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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: John Goodman

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

If it’s not on Google Maps, chances are, you should stay away from it.

It’s 1973, the Vietnam War is close to an end, and Bill Randa (John Goodman) a senior official in a super secret government organization known as Monarch, finally sees his opportunity to capitalize on achieving one of his biggest missions yet: Going to the mysterious Skull Island and figuring out what sort of threat is out there. After much arm-twisting, the government finally gives Randa the tools and resources he needs to get there, which means that he gets the army, the weapons, as well as the experts to help guide him along on this possibly dangerous island. One person Randa seeks out and pays to help him is world-renowned traveler James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), who doesn’t know what’s there on Skull Island, either, but doesn’t like the sounds of it, which is why he demands for his pay to be doubled. Meanwhile, on the mission, is anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson), who can’t wait to see what’s out there, and Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of the Army who isn’t too happy about what happened with the war and isn’t ready to let that go. Not even a gigantic, monstrous and incredibly violent ape known as Kong.

Kong best look out.

Kong: Skull Island is so entertaining, so quick, so visually impressive, and so fun that, even with all of its flaws, I’m willing and absolutely able to just let bygones be bygones and praise the film as it is. Because even though the script is silly, underwritten, and not at all up to the task of aiding and abetting this talented ensemble, the direction from Jordan Vogt-Roberts is so thrilling, it’s hard to care so much. After all, do you really go to a King Kong movie for the well-written, three-dimensional, and emotionally complex characters? Or, do you go to a King Kong movie for the vividly gigantic monsters beating the absolute hell out of one another and terrorizing any human that tries to stand in their ways?

Honestly, it’s not bad to have a little bit of both, but fine, Kong: Skull Island wants to stick with the later, so whatever.

Either way, Kong: Skull Island is still a very fun movie and a lot of that is credited to Vogt-Roberts because he takes what could have been a very soulless, almost boring job of rebooting the tale of Kong and instead, adds some life, flair (literally), and energy into it. One of the most notable and interesting aspects Vogt-Roberts adds here is that Kong: Skull Island is, on one hand, a monster movie, in which people run away and try to kill a monster, but on the other hand, it’s also a Vietnam War movie, in which some cold cut rock classics from the early-70’s blasts out from the speakers, everyone’s a little scared and paranoid, and yeah, the temperature is hot, sweaty and downright miserable. In a way, Vogt-Roberts wants to make the Apocalypse Now of monster movies and while he doesn’t quite reach those heights, he still shows us all something new and original can be done with the monster movie.

And because of this, there’s an energy to Skull Island that’s hard to resist and shove-off. Even though it’s absolutely clear from the get-go that the script is going to be shoddy, silly and downright stupid, there’s just something about the look and feel of this all that’s easy to ride along with and enjoy. Even those who want to see Kong in all of his finest form, will be pleased to know that he’s seen a whole bunch throughout and doing all the sorts of things that you’d expect him to do in a movie involving him; there’s smashing, crunching, chewing, roaring, pounding, beating, breaking, punching, kicking, throwing, eating, and oh yeah, crying. Kind of.

But not from these fools.

Regardless, those who complained about 2014 Godzilla not having enough of said title character, then sit down, shut up and feast your eyes on the creature that you’ve all been so desperately wanting to see.

That said though, like I’ve said before, the script is just, uhm, how should I say this? Lame. But it’s not terrible in that it’s hard to listen to, ruins the movie, and sucks all of the fun out of it; it’s more that it feels like a leftover script from the 90’s, right around the time Jurassic Park came out and all of a sudden, everyone wanted to make a big-budget, effects-heavy monster movie. Meaning, there’s a lot of cheesy one-liners; a lot of characters who have basically one personality-trait to them and it basically defines them; a lot of contrivances; a lot of scenes that need more explaining; and oh yeah, a lot of random bits of silliness that seem to literally come from out of nowhere.

And it’s weird, too, because the cast here is so well-done and impressive, that it’s a bit of a shame. No one’s bad here, honestly, but because the net has been cast so far and wide, no one true performance really gets to shine above the rest. The only ones I can truly think of doing this are probably John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s just because they get maybe two or three more sentences than the rest of the cast to explain themselves and allow us to get to know them a tad bit better. Others like Hiddleston, Larson, Goodman, Whigham, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Toby Kebbell, John Ortiz, and an oddly miscast Thomas Mann, all fall by the waist side and it’s a sign that the movie may have cast a smaller net, or have been longer.

Still though, for a movie that clocks in just under two hours, it makes for a good time. Just don’t try and think too hard, like me.

Basically, don’t be me.

Consensus: Even with an awfully wacky script, Kong: Skull Island gets by solely on the pure energy and fun from its direction, as well as an interesting take on the monster movie genre itself.

7 / 10

Oh wait. Never mind. He can’t be stopped.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Patriots Day (2016)

We could be heroes, just for a few solid hours.

It’s Monday, April 15, 2013 in Boston and man oh man, what a lovely day. The Boston Marathon is set to happen, with tons and tons of people all involved and excited to run for a good cause. But of course, things don’t go down this way. In the final stretch of the run, bombs start going off, injuring and killing some. This leads the Boston Police Department, as well as the FBI to get involved as best as they can. Eventually, they find out who is responsible and limit their search to two people: Brothers Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff). Of course, it’s now up to everyone to get together, stand strong and find these guys before they cause even more damage to the city of Boston and put an even greater shadow over what was supposed to be a very lovely, carefree day.

The term “too soon” is normally used with a negative connotation and well, there’s good reason behind it. People, the fragile beings that we are, find it hard to connect or accept tragedy or heartbreak, that talking about it immediately or even a little time after, seems to be too much to handle; nobody can really talk about something sad, because well, that just brings on more sadness. I point this out, not to just ramble on and on for no reason, but to point out why a movie like Patriots Day, while immediate, exciting, tense, and well-done, also feels like it may have been done way too soon.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin'.

Marky Mahk thinks he hears something fizzlin’.

But not in the way you’d expect.

When United 93 came out over a decade ago, it was four years and a few months after the events of 9/11, and considering how emotionally jarring that movie was, it makes sense that people would get up in arms, wondering whether or not this tale needed to be told, so suddenly, so soon, and so in-our-faces. After all, we as a nation still have yet to get over 9/11, 15 years after the fact, so you could only imagine how those in the mid-aughts must have felt when they saw a documentary-like film based on one of the hijacked planes. That said, director Peter Berg approaches the Boston Marathon Bombings with the same sort of tenacity; it’s the kind of movie that takes awhile to get going, but is setting up so many pieces of the story, that just watching and seeing how they connect in the long run is really interesting.

And then the movie does get going and eventually, it becomes something along the lines of a typical action-thriller, except with very real-life circumstances. Just like he showed with Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, Berg has a knack for telling these fact-based stories where we probably know the ending and certain details, but there’s still a thrill and a certain energy behind it that’s hard not to get compelled by. Even when it seems like he’s manipulating certain elements of the story a bit, there’s still a feeling that Berg is giving it all that he’s got to make us feel as if we are there, while the action is all happening, trying our own hardest to put together this sometimes convoluted and crazy pie.

But then again, there’s that issue of being “too soon” and I think that’s where Patriots Day really runs into problems.

For one, it’s been a little over three years since the attack, meaning, that a lot of old wounds still have yet to heal. Due to that, it seems like there’s not enough appropriate room, space, or time to really think about the hard, thought-provoking questions that need to be asked in order for us, a society, to gather a better understanding of what happened. Sure, Berg does a nice job of sticking straight to the facts and giving us what is, essentially, a play-by-play analysis of what’s happenin’ and shakin’, but for a movie such as this to really resonate and hit hard, it also needs to be more than just that.

At its heart, Patriots Day is definitely a tribute to those who lost their lives and those who worked day and night on that one, fateful afternoon, and there’s nothing wrong with that – these are all stories that deserve to be told and given the type of treatment that Berg is more than happy to give them. At the same time though, there’s not enough introspection that makes us think longer and harder about this event – it’s just sort of the standard, bad guys did something bad, now good guys must go and find them. It is, for lack of a better term, a procedural.

An entertaining one at that, but still, a procedural.

"I told ya, it was paked down by da riva."

“I told ya, it was paked down by da riva.”

The bits and pieces of the movie where it seems like Berg really wants to dive in further to this event, is through the portrayals of both Tamerlan And Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Surprisingly, the movie does go the extra mile to try and develop them, show them for what they were, and most importantly, give us a better look into what the hell was going through their heads, which is admirable, on the part of Berg’s. He’s telling the whole story for what it is and considering that a good portion of what happens can only happen from their point-of-view, it makes sense that we get some time spent with them and try whatever we can to understand them for their actions. The movie doesn’t hold back on showing us their terrible actions, but it also doesn’t shy away from showing that, well, they were human beings. As troubled and as ill-conceived as they may be, they are still human beings and sometimes, it’s interesting to see their side of the story, regardless of whether or not you sympathize with them or what they did.

Which is interesting here, because while the movie boasts a big, starry and shiny cast with the likes of Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Rachel Brosnahan, and plenty others, really, the movie’s more concerned with Themo Melikidze and Alex Wolff’s portrayals of the brothers. It shows that Berg was at least trying to go somewhere more interesting with this material, but of course, also realized who he was doing this movie for and didn’t want to offend anyone. There’s nothing wrong with that, either, however, it does leave that feeling of wondering maybe it was too soon and maybe something else will come down the pipeline.

Like, I don’t know, say a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Malsany?

Oh, well there we go.

Consensus: Compelling, thrilling and well-paced, Patriots Day works as an exciting take on the events, as well as a nice tribute to those who lost their lives and responded quickly, even if there’s still some material left to be covered.

7.5 / 10

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Marky Mak is da best cop awound dese paks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Bee Movie (2007)

Not the bees, indeed.

Now that he’s fresh out of college, Barry the Bee (Jerry Seinfeld) can finally spend the rest of his life doing what he’s always been wanting to do: Work. However, Barry doesn’t quite know what he wants to do just yet, or better yet, knows that he doesn’t want to work with honey. So, he decides to take a brief stroll out into the real world and realizes that there’s something incredibly wild and magical about this outside. He also gets to meet a human lady named Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), who he not only strikes up a friendship with, but continues to learn more and more about the world outside of the beehive. Eventually, this has Barry thinking less and less about the life and career he lives inside the hive, and more about the one outside of it, where he can do whatever he wants and not have to worry about certain ideas that society mandates. That is, until he realizes that the outside world isn’t all that it’s made out to be, either.

"Get back in, ya bee! Get it? Cause we're all bees when you think about it, bro!"

“Get back in, ya bee! Get it? Cause we’re all bees when you think about it, bro!”

For some inexplicable reason, Bee Movie is currently having a moment. Why? Who started it? And when will it end? Well, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions – what I do know is that all of this attention is being placed on a nearly decade-old movie that, quite frankly, was never something to really talk or get all crazy about in the first place.

In a way, it’s odd watching Bee Movie now, in 2016, knowing full well how far and advanced animation has come. Sure, 2007 may not have had nearly as many of the technological advances that we do now, but still, Bee Movie, even in the clearest, brightest and prettiest HD imaginable, still looks kind of murky. The bee characters don’t have much to them, except maybe one physical difference, the humans all look dull and dead in the eyes, and when the movie is adventuring into the great big world that we call Earth, you can tell that a lot of the budget went to certain shapes and figures, and not to the rest of the image.

Still, that’s all silly technical stuff that doesn’t quite matter.

What does matter, and what mostly every meme has been pointing out, is that Bee Movie is a pretty ridiculous movie, but not like the kind we’re used to seeing with animated flicks. With most animated flicks, like how Bee Movie starts out initially, is that they take us to this fantastical, weird and unbelievable world, where inanimate objects speak, have thoughts, feelings and can do things, like you or I, except, maybe, yeah, in their own way. At first, this is exactly what Bee Movie seems to be, but eventually, it turns the other cheek and doesn’t know what it wants to say or do.

In fact, it all changes when we’re introduced to Zellweger’s Vanessa, who is perhaps the dumbest human character in an animated flick to-date. It’s odd that she can not only talk to bees, or other inanimate objects, but how, despite the movie trying to make as many jokes as possible, is still totally cool and normal with it. I wouldn’t mind this in an animated flick, but there does come some idea that the movie has to not only explain itself, but even make sense of it all; to even say that “there’s a force in the air”, or some silly mumbo jumbo like that, honestly, is fine with me. All I need is an explanation and I won’t complain.

Corporations, man.

Corporations, man.

However, Bee Movie doesn’t give that.

Instead, it just takes what could have been a very simple, easy and relatively fun premise of a bee seeing the outside world for what it is, a la, A Bug’s Life or Antz, but instead, drives for something more ambitious. Is it an admirable effort on the writers and directors behalves? Sure, but does it pay-off? Not really.

Once the movie starts getting into a honey-producing corporation headed by Ray Liotta and takes us to court, the movie gets all too wild and insane to really keep up with. This isn’t to say that the jokes aren’t good, because they mostly can be, however, that’s when the movie itself isn’t enamored with finding every bee pun that they can find. It gets annoying after awhile and almost feels like a bunch of 12-year-olds just discovering what comedy is and constantly trying to one-up one another.

It’s nice to hear the voices of Jerry Seinfeld, Matthew Broderick, Patrick Warburton, Chris Rock, and others, but they all feel oddly-placed. Seinfeld and Broderick are both voicing characters who are, essentially, 21-year-old dudes, and don’t sound a single thing like it, Warburton is, as usual, hilarious and the most understandable character out of the bunch, Rock is in it for maybe five minutes, makes us laugh our pants off, then leaves for good, John Goodman shows up at the end as born-and-bred lawyer from Missippi and I probably would have paid to see his face while uttering some of these lines in the voice that he uses, and Zellweger, as mentioned before, feels awkward. Her character not only looks it, but even Zellweger’s line delivery still feels like she’s maybe not in on the joke, or simply, understands it and is not a fan of it in the first place.

Why she or anyone else signed-up is beyond me. But hey, at least the movie made some money, was for the kids and continues to live on in the internet-age.

So, who knows? Maybe everyone’s a winner.

Consensus: With an awkward premise, Bee Movie seems like it could have been a lot funnier and interesting, had it tightened-up its writing and gotten rid of all the inane bee jokes.

5 / 10

"Yeah, at least we're getting paid."

“Yeah, at least we’re getting paid.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Beyond the Sea (2004)

Yup. Still can’t get that song out of my head.

Despite being told that he would not live past 15 years of age due to a heart condition, Bobby Darin (Kevin Spacey) set out to leave his mark on show business, vowing to be a legend by 25. That is exactly what he did, and this is his story.

Is Bobby Darin a legend? Better yet, does there deserve to be a two-hour biopic made about him? To answer both questions, probably not. But that still doesn’t stop celebrities like Kevin Spacey from making movies about him, even if, at the end of the day, people will wonder, “why?”And yes, as is the case with most passion projects, Beyond the Sea feels like the kind of movie that probably didn’t need to made, but because it’s done by smart, dependable people, it’s not so bad.

I hope he sings that song about the sea!

I hope he sings that song about the sea!

Just a tad unnecessary, is all.

As writer/director/producer/star, Spacey has a lot to do and it’s surprising just how much effort he put into the way this thing moves. In a way, he wants to make a musical out of this flick, what with a bunch of wacky, wild, and fun dance-numbers taking place seemingly out of nowhere, but he also wants to make a warts-and-all biopic about this troubled celebrity’s life. Is it uneven? Yes. Is it messy? You betcha. But is it boring? Nope. Not really.

And honestly, that’s good enough for me, especially considering that mostly all musical biopics can be downright dull, regardless of whether or not you know the subject the movie is made about. But even so, there’s some glaring issues with the film, that seem to come directly from Spacey himself, in that he doesn’t always nail down the right tone. One of the best examples is a fight that Darin and his wife have, which plays out like a scene in a dark comedy, but ends up being very serious and mean with both of them ending up in tears. It’s a funny scene, that goes to being very strange and shows you that Spacey may have not had the right touch for certain scenes. Even when all of the dark drama does eventually come into the story, it somewhat bogs everything down and doesn’t even really seem interesting.

But if there’s the biggest issue with Spacey’s direction, it’s that, when all is said and done, we never really find out much about Darin himself. Sure, we know the guy has a heart problem, yes, we know the guy wants to be bigger than Sinatra, but what else is there? Occasionally, they’ll bring up the whole fact that he was apparently arrogant in real-life, but that rarely ever comes up or even shows. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any flaws of his pointed out throughout this film once. This isn’t me assuming that Darin was the devil in real life, but he sure as hell wasn’t no latter-day saint, either. Maybe because this was Spacey’s own way of paying tribute to a singer/songwriter he immortalized as a kid, but if you’re going to do a biopic, you might as well do it the right way and allow us to see the full picture.

I agree. What about John?

I agree. What about John?

After all, the more shades you show of a character, the more the audience is able to care for them when they, as Darin does, die.

As for Darin, he was only 37 when he died, so some people may be a bit thrown-off when they see Spacey, who was 44-years old at the time, playing a guy in his teens with tons and tons of prosthetic make-up. It’s goofy and sometimes distracting, but you know what? Spacey is somehow able to make it work by being as charismatic as he can be. Spacey has quite the knack for these darker roles where you just don’t like him, but at the same time, love that aspect about him. Here, you get to actually see him lighten-up some and let loose with a real life figure that seemed to go throughout life in such a frantic movement, that it’s hard not to enjoy and watch. Many will also be impressed that all of the songs are sung by Spacey himself, and the guy shows that he has the chops to not only direct, write, and star in his own movie, but the guy can freakin’ belt it out like no other as well.

Spacey’s got it all going for himself and watching him is worth the watch alone.

And yeah, others like Bob Hoskins, John Goodman, Sandra Dee, and Kate Bosworth all show up and give a little, but really, it’s Spacey’s show through and through. They know that, he knows that, everyone knows that. It’s a shame that it wasn’t more of Darin’s show, but honestly, did we need anything more than what we got? Or, can we assume that his life was the same as any other celebrity’s?

Who knows? Maybe there’s another Bobby Darin biopic out there looming on the horizon.

Consensus: Spacey does what he can to tool around the biopic narrative, allowing for Beyond the Sea to be a bit more interesting than the usual fare, but also seems to short Bobby Darin himself in not getting deep down to the root of who the person actually was.

6 / 10

Oh, that young whippersnapper. And Kevin Spacey.

Oh, that young whippersnapper. And Kevin Spacey.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger Ebert.com, IMDB, Movie-Roulette

Storytelling (2001)

Read me a story, daddy. Especially ones filled with rape, racism, and teenage angst.

Two different stories that never connect, are told to us through the parts known as “Fiction” and “Non-fiction”. “Fiction” is the story of a young college student (Selma Blair) who gets her emotions all wrapped up in a bunch when her boyfriend (Leo Fitzpatrick) breaks up with her, leading her to fall into the arms of her cocky, but charming professor (Robert Wisdom). “Non-fiction” is the story of a middle-aged, failing documentarian (Paul Giamatti) who gets inspired to make a movie, following a young, confused teenager (Mark Webber) and the rest of his dysfunctional family, that just so happens to have a lot more going on between them than meets the eyes.

Is it too wrong to say that she had it coming to her?

That blonde hair will drive any man wild

Todd Solondz movies are of required-taste and if you can get through them without batting an eye or feeling awkward, then good for you. For me, I still can’t help but feel like this guy is just messing with me, to mess with me. And I hate to say it, but it works well, even though I feel as if I’ve seen and heard it all by now. But still, he continues to push the envelope, even if that aspect of his directing makes him of a provocateur, and not a film maker.

Hell, even in this movie, he makes fun of what people have had to say about him in the past. They call him “shocking for the sake of being shocking”, “racist”, “a bigot”, and even go so far as to be called the dreaded “P-word”: “pretentious”. For a film maker like Solondz to take all of that criticism in stride, really does deserve some credit because he not only throws it right back in those hater’s faces, but even shows them why they may be right as well.

That said, this is where the movie hits its slippery-slope in the way.

The idea of having two, separate stories told in one movie definitely makes it feel like we’re going to get double the trouble with what Solondz has to offer, which is true, but not in the smart, sly way he’s done it before. Instead, all of the dirty stuff that happens here, feels deliberate, as if Solondz himself is trying really, really hard to get a reaction out of us, simply because the material he’s working with doesn’t have that much steam to pile on through. Both stories seem interesting on their own, and even the points he brings up go along with them as well, but it just feels like a missed-opportunity for Solondz to really give us something worth thinking about, rather than landing on the same, two feet that he landed with before.

And yes, you can expect there to be plenty of sex, awkwardness, explicit content, and random conversations about the slimy stuff in our bodies. And yes, sometimes, it works. Other times, it doesn’t. Storytelling feels like the kind of flick Solondz perhaps needed to get off his chest after something as ambitious as Happiness, but still, it also makes it feel more like a greatest hits album, rather than actual greatness itself.

Either way, the stories do sort of work.

With “Fiction”, the idea of young teens falling for an older demographic because of the seniority they show, is actually pretty scary. Seemingly out of nowhere, however, Solondz gets a little bit too ahead of himself, gives us an over-long sex scene (unedited, no red boxes in my viewing), and a couple uses of the “N word” that was supposed to get a rise out of us I assuming, but instead, felt like it was Solondz getting a bit too wacky and explicit for his own good. The aftermath of this scene is smart and funny, however, I still continued to scratch my head wondering, “What was the point of all that?” Is everything we write on paper already considered “fiction”, or is everything after that “real”.

No matter how many licks, we may never know the answer.

Then, we have “Non-fiction” which is oddly longer than the first entry into this flick and shows it’s length as well. It isn’t that I didn’t feel like there was an interesting bit of storytelling to be had here with the loser documenting the stuck-up, egotistical family, it’s just that the targets it’s meant to be satirizing doesn’t quite work as well because it’s all too obvious and easy. The idea of having a film maker, make a movie that’s already pretentious as it is, in your already-pretentious movie is so obvious, that it’s almost too dumb to really take seriously, so that when it does begin to go down the path of making fun of those people who have talked crap on Solondz work in the past, it feels more like a kid saying, “hate to say I told ya so!”, rather than somebody making a legitimate statement about the films he makes. Like I said before, it’s an opportunity that seems missed, even if this story has the most disturbing ending I’ve seen in a long, long time.

"Hi, it's me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again."

“Hi, it’s me Paul. Again. Yes, I am depressed. Again.”

Yep, even Happiness‘ ending loses to this one.

Consensus: Even at a measly and meager 87 minutes, Storytelling feels like a collection of interesting things that Solondz can, and is perfectly able to do, however, with no real payoff.

6 / 10

Let's face it: we've all wanted to do the same thing.

Let’s face it: we’ve all wanted to do the same thing.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Death Sentence (2007)

Nazis never back down from a fight. Except when they’re swarmed by the Allied forces and have no way out.

On the way from a hockey game with his son, Nick Hume (Kevin Bacon) decides to stop for gas, because, well, the tank is low and he needs to. However, the station that he’s at gets robbed by a gang of thugs and in the process, Nick’s son gets caught in the crossfire. Obviously, this leaves Nick, as well as the rest of his family as devastated as can be. And while Nick may be just another simpleton, after something as tragic as this, he can’t help but think what’s next for him. Should he just sit around, mope and wallow in his pain and misery? Or, should he go out there and take down said thugs who are causing said pain and misery? Well, Nick being the inspired fella that he is, chooses the later option and is now tracking down and taking out these thugs, one by one. But by doing so, Nick also brings more terror and violence to his family, with the thugs now extracting their own kind of revenge.

Bacon does not like what he sees. And that means a whole lot.

Before facing-off against heartless thugs.

A movie like Death Sentence is a hard one to recommend, because you know full well what it is, but at the same time, you still enjoyed some piece of it. At its heart, Death Sentence is nothing more than a dirty, disgusting and downright mean-spirited revenge tale, made out to be Y2K’s answer to Death Wish, where the good guys go around extracting revenge, baddies get killed and justice is kind of served, without their being any grey area in between. And because of that, the movie is an ugly piece; one that doesn’t try to make any smart messages about life, humanity, justice, death, or violence, but instead, just wants to see people kill one another in bloody, incredibly gory ways.

Can there be some fun in that?

Sure, there can be! Director James Wan, who has now become something of a godsend for horror flicks, actually does a solid job as director here, because he lets a lot of the action speak for itself. He doesn’t get in the way by jilting around the camera, nor does he try to make it “about anything”; with this kind of material, you’d almost wish that Wan at least attempted to make this about something more than just plain and simple blood-stained revenge, but oh well. The fact remains that, when the action is on-screen, it’s quite riveting and exciting to watch.

Take, for instance, a near-20-minute sequence in which Bacon’s character has a chase sequence with the villains of the story. What starts off of as a conventional run through the streets, eventually turns into something intense, unpredictable, and most importantly, exciting. Wan uses a few camera-tricks here and there to make it seem like nothing you’ve ever seen before and well, it works. Because the rest of the movie doesn’t try to get in the way, these small, brief instances of style from Wan are fine enough because they show that he does care to some degree about the material.

However, when the action is gone, dead and off the screen, Wan loses Death Sentence.

There’s no doubting the fact that Death Sentence is just a trashy, gory and downright grueling B-movie, however, at the same time, there’s no denying the fact that it also takes itself very seriously and at least attempts to try and be more meaningful than it is. Wan loves the action and violence and wants to solely focus on that, which is fine, but because there’s an actual story here, it all feels a slight bit uneven. Whereas the story wants to have its say about what’s right, what’s wrong, and what’s sort of “okay” with the world today, Wan just wants to see people get killed for the sake of being killed because, well, their bad people and they probably deserve it anyway. Once again, I’m not trashing on Wan for giving bad people some disturbing deaths, to try and have us feel bad, or at the very least, upset that we’re entertained by watching this, is silly.

During meeting said heartless thugs.

During meeting said heartless thugs.

Wan knows that he wants us to all stand-up, cheer and root for Bacon as he takes out all of his revenge on these thugs, so why not enjoy it while we can? It may be vile and upsetting, but isn’t that sort of the point? Violence isn’t supposed to be this pretty, beautiful thing that’s just around in ordinary life – it’s supposed to be ugly, sad, and scary, regardless of who is involved with the violence. Wan gets the ugliness of the violence right, but when he tries to put the lens on everything else, it seems like he’s confused to which movie he’s making, or just what he’s trying to say.

Then again, he’s got Kevin Bacon to rely on, so he’s not all that left alone.

And as Nick Hume, Bacon is as good as he can be, given the script and material he has to work with. Nick doesn’t have much development beyond “sad, but vengeful daddy-figure”, but Bacon gives it all he’s got, whenever he’s not kicking people’s asses because he’s ticked-off and not going to take it anymore. Garrett Hedlund shows up as one of thug’s older brothers, who basically becomes the arch-rival of Bacon’s and, well, he tries. What’s interesting about Hedlund and his career is that even though he’s been around forever, it’s only just now that it seems like he’s hit his stride and gotten to really show some charm in these movies.

Back in 2007, it appears like Hedlund was confused with every role he took; some relied on him to just be annoying and whiny, whereas others relied on him to be somewhat sinister. It’s an odd mix-and-match that he had to play around with, which is why his performance here can get to be pretty laughable at times. However, it seems as if everything has been looking up for Hedlund and I hope that stays.

For his sake, at least.

Consensus: Wan definitely knows his way around an action scene or two, but Death Sentence also tries to be so much more than just another bloody, gritty revenge tale, which is its biggest problem.

5 / 10

After meeting said heartless thugs.

After meeting said heartless thugs. What a transformation!

Photos Courtesy of: Head in a Vice

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Wait, where’s T.J. Miller at?

While on the run away from a failing marriage, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) all of a sudden gets into a car accident where, moments later, she wakes up having no clue where she is. All that she does know is there her knee is messed-up, she’s locked onto a pipe, and stuck in this room, which also happens to be in the basement. Soon though, in walks Howard (John Goodman) to give her the lowdown on who he is, what happened and why he has her locked in his basement. What Michelle finds out from Howard is that there’s a supposed attack on the United States and almost no one above ground is safe – therefore, them, as well as Howard’s trusted worker, Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.), are to be stuck down there in this confining, but perfectly prepared and relatively cozy bomb shelter, until they get the “go ahead” to come out into the real world. This means that, until this time comes, they’re going to have to get to know each other a whole lot better, even if that’s a lot easier said then done, when you believe there to be the apocalypse occurring right outside your door.

Don't leave, John! No one ever leaves John!

Don’t leave, John! No one ever leaves John!

Just as Cloverfield did over eight years ago, 10 Cloverfield Lane is building up this tense of suspense and tension, solely through its advertising. While we may have a general idea of what this film’s about judging by the title, the fact that it’s filmed with famous actors, without the hand-held footage aspect, already makes it seem like an entirely different movie altogether. Though, from a business standpoint, having the word “Cloverfield” attached may have been smart, it’s actually the worst decision a movie as meticulously planned and put together as this, could have made.

There’s a certain feeling of disbelief and unknowing that really takes over 10 Cloverfield Lane that makes you wonder just what the hell is going on outside these surrounding walls these characters are confide to. While had this been any other movie, without nearly the savvy and smart advertising as this movie did, and a different name, would have had us thinking the best, but expecting the worst, and generally not knowing what is happening, we kind of already got the idea of what’s going on outside and it’s a huge bummer. With that said, it’s very hard to talk about a movie such as this considering that each and every little thing one can point at, or at least discuss, can be seen as “a spoiler”. And while it’s a lot easier said then done in cases such as this, I will try my absolute hardest not to go into what 10 Cloverfield Lane is about, what transpires and what you can expect going into it.

If there is anything you want to know, though, is that’s it really fun.

Like, really, really fun.

First-time director Dan Trachtenberg may not be J.J. Abrams, but he might as well have been here, considering that a lot of the same stylistic tropes and signatures we’re used to seeing from him, are clearly on-display. This is a great thing, especially if you’re an Abrams fan, because it not only sets us off in an upsetting mood from the beginning, but also allows for us to enjoy the finer, smaller things that this movie has to offer. To call it simply “a horror flick”, isn’t doing 10 Cloverfield Lane much justice; if there is actually anything “horrifying” going on here in the movie, it’s what we think is going to happen. Everything else about the movie is, for the most part, an exciting thriller that blends a great deal of heart, character-drama, tension, and, yes, even comedy.

10 Cloverfield Lane could have easily been a boring, meandering slog of watching famous, good-looking people, cry and complain about the end of the world being nigh, but the team behind the movie are much smarter than that and know the best ways to keep an audience interested, is by giving them something more to chew on. That’s why the characters, as limited as they may be in terms of what we get to see of them, do feel fully-realized enough to where we’re compelled to see what happens next – not just because it’s Earth that’s, supposedly, under attack, but because we actually give a hoot about these characters.

This is all the more important due to the fact that 10 Cloverfield Lane is, essentially, a three-hander featuring the likes of John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher, Jr. I won’t say if somebody else shows up, or is heard, but yeah, for the most part, it’s the Goodman/Winstead/Gallagher show for the longest time and it’s a great one. All three are pros and are able to bring out the smallest, but most meaningful details in their characters that make them all the more humane and compelling, even if we’re still foggy on the details of who the hell they actually are, as opposed to who they say they are.

Well, if the human race is officially wiped out, at least there's still some hope.

Well, if the human race is officially wiped out, at least there’s still some hope.

And this is when 10 Cloverfield Lane starts to run into a slight bit of a problem.

For one, it builds itself so nicely as this small, rather contained chiller-thriller of sorts, that when it decides to turn the other cheek and be something a bit bigger and more explosive, it seems a bit off. Not unwelcome, but odd in the way that it seems like one half of the film was directed by Trachtenberg, and the other half was filmed by someone else, entirely. I won’t say exactly why this is a problem, but just know, it’s a bit of a shame to see 10 Cloverfield Lane go from something so smart and exciting, to something a bit less subtle and more wacky.

Still though, for the longest time, it’s a fun movie that clearly shows why advertising in the movie-business, above all else, pays off in the long run. This may not be good for the future of films, but hey, it’s something that’s going to continue to catch the world by storm.

So freakin’ deal with it!

Consensus: It may get a little wild in its last act, but for the longest time, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a fun, exciting, and well-acted tale that’s been shredded in so much secrecy, it’s hard to picture what’s going to happen next.

8 / 10

"What is it? Godzilla? Or just some monster who kind of, sort of, well, maybe looks and acts like him? Who knows?"

“What is it? Godzilla? Or just some monster who kind of, sort of, well, maybe looks and acts like him? Who knows?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

Take it from rappers, being imprisoned makes you a better musician.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Pete (John Turturro), and Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson) all escape from jail to embark on a buried-treasure that Ulysses himself declares that he hid and is safe and sound somewhere. However, they have an awful long way to go before they get to the treasure, which means that they have to go through a lot of hoops, meet a lot of shady characters, and most of all, try to stay away from the police’s sights. Obviously, this sounds a lot easier said then done, but everything and anything seems to be happening around the same time that these three are heading out for their adventure. For one, they unintentionally become a popular folk band, then, they get mixed-up with the KKK, make an African American friend by the name of Tommy Johnson, have a run-in with Baby Face Dillinger, and, most importantly, meet the acquaintance of some very lovely ladies. But no matter how many holes may stand in the way of these guys’ trip, they never forget about the treasure that’s just awaiting for them to seize and make their own.

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

There’s no denying that the Coens have a certain love and adoration for their characters, no matter how silly, ridiculous, or over-the-top they may, or can get. Some people say that they make fun of said characters, as well as their settings, but I tend to disagree with this notion, as it’s clear from the very start that the Coens find something very interesting about each one of their characters that they draw and create, as well as the world around said characters that seem to take on a whole personality on its own. In O Brother, it’s clear that the Coens have a soft place for the sweaty, mugginess of Depression-era Mississippi that’s less about making fun of people who talk funny, but more about embracing some of their more old-timey notions of life.

Obviously, the Coens are a bit subversive about this idea, too, with featuring a story all sorts of violence, racism, and blood, but they don’t ever lose their sense of fun here. They also never seem to sell themselves short; rather than making this just a one-note premise in which these stupid characters get away with everything that comes their way, they show that there’s some trouble and difficulty for these characters to get from point A, to point B. Of course, O Brother is, first and foremost, an adventure flick and it’s nice to see the Coens give as much attention to their characters, as much as they do to the jokes and random sequence of events.

For instance, Ulysses, Delmar, and Pete may all seem like your typical, bumpkin idiots, but really, the Coens show that there’s more to them.

Not only do they have hearts, but they all do seem to genuinely care for one another that makes it easy to see why they’ve got such a strong bond in the first place. As a result, we want to see these three together more and more, not just because they’re fun to watch (which they are), but because there’s something warm, soft and cozy about knowing these three pals are all together and because of that, nothing will go wrong. Of course, things don’t always turn out that way, but still, watching and listening to these three characters was more than enough to stick around.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain't gonna work.

Stop trying to make yourself ugly, George. It ain’t gonna work.

And let’s not forget to mention that George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson all do fantastic jobs in these roles, seeming like they’re very interested in who these characters are, past the backwater-stereotypes. Clooney, however, is the one who really seems like he’s having the time of his life, smirking, snarling and laughing in just about every scene he’s shown, where you get the idea that he could not wait a single second to work with the Coens, nor could he get enough of the fact that his character is, in some ways, the smartest out of the three. Clooney gets to use a lot of big words and articulate a whole lot, which may not sound like it works, but surprisingly, does, and it just goes to show you what Clooney can do when he’s a bit unhinged and less caring about appeasing a certain demographic.

There’s more people in this film, like John Goodman, Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, and others, who show up here, do their thing and show that they’re worthy of being around, which makes O Brother all the more exciting.

There’s not a huge world out there for the Coens to work with, but it’s all up to their own choosing. While O Brother is certainly not the Coens best movie, it’s still their most ambitious as it shows that the studio had no problem funding their vision and idea for this movie, even if every period detail seems perfectly picked to the bone. And with more money and freedom to do what they want, they run wild. Sometimes, the goofiness, other times, it doesn’t; when the movie is supposed to be deep and serious, it can’t help but stumble and make you wonder where all the smiles and charms went. But still, it’s a Coens brother movie, which mostly always means, it’s worth seeing.

If not for them, then at least do it for the soundtrack.

Consensus: Perhaps not the Coens best, yet, at the same time, still very much an exceptional piece of work from the power duo, O Brother shows they not only have a keen eye for attention to detail and character, but also their odd sense of humor that still hits.

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Trumbo (2015)

Wow. Communists make the best screenplays.

In 1947, there was nobody hotter than Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston). While he wasn’t the one you’d see on the screen, he was still the one responsible for so many great flicks, that people come to love and appreciate his work. But after this, people started to worry about his politics. See, Trumbo, as well as a few countless others of his closest friends and confidantes, were all blacklisted for showing their support for the Communist regime. Because of this, just about everybody who was blacklisted, were told to come forward and give away more names – for those dedicated few who didn’t, they risked never working in Hollywood ever again. Trumbo was one of those people, however, he still found a way to keep on working and turning out scripts, without ever jeopardizing the studios he actually wrote for. Through the next few years, Trumbo will write some of the very best screenplays, to some of the most iconic and revered movies of today’s day and age, however, all of that hard work and hardly any play begins to take a toll on Trumbo, as well as his loving, caring family who depend on him and his talents.

Wife = good.

Wife = good.

A lesser film, by a lesser director probably would have just kept the story limited to just Trumbo being accused of being a Communist and leaving it at that. However, because Trumbo isn’t a lesser film, and because Jay Roach isn’t a lesser director, there’s more going on with Trumbo’s life that the movie continues to focus on. And while the movie may definitely benefit from having a source as strong and as interesting as Trumbo to make their movie about, it still deserves to be said that Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz entertainment that shows us everything we despise about the industry, as well as the things we love.

Sure, maybe it’s more of love than hate, but hey, it’s still a pretty place that anybody would want to be apart of, if they had the talent to pull it all off.

But like I said, Trumbo is all about Hollywood at a certain period and time that was, on one side, very exciting and glamorous, but on the other, quite scary as well. What Trumbo does best is that it highlights the absolute paranoia and fear those within Hollywood feared due to the Communist blacklisting; while most of those associated with the biz were also Communist sympathizers, they weren’t allowed to come out and say so because, well, they wanted to continue to work. There’s a select few of insiders with Trumbo’s group of trusted allies that all seem to be on the same page, initially, but slowly and surely, start to peter-off and throw the other under the bus, just so that they can continue to work and make as much money as they were before. While we may not share a whole lot of sympathy for these attractive stars and celebrities, there’s still a certain feeling of some sadness when one or two of them have to suck their pride in, accept their lashings, and move on with their careers.

At the same time though, Trumbo is still, first and foremost, a small biopic of a movie legend that, honestly, not many people remember or still treat as an inspiration.

Though it’s interesting to see how Trumbo, the man, handles all of the negative press and attacks he gets for being a Communist party sympathizer, it’s even more so when the later part of his career comes into play and he’s stuck writing crappy scripts, for crappy production companies, and sometimes, making great scripts, for great companies, but not being able to take any sort of credit. It’s both fun and exciting to watch, while, at the same time, a bit heart-wrenching because we know that Trumbo deserves all of the credit and praise for these scripts, but just can’t actually go out into the world and say so.

Not to mention, it’s great to see a flick that focuses on, most of all, a screen-writer. So rarely do screen-writers get the credit that they so rightfully deserve – especially those from the older-days of Hollywood. While there were a few directors who directed their own screenplays, for the most part, directors made scripts that they picked-up and decided to go from there – due to this, not a lot of screen-writers got the whole credit that they deserved. With Trumbo, Roach not only shows that it’s definitely up to the writer themselves, to tell whether or not a piece is going to work.

Because, quite frankly, if you don’t have a good screenwriter, what good is your movie anyway?

Journalist = bad.

Journalist = bad.

As Dalton Trumbo, Bryan Cranston does a nice job of taking what could have been, at first, a very over-the-top impersonation of the real life figure, but then takes it one step further and digs deeper. There’s a lot more to Trumbo than just a bunch of witty-lines, humor, and a fancy ‘stache; the dude’s actually getting to become a bit stressed-out and screwed-up from writing all of these screenplays and not being able to take any credit for them. Cranston’s good here as he not only shows the light-hearted, fun-loving side to this man, but also the sometimes angry, almost spiteful side as well.

And everybody else surrounding Cranston is quite good in their own roles, too. Though Diane Lane isn’t asked much to do, she still gets some bright, shining moments as Trumbo’s wife, Cleo, who wants nothing more than for her family to be happy and peaceful; Helen Mirren is nastier than ever as Hedda Hopper, the most hated journalist at the time and shows just why she was so despised, but why she was also always getting dirt on those around her; Louis C.K. has a couple of nice scenes with Cranston as one of Trumbo’s buddies who is involved with the Communist-sympathizing party; and Michael Stuhlbarg does a good job at giving us more to Edward G. Robinson, but never fully lapsing into an impersonation that seems like a parody.

If there’s anything about Trumbo is that, when all is said and done, it’s a fine piece of cinema, but that’s about it. Having focused on Dalton Trumbo and looking at all the work that he’s created over the years, the movie definitely doesn’t live up to the legacies, but as it is, it’s still a fine piece of showbiz entertainment. People laugh, people cry, people learn lessons, people get better, and most importantly, people make a lot of money. That’s about all there is to showbiz, which is why that’s all there is to Trumbo.

Consensus: Maybe not setting the biopic world on fire, Trumbo is a solid piece of showbiz drama that doesn’t step too far out of its comfort-zone, but also benefits largely from having such a talented cast on-board.

7 / 10

Screenwriter = always good.

Screenwriter = always good.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Love the Coopers (2015)

CoopersposterNobody does Christmas quite like the Coopers. Or the Kranks, either.

Christmas time is one of the greatest times of the year. It’s the time where everyone gets together, kicks back, drinks some egg nog, and allow for the good times to roll. And that is exactly what the Coopers want, however, it’s a lot easier said, then actually done. Sam and Charlotte Cooper (John Goodman and Diane Keaton) are planning on having everyone over their house for one last Christmas dinner, due to the fact that their marriage has been so hot as of late and they’re thinking about calling it quits. Meanwhile, grand-pop Bucky (Alan Arkin) has found himself smitten with a much-younger waitress (Amanda Seyfried). Also, Sam and Charlotte’s daughter, Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) meets Joe (Jake Lacy) at the airport and decides that she wants him to pretend be her boyfriend, just so that her parents won’t get on her case for not having a steady-man. At the same time this is happening, Hank (Ed Helms), Sam and Charlotte’s son, is going through his own rough patch, as well, where he’s not only in desperate need of a job, but lost all of the respect from his kids and ex-wife (Alex Borstein). Then, there’s Charlotte’s sister, Emma (Marisa Tomei), who got nabbed in the mall for stealing stuff, and is now spending most of her time in the back of a cop car, trying to find out more about the officer (Anthony Mackie).

They're bored.

They’re bored.

And need I not forget to mention that Steve Martin, of all people, is narrating this?

So, yeah. As you can tell, there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in Love the Coopers (which is a weird title as is, because there clearly seems to be a comma missing somewhere, but hey, that’s neither here, nor there), none of which is ever one bit interesting, smart, well-done, funny, or enjoyable to watch. Which is a damn shame, because seriously, look at that freakin’ cast!

No, I’m serious. Look at it!

Why are there so many great and talented names attached to this? I find it hard to believe that the script could have attracted any of these people because, quite frankly, it’s pretty crummy and hardly ever flirts with being something that names like these would want to work with because of its intrigue. Steven Rogers’ seems to want to be this lovely, bubbly family-holiday flick that deals with dysfunctional families in a fun, light-hearted way, but by the same token, also doesn’t. Instead, the movie wants to focus on failed-marriages, infidelities, homosexuality, puberty, divorce, loneliness, unemployment, missed opportunities, and most of all, death.

Now, let me ask you this: Does this sound like the lovely, little holiday comedy that you’d throw on the tube with your family every December 25?

Hell to the no!

And trust me, this isn’t me saying, “Oh, no. You can’t have a holiday flick about sad issues. No siree! Happiness all day, every day!”. In fact, there’s a certain part of me that wants to applaud this movie for actually trying to do something a little darker and deeper with this overly-familiar tale, but really, it falls on its face. There are so many instances in which the movie makes it seem like it wants to break down the walls and be as dramatic as it can possibly be, but at the same time, still end the scene on a fart or dog joke. The balance between wacky family comedy, and sad, emotional drama, never seems to come together in a way that makes it easy to not just enjoy this movie, but actually understand just what it’s getting at.

The movie, for the most part, seems like it wants to simply say, “Families are what’s most important in life. So love each and every member of your family, especially around the holidays”. Once again, it’s a fine notion that I have absolutely no qualms wit, but the movie itself doesn’t really seem to back any of that up. For one, everybody here in this film is basically terrible to one another, whether they be in the same family, or not; mostly all of them dread going to this family-dinner which, mind you, doesn’t happen until an hour in. Before this, we’re left watching each of these characters go on about their days, bitching and moaning about how they are not at all looking forward to this dinner that, honestly, nobody dragged them to be apart of in the first place.

Then, once the dinner actually gets going, it feels so random. People are all of a sudden nasty to one another, revelations drop out of nowhere, and above all else, none of it feels real. It’s almost as if director Jessie Nelson needed to have some sort of tension to keep the film moving along, so instead of actually building everything up in a smart, understandable manner, it all just feels thrown in as a way to make sure that there’s a crazy outcome with the dinner.

They're especially bored.

They’re especially bored.

Well, the outcome does happen, and although it is indeed crazy, it doesn’t at all work.

But really, the most mind-boggling fact about Love the Coopers is the ensemble it was able to attract and just how many of them are clearly wasted here. It’s hard for me to go into great deal about this cast and spend more time on this movie than it already deserves, but let me just put it like this: Everybody here clearly seems bored. Nobody’s at all giving it their 100% and is, instead, just phoning it in so that they can collect their paychecks and be on with the rest of their famed-careers. However much money they were promised to do this thing, honestly, I don’t know; what I do know is that they all seem like they’re clearly in it for the cash and want to be gone from it all as soon as possible.

The only exception to this is June Squibb who, as usual, gives a lovely, spirited performance as Aunt Fishy. Why exactly they call her that? Well, we don’t know. And although that same question is brought up, the movie never decides to answer it, which not only feels like a cheat, but also feels like an act of revenge that the movie’s taking out on Squibb for being the only one who actually gave a hoot about being in this movie.

Everybody else? Eh, not so much. And I can’t really blame them.

Consensus: Love the Coopers is another film in the long line of Christmas ensemble flicks, but wastes its great cast on a poor script that doesn’t know whether it wants to be a light-hearted comedy, or a sad drama about family. Neither of which, are actually ever interesting to watch.

1.5 / 10

Hell, everyone's bored! So just go home already!

Hell, everyone’s bored! So just go home already!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Speed Racer (2008)

Go. No, seriously, go! Get the hell outta here!

A young, brass, and quick-fire driver Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is, as they say, “a demon on wheels.” He races because of a love he’s had since a little tike, doesn’t want to slow up for anything, whether it be off or on the track, and knows that it’s what he wants to do with the rest of his life. That’s great because he’s good at it, and his parents (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon) approve of it as well. However, now that Speed’s skills are getting more and more noticed by the races, he’s starting to gain more attention on his tale which means that more big-corporate sponsors want him to be apart of their “fixed” races, and what him, to make them, money. It’s a cheap scam that Speed may fall for, if he doesn’t listen to a special someone named Racer X (Matthew Fox); his arch-nemesis who may have a secret agenda on his hands.

If you’ve ever watched a single episode of the original, 1960’s TV-anime show, you’ll know that Speed Racer was bananas. And I don’t say that because there’s a monkey in both the show and the movie – I mean it was literally crazy. It was wild, fast-paced, sped-up (pun intended, I’m assuming), always jumpy, and rarely ever slowed down for a single bit. Because of that, it was one of my favorite cartoons to watch as a little kiddie, since anything that featured a down-to-earth, slow-as-molasses story meant I would either die of boredom or fall asleep. That means obviously any person taking the reigns of directing a Speed Racer movie had to know what they were doing and getting themselves into, which is why the Wachowski’s seemed like the perfect fit for this material.

He's tough. Or something.

He’s tough. Or something.

And trust me, for awhile, it seemed like my dreams were coming true. Not only was the opening racing-sequence fun and pulse-pounding, but it was downright beautiful to look at in the type of way that made me feel as if I was watching a video-game, albeit one that I wanted to play myself, but didn’t feel like nudging the other person too much for. It was just catching my eye I’d expect a movie from this type of source material to be and look like, and then some. Some may give the movie crap for having it essentially be a bunch of actors, standing in front of a green-screen, as they act their asses off, with no background whatsoever, but it worked. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely worked because it’s a Speed Racer movie, not Schindler’s List or anything of the sort.

Then again, you could have had the Wachowskis fooled since about half of their film is dedicated to just car-racing, whereas the rest of the two hours is dedicated to a bunch of needless, nonsensical drama that’s as standard and as boring as you can get, yet, we’re supposed to care for because it’s Speed Racer and his lovable family. Not going to argue whether or not Racer’s cast of friends and family aren’t as lovable here, as they were in the show, but there seems to be too much time on them, their problems, their sadness, and what gets them waking up in the morning. I love these characters for talking fast and being nothing else other than cartoons, but I can’t take them seriously as fully, rounded-out human-beings, as much as the actors in the roles may try to make me think otherwise.

Then of course, you take into consideration how completely bonkers some parts of the movie can be, as if were exactly ripped from the television show. Actually, I’d say the best, most memorable part of the whole movie didn’t come from anything that had to do with racing or cars, but people kicking the crap out of each other. Not only does Speed, Trixie, Spritle, and Chim Chim get in on a little bit out of ass-kicking action that’s as goofy and campy as you’re ever going to get, but so does Pops, who was actually a Greco-Roman wrestler in the TV show, a fact that they thankfully touched on here in this movie. It’s obvious that the Wachowski’s put some heart and emotion into this flick with its look and these key scenes where all hell breaks loose, and the movie just gets wild and crazy for the sake of it, but it’s not enough. Not enough to satisfy any average movie-goer, and sure as hell not enough to satisfy a Speed Racer fanatic, like myself.

Very disappointed here. That’s if you already couldn’t tell by now.

"Falcon pun-what?"

“Falcon pun-what?”

But at least the cast is awesome, right? Ehh, well, I wouldn’t go that far, even if they do seem to all be trying hard. I like Emile Hirsch. I don’t know why so many people get on this dude’s case, but he’s a solid actor and one of the rare, younger guys in the biz today who’s been taking some interesting indie-projects, as well as the mainstream ones. His pick to play the one and only Speed Racer may have been interesting to some eyes, including mine, but the guy doesn’t really do much, nor does he have much to do. He sort of just stands there, broods a bit, tries to look tough and hip, and lets out corny lines that feel like they would be so much better if they were done in a mile-a-minute way they were used in the show. Then again, that’s just coming from a real fan. Most may not care or worry about it too much, but to me, it made Speed Racer feel like a dull character, one that Hirsch couldn’t quite save himself.

What character they really got wrong here, and what pissed me off the most about this movie, was Racer X, played by Matthew Fox. Fox is good as X, and definitely has the presence to make this character work, but rather than having him be subtle in any sort of way about his “real intentions” the movie spoon-feeds us it right away. Then it also begins to make this character seem a bit soft, as if Fox wasn’t able to make him sympathetic in the least bit, which totally defeats the purpose of having a character-foil like X around. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Everybody else is okay, even if nobody lights up the screen and I think that’s how the Wachowski’s want it and like it. They want the color-palette to take over our minds and eyes, and it works; it’s just a problem that it’s the only thing about this movie that does seem to work.

Consensus: The Speed Racer movie any fan-boy or junkie would want, they sadly won’t get here because this adaptation is filled with way too many dry spots, all made for character-development and drama. Basically, the types of things we don’t want, or better yet, need in a Speed Racer flick.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Well, at least we don't need Mario Kart to be adapted for the big screen anymore.

Well, at least we don’t need Mario Kart to be adapted for the big screen anymore.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Gambler (2014)

Albert Camus and gambling. How could I have not seen the similarities before?

Literary professor Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) doesn’t seem like he’s happy about his life. For one, his grand-father just died and has practically left him little-to-no money. Bennett also happens to have a gambling problem, that gets him into all sorts of trouble with powerful kingpins of the underground poker world. And, to make matters slightly worse, he has a job that he absolutely hates, where all he does is practically yell at each and everyone of his students, telling them that not only are they “not great”, but they’re also wasting his precious time. So yeah, Bennett doesn’t necessarily have the best life in the world of all person’s lives, but he does have a possible-girlfriend (Brie Larson), a very rich mom (Jessica Lange), and nearly seven days to settle all of his debts before it’s too late. But a week isn’t so bad if all you have to do is cobble up a couple hundred thousand dollars, right? Well, wrong.

One of the main problems with the Gambler lies solely within the lead character himself, Jim Bennett. For starters, he’s not a very likable, nor sympathetic one to say the least, but he also is quite repetitive without hardly any rhyme or reason. And then, there’s the fact that Mark Wahlberg, of all people, was cast in this role as a literary professor at what seems to be a very prodigious university somewhere in California. Both go hand-in-hand with what makes the Gambler a poor movie, but they’re both hard to describe to a person who hasn’t seen the movie. It just feels, while watching it, very mis-matched and awkward. Almost like a blind date you set up between two mutual friends; you know that they may have similarities and be a nice match, but you’re not sure how they’re going to approach one another.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

I would make a joke about the lack of resemblance between these two, but the movie already does that for me. So whatever.

It’s a bad simile, I know, but it’s all I got to work with since this is a very frustrating movie.

First off, the lead protagonist of Jim Bennett isn’t a very likable one, which is fine and all if a movie at least shows us that there is something to him that’s not only interesting, but turns him into something of a tragic-figure. However, the writing for Bennett is too repetitious and simple to make him as anything but; Jim Bennett is, simply put, a dick. But he’s the worst kind of a dick – he’s that kind of rich, self-entitled, whiny dick that you see at a dinner-party, who everybody crowds around and listens to all because he seems like a smart, know-it-all dude, when in reality, he’s just a bone-head who pisses, moans, and cries about everything in life, when he doesn’t really need to. Everything’s been practically handed to him on a silver spoon and the only problems that he ever faces in life, are ones that are completely made because of him and nobody else.

Yet, the movie makes him out to be some sort of martyr that we’re not only supposed to feel bad for because he’s so pissed off and angry about life, but also because he apparently has a gambling problem; one that’s never really brought out well enough to be classified as such. What I mean is that while you see certain movies about people with addictions, mainly gambling addictions, you know that they are, the way they are, is because they love the trill of winning whatever big con it is. In the case of gambler’s, they love the excitement of winning a bet and absolutely chase that for as long as they can. Here though, with Bennett, we never see his utter joy and/or pleasure for winning; we just see him bet a lot of stupid hands in the game of Blackjack, lose, and then continue to dig himself in a deeper-hole for no other reason other than, well, he can.

To me, this not only makes him an unlikable, nearly insufferable character to watch and have to stick with for two hours. Not to mention, it also wastes the talents of Mark Wahlberg, an actor who, when given the right material to work with, is strong and impressive, but seems like he is way out of his depth here as, get ready for it, a literary professor who may have reached his mid-life crisis already. I know it sounds like a joke, but judging by how this movie portrays Bennett, as well as the rest of its story, it isn’t. It’s pure, unabashed drama, and it’s hard to take in as fact or compelling.

You’d think that casting-directors would think twice about putting Marky Mark in roles of teachers, but oh well.

Though, to be fair, I have to hold back on the hate of Marky Mark’s performance, because he’s not all bad; you can tell by the fact that he lost about 60 pounds, that he truly is trying with this role. But the problem remains that he’s just not believable enough in this role as a professor who just preaches about the monotony and shit-heap reality that is life. There are some instances in which we see the good, old school Marky Mark come out (mostly in scenes where he’s acting smarter than the person he’s talking to and/or ready to brawl), but overall, it’s a mixed-bag of a performance, that could have easily been avoided, had Wahlberg not been cast in a role that clearly doesn’t suit him well.

Then again though, it all comes back to this character of Jim Bennett; he’s not nice, not interesting, and sure as hell isn’t compelling enough to make this movie work. He’s just a blank-slate, that’s made even worse by the dumb, idiotic decisions he makes in life that not only impact his own life – one that he’s already made pretty clear he doesn’t care for. But, even worse, he impacts those around him who love him, care for him, and actually care about their own, relatively pleasant lives as human beings. He doesn’t care, so therefore, we’re supposed to care.

And because we don’t care about him, or the actions he makes, there’s hardly any tension to be found in the Gambler. Sure, some of the scenes where Bennett’s betting his life away on what seem to be ordinary games of Blackjack, do have some real suspense to them, but it’s only because of the way they’re filmed. It’s not that we’re held in suspense because Bennett may actually die if he loses whatever hand he’s playing with, but because director Rupert Wyatt actually seems to care for how this film looks and feels. Even if his lead character is terribly-written, he’s still trying and that, for the most part, at least made it watchable.

"The King stay the King." Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

“The King stay the King.” Shit! Wrong Wire reference!

Although, Wyatt isn’t the only one trying here. It’s the rest of the supporting cast that show up every so often to not only make things a little bit brighter, but make a lot of these self-important speeches the script frequently lapses into actually interesting. John Goodman has the brightest end of the stick as a bald loan shark that Bennett meets with on a few occasions, and talks about how America is build on “fuck you”. It’s a lovely bit that adds some flair to this film, but also counts as one of the rare speeches here that actually works and doesn’t seem like the writer behind it is just trying his hardest to sound smart.

The one’s who don’t really come away as nicely as Goodman does with his speeches, are Michael K. Williams, Alvin Ing, and Anthony Kelley; with the former two playing actual mob bosses who Bennett runs into conflict with, and the later just being a student of his, who is constantly on the discouraging end of Bennett’s many rants about paying attention in class and not trying to get by in the academic-world because of athletics. None of these characters really seem believable, and it’s even more evident once they open up their mouths and start going on about stuff we either don’t care for, or have much of a foundation to really build our own feelings on. We’re just sort of sitting there, wondering what it all means, and end up not caring at all.

The only impressive part about this supporting cast is that the two female roles, played by Jessica Lange and Brie Larson, actually feel pertinent to the story and add some dramatic-heft to a piece that definitely needed it. Lange plays Bennett’s mother and has maybe two dramatic scenes where you can definitely tell she loves and cares for her dastardly son, but wants to be rid of his problems and hopes that he does to. And Larson, who I’m glad was cast here, at least makes some sense of her character’s motivations, especially when we’re supposed to believe somebody as lovely and chirpy as hers would fall for someone as downtrodden and inexplicably depressed as Bennett. They are two fine performances in their own rights, that go a long way.

Especially for something as disappointing as this.

Consensus: Occasionally entertaining and interesting, but mostly, where the Gambler loses points in is because its lead character is terribly-written, and suffers even more from a miscast Mark Wahlberg playing it.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Ladies, don't act like you aren't impressed.

Ladies, don’t act like you aren’t impressed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

I don’t know how I’d feel if Nic Cage’s mug was the last one I saw before I died.

Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) is a EMS paramedic working in New York City and has to put up with some pretty crazy stuff on a regular-basis, but now that he’s pulling in three nights on the job, it’s getting even worse. Not only does Frank seem to be losing his damn mind over the stuff that he sees, but he’s not really sure if he can handle his job, or even his life any longer. That sort of changes though once a grieving woman (Patricia Arquette) comes into his life and puts everything into perspective. Well, sort of.

I’m pretty sure that within the past-decade, people have pretty much accepted the fact that Martin Scorsese is a guy you can trust with any movie he does. When I first heard about Hugo, I’ll be honest, I was incredibly skeptical of him diving right into a PG-rated, 3D-movie. However, all my reservations went out the window once I realized that it was the Scorsese charm that eventually took over me. But yet, stories about kids finding a movie-legend aren’t what we associate Scorsese with. We more or less associate him with the violent, bloody, gritty tales of the crime-world and that’s why I was really looking forward to this flick, even though it seemed like it was one of his least-known pieces of work to have ever come out.

"Nic Cage to the rescue", is something, I assume, that no person on the verge of death wants to hear.

“Nic Cage to the rescue”, is something, I assume, that no person on the verge of death wants to hear.

However, this just made me want to watch Hugo all over again.

And maybe even check out Leaving Las Vegas one more time for old, good times sake. Although, I don’t think “good times” can be associated with that movie.

Anyway, right from the start of Bringing Out the Dead, I could tell taht this was going to be a very strange, dark movie-experience and it only seemed right that I compare this to a Scorsese classic, meaning Taxi Driver. Not only do both stories feature guys on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but they even feature two guys who just act-out in violence and pure craziness to get over it. It’s pretty obvious how the two stories are alike in many ways, but, in other ways, they aren’t and I think that’s where the problem for this film really lied.

See, in Taxi Driver, you actually care about the cause which Bickle is fighting for, despite it being based on a huge sense of lunacy. He’s an anti-hero in the fullest-form – he’s not the greatest guy out there in the world, but it’s easy to sympathize with him because of how many times he’s been pushed and shoved to the ground, even though he himself felt as if he was doing the right thing. Here, with this guy Frank Pierce, it’s hard to really feel a connection to this guy, considering that he’s more manic-depressive than anything else. Yeah, everybody’s had a crappy job that they don’t want to stay up for, or even go to in the first place, but that doesn’t mean everybody feels the need to go off, crash cars, break windows, or beat the ever lovin’ crap out of some homeless people because of their misery. Maybe some people do, but I’m pretty sure those people aren’t psychologically-cleared to do any type of work in the first place.

And this hurts the movie. Rather than being interesting in the slightest, the story just feels like a drag and almost like it didn’t really matter to anybody involved, not even, dare I say it, Scorsese himself. There is definitely an cool, even compelling story here of a guy that can’t cope with the work that he has to do and has to find an escape from it all, but all of that feels used for a bunch of hyperactive, insane moments that come out of nowhere, just because it’s the seedy underworld of New York City. Showing me scenes of an EMT trying to save failing patients is something that grips me, but if you just continue to throw gratuitous shots of drugs, sex, violence, and blood at us, then I don’t really care and can sort of tell that you don’t either. I mean, I get it, downtown NYC is a very, very messed-up place, but constantly reminding us of this by showing a homeless person, a hooker, or even a drug addict every five seconds or so, makes it feel less gritty, and more lazy than anything.

Also, the fact that this movie is nearly two-hours long really kills it, as well as any type of momentum it wanted to build up.

But, for what it’s worth, there is some joys to be had with Bringing Out the Dead, even if they don’t solely come from Scorsese’s direction or Paul Schrader’s script – it mostly comes from the wild fire cast who, with what they’re given, are called upon to just be crazy and do just that. And this is clearly some good news for the king of crazy himself, Nicolas Cage, but for some reason, it’s not quite his most memorable performance. Not even in the slightest, actually.

It's alright, Nic. You two would only be together for two more years anyway.

It’s alright, Nic. You two would only be together for two more years anyway.

Practically everybody bad-talks Cage for the types of movies he takes, or just by simply phoning it in one too many times, and yes, I do sometimes agree with these criticisms. Cage is one of my favorite actors working today, and always finds ways to make even the most dreadful material, the slightest bit interesting, but here, he’s sort of just going through the motions, although he has a couple of bright spots here and there to show. The character of Frank Pierce is a bit of a strange and not one that I find fully believable since he’s such a freakin’ nut with his up-and-down personality. But, like I expected, Cage found a few ways to make me laugh here and there and just fall in line with his nuttiness. The character gets a bit boring by the end, but Cage tries and tries again, only to then, I guess, give up and realize that maybe this is just not going to be his highest moment.

It’s fine, though, because the dude had plenty more to come after this.

The rest of the cast is pretty fun, too, with a few familiar faces bringing a lot more excitement to a movie that seemed to desperately need it. John Goodman doesn’t really show his face all that much as a fellow EMT of Pierce’s, but is still pretty funny and cooky to watch as the one dude who always wants to bail on a bunch of sick/dying people, and instead, eat Chinese food and sleep. Hey, it’s not such a bad motive to have in life, but when you have to save people’s lives, it’s not the best way to go about your life. Tom Sizemore plays one of Nic’s more loonier, off-the-wall EMT’s and does what he always did before he got sent-off for doing too much blow: Play gritty, asshole characters that you can’t help but hate, and actually like. Ving Rhames is surprisingly the stand-out of this whole cast as the one EMT who seems to always have God on his back and mind throughout the whole job, yet, is still most dangerous EMT of them all that had me cracking up so damn much. Watching him and Cage just play-off of one another was a delight to watch. In a way, too, it made me wish the movie was just about them two driving around, picking up sick/injured people, having random conversations, and just living another day on the job. If only.

Consensus: Martin Scorsese finds slight ways to keep Bringing Out the Dead interesting, if only through visuals, but also can’t seem to get past the fact that the script is way too uneven for it’s own good, and doesn’t really ever generate any emotional-spark, or even give us enough to feel compelled by.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Probably thinking about stealing the Declaration of Independence.

Probably already thinking about stealing the Declaration of Independence.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

The Monuments Men (2014)

Tell ’em, Nic! Nothing’s more important than stealing the Declaration of Independence and they know it!

During the final, winding-days of WWII, art-historian (George Clooney) is gripped with a task on his hands: Assemble a group of seven, fellow art-groupies, go through basic training, and find a way to gather and collect all of the ancient pieces of art, sculpture and paintings that the Nazis have apparently been hiding during the war. At first, once the men get taken into behind enemy lines in Germany, they realize that this whole mission may be a ball – one soldier (Matt Damon), comes close to even getting laid by a stern, but somehow stunningly hot French-gal (Cate Blanchett). But sooner than later, things begin to take a turn for the worse once the Nazis begin to see themselves getting more and more desperate as the days go by, therefore, having Hitler himself order that all art be destroyed, in hopes that it won’t reach their rightful, original owners. Smart idea on old Adolf’s part, but he soon realizes that he is no match for the Ocean‘s crew! With the exception of Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, and even Rob Reiner. Yep, none of them are here, but at least we got Bob Balaban to spice things up, right?

George Clooney, the actor, is known to be a class-act that you can always count on to deliver, no matter what piece of material he may be in. He’s always got that cool-look, that charm, that wit and that swiftness to him that makes every dude in the theater lobby want to be him and discover his make-up team’s contact info; whereas he makes every lady swoon for the day that she may just be able to get snatched up into good old George’s hands. And ladies, if you’re less than two times his age, you run a pretty good chance at being his next-in-line!

"Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?"

“Wow. So this really was painted by Leonardo DiCaprio?”

But I digress….

While George Clooney, the actor, may be somebody we can trust and rely on to give great work, George Clooney, the director, isn’t always someone we can count on. Most of the time, Clooney seems to not only do stuff that only seems to interest himself and his buddies, but he more often than not, drops the ball on what could have been something cool and interesting. The Ides of March, for the most part, just relied so heavily on the performances from its stacked-cast, that I almost forgot Clooney even directed it, or even had a story written-out for it; Leatherheads didn’t have much of a chance of being anything spectacular, but at least he tried with it; Good Night, And Good Luck will always seem to be his crowning-jewel where everything he sets out to do, he nails to near-perfection; and then of course, we have his debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind that seemed to only get away with the fact that it had rich source-material to begin with, despite Clooney finding a way to make a story about a game-show-host-turned-CIA-agent somewhat depressing and rather boring.

So yeah, as you can tell, I know a thing or two about Clooney’s track-record as director and most of the time, it doesn’t always pan-out so well. That’s why I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt, even despite it being pushed-back from its original, Christmas Day release-slot (apparently due to “special-effects problems“). However though, once again, I digress…

Anyway, what I am trying to get at here is that while Clooney may not always be consistent as a director, he’s always the kind of guy that interests me with anything that he touches his palms with, solely because it’s him, and he knows quality. Here, on the other hand, we have a movie that definitely seems like the type of movie he feels strong and passionate about, yet, never really seems to let come-off of the ground. But you’d never know if he felt any passion or love for this true-life story of heroism, and men fighting for what they truly believed in, because we never get the right details we should to fully believe in these characters, this story or anything else that happens. Yeah, I know that all of this is true, but watching this movie, you’d still never get a full clue as to what is happening, why, how and who was involved. For all I know, the actual, real-life soldiers who were involved with this mission could have been a rusty crew of old geezers that loved to make jokes while they were standing on deadly land-mines, hung-out and smoked cigs with Nazi soldiers wanting to kill them, and even crack some funny-ones while half of Russia’s army comes storming after them, wanting their heads, as well as the various paintings they can’t seem to get enough of.

But what’s so surprising to me about this movie, is that it never seems like Clooney knows that he’s messing-up by not giving us any reason to care for these people, their mission or the heart and soul they shed for these pieces of art; it’s almost as if showing us that they were willing to risk their lives for these paintings was already enough assurance that they do wholly, and fully care about these paintings. However though, it doesn’t work and it should have. Even if Clooney decided to give us maybe one or two minutes dedicated to these guys being wrangled-up and ready for the mission, it would have made a huge difference – we would have not only cared for these dudes, but cared about the mission they were setting-upon as well. Also, probably would have given this movie more of a drastic-feel to it, especially once these guys started getting perishing.

Somehow though, as much as I may rag on this movie, as well as what Clooney does as a director, I was able and more than willing to just let myself have fun and enjoy the old-style, nostalgic kind of war-flick that George himself was so obviously going for. Personally, I don’t think he hits all of the right notes, but if there was ever a war flick that I could sit-down and watch with my whole family, even my much-younger cousins, it’s this one. That’s not saying it’s great or anything, and surely doesn’t get past the fact that movie itself has its fair-share of faults and problems, but it definitely kept me entertained throughout most of the movie.

She's French, she's willing and best of all, you probably won't ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn't you tap that?!?!?

She’s French, she’s willing and best of all, you probably won’t ever see her again in your life. Why wouldn’t you tap that?!?!?

Once again, I stress the fact that it wasn’t perfect, but, if you have nothing else better to do for your Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or what have you, evening, then I can’t say this would be a terrible. There’s definitely plenty of other options to go and check-out before this, but if grand-mom and grand-pop want to spend some “quality time”, I’d say point their head in this movie’s direction, and you’ll definitely be promised a spot in the will. Sounds harsh, but I’m just saying.

Love you G-Mom and G-Pops!

Most of where my enjoyment with this movie came from was just through the cast and how, despite how thinly-written most of their material may have been, they still prevailed and kept me smiling. Like I stressed before, Clooney the actor is fine and is charming enough to make you see past the obvious-faults that this role only serves him to break-out into soliloquies every once and awhile about how men should always stand-up for what they believe in, no matter how looked-down upon it may be from others; Matt Damon is entertaining enough to watch as his second-in-command, James Granger, who is gone for quite some time and separated from the rest of the action, but is still somehow able to make his story the least-bit interesting, just by showing up and smiling (because we all know, once Matt Damon smiles, we all gotta smile!); and Cate Blanchett somehow makes a thankless-role as a French-spy, somewhat memorable by making her out to be a bit of a weirdo that also longs for a connection. Then again, maybe I’m just reaching.

As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine, but it’s obvious they aren’t doing anything exceptional. Bill Murray is always Bill Murray in anything he does, but he’s slightly less charming and “Bill Murray-ish” than he usually is, and less of that has to do with him as a performer, and more with just how the script does not use him; in fact, I’d say that they use Bob Balaban a bit more in the sense that they give him a scene where he gets to be somewhat “bad-ass”, as you’ve never seen him before (and trust me, you sure as hell haven’t!); John Goodman is his usual lovable, big-hearted, always cheery-self that also happens to be a soldier named “Walter“; Hugh Bonneville is fine as one of a British soldier who puts his life-on-the-line, as does everybody else, but gets to show his bravery in a slightly-memorable way; and Jean Dujardin, despite having an interesting role in Wolf of Wall Street, still feels like a previous Oscar-winner gone to a bit of a waste by now, however, I hope the tide turns around for him sooner than later. Because surely, we wouldn’t want another Roberto Benigni on our hands, now would we?

Consensus: Another misstep in Clooney’s directorial-catalog, the Monuments Men takes what could have been a very thrilling, exciting and emotional war-tale, and makes it uneven, poorly-developed and only entertaining in its bits and pieces, which is mostly thanks to all of the effort the cast puts into it.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!"

“Hey, remember that time when we almost got our heads shot-off by a bunch of Nazi soldiers? Hahahahaahah!!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

If Mumford & Sons weren’t featured on the soundtrack, this would have been a total slap-in-their-faces.

It’s New York City in 1961, and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) doesn’t quite know what to do with his life. He knows that he wants to continue being a musician, so that he can make the money, to get the house, to have a roof over his head that’s actually his, to have food to eat, to not rely on others, and basically, to just be left alone from the rest of the outside world. In case you may have not been able to tell now, Llewyn isn’t the type of guy people enjoy being around, or vice versa. He’s got a stingy attitude towards everything and everyone in his life, and with an ex of his coming out and saying she’s pregnant (Carey Mulligan), it seems like most of it all may be coming back to bite him in the rear-end. However, Llewyn Davis has a dream and he knows that if folk music isn’t the biggest thing since slice-bread in the Big Apple, then it may just be the case somewhere else, which is why he decides to venture out into the rural country-side and see if he can land some steady gigs, get a record-deal, get some nice cash-flow and eventually, settle into his own secluded life.

Need I remind you, this is a movie about folk music in the early-60’s? If you don’t already know the significance of that time-frame and genre of music, then I’ll just allow you to let it sit around and linger in your mind and see what I mean for yourself.

Get that cat a nomination too!

Get that cat a nomination too!

Here’s the thing with me and this movie: I love the Coen Brothers. Absoloutely, positively adore them, and if this past week was any indication of that whatsoever, then you’ll realize that I feel very strongly for these guys because of what they’re able to do with any plot or genre that comes their way. They’ve always had a knack for re-constructing genres to the best of their creative abilities and it’s never seemed to fall-back on them. They’ve always came out unscathed of something that may not have gone over so well with critics and audiences alike, but it doesn’t matter. You know why? Because they’re Joel and Ethan Coen, baby. And they can do whatever the hell they possibly please.

That’s why when I saw that they were making a film that’s was going to chronicle the life and times of this folk singer, during its hey-day in the early 60’s, something didn’t sit too well with me. I know that they appreciate folk music, but I don’t, and that’s where I was a little bit worried with this flick. I didn’t know what to expect, whether it be a love-note to this era of some sorts, or another one of their “stories that start out normal and simple, then turn into a complex tale of love, sex, lies and violence.” However, I got, neither. Instead, I just got a simple, slightly steady tale of a dude that practically hates almost everyone and everybody around him, yet makes some of the most beautiful folk music I have ever heard.

May not sound like much coming from my finger-tips, but trust me, if you’ve grown up in a day and age where hack bands like Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers are being called “the best rock bands around”, then you’d at least sympathize with me. Or at least see what angle I’m coming from. At least.

But that’s where this movie really caught me off-guard, in the best way at all possible. The Coen Brothers take this conventional story of a down-and-out folk singer, and rather than spin it in a way that has him reach some life-changing prophecy or realize that there’s more to life than just pissing and moaning about useless things in day-to-day life, we just get a story about a down-and-out folk singer, who pisses, moans and has a problem with everything, and/or everyone that comes at all into his path of wrath. Sounds like it would be one of the most grueling and uncomfortable experiences to have to sit-through the whole year, but knowing the Coens, like I know the Coens: They manage to pull it off perfectly and make this guy’s life one that’s full of all sorts of interesting and entertaining happenings, even if there’s nothing really happening in his life at all.

More than likely, we’ll get a scene or two, in a row, where it’s just Llewyn walking from one destination, to the other, with his guitar case in hand and sometimes a cat in the other, and we’ll just follow him. We are never told where, why or when this is all happening, but we just watch and keep our eyes peeled to the screen because everything that’s said, heard or felt, is raw and realistic. Sure, there’s plenty of colorful and hilarious moments of comedy that usually come from the Coen’s writing-style, which goes to make sure that this thing isn’t a total drab to watch, but overall, I didn’t care too much about that. All I did care about was, believe it or not, this guy Llewyn Davis; the type of person he was, is and what he sees himself as being in the near, not-too-distant future.

Sounds crazy, I know, but it just so happens that I fancy myself a Coen Brothers movie where practically nothing happens, and yet, so much does seem to be happening. It’s just all about looking closer at the way a certain somebody does something, how they say something or just how they are in general. I know I’m getting all emotional over here, but really, this flick will surprise you with how compelling it is, without really doing anything at all. I guess the Coens finally got tired of killing people, and decided that maybe it was time to take a chill-pill and just let their actors and mood do the talking.

And if my prediction is correct and that was their thought-process when making this movie, then smart move on their parts because it’s one of the best casts I’ve seen this year.

You’ve seen him many times before, but you can never match the face with the name. After this movie and this star-making performance, you better remember the name Oscar Isaac and you better be able to match the face. Why? Well, for starters, he’s in my profile picture (that’s always a plus in my book), and well, let’s just say that the guy is the total package: He can sing, play guitar, act, be funny, be sad, be mean, nasty, hilarious and do all of these sorts of things, and find a way to incorporate them all so perfectly into the character that is Llewyn Davis, one character I didn’t expect to like or even come close to caring for, but as time goes on and you realize that there’s a lot more simmering beneath this guy other than bouts of rage, you just can’t help but want to give him a high-five. Nothing too touchy feeley. Just yet, that is.

Anyway, what makes Isaac so amazing here is that the dude nails every aspect of this character that he needed to, and gives us the impression that we’re seeing a man for all that he is. Sometimes we can see a fictional character, and sometimes we can see a character made upon other elements of other people; but the whole time, I saw Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis, a guy who was not only a huge dick in his own right, but an entertaining dick that realizes all of the problems he causes in his life, and is trying to the best of his ability to make up for them. While he definitely doesn’t go about doing so in the best of ways, it’s the thought, in his mind, that counts, because while he is trying to make end’s meet with whomever is on the opposite end of his deal, he’s still never losing that edge that makes him such a smart guy that you want to be around, but never get into an argument with. Not only to top that off, but the dude can freakin’ sing his heart out and when it came right down to it, the guy brought a tear down my eye more than a few times. Not just with the weeping of his guitar, but with his soft singing voice, that shows more depth into his character than any back-story we ever hear about.

Oh, the good ol' days. You know? When you actually USED TO BE ABLE TO SMOKE ANYWHERE!

Oh, the good ol’ days. You know? When you actually USED TO BE ABLE TO SMOKE ANYWHERE!

And I could go on and on and on about how great the soundtrack is, but in all honesty: I won’t. The reason being is that the soundtrack is so good, that it should already speak for itself as is. And I’m telling you now, if “Please Mr. Kennedy” doesn’t walk away with the Oscar this year, then I’m straight-up protesting! You heard it here first, people! Mark my words!

Anyway, while Isaac is amazing in the lead role, as expected, so is everybody else in this supporting cast, which just goes to show you that the Coens never make a bad move on their parts. Carey Mulligan gets down, dirty and mean as the ex Llewyn screwed over and ever single chance she gets, she lets him have it in a very funny, entertaining way. However, once we do get past her usual tantrums of anger-spouting, we do get to see a gal that loved Llewyn, and probably still does, for the sad-sack, asshole that he is, which gives their scenes more emotion than I ever expected it to. Some may shiver and scratch their heads at the thought of Justin Timberlake showing up in a Coen Brothers flick, but the dude holds his own quite well, especially when most of what he does concerns singing and just being charming as hell. Same goes for Adam Driver who is another reason why that song up top mentioned is such perfection.

I said it once and I’ll say it again: Oscar-gold, baby! Oscar-gold!

However, the supporting cast doesn’t just begin with Mulligan and end with Driver; there are two other peeps in this cast that get a lot of attention for quite some time and are great at what they have to do, yet, don’t feel wholly in-sync with everything else that’s happening. In case I’m being too vague as it is, the two performers I’m talking about are John Goodman as an aging blues musician who gives Davis a bit of a run for his money in the insults department, while Garrett Hedlund plays his brooding and mysterious driver, Johnny Five. While both were a treat to watch, especially Goodman who just revels in playing a total dick whenever he sees fit, they fit more with the Coens’ more off-kilter flicks like Barton Fink, or Blood Simple, or if you really wanted to get crazy, Raising Arizona. Nothing against them as performers, but they felt more like caricatures, rather than actual living, breathing human beings that had hearts, emotions and feelings, like Llewyn and the type of people he hated to surround himself with. Like I said though, nothing against them and their performances, it’s just that they could have easily been placed in another Coen Brother flick, and probably fit like gloves. Here though, they just seem a tad too goofy, especially since you know Dylan’s just around the corner.

Consensus: Rather than giving us a strange, slightly odd flick that just so happened to involve the folk music scene and singers, the Coen Brothers make Inside Llewyn Davis a sad, heartfelt, but overall, complex look inside the life of a guy that you’d never thought you care about or want to spend time with, yet, with Isaac’s superb performance and the Coen’s writing, you never want to leave his side.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Just a man, his guitar and his voice. Who just so happens to not be Bob Dylan.

Just a man, his guitar and his voice. Who just so happens to NOT be Bob Dylan.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Barton Fink (1991)

Started the whole, “What’s in the box?” idea, way before “What’s in the box?” became a pop-culture sensation.

Barton Fink (John Turturro), an acclaimed playwright, is asked to come out all the way to Hollywood, despite his own, as well as his agent’s reservations toward that line of business. When Barton does get to Hollywood, not only does he go through an incredibly terrible case of writer’s block, but everything else around him seems to be falling apart and not making a single-lick of sense, either. But that’s why he has a good buddy, in fellow neighbor Charlie Meadows (John Goodman) to keep him company and most of all, keep him sane. Eventually though, Charlie’s word begins to crumble down, piece by piece, as well,  and Barton starts to realize that maybe Charlie isn’t exactly who he seems to be at all. Hell, he may not even be real.

People, people, people! It’s time for me to reveal to you all a deep and dark secret: I still don’t get this movie. I know, it’s been three years since the last time I actually sat-down and watched this movie, didn’t know what to make of it the first time, wrote a crappy review of it, posted it, advertised it and forgot all about it. However, three years later, something hit me in the head and made me realize that maybe now that I pay attention to movies a lot better and understand more, maybe, just maybe, this movie will have as huge of an effect on me as it seems to be having on every single-person who has ever watched?!!??! Ehh, then again, maybe not. But at least it tried and made me like it a lot more than last time.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

Exactly how I feel when watching a Coen Brothers movie: Scared, worried, interested, but also left in the dark.

The Coen Brothers have never really made it “their thing” to go out there, write movies and absolutely confuse the hell out of people with under-lining themes and symbolism. A lot of their material has twists and turns you don’t expect, and sometimes, feature shifts between genres, but they never have really pulled anything where it made me scratch my head. They are sort of straight-forward directors that tell straight-forward stories, yet, are very complex in their own right. This one is by far their most complex and I think that’s with good reason because the Coens have something to talk about and finally have the chance to be taken seriously.

And for the most part, being taken seriously is something they didn’t have to worry about being absent from their future because this movie definitely shows that these guys got something “going on” in terms of originality. The story starts off pretty simple, and then gets a bit weird, then weirder, and weirder, and weirder, until you have no idea what the hell is happening. But through it all, you can tell there are buckets of inspiration streaming out from the pores of the Coens, that just comes with them working their rumps off. You never know where this story is going to go with itself, or why, but that’s sort of a good thing because it added to the unpredictability of it all and made the ride through this guy’s wacky brain all the more entertaining and intriguing to be apart of. Never have nervous-breakdowns been so much fun to watch.

Now, aside from what the Coens do with this flick, I do have to say that there is some stuff here that I still don’t get, but also still don’t feel like I have to. It’s late right now as I’m typing this review and in all honesty, I’m probably going to go to bed after this, which really means I’m not going to get to read, each and every single line and detail of this movie on it’s Wikipedia page. I kid you not, you go on over to that link right there and just gaze at how freakin’ long that page is! Seriously, I mean, I thought I thought about this movie a bit too much, but hell, it seems like I didn’t think of enough because everybody else in the world was going bonkers over what the meaning was behind that mysterious mosquito.

I like films that make me think more than I’m expected to, I do, but this film seems like it has a bit too much going on with itself to the point of where not only did it lose me, but loses itself a tad as well. Let me get something straight, critics freakin’ love this movie and hail it as a masterpiece and I know exactly why: Filled with allusions to other works, symbolism out the wazoo, makes fun of Hollywood, all while focusing on about 3,000 different themes of the human-condition and themes of that era. That’s the sort of stuff that critics “get” and absolutely love (no offense to my fellow homeboys out there), and it’s no surprise that most of this film flew over my head, as well as most of the regular-viewing audience that was probably expecting the Coens to comeback with guns, twists, turns and a bit of bloodshed. Some of that does eventually happen, but in a more “intellectually sound” way, to be exact.

But being a “critical-darling” isn’t the best thing in the world to have, and that’s where it hit me that this film may have thrown out more than it could have held. The Coens definitely have a sharp-ear for dialogue that interests the hell out of you and visual-tricks that catch you off-guard, but this story and what it’s trying to say really takes away from all of the beauty here. I get that Hollywood blows and it’s very hard to get a script financed there because how everybody’s so tight and strict up there. Don’t worry, I got that part, more than a few times. However, right when I thought I wanted a new theme/idea for the Coens to bring up, I wanted to go back to the whole Hollywood-angle, mainly because the Coens started throwing all of these other ideas at the screen, seeing what would stick and what would fall without anybody noticing, since because they are, you know, THE Coen Brothers. Some characters will bring up the war, some will bring up homosexuality, some will bring up the common-man and others will just bring up drinking and having a good time and all seem like meaningless, small-talk, written by guys who know how to do it compellingly, but it just becomes a total cluster-fuck of ideas that are never drawn-out well-enough to fully have everybody’s attention and have us understanding everything, either. Then again, it’s always a refresher to get a movie that doesn’t always spell-out everything for ya and at least allows you to do some of the brain-work on your own time.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I'd just run.

Usually, the sight of John Goodman walking towards me would make me smile with glee, but with the flames in the background: Eh, not so much. I’d just run.

I just wish my brain didn’t hurt so much right now as we speak and while I type this. Ouch!

Even though he’s the guy that gets caught up in all of this craziness and rubble, John Turturro still comes out unscathed and does a magnificent job as Barton Fink, if not giving one of his best performances ever here. What makes Fink such an interesting character from the start, is that the guy is a bit of a weirdo, but he’s just like you or me: He’s talented at something so much, that he’s going to venture out and see if he can make a living in the big-leagues. I know everybody wants to do this and that’s what makes it so cool how Fink is just ready to get started right away as soon as he gets the call. Then, we start to sympathize with Fink as time goes on and things start to get weirder and weirder for him, but Turturro never loses that edge that makes us like the guy so much in the first place. Turturro is great here because he keeps this character worth watching, even when Fink himself may not make the best decisions. However, it’s just what makes him a person. Loved watching Turturro in this because the guy just continued to get crazier and crazier, but as he was, he was also getting more believable and sane, if you can believe that or not.

John Goodman plays the friendly-as-heaven neighbor of his, Charlie, and is just a ball to watch on-screen as you couldn’t have asked for a more lovable guy to play a lovable character. Goodman has this look and feel to him that just makes you feel at home whenever he shows up here, automatically making the flick better and liven things up with this story, as well as Barton himself. He and Barton have a nice friendship that starts off well and believable, and never loses that aspect as  the movie continues on. The way they talk, interact and make each other feel (not Brokeback Mountain-feeling, neither), without having to worry about all of their troubles out there in the real world, it all just felt real, despite all of the nuttiness surrounding it. They are just two dudes, who met one another and are now just hanging out whenever they can. It’s so fun to watch and it’s also definitely one of Goodman’s best performances, as well.

However, as much as Turturro and Goodman may be the two main stars here, they don’t steal the show. The real one who steals the show the most in this flick is Michael Lerner as Jack Lipnick, the head-honcho at Capitol Pictures. Lerner has three scenes that probably each last about five-minutes each, but he makes every single second count and is just so much fun to watch as he brings energy, bombast and creativity to a role that could have easily just been a bunch of “Hollywood sucks” cliches thrown right at the screen. Obviously Lerner left a big enough impression because the guy was nominated for an Oscar, but still, that doesn’t matter; because without him, this probably wouldn’t have been as smart or entertaining of a take on Hollywood than it already was. But, once again, trust me, it’s not Hollywood they just talk about here. Just check that Wikipedia page again if you’re at all interested and want to stop reading my rants and raves.

Consensus: No doubt about it, people will forever be scratching their heads and wondering just what the hell is up with Barton Fink, but you still can’t deny that it’s entertaining, interesting, original and a very well-acted piece of work that keeps your brain working the whole time, even if you do end on a bit of a question mark.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic.

If only Jersey beaches were this calm, peaceful and poetic. Damn you, Wildwood!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Monsters University (2013)

Now how much is a red cup going to cost?

Before they became pals working at Monsters Inc., Sully and Mike (John Goodman and Billy Crystal) were just your ordinary college student. They were young, ambitious, hopeful, happy, and willing to allow anything to happen, just as long as they finally had a chance to get their dream job. However, what some may be surprised about is that they weren’t friends right from the beginning and actually found more things to dislike about each other, than actually like. But through certain bits of challenges and obstacles, they will come together to realize who’s scarier, who’s wiser, and why they don’t like each other in the first place. Oh, and it’s also at a college so mind you; there may be some underage drinking involved.

Ending on the note that Monsters, Inc. did back in the day, it’s an honest surprise that they didn’t go forward with the sequel instead. We do like these characters and we would like to visit them again, but does it really have to be a prequel, especially one that takes place on a college-campus? I didn’t think so, but Pixar seems to really be scrounging the Earth for ideas, so it’s no surprise they re-hashed something that they knew would win over the older-crowd that still gives them money, day-in-and-day-out, thinking that they’re going to see the next Wall-E or Toy Story; as well as the new crowd that’s probably expecting something like Brave.

Those youngsters. What silly little creatures they truly are.

"Dammit, Mikey! Don't you dare mention the name "Boo". She doesn't even exist yet!"

“Dammit, Mikey! Don’t you dare mention the name “Boo”. She doesn’t even exist yet!”

However, I loved these guys so much in the first place that I wasn’t so depressed in seeing them when they were younger, more hopeful monsters, but at the same time, I wish the movie did more with the idea/premise. Basically, it’s just Revenge of the Nerds/Animal House, but with Pixar, so hold all of the f-bombs, the kegs, the nudity, the hardcore partying, drugs, sex, and pretty much everything else you’d come to expect and see with college, or a movie that revolves around college. That said, it’s a kids movie so I can’t complain about how mild and tame the material is, but I can complain about how unfunny the idea plays-out, which is a major bummer because Pixar has been known to take something, anything familiar to the common-brain and spin in it on it’s own head, with their own smart way. Sadly though, this wasn’t one of those “smart ways”.

The movie gets you with a couple of chuckles here and there, mostly through random references you may or may not catch, but overall, it’s a pretty dry experience. Nothing with this humor catches you off-guard like Pixar has been known to do, and is a lot more slapstick-y than it has been in recent years, mainly to get the kiddies laughing and happy. Which, once again, is dandy and fine, but what are the parents supposed to do? Just sit there in near-misery as their kiddie-bops laugh their rumps off by some monsters falling down a flight of stairs? Well, I guess so, but knowing Pixar the way that I do and sticking by them for as long as I have, I’ve come to expect more from them and know that they are about making the little tikes laugh, but also the older-peeps that brought them to the theater as well. Plenty of kids were howling like crazy at my screening, but the adults that surrounded me couldn’t really go along as it was just for them, and nobody else.

Poor parents. You deserve better. Except for when those innocent children all turn 14, then you’re dead to them!

But where Pixar really picks up the slack in is with it’s heartfelt message that is usually supposed to make the kiddies think, and touch the parents as if they were little ones as well. Actually, you could even go so far as to say that it’s Pixar’s strong-suit: if the comedy doesn’t work, get them long and hard with a message for everybody all over the globe to listen and feel something towards. However, what separates this flick from those others is that it’s message does not seem to really click with me as much as I would have expected, and I don’t know if that’s the flicks fault, or of my own.

Basically, the message is that all kids should not really set their standards too high, because if you live life long enough, you know that all of your dreams aren’t going to come true, but to also still settle for mediocrity. Personally, I believe that telling a kid that they should not believe in their hopes and dreams is bullshit because they’re kids and what else are they going to dream about, and also, I think telling them to settle for any sort of mediocrity is just plain and simply wrong. When the kids become older and begin to realize that the world isn’t going to hand them everything they want on a silver platter with a cherry on top, then I would say is the time to let your dreams go away and settle for whatever you can get. But when you’re a kid, and just about anything is possible, with your whole, bright future ahead of you, then I think you should stick to your guns, live the wild and young life you want to live, and if it doesn’t pan out the way you want it to, then big deal. Just don’t get yourself down when and if it does in fact happen.

However, that’s just me though, so maybe other parents want their kids to think the way this movie is telling them to. If that’s the case, it’s their prerogative, but mine is that kids should be themselves and be able to keep their dreams afloat, regardless of what the real world tells them is reality. Hey, I was a kid once too, and I had dreams. They sure as hell weren’t to become a movie critic of sorts, but they were dreams that I at least went for until I realized they had gotten too far for me to even grasp. That’s just the reality of the situation, but I can understand why some parents wouldn’t want their own kids having to go through with that themselves. Call it “babying”, call it what you will. It’s just life, man.

"I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world."

“I pledge to scare the shit out of every boy and girl in the world.”

No matter how far into mediocrity this flick went, the glue holding it all together was Sully and Mike, voiced terrifically once again by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Together, they make a great team and even though I don’t fully believe their obviously-adult voices as ones of college freshman, I was still able to enjoy myself and be reminded of what these guys were like in the first movie (which still ranks as one of my favorites as a kid, and still holds up for me, believe it or not). They’re fun to watch together, by how different and alike they are, but also by how they come together in ways that are believable and easy to understand, especially when you know what these guys are at the beginning of the first movie. I didn’t need to see these characters on the big-screen, but it wasn’t such a bad trip down memory lane once more.

Steve Buscemi also returns as Randy, who actually has an odd twist here that makes you understand why he is the way he is in the original; Helen Mirren plays up her “ice queen”-act as Dean Hardscrabble, the one and only monster who holds the all-time record for most scares, ever; Nathan Fillion is awesome and bad-ass, even with his voice, as Johnny, the head brother of the biggest fraternity on campus; and Joel Murray does an effective job as the older, but equally as goofy member of the frat, Don, who shows some chops for comedic-timing. And trust me, there is plenty, plenty more recognizable voices, and even some faces (I’m talking about the actual characters), that you’ll hear and/or be happy to see.

Consensus: Despite not being a flick we really needed to see after the original ended so perfectly almost a decade ago, Monsters University is still a pleasant, enjoyable movie for the family, but seeing as this is Pixar and knowing what it is that they can do with their originality, it does come as a bit of a disappointment, especially for most die-hard fans, if there are such people.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

Like us all, Mike Lisowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

Like us, Mike Wazowski too dreams of having the greatest time of his life in college and getting that one job he oh so desires when he leaves. But this is 2013, and those dreams and hopes of a college freshman have all been dashed by now. Sorry, Mikey.

The Internship (2013)

Somehow, dudes that are getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play people that are working and not getting paid feels a bit disingenuous to me.

Best friends and co-workers, Billy and Nick (Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson) find themselves stuck in a rut. On a business trip, they find out that not only has the company they’ve been working for all this time, not only folded, but is not referring them anywhere else to work. Without any real direction of where to go next, they both decide to take one step in the right direction where most people in this world seem to be going and that’s to Google itself. Well, not exactly. You see, these guys aren’t getting jobs there just yet, and instead, have to go through a summer-long, non-paid internship where they will see what to do and how to do it, in order to make the big bucks in the 21st Century. Problem is, Billy and Nick don’t really know what the hell they are supposed to do with half of this shite, let alone work a computer.

Back in the day, around let’s say 2005, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson we’re the biggest names in comedy, minus a few others. Wedding Crashers was a hit and continues to have people laugh their asses off even until this day. The problem was, that was 2005 and the chance to act all wild, slightly-young, crazy, wacky, and manic, was all accepted because this is who they were and they were just soaking up the sun, telling everyone, and living life to it’s fullest. However, 8 years later, the act is sort of stale and feels like it’s two dudes that have yet come to the realization that not only are their bodies getting flabbier and their hair is getting a bit gray, but they also can’t continue to act like their young, wild, and nutty anymore. They have to actually be and act like considerable “adults”, and it’s not an act that they can hold for very long.

I get it, they're using a vid-chat, but they don't know how to because their old!!

I get it, they’re trying to use vid-chat, but they don’t know how to because their old.

And that’s the whole joke behind this movie: the fact that these guys are old, still trying to be hip and cool, but just don’t “get it”, in the sense that everything that was awesome and rad back in the 80’s and 90’s, is soooooooo lame. It’s a joke that works well for about the first 5 minutes, and then these guys get to the actual Google headquarters where not only is every kid there absolute dicks to them, but unrightfully so too. Because these guys are old, are practically taking this internship on a whim, and don’t really know all of the insanely-nerdy computer lingo like each and every one of them do, that means you have to complete assholes to them? I mean are they nice guys? Or do they walk around, spit on people’s faces, kick them in the ass, liter, not recycle, commit havoc, and forget to flush? Well, nope to that as well.

Basically, these guys aren’t mean in spirit or nature at all. They are corny and trying a bit too hard to be cool again, I’ll give them that, but they aren’t bad dudes, so when every kid that they met at this internship practically threw their fists and saliva in their general direction, I thought it was a little strange considering where this movie goes with it’s message and what it’s exactly trying to say about the generation we live in. You know, the one generation where everybody sees how trashed you got at that concert through the pictures on Instagram and/or Facebook, what political affiliation you consider yourself apart of because of the tweets you make, and where it takes a total of 2.4 seconds to find who was the 23rd President of the United States just by a little bit of typing in that search box.

By the way, the answer was Benjamin Harris. Didn’t take me long to find it either.

But that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: it wants to teach us about the old ways of living your life without being run by technology or any stupid, new-age crap like that, and just living, man. And that whole idea the movie continues to spout-out at us wouldn’t have been so bad if it was a comedy that was actually funny in the least bit. However, it’s not and instead takes the same joke that these guys are old, out-of-touch, and a bunch of lamers that somehow refuse to get with the times, and tells it time and time again. Oh, but also not forgetting to remind us that this movie is taking place on the actual Google headquarters, where apparently everything that’s right, beautiful, and fine with the world, occurs there and nowhere else.

Which means, yes, as you probably suspected; this movie is nothing more than a shameless recruiting video for Google, how their internship-process works, and how you too, if you have enough ambition, perseverance, and belief in yourself, can get a job there and start joining in on all of the peacefulness and fun. And hell, if I was to base this movie on that regard, then I’d say the movie did it’s job, and did it quite well mind you. It gets us to feel like Google is the place to work and even if you don’t know what the hell “Ctt” means, you can still continue to learn more and more about it, and eventually get the job, the money, and the happiness that you oh so desire in life. However, this is not a recruiting video for possible interns, but is actually a full-length, feature film that’s supposed to make you laugh, make you happy, make you think, and make you go about your day in a positive, meaningful way.

Well, then in that regard: the movie fails. I can’t say it fails miserably, but it’s noticeable right away that this movie just does not have the juice to keep it going for 2 whole hours, and is going to try it’s hardest to rest it’s shoulders on the talents of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, but here’s the problem: they’ve lost their touch too. I’ve always liked to consider myself a real fan of these two guys, even in their darkest days, but I honestly cannot remember the last time these two really blew me away in something that they were together in, or, were separate and trying to be funny in. Of course, they both had their battles with dramatic roles that have been more successful than one might have suspected (Wilson with Midnight in Paris; Vaughn with Into the Wild), but last time I checked; I can’t remember either one of them really having me holding my gut, except for those eight years ago that we all know about.

I'd party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I'd just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

I’d party with Vince and Owen any day of the week, I’d just tell them not to argue how the original Footloose is better than the remake.

That said, they both try their nearest and dearest to make the slightest ounce of this material work, but all of the wit, all of the charm, and all of the humor that was once placed in their souls and never seemed to stop working; has all of a sudden broken down and been ran-out. And this time, I think it’s for good. It’s sad to think about considering these guys were once on top of the highest mountain when it came to comedy, but now that they’re older and supposed to be more wiser, smarter, and knowledgeable about where their lives have gone, you expect more. You expect these guys not to try and phone it in; you expect them to at least give it their all and make something seem funny; and best of all, you expect them to understand what is funny and what isn’t. But neither of them do, which makes it harder and harder to watch, as if they were two jocks that got back together to chat it up and hang out after all of these years, and still act as if they were as cool and sexy as they once were. They aren’t, and it’s sad to see.

Don’t be fooled though, because these two aren’t the only ones that aren’t funny: barely anybody else here is worth mentioning either. Will Ferrell shows up for all of 5 minutes, gets a chuckle or two, but really seems to be over-doing his d-headed act; Rose Byrne’s a bore as the apple of Wilson’s character’s eye, and it gets painfully obvious between the two; Max Minghella has some sort of British accent that’s supposed to make him seem more like a smart snob, but just has him come off as a dick that nobody, absolutely anybody would want to be around, let alone work with; John Goodman has about a scene or two and is just chewing-up the scenery with his beard and all; and the kids who played the fellow interns that Billy and Nick work with each have their fair share of good moments, and bad ones too, but it’s more of the latter since the material isn’t funny, and none of them really seem to get off the right foot from the beginning, and get back on the good one. They are just young, trying to get a job, and just as inspired as Billy and Nick, they just don’t go shouting out about it from the roof-tops. They just tweet, make a status about it, or text their friend who replies, “LOL lyke awkward.”

Consensus: The Internship‘s problem isn’t just that it isn’t funny, but never knows it isn’t so instead of actually trying to go somewhere else with it’s story, it continues to hammer in the fact that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn, at one time, were hilarious dudes that you just had to see no matter what film they were in. Problem is, times have changed and so has the laughs.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

Pictured: heaven

Pictured: heaven

The Hangover Part III (2013)

What happens in Vegas, should always stay in Vegas. This included.

Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifiankis), and yes, even Doug (Justin Bartha) reunite for one last adventure in Vegas. However, it isn’t the type of fun-filled adventure they expected to begin with. Rather than living up the night with drugs, sex, booze, women, and Mike Tyson’s tiger, Doug gets kidnapped from a powerful drug-dealer (John Goodman), who wants one thing and one thing only in return: Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong).

The first Hangover, as we all know, was a smash-hit. It was funny, broke box-office records, and even won the Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy (against (500) Days of Summer, which still, to this day, is bullshit). So, obviously, it seems like the next, big step for the franchise would be to have a sequel that not only capitalized on the first one’s charm, but enhanced it in a way as well. By the word “enhance”, I mean to just substitute certain aspects of the story out, for other parts like a brother-in-law nobody gives a shit about, for a hubby-to-be that’s Justin Bartha. Yup, I am indeed talking about the second movie that not only pissed off critics, but pissed off audiences as well. Apparently, it didn’t piss them off enough considering that the movie still kicked ass at the box-office and assured that yes: there would be a third, and final one, whether or not anybody actually wanted it.

This is what we have here ending the series, and that’s some joyous news. The movie’s not the joyous news, the fact that it’s the last one in the franchise is the joyous news.

I guess Doug was granted "hanging out with the guys" privileges. Then, killed off several seconds later...

I guess Doug was granted “hanging out with the guys” privileges. Then, killed off several seconds later…

Before I get any further into the nuts and bolts of this movie, I’m just going to put it plain and simple: the movie is just not funny. Yes, the occasional chuckle occurred here and there, but other than half-a-handful of times, nothing really made me laugh, smile, or happy that I was watching these guys go out with a bang. Instead, all I got was a movie that tried to recycle the same old jokes from the first two, and if they didn’t bother doing that; they didn’t even try to be funny. Todd Phillips and the rest of his crew obviously seem to love these characters and all that they go through more than us, so rather than letting them do what makes us love them so much in the first place (be funny), he steps in the way, puts a way-too complicated plot in place, and knocks down any chance for a hilarious moment to occur.

I get that this is the last movie in the series and that Phillips wants to end on a high-note that has us remember these characters for all that they are and what they were, but he tries way too much by just adding lame-ass drama. Lame-ass drama that, by the way, totally brings down the energy and the tone of the movie, giving us a movie that doesn’t know whether or not it wants to be a comedy with streaks of dark, or a drama, with streaks of dark comedy. It ends up being neither, and watching it be slapped back-and-forth by what it wants to be and accomplish, just is not entertaining to watch, no matter how much plot or story Phillips wants to add on. Not even his trademark cameo can make this movie worth watching. In fact, it’s the exact opposite as it seems like the dude was just trying to pull-out any stop that he could, and seemed to fail at doing so.

That’s the real problem with this movie, other than not being funny: it tries ridiculously hard and does not work a bit. There comes a point where you really feel as if this movie is going to take the high-road, hit us with a genius situation that not only makes us laugh, but understand why we love the Wolf Pack for all that they were in the first movie, but we never get that. However, what we do get is a bunch of dudes that bicker about random shit that’s better left unsaid or not acknowledged in any way, running errand-to-errand, and switching more cars than a South Street hooker. None of this is funny to watch, even if Phillips and his crew seem to set these guys up for moments of pure-hilarity, only to have the mark missed and fall right on their toes, without them knowing what the hell to do.

And shame on Todd Phillips for not knowing what to do with these three guys, because if anything, they were the only ones saving that last train-wreck from collapsing to it’s painful, memorable death. In fact, while I’m at it, shame on Todd Phillips for not being able to take advantage of the cast and crew he was able to get back to return for this (hopefully) last installment. You got Mike Epps as Black Doug, Heather Graham as the hooker-wife of Stu/mother of “Carlos”, and even newcomers like John Goodman and Melissa McCarth. All can be funny as hell when they are allowed to go bonkers, but just get held-back by a script/direction that doesn’t seem all too concerned with them. Hell, it doesn’t even seem all that concerned with the Wolf Pack, and instead, diverts most of it’s attention to Mr. Chow!

Listen here, Mr. Chow was a pretty funny-ass character in the first movie because he showed up every once and awhile, did his goofy-Chinese thang, showed his weenie, simulated ejaculating all over people, and let it be left at that. However, this whole movie seems to not only include that, but more and more of it, which is not only unneeded, but it’s stupid because the movie is more of his, rather than the dudes who started the franchise in the first place. It isn’t like Ken Jeong isn’t capable of playing this character well, it’s just that the character has been played-out beyond belief by now, even though nobody working on the film seems to realize that after the first ten times they show him up on-screen. Seriously, this movie could have been without Bradley, Ed, and Zach, and nobody would have noticed. It’s basically Chow’s show from beginning-to-end, and it’s never funny to sit around and view.

It's funny because he's just a little Asian dude acting like a sheriff!!!

It’s funny because he’s just a little Asian dude acting like a sheriff!!!

It’s a real shame too, because Bradley, Ed, and Zach still seem to have some sort of dynamic between one another that would be perfect for a movie that cared more about them, but that’s not this movie. Here, they are given the boot to the side, just so Chow can say dirty and inappropriate things in a “funny” Chinese-accent. Individually, they all seem fine, but it also feels like a lost cause since they aren’t given many chances to be funny or pal-around with one another. They’re pretty much serious the whole time and it never seem to end, even if this is the shortest out of the whole franchise (hour and 40 minutes).

Bradley seems like he’s bored with the material and knows that he’s got better shit coming his way; Ed just looks nervous and awkward the whole movie, and occasionally yells for shits and gigs (because you know, yelling for the sake of yelling is hillurious!); and Zach is just being himself, but it isn’t funny. It’s more random this time around where it seems like Philips gave him the cue to just improv his ass off, which is hit or miss if you’re familiar with his stand-up. Sometimes it hits so hard that you can’t believe you’re laughing as much as you are, and sometimes it misses so bad and noticeably, you wonder if anybody even paid attention in the editing-room.

It’s obvious that nobody did, and were more concerned with getting this movie out there for all to see, hopefully spend a shit-load of money on, and give them the possibility of another sequel down the pipe-line. But since everybody involved seems to be considering it “the last”, lets hope that they stick to their word and allow it to truly be the last. If not, I think I’m going to have to burn my Carlos T-shirt up at the next, local bonfire.

Consensus: If you were there for this franchise when it took an odd-turn for the second movie and stood by it, then the Hangover Part III might just be the perfect good-by you need to calm all of your wonders and nerves down for good, but if you didn’t care for the second one at all: don’t even bother. All of the charm that was once alive and well, is all lost for the sake that a little Asian man can pull down his pants, and ejaculate all over it. So funny, right?

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If the killing of precious, wild animals doesn't at least make you chuckle, you, my friend, have a soul in tact.

If the killing of precious, wild animals doesn’t at least make you chuckle, then you, my friend, have a soul in tact.

Flight (2012)

As if landing a plane was a real challenge for Denzel.

Denzel Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a seasoned airline pilot who miraculously lands his plane after a midair collision, saving the lives of hundreds of passengers. But as more details emerge, Whitaker becomes the focus of the investigation about what truly happened on that plane.

You have to wonder if Robert Zemeckis got as tired as we did watching all of his family, motion-capture movies, because right in the first scene of this movie we see a chick in full-on nudity (yes, pubic hair and all), Denzel slugging down a brew or two, and then, even going so far as to snort a line of cocaine. Pretty shocking to see once you think how this same guy directed The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, not all too long ago. However, Zemeckis is sick and tired of motion-capture movies (thank God) as well as making movies for families. He’s going back to making the types of movies he wants to make, that are strictly to be seen by people who vote for Oscar nominees  Good job, Robert, you got ’em again.

If there is any credit I have to give to Zemeckis, it’s that the guy doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to how he focuses on this character of Whip Whitaker, who, as you may already know from the trailers, is a very, very flawed man. Something else you may already know from the trailers is that there is a pretty intense plane-crash that is as tense and as suspenseful as you’re going to see for a long, long time. The last plane-crash sequence that ever hit me as hard as this was United 93, and before that was probably Cast Away, another movie directed by Zemeckis that shows the guy hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to providing tense, plane-crashes that has you gripping onto your seat as much as the characters in the actual movie are.

However, let me get back to what this film really is about: Whip Whitaker. The most powerful element behind this movie is Whitaker himself, his alcohol addiction, and how Zemeckis allows that to be shown on-screen. Zemeckis doesn’t shy-away from the fact that this guy has a drinking-problem and keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering just whenever this guy will actually kick the addiction, or just simply rot away like many other addicts out there. This would all make it too easy to hate the guy and not give a shit what happens to him, but Zemeckis doesn’t paint it that simply, and makes this more than just a standard, portrait of a flawed-man. It has layers and that’s what’s so important about this movie.

The idea that this guy Whitaker, got onto a plane, drunk and high, but landed it in the safest way possible by killing only 6 people in the whole-crash definitely leaves some food-for-thought as to what should really happen to this guy. Yes, he endangered everybody by putting himself on-board of a plane under the influence of some drugs and booze, but does that really matter when the fact still remains is that he still saved many lives that day and is probably the only pilot that could have done so? This idea and theme that comes on throughout the whole movie leads you to wonder and to think just what is right, what is wrong, and what should happen to this guy who did both, a bad thing and a good thing at the same time. You never know what answer this film is going to end on and you never know exactly what it’s standing on Whitaker really is, but what you do know, is that this guy has some real problems and it’s hard to think about him as anything else other than a dangerous drunk that did a heroic deed, but also an evil one as well.

Even though I may make this film seem like a Sundance-type, character-based drama from the hand of Robert Zemeckis, it doesn’t stay like that and definitely turns into what could be considered a Hollyw0od-type, character-based drama from the hand of Robert Zemeckis. What I mean by this is that for a good hour or so, the film feels very subdued, very subtle, and very ambiguous with where it’s going to go, what it’s trying to say, and how it’s going to all play-out, but somehow, the story loses that and becomes the typical shit we always see from Hollywood. The whole idea of this guy being a drunk, knowing it, and never making excuses for it is pretty fresh to see in a big-budget flick like this one here, but that idea starts to go away as he gets a tad too nice towards the situation and almost feels a bit shoe-horned in. Especially that second ending where it seems like Zemeckis wanted to really have us happy by the end, and give us an ending that sent us away with a smile on our faces and a brighter out-look on life. I’m not the type of person that wants a sad, depressing story that ends on a dark-note, but come on, certain stories don’t deserve to be cheapened-up because big, ‘ol Hollywood says so. Come on, Zemeckis you’re better than that.

And something else that Zemeckis is better at too, is picking good music for his movies and that is something that he does not showcase well here at all. Every single piece of music here is just another song that hits you on-the-nose with what it’s commentating on and how it affects the scene. For instance, every time Goodman shows up, Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” starts blasting as to show us that something bad is coming Whitaker’s way, and should be played more for laughs. Another example that annoyed me to death was the use of Joe Cocker’s “Feeling Alright”, every time Whip decided to snort a line and walk down a hall-way with his signature-strut. Okay, I get it Zemeckis. Denzel is high and is feeling alright, no need to tell me with the use of Joe Cocker’s voice. There’s other examples as well, but these were the two that really got to me and kept bothering me every time they just so happened to be blasted through the speakers.

Where Zemeckis fails though, is where Denzel Washington passes and it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen him give in a long, long time. It’s been awhile since Denzel has actually played a role that’s really showcased him as the powerhouse he is known to be. A couple of middle-of-the-road thrillers sometimes show this, but not the full-extent that this character-drama does and I’m so glad that Denzel is Whip Whitaker, because I honestly don’t think anybody else could have played this role and make it work as well as Denzel does. See, even though the guy is constantly-drunk, doesn’t care about it, knows that he’s bad fool, and knows that he can stop whenever he wants, he is never unsympathetic. For some odd, dumb reason, you still care for this guy and root for him, so much to the point of where every time he picks up a bottle or you see a bottle around him, you gasp or shake your head by how quickly the guy went right back to his old ways.

It starts to get even worse when you think about what Whitaker did before the plane-crash, and after and how it shows that not only is this guy a troubled, piece of garbage, but is also a man that is a hero in a way and used his better-judgement for something that saved the lives of many people on that plane as well. Whip Whitaker is as complex and as three-dimensional as you’re going to get with a character this year, and thanks to Denzel, the guy is watchable the whole time. Denzel is just about in every single scene in this movie and that is not a complaint whatsoever because it is a thing of freakin’ beauty to watch Denzel just act his off in a way that’s unlike anything we’ve seen before. We see everything in Denzel’s acting-skills come out here for show, like when he gets mad, or when he gets sad, or when he gets happy, or when he’s just being the coolest, sliest, mother ‘effer in the whole film. Honestly, I could go on and on and on about Denzel and how great he is here as Whitaker but to not bore the hell out of you, I’ll just leave it at the fact that Denzel may very well be looking at an Oscar-nom come later this year, which is something I cannot wait for. Even though he may not win, I still think he deserves that damn nomination because he is absolutely terrific here.

Denzel’s supporting cast is also pretty damn good, too, even though none of them really rank-up to the type of “Oscar-caliber” that he does. Kelly Reilly co-stars as a strung-out junkie that meets and sticks with Whitaker for the most-part, and is a very interesting character to watch as we see her cope with her own, personal demons, as well as Whitaker’s as well. They both work very well together, and I think that Reilly deserves more roles like this even though I was a bit suspect of her Southern, Georgian accent. Don Cheadle brings a lot of power to his role as the crack lawyer that’s brought to protect Whitaker from serving any type of jail-time and does exactly what you’d expect of the guy: act his ass off. Still, I wish that Cheadle would up his game again and see what he can do with leads again.

Bruce Greenwood seemed like the most interesting character out of the whole bunch because his first-scene with Whitaker really had me tearing up by the end of it, because it showed the level of friendship these two have and how Greenwood stands beside him the whole-way. I wish that more of the film was like this one scene, in particular, but damn was it still great to see and witness. John Goodman does exactly what he did in Argo, and steals just about every scene he’s in and gives some of the funniest lines in this whole drama. Then, the one that really surprised the hell out of me was the small-cameo from James Badge Dale as a cancer-patient who shares a smoke with Denzel and Reilly, and gives the type of role that makes you think about him, long after he’s gone. It’s not just how he acts is what makes us think about the most, it’s what he says and how the reoccurring theme of God and the actions he bestows onto continues to play-out throughout. It’s a role that deserved to be as long as it was, mainly by how powerful and though-provoking it was left as.

Consensus: Robert Zemeckis definitely loses himself by the end of Flight, mainly because he gives into what Hollywood likes to consider “happy”, but still features a top-notch performance from Denzel Washington, in one of the best character-studies of the year and in one of the better performances I have seen so-far. Not a perfect movie, but still a very good one none the less.

8/10=Matinee!!