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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 Jason Leigh

Good Time (2017)

Oh. And it is.

After a botched robbery lands his brother in the slammer, Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) has to scrounge up whatever money he can find to ensure that his mentally-handicapped brother, Nick (Ben Safdie), gets out and is safe with him. But it’s going to take a lot of wheeling, a lot of dealing, and oh yeah, a whole lot of money to do that. One thing leads to another and all of a sudden, Connie’s night goes from bad to worse and it’s all up to him to constantly think of what’s the next best move to keep him alive, well, and out of the clink with his brother.

Short synopsis, I know, but that’s the point. See, Good Time is one of those movies that’s basically about the one night in hell, that never ends, continues to escalate, gets worse, and builds up to insane proportions of drugs, guns, money, murder, and cops. Lots and lots of cops.

But it’s so damn thrilling and surprising, it hardly even matters that it ends on a conventional note.

Just two brothers walking down a sidewalk. Nothing shady at all..

Good Time is the latest from Ben and Joshua Safdie who have made a name with these small, lean, mean, and gritty indies that verge on pretentious, but still feel realistic enough that it’s okay. In fact, the movies are so dirty and grueling, it’s hard to look away from them; they feel so improvised and cheaply-made, you sort of have to sit and watch and see what they come up with next, even if it can get a little irritating. They’ve never been the biggest fans of plot and in Good Time, that actually helps.

In a way, it allows for the movie to move at an efficient pace, so that when the next crazy moment happens, it’s shocking and surprising, and just adds to the chase. Most crime movies in this same vein and nature tend to get stuck in constant cliches of being on-the-run, not being able to trust anyone, and the constant double-crosses, but not Good Time. While those formulaic-moments do eventually come around, they still fit in a movie that zigs and zags around being conventional and above all else, stays thrilling.

Which is to say that Good Time is a “fun” movie, but not in the way you’d expect.

It’s fast, fun, electrifying and, at certain points, downright crazy, but it does take its time to make sure that you’re along for the ride, too. It would have been perfectly easy for the Safdie’s to just make everything up as they went along, throwing ridiculous obstacle, over another, with reckless abandon, and never making it seem like our protagonist will reach his goal, or even survive the night, but they keep it close and contained. It helps us pulsate along with the thrill-ride, but also grow closer to this character who, despite not being the smartest or nicest guy around, is still damn compelling to watch.

R-Pats with blonde hair just doesn’t do it for the ladies. Take note.

And yes, people, that has to do with Robert Pattinson and is his great performance here. Sure, he’s been good before and clearly tried to do whatever he could to get away from the Twilight spotlight, but often times, those roles felt a little on-the-nose and, unfortunately, weakly-written. In Good Time, Pattinson totally changes how we look at him, with shaggy hair, tons of facial-hair, and the look that makes you think he hasn’t showered in a few weeks and it’s a breath-taking performance. He’s constantly on his feet, thinking of what the next best move is, and while it’s not entirely smart, you still sort of believe and understand it, making this sometimes intense character, seem grounded in a state of reality.

He isn’t, but who would want to be?

Anyway, Pattinson is great here, but really, it’s Buddy Duress who steals the show. It’s hard to say too much about his role, or how he enters the movie, but just know that when Duress enters the movie, the tempo changes. Hell, everything changes. It’s all of a sudden a lot more funny, silly, dark, and damn violent, which makes it feel like this movie’s going somewhere we truly haven’t seen before, even if it has been done before.

Good Time is the kind of movie that doesn’t feel like its re-inventing the wheel by any means, but by never letting up on the tension and always seeming one step ahead of us, it’s one of the more exhilarating pieces of film I’ve seen this year. It gives me hope for not just Pattinson, for the Safdie’s, or for indie-cinema, as a whole. But film, in general.

Let’s hope that film doesn’t let me down.

Consensus: Fast, fun, zippy, crazy, and anchored by an amazing lead performance from Pattinson, shedding his hunky looks, Good Time is just that, if not more.

9 / 10

Running from all the Twi-hards.

Photos Courtesy of: A24

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Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Damn. Life kinda sucks.

In a small New England town, where everyone knows each other, their family history, and business, Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) works as a housekeeper for the rich but sometimes heartless Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). Vera’s a crabby woman who says and does what she wants, which is something that Dolores puts up on a day-to-day basis and has been for at least two decades now. However, when Vera turns up dead, the cops all look right towards Dolores and want to know just what her motive was. Meanwhile, her estranged daughter, Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a well-respected New York City journalist, decides to visit her old town and mother and investigate the matter for herself. As Selena continues to dig deeper and deeper into this case, as well as into her own mother’s past, she realizes that there’s a lot more involved with her family-history than she, or the cops, know. Something that may explain why she is the way she is all of these many years later.

It seems like a lot of people have problems with movies if they’re “too depressing”. Sometimes, it seems like a movie has to be right amount of dark, stark and serious, but also the right amount of light, heart and humor, to make it seem more like a balancing-act. While in some cases, sure, this may be true, but for a movie like Dolores Claiborne, there doesn’t need to be much light, heart, humor, or even fun – all it needs to be is a dark, stark, serious and yes, damn depressing flick.

"Don't look at me with those wild eyes, Daffy!"

“Don’t look at me with those wild eyes, Daffy!”

And in that way, sure, it works.

Director Taylor Hackford seems to get enough right then wrong here, considering that he’s adapting some very rough and disturbing material from Stephen King. While it’s hard to dive into this movie without saying many of the spoilers that do eventually come to light, just know this: You probably won’t be expecting it and that’s because Hackford seems to do a good job of hiding the mystery from us. Sure, the movie may tell us some stuff too early on to really have us gripped, but there’s still an aura of mystery surrounding the movie, even in the more simpler moments.

That said, there’s something odd about Dolores Claiborne, and it seems to come through the actual material itself. In a way, the story is an absolute horror-story, except, without ghosts, goblins, or ghouls, there’s real life, dirty, despicable and disgusting human beings. In a way, the later is far more scarier than the former, which is why a story like this can be and is, chilling. But Dolores Claiborne is odd in that it doesn’t know whether or not it wants to be an all-out horror flick, a dark Southern Gothic, an over-the-top thriller, or a small, subtle drama about families and the secrets we all keep.

All by themselves, they make for some very interesting movies. However, together, they just don’t quite mesh.

Hackford’s good with the mystery here, but he isn’t the most subtle director in all the world, which can sometimes lead to his far more darker and messed-up scenes, somewhat coming off as silly. There’s a very loud score that screeches every time something bad or dramatic happens, and it almost seems like a parody after awhile; it gets worse by the end of the flick when character revelations are coming to us and half of the time, we’re hearing the bombastic score and nothing else. While a story like this probably isn’t asking to be as downplayed as I make it sound, there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t know when to chill it on the theatrics and just trust the story, and the actors to speak for themselves.

After all, there are a lot of heavy-hitters here and for the most part, they all do fine. But before I jump into one performance in particular, I just want to talk about accents in movies: They’re hard to pull-off. I get this. You get this. They get this. We all get this. However, there’s an issue with your movie when there’s supposed to be one sort of signature accent that each and every character should have and, well, for some reason, they don’t. Everyone’s speaking differently, despite being from the exact same place, everyone seems to be trying hard, and yeah, everyone seems to be forgetting about them halfway through.

It happens in a lot of movies, but it’s never hit me as hard as it did with Dolores Claiborne, the one movie where not a single person has the same accent going for them. Due to every character here basically being from this New England town, there’s a lot of hard “a’s” and “r’s”, and while two people in particular seem to get it down perfectly, others like John C. Reilly, David Strathairn, and especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, not just struggle with it, but never seem to let us forget about that neither; Reilly sometimes sounds British, Strathairn, while chilling, sounds like a cartoon, and Leigh, seems like she doesn’t know whether she wants to fully commit to the accent, or not. Instead, it all just sounds like everyone’s getting started with the accents and aren’t quite ready to film them just yet, but Hackford himself didn’t care and just started filming anyway.

Symbolism?

Symbolism?

Regardless, they just don’t work.

End. Of. Story.

Okay, maybe not the actual end because if there is one person who not just gets the accent right, but just about everything else, it’s Kathy Bates. It’s probably no surprise at all that Bates can do great work with a role as a hard-ass, rough-nosed woman who doesn’t take any crap from anyone around her, but there’s more to her than just a tough shell – we soon start to realize that under the hard-exterior, lies a sad, tortured and vulnerable who just wants to be loved, or better yet, even held. It’s the kind of role that, in a much better movie, would garner a lot of Oscar-buzz, but unfortunately, because the rest of the movie is so wild and crazy, it unfortunately takes away from Bates’ powerhouse-of-a-role more.

Oh well. Kathy’s still bad-ass no matter which way you put it.

Consensus: With a dark, brooding atmosphere and great performance from Bates, Dolores Claiborne works, but is also hampered by the rest of the ensemble, as well as Hackford’s tendencies to go a little overboard when it isn’t necessary to do so.

6.5 / 10

Nice green-screen. What? Was New England nowhere to be found?

Nice green-screen. What? Was New England nowhere to be found?

Photos Courtesy of: Cinesnatch

Anomalisa (2015)

Life sucks. But hey, at least you have groupies.

Michael Stone (David Thewlis) in all honesty, doesn’t live a very grand life. Though he’s famous in some circles, it’s only because he’s written a few books that just so happen to be on the exciting and exciting subject of customer service. Also, he doesn’t really know how to connect with the world around him, which means that strangers, friends and even if his own family, he has an issue of connecting with. In other words, Michael is clinically depressed, but he just doesn’t know it quite yet. He’s getting older, fatter and starting to regret decisions that he’s made in the past, which mostly all come down to past girlfriends he dumped or had to let go. However, one fateful night, he runs into a lonely woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who changes his view of the world and opens his eyes to the beauty that exists with the smaller things in life. Because through Lisa, Michael is capable of figuring out just what it is that he wants to do with his life, while, at the same time, realizing that he needs to work on his issues and make himself better.

He sees the light. And the light shows that people will continue to disappoint him.

He sees the light. And the light shows that people will continue to disappoint him.

Or then again, maybe not. After all, this is a Charlie Kaufman movie and Charlie Kaufman protagonists tend to not really give a crap about their lives.

A lot of people don’t like Charlie Kaufman movies and I’m somewhere in the middle. I absolutely, positively love the hell out of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, whereas, on the other hand, I still don’t fully understand Synecdoche, New York, and it downright infuriates me. However, a lot of people (read: “fancy”) not just love it, but feel as if it’s an absolute life-changer that made them want to get up out of their seats, look at the sky and want to do something with their lives. As for me?

Well, I thought it was interesting, but when it was all done, that was about it. An interesting premise and interesting thoughts, sadly, does not make your movie a good one.

That’s why with Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman finds himself back to his old ways where it seems like he’s trying to say something deep and meaningful for each and every person to hear and understand, but isn’t trying too hard to disguise it in some over-bearing cloak of pretentiousness. Instead, Kaufman wants people to see his point for what it is, which is that life, in other words, kind of sucks. However, rather than just taking a stance and getting on his soap-box for the hell of it, Kaufman allows for Michael Stone (the most average-sounding name ever that makes me wonder if “John Smith” was already taken), to stand-in for him and shout everything out.

But what’s perhaps most interesting about the character of Michael Stone is that he isn’t really much of a loner, or anti-social weirdo – if anything, he’s just clinically depressed and continues to make frequent efforts to get out of that depression. However, because he finds even the smallest details in people to get pissed-off about, he decides to give up all hope and fall back into that depression. Does that make him a bad person? Nope, not really. Just an impatient one is all, which is why Kaufman doesn’t try his hardest to really have us sympathize or glorify this character, his actions, or the thoughts that seem to constantly run throughout his mind while he’s going about his day.

Oh and yeah, before I forget to mention it, Anomalisa is all in stop-motion animation where, instead of actual humans appearing on the screen, speaking and interacting with one another, it’s all puppets. And hell, instead of having a whole huge list of actors and stars, Anomalisa features only three actors’ voices, which may be a bit strange at first. Most of this is due to the fact that, well, there’s more than just three characters here – however, with the exception of Michael Stone and Lisa, everyone is voiced by Tom Noonan.

Confused yet?

The best puppet couple since Kermit and Miss Piggy.

The best puppet couple since Kermit and Miss Piggy.

Well, don’t worry, because I was, too. However, after awhile, like with most of Kaufman’s other movies, I decided to roll with it, give it a chance and see where it all went, which was a great decision on my part, because it truly allowed for me to just soak in how smart and crafty Kaufman can be, even when it seems like he’s not really trying to do anything at all. You could ultimately write Anomalisa up to being another movie where nothing happens, but that would be rather stupid; Kaufman takes ordinary, natural acts people commit in their everyday lives and with the help of the impressive animation, and makes them not just seem unique, but relatable.

For instance, the movie isn’t just about how Michael Stone hates everyone, so we should, too – it’s more about how this one person, one very depressed person, can’t seem to get out of the funk that he calls life. But rather than having us wish were spending time with someone else, in a much better situation, we sit down, watch and wonder what Stone is going to do next. Obviously, this doesn’t lead to many momentous actions (Stone drinks, showers, pees, talks on the phone, etc.), but there’s still something compelling about that all that makes it all worth while, even if it’s not fully well-known just where Kaufman is taking us.

And yes, this is to say that Kaufman handles the heart, the humor, and the absolute sadness of this script very well. The only instance in where I feel like Kaufman really loses his cool is by the very end where it becomes clear that he’s making a point with this story, but doesn’t really feel like holding back anymore, or even being subtle about it. In a way, Michael Stone is just like every other Kaufman protagonist (like I alluded to before), and he eventually starts to lose a bit of his marbles; this doesn’t ruin the movie, but it’s obvious from the very start and when it does eventually happen, it feels as if Kaufman himself knew that it was about time someone in his movie had something of a public melt-down. Either way, Kaufman continues to remind us that this isn’t a problem with life in general, but more or less, Michael Stone’s problem.

And quite frankly, it’s one that I would have been happy to see and hear more of.

Consensus: Thanks to a smart, sweet, and sometimes hilarious script from Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa works both as a dramedy, as well as an animated flick that feels the need to give us a small story that’s easy to relate to, as well as think about for days.

8.5 / 10

Oh, cheer-up, Mikey. Life will get better once Charlie Kaufman's done writing about you.

Oh, cheer-up, Mikey. Life will get better once Charlie Kaufman’s done writing about you.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Next time a blizzard comes, stay away from the cabin with the most assassins.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, where she’ll be hung for committing all sorts of evil murders and crimes over the years. However, along the way, they encounter a bounty hunter by the name of Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also heading out to Red Rock to get money for a few criminals he killed himself. Ruth allows for Warren to hop aboard, but they soon realize that a deadly blizzard is coming their way. With this information known, they decide to hold out in a little comfortable and cozy cabin where everybody knows and loves called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. There, the three meet a few shady, but altogether, colorful characters who may, or may not, be up to any good or actually be who they appear to be. There’s Bob “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), who claims to be one of Minnie’s helpers, even though they’re nowhere to be found; Chris “The Sheriff” Mannix (Walton Goggins), claims to be the soon-to-be sheriff of Red Rock; Oswaldo “The Little Man” Mobray (Tim Roth), is another one who claims to be the soon-to-be hangman of Red Rock; Joe “The Cow Puncher” Gage (Michael Madsen), claims to be just a lonely ol’ cowboy looking to spend the holidays with his mommy; and ex-General Sanford “The Confederate” Smithers (Bruce Dern), well, doesn’t claim to be much of anyone. He’s just holding out and waiting for this storm to pass, which is what everyone else seems to be doing, until it becomes clear that someone is up to no good and needs to be taught a lesson.

Sort of bad-ass.

Sort of bad-ass.

Quentin Tarantino makes the sort of movie he wants. Nobody’s going to tell him “no”, nor will anyone tell him “how” – they’ll just hand him a bunch of money, plenty of freedom, and see what happens. Due to this, his movies can tend to sometimes feel overlong and excessive, which is why, when it turned out that the Hateful Eight was going to be over three hours, with a short, 10-to-12 minute intermission, automatically, most people will be turned off, as well as they should.

However, here’s the funny thing about the Hateful Eight – it’s actually pretty deserving of its three hour run-time.

Much of this is due to the fact that Tarantino doesn’t try to, in any sort of way, shape, or fashion, rush the plot here – instead, he takes his time to give us those delicate, but juicy character-moments we oh so appreciate and adore from someone as immensely talented as he is. Nobody really breaks into a conversation that feels useless, unnecessary, or unneeded – everybody here has a reason to talk about what they want to talk about and, honestly, it’s hard to not be intrigued by them right away. After all, this is Tarantino’s dialogue and as is the case with Tarantino’s dialogue, it’s punchy, fun, energetic and most importantly, exciting. The issues that have chased Tarantino since the beginning of his career in that his characters speak in that heightened sense that no other normal human would speak in, may still be here, but honestly, who gives a hoot?

It’s Quentin Tarantino! You know exactly what you’re going to get, as soon as you walk into one of his movies.

And even though most of the promotion and hype surrounding this movie has been about the fact that it’s filmed and presented in 70 mm, the real kicker here is that, aside from at least 20-25 minutes of wide landscape shots at the beginning, middle, end and sporadically throughout, the majority of the movie takes place solely in this one room. The movie looks great to begin with, as we’d expect from Tarantino, but the reason why the 70 mm matters so much in a story like this is because it gives you a greater sense of just how confined and stuck these characters are; while it may appear that there’s a great big world for these characters to go outside and venture out into just in case they have to, because there’s a deadly blizzard going on right outside, they are all stuck with one another.

Which, as you could probably guessed, leads to plenty of scenes where characters talk to one another, get on each other’s nerves, and come pretty damn close to killing the other. This is, of course, all terrific and great to listen to, adding more of a sense of intensity and suspense to the chilly air of that Tarantino, as well as his terrific ensemble create. Any lesser director/writer would have been bored with this one room setting and decided to take their movie elsewhere and jump around a bit, but Tarantino knows and understands the sheer power there is in watching a bunch of heavy-hitting actors stand around a room, watch one another, and get ready for the other shoe to eventually drop.

And when that shoe drops, well, it’s pretty crazy, violent, and gory, but still all so pleasing.

However, at the same time, there’s also that annoying feeling that perhaps Tarantino loses himself a slight bit here. For one, the intermission that takes place is perfect because it sets up a whole other movie, with a whole other tone and feeling altogether. It’s a smart decision on Tarantino’s behalf, but what he does with this second-half is, sadly, a bit disappointing; though the movie doesn’t necessarily feel long, there’s a 20-minute sequence that, in hindsight, didn’t really need to be included at all. Without saying too much, it’s a sequence that takes us a tad away from the current on-goings of the plot and instead, give us another view to look at the story; while it’s a tricky device that Tarantino uses well, it still doesn’t seem like it needed to be included at all.

As an audience-member, it was already easy enough to connect the dots as is, so why is there the need to explain certain plot-elements even further than what’s already needed?

And this matters because, right after this point is where the Hateful Eight started to feel like a bit of a retread of what Tarantino has done many times before and, mostly, better. There are still certain ways that Tarantino keeps this plot moving in an efficient manner, but by the same token, he also seems to be utilizing the same sort of twists and turns we’ve seen him roll with before and, honestly, it’s a bit of a shame. This isn’t to say that Tarantino misses the mark here, but considering that the bar has been raised so high in the past few years with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, really, anytime it feels like Tarantino isn’t fully giving his all, can definitely be a problem.

Kind of bad-ass.

Kind of bad-ass.

This is all to say that the Hateful Eight definitely isn’t Tarantino’s best, but also isn’t to say that it’s his worst, either.

It’s just that it’s very good, yet, also feels like it’s destined for something far, far better than what it ends up being.

Through it all though, the ensemble, as expected, works perfectly. Though it did disappoint me a tad bit to see a lot of familiar faces show up to work with Tarantino again here, it still doesn’t matter because they’re all so great as is. Samuel L. Jackson continues to get his meatiest roles from Tarantino and as Major Marquis Warren, he gets to show us a man who has been through it all in life and isn’t afraid to get violent when he needs to; Kurt Russell is having a blast as John Ruth, someone who seems to have a decent-enough heart, but is also just as savage as the rest; Tim Roth is joyously fun as Oswaldo, someone who seems way too cheery to be a hangman; Michael Madsen is, once again, cool and stoic as Joe Gage; and Bruce Dern, playing the ex-General of this story, is wise and grizzled, but also adds enough depth to this character that he feels like more than just “the old man of the story”.

As for the newcomers, they’re all amazing, too and show why they were perfectly picked by Tarantino to deliver his sometimes challenging, but altogether lovely dialogue. Demián Bichir, despite playing what appears to be just “the Mexican”, also seems like there’s more to him that he’s not letting on and it’s cool to see someone like Bichir, play both mysterious, as well as funny; Channing Tatum shows up in a small-ish role, too here, and does a fine enough job that it makes me definitely want to see him appear in more Tarantino flicks; and even though he already appeared in Tarantino’s Django, Walton Goggins is electric as Chris Mannix, the supposed-sheriff who we may not be able to trust, but because he’s sometime so stupid and naive, it’s almost like he’s telling the truth.

However, the true star of this cast, believe it or not, is actually the sole woman of the main cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As Daisy Domergue, Leigh does a lot of standing around, staring and looking as if she’s up to no good and nine times out of ten, that’s pretty much the case. While we’re told that she’s as bad-ass and as dangerous as any of the other men surrounding her, Leigh still shows that through her odd, occasionally hilarious performance. Though she may appear to be nothing more than just a basket case, there’s something about Domergue that, underneath it all, still seems present and this is perhaps the main factor that keeps this character interesting, as well as compelling. Domergue, just like every other character here, is a total mystery to us and while we may never know what to expect next from them, we sure as hell know it’s not going to be an act of kindness. And that’s why Leigh, who we haven’t seen much of in the past few years, is absolutely brilliant in this role, giving it all that she’s got, but at the same time, still seeming like she’s not really trying at all, either.

Consensus: Though the Hateful Eight isn’t Tarantino’s best, it is still fun, well-acted and compelling enough to keep everything moving at a fine pace, even despite the three-hour long run-time.

8.5 / 10

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

Welcome to Me (2015)

As long as you’ve got money, you can film whatever you want.

After winning the lottery, Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), who has borderline personality disorder, decides that she wants to spend it on exactly what her life’s dream has been: Have her own talk show. It doesn’t sound too harmful, except for the fact that it’s going to feature nobody else but her own-self, in which she will air her own feelings out about life to the live audience, as well as the rest of the world watching home, with also offering glimpses into her past and how it’s made her who she is today. While it’s mostly all inappropriate, Alice is willing to throw as much money as she wants at the network’s producer (James Marsden), and considering that they need the money, there’s not too many problems. However, eventually fame and fortune go to Alice’s head where she soon forgets about those who helped her get such a firm grasp on reality in the first place, like her best friend (Linda Cardellini), her possible boyfriend (Wes Bentley), and especially, her therapist (Tim Robbins); all of whom want to help Alice, yet, don’t know how to communicate with her in an effective manner that gets her to stop thinking of her own-self for once.

"Hey, Alice? Maybe don't say 'fuck' on the air?"

“Hey, Alice? Maybe don’t say ‘fuck’ on the air?”

I’ve got to hand it to Kristen Wiig. Even after the huge success of Bridesmaids, she could have easily taken any money-making, big-budget, mainstream comedy pic and become something of the female equivalent of Will Ferrell: It doesn’t matter if the movies you make are any good, as long as people are seeing them and making money, then that’s fine. With Wiig, though, she’s proven herself to be more interested in these very challenging, relatively low-key indies that not only challenge her as an actress, but to allow us, the audience, to see her in this new light. While the results can sometimes range from bad (Girl Most Likely), to fine (Hateship Loveship), to good (the Skeleton Twins), there’s no denying the fact that Wiig isn’t afraid to step up to a challenge and see what she can do with herself as an actress.

Even if, like I said before, they aren’t quite spectacular to begin with.

That’s the case with Welcome to Me, however, it’s hardly Wiig’s fault. Wiig is fearless in every sense here with her portrayal of Alice Klieg – since her character is a little loopy, Wiig gets a chance to try out her dry sense of comedy, but in a more bizarre, slightly disturbing way. But also, because her character is mentally messed-up, we’re treated to Wiig giving her certain layers and shadings that writer/director Shira Piven’s screenplay may not have had in the first place. With Wiig, it’s easy top say that this character works because while Alice may not be a sympathetic character, there’s still something compelling about watching her profess her feelings to whomever will listen to her and it makes you feel a tad bit more sad for this character. Even though she does some pretty terrible things throughout the majority of the film (and for no reasons whatsoever), there’s still a feeling of care for this character, and I think a lot of that credit can be given to Wiig’s talents as an actress.

Then again though, her performance would have been a lot better off, had Piven herself been able to make up her own mind about this character, seeing as how it’s sort of a mess how she’s handled. For one, there’s something very deeply upsetting about Alice Klieg’s life that’s portrayed to us in a manner that’s either too dark that it can’t be funny, or too funny, so therefore, it can’t be dark or dramatic. In a way, Alice’s life is presented to us that gives us insight into why she acts the way she does, what’s affected her over the years, and how exactly she’s trying to cope with it in the present day – all of which, are very revealing, but for some reason, Piven doesn’t know what to do with all of these insights.

In most cases, Piven focuses on Alice’s life as it’s some sort of a joke that, yeah, may have featured some traumatic occurrences here and there, but oh look how silly and awkward she is! In a way, it’s like Piven’s constantly wrestling with two different movies, and rather than making up her mind and sticking straight to one, she constantly flirts with both.

One has a beard, the other doesn't. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One has a beard, and the other doesn’t. Which one do you think is less pissed-off?

One movie is a dark comedy about a messed-up individual, getting the chance to say whatever she wants to the mass-media audiences, all because she has enough money to do so. As you can probably tell, this is a little satirical bite on the way our mainstream media has turned into nowadays with the likes of Dr. Phil and Oprah, who may not actually have any wise pieces of info to send-off to its audience, but have just the right amount of dollars to make people listen to whatever they have to say. While this idea may be a bit dated in the world we live in now, it still works in the context that Piven presents because the TV executives portrayed here know that what Alice is doing is outlandish, ridiculous and everything wrong with the modern state of television, and yet, can’t do anything about it.

Everybody’s making money, so what’s the big deal?!?

Then, on the flip-side of the equation, there’s another movie that discusses Alice’s life and how her current personality reflects all that she’s gone through. While there are certain bits and pieces of this that shine through in the final product that’s still interesting, it’s still not nearly as well-rounded as what Piven does with the satirical edge. While Piven wants to discuss Alice’s problems to their fullest extent, she still can’t help but laugh and point at whenever there’s a scene in which she has sex with some random stranger, blurts out obscenities, and seem to not be able to grasp anything in her life. Piven doesn’t seem like she’s fully capable of handling this character and it’s a bummer, because not only does Alice seem like she’s a well-done character, but because Wiig is, once again, more than willing to go as far and deep as she can.

Poor Wiig. You’ll get ’em next time!

Consensus: Wiig and the rest of the ensemble do fine in Welcome to Me, but due to the uneven tone and messy direction, it never looks as fully polished as it should be, no matter how many lovely names it has attached to it.

6 / 10

Life.

Life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

eXistenZ (1999)

You know what’s so lame about GTA? It’s not real!!

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a famous video-game maker who has made a video-game where people can transport themselves into other lives, as well as gives them the chance to constantly guess whether or not they are in real life, or just living a pure fantasy where they can do anything that they want. This inventive, yet, incomprehensible game is called eXistenZ, and it soon takes over her mind, as well as her bodyguard (Jude Law)’s.

Video-games have become so crazy now, that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised one bit if somebody came from out of nowhere, made this type of game, and watched it as it sky-rocketed to the charts of the highest-sellers come the Holidays. That person would also have to watch as the suicide-rates would be sky-rocketing off the charts as well, because with a dangerous mind-fuck of a game like this, you know people are just going to go crazy. I’m telling ya, it’s a surprise that this hasn’t happened yet and I’m just waiting for more video-game designers to think of the next “Million Dollar Idea”.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

However, if they do come up with this idea, they do have to give some of that change they earn straight to writer/director David Cronenberg, because he’s the main guy who came up with the idea in the first place and milks it to the brim with this movie. I have to give Cronenberg a lot of credit here because the guy definitely starts this flick out on the right foot with any eerie feel, a lot of mystery in the air, and a whole bunch of suspense as to what the hell is going to happen next to these characters once they finally suit up (I guess that’s what you could call it), and whether or not they’ll make it out of the game alive. When Cronenberg gets crazy ideas like these, they usually don’t pan-out so well for me, but here, he actually kept me involved and kept my mind on the film at hand, considering the whole game these two are playing, is just one, big twist after twist without any real type of explanation as to what’s going on and what it isn’t.

Which normally isn’t fine for me with most of his movies, but here, was surprisingly so.

As much as Cronenberg may toy around with the idea of us not knowing whether or not this is a game, or real life, he still allows himself to get real nutty on all of us and uses some of the trademarks we all know him for. The gore here is downright disgusting as we go through a couple of different spots where blood comes shooting, guts fall out, and people’s faces just come flying straight-off, landing on the floor below them. And on top of that, there’s also a lot of gooey, slimy sounds that make you squirm even more and add just another level to Cronenberg’s already, ‘effed-up mind that he obviously wants us to play around with him in. But while this would usually tick me off with some of his movies, here, I decided to just go along for the ride and enjoy myself, even if I had no idea what exactly was happening, or even what it meant.

But that was the problem I eventually ran into with this movie: I knew everything about anything Cronenberg was trying to discuss. See, while this movie, on the surface, is about this insane, balls-out game that allows its players to do whatever they want, in a world that they have no idea about as is, when you dig a bit deeper, it ends up becoming something darker and more upsetting. In a way, Cronenberg is trying to get across what your mom has been saying for the past two decades to get you off you Laz-E Boy and in the classroom: Video games are bad and they make you do bad things.

Now, while I don’t necessarily agree wholly with that statement, I still understand that many people see an evil in the art of video games and how it may drive certain people to lose their minds. We’ve seen certain cases regarding this in the past and while I don’t feel its appropriate to voice my opinions out on those here and now, I’ll just say that whatever Cronenberg is trying to get across here, is practically the same message and it’s kind of annoying. We get that video games mess with certain people’s minds and allow them to not be able to differentiate the difference between “reality” and “fiction”, but do we really need to be reminded of this every five-to-ten-minutes? Maybe because of the time this was released (nobody in 1999 had ever heard of an XBOX), but the message, in today’s world, seems relatively preachy and dated. Granted, back in the day, these ideas may have been revolutionary and eye-opening, but to us humanoids from the 21st Century, we realize that everything being said here, is why we moved out of parent’s place in the first place.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

So take that, older-generation!

Another problem that most Cronenberg movies, not just this one in particular, is that usually he’ll cast an interesting bunch in his movies, but since his material is sometimes so weighty and dense in the way that it’s delivered, you can tell which actors are more suited to it than others. For a total surprise, Jude Law actually ends up doing well in a rather restrained role as this body-guard. Sure, Law’s using some of his charm to get us to like him and his character here, but most of it is actually just him trying to be weird and mysterious, and it works well and to his advantage. Same goes for the likes of Sarah Polley, Willem Dafoe, and Ian Holm who don’t show up too long or often to leave an impression, but show that they are capable of fitting into Cronenberg’s world, where everyone speaks like he imagines them as speaking.

The only one who feels totally off in this movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is supposed to play this geeky, downright off-kilter video game nerd, but just ends up coming off as she’s bored. In fact, a part of me felt as if she was in her own movie altogether; one where she was allowed to deliver her lines like she’s been doing for the past three decades, but instead, actually worked. Here, it seems like Cronenberg cast her, without really knowing full well if she’d be able to handle his “speak”, quite as well as the others. Don’t get me wrong, Leigh’s still a top-notch actress in most of the stuff she does, but here, she feels awkward stilted.

Maybe that’s how Cronenberg wanted her to be? Then again, maybe not. Who the hell knows what goes on inside that dude’s head!

Consensus: David Cronenberg loves to play with his audience and in eXistenZ, he gets a chance to do so, but too many times does it feel like he stops the wild fun, just so that he can prop us down for a lesson or two about the world of video-games that, trust me, we already know full well about.

6 /10 = Rental!!

Even in so-called "virtual-reality video-games", the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Even in so-called “virtual-reality video-games”, the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Eventually, we all get old and die. Tell me, what else is new?

After New York theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) hits it big with his “version” of Death of a Salesman, the question on everybody’s mind is: What’s next? However, he’s the only one who doesn’t have that question anywhere near his mind at the moment, mainly because he’s got a lot of crap going on that he can’t escape from. His artist wife (Catherine Keener) just left to Berlin with his 4-year-old daughter; his box-office worker Hazel (Samantha Morton) is flirting up a storm with him; he just got hit in the head by a pipe and found out that it may be a deadly sign of things to come (meaning death); and he just received a grant to make his next big play inside of an area the size of a football stadium. Caden’s brain is so wracked and sad, however, that he does eventually come up with an idea that may take some by surprise, but makes total sense when you take his whole life into perspective: Caden plans on making the play about his whole life, including the most eventful moments, and all of the people he meets and greets. Self-indulgent? You bet your ass it is!

Going into this movie and knowing that Charlie Kaufman is not only just writing this movie, but directing it as well, should already get you in the right frame-of-mind, and make you expect the unexpected, even if the unexpected is totally, and utterly random and pretentious. But such is the case with Kaufman, who’s the type of writer whose style should not work at all, but somehow does, mainly because he’s had such talented directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry being able to pick up the pieces and frame them in a somewhat comprehensible way, where not only do the heavy-set ideas hit our brains at maximum-speed, but the story itself just works, regardless of if we get it or not. Those two are just obvious examples, as I’m sure they are many more directors out there who “get” enough of what Kaufman does with his writing, and what he’s trying to say. However, when it’s just him running the show, and no outside interference or inspiration, then things get very, very shaky as a result.

Aside from PSH, let's see which one ends up turning out to look like this once they got older.

Aside from PSH, let’s see which one ends up turning out to look like this once they got older.

Then again though, like I said before: It’s Charlie Kaufman, and you have to know what you’re getting yourself into. So that means that there’s no need to fear, this won’t be one of those reviews where I get on the movie’s case for being non-stop pretentious, self-indulgent and preachy, because I expect that from him. Instead, it’s going to be more of a review on how easy Kaufman’s writing seems to be. See, the movie is less about a guy making a play of his life, as much as it’s more about how life itself is a play, and we are all just characters within it, going about our emotions, our action, and our decisions in a way that were pretty much spoon-fed to us from birth; they’re just starting to show now. And with that idea in mind, I have to give Kaufman plenty of credit. Not only can the dude look at the human-existence, but the reason we have to live, with a sour-puss attitude and grin on his face, but he can also show us that life is pretty damn sad, no matter how times we try to avoid that sadness with the simple things in life.

Very depressing, I know, but there’s just something about Kaufman’s writing that makes it so wonderful and honest that you can’t help but be entranced, nor not be interested in hearing what he has to say. You just listen, watch and learn gracefully, as if you’re watching a fellow human-life happen right in front of your own, very eyes. Which, in a way, you pretty much, and that’s where I hit my problems with this movie and where it was trying to get at.

The problem with this movie isn’t that it’s depressing or it makes you look at your own life, as well as the other’s around you, with a dour-look, but how it just seems to only reach for that idea as a point to be made. We always know where Kaufman’s getting at with this material; he feels that life is a sad, miserable experience that we live through, but we live through it nonetheless, so why harp over the meaningless things like break-ups, divorces, and lost-loves, just live life! And yes, it is very sad and cynical in it’s own way, but Kaufman never seems to be bringing anything much else to it other than that. There are shiny and bright rays of hope and happiness to be found somewhere in the finer-lines of this story, but anytime they get a chance to pop-up and show themselves, Kaufman comes right back down with his swiping-hand of negativity, showing us that we shouldn’t be happy with what we see, we should cry, pout and kick cans all day because of it. Maybe he’s not that much of a dick about it, but he comes pretty close at times, and it just shows you why this is the type of writer that can do some major business when he has a helping-hand with the direction; but when it comes to his own shot at glory, and giving it his all, he sort of stutters into his way of balancing out the happy, as well as the sad times in life.

Surely there’s plenty of both elements in everybody’s life, but it sure as hell isn’t always sad, Charlie. Get a grip, man!

"Why yes, I am reading "Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Musings about Everything That Has to Do With It." Have you heard of it before?"

“Why yes, I am reading “Thoughts on the Afterlife and Other Musings about Everything That Has to Do With It.” Have you heard of it before?”

And while it’s disappointing that things didn’t turn out better for Kaufman’s direction, it’s even more disappointing to see the awesome cast he was working with here, and how little most of them, minus the few exceptions, are given. One of those said few exceptions, Philip Seymour Hoffman as our main, mid-life crisis man for the next 2 hours: Caden Cotad. Hoffman is great at playing these sad-sack, miserable characters that don’t care much about the life they live, nor the little things that make it worth living, but he feels like he’s channeling the same emotions every once and a little while. He seems never crack a smile, no matter what the occasion may bring. However, he seems to be able to lure every women he meets into bed with him, make her the happiest gal alive, show her her own faults, make her sad, push her away, lose her, and then never see her again. That’s a non-stop cycle that continues to revolve around every so often, and it got as annoying to watch, as much as it did to see Hoffman put on the same saddened, depressed-look on his mug. It works when the humor within Kaufman’s script comes to show, but not when we’re supposed to care for this guy, as well as the fellow women he falls in love with.

Many of which, may I add, are played by extremely talented, and great actresses, who are given material that could have easily benefited them more, had Kaufman himself seemed to actually give a crap about them, or life. Catherine Keener does her usual, “I’m old and artsy, but I’m also bored and impulsive, therefore, I’m a bitch”-act, and does it well; Samantha Morton is a bit of a sweetie-pie as one of Cadence’s first loves, one who lives in a burning house, that constantly burns throughout the whole movie (whatever sort of metaphor that’s supposed to be, I still can’t wrack my brain around); Michelle Williams acts like a bit of a bitch as well, but shows some compassion for the way she feels towards Cadence and their relationship that isn’t so present with the other gals in this flick; and Emily Watson has moments of fun and spirit, but doesn’t get much more time to really allow for her character to breathe or shed any meaning as to why she’s even shown. The only one who really seems to be livening up this material is Hope Davis, as Caden’s therapist who shows up from time-to-time, does something weird or goofy, tells him to read her expendable, self-help books and leaves him on his way, hitting all of the right tones you need from an odd, Charlie Kaufman movie. Problem is, she isn’t in it enough and doesn’t get the chance to really let loose on material that could have easily used it from her, Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and even Dianne Wiest. Seriously, how do you misuse Dianne Wiest!!?!? She’s so precious!

Consensus: The sad points of our weak, pathetic lives that Kaufman obviously makes in Synecdoche, New York don’t make the movie too depressing to get-through, they just don’t add much flavor or energy to a flick that could have really benefited from some, had it had the director to really make it pop-off the screen, and into our minds and laps to chew on for a long, long time.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Public transportation would make anybody depressed.

Public transportation would make anybody depressed.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Hateship Loveship (2014)

Nothing stranger than a gal who doesn’t mind cleaning up beds after people soil them.

Quiet, reserved and slightly off-kilter middle-aged caretaker Johanna (Kristen Wiig) has to move when her last employer passes away, which then leads her to her new job: Taking care of a young teenager named Sabitha (Hailee Steinfeld). She is currently living alone with her grand-father (Nick Nolte), while her alcoholic father Ken (Guy Pearce) is out-and-about, saying of how he’s trying to get his act together and start up his own Motel. At first, Johanna seems to do her own thing and not really get in anybody’s way, that is until Sabitha and one of her friends find and read a note that Ken has written Johanna. The note itself is harmless and practically meaningless, as it’s just Ken scribbling down his thoughts about how he appreciates Johanna looking after his daughter while he’s gone and whatnot; however, Sabitha decides that it’s time to have some fun with these two adults, and decides to make fake letters for Johanna to respond to. This continues on for quite some time, and gets very serious once Johanna herself even gets an e-mail address, but where it really goes overboard is when Johanna shows up at Ken’s dilapidated place, expecting him to great her with arms wide open, when in reality, he’s sleeping, high, confused and already in a relationship. Still, that doesn’t mean a relationship between the two can’t happen, or even work-out, right?

You’d think that after the smash-success of Bridesmaids, that Kristen Wiig would have taken just about every big, payday-gig Hollywood had to throw at her, right? Well, think again, crazy ones! See, with Wiig, she’s done just about the exact-opposite: She’s used a lot of her “star-power” as pull for these small, relatively low-key indies that she gets apart of, not to just make her shine better as an actress, but actually have audiences see her in a different-light than ever before.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Yup, she loves staring. Just accept it and move on.

Cause, Christ, after doing this for about seven years, you’d think that audiences wouldn’t ever take you seriously again!

Well, that’s what’s so surprising about Wiig – not that she’s good at playing-up the whole “drama” aspect to her acting skills, but because she’s able the compelling element in a movie, without barely uttering a word. For people who have wanted to see Wiig just shut it for at least an hour or two, then here’s the movie for you, because she does a whole lot of staring. And also a lot of awkward-pausing, stuttering, more staring, making-out with herself in the mirror, making food silently, and yes, even more staring. However, it’s not as boring or as repititious as I may make it out to be, because there’s always an under-lining thought throughout this whole movie about just who this Johanna woman really is.

Most of that mystery can be attributed to some fine character-development, but it can also be attributed to Wiig herself who, despite only saying more than a couple of paragraphs throughout the whole movie, is by far the one element this movie has that keeps it moving. You can tell that she’s a nice lady, but you can also tell that there is something brewing inside of her, which may either be some sexual-tension she wants to release, or just words that have been stuck inside of gut for the past 20 or so years. Either way, we want to watch her interact with those around her, it’s just hard to see how those people react to her and her way of not responding in a normal, thought-provoking manner like most human beings are pleased with.

But screw human beings, you know!!??! What a weird species, man!

Anyway, despite all of my love for Wiig and what she does here, I don’t mean to take anything away from anyone else in the cast, nor the movie itself. In fact, I’d say that despite the movie being practically just another, slow, quiet and subtle indie-drama, it was one that I rarely ever felt a false note rung with. I would have definitely loved it if the movie went into more depth with these characters, particularly Ken, who spends most of the movie looking like he’s tired, beat-up and doesn’t know what to say. Sure, Guy Pearce is great in the role (then again, when is he never?), but once he and Johanna actually start hanging out and “talking” (notice the parenthesis), I couldn’t help but feel like all of the movie’s steam that it had been building up for so long, just went away and evaporated into the air. It disappointed me a bit, although I do see where they were going with this direction, as well as what it was trying to say about these characters. Can’t say I really agreed with it all that much, but hey, I’m not a director making a movie with the likes of Guy Pearce, Nick Nolte, Kristen Wiig and Hailee Stenfeld, so what the hell do I know, right?

Eh. Teenage girls.

Eh. Teenage girls.

No, really. Somebody help me out here. What the hell do I know?!?!

Well, I guess I can sort of help myself out and answer that I know fine performances when I see one, and there’s plenty to be found here. I already mentioned that Pearce and Wiig are great in their roles, but it’s that Hailee Steinfeld who really left an impression on me with her role here as the 17-something Sabitha, the kind of girl I would approach in high school and talk to, but never really become close with, all because she’s a bit shallow for my taste. Then again, what 17-year-old girl in high school isn’t a bit shallow? Heck, that’s how half of me and my girlfriends met – by being shallow!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that Steinfeld plays the role of the “coming-of-age, female-teenager” very well, without over-doing it at all. She seems catty and mean whenever she’s talking about Johanna and other people she doesn’t like; but also a sweet, endearing little gal whenever she’s chatting it up with her grand-pop, late at night, while chewing on some Honey Combs. See, she’s just like you or I! Except she’s an Oscar-nominated actress, appearing alongside the likes of Nick Nolte and whatnot!

God, I really have to get my act together already. Jeez Louise.

Consensus: More of a pleasant, little viewing-piece, rather than something that lasts in your mind for a long time afterwards, Hateship Loveship still boasts good enough performances from the A-grade cast to ensure that our minds won’t linger too much from the conventional material.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

But seriously, that stare doe.

But seriously, that stare doe.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

Next time somebody tells you that they created a free-verse poem, run far, far away from them!

In 1944, a young, aspiring poet named Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) goes away to college in New York and finds himself in a bit of a rut. Not only is he secretly gay and not able to fit in with the rest of the macho crowd that goes out to bars every night, get drunk and hope to land in some gals bed. That’s not Allen’s style, but you know what is his style? Running along with the young, free and wild souls of the college, which is why non-conformist Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) interests him so much, for many more reasons other than just sexual. Yes, there is that idea, but since Ginsberg isn’t totally out of the closet and Carr is with an older man (Michael C. Hall), it never quite materializes to anything more than just a curiosity. However, their relationship becomes something more very serious once Carr begins to lose his cool, and does something that will affect Ginsberg, and the rest of the group of poets around him for the rest of their poem-versing lives.

Seeing as that I’m not a huge fan of the Beat Generation, I do have to say that the story of a friend of these famous writers who was involved with a murder that practically happened around them, did sort of interest me, even if I knew what I was going to get with this movie most of the time. That meant that there was going to be lots of partying, smoking, drinking, sexxing, and spontaneous writing and shouting of ideas that seem to mean more then what they actually are. So yeah, as you can see, I wasn’t too fond of the subject material going in and worst of all, I just didn’t care all that much to begin with.

Harry? What happened to Hermoine?

Harry? What happened to Hermione?

But somehow, this movie interested me because it was less about the Beat Generation and how they wrote, and more or less the idea of growing up in a world where you practically live underground, away from all of the hustle and bustle of the mainstream. See, probably the most interesting aspect behind this movie is that the movie never tells you right off the bat who Allen Ginsberg is, so if you were a person who didn’t know much about him beforehand, then throughout the movie, you’d get to know just exactly who he was, what he did and why he mattered to the rest of society and the arts. We see Ginsberg as a young writer, who aspires to be like his famous daddy, but you also see him as a kid that wants more out of this life, which makes it easy for us to understand why he falls so hard for Lucien in many more ways than one.

This approach to the story made it seem pretty neat because rather than basically showing us a sign of things to come for people like Ginsberg, or Jack Kerouac, or William Burroughs, the movie just focuses on their lives and who they were at that point in time. Obviously not much changed as time the future years went by, bu to get this small snippet in the lives of these guys, all before they began to be beloved by any college kid who smoked too much weed and had too much time on their hand, and seemingly, take the art world by storm. And yes, this is all coming from a guy who is typically not interested in learning anymore about these figures than I already do know, which is why I was all the more surprised leaving the theater, feeling as if I wanted to actually read more of these guys’ poems.

Shocking, I know. Let’s just hope that none of my football teammates are reading this right now.

However, what’s strange about this movie is that the very same thing I don’t like the actual people in this story for, the movie actually does do and it was probably the only times I really felt myself terribly uncomfortable and annoyed with it. Once the movie starts to show all of these young writers getting together, acting as if they are the coolest things since sliced bread and practically know everything about the Earth they live on from the tectonic plates, to the ocean currents, then I felt like I wanted to beat the hell out of them. They were just up their own asses, and I get that most young guys their age, especially around that time, probably acted the same way; but that still doesn’t mean I want to watch a film about all of that, especially when there’s so much more interesting stuff going on around it like, say, the Lucien Carr story itself.

"As we clasp our hands together, it's like two human souls perfectly entwined."

“As we clasp our hands together, it’s like two human souls perfectly entwined, in one perfect world full of insightful ideas and thoughts. You know, man?”

The fact that Lucien Carr is actually a real person and got away with such a heinous act, really still surprises me even when I think about it. You’d think that Lucien Carr would have just been a character inside these poets’ minds that they created in order to get past some sort of writer’s wall, but nope: Real dude, real problems, real murder. That’s why when you watch Dane DeHaan and see how charismatic he is as Carr, you’re ultimately surprised by what the hell drove this guy to do something so bad in the first place. We get the reasons why he decided to murder a person, but it still shocked me since he seemed like a bright kid, albeit, one with some anger issues. That said, DeHaan is great in this role and continues to show us why he is one of the most interesting, young talents we got working in the biz today. Let’s hope it stays that way.

And to be honest, Daniel Radcliffe ain’t too shabby either, playing a younger-version of one Allen Ginsberg. It would seem like a real hard obstacle for somebody as famous and as recognizable as Radcliffe to get past in playing an even more famous, more recognizable figure in American culture, but the dude gets over that problem right off the bat and you begin to share a sympathy with this cat as you know he’s just a poor, little sheepdog just sucking this whole new world in. However, he’s not the only famous face, playing a fellow famous face, Ben Foster and Jack Huston get their chances to live and shine as William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac respectively, and both do very well, giving us more personality behind the figure-heads, while also showing us the paths they would eventually take after this tragedy occurs around them. Everybody else in this wide cast do great jobs as well, even if David Cross playing Allen Ginsberg’s dad did seem like a bit of stretch; but a stretch I was willing to let pass since he wore his glasses. Without them, it would have been too distracting to say the least.

Consensus: You don’t have to be an obsessed and dedicated fan to the generation that Kill Your Darlings is glamorizing, but it definitely will help more since a lot of this concerns them, just being the people you read about them being in any book, poem or article you may or may not read. Either way, it’s an interesting slice-of-life in some very interesting lives, that would only continue on to get more and more interesting as they lived on.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Getting an early start on a life chock full of sex, drugs, booze, parties and pretentious-thinking.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Spectacular Now (2013)

Drinking and partying hard every weekend when you’re in high school is considered “bad”? Somewhere, I’m calling B.S.!

Sutter (Miles Teller), no matter how many people want to deny it, is the perfect example of a high school senior. He does not know what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he doesn’t actually care much at all neither. He’s just happy to live in the moment, be with his girlfriend (Brie Larson), drink a hefty amount of whatever he can find, and be ultra-popular among adults and fellow kids. However, all of the partying and good times do eventually catch up with Sutter, and not only does he lose his girlfriend, but begins to see his grades fail way beyond his reach. But after a heavy night of binge-drinking with some of the best in town, Sutter is suddenly awaken (literally and mentally) by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a quiet, shy, and low-key girl that reads sci-fi and Manga novels. This makes her the ultimate nerd and the complete opposite of Sutter’s high-strung, loud-mouthed ways, but somehow, they hit it off quite well and realize that there’s more to each other than they could have possibly ever knew was there in the first place. Especially Sutter, who finds something within him awoken with this new relationship.

With this summer’s The Way, Way Back, The Kings of Summer, and now this; it seems as if teens have an awful lot to learn from this year. Almost each of these flicks concern teens coming-of-age with whatever responsibilities they have to deal with, while also learning a thing or two in the process. However, what’s separated them all is the tone and the material involved. Way, Way Back is a lot more comedic, with the occasional moment of heartfelt drama; Kings of Summer, despite being my least favorite out of the three, was more jokey and didn’t take its premise very seriously, until it soon realized that there needed to be a point behind the whole product, and shoved it in there for a good measure; and now we have The Spectacular Now, the type of film that takes its subject seriously, but never over-does it. Not saying that those other ones do, but there’s just something about this movie that really clicked with me, and made it my favorite coming-of-age drama from the whole summer.

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all "cute" on us!

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all “cute” on us!

There’s going to be plenty more where this came from, but it’s still nice to know that they can be done, and be done well. John Hughes is smiling somewhere. I can tell.

Director James Ponsoldt isn’t a name you’ll know right away from hearing it uttered, but definitely should, especially by the end of this review. Last year, with Smashed, Ponsoldt tackled the rough subject of alcoholism in its grittiest way yet. It offered us a solution to all of the problems, but still showed them off in a very far, very unreachable distance, that it made the whole movie seem rather depressing, yet very true and realistic as well. As someone who has seen alcoholism around him very much in his life, it touched me and had me remember all of the times I had to hold somebody’s head over a trash-can/toilet, just because they were too busy out getting plastered all night. But this isn’t a review about that movie, it’s one about this movie, The Spectacular Now, but I can assure that the themes and issues that the flicks tackle, make them very similar, but very different in the ways they go about talking, or mentioning it.

For instance, the movie never utters the word “alcoholic”. Not even Sutter himself, who seems like he knows how much he drinks, how much he loves to drink, and why he does so, but yet, never comes to admit to himself that he has a problem and needs help. And to be brutally honest, it doesn’t seem like he needs all that much help with that aspect of his character, as much as he does with everything else in his life. What Ponsoldt does well with this character and this flick is that he tackles all of the problems that most teenagers face when they are about to get ready and leave for college; but never dramatizes them in a way that we’ve seen done a million times before, in lesser, coming-of-age flicks. Sutter has a problem with drinking, yes, but he also has an even bigger problem with living for the future and taking the rest of his life into hand. He knows that he needs to be the life of the party for now, because that’s all that matters, but is it going to matter 10 years down the road, except for maybe when he shows up at the reunion, still drunk off of his ass? Not at all, but Sutter doesn’t want to hear that, and honestly, he’s like every other teen out there I’ve ever met, including myself.

No young person, female or male, wants to admit that they don’t have everything planned-out and ready-to-go. Every young person likes to think that they’re out on top and nobody can take them off of their high-horse; but that’s when reality comes in, slaps you in the face, and has you wake up, realizing that you have the rest of your life to live, and the countdown starts NOW. That’s where this movie really hit me, because for the first hour or so, it’s somewhat fun, comedic, light, and playful with its material, its characters, and what it’s ultimately going to set-up, but once the reality of the situation of all of our lives, including Sutter’s, sets in; then, the movie becomes very dark, very dramatic, and very sad, almost in a way that shocked me by how far Ponsoldt decided to go.

It’s a teen-drama in the sense that kids do party, kids do drink, kids do have sex, and kids do go to school and plan for college, but it’s also a teen-drama in the sense that it’s not like a movie; and more like a life-lesson on what could happen to anyone, at any moment. However, it’s far from being that hokey or ham-fisted as most of those “message movies” are. This one, instead, really touches on the ideas and themes that are present in all young teen’s lives, allows it to tell itself, and never holds our hand or tells us directly what’s happening. It’s almost like we’re watching real life happen in front of our eyes, with all of the good and bad decisions made along the way. For that, I have to give this flick a super, duper high-five! Not just because it’s smarter than your average, run-of-the-mill teenage-drama (which it totally is), but because it touches on an idea that most of us are afraid to admit is there, and sometimes prevails: Failure. Yep, that dreaded “F word” has a funny way of showing its own face around every once and awhile, and this movie does not shy away from that fact either.

But believe it or not (because you sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to tell from my constant bickering), this is a movie about two teens getting acquainted, finding out who the other person really is, falling in love, and doing all of that other, cutesy-bootsie stuff that most people who fall in love do. On that note, it serves its job, even if I did feel like the ball does get dropped a bit at the end once a middle-twist shows up, and totally changes the movie’s view-point around. Can’t say much as to what it is, or how it happens, but trust me, when it does occur, you’ll feel the movie’s weight drag right from underneath you, and pull you down as it continues to develop more and more. That’s a good thing, by the way.

Like I said though: The romance at the center of this flick. Despite this seeming like another one of those “popular guy falls in love with nerd, nerd finds out her inner-beauty, popular guy realizes he’s been a jerk his whole life and conforms at the end”-stories, it totally is not. Ponsoldt touches this aspect of the story with as much sensitivity as a real-life, blossoming-relationship would be. There’s the insecurities; the awkward conversations; the initial action of sex; and the first meeting of the family-members. However, it’s all played with about as much sincerity and honesty as most of your relationships may have been, and it touched the inner-romantic side of me, while also made me realize all of the good times, as well as the bad ones, that I spent with a few of my honeys during high school. Quite a lot I had, just don’t ask them if they did go out with me or not.

What really makes this relationship between these two work so well and believably, is that Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are both very charming when they’re together, and even when they aren’t. More in the case of Teller, but I’ll get to him in just a few bit, as for right now, we have Woodley to discuss here, who is not only the most adorable, sweetest female to grace the screen this whole year so far, but really out-does the Oscar-worthy performance she gave in The Descendants. Not only is she less brass and sassy as she was in that flick, but she also has more of a heart to her here, one that feels like it deserves love, even if it is from this dude who’s just trying to figure out what he, as well as life’s, all about. She’s a nerd in the sense that she doesn’t talk to many people and reads weird stuff that us cool kids wouldn’t dare get caught skimming-through in the cafeteria, but she doesn’t wear glasses, she rarely differs in her personality from the beginning to the end, and she isn’t in need of a major makeover that drastically changes her appearance, making her sexier and more desirable than ever before. None of that, at all. Instead, we just have Woodley here to give us a beautiful look at a young, small-town gal who wants to do nice things for the people around her, and deserves all of the love in the world, regardless of who it comes from. Wonderful performance from the gal, and I hope she bounces back from being bounced out of The Amazing Spider-Man sequel.

That Marc Webb sure is a heartless bastard.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

Although, the one performance here that this movie depends on the most is Miles Teller’s as Sutter Keeley, aka, the guy everyone wants to be, but just never amounts to actually being in high school. Sutter has it all and knows that he does, yet, he doesn’t quite take advantage of it while he still can, because he’s constantly drunk and acting like an ass. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re young, but like what many people tell him throughout this flick: You have to get serious every once and awhile, and stop always being a jokester. Whenever Teller is being funny and/or charming, he’s perfect at it, and feels like a younger-version of Vince Vaughn (without saying “baby” at the end of every sentence).

He knows how to work the humor and the fun of this character, but also knows how to get to the deeper feelings as well, and never loses sight of what’s really going on behind this guy’s wild times, as sad as they may be to go face-to-face with. With that, Teller is amazing and I really cannot wait to see where his career goes from here, as it seems like the guy knows how to be lovable and funny, but also have us care for him too, despite his character not being all that sympathetic or smart. Sutter does partake in some questionable actions, as well as very lazy ones, you still feel for him and understand where he’s coming from; all because he, like you, were at one time or still are, a teenager and coming to grips with what the real world out there is like. Some of it’s pretty, some of it ain’t. But that’s the world for ya, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

However, it’s also the rest of the ensemble cast that perfectly rounds out this movie, and makes it even more brutal and realistic in its scope and vision. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a few nice scenes as the older sister of Sutter, a girl who was probably just like him at one point, but has finally escaped that world and married into the money world; Brie Larson plays Sutter’s ex-girlfriend, which would be an easy role for any actress to work with just by being bitchy and annoying, but Larson isn’t and gives this character an sympathetic-route that I didn’t expect to feel for her at all; Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sutter’s mommy, a damaged woman who obviously loves him for what he is, but is a bit too broken-down to fully merge herself into his life and take charge; and last, but sure as hell not least, Kyle Chandler has a perfect 10-15 minutes of screen-time as Sutter’s daddy, a guy who’s just as messed-up as him, if not worse, and it totally hits a soft spot with him, as well as you. Overall, perfect cast that helps hit you with a harder blow, had it been handled by any lesser-actors.

Consensus: The obvious trappings of a coming-of-age, dramedy are definitely present in The Spectacular Now, but are rarely used because it’s a lot smarter with its hard-hitting and brutal, yet realistic view of what it’s like to be a teenager, see what’s next to come, and not want to let go of the past, as much as it may pain one to do so.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Again with the "cute"! Damn teenagers!

Again with the “cuteness”! Damn teenagers!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net

Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.

A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.

The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.

This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.

Yeah, not buying it.

Yeah, not buying it.

Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!

Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.

Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.

3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Rush (1991)

Should have just watched Cops instead.

Jason Patric and Jennifer Jason Leigh star as undercover narcotics agents who become lovers when they partner up to infiltrate the Texas drug scene and bring down a suspected drug lord (Gregg Allman). But as their relationship intensifies and they become increasingly dependent on each other, they have difficulty resisting the temptations of the world they’re trying to subvert … and soon, their drug use becomes more than just a cover.

I wanted to like this, but the writer and director seem more intent on showing drug use and depicting the characters strung out in scene after scene than to tell the actual story: NARCs getting caught up in what they’re trying to stop. I don’t know what happened to me during this film but I just didn’t like it at all. This movie at times comes across as an outrageous PSA or an online criminal justice class with a bad teacher. I don’t know what happened to me during this film but I just didn’t like it at all. The main problem with this film is that nothing really happens here, other than a bunch of drug use and people crying over their addiction.

Very little of the film is focused on the actual investigation. They explain what might happen, then skip that scene entirely. The point that’s arrived at in the film is confused at best and stupid at its worst. All of the cops/investigators are weak and ineffectual, while the drug traffickers noble and wise, always one step ahead.

There was also no character development at all here and that’s why watching these characters do nothing but drugs and cry about it, started to really bother me. It’s over two hours so you would think that there would be some compelling material here to hold you over, but there’s not really. Just drugs, drugs, crying, and more drugs. Also, this was advertised as a crime action film, where there is only about 2 scenes of actual guns being fired.

The one thing about this film that made it suitable was the rockin’ soundtrack that featured many great classic rock artists. The score is done by Eric Clapton, and his slide “Texas” style guitar doesn’t fit well with this film and makes it seem more of a melodrama, but I have to say that a lot of the other songs here were awesome.

The performances from these two are good, but their both not really doing much here other than what I mentioned before: drugs and crying. Jason Patric is good as Jim Raynor although we never understand as to why he does all of this stuff that he does to himself. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also good as Kristen Cates and saves the film sometimes from when this film starts to wain on. Gregg Allman is here as the villain Will Gaines, and doesn’t really do much other than be some big hippy in a cool-looking suit. Pretty laughable if you ask me. Sam Elliot is always good and he is a saving grace here.

Consensus: Rush is not what it’s title says it is. It’s slow, boring, melodramatic, and features little or no character development for a story that is all about two characters practically crying and fighting over drugs.

1.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Greenberg (2010)

Makes Woody Allen seem cool.

At a crossroads in his life, New Yorker Roger Greenberg (Ben Stiller) takes time to figure things out and travels to Los Angeles, where he house-sits for his brother and forges an unlikely bond with his sibling’s assistant, Florence Marr (Greta Gerwig).

This is one of those films that in the early part of last year, was getting a lot of positive reception, and it was weird because it was a film starring Gaylord Focker. However, I can see why now.

The film is from writer/director Noah Baumbach who is one of those now renown, indie directors that people just can’t get enough of, and to be honest I don’t understand why, especially after watching this film. I did laugh every once and awhile, but the problem was I just didn’t get what this film was trying to say. Maybe it’s just because I’m 18 and I haven’t gone through my mid-life crisis or anything yet, but the point they try to convey didn’t come across me once, and I still don’t know what it was.

This guy Roger Greenberg is plain and simply, a dick. He is one of those neurotic dudes who always has something to bitch about, give insight on, and be unpleasant about, but for some reason, I enjoyed that all. I think Greenberg is a fascinating character not only because you wouldn’t want him showing up to your next dinner party but because all this anger and frustration that lies within him, comes out in the oddest ways, mainly because he doesn’t give a crap about his life and what he does with it. This is more of a character study, rather than an actual story, and for the most part it works because this main character, although an asshole, really was fascinating to watch.

I think for the most part, the reason I liked Greenberg so much was because of how Ben Stiller plays him. Jim Carrey did it, Adam Sandler did it, and hell even Will Ferrell did it, so now it’s Stiller’s time to go and shake his dramatic acting chops and does an excellent job. I could actually believe Stiller as this dick of a guy, and there are moments where it just seems like this guy has no idea what to do or say for that matter, and Stiller makes it all work so well. Greta Gerwig is good as the female lead, Florence, and I still don’t understand what all the hype around her is, but I must say I liked her. My main problem with these two in a romance is that the film doesn’t really capture what makes her so attracted to him in the first place, and why she keeps on going at it with him, if he’s constantly bitching and lashing out at random things. I wish the film took a couple more looks at this whole romance, but these two were very good together I must say. It’s always nice to see Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rhys Ifans back playing some major supporting roles as well.

Consensus: Greenberg may not have the most likable main character, and some major themes and elements to it’s story that clicks, however the cast is good, especially Stiller, and there are still enough fascinating things about this film to keep your interest.

5.5/10=Rental!!

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

I never thought making the Hula Hoop was such a dangerous job.

This film follows a schmuck (Tim Robbins) who falls into good — or bad? — luck when he becomes the CEO of a successful business. The evil Sidney J. Mussberger (Paul Newman) chooses Barnes so he and the other board directors can make a fortune on the falling stock price. Meanwhile, reporter Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) befriends Norville in hopes of landing a big scoop.

This film is written and directed by my favorites, The Coen Brothers, and just like any other film they have ever made, yes this one is good too.

I liked how the whole film looked. It reminded me of those old screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 40’s. The production is just beautiful, with a lot of the settings look like they came right out of an old-time photo, or a museum. Literally, you will be looking at this film forever, and the look and style really is, something to die for.

That’s where the major problem lies. We are so interested, and in love with these sets, that they actually up-stage the characters. The film has some funny moments, that are at times dark, but never too funny, nor emotionally resonant. I couldn’t find the main message, or heart behind all this material, and I think that’s the major problem when you got a film that has so much to look at, but nothing else to show for it. In all honesty I don’t even think the story took itself seriously either. The characters are all treated as satire, and not given anything really serious.

Tim Robbins was very good in this lead role as this lovable loser, that is given this big job, as a joke, and then totally changes everything. Jennifer Jason Leigh was pretty funny with her old-style New York accent, and she brings a lot of laughs, even though her and Robbins don’t have the best chemistry. Also, let’s not forget to mention that Paul Newman does a great job, as usual, as the villain, in a way, but the guy was never too menacing to the point of where I despised his every move.

Consensus: It’s beautiful to look at, and entertaining, but overall not that much heart, and the film doesn’t take itself seriously, so therefore we can’t either.

6/10=Rental!!

In the Cut (2003)

Sometimes sex is so crazy.

Frannie (Meg Ryan) is a New York writing professor entwined in an erotic affair with a police detective (Mark Ruffalo) who’s investigating the murder of a young woman in Frannie’s neighborhood. But soon Frannie begins to suspect her lover’s involvement in the crime.

Most of this film gets a lot of attention for its first unveiling of Meg Ryan being nude, when really that’s not all that’s in this film.

This is directed by Jane Campion who is most known for The Piano, and can direct highly charged stuff like this. The complaint is that when it comes to directing the mystery and the slasher killings the film doesn’t quite all add up. I think by the last act the film starts to collapse with the mystery showcases, and came out as obvious when the ending happened.

Other than the murder mystery almost everything else works so well. The whole style of this film is just extravagant and beautiful to look at. There are a couple of sex scenes, that actually look better just because of the way the film shows it to be. Its more than just a sexual experience its more of an provocative love obsession that this character actually goes through.

Meg Ryan is also the main reason to see the film cause she is not just playing against the lovable sweet heart, we always know her as, but instead she plays this woman who becomes obsessed with sex. And the thing about this performance too is that she actually is quite convincing as this good girl gone bad, and surprisingly turns out an Oscar-nominating performance in my opinion. Mark Ruffalo plays against type here and also shows that he is an actor playing a person were not so sure of is what we see, but is still all the same way compelling. The scenes with Ryan and Jennifer Jason Leigh seem so real and actually convincing that it made the film outside of the murder mystery even better to watch. Also with Ryan and Ruffalo, you can see there actually is a lot of love between these two.

Consensus: In the Cut fails at being a thriller, but has great style from the forceful direction of Jane Campion, and powerful performances that all play against type, mostly Ruffalo and Ryan.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

The Anniversary Party (2001)

What a crazy bunch of celebrities.

Recently uncoupled couple Joe (Allan Cumming) and Sally (Jennifer Jason Leigh) celebrate their anniversary with a group of friends. When Judy (Parker Posey), Cal (Kevin Kline), Sky (Gwyneth Paltrow) and assorted spouses and friends come over, it only takes a few cocktails and a load of ecstasy before the situation careens out of control.

Most films about a group of famous people getting together in a huge party with emotion, truth, and drugs some times the films can be bad even when the main star is directing it. However, this doesn’t turn into bad.

The film isn’t painfully true about Hollywood and the stars that inhabit it, it’s actually more about the fact that these sort of parties could happen at any time of the week. I mean it basically plays out like two movies: one about the couple coming back together, and the celebrities that come to the party.

I mean there are plenty of moments that are genuinely funny, but I just didn’t find it to be overall as hilarious as I was expecting. The screenplay does hold some truth to the story but I felt like there were many times where the film was trying to be satirical, and just ended up not making any sense.

I liked the performances here and I felt like a lot of the cast were doing hilarious riffs on their own celebrity personas. Kline is very funny here and adds another dimension, but the funny one here is Jennifer Jason Leigh and Phoebe Cates. It was funny to see this two back on-screen together after almost two decades from their first time together on Fast Times at Ridgemont High. They have matured so much over the years and it was just a great look to see them back together once again.

I did feel like a lot of the scenes here were just meant for these celebrities to ham it up for the digital hand-held camera. Mostly, the last act which featured everyone having totally tripped on acid and just making dumb remarks and acts. I found nothing at all funny about this act, and most importantly was actually a bit bored cause nothing was quite happening other than all the stars acting all high.

Consensus: Though it has some genuine funny moments and good performances from its cast, the film feels a bit hammed on for the camera, and starts to fall by the last act.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

How Sean Penn got his start, by playing a stoner.

The film follows a school year in the lives of freshman Stacy Hamilton (Jennifer Jason Leigh), freshman Mark Ratner (Brian Backer) and their respective friends Linda Barrett (Phoebe Cates) and Mike Damone (Robert Romanus), who believe themselves wise in the ways of romance and counsel their younger counterparts. The ensemble cast of characters also includes Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), a perpetually stoned surfer, who faces off against uptight history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), who is convinced that all of his students are on “dope.” Stacy’s brother, Brad (Judge Reinhold), is a popular senior who works to pay for a car.

The cult classic of all-time. If you want to see one of the first big high school party movies, well here you go.

There are so many scenes that are just unforgettable and also very quotable. The way these character interact with each other is exactly gold, each scene provide a great deal of laughs that will make you laugh for ends on end.

The film also has some very important messages in this film, that is overlooked due to all the crazy humor. It shows very well the little important messages, about love, work, and most of all school. With many scenes that are featured with sure stupidity but also hilarity, it also shares some insight on everything that’s important in high school.

There were times though when I think the comedy was a bit too stale if it even was there. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s story was kind of a bummer for this story and hummed down a lot of the humor and in a way became way too melo-dramatic about a comedy with Sean Penn playing a stoner.

Sean Penn is the main reason to see this film. His legendary performance is hilarious and every time he is on screen it makes the film a whole lot better. Though I didn’t get enough of him I still liked it every time he was on. Though the rest of the cast does a good job as well with acting its Penn who really does over shadow everyone.

This film’s cult status has surely been imitated about 500 times. I think that without the success of this movie there wouldn’t be any other of these coming-of-age high school films. Surely it doesn’t stand the test of time and will remain a classic among all.

Consensus: Very funny that features a legendary performance from Penn, the film does show the little details on what really matters in between the lines of high school.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!