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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: J.D. Evermore

Live By Night (2016)

Alcohol kills. Literally.

It’s the 1920’s in Boston and Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck) wants to make a name for himself, and get out of the shadow of his father (Brendan Gleeson), a Boston police captain. By doing that, he starts robbing banks and taking out local gangsters, getting his name more known, of course, but also putting him on a lot of people’s radars. Eventually though, once Joe does his time in the slammer and gets out, it’s the 1930’s and more people want to get drunker than ever before. What ends up happening is that Joe gets sent to Tampa, where he and his best buddy (Chris Messina), will watch over rum-business, make sure people are drinking it, buying it, and not trying to start any scuffles. However, when you’re a bootlegger, things aren’t always going to go as planned and when you’re with a lovely lady, like Graciella (Zoe Saldana), you’re going to continue to have issues – not just with racist locals, but sometimes, even with your own bosses. This is something that Joe realizes right away and has to start acting quickly, or else he, as well as everyone else that he loves, may soon be killed.

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Oh, the hot and stirring possibility of chemistry!

Live By Night isn’t nearly the disaster, or awful train-wreck, so many have been calling it. If anything, it’s just a sure sign that Ben Affleck, like many other great directors/actors/writers/artists/human beings before him, is capable of giving up, admitting defeat, and being a disappointment. Sure, say what you want about his acting resume, as a director, Affleck has rallied-up an impressive roster behind the camera; Gone Baby Gone, the Town, and Argo are all pretty great movies, highlighting that Affleck knows what it takes to make a solid, exciting and compelling piece of film. Are they all perfect? Nope, of course not, but they get a lot more right, than they don’t.

And there’s the ugly stepchild known as Live By Night, that shows Affleck’s directing skills that he continuously building on and on as the years and projects have gone by, perhaps, came back to stab him in the back a little bit. But what’s odd about Live By Night is that it’s not a bad movie because of what Affleck does, it’s more of what he doesn’t do, or better yet, include.

For instance, Denis Lehane’s book could probably be adapted into some sort of miniseries, let alone, its own show altogether.

There’s a lot of subplots, relationships, characters, ideas, and messages toggled around with here, some of which are very interesting to watch and see how they play-out, but unfortunately, they’re all packaged within a movie that’s just a little over two hours, not allowing for there to be enough time and attention devoted to ensuring that each and everyone of these points gets the eyes that they deserve. Don’t believe me? Well, take for example, halfway through the flick, our lead protagonist, Joe Coughlin, goes to prison for what seems like a pretty heavy sentence and then, in the next scene, he’s out and ready to continue on with the rest of his life.

But there’s more of that going on here. Certain characters pop in and out, who are supposed to have some sort of overall meaning to Coughlin, his life, and his work, but for some reason, they are harped on for about ten to fifteen minutes, forgotten about and never to be heard from again. It’s odd, because it seems like Affleck himself knows that he’s got a lot on his plate and seems like he has an eye for this period’s detail and style, but it never quite translates to the story. It feels too jumbled, messy and sporadic, as if it’s not ever safe to get too attached or involved with one major plot-point or character, because they next scene, it/they could all be gone.

What a preacher's daughter!

What a preacher’s daughter!

Which isn’t to get past the fact that Live By Night is an entertaining movie, it’s just sometimes too random for its own good.

It’s a shame, too, because Affleck shows that he can still direct a somewhat compelling movie, all obvious issues aside. There’s a few gun-battles that are tense and fun, there’s a car-chase sequence that’s well-staged, and yeah, there’s even some compelling moments involved with Coughlin and how exactly he runs this rum-business. But like I said, there’s probably six or seven hours worth of material, all cut-up, jumbled and put together in a two-hour piece, that also feels like it’s trying hard to get everything out there, but doesn’t know how to package it correctly.

Even the ensemble, as talented as some of these people may be, don’t always get-off quite easy. Affleck is fine as our lead, although never quite as magnetic as he should have been; Zoe Saldana and Sienna Miller are sultry and sexy, but that’s about it; Elle Fanning’s character has an interesting complex, but it ends on such a silly note that it’s easy to forget about her; a porky and relatively plump Chris Messina shows up as Coughlin’s cousin/go-to man who feels like he deserved so much more attention than he got; Brendan Gleeson shows up as Coughlin’s very Irish dad and feels like he wandered off the set of Assassin’s Creed and thought about collecting a nice paycheck; and Chris Cooper, despite trying very hard as the town’s preacher, oddly enough, gets a whole lot to do, then leave in such a manner that feels rushed and a total betrayal of the character himself.

Oh well. At least Miguel’s in it for about five minutes.

Consensus: With so much going on and to explore, Live By Night can’t help but feel like a jumbled-up mess, albeit, one with a great look and feel to it, that occasionally stirs some sort of emotion resembling excitement.

6 / 10

Walk away from it, Ben. You'll be okay.

Walk away from it, Ben. You’ll be okay.

Photos Courtesy of: GQ, Are You Screening, Metro

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The Great Debaters (2007)

Yell as loud as you can.

Poet and professor Melvin B. Tolson (Denzel Washington) wants to teach the current youth so that they don’t grow up to be angry, spiteful human beings, despite all of the racial bias and prejudice sent towards their way. That’s why he decides to teach at a predominately black Wiley College in Texas. The year is 1935 and he decides that it’s time to start a debate team, which wasn’t something ever heard of at a relatively black school. While people aren’t initially all for the idea, eventually, people begin to join and Tolson’s got himself a pretty loyal, smart group of youngsters, looking to not just have a good debate, but tell the world of what’s really going on out there. However, it’s Tolson’s own personal politics that end up getting in the way and overshadowing the team and their efforts, leading him to think long and hard about how he wants to stick with this team, or if it’s best to just walk away and let them debate their lives off.

Denzel Washington does something very smart with the Great Debaters – he frames it all not just as a movie about a bunch of people who hoot and holler at each other in long, winding monologues that seem to last for days, but something of a sports movie, where a bunch of rag tag people who have a particular set of significant skill, band together, use their strengths and take on the ultimate opponent. In this case, the ultimate opponent is racism and if there’s a sport, then yeah sure, it’s debating. It may sound incredibly boring, but believe it or not, Denzel is able to make it quite fun and exciting.

So, will it be televised?

So, will it be televised?

Then again, there’s not much debating in the first place.

If there’s an issue to be had here with the Great Debaters is that while there quite a few scenes of actual debating occurring, we never really get to know much more about what goes into debating, or planning an argument, or framing it in a way. Of course, early on, we get the typical training monologue in which the characters use words and get frustrated on how to use them and whatnot, but it doesn’t really feel like we’re actually getting to know how to debate in the process, or better yet, what makes a good debater in the first place; what can be taken away is that whoever yells, hoots, screams and hollers the most and the loudest, seems to actually win. Surely, this isn’t how debating actually works, but a few more scenes dedicated to us understanding just what it is that can help a person become a better debater, would have definitely helped.

Cause instead of getting these scenes, we get a lot more character development, which okay, isn’t always such a bad thing. It does help, however, that Denzel has put together a very good ensemble that knows how to work with this sometimes preachy material and at the very least, keep it grounded and focused. For instance, whenever Denzel himself is on the screen, you can tell that he’s the absolute pro; you feel his presence in every scene he’s in and hell, even the ones he isn’t in. Of course, that’s probably purposeful considering he’s practically behind the camera every scene, directing, but still, it goes to show you just the class-A actor he truly is.

Hell, even the very few scenes he gets with Forest Whitaker, make you clamor for a movie where they just sit in a room together and talk about whatever is on their mind. Honestly, a smaller, much more contained movie like that probably would have been better, because here, while they make the best of what they’re both working with, it still makes you wish for more, more, more.

Debate team, or the rugby team?

Debate team, or the rugby team?

Thankfully, the young talent here is quite good.

Despite all of the controversy surrounding him that seems to probably killed his career, Nate Parker seems to be a perfect acting surrogate for Washington, channeling a lot of the same charisma and energy that the later always showed in his earlier roles. Parker’s Henry Lowe may not always be believable as a character, but Parker’s good enough to where you can see that this brash, sometimes arrogant guy would want to get up on a stage and yell for a few minutes, about all of the injustices he has been of witness to in this world. As his fellow teammates, Denzel Whitaker and Jurnee Smollett-Bell are also quite entertaining, showing different sides to how they feel about debating, and the certain hardships that they too face on a daily basis.

In fact, the movie does get across a very smart and powerful message about race and equality that, yes, may seem conventional, but also doesn’t make it less true. Late in the last-half, the movie brings up certain issues about how the rest of the world, mainly, the Northeast, look at racism a whole lot differently than those in the South; the former is predominately a lot whiter than the later, which also brings more questions into the discussion. The movie shows that people who think differently about racism because of what they’ve been brought up and raised around, aren’t necessarily bad people, just very limited in their viewpoint – sometimes, it’s best to wake up, open your eyes and realize what’s really going on out there in the world. Sure, arguing about it and having a nice little debate is always good, too, but it’s always best to know what’s really wrong with the world, before you go off and start talking about it and all of its changes.

It’s definitely a relevant message that plenty could benefit from today.

Consensus: Entertaining and important, the Great Debaters may be formulaic and conventional, but also packs a hearty punch and shows us that as a director, Denzel’s skills still translate.

7.5 / 10

Please. More. Of. This.

Please. More. Of. This.

Photos Courtesy of: The New York Times, Popcorn Reel

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Live by the oil, die by the oil.

On April 20, 2010, an oil rig out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico exploded, leaving many oil riggers on board, dead, severely injured, and even worse, an insane amount of oil to fill up the ocean and wipe out a rather large chunk of the sea population. In this take on the true events, we get a glimpse into the life of one oil rigger, Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), who is very dedicated to his wife (Kate Hudson), his family, and his job, which means that he is mostly concerned with making sure that each and every member of his crew is safe on board of the oil rig. However, issues arise when certain shareholders and powers that be within BP have some issues with the way the rig has been going as of late; so far, they’re past budget and feeling a lot of pressure from their bosses to get the oil out of this rig, as soon as possible, and by any means neccessary. Of course, this means actually testing the darn rig in the first place, which causes a whole lot of problems and, essentially, sets off the disaster that we’ve all come to know and, unfortunately, may never forget.

"No! I've got to save the day!"

“No! I’ve got to save the day!”

Peter Berg seems as if he’s become the perfect, go-to guy for these true, fact-based tales about hard-working men and women being, well, hard-workers and facing death straight in the face, even when any normal person in their situation would run away and scream for their lives. Berg likes to make tributes to these people and honestly, it’s an admirable task that he has on his hands; he chooses to make movies about the stories that do actually matter and deserve to be told, to a larger audience who may not know the story as is, or exactly what happened. And because of that, another movie in his wheelhouse, like Deepwater Horizon, not only feels like a solid step in the right direction, but hopefully a sign of better things to come with Patriots Day, a film about the Boston bombings that comes out later this year.

Does it really matter though? No, not really. But if anything, a movie like Deepwater Horizon proves Berg to be one of the better directors out there today, but we just don’t know it yet. He’s not necessarily a flashy director, showing off all of the neat and unusual skills that he learned in film-classes or from his peers, nor does he ever seem to be the kind of director who has a statement to make with every flick he directs, with the exception of, of course, showing us that there are average, everyday people like you or I that could be, essentially, heroes. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and melodramatic, but it still works because Berg doesn’t lay it all on thick, as opposed to directors like Spielberg and, oh lord, Michael Bay seem to do.

No offense, Berg. You’re no Spielberg and you’re sure as hell no Michael Bay.

That said, Berg does a nice job with this material as he presents a story that most of us seem to know by now and still, somehow, some way, make it all compelling and tense. There comes a certain point about halfway through the film in which Berg has set everything up that he needs to set up – location, the characters, their relationship to one another, the central conflict of the movie, and why any of this matters in the first place, etc. – and just lets it all spin completely out of control. While that may sound like a bad thing, it works in Berg’s favor; he truly does get put in the heads of these men and women aboard this oil rig and makes us feel as if we are actually there, experiencing all of the carnage and havoc for what they are, which is disastrous.

Sure, you could make the argument that Berg goes a tad bit overboard with it, in the way that he went a little nuts about the soldiers in Lone Survivor breaking all of the bones in their body, but it makes you feel closer to this whole situation. While Berg is trying to tell us a story, he’s not trying to sensationalize anything, either, no matter how many explosions or high-flying acts he lets run wild; he’s respectful of the story itself, but isn’t afraid to also show what the sort of hell it may have been like on-board of that oil rig that day.

Trust the 'stache. It may save your life.

Trust the ‘stache. It may save your life.

Man, and to think that J.C. Chandor was the original director for this.

Regardless, Berg’s recreation of everything here is tense and unpredictable the whole way through, even if, yeah, we know exactly how everything goes down. All that matters most is actually being drawn in by these characters and the cast, which Berg allows for even more. Wahlberg has become something of his muse as of late (he’s starring in Patriots Day), and the two seem to handle each other quite well; Berg allows for Wahlberg to be his macho-self, while also still giving him a sense of vulnerability that makes us see a true human being, stepping up and being a hero of sorts. Berg also gets a lot of mileage out of some really talented actors like Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, and a whole slew of others, but never feels like he’s shorting anyone, at any particular time. Malkovich’s BP member may seem like your typical Malkovich-villain, loud-screaming and all, but there’s a little something more to him than just being a savage-like prick who doesn’t care about the cost of human life when compared to the cost of his shares.

That said, the note that Deepwater Horizon ends on is an admirable one. Berg shows us, in small, relatively subtle ways, that our world is incredibly reliant on oil. While Berg doesn’t ever get the chance to stand on his soapbox and preach, he still shows us that this is what can happen when the danger of more profit and more reliability is out there in the world. Sure, he’s not necessarily asking you to get rid of your cars and start walking/riding bikes, but he’s also asking us to take a second look at what we do with our normal lives and most importantly, just how much we spend when we go to the pump.

Especially to BP.

Consensus: Tense, thrilling, emotional, and believe it or not, exciting, Deepwater Horizon is another true tale from Peter Berg that not only ups the ante on the explosions and deadliness of the situation he’s portraying, but one that’s got something to say and isn’t totally concerned with just blowing stuff up for the sake of it all.

8 / 10

"Coach? I've got a bad feeling about this."

“Coach? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Jonah Hex (2010)

Some gun-slingers are better left dead.

Having cheated death, gunslinger and bounty hunter Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) has come back from the dead to get revenge on those who wronged him when he was alive and well as a normal, everyday human being. Now, Jonah has certain supernatural powers and skills that allow for him to contact the dead, as well as find out where anybody is in the world. Why? Or better yet, how? Well these are questions that may never, ever get explained. However, while Jonah wants to set out on an adventure of sorts, he’s still considered a traitor by his army, and now, has to make a deal: Stop and kill Quentin Turnbull (John Malkovich) from releasing these super powerful and disastrous explosives on the White House. Obviously because Turnbull killed his wife and son while he was alive, Hex has no problem with this, but he also knows that he’s going to have to get in contact with the dead an awful lot to ensure that he completes his mission, and doesn’t end up hanging out with some of those that he himself has killed.

"Malkovich?!? Malkovich?!?"

“Malkovich?!? Malkovich?!?”

There are two parts of me sitting here thinking about Jonah Hex. The one part of me wants to be a very smart, thought-provoking and serious movie critic who looks at Jonah Hex as a pile of messy, over-edited and jumbled-up drivel that the studio had absolutely no faith in, so therefore, they just dumped it out to see what could happen. That’s very obvious from the very beginning, to the fact that the movie itself is barely even 81 minutes (end credits included). Someone had the bright idea to make Jonah Hex, but the studio themselves soon regretted that decision and were left with a huge mess on their hands, so, they did what they could, given the tornado they were working with.

Then, there’s the other part of me that enjoys a good movie, even when it’s awfully bad.

And yes, Jonah Hex is that kind of movie.

I think what surprised me the most about Jonah Hex, other than how it got green-lit and was a viable enough option for some of these talented, respectable actors to actually sign up for it, was just how weird and off-putting it is, even for something that was released to over 2,000 theaters in the dead heat of the summer season. It’s not a particularly pretty movie, nor is it a very depressing one, either. There’s jokes and odd sight-gags galore, but when you really look deep and down inside of the story, you’ll realize that it’s pretty damn dirty and disgusting.

Then again, maybe it needed to be. After all, the actual stories of Jonah Hex, from the graphic novels and whatnot, aren’t particularly lovely stories of inspiration and human wisdom, either; they mostly all just feature Hex himself, going out there in the wild West, taking down some evil-doer, drinking booze, saying some witty things, contacting the dead, and that’s basically it. They’re not ground-breaking, or even life-changing stories; they’re just perfect little pieces of pleasure to sit by and read for a little bit of time.

That’s why the movie of Jonah Hex, despite it not being the greatest thing ever made, matches what the comic books actually set out to do: Give us a sense of who this character is and the world in which he exists in. And the world in which he lives in, despite also being placed in some sort of odd reality, is a pretty screwy and weird one – the likes I’ve hardly ever seen of a big-budgeted, mainstream picture, but more of a low-budget, indie Acid western.

If I had to wake up to that every morning, uh, yeah, I'd be pretty fine.

If I had to wake up to that every morning, uh, yeah, I’d be pretty fine.

But then again, yes, the movie isn’t really “good”, by any stretch of the imagination.

Director Jimmy Hayward and writers Neveldine/Taylor may have been fine choices for this material in the first place, if they were working on it separately, without the other’s influence anywhere to be found, but together, it’s an absolute cluster f**k of something I’m still trying to make sense of. Hayward is a competent enough director to where he allows for action-sequences to play out in an understandable manner, but Neveldine/Taylor can’t stop allowing themselves to take all of the havoc one step further, and Neveldine/Taylor are good at creating crazy situations and letting them all play out, but Hayward himself still wants to keep some of the material grounded in at least some sense of reality. Apart from one another, they’re probably great for this kind of material, but together, they overstep one another too much to where you wonder just whether or not these two actually did beat the heck out of one another backstage.

That said, it’s very hard to be bored from Jonah Hex, if you’re looking at it from a strictly film-goer’s point-of-view. The movie does try to take itself seriously, but then a scene later, will decided not to and try to pick up its pieces; the performances are so over-the-map to where you’ll get a brooding, almost subdued Josh Brolin, to having a wildly violent, overly insane villain like Michael Fassbender’s, who even loves the taste of his own blood; the action-sequences themselves are so wild, that it’s hard to figure out who is who, and where; and if that wasn’t odd enough, the whole movie is scored to some sort of mix metal rock opera that makes you think Led Zeppelin got together with the National Youth Orchestra.

Overall, it’s a very odd duckling of a movie, but it was hard for me not to have fun by how ridiculous it can be. It’s not good by any means, but sometimes, you have to rip-off your critic hat and just let some crazy things work their magic.

Even if they’re magic is hard-to-define.

Consensus: Jonah Hex is over-the-top, uneven, messy and just plain weird, but there’s some charm to be found in that, especially when it’s just accepting itself for what it is, which is a crazy acid western that was somehow made for a lot of money and caught big names to it. Heh. No wonder it bombed.

5 / 10

Uh oh. You've gone and done it now.

Uh oh. You’ve gone and done it now.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

The Program (2016)

Come on, guys. Let’s cut Lance some slack. Dude dated Sheryl Crow after all.

Lance Armstrong (Ben Foster), as they like to say, came from nothing, only to then become something. Though he was just a small-time cyclist from Texas, eventually, Lance began to train more and more, to the point of where he was competing in national competitions like, well, for starters, the Tour de France. However, while he was definitely successful very early in his career, he ran into problems when it turned out that he had testicular cancer. Eventually, he got treatment and got back on his bike, except this time, it was with a whole new mission: To help those with cancer. With all sorts of support on his side from everyone around him, Armstrong created the Live Strong foundation, won the Tour de France a few more times, had all sorts of sponsors, was generally seen as “a hero”, and heck, was even in a long-term relationship with Sheryl Crow. It seemed almost as if Armstrong was the king of the world and couldn’t be brought down from his title. However, journalist David Walsh (Chris O’Dowd) saw differently and was one of the key people in challenging Armstrong’s past issues with performance-enhancing drugs. These are the same sorts of issues that would ultimately prove his downfall in the public eye.

Cars vs. bikes. Who's going to win the transportation war?

Cars vs. bikes. Who’s going to win the transportation war?

By now, I’m pretty sure that nobody’s holding a “Lance Armstrong pity party”. The dude may have fought for a meaningful cause and won a slew of Tour de France’s, but was a jerk to mostly everyone in the media, anyone who associated themselves with him, and used his good deeds and charities to almost make an excuse for all of the performance-enhancing drugs he took. Oh, and not to mention, that he lied about almost all of this. So yeah, no time soon will everybody crowd around a picture of Lance, and memorialize the person who he was and cry on his behalf.

Some people may do that now as we speak, but it’s probably a very limited number.

However, that’s what’s perhaps most interesting about the Program: While it does treat Armstrong in a sometimes negative, almost mean light, it still has an effect and makes you wonder if all of this piling-up on him is, well, enough. After the Armstrong Lie, it felt like we already had Armstrong’s story and nothing else needed to be told, which is pretty true in this movie’s case, but director Stephen Frears does something interesting in that he turns the story around ever so slightly and make us think that maybe Armstrong, while not misunderstood, was attacked way too heavily. Sure, he was a cocky dude who brought a lot of these issues on himself for just not sticking to his guns, not staying clean, and gaining a God-complex, but at the same time, he still had some nice qualities to him.

I know that statement literally means nothing in most cases, but here, it means something; rather than painting Armstrong as this completely distasteful, immoral son-of-a-bitch, the movie shows that while he was most definitely a dick, he was one that also wanted to fight for a good cause. Also, the movie likes to focus on those around him, like Lee Pace’s Bill Stapleton, or Denis Menochet’s Johan Bruyneel, and show that they most definitely had a hand or two, or more, in constituting just how far Armstrong went with his success. While he may have wanted to use his wealth and notoriety for the greater good of society and to find a cure for cancer, those around him mostly just saw a piggy-bank that needed to be constantly tapped and used.

Once again, none of this is excusing the fact that Armstrong lied on many occasions, but it brings up some valid arguments about him.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

His journalistic sense is tingling.

That’s why the Program, the movie, feels very mixed. In a way, we didn’t really need this story to be told to us, but because it’s a movie that exists, it’s hard to hate on it for existing. What I can hate on the movie for is not really offering anything fully meaningful to the debate of whether or not we should all, as a society, go back to letting Lance Armstrong into our tender arms. It makes you think if he was a total dick or not, but that’s about it; all the movie really sets out to do is tell Armstrong’s story once again, as if some of those at home didn’t already know a single thing about it, or him.

Also, what’s odd about the movie is how, even at an-hour-and-43-minutes, it goes by very quick. This isn’t something I note as a positive either, as a good portion of the film just feels like a Lance Armstrong highlight reel, where all of the good things he did, gets shown, as well as the bad things, and they’re just constantly put up next to one another, back-to-back. For instance, we’ll get a scene of Armstrong at a children’s hospital, being nice and sweet to the kids, but the next one, we’ll get a shot of him sticking a needle into his bum. While this may be effective editing, it still doesn’t help when there’s at least three or four of these transitions of seeing Armstrong do something nice, only to then have it all juxtaposed by him doing something bad.

We get it! What we didn’t see in the spotlight, was sometimes darker than what we wished!

As Lance Armstrong, Ben Foster is very good in that he’s doing a lot of acting and having seen Armstrong in plenty of interviews/public appearances, it almost doesn’t feel right. Don’t get me wrong, Foster is good and gives this all his every bit, but there’s a lot of yelling, and screaming, and posturing from Foster that I don’t feel was very necessary to this character, especially the real life Armstrong wasn’t totally like this. He was definitely a bit smarmy, in a way, but no way was he a total a-hole like the way he’s portrayed here. If anything, he was just a dull guy who had a lot of championships to his name, his own cancer foundation, and a severe drug habit.

That’s basically all there was to Lance Armstrong – the man, the myth, the cheater.

Consensus: Without making its own mind up on its subject, the Program feels a tad short-shifted, but with some good performances and entertaining, slightly easygoing pace from Stephen Frears, it gets the job done and may have you thinking a bit differently about Armstrong himself. Or, then again, maybe not.

6.5 / 10

He's a hero to us all. Now give me back my money for all those damn wristbands!

He’s a hero to us all. Now give everybody back all their money for those damn wristbands!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

99 Homes (2015)

Don’t ever trust a landlord.

As soon as the crash of 2008 occurred, everyone in the United States was left without a paddle. One such person was Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father who, after much fighting and arguing with the court, gets evicted from his Orlando home. Seeing that he has lost his family-home, Nash sets out to do whatever he can to get it back – even if that means having to join up and work for the same man who kicked him out of his house to begin with: real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Carver has certain practices that aren’t what some would call “ethical”, or better yet, “legal”, but the money’s so good that Nash doesn’t care. Eventually though, Nash begins to move up the ladder, which takes him away from working on the homes, and brings him now to actually having to interact with the tenants who are in the actual homes. This mostly involves Nash posting notices on doors, warning tenants of being vacated, and, as time rolls on, even having to kick some tenants on his own. Clearly this is something that Nash doesn’t feel comfortable with, but once again, it’s all about the money and the prospect of getting his family back in order to the way they once were.

Message!

So message-y!

Have you ever been stuck in a lecture at all in your life, whether it be with your parents, a teacher, or one of those Jesus-nuts from off the street, and not want to leave? Instead, you hold on to every single word that they say, even though you know the end-point? You know that they’re not going to start off by stating something like, “Gay marriage is bad”, and then end with, “Well, you know, you can do what you want.” The lecture is, most definitely, going to start with an agenda, continue on with that agenda, and, you guessed it, end with that same agenda. And yet, something about the lecture is just keeping you on your toes and surprisingly interested.

That’s how I felt with 99 Homes – a long lecture about the housing crisis and all the evil-doers behind it, yet, I never wanted to turn away or leave.

Eventually, that time did come around, but that’s not till later, so just wait dammit! Listen to me lecture about stuff now!

For one, Ramin Bahrani seems to know what he’s talking about here. Clearly, he’s put his heart and soul into material that, for a good majority of people out there, will not find an easy way to handle. It will, most likely, hit too close to home, hard, and re-open old wounds that were probably still healing. However, Bahrani seems to be interested in what these wounds still hold. Are they sadness? Are they grief? Or, are they wishes that something better occurred?

Well, 99 Homes is, in a way, that fantasy being played-out. One thing is certain about the movie, and that’s that it’s not totally a drama. I mean, yes, it’s most definitely a drama that’s emotional, sad, and for a good portion, filled with lots of interesting talking-points, but in all honesty, is really a thriller. Once we see Garfield’s Dennis Nash start picking up work as one of Shannon’s Rick Carver’s lackeys, then it’s balls to the walls from there. This Nash fella is taking away pools, air-conditioners and handing out eviction notices to people who have no clue just what the hell kind of storm has hit them dead-on in the face. While, at the same time, he’s making all of this money and seeming to be loving it.

Sure, he’s morally-conflicted by the fact that the person he’s getting rich off of, is the very same person who got him kicked out of his house, but because the money’s continuing to come in and the dreams seem promising, he lets it all slide by. And you know what? It’s hard to watch this and not want him to, either. Dennis Nash, as he’s presented to us, is nothing more than just your average, blue-collar dude who, like many others just like him, was short-shifted when the crash of 2008 came around and had no idea of what to do next with his life, his family, or his career. All he knew was what he was good at and tried to go where the money went.

That’s why, when we see Nash get thrown out of his house, it’s disturbing and visceral. Many people had to go through the same ordeal he’s going through and it was most definitely 100% more tragic to them. And that’s why, when we see that Nash is clearly pleased with himself making all of this cash money, it’s great to see him happy and enjoying himself. After all, he’s just a normal dude who isn’t under normal circumstances, so why continue to act normal? Why not try something new and go with that from there?

"When you said, 'movie with Spider-Man,' I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who's this damn kid!"

“When you said, ‘movie with Spider-Man,’ I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who’s this damn kid!”

Clearly, Rahmin Bahrani thinks this is a bad idea. However, his movie proves otherwise.

Bahrani has crafted a nice little thriller that takes you through everything one may need to know about the housing-crash, how it was operated, who was responsible, and those who were affected the most. But at the center of it all, is probably the most realistic character of the bunch, who also seems to be the most sinister: Michael Shannon’s Rick Carver. There’s no denying the fact that Michael Shannon’s a good actor, but here, as Rick Carver, he gets to stretch his wings a whole lot more and show, that even despite his character being a pretty despicable human specimen, there’s still something we want to watch and see more of him.

We know that he’s a baddie, but we also know that he, like many others, are just trying to get by with what he knows and what he’s best at. But what’s best about Carver is that he doesn’t try to make any excuses or apologies for the way he is – he just is. For instance, there’s a scene in the middle of the film where Carver laces into this tirade about how, “America was built on winners. Not losers.” It’s not just hard to take your eyes off of him because it’s literally just a single-shot, zooming in on his face, but also, because some of what Shannon is spouting on about is true. You may not want to believe it as being such, but it is and it makes this movie feel like a smart bit of preaching, rather than just preaching for the sake of it.

And don’t let me forget Andrew Garfield, because the man is great here! What with him being forced to play Peter Parker, it’s hard to remember that, at one time, Garfield was a very promising, young, and talented actor that seemed primed and ready for some very interesting material to come his way. Now with Spidey out of his way, Garfield seems like he’s enjoying some time being able to dig deep into characters that aren’t the kind you’d expect someone of his good-looks to play; you know, such as a middle-aged, middle-class single-father.

However, as good as Garfield may be, his character sadly falls prey to an ending that, honestly, came close to ruining the movie for me.

I won’t spoil much, other than to say that it felt like Bahrani, throughout a good majority of 99 Homes, was making a movie that wasn’t going to play it nice, sweet and kind, and instead, go for the gritty-realism that’s expected of source material such as this. However, he does the bait-and-switch and decides that maybe he wants some melodrama, messages, and red herrings thrown into the mix. I’ve already said too much, but just know, when the ending comes around, it may disappoint you more than please.

That may just be me, though.

Consensus: 99 Homes is a timely-thriller that gets by on the excellent performances, however, is a bit short-shifted by a weak ending that keeps it away from being a whole lot better.

8 / 10

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Maggie (2015)

Poor zombies. Their craving for human flesh can be so sad sometimes.

After being infected with some sort of virus that’s turned her into some sort of walking, talking, flesh-craving zombie, Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is left with what to make of her life. Or better yet, what’s left of it. While her father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) holds out hope that she’ll get better, with the right medicine and work ethic, Maggie still feels as if she’s not getting any better and is only a few days or so closer to going full-on zombie and eating whatever human is standing in her way. Though her father realizes this, he still stays optimistic. But then again, he also realizes that if the time ever comes around to Maggie become a deadly zombie, then he will be the one who has the duty of killing Maggie once and for all, even if it will probably kill him on the inside to do so to his only daughter and the only lasting memory of his late wife. But killing Maggie in a quick, painless fashion is probably best, especially considering all of the literal horror stories he hears about the government doing to those who may or may not actually be infected with the virus.

So what’s literally the premise to one episode of the Walking Dead, somehow becomes an-hour-and-a-half-long movie in Maggie. And the fact this premise probably didn’t need to be expanded to what it is, definitely shows as there are definite moments where hardly anything happens, for a very long time. Sure, people are sad in these very grim and morbid times, yet, just seeing somebody wallow in their own misery and accept the impending doom that’s coming down their way, doesn’t really do much to keep a movie together.

Sadness.

Sadness.

Which isn’t to say that every movie needs to have some sort of action that’s keeping it moving along, where something is always happening, or being learned, no matter what. I don’t mind that, especially in a movie like with Maggie, where although we expect it to be filled with all sorts of blood, guts, gore, and head-splitting moments that push the R-rating beyond its measures in the way that AMC won’t even allow, we get something much smaller and subdued. In fact, I appreciate that. We do see a zombie or two get chopped in the head with an ax, but the way in how it’s done doesn’t feel like it’s trying to liven things up, as much as it’s just trying to drive the point on home about how in the world in where Maggie lives, friends and neighbors are all killing one another, in a way to survive.

So yes, it’s sort of like an episode of the Walking Dead, but there’s something a tad different about that here.

Speaking of something that’s a tad different here than we’ve ever seen before, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actually really stretching his acting-gills out in ways that we haven’t seen before and it’s surprisingly effective, although not perfect. As Wade, we get to see Arnold in a role that’s less about how much ass he can kick, and more about how much sadness he would actually feel from kicking all of that ass and harming whoever’s ass he was to kick. Arnold does an alright job in this role as he doesn’t get called on to do much, except just look sad and cry a few times, which he does fine with. In a way, it sort of makes me wonder if there’s more heart and humanity to what Arnold presents on the screen than what we’ve seen in the past few years with his resurgence into the mainstream.

More sadness.

More sadness.

And while Arnold’s good here, he still can’t help but get over-shadowed by Abigail Breslin, a very talented actress who has grown-up just fine. As Maggie, Breslin gets a chance to show us what one person would go through, emotionally and physically, if they were to realize that, slowly but surely, their mind, body, and soul, was all deteriorating into being a walking, hungry, menacing corpse. There’s a few scenes in which we get to see Breslin show some of that charisma we saw from her when she was just a kid and it lets me know that, no matter what roles she takes up in the future, she’ll be just fine.

Problem is, for Arnold and Breslin, they aren’t given a whole lot to work with, if only because Maggie itself is so repetitive and dark, that when it’s all over, you’ll sort of feel happy.

That isn’t to say that the topic of a father losing his young daughter should be filled with laughs, rays of sunshine and happiness, but that also isn’t to say that it has to constantly be as morbid and bleak as it’s presented as here. Here, director Henry Hobson makes it seem like he ran out of anything interesting to say after the first 25 minutes, so instead of just wrapping-up filming altogether, making this an extended-short and calling it a day, he needed to fill-out whatever extra 60 minutes he could work with. At times, Hobson’s able to bring up some very interesting points about coming to grips with one’s own death, but in the end, also feels like it’s just taking it’s time to get there on purpose. Which is to say that, yes, if all you do with your movie is present sadness, despair, and loss, you need certain ways of showing that, that not only feels fresh and somewhat enlightening, but also effective.

But when it goes on for as long as Maggie does, then there’s a problem.

Consensus: Solid performances from Arnold and Abigail Breslin make Maggie into being something more than just a standard zombie flick, but at the same time, still meanders along for no good reason.

6 / 10

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wild (2014)

I just walked from my living-room to the kitchen, so why am I still addicted to heroin?

One day, 30-ish-year-old Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) decides to do a 1,000 mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, all by her lonesome-self. Why is this? Well, after years of drug abuse, random sex with strangers, the loss of her mother (Laura Dern), a few pregnancy scares, and her recent divorce, Cheryl has about had it up to here with life and finally realizes that in order for her to finally change it all, she has to get away from it all and focus her attention on another part of her life: Survival. This means, for Cheryl, she has to eat a lot of cold oatmeal, stay hydrated, stay warm, not die, and sure as hell not get raped by any of the huge creep-o’s that may, or may not be out there in the wilderness, just waiting for a little thing like her to come around into their little wooden-hut. Mostly though, Cheryl just wants to change her life and along her journey, she meets people that are sometimes in the same situation as her, or are just simply hiking for the hell of it.

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going....

Just like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going….

You know, like we all do.

On the outside looking into a movie like Wild, I cannot help myself one bit to not just scoff at a piece that includes someone played by Reese Witherspoon hiking on an Eat Pray Love-style journey of self-discovery, all because she shot up heroin, had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s, and got a divorce, because she had promiscuous sex with a bunch of Randy’s. To me, not only does it sound like not “my type of thing”, but it seems like pure Oscar-bait for Witherspoon to show her “range”, and also to see her as a bad-ass kind of gal. Call me harsh, call me what you will, but I know when a movie intrigues me and this was not one of them.

But, from the inside of this movie looking out, I can easily say that not only did it turn out to be “my type of thing”, but Witherspoon more than proved herself capable of being hot, sassy little mama who screws, shoots up, and divorces, whatever she wants, when she wants, and how she chooses to do so.

I never thought I’d ever be typing that in my life, but such is the case when you have a little surprise like this on your hands.

And most of that is due to director Jean-Marc Vallée’s handling of this material and not just letting it tell itself; Vallée gets us inside the mind of this Cheryl Strayed character, shows us what she’s thinking, when she’s thinking, why, and how it affects her current journey in life. Though it gets a bit over-the-top with all of the constant smarmy-narration from Strayed, Vallée still does a nice enough job of putting us slap dab in the middle of this woman’s life and the journey she’s embarking on, and making us actually care for her. Sure, he may utilize more flashbacks than two whole episodes of Lost, but they’re flashbacks that work and allow us to grow closer to this character, the more and more that we know about her.

And trust me, that’s not an easy feet, especially when you have Reese Witherspoon playing the main character, but there’s something about her here that really shocked me and actually puts her whole career into perspective, as a matter of fact. See, it’s not that I dislike Witherspoon as an actress – I think she’s immensely talented and, in the past, has proven to be quite versatile in what she’s chosen, and for how much cash. But lately, it seems that the Reese we all once knew and loved as Elle Woods (or as Tracy Flick, for all you cool 90’s kids out there), has gone the way of the Dodo and would much rather take a huge pay-cut to star in movies where dashing, handsome-as-hell men fight to the death for her and leave her going, “Oh, golly!”

Well, my friends, you no longer have to be scared because it seems like the Reese Witherspoon we all loved is back and this time, she’s rawer than ever! Meaning, that yes, Witherspoon does get quite naked in here and shows us elements to her abilities as an actress that none of us have ever seen before, and it all works. She’s compelling, smart and gives much insight into the type of damaged woman you can still like and care for, even if she’s made some pretty dumb mistakes in the past, and especially to people who don’t at all deserve it. The role could have easily been another large check for Witherspoon, but she puts so much effort into it that it actually pays off and has me so excited to see what she has next. Because, quite frankly, with all of the hits on her hands, by now, she can do whatever she damn well pleases with her career.

....and going......

….and going……

Quite like Cheryl Strayed.

Anyway, all that aside, Wild isn’t perfect. There are moments where it seems to fall back on “are they, or aren’t they rapists” aspect of its story and while it may bring tension to the story, it feels constantly thrown in there, if only to just keep peoples eyes open and watching the screen. But that isn’t to say Cheryl Strayed’s adventure isn’t, as is, already intriguing, or even, ever so slightly, inspirational, because, yes, it is. Though Vallée doesn’t hit us over-the-head too many times with making us feel like we should love this person more and more as she goes on with our journey, it’s still easy to do so. Not because she’s been through a whole hell of a lot to begin with, but because she actually wants to make amends for it all.

The real reason as to why she actually gets up one day and decides to say, “Aw, fuck it! Time for a 1,000 mile hike”, is a question that the movie brings up, never explicitly answers, and leaves hanging like a sad flower that’s been without water for too long. But it doesn’t need to. With giving us many insights into Strayed’s past-life, we get the impression that she needs this more than anything. However, rather than being a total baby and seeming like she’s running away from her problems, it seems more like she’s walking towards a new life, that will probably have its fair share of problems. However, she’s constantly learning and understanding that life will always get better. Sometimes though, you just have to take advantage of it, get up, and see what’s out there in this huge canvas we call “Earth”.

Okay, now I’m definitely getting sappy here. Damn you, Reese!

Consensus: With a compelling lead performance from a very dedicated Reese Witherspoon, Wild gets past any of the problems it may have with its narrative and reminds its audience about the small pleasures in life, even if they don’t always come right away.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

...and, yup, you guessed it, still going......

…and, yup, you guessed it, still going……

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Beautiful Creatures (2013)

Plenty of chicks I knew in high school were witches. Then again, those were the same ones who still have yet to return my phone calls/love letters. Bitches.

After his mother’s tragic death, Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) re-enters high school in hopes that he will pick back up with his studies, get back in line with the ladies, and eventually get the hell out of his little, Southern town and venture throughout the world. And hell, if there is any kid in that small town: it’s him. But all of his plans get put to the side once Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert), a mysterious new girl, shows up to the town and everybody accuses of being a witch and a lover of all things weird. Whether or not this is true, Ethan does not care as he takes a liking to Lena and begins to start a relationship with her, even though it’s frowned-upon from his best buddy (Thomas Lennon), to the his house-keeper (Viola Davis), and even to the mother of his best buddy, who just so happens to be the head of the Church (Emma Thompson). What Ethan should care about though, is Lena’s odd uncle Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons), who seems to have a bit more secrets than you could imagine.

Ever since Twilight ended, the most predictable, yet obvious thing happened to the world. The Earth still continued to revolve around the sun, people woke up the next day and went on with what they do usually do everyday, and men and women still mated in hopes that there will be a next generation to come. So yeah, the world didn’t turn over on it’s side and begin an apocalypse like every female teenager probably suspected, but what did actually happen out of the whole ending was that studios desperately realized something: they needed the next, big Twilight movie. Not necessarily Twilight itself, but something that’s along the same lines in terms of it’s one-dimensional characters, sappy, teenage romance, and supernatural happenings. This is what they came up with but here’s the problem: this movie isn’t like those crap-fests.

Sneaking into places that you aren't originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

Sneaking into places that you aren’t originally supposed to be in: oh, how young love gets me swooning in the moment!

And by that, I mean that the movie actually has a bit of soul to itself. Not a huge soul that may have you re-thinking what you’ve been doing with your life for the past couple of years, but a soul that’s pretty clear for you to see on-screen, even if everything else surrounding it is nothing new or original you haven’t already seen done just a couple of months before. That’s what’s so surprising about this flick is that it isn’t actually boring and it isn’t actually just a movie made to appeal to the Twilight audiences (even though it’s clear that it definitely went for that type); it was actually made to entertain audiences. Wow. Who would have ever thought that you could make a movie about a teenage romance, with some superpowers, and not have it be as boring as a snail race?

Well, at times though, the movie does seem like it’s a lot more boring than a snail race, and probably just as bad as one of those shit-fests we know as Twilight. For instance, whenever the movie focuses away from the couple and goes more towards the witches and what their history means, the movie becomes exceedingly bad. It isn’t that it’s bad because it doesn’t make sense or everybody’s just speaking in code that you don’t even dare to understand, it’s that the movie doesn’t really want you to care about it. It’s honestly just there to fill up time, make us forget about the sappy love in the middle, and hope that we actually fall for the exposition it’s piling down our throats. Sometimes, however; it does work, especially when the witches get into a battle with one another. But other times; it’s just a bore of a chore to watch.

And that’s about half of the movie right there: a bunch of annoying, shitty exposition that’s only here to add more depth and information to this story than needed. Obviously the books they adapted this movie from probably had the same bit of exposition and rules to being a witch and how, but that still doesn’t make it any more or less interesting. What looks good and informative on the page, may not look the same on screen and I have to call-out director Richard LaGravenese for not realizing that. The dude definitely tries his hardest to try and make us care about these witches and what it is that they do, but we just don’t, as it seems like the movie doesn’t really care for them either. Or, well, care enough for them to actually give them a decipherable history, meant to be understood by the common-folk who don’t quite understand witches, except for the fact that they make stew that’s supposed to poison you or something of that kind nature.

However, like I said, the movie isn’t always as bad as I may make it sound, because at the center of it all is actually a love that’s worth caring about and believing in, which is most thanks to the chemistry between the two leads: Aiden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert. Both of them together, was great to see because you could tell that they actually did both care for one another and didn’t care about what the rest of their little town had to say. They don’t fall head-over-heels right off-the-bat, but over time and through getting to understand one another, something nice between the two develops and it was a nice reminder that the central love in your story doesn’t have to be awe-inspiring to work, it just has to have some amount of detail to. Of course, my thoughts may be with a totally different movie that may have actually put more emphasis on their relationship-dynamic, but at least the movie still gave them enough development together as a couple to make it work well enough, that to when shit started getting weird with this plot and these characters; that I was at least somewhat invested in what I saw.

"Well darn' tootin' boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?"

“Well darn’ tootin’ boys and gals! Yee-haw!! Southern enough for ya?”

Because trust me, these two are the only elements of this movie grounded in any sort of reality. Still wondering if that’s a good or bad thing.

Every supporting character seems to be camping it up beyond belief that it’s no wonder why people think they’re all crazy-ass witches. Jeremy Irons strains himself trying to hide his English-accent, and gives Macon a very goofy-demeanor where you don’t know if you should be terrified of him, or get him a drink while he parties it up with all the gals and sings karaoke. Irons seems to be having fun, but it’s at our expense and it’s a bit strange to watch. Not saying an veteran who has given his life to the big-screen can’t have a little bit of fun every once awhile, but what I’m saying is that watching it does become a tad strange after awhile. Once again, don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing considering I didn’t seem to quite know where this movie was going with it.

He’s just the starting-point though, as everybody else is just as campy and goofy as he is. Emma Thomspon is another who’s guilty as Mrs. Lincoln, who seems to be really enjoying the hell out of herself, but like Irons; still seems to be doing it just by simply goofing around. Whether or not we are supposed to be scared by her, is totally up to us and how much we still wet the bed at night. Emmy Rossum is good as the sexy and seductive Ridley Duchannes, who seems to be using her good looks to get whatever it is the hell that she oh so desires, but it doesn’t go further enough. She’s a big part of the story and then, all of a sudden, gets kicked out, only to come in again. The scenes with her were pretty good, but the movie didn’t use them or her quite enough to really get her character across the board and in our minds. Except for the maybe teenage dudes who were strangled into seeing this with their girlfriends. Then, lastly, there’s Viola Davis who actually feels bored with the material, almost as much as we are. Can’t blame her though since all she has to do is talk about what witches do, what’s bad about them, what’s good about them, and while she’s at it, put the groceries away into fridge. You would honestly think that after doing something like the Help, that the gal would gain a bit more respect for what roles she’d be given, but nope; she’s right back to getting food and packing it up for white folks.

Consensus: Most of what’s wrong with Beautiful Creatures, lies on the fact that the movie tries too hard to appeal to the Twilight crowd, but it’s slightly better than that because of it’s leads and the love story in the middle. Everything else is a bit too campy or over-the-top to take seriously or really care about enough.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

One second, she's making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she's reading witch diaries.

One second, she’s making the Thanksgiving dinner for a white family of two. Next second; she’s reading witch diaries.

The Host (2013)

In the future, everybody has weird-looking eyes.

In the distant future, humans are taken-over by alien forces that attack the minds, brainwash them, and put them all against figuring out who the final humans left alive are, and where they reside. Problems arise once a young lady named Melanie Stryder (Saoirse Ronan), is having a problem where her “human-self” is coming back to fight her, and making her do what she would do as a human. This means, she goes back to her old home-land, where humans live and survive in perfect harmony, but the problem is that she’s still an alien and people have no clue as to trust her or just kill her on the spot.

Last November, teenage girls and out-of-the-closet males all wept, teared-up, shouted, and said by to their beloved Twilight franchise as they witnessed the end of the Taylor, Jacob, and Bella saga that most people, myself included, didn’t give two shits about. But the biggest question on people’s minds was not whether they would make more sequels or re-boot the franchise, but whether there would be another, Twilight-like movie in the works. Well, the answer to that is yes, and sadly: this is it.

Apparently, the messiah of young adult readers right now, Stephenie Myer figured out that it’s time to due away with the werewolves and vampires, and in with the aliens. Because honestly, let’s face it, everybody loves aliens, even the weepie girls under the age of 18 who will most likely be venturing out to see this. It sounds like it’d be a relatively cool premise to have a face-off between aliens and humans, but that premise is nowhere near to being fulfilled, let alone even coming close. And that’s really a sad thing because this is coming from the same writer and director who gave us such sci-fi classics as Gattaca, The Truman Show (to an extent), and even last year’s In Time. Wouldn’t call that last one “a classic” per se, but compared to this shite; it’s the nearest thing to 2001 right about now.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Yeah, not noticing that much of a difference.

Here’s the problem with this movie: it’s painfully boring. Nothing really entertaining happens here, and despite a couple of eye-candy to be viewed in the background, you may be very tempted to just pass-out and think about how great that Easter dinner was. I saw this on Easter, and could not stop myself from thinking about all of that glorious ham, corn, and mashed potatoes that I was going to chow-down on very, very soon. The problem with that was I had to kill 2 hours of my life to get there, watching this junk.

What makes the movie so damn boring is that there is nothing going on here, other than a bunch of people talking about why they don’t like aliens, who they are, where they are, and the world they live in. Can’t sound all that terrible if you have a smart, insightful script, but this movie does not have that. There are so many moments where people just start moping around as if the fact that they cannot be with their loved one is the most terrible thing in this godforsaken world. Uhm, hello! You people live in a world where aliens are constantly hunting you down, trying to erase your memory, and worse of all, most likely going to wipe-out your whole race of humans. Then again, that’s just me. Take your time with the hanky-panky I guess.

And that’s another problem, aside from the terrible script where people use sayings that would get them nowhere close to bed if they saw a chick in a bar (or vice versa), the premise never makes any sense nor does it’s happening that follow it. The premise is based around the fact that these humans and aliens just do not like each other and can’t live with one another in peaceful, perfect harmony, but yet; it’s never explained as to why. One character says because they are evil, always getting in fights, killing nature, and not taking care of the grateful word, but is that really it? Why do you feel the need to take over the whole world and get rid of the lasting-race while you’re at it. Never made sense to me, and it only gets worse once the romantic-aspect of this movie kicks in, big time, and we’re supposed to believe that these three people would get caught in a love-triangle, and even go to the extremes of kissing the same girl, seconds after the other person kissed her. It gets incredibly dumb by the end, but it was that way even before it.

Even though she's an alien, I'd still tap.

Even though she’s an alien, I’d still tap.

The only element coming even close to saving this movie has to be the cast, although, once I begin to say more, you’ll realize that it doesn’t mean much. At age 18, Saoirse Ronan has really grown into a very credible-actress, as well as a very attractive young woman (1 year younger than me, holla!), but she’s got to watch herself when it comes to taking crappy flicks like this. Ronan’s good at making Melanie a sympathetic character, and one you can always trust, but her character is the one that has the most problems. Since Melanie is an alien, with the human-mind on the inside, whenever we hear her alien-self speak, it’s through Ronan in-person, but when it’s the human-side of Melanie speaking, it’s an over-the-top narration that is always loud, always annoying, and never, ever funny, no matter how hard the movie makes her try to sound. Even when we feel like Melanie is finally winning us over and allowing us to make sense of this all, the narration has to come in out of nowhere and ruin everything.

Jake Abel and Max Irons play her possible love-interests and are okay for the most part, but look both similar in terms of appearance and personality, it’s hard to understand just what the hell Melanie sees in them, and even worse, how she doesn’t accidentally kiss one, when she really meant to kiss the other. If I was her, I’d just take full-advantage of this matter and get it on with both, at the same time, and let the future come a rollin’. That’s just my take, anyway. Probably wouldn’t garner the same type of audience, anyway. William Hurt is here as the cooky uncle of Melanie and is pretty good, but isn’t enough to carry this flick on his own, broad shoulders. And lastly, Diane Kruger is as sexy and gorgeous as they come, but she literally has nothing else to do in this flick other than look angry, determined, and pissed the whole time as the one alien that’s on Melanie’s trail and constantly trying to make a name for herself. Just show your boobs, and then you’ll win us all over. That’s all I gots to say about that.

Consensus: Even if it is a tad better than those wretched Twilight movies, that still isn’t saying much at all when The Host is that movie you speak of. It’s dumb, contrived, dull, and just plain boring, without ever bringing anything new or cool to the table, despite the promising premise may have implied from the start.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren't driving.

Good thing they still do DUI check-points in the future. Even if you aren’t driving.