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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: James Franco

Alien: Covenant (2017)

It’s basically Jason X, but in space. Oh, wait. Jason X was in space. Never mind. So basically, it’s Jason X.

Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy so that they can continue on with the human race, but this time, elsewhere, members aboard of the colony ship, Covenant, seem to be going just fine. However, disaster strikes when they’re ship is hit, killing the Captain (James Franco), leaving a new one to take his place (Billy Crudup). The odd thing about this Captain, however, is that he believes a little too much in faith, which makes him a bit detested by the rest of the crew, which would be fine and all normally, but makes their situation all the more heated when they discover a new planet. Rather than just continuing on with their journey, they decide to check out what this new planet is all about and believe it or not, it’s not exactly what they expected. Instead, it’s the planet where the dreaded Prometheus expedition crash-landed all of those years ago, and still harbors David (Michael Fassbender), the scariest robot around who is still, somehow, on and being creepy.

Tell me, could you hate a face like that?

The fact that Covenant is better than Prometheus, may not be saying much. The later is a flawed movie that, yes, while brimming with all sorts of ambitious ideas and themes about life, faith and science, also didn’t have much a plot, and even worse, lame characters. It was a sight to see on the big screen, but also felt like a hollow experience, made all the more disappointing by the fact that it was done by Ridley Scott, aka, the dude who kick-started the whole Alien franchise in the first place.

But now, Scott seems to be back in his comfort-zone with Covenant, the kind of Alien movie you’d expect an Alien movie to be. It’s tense, exciting, silly, scary, gory, and at times, pretty wild, but at the same time, also feels like every other horror movie we’ve ever seen done before, where instead of Freddy, or Jason, or hell, Leatherface, we’ve got a bunch of aliens, running around and taking people that we don’t care about, off one-by-one. Now, is that disappointing, too? Or, is it just something to expect?

Either way, Covenant can be a good movie to watch, for quite some time, because like Prometheus, it’s clear that a lot of attention and detail was put into how slick and cool the movie looked. But unlike Prometheus, it has some characters to care about (sort of), and most of all, a plot that’s easy to fall in-line with. Sure, it’s formulaic and a little conventional, with all sorts of exposition flying left-and-right, but it’s less of a metaphysical experiment than Prometheus was so, once again, it’s better.

But still, a tad bit disappointing. I don’t know why, either.

Not Ripley, but still has an odd hair-do. For some reason.

Because honestly, Scott does a solid job here. He knows how to racket up the tension, he knows how to take advantage of an A-list cast, and most importantly, he knows how to still shock and surprise us, but still, there’s a feeling had with the movie that’s all the same beats hit, again and again, time after time, and now, it seems like it’s just running out of ideas. Then again, maybe it’s not; Covenant does set itself up as a sequel, but also shows us that there’s a much larger, much grander universe out there, just waiting to be explored with more and more movies to follow.

So in a way, Covenant is like a refresher-course for those who were worried of the Alien franchise blowing and not having any reason for its return. Scott seems to have a genuine interest in where these stories can go and eventually, lead to, even if it seems like he’s taking his good old time, taking an opportunity to give us another trapped-in-space-by-aliens-tale, rather than, you know, exploring more and more.

Then again, it’s entertaining. it’s hard to have an issue with a movie when it’s doing that.

Even though, yes, it is a bit frustrating to watch such a talented and awesome ensemble, essentially, be left to just spout out a bunch of sci-fi gibberish, when they aren’t giving us frightened and freaked-out reaction-shots, but hey, it’s nice to have them around, right? The one who gets away the most is Michael Fassbender playing, get this, dual roles as one robot, and another one. But there’s a key difference in the way the two are – David is a cool, sophisticated robot with personality, whereas the new one, Walter, is much more advanced in that he doesn’t think for himself and is, basically, as dull as a doorknob. It works for Fassbender who has fun, both as a the square-edged dork, as well as the charmingly freaky David, and makes his scenes, genuinely intriguing, because you never know where they’re going to go, or lead to.

Something this movie needed more of, but once again, was still entertaining.

Consensus: While not necessarily a game-changer for the franchise, Covenant is still a fun, intense and rather exciting entry that showcases Scott doing what he does best, even if there is some disappointment in him not trying a bit more of something, well, new.

7.5 / 10

Everyone’s waiting, Ridley. Now kill ’em!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Goat (2016)

For a few thousand up-front, they’ll be your friends for life.

The summer before his life changes forever and he starts college, Brad (Ben Schnetzer) goes through a very traumatic time in his life where he is robbed and carjacked by a pack of thieves he knows nothing about. Brad isn’t ready for the real world just yet and begins to have second thoughts about actually going to college, until his older brother, Brett (Nick Jonas), promises him that everything will get better once he joins up at his frat. Brad doesn’t really know what he wants to do, but he wants something to get all of his anger out, so he decides to pledge which, at first, is all fine and dandy. The guys all get to know each other, drink, party hard, and have sex with all sorts of hot chicks. But after pledge week is over, it all gets very dark, very twisted, and very serious, with pledges having to do all sorts of cruel and messed-up things to one another, in hopes that they will become apart of this frat, and most importantly, the brotherhood that the frat promises.

Crazy times with the one relevant Jonas bro!

Crazy times with the one relevant Jonas bro!

Though it’s incredibly hard to find, Todd Phillips’ Frat House documentary truly is an eye-opener for those who never got to experience a real-life frat for what it was, or even actually saw one and only learned of how they were from movies and such. Whereas a lot of movies will glamorize these free-wheelin’ lifestyles chock full of booze, drugs, sex, parties, bro-bonding, and countless other events of full-on debauchery, the documentary showed that there was a more sadistic side to all of these supposed wonderful and great things. Instead of making it seem like a fraternity is the way to go for any college male looking for the perfect set of friends and parties, it showed that maybe, just maybe, going to the library and staying in isn’t such a bad thing.

After all, you won’t have nearly as many psychological issues when you graduate and are ready to actually begin with the rest of your life.

But anyway, the reason I bring up that movie is because a good portion of it feels as if it’s all been brought to film in Goat, even though co-writer/director Andrew Neel has drawn most of this from his real-life experiences in fraternities. And because of that, the movie still feels real; everything we’re seeing isn’t done in the usual, over-the-top manner, but instead, with a keen eye for certain details about this lifestyle that makes you feel like you almost are watching a documentary at certain times. Neel is a smart director though, in that he opts to never really get too close to everything here, even though he definitely could have with all of his experiences in real life; while it would have been easy for him to paint his wild and crazy times in a frat as “rad” and “awesomely awesome”, he opts more for sitting back and saying, “well, maybe it was kind of screwed-up”. But at the same time, he’s not.

See, there’s this detached feeling to the proceedings that take place during Goat and it makes a lot of what’s happening all the more compelling to watch. The movie could have easily gotten on a high horse and made it out to be that frats are the worst things to happen to college life since the cafeteria (which, it may honestly be), but it doesn’t try to get across a message in any way, shape or form. After all, the movie understands that for some of the dudes apart of the frat, it is their lives and without it, they would sort of be nothing; James Franco’s small, but powerful cameo as a former brother who shows up for a little to drink and forget about his wife and kid, shows that this frat lifestyle never goes away, no matter how far away you get from it.

It’s actually kind of scary, but it’s even scarier once you remember that frats still do exist at colleges and they’re still doing a lot of what they’ve been doing since they ever started.

"Don't blink, or take a shot of some warm liquid."

“Don’t blink, or take a shot of some warm liquid that’s totally not urine.”

That said, Goat is also a movie that needs to have a story, and not just be one scene of hazing, after another, and yeah, this is where it kind of falls apart. Neel is great at setting up the scenes for these seemingly unpredictable moments to happen, but when it comes to actually getting across some sort of story, in which there are random acts of violence and even a death, it all comes off as a little melodramatic. Not to say that these sorts of things don’t show the true danger of frats, but they also do so in a way that makes it feel a bit like an afterschool special – albeit, one with a whole lot more cursing, drinking, and nudity.

But thankfully, the performances do help it out. Ben Schnetzer is a very young talent who constantly keeps on showing up in interesting stuff, even if the movies themselves don’t always work. Here, as Brad, he gets to do a lot by showing us this truly nerdy guy who may or may not have a darker side to him, but wants to get it out in any sort of way that he can. Some ways, he reminds me of a few kids I knew going to school, who despite seeming like your normal, everyday geek who came and went to class, didn’t say a word, and seemed to keep to himself, all of a sudden was a part of a frat, bro-ing out, drinking hard, having all sorts of crazy sex, and acting like a crazy and out-and-out maniac. Brad’s that guy and Schnetzer is great at making us wonder just where he’s going to go next. Same goes for Nick Jonas’ Brett, who gets a whole lot more sympathetic as he goes on, showing that this cold, dark and awfully cruel world of fraternities can have some honest souls who don’t want to see their friends roll around in feces and dirt just to get into more parties for free.

Sometimes, they just want everyone to have a good time and not lose their own self-worth.

Consensus: Dark, disturbing and shocking, Goat works as an eye-opener for those who aren’t used to seeing fraternities depicted in this way on the screen, even if its accompanying story doesn’t always seem to be as interesting.

7.5 / 10

If you're waking up to this, it's time to get to class ASAP.

Just bro’s being bro’s.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Billboard, Brightest Young Things

Sausage Party (2016)

I prefer my groceries non-verbal and dead, thank you very much.

Frank (Seth Rogen) is a sausage in a grocery store and just like every other product in this grocery store, they all dream of a better life, where they’re picked up by customers, taken out of their plastic wrappers, and brought onto “the promised land”. While no product has any actual idea of what lies ahead, once they are picked up and bought, their imaginations run so wild that they create a song and dance number to make themselves more attractive to the customers, or as they call them, “Gods”. For Frank, however, it’s less about being taken to this so-called “promised land”, and more or less allowed to finally have some sweet, sweaty and dirty sex with his girlfriend, a bun named Brenda Bunson (Kristen Wiig). But for some reason, as of late, Frank has been contemplating the world outside of the grocery store and because of this, he doesn’t really know if he wants to be taken to “the promised land”, leading him on this wild adventure of getting back on the store-shelves, while also ensuring that what he’s doing is right.

You know, what normal store-bought sausage franks think about on a regular basis.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The truth about sausages and buns.

The whole idea of Sausage Party is that it’s an R-rated, raunchy-as-all-hell, mean, vulgar, and nasty animated flick that’s mean to some sort of play on Toy Story, where inanimate objects walk, talk, and act, just like you or I, yet, at the same time, don’t really know much about the world around them, other than what they see in their small, contained worlds and possibly what their told. Honestly, it’s a genius idea that’s a lot more ambitious than it sounds and given the cast and crew involved, it’s a surprise that this didn’t come around sooner. Studios already have issues shelling out loads and loads of money to R-rated movies as is, let alone animated ones that are clearly not at all for kids, even if they’ll probably see the numerous ads, billboards and posters, wondering just what it’s all about and whether or not their parents can take them to see it.

Which is why Sausage Party, despite not being a great movie, is still a step in the right direction for more of these kinds of flicks to come out. Sure, they may be a better, or they may be a lot worse than Sausage Party, but still, they’re R-rated animated flicks, made by and strictly for adults. All of this garbage said, Sausage Party works when it’s trying to be a little more than what it appears to be on the surface; there’s lots of swears and cursing going on, some of which just feel like overkill, but there are also some nice little plays on this grocery-store world and puns, that make it feel like this movie had to take place with the kind of story that it has.

But then again, there’s also a slew of jokes and plays-on-words that are meant to be funny, but unfortunately, just aren’t.

Tequila's always fun no matter what form.

Tequila’s always fun no matter what form.

And really, that’s what it all comes down to when you’re working with a comedy – the jokes have to be funny and if they aren’t, then it’s a problem. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of times in which I laughed during Sausage Party, but there were also plenty of times that I didn’t, and it seemed disappointing, considering that everyone involved here are funny people and can make me laugh like a hyena, when they feel is necessary. The fact that they don’t always win me over with laughter, is fine, but when your movie is literally one joke after another, and a good portion of them don’t connect, it’s hard not to notice.

That said, Sausage Party still does work, because it’s got more on its mind than just talking-food – as was the case with This is the End, Sausage Party is a movie in which Apatow friends and company, all question their existence and wonder whether or not there is more to life than just what’s being presented to them. It’s a silly allegory, mostly due to the fact that it’s talking-food asking and looking for answers to these burning questions, but it’s an allegory that’s still smart and makes sense, given this story and these characters. There’s also all of this talk of race relations, religion and, believe it or not, politics, all of which don’t really feel necessary and don’t always work, but still make this more than what you’d expect it to be.

But still, Sausage Party isn’t trying to change the world we live in, and that’s okay. It’s a silly movie, that has fun with itself to the point of where it’s enjoyable and it doesn’t ask for much attention or thought necessary. The cast, as usual, is great, with Nick Kroll probably the stand-out as the Deuche, who sounds and acts like a Jersey Shore bro, as well as Edward Norton doing a very odd Woody Allen-impersonation. Not sure if the movie needed that later one, but hey, Edward Norton voicing a bagel is pretty cool, so I’ll take it.

I may not eat it, because that’s creepy, but I’ll take it.

Consensus: While not necessarily lighting the comedic world on fire, Sausage Party still works well with its creative idea, bringing out laughs and a surprising amount of food-for-thought while it’s at it.

7 / 10

Hungry now?

Hungry now?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? (2016)

Wow. Vampires may be cool again.

Leah (Leila George) is in college and, not surprisingly, a lot is happening to her – some good, as well as some bad, although it may not originally appear as that. After much training and working, Leah finally gets the lead in her school’s take on Macbeth, alongside a fellow acting enthusiast Pearl (Emily Meade). The two are cast in the lead roles by their director (James Franco), who not only sees it as a ballsy move on his part, but a revolutionary one, as well. Leah and Pearl, while initially awkward and not quite sure of how to approach one another turn out to, surprisingly, fall in love. Leah is ecstatic about this new point in her life, as well as is Pearl, however, the later’s holding a little secret to herself that may make, or break the relationship in one fell swoop: She’s a vampire. And yes, in order for Pearl to live, she has to suck on human’s blood – something that she feels Leah won’t be down with and, well, how could you blame her? It’s only a matter of time though before Pearl tells Leah just what’s up with her and they can figure out just where to go from there, if anywhere at all.

"Not enough blood do you think?"

“Not enough blood do you think?”

Lifetime is surprisingly getting better and better as we speak. While they’ve been on the butt-end of every bad joke for the past two decades or so, in the past few years, they’ve actually shown themselves to be quite able of producing quality material. Sure, their other TV shows that aren’t UnReal don’t really do much, but the fact that it has a show as good as UnReal on in the first place, ought to tell you something. And heck, even their movies, although sometimes way too silly for their own good, are still okay enough to surprise even someone like me.

That said, does that make them invincible? Nope, not really. That’s why a movie like Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?, while obviously trying to piggy-back off of the odd success of last year’s fun A Deadly Adoption, still earns points because it’s better than what you’d expect from a network such as Lifetime. After all, it appears like the movies they produce are mostly just done because they’re fun, over-the-top, and slightly serious flicks that only got off the ground in the first place because A-list actors and talent wanted to do something exciting with their off-time.

And with James Franco, Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? gets a lot of help from the fact that it’s a bit schlocky and silly, yet, at the same time, better than you’d expect.

It can definitely be silly whenever it wants to; the fact that it never stops bringing up various points about vampire movies and the way they use their sex to express themes about humanity, while all appearing in a movie where vampires exist and use sex to express something about who they are, is never hidden. But that’s okay. The movie never tries to be all too serious to the point of where people watching it will miss the point of what it’s trying to do, nor does it ever get so crazy that you forget it has any sort of story, or message in the first place.

It’s just another Lifetime, after-school special that just so happens to be “okay”.

Obviously, it’s hard to expect this out of every Lifetime movie made from here on out, but what’s so interesting about this flick is that it does try to do something neat with its characters and its cooky plot. While you can definitely take the idea that these outcasts are in fact “vampires”, you could also look at it in another way, in how the movie tries to represent that as homosexuality; something that nobody really comes out in this movie and deems as “bad”, but some people don’t feel comfortable with, even despite the fact that this is the year 2016.

Someone needs to teach these millennials a thing or two about Gen-X.

Someone needs to teach these millennials a thing or two about Gen-X.

Case in point, Tori Spelling’s Julie, the mother of Leah, who obviously has a hard time coping with the new information that her daughter may, shockingly, be a lesbian. Her character isn’t against the reality, but doesn’t seem to expect it, or if anything, understand it. She’s an old-fashioned mother who should have probably been played by Dianne Wiest or Diane Keaton, and not a much younger Spelling, but hey, it brings up some interesting ideas nonetheless. The odd thing about Spelling is that she’s perfect for this role, however, for a much different, far more wild movie; she’s constantly showing up and camping it up, when everyone else seems to be playing it straight-laced and serious. While you could chalk this up to be her just being a bad actress, honestly, I feel as if she’s okay when given something to work with (the House of Yes), which means that her work here shouldn’t be taken as a negative – just as something that doesn’t work here, but would totally work in something else.

Like, I don’t know, say the original flick.

Anyway, the rest of the cast from Spelling is fine, too. Leila George is bright and spunky as Leah, a young woman who seems to be making that transition into adulthood, where she starts to learn a bit more about herself, as well as what she wants, as time goes by in this confusing, but ultimately beneficial time; Emily Meade has impressed me in the past and here, she does a good job as Pearl, someone we’re never too sure of, which works for her character; and James Franco, despite making it out to appear as if he’s in the thing the whole time, he actually only shows up every so often, looking as smug and as delighted as can be with whatever is going on here and honestly, that’s all we need from Franco, right?

Especially in something that’s made-for-TV and, above all, on Lifetime.

Consensus: Though it constantly battles itself between whether it wants to be serious at all, or just wacky and wild, Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? still works because it’s entertaining and way better than you’d ever expect a Lifetime movie to ever be,e specially given the plot-synopsis.

6 / 10

Same-sex vampires? Not on our televisions!

Same-sex vampires? Not on our televisions!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Holiday (2006)

It’s always those attractive celebrities who need the most love during the holidays.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both women who seem to be going through the same sorts of problems, even though both live in different countries. The former is from London, and had an affair with a man (Rufus Sewell) who has just recently gotten engaged; whereas the later is L.A.-bound and has a boyfriend (Edward Burns) who cheated on her. They both feel hopeless and upset, and with it being the holidays, they have no clue what to do next with their lives other than sit around, mope, and cry. However, Amanda has an idea that will also affect Iris: She wants to take a trip to London and Iris wants to take a trip to L.A. So the two concoct a plan where they’ll switch residencies for the time being and live in the other’s shoes. This all happens, but what surprises them both is how they end up meeting new people and, believe it or not, start striking up some romances of their own. Iris starts to see a film composer, Miles (Jack Black), whereas Amanda starts to hook-up with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Both are happy and enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they’ll eventually have to get back to their real lives, and it’s something that may keep the relationship’s away from being anything more than just “some fun”.

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

And honestly, that’s all there really is to this movie in terms of complications or tension. There’s no big twist thrown at the end to throw the whole plot and/or its characters into a whirl-wind of chaos, nor is there any sort of hurdle that these characters have to get over in order to make themselves feel fulfilled. It’s honestly just a bunch of hot-looking, attractive people, flirting, dating, smooching, sexxing, and then, oh wait, having to then come to terms with the fact that they’ll be living in separate parts of the world in a few days.

That’s it.

A part of me should be pleased that writer/director Nancy Meyers didn’t try too hard to make this movie anymore complicated than it needed to be. So rarely do we get movies that are literally about, what it’s about, and don’t try to stray too far away from that original-plot. So in that general aspect, Meyers does a fine job of giving the audience, exactly what they’re seeking for.

But at the same time, there still needs to be a bit more of a plot to make up for the fact that this movie is over two-hours long. However, it’s not the kind of two hours that flies on by because of the company the movie keeps; it’s every bit, every hour, every minute, and every second of two hours and 16 minutes, which is to say that it definitely needed to be trimmed-down in certain areas. The main which being the scenes that Iris has with her older neighbor (played by the late, great Eli Wallach). Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are nice, charming, and sweet, but as a whole, they don’t really add much to the final product; we just sort of see that Iris is a kind, loving and caring gal that’s nice to old men.

Once again, that’s it.

The scenes that she has with Jack Black’s Miles, tell more about her, her personality, and the kind of lover she is – the scenes she has with Wallach, thankfully, do not. However, Winslet, as usual, is as lovable as she’s ever been; it certainly helps that Iris is a strong-written character to begin with, but it also has to do a great deal with the fact that Winslet can handle both the comedy, as well as the more dramatic-aspects of the script, whenever she’s called on to do so.

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

Diaz herself is quite fine as Amanda and also does the same as Winslet does: She balances out both the heavier, as well as the lighter material well enough to where her character stays consistent with the movie’s emotions. It’s not a huge shocker to know that I’m not a big fan of Diaz, but she’s actually quite enjoyable to watch here, because she doesn’t always over-do her act. Her character may be a bit stuck-up, but that’s the point; to see the cracks and light in her personality shine through, makes her all the more likable and sympathetic, regardless of where she comes from.

But this isn’t just a lady’s affair, because the men who do show up, also give their own, little two cents to make the Holiday work a bit more than it should. Black isn’t as grating as he usually is, and Law, the handsome devil that he awfully is, also shows certain layers deep inside of a character that could have probably been as dull as a box of hammers. Thankfully, he isn’t and it helps the relationship that his character and Diaz’s strike-up.

Problem is, though, it’s that run-time.

Also, not to mention that the movie doesn’t really make any reason for its existence. There are a few occasions where it’s funny, but for the most part, it’s just particularly nice. Nice does not mean “funny” – it just means that the movie can be seen by practically all audiences, regardless of age. Nancy Meyers always makes these sorts of movies and while they may not necessarily be lighting the world on fire, they’re just pleasant enough to help any person watching, get by. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a kid, an adult, a senior citizen, gay, straight, bisexual, married, single, widowed, engaged, in a “it’s complicated“, or whatever. All persons from all walks of life can enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie.

That alone does not make them amazing pieces of film – it just makes them accessible.

Consensus: With a likable cast and fluffy-direction from Nancy Meyers, the Holiday is fine to watch and relax to, even despite it being way too long, and feeling as such.

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

True Story (2015)

Got to look out for those charming serial killers; they’re the hardest ones to loathe.

After being publicly shamed and fired for fibbing about a story he did on child-slavery in Africa, ex-New York Times journalist Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) is left jobless, depressed and desperate to find any sort of work that may possibly come his way. Eventually though, work does eventually find its way to him – however, just not in the ways he had intended. After being on the run from the feds for the alleged murder of his wife and two kids, Christian Longo (James Franco) fled to Mexico, where he went under a false identity; who also just so happen to be Mike Finkel. Though Longo didn’t get away with this, the real Mike Finkel still finds plenty of interest in this and, seeing a book-deal in the horizon somewhere, decides to jump on the opportunity right away to interview Longo, get to know him better, and eventually, figure out the truth about just what the hell happened and whether or not Longo even committed the crime to begin with. Eventually though, Mike’s obsession with Longo’s life begins to grow almost too serious, which is when Mike’s fiancee (Felicity Jones) sees that it’s time to step in and check out what this Christian Longo guy is all about, if anything at all.

What we have on our hands here, folks, is the classic case where the real, true-to-life story the movie’s discussing and adapting, is way more interesting than the movie itself ever turns out to be. That’s not to say that there aren’t bits and pieces of True Story that don’t sizzle, pop and crackle, as reading this story straight from its Wikipedia page would, but there’s something to say about a movie where it’s constantly made clear that you’ll probably want to read the actual details on what really happened, rather than taking this movie’s word for it.

Pack your bags up, Jonah! You've got more movies with Marty Scorsese to do!

Pack your bags up, Jonah! You’ve got more movies with Marty Scorsese to do!

Because hey, Hollywood lies and they can’t always be trusted.

However, in True Story‘s case, there seems to be too many creative-licenses taken at times that makes this feel like a jumbled-up mess, when it sure as hell didn’t need to be. For instance, the inclusion of Felicity Jones’ character never makes sense here and, on more than a few occasions, takes away from what could have been a thoughtful, intriguing piece about the mental cat-and-mouse games we sometimes play on those who we feel are equal enough to us to play back. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Felicity Jones and considering that she’s red hot right after her Oscar-nominated performance in the Theory of Everything, I’m especially happy to see her be able to take center-stage against the likes of Franco and Hill, but when her scenes with them are supposed to bring some heartfelt emotions, they can’t help but ring false.

And most of this can be attributed to the fact that this is director Rupert Goold’s first time behind the camera, and it damn well shows. According to what I’ve read (because people do that, you know?), Goold comes from a long history of theater and directing plays, which makes total sense; some of the best parts of this film are when it’s simply just two or more people, sitting in a room, talking to one another, and seeing what shoe drops next. Most of these scenes include both Hill and Franco talking to one another, but it works so well because not only are these two actors solid here, but their characters have genuine tension together that you don’t know whether they’re going to take out weapons and start brawling, or rip-off each other’s clothes, shut the lights off, and start making some sweet, hot and sexy love.

Either turnout seems interesting and more than likely, especially considering that these two seem so incredibly comfortable with one another, that even when they aren’t supposed to be laugh-out-loud stoners making us laugh, they’re die hard thespians that try to one-up the other, in any way that they can. In some ways, it’s less of a mind game between these two characters, and more of a mind game between these two actors, who definitely make the movie all the better by showing up, ready to work.

Goes to show you that it’s not such a problem to change things up every once and awhile and get downright serious with your work.

Franco, so smug right now.

Franco, so smug right now.

But Franco and Hill, as hard as they try, aren’t fully capable of keeping this movie above the water for long enough to where the problems within aren’t noticeable. Like I mentioned before, Goold comes from a theater background, and because of this, when he gets right down to making this story about something, rather than just about two guys talking to one another and constantly lying about what may have, or may not have happened on some fateful date in their lives, he stumbles a whole heck of a lot. There’s a point here to be made about the state of modern-day journalism, and how some people are so willing to stay successful and famous for as long as they can, that no matter what, they’ll cover whatever comes their way, but even that feels oddly-placed in a movie that doesn’t know who it wants to judge, or what it wants to say about these people.

Judging from this movie, Mike Finkel isn’t the best journalist who lied about his story to get it past the editing process and hopefully make him a huge star. That didn’t happen, and because of that, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, even if the movie makes it seem clear that what he does after losing his job, is all the more humiliating. Then, at the same time, it still can’t help but to judge him for jumping on something as odd as Longo’s case, which is where the movie got odd. Is it against Finkel as a person? As a journalist? Or, as somebody who wanted to hold onto any sort of fame he could grasp a hold of?

Whatever the point to it all may have been, it’s hard to put a finger on. Even if Hill and Franco, yes, do seem to be trying here. And, most importantly, don’t seem all that stoned.

Okay, maybe a little.

Consensus: True Story gets most of its mileage out of the solid performances from Hill and Franco, but everything else about is messy, ill-formed and almost too over-dramatic to be considered “the truth”, even if the movie loves spouting that fact many times throughout.

6 / 10

PDA?

PDA?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Interview (2014)

This is what we almost got nuked for?

Dave Skylark (James Franco) is the idiotic, but very energetic host of the incredibly popular talk-show Skylark Tonight. On it, Skylark gets famous people to reveal troubling secrets about themselves that they may have never been able to get out before. However, Skylark wouldn’t be where he is today if it weren’t for his talented producer/best buddy in the whole wide world, Aaron Rapoport (Seth Rogen). But eventually, Rapoport gets tired of doing the same old stupid, meandering things with the talk show and instead, wants to be taken more seriously. That’s why when he finds out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (Randall Park) is a huge fan of the show, both he and Skylark decide that it’s time to set an interview up and watch as the media surrounds them with love, respect, and adoration. Once the interview is set up, though, the CIA decides to get involved and set up a plan where both Skylark and Rapoport will assassinate Un, as a way to ensure that North Korea won’t attack the U.S. with their nukes. It’s a plan that may work, but with two bone-heads like Rapoport and Skylark at the helm, it probably won’t.

If every CIA member looked like Lizzy Caplan, I'd be looking for applications automatically.

If every CIA agent looked like Lizzy Caplan, I’d be looking for applications automatically.

So yeah, there’s been a lot of talk about this movie in the past few weeks. Clearly I don’t need to dive into it too much, seeing as how the rest of the world has been keeping their own tabs on what’s been shaking and baking with the Interview, it’s release-date, and how. But, what I find the most interesting aspect of this whole debate as to whether or not Sony should have cancelled the movie in the first place, is that the movie’s quality itself is hardly ever brought up. Surely a movie that’s threatening to have the U.S. under terrorist attacks, be something of a modern-masterpiece, right?

Well, not really. But then again, it didn’t need to be, either.

All in all, what the Interview actually is, is another Seth Rogen movie; one where dudes act sort of/kind of/maybe gay with one another, marijuana is smoked, and there’s plenty of dick jokes to go around for every man, woman, and child. It’s a formula that most of us can identify as coming a mile away now, and it’s one that I don’t necessarily have a problem with. So much so as that it’s constantly funny and always able to keep me entertained. Once it stops being that, then it’s time for the formula to change altogether, or maybe spice things up a bit.

And from the forefront, this movie seemed to be exactly that. Not only is the premise an ambitious one for such a fellow like Seth Rogen (as well as his co-director Evan Goldberg) to tackle, but one that could even have something smart or thought-provoking about the current state of U.S. affairs, North Korea, Nuclear war, and even the idea of what modern-day journalism actually is. While most of these ideas are brought up, they aren’t fully touched on and only feel like a slight taste of what could have been, had Rogen and Goldberg been more concerned with actually making a point with their comedy, rather than just telling a bunch of sex and butt jokes.

However, when those sex and butt jokes are funny, sometimes, it doesn’t always matter. Sure, it’s definitely lovely to have a comedy that’s not only funny, but smart, interesting, and even important to see and listen to, but that is not the Interview. It’s just another one of Seth Rogen’s many raunch-fests where he makes dirty jokes – some land, some don’t. But all in all, they’re funny and you have to give credit to somebody who seems so ordinary as Rogen to actually go out of his way and create something like this.

Even despite all of the hullabaloo surrounding it.

That’s why, to be honest, it doesn’t matter if the Interview is a great movie to begin with. It is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Generally speaking, there is a part of me that wished Rogen and Goldberg went a bit deeper into what it was that they were trying to say, on any of the broad topics presented. For instance, the movie brings up the fact that Un is starving his people, while also bringing up points about U.S.’s hypocritical ways when it comes to nuclear weapons and when they seem pertinent to use, and when not to. It’s an interesting idea that the movie shows itself of having, but it doesn’t go anywhere further with it. In Rogen and Goldberg’s minds, it seems like simply bringing it up is enough; doing any more leg-work wouldn’t seem ideal. Though they have many ways to go before they’re the premier comedy writers and directors of our time, I’m still interested in seeing what they’ve got on their plates next.

I just hope that they add a bit more substance to their flicks and develop it further than just surface-material. That’s all.

#NotaBoss

#NotaBoss

And speaking of Rogen, here as Aaron Rapoport, he’s very much in his comfort-zone. He’s nerdy, goofy, and the voice of reason at times, and it’s all so very charming. Once again, it’s the kind of formula that I could never see myself getting bored with, no matter how many times he decides to use it. Same goes for James Franco who, here as Dave Skylark, seems like all he did between scenes was snort a lot of coke. While it can sometimes make it seem like his character isn’t anything more than a caricature, it’s still pleasing to see Franco not only try in a movie, but still get me laughing.

But the one who really walks away with this movie and I sure hope to god doesn’t get type-casted for ever and ever because of this genius casting-choice is Randall Park as the notoriously infamous North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. Most of the reasons as to why North Korea were pissed off at this movie make sense, but other times, it doesn’t. Because not only does the movie portray Un in a sometimes charming-light, but even in a sympathetic one, too. Not fully, but when the movie does focus on Un, it’s mostly to show us that he’s a lonely guy, who not only wants to please his daddy, but even be looked at in a different way from the rest of the world.

Of course this facade eventually runs its course and we see a darker, more-known side to who Un may be, but Park is the one who keeps him away from being a snarky caricature of someone we think we know right from the first moment we meet him. But Park, as well as the rest of the movie, shows us that there may be more to Un than we initially expect there to be. He’s not a great guy and sure as hell is not a saint, but he’s still a person and a sometimes fun one at that. However though, the movie steers clear of making him out to be a totally sympathetic character, because, as we all know full well, he’s not. But as is the case with most bad human beings, we hope that there’s something more. Even if it isn’t there.

Sort of like the Interview.

Consensus: Controversy aside, the Interview is still a funny, sometimes smart comedy, although it does occasionally flirt with being about bigger, bright ideas, and then not going anywhere with them.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The future faces of America, everybody.

The future faces of America, everybody.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Third Person (2014)

Always heard Rome was the most romantic place to be on Earth. Turns out, eh, not so much.

A bunch of stories that, despite taking place in different places, are inter-connected through the power of love, children, and forgiveness. Or something like that. In one story, a middle-aged writer (Liam Neeson) has just left his wife (Kim Basinger) for a much-younger confidante of his (Olivia Wilde), and the two converge in a wild vacation in Paris. Another story, there’s a mysterious businessman (Adrien Brody) who meets a random woman (Moran Atias) in a bar in Rome and ends up getting thrown into her very dramatic life that leaves him wondering if he wants to continue on this adventure with her or not, or go back to his boring, subdued life in the States. And lastly, there’s a story of a young woman (Mila Kunis) who is finding it hard to get over a supposed crime she committed to a kid and is currently in the midst of a rough custody-battle with her ex (James Franco) over their child.

In case you couldn’t tell by now, Paul Haggis definitely likes to make his movies about “something”. Now the answer to what that “something” may be is a whole different question altogether,  but there’s always a feeling one gets when watching a Paul Haggis movie that all of what you’re seeing, is supposed to have a big, ultimate meaning at the end. And though people may have a problem with that, I for one have to credit someone like him for at least stepping out and trying to make his pieces more than just conventional-fare that doesn’t have much to think about when you get down to it. It’s risky for a film-maker, especially nowadays, to test the boundaries of cinema and see what can come out as the end result, even if said end result isn’t as perfect as the creator may have originally intended for it to be.

Oh, James. So serious. So "artsy".

Oh, James. So serious. So “artsy”.

That said, there’s something odd going on with Third Person that I feel like even Haggis himself loses a bit of control over.

For instance, all of the different subplots Haggis has going on here, there’s hardly an interesting one to be found. Sure, some of the themes he’s dealing with like adultery, love, forgiveness, and heartbreak may all be relateable, but they hardly add up to much other than being “about that kind of stuff”. Also, you can discuss these ideas and show how it all connects to your story, but if you’re not really doing anything to grab our attention in the first place, then what’s the point? Is it entertainment? Is it to tell people you like to think a lot about big, important stuff? Or, do you simply just need a format in which you can stand on your soapbox and preach for the whole world to hear?

Well, I’d say that in the case of Haggis, the later two options are definitely possibilities. Which is a shame because Haggis, as usual, has assembled a pretty solid cast on his hands here, it’s just that none of them are given much of anything interesting to do and also, it becomes very clear early on that their performances don’t mean diddly-squat to what it is that Haggis wants to say. In a movie like Crash, it was easier for the cast to shine and show that they could get in the way of Haggis’ moralizing, but here, with Third Person, mostly everybody’s trapped, can’t get out and eventually, just have to give in to the fact that they’re in Haggis’ control. And with that, it’s going to be quite difficult to break away from the rest of the movie and leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

The only one who I think does such a thing is Olivia Wilde and obviously, for all the wrong reasons. Yes, Wilde does get quite naked in this movie and definitely shows us that she’s got a wonderful body to go along with that wonderful face of hers, but her character becomes so unlikable and cloying, that you feel bad for Wilde, because you know she wants to win over the audience like she usually does in anything she’s in. But here, considering she’s playing a gold digger that goes for older, married-men, there’s already a feeling that she’s not a character we’re supposed to care for much and Haggis doesn’t stop trying to make that clear to us.

It’s just such a shame that Olivia Wilde had to be on the opposite end of that lesson. What a lovely, lovely woman she is.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

And as for the rest of the cast, everybody else is pretty much the same – nobody’s spectacular, yet, nobody’s bad either. Liam Neeson is the adulterating older man that decides to start sleeping with Wilde’s character and is okay, but his whole shtick of writing a book and not being able to complete it/get it published, gets old quick and shows that maybe Neeson wasn’t the best choice for this role; Adrien Brody makes a nice choice at choosing who he works with for once in a long while, but sadly, plays this role of a mysterious businessman with as much emotion as a cardboard box; Mila Kunis spends a lot of time yelling, looking befuddled, and constantly running around; James Franco does quite the opposite in that he stares, whispers certain sayings and acts his usual cool-self; and Kim Basinger’s hardly around enough to leave an impression to where we feel bad for her and the situation she’s left to deal with.

But at the end of all this, Third Person ends up being a trick movie, in that, everything we see, may or may not be how it actually happens. And somehow, all of these stories are connected, more so than we originally thought. It’s a neat trick that I applaud Haggis for trying here, but sadly, it doesn’t work and makes it clear that this director had a goal here, and it wasn’t to give us compelling characters or stories; just to lead us on a non-meaningful story, only to then pull the rug from underneath us at the last second.

Paul Haggis, you bastard. Brokeback Mountain should have totally won.

Consensus: Every minute of Third Person, it’s clear that Paul Haggis is running the show and not only does it get in the way of the cast, but gets in the way of creating an actual compelling narrative, that people could actually be affected by.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"And so I told him 'I will find you, and I will kill you.' Hahahaha!"

“And so I told him ‘I will find you, and I will kill you.’ Hahahaha!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Surprise! Surprise! The war fucks up young people and their minds.

Hank (Tommy Lee Jones), a former military MP, finds out that his son has gone AWOL and that there might even be a possibility of him dead. Hank then decides to take it upon himself to drive down to the Army base, and figure out just what the hell has happened to his kid and all of the fellow soldiers that were with him. The problem is, nobody’s giving him straight answers. That’s when Hank asks the help of Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), a New Mexico police detective, who finds it harder and harder to not only discover the truth, but be taken seriously among the rest of her fellow, more-masculine detectives.

Most movies that deal with the war, usually aren’t the pretty ones where everybody loves the war, hangs their flags, high-fives their fighting boys, and ends by chanting, “U.S.A!! U.S.A.!! U.S.A.!!”, altogether at once. Nope, Hollywood is a bit too liberal for that crap and instead, decides to usually stick it’s nosy head in, peek around a bit, and have a thing or two to say. And usually, it’s not a pat on the back, or a simple “thank you”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nine times out of ten, you’ll usually find me talking shit against the war, some of the people that take part in it, and just what the hell is the reason behind all of it, but still, Hollywood never seems to have anything nice to say about it at all, and even when they do, it usually turns into over-patriotic shite like this.

Still, though, you have to give credit to movies like these that are able to tell us some obvious and well-known ideas about the war, but still make it feel honest and raw, rather than blatant and preachy. Some of it does feel like that, but not all of it, and that’s a sigh-of-relief, based on the fact that this movie is written and directed by the same dude who gave us this scene. Yeah, if you’re with me on this, Paul Haggis is the notorious writer/director behind Crash, everybody’s favorite-hated Best Picture winner of the past decade and tries to bring that same heavy-handedness to this story. Thankfully he doesn’t get too far because he always has a sense of human depth and emotion that keeps it surprisingly grounded in reality most of the time. Not all of the time, but most and that’s great to see in a flick where it could have easily been a train wreck of non-stop patriotism, from start-to-finish, but ends being something honest.

"Here, take it. It's called "The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker."

“Here, take it. It’s called “The 100 Steps to Being One, Grumpy-Ass Motherfucker.”

But what this flick is more concerned with, is its characters, and showing how they deal with their daily hardships they encounter day to day, and how they get through grief, sadness, and the war our country is currently fighting in. Seeing how most of these characters can relate and act with one anothe, is a beautiful thing to watch because it feels natural. Some scenes are coated in sugar, and some don’t go down quite as well as Haggis may have imagined in his head, but to see these characters realize more about their lives by just relating life-experiences and stories with one another, really touched me in a way that was hard to explain when it happened, and especially after too.

I was actually really surprised how the movie depicted not just the war in Iraq itself, but it’s soldiers and how much we can still trust them with our country and our lives, but may not think the same when they get back. The most prime example of this is the fact that Hank’s son isn’t really a nice guy, and in fact, turns out to be more of an asshole as we find more out about him, what he was up to, and how he caught himself going AWOL. This movie could have definitely gone down that wrong path of making him seem like everybody’s, true American hero that fights for The Red, The White, and The Blue, sings John Mellencamp all day, and does it all for our safety, so we may live, breath, sleep, eat, and die in peace, like we were meant to be. If this sound’s lengthy and over-exposed, then you get my point: This flick could have easily gone down that path, but decided to show him as a human, rather than a figure we all like to imagine each and every one of our soldiers as. They all have problems, they all get sad, and most of all, they are pretty fucked-up once they get off the battlefield, and back at the dinner table with ma and pa.

It’s sad, but it’s reality, baby.

However, the movie isn’t focusing on it’s characters, it’s themes, or it’s harsh-realities, it’s focusing on it’s police-procedural that feels more like a cheap-version of NCIS that I didn’t need to be bothered with seeing in the first place. Usually, I don’t mind when movies keep this element in because it entertains, excites, and keeps the mystery afloat, but after awhile, there was no mystery nor was there any case. It came pretty clear to me that the kid was not going to be okay, and that somebody did do something bad to him. No real gray area to be found whatsoever. And before people get on my ass, I’m not trying to give anything away, but you’ll start to see that the movie isn’t trying to reveal more details and clues about what happened, it’s just trying to show it’s characters. We already know, they don’t. And that’s what felt unnecessary and stupid to have, even if it was worth it for the first 45 minutes or so.

Thankfully, Tommy Lee Jones was the one to keep this whole movie going and always rose above the material, even when it seemed to sink, lower and lower as it went along. Jones surprised the hell out of everybody when he was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Hank, as it not only came out of nowhere, but little to no one even heard about this movie nor that Jones was even in it. Maybe I’m wrong, but I still rarely ever hear this movie mentioned, which is a shame, because Jones’ performance is a great one that could have only came from this man who may always be known to be cranky and quick-whipped, but can play it subtle like nobody’s business. Jones shows real heart and emotion with this character and as time goes on and we see more about his kid, we start to see more him layer-out, especially in ways that I didn’t think were possible from Jones and Haggis. Jones’ character began to bother me a bit when he started to show unbelievable ways in how much smarter he was than the police, but after awhile, I stopped caring and just enjoyed the show that Jones was giving me to see. Maybe “enjoy” isn’t the right word to describe this movie or this performance, but I think you get my drift.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She's like barely here.

Her only scene. Nah, jaykay. But seriously. She’s like barely here.

Charlize Theron doesn’t back down from Jones’ acting either though and actually makes her character more than just another run-of-the-mill, strong female that we need in a flick like this, to show that she can not only hang with the big boys but learn a little something in life as well. Yep, her character is pretty conventional with the whole single-mommy thing, but yet, still works because Theron is not only a strong actress, but one that is able to adapt to any environment she is placed in and that’s a skill that most actresses haven’t been able to master just yet.

Susan Sarandon also got top-billing in this movie, and is pretty solid (as usual) as Hank’s equally-grieving wife, but doesn’t get much screen-time to develop her character. Then again, it’s Susan Sarandon and the girl can act alongside a piece of wood, and make it work. She’s that damn good. Also, James Franco is randomly here trying to look tough, buff, and cool, but seems like he’s really trying to hold in the fact that he just wants to smoke and eat some munchies. It’s so painfully obvious.

Consensus: Paul Haggis isn’t known for being all that subtle when it comes to his themes and messages about life, liberty, and war, but In the Valley of Elah still benefits from a wonderful cast, especially Jones, and characters that give us a darker look at the boys in uniform who are over there, fighting for us, protecting us, and yet, are just as equally as messed-up as we are.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Sir, yes sir?

Sir, yes sir?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

Palo Alto (2014)

California has some creepy-ass parents. And even more messed-up kids.

In California, a group of high school students come to terms with what’s supposed to be “adulthood”, yet, can’t seem to shake the fact at all that they might actually have to go through with it. Fred (Nat Wolff) is a wild, crazed lunatic that is downright unstable and on the verge of having himself a full-on, mental breakdown; Teddy (Jack Kilmer) is a meek, quiet, and reserved kid that likes to do most things that any teen on the face of the planet enjoys to do, but finds himself in a bit of a rut when he gets arrested one night; Emily (Zoe Levin) is a girl who gets around and uses sex as a tool for attention, but finds herself actually wanting a relationship with the wild-card that is Fred; and then there’s April (Emma Roberts). April is a smart one, but she’s also confused, angry and bored, which leads her into the arms of her soccer coach/baby-sitter employer (James Franco), and further away from the one that actually wants to be with her (Teddy). These four teens all know each other and find their stories interconnecting in ways, while also share the same idea: Being a teenager blows.

To be honest, that synopsis there was a bit of a stretch for me because there isn’t really much of a premise here. Instead, writer/director Gia Coppola (if you know the last name, you know exactly which family she comes from) just sort of moves this film from one event to the next, without much conflict, arch, or narrative to be found in there. It’a almost as if Coppola got this whole cast together, plopped the camera on the ground, and told them to “go!”, without really taking much initiative.

Probably listening to the Antlers, or whoever the "hip" band is nowadays.

Probably listening to the Antlers, or whomever the “hip” band is nowadays.

This may all sound like a bad thing, but I can assure you, it’s not. Somehow, this absolutely works for Coppola’s movie because it shows that she’s not judging anybody here whatsoever; there’s no villains, heroes, or clear-cut person that’s easy to predict what their actions next will be. Everybody here is a human being, and because of that stance Coppola seems to take, the movie feels exactly like that: A snapshot of real life, happening in front of our own very eyes. Sometimes, you could even say it’s a bit too real, but there’s something different here about the reality of these teen’s lives that Coppola creates, then against something like say, I don’t know, a Larry Clark movie.

Here, Coppola distances herself away from the material and just allows everyone, and everything to tell itself out; whereas with most of  Clark’s movies, it’s clear and obvious that he has some sort of agenda – almost as if he’s just rubbing all of this meaningless debauchery in our faces to show us how realistic it all truly is. But Coppola isn’t that type of director, and while there may be some lurid acts here that may not sit well with possible-parents out there, it still works as a way of getting us deep inside this small, boring life that these young, privileged kids have surrounded around themselves. While plenty of kids do drugs, drink, have sex, break stuff, drink flower-pot water, get into car accidents, and listen to deafening hip, EDM-jams, it’s never supposed to be seen as fun. It may cause some people to laugh in a nostalgic, “hey, I remember when I did that back in the good old days before I got old and boring”-way, but for the most part, it’s supposed to show us, the audience, that these kids are living dull lives.

Yet, it’s all that they have and somehow, you end up feeling bad for them because of so.

For example, take the character of Fred; the kind of guy you knew in high school who didn’t take shit from anyone, anywhere, regardless of it was reasonable or not. He just loved to be an asshole and get his point across, so therefore, he wasn’t the most popular/loved guy in high school, but everybody still knew exactly who he was. Watching him go around, insult people to their faces and basically say, or do, whatever comes natural to him, definitely strikes a chord with most of us who have ever felt that rebellious spirit burning deep down inside of themselves at any time in the adolescence. And because of this, Fred’s a pretty cool guy, albeit, a very dysfunctional one that doesn’t always make the right choices, with the best intentions.

However, that doesn’t make him a terrible human being, per se. It makes him somewhat thinly-minded, but he’s not a terrible person, which is something that Coppola wants to get across about each and everyone of these characters; they make decisions, not all of which will be morally correct in the eyes of “the perfect human specimen”. Because of this, it’s characters like Fred that are seen as honest and raw kids that you could walk into on the street, or may have even met back in the day, before all of the selfies and Twitter took charge of the young, fragile minds.

Gosh, this generation truly is fucked. You know?

Anyway, speaking of Fred, Nat Wolff is a downright scene-stealer in this role and shows me exactly why this kid is a young talent to be looked after. As I’ve said before about Fred, he’s a bit of a punk that doesn’t always do, or say the right things, yet, has a conscience that wants to be with those who appreciate his company and also wants to have a good time. There’s a possibility that his character and Zoe Levin’s may start up something very serious and committed together, and it shows them two as more than just a bunch of reckless, shallow teens; they want love, but they’ve never felt, or had it before, so they don’t know how to approach it or go on about it. Zoe Levin is great too, by the way, and gives Emily a very sad-streak that reminded me of plenty of girls in high school that I “knew”.

I won’t say anything more than that, but yeah, you get my drift.

"Hey, 'James Franco: Soccer Coach', has a pretty nice sound to it."

“Hey, ‘James Franco: Soccer Coach’, has a pretty nice sound to it.”

The other “love” on the other side of this story is supposed to be between Teddy and April, but without saying too much, that angle gets shelved for April and her soccer-coach to engage in some heavy, full-on flirting and kissing. Which, oddly enough, seems to be the main-attraction for this movie, only because of James Franco, but is probably the least-interesting aspect of the whole movie and isn’t even featured all that much to begin with. Franco is good as the pervy older-guy who creeps on April and possible other young gals her age, but isn’t in it all that much to really show him as anything more than just an “old dude who wants to rob the cradle a bit”. You could pretty much just say “half of Hollywood”, but you get the picture.

As for Emma Roberts, she’s amazing as April because, even though her character does some foolish, child-like things, she always seems smarter and more thoughtful than she lets on. When it becomes apparent that she may in fact love her soccer-coach, it isn’t done so in a way that makes it seem like a total fantasy, it’s shown in an understandable, believable way that has us feel bad for April because there’s absolutely no good that come of this, while simultaneously also feeling happy for her that she’s found a possible love in her life and may actually be pursuing it for the first time. This may sound like a total compliment to Coppola, but it’s really to Roberts who allows April to say so much, without saying anything at all and adding layers to her thought-process and the way she handles certain situations.

But the best for last is Jack Kilmer as Teddy, who, if you don’t know by now, is the son of the almighty Val Kilmer (who cameos up in this movie and just about steals the whole thing with only a few words of dialogue). However, just by taking one look at the kid, you’d know that right away because not only does he look a lot like his daddy did when he was a lot younger (and thinner, just saying), but even shows some of the same strengths as an actor as well. Kilmer does a lot of looking, which may seem boring and uninteresting to some, but really emphasizes a certain amount of mystery this kid has going for him and why it matters how quiet he stays. He’s the kind of kid that didn’t really talk much in high school, yet, was always there and was always doing nice things. Like everybody else in this movie, he’s not perfect, but then again, who the hell is?

Better yet, who the hell is considered “perfect” in high school – the time where practically all of us hardly have any idea of what to think of ourselves as being?

Consensus: Well-acted by just about everybody in the cast and thoughtful, Palo Alto is a promising directorial-debut for Gia Coppola that shows her inherent beauty for some of the more quieter moments in adolescence, as well as the ones that have most of us thinking about what’s right, and what’s wrong.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

No way in hell would this ever work! You really think that this person and that person wants to be related to one another?

No way in hell would this ever work! You really think that this person and that person want to be related to one another?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Like they say, “Once you go black, you never go back.”

When we last left Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), things seemed to be going relatively fine. Not only did he save the day, once again, but he got the girl of his dreams, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst), patched things up with his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris), and finally told his best-friend Harry Osborne (James Franco) about the fact that he’s not only Spider-Man, but that his father tried to kill him. Sure, the relationship between those two may be strained and even have Harry himself go a bit coo-coo with vengeance, but for the most part, Pete’s life is happy, joyful and one that makes him happy to wake up in the day. However, that all changes one day when he finds out that his Uncle Ben’s killer, believe it or not, is still out there, and he’s going by the name of the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). To make matters even worse, Peter’s finding it hard to keep things going steady at work, and is finding some stiff competition in the newsroom with aspiring, fellow photo-journalist Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Also, remember the girl of his dreams that he thought he won, hook, line and sinker last time? Well, she’s starting to get second-thoughts about dating a superhero. Oh, and as if that wasn’t all bad enough for Spidey, for some reason, there’s this black, venomous acid following him around and latching onto his suit, changing up his hair-do, and making him act in a totally different way, that may make him feel great and all, but pushes those whom are close to him, further and further away.

Okay, so yeah, that’s a long premise. But it needed to be because let’s face it: This movie is a total, complete, over-stuffed mess. I knew that the second I walked out of the theater back in the early days of summer ’07, and I knew that less than three or four days ago when I found enough guts to go through with it and actually give this movie another try. Shame on me, but you know what? I gotta do it for all of you.

"Kame me, kame me...huh?"

“Kame me, kame me…huh?”

All you mofo’s better be happy with this.

But, to be honest, even though I’m getting off of on the wrong foot and making it seem like I absolutely loathe the heck out of this movie, I can’t say that I really do. Because somehow, I was able to find little, itty, bitty, pleasures here and there throughout the movie. Now, whether or not these pleasures were indeed intended to be “pleasureful” is totally up to Sam Raimi and the creative-powers that be whom got behind this, but the fact remains: Spider-Man 3 isn’t all that terrible. It’s not good, that’s for certain, but it’s not shitty either.

Confused by what I’m trying to say? Don’t worry, I am too. Here, let me try to explain:

What I like to think of this movie as being is one, big, nearly-two-and-a-half-hour long “fuck you” from Sam Raimi. No, not a “fuck you” to us, the dedicated, lovely audience that spent all of our minimum-wages on seeing his past couple of Spider-Man movies, but more as a “fuck you” to those who tried to get in the way of his creative-vision way too many times before. Maybe I’m just making this all up in my head to make myself feel better, but there’s no way in hell that Sam Raimi, the creator of some of the greatest, most iconic cult films of all time, thought that this was a good idea. Or hell, even this! And oh god no, dare I even talk about this travesty!

No, no, no! I refuse to believe that the some mastermind behind Ash would ever stoop this low and give us something as painstaking as most of this movie can be! I don’t care what anybody says, I will stand by my grave if I have to! They always say that “money can’t buy happiness”, well, nor do I think that it can buy creative consciences either. It’s clear to me that Sam Raimi doesn’t know what to do with each and everyone of these subplots, so instead, he just crams them altogether in a way that’s incoherent, but wholly uneven. One second, you’ll be getting something out of a comedy-sketch in which Peter Parker is walking down the street, dancing, walking all fly, acting cool and hitting on the ladies, while some funky bass-action plays in the background; and then, all of a sudden, the next second, you’ll get a scene or two in which the Sandman talks about his dying-kid and how he does all of this crime and whatnot for her.

One second, it’s a laugh-out-lough, camp-fest; the next second, it’s a total downer that will make you want to say “party’s over”. I’m not saying that certain movies can’t be both frothy and dramatic at the same time, there’s just a specific-balance that these movies are capable of handling and maintaining, and it’s clear early on that Raimi is not able to do that. Whether or not this was him just having an off-day and deciding to hell with it all, is sort of beyond me, but there’s just so much going wrong here, that it’s almost too hard to think of it as anything else other than a ruse played on all of us, as well as the numerous Hollywood producers backing this thing.

Which is a total shame, because with all of the material and promise Raimi had at his disposal here, he could have done some wonders – given that he had a three-hour run-time and at least took away a villain or two. But what happens here is that we get just about three villains, four-to-five conflicts for Spidey (not including his own conflict with himself), three-to-four extraneous subplots that literally add nothing to the story, and a two-hour-and-twenty-minute run-time that goes by quick, but only because the movie is never comfortable enough focusing on one thing. Raimi always has to be moving from one end of the story, to another, which makes a lot of sense since he clearly has a lot on his plate to chew on, but made it seem like it didn’t really know what to do or say with its plot, or any of its characters. So instead, it just fell back on the same old, high-flying, CGI-galore action that was always there to make things better for these movies in the past.

Yup, they're totally boned from here-on-out.

Yup, they’re totally boned from here-on-out.

However, this time around, everything else is so poorly-developed, that it just feels like a cheat to get our minds out of everything else that’s going on so wrong with this movie – especially with the characters. And hell, if there’s anything about this movie that fuels me even more is how they wasted the whole potential that Eddie Brock/Venom had as a villain. Don’t get me wrong, I think Topher Grace is a fine actor that’s been trying his hardest since day one to get out of that Eric Forman-shell that’s been carved for him since, well, yeah, day one, but he’s not right for this role. I get what Raimi was trying to do with the casting of him – make him something of an over-the-top, immoral, sneaky and sly son-of-a-bitch – which yes, does work when he’s being Eddie Brock, the photojournalist for the Daily Bugle, but when he has to transform to Venom with about 15 minutes left of the movie, it feels like an after-thought. Almost as if the producers wanted Raimi to throw him in there for good measure, only to realize that the rest of the movie was stacked with so much to begin with.

And since I’m on the subject of new faces to this franchise, I have to say that I feel very bad for Thomas Haden Church here, because the dude is a great talent who just about makes everything better the minute he shows up in it. The problem with him here, as the Sandman, is that he’s given just about nothing to do. We get enough back-story to his character so that we can sort of see where he’s coming from, but it gets so convoluted once they start talking about how he apparently killed Uncle Ben in the past, that I just wanted them to stop with it all and move on. Give me the action, give me more scenes of Thomas Haden Church actually talking and showing some personality, and give me more of the core that really makes these movies tick in the first place: Pete and M.J.

It doesn’t matter what you’re own, personal opinions may be on Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst as working-professionals, but it should be noted that without them and their chemistry (or in some cases, lack thereof), this franchise would have fallen flat on its face as soon as it hit theaters. There would have been no “superhero movie boom”; no Spider-Man 2; no Amazing Spider-Man; no Amazing Spider-Man 2; nobody remembering who the hell James Franco was; and sure as hell no Spider-Man 3. Maybe we could have lived peacefully with that last aspect being gone and lost forever, but you get the picture – M.J. and P.P. gave these movies an extra oomph of heart and emotion that so many superhero movies try to recreate nowadays, but just can’t seem to get down perfectly.

However, here, the whole idea is that M.J. and Pete stop loving one another and grow apart, which kind of sucks to see since we’ve invested so much of our time in them, but by the same token, needs to happen in order for us to make them just a tad bit believable in terms of character-development and rounding the two out as individual beings, rather than just a couple. If this was done right, it would have been phenomenal to see, in a big-budget, superhero movie no less, but the movie really stumbles when it’s paying dear attention to this subplot. Pete eventually becomes a bit of a dick because of this venomous, gooey thing that keeps on attaching to his suit and making him act differently; and M.J. is coming at a bit of an existential crisis where she wants the focus to be constantly on her, her failing-career as a Broadway actress, and the fact that she’s been so loyal and dedicated to Pete, despite going around and starting to sleep with Harry, once again.

Ain’t nothing like old times, right peeps?

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don't just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Yes, get as far, far away as you can from this movie, James. Don’t just do us the favor, do yourself one.

Tobey Maguire, god bless him, tries his heart out but once Peter Parker gets that new, emo hairdo, it’s all downhill for him from there; Dunst looks bad because Mary Jane is so unlikable and unsympathetic in her whiniest performance yet; and James Franco, believe it if you will, probably has the best performance out of everyone here, just by getting a chance to live a little and show some of that Daniel Desario charm that was so absent from the two other movies. Which is strange considering that right as soon as this movie came out, hit theaters, broke a bunch of box-office records and basically ended the franchise that came to be known as “Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man“, Franco started popping-up in some interesting movies like Milk, Pineapple Express and In the Valley of Elah that not only stretched him a bit as an actor, but also showed the world that he wasn’t going to be doomed by his infamous past as “Harry Osborne, snobby, prick-ish son of a crazy billionaire”.

So yes, if there is anything, heck, anything at all good that you can take away from Spider-Man 3, it’s that it allowed James Franco to break-out from his cage and start trying his hand at some weird, quite frankly, goofy shit. But hey, we’re better as a society for it. Because seriously, when was the last time you actually got amped-up for something either Kirsten Dunst or Tobey Maguire were doing?

I rest my case.

Consensus: Long, overstuffed, uneventful, confusing, incoherent, and definitely disappointing, Spider-Man 3 may go down in the history books as one of the weakest superhero movies made in the past decade or so, but it isn’t without its small pleasures found along the way, if only for its most dedicated, easy, and calm viewers.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I tan."

“Shit. Gotta remember to take my suit off next time I’m trying to get that summer glow.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Just when you thought saving the world from evil, maniacal villains was enough.

Last time we left Peter Parker, he was trying to save the world from the havoc of a super-duper evil villain; win the heart of his lovely neighbor, M.J. (Kirsten Dunst); ace his college courses; still have a roof over his head; and be able to sleep soundly at night, knowing that he’s saved the day. And well, not much of that has changed a bit. Well, maybe instead of having the Green Goblin as a villain, he now has the incredibly smart Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina), and the four metal arms that control his every action and thought, leading him to want to destroy the world that’s been so crummy to him as is. Or, you know, something like that. Also going on, Peter has a problem with telling his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) the truth about what happened to their dear old Uncle Ben, on that one, fateful night. And then of course, there’s Harry Osborne (James Franco) who is rich and powerful now, after inheriting the family business from his deceased-father and still having a bit of a problem with Pete and the fact that he takes the man who killed his father’s pictures all of the time.

I’ve seen this movie many quite a couple of times and it hardly ever ceases to amaze me. Of course when I was a lot younger, this was considered “the best movie ever made, by far”, but now that I’m older, and hopefully wiser, it’s stooped-down to being “just as good, if not better than the first”. That’s just what happens with age, though, people. You get older, you learn a lot more and you know what you like, and dislike.

Here though, I like pretty much everything, even if I have seen this movie about ten or more times. That’s not an understatement either; I was brought-up on the Tobey Maguire – Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, which is why I have such a hard time loving these new ones, as well as being able to hate on the magic these two made in the first place. Sure, they’re definitely a lot goofier and lighter on their feet than what most of us are used to with superhero movies (thanks for that, Chris Nolan), but there’s something about their fun spirit and excitement that’s too hard to hate or ignore. Even when it comes close to running into “campy territory”, there’s still an essence that everybody involved is having a great time making this and for that, my soul just cannot hate any of them.

"Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured!"

“Dammit M.J.! I mean, I love you and all, but you got to stop getting captured without wearing a damn bra!”

Even the third one. But that’s a different review, for a different time (aka, tomorrow).

But anyway, like I was saying before, what Sam Raimi does so well here is that he does keep the same frothy, sometimes goofy and joy-free mood and tone of the first one, but ups the intensity of this by adding both bigger, bigger stipulations, but also giving us characters we can care and love a lot more than we did with the first one. It’s not like we didn’t get any character-development in the first Spider-Man movie, but it definitely didn’t go any further than “good guy”, or “bad guy”. Here though, we get characters, in a comic-book movie no less, that also happen to have dimensions and qualities that most human beings contain.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, that’s because it totally is! However, Raimi has just about each and every moment here that’s dedicated to building and making these characters who they are, feel somewhat genuine. He also does something strange for a mainstream, superhero blockbuster in that he lets a lot of scenes where two characters may be having a heart-to-heart or talking about something rather emotional, play-out in total silence, as if he isn’t telling us when the sad moments are coming. We’re just supposed to know what to feel, and cry, shake, tremble, or smile on our demand.

We so rarely see that with superhero movies, but Raimi took a big time risk here, and it paid-off especially well.

Another risk he took was in actually showing us the shitty side of being a superhero. Most of the time, we always see the person in the suit, messing shit up, being a boss, saving the world and getting the girl, the glitz, and the glamour by the end of the day, but what most of us really don’t see is what goes on when that said person gets out of that said costume and becomes what most of us are: Actual humans. Here, with Peter Parker, we get an idea that not only does it suck being depended on just about every second of every day, at every location in the heart of New York City, but that it’s even more of a drag having to deal with all of your other problems when you’re not out saving the world, one criminal at a time.

For Peter Parker, life kind of blows – the girl of his dreams is with some total meat-head, his best-friend doesn’t trust him, he’s not paying his rent, he hasn’t told his Aunt the dreaded secret that may ruin their relationship forever, and he can’t seem to hold down a steady job, or wage. But when he puts that suit on, life is suddenly better, if only by a bit. Still though, it’s apparent that being a superhero, no matter how many people look up to you as a result, it’s still a hard life to live. That’s why when Pete decides that it’s time to take a sabbatical of sorts, we want him to get all of the rest and chillaxing he can get; but also, not to wait too long either. Because, let’s face it, he’s Spider-Man and he’s a pretty awesome superhero when he’s kicking all sorts of butt.

And kicking all sorts of butt is what Sam Raimi allows for Spidey to do, more times than he did in the original. Though there is plenty of dramatic moments here where it’s just a couple of characters or two just sitting around and talking, Raimi still never forgets about the action, which features some of the most memorable brawls of recent-memory. That bank-robbery that turns into a fight on top of a skyscraper? Damn! The train-battle? Gosh! The moment Octavius becomes “Doc Ock”? Well, yeah, it’s pretty disturbing, even for a PG-13 superhero movie, but man, it was awesome!

In other words, Raimi gives us all the goods an average, everyday moviegoer could want, especially if they were coming to see a Spider-Man movie.

And of course, the cast is great too, with a few even putting in their best work of the whole franchise. Tobey Maguire may get a lot of crap for being the good-looking nerd everyone aspires to be (myself included), but it’s totally undeserved because the kid can act and handles his own as Spider-Man, and most importantly as Peter Parker. In fact, if Maguire wasn’t putting in great work here, this movie probably would have failed considering mostly all of it is focused in on Peter Parker, the person, rather than Spider-Man, the superhero the person becomes. Maguire may get a bit too earnest for his own good at times, but it’s easily forgivable since he’s just so likable and easy-to-root-for, because you know that while he wants to be at his girl’s play more than anything else in the world, he’s got a world to save and maintain peace within. If that doesn’t sound like a total dream-boat, I have no clue what does.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let's just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Ladies, we know the sex with him would be awesome. Let’s just keep our heads out of the gutter for the meantime.

Speaking of “his girl”, Kirsten Dunst is another who seems to get a lot of crap from those who think she can’t act, and I think that’s terribly wrong. For starters, she totally can and as she’s gotten older, she’s only been able to prove that moreso, time and time again. However, back in those good old days of the early-21st Century, I could see why some people got on her case as M.J. definitely isn’t the best-developed or most believable character out of the whole bunch, but at least Dunst seems like she knows what she’s doing when she’s delivering some of the cheesy-lines to be heard here. Same goes for James Franco as Harry Osborne, another one not many knew what to make of back in the day, but clearly has made a huge name for himself by just being him.

God, how time has changed.

With the absence of Willem Dafoe as the main baddie, we get Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius and the guy’s very good, as many could probably predict seeing as how Molina’s been a stand-out actor, putting in great work, time and time again. With Octavius though, Molina not only gets to show a human-side to a person who could be seen as a total monster, but even makes us see those small spots of humanity, even while his mind is practically being taken over by the evil chip in his brain. Though he’s clearly not as hammy as Dafoe was (therefore, eliminating some of the fun), Molina still feels like a real person who has been utterly driven to do bad things, for bad reasons and under extreme circumstances. Sort of like how Sam Raimi must have felt doing the third movie.

But like I said: Different review, for a different day, folks. Just you all wait.

Consensus: With a perfect mixture of heart, humor, action, excitement, and fun, Spider-Man 2 will go down in the books as one of the best superhero sequels of all-time because it never forgets what makes its story kick as well as it does, while also not forgetting to give the audience the high-flying, ass-kicking action they come to expect with a product like this.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it's a freakin' subway he's holding back!

How could you hate that heart-throb? I mean, heck, it’s a freakin’ subway he’s holding back!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Veronica Mars (2014)

High school is always such a drag without murder-conspiracies swelling around.

It’s been nine years since teenage detective/professional snooper Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) was last seen in her hometown of Neptune, California, and that’s how she would like to keep it. She’s got a nice lawyer-job coming her way in New York City, a boyfriend that she wants to get serious with and sees all of her hard work and time finally paying-off. That is, until she checks out the news and one day and spots an old-flame of hers (Jason Dohring) is embroiled in some sort of murder-scandal. Veronica doesn’t know what to believe, so she decides to take matters into her own hands and see what really happened, who was apart of it and even see if she wants to continue her ambitious-life in NYC, or just stay in Neptune for as long as she possibly can. Because, come to think of it, her high-school reunion is coming up. And even though she sure as hell doesn’t want to be spotted at one of those petty social-events, she might just decide to take one for the team and see if she can get ahead of her case; you know, the one that she’s decided to go out on a limb for herself. Nobody else. Just her. Veronica Mars, baby.

In case any of you lovely humanoids were wondering, the answer is “no, I never watched the original, Veronica Mars television show in its entirety”. I’ve seen a few episodes here and there, and with those few episodes, not only did I realize that it wasn’t exactly my cup-of-tea at the age of 12/13, but that those times would probably be the last I ever heard of the show in general. It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to actually do some research of my own, then I realized: People love the hell out of this show.

"Token black friend", and "token nerd friend", all in one place. So lovely!

“Token black friend”, and “token nerd friend”, all in one place. So lovely!

I don’t know what the case was for me – maybe I wasn’t fully established as an “entertainment-junkie” by that time, or maybe it was just that something about the show really did bug me. Either way, I was surprised to see that so many people adored this show. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to watching it all in its entirety, then again, maybe not.

Regardless though, the fact of the matter remains that this is in fact a sequel-of-sorts of what happened after the show ended its original run and if you’re like me who was worried right from the get-go, here’s some friendly advice: Don’t worry if you haven’t seen the show already. The movie starts things off quite perfectly in giving us the events, happenings, ideas and themes from the show, in a neat, little “Previously On”-like method. It works because, for somebody like me who had barely any clue just who these people were or why any of them even mattered, it kept me glued-in and absolutely did the homework for me, allowing the movie to work its magic as it went along.

In fact, if there is any criticism I may have against this movie, it’s that some of it was a little too “insider-y” for me at times. That’s more of a negative towards me as a viewer for not catching up on the show beforehand, but I think for some people, it will be a bit jarring, especially if they haven’t seen the show beforehand, or understand some of these characters’ significance to the overall plot and setting. Basically, every once and awhile, a certain character will show-up who clearly is meant to be there for the die-hard fans to go nutso over, which is fine. The only problem is that, like I said before, the rest of us will find it a bit jarring and left in the dark. The good news is that that doesn’t always keep on happening throughout the whole movie, because once you eventually get used to the surroundings built here, you’ll find it to be a pretty fun time. As did I.

What works well with a movie like this is its central character, Veronica Mars. And what that really boils down to is the fact that she is so perfectly-played by Kristen Bell, it’s hard for me to imagine anybody else ever playing her before, let alone filling her shoes for a reboot or something. Bell is always lovely, funny, spirited and energetic, and always seem to make the most out of whatever crapola she accidentally shows her face up in. But, all of those bad movies she took her time to do, all cancel-out with Veronica Mars, because it’s the role she was born to play, the one that put her on the map and made us see her for an up-and-coming talent, and it’s so damn easy to see why.

As Veronica Mars, Bell gives us the impression that she’s always one step ahead of everyone around her. Whether it be in a physical or mental way, either way, Veronica Mars always has a trick up her sleeve and does a pretty fine job at making those around her feel like small, meaningless imbeciles. Which, granted, is fine because most of the people surrounding here are in fact, small, meaningless imbeciles. But Mars, being Mars, just calls it like she sees it, which not only makes her character sympathetic throughout the whole movie, but also makes believe her as somebody that can get done, what needs to be done, in order to do good for those around her; even if that does mean she’s doing the right thing for people she doesn’t particularly care for.

Everything I’m saying about Veronica Mars is probably no surprise whatsoever to fans of the show, but for me, a newcomer to this sort of thing, I found myself happy with this character, with Bell and totally understanding as to why her character, as well as her show, was so loved and beheld in the first place.

Slim pickins. Right, gals?

Slim pickins. Right, gals?

Damn you, CW! Damn you!

Though this is clearly Mars’s show that she gets to flaunt and run away with practically the whole time, the rest of the cast is pretty good, too, with a few cameo surprises thrown in there for good mix of fun treats. Jason Dohring is alright as Mars’ old boy-toy that she decides to help out after all of these years, and while I do see why so many ladies would fawn over him and his rockin’ bod, I can also see why the guy hasn’t quite been known or seen since he’s done Veronica Mars. He’s not necessarily a stiff, but most of the funny lines people are given here, feel genuine and make us laugh. Him, on the other hand, just makes you feel like he hasn’t acted in quite awhile and still has some rust left in the tank. That’s why when certain faces like Ken Marino, Krysten Ritter, Gaby Hoffmann, Ryan Hansen and plenty more from that, show up, do their thang and be funny, then it works like gangbusters and makes us laugh along with the ride.

You can tell that everybody is happy to be back with the gang and hoping that they are able to do this again in the near-future, even though it doesn’t seem too promising. Still though, one reunion, is better than none. Especially when your amongst a fine group of characters like these.

Yup, consider me sold on the whole phenomenon surrounding Veronica Mars. Adding it to my queue now as we speak!

Consensus: Going in and already being acquainted with the original source material may help you connect the dots when watching Veronica Mars, but is definitely not a “must”, as it still works on its own terms as fun, witty and energetic comedy, disguised as a detective tale.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Phones are like toates better at doing that sort of thing! Like, hello! This ain't 2005, or whatever, anymore!

Phones are like toates better at doing that sort of thing! Like, hello! This ain’t 2005, or whatever, anymore!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

As I Lay Dying (2013)

It’s like the big-screen version of the Oregon Trail. All that was missing was the dysentery.

After Addie Bundren (Beth Grant) dies, she makes sure that everyone in her family knows that her dying, last wishes are to be buried in a whole other town, where she’d be transported, by wagon, with every member of her family coming along for the ride. It’s a weighty-task to ask upon someone, but everybody in her fam-squad decides to do so, all in respect to her. However, there couldn’t be anymore of a dysfunctional crew going along on this trip with the nearly-incomprehensible Anse (Tim Blake Nelson), who just wants to get the new set of pearly-whites that his wifey-poo wouldn’t allow him to have when she was alive; Jewel (Logan Marshall-Green), the youngest one who may have some anger-issues as is, so to add on the fact that his loving, adoring own mother just died, is obviously going to add some insult to injury; Darl (James Franco) is definitely the quieter one of the group, but definitely catches onto things pretty quickly and knows what’s really brewing beneath the surface with the rest of his family; Dewey Dell (Ahna O’Reilly), the only daughter that seems to be using this trip to get rid of “something” that has he so scared, that she can’t even mention it; and then there’s the handy-man, Cash (Jim Parrack) who definitely knows a thing or two about how to keep his mom’s casket from breaking wide-open, but doesn’t know a thing or two about keeping him, or the rest of his family safe when they come into some dire, near-death situations. Take all of these factors together, and you have a pretty crazy, wacky and wild trip on your hands.

Give 'em two, equally-sized farmer's hats, and sure, call them "brothers".

Give ’em two, equally-sized farmer’s hats, and sure, call them “brothers”.

However, being that this is an adaptation of a William Faulkner novel, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

And it’s pretty clear and obvious to anybody who sees this that writer/director/star/God-in-his-own-mind James Franco definitely feels passionate about adapting this pretty heavy, pretty grim material. Now, from what I hear, the source-material itself is found to be almost “unfilmable” due to the fact that the book is split-up into 59 short chapters, in which they were all divided among 15 different first-person narrators. This basically means that Franco would have to do the impossible in the effort in telling the story, getting as much insight as you could from each and every character, not forgetting about some of the most important, relevant parts of the story and most of all, making sure that the whole thing doesn’t come off as a total and complete mess.

So, in order to do this and keep a disaster from happening, Franco inhibits a split-screen format in which we’ll get to see the point-of-view of a certain situation from one character’s side, or even get to hear them as they narrate their inner-most thoughts and feelings, looking straight-on directly into the camera. This is a very smart way Franco allows the story to be told as richly, as detailed and as coherently as he can, but the problem is that it just shows up too oddly and randomly. Though the split-screen format usually shows up for more than half of the movie, the times that it doesn’t, the movie works a hell of a lot more because we’re simply focusing on one thing, and one thing only. Not a billion other things that may or may not be happening, all due to the fact that these characters either seem to be making stuff up, or not seeing the picture clearly enough.

That said, I guess I can’t get on Franco’s case too much as a director for adapting the source-material the way it was written out to be, but it could have definitely been done a lot better. Then again though, maybe it couldn’t have. Maybe this is just one of those pieces of source-material that should stay in libraries, and far away from the script-writing desk. Because if you look closely at what Franco does here, he tries so many times to have this story pop-off the pages and onto the screen itself and in ways, it works. Usually when Franco is just letting the story tell itself, with no visual-flair or camera-tricky added to the proceedings. If two characters are talking about something, no matter whatever the hell it may be, it always seems to be interesting because it’s just a simple tale.

However, when Franco begins to get a little too hot for his own guns and start to add into too much “style” to jazz the whole thing up, it feels distracting, as if Franco needed some sort of mechanism to make this story seem a lot more inviting than it actually is. Because the fact of the matter remains, Faulkner’s source-material is some pretty down-beat stuff, and it’s definitely hard to make sure that material like that always stays intriguing or surprising. But that doesn’t happen here. Instead, I always knew that Franco was going to try something tricky and yet, still have it fall right back in his face. Can’t say that this is a terrible directorial-outing from Franco, as I do think he definitely shows more promise and ambition, than failure, but it’s still very clear that he may have bit-off a bit more than he could chew here, or heck, maybe even not enough.

Glistening = tension.

Even in the deep and dirty South, women still glisten.

Maybe a two-parter, miniseries on HBO would have done the trick? Who knows?

What hurts this movie a bit more, but what also keeps it still above the line of being considered “watchable” is the ensemble cast that Franco so sadly leaves behind, lost, confused and with nowhere to go. Since Franco is so clearly enamored with whatever he is doing behind-the-camera, it kind of sucks for the others since all they have to do is emote and give us compelling characters that deserved to be seen right in front of them on a big-screen, rather than on a bunch of words on countless pages. But despite their many, many efforts, the only one who really comes-off the best is Franco as Darl. It helps that Darl is definitely the center-piece of this story that Franco clearly positioned himself as being, but Franco still shows that he is a charismatic-figure to watch on the screen, even when he’s just being a bumbling, hillbilly idiot. Surely a bit different from what he did as Gator, or as Alien, but kind of the same idea, I guess.

Everybody else does what they can, but with Franco at the helm, they’re sort of just left to fend for themselves. Tim Blake Nelson makes absolutely no sense most of the time as Anse, the head-of-the-family, but is at least entertaining to watch and brings some much needed humor, and energy to a film that desperately needed some, and quick; Ahna O’Reilly is a pretty face, but she proves that she’s more than just that with her performance here as Dewey Dell, the type of girl that seems like she’s about to have a nervous-breakdown at any given moment; Jim Parrack is a fine fit as Crash, the tough, smarter one of the family and shows that even in his most bone-headed decisions, nobody would want to pick a smarts-battle with him; and the same thing that I said about Tim Blake Nelson here, could practically be said for Logan Marshall-Green and his performance as the highly messed-up and problematic baby of the family, Jewel, but has more of a negative-energy going on about him that makes you feel like he truly is apart of this family, for better and for worse. Oh, and even though Danny McBride may be constantly mentioned in the advertisements for this, don’t be fooled; the guy literally shows up for what seems to be maybe ten or 15 minutes, says a few things, uses a weak, Southern-accent, wears a nice farmer’s hat and walks away, presumably to finish the joint that he and Franco lit-up back-stage before shooting.

Consensus: Adapting William Faulkner’s source-material was no easy-feat to begin with, but As I Lay Dying shows us that that statement couldn’t be anymore truer, especially since James Franco himself seems so passionate about getting this material perfect, right down to the nitty, gritty bone, that he forgets what makes a movie worth watching in the first place: Cohesion.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Talk about a family affair!

Talk about a family affair!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Homefront (2013)

Them Southern belles and boys don’t take too kindly to British lads around their parks.

After a drug-bust goes slightly wrong, DEA Agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his little girl Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) relocate to a small, abandoned Louisiana house where they are practically left alone and allowed to resume their normal, everyday lives as if nothing ever happened. It seems to be going well for awhile too, that is until Maddy violently retaliates to a bully, breaking this kid’s nose and everything. The boy’s mother (Kate Bosworth), despite looking like she’s constantly in need of a meth-fix everytime she shows up, somehow starts up all the right trouble, giving Phil Broker the kind of unwanted reputation that usually drives out new-folk to this small town. It gets so bad, actually, that she even goes so far as to call up her drug-dealing, big bro Gator (James Franco) who knows a thing or two about Phil’s past that puts him and Maddy in some serious danger. Then again though, Phil being played by Jason Statham and all, we know he won’t go down without a fight.

First things first, I think it’s best to tell everybody right off-the-bat that this flick is written by none other than Mr. Sly Stallone himself, which already gives you the idea that not a single ounce of this movie should be taken seriously. Because, in the past couple of years, with the movie’s he’s been participating in, it doesn’t seem like he has, so why the hell should we, you know? Some part of me wishes that this movie took that idea and ran with it, but instead, this is what we’re left with: A big, dumb, brainless action-thriller, somehow disguised as deadly-serious, slow-burner.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath's still got time for his daughter.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath’s still got time for his daughter.

And that’s the biggest mistake I think Sly could have ever made with this material.

With a movie this outrageous, it almost feels like you just have to make it something that’s quick, loud and to the point, just so we don’t realize all of the cracks with the important elements that go into making a movie. Elements like say, acting, writing, directing, originality, and so on and so forth. Nope, you can’t find much of that here, and even when you do, it’s not of any great quality to really call home about. Instead, we’re mainly just presented with something that should have been a totally fun, exciting and well-worth it time-burner, but we get something that takes its time a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m fine with a movie trying to tell its story, set-up its pace and give us characters to care about, mainly through developing them and showing dimensions, but this isn’t that type of movie. It’s much more of something that should be balls-to-the-walls crazy, over-the-top and nutty, as if we were watching a movie dear ol’ Sly himself would have actually starred in way back when. Heck, I don’t know why he didn’t star in this one as it was! Sure, he’s a bit older now and most of the fighting scenes would have looked hella cheesy and tacked-on with him moving around, but who cares. His type of silliness would have made this movie at least somewhat charming, rather than just emotionless, but sometimes fun.

But you know, I can’t really get on a flick like this, because when it’s having fun, it’s a good time to be around for. The only problem with all of the fine action set-pieces is that once we actually get to the point where one occurs, it takes a long while for us to get to the next one where we have to pay attention to the characters, the directing and the most simplest of them all, the acting. Now, I’m not saying that any of these actors in these roles are per se, bad, it’s just that they don’t necessarily bring anything to the table, nor do they make the material better or worse with their presences being felt. They’re just there to act like window-dressing for a whole bunch of explosions, guns, bullets, drugs, sex and violence. A whole lotta violence too, may I add.

Jason Statham, whether you love him, or you definitely hate him, there’s a certain charm about him in these movies that somehow works, if only just for his character. He doesn’t really try to dig any deeper with this wholesome daddy, yet, savage beast known as Phil Broker, but he gets the job done more than he doesn’t. Especially when he’s just kicking ass, taking names and saying some sort of cocky one-liner that’s only funny to the people closest to the speakers who can actually decipher what the hell he’s saying underneath that freakin’ accent. Seriously, I get that the guy is born and bred from England, but he needs to help us out a bit with that “talk” of his. I mean, seriously. It’s literally been eight or so years since the last time he was in a Guy Ritchie movie. Help us out, pal!

However, the strangest thing behind this whole movie is that this is being advertised as yet another, big, dumb, stupid, action-vehicle starring Jason Statham, and somehow, these really well-known, very talented stars got involved with the supporting cast, making you wonder why they even signed up to do this in the first place. But after awhile, it becomes clear: They just want to stretch their wings out a bit. That’s not a bad thing neither, considering some of these names in here do desperately need to show us that they still got the goods to sell us on anything it is that they do, but there’s nothing at all for them to do.

Yeah, I mean that's trashy, right?

Yeah, I mean that’s trashy, right?

The most prime example of this fact would be James Franco’s Gator. We all know that James Franco loves to switch things up with his career, whether he’d be playing a wanna-be-gangsta, Allen Ginsberg, or even himself, it doesn’t matter because Franco’s one of the brightest and bestest talents right now that loves doing cool things with his career, and seems to always succeed at pulling them off, no matter how random or obscure those decisions of his may be. This is where I think he goes a bit too far with those odd choices, but it’s less of his fault, and more of the script, although he’s definitely partially to be blamed, too. The problem with Gator isn’t that he’s a bad dude, it’s just that he isn’t very interesting or even worth even being scared by. You sort of always know that Statham’s going to kick this guy’s ass no matter what, and most likely go home with a win at the end of the day. Franco definitely could have made this character interesting, compelling or even fun to watch, but oddly enough, Franco kind of straight-faces his performance the whole time, despite this guy being a backwater meth-dealer, which is already plenty enough substance to make a person want to go crazy with a performance. So basically, if you put these two problems together, you just get a lame character, with a very strange and dull performance from Franco.

Something I never thought was possible, but hey, I guess anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

The rest of the cast fair-off a bit better than Franco, however, it’s obvious that they definitely try all that they can do to make this work as well. Sometimes, painfully so. Winona Ryder does what Franco should have done, and gives her biker-trash girlfriend enough craziness to actually make us want to feel like we want to watch her, however, it’s pretty hard to watch when all you know that she’s doing is just acting all crazy, just to act crazy and try to steer our minds away from the bad script; Frank Grillo plays, YET AGAIN, another villain but he handles it fine and shows that he can still steal the show, even if he does show up with only about ten minutes left in the movie; and Kate Bosworth, despite never impressing me before in her long-storied career, somehow becomes the most believable and most interesting character out of the whole bunch, despite her practically yelling, hootin’, hollerin’ and looking like she’s in desperate need of a shower, everytime it is that we see her. Never been too big of a fan of hers, but I’m always ready to be impressed and surprised. And hey, it’s like what I said before: Anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

Consensus: While there are spouts of action, fun and tension to be found in Homefront, they still don’t add to much of a movie that’s worth investing time in, or even really caring for. You just want to see the explosions, the violence and the asses being kicked, so you can be on your merry way. Is that too much to ask?

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He'll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He’ll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Iceman (2013)

That “bank job” daddy gets all the big bucks from? Yeah, it’s really just him slaying mobsters.

Richard Kuklinski (Michael Shannon) is a family-man that loves his wife (Winona Ryder) and his two daughters and wants to support them in any way that he can. His original job, dubbing audio porn, even though he tells his closest family members that they’re “cartoons”, gets run-down by powerful mob moss Roy Demeo (Ray Liotta). Demeo, however, senses some sort of potential in this tall, quiet, and scary-looking man. So, he puts him to work where he becomes a contract killer that gets rid of people for these powerful mob families, and eventually starts working with a fellow hitman (Chris Evans). However, once the reward gets bigger, so does the risk, and this is where Kuklinski finds himself coming up short, in deals that should have been made a long, long time ago and done a lot cleaner as well.

After seeing this movie, I did myself a little research on who Richard Kuklinski really was, and all I have to say is: Holy crap. Not only did the guy work for the mob and do their dirty-work, but he killed from about 100 to 250 people. If that’s not a sign of a cold-hearted, sick, sadistic mofo, I don’t know what is! But that’s the whole point of this movie. Yes, even though it does understand that he was an unlikable dude who killed people for a living, it doesn’t shy away from showing as just that, but with a small ounce of humanity; that small ounce being that he loves his family, and doesn’t kill women or children. It’s nothing new or original that we haven’t seen before, but most of what we see here is true and it works in the movie’s favor.

"Hey, you talkin' to me? You muthafucka!!"

“Hey, you talkin’ to me? You muthafucka!!”

Also, the movie should be commended for never allowing Kulkinski himself to come off as a forgiving, lovely soul. He may have had traits to his character that made him an alright guy, but overall, he’s a pretty disgusting man. He killed people, did it for money, gave that money to his family, but in return, also put their lives in danger as well. His heart may be in the right place, but his brain wasn’t and that’s only one of the very few mistakes the guy makes. However, as few as they may be, they’re still mistakes and he paid for them. Big time.

But enough of my mugging, on with the movie. What worked with this movie was that yes, even though it’s about a despicable space of human-flesh, the movie never asks us for sympathy for him, or anybody else around him. We’re supposed to make up our own minds on who’s a good person, and who isn’t. Sometimes the result don’t come as cut-and-dry as in some other cases, from some other movies, but that’s what made this more of a compelling watch. You never know what’s really going on beneath the surface of these characters, what they’re going to pull off next, why, and how. Even if you do know how it ends and you can make up your own conclusions about what happens to some of these character-figures portrayed in the movie, it still grips you and has you for a full-on ride.

Problem is, it’s not that the real-life story itself is as conventional as it comes, it’s just the movie itself. The only way this movie can differentiate itself from many of the other mobster movies out there is that it’s about a hitman, front-and-center, and shows him for all that he is, without any strings attached. Other than that, everything that happens in this movie, from the murders, to the drug-deals, to the hold-ups, and even to the discrete, business meetings in porno theaters; have all but been pretty much done to death by now, and most likely done even better, in far more original and thrilling movies. Not to say that this movie isn’t something that you could watch and not get involved with, it’s just that there’s nothing here really separating itself from the rest of the clan of dark, gritty, mobster movies that have a lot of violence, and a lot of cuss-words.

That said, the movie mainly benefits from Michael Shannon as Richard Kuklinski, and does everything in his will-power to make this character work. He succeeds, and thankfully, keeps this movie moving along whenever seems to be slowing down a bit too much for it’s own good. Shannon is the type of actor who’s been churning out works of perfection for the longest while, that it shouldn’t be a surprise how great he is here as Kulkinski, but once again, the dude shows us that he can handle any piece of material, as long as it’s weighty and dramatic enough for him to act his ass off with. Instead of going for the full-blown, crazy-act that we all know Michael Shannon for, the man surprisingly keeps it dialed-down, where we see more brooding from him here, than we ever have before. Take for instance the scene where Ray Liotta holds a gun up to his head. Any movie that features that scene alone, should automatically scary any actor on the opposite-end, but not Shannon. The man does not flinch, he barely blinks, and he doesn’t show any signs of fear in his soul; he just lets it all happen because he himself, is a bad person, he knows it, and doesn’t care what happens. That scene may have been the most memorable for many reasons, but the main one being that Shannon pulls out every emotion within that character that we need to know, in a short and lean 5 minutes.

"That's my husband. My murdering, sick, and insane son-of-a-bitch husband."

“That’s my husband. My murdering, sick, and insane son-of-a-bitch husband.”

What an actor that Michael Shannon. What a freakin’ actor!

Speaking of Ray Liotta, even though the guy’s playing the same role we’ve seen him play a hundred-and-fifty times by now, the guy still owns it as the powerful mob boss that takes Kulkinski in first and foremost, Roy Demeo. The two who are actually stretching their acting-muscles here, Winona Ryder and a nearly-unrecognizable Chris Evans, do very-well with their performances and show that they can for it all, even when they have to play it back and go for smaller, shorter stuff in these indies. Especially Ryder, who gives us the character of a wife who’s practically left in the dark about what her hubby does for money and support, but doesn’t seem at all stupid or idiotic in any way. It seems like she knows what’s really cooking, but at the same time, you can’t be too sure because she doesn’t let too much on about her mind, just enough to have us as curious as she is. Nice to see her finally getting more acting-roles as of late, as it’s a shame that the only reason she fell down the ladder was because of the little “stealing-mishap”. Come on, people! It was over a decade ago! Learn, live, and forgive!

Consensus: Everything that happens in The Iceman, is everything you’d expect to see from another crime-drama of it’s kind, but what separates it from the rest of the pack is Michael Shannon’s powerful performance in the lead, one that doesn’t ask for our sympathy, but gives us a person who was real and as compelling as they got.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Seems like Cap got discovered a little too early. In the 70's, perhaps.

Seems like Cap got discovered a little too early. In the 70’s, perhaps.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lovelace (2013)

So did she really have a clitoris located at the bottom of her throat?

Remember that porno back in the 70’s that started a phenomenon of pervs getting away with watching people bang on-screen and have be it considered “art”, Deep Throat? Well, the main star of that “film” was Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) who was more than just a gal who gave very good head. Nope, actually, believe it or not, she was once a small-town, Christian gal from the suburbs that just so happened to get caught up in an older man named Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). They fall madly in love and before they know it, they’re out gallivanting and loving life in the hot sun of L.A. However, Chuck sees potential in Linda, the same type of potential that could be used to make both of them very rich, and very famous as well. Problem is, with fame and fortune, comes the problems and with Chuck, the problems never seem to stop coming up.

The porn world sure has come a long, long way since the early days of the 70’s, and all of us horny dudes have Linda Lovelace to credit for that. However, as most of us may, or may not know, there was a lot more brewing underneath the surface of Lovelace’s life, as well as the making behind Deep Throat. Not only was Lovelace practically beaten within an inch of her life for a long while of it, but she was also forced to do the movie just so that Traynor could pay off some debts, support his drug habit, and just make money in general. He also wanted Lovelace to be a star, which she did become, but once that actually panned-out well for her, the dude put his foot back down and domineered his way back into her life like before, except it only continued to get worse and worse.

"Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD."

“Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD.”

All of this is pretty tragic, considering the fame and fortune Lovelace could have had had her career gone on any longer; but the film never seems to tap into that fact. It’s strange, but believe it or not; the flick is mainly more about Traynor than it is Lovelace. Lovelace does have many scenes where she’s not with Traynor, but even then, she’s always with another person on screen, as if both writers/directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman didn’t have enough trust in their material to find a way in making her more of an interesting character to hold an hour-and-a-half-long movie. It gets very disappointing after awhile, and it also feels strange because the movie never quite goes as deep as it should with it’s subject, the sadness behind it, or what exactly happened to Lovelace’s later life.

In fact, I’d probably say that her later life was probably the most interesting thing going for her. Once Lovelace had it with all the money, the notoriety, and the sex, she decided to stand right up against the porn industry; the same porn industry that she helped catapult it’s way into total and complete popularity. Seems odd for a type of person to do that, but given the circumstances of which she lived with for a long while, it makes sense that somebody so damaged and upset would go back to those limits and scare others away from making the same mistakes she made.

However, that’s just a reality; the type of reality this movie doesn’t even bother to develop enough. Then again though, oddly enough, it doesn’t develop much else either. Sure, we see the spousal-abuse from Traynor come around, a little too much I would say, and we see her film her porn scenes that have become something of infamy now, but never anything else to where we really feel a connection to this story or anything that’s going on. Even Lovelace herself just feels a bit like a sad excuse to show boobies, asses, dicks, and grotesque-sex, just so the horn-balls watching this will have something to get off too. A real shame too, because Lovelace’s story that I wouldn’t mind hearing more about, or even seeing for that matter, but the flick doesn’t show much interest in her, or anything else for that matter. It’s just dull, and painfully so. Where’s Dirk Diggler when you need him!!?!? Seriously!

Speaking of Linda Lovelace, she’s played very well here by Amanda Seyfried, the type of role that’s meant to stretch her abilities as an actress, but somehow doesn’t. Not her fault neither, because she does all that she can, without as much clothing as possible, but it never amounts to a fully-driven, sympathetic character. We do feel bad for her because she’s stuck with a d-bag that acts like all sweet and charming with her one second, and then turns into this crazy, ballistic animal the second, but nothing else here really makes us sympathize with her or have us root in her corner. We know she’s a nice gal that would like to do nice things for the ones around her, but is there anything else to that? Does she deserve to have a porn career? Or hell, does she even deserve to have a whole movie made about her?

I thought she did, but this movie could have fooled me!

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

But like I was saying before, the movie isn’t all that concerned with her as much as it should be. Instead, most of the supporting-cast around her takes over the spot-light, which isn’t so bad since it’s such a heavily-stacked list of names, but then again: Who’s story is being told here? Anyway, playing the d-bag-of-a-hubby that she gets stuck with, Chuck Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard does a wonderful job, as usual, playing two sides to this character. Firstly, he has that lovable, charming side that makes it easy for him to win us, as well as her and her parents over. And then secondly, and probably everybody’s favorite side of Sarsgaard’s acting in general, is the crazy side where he’s yelling, doped-up, an being a total evil, and manacle ass. Why? Well, the movie makes it clear that it’s all about drugs and debts that he has to pay off, but doesn’t make it any clearer than that. Basically, he’s just a self-destructive nut because that’s what he is, just about all of the time. Sarsgaard is good at playing this character and at keeping him somewhat interesting, but like with everything else in this movie, still pretty dull at the same time.

The rest of the crew we have here is a bit more scattered, with some having more screen-time than others and bringing a little plate of food to the party, and others just showing up empty-handed. The ones who’d be placed in the former would definitely have to be Robert Patrick and a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda’s Catholic-faith parents. They are both good because you can tell that they love their daughter very much, but aren’t going to leave out a helping-hand too much, due to the fact of where she’s going with her life. Sounds pretty harsh and mean if you ask me, but the movie still has them seem sympathetic and almost like the voice-of-reason to all of the havoc and dismay that will take part most of Linda’s later-life. But as for the others: Ehh, they’re fine, but no real pieces of shining silver to be found. James Franco has a nice bit as a younger Hugh Hefner; Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale seem to love the hell out of playing-off one another as the director-producer combo that worked on Deep Throat; and Chloe Sevigny has, I think, maybe 5 seconds of face-time on screen, and the rest of her performance is just her voice. That’s it, nothing more. I think somebody needs to give their manager a call!

Consensus: While it touches on certain moments of Lovelace’s life with as much respect and adoration as one movie can, Lovelace is still a very dull, uneventful, and tepid biopic that never reaches high enough to get it’s story moving, or get it’s point across, whatever that may have been.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say "Res in Peace."

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say “Rest in Peace. You will truly will be missed.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

This Is the End (2013)

If the world is going to end, please let me be surrounded by at least one of these guys.

Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, Craig Robinson and a whole slew of other celebrities and friends come to a party at James Franco’s house and what’s supposed to be just a normal, get-shitty-with-it bash, all of a sudden turns into something incredibly deadly and dangerous. It’s actually the apocalypse that is occurring, but rather than going outside and running the chance of possibly getting killed, the guys decide to stay in the house in hopes that help will eventually come their way. What actually ends up happening is that the guys get absolutely sick and tired of one another and just pray that they get killed as soon as possible.

In the year 2013, when the Wolf Pack doesn’t even seem concerned with squirting out a laugh or two; Owen and Vince can’t recapture the glory days they once had; and that the only thing funny going on with Melissa McCarthy is how a critic refers to her as a “Hippo”, it’s nice to be reminded that comedy is yes, still alive and well, and best of all: still able to make a person hold their stomach while laughing. Then again, with everybody from the Judd Apatow crew, could I have expected anything less? Seriously, everybody here has, and probably will forever always be funny, but if you put them together in one movie, with one inspired-premise that makes them have to be around each other, and give them plenty of lee-way with who the director is (in this case, it’s both Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg); then you have absolute hilarity that does not disappoint for a single bit.

Hyped it up quite enough for ya?

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Somehow, something tells me that the actual party would be more horrific and insane.

Well good, because this movie is the best comedy of the year so far, and judging by what seems to be coming up in the future, probably the rest of the year. It’s well deserved too because year-after-year, we get a comedy that’s funny, makes us laugh, makes us have a good time, and reminds us why we like going to the movies, but never really does anything that’s worth remembering except for maybe a couple of chuckles here and there. Which means we rarely so often actually get a comedy that’s hilarious, is a hoot-and-a-half, and reminds us why comedies can be enjoyed so much, no matter what they’re about or who’s in them. Oh, and to make that even better; it’s an R-rated comedy at that.

It’s not a comedy that wants to appeal to a mass-audience and it’s sure as hell not a comedy that takes it’s R-rating with a grain of salt; this is a very, very hard-R, and rightfully so because when you have these dudes, playing caricaturized-versions of themselves, you need all the cursing, nudity, grotesqueness, smugness, evil, etc. you can get to really make a person laugh. In this movie’s case; it makes you laugh plenty more than you expected and that’s what I loved so much about this movie. It makes you laugh, and always has you guessing what’s going to come of next with this story, direction, humor, or just what the hell these guys are going to pull out of their sleeves next. After the first 10-15 minutes where we see Franco’s party get destroyed and there actually becomes a big-ass hole in the Earth’s crust, we are just hanging around a bunch of funny dudes that can’t take themselves as seriously as they would like to be portrayed and do whatever the hell they feel like doing next. And by “whatever the hell they feel like doing next”, I do mean, “WHATEVER THE HELL THEY FEEL LIKE DOING NEXT.”

This is an aspect of movies, never mind comedies, that we rarely see and it’s so hard to actually see a movie as blatant and obvious as this to take full-on pleasure in it. And trust me, I don’t mean “blatant” and “obvious” in the bad way either, I mean it in the way that these guys know that they’re making jokes out of themselves, and we know it too, so why not just join in the fun and have a couple of laughs while you’re at it? That’s how I felt throughout this whole movie, as each and every line that these guys dropped, whether it be improv or actual-dialogue written down on a page, just came at my stomach like a knife and had me howling for day’s on end. I’m still laughing thinking of some of the lines, and it’s almost too quotable to even remember. Everything everybody says in this movie, is either hilarious, random, or just so-stupid-it’s-funny, and it makes you wish that more and more comedies had the pride and joy to goof around with itself, almost as much as these guys are able to.

So, yeah, everything you’d expect to see and hear in a comedy coming from these dudes; you will see and hear. There’s plenty of drinking, dick-jokes, drug-induced trips, weed-smoking, violence, jerking-off, uses of the word “fuck”, pop-culture references (even to their own movies), and lines that come and leave so quickly, that you almost feel as if you have to watch it all over again just to see what you missed out on or what you think you heard correctly the first time, only to find out differently the second. It’s what to expect from these guys, and it only gets better, funnier, and more and more unpredictable, almost where it’s anybody’s game for the taking, it’s just time until somebody actually walks away with it all.

That’s why it’s so rare to get a comedy as brilliant and crazy as this that makes you laugh and hold your gut, but also one that still works even when it gets a bit sympathetic and action-y by the end. Since this is a horror-comedy flick, you have to expect there to be plenty of action, explosions, special-effects, and random bouts of violence you don’t see coming, but surprisingly, it works well with the rest of the tone as the movie seems to take itself just seriously enough that we are invested in what happens. It never gets serious to the point of where you need a tissue handy, but it does get a somewhat serious to where you can see that these guys still care about the story and the characters they’ve written, even if they are essentially themselves, just in a more Hollywood-ized version.

However, with top-notch comedy acts like these dudes, you can’t ever expect them to do anything serious or honest; you just have to let them roll and continue to make us laugh, which is exactly what each and every one of them does, in their own ways. James Franco plays up the whole “serious, artsy actor”-aspect to his public-image in the way that he’s obviously been the most successful and most respected out of the whole clan, yet, still acts like an idiot as if he was still playing that cool mofo, Daniel Desario. It’s funny to see Franco, who’s at the height of his career, still be able to make a joke or two at himself (I’m down for any Flyboys reference!), without really going too far that it seems like he’s desperate to gain back the respect from the comedy-crowd. Oh, and “the gay rumors” aren’t put to rest either, so take with that what you will.

Jonah Hill also plays up the whole fact that he got quite the big head around the parks when he got nominated for an Oscar those two years ago, and shows that he’s soften-up a mighty-bit since then. As time goes on though, Hill gets meaner and meaner, while still being able to maintain that softness to him that makes him so loveable, even when he is randomly being a dick. Seth Rogen is probably the one who doesn’t really get the most shine from the spot-light, but I think that was fine as hell for him since he was just sitting-back, relaxing, and directing the hell out of his buds, but also still having a great time while doing so. Even he gets a chance to make fun of himself as well, especially when, early on, a paparazzo says  “You play the same guy in every movie, right?” Classic, classic line.

They even get him to do the laugh. Yay!

"Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I'm James Franco beitch!!!"

“Stop, stop, stop! Let me fetch my make-up before you get this shot. Why? Cause I’m James Franco beitch!!!”

Jay Baruchel plays what is essentially the Canadian outsider of the group that hasn’t really connected much with any of these guys, and has only lingered around Rogen for so long, that it’s almost became smothering. He’s funny, even though he is typically playing the straight-dude who’s thrown into a do-or-die situation with a bunch of idiots. Fun idiots, but idiots nonetheless. Danny McBride shows up and acts like the self-centered dick who’s upset with cumming everywhere like you’d expect from his latest-bouts with comedy, and shows that raw-edge we all love and know him for (except for maybe in Your Highness, which they even make another reference to as well!). And last, but sure as hell not the muthafuckin’ least is Craig Robinson as the sex-addled, black dude of the group that always yells, sweats, and says dirty things like “get your panties off baby!” Robinson is always hilarious in the shit that he does, which is why it’s such a joy to see him back in his prime, without anybody telling him exactly what to do and how to do it. He just free-balls it, and surprisingly comes up with the biggest laughs of all.

Of course, the movie is cameo-central which, as you could probably tell by the trailer, is hilarious and as unpredictable as the rest of the movie (Michael Cera’s as the coked-up, sex-fiend version of himself had me laughing long before the 20 minute mark). However, the movie doesn’t focus on that as much as you’d expect, and instead stays with these guys throughout the whole movie and shows that even though they have changed, gotten a bit more serious with their careers, and have “sold out” in ways they didn’t expect to when they first started out as young, brass, and ambitious funny-men, that they are still there for one another and will go-to-bat for anyone. Granted, there are on-screen relationships in this movie that aren’t as friendly (Franco and McBride hate each other and show it in probably the funniest scene out of the whole movie), but it’s the under-lining thoughts and feelings that count. You can tell that everybody here loves hanging out with one another and using a movie as an excuse to hang-out and pal-around, but whereas other times, it feels manipulative and cheap; this time, it feels right and deserved. Well deserved, actually. Keep comedy alive, guys. Please!

Consensus: Like with most comedies of this nature, it’s usually more sporadic than it is gut-bustingly hilarious, but with This is the End, it doesn’t matter since the comedy, as well as the rest of the movie, fires on all cylinders, takes no names, leaves none in return, and has you laughing until you seriously don’t know what’s next for these guys to make fun of. Then they make fun of it, and have you laughing even more since they pulled it off, and did it with flying colors.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.

No comedy, nor movie, is complete without the signature Craig Robinson yell. Comedy gold.

Spring Breakers (2013)

Screw spring break. I’m staying home.

A group of college girls (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) have the bad idea of robbing a fast-food joint in order to finance their spring break getaway. As you could expect, things go awry until a strange dude named Alien (James Franco) arrives to bail them out. In exchange for his help, he convinces the girls to kill his nemesis Archie (Gucci Mane).

Harmony Korine is the type of dude who’s movies I just don’t care for. I’ve seen Gummo, I’ve seen Trash Humpers, and worst of all, I’ve seen Kids, and none of them did anything for me whatsoever other than make me want to throw up and slap this kid in the face. But all my problems with him aside, I was still interested in seeing him take on a sort of “mainstream movie” that’s advertised as if it was made straight for the MTV-crowd that loves boobs, booze, drugs, sex, nudity, and a whole lot of partying. However, that same demographic it’s being shipped towards, are the ones being made fun of here.

Korine starts this movie off like you’d expect from any typical movie where there is a bunch of partying going on. Gratuitous nudity, drugs, sex, violence, and drinking, all to the sweet and soulful tunes of Skrillex playing in the background, but then it changes and you realize something is up with this movie. You can’t really tell right from the beginning what this movie is all about, but once you get to thinking of it; the movie is actually poking-fun at the crowd that this flick is being aimed towards. For instance, after this opening-sequence, the rest of the movie basically consists of these girls doing all of the wild acts of debauchery that you’d expect them to do, but here’s where it takes a closer-glimpse: why are they doing all of this?

I have no clue who that extra person is in the back, but yeah. More hot and sexy women! Woo hoo!

I have no clue who that extra person is in the back, but yeah. More hot and sexy women! Woo hoo!

We all get that these girls want to have a good time but is it actually legitimate  or is it all a put-on so they can be apart of the crowd and hopefully get some cutie patooties by the end of the night? From this stance, I’m going with the latter option. Korine takes a comment on how certain programs like VH1, MTV, and YouTube have all made our world and idea of spring break to be nothing other than a wild time, with wild people, and wild things that will never, ever happen again. However, nowadays, it’s done in a more slight way that’s not as genuine as it once was, and is definitely a lot more shallow then ever before. People aren’t just going to spring break in order to let loose and have a grand time, they’re also doing it because what else better is there to do?

Now, I’m not saying that in the 21st Century, people can’t have fun if they’re drinking and acting crazy like they would on spring break. Not at all, but what it is that I am saying is that the times have changed and our society has definitely dropped a hell of a lot as of late where crazy shite like this, is apparently accepted and shown as a good time. Trust me, I’m not the biggest square in the world, sometimes I like to get a little crazy by drinking, getting wild, getting dirty, and getting nasty, but it’s all because I want to, not because of the others. What Korine is trying to say is that the world and society that we base ourselves around, is all based on the countless amounts of sex, drugs, and alcohol we can consume without dying, rather than how much fun we can have. If I lost you already, don’t worry; you’re most likely not the only one.

For this message alone, I have to give Korine a crap-ton of credit for going out of his way and making a stand about our society and the young people growing-up in it. What he’s saying now, like he did back in 1995, is that we, as a society and as a unit, are practically screwed. And who’s to blame? You? Me? Mom? Dad? Mom-Mom? Pop-Pop? The pets? MTV? VH1? Who knows! But what I do know is that it’s very sad to see a movie like this made and have me thinking the way that I do now.

But if you get past this message, you start to realize that there really isn’t much else going on here below the surface. If you like a bunch of T & A, then you sure as hell are going to be pleased, but if you’re expecting a fun and wild ride with a bunch of girls dancing, drinking, and being young: then you’re gonna be pissed. Heck, I was even a bit pissed-off, but I don’t count. Like with most of his movies, Korine doesn’t really like to follow any type of conventional-story so instead of showing us point-A to point-B in an understandable way, he jumbles things around and have us make up our own minds on what happens and what doesn’t. Sometimes it work, and sometimes, it totally misses the mark.

I don’t want to call this movie “boring” per se, because I was always interested and I always glued to the screen, but there just wasn’t much holding the fort down. After the 20 minute mark, I had it about up to here with these girls, the way they talked, the way they acted, and yes, even the way they dressed. I highly doubt it that they would go all throughout their days wearing nothing but a bunch of bikini’s and if that is the case in a world like this, then sign me right up! But still, for a movie like this, it didn’t seem reasonable and just seemed like another way for Korine to show us how much of a boner he has behind the screen. It’s a beautiful movie with visuals that pop-out like crazy, but the story lost me many, many times throughout and really took this flick down from being a very important movie that needed to be made and seen. Instead, without all of the fun, it’s just a message movie with a lot of titties. Good for some, not good for others.

"Okay girls. Just act like you're acting like a bunch of girls that want to be hot and sexy, but really aren't doing it in the way that would be deemed geuine or real. Basically, you just have to act hot and sexy, okay? Is that too much?"

“Okay girls. Just act like you’re acting like a bunch of girls that want to be hot and sexy, but really aren’t doing it in the way that would be deemed genuine or real. Basically, you just have to act hot and sexy, okay? Is that too much?”

The point in where my interest for this movie came flying right back was when Mr. James Franco showed up on-screen as the local rapper, drug dealer, gangsta, wanka, grilled-up mofo known as Alien. Almost everybody who saw Oz the Great and Powerful last week, almost had the same consensus on Franco and his performance saying it was dull, plain, and boring. For me, I liked his performance in that movie, but in this one, I absolutely loved it and I think those people who disagreed with me then, will agree now. As soon as this guy starts talking and being himself, you know the movie is going to turn-around and he’s going to give you all that he can as an actor, as a funny-man, and overall, as an entertainer. Franco lights up the screen with every scene he’s in where he plays up his wannabe-act as a gangsta that has a lot of money, has a lot of drugs, has a lot of guns, and has a lot of women, and this is where Franco works so perfectly. He’s absolutely hilarious and you can tell that a lot of the scenes he has, he’s just improving his ass off, because the people around him can’t seem to hold their laughter or joy in as much as they should. But still, it provides a bunch of hilarity and laughter for everybody who sees, but it isn’t all about fun and games with the dude.

There’s a couple of scenes where we actually see Alien show some vulnerability and even break character. He doesn’t really seem like a terrible guy to begin with, but just a hood rat that you wouldn’t want hanging around with you at all, unless you wanted all of your change taken. But still, that loveable side of Franco that we usually see, makes this character work wonders and makes it more than just him, goofin’ off and jerkin’ off (that’s Korine’s job), he’s actually got a show to do and does a fine job at that. Sweet job, James. Fuck all of them nay-sayers.

As for the girls, they are all fine with what they’re given even if that isn’t saying much. Vanessa Hudgens seems like she really effin’ wants people to forget that she used to be in all of those High School Musical movies, and it just may work if she keeps this pace up. The other two, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine, are just there for props and do what they can, but that isn’t saying much. The only weak-link here in the cast seemed to be Selena Gomez who seemed like she was on a entirely different planet from the rest of these gals. I get that since she was the church gal that never left mommy and never left home, that she was going to be a bit of a prude, but seriously, come on! Grow up, drink a beer, bone a guy, take some clothes off, and have some fun! You’re only young once. Trust me, I know.

Consensus: Spring Breakers is the type of movie that gets better once you start to think about it. The messages and ideas about society and how far we are going down the gutter, are as interesting as I think Korine has ever said in the past, but the fact that there is no type of story really backing it all up, seemed to be a major fault on his part.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Eeenie. Meenie. Miny. Moe."

It’s like the “choose which hand the penny’s in” game. But with bullets.

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?