Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Joey King

Going in Style (2017)

Get some life into ya.

Lifelong buddies Willie (Morgan Freeman), Joe (Michael Caine) and Albert (Alan Arkin) all decide that it’s finally time to take some time back and retire, once and for all. However, once they do that, they don’t know what sorts of annoyances await them. For one, the factory that they slaved away for all of those years, aren’t going to be giving them pensions. And if that wasn’t so bad, they’re so broke that they may not be able to keep their own roofs over their heads. It’s so bad that even a piece of pie at a diner is a constant cause for argument. But then, Joe gets the idea: Why not rob a bank? Better yet, why not rob the bank that is, get this, robbing him blind in the first place? It’s a crazy idea and one met with disdain from the two other guys, but as time goes on, they start to come around to the idea. Eventually, the three hatch out a plan for what to do, but considering that they’re three old dudes, it may be a lot harder than it seems.

Do they qualify for the license to carry? Let alone, see?

Going in Style is probably an unnecessary remake, but it’s also different from the 1979 version. While that movie was a mostly dramatic, melancholy look at aging, life, and death, with some comedy splashed in there for good measure, the remake is a lot more fun, humorous, and less about being too dramatic. In a way, it’s as director Zach Braff and the studios thought that having a movie in which a bunch of old dudes try to re-ignite sparks in their lives, only to realize that they haven’t got much time left on Earth, was all too serious and real, so therefore, they added a bunch of jokes about prostates, pie, Alzheimer’s, and oh yes, the Bachelor.

Did I mention that this is Zach Braff we’re talking about here? Sure, I Wish I Was Here was a problem, but surely the same guy who made the near-classic over a decade ago (in Garden State), doesn’t feel the need for these sorts of paycheck gigs, does he? Well, in a way, it sort of seems like it, but it’s not like the movie’s the most manipulative piece of money-making machine ever made.

If anything, it’s just enjoyable and pleasing enough to literally not offend a single person.

Is that we should expect from these actors, as well as Braff? Hopefully not.

But for now, it’s fine, because Going in Style proves that the age old formula of “old dudes getting to have some fun one more time”, still kind of works. The only difference here is that the tone is a lot lighter and playful than you’d expect, which makes all of the crazy plot contrivances, twists, and turns, seem fine. Are they unbelievable and absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely, but for the longest time, the movie doesn’t do much but go about its day, with a smile on its face, and a pleasant mood on its mind.

Ride or die, boys.

And for that, it’s fine. It doesn’t ask for the heavy questions, with the heavier answers, about life, death, love, or immortality, or any of that fun stuff, nor does it really ask you to fully get too invested in its heist at the center of the film; it’s all being used to just get by and allow us to have some fun with these characters, in this place in time.

And once again, that’s fine.

It helps that Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, no matter how old they get, still seem like total pros and can do practically no wrong. Sure, a lot of the stuff that they’re saying and yammering on about isn’t all that funny, but the three are so charming and lovely, does it really matter? Yes, it sort of does, but in this case, not really; it’s annoying to constantly see older actors get the short-shift in which they have to play these old dudes and that’s about it, but if that’s the way the world works, then so be it. It seems like Caine, Freeman, and Arkin themselves are so fine with it that it doesn’t really matter.

So long as they keep on doing what they’re doing, until the expected end of their careers, well then, no argument from me.

Keep doing what you’re doing, fellas.

Consensus: Pleasing and enjoyable enough, mostly by the talented trio of leads, Going in Style doesn’t set out to offend anyone, or change anyone’s life, and in this case, that’s all that is needed.

6 / 10

[Insert boner joke here]

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Advertisements

Stonewall (2015)

I don’t even think homosexuals want Roland Emmerich voicing his support.

The 1969 Stonewall Riots that occurred in New York City are considered one of the main kicking-off points in LGBT history. But before this moment in history occurs, we get to see how everything was beforehand, and through the eyes of Danny (Jeremy Irvine). Danny is a small-town boy from Indiana who, for controversial reasons, has fled his hometown in hopes that he’ll find a new life and possibly go to college at Columbia. But for now, Danny wants to enjoy his time around people he never quite had the chance to back when he was living at home and it all starts with Ramona (Jonny Beauchamp) – someone who takes a liking to Danny right away. So much so that once Danny starts to shack up with local liberal rights activist Trevor (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), he’s as jealous as can be. For Danny though, he’s living the life that he never could and is absolutely loving every second of it. Eventually though, reality sets in and he not only realizes that he wants to make something out of his life than hustling on the street for whatever nickels and dimes he can scrounge up; he wants to make his voice heard and better yet, he wants to stand up for what he believes in.

"Freedom! Or, something!"

“Freedom! Or, something!”

When I hear “heartfelt, emotional, and character-driven historical account”, nowhere at all does my mind come near the name, “Roland Emmerich”. The same director who’s created such disasters (literally) like 2012, Independence Day, the Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, Stargate, and many more that I don’t want to even speak of, is also the same guy who I imagines just sits around, throwing bricks around his mansion, seeing what he can break in the most awesomely outrageous and unbelievable way imaginable. He’s not, honestly, the same guy whom I’d expect to take an account of seminal moment in LGBT history and give it the movie it deserves.

And don’t worry, he still doesn’t deliver that movie.

However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was at least somewhat tickled by what Emmerich is appearing to try here. Basically, Stonewall takes this moment in history, and plays it all out through the eyes of this random, seemingly fictional that, of course, has to be around so that we can see everything he sees, take everything that he takes in, experience the way he experienced it, and well, learn some neat anecdotes about being gay in NYC during the mid-to-late-60’s while he learns them. Obviously, this is a manipulative narrative-device so that the movie can appeal to a broader audience, but it was one that I didn’t mind.

For one, Danny himself has his own backstory that, albeit conventional, is at least interesting enough to deserve some attention. Also, the fact that Danny himself is a homosexual, trying to come to terms with his sexual orientation and the sorts of trials and trepidations he’s to face, makes the fact that he’s around and about, not all that annoying. Sure, Emmerich’s trying to make this something along the lines of Forrest Gump, but you know what? It worked. I was interested, I was paying attention, and most of all, I was learning a few new things that I didn’t know beforehand.

So sue me!

But then, of course, Emmerich’s usual tendencies come into play where it seems like we’re getting the work of a director who seems a whole lot more concerned with being over-the-top and making sure that his message hits everybody straight in the face. In a way, this is fun to watch in a campy, none-too-serious way, but by the same token, it also seems to do a great disservice to the actual story of Stonewall itself, the people who were involved with it, and what it helped to do for some time to come. None of that is ever quite evident or made known, mostly because Emmerich seems distracted elsewhere.

And most of that comes down to the fact that Danny himself, the blonde, chiseled, and hunky man from Indiana, really doesn’t need to be in this story and just gets in the way of everything. Through Danny, Emmerich seems like he’s trying to study the predicament of having a peaceful protest, against a violent one, but never seems to go anywhere deep, smart, or meaningful with them. It’s almost as if once Emmerich brought the idea up, he thought it’d be too boring and threw more scenes of Danny having sex where he’s either in pain, or crying, or clearly wanting to be elsewhere. There’s one exception, but honestly, it’s so slight, it hardly matters.

Where's the flying-saucers when you need 'em the most, Roland?

Where’s the flying-saucers when you need ’em the most, Roland?

This isn’t to say that Jeremy Irvine isn’t bad as Danny, either, it’s just that he’s such a brick wall, he doesn’t really factor in much to the story. The best moments Irvine has is when Danny’s forced to break out of his shell a bit by acting wild and flamboyant like his fellow friends – every other time, though, he’s mostly just there, helping the story to move on along. Everybody else around him is saddled with more eccentric, lively performances and while most of them try, they’re mostly given a poor script that makes it seem like they coached how to deliver each line, four or five different times, with almost each and every different time being put in the final-cut.

But to be honest, I want to give Emmerich the benefit of the doubt here.

It’s interesting to see him not just throw his own money on the table and create his own tribute to the Stonewall riots (or some hot dude named Danny), but to also seem like he’s giving it his honest-to-god shot here. For that, I give him at least some credit; however, it doesn’t make him, or the movie, itself, better. It just gives us a dude who clearly has good intentions, but doesn’t know how to display them in a smart way.

I guess this just leaves the path for another Stonewall movie to come around soon enough then, eh?

Consensus: Despite Emmerich seeming like he’s trying his hardest, and at least, succeeding slightly, Stonewall is too distracted and silly to really drive home the cause it’s fighting for.

4 / 10

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Coming soon to a Broadway theater near you.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Wish I Was Here (2014)

Somewhere out there, James Mercer is pissed that he didn’t get a paycheck.

Aidan Bloom (Zach Braff) is an aging, near-40-year-old dad who is struggling to make ends meet with his life. He works, but as an actor, which only means that he sometimes gets a role, and sometimes, he doesn’t. Basically though, he just day-dreams and longs about the good old days in which he and his brother (Josh Gad) used to dream about being in some sort of futuristic, sci-fi world where they were the good guys and everything that they wanted to happen, did in fact happen. However, the reality of it is that Bloom’s life kind of blows: His kids (Joey King and Pierce Gagnon) get kicked out of their private Jewish school; his father (Mandy Patinkin) is slowly dying; his wife (Kate Hudson) is working a dead-end job that she hates and gets hit on by a co-worker at; and worst of all, the family is on the end of poverty. Without knowing full well what to do, Aidan decides to home-school his kids into being the best that they can be, while at the same time, seeing if he can be there for his dad when he needs him the most, especially during this critical time.

Though I clearly wasn’t in the intended age-group, Garden State still worked like gangbusters and gave me the impression that Zach Braff was capable of doing wonderful things with his career when he wasn’t being goofy, yet lovable J.D. Dorian. That said, Garden State was released nearly ten years ago and it makes you wonder exactly why it took Braff so damn long to get something out in the first place. Sure, people will say it was because no major-studio would back a project of his choosing (hence the infamous KickStarter campaign), but personally, I think it’s because Braff didn’t have much of a story to really work with. Maybe, just maybe, Garden State was all he had to say or do for the movie world, because when it comes right down to it: He’s sort of left treading the same waters.

He still obviously can't get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

He still obviously can’t get over another charmingly beautiful blonde.

Because, in the case of Wish I Was Here, as much as it pains me to say, it seems like Braff just remade Garden State, but this time, set it in Hollywood, get a bigger-budget, and involve less hipster-ish things to be found. Because yes, Braff is almost 40 and with that title comes going through the motions that most adults go through, and that’s what we all call “adulthood”. And it’s a shame to see somebody as lively and as charming as Braff to get older, grow up a bit and have to deal with real issues that most adults have to deal with on a daily-basis, but he’s only human dammit, so I guess it was inescapable.

However, him being older in age and in the brain, doesn’t excuse this film from being a mess; much rather, a mess that doesn’t know what it wants to say. I already made a mention of this being like a sort-of remake of Garden State, but the real fact is that this movie doesn’t have a clue what it wants to do, whereas every move that movie made was clear, inspired and brought the whole piece together. Here, with Wish I Was Here, you can almost see Braff fumbling with this story, what it means, what he’s trying to say, and how we’re all supposed to make sense of it. Which, in all honesty, would have been fine really, had anything in the mess been all that interesting to begin with. But there isn’t anything of that nature.

Seeing Zach Braff in a movie and his wife being Kate Hudson is interesting, I guess, but they’re kind of a traditional-couple that doesn’t quite feel like anything we haven’t seen done before. In a way too, we sort of feel bad for her and have a problem with him, because while he’s off trying to live his dream (aka, sit at home, mope, whine and not do shite with his life), she’s out at work, with people she hates, doing work she downright distastes, and practically supporting the whole family. Hudson’s fine in this role and has more than a couple of scenes where her charm comes out, but her character seems like she’s just a stepping-stool and after awhile, you’ll wonder when she’s going to get fed-up with all of this crap, take the kids and leave Braff’s bum-self.

And that’s not saying Braff is at all bad in this movie – in fact, he’s very much still Zach Braff, if that makes any sense. He’s still quick-witted, smart, charming, a tad goofy, and capable of being serious when he so damn well pleases, but his Aidan Bloom-character just isn’t all that fascinating to begin with in order to have us want to see where his life goes and why. We know that he wants to support his adoring-family, while also maintaining a respectable career as an actor, but sooner or later, it gets to be a bit tiresome to see him constantly try hard and then end up bummed out about life. I get that’s how life works in general, but it’s not something I want to watch for nearly two hours, especially not in this pretentious of a way.

Also, with that being said, the movie does feel like its every bit of two hours, which really does this movie in. And because of its length, more of the movie’s weaker-points begin to show a lot more. For instance, the whole subplot with Bloom’s brother, could be taken out completely and there would be nothing at all wrong with this movie. Not only would it trim some film, but it would also spare us the corny message Braff ends up summing this film on.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Back together, at last. Sadly though, no Turk dance. Dammit.

Basically, by connecting each and everyone of the subplots he has cobbled-up here, Braff lets us know that parenting is hard, and that’s about it. There’s a lot more talk about the Jewish faith, where we go when we all die, some of his thoughts on that, and why family is important, but it never quite builds to anything. All it is is filler for Braff to keep his movie long, over-stacked and as pretentious as he can possibly make it. And yes, I know I sound terrible and all, but seriously, was this really the type of movie us fans donated money towards? Something that just repeats exactly what Braff did nearly ten years ago, except this time, have it include family, and death, and the Jewish faith?

I don’t think so and honestly, if I were Zach Braff, I’d feel a little ashamed in myself. That’s not to say that everything in this movie is terrible; more often than not, the choices Braff makes as a director are as bold as they could come from somebody not being fronted by a major-studio. However, more often than not, Braff falls down with whatever message he’s carrying, and while he does get back up to fight again, and again, and again, you have to wonder when he’s going to just stop, give it up and let us realize that maybe he doesn’t have much left to say at all.

Except that the Shins are a really rad band. Man.

Consensus: While it may be nice to see Zach Braff both in front of, as well as behind the camera after all of this time, Wish I Was Here still can’t help but feel like a disappointing retread of ideas, themes and messages he’s explored before, to a much better result.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

That's all of your money, people. Hope it was all worth it.

“Hey, aren’t you that guy from that show where you played the doctor who was sort of goofy and had all of these day-dreams and it was funny?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

The Conjuring (2013)

JUST LEAVE THE HOUSE!!

During the swingin’ days of 1971, trucker Roger Perron (Ron Livingston), his wife Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their five daughters, all move to a big old Rhode Island house in the country. At first, it feels like a nice escape for the family to start anew, but that’s before things start going creek in the night, the dog doesn’t come in the house, birds fly directly at the house, and the youngest daughter of the five gets an imaginary friend. Once that all begins to happen and turns violent, the Perron’s know that they have no other of where to go except to call in the professionals. Enter mega-serious ghostbusters Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) who stand up to the hard task of defeating this demon and not killing anybody while doing so. However, being in the ghostbusting business for as long as they have does begin to take a toll on even the strongest souls, especially once demons come into play.

Here’s one of those horror flicks that’s been getting some of the biggest buzz I’ve heard in a long, long time. Obviously the teaser scared the shorts off of me because it was so simple, yet at the same time, freaky as hell. And then, the second trailer came in, ruined everything, and had me realize that maybe this was just another generic, horror flick that just so happened to take place during the 70’s, where apparently the Zombies were constantly playing in everybody’s hearts and minds. Felt like a gimmick that could have worked if it had the right creator for it, but James Wan hasn’t done much to really get my interest-meter boosting off the radar so, as usual, I remained cool, calm, collective, and ready to see what this horror flick could do for me, if anything at all.

"Help!!! She just told me that "my mother sucks cocks in hell!!"

“Help!!! She just told me that “my mother sucks cocks in hell!!”

Needless to say, I was scared and I jumped. More than a couple of times actually.

And yes, for a schmuck like me that doesn’t care too much for the horror genre and considers October to be a pretty weak month; that’s saying a hell of a whole lot and it makes me respect Wan as a director more, because the guy has a knack for directing horror here that could really do some damage to people. Seriously, the way he’s able to manipulate the audience into being freaked out just by a single action of somebody opening the door they weren’t supposed to, or losing the only source of light you have in the pitch blackness, really requires a certain skill and trade that I haven’t seen in quite some time, especially within the horror genre. Wan isn’t really re-inventing the wheel with this flick, or even the tricks that he pulls off, but he does show you that you can create something tense and scary, even if it is convention, as long as the inspiration and the sure-will to make something fun and entertaining for all is there.

However, calling a horror movie “fun” and “entertaining”, isn’t necessarily doing it any favors. A horror movie has to be scary, jumpy, and full of terror that makes you sleep with more than just one night-light on. And this is that type of movie, even if you’re a movie-dork like me and can see each and every one coming away. Even then, the movie-dork inside of me sort of began to fall back because I soon realized that this is a horror movie that isn’t trying to do anything new, yet isn’t trying to bore me either. It wants to have me jump and cover my eyes, even if it’s only for a scene or two and with that extra-push from Wan’s direction: it happened. Wan is the type of director I know I have to look out for now, and let’s hope he can single-handedly revive the horror genre into being the wrecking ball it used to be, for both critics and audiences alike.

That said, there’s still a lot that I feel like this guy has to work on and if there’s one aspect I had to choose to talk about the most, it’s the writing. With the oodles of scares and jumps Wan has at his disposal, obviously he can’t be too concerned if the script’s anything memorable or smart for that matter, but with the high-caliber cast he has here, he should have done more. Certain lines come off cheesy; character-development is obvious and practically leaning on the star’s talents to squeeze anything out; and the back-story for the reason why everything is happening is unoriginal, and feels like it was the easiest way out of exploring any type of new ground possible. Once again, I get that the movie isn’t trying to create a new type of horror flick that needs to be seen to be believed, but a little more effort in the writing-department would have made an absolutely huge difference here, even if the regular, everyday movie-goer didn’t notice it.

Critics at least would have been happier and aren’t they worth satisfying?

"What? Did I miss a spot or something?"

“What? Did I miss a spot or something?”

At least Wan’s lucky enough to have assembled such a talented cast such as the one he has here, because they really, REALLY do help this material out, even when it seems to linger towards the most conventional parts that you can see coming and ending a mile away. Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston make for a sympathetic married-couple that obviously seem to love one another, as well as their five daughters, so that when the bad shite does begin to happen to all of them, we at least feel some sort of emotion as it shouldn’t be happening to them. But then we think about it and realize that if it wasn’t happening to them, then we wouldn’t have a movie. So then, we’re happy and are especially glad it wasn’t us that this demon decided to attack.

Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are perfect fits for these two, confident pros who know what they have to do to get their jobs done, as well as how to do it without any casualties or injuries on their hands. There’s just something about Wilson’s demeanor that not only makes him the coolest guy in the room, but also makes him the smartest one too that I could totally trust with my own well-being, had I run into the same situation as these peeps found themselves. Also, there’s something about Farmiga’s look and feel that not only has her seem like the same person as Wilson, but with a little bit more love, care, and feeling added to the mix where we can see that she’s not just doing this for the money or notoriety, but for actually saving people from those a-hole demons. Together, they make for a great married-couple, even if their story together is a bit hokey, and you trust that they will do the right thing, the safest way possible. That is, until they start getting regurgitated on. P-Wilson ain’t dealing with that shite.

Consensus: You won’t be seeing anything new or ground-breaking with the Conjuring, but what you will see is a movie that’s surprisingly scary, will make you jump, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight-up, and most of all, will make you think twice about going down that long, dark hallway to get a glass of water from the tap.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"So, what is it that you mean when you say, "shit here is pretty fucked up?""

“So, what is it that you mean when you say, “shit here is pretty fucked up?””

White House Down (2013)

After this, I think Obama’s going to start hiring more male-strippers for around the office.

While Jeremy (Channing Tatum), an wannabe-Secret Service Agent member, is on a tour of the White House with his daughter (Joey King) in an attempt to win her love and support back, something crazy happens. No, not the fact that the President of the United States (Jamie Foxx) meets with the group and even talks to his daughter, but the actual fact that a bunch of terrorists, lead by a trusted Secret Secret member (James Woods) and a ruthless mercenary (Jason Clarke), have infiltrated the White House and are already making demands. Just about everybody in the White House gets either killed, leaves before shit goes bad, or is taken hostage, with the exception of Jeremy who finds that it’s no better time than to prove himself to the president, his daughter, as well as the rest of the world, than now.

Cue up the overly-dramatic action-score when you can.

First, we had Olympus Has Fallen, which wasn’t as bad as it seemed to look, and now we have this. Oh wait, scratch that! Firstly, we actually had Die Hard, and then these two came. Yeah, that’s about right. See, what it is about these flicks is that it doesn’t matter how much risky business you try to take with your premises, you’re always going to end-up being considered “a re-hash” or “unoriginal”. In this movie’s case, words like that are almost too hard to avoid, especially since Olympus Has Fallen has literally came out less than 4 months ago. That’s not to say that this flick loses points from the get-go for that reason and that reason alone, but it did make me wonder many times throughout the whole flick, “Didn’t I literally just see this?”

"Shit, please tell me they didn't just turn on Step Up 2."

“Shit, please tell me they didn’t just turn on Coach Carter.”

The answer to that hypothetical question is yes, and no. Yes, because the same plot-threads are shown in almost the same order, and no, because this movie is way, way, way, way more ridiculous than that one. Seriously, the idea that the White House would get taken over in the first place is pretty outlandish, but top off of everything else that happens in this movie after the 30-minute mark, then you got yourself bigger problems than you’d ever expect. Oh yeah, it gets silly. Real silly.

The setting-up of the story, the tension, and the suspension of belief is fine because Roland Emmerich knows the type of flick he’s about to hammer our brains with for the next 2 hours, so he probably felt like why waste our time right off the bat. However, once the terrorists invade, shit gets hot, and people start getting killed and taken-hostage, the movie gets insane, and not in the best way either. “Insane” in the type of way that it’s almost so crazy that all of this would happen, the way the movie tells it like happening, is almost too ridiculous and innate to take belief in. Then again, like I said, it is a movie directed by Roland Emmerich, who is not known for being smart, subtle, or even realistic for that matter; the dude just wants to see shit blow-up, by any means possible. Even if that means destroying every audience-member’s IQ level, then so be it.

But that’s what you can expect from Emmerich and when it comes to that aspect of the movie (the guns, the explosions, the mass-killings, etc.), the movie is as fun as you’re going to get for the rest of June and for the next couple of weeks (except for when this hits). People come to see a Roland Emmerich movie, to see a bunch of fun, unadulterated fun that you can’t quite get anywhere else; and if somebody argues against that point, you can definitely say that it’s probably the corniest-movie, you can’t seem to get anywhere else. That might just work because once the plot actually begins to thicken and more and more layers are added-on than you can even count on your plate, the movie becomes as stupid as you are going to expect it to get.

Everything from the convoluted terrorists’ plot, to the jawwing-sessions of the officers in the control offices, is all made out of pure randomness and stupidity, but it’s fun to watch, even if you’re laughing at the material and not with it, like Emmerich probably wants you to believe you can. Almost every character here seems like they have something to prove, whether it be an act of violence or an act of intelligence, and none of it ever rings true. It’s as if Emmerich knew how stale and cardboard these characters were, that he needed to give some of them a chance to strut their stuff, and show what it is that they bring to the table. Sort of like J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies, where everybody gets a chance to shine so you can see why they matter and why you would actually feel some emotion if they have to get killed off in the next couple of minutes or so. However, comparing those two near-masterpieces, to this pile of cow-dung is almost an insult to Mr. Abrams, one that I hope he never sees or hears about.

If you are reading this, J.J., just to let you know: I loved Felicity. Please don’t remove my name from your contacts. Please!

Sweet, sweet America.

Sweet, sweet America.

With that said, it does call into question whether or not these wild cast of characters can actually handle Emmerich’s mostly-laughable material, and for the most part; some fare better than others, which is what we’re used to seeing with this guy’s films. Channing Tatum springs right into full-on, action-hero mode and is a fine fit as Jeremy, even if everything he pulls off throughout the movie (from the running-away from bullets, to the swan-diving into particular areas a normal human-being would practically be crippled after performing) is utterly ridiculous to watch, even when it’s Tatum performing them all. The dude’s got charm and likability, as I’ve always knew, but his character can only go on for so long until you start to realize that he’s just a one-note guy, without much else to him. The chemistry he has with Jamie Foxx is very good and feels real, especially because they seem to love the hell out of each other in real life. It works well in the film, but I feel like more scenes of them just talking, getting to know one another, and realizing how much they’re alike in ways a common-citizen and the president of the United States would never, ever know about beforehand, would have done them both better. Then again, I’m talking about a whole entirely, different flick with a different director and writer.

On the evil side of things, James Woods and Jason Clarke lead the band of baddies that take over the White House in the dumbest way possible, but still make for good villains because you feel their raw-intensity every time they’re on-screen. It’s probably cliche to even have Woods in a villainous-role, but the guy handles it well and with pride, whereas Clarke feels like he should have just had the whole movie to himself, mostly because he owns it as the main baddie, aka, the one that can actually kick-ass if he’s called on to do so. Starting with Lawless from last summer, to now, Clarke has really been showing his taste for versatility and it makes me wonder what else the guy’s got cooking up for him. I mean hell, when you can “out-evil” James Woods, the king of baddies, then you know you got promise, even in a schlock-fest like this.

Consensus: As over-the-top, stupid, random, insane, and idiotic as White House Down truly is at it’s core, it’s still the type of fun and crazy movie you can expect from a director like Roland Emmerich, even if his cast from the outside looking in, seems to hold so much more promise for the material.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"I'm going to find that bastard who stole my wad of $ bills, even if it's the last thing I do!"

“I’m going to find that bastard who stole my wad of dollar bills, even if it’s the last thing I do!”

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)

No midgets hung themselves during the filming of this movie.

James Franco stars as Oscar, a small-time circus magician who is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz. There, he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone’s been expecting. Oscar must put his magical arts to use through illusion, through a bit of wizardry slowly transforming himself into the great and powerful Wizard of Oz he was destined to be after all.

Alright, let’s face it: we weren’t awaiting for a whole new-look at Oz, and hell, we weren’t even anticipating this movie; but dammit, it feels so good to be back. The first couple of previews for this movie made it seem as if it was just another, CGI-filled trip that was more like the recent Alice in Wonderland-debacle, than anywhere near a genuine piece of cinema, but thankfully, that’s where Sam Raimi comes in, and thank the movie heavens for him. However, anybody expecting a Drag Me to Hell or Evil Dead Raimi, are going to be surely disappointed. This is Raimi at his most kiddie-ish, and whether or not you are down for that; is most likely going to affect your whole feeling on this movie.

For me, I didn’t mind that Raimi was gunning for the kids/families, because it’s Oz, and I highly doubt people would want to go see Oz hanging out with Ash, and going around and sawwing-off zombies with a chainsaw instead of a limb. Like Bryan Singer pulled that last week, it may lose some respect from the people that love and praise you the most, but in this world and in this business: you can’t please everybody. Thankfully, the man pleased me and that was more than enough. Okay, I just realized that came out wrong but you get what I’m saying.

"Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place."

“Dammit. I knew I should have just kept the snake in the cage until I left this place.”

What I liked so much about Raimi’s direction is that no matter what the problem may be with this story, with these characters, or with the ideas, the movie is always stunning to view. I got the humble chance to see this in 3-D (with some fancy schmancy glasses, thank you for that, Allied) and it was breath-taking because you can totally tell that whoever designed this movie, did it with love and with a great attention to detail. Throughout the whole 2 hours and some-odd minutes, you really do feel as if you are right there, stuck in this world of Oz there with all of these wondrous, and crazy characters, whether they be creatures, flying monkeys, witches, magicians, or people pretending to be magicians, and it was a place that I was happy to be in. Even when the start-off with the strange ratio in the old-school, black-and-white look, it was still beautiful and felt more than just a mindless gimmick.

I don’t know if that was because of the look, the feel, the characters, or what, but what I do know is that this movie is beautiful and you can totally tell that Raimi and company really put a lot of effort into the look of this film, and to make it work. It isn’t just pretty to take your eyes off of what’s supposed to be a plot, but it’s there to ease your eyes and have you go, “Woah. Ooh. Aaah.” Whether or not you’re the person who likes the shell-out a couple of extra bucks for 3-D, I’d say go for it, but don’t come complaining to me if you can handle that extra-dimension. It’s what it promises on the package, baby.

But it’s not like this movie is only good for the visuals, the story itself is pretty cool too. As a kid, I loved the hell out of the Wizard of Oz and always wondered what it was like before Dorothy and Toto came-around and shook things up a bit. I finally got that view, and Raimi provides a nice world that is easy to get used to, even if some of it does seem a bit like filler. But filler is fine with me as long as it’s fun, entertaining, and enjoyable while it lasts, and that’s something I have to give a lot of credit to Raimi for: he brought me back to this world and gave me a good time. Come to think about it, isn’t that what going to the movies are all about? Being transported into a different world where all of your wildest and craziest imaginations could, and just might come true? I think that’s what the social-act of “going to the movies” is all about, and what makes it better is that this time, the world you are transported to, just so happens to be Oz. Oh yeah.

What surprised me the most about this movie is how strong and fun it started-off. I felt as if there was a real sense of joy and display of entertainment to be entertained-by, but somehow, the film loses it’s way and found myself actually losing interest the story. Yeah, I can’t explain it and if I do, I’ll just end up running into spoiler-territory but something was just not working for me. It almost felt as if the movie had all of these intentions to get our minds, right off the bat, and then stopped caring much about the story as it continued to trug-along and that’s where I found myself forgetting what was going on, why characters were doing certain things, and just what were all of these crazy witches jabbering on about.

Maybe a film like this that takes place in Oz and is only meant for kids, isn’t really something that’s worth to be all that thought-about and studied as if it was my Junior Year research paper (still haven’t gotten my grade for that either), but to me, that shows a problem. A problem not just with the story or the screenplay, but with the direction and how Raimi begins to lose a bit of focus. Instead of making this movie just one, joyous adventure after another, the movie continues to pile on, more and more explanation and exposition to the story, when in reality, all we needed to know was: witches are evil, Oz is good, people need saving, and that’s why he is there. That’s all we needed, but the movie continues to ramble on with random shite that makes no sense and doesn’t need to when you have a movie that takes place in Oz. Just give me fun, delight, happiness, jokes, witches, magicians, flying monkeys, and dwarves. That’s it. Nothing more and sure as hell, nothing less.

"Hotness! Be summoned!

“Hotness! Be summoned!

Other than the fact that the movie adds a bit more than it should have, what has really surprised me the most about this movie is how it’s already being received. And by “being received”, I mean James Franco and his performance as Oz. Personally, I think the guy nailed what it was like to be a big, old cheap-o of a magician that doesn’t have a care in the world, is selfish, egotistical, a womanizer, and a bit of a d-bag. I thought, if anything, Franco nailed that aspect of that character down like-pat and really made me believe that such a schlub of a guy like Oz, could actually turn his life around and be the grand wizard all of these people expect him to be. Yes, the already-wanted Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp would have been a lot better for this role, but with Franco, he gives it his all and if anything, deserves some praise and kudos for going balls-deep in this role and not coming off like a member of the Dull Party, like he usually comes off as. Even though you may not hear this from many others, James, I just would like to say: good job and keep-up the good work. Don’t let them haters get yo ass down. Holla.

The supporting cast around him, also do fine jobs, even if some are better than others, which shows as well. Rachel Weisz, Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams play the three witches of Oz, who all do fine, except for the gal who plays the Wicked Witch. Even though Disney themselves already shot-themselves in the foot with this one and spoiled who the actual witch was, I refuse to give it away and say who. But, the person that they do end-up with seems a bit miscast, almost as if she put way, way too much emphasis on the yelling and cackling. The story as to why that chick becomes the Wicked Witch, is pretty interesting (Oz is a pimp daddy, fo sho), but the development of that certain character and how she acts so pissed was a tad annoying and made me just want to shoe her away. Maybe that was the point after all, but I was more annoyed of the chick, than scared. Unlike when I was a kid and nearly pissed my Spider-Man pj’s every time THAT Wicked Witch came around. God, she was a scary woman.

It was also nice to see Zach Braff back in action as Finley, Oz’s trusty side-kick who also happens to be a talking-monkey, since the guy hasn’t been around much. Also, I’m a huge fan of Scrubs so whatever the guy had to say, in whatever which way, always had me howling at the moon. Oh, and yes, for all of you die-hard Raimi fans out there, Bruce Campbell does show his wonderful-self in this movie, but it’s in a role that may surprise you, but more because you did not even know it was him and was such a small-role for the guy. Granted, a Bruce Campbell cameo is better than no Bruce Campbell cameo, but at least it could have been more epic and cool, considering I was waiting for him the whole time. Disappointment, disappointment.

Consensus: Though Raimi bites-off a bit more than he could ever possibly chew with some of this classic-material, Oz the Great and Powerful is still a fun, beautiful, and enjoyable trip back to the world we all loved when were kids, and will feel even happier to pass it on down to the next-generation of go-getters who still have no idea what tapping your ruby slippers are all about. Silly Y-Generation children.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Hey, I know they're sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck?

Hey, I know they’re sissies and all, but would it be so wrong to just ask for a tiny peck? I’ll cover the kid’s eyes…?

Reign Over Me (2007)

At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.

Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.

9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.

I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.

Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ’em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.

However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.

Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.

The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.

However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.

However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.

Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.

6/10=Rental!!

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

OK Batty, you had your fun, you had your box-office records, and you had your hype. Now, it’s time to get the hell out of here!

It’s been 8 years since Harvey Dent was killed by Batman and Gotham City is pretty much going to hell. It’s turning for the worse, there’s no central peace or order to be found, and Bane (Tom Hardy), has a huge gang of thugs basically taking over the city. However, little does he know that there’s a certain someone who’s always there to stop evil at once: Batman (Christian Bale).

Honestly, who the hell has not been waiting for this freakin’ movie!?! Ever since The Dark Knight came, stayed for a long-ass time, and went back in 2008, people have been waiting day-after-day just to see what Nolan was going to pull off for his last hurrah. Thankfully, this is his last hurrah, and what a perfect hurrah it is.

Director Christopher Nolan proves, once again, why he is in-fact one of the greatest story-tellers working in film today. I know the same exact thing in The Dark Knight review, but this guy really proves that he has some insane skill with this flick because from start-to-finish, I was basically on-the-edge of my seat, wondering what the hell he was going to do with this story, these characters, and everything else in between. I’ve never been a huge comic-book fan and to be honest I’ve never really read much of Batman comics, but from what I see here, this guy takes the story of Batman that we all know and love, gives it a dark edge, and makes you feel like it can and will go anywhere he wants it to. There were certain parts of this flick where I really felt like some major characters were in danger of being killed off right away and even though that danger comes and goes, much like normal superhero movies, you still feel like the danger is not over. Just when you think that things are going to get better for these characters and Gotham City itself, it doesn’t and throughout the whole film, I was constantly thinking who will I be seeing for the last time and who will I be seeing again to fight the baddies. Sounds lame, I know, but this story really feels like it will go somewhere where no other superhero film has ever dared to do so far before, and sometimes it does, but it’s all I could ask for in an entertaining, superhero movie. A lot of this story harks back to Batman Begins, so be ready for that, but this is it’s own story, through and through.

Nolan is a daring film-maker, well all know and love that, but it’s not just because of how epic and twisty the story can be, it’s all because of what that guy brings to the table that makes this film all of the more enjoyable. There’s a certain type of suspense in this film the whole time that not only made me feel the energy going throughout my veins, but kept my eyes locked on the screen at all times. Every single action scene feels like it’s going to be even better than the last one, which they usually are, but there’s just something so much more epic about the action scenes here that made me want to get up and join in the action, whatever that may have been at the time. You can just feel the energy of this movie escalating into something bigger and bigger as the run-time goes on, and once it gets to that breaking-point, all hell breaks loose and there’s just so much action and excitement going on that you cannot help but feel it come off the screen as well. But, however, as good as a lot of this action may be, it’s still feels very epic and I think a lot of that has to do with Mr. Nolan and what he does behind-the-camera.

This is definitely one of those films to see in IMAX, even though it’s not always shot in that format the whole way through. The shots Nolan grabs here are great, whether it’s these sweeping action set-pieces or just beautiful over-head shots of Gotham City, either way, the IMAX looks great and if you do pay extra for that ticket, you will not be disappointed with what you see, or hear. The sound is just so loud and clear, that whenever an action scene happens, you can almost hear and feel the hits with the loud-ass booms of the speakers, and it gets even better with the score that Hans Zimmer has made up here. As soon as you hear it come up, it hits you and you can just feel like shit is about to go down, one way or another, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it definitely freakin’ does! Didn’t make much sense, but I don’t care! I know I don’t mention scores a lot, but with a film like this, you need an epic score just to give you the feeling of how epic this film truly is. Yeah, I know I said the word “epic” again, but it’s the truth, everything from the score, to the cinematography, to the story, to the action, makes it that from beginning to end. Yeah, there may have been a couple of problems with it’s story here and there, but I was able to let that all go by me and realize that this story just totally grabbed me and never let go. And thank the lord for that.

For every single person who has ever talked ish on Christian Bale and what he does with Batman and that “growl” of his (trust me I’m one of them), be ready to feel ultra sad knowing that this will probably be the last time you ever see this guy do that ever again and what a way to go out with it. This is probably the best performance Bale has given as Wayne out of the whole trilogy because he brings out that warrior-like darkness that arose in him from the second flick, but also goes back to when he was just learning the ways of his anger from the first one, as well. It’s a pretty cool mish-mash of character ideas going on with him in this flick and Bale handles it perfectly, just like I expected him to.

After having such an iconic villain like The Joker, played by the late, great Heath Ledger, it feels very obvious that Nolan would try his hardest to make Bane out, almost the same exact way, if not more, but he doesn’t go down that route which I liked. Bane seems like a strange choice of a villain to be in this dark trilogy, but he’s given a lot more development here that gives him a pretty bad-ass origin story to start off with, a bunch of intellectual skills that match his fighting skills, and a pretty intimidating physique, courtesy of rising-star Tom Hardy. Hardy is great with this role and proves to be more intimidating and dangerous than The Joker in more ways than I expected because whenever he’s on-screen, you can just feel that tension whenever he is, but when he isn’t, you can still feel it as if he’s just planning what he’s going to do next in the background somewhere. There’s this great use of his eyes that Hardy uses to convey all of these evil and mean thoughts that are going through his head, and you almost feel happy that you don’t see what else is going with his face. Definitely a great threat for Batty, and another reason why Nolan should have been trusted with this character from the first place. Oh yeah, and that “voice” of his? Easy to understand most of the times, other times, you can’t really hear it fully, but you pretty much get the gist of what he’s talking about. Evil shit, and that’s all you need to know.

Another big worry that people had with this film’s cast of characters was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. It’s not that people didn’t trust Hathaway and her skills as an actress, it’s more or less that fans didn’t know what to expect from this character that seemed so weak whenever she was adapted onto film the other times, but somehow, they pull it off perfectly here, mostly Hathaway. Right from the get-go when you see this girl, she is just bad-ass, smart, witty, sly, evil, and sexy, but you never know what’s on her mind, what she’s going to do next, or who’s side she was going to end up being on in the end of it all. That mystery about her, made her character so much more awesome and bad-ass than anybody ever expected and she totally seems like the type of chick-character that could hold her own with the best of them. Don’t hold me to this, but I sort of do see an Oscar nomination for Hathaway here, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t surprised, either. Just one of those things I could see happening in the future, and with good reason, too.

As for everybody else in this flick, they’re all pretty good, too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, aka the effin’ man, does a great job with a character that comes out of nowhere, we know nothing about, and just seems like one of those cookie-cutting good guys that every superhero story needs. However, JGL makes this character so much more bad-ass than anybody, even myself, first thought and he makes a great supporting character that you know you can trust every time he shows up on-screen. JGL is getting bigger and bigger with each and every role he takes, and it’s not for long until this guy finally nabs an Oscar. Maybe even two, hell, maybe even three! I don’t know! The sky is the freakin’ limit with this dude! Marion Cotillard is also new to this story as Miranda Tate, and does a splendid job, as usual, even if her character does seem a little bit forced with the hum-hum romance between her and Bruce Wayne, but it’s easily forgivable since she’s so good in everything she does. As with out returning veterans of the series, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, they all do their parts and show why exactly their characters have stayed so strong throughout the whole time of these movies.

I know that throughout this whole review, I kept mentioning and bringing up the word “epic”, but if I had to sum this flick up in one word, it would be exactly just that: epic. You can just feel like this film is going to culminate into something big, something extravagant, and overall, something that will stay in your mind forever because of what Nolan has done with this series, and does with this goodbye to the series and stories that he has made so damn popular once again. Now that he’s done with these flicks, Nolan will go off and do the film he’s always been wanting to do and probably kick as much ass with them as he has with these three, but I will never forget this amazing trilogy and as sad as it may be to see the last time for all of these characters happen right in front of our eyes, I know that I had a great time with all three flicks and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m getting a little teary-eyed here right now just writing this and when you see this flick, trust me, you won’t be able to blame me. Thank you Christopher Nolan. You truly can do no wrong.

Consensus: Though it may be very long, The Dark Knight Rises delivers on every spectrum: acting, writing, directing, cinematography, score, etc. It’s exactly what you could want in a summer blockbuster, and superhero movie, but it’s also exactly what you could want in a film that’s saying “adios” to all of its characters that it’s introduced to us for the past 7 years and it’s a legacy that I won’t forget. That’s for damn sure.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!