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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 L. Armijo

Midnight Special (2016)

Somebody’s been watching a bit too much Spielberg.

Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), a young boy who possess special powers and has lightning beams shoot out of his eyes whenever he takes off his goggles, is on the run from the law, as well as some cult who needs him for something. Taking him away from these cruel and mean baddies is his father (Michael Shannon), his daddy’s friend (Joel Edgerton), and his mother (Kirsten Dunst). All of them want to get Alton away to safety, not just because he’s their his actual kid, but because he has the one and only way to some sort of promised land that they’re promised. Call it religion, call it what you will, but they believe Alton can do something for the greater good of their society. However, hot on their heels is the FBI, but most importantly, a new agent by the name of Paul (Adam Driver) who, surprisingly, finds himself more drawn to what’s actually going on, rather than anything illegal in nature. He, like basically everyone else, wants to figure out just what key Alton holds and whether or not he can live up to the odd promise that it seems like everyone around him is making.

You know he's about ready to freak the 'eff out any second now.

You know he’s about ready to freak the ‘eff out any second now.

Writer/director Jeff Nichols has been making some great films for quite some time and, in my mind at least, he’s probably four-for-four. Not all of his movies have been masterpieces, but, for the most part, they’ve all been good and have at least done something better than most movies out there. Also, they seem to exist in the real dark, gritty and Southern-fried world that we currently live in, where all men have daddy issues, don’t know how to relate to one another, and experience death, in at least one way or another. They’re smart, somewhat relatable stories about humans who you can’t help but be interested by.

That’s why, Midnight Special, while not a slam-dunk like his other movies, still works well because it features a lot of what Nichols does best: Human-drama.

But what’s probably the most interesting aspect about Midnight Special is that there’s more than just humans and drama here – there’s an air of mystery surrounding just who this Alton kid is, what he’s able to do, and whether or not he really can live up to some promise of possessing the keys to the kingdom, or something. The movie never makes much sense of what it is that Alton can do, but for awhile, it doesn’t really seem like that’s going to be the key, main focus; instead, it felt like it was just going to be about how these people relate to one another, in a situation that’s pretty tense and dire. Sure, we may not have a clue as to why people are chasing after these characters, with shotguns and whatnot, but still, we know that it’s not a good situation, and because we get some time to spend and share with these main characters, it’s worth getting involved with them and seeing where their adventure takes them.

And that’s why, when the focus is placed solely on these characters and not much else, Midnight Special works great. It helps that Nichols himself is able to, once again, gather up a solid cast to make his material even better, but still, there’s certain details to each and everyone of them that make them worth being compelled by. Mostly though, it is, once again, Michael Shannon who delivers the best performance as Alton’s daddy, who may or may not have sinister intentions. It’s probably no surprise to anyone to see that Shannon’s the best, because yes, he is the one who constantly appears in Nichols’ work, but still, there’s something to be said for an actor who is and a performance that is constantly making us wonder just what this person is going to do next.

We know he’s a good guy, but what is he using this Alton kid for?

To destroy the world, slowly but surely?

Or, does he just want his son to be happy and feel free in a world that accepts him and isn’t trying to hunt him down for one reason or another?

Cheer up, Joel. If you don't like your time spent here, there's always another movie like the Gift, you sick and twisted f**k.

Cheer up, Joel. If you don’t like your time spent here, there’s always another movie like the Gift, you sick and twisted f**k.

Yeah, take those questions as you will and make up your own answers, because honestly, Nichols doesn’t seem all that interested in answering them. And that is totally fine. Nichols has enough strong material going on here that it all mostly works, even when it seems like he’s just jerking us around, giving us constant red herrings to shake our heads at, but still remember when the time comes for the ending.

And speaking of that ending, well, it’s pretty crummy. Maybe, yeah, I shouldn’t say “the ending”, because it’s more or less the big “reveal” of what kind of powers Alton possess and what everybody’s been waiting around and searching for, for the past two hours. It comes as a big surprise, really, but not a good one; it almost seems as if Nichols knew that he was thrown into a corner and had to deliver on some sort of twist that allowed for everything to make some sort of sense, and rather than just leaving it up in the air and pissing people off, he decided to give a reveal, but not actually work at making it understandable.

Of course, this is all spoiler-y material which I won’t dive into here, however, I will say that it disappointed me with whatever happened. For awhile, it seemed like Midnight Special was going to be a smarter, but more thrilling adventure into the Southern farmlands that we usually get from Nichols, but for some reason, the mystery starts to take over and become more of a central focus than any of the characters. It’s fine at first, until you realize that the end-game doesn’t quite work, or make that much sense.

But hey, at least getting there is good enough.

Consensus: A solid cast, a smart, tender direction from Nichols, and an aura of odd mystery, allows for Midnight Special to work, all up until the final few minutes, where it doesn’t make much sense and just seems like it was forced to make something up, unfortunately.

6.5 / 10

Kids. What the hell are they even looking at half the time?

Children. What the hell are they even looking at half the time?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Daddy’s Home (2015)

Some kids are lucky enough to have a dad in the first place, but to have two that are Marky Mark and Ron Burgundy?

Brad Taggart (Will Ferrell) wants to have kids of his own, but due to a mishap at a dentistry, he unfortunately can’t. That’s why, when he meets Sarah (Linda Cardellin) and finds out she has two kids of her own, he’s more than happy to take on the duty of being their stepfather. While their father, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), is sort of out of the picture, the kids still love and adore him a whole lot more than Brad, who they just see as “the guy who’s married to their mom”. Brad’s fine with this as he’ll try to do anything he can to win them over, which he does come very close to, until Dusty decides to come back home and stay around for his kids. Obviously, the kids are happy to see their daddy, which makes Brad feel as if he has to overcompensate for something. So, he and Dwight have a battle of wits, of sorts, all to decide just who isn’t the better man, but who is the better father and more equipped to handle a whole family-unit.

"And don't ever forget, always say 'hello' to ya mothers for me."

“And don’t ever forget, always say ‘hello’ to ya mothers for me.”

If anything, Daddy’s Home proves just how great of a comedy the Other Guys was. Even though it was basically just a romp on the buddy-cop genre, featuring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell playing off of one another the whole time, it was still so funny and wacky, that it didn’t mattered that it was a bit messy and if nothing more, just an enjoyable comedy. That’s why, when watching Wahlberg and Ferrell unite here together again and try to recreate some of that same magic, it’s hard not to feel like some of the spark may be missing; after all, the Other Guys came out around a time where Wahlberg was trying so desperately hard for everyone to take him ridiculously seriously and didn’t even bother to show his mug in a fun-spirited comedy that, quite frankly, made him look like a goober.

But at the same time, the issue with Daddy’s Home lies in the fact that it never quite knows what it wants to be. For instance, believe it or not, Daddy’s Home is rated a friendly PG-13, whereas, from the look of this, it seems like at least an R. Still though, the movie still flirts around with the idea of being this raucous, raunchy R-fest that likes to poke jokes at balls, fertility, and sex, whereas another good portion of this movie just wants to poke fun at kids and still be able to cuddle up with them at the end of the day. No matter which way the movie has it, it doesn’t work and seems a bit confusing.

Still though, there were parts of Daddy’s Home that had me laughing and when I looked back on it, quite enjoyed.

Most of this comes back to the fact that everybody in the cast, no matter what they’re working with, can’t help but be charming, funny and above all else, entertaining to watch. Ferrell, as usual, is overly-earnest and sweet as Brad, a role he has played many times before but this time, seems so dedicated in actually developing more and more as the flick rolls on, and Brad gets thrown into some very weird predicaments. That Brad hardly ever turns into a bad guy, makes Ferrell seem like he’s one-note, but there’s more to this character than just being a total and complete softy, which is how the movie could have presented it and left it at. Instead, the movie shows that this sweeter-side to his persona is, perhaps, what makes him the most lovely presence to have around.

The sweet babies I couldn't imagine these two making together.

The sweet babies I couldn’t imagine these two making together.

Of course, I’m definitely getting way too deep into thinking about Daddy’s Home like that, but hey, it goes a real long way when a comedy adds a bit more heart to its characters when it isn’t just embarrassing the hell out of them. And yeah, as Dusty, Wahlberg’s a fine fit; he’s both suave and cool, but at the same time, more than willing to let himself be the butt of any joke tossed at him. Together, Ferrell and Wahlberg still have great chemistry that doesn’t get used as much as it probably should have been, but for what it was worth, there were still plenty of jokes and gags to be found between the two that are, for lack of a better word, humorous.

And the cast goes on and on with the likes of Linda Cardellini, Thomas Haden Church, Hannibal Buress, Paul Scheer, Bill Burr, and Bobby Cannavale, all seem to try with their material and may not always come out on top, but still deliver enough to add a little bit of something on the top. Basically, it was just nice to see them and see the film not trying to ruin any of their personalities in the meantime; while Daddy’s Home could have easily been the movie to have them all look stupid and foolish for actually taking this gig up in the first place, it instead, rewards them for being able to play along for as much as they can. In a way, they’re all sort of like dads who know when it’s time to relax and take a chill, but because they love their family so much, continue on with whatever they’re doing to keep the smiles up.

Yeah, definitely thinking about this one too much, but so be it! I laughed, surprisingly, and well, so should you!

Consensus: Daddy’s Home isn’t perfect and definitely doesn’t allow for Wahlberg and Ferrell’s chemistry to shine on perfectly through, but is still funny enough to make it an enjoyable comedy to sit through and not be worried about who is being wasted on what jokes.

6.5 / 10

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

That sex would be fun to watch. Just saying.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

99 Homes (2015)

Don’t ever trust a landlord.

As soon as the crash of 2008 occurred, everyone in the United States was left without a paddle. One such person was Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield), a single father who, after much fighting and arguing with the court, gets evicted from his Orlando home. Seeing that he has lost his family-home, Nash sets out to do whatever he can to get it back – even if that means having to join up and work for the same man who kicked him out of his house to begin with: real estate broker Rick Carver (Michael Shannon). Carver has certain practices that aren’t what some would call “ethical”, or better yet, “legal”, but the money’s so good that Nash doesn’t care. Eventually though, Nash begins to move up the ladder, which takes him away from working on the homes, and brings him now to actually having to interact with the tenants who are in the actual homes. This mostly involves Nash posting notices on doors, warning tenants of being vacated, and, as time rolls on, even having to kick some tenants on his own. Clearly this is something that Nash doesn’t feel comfortable with, but once again, it’s all about the money and the prospect of getting his family back in order to the way they once were.

Message!

So message-y!

Have you ever been stuck in a lecture at all in your life, whether it be with your parents, a teacher, or one of those Jesus-nuts from off the street, and not want to leave? Instead, you hold on to every single word that they say, even though you know the end-point? You know that they’re not going to start off by stating something like, “Gay marriage is bad”, and then end with, “Well, you know, you can do what you want.” The lecture is, most definitely, going to start with an agenda, continue on with that agenda, and, you guessed it, end with that same agenda. And yet, something about the lecture is just keeping you on your toes and surprisingly interested.

That’s how I felt with 99 Homes – a long lecture about the housing crisis and all the evil-doers behind it, yet, I never wanted to turn away or leave.

Eventually, that time did come around, but that’s not till later, so just wait dammit! Listen to me lecture about stuff now!

For one, Ramin Bahrani seems to know what he’s talking about here. Clearly, he’s put his heart and soul into material that, for a good majority of people out there, will not find an easy way to handle. It will, most likely, hit too close to home, hard, and re-open old wounds that were probably still healing. However, Bahrani seems to be interested in what these wounds still hold. Are they sadness? Are they grief? Or, are they wishes that something better occurred?

Well, 99 Homes is, in a way, that fantasy being played-out. One thing is certain about the movie, and that’s that it’s not totally a drama. I mean, yes, it’s most definitely a drama that’s emotional, sad, and for a good portion, filled with lots of interesting talking-points, but in all honesty, is really a thriller. Once we see Garfield’s Dennis Nash start picking up work as one of Shannon’s Rick Carver’s lackeys, then it’s balls to the walls from there. This Nash fella is taking away pools, air-conditioners and handing out eviction notices to people who have no clue just what the hell kind of storm has hit them dead-on in the face. While, at the same time, he’s making all of this money and seeming to be loving it.

Sure, he’s morally-conflicted by the fact that the person he’s getting rich off of, is the very same person who got him kicked out of his house, but because the money’s continuing to come in and the dreams seem promising, he lets it all slide by. And you know what? It’s hard to watch this and not want him to, either. Dennis Nash, as he’s presented to us, is nothing more than just your average, blue-collar dude who, like many others just like him, was short-shifted when the crash of 2008 came around and had no idea of what to do next with his life, his family, or his career. All he knew was what he was good at and tried to go where the money went.

That’s why, when we see Nash get thrown out of his house, it’s disturbing and visceral. Many people had to go through the same ordeal he’s going through and it was most definitely 100% more tragic to them. And that’s why, when we see that Nash is clearly pleased with himself making all of this cash money, it’s great to see him happy and enjoying himself. After all, he’s just a normal dude who isn’t under normal circumstances, so why continue to act normal? Why not try something new and go with that from there?

"When you said, 'movie with Spider-Man,' I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who's this damn kid!"

“When you said, ‘movie with Spider-Man,’ I thought you meant Tobey Maguire! Who’s this damn kid!”

Clearly, Rahmin Bahrani thinks this is a bad idea. However, his movie proves otherwise.

Bahrani has crafted a nice little thriller that takes you through everything one may need to know about the housing-crash, how it was operated, who was responsible, and those who were affected the most. But at the center of it all, is probably the most realistic character of the bunch, who also seems to be the most sinister: Michael Shannon’s Rick Carver. There’s no denying the fact that Michael Shannon’s a good actor, but here, as Rick Carver, he gets to stretch his wings a whole lot more and show, that even despite his character being a pretty despicable human specimen, there’s still something we want to watch and see more of him.

We know that he’s a baddie, but we also know that he, like many others, are just trying to get by with what he knows and what he’s best at. But what’s best about Carver is that he doesn’t try to make any excuses or apologies for the way he is – he just is. For instance, there’s a scene in the middle of the film where Carver laces into this tirade about how, “America was built on winners. Not losers.” It’s not just hard to take your eyes off of him because it’s literally just a single-shot, zooming in on his face, but also, because some of what Shannon is spouting on about is true. You may not want to believe it as being such, but it is and it makes this movie feel like a smart bit of preaching, rather than just preaching for the sake of it.

And don’t let me forget Andrew Garfield, because the man is great here! What with him being forced to play Peter Parker, it’s hard to remember that, at one time, Garfield was a very promising, young, and talented actor that seemed primed and ready for some very interesting material to come his way. Now with Spidey out of his way, Garfield seems like he’s enjoying some time being able to dig deep into characters that aren’t the kind you’d expect someone of his good-looks to play; you know, such as a middle-aged, middle-class single-father.

However, as good as Garfield may be, his character sadly falls prey to an ending that, honestly, came close to ruining the movie for me.

I won’t spoil much, other than to say that it felt like Bahrani, throughout a good majority of 99 Homes, was making a movie that wasn’t going to play it nice, sweet and kind, and instead, go for the gritty-realism that’s expected of source material such as this. However, he does the bait-and-switch and decides that maybe he wants some melodrama, messages, and red herrings thrown into the mix. I’ve already said too much, but just know, when the ending comes around, it may disappoint you more than please.

That may just be me, though.

Consensus: 99 Homes is a timely-thriller that gets by on the excellent performances, however, is a bit short-shifted by a weak ending that keeps it away from being a whole lot better.

8 / 10

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Big houses. Big cars. Big women. The life of a real estate agent, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

American Ultra (2015)

Weed kills. Not you, but others.

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his girlfriend, Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), where have a comfortable, lazy, and pot-filled life the rural burbs of West Virginia. However, what Mike doesn’t know is that he was once apart of a covert CIA initiative entitled “the Ultra Program” – something he has no memory of but is going to get a quick reminder of very soon. This all begins when a hot-shot CIA agent (Topher Grace) decides that he needs to get rid of Mike in a way of typing-up loose-ends, but the sympathetic CIA agent (Connie Britton) won’t let that happen as she sees the operation as her own child and it’s up to her to keep it safe and alive. Now, Mike and Phoebe are on the run from the CIA, as they run into all sorts of blood, guts, and violence; most of which Mike is surprisingly able to handle due to certain skills he had in the field, coming back to him. But no matter how many people Mike kills, he still worries for the love of his life, Phoebe, and now that she’s been captured, he’s worried that it may be time for him to call a day and let whatever’s going to happen to him, happen.

American Ultra tries to be so many things at once and is so willing to change between them on a dime, with reckless abandon. At one point, it’s a stoner-comedy about a middle-class dude just trying to get by; at another, it’s about this young, happily-in-love couple also trying to get by; and then, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s this gory action-thriller with CIA agents, conspiracies, and all sorts of illegal activities. While all of these elements sound as fun and as interesting can be, the movie still somehow turns out to be a bit of a slug – something that director Nima Nourizadeh tries so hard to avoid, but in all honesty, just can’t.

Never thought I'd say, but I'm so happy to see the dude who played Eric Foreman!

Never thought I’d say this, but I’m so happy to see the dude who played Eric Forman!

But, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t at least occasionally entertained by the effort put on by just about everyone involved.

Some of this can be chalked up to Nourizadeh for not standing down and allowing for his material to stick on the ground without hardly ever having anything to show for it, but a good portion of this can be given to the fact that Max Landis is the one who’s behind the pen and paper on this one. For anybody who knows Landis’ work, they’ll know that a few years ago, he wrote the smart and entertaining Chronicle; a movie that had every bit of animosity standing in its way, but somehow got by on being more than just a superhero movie with a neat gimmick. And watching American Ultra, I got a lot of the same feel from that movie, here; while they’re two different stories altogether, the idea of two young people being thrown into this insane, sometimes horrific situation is still relevant and works, all to a certain extent.

See, even though the movie wants to act as if it has this big, huge, beating heart at the center of all the mayhem and havoc, the movie is, in all honesty, more concerned with the carnage that ensues. There’s no problem with this because, for what it’s worth, all of the violence is as barbaric and as crazy as it needs to be and is, at least, fun to watch. It takes away from the rest of the movie being a bit of a bore and shows that Landis, while a bit sketchy on certain aspects of telling a compelling story, still has bright ideas to use when it comes to writing a tense, but fun action-sequence; something that means a lot more when you see it play out, than it actually sounds coming from a dork such as myself.

But to have a movie that is, altogether, both passionately romantic and horrifically violent, there needs to be a nice divider to between the two. There has to be some sort of break apart between the two story-elements, like in say something like True Romance that’s got a very heartfelt love story in between all of the craziness and gore that spews out from the sometimes convoluted story (although, to be fair, that story is at least a little easier to get the hang of than this). Here, the romance never feels earned and whenever it’s given attention, it more or less feels like it’s taking away from what could have been a lot more of a fun flick.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they're just boring.

Wish more drug-dealers were as funny as John Leguizamo, but sadly, they’re mostly just boring.

Still though, there’s something here to watch, which makes it at least a tiny bit better than most of what we’re used to get in the last weekends of August.

And even though the script turns out to be something of a mess, clearly something was working well enough that it attracted such a high-caliber cast as this. Having worked together before on Adventureland, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart clearly share a nice bit of chemistry between one another and it translates well into the earlier portions of the movie, where it’s mostly all about them and all of the other CIA nonsense is pushed to the side. Then, all that nonsense comes into the main-frame and makes their relationship seem a bit more irrelevant to the central story, and instead, we’re more or less focused on how many people Eisenberg’s character can kill with a frying-pan.

The rest of the cast has got some fine names, too, but even they feel like they’re wasted on some material that still can’t make up its mind. Britton’s character is, as expected, sympathetic and nurturing, as if she just walked off of the set of Friday Night Lights and forgot to change her character; Walton Goggins plays a mentally-challenged killer by the name of Laughter, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds; Bill Pullman shows up to do his thing; John Leguizamo plays, once again, a drug-dealer, even though in real life, it’s all he ever complains about playing; and even though a lot of people give him a bad rap in general, Topher Grace is pretty great here as the dick-headed CIA agent.

I’ve been reading a lot of the complaints about Grace here saying that he’s, “annoying” and “a dick”, but having seen the film, I can’t understand why this would be a problem to begin with. The whole character’s reason to exist is to be annoying, as well as a dick, because without him, there wouldn’t be much of a story to begin with. Without Grace gracing us with his character’s presence (like that?), we’d still be stuck where we were in the first-act; watching as these two love birds got stoned, talk about trees, start crying and generally, not make any sense.

So, yeah. Thanks, Topher Grace. I’m glad you were around.

Consensus: Dealing with so many plot-elements at once, American Ultra is a jumble, but it’s an interesting one that’s occasionally fun and entertaining to sit by, watch, and remind yourself that it is in fact, late-August and the movies don’t get much better than this.

5.5 / 10

Had this taken place in the early-90's, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it's just its own thing and nobody cares.

Had this taken place in the early-90’s, it would have been the perfect sequel to Adventureland, but sadly, it’s just its own thing and nobody cares.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fantastic Four (2015)

Any person looking to direct movies one day, stay away from Marvel.

Ever since he was a young kid, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) has always wanted to use science for the greater-good of the world and one day, during his high school’s science fair, he finally gets the chance to do so. When Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) walks up to Reed and propositions him with the idea of working for him, in his laboratory, on a full-time scholarship, Reed has no chance but to accept the offer. Reed soon joins in with the likes of Storm’s two children, Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and the adopted Sue (Kate Mara), and an intelligent recluse by the name of Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell). All of these intelligent brains combined, work on a teleportation device that takes them to a dark and scary world full of clouds, rocks, and lava. Eventually, their project works, but one day, when they decide to travel out into the world on their own, things go awry with everyone involved. Reed becomes a floppy man that can stretch any part of his body, Sue can become invisible and create force-fields, Johnny can fly and light himself on fire, Reed’s childhood buddy, Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), becomes a huge, rock thingy, and von Doom, who sadly gets left behind, is able to control things using his mind and power. After this incident, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Why we're people pissed-off at this casting-choice.....

Why we’re people pissed-off at this casting-choice….

So yeah, there’s already been lots and lots of problems surrounding Fantastic Four and mostly all of it can be chalked up to the fact that, once again, Marvel and a director of their choosing, don’t seem to get along. In this case, it’s Josh Trank who had to suffer from all of the chipping, chopping and rules of Marvel. Which is a total shame because Trank’s first flick, Chronicle, was a fun, entertaining, and surprisingly smart superhero movie that fell back on its genius ways of telling a story, rather than relying on a big brand-name that people can spot on any billboard from a mile away. And while it would make sense that Trank getting a chance to make another movie about young people becoming superheros would be another home-run, sadly, that doesn’t happen.

Except it’s not always as bad as it may have been said to be.

For at least the first hour or so, Fantastic Four seems like Trank’s movie full and through. It takes its time building characters, showing their relationships with one another, and giving us a certain amount of time to get used to them, the story they’re involved with, and get a chance to see just what may occur once everything goes South (as we know these movies tend to do). This earlier-portion of the movie is where Trank’s, Simon Kinberg’s, and Jeremy Slater’s writing seems to be at their best; not only does it seem like we’re going somewhere with this story, but we’re getting a chance to get a feel for these characters so that it’s easier for us to connect with them and relate. It may take awhile to get where it needs to get, but it’s funny, entertaining and, at the very least, interesting.

Then, things go awry.

After the gang goes to this parallel universe lazily titled “Planet Zero” and everybody’s got their own, respective super powers, then something strange happens to the movie. For some reason that I can’t explain other than the mandatory re-shoots that were needed for this project, the government somehow gets involved, Reed Richards runs away, and out of nowhere, Doom finally comes into play and starts blowing up each and every person’s heads. Why that is, we never get a chance to know, but when we see Doom get put back into the story after being away from him for about a half-hour, it’s as sinister and as scary as scenes with Dr. Doom should be.

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

..when they should have been pissed-off at this one?

But then, all of that seems to go down the drain once we get an eventual battle with Doom and the Four, and eventually, it becomes as clear as day that he’s so easily beatable. Rather than feeling like a film where an opponent seems to get the better of his rival(s), whoever edited the final-half of this movie make it seem like a boss fight in a video-game. Before defeating the bad guy and beating the game, you may have to go back and restart the level a few times, trying different combos and buttons out, all before you do get the chance to beat him and moving on with your day as if you have truly accomplished something revolutionary.

I’d expect that with a battle between Mario and Bowser, but not Dr. Doom and the Fantastic Four.

And it’s a shame too, because with the ensemble that Trank was able to get together for this, it seems like a missed-opportunity that he wasn’t able to get more out of each and everyone of them. Don’t get me wrong, everybody here is fine and seem like they’re on the same page when it comes to reading the script and performing it, but each and everyone of their own talents get lost in a mess of a final-act that doesn’t know how to wrap itself up. In the end, everything that happened before makes it feel like it was all just a lead-up to next week’s episode, where the Fantastic Four will, once again, battle against a certain evil, have problems along the way, break-off, get back together, and once and for all, beat the super, duper villain.

And even though there’s already a sequel planned for this, something tells me plans may get scrapped. Which, to be honest, isn’t something I want. To me, deep down inside, there seems to be a good, entertaining, and relatively smart Fantastic Four movie just lurking around somewhere in the darkness. But because the powers that B from Marvel got involved, everything went to shit and we’re instead left with an incredibly mediocre superhero movie that serves more as a cautionary tale, rather than a celebration for the fans of these comic book characters getting to see them on the screen once again.

Only time will tell though.

Consensus: After about the first hour or so, Fantastic Four becomes the trainwreck you’d expect it to be, but for a good while, it’s entertaining and compelling, until all of the fun times go away and we’re left with plenty to be desired.

5 / 10

So, what else can he stretch?

So, what else can he stretch?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Self/less (2015)

If I die, just give me Channing Tatum’s body. Just please.

Billionaire industrialist Damian Hale (Ben Kingsley) may live a comfy and cozy life, but slowly and surely, he’s dying. For one, he’s miserable with the life that he’s lived, where all he’s done is worked, worked, and worked some more, therefore tarnishing any sort of relationship he could have had with his daughter (Michelle Dockery). And now, if that didn’t hurt enough as is, to add insult to injury, he’s got cancer and given a few months or so to live. None of this is good for Damian, however, he has a plan in mind: Use a radical medical procedure referred to as in some circles as “shedding”. Though this is basically Damian swapping bodies with a much younger man, the body itself was grown in the lab – or so Damian was told by the head honcho running the procedure, Professor Albright (Matthew Goode)! But now that Damian has this handsomely new body (Ryan Reynolds), he’s able to do all sorts of things he wasn’t able to do in his other, much older body. As time rolls on though, Damian starts to realize that something’s up with the body he’s been placed into, and there may be a little more shading dealings surrounding the body to begin with.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

This is what Ryan Reynolds does to all those who fib to him.

Self/less is a troubling movie, for one, because it seems like something that could have really worked. Basically, it’s remaking the 1966 Seconds for a newer, hipper crowd, toying around ever so slightly with the ideas of the less-memorable All of Me, and then, giving us some Bourne-like action to hold the thrill-junkies over. Basically, it’s a win-win for everyone! Geeks! Romancers! Film-lovers! People with ADHD! Guys that love stuff that goes boom!

But sadly, that’s not what happens.

Instead, Self/less is mostly just a movie made for people who like to have intriguing ideas in their head about life, body-swapping, and one’s psyche, while all this action and havoc is occurring. Even though, the movie totally forgets about these ideas about half-way through and just focuses on how many noobs Ryan Reynolds can pone for some odd reason. The action itself is as standard as you can get (no shaky-cam, thank the heavens), but after awhile, it gets a bit tiring to see Reynolds mo-down folks for some sort of reasons that have nothing more than to do with the simple fact that they gave told him a little white lie about how the procedure came to be an actual procedure.

Some may say the eventual reveal hidden from within this movie may be a whole lot more than just a “little white lie”, but what makes the action a bit odd and sudden, is that it seems like Reynolds is only doing it to serve a plot, not actually get some sort of revenge. He’s pissed and wants to solve this problem; so in by doing so, he kills whomever is wearing nurse slacks that’s associated with this sheisty company? I don’t know if it all fits.

However, what I do have to give Self/less some credit for is at least allowing for Ryan Reynolds to show, once again, why he deserves far better roles than what he’s been getting for a short while now. Sure, the Voices was a perfect example of what it is that he can do, when having to toy around with a new character of sorts, but after the Woman in Gold and this, I’m starting to feel as if Reynolds is going down the same path like before. Don’t get me wrong, the dude is still charming as all hell and clearly seems to be in on the material, head-to-toe, however, at the same time, the movie’s not really concerned with if he can act or emote well; they just want him to get all wacky and wild as if he’s giving fans an early preview of what they can expect from Deadpool.

Which definitely sounds rad, but here, it’s not so much so. It’s just oddly-placed.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley's screen-time in Self/less.

Take this scene, add on at least ten more minutes, and you have all of Ben Kingsley’s screen-time in Self/less.

But the strangest fact surrounding Self/less, isn’t that it practically abandons its smart ideas for a generic, action-driven, route plot, but that it’s directed by Tarsem Singh and doesn’t seem like it at all. If anybody’s ever seen a piece of his, whether it be his movies, or countless music videos, you’ll know that Singh puts a lot of effort into the unique look of his product. The dude does not hold back on the style, and while some may have a problem with that because it seems like his first priority and nothing but, it definitely takes over the fact that some of the stories he’s working with, absolutely blow.

The Cell? Honestly, you can’t tell me you remember what happened at the end of that movie. However, you remember that J’Lo was hanging on a bunch of chains over what looked like jello at one point? Or, better yet, that Vincent D’Onorfrio dressed-up like Buddha, or someone like that? See, that’s what Tarsem Singh, for better and for worse, excelled at – hiding the fact that his movies had crappy story-lines, with all sorts of beautiful and awe-inspiring window-dressing.

See though, that’s what’s the oddest fact about Self/less: Singh’s distinctive style is hardly anywhere to be found. Some cool blue-ish colors are used in certain scenes, but other than the fact that he holds a steady-cam practically the whole way through, that’s all Singh has to offer here. It’s almost as if Singh himself felt the need to prove to whatever studio that he was able to sit back and let his stories do the talking for him, but by doing so, totally loses the muster his movies have when watching them.

Sure, they may be low on substance, but holy shit do, are they a beaut or what?

Consensus: Without Singh’s distinctive taste for style on full display, Self/less turns into nothing more than an ordinary action-thriller, albeit, one with some smart ideas and an intriguing premise to work with.

5.5 / 10

Burn, baby, burn?

Burn, baby, burn?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

In Khaleesi, we trust. And the Governator, too. I guess.

After finally defeating Skynet once and for all, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends fellow soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), from imminent death, courtesy of terminators sent from the future. However, when Reese arrives in 1984, he realizes that things have gone a bit awry; not only is Sarah totally understanding of why it is that Reese is here to find her, but she’s even brought around another terminator that’s supposedly on her side, a T-800 she refers to as “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Now, the three must band together to ensure that they are able to stop Judgment Day of 2017 from happening, however, in order to do so, they’ll have to go through all sorts of crazy shifts and time-changes. While this may be an efficient way to stop the apocalypse from ever occurring, there’s also the fear that in the process, they’ll be running into all sorts of problems with local law enforcement, fellow T-800’s who want each and everyone dead, and another deadly terminator (Matt Smith) who sets his sights clear on screwing up each and everyone of Reese and Connor’s plans; something that Pops won’t let happen if he can help it.

Basically, there’s a whole lot of time-travelling going on in Genisys (misspelled, I know), but it’s surprisingly done so for a smart reason, even if the reason is a bit obvious. To get past the fact that T3 and Salvation were both pieces of garbage, the creators behind Genisys have made sure that their movie goes back in time to where the first began, change a few things around with that, and then jump all the way to the somewhat present day and woolah, it’s almost as if the third or fourth movie ever happened. We hardly ever get to go back to 1991 (when the second movie took place), but we don’t really need to because we already know that movie rules. Case closed.

Not naked? Boo.

Not naked? Boo.

Sadly, Genisys does not, in fact, “rule”, but it’s a heck of a lot better than the third and fourth combined.

Granted, that’s not saying much, but in a day and age where every sequel/remake/reboot seems like it’s so obviously just aiming for audience’s pockets with absolutely no shame whatsoever, it’s quite refreshing to get a blockbuster where there seems to be some sort of effort put into play. Sure, the movie definitely tries a bit too hard to make sense of itself, while at the same time, continuously shooting off more and more exposition, but it at least seems to be trying. Not to mention the fact that the movie sort of knows how goofy it’s premise can definitely get; many scenes here end with a character or two scoffing, “Oh, that totally makes sense”, in a sarcastic manner to give you the impression that the movie doesn’t want to take itself all that seriously.

A little seriously, definitely, but not too much so to where it’s turning people off by how unwilling it’s able to crack a smile and grin at itself. The jokes that these characters don’t always fly, and more often than not, feel like recycled gags that are thrown in to make a serious moment feel less of so, for no reason or another, but like I said before, at least there is some humor to be found. It’s all corny, mind you, but sometimes, there’s no problem with a little starch added to your meal. And speaking of the full meal, Genisys offers plenty of fun moments with its action-sequences.

After all, it is a summer blockbuster, so how could it not deliver on that front?

But like the two other movies before it, a lot of what bogs down a lot of the fun and excitement that can usually come from the action, is the endless need this movie feels to constantly hammer on and on about Skynet, what they’re capable of, what they’re up to, and just whom it is that’s working for them and calling all of the shots. Some of this is of course needed to create a villainous figure to identify with and root against, but the movie seems so hell-bent on just discussing the history of them and what they’ve got in-store, rather than doing a whole lot about it. Though they do eventually step up to the plate and fight the big baddies at Skynet, it’s after so much meaningless babble that it feels a little too late at times.

As with the first two movies of this franchise, everything worked best when James Cameron just kept his focus solely on the action between robots and humans. Anytime those movies focused on anything else, it was to help build characters and/or discuss what needed to be done next to keep the plot moving forward. It was hardly ever more difficult than that, however, Genisys makes it clear that they want to explain all that there is to explain about the mythology of this franchise and all of the players involved with it. Is this used as a way to inform new viewers? Or, is it a way to set-up more movies to come?

Talk about a face....lift.....

Talk about a face….lift…..

Because, oh yes, their definitely are more movies to come and honestly, I won’t be too upset when they come around. Don’t get me wrong, this movie isn’t terrific, but it still feels much like a Terminator movie, rather than just a dark, gritty and lifeless cash-grab, something that the last two movies before this did. Because from here on out, there’s so many paths this franchise can take and it’s something to look forward.

The only aspect that has me a little worried with this franchise continuing on to be a possible juggernaut, is the cast. Surprisingly, Jai Courtney, somebody who hasn’t wholly impressed me just yet, is the one who comes off as the most engaged as Kyle Reese. While he’s definitely the most human character of the bunch, there are still small moments where Courtney gets a chance to show off some of his charm. He’s still a little stiff, here and there, but for the most part, feels like he’s actually interested in giving this character something of a personality that isn’t laced with 80’s cheese, courtesy of Michael Biehn.

Everybody else, as much as I hate to admit it, is sort of going through the motions. A part of me wants to believe that this is because the script seems less interested in building any compelling personalities for these characters, and is more concerned with who is doing what where and at what time, but another part of me believes that maybe these actors didn’t all come fully ready to play. Okay, by now, it’s clear that Arnold Schwarzenegger is definitely just going through his same old moves again, and though he’s fine at it, it does seem to get a bit tiring now that he’s getting older. The CG is starting to show and the stunt-doubles are getting all the more recognizable; maybe it’s time to hang-up the leather jacket Arnold.

Just maybe.

Then, of course, there’s Emilia Clarke as the latest portrayal of Sarah Connor and she doesn’t fully fit in to the role quite well. Clarke has definitely proven that she can be a bit of a small-tempered bad-ass elsewhere, but here, she feels oddly-placed, as if she’s too young to play this sort of role, or too innocent. Which is especially weird to say, having seen her in all of Game of Thrones. And with Jason Clarke, as I’m sure you may know by now due to the incredibly idiotic trailers, his role as John Connor starts off simple, but then turns into something else completely and it’s a bit of a shame that Clarke isn’t given a chance to highlight any sort of emotion underneath it all.

But hey, at least J.K. Simmons is here and is funny. That’s all that counts, right?

Consensus: Neither terrific, nor a disaster, Terminator: Genisys works well with its action, and less with its nonsensical exposition.

6 / 10

"Something something, destroy Skynet, something something."

“Something something, destroy Skynet, something something.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

A little over 20 years since the disastrous incident that occurred at Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is now up, running and pretty damn successful. It’s considered one of the more popular theme parks on the planet, where it features all sorts of dinosaurs, games, rides, and scientists working on genetically-modified dinosaurs. Wait, what? Yep, just like they were doing those many years ago, scientists at Jurassic World are now trying to figure out how they can make bigger, better and more efficient dinosaurs so that they can keep attendance booming over a large period of time. While the operation’s manager, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), sees no problem in this, one of the Velociraptor’s trainers, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), does and sees that it’s only a matter of time until the dinosaurs decide to bite back. Eventually, on one fateful day when two brothers (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting the park, the T-Rex that they have hidden away at the park gets loose and decides to run all sorts of havoc around the park. Now, it’s only a matter of time until too much damage is done and nobody can stop it; something that Grady, as well as some shady businessmen, want to make happen.

Let’s get one thing clear: Jurassic World is definitely the better of the Jurassic Park sequels. Sure, that may not be saying much, but considering that so many sequels/reboots/remakes/cash-ins seem to pop by every other week or so, without seeming like any life was put into them at all, it’s saying a whole lot. It’s saying that Steven Spielberg made a smart decision on taking a back-seat to his prized possession and allow young up-and-comer Colin Trevorrow take over the reigns; a job he does fine enough with to where there’s some brief instances of a sense of fun and wonder in the tips of his hands.

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

Okay, Chris, we get it! You really want to be Indiana Jones!!

So yeah, it’s a good movie. Is it great? Nope, but sometimes, that doesn’t always matter.

Where Trevorrow seems to drop the ball a bit is in making sense of this story to its fullest extent. For one, it’s interesting that even though there’s so much talk about the theme park of Jurassic World itself, and in how it’s trying to be the biggest, best, and greatest thing to ever hit the Earth, makes me wonder what the message was trying to be conveyed here. In a day and age we live in where SeaWorld seems to constantly be getting hit with controversy after controversy, it’s almost idiotic to avoid discussing this in any way, especially when your own movie seems to be dealing with the same problems, in a theme park where animals are held, no less.

But what’s odd is that the movie doesn’t ever seem to know what sort of stance it wants to take. We don’t know if we’re supposed to feel pity for the genetically-modified dinosaurs and how they’re just acting out the way they would be, had they not been so held in captivity for so long, or if we’re supposed to feel bad for the human beings who are just trying to run away and save their own lives. In the original film, it was clear that we’re supposed to care for the humans, but also realize that the dinosaurs were acting out in menacing ways that made them deserve to be put down. Trevorrow and company, for some odd reason, constantly juggle between the two and it creates a weird jumble that never seems to be fully pinned-down.

And then, of course, there’s the issue of how the characters, despite the lovely cast playing them, are a bit on the bland side. One of the hottest, brightest, talented and most charming stars we have working in movies today, Chris Pratt, is given the hero role as Owen Grady and it doesn’t seem like it fully goes as deep as it should have. Sure, Pratt gets a chance to use some lines, look tough and constantly seem like he’s always in control, but he plays it in such a way that’s almost too straight; as if he was just playing Burt Macklin, through and through, and forgetting to drop out of character. Of course, this may have more to do with the writing that was made for him, which is a shame, but it puts into question as to why the writers didn’t decide to give Pratt, one of the funnier men in movies today, at least a joke or two to work with?

Just seems weird, is all.

Who is it that's supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham's daughter?

Who is it that’s supposed to be afraid by Richie Cunningham’s daughter?

Bryce Dallas Howard is sort of in the same boat as Pratt, where her character seems like she’s just window-dressing to a lot of action and a random romantic subplot that seems to come a tad bit out of nowhere. Then, Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson play her nephews who seem to be there to yell, run and scream a whole lot; Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, who will occasionally sound like he has a Southern accent, and then, suddenly, drop out of it; and well, there’s plenty more along the likes of Omar Sy, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Lauren Lapkus, Irrfan Khan, and B.D. Wong, all of whom do what they can, but aren’t always given much to work with because of the visual-display on hand.

With that said, too, the movie itself is actually all fine. There’s just been so many complaints about the characters that it felt like it needed to be addressed, because while they’re definitely lame, they don’t destroy the movie. It’s still a fun time, which seems to be because Trevorrow still knows what it’s like to watch a movie as a kid – just as Spielberg seems to have always intended with his movies.

Though some moan and complain about the fact that the movie takes about an hour to get to any sort of dinosaur action, or any action of any sort, for that matter, it still seemed to work for me, the same way it did for me in Godzilla. Whereas that movie kept us in the dark about what it prized-attraction looked like and was capable of doing, Jurassic World seems to understand that we know what its star looks like and can do, however, when it’ll come into play is what really makes the anticipation all the more worth it. Once the T-Rex is unleashed and all hell breaks loose, the movie still keeps its fun tone alive and well, but at the same time, still terrifying to where it doesn’t seem watered-down like most PG-13 movies can be, especially when they’re made for a larger audience.

So basically, come to this one for all of the action and fun, don’t bother even taking a glance at the characters; you’ll only leave pissed-off.

Consensus: Though definitely lacking in the story and character department, Jurassic World benefits from a fun and exciting feel that makes it a summer blockbuster worth checking out, even if the “other” sequels still leave rancid tastes in your mouth.

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Maggie (2015)

Poor zombies. Their craving for human flesh can be so sad sometimes.

After being infected with some sort of virus that’s turned her into some sort of walking, talking, flesh-craving zombie, Maggie (Abigail Breslin) is left with what to make of her life. Or better yet, what’s left of it. While her father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) holds out hope that she’ll get better, with the right medicine and work ethic, Maggie still feels as if she’s not getting any better and is only a few days or so closer to going full-on zombie and eating whatever human is standing in her way. Though her father realizes this, he still stays optimistic. But then again, he also realizes that if the time ever comes around to Maggie become a deadly zombie, then he will be the one who has the duty of killing Maggie once and for all, even if it will probably kill him on the inside to do so to his only daughter and the only lasting memory of his late wife. But killing Maggie in a quick, painless fashion is probably best, especially considering all of the literal horror stories he hears about the government doing to those who may or may not actually be infected with the virus.

So what’s literally the premise to one episode of the Walking Dead, somehow becomes an-hour-and-a-half-long movie in Maggie. And the fact this premise probably didn’t need to be expanded to what it is, definitely shows as there are definite moments where hardly anything happens, for a very long time. Sure, people are sad in these very grim and morbid times, yet, just seeing somebody wallow in their own misery and accept the impending doom that’s coming down their way, doesn’t really do much to keep a movie together.

Sadness.

Sadness.

Which isn’t to say that every movie needs to have some sort of action that’s keeping it moving along, where something is always happening, or being learned, no matter what. I don’t mind that, especially in a movie like with Maggie, where although we expect it to be filled with all sorts of blood, guts, gore, and head-splitting moments that push the R-rating beyond its measures in the way that AMC won’t even allow, we get something much smaller and subdued. In fact, I appreciate that. We do see a zombie or two get chopped in the head with an ax, but the way in how it’s done doesn’t feel like it’s trying to liven things up, as much as it’s just trying to drive the point on home about how in the world in where Maggie lives, friends and neighbors are all killing one another, in a way to survive.

So yes, it’s sort of like an episode of the Walking Dead, but there’s something a tad different about that here.

Speaking of something that’s a tad different here than we’ve ever seen before, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actually really stretching his acting-gills out in ways that we haven’t seen before and it’s surprisingly effective, although not perfect. As Wade, we get to see Arnold in a role that’s less about how much ass he can kick, and more about how much sadness he would actually feel from kicking all of that ass and harming whoever’s ass he was to kick. Arnold does an alright job in this role as he doesn’t get called on to do much, except just look sad and cry a few times, which he does fine with. In a way, it sort of makes me wonder if there’s more heart and humanity to what Arnold presents on the screen than what we’ve seen in the past few years with his resurgence into the mainstream.

More sadness.

More sadness.

And while Arnold’s good here, he still can’t help but get over-shadowed by Abigail Breslin, a very talented actress who has grown-up just fine. As Maggie, Breslin gets a chance to show us what one person would go through, emotionally and physically, if they were to realize that, slowly but surely, their mind, body, and soul, was all deteriorating into being a walking, hungry, menacing corpse. There’s a few scenes in which we get to see Breslin show some of that charisma we saw from her when she was just a kid and it lets me know that, no matter what roles she takes up in the future, she’ll be just fine.

Problem is, for Arnold and Breslin, they aren’t given a whole lot to work with, if only because Maggie itself is so repetitive and dark, that when it’s all over, you’ll sort of feel happy.

That isn’t to say that the topic of a father losing his young daughter should be filled with laughs, rays of sunshine and happiness, but that also isn’t to say that it has to constantly be as morbid and bleak as it’s presented as here. Here, director Henry Hobson makes it seem like he ran out of anything interesting to say after the first 25 minutes, so instead of just wrapping-up filming altogether, making this an extended-short and calling it a day, he needed to fill-out whatever extra 60 minutes he could work with. At times, Hobson’s able to bring up some very interesting points about coming to grips with one’s own death, but in the end, also feels like it’s just taking it’s time to get there on purpose. Which is to say that, yes, if all you do with your movie is present sadness, despair, and loss, you need certain ways of showing that, that not only feels fresh and somewhat enlightening, but also effective.

But when it goes on for as long as Maggie does, then there’s a problem.

Consensus: Solid performances from Arnold and Abigail Breslin make Maggie into being something more than just a standard zombie flick, but at the same time, still meanders along for no good reason.

6 / 10

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

And, oh yes, plenty more sadness.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The D Train (2015)

High school reunions are a joke and sometimes, so are the people who you see there.

Self-proclaimed chairman of his high school’s reunion committee, Dan Landsman (Jack Black), wants to be the exact opposite of what he was many years ago in the 9th-12th grade: Cool. He hasn’t ever had that feeling, because after high school ended, he got his pregnant (Kathryn Hahn), took the first job he could find, and basically, never let home in the first place. That’s why when he sees a former classmate of his, Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), in a commercial for Banana Boat sunscreen, Dan gets the brilliant idea: Get Oliver to come to the reunion and have the reunion itself be a fun, memorable time, all due to Dan himself. However, what that takes is a lot of planning and maneuvering around to get Oliver from L.A., all the way back to home; although Dan is totally up for it too, he may have some problems in the way of his boss (Jeffrey Tambor). Not to mention, Oliver himself may not want to even come at all – something that Dan is able to change, but it all comes at a cost.

While this seems like a very sparse premise, the fact is that there’s something that occurs about half-way through the flick that makes up what’s to become the rest of the movie after it. It’s something I can’t discuss as it will simply spoil the rest of the movie, but do know this: What may seem like a small plot-point, something that could definitely be traded-in as a passing-gag, eventually turns the movie into something very serious and dramatic. Almost too much, would one say?

How I spend every reunion I've ever had to attend.

How I spend every reunion I’ve ever had to attend.

I’m not sure, but there’s something about this drastic step that the D Train that makes it smarter than most comedies. But in hindsight, does it work?

Well, not really. The reason being, too, is that it seems like where co-writers and directors Jarrad Paul and Andrew Mogel get mixed up is that they have a neat premise and know what they want to do and say about it, but instead of going anywhere interesting, or better yet, intelligent with it, they just use the most broad example they could find and figure out ways to make the jokes just string off of that. Don’t get me wrong, the jokes that both Paul and Mogel are able to cobble up work and definitely shed some light on the whole bromance subgenre of movies that I’d never see Apatow’s crew bothering to touch.

However, what it ultimately turns out to be is something of a disappoint. See, while Paul and Mogel make it seem like they’re going to discuss the whole idea about growing up, getting out of high school and doing something for yourself, the D Train instead goes somewhere else that feels lazy. It’s as if Paul and Mogel didn’t want to make its audience think too much while laughing, so instead, they just decided the best way to cure all that was to just go for the easiest jokes possible. Once again, the jokes do work and I’d be lying if the movie stopped being serious after this half-way point, but after it all, it made me wonder why there wasn’t more attention given to what seemed like the original intentions Paul and Mogel had.

Though, there is something to be said for a comedy where we get to see plenty of range come from the likes of Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn, Jeffrey Tambor, and most especially, James Marsden, that doesn’t just include them mucking it up. Because, for the most part, everybody here is funny and clearly shows they have a great sense of humor to work well within the confines of this script, but they also dig deep into these characters and make them seem like something more than just caricatures. They’re actual humans, albeit, ones with plenty of problems that they may not be able to ever get past.

Such is especially evident in the case of Black’s Landsman, who not only borders on the verge of being incredibly creepy, but may definitely have some self-esteem issues of his own that may not bode well for the rest of his family. I won’t divulge what it is exactly that I am discussing, but Landsman’s obsessive nature is odd and off-putting at times; however, he never becomes a terribly unsympathetic character. There’s a reason for why he acts so insufferably cruel and manipulating to those around him and it’s what keeps most of the moments where he’s just acting like a dick, therefore digging himself deeper into holes he can’t get out of, not only fun, but interesting in what it does to develop this character.

Same goes for Hahn’s character, Stacey. Not only does she love and support her man until the end of their days, but also realizes what it is about him that she loves so very much, even if he can be a bit of a sad sack. She’s not just there as window-dressing to give Landsman a reason to come back home every so often, but she’s actually a genuinely sweet person. And even though most of the easy, softball jokes constantly rely on Tambor’s boss character being present, you can’t help but enjoy what’s happening to his character, as well as sympathize with the dude.

Trust me, sit closer to the soul patch. It works well.

Trust me, sit closer to the soul patch. It works well.

Then, of course, there’s James Marsden.

I’ll admit it, I’ve never been a huge lover of James Marsden; it’s not because he gets the women that I can only dream of having, it’s not because he’s incredibly handsome as hell, and it’s not because he got to do kissy-face with Famke Janssen back in the day, it’s just that I’ve never been fully impressed with his capabilites as an actor. Sure, the dude’s charming and, more often than not, is able to make me laugh, but I’ve never walked from something he’s been involved with and have gone, “Wow. That James Marsden sure is something.”

That may change now. Not just because Marsden’s hilarious here (which he definitely is), but literally gets to the bottom of the heart and soul of this character, without ever making it seem like he’s trying too hard at all. Oliver Lawless stands in the place of every high school jock who peaked in the 11th grade: Was the life of the party, everybody wanted to be friends with, and had high aspirations for, but when the time came around to actually moving on and doing something with their life, totally fell apart. Marsden’s Lawless may be cool, handsome-as-eff, and suave with the ladies, but is also pretty sad with what he’s become and how he can hardly even get Dermot Mulroney to talk to him. Marsden shows layers to this character that I don’t even know were there to begin with, and because of that, I will forever look forward to seeing what Mr. James Marsden has for me next.

Whether the movie be good, bad, or just, middling. Kind of like this.

Consensus: The D Train flirts with interesting ideas that challenge R-rated comedy standards, but doesn’t do enough justice to them and instead, relies heavily on the charming and likable cast to pick up the pieces.

6.5 / 10

How I imagine everybody feels standing next to James Marsden anywhere.

How I imagine everybody feels standing next to James Marsden anywhere.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Hot Pursuit (2015)

Thelma and Louise definitely had more fun. And they *SPOILER ALERT* died!

Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) has been a by-the-books police officer for as long as she can remember. However, after a infamous mishap, she’s found herself away from field duty and put behind the desk where, hopefully, she won’t hurt anybody or screw things up. Cooper isn’t about this, but it’s all that she’s got to work with now. That’s why, when she’s given the duty to transport the wife of a drug cartel leader, Daniella (Sofia Vergara), to witness protection in Dallas, she is more than willing to oblige. But on the way over, things get a bit iffy, where fellow officers are killed and sooner than later, Cooper realizes that she’s being made out to be the baddie. This is when she decides to take Daniella to witness protection on hero own, in hopes that not only does Daniella get to where she needs to be, but her name gets cleared and all. However, during their little road trip, as expected, wacky hijinx and heartfelt conversations about life, love and unity ensue.

There’s a part of me that appreciates what Hot Pursuit is doing, but at the same time, also despises it. See, Hot Pursuit can list itself among the very small subcategory of road-trip movies that feature not one, but two female leads; the Heat may be apart of that group as well, but that was nearly two years ago. Movies like this where we are treated to two female leads doing and acting in roles that could have easily been filled-out by their male counterparts, hardly ever see the light of day and that’s why Hot Pursuit can be appreciated.

Boobs, get it?

Boobs, get it?

However, by the same token, it’s also a pretty terrible movie that shouldn’t be seen no matter what it represents.

Basically, this movie is not funny. While that’s as simple and as short as I can possibly be, it’s the absolute truth. As with most comedies, there’s maybe one or two times that I myself chuckle and while there is definitely two or maybe even three instances of that here, I can’t remember where they came from, what was funny about them, or even when they happened during the duration of this hour-and-a-half film.

But the long answer is that Hot Pursuit is, ultimately, a very sexist, unfunny comedy that seems to appreciate the fact that it’s about two female characters, but also gratifies them to make jokes about their bodies, their sexual activities (or in some cases, lack thereof), their age, and, how could I forget, their menstrual cycles. Yes, every joke ever made about a member of the female gender is touched upon here as if it were a Three Stooges short from the 20’s, but whereas those are actually funny in their offensive, slightly inappropriate sign-of-the-times ways, Hot Pursuit is just using them all for cheap, dirty laughs.

Which wouldn’t have been such a problem, had the jokes actually delivered, but they hardly ever do. They don’t land and more often than not, just continue on a very mean-streak this movie seems to lead early on and hardly ever stray away from.

And most of this comes from the fact that these characters are so thinly-written, that they almost become caricatures. Cooper is small and very strict about her day-to-day life, so most of the jokes surrounding her are about her height, her non-existent sex life, and the fact that she talks so professionally and nerd-like. With Daniella, because she has a lovely body and is Colombian, many jokes are made about her breasts, her accent, and oh, I almost forgot, her age. In fact, there’s maybe two or three jokes that are about Daniella’s age that don’t make any sense; not just because the character’s age has never been discussed before, but because Sofia Vergara is way too good-looking to be mistaken for a 50-year-old, even though she is slowly approaching that age.

But honestly, I can’t hold much of this movie’s problems against Vergara, Witherspoon, or the rest of the ensemble. Everyone here seems to be trying, it’s just that they’re saddled with material that would be better suited for a low-rent sitcom that would maybe last a week or two, until the network eventually realized that it’s offending way too many people and is already suffering from low ratings. Except that with Hot Pursuit, it’s a movie that people will pay to go and see, so even though I hope people want to see it for the fact that it’s a marketable movie featuring two female leads, I hope that it doesn’t lead to there being anything of a sequel.

Physical comedy, get it?

Physical comedy, get it?

Like, seriously, that would be terrible.

However, if there is someone to be partially blamed here, it’s Witherspoon herself. See, even after her infamous 2013 arrest, or, better yet, even the numerous pieces of trash she’s starred-in over the years, Witherspoon is still an incredibly talented actress who, even nearing 40, seems like she’s got plenty left in her system to go for another 20 years or so. Heck, she even just got nominated for an Oscar not more than three months ago! So what the heck gives?

Well, that’s because Witherspoon, in what seems like a very smart move on her part, produces a lot of what she stars in. Granted, she produced Gone Girl and didn’t star in that, but she produced Wild, which was a critical, as well as a financial success, but then again, she’s doing the same here for Hot Pursuit. Whether it was a move to ensure that the role she plays would stay straight for a woman, or if it was just money getting in the way of things, is totally unknown. However, if there is one thing that I do know, is that Witherspoon needs to steer clear of what sort of movies she backs up, let alone, star in. Because while Hot Pursuit may be a movie starring women, made for a general, wide audience, it still feels like the kind of flick that everybody will love it, except for women and that’s a huge problem.

So, please Reese, be careful.

Consensus: Though Witherspoon, Vergara, and everyone else in Hot Pursuit seem to be trying, there’s just no helping the fact that it’s jokes are lazy and sometimes insulting, leading to an overall, very unfunny comedy.

2 / 10

Yelling, get it?

Yelling, get it?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Get Hard (2015)

Just watch any season of Oz and you’ll be fully prepared for all the lovely surprises prison has for you.

When wealthy businessman James King (Will Ferrell) is wrongfully convicted of tax evasion, rather than taking the plea deal that would have him serve less time, in a far more secure institution, and also have him accept the blame, James goes down the harder-route: 10 years in San Quentin State Prison. Which, for anybody who knows anything about prisons, is pretty hardcore if you’re just a simple white fella who only knows jail through episodes of Lockup. But to make sure that he survives his whole, 10-year-sentence, James calls on his car-washer, Darnell Lewis (Kevin Hart), who he thinks went to jail, only because of his skin color and not because of his actual criminal-record – which, had James read it, he would’ve realized that Darnell’s record is as clean as a whistle. Still, James makes Darnell an offer that he can’t refuse: He will pay him $30,000 if he teaches him how to be rough and tough to survive in prison. Darnell agrees, but he also knows that maybe there’s something to James that may actually be innocent in the first place, regardless of what the papers may be saying.

Get it? Because Kevin Hart is tiny.

Get it? Because Kevin Hart is tiny.

Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell are two of the most talented acts we have in comedy today, although, they still have their own brand that works. Hart is like a new-age Eddie Murphy in that he makes everything around him funny, no matter what the hell piece of crap he’s actually starring in, whereas with Ferrell, his humor tends to lean more towards the wicked side of life, with his occasional outlandishness taking center-stage. There’s no problem with either of these acts, in fact, they’re quite superb. They both make whatever it is that they’re doing better, and show that, if you give the time, they will make you laugh.

You’d think that putting them together would be an absolute home-run though, right? And not just for audiences all over the world, but each other, right?

Well, that’s the problem with Get Hard right from the get-go – while it boasts these two top-tier comedic talents, the movie saddles them with hardly anything funny to do, or say. Like, at all. Instead, we get to listen to Hart constantly yell at Ferrell for being nerdy and white, which then leads Ferrell to start crying and acting scared because his character isn’t used to this sort of thing. It sounds funny, but it isn’t, not to mention that it’s downright repetitive once you realize that practically the whole movie is just going to feature them two performing all sorts of stuff that happens in prison.

While that, on paper, sounds like absolute fun and ripe with laugh-out-loud moments, there’s something strange about Get Hard that feels like it wants to make fun of the whole prison world, yet, still not say anything about it either. Though I may be looking into this thing a bit too deeply, there’s a part of me that believes somewhere deep down inside of Get Hard, lies a flick that wants to discuss racial-roles and stereotypes, as well as those that lie within the prison-system, and how ridiculous it can sometimes get, that any typical, peaceful citizen would have to drop all senses of morality and act as violent as humanly possible. Maybe that’s all just me, but I feel like there are elements to this movie that want to shed some light on that and leave it up to the audience to make up their own decisions on it. But more or less, the movie doesn’t actually do that and relies on Hart and Ferrell’s improvs to steal the spotlight from everything else going on.

Which brings me to another problem with this movie and that’s the improv-element of this movie Hart and Ferrell were clearly told to do and have absolute free reign with, no matter where the story went. Normally, I am fine when certain comedians show up in movies to just improv and make things up as they go along; sometimes, it detracts from what’s really happening in the story, but other times, it provides plenty of wacky, wild and zany laughs that you can’t really get with when somebody’s writing it all out. Sometimes, you just have to let the performers do their stuff and if it works, then you’re golden.

Who says blacks and whites can get along? Look at that!

“Dude, what are we doing here?”

However, if it doesn’t work, then you, your cast, and your whole movie, may be screwed. Which is exactly the problem with Get Hard. Too often than not, the movie allows for Hart or Ferrell to take a crazy scene, and have it go to even crazier extremes, which should all be funny, but instead, just feel repetitive and tiresome.

Take for instance, a scene in which Hart’s character is describing to Ferrell’s about the yard in prison and how it is sometimes the most dangerous area of prison. Hart gets the chance to impersonate what seems to be a black gang-banger, a Hispanic one, and a gay prisoner, which all seems like it could be really funny, but goes on way too long and leaves Hart to just say the same thing, again and again. I’ll give it to Hart throughout this scene, as well as the rest of the movie, the dude goes for it all and lets it be known to us that he clearly wants us to laugh, but he just gets too carried away here. Maybe that has less to do with Hart, and more to do with the fact that director Etan Cohen should have known when the time was to pull the curtain and call it a wrap, but either way, it doesn’t work as well as it did in something like, I don’t know, say Ride Along.

Say what you will about that movie, but at least it had a few laughs, mostly thanks to Hart. Here, however, that hardly happens.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad to begin with, had Ferrell been there to save the day and make everything funny by just simply being there, but that doesn’t even happen. More or less, we’re treated to scenes where Ferrell acts like the typical goof-ball we normally see him as in many movies, but it’s never quite funny here. Like with Hart, his improv goes hardly anywhere fun or inspiring; it’s just him saying stupid stuff, as if he was definitely making it all up on the fly, but didn’t want the actual good bits in this movie so that he could possibly save them for another, far better movie.

And a far better movie, I hope, there is past after Get Hard. Not just for Hart or Ferrell, but for us all.

Consensus: Occasionally funny due to the talents of both Hart and Ferrell, Get Hard takes a neat premise, and hardly goes anywhere with it that’s hilarious, or even interesting. It’s just silly is all.

3 / 10 

Ah, racism. Gotta love it.

Cause Ferrell’s character wants to fit in and seem “gangster”. Get it? Ah, racism.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Best of Me (2014)

Funny how true love always seems to come around while on the verge of dying.

After an explosion on a rig that nearly kills him, Dawson Cole (James Marsden) catches wind of news that his mentor of sorts (Gerald McRaney) has tragically passed away. With this, Dawson decides it’s time to head back home and see what needs to be taken care in the estate. While he’s doing this, an old-love of his, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), is doing the same. Which would be great if they wanted to catch up and be cool with one another, however, considering where they last left things, that can’t seem to happen. But because the recently-deceased wishes was for them to see if they can be friends again, they decide to give it a try and with this, we get to see, through flashbacks, how they got so acquainted with one another in the first place and where exactly they went wrong in the process. Which begs the question: Are they too damaged to get back together one last time for all? Or, are they just beginning on another romance of theirs that they can make into something serious? Oh, the melodrama!

Here we go again, people – another year, another Nicholas Sparks film adaptation. And as most of you may know, I for one do not take kindly to these movies; they’re poorly-done and yet, still make so much money because young teenage girls can’t seem to get the fact that hardly any of these movies are good. Sure, the Notebook was serviceable at best, but other than that rarest-of-rare example, there’s not much else to write home about.

In fact, the only times that these movies are at least watchable, at that, is when they’re absolutely crazy and over-the-top that it doesn’t matter how manipulative and corny the final-product turns out to be. As long as you’re having fun with it, that’s all that matters. Safe Haven showed small signs of this, as well as the Lucky One, but regardless, those movies are still terrible. Like I said before, there’s some fun to be had in how ridiculous they can get, but for the most part, they’re just a bunch of overly-sappy, rather boring romantic-melodramas that not even some housewives can get through.

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

Is there really any need for the shirt to be off?

And trust me, I live with one and she hates these pieces of garbage!

Which is what brings me to the Best of Me, yet again, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, but with a slight twist: the two lovers here are actually a bit older than we’re used to seeing with these adaptations. Usually, Sparks’ adaptations like to appeal to a young-ish crowd, so therefore, they include two hot, young, in-the-moment stars to ring in the dough, but here, the story is a bit different in that the two stars this movie is being advertised with having, are older and definitely not huge stars to begin with. No offense to either James Marsden or Michelle Monaghan (who actually receives top-billing, thankfully), but they’re not the sorts of movie stars that I could see ranking #1 at the box-office, with or without the Nicholas Sparks name attached.

All that said, it’s sad to see them in something like this because, unsurprisingly, they do both try and do succeed in making this material seem genuine. They have a nice chemistry together that is challenging and believable, which is probably a testament to how talented these two pros are. But, as one could imagine happening, even they eventually succumb to the beast of this movie’s script and just how terrible it is.

But most of what makes this movie so bad isn’t the script and how horrendous it is (although it’s definitely a key-factor), it’s the non-stop flashbacks that this movie uses to enhance the emotions of this story, and just constantly annoyed me everytime it showed up. Some of that has to do with how hackneyed the dialogue is between all of these teens, but most of it has to do with the fact that they cast someone who looks like Luke Bracey, in a role that’s supposed to be a younger-version of a James Marsden character. Seriously, look at the two and tell me if you can see one bit of a similarity in how they look.

Not one?

Well, don’t worry, because you’re totally not alone. See, rather than actually searching the landscape and finding a person that looks somewhat like a young-ish James Marsden, the creators here make it seem like they had enough money and time to get a young-stud like Luke Bracey and just decided to cast him in the role, regardless of if he shared any similarities in terms of look or personality with Marsden. This isn’t just a glaring problem with the movie, but it’s constantly distracting because you never for one second believe that one would eventually grow up to be the other. It’s like they’re two different characters, who just so happen to share the same name.

Nicholas Sparks' view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Nicholas Sparks’ view of what a grizzled, ex-convict looks like.

Which is to say that had Bracey not been playing the same character as Marsden’s, the performance probably would have been viewed better, but sadly, that is not the case. Even though he tries to make us believe in him as this Dawson character, he can’t help but seem like just another one of those bumble, redneck-like characters. But you know, this time, has a heart of gold. Haven’t seen that before, I’ll tell ya!

Thankfully though, Monaghan and the one playing a younger-version of her character, Liana Liberato, are better-off; not because they actually look the least bit alike, but because the personalities of the two characters match and make you believe that one could actually grow up to be the other. That said, Liberato is probably the most memorable part of this movie because she makes a young gal like Amanda, not just seem like she could fall in love with somebody as troubled as Dawson, but because she actually seems like a young kid. She’s reckless, spirited, and lets her emotions get the best of her – a true-to-form, high school girl.

But it’s just a shame that it all had to get wasted in something that doesn’t once feel “honest”, or even “believable”.

Consensus: Like most of Sparks’ other adaptations, the Best of Me is sap-tastic in every which way, meaning that those who usually love this kind of stuff, will continue to do so, whereas everybody else, just cringes and laughs away.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!"

“James, take my hand. AND WE OFF TO NEVA NEVA LAND!! BOOM!!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

Apes on horses. That’s all I’ve got to say.

Set ten years after where the first one ended, in the wake of the ALZ-113 virus, practically all civilization on Earth has been wiped out. Now all that seems to be left is nature itself; most importantly, the apes themselves who live out in the wilderness where they belong, led by the one and only ape who should be leading them, Caesar (Andy Serkis). The apes have been living pretty comfortably there for quite some time, so when they discover that humans are still alive and living in the city, they get a little worried. However, Caesar does not want to start a war, so he keeps the peace so long as the humans stay on their side of the bridge, and they will do the same. However, the humans need some help that makes it difficult to stay out the apes’ way: There’s apparently a generator that can bring back all of the electricity to the city, that also happens to be located right underneath the major dam. Which, in case you couldn’t tell by now, is located directly in the woods. Caesar is not happy with this, but he’s able to connect with a human (Jason Clarke) that shows the two species can trust each other. That is, until one ape, Koba (Toby Kebbell), sees Caesar’s willingness to allow the humans on their turf as some sort of weakness and decides that it’s his time to shine and take things into his own hands.

Meaning one thing and one thing only…..WAR!!

So yeah, Rise was a pretty solid re-boot that showed not only was there some life left in this near-extinct franchise, but that there was plenty more opportunity to build from there. Because, if you think about it, you could make any story seem fresh or inventive, just so long as you have the apes involved. Take out the apes, and you have a pretty standard movie that we’ve seen a hundred times before. But with the apes, though, well there’s something special about that and I think that’s exactly why this movie works just as much, if not more than the first.

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

And I think the main element to what makes that such is the fact that Matt Reeves is director here and the guy’s got some chops. Say what you will about Cloverfield, but he’s probably the only guy who can easily say he’s made one of the best American horror-remake of the past decade, come from writing a such a sappy, melodramatic show like Felicity, and yet still be able to deliver on a big-budget, action spectacle such as this. But what makes Reeves’ direction so much more impressive is the fact that he has to do a whole lot here, without losing focus – he has to keep the action, the violence and the overall carnage up to keep people satisfied, while still be able to give us those spare emotional moments that have us feel something for these characters when all goes wrong. Because, as we all know, it certainly will.

And while it’s evident that Reeves sort of slips up on giving this movie more of a point than just, “Don’t be mean to others, guys!”, there’s still a whole lot more emotional baggage that I felt delivered in ways I wasn’t expecting. Sure, we’ve seen the story of Caesar before, but what about him now as a leader? An ape that has a lot more on his plate than before. Because not only is he the head ape of this whole clan, he’s possibly the head ape of his whole species and it’s all up to him to keep the peace amongst the group, make the right choices, and ensure that not all of it goes to waste because of a mess-up here, or a mess-up there.

In a way, too, Andy Serkis is a lot like Caesar; not only does Caesar himself play a way bigger role this time around, but Serkis’ name even gets top-billing as well. To me, Serkis will always be remembered for what he does in these motion-capture performances and rightfully so: He’s able to give a voice to these characters who seemingly have none. Though Caesar does do an awful lot of a Hulk-talk throughout this movie (“Human bad. Ape good.”), there are still many moments in which we just see Caesar either speaking to others in sign-language, or just by looking at someone, for some reason. However, the reason is never a mystery to us because with every stare, every glance that Caesar the character gives a fellow character, Serkis brings so much drama; so much so that we never exactly know whether Caesar is going to lose his shit, or just take a much-needed nap.

That said, it should definitely be noted that Serkis isn’t the only one donning the green spandex-suit and getting away with it, because there are quite a few other relatively big names that do splendid work as well. Though Koba is essentially a one-note bastard, Toby Kebbell does a great job at giving him enough reason behind the menace to make you understand why an ape like him would take absolute matters into his own hands, as risky as they may sometimes be. Judy Greer is also using mo-cap here as Caesar’s wife/baby-momma and is fine, although it is unfortunate that we don’t actually get to see her in this movie, because what a pleasure that would have been.

Oh well, I guess these annoying-ass Sprint Family Plan commercials will have to do for now. Ugh.

Anyway, mostly everything I said about the ape characters, can be said for the human characters, although they’re filled with more recognizable faces and names. Jason Clarke is practically filling in for Franco as a peacekeeper named Malcolm. We never really get to know much about his character other than that he lost some of those close to him when the virus swept the nation, as well as that he’s able to at least communicate and stay calm with the apes, but with Clarke, that’s enough as is. The dude’s a solid actor and always makes it seem like he’s a genuinely nice guy, who just wants what’s best for his people, so long so as nobody has to get hurt. And as for Franco, well, much has been made about him apparently showing up in this movie, and I have to say, without saying all that much, he does. And unsurprisingly, it’s the most emotionally-wrenching scene of the whole movie.

Damn that Franco. The dude isn’t even credited as being in the movie, yet, somehow leaves the biggest impression.

Typical Franco-fashion.

As for the rest of the human characters, they’re fine, though not as deep as Clarke’s Malcolm in the middle – Keri Russell plays his gal-pal who also happens to be a doctor at the most opportune times; Kodi Smit-McPhee plays the teenage son who draws pictures and reads Charles Burns’ Black Hole (highly recommended read from yours truly), which already gives you the impression that this kid has seen some messed-up stuff and is trying to express himself in any creative way to block it all out, or just that he’s a messed-up kid in general; Kirk Acevedo plays, yet again, a spineless dick that has some truth to what he says, but is so aggressive about it, you sort of just want to give him a Benadryl; and Gary Oldman does what he can with his limited-role as the leader of these humans by digging deep into what makes this human, well, human.

"Come on, bro. You're an ape, I'm an ape, let's just be ape for one another."

“Come on, bro. You’re an ape, I’m an ape, let’s just be ape for one another.”

Typical Oldman-fashion. So suck on that, Franco!

However, I’ve realized that I’ve gotten further and further away from the point of this movie, and that’s that it’s a pretty solid summer blockbuster if I’ve ever seen one. Reeves doesn’t back down when he has to allow his movie to get a tad bit insane (apes on horses, that’s all I’m saying), but he finds a neat balance in allowing there to be these small, quiet humane scenes of drama that feel honest, rather than thrown-in to give this story some more of a purpose. Many blockbusters nowadays are guilty of this, but somehow, Reeves is smarter than that; he knows his story is about apes and humans trying to get along, but somehow just can’t. Yet, he isn’t afraid to go a step further and show us that the fear isn’t with these apes coming over to our land and taking over, but how most of us humans would react. Some would run and hide, while others would probably stay and fight for what they believe in.

Whatever your choice is, it doesn’t matter. Because these apes, they’re kicking ass, taking names and, occasionally, being nice to those humans who realize there’s more to them than just a bunch of hairy specimens. They have souls, feelings and all sorts of emotions. That’s not to say that they’re like you or me, but hey, they come pretty close.

Got your back, Darwin.

Consensus: While it’s not nearly as deep as it clearly wants to be, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still messes around with plenty ideas, while simultaneously giving us enough action, spectacle, fun, and emotion to make this story, as well as these characters, human or not, feel worth getting invested in.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Grudge Match (2013)

The fight we all wanted and prayed for is finally here! Thirty-years later, of course.

Back in the good old days of the 80’s, two famed-boxers, Henry “Razor” Sharp (Sylvester Stallone) and Billy “the Kid” McDonnen (Robert De Niro), had one of the biggest, and best rivalries anyone sports fan had ever seen. They both had a win on the other, which obviously meant that there would be begs and pleads for a the all-time classic “rubber match”, but sadly, that didn’t happen. Razor ended-up retiring, retreating to his suburban-roots in Pittsburgh PA., and ultimately, leaving the spotlight forever; whereas the Kid just continued doing what it was that he was doing with boxing, still fighting, still collecting paychecks, still wooing the ladies, all up until the time came for him to retire and buy his own bar, in which he still makes money off of and have a great time with. Now, after nearly thirty-years, through a series of strange events, the modern-day media all of a sudden wants the end-all, be-all rematch two happen between these two, and some head-shot promoter (Kevin Hart) is the one to get it all back together. The only problem would actually be getting these two in the same ring together at all, which holds more problems than what may seem on the surface, all because of some personal issues the two ran into with a girl (Kim Basinger) they both had relations with.

Here it is, everybody! The fight we all waited so desperately for: Jake LaMotta vs. Rocky Balboa! Except, take about thirty, some-odd years later, and Grudge Match is what we have.

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

Basically, what it is that we have on our hands here is a joke movie that seems like it was solely made so that these two aging, but still-popular stars can get in the ring together, and do what every movie-nerd has been chatting on and on about for years. But, since they are in fact old (Sly is 67, Bob is 70), that means we get a whole bunch of “old people jokes” that include rectal exams, Viagra, boners, menopause, heart-attacks, Alzheimer, and so on and so forth. Which, needless to say, aren’t all that funny, but yet, also aren’t that harmless neither. In fact, I’d say that some of these jokes are a bit funnier than what I’ve seen in many other “old people” comedies; much more so than Stand Up Guys or Last Vegas.

However though, it was once the movie started diving into such comedic-territory like racism, or homophobia, or even rape, is where I began to draw the line and realize that hey, maybe this movie needs to calm it down and get on with the story. And if it isn’t going to get on with its story, then at least get on with its character. And well, hell, if it sure as hell isn’t going to get on with its characters, then it surely might as well get on with the actual boxing match itself. You know? The same boxing match most fans have been desperately clamming over thirty-years for? Yeah, well they do get on with that, but it takes us about two-hours to get there. In the meantime, we’re subject to all sorts of jokes that either hit hard (anything with Kevin Hart and/or Alan Arkin doing what it is that they do best), or miss terribly (the whole idea of making blow job jokes in front of a seven-year-old was a terrible one in the first place, but to have it play out the way it did, just added insult to injury).

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not like I’m saying that this movie isn’t funny, because it can be, it just takes some standard jokes that we’ve seen and/or heard a million-hundred times before, and doesn’t really put a new spin on them. That’s all. And if this were an-hour-and-a-half-movie where all we got was some back-story, and some of this over-the-top comedy, I’d be all fine and dandy with that. However, the movie piles one element, on top of the other, all up until it’s two-hour-mark, and then the movie itself realizes that it actually has to include the boxing match we were all initially promised.

Which, even when it does show up, it’s so poorly-done, you can’t help but to get past its several obvious problems. For instance, it’s very clear who has the better body of the two, but I won’t even bother to dive into that. Instead, I’ll just yammer-on about the obvious difference in weight-classes between De Niro and Stallone and how, in the real world of professional-boxing, this fight would: a) Never happen, and b) not at all go down the way it did. I don’t want to give away what it is that exactly happens in this brawl between these two, as it actually may bring some fun and enjoyment for you peeps out there, but needless to say, the fight goes down the exact way you’d expect a sports movie to have itself go down, and already, it just never works.

Some may say I’m an a-hole for going into a movie like this where two old-as-hell men are battling in the ring and actually got “some” medical clearance for this, expecting some sense of realism, but I say I’m just a guy who wants his entertainment done right. Especially when it concerns two stars like De Niro and Stallone who have both been way, way better than they are here, and not too long ago neither. Stallone hasn’t really been stretching his acting-muscles much lately, but he’s still shown that he’s able to turn that charm on, make us laugh and make us still think of him as the lovable, goofy meathead that he was all those years ago.

I see plenty of timeouts in that little seven-year-old's future.

I see plenty of timeouts in that seven-year-old’s future.

As for De Niro, he’s had better luck in terms of being able to show us what it is that he can still do with dramatic, worthy-enough material; the only problem is, is that it just hasn’t been too often. Sure, he’ll knock it out of the park with something like Silver Linings Playbook, but for every dramatic, subtle-turn he gives, there’s about two or three Fockers sequels just waiting in line. De Niro can usually charm his way into making anything good, and he does his job well here, but after awhile, it becomes painfully clear to us that he’s slumming it for this role, and slumming it hard. The fact that he’s still considered this hardcore womanizer and boozer, and still actually living all of these years later, is a bit ridiculous, but De Niro sells it for all that it’s worth. It just doesn’t work as well as it should for a guy of De Niro’s talents, and it makes me wish he’d just take better work. It’s not like he can’t get it, either!

Perhaps having a dedicated solely to the developing-relationship between the Kid’s son, played very-well by a favorite of mine, Jon Bernthal, and the Kid himself would have been a smarter move on the movie’s part, because it’s quite clear that’s where most of the interesting elements are. It helps that Bernthal is good as the Kid’s son and provides a maybe too-dramatic look at a grown-up man just trying to find a common-ground between he and his estranged daddy, but it also helps that he and De Niro work together, which makes plenty more sense once you realize that Bernthal was in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street, too! See the connection!?!? Woo, I’m good!

Anyway, as good as the two are together, the movie doesn’t really do them much justice and instead, decides to splice their scenes alongside those of Razor’s and his budding-romance with an old-fling of his, played by a still-looking-good Kim Basinger. In all honesty, Basinger and Stallone are good enough together to make their scenes work, but after awhile, it’s obvious that they’re what’s sucking most of the wind out of this movie and eventually, it gets to the point of where you just want someone to throw on the gloves, get in the ring and start pummeling another person. Was that too much to ask for in a boxing movie? I mean, really?!!?

Consensus: Fanboys from all over the globe who have been awaiting for this bout to actually happen, may be a bit disappointed with Grudge Match, and how it takes too long to get where it needs to go, and provides us with too much filler that’s either too desperately funny, or just not funny at all.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Quick! Somebody throw the first punch before the other one keels over!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Homefront (2013)

Them Southern belles and boys don’t take too kindly to British lads around their parks.

After a drug-bust goes slightly wrong, DEA Agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham) and his little girl Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) relocate to a small, abandoned Louisiana house where they are practically left alone and allowed to resume their normal, everyday lives as if nothing ever happened. It seems to be going well for awhile too, that is until Maddy violently retaliates to a bully, breaking this kid’s nose and everything. The boy’s mother (Kate Bosworth), despite looking like she’s constantly in need of a meth-fix everytime she shows up, somehow starts up all the right trouble, giving Phil Broker the kind of unwanted reputation that usually drives out new-folk to this small town. It gets so bad, actually, that she even goes so far as to call up her drug-dealing, big bro Gator (James Franco) who knows a thing or two about Phil’s past that puts him and Maddy in some serious danger. Then again though, Phil being played by Jason Statham and all, we know he won’t go down without a fight.

First things first, I think it’s best to tell everybody right off-the-bat that this flick is written by none other than Mr. Sly Stallone himself, which already gives you the idea that not a single ounce of this movie should be taken seriously. Because, in the past couple of years, with the movie’s he’s been participating in, it doesn’t seem like he has, so why the hell should we, you know? Some part of me wishes that this movie took that idea and ran with it, but instead, this is what we’re left with: A big, dumb, brainless action-thriller, somehow disguised as deadly-serious, slow-burner.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath's still got time for his daughter.

Even with the gun in his hand, The Stath’s still got time for his daughter.

And that’s the biggest mistake I think Sly could have ever made with this material.

With a movie this outrageous, it almost feels like you just have to make it something that’s quick, loud and to the point, just so we don’t realize all of the cracks with the important elements that go into making a movie. Elements like say, acting, writing, directing, originality, and so on and so forth. Nope, you can’t find much of that here, and even when you do, it’s not of any great quality to really call home about. Instead, we’re mainly just presented with something that should have been a totally fun, exciting and well-worth it time-burner, but we get something that takes its time a little too much.

Don’t get me wrong though, I’m fine with a movie trying to tell its story, set-up its pace and give us characters to care about, mainly through developing them and showing dimensions, but this isn’t that type of movie. It’s much more of something that should be balls-to-the-walls crazy, over-the-top and nutty, as if we were watching a movie dear ol’ Sly himself would have actually starred in way back when. Heck, I don’t know why he didn’t star in this one as it was! Sure, he’s a bit older now and most of the fighting scenes would have looked hella cheesy and tacked-on with him moving around, but who cares. His type of silliness would have made this movie at least somewhat charming, rather than just emotionless, but sometimes fun.

But you know, I can’t really get on a flick like this, because when it’s having fun, it’s a good time to be around for. The only problem with all of the fine action set-pieces is that once we actually get to the point where one occurs, it takes a long while for us to get to the next one where we have to pay attention to the characters, the directing and the most simplest of them all, the acting. Now, I’m not saying that any of these actors in these roles are per se, bad, it’s just that they don’t necessarily bring anything to the table, nor do they make the material better or worse with their presences being felt. They’re just there to act like window-dressing for a whole bunch of explosions, guns, bullets, drugs, sex and violence. A whole lotta violence too, may I add.

Jason Statham, whether you love him, or you definitely hate him, there’s a certain charm about him in these movies that somehow works, if only just for his character. He doesn’t really try to dig any deeper with this wholesome daddy, yet, savage beast known as Phil Broker, but he gets the job done more than he doesn’t. Especially when he’s just kicking ass, taking names and saying some sort of cocky one-liner that’s only funny to the people closest to the speakers who can actually decipher what the hell he’s saying underneath that freakin’ accent. Seriously, I get that the guy is born and bred from England, but he needs to help us out a bit with that “talk” of his. I mean, seriously. It’s literally been eight or so years since the last time he was in a Guy Ritchie movie. Help us out, pal!

However, the strangest thing behind this whole movie is that this is being advertised as yet another, big, dumb, stupid, action-vehicle starring Jason Statham, and somehow, these really well-known, very talented stars got involved with the supporting cast, making you wonder why they even signed up to do this in the first place. But after awhile, it becomes clear: They just want to stretch their wings out a bit. That’s not a bad thing neither, considering some of these names in here do desperately need to show us that they still got the goods to sell us on anything it is that they do, but there’s nothing at all for them to do.

Yeah, I mean that's trashy, right?

Yeah, I mean that’s trashy, right?

The most prime example of this fact would be James Franco’s Gator. We all know that James Franco loves to switch things up with his career, whether he’d be playing a wanna-be-gangsta, Allen Ginsberg, or even himself, it doesn’t matter because Franco’s one of the brightest and bestest talents right now that loves doing cool things with his career, and seems to always succeed at pulling them off, no matter how random or obscure those decisions of his may be. This is where I think he goes a bit too far with those odd choices, but it’s less of his fault, and more of the script, although he’s definitely partially to be blamed, too. The problem with Gator isn’t that he’s a bad dude, it’s just that he isn’t very interesting or even worth even being scared by. You sort of always know that Statham’s going to kick this guy’s ass no matter what, and most likely go home with a win at the end of the day. Franco definitely could have made this character interesting, compelling or even fun to watch, but oddly enough, Franco kind of straight-faces his performance the whole time, despite this guy being a backwater meth-dealer, which is already plenty enough substance to make a person want to go crazy with a performance. So basically, if you put these two problems together, you just get a lame character, with a very strange and dull performance from Franco.

Something I never thought was possible, but hey, I guess anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

The rest of the cast fair-off a bit better than Franco, however, it’s obvious that they definitely try all that they can do to make this work as well. Sometimes, painfully so. Winona Ryder does what Franco should have done, and gives her biker-trash girlfriend enough craziness to actually make us want to feel like we want to watch her, however, it’s pretty hard to watch when all you know that she’s doing is just acting all crazy, just to act crazy and try to steer our minds away from the bad script; Frank Grillo plays, YET AGAIN, another villain but he handles it fine and shows that he can still steal the show, even if he does show up with only about ten minutes left in the movie; and Kate Bosworth, despite never impressing me before in her long-storied career, somehow becomes the most believable and most interesting character out of the whole bunch, despite her practically yelling, hootin’, hollerin’ and looking like she’s in desperate need of a shower, everytime it is that we see her. Never been too big of a fan of hers, but I’m always ready to be impressed and surprised. And hey, it’s like what I said before: Anything truly is possible in a Jason Statham, action-vehicle.

Consensus: While there are spouts of action, fun and tension to be found in Homefront, they still don’t add to much of a movie that’s worth investing time in, or even really caring for. You just want to see the explosions, the violence and the asses being kicked, so you can be on your merry way. Is that too much to ask?

5 / 10 = Rental!!

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He'll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

The first, and maybe only, time that Kate Bosworth acted out James Franco. He’ll sure as hell remember this for the rest of his life.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net