty crappy, but once things begin to get heavy, then the weight of the actual story itself begins to crush all of the fun and life that’s trying to get-out.

Perhaps though, the most interesting aspect surrounding this movie is the handling of its lead character, Ender, a character whom, from what I’ve heard, isn’t the most likable protagonist in the world. I can definitely see that too, because while the kid definitely seems like his heart may be in the right place with certain decisions made here and there, somehow, there’s this under-lining sense of sociopathic behavior to be found and that comes out quite a few times in this movie. It’s not fully fleshed-out to where it provides a huge inner-issue for Ender, but is seen on occasion and makes you think that maybe he’s a bit of a nut-job that not only shouldn’t be the head of the military-force, but also shouldn’t be allowed to walk the same streets as regular-day citizens like you or I.

"Yes, I had a hard night of partying the other night. Anyway, moving on...."

“Yes, I did in fact “party hard” the other night. MOVING ON!!”

That’s why it seems like this character would be terribly unlikable, but he actually isn’t. Which, in a sense, is more of a credit to Asa Butterfield’s acting, rather than the way the movie portrays him, because while the kid definitely seems to be a bit of stuck-up arse that needs to always get things right, he’s not necessarily a “bad” kid, that does bad things, for bad reasons; he’s just a kid who has been thrown into a situation that he wasn’t expecting, but is more than willing to give a try. Butterfield is good here and shows that he could definitely grow-up into some real, leading-man potential in the next couple of years, but it’s mainly the character of Ender that keeps us watching this kid, all because we don’t know who he’s going to humiliate next, or who he’s going to mouth-off to either.

Like Butterfield, everybody else is good, too, it’s just that they are given some pretty shaky dialogue to work with that I don’t even Daniel Day himself would be able to handle (that’s a joke, of course he would, he’s Daniel freakin’ Day-Lewis for gosh sakes!). Harrison Ford tries, but can’t help but give a one-note performance as the Colonel who believes in Ender so much, that he’s able to growl for him whenever necessary; Viola Davis shows up for a few scenes to show that she has “humanity” because she doesn’t want these kids tested, but is basically told to “take that crap elsewhere”; Hailee Steinfeld shows that she has potential as a leading-lady in the future, but is given a lot of jargon to say and none of it really makes sense, so it would be kind of hard to decide whether or not she’s good here, based solely on that; and Ben Kingsley shows up with a whole bunch of face-tattoos that make Mike Tyson look like a wuss, and doesn’t do much here either. Nice to see him and Ford share the same screen though, even if all they do is deliver exposition when they’re around one another. A damn shame passing up an opportunity like that when you have two great talents in the same room. A damn shame.

Consensus: There may be a very strange demographic that this movie is for, but Ender’s Game can’t quite figure who or what that is, so instead, gives us all the special-effects, action, sci-fi elements and social-messages it can possibly handle, but doesn’t do much to really build towards anything that could be deemed “exciting”.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ask anybody in a galaxy far, far away from here, they'll tell who not to mess with."

“Stand-up straight when I’m talking to you, boy! Chewie would have!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net