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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jennifer Connelly

Reservation Road (2007)

Still though, those little bastards gotta hurry their asses up off those buses!

Ethan and Grace Lerner (Joaquin Phoenix and Jennifer Connelly) are more than happy with the way things have been going for their lives, but all of that happiness ends when their son gets killed in a hit-and-run accident. Even worse, the person in the car (Mark Ruffalo) who caused it, knows who they are, is still stuck with the guilt, and has yet to fess-up to what he’s done. That’s when Ethan decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out just who the hell is responsible for all of this pain and misery that has been inflicted on him and his family.

Even though the idea of watching a bunch of people go through grief and suffer through pain and agony doesn’t sound like the most exciting bit of an-hour-and-a-half I’d like to spend, you can never, ever go wrong with a cast like this. People know Phoenix to be the type of guy who takes rich and hearty-material that challenges himself, Ruffalo is always a guy that’s capable of taking anything the world throws at him and make it totally and completely work in his favor, and having Sorvino and Connelly round things out ain’t so shabby, either. So, the big question on your mind may be, “How the hell did all of this go wrong?”

My answer? “Script, man. Script.”

The main problem with this script is that even though it does pay attention to the problems its characters face on a day-to-day basis when it comes to dealing with their own levels of grief, the movie still feels the need to rush things up and make this almost like a type of thriller. That sounds all fine and dandy for people who want more than just a character-based story and want some action and excitement to go along with their tears and heavy-grieving, but for a movie like this where we essentially know what happened, who did what, and what the only way to end this could be, it’s a little silly and not all that thrilling. We know who killed the kid, who’s responsible, where this could go, and that this can only end in two ways, either death or imprisonment  so what the hell is all of the tension supposed to be there for?

Pictured: A guy who just got done thinking.

“Damn. Paparazzi.”

And it’s odd, because the tension in this movie is supposed to lie in the fact that everything this driver goes through in life, always has him ending up in one way or another, connecting with the kid’s family. For example, his ex-wife just so happens to be the kid’s sister’s music teacher that is totally superfluous to the plot, except to only include the always wonderful Mira Sorvino (more on her in a bit). Then, it gets even worse when Ethan decides to take the investigation into his own hands and get lawyers involved and in case you couldn’t tell where this is going, get ready, because guess what? The man who killed Ethan’s son, just so happens to be that lawyer he asks for help.

Shocked yet?

Anyway yeah, this movie is just chock full of coincidence-after-coincidence and they don’t seem to serve any other purpose to this story, other than to keep the audiences minds awake for when the flick decides to actually focus in on its characters. You could also argue that the flick only added in those thriller-elements to appeal to a larger-audience that wouldn’t really feel the need to venture out to some movie about a bunch of people crying and being sad all of the time, and if that is the case, well then that’s a damn shame because there is a lot of promise for this type of material to work, regardless of if it’s a mainstream, or indie production.

But regardless, it almost shouldn’t matter when you have a cast like this, because they’re supposed to be able to do no wrong. And that sort of happens, but not really. Joaquin Phoenix may seem a tad miscast at first as the grieving simpleton father of a suburban-family, but shows us differently when he unleashes those raw and honest emotions we always see in each and every one of his performances. You feel bad for the guy and you just want to give him a hug and tap on the back, whispering into his ear that “everything’s going to be alright.” It’s not Phoenix’s most daring role, but it was a true sign that he could play a normal, everyday dude.

Pictured: Sad actors

Pictured: Sad Actors

The same can definitely be said for Mark Ruffalo who never seems to phone-in a performance, no matter how crappy the movie may be, which is what happens here. Ruffalo is great as the driver that kills this boy and runs away without getting caught, because he makes you feel something for the guy, even though he is totally in the wrong, through-and-through. You can sort of see why a guy like him would run away from the punishment of being arrested, but after awhile, it does start to get a bit ridiculous that it hides this all for so long, and for all of the reasons that he apparently has to himself, as well. Still, Ruffalo prevails and shows why you can give him anything, and he can make it work.

Jennifer Connelly is simply used here to be another grieving character of the whole movie and does that very well. Connelly is always good in what she does and that’s why it’s so weird to barely see her around anymore, but it should always be noted that she’s a good actress, when the material is there. It’s sort of here for her, and sort of not, so it’s hard to fully judge her.

Oh and yeah, I previously mentioned Mira Sorvino and it isn’t because she does anything simply out-of-this-world with this movie (mainly because she isn’t given much to work with in the first place), but, without any type of spoilers or giving-away major plot-points (like it really matters), there’s this one scene with her and Ruffalo that is probably the most endearing and emotionally-truthful out of the whole movie, and it really took me by surprise. Rarely does this movie ever talk about how Sorvino’s and Ruffalo’s character used to be married and a loving-couple with one another, other than when they yell, fight, and argue with one other, but that one scene, that one moment between these two, not only made this movie just a tad better, but made me feel like there could have been so much more had they just dropped the whole death-of-the-kid angle and even went so far as to focus on Ruffalo’s character trying to actually get through the divorce and make ends meet. Sure, it’s not the movie we got, but man, I imagine wonders could have been made going down this road, especially with the always dependable Sorvino who, like Connelly, needs to be in more.

Much, much more. Come on, Hollywood!

Consensus: Even with a solid cast on-deck, Reservation Road can’t get its head together quick enough to where it fully works as a small drama about sadness and grief, or as a nail-biting thriller.

5 / 10

I guess he's going to start taking after his kid. Hayyoh! Okay, I'm done.

I guess he’s going to start taking after his kid now. Hayyoh! Okay, I’m done.

Photos Courtesy of: Focus Features

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Winter’s Tale (2014)

Sometimes, love just doesn’t make any sense. In this case, nothing makes sense!

In 1895, while on the run from his adoptive father, deadly gangster Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), thief Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) decides to make one last score in a house that seems to include some very wealthy people, who also may not even be home in the first place. He gets to the vault and starts working his magic, when all of a sudden, Peter realizes that he’s not alone in the house. It just so happens that the patriarch of the family (William Hurt), left his daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay) behind and Peter has no idea what to do, except just act natural and talk to her. And wouldn’t you know it, they actually have something in common and start up something of a relationship! The problem is, Beverly is slowly dying of consumption and needs to be with a man, and soon. Peter believes he can be the man to make the sweet lovin’ to her, but he also realizes that time is running out before Pearly and his men find him and decide to take his life away.

While that may sound all simple and carefree, like an ordinary romantic-drama should be, there’s something particularly strange about this movie. See, it’s a fantasy movie, that has flying horses, demons, 120-year-old-women and time-travel, but for some reason, in the mind of someone like Akiva Goldsman, apparently fantasy just means “throwing whatever shit you can think of on the screen, without any rhyme or reason.” And don’t get me wrong, I like that type of movie, but there has to be some sort of ground-rules to allow for everything to make sense. If not, there’s no reason for your movie to exist, except to just show everybody how crazily creative you can get.

And I hate to break it to you, Akiva Goldsman, but you’re not all that creative. In fact, you’re kind of a bore that doesn’t seem to know where to begin a story, where to go with a story, and just how exactly to end it. Which may all sound weird considering this is the same guy who wrote A Beautiful Mind, but anything that worked there, totally doesn’t here. Then again, those are two different movies in their own right, so the less I speak about that comparison, the better.

"What's so wrong with a man embracing his horse?"

“What’s so wrong with a man embracing his horse?”

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah, that’s right, this movie. It’s a mess. It truly is. Certain things happen, then don’t happen, and then do happen again, for no reason except to just happen and keep the plot moving along. Which, once again, is fine, just as long as there are some ground-rules being laid down for us to make note of anytime anything completely out of the ordinary happens. We sort of get some of that when a demon character shows up and tells another demon what they are, and aren’t allowed to do, but it was told in such mumbo-jumbo, that I didn’t really get any of it, nor did I care. Also, the two actors in that scene just seem like they are on completely separate planets, let alone in the same movie.

But I guess that’s the way Goldsman not only directed his cast, but the movie as a whole. You can tell that there’s a really soft, sweet and endearing romance at the center of this movie, and there are times when he allows for it to just sit, relax, tell itself, and breathe. But then, moments later, Goldsman can’t help his urges, so he decides to throw in some weird ideas about the light and how it reflects on where a person is directly located on a map. I know. It’s weird and it don’t make a single ounce of sense, but I think that’s sort of the point.

Or maybe it isn’t. Personally, I don’t know and I shouldn’t care when a movie is as wild as this, but I do care and I have no clue as to why. Maybe because it seems like with a movie like this, where you can be so random and insane and still find a way to bring some emotional-connection to the proceedings, there’s always something to enjoy. But everything here was so odd and out-of-left-field, that it wasn’t. It just kept on making me scratch my head and wonder just what the hell was going to happen next, for what reason, and where was it going to lead to. And then once it did lead to that next scene, it was the whole rinse and repeat act. Rinse and repeat.

Like I alluded to before, too, there is an actual heartfelt story in the middle of all this craziness, it just doesn’t get as much of a spotlight as it should. With this love story (aka the main reason why any guy would get dragged into seeing this in the first place), we’re supposed to root for both Peter and Beverly to get together. Not only does it seem like Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay have legitimate, natural chemistry, but it’s believable why these two would be drawn to one another in the first place; she’s dying because she hasn’t consumed and is a bit picky with her boys, whereas he’s just got too much going on with his wacky lifestyle to even worry about a beautiful girl like her. They get a few scenes together where they really feel like honest love birds and I have to admit, they’re what kept me going with this movie.

"Do know, I de devil, me mate."

“Do know, I de devil, me ladey.”

It was only until Russell Crowe with his Elmer Fudd, mixed with a drunk Irish guy-act got in the way of everything and had to spoil the party. It’s not like Crowe is bad per se, he’s clearly trying to have fun with this role and give it all he’s got, but he’s really trying here, almost to the point of where the movie seems to just sort of let him run rampant with whatever he’s doing and forget to even make sense of hiss nonsensical ramblings; which there are many of, sadly.

But it does get worse and though I’d like to spoil this for everybody and say why this is the case, I’m going to take the higher-road and allow for you to see for yourself, if you wish. If you don’t, I can’t say it’s your loss. You do what you want to do, just know that this movie’s nuts and drugs may not help.

Once again, just saying.

Consensus: The romance at the center is what keeps Winter’s Tale, for the most part, grounded in some emotional consciousness, but everything else is just so weird, unbelievable, and out of the blue, that any connection we may have had to the story gets lost in the nonsensical shuffle.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

How I dance with the ladies. Except a whole lot more grinding.

How I dance with the ladies. Except with a whole lot more grinding.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Noah (2014)

Thought he’d need a bigger boat. Guess not.

I don’t think I really need to state what this movie is about, but in case those of you out there have either been living under a rock for the past one million years, or just don’t pay attention to anything at all in the whole, wide world, here’s the plot: Noah (Russell Crowe) is a descendant of Seth, which means he is one of the very few nice men in the world that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t kill when he doesn’t have to, and loves all things that are beautiful with the world. He loves nature, he loves his wife (Jennifer Connelly), his family and most of all, his God. So much so, that when he has a vision in his dreams that the world will be destroyed one day due to a huge flood, he decides to take matters into his own hands and prepare the right way. What is “the right way”, you ask? Well, that consists of building a giant-scale Ark that will hold two of every animal species known to man in order to have all of them continue on and live, even if the world itself is totally wiped-out. Things for Noah and his whole family seem to go fine, that is until Noah gets a little bit crazy with what it is that God actually wants him to do, against what it is that he thinks he should do.

As predicted, there’s been a lot of talk surrounding this movie. Many Christian-advocates have stood-up, said their peace about this flick and even though they haven’t necessarily been totally against it, per se, they definitely haven’t given it the glowing pass of approval neither. So basically, this movie may offend you, but then again, at the same time, it may not. It all depends on how in-touch you are with your faith and whether or not you actually want to see a full-length, feature-flick about a dude who built an Ark to preserve life for the rest of humanity.

Personally, I don’t want to see that kind of movie. But if Darren Aronofsky is directing it, then count me the hell in!

"Guess you didn't get the memo about '80's glam-metal hair-styles only', huh?"

“Guess you didn’t get the memo about ’80’s glam-metal hair-styles only’, huh?”

And if anything, the idea of having Darren Aronofsky direct this as a certain “passion project” of his, is definitely the most intriguing-aspect behind this flick. You’d never expect the same kind of guy who gave us scenes like this, or this, or hell, even this, to be so willing and dedicated to give his own, in-depth version of an as-old-as-time story that’s only about a few paragraphs or so long. But with Aronofsky, you can never, ever tell what his next move is going to be; whether it be what movie he decides to direct next, or what he actually does in his own movies, the guy is totally unpredictable. However, in today’s day and age of cinema, we need that, which is why when you get a Darren Aronofsky movie, it doesn’t matter what the subject-material is or how it’s going to play-out in terms of who it’s for – all you have to know is when, where, what time and if you’re able to see it right away!

As you can probably tell, I was very excited for this movie, just judged solely by who was making it and to be honest, that’s probably what kept this movie going for me. It seemed strange in the first place that a major-studio would actually back a biblical-epic directed by Darren Aronofsky in the first place, and seeing the end-result, it’s apparent why I had those ideas in my in the first place. Like all of Aronofsky’s movies, this is downright beautiful; from the visuals, to the amazing, sometimes over-wrought score from Clint Mansell, to even the biblical-imagery that doesn’t hit you over the head, but is able to make you understand what message it’s trying to convey, everything was given the right attention of detail it needed to seem like an actual story from this time and place, rather than just a cheap dramatization we’d get on the History Channel.

Even the actual story here, which Aronofsky clearly took plenty of liberties with, seems like something he’d do; the main character of Noah, here, has an obsession over doing what God wants him to do, even if it does make him absolutely insane. In fact, where this movie really gets interesting is when Aronofsky sheds a light on how Noah either does or doesn’t take God’s demands or ideas about saving humanity and getting rid of those who don’t deserve to live, as understandably as he should. In any movie, directed by anybody else who didn’t have nearly as bright a mind as Aronofsky, this message could have been handled terribly and even offend some out there, but what Aronofsky does is just show a character finding himself in a bit of a bind as to whether or not he should do exactly what he thinks God is telling him to do, or act as he should, a moral human being. Instead of seeing Noah as a Saint that did everything right, for every person around him, including God, we see him as a man that struggled with his faith, with the situation he was thrown into and how all of the pressure was thrown onto him to not only preserve these animals, but keep those around him alive and well, knowing that they’d die soon, and possibly even be the last ones alive on Earth.

Pretty freaky stuff, but I guess when you got the big G.O.D. backing you up, it doesn’t matter.

But as interesting as most of the things that Aronofsky does with this material, I still can’t help but feel as if a bit too much of it is over-blown beyond its means. For instance, Noah, as almost every epic, is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, and it feels like so. That isn’t good, not because long movies shouldn’t exist, but because this one feels unnecessarily long, when only a good hour-and-a-half of this movie is really worth seeing. Everything leading-up from when Noah has these dreams of the apocalypse, to when he actually gets the Ark up and running, is exciting, tense and exactly the type of viewing-experience I expected to have with something on this grand-of-a-scale.

"But in all seriousness though, honey, I'm fucking craving a hamburger. We gotta get rid of the pigs."

“But in all seriousness though, honey, I’m fucking craving a burger. We gotta get rid of the cows.”

However, all of the energy of this movie seems to fade out, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say where this story goes and how dark it gets, but it seemed like Aronofsky felt like he really needed to allow this movie to play-out as long as he possibly could, so threw in all sorts of subplots he could. This not only has it seem like it’s meandering and taking its good old time to get to a finale, but doesn’t really know where it’s going to end-up – much like Noah and the rest of his family on this Ark. I was still interested in seeing where this movie would go, but after awhile, I began to wonder if that moment would ever come around, and if it did, would it actually be satisfying, or just rushed and too safe for its own good.

Somehow, it placed somewhere in the middle, but I can’t say I was all that disappointed where it did go and end. Doesn’t offend too many people, but still keeps it a bit edgy and hard-hitting for those who want some deeper-meaning out of what they see here.

And of course, before I head-off into the sunset, I do have to give some credit to the cast for at least trying with what they’re given, as timid as some of it may be. Russell Crowe is perfectly-cast as Noah, showing all sorts of grit, manliness that makes you seem his as the type of guy you don’t want to mess with when it comes to the apocalypse, but also enough compassion to where you can sort of see that he’s a sweet guy behind the huge muscles and supreme fighting-skills. It was also nice to see Jennifer Connelly back in a movie with Darren Aronofsky, and actually get some worthy-material that has her shed those skills more than a few times, particularly in a scene where she basically tells Noah to wake up and snap out his crazed-daze. And as usual, Anthony Hopkins is a fine-addition to the cast as he brings a lot of fun, light and humor to a film that seemed so serious and over-blown most of the time. And he does it all by wanting berries!

Didn’t see that part in the original source-material, but then again, it’s been a long time since my Vacation Bible School days.

Consensus: While the first hour-and-a-half packs a exciting, tense and epic-punch that Darren Aronofsky is clearly able to deliver, the remainder of Noah does seem to meander and have no clue where to go, which may be more of a problem with the studio that helped produce it, rather than the creator himself, but it’s still a noticeable problem nonetheless.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?"

“ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED, YOU DIE HARD CHRISTIANS YOU?!?!?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Hmmm….so is doing drugs fun?

A widow (Ellen Burstyn)’s growing dependence on amphetamines and a self-help television show parallels the struggles of her heroin-addicted son (Jared Leto), his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and friend (Marlon Wayans).

Having seen this film already way back when in 2009, I knew that I was in for a Debbie-downer none the less, which is what I got. However, there’s something with age that makes this film better in a way.

This film is absolutely Darren Aronofsky‘s right from the start, all the way till the last credit rolls off the screen. Aronofsky makes this film the psychedelic head-trip that it is with everything he throws at  us with all of the powerful and haunting imagery by his one-of-a-kind style. Aronofsky uses editing in the way that it should be used, as in the way to get inside the mind-set of its characters/stories. Whenever these people are popping pills or shootin’ up, we don’t just see them doing it with a slow burn, we just seem them doing it in an ultra-fast mode that’s done in a matter of 2 seconds. It shows the effect it has on the certain person where time sometimes speeds up, slows down, and even may take you into this dream-world where all of the craziest illusions just pop-up out of nowhere. Either way, Aronofsky is a pro at making a dark story even darker just with the right amount of style to give me images that will probably stay in my head for the rest of my life.

It’s not just Aronofsky’s visuals that get this film going, it’s also the sounds and soundtrack done here that really works wonders as well. The soundtrack is done by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet and every single little piece of music they put in here is as haunting as the last one and it’s one of the very rare times where the songs themselves actually start to build-up and up and up and up along with the actual film itself. The attention to sound is also a big deal here as well because everything sounded so legitimate as if you could hear the pill box poppin’ or the lines being done themselves. This is one of the films that shows how much sound can go a long way, especially if you’re doing a drug film that shows the constant motion people go through, day-in and day-out, when they are on drugs.

Where this film really got me was its message. Yes, it is rather obvious the first time around but once you start thinking about it more and more, and take it into consideration with your own life, then it really hits you. The film talks about how habitual drug use such as pills, cocaine, heroin, etc. will start to disillusion the world you live in and you start to live this imaginary world where almost everything seems to be happening the way you want it, but in reality, it isn’t even close. People in this film start off all happy and high with drugs but then soon start to fall even more and more into the drug world and they start to lose sight of each other and the world they live in. This is very true with real life as I have almost had to go through with some of this myself. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve obviously went through the major shit that these characters go through but drugs came into my life at one point and it really effed me up as well as others around me. Drugs can make you happy, but in the end, drugs always end up doing more harm than good no matter what it may be. Moral of the story is, kids, drugs are bad. Doesn’t get any more simpler than that really.

My only one and main problem with the film was not the film but more of its story. The story is very grim and depressing the whole time but the fact that I couldn’t really feel much for any of these characters, except for the obvious one, was pretty much it. I mean I felt bad for the old lady considering she didn’t know what she was getting herself into with the drugs she was given, other than the fact that she was going to lose some weight, but the others, I couldn’t really feel any sympathy for. I mean they knew what they were getting themselves into right from the moment they did their first “job” and when that all starts to spiral out-of-control and they are basically left with nothing but a couple of hundreds for druggies, I couldn’t feel anything else except for pity. Then again, I don’t think the story is really asking for me to feel anything in the first place so maybe I just wanted somebody to feel for.

I couldn’t go on in this review without mentioning the performance here given by Ellen Burstyn playing that old lady, Sara. This is a very risky role for someone of her age and stature, but she went for it all here and gave one of the memorable performances of the past decade. She’s sad, lonely, troubled, confused, and right when these drugs come into her life, she gets even more crazier by the second and it’s not only sad to watch but also effective as well because there are so many people like her out there in the real world that go through problems as much as she does as well. She definitely deserved that Oscar considering she took a role that I’m guessing not many others went for, and made it her own troubled and depressing character.

Jared Leto has a Brooklyn accent that doesn’t really ring true for me but he actually does very much look the part of the big-time heroin addict that he’s playing here as Harry. Jennifer Connelly play’s his girly-friend and probably has to go through a lot of the more crazier ish that takes over this film within the last act and does a pretty good job with it as I can easily say that I was not that attracted to her as her addiction started going on and on. Let me also not forget to mention that this Marlon Wayans is surprisingly good as Tyrone, and it’s a huge bit of random casting that somehow worked to this guy’s advantage but sad thing was that he didn’t really get much dramatic work after this.

Consensus: Though it’s not for the faint of heart, Requiem for a Dream is an anti-drug film that has a hard-hitting style used by director Darren Aronofsky, a score that will make you terrified, and performances from everyone involved, especially Burstyn, that add so much more to these characters than just a bunch of junkies.

9/10=Full Price!!

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

What would have happened to Gandhi, had he decided to live in America.

When her husband dumps her, the emotionally unstable Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly) finds her house in the California hills seized in foreclosure and put up for public auction by local authorities, including a sympathetic sheriff’s deputy (Ron Eldard). An exiled Iranian air force colonel (Ben Kingsley) buys Kathy’s “dream” house at a bargain price for his family. But Kathy is obsessed with getting it back.

Having a home and being able to call it your own has to be a great thing so it’s not wonder why so many people would actually go the ends of the Earth to get it back, when its taken from them. I have never had a house that I can call my own (only mansions, holla!) but I can easily say that if I do have one in the future, I’m paying those damn taxes!

This was the debut for Vadim Perelman who actually does a pretty good job here with a story that seems very hard to actually sit, watch, and enjoy. Both of these characters have certain traits to their personality that are very ugly and unlikable which makes it a lot harder to really get behind when character, considering they could be doing something nice one second and then the next they just do something so despicable to make you feel like you want to beat them the hell up. Perelman makes every single twist within this story just as shocking as the last, and our opinions on these characters change within every second which makes it hard for anybody to actually be deemed “likable”. It’s a very hard story with some very hard characters to stand by but somehow Perelman makes it all work.

The film is also done very well in a technical way by Perelman as well. The cinematography looks beautiful and just about every shot features little hints of fog, darkness, and this glum look that really does add a lot to the films feel. You never feel like something here is going to go right with this story and these characters and that’s mainly because of just how tense and suspenseful this film got after awhile which is a real surprise as to why Perelman has only done one other film after this, which was apparently a bomb. I mean I’m not saying that this is a perfect direction by any means but it’s very tense and he keeps the story going at a nice pace for us to feel a lot of what’s going on and it’s something that the horror genre may need right about now. Just saying though.

The one problem with this film though is that something about the screenplay just feels a bit off when it’s more about the plot rather than the cops. The story constantly jumps back-and-forth between Behrani along with his family and Kathy along with her dumb-ass cop boyfriend. I liked Behrani on screen and I also liked some of Kathy’s scenes as well but the angle with her cop boyfriend who seemed like a total dickhead in the first place, didn’t interest me one bit and the fact that they kept on going back to this story really annoyed the hell out of me since the tension sort of got lost. I also can’t forget to mention that the performance Ron Eldard gives as the cop, feels very wooden and a lot of his scenes feel like they should have some sort of dramatic feeling, but instead got lost by the fact that he’s not a very good actor, which is surprising because he was awesome in ‘Super 8’.

Earlier I mentioned before how the film is difficult to really enjoy considering that both of these characters are a bit unlikable in their own ways but for some reason, Kathy’s story just did not do anything for me at all. Kathy is obviously messed up, sad, and heartbroken but she is a total dumb-ass the whole time who should have just payed her damn bills and stop whining like a little bitch in the first place. It wouldn’t have been so bad if she just let them take her house and didn’t put up a fight about it but she just constantly keeps on coming back for more and more annoyance talking about how she was cheated and that her house is her house. She’s not really a character we can sympathize with, but then again, who else in this film actually is!?!

The main reason why this film works is because of the two performances here given by its two lead performances. Ben Kingsley is great here as Behrani channeling just about every emotion there is to be had in this character. This guy is one who obviously was a hot-shot in his native country, but then soon moves to America where he is basically a nobody and has to struggle with so much such as pride, anger, and just the frustration that actually comes to him when he buys this house. Kingsley is so precise and good at what he does here that it’s no wonder that he got nominated for an Oscar and makes a lot more of the hokier scenes this film has at times, seem very real and heart-wrenching.

Jennifer Connelly is also just about as perfect as Kathy who plays that sad character we usually see her play but since she’s the lead now, she’s allowed to do a lot more now with her character and does a great job just about every time on-screen. Even though I couldn’t like her character and sympathize with her, I could still like Connelly here considering she puts a lot on the line in this flick showing just about the best of her depression with an under-lining sense of happiness that comes to her in the middle. She’s riveting in almost every scene and there was almost just one part where I really felt like I was going to sympathize with her, but then I just didn’t. Shame that she didn’t at least get a nomination for this flick.

Consensus: House of Sand and Fog may suffer from a script that starts to lose its focus at points, but it’s still incredibly well-acted by Kinglsey and Connelly, who both give performances that divide us between who we like more and who is in the right, and who is in the wrong.

7/10=Rental!!

Little Children (2006)

A pedophile and a red-hot affair don’t really mix.

Two stay-at-home parents (Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet) both end up striking affair after they both realize how bored they are with their own actual lives at home. Then another story happens where a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves back into his house and is soon harassed by almost every person he sees.

This is the sophomore effort from writer/director Todd Field, who some will remember from the big-smash he made back in 2001 with ‘In the Bedroom’. Somehow, he took that similar story mixed it with some ‘American Beauty’ satire and divided it with a hint of ‘The Woodsman’, then he got this crazy flick.

The film starts off very strong with these two immature parents who obviously don’t know what to do with their lives except just nag each other and hope that all their depression and angst goes away. I dug this beginning because the film showed these characters in a very interesting light while also focusing on the fact that it’s telling us that these adults are just like kids in some ways, they both forget the responsibilities they have in the world and they go with their gut-feeling rather than just using their heads.

A lot of people complained about the whole narrator from PBS thing so much that when I heard it in this film, I couldn’t say that I was too bothered. Yeah, he does spell out everything a little too much but there are times when his narration actually makes a lot of this moments in this film a lot more entertaining then they have any right to be. It seems as if he is reading a children’s story to us, like one of those audio-tapes you would get for a book if you didn’t know how to read, and it really divides the line between what’s funny and what’s sad in this film. I found myself laughing at some of the things that the narrator was saying, while others, I didn’t know how to feel.

The main problem that lies within this film is that it is very very messy because it constantly shifts back-and-forth between these two stories and they shouldn’t be in the same film together either really. There would be moments where the film would just focus on the suburbanites and their affair for a very long period of time, and then randomly go to the peddy without any real reason other than to show this dude who has obvious problems. Both stories are pretty interesting in their own rights but together, they can’t really share the same screen considering that after awhile the “affair story” becomes the same thing over-and-over again whereas the “pedophile story” becomes a lot more interesting as the time goes on. I think I would have rather watched two different films of these stories rather than just one because it wouldn’t have been so messy.

I do think Field as a writer is very talented but there are times where I think he loses himself with trying to be too smart, which I know is a weird thing to say but just bare with me peeps.. There are moments here when Wilson and Winslet are getting it on and Winslet will constantly ask him, “Is she pretty?”, she meaning his wife. She doesn’t only just ask this once but also many other times during whoopie and this to me seemed very unbelievable as some chick would just constantly ask the dude who’s mounting her about his own wife. There are also plenty of other moments where this film doesn’t feel all that realistic but not worth mentioning.

Everything with this film is all pretty messy until the last act, where the film really loses itself with the shock-o-riffic ending that seems more put-on than anything. I don’t want to give anything away really but I think Field tried a little too hard to convey these certain types of emotions for these characters to the point of where this ending came up, and it probably looked good on paper, but when it came to actually filming it up on the screen, it seemed very dumb.

The cast is very good though despite all of these other problems with the film. Kate Winslet is great as the conflicted house-wife, Sarah, and Patrick Wilson has never been more charming or conflicted as Brad. Jennifer Connelly is good as Brad’s wife, Kathy, but I wish there was more of her that gave more of her side on things. Granted, we get a scene here and there but I really did feel like her character could have done a lot more for this film if they included her just a little bit more considering Connelly is such a good actress as well.

The best out of the bunch though is probably Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who plays up that man-child act so well that it’s almost too hard to hate this guy when he’s being such a dirt-ball. I mean yeah, he’s a dirty dude that I would never have over for dinner around my kids but he’s also a very troubled soul that wants nothing more but to be accepted once again and feels the need to fit in, mainly because his mommy says so. Haley is great here and just by looking at him, you get the sense that this is a sad and tormented soul.

Consensus: Little Children has some good elements, such as its good acting and very strong beginning, but then starts to fall apart with being too repetitive, too unbelievable, and just by having two different stories that don’t really mesh all that well in the same film.

5/10=Rental!!

Hulk (2003)

He’s angry….and boring.

Researcher Dr. Bruce Banner’s (Eric Bana) failed experiments cause him to mutate into a powerful and savage green-skinned hulk when he loses control of his emotions. And the only person who seems to stand by him is his girlfriend, Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly), proving that love is indeed blind. Nick Nolte co-stars as Banner’s father.

Director Ang Lee is a very strange director for this type of material. I mean this is the same dude that made Sense & Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Brokeback Mountain so adding this to his list is strange but also disappointing.

I have to say that that Lee does do something new with the superhero film here and that is bring a lot more emotional depth to a film that would just seem like constant smashing everywhere. The film focuses a lot more on the actual characters, story, and happenings which is something new and actually cool for a superhero film because we never see that really and Lee somehow makes it interesting.

The problem with Lee’s ambition is that at a staggering time-limit of 138 minutes, a lot of this does feel kind of boring. Not much really does happen except for a lot of these people just talking about what’s going on and a little bit about the mysteries of their lives. The action does come every once in a blue moon but not enough for a film that is all about a big green dude who goes around and smashes things.

The script is also kind of lame because instead of actually trying to create any sense of real tension with this story, it just focuses on Banner and his father’s relationship, or how he still can’t remember what happened to his parents when he was young. The humor is gone within the first 10 minutes so therefore were stuck with just a bunch of serious people, doing their very own serious face and overall just being dull.

However, despite the problems with the script and story the constant visual fest of this film is what had me liking it more. Lee makes this film look like a comic book on the screen with the use of light colors, split-screen to portray about 3 different things happening at once, and The Hulk itself. I loved how the green just stood out amongst the area around him and when the action actually does happen it looks really cool and is actually exciting because even though Lee may not be able to keep this film exciting through its over two hour time limit, the action still provides some fun here.

The acting itself was pretty good and brought me into the film more as well. Eric Bana as Bruce Banner is good and plays that torn, all messed up dude that doesn’t know exactly who are where he came from very well even when he starts to get angry. Jennifer Connelly is practically doing the same exact “stand by your crazy scientist lover” performance that she won an Oscar for in A Beautiful Mind but that’s not so bad; Sam Elliot is a total dick with his snarling and teeth grinning performance that looks like he came right out of the comic book itself; Josh Lucas is a dick as well here as Glenn Talbot, but isn’t in this film as much; and Nick Nolte plays Banner’s father, David (Get it, David Banner) and looks like he just came right out of that disastrous mug-shot but is still pretty good with that craziness he always uses so well.

Consensus: Director Ang Lee strives for ambition here with some dramatic depth to the story, good performances from the cast, and a beautiful, comic-book look to the film, but overall there’s too much talking and most of it just feels plain boring with not enough cool action sequences which makes me question how didn’t Lee know why Lee tried to aim for a Greek tragedy?

5.5/10=Rental!

Blood Diamond (2006)

Now I really don’t want to get my girl a necklace!

In war-ravaged Sierra Leone, diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio) learns that a local fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) has stumbled upon a gigantic gem, and he offers to reunite the man with his family in exchange for the diamond. When Archer befriends a journalist (Jennifer Connelly) tracing “blood diamonds” that finance terrorist groups, he’s faced with a choice between riches and humanity.

Director Edward Zwick does a good job here of taking a story we have all seen before, but makes it all exciting and suspenseful. His visual flair works here with beautiful, and sometimes disturbing shots of Africa, as well as giving us some amazing action to watch as well. The action is pretty full-on with lots of urban and jungle guerrilla warfare, child soldiers, massacres of the innocents and gratuitous violence. Just what you want from a movie like this.

The one problem with this film is that the story isn’t as up to par with the directing. It almost feels like times they are exploiting the violence and disturbing happenings in Africa to get their point across. There are times when the film seemed way too preachy with it’s message about how we should stop going after diamonds, because of how deadly it really is. The plague in Africa is harsh, but this film brings that up way too many times to the point of where I was just saying: “I get it! Diamonds are bad!”.

This is a very ugly film with a lot of terribly disturbing shots of families and little boys being killed, little boys getting their arms chopped off, and plenty of other acts of violence that will have you turning your head, but also root on our heroes here to kill the bad-guys that are inflicting so much pain. At times, the film may be a bit predictable, but I didn’t care because I was having a lot of fun with this one.

This film is the exact moment where Leonardo DiCaprio said bye-bye to his Jack Dawson days. He totally inhabits the South African Danny Archer with that perfect accent, brutal intensity, and overall quick wit and smarts to have you fully believe he could pull all of this off perfectly. Djimon Hounsou is also perfect as Solomon who does whatever it takes to get right back to his family, and does a great job of showing that strong will of emotion every chance he gets. Jennifer Connelly plays the sexy reporter Maddy, and as always she does a good job, but it’s really the two big boys’ game in this film.

Consensus: Perfect performances from the cast, and exciting action sequences make up for the major problem that the story does get a little too preachy, as well as predictable.

8/10=Matinee!!

The Dilemma (2011)

Still don’t know whether this was a c0medy, or a drama.

Ronny (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Kevin James) are best friends and partners in an auto design firm. They are pursuing a project to make their firm famous. Ronny sees Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) kissing another man (Channing Tatum). Ronny seeks out answers and has to figure out how to tell Nick about what he saw while working with him to complete their critical presentation.

The Dilemma gained a lot of controversy back when the first trailers came out, because it said the word “gay” in it. Now, the controversy had people wishing this would be some good stuff, but in all honesty I think it was just controversy for an utterly forgettable film.

The film is directed by of all people, Ron Howard. That’s right, A Beautiful Mind Ron Howard. Howard at least makes this a better comedy than your typical Hollywood fare. There are some good smart jokes here and there, and an interesting premise.

But the problem with this film is what they do with that premise, and then everything starts to get very sloppy. I don’t think that the film had any idea of what it wanted to be. There are moments of comedy that sometimes work, and other times don’t. But then there are times where this just steps into very dark dramatic material, that you aren’t expecting at all. I was actually turned away from the sudden tonal change, because I feel like they could have done a lot with this premise, comedy wise, but they chose to go with drama instead. The drama works, but not enough to get us away from the fact that it is all pretty inconsistent and tries too hard to get laughs from random slapstick, and random in-and-out comedy.

In recent comedies, I’ve seen Vince Vaughn fall back on that “guys-guy” persona, but here he really gives it his all with his physical comedy, expressions, and that comedic timing that always makes him a treat. There’s just a certain depth to his character, that Vaughn gives that I enjoyed, and proved that he can actually act. Kevin James surprisingly gives a lot of depth into his character probably playing the least-happy character I have ever seen him play anywhere. Winona Ryder has also started to make a new career for herself, with Black Swan and now this, she is sort of starting a come-back. She is actually pretty good here, giving a lot of depth into her character, and hitting that devious note she always hits so well. Also, I’m sort of getting tired with guys that look like Paul Blart being able to bag hotties like Winona Ryder. I get it, it’s a movie, but really?!? Jennifer Connelly won an Oscar in her last outing with Ron Howard and here she brings a lot more to the table than I was expecting. She doesn’t show up much which was a bummer, but when she does there’s that heart she brings to every scene she’s in, and it’s just what get’s me through her scenes. Channing Tatum is the real surprise here playing, Zip the guy who Ryder is caught with, and he is hilarious. It’s sad to say that CHANNING TATUM is the funniest thing in a comedy starring VINCE VAUGHN AND KEVIN JAMES, but he makes fun of his tough guy persona here, and I could not stop laughing with every scene he had. I hope he can do more comedy in the future, cause it really does seem to work out for him. Queen Latifah also shows up, and her lines are cheesy and terrible which is a shame because she can be awesome given the right material.

Consensus: The Dilemma is messy with it’s constant tone problems, of knowing whether or not it wants to be a comedy or drama, but its performances are good, and there is a certain depth to the story and characters which makes this a cut above your typical male comedy. It has many flaws, but you can still enjoy yourself.

5/10=Rental!!

Higher Learning (1995)

If this is what college is like, well I better start taking boxing lessons.

College is a battleground in the hands of writer-director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood). As several students make their way through school, they find themselves traversing a minefield of race and sexuality. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly and Michael Rapaport.

Higher Learning is a very underrated film for many reasons. One of the major reasons is the fact that it’s directed by John Singleton, who everybody considers a one-hit wonder, because of Boyz N the Hood. That is all bull-crap, because he does a good job here as well.

One of the best things about this film is that it’s script really is amazing. Singleton does a good job at combining all these little, inter-twining stories, that each show conflict in every way. There are always problems with sex, race, and heritage, everywhere we go, and we are shown that it can always lead onto something more serious than we originally think it will. Racism is never a good thing, and through this we see how both whites, and blacks, criticize one another, and how that leads onto more serious consequences.

The problem with this film is that Singleton’s direction kind of gets distracted by the middle, and you can see that he doesn’t know what to do with all of this story-telling in one movie. He has a strong message, no doubt about that, but he doesn’t know how to deliver it. He steps into way too much melo-drama, that seems misplaced, and handles bigger issues than he should be. I will admit, he keeps the film interesting, but there are parts in this film that just had my head turned sideways, and too cliche.

I did like Singleton’s style however. He’s a very energetic director in this film, and there are some nice shots that show emotion, like how dark this world can be. The campus he filmed this on seems so real, and adds a lot to the realism this film was going for, especially when you got all these young adults running around, drinking, having sex, and causing havoc.

The performances here are actually quite good. Omar Epps never shines away from being stunning at all. Ice Cube is good with what he does, but doesn’t show up enough, and literally is gone for about 30-minutes of this film, which is odd considering he has top-billing. Laurence Fishburne is very good here as Professor Phipps, and the character is very smart, witty, and true to himself, and Fishburne handles that pretty well. Kristy Swanson is good here, as the shy, naive school-girl, that just wants peace, and Jennifer Connelly kind of got annoying after awhile. She would show up at random times, and then we had no idea why her character was there in the first place. My favorite performance of the whole film was Michael Rapaport, who does a great, and strong job at playing this weird, lonely, and out-of-place dude, that soon follows in with the Neo-Nazis, and you see how he transforms into something more. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the tension, and presence within him, and it sucks that he doesn’t get much of a credit in today’s world, cause he knocks this one out of the park.

Consensus: It has its flaws, and problems, but Higher Learning has a great message, that is shown with its terrific script job, and acted so well, that you almost forget your watching a fictionalized film.

7/10=Rental!!

9 (2009)

I don’t know how safe I would feel knowing that a bunch of potato sacks, were my last hope on earth.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a small community of rag-doll robots hides in fear from dangerous machines out to exterminate them. But when a brave newcomer named 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood) joins the group, he inspires them to stand up and fight for their survival.

Right as soon as this movie started going, I knew I had seen this somewhere. It’s story is just so familiar that really, I couldn’t find any imagination within this film. Many sci-fi films like Terminator, Blade Runner, and even Star Wars all came up while I was watching this film. Also, I wasn’t that engaged with the story. But I can’t really blame myself for that reason, because in ways it almost seems like the story, and characters are second nature when it comes to the look of this film. Which sucks, cause I’m game for any kind of film, just give me a story to work with, which this did not.

However, the visuals are great. The look this film has is just perfect, because it looks and feels like a video game, a very very cool video game. Director Shane Acker has most of his attention centered at the detail of the look, and it shows very well. The film gives off this place of despair, and loneliness, and it does feel like that because Acker doesn’t shy away from showing us this brutal after-world.

There is also a great deal of action within this film that is stunning. You follow along as the action goes by, and you see it all happen, which is always good. But that is the problem with the film, because I don’t know who they had this centered towards. Kids may want to see it because of the animation, and cute little characters, but this is strictly a grown-up animation movie, which is just weird saying. There are scenes that show warfare, and dead bodies, and the bad things in this film, are genuinely creepy, and I can just see little kids, being freaked totally the fuck out by this film.

The characters as I stated before weren’t really developed, but the cast I guess is just so-so. Elijah Wood is alright as 9, John C. Reilly basically does what he has to do in a good way, Jennifer Connelly is just there, as well as Crispin Glover. The two that stand out for me are Christopher Plummer, and Martin Landau, mainly cause there voice actually fits the characters their portraying, and they do well with what their given.

Consensus: It may not have an engaging story to begin with, but it’s commitment to stunning visuals, as well as a gloomy mood, make this film work with older people, but not with kids.

6.5/10=Rental!!

He’s Just Not That into You (2009)

Make note not to watch this when looking for relationship advice, read the book instead.

Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson lead an all-star ensemble cast of characters dealing with the pitfalls of love and human interaction in this big-screen adaptation of Greg Behrendt’s best-selling book. Set in Baltimore, director Ken Kwapis’s film moves swiftly between a host of storylines brought to life by a stellar lineup of actors that also includes Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long.

The film is based off a advice book on relationships, which get this, was written by a dude, Greg Behrendt. I never have read the book, and really have no inspiration to read it anyway, since I’am just so P.I.M.P. But after watching this, never will I read it.

I had a huge problem with this film cause I could just tell by the trailer, that every single romantic dramedy cliche was going to be used. At points, the film did grab me with a couple of good points about relationships, and dating, but they were just all taken down by the obvious, “these two live happily ever after ending.” Even though some, do end up with no one, but i can’t give too much away.

This film just proves that bigger, is not always better (non-sexually). The cast is filled with a lot of great attractive stars, however none of them feel real. Just watching half of these people interact with one another just felt like they were phoning in every second just to get the huge paycheck, that will have an even better payback, cause the box-office would be so high. Only a couple of exceptions of the acting would be Jennifer Aniston who gives one great emotional scene, and Jennifer Connelly, who once again, is breaking mirrors. The best here is Ginnifer Goodwin, who is very funny, and quirky, but not without being very true to the type of character that it looks like the script wants her to be.

There are funny moments too, its just not that their funny enough. There is a really dry spot in the middle, although it does hold your attention for about 1/3 of the movie, even though it drops it later.

Consensus: He’s Just Not That into You, could have been an important film about relationships, instead is dry, cliched beyond belief, and has some charming performances, but most seem wooden.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!!

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Good film, but to beat out Moulin Rogue! and Lord of the Rings for Best Picture, ehh, not so much.

John Forbes Nash Jr. (Russell Crowe) was a brilliant economist — when his mind was clear. But life changed forever with the revelation that he was schizophrenic, although his brilliance persisted amidst the anguish his mental illness caused for him and his wife (Jennifer Connelly).

The one thing that caught my eye of this film, was that it one Best Picture in 2001, when other great films such as Gosford Park, Lord of the Rings, In the Bedroom, and Moulin Rogue!, were all nominated. That is why some people hate the Oscars.

I can’t lie but this is a very good film, mostly cause of the direction from Ron Howard. It isn’t a biopic, its an original story mixed with some key elements of Nashs’ life. The way the film shows how he suffers from schizophrenia is neat in a way cause you sense a level of paranoia within yourself, and always wondering what is real or what isn’t real as did this film.

But not only did the film focus on the trauma he was having from this disease, the film also shows how his friends, and his family are all effected by it, and that’s where I think this film works the best at. Because you see how people interact with him before and after the schizophrenia, and you sense a total change by it. The film doesn’t go for the flim-famming of the illness, instead gets right inside this guys head.

However, these are the reasons why I think its a good film but not great. The chemistry between him and the character Jennifer Connelly played as his wife was non-existent, which I cannot buy: A woman would not stand by so selflessly with a paranoid schizophrenic without a deep rooted love and commitment to that love. The climax also features nothing new added to the story, and comes off as just anti-climactic, why?, I don’t even know myself. Finally, the film is focused largely around John Nash’s beautiful mind, and his remarkable accomplishments (which eventually won him the Nobel Prize), but the film does little to attempt to explore the ideas that John Nash developed, and that is perhaps the films biggest short-coming.

I do believe that the performances from Crowe and Connelly are good despite the story’s problem to make it any better. Crowe plays this character with such realism, and doesn’t depict him as being a total nut ball or anything, like we normally see, but instead he plays this character with his signature simplicity, and becomes John Nash. Also, Connelly does a very good job as well, and the scenes she has with Crowe, actually come off as almost better. I just wish she did more roles like this instead of movies like Dark Water.

Consensus: A Beautiful Mind is a good film, but not Best Picture good. Though it has great performances, and great direction from Howard, that balances the illness, and the family Nash was with.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!