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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 Gandolfini

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Need a better outlook on your life? Call up a hooker.

James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo play the titular Doug and Lois Riley, a married couple whose relationship has become lifeless and frozen due to both of their reactions to the death of their daughter Emily. An encounter with Mallory (Kristen Stewart), an underage stripper in a dingy local club, where Doug only wants to pay her to talk to him, eventually leads to a cautious friendship between the two and a realization of life for everybody.

There’s not much of a story to Welcome to the Rileys and it never really offers any surprises, but it’s not boring, or better yet, all that conventional. Because where the movie excels in, is the smaller, more low-key moments in this story that make it more than just your typical tale of a sad person, helping out another sad person, who also just so happens to be a hooker. It’s a simple, tried and true story we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but writer/director Jake Scott, the son of Ridley, does all that he can to make it so much more.

"Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?"

“Wanna come on down to the Bada Bing?”

Still, it is a pretty simple tale and because of that, it’s hard to fall in love with it.

If there is anything to be found here to fall in love with, it’s each of the performances from the key three leads.

James Gandolfini is great here as Doug Riley, because while there’s something deep and a little dark about him, there’s also something very sweet, earnest, endearing and relatively compassionate about him that makes you believe that he could do something as oddball as this. Every time the guy smiles, you feel a certain drip of happiness pour out from the screen and because of that, you cannot help but just love him and enjoy his presence on-screen. There’s no doubt that Gandolfini was the king of playing mean, nasty and downright grotesque thugs, but he did also excel at giving us characters with hearts and it’s nice to get that reminder – one which, unfortunately, we never quite got the chance to see more of.

Gandolfini almost gets his own show taken away from him though, from Melissa Leo who gives off a very natural and realistic performance as the still-grief-ridden mother, Lois. Leo’s character starts off as a bit of a nutcase as she never comes out of the house because of what happened, but as time rolls on you start to see a more round human-being come out of her and the things that she does and as soon as her pretty face pops into the story big-time about half-way through, the story itself hits a big boost that made it more of a delight to watch. It’s also nice to get a movie where the couple at the center, despite all of the hardships that brought them to this point, still do love and trust one another with all their hearts. Leo and Gandolfini, as a married-couple, would have probably been a great movie on its own, but here, they get a chance to create something lovely and nice. It’s something you don’t usually see in movies and it’s great to realize that trust is still one of the biggest elements in a relationship in order to make it work.

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

Oh, K-Stew. Shut up and be happy!

And yes, Kristen Stewart is also good as Mallory. Granted, she does have the more clichéd role, as whom is, essentially, “hooker with a heart of gold”, but this also helps make her performance much better and impressive. There’s something sad about her character that makes you want to reach out to her, too, but there’s also some sort of mystery, too. The scenes between her and Gandolfini’s character could have easily been creepy and cringe-inducing, but the two have a solid chemistry that truly does seem like a loving, lasting relationship that isn’t played so one can get their kicks off, but so that they both can feel some meaning in their lives.

It’s all so sweet, simple and obvious, but that’s how life works and it’s why Welcome to the Rileys works.

Consensus: The story and message may be a bit of your usual, hokey pokey, after-school special stuff that we are used to seeing in these types of dramas, however, the strong performances from the trio of leads make Welcome to the Rileys one-step above the ordinary stuff we are used to seeing with human-dramas such as this one.

6.5 / 10

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Who wants a K-Stew, when you could have a M-Leo?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Mighty (1998)

David and Goliath could have always been pals. But society, man.

Maxwell Kane (Elden Henson) is having a pretty rough time growing up. His mom’s died, his father (James Gandolfini) is in jail, he’s living with his grand-parents (Harry Dean Stanton and Gena Rowlands), and his big, sort of dumb, and easy to pick on. He’s trying to better himself and in a way, make the situation that he’s in, better as a result, but because of all these bullies and the fact that he has yet to pass the seventh grade, really does hinder from accomplishing some of the achievements he sets out for himself. However, there is some hope for Maxwell, but oddly enough, it comes in the form of his next-door neighbor Kevin (Kiernan Culkin), who happens to have been born with a bad spine, forcing him to hobble around on crutches for what may seem like the rest of his short existence. With Kevin, Maxwell not only learns how to read better and pass the seventh grade, but in return, he puts Kevin up on his shoulders and takes him everywhere that he wants to go. And because Kevin has such an ambitious head on his shoulders, this normally leads the two to some pretty crazy and wild adventures, with a few of them leading to some pretty dark and scary places.

Round one, fight!

Round one, fight!

I’m torn about the Mighty for a lot of odd reasons. It’s not because I can’t decide whether the movie is “good”, or “bad”; it’s definitely “fine”, and probably nothing more. No, what I’m really torn about is whether or not I should have liked it more, because of what it did with the sub-genre of kids movies. The Mighty, on the outside and sort of in, seems like a traditional kids movie, in which it deals with some sad themes, like death, jail, and bullying, but uplifting ones, too, like family, love, respect and inspiration.

But it’s never really a total kids movie, or at least, not the kind I’m used to seeing. What the Mighty teaches, is that being the best to your ability is always a good way to get by in life, but also keeping yourself smart, by reading, challenging yourself, and constantly exploring the world, will also make a you better person in the long run. It also takes about the reality of death, what it does, how it can affect you, and how just to get by it all; very rarely do kids movies touch on death, for the sake of not scaring too many parents/kids away from seeing, but the Mighty isn’t scared of doing that. In fact, it embraces the reality of life and knows that it’s better to talk about it, rather than just shove it to the side and forgetting about its existence.

But at the same time, the movie’s still not as good as it should be.

One reason is because while it can be sentimental, it’s also very cheesy, seeming like a movie made in the early 70’s, as opposed to a movie made in the late-90’s. For instance, there’s a bunch of bullies who run rampant around Chicago, picking on Maxwell, Kevin, and oddly enough, random adults who sort of just take it and accept it as is. Needless to say, these are kids who are probably around 15-16, running around a city like Chicago, getting away with robbery and random bits of assault, all forgetting that it’s Chicago and yeah, they don’t put up with a lot of crap, let alone a pack of young white kids, snatches up purses and picking off wallets.

That, to me, is just relatively laughable, but okay, I’m willing to get past it for the sole fact that it’s basically a kids movie and sure, some fantasy is allowed. But then the movie, for some reason or another, decides that it needs more to its plot than just Kevin and Maxwell getting to know one another better, and making each other better people. Therefore, we get a random, wholly unnecessary subplot involving Maxwell’s long lost criminal daddy, that comes in and out of the story for a total of fifteen minutes, wastes the sheer talent of Gandolfini, and oh yeah, is settled in about two seconds.

I'd eat at that table. The kiddies would have to shut it though.

I’d eat at that table. The kiddies would have to shut it and let the grown ups speak, though.

It’s silly and breaks up any energy that the movie had going for it.

Because when it’s about Maxwell and Kevin, well, it kind of works. Once again, it’s one of these kids movies where the kids talk and act a lot smarter than you’d typically expect, which can get to be a bit tiresome, after about the fourth or fifth soliloquy. It does help that two very young guys like Elden Henson and Kiernan Culkin are working with this dialogue, but sometimes, even they fall prey to its forced-quirkiness, with Culkin’s character hardly ever saying anything in a serious manner – older Culkin is a different story, but when he was about 12 or so, yeah, it just didn’t quite work.

Honestly though, it’s a real shame that so many people in this great cast got wasted. Gena Rowlands and Harry Dean Stanton are basically here to just be the grand-parents, who don’t really do or say much of anything at all; Sharon Stone tries what she can with such an under-written role as Kevin’s mom; Gillian Anderson’s character is another bit of pure waste, even though she’s charming as hell; and even Meat Loaf shows up, not really doing much. The Mighty is definitely a kids movie, which makes sense that it would put such a huge emphasis on the kids and forget about the adults, but come on, when you have a cast full of so many heavy-hitters, it’s an absolute shame not to use them.

Then again, if the kiddies are happy, who cares, right?

Consensus: Corny, overly sentimental, and surprisingly over-plotted, the Mighty does deal with some very important aspects about growing up and living up to your full potential, but ultimately, doesn’t live up to its own.

5 / 10

Life is better when you tower over everyone. Trust me.

Life is better when you tower over everyone. Trust me.

Photos Courtesy of: Cineplex, Mubi

Get Shorty (1995)

Be cool. Not the sequel. Just be cool in general.

Chili Palmer (John Travolta) is a Miami mobster who gets sent by his boss, “Bones” Barboni (Dennis Farina), to collect a bad debt from someone who Bones a whole lot of money. However, Chili’s not just going out and roughing up any normal dude, he’s going out to meet the one, the only Harry Zimm (Gene Hackman), a Hollywood producer who specializes in all sorts of flicks, but most importantly, horror flicks. And Chili meets Harry’s leading lady (Rene Russo), he can’t help but fall a little head over heels for her. So of course Chili wants to join up in the film-business and eventually sells his life story to Harry, and a few others in Hollywood. Sooner than later, Chili finds out that being a mobster and being a Hollywood producer really aren’t all that different, even if one does concern more ass-kicking than the other. Oh and while this is all going down, Bones is still out there looking for his money – something he will not let go of until it is in his hands.

Don't get too close, Rene. You have yet to be "audited".

Don’t get too close, Rene. You have yet to be “audited”.

It’s easy to do a Hollywood satire. All one really has to do is find some sort of way to say that “Hollywood is a sick, evil and cruel place where people with barely any talent flourish, and those who actually do possess a certain level of said talent, don’t.” It’s that simple and honestly, it’s why so many showbiz satires can sometimes feel tired, even if they are funny; Birdman was the latest showbiz satire that actually had a bite and sting to it that worked and made me laugh, beyond just being mean.

And yeah, Get Shorty‘s got a lot of bite to it, too. However, by the same token, it’s not trying to pass itself off as a Hollywood satire, through and through. If anything, it’s a fun, sleek, and cool crime-comedy, that also just so happens to take place in Hollywood, with actors, actresses, producers, directors, screen-writers, dolly-grips, interns, and etc. But it’s not as silly as it sounds – somehow, writer Scott Frank and director Barry Sonnenfeld find the perfect combo of action, comedy, drama, romance, and satire that, yeah, may not always make perfect sense, but still works out smoothly.

Which is more than I can say for some other Hollywood satires who really try to take on too much, without ever realizing that they have a story to continue with beside their mean-spiritedness. But really, underneath all of this, Get Shorty is just a fun movie that’s hard not to be entertained by. Frank’s script, when he isn’t riffing on any of the mechanisms of Hollywood or the film-business in general, is funny and features a great list of colorful characters that more than make up for some of the dull moments in the movie’s languid pace.

John Travolta, when he actually seemed to give a total damn, did a great job as Chili Palmer. There’s a sense of coolness about Travolta that, despite current controversies, we tend to forget actually exists, but here as Chili Palmer, he showed that off perfectly. At some points, he’s supposed to be this mean and tense figure, but then, he changes into being someone nicer and more charming. Some people may not believe both of the sides to this character, but it works, because Travolta could somehow be both menacing, as well as likable at the same time.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Always listen to Gene. Even when he sounds crazy, always listen.

Where all of that has gone, is totally beyond me.

Anyway, he also has wonderful chemistry with Rene Russo who, as usual, is great here. The movie does kind of deal with the fact that her character is an aging actress in Hollywood, but doesn’t seem to be getting on her case – if anything, it makes her more sympathetic and makes us want to see her and Chili run off into the sunset at the end. Why she wasn’t around for the second movie, is totally beyond me, but then again, it may be more of a blessing than a curse.

Everybody else is pretty great, too. Gene Hackman seems to be having a lot of fun as the perfectly-named Harry Zimm, someone who is actually quite infatuated with the lifestyle that Chili seems to live; Danny DeVito is pitch perfect as Martin Weir; Dennis Farina gets plenty of chances to curse and act psycho, which is always a treat; Delroy Lindo shows up and he’s always good; and there’s even a few, oddly surprising cameos that seem to come out of nowhere, yet, still work.

Get Shorty is the kind of movie that may seem dated, considering it’s over a decade old, but it still works. The breezy pace helps a lot of the movie’s heavy-lifting and moving, feel as if we’re spending a lot of time with characters that we can learn to love, forgive and forget that they can sometimes be evil human beings. They may not be as lovely to learn about as they were in Elmore Leonard’s original book, but hey, they’re still fine as is.

Heck, they’re way better than whatever happened in the sequel.

Seriously, stay away from that movie.

Consensus: With a smart script and charming performances from the solid cast, Get Shorty is more than just another satire with jokes aimed at Hollywood for giggles, and it’s what matters most.

8 / 10

"I've got this great idea. How about a sequel?"

“I’ve got this great idea. How about a sequel?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Qwipster

The Last Boy Scout (1991)

Throw a football, solve a major scandal. Makes sense.

Joe Hallenbeck (Bruce Willis) used to be a first-rate Secret Service agent who, for one reason or another, got kicked off the squad. Nowadays, Joe spends his time as a work-for-hire private dick, who smokes a lot, drinks, sleeps in his car, has a kid that doesn’t respect him, and even worse, has a wife who is sleeping around. Basically, Joe’s life ain’t all that grand, but when a friend of his dies (Halle Berry), he can’t but feel inspired to figure out who did this to her and why. Another person who wants to find out the same thing is Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans), an ex-football star who has a tad bit of a gambling problem. Though the two don’t necessarily get along, they both feel the need to figure out just what happened and get the sons of a bitches who caused their friend’s death. However, what they soon find out behind the scenes, leads them to the shady people dealing with the professional football league, as well as the President of the United States.

That's Brucie for ya. Always protecting the kids!

That’s Brucie for ya. Always protecting the kids!

Shane Black can write scripts like this in his sleep. While the Last Boy Scout may not feature cops in the lead roles, it still features two people who are, in a way, supposed to be “buddies” in the buddy-cop genre. Black loves these kinds of stories and always adds a certain flair of panache and fun to them that even when they don’t fully deliver, they still like fun pieces of action-comedy, rather than just another waste of time. After all, a movie written by Shane Black is at least a few more times better than most of the action flicks we get out there, right?

And also, having Tony Scott in the mix as director helps out, but not as you’d expect it to. Sure, when the action is happening, it’s as frenetic and crazy as you’d expect a Tony Scott movie to be, but it’s the smaller, more quieter moments between the characters that actually work best. Obviously, this is definitely attributed to Black and his interesting way of writing likable characters, but it’s also a compliment to Scott for taking a step back and let the script do the work itself. Scott hasn’t always been known as the best director for drama or anything of that nature, however, here, he decided to take it easy and it pays off.

Which is great, because Damon Wayans and Bruce Willis are so good in their roles, as well as together, that it almost doesn’t matter how many scenes we get of them just hanging around and talking to one another, rather than just shooting stuff and killing people.

At first, it appears that Wayans isn’t going to handle Black’s dialogue so well, but after a short while, he gets the hang of it and needless to say, we get the hang of him. His lines actually turn out to be funny and even though he’s playing against-type here, Wayans still finds a way to break in that nice charm every so often. Sure, you could chalk that up to Black’s great screenplay, but you can also give some credit to Wayans for knowing just the perfect moment to remind the audience that he’s still Damon Wayans, and he’s a pretty charming fella.

However, Wayans is nothing compared to how great Bruce Willis is here.

For one, Willis seems perfectly tailor-made for this kind of role. He’s not just an everyman who has a certain set of killing skills, but he’s also just an ordinary guy who we’re getting to learn and know more about the flick goes on. Willis handles this dialogue oh so well to where, yes, he nails all of the humor that this character has, but he also gets the smaller, more emotional moments, too. He doesn’t overplay them, though, just as the script doesn’t; he keeps them short and subtle enough for a movie where there’s so many explosions and gun-shots that it doesn’t matter if characters exist in it or not. Why Willis didn’t work with Black on more projects, is totally beyond me.

If I had their recent track-record, I'd be slammin' the bottle pretty hard, too.

If I had their recent track-record, I’d be slammin’ the bottle pretty hard, too.

In fact, I’m pretty sure Bruce could use that now.

But if there is an issue to be had with the Last Boy Scout, as there is to be with most of Black’s screenplays, is that they don’t always know how to end well, or at all. In a way, it almost feels like Black starts off with something simple and understandable, but ultimately, gets bored and just wants to everything and anything come into play, regardless of if any of it makes any actual sense. While this is fine to have in an action movie, where no one really cares about believability or anything like that, after awhile, it sort of seems like Black’s either making stuff up, or just throwing whatever he can at the wall and letting stuff stick as they please.

Sometimes, it works, other times, it doesn’t.

However, at the end of the day, the Last Boy Scout is really just a fun action-comedy. Take it or leave it, I guess.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t always work, especially in the end, the Last Boy Scout is still a nice combo of Black’s hilarious script, with Scott’s wild direction, culminating in a fun movie, if nothing else.

7 / 10

"Hey, agent? Yeah, get me more movies like this. You know, the ones where I actually give a hoot."

“Hey, agent? Yeah, get me more movies like this. You know, the ones where I actually give a hoot.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, All Movies I Like

The Drop (2014)

Never trust a silent bartender. Don’t even bother tipping them, either.

Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) is a bit of a lone wolf in that, he mostly keeps to himself, goes to work at the bar his cousin, Marv (James Gandolfini), run, and goes to Church every Sunday. Also, occasionally he drops some money to fellow gangsters who own his bar. So yeah, life is good for Bob, that is, until he discovers a beaten-up and bruised puppy in a trashcan. Which yeah, doesn’t seem all that bad considering that he takes it in as his own and even names it, but he starts to develop a relationship with the woman who found it with him (Noomi Rapace), which brings around her ex-boyfriend, the near-psychotic Eric Deeds (Matthias Schoenaerts). Also, to make matters worse, he and Marv’s place ends up getting robbed, which means that they have to find a way to pay the owners back, or else they’ll be sleeping with the fishes. And if things couldn’t get even worse for these two fellas, a local detective (John Ortiz) starts sticking his nose in certain places that comes a little too close to comfort for both of them.

What we have here is another one of those simple crime-thriller dramas that, on paper, don’t really seem like much: Quiet dude finds dog, quiet takes dog in, quiet dude falls in love with dog, quiet dude’s life suddenly becomes a whole lot of hell. That sounds boring and, like I noted before, on paper, it probably would be. However, that’s what happens when you’re able to transport something to the silver screen, where you not only having somebody direct others about how certain scenes are supposed to sound or look, but also those “others” being some very talented actors and actresses that can jump into any role, without ever making us second-guess their casting decision.

Oldest trick in the book. Oh, Tom Hardy. You snake, you.

Oldest trick in the book. Oh, Tom Hardy. You snake, you.

I’m rambling on so much like this because it’s so very often I get a small, intimate movie such as this, that doesn’t feel like it’s being that way due to budget-constraints. There are so many movies out there (aka, indies), that feel like they have a small scope because they can’t go anywhere else. Here however, director Michaël R. Roskam keeps his story tiny, because that’s what it exactly is: A small crime-tale of a bunch of thugs, low-life’s and simple do-gooders that just can’t help but be taken down by the world they live in.

And that’s why most of the Drop works; whenever it pays close attention to these characters, their connections to one another and what makes them who they are, the movie stays interesting. They’re not the best-written characters in the whole world, but they’re done well enough to where you can find a little something to sympathize with in each and everyone of them. Then again though, it’s also easy to be able to distrust some of them too and realize that while on the surface, they may be fine, simple-minded people, deep down inside, underneath all of the tucks and turns, they can be really mean, almost savage-like people. They can easily do the wrong thing, to the wrong person, and continue to move on with their lives as is, even if it does beat them up inside. They’re just trying to survive in a world that, for the most part, could live on without them.

Sounds like some pretty sad, mopey stuff to deal with here, but I can assure you, the movie’s not nearly as dark as I present it to be. There is some humor to be found and when the actual crime-angle of this story starts to develop, there can be some fun to be found. However, the double-edged sword here is that while it may be fun to watch a bunch of gangsters go around, shooting, killing and yelling obscenities at one another, it doesn’t really add up to much like the character-based drama does. Still though, I can’t complain too much because while there is plenty of moments just simply dedicated to people doing bad things, there are still more than a few scenes where it’s just two characters getting to know one another better and for me, that was always something to watch and listen to. Even if, sometimes, it didn’t pan-out to much in the end other than being “bad guy”, “good guy”.

And a lot of that credit deserves to go towards Roskam, who got a very good cast together and allowed them to just sink their teeth into some small, bare-bones material we don’t see too often from these actors. Tom Hardy is doing that silent-yet-demanding thing he does in most of his movies, and while he has to do it this time with a New York-accent, the guy handles it very well. We get the feeling right away that this character is a good guy, but we also understand that there may be some darkness lying underneath it all and Hardy’s to thank for making us think that each and everytime this character’s morals get called into question.

I don't know who's scarier.

I don’t know who’s scarier.

Even Noomi Rapace does a fine job playing something of New York white trash, even if she has to do the accent, too. She’s nice enough to where you could see why some normal, everyday dude would want to take a run at her, but you can also tell that she’s been through a whole heck of a lot in her life as is, so she won’t put up with it anymore. Her and Hardy develop a nice bit of chemistry that definitely seems like it’s going to lead some heavy foreplay, and to just watch as they both wonder how to go about it is neat, especially since these characters both seem to know what they want, they just don’t know to go about getting it from the other.

You know, much like how most of my relationships with the opposite-sex are!

Anyway, most of the spotlight is being put on this film because it just so happens to feature the final performance from one James Gandolfini and honestly, it’s a great swan song for him to go out on. It’s not the most perfect performance he’s ever done and it sure as hell isn’t much different from his days as Tony Soprano, but it’s the kind of role that makes us look at Gandolfini and realize what a talent he truly was. He was mean and nasty when he wanted to scare a room full of children, but he could also lighten any mood of a scene with that big grin of his. But no matter what, you always knew that there was more to his character than what he was presenting, which is why it was always a pleasure of watching him just act; something he definitely seemed perfectly suited to do right from the very start.

Consensus: The crime-thriller aspects of the Drop may not always mesh very well with the character-based ones, but nonetheless, it’s still an interesting watch, especially if you want to see some great actors put in some wonderful work. And most of all, if you want to see James Gandolfini’s final role ever on film.

8 /10 = Matinee!!

Aw, wook at him! Sorry, Tom. You lose this time.

Aw, wook at him! Sorry, Tom. You lose this time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Enough Said (2013)

Aka, White People Problems.

Single divorced parent Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has a nice life, but it is rather lonely at times. She doesn’t have much of a personal life, but instead chooses to hang-out with her married-couple pals (Ben Falcone and Toni Collette) as they go from party-to-party on weekends. At one of these parties that Eva attends, she meets a Oliver (James Gandolfini), a rotund, but very charming and nice dude that doesn’t seem like her type, but she decides to take a gamble with just because she has the time and is able to do so. However, at the same party, she also meets and strikes up a friendship with famous poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) who, wouldn’t ya know it, just so happens to be Oliver’s ex-wife that he obviously is still very bitter towards, just about as much as she is. Though Eva finds this out pretty early-on, she doesn’t quite know what to do with this new-found knowledge, so instead, she decides to just listen to all of the bad things about Oliver coming from Marianne’s mouth, while she also tests it out on her own in the meantime. Hilarity, and sometimes heartbreak, ensues.

Obviously, as I’m sure we all know by now, most of this movie will be plagued by the recent-passing of its main star, James Gandolfini, and even as bright and sunny as this movie can be, it puts a huge shadow over it. Every time you’re watching a scene that he’s in, no matter how much he may make you laugh, smile, or do a little of both at the same, you still can’t help but get that nasty, but sad feeling out of the back of your mind that yes, he’s gone, and yes, this is one of his last performances ever put on screen. Very upsetting, however, the movie itself does not fall victim to such events that ocurred after filming. Instead, it is its own product, one that lives and breaths off of the good vibes from everybody involved, not just one person in particular, and it still works in that sense.

$20 down already!

Oh, I see: “The old, hole-at-the-bottom” trick. That Gandolfini sure was a dirty devil.

Still though, it is very, very sad. Okay, I’m done with that. On with the rest of the review/movie!

While most of you may already know this, I’ll say it again just for the sake of possible, “newer” readers: I am not a huge fan of Nicole Holofcener. Now, take with that what you will since I’ve only seen 2 of her movies (this one not included), but I just feel like all of her movies are all of the same thing, minus a couple of characters here and there. However, something struck me as odd with this movie and its premise as it seemed like Holofcener was going for more of a sitcom with the idea of a woman finding out all of her new boy’s secrets, problems, and negatives from his ex-wife, while he has no idea, but that’s only used as a stepping-stool for what Holofcener REALLY wants to touch on.

Basically, when you get past it all, this movie is about love and how it will never leave one’s life, even if they feel like it’s all but lost from their own. You can give up, try again, give up, try again, and so on and so forth, and I think that’s the beauty of life. Watching as these two, over-50-year-olds rediscover love and the simple pleasures of life really brought a grin to my face. It’s really sweet to see them figure themselves out once again, just as much as it is to watch as their relationship blossoms, but the movie is more than just a romantic-dramedy, and I think that’s where Holofcener sort of loses herself, and sort of doesn’t.

The reason why I don’t feel like she loses herself over this material is because she definitely has something to talk about, and for once, it’s not another agonizing portrayal of the white, liberal guilt I’ve been so used to seeing with her movies. Sure, the topics and themes like your kids going off to college, losing connection with you, and fully growing-up isn’t anything new to be touched on, let alone, heavy material to really get the crowd reaching for their Kleenex’s, however, Holofcener seems like she really cares about what she’s writing, and you feel that tender love and care the whole time. When the point she wants to get across is seen, it works and makes this movie more than just a simple story of two people meeting up, kissing, and falling in love.

However, Holofecener sort of does lose herself with this material when she seems to cram a bit too much into this movie for one’s own well-being. For instance, rather than just having the subplot about Eva’s one and only daughter losing connection with her as she gets ready to move off to college be the main one, Holofcener decides to throw another one in there for good measure, concerning her daughter’s best friend who spends more time at her place, than her own actual home. The subplot got old, made no sense, and just felt awkward, especially when it was resolved and brought almost nothing to this story, or its overall meaning. It just was included because it seemed like Holofcener had some time on her hand. That, and she was also going through a mid-life crisis, so why not include some teen-adult bonding, eh? I don’t know, didn’t work for me, but it probably will for many others.

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Clingy moms, right? Like, gosh!!!

Like I was saying before though, the presence always lurking in the back of this movie’s frame is James Gandolfini and for a good reason too, because he’s great here as Oliver. Not only is Gandolfini so lovely, charming, and funny to watch, but he’s also a bit of a softy too, so much so, that you actually believe it when his feelings get hurt over the smallest thing said or done to him. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Soprano would ever begin to ball-out and cry because some girl he just met made fun of him for not knowing how to whisper in a movie theater, but damn, he sure as hell had me believing! This may not be his last role ever on film, but either way, it’s still a sad goodbye considering what a talent he truly was, one that deserved all of the credit he got.

But I’ll be damned if this is just Gandolfini’s show, because it honestly isn’t in terms of performance and story. This story is mainly surrounding Eva and all of her problems, and while this character could have been painful to watch considering she has random bits of awkwardness that come out of nowhere at times, Julia Louis-Dreyfus still makes her believable enough to be interested by, and charming enough that she’s fun to watch, regardless of if she’s being a meanie or not. This is probably Louis-Dreyfus’ best movie-role to date, and even though that isn’t saying much, the girl still proves to us that she’s got the comedic-chops to make us hold our guts, while also still have the ability to come off as somebody that just wants love in her life, no matter if the person meets all of her heavy-set standards or not. The chemistry these two have is a beautiful thing to watch, and I dare you not to get a bit choked up when they share their first smooch! In fact, I double-dog dare ya! Just try!

Consensus: While most of your attention will be fixated on James Gandolfini and his wonderful performance, Enough Said is more than just a kind-of swan-song for its male-lead, it’s a pleasant, sweet, and gentle look at love, and how it will never leave one’s life, no matter how young, or old they are.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Hug him! You know you want to!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Mexican (2001)

Should have just stayed in the States. Hell, they should have just stayed the hell together.

Jerry and Samantha (Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts) are a couple that obviously loves each other, but yet, still go to marriage counseling even though they don’t seem to need it and aren’t even married. Whatever though, that’s just how these two roll and like it, but what Samantha doesn’t like about Jerry’s rolling is that he’s not only a con, but has yet to leave the work of it because he’s trying to protect his ass, as well as hers. However, after originally screwing-up his “last job”, Jerry is given one more opportunity to make good and end it all when he has to travel to Mexico for an antique gun that seems to have more than enough history than Jerry, or his mob boss (Bob Balaban), expect. Since Jerry has to leave out on the job once again, he leaves Samantha all alone and with a whole bunch of worry in the world, especially when she’s kidnapped by a hitman (James Gandolfini) who specializes in bits and pieces of torture, despite him being a bit of a softy once you get to know him.

Movies like this get a bad-rap, as they should. Before this movie had names attached to it all and whatnot, it was originally going to be an independent production, with lesser-known names in the lead roles, and probably a smaller, tighter-budget than we see used here. However, Pitt and Roberts wanted to hang out with one another and so they thought, “What better way to take advantage of our star-power, then to just pick up a small, meaningless script, and run with it, just so we can have some fun and make money while doing so?” That may sound stingy and bratty coming from these two A-listers, but Christ, it’s something that can work for these two in a heartbeat and actually did. Nope, not just because they had the star-power to attract any type of audience-member in the entire world, but because the script was just simple enough that it didn’t matter whether or not the material they were working with was actually good; all that mattered is that people would see it, especially with these two in the lead roles.

Better cherish this moment. It's all you're going to get between these two for quite some time.

Better cherish this moment. It’s all you’re going to get between these two for quite some time.

So overall, no problems for anyone, except for maybe the actual movie-viewers themselves who have to sit through some meaningless junk like this. They’re the ones who end up suffering the most.

Which is exactly why movies like this have me pissed off to high heavens because I know there are plenty other great films, with great scripts, great acting out there, and were certainly released at and around the same time as this, but yet, would never get the same type of exposure as this one because it didn’t have the popular-names in it like this one had. It’s sad to think about, and maybe it’s not worth all of the crying over spilled-milk, but it’s a fact of life and a fact of Hollywood. However, I can’t bitch too much because the flick isn’t that good and is only good for the sole reason that it actually got Gore Verbinski’s career off-and-running, whereas Pitt’s and Roberts’ just stayed the same as its always been, if not gotten better (especially in Pitt’s case).

But see, what makes this flick such a strange star-vehicle, is that it honestly isn’t the type of mainstream flick you’d see get the type of release this did nor would you see it’s two leading-stars in. It’s a weird flick for the sole reason that with just about every new scene or sequence, the tone switches, and it does so in a not-so subtle-way. It begins as a rom-com, with bits and pieces of dark humor thrown in there for good measure; but once the first con is killed off and the threat of death is alive and well, then things take a turn for the worse and get very dark, very soon. Sometimes it will touch the idea of a mobster comedy, with slices of drama thrown in there for good measure, and then in the very next frame, will even go for a darker moment where somebody gets off’d in a very disturbing, harsh, and unfunny way, despite how hard this flick seems to be trying to pull the laughs out of us.

Verbinski is a talented director to make even the slightest bit of dark humor go a long, long way, but at this time, during this movie, he shows problems in keeping the light and blissful tone up, even when it takes detours into dark areas; the kind of dark areas you see explored in Guy Ritchie or Quentin Tarantino movies, but used in a better way because they have the slightest sense of how to make humor and bloody spurts of violence work and seem cohesive. Verbinski begins to lose all focus after awhile and although it continued to interest me, as if I didn’t know what was going to pop-up next, whether it’d been a twist or a tone, I still feel like it was a missed-opportunity on his and everybody else’s part to really allow this flick to get up, breathe, and stretch it’s legs. It just goes on and on and on, for a whole two-hours that I’m usually fine with if you can excite and entertain me, but this one didn’t seem all too concerned with me or that fact of the matter. It just did it’s thing, as if it was only made to collect money from hopeless movie-goers.

Which, sadly, it did. You poor, poor people, falling for the same old traps of Hollywood, time and time again.

Speaking of which, that idea sort of pisses me off, not because it’s as blatant or as obvious as it is 12 years later, but because the actual reason behind this movie being made and advertised as such a big deal, was useless considering that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts rarely are together on-screen here. What would have been shocking, but impressive on this movie’s part if the creators worked out negotiations with the stars beforehand, wrote the script, and kept it the way it was, even throughout filming, but knowing that the script was made way ahead of time and altered only slightly, loses it’s sense of originality. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me because if Michael Mann can do the same thing and get away with nothing but applause and unanimous praise for this decision, then so can Gore Verbinski dammit!

But the problem with this is that the movie has nothing else going for it, other than Pitt and Roberts. Which means that when they aren’t together, doing their thang and keeping us happy to finally see them together on the big-screen, even after all of these long-awaited years; there’s nothing really left worrying or caring about. When they’re together, they’re fun to watch and makes you feel like it would have been a better choice to watch these two play the same characters, in a small-indie where instead of venturing out in search of a gun, they stayed together, worked through their problems, and thought about their future, whether it be one spent together or separated. It would have been way, way more interesting and compelling movie than this one, but that’s all just “fantasy-talk”. The reality is that these two barely show up in this movie together and when they do, it’s the best parts of the movie, despite feeling like a sad-attempt to be on screen together because, well, they have to. It’s the rules of Hollywood, folks.

"Hey, whatever you do, do not put on "Don't Stop Believin', got it?"

“Hey, whatever you do, do not put on “Don’t Stop Believin’, got it?”

Separately, which is about 85% of the damn movie, they’re good if nothing new or groundbreaking that they haven’t already pulled-off before. Pitt’s nutty and goofy as the con that’s a bit too over-his-head, yet still knows what to do when the shit gets hot, and Roberts is a sassy and fire-cracker-of-a-lady, but still has those moments of pure sweetness to her that helps balance the character out in some sense of reality. Some, but not too much. Most of those moments come between the scenes of her and Gandolfini’s character, the hitman with a softer-heart than you might suspect from our first introduction to him.

With the recent, sad news of his passing, watching Gandolfini absolutely have a blast in a role like this and steal the movie away from it’s big stars, really brings a tear to my eye because the guy had so much talent, so much energy, and so much worth watching, despite what crap-fests he may or may not have shown up in. The fact is that this man was a great actor, and will continue to be remembered for years and years to come. Hopefully this movie doesn’t come to many people’s minds when they think of his work, but if it does, it won’t be such a sin because he’s easily the best part about it and gives it a reason worth watching.

Consensus: The Mexican will disappoint many average, movie-goers because Pitt and Roberts are barely together here throughout the whole two-hours and some-odd minutes, but what will disappoint others is that the tone never seems to find itself in one place, make it’s presence known, and stay there for the rest of the movie. It just constantly moves up, down and all around as if the creators knew they had to do something to keep fans happy that two of Hollywood’s most-beloved weren’t on the same-screen together for anymore than 5 minutes each.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

A two-hour movie, all for this piece of shit?!?!?

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Rabbit out of a hat? Boooooooooring.

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have been life-long freinds that both share a love of magic, and have ruled the Vegas strip for the past two years. However, with the emergence of a more brutal type of magic, courtesy of Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), they’ve fallen on hard times and break-up. Burt is left in Vegas without any type of job, any money, or any inspiration for magic anymore. That is, until he goes back to reclaim the roots that made him love magic in the first place.

Usually when I see a trailer for a comedy, I either laugh-out-loud, chuckle, or just sit there in total and utter boredom. Every, single time I saw the trailer for this movie, nothing ever came to me. It wasn’t that I hate Steve Carrell, it wasn’t that I hate magic, and it sure as hell wasn’t that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing more Jim Carrey, play Jim Carrey (more on him in a tad bit later), it was just that it wasn’t funny. I didn’t laugh and it almost seemed like all of the best parts were in the trailer. That’s really saying something.

Most comedies at least try to be funny, and succeed at times. This flick rarely has that happen to itself. Most of the time during this movie I was just sitting there, watching, and waiting for something to come by and totally take me by surprise by how funny it was, but it never came to me. Instead of actually being smart or even remotely funny, we just get a bunch of characters that are sort of dick-ish, and a bunch of jokes towards the likes of David Blaine and Criss Angel, which seems like they would have been better, had they been done when they actually relevant, almost a decade ago. Automatically, I knew I wasn’t going to like this flick just from the beginning, but much to my surprise, it does get better. Well, sort of.

"I trick you into laughing. Please."

“I trick you into laughing. Please.”

Here’s the thing with this movie: when it tries to be funny, it feels painfully obvious and totally misses the mark. But, when it’s trying to be nothing but goofy and not even play-up for the laughs, then that’s where the flick really charmed it’s way into my soul. I don’t know if most of that credit is given to the cast, or the screenplay, but when I found myself laughing, it was long and hard, but only for a short while. After that said short while, then it just went back to boredom and I once again found myself sighing and eye-rolling my way through the rest of the duration of this flick. Most comedies try, but this one doesn’t even seem to and I still don’t know whether or not that’s a good thing.

Even magic lovers that go to see this, are going to be pretty disappointed since most of the magic is all CGI, special-effects, or played up to ridiculous laughs that could only happen if you watched a movie. Personally, I like the art of magic, what type of effort goes into it, and how it’s all done, which is why films like the Illusionist and the Prestige always do something for me, but this flick doesn’t even seem bothered with any of that. It’s almost like the flick just used the whole idea of having magicians battle one another, just for the sake of their being comedy and goofiness galore to occur. Nothing ever happens, and the magic never really sizzles or delights anyone. I even had a couple of magicians at my screening, and I felt like I wanted to give them a hug at the end of it. Not because it wasn’t funny (I’m sure they laughed their assess off like everybody else in the theater, with the exception of us high-level critics), but because there wasn’t much magic that felt natural or kosher to the story. It was just thrown in there to make us go, “Wow.” And you could say that’s what most magicians are supposed to make you go, but at least they’re stuff is real. This movie’s stuff wasn’t and it was a bummer for me, on both levels.

However, when you have a movie as bad as this, you can usually depend on the cast to save things and that’s what they do, for the most part. Steve Carell seems to be having fun as Burt Wonderstone, but here’s my main dilemma with Carell. Carell is hilarious when he isn’t trying too hard and just playing his own, natural-self. Usually, it’s when he’s playing the awkward-guy put into a real-life situation that he finds himself in (40 Year Old Virgin). But when he goes off and starts playing these obvious, electric characters that just seem to want your attention and praise; then, that’s when it seems that this guy is trying way, way too hard. Carell makes Wonderstone interesting, but that’s not saying much since this guy is a bigot, a dick, and just one of those dudes who acts like his shit don’t stank, all because he can do neat-o tricks that make people wonder how he did it all. I get that Wonderstone is supposed to start off as a deuche, and then progressively change into a better person as time goes on, but that didn’t matter to me because I didn’t really like this guy nor Carell playing it. Carell does what he can, but he is trying too hard here and almost made me feel like it would have been a hell of a lot better, had they casted somebody like Will Ferrell who is the man at making roles like these work. Wouldn’t have been the most original thing in the world to see, but at least it would have been more interesting and fun to watch.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

Strike a pose, try to look funny.

It was great to see Steve Buscemi get a lead role in a movie for once, let alone one that’s a comedy, but even he feels wasted. And also, don’t let me forget to remind you that this guy shows up in almost every, single Adam Sandler comedy. If Buscemi is wasted in a flick like this, then that’s really saying something. Alan Arkin is fun as the old-school magician that every kid looked up to, Rance Holloway, and loves to just scream, shout, and be the old man that we all know and love him for. It helps that the guy was just nominated for an Oscar, but regardless, the guy’s a box of fun to watch. Also, Olivia Wilde is here as Jane, and really shows that she can play with the big-boys, even if she wasn’t as funny as we’ve seen her be in the past. Still, Wilde’s always charming and always easy-on-the-eyes. Rawr.

The real stand-out of this while movie definitely has to be Jim Carrey, as he’s the only one who really seems to be trying to make this movie and it’s comedy work, yet, does it so flawlessly that it doesn’t seem hard at all. Carrey likes playing strange characters like Steve Gray, and what only makes it better is that he isn’t at the fore-front of it all. Carrey actually allows others to take over the center-stage and wiggle their elbows a bit, only until he pops-up and starts having a ball. Carrey definitely provided the best moments of the movie for me and after awhile, was the only aspect of the whole thang that actually kept me watching. Sorry, Olivia. You’re hot and all, but come on. Jim’s still got it.

Consensus: If you like magic; you will be disappointed. If you like to laugh; you will be disappointed. If you like Jim Carrey; then you will probably be happy with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone for that reason, and that one reason only considering it’s rarely ever funny and tries hard while doing so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, I'm shocked you're in this too.

Yep, I’m shocked you’re in this too.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/10=Full Price!!

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

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

Killing Them Softly (2012)

https://i2.wp.com/www.anomalousmaterial.com/movies/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/killing-them-softly-movie-poster-2-472x700.jpgRoberta Flack is so ironic.

Brad Pitt stars as mob hitman Jackie Cogan, who is hired to hunt down three low-level criminals (Ben Mendelshon and Scoot McNairy) who robbed a mob-protected poker game, that just so happened to be run by a top mob-boss (Ray Liotta).

I think it’s pretty clear by now that this is not the typical, shoot ’em up action-thriller everybody, as well as the trailers/posters/TV ads have all been making it out to be. It’s a thriller, that uses the suspense and actual thrilling-element of this movie in talks, discussions, and most importantly, it’s pacing. If you go into this movie expecting that, you’re going to have a hell of a time, but if you don’t, you’re going to find yourself dozing off quite a few times and wondering just when the hell somebody’s going to get their head blown-off. Trust me, it happens but you got to have some patience. Actually, quoting a Guns N Roses song would have probably been a bit better, but hey, that’s just me.

Another justice I think you would be doing this movie before-hand, is seeing writer/director’s Andrew Dominik‘s last-movie that came out a couple of years back called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, because with that movie, you’re expecting a whole bunch of show-downs, people getting lassoed by bandits, people drinking whiskey, hookers flinging themselves around beds like pillows, and many, many trips to the local saloons. However, like this one, that movie depended more on it’s conversations between characters to really build things up and get to that point of where you actually get to see heads blown-off and feel like you just witnessed something totally, and completely awesome. Once again, you’ve got to have patience and see Dominik’s last-movie to really understand just what the hell to expect. I did both, and I feel great.

What makes this movie so entertaining is that right from the start, you know that it’s going to be full of tension and suspense but how the film goes about it is something that really caught me by surprise. Instead of going right for it, starting off with the heist and getting-on with the simple plot at-hand, we get back story  we get character development, and we actually get time to know what type of people/atmosphere we’re dealing with, and whether or not it’s exactly what we expected in the first-place. Hell, if you think this movie is going to be your typical, gangster shoot ’em up-like thriller, then you’re going to be dumbfounded once you actually realize that it’s already been 25 minutes into the movie, and we have yet to actually see the lead-character of the show.

And speaking of that lead-character of the show, Brad Pitt does an amazing job as the ruthless and toothless hitman known as Jackie Cogan. What makes Pitt so damn great and compelling in these types of roles that he chooses that are like Cogan, is that he looks and feels like this guy who just goes out there, wants whatever type of bloodshed he can get for money, and take it anyway he can, but at the same time, still be the smartest guy in the room that knows more than you may think. Because of this aspect to his character, we are always on-edge watching Pitt in every single scene he’s given because you know he has composure, you know he can play it cool, and you know that he’s not a slouch when it comes to getting the job done the right way, but you also never quite know just when the hell the switch is going to flip, and he’s going to take over anything and everything that stands in his way. Pitt is great with these types of roles and watching him play a character that was one-step ahead of everybody else around him, was just as fun to watch him, as much as it was for him to actually portray it.

Make no means though, because this is still Dominik’s movie and he still never lets you forget about it. His last movie felt like he was trying a bit too hard to go for that Malick look and feel, but here, the only type of style that I think he comes close to is the one of Stanley Kubrick, and that’s just me reaching for the stars. There’s no real style that this guy portrays and even though he may not have his own yet to where I can look at a frame or two and declare, “That, my friends, is an Andrew Dominik picture”, there is still something about this guy and the way he paces his movie’s and their stories to where he can do real-damage.

But then again, there were also these times where I felt like the guy was trying a bit too hard to be like his main character Cogan: one-step ahead of everybody else. In a way, that’s not a bad thing because it keeps us, the viewer on our toes as to what to expect next, but it also makes this movie seem like it’s biting-off more than it could possibly chew. For instance, the whole political-message is very bothersome and wasn’t as heavy-hitting as I thought, except until the very-end and everybody’s starting to spout-out some form of political exposition about how the world works, how our economy does what it does best (ruin lives, sorry too political), and how people are able to make a living (ruin lives, once again, too political). I get it, the story here of Cogan having to come in and take care of a mistake that the mob made is the mob’s own-form of capitalism, but that doesn’t mean in every single, freakin’ scene of the movie where there is a radio/TV present, that we have to hear the voices or see the faces of Obama, McCain, or George Bush. It doesn’t get that annoying, until you actually focus on it and realize that maybe Dominik should have just stayed with all of the conversations, by building-up a message and great deal of suspense, up until we get the bloody-violence, in that way and then we would have had a more clearer, understandable thriller that’s nothing but.

Then, when you actually do think about the bloody-violence, then you can’t think of anything else except for how freakin’ awesome it is. Just like in Jesse James, the violence doesn’t take over the whole story and make you feel as if you’re watching an action-epic of the highest-order, but only shows-up in short spurts in the most violent, most disturbing, and most realistic-way possible. A couple of scenes that come to my mind is one that concerns a slow-mo, build-up of a hit conducted by Cogan, and another scene where Ray Liotta gets his ass beat to a bloody pulp. The reason why it sticks-out so clear in my mind is because it’s not like what you expect from a movie like this: the guy yells, screams, and pleads for his life just like you or I would, and what’s so shocking and disturbing about this, is that the guy is a mobster-like character that shouldn’t feel pain, be scared, or even cry like a little girl. It’s bloody, ultra-violent, and very realistic in the way it portrays the pain felt for one character, and the pain we the audience feel when we watch a guy get the ever loving shit kicked-out of him. Gawd, I miss that feeling.

Speaking of Ray Liotta, this is probably the best piece of work he has done in the past-decade (that’s if we’re including Tommy Vercetti) and just goes to show you that the guy may be a mean-old, nasty mobster-dude that doesn’t take shit from anybody, but also is pretty human, too once you think about it. However, everybody else is pretty damn good too, to where you almost feel like the show can’t be his, or anybody else’s for that matter. Richard Jenkins shows up as the corporate handler who is hired to meet and talk “business” with Jackie, and does a great-job playing the ultimate square, but also a guy you sort of feel for since he is totally out of his element in terms of what there is for him to do, how, and why. Scott McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn play the two crooks that get a bit too hot-headed after the whole robbery and are both very different in their portrayals, but also seem like the two, perfect guys to come together on something like this that could really seem to go either way. Especially Mendelsohn who with this, Animal Kingdom, and The Dark Knight Rises, is playing the corrupted, evil-as-hell characters that we all see and hate in these types of movies, but yet, can’t keep our eyes off of, either.

The one that really steals the show out of the whole cast and may, just MAY, have a slight-bit chance of getting himself nominated for an Oscar this year is James Gandolfini as the old mobster that Cogan brings back to help him out on the dilemma he has at-hand. From the first-shot, you think that this is going to be Gandolfini playing, surprise, once again another Tony Soprano-like mobster, but this is the farthest thing from it. Yeah, he’s still ruthless, mean, and nasty as hell, but he also has a bit of a drinking-problem that escalates into us seeing underneath a convention we already know about in so many similar movies like this: the mobster. Like Liotta, Gandolfini’s portrayal of a mobster is subtle with his angry-emotions, but not so subtle with his sad ones, neither, and this is what culminates into the two best scenes of the whole movie and makes you feel like Gandolfini really needs to come back and bring-out quality performances like these, once again. Hell, I wouldn’t have even minded watching a whole movie where it’s just him and Pitt, shooting the shit about life, money, and crime, the way two old mobsters like to do it, and with the the two scenes of that I got here, I was happy.

Consensus: Going into this movie and expecting exactly what you see in the ads for this movie (countless shootings, crime, and cool walking scenes), then you’re going to be terribly disappointed with what the final-product of Killing Them Softly truly is: a slow-burning, tension-filled thriller that relies more on the performances, than the actual-violence that takes place itself, no matter how bloody or gruesome it is to watch.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Last Castle (2001)

Maybe if Paul Newman had tagged along, than this would have been a cooler prison.

Robert Redford stars as a three-star general who has just been sentenced to 10-years for unknown crimes. He’s sent to a prison that houses military convicts nicknamed the castle. Running this institution is Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini), a meek-looking bear of a man who’s unafraid of doing what ever it takes to maintain order.

With any prison movie, you have to make us care and feel something for the prisoners that we are supposed to watch for the whole 2 hours. And even if you don’t do that, you have to at least try to and make somebody look much, much worse than they already do. This is something that director Rod Lurie couldn’t seem to get his head behind.

I can’t say that I hated this film because I sort of enjoyed it, even though it’s basically another generic prison flick with plenty of problems when it comes to its script and one of its biggest problems is it didn’t make much sense. First of all, why does this huge break-out even go down in the first place? Why, because a murderer didn’t follow an order and in doing so, he got shot in the head? I mean I can understand retaliating against something that is completely and utterly unfair but this dude wasn’t listening when he should have been and instead got blasted for it. Does that mean that a whole jail full of people should just go insane, destroying millions and millions of dollars of government money, killing/hurting prison guards, and losing other prisoners in the mix, just so you could prove a point? Come on people, isn’t there a better way to solve this rather than just going full-on coo-coo for Coco Puffs?

Speaking of these prisoners going crazy, it also seemed unbelievable that these prisoners could pull off such an invasion as the one they pull in the last sequence of the flick. It’s not like I’m giving much away by saying this because it’s pretty damn obvious just by looking at the trailers and posters, but what bothered me was how they could pull such an invasion like this that would require so much planning, so many coincidences, and so many close calls of actually having another prison snitch on them, or having a guard picking up on the plan. It also didn’t help that they pretty much planned all of this shit out within a week, which made it even harder to believe that it would work out THIS well.

But don’t get me wrong here peeps, this film isn’t a total waste, actually, it’s pretty entertaining once you can get past all of those holes. The last half hour, where the invasion goes down, is actually very entertaining to watch and it actually feels a bit unpredictable as to who’s going to live and what’s actually going to go down. I don’t want to say that I was on the edge of my seat the whole time because most of this does come out as some pretty predictable stuff, but I still think that Lurie had a good eye for action and knowing how to keep the energy pumping, even if it only was in the last 30 minutes. Also, if you’re a big patriotic person, you’re going to love all of the several themes about war, soldiers, and showing pride for the country you love. Hoooorah!!

The cast is pretty good here, even though I think they are sort of wasted on cheap material. Robert Redford is basically playing Robert Redford in a very stoic role here as Gen. Eugene Irwin. I could easily buy Redford as the hero and the guy that everybody in the prison basically looked up to as if he was Santa Claus himself, but I do think that by the end of the flick, they start to get a little carried away with his random montages about the good old days of being trapped as a POW. Oh, the war torture! Those bring back the memories. Mark Ruffalo is also OK in a role that seems like it deserved more development, just to suit Ruffalo’s acting.

However, the other problem I left out with this film earlier came back to me just now and it was that this flick didn’t have much character depth to these members of the “chain gang” and even when it did, it came off as way too contrived to be taken seriously. Basically, every prisoner here has a heart of gold. This is a person, which means that this is a place that is full of drug dealers, killers, rapists, smugglers, pedophiles, and all sorts of other baddies, which made me wonder why not one of them ever shows any signs of giving these guys some trouble. I get it that not every person you put in prison is a mean s.o.b., but everybody sure as hell isn’t a disciple of the lord himself, either.

I think out of this whole cast, I really liked James Gandolfini here as Col. Winter. Gandolfini is basically playing Gandolfini but it works and gives this character a very self-conscious look that isn’t sympathetic at all, but still makes you look at him more than just another piece of shit warden that only gets off on watching these prisoners suffer every day. Wish Gandolfini got more roles like this because he can play a good villain that has a bit more to him than people may see at first. Then again, the dude was the leading man on one of TV’s biggest shows of the past decade so he can’t complain too much I guess.

Consensus: With a lot of holes in its screenplay when it comes to its characters and plot, The Last Castle doesn’t hit you as hard as it should, but with a reliable cast and entertaining feel to it, especially with the last 30 minutes or so, it still will keep your attention. Especially, if you love America.

5/10=Rental!!

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Barbers are definitely some cruel people.

Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) goes about the business of cutting hair with a stoic resignation. He’s stuck in a rut and has no clue how to get out. When Crane discovers that his bookkeeper wife, Doris (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with Big Dave (James Gandolfini), her boss at Nirdlinger’s department store, the gears of change start turning.

Take it from the Coen Bros. to take us back to a time that seems so simple, so clean, and so nice, and make it seem like everything other than that.

This is one of those flicks that show the Coens basically giving a little tribute out to the good old days of black and white cinema noir, and it actually feels like one that would have been made back in those days too. The cinematography is beautiful and I think it was used for a great mood because I couldn’t have expected this being filmed in anything else other than black and white. The score is also great not because it sounds cool but because it’s actually made up of a bunch of actual pieces of orchestra music that adds a lot to the dark mood as well. Technically, the Coens do a fine job here and made me feel like I needed to blow some smoke while watching it just to get in the mood.

The story itself is a pretty slow one at first, but after awhile it actually builds up to a story that you sort of get involved with. Everything here is pretty straight-forward but I couldn’t help myself wondering just what was going to happen next and what road this film was actually going to try and go down. I can’t say that this is a suspenseful thrill ride by any means, but it’s still a flick that has a story that keeps on moving on and on as it goes. It will also probably make you feel a lot better than your life because things go from bad to worse for this dude Frank, and it pretty much made me thankful for everything I have in my life. Never thought the Coens would be able to make me think that but hey, they can work wonders when they want to.

The problem with this film isn’t that it’s not good, because it’s a very good flick, it’s just that it’s very hard to actually care what happens. Yes, I did like this story and where it went with its direction but when it came to actually having some sympathy for these characters, there just wasn’t anything touching me at all. Ed, our central character, is a pretty numbed-out dude that doesn’t talk much and doesn’t really have many emotions in this flick and it’s hard to connect with somebody like that considering it seems like he doesn’t really care all that much either about what’s going on with his life and where it’s taking him. His wife, Doris, also seems like she doesn’t have much going for her life other than running around on her husband which makes it even harder for us to care and even Big Dave has dreams but even those are pretty boring and mediocre. Basically, it’s a film that you can try your hardest to like and connect to one of these characters, but in the end, it’s just going to come off as empty.

As for people that are looking for a fun time with a Coen Bros. flick because they saw ones such as ‘True Grit’ and ‘No Country For Old Men’, well then you have to look a little further than this one. The film is very slow and even though I do feel like they needed the time to actually develop these characters as well as the story, there were other times where I felt like certain scenes just ran on a little too long with nothing else but just silence. Also, the 116 minute time-limit may also add insult to injury for that as well but then again, this isn’t the Coens having a fun time.

Billy Bob Thornton is his usual self in this flick as Ed Crane (great name), which is what adds a lot to this character and film as well. Billy Bob isn’t exciting, he barely shows any emotions, he smokes in about every single frame of this flick, and he’s a character that just seems like he doesn’t care at all about anything but it’s also what makes this character work. It may have been hard to feel anything for him but I was still able to like Billy Bob playing Crane because even though we may always seem him play the same character in every flick no matter what, it still never really gets old and still seems fresh especially when he’s playing a barber.

Frances McDormand is also good as his wife, Doris, and she adds a lot of sass and coolness to a character that is pretty unlikable, only because she is committing some infidelities; James Gandolfini is pretty much here as Big Dave and not doing much else other than just being there; and Tony Shalhoub practically comes out of nowhere and steals this flick by the end of it and made me laugh a hell of a lot more than I actually expected in a dark and sad film like this.

Consensus: The Man Who Wasn’t There shows the Coens in a good-form with fine performances from the cast, nice touches for its score and camera-work, and a nice story that builds up more and more, but also has characters that you may find it harder to connect with which makes it even harder for you to care what really goes down in the first place.

7.5/10=Rental!!

True Romance (1993)

Don’t eff with the comic book nerds.

The film tells the story of a novice prostitute Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) and the adventure with her lover, comic book store clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater). When Clarence kills Alabama’s pimp (Gary Oldman), the newlyweds ride off into the sunset — with $5 million worth of cocaine in a suitcase and the police and the mob on their trail.

Since director Tony Scott is in such a slump nowadays, I honestly think he should just go back to having Tarantino write his scripts because he gave him two of the best films of his career. Aside from ‘Crimson Tide’, this is the other one.

The real selling point of this flick is that it’s written by Tarantino himself, and as everybody already knows, this guy is a freakin’ original genius. Tarantino is able to take any situation and make it go from normal to completley insane in about a matter of 5 seconds and it will give you this bad-ass feeling that you could not expect. The story is a pretty familiar but there are people getting killed at every second that you wouldn’t expect, twists and turns, random pop-culture references that somehow fit into the story, and just a whole bunch of other cool moments in this flick that make it ten times more the awesome thrill ride that it is known as today.

My complaint with this script is that even though it is by Tarantino, this is definitely not his best work by any means. Yes, he does get to use all of his trade-marks like funny one-liners, pop-culture references, and tense stand-offs but for some reason it’s not as edgy as you would expect. There was just something that felt like it should have really hit me harder and stuck with me more but instead it just ended up entertaining me and left me with a pretty happy mood. I don’t think Tarantino had full control over his story and that’s why the story may come off as a little more lame than his usual stuff, but it still at least works in a rather medium way.

Director Tony Scott also adds a bunch of fun to this flick by giving it this straight-forward, energetic thrill ride that isn’t filmed with that annoying shaky-came he can’t ever seem to get his hands off of nowadays. Scott is a good director when he’s got good source material, which he definitely has here, and even though it’s not drenched in style like you would expect from him, it still has a fast-paced to it that keeps the story going and the bullets flying.

However, what really had me going for this flick was its whole ensemble cast that is filled with just about every star from the early 90’s. Christian Slater is pretty good as Clarence, a guy that may seem a little strange but after awhile you start to believe and actually hope he comes out of all of this shit alive. Patricia Arquette is also a lot of fun to watch as Alabama, and you can totally feel like this one girl could actually fall in love with this type of dude. Their romance is something you actually care about because we spend enough time to see them together, and to see them be happy with one another so that when they go on this road trip and their lives are in danger, we care not only about them but their relationship as well. Sounds pretty sappy, I know, but it’s something that surprisingly worked here.

The rest of the cast is freakin’ great too, considering that just about every big star this flick had to show is in here for about 5-10 minutes each but totally kick-ass for the time they have. Dennis Hopper is great here as Clarence’s dad, in a non-psychotic role; Val Kilmer is here as “The King” but is still funny and cool, considering we barely see him; Gary Oldman is hilarious and menacing as Drexl, the white boy pimp with dreadlocks; Brad Pitt is also here as our pot-smoking friend, Floyd, and probably one of the best performances of his career, and I am willing to go toe-to-toe with whoever thinks otherwise; and Christopher Walken shows up for about 7 minutes but gives the film’s best scene where its just him and Hopper talking shit to one another and once again, it’s always Walken who steals the show at the end of the day and I can’t say that I expected anything else. Aside from these peeps I already mentioned there are plenty of other familiar faces here such as Samuel L. Jackson, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport, and Bronson Pinchot among others. Basically, it’s one of the better casts for a flick that I’ve seen and they all do excellent jobs with what they are given.

Consensus: It may not be Tarantino’s best script ever written, but it still has a great energy to it, with crazy performances from the ensemble cast, and some really kick-ass moments that make this film a fun watch if not as good as you would expect from these Scott and Tarantino working together.

8/10=Matinee!!

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011)

Hey, if this Jeopardy contestant can do a film why can’t any other one? Anybody have Ken Jennings’ number?

This film centers on Oskar (Thomas Horn), a precocious 11-year old boy whose father (Tom Hanks) died in the 9/11 attacks. He finds a mysterious key that belonged to him and decides to look for the lock that fits the key, convinced that his father left a message for him somewhere in the city.

Way back when, I remember seeing the trailer for this flick and actually thinking it could have been a big Oscar contender. Now I think that was probably because of that awesome U2 song they put in it. No you know what, it definitely was.

Director Stephen Daldry makes his fourth film in only eleven years and tries his hardest here. He has this little style of his throughout the whole film that constantly speeds up the camera and has us moving around the plot as if we were inside the mind of our young protagonist. It was pretty cool for Daldry to actually take this approach and give this idea a shot but it just couldn’t do much to get our minds pass the suckiness of the story itself.

The problem with this story is that too much of it doesn’t feel genuine at all. The story starts off a bit promising with some believability but then once Oskar starts his own little quest, everything just really feels thin. Eric Roth made the screenplay and he uses a lot of the same tricks he used with other scripts like ‘Forrest Gump’ or ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ but it can only go so far when you have a plot that tries hard to be involving and emotional. There are also plenty of other times where the film seems to throw these huge vocabulary words at us without any real meaning or need and even though it may look good on paper, when it’s being put to a film and only focused on for about a couple of seconds, it doesn’t quite work as well.

The main reason why this film’s story didn’t feel real or involve me in anyway was because of that kid that you see gracing his whole face on the poster up-top. Oskar is a neurotic 11 year-old who doesn’t fit in, has a phobia of just about everything outside of his room, and actually gets tested for Asperger’s which he actually says that results were inconclusive, but then again, I do have my doubts about that. The film is actually being marketed as Bullock and Hanks flick but this is all Thomas Horn as Oskar, and it’s definitely an annoying trip just about the whole way through. This kid is terribly annoying because it’s very obvious that he can’t act right from the start so basically everything that comes out of his mouth seems bratty, obnoxious, and always way too smart for his own age kind of kid. He is just right in front of our face the whole entire time and it’s very bothersome especially since this kid never feels like a real kid at heart so everything that he goes through for the whole 2 hours and 10 minutes, just feels implausible as if it was almost a sure fantasy.

I think more of the blame for this should be actually put on Daldry himself considering he was the one who cast this damn kid. There are a lot of scenes where this kid has to yell, scream, and basically rant on about what’s going through his mind and why which I know is supposed to make us feel his angst, sadness, confused state of mind but after awhile it’s a little too hard to watch. I know that it may be terribly mean for me to base this off of a kid, let alone a first-time performer, but he is just really going all out with these little sch-peels he has which it almost reminds me of the one that Edward Norton did in a far-superior post-9/11 flick, ’25th Hour’. The reason why I blame Daldry for this kid was because he never really seemed to help this kid through any of his scenes. He just sort of left him out there to dry and try his hardest to get any type of emotion out of the audience but instead it just takes away so much from the film overall. Daldry focused a little bit too much on his visuals and a lot less on the actual main character himself. Shame on you Mr. Daldry.

The rest of this star-studded cast are all pretty good but they are barely around. Sandra Bullock is quite good as Oskar’s mother who actually has this big scene towards the end where she lets it all out and it works very well mainly because Bullock is a very good actress. Tom Hanks plays Oskar’s father who is mainly shown through flash-backs and he plays up the likableness that always wins with any audience but he is barely ever shown and even when he is, he’s just goofing around with his son and not doing anything really spectacular. Max von Sydow is probably the best part of this flick with his mute character, and right when he actually shows up is when the flick itself starts to actually warm up. He doesn’t use that voice that everybody knows and loves him for but he uses his skill as an actor in a more subtle way that really made me feel more for him than it did for Oskar. Viola Davis also has her two scenes where she’s good but then again, it’s just about two scenes and that’s it really.

Where the main problem with this film stems from is the fact that the plot makes 9/11 its main catalyst for the story. I know that I can’t really blame the film for this, since its in the novel that its adapted from, but the way the film uses it to get some sort of emotion out of us seems terrible. Oskar’s father could have died in any other way and it wouldn’t have matter in the least bit but the film keeps constantly reminding us of this and after about the tenth time Oskar referred to 9/11 as “that bad day” I wanted to just kick his ass. It also gets worse once the film takes something like a last phone-conversation between two loved ones and makes it just seem like another plot element where in real life, that is something that really meant something. It’s hard to watch for these reasons because it feels a exploitative and I still think that it’s a little too soon for people to be making 9/11 films that try this hard.

Consensus: This is definitely a story worth being told and its cast has its moments where they shine, as well as the story itself, but Daldry’s direction feels too-stylized for this type of material, the main kid is terribly annoying, and the whole plot point about 9/11 feels exploitative and something that could have easily been replaced since it didn’t matter either way what this film used in place of it.

5/10=Rental!!

Crimson Tide (1995)

Black vs. White, in a submarine.

Controversy boils over when Soviet rebels point nuclear weapons at the United States, and a message for the nuclear-missile sub USS Alabama gets cut off during transmission. Capt. Frank Ramsey (Gene Hackman) thinks he’s been ordered to launch a pre-emptive strike, while Lt. Cmdr. Ron Hunter (Denzel Washington) believes the submarine has been ordered to stand down. Will the Alabama prevent a nuclear holocaust, or start one?

Crimson Tide is directed by my not-so favorite director, Tony Scott. He has always been known to make crazy action/thriller films with no real purpose, other than to just have you brainlessly entertained.

This film film looks like a thriller and plays like a thriller, but what distinguishes it, are it’s ideas it has. In the high pressure world of submarine-in-crisis, this film stages a debate that gets to the very heart of nuclear deterrents. The paradox is that nuclear weapons only deter war as long as you don’t use them, and you have to be instruction of your own side. There is also a lot of questions about right-and-wrong, which will stay in your mind long after your done watching this film. You’ll also notice some pop-culture references randomly in here, probably because some of this script is written by Quentin Tarantino. That crazy bastard finds himself in everything!

Tony Scott also does a good job at directing this film keeping a lot of tension built to the point of where you think something just terrible is going to happen. With this film, I knew exactly where Scott was going but he puts us in this submarine with these men, and we feel stuck in there with them as their lives are being threatened. When the energy picks up Scott kicks it into high gear, but when its slow and working on suspense, it works as well. In my opinion, this may be one of Scott’s best directorial efforts.

The only problem I had with this film was the ending. I felt a little bit too much of it was uninspired, and way too hokey for a film of this raw nature. Now I know you can’t judge a whole film on it’s ending usually, but in this case I can, cause when you see it, your honestly going be so letdown.

Denzel Washington is as usual, awesome here, and keeps that strong and smart man act up. He doesn’t do anything completely different here, but that’s not a problem, cause he is just great at it. Gene Hackman is down-right amazing playing Frank Ramsey, the guy who we all soon start to hate, and love at the same time. He is just so callous about his job and so prideful, that when he starts to see his high-position getting taken away from him, he just gets so pissed and does things you would have never expected. However, you believe it because Hackman is so good at playing this type of character. Others who are good in this are Steve Zahn, Viggo Mortensen, James Gandolfini, and Matt Craven.

Consensus: It may look like slam-bang action thriller, but it has more ideas and messages than just your ordinary popcorn thriller. The cast is having a ball with this material, and Scott is probably at his best keeping the suspense, as well as energy up the whole time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Makes me think twice of taking subways now.

When a group of hijackers led by criminal mastermind Ryder (John Travolta) take the passengers aboard a New York subway train hostage and demand a king’s ransom, it’s up to subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) to bring them down.

Having not seen the original Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, I went into this film fairly open-minded. But knowing how director Tony Scott can annoy the hell out of me sometimes with his camera-work, kind of made me scared of this project, but it was not all that bad.

Director Tony Scott does it once again, and makes this film really annoying to watch with his constant frenetic camera-work that never seems to work. He does this in films like Unstoppable, The Last Boy Scout, and others, but for this film it was really unneeded. I think that Scott thinks that he needs to stylize every scene so he can make it all look cool, and keep the film thrilling. Oh, and let’s not forget that there is about 3 unnecessary car crashes involved. Why they were in this? Mainly because Tony Scott just wanted one for shits and gigs.

However, the main reason why I did like this film was because it actually was pretty entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the course of the film, and I didn’t quite exactly know what was going to happen next which is the least I can say for a lot of thrillers nowadays.

The first hour is very tense, and keeps our minds on the film, but by the end it does get to the very generic ending that we have all come to expect by now. While the first hour of this film is extremely – again – intense, around the last 30-40 minutes, the movie just becomes your typical action, chase film. It’s all kind of shame too, cause I really was having a grand time with this film.

Probably the best thing about this film is the constant inter-play between these two amazing actors. Denzel Washington, who looks like he was eating enough Subways for this role, does a great job of playing that likable, every-day man hero we have all come to love and know him as. John Travolta may look like a Hell’s Angel member, who enjoys porn on the weekends, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t convincing. Travolta was great because I believed he was crazy enough to hi-jack a subway, and wildly enough to pull it off, but also two steps ahead of me, the viewer. What makes this movie work is the interplay between these two main characters. They both speak through a box to one another throughout the course of the film, but not once did I want to get up, and go to the bathroom. Throughout that final act of the movie, I was just thinking “C’mon, go back to the two of them talking!” That’s how good it was watching them talking, and that’s why this film really does work. There is also some good side performances from the likes of James Gandolfini, John Turturro, and Luis Guzman.

Consensus: The direction may be too frenetic for this type of work, but the first hour, and constant interplay between Travolta and Washington make this film an enjoyable, if a bit generic thrill ride.

7/10=Rental!!

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)

There’s a one inside of us.

Max (Max Records) imagines running away from his mom and sailing to a far-off land where large talking beasts — Ira, Carol, Douglas, the Bull, Judith and Alexander — crown him as their king, play rumpus, build forts and discover secret hideaways. Voices by Chris Cooper, James Gandolfini, Catherine O’Hara, and many others.

Once in a lifetime a very noble director will get a hold of a wonderful children book and really turn it into something magical, this is close to what I thought I was going to have.

I had a really hard time with this film overall. I was expecting a beautiful, exciting adventure from the out-of-this world mind from Spike Jonze. However, all the hype that the film was getting it quite didn’t live up to what I was expecting. Well, I guess adapting a movie from a 10 page book, isn’t the easiest thing to do.

The emotional depth this film goes into is perfect and really handled well in this film. There are just some really profoundly beautiful scenes that really do shine with emotion and old natural beauty. Jonze connects the character of Max to all the other Wild Things, and shows how both of their lives are both equal in every single way, and how they can both learn from one another. Jonze even goes as far as to sort of get adults thinking about these messages about childhood, and how they felt at their age as well.

The only problem I had with this film is that it just wasn’t as powerful as it could’ve been. There were so many scenes that could’ve been handled better if the right attitude was given towards it. In most of these scenes I almost thought that Jonze was going to pull off the scene and really make it memorable. However, Jonze takes another road that doesn’t seem like the best solution for it.

Another problem I had with this film was that although there is a lot of kid-friendly elements to this film, I don’t think that kids will quite have a ball with this film. This movie is more about the message of Max, and most kids won’t look at this. They’ll look at the Wild Things and how scary they look, and the little fun montages, not necessarily the message that Jonze was really going for here.

The little things of this film we’re really good add-ons however. I liked the soundtrack with Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and I thought all of those songs really did connect to the mood of each scene. The visuals that combine the elements of people in costumes, CGI, and animations. They look real and actually could get a nomination cause of how spectacular they look.

Max Records, who plays little Max does a good job at showing some future star quality. Though he can be a little annoying at some points, I really did feel like he was one of the more realistic protagonists in a film in a long time. The voices in this film are good as well, but the best has got to be James Gandolfini as Carol. He really does give the emotion that is needed to play this character and overall has a more effective job than any other of the Wild Things.

The ending that most of you all know from the book, is not as emotionally-charged as you would think. I left the film with a very bad taste cause of the ending, because overall it was just a lame ending for a very powerful movie.

Consensus: Spike Jonze, doesn’t deliver on every spectrum, but does create a very true, emotionally-powerful fable about what it’s really like as a child and the kind’s of turmoil they face at such a young age.

8/10=Matinee!!!