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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Helen Mirren

The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)

So. Much. Food.

Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal) is an extraordinarily talented and largely self-taught culinary novice who has taken something that he loves so much, and tried whatever he can to make a living out of it. When he and his family are displaced from their native India and settle in some random, yet lovely little French village, they decide to open an Indian eatery, where all French citizens can get a taste of what they like to call “home”. Unfortunately for all of them, however, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), the proprietress of an acclaimed restaurant is literally right across the street with her fancy and well-established restaurant that doesn’t seem like it’s going to be slowing down any time soon. However, Hasson and his father (Om Puri), won’t be taken down by Madame Mallory and decide to band together. But Hassan’s motives begin to change when he realizes that there’s truly something special to the way Mallory cooks, making him decide by who he sticks by in this ongoing battle of the finest cuisine.

Uh oh. Dame's back.

Uh oh. Dame’s back. Look busy.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is food porn to the ultimate maximum. This is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing, because food is good and if you’re able to film it in the right way, then it can practically become the main selling-point of a flick, even stealing the show from the actual living, breathing, human characters making said food. And it’s probably no surprise that the same director who made us all fall in love with chocolate with Chocolat, is making us fall in love with all sorts of food again.

However, maybe not so much as with the characters, sadly.

See, what Lasse Hallström gets right in the look and feel of the movie, he forgets all about in the story-department which can’t help but sometimes feel like an afterthought. Sure, no one is going to mistaken the Hundred-Foot Journey for an exciting, suspenseful thrill-ride, with twists, turns and red herrings galore, but by the same token, that doesn’t mean it has to be a total and complete bore. Or better at that, a two-hour long bore.

And okay, I get it, there is definitely an audience out there who will love and adore this movie, all faults aside, but sometimes, it’s a little hard to get past when you realize that there’s barely any tension here, little to no actual drama, and yeah, a whole bunch of sappiness. Once again, it’s no surprise that we’re getting all of this from Hallström, but it still makes you wish that somewhere deep down within this man’s soul that he would just push himself, as well as the movies he takes on, just a little further. The Hundred-Foot Journey didn’t have to be an overlong slog, but it moves with barely any efficiency that it makes you wonder if it’s going anywhere, or ever going to end.

But I didn’t hate the movie.

If anything, it’s just middling. It’s the kind of movie that doesn’t set out to ruin any person’s mood, or lives in the process, but instead, tell a simple, rather sweet story about a bunch simple, rather sweet people, making all sorts of lovely little pieces of food that you’ll want to grab off of the screen. There’s honestly nothing like that, but sometimes, a movie such as this doesn’t have to be over two hours – sometimes, just being an hour-and-a-half is more than enough and gets the point across pretty much perfectly.

New school, meet, well old school? I think?

New school, meet, well old school? I think?

But it is good to have such a talented ensemble here to, thankfully, make things work when they most definitely need to. Helen Mirren tries on this French-accent and it works; while she’s playing a shrew of a woman, she still lets out some bits and pieces of charm every so often that not only reminds us of what a class-act she is, but how she truly can make any scene she shows up in, well, better. Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon both play the two young chefs who learn to cook better with one another, while also making sweet, sexy, yet cute love on the side and they’re adorable enough as is to really make it work, even if it’s hard to care whether or not these two incredibly attractive people end up together in the end.

After all, they’ll be fine anyway.

The real stand-out here is Om Puri who, unfortunately, passed away not too long ago. Puri has been the sort of go-to guy for tough, strict and rather stubborn Indian fathers in movies such as these and it makes sense, because he plays them perfectly. Don’t believe me? Check out East is East and get back to me. Anyway, Puri does a fantastic job here because it seems like, out of all the characters to choose from, his is the only that develops. Over time, his character realizes that there’s more to life than just family and tradition, sometimes, striking out on one’s own is what really matters. Puri’s character never goes the full 180 and you know what? He’s sort of better off that way.

He’s more human that way, really.

Consensus: Saccharine and trite, the Hundred-Foot Journey aims to please those not looking for much excitement or drama, but for the most part, is pleasant and well-acted enough to work.

5 / 10

Don't ever teach Dame on anything.

Don’t ever teach Dame on anything.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

The galaxy is vast, wide, and apparently, very British.

Everyday British dude Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is currently battling a bunch of contractors who literally want to build a bypass right where his house is. He’s sad about it and constantly rebels in any way that he can, but when he’s not even thinking about it, he’s taken aside by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def), who informs him that not only he’s an alien, but that the two have barely a minute left to live on planet Earth, as it is set to be destroyed any time now. And well, that’s exactly what happens – Arthur and Ford are then left to roam about the galaxy, until they’re then picked up by a random ship, holding Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the President of the Galaxy, his kind of, sort of, quite possible girlfriend Trillian (Zooey Deschanel), who Arthur had feelings for initially, and Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman), who seems incredibly depressed about everything around it. Together, the group must face-off against the Vogons, aka, those who were familiar for destroying Earth in the first place and don’t seem to be done just yet.

It's okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

It’s okay, Martin. The day will be over soon.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a piece of cult pop-culture that’s survived as long as it has, based solely by the fact that people still don’t seem to understand it just yet and are still, as we speak at this moment, trying to make sense of all the crazy, madcap and wild adventures that the countless stories had to offer. That’s why a movie made of this source material is already troubling as is – especially when you’re working on such a big budget and have to, essentially, please not just the fanboys, but everyone else who may seem interested in seeing a madcap sci-fi flick for the hell of it. And it’s also why Garth Jennings, try as he might, just feels kind of lost here.

He gets some stuff right, but for the most part, Hitchhiker’s unfortunately seems like another case of where a lot of people had to be pleased and because of that, the movie itself ends up muddled, somewhat disjointed and yes, even messy.

Still though, there’s some joy and pleasure to be had in the messiness.

For one, Jennings does keep the movie moving at a fine, efficient pace, to where it feels like we’re getting a whole lot of story, but it’s always constantly going. The movie also doesn’t just focus on the one plot in particular, as there are some truly weird, yet humorous sidebars that come in, bring in a little flavor to the proceedings, and leave soon so that they don’t get in the way of the movie. While it may be a little close to two hours, surprisingly, the movie breezes by and may actually sneak up on you with how quick it’s going.

At the same time, though, being quick and swift doesn’t make your movie good, or even hide away all of the issues that may be troubling it in the first place. And if there’s a huge problem to be found with Hitchhiker’s, it’s that it’s just not as funny as it think it is. Sure, bits and pieces pop-up in this one adventure and on the side that could be considered “humorous”, but honestly, they don’t always connect; most of the time, it feels like the movie’s just trying to out-weird itself, throwing another wrench at the screen and seeing how they could go any further. A bit involving a character’s two-heads is supposed to be played for laughs and shocks, but is a gimmick that gets old real quick and honestly, doesn’t even seem like a joke, but just a character trait.

Yup. Just one of those days.

Yup. Just one of those days.

And it’s a shame, too, because there’s clearly a whole lot of ambition here coming from Jennings and everyone else, but the movie ends up being about its plot a lot, its odd sense of humor, its even odder sci-fi, and yet, not much else. It is, essentially, an adventure, for the sake of being an adventure, but we never get a clear understanding of anything that’s going on beforehand, so that when we’re told of what’s going to happen and what the clear goal of this mission is to be, it just doesn’t connect. The movie takes a whole lot of time to set-up its weird puns and sight-gags, but forgets to actually build a comprehensible plot that makes the whole adventure, well, feel like an actual adventure, that doubles as a ride we don’t ever want to get off.

But we kind of do, just so that it would chill out and take some more time with itself to figure things out.

The cast are really the ones who save it, as it seems like everyone came ready to play, for better or worse. Martin Freeman is, as usual, perfect as our every man; Mos Def fits in perfectly, showing his goofier side for once; Zooey Deschanel plays it as a ruler and it kind of works, although you’d sometimes wish she would just crack a smile or something; Sam Rockwell goes way overboard, even though that’s probably what was called on him in the first place, so it’s hard to make sense of whether or not it was a good idea; and the voices of Alan Rickman, Helen Mirren, Stephen Fry, and plenty of others all show up, adding a little bit of zaniness and fun to the overall proceedings, almost making us wish we got to actually see them here, as opposed to just hearing.

Because seeing is believing, as all sci-fi lovers know. And Catholics.

Consensus: Odd and goofy, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has its own style of humor that doesn’t always connect, making the over-packed story feel even a little more straining to comprehend or keep up with.

5.5 / 10

What a gang. Now why weren't they more fun?

What a gang. Now why weren’t they more fun?

Photos Courtesy of: Now Very Bad…

Collateral Beauty (2016)

Mr. Smith Goes to a Wonderful Life.

After the tragic death of his daughter, rich and successful New York ad executive Howard (Will Smith) loses all hope with life. He is, essentially, sleepwalking through it all, barely talking to those around him, getting anything done at work, and just ruining everything that exists in his own world. His coworkers don’t like this – not just because they care and love Howard, but because they’re worried that their company is about to go under. So, in a way to make sure that it doesn’t, the concoct a plan to, in a way, blackmail Howard by hiring three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore), to come up to Howard, talk to him, and make him think about the three aspects in his life that he thinks about the most: Life, Time, and Death. While the partners believe that it’s only Howard’s life who needs some help, eventually, the actors start hanging around them, making them take one look closer at where they’re going with their own lives and how they could make the best of what they’ve got.

So yeah, Collateral Beauty is a pretty bad movie, made from a pretty bad idea. But here’s the dilemma I always seem to run into with movies such as these: Can a movie be so absolutely, positively, no-doubt-about-it horrendous, if it’s barely 90 minutes? A part of me wants to say that it can’t happen, because there are so many movies out there hitting the two-hour run-time, and then some, and are just so bad, that they should have just never happened in the first place.

"Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro."

“Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro.”

But Collateral Beauty, no matter how long or short, is just a bad movie.

And it’s kind of a shame, too, because there’s an iota of a good idea to be found somewhere in the deep, thick and confusing layers of this narrative, but sadly, it just never comes out; it’s stuck under a movie that never makes sense of itself, is so stupid without ever knowing the sheer lengths of its stupidity, and somehow, thinks that it’s changing lives with how deep and meaningful it is. Does this movie mean well and have something to say about life, love, death, time, and family? Sure, a little bit, but does any of that come out in a meaningful, somewhat powerful way that resonates with those who set out to see this?

I don’t think so, or better yet, it didn’t for me. Could I be wrong and nothing more than a heartless, soulless, evil and unforgivably mean a-hole? Most likely, but when it comes to Collateral Beauty, I don’t care – the movie’s bad and if you enjoy it, you’re not a bad human being, you just don’t know what a good movie is supposed to be.

It’s weird, though, because everyone involved with Collateral Beauty is, in one or another, a talented individual. Director David Frankel has definitely had some stinkers in his life, but when he’s on his game (like with Hope Springs or the Devil Wears Prada), his movies are actually enjoyable to watch. Here though, it feels like he had no sword in the battle. For one, he was already replacing the much more interesting Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and, oh yeah, he’s working with a script from Allan Loeb, the same person who have us the scripts to winners like Here Comes the Boom, the Dilemma, and oh man, the Switch.

The Switch, people.

What the hell?

Anyway, so yeah, i feel bad for Frankel because it really feels like he doesn’t know how to make this script play well, or even remotely work on the screen, so in a way, he just sort of gives up, films every scene the way it’s supposed to be shot and let’s the script do all of the talking. Clearly that was the biggest issue for the movie, but it also seems like a battle that someone as plain and as ordinary as Frankel just wasn’t ready to battle; perhaps had Gomez-Rejon stayed on, or maybe even a better director got on-board, something could have been done, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got the finished product of Collateral Beauty, which is stupid from the very beginning and never seems to quick, what with the exception of maybe one or two bright spots to be found in the whole thing.

"Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!"

“Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!”

And yes, most of that comes from the impressive, yet unused ensemble. Will Smith may get top-billing here, but oddly enough, he’s not really in the movie nearly as much as you’d think. And even when he is, he’s downplaying all of that fun, all of that charm, and all of that coolness about him that just radiates off the screen. Nope, instead, he’s playing it sad, depressed and without a single smile to be found. Normally, I’m all for this change of pace, but it never feels real, just calculated; it’s as if someone told him to always have a frown when the camera was on and went one step further and got plastic-surgery to make his face literally look that down and out.

We know he’s better, so why?

And while I’m at it, yep, the rest of the cast here knows better, too. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Michael Pena Jr., Ann Dowd, and freakin’ Dame Helen Mirren are all here, and as good as they may all be, not even they can save whatever the hell it is that they’re stuck with doing. Norton gets his own whole subplot that kind of works and sees him trying something new, while Mirren and Pena have some great scenes together, but honestly, it doesn’t matter – the rest of the movie is way too concerned with itself and trying to make sense of things that will never, ever make sense, no matter how hard the cast, Frankel, or Loeb tries. It’s just sad and a shame to watch, which makes me think why anyone bothered with it in the first place.

Oh well. At least they got paid, right?

Consensus: Silly, random, nonsensical, and as contrived as you are able to get with a wholesome movie, Collateral Beauty tries to do interesting stuff, but it just never pays off and has everyone, especially the great cast, look dumbfounded.

4 / 10

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she's in crap like this.

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she’s in crap like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Eye in the Sky (2016)

Drones aren’t just little playthings.

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) wakes up early, day in and day out, to carry on secret drone missions that are already controversial as is, but still continue in today’s day and age of the war against terrorism. And on this one fateful morning, the Colonel leads a secret mission to capture a terrorist group living in a safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. However, once more and more information comes to her, she soon finds out that the terrorists are planning for a suicide bombing, leading her to now instead actually kill the terrorists. Meanwhile, drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) targets the safe house, however, he spots a nine-year-old girl playing in and around the premises. Watts’ conscience kicks in and all of a sudden, he doesn’t want to blow away the terrorists until he knows that he is ethically, and legally covered on every ground. Certain people in power, like Lieutenant General Frank Benson (Alan Rickman), believe that he is good-to-go, however, others like political representative Brian Woodale (Jeremy Northam), are against it and want to be absolutely in the clear and sure that this situation could get any worse, way before they actually detonate any bomb, of any sort.

Hey, remember this guy?

Doesn’t look like a Captain to me.

On one hand, Eye in the Sky is this slick, contained, but small real-time thriller that likes to keep its audience in the dark about not knowing what to expect next and hanging on each and every character’s word. On the other hand, Eye in the Sky is also a smart, thoughtful think-piece about, well, drones, and all of the questions that surround them? Should we be using them? And if so, to what extent? What’s the certain legal parameters one should have to go through in order to make sure that they are totally, absolutely correct on who it is that they’re dropping a bomb on? And even if there are legal parameters surrounding it, does that make it “right”?

What Eye in the Sky does, for the most part, is deal with the issue of drone warfare stronger, and more effectively than any other movie has so far. Last year’s Good Kill wanted to be about the same thing and its negative effects on its soldiers, but was also more concerned with its central character and his reaction to drones. Here, Eye in the Sky is more about the actual debate, in and of itself, where people are arguing different, sometimes opposing sides, while at the same time, still trying to make sure that they’re trying to stop a terrorist from doing anything bad. Certain characters here could have probably been labeled as “white-blooded liberal”, or “trigger-happy republican”, and the point would have gotten across, as to who stood on what side of the debate and for what reasons.

Writer/director Gavin Hood could have clearly made any of this material boring and overly-preachy, but instead, he keeps it exciting, tense, and above all else, hard-hitting.

Eye in the Sky, for better or worse, feels like the right movie to address this debate that, quite frankly, is still going on. Society still hasn’t quite latched onto the fact that they’re puny, almost indecipherable robots floating around in our skies, watching our every move, ensuring that nobody’s up to anything naughty and if we are, then how and when can we be stopped. Surely this sort of warfare is intended more for terrorists, but once again, the movie lays on another question: What constitutes a “terrorist”? Obviously, those setting-up and putting together a bomb aimed and ready to get rid of thousands of innocents can be labeled as such, but what about those closely related to that same person? Does that make them guilty by association? Or could they have no idea about this person’s ideals and still get the nuke because, well, they were around and it might as well happen?

Once again, Eye in the Sky brings up all of these questions, gives us some answers, but mostly, leaves you could. This is intended, however, as Hood seems like he’s clearly interested in drone-warfare, for better, as well as for worse. From what it seems, Hood knows that, in some cases, drones may be effective, but in most cases, they bring doubt on those getting locked and loaded to drop the bomb. While someone lower on the food-chain may hear that they’re “getting rid of a heavily-armed and dangerous terrorist”, that person still doesn’t know a single thing about the specifics or what they’re being told is actually true. With Aaron Paul’s pilot character, we see the frustration in how he doesn’t want to drop the bomb on these suspected terrorists just yet, but knows that he has to if he wants to keep his job and not piss the wrong people off in power.

Is Eye in the Sky anti-Army? I’m not sure.

They'll definitely think more the next time they play Call of Duty.

They’ll definitely think more the next time they play Call of Duty.

Either way, Hood seems to be firing on and firing on all cylinders here, and well, it damn well works. Despite all of my yammering on about what the movie talks about and goes to great lengths to argue, Eye in the Sky truly is a tense experience. The mission itself goes from one avenue, to another, with one twist coming after another, but it never seems manipulative or necessary – if anything, it just adds more levels of intensity to a mission that could have been simple and easy-to-solve, but now, has become as complex as they get. But it’s done well in that it keeps you watching, even if you know there’s only one way this movie can seemingly end: With people dying.

And speaking of the people here, everyone’s pretty solid. Helen Mirren holds the fort down as Colonel Katherine Powell, the head gal in charge who is ready for this mission from the very start of her day and won’t stop at anything until its completed; Aaron Paul gets to look dour and scared, which he’s fine at; Barkhad Abdi plays an agent on the ground and, while he’s not doing a whole heck of a lot, it still made me happy to see him doing something (with new teeth, mind you); and the late, great Alan Rickman shows up as Lieutenant General Frank Benson, someone who is back in the office, watching as the action unfolds. While it’s a fine performance from a great actor, what really sets it over the bar, by the end, is a small, but meaningful little speech from Rickman and how it’s either get rid of the terrorists with the time they have, rather than step back and wait for the damage to be done. There’s a certain sadness and heartbreak in his eyes and it’s hard not to think about, long after seeing Eye in the Sky.

Not just for Rickman, but in general. But yeah, also for Rickman.

RIP, man.

Consensus: Incredibly tense without playing its hand too much, Eye in the Sky is the near-perfect thriller that deals with the heavy issues and questions, but also likes to keep its audience on-their-toes as well.

8.5 / 10

"Hello? Yes. Drop that bloody bomb!"

“Hello? Yes. Drop that bloody bomb!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Queen (2006)

God save the queen, indeed.

After the death of Princess Diana, all of London was a public mess. People were crying, leaving beds of flowers, and in a downtrodden depression that hadn’t been since the days of the sudden deaths of John Lennon, or Elvis Presley. However, one person who wasn’t quite as tearful or as upset as the rest of the general public was her former mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren). Elizabeth, even though she tried to appreciate Diana for what she was, can’t understand why so many people would be in such a fit over somebody who, to be honest, they didn’t know. Surely, Elizabeth doesn’t get the point of this sadness, which is why she seems to live her life as usual, walking around with her beloved Corgis, appreciating her husband (James Cromwell), and doing what she always does. Except, this is probably not the best thing for Elizabeth to do, what with Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) ascending to the office of Prime Minister, creating more tension and hatred for her in the press and among public opinion. Eventually, Elizabeth starts to look at the situation in a different light and realize a little something new about herself, as well as the rest of London.

More skin is always better, Philip.

More leg is always better, Philip.

The Queen is an interesting drama, in that everything about it screams “Oscar-bait”, however, the way in which the movie actually plays out, shows something somewhat different. For one, director Stephen Frears approaches the material, not with an overabundance of metaphors and moments of sheer importance, but with a delicate, attention-paying hand and eye that’s more concerned about these actual few people or so, rather than trying to make some statement about how the Queen’s ideals represent an older way of life, against what Diana represented. Surely, all of this material was probably here for Frears to work with, but because he doesn’t see the need in making his material more heavy-handed than it has any right to be, it plays out a little bit better than it would have, had the Academy been sneering towards his way.

At the same time, however, the Queen is also a movie that doesn’t really do much with itself.

I don’t mean this as a way to say that the movie is boring, as there’s plenty to look at, pay attention to, and think about, even when it seems like there’s hardly anything to look or think about. But what I do mean to say is that the Queen deals with such a small issue, in such a particularly subtle way, that if you aren’t already in love with the Queen, the royal family, or everything that the British Royal stand for the most, then sadly, you’ll be kind of lost. For me, I found it hard to care whether or not Queen Elizabeth actually came to terms with the death and subsequent public outcry of Princess Diana. Most of this has to do with the fact that, well, nothing’s really at-stake here; nobody’s going to be calling for the decapitation of her, there’s not going to be any impeachment, and there will surely be no moment of spiritual awakening.

Everything, as they say, will remain the same. Some things may change, but overall, it will be the same as it always was.

And even though watching as a bunch of British cabinet members run around, talking with one another, and generally looking as serious as can be, may sound like fun to some, it doesn’t always sound as fun to me, especially when there isn’t much to grab at here. Frears does a smart thing in that he doesn’t try to overdo the movie with a heavily-stylized direction, but because of this, the movie can sometimes feel as if it’s just treading along, at its own, meandering pace, where people talk and do things, but really, what does any of it matter? Once again, I know I may be in the minority of saying bad things about this relatively beloved film, but for me, while watching the Queen, it was hard to really get sucked into what was going on, especially when there didn’t seem to be much of anything at-stake, except for people’s own hearts, feelings and self-respect.

"Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!"

“Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!”

To me, that’s only high-stakes drama if we undoubtedly care for the subjects whose hearts, feelings, and self-respect is on the line, and with the Queen, some characters were sympathetic, others were not. Helen Mirren won the Oscar for this here and it makes total sense; not only does she downplay the whole role, but she really gets inside of Queen Elizabeth II’s mind, body and soul, wherein we see here deal with this tragedy in the only way she can – without saying, or doing much at all. And of course, there’s a lot of what Queen Elizabeth II says about the public that’s not only funny, but honest, too, giving us the impression that she’s a lady who doesn’t hold back when expressing her feelings on a certain issue, regardless of whether it’s in-line with public opinion, or not.

This isn’t the kind of performance that tends to win Oscars, which is perhaps why Mirren’s performance is all the more illuminating.

But once again, what’s at stake? According to the movie, it’s everything and anything, but in reality, it doesn’t feel like much. We hear a lot from Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair who, considering that the public loves just about everything he does and says, generally seems to be the voice of reason amidst all of the pain and turmoil, but even he turns into this sappy mess who, seemingly out of nowhere, is breaking into speeches about the Queen, her pride, her courage, and why everybody should stick right up for. Maybe the actual Tony Blair was like this, but it seems to come out of nowhere in a film that paints him in an odd light. Same goes for James Cromwell’s Prince Philip, who seems more concerned about his stag, and less about anything else that’s going on.

Once again, maybe this is how the real people, but it still doesn’t grab me even more and make me actually give a flyin’ hoot.

Consensus: Though the direction and performances are much smaller than you’d expect from the typical, awards-friendly fare that the Queen exists in, there’s still not enough to make someone who generally doesn’t care about subjects such as these, actually start doing that.

6 / 10

"Kiss it. Kiss it harder."

“Kiss it. Kiss it harder.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Identity Theory, Cineplex

Trumbo (2015)

Wow. Communists make the best screenplays.

In 1947, there was nobody hotter than Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While he wasn’t the one you’d see on the screen, he was still the one responsible for so many great flicks, that people come to love and appreciate his work. But after this, people started to worry about his politics. See, Trumbo, as well as a few countless others of his closest friends and confidantes, were all blacklisted for showing their support for the Communist regime. Because of this, just about everybody who was blacklisted, were told to come forward and give away more names – for those dedicated few who didn’t, they risked never working in Hollywood ever again. Trumbo was one of those people, however, he still found a way to keep on working and turning out scripts, without ever jeopardizing the studios he actually wrote for. Through the next few years, Trumbo will write some of the very best screenplays, to some of the most iconic and revered movies of today’s day and age, however, all of that hard work and hardly any play begins to take a toll on Trumbo, as well as his loving, caring family who depend on him and his talents.

Wife = good.

Wife = good.

A lesser film, by a lesser director probably would have just kept the story limited to just Trumbo being accused of being a Communist and leaving it at that. However, because Trumbo isn’t a lesser film, and because Jay Roach isn’t a lesser director, there’s more going on with Trumbo’s life that the movie continues to focus on. And while the movie may definitely benefit from having a source as strong and as interesting as Trumbo to make their movie about, it still deserves to be said that Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz entertainment that shows us everything we despise about the industry, as well as the things we love.

Sure, maybe it’s more of love than hate, but hey, it’s still a pretty place that anybody would want to be apart of, if they had the talent to pull it all off.

But like I said, Trumbo is all about Hollywood at a certain period and time that was, on one side, very exciting and glamorous, but on the other, quite scary as well. What Trumbo does best is that it highlights the absolute paranoia and fear those within Hollywood feared due to the Communist blacklisting; while most of those associated with the biz were also Communist sympathizers, they weren’t allowed to come out and say so because, well, they wanted to continue to work. There’s a select few of insiders with Trumbo’s group of trusted allies that all seem to be on the same page, initially, but slowly and surely, start to peter-off and throw the other under the bus, just so that they can continue to work and make as much money as they were before. While we may not share a whole lot of sympathy for these attractive stars and celebrities, there’s still a certain feeling of some sadness when one or two of them have to suck their pride in, accept their lashings, and move on with their careers.

At the same time though, Trumbo is still, first and foremost, a small biopic of a movie legend that, honestly, not many people remember or still treat as an inspiration.

Though it’s interesting to see how Trumbo, the man, handles all of the negative press and attacks he gets for being a Communist party sympathizer, it’s even more so when the later part of his career comes into play and he’s stuck writing crappy scripts, for crappy production companies, and sometimes, making great scripts, for great companies, but not being able to take any sort of credit. It’s both fun and exciting to watch, while, at the same time, a bit heart-wrenching because we know that Trumbo deserves all of the credit and praise for these scripts, but just can’t actually go out into the world and say so.

Not to mention, it’s great to see a flick that focuses on, most of all, a screen-writer. So rarely do screen-writers get the credit that they so rightfully deserve – especially those from the older-days of Hollywood. While there were a few directors who directed their own screenplays, for the most part, directors made scripts that they picked-up and decided to go from there – due to this, not a lot of screen-writers got the whole credit that they deserved. With Trumbo, Roach not only shows that it’s definitely up to the writer themselves, to tell whether or not a piece is going to work.

Because, quite frankly, if you don’t have a good screenwriter, what good is your movie anyway?

Journalist = bad.

Journalist = bad.

As Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston does a nice job of taking what could have been, at first, a very over-the-top impersonation of the real life figure, but then takes it one step further and digs deeper. There’s a lot more to Trumbo than just a bunch of witty-lines, humor, and a fancy ‘stache; the dude’s actually getting to become a bit stressed-out and screwed-up from writing all of these screenplays and not being able to take any credit for them. Cranston’s good here as he not only shows the light-hearted, fun-loving side to this man, but also the sometimes angry, almost spiteful side as well.

And everybody else surrounding Cranston is quite good in their own roles, too. Though Diane Lane isn’t asked much to do, she still gets some bright, shining moments as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, who wants nothing more than for her family to be happy and peaceful; Helen Mirren is nastier than ever as Hedda Hopper, the most hated journalist at the time and shows just why she was so despised, but why she was also always getting dirt on those around her; Louis C.K. has a couple of nice scenes with Cranston as one of Trumbo’s buddies who is involved with the Communist-sympathizing party; and Michael Stuhlbarg does a good job at giving us more to Edward G. Robinson, but never fully lapsing into an impersonation that seems like a parody.

If there’s anything about Trumbo is that, when all is said and done, it’s a fine piece of cinema, but that’s about it. Having focused on Dalton Trumbo and looking at all the work that he’s created over the years, the movie definitely doesn’t live up to the legacies, but as it is, it’s still a fine piece of showbiz entertainment. People laugh, people cry, people learn lessons, people get better, and most importantly, people make a lot of money. That’s about all there is to showbiz, which is why that’s all there is to Trumbo.

Consensus: Maybe not setting the biopic world on fire, Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz drama that doesn’t step too far out of its comfort-zone, but also benefits largely from having such a talented cast on-board.

7 / 10

Screenwriter = always good.

Screenwriter = always good.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Woman in Gold (2015)

The Nazis just can’t help themselves when they see a lovely portrait, apparently.

Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, has stood the test of time and will forever be known as one of the art world’s finest paintings ever created. However, during the Nazis raid on Vienna before WWII, it was confiscated and hidden for many years, all until Austria decided to start showcasing it in is museums. An elderly Holocaust survivor living in Los Angeles by the name of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), notices this and is ashamed. Why? Well, because the subject of that painting was her aunt and she rightfully believes that the painting belongs to her, in the name of her family and late, great aunt. But for some reason, the Austrian government isn’t budging and doesn’t want to give it back, so this is when Maria calls into a son of one of her friends, E. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), who doesn’t seem all that involved with the proceedings to really give all the juice that a high-level case like this would need. However, Maria is inspired enough to try and get him to change his mind so that he will see this is not only her battle, but all of Jewish people’s.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she's astonished by whatever is in front of her.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she’s astonished by whatever is in front of her.

With last year’s the Monuments Men, we got to see the art world portrayed as it almost had never been before: On the gritty and war-torn landscapes of WWII, where people were constantly killing each other left and right, yet, to ensure that a sense of culture would stay alive and well in the years to come, a group of inspired art enthusiasts set out to retrieve pieces of art work that they believed were to be burned away by the Nazis. It was an interesting premise, for sure, and while the movie may have not done it all justice, there was still this intriguing aspect surrounding WWII that isn’t just discussing the obvious; even though everybody is acting in heinous, sadistic ways, that does not mean we have to lose sight of what makes us who we are. And somehow, art is exactly what represents that.

However, this is all just me talking and not at all what this movie discusses. Instead, it has more to do with Maria Altmann, the person, rather than the whole idea that the Nazis stole and most likely destroyed more than half of these foreign countries pieces of art. And for what? Just to prove how mean and grotesque they are? Or was it just to ensure that they would be the tale-tellers of history for generations to come, understand and listen to?

Maybe, maybe not. But hey, look how witty that Maria Altmann was!

Or, at least, that’s what I imagined was going through this movie’s mind as it seems to be more concerned with the lovely, little witticisms Altmann, the character, has to offer. Which is to say that Helen Mirren, for what it’s worth, does a solid job in this role in that she shows us the never ending sadness behind this character that hardly ever seemed to left, even when she did get a chance to escape Vienna and save herself from impending doom. But even with that brave act on her part, still comes the realization that everybody she came to know, love and spend most of her time around in her younger years, are all gone; maybe if they weren’t killed during the Nazis reign, maybe they are now. Maria Altmann is a lonely woman who is literally trying to hold on to whatever source of family or love she has left in her life.

However, this is all me looking deeper and deeper into what is, essentially, a buddy-cop dramedy with Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren; which, trust me, isn’t as fun as I may make it sound. Sure, they fight the baddies (in this case, the Austrian government), they bicker, they solve problems, and along the way, get to know more about each other through revealing conversations about their past or their feelings. All that’s missing is any bit of emotion.

Actually, that’s a lie. Because the only time that there is any emotion at all to be found, is whenever we flashback to Altmann’s life in Vienne, both before, as well as during the time where the Nazis came around and started terrorizing everything and everyone they ran into. There’s a sequence that runs for at least ten to 15 minutes where the younger-Altmann (Tatiana Maslany) and her hubby (Jack Irons) are on the run from the Gestapo, which is thrilling and exciting, even if you don’t expect it to be. Because we know that Altmann ultimately survived escaping from Vienna before the Nazis got to her first, this shouldn’t work one bit, but somehow, it totally does and felt like a solid diversion from whatever the hell Riggs and Murtagh were doing or talking about.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

And I guess there is something to be said by the fact that Reynolds, like Mirren, at least tries with this character, but he isn’t given much of anything else to do except whine a lot and then, seemingly out of nowhere, gain the courage to fight against the Austrian government once and for all. Even Katie Holmes’ performance as his character’s wife, feels like she’s there just to pump him up and give him inspirational pull-quotes that will ultimately do everything for him, but nothing for us. Which is all a problem, especially when you’re begging and pleading with us to be involved with Altmann’s tale of tribulations.

Although Simon Curtis does genuinely seem to care for this story and the outcome of it all, it never seems like he’s putting absolutely all of his heart into it. Instead, he’s just sort of going through the motions of how we’re supposed to feel somewhat compelled by this type of story, until we realize that Curtis himself is using it as material to talk about the fact that there are plenty more paintings out there, either hidden or in plain-view, that were taken away from their rightful owners during the time of war. Once again, this is probably the most interesting notion that the movie seems to highlight, yet, never actually seems to care about.

Instead, he just wants us all to laugh at the cheeky woman that was Maria Altmann, who is about as funny as my alcoholic uncle on New Year’s Eve.

Consensus: Going through all of the motions you expect it to go through, the Woman in Gold seems to suffer from the lack of any sort of emotion, even if both Mirren and Reynolds seem to be digging deep and far to find any of it.

4 / 10

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

State of Play (2009)

Bloggers can’t pull off stunts like this. Not even me. And I’m Dan the Man, dammit!

Washington D.C. reporter, Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) is the type of guy you want telling the news. He gets his facts straight, no bias-stance whatsoever, and he always seems to find an impressive hook on how to make it worth reading or caring about. The latest story that comes his way, puts him in a bit of a rough position because not only is one of his close friends involved with it, Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), but because it’s surprisingly a life-or-death situation that escalated to that level quite quickly. With young, hot-and-ready reporter Della Frye (Rachel McAdams), he’ll figure out who exactly was Collin’s mistress, whether her death was a suicide or a murder, why somebody would want her dead, and whether or not it’s even worth risking their life for. Then again though, he works at a newspaper, and I think any story, is a story worth telling, so he’ll go with what he can get.

"Be careful, Rachel. We all know what he does with phones when he's upset."

Be careful, Rachel. We all know what he does with phones when he’s upset.

Surely a movie about a newspaper industry seems already dated, way before conception and release, but that’s where this flick works so well. It is a modern-day thriller, where computers, the internet, smart phones, and texting reigns supreme; however, director Kevin MacDonald also frames this movie in a way that makes you feel like you’re watching one of those old-school, classy, and cool thrillers from the 70’s, where conspiracies ran high, and it was all up to the dedicated reporter to get the truth out. Nowadays, it seems like you go anywhere for any bits of news information, everybody knows about it and has reasoning/sources, but that makes it so sweet to get a flick that reminds us that the old methods of information-sharing still exists, even if it isn’t used quite as often as it once was. Then again, maybe being the fact that I’m a Journalism Major makes me more sympathetic to the issue.

Actually, that’s most likely the reason, but so be it!

Anyway, the film. What works well here is that even though it does seem to be very dense in every piece of detail, every clue, and every hint it throws at us, it never feels confusing. Practically, we are strung along on a trip of finding out anything we can about what’s going on, and are left in the dark about other stuff as well. We think we get the full picture more than a couple of times, and then, we are thrown right for a loop when a slight piece of info comes out and proves us wrong. It messes with our minds and has us curious by how it’s all going to pan-out; but it never feels manipulative.

Where most thrillers would make have conceit becomes over-used and overstay its welcome, MacDonald uses it more to his advantage, in a way to almost coax us into believing all that we hear and see as fact, and nothing but it. With most thrillers like these, we can’t always expect to take in all that’s thrown at us as pure fact, but we do have to believe in it, and I never felt like I was seeing a movie that went maybe a bit too over-zealous with its twists. Mainly, I always felt like MacDonald always knew what he was doing, what he wanted to show us, what he didn’t want to show us, what he wanted us to think at certain moments, and how he wanted us to feel when certain conclusions were made. Many times you’ll be surprised with where one twist will take you, but such is the skill of a thriller, when it’s a thriller done right. And to add on the fact that it’s a movie about the dedication and hardships that reporters take when it comes to getting their stories right, while also making sure to get them out there first; it’s almost like adding a cherry on top. Especially for me.

What can I say? I’m a sucker for these types of movies. Twisty-thrillers and movies about journalists!

But while the movie does work in keeping us on an unpredictable, turny path, it does show some weaknesses as well, ones that became more apparent to me once I got to thinking of them. First of all, I think that having the friendship-clash between Collins and McAffrey works as its own thing, so therefore, to throw in Collins’ wife to the mix, as to set-up some sort of love-triangle, feels manipulative and unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, Robin Wright is solid as Collins’ wife, as she plays around with the feeling of being betrayed by her own husband, but also curious enough to get him right back. She’s the perfect form of snidely, evil, and sexy that I’ve ever seen from her, but her character doesn’t need to be used in this light, or even at all. She definitely brings on more guilt to the Collins character, but other than that: Not much else.

While I’m on the subject of the cast, let me just say that all-around, this is a very solid ensemble that feels as if they were hand-picked, for good reasons: 1.) they can all act, and 2.) they actually get a chance to show the mainstream world what they can do when they aren’t slumming themselves down for Hollywood. Russell Crowe seems like he’s a bit too brutish and tough to be taken seriously as this meek and soft, but determined reporter, but somehow, the guy pulls it off very believably. There’s an essence to his character where you know you can trust him to do the right thing, but you don’t quite know if he’s going to get coaxed into doing it, or not. Actually, that’s a pretty interesting point about his personality that movie brings up, but never really develops further, is the fact that not only does he have a job to do, which indicates responsibility, but he has a friend that he obviously cares for and wants to protect. So, basically: What does he do? Turn on his friend, and give the world the spicy story, no details left aside, or, does he stay true to his friend, and give the public a story that has him come out unscathed? The movie sheds this light a couple of times, but by the end, totally loses all sense of it and just stops worrying about it after awhile. Could have really done wonders for itself, but sadly, just does not.

Batman getting rough with Kal-El's daddy? Is this a sign of things to come?!?!

Batman getting rough with Kal-El’s daddy? Is this a sign of things to come?!?!

Boo.

Playing Congressman Stephen Collins is Ben Affleck, and I have to say, the guy does quite a swell job here. No, he’s not perfect and he isn’t as enthralling as you’d expect a conflicted-figure like his to be, but he does what the roles asks upon him to do: Show enough feeling to where you could be viewed upon as “sympathetic”, but not too weak to where you don’t seem like you couldn’t be a bit of a rat-bastard as well. With that idea, Affleck does wonders and shows the rest of the world that he can still act (even though by ’09, people already knew that).

Rachel McAdams is also a fiery-sword as the young and brass blogger that hops aboard this story, and seems to be really enjoying herself, whether it’s when she has her time on her own, or if she’s around fellow co-stars and gets a chance to strut her stuff. Either way, she holds her own and doesn’t come off as annoying, or way-too-in-over-her-head or anything along those lines. She’s just Rachel McAdams, and that’s perfect as is.

The rest of the stacked-cast is pretty awesome too, with some getting more notice than the others: I wish there was more of Helen Mirren, but then again, I feel like that could be a criticism for any movie, so I’ll leave it be with that; pre-Newsroom Jeff Daniels shows that he has the acting chops to, one minute, be playing a sophisticated charmer, and then the next minute, be as corrupt and evil as the same politicians he talks out against; Viola Davis gets a short, but sweet cameo as a morgue-employee; and Jason Bateman shows up all coked-up, high-living, and fun as one of Collins’ known-associates, and almost steals the movie all by himself. Almost.

Consensus: Sure, State of Play is nothing more than a classic-piece of deception, cheating, lying, and suspense, all placed around the idea of a newspaper, but for that reason, it’s still entertaining and compelling to watch.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

In this situation, I think Helen Mirren is the one to be feared the most.

In this situation, I think Helen Mirren is the one to be feared the most.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Red 2 (2013)

Still old, and still have the right to bear arms. So why the hell can’t I?

A couple of years after we left off with the first adventure, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) have finally taken time to relax and settle down. That all ends abruptly once Moses’ old pal Marvin (John Malkovich), comes back to stir up more trouble, telling him that they have both been linked to a top-secret Cold War weapon, that somehow made it’s way online. They all realize that they can’t just wait around and see what happens and instead, have to go on the run. To make matters worse however, they also find out that a bounty has been put on their head, where their old friend Victoria (Helen Mirren) and Moses’ old protégé Han (Lee Byung-hun) are on their tales and trying to get a slice of the pie any which way they can.

Most of you probably already saw by now, but I didn’t care too much for the first Red. Granted, I didn’t hate it, nor did I love it. It was just fun and fine for what it was, and that was that. However, nobody in their right mind was begging for a sequel to it, and I don’t think anybody ever will bother again, especially after this hunk of crap.

Bald heads: Unite!

Bald heads: Unite!

I mean honestly, the first one was no masterpiece to begin with, so how the hell do you screw up a simple plot about a bunch of old people getting back into action, blowing things up, and being a tad bit goofy while doing so? It’s not a hard trick to pull off, which is what the first was able to do with such ease and a laid-back feel, but not this one. This movie feels like it was almost trying too hard to be like the first movie, with the same type of humor still in place but it does not work a bit because it’s not refreshing anymore. It’s an old trick we saw done before and it’s not going to get cooler or newer as by the second, which wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t noticeable why they focused on the comedy aspect of this movie so much.

The first flick was able to balance everything out nicely, but this flick doesn’t have that skill at all. It’s mostly all comedy, all of the time and would have been fine if it was the least bit funny or chuckling, but it’s just not. It continues to go on and on and on, beating the same old joke to a bloody pulp, until it’s practically crammed itself into your brain, as if you needed any more understanding or learning of what the jokes they were trying to throw at you meant. For example, the perfect instance of a joke going on way too long, and way too far was the first time that Sarah saw her man, Frank, hooking up with another gal. For some odd reason, this gets her hormones all up in a twist and she not only decides to up the ante by getting with two guys, but I’d say about three or four. Honestly, I lost track counting because the movie continued to move with it, but instead of having it move somewhere to a spot where it would constantly be funny or inventive to use in a certain spot, it’s continued to be used the same, exact way each and every time.

Like everything else in this movie, the comedy gets real old, real quick, and it never stops. Then again, it wouldn’t have mattered, had the action or the story worked a bit, but they don’t. The plot makes no sense and eventually, I just lost myself wondering, “Why this person was trying to kill this person? Or, why this was happening at all?” The movie oddly begins with the typical plot from the first movie that’s standard, simple, and to-the-point, but then journalists, terrorists, the Russians, and nukes get involved, and it becomes too much of a chore to keep up with, or even care about for that matter. The action is good at points, I’ll give it that, but also looks cheaply-done, as if the studio itself didn’t have enough faith in the movie to perform well enough at the box office to really be granted as much money as the past two Willis action pictures of the year (A Good Day to Die Hard, G.I. Joe: Retaliation). Whether or not the movie’s actually going to make much money at the box office, or at least enough to earn it’s money back is a worry that I don’t give two shits about. I really don’t.

But at least, even in the darkest pit of the movie’s worst, most uninspired moments (which there are plenty of, trust me), the cast is enjoyable enough to watch, right? Well, it’s more of a mixed-bag this time around than the last and that’s because everybody’s doing the same act they did from the first, except it’s more amped-up because it’s a sequel, and whatever you do in the originals, means you have to do a lot more in the sequels. Such as is the case with the likes of Malkovich, Mirren, and Louise-Parker who had me chuckling and happy at some points, but seemed to be using the same old shtick that made them so pleasing to watch in the first movie. Granted, there is something grating about watching Helen Mirren hold up two machine-guns as she blasts the opposing-cars around her, but it can only go so far. She’s rarely in the movie all that much and doesn’t leave much of an impression at all, unlike the first movie where her holding a machine-gun was worth the price of admission alone.

Fire. Machine Gun. Helen Mirren. I need a new pair of shorts.

Fire. Machine Gun. Helen Mirren. I need a new pair of undies.

Still foxy, though. Holy hot damn, is she foxy.

New-comers to the franchise are Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lee Byung-hun, who both seem to actually try with this material, but fall short of juicing anything out of it. Hopkins especially, who probably gives the most disappointing performance out of the whole movie considering he seems to obviously have the spunk and energy that would make this material pop and electric, but his constant ramblings and oddness just bothered me, rather than amusing me. Even if the old joke about “the nut who still talks to his imaginary friends” isn’t funny anymore (when was it ever), don’t tell this flick that. Anything this movie has to throw at you with it’s sense of humor, it will, and if you don’t like it, then scram-off and see a different movie for goddsakes. No seriously, do that.

And last, but sure as hell not least we have Bruce Willis himself, playing Frank Moses in the blandest-way possible. I will give credit to Willis, he was fun to watch as Moses in the first movie as he seemed to have a jolly good time doing his usual “tough guy” persona to the death, and never letting up for a single action scene where it may have called on for him to get a tad physical. However, like he has been known to do in the past, he’s simply phoning it in here as Moses, as if he didn’t want to do a sequel, but just chose to because the money was good and the franchise most likely would not survive without his name attached to it. I don’t think his name attached is going to matter now, since it sucked, but let’s hope we don’t get another sequel. Let’s just hope on that one.

Consensus: Red 2 feels like it’s trying way, way too hard to be like the first one in spots, but this time, with less action and more comedy, that not only isn’t funny, but is repetitive and gets old after about the first 20 minutes or so.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Looks like they just got caught in the act of making a sequel to Red. Oh wait...

Looks like they just got caught in the act of making a sequel to Red. Oh wait…

Red (2010)

They are old as hell, and not going to take it anymore!

Retired CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) has found himself in a bit of trouble when a younger, hot-shot CIA agent (Karl Urban) is hot on his trail. Rather than running away and hoping that he doesn’t get caught, Moses not only takes a possible gal-pal of his (Mary-Louise Parker) along for the ride, but also calls up some of his old pals as well. Some have been waiting for this sort of action all of their later-days (Morgan Freeman); others have just been lounging and relaxing in retirement (Helen Mirren); and well, frankly, others have never left the force and are still waiting to get attacked any second, at any time (John Malkovich). Together, they form the team that they once were and stop at nothing until they unveil the truth about their pasts.

The whole idea of having a bunch of old-farts, go back to their golden days and act all bad-ass and violent again has been just about done to death by now nor has it ever really worked. Most movies like that try so hard to be funny and zany with it’s presentation, that you too, have to laugh at it because honestly, just think about it: Would a small, petite thing like Helen Mirren be able to hold up a huge machine-gun? Well, maybe in the movies, yes, but in real-life: hell no! That’s why movies like these are made; they are supposed to make us laugh by how outrageous they are, supposed to make us feel happy for the old people getting in the spotlight once again, and most of all, supposed to make us feel like we can join in on the fun.

None of these factors that are supposed to work for this type of film, actually happen here, but I still found myself pleased for the most part. Weird, I know, but please do bare with me here.

Totally see the attraction....

Totally see the attraction….

The whole tone of the movie likes to play around with the fact that it’s goofy, but is also very laid-back. A little too laid-back, some may say. For instance, the plot is supposed to be filled to the core with non-stop twists, turns, moments of danger, panic, and heavy-breathing, but since the movie itself seems to take such a lax-approach to it’s material; we never really get to that part where we feel like all hell is going to break loose and that our beloved characters could perish at any moment. Heck, even when one does (and I’m not going to give it away, trust me) bite the dust, quite surprisingly too, I may add; the film plays it off with a shrug of the shoulder, a couple of shots (of Vodka, obviously), a couple of wisecracks about how they’re “too old for this shit”, or something along those lines, and then they’re back on with the story, action, and supposed humor. It’s an odd way to attack a film like this, especially when you’re supposed to have havoc occurring just about every second of it, and it somehow didn’t quite work.

But still, I can’t fault this movie too much because yes, I did have fun and yes, I did enjoy what most of what this flick had to offer me. Could it have been better? Bet your damn tushes it could have been, but I wasn’t going to be hating against this flick for something that it wasn’t, especially when I didn’t see much potential in it in the first place. That means, nope, I have not read the graphic novels that this movie is based off of, but coming from a person who knows what type of movies work and how they should, I know that this movie was not destined for anything more than a couple million at the box-office, some nice sales on DVD, and back to the box of forgotten movies (aka, WalMart $5 Dollar Bin).

But, much to my surprise, I was wrong. Dead-wrong, in fact, and one Golden Globe nomination later (then again, the Tourist was nominated that year as well), the movie screwed-away all of the nay-sayers and just had fun with itself. That was something I was very grateful for, especially when you take into consideration how freakin’ dumb and dull action movies can get nowadays, no matter what type of talent is involved. What makes it so much better to watch here is that not only is the cast the movie working with, very acclaimed and very strange for this type of material, but actually how the movie doesn’t let us forget that this is a dumb action movie that not only did they sign up for, but one that we did, as well. That sharing of fun and joy, is what makes this movie work and at the end of it, I can’t say that I wasn’t disappointed. Besides, who would pass-up a moment to watch John Malkovich run towards the Vice President with a bomb strapped to his chest.

Okay, maybe that was a bit too weird, but you see what I’m saying. It’s fun, for the sake of being fun, that it’s. Nada!

Even if the material is dumb and only made so that you’ll get the Extra Large popcorn and hopefully come back for a refill, the cast still doesn’t treat it like that, which does sometimes work, and sometimes doesn’t. More of the former than the latter, but the latter is more noticeable. I don’t want to say that Bruce Willis seemed like he was phoning it in here as Frank Moses, but it does seem like the type of performance that the dude has been giving us every so often. He squints, he makes random googly-eyes whenever possible, and just seems as if he’s itching to say everybody’s favorite line. It is John McClane, so you can’t go too wrong when you have Willis and a gun in his hand, but after awhile, the act does get stale and it seems that the dude is more or less just in the mood for getting a new summer house, rather than actually putting in any effort into making his character three-dimensional or fun to watch.

The one who really keeps his character interesting and begging for more is Mary-Louise Parker as his gal-pal, Sarah. Parker has never really got me much in the movies that she’s shown up in, but she does well here with the humor-aspect of her character, and also being able to make us believe that this chick could fall for a dude like Moss, no matter how dull or boring he actually may be, underneath all of the violence and espionage. Of course even for her age, she is still freakin’ smokin’, but looks aside, the chick’s got comedic-chops that are always worth checking out. Along with her other chops. Hayyo!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you're going to get. Okay, that's a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Cheer up, guys. This is the best you’re going to get. Okay, that’s a lie, but still: cheer the fuck up!

Helen Mirren doesn’t let Parker steal her spotlight as being the only chick that has something bad-ass to say or do, and gets to show us why she’s still so damn foxy, fun, vibrant, and awesome to watch, no matter what the hell it is that she does. Yes, she played the Queen no less than 7 years ago, and here she is, holding up a machine-gun and letting the mofo’s have it. Awesome. John Malkovich seems like his role as the paranoid, loose cannon of the group would be tailor-made for a dude who’s made a career out of these types of roles, but much to my dismay, played it straight most of the time. It was still entertaining to watch this guy play around with a character that’s a bit loopy in the head, but he never goes so far, to the point of where you can really tell this guy couldn’t wait to start killing people, something that, I think I speak for everybody else when I say, is what seems to go through Malkovich’s mind whenever he plays characters like these.

Lastly, rounding everybody else out here, is Morgan Freeman as the oldest dude of the group, who also happens to be diagnosed with liver cancer and is need of this fun and adventure the most. Freeman is good in the role, even if it doesn’t seem totally right for him, considering how unsubstantial his character is to the plot, and how half of the time the dude is just sitting around, smiling, and poppin’ B’s, as he checks out the house-maids “fix” the television. Yup, apparently when you get old, that’s all you have to live for: boners. Even if you are Morgan fuckin’ Freeman.

Consensus: Some of it tries to be more witty and wild than it actually is, but Red still stays fun, light, energetic, and well-acted enough to be worth a watch, even if you do just want a silly action movie, with non-other than Dame Helen Mirren holding up a machine-gun. Seriously, it’s so awesome to see occur on-screen.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

See what I'm talking about!!!

See what I’m talking about!?!?!

Monsters University (2013)

Now how much is a red cup going to cost?

Before they became pals working at Monsters Inc., Sully and Mike (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) were just your ordinary college student. They were young, ambitious, hopeful, happy, and willing to allow anything to happen, just as long as they finally had a chance to get their dream job. However, what some may be surprised about is that they weren’t friends right from the beginning and actually found more things to dislike about each other, than actually like. But through certain bits of challenges and obstacles, they will come together to realize who’s scarier, who’s wiser, and why they don’t like each other in the first place. Oh, and it’s also at a college so mind you; there may be some underage drinking involved.

Ending on the note that Monsters, Inc. did back in the day, it’s an honest surprise that they didn’t go forward with the sequel instead. We do like these characters and we would like to visit them again, but does it really have to be a prequel, especially one that takes place on a college-campus? I didn’t think so, but Pixar seems to really be scrounging the Earth for ideas, so it’s no surprise they re-hashed something that they knew would win over the older-crowd that still gives them money, day-in-and-day-out, thinking that they’re going to see the next Wall-E or Toy Story; as well as the new crowd that’s probably expecting something like Brave.

Those youngsters. What silly little creatures they truly are.

"Dammit, Mikey! Don't you dare mention the name "Boo". She doesn't even exist yet!"

“Dammit, Mikey! Don’t you dare mention the name “Boo”. She doesn’t even exist yet!”

However, I loved these guys so much in the first place that I wasn’t so depressed in seeing them when they were younger, more hopeful monsters, but at the same time, I wish the movie did more with the idea/premise. Basically, it’s just Revenge of the Nerds/Animal House, but with Pixar, so hold all of the f-bombs, the kegs, the nudity, the hardcore partying, drugs, sex, and pretty much everything else you’d come to expect and see with college, or a movie that revolves around college. That said, it’s a kids movie so I can’t complain about how mild and tame the material is, but I can complain about how unfunny the idea plays-out, which is a major bummer because Pixar has been known to take something, anything familiar to the common-brain and spin in it on it’s own head, with their own smart way. Sadly though, this wasn’t one of those “smart ways”.

The movie gets you with a couple of chuckles here and there, mostly through random references you may or may not catch, but overall, it’s a pretty dry experience. Nothing with this humor catches you off-guard like Pixar has been known to do, and is a lot more slapstick-y than it has been in recent years, mainly to get the kiddies laughing and happy. Which, once again, is dandy and fine, but what are the parents supposed to do? Just sit there in near-misery as their kiddie-bops laugh their rumps off by some monsters falling down a flight of stairs? Well, I guess so, but knowing Pixar the way that I do and sticking by them for as long as I have, I’ve come to expect more from them and know that they are about making the little tikes laugh, but also the older-peeps that brought them to the theater as well. Plenty of kids were howling like crazy at my screening, but the adults that surrounded me couldn’t really go along as it was just for them, and nobody else.

Poor parents. You deserve better. Except for when those innocent children all turn 14, then you’re dead to them!

But where Pixar really picks up the slack in is with it’s heartfelt message that is usually supposed to make the kiddies think, and touch the parents as if they were little ones as well. Actually, you could even go so far as to say that it’s Pixar’s strong-suit: if the comedy doesn’t work, get them long and hard with a message for everybody all over the globe to listen and feel something towards. However, what separates this flick from those others is that it’s message does not seem to really click with me as much as I would have expected, and I don’t know if that’s the flicks fault, or of my own.

Basically, the message is that all kids should not really set their standards too high, because if you live life long enough, you know that all of your dreams aren’t going to come true, but to also still settle for mediocrity. Personally, I believe that telling a kid that they should not believe in their hopes and dreams is bullshit because they’re kids and what else are they going to dream about, and also, I think telling them to settle for any sort of mediocrity is just plain and simply wrong. When the kids become older and begin to realize that the world isn’t going to hand them everything they want on a silver platter with a cherry on top, then I would say is the time to let your dreams go away and settle for whatever you can get. But when you’re a kid, and just about anything is possible, with your whole, bright future ahead of you, then I think you should stick to your guns, live the wild and young life you want to live, and if it doesn’t pan out the way you want it to, then big deal. Just don’t get yourself down when and if it does in fact happen.

However, that’s just me though, so maybe other parents want their kids to think the way this movie is telling them to. If that’s the case, it’s their prerogative, but mine is that kids should be themselves and be able to keep their dreams afloat, regardless of what the real world tells them is reality. Hey, I was a kid once too, and I had dreams. They sure as hell weren’t to become a movie critic of sorts, but they were dreams that I at least went for until I realized they had gotten too far for me to even grasp. That’s just the reality of the situation, but I can understand why some parents wouldn’t want their own kids having to go through with that themselves. Call it “babying”, call it what you will. It’s just life, man.

"I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world."

“I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world.”

No matter how far into mediocrity this flick went, the glue holding it all together was Sully and Mike, voiced terrifically once again by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Together, they make a great team and even though I don’t fully believe their obviously-adult voices as ones of college freshman, I was still able to enjoy myself and be reminded of what these guys were like in the first movie (which still ranks as one of my favorites as a kid, and still holds up for me, believe it or not). They’re fun to watch together, by how different and alike they are, but also by how they come together in ways that are believable and easy to understand, especially when you know what these guys are at the beginning of the first movie. I didn’t need to see these characters on the big-screen, but it wasn’t such a bad trip down memory lane once more.

Steve Buscemi also returns as Randy, who actually has an odd twist here that makes you understand why he is the way he is in the original; Helen Mirren plays up her “ice queen”-act as Dean Hardscrabble, the one and only monster who holds the all-time record for most scares, ever; Nathan Fillion is awesome and bad-ass, even with his voice, as Johnny, the head brother of the biggest fraternity on campus; and Joel Murray does an effective job as the older, but equally as goofy member of the frat, Don, who shows some chops for comedic-timing. And trust me, there is plenty, plenty more recognizable voices, and even some faces (I’m talking about the actual characters), that you’ll hear and/or be happy to see.

Consensus: Despite not being a flick we really needed to see after the original ended so perfectly almost a decade ago, Monsters University is still a pleasant, enjoyable movie for the family, but seeing as this is Pixar and knowing what it is that they can do with their originality, it does come as a bit of a disappointment, especially for most die-hard fans, if there are such people.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Like us all, Mike Lisowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Like us, Mike Wazowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Parker (2013)

Would have been more interesting if he had a ticker on his heart. Way more interesting, actually.

Parker (Jason Statham) is a professional thief, who doesn’t steal from the poor or hurt innocent people. However, all of his skills and professionalism runs into problems when he’s not only betrayed by his fellow criminals, but also has to take under a woman (Jennifer Lopez) for leverage. Since they’re both hot, you can already assume what’s going to go down between them next. Ohhh yeah.

I don’t think I’m alone in the boat when it comes to my opinions of Jason Stathom, action-vehicles. Yeah, they are all the same in the way that they are just loud, stupid, and just meant to show-off Statham’s rockin’ bod, but none the less, they are also quite fun and can be a lot better, if done the right way. Adding director Taylor Hackford (the guy’s made some great flicks in the past, but being married to Helen Mirren I think takes the cake on that career), a little bit of J’Lo love, and a bit of source material from the wonderful-mind Donald Westlake may make it seem more than just another action-vehicle for the dude. Sadly, it is exactly what I expected but a tad better than we are used to seeing and hey, in the month of January, that is not bad at all.

Most people have been bashing this movie for everything that it is, but I think most people are getting by the fact that it’s meant to be stupid, loud, and fun, without really having to worry about being different from anything else that Statham has ever done in the past, characters and movies-wise. Take for instance the character of Parker: he’s supposed to be the perfect anti-hero that does bad things, but also has a certain likeness to him that shows you he doesn’t kill innocent people, and only takes the money away from the baddies. Seems like an alright dude, even if he is stealing and committing crimes, but an alright dude none the less. However, that whole idea of having Parker play-out as an anti-hero, totally goes out the window after the first 15-minutes where he’s apparently back-stabbed, shot, and left for dead (not a spoiler, it’s all in the trailers, people!). Instead, he’s just Jason Statham, doing Jason Statham and that’s not such a terrible thing when the guy is as committed as he is in all of his action movies.

"Forgive me father, for I have...HOLY SHIT!!"

“Forgive me father, for I have…HOLY SHIT!!”

Statham is one of the last, or very few guys left in Hollywood that’s dedicated to doing lean, mean action-movies where he does all of his stunts, all of his work, and basically, anything that he’s asked to do. Here, he’s just playing himself and is charming, as always, and can handle himself when it comes to getting dirty and physical. He’s okay, and so is J’Lo who shows up as the real-estate agent who’s sad, lonely, bored, annoyed by her stereotypical, Latina mom, and even worse, pushing 40. J’Lo has never been a favorite of mine but she’s fine here and brings out some real fun and energy in a role that could have just been played so plainly and boring, just so all of the focus could be on Statham and all of the insane-o shit he does as an action-hero. I was a bit bummed to see that these two didn’t have much chemistry going on between one another, not just in the story but the performances as well, but I also think that Hackford sort of got that right from the start, decided to scrape it, and have some fun with this movie. Fun, is exactly what occurs.

The movie is definitely an action-flick that’s for the people with little to no brains, who just come for the popcorn, the soda, and the fun, but it’s a tad bit more than that. It’s actually sort of a heist film as well, where instead of seeing a bunch of brawls just happen out of nowhere, we actually get to see some crimes go down, the professional-way where everything is planned, everything is executed, and everything is pretty damn suspenseful  I’m not going to lie, I sort of did know how this was all going to end at one-point, but the thought in my mind that this movie could go anywhere with it’s characters and plot, kind of did keep me on-edge through a good-portion of this movie, even I did expect the cliches to start coming-through, as-soon-as-possible. But, then again, this is what we have come to expect from a Statham-actioner and there is a certain essence of joy and delight in that idea.

However, this flick is exactly what you would expect from a movie starring Jason Statham, and anybody going into this, expecting anything more, will most likely be pissed-off and terribly disappointed. I don’t know why you would because when you see the name “Statham”, you automatically just think loud, dumb, action-movie that only d-bags would go out and pay money to see. I didn’t pay moolah to see this movie, but does that still make me one of those d-bags? But I digress. If you go into this movie expecting anything new, improved, or original coming from the mind of Statham, you’re going to be ticked-off. As simple as that, people.Actually, I would probably say the worst-aspect of this whole movie isn’t just Statham, but it’s more or less the supporting-cast that surrounds him as they don’t really even seem like they are trying. And if they are, then shit; they just blow!

"I need a man more my age,. Especially one with the worst, fake-Southern accent I have ever heard."

“I need a man more my age. Especially one with the worst, fake-Southern accent I have ever heard.”

The main baddies are played by the usual people we see play these types of roles like Micah A. Hauptman, Michael Chiklis, Wendell Pierce, and of course, Clifton Collins Jr., who is probably playing his 500th villainous-role in his whole career. All of these guys try their best with whatever they can muster up, but it just isn’t enough since the script is so lame, and their action is so off-key. And by “off-key”, I don’t mean that they don’t hit the right notes they are supposed to hit like if they were a singer who just became deaf, but more or less that they are just actors that don’t know what type of roles they are playing, and instead of playing in a small type-of-way, they are so over-the-top and outlandish, it’s almost laughable to watch. Seriously, the first 10-minutes of this movie made me and my buddy just sit-back in our seats and laugh our pants-off by not only how ridiculous everything was, but just by how terrible these actors are. And maybe it’s not that they’re bad actors, it’s actually more that they were just not good for these roles and could have probably been played by guys who don’t give a shit about their careers. I guess Collins Jr. counts then, right? Also, Nick Nolte appears here as Parker’s sort-of mentor, who growls his way through another performance. Oh, and he also drinks in this one, too! Good to know you’re helping your image out, Nick!

Consensus: If you know what you’re getting yourself into when you walk through the doors of a movie starring Jason Statham, then you know exactly what to expect from Parker and that is loud, unpolished, and unapologetic joy and desire to have a good time, even if it is nothing new or refreshing that you haven’t already witnessed before.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

“Ehhhhghhhghhghhghhh!!!”

Hitchcock (2012)

Whoever thought that Hitchcock was such a lady-killer? No, literally.

Starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the legendary director we all know as Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, Alma Reville (Helen Mirren), the film catalogs the various pitfalls and challenges Hitchcock encountered while trying to get his 1960 classic off the ground and into the movie-theaters.

If you watching movies, writing movie reviews, going to the movies, or just simply, love movies in general, chances are that you’ve heard of the legend that is, Alfred Hitchcock. He’s considered one of the greatest directors of all-time and rightfully so, because the guys has some legendary films that he’s made in his career that are over 50 years old and still hold-up, as well as inspire in today’s day and age, just as much as it did then. He’s an iconic-figure everybody knows, recognizes, and in some cases, even love, but there has yet to be a movie even made about him. There’s been thousands upon thousands of remakes that are all loosely-based off of his pieces of work, but still, there has yet to even be the slightest-glimpse of anybody trying to duplicate the look, sound, feel, and overall character of Hitchcock. Maybe the guy’s too noticeable or maybe the guy’s just way, way too loved by cinephiles out there, that it would almost be a cardinal sin to have a flick about him that has even one negative-thought about him.

Fast-forward to 2012, and we have not one, but two biopics based-on Hitchcock with this one and the HBO-movie, The Girl, that apparently talks a whole bunch of smack on him and makes no apologies for it, either. For me, I don’t really care to see that and instead, I’d much rather go with the one that’s most-likely going to pop-up more around Oscar season, and actually says some nice stuff about the guy who has made filmmaking the inventive and stylistic art that it is today.

Director of Anvil! The Story of AnvilSacha Gervasi makes his directorial-debut with an actual-movie this time around and for the most-part, does a relatively fine-job with creating everything that went-on around Hitchcock in terms of his personal life, as well as his professional life. Instead of having the whole-movie focus on Hitchcock’s time he spent on Psycho and actually getting it out there for the world to see, this is more focused on the relationship between him and his wife, Alma, who actually seemed to be the brains behind the operation. We’ve all seen the unsung hero aspect of a movie before, where one person gets all the love, fame, and gratitude for doing something incredible, whereas the other one gets diddly-squat and a pat on the back, but here, it feels reasonable and honest. You see how Alma just wants to be accepted and thanked for all of the hard-work she puts into Hitchcock’s work, even when he’s off acting like a little baby, eating, and drinking himself to death. There’s a part of you that relates to her and understands her pain, and even when it seems like she’s about to drop her knickers and get dirty with somebody else, you actually get worried for bother her and Hitchcock, considering they obviously love one another and have a special thing going together, that it would just be inhumane to let it go to waste.

As much as I may go on and on about how much of the relationship between these two matters, the fact is, it isn’t the best-parts of the movie. Probably the best part for me, as well as everybody sitting with me in the Press section during my screening, were the scenes that showed the filming of Psycho and just how Hitchcock made everything turn into magic, just by a little tweak of magic he would pull here and there. These scenes were probably the best because they showed how Hitchcock made everybody feel on-set, and most of all, showed us how hard it was to actually get a piece of work like this made, without breaking any laws or regulations that were so strict back in the 1980. It goes to show you that a lot has definitely changed in the movie-world, but also goes to show you that even Hitchcock had some problems to deal with his own.

However, being that the scenes where we follow Hitchcock filming on the set were the best, anything else that interrupted this, seemed to get in the way and really put a damper on things. Hitchcock has a subplot where it focuses on him talking to Ed Gein in his mind and trying to be like, and think like him in-order to get the right feel and mood of Psycho down-pat. The reason I had a problem with this sub-plot was not because it was annoying (which it was), but it was because it tried so hard to be like a movie Hitchcock would have made himself and just feels like it was trying too hard on that boat and should have just stuck with what was really going on. Screw Ed Gein, that dude’s a freak anyway.

Alma even gets a sub-plot and even if her’s is a bit more-interesting than Hitchcock’s, it still slows everything down and keeps it a tad boring, at times. The focus on making Psycho and keeping the relationship between these two still strong, and in-tact were interesting aspects of this movie, but focusing on anything but that just to create a certain amount of drama and tension, didn’t add or do anything at all. It just made the movie linger-on a bit more and have me await the moment til I got to hear the infamous “Shower Scene” score. And trust me, when that sound pops-up, the hairs on your neck are going to just stick straight-up.

Having somebody very famous and noticeable like Anthony Hopkins, play the titular role of Alfred Hitchcock seems a bit risky after awhile, but is still an idea you can get used to because Hopkins is always great with every role that he takes, and that is no different here. The way this movie paints the portrait of Alfred Hitchcock, is that he was a very fun-loving guy, that didn’t mind to get cheeky every once and awhile, and just wanted to have fun while he was on-set, no matter how unprofessional and boyish it looked. Hopkins definitely disappears into this role and gives one of the finer performances I’ve seen from him in awhile because he seems to be having such a ball, playing an iconic-figure we all know and can identify in no less than 10 seconds. There’s a certain-amount of joy and energy to be seen and had with Hopkins here as Hitchcock, and I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played him as well as Hopkins does. I think an Oscar nomination is definitely in-store for Mr. Hopkins, even though I highly doubt he’ll win for it.

Helen Mirren ain’t all that bad either, and is probably just as good as Hitchcock’s wife, Alma. Although Mirren may be a bit too in-shape and foxy (yes, I just said the word “foxy), for a to play Alma, who always looked frail and small in real-life, she still handles it very-well and comes off more strong of a person that Hitchcock is. Mirren definitely has her great-moments of pure fun and hilarity, but the moments where it’s her and Hopkins on-screen, together, it’s great to see because you really do feel the love and respect between the two and it’s something that I wish I saw more with married-couples in movies. Nowadays, all they ever do is fight, argue, yell, and end-up agreeing on a divorce by the end. Take a page out of Hitchcock’s book and realize that fighting, isn’t always the answer to your marriage-problems. Or if you don’t want to listen to him, then just go on the Steve Wilkos Show. You’ll probably find your answers there.

As good as Mirren and Hopkins are in the leads (and trust me, they are very good), it’s the supporting-cast of familiar faces that really makes this movie so much damn fun. A lot of people were worried to see Scarlett Johansson taking over the role as Janet Leigh, but she’s fine because of her instant-beauty, charm, and just overall likability that she has going for her; Jessica Biel is in a very small-role as Vera Miles, but still does a nice-job as a person that seems to know Hitchcock for me than he seems to be; and James D’Arcy is almost too spot-on as Anthony Perkins, capturing all of the weird tics and mannerisms that made the guy so memorable in the first-place.

Consensus: If you have an appreciation for the subject and all that he has done for filmmaking, then Hitchcock will be right-up your alley with spot-on performances, a fun-vibe, and entertaining bits of insight into making movies in the old days.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Oh, and before I head-out, go on over to see my post at GuysNation. It’s called ‘Movied’ and it will be a weekly-post so if you like what you see, comment, show me some love, and keep on going back for more. Thanks!

Arthur (2011)

Who says you don’t need another story about a drunk rich dude in the 21st century?

Irresponsible charmer Arthur Bach (Russell Brand) has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of lifelong nanny Hobson (Helen Mirren) to keep him out of trouble. Now he faces his biggest challenge – choosing between an arranged marriage that will ensure his lavish lifestyle or an uncertain future with the one thing money can’t buy, Naomi (Greta Gerwig), the only woman he has ever loved.

Having already seen the original and knowing that this flick was just another unnecessary remake used to boost up somebody else’s career, I can’t say that I was looking forward to this but more as curious. I was curious to see whether or not how bad this actually was and if, just if, it would make me hate everyone involved. Well, it didn’t really do either.

This film is definitely a little bit different from the original, in the way its story is shown. The original shows this drunken billionaire as a sad and messed up dude, but here, Arthur is shown as a charming and happy man-child which is the right approach I think this film took. The script has its fair share of problems in many departments but the comedy was pretty funny and there were a couple of zingers here and there that actually had me chuckling, which is something I was definitely not expecting in the least bit. About 1 in every 10 joke actually hits it mark, but that’s still better than 0 so I can’t say that I didn’t at least laugh a couple of times here.

The problem that this film hits is that it just feels too held-back from everything it could have possibly explored. What I mean by that is since the film is rated PG-13, you never get any real hard raunchy jokes and you don’t get anywhere near the close amount of debauchery as you got with the original. You see his drinking problem come up 2 times, you hear about how he apparently he has sex with all of these chicks even though you rarely see them, and we never get to see him go to any darker places than he was already in. The whole rating this film was given made it enough to appeal to just about everyone, but I still feel like they held-back a little bit too much.

Let me also not forget to mention that the problem with this flick lies within the fact that it starts to get very cheesy and predictable by the end, which lead me to eye-roll a couple of times. I mean I knew where this film was obviously going right from the start but sooner and sooner down the road with this flick, I realized that the laughs weren’t really here and even though the film did display a nice little amount of heart and emotion for its story, a lot of it just didn’t feel right and more of just cliche.

Your enjoyment of this film will probably be based on how much you actually enjoy watching Russell Brand for a whole 109 minutes. I like Brand and I think he’s always funny and this is no exception here. He spits-out jokes with rapid fire, almost never stopping, and just brings that great charm we all know and love him for. Brand seems like a different Arthur as opposed to Dudley Moore’s version and still is able to handle the expectations of this role very well. The problem that he runs into is that when it comes to him actually bringing some emotional and heart-gripping drama to the flick, he can’t really do it all that well. Brand comes off as more of a really soft dude whenever he tries to soften up his mood and it just does not feel right considering this guy the whole film is making references to Chinese little girls, Batman, and even the French in such a mean-spirited way.

As with the original, this one here really tried its hardest to have us relate to and care about Arthur, when he just seemed like too much of a dick to care about in the first place. I mean this guy is filthy rich, doesn’t have work a day in his life, and is about to marry Ben Affleck’s smoking-hot wife, and he’s complaining about how he’s not able to be with the one he truly loves. Come on, stop being a little bitch and just soak it up, or how about you actually get a job and stop being a little brat.

The supporting cast is also a lot of fun as well and damn near saves this flick. Helen Mirren is great as Hobson, and shows that she can be totally hilarious without barely ever cracking a smile. She’s sarcastic, realistic, but also very mean which is where I found most of the time she was on-screen to be some of the best moments. It was also really funny watching her try her hardest not to actually laugh at Brand doing all of his goofy stuff. Greta Gerwig gets her first main-stream role here as Naomi, and she’s very good but she seems too much of a type like that quirky, indie girl we see so much now of. Jennifer Garner is also fun to watch in this very unlikable role as Susan and she’s just totally crazy in a type of role we barely ever see her in ever.

Consensus: Arthur is a remake that is predictable, unnecessary in the first place, and doesn’t really do anything new here at all, but the cast makes this film enjoyable and funny enough to at least have a little fun for the time being. Still, who the hell needed an Arthur remake?!?

5/10=Rental!!

The Debt (2011)

Finally! A film that shows what jerks Nazis are…

Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) is a former Mossad intelligence agent forced to relive her 1965 pursuit of a notorious Nazi war criminal when the bold and dangerous fugitive is thought to have reemerged 30 years later in the Ukraine.

A time-spanning thriller may not seem like the most engaging way to tell this premise, and I can already bet you were already thinking; “been there, seen that”, but I can assure you it’s not as bad as it may seem, it’s kind of cool.

Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) uses the non-linear plot structure to actually add a lot more tension to this film because he somehow finds a way to slow everything down, having our minds wander, and just contemplate what some of the biggest mysteries of this story are. You see how all of these characters are in the future, after the mission, and you wonder just exactly why, but Madden keeps you glued to the screen with the details coming out of the story slowly but surely.

The script itself is OK with some nice plot points here and there, but it was a little distracting for me at some points. I think if they just stuck with a normal approach to this film, I would have been a lot more surprised when things happened, and not so bummed out when my predictions were correct. I’m not going to lie, I did like Madden’s approach to this film, I just feel like I knew how this was all going to play out considering we see the fates of these agents early on and it doesn’t really give us any tension into what exactly is going to happen next.

There’s also a moment in this film when a love triangle starts to occur, which to me, seemed pretty dumb considering these damn people have a mission to do, that could practically threaten their lives and the least their worried about is whether or not they get some sexy time in. If I was on as an important mission as these people brought up every time they could, I know the last thing on my mind would be getting my D wet, but hey that’s just me.

The acting from this cast really is stellar and helped me out with a lot of this film. Helen Mirren is awesome as older Rachel, and proves she can do no wrong; Jessica Chastain is very gritty, mature, and ruthless as younger Rachel who is total live-wire and makes the best out of all of her scenes with everybody on screen; Tom Wilkinson is good as older Stefan, but barely in it as well; Jesper Christensen is very menacing as Doktor Bernhardt, who practically takes advantage of the whole mission, and eventually, everyone around him; and Marton Csokas is also very good as young Stefan. The weakest link of the whole cast was probably Sam Worthington as David, who is just one-note and doesn’t really show off any emotions until he’s later played by a great character actor, Ciarán Hinds, and is kind of forgotten about in a way.

However, my real problem with this film is the insanely laughable ending which was about 15 minutes of just pure Helen Mirren showing how unstoppable she is, and even though this may seem like an awesome thing, I can assure you it’s not at all. The film had so much momentum going for it that the way it ends almost feels forced and conventional, as if Madden needed a way to end the film but didn’t have any cool ideas so he went with the dumb and predictable way.

Consensus: The Debt features good performances from the cast, an inspired direction, and a real big air of mystery and suspense; but has too many problems with not too many surprises, and just ending up being another conventional thriller that may seem cool at first, but ends up being a tad disappointing.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Gosford Park (2001)

So many rich people, and such a little place.

Director Robert Altman’s witty murder mystery won an Oscar for its screenplay, which really takes off when Sir William (Michael Gambon) is found dead soon after his guests arrive for a weekend stay at his English estate. Lady Sylvia (Kristin Scott Thomas), Constance (Maggie Smith) and Ivor (Jeremy Northam) try to make sense of the crime. Meanwhile, gossip flies among the household help (including Helen Mirren, Ryan Phillippe and Clive Owen).

I have to give a lot of credit to Robert Altman, he does great with lots and lots of big stuff. After I saw Short Cuts, I was totally impressed by this dude. How can you make a film with about 20 of Britain’s biggest stars, and cramp all of them into one setting? Well I found it out, and that is what this movie is.

This film has one of the very good screenplays I have seen in awhile. The film right from the get-go puts you in the middle of the rich snobs upstairs, and the happy workers downstairs. You get to know everybody when the film starts, and although there is a murder mystery to the film, its more about social classes and hanky panky in the 1930s. Altman, as he did for Short Cuts, does a great job of making a statement, but focusing on the story at hand, while still spicing up the film with short bursts of comedy, which at firsts catches you off guard.

The film also has very nice little touches that work well with the film as well. Altman’s way of using the camera, and following these people around the house, almost makes you feel as if you are there right with them. The film uses a cool look to it, with a breezy color in the background of the film the whole time, and for some reason just adds on a lot of mystery to the film.

However, I did have some big problems with the film. The first one, isn’t so much the film’s problem, as much as it is for me, but the film has a lot of British people talking, and its almost impossible to understand what their saying, thus confusing me in the story. Secondly, the film could have used a lot more of the murder mystery itself in the film. When it focused on the mystery, it gave me a sense that I was watching the board game Clue, in real life, and it was mysterious, but never fully creepy, cause the film cuts away from it too much. Lastly, I though the score was kind of cheap, and in all honesty I think the film would have been better with no score rather than just the music played in the film itself. The score tried to convey emotions, instead it just came out of nowhere sometimes, and was stupid.

The best thing about this film has to be its all-star cast. Too say one performances is better than the others, would be totally unfair, to this large-ass ensemble. I liked mostly how everyone in this film was such a big star but they all got into their roles, and they weren’t just the star being somebody else. And when the so-called “mystery”, comes into play you really don’t know who did it because everybody is a big star, and your not so certain of who may actually be the killer. If I had to choose one dude, that was kind of in the way of the film, it was Ryan Phillipe. His accent is pretty bad when it comes to acting as a Scottish dude, and the movie plays him off to be this dumb-ass kid, which sucks for him, cause he is a good actor.

Consensus: Gosford Park still has its sour patches, but achieves with an incredible screenplay, inspired direction once again from the great Robert Altman, and a huge ensemble that does not disappoint.

8/10=Matinee!!!

Shadowboxer (2006)

In order to get ready for Precious, I chose another Lee Daniels film, that I’m hoping will make Precious a better trip than what I expect.

A nasty crime lord (Stephen Dorff) hires Rose (Helen Mirren) and her stepson Mikey (Cuba Gooding Jr.) — assassin partners and longtime lovers — to off his spouse, Vickie (Vanessa Ferlito). But Rose, ill with cancer and on her last job, spares her mark when she learns Vickie’s with child. The unexpected twist forces Mikey, Rose and their charges to flee to life in suburbia, until the past catches up with them.

Now looking at this film from a person who has seen it all in films, I have got to say this movie is pretty messed up. When you have film with Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. doing it, you know you have a pretty messed up film.

So anyway, all the critics I have read, all HATED this film. For me I’m going to say yeah its odd and kind of weird but really it does a good job with its material. It takes this unusual story and makes it a stylized, enjoyable thriller.I’m not going to lie there are scenes that get a little too out of hand, but after that I still was on the edge of my seat wondering what was to happen next.

I am not a prude and I can see how the sex scenes bring a grittiness that was needed to show the harshness of real life but nothing else about this movie reflects real life. The director almost comically twists the relationships to get a jolt out of the viewer.

Helen Mirren doesn’t quite act to the standard she could have. She looks like at times she just lost a bet, and was given a script to work with and just decided to mildly act it out. Cuba Gooding Jr. does the best job in this film as basically taking the last act of the film and making it his show with a powerful performance. Stephen Dorff, plays the type of 2nd grade villain that doesn’t get enough screen time to show how vicious he really can be, I think this was a problem but he could have done better as well.

The one thing I’ll also say about this film is that it shows these weird couples, but you know what that’s reality. I mean there is a couple of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Mo’Nique, this was kind of odd, but it still showed how strange couples can actually be.

Consensus: The over-the-top sex scenes and at points very random, Shadowboxer is a stylized and entertaining little thriller, that doesn’t get the best boot from its cast, but in the end is actually OK.

5/10=Rentall!!!!!