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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 Mangold

Logan (2017)

Not all superheroes have to be nice.

It’s sometime in the near-future and needless to say, the world is not the best place for mutants. Most of them have either been killed, or are so hidden away from society, you wouldn’t even know where to look for them. However, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is one of them and needless to say, time has not been too kind to him. All those years of violence and havoc, have now taken a toll on his mind and most importantly, his body. Now, it seems like Logan, who was considered to be immortal, may eventually reach his demise. But before that happens, he’s tasked with saving the life of another mutant, a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). She doesn’t speak much of English, but has something about her that makes those involved with killing mutants, now want her. Logan sees this as something that he has to protect, so along with another aging mutant, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), they set out to take Laura out of harm’s way. But to where? None of them really know, but they’re going to search far and wide, anyway.

Oh. Time has not been kind.

Oh. Time has not been kind.

After seeing Deadpool last year, I came to the conclusion that in order for most of the superhero movies to stay fresh, they have to up the ante a notch or two. Meaning, it’s time to get rid of all the bloodless violence, the soft and sometimes petty smack-talk, and most importantly, enough with the predictability. Say what you will about some of Deadpool‘s flaws (which there aren’t many of), it’s one of the rare superhero movies that feels like it’s doing something new with the genre, while also staying pretty loyal to certain tropes and conventions, too.

The only difference with that movie was that it knew what it was doing and wasn’t afraid to tell you, either.

And with Logan, the same case can be made that, in order for most of these superhero movies to stay fresh and somewhat original, they need to change the way we see them. Rather than getting another run-of-the-mill, cookie-cutter superhero flick in which there’s a good guy, a bad guy, a threat, a love-interest, and eventually, a final showdown, we get a superhero movie where there’s a few okay guys, a few evil guys, a terrible and disturbing threat, no love-interest, and eventually, a bloody, gruesome and sometimes mean, final showdown. So okay, yeah, not everything here is changed up and different, but Logan shows small, slight ways that the superhero genre can be helped out a bit.

Which is what also brings me to talk about the R-rating Logan was able to obtain and it’s actually what saves the movie. See, Mangold approaches the material in such a dark, heinous and sometimes gritty way, it seems like R was the only way to go to do the actual story justice. But it’s not the kind of R-rating that’s hammered in because everyone wanted to give it a shot; the action and violence is a lot more brutal and gory than ever before, the cursing comes at the best moments and isn’t shoe-horned in, and just the overall feeling of it feels more adult and mature than any of the other superhero movies floating around out there.

It’s as if the kids were left at home and the parents got a night out at the movies and for a superhero movie, that’s pretty damn surprising.

"You think you're more mutant than me?"

“You think you’re more mutant than me?”

And this is to say that it all works so incredibly well. Mangold ups the emotion, just as much as he does the blood, violence and gore, and for that reason alone, there’s more at-stake with this story – we feel closer to Logan than ever before, feel for him, want him to live on, beat the baddies and most importantly, continue to be the way he is. The movie never takes any shortcuts to giving us a fully-realized and complete story to this character, as well as Xavier, and at times, there’s something sweet about watching about watching these two characters, who we first got to see on the big-screens almost two decades ago, finally show their age and embrace the fact that their time on Earth is, of course, limited.

It’s sad for sure, but the movie never forgets that at its center, is really Logan, the rough heart and soul of this movie, as well as this whole franchise. And in his supposedly-final outing, Hugh Jackman probably gives his best performance as Logan, showing that there’s true heartbreak behind all of the killing and destruction he does. Rather than just being a guy who kills for the greater good of society, he’s really just killing cause he has to and has all of this rage hell-bent inside of him – it’s as if he finally stopped trying to please everyone and just let loose. Jackman’s always been perfect for this role and if this really is his last showing, needless to say, it’s the perfect swan song for him to go out on and shows us that we’ll truly, without a doubt, miss him in this role.

Now good luck finding a replacement!

And not just for Jackman, either, but for Stewart as well who, like the former, gives his best performance as this character, showing deep sadness and frustration within a character that seemed like he always had it all together. Stewart gets a chance to explore Xavier’s nastier, ruder side and it’s a joy to watch; not because we know he can do it (as was the case with Blunt Talk), but because he’s stealing every scene he’s in. The chemistry between he and Jackman also finally comes into play here, where we realize that they’re not just best friends who have literally been through it all together, but that they’re also one of their kind left and they both have a legacy to behold.

It’s sad, but kind of heartwarming and the note Logan ends on, well, needless to say, is perfect. It’s melancholy, depressing, and altogether, perfect. Where they’re going to go with the franchise, is totally beyond me, but I definitely look forward to it.

Consensus: With a harder, darker and rougher edge to it than the others, Logan works perfectly as a more adult-like superhero movie, with plenty of action, blood and cursing for the grown-ups, but a heartfelt, sad, and rather sweet story at the center, proving even more why Jackman is perfect for this title role and why it’s going to be weird without seeing him in it.

9 / 10

Save the girl. Save the world. Live on.

Save the girl. Save the world. Live on.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Most cold-blooded killers are, after all, misunderstood.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) has been on the run, gun slingin’, robbin’, killin’, and committing all sorts of crimes that have him number one on every person’s bounty list. However, Wade is a pretty ruthless man, to where he can get away from anyone looking to reel him in for justice; it also helps that he’s got the helping hand of his band of fellow thugs, especially his go-to-guy, Charlie (Ben Foster). But eventually, Ben gets caught by the local law and ready for the 3:10 train to take him to Yuma. But in order to get him there, he’ll have to be transported among many lines, where everyone is looking to take Ben down and get a little piece of the reward-money pie. However, Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is just looking to do this so that he can get some money, save his farm, and go home to his family, where he can feel like a responsible man again. As expected though, the trip goes through all sorts of bumps, bruises, and plenty of violence, where one thing leads to another, and it’s never very clear if Ben will ever get on that train and behind bars, like he should.

"Hold it! I'm not Batman here, but other places. Kind of."

“Hold it! I’m not Batman here, but other places. Kind of.”

3:10 to Yuma is the rare kind of Western that not only revitalizes the genre, but also proves why it’s so great in the first place. It doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the genre, make up new rules, and play by its own game, but instead, take everything that you know and love from all those other classics, bring them together, and let you have a great time. It’s as if it’s own beast, entirely, even if, yeah, it’s actually a remake, too.

Still, even if 3:10 to Yuma isn’t the most original story out there, it more than makes up for it in all the thrilling, exciting and rather unpredictable action-sequences that take place over its two-hours. James Mangold is a perfect fit for this material, because he knows exactly how to make it all crackle and pop, without ever seeming like he’s out of his depth. Even though Mangold sure does love to jump around from genre to genre, with sheer reckless abandon, it seems like the action-genre may be the one he sticks with, not just because he seems to enjoy it the most, but because he actually seems to know what he’s doing with it, as opposed to those like Michael Bay, or McG.

Why on Earth did I just mention McG’s name?

Anyway, moving on. 3:10 to Yuma more than gets by with its action, but at the heart of it all, and perhaps what makes it more than just another fun and exciting romp through the Old West, is that it’s also the tale of two interesting, challenging, and complex men. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in great work here, going beyond the silly accents, and showing that there’s more to these two guys. Crowe’s Wade may be a ruthless, toothless (not really, he has quite the set of chompers), and almost sadistic killer, but he’s also got a set of morals and he’s quite the charmer. Whereas, on the other side of the coin, Bale’s Dan is a man with plenty of morals, a simpleton, and family man, but at the same time, won’t hesitate to kill, if he ever has to.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Ben Foster. Up to his usual tricks of not taking a shower to prep for a role.

Both men are different, yes, but they’re also quite alike in many ways, too, and it’s what makes 3:10 to Yuma quite compelling to watch.

Even when the action is gone for a short while and everyone’s sitting around a fire, eating beans, chewing the fat, it’s still entertaining to watch; the cast is so good, the characters so well-defined, and the script is actually polished. And with Bale and Crowe’s performances, we get to see two men who, despite being on opposites of the social spectrum, still respect the other enough to know where they come from, what their ideals are, and why they are, the way they are in the world. It almost comes close to a bromance, except for the fact that they do try and kill each other every so often, but even then, who knows.

Bromances work in mysterious ways, sometimes.

But anyway, aside from both Crowe and Bale, the ensemble’s a pretty good one. A very young Logan Lerman shows that he can hold his own as Dan’s son; Dallas Roberts plays the sheriff who has to take Wade in with Dan and shows that even the scrawniest of men, with a gun, can still kind of be bad-ass; Peter Fonda shows up and brings some class; Kevin Durand is, as expected, pretty crazy; Luke Wilson has a fun cameo; and Ben Foster, as Wade’s right-hand man, is so crazy, so deranged and so evil, that he almost ends up stealing the show. But still, it’s Bale’s and Crowe’s show to the end and when they’re together, their scenes never stop igniting the spark and make you wish that they’d work together more and more. It doesn’t even have to be in Westerns.

Couldn’t hurt, though.

Consensus: Even if it’s still a Western through and through, 3:10 to Yuma is a tense, exciting and incredibly well-acted piece of entertainment.

8 / 10

Look at 'em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Look at ’em. Trying so hard not to make-out and measure sizes.

Photos Courtesy of: AV Club, Rotten Tomatoes 

Heavy (1995)

The more, the merrier.

Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) works in a pizza shop and doesn’t really talk to anyone around him. While he gets along with most everyone, it has to do with the fact that he’s so shy and big, nobody really knows how to really talk to him, or what to say. Because for Victor, life is just something to get through on a day-to-day basis and it doesn’t really matter about much of anything else. But his life sort of changes when a new girl, Callie (Liv Tyler), comes into town and begins working at one of the local taverns in the area. Immediately, Callie takes a bit of a liking to Victor – it may not be love, infatuation, or anything sentimental, but it’s enough to give Victor some life and hope. But Callie has some issues going on in her own life, in that she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, either. The two end up forging something of a friendship that helps the two navigate through life and realize that there truly is some sweetness out there in the sometimes dark and brim world.

Writer/director James Mangold has had quite the career, mostly because he’s never really seemed to pin himself to one genre in particular. When he’s not making action-heavy, big-budget spectacles (the Wolverine, Knight & Day), he’s actually out there making subtle, slightly arty dramas (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line). And of course, when he’s not making those movies, he’s off trying his hand at other genres, like Westerns (3:10 to Yuma), fantasy rom-coms (Kate & Leopold), and twisty, Hitchcockian-thrillers (Identity).

"Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don't call me, 'Steve.'"

“Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don’t call me, ‘Steve.'”

And then, there’s his debut, which is perhaps his most different movie, but unfortunately, probably his weakest.

For one, it shows that Mangold definitely knew how to create a sense of time and place. Heavy is a very sad, depressed and at times, moody flick. Mangold puts us in this small town, where it’s not exactly bright, shiny, or even happy – it’s just a lot of rain, clouds and frowns. There’s hardly any light in the sky, nor is there much of any light in the people’s faces. In a way, they’re all kind of miserable and at a stand-still, not knowing where they want to go, what they want to do, and how to go about the rest of their lives.

Which is fine for a mood-piece, if that is exactly what you’re going for, but at nearly two hours, Heavy wears out its sad and repressed welcome. After all, Mangold presents this small part of the world and doesn’t have much else to offer; the sweeping shots of the forest and mountains underneath dark clouds of rain, while beautiful, are also incredibly repetitive, not adding much to the story except an obvious bit of symbolism. Which isn’t to say that it’s a pretty movie, because it is, but beautiful landscapes can only go so far.

Especially when you don’t have much of a story to actually work with.

And that seems to be what’s happened with Heavy. Mangold has a good idea of how to frame and show a story, but actually telling it and allowing for there to be any sort of drive behind the narrative, he doesn’t quite seem to have the knowledge of here. Cause if anything, Heavy isn’t just a heavy movie, but it’s a slow one, that doesn’t really seem to have much to say, or anything to really show. It’s just a bunch of sad people, being sad and trying their hardest not to be sad anymore.

Or something like that, I’m not quite sure. It’s basically the most picture perfect Sundance movie ever made: Moody, dark, gritty, and basically just depressed. It doesn’t have much of a reason to be, either, but Mangold clearly doesn’t know that and pounds hard on the darkness.

Cheer up, Liv! You're always going to be rich!

Cheer up, Liv! You’re always going to be rich!

If anything, the performances do help this movie out a whole bunch, even when it seems like there’s no real character-development or strong writing to even help them.

Case in point, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Victor. Vince is a pretty accomplished character actor, who shows up every now and then in those sloppy, country bumpkin-ish roles. Here though, he’s actually pretty thoughtful and rather sweet as Victor, never going too far to say much of anything, but always getting something across by just the look on his face, or the slight-movement of his brow. It’s actually the perfect kind of small, subtle performance, for this small, rather subtle movie, the only problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, so of course, it’s a great performance put to waste.

Same goes for Liv Tyler as the object of Victor’s affection. At this stage early on in her career, Tyler was more of a cute mystery – we didn’t quite know if we could trust the characters she portrayed, nor did it seem like she did. And here, she’s quite good in a role that doesn’t quite measure up to much, except being pretty, moody, and nice to almost everyone around her. Pros of the big-screen like Shelley Winters, who plays Victor’s sometimes controlling mother, and Debbie Harry, as the co-worker who’s a bit of a problem to everyone, work out well here, but they, too, like the rest of the movie, just seem underdeveloped.

Oh well. At least Mangold would eventually get his act together.

Consensus: Even with the beautiful cinematography, Heavy just never fully comes together as both a visually and emotionally satisfying movie, but instead, only resulting in the former.

5 / 10

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

The Wolverine (2013)

So, Deadpool?

After the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), James Logan (Hugh Jackman) still has yet to recuperate and wakes up almost every morning in a pile of his own sweat. He hasn’t been able to shake the memory of her away for a long time, and as a result, has yet came back to the real-world. He spends his time in and around the Canadian wilderness, where he occasionally goes into town, and if so, only to cause a bit of trouble for hoodlums who deserve it. One night however, he gets a rude awakening from a Japanese lady named Mariko (Rila Fukushima), who informs him that a guy who’s life he saved during World War II, is now dying of cancer and would like to see him, one last time. Logan is hesitant at first, but ultimately accepts knowing that they wouldn’t have a random chick come all this way for nada. Once he actually arrives in Japan, Logan realizes that something is not all too right with these mob-bosses and comes to terms with the fact that his visitation may have more meaning than just a simple chit-chat about life. It may have something to do with the after-life and most importantly: Logan’s life.

To be honest, I was not really looking forward to this flick. Any bit of excitement or jitters I may have had in my sleep were all lost once Darren Aronofsky backed-out. Well, actually, it was before that too. Remember a little old movie called X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yep, I do, you do, we all do, which sucks because Wolverine is such an awesome character to build off of, that it’s a total shame that his one and only opportunity to branch out and take the world by storm was screwed over because Hollywood felt like it was time for the world to see will.I.Am as a superhero. But you know what? Life goes on, the pain settles, and eventually, you get over it all and realize that there’s still a light of hope for everybody’s favorite, steel-clawed superhero and what a light of hope it truly is.

She's no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

She’s no Jean. Then again, no woman is.

Something felt different about this movie right from the start, and I think it has to do with the fact that it doesn’t feel like a superhero movie. No, not in the way where instead a light, rousing romp of a flick, it was a dark, depressing melodrama about some dude coming to terms with the powers that have been bestowed onto him. Nope, something was different here and I think it’s because we know this character so well by now, that it doesn’t matter if we aren’t introduced to where he’s come from or what he’s been up to. We are just sort of plopped-down in the middle of his life as it’s happening, without a single clue as to what’s happened before, or in the meantime since we last saw him. I liked that approach because we were constantly moving forward with this story and getting to the juiciness of it all, and not folding back into time, where everything we saw and heard before, is told to us again.

All movies, especially superhero ones, should be moving forward with their story and that’s why I knew I was off on a good foot with this flick and ready for an unforgettable ride. That’s exactly what I got, if not more.

Once Logan shows up to Japan, the movie becomes slightly like a Japanese, kung-fu movie where you have people doing all sorts of crazy moves and actions that you haven’t quite seen in any other superhero movie, up until now. But then again though, it doesn’t get all Kill Bill on our asses neither; there’s still plenty of ass-kicking, high-adrenaline action that comes in and busts our rumps every once and awhile, and keeps the blood flowing and the interest-rates up. To me, this felt like the type of superhero movie that knew what it was, but wasn’t going to shell out for anything less or more. It stuck with what it knew it could do, and didn’t turn my head away at all.

Some moments did get a little comic book-y, especially by the end, but overall, director James Mangold keeps his head above the rest of the current, and allows for his material to breathe some newly-found life into it’s character and it’s story. It helps an awful lot that the story is placed in Japan, an area that’s able to make any simple tale pop, sizzle, and crack, but it also helps that Mangold doesn’t allow for this material to get too serious or too dark. There’s plenty of times where it could have gone straight for the soapy melodrama, but rather continues to entertain us, or build more and more on the story. The story we have here is actually pretty compelling and surprising in the places it turns to, which is a huge change-of-pace for a simple genre of films like the superhero ones. You feel like everything’s already been set in stone for this genre, until one like this comes around and shows you that not only can the game change up a bit, but it can do it so effortlessly as well.

Great directing job on Mangold’s part. However, I’m still of the opinion that Aronofsky’s version would have made it a hell of a lot more interesting to see. Then again, this would have been the same movie done by the same dude who made everybody’s favorite, and probably only, “ass-to-ass scene”. Yup, it’s THAT guy.

"Screw you, Bai Ling."

“Screw you, Bai Ling.”

But if there’s anybody that really deserves all of the credit and praise here, it’s non other than Mr. Hugh Jackman himself, playing Wolverine for about the 5th time, and never getting showing signs of it getting old or worn-out. Jackman isn’t really doing anything insanely original with his latest act as Logan, but he doesn’t need to be when this character is already so interesting and likable. We care for the dude right from the start, because we know that no matter how many times he may lose his temper and the claws come out, there’s still a simple-minded, lovable human-being underneath all of it, and in the end, will do the right thing for the better of mankind. As I said before, I wasn’t really looking forward to another movie that was dedicated to ALL of Wolverine, ALL of the time; but I was still happy to be reminded how wrong my initial-feelings were. Another Wolverine flick may be pushing it, but this will do for now.

Jackman is so good though as Logan, that it almost steals the rest of the movie from everybody else in this cast. Not to say that nobody else is good here, but it’s obvious who the more comfortable worker is here and who’s the one that really has the charm and the presence to make this sometimes-goofy material work. That is with the exception of one performer in this movie: Rila Fukushima as Yukio, the kick-ass, samurai-sword-wielding side-kick of Logan’s. When I first saw Fukushima, I thought her character was going to be another one of those quirky, Japanese gals that was not only out-of-place being beside Wolverine, but also say and do strange things (because all Japanese girls are freaks, right?) Well, I was surprised to see that not only did the movie treat her with enough love and respect as they did with their titled-character, they also did it in a way to where you want to see more of her, doing whatever it is that she can do just to ensure us that she’ll be on the screen more. It’s surprised me to know that Fukushima never acted in anything before this and I hope that this means she’ll get more roles, especially in more American movies because I think she’s got the energy and the general likability to make it all work. Everybody else is fine, but she’s the one who comes close to walking away with the whole show. However, she comes close, but doesn’t run away with it. That’s Wolverine’s job, and it’s one that I’m glad he has and hope that he continues to have.

Consensus: May not change the game of the superhero flick, or even expand on it either, but The Wolverine definitely does one thing right: Entertain the hell out of you, even when you least expect it to. Take that, Zack Snyder!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

We get it, Hugh! You're JACKed!

We get it, Hugh! You’re JACKed!

Identity (2003)

That’s why you gotta fly high, Marriott Inn-style, baby.

It all started on a very-rainy night with a woman getting run over by a limo-driver (John Cusack). After this, the man tries to save her life by bringing her to a motel in the middle of the desert, owned by an odd man named Larry (John Hawkes). There’s no such luck, until a cop (Ray Liotta) with a prisoner in his custody (Jake Busey), comes on by. There might be hope, but there somehow isn’t, considering the more and more people that show up, the more deaths there are. But here’s the kicker: nobody has a single-clue exactly as to who’s killing all of these people in the shadows. It could be anybody. Hell, it could even be YOU, the viewer!! AHHH!!

This movie is such an obvious rip-off of an Hitchcock movie, it’s not even funny. Everything from the strange-o characters, to the tense setting, to the mystery, and hell, even to the actual motel itself. It looks exactly like the one that Norman Bates rented out for anybody that strolled-along, almost to the point of where the actual sign itself continues to flicker on-and-off to portray just how shady the area actually is. Yes, it can get pretty obvious where the creators took their inspiration from, but the distractions go away once the story starts, and ultimately: where the fun really begins.

Going into this movie, thinking that you have a hot-head for detail and knowing what’s good when it comes to any movie, may just have take your high-hat off for this one because it’s a total puzzle in every stretch of the imagination. Every time a new character is brought to our attention, more of a mystery is presented to us, and just when we think we know exactly what this story is all about, where it’s going, and who’s going to end up being the slasher behind the closed-doors; the movie still toys with us and gives us something new to think about. There were countless times in this movie where even I thought I had it all figured-out, but somehow I was stooped, once again.

Just had to get run over, didn't ya?!?!?

Just had to get run over, didn’t ya?!?!?

Movies like this where you can’t trust anyone, not even the director himself (in this case, James Mangold), always are a treat for me to watch because it’s very rare where I actually get to check out a movie that makes me second-guess myself, almost every step of the way. No matter what I thought was right, I was usually wrong. Even by the end once all of the pieces seemed to start to come together, once more, I was slapped in the face with a disapproving look. Not to say it was an insult or anything, but it was more of a slap to wake up, and look at the finer-details in order to see if I could really get on with this movie, and what it was trying to pull.

But most movies like this, with all of the twists and such, remind me of a young-at-heart relationship between two people. At first, all is good. You see where things could go, you get happy, and you start to appreciate everything that you have in front of you, even if you may be stepping-out of your comfort-zone a bit. Actually, maybe even a bit too much for yourself. However, suddenly things go awry and you realize that maybe not everything was as perfect as you once thought it was, and now it’s time for a slight-change. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time to over-do everything, show the other person how much you care, and rather than gaining their love and support back, you gain other thoughts and feelings that you didn’t quite want in the first place. You know, the baddie one.

That’s how this movie felt to me. Once everything got ready and going, I was happy and ambitious. I expected the movie to keep me puzzled, glued-in to what was going on, and shock me, every time that it felt like it wanted to. However, things got a little crazy at a certain point that I eventually started to realize that maybe this movie was turning it’s wheels a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the movie for being fun, clever, and original in it’s own type of way, but after awhile, it only went on for so long and so far, that is, until I started to question whether or not this movie even believed in the twists it was throwing at the wall and seeing what stuck, and what sort of just surely, but slowly continued to slide-down the wall.

Then, on the other side of the stadium, I am a bit torn with this movie because I enjoyed myself, had fun, and continued to second-guess myself, even when I was sure that I was correct in my pretentious, critical-ways (hey, it comes with the job). So therefore, I guess it’s all just a judge of character. Whether or not you are able to take the numerous twists the movie begins to launch into the story, is all up to you. For yours truly, some of it worked and seemed smart, whereas some of it didn’t quite work so well and actually seemed goofy. Oh well, that’s just me. Make up your own minds, kids!

But no matter what crazy shit a movie tries to pull, you at least have to give it credit for getting a cast such as this assembled, and allow them to do whatever it is that they can do to make a movie as goofy as this work. Nobody is really playing very far and away from what we’ve seen them do before, but at least they own it and are game for this type of material. At least. John Cusack is good as the ring-leader of the group, who knows exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to pull it all off so no more people get killed. You see that he has a past where the guy used to be a cop, but suffered a problem that left him emotionally-strained and messed-up in the head, therefore, he left his duty. But that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, right? Keep on guessing.

Ray Liotta plays, as you could expect, a cop that has a huge chip on his shoulder with a dangerous criminal in his custody, and a bit of anger-issue. However, as obvious and conventional as this may sound (even for a character played by Liotta), Liotta makes him work because you constantly believe that there is more to this dude than he lets in, even if the character himself doesn’t seem to admit it. Liotta is always good at playing these types of roles, even if it sort of has become a trademark of his by now. That’s fine, though, because the guy seems like he would do the right thing if he had to, but does that mean he’s really a good guy? Keep on guessing.

"No, you go first."

“No, you go first.”

The only one here who really seems to have a clear-enough conscience not be considered a prime-suspect in all of the killings, is a whore with a heart of gold played by Amanda Peet. I usually love Peet in everything she does, but she seemed a bit annoying here. It wasn’t Peet herself, as much as it was more of her character for having that loud, obnoxious Southern-accent that continued to ring in my ears, even when she wasn’t yelling at somebody for looking at her hot body. Yeah, blame us for this, Amanda!

But they aren’t the only ones in this movie, they’re just the main stars that may (or may not) attract the audience to the wider-show. There’s plenty more where that came from, and they are all great. Clea Duvall plays a young, just-recently married gal that’s having problems with her d-bag hubby; John C. McGinley’s character’s wife is the one who gets hit in the first place and is good at being awkward and twitchy, without reminding me of the legend of all this; John Hawkes is a fun-fit as the type of dude you’d expect to own a motel out in the middle of nowhere (meaning he’s a bit of a creep-o); and lastly, the lovely and equally-as-creepy Rebecca De Mornay is here as an aging, but still very uptight actress that believes she deserves more than she’s given. Art imitating life? Just maybe.

Consensus: Most of what Identity has to offer and whether or not you’ll be able to go along for the ride, is all up to you, the viewer. Twists and turns will occur, and it all depends on whether or not you are game for them. Me, I was quite game, but I will admit that there is some goofiness underneath the blankets of a story that seemed drench in mystery.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Surprise! Surprise! It was the bubble-wrap killer after all of this time!!

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Randle McMurphy would have taught these ladies what being crazy was all about.

Set during the sixties, Susanna Kaysen (Winona Ryder) is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and sent to a renowned New England psychiatric hospital where she spent the next two years in a ward for teenage girls. There, she finds out more about herself through others, especially Lisa (Angelina Jolie), a charming sociopath who really messes with Susanna’s, as well as everybody else’s, minds.

Any movie that has ever been and ever will be made about psychiatric hospitals, will always be compared to the greatest of all-time: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. To some movies, this may not seem like a very fair-comparison but still it can’t be escaped as that film is not only the finest about psychiatric hospitals, but one of the finest films of all time. Period. That’s why it’s so damn hard for films like these to get past that detour, and be it’s own film. Sadly, the idea and thought of One Flew only made this flick all the more boring in hind-sight.

I’ve never read Susanna Kaysen’s autobiographical-take on her 18-month stay at the nut house, but from what I hear, people that loved that book absolutely loathed this movie and I can totally see why. From the first-shot, I expected this movie to be one of those downright depressing tales of a bunch of wacked-up people that can’t seem to get by in life no matter how hard they try to be normal, and that’s what sort of had me excited here. I thought I, dare I say it, was in-store for a female-version of One Flew, but somehow, just ended-up with a total chick-flick disguised as a One Flew-ripoff. Very, very disappointing.

Aw, look at Winona! Trying to smoke and lose her Hollywood sweetheart image.

Aw, look at Winona! Trying to smoke and lose her Hollywood sweetheart image.

After I got used to the tone and realized that maybe this movie was going to shine more light in the bottle then I expected, I decided to still give it a chance and see where my opinions and minds swayed. However, I soon find myself caring less and less about the material as it went along. Mainly most of the blame has to be put on director James Mangold who treats this material as if it was another soapy, melodramatic TV-movie-of-the-week that you’d probably catch right after school is letting-out and the kids are just getting on the buses.

With an R-rating, this film definitely has it’s fair shares of curses, nudity, drug-use, and some disturbing images to spice some things up, but you take away all of that, and then you just got a film that’s trying way, way too hard to inspire us to be the best in our lives and instead, ends up just being way too melodramatic and serious with itself. You don’t feel like you just watched something that will stay in your mind forever, nor have you change anything you already do throughout your day; it’s just there to be there. That’s just about it and that sucks because from what I hear, the source material is very, very rich in it’s context and what it has to say. Somehow, someway, Mangold lost his way.

Obviously a movie about a bunch of crazy girls (half of which have all tried to kill themselves) isn’t going to go down the dark comedy-route, but at least give me something that’s more than just a bunch of sad, lonely girls that can’t make sense of anything. Seriously, I’ve seen it all before, heard it all before, and 9 times out of 10, know that it’s an idea that’s been used a lot better before. Watching crazy girls cry, rant, rave, curse, yell, and be sad all the time, doesn’t give me much pleasure, nor does it really inspire me to move-on with my life and be the best that I can be. I don’t know what Kaysen’s original source-material’s point was about life and how you live it, but something tells me it got a bit skewered in the process of making this movie. Also, as inspiring as it may be to see a bunch of crazy girls change their lives around, wake up, and smell the cauliflower, it’s a theme/idea that isn’t anything new, refreshing, or powerful in the least-bit, especially when it’s done in such a dry way like this. It’s just boring to hear, boring to watch, and most of all, boring to wait for 2 hours, just so it will get to it’s damn point.

The only aspect of this movie that nearly saves the day is the performances from everybody involved, especially it’s two leads. Winona Ryder does a great-job at giving this Susanna girl some life, that may seem a bit phony at-first, but soon becomes more and more believable as the story rolls on and we see how she reacts to what life has thrown at her. Obviously Ryder isn’t the best actress out there, but the girl still can give a solid performance when she wants to and that’s exactly what she does here. However, I do think that this Susanna girl was a lot more complex and diverse in the book, which is why it’s sort of a shame to see how she rarely smiles, rarely makes people laugh, and rarely ever does anything we don’t expect from her. She’s sort of plain and dull, which is something that Ryder tries to distract us from, but in the end, sort of fails to do so. Yet, it isn’t her fault and it’s more of Mangold’s than anybody else’s, really.

So nutty, yet, still so hawt.

So nutty, yet, still so hawt.

The best out of this whole cast is obviously Angelina Jolie, who won an Oscar here for her role as the trouble-maker and fire-starter inmate known as Lisa. There’s always a certain spark and edge to Jolie that makes her light-up on-screen and here, she uses that to her advantage, but in a different way than we are used to seeing from her. Lisa is nasty, brutally honest, hurtful, but also very unapologetic in the way she handles herself, tells everybody how she feels, and goes about her day as if nobody else is around her. Lisa reminds me of a lot of girls I know (even guys, too) and definitely seems like a more complex person than Susanna is and that shows. Whenever she’s not around, the movie drags and drags and drags, until she finally shows-up once again to liven things up. If you feel as if Jolie isn’t a good actress and isn’t really worth-watching, other than wondering how she got her lips to be so freakin’ big in the first-place, then check out her role here and realize that the girl has a lot more going on for her than Ryder does, that’s for damn sure. Probably has a lot more money too, that she uses to buy her clothes with. Hayooo! Don’t worry, I’ll be here till Thursday!

Consensus: The cast makes up for some of the script’s misfortunes, but there’s way too many in Girl, Interrupted to turn your head-away from as it just ends up being another, melodramatic and soapy chick-flick about a bunch of gals that have problems, need to get over them, and simply can’t. Just watch for Jolie and some of Ryder, and be done with it.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Trust me, not as titillating as you dudes may expect. Girls, too. If you like that sort of thing.

Trust me, not as titillating as you dudes may expect. Girls, too. If you like that sort of thing.

Knight and Day (2010)

Too many reminders of Vanilla Sky.

Perpetually unlucky in love, June (Cameron Diaz) becomes intrigued by a mysterious man (Tom Cruise), who unexpectedly drags her into a whirlwind adventure involving devious enemies, life-threatening confrontations and a major discovery that may alter the future of humankind.

Already by seeing this plot, you know just exactly how it’s going to begin, continue, and then finally end. But usually, it doesn’t matter if it’s formula. It’s all about the ride itself.

Director James Mangold knows what he’s doing when it comes to creating some fun action. Mangold keeps the pace moving at a breezy movement with just enough hits of whimsy and action to keep anybody satisfied. The action sequences may go on too long, however, I still liked a lot of them and they actually made up for a lot of the weak parts of the story.

There are also some beautiful exotic locations here that Mangold takes us to such as Spain, Germany, and Austria. The story may go all-over-the-place but with a lot of these great spots that the film goes towards, you really can’t help yourself but gaze at the beautiful scenery itself.

For me, I didn’t think this film was really that funny and that it tried way too hard to get laughs out of the person watching. The film tries to be goofy and a romp on all those old spy-flick thrillers, but none of it really works since it just seems like they will take 5 minutes to actually get a joke out. Maybe I chuckled once or twice, but other than that, I was just annoyed by how annoying this film could be with it’s comedy, or lack thereof.

Although the action was good, I couldn’t help but be terribly annoyed by the fact that the CGI here was pretty blatant. I wish that a lot more of the action was just actual stunts and if they were going to use actual special effects, that they would look a lot better rather than just a bunch of crappy effects they used off of a DELL computer. You’ll be able to tell the special effects from the actual action happening here, but it’s a lot more of an annoyance than you would expect.

Tom Cruise is an actor that seems like at the beginning of every film he does, I’m going to be terribly annoyed by his character and I almost never am. His performance here as Roy Miller is pretty fun to watch because he’s got that cool charm, that mannish look, and that mysterious thing about him that just has you wondering what he’s going to do next. Cameron Diaz does that smile and laugh gig that she’s been doing forever, but it’s not so bad here and she’s pretty charming as well as June Havens. Their chemistry works as I would come to expect from these two pros and may actually get the film through some of it’s more rocky parts. The rest of the cast is good too such as Viola Davis, Peter Sarsgaard, the sexy Maggie Grace, and the always dorky Paul Dano.

Consensus: The comedy doesn’t work as well as the CGI, but the chemistry between Cruise and Diaz, the beautiful locations that are shown, and the fun action action make this an OK, action date movie.

5.5/10=Rental!!