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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: John Turturro

Landline (2017)

Oh. The 90’s. When screening calls was a huge thing.

It’s the mid-90’s and the Jacobs family is going through a bit of a problem. The mother, Pat (Edie Falco), is having a rough go at work, but is also not really spending much time, paying attention to her husband, Alan (John Turturro). Speaking of which, he’s also a little bored with life and may be having something of an affair. Nothing’s confirmed yet, however, because his youngest daughter, Ali (Abby Quinn), only found out about after seeing a bunch of poems on his floppy-disk. Meanwhile, she’s also worried about what she’s going to do with her life and also with college. Then, there’s her sister, Dana (Jenny Slate), who is having issues with her fiancee (Jay Duplass), but mostly because she doesn’t know if she’s ready to settle down just yet. This leads her to having an affair with an ex (Finn Wittrock), who may or may not be her last chance at some form of freedom and/or happiness. Either way, this family’s going through a lot.

Same hair. Same blood. Same sisters. That’s how that works, right?

Obvious Child was the sweet, small, soulful, and somewhat beautiful little surprise of 2014. It was 82-minutes of pure heart, comedy, and truth that was rarely seen in movies that were either longer, with more stars, or had a bigger-budget. It ranked on my Top 10 that year, showed me that Jenny Slate was an amazing actress, and oh yeah, put writer/director Gillian Robespierre on my watch.

Then Landline happened.

Okay, actually, it’s not all that bad. In terms of sophomore slumps, it’s not that bad, because it shows us that Robespierre still has the knack for writing interesting characters and smart dialogue, but when it comes to the plotting and actual story itself, the movie just has way too much going on, for such a short time, and with no real cohesiveness. It’s as if Robespierre got something of a bigger-budget, had bigger stars, and more time to play around, so she did, but in this case, it actually went against her.

Lock the door!

And of course, it’s not right to compare this to Obvious Child, because they’re two different movies. But with Landline, you can tell that something’s a bit off this time around about Robespierre and what she’s doing. With the talented ensemble, she’s very lucky, as everyone here isn’t just great, but funny and brings a lot to the table. They all feel like a very lived-in family, who not only have gotten used to each other for so long that they don’t even care to put up resistance any longer, but that they also know each other so freakin’ well, it’s almost painful. That’s how real families are, regardless of how close-knit they are and it’s one of the aspects that Landline nails down well.

The only issue is that every so often, the movie will jump from one subplot, to another, and depending on how interesting one is, the movie works, or doesn’t. Landline suffers from a lot going on, with very little time, and not nearly as much concentration as they should have all deserved. You can tell that Robespierre is trying and relatively succeeding, but I don’t know, something’s just missing.

What it is, I may never know.

I’m not taking Robespierre off my watch, but I will hold her next film with at least a little bit of trepidation.

Consensus: Not nearly as focused as it should have been, Landline suffers from having too much going on, with very little time to actually wade through it all, but gets by on a solid cast that’s willing to make this material into something fun and enjoyable.

6 / 10

The guys in the family can’t do this kind of stuff.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

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The Color of Money (1986)

The Color of Money

“Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) has been out of the hustlin’ game for quite some time. Nowadays, he spends most of his time, jumping from town-to-town, checking out all of the local pool-halls and seeing what new, exciting and unknown talent lurks in the sometimes seedy underworld. One day, he ends up catching Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) playing and realizes that the kid’s not just cocky and brash, but he can also play a pretty mean game of pool, too. However, Eddie feels like it can still be worked on in ways, so he decides to take Vincent under his wing, where the two will go from town-to-town, playing all sorts of talented and colorful characters, sometimes for money and other times, just for plain and simple respect. Vincent wants to learn from Eddie, but he’s also got a chip on his shoulder, making Eddie feel like he has to try harder to teach the kid a thing or two. And of course, the relationship only gets more complicated once Vincent’s girlfriend, Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), comes along for the trip, catching the eye of Eddie.

Old school....

Old school….

The Color of Money, as a movie all by itself, is okay. In a way, it’s a perfectly serviceable sports movie, in which we get to see a certain side of society that we don’t often get to see, with a story that’s conventional, and some pretty good performances. But when you also take into consideration that the Color of Money isn’t just a 25-year-late sequel to the Hustler and directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, well then, it takes on a whole new life.

If anything, it feels like a total disappointment.

Which isn’t to state that the Color of Money is a bad movie in the slightest, but it doesn’t feel like anything particularly fun, exciting or ground-breaking as it probably should have been. Did we really need a sequel to the Hustler? Probably not, but the idea here is promising and the fact that the movie was able to get Newman back in the iconic role of Eddie Felson, makes matters all the better. That’s why, while watching the Color of Money, it’s not hard to sit and imagine, “How could something with so much working for it and with so many damn talented people involved, turn out to be so ‘meh’?”

Honestly, I don’t have the answer. The only person who probably does is Scorsese himself as, as much as it pains me to say, seems like he was doing this for nothing more than just a paycheck. Sure, there’s brief, fleeting moments of the same kind of energetic inspiration we’re so used to seeing from him and his movies, but for the most part, the movie’s slow, the momentum barely ever picks up, and the times where it seems like there’s going to be some real stakes and/or emotional tension in the air, the movie suddenly backs off and continues on some path that we aren’t totally interested in.

It’s odd, too, because like I’ve stated before, the performances are quite good here, it’s just that they’re not playing with all that much.

It’s nice that Newman won the Oscar for this, but it’s also a shame, too. The reason being is because out of all the other 8 times that he was nominated, the one time that he won had to be for his least-compelling role to-date, not to mention an inferior take on a character he already played to perfection over two decades before. That’s not taking anything away from Newman, because he’s one of the absolute greats of cinema in general, but it goes without saying that it’s a little bit disheartening when someone who is so talented, so amazing and so compelling to watch, wins the highest prize an actor could win, for a role that shows him not doing much but just coasting along like we’ve seen him do before.

...meet new school!

…meet new school!

Because most of the movie is actually spent on Cruise and his character, who also seems like doesn’t have enough to really work with. Cruise does a nice job with the super-hyper, super-cocky Vincent, but also gets to be a tad annoying, mostly due to his character just being boring. We’ve seen this kind of character before a hundred million times, we know he’s got talent, we know he’s going to put it to good use, and we know he’s going to be successful, but we also know that he’s got a huge ego and will most likely make a terrible decision that not just hurts him, but all of those around him.

Sound familiar yet?

Surprisingly, the one who actually leaves the biggest mark is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Carmen, who not only feels like the voice of reason here, but in a totally different movie altogether. Mastrantonio’s best skills as an actress has always been that she was the cool girl in the corner, who always had something to say, but didn’t mind keeping it to herself – here, she plays that role and is perfect with it. The chemistry she has with Newman is actually pretty electric, making it all the more clear that the movie should have probably been more about them, and less about the mentor-student relationship that’s overdone with Cruise and Newman.

Oh well, at least Newman got that Oscar. We can all walk away happy from this knowing that fun fact.

Consensus: Even with the talented cast, Scorsese being the camera, and promising material leftover from the original, the Color of Money unfortunately still feels conventional and tired, like the sports genre itself.

5.5 / 10

Wow. They sure do learn quick.

Wow. They sure do learn quick.

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in Gemini 

Hands of Stone (2016)

Never say “no mas”.

At age 72, after a few brushes with death and the notorious mafia, legendary trainer Ray Arcel (Robert De Niro) comes out of retirement to coach world-class Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán (Édgar Ramírez). It’s a job that many other trainers would take, let alone, come out of a retirement for, but it’s one that Arcel feels as if he has to do, if only to teach Duran a thing or two about manners and living life like a peaceful, everyday citizen in the United States of America. After all, growing up, Duran had to constantly fight his way through childhood and to ensure that no one ever brought him down as a person; now that he’s older, muscular and more than capable of beating the hell out of whoever steps in his way, he’s definitely not stepped down. But now that Duran wants to face-off against the one and only champ, Sugar Ray Leonard (Usher Raymond), he’s more than ready to settle down, listen to his trainer and win the title that he feels he has earned after all of the years and hard-work that he has put in.

"Get up, you wimp!"

“Get up, you wimp!”

With the troubled production, constant delays on its release-date, and late-August release, you’d honestly expect Hands of Stone to be an utter piece of crap that no one wanted to see. Thankfully, it doesn’t turn out that way; it’s the kind of movie that you can tell had a clear agenda on its mind while being made, but for one reason or another, so many backstage politics got involved that after one cut too many, the movie lost its train of thought. It’s the perfect case of a good movie, unfortunately, being tarnished and ruin by the sole fact that it had one too many people’s wallets involved, so therefore, it had to suffer the consequences of having a whole lot in it, but essentially, not being about a single thing.

Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie, just a very messy, unclear and unfocused one.

The one thing that it does get right, thankfully, is the actual boxing itself. Writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz keeps Hands of Stone from ever getting boring, moving at a quick, fast and efficient pace that hardly ever lets up, even when it is featuring a bunch of people, sitting in a room, and talking about Jimmy Carter the Panamanian Canal. But where the movie really moves, is in its boxing.

Sure, the boxing isn’t as realistic as say, a real fight that you’d check out on PPV (that’s still a thing, right?), but it doesn’t matter – when it’s on, you pay attention and you have some fun. You feel every punch, hold, broken bone, sweat, blood-drip, and everything else that goes hand-in-hand with boxing, so much so that after awhile, you’d sort of just wish the whole movie stayed in the ring and never even bothered to go outside of it.

Because yes, unfortunately, when it does go outside of the ring, it gets pretty bad.

For one, Hands of Stone is, like I said, a messy movie. It has a lot to talk about race, family, power, the government, sports, and so on and so forth, but at the same time, doesn’t really have much of anything to say about them in the slightest. Take, for instance, De Niro’s Arcel, a character who is probably deserving of his own movie, but here, is saddled with playing second-in-command and has a very brief, very random bit where he’s trying to settle a dispute with his long, lost and estranged daughter that literally none of us have ever heard about. It seems like the movie itself knew this, so rather than having her show back up and make some sort of sense to the whole movie, she’s literally never heard from again.

Why, though?

We can't really see what you've got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we're going to assume you've got some pretty big muscles.

We can’t really see what you’ve got going on underneath the suit and tie, but hey, we’re going to assume you’ve got some pretty big muscles.

Also, while I’m at it, why does the movie seem to bring up relations between U.S. and the Dominican Republic, yet, at the same time, never really have much of anything to say about them? And also, why are we learning so much about Durán’s upbringing and hotshot attitude, yet, at the same time, never actually knowing anything more about him besides that? The movie seems to present a whole bunch of stuff, but keep it all at such a surface-level, that after awhile, you don’t even know what it is.

Is it a boxing movie? Or, is it an unfinished cut of one?

Either way, the movie does thankfully stay entertaining all throughout, which mostly has to do with the fact that the pace is quick and the cast is quite good. As stated before, De Niro is good as Arcel, who probably deserves his own movie, just like Edgar Ramirez’s Durán does, as well. In fact, Ramirez is so good here, that he makes it very clear that possibly, some time down the road, he could give it another go, under a new writer, director, and studio, because there’s truly something here, to this person and this person’s tale that makes me want to see more of him and how he goes about his day-to-day life.

Unfortunately, we do get to see some of that here, but it’s in a movie that doesn’t seem to care, or know what to do with any of that rich material.

Consensus: With so much going on, Hands of Stone can’t help but feel and seem like a mess, but an entertaining one because of its fast-pace and good cast, which both deserve way better than what they’re given.

5.5 / 10

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

The weirdest sequel to Joy, ever.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

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

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

Try singin' your way out of this one!

Try singin’ your way out of this one!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7.5 / 10

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Back on the chain gang, boys!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Ridiculous 6 (2015)

RidiculousposterAt least Tarantino has a Western coming out.

In the old West, a man by the name of Tommy Stockburn (Adam Sandler) is raised by Native Americans, where everyone calls him “White Knife”. While he doesn’t know who his real father is, he still hopes to meet him one eventual day. After getting kidnapped by a bunch of bad, evil bandits, Stockburn finally understands who his father is (Nick Nolte), which leads him on a trip. Along the way, he ends up meeting 5 other men who, believe it or not, also happen to be his brothers and looking for their father as well. There’s Chico (Terry Crews), a black man who doesn’t know that he’s black; there’s Herm (Jorge Garcia), who can’t speak a single discernible line of dialogue; there’s the slow and obviously mentally challenged Lil’ Pete (Taylor Lautner); there’s the slippery Hispanic named Ramon (Rob Schneider); and last, but not least, there’s the cool and suave Danny (Luke Wilson). Together, they will search far and wide for their father, while at the same time, also stopping any wrong-doings they encounter along the way.

PT, where are you?

PT, where are you?

Why is Netflix making an Adam Sandler movie? Better yet, why are they making not one, not two, and hell, not three, but actually four Adam Sandler movies? Well, folks, in the biz, that’s what we like to call “profit”. Apparently a lot of Sandler’s movies are exceptionally popular on Netflix and it brings into question just in what capacity people want to actually watch his movies.

Do they either want to get in their cars, drive a half-hour, spend nearly $20 on tickets and concessions, watch and spend a few good hours of their lives watching as Sandler and all of his pals get paid vacations? Or do they want to just sit at home, think of something to do, and when push comes to shove, just watch them? Because, if you think about it, it doesn’t really cost much to begin with, so what’s the big deal?

But no matter which way you put it, you should not see the Ridiculous 6. Even though it’s not getting the same treatment as Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation and not playing in any actual movie theaters, it still doesn’t matter. You should not see this movie so therefore, just don’t even bother getting into your Netflix account, either.

Just stay away and spend time with your friends, families, or whoever else, cause anything would be better.

And yes, I know I sound incredibly dramatic right now, but seriously, it’s the truth. Not only is the Ridiculous 6 nearly two-hours long, but it has hardly a laugh to be found. There was maybe one chuckle or two to be found, but other than that? Nope. For the most part, it’s the same as it is with just about every other Sandler movie: The jokes are lazy, tired, and most of the times, offensive to just about every demographic out there in society.

This is something obvious to expect from a Happy Madison production, but what surprises me so much is how this movie, at times, seems to be trying to parody other Westerns. The Magnificent Seven is the clear genre example they use to poke fun at, but honestly, you’d never notice unless you actually saw that movie to begin with; there’s no real actual jokes made at the expense at the genre, or any attempt to be satirical. Everything is, as it appears to be, just made for the sake of being jokes and having people laugh, which surprisingly enough, doesn’t actually seem to happen.

Which is all the more depressing because you take a look at the cast and realize that most of these people involved don’t need this movie to help them out, either financially or professionally speaking.

A lot of Sandler’s buddies like Nick Swardson, David Spade, Dan Patrick, Rob Schneider, and Jon Lovitz all show up and it’s no surprise that they’re here, so it’s not all that upsetting when they show their faces here. However, it’s the likes of people like Luke Wilson, Nick Nolte, Will Forte, Steve Zahn, Danny Trejo, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro, and well, yes, even Taylor Lautner, who actually make me sad because you know they don’t really need the help at all. They’ve all got fine careers to begin with and are probably making as much money as Hollywood stars in their positions should be, so why are they even bothering with this? Is it just a favor to Sandler? Or is it just because they’re bored, the paycheck looked that nice, and well, they didn’t really give a hoot?

Keep on looking, boys, you're not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Keep on looking, boys, you’re not going to find a good movie anywhere.

Whatever the reasons were, it’s just a shame to see them all here trying to do what they can with an awful script, a misguided direction from, yet again, another one of Sandler’s buddies, Frank Coraci, and jokes that nobody in their right mind would try to deliver. That none of the jokes actually land, also call into question just what Sandler actually considers “humor” nowadays. Because Sandler co-wrote the script here, my mind automatically shoots to assuming that he did it because he had a contract obligation and decided to piece together a bunch of non-sequiturs and lame gags, regardless of if he actually found them funny.

Because yes people, Adam Sandler actually is funny.

However, here, as with the countless other flicks in his long career, he’s hardly shown it. As an actor, he seems awfully tired and bored here, which already makes me wish that somebody who is actually an innovative, intelligent director would pick him back up and give him something to do. This is something I state in just about every review of an Adam Sandler movie, but it’s the truth: Now, after all of these stinkers, it’s become more and more clear that he doesn’t care, is just collecting the money that flows in, and is going to continue to keep on making hack-jobs such as this. When it will end, nobody knows. All I do know is that Adam Sandler has clearly given up and you know what?

We’ve got three more of these movies.

Enjoy, folks.

Consensus: As expected, the Ridiculous 6 is another one of Adam Sandler’s hack-fests where jokes fly, yet, never land, everybody looks embarrassed, and everyone feels as if they’ve just lost hours of their lives they can’t get back. Except, in this case, it’s two hours.

1 / 10

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Yes. I feel bad for this guy.

Photos Courtesy of: Joblo, Hollywood Life

She Hate Me (2004)

She hate me, she hate me not.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young, brash hotshot at a large biotech company that’s on the verge of creating a vaccine for AIDS. However, a whole swirl of controversy surrounds him and the company for supposed wrongdoings, when he’s the one who blows the whistle. Obviously, Jack’s bosses aren’t too happy about him opening his mouth, so they make him the one to take the fall, which the leads the government to look further and further into Jack’s life and freezing all of his accounts. This wouldn’t be much of a problem, however, Jack leads the life of a young, New York bachelor. So now, Jack needs some way to make any bit of cash he can find – that’s why when his ex-girlfriend (Kerry Washington), comes by with her girlfriend (Dania Ramirez), in desperate need of a sperm donor, he’s more than willing to accept the offer. But because Jack is so good at what he does, word has spread about him and now, every lesbian who wants to have a baby are hitting Jack up for sex. Of course, they give him money and all that, but really, what Jack wants, is a love in his life and some meaning.

Is this love?

Is this love?

Deep down inside the dark, fiery hells of She Hate Me, lies, believe it or not, a funny movie from Spike Lee. What with all the impregnating of lesbians and such, Lee finds a certain bit of energy that he’s utilized in practically every film, but actually seems to be having fun. There are some small points he seems to make about gender-politics and homosexuality, but really, none are too preachy to where they take over what Lee’s trying to do – basically, he’s setting out to make us laugh. It’s not the kind of Spike Lee we’re used to seeing, which is why She Hate Me, for a meager amount of time, feels like Lee’s funniest flick where, he doesn’t care about preaching or yelling at the audience, but instead, having them chuckle.

Then, it’s all downhill from there.

See, while a good portion of She Hate Me is about this young guy having sex and impregnating lesbians, there’s also another good portion of the movie that concerns itself with being about AIDS, about Congress, about big, Enron-like corporations that swallow-up the middleman and don’t take the blame, about the mafia, about sexuality, about Italians, about African Americans, about Caucasians, about racism, and well, so much more. Really, She Hate Me is packed to the gills with numerous subplots, ideas, themes, statements, and viewpoints that, after awhile, it all becomes tiring.

But I sort of liked that.

Spike Lee hasn’t always been known as the easiest director to follow or like; most of his films are preachy and one-sided, but are still, for the most part, compelling to watch and be apart of. While some may not agree with his general viewpoints on certain issues like race, sex, or class, there’s no denying that his movies are entertaining and get you thinking harder than most other film-makers. So what if Spike Lee creates a mess? If the mess is, at the very least, interesting and seems to want to say something, no matter how muddled it may be, then so let it be!

That’s why, no matter where She Hate Me goes, tries to say, or ends up, I wasn’t pissed. I was confused and a little befuddled, but I was never bored and there’s something to be happy about with that. While Lee could have made a drag of a movie that goes from sexuality-to-politics at the snap of his finger and not really done much with it, he does, at the very least, push it to its extreme limits where we can see where he’s going – we may not know why he’s going there, but hey, at least he’s keeping us watching. Once again, it may just be me who feels this way about She Hate Me, but I don’t care: A mess is a mess, no matter what.

Or this?

Or this?

But sometimes, it’s all a matter of just how well you dress that mess up to appear like something extraordinary or, better yet, smart.

And in the midst of all this havoc that Lee creates, Anthony Mackie does a great job as Jack Armstrong. Now, Mackie’s a force to be reckoned with and constantly shines in everything he shows up in; however, back in 2004, he wasn’t known for much (except for getting chewed the ‘eff out by B-Rabbit), but here, for what appears the first time, he gets a chance to show his range and just how well he can handle and adapt to Lee’s idiosyncratic style. Because there’s so many different flicks going on at once during She Hate Me, Mackie has to handle each and everyone with a certain level of believeability, as if this is in fact, the same character, going through all these sorts of different transformations and situations – all of which, Mackie does quite well with and actually comes out on top. Of course, there’s a very interesting movie to be made about what Jack’s life and romance, but Lee is less concerned with that at times.

This allows for the rest of the ensemble to show up and, in some ways, light the screen up just as much as Mackie, even if it seems like they may be showing up from the sets of other flicks. Kerry Washington is sexy and dangerous, both at the same time, but also has a nice bit of chemistry with Mackie; Dania Ramirez is sympathetic as her girlfriend who, despite wanting a baby and being a lesbian, is willing to have sex with a man, even if she doesn’t really want to; Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson are, oddly enough, hammy and over-the-top as Jack’s former bosses who get rid of him and seem every bit as detestable as Lee wants them to appear to be; John Turturro shows up as an Italian mob boss that has an interesting scene, but once again, appears literally out of nowhere and doesn’t seem to add much to the final product; and yeah, there’s plenty more where they come from. Everybody’s fine and trying to do what they can do, but really, they’re stuck trying to work within Spike Lee’s mind.

And what a crazy, but watchable one it is.

Consensus: Jumbled, odd, sometimes confusing, and always interesting, She Hate Me is the kind of mess we expect to see from Spike Lee, even if it does occasionally lapse into being one too many films for one movie.

6.5 / 10

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Oh, no. This definitely is. Thanks for the info, Spike!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Exactly why you never mess with guys named Moses. Especially when you’re near the beach.

If you don’t know the story of Moses by now, you probably should. But anyway, here’s what this movie’s all about. In 1300 B.C, Moses (Christian Bale) is a general and a member of the Royal family, which makes him a brother to  Prince Ramesses (Joel Edgerton). However, he is not blood-related, so therefore, when Seti I (John Turturro) passes away, it’s Ramesses who is next to claim the throne. While this doesn’t upset Moses, he knows that this won’t be good because Ramesses doesn’t take responsibility well and lets his emotions get the best of him. Ramesses knows that Moses thinks this and therefore, he banishes from the land and forces him to survive on his own. While in exile though, Moses finds out that not only does God want him to continue out his plan, but that he needs Moses to take control of whatever the hell crazy stuff Ramesses is doing to his land. Obviously Ramesses isn’t going to fall for all of this mumbo jumbo, which makes God very angry and nature so drastically turns on humanity.

And the rest is, I guess, history.

"Guy-liner is cool!"

“Guy-liner is cool!”

A lot of has been said about Exodus: Gods and Kings, and most of it isn’t about whether or not it’s actually good and worth your time at all. Most of it is, and reasonably so, is about the casting of the white actors in roles that were made especially for Hebrews and Egyptians. It was a small bit of controversy that held some ground, but it was made all the worse by the fact that Ridley Scott couldn’t quite shut his trap and therefore, seemed to have kick-started a huge list of people boycotting his film.

Is it reasonable? Yeah, I guess so. But that isn’t really the point of this movie, or even this review. The point of this movie is to inform and possibly entertain the audience about the story of Moses. However, the point of this review is to tell you that while it does the former, the later is hardly anywhere to be found.

Most of this has to do with the fact that Scott doesn’t really do much of anything entertaining, interesting, or even enlightening about this story. It’s all as plain as day. It may all look incredibly pretty, but honestly, there’s only so much one viewer can do with really pretty visuals. Eventually, you need an interesting story, to be told in an incredibly compelling way. If you can’t do this, then there’s something wrong with your film, all problems with casting aside.

And no, I’m not making the argument that Scott’s movie somewhat fails because we all know the story of Moses, it’s mostly because he doesn’t know where to go with it. He shows us that, yes, Moses was a person who spoke to God, set out to do what he was called on to do, and when it didn’t, all hell (literally) broke loose. This aspect of the film is, at least, exciting, fun, and interesting, something you don’t get from the rest of the movie. It shows us that not only does Scott still appreciate a nice monologue when he wants to use one, but that his exquisite eye to detail still pays off.

That said, I’m talking about what’s maybe 15 or so minutes in a movie that runs on almost two-and-a-half hours. Which wouldn’t have been a huge cause for concern, had the rest of the movie been at least somewhat worthy of watching, but it’s so slow and meandering, you’ll wonder if Scott fell asleep while making it, or was already in the midst of planning and filming his next picture, that he totally forgot about what was already on his plate. Either way, it’s a bit of a snoozer of a film and it’s made worse by the fact that some signs of Scott’s genius shows, teasing us more and more about what this film could have been, had it not decided to get bogged down in whatever it was blabbering on and on about.

And the same could also be said for the cast who, despite all being pretty big, respectable names, don’t really offer much to a movie that desperately needed something to liven it up.

Fleece on horse. Strike a pose.

Fleece on horse. Strike a pose.

Though Christian Bale is one of the best actors we have working today, it seems that whenever he is in a major blockbuster picture, he never quite gets the chance to show everyone those skills he’s known to have. Here, as Moses, he gives a pretty wooden performance that, at times, can seem inspired, but for the most part, just makes it seem like he’s reading from a Gideon Bible and doesn’t really care whether or not he’s putting any effort into anything. It’s not a terrible performance, but definitely one of Bale’s high-points, I have to say.

Same could be said for the rest of the cast. The likes of John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Ben Mendelsohn, Aaron Paul and María Valverde all show up here, but hardly any of them leave a lasting impression on us. They’re just here to service a script that doesn’t know what it wants to say or do about itself, nor does it really know how to treats its characters, so it just has them talk a lot about seemingly nothing and see if they can draw up any sort of emotion whatsoever.

It seems like that was the same guideline given to Joel Egerton, although he’s a lot better off with his role as Ramesses because he’s call on one thing and performs it well: Be campy. Egerton seems like he’s not only having a fun time with this role, but is at least more interested in diving deep into who this person may have been and why he was inspired to make the actions that he did. Though most of this gets lost in a muddled film that could really care less about any sense of humanity there may be in these characters, the effort is still noticeable and it’s worth commending Egerton for. Even if, you know, the character was written as a guy who yells a lot, forces people to die, and eats a lot grapes.

Consensus: Everybody in Exodus: Gods and Kings seems to be trying, except for Ridley Scott himself and it proves to be a major problem for a two-and-a-half-hour epic that moves slow, doesn’t say anything interesting, and hardly ever seems to know what it wants to do with itself, other than just try and inform people about the story of Moses that they may already have known since kindergarten.

4.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Gotta give it to those Egyptians - they sure did have style.

Gotta give it to those Egyptians – they sure did have style.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

God’s Pocket (2014)

Philadelphia is full of scum. Take that from a person who lives there and yet, loves it so!

Philadelphia, circa the 1970’s where the mob has practically taken over all business. And a fella by the name of Mickey (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is one of those mobsters who does his business, moves on, and goes back to his wife, Jeannie (Christina Hendricks), to make sure she’s happy and pleased with the life he’s made possible for her. However tragedy strikes for them both when Jeannie’s kid ends up dying in a surprising “freak accident” at work. Though there’s a lot of speculation concerning that “accident” and whether or not it was actually a cover-up, Mickey has to find enough cash to make sure that his wife’s kid gets the best funeral possible and also, that he’s able to do so without having to split any heads in the process. Problem is though, he’s owed money by a lot of people, and there comes a point where you have to stop being nice, and start taking action in order to get what you want.

Or you know, something like that.

Honestly, though there seems to be a plot on the surface here, the truth is, there really isn’t. I mean yeah, this Mickey fella has to find a way to squander up a certain amount of cash so that his wifey-poo’s kid can get the funeral she wants him to have, but you can sort of tell about half-way through that the movie doesn’t really know if it wants to pay much attention to that, or anything else in this movie for that matter.

Most of that has to do with the fact that this is the directorial-debut by one John Slattery who, if you don’t know by now, so charmingly plays Roger Sterling on Mad Men. And that’s why it’s really hard for me to trash on this movie because you can tell that Slattery wants to make a good movie and definitely has the potential to make one in the near-future if he decides to continue to go down this road of being behind the camera, but this sadly, is not that film.

5 o'clock shadow = struggling alcoholic.

5 o’clock shadow = struggling alcoholic.

Because honestly, it’s just that Slattery doesn’t quite know how to make the blend between comedy, drama, and bits of violence, seem all put together in a cohesive manner. To say this thing is messy, is to say you get wet when you step out in the rain without an umbrella; it’s pretty obvious. But what makes this movie worse than just something of a mess, is that it’s too dull to ever be considered “an interesting mess”. And this is where, as much as it pains me to do so, where I get a tad mean on Slattery because it just seems like he doesn’t really know where to go with this material, nor does he know of what to actually say about any of it, or the characters that inhabit it; he’s sort of just a pedestrian to all that’s happening.

And honestly, that’s not so bad for some movies out there, considering they have a great cast on their hands. Which is why this is an even bigger surprise to me, considering the ensemble Slattery’s been able to cobble up together here. Of course we all know that John Turturro is good at playing the sneaky, gangster-type, but rather than doing anything interesting with that role here, it’s more of a case in where you can sort of see him going through the motions without much heart or inspiration. Same goes for the always lovely Richard Jenkins who plays a journalist with a bit of a drinking problem. Though it’s a pleasure to see Jenkins on screen and acting like his usual smarmy-self, his subplot really doesn’t add much to this movie and feels unnecessary, especially when you consider how much time it’s actually taking away from the real story at-hand here, which is Mickey getting all of that money for this funeral.

And yes, while that plot seems ripe with all sorts of excitement and fun, Slattery’s direction doesn’t really get to portray any of that. Instead, it’s just a slow, uninteresting bore that you can tell wants to say something about these low-life characters, but in the end, isn’t really saying anything at all. In fact, if I had to really dig deep underneath this story, I’d say that Slattery actually glamorizes these characters a bit as being constantly funny, cool, and able to use violence whenever they want. Now that’s fine and all when you have well-written characters, but here, there’s nobody to really care for, nor even really pay much attention to.

Well, at least she's still like Joanie in THAT sense.

Well, at least she’s still like Joanie in THAT sense. Heh heh.

Same goes for the character of Jeannie who we’re supposed to care for the most, but instead, don’t really care for, because we don’t get much of her to begin with. We just see that she’s devastated with the news of her son’s passing and we’re supposed to build our opinions about her around that idea. It didn’t quite work and although you can tell Christina Hendricks is clearly trying to break away from her Joan Harris-image, it more or less feels like she’s not trying hard enough. Or that she doesn’t have much to really work with in the first place.

That could definitely be the sole reason and it’s an even bigger shame, too, because this movie will also go down as one of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s films. And, above everything else, is the true disappointment of this movie – giving one of the most compelling presences of the past decade or so, and hardly giving him anything to work with. Though Hoffman is totally trying his hardest with this Mickey character, in the end, he’s just a weak-character that’s like any other, low-time, two-bit gangster: He’s a nice guy, but also has some dark shadings as well. That in and of itself is a total convention of the mob-tale and it’s made even worse by the fact that a person who could do something with that convention and spin it in an interesting way, doesn’t get a chance to do so.

Not his fault of course, just bad material that he didn’t deserve.

Consensus: Everybody involved with God’s Pocket seems to be trying, but in the end, is just a disappointing mess that makes the mortal sin of not bringing anything interesting to the audience’s heads while on screen.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Hard not to get a bit teary-eyed over this picture. Just sayin'.

Hard not to get a bit teary-eyed over this picture. Just sayin’.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Fading Gigolo (2014)

Always count on a neurotic Jew to score you some major poon.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is an aging man living in New York City who has come to a bit of a stand-still in his life; his bookshop has just recently closed down and now his flower shop may be in trouble as well. However, his best buddy, Murray (Woody Allen), comes up with a plan that may be a bit ridiculous, but ultimately, may work out for both of them in the end: Become a male prostitute. Murray believes this is a good idea because he knows a couple of lonely women that are in need of some male lovin’ – especially a Jewish widower by the name of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who, despite being all about her faith, and the strict guidelines that come along with it, is willing to give Fiorvante a shot and see what all of the fuss is about. However, problems ensue for all three of them once a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) discovers what’s going on, and wants to take them all down. Which won’t just ruin the business Fioravante and Murray have going on, but the relationship they’ve built with Avigal herself.

You’ve got to hand it to John Turturro – the dude isn’t just writing and directing here, but he’s doing so in a movie that has him being portrayed as a total ladies man, that each and every girl he meets is willing to pay nearly $1,000 to bang. Not saying that Turturro isn’t a charmer by any means, but what I am saying is that since he’s the one who is all behind this piece, it does seem like he’s giving himself so much credit, that it becomes nearly “a fantasy”. Then again, you could say the same thing about more-than-a-half of Woody Allen’s movies, so I guess it all evens out.

"Love truly isn't something another person can understand. You know?"

“Love truly isn’t something another person can understand. You know?”

And speaking of Allen, his inclusion here in the cast seems very reasonable, although quite distracting to the final product: The movie itself seems like something Allen would write and direct in his own spare time, yet, isn’t. Instead, as mentioned before, this is a John Turturro movie and, needless to say, not everything’s as lovely as we’ve come to expect from a Woody Allen movie, no matter how mediocre one may be. Most of that has to do with the fact that Turturro just doesn’t seem like all that much of a charismatic director. Sure, he has a neat story on his hands, but surprisingly, it’s a rather dull, unexciting one that doesn’t take full advantage of the “fun” premise concocted here.

Some of that could be attributed to Turturro’s rather bland writing and directing, but some of it could also be pointed right towards he himself, the actor. See, Turturro, despite being one of my favorites, was surprisingly boring here. Not only does it seem like he’s sleep-walking through the role, but has intentionally written himself out as being so, just so that he can use that as a tool to allow the supporting cast to shine on and on, like most of them do on more than a few occasions. But, there’s a problem with that, because although Turturro allows the others to do their thing, his character constantly stays in the spotlight and when you have somebody as uninteresting as Fioravante, it’s hard to really want to see what happens to his character next. This is all bizarre too, because Turturro, in almost everything I’ve seen him in, is as charming as he could possibly be. But here, he’s just dull and painfully so as well.

And like I said before, this allows the supporting cast to do whatever it is that they want to do and have a good time doing so. Out of everybody, Woody Allen is the one who really seems like he’s having a blast, by just playing his typical, neurotic self. It’s an act that never ceases to get old or tiring, regardless of whose script it is that he’s reading. And although Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara bring some much needed sex-appeal to this story, their characters seem more like the stereotypical rich, horny and bored housewives that need more sexy-time than what they get from their own spouses. While it’s fun to see this unlikely duo play friends and be a little sexy, they don’t seem real, just two characters cobbled up from Turturro’s own imagination.

"So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?"

“So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?”

The only character who really seems to be devolved from any bit of reality is Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, who plays this sad, lonely and slightly scared Jewish widow. Though she is fine in this role and she and Turturro create some nice bit of chemistry, the whole idea that the Jewish community would be going absolutely insane over such a unity is downright extreme. Maybe I’m wrong and this is what happens in those small, intimate Jewish communities, but something tells me the portrait Turturro has created here isn’t just unrealistic, but somewhat insulting. That these highly respected Jewish men would capture a person and take them in for countless lines of questioning relating to their business-dealings seems so goofy, that it’s not even funny – it’s just stupid and seemed like a lame way for Turturro to bring out any bit of comedy that he could.

That’s not to say that the whole movie is bad, it’s just that you can tell that, in the right hands, it could have been so much better. Maybe had this been in the hands of a more capable creator like, well, I don’t know, say Woody Allen, then this movie probably would have been better off and been able to actually be more than just a ludicrous “sex comedy”. Instead, it’s a ludicrous sex comedy that doesn’t have much of anything interesting to say, nor does it really seem to know what it’s about. It just goes through the motions and depends on its charming cast to win everybody over.

Which, in a way, it does, but only because of that damn Woody Allen.

Consensus: While it gets by mostly on its charming cast, Fading Gigolo doesn’t really have any point or direction in which it wants to go in, so instead, just relies on cheap gags and unbelievable plot-points that border on being “fantasy”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don't ever get.

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don’t ever get.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Barton Fink (1991)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Can we please bring the word “rumpus” back to the mainstream?

Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne) is the right-hand-man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish kingpin of the 1930’s. Whatever Leo has to say, Tom helps him out with it, by any means possible, and vice versa. However, that partnership seems to go South once Tom starts sleeping with Leo’s dame (Marcia Gay Harden), and finds himself embedded with a new group of mobsters, this time, lead by the ruthless Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito). Once the two gangs go head-to-head in a battle over territory, brawn, respect and money, Tom gets thrown right in the middle of all of it, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever.

I’m going to be honest with you all out there, this is not the first time I have ever seen this flick. No, actually far from. This right here marks my third time seeing this flick and now that I’ve not only grown older as a human-being, but as a movie-geek, I have finally come to terms with this movie’s awesomeness. Okay, maybe it’s not awesome but it comes pretty damn close, especially if you know how the Coens roll. And brother, do they roll with style!

What threw me off the first couple times upon seeing this movie was not knowing just what the hell I was getting myself into, and apparently, from reading what other peeps had to say about this flick as well, I wasn’t very far off. The Coens start this flick very traditionally where they barely give you any back-story, rarely lay down any groundwork for whom these characters are, what are their names, and/or just what the hell type of situation we have found them in. It gets even worse once you realize that everything and everybody they’re talking about, are things or people that we have never met or have yet to see, and probably will never see or meet. And lord almighty, this is about 30 minutes into the damn movie already! So therefore, upon being twisted and turned every which way but loose, you can already assume that this movie doesn’t start off on the right foot, that is, if you don’t know what to expect. However, being my third time upon seeing this, as I said before, I realized what I was getting myself into and found myself a whole lot more intrigued by everything and everyone in this movie. That’s all thanks to the Coens and everything they are able to do as writers and directors.

Typical Irishman: always rolling-up the sleeves.

Typical Irishman: Always rolling-up the sleeves.

The Coens, as we all know, have a certain sense of style that they abide by and if you aren’t down for it, then you might as well just get the hell out! However, if you are down for it, then get ready for a wild ride with this one! This movie is chock-full of witty one-liners that never get old, are always hilarious, witty, and are spoken at a mile-a-minute that you may just have to put the subtitles on, just so you can see what the hell it is these peeps are all talking about. But no matter how talky or goofy this movie can get, it’s always interesting and very enjoyable to watch, especially when you don’t really know exactly where this flick could go, at any which second. That’s what we have all come to know, hail and praise coming from the Coens and this movie and their craft-work here is no slight exception. It’s painted in Coen blood, from start-to-finish. And if you don’t like that, then take the high road, Jack.

That’s my attempt at trying to sound like one of these gangsters. But I’ll stop now.

The plot does get a little over-zealous at times and yet, I still have no idea just how the hell everything went down in the end, but that’s the fun with these types of movies, especially when they’re done by the Coens. There’s always something new or cool to pick out from the haystack here and whether or not it all adds up to the bigger picture, is solely on you and how much you pay attention. Does that mean that this flick doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme things? Of course not! Heck, I’d probably say that the movie makes more sense, but to me, some things just didn’t add up to their fullest extent. I don’t know if that’s the Coen’s, me, or just something about with the cosmos in the sky; but either way, something didn’t mesh as well as I had planned, but I still remained thrilled and constantly entertained by this movie, even if I did have to do a little head-scratching at times.

That’s when you know that you have masters at-work here, when you can get a flick that’s all about being crazy, loopy, and wild with where it wants to go and how, but yet, rarely ever seems to make sense, and still have it work. These guys are geniuses at making movies like this because no matter how many times you may scratch your head or have to press “the rewind button”, you always know that you’re in for a treat when it’s the Coens at play, and that’s always a joy to watch. I don’t care who you are in the world, watching the Coens have an absolute ball with fun material is fine entertainment for me. Whether or not that’s your type of cake, is fine with you. But it’s all me, baby, and that is what I like.

You my boys, Joel and Ethan. You my boys.

Let me also not forget to mention the amazing cast that’s on display here, that keep up with the Coens, every step of their goofy ways. Gabriel Byrne has never really lit-up the screen for me as an actor, but here, he’s pretty damn solid as Tom Regan, the type of guy you wouldn’t expect in a movie like this, yet, totally works. It’s sort a strange predicament that this guy is in because he’s always smart, lippy, and a step ahead of the curve, but yet, somehow always finds himself getting his ass kicked, a couple of black-eyes to show off and his head in his hands. It’s strange to see a type of guy like this that’s so intelligent and so on-the-top of his game, get stumped almost every step of the way, but not only do the Coens pull it off with no remorse, but Byrne does so as well. Byrne’s very good here and shows that you can give a character a minor ounce of heart, even if he goes on with the same smirk and remarks the whole time. Also, the guy’s gotta pretty kick-ass Irish accent that I’m pretty sure isn’t even a put-on. Irishmen unite!

Somebody get this man a towel.

Somebody get this man a towel.

Another fella who almost (ALMOST) does a better Irish accent is Albert Finney as Leo, Tom’s boss/buddy. Finney is great as Leo because he’s got the brass, he’s got the old-time appeal, and he’s also got enough stew in his bowl to where he can knock somebody’s teeth out and shoot some mofo’s up if he has to. That’s exactly what he does at one point here, and it’s great to see when an older man like Finney can still get up, shake off his legs and show these youngsters a thing or two about being tough and rugged, the old-school way. The problem with Finney, or I should say his character, Leo, is that he does disappear for a good majority of the movie, which sucks because we do begin to miss him after quite some time. That is, until he came back to the screen and somehow made everything all better with the weather.

However, much of that screen-time was actually given up for one person, Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar. Polito’s character seems like one of these dunces that doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing, why he’s doing it or what the hell he’s going to do next as back-up plan, but what he does know, is that he’s in it for the money. That’s probably how most gangsters were like back in the golden days, but what makes Polito stand-out the most is that he’s a bit of an a-hole, and yet, still a sympathetic guy because he isn’t a mean or a sadistic son-of-a-bitch. He just wants to go about his business in a kind, pleasant way where nobody has to get hurt and sticking to his “ethics”. Yeah, if somebody has to get pinched every once and awhile, well, then that’s just the way it is. It’s strictly business.

Last, but sure as freakin’ hell not least is John Turturro as Bernie, one of the main dudes in this story that has to keep it moving. Turturro plays Bernie like a wise-cracking, sneaky bastard that scams people all for the good of his own wallet, but yet, has this one scene where he absolutely breaks down and throws out all of his cards. Everybody knows the scene and if you don’t, just look up-top. It’s the one scene where Turturro lets loose and has you wonder, “Should he kill this guy or not? And if not, for what reason?” Once you start bringing morality into a flick like this, then you know you got a keeper, but when you have Turturro doing his thing and making the rest of the movie seem like his own, personal play-land; then it’s more than just a keeper. It’s a freakin’ winner, that’s what it is!

Consensus: Not everything adds up or makes perfect sense by the end of Miller’s Crossing, but like most Coen flicks, it is always fun, entertaining, enlightening, tense, funny, bloody, and most of all, able to give you something new to pick out from among the rest of the crowd, everytime you give it a view.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Cool guys do walk away from explosions.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Margot at the Wedding (2007)

Don’t ever invite the one person that may stop the marriage, to your actual wedding.

A mother named Margot (Nicole Kidman) and her son named Claude (Zane Pais) live together and are constantly angry at the things around them. They go to visit a relative (Jennifer Jason Leigh) over the weekend, for that person’s wedding but the problem is that the soon-to-be husband (Jack Black) of that husband, isn’t exactly Mr. Charming. But in Margot’s eyes: almost no one is.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach doesn’t seem like the right kind of guy for me. His films are filled with characters that are so damn unlikable, that you would much rather shoot them than be in the same family as them, and the dialogue has that natural feel to it, but also gets very weird and quirky for no reason at all. He always seems to base his movies in reality, but a type of reality that is pessimistic, miserable, and downright uneven. Maybe that’s how life is, but for me; it doesn’t seem so. That’s why Baumbach never seems to deliver the goods and this flick is no different.

The biggest problem I hit with this flick was that barely anybody here drew me in, nor did they even have me compelled by what they were going to do next with their lives. Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit about them. Sounds harsh but the film is just dedicated to each one of these characters either constantly fighting with one another, acting strange just for the sake of it, saying how they really feel at random and sometimes, unnecessary moments, and getting into arguments where it gets so heated, they’re about to kill each other the next second. I mean I know family can be a bitch at times, but never as bad as they are displayed here. Almost every single scene that goes by, nobody ever seems to enjoy each other’s company and it never changes. Whether or not Baumbach meant for us to share the same misery these characters were feeling, is totally beyond me.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

Only sign of happiness throughout this whole hour and a half.

I mean, I get it. Not everybody in the world we live in is going to be as sweet as pumpkin pie but this film takes that a little too far to where it’s just an annoyance. Watching people practically beat the ever, loving shit out of the other in a verbal, and sometimes physical war. What makes it even worse is that this film is one hell of a sloppy piece-of-work because Baumbach never seems to be able to make a cohesive story here, and resorts to just snipping together random, short shots of these characters either reacting with each other, or just standing there looking mad/angry/sad. It’s cool what Baumbach can handle his characters without ever having any real plot to work with, but he doesn’t succeed at that here and I think it’s mainly because he trusted too much in his writing to win everybody over. Qurkiness can only go so far, and it went a bit far for our man, Noah, here.

This was even more of a shame to see in this flick is because of the movie that came before this, The Squid and the Whale. It’s probably my favorite Baumbach flick and shows that the guy can handle quirkiness, but also throw in some real, honest emotions to-spare where we feel for the characters involved, no matter how self-centered or despicable they may be. It seems as if Baumbach tried to do some of that here, but it doesn’t have as much steam as that indie-gem had. The characters from that movie were pretty damn unlikeable, but at least they had some sort of sympathetic side to them, deep-down inside. You had to look far for it, but when you found it all out, it worked wonders for the flick and it seemed like Baumbach tried to do the same thing here, just without any likeable-traits whatsoever. I can’t lie, there were some parts of this film that had me interested and made me laugh, but they were also very few and far my dear. Very few and far.

Yeah, not buying it.

Yeah, not buying it.

Even though the characters and story-line sort of blow, the cast still owns and show exactly why they deserve roles like these, no matter how detestable they can be. Nicole Kidman is great as the confused, bitchy, and often terrible mother that can’t seem to get her head around whatever it is that she wants in life. Kidman has always been a powerhouse in every performance she’s given, but she’s allowed to play a more mean character than we usually see from her and I think she handles it well. Since every scene consists of her bitching everybody-out that’s around her at that time, it’s not very hard to see exactly why a gal like this would own at playing such a evil mother. Yes, she even bitches out her own son. Damn woman!

Jennifer Jason Leigh always has had a knack for coming off as very sunny, bright-eyed, and likable and her role as Pauline really worked for her in that aspect. The fact that she’s so happy with life and her sister is such a huge bitch, really seemed strange to me, but then again, I guess that’s what happens in life. Life can take you down different paths of life, and I guess that’s what this flick was trying to show us with these two sissies that just so happen to be blood-related, but yet have completely, different out-looks on life. Still don’t know how a hot momma like Leigh ended-up with Jack Black, but hey, that’s what movies are made for, right? Speaking of the one and the only, Jack Black, he’s actually very good as Malcolm, Pauline’s soon-to-be-husband and brings a lot of that comedic-timing to this movie (that is so rightfully needed) and also has some nice dramatic touches as well. Malcolm is probably the most realistic and chill character of the whole film, and it’s never fully explained why the hell Margot hated him so much to begin with. He was the only guy in this film that made me want to continue watching and actually give it more of a shot than it deserved. Never thought I’d say this about any movie, but Jack Black was the best part of it. God, now that I think about it: this movie really must have sucked.

Consensus: Noah Baumbach at least deserves some sort of credit for making a story for Margot at the Wedding, solely out of random snippets of character emotions and happenings, but that’s not much when you consider how loathsome and mean these characters can be, without any sense of love or kindness in their hearts.

3 / 10 = Indie Crapola!!

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Staring into space, and judging the atmosphere. What a bitch.

Quiz Show (1994)

Ken Jennings and Alex Trebek were secretly in cahoots this whole time.

This is the true story of Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), who rocketed to national fame as a repeat winner on the TV quiz show “Twenty-One.” In the late 1950s, prime-time game shows were a cultural phenomenon. But the American public didn’t realize it was being hoodwinked … until persevering congressional investigator Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) unmasked the corruption behind the show’s glittering façade.

I never fully knew anything about these cases that took place back in the 50’s but I was somehow always interested in them. However when my interest is compared to the interest of Robert Redford, I don’t even stand anywhere close.

Redford is a great actor but also a great director and he shows that well here with showing true passion that he feels for this subject material. Every little fine detail that Redford can get, he puts right up there on screen and you can feel that he not only feels strongly about what is happening here but what is also being told through these historic events.

We as people do not look at the way we make our own choices. Most of the time we look at the rewards we get from making that choice, or what happens to us after wards, or just anything that has to do with something positive coming out of the choice, but we never look at the moral side of it. Is what I am doing right, not just for me but for another person as well? There were many moments where this film brought this up and by the end of the flick a lot of it really starts to show up but not in a very over-powering way. It’s somehow a subtle message that this film shows very well without throwing it right into our faces.

Screenwriter Paul Attanasio is the real reason why this film works so well because he does a lot of great stuff with this subject matter and keeps it going and going. There is a lot of the constant talking back-and-forth between two characters with plenty of intelligence, wit, and sharpness to what everybody is saying and made this film so entertaining in the first place. It’s weird to even say that I was actually tense in many occasions and I could tell that Attanasio had a lot to do here as a screen-writer, but does a superb job at handling it all.

The problem that I had with this screenplay was that I felt it felt too much like historical fiction, which I knew that it was going for in the first place, but for some odd reason took me out of the film a bit. The film uses real characters in some real situations but then there are other times where the situations these characters find themselves into seem a bit too fake to even be considered real. Yes, I do wish these actual real-life people had these type of conversations but it was almost too hard to believe that anyone would ever talk like they were reading an Aaron Sorkin script.

Something that Redford should really receive big-time credit for was getting this whole ensemble cast together and have them all do perfect jobs. John Turturro is fun to watch as the crazy and a bit loopy former-champ, Herb Stompel, and actually provides a very zany character that is also very sad; Ralph Fiennes is just about perfect as Charles Van Doren who is so cool, so charming, and so smart that it almost is a total shocker that he ends up being a bad dude after all, and no that was not a spoiler because they basically show you within the first 20 to 30 minutes; and Paul Scofield is terrific as his father, Mark Van Doren, and makes it abundantly clear why he was the only actor from this whole cast to get nominated for an Oscar. To be honest though, how could they have picked from this huge cast of A-list actors that all have reputations to do great.

The one performance I felt that was the weakest of all was the one given by Rob Morrow as Dick Goodwin. This guy is essentially our main protagonist who goes through this whole discovery and gives us his little insight on everything, which was supposed to have us root for him but it made me just want to see more of Fiennes instead. The problem with Morrow is that this Jewish-like Brooklyn accent he does throughout the whole film seems a little too flat and almost like he just went to a baseball game in New York and came back doing impersonations of the Yankee fans for his buds. Another reason why it was a big problem because without me really being able to believe or even stand seeing Morrow up on screen, I couldn’t get behind him fully and that sort of created an empty center.

Consensus: Robert Redford may lose some moments in script-writing with Quiz Show but other than it’s amazing with pitch-perfect performances from the whole cast (except for maybe Morrow), a nice deal of subject material goes a long way, and just a great message about morals and why they should come in the way of almost every decision we ever make in our lives, even if it does concern a game-show. That Robert Redford, not only is he handsome as hell, he can write and direct like a legend.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

Now I know that I definitely have to stay away from my wife’s sisters from now on.

The film is a tale of three sisters-Hannah (Mia Farrow), Holly (Dianne Wiest) and Lee (Barbara Hershey-who are all unique and special in their own little ways, but they all have problems when it comes to their men and love life. Taking place over two years, we see their struggles, pleasures, and problems as they come to grip with life.

This film goes into some gross places considering the fact that one of sister’s own husband starts boning around with another sister, however Woody Allen is an amazing writer and makes even the weirdest and craziest of things work somehow in his own little cooky way. I think one of the main reasons being is the fact that he’s able to balance all of these stories, topics, and genres so well that it almost is too hard to take your eyes off the film and rarely does your mind ever go somewhere else.

This is also one of the films in Allen’s career where a lot of it feels very realistic because not only does he use that hand-held camera that makes me feel as if I’m right there with these characters, but the fact that a lot of what these people go through and talk about all ring true. I mean we’ve all gone through these feelings at one point or another (not necessarily the boning of your wife’s sister, but you know what I’m saying…) and because of these very interesting characters, it’s also even easier to relate to.

There is a lot to enjoy here but I really have to give some love to Woody who does a great job of keeping this film very interesting and not trying to bog it down with a lot of his annoying themes and messages he always tries to get across in his films, but here they don’t really get in the way all that much. Except for the whole religious angle which I kind of felt was a little forced and out-of-nowhere. I mean maybe Woody was trying to satirize and bring out some questions within the fact of Christianity, but I didn’t see any real reason for this, except for how it kind of ties together in the end.

I was very glad to see Woody taking a back seat to this cast, and letting everybody strut their stuff and do a bang-up job. All of the girls are all very interesting in their own right and it also helps that each one is played exceptionally well, although I do think we could have gotten to know more about Hannah, considering she is the one who is named in the title and she’s the one sister the film pay’s attention to the least.

Michael Caine actually won an Oscar for his role as Elliot here and I have to say he deserved it because he is just great to watch. Caine’s character is the one who is dicking around on his wife and that calls for many emotionally-strong scenes where he just does not know what he wants, much like everybody else from the whole film, except this guy is actually doing something bad. Caine owns almost every scene and it’s a real great change of pace for him considering he’s not always in every scene and not being terribly witty.

Consensus: Hannah and Her Sisters is a great Woody Allen flick because it balances out heart, darkness, humor, and tenderness all so well with a very well-written script, and performances from everybody involved that add so much more dimensions to these already interesting characters. Oh and it also has Thanksgiving din-din in the film so watch it around that time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Jungle Fever (1991)

At least Spike Lee doesn’t totally hate white people.

Flipper (Wesley Snipes) is a successful, married architect. Angie (Annabella Sciorra) is a temporary office worker. When they meet, it’s Jungle Fever. Also, Flipper’s crack-addicted brother (Samuel L. Jackson) causes many problems as well.

Writer and director Spike Lee is a man who is most known for being very controversial with the things he has to say, and here he really talked about something that was actually kind of taboo way back when.

The one thing that Lee does so well here is create a script that shows two different races view points on the same subject of interracial dating and how everything all these people say only pops up when the actual idea of having this kind of dating is heard of. Lee brings up points that most just use it out of curiosity, and while both races don’t hate one another, blacks and whites still have problems when it comes to sex and how we don’t know how to be sexually intimate with each other.

It’s great to see and hear Lee hit this film with such honesty because we see both sides basically talk and there’s no real right or wrong side here, this is just basically two sides voicing their opinions on what they feel is the truth about interracial dating and the races. Lee is masterful here at bringing up these points as well as never fully telling us what we should and should not know about each race. I guess that’s something we have to do when it comes to being sexually attracted to another race.

Lee has a great script here but his problem’s lie within his direction because even though he shies away from the constant cliche romantic scenes once this couple gets together, Lee shows how both races feel which worked in it’s advantage for the most part. However, the problem is that we never actually see these two together too much and when we do the chemistry is just sort of piss-poor. It would have been a lot better if we saw how two actually felt for each other while all this craziness from everyone around them was going on.

Another problem here is that the film has way too many random sub-plots that by the end of the film kind of give it that cluttered feeling to the point of where the ending is actually a lot weaker than it could have been. The film also goes from character to character with no real idea as to who it wants to focus on the most and rather more about just being able to voice all of these other people’s opinions on the subject of interracial dating which made it seem more about the countless other characters that supported this story, and totally getting rid of the relationship that practically is the reason for this film.

Wesley Snipes is good as Fluffy Purify, but the problem with this character is that he is either incomplete as a character or just a total jerk that deserved all this bad crap to happen to him after this relationship starts. I don’t know what Lee was trying to show here but despite how much Snipes tries, this character just wasn’t that likable and a bit naive actually. Annabella Sciorra is also good as the smart-talking, and charming Angie Tucci who brings a great sense of likability to her character even though she is almost an unknown by the end of the film by how much they barely don’t focus on her. There’s also some very good performances from the likes of Spike Lee himself, Anthony Quinn, John Turturro, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Lonette McKee.

However, everybody in this film is actually over-shadowed from the amazing presence of Samuel L. Jackson as Flipper’s crack-addicted brother, Gator. Every time this guy is in the film he just totally lights up the screen (pun intended) and it’s just Jackson’s approach to the role is what makes it incredibly likable, a little funny, and kind of sad by just how messed up this guy really is. If you think about it, there’s actually no real purpose for Gator to be in this film but Jackson makes him incredibly watchable and is just a great performance all-around.

Consensus: Much more could have been focused on the actual couple as opposed to the numerous side characters and subplots the film also showed, but Jungle Fever shows Lee swinging for the fences and giving some frank and brutally honest talk about sex, race, and just how do we separate love and sex. A flawed film but still very well-made.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Everything that Battle: Los Angeles should have been.

The third installment in Michael Bay’s trilogy travels back to 1969’s historic moon landing, when Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 cohorts touch down in the Sea of Tranquility … and discover what appears to be a downed Transformers craft. Flash forward to the present, and the Decepticons are ready to exact revenge on Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots. Shia LaBeouf returns as Sam Witwicky, the Autobots’ human ally.

To get myself ready for this one I went through the whole series. The first one was pretty good; the second one was unbearable; and this one was the best of the whole series. And although that’s not saying much, I still had fun.

The world of Michael Bay consists of explosions, sparks, fire, giant robots, sexy chicks, destruction, and the craziest things that you thought could never happen in real-life. Bay does a great job here as director because he actually keeps the story pretty easy to understand, and a very simple story at that. This is a lot darker than the past films and although the comedy wasn’t as funny I still chuckled, and there was a nice balance between the story and the actual silly stuff.

The action here comes and goes within the first hour, but once that hour is gone, the rest of the film is just insane. You have robots beating up robots, guns blasting, cars flipping, buildings collapsing, and for once I could actually tell just what the hell was going on. There are also some really good action sequences that will keep your eyes glued to the screen and just make you scream “baddassery” at the screen right when the scene is over. The action never stops, and you watch all this chaos and destruction happen but at the same time, you won’t feel annoyed with no plot development or the fact that just about everything you see is special effects. Basically the payoff is bangin’, and I promise you, you won’t leave this film feeling like you didn’t get any action.

Although, the main problem with this film is that it is 2 hours and 34 minutes long and after awhile that starts to take a toll on you. I don’t mind when films are that time-limit as long as their entertaining me, but even though I was entertained with this one, I felt like they needed to wrap it up pretty soon because there was a time that I felt like this film could have ended at any time.

However, when it did end, it was so completley abrupt. I think that they probably budgeted this film so high to the point of where they had almost no money left they just decided to end it, in order to avoid conflicts for money. And of course, in the end, there’s the obligatory U.S flag waving proudly in the wind. You love your country Mr. Bay, we get it already. No need to shove it down our throats along with outworn speeches of freedom. He is so damn patriotic sometimes, I think he almost forgets that he’s talking about a movie about robots that turn into cars, and beat the shit out of each other.

Shia LaBeouf does what he always does well; just make exaggerated faces, scream like a girl at times, and put on that angry face that we can laugh at but you know what, that shtick never gets old. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replaces Megan Fox and is surprisingly quite charming and sexy; Josh Duhamel seems like he’s trying so hard to be Timothy Olyphant; Patrick Dempsey hamms it up pretty well as Dylan; Tyrese Gibson is whatever as Epps; and John Turturro is less annoying in this one than he was in the second one, which is very good. The rest of the cast features a lot of random names such as John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Alan Tudyk, and the most random of all, Frances McDormand. I don’t think I could have ever imagined Frances McDormand talking to a robot in my life, but somehow, Bay has a way of getting Oscar winners into his shit.

Consensus: Since this is a Michael Bay film, many will hate it for being chaotic and insane, but this time I could tell what was going on and even though the first hour may be a little lame, it picks up and becomes the epic, and most action-packed final installment we could ever ask for from these robots.

7.5/10=Rental!!

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

I guess there is such a thing as too many robots.

The plot revolves around Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the human caught in the war between two factions of alien robots, the Autobots and Decepticons. Sam is having visions of Cybertronian symbols, and being hunted by the Decepticons under the orders oJosf their long-trapped leader, The Fallen, who seeks to get revenge on Earth by finding and activating a machine that would provide the Decepticons with an energon source, destroying the Sun and all life on Earth in the process.

Now since the third one is coming out, I just wanted to brush up on the last two and as much fun as I had with the first one, it was all lost when I saw this heaping pile of shit.

First off, the plot doesn’t even matter. It’s just another excuse to get a lot of these robots fighting something that entertained me so much in the first, here, not so much. The special effects are good but other than that I had no real idea what the hell was going on and nor did I really care that much since this plot is stupid to begin with, and keeps on getting dumber and dumber as time goes on.

Director Michael Bay took all that money he got from the first film’s box-office and spent it all on crack, soda, and pills. That actually sounds like it would be awesome, but it’s just insane what he puts on screen here. The action was annoying because all these special effects are flying around the whole screen and the problem was I had no idea who was fighting who. I know Optimus Prime is red and blue, and Bumblebee is orange with a slight tint of yellow, but everybody else is just gray, so I really had no idea who was fighting. But once again, nor did I care.

But I almost forgot to get started on the script which is just dumb, stupid, and lame. I actually laughed a lot at the first one, but all the dialogue here just seems like a crappy punch-line for a joke that didn’t need to be there and wasn’t even funny in the first place. I think they wrote this script as the film went along and for almost two-and-a-half-hours, I just totally zoned out.

Just to prove to you how dumb this script really is with this one scene in this film where out of nowhere, they find a robot that can teleport from Egypt but for some odd reason, no other robot actually has that ability. Why? No reason. Just does I guess. Once again, I did not care, and after about the third scene of showing two dogs humping, somebody getting tasered, and annoying robot mythology, you’ll start to see what I mean.

Shia LaBeouf was actually really charming in the first one as well but he really doesn’t know what to do here and I don’t quite think that was his fault. All Shia does here really is flair his nostrils, run from things, and yell; “Optimusss!”. However, I think it would have been a better film with the title; “Transformers: Revenge of Megan Fox’s Ass“. I have no idea just what the hell she does here other than share this scared face she does the whole entire film but she’s still hot, so I can’t hold too much against her. The rest of the cast doesn’t matter because stars like Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, and Rainn Wilson just feel like extras here and are used for nothing else other than just little story distractions.

But the one thing about this film that really pissed me off was the completley stereotypically racist portrayal of the two “hip” bots, that were obviously black. These two robots are the most blatant forms of black-face that I have ever seen and there not even funny, if you find that stuff funny. I don’t know if Bay has talked to many black people even though he has because Tyrese Gibson was in this, but whatever black people he talks to must jive-talk the whole conversation. That’s all that these two do and once you see what I’m saying, you’ll just hate this film even more too.

Consensus: The special effects are at least done nice but other than that, this terrible sequel features no humor, a very hard and confusing plot to follow, characters and robots we didn’t care about, and the most random shit blowing up all-over-the-screen for two-and-a-half hours. Thanks Michael Bay! Asshole.

1.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Transformers (2007)

Or, as I like to call it, “GIANT ROBOTS TEARIN’ UP SHIT!”

This film finds the planet Cybertron inhabitants engaging in a secret war for control of Earth’s natural resources, which they desperately need for fuel. But much of the action centers on young Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), an unlikely hero whose first car turns out to be an Autobot and helps him win over his dream girl (Megan Fox).

There’s a little story somewhere in this film, with characters but you know coming into this film that’s not what you want. You want action, and you want it now! Michael Bay knows it too.

Bay is the absolute king at burning off people’s brain cells over the course of two hours, and he does not back down once from showing of his “art” in this film. Bay knows how to film action and make some incredibly awesome-looking action scenes while being able to actually tell what’s going on. Even while staring deeply at the screen it’s impossible to see how the cars become robots and vice versa. It’s exactly as fast and as confusing as it should and would be. This is Bay in top form and I won’t go as far as to say that this is a master-piece by any stretch of the imagination, but Bay does a stellar job here and makes this film totally entertaining.

This is also incredibly funny and silly with good reason because it’s not really trying to be anything else. I actually caught myself laughing a lot at this material, and not your typical bad action-humor, it’s the humor that will actually have you laughing and wondering was that supposed to be funny. There are also some nice in-jokes for the fans.

It’s crazy that this was adapted from a bunch of action figures and people who grew up in the 80’s will probably get that nostalgia appeal and even for me, who wasn’t a really big fan of Transformers found this actually really fun and cool. The problem with this film is that I could see a lot of people hating this because it’s nothing more than just a loud and insane action film. Also, it’s probably about an hour too long. I liked the whole epic last 30 minutes but the film goes on a bit way too long and the story kind of drags a bit.

The human parts in this film, as well as the story, are kind of weak but I still didn’t mind them as much. Shia LaBeouf is good as the nerdy but funny Sam Witwicky and contributes a lot to the character’s key likability; Megan Fox is just there to look sexy and that’s fine; Josh Duhamel does that tough llok on his face a lot the whole film, but he’s not so bad either. The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good too with the likes of Anthony Anderson, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Jon Voight, and the comedic legend that is, Bernie Mac. Good cast, even though the story isn’t really too dependent on them after all.

Consensus: Though it may be too loud and noisy for some viewers, Transformers is a Michael Bay action show with fireworks, robots fighting robots, shooting, exploding, running, chasing, hitting, special effects all-over-the-place, and everything a good action film needs to keep everybody entertained even if you aren’t a huge fan of the original material.

7/10=Rental!!

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Makes me think twice of taking subways now.

When a group of hijackers led by criminal mastermind Ryder (John Travolta) take the passengers aboard a New York subway train hostage and demand a king’s ransom, it’s up to subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) to bring them down.

Having not seen the original Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, I went into this film fairly open-minded. But knowing how director Tony Scott can annoy the hell out of me sometimes with his camera-work, kind of made me scared of this project, but it was not all that bad.

Director Tony Scott does it once again, and makes this film really annoying to watch with his constant frenetic camera-work that never seems to work. He does this in films like Unstoppable, The Last Boy Scout, and others, but for this film it was really unneeded. I think that Scott thinks that he needs to stylize every scene so he can make it all look cool, and keep the film thrilling. Oh, and let’s not forget that there is about 3 unnecessary car crashes involved. Why they were in this? Mainly because Tony Scott just wanted one for shits and gigs.

However, the main reason why I did like this film was because it actually was pretty entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the course of the film, and I didn’t quite exactly know what was going to happen next which is the least I can say for a lot of thrillers nowadays.

The first hour is very tense, and keeps our minds on the film, but by the end it does get to the very generic ending that we have all come to expect by now. While the first hour of this film is extremely – again – intense, around the last 30-40 minutes, the movie just becomes your typical action, chase film. It’s all kind of shame too, cause I really was having a grand time with this film.

Probably the best thing about this film is the constant inter-play between these two amazing actors. Denzel Washington, who looks like he was eating enough Subways for this role, does a great job of playing that likable, every-day man hero we have all come to love and know him as. John Travolta may look like a Hell’s Angel member, who enjoys porn on the weekends, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t convincing. Travolta was great because I believed he was crazy enough to hi-jack a subway, and wildly enough to pull it off, but also two steps ahead of me, the viewer. What makes this movie work is the interplay between these two main characters. They both speak through a box to one another throughout the course of the film, but not once did I want to get up, and go to the bathroom. Throughout that final act of the movie, I was just thinking “C’mon, go back to the two of them talking!” That’s how good it was watching them talking, and that’s why this film really does work. There is also some good side performances from the likes of James Gandolfini, John Turturro, and Luis Guzman.

Consensus: The direction may be too frenetic for this type of work, but the first hour, and constant interplay between Travolta and Washington make this film an enjoyable, if a bit generic thrill ride.

7/10=Rental!!

Do the Right Thing (1989)

A title in which nobody in the film does.

On a sweltering hot day in a Brooklyn neighborhood, everyone has their own issues to deal with and tensions between Blacks and Italians rise. Issues of pride and prejudice, justice and inequity come to the surface as hate and bigotry smoulder–finally building into a crescendo as it explodes into violence

Spike Lee’s films are ones that I thoroughly enjoy, as hard as they are to get through, their enjoyable. This is probably one of his most challenging ever, but also his best.

Lee’s screenplay is what really makes this film click, mostly cause it’s all so real. You have comedy, drama, racism, tension, political justices, all of these things are talked about or happen in one day, and it all seems too real.  I mostly like how Lee controls the camera to keep up with all the stories in one day. You see all these people in one close-knit community, how they react with each other, and what their differences are as people. Everybody has something to say, and I enjoyed hearing almost every word of it, because this is how real people actually speak, especially when it comes to the subject of racism.

The main reason why Do the Right Thing is so memorable, is because of its final 30 minutes, and main message at hand. The huge ass riot at the end, is filmed so well, you can just feel the intensity coming off the screen, and you feel like this is how a real riot would ensue and end. Also, Lee ponders the question that hits us many times throughout this movie: “who does the right thing?”. To be brutally honest, it may seem like an easy answer, but after watching this film, you can’t really tell who does, or who should have, everything is just based on first instinct. Lee also does something that almost never happens in race films such like this, he shows us both sides of the story. Lee doesn’t always back up black people, and with this you can see that he shows the white people, as good people too. Lee raises us with a lot of questions, and instead of just having us answer them right away by what he shows us on film, he makes us keep pondering the questions to ourselves, even after the film is over.

Spike Lee as Mookie, is good, because the guy is so laid back, so chill, and so cool, that he really is a great character to watch, as he basically walks through the streets of Brooklyn, delivering pizzas for about 2 hours each. Danny Aiello as Sal, is also very powerful here, playing a guy that seems so tough with his work, but then you see the people that come into his place, and you can understand why he is, like he is. There are just so many more memorable characters in this film, like Ossie Davis, playing the neighborhood drunk, or John Turturro, playing the son of Sal, who is just a total d-bag. So many more characters but I would be taking forever if I had to explain every single dynamic one.

Everything about this film will just make you understand racism a whole lot more. Even though it is about 20 years old, it still holds up today showing us a look at just a small little neighborhood, that can still have racial tensions, as much as any other place. Just remember to be ready for a second viewing, and always raise the question: “who does the right thing?”.

Consensus: Lee’s masterpiece, although about 20 years old, is just as powerful as it was then, with it’s powerful performances from memorable characters, and a direction and script from Lee that shows the many people that live in the world, who deal with racial tensions, just almost every day.

10/10=Full Pricee!!!!