Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jake Gyllenhaal

Stronger (2017)

Boston Strang.

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is just any other ordinary guy at the Boston Marathon, waiting at the finish line to surprise his on-off-again girlfriend, Erin (Tatiana Maslany). Then suddenly, a bomb explodes and Jeff is left stunned and shook, but without two of his legs. It’s a lifestyle that he’s going to have get used to, but with his friends, family, and most of all, Erin, by his side, what could go wrong?

On the surface, yes, Stronger is a pretty conventional tale of strength and power overcoming adversity, but it’s also much deeper than that. Actually, not really, but because it’s a true story, because the story itself isn’t even all that hokey, and above all else, the performances are so damn good, it’s hard to really be upset by its TV-movie-of-the-week look and feel. After all, it’s a TV-movie-of-the-week with nudity, cursing, and hacked-off limbs, so it’s not all that safe and sound, right?

Never trust a guy in a cap and dark-ass sunglasses out in the middle of a public-event.

As per usual with director David Gordon Green, he takes on a bit of material that we don’t really expect from him, but somehow, it still works. Green doesn’t have to do a whole lot of flash and bang behind the camera to really make this material pop-off, but by the same token, he can’t help it; there are plenty of scenes that put us inside the dazed and frazzled mind of Bauman that not only have us feel for the guy more than we already do, but also realize that this notion of lionizing someone who literally just lost two of their legs, is almost insane. He represents a sense of hope and heart in this sick, sad, and tragic world, but he’s also just a normal, everyday guy who, if anything, wants to be left alone.

If anything, Stronger tickles with that notion, then unfortunately, falls back.

Why? I’m not sure and it’s a tad disappointing. Green, while he’s known for his slip-ups as of late, can truly get beneath the surface with these heartfelt, simple and rather small character-dramas, but here, he doesn’t go nearly as far down as he should. There’s a sense that he’s digging at something harder and more effective, but ultimately, he just stays put, allowing the actors to do the material and make it work themselves.

Look at those real, down-to-Earth people who also happen to be insanely hot and sexy!

Normally, that would be a problem, but it’s not because Gyllenhaal and Maslany are so good here and really make everything work. Gyllenhaal, as usual, takes a role that could have been simplistic and almost dull, but allows us to understand and truly see this guy for what he is: A normal, everyday guy, trying to get by. There’s a true heart and feeling to this person who, in real life, may be more interesting than he comes off in the film, but Gyllenhaal also allows us to see this guy as something of a sad-sack, just barely getting by in life, and then, miraculously, gets it all together, when he loses both of his legs. It’s an inspirational story in the sense that it’s about overcoming obstacles, but it’s also an ironic tale, too, so once again, there’s something deeper, but not really.

Anyway, Maslany is amazing, too, and even though it’s a little disappointing to see her not play five or six different characters, she’s still amazing as Erin Hurley here. She’s the strong-willed and smart woman who definitely loves Jeff, but also realizes just how much of a pain he can be, and especially in this situation. It’s a role that could have easily been annoying and almost unlikable, but Maslany plays her like a real person, who actually cares and loves her man, while also realizing that he can be a bit of an ass.

Like all men, really.

Consensus: Stronger is a simple and formulaic inspirational tale, but with solid performances and a firm focus on the real-life people themselves, it plays better than it should.

7.5 / 10

Fight for Bahhstaaaan.

Photos Courtesy of: Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions

Advertisements

Okja (2017)

But bacon is so good! Ugh!

With the threat of world hunger looming out there far in the distance, the family-owned, multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation decides that the best cause of action is to create a series of super pigs who, over the next ten or so years, will continue to grow, get bigger, fatter and more juicier, so that when the time is right to munch down on them, they’ll be as tasty, as succulent, and as beneficial as ever. But in order for these pigs to grow as big as they need to, they need to be fed and kept-up well, which brings us to young Mija (Ahn Seo-hyun), who has been caretaker and constant companion to Okja at her home in the mountains of South Korea. But what Mija doesn’t know is that Okja, as big and as smart as he is, is one of the best super pigs around, meaning that it’s going to be the prime candidate for the killing and eating of. It’s something that Mija can’t understand or fathom, so that when the time comes to Okja getting taken away from her, she follows wherever the pig goes. But obviously, Mija isn’t the only one who has Okja’s best interest at-heart and sooner than later, everyone’s fighting over Okja and trying to figure out what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s actually for dinner.

Vanna White?

Movies like Okja make me happy that Netflix is around and doing what it’s doing. Sure, say what you want about how it’s killing movie-theaters and changing up the whole business-aspect of the film-industry, but still, you have to look at it like this: Okja is such an odd, crazy, and wild movie, that only a streaming-service could help get it made and released to a huge audience. Obviously, what happened to Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer a few years ago had something to do with it, but still, it deserves to be said that Okja is as crazy, as original, and as fun of a movie as you’ll get the chance to see on the big screen, anywhere, this summer.

Of course you see this on the big screen which, yes, if you can, you probably should. It’s one of those rare movies that will probably on be seen on small-screens like laptops, iPads and, gasp, iPhones, but more than definitely deserves to be seen on the biggest, loudest, and most epic screen possible. If it isn’t, though, don’t worry – Okja is still a fun movie, no matter how, or where you see it. In a way, it’s the kind of movie that makes me happy not just for Netflix, but for visionaries like Bong Joon-ho and the fact that, despite their movies probably not making Transformers money, still get enough of a chance to make whatever they want and show it to the rest of the world.

Sure, that’s what every film-maker does, but for Bong Joon-ho, I don’t know, it’s something more special.

See, for Joon-ho, it’s all about the constant juggling act of tones and genres, and most of the time, he succeeds at pulling off a solid, satisfying transition. Okja is an odd mix between a comedy, a drama, a satire, an action flick, a monster movie, and yeah, a political-piece, but it does come together so well that it barely ever seems like it’s switing itself up – the bits and pieces of comedy/satire don’t always work and more than often seem way too over-the-top (more on that later) – but yeah, for the most part, Joon-ho knows what he’s doing and what he’s playing around with, and it’s just so much fun to watch. It’s almost as if you can forget about the obvious humanitarian message at the center of it all that’s basically saying, yeah, meat is murder.

End of story. Thanks, Morrissey.

And yeah, it’s preachy, sure, but it’s also handled in such a smart way that it doesn’t really attack those who decide to eat meat, either. Mostly, those who profit off of the meat-market and continue to do so, for all lack of general well-being and decency, are shown in the negative spotlight and made to apologize for themselves, even if they actually don’t. Sure, Joon-ho may not even be making a point and instead, just wanted to make a silly, fun, and rather sweet movie about a girl and her giant pig, but yeah, sometimes the themes are too obvious.

But in this case, they’re fine. They don’t take away from the fun, the excitment, and the enjoyment of the movie. If anything, it strengthens it by making it seem like more than just your typical monster movie; it has a heart, it has a soul, and yes, it has a little something to say. It’s the kind of monster movie that Joon-ho’s the Host seemed to want to be, but backed away from, slowly but surely.

Steve Irwin?

This time around, though, Joon-ho nails it and it’s just so much fun to watch.

Well, everything except for the satire. See, Okja clearly takes on a cast of colorful and nutty characters that, on paper, sound like a lot of fun, but when put together, in a movie which, despite having a lighter-tone than expected, is still serious enough to not be taken as a joke. And that’s a bit of a problem when you have the likes of Tilda Swinton and Jake Gyllenhaal showing up and acting as if they’re deleted-scenes from the latest season of Twin Peaks; Gyllenhaal is especially grating in a terribly annoying performance that doesn’t know if it wants to be sad, mean, funny, or just out-of-this-world. Either way, it’s hard to watch and just downright disappointing coming from an actor who seemed like he could do it all.

Then again, though, everyone else here who is downplaying, still does a fine enough job in keeping everything together. Steven Yeun, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, Devon Bostick, and Daniel Henshall all play animal rights activists here who may or may not be just as sinister and as harsh as the corporations they’re out against, but all play it small enough to where it’s interesting and they don’t take over every scene. Same goes for the young, brash and exciting Ahn Seo-hyun, who has a great presence for someone so young, and in something so big and ambitious. It would have been very easy for her to get lost in all of the crazy supporting characters and CGI, but nope, Seo-hyun holds it altogether and ends up being this movie’s glue it so desperately needed.

But once again, thank you Netflix. More of these, please.

Consensus: While the constantly switching in-and-out of tones doesn’t always work, Okja is still a smart, exciting and entertaining piece of popcorn fun that has more on its mind than meets the eye.

8 / 10

Just the sweet love between a girl and her huge pig? Aw.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Good Girl (2002)

Catcher in the Rye makes everything better. Except life.

Justine (Jennifer Aniston) lives a pretty uneventful and boring life. She’s 30, working at a convenience-store, doesn’t have many friends, hobbies, and can’t seem to get pregnant with her husband (John C. Reilly) who, for the most part, seems to spend most of his time on the couch, smoking pot with his good buddy (Tim Blake Nelson). However, her life gets a little bit of excitement one day when, all of a sudden, she meets Holden (Jake Gyllenhaal), a young, misanthropic, somewhat depressed, and altogether interesting teen that not only takes a liking to her, but shows her that there’s more to the world than boring suburbia. Eventually, the two strike up a relationship that goes beyond hanging out and reading Catcher in the Rye, but something far more passionate and serious, which leads to problems for both of their lives, although, mostly hers.

Yeah, Wal-Mart may have been a better fit.

The Good Girl will probably always be notable for it showing the whole world that, yes, Jennifer Aniston can indeed act. While she was good before in small, almost virtually unseen movies before this, and yes, even after this, this stood as the shining-spot on her filmography that not only showed she had some indie-cred, but could help us all get past seeing her as Rachel and, well, embracing her as a down and dirty actress.

And yeah, Aniston’s pretty great here. Her Justine is a rather sad and depressed figure, that is, of course, beautiful, but also has some small charms about her that shows just how lovely of a presence Aniston is when she’s on the screen. It does also help that she gets a chance to grow and show her true colors over time, making us see her for a sad figure we can, at the very least, sympathize with, but also realize has some issues that she sort of brings on herself. But of course, all the way through, Aniston shows she can be believable in all sides to this character and it made everyone hopeful that perhaps, just maybe, she’d continue down this path of taking on smart, interesting, and rather challenging film-roles.

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

But still, this isn’t to take much away from the rest of the Good Girl. Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arterta, of course, work well with one another, in that they both capture the small town boredom and malaise, while also not forgetting to make us feel a little bit closer to these goofy characters over time. And it also deserves to be sad that while Aniston herself is very good, it’s everyone else around her who assist her, too, putting in just as much great work as her.

Pictured: The perfect life

And like before with White’s writing, every character seems like a type, at first, only to then show their true selves over time. John C. Reilly’s Phil, for a good while, is nothing more than a lazy, weed-smoking, idiotic bum who doesn’t really have much going for him and because of that, we sort of sympathize with Aniston’s Justine in cheating on him. However, as the film goes on, we start to see a more human side to the guy that not only makes us understand his behavior a bit, but oh wait, also sort of want to give the guy a hug and tell Justine to stop screwing around.

There’s a lot of characters like that, but his is probably the best example, probably because Reilly himself is so good.

Just like Blake Nelson, Deschanel, John Carroll Lynch, Roxanne Hart, White himself, and yeah, even Jake Gyllenhaal. Although, for Gyllenhaal’s character, it can’t help but feel like he’s working with a boring type we’ve all seen done before, except only this time, he’s supposed to be interesting on purpose and with good reason. Personally, it would have been nice to see Gyllenhaal and Aniston together in another movie, where they weren’t essentially playing types, but hey, they work well together, regardless.

And that’s all about there is to the Good Girl – it’s not White’s best, but everyone works well in it, so why not accept that for what it is? After all, the movie doesn’t set out to change the world, or shake things up, but more or less, tell us a small, somewhat relatable story about an affair, love, and living a happy life, even when that seems downright impossible. Sometimes, that’s all you need from a movie.

Even if, yeah, we expect a smidge bit better and more coming from Mike White.

Consensus: In the lead role, Aniston gives a memorable performance as a rather depressed, but charming cashier living in a small-town, that also helps keeps this somewhat mediocre tale of love and happiness above water.

7 / 10

Just do it already, honey! He’s hot!

Photos Courtesy of: This Distracted Globe

Life (2017)

Choose life. No seriously. Choose it.

A group of diverse, incredibly intelligent astronauts aboard the International Space Station are dealing with one of their most ambitious an daring missions to date: Finding another cell out there in space that can kill all bad cells. Or something like that. Mostly, not everyone aboard really knows and instead of trying to figure it all out, they’re spending most of their time tracking down this cell, working with it, and figuring out just what it is. Eventually, they do find out and it leads to some disastrous, downright chaotic results, where everyone aboard not only has to fear for their life, but also for the lives of those on planet Earth. However, the astronauts know that if they band together and think long and hard about what they have to do, they can achieve anything. Even if it is killing a monster that they don’t really know a single thing about, other than what they are slowly gathering over time.

“God?”

A lot of people have been getting on Life‘s case for being, in other words, an Alien rip-off, which okay, sure, it sort of is, but not really. See, it’s really hard to do a creature feature taking place somewhere in the middle of space, among a very selected few of astronauts without drawing comparisons to that classic, but it’s also hard to do one that’s quite good. Life is the kind of movie that, on paper, sounds so rote, so conventional, and so predictable, that it’s almost not worth bothering about, but once you actually see it all play out, and realize all of the effort put into it, well, somehow, it all comes together.

In a way, you almost forget about the Alien movies altogether and only then remember that, yeah, they’re still doing them.

Either way, Life works when it probably shouldn’t. Most of that definitely comes down to the fact that director Daniel Espinosa is taking this material, from Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, know what to expect with a genre movie of this nature and rather than trying to avoid everything and act all sly and cool, as if they’re way too hip for convention, instead, actually sort of embrace it all, realize that these are the kinds of conventions that work for movies such as these, and keep on going. After the initial 20 minutes, where it seems like time is just being killed for the sake of it, Life gets its act together and never seems to slow down; there are times when it pauses, for sure, but for the most part, it’s always moving, always thrilling, and yeah, always entertaining.

Deadpool…..in space.

Which honestly, isn’t something you always expect from something that seems as predictable as this, but it all works. Espinosa knows that in order to keep material like this fresh and compelling, is to always keep moving, never slowing, and always making sure that we can figure out just what’s happening, where, why and to whom. And honestly, that’s what matters a whole lot – movies such as these can often forget about continuity and being able to figure out what everyone is doing, at any given time, which is why when it happens, it helps out a great deal. It makes us not just feel closer to the characters themselves, but the action altogether.

That said, could there have been more character development? Most definitely.

But there’s something to be said for a movie that features Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson, among others, that doesn’t feel like it’s totally robbing them of their supreme talents. Sure, could we have done with more character-stuff that helps us feel one step closer to these people? Oh yes, but what we’re given, for the most part, helps out a bunch and makes the following proceedings, for the most part, fun. They can be heinous, surprising, and sometimes, disturbing, but they’re effective, and for a sci-fi movie, that’s all that matters.

Be as silly as you want, but deliver the genre thrills and yeah, it’s all good.

Consensus: Life may not be the most original sci-fi tale out there, but it also possesses some truly great action, excitement and fun for those looking for solid genre thrills.

7 / 10

Quick! Get to Mars! Matty Damon’s there!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life is depressing, then you die. It’s that simple.

Despite the big house and even bigger bank account, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is still incredibly sad about something. Her second husband (Armie Hammer) constantly leaves for business trips, when in reality, he’s just having sex with other women; she doesn’t keep in-touch with her teenage daughter; and she’s still feeling some sort of guilt from having cheated on her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). But for one reason or another, he sends her a transcript of his latest novel and it absolutely haunts Susan’s life – in her dreams, at work, at her house, seemingly everywhere. And why is that? Well, it just so happens to be a random tale about a husband (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a wife (Isla Fisher), and a daughter (Ellie Bamber) who get ran-off the road by a bunch of mean, dirty and foul Southerners. What does this novel have to do with Susan’s life? Well, she doesn’t quite know, but the more she continues to read, the more she starts to think about her own life and all of the countless decisions she should have, or shouldn’t have, made.

It’s been nearly seven years later since famed fashion-designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man and well, he’s been sorely missed. While that movie not just proved to be a great acting showcase for the always underrated Colin Firth, it also proved to the world that Ford was more than just one of the biggest, most notorious names in the fashion-world. His aspirations and ambitions with his career went further beyond designing pretty clothes and making a heap-tons of money – he had a skill for directing movies and guess what? It all showed.

I don't know, so don't ask.

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

But what’s so interesting about A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, his latest, is that Ford shows he doesn’t just have a knack for crafting beautiful visuals, but also knows how to make, well, a movie, with a good story, good acting, and most importantly, emotion. This time around, however, Ford’s creative-skills are put to the test in that he takes on what is, essentially, two movies into one; there’s the dark, depressing character-drama about sad and lonely rich people, and then, there’s the even darker, but far more grueling and violent Southern-revenge thriller. What do the two have to do with one another?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that all out.

However, there’s no denying that Ford crafts a very interesting, if at times, hard-to-watch movie. While it’s easy to give him credit for making the one story about the sad and lonely rich people and making it somehow work, it’s not as easy to give him credit for the Southern-fried revenge-thriller. The two are very hard movies to make, side-by-side, but somehow, he pulls it all off; both stories and compelling and also seem like they could have been their own movies.

Which is also the very same issue with Nocturnal Animals, in and of itself. For one, it takes a lot on, and handles it well, but also runs into the problem of having one story-line be fare more intriguing than the other. It happens to almost every movie with countless subplots, but here, it feels more disappointing, because they’re both very interesting to watch; it’s just that one clearly has more juice than the other.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

And yes, I am talking about the Southern-fried revenge-thriller, although, it doesn’t make me happy to say that.

See, with that story, Ford is able to transport himself into far more deadly material, where anything can happen, at any given time. Just the introduction into this story, with the couple getting pulled-off to the side of the road and essentially terrorized over the course of ten minutes straight, still plays in my head, just by how truly disturbing it is. But it continues to get better and better, asking harder questions and not giving all that many answers, either.

But then, there’s the other-half of Nocturnal Animals and it’s still good, yet, also very different. It’s slower, more melodic and and far more interested in building its characters. And is it successful? Yes, but it just so happens to be placed-up, side-by-side with this other movie and it makes you wonder whether or not they should have been put that way in the first place? The book in which Tom Ford is adapting does, but I don’t know if it transitions well to the screen, where we literally have two entirely stories being told to us, with two very different styles.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m still racking my brain around Nocturnal Animals.

If there’s anything I’m for sure certain about, it’s that Tom Ford is no fluke of a director and has, once again, put together a pretty great cast. Amy Adams gets a lot to do with very little, as the very cold and mean Susan Morrow who, through certain flashbacks, we do see develop over time and become more human to us; Jake Gyllenhaal plays her ex-husband as well as the daddy in the book very well, even if they are, two different performances, both seeming to be emotionally draining; Aaron Taylor-Johnson has always been fine in everything he’s done so far in his young career, but here, is absolutely bone-chilling and scary as the one psychopath from the story; Michael Shannon pops up as the Texas Ranger from that story and is clearly having a ball, yet also, showing off a great deal of heart and humanity in a story that, quite frankly, could have used more; and others seem to pop-up, like Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and Andrea Riseborough, and do whatever they can, but sometimes, have such limited screen-time that it’s a bit of a shame.

But hey, maybe that’s just me being extra needy.

Consensus: By working with two movies at once, Tom Ford expertly crafts Nocturnal Animals into being a dark, dramatic and sometimes disturbing emotional-thriller that may not fit perfectly together, but does offer up some really great performances.

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Demolition (2016)

DemolitionposterSometimes, you literally just have to destroy your life.

After the tragic death of his wife, Davis Mitchell (Jake Gyllenhaal) shuts down. Everything in his life has been so calculated and planned for so long – from the time he wakes up, to who he talks to on the train, etc. – that when it seems like he has nothing holding him back or together, he just loses all control. He starts slacking off at work, stops shaving, begins saying inappropriate things in public situations, working for free at construction sites, and seems to be channeling all of his sadness and insecurity through countless letters he sends to a local vending-machine company. Why? Well because, when his wife is in the hospital, he tried to get a pack of M&M’s and it didn’t budge. Regardless, an employee at the vending-machine company, Karen (Naomi Watts), finds these letters touching, which leads her to reaching out to Davis. Even though they’re both a bit awkward with one another at first, eventually, the two start to hit it off, with Davis hanging around the house more often, getting to know Karen’s son (Judah Lewis) who’s going through his own identity crisis of sorts. Together, the two figure out life and where to go next.

Jake is sad.

Jake is sad.

As with mostly every movie, there’s three-acts in Demolition; two are pretty good, but one is quite awfully terrible. The first and last act both work well, balancing a fine line between comedy and tragedy that never plays one hand too much, nor does it seem to overstay its welcome. There’s actual sadness to the drama and a heart to the comedy, as dark as it may sometimes get.

But in between the first and last act is the middle, and man oh man, it’s pretty crummy.

No matter how hard I get on Demolition, there’s no denying that Jake Gyllenhaal is great throughout it all. Over the past few years, we’ve really seen Gyllenhaal come into his element as one of our more solidly interesting actors who isn’t afraid to screw around with his image, just for the sake of taking on a role that challenges him to go deeper and further than ever before. Here, as Davis, Gyllenhaal doesn’t really stretch his wings nearly as much as he’s done in say something, like, Prisoners, or most especially, Nightcrawler, but he still does an effective job. Because Davis is, essentially, sleepwalking through his life when we first meet him, the transformation he goes through and makes from being a sad, relatively repressed person, to letting loose, having fun and acting wild, is believable, if only because of Gyllenhaal’s talents as an actor. We shouldn’t totally care for Davis, but because Gyllenhaal gives us an actual, bleeding heart to the character, we feel a lot closer to him and understand the pain and sadness he’s feeling.

But sadly, the movie isn’t always up to Gyllenhaal’s talents. For example, it has a very odd tone that doesn’t always know what it wants to be, do, or say. At first, what Demolition seems to be is a tragic-comedy that deals with certain serious issues like death and depression, but also wants to look at them with a witty eye. At first, the mix and mash between humor, heart and sadness, actually works; the jokes poke fun at the idea of being sad, while also not insulting the characters all that much to where it feels or seems inappropriate. There’s a fine line that’s tread here in Demolition, and director Jean-Marc Vallée, for awhile at least, doesn’t overstep.

Until, of course, he does.

What happens in the middle-act is that the movie gets rid of its serious and sometimes depressing tone, and instead, just totally go for the comedy. This can sometimes be fine, as ling as your comedy is funny, effective, relatable, and most importantly, not annoying. Issue is, the comedy in Demolition, without any sort of dramatic or serious context, can be unfunny, ineffective, unrelatable, and incredibly annoying.

Obviously, this is a problem for the characters, as well as the plot. Gyllenhaal’s Davis begins to act out so erratically, whether he’s dancing through the busy streets of New York City, or getting nails stuck in his foot without getting tetanus shots, which are all played up for har-har laughs, that you never for a second believe it. Sure, the character is sad and needs some sort of release to get his spirit out, but there comes a point when you overdo it and you’re just trying to make as many laughs as you can happen, without ever retaining any of your original sense of heart or drama.

But the movie introduces Naomi Watts’ and Judah Lewis’ characters and, yes, it gets a tad bit worse. Watts’ character almost doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and because her chemistry with Gyllenhaal is so weak, it sort of feels like she doesn’t even need to be here. Granted, it’s nice to see Watts play with a lighter, more fun role for a change, but her character is so ham-fisted into the plot that she almost doesn’t feel like a real person, despite saying that she’s sad and heartbroken just like Gyllenhaal’s Davis.

Naomi is happy.

Naomi is happy.

And Judah Lewis’ character, despite seeming very well-intentioned, does not work in this movie.

Nothing against Lewis, or his acting abilities, but the character is the typical, conventional angsty teen who is having a bit of an identity crisis, clearly has daddy issues, curses a lot, thinks he’s a lot smarter than he actually is, and doesn’t always know how to handle his emotions. While the scenes between him and Gyllenhaal are supposed to be sweet and endearing, they somehow feel oddly off, where it seems like every scene could lead to Lewis’ character either trying to kiss, or kill Gyllenhaal’s. It even gets to a point where the characters go out into the middle of the woods to shoot a pistol and I couldn’t help but think someone was going to take a dirt nap by the end of the scene.

But thankfully, as bad as it gets, eventually, the movie does pick itself back up in the last act, ending on a sweet, somewhat heartfelt note. The comedy starts to fall back a bit more, the heart starts to get bigger, and the acting gets toned down a tad bit. Oh, and Chris Cooper starts to show up more and remind us why he’s everyone’s favorite father-figure. If anything, Demolition feels like the kind of movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be, but at the end of the day, still has enough to say to where it works.

Just not nearly as much as it should have.

Consensus: An odd, mostly uneven tone and weak middle-act keep Demolition from really hitting as hard as it wants to, even if the cast does try and there are some small moments of pure joy and sweetness.

5.5 / 10

But Jake is still sad, and with a saw. So look out!

But Jake is still sad, and with a saw. So look out!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Rendition (2007)

How sad is it when the only thing you remember from a movie is the water-boarding?

Douglas Freeman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a CIA analyst based in North Africa is forced to question his assignment after he witnesses the brutal and unorthodox interrogation of an Egyptian-American by secret North African police. Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is an Egyptian-American chemical engineer whose family emigrated to the States when he was a boy, and who is now suspected of a terrorist act. And his very pregnant wife Isabella El-Ibrahimi (Reese Witherspoon), does everything in her power to find her missing husband. All three stories are connected in strange, if tragic ways.

"You can trust me. I've never played anyone sinister before."

“You can trust me. I’ve never played anyone sinister before.”

Whether or not you agree or disagree with the act the U.S. Government calls, “Extraordinary Rendition”, is not relevant, hell, it’s not even needed to understand or appreciate this movie anymore. It’s basically just a way for Hollywood to preach and say how they are so against the war in Iran and how George Bush is a big, old dummy. There’s no issue with these statements, but when it seems like that’s all your movie’s got to say or do, then you don’t really have a movie.

You just have a soap-box you can’t get off of.

It’s safe to say that Rendition‘s plot is, for the most part, intriguing and deals with all sorts of political questioning and intrigue that makes political-thrillers like this so appealing. Taking all of these different stories, from different continents and having them all make a lick of a difference of how they all connect, is what keeps the interest-factor of this alive and well for about the first 30 minutes or so. Director Gavin Hood is a skilled-enough guy to make it seem like he has a clear head and idea of what he wants to do and where he wants to go, but also what he wants to talk about.

Hood shows that, while our anti-terrorist tactics in America may be considered “necessary” they are, in no ways, the most pitch perfect way to infiltrate any terrorist or their activities. In ways, just picking up a person off the street because of what they look like, torturing them, prodding, teasing them, and having them think that they are terrorists, well, believe it or not, can sometimes create terrorists in the first place. While there’s plenty of torture-sequences that go a bit far and beyond what you’d expect from a glitzy, glamorous Hollywood production, it still serves enough of a purpose to matter in what Rendition, the movie, is trying to get across.

Which is why the next two hours seem like a total slog.

Pondering the day of when he'll win an Oscar.

Pondering the day of when he’ll win an Oscar.

But what’s worse about Rendition is how it seems like it had a lot more going for it, but for some reason, none of that’s to be found in the two-hours-and-two-minute run-time. For instance, certain plots go unresolved and there actually seems to be more questions, than actual answers in the long-run. Some of this may have to do with the fact that the studio wanted to trim down some of the run-time to not scare people away, but really, the damage can kind of already be done. Those who veer-off in the leftie territory, may still find themselves a bit troubled with how far this movie goes with it’s preaching, to where it seems like its main concern is letting people know how it feels, and less about actually telling a real, compelling story.

This is all the more of a shame, due to the fact that the cast here is actually pretty solid and definitely deserves better.

Jake Gyllenhaal really nails the part of the young, brash CIA agent that can’t get past the fact of all the crazy stuff he’s seeing right in front of him and it’s another great role for an actor that was really climbing the totem pole at the time. Now, on the other hand, everybody knows what to expect from the guy and that’s pretty cool considering this is Donnie Darko we are all talking about here. Reese Witherspoon has top-billing here as the wife of Anwar El-Ibrahimi, but doesn’t do much mainly because she is probably in the film for 20 minutes. That didn’t bother me much, mainly because every time she’s onscreen, she really seems like she’s struggling to be taken seriously and it even gets to the point of where she’s just screaming at the top of her lungs, “WHERE IS MY HUSBAND!?!?!?”.

Yeah, sorry gal. No Oscar for you this time around.

Peter Sarsgaard is probably the most memorable out of the whole cast, since he really does seem like a genuinely nice guy (change of pace for the dude), and one that feels really convicted of doing the right thing, regardless of how much trouble it will get him in with the higher-ups. Sarsgaard is always great with every role he’s given and he’s probably the most believable character out of the whole bunch, mainly because his problem can’t be as solved easily. Meryl Streep seems like she’s tailor-made for the queen bitch role as Corrine Whitman, a powerful women that makes men soil themselves with the sound of her voice, and as good as she may be with this role, it still feels like a bit of an undercooked character, that could have been used so much more and so much better than what she really was. Alan Arkin also shows up and does his thing, and that’s not so bad, but it’s kind of a waste of a dude that literally won an Oscar a year before this even came out.

Consensus: Rendition deals with plenty of interesting ideas about the then-current political world, but really, despite a solid cast, doesn’t fully come together.

6 / 10

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Two vets who clearly just had some vacation time on their hands.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Everest (2015)

Staying at home is fine, too.

Mount Everest is considered to be one of the greatest snowy mountains to climb up and sights to see, ever. That’s why, in March 1996, there were a few commercial expeditions all getting ready together and prepared to climb the mountain, even if they knew it can sometimes be rough and not so lovely, even if you do reach the top and complete the trip. One group in particular was lead by Adventure Consultants’ Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who, with his latest group with the likes of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), who’s dealing with some marital problems of his own, as well as mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who is apparently using the trip as a way to prove himself to his wife, as well as some sponsors of his. However, these two are just a slight few of the many who decided to travel up the mountain, reach the top, and achieve their goal. There were plenty others like traveling journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), just to name a few, but no matter how many there were, they still all faced the extreme weather conditions and storms that would soon sweep their area.

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

If Everest can take these three on, it can take on anyone!

When all is said and done, all Everest really has to say about climbing and traveling and all that fun stuff is, that well, “it’s really hard to do”. For one, you have to have a whole lot of money to actually get the right treatment. Secondly, you have to train and prepare for it so much that, it comes to an eventual point where you don’t know how to live your own normal life, in normal society. And then, of course, there’s the risk-factor where, any wrong turn, slip, slide, or move in any way, can actually result in your fatal death. And while Everest can sometimes work as a way to get more and more tourists up there to check out the mountain for what it is, at the same time, that’s not at all the truth.

Because as the movie tells us, people die there. In fact, a lot of people.

And that’s about all Everest really has to say about this one particular, if true, story. People got cold, people got swept up in the huge storm that began to form right over them, and yes, people died. Of course, it’s very sad and there is no way of shining any sort of light or hope on it, however, there is something to be said for a movie that presents these deaths in a surprising manner, but also doesn’t shed any thought on them. It’s almost as if every character in Everest who dies, was around not to just die, but to also show us that hiking up a mountain like Everest is as scary and as terrifying as you’d expect it to be.

Which is a huge shame, because the cast here is pretty well-stacked and great. One can only assume that this great deal of talent got together in a movie like this because the paycheck was nice and there wasn’t too much heavy-lifting needed to be done, but still, you can tell that everybody here is trying and giving it their all. Jason Clarke finally gets a chance to shine and be charismatic for once, here as Rob Hall – somebody you just feel so incredibly safe and comfortable with, that you’ll almost forget your climbing one of the biggest mountains in all of the world. Though we get to see that he’s a generally nice guy who takes care of his free-loading buddies, picks up those that have fallen down, and loves his wife, it’s really Clarke who does most of the work here and shows just what he can do with such a limited-role.

Because frankly, everyone else’s characters don’t get much to do, either. And once again, it’s a total shame.

Josh Brolin gets to show us some semblance of humanity as Beck Weathers, the character we expect to be “the villain” of this whole story, only to realize that he’s nicer than expected; John Hawkes’ Doug Hansen is a bit of a corny character, but Hawkes is so likable that it almost doesn’t matter; Michael Kelly’s character feels like he serves more importance to the overall story, but doesn’t really get to stretch any of that out; Jake Gyllenhaal is hardly here as Scott Fisher, someone who is constantly drunk, miserable, tired, and hopped-up on some sort of drug, which Gyllenhaal works fine with, even if we don’t get any sort of background as to why; Emily Watson and Sam Worthington stay in the safe parts of Everest, for the most part, but still show enough humanity as much as they can; and Robin Wright and Keira Knightley are mostly downgraded to “wife roles” where they sit at home, watch over the house, and have occasional conversations with their spouses.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

That snotty Keira, all tucked away and cozy in her warm home.

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s a lot of characters for a two-hour movie. So, it’s probably no surprise that a good handful are just left to act for a scene or two, and leave it at that. Most of them are effective, but overall, you can tell that, had the screenplay been more with their interest at-heart, something special would have happened.

That said, Everest is still pretty hard to look away from and get discouraged from, mostly because it does the job right in painting this storm as one of the most terrifying ones ever.

Director Baltasar Kormákur obviously didn’t set out to make some sort of thought-provoking piece of drama, but instead, wrap us in on a suspense-ride from beginning, to end. And honestly, it kind of works. The movie not only looks beautiful, but truly does make you feel as if you’re there at Everest, watching as each and everyone of these characters grapple with each one’s lives and try their hardest to stay the hell alive. Honestly, once the storm kicks in, which isn’t until about an hour in, is only when the movie really gets going, but it’s so enriching and compelling, that I was able to forgive it for all of the missteps it made before.

Even if the cast gets wasted on roles that are way too limited, there’s still the feeling that, deep down inside, Kormákur wanted to chronicle this tragedy. Sure, he went about it in such a manipulative manner, but he’s a film-director – how could he not want to make a little bit of money out of other people’s suffering?

Consensus: Despite not feeling as if it’s fully up-to-par with the extreme talents of the ensemble, Everest still works a chilly thrill-ride that keeps you enamored with the spectacle, so long as you don’t try to look too deep enough.

7 / 10

"Yeah, it's uh, it's pretty cold up here."

“Yep. Still pretty cold up here.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Southpaw (2015)

From what I hear, the more jabs to the head, the merrier!

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) faced all sorts of adversity over the years to make himself one of the best boxers in the profession today, and still be able to come home to his beautiful wife (Rachel McAdams) and kid (Oona Laurence). However, all of that changes when tragedy strikes and Billy is practically left to fend for himself. Due to all of the blows he’s taken to the head, not only is he a punch-drunk, fumbling mess, but he’s also lost all sorts of control over his emotions, which puts him in a lot of legal trouble. This all eventually leads to his house, car, money, and worst of all, kid get taken away in hopes that he can change his act for the good. Problem is, the only way Billy can get back on top, is through boxing – a sport he has been told, time and time again, that “he should retire from before it’s too late”. Still though, Billy sees his fight against the current champ, Ramone (Victor Ortiz), as his comeback one, regardless of what the nay-sayers may spout on about. To get back in shape, Billy enlists the help of Titus “Tick” Wills (Forest Whitaker), a trainer who only helps out younger boxers, and nobody else. However, in Billy’s case, Tick is willing to make an exception.

That is, if Billy changes his act a whole bunch.

Hey, you two! Stop PDA'ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

Hey, you two! Stop PDA’ing, and give 50 some cash money! Dude clearly seems to be begging for it!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve seen one boxing movie, you’ve practically seen them all. Of course, there are the noble exceptions to the rule (Raging Bull), but for the most part, each and every movie that concerns with the sport of boxing, plays out like another take on Rocky. Underdog has dreams; underdog faces adversity; underdog faces set-back; underdog gets back on his feet; underdog sets out to defeat the champ. It’s all been said and done before, many, many times and you know what?

Southpaw isn’t going to change that formula.

Thankfully though, it’s the kind of movie that’s lucky to benefit from a talented cast who, despite having to deal with a very over-dramatic and sometimes corny script from the wild and wacky mind of Kurt Sutter, make better because they’ve come ready to play. Case in point, Jake Gyllenhaal who, believe it or not, is actually taking up a role written for Eminem. While I would have definitely liked to see how that played out, in hindsight, I’m still glad that the second person to get the call was Gyllenhaal, cause not only is he proving himself to be one of the better actors we’ve got around working today, but he’s able to throw himself into any role where it doesn’t matter who was supposed to be in it originally, or not. Gyllenhaal’s going to make you believe it should have been him all along and that’s why he works wonders with Billy Hope – the most conventional character he’s had to work with since Bubble Boy.

Which I know sounds terrible, but it actually isn’t; Gyllenhaal’s more talented as an actor now, than he ever was before, and it’s great to see him sink his teeth deep into what could have been a total paycheck gig. Though it most definitely is the kind of role that’s paying for Gyllenhaal’s pad in Malibu, he still gives it his all, showing the sadness and sometimes, vulnerability to this character of Billy Hope. He’s conventionally written in that he’s an underdog who brought himself from nothing, to something, only to have to do it all over again, but Gyllenhaal takes it some steps further, by showing that this character really needs to box for his life.

Because without it, what is he?

Just another average Joe, working a 9-to-5, having to come home to a wife, two kids, dog, and white picket fence? Or, is he a guy that has to constantly wade through the thick, the thin and do what he can to provide love and support for those he cares for the most? The movie itself seems to lean more towards the latter, but Gyllenhaal, even despite the fact that he got himself all jacked-up and scary for this role, constantly makes you wonder where his mind is heading toward and thinking of the most.

And of course, Forest Whitaker’s great as Billy’s trainer, as well is Rachel McAdams as Billy’s wife, but the reason why I’ve high-lighted Gyllenhaal’s performance so much is because he’s clearly the heart and soul of this movie, and proves to be the best part of it when all is said and done. Sure, Southpaw is entertaining in that it features plenty of boxing, running, training, cursing, and rap music, but at the same time, it’s a little too hard to take seriously at times, even if it so desperately pleads and begs you to do otherwise.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

Imagine how he looked in Nightcrawler, but with a whole lot more muscles.

You can, once again, chalk that up to the fact that Kurt Sutter is here writing this thing, but you can also add on the fact that Antoine Fuqua directed this and even though he’s had some good movies in his past, he’s no master of subtlety, that’s for sure. Every time it seems like Billy’s going to lose his shit and break something in his way, have no fear, because he will. Heck, every time that you think Whitaker’s character is going to have something inspirational to say to give Billy more hope, don’t worry, because he definitely does. It’s not much of a problem because Whitaker and Gyllenhaal are both pros at what they do and share incredible chemistry with one another, but after awhile, it’s get to be a bit disappointing when you know that they’re working with mediocre material.

Granted, you should always take a movie for what it is, and not what it could have been, but in this case, I’m making the exception. Whereas, on paper, with the premise and cast involved, Southpaw could have been a huge, hot and heavy Oscar-contender (like it was originally planned to be), with the likes of Sutter and Fuqua combined, their brand of unsubtle melodrama takes over everything and has it play out a bit more soap-opera-y. It’s what we’ve got, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but man, imagine what it could have been with some other people involved. Like, I don’t know, say, Marty Scorsese?

Yep, that sounds like a perfect idea. Somebody call him up next time.

Consensus: With Gyllenhaal in the lead role, Southpaw turns out to be a lot better, but can get so over-the-top and silly at times, that it takes away any sort of momentum that it can sometimes build for itself.

7 / 10

Good thing Rach wasn't around.

Good thing Rach wasn’t around, cause she’d definitely want to butt in…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Accidental Love (2015)

accidentalloveposter“Stephen Greene” is the new “Alan Smithee”.

Small-town, roller waitress Alice (Jessica Biel) seems to have most of her life in an ideal position. She’s happy, about to be engaged to her boyfriend (James Marsden), and has promises of a simple, painless life that she can hopefully grow old, fat and relax with. However, that all changes when a nail-gun strikes her head; which shouldn’t be much of a problem, except that Alice doesn’t have insurance. Meaning, when Alice is on the operating-table, she is denied the surgery that would allow for the nail to be taken out of head and have her healed. Alice isn’t very pleased with this, so in an act of anger, she joins up with a group of fellow victims who all hope to get free healthcare from the U.S. government. But, in order to have their dreams fulfilled, they need to have some sort of political representation – which is what they find in with congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal). Birdwell seems like he means well and honestly wants for Alice, as well as many others, to be healed, but he soon realizes that there’s plenty of problems standing in his way that may not allow for this to happen.

Without diving too much into the production history of Accidental Love, I’ll just try to keep it as simple as I can possibly be. Accidental Love, who’s initial title was the much-better Nailed, was directed by David O. Russell back in 2008 when, out of nowhere, finances fell through and filming for the movie, which was nearly 80% finished, was cut-off. Many, like myself, felt like the movie would never see the light of day and would join the long list of other movies that sound incredibly promising, but have been held back because of certain problems; whether they be legal, financial, publicity, etc.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

Just waiting to be interviewed by Michael Moore.

So, with all that said, should Accidental Love seen the light of day?

The answer is a “no”, but it’s not a strong or direct one. Instead, it’s a disappointing one, because somewhere, if you squint long and hard enough, is a smart, entertaining, and incredibly funny satire that Russell seems to excel so well in. But that’s when you really force your eyes to do so; if not, you’ll most likely just find a choppy, messed-up, slightly interesting movie that seems to deal with important issues, yet, still doesn’t hit as hard as it should.

Honestly, there’s no telling if Accidental Love was a good movie even before things went awry in its production-department, but you can tell that everybody involved with it seemed to be game for some sort of wacky comedy. Whether or not that comedy actually works, is a totally different subject to talk about, but there’s no denying that the solidly impressive ensemble Russell was able to assemble here had no clue what they were doing. They did, and they’re totally game – it’s just that the movie isn’t.

Though I’m still not sold on Jessica Biel’s talents as an actress just yet, I have to giver her at least a portion of credit for dialing it all the way up to 11 with this performance and hardly ever coming down to a lesser-notch. She’s loud, over-the-top and camping it up, and even though the jokes don’t land when they’re at her expense, it’s clear that Biel was at least in on them and didn’t want people to think otherwise. Same goes for Jake Gyllenhaal who, in recent years, has proven to be on the more consistently engaging screen-presences we have working today, and here, seems like he’s just having fun. He, like Biel, is only doing what the script calls for him to do, but he seems so happy doing so, that the character flirts with the idea of being more than just a caricature of whom Russell was setting out to make fun of.

And for the rest of the cast, much is the same. Tracy Morgan’s funny; James Marsden’s funny; Catherine Keener’s funny; Paul Reuben’s funny; and hell, even Kirstie Alley’s funny. There’s no denying that everybody here seems to be having fun with where Russell takes them, and what he does with them, it’s just that the movie they’re working in doesn’t seem to gel. Like, at all.

Which is understandable, considering what happened behind-the-scenes. The movie seems like the kind of hatchet job that a studio would only perform, had they honestly felt as if they had something of a hit on their hands. But Accidental Love, believe it or not, never seems like a hit. And I’m not just talking from a critical stand-point – I’m speaking from the financial one.

Who are we making fun of here?

Who are we making fun of here?

Being nearly seven years after its initial release-date, Accidental Love feels awfully dated, especially in terms of its subject-matter. Living in the post-Obama society that we live in now, talking about, making fun of, and even trying to make a point about healthcare, its benefits, and its draw-backs, feel a little too late to the game. Are these points worth bringing up for people to hear and sometimes laugh at? Sure, but it’s all been said and done before, and sometimes more effectively so.

That being said, the movie isn’t totally terrible, miserable experience for people to sit through and watch.

Like mostly all of Russell’s movies, he seems to revel in the delight of having his characters just act wild, yell at one another and go seemingly more and more insane as the time rolls on by. Some of that can be fun to watch here, but for the most part, it seems spliced together in a movie that’s concerned with everything, yet not anything, at the same time. It wants to be clever and sly about the point it’s trying to reel on home about healthcare; it wants to be a touching, sweet tale about a relationship between two unorthodox individuals that might blossom into something beautiful; and it also wants to be farce about a bunch of goofy people, being just that.

Yet, it’s never any of these. Just a jumble.

Consensus: While not nearly as embarrassing as its shoddy production history may have you think, Nailed, err, I mean Accidental Love seemed like it had an objective early on, yet, ends up being nothing, about no one, and doing nothing for those who watch it.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Eh. At least the sex was good for these two.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Nightcrawler (2014)

Who says journalism’s dead?!?!

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a strange, rather mysterious man who is just trying to get by in modern-day L.A. Not only does he steal random resources from construction sites, but even has the gall to try and sell them back. However, late one night, when perusing the streets, he stumbles a upon a car-accident, when, moments later, a guy holding a camera (Bill Paxton) shows up and takes Lou’s mind by storm. He tells Lou that there’s actually some money to be made in filming certain accidents/crime scenes and selling them to news agencies, all for a pretty penny. This gets Lou thinking that not only does he need himself some video-equipment, but he also needs a partner to assist him all this, which is when a somewhat homeless guy, Rick (Riz Ahmed), takes the opportunity, although he doesn’t know what to expect next from this job. And thus, begins the process in which Lou captures some important footage, in very sketchy, dangerous ways and selling it to a local TV station, where he actually begins to strike up something of a relationship with the morning news director, Nina (Rene Russo). However, with Lou, not everything seen in the camera, is exactly how it appears to be and in ways, begins to land him in some hot water; not just with the local police, but everybody around him.

In the post-recession world in which we all live in, it seems like anybody’s ready to make a quick buck, by any costs. Meaning that, if you have to lose your morals for a short amount of time, only so that you can get a healthy paycheck, go home, and get something to eat for once, then all is well. No questions will be asked, and surely, none will be given.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody's alive or not.

Yep. Totally concerned if anybody’s alive or not.

However, in the case of the media, the line is hardly ever blurred. “If it bleeds, it leads”, is a commonly-heard phrase in the world of journalism (also used once in this film, as well), and it certainly is true; if there’s something downright controversial or sick happening, people want to know about it, so long so as it’s not happening to them. Also though, if one can create a story that would, in some form, shape, or nature, illicit fear in the audience’s mind, then all the better. Basically, the world of journalism is a sick and twisted place, and it’s only going to continue to be so.

Take it from one, small-time journalist to tell ya.

But points about the state of journalism isn’t totally what writer/director Dan Gilroy is all about exploring – sure, he shows us that news agencies mostly what the richest, juiciest story, by any means necessary, but there’s no stance Gilroy takes and seems to run wild with practically with the whole time. Instead, we get a glimpse into the mind of a person who, quite frankly, is just trying to make a name for himself in a world that, quite frankly, is willing to make anybody “famous”.

And this here, is where the strengths of Nightcrawler really shows, folks. Gilroy gives us as much as we need to know about this character of Lou Bloom, but not just by telling us through background info, or constant flash-backs; much rather, we just view how this guy acts in day-to-day life. There’s something odd and definitely off about this Lou Bloom fella, but the way in how he approaches every business conversation is, at the very least, perfectly professional. Sometimes though, it’s so obvious he’s just saying what he read in some cheesy, self-help pamphlet that you wonder if he’s actually kidding around with whomever he’s reading these lines, too.

But that’s what’s so eerie about Lou Bloom – he isn’t. In fact, the guy’s dead serious about everything he says, does, or wants to happen, so that he can not only get more money, but have as much power as he can possibly imagine. Which, trust me, from the first glimpse we get of this guy in a construction-field, is totally surprising. You never, not in a million years, would expect someone who looks or acts like Lou Bloom to have such a dedicated, passionate mind when it comes to getting a certain job done, and reaping of all the possible benefits, but he totally is.

Not only is it believable because of the world Lou Bloom associates himself with (i.e. video-journalism), but because Jake Gyllenhaal is so magnificent in this role, it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes off of him whenever he’s on-screen.

Which is, yes, basically, the entire movie.

It’s a pretty common-known fact by now that, despite a few hiccups in his long-fledged movie-career, Gyllenhaal is a solid, dependable actor who, when you need him to, can deliver on just about anything you ask of him. Now, I’m not so sure Gilroy totally needed Gyllenhaal to lose 20 pounds for this role, but it works for the character in every way imaginable. It not only makes him look like a small, weaselly character that you can’t trust to be around, but allows for Gyllenhaal’s bugged-out eyes to constantly pop-out and make it seem as if they’re carrying most of his body-weight.

But lbs.-loss aside, Gyllenhaal is great here because he always demands our attention, without ever going full out and exclaiming it. Despite one corny scene in which we see him yell and break a mirror, Lou Bloom is a subdued character that definitely has emotions, but doesn’t express them as you or I. He keeps to himself and whenever he’s upset, happy, or simply trying to get his way, he tells you, but without hardly ever changing the look on his face. Gyllenhaal’s creepy in the kind of way that he feels like you wouldn’t just meet him on the street, but even possibly at a family-engagement – calm, cool, collective, and full of all sorts of chatter when you look at him, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll find a truly cruel, dark individual who, simply put, just doesn’t care what you think about him, or the decisions he makes. As long as he gets what he wants by the end of the day, then all is fine in his world.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let's hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

The future faces of L.A. Except, let’s hope not, because it would be an even scarier place to live in.

To me, that’s more terrifying than any Patrick Bateman or Travis Bickle. Although, to their defenses, they’re still both incredibly creepy individuals.

And though Gyllenhaal is amazing here in a role I hope earns him a nomination come early next year, he’s not the only one in this film worth chatting about. Rene Russo (Gilroy’s real-life wife) is great in a role that I wasn’t expecting her to be so great in. She plays this aging news producer by the name of Nina and seems like she’s been in the biz long enough, that she’s not only had to deal with it all, but seen it all, too. Therefore, you think she’d be safe enough to cozy up in her job and just wait till retirement – until you realize that that’s very far from the truth. In fact, Nina’s the kind of woman who, even with her experience, still feels like her job is constantly on the line, making her feel as if she needs the best break for her to get out of that slump and be looked at as “needed” once again.

It’s a very meaty role for Russo, the kind of role I haven’t seen her do in quite some time and it’s one that I hope she makes a habit of constantly trying to play with. Because even though you want to despise her for constantly pushing Bloom on and on to get deeper and deeper into these crime-based stories, you still know that, if you were in her position, you’d do the same. So, it’s kind of hard to judge, especially considering that it doesn’t matter how experienced you may think you are in the current position you hold – you’re always expendable.

And that, my friends, is some advice to live by for the rest of your days.

Goodnight. And most of all, good fuckin’ luck.

Consensus: Anchored by two phenomenal performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, Nightcrawler isn’t just exciting in its portrayal of the underground, seedy world of journalism, but also a reminder that any person, when given the chance to make a name for themselves, will do so, by any means necessary.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

The face of a champion, folks. You best believe it.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Enemy (2014)

So does that mean Maggie has a look-alike?

Anthony St. Claire (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives a simple, quiet life in Canada. He teaches history at the local college; has a girlfriend (Melanie Laurent) that he drinks with and bangs just about every night; and he doesn’t really seem to have much problems in his life, except for the fact that he’s sort of just moping around and not caring about much of anything at all. One day, however, a colleague of his recommends a movie to him in which, all of a sudden, he notices somebody in the movie who looks exactly like him. Automatically, this drives Anthony to figure out just who the hell this person is, and why it is that they look so similar to begin with. Anthony soon discovers that this man is in fact Adam Bell, a two-bit, actor with a pregnant wife (Sarah Gadon) who doesn’t like it when Anthony starts calling the house and wanting to arrange a meet between the two. Eventually though, Adam realizes that he can possibly use Anthony’s resemblance, as an advantage of sorts, in which the two could pass as one another, without anybody noticing a single difference, except for the fact that one’s a bit of a loser, and the other is an ambitious, lively-fella. Or, so we think.

There’s clearly a lot more to this story than what’s just presented up-top. For instance, you’d think that this is just a simple tale of a man who realizes he has a doppelganger, that he decides to scope-out and try to build a relationship of sorts with, that suddenly goes out-of-whack. But nope. That’s how it seems to play-out, at first, but eventually, things get to be a little haywire.

How haywire may you ask?

Leather jacket = cool.

Leather jacket = cool.

Well, Isabella Rossellini, one of film’s most recognizable faces working today, shows up for no less than three minutes on screen and just leaves, never to be seen from again.

However, that’s just the beginning of the strangeness within this movie, because once you realize that there’s more clues than you can shake a stick at here, it’s going to get very complicated to digest. Which is why, despite my enjoyment of it, I can’t say that it’s for everybody. Heck, I can’t even say fully, or wholeheartedly, that it’s for me either. What I can say is that if you like a nice mystery that doesn’t always clue you in on everything it’s trying to do or reveal, then go for this one.

But, if you’re like some ladies and gents out there that I know of, then don’t even bother with it. Not only will it make your mind hurt, and twist, and pull, and do all sorts of terrible, unhealthy things that you won’t like, it will make you want to re-watch it again, and again, and again, and again, only until you finally feel justified in saying you know exactly what happens, for what reasons, to whom, and exactly why. And even then, I can’t assure you that you’ll fully understand it.

So yeah, I may be setting this one up in a pretty big way, but I think it deserves to be. Going into this, I sort of expected a natural-thriller that would give me itty, bitty clues along the way as to what I’m supposed to think and why, but this isn’t that type of movie. You can tell that director Denis Villeneuve is clearly trying to set-up a story in which everything and everybody you see, may not be what it is you’re seeing. Is it all taking place inside of this one guy’s mind? Or, is this all actually happening the way it is presented to us, which could only mean that there are two Donnie Darko’s now gracing this fine world?

The answers never come in a clean way, and I’m not even sure if they come at all, but the movie kept me guessing and trying to connect the dots as much as I possibly could, which is you need with a good thriller. Doesn’t matter if the thriller has barely any shoot-outs or chases through dark and narrow streets; what does matter is that it at least keeps me wondering, waiting and intrigued in the characters, as well as the mysteries surrounding them. And that’s a thriller needs to do – not just for me, but for anyone who wants a little suspense and confusion thrown their way.

The only aspect of this film that I will talk-out against is that I couldn’t help but think that by the end, I didn’t get to know a single person at all. Granted, that may have been what Villeneuve set-out to do all of this time, in a way to only confuse me further, but I did wish that there was somebody I could really get behind or even feel the slightest amount of sorrow or pity for, seeing as how this world they’re in doesn’t always treat them with the best intentions. Sarah Gadon’s character comes sort of close to that kind of sympathetic-figure a movie like this needs, but even when I got to thinking about her character more and more, I felt like the only reason why I did even care for her was because she was pregnant and her husband was a bit of a dick towards her. That’s pretty much it. It didn’t seem to matter if the story on a good note, or bad one, because either way, the gal would have continued to live her life and be fine. Except now, she’d probably have the baby or something. Hell, I don’t even know if she was actually pregnant!

Damn this movie!

No leather jacket = not cool.

No leather jacket = not cool.

Anyway, besides Gadon, Jake Gyllenhaal’s one character in this movie, Anthony, comes to a close second as being the only guy I could even care about, which more or less has to do with the fact that Gyllenhaal is so damn good here at playing both characters here. Granted, it’s not all that hard to play two, different versions of a character in one movie, because when you think about it, all you really have to do is play both sides with totally opposite personalities, or rely on the make-up team to help out in making sure the audience know which character is which. Here, however, Gyllenhaal has a harder-task on his plate where he has to seemingly play two characters who are, essentially, relatively similar. Not just in the way they look like fraternal twins, but by how one character is only a tad more high-strung than the other, but not by all that much.

At first, it seemed like a really hard job for Gyllenhaal to pull-off, but somehow, he does so well with it, that I didn’t even get confused for a single bit as to whom it was that he was playing. And he does so in subtle ways; a twitch of his eye, a tone in his voice, the way he carries himself from one end of a room to another, it all felt so distinctive to whichever character he was supposed to be portraying. Yes, a little more depth into both of these characters would have made this performance so much better than just “Gyllenhaal pulling an Adaptation-like role”, but man, I have to say that this guy seems to keep on impressing me, more and more each time I see him.

Don’t ever give up, Jakie-poo. Keep on acting your rump off, and don’t let these nasty T-Swift rumors get you down. She’s a crazy chick anyway. Ammiright?

Consensus: Will most likely not make a lick of sense after the first couple or so viewings, but regardless, Enemy is still an interesting thriller that doesn’t always answer its questions in an easy manner, but does allow Jake Gyllenhaal to act very well in these dual roles of his.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Dude, who are you?" "I'm you!" "Who?" "YOU!!"

Not-so cool guy: “Dude, who are you?”
Cool guy: “I’m you!”
Not-so cool guy: “Who?”
Cool guy: “YOU!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Prisoners (2013)

Most twisted game of hide-and-go-seek, EVER.

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and Keller and Grace Dover (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) get invited over to a neighbor’s house, Nancy and Franklin Birch (Viola Davis and Terrence Howard), for the turkey dinner. Everything’s going fine, they’re getting a little tipsy, the dinner was tasty, and both sets of kids are getting along pretty well. However, when both pairs of parents aren’t looking, all of a sudden, the youngest daughters both go missing. Their respective families go running all over the place looking for them, but can’t find a single shred of evidence to where there may have gone; except for an beaten-down RV truck that was owned by a not-all-that-there guy named Alex Jones (Paul Dano). Determined, but slightly off-kilter Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to the case and is trying to figure out what Jones did with these girls, however, he can’t find a shred of evidence on him either. So, Jones gets taken out of custody and back at home with his Aunt (Melissa Leo) where Keller, believing that justice has not been served to the best of its ability, decides to take matters into his own hands and discover the truth.

It’s hard to do a “kidnapped-children” thriller the right way, especially if you’re being produced by Warner Bros., but somehow the influence of a foreign director in the name of Denis Villeneuve allowed for this material to be as brutal and as dark as you’d expect a movie about two kidnapped, and possibly killed, children could be. That said, the movie doesn’t ever stretch into material that could be “depressing”; sure, it’s sad to see other people sad, but what would you expect to see from people whose reason for living has just been taken away from them, and possibly for good? You see? It’s not a happy movie, in the slightest bit but it’s not like it’s a slow-paced, character-driven drama; this is a freakin’ thriller, baby, and if you don’t know that by now, then you have to see it!

"You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??"

“You know what these hands have coming out of them when I get mad?!?!?! Huh?!??”

Seriously, this is a “thriller” in every sense of the word. Not only does it keep you guessing right from the beginning and barely lets you go by the end, it’s also the type of thriller that gives you just the right amount of clues and hints as to what the hell could possibly happen with this case, and to the people involved with it, but still not making you feel so certain. Even though I knew this was a mainstream movie, I still felt like anybody could have bitten the dust, at any given time, and it would totally fit with the movie’s tone. Would have been a bit of a bummer to say the least, but still would have kept me guessing and wondering what’s going to happen next, and to whom. This is what I love about thrillers, especially when they’re done right, and I have to hand it to Villeneuve, because he does a thriller, well, right.

And yes, you most likely are going to be hearing a lot of comparisons to David Fincher, and I feel like they’re suitable, but only in the sense of their moods are alike. In all honesty, I feel as if Fincher’s movies are better at doing both the procedural-police work, and the character-driven parts, at the same time, to great effect, but Villeneuve still gives him a bit of a run for his money. Every scene is calculated, timed, and set up with the utmost importance that every second, every day, every month into this case matters, and it gets you involved right away. Even with a run-time of over 2-and-a-half-hours, the movie never seems like it’s falling asleep on us, our us on it; it constantly keeps your brain thinking, your blood pumping, and, if you really can’t handle these types of movies, your bladder on the edge of fully-bursting.

Hey, like I said before: It’s over 2-and-a-half-hours, so watch what you drink before, how much, and at what time, because you’re not going to want a miss a single second of this movie.

But mostly where I feel like Villeneuve falls short of deserving the Fincher comparisons, is how he handles the final-act. Once it is revealed to us what has happened, for what reasons, and by whom, the movie loses all sort of credibility in terms of being an honest, and realistic-depiction of what it’s like to lose somebody in your life that matters so much such as your children. Before, I don’t know, before the final 15 minutes or so, everything in this movie felt real, brutally frank, emotional, and very tense, as if you really were watching REAL people go through this same situation, in REAL life. However, once those final 15 minutes (or so) pop-up, then all the realism built within the past 2-hours, practically goes to the crapper, so that things can get very conventional, and very, “Hollywood-ish”, for lack of a better word.

It’s hard for me to go into any detail about what goes down with this realization of who the kidnapper is and what happened to the girls, but what I will say is that it will take you by surprise a bit. If not, then so be it, you’re probably just a bit smarter than me and most of the crowd I saw this with. But you will be taken by surprise by what information comes to light, who ends up being the baddie, and what happens to that said baddie, while also a bit disappointed that the movie lost its previous identity, just to stick with conventionality. Maybe Warner Bros. didn’t want to lose too much control over this, eh?

Now that I get to thinking about it, I think what made the first 2-hours so realistic and work so damn well, was that the ensemble in it made every character feel like a living, breathing human-soul that has the ability to feel pain, while also be able to dish it out as well. Such is the case with Keller Dover, who is played by Hugh Jackman, in one of his best performances yet. When we first see Keller, we see that he’s a bit of a religious-fanatic that stocks up on all sorts of canned-goods and resources for the arrival of “The End”, but he isn’t a cook-ball with all of the song-singing and preaching. He’s more of a laid-back, calm, and understandable family-man, that we get to know for a good 10 minutes, until that whole facade goes away and we are then shown the evil, angry, and remorseful human-being that Keller may have been in the past, but hasn’t shown to anybody in a very, very long time. Jackman owns every scene he’s in, whether he’s sobbing in bed next to his wife; drunk off of his ass, stumbling home; yelling his lungs out at anybody around him that he sees as a person who isn’t “fully” concerned with finding his daughter, and/or the kidnapper; or trying to keep it all together, while he’s slowly, but surely, losing all sense and thoughtfulness deep down inside. Jackman is a force to be reckoned with here, and although I don’t feel like he has much of a chance at being nominated for an Oscar, something still tells me that we may be hearing whispers of his name come that time. However, it does seem slightly unlikely.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

You know how we can believe that she would be married to him? The glasses.

While Jackman is all sorts of powerful and compelling here, in a more showwy, chaotic way, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Loki is the same, just with more quietness added to great effect. What I liked so much about Detective Loki is that he’s a cop, that sets his priorities straight, gets right down to business, and does not stop until he’s achieved his goal, and solved the case. In other words: He’s a cop that does his job, no “ands”, “ifs”, or “buts” about it. We don’t get to know all that much about this character, other than that he’s a pretty lonely guy with no real family or friends for him to talk to, but that doesn’t matter because we know that he’s a good guy, and will do everything in his might and will to find these little girls, even if his life is on the line, more than a few times. Gyllenhaal doesn’t seem like he’d be a fine fit for the role of a “tough cop”, but he handles it with perfection, and shows us even more why he’s one of the best leading-men in the biz today.

Yup, I fucking went there, and I’m gonna stay there, too.

Though they’re the two with the most central roles in this movie, everybody else is fan freakin’ tastic as well. Maria Bello seems like she was on the verge of a mental breakdown every time she showed up on-screen, which made it harder to watch, and her performance all the more affecting; Viola Davis doesn’t get much to do here other than be sad and shocked, but she handles it as well as you’d expect a powerhouse such as her to; Terrence Howard proves that he can be a sweet, soft, and sensitive, middle-class family man that, surprisingly, wouldn’t take a hammer to some dude’s hand, even if he was highly suspected of kidnapping, and possibly killing, his daughter and her friend; Melissa Leo is pretty strange and odd as the Aunt of the suspect, and shows that she can chew scenery like nobody’s business, even if there isn’t any scenery to chew on; and Paul Dano plays the one that all of the fingers point to as the main culprit behind all of this, who seems more like a child himself in the way that he speaks, interacts with others, and just generally goes about his way. So much so, that you don’t know whether or not the guy’s actually done anything to begin with, or if he’s just another victim, caught wrongfully in this world win of mystery, aggression, and anger. You sort of feel bad for him, believe it or not. Actually, you sort of feel bad for everybody, as well as yourselves because you don’t know how you’d act in a situation like this. I know I’d act like a freakin’ nut, but that’s just me. Decide on your own time, my friends.

Consensus: For some, Prisoners will be a long strand of darkness to get through, and in one piece no less, but for those that are as determined as the characters in the movie itself, you’ll find it a rewarding, tense, exciting, and very thoughtful thriller, even if it does shoot itself in its own foot by the end.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he's prepared to get rid of it.

He saw the bunny-rabbit, but this time, he’s prepared to get rid of it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

End of Watch (2012)

Honestly, after seeing Training Day, I will never be able to trust a cop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two Los Angeles police officers as they patrol the city’s meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. One day, however, they stumble upon a discover that makes them two-wanted men, that puts both of their careers and lives at stake.

Writer/director David Ayer has taken his stabs at the police-force with his past two efforts (Harsh Times, Street Kings) but now, seems like he’s making up for all of that with a flick that could almost come off as a police-recruitment video in a way. Sounds crazy, especially since cops aren’t as handsome as the two leading-men here, but if one dude who’s thinking about what to do for his life, stumbles upon this, the police-force will be able to say they have another in uniform.

But as preachy and heavy-handed as I make that sound, that is not something Ayer is all about with this flick. In fact, as hard as it may try to win points over with the police-crowd out there, the film is still more about the characters, rather than exactly about what they do. This is the study of two guys, who love each other, love their work, and most importantly, love doing what they’re sent out there to do, and that’s to save people’s lives whenever they get a call. This may sound hokey and uninteresting but Ayers actually brings a lot of depth to the story, that at times, may surprise you by how far it goes with itself. You feel for these characters and their surroundings and every time they get a call about something bad going down on the radio, you automatically get worried and you fear for these guys because you have become so attached to them over the whole course of the movie.

Building up an emotional-level for these characters is something that Ayer does very well, but when he’s building that up, he’s also building up a great deal of suspense that caught me by surprise. Granted, people going into this film will probably be a bit disappointed by how there isn’t as much action as the trailers may suggest, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter because everything else that’s going on is so strong. However, when they do focus on the action of the movie, it’s exciting, thrilling, and very unpredictable as you have no clue what’s going to happen to these guys or when they’re going bite the bullet. This is definitely what kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat and had me into this story when all of this other crap would seem to almost take me out of it.

The crap that I’m talking about, is when it seems like Ayer feels the need to constantly weave-in and out of the “found-footage” aspect of this movie. I will say one thing about this movie going in, I was not looking really forward to it because of this aspect and I’m glad that it wasn’t like this the whole time but seriously: either do it the whole time, or don’t do it at all! Even when they do abandon this format, the camera is constantly shaking and breaking all-over-the-place and it made me feel like I was still watching a found-footage movie, except with the camera actually being stuck in a blender. This bothered the hell out of me and I wish Ayer just stuck it straight to the original format of filming a movie, because he had strong enough material to make it work in the first-place.

Then, of course, there’s the typical cop-movie conventions that always seem to plague movies like this. Of course, we got the burnt-out cop, the rookie cop, and the usual crooks that seem like they come right out of another movie. That statement, right there is not a good thing because even though those two other conventions are here, at least they seem grounded in-reality, as opposed to these cartoonish bad-guys that had me laughing my ass off every time they showed-up. First of all, I thought it was dumb how they actually had them film their own murders and crimes, which seemed to come out of nowhere and in this film for no other reason than to just go along with the format they already established in the first-frames. Then, of course, they seem to come out of nowhere in certain scenes where they seem so pissed off about these two cops going from house-to-house and finding out about all of these murders and drugs. It seemed really random for these two cops to eventually get tracked-down by this gang considering there are large-portions where these gangs aren’t even shown, let alone discussed. Seriously, does every gang-member say “fuck” every 2 seconds in their sentences? Especially those Latino ones?

Despite these bitty problems, the real reason why this film works so damn well is because of the work given by it’s two leads: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These guys, from start-to-finish, display a pitch-perfect chemistry that is probably one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Granted, not many buddy-cop movies actually have their whole story revolve around the two cops, and actually show them inter-acting with one another on a daily-basis, but this film shows that and accomplishes at showing us how close these guys are. It’s not just the film that does this, though, Jake and Michael both do perfect jobs just messing around with each other, teaching each other life lessons, and even working really hard together on some life-or-death situations. Also, it needs to be added that these guys don’t really have a bad-bone in their body either, but also have a lot of problems in their lives to where you believe them not just as movie cops, but as real cops in general. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but you really do believe in these guys, and it makes every conversation they have together is as interesting and entertaining as the one that came before it. I would be terribly surprised if I found out that these guys weren’t best buddies in real-life because there’s just something between these two that really does seem like it went on, and off-screen for them. Please, no Brokeback Mountain jokes there, either.

Consensus: Even though End of Watch suffers when it feels the need to stay within the conventions of your usual cop-drama, it still benefits from the amazing chemistry between the two leads, that make these characters more interesting, more entertaining to watch, and two people that we want to see live on at the end of the story.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Jarhead (2005)

Call of Duty gives kids so many wrong impressions.

Anthony “Swoff” Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a third-generation enlistee, from a sobering stint in boot camp to active duty, sporting a sniper’s rifle and a hundred-pound ruck on his back through Middle East deserts with no cover from intolerable heat or from Iraqi soldiers, always potentially just over the next horizon.

When people go out to see war flicks, they are basically expecting all of the works such as action filled with guns blazing, grenades blowing up, tanks shooting up the place, and just a whole bunch of other crazy ish that you could probably reenact on your XBOX 360 or PS3. The thing is though, not all wars were like this and not all war films are like that either.

What I liked most about ‘Jarhead’ was Sam Mendes‘ direction here. Mendes really isn’t a guy that’s known for slam-bang, action war flicks so he doesn’t try to do anything here that he isn’t already familiar, instead he gives this film a new type of edge that shows us just how boring the war really is. It’s much like ‘Three Kings’ in that aspect, whereas that was a bit of a satire on what was going on during The Gulf War, this is more of a serious first-hand account that has the type of realism to it that really works and brings you into this setting and the everyday life of these soldiers.

All they do is sit around and wait for the actual “action” to happen while playing a bunch of football, masturbating a hell of a lot, and drinking like nobody else’s business. Hey, I know it doesn’t sound all that bad but just imagined being stationed out hours and hours away from home with no woman and no time to not worry about anything, then the times may start to get a bit bothersome. It feels very real and adds a lot to the whole aspect where no action at all during a war, can actually eff with another person’s mind. Any time these guys feel like they’re about to just go out there and get some kills, they are once again disappointed by how things just don’t end up working in their favor. And on top of that, your “lady” at home who’s supposed to be waiting for you to come home with arms wide open, is also probably getting banged by your best friend or neighbor. Warfare isn’t so fun and exciting now is it?

Mendes also has a keen eye for making any gritty war flick look pretty and he does that so well here. The shots of these young soldiers in the desert are nice to look at because anything with long-ass landscapes of barely anything look pretty. What really caught my eye with this cinematography was near the end where they light the oil wells on fire and the skies light up with this dark, yellowish look and it’s actually very beautiful but at the same time, very depressing like the mood of this flick.

The only problem this film actually has with itself is that since there is so much waiting and waiting for these guys to actually get a chance to do something, that it sort of keeps the same pace and mood the whole time with barely any real emotional weight in-stored.  There are moments where they take you inside of these soldiers’ heads and get you to understand, but there was never anything here that really made me feel like I needed to watch what these characters were going to do next. It keeps everything the same for the whole flick and as much as I can’t complain about the mood that the film set in right away, I still can say that I wish there was more to this plot, to these characters, and to the heart of this flick.

The film also never really dives into these dudes’ emotional states as much as it should have. Yeah, they showed how these guys were effed up by the fact that they couldn’t shoot anything up but it never goes anywhere deeper other than that. We get a couple of scenes but nothing special and it was kind of a shame because even though this flick does have what it takes to be a really good, and somewhat important war flick, it still dropped the ball on not having too much emotional weight to it. You can only care for so much on the screen and it’s only a matter of time until you start to have no feelings for any of these characters.

One of the real reasons this film works so well is because of Jake Gyllenhaal‘s lead performance here as Swofford. Jake is an actor that is highly underrated because he has so many great roles and performances, but at the end of the day people continue to look at him as Donnie Darko. That’s a shame because his performance here is probably the one thing that keeps this movie so compelling at points. He goes through all of the steps of being a shy rookie, to being a bad-ass in training, and then to being one of those dudes who starts to lose his fuckin’ mind when he doesn’t get the chance to shoot his rifle. Everything he goes through here is believable and it almost seems like this character couldn’t be played by anybody else either.

The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either. Peter Sarsgaard is really good as Troy, and gets this one scene where he just lets loose on his emotions and it’s a real stunning scene that was also the most memorable; Chris Cooper gets a top-billing but is barely even in this flick with only two scenes and still kicks ass as always; and Jamie Foxx adds more emotional weight and understanding to the “angry black drill sergeant” role here as Staff Sergeant Siek.

Consensus: Jarhead is definitely not the war flick for everyone, actually it’s very anti-war, but what sets this one apart is the direction from Mendes who gets inside the heads of these soldiers and shows what they’re going through, and also features a stand-out performance from Gyllenhaal, who is compelling the whole time.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Zodiac (2007)

Who is “The Zodiac Killer”? Actually I think the better question is who cares?

“The Zodiac Killer” was a serial killer during the 60’s to 70’s who wrote to the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what he was going to do next and stunned everybody all-over-the-world by how he was never caught. Two people, a homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) and journalist (Robert Downey Jr.) spend half of their lives trying to solve the case, only to be shown-up many years later by a cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Going into this and knowing that this was a David Fincher flick, I had a feeling that I was in for some utterly insane craziness that happens in just about all of his films. However, when it comes to a 157 minute film about an open-case, I got something way way better.

This is a very long film that is filled with non-stop talking, evidence, procedures, details, facts, and everything else that has to do with this case but I was never bored once. Fincher seems totally dedicated to this case and all of the investigations and claims that were made for this whole case are brought up giving us a more clear view of what is actually going on with this case. We never find out who the killer is, even though we get a general idea through red herrings, but the fact that we listen and learn as this case is following through, you can get a sense that you are here solving the case as much as they are as well. Of course this is more like a clear-cut film that seems like one long episode of ‘CSI’, but if you like mystery/crime films that show you just about everything without leaving anything out, this is a perfect watch for you as much as it was for me.

Another great element to this film that Fincher uses is creating tension in the mood as if I was watching a flick from the 70’s itself, which is where the story takes place. Fincher creates the fashions and feelings of the time, but still being able to add in his own CGI-enhanced material that will still seem relevant to the story as it gives it this very moody and grim look but still in a way full of colors when some big shine of light comes through. We also get these dark and moody feelings where something is just not right in the air and the fact that almost nothing happens (no big car chases, no big shoot-out) is a true testament to Fincher’s sturdy hand considering the whole time I was on-the-edge-of-my-seat with this paranoia that I was starting to feel a lot more than the actual characters themselves. I also could not tell you if there was a completley unneeded scene here that had nothing to do with this actual investigation, which is not very common with thrillers nowadays but then again, Fincher is just a totally different dude.

I think I was just some impressed by this film because it’s something that is incredibly different from anything else that Fincher has done before. We see him in more of a subdued drama, that may seem too dialogue-heavy in some parts, but overall keeps you watching the whole time. The fact that Fincher also never lets us in on what he feels is the right solution to this case or who he feels is really the killer, made me appreciate this film even more as it could almost be another case where even motion pictures can shed some intelligent life on an investigation that may have taken forever to solve, but could be easily solved by just facing the facts…Jack.

My one and only problem with this flick is that I didn’t really like what it turned out to be in the end when we start to focus on Gyllenhaal’s character, Robert Graysmith. We see how Graysmith starts to become terribly obsessed with this case so much that he starts to alienate his family, grow paranoid in everything he does, and basically make his house a shit-sty of papers that have to do with the case that he can’t get over and just let go. We have all seen this idea and material way too much and it wasn’t like the last act had me annoyed, I was still easily interested but I just think it was more of a bummer to see Fincher resort what seemed like ‘The Number 23’.

Fincher has a huge cast of characters here but only a couple stand out in my book. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a very good performance as Graysmith and shows that he has a lot of craft, energy, and tension in almost every scene that he places himself in. It’s such a shame that him and Fincher vowed to never work again because Gyllenhaal was able to give one of his best grown-up performances that I have really seen so far. No, I do not mean you, ‘Prince of Persia’. Mark Ruffalo is also very good as David Toschi, showing that he is able to throw himself into an eccentric role that demands you to feel his pain and anguish. Robert Downey Jr. is a lot of fun as the flamboyant and funny, Paul Avery and shows why Downey should just go back to playing normal people roles rather than just Tony Stark or Sherlock Holmes. There are so many other people in this film that just do phenomenal jobs with each of their own respective roles and I really have to give it to Fincher for nailing down just about every single role.

Consensus: Zodiac is a film where barely anything happens, except for a lot of talking and investigation into a case that is still open today, but Fincher keeps this long flick totally entertaining, exciting, and tense with a great screenplay that dives right into the investigation itself, and show perfect performances by just about everybody involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

Source Code (2011)

If I had about 8 minutes to relive again and again, I think I’d choose….well….that’s a story for another day folks.

Jake Gyllenhaal portrays a soldier recruited for a time-bending government investigation that places him in another man’s mind and body, reliving the same traumatic event repeatedly in an effort to identify the perpetrators of a terrorist bombing. Vera Farmiga plays a communications specialist who provides the vital link to the soldier’s primary reality as he searches for critical clues within a recurring nightmare.

This is the sophomore effort by Duncan Jones, who some may know him as the director of the 2009 sleeper hit Moon, and others may know him as David Bowie’s son. But look out Bowie, your son is starting to pick up some steam now.

Probably the best thing about this film is the premise that is sort of a combination of Groundhog Day, Memento, and a slash of Inception that seems to work out so well. Duncan Jones is able to grab you into the film and direct it in a way that feels original enough that I didn’t think about its similarities to other films until it was over. The editing is also very solid, and you can’t stop but wonder what exactly is going to happen next, and the suspense works out very well. The movie never feels repetitive even though the same events happen over and over again because they’re each constructed differently enough to feel fresh.

My main problem with this film is that the script is kind of lackluster. Source Code is written by Ben Ripley, who previously wrote two straight-to-DVD Species sequels and one made-for-TV movie. The script has plenty of problems, mainly it being just a combination of ideas from other films without too much originality to it. There’s also a nice little amount of human depth to this story which I actually did like, but the ending here doesn’t do much to support that nice attribute.

While Jones does an excellent job giving the film humanity and life for most of the movie, the conclusion just feels forced and unauthentic. I don’t want to give away too much, but it feels like it should have ended on a much darker note than it does because either the writer or the studio didn’t want to scare away too many moviegoers. While I don’t mind happy endings when they happen in films like these, it’s just odd that this film seemed like it was going to go in another direction, but instead ended on a bad note.

The saving element to this film that really elevated was the performances from the cast, mainly Jake Gyllenhaal, who I think really needed this movie. Jake plays Colter Stevens, and right from the get-go you have no idea who this guy is, and how he’s going to act, but after awhile you really start to see the situation he’s in, and you can actually believe the steps he makes. His charm works here, and by the end you really do find yourself cheering him on, hoping that in the end it all works out. I think this film will really remind people as to why he is such a good leading man. Michelle Monaghan is cute and likable as Christina, and provides a good romantic interest for Gyllenhaal’s character. Vera Farmiga plays Goodwin, who is basically a head in a box, but she somehow elevates her character into a more developed persona and seems more human than I would have expected. The painfully underrated Jeffrey Wright is good here as Dr. Rutledge and makes the best of his villainous-like character.

Consensus: The ending and writing may be a bit of a bummer, but Source Code is uplifted by Duncan Jones’s fearless direction, and good performances from the cast, especially Jake Gyllenhaal, will keep viewers on the edge of their seat throughout the whole ride.

8/10=Matinee!!

Donnie Darko (2001)

Your head will probably hurt by the end of this one.

A troubled teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal) is plagued by visions of a large bunny rabbit that manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after narrowly escaping a bizarre accident.

Donnie Darko is one of those cult films that is “the crazy film” that all the hip, cool teenagers all talk about. Some say it’s amazing, some say it makes no sense, and as for me I’m sort of in between which is all good.

Writer/Director Richard Kelly is amazing here in his debut flick with a lot of things to do, but makes it all so perfectly laid out for us to easily follow. There are a lot of perfect scenes where it’s just a cheesy 80’s song played over all this movement around one area, and it really is perfect how he captures how humans inter-act. My favorite scenes are the ones he uses with the school, because he captures all of the cliches of your typical high-school, but makes them look so real. He also has a lot of mind-bending scenes where he does a play-back, speed-up, and some cool special effects that all look great and add a lot to the overall feeling of this film.

My favorite element of this film probably has to be the amazing script this has. It touches on so many subjects with such wit, bravery, poignancy that it all works here. There is a lot of confusing things that happens, but to back it all up you have these pitch-perfect conversations that these characters have that almost feel like real-life. There is plenty of talk about how the 80’s American dream was viewed as, and how the suburban family really was, and the way Kelly satirizes it, just works so well. Despite all the normal, every day talk that this film brings up, there are also questions about life that make you think. Is the life we live, exactly how we imagine it? And if so, can we change our out-comes or are we all just destined for our fate with no way of changing it at all? These as well as many other questions are brought up and we never quite figure out what exactly this film is talking about sometimes, but it’s almost too hard not to be confused.

However, I think that Kelly’s best part with this film was the human parts of this film. I loved the scenes where Donnie is sitting at dinner with his family, or is in school, or just talking to his friends. All of those scenes were perfect of how they captured human emotions, and reactions, but I almost wish there was more of that. The film tends to lose it’s head in all the craziness that ensues so a lot of the poignant and honest human parts are lost.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the perfect choice for social out-cast Donnie Darko. Donnie is one of those kids in school that didn’t really talk to anybody because he didn’t care, was a little strange, and didn’t want to be a conformist, and Gyllenhaal plays that part so well. He’s such a smart kid that almost everything he says is like poetry, and the teenage angst he has is just so perfectly played. Donnie Darko may be one of the best teenage character’s of all-time, and one of Gyllenhaal’s best performances of all-time.

The rest of the cast is pretty good too each getting their own screen-time. Jena Malone is great here as the main love interest, Gretchen. Her character is so sweet, and cute that the scenes that her and Donnie have are my favorite. Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, and Maggie Gyllenhaal, which in case you couldn’t tell is Jake’s real-life sister, they all play members of the Darko family and do a great job as well. Others in the cast that do good jobs as well are Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle, a really young Seth Rogen, Beth Grant, and the always reliable Patrick Swayze doing everything right.

Also, may I add that the ending is epic. The film perfectly builds up to the last 15 minutes, and you won’t forget about it when it’s over.

Consensus: Writer/Director Richard’s Kelly debut feature may lose it’s head with the mind-bending elements, but it has a perfect script, great performances, and a story that goes places you won’t be expecting, and won’t be disappointed in seeing anyway.

9/10=Full Price!!

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

I don’t care how much hate I get from this, but I did like “the gay cowboy movie”.

While working together near Wyoming’s Brokeback Mountain in 1963, sheepherders Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) begin an increasingly passionate affair. But keeping their relationship a secret from their wives (Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams) proves agonizing and all-consuming.

This film back in the day caused a huge uproar for showing these two A-list male actors, in a very Hollywood-like movie, and shows them being in gay love. Now, I see what all the fuss is about, and it’s literally about nothing.

The best thing here is the direction of this film. Ang Lee, who is also gay, does so well here of keeping this film sweet, and to the point. He doesn’t try to sugarcoat this with all your typical romantic drama cliches, instead focuses on the relationship these two have with each other, as well as them own selves. I have to applaud this film for showing gay love, in such a beautiful and meaningful way to the point of where I almost forgot I was watching two guys in love on screen. We see these guys as two humans and rather than two dudes. They all have the same emotions as you and me, feel the same way, and talk the same way, they just may prefer something different sexually.

You really do become involved with this story as you feel the same emotions that these guys are going through as your watching this film. There are certain scenes in this film that you feel like Lee is going to pull and you really do want him too, and he does oh so well. You feel the heartbreak that is within these characters, because they can’t be happy, and have what they want even though their in love. That right there is just terribly heartbreaking, the rest of the film is almost even more painful.

I still have no idea why this cause such a huge roar among the media. I mean, well, I know why cause it’s basically two dudes in love, but what’s the difference really? The film isn’t at all exploiting gay love, it’s showing love for what it is, and that love here, just so happens to be between two dudes. God forbid, that not every romantic film of the year, have Jack and Rose. It just pisses me off that beautiful films like this already get criticized because of it’s subject material, rather than the art itself.

When I saw The Dark Knight, I knew I missed Heath Ledger. But now, I REALLY REALLY miss him. He is breath-taking in this film, bringing out all the anger, confusion, and most of all, passion within his character. He plays that soft, quiet type so well here, that when he does get a little rowdy you don’t forget about it, and it sticks in your mind. Perfect performance here, wish he was still around to give more like these. Jake Gyllenhaal is also amazing playing Jack Twist, who is also passionate, but also wears his heart on his sleeves. He gives a heart-felt performance too and there are plenty of scenes that really do ask for his acting chops, and he sure does deliver. This film did really bank on the idea of their chemistry, cause without that, would this even work? The chemistry is basically perfect and feels like real life. I could imagine how hard it was for these two very mainly actors, have to kiss and be intimate with one another, and make it all feel real. It all feels real, and almost every scene they have together you just stop, and sit there in amazement. Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams both do well in their roles equally, but their more of second-nature to this film, and aren’t given so much, even though they are great.

Must I also not forget about that ending. Talk about a tear-jerker.

Consensus: It may get bad looks cause it portrays two dudes in love, but Brokeback Mountain is the farthest thing from outlandish. It features an amazing direction from Lee, perfect performances, and tells a beautiful tale of love, heart-break, confusion, and overall, life.

9.5/10=Full Pricee!!

Love and Other Drugs (2010)

I never thought Viagra could make such a romantic love story.

Pharmaceutical representative Jamie Randall (Jake Gyllenhaal) becomes a player in the big game of male-performance-enhancement-drug sales and, along the way, finds unexpected romance with a woman (Anne Hathaway) suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

So despite all the mixed reviews this film has been getting, my big sis and I decided, what better way to spend our Turkey Day then to go and see this new film. And well, it’s not as bad as everyone says, it’s just not that good either.

The one thing about this film is that it does a fine job at balancing heart, and humor. The beginning of the film is very quick, and funny, although very dirty, with plenty, and plenty of nudity and sex, that may either have you looking away, or loving every moment of it. Depending on how pervy you are. The only problem is that this quick pace, with plenty of jokes, doesn’t keep on going throughout the film, and as the film delves more into dramatic territory, we lose the sense of comedy.

I liked the fact that this film added the Parkinson’s disease angle to the film cause it really does work well with the film, and puts a lot of heart into the story, when all it seemed like it had was a penis and a vagina. However, the film does get way too sappy, especially in that last act, that just totally loses its funny side. I liked the cute little things this film did, it just stunk that it felt so sloppy, because the drama was way too hard. I almost felt like the only reason they put most of this drama in was to add more time on the film, and try to get more tears flowing. That didn’t happen, and the pacing is totally lost, which sucked cause in the beginning, that’s what this film really did have going for itself.

This film is basically a film to showcase just how good these two leads are, and they don’t disappoint. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character I thought I was going to hate because of his deauchy character, but soon by the middle you start to like him, and actually relate to him, mainly because of Gyllenhaal’s sweet charm. The best performance here is from Anne Hathaway who really does knock this out of the park, and makes this very troubled character, seem very realistic, very true, and very smart. Which has us like her so much more than I expected, and the chemistry these two create together, feels genuine, and not put on for an act at all, and you feel it with these two, which adds a lot on to the film. Funny little performances in this movie also come from Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, and the one who brought the most laughs, Josh Gad.

Consensus: It may be a bit un-even at plenty of points, and loses itself by the end, but the chemistry between the leads, and a nice balance between heart, and humor, makes this romantic comedy, a good one to say the least.

7/10=Rental!!