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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jeremy Strong

The Big Short (2015)

Now I literally have no clue what to do with my money.

The financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 will always and forever be considered one of the most heart-breaking, tragic moments in recent memory. But even though it may have came as a shock to most normal, everyday working people whose lives were affected the most, a few within the financial world saw it coming from a mile away and tried to do whatever it is that they could do to fix it all and stop it from happening in the first place. There’s Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager who is definitely an odd person, but knows of the issue right away. Then, there’s Mark Baum (Steve Carell), another hedge fund manager who, along with his trusted band of confidantes, are trying to figure out what the problem is. And last, but certainly not least, Charlie Ledley (John Magaro) and Jamie Mai (Finn Wittrock), two friends and business partners who are risking all that they’ve got by going out there and making these issues open to generally anyone who will listen. But as they, as well as everyone else here finds out, it doesn’t matter how right you are about what’s set to happen, rich people won’t listen because they don’t want to think of losing their money, for whatever reasons.

Yeah. Just give up already.

Yeah. Just give up already.

One of the biggest obstacles standing in the way of the Big Short is that it’s dealing with some very challenging and dry topics. While I’m sure that everybody knows about the financial crisis of 2008 and has a general idea of what went down and why, nobody really knows for sure and that’s exactly what the Big Short sets out to do, which is already enough reason to run for cover, hold up one’s arms, wave that white flag, and give up all hope on ever being informed about anything ever again. After all, you, just like many other average citizens in this world, probably don’t have a single clue what yield curve, or synthetic CDO actually is – instead, you just know what you’re having for dinner, who the President of the United States is, and well, maybe, how many days are in a year. The housing market, banks, mortgages, and all of that other serious, financial stuff isn’t needed in everyday life, so why bother with hearing it at all?

Well, that’s why there’s something brilliant about the Big Short in that it understands all of these issues it may face with appealing to a bigger audience out there and does something totally out of the ordinary: It explains it all.

And by “explains it all”, I mean exactly that; rather than having the movie try its hardest to find a way to finagle in meanings of certain definitions through needless exposition, characters in the film will literally turn towards the camera, or use their narration, and tell you what something means, or have someone else who is perhaps more appealing to do the same. Yet, none of these people ever matter to the actual movie itself and more or less, just seem like glorified cameos, which is fine because, well, they absolutely are! That’s why, when seemingly out of nowhere, we get a scene of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, telling us about subprime mortgage lenders, it’s definitely, but necessary and much-needed, so instead of throwing it away, you just learn to accept it, learn a few things in the process, and move right on along.

By the way, random celebrities showing up in the movie to explain something happens about three times in the movie, but it works each and every time because, well, it perfectly explains what we need to know about what happens to the housing market and why the U.S. economy was hit so hard. Co-writer and director Adam McKay is very smart allowing for the bulk of the film to just be about what’s going to happen and give us a general idea of why, and then allow for us to watch once all of the cards fall into place and how all of the people who notice it first, act and try to fix it all before it’s too late. Clearly, we know the ending, so the film’s spin on “based on a true story”, is actually quite funny, but that doesn’t take away from any of the tragedy, either.

Still, at the same time, McKay being a director with a heavy background in comedy (Anchorman, Step Brothers), understands that the best way to cope with a tragedy of any kind, is still add an element of funny, sometimes hard-hitting comedy, that makes the pill go down smoother. But whereas with McKay’s other films where it seemed like a lot of the comedy was just about how far certain actors could go to ad-lib without breaking a sweat, here, each and every actor spouts colorful and fiery line of dialogue as if Aaron Sorkin had written the script after he did a few lines. So this isn’t all to say that the Big Short’s funny, but it’s also quite hilarious and smart in that it’s created this all-too-real universe where people talk fast, walk fast, are fast with their comebacks and generally prefer to be harsh to one another because well, they have a lot of money and they can.

But once these people start to realize that all of their money, as well as a lot of other people’s, is going down the drain, they realize that there’s no more playing around and it’s time to knuckle up or shut up. Sad thing is, we know how the story ends and McKay does, too.

That’s why, he never allows for us to forget about it.

Some men, just want to watch the housing market burn.

Some men, just want to watch the housing market burn.

If anything, the Big Short shows who is to blame for the financial crisis, but at the same time, still doesn’t give any closure onto why those responsible let it go on for so long, nor does it resolve the issue of whether they knew about it forever and didn’t care, or if they were just too stupid to realize? Either way, the movie definitely points its long and hard finger directly at the shooter and it helps give a sense of satisfaction even if, you know, those same said baddies are the ones who ended-up getting away with it all. Still though, when watching all of this unravel, you almost forget about that fact and just allow for the story, as well as the characters, to tell itself.

That’s why it helps that the Big Short has such a talented ensemble who, even when it seems like they’re just speaking like my Economics professor, still add enough fun and flair to the proceedings, that they make it a little more compelling. Christian Bale’s Dr. Michael Burry is perhaps the only character who hardly ever moves from one location, but because Burry’s persona is based on weird tics and traits, Bale runs wild with the role and seems to be enjoying himself. Though he’s still enraged by what he’s seeing, there’s still a sense that Bale wants to be light enough to where it helps us get through this pain and sadness.

Same goes for Steve Carell as Mark Baum, someone who seems to live a lovely life inside this financial world, but at the same time, doesn’t want to sit so idly by, that he forgets about it all, either. Carell’s really enjoying this role here and it should be noted that, even despite all of the names and characters popping-up, he’s the clear star of the show and with good reason; not only is his character given the most backstory out of everybody else here, he’s also the most humane one out of the bunch. Though the whole dead-brother angle goes on a bit too long and is an obvious arc capable of being seen from a mile away, Carell still shoulders through it to where it’s okay – we just want to see him be more pissed-off and curse because Carell’s pretty good at that.

And well, for the matter, so is Ryan Gosling.

Gosling’s character, despite not being the meatiest of the bunch, is still probably the most memorable because he’s exactly what every young, rich and vain hotshot in the financial world probably is like. Gosling not only looks the part because he’s Ryan Gosling, but he’s also got the smooth charm and tongue to make him work all the more; while we’re never too sure if he’s a good or bad guy in this equation, we know that he definitely knows a whole lot about money and is capable of being trusted. That said, every scene he’s in, he steals and just about every line he delivers, is hilarious; even the scene where he describes the housing market with a Jenga set, while smart and interesting, is still funny because Gosling’s character is so in love with himself, you just know that he thinks it’s the most simple thing to ever explain. Even though we all know, for sure, it isn’t.

Brad Pitt shows up, too, as Ben Ricket, but doesn’t have a whole lot to do, except just serve Finn Wittrock and John Magaro’s characters bits of info that they need to make this story move more. Wittrock and Magaro are both great here and definitely give us a nice, small-time view of what this financial world looks like from the ground-up; because even though they don’t know it’s all going to crash just yet, we still wait and wonder to how they’re going to react and just how exactly it’s all going to affect them.

Because we know what happens to everybody else on the face of the planet, but what about these two schmucks?

Eh, who cares? The economy’s in the crapper and that’s all worth caring about.

Consensus: For all its difficult financial babble, the Big Short is, surprisingly, easy-to-comprehend in ways, well-acted by its huge ensemble, funny, and most of all, insightful into how this world works and why it all matters to what happened over seven years ago.

8 / 10

Get it yet?

Got it?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Time Out of Mind (2015)

You may be jobless, dirty and smelly, but hey, at least you look like Richard Gere!

George (Richard Gere) is a homeless man and, from what we can tell, has been for quite some time. He literally wakes up in somebody’s bath-tub, only to be kicked out by the landlord (Steve Buscemi) and thrown back out on the streets. On the streets is where George occasionally lives and breathes; other times, he gets into a local homeless shelter that may be a permanent place for him, if he can get past the psyche evaluation and plays nice in general. In this homeless shelter is where he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen), a fellow homeless man who talks his ear off about anything and everything. George, however, doesn’t really care because he’s sometimes too tired, too drunk, or to “out of it” to really care. Mostly though, George cares about his daughter (Jena Malone), who basically wants nothing to do with him, even though he constantly persists in trying to get into contact with her. Because even though George doesn’t have much hope in his life, the only one around is his own flesh and blood – someone who doesn’t even want to see him.

Is this really the same guy who was named "World's Sexiest Man" in 1999?

Is this really the same guy who was named “World’s Sexiest Man Alive” in 1999?

Basically, Time Out of Mind is plot-less. It’s literally two hours of watching as Richard Gere wanders around the streets of what is, presumably, New York City, doing what most homeless people do. Beg for change; sleep; drink; eat scraps from the garbage; and sleep some more. So, if you can handle all that for, like I said, two hours, then you might find something to take away.

If not, well, you may have a more rewarding time doing something else. Like, I don’t know, actually giving money to actual homeless people on the street.

But that said, there’s a lot of props given to writer/director Oren Moverman for not at all trying to shy away from the hard reality that is homelessness in the United States of America. With his last two films (the Messenger and Rampart), Moverman has taken a sad story, and found ways to make it even bleaker; probably more so with Rampart than Messenger, but as is, Moverman likes to revel in the dark and depressing details of life. And that’s a lot of what Time Out of Mind is.

However, that in and of itself works because it doesn’t try to sensationalize or turn its back towards the true issue at hand. Then again though, the movie isn’t at all a “message movie” – it’s just one tale in the midst of a whole bunch of similar tales, most of which are just as tragic as the next. In this aspect, Moverman reminds us that homelessness, as a whole problem, takes over its cities and while there are people that are willing to help out those who may need a bite to eat or some dollar bills for whatever they decide to spend them for, it’s all too slight and gets further and further away from the real issue at hand: These people need our help.

Like I said before, though, the movie isn’t one that’s important, or simply, about something more.

It’s literally about this one homeless man, trying to live and get by in a world that, like he says, “doesn’t say he exists”. And as this homeless man, Richard Gere does a fine job portraying George as humanly simplistic as he can. Normally, when you have these attractive, mostly recognizable actors playing in these roles that are supposed to be raw, gritty and down-to-Earth, it can sometimes feel phony. But surprisingly, due to the make-up and Gere’s down-playing of the role, he fits into it well.

The only reason why I’m not more on-board and in awe of this performance as others may be, because it seems like Gere himself is stuck in a movie that’s awfully repetitive. Then again, that may be the point. That homeless people themselves seem to go through the same patterns on a regular basis, helps make all the more sense as to why Gere’s George is literally going through all the same sorts of motions, day in and day out. We see him wake up, deal with hecklers, try to get whatever money he can scrounge up, use that money to buy either booze or food (sadly, it’s mostly booze), and every so often, have contact with a fellow homeless person, or aide that just wants to give him a helping hand.

And that’s basically the whole gist of this movie.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

When life gets rough, you always need a pal.

There are scenes where George goes to the food stamps office to apply, but even those scenes feel like they’re being replayed where he’ll come in, argue with the clerk, and then unexpectedly leave. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with a movie that gets into a sort of rhythm that puts us in the same mind-frame as its lead character, but when it’s literally two hours if the same motions, happening again and again, it gets to become a bit tiring. Especially since Overman himself, doesn’t seem to really be going anywhere with this tale, or with George, the character.

As we see of George is a broken down, beaten-up guy who, for whatever reasons, is homeless and left without anybody to care for him. It’s sad and even though we see him try to mend relationships with those he hurt, the scenes themselves never seem to go anywhere. We just see George walk into a room, piss-off his daughter, and that’s pretty much it. He leaves, goes onto beg some more, and see where life takes him next.

Once again, I get that this was probably the point Overman himself was going for, but in hindsight, it doesn’t help the movie much, or Gere’s performance.

Because even though Gere seems to be trying his hardest to inch out any sort of humanity within a character who is just as simply-written as you can get, he, and everybody else, aren’t left with much to rock and roll with. Jena Malone’s character seems one-note in that she’s always angry when her dad’s around; Buscemi’s not in it all that much to really register; Kyra Sedgwick plays a homeless woman who strikes up a little something with George and has the only bit of humor to be found at all in this movie; Ben Vereen has the best performance as Dixon, another homeless man with a heart of gold and a personality that could charm the socks off of a real estate agent.

But, like I said, to which extent does it matter?

Consensus: Gere does a fine job in the lead role, but overall, Time Out of Mind feels too much like a repetitious slog that may, or may not have a point to go along with the story it’s telling.

6 / 10

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Yup. Totally not the dude from Pretty Woman.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Selma (2014)

Believe it or not, there’s actually more words after, “I have a dream“.

In 1965, racial tensions in the United States were very high, most importantly though, in the South. A region of the country in which, even though blacks were legally allowed to vote, they still had to jump through all sorts of law abiding rules and regulations that was obviously set out to make sure that their race, and only theirs, wouldn’t be allowed to vote and therefore, not have their voices be heard like any other citizen. This is when Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) decided that it was time to step in and allow for his voice to not only be heard, but acted on as well. Most importantly though, MLK travels Selma, Alabama of all places to arrange a march that would not only get the attention of everybody’s eyes and ears, but also President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson)’s, and would hopefully drive him to make some severe changes to the voting-process. Although, as one could expect, LBJ wasn’t always down to change certain voting restrictions, especially with the looming pressure of possible voters and fellow confidantes like George Wallace (Tim Roth), J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker), and Lee C. White (Giovanni Ribisi), among many others.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Every girl truly does go crazy for a sharp-dressed man.

Contrary to what some may believe, Selma isn’t necessarily a biopic about MLK, his life, his achievements, and everything else that transpired when he was alive, and what soon followed afterwards. Instead, it’s much more of a film in which a good portion of MLK’s life is documented, yet, never fully chronicled to make it just his, and his own; there’s plenty more people apart of this story, helping out to create a larger, more thought-out picture than just being standard. The same could actually be said for the civil rights movement(s) that Selma seems to portray – it wasn’t just one person who is single-handedly credited with all of the accomplishments, it’s everybody who was there to help that one person out and make sure that his dreams were fulfilled, as risky as they sometimes may have been.

And in the world that we live in now, honestly, Selma couldn’t be anymore relevant. And to be honest, director Ava DuVernay fully knows this, which is why this movie hits as hard as it does, but without ever seeming like it’s pandering in any sort of way. Surely DuVernay sees and understands the civil rights movement as a significant time in our history (as well as she should), but rather than making it a simple and easy history lesson that any fifth-grader could teach to a class of hundred or more, she strives for something more difficult and ambitious. While DuVernay portrays the civil rights movement, and those behind it all, as smart and inspiring, she also shows that the tactics that would eventually land most of these participants in hot water, not just with the government, but with fellow members of their own race.

For white people who got involved with the civil rights movement, they suffered threats, day-in and day-out from fellow Caucasians who believed that it wasn’t their right to get involved. The black people suffered this, too, and definitely a lot more worse, but as the movie portrays it, it wasn’t just the white people that blacks had to deal with on a regular basis, it was actually some people of their own race. DuVernay shows this with the inclusion of Malcolm X, and as small as it may have been, it’s a smart move on her part to show that some people preferred to side with X’s way of violence solving any and all problems, whereas some others preferred to stick with MLK’s way of not fighting back and instead, using peace as the best medicine to ridicule those who use violence to their benefit. In a lesser film, each and every person of the same race would have gathered, hand-in-hand, and marched happily together, but in DuVernay’s much smarter film, sometimes, they’re at-war with themselves.

But this is just me getting further and further away from what Selma really does here, and that’s portray a brutal, yet significant time in our society’s history, without ever shying away from some of the more dark and dirty aspects that would push certain people away from seeing this. We’ve seen white cops beating on black people in movies (and sadly, in real-life, too) done before, but the way in how DuVernay shows the sheer terror and madness is not only disturbing, but downright terrifying. It not only opens our eyes a little more to what this film is setting out to do, but also puts into perspective what is really being fought for here, rather than just telling us and trusting that bit of info as is.

Like I mentioned before, though, there’s a good portion of this movie that likes to argue against what most of us may know, or think we know, about the civil rights movement and how all those apart of it acted. For instance, not every person in this film is a clear-cut good guy, or a bad guy; they’re, simply put, just people that had a foot in history and all had their own goals, whether they may, or may not be desirable to us watching at home. This is especially clear in the case of LBJ who yes, definitely seems like a racist, but is also a politician, meaning, that he knows he has a lot at stake here in terms of his voting numbers come re-election time. While it’s made clear to us that maybe LBJ’s morals aren’t in the right places, he is still trying to give MLK what he wants, just in his own way. They may not be perfect and they may not always get the job done, but they’re still efforts on his part and that’s more than he can say for many other white politicians during that time.

The same said for LBJ, could definitely be said for MLK, which is definitely surprising considering that you’d expect a piece praising the figure for everything that he did while he was alive, and the influence that still holds precedence in our society today. DuVernay instead dives a bit deeper into the man of MLK, what made him who he was, and how exactly he got through this tough time in his life. And with this, we see that he wasn’t always the perfect man; he was a shitty husband who fooled-around a bit too much, didn’t always step to the front-line like he had initially promised, and got a little big-headed for his own good. But nonetheless, MLK was MLK, a man who accomplished more than what anybody expected of him when he was alive, and it’s a true testament to the person he was, rather than the person people want us to see and believe in.

Round 2. Fight!!

Round 2. Fight!!

Doesn’t make him any less of a good person, it just makes him a person, first and foremost.

And as MLK, David Oyelowo is pretty outstanding. This isn’t too surprising considering Oyelowo has been churning out amazing performances for the past couple years or so, but it truly is great to see him tackle a role that so many people think we already all think we know of, and do something different with it. Because MLK isn’t made out to be the most perfect human specimen ever created in this movie, we see certain shades to his persona that we don’t get to see in his speeches; sure, the speeches are here and they are downright compelling to watch and listen to, but they aren’t what make this person. What makes this person is that he stood up for what he believed in and, at any cost, tried to make his dream a reality. He had many of bumps in the road, but ultimately, he prevailed in getting what he wanted, even if he definitely did gain some enemies in the meantime. Then again, who doesn’t?

Though there’s more to the cast where that came from and rightfully so, too. The previously mentioned LBJ is done well by Tom Wilkinson who fits perfectly into the role and constantly makes it seem like this man is going to explode at any second; Carmen Ejogo has a few strong scenes as MLK’s wife, Corette, and shows the painful side to being the one who is constantly left-at-home, when your significant other is off, fighting the good fight, and constantly allowing you and the rest of your family to be threatened; Tim Roth is pretty damn campy as the overtly-racist man that was George Wallace, although he does with it just enough scenery-chewing that there’s no need for the mustache-twirl; and honestly, plenty more where that came from.

In fact, so many more to talk about that to put one over the other would just be an absolute disservice to each and every performer who shows up here, ready to perform and give it their all with their roles, no matter how small or large they may be. But above all though, it’s DuVernay who deserves the most credit for handling this large ensemble and giving just about every member something substantial to do and add another layer onto a story that, quite frankly, is already very engaging to begin with. Although there are plenty of hiccups to be found on the road leading to the final-act here, DuVernay still brings us a solid depiction of the Selma marches, how they affected us as a society then, and how they do it to us now. Because seriously, the years may change, but the stories remain the same.

Who knows when the change will come. Let’s just hope it’s soon.

Consensus: Smart, powerful, and well-acted by just about everybody involved, Selma is a complex, detailed-look into the civil rights movement that knows it’s important, but never shoves it down its viewer’s throats.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

When they mean "strength in numbers"? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

When they mean “strength in numbers”? Like, specifically, how many are we talking about here?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Parkland (2013)

We got Bobby, but now, here’s Johnny! Sort of.

When JFK was assassinated in Texas, the whole nation was left in a widespread panic of not knowing what to do next, how to pick themselves up from such tragedy and what would be the best way to move on. But before any picking up and moving on could be done, there had to be some simple procedures done, like finding out who killed JFK, who that killer’s family was, who the person filming the incidence was, how they can keep it away from the media, an so on and so forth. Basically, this is a look inside the various lives that were affected after JFK’s murder, and how most of them coped with the disaster in many different ways, sometimes some were more positive than others. But the ones who were negative, they really were hit hard, as you’ll soon see.

The JFK assassination is something that no matter what type of person you are, history buff or not, will always interest you. All controversies about whom did it, why and whom with, there are still some very interesting facts about it that many of us have yet to even know about, while some are still being unearthed. It’s strange to think that even 50 years after the fact that we’re still getting bits and pieces of info about what really happened, who was behind it and possibly just if it was all a ruse or not, is really surprising. However, one must remember that it’s the U.S. government we’re dealing with here, folks. They can’t always be trusted.

About to have themselves a bloody good time. What? Too soon?

About to have themselves a bloody good time…….. What? Too soon?

Anyway, those said interesting little facts about this well-known assassination is probably what does this flick some good in the first place. For starters, it gives us a glimpse inside the lives of a bunch of people we’d never expect to see get a movie made about and it actually allows them to have their story shown. Some get better than treatment than others, but overall, everybody here has a story to tell, and they are all somewhat worth watching and paying attention to, even if the direction doesn’t quite follow suit with that the whole way through.

Some have been having problems with this movie because it’s considered “overstuffed” and “jammed”, and I can’t say I disagree. With a movie that runs just about under an-hour-and-a-half, showing all of these stories, with all of these different, familiar-faces, definitely does come across as “too much to take in”, especially when you pretty much know that the material would benefit a lot more from something like a miniseries or hell, even a longer movie. The stories that are interesting get the most attention here, but the others that don’t, still feel like they have something that we would want to see or take notice of, yet, they aren’t really given much time of the day.

For instance, there’s this one story the movie focuses on that features Ron Livingston playing an FBI agent that knows all about what’s happening with the president, who killed him and where they can nab him, but we never actually see him go out onto the field, actually gathering info, clues, hints, or anything else that would probably help him get a clearer view of the case. This subplot also leaves more questions than actual answers as it becomes clearly evident that the movie, in some way, shape or form, is suggesting that Oswald didn’t act alone and had to have some outside-help in order to kill the president. Personally, I agree with this sentiment, but I feel like when you have a movie that’s dedicating its legacy to an event, as well as to a public, iconic figure no less, that it may not be right to choose sides. Then again, I’m always down for when things get shaken around a bit, so who the hell am I to even talk, you know?

Other than Livingston’s character’s story, there are plenty of other ones to that get the light of day, most are a lot more interesting than the one I just mentioned, and some far more deserving of their own movie or hell, one-hour running-time. The one story I’m mainly talking about is the one in which James Badge Dale plays Oswald’s brother that somehow gets wrapped up into all of this, all because he shares the same last name as the man who killed the president. The movie paints a nice picture of this conflicted man who knows what his brother did was wrong, and yet, still can’t bring himself away from totally abandoning him and leaving him out to dry. Because honestly, let’s face it: Family is family, no matter what.

Dale is not only great in this role, as he is in all of the 50 movies he’s shown up in in the past two years, and really gives you the sense that this is a good-natured citizen who knows what’s right, and what’s wrong, and yet, still can’t help but get thrown under the bus all because of who his brother is and the dirty act he committed. While Dale’s performance is very nuanced and subtle for this type of material, Jacki Weaver, playing Oswald’s crazed attention-whore-of-a-mother, is a little more nutty and over-the-top, but is still worth watching because if you watch any of the interviews with the real-life figure, you’ll see that she more than just hits the nail on the head. She absolutely bangs it in with utter force.

The rest of this studded-ensemble is a bit of a mix-bag, which is less of their fault, and more of the film’s because it doesn’t quite utilize their skills as well as it should have, which is a damn shame, considering the type of true talent we have on-deck here. Colin Hanks, Zac Efron and Marcia Gay Harden all play the nurses and doctors that examine both JFK one day, and Oswald the other, which gives us a nice contrast between the two, even though the characters themselves are never fully sketched-out to be more than scared fellas and gals. They all try, but their characters are thin. Billy Bob Thornton gets a chance to show up on screen and do his bit for a short while as the FBI agent assigned to figuring out what happened here and how they can fix it all up in a neat and tidy bow. Nice to see Thornton do something where he isn’t either a total and complete a-hole, or for that matter, a total and complete dirtball that has no sense of normal hygiene or normalcy.

"Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he's dead!!"

“Make way! We got a guy trying to pretend he’s dead!!”

The one who I was most surprised by, not because he was bad or anything, but by how uninteresting his story actually was, was Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder who, if you don’t know by now, was the poor individual who had the displeasure (or pleasure, in some crazy mofo’s minds) of not only filming the assassination, but to be the one the media and FBI came to first, throwing away any price he would deem desirable. Giamatti is great in this role, as usual, giving us a distraught, scared old man that doesn’t quite know what to do with himself for the time being, but definitely doesn’t want to wake up and smell all of the real harsh realities that the world brings. While I felt these sad, emotional connections coming from Giamatti’s performance, I never quite felt that for his story, which actually felt like it could have been given its own movie, and maybe even be up for some Oscars along the way as well. However, we may never get to see that happen. And if we do, it won’t be with Giamatti. Poor guy. He so deserves better.

And don’t even get me started on Jackie Earle Haley as the priest who gives his final blessing to JFK’s corpse. It’s one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, and is by far one of the strangest aspects of this whole cast. Heck, I’ll even go so far as to say the movie as well.

Consensus: The approach Parkland brings to its infamous event, surely is one of the far more interesting aspects going for it, but can’t help but feel disappointing once you realize how under-cooked, short and jammed-up it is, and even worse, it didn’t need to be either.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

How he didn't recieve an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me......What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

How he didn’t receive an Oscar for Best Documentary short that year is totally beyond me……What?!?! Once again, too soon!??!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Happening (2008)

Pretty, pretty deadly flowers.

In the middle of a peaceful New York City-day, a bunch of people are walking through the park when all of a sudden, everybody stops what it is that they are doing, walks backwards a few steps, and each commit suicide. There is no reason whatsoever for this mess, but whatever it is, it has traveled by air all the way to Philadelphia where a couple (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel) runs away, trying to find safety wherever it might possibly be. Problem is, nobody knows what it is, what caused it all, how to stay away from it, and what is the cure. It’s just something in the air, and you must run away and find shelter, as soon as possible. Or something like that.

Fuck it, I’m just going to come right out and say it that this is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life-time. Which means, yes, I have seen this movie more than once. Once, when it came out in theaters because I was young and stupid, and twice, because I had to do it all for you loyal readers out there waiting to see me complete my posts on M. Night’s career.

The things that I’ll do just to please your asses.

Anyway, away from all that crap, let me just say that this movie is still god-awful after all of these years, and hell, probably a lot worse now that I’ve gotten used to what makes a movie good, entertaining, bad, or just shit. This is that latter category that nobody should ever bother with. Yes, not even movie critics who have been dared by their friends because they apparently “watch any movie that’s put in front of them.” Trust me, friends: I’ve said it all before and it’s not worth it. IT’S JUST NOT!!

We all know that M. Night’s career has been one shit-show-after-another, but at the time of this movie coming out, everybody thought it was his big return to making movies the way he did before. It was rated-R, it was coming out during the summer, and hell, it even had Marky Mark in the lead role, what could possibly not make a comeback occur?!?!? Well, let’s just say a whole lot did, but let’s start off fresh and just go by hitting the buttons with M. Night.

The problems they're running through all goes back to the fact that he won't become a vegan.

The problems they’re running through all goes back to the fact that he won’t become a vegan.

M. Night is a dude that loves his plots, his premises, and his twists, but one thing he does not seem to love so much is what gets him to his passion in the first-place: dialogue. No matter what flick you want to attack, you can’t help but notice that almost all of M. Night’s flicks have a problem with the dialogue, whether it be because nobody sounds like real human-beings, or that the people do sound like real human-beings, but just idiotic ones. Either way, take your pick and you’ll most likely find a little something to make fun of. However, here, you can find almost everything wrong with the dialogue.

Every piece of spoken-line dialogue in this movie is just god-awful, because M. Night does not have a single clue where to pin-point this movie towards. Sometimes it seems like he’s going for a drama; sometimes a comedy; sometimes a dark comedy; sometimes a horror movie; sometimes a thriller; and heck, sometimes even a “it’s so bad, it’s good” type of movie that you would have probably seen in the 50’s, had it been done by Ed Wood or someone of that nature. The guy loses himself, just as much as he loses these “characters”, and during it all; we’re lost and left without a clue as to what to think of this movie. Is it supposed to be serious? Or, just or, is it supposed to be a slightly off-kilter movie that likes to throw in some laughs, along with the terror and dread? We never find those answers, and after awhile; you’ll probably just give up looking for them. They aren’t worth it, especially when you have so much promise like this just thrown to the ground, in hopes that someone will pick it back up.

Problem is, nobody does. Not the actors, nor M. Night himself. Even he seems at a bit of a loss for what to make of this material. The explanation he comes up with for this whole movie/epidemic inside of it, is that it was all caused by the plants. But why did the plants release some sort of toxin into the sky? Oh well, because we, as humans, are threatening our world and make the plants/trees/nature/etc. feel as if they are constantly at a fight so rather than just giving up and dying as we celebrate with our Cadillacs and light-bulbs, they decided to fight back and show us a bit of a warning to fuck our lives up. Yep, that’s right, in case you couldn’t tell where that idea was going, it was actually M. Night himself trying to go for it all by giving us some food-for-thought about our environment, and give us a spin on the whole global warming aspect of today’s economy. A bit risky you might say? Yes, but does it work at all? Fuck no! It’s actually really stupid, and as much as I may agree with what M. Night has to say on some level, I’ll still can’t say I support his decision to be as preachy, as obvious, and as idiotic with his points as he was here.

But no need to fear, Mark Wahlberg’s in this movie and that dude barely ever touches a screenplay that’s shit, right? Well, back in 2008, along with this other “masterpiece”: that was all a bunch of cons and lies. Wahlberg plays Elliott, a high-school science teacher, which, in a way; sort of is a joke in and out of itself. Wahlberg does whatever the hell he can with this character, but the same old mannerisms that the dude has with all of his characters (and sometimes make them so memorable), are what kills him and his character.The guy rambles, talks to trees, acts scared, has a bunch of close-ups on him looking scared, and does nothing else but use that usual, high-pitched voice we all know and maybe, just maybe, love him for. I love him for all that he does, but here, I felt like the dude was really falling-apart and couldn’t help but go along with whatever the hell M. Night threw at him. Sometimes, I don’t think even he knew what the hell to expect, but hey: that’s him, not me. If only I was Marky Mark, though. If only.

"And remember, once you get home and all, make sure to say hello to ya motha's for me."

“And remember, once you get home and all, make sure to say hi to ya motha’s for me.”

However, Marky Mark looks like he’s about to win an Oscar for his work, compared to what Zooey Deschanel brought to the table. Deschanel plays his wife, who’s obviously a bit weird, unhappy, and confused about what she wants, but rather than being Summer, she’s trying to be like Jessica Tandy in a way. That shouldn’t quite matter if the actress who’s channeling that side of her skills, is supremely talented, but Zooey just isn’t. And if she is, well she didn’t show too much of that talent here because every line that came out of her mouth, felt forced and bored, as if Zooey only did this for the money, in hopes that she will one day have that one, big show that’s dedicated to just her, and her hipster-ways.

Oh wait, I think it has happened already. Shit.

Consensus: M. Night fans (I’m joking, right?) might appreciate the promise and the eeriness that stands behind most of the Happening, but for peeps who don’t much care for the guy, and want good stories, with reasonable acting, writing, and direction, will most likely be at a loss for words just by how shitty this movie truly is. Don’t even bother getting drunk or high for this neither, just don’t even bother.

0.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Shit. This is really bad."

“Shit, I thought M. said this was going to be a dark, domestic drama that teaches us the importance of family values and honor.”

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.