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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Idris Elba

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Who gave Kevin Feige acid?

The God of Thunder, also known as Thor (Chris Hemsworth), after finding out that he and his evil adopted-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), have an evil older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett) that they never knew a thing about, is sent away to an awful planet where all of the universe’s trash and undesirables are dropped off and sometimes, even sold. Thor becomes one of those items and is forced to face-off against an old pal of his, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who, after leaving the rest of the Avengers to fend for themselves over two years ago, has been hulking out, beating the crap out of all sorts of foes. But Thor thinks that he can get through to Hulk and, hopefully, bring him back to Asgard, so that they can take down Hela, as powerful as she may be. Of course, though, Thor’s going to need some more help than just a Hulk. This leads him to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a bad-ass bounty hunter who gives a Thor a run for his money, in terms of fighting and drinking, but also in the ways of the heart.

Brotherly love.

Ragnarok is probably one of the weirder Marvel movies out there, which I don’t say lightly. The first Guardians of the Galaxy and even to a certain extent, the sequel, were both so incredibly odd and crazy, that they almost didn’t feel like products of a huge corporation, made for the sole sake of mass-consumption. In ways, they were original and electrifying enough to stand on their own terms and not just be another installment to the already-expanded Marvel Universe that we hear way too much of.

But yes, Ragnarok comes pretty close to being even weirder and it’s both great, as well as a little disappointing. It’s great because it shows that even with a character like Thor who, in all respects, may be the least interesting Avenger of the bunch, can actually have his story told and go to crazy lengths that we don’t expect. Due to Ragnarok being set in the galaxy, where everything is already nutty and wild, director Taika Waititi, who is already an inspired-choice, gets the opportunity to go as far and as deep into this insanity as he wants.

Which is great and all because the movie’s funny.

Like, really funny.

“Uh, yeah. Like, Thor, uh, you’re a uh, you know, pretty crazy guy.”

And it’s why the one-half of Ragnarok works so well; it’s not afraid to be silly, weird and meandering, even when we know that there’s a story to be told and a much bigger-universe out there. Most of the humor and fun of the movie comes from just making fun of these characters, their characteristics, and how exactly they’re all just a bunch of comic-book characters, literally made to function as fully-dimensional human beings. It’s a joke in the sense that it’s not really a joke, because it’s all taken seriously and still gives us glimpses of actual character-development, but man, it can be so funny to watch.

But then, the other-half of Ragnarok, the one that takes primarily on Ragnarok, is a bit of a bummer. And it’s not like bits and pieces of this half aren’t interesting and/or fun to watch – watching Cate Blanchett vamp and go way over-the-top is more than worth the price of admission – but it’s so slow and expository, it just feels like a bit of a drag. All we really want to do is get back to Thor, Hulk, and whatever the hell Jeff Goldbum is, because they’re where the real party is at.

However, you also can’t fault the movie all that much because they sort of get this idea real quick and decide to keep things with Thor for a good portion. It makes sense why we have all of this villain-building, but it could have done better. That, and also, the Thor-stuff is just so much fun that we almost never want to leave it.

It’s just a weird and crazily fun time. Something I don’t say too often when it comes to Marvel movies.

Consensus: Not afraid to get a little weird and silly, Ragnarok proves why we deserve to see Thor’s story again, with a great bit of fun, exciting supporting-players to keep things always entertaining.

7.5 / 10

LET. THEM. FIGHT.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Mountain Between Us (2017)

At least they have a dog.

Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) are two people who desperately need to board their planes. He’s about to save somebody’s life in a very critical surgery, whereas she has a wedding to get to. However, their flight gets cancelled when, due to stormy weather, the skies just aren’t totally safe to go through. But Alex has a plan and that’s to board a charter plane, between her and Ben, and a pilot (Beau Bridges) that she entrusts to get them where they both need to get to, safely and without any issue of hitting the storm. However, halfway through the flight, the pilot suffers a stroke and they crash somewhere out in the middle of the wilderness, without any signs of life anywhere to be found. Both survive and although Alex has an injury, it’s nothing too serious that Ben can’t help out. Now, it’s just up to the two to survive and do what they can to make it through this awful predicament they are in, even if they aren’t wholly sure if they’ll ever get out of this alive, or even sane.

Is this considered the “meet-cute”?

The Mountain Between Us is the kind of melodramatic, sappy, and cheesy piece of fluff that Hollywood so rarely makes anymore, in that it’s actually not awful. Think a Nicholas Sparks movie, but instead of having subplots about cancer-striken parents or abusive husbands, you have two people who are, for the sake of the matter, just trying their best to survive. Oh, and a cute little dog, too.

Can’t go wrong with the dog.

Which is to say that the Mountain Between Us is just another case of big Hollywood having enough time and money on their hands to make something that’s corny and a little silly, but in a way, that’s fine. The movie isn’t trying to be high-art in the slightest, nor is it really trying to pass itself off as a Oscar-winner. It’s just a simple, sometimes stupid, but always enjoyable romance, laced with a little bit of survival. Coming from director Hany Abu-Assad, who has made two great flicks in Paradise Now and Omar, it can seem like a step-down, but considering how many prized foreign-film makers screw up their English-language, American debut, it’s a moderate side-step.

It’s not perfect, of course, but that hardly matters because when your movie is almost two hours of just Kate Winslet and Idris Elba on the screen, does anything else matter? You can say that this movie does try very hard to force all of the weight on the back of these two stars, their good-looks, and their inevitable chemistry, but what’s wrong with that? Stars like Winslet and Elba were made for movies like this, where plot and the script sort of come second to their good-looks and their great acting-ability, so that even if a film wasn’t to care all that much about other stuff, like plot, or making sense, it’s not a total crime.

Trust me, she’ll be in safe hands with a man like that. Rawr.

The fact is that they’re still here, doing their absolute best and in this case, that’s enough.

The rest of the movie is, as I’ve said, silly and if you think long and hard about this even in the slightest, yeah, it doesn’t hold-up. It’s the kind of movie that looks pretty because it was shot on-location, but once you actually get to thinking the geography of where these two are, how they have to survive, and where they have to go to stay alive, yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense. It’s as if the film-makers thought that the audience wouldn’t care too much because we’d all be too busy sinking into the beautiful eyes and faces of Elba and Winslet and didn’t care about too much else. Of course, they aren’t wrong about that, but maybe for some others out there, like me, a little bit more comprehension and plot can go a longer way.

But hey, it’s Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, looking hot, sexy, and beautiful, while falling in love and trying their best to survive in harsh winters.

Oh, and a little dog, too.

Consensus: Not to be confused for high-art, the Mountain Between Us mostly relies on the charms of Winslet and Elba to get by, even when its script is clearly lacking in certain aspects.

6 / 10

Come on, Kate! Don’t just hold onto the man! You don’t need him!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Dark Tower (2017)

Yeah. I don’t know, either.

Jake (Tom Taylor) is a lot like any other young kid. He dreams a lot, has certain issues with growing up, and doesn’t quite understand the world around him, just yet. But unlike most other kids his age, he’s been having constant dreams of sinister, almost evil happenings in the near-future that may or may not be real. Of course, he seeks help for these dreams, but he also doesn’t know if he can trust anyone, making him probably the most paranoid 13-year-old in the world. But eventually, his dreams do come true, and for the worst, when Roland Deschain (Idris Elba), the last Gunslinger, is locked in an eternal battle with the Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey), who has been using children’s minds to make his evil forces even more powerful than ever. Now, it’s up to Jake and the Gunslinger to prevent the Man in Black from toppling the Dark Tower, the key that holds the universe together, creating an even more powerful battle of good and evil.

Good….

The Dark Tower feels like the end-product of at least five or six studio-executives duking it out in a last man standing match. No one really knows who’s going to win, or at the end of the day, what’s going to be accomplished, but they know they want to get their own little two cents in and see what happens with the end result. In other words, there’s so much going on in the Dark Tower, without any rhyme, reason, build-up, cohesion, or hell, explanation, that it is nothing more than a huge mess.

And one of the worst kinds, too.

Cause see, while there are unabashed messes like, I don’t know, say Suicide Squad that may be all crazy and over-the-place, they still find ways to entertain, in even the most warped ways imaginable. Dark Tower is the opposite of Suicide Squad in that sense, where it’s so mashed-together, rushed, and ill-conceived, that it’s downright boring. And for a movie that’s about 90-minutes long, that’s a problem. Sure, it helps that movies of this awful magnitude not be two-hour long opus that make you feel as if your day has totally been wasted, but it also helps even more when these movies, as quick as they may be, at least bring a little something to the interest-table.

And perhaps the only solid factor Dark Tower has going for it is Idris Elba who, in all honesty, seems bored. But because his material at least has a solid wink-and-a-nod to the audience, it works; everybody else here, seems like they’re way too serious and not really taking advantage of their pulpy surroundings. McConaughey, for instance, feels like he’s channeling his car commercials, but isn’t, in any way, shape, or form, having any bit of fun. Sure, it doesn’t help that more than half of his dialogue is dubbed in that awfully noticeable way, but it also doesn’t help that he seems to be putting in no effort whatsoever.

…versus evil.

Basically, these are two of the most charismatic actors we have working today and not even they can save this trainwreck.

And that’s exactly what the Dark Tower is: A trainwreck. People out there may try and stick up for it, saying that it’s fine enough and short as is, but that doesn’t matter, because the movie just doesn’t know what it’s doing in the slightest. If there were no prior reports about issues in the production process, it would be easy to forgive and understand the movie, but considering that there seemed to be so many problems, it’s not a shocker at all. Everything here feels odd and out-of-place, with certain strands of plot literally dangling in the air when all is said and done. Clearly, it’s meant to be explored more in the sequels, but do we really need one?

Probably not.

Wait. No. Absolutely not.

Consensus: Uneven, poorly-written, directed, shot, acted, and well, everything else, the Dark Tower is a major misfire for all parties involved and seems like a waste of solid source material, courtesy of one Stephen King.

2.5 / 10

But uh, yeah, who cares?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

Many galaxies from here will only know us by the Beastie Boys and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

After their near-death experiences with Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch), everyone on-board of the Enterprise are finally ready to relax for a little bit and take care of whatever they need to care of. Spock (Zachary Quinto) is thinking about a career change, as well as is Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), and everyone else is currently thinking of what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Either spend the rest of their days on the Enterprise, or finally get that one chance to settle down and allow for the universe to go on without them in it. However, they run into issues when Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator, takes them down and separates each and every one of them on a planet that they little to nothing of. But with the help of a local native, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella). For everyone, they have to band together and take down Krall before his power takes over and ruins the rest of the galaxy.

The people's elbow, courtesy of Spock?

The people’s elbow, courtesy of Spock?

The first Star Trek reboot, was amazing and probably one of the very best movies of that very great year. Then, the second film came around, and even though it definitely divided a whole lot more viewers than the original, it still delivered the action, the heart, the emotion, and most of all, the sci-fi excitement that’s to be had with this beloved franchise. And now, after a few years or so of some starts and stops, Beyond is here and without J.J. Abrams, well, let’s just say that it’s not quite nearly as great as it once was before.

It’s not anywhere near being bad, either, but still, when you have to live up to those two movies, it’s pretty hard to defy expectations.

Then again, maybe Beyond isn’t trying to be as dramatic or as emotional as the first two. If anything, it’s surprising how the third installment of this franchise seems to be taking a lighter, more playful route than the first two; normally, you’d expect more heart-shattering, almost breaking twists, turns and breakthroughs, but instead, Beyond is more about bringing us back to these characters and showing us everything that they do best. And sure, while Justin Lin is no J.J. Abrams, he’s no slouch, either; he’s the kind of director that knows a thing or two about being able to balance out action, humor, and heart, all while staying true to the die-hard fans who will most likely look for every little thing to tear and pick apart because, well, they can and they want to.

And with this latest Star Trek reboot, the strongest and best aspect of these movies is the fact that these characters are so easy to love and be compelled by, even if they can seem a tad bit cartoon-y. However, Lin, as well as co-writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung know exactly what works best for them all: Give them their character trademarks to play-up, find a way to include them into the story, and yeah, let it all play out as smoothly as can be. It’s not the most challenging, or difficult formula to follow, but there’s something to be said for a movie where each and every character is as lovely as the last, and the cast, once again, is on-point each and every time.

The only thing that isn’t quite as on-point is the story, as well as our villain.

To say that Beyond is, for better or worse, episodic, isn’t all that difficult – in Kirk’s narration, he even mentions the word at the beginning. If anything, Beyond feels like an overextended episode of a Star Trek TV series (something that’s actually happening), where the good guys do their thing, carry their archs, run into problems, have to solve it, take down a baddie, and at the end of the day, come together where everything is all peaches and cream. Of course, that’s not exactly how Beyond plays out, from beginning to end, but it’s pretty close.

And yeah, there’s no problem with this because it does work out, but it also does feel a tad bit small, given the huge universe that’s surrounding this story and these characters. While the new addition of Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a welcome addition that will surely work out perfectly for the next few installments, it still feels like nothing really happens of any sort of importance. It’s fine and all, but really, did much happen when all was said and done?

Edgar Winter?

Edgar Winter?

Maybe, I don’t know.

What I do know is that, even after Khan in the second, Star Trek is back to where it started with the first movie, in having another weak villain, with a very good actor in said villainous role. First, it was Eric Bana, now, it’s Idris Elba, who is as charismatic and compelling as you can get, yet, is stuck behind a whole bunch of make-up here and meant to just yell and do bad things to people who probably don’t deserve it. Elba, like always, gives it all that he’s got, but the motivations aren’t really there and it’s an underwritten role, for someone who could have really made magic happen, had he been given the right material to work with.

But, once again, Beyond only suffers slightly because of this. The rest of the cast is great, with Quinto, Urban, Pine being the standouts, and of course, the late, great Anton Yelchin showing us why he was still fun to watch in a goofy role like Chekov, but so is everybody else. You really can’t say one person is better than the other, because they’re all here, showing us why they matter and why the Star Trek franchise deserves to keep on having more and more movies.

Hopefully with better villains is all. That’s all I’m saying.

Consensus: While a small step down from the first two movies, Beyond still offers up its fans plenty to have fun and cherish with the colorful, lovable characters, as well as a few exciting action-sequences, that are sure to make up for some of the busts we’ve had this summer.

7.5 / 10

God? Dad? Thor?

God? Dad? Thor?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Finding Dory (2016)

Stop getting lost, you damn fish!

Nearly one year after finding Nemo and returning him home safely, Dory (Ellen DeGeneras) and Marlon (Albert Brooks) have figured out a way to stay close to one another, where they can always be there for each other, just in case something goes awry again. And because of Dory’s short-term memory-loss, this means a whole lot, what with her always wandering off, never having a clue of where she’s at, or even what she’s doing. At first, it’s just small things that Dory gets mixed up with, but one day, she somehow gets lost in the ocean, leading her to some sort of aquarium where she encounters all sorts of lovely and colorful characters of the sea. But while Dory’s there, she begins to remember that she accidentally left home when she was young and is now just remembering that her parents may be looking for her. So Dory does whatever she can to find her parents, while seeming to forget everything that’s happening and relying on the help and kindness of former friends she knew when she was younger, as well as a new pal, the crabby octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill).

You da man.

You da man.

I hate to say it, but I wasn’t expecting much from Finding Dory. Say what you will about the original and how good it is, but compared to a lot of other Pixar flicks, it’s probably the weakest of “the very best” (which may sound silly and like a non-complaint, but does mean something when you compare almost all of the Pixar movies side-by-side), and not to mention that a movie that literally substitutes “Nemo”, for “Dory” and features, yet again, a lost fish in need of being found and saved, already sounds boring, unoriginal, and most of all, unneeded. If anything, I was expecting another Cars 2.

Which is why I can say that I’ve come out Finding Dory more than pleased to announce that it’s way better than I expected and yes, another home-run for Pixar.

In fact, it may be better than Finding Nemo.

I know, shocking, right? Well, the reason why Dory works a little better than Nemo is because the groundwork has already been laid-out and it would have been easy for everyone involved here to just rehash the same story again, without any bit of excitement or freshness added to the proceedings. But somehow, Finding Dory finds neat, creative and interesting avenues, peaks and valleys to tell its story, without ever seeming like its hitting the same beats the original did – even if, yes, it totally is. Where as any other sequel would have just done the typical thing that most sequels do to popular flicks (more of everything that made the original so charming), Dory changes certain things up; it not only introduces new characters that absolutely rival the lovely ones of the first, but also adds on a new setting that goes beyond and out of the sea, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace.

And this obviously all to say that Dory‘s story is pretty damn exciting; once we get the idea that Dory loses her train-of-thought/memory about every minute or so, the movie plays out like a G-rated Memento of sorts, with her asking people certain things that may help her quest out a bit more and also, thinking long and hard about where she came from and what’s next. It’s actually pretty fun to watch and it’s absolutely difficult not to get wrapped-up in all the excitement and anticipation, watching and waiting for Dory to reach her destination. And with that destination, we’re never too sure what’s at the end for her; while every other movie of this nature that makes it abundantly clear that their adventure will turn out good and give everyone a happy ending, the way Finding Dory is structured, makes you believe that possibly, quite possibly, Dory may not reach the goal that she wants.

She may complete her journey, but she may not get what she wants and honestly, that’s the one main reason why Finding Dory moves at such a great pace, that it almost never slows up.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

Mhmmm. Tuna.

If there are times that it does, it’s only to give us more backstory on certain characters, as well as Dory’s own life. And because this is her own solo movie, Dory gets a whole lot of attention here that really works and makes us feel for her a whole lot more; while a whole movie dedicated to her character, I must admit, had me feeling as if she was going to be grating the whole time, actually works in hindsight. The movie shows us that Dory’s story is a sad one and though she is indeed a fish, you could take her story and place it in a human’s life, and it would still hit hard. Pixar movies work best when they have you relating to their inanimate characters and here, Dory hits a real sweet spot that I didn’t expect to see coming.

That said, Dory’s not the only character worthy of attention here. In fact, it’s Ed O’Neill’s Hank character that just about steals the show, making his one-dimensional grump of an octopus, actually come-off as a sweet, endearing and sympathetic figure, even when it seems like he’s acting out in pure self-interest. Of course, Albert Brooks is here as Marlon, but he’s pushed to the back of sorts, so that DeGeneras and Dory can get all of the attention and it’s fine, but honestly, I kept coming back to Hank and had that feeling that we may, sooner or later, be seeing Finding Hank sooner or later.

Hopefully sooner, than later, and not another thirteen year wait like we had with this one.

Consensus: Heartfelt, emotional, compelling and above all, exciting, Finding Dory finds a fresh new voice in this well-worn story, making it a Pixar classic and better than the first.

9 / 10

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy.

Okay, now stay with your friends, Missy. One movie is fine, but two?!? That’s too much!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Zootopia (2016)

It’s like the actual United States of America. But with animals!

From when she was just a little bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) was always told that she wasn’t going to amount to much. Because of that adversity in her life, Judy trained for years and years to become a cop in the wonderfully huge and grand melting-pot that is Zootopia, a place where all kinds of creatures can live together in perfect peace and harmony. Eventually, Judy’s dream comes true and she finds herself living in Zootopia, with a solid job as a cop. However, she soon finds out that her job won’t amount to much other than just putting tickets on people’s cars. Though she’s disappointed by this, Judy still remains restless and ready to take on any obstacle she meets out there in the real world, which leads her to Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly and cunning fox, who she has a fear of, just based solely on the fact that fox and rabbits aren’t supposed to get along. Using Nick, Judy discovers a missing otter’s case, which leads her to uncovering a greater conspiracy that involves the police chief, the mayor, and plenty other people in power.

Don't call her "cute". Even if, yes, she totally is.

Don’t call her “cute”. Even if, yes, she totally is.

Last summer, when Inside Out came out, a lot of people were going on and on about how it was, essentially, a “kids movie for adults”. And they weren’t wrong. Sure, the animation, the colorful and wild-looking characters were clearly to attract the kids and get them interested in the first place, but really, the plot, the message and the mechanics of it all weren’t really for kids. After all, no kid would have been able to understand “the id”, “the psychosis”, or anything of that psychological nature, nor would they ever be able to understand just what the characters were searching for, or trying to accomplish. In some ways, that’s why I loved the movie, however, I also realize that perhaps the movie was maybe just a tad too smart for its own good, or even for its own audience.

That said, Zootopia is the kind of animated movie made to grab kids’ attention, but really meant to connect with the older-ones who get stuck bringing their kids in the first place.

And that’s a good thing. For one, Zootopia is a solid animated movie that, yes, looks as great and as detailed as ever. Every character, from the sloths, to the lions, to the cheetahs, the foxes, to polar bears, to the bunnies, to whichever you want to call them, all look lovely and pleasantly cartoonish. However, my main adoration for this movie comes in the way it approaches its universe. It’s the kind of movie that has a smart and relatively interesting idea, but rather than using it to rely on a lame plot or kiddie-jokes, instead, it goes balls to the walls with what it can do.

The story is a cross between a police procedural and coming-of-age-tale, but instead, with a rabbit and a fox in the interracial buddy-cop roles. And while for any lesser-movie, they’d just have that idea and leave it there, Zootopia decides to run wild with it and allow for the movie to build both of these characters up, give them personalities, and allow for them to go on throughout this whole world. After all, certain parts of this world that the movie has created for itself is so inventive and creative, that after awhile, it becomes clear that the movie’s dealing with a lot, but not really losing control of itself.

It has a message. It has a message. And most importantly, it has a story.

Granted, the story can sometimes go on and on and for the sake of telling the movie’s central message (racism and treating others for what they look like, and not who they are, is bad), but it still kept me interested. The movie brings up other points about gentrification, xenophobia, and social-classes that do hit, but it isn’t always actually about them; if anything, it’s just using them as a way to make their story feel and sound more important than it may already be perceived as. Of course, one could go on for days with think-pieces out the wahzoo about what Zootopia is trying to say, but none of it really matters, because guess what? The movie’s just a fun piece of animation.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

I imagine this is the same smirk Jason Bateman holds on his face each and every day.

Sure, it’s definitely made with the adults in mind, but it’s also a good movie for kids in that there’s a lot of the typical humor you’d expect for them to laugh at and love. However, there’s also smarter, more witty jokes aimed at the adults that have to deal with the social and racial constructs of this world, references to movies like the Godfather and Chinatown (among others), and the fact that each and everyone of these animals are supposed to be portraying an aspect of the real world. It’s all so goofy, but so much fun that you don’t care how far they go with these ideas.

You’ll just be happy that someone’s thinking this creatively for once.

And this is all the more surprising considering that there’s at least three directors (Byron Howard, Jared Bush, Rich Moore) and two writers (Jared Bush and Phil Johnston) working together. Normally, this spells out an uneasy, messy and uneven bit of trouble, but surprisingly, everybody came together here to create some neat and funny ideas, without ever seeming like they’re just throwing stuff in for the sake of it. And yes, the voice cast is also pretty solid, too. Ginnifer Goodwin is bright and sunny; Jason Bateman is as cool as a cucumber; Idris Elba is brass and brawny; and yeah, there’s others. Just know that Zootopia is a fine piece of animation that, if you haven’t already, just check it out.

It has something to say, but more importantly, has something to do with itself, rather than just waste your time because it’s already gotten your money.

Consensus: With smart ideas and messages about the real world we live in, yet, using animated animals to take humans places, Zootopia is not only cute, but awfully inventive and interesting, even when it seems to be preaching an awful lot.

8 / 10 

Oh, sloths. So silly.

Oh, sloths. So silly. Yet, a little creepy-looking.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Jungle Book (2016)

Why can’t all animals of the jungle get along and jam out?

In this reboot, we find young Mowgli (bright and spirited newcomer Neel Sethi) running around the hills with his wolf family. Although Mowgli himself is not in fact a wolf, he was raised as one when he was just a little baby and ever since then, has been called “man cub”. While every animal in the jungle seems to be used to and fine with Mogwli, one such beast does not. Here enters Shere Khan (Idris Elba), an evil, maniacal and fearsome tiger who lets his presence be known everywhere he goes, who demands that Mowgli leave the jungle, before it’s too late. Mogwli does leave the jungle and head for land where humans exist, but on the way, he meets a colorful list of characters and other beasts of the jungle. There’s Baloo (Bill Murray), the free-spirited, warm and fuzzy bear that meets Mogwli and strikes up of a nice friendship with him; there’s Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a snidely, slithering snake who may be taking advantage of the young and meek Mogwli; and most of all, there’s an ape named King Louie (Christopher Walken) who tries to strike up a deal with Mogwli.

Chimps....

Chimps….

Did we really need a reboot of the Jungle Book? Especially one in 3D? Probably not, but hell, it surprisingly feels good to have one that’s this great. Jon Favreau’s been a solid director for as long as he’s taken up time behind the lenses, and while he hasn’t always had the best of movies (looking at you, Cowboys & Aliens), there’s no denying that there’s something about the guy’s artistry and passion that make him a solid film-maker. And all of that same artistry and passion that’s been showing in the past decade or so, is out in full, bright spirit with the Jungle Book; the kind of big-budget blockbuster that you’d expect to be a totally soulless, lifeless and utterly boring cash-cow trying to bring a tale as old as time for the new generation of kids.

However, it’s very far from.

If anything, the Jungle Book is as fun as you can get with a blockbuster right now. What with the summer season looming on the horizon, it’s nice to get a blockbuster that, yes, is big, ambitious and a tad loud, but also isn’t bloated by any means. I don’t know if Favreau himself had any affinity or love for the Jungle Book original story or movie, or if he just saw a nice paycheck gig to work with, but either way, he seems dedicated to making this material work more than it ought to.

And most of that shines through the absolutely breathtaking and beautiful CGI. In the post-Avatar world we live in, it’s nice to see a movie that uses the 3D format to its advantage, rather than just being slapped-on by a studio so that they can get more money and dimly light the screens some more. Obviously, there’s been some good 3D movies in the past few years, but for the most part, none of them have really used it to their advantage to allow for their story to pop-off and excite the audience anymore, or better yet, add an element to the movie, that makes it worth spending all of that money to see in the theaters.

Except for the Jungle Book.

Here, it seems like Favreau knows that working with 3D can be fun, when you use it right. You don’t have to chuck each and everything at the audience to make them shriek and duck (although that does happen a few times here, but it’s fine, because it’s fun), nor do you have to make it seem like your story doesn’t exist without it – you can most definitely have a fun time with it and allow for it to draw audiences into the world your creating more. Here, in the wide, vast and wild world of this jungle that Mogwli and all of these characters live and survive in, it’s hard not to feel like what we’re seeing is just a small part, of a very big world and it’s these scenes where we get to see it adventured out into that makes the Jungle Book, at times, exhilarating.

and snakes....

and snakes….

But what Favreau does best with the Jungle Book is that he gives us a kids movie that, yes, can also be for adults, but mostly for the whole family. While there’s plenty of scary and downright terrifying situations that happen here, Favreau never seems to overdo the sheer terror, but he also doesn’t downplay it, either. In this jungle, we know that anything and anyone can come, get you, and make you their lunch, while also knowing that there truly is something beautiful and majestic about these creatures that live in it, too. Favreau seems to love this world that he’s creating, but he also doesn’t forget to show that there’s some true danger for those who live in it. But have no fear, parents – your kids will not be scared s***less. If anything, they’ll be slightly chilled, but then, have it all go away when they get a look at the pretty, sometimes cute, but always believable elephants, wolves, bears, monkeys, buffalo, and plenty others.

And yes, this kids will also love all of the wonderfully colorful and lovely character who pop-up every now and then, just like kids, almost 50 years ago, fell in love with the same ones.

Except this time, they’re more life-like, detailed and most importantly, voiced by famous people!

Is there a reason why these characters should be voiced by famous actors? Not really. Some of the times, with movies such as this, the voice-acting can get so distracting that you just start to picture the famous actor, cozying up on a couch, drinking some fine Scotch, smoking a cigar, and pleasantly reading their lines, while also readying for their huge paychecks. And that happens here; actors like Lupita Nyong’o, Giancarlo Esposito, Scarlett Johansson, and Ben Kingsley, seem as if they’re just delivering their lines in their mansions, which isn’t to say that their bad, but just kind of plain and ordinary.

Others, like Idris Elba, Christopher Walken, and most of all, Bill Murray, actually bring their characters to full life and give us a reason as to why they deserve to be chosen in the first place. Elba is scary and menacing as the equally scary and menacing Shere Khan; Christopher Walken adds a funny, almost ironic tone and feel to the surprisingly scary King Louie; and Bill Murray, with all of the warmth and love in the world, makes Baloo appear all the more lovable and heartfelt than ever before. And yeah, making his big-screen debut, Neel Sethi is fine as Mogwli, but the story doesn’t always concern him or his acting skills; mostly, it just wants him to run around, yell stuff, and just seem like a kid, which he does fine with.

Oh, the days of youth. How I miss them so.

Consensus: Exciting, beautiful, and emotional, the Jungle Book hits all of the right notes that the original animated flick did many years ago, however, on a greater, far more grander scale – one that Jon Favreau is perfectly capable of handling.

8 / 10

...and bears! Oh my!

…and bears! Oh my!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Wait a minute. This isn’t the new season of House of Cards!

In an unnamed West African country, a young boy named Agu (Abraham Attah) lives with his mother, father, older brother, younger sister, and not-all-that-there grandfather, who have all had their lives taken over by all sorts of war and havoc. But because they’re passionate about where they live and the name of God, they stick to where they’re at and won’t let any outside forces, whether they be the the junta, rebels, or government forces, ruin their times. Problem is, that’s exactly what happens and poor Agu is the one who has to witness it all. Not only does his mother and sister set-out for an undisclosed location where they’ll hopefully be safe, but Agu’s father, grandfather, and brother are all shot and killed in cold blood, leaving Agu to have to run for the hills, all on his own, where it seems like every other person that he encounters either wants to kill him, or take him in as a prisoner. One person in particular goes by the name of Commandant (Idris Elba), a ferocious, clearly intimidating force to be reckoned with. But he’s also one that takes a liking to Agu and promises to take care of him, so long so as Agu joins up as one of his child soldiers where they’ll ravage any villages that they stumble upon, leading to plenty of violent tasks Agu has to complete just so that he doesn’t lose his own life and become like the rest of his family.

Don't look into those eyes, kid.

Don’t look into those eyes, kid.

Besides the fact it’s being released on Netflix, the same day that it’s being released in theaters, Beasts of No Nation is still a movie worth seeing, discussing and remembering for awhile to come. Sure, some of the latter portion may have to do with the fact that there are countless grotesque and disturbing scenes of people getting shot, killed, raped, split-open, sliced, and diced, all while involving pre-pubescent children, but still. It’s been a long, windy and sometimes dangerous road for Cary Joji Fukunaga’s flick and honestly, I’m just happy to finally be seeing it.

Not to mention that the movie itself, is actually pretty great, if not incredibly hard-to-watch at certain times. Then again, that’s to be expected, given the source material and subject at-hand (child-soldier tales were never known for their light, comedic-touches). But while that may break most movies, Fukunaga is smart enough to realize that in order to make all of these immoral acts of violence seem pertinent, that they can’t be excessive; instead, they have to put you into the story much more. Because Agu is literally thrown into this world where war provides almost no rules that the actual, real world would provide, it makes sense that almost every situation he’s involved with, ends up with somebody getting their heads blown-off, or split by a machete.

It sounds graphic, and that’s because it is.

And this is to say that, yes, a lot of Beasts of No Nation is hard to sit through, but because it feels as if we’re getting a no-bullshit, actual account of what happened (or, at least, still happens to this day), it never seems excessive or gratuitous. Like he did with the first season of True Detective (that’s to say, the way, way better one), Fukunaga portrayed these acts of senseless violence in such a detached manner, that they’re more disturbing to watch, then they are appetizing. It’s like the opposite of any Eli Roth movie; the blood spatters, but instead of getting up and shouting, “F**k yeah!”, you’re more inclined to gasp, hide your eyes and hope that you don’t see anything like that in the movie again.

Problem is, you most likely will. And in some cases, it’ll be a whole lot worse.

But like I said, Fukunaga is a smart director and story-teller, and shows that all of these acts of violence are meant to shock, but to also put you more into the mind-set of Agu and why someone as seemingly innocent, sweet and child-like as he is at the start of the film, would turn into this mean, evil, and nasty killer by the end of it. For one, the movie doesn’t ever represent any side as “good”, “bad”, or “moderate”; Agu’s family is actually killed by who are presented to be “one of the better groups”, so already, the movie makes it clear that it’s taking no sides. And nor should it – Agu himself would clearly have no idea who to trust, or who to steer clear of. Hence why, when the first hand that reaches out to him eventually comes in the form of a huge, bulking man known as Commandant, Agu can’t help but fall for the love and care, hook, line and sinker.

And it definitely deserves to noted that Idris Elba is spectacular Commandant. While we know he’s not a good person and kills people because he can, there’s something still so charming about him that makes Commandant a compelling-figure. A good portion of this has to go with the fact that he isn’t written to be a mustache-twirling villain and into more of a human that was born into this kind of society, but most of it has to go to Elba’s unabashed charisma, who is sometimes able to blend menace and intellect all into one person. While he’s not the star of this movie, Elba is still the most important figure and whenever he does show up, you know that he’s going to completely own every scene and remind you why he’s the one who should be the next Bond.

An evil, thoughtless killer? No! Not this little guy!

An evil, thoughtless killer? No! Not this little guy!

Just saying.

But no slouch either, is non-professional actor Abraham Attah as Agu. Because Agu is, essentially, our eyes and ears to this new world, Attah sometimes feels like he’s being placed into certain scenes just to show significance, but he’s still great because of how believable he is with the transition this character goes through, that it’s almost terrifying. Agu, originally, seems to be a innocent, playful kid like you or I once were, but when push comes to shove, travesty occurs, and he’s left without a hand to feed him or comfort him, he grows up real quick and starts killing as much people as he sees fit (or is at least ordered to). The transition he goes through isn’t a clear one as there’s always a sense of morality hidden underneath this kid’s facade that makes you think he may not be all that swamped-up by Commandant’s evil, but still, it’s quite frightening to watch play-out, especially because Attah is so good.

If there is a complaint to be had with Beasts of No Nation that keeps it away from being an unabashed masterpiece, is that it sometimes feels as if it’s too dark and depressing, without any shade of sentiment to be seen. While some of you may say that it’s a stupid complaint to have for a movie that’s literally about child soldiers in Africa, to me, it still mattered. The same problem I had with 12 Years a Slave; while the material definitely deserves to be as ugly as it can be, there still needs to be a small glimmer of hope that makes it seem like a worth while experience, and not just a torturous one.

Here, Beasts of No Nation ends on a note that promises some life after the fact, but by the same token, also can’t help but feel as if it’s also saying, “Being a child and forced to kill people is bad. Hey, people in Africa have it bad, don’t they?” While it was definitely an engaging story to watch unfold in front of my very own eyes, it’s also one that doesn’t share much of a strong message at the end and tends to just leave you alone, left to suffer on your own time. Then again, you’re on Netflix, so you can always get rid of those bad feels by binging the absolute hell out of Friends.

As one tends to do after being a witness to traumatic experiences.

Consensus: At times, very hard-to-watch, but still, Beasts of No Nation provides a compelling, awfully emotional look into the gritty world it displays, that it deserves many points for not backing down from its disturbing vision.

8.5 / 10

That's Elba's more subtle way of saying to "cancel the apocalypse".

That’s Elba’s more subtle way of saying to cancel the apocalypse.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

More robots?

Since their big battle in New York City, the Avengers crew has been up to a lot; although, more often than not, they’re separated from one another, left to fend for themselves. Now, many years after their last team-up, the gang is back together and, for the most part, everybody seems to be the same. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is still a snarky deuche; Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to keep everybody in line; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is trying his hardest to control his temper and not lose all sense of control; Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is still kicking as much ass he possibly can; Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is doing the same as Thor, except with her sheer beauty; and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is, well, still there. However, now with a new threat on their hands, inadvertently courtesy of Banner and Stark, the gang has to fight even harder than ever before, especially since they’re going up against new foes like Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elisabeth Olsen), and perhaps more dangerous than they ever expected, Ultron (James Spader), a piece of artificial intelligence that nobody seems to be ready for.

"Quit crying, bro. We've got baddies to fight."

“Quit crying, bro. We’ve got baddies to brawl.”

The first Avengers was pretty much everything anybody who had been waiting four incredibly long years could have ever wanted. It was fun, hilarious, action-packed, and featured all sorts of fan boy moments that made not just the die hards happy and not taking their disapproval straight to the message boards, but also showed that, while this may have been the pinnacle of the Marvel franchise so far, it wouldn’t at all be the last outing. In fact, if there was anything at all spectacular about what Joss Whedon did with the first movie, was that he showed that there was plenty more life to be found inside of these characters, their stories, and what could come their way next.

And now, it’s time for the eventual sequel to that near-masterpiece of everything that’s right with superhero movies and there’s a slight feeling of disappointment. It’s not because Whedon messes up here and gets everything wrong; in fact, everything that Whedon does here, for the majority of it, is that he allows for the action to be as fun, as loud, and as energetic as possible, while also still allowing for us to see everything that’s happening where, when, and to whom. However, he never loses sight of what makes them kick so hard and as well as they do, and that’s the characters.

Yes, these are the same characters that we’ve spent so much time with already, but as you’ll see here, Whedon breaths some new life into them and allows us to see them in a light that we haven’t quite seen them in before: A vulnerable one.

See, what Whedon gets right here, as Guardians of the Galaxy showed us all last summer, is that these characters probably work best when they’re just hanging around with one another, shootin’ the shit, getting on each other’s cases, and overall, learning more than they ever thought they could. Because, as they’re getting to learn more about each other, we’re doing the same; which in and of itself, is not only interesting, but fun. We think we know these characters for all that they appear to be and then we see a certain conversation they have go a way they didn’t expect it to, and all of a sudden, something new is learned. There are many moments of that here and, due to reasons that can’t be disclosed, they feel more emotional and compelling, rather than just fine bits and pieces of filler.

Problem is, that once the filler comes around, it feels like it’s just around to take-up space.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad at a Marvel movie for offering all sorts of action it can come up with. However, I do get a tad bit ticked-off when it takes away from moments that could be spent, dedicated to more and more character development, where we feel like something is actually being accomplished, rather than just tacked-on so people don’t get bored quickly. Whedon does a fine job at putting in certain action sequences that go everywhere and anywhere that they want, with absolute reckless abandon and they’re fun to watch, it’s just that it sometimes feel like the wheels are spinning, but there’s nobody driving.

Things can blow up as much as they want, but when there’s general basis for them, then there’s a bit of a problem. Which, like I’ve said before, wouldn’t have been bad, had it been serviced by something of a plot that worked, or better yet, made some bit of sense. From what I can tell you, Ultron is bad and is capable of planting his subconscious into any robot-body it wants. This, for the most part, made sense to me, but then, for reasons I can’t understand as anything but “corporate excess”, Whedon throws a plethora of characters onto our plate where we’re wondering what they serve to the plot, what they’re all about, and whether or not they’re even worth our time.

Not saying that I have a problem adding in new characters, but when it eventually seems like too much, then you have the same sort of problem that a fellow superhero flick like Spider-Man 3 had. While that movie was definitely off a lot worse than this one, there’s something here that makes me think that all of the added-on characters and subplots, like some of the action, were all just filler; they weren’t to serve much of a purpose, other than to just distract the audience from what is a very confusing and nonsensical plot, and the fact that it could care less about developing the already-known characters a bit more.

"Me mad? But why? WAAH!"

“Me mad? But why? WAAH!”

This isn’t to say that the characters here don’t get some attention and care that they deserve. Above everyone else, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner gets the most development of the pack, where we see him not only tangle with his possible emotions for the likes of Black Widow, but his actual emotions as well. There’s been a lot said about the Hulk character in the past where he seems like too much of a supporting character that, when he’s given his own, single-picture, it doesn’t quite work as well as the others. If that is the case, then Whedon has done a true service to this character where we get enough of him to sense the danger, the sadness, and the actual thrill within this character that people always want to see.

Everybody else that isn’t the Hulk, though, sort of get the short-end of the stick.

One of the more genius aspects surrounding the newly-recruited Scarlet Witch’s character is that she’s able to dig into anybody’s deepest, darkest and most painful secrets imaginable, and with that power, comes plenty of glimpses into some of these character’s heads that are not only disturbing, but pretty sad. For example, Cap’s and Thor’s memories are all about how they miss the people they let-down and left behind, whereas with Black Widow’s, we see her horribly violent up-bringing that makes you wonder just how far she’s willing to go with these missions, where she runs the risk of losing herself. These small glances are what help make these characters all the more compelling to watch and root for, however, there comes a point where it seems to just be used as a way to make us think that the odds are fully stacked-up against the Avengers’ crew.

And while that may most certainly be true with the likes of the absolutely dangerous and intimidating Ultron, the fast, furious and cocky Quicksilver, and the previously mentioned Scarlet Witch, it seems unneeded. It’s almost as if Whedon wanted to jump inside these character’s heads, and jump out as soon as quickly before the going got too heavy. This definitely puts it a step-up above most of the summer blockbusters that are constantly thrown at us left and right, however, it also feels like a teaser for something that’s deeper than what any of us expect.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but why the small hints, Joss? Give us it all!

Consensus: As far as superhero blockbusters go, Avengers: Age of Ultron is as action-packed, exciting and as fun as you’d expect it to be, however, some of it is starting to feel repetitive now, especially since there’s more to be unraveled about these characters and what we do get, works so damn well.

8 / 10

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Basically a film adaptation of the Blacklist, but with no fedoras. Bummer.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Gunman (2015)

If you kill, you will be killed. So just don’t kill. There’s really no point.

After sniping a well-known figure in a foreign country, international operative Jim (Sean Penn) is forced to change his life so that the organization he works for doesn’t have to worry about him getting caught, turning the other cheek, and possibly uncover all sorts of skeletons in their closet. This is a big moment in Jim’s life because he’s now not allowed to stay with his one and only love Annie (Jasmine Trinca), who is now spending time with a co-worker of Jim’s (Javier Bardem). Many years go by and out of nowhere, dangerous people start looking for Jim, declaring that they want revenge for what he did all of those years ago. Thinking that the job he completed was confidential in every which way, Jim is shocked and wants to find out the truth, even if that means going back to his checkered-past and following up with some familiar faces. Some are happy to see him, whereas others aren’t. But for Jim, he doesn’t care; he’s in a race against time where he has to find out who is responsible for all of these problems, get rid of them, and possibly clear his name in the process.

It’s odd to see Sean Penn in something like this. Not because it’s a commercialized, mainstream flick that he too often seems to be against doing too often, but because it’s the kind of commercialized, mainstream flick that seems so done to death by now: The aging-killers subgenre.

"Blimey lad! Heve a drink, will ye?"

“Blimey lad! Heve a drink, will ye?”

No matter how much time passes, Liam Neeson will always be remembered for starting this odd trend, but he sure as hell won’t be the last. Keanu Reeves, Kevin Costner, and heck, even Salma Hayek are all older acts that seem to have gotten all fed-up with pleasing certain people that think they should just move out of the way for the younger-crowd and continue to play mom or dad roles. For the most part, these movies can be hit-or-miss, but there’s no denying that they add some more appeal to the usual action-thriller that seems to be constantly plagued with the Jason Statham’s and Gerard Butler’s of the world. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with those two lads, but one can only see the same person shoot and kill so many people and not really have that formula shaken up one bit.

Which is why, like I was saying before, it’s interesting to see a class-act like Penn, do something like this.

But the real question remains: Does it actually work? Meaning, is he actually any good in the role? Or, is it simply a case of an actor trying something new because he has all of the money no shits given to do so and not worry about losing a little bit as a result? It’s a bit of a two-hander actually – while Penn isn’t bad in the movie, per se, the movie itself leaves a lot to be desired and it makes you wonder just why the hell someone as choosy and picky as Penn would bother with this in the first place.

Granted, he gets a lot to do that calls on him for the large, dramatic-moments. But he also gets to flex his ripped-body that can definitely not be what a nearly 55-year-old naturally looks like, but whatever. Color me impressed, if a little suspicious. Anyway, like I was saying, Penn does a fine job here and allows for this thinly-written character like Jim come off as someone who is easy to root for, even if we aren’t fully sure about his past actions, or how morally correct they were.

But the movie sort of throws Penn into the kind of movie where all he really has to do is deliver exposition, look upset, act frantic, and shoot the eff out of baddies. All of these things Penn does a fine enough job at to where it doesn’t seem like he’s just milking it for the cameras so that he can collect that hefty paycheck of his; it’s more that the movie leaves a lot to be desired for him to do. All of the exposition, tension, and sometimes gory violence, all lead up to a very subpar thriller that I honestly couldn’t tell you what it was all about other than that, “People chased after Sean Penn because he did a bad thing like some eight years ago.”

Other than that, I’m sort of drawing a blank.

Sunglasses: Protectors of sun, better protectors of possible CIA agents.

Sunglasses: Protectors of sun, better protectors of possible CIA agents.

Which brings me to the fact that, even though a more recent example of this same subgenre, Run All Night, was a movie more about its action, rather than anything resembling a story (although it definitely had that), it still didn’t grip me quite as well as the Gunman did when it worked. When it doesn’t work, it’s an overly-edited, wordy mess that seems to confuse exposition for “something meaningful”. However, when it does work, it’s kind of fun, but in a slimy, bloody way. Everybody’s sweating; everybody’s cursing; and everybody’s life is at-risk, and that allowed me to just join in on whatever thrill-ride the movie was able to take me on.

Trust me, it didn’t always last, but when it did, I was happy to be along for it all.

And with a movie like this, that’s all it really comes down to – the action is solid and gripping. Sure, you could argue that the movie doesn’t give much of anything to do for Javier Bardem, whose character, when he isn’t trying to bang Penn’s character girlfriend (and not at all being subtle about it), is absolutely, shit-faced drunk, and it sure as hell doesn’t allow for Idris Elba to be more than just a Christopher Walken cameo (even though all of the advertisements would have you think he practically made this movie with his own bare hands), but what’s the point in all of that? The movie tries its hand at being serious a tad too many times, but when it knows that it’s failing at that, it backs off and just lets Sean Penn hoot, holler, and shoot people.

What’s so wrong about enjoying that, people?

Consensus: As a melodramatic thought-piece about what’s really happening on foreign soils, the Gunman trips, falls and embarrasses itself, but eventually realizes this and just gets back to the moments where it’s Sean Penn surfing, smoking and killing people.

5 / 10

"Better look out next time, paparazzo."

“Better look out next time, paparazzo.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)

Wow, timing is everything.

This is the story of the life and the times of one Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba), where we first see him as a lawyer in South Africa where he makes an honest living, has a beautiful wife-and-kid and most of all, gets along with practically everyone around him. However, he starts to clash with the local police force once he realizes that there have been numerous bouts of racism occurring around him, some that end in death, and worse, even some including his own friends. Mandela does not put-up with this and sooner than later, eventually begins to build a revolution and make his, as well as most of the Africa’s voices heard. Around this time too, he meets a lovely lady named Winnie (Naomie Harris), with whom he marries and shares the revolt with. But, as we all know, when one person has a voice that doesn’t quite go along with the conventional way-of-thinking, problems can ensue and eventually, Mandela and his fellow band of trustees are all locked-up and taken away to an island prison, where he spends 27 years of his life in. Through it all though, Mandela persevered and we see this, not just through his soul, but through his wife’s as well.

With the recent passing of Nelson Mandela, I’m pretty sure that some people may feel a bit of discomfort in watching this movie. Which is fine considering that this was a real person, albeit, one that’s usually considered “one of the most influential figures of all-time”. I do not necessarily disagree with and with what little I actually do know of the man who was Nelson Mandela, I have to say that I was actually looking forward to learning more about his hardships, his activism, and basically, just his whole life in a nutshell.

Hey, they at least gave him some toilet-paper so you can't say they were all "that bad".

Hey, they at least gave him some TP, so you can’t say they were all “that bad”.

That said nutshell did just so happen to take 139-minutes to get through, and also didn’t offer me much learned either. So basically, this is just a Nelson Mandela movie for all sorts of people whom may already know Nelson Mandela, what it was that he fought for and know enough about his life as it is, and that’s basically it. In other words: He’s getting “the Hollywood treatment” here and it feels like so. However though, I can’t say that it makes this movie bad; it’s just disappointing really.

Though director Justin Chadwick may have never made anything worth writing-home about, he still does a nice job here at giving us a Nelson Mandela we usually don’t see in many movies. Or better yet, maybe not just Nelson Mandela in particular, but a subject of a biopic altogether. What we see of Nelson Mandela here is a man that may be inspired, may have the right ideas of how to run a government in a happy, peaceful way, but he isn’t perfect and the movie makes sure that we know that. He’s shown to have a bit of a short-temper, some control-issues and also can’t really seem to keep it in his pants when he’s out late at night at some club, and spots himself a fine honey that just so happens to not be his wife. Can’t say I blame him, hell, it makes him all the more human. And that’s the point!

Most biopics should (even though they usually fail to do so) present us with a realistic, honest-to-God view of their subject, without many biases involved whatsoever. You can definitely stand-behind somebody’s story and/or what it exactly was that they brought to the world, but it’s better to make sure that they get to be seen as “human”, and not just as “inspirational superheros”. At first, the movie starts off by painting Mandela as the former, but once things begin to move on, the latter starts to show and it gets rather dull after awhile.

See, we all know that Mandela was wrongfully imprisoned for speaking his mind and taking matters into his own hands on more than a few occasions, but the movie never really quite digs any deeper than that, nor shows us anything new. Mainly, we’re just subject to seeing how Mandela and his fellow anarchists lived their lives in prison, got used to the harsh surroundings, which also meant getting used to the corrupt police-system they had going on over there. The movie nails this aspect of the story more than a few times, and does well with this, but soon, it begins to get over-shadowed by what it is that Winnie Mandela herself is doing on the front-lines, out there in the “real world”. And sooner or later, Nelson’s story becomes to get far less and less interesting, and Winnie’s takes over, showing us depth, emotion and even offering us some new insights into her life, and the way she lived it at that point in time.

You go tell 'em, girl!

You go tell ’em, girl!

Every so often we’d go back to Nelson’s story, but it basically sucks all of the energy and emotional-heft of Winnie’s story that, sad to say, was keeping this movie alive and interesting. There was probably a better way to show Mandela’s 27-year-span in prison, without feeling so dry and disjointed from the rest of the movie, but it wasn’t here and it’s disappointing because what Idris Elba does as Nelson Mandela here, is some of the best acting I’ve seen him do in a long while (besides from this, of course). Elba does stretch himself here to be more than just a walking, talking “Mandela impersonator”, and he does get to the inner-kindness, as well as anger that was probably lingering inside of this man for the longest while, but it feels underused by a movie that changes itself around so much. Which, need I say, isn’t all that bad considering Winnie’s story is a lot more interesting and compelling, but come to think of it: Wasn’t this mainly supposed to be about Nelson Mandela in the first place? Didn’t we already get a Winnie Mandela biopic that absolutely nobody saw, earlier this year? Anyway, my point is that while Winnie’s story does wonders for this movie, Nelson’s is just sort of there, sucking all sorts of life out of it, not really adding much new or surprising to the tales we already know of Nelson Mandela. Other than he was a very smart, very compassionate, and very determined man, even when placed hundreds-of-millions of miles away from actual, on-going society.

But, like I was saying, Winnie’s side of the story works a lot better, and most of that has to do with the fact that Naomie Harris is just so great as here, offering us some real, unrelenting and raw insights into a person that so desperately needed them. Like for instance, Winnie does go through a whole seep of changes throughout this movie; where we first see her as meek and mild girl that instantly falls for Nelson’s big brawn and good charms, and then changes into a very angry, very violent gal that wants her man back, but most importantly, won’t stand for all of the wrongdoings her country’s government has been committing. Harris is quite believable in this role and best of all, she keeps us on the same side as Winnie, even in her most questionable moments. Even when she begins to realize that violence is in fact the answer to solving a problem, she doesn’t seem like an even, relentless queen beotch. She seems like a woman who stands up for what she believes in, and won’t stop until she gets what she wants, by any cost necessary. Nelson believed in the same ideas, but she was the one who carried out his message, while he was away wasting his precious time in prison. Then, as we know, he got out and continued to spread the good word with Winnie and we’re better humans for it. Even though it is still sad to see him gone from us, forever.

Consensus: Elba and Harris give powerful performances in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, making it worth seeing for them and them alone, but don’t expect to learn much new, or even feel all that compelled by what it is you’re seeing. Just know of the ramifications of these people’s actions and you’ll probably walk off with a smile.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was the only action he was going to get with his wife for that whole time.

Hope he remembered that moment for the next 27 years, as that was most likely the only action he was going to get from his wife for a long, long time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Guys want to get hammered with him, girls want to get hammered by him. He’s Thor, and he’s a pretty cool guy.

After the whole incident in New York, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back in his homeland of Asgard, but this time, is being locked away for all eternity, banished from the rest of society. This is when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds that it is his time to shine and take over the throne, just as his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is getting ready to step down right off of it. However, not so fast there! After years and years of exile, the ruler of the Dark Elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), comes back to shake things up and make Asgard his own play-place where things crash and burn on a daily-basis. Thor won’t have this, however, he’s almost too powerless due to the fact that his heart and mind is elsewhere. Or, to be specific, back on Earth, where his old flame, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is still thinking about him to this day, while also trying to get over him date-by-date. Not going to be so easy now, especially since he’s back and asking for all sorts of help from her and her band of scientific misfits.

Though many people were skeptical about it, myself being included, Thor turned out to be a nice surprise that not many were expecting. For once, we not only had a funny superhero movie that didn’t quite enter the realm of “smug”, but we also had one that was still exciting, light, quick and entertaining, despite practically being a filler so that we have one other character developed for that inevitable Avengers movie that did not disappoint much either. Still, with Marvel Phase Two already have begun with Iron Man 3, one has to wonder: “Now that we’ve seen what was in store for us with the huge team-up, will the stand-alone sequels/prequels be able to measure-up?”

Well, the answer is definitely yes, and definitely no. Here, I’ll explain more.

"HAR! HAR! HAR! THOR LAUGH!"

“HAR! HAR! HAR! THOR LAUGH!”

What I mean by the “definitely yes”, is that while these types of movies where we focus on one superhero’s own adventure, with their own subplots, themes and such, we still get a feel that there is a larger-universe out there just waiting to be explored, but just won’t be. That’s not a problem however, considering that it seems like Marvel is comfortable enough now with actually mentioning that there are other superheros out there, and that the whole NYC debacle actually did in fact HAPPEN. Heck, there’s even a couple of brief mentions of the S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they’re lurking around, which was still cool to hear, even if I don’t watch the show. Just yet, that is.

Anyway, so yeah, it’s definitely cool that Marvel doesn’t shy away from actually making mentions of there being others out there in the world and that they may just be waiting to show up whenever the time is right. Personally, I don’t know how anytime of distress isn’t considered “the right time” to get the band back together, but it’s a big old whatever. Obviously I don’t run things in the movie business and I’m pretty sure we all know why now.

But what about that “definitely no”? Well, the reason why I said that is because the stand-alone sequels will never, ever, not in a million years, be on the same, larger, grand epic-scale that the Avengers movie itself was, which may disappoint some far more demanding-viewers, if that’s the type of movie they want. To be honest, I knew going into this that I wasn’t going to get the whole group of Nick Fury, Steve Rodgers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, or even Agent Coulson for that matter. All I knew, and wanted, was the same old fun-feel I got from the first Thor movie, and that is exactly what I got, no strings attached or added. Just fun, and for a movie that’s coming out against some Oscar-bait, heavy-hitters this month, I have to give it the huge benefit of the doubt for at least bringing some upbeat vibes to a very chilly atmosphere. That’s if you walk outside and you live in the Northeast. Other than that, I think you don’t you’d be smelling what I’m selling, but so be it!

All that you need to know though about this movie is that it’s as fun and exciting as the first flick was, but with a lot less of the comedy-element thrown in there to round things out. This sort of disappointed me, and it sort of didn’t. It did because I thought that’s what separated the first one from being such a dark, serious take on a superhero who would most likely get that type of treatment; and it didn’t because while the first two-thirds of the movie keep its serious moods and faces afloat, the last-act is where I really felt like things were coming together and firing on all cylinders. Not only was the huge climax as much of a CGI-spectacle as you’d expect, with all sorts of action going on in each-frame-per-second, but the humor just kept on having me laugh. All of that “fish-out-water” comedy that seemed to run so rampant in the first movie, is back here again but used to even better effect, showing us that even though these movies tackle such subjects as Norse gods, demons and angels, there’s a still an under-lining of self-knowing silliness to it all that makes it more than just your standard brain-killer. It has a personality; the same type of personality you’d want to be hanging around at any party or social gathering you go to.

Keep that in mind, especially before that painful ten year, high-school reunion.

A lot of that comedy works mainly through the fact that Chris Hemsworth himself is such a lovable goof, that it’s easy to see past his terribly good-looks, rockin’ bod and ability to charm any gal he pleases to with his Australian accent, and realize that he’s actually talented. Now, of course we all knew that after seeing the first Thor, Cabin in the Woods and especially, Rush two months ago, but to see that he still has it continues to make this blandly-written character somewhat interesting, really charmed the hell out of me. But seriously, on a real, standard-business note, somebody’s got to pitch the idea of getting Thor his own sitcom. Every line, every piece of comedy that comes out of this dude’s mouth or occurs around him, is just pure hilarity and had me, as well as plenty others, howling whenever necessary. Just saying, we’d all benefit from it. Even you Stan Lee, you old bastard.

Just look at the promise he holds for all sorts of situational comedies in the future!

Just look at the promise he holds for all sorts of situational comedies in the future! Take notice, NBC!

And like usual, Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, giving us a character that’s easy to love, but also, even easier to hate by how evil and despicable his actions can be. Still though, there is signs of humanity with this character that goes further than just, “he loves his bro,” which is either a testament to Hiddleston’s talents, or the writing for Loki itself. I think it’s a little mixture of both, but more so of Hiddleston just because he seems so damn charming, on and off the screen. While Loki’s character still prevails as being the most interesting and worth-watching villain we get with these movies, that leaves little to no room for Chistopher Eccleston’s Malekith to do anything even remotely menacing or memorable. Instead, he just comes off like a bad extra from Lord of the Rings that showed up a bit too late to filming after he heard that he got the role of a lifetime, and partied too hard the night before.

The rest of the ensemble does pretty fine as well, with everybody contributing in anyway that they possibly can. Idris Elba is awesome and still bad-ass as Heimdall; Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo do nice jobs as the rulers of Asgard, proving that seniority rules, even in Marvel movies; Natalie Portman gets plenty of screen-time to be all sorts of fun, sassy and fiery when she’s called on to do so, and it’s nice to see her back on the big screen and doing what she does best; and of course, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård are around to be goofy and zany in their scientic, nerdy-like way, and they’re fun to watch, especially Skarsgård who’s constantly running around like a loon, to much of the audience’s pleasure. Glad to see him put his pants back on though. Only in a Lars von Trier movie should we have to be victim to a sight like that, not a Marvel movie, THE SAME ONES THAT KIDS GO TO SEE.

Consensus: The first movie’s surprise-factor still works well against Thor: The Dark World, but still shouldn’t be held fully against it because it as fun, as exciting, as witty and as much of a spectacle as you’re going to get with a movie released at the beginning of November, right before the army of drop-dead serious, Oscar-bait projects begin to swarm in. Enjoy this while it lasts, because it’s the closest thing we’re going to get to “fun” in the longest time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Are people still pissed about this guy being in it?

Are people still pissed about this guy being in it?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Pacific Rim (2013)

Who cares about going to war with North Koreans when you have HUGE, FREAKIN’ MONSTERS!??!?!

The Earth is being threatened by a bunch of huge-ass, killer monsters known as Kaiju, who never seem to stop attacking. There’s more and more of them, each and every day so obviously something has to stop them. Enter the Jaegers, giant robots that are equipped and ready to defeat this big monsters, especially since they are ran by two people at the same time. However, once the threat of human extinction becomes all too real and closer and closer by the seconds of every day,  two unlikely heroes (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi) realize that it’s their time to stand up, fight, and break some monster skulls, while also having the fate of humanity rest solely in the palm of their hands. Not too much pressure, is it?

As you could probably tell from the last 5 days: I’ve been watching A LOT of Guillermo del Toro movies. Yes, the main reason for doing so was to get all hyped-up and ready for this flick, but also to understand him more as a film maker and creator, then I ever did, and I think have a handle on what he’s all about now.

First of all, the guy is a director that makes the type of movies he wants to make, and allows people to join in on the fun and excitement if they so please to. He’s sort of like a kid who grew-up on late-night trips to theaters, more action-figures than actual, human-being friends, and probably made Atari more times than you or I have ever popped in GTA IV. Except he’s all grown-up, has the ability to make a movie, and get paid for doing so, which is great for him, but even better for us since we get to watch those movies, and see the world through his eyes, as amateurish and kiddish as they may be. However, the terms “amateurish” and “kiddish” are used more as positives than negatives here, because del Toro makes such great movies that it’s so easy to forgive him for being non-other than the type of director who likes to see things go “bang”, “boom”, and “caboodle”. But with his latest effort, “great” doesn’t come close, but “fun” does and that’s more than enough than I can say about other loud, big, summer blockbusters.

Yeah, you need to get those molars next time.

You need to get those molars next time around.

Looking at you, Lone Ranger.

Del Toro’s knack for having fun with his material shines throughout the whole flick, and it never lets up. The idea of having huge-ass robots and aliens fight each other, atop major cities and oceans is a silly idea, but it’s one that del Toro takes very seriously in the way that he amerces himself into this universe where, for some reason or another, alien-like creatures come out of the ocean and start attacking our world, only to be fought to the death by even-bigger robots created by us, the humans. As I said, silly, but a bunch of fun because del Toro knows the type of flick he’s making here and isn’t really trying to show us anything new or surprising, in terms of plot or tone. Some may be a bit saddened by that fact, knowing what del Toro has been able to do with even the most simple plots, but I was happy to see this, considering this flick could have easily gone South, had he decided to make it a super-cereal flick, with still a shit-load of aliens and robots fighting one another.

This aspect of the movie works because it’s as big, loud, explosive, CGI-filled, and entertaining as you may have thought it would be, coming from all of the countless trailers and whatnot. Not only do the aliens and robots look very-detailed in a way that’s obvious CGI, but still feels natural, but their fights are easy-to-understand and aren’t constantly cut and edited at a fast, Paul Greengrass-style. Del Toro continues to let the fights linger on and on and on, until we had enough or, in some cases, want more. I was more of the latter than the former, however, I can see the ship from both sides. Some may want the fights to not over-stay their welcome and end as soon as they get started so they can get back with the characters and their development; whereas some may just want the fights to keep on happening and continue to take up space, considering that they’re the best thing the movie has going for itself.

This is a real shame too, because, if you know del Toro movies the way I’ve been knowing del Toro movies, you know his attention to action-splendor and characters is amazing considering he rarely ever misses a beat with each aspect. However, with this movie, he seems to have lost his touch and used loud action scenes, and put them in place of characters and their developments. Which is fine since the action scenes are fun and exhilarating, but it’s a huge bummer knowing that there could have been so much more accomplished here, had del Toro decided to go that extra mile with each and every one of these characters and making them more than just cardboard cut-outs. But he didn’t, and as saddened as I am to say this: It totally brings the film down.

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

The human-race: FUCK YEAH!!!

Though everybody in this flick seems perfectly-cast, they are all wasted on a script that couldn’t give two shits about them. Members like Idris Elba, Rinko Kikuchi and Ron Perlman all get their chances to shine and do what they do best (especially Elba who probably gives his best “film” performance, ever), but the script is so weak and poorly-written, that it feels like most of them were just called onto have one “look” the whole time, and never lose it. They all try to rise above the material, but they all fall face down in the dirt because del Toro is more infatuated with the big-ass robots he has grace the screen more than a couple of times, as he should, since they cost him probably more than half of that $200 million budget of his.

The only person in this cast who actually seems to try, but gets the hardest end of the stick the most is Charlie Hunnam as Raleigh Becket, the type of role that should have catapulted him to stardom, but most likely won’t because it’s too weak and conventional, even for him. I can’t get on Hunnam’s ass too much because the dude seems like he was putting some time and effort into a role that probably seemed fit for him on paper, but the script just lets him down and makes him nothing more than a poster boy for getting revenge, fighting for “your boys” and respecting the code and honor that is bestowed onto you. That’s all this role has to do and there are times when Hunnam shows some inspiration in his work, but nothing too noticeable to where I think he’s going to be a star one of these days, and really show the world what he’s got. Yes, I know he’s on Sons of Anarchy and, from what I hear, is lighting up television screens all over the world, but film just may not be his thing just yet. With time, maybe. But as for right now, not at all.

Consensus: Even though it may be del Toro’s weakest in a long while, Pacific Rim still offers you all the bang for your buck that you need, especially with the constant battles between aliens and robots, but if you want anything more like character-development or heart injected into the material, you may be a little lost.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

In Luther, we trust.

In Luther, we trust.

RocknRolla (2008)

American gangsters are so boring.

This is a flick about a Russian mobster (Karel Roden) who orchestrates a crooked land deal, millions of dollars are up for grabs, and all of London’s criminal underworld wants in on the action. Everyone from a dangerous crime lord (Tom Wilkinson) to a sexy accountant (Thandie Newton), a corrupt politician (Jimi Mistry) and down-on-their-luck petty thieves (Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba) conspire, collude and collide with one another in an effort to get rich quick.

After giving us two turkeys in-a-row like the ultra sappy, soap-fest that was known as Swept Away and the oddly slow and philosophical brain-take that was Revolver, Guy Ritchie was finally back to his old-ways in showing us gangsters that did bad things, said very funny things, and also, found themselves in some crazy situations that somehow connect to other gangsters that only live a couple of blocks down the street from them. Say what you will about it being conventional and nothing new for Ritchie to explore, but just be happy that he wasn’t doing another movie with his honey-at-the-moment, Madonna and making us watch as Jason Statham screamed his arse off for over an hour and some odd minutes. Yeah, be happy you damn people.

"What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey's Anatomy?!?!?"

“What do you mean my next movie is some rom-com with that chick from Grey’s Anatomy?!?!?”

Going back to his old roots may piss some people off because it’s nothing and nothing original we haven’t already seen from the dude, but Ritchie isn’t worried about that and instead, allows us to have a great time as much as he must have been making this movie. There’s a lot of goofy-stuff here with comedy coming-out in places you would have never expected and even some violent spots that just so happen to make us laugh but no matter what, Ritchie always adds in his style of wit that makes this flick seem all the more jokey, no matter how much it may try and be serious. You really can’t take a Ritchie flick seriously and even when this movie actually does try to do so, you don’t really buy into it and just realize that it’s better if you don’t pay attention to any of those aspects at all and pay attention to the finer things in life, as well as this movie.

The finer things in this movie is definitely the plot and just where the hell it goes, where it stops, where it changes, and so-on-and-so-forth. This is typical Ritchie: setting-up a plot for us, giving us all of the characters we need to know, let us know what they do, what the stakes are, and just let it all roll-out as if it was just one, huge Domino game. You start to see how a certain group of characters are effected by another group of characters and it almost never stops, especially with all of the damn twists and turns that Ritchie seems to take, yet, they never get old. Ritchie always knows when to say “enough” and rather than just continue to pile-up on the plot twists and have things get spiced-up a bit more, as well as more convoluted  he lets everything settle-in and have it become familiar to us, and then throw in another twist or turn, here and there just for good measure. Seriously, as much fun as it may be for us to actually watch this flick, it seems like it wasn’t even more fun for Guy to make it and that’s something that we all felt like we missed for the longest time. Glad to have you back, Guy. Now stay the hell away from that talent-sucker we all know as Madonna!

I think the biggest misstep for Ritchie here, as a writer and director, is that he never really pays all that much attention to every character the way they should have been payed attention to. For instance, in all of his other flicks, each and every single character was given a great-amount of screen-time that just so happened to fly-in whenever another character would show-up and become apart of their story-line, as well. However, here, in this flick, certain characters get the most attention, for the longest time, and then they stay there, only to ruin other story-lines of other characters. It isn’t that bad right from the start, mainly because all of the stories are fun and interesting to-watch, but once the film starts to focus on a bunch of other characters that haven’t been seen in awhile, you start to realize you don’t care all that much about them and it continues this way, until every story-line, in typical, Ritchie-fashion, finds themselves convulsing into a weird, but exciting finale.

It’s a trip that’s fun to take and ride-on, but it’s a bit messy and when it’s all said and done, you’re not really sure how it worked or even if it did. Heck, it’s almost like Ritchie was able to distract us all with his non-stop camera and writing tricks that he always has up his sleeve, and almost makes us forget that underneath the surface, is a very sloppily-made flick that forgets about certain-aspects that work, but remembers clearly the ones that don’t. I don’t know, maybe I was the only nut who was thinking that while watching this but either way, it definitely seemed a bit-off to me but also showed me that Ritchie is always the man to be trusted in terms of making a fun, entertaining flick, no matter how derivative it may be.

However, the familiarity of the style and story didn’t bother me all that much, especially when you take into account the quality-cast that he’s working with here. Gerard Butler is pretty solid as One Two, a tough-as-nails crook that always has a flair for wit, but also allows himself to be on the butt-end of a joke in terms of how he’s viewed-at as a tough-guy, that can also be a tad sensitive. If only Butler continued to take good roles like this nowadays, then we wouldn’t have shite-boxes like Playing for Keeps or Chasing Mavericks. That’s only a small list, though. Playing his two partners-in-crime are Idris Elba and a very skinny Tom Hardy, and as good as they both are, they aren’t really given a whole bunch to do that really makes them stand-out among the rest like Butler, even if Hardy’s character is a bit on the flip-side of the bed, if you know what I mean.

Does she not know who she's walking away from!??!?

Does she not know who she’s walking away from!??!?

Out of the whole-cast, the one who really steals this whole movie from underneath his wing is Tom Wilkinson as the old school gangster that does things his own, vicious way. Wilkinson seems to be having a ball as the mean and cruel gangster that doesn’t seem to put-up with anybody’s shite, no matter how heated or reasonable it is. Wilkinson never really gets to play evil-like characters such as these, so to see him have an absolute ball with it, was an absolute ball just to watch it. Playing his partner-in-crime is a fun and terribly-quirky mobster played by Mark Strong, who is really good at playing these types of roles, and is even better with his cheeky narration that supplies most of the film’s humor throughout.

I think the one performance I was really bummed-out by was Thandie Newton as Stella, the accountant that sort of starts all this shite between these countless blokes. She starts off strong, smart, and sexy, and seems like a huge-departure for Ritchie to have in one of his flicks since all of his characters are mainly just a bunch of fellows that do shit the old school, gangster way, but after awhile, turns into the type of character you’d expect her to be and it’s a bit of a bummer because she really had a lot of promise going for her. It was sort of like she was just there to move the plot along and as much as Ritchie may have gotten his wish fulfilled on that aspect, it still feels like a bit of a shame, considering he was really brewing on something here.

Consensus: Though it treads familiar-territory for Ritchie, RocknRolla is still a crap-load of fun that’s filled with witty characters, surprising twists and turns that you rarely ever see coming, and an ensemble cast that always seems game to work.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hold on! I swear we're the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!"

“Hold on! I swear we’re the only ones who have nothing to do in this movie!”

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Osama’s dead! Now it’s time for Hollywood to take advantage!

The film is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, and his ultimate-death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Unless you have been living under a cave for the past years (sort of like Osama himself), then you’ll probably already know how this story ends. People get on the look-out for Osama, find some tip-offs, locate his living quarters, send a search and destroy team, and basically, destroy him and everybody else that was practically in there.

After a decade of anger, frustration, sadness, paranoia, and a great deal of questions left unanswered, we, as a country, finally got what we wanted ever since those fateful hours of 9/11: we killed the son-of-a-bitch that was to be blamed for all of it. If you like to look at humanity in the eyes that every person made in God’s eyes are equal and judged the same, but if you look at it from another pair of eyes, you’ll start to realize that this was a piece of shit that deserved to die, deserved to be stuck in-hiding half of his life, and better yet, deserved to be killed the way he was. In my opinions, no matter how brutal or vicious, I feel like the guy got-off a bit easy with a couple of shots to the dome (apparently) and no torture whatsoever, when this is also the same guy that killed over 3,000 innocent people in just one day. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m rooting for America on this one and I usually don’t get all this “hurrah! hurrah!”, over being a patriot of my country, but there’s just something about the idea of finding the person that was responsible for so many deaths and broken hearts in one day, killing him, and showing him, as well as his followers, what the ‘eff is up with the good, olde U.S. of A. I hate to sound all lame-ass and cliche, but damn, was I proud to be an American after seeing this movie.

No, I did not just spoil the movie's ending with this image.

No, I did not just spoil the movie’s ending with this image.

This also really surprised the hell out of me as well, mainly because I wasn’t expecting feelings like this to pop-up, after expecting this to be Kathryn Bigelow’s big, follow-up to The Hurt Locker, a war movie in which, it seemed like the theme was very much against the war, rather than creating a love-letter to those who fight for our safety and freedom, day-in and day-out. It’s not like Bigelow went full-throttle at the army’s throats and showed them how much of dirty and despicable bastards they can truly-be, but instead, showed them more as a bunch of people that have problems, just like you or me. It was a nice movie, a nice war movie, and a very nice movie with a smart message to-boot, but that’s not the film I’m reviewing here.

The movie I am reviewing instead is this one, Zero Dark Thirty. Up until a couple of days ago where I heard this movie has been destroying film festival award shows, I wasn’t really all that amped-up to see this flick. Yeah, we all know the story about Bin Laden, we all know the cook gets shot, and yes, we all know that people did a lot to figure-out just where, how, and when this guy hid for so long. It was an obvious story that just seemed like it was going to be the more modern, war-version take on a “based on factual events” story like Argo. However, slowly but surely, this movie really started to creep-up and find it’s way into my mind and have me very, very excited to see what was going to go down and after awhile, I got to thinking: I didn’t really know all that much about the whole Bin Laden-killing as it was.

Yeah, I knew how it began and how it ended, which is pretty much enough for some people, but being the type of guy that likes reasons, explanations, and understandings to most of the stories that I find-out to actually be true, I knew there was more than meets-the-eyes and that is exactly what you can expect from this movie. Right from the start, you know you are in for a thrill-ride that is full of suspense, espionage, exposition, clues, hints, interrogations, arguments, conversations, torture, and best of all, action. This movie basically has it all and even though the first 20 minutes seems to go a bit over-the-top with the whole “torture” idea, it soon builds into something that doesn’t need to have things exploding or people being shot to keep you interested and riveted; it just uses conversations, and wonderful conversations at-that.

Seeing how this whole investigation got from Point A, to Point B, is pretty damn interesting, but what’s even more interesting is how much feels like it’s on the line in this flick. When these characters are out searching for Bin Laden, where’s he hiding, and who the hell helped him with terrorist attacks, we feel as if we are there searching with them as well, with just enough terror and suspense as you could imagine. I knew how this was going to turn-out and if you are the biggest-idiot on the face of the Earth and don’t know by now, well then, you do too. It’s a real-life investigation that just so happened to turn-out successful  but getting to that point where everybody is happy, jolly, and feeling victorious, is a real, fucking ride that will take you all-over-the-place in terms of emotions and thoughts. Actually, maybe saying it will fuck with your mind is the wrong-impression to give you, but if you like a thriller where you have no idea what’s going to happen next and like to have your palms sweaty for about 95% of the actual-movie, then this is the type of thriller for you that will stick with you just as much as it did to me.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I'd still try my hardest for her heart.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I’d still try my hardest for her heart.

And as for the rest of that 5%, well, I sort of left that out, mostly because it seems like more of this flick is about getting the facts straight and telling it like it is, which was all fine and dandy with me for the most part, especially because all of it seemed to be pretty legitimate. As with most of these movies that take on an actual, real-life investigation that had to deal with the U.S. government, there’s always a lot of speculation as to what is real, what is dramatized, and what is fake. For the most-part, after all of the controversies this flick has seem to be dealing with as of-late, I can easily state that most of what you will see and hear here, is in-fact told in the way it went-down. Of course not every scene was filled with as much witty-lines and moments of humor that this movie’s scripts throws in there to great-effect, but the ideas, the hints, the clues, the thoughts, and the actions, all seem to be very reasonable and I never really found myself scratching my head as to how the hell somebody could pull something-off like this, no matter how much leverage she may have had. However, it’s less of a history-lesson and more of a thriller that shows you what went-down, how it went-down, and what exactly was going through the minds of the people behind all of the actions. Some good, some bad, some are just not worth giving a fuck about but at the end of the day, Osama was killed and everybody was happy and joyful together. Yippie-Kay-Yay!

Featuring a cast that doesn’t really have any real, blockbuster names to attract an audience to a flick that already seems like it may have a bit of a struggle with making moolah around this time of the year, definitely seems like a risk that Bigelow is willing to take, and a risk I want to watch her take, more and more now, especially after what I saw what she could do with an amazing cast like this. After having what is essentially the greatest year of her freakin’ life so-far (other than that one, beautiful summer where she went to camp and become a woman for the first-time, I don’t know, just guessing that it’s what all girls have memories of), Chastain builds on top of that with a stellar-performance that is probably the best she has given so far, mainly because her character goes through so many changes throughout the whole flick, but yet, they all feel real.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

When we first see Chastain as Maya, we see her as soft-spoken, scared, and a bit of wimpy-like girl that can’t handle the sight of so much blood and torture that she sees within the first 20 minutes, but after awhile, she gets used to it and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she, as well as the rest of the CIA, needs to get their shit together and find this summbitch who caused all of this trouble in the first-place. Chastain is strong-as-hell in this role and you can totally tell that as time continues to go-on for her and for this mission, that the look on her face and her eyes, begin to change and get more and more disrupted by the anger and frustration that sort of domes come with the job of being a very-skilled member of the CIA and handling a mission like locating, and taking-out a top-terrorist. Every look she gives another character in this movie feels deserved and she is such a strong female-character that you are able to stand-by, trust, and feel like she is literally a nice human-being that only wants what’s right for her, her own well-being, and her own country that she fights for day on a daily-basis. No surprise whatsoever that this gal is getting so much damn Oscar buzz for this and if she does win (which she just might), I will have no objection or angry-tirade whatsoever. Hell, after all that she did last year, the woman deserves it. But please, somebody just give her my number!

Her co-star from this year’s earlier-release, Lawless, Jason Clarke has the next best role as another member of the CIA, but yet, has a way different job than her. See, Clarke’s character is a guy that has to deal with the torturing and question of their Iranian prisoners and as hard as it may be to watch some of the actual torture that does go-down in the flick (mainly within the first 20 minutes, just to let you know how crazy, wild and disturbing this movie is going to be), it’s even harder to watch a character like this have to suffer from doing something that literally makes him a miserable human-being. Clarke is a guy I never really payed attention-to in the past, mainly because I never thought he really needed to shine in the spotlight, he’s just always been there, but here, every chance the guy gets, he absolutely nails it in showing us how a character that does something so vicious and violent for a living, can actually still stay sane and normal in the outside world around him. If it wasn’t for all of the buzz that has already been surrounding every-other aspect of this damn movie, then I would definitely have to say that Clarke would be up for an Oscar nom., but as for right now, I think I may just have to wait and keep my, Minnesota Fats-like fingers crossed.

"Seriously, since you're night-vision doesn't work, you brought a candle?"

“Seriously, since you’re night-vision doesn’t work, you brought a candle instead? Do you not know what we are here to do!?!?”

Even though Clarke and Chastain may be the real stands-out of the flick, you know, the ones you really remember when all is said and done, they sure as hell aren’t the only ones that give solid performances worth-mentioning. Mark Strong shows up in a couple of scenes, and absolutely hits the high-rising emotions in this flick, and hits them hard, especially with an introduction-scene that is one of the best he has ever done in his entire career. Trust me, just ask the fellas I saw this movie with. They’ll probably tell you I couldn’t stop quoting his damn scene and with good reason: it’s memorable, important, and best of all, perfect. And no, for all of you people out there wondering: Mark Strong does not play Osama Bin Laden, regardless of what his past-decisions for characters may have you think otherwise. Kyle Chandler seems to be having a lot of fun playing, once again, another member of the CIA that seems to always have the right, witty answers to every solution, but yet, still can’t keep an eye on his own shit and even get the chance to cover his own-ass. Chandler’s been doing some real splendid work as of late, and I think this flick is only going to prove that point a whole lot more. James Gandolfini also shows-up in a scene or two as the main, higher-up of the CIA that always has to give final-word to the president and even though it’s not a glamorous-role for the guy, it’s not one that shows how much of a fat-slob he has become, either. He’s just a normal dude, with a very demanding job.

However, these three are the only three I could really think-of off the top of my head and say exactly why I liked them so much here, because everybody else, I kid you not, is as great as they should be. Every tiny, little-role that Bigelow needs filled-up, she fills it up with a great actor/actress that gives their all and might into scene that sometimes doesn’t mean a shit in the long-run, but after it’s over, you are still left remembering it because of how well-acted it truly was. The only bad apple out of this whole cast that really seems like he may have been trying a bit too hard was Chris Pratt as the main, Navy Seal that goes into Bin Laden’s cave. I love Pratt to death and I think he is an absolute riot as Andy Dwyer, but seriously, you can’t go from a character that’s all about being a man-child, who is dumb, big, and slow, in terms of understanding the things around him, and go right to a character that practically slimes his way around and about Bin Laden’s head-quarters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pratt and he’s not even that bad here, but he just seems like he should be off, doing something more comedic that would use him well.

Despite all of this big and bad jibberoo about why the movie works and how, I can only imagine the real question on your mind: what about the whole Bin Laden-shooting? Well, without giving too much away or even letting you know of what fully goes down, I’m just going to state that Bigelow handles it in the most understandable, most respectful, and most perfect way that makes you realize how far everybody has come to this point and in a way, what is to come of us next, not only as a country lead by an army, but as humans living in the country as well. Bigelow handles this last-sequence where all of the Navy Seals find their-ways to Bin Laden as if we are actually there, right next to them, as they make all of the tough shots and calls, and it’s probably the most exciting and suspenseful, piece of 30 minutes at the theaters I have spent in a very, very long-time. And mind you, I am talking about the whole Bin Laden-shooting. Something that I actually have prior knowledge to knowing that it did actually happen!

"What by the term, "Casual Friday", do you not understand?"

“What by the term, “Casual Friday”, do you not understand?”

Yup, it surprised the hell out of me too, but if there is anything that surprised the hell out of me, is how happy and proud I was to be in a country where most humans have the rights to do whatever they want, however they want it, and mainly because we all are humans, no matter what eyes you look through. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for people to do anything they want, whenever they want because they’re humans (last Frdiay’s shootings come to mind), but for people that can choose between right-and-wrong, and are given a set of ideas as to what is right for the world and everybody else living in it, it’s a beautiful country we live in and it’s one that makes me happy, just knowing that I am being protected by people who are days and days away from me, but yet, still continue to keep me safe at-night, while I sit here, half-naked, drink a Mountain Dew, and talk about a movie that’s all about them. Yes, thank you all for saving my life day-after-day, please don’t stop either, because I really like not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds.

Consensus: Some historical facts and inaccuracies may always be up for discussion here in Zero Dark Thirty, but what cannot be up for discussion is how entertaining, enlightening, smart, provocative, well-acted, and perfectly-performed this flick truly is and I really do see it winning a crap-load of Oscars, come February of 2013.

9/10=Full Price!!

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Alex Cross (2012)

If only Madea decided to dress-up for the occasion.

The plot centers on Alex Cross (Tyler Perry) trying to resolve a series of grisly murders by the cunning and sadistic killer (Matthew Fox), who just so happens to be more of a threat than Cross, or anybody else on the task-force, had originally imagined.

Since I’m not much of a reader, I usually depend on the movie-adaptations to give me something good and reasonable that makes me feel like I have already read the book, without even opening it up. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I’m a dummy, and maybe I depend too much on movies, but all I know, is that I like to watch movies rather than read books. That’s why I’m a movie critic and not a book critic (thank the heavens for that). However, movie-adaptations like this make me feel like it’s time for me to get my ass out to a Barnes & Noble (notice how I didn’t say Borders, RIP), and start reading what was really supposed to happen in the first-place, until Hollywood had to take it over and shit everything up.

This is not the first Alex Cross movie to ever be done before. Apparently Morgan Freeman starred in two of those adaptations and did pretty well, both for the movie and for the books as well. Sadly, it seems like Hollywood wanted to see what they could stretch out of that series once again and it’s a stupid-move that they should have just left with the Freeman. But, you would think with a director like Rob Cohen (who has done fun, but dumb action-flicks like The Fast and the Furious, XXX, and Stealth), that there would be something even remotely promising to see, but somehow. Cohen totally drops the ball on that idea.

I’ve never been a fan of Cohen, but the guy does have some fun movies to his credit but this one, is not one of them mainly because it seems like a lazy direction from the guy. Nothing here feels like anything new, original, or improved that we haven’t seen before already and just feels like one, long episode of CSI that you have to go out and pay for actually see. That wouldn’t have been so bad either, if the film just decided to relax a little bit with it’s camera-movements but they didn’t, and instead gave me a freakin’ head-ache. And when I mean that it gave me a head-ache, I mean exactly that.

I’ve seen so many damn films that have this shaky-cam, and they have all bothered me but have never made me sick or had any physical impact on me, until I saw this movie. Seriously, it’s so bad that during one scene where Perry and Fox face-off in what was supposed to be a climactic/epic head-to-head battle, that you cannot what is happening to who in the fight. You see people getting hit and you hear some damage being done, mainly because of the corny sound-effects, but there’s no actual sight of or understanding of what’s happening. It’s just a camera moving in such a rapid-fire way that it will anger even the biggest Tony Scott fans. Yes, it’s that bad.

However, when there’s a will, there is a way and I can’t say that this movie was all that terrible in every-aspect, especially in terms of the acting. I highly doubt that people imagined Tyler Perry would be the go-to-guy to take over a role that was once captured so famously by Morgan Freeman, because so many people thought it would have been Idris Elba in the role. And in all honesty, Elba would have done such a better job with a this role, even though Perry’s not all that terrible either. It’s obvious that Perry has a decent-amount of likability to him that shines through most of the movie, and for about the first 30 minutes, he captures that well and makes it seem believable. The problem that he runs into is when the film, and his character start to take a darker-edge towards everything and it feels very-forced in a way that didn’t even seem like Perry was all that infuriated. His character is supposed to mad and hellbent on revenge for something tragic that has happened to him, but it never feels like he actually is, and more or less, just feels like a guy that’s a little ticked-off. Can’t say why he’s ticked-off in the first-place, but it’s something that would infuriate anybody, but apparently Alex Cross is too composed for that.

The main villain who causes this tragedy, is named Picasso and is played by an almost unrecognizable Matthew Fox. When this movie was all said and done, I felt really bad for Fox because the guy goes through this huge and insane physical transformation that really seems like he put a lot of hard-work into, but seems undeserved for a movie that doesn’t really do anything with it, let alone even show it all that much to freak us the hell out. Since the camera is always shaking it’s ass off as if it was in a wild, ecstasy-fueled rave, Fox’s clean-cut body never gets to see the full light-of-day and is barely shown in it’s full-look to actually have us intimidated by what this guy can and most likely could do with his body. However, I can’t put too much of the blame on the camera as it’s also Fox to blame for this character being an ultra-lame villain that just seems like he’s phoning it all in, with crazy eyes and all. He’s a laughable villain, that never seems like a real threat to Cross and for the most part, never feels like Cross is even a real threat to him either. They just feel like two guys that have a problem with one another, but still don’t have anything special about either of them that could really eff-up the other person. It’s just a lame and boring rivalry that never feels fully-established.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re all okay but once again, it’s a bunch of talent that feels wasted on material that couldn’t give a shit if they were in these roles or not, they’re just there to fill them in. Edward Burns is good as Cross’ buddy/fellow-cop and does his usual Irish-guy shtick that we all know and love by now, but even his relationship with Cross feels lack it really lacks something to make it memorable and believable friendship that could stand all of the heart-ache that they go through. Rachel Nichols once again shows-up as another sexy girl, in a movie that sucks and does fine with it, but still feels like she deserves bigger and better for her looks and talents; Jean Reno is fine, but only shows up for 7 minutes throughout the whole film; Dr. Cox, aka John C. McGinley feels like he’s really lost in this movie and deserves way, way better; and Cicely Tyson probably does the best job of the whole cast as Cross’ mommy, who shows up to give nice advice on life and what he should do next.

Consensus: Alex Cross is what you expect from any conventional/unoriginal detective-movie that feels like it could have been so much better, but just isn’t because of it’s lazy-direction, under-written roles that feels like a big waste of time for the talent that’s in them, and an incredible over-use of the “crack-cam” that I always hate to see in movies, except for The Bourne Ultimatum, but I’m going to act like I didn’t even mention that movie in the review for this one.

4/10=Crapola!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Sadly, no signs of Cillian Murphy’s dong anywhere to be found here.

After a rage-virus ravaged through all of London, the U.S military attempts to take over and try to repopulate the city. Everything goes all fine and dandy until an outsider is let in, then it’s all back to normal for post-apocalyptic London.

Being as that 28 Days Later is not only one of my favorite horror movies of all-time, but also ranks up there as one of the scariest movies I have ever seen, this sequel definitely had a lot to live-up to in terms of scaring me, what it made me think, and how it made me feel. As many people do know, horror-movie sequels don’t seem to do so well in terms of sticking close to the source material but somehow, this flick does even though it definitely feels different without Jim or Selena anywhere to be found. I hope the virus didn’t get the best of them.

Anywho, instead of having Danny Boyle return to the director’s chair for this second-go around, director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over and does a pretty nice job of keeping things promising in terms of mood and atmosphere. It’s pretty cool to see what actually happens when the rage-virus breaks through an already established city and how Juan Carlos keeps us awaiting for that impending doom to occur is what really kept me on-board. I must admit that this isn’t the first time I saw this flick, but it definitely surprised me with some of the scares and what Juan Carlos could do with a bunch of material that seemed to already be used before. However, instead of just trying his hardest to do a good Boyle-impersonation, Juan Carlos sticks to his guns and uses them to deliver a sense of destruction that made me still feel a little scared for my life.

Even though this film didn’t scare the pants off of me with it’s vision like the first one did, I still felt placed in a realistic, if a bit ambitious idea of the world we live in and what it would look like, especially after a catastrophic-event like a zombie break-out. Juan Carlos probably got the memo that more people wanted action, blood, guts, and gore from the first movie, and delivers on all of those accounts by giving us more, more, and more of that. It doesn’t feel needed for this type of story, but given the type of budget they’re working with here and the type of larger-scale they have to control, it feels deserved and works well rather than feeling cheap. The shaky-cam annoyed the hell out of me, but there isn’t much to see in these action moments other than zombies, people getting eaten alive, and a bunch of bullets and blood flying everywhere. So, after awhile, you get used to it and you pretty much get the gist that people and zombies are both getting off’d.

However, being the huge fan of the original that I am, I still can’t go by this flick without mentioning that this one just does not hold a candle to it, it just does not. I hate to make this “negative part of the review” all about my love for 28 Days and how it’s ten-times better than this movie, but it really is and it’s so hard to get by. The whole time I was watching the movie, I just kept uttering to myself, “Oh, Boyle did that better. See that part? Yeah, looked better with the HD-camera.” Maybe that’s a stingy-way to be with a sequel, but when something is obvious to me, hell, I’m going to point it out.

For instance, the underlining political-themes and ideas about the nature of human-beings that ran so rampant in the first-one, are barely anywhere to be found in this. The closest example I could find that connected the first-one to this one in terms of ideas, is the whole idea about how the army can be full of some sickos and I don’t think that really even counts. But for most movies, I can live without a bunch of political-themes and ideas if you give something else to grab-on to, but somehow, this film doesn’t even seem to have that either. All of the characters here really lack any type of development or real heart to them, to really have us root and care for them in the end. And even if we do root for them, it’s only because they’re human-beings and nobody wants to see their own kind get eaten alive by a bunch of rage-infected zombies. That’s the truth, Ruth.

But, when it all comes right down to it, the real-factor as to why this film pales in comparison to the original is that Juan Carlos just doesn’t have the artistic-vision like Boyle does. Boyle has such a real interest and idea for what it takes to make a beautiful scene in such an ugly and grim atmosphere, but it doesn’t really seem like Juan Carlos is all that concerned with that. That’s all fine and dandy, but it does make the picture seem a bit shallow in terms of what it’s trying to offer new and original to the already-tired zombie-genre.

There’s a couple of scenes here and there that sort of reminded me of a “Boyle-look” (that underground safe house scene scared the shit out of me), but nothing else to it. Even though Boyle produced this flick, I highly doubt the guy had a final say in what he thought was best for the final-product and it’s a real shame because this movie could have been filled with so much more brewing underneath the surface, rather than just a bunch of people running away from zombies. In a way, that’s how the zombie-genre is (people running away from zombies and whatnot), but what Boyle offered with 28 Days Later was new, and unlike anything we’ve ever really seen before, whereas this movie, brings the zombie-genre back to where it was taken away from in the first-place. I don’t want to say that I take points away from this movie for not being directed by Boyle, but it definitely goes to show you what a good director can do for your material, if he’s game for another sequel. Please Danny, do 28 Months Later, if it ever happens.

Before I go though, let me not forget to mention the performances in this movie that were all pretty good, except for the fact that some of the characters blew. Out of everybody in this whole cast, Jeremy Renner is the one who really shines as Sgt. Doyle, aka, the same role he would go on to play and get nominated for an Oscar for in The Hurt Locker. Renner just has this utter sense of coolness and warmth to his presence that it’s pretty easy to feel safe when you’re around him in the movie and his character’s motivations feel believable, even if everybody else around him feels like they just watched a Lifetime movie and felt like they wanted to give everybody a hug for no reason.

That’s what brings me around to everybody else in this film, as all of the other characters just don’t really do anything spectacular or show us anything worth really holding onto in the end. Take for instance, Robert Carlyle as Don, one of the guys who escapes a zombie-attack early on in the movie. This guy, from what we see in the beginning, is a rat-bastard who leaves his wife behind to get attacked by the zombies, but then feels sorry for what he did when she turns out to be alive. In all honesty, who the hell cares how this guy feels. There’s no real conviction to him, to the others around him, and when things start to go bad for him, I could care less and even he started to feel a bit shoe-horned in there by the end. Can’t tell you why he does, but the fact is that he does and it got on my nerves, considering Boyle would have never been all about that ish, regardless of if the character was played by Begbie. Oh, now that would have been nice. A good, ‘olde, Trainspotting-reunion in the middle of the zombie apocalypse  Not only do they have to fight-off heroin addiction, but zombies as well. I can already see it now…

Consensus: 28 Weeks Later is definitely one of the better horror movie-sequels out there due to it’s grim atmosphere and mood, but still pales in comparison to what Danny Boyle was able to do with the original and the lasting-effect it’s material it had on you, in terms of horror and emotion. Please come back for one last movie, Danny, please.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Prometheus (2012)

Crews of explorers should just not go into space unless they are with a freakin’ army.

Prometheus centers around a team of explorers who discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Let me just start off by saying that after watching Alien and realizing it to be the true sci-fi/horror classic that everybody has ranted about, I was very pumped for this quasi-prequel of sorts. Problem is, when you watch Alien, there isn’t really any need to see this flick.

What makes this “prequel” so different from many others out there, is that it’s directed by Ridley Scott himself. The thing with Scott, is that he won’t just go for a quick and easy job where he’ll just make some moolah. No, instead he’ll put his heart and soul into production that quite frankly, deserves it and that’s what makes this film better than plenty of the other prequels we see out there. Scott brings us back to the universe he made famous and expands it, answering more questions for us that we already had. But even though this film’s big selling point is it’s tie-in to Alien, it’s a real beautiful film to just gaze at.

Scott always has a great attention to detail and his production design for Prometheus just totally backs that up. There’s some cool, futuristic stuff here like space suits, vehicles, holographic displays, medical devices composed solely of robots, and plenty of other impressive treats to see here as well. Everything looks so dazzling, especially if you see it in 3D, where a couple of scenes may just take you by surprise by how you feel like you can just reach-out and touch whatever it is that’s on the screen. Some real beautiful stuff here, mainly because Scott feels something for this universe that he’s created and has given all of his might to make it work.

The problem with this flick isn’t really Scott’s fault, it’s more of the story itself. The core of this story is basically Alien done all over again. Crew wakes up out of deep sleep, spaceship lands on mysterious alien planet for some strange reason, crew discovers some ancient alien crap, alien force is awakened by them, people get others infected, and then they are all picked off one by one. It’s pretty obvious where this story is headed, because it’s pretty much the same thing around and that took away from the surprise factor for me. I knew that only a few were coming out alive and the only sense of guessing with this film, was who was it going to be. Sadly, I guessed right.

Even though this film is about 2 hours long, for some odd reason, a lot of it feels like there were some actual big scenes cut-out from the final product. The main reason for me saying this is because there’s a lot that goes down here, that makes no sense and seems somewhat random. One example is how Captain Janek is able to explain the purpose of aliens and what was inside of them so damn quickly. It almost comes out of nowhere, without any clues or signs to how Janek must have known this and comes off like a way to make the finale hit harder. Another example is how David knows how to work the Space Jockey devices without any faults whatsoever. How did he know how to do all of this? What, did he just learn it all by reading a bunch pictographs from Earth or is it just that he’s so totally uber smart cause he’s a robot and all? Not explained at all and it gets even worse when he can apparently speak the alien language fluently, as if he has been doing it his whole life. Yup, didn’t make any sense.

Scott does do a pretty good job with the pace of this film and I can easily see that he put a lot of effort into making this film thrilling, just like he did with Alien. However, there is a huge difference between both of those films and it’s pretty obvious considering the whole hour and 50 minutes of that movie was filled with tension out the wahzoo, whereas this one, had about 4 to 5 scenes of actual tension in it’s whole 2 hour run-time. I don’t know what it was about this flick that made it so different but for some reason, I wasn’t really on-the-edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next to these characters. I just sort of sat there and kept on waiting for Scott to really knock me out of my seat. Which was a shame too, because there seemed to be plenty of opportunities for Scott to do this but just ended up, well, keeping me somewhat satisfied. Somewhat satisfied is not something I want to feel with a product like this, especially when it’s coming from Ridley Scott.

As for the performances, everybody is good but nothing out-standing by any means. Noomi Rapace is fine as our leading lady, Elizabeth Shaw, but feels too much like Ripley and definitely isn’t as strong as her considering we never fully see her lash-out and get “tough”. She just runs away and screams, except for one scene that feels too much like the infamous “chest bursting” scene from AlienLogan Marshall-Green looks like Tom Hardy, but is fine as Charlie Holloway even though the character comes off extremely dicky at times, to the point of where you don’t care if he lives or dies. Charlize Theron plays a villain for the second week in a row, but is more subtle and stoic this time as Meredith Vickers and does a good job with her, even though I think they could have done more with her. Idris Elba is good as Captain Janek and probably has the most likable personality on the whole spaceship.

Probably the stand-out performance from this cast would have to be Michael Fassbender as the robot David. David is a pretty unsettling character the whole way through this flick as you have no idea whether or not he’s going to be good or going to be bad. He’s also a character that sort of just goes his own way the whole movie and doesn’t really care about the others, but you still can’t let that get in the way of what you may think of him since we all know that robots in sci-fi movies usually aren’t the nicest “things” around. Thankfully, those results are told to us by the end but for some very brief moments, he kept me guessing and I think a lot of that is credit to Fassbender’s skills as an actor. Wish I had more to say about him considering he was the best but it’s just one of those good performances that are notable once you see the movie.

I usually love Guy Pearce in everything he does, but his casting here as Peter Weyland just didn’t seem like it belonged in this movie at all. Peter Weyland is an elderly character, so why did Scott feel it was necessary to cast a younger dude as him and just keep on stuffing his face with make-up and effects. First of all, it looks stupid and fake, and secondly, it just seems like such a waste of a talent like Guy Pearce.

Consensus: Prometheus has some great moments that dazzle and excite, but still has plenty of pot-holes that make this story more confusing, makes the characters seem very one-dimensional, and also make a lot of the genius opportunities Ridley Scott had here, seem to go right out the window.

7/10=Rental!!

Thor (2011)

If this is the beginning of Summer, then this is gonna be a bangin’ Summer!

This Marvel Comics-inspired action flick about the thunder god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a powerful warrior whose father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) — the king of Asgard — forces him to live among humans on Earth and learn humility. Once there, he finds a friend (Natalie Portman), along with unexpected enemies sent from his world.

Way back when the trailer for this film came out, everybody had basically had their mind-set on this that it was going to suck. But after seeing it, I think they will all start to change their minds.

Director Kenneth Branagh is a real odd choice for this film, since he’s basically only directed Shakespearean period pieces, which none have any action what so ever but somehow Branagh is good with action. The action is really cool because the things that Thor does with his hammer is absolutely insane, and looks so cool especially when the camera is moving all-over-the-place. They also slowed down when necessary, sped up when it was right, and just worked out so well because never will you feel that a scene is running on too long.

The script is also well done too because all the characters in this film are well drawn-out. There is a human story underneath all this God talk and fighting, which really actually won my sympathy for this film in the long run. The tone here is just a lot more brighter and funnier tone than what you would expect from the source material here, and you’ll definitely remember everyone here in this film. These aren’t amazingly memorable characters, but I have to say that I enjoyed my time with them, and if they were to make a Thor 2, I wouldn’t mind seeing these peeps again.

My main only problem with this film was that I felt like when Thor was on Earth they could have used some more interesting things for him to be introduced to, since I mean he is a dude from a whole other Galaxy, there is probably something he would need to know. Also, that town that this movie takes place in looks less of an actual town, and more of one of those bomb shelter neighborhoods that the U.S. would blow up for practice in the 1950’s. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go and watch Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, then you’ll know what I’m blabbering on about. Actually don’t check out that whole film, but just check that scene out, because that film sucks.

I’m also very glad that we got Chris Hemsworth as Thor because here he is so cool, so charming, and just so likable that even though he may sound like a spartan from 300, you can’t help but cheer this guy on in the end. Also, he may look like a total bad-ass, but Hemsworth actually reveals a little bit of a soft spot from within Thor, and it’s actually very cool to see. Anthony Hopkins is also very good as Odin, Thor’s father, and takes away all that trash he’s been getting talked on lately about how he’s some crazy, old loony. But Hopkins brings back that flavor we all know and love him for. Natalie Portman is good here bringing a lot of wit and humor to her character as Jane Foster. Tom Hiddleston is also good as the bad-guy Loki, who brings that evil British charm that we always despise in our “hero vs. villain” movies. Everybody else does a good job here such as Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Ray Stevenson, and a very likable Stellan Skarsgård. There’s also a cameo from a certain someone that I can’t say, but when you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

There’s also a little zinger at the end that is actually pretty interesting at the end, and not just the same old Avengers propaganda shit that shows another new character or something. Stay after the credits, because anything with Samuel L. Jackson is the shit.

Consensus: Thor is Hollywood summer blockbuster entertainment at its finest: well-acted, great to look at, easy to follow along with, briskly paced, and just a fun film that won’t have you in much need of a brain to enjoy.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Losers (2010)

The 14-year old boys definition of freakin’ awesome!

After learning that their handler, Max (Jason Patric), has set them up, a group of disavowed CIA operatives led by Clay — aka the Colonel (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) — bands together to bring down their betrayers in this slick action thriller.

This film is based off a graphic novel that I have never read, but from what this film makes it out to be, it’s a crazy read.

To say the least, this film has a lot of things blowing up, people getting shot, and materials being destroyed. The action here is pretty non-stop for the most part, and I must say I did not have a problem with this because it actually kept me entertained, despite being another loud and noisy action thriller.

I did think this film was actually funny at times, and I liked that because not many action comedies can actually be “funny”. The film is downright dumb, and proud of it which I liked because it’s not at all trying to hide it. They also tried to make some sort of story here, but that didn’t quite work, because the film wasn’t all that involved with the story as much as they were with the explosions and killing.

However, there were moments where I felt like this film tried too hard to be cool, and that really did annoy me after awhile because some gags just fell right on their ass. I can’t say that I’m totally against this, because not many other action comedies can be as funny as this one is, but they try too hard with the puns, and the random shootings and explosions that don’t really do much other than be a cool thing to watch.

The cast here is what makes this film a step above many action comedies as well. Jeffrey Dean Morgan does a good job here as Clay, and just proves he can be that leading tough guy we want in Hollywood. Jason Patric is pretty corny as our villain, but I think he was going for that here so I can’t really diss too much. I was glad to see that Zoe Saldana can fill those Angelina Jolie shoes, and not so much as Megan Fox like Hollywood was planning. You also have Columbus Short, Oscar Jaenada, Idris Elba, and the best out of the cast, Chris Evans who brings so much humor to this film that he was probably the best, and the one I’ll most likely remember.

Consensus: The Losers is loud, noisy, and all-over-the-place, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and it works if you’re looking just to have a good time watching everything in sight blow up.

6.5/10=Rental!!