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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 Lawrence

Mother! (2017)

The older the house, the creepier the s**t in it is.

Grace (Jennifer Lawrence) is a stay-at-home wife who dreams of being a mother very, very soon. However, her poet husband, Eli (Javier Bardem), is a bit too distracted to really get up on that supposed promise. If anything, he’s too distracted to really focus on his young and beautiful wife, as he’s searching for inspiration for whatever work he can come up with next. He starts to find that when two strangers (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris) show up and make the house their own. Of course, he has no problem with this, but Grace does and because she’s constantly dealing with some sort of mental-health issues, as well as the duties of keeping up this new house of hers, she can’t help but feel a little off about this all. Eventually, weirder and weirder stuff begins to happen, almost to the point of where Grace doesn’t know if she’s safe where she’s at any longer, or if it’s time to leave the house, her husband, and the life she was supposed to be living.

Put a shirt on, dammit! You’ve got company! I think….

Mother! is definitely not for everyone. Hell, I’m not even sure it’s for me. It is, however, a Darren Aronofsky flick, which means that it’s going to be weird, creepy, out-of-this-world, ambitious, and oh yeah, ridiculously disturbing. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from him now, nearly 20 years into his career, so why should we expect anything different? Can we really criticize a person’s work for being exactly on-par with everything they’ve been doing for the past two decades? Or do we have to hold them up to a certain candle where they have to sort of get with the times and make their rather hard-hitting style, well, work for others?

Say, like the norm?

Well, not really. And that’s why Mother! works; it seems like another case of Aronofsky sticking the middle-finger up to everyone who thought he sold-out with Noah, as well as one to those who think he’s almost too weird for his own good. This time around, Aronofsky’s taking what is supposed to be a relatively conventional story about a woman, probably, losing her mind, then turning it on its head, its side, and on its back, almost to the point of where we don’t really know if it can be turned anywhere else, anymore.

In other words, Aronofsky’s not playing around here and it’s an absolute delight to watch. Sure, it’s a slow-burn for quite some time, with all sorts of visual and literary metaphors to chew apart and piss us off, but it’s also a visceral ride through a possible hell. Aronofsky’s not afraid to go that extra mile into the dark and cruel abyss that some directors like to stray away from – he could care less and it’s hard not to be excited by this, but also put-off by just where this goes and where this ends up.

Cause in all honesty, I’m not even sure what the movie means.

Actually, scratch that. I sort of do and I sort of don’t. The movie’s final-act is so twisted, so disturbing, so messed-up, and so insane, that it’s hard to actually put into words. But just like the rest of the movie, it’s in-your-face and absolutely hard to look away from. This may put a lot of people off, as well as it should, but for someone like me, it was hard not to be mesmerized by what was going on, even if I couldn’t pick my finger on what exactly it was.

Long hair, clearly cares.

Meaning, yes, Mother! deserves and will probably benefit from multiple viewings. But that aside, it’s still a very creepy movie, with Aronofsky himself taking advantage of this tight and confined space, where it seems like there’s a nightmare every corner you turn, as well as his sounds. There’s a dark and brooding rhythm that’s constantly felt throughout, almost to the point where even the light-hearted and rather sweet moments, are still impossibly rough.

Once again, Aronofsky’s not afraid and it’s not hard to love that.

Also, Jennifer Lawrence puts in another great performance here, but also, her most demanding and grueling to-date. She’s never charming, or even lovely – she’s dark, twisted, and sad, seeming like she’s about to break-out into insane fits of anger and rage, at any minute. Aronofsky keeps the whole movie squarely on her, with her face covering up the screen for about nearly an hour of the run-time, making it hard not to sit there and dissect her every move. And she’s up to the task, too; she never lets us forget that there’s something simmering deep down inside of her, but also, because she’s Jennifer Lawrence, we sort of trust her, too.

Is that a smart move? Or a bad one? After all, this is an Aronofsky flick, we’re talking about and nothing’s to be trusted.

And man, more movies need that danger.

Consensus: Hard-to-watch, disturbing, and layered with a certain uneasiness that’s hard to shake-off, Mother! will not be for everybody, but those who appreciate it, will also be a witness to one of Aronofsky’s more demented creations.

8 / 10

“Everyone is waiting, Jennifer. Let’s have some fun.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Passengers (2016)

Space can get pretty lonely for hot, attractive people.

On a trip to a new planet, where all sorts of wonderful and exciting adventure awaits them, 5,000 passengers lay asleep, waiting to be awoken in 90 years so that they can start fresh. However, the ship malfunctions and awakes one passenger, Jim (Chris Pratt). For Jim, he has no idea why this has happened, or better yet, what to do, but tries whatever he can to alert someone that he has been woken up before everyone else, can’t get back to sleep and may now be forced to live the rest of his life, alone and on this spaceship before it reaches its destination. It’s such a sad existence that all of a sudden gets a little bit better when Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) suddenly wakes up, too, leaving the two to obviously put their brains together even more and think of ways to get out. But of course, seeing as how they are two attractive, hot people trapped on some spaceship together, they eventually begin to gain feelings for one another, making the situation all the more dramatic, especially when the ship begins to malfunction more and more, leaving them to have to make brash decisions in the wake of it all.

She's hot.

She’s hot.

Okay, so yeah. There’s more to Passengers than I’m letting on, but because I am a nice guy, I will try my best to avoid spoiling any small secrets about Passengers that may not just ruin your experience, but not have you expect anything to happen. Because for a movie like Passengers, not knowing what’s going to happen, helps it a great deal.

It’s just that certain level of unpredictability doesn’t stay around so long.

But still, what Passengers does best is somewhere to be found in the first hour or so, when all of the fun of this setting and the promise of this premise is toyed with in smart, sometimes interesting ways. Director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts seem to both love this idea of having this spacious, lavish spaceship to play around with and get crazy with possibilities, which makes it interesting to see how these two characters act within their surroundings; this idea that living the rest of your existence seemingly alone sucks, but there’s also plenty of other stuff in this spaceship like a basketball court, something resembling a Wii, Michael Sheen as a robot-bartender, and so much more to it.

However, what’s perhaps most interesting about Tyldum and Spaihts’ approach here is that it feels like there’s so much more to explore within this spaceship and this idea and that for awhile, it almost seems like they’re going to go there. I’ll admit, the love-story does come on very strong, but still, the idea presented about their relationship and how it pertains to the spaceship and overall existence itself still sticks around, making all of the lovey-dovey stuff, at the very least, bearable. It also helps that the spaceship itself, from the outside and in, as well as the rest of the movie, looks pretty great, never seeming as if it’s cheaping out on getting us even more and more immersed into this story and this setting.

Then the final-act kicks in and yeah, it kind of falls apart.

Without saying too much, it seems like the first two acts were written by Spaihts and the last act was done by some studio head’s wannabe-writer kid. Melodramatic revelations start to drop, people begin to cry, sci-fi jargon is thrown everywhere and supposed to mean something, and oh yeah, lots and lots of stuff begins to catch on fire. Why does this happen? Well, no reason really, except that it’s a studio movie and studios are afraid that if there isn’t any action around, people are going to get bored and leave.

And sure, while I’m not totally against the idea of allowing there to be all sorts of crazy action to crank-up the intensity of a story, here, it feels unnecessary and incredibly rushed. It’s as if the movie wasn’t actually finished being written, but there was a budget and a deadline, so they had to do their best but to stick with the conventional fall-out we expect from a plot like this and it just does not work. It’s overlong and way too chaotic to really work – making this movie seem like two different ones combined, without much of a transitional period.

He's hot.

He’s hot.

And that’s honestly why Passengers is getting such a bad rap.

Sure, some may blame it on the fact that the advertising holds back a very important part of the story intentionally, but it sort of doesn’t matter – the movie is less about the spoiler/surprise, as much as it’s about actually watching these characters interact with one another, in this setting, and thinking about what to make of it all. In that sense, the movie is very interesting and the two performances from Lawrence and Pratt, are compelling, but the movie doesn’t totally challenge them a whole lot, either. Essentially, they are playing very much in their wheelhouse, where they both have to play charming and dramatic, and together, they create quite the hot couple. They keep it watchable, at the very least, even when everything begins to fall apart in the end.

Which isn’t to say that Passengers is quite the train wreck everyone’s been making it out to be, but it could have been so much more, had it not seem like the studio interfered. Or even if they didn’t interfere in the first place, the least someone could have done was look over the script a few more times, think of things to fix and overall, make that ending better. It would have helped out a lot and probably kept that spoiler from being so idiotically secretive in the first place.

But hey, whatever brings butts to the seats, right?

Consensus: For a short while, Passengers takes full advantage of its talented leads and interesting premise, yet, does a full 180 about halfway through and loses any sense of what it was originally going for.

5.5 / 10

So, why shouldn't they be hot together?

So, why shouldn’t they be hot together?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Eh. I’m fine with the apocalypse after all.

Taking place exactly ten years after the events that occurred in Days of Futures Past, the X-Men have now all found themselves enjoying some idea of lives of luxury. While they are still mutants with miraculous powers and looked at as “weirdos who can’t be trusted in a normal, civilized world”, they still get by solely through depending on one another’s good will. Professor X (James McAvoy) is still teaching classes, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to keep the peace among the mutants and humans, Magneto (Michael Fassbender) now lives a comfortable life out in the woods of Serbia, where he has a wife, kid, and a solid job where nobody knows a single thing about him or his checkered past. So yeah, for awhile, it seems like everything’s all fine and dandy for the X-Men, until, after decades upon decades of sleeping, a powerful mutant by the name of Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) wakes up and plans on destroying the world with some of the most ferocious and powerful mutants out there who haven’t already been taken in by Xavier. This means that a battle between two sides of good and evil is about to occur, and who chooses which side is totally up in the air.

He's still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

He’s still a cool hipster-kind of guy.

Bryan Singer clearly loves the X-Men stories and it’s one of the main reasons why he’s been able to not only keep his career alive, but even their own stories. Even when Origins came in and seemed to destroy the franchise for good, he came back to help, and give everyone their favorite mutants that nobody knew that they loved and/or missed. He not only found a way to make their plight a sad and sympathetic one, but to also make their adventures actually interesting to watch and play out, especially when they’re all putting their mutant powers to the test.

And now, with Apocalypse, his fourth X-Men movie to-date, it appears that Singer may have run out of things to actually say about all of these mutants and what makes them tick. While I don’t think it’s necessarily his fault, it’s also hard to wonder where to take this story and these characters next; sure, you can give them plenty more evil-doers to go head-to-head with, but after awhile, it can just become conventional. And also, when all of your drama is about each and everyone of these characters just sitting around and moping about how “the rest of the world doesn’t accept them”, it can get a bit tiring.

So why tell these stories anymore?

Well, obviously, it’s all for money. They still make a pretty penny at the box office and it probably won’t change any time soon, however, I can’t help but think a similar superhero movie like Civil War, where it’s clear that there’s a lot going on, with so many different people, and yet, it all comes together so damn smoothly, will make ones like these pale in comparison. After all, Singer is taking on a whole lot of different plot threads, with a whole lot of characters to deal with and develop over a near two-and-a-half-hour run-time, so it would only make sense that he take care in making sure each and everyone gets their due, right?

Surprisingly, Singer doesn’t quite do this. In a way, it appears that there’s many characters with something to do or say, that after awhile, he just cobbles them all up together, and relies solely on the talented cast’s presence to pick up the pieces whenever they can. It’s not a bad idea, especially when you have such a great cast to work with like this, but there’s also that feeling that Singer doesn’t quite know how to develop this story anymore and just seems to be going through the motions.

We get plenty of action and most of it’s good, but when there’s no heart or emotion surrounding it, does any of it matter? It’s hard to imagine an X-Men universe without some of the core characters and actors that made the original franchise so damn appealing and iconic, but unfortunately, the creative team has set it all up that way. We won’t get many more glimpses of Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, and even Anna Paquin – instead, we’ll just get more and more of James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Nicholas Hoult, and Sophie Turner.

New Wave = Villains

Everyone’s favorite New Wave cover band.

Is this necessarily a bad thing? Of course not.

In fact, that cast is so good, I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t care more for these characters once it was all said and done. But that’s the issue with Apocalypse – there’s so much going on, with so many people around and about, that no one person gets enough to do or make a case for why they exist. We’ve got so many great actors here and ready to play, yet, the material’s just not there; it’s all focused on building this villain and this predictable conclusion that will lead to the goodies, facing off against him.

And as the baddie, yes, Oscar Isaac gets to have some fun. However, because he’s so covered and hidden underneath all of that make-up, it really feels like a waste of a good actor. He gets to act all sorts of evil, what with his powers and all, but really, there’s not much else to him; all he wants to do is destroy the world because, well, why not? It’s so typical and it seems like a missed-opportunity for having someone as good as Isaac in a main role. Same goes for Olivia Munn, who literally shows up for pure sex-appeal, is given nothing to do and is expected to be an interesting character for future installments to come.

There will definitely be future installments people, but know this: They have to get better.

They just have to.

Consensus: With so much going on, Apocalypse becomes a mess that Bryan Singer tries so desperately to save, but only gets by because of a good cast and solid-looking action. But in a year of already two great superhero movies, it’s going to take a lot for this franchise to make its presence felt.

6 / 10

"Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see other superhero movies coming very, very soon!"

“Hey guys! If we look close enough, we may be able to see more superhero movies coming very, very soon!”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Beaver (2011)

Cockney-accented beaver-puppets always help get through depression.

Walter Black (Mel Gibson) is at a crossroads that most men at his age come to. He doesn’t know if he’s happy or not, what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he especially doesn’t know how to talk to those around him. However, he finds a way to cope with all of these issues by picking up a beaver puppet and, by using a cockney accent that makes him sound straight out of a Guy Ritchie flick, interact with each and every person around him. While his wife (Jodie Foster) is happy about it because he’s now talking to them, Walter’s oldest son, Porter (Anton Yelchin) isn’t too hot about the idea; then again, he’s going through some problems of his own where he doesn’t know what he wants to do after high school and mostly passes the time by writing papers for fellow students. And for a little while, Walter’s new method of coping with his depression seems to be working out for him, as well as those around him, but sooner or later, there does come a point where the facade begins to run thin and people start getting weirded-out by the dude talking with a puppet.

Is this a light-hearted dramedy, or Panic Room?

Is this a light-hearted dramedy, or Panic Room?

The Beaver could have been a bigger movie, but man oh man, did it have some terrible timing. Yes, the Beaver came out a little after Mel Gibson’s racist and misogynistic freak-out and because of that, sadly suffered. The movie could have been wildly released to a whole slew of theaters, could have made a bigger dent at the box-office, and hell, it could have even gotten some critics and fans back on the Gibson Train. However, that didn’t happen and it’s a shame, because the Beaver’s a better movie than some give it credit for.

Of course, it’s by no means a masterpiece, but for what it is, it’s a small, sweet and sometimes funny look at one man’s depression, and how he uses a silly-looking puppet to guide him through it all. Does it make perfect sense? Not really, but the fact is that Jodie Foster directs the movie in such a lovely way, what with it’s breezy pace and all, that it didn’t really bother me how far it wanted to go with this premise.

After all, the movie itself is nearly an-hour-and-a-half, which does make it seem awfully brief.

However, Foster is a capable enough director to allow for material such as this, to work. It doesn’t hit us over-the-head with constant metaphors, nor does it try to be anything more meaningful and life-affirming than just a simple, down-to-Earth tale of one man’s issues. You can call it “hokey”, or “sappy”, or whatever you want, but there’s no denying that the movie’s enjoyable, so long as you aren’t expecting to have your life changed by the end.

But there is a feeling that movie could have been more, if I’m being truly honest. Everything involving Gibson and the beaver is perfectly fine and actually adds a lot of fun to the movie, but whenever it tries to focus more on Yelchin’s character, the movie drags a bit. Don’t get me wrong, the scenes that he has with Jennifer Lawrence can sometimes be pretty good, if only because they have dynamite chemistry, but after awhile, they begin to show up at times that almost seem unnecessary. A movie that was already short as is, could have, somehow, been trimmed down to an even shorter run-time.

And this isn’t to say that Yelchin, Lawrence, or anyone else that isn’t Mel Gibson aren’t good, because they are. However, it also feels like Foster herself may be struggling with where to go with these two stories, how to connect them, and how to make them both simultaneously interesting. The fact that Yelchin’s character is a bit of a slacker without much inspiration in his life, already makes his story-line seem a tad bit more interesting, but the supposed love-interest he has in Lawrence kind of takes it away from being as such. Lawrence herself is quite good, but you also get the feeling that she’s got more charisma and personality than this thinly-written role may have for her.

Some of this doesn’t matter because, when you get down to it, it’s really Gibson’s show and he makes it worth watching.

All personal issues aside, there is no denying that Gibson himself is a charismatic performer who, when given the right material to work with, can not just work wonders, but make you realize that he truly is a star who can do everything. He can do tough-guy bravado, he can do sweet, sensitive guy, and he can definitely do everyman simpleton, and while he only gets a chance to show-off the later, it’s still a good reminder that hey, he’s still a good actor, no matter what sort of trash comes out of his mouth behind-the-scenes.

Well, someone's career is about to take off...

Well, someone’s career is about to take off…

As Walter Black, he gets another chance to be funny, but also show that there’s a more dramatic side to him as well. I’m sure the original script was aiming for a darker-tone, what with Walter acting out in public with a puppet and all, but Gibson takes the material and has a ball with it. He’s not only funny with that pitch perfect accent, but he also gives you the idea that there is a sane and normal-thinking human being underneath all of the acting-out. While he may not fully show it, he’s still there and it’s enough to make you want to see where he goes with the character next.

Of course, it’s a bummer that Jodie Foster doesn’t get much to do as Walter’s wife, but then again, it’s her movie that she directed. She doesn’t feel like she needs to get in the way of Mel’s show and it’s a smart maneuver. Next time, however, I would definitely appreciate more Jodie Foster.

Can’t get enough of her, honestly.

Consensus: Without trying to change the world and the people existing in it, the Beaver is a sweet and likable little dramedy, featuring a great performance from Mel Gibson – someone who is, despite all of the controversy surrounding him, a good actor.

6.5 / 10 

Oh, Mel! What a silly goose he is!

Oh, Mel! What a silly goose he is!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Joy (2015)

So, did Jennifer Lawrence invent feminism, too?

Ever since she was a young girl, Joy Mangano (Jennifer Lawrence) knew that she was always destined to do something great for the world. While it may have all started in her room where she would experiment with creating little inventions here and there, after awhile, real life started to get in the way and it’s where she found it harder and harder to let her true inspiration come out and make a difference. For one, she got married, had two kids, and then got divorced from Tony (Édgar Ramírez). Then, she moved back into her mom (Virginia Madsen)’s place, where her grand-mother (Diane Ladd) also lives, meaning that the current house situation is incredibly cramped. And now, if matters weren’t already bad, her unpredictable, but always trouble-making father (Robert De Niro), has moved back in and wants to take over the whole family again. But knowing that she’s destined for something greater, one day, Joy stumbles upon a brilliant, but all-too-simple idea: the Miracle Mop. While Joy believes her billion-dollar idea to be brilliant, the only issue here is that she doesn’t quite know how to get in the business of selling her invention to the larger masses where each and every person can see what she’s made. This is when Joy decides to really push her boundaries and take chances that no simple woman in her situation would ever take, but because she’s got nothing to lose, she doesn’t care.

Even during serious times, this family can't help but get ready to start brawling.

Even during serious times, this family can’t help but get ready to start brawling.

About an hour into Joy, after we’ve gotten through all of the wacky family drama, the random dream-sequences in the form of a corny soap opera, the flashbacks, the narrations, the exposition, etc., something happens that wasn’t quite there all along: Excitement. This starts to happen when writer/director David O. Russell decides that the next best step to take this story is to QVC which, believe it or not, ends up working out quite well for the film in the end; it’s only about 30 minutes or so, but it’s absolutely the most fun to be had in the whole two-hours here. Of course, this has to do with the fact that Bradley Cooper shows up and he and Jennifer Lawrence are as spicy and as fun as ever, but it also gives us an inside glimpse of how exactly a product is sold, what goes into getting said customers to buy something, and just how manipulative home-shopping networks can be.

In all honesty, had David O. Russell just made a movie solely based around the inner-workings and early days of QVC, there’d probably be more of something to discuss with Joy. However, the sole issue here with Joy is that it’s not always about QVC, nor is it really about Joy, the character, and her product – it’s more about those around her who constantly bring her down, never allow for her to reach her dreams, and constantly screw up. Once or twice in the beginning of the film is nice to give us an understanding of the kind of situation Joy’s in, but after awhile, it becomes clear that O. Russell has a dead horse he wants to beat, leading to a lot of situations happening the same way, over and over again, with hardly anything new, or surprising learned in the process.

Which is to say that yes, Joy is a disappointment considering what O. Russell has been able to do in the past five years with his career.

However, when you take into consideration great flicks like the Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, not only is the bar raised pretty high, but there’s also a certain expectation that O. Russell himself has already carved-out. Considering that O. Russell himself seems to love and adore dysfunctional families, and cast practically the same people, each and every time he gets a chance to, it’s almost impossible not to approach Joy, another movie about a dysfunctional family, with at least three-fourths of the cast from Playbook and Hustle, and expect the same kind of wonder and entertainment.

The thing with Joy, however, is that it’s a much different, more dramatic, and far more serious movie that, quite frankly, isn’t as bad as I may make it out to be. Disappointing? For sure, but that’s also to say that someone like O. Russell can’t switch things up every so often because of a niche he’s already made for himself; no director ever would be able to stick with one and only style, which is why, on O. Russell’s part, it’s a brave choice to take a story such as this and take it a bit slower.

And this is why there are certain parts and moments of Joy that are actually pretty wonderful.

The babies these two would create. Oh my gosh.

The babies these two would create. Lord almighty.

Of course, the aforementioned QVC-subplot works wonders, but what happens afterwards is interesting, in the way that we get to see Joy, the character, gain more confidence in herself and start to try her hand at making something of her invention and seeing where she can go with it. Because Joy Mangano is already a pretty sympathetic figure who makes it clear from the start that she’s a smart, brassy girl, it’s easy to get behind her and watch as she takes whatever challenges life tosses at her. While most of these challenges concern her family just acting like selfish a-holes, it was still interesting and compelling to watch and see how she reacted to each situation and got through.

And with that said, yes, Jennifer Lawrence is quite good in this role, because how can she not be? Lawrence, despite playing another character she seems too young for, grabs this character, shakes her up and gives it all she’s got; sometimes, it seems like she’s working with a script that isn’t nearly as up to her speed, but at the same time, she keeps things moving and most of all, believable. Though Joy’s already shoddy performance with critics may keep Lawrence away from winning another Oscar of her own, it’s still hard not to believe her getting a nomination for what she does here, as she can be, at times, the best thing going for it.

Which isn’t to hate on the rest of the cast as the likes of Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Édgar Ramírez, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, and the already mentioned Cooper don’t put in fine work, either, but clearly, O. Russell has a problem handling all of their stories/personalities and allowing for them to mix with Joy’s story in a cohesive manner. Because a good portion of these characters are so self-centered, it’s never easy to feel bad for them, which makes them also feel like they’re getting in the way of what could have been a very powerful story about one, small-time woman standing up against all of the adversity in her way to, well, make a difference in the world.

Though I’m not sure just how much of what appears in Joy, is actually true of the real person’s life, O. Russell searches far and wide to make perfect sense of it. He doesn’t always come up with any easy answers or solutions, but for the most part, he gives it his absolute best. But if anything, he just makes you appreciate his last three movies even more and also give the inclination that maybe, just maybe, it’s time for him to change things up a bit.

Not just with his cast, but subject-material as well.

Consensus: Joy is not nearly as magnificent as what David O. Russell has put out in the past five years, but because of a solid lead performance from the always radiant and exciting Lawrence, as well as some strokes of genius, it still works.

7 / 10

No matter what, that J-Law can't seem to get herself out of trouble.

No matter what, that J-Law can’t seem to get herself out of trouble.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Another YA adaptation down, plenty more to go.

After she was attacked by a brainwashed Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is fed up and ready to take action against President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Meaning, that it’s time for war to get going and it’s going to be Katnis the one spearheading it. And once again, it becomes clear that a lot of what Katnis does or says, is all planned out from the beginning with Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) constantly working behind the scenes, testing and working with every maneuver Katnis takes. Regardless though, there is a war to be fought, which leads Katnis, as well as the rest of her trusted soldiers for the cause, to head straight to District 2 and then the Capitol itself for one last fight to take down Snow and his tyrannical reign. However, as expected, Snow is more than up to the task of taking on this band of soldiers, while also proving that he may be the more powerful force after all. But there’s also something else that’s a bit fishy about this situation and it has less to do with Snow, as much as it may have to do with those that Katnis aligns herself with in the first place.

Will miss him.

Will miss him.

Finally, after three years, four movies, and plenty of money, the Hunger Games film franchise is coming to an end. In ways, it’s kind of bittersweet; while none of the films have ever astounded me, they’ve been plenty better than all those other young adult novel adaptations that come out every few months or so. Granted, considering the company that’s kept in that genre, that may not be saying much, but still, it’s worth noting that each and everyone of these movies have all done some neat, interesting things with a plot and source material that could have easily been the most melodramatic, boring piece of crud since Bella and Edward started hookin’ up in the forest.

Still, what makes the Hunger Games, the franchise, so special, is that it’s the kind of YA adaptation that plenty of people can actually enjoy. Of course, the target audience for this will continue to devour and adore it until the day they die, but so many other people, who may not think that this is “their thing”, may find something to be interested by here. There’s the romance for all the screaming fan-girls in the crowd; there’s the violence for the boyfriends who get dragged to them; there’s the high-production values for the film-fanatics; and most importantly, there’s political messages and ideas for those who still believe that we’re being spied on by the government, at this very second.

They’re not wrong, but still.

And with Mockingjay – Part 2, it really does feel like, not just the end, but the greatest hits of what this story had to offer, but seemed to lose sight of over the past two movies. All of the elements that have made the past films work, are still here, but now, there’s so much more emotion, so much more power, and most of all, so much more feeling that has you realize, “Holy hell. This truly is the last time we may ever see these characters on the screen again.” It’s definitely the same feeling everyone had watching Deathly Hallows – Part 2, as well as most other finales, but here, it feels done just right.

There’s a greater deal of suspense and tension in the air, which definitely helps this movie out. Though I haven’t read any of the books (I actually tried and then I picked up a copy of the Corrections and the rest is, as they say, history), it’s pretty simple and easy to predict just who’s going to survive by the end of the movies, and who is going to bite the dust. Here, however, because this is the last movie, there’s a sense in the air that we don’t know who’s going to live, who’s going to die, and just who’s life is going to be completely ruined forever.

Even way after the credits end.

This is all some incredibly grim and bleak stuff that the movie’s dealing with, but it all surprisingly works with the rest of the tone. Everything before Katnis and her fellow soldiers get out onto the war-field, everything’s slow, meandering and plodding, to say the least; in fact, it had me worried that we were just getting left-over scenes from Part 1, which, in and of itself, was already a pretty lame movie, so why would I want to be reminded of it? But after all of the emotions are exchanged, the guns start coming out, explosions start happening, and characters, well-developed or not, believe it or not, start dropping like flies. There’s characters you may expect to perish, whereas there may be some you don’t – either way, it’s hard not to watch when these characters are all getting themselves into more and more dangerous situations as they parade along to find and kill Snow.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

Will kind of, sort of, maybe miss him.

It’s all action-packed, of course, but it’s also incredibly compelling that makes you feel something for these characters probably more so than before. Katnis is, as usual, a bad-ass, but here, we really do get a chance to see her true personality, heart and soul shine; so much has been made in the past two movies where Katnis is, basically, just an image and nothing else. However, with her fourth-outing as Katnis, Jennifer Lawrence shows that she’s still able to find some new ways to breath fresh life into this character. Does she seem a bit bored? Yeah.

But I guess that’s what happens when you’re the highest-paid actress in Hollywood.

And everybody else is fine, too. The ensemble here is so stacked by now that, honestly, it feels like a shame they aren’t all given monologues to deliver and run rampant with, but so be it. In any other film, this cast would have absolutely made any movie a near-masterpiece, but because this is a Hunger Games movie, it’s less about them, and more about the spectacle.

Which, like I’ve said before, isn’t a bad thing. These movies, especially this one, have all done great jobs at balancing-out all the different aspects it takes to make this story interesting to watch and think about. The last-half of this movie definitely deals with that in a smart, but nearly shocking way that’s sure to surprise a whole lot of people who don’t know what to expect. But still, it works because the world that this movie has created, right from the very get-go, is one that may look all bright and shiny from the outside, but once you dig a bit deeper, is downright sadistic and disturbing. Such is the case with the real world, too, I guess.

But hey, we’ll miss you Katnis.

*Whistle-salute sound*

Consensus: Surprisingly grim, exciting and most of all, emotional, Mockingjay – Part 2 isn’t just the final installment of the franchise, but also the best one, proving just what sorts of wonders it was able to work, despite the target audience and what’s generally expected of stories such as these.

8 / 10

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

And, oh yeah. Will totes miss her.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Serena (2015)

Pretty much a remake of Silver Linings Playbook. Except not everybody’s supposed to be nuts.

In Depression-era North Carolina, timber baron George Pemberton (Bradley Cooper) is dealing with most problems people have to deal with when they run any sort of business. Dealing with panthers and such in the wilderness that surrounds him and his workers, George realizes that he needs to figure something out in his life to give it more meaning. Which is why when he meets the young, beautiful and wistful Serena (Jennifer Lawrence), he instantly falls head-over-heels. Soon, they have sex, get married, and decide that it’s time to start a family. Problem is, Serena starts to take her husband’s business a little too seriously and get in the way of matters that don’t concern her. However, George loves Serena and doesn’t want to upset her, so when he impregnates her, he feels like they’re going to be getting back on-track into that happy, lovely couple they once were. Once again though, troubles arise when Serena suddenly finds out that she cannot bear children, which leads to horrifying, disastrous results that finds almost everyone involved with the Pemberton clan acting out in insane ways.

Serena1

Uh oh. One bad movie and B-Coops is making someone pay!

Oh, gosh. What went wrong? Sure, I’ve heard about Serena for a long while now, from when it was completed and then put on the shelf for nearly two years, to when it premiered at some festivals last year to ultimately disastrous reviews, but man, I sure as hell didn’t expect it to be this bad.

Seriously.

And while it’s hard for me to not just start and end this review by simply stating it’s crappy, there’s something that needs to be said here about movies that seem like they’d be alright, all because of who is involved with them. When you see names like “Bradley Cooper” and “Jennifer Lawrence”, you’d automatically expect that whatever they were involved with, to be something worth checking out, regardless of what it’s about. Heck, if you put J-Law and B-Coops in a room and film them for an-hour-and-a-half, chances are, we’re all going to watch it. They’ve made smart enough choices in the past to give us the idea that they know what they’re doing with their careers, and they’re more than talented enough to remind us why they get as much material thrown their way as they do.

But somehow, Serena just is not the kind of movie where all of this seems clear. Cooper and Lawrence seem like they are trying here with what’s given to them, but what’s given to them is absolute garbage and so far from any help, that even their more than reliable skills as actors can’t save the day. Even Susanne Bier, a solid director when she’s given enough inspiration, seems like she has no idea what to make of this tale, or even seem like she gives a damn. Then again, this could be just that the material is so thin and poorly-done, that even she couldn’t help it from being something better.

Either way, Serena is a mess. There’s no two ways of getting around it. Some of that is Bier’s fault, other times, it’s Cooper, Lawrence and the rest of the cast, but overall, it’s a group effort that seemed doomed from the beginning; regardless of how much effort may have been put into it.

Or in this case, I guess none.

See, what’s odd about Cooper and Lawrence here, is that while they’re usually spectacular in all else that they do, here, they seem incredibly awkward. Even they’re chemistry together that’s blossomed so well in the past seems like an after-thought in a movie that wants to have you believe in these two as long, lost loves who, after five seconds of meeting one another and boning, instantly fall in love and get married. It feels rushed and put-on, and to be honest, neither one’s performances help matters.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn't as awesome as it sounds.

Somehow, female J-Law on a white horse isn’t as awesome as it sounds.

Cooper has some odd Southern-twang in his voice that makes everything that comes out of his mouth, indecipherable, whereas with Lawrence, I don’t even know what to say. Her character is supposed to be this enchanting, yet demanding piece of work that seems to always get her way, no matter what; and when she doesn’t, it’s literally the end of the world for her, as well as all those surrounding her. Whereas Lawrence’s high-strung charm has worked for her in the past, because this character is so poorly-written and crazy, it all comes off as over-the-top and the decisions her character makes by the tail-end of this movie, are downright laughable. It makes you feel bad enough for Lawrence, until you realize that the gal already has an Oscar to her name and probably plenty more to come.

So any bit of sadness goes away once reality strikes.

And honestly, it’s hard to really think that this movie could have been good in some universe; it’s just not that type of movie. A part of me wants to feel that, even before Silver Linings hit the big screen and made both of these acts downright superstars, that Lawrence and Cooper took it, without knowing one another, and saw what could happen next. Maybe they got some nice pay out of their ordeal, or maybe they didn’t, but either way, this will slide right by them. They’ll go on to make bigger, way better movies (probably with David O. Russell) and seem to forget that this movie ever existed and eventually, will make it a blip in their memories.

The only ones who will remember are us, the normal, everyday citizens who will still be pondering that deadly question:

Just what the hell happened here?

Consensus: Sometimes, it doesn’t matter who’s involved, if you’re project is bad, it’ll probably stay that way. And that is exactly what happens to the poorly-written, terribly-acted, and so-bad-its-hilarious piece that is Serena; a movie you’ve heard is terrible and guess what? It is!

2 / 10 

"Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream."

“Go back to sleep, baby. It was all just a dream. A horrendous, terrifying, and downright disturbing dream.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)

Bows and arrows are the ultimate weapons for rebellion. Guns are better, but hey, you work with what you’ve got.

After the tragic events of the second Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is, once again, left in total and complete shock. However, she’s not alone, as she was soon taken in by the rebellious District 13 and given the task to fight back against the malicious Capital, and its evil leader, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). And although Katniss is more than happy to fight back and get whatever revenge she can get on Snow and his legions of soldiers, there’s a couple problems holding her back. For one, District 13’s president, Coin (Julianne Moore), and her trusted lackey, Plutarch (Philip Seymour Hoffman), not only want her to stand high and tall with District 13, but even be seen as the face of the new rebellion that will hopefully inspire many others to stand up against Snow and his regime. Also, after the last Hunger Games, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) was kidnapped and taken in by the Capitol, who seems to be using him as a way to coax Katniss into just putting down her bows and giving up. Katniss wants to, so as to not hurt Peeta even more, but the problem is that she’s not the one fully in control – others are and it begins to show.

It’s safe to say that, by now, the Hunger Games film franchise has been pretty successful. Not just in terms of its box-office success, but also with those pretentious, unhappy human specimens we know as critics. Meaning, that it was only just a matter of time until one of these films, as it only takes one, had to screw it up for the rest.

And it’s quite fitting that it just so happens to be the first part of a movie that didn’t need to even have a first part to begin with.

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch?

Is this a symbolic passing of the torch? Say it ain’t so, J-Moore!

Trust me, too, this is coming from a guy who has never read a single page of one of these books; Hollywood thinks that since they have a cash-cow on their hands, that they should try their hardest and pan the movies out for as long as they can, as only a way to reel in more and more dough. They did it with the Harry Potter franchise, they did with those terrible Twilight movies, and heck, they were even thinking about doing it for the Hobbit movies, that is until somebody actually wised up and realized that it’s probably not the best decision to push that franchise any longer than it needed to be, especially considering that it’s all made from one single book. Just one, people! So why the hell did there need to be three, freakin’ movies at all?!?!

Anyway, like I was saying, here with Mockingjay – Part 1, it’s obvious that the powers that be behind it, wanted it to just go on for as long as it could, so long so as it all built-up to what would hopefully be the ultimate finale for this franchise next year, and it shows. That’s not to say all of the movie is bad, but when you have a film that goes on for so long which is, quite frankly, is pretty solid up to a point, and it just ends, it not only feels abrupt, but pretty disappointing. You can tell that, if they really wanted to with these movies, they could have made just one, three-hour epic that would, hopefully, put the bow-tie on the franchise once and for all. But nope, when big-wig, hot-shot Hollywood executives see dollar-signs, they can’t help themselves one bit.

Sort of like how I am in Dunkin’ Donuts. Only one, I promise myself, and then, a dozen doughnuts later, I’m wondering just what the hell happened to me and my thought-process. It’s a bad analogy, I know, but it’s all I got to work with, people, so bare with me please.

But to get a bit away from the whole problem with this movie being unnecessary in the first place, I think it’s best to just dive right into what made it so good to begin with and, therefore, made the abrupt ending all the more enraging. See, what’s interesting about this flick, is that while it’s clear that it has the biggest budget in the world and can practically do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, and with whomever it wants to, for some reason, Mockingjay – Part 1 has a very limited-scope which, dare I say it, makes it feel almost claustrophobic. Hardly do we ever get to see what’s going on/around the world of Panem and in these other districts, outside of maybe a TV monitor or through of what somebody says.

A perfect example of this is a very terrifying sequence in which District 13 gets attacked by the Capitol, leaving everybody inside scrambling, running, and trying to find any shelter that they can. While this is all going on, we hear the explosions hitting District 13 and we see the effect it has on the base from the inside, but we never see what’s exactly going on outside; what we see and hear, are just enough to scare us into an oblivion and have us expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. It’s a well-done sequence that I kept on thinking about the most after I saw the movie, because it pretty much puts the rest of the movie into perspective: We are thrown into this tiny, nearly suffocating world and we can’t get out of it. We’re along for the ride with Katniss, even if that does, or doesn’t take her anywhere special.

Speaking of Katniss, once again, Jennifer Lawrence is great in this role and allows Katniss to be strong, smart, and also, humane. She hardly does something for her own self-interest and it makes us sympathize with her a lot more, even if she is playing with both Gale and Peeta’s hearts like a person putting a carrot in front of a rabbit on a treadmill. Still, she’s good to watch and brings a lot of development to a character that could have easily been just another little, whiny teenager who can’t decide if he loves me, or loves me not.

I'll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

I’ll take a nice, little Boogie Nights reunion any day.

Another interesting aspect to this story is that it plays around with the ideas of propaganda and how the use of it, if effective, can really drive people to do something, whether it be fighting for a cause, or just changing a certain lifestyle of theirs. Here, we get to see Katniss be constantly taken to all of these different Districts, where everybody is either dead, dying, or just bones underneath pieces of rubble. The way we’re supposed to feel about these tragic occurrences is supposed to be sadness, but because we know Katniss is being taken to these certain spots, only so that they can film her and show the rest of the world why her cause is worth standing behind, puts a slight comedic-twist on it. A dark one, but a comedic-twist nonetheless in a movie which totally needed a lot more.

This is where the likes of new recruits Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, pleasant returners Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman all bring their own level of depth to a story that deserves it. It’ll be interesting to see where the next film takes these certain characters, because while it’s easy to fall for Peeta, Katniss, and Gale, the older, much more established presences in these films are mostly what keeps the heart of these movies running. Not to hate on what Lawrence, Hutcherson, or Hemsworth do with their own respective characters, but if I had to, I’d watch a scene containing just Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Woody Harrelson, and Jeffrey Wright, all sitting around in a room, talking about whatever was on their mind next.

Obviously that’s virtually impossible now, but what a treasure it would be.

But, like I said, while the ideas and themes this movie toggles around with may be interesting, and a hell of a lot more thought-provoking than we all get with half of the YA adaptations out there, there’s still that feeling that this movie is build-up, and hardly anything more. Director Francis Lawrence gives this movie a tone that’s dark, creepy, and slightly sinister, but the way in how the movie ends, just puts everything into perspective: This is all leading up to something a lot bigger and more epic.

See you next year, folks. Let’s hope that this is actually the end.

Consensus: Thought-provoking without being ham-fisted, exciting without being manipulative, and well-acted without ever focusing on one character more than the other, the Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 works for so long, all up until it abruptly ends, leaving us maybe ready for the next, but also disappointed that there had to be two parts in the first place.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Basically, everybody loves J-Law. Fin.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

So many freaks, it felt like being in Saturday detention once again.

In the post-apocalyptic future, mutants across the globe are hunted down and killed by giant robotic Sentinels, who are able to modify their powers depending on what mutant it is they are fighting. This makes the idea of mutants’ extinction almost a reality, forcing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to come up with a master plan: Send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to 1973 to find the young version of himself (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender), and convince them to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing the creator of these deadly Sentinels (Peter Dinklage). That’s a lot easier said then done, considering the last time Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr saw one another, they almost killed each other, leaving the former unable to walk. But, with Wolverine thrown into the mix, they hope that they can smooth some things together and finish their master-plan, all in time before the Sentinels come around in the present day, and kill all that’s left of the X-Men. And to make matters worse, retro-era Magneto is predictably giving everybody a bit of a hard time when his ideals don’t mesh so well with the rest of the group’s. Oh, these Mutants, when will they ever learn to get along.

So, in other words, what this movie is trying to do is allow Bryan Singer to come back to the franchise that was basically consider “his”, and go back in time to where he could not only make us forget about the stink of the third and Origins, but also, show that this franchise can go on, even without him or many others attached to it. And, for the most part, it’s a noble effort on Singer’s part because you can tell that he honestly does “get” these characters, their plight, as well as their stories. Singer, all of his modern-day controversies aside, knows what it’s like to be looked at in a weird way, to be a social outcast, and what it means to be pushed away from the rest of society, which is not only why these characters still work for us, but also why the movie moves as well as it does.

"Yeah. I did that. Get at me."

“Yeah. I did that. Get at me.”

Because see, what Singer does so amazingly well here is that he gives us all of the characters we’re supposed to care about and allows them to have their smallish scenes of character-development. They’re nothing gigantic to where this becomes something of a character-driven piece; a little sign of compassion, anger, rage, depression definitely helps this go a long way. However, it’s enough to where there’s some sort of emotion backing all of the wild and insane action that happens throughout the most part of this movie. Which definitely makes this movie all the more satisfying and fun to watch – exactly how a superhero summer blockbuster should be.

Sure, I may have liked the Amazing Spider-Man 2 more than some, but there’s a reason for that: Not only did the movie keep me excited, but it seemed like it genuinely knew what kind of movie it was being. Nothing more, nothing less – a quintessential, 90’s superhero movie that just so happens to be made for Generation Y. It worked for me, but it didn’t work for others. So hey, whatever. Anyway, what I’m trying to get across is that while that movie knew it was a shallow piece of entertainment and didn’t try to go anywhere it wasn’t supposed to, Days of Future Past knows that it’s more than just a piece of carefree, sugar-explosion entertainment that one pays nearly-$20 to see at the end of a shitty day to make themselves feel better.

There’s real, actual heart and emotion to this piece, that not only has us reeling for the characters whenever their lives are at danger, but makes the stakes feel all the more higher.

Jeez, who woulda thunk it, right? Having a blockbuster in which we were given characters we genuinely sympathized with and for? Naw, get outta here!

But that’s what’s so wild about this superhero movie: It not only kicks, moves, and runs around like an action movie, but it also breathes like a superhero movie, in which we get to understand and see our “heroes” for all that they are worth, regardless of if we like them or not. Don’t get me wrong though, this isn’t a total drag-fest in which Singer continuously hits us over-the-head with sadness and darkness, like in the vein of Christopher Nolan, because there a few ounces of light, fun, and frothy comedy to keep our spirits up and afloat; but there’s also plenty of drama to make us feel like the ride is plenty worth while.

And the ride is exactly what matters here, especially in the eyes of someone like Singer, who feels like he’s gotten the whole band back together. Which is not only great for him and those struggling-actors who need a bit more extra cash thrown into their bank-account, but it’s also great for us. Personally, I remember growing up on the first two X-Men movies and fondly remember seeing each and every character introduced to me. Granted, I was young and didn’t know much better, but when I did decide to re-visit both of those movies, I found myself rarely at all disappointed. Some tonal issues here and there messed me up, but that was just the older, more-advanced movie-viewer inside of me speaking; the young, ten-year-old kid, however, was going nuts and in total joy of what he was seeing.

That’s why when certain faces show up in this movie like Halle Berry as Storm, or even Shawn Ashmore as Iceman, I genuinely felt happy; not because people are still actually hiring Halle Berry and Shawn Ashmore, but because I was finally seeing the mutants I used to watch as a kid, back on the big screen, in all of their wildest form. It made me feel like a kid again which, as we all know, usually comes with its huge dosages of nostalgia and late nights of sobbing into my pillow. So yeah, it’s great to have the band all back together again, but what’s even better is that they’re all in the hands of someone who knows what to do with them.

Not some freakin’, low-rent, spoiled-brat chump who I will leave unmentioned. But you know who it is I’m talking about.

Like I was saying though, yeah, this movie. What works so well about not only seeing the cast back on the screen, altogether once again, is that they definitely work wonders with delivering some corny dialogue. Maybe less so for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, who really does deliver some of the movie’s best and funniest lines when it’s just him having to get used to the 70’s and all; but definitely moreso for class-acts like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who have always made their long-winding speeches of unity, acceptance, and banding together actually seem honest and interesting. There’s no difference here, it’s just that they aren’t on the screen so much, considering that most of this movie takes place in the 70’s.

She must be feeling blue...

She must be feeling blue…

This is where we get to see the younger-versions of Magneto and Xavier who are, once again, played wonderfully by both Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, respectively. Fassbender feels like he’s constantly on the verge of dropping his good-guy persona and straight-up turning evil on everyone’s asses, while McAvoy gets to play Xavier as a bit of a drugged-out bum that needs some sort of inspiration to keep him going. It’s nice that First Class was able to get these two in the first place, because they work pretty damn well here in this movie, even if some of their dialogue is rather clunky. Just a bit though. Nothing too much.

And yes, before I go on too much, I will say one thing, and that’s everybody’s favorite figure in the media, Jennifer Lawrence, is fine as Mystique, however, I feel like she’s given a role that’s rather one-note. The whole aspect surrounding Mystique’s character in this movie is that she’s constantly angry about something, and while we know what that something is about, it doesn’t give us much reason to like her character or even see J-Law doing much for that character. There are certain shadings to her anger, but nothing to the point of where I felt like this was the Oscar-winner coming out of her performance and making this something more; just pretty standard stuff that could have gone a much longer way.

Hell, while I’m at it, I could even say the same thing about the movie. See, what got me so wrapped up in its emotion was the characters and the fact that I was seeing all of my old, favorite mutants, back on the screen, together, once again. That made me happy and a bit emotional, but for the story itself, there wasn’t that push I really wanted. It never really seems to be about much, except for just being about maintaining one’s extinction? I mean, I guess? I don’t know, let’s work with that, shall we?

Anywho, I know it’s a dumb nit-pick and all but it’s what kept me away from loving the hell out of this thing. But it’s definitely the superhero blockbuster you should see this summer. Although, probably, the Amazing Spider-Man 2 is only a couple of steps away.

No takers? Okay, cool. I’ll shut up about that now.

Consensus: With an utter sense of glee and joy with Bryan Singer at the helm, X-Men: Days of Future Past is not only a fun and exciting summer blockbuster, but is also a somewhat heartfelt, emotional ride that brings back all of the characters we once loved and adored, for another installment. Whether or not it’ll be the last, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that everybody’s back and the smiles it brings to the fanboys’ faces.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Back the office, once again. Shit."

“Back the office, once again. Shit.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

American Hustle (2013)

Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.

Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.

What long-haired red-head doesn't just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

What long-haired redhead doesn’t just love a bald guy with a slick comb-over?

But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?

Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).

Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.

Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.

That handsome bastard him.

And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.

Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.

"Trying to out-act me kid, huh? Huh? HUH??!?!"

“Trying to out-act me, huh kid? Huh? HUH??!?!”

But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.

However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.

Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.

Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Somebody get me into that party. I will do anything. ANYTHING.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

Peeta and Katniss: This generation’s Jack and Rose. It’s true, and you know it.

After winning the 74th Hunger Games, due to a con in which they were both going to kill themselves in a full-on act of rebellion, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) finally get all settled back into real life, while also being paraded around along with the upper-class, for their upcoming Victors tour. However, as much as they may embrace the glitz and the glamour of this new life, Katniss still has problems fully accepting what it was that she had to do to get in this position. As she struggles with this, Peeta is there to comfort her whenever she needs some the most, much to Gale’s (Liam Hemsworth) dismay. While everything seems to be going along all fine and dandy without much of a hitch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) senses a rebellion within the districts that support Katniss’s rebellious spirit and words, enabling him to throw on a new rule for these next Hunger Games in which anybody, past winners included, can now be eligible for the contest. Meaning that Katniss and Peeta are now being thrown to the wolves, with the hopes that they may actually die, however, the two have a little bit more tricks up their sleeves that won’t allow themselves to go down so easily. Or, let’s at least hope so.

By the way, that IS Thor's little bro.

By the way, that IS Thor’s little bro.

The first Hunger Games movie shocked me in ways I didn’t expect it to. Before most of you out there star to stand up and yell, “BLASPHEMY!!”, at the top of your lungs, let me remind you that this was in fact the world in which Twilight still reigned supreme, and gave us the idea that all young adult novel-adaptations were to be sappy, overly-dramatic and boring love stories about moping teenage vampires and werewolves. So yeah, that’s why the shock hit me so hard. Despite its very interesting premise, the movie had a lot of baggage going into it, but coming out of it was a totally different story. Wasn’t perfect by any means, I’ll say that much, but it was a sign that the younger-generation of tweens may actually love and behold something, that is the least bit credible.

And with this sequel, that point is only proven more truthful.

The hard task that this sequel has to carry is that it has to not just tell the story, but continue to move it along as more subplots, characters and ideas are coming in by-the-minute, while also still giving the audience the goods in terms of tension. There’s a lot more going on here than what I presented up-top in that synopsis, and while some of it does seem to be a bit of an over-haul at times, director Francis Lawrence surprisingly keeps things smart, determined and compelling, even when you can tell that the run-time could have been chopped-down a bit. Gary Ross was a surprisingly perfect choice for the first movie, and Lawrence, while not necessarily doing anything flashy or out-of-this-world with his direction, shows that he’s able to transport himself into this alternate universe, where apparently all sorts of bad stuff is happening, behind and in front of the scenes.

That’s why, despite this one definitely being more bloated than the first movie, the story still works in grabbing you by the throat and taking you along for the ride. It’s been quite some time since the last time I ventured out into Panem, and needless to say, I’m surprised by how much of it I missed. There’s definitely a slew of timely-messages about “we vs. us”, and countless uprisings occurring within the lower-class that will ruffle a few feathers, and more than likely go over the heads of the target-demographic, but it never felt like it was preachy or over-bearing. It tells its story, pulls no punches and keeps the tension moving, while all sorts of other strands within this story enter, and leave at the drop of a hat.

But that’s where most of my problems with this movie came from, hence why I don’t think it’s as good as the first. See, while that movie was getting us introduced into this world, the mechanics of the Hunger Games and why it all matters, this movie doesn’t necessarily have to do that, yet, feels the need to up the stakes in a way that works for a short while, until the actual stakes are shown to us and go down with a whimper. Maybe the novelty of watching these people go head-to-head with one another in as bloody of a battle-to-the-death as you can get in a PG-13 movie, is sort of lost with what we saw in the last movie, but here, the Hunger Games felt like they were maybe just a bit too crazy for their own good.

Once again, I get that the story shows why the Hunger Games are changed up now, and why there’s more risk to be had, but something still didn’t feel right with them being so amped-up to the point of near-craziness. Don’t know if all of these higher-stakes were in the original book, or just added into the script, but after awhile, it started to take its toll on the actual proceedings of the Games themselves, and made me wonder when I was actually going to start to feel like I was once again, apart of this world. Took me awhile to get back into it, but once those final five minutes or so came up and went by, thankfully, I was brought back into realizing why this story, these characters and all of these emotions mattered.

Basically, what I am trying to say is that I am pretty damn ready for these next two installments, and here’s to hoping that they do what this one did, while also reminding us why the first one was such a huge surprise to begin with. May be asking a bit too much, but hey, what can I say?

I’m a movie critic/lover, dammit! I got needs!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You're next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I'd be!

Smile a bit. Peeta! You’re next to Elizabeth Banks! Lord knows I’d be!

At the center of all this nuttiness is in fact Jennifer Lawrence who, despite the whole annoying obsession the media has with her daily-life, still gives us a stellar performance as Katniss Everdeen, but in a different matter this time around that works for her, than against her. See, ever since the last movie, J-Law has done a couple of cool things (scratch House at the End of the Street off that list), but the most notable one has to be her winning an Oscar last year, beating-out some heavy and stiff competition. She deserved it, that’s for sure, however, she was playing a more adult-role in Silver Linings Playbook, which made me wonder if I’d be able to still accept her as the young, brass and tough teen-like heroine, but in her own way, I was able to, if not more so than before. Lawrence gives Katniss more rage this time around, while also showing us that this gal means well. However, if there’s anybody to stick her middle-finger up to the man, it’s definitely her, and Lawrence’s performance never lets us forget that. Good on her part.

And while Josh Hutcherson isn’t really breaking-down-barriers with his performance as Peeta, the guy’s still charming and sweet enough to win all of our hearts over, just as much as it’s supposed to be winning over Katniss’. I don’t yet buy into their whole “love thing” they got going on, but hopefully with time. Even Liam Hemsworth isn’t doing anything special here as Gale, but he has more to do here than he did in the last movie, and he makes enough use of it to not totally be thrown to the side. However, both actors seem like window-dressing compared to Sam Claflin as former winner Finnick Odair, because not only does the dude just reek of charm, but he’s also got some pretty sexy and fiery chemistry going on with Lawrence which, hopefully, plays out to be much bigger and much-more developed later on. Once again, I don’t know because I didn’t read the books, so it’s all just pure speculation.

As for the rest of the star-studded cast that’s returning, they all do fine, especially with some new and fresh faces thrown in there for good measure as well. Woody Harrelson shows sympathy, but also a hard-edge as Haymitch; Elizabeth Banks finds an ounce of heart and humanity that digs past the outlandish outfits and wigs she wears, as the 80’s-looking glam-queen, Effie Trinket; Stanley Tucci is having a whole bunch of fun just yucking it up as Hunger Games host Caesar Flickerman; and Donald Sutherland is delightfully evil and nasty as President Snow, the type of dude that we don’t ever want to see as a leader of our own country, yet, can’t help but picture in full-detail as holding that position. As for the newcomers: Jeffrey Wright and Amanda Plummer, despite being such a strange addition to this franchise, fit perfectly as the nerdy, electronically-advanced competitors of the Hunger Games that have the brains, instead of the muscles; Jena Malone is incredibly sexy, feisty and fun whenever she’s on-screen and steals the show, just about every time; and last, but certainly not least, we have Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new game-maker Plutarch Heavensbee, who, oddly enough, fits perfectly into this world despite having no signature outfit, wig, color, or even a look, he’s just an ordinary, simple guy that down-plays everything he says, giving you the impression that he’s a guy you don’t know if you can quite pin-point to be good, or bad. I’ll leave it at that. See ya next year!

Consensus: The novelty of not knowing what to expect from the first one may make sense as to why this sequel pales a bit in-comparison. However, that is not something that hurts Catching Fire‘s chances of winning over its demographic, while also ushering in some new watchers, as it continues to show us why this story and these characters matter now, and why we should keep our eyes peeled for what happens in the next two movies. Mockingjay parts uno and dos, here we come!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Barking up the wrong tree, bud. Or maybe the right one? Oooh! Spicy!

Sweatin’ all over just thinking about it! Rawr!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Warm Bodies (2013)

Eat it, Nicholas Sparks! No, literally: eat it.

R (Nicholas Hoult), is a lonely zombie who longs for more in life rather than eating brains of the humans he hunts down. Suddenly, he falls in love with a beautiful human survivor named Julie (Teresa Palmer), who he gains feelings for after he eats the brains of her boy-toy (Dave Franco). As their relationship deepens, he soon begins to act more and more human, but he’s not the only zombie who feels these same feelings and emotions.

Ever since the Walking Dead come onto the air, we’ve been getting this huge explosion of zombies. World War Z is coming out, zombie-costumes have been in high-demand every year for Halloween parties, and finally, George A. Romero seems to be getting the love and praise he’s deserved for so damn long. However, we only knew it was a matter of time until the teens started to latch-on to the latest craze, and give us what is essentially the Twilight film, of the zombie-genre. However, have no fear, as this movie doesn’t feature anybody named Bella, Jacob, or Edward. Score!

The trailer may have you fooled about this movie because it continues to advertise it as a rom-com, mixed with horror and action, but make no means: this is a romantic-comedy at it’s finest. The movie starts off slow and rugged, but not in the bad-way that you might suspect. It actually fits with the way the story is structured in how we follow R throughout his day as he rambles on and on about the inner-day livings of a regular, slowly-moving zombie, and listening to all of his quirky and zany pieces of insight, really work and make this movie stand-out among the rest of the zombie flicks I have seen recently. You have a sense that this movie is going to be more about characters, setting, and story, rather than blood, guts, action, and zombies. You do get some of the latter elements, but the first ones are here in full-effect and that’s all thanks to director Jonathan Levine.

Oh yeah, and points-off for stealing a page directly out of Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Like nobody in the past decade hasn’t already seen Shaun of the Dead. Come on now!

Levine takes the “indie-approach” here, and has this movie focus more on the relationship between R and Julie (if you haven’t been able to figure this out by now, it’s essentially Romeo & Juliet) which not only builds-up the interaction between these two different people, from two, completely different backgrounds, but also builds-up on what’s yet to come with what these two could possibly form, if the world ever gets back to normal. We get a real sense of the dynamic between the two as they interact through looking at R’s collectibles, jamming out to some choice tunes from Guns N’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen, and John Waite, amongst many others, and most importantly, getting to know one another through where questions of where they came from, how they got to where they are, and where the world could go if everything doesn’t turn to shit right away.

You really root for these two to be together and it almost feels like the movie actually does to, as it may even sound crazy in your head that you want a zombie and a human-being to be together, but it’s different than that. It’s more subdued, and more about building a relationship between two people and it just goes to show you that if you focus on characters, and are able to make their dialogue and development interesting enough to hold your interest, than almost any ridiculous plot can work. It may sound crazy but I think this simple tale of a love brewing between a zombie and a female, may actually be the Valentine’s Gift that you men may want to take your ladies out to see. Don’t expect any hanky-panky by the end of the night, but definitely do expect some sort of heavy-petting, cuddling, or tonsil hockey. I don’t know how exciting or titillating that may sound to you guys, but hey, it’s better than getting nothing on Valentine’s Day. Am I right, men? Huh? Huh?

However, in a cheap and lame-way of trying to make sure that all types of horny teenagers may go out and actually see this movie, they’ve slapped it with a PG-13-rating that is not only pretty soft, but also doesn’t allow it to get any edgier than it could have been. There is action that does happen here, but it’s very sparse and filmed in a way where you don’t see much blood, gore, or brains, but it’s also made in such a way that’s constantly bothersome, as if the movie knew that it had to appeal to a larger-audience so they decided to take it easy on the ketchup packets. I get that all movies try to go for that PG-13-rating so they can hopefully reach that audience where angst-ridden teenagers may hopefully want to venture out and see, in hopes of an easy lay that night, but then again, when you take the subject-matter into mind and realize that this is a ZOMBIE MOVIE where are talking about here: it does seem like an obvious, if not reasonable cash-grab. Hey, I guess Levine’s family has gotta eat, too.

Despite that d-bag problem us movie aficionados may have with the tame-approach, the movie still succeeds in giving us a relationship that is worth watching, believing in, and hoping actually survives by the time the 90-minutes is up. That’s all thanks to the charming leads: played by Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Ever since his days of paling around with Hugh Grant, Hoult has been on the verge of breaking-out and letting everybody know that yes, he has grown-up and yes, he is a good-looking lad now, but if A Single Man was his attempt at trying to persuade me, it didn’t quite work. However, Hoult shows me that I’m an idiot and have no clue what I’m talking about with his performance as R, the zombie who wants more than just eating brains and listening to vinyl records: he wants love, he wants a girl, he just wants life. Hoult doesn’t have to do or say much, considering that his character is a zombie and all (just a small-fact), but he still does a nice-job at giving R a loveable personality that’s easy to fall for, almost as much as Teresa Palmer’s character does.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

I can bet you donuts-to-dollars that half of the people seeing this, will have no idea what movie that is.

Speaking of Palmer, she is great as Julie, the one-in-a-million, attractive girl that would actually for a thing that eats brains and hasn’t bathed for as long as the apocalypse started, but yet, still makes it all believable. She has a lot to work with in how she sees the world she used to know, where it’s gone, and how she can make herself happier in it, and even though it is a bit obvious that she would try to rebel against her powerful and control-hungry daddy, Palmer is still always a welcome-presence on-screen and the scenes with her and Hoult actually made me jealous, as it actually seemed like they were, in-fact, falling in love. Somebody hold J-Law down, because she may have a bone or two to pick with Ms. Teresa Palmer! Regardless of my jokey side-comments, Palmer and Hoult are great in this movie, whether they are together or not and make this movie work a lot more than it had any right to be. You know, being a zombie, rom-com coming out in the dead of Winter.

Rob Corddry shows-up as M, one of R’s fellow zombie-buddies that he occasionally grunts with, and seems like he’s having a ball with a role that would have and could have been played by anybody. Corddry actually gets a real chance to shine later-on when his character has some more dramatic-heights to jump-over and surprisingly: the guy excels in it. With this and the close-to-being-abysmal Butter, Corddry may have patched a new leaf for himself and hopefully, this shows us finer things to come for the man. Playing the “powerful and control-hungry daddy” that I spoke about earlier, is John Malkovich who, as always, is great at what he does and comes-off as a terrible and despicable man you just do not like, care for, or would never even trust running your society in a post-apocalyptic world, but shows more dimensions than that and has you actually fall for the guy. Yes, people, believe or not: there was a time when John Malkovich played nice characters, who did nice things for all of the rest of humanity and it’s a great thing to see him play that type-of-role, once again. It’s been too long, John. Please do stay.

Consensus: The PG-13-rating that’s supposed to please almost everyone and everybody, is what keeps Warm Bodies reaching the bar set-by other, fellow zombie movies out there, but it is still a pleasant rom-com, that has a twist you believe in, enjoy watching, and can actually, sort of relate to. Well, that is, unless you have never dated a chick in high-school. Hayoo!!

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren't you?"

“Hey, you were that kid in About a Boy, weren’t you?”

P.S. Major, and I do mean MAJOR, props go out to Rodney from Fernby Films for the new header up-above. Hope you all like it and while you’re at it, go on over and give the guy a look. He’s got some solid material that is definitely worth a view or two.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Man, I’m glad to be from Philadelphia.

Bradley Cooper stars as a sad sack loser named Pat trying to get back on his feet after suffering a mental breakdown. When he meets a mysterious girl named Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) with problems of her own, an unexpected bond begins to form between them.

As many of you out there may know, I’m a proud Philadelphian through and through, and to see and hear about a big-budget, Hollywood rom-com be filmed around my parks was surely something that had me interested. I mean honestly, it’s been awhile since the City of Brotherly Love has had a good movie come from it’s native-land in a long, long time and that’s why I was a bit skeptical of just how well this one would do, despite it’s somewhat generic premise. Then, a miracle started to occur right in front of my eyes, as the reviews started to tricked in and I realized: this movie could be the next Rocky, in terms of representing Philly and making all of those who live there, proud to be apart of a city that deserves all the love and praise (in some ways). Then, lastly, another miracle came my way and made me realize something: I LOVED THIS MOVIE.

Yes, I just used the “L word” and with good reason, because this film is exactly what I wanted in a rom-com/character-drama. Director David O. Russell steps out of the boxing ring, and into the streets of Prospect Park (holla!), which may definitely seem a bit odd at first considering this is a character-drama that focuses on people who have problems and don’t really do much about it except talking, and not just go into the ring and beat the shit out of each other, but in a way, you can almost tell that the guy is as ever comfortable as he has ever been with material like this. See, earlier in the review, I stated that this was a “big-budget, Hollywood rom-com”, but I was wrong. Dead-wrong. Actually, it’s more of a very indie-like, rom-com that down-plays everything that we have come to know and expect from any movie of this unoriginal genre, and thank O. Russell for that because that’s the real charm behind this movie.

Right from the first-shot of this movie, I couldn’t help but be swarmed in by all of the fun, humor, and wittiness of this setting and script and as soon as more and more characters became introduced to the story, I knew that I was only getting started on this wild-ride. Every piece of dialogue between these characters is always fun, always interesting, and always something that feels realistic and believable, especially when you actually consider the characters. The real risk O. Russell takes with this movie and these characters, is that he introduces us to people that aren’t exactly the most likable or lovable people we would want to watch a movie about, let alone spend 2 hours with, but somehow, the script makes you forget all about that and you really see something underneath all of the humor, goofiness, and weirdness of these characters, you actually see a heart to it all.

What I loved so much about this flick is how it takes a look at love, through the eyes of a heart-broken man, that has literally been pistol-whipped by love, and can’t figure out just how to go back to the life he once had and make right with everybody he knew, so instead, he just goes back to his old ways and tries to convince everybody that he is the same dude he was 8 months ago when he was shipped-away to crazy town. However, sooner or later, as predictable as it may sound, this guy eventually has to come to terms with what is true and what is not, and eventually that takes a toll on his life and what he thinks he should do with it. This idea of picking yourself back-up from a broken-heart and broken-life, by doing whatever you can to make yourself better each day-by-day is an idea that really resonated with me, as I can definitely say that there have been many times throughout my life where I’ve realized I can be happy in my life if I just allow myself to be better as each day goes by.

However, as corny and gooey as I may make this sound, this film is definitely not all about that. This love that is eventually carried-out, is not something we are used to seeing in movies and what’s even weirder is what the script brings into the fore-front of this love and what gets in the way of it. To be short, without giving too much away, the film combines crazy people, dancing, and the Philadelphia Eagles all into one movie and shows you that as weird of a combination that may be, you give it some real heart and depth, than anything can freakin’ work. I loved this film for showing me, once again, that making your life better is certainly on you but can also be used by allowing yourself to help others and have others help you. It’s a beautiful message that may seem as conventional as they may come, but this film carries it out in a way that isn’t and makes you re-think about where your life/love-life may be heading, and how you can make everything around you, well, better. I know, I know, I’m corny as can be but seriously, this film will make you feel like there is nothing wrong with you, or the world you surround yourself with.

I also think that most of the feelings I have for this movie mainly come from the “romance” between the two lead characters: Pat and Tiffany. First of all, Pat and Tiffany are not necessarily a romantic-couple, even though they may show signs of it. In their own, strange ways, they are both a bit crazy and off-kilter from the rest of the world, but the feelings they share about the things around them has them connect on a way that makes you believe in them as people that could definitely meet and be friends, but also be together, fall in love, and make themselves, and everyone else around them better as well. The whole movie is pretty strange in the directions it goes towards, and that’s mainly thanks to these two and it’s just great to see a rom-com about a couple that doesn’t necessarily fall in love right on impact, and can’t really show each other the type of love-signs we have come to expect from generic characters in these types of movie. Pat and Tiffany is the perfect, anti-rom-com couple that makes it all the more disappointing that once things do get a bit conventional and soapy by the end, it’s a bit too hard to believe or be satisfied with. However, it’s not to the point of where I felt like the whole movie was ruined for me. Just a tad bit of it was. Just a tad bit, mind you.

Despite that itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, little problem, these characters are still great to watch together, especially considering the cast that’s behind them all. Bradley Cooper probably gives his finest performance yet as Pat, by showing that he can let-loose with his manic-energy that definitely shows he still has that pitch-perfect comedic-timing, but also shows a bit of a darker side to him as well. For Cooper, lately, there hasn’t really been a film that’s showed him off a true, dramatic-force to be reckoned with and it’s more that his comedy-skills have been used a hell of a lot better, and showed-off more than I expected. However, his role as Pat allows him to break free from that mold, give us a character that is a bit off his rocker, isn’t always the nice guy when it comes to certain situations and choices that he makes, but also, always allow us to feel some sort of sympathy for the dude as well. Cooper gives off what could possibly be his closest shot to an Oscar nomination this year, and you know what, I think the guy deserves that at least because he nails this role to a “T” here and it’s just great to see him finally break-out and combine what he does best: comedy and drama.

I was a bit skeptical of Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany, because the character is definitely supposed to be a lot older than Lawrence’s 22-years of age and would seem a bit weird considering that Cooper is 37, but surprise, surprise, Lawrence makes this work like no other. What’s so beautiful about Lawrence here is not only is she able to really have us believe in this gal that could be so weird and cooky, but also have us believe that she is as old and damaged as she is. Tiffany is not the easiest character to really get right from the start as you can tell that she has some problems that may need more fixing than just a simple dance-competition, but Lawrence is so natural with this gal that you can’t help but want to reach your hand out to her, even when Pat doesn’t seem to be. Lawrence is everything you would want her to be in this role and yet, it’s something that we have never seen from her before. She’s vulnerable, but never asking for sympathy; she’s sad, but never mopey; she’s smart, but never condescending; she’s weird, but never to the point of where she’s considered “crazy”; and she’s good-looking, but never to the point of where you wouldn’t believe her is as this older, sadder-woman that comes to terms with the life she lives and where it’s going. Basically, in a nutshell, Lawrence is perfect for this role and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for her role here, then I’m really going to be ticked off. Seriously, this girl has tons and tons of amount of promise going for her and I’ve already forgotten about House at the End of the Street. Even though, I can’t believe how I remembered that title.

As much as this is Cooper and Lawrence’s show, everybody else on the side still gets their own chances to shine and jeez, am I ever so glad for that, because their just as good too. Thank you so much David O. Russell, for giving us a meaty-role for Robert De Niro that shows us why everybody loved the guy so much in the first-place. De Niro plays Cooper’s OCD-like father that can’t seem to ever miss an Eagles game, and is absolutely terrific in a role that shows how much one man can love a son, but also want the best for him and try to give him advice on how to make his life better. It’s a role that shows De Niro at his finest, that we haven’t seen from him in a long-time and as much as he may down-play it, he still lets loose a bit and still makes us laugh our asses off whenever he does the signature crunched-up face. Man, you gotta love De Niro!

As for his wife, played by Jacki Weaver, she’s great as well and shows us a lighter-side to her acting-skills, by giving her character a delightful smile that only wants what’s right for her boy and her family. Oh, and I forgot to thank David O. Russell for something! Thank you so much for bringing back Chris Tucker to a mainstream movie that isn’t co-starring Jackie Chan and reminding us why the guy is so damn funny in the first-place. Yeah, Tucker may have lost his signature, high-pitch voice that mostly everybody hated (even though I loved) and has definitely packed on a couple of pounds for good measure as well, but still shows us that he has that great comedic-timing that makes me wonder why the hell he isn’t in more stuff. Does his character matter all that much to the plot? Hell no, actually, if you got rid of him, nothing in this movie would ever change one-bit but it’s Chris Tucker, man! The guy’s hilarious and I want to see more of him.

Consensus: With a heart as big as the state of Philadelphia (not terribly big, but still big none the less), a message that hits the heart, characters that interest the hell out of you right from the start, and a script that balances quirky, comedy, drama, and romance altogether, Silver Linings Playbook is exactly the type of feel-good movie you want to see this Winter-break, especially if you have ever longed for someone to tell you that your life is worth it and is something that’s meant to be made better not just by others around you, but yourself, as well. Definitely go out there, and go see it. Especially, if you’re from Philly. Then again, I feel like that’s obvious enough already.

9/10=Full Price!!

House at the End of the Street (2012)

Haaahaaa! Katniss still lives with her mommy!

Jennifer Lawrence plays a young woman (Lawrence) who moves with her mother (Elizabeth Shue) to their dream house in a rural community only to discover that the house next door was the location of a grizzly murder years before. A daughter killed her parents in their beds, and disappeared – leaving only a brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), as the sole survivor.

Why oh why did I see this freakin’ movie?!? Oh wait, I know why. I see it for all of you, and for all of you to know that yes, I still do watch current movies, as shitty as they may be. And I do mean that: AS SHITTY AS THEY MAY BE.

Right from the start of this flick, I knew it was going to be shit. For some odd reason, director Mark Tonderai felt the need to add a whole bunch of weird/colorful effects onto some of these scenes where he’s almost yelling at us; “Hey, this is the part where you’re suppose to feel scared!”. Problem is, we don’t feel scared and the frenetic movements just didn’t do a single lick for me and made it look like I was watching a music-video. Seriously, one of these scenes takes place at a party where kids are drinking and doing kiddish-like things (total debauchery), and it’s weird because the camera does these nifty, little tricks with itself where it slows-up, then rewinds, and continues to keep-on going. This probably makes absolutely no sense to the readers who didn’t see this (and I urge you not to), but in other words: it seems like it came straight from an American Pie-music video. Yeah, pretty lame.

Even though Tonderai tries, he still cannot seem to get at all past the terrible script that seems a bit confused on what it actually sets out to be. What I mean about that is that the film is advertised as one, creepy, horror movie where the creepy neighbor somehow finds his way of doing some weird shit, to this new, innocent girl. Obviously that’s all predictable stuff, which is exactly what this flick is, but it’s worse because the film really isn’t a horror movie at all. Instead of the first 4 minutes and last 20 minutes, everything else is dedicated to this fluffy love story of a blossoming relationship between said creepy neighbor and new, innocent girl. I’m not a horror-lover, but if I went out to see this flick and realized that this was the shit I was getting, I would be flippin’ furious to see that half of the movie is just showing these two ladies (mother and daughter), try to get jumped already, even if they haven’t been in the town for no longer than 2 weeks.

Then, when the actual horror stuff comes in, it’s nothing new, exciting, or original for that matter. Hell, that could be said for this whole film, in general. There is absolutely no surprises whatsoever that come out of this story and it even borrows from other movies. Think of the creepy kid as a young, blonder version of Norman Bates, and think of the cave that Wild Bill put his victims in and that’s pretty much the same type of villain you’re working with here. However, as bad-ass and crazy as the mixture of Norman Bates and Wild Bill may sound, it does not play-out like that one-bit and everything this kid goes through is exactly what you would expect from a cheap, horror thriller, without any horror, or any thrilling moments whatsoever. Heck, even those jump-scares felt cheap and they usually work on me no matter what the horror film may be.

Speaking of the kid, poor Max Thieriot. I know that this kid doesn’t have the best track-record out there but at least he looks good, is versatile, and can make the best out of any shit that gets thrown at him. The problem is, this kid Ryan just seems like a total one-note weirdo that rubbed me the wrong way, the first time he showed his blue eyes on-screen. There’s a couple of neat-o twists with this character and how Thieriot plays him, but nothing too special to where you think, “Wowwwwww. That is something I have never seen done before, ever.” Didn’t think that once with this character, and come to think of it, didn’t think that once with this whole film.

The only reason why this film is getting a wide-release at all, and sadly, was numero uno at the box-office was all because of Jennifer Lawrence and the breakout star quality she has with her for now. Apparently, she did this film before Winter’s Bone and when that came out and garnered her an Oscar nomination, then of course they knew they had to try and get this film a release date, but then it got even better. X-Men: First Class and The Hunger Games both came out and catapulted her to total stardom and this is where the powers that be knew they had an opportunity on their hand, so why the eff not try and bring this out to the public, even if it does seem like straight-to-DVD shitola.

I can’t rag on Lawrence too much here since it’s obvious that this girl doesn’t want anything to do with this flick and knew she didn’t even want to when she was filming the film in general. She has the same emotion on her face the whole movie and when she starts to get scared and scream, it seems forced as if the director held out a twenty dollar bill and told her to scream. I don’t know what sick fuck would even think about that, let alone a movie director, but hey, she could have been desperate at that time and needed more added to her salary. Even poor (and possibly is since she’s doing this shit) Elisabeth Shue in this shit as her mommy, and makes me sad whenever I think about the fact that this woman has actually been nominated for an Oscar, and dammit, she should have won. It’s a sad, sad thought when you think about how her co-star in that movie, Nicolas Cage, is having a bigger and better career then she is.

Consensus: House at the End of the Street (aka, HATES, for all of your tweeters out there) is exactly what you would expect from a horror movie with a lame-ass title like this: no surprises, no scares, no fun, no nothing.

1.5/10=Crapola!!

The Hunger Games (2012)

The best way to have kids learn their lessons fast, is to just put them in a fight to the death. Then they’ll wise up, trust me.

In the story, a dystopic Capitol requires its twelve subjugated districts to pay tribute in the form of a teenage boy and girl who are forced to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. When Katniss Everdeen’s little sister is chosen in the lottery, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place.

I must admit that I have no idea where the hell I was when this book was first published and created all this hype for a flick. However, what I did have an idea about was that it was a hell of a lot cooler and more bad-ass than that ‘Twilight’ garbage and that’s really all that matters.

For the whole first hour, things really weren’t taking off which is a problem, but at the same time I was still interested. I liked the setting this film made where the rich basically got richer and the poor got poorer (which is sort of how it is in today’s society, but you didn’t hear that from me). The setting is here and I felt very intrigued by seeing how these kids all trained for the games, how they got siked up for it, and just how they spent what could be their last days alive. However, the problem with a lot of this is that even though the film has all of this interesting stuff going on right off the bat, the film moves very slow and it’s a tad boring. I won’t sit here and say that I was dozing off at any chance, because my eyes were always watching the screen, but all of the important things said (like what these kids had to say about their lives possibly being put to an end) and important things shown (how these kids were defined by these situations), all sort of went down without any real emotional connection.

After this first hour though, the film really starts to pick up and that’s where Gary Ross‘ sturdy direction really comes into play. Ross has a lot to deal with here such as a big-budget full of eye-catching visuals and CGI effects, plenty of social themes to be shown without seeming to hit us over the head (‘The Lorax’ *cough* *cough*), and a crap load of violence that had to be bearable enough to supply a PG-13 rating but also please the fans of the book that wanna see some gore. Ross is easily up for the challenge by making each of his three different locations (poverty stricken areas, lavish metropolis-like looking buildings, and a forest that isn’t a normal one you would find in your state park) all look beautiful and bring you into this world that seems similar but at the same time feels like something you have never seen before. Ross is also a great action director because he’s great at speeding up the camera just when he wants to and bring some intensity to the scenes but is also able to slow it down and give us one of the better “trip scenes” that I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s nothing spectacular or different that Ross is doing here but he seems pretty comfortable having to deal with so much pressure and so much money on just one movie by getting it done in a way that would both make regular movie-goers happy but die hards of the book as well. Good job Gary!

I also have to say for a film that has a premise where a bunch of kids are going around hacking each other to death all for their government, the film keeps the violence pretty toned down. There isn’t that much blood, there’s hardly any gore, and the violence is usually sped up so fast that you can barely make out what’s going on but when it does happen, it’s pretty disturbing. It definitely deserved it’s PG-13 rating but I can tell you that there are some stuff here that you’ll see that are pretty hard to watch but feels right to the story. It also may show us where I world is running towards with richer people looking for more entertainment in the ways of watching the lesser people practically kill each other, so you better all start working on your fighting and hunting skills.

My key problems with this film are just from a person who didn’t read the book, and probably didn’t fully “get it” like so many of you probably reading this did. Example numero uno is the whole love story between Katniss and Peeta. First off it all came off as forced, which at first was the intention but then it started becoming serious and that’s where I didn’t buy it. It practically comes out of nowhere and even when it does come around, the film makes it seem like these two kids have so much more to win for other than their lives, they also have their love. Maybe there was something that made more sense that I didn’t read but it just didn’t lock me in and have me believe in these two characters any more than I already did. Also, the little “love triangle” between these two and Gale (a totally underused Liam Hemsworth) didn’t draw me in mainly because it was too underdeveloped and didn’t really do anything for me either.

What sold me on this film though was the key performance from Jennifer Lawrence who is nothing but spectacular as Katniss Everdeen. This chick is endearing enough to where you can feel for her character, believable enough to not only make you feel for her character but also make it seem like she’s just an ordinary girl put into a real shitty situation such as this, a little smart assy to have you feel like she always has something witty to say, but also very tough where you think that she can win these “Hunger Games” and fend for herself even when things really seem like their going South for her. Lawrence gives a very well-rounded performance and doesn’t make this just seem like another character drawn right from the book, but an actual human being put into a life and death situation such as this. If ‘Winter’s Bone’ didn’t make her a star, then this definitely will and I’m glad that is the case.

As for everybody else, they are all pretty amazing too. Josh Hutcherson looks and fits the role as Peeta, and has you believe that this kid is always one step ahead of everyone else; Elizabeth Banks was goofy and flamboyant as Effie; Wes Bentley finally comes back from the dead (or wherever the hell he’s been since ‘American Beauty’) here as Seneca and gives a pretty solid performance even though he is upstaged by his awesomely-drawn tattoo/beard he’s got going on here; Woody Harrelson gives his usual witty but seasoned role as Haymitch; Lenny Kravitz was surprisingly very good as Cinna even though I had a feeling he was going to break out into “Are You Gonna Go My Way?”, which would have been perfectly suitable for the action scenes; and Stanley Tucci steals the show as Caesar Flickerman, the totally goofy-looking and smiley talk show host that seems to always be winning the crowd over, even though he’s a total cheese ball.

The only cast member that I thought was pretty lame was Alexander Ludwig as Cato. I don’t think it was necessarily Ludwig who played this character wrong it was just that the film basically made him out to be the most dangerous person in the whole “Hunger Games” and when they actually start, he’s pretty much absent from everything and has Seneca do more work for him. Then again though, I don’t think he was “the real enemy”………

Consensus: The Hunger Games probably would have been a lot better for me have I previously read the book, but without that, it features an inspired direction from Gary Ross, a great cast that all work wonders with their parts (especially Lawrence), and will be able to provide enough adventure, pathos, action, and themes for anybody who are big fans but also for people who just want a teen novel adaption that’s a hell of a lot better than those ‘Twilight’ pieces of shite.

8/10=Matinee!!

Like Crazy (2011)

Note to self: don’t date chicks with British accents.

American Jacob (Anton Yelchin) and British Anna (Felicity Jones) meet and fall madly in love atcollege in Los Angeles, but must make their relationship work long distance when Anna returns to London. With an ocean between them, their trust is tested, forcing them to confront the idea that their love may be impermanent. Or can it survive against the odds?

After seeing all of the trailers for this film, I had a feeling this was going to be my kind of film considering it was like a ‘Blue Valentine’ for teens. Except this one didn’t make me want to chop my head off so much.

Director and co-writer Drake Doremus does a sensational job here with this film because it runs at a brisk 89 minutes, but he somehow is able to jam in 5 years of these kids relationship into that run-time without any real problems. Months almost past in between scenes and although it never tells you when time has actually changed, I knew right away exactly when and where this story went.

Everything here seems pretty natural because being in love and being young, I know how it feels to have that young love. It’s something beautiful, something grand, something unlike any other, and something that just takes you away from the rest of the world and almost make you feel like nothing can tear you apart. However, sometimes love can be very hurtful and ugly. This film shows that as these two have to go through many hurdles being away from each other so much and at times it’s painful to watch since they just don’t know what to do and wait to see where life takes them. It takes them together, it takes them apart, and other times it takes them to places they would have least expected, but either way, everything here felt natural and real as if this would happen say two people fell madly in love and had to go through a huge problem such as this.

The problem Doremus runs into with this film is the fact that I do think that he runs into the occasional problems of falling into the usual romantic-drama schmaltz. There are moments that feel so natural and real that I started to believe it, but then there were other moments where something would happen and it would seem totally random, but that one person would make the biggest deal about it.

Without giving away any major spoilers something here happens in this film that has to do with a bracelet that comes off of Anna at a very serious time and she makes the biggest stink about it, when in reality, I highly doubt somebody would care especially “at that certain moment”. I know I’m being incredibly vague, but I just can’t say it. I also barely ever saw Jacob actually working on his job as a furniture designer. Yeah he makes a chair here and there but he’s always out doing something and leaving for Britain, when nobody else is there. That’s gotta be a great business he has going for him!

The performances of Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin is what really kept me into this film. Yelchin has always been playing these sort of little child-like roles like in ‘Charlie Bartlett’, or ‘Fright Night’, or even ‘Terminator: Salvation’ for that matter but here he shows a great growth in maturity with his role as Jacob because he has to act like a normal adult would but still have emotions as if he just got stood up at the carnival. Trust me, I know how that shit feels. Jones is even better as Anna who doesn’t know what she wants, needs, or even believes in anymore and has so much emotions going through her facial expressions that it’s almost hard to not shed a tear watching her shed one as well.

They are both great together and they feel natural because as time goes on, they both start from something funny, cute, and a little goofy, but then go to sad, frustrated, mad, and hurt. All of these emotions come out perfectly between both of them together, whether they are speaking or not speaking, you know that something is right about them together and although the story may have some unbelievability to it, Yelchin and Jones really made me believe in their relationship together.

I think that this film really misused Jennifer Lawrence as Jacobs on-and-off again lady friend, Samantha because shes really cool and chill. I didn’t see why Jacob was thinking so hard when he was with her because in all honesty, all she ever wanted to do was just love him and make him happy and I also want to know what she was doing with such a sad sap in the first place. You see how he is without Anna and it’s a surprise that he actually starts going out with Samantha in the first place.

Another and final problem I had with this film is not just a problem with this film but also plenty others. What I’m trying to say is that I’m getting real damn tired of these ambiguous endings. I usually like them but lately it seems like almost every film I run into every day has one and this one has the worst of all considering the note they end on is not only pretty sad but also abrupt as if the film was not finished. This bothered me a lot but its a new occurrence in the film industry and I hope if more and more films are going to have these ambiguous endings, then they should at least not be as abrupt and random.

Consensus: Like Crazy has its fair share of schmaltz, cliches, and unbelievability, but it’s honest look at young love that is beautiful but sometimes hurts is refreshing, as well as the unbelievable chemistry and performances from Jones and Yelchin.

8/10=Matinee!!

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The greatest mutant bromance ever told.

Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) — the future Professor X and Magneto — are best friends dedicated to harnessing their powers and promoting the education of fellow mutants during the turbulent 1960s. The duo works together to stop a powerful adversary that threatens mankind, but their ideological differences drive them apart and turn them into ferocious enemies.

I’m a big follower of the X-Men. I like the first two X-Men films, and the last two, let’s just say are a little out-there. However, this prequel brings back that flair that I’ve wanted within that genre, since that crap with just Wolverine.

Director Matthew Vaughn who did the “wanna-be” superhero film last year, Kick-Ass, does a surprisingly great job of actually bringing that fun, but very detailed to this story. Vaughn does a great job of keeping this story at a quick pace, with all these different sub-plots and story devices going on at once, but it’s still paced very well and not once did I feel like I was lost in the confusion.

There’s also a great feeling to this screenplay because not only is there a little bit of humor here and there, but it’s also great to see the beginning of the friendship between Professor X and Magneto. Professor X is more like Martin Luther King Jr. as he wants peace in a kind way, while Magneto is more like the Malcolm X type, and believes any force necessary. I liked how this story plays out well and their friendship is the real heart of where the story is located. It must have been hard for four screen-writers to be on this, but somehow, it seems to work out so well.

The action is also amazing. Vaughn really knows how to make the crowd go “wow” with his visuals because they keep on getting cooler and cooler as the whole film continues. There are also a couple of epic scenes with missiles, submarines, and even a couple of bangin’ showdowns between the mutants that step into some unpredictable territory that will keep your eyes fully glued to the screen.

My main problem with this film is that I feel like that this film had so many stuff going at once, that I thought what really worked, didn’t get much attention and other things just sort of dragged it down. Also, I felt they tried to do too many philosophical themes here that didn’t quite work out in the final product, because once you think about it, this is an X-Men film and you don’t really need to say much else.

This whole cast is amazing though. James McAvoy brings that cool and laid-back approach to Professor X and works very well; Michael Fassbender is also great as Magneto and makes him seem like the total mean, and vindictive villain that he is, although his Irish accent comes out a couple of times when he’s trying to sound Polish. These two together have great “buddy” chemistry that makes this film stand-out from any other ordinary superhero flick. Kevin Bacon is pretty good as the smarmy bastard Sebastian Shaw; Jennifer Lawrence is also very good and sexy as a young Mystique; and the rest of the cast does a good job too with the likes of Oliver Platt, Rose Byrne, and the all grown-up Nicholas Hoult. Ohh how they get so old! The weakest link in this cast would probably have to be January Jones as Emma Frost, because even though she looks the part, she doesn’t really bring much to this performance and is ultimately forgettable altogether.

Consensus: It may try it’s luck at times, but X-Men: First Class is a well-scripted, stylishly directed superhero flick from Matthew Vaughn that keeps the action running at a fast-pace, and the actors doing great jobs with the material. This Summer movie season just keeps getting better and better.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Oscar Predictions and Thoughts for 2011

So as everyone among the film community know, it is Oscar time babyyyyy!!! So that means get ready for some of the biggest upsets, wins, and probably tearful moments of the year. It was a great year in the film, and this is what has all come down to it people. The big night, and here are my predictions, I hope I do well.

Best Animated Feature: Will Win: Toy Story 3 Should Win: Toy Story 3 Wild Card: How To Train Your Dragon

Best Documentary Feature: Will Win: Restrepo Should Win: Restrepo Wild Card: Exit Through The Gift Shop

Best Foreign Language Film: Will Win: In a Better World Should Win: Dogtooth Wild Card: Biutiful

Best Documentary Short, Best Live Action Short, Best Animated Short: Will Win: Can’t say I care too much

Best Editing: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Black Swan

Best Cinematography: Will Win: True Grit Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Visual Effects: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Alice in Wonderland

Best Sound Editing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: Unstoppable

Best Sound Mixing: Will Win: Inception Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Social Network

Best Art Direction: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The King’s Speech

Best Costume Design: Will Win: Alice in Wonderland Should Win: Alice in Wonderland Wild Card: True Grit

Best Makeup: Will Win: The Wolfman Should Win: The Way Back

Best Original Score: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Inception

Best Original Song: Will Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Should Win: We Belong Together (Toy Story 3) Wild Card: I See The Light (Tangled)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Will Win: The Social Network Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: 127 Hours

Best Original Screenplay: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: Inception Wild Card: The Fighter

Best Supporting Actress: Will Win: Hailee Steinfeld Should Win: Melissa Leo Wild Card: Amy Adams

Best Supporting Actor: Will Win: Christian Bale Should Win: Christian Bale Wild Card: Geoffrey Rush

Best Actor: Will Win: Colin Firth Should Win: Jesse Eisenberg Wild Card: James Franco

Best Actress: Will Win: Natalie Portman Should Win: Natalie Portman Wild Card: Annette Bening

Best Director: Will Win: David Fincher Should Win: David Fincher Wild Card: Tom Hooper

Best Picture: Will Win: The King’s Speech Should Win: The Social Network Wild Card: Toy Story 3

I must say that this is a pretty solid year for the Oscar’s this year. All the nominees look just about right the only problem is how will the picks turn out? This year, everything seems like it’s coming down to Old School (The King’s Speech) vs. New School (The Social Network). The past couple of years The Academy (I hate that word) has been looking more towards hip, new films to win it’s Oscar Best Picture. Films such as Slumdog Millionaire, The Hurt Locker, and American Beauty have all been unconventional new films that have seen their taste of Best Picture gold. But there has also been countless period piece wins for films such as Gladiator, Shakespeare In Love, and The English Patient. Also, many other major award shows have already presented the Best Picture win to The King’s Speech which is really chasing up people’s noses, as many other award shows have been choosing The Social Network as theirs. In my opinion, I liked Inception more than both of them, and yeah it’s nominated, but in all honesty it has no chance of winning. When it comes down to it I think that The Social Network should win, because it is an age-defining film, that went from being known as “The Facebook Movie” to being known as the top contender for every Oscar it’s nominated for. I hope that The Academy goes for the new school, because if they had The King’s Speech win, everyone would feel robbed really.

As for Best Actor, I think that Firth deserves to win for all his years dedicate to films, but Eisenberg fully deserves it. I think what the Academy is doing more and more now, is honoring actors & actresses not for just a certain performance they had, but their careers and saying that it’s their time. I don’t mind seeing stars like Jeff Bridges, Kate Winslet, or Colin Firth win an Oscar, because of the career they have but I’d rather see the “best performance of the year award” go to the BEST PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR.

When it comes to the Best Actress category, it seems like Natalie Portman is the sole winner for here, as she has won almost every single Best Actress nomination at every award show. However, there is once again that little idea that it’s Annette Bening’s “time” to win, as she has been nominated twice, and still has not won yet even though her career has been going on for so long. I want Portman to win, and most likely she will, but I still have a feeling that The Academy may pull something out of their pockets and surprise us all with a Bening win.

I’m very disappointed that my main man Christopher Nolan was not nominated for Best Director this year. He was snubbed for The Dark Knight, and now he’s being snubbed again, and it just pisses me off knowing that certain directors that do such a good job with daring material, don’t get the credit they deserve. I think if Nolan was nominated, he should have won, but I know it’s The Oscars, and not everything works out the right way.

This year had great films, and I’m glad to see that the Oscars have turned out to be this way. I loved 2010 as a year, and the films made it awesome. Here’s to 2011, and let’s just hope that the Oscars are awesome.

Thanks everybody for always reading, and keep on checking!!

Winter’s Bone (2010)

Sorry that it took so long, but I have finally watched all of the Best Picture nominees for this year!

Resilient teen Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) goes on the trail of her missing, drug-dealing father when his absence jeopardizes the family’s safety. Her deadbeat dad has a key court date pending, and Ree is determined that he show up — despite the objections of the insular Dolly clan.

It took me so long to finally get down to watching all of the Best Picture nominees of this year, and I must say it’s been pretty impressive overall. Except it’s a shame that this is my least favorite of the 10.

The film does a good job of capturing the look and feel of impoverished life in the Ozarks. It’s cruel, dirty, and almost everyone who inhabits it, has to fend for their own lives and learn how to survive. I liked how the film captured this perfectly, because it seemed like this setting set the tone for the bleak feel of the film, and that’s the part that actually worked.

The problem with that bleak tone, is that the story itself isn’t that compelling. I was following this movie for it’s main mystery, but the slow movement of this film is just what made me lose my interest. The film just kept moving at a snail-pace right along, and it took almost 10 minutes each to get to every little or big plot twist that happened, and by the time something big and crazy happened, I really didn’t care that much.

I thought the way that the film portrayed these Ozark white trash, and how mean and villainous they were, I surely though that this film was going to go somewhere very interesting, but instead it just kind of lags along. Certain scenes did work for me, but others were just sort of bland and really didn’t do much for me.

Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree, and does a very strong job here. She’s got that subtle “tough” presence that actually does make you feel more for her character, and actually have us behind her back throughout the whole film. She does a great job of actually carrying this film, and I think she’s going to be a face to watch in upcoming films. John Hawkes is great as Teardrop, because right from the moment you see him, you have a feeling your just going to hate the hell out of this guy, but Hawkes does a good job of controlling this character well. He’s both menacing and endearing, and yet you love him but you never know if you can trust him, and Hawkes brings out some of the best scenes here. There’s also a lot of little unknowns that show up in this film, and they all do fine with their material.

Consensus: Winter’s Bone has that menacing and dark tone, as well as some great performances from Hawkes and Lawrence that works for it, but the problematic story, slow pace, and overall just bleak outlook on everything, had me wanting more.

7.5/10=Rental!!