Advertisements

Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: John Leguizamo

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

This Wick guy can’t catch a break.

After having to eliminate all of those who killed his precious dog some years ago, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now enjoying his life of luxury, at-home and not having a single worry in the world. However, it all changes when a former associate of his, Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up at his door-step, asking him to take someone out. While Wick doesn’t really want to, he basically has to, because Santino is part of the “organization” that Wick and many other lethal and powerful people are apart of. So Wick does his job and takes out the target, however, little does he know that Santino wants to tie-up loose ends and get rid of Wick, putting a seven million dollar bounty on Wick, for anyone who is capable of taking him down. Is this a battle Wick can fight, hell, even win? Probably, but it’s going to be a hell of a ride, taking down every skilled mercenary that’s out to make a quick dollar off of the head of Wick.

One of the key complaints people seem to have with video-game movies is that they don’t feel like you yourself, are actually playing a video-game. Instead, it feels like you’re watching someone else play a video-game, not ever handing over the control, and not doing anything right – they’re constantly doing the wrong things, dying over and over again, and not even bothering to put in cheats. Video-game movies can be frustrating for this sole reason and it’s why most of them don’t work and are better off staying as video-games, where anyone can play them and do what they want.

Don't mess with a man who has a beard like that.

Wes Bentley gonna sue somebody!

Which is why John Wick: Chapter 2 is probably the best video-game movie, that’s not actually adapted from a video-game.

With most sequels, the ones behind them know that whatever worked in the first, should be done in the second, but with even more aggression and repetitiveness. Often times, this can make the sequels feel boring and dull, as if there’s no heart or emotion to them, but just studio-mandated sequences. Chapter 2 is the rare sequel in which the excursiveness of itself, actually helps the movie out in the long run; the first movie was crazy and chaotic, too, but Chapter 2 takes it to the next level.

In a way, Chapter 2 is a better movie, all around, than the first John Wick. There’s more creativity here, more excitement, and yes, a little bit more of a story. But Chapter 2 is smart in that it doesn’t try anything terribly new or different that could potentially push fans of the original away; there’s still tons of action, blood, bullets, guns, knives, and blown-off faces. In other words, it’s a grand old time, but it’s never cheap about it.

Director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad seem as if they know how to make this pulpy material work, without trying too hard; Kolstad seems to just write one dumb monologue after another, whereas Stahelski shoots every action-sequence in the most simplest way imaginable, without all of the unnecessary cuts, CGI, and finickiness that can sometimes make most action-thrillers a chore to sit through. Here, you can see just about everything going on with this action and because of that, it’s more compelling to watch.

That, and because well, it seems like Keanu Reeves himself is doing a lot of his own stunts.

Oh yeah, get on with the shooting.

Oh yeah, get on with the shooting.

Which, yes, may not sound like much, but trust me, it does. Reeves has been well-known as an actor who uses a stunt-double for his action-sequences, but doesn’t solely rely on them for each and every scene known to man – Tom Cruise is a lot like this, but he’s also far more showier about it than Reeves. And in Chapter 2, you can tell that a lot of is Keanu, which is pretty impressive, considering that he’s nearly 53-years-old and can be seen here jumping, kicking, punch, falling, rolling, and most of all, running. Age doesn’t matter for Reeves and it’s a great thing, because he seems to absolutely love these kinds of roles and they fit him like a glove, so it all works for everyone in the end.

Of course, Chapter 2 gets by on its wild ensemble, most of whom are leftovers from the original. If there’s one issue to be had with Chapter 2, it’s that the movie does have the ability to stop itself rather abruptly, just so that a character can sit around and whisper something somewhat meaningful, or menacing, but doesn’t really amount to much. While it’s neat to get an action movie that does this, it also breaks up the tension and makes us just want to see these characters beat the hell out of one another. Sure, it helps that you’ve got pros like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, John Leguizamo, and Laurence Fishburne working with this material, but yeah, sometimes, enough is enough and it’s time to just get on with the ass-kicking.

But hey, a movie that can give us a bad-ass Common, then, deserves a whole lot of credit.

Consensus: More action-packed and crazier than the original, Chapter 2 is the rare instance in which a sequel is better than its original, based solely on the fact that it constantly packs more on as it goes along.

8 / 10

He's got a new dog. Don't. Touch. It.

He’s got a new dog. Don’t. Touch. It.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Advertisements

The Infiltrator (2016)

Pretty sure that Bryan Cranston doesn’t need drugs anymore to make himself seem cool.

By 1986, federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston) had gone under cover so much, that it was all starting to catch up with him. Now, facing retirement with a pretty attractive benefit deal from the FBI, Mazur decides to do one last job that will not only put him in more good graces with those around him, but may also help solve the victor in the war on drugs. Working alongside fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella, who works with some shady characters who’d much rather not have their finances be sitting around in some bank. But in order to seem more legit and get his target (who is basically Pablo Escobar), Mazur has to gain the trust and confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar’s top lieutenant. However, Mazur’s personal life starts to slip and slide into his professional one, and eventually, there comes a point where he doesn’t know whether he can complete the job to the best of his ability.

Diane just can't get enough of the 'stache.

Diane just can’t get enough of the ‘stache.

Everything about the Infiltrator is riled with cliches and conventions that we have seen so many times before in more interesting, much better flicks of the same nature. Heck, even TV shows like Narcos and Animal Kingdom seem to get this kind of corrupt and crime-fueled world so right, to the point of where you’d much rather watch them, rather than spend nearly two hours watching a story that you may or may not already know about, happen in the most conventional way imaginable. If you’re on a plane, or channel surfing at 2 a.m. and having nothing else better to do, then yeah, sure, it’s probably an exciting watch.

But if you have better stuff to watch, like say, the two aforementioned shows, then yeah, hit them up instead.

And honestly, the Infiltrator is not all that bad – if anything, it’s incredibly mediocre. As Brad Furman showed with the Lincoln Lawyer some years ago, he has a knack for getting a quality cast together, and giving them some relatively gritty, but fun material to work with. The likes of John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Amy Ryan, Benjamin Bratt, and other all show up, and while some of them definitely have more to do than others, Furman gives them each enough time and attention to where it seems like he may possibly be interesting in exploring who they are and why they matter to a story like this.

But then again, at the same time, none of them are ever as developed as they should be, or at least, as much as Cranston’s Mazur is; Leguizamo comes the closest, but eventually, his character is just pushed to the back in favor of more crime, violence, blood and drugs. Cranston though, gets the bulk of the attention and he’s very deserving of it; once again, he’s playing a character that’s starting to develop more and more of a darker-side to himself than he ever expected and, as usual, the transformation is compelling. No matter how deep or dark Mazur the character may get, you always get the sense that, because of Cranston’s presence, that he’ll do the right thing and not break bad too much, to the point of almost no return.

But Bryan can.

But Bryan can.

But then, like I said, there’s the rest of the movie.

It’s all just fine, but a movie like the Infiltrator, where drugs, violence, crime, corruption, Latinos, and 80’s appear in almost every scene, shouldn’t be so middling. In fact, there’s a small stretch here where it’s just, plain and simply put, boring; there doesn’t seem to be anything really at-stake, nor does there ever seem to be anything worth holding onto. The war on drugs is currently going on in this flick, but rather than trying to make a comment or an idea about that, it just presents it as a thing that’s happening and yes, this story wouldn’t be told without it. And yeah, there’s nothing more to it than that.

Sure, maybe I’m expecting too much, or that I’ve seen one too many crime-dramas in the same vein as the Infiltrator, but still, that doesn’t excuse that the movie is rather boring, when it should be as fun and as exciting as can be. Even despite the conventional plot, the movie should still have the right amount of energy, excitement, and unpredictability to it. Unfortunately, there’s not much of that here; there are small bits and pieces where it seems like Furman is really trying to crank up the tension, but mostly, he backs away before anything gets too good.

Is that my fault, or his? I don’t know, but really, I don’t care. See the movie if you want, if not, no big deal.

In two weeks, you’ll probably forget that I even talked about it, regardless.

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, and wonderful central performance from the always reliable Cranston, the Infiltrator also feels very conventional and rather tepid.

5.5 / 10

And yes, he's pissed about it.

And yes, he’s pissed about it.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Rotten Tomatoes

Experimenter (2015)

Doesn’t matter how many volts it is, being shocked freakin’ hurts!

In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) concocted a psychological experiment that, on the surface, seemed simple and easy, but once looked at deep enough, turned out to be quite disturbingly complex. What Milgram would do in this research study, was have one person be on one side of a glass door, get them strapped-up to a machine that delivered electric shocks and have the other person involved with the study ask them to reiterate phrases that they say. If the person on the other side of the door got it wrong, the person in control of the electrical volts were supposed to deliver as high of a shock as they were instructed to do so, no matter how much pain or anguish the person on the other side of the door sounded, or better yet, appeared to be in. Obviously, people question what to do next and whether or not to deliver the shock because, what they think at least, is that the other person is being shocked, nearly to death – little do they know is that said person being shocked-to-death, isn’t actually being shocked at all and is just testing to see how far and willing these subjects are able to go with the shocks.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that.

Never trust Peter Sarsgaard with a box like that. Or in general.

And that, my friends, is what we call in the psychology biz, “the Milgram Experiment“.

Everything about the whole Milgram Experiment and the ideas about humans that it brings up is actually pretty interesting. Milgram, as he tells us quite often throughout, is trying to test the limits of just how far humans will go when they are given, as plainly defined, an assignment; while nobody apart of the experiment may actually be bad people who enjoy inflicting cruel and unusual punishment onto random strangers, at the same time, they’re given this assignment to do and have to keep with it, no matter what. So of course, they trudge on along and continue to zap, and zap, and zap away at the other subject, without wholly fighting the system that is telling them to do so.

If this sounds a whole lot like the Nazis well then, you hit the nail right on the head. Milgram himself, as he tells us constantly throughout the movie, tells us that his parents were apart of the concentration camps before they came to America and it’s interesting to see how this needle-and-thread narrative constantly gets weaved-in throughout, even while we’re learning of just what kind of person Milgram actually was. While writer/director Michael Almereyda has a lot to work with here, in terms of handling the biopic-form of this person’s life, as well as throwing that person’s own ideas into the narrative, he doesn’t lose himself on the material, either.

At the same time, however, it’s hard not to watch Experimenter as two different movies into one, with one being definitely far more interesting and better than the other.

But still, even the one that is off worse, isn’t terrible. The only issue with the part of the movie focusing on Milgram’s personal life, is that Milgram himself, isn’t all that intriguing of a person to begin with. Sure, the studies he concocts are, but overall, him as a person, is quite dry and uneventful, which calls into question why we needed such a film dedicated to telling his whole story, and less about the study itself. Of course, Almereyda does fine with showing us plenty of the study happening, but it’s sometimes so effective and compelling to watch, that it’s not hard to wish that it was just the whole film, with Milgram occasionally looking towards the camera to talk to us.

See? Winona doesn't even trust him.

See? Winona doesn’t even trust him.

Still though, Almereyda does some neat things with the biopic-form, in that he definitely understands that the material he’s working with isn’t all that exciting or eye-popping, so instead, he finds ways to make it so. There’s a random scene about half-way through where Milgram and his wife are driving in front of what’s clearly a walled-in background, but for some reason, it’s done on purpose. It’s meant to campy, odd, dated, and over-the-top, but so is the rest of the film, which doesn’t totally work, but is still interesting to think about and wonder why, among everything else, why Almereyda decided to do such a thing?

Is he trying to say something about people’s perceptions? Or, is he just trying to keep our minds off of material that’s not really all that strong to begin with?

Either way, it doesn’t matter because it makes Experimenter a bit more watchable than it probably could have been had it just focused in on Milgram, his life, and leaving it at that. This isn’t to say that Sarsgaard doesn’t do a fine job in the role of Milgram, as he has that perfect blend for dull weirdness, but at the same time, it’s hard not to imagine what could have happened to this character, had there been maybe more to him. We see him act around his family and such, just as he does at the office and none of it’s really intriguing; his studies may be, but he himself, isn’t really something to speak about, let alone see a whole movie about.

Again though, Experimenter isn’t a very long movie. At nearly an-hour-and-a-half, it moves on by, showing us all the study, making us wonder what we’d do in the same position, and providing plenty of food-for-thought about the whole human race. Will it have you not trusting people for the rest of your days? Maybe, not maybe not. But either way, it’s worth checking out, if only because it will bring some energy to your brain during the dead of winter that is January.

Consensus: Though it’s two movies into one, Experimenter brings up enough interesting questions and ideas about the human condition that makes it worthwhile to look past some of the flaws in its narrative.

6 / 10

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they're not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Although they still have plenty time to meet-cute, when they’re not ruining perceptions of the human race.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sisters (2015)

Family homes were always the best ones to trash.

Kate and Maura Ellis (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) are sisters who clearly love one another and get along swimmingly, even if their own, respective lives have taken a bit of different turns. For Kate, being the crazy and wild party girl that she is, had herself a kid, hasn’t been able to secure a sustaining job, and seems to be going from couch-to-couch. Whereas for Maura, who was always the over-achiever of the two, always used her kind skills for the greater good of society, even if it did cost her her own marriage. However, all of these years later, they come back together and reunite in their family home, now that it’s being put on the market by their parents who just want to sit down, relax, and retire in place. Seeing as how this house is their one last chance for any sense of fun or memorable excitement, Kate and Maura decide that it’s time to throw a huge bash, where friends from the past and present, all come together for an unforgettable night of booze, sex, and drugs. Thing is, all the great times begin to catch up to Maura and Kate, and they eventually have to come to terms with growing up and realize that they do have responsibilities in life.

The sisters that live together...

The sisters that live together…

Sisters is the kind of comedy we’ve seen before, where two women get back together after all of these years apart, and relive their glory days. Sometimes, the consequences are drastic, embarrassing, and funny, but for the most part, they always end up learning a lesson by the end that not only makes them better people as a whole, but may make the audience-members, too. This has all been done to death by now and has become something of a total convention.

However, what Sisters has that none of those other flicks has, is the wonderful pairing of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler who, honestly, haven’t been funnier.

One of the main reasons for that is because, believe it or not, Sisters is rated-R, which means that there’s more time for raunchiness, more time for cursing, and just more time for general debauchery. This all adds up to a movie made by adults, made for adults, and clearly isn’t screwing around with what it’s willing to do, where it’s willing to go, or hard it’s going to try and make you laugh. For that reason and that reason alone, Sisters is the kind of comedy that should be appreciated and held up on a high-standard when compared to most other R-rated comedies that don’t tend to go that extra mile.

Instead, most of the time (like, I don’t know, say Judd Apatow movies), they tend to just rely on crazy improvisation that seems to go nowhere and end exactly there. However, in Sisters, there’s gags that get introduced right away, continue to pop-up and, yet, believe it, actually reach a certain climax in a way that’s not only effective, not only hilarious, but actually smart. Whereas a weaker comedy would have just introduced the simple gag as a small throw-away line, Sisters continues to knock at it for what’s it worth; occasionally, this means that a gag that doesn’t land well the first time, continues to get forced down our throats again and again, but for the most part, it still doesn’t matter.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Sisters is funny.

In fact, it’s a very funny movie that, considering it’s about a party that never seems to end, is actually quite fun and exciting, just as a party of this magnitude would and should be. Granted, the near two-hour run-time of the movie (which is already too long) is filled about half-way with this party, but that isn’t a complaint: The party starts off slow and lame, but after awhile, starts to pick up and eventually, it’s an amazingly great time that, quite frankly, you won’t want to miss out on or be anywhere else for. Of course, the party does consist of funny, attractive people being both funny, as well as attractive, but still, what’s so wrong with that?

..are also the ones that shop together...

..are also the ones that shop together…

As long as it’s fun, who cares!

And speaking of funny and attractive people, Fey and Poehler are definitely at the top of the list for this movie and show that they’re deserving of any movie they ever want to make together. What’s interesting here about each one of their performances is that they’re both kind of playing a bit against-type; Fey, usually more reserved, professional and serious, takes over the role usually taken by Poehler, where she’s vibrant, rude, and brassy, whereas Poehler, with shades of Leslie Knope, seems to be taking Fey’s role. Either way you put it, both are clearly having a great time, whether they’re together or on their own – which is something that transcends well onto the rest of the movie. Of course, Fey and Poehler aren’t the only ones who have fun times here as the likes of John Leguizamo, Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Moynihan, Samantha Bee, Maya Rudolph, and most of all, John Cena, all join in on the fun, bring something to the table, and seem to go home incredibly pleased and happy with themselves.

However, where Sisters runs into a problem with itself is the fact that it is, yes, very long and definitely shouldn’t be. By the end, it becomes clear that once revelations are made and people start to get emotions and whatnot, the movie is clearly coming up on its final reel. Problem is, the movie continues to go on and on and on, until it’s almost as if the movie’s trying to imitate Return of the King, but without being satirical – it just has a crap-ton of endings, none of which are really any better than the others.

Then, it ends and everything gets a bit better. Even though there’s an annoying blooper-reel that doesn’t do much else except show that everybody involved, clearly enjoyed working with one another, the movie still ends on a sold enough that, when it’s all said and done, it’s fine. The movie could have ended way sooner than it did, but hey, at least it made us all laugh.

Which, for any comedy made in the 21st Century, is a-okay with me.

Consensus: Despite being lengthy, Sisters is still an uproarious R-rated comedy featuring smart people, doing and making jokes for audience members who deserve to pay closer attention to certain stuff that goes on.

8 / 10

..as well as party hard together.

..as well as party hard together.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

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

John Wick (2014)

This is what happens when you take the blue pill.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is, seemingly, a simple man who lives a simple life. He has a wife (Bridget Moynahan); lives in a rather large, exquisite house, and always seems to have something to smile about. That is, until his wife tragically passes away and he’s left with nothing but a new life, a big house, a fine-ass car, and basically, nobody to spend time with. But, have no fear, because even though she’s long and gone by now, Mrs. Wick still finds ways to contact her hubby from the dead – but this time, it’s in the form of a small puppy. And Wick can’t say “no” to it and decides to just let the thing roam all around the house and be happy, just as his late wife would have wanted. That all changes though when a group of thugs break into Wick’s house, beat him to a bloody-pulp, steal his ride, and worst of all, kill that lovable pooch. As one would expect, Wick is pissed and starts on his path for revenge.

However, this time around, there’s a bit of a twist: John Wick’s a total and complete bad-ass who, for the past couple of years or so, has just settled down and tried to find a way from that old life of his.

And thus, folks, you have the movie’s synopsis, in a nutshell, no questions asked, no answers guaranteed. Now, with that all said, does it sound like the most conventional, run-of-the-mill action-thriller you’ve ever seen since the first Taken? Oh, you betcha! But sometimes, there’s a certain level of joy to be had in just knowing to expect right from the first glimpse of a trailer, or poster, or photo still, and being totally blind-sided by the fact that, yes, sometimes, movies can surprise the hell out of you by being more than just what they present.

Nature vs. nurture? Aw, who cares! Just kill 'em already, Wick!

Nature vs. nurture? Aw, who cares! Just kill ’em already, Wick!

But that’s not necessarily the case with John Wick, nor is that much of a problem; though the story doesn’t really try to reach deep, or far down into its themes about grief, revenge, or the soulless killing of others, it doesn’t necessarily need to because everything else is working so well. By this, I mean mostly the action-sequences, most of which are exciting, brutal, stylized, and sometimes, so simply put together, that it’s almost refreshing to watch. Because even in the days of the crack-cam, even us the audience can get a bit annoyed by not knowing who is doing what to whom, where at, and what the hell else is going on around them. So many directors of action out there make this mistake (looking at you, Mr. Bay), but neither co-directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski are one of them.

Which is not just great for us, the audience watching in our seats, eating our X-Large-sized popcorns, but also great for the rest of the movie because it constantly stays simple, easy, and most of all, fun. Yet, it never forgets that in order for it to fully work, not just as an action film, but as a gritty crime-thriller, it also has to add some tension to the proceedings, which is what happens here. A sequence that takes place all over a nightclub comes to my mind the most apparent; not just for being exciting and stylized, but because it literally felt like it could have gone anywhere, at any second. Though we know John Wick won’t die so early in the film (which is when this sequence takes place), there’s still a feeling going around that he could slip, fall, or not do something properly, and lose his life, therefore, allowing the baddies to prevail.

And then, presumably, sadness would ensue.

But nope, that doesn’t happen and for the rest of the movie, it’s still the same thrill-ride.

Although, I do hesitate to call this movie “great” (as so many critics have been quick to call it), only because I definitely do think there’s some problems with the movie, especially with its plot. There’s maybe, I don’t know, two, possibly three, different endings to this movie that were all satisfying in their own rights, yet, splashed together, feels off. It was almost as if Leitch and Stahelski weren’t confident in the numerous decisions they wrote out, so they decided to pick the best three, film them all, and then decide which one’s the best to go at the end of the film, and what other two will be left for the special features. Except, they decided to keep them all and see what happens.

And, predictably so, it doesn’t work and makes a rather lean, mean hour-and-a-half-movie, seem/feel a lot longer than it should.

However, the fact remains mighty high and clear: The movie’s fun. It’s hard to really have a problem against that when all you ever set out to do with your movie, is exactly the kind of result you get. So, in that aspect, yes, I’m willing to give the movie’s various endings a pass, but I will still not go so far as to call it, the movie John Wick, “great”. It’s still a great time at theaters, but please, don’t get so wrapped up in all the insanely positive press out there.

But, if there is anything to get wrapped up in, concerning the press that this movie’s getting, it’s that Keanu Reeves is back, baby! And this time, he doesn’t care whether he’s old, considered to be “past his prime”, eating all by himself on benches, or that nobody really calls him up anymore – he’s Keanu Reeves dammit, and the dude’s allowed to do what he wants. All that said, Reeves is fine here as Wick. Though people get on Reeeves’ case for his acting-skills (or, lack thereof), the guy has that inherent likability to the way he carries himself that’s hard to have a problem against, let alone despise. He’s just Keanu Reeves, plain and simple. Throw a gun on him, give him some kick-ass moves to perform, and a few cheesy one-liners here and there, and your movie’s fine. Meaning, I’m totally fine with Reeves staging a comeback, so long so as he realizes that his main strengths are in goofy action films such as these.

I'd murder 50 thugs for that little face. I mean, come on, just look at him!

I’d murder 50 thugs for that little face. I mean, come on, just look at him!

Anything more, may be pushing it a tad too much (looking at you, 47 Ronin).

Though Reeves definitely anchors this movie in his own way, the supporting cast definitely deserves some love and praise, mostly because they allow this movie’s sometimes strange script, just totally do the trick and play with its own universe. For instance, there’s an interesting little angle this movie’s story takes in that it gives us a glimpse into this underground world/society of criminals, where they all go to the same places to hang out, drink, sleep, eat, and basically, stand by each other’s rules to not conduct any sort of “business”. Though it’s weird, the movie plays it up so nicely that it’s easy to just fall in line with and accept, rather than be freaked-out by.

Another reason why it’s so easy to accept this angle for what it is, is because the cast of characters this movie has inhabit this little, under-seen world, is chock full of “you name it’s” – Willem Dafoe, Dean Winters, Michael Nyqvist, Adrianne Palicki, John Leguizamo, Lance Reddick, Kevin Nash (yes, Big Daddy Diesel), Clarke Peters, David Patrick Kelly, and an always welcome Ian McShane, all show up, do their thing for as long as they are allowed to, leave their impressions on us, and move on. Probably how it’s best to approach the movie itself; expect to have fun and nothing but.

Move on.

Consensus: By sticking to its gun (literally and figuratively), John Wick is nothing more than what it presents to be seen as – a fun, exciting, if conventional crime-thriller, with a cast full of wild supporting characters, and of course, the always likable, Keanu Reeves.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Yeah. I did that. Whaddup?"

“Yeah. I did that. Whaddup?”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Chef (2014)

Is it me, or has my stomach just been ripped to shreds?

Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) is a professional chef working in a place that allows him to make whatever sort of menu he wants to and command the kitchen the way he wants, however, he still butts heads with his boss (Dustin Hoffman) every so often. Still though, cooking food for plenty to enjoy is what Carl lives off of and loves; maybe even more than life itself. So, he just goes with the flow most of the time, and lets people know that he knows a thing or two about making some grade-A quality grub. Problems arise though when Carl goes head-to-head with a popular food blogger (Oliver Platt) who absolutely trashes him in a scathing review. This brings Carl to not only confront him in an anger-filled, rage-like way, but to also quit because he doesn’t like the way things are going with the restaurant. This brings Carl to a crossroads in his life: either a) apologize to his former-boss, get his job back, and continue to take orders from schmucks who don’t know the difference between a crepe and a pancake, or b) start up his own food-truck business in which he has command over everything, and may even get a chance to rekindle a relationship with his son (Emjay Anthony).

Decisions, decisions for Mr. Carl Casper, and plenty of Cuban sandwiches to eat along the way.

Before I get into the actual details of what I felt about this movie, first thing’s first: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT come into this movie on an empty-stomach. As if that wasn’t already obvious enough by the plot, the foodgasms-filled trailer, and heck, even the title itself, just know, you must eat a hearty meal before seeing this. I don’t care if it’s a home-cooked meal, something you picked up on the go from Burger King, or a small bowl of Ramen Noodles (gotta think about the college kids here) – just do not see this movie without at least a meager amount of food in the pit of your stomach.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Oh, old people learning how to use Twitter. So precious.

Because, if you don’t, you’ll be screwed. No matter what goes on in this movie, you’ll constantly be thinking about what you’re going to have when you get home, be getting constant head and stomach-aches, and maybe even think that that $13 large popcorn may do the trick to cure whatever hunger problems you may be having. You may enjoy the movie still, for sure, but all will be in your mind is how much longer this film is going to go on so that you can go home, and cook up some fresh Hot Pockets and call it a night.

And the reason why I’m harping so much on the idea of eating food before seeing this, because you don’t want to be distracted during this movie. Trust me, it’s a pretty good one that you don’t want to forget about because you couldn’t get that half-slice of pepperoni left-over in your fridge, out of your mind. You’re going to want to enjoy yourself during this movie, because, quite frankly, that’s what Jon Favreau wants you to do. Sure, he also wants you to rub your tummy like you’re playing an old-fashioned game of “Simon Says”, but he also wants you to enjoy the fun-filled spirit of this movie, and just about everybody in it.

Pretty fitting that it’s released in the summer, eh?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that with Chef, Favreau clearly isn’t trying to go for anything life-changing. There’s a lot of talk about him changing his life, being a better mate, being a better father, and being a better person that’s open to criticism, but it’s all there in sprinkles to make it seem like this story is more than just Jon Favreau and friends laughing, cracking jokes, and making food for nearly two-hours. Don’t get me wrong, that type of movie actually excites me, but I could probably do the same thing with half of my buddies, spend less money, and maybe even have a better time than simply watching these peeps do it.

Actually, that’s a lie. I’d totally have a better time hanging out with the likes of John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale. Sorry to any of my friends that are reading this, but what can I say? They’re rich and they’re funny. Can’t ever go wrong with that!

High-lighting the cast would actually probably be the best way to go about with this movie, because they really are the reason why this movie works as well as it does. Sure, Favreau’s style and script is very funny, charming and heartfelt at times, but anybody can make an alright script; it’s the cast you work with, and how much they are able to elevate into being something more that really matters. And here, with this ensemble, which is basically just anybody Jon Favreau’s ever made a movie with (i.e. partied and did blow with), with the exception of Vince Vaughn. Pretty weird, right? You have just about anybody in the biz that Jon Favreau can call “a friend”, and yet, no Vince Vaughn.

Guess Couples Retreat really tore those two apart. Oh well. RIP Vince and Jon. Maybe one of these days they’ll be money again. Who knows.

Anyway, like I was saying about the cast, everybody that shows up here is fun and entertaining to watch, even if they only show up for a little over five minutes or so. Case in point, Robert Downey Jr.’s near-cameo as Carl Casper’s ex-wife’s ex-husband, who is the type of character you’d expect to see RDJ to play: Weird, off-kilter, goofy, fast-talking, and always acting as if he’s on another planet. However, with the limited screen-time, he makes it all so worth the while and leaves us wondering why the hell he doesn’t just do more movies without superheros and Guy Ritchie. I mean seriously: Come back to being a human, RDJ! There’s nothing at all wrong with that, dammit!

#RDJSwag

#RDJSwag

Others that pop-up ever so slightly too, are folks like Scarlett Johansson as Casper’s possible love-interest, who, weirdly enough, looked like my sister with her black hair, black bangs, black dresses, and tattoos. So every time the two would be hooking up or doing anything remotely sexual, I automatically got creeped-out. But hey, I guess my sister could do a lot worse, so good for her if that ever does happen! Dustin Hoffman also shows up for a small bit as the Casper’s boss that, can be a bit of a dick, but in reality, is just trying to keep his business afloat and do whatever’s best for his joint, even if that means getting rid of some of the best talents it may have to offer. You know, sort of like a real business man.

Also to mention, again sort of, is Oliver Platt as the critic that gives Casper a written-dialogue spanking that is actually a lot more terrible than some of the reviews I’ve seen on sites like Yelp, but still feels real, especially in the way Casper reacts to him in a way that’s both cruel, funny, and a bit sad, considering Platt’s character is a critic, doing what he does best: Critiquing. Sofia Vergara shows up as Casper’s ex-wife who is very wealthy and seems like she’d be a total shrew, but is actually supportive and nice to Casper, even when he seems to be a bit of a dick to everyone around him; Emjay Anthony is a good fit as Casper’s son who is a bit needy at times, but still feels like a kid who just wants to hang with his dad and get to know him about more; and, in case I didn’t need to re-iterate this anymore than I already have, it’s always lovely to see John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale show up in anything, and here is no different. They’re funny, exciting, cool, and always bringing the room’s volume up to at least an 11. My heroes.

But, in the middle of all this is Jon Favreau, who, considering this is a movie he single-handedly wrote, directed and put together all himself, could have easily made this a movie where he gets to do all of the heavy-lifting and show why he’s the man. But he doesn’t. Rather, Favreau is kind and allows everybody else to work off of him and get the most attention from the crowd; while in honesty, he’s the real heart, soul, and charm of this movie. As a whole cast, they make it better, but with Favreau at the dead-center of it all, just acting like that normal, everyday-man we all loved seeing him act like before, he keeps it all grounded and sincere. Without him, this movie would have never been made. Yet, without him, this movie wouldn’t have been so lovely to watch. Nor would it have been as delicious to look at neither.

Yum.

Consensus: Not the deepest movie ever made, yet, Chef is still able to slide by with a charming ensemble, well-written script, and many food delights to make you reconsider the next time you ever think McDonalds is a suitable dinner.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Yeah, well my dad's a government worker. So take that.

Yeah, well my dad’s a government worker. So take that.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ride Along (2014)

More reasons as to why we shouldn’t trust our current police-force.

Ben (Kevin Hart) is a fast-talking, very eccentric and slightly goofy that longs for the day he gets his chance to be in the Police Academy. He thinks he is able to do so, all because of the constant video-games he plays on his XBOX, and also because his girlfriend’s brother, James (Ice Cube), also happens to be a cop, and a pretty bad-ass one at that. So if there’s any problems Ben may have, he can always count on his girl’s big bro. Then again though, no he can’t, considering that this said brother doesn’t particularly like Ben, nor even think he’s “man enough” to be the man who takes his baby sister’s hand in marriage. That’s when James gets the bright idea that he’s going to take Ben out on what the task-force calls a “ride along”l which means that the two are going to spend a whole day together where they try and solve crimes, maintain peace and basically, get done all the jobs a normal policeman would normally do. However, there is this case that’s been eating at James for quite some time and it’s starting to all make some sense to him now with Ben around, the only problem is that he may be a bit too in over his head.

Take last year’s the Heat, get rid of the two female leads, as well as their skin-color, and you have Ride Along.

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

Anybody else find it strange that a member of the NWA is now playing a loyal, by-the-numbers cop?

And there you have it. That’s all there is to know about this movie and that’s all that you need to know, in order to judge whether or not you should see this flick. Personally, I like a good, old-fashioned, buddy-cop flick when it’s done right, and I thought that with the inclusion of both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, that things would be a lot better.

However, they aren’t, they’re just mildly acceptable, which is fine, especially considering that we’re in the month of January and, as we all know, the movies released during this uneventful month usually suck terribly. While I definitely would like to say that this movie is “absolute garbage”, I can’t help but think that there were a few times that I actually laughed, and more often than not, had a nice, measly chuckle to go along with the fun as well. For me, that’s all I want in a comedy and if that’s good enough for me, then hell, I think it ought to be good enough for you.

But like I was saying before, this movie definitely isn’t great nor should it be recommended for those who are looking for something that’s going to re-invent the wheel, or even throw them a few surprises they weren’t expecting to see from something that looked as conventional as this. There are a whole bunch of twists concerning certain characters that are easy to pick out right from one of the movie’s earlier-shots; and hell, even the biggest surprise this movie may have had to offer (a cameo from a certain, well-known “someone”) is practically spoiled to us when we the person’s name pops-up in the opening-credits.

And aside from those issues, the plot doesn’t really make much of a difference, because even at an hour-and-40-minutes, the thing still does seem a bit long and lag very, VERY heavily in the middle. It actually lagged so much, that I caught myself dozing-off a few times and barely woke-up from my slumber, despite a crowd of 50-somethings laughing their assess off like hyena’s around me. Almost rarely ever happens to me, hence why I’ve took the time out of this review to make a very big note of it. May not happen to you out there, but it definitely happened to me and it reminds me why coffee comes in so much handy before these types of movies. That, or the fact that the movie itself that I am watching has to be even remotely entertaining.

I wonder why there's so much focus on these guys in the first--half of the movie............

I wonder why there’s so much focus on these guys throughout the movie…………

What’s strange though is that even though I did doze-off during this movie, which would usually kill any other one from getting even the slightest recommendation, this flick had just enough charm and energy about it to where I didn’t mind that it put me to sleep for, oh, I don’t know, say seven or eight minutes. Which means that most of the praise for this movie has to go to both Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, who seem to perfectly placed together as the type of buddy-cop duo we usually see. Cube is very stern, serious and dismissive most of the time; whereas Hart is wild, crazy, energetic, always able to have fun and even take some chances. Together, they make for a very entertaining dynamic, in which you can actually see Cube try his damn near-hardest not to crack a smile whenever Hart is around and doing his thing. And while Cube himself may not be acting his ass off or really lighting the screen-up with his charisma, he’s still fine keeping it as straight-laced as he can be, without ever seeming like a total square that doesn’t know how to have fun.

But as for Hart, the guy’s very fun to watch; although, I do have to admit that some of his screeching and hollering did get to the point of where it was over-bearing. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Chris Tucker in that way, but a lot smaller. And his size, as you could expect, does get a lot of jokes thrown at it from all ends, but Hart’s down with it enough to suck it up and let himself be on the butt-end of a joke. Actually, that’s how he practically is throughout this whole movie, constantly throwing himself everywhere and anywhere, desperately trying to get even the slightest hint of a chuckle out of the audience. Though some may see this as “annoying”, or “over-the-top”, it worked for me and showed me that when in doubt, just trust Kevin Hart to make some goofy, whiny noise to make you laugh. It may not always work and have you soiling your pants, but in the off-chance that it does work, you’ll laugh, you’ll hoot, you’ll holler and most of all, you’ll appreciate that there is a comedian like Kevin Hart out there who is more than willing to sacrifice life and limb for a laugh. Or, even a chuckle. He’ll take what he can get, run with it and leave us enjoying ourselves. True comedian, right there.

Consensus: Shouldn’t be your first, nor your second pick at the movies this weekend, but if worse comes to worse and you end up finding yourself sitting in the same theater that’s showing Ride Along, don’t be alarmed because it’s funny for what it is, without doing much else out-of-this-world. Aka, a typical January movie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

He is from Philly, so the fact that he wouldn't be able to handle a gun correctly was just a totally unbelievable plot-point. At least for me it was.

Make a note that he knows how to hold that gun through “playing video-games”. Yup, definitely not a movie for the kids.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Counselor (2013)

Seems like everybody has to be a drug dealer nowadays. I place blame solely on Mr. White, that damn chemist.

A counselor (Michael Fassbender) has the life we would all like to live: Nice job, nice house, nice wife he so frequently pleasures (Penelope Cruz) and all sorts of other glamorous things around him. However, the life we would all like to have, apparently isn’t enough for him, which gets him involved with the drug-trafficking business in hopes of making some extra cash-flow here and there on the side. This is when the counselor gets involved with shady characters like Reiner (Javier Bardem), Westray (Brad Pitt) and perhaps the most suspicious of all, Malkina (Cameron Diaz), who seems like she has more up to her sleeve then just banging the hell out of her boyfriend and automobiles. Maybe she has something to do with this drug-dealing business which, as a result, draws further consequences for the counselor and all of his fellow associates involved with this deal that suddenly goes sour.

There’s been a lot said about the Counselor, and most of it is deserved. It is an odd piece of filmmaking, filled with more uneven pieces than actual comprehensive ones, but somehow, it works. See, the film’s marketing really created a shit-storm for this because it seemed like all it promised was non-stop sex, drugs, bullets, murder and DEA agents. However, that couldn’t have been further from the truth as this is more or less, another crime-thriller in the vein of last year’s Killing Them Softly: It’s all about pacing, baby. Pacing, pacing, pacing. And if you’re willing to stick by it, even when it does get incredibly strange, then you’ll find yourself happy and confused.

Don’t worry, those feelings are good because it’s abundantly clear that Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy both want you to feel this way.

He really needs something more?

He really needs something more?

Making a mention of Cormac McCarthy is probably the most important aspect in reviewing this movie because while some out there may not be familiar with him before seeing this movie, it’s almost imperative of you to know that his style of writing is not one that mixes so well with movies. Yes, he does have a stylish tongue that he likes to use on all of his characters and he definitely doesn’t have the happiest outlook on the world surrounding him, but because I already knew this, the movie was an easier pill to swallow than it most likely was for some, even in its weirdest moments.

The weird moments that i continue to allude to come at you aplenty here, but the most infamous one that seems to be getting the most attention, is the scene where Cameron Diaz’s character bangs a car. Honestly, this scene is so random, so strange and so out-of-place, that I honestly wondered who the hell saw this in the final-cut and thought it was okay to leave in. I get that it was supposed to be telling us that this character was not your normal female heroine, as in that she definitely likes to get what she wants right away, but it was just too distracting to get by, no matter how understandable the character’s motivations were. The only thing making it easier to get through this scene is Javier Bardem’s crazy faces and narration, which can be even more painful to see and hear, all because you’ll wonder what movie it is that you’re watching after awhile.

Thankfully, right after this scene, the movie gets somewhat back on track and shows us how these characters respond when shit begins to hit the fan. Everything leading up to this half, don’t get me wrong, was good because it focused a lot on dialogue and the setting-up of what would be a very tense final-half; but once this half kicks in, you do realize that the cast has finally taken notice of the type of material they’re given to work with, which is also, oddly enough, when Scott decides to throw some of his artistic-direction in as well. And as odd as it may be to say, this is probably the least “Ridley Scott-ish” movie he’s ever done. Not only is he restrained, but any moments that give him a free-reign to just get nuts with the look of the film, he somehow backs out on. Can’t say I was disappointed with seeing this, considering that the material didn’t seem like it demanded much of an overbearing style to get in the way of it, but I did also wish I saw some more of Ridley Scott in here. Just a shaky-cam bit or two. At least.

But I can’t get on Scott’s case too much because he does do the nice deed of letting the cast and script come together in a way that this flick so desperately needed in order to survive and stay interesting. And what a great coming-together of actors and material, save for one that I’ll get onto in a bit. Leading the cast is Michael Fassbender who, if you don’t know by now, is not just the most handsome mofo in the whole world, but also one talented dude as well that seems to be popping up more and more now for American audiences to get used to. While this won’t make him a household name by any stretch of the imagination, his role as the counselor shows us that he’s able to handle a film like this all to himself, where he practically goes from one character to the next, talking, showing emotion, giving each one of them a different piece of his personality and just creating a person that we can either loathe, or love. But sometimes with this character, it’s at the same time because he isn’t the most moral guy in the world, but then again, he isn’t the most evil one either; he’s just a guy trying to make some few extra bills here and there, in order to make a life for his wife more glamorous than it already is. He’s greedy for sure, but he isn’t a terrible person for that; he’s just a person. Plain and simple.

Fassbender’s best parts in this movie come mainly from the scenes he each has with both Javier Bardem and Brad Pitt, which makes it all the more tragic that all three never show up on-screen together at one point. Disappointing, but at least we still get to see them all act their asses off and have fun while doing so. Bardem has that crazy hair going on, but gives his character plenty of personality to where you really like the dude, but due to the company he surrounds himself with, you still never quite know if he can fully be trusted. And as for Pitt, well, needless to say, the guy steals the show everytime he shows up, which is sadly only about 15-minutes out of the whole 2-hour run-time. Pitt not only fills his character with plenty of wistful charm and coolness, but also gives him a slight humane-aspect as well, that somehow has him come off as the most reasonable human-being in the whole movie. The character only seems like he could be written for the screen, and yet, he still comes off like a relateable guy that knows what type of business he’s dealing with, and won’t think twice about who he throws under the bus, once that time eventually comes around.

"Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw."

“Yee-haw, baby. Yee-haw.”

The boys in the cast have plenty to play with, which is good, but also disappointing as well, considering that the girls don’t fare quite as well. Penelope Cruz is underused, but sweet, soft and a bit sassy with her performance as the counselor’s girl who doesn’t always nag him about what he’s doing for most of the hours of the day, and is just happy to know that he’s alive, safe and still loves her. Total girl of his dreams, as well as all of ours, indeed.

However, I would have traded a whole flick dedicated wholly to Cruz’s character, if that meant we didn’t get a single scene of Cameron Diaz’s Malkina, all because she is absolutely, positively terrible in this movie and it gets very, very hard to watch after awhile. I remember when this flick first got announced and its cast was shown to us, I remember thinking that Cameron Diaz had herself an Oscar-nominee in the bag because the character of Malkina wasn’t the type we usually associate her with. There’s no inkling whatsoever of a heart, a soul or even the typical charm we usually see come from her performances; she’s actually the total opposite, which is probably the biggest problem with Diaz’s performance in the first place. Not only can she not play-against type to save her life, but she’s so outmatched by everybody else here that it makes you wonder who the hell she beat out for this role to get it. The accent she supposedly has, goes in, and it goes out; everytime she talks about something, she’s supposed to come off as “one bad-ass bitch”, but instead, seems like she’s trying WAY too hard; and if you don’t include her previously-mentioned scene where she humps a car, there’s no arch whatsoever to be found in this character, but it doesn’t hurt as much because you don’t care. I’ll give Diaz some credit for stepping out of her comfort-zone and doing a total 180, but it comes off more like a miscast opportunity, then a respectable one in terms of her career and where it’s going. Can’t say that same thing for the others here, only her.

Consensus: Definitely not the type of film its marketing has been promising, which is why, for better or worse, the Counselor is worth a watch to see what happens when you give a good cast, some worthy material, and just let them do their thing, as odd as that “thing” in question may be at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

This is when it all begins.....

The car is so willing…..

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Sadly, as much as it pains to me admit it: Jim was right.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still the same old, lovable dork everybody remembered him as being three years ago. He still wants the ladies, he’s still awkward with his dad, and he still tries to save the day dressing-up as his alter-ego, Kick-Ass. However, times have changed since everybody’s favorite, real-life superhero came out and started saving the world, one dead drug-dealer at a time; now, it seems like everybody on the street who’s ever wanted to do something nice, is dressing-up as their own creation and getting ready to go head-to-head with the various baddies who run throughout New York City. Heck, they even have their own team, which is lead by the mysterious, but deadly force of nature known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Things start to get a little shaky however, once Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), aka, the Red Mist comes back to seek his revenge for his daddy’s death, but this time, has a new name and a dangerous posse along with him for the ride, wreaking havoc and disaster everywhere they show up. With Kick-Ass, the rest of his team, and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), D’Amico’s war-path of revenge may come to an end.

Despite it having its haters, I rather enjoyed the original Kick-Ass. It definitely had its moments where it went a little too far with its action, and definitely felt like it was a lot cooler than it actually was, but overall, it was fun, exciting, gory, and a nice change-of-pace from the usual, CGI-driven superhero flicks we usually get, and got that fine summer of 2010. Hence why I was looking forward to this sequel so much, even if it felt like the type of movie that didn’t need a sequel, nor did it really need to expand on its story. But you know what? It’s the summer; it’s action-y; and it’s Kick-Ass, so why the ‘eff not?!?

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Just your typical, everyday teenagers; teenagers that will probably beat you within an inch of your life if you pull a butter knife on them.

Well, here’s why not….

Nice transition on my part, I know.

Where I feel like this flick definitely hits its problems in, is its tone. The first movie took its violence seriously, but never too seriously to the point of where we couldn’t laugh or at least be amused by the image of some druggie getting decapitated. The point of Matthew Vaughn’s direction in that movie was to show violence in a form that didn’t make you feel guilty, but showed you violence that still meant something, without being overly-exploited. Here, under the new wing of Jeff Wadlow, it feels overly-exploited and nonsensical, which wouldn’t have been bad had the movie not tried taking itself so seriously at times. I get that the movie isn’t trying to condone these (sometimes) disturbing acts of violence, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like it should really be glamorizing it all that much either.

But as the movie goes, it then continues to gets weirder with its view-point and its tone; which I thought wasn’t possible at all, but apparently I was dead wrong. What happens with this movie is that it gets very, VERY serious, and throws in pieces of action that would make any die-hard, action-junkie jump in the air, fists raised, but at the same time, also is too disturbing for anybody to really cheer for. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not pulling a Jim Carrey here and/or getting soft in my old age or anything, it’s just that I know when you can mix comedy and action together, in order to make the transition between the two seamless, and this movie’s transition is noticeable, if not off-putting. A scene by the end when one of these superheros named Night Bitch (witty, ain’t it?), gets attacked by the main group of baddies, and is shouting, screaming in fright, and looks like she’s about to be the victim of a very vicious, a very scary rape. I don’t know about you, but to put a “hinted” rape scene in any movie, whether it be a comedy or a drama, gets me feeling a bit uneasy, especially when it’s thrown into a movie like this, where it seems like they’re going for the yucks, but also the “Hoorahs!” and the “Yays!” of its heavy-male demographic.

However, I realize that I’m sounding more and more like a prude here, so I’ll just stop while I’m ahead of myself and before I lose my membership to Hardbodies Gym. Anyway, what I was saying about this movie is despite the tone being oddly “off”, the movie still has its moments of sheer fun and visual-grandeur, maybe it’s just not as smartly-written or as thoughtful as the first movie. Maybe so, but that said, it’s still a good movie that will have you all ready for the inevitable, final show-down between the goodies, and the baddies. Which is credit to Wadlow as the director, because even though we know where this story is going to go and how it’s most likely going to end, he throws in his own subtle-tricks of amping-up the story’s tension, little by little, piece by piece. For that, I have to stop busting his balls and give credit where credit’s due, but I also have to say that Matthew Vaughn was such a better director for this material; one that I hope they are able to get back if/when they make a third.

Look out, Aaron. You don't want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage's.

Look out, Aaron. You don’t want to get caught wearing something of Nic Cage’s.

Though we all know he’s one sexy mofo underneath that whole, “I’m a total geek! Just look at my glasses and frizzy hair” facade, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still serviceable as Kick-Ass, even though he isn’t given much heavy-lifting to do with this story. Instead, that honors given to Chloë Grace Moretz who not only steals the show when she’s being the feisty, fiery, little bad-mouthed gal that she is known as with Hit Girl, but also when she’s just living the life of a 15-year-old, high-school freshman. Yes, believe it or not, Moretz is getting a bit older and it’s about that time for her to start taking on more mature roles, and if this counts as the beginning for her, well, then she’s off to a pretty good start. Not only is it funny to watch her try to fit in with “the cool clan” of her grade, but to watch as she fails, time and time again. Sometimes it’s hard to watch because of how true it is about certain social-cliques within high-school, but Moretz’s unabashed sense of knowing that she can whoop any of their asses, makes it all the better just to sit back, and wait for her to extract her revenge whenever she sees fit. And when she does, trust me, it’s going to be deserved, if not disgusting. VERY disgusting, that is.

While Nicolas Cage isn’t here to steal the show like he did in the first one as Big Daddy, Jim Carrey is more than able to take his spot and do a little bit of scene-stealing as well, even if it isn’t the type of performance you’d expect from the guy. Not only is Colonel Stars and Stripes a bit of a nut when it comes to violence and the way he uses it on his victims, but he’s also a bit of an endearing figure, especially when we find out that he’s an ex-mobster, now turned born-again Christian. It’s a very strange role for Carrey, one that he doesn’t go too over-the-top with, but still owns and has a great time with. Shame that he abandoned any type of love or support for this flick, because the movie could have really benefited from it. And even though he’s still treated as more of a joke than he was in the last one, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is still enjoyable to watch as Chris D’Amico, now with his new name: The Motherfucker. Not much originality lies in the pens of those script-writers, but at least they know how to make a joke work a couple of times.

Consensus: Though the first one added an extra feeling to its punch, Kick-Ass 2 still delivers on the action, the violence, the humor, and the fun turns from its cast, but also doesn’t know whether it wants to be a serious superhero movie with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it, or a comedic superhero movie, with disturbing bits and pieces of violence thrown in it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"When the camera's are on, I'm your best friend. No need to worry. But when they're off, ehh, go fuck ya self!"

“When the camera’s are on, I’m your best friend. No need to worry. But when they’re off, ehh, go fuck ya self!”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Happening (2008)

Pretty, pretty deadly flowers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Shit. This is really bad."

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

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Land of the Dead (2005)

Yes, zombies are still freaky even if you can get away from them just by speed-walking.

A new society has been built by a handful of enterprising, ruthless opportunists who live in the towers of a skyscraper, high above the hard-scrabble existence on the streets below. But outside the city walls, an army of the dead is evolving. Inside, anarchy is on the rise and the zombies are about to take over.

In case you have been living under a rock since 1968, or just don’t know that much about horror films, George A. Romero is usually the only guy you can associate with zombies. The guy loves them, treats them with care, and always has the best things to say about them, even if they are only chomping people alive the whole time. However, it’s seems a bit strange that Romero would actually even be needed in today’s day and age of “the fast zombie”, but rest assured, this guy proves us wrong once again and shows us exactly why he and “the slow zombie” are always needed for the horror genre.

Romero, no matter what he’s working with, always has a ball with his stories and that’s abundantly clear in this flick. In my opinion, the film did take a bit too slow to start-up, but once it got moving, damn, did it ever get moving! Even though he keeps his zombies slow and stupid, Romero still shows that he is able to change with the times in a way and give us the blood, gore, and guts we need to be fully-satisfied with a Romero zombie-flick, and even though not all of the effects here are done naturally, they still look very, very good and will have plenty people probably going, “ewwwwww”. That’s what’s awesome about Romero flicks is how every movie always stacks-up on the action and gore, no matter how much of it is in good-taste or not because when you’re dealing with horror, there really isn’t anything that’s in good taste. It’s either in bad-taste or bad-taste. Yes, they are two different things.

However, no Romero flick would be complete with some ample observations about the world he sees through his own four-eyes, and it still works in 21st Century. Romero gets away with his social-satire a lot in by showing us how our culture and society, is a man-eat-man world where it’s all about who’s the bigger dog on-top, as apposed to who’s the guy that can fight the longest and put the most heart in. This satire isn’t as witty or subtle as some of his other flicks, but it’s still used here to good-effect and also allows Romero to have a bunch of fun with his humorous side as well. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll be able to look a belly button stud the same way again.

The problem with Romero, and where most of his films seem to fail in, are actually having scripts that make you want to hear these people talk regardless of how fun and wild the action is. That’s exactly the case we get here as almost everybody in this flick talks as if they just came out of 4th-grade and all want to sound tough and cool while the zombies are attacking. Seriously, some lines just made me laugh my ass off and others made me roll my eyes just by how hard they tried to actually be funny. The one character that annoyed me despite his simple character conventions, was Robert Joy as Charlie. Right from the start when this guy shows up, you know Romero’s going to try his damn near hardest to make him the comedic-relief that always cracks us up in the most serious of times, but in reality, just annoys the hell out of us and sort of makes us wish he would just get eaten-up already. Once you see the character for yourself, you’ll realize I’m a dick but everything that came out of this guy’s mouth bothered me and I just wanted him away with.

As for everybody else, well, they’re all pretty lame too. Simon Baker under-plays his role as our hero, Riley, and just seemed a bit too detached for me to even care about him one-bit. Also, the guy gets all of these hit-TV shows but never really shows me exactly what he’s got to offer when it comes to the big, dramatic moments. Maybe there are some Simon Baker fans out there who can prove me wrong, but for now, I still remain unimpressed by what this guy’s got to show-off. Asia Argento is smokin’ hot as the bad-girl, Slack, and probably would have had me hate her if it wasn’t for her extremely good-looks that caught my eye just about every time. She’s nothing special either, in terms of acting, but damn does she look good.

The only two cast-members in this film worth recommending are the only two that seem like they actually give a shit about this junky-script. Dennis Hopper seems like he is having an absolute ball as the rich, wealthy, and highly-corrupt piece trash known as Kaufman, and you know what, so was I. Hopper has always been a favorite of mine and he can portray “oily” unlike anybody else and it’s still a shame that the guy isn’t with us today because he could still be bringing out a-hole roles like this nowadays. Then, there’s John Leguizamo who plays Cholo, and has the most energy out of everybody here. Leguizamo, no matter what crap he does, (and oh trust me, there’s a lot of crap he does) always seems like he’s on-fire and can’t be put-out. That’s exactly what we have here with him as Cholo, a guy that’s mean and despicable, but also pretty cool to watch in how he keeps his word with everything and kills those others who don’t keep theirs. Once again, nice showcase for two performers that always give 110% with every role they have, it’s just a shame that their talents are sort of wasted on a crap-script like this. No offense George, you’re still the man.

Consensus: Land of the Dead may not be anything new or original when it comes to the zombie-genre, but still features George Romero in top-form playing around with the zombies he loves by giving us all the blood, guts, gore, action, and chills that we need to fully be satisfied this Halloween season.

7/10=Rental!!

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

Snow storms just make everything worse.

During a snowy New Year’s Eve, a most-wanted mobster, Nicholas Zambrano (Laurence Fishburne), is temporarily incarcerated at the doomed Precinct 13. As the sun sets and a long night begins, a motley crew of policemen and prisoners, reluctantly headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), must band together to fight off a rogue gang that wants to extract Zambrano at any cost.

This is a loose remake of a film that was done by John Carpenter and even though they aren’t considered the same thang, I think I’ve seen enough already. Although, I do have to say that John Carpenter is a pretty solid director in his own right.

Director Jean-François Richet doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the usual slam-bang, action thrillers we’re so used to seeing but damn does he do a great job with it! Richet brings in a whole bunch of crazy weapons here all ranging from the likes of hand-guns, sniper rifles, lazer sightings, silencers, a samurai sword and basically anything that can be used as a weapon in one way or another. It all shows up here in this flick and used to great effect because the action here is what really kept this story going. Even when it seems like the story is about to fall into its softer/slower side, it picks itself right back up from where it started and gives us plenty more deaths and action to behold. It’s not like Richet tries to go for anything new here, it’s more of like that he knows how to film action and make it work.

Another element to this film that made it all the more enjoyable was that the story does go through some twists and turns here and there that are pretty funny and kept me guessing. Now I’m not saying the whole film is unpredictable but what I will say that there are a lot of times that the film does something out of the ordinary like kill of a main character or throw in a couple of “who is the bad guy?” scenes here and there, which all kept me watching. Once again, nothing that is terribly original or new, just entertaining to watch.

The problems that I had with this film are all pretty obvious. With this type of material, you basically know that it’s all going to play out in the same way that all of these other films have been doing for the past 30 years, actually dating back to Carpenter’s original. The good guy has a dilemma, the bad guy has a connection with him, they both realize who they are through a death-defying situation they get thrown in to, and yadda yadda yadda this and yadda yadda yadda that. It’s basically the same old shit that we have seen done 100,000 times before and it’s no different here, except for maybe a couple of cool little twists and turns along the way. But those cool twists and turns can only go on so long.

Even though the plot was fun and entertaining, there were plenty of plot-h0les that still seemed to bother me. One memorable problem was the realization of the underground tunnel beneath the compound. I mean honestly, you would think that something as life-saving and crucial to this predicament as an underground tunnel would be the first thing 0n somebody’s mind and brought up within the first 10 minutes that this attack was going on. But for some very odd reason, it just so happened to slip this dude’s mind. Then again, it wouldn’t have served the plot if they did do that in the first place so I guess it all makes sense in the end.

A lot of the credit has to go to this cast that is actually pretty good with their roles by adding a lot more humanity to them and making them characters that we care for and want to see live after all of this havoc is over and done with. Ethan Hawke did a nice job as the burned-out cop and plays snarky so well that it’s almost hard to take him in as anything else. Also, it’s pretty fun to think of this character as his character from Training Day but this time, only 4 years down the road and fed with all of this shit. May sound lame but hey, I can have a little bit of fun while watching these movies. Laurence Fishburne also adds a real deep sense of coolness to his evil gangster, Bishop. It’s not like this is a stand-out performance from Fishburne but I definitely think its a lot better than half of the shit we’ve been seeing him do lately. However, I’m not talking about Contagion considering he was probably the best out of that whole cast.

Consensus: There’s no re-inventing of the action wheel here or any new surprises to be seen, but what Assault on Precinct 13 does bring is a lot of blood, action, gun shots, violence, and some fun twists in order to have a good time.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Titan A.E. (2000)

A video-game come to life on screen, but in a good way this time.

Set in the year 3028, many years after the planet Earth has been blown to bits by an alien race named the Drej, a young boy named Cale (Matt Damon) is discovered to hold the secret map of the Titan machine inside of his hand. The machine holds the power to unleash another planet for the few surviving humans still roaming around in space, and the opportunity to re-ignite their evolution.

This may seem like a totally random flick to review but for some odd reason I caught this on my Netflix queue and I haven’t seen it ever since it first came out so I thought it would definitely be a great way to get some nostalgia. Being a kid ruled.

One of the best things about watching movies is how they can sometimes take you out of the world that you’re living in at the present and transport you into this different world with all of its inhabitants and beauty. This is one of the main things I liked about this movie because it takes you out into the galaxy above and around us and shows its beauty and sometimes its darkness. The visuals in some cases may be dated, but they still look glorious because they show these little animated sketches but give it this 3-D look that almost makes it seem like a live-action flick. The film does a great job of combining both styles of animation here which works and takes you to this vision of space that I haven’t seen done before. There are so many great sights to see that it’s hard to just put my finger on one and I almost wish it was in 3-D and released again in 2012 because I think it would actually look even better and maybe get a better box office return.

To add on with the visuals too, the action is very fun and there is some sort of great energy that co-directors Don Bluth and Gary Goldman both contain that makes this flick so much fun. There is just enough story here to make sense but when the shoot-em-up action scenes pop-up, they bring a lot to the film and make it feel like a lot of fun as if you’re watching ‘Star Wars’ in cartoon version. Let me also not forget to mention that there are some pretty cool rock songs courtesy of Jamiroquai, Lit, and even Fun Lovin’ Criminals. I don’t understand why more animated flicks let alone more movies in general just don’t use a pretty up-beat rock soundtrack to add to their action because it can honestly do wonders like it did here.

However, on the writing front, there is a lot of problems to be had here. First of all, as understanding as the story is in the first place it still doesn’t mean that it’s original by any means. There’s so much here that seems borrowed from plenty of other sci-fi flicks/stories that it can be very annoying at points. I mean there’s no big surprises at the end of the flick, but I was at least asking for some originality for me to get to that point. I also can’t forget to mention that this flick seems very adultish for an animated flick. Sometimes there will be a random sex joke that may seem more subtle than you expect but it’s still random, and there is plenty of other moments where it seemed like this flick really stepped over the whole PG rating, especially when it’s trying to connect with a kids audience but maybe that’s why it didn’t do so well at the box office in the first place anyway.

The characters here are also very bland and they aren’t very interesting, except for maybe one character, who wasn’t even human. Matt Damon, Bill Pullman, and Drew Barrymore, among others, all do their best with their voice jobs it’s just that their characters are so bland that it’s almost way too hard to root for them to save mankind. They all seemed to be written very dry or lifeless and they didn’t stretch my imagination as much as the cool visuals did either. However, the one character that I seemed to like the most was the Caterpillar-looking type named Gune, voiced by John Leguizamo. I don’t know what it is, but it always seems like Leguizamo is able to make any character he is playing, likable beyond belief.

Consensus: The visuals are very pretty to look at and there is a lot of fun to be had here with the energy in the action, but Titan A.E. still suffers from unoriginal writing, characters, and plot devices that seem to be used from so many other sci-fi stories. Still, what stands out from all of those other ones is its great visuals which make it a lot better than it has any right to be in the first place.

6/10=Rental!!

Vanishing on 7th Street (2011)

I wonder if my night-light would save me.

No one can explain the mystery when residents of a vibrant urban center begin disappearing one by one. But it seems to have something to do with the shadowy figures they come into contact with right before they (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo) vanish.

Director Brad Anderson has made some pretty intense and creepy stuff which is why I was looking forward to this so much. However, it’s such a shame when you’re disappointed by something that seems like it could have worked so well.

Anderson does a good job here with his direction and uses a lot of silence to create this atmospheric mood where you don’t know what’s going on and how is this all happening and what the real mystery behind all these disappearances are. The first 40 minutes of this are strong and kept me interested, but then after that, it begins to fall down.

Nothing much really happens after these first 40 minutes because all we watch is them trying to conserve light and run away from the darkness, and that’s just about it. The scares are fairly cheap and while you watch the film, you can’t help but wonder just when this film is actually going to take off.

Another one of my problems is that the script feels nothing more than a genre exercise. There’s a lot of homages and ideas taken from the films of George A. Romero and John Carpenter, but none of it actually morphs into a full-length film. Also, far too many holes in what the darkness could and couldn’t do, where did the people disappear to, why did they disappear, why were these people left behind? These questions were ones that were always brought up but never answered and I kind of felt ripped off. I liked the vagueness f the horror within the film but the darkness had no real allegory to it, it was just the darkness and I kind left this film feeling what was the point?

Hayden Christensen is pretty crappy actor but he does OK here as Luke. I mean he didn’t make me sigh or laugh at his performance so I guess it was OK. Thandie Newton is good as the insanely sad Rosemary; John Leguizamo is always great in anything he does, and his performance as Paul is no different; and the debut role of Jacob Latimore as James is very good too. Still, when it came down to the film, these performances just felt like second-nature.

Consensus: Director Brad Anderson may be inspired with this direction, somehow the screen gets mixed up in its mumbo jumbo of questions unanswered, bad scares, and nothing really exciting happening which just makes Vanishing on 7th Street feel like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Casualties of War (1989)

A poor man’s Platoon. But that ain’t so bad.

In director Brian De Palma’s Vietnam-era war drama, a young soldier (Michael J. Fox) suffers a crisis of conscience when the men on his patrol callously rape and murder a Vietnamese girl and then try to cover up the crime.

This late 80’s gem is actually based off a horrific event where 4 soldiers actually raped and then murdered a Vietnamese girl, but the 5th one chose not to.

Director Brian De Palma is most known for taking his style over substance in most films, but here he actually stays on track and goes for a bigger understanding. I expected this to be a huge, big-scale, Vietnam war epic, but instead it’s a small, singular story that’s more about the themes instead of the glitz and glamor of most war films.

The bitter lesson of this film is that its not always enough to have morality on your side, you also have the power to back up your beliefs and what you stand for. The film is about this small group of sliders where they have become so angry, and so vicious, that they don’t even consider any Vietnamese person, human beings. The film shows the harsh effects of what all this hardened violence can do to a person, and sometimes make them turn for the worst. You also have to wonder how you would act if you were put in the same situation, as I still do not know what I would exactly do.

My main problem with this film that really took away from my overall experience was the beginning and end of this film. It starts off with Fox on a subway, visibly alive, and having a flash-back as to what happened during his time in the war. This already has us know that Fox is alive throughout the whole story, and ultimately takes away from the film’s tension that it tries so hard to go for. The conclusion is also so up-lifting, gentle, and unconvincing that it really does seem tacked on to this film and took my self away from the harsh reality of war that this film gives off.

It must have been hard for some people to actually believe Michael J. Fox here as Pfc. Eriksson, even though he’s always known as Marty McFly. As the film goes on, you understand how courageous he is in standing up for what he knows is right, and doesn’t once back down from any of these guys, as intimidated as he may be. Sean Penn is amazing in this role as Sgt. Meserve, the vindictive squad leader who is filled up with so much venom and hatred from all these months in the jungle, that he is able to absolutely oppose his will on the others, and he convinces us that he can do that. We also get some very early roles from the likes of John Leguizamo, John C. Reilly, Ving Rhames, and the evil Don Harvey.

Consensus: Casualties of War has a poor opening and beginning that may take away from the film, but it soon becomes a morality tale, heightened by great performances from the cast, and themes about war that will stay in your mind.

6/10=Rental!!

The Lincoln Lawyer (2011)

This film really did make California look like a crap hole.

Tasked with defending rich lothario Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), who’s been charged with assault, lawyer Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself and his family in danger when he deduces the truth behind this and former cases he’s worked on.

This is based off the 2005 crime best-seller, that I still have not read, but after seeing this, I don’t really think I need to read it.

There’s not nothing new here that we haven’t seen before. The plot plays out like you would expect a courtroom drama to play out, and almost everything that happens seems like it came from some other film of this nature. However, that’s not always a bad thing.

Director Brad Furman keeps this film going at a slick and quick pace. He keeps us interested in this plot because he films this so tightly, that we actually do start to wonder, what exactly is going to happen next. The screenplay written by John Romano goes well with Furman’s direction, because a lot of the twists and turns that this story takes here, actually seem believable and not put on. I love old-style courtroom thrillers, and this brought me back to the good old days of when you could just sit back, and watch a crime be solved right in front of  your eyes.

My main complaint with this film is that I didn’t like how this was shot. Furman uses a very dirty look that was trying to show California in a crap way, but instead just seemed dumb and intentional to show how much of a crap hole it can look like. It looks gritty for the sake of looking gritty and this just seemed put-on.

I think Mick Haller is the perfect role for Matthew McConaughey, and he actually pulls it off real well. It’s been awhile since McConaughey has actually head-lined a “good” film, probably because he’s been too busy with those shitty romantic comedies, but this role was a good reminder as to why he doesn’t always have to do them. He’s smug and cocky but at the same time, determined to get his job done in any way possible. McConaughey does a wonderful and believable job as Haller, and has me hoping he’ll continue to take roles like this in the future. The rest of the supporting cast is awesome. Ryan Phillipe is very evil and vindictive as Louis Roulet, who as time goes on, becomes a very, very bad kid. Marisa Tomei also pops up and does a good job as Maggie, and let’s not forget William H. Macy who is always a sight to see, and is not different here as Frank. The rest of this great cast is filled with the likes of John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, Josh Lucas, and Frances Fisher.

Consensus: The Lincoln Lawyer doesn’t offer anything new to the courtroom thriller genre, but a well-paced story, with interesting mystery, and great acting from the cast, keep this somewhat predictable film, entertaining enough.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Gamer (2009)

God, I wish I was playing a video game instead of watching this crap.

It’s 2034, and humans can control and kill each other in a large-scale online gaming world. But Kable (Gerard Butler), a wrongfully convicted soldier forced to join the violent competition, tries to free himself by taking out its evil architect, Ken (Michael C. Hall). While being controlled by a rich kid (Logan Lerman), Kable must also save his wife, Angie (Amber Valletta), who’s trapped in her own avatar world.

Looking at the plot and trailer from a far, I was thinking it looks really cheesy, but at the same-time, bat-shit crazy which is always good. However, it’s not good here.

The problem with this film is that it really is all over the place, with no sense of logic or control whatsoever. I get the satire and what the film is trying to say, by saying we’re to feel guilty for what the world has become in exploiting violence and death on TV, movies, and even in video games, but the problem is that the film focuses on this by showing us loads and loads of amounts of violence and death. The script also tried too hard to be witty or funny at points, and it just ended up being weird or dumb really.

Sometimes when you have crazy, slam-banging action thrillers, you don’t have to really rely on the story because the action is always there to keep you busy. However, this film doesn’t even do that so well, and that’s all blame on writing and directing team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, known for the even crazier Crank films. The problem here is that all the violence just looks terrible, and the way they film this just makes it look low-budget, and a cheap indie film. The action is OK I guess, but that shaky cam gets way too annoying for points, and you don’t even feel like you’re watching a movie anymore, you almost feel like your on a LSD trip. Make sure you just take yourself some mushrooms before you go in.

Also, what the hell was up with all those titty shots? It was like almost every time this film cooled down, they just decided to show some big boobies. Usually, I don’t mind this, but this film literally over-does the whole “boob shot” thing for me, which I thought I’d never have to say….ever.

Gerard Butler is alright in this role as Kable. I have always had faith in this guy, and I do believe he will eventually get that role that will bring him back up, but as the main hero in this film, he is OK. Michael C. Hall does his very best to do a Southern accent as the villain, Ken Castle, and this really doesn’t work probably because they make him seem so cheesy, but this film probably made that on purpose. I still don’t know what Kyra Sedgwick was doing here, and why the hell she accepted this piece of crap! There are also others in this film that need new agents such as Logan Lerman, Amber Valletta, John Leguizamo, Ludacris, and a totally jacked-up Terry Crews. Also, Keith David shows up too! What the hell is wrong with these people!?!? It’s not the cast’s fault as to why these characters suck, it’s the damn film itself.

Consensus: By taking a glorious amount of psychedelics beforehand one could actually have an enjoyable time with this crazy, all-over-the-place action thriller, but if sober, you may find yourself totally bored, annoyed, and just not entertained one bit by this dumb piece of failed satire.

1/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)

Is it weird to say that I thought these guys looked good in make-up?

Three New York drag queens (Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo) on their way to Hollywood for a beauty pageant get stranded in a small Midwestern town for the entire weekend when their car breaks down. While waiting for parts for their Cadillac convertible, the flamboyant trio shows the local homophobic rednecks that appearing different doesn’t mean they don’t have humanity in common.

This film is basically an American rehashing of an Australian comedy called The Adventures of Priscilla. I actually really liked that film, this, well not so much.

I think the problem with this film was that it was all pretty stale. There was no hilarious moments that had me going crazy with laughing, and there was no big points brought up, that had me thinking: “Wow we should be so much nicer to drag queens”. This film does have a heart but the problem is that it rarely shows up in this film, and ends up being something I have seen times, and times before.

The campy approach to this material, I liked but I wish it was just more funny. I chuckled every once and awhile, but I was expecting so much more laughs. The movie is at its best when the girls are throwing insults back and forth, dressing to the nines, and decorating like, well, drag queens. Then, in true Hollywood style, it turns a promising farce into yet another lecture on love and kindness and family values, blah blah. Something I should have totally been expecting since this was indeed, a Hollywood remake of a classic foreign film.

The most enjoyable part of this film comes from the cast. Wesley Snipes is good as Noxeema, and brings out some hilarious moments with his always hilarious delivery of comedy. Patrick Swayze is awesome as Vida, and brings out the most heart out of the three, and it’s easy to see why he always could do everything so well. John Leguizamo was the funniest because he does a great job of adding that signature crazy Mexican act to this role, and it works so well as Miss Chi-Chi.

However, these guys try so hard to look and act like these three ladies, that it’s just a shame that they we can’t believe them as their characters. Their big, muscular, and pretty manly so when you see these rednecks reacting to these three as if their women, it’s an idea that’s a little too far-fetched. They try so hard to be funny, and in ways they do, it’s just that the script let’s these guys down, which is always a shame.

Consensus: To Wong Foo may feature some funny moments, much ado to the good performances from the three head-liners, but the script is a let-down, and never goes anywhere to make a point about sexual identity, or being accepted.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

Summer of Sam (1999)

Good thing I was born in 1993, and didn’t live in New York.

During the sweltering summer of 1977, the notorious killer Son of Sam set New York City on fire, and a chance encounter with the homicidal maniac sends the life of a philandering Bronx hairdresser named Vinny (John Leguizamo) spinning out of control. As the authorities hunt the killer, Vinny’s life unravels amid a haze of suspicion, drugs and promiscuity. Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody also star in this tense crime drama from director Spike Lee.

Spike Lee has always been one of my favorites no matter what he’s directing really. He is very smart, innovative, and thought-provoking, but not without entertaining. Here, he does almost all of that.

There is a lot of stuff going on in this film, and for the most part Lee handles it all pretty well. It’s just that some parts feel like they shouldn’t have even been put in, and you can tell where the film drags. The editing seems like it could have been better, because the tone goes up and down, as well as the story.

However, Lee always steps up to the plate. He perfectly captures the fear and paranoia that was going through the mind of many New Yorkers during the Summer of Sam. He uses a lot of intense visuals, as well as some incredible set pieces, to really show you how everything back in those days, were so tense. The soundtrack also gives us more of a feel that we are in the 70s, and there are a couple of cool little musical montages to 2 songs from The Who, and it really is amazing. It’s always nice to see Lee branch out and do something different, while still making it fresh and enjoyable.

The problem with this film is that it is that for some viewers this may be too much. There is a lot of ugliness within this film that will take some people by surprise, and leave others in total disgust. I didn’t mind it at all really, but the many sex scenes, drugs, and violence will actually be hard for others to watch. For 142 minutes, I think some people will find themselves switching the channels about 30 minutes into it.

The acting is superb, especially from John Leguizamo. His sex-addicted, Catholic-guilt-ridden, married, adulterous, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up is out of control. Cool. Adrien Brody‘s sexually-confused, swinging, punk, radical, liberated, drug-taking, smoking, swearing, messed-up, Brit wannabe is more subtle, but equally as out of it. They both have great scenes when their together, and you can feel the real chemistry between these two, as we follow their two different lives. Mira Sorvino is beautiful, but also amazing as Leguizamo’s wife, and shows that she doesn’t need to be that goody-goody we all know her for, she can be equally as sexy, and tear down the house. Jennifer Esposito doesn’t do much anymore, and it’s actually a shame because she’s very good here, and it makes me miss her a whole lot more.

Consensus: At times, it’s a muddled mess, at other times brilliantly entertaining. Spike Lee handles this material with plenty of ugliness, but also with great visuals, and amazing performances from the cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!!