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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Hugh Grant

Paddington 2 (2018)

Marmalade and bears may just save 2018.

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) has officially settled in with the Brown family and finds himself enjoying all aspects of life. However, he still wants to bring his Aunt Lucy to England, so she can see just what he’s been up to all of these years and why it’s such a blast. Problem is, it’s a lot of money for Aunt Lucy to make it all the way out to England from wherever the hell she is, so Paddington has to save up and do whatever he can to get her there. His plans change, however, when he’s framed for a stolen pop-up book, arrested, and thrown into jail. While the Brown family knows that sweet Paddington would never do such a thing, they do their best to investigate the cover-up and figure out just who would do such a terrible thing. Meanwhile, Paddington’s in the slammer giving it his all and trying to make the world a better place – not just for himself, but for the lonely, rather angry inmates who need a little bit of sunshine in their sometimes gloomy lives.

Isn’t this supposed to be the 21st century? What’s up with that damn landline!?!

Had Paddington 2 been released in any other year, it would have been a perfectly fine, funny, charming and entertaining little movie made for all ages, just like the first one. However, with all of the anger, hatred, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and general wrongness that continues to take over the world that we currently live in, Paddington 2 can’t help but feel like a breath of fresh air that everybody needs. It’s literally a movie about making the world a better place, loving those around you despite their differences, and most of all, having respect for each and everything that surrounds you, no matter what.

It’s literally a testament to love and happiness, which makes it all the more tragic that it was once a product of the Weinstein’s.

That said, it’s not their product anymore and with good reason: Paddington 2, as a movie, is way too good for either of those scum-bags. It’s a joyful, happy, entertaining, and rather hilarious movie that’s perfect for all ages, of course, but also a perfect watch for the older-people in the crowd who appreciate a lot more wit to their goofiness. Whereas a lot of kids movies released nowadays sort of dumb everything down so that it’s just the youngsters laughing in the crowd and absolutely nobody else, Paddington 2 remembers that the older ones in the audience deserve a chance to laugh, too, and that happens quite often here.

I chalk it up to great writing, but I also chalk it up to just typical British humor, where even the silliest of happenings, are somehow wittier and a step above smarter than most of what we see in mainstream American comedies. It’s what makes Paddington 2 a trip worth investing in, but another reason why it’s a movie made so that others can enjoy it, smile from cheek-to-cheek, and just feel a whole lot better about themselves and the people around them. It’s why movies exist in the first place, but it’s hardly brought to our attention.

Seriously. He’s insane. And I love it!

But Paddington 2 reminds us and honestly, we all needed it.

It also reminds us what you can do with an incredibly talented cast on kiddie-material, so long as the material is funny and just generally well-written. The ensemble from the original are all great here, with Bonneville being the general stand-out, but really, it’s Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson, the two newcomers, who show up, bring their A-games and steal the show. Gleeson is doing his usual rough and gruff act that works in spades, but it’s Grant who really tears away, playing the most manic and insane that we’ve ever seen him in a movie. Like ever.

Seriously. Grant’s had fun before in almost all of his movies, but it’s always come at a price. He’s always stammering, starting, stopping, and being a cad-like creature. But as Phoenix Buchanan, the would-be villain of Paddington 2, Grant unleashes a new beast that we’ve never seen from him before, where he goes all-out, has a total blast, and reminds us why it’s so much fun to still have Grant acting in movies, even if he’s not considered the handsome sex-symbol he still was. If anything, he’s just the handsome, older-gentleman who has seen the world, done that, and is just going to enjoy his latter-years, the way he wants to.

Hell, don’t we all?

Consensus: As a tribute to love and respect for one another, Paddington 2 is also a fun, hilarious, well-acted, and incredibly joyful adventure that’s literally worth it for the whole family. And I mean that.

9 / 10

“Put some clothes on, you bear!”, is something I’m told every time I go out to the clubs.

Photos Courtesy of: Warner Bros. Pictures

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Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Haters going to hate. So sing, girl!

It’s the 1940s and New York socialite Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) dreams of becoming a great opera singer. Unfortunately for Florence, her voice isn’t all that great and if anything, is actually pretty terrible. Her husband St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), knows this. The crowds she constantly plays to, knows this. Hell, everyone knows this. The only person who doesn’t seem to really know this in the slightest bit is Florence herself, which is why St. Clair does the best that he can to keep the truth away from her, so that she doesn’t lose all hope and give up her singing career. But it gets to be even more difficult for St. Clair when Florence decides to book a concert for Carnegie Hall, which leaves him clamoring to ensure that people don’t get in Florence’s way, as well as let her know that she’s quite rubbish when it comes to singing, actually. And while this may seem like it’s just a case of St. Clair performing his husband-like duties, it’s actually far more serious than that and brings into question what this performance for Florence means, after all.

Florence Foster Jenkins is perfectly servicable to any and all ages. Does that make it a great movie? No. Does that make it a bad movie? No. Does that make it a movie? Yes, it does.

It's true love, I think.

It’s true love, I think.

If anything, Florence Foster Jenkins is probably the perfect movie to take your parents, grandparents, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, godson, goddaughter, step-dad, step-mom, step-uncle, step-aunt, step-brother, step-sister, step-cousin, hell, even your freakin’ pet, to. Meaning it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t set-out to harm, kill, or even offend anyone, but it’s also the kind of movie that’s just there to please everyone it sees and if it doesn’t please you, well, then, I’m sorry, but you’re not living.

It’s that simple.

Anyway, what works best about Florence Foster Jenkins is that, yes, it can get a little schmaltzy, a little sentimental, and definitely a little cheesy, but you know what? It still kind of works. Director Stephen Frears seems to have two sides to him: The one side that makes dark, unforgiving and mean flicks (Dangerous Liaisons, the Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things), and another side that likes to make warm, heartfelt, and light flicks that casually bring smiles to people’s faces (High Fidelity, The Snapper, The Queen). Here, he’s clearly working in the later form and it’s quite alright; he tells a lovely little story, the way it deserves to be told; he’s not getting down on Florence, the person, nor is he really getting down on anyone else, for that matter. He’s simply telling the story and you know what? Having a little bit of fun doing so, too.

And he’s not the only one. Unsurprisingly, Meryl Streep is quite good in the title role, playing a character we want to laugh at and make fun of, but over time, we start to learn more about and actually care for. Streep has played a lot of characters over her long and storied career, but a part of me wonders if she’s ever played someone like Florence Foster Jenkins and it makes me happy to see her play around with this role, playing it a little lighter this time around.

"It says here that all you have to do is show up and that's it. You're nominated!"

“It says here that all you have to do is show up and that’s it. You’re nominated!”

Will she get nominated for an Oscar? Probably, but whatever. It’s Meryl Streep. That’s practically a given by now.

Hugh Grant is also great in the role as her husband, the cad-like fellow St. Clair Bayfield. Clearly, this is a perfect match for Grant and the guy has some fun with it, as is to be expected; we start-off kind of despising him for cheating on his sick and dying wife, but through time, we start to see that there’s a little more to him that actually does care and will do whatever he can to make sure that his wife goes out on top. Rebecca Ferguson plays his girlfriend of sorts and is pretty good, even if her role can’t help but seem like an add-on to a heavy list of characters, like Simon Helberg’s, or Nina Arianada’s. While all are fun and charming to watch, sometimes, it can’t help but feel a little over-stacked.

Still though, like I said, everyone’s having fun here and it’s not hard to have the same feeling when watching Florence Foster Jenkins. It never tries for hard, emotionally gripping drama, but it doesn’t try to be incredibly silly, either – it’s just the right amount of humor and heart that only someone like Frears could deliver on. It makes me happy to know that he’s still contiuing to make movies just about every year or so, even if, yeah, of course, there’s still a stinker to be found somewhere.

Looking at you, Tamara Drewe.

Consensus: Charming and sweet, Florence Foster Jenkins doesn’t aim for the stars, but doesn’t have to, either, with its good cast and smart direction.

7 / 10

"Come on, honey! Off we go to the Oscars, again!"

“Come on, honey! Off we go to the Oscars, again!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Why can’t people just date like they used to?

When Elinor Dashwood’s (Emma Thompson) father dies, her family’s finances are absolutely crippled, leaving her and her family to think fast of where they’re going to end up next, or better yet, who they’re going to marry. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) is torn between the handsome John Willoughby (Greg Wise) and the older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman). She seems to not care who she ends up with, because all she really wants is to have some fun, be happy, be loved, and most of all, be taken care of for the rest of her days. On the other side of things, Elinor doesn’t have the best options, even though she’s definitely in love with one Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), who also happens to be previously engaged to another woman to marry. Through this all, however, Elinor and Marianne come together and realize that there’s way to be happy and pleased with life, with, or without husbands.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don't tell them that.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don’t tell them that.

Sense and Sensibility is probably the best period-piece ever made. Sure, there’s a lot of stuffy people out there in the world who probably sneer at certain flicks of this nature, because they don’t feature any action, violence, or explosions – or at least, not in the physical, literal sense – and prefer to focus on more things like characters, plot, emotion, and most importantly, language. If it’s not your bag, then fine, but to say that it’s a terribly boring genre in and of itself is wrong; when done right and to near-perfection, they can be quite the most exciting, most emotional things to watch.

Take Sense and Sensibility, for obvious reasons: While it may seem boring and overstuffed, in just a little over two hours, it does so much. It’s funny, heartfelt, romantic, sweet, sad, passionate, beautiful, exquisite to look at, perfectly acted, and most of all, directed with such a smart, detailed look, that it honestly feels like Ang Lee hardly even showed up to the set.

Which is, yes, a good thing.

What it shows is that the material was already there and all that Lee himself had to do was just stand there, keep the camera in-place and of course, focus on the action; while that sounds incredibly simple and easy, which it is, there’s also something to be said for a director who gets literally every shot correct. There’s not a dull moment, or misplaced shot to be found – Lee knows how to make beautiful scenery look even more impeccable and it’s the main reason why Sense and Sensibility may remain his best movie. It’s not flashy, or overstuffed with the sort of visual flair that he’s known for using – it’s just plain and simple, but still compelling in each and every way known to man.

 

Don't trust all men, Kate. They're swine.

Don’t trust all men, Kate. They’re swine.

And it also all comes down to the fact that the ensemble cast is so perfectly assembled, that it’s hard to find the single best, even if it does come sort of close. While Emma Thompson may not have wanted to be cast here in the first place (she’s also co-writer), she’s still amazing as Elinor. Thompson’s one of the best around, but what she does so well here is that she finds small, subtle ways to get her character’s feelings of sadness and regret across, but never actually has to say it; throughout the whole movie, she’s constantly on the verge of tears and one step closer to losing her marbles, and watching as Thompson constantly battles with that, is incredibly moving.

She was great in Howard’s End, but honestly, she could have won the Oscar for this, too.

Anyway, there’s also a very young, very spirited Kate Winslet as Marianne, being as lovely and as charming as we’ve ever seen her before, working as the perfect counterpart for Elinor’s more reserved-self. The fellas aren’t so bad, either, with Hugh Grant playing the perfect Edward, and never letting us know just whether he’s a slime or not, and the late, great Alan Rickman, playing Colonel Christopher Brandon, who may have a far more obvious route of going with his character, but to watch as he constantly battles himself over his love for Marianne, is quite the watch.

But really, it all comes down to the actual meaning of Sense and Sensibility, which isn’t just that, “Rich, white people will always fall in love,” as much as it’s actually about, “Don’t stop giving up on love and finding whatever path your life will take you.” Sure, it sounds all incredibly corny and sappy, as if you’re almost reading a self-help guide, but it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound; there’s a true bleeding heart here, that shows us many people can be sad, even if they are rich. It’s not a matter of how much money, or mansions you have, as much as it’s about what sort of love you’ve got in your life and what it does for you, day in and day out.

Okay, yeah, it’s a little sappy, but man, it works.

Consensus: Smart, heartfelt, sweet, well-acted, and most of all, never boring, Sense and Sensibility is the ultimate peak of period-dramas, showing Ang Lee’s great balance of humor, mixed with pathos and romantic-drama, and never missing a mark.

10 / 10

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Photos Courtesy of: Decider, Frock Flicks, The Rush Journals

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Who cares if a person’s British or not? If they can say “puff” correctly, then I’m always satisfied.

Bridget Jones (Renée Zellweger) is a sweet, pudgy, chain-smoking British gal who just can’t seem to meet the right man in her life that’s worth settling down with. She’s 32 and she’s running out of time which is why she somehow gets involved with both her boss (Hugh Grant) and that man’s mortal enemy (Colin Firth). Hilarity, love, and British wit ensues.

Usually British comedies have me laughing my fanny off quite much, but then they start to die down and lose the steam that they once had and thrived so much on. Not Bridget Jones’s Diary; it just continued to go on and on until all of the characters were built-up and the hilarious situations that could and just might happen. It was funny to see a British comedy not take any sidebars in getting a little dirty or risque and that’s what I liked the most. When I want to see my rom-coms, I want them to be a bit bad and naughty, but still a tad sweet on the side. In fact, that’s how most comedies should be, but honestly, so rarely are.

And that’s why Bridget Jones’s Diary is a little treat in and of itself.

So lonely. And that snow is making it so much harder to feel less depressed.

So lonely. And that snow is making it so much harder to feel less depressed.

But honestly, what works best about the movie is Bridget Jones herself. She’s a different type of character that we don’t usually see getting the sort of attention or limelight in rom-coms such as these; normally, she’s the single, but somewhat ugly best-friend to the leading female. But this is her story and it’s worthy of it, too, because she’s a little bit of everything all rolled-up into one woman: She’s mean, dirty, funny, rough, good-looking and most of all, chock full of personality. She’s basically the perfect gal and while the movie does make some jokes at the expense of her weight and rather heavy-set demeanor, they’re only used as a way to highlight the fact that she’s just like us and not your typical romantic-lead, hence why she’s all the more lovable and sympathetic.

And because of that, we actually do care for her journey into finding that one and special someone. Granted, it’s a typical rom-com in which she tries to search for that man of her dreams, comes up a bit short, and then has to figure out just who it is that she wants in her life once she’s given a choice, so yeah, in a way, it’s predictable, but it still works. Because we care for and adore Bridget Jones and whether or not she actually does find the love of her life by the end of the two hours, her ride is enjoyable, if not all that surprising. Most rom-coms seem to think that just pitting a few really good-looking people together and seeing whatever sparks can fly is enough, but it honestly isn’t – sometimes, what we need is characters that we can care about and see if they end up finding the one true loves, or if they just continue on into that harsh, but sometimes relaxing world of singledom.

Which, let’s be honest, is not all that bad. You get more time to spend with Netflix, am I right?

"Uhmmm.....me love? Would...uhm...you like to....uhmm...have sex? Uhm please?

“Uhmmm…..me love? Would…uhm…you like to….uhmm…have sex? Uhm please?

As our titular character, Renée Zellweger is, as usual, quite amazing. At the time, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the fact that Zellweger herself wasn’t British and perhaps too pretty for the role, but the gal took it all one step further by doing her best to make herself “ugly” and gained a whole lot of weight and guess what happened? Well, she knocked the role right out of the park, by mixing a great deal of humor, heart and relatability that’s not too often seen in mainstream rom-coms of this nature. Sure, it helps that Bridget Jones herself is a good character to work with, but it also helps that Zellweger herself has perfect comedic-timing and can act like the Dickens whenever a hard, heavy and dramatic scene calls for her.

Then, as the two men who are seemingly fighting for her heart, are Colin Firth and Hugh Grant, are both pretty solid, adding a lot of fun and spirit to their roles, even when it seems like the script is sort of just letting them down. Still though, both are pretty solid at doing what they do, especially Grant who seems to really be relishing in the moment that he’s playing such a despicable cad, that it makes us wonder what’s the difference between fiction and reality with this guy. Is he like this in real life or not? I’ll leave you to decide, my friends. Firth is pretty solid too, even if I wish there was more to him than just a stone-faced, miserable dude that’s still trying to get over his ex. I know it’s hard and all but man, at least shed a smile here and there for once. It ain’t that hard.

After all, you got Renée Zellweger in front of ya.

Am I right?

Consensus: While it’s definitely a conventional rom-com, Bridget Jones’s Diary is still funny, heartfelt, and featuring an amazing performance from Zellweger that shows just the true talents she has.

8 / 10

Cheer up, Colin! You sour-puss! It's the holidays!

Cheer up, Colin! You sour-puss! It’s the holidays!

Photos Courtesy of: Miramax, Thecia.Com.Au

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

Secret spy agents have never been so cheeky!

Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is a post-WWII antiquities smuggler who gets recruited by the CIA to help catch the baddies and put himself in dangerous positions that no pencil-pusher would ever even dream of being caught in. His latest mission, however, may test him to his utter limits. An East German mechanic by the name of Gaby (Alicia Vikander), has a father who was a former rocket scientist for the Nazis and may be currently developing a nuclear bomb for a bunch of shady fascists. Because the mission itself is so complex, Solo’s boss (Jared Harris) assigns him to work with KGB agent Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer); somebody Solo already has a bit of a rivalry with as is. This leads to constant tension and bragging between the two where they sometimes find that they are at odds with one another, rather than with the enemy. But while Solo is busy fighting off whatever pretty honey that comes his way, Kuryakin is trying his hardest to not show off any sort of emotional feelings for anyone, especially not for Gaby, who has now been assigned to use cover as his fiancee. Will all of these personal problems get in the way of the mission? Or will Kuryakin, Solo and Gaby combine their forces and beat the villains, so that all us citizens can live a happy, healthy, and care-free life?

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Still not Kristin Scott Thomas, even though my brain keeps making me think so.

Love him, hate him, don’t care for him, or hell, don’t even know who he is other than the dude who married Madonna, Guy Ritchie’s got style. And no, I’m not talking about the way he dresses or acts in real life – I mean the movies that he makes. While some may get tired and bored of his energetic and frenetic style, to me, Ritchie feels like the kind of director we’re very lucky to have. None of his movies (even his really terrible ones), can be called “horrid”, “stupid”, and “annoying”, but they can’t be called “dull”. This is because Ritchie refuses to let a movie of his get made without some form of color or fun thrown into the proceedings.

And if anything, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the perfect example of this.

What makes me most happy about U.N.C.L.E. is that it’s the kind of action-thriller that likes to have fun. What was that word? “Fun”? In a current action-thriller, you say? Well, funny that you may ask because yes, U.N.C.L.E. is indeed a fun movie that doesn’t try to frown or grim too much; more or less, it’s concerned with kicking-ass, stunts, guns, babes, booze, spy-gadgets, fancy cars, and most of all, humor.

In today’s day and age where Bond seems to be losing his smirk as each and every movie goes by, or where every hero’s trying to be the next Bourne, U.N.C.L.E.‘s characters all have lovely personalities, seem to have some bit of fun in their systems and, most importantly, have a good joke to end a sentence on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all jokes and play for Ritchie’s characters here, however, even when they do get serious and melodramatic, it isn’t at the high cost of the movie where all of the exciting and fun times are over and now we have to get all stern and cold.

Ritchie doesn’t care for those kinds of thrillers and it’s way U.N.C.L.E. works as well as it does.

Some of this has to do with the fact that the setting (post-WWII, Cold War-era) just screams white-blooded nostalgia right at you, but a good portion has to do with the fact that Ritchie seems interested in this story all around. After all, it’s his fault that a TV show from the 60’s is being brought to the screen where half of the audience who watched that original show may not be alive, or even remember it, so if he screws this up, it’s off with his head. But Ritchie seems absolutely enthused to be giving these locations, these characters, and this decade the light of day and it’s hard to not get caught up in all the good vibes going around.

After all, it’s getting to the end of the summer, so it’s better to get out with a happy, healthy bang, rather than a down-beat, depressed and down-trodden whimper like some of these blockbusters have been this summer.

But perhaps the best thing about U.N.C.L.E., isn’t that it’s filled with plenty of cheeky humor, or impressive set-pieces, but is that it makes you want to see more of these characters in whatever the next adventure it is that they’re getting involved with. While Henry Cavill may be seen as Superman for quite some time, he’s very charming here as Napoleon Solo – who is basically Bond, except that he’s got a perfect chin, hair, body, and cheeks that makes you wonder if Ritchie too thinks this guy’s handsome as hell, too. This gives me hope that whatever side-projects Cavill decides to do away from being Kal-El, that he chooses to take ones that test him as an actor a bit, but also show what his strengths are as an actor.

Doesn't get anymore British than him.

Doesn’t get anymore British than him.

Same goes for Armie Hammer who, after the Social Network, hasn’t had the most lovely career. None of that really has to do with him, because even the crappy movies he participated in, he was at least fine in them, but there is something to be said for a person when they just become a one-hit wonder and you wonder whether or not they’ve actually got some sort of acting-skill in their soul, or are they just another good-looking. In Hammer’s case, he’s definitely the later, but here, he shows that he’s got skills as an actor and is at least able to make this stiff character funny and engaging to watch.

Of course, the whole joke surrounding him is that he’s all too serious and emotionless for his own good, but what Hammer does well, is that he shows that there’s more to this character than just what’s presented on the surface. This is what makes the later-portion of this movie actually interesting, because Hammer and Alicia Vikander have good chemistry between one another where it seems like their characters would be perfect as partners in life, as well as in work. It should be noted that Vikander is great here, too, and is another female character we get this summer that seems like she’s there as nothing else but just a damsel-in-distress, but soon shows her true colors and turns out to be smarter than her male counterparts.

But I’ll save my praise for Vikander for a later-time, considering she’s got plenty of more movies coming around the bend.

Consensus: Stylish, colorful, and whimsical, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn’t just an entertaining action-thriller, but one that signals why Guy Ritchie is one of the better directors we have working today; he just needs to be given better material to work with.

8 / 10

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Please, movie audiences: Let us see these three again.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

About a Boy (2002)

Boys will be boys, even if they are stammering fools.

Will Freeman (Hugh Grant) is a bit of a shallow dude. For one, he closes himself off from the rest of the world, he doesn’t work, he gains all sorts of money off of the royalties for some Christmas song his dad made back in the day and shags plenty of women, although he never plans on, and never actually does, give them a call back or anything. Although, it may make you wonder: Why would somebody who is as charming as Will, actually conjure up a plan to act as if he is a single-daddy, only to connect with more single-mothers, in hopes that he’d be able to nab them as well? Either way though, it doesn’t matter because Will goes for it anyway and wouldn’t you know it? The results don’t go as planned. Not only does he not get nookie, but now he’s got some awkward, mopey teen named Marcus (Nicholas Hoult) who just won’t leave him alone. But little does he know that Marcus has a bit of a problem at home with his suicidal-mommy (Toni Collette) at home, as well as being picked on at school, and is only in need of a friend; something that Will himself may need as well. His only problem is that he doesn’t know it yet.

If anybody out there reading this right now as ever read a Nick Hornby novel, they know one thing about the dude: He knows how to write characters. Not just good characters or those easy-to-define types, nope, he’s more-attuned at writing about and characterizing those certain people in our lives we choose not to be around or associated with, and therefore, would not ever want to spend time with in a movie for a near-two hours.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can totally relate.

Exactly how I treat my kids. So yeah, I can relate.

You know, the unlikable people.

But somehow, Hornby makes these said “unlikable people” actually ones we can actually stand to be around, but even like and, dare I say it, connect with. Because see, Hornby may love it when his characters don’t do the best, most moral things to other people, but he never stops to show us why that said person, does that said immoral act. It actually gets us to grow closer to these characters, just as we’re watching the character themselves grow-up and begin to learn more about being a good, kind person in the world.

You know, like you’re supposed to be.

And with Will Freeman, Hornby truly did give us a d-bag that is not only hardly sympathetic, but pretty damn knowing about his mean ways as well. He knows that he’s lazy, a bum, a dick and a cad-like fella that loves a good shag every now and then, but never anything too severe to where he actually has to start up a relationship with anybody, where commitments, and feelings and all sorts of that icky, gooey stuff gets thrown into the mix. Will just isn’t programmed, but he’s not acting like he is, which sort of makes him interesting to watch. Sure, we know he loves lying to women, in the most manipulative-ways possible so that he can just bed them, but he never really tries to go for anything more than just a god’s-to-honest, simple fling and that’s all. All the ladies out there must hate him, but from one guy to another, I have to say, the guy is pretty damn cool.

That’s also the main reason why the casting of Hugh Grant in the lead role as Will Freeman was not only perfect, but nearly game-changing, in terms of Grant’s career as a head-liner. Grant’s always been the type of bumbling idiot that the dudes love to hate, and their girlfriends secretly want to be with, that’s never really stretched himself too much as an actor and instead, has just relied on two faces: Example A and B. Yes, those same faces have somehow been able to charm just about each and every women across the globe, but it hasn’t really earned him much respect or credit, in terms of just what it is that he’s capable of doing as an actor, and how he’s able to make it seem like he’s more than just another pretty face, who just so happens to have a relatively fine amount of skills as an actor.

But that all changed with Will Freeman, as Grant was not only able to show us that he’s able to be downright funny at times, but that he’s also able to do it while being a bit of a smug prick. You can tell that he’s like a man-child with a million-dollar smile and fine collection of all sorts music, but you can’t always hold it against him, because once Marcus walks into his life, times eventually do change for the guy and even though he does put up a fight against it for practically the whole time, he never does anything too reprehensible to where we totally abandon his character. Eventually too, he begins to realize that he needs Marcus, just as much as Marcus needs him and therefore, they build a lovely chemistry that not only improves over time, but begins to get more and more real, once actual relationships and friendships seem to get all caught up in the mix.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid's slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Fast-forward 11 years later, and this kid’s slaying Katniss. Chew on that for awhile.

Needless to say though, Grant is the sole reason why Freeman is the type of character who is worth watching, but also another main reason why this movie deserves to be seen. Makes me wish he did more nowadays, but I guess that whenever we get to see him show up in something, whether it’d be as 2,000 different characters in Cloud Atlas, then that’s fine too. Although, the same can’t be said for Nicholas Hoult who is not only making quite a splash as a leading-man of sorts himself, but is also making a splash into some noteworthy people’s beds, if you know what I mean? Anyway though, that doesn’t matter because Hoult still does a fine enough job here as Marcus to where he’s not non-stop annoying the whole time through. He’s definitely a needy-boy who practically pushes himself onto Will and into his life, but you can’t help but think you’d do the same thing, especially if you saw some middle-aged bum just wasting his life away on game show re-runs.

Together, they’re great and give this movie all the fine heart and soul it clearly needed to survive. Although, if I had to pick a problem I had with this movie, it was that the romance-angle Will had with Rachel Weisz’s character wasn’t all that well-written, or even developed really. Both of them clearly try, and having Rachel Weisz in a movie, is definitely better than NOT having Rachel Weisz in a movie, but it did make me wish her character was given more to work with. At least nearly as much as Toni Collette had to work with, but then again, that woman could make even M. Night Shyamalan’s dialogue work, and sound like Shakespeare, so I won’t even dare mess with her. Yikes!

Consensus: Without ever getting too sentimental or sappy, About a Boy clearly rides the fine line between dark comedy, heart and romance, while also giving Nicholas Hoult and Hugh Grant plenty of time and material to work on their chemistry together, and build a friendship that’s one of the better ones I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job!

Learned from the best, kid. Good job! Just stay away from those hookers and you’ll be fine.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Small Time Crooks (2000)

Cookies are usually on my mind when I’m smokin’ stuff, not robbing vaults. That’s just me though.

Ray Winkler (Woody Allen) is an ex-con who has big dreams and an inability to hold down dish-washing jobs. His next plan in life is an inspired one: Rob a bank with his buddies. However, the main problem with robbing the bank is Ray being able to get it past his wife (Tracey Ullman)’s head. Even when he does, thinks don’t go so according to plan and that’s for better, and for worse.

That short synopsis up there may not seem like much, but trust me, once you see this flick and realize that I didn’t give away half of what happens in the second-half, the better for ya and the more thanks to me. See, the trailers and advertisements for this movie will have you think that it’s about Woody Allen, and all of his clowning-buddies, trying to hash together a plan to rob a bank, but being the buffoons that they are, just can’t get it to work. For the first 30 minutes or so, that’s exactly how it plays out in typical, Allen fashion. It’s fun, goofy, zany, witty, and very classy in the way that it’s just having a joyous time with itself and not worrying about going anywhere deeper than just a regular, heist movie.

Then something changes.

Without giving away too much of what goes down in this flick, especially in the latter-parts, I will say that it is the usual, kind of Allen we are used to seeing and loving so much, but much more important in the way it talks about it’s subject matter and the characters it usually points a funny finger at. For instance, all of the people that we are surrounded by in the latter-act are a bunch of richy-riches that act as if their shit don’t stank, don’t have a worry in the world because they can just get their butler or maid to do whatever they need done, and are totally absorbed in being fine, fancy, and loaded with cash. Allen makes fun of this but also brings up an important idea of how we all get absorbed when we have money, but yet, not everything about us gets affected, right?

It's a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn't going to be any shots of New York?

It’s a Woody Allen film, what did you think? There wasn’t going to be any nostalgic shots of New York?

It never goes anywhere deeper than that, which is probably one of Allen’s main faults with this movie, but that’s fine because the way Allen makes jokes and satirizes this life-style really made me laugh, as well as feel as if I was seeing real people, actually be affected by all of the money they have for themselves. Some people get wrapped-up in it all; some just stay the same. Some people like to see a fine opera on their Saturday night; some like to stay at home, hang out with their buddies, slug a couple of brews, eat chips, eat pizza, play some cards, and bet some moolah. Some people like to venture out to Europe to see what the life out there is all about; some are just content with staying home and enjoying all that’s around them, without having to jump aboard a plane.

Yes, if I was given $5 million, most likely, I would be going a tad bit insane with it all, just throwing it away and acting like I didn’t have to worry about bankruptcy, losing it, or wasting it at all, but would I change? That’s what I thought about with this movie and it’s always a testament to Allen’s fine writing as to how he is able to give us something more to think about then what we are seeing, even if he is still hitting the notes on making us laugh and have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is still hilarious and will make you chuckle more times than you can imagine, but the way that Allen is able to incorporate more general-thoughts, is what really stands-out with this flick, and sort of stands-out from everything else that he’s done. Allen is a very hit-or-miss director nowadays, but thankfully, it’s safe to say that this is a sure-hit for him. He’s creepy and all, but at least he makes good movies.

Regardless of who he prefers to go to bed with, Woody Allen is still a talented mofo, and a very likeable one at that. His performance here as Ray, the down-and-out con who just wants to re-live his glory days, is actually very surprising to see from him. No, don’t get me wrong, Allen still plays up his whole blubbering, frantic-phase that we all see and hopefully love from the guy, but not matter what, he stays lovable, easy-to-relate-to, and very believable as the type of guy that would actually be feigning at the knees to pull-off another heist. Allen never seemed like the bad-boy type to me, and I’m pretty sure everybody else feels the same way, but he will surprise you here by how much he’ll change your opinion on that as soon as it’s time for him to act. He’s still goofy, but he’s very smart too, and it’s never annoying.

The one who really steals the spot-light from Woody, just so happens to be Tracey Ullman as his wife, Frenchy. Ullman is really playing-up her New York, Jewish-look and accent but it works so well for this character because she’s so quirky, so funny, and so obvious at times, that you can’t help but like her in the way that she wants to be rich and accepted. The fights between her and Allen feel real because they never really escalate to the point of near-death, but actually just keep you laughing because they feel like two people that are just getting tired of each other’s shit, even if they know that they love each other in the end. Allen and Ullman on their own, are hilarious, but when they’re together; they’re freaking dynamite!

Still shocked that he isn't on the front-paper.

Still shocked that he isn’t in today’s head-lines.

Elaine May plays Frenchy’s sister, May, who is definitely not the brightest bulb of the bunch, but definitely charmed the hell out of this character. Not only is she hilarious at playing a total ditz, but she also has a sweet and sympathetic-look to her that isn’t all about playing dumb to be cute, but more or less just a lonely girl, that gets discouraged because she is stupid. Yeah, maybe I am looking into it just a tad much, but that doesn’t mean that the motivations for that character aren’t there and shows that there are at least more to her than we may presume. Nice job on both May and Allen for that side-addition. Everybody in this cast is pretty good, but most of them do feel underused. People like Jon Lovitz, Tony Darrow, and Michael Rapaport are all good for what they do, but also get thrown to the side once Hugh Grant shows his beautiful, British-self into the mix. Those damn Brits! Always stealing our screen-time, even in Woody Allen movies!

Consensus: The shift in narration may change some viewer’s opinions about Small Time Crooks, but nonetheless, still shows Woody Allen in top, comedic-form as a guy that loves playing around with conventions, characters, and humor that we all think we’ve seen before, but with a couple of surprises along the way.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"It's so artful."

“It’s so artful.”

Wimbledon (2004)

Tennis is for wimps, although football doesn’t seem like the type of sport that reels women in. Never mind then.

When it came to being the supreme star in the world of tennis, Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) was never quite that person, but he came pretty damn close back in the day, when he was ranked #15 in the world. Years later, he’s ranked #115. Yeah, time changes, people get older, and skills start to deplete over time, but Pete isn’t letting too much of it go to his head as he plans on making his latest-trip to Wimbledon, most likely his last one as he continues to let more and more people know that he is in fact “retiring from the world of tennis”. Sounds all depressing and whatnot for Pete, but then walks in Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst), a bright-and-shining star in the tennis world that is not only making her name known, but her look as well, especially in the eyes of Pete who just so happens to find Lizzie’s presence and likeness of him, help out his game a bit more and make tennis seem more like a fun, competitive-game for him once again, rather than just a chore.

Rom-coms and tennis are my least two favorite things in the world; put them together, you have a movie that’s just not for me, but yet, I still found myself oddly-attracted to. I don’t know how it happened, but I actually found myself sitting down on my couch in front of the Television, checking out Encore On Demand, finding this, and thinking, “Why the hell not?” and at least giving it a try. After witnessing this movie for all that it is, I feel like I should make random, aimless decisions like this more often, especially if they make my day just a bit sunnier. Even if it is the hot, summa time.

Woah! Tennis is actually FUN and INTENSE!??!!?

Woah! Tennis is actually FUN and INTENSE!??!!?

Everything you expect to happen in a movie like this, whether it be a rom-com or a romantic-dramedy (don’t know how to shorten that one up); happens exactly like you’d expect it to be. The initial-meeting between these two characters is hokey and contrived; the tennis scenes where Pete begins to feel the sensation come all throughout his body once again was seen from a mile-away (because honestly, who wants to see a movie where the lead character gets his ass kicked-out in the first round?); and once things begin to look bright for Pete, you realize that he’s going to end up facing somebody that’s supposed to mean a whole bunch to him and causing the most problems throughout most of the majority of the flick.

Yeah, I know a lot of you out there are probably going to be pissed off that I already spoiled all that you’re practically going to see here, but in all seriousness; if you watch the first 10 minutes of this movie and don’t already know what beats it’s going to hit, how and when, then STOP READING. I knew right from the start, I accepted it, and eventually, it’s magic and charm began to work for me in a way I didn’t expect it to. Rom-coms such as this don’t have to change the world or break any new-ground to really hit me and allow me to enjoy myself, they just need to be done right and that’s exactly how this flick is done here: just right.

Sort of like the Goldie Locks story, but instead of having a little, spoiled brat not make up her mind about what soup or bed to eat/use, we have a witty, British guy who’s trying to win over “the girl”, while also trying to win the coveted, Wimbledon tournament. This ones more entertaining and interesting than that sad-sack-of-a-tale, but they do come pretty damn close. Okay, not at all.

Anyway, back to the movie!

But ultimately, I think what struck my interest-level with this movie and had me eventually go for the gold with it was the fact that it had Paul Bettany in a rare, leading role that we so often see him in, let alone use to his advantage to show why he’s such a good actor,  as well as a very underrated one at that. Bettany gives off the same type of master wit and charm we’re so used to seeing and hearing work wonders for Hugh Grant, but it works even better with Bettany, along with the character he’s playing, because the guy’s just generally likable, even from the start. Pete, as you can tell, is not a guy who asks for much in the world, other than a slight-shot at fame once again, some love in his life, and eternal happiness for the rest of it. That’s all there is to this guy and because of that aspect of this character, and the way Bettany allows him to be perceived as, the movie’s a lot better to sit-through because we see, what seems to be a real guy, going through real problems, and wanting to have real solutions, to his said real life. This is where Bettany shines, not just by making us laugh or want to give this guy a hug, but also show why more and more Hollywood producers should take a look at him when they’re thinking about what next British actor to call next after Colin Firth or Hugh Grant deny a role.

"Love rules! So does tennis! Woo-hoo!"

“Love rules! So does tennis! Woo-hoo!”

And no, I don’t mean these types of opportunities.

While Bettany keeps the movie going, Kirsten Dunst doesn’t show any signs of slowing it down either. Dunst has always been that actress I’ve gone-to-bat for on many occasions, and she’s fine here as Lizzie, even though I feel like she may have just been a bit too young and ambitious with her life to settle-down for such an old-head like Pete, despite the dude being only 32 in the movie. Still, that’s just a weird nit-pick of mine, either way; they’re chemistry is sweet, sexy and worth sticking with this movie for, even if they do feel like they were put together because the studio’s first-choices bailed-out at the last second. Not to be a dick and all, but seriously, I highly doubt that Hollywood producers were clamoring in their seats for the day that they finally got “Mary Jane Watson and that British dude who shows up on the side in every movie” together as love-interests. Just a thought, as mean or as bold as it may be perceived as.

Consensus: Everything you’ve seen done and/or occur before in a rom-com, happens exactly, note-for-note in Wimbledon, but because of fun chemistry between the well-acted leads of Bettany and Dunst, the constant clichés are worth ignoring and/or getting used to, in order just to have a good time with yourself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"You're that dude who's practically naked all throughout A Knight's Tale, right?"

“You’re that dude who’s practically naked all throughout A Knight’s Tale, right? Yeah, you’re not so hot with your clothes on.”

Warm Bodies (2013)

Eat it, Nicholas Sparks! No, literally: eat it.

R (Nicholas Hoult), is a lonely zombie who longs for more in life rather than eating brains of the humans he hunts down. Suddenly, he falls in love with a beautiful human survivor named Julie (Teresa Palmer), who he gains feelings for after he eats the brains of her boy-toy (Dave Franco). As their relationship deepens, he soon begins to act more and more human, but he’s not the only zombie who feels these same feelings and emotions.

Ever since the Walking Dead come onto the air, we’ve been getting this huge explosion of zombies. World War Z is coming out, zombie-costumes have been in high-demand every year for Halloween parties, and finally, George A. Romero seems to be getting the love and praise he’s deserved for so damn long. However, we only knew it was a matter of time until the teens started to latch-on to the latest craze, and give us what is essentially the Twilight film, of the zombie-genre. However, have no fear, as this movie doesn’t feature anybody named Bella, Jacob, or Edward. Score!

The trailer may have you fooled about this movie because it continues to advertise it as a rom-com, mixed with horror and action, but make no means: this is a romantic-comedy at it’s finest. The movie starts off slow and rugged, but not in the bad-way that you might suspect. It actually fits with the way the story is structured in how we follow R throughout his day as he rambles on and on about the inner-day livings of a regular, slowly-moving zombie, and listening to all of his quirky and zany pieces of insight, really work and make this movie stand-out among the rest of the zombie flicks I have seen recently. You have a sense that this movie is going to be more about characters, setting, and story, rather than blood, guts, action, and zombies. You do get some of the latter elements, but the first ones are here in full-effect and that’s all thanks to director Jonathan Levine.

Oh yeah, and points-off for stealing a page directly out of Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Like nobody in the past decade hasn’t already seen Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Levine takes the “indie-approach” here, and has this movie focus more on the relationship between R and Julie (if you haven’t been able to figure this out by now, it’s essentially Romeo & Juliet) which not only builds-up the interaction between these two different people, from two, completely different backgrounds, but also builds-up on what’s yet to come with what these two could possibly form, if the world ever gets back to normal. We get a real sense of the dynamic between the two as they interact through looking at R’s collectibles, jamming out to some choice tunes from Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and John Waite, amongst many others, and most importantly, getting to know one another through where questions of where they came from, how they got to where they are, and where the world could go if everything doesn’t turn to shit right away.

You really root for these two to be together and it almost feels like the movie actually does to, as it may even sound crazy in your head that you want a zombie and a human-being to be together, but it’s different than that. It’s more subdued, and more about building a relationship between two people and it just goes to show you that if you focus on characters, and are able to make their dialogue and development interesting enough to hold your interest, than almost any ridiculous plot can work. It may sound crazy but I think this simple tale of a love brewing between a zombie and a female, may actually be the Valentine’s Gift that you men may want to take your ladies out to see. Don’t expect any hanky-panky by the end of the night, but definitely do expect some sort of heavy-petting, cuddling, or tonsil hockey. I don’t know how exciting or titillating that may sound to you guys, but hey, it’s better than getting nothing on Valentine’s Day. Am I right, men? Huh? Huh?

However, in a cheap and lame-way of trying to make sure that all types of horny teenagers may go out and actually see this movie, they’ve slapped it with a PG-13-rating that is not only pretty soft, but also doesn’t allow it to get any edgier than it could have been. There is action that does happen here, but it’s very sparse and filmed in a way where you don’t see much blood, gore, or brains, but it’s also made in such a way that’s constantly bothersome, as if the movie knew that it had to appeal to a larger-audience so they decided to take it easy on the ketchup packets. I get that all movies try to go for that PG-13-rating so they can hopefully reach that audience where angst-ridden teenagers may hopefully want to venture out and see, in hopes of an easy lay that night, but then again, when you take the subject-matter into mind and realize that this is a ZOMBIE MOVIE where are talking about here: it does seem like an obvious, if not reasonable cash-grab. Hey, I guess Levine’s family has gotta eat, too.

Despite that d-bag problem us movie aficionados may have with the tame-approach, the movie still succeeds in giving us a relationship that is worth watching, believing in, and hoping actually survives by the time the 90-minutes is up. That’s all thanks to the charming leads: played by Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Ever since his days of paling around with Hugh Grant, Hoult has been on the verge of breaking-out and letting everybody know that yes, he has grown-up and yes, he is a good-looking lad now, but if A Single Man was his attempt at trying to persuade me, it didn’t quite work. However, Hoult shows me that I’m an idiot and have no clue what I’m talking about with his performance as R, the zombie who wants more than just eating brains and listening to vinyl records: he wants love, he wants a girl, he just wants life. Hoult doesn’t have to do or say much, considering that his character is a zombie and all (just a small-fact), but he still does a nice-job at giving R a loveable personality that’s easy to fall for, almost as much as Teresa Palmer’s character does.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

Speaking of Palmer, she is great as Julie, the one-in-a-million, attractive girl that would actually for a thing that eats brains and hasn’t bathed for as long as the apocalypse started, but yet, still makes it all believable. She has a lot to work with in how she sees the world she used to know, where it’s gone, and how she can make herself happier in it, and even though it is a bit obvious that she would try to rebel against her powerful and control-hungry daddy, Palmer is still always a welcome-presence on-screen and the scenes with her and Hoult actually made me jealous, as it actually seemed like they were, in-fact, falling in love. Somebody hold J-Law down, because she may have a bone or two to pick with Ms. Teresa Palmer! Regardless of my jokey side-comments, Palmer and Hoult are great in this movie, whether they are together or not and make this movie work a lot more than it had any right to be. You know, being a zombie, rom-com coming out in the dead of Winter.

Rob Corddry shows-up as M, one of R’s fellow zombie-buddies that he occasionally grunts with, and seems like he’s having a ball with a role that would have and could have been played by anybody. Corddry actually gets a real chance to shine later-on when his character has some more dramatic-heights to jump-over and surprisingly: the guy excels in it. With this and the close-to-being-abysmal Butter, Corddry may have patched a new leaf for himself and hopefully, this shows us finer things to come for the man. Playing the “powerful and control-hungry daddy” that I spoke about earlier, is John Malkovich who, as always, is great at what he does and comes-off as a terrible and despicable man you just do not like, care for, or would never even trust running your society in a post-apocalyptic world, but shows more dimensions than that and has you actually fall for the guy. Yes, people, believe or not: there was a time when John Malkovich played nice characters, who did nice things for all of the rest of humanity and it’s a great thing to see him play that type-of-role, once again. It’s been too long, John. Please do stay.

Consensus: The PG-13-rating that’s supposed to please almost everyone and everybody, is what keeps Warm Bodies reaching the bar set-by other, fellow zombie movies out there, but it is still a pleasant rom-com, that has a twist you believe in, enjoy watching, and can actually, sort of relate to. Well, that is, unless you have never dated a chick in high-school. Hayoo!!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren't you?"

“Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren’t you?”

P.S. Major, and I do mean MAJOR, props go out to Rodney from Fernby Films for the new header up-above. Hope you all like it and while you’re at it, go on over and give the guy a look. He’s got some solid material that is definitely worth a view or two.

Holy Motors (2012)

https://i2.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/-CPsn0PyqTdc/T8Nu_KGnDzI/AAAAAAAAMtc/BzYEfvwDApE/s1600/aaCannesHolyM1.jpegFrench people are weird. Big woop!

From dawn to after nightfall, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavant), a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man… He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part…but where are the cameras?

I’ve been hearing a hell of a lot of noise about this crazy French-flick through the grapevine and for the most part: I had no idea what the hell to expect. I heard it was weird, I heard it was strange, I heard it didn’t make sense, I heard it demanded repeated-viewings, I heard people didn’t get it, and I heard people (mainly critics) had a freakin’ hard-on over it, but most of all, I heard it was a movie that needed to be seen. Thankfully, I found it somewhere, checked it out, and still have no idea what the hell to even think about this in the end. Well, then again, maybe that’s the point after all?

Writer/director Leos Carax definitely has his own way of making a movie, and he sticks very, very clear to that style/image. Right from the beginning, I felt like I was watching a David Lynch movie with all of the weird and surreal images, that sometimes lingered right on ambiguous and I really wondered what the hell I was caught with here. However, the film went on and that’s when things started to pick-up and become more and more fun, not just for me though, for Carax as well.

I’m not too sure what the main plot of this movie is, but without giving too much away, we practically just watch a guy run-around France, dress-up in different costumes, and do some oddly crazy shit that you may have to wipe your eyes a few times to believe what it is that you are actually seeing. Watching this main character just do a bunch of strange-shit, without any rhyme or reason would have been terribly annoying, and just another time for me to rant and rave about how much I didn’t get anything that happened, but that didn’t seem to really impact my overall feeling of the movie here and that’s mainly because of Carax and his style of filmmaking, as weird as it may be.

Being nutty and completely random seems like the name of the game for Carax and I stand by the dude because he knows how to have a good-time with material that seems to lose anybody within the first 5 minutes of it being on-screen. For instance, watching a guy dress-up as a whole bunch of people, sometimes going around kidnapping, killing, or treating people, seems like an confused piece of boredom, but it surprisingly isn’t for the longest-time. Carax just throws whatever the hell it is that he can get to stick-up on the wall and the stuff that does stick, for the most part, worked and had me feeling like I was apart of a good-time and it didn’t matter where it went with itself, either. Sometimes you get a gangster movie, sometimes you get a melodrama, sometimes you get a comedy, and sometimes, oddly enough, you get a musical. I’m telling you, you will have no idea what to expect from this movie and once you get used to the fact that Carax is just going to do his own thang, and doesn’t give a hoot on whether or not you like it, then the better time you may have.

However, when I do say the word “may”, I really do mean that you may or may not like it because it’s not for everyone, and I’m still trying to guess on whether or not which group I was particularly apart of. The reason I say that is because about half-way through this flick, things start to shake-up and get a bit weird, but not in the good-weird either. See, with the first 45 minutes or so, I was catching what Carax was throwing at me, because everything was quick, fast, weird, and pretty humorous for the most part. But, after those first 45 minutes, things start to change and get slow, soapy, weird, and pretty, pretty serious, and almost to the point of where I had no idea where they were going with it.

For instance, I’m all fine and dandy with a movie that’s willing to just be crazy and not make an apology for it, or it’s weird story, but you got to give me a reasoning for everything that I’m seeing, or else you’re really going to start to lose me, and lose me quick. That’s the problem with this movie, Carax forgets the three main-points you need to have to a script to really make us care and why: the “who”, the “why”, and the “what”. Honestly, I had no idea what this Oscar-guy was doing, why he was doing it, or for the most-part, who the hell all of these random characters were that just seemed to pop-up out of nowhere, give their 10 cents away, and never be seen, or heard from again.

And usually I can get rid of these plot problems in terms of reasoning, just because of the fun feel and look of the movie, but this movie really does lose that fun, infectious-feel to it that made me feel so along for the ride in the first-place. It seems as if Carax decided to slow everything down, get a bit serious, and ultimately, try to make things more dramatic with a character we knew nothing about, have no background on him whatsoever, and just have no idea hos motivations or ideas in his head are. Maybe I was thinking a bit too much about this guy, what Carax was going to do with him, and where the story was going to take him, but I do think that the viewer (myself included) deserves more of an understanding of what they’re watching, and not robbed of that idea in their heads, just because the director feels the need to be so cool, creative, and, well, dare I say it, relatively pretentious. Yeah, I’m going to get a lot of heat for that last one, but hey, bring it on, hardcore critics!

If there is any reason as to why this character, Oscar, even works is because of the guy who’s playing him: Denis Lavant. Lavant has not been a dude I’ve seen much of in anything really, but he absolutely blasted me away with everything he pulled-off here with all of the costumes, clothes, and different appearances that seemed to take-on a life of it’s own sometimes. When Cloud Atlas came-out, everybody was boasting about how much stars like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant all had to really stretch their acting abilities out just to keep-up with all of the make-up, costumes, and different character variations, well to be honest, none of them have got shit on Lavant, because this guy blows them all out of the water by totally convincing us he’s every single one of these different characters, dedicates himself to that character, and never for once seems like he’s faking. There’s a couple of really weird and crazy stuff this guy has to go through with, but you know, Lavant makes it all seem way too easy and the guy is one talented mofo, that I hope to see a lot more of in the future.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, but much like a similar-movie that came out this year and featured a shit-load of scenes with a guy in the back of a limo (Cosmopolis), they don’t really have much to do, except stand there for Lavant and watch as he takes over each and every scene. The most familiar faces out of the whole bunch of supporters, is probably Eva Mendes, who barely even speaks in her whole role as a sexy model that Oscar kidnaps, and a still, stunningly beautiful Kylie Minogue who shows-up, let’s us all know that she’s still alive and well, and still reminding us that she can sure as hell still sing. God, I still wonder where that gal must be nowadays!

Consensus: Even though it’s not for everybody (and still may not even be for me), Holy Motors is still a flick that plays by it’s own set of rules, makes no apologies for it, and even asks you to come-along for the ride. It’s not a wholly-satisfying ride, but still one that will have you entertained, intrigued, and just wondering what the hell is going to happen next.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Cloud Atlas (2012)

So, since we’re all connected to one another, does that mean Hugh Grant is connected to me??!?! Yes!

The movie explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Most of you folks out there have probably been seeing loads and loads of advertisements and whatnot for this flick and are probably thinking, “What the hell is this about?” I’m pretty sure my synopsis up there didn’t provide any such help for you either so let me just start off by saying it’s about a bunch of stories that all take place during the past, present, and future, and all connect to each other in slight, little-clever ways. There, now you have it so let’s get on with what makes this film one that the common-folk will hopefully see. I highly doubt my review will do anything to change the opinions of peeps, but there’s always hope, people.

This movie marks the long-awaited return of the famous directing team, the Wachowskis, but it isn’t all about them the whole way. They also share directing-duties with Tom Tykwer, but that doesn’t matter because you can’t really tell who’s directing who as neither of them really have a distinct-style of film-making, other than using loads and loads of CGI in their works. Not saying that’s a bad thing but it’d be a lot more obvious if you had a pairing-up between two directors like, say, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch. One person would be telling a story about a bunch of mobsters going off to whack some guy, while the other person would be telling a story about boogie-men, Roy Orbison songs, and live-walking bunnies. Hell, now that I think about it, that would make a pretty cool-ass flick. Anyway, I am toates off-subject here. Back to the freakin’ movie at-hand.

From what I hear through the grapevine, the original novel that this movie is based off of, has been apparently called unfilmable, which makes the direction between these three seem all the more eventful in the long-run. There about six-different stories that are told here, and all seem very understood and easy to follow, where you don’t really ever get confused as to what story is actually taking place and what the hell is going on in each of them. All stories are pretty simple to follow and even though some of them may have goofy sci-fi shit going on, you still get the gist of what’s going on.

And what’s so great about all of these different stories, is that each and every single one is about as entertaining and interesting as you could get. Granted, not all of the stories hold your attention as much (the one that takes place in the woods where everybody talks like they’re from the South, during the 19th century), but they all seemed to keep me glued to the screen and provided me with the right ingredients to have a good time. They also all seem to have their own personalities where there’s one story concerning romance, one story concerning a bunch of slap-stick humor (and it’s slap-stick done right, mind you), one story concerning sci-fi, futuristic action, and even one story that reminded me a lot of Death Wish, with it’s cool, 70’s-thriller vibe. In a way, there’s something here that’s for everyone and if you don’t find one story all that intriguing  then you can always depend on another one to come right out, and sweep you off your feet to get you right back into what’s on-screen. Great directing skills from all three of these peeps and it shows you that these guys still have it in them to make an entertaining movie, even if it is almost 3-hours long. Yes, you heard me right, people. 3-HOURS LONG. Bring the red bull, you may need it. But yet, it’s 3-hours that didn’t feel like it at all, so maybe you don’t. You know what? Bring it just in case.

However, as entertaining and interesting as this whole film was, I still felt a bit empty at the end of it all. The whole point of this movie was understandable, and it was how we all the same, underneath our skin. It’s a message that does get drawn-out very well in this movie with certain stories relating and connecting to another in a very small-way, but that message didn’t have any impact on me whatsoever when the movie was over. Some of the characters in the stories I did care about, but not to the point of where I felt like I was going to cry my eyes out if they died or anything. Maybe that’s sick-way of thinking when you see a flick like this but that’s how it all went down for me. No emotional impact, no emotional connection, no nothing. It was just a bunch of fun, entertainment that kept my interest.

But somehow, I felt like the Wachowskis and Tykwer were going for me than just that, which is why I felt like I missing something at the end. The score did give me that epic-feeling in the pit of my stomach and had me look to the screen with wonder, but how the hell was I supposed to connect to characters and to a story through just plain and simple score-music? I don’t know what was wrong with me during the viewing of this flick, but if you expect a huge, tear-jearker, than you may have come to the wrong-place. Bad/sad stuff does happen, but never to the point of where I felt like I needed an extra box of Kleenex on the way home. Maybe that answers the question for ‘ya. So, for all of you Nicholas Sparks fans, don’t even think about going to this after a bad break-up and expecting to relate.

Most of the fun of this movie that I already alluded to earlier, is watching the ensemble cast and seeing all of these different roles they pick-up in each story. See, in this movie, instead of just having a star play one character, in one story, and having that be their own pride and joy, they all get to play another character in each and every other story and all have different looks. Some are goofy-looking, and some are pretty neat-o how they all pulled it off (make-up and costume designs are sure to get an Oscar nomination this year), but overall, they all will probably have you staring at that one character and thinking to yourself, “Is that Huge Weaving in drag?”

And yes, in case you wondering, Hugo Weaving does actually show-up in drag here and it’s fun to watch him play it too, because the guy plays a villain in every, single story. But he’s not the only one having fun out of the cast, because everybody else is pretty much too. Tom Hanks shows up the most prominently in this flick and plays all of these different types and roles that we have never really seen from the guy before and it just goes to show you why exactly this guy is the face of-Hollywood, in a lot of ways. Halle Berry is another one who shows up the most prominently in this flick and shows us all why she deserves bigger and better roles like the ones she has here. It’s been awhile since Berry has actually took a nice, juicy-role that spoke to her true talents as an actress, and thankfully, the time has come to where we see it finally and she handles herself oh so perfectly with every story.

Out of this whole cast, it’s really hard to decipher who has the more-difficult tasks at-hand here, but I will say that the one I was most impressed with was Jim Sturgess who held his own pretty damn well throughout this whole flick. Maybe the guy didn’t do an amazingly spectacular job, but after appearing in shit like 21, Across the Universe, and One Day, the guy took me by surprise by showing me the depths he has as an actor and I look forward to seeing what else he can do in the near-future with his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, he steers clear of those soapy, melodramas that always seem to plague young, good-looking guys’ careers like his.

It should also be as to no surprise that Jim Broadbent steals the show in every story he has, and the one where he and a couple of fellow old-timers plan an escape out of an old-folks home is definitely worth the price of admission alone. Basically, everybody you see on that cast-list up there on the poster, is featured plenty of times in this movie that will have you pointing to the screen a crap-load of times. But on a sad-note, the coolest Brit of them all seems to get the short-stick a bit. Yep, that’s right. I’m talking about you Hugh Grant. I want to see more of you buddy, so show-up in more stuff!

Consensus: Cloud Atlas is a very, very long movie that’s filled with plenty of stories, plenty of characters, and plenty of ambitions that it’s set for itself, but is also a very entertaining and beautiful movie to watch as it never really leaves you bored when it’s all over. It may not be the most emotionally-impacting viewing-experience you’ll have this year, but it’s a great watch that will probably take-up half of your day. But, in a good way at least.

8/10=Matinee!!

Notting Hill (1999)

Those travel-book store owners are always getting the hotties.

When shy Portobello Road bookshop owner William Thacker (Hugh Grant) accidentally spills fruit juice over browsing Hollywood star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts), it’s the start of a tentative, faltering, on/off relationship.

Basically, this is just a premise that is based on pure fantasy where the average, middle-class dude ends up nailing the hottest celebrity of the century. However, some of those fantasies only last for one night of sexual passion, this movie lasts until these two end up falling in love and that may be taking it a bit overboard.

I can’t say that this film isn’t funny because there were plenty of moments where I found myself having some pretty big laugh-out-loud moments that made me realize that I surprisingly do understand British wit after all. Writer Richard Curtis is a dude every person with a funny accent knows and with good reason, because he’s a damn funny writer. Plenty of scenes here don’t even seem like they should belong in here and are more or less used just to get some laughs, but they are used well and made me enjoy this flick even more than I expected. Richard Curtis is definitely a guy I need to check out more of because he is able to somehow always make me laugh no matter what the film may be.

The problem this film hits is that it’s whole romantic drama aspect of it is very weak mainly because the main relationship just never felt like anything as genuine or as special that this film was trying to throw at us. It’s one of those diamond in the rough stories but after awhile, it goes on to get more and more serious and indulged in this romance that doesn’t have much love backing it up in the first place. Why does this chick decide to give this one random dude a chance? Why does she care so much? What’s attracting these two to each other so much that they can’t be away from one another? All of these questions never get answers because we barely ever get any glimpses into why these two feel the way for each other other than the fact that she’s hot, rich, and famous and he’s just something new and different for her. Then again, I don’t even think they bring that up about him so that’s just all me saying that.

It wouldn’t have been as bad if the film didn’t really hammer us over the head by the end with all of these corny and predictable love monologues that seem to go on way too long. Oh, speaking of going on for too long, did I forget to mention that this flick is also 123 minutes?!? That’s right people, 123 minutes of a predictable romance between a celebrity and a regular dude. I don’t know why so many rom-com’s feel the need to just make their films longer and longer as the years go by because I can barely stomach an 80-minute rom-com, let alone one that’s over 2 hours.

The real saving grace for this flick that did win me over was this cast. It’s strange that Julia Roberts took this role as Anna Scott because she is basically portraying herself. Scott is famous, good-looking, talented, and very much in the press with just about everything she does and Roberts is exactly the same person. However, Roberts is very good in this role as Scott and tries her hardest to give her some dimension but the script doesn’t focus on her all that much except for the fact that she is famous and wants a dude in her life that isn’t in the same social class as her. Hugh Grant really saved this flick for me because he’s so funny with all of his quirks and wit that made me laugh just about every time he used one of them and actually had me enjoy this character William, actually, maybe a lot more than Scott. Their chemistry is pretty good together and even though the flick never really develops their relationship and show exactly why it is that they love each other so very much, you can still depend on their work together to show you the reasons why. The rest of the cast is also very funny especially Rhys Ifans who plays Grant’s house-mate, Spike, and is a disgusting and vile person but he’s also damn funny and a delight to watch on-screen every time.

Consensus: Notting Hill has an underdeveloped romance that gets very predictable by the end, but the chemistry and performances from Grant and Roberts both save this film and make it an enjoyable rom-com. But then again, aren’t they all?!? Maybe not.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)

And Jack Sparrow thought he was witty.

With the “Pirate of the Year” awards around the corner, Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) and his crew of scallywags take to the high seas to find a bounty worthy of entering the awards. Instead they find a young Charles Darwin (David Tennant), who informs them that their beloved parrot is in fact a rare dodo, a discovery priceless in the scientific world.

This is the latest flick from Aardman Animation, aka the witty Brits from ‘Wallace & Gromit’, and ‘Chicken Run’, which means, in terms of comedy, this film has a whole lot to live up to. But when you touch something like pirates and try to make them goofy, it more or less just comes off as being another ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ flick, except in stop-motion form.

What I can say about this flick is that even though it’s not as hilarious as previous efforts done by this gang, the film still stands on its own two feet and made me laugh quite a number of times. The film brings out plenty of pop-culture references (such as a very memorable about ‘The Elephant Man’) but it doesn’t feel like overkill because these Brits have such great comedic timing. So many animated films, ever since the days of ‘Shrek’, have all tried to incorporate a bunch of dumb pop-culture jokes into their stories just for a quick joke but have usually come off as annoying and cheeky. Here, we get a good amount of that but it’s used in a way that seems like it’s actually moving the plot forward and keeping the laughs moving. Hell, we even get a funny montage played to the tune of “London Calling” by The Clash, which is always great to hear in any movie but it’s used to good effect here.

This is more of a film that centered towards little, American kids which means there is still plenty of fighting, action, and cool things for the kids to go “oooh” and “aaah” at. Since this is Aardman, you can pretty much expect that the stop-motion animation will be in top-shape, which it is, but the real bummer here was that they do sort of get away with using some CGI here as well. I know it sounds like something dumb to point out but these guys are the last things that stop-motion has left (unless Wes Anderson decides to give ‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox Part 2’ a try) so I think it would be a huge shame if these guys just walked out on it now.

Also, with a comedy that is actually just about 86 minutes long, I was expecting a lot more of it to be filled with jokes and plenty of that dry British charm that we all love so nearly and dearly to our hearts. Instead, a lot of it starts to run dry by the last act where everything comes together in another, predictable fight where pretty much every character shows up to drop a funny line here and there. I don’t want to say that this bothered me completely, but if you have already seen the trailer as much as I have, I would like to let you know that a lot of the funny parts from this movie are already in there. So if you haven’t seen the trailer (and if you’ve been to the movies within the past month, it’s got to be pretty damn hard) don’t watch it and check this out because you’ll probably be laughing a lot more than I did.

It surprised me, but I couldn’t really tell right off the bat that it was Hugh Grant voicing The Pirate Captain here, but when I did notice it, I thought it was a great role for him considering this guy never does such a kiddie thing like this. Grant still sounds very Grant-ish with a whole bunch of nervous stammering as the usually, less-than-bright kind of character he usually plays in these flicks. I also have to say that it was pretty cool to see Grant not try to be all goofy as Captain here and try to do what Johnny Depp. Instead, he goes right back to the good old days when pirates were a bit goofy but still cool deep down inside.

There’s a whole bunch of other big British names like Brendan Gleeson, Ashley Jensen, Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, and plenty more doing great jobs with their voices here even though Jeremy Piven seemed very miscast here as another pirate. His voice is so distinct and so deuchy that this character almost comes off as too serious and too obvious that it maybe didn’t clash well with this light tone that the film was giving off so much. In any other film though, Piven would have been fine to have.

Consensus: The British charm of these Aardman flicks may not be as strong here as it is with so many of their other flicks, but there is still a lot of fun, adventure, and dry humor to hold not only the kids over, but the parents who bring them to this film as well.

6/10=Rental!!

Countdown to Claus: Love Actually (2003)

Who loves Christmas? Almost every single British star apparently does.

I would give this huge plot synopsis but there really is so much here. Basically, everything in a nutshell, a lot of British folks fall in love with one another and Christmas starts to approach, which as everybody knows, means they all have to basically let their hearts out and tell the truth.

When I say there is a lot of stories in this flick, I mean there are a lot but I think director Richard Curtis does a fine job of handling all of these stories at once. He knows how to structure all of these stories together so well that they don’t seem too overwhelming to take in or repetitive for that sake. He doesn’t drop the ball as much as I would have expected him to but when it comes to handling dozens and dozens of love stories in just one flick that runs at 129 minutes, let’s just say that he’s no Robert Altman folk.

Where I think this flick gets messed up on is the fact there are way too many stories in this film and rather than just singling out every tiny story that it had, I’ll just tell you that there are some good bits and other bad ones. Some stories were obviously better than others, however, there were some that seemed unneeded because even though they were all comedies at heart, they also had a lot of downer dramatic elements to them as well.

There were also many moments with this film that seemed so cheesy and schmaltzy that I wanted to punch somebody in the face as soon as I heard another British bloke say, “I love you” to a chick they’ve known for only 2 days. The whole story with Liam Neeson and his step-son is really creepy and the whole fact that he’s telling his son to go and get it like a man, seemed a tad strange to me and almost like the film was trying way too hard to be cute.

The last of my problems with this flick is that it is very uneven. The abundance of stories would have been a little bit more enjoyable if they actually had some evening out with all of the stories but the problem here is that some stories go on for awhile and then you never see the other ones again, until you’ve almost forgotten about them completely. The whole Keira Knightley love-angle seemed very minor in this flick and although that one flash-card scene was cool, the film only has about 3 scenes of this little “romance” brewing up. Too many times I would wonder just where a certain story would have gone, and then when it came up I practically almost forgot about it.

Still, even though I’m ragging on this flick a whole hell of a lot, it still won me over. Despite some of schmaltzy moments there is a lot of heart-warming stuff going on here and each little story in their own right, is original and interesting. Take it for granted, there are some lame ones and others that plain and simply don’t belong because they either take up space or aren’t as interesting when it comes to having you smile when the supposed “love” is supposed to be going on. But not only are there a whole bunch of moments that had me tummy feel are warm and cuddly, there were also plenty of laughs to come along with this flick and even though they start to decrease by the end, I still felt myself happy.

The reason this film also works is because of the huge ensemble cast that Curtis has brought together. Everybody here does a great job with the ones who stand-out such as Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Colin Firth as a writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, and Emma Thompson as a wife that is getting played with. Everybody here was great to watch and it was just awesome how everybody got to play around with their roles for a little bit, even if they weren’t really doing anything ground-breaking. Let’s not to forget that Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead is up in herrre and the always lovely Mr. Bean. People should get the notion that you should put Atkinson in every single British film. The damn guy is always funny!

Consensus: Love Actually is very uneven, and has stories that are better than others, but Richard Curtis still handles every story well here with heart-warming and comedic moments that are heightened even more by the charming cast.

7/10=Rental!!

An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1998)

Somebody needs to burn this film.

In this satire skewering Hollywood movie making, Eric Idle stars as a film editor who gets a shot at directing a big-budget film (starring Sylvester Stallone and Whoopi Goldberg, no less) but is foiled by his producer (Ryan O’Neal). The premise builds on the age-old showbiz tradition of directors pulling their names from projects and replacing them with “Alan Smithee” credits to show that too many cooks have spoiled the cinematic broth.

OK, so now that the movie is finished with let me just start by saying this is a horrible film. I heard that this film was basically called “the worst film of all-time”, and liked swooped seven awards at The Golden Raspberry’s, and I wanted to give it a shot and actually see for myself. Now I wish I never made that decision.

Basically this film has a Mockumentary feel to it, like The Office or This Is Spinal Tap…., but this film takes that and moves it completely nowhere we expected. The film had little scenes that were just interviews that seemed to talk about the same crap after all this time. They were either talking about the director or the movie, or they were showing scenes that had nothing to do with the story at hand.

The worst thing about this film that really just made me want to kill something was it’s annoying on-going jokes about bigger and better stars. I understand a little pun joke here and there but once you do the same joke in a different format then I start to get really annoyed. The jokes labeled around stars such as Hugh Grant, OJ Simpson, and others I can’t remember cause there were so many.

I hated how this film tried to be funny but also insightful in a way, and does neither. The film tries showing how people in the film industry react with one another and really it just doesn’t play out to where we get what is the message behind it all.

Maybe the only the only thing saving this movie is it’s lead performance from Ryan O’Neal. Out of this whole film he is the only good thing as he is so condescending and arrogant that he actually feels like a real person that you just hate. There are little cameos in this film that are just meaningful and make no addition to the story other than just having another big name for the card.

Consensus: Irony has never been placed so wisely. This film should’ve been burned right from the moment it was conceived. The comedy is so obvious that it’s just dumb, and there is absolute no insight about Hollywood that we haven’t seen before.

1/10=SomeOleBullShiiittt!!!!