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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jon Bernthal

Sweet Virginia (2017)

Wow. Virginia’s an angry place. Who’da thunk it?

Sam (Jon Bernthal) is an ex-rodeo rider who has seen his better years go by. After a career-ending injury, he’s been managing the Sweet Virginia hotel, where instead of riding on top of bulls, he’s riding on top of guests for being too loud or not paying. It’s a sad life he lives, but if there is one glimmer of hope, it’s Bernadette (Rosemarie Dewitt), who he wants to be more serious with, despite the fact that she’s married. But their lives begin to change when her brother (Jonathan Tucker) is randomly killed, leaving her and his wife (Imogen Poots) left with the bulk of the estate to deal with. And to add a little bit of sizzle to their lives, in walks Elwood (Christopher Abbott), a guest at the hotel who takes a liking to Sam, in a rather creepy way. But who is this guy really? Is he behind any of this? Or, is he just a lonely traveler, navigating throughout the world on his own, without a care in the world?

“Daredevil? Yeah, my series is way better. Buzz off.”

It’s interesting that Sweet Virginia came out the same weekend the Punisher was released on Netflix, as they both feature Jon Bernthal in a lead role, but both also display two different sides of him. In the Punisher, he’s a mad, sad, and scary man with a rough past, and an even rougher set of skills that he uses to kill people in some of the most disturbing, heinous ways imaginable. In Sweet Virginia, Bernthal plays a sad man with a rough past, but he’s also a lot sweeter and more gentle than Frank Castle; whereas Castle wold much prefer to break the bones of those who do him wrong, Sam would like to just hash it out and see if the issue can be solved.

It’s a neat contrast that highlights why Bernthal is such a good actor, because he’s able to be both likable and charming, but also a tad bit dangerous. Which is to say that Bernthal is quite good here, but he’s not the main-draw – it’s really Christopher Abbott’s insanely crazy role as the unhinged and wildly unpredictable Elwood, a character who keeps Sweet Virginia shaking at its core. It such an effective performance that when everything seems all sweet, happy and simple, you can’t help but forget that somewhere out there, lurking in the shadows, is this genuine nut-ball who isn’t afraid to do, or say, whatever comes next to him.

Once again, it’s another sure sign that Abbott is slowly becoming one of our better actors.

How could a face like that be so evil?

Which is why Sweet Virginia, as good as the cast may be, can sometimes seem like it’s depending on them just a tad too much. The story is there and while it’s definitely about these small, sad lives in this equally as sad, small town, it just never becomes as tense as it should. There comes a point where we sort of see it going where it has to go and while it may want to shock and surprise, it doesn’t really do that. It’s more of an interesting character-study that also happens to feature a bunch of blood, violence, guns, and crime.

That said, the performances are still more than enough reason to sit around and watch everything that happens. We get to learn more about them, who they are, what makes them tick, and just why they have a movie about them. Dewitt’s Bernadette, while she could have easily come-off like a cheap floozy, cheating on her husband, taking advantage of the depressed Sam, actually turns out to be a genuine person who wants a love in her life that’s meaningful for once. Even Imogen Poots widow character, although unlikable, is still fascinating in her reasons why. We grow to learn more about these characters as time goes on and although the plot may come second, that’s quite alright with these performers.

Consensus: With a solid cast, including a terrific stand-out from Abbott, Sweet Virginia works best as a slow, contained and rather tense character-study.

6.5 / 10

Who’s hair is more gelled?

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

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Wind River (2017)

Those poor white people. Right?

US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is sent to the Wind River Indian Reservation, where he will hopefully be able to track, find, and kill a bunch of mountain lions who have been killing all of the livestock. While searching for them, he stumbles upon the body of a woman, who, from what it seems like, was raped, possibly murdered, and left to freeze in the below-zero snow. After catching wind of this, the FBI sends in rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who seems like she’s not just unprepared for the harsh winter of Wyoming, but for this case in general. Because she doesn’t really know the area that well, how to navigate through it all, and/or whether what the rules are, she depends a lot on Cory, who is also now taking an extra interest in this case, for personal reasons. The two begin to stumble upon a rather dark and vicious secret lying within the mountains and makes them not just question their own humanity, but the United States’ history, altogether.

FBI? Really?

Wind River is the directorial debut of writer/director Taylor Sheridan who, both with Sicario and Hell or High Water, seems to have found his niche. He loves these tales of crime, violence, and darkness that start off slow and melodic, only to then burst into full-fledged blood, guts, bullets, octane, and guns. And it’s interesting because while Wind River feels a lot like those two other movies, something is oddly missing.

Still don’t know what it is, but you can feel it.

Either way, as a director Sheridan is fine; he captures the deadly cold of this winter-y landscape and shows it as a solid backdrop for even more viciousness and deadliness that we eventually start to see. He gets a bit out-of-hand with all of the visual symbolism and expository dialogue, but as a whole, he knows when to shut up, give us action, characters, and a plot that’s interesting to follow along with. And I know that sounds like film-making 101, but you’d be surprised how many movies screw things up for themselves, just by getting a little distracted by other stuff that doesn’t matter.

Wind River, as a whole, is a pretty straightforward tale of humans acting at their worst, but also at their best, and because of that Sheridan does a lot with very little. He’s able to draw us into this setting, understand its history, the characters, and why these characters matter. Renner’s Cory, while feeling like he may have initially been a Native American in the first few drafts, still works as a white guy because he has a certain connection this land, to these people, and to what they represent; it also helps that the movie does sort of call him out for trying to be a white savior, making it seem fine that he’s a white guy, trying to save the day. Sheridan’s writing isn’t very stylish, but he’s got a certain noir-aspect about him that works in making us know everything we need to know about these characters, without getting too carried away.

Eh. Doesn’t look so bad.

It’s constantly moving and that’s why Wind River works.

And as Cory, Renner is quite good; he’s his usual charming-self, although he doesn’t overplay that too much. He’s still a screwed-up guy who has had to deal with a lot in his life and doesn’t allow us to forget about it. His chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty good, in that the movie never allows it to get too romanticized or cloying. They’re just both trying to figure out this case, who the baddies are, and do their jobs, like normal, everyday human beings who want to make the world a better place.

Olsen is also very good in this role, despite being very young and seeming in-over-her-head. But then again, that’s sort of the point, so it works out well; Gil Birmingham, who shined last year in Hell or High Water, has a nice few emotional scenes that work well; Graham Greene, as usual, is great, giving us a lot of comedy to go along with a lot of the seriousness; and Jon Bernthal, in a few scenes or so, does a great job, too. However, it’s his role and a few others that I have a problem going on further about because, well, the movie sort of surprises us with these characters randomly by the end.

But hey, just see it and you’ll know what I’m speaking of.

Consensus: Cold, dark and pretty brutal, Wind River may not measure up to Sheridan’s past two movies, but still fits in well with them, providing plenty of solid thrills, to go along with the chills.

7 / 10

Always depend on the whites to come in and save the day.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Baby Driver (2017)

Look like a baby, drive like a baby.

Ever since a near-fatal car-accident left him with a severe case of tinnitus, Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been living his whole life with and by music. Strapped with ear-buds always in, and music always playing, he lives life to a soundtrack, knowing just the right sound, for the perfect mood, no matter what he’s doing. And in his line of work – as the go-to getaway driver – this matters most. After all, without Baby’s insanely impressive and crazy driving-skills, the bank jobs he’s apart of wouldn’t ever get done the correct way. But Baby wants more to life than just driving bank-robbers left and right, and after he meets a local waitress named Deborah (Lily James), he can’t help but see a bright and lovely future. The only issue is that he’s still on the hook to his employer Doc (Kevin Spacey), who’s not only the one feeding Baby all of these jobs, but actually making sure he, as well as those that he loves, are still alive. It’s something Baby doesn’t like to have hold over his head, so he does every job, without any questions asked, but with the arrival of rough and tough criminal Bats (Jamie Foxx), let’s just say things get a little tricky.

“Freebird” is always a must, right?

Baby Driver isn’t Edgar Wright’s best. Not by a long shot, in fact. However, it’s still everything you love and expect from a movie of his: Fast, witty, exciting, hilarious, silly, weird, full of obscure pop-culture references you don’t ever expect to hear, action-packed, and yes, charming-as-hell. In a way, it’s just nice to see an Edgar Wright movie, regardless of how great, lovely, or near-perfect it is; after what he went through with the whole Ant-Man debacle, it’s just nice to say we have a new Edgar Wright movie, rather than none at all.

Regardless, Baby Driver is still a good movie, all junk aside. It’s typical of Wright to take on the whole heist/crime-genre and never seem to lose an ounce of momentum throughout the whole two-hour run-time. Sure, it’s a movie about an insanely skilled getaway driver, so you’d automatically assume that it was just fast for the driving-sequences (which it is) and slow down for everything else, right?

Well, wrong.

In fact, Wright is just as energetic with the scenes of people sitting around tables, talking and going on and on about random stuff, than he is with any of the car-chases. Don’t get me wrong, the car-chases are still performed, filmed, and paced incredibly well, but Wright never lets up for a single second here, but it doesn’t matter, because it works and just adds an extra level of enjoyment to an already enjoyable movie. Rather than being way too much, for way too long, without a single breather to be found, Baby Driver turns out to be the well-deserved burst of energy that never lets up, keeps on trucking along, but keeps on finding ways to make it more exciting than before.

Just look at that baby-face. How could you want to smash it!

Which is to say that, nope, Baby Driver is not repetitive. It’s just a fun movie, plain and simple. It’s hard to totally pin-point down what about makes it such a blast to watch, other than to say, yeah, it’s fun. Obviously, you should see it.

And honestly, that’s why I have such an issue talking about Edgar Wright movies. I enjoy all of them immensely and while it’s a close battle between Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim as my favorite, it’s really hard for me to find total flaws with any of the others. In a way, some are just more enjoyable than others, and it’s more or a feeling that’s hard to actually put into words; call it lazy, call it what you will, but it’s been a problem for me ever since I started writing these things and have wanted to give Wright an extra shout-out, here and there.

It’s just that his movies are all solid pieces of entertainment, to say how and why, doesn’t really matter.

And yes, that’s sort of beauty about Baby Driver, as a whole. It’s just an honestly great piece of summer blockbuster fun that, unfortunately, probably won’t make a lot of money, because it’s too weird and too off-kilter for its own good. But it’s also a perfect sign of why visionaries and creative-genius’ like Wright deserve to make movies, no matter what they’re about, how much money’s behind them, and who actually wants to see them. Cause, at the end of the day, everyone’s going to enjoy them, it’s just all a matter of where and when.

So yeah, see Baby Driver.

Consensus: Even if it’s not Wright’s best, Baby Driver is still the same old kind of energetic, stylish, crazy, wacky, wild, and genre-smashing bit of fun we’ve come to know, learn, expect, and love from him and his incredible talents.

8 / 10

Someone’s got red on them.

Photos Courtesy of: Film School Rejects, Indiewire

The Accountant (2016)

Math truly can drive people to murder.

Ever since he was a kid, Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) has had issues dealing with the world around him. Now that he’s older and on his own, well, he’s a whole lot wiser, even if his people skills aren’t all that great still. Still, he’s a mathematics savant that helps him get by and make a living, solely freelancing as an accountant for dangerous criminal organizations and other shady businessmen who sometimes like to keep their private information, well, private. However, a certain someone is trying to find out just who this Christian Wolff guy is and what his plan is – and that certain someone is treasury agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons), who recruits a young employee (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to assist him in any way that she can. While they’re are looking into him, Christian takes on a state-of-the-art robotics company as a legitimate client. But once Wolff realizes that there’s more going on underneath the hood of this company, then more and more people start getting killed, which leads Wolff to making some very deadly decisions.

Is this how accountants fall in love?

Is this how accountants fall in love?

A part of me is actually surprised about the Accountant‘s rather lackluster reception among critics. Here is, for the most part, a piece of adult-entertainment, that’s dark, weird, violent, and mysterious. I dare call it “original”, because lord only knows how many movies about murderous-accountants there are actually out there (Google says “none”, but you never know), but still, it has all the qualities of the sort of movie that critics and adult-audiences seem to love and adore.

So why don’t more and more people like it?

Well, for the most part, it is a very odd movie. Despite director Gavin O’Connor having made some normal, relatively simple character-studies with Warrior, Miracle and Tumbleweeds, here, he seems to have gotten brought into the cold, cruel world of Bill Dubuque’s script – one that literally features an accountant with Autism, kicking ass, taking names, and shooting all sorts of people down, whenever he isn’t doing math and charming the pants off of fellow accountants. It sounds so strange and in ways, it actually is, but somehow, Dubuque and O’Connor seem to come together in a way that makes this weird world actually work and take place in some sort of reality to where we care for the characters, their situations and most importantly, what actually happens.

The Accountant is interesting in that it wants to be about Christian Wolff, his issues growing up, and his issues as an older-man trying to wade through the world, but at the same time, still wants to be this violent thriller in which rich people are getting knocked-off one by one. We know there’s a connection along the way, somewhere, however, the movie still plays both sides of the field, making it appear to be two movies, yet, still feeling wholly as one. It’s odd to describe, I know, but the Accountant is the kind of disjointed, uneven movie I would normally despise and be confused by, but that didn’t happen this time – instead, I was actually brought in by the story and most of all, its characters.

And playing against-type, Ben Affleck is, as usual, pretty great. He has a lot of weird tics that he has to go through with Christian Wolff, but mostly, Affleck does it all in an effective way to where this guy’s still a total mystery and we don’t know what he’s going to do next, or to whom, yet, we still like and trust that he’s a good person. Part of that is Affleck’s general likability, but another part of it is that the movie does an effective job of placing flashbacks when they need to be placed, which allows us to know more and more about Wolff’s adolescence and get a better, if more sad, picture of what this dude’s life has been.

Oh, and it also helps us be absolutely shocked when he starts killing people with the simple pull of a trigger.

"Yeah, I know. But the solo Batman movie will be better."

“Yeah, I know. But the solo Batman movie will be better.”

Others in the cast are quite good, too. Anna Kendrick has a silly role as the fellow auditor, but still gets by on being charming; J.K. Simmons has a dumb scene in which his character explains everything that we need to know about Wolff and their history together, but besides that, he still does a solid job playing; Jon Bernthal is cool, but menacing as the one hitman who’s going around and shooting down all of these rich folks; Jon Lithgow has a couple of crazy moments that makes me wish he would take more of these darker flicks; and Jeffrey Tambor, unfortunately, isn’t around a whole lot, but a part of me feels like a lot of his stuff may be somewhere on the cutting-room floor.

Still, what all of these performers do, and do well, is that they all add a little something to a movie that, quite frankly, could have come off way too serious and melodramatic. In a way, they help it all come-off more legitimate, with Bernthal actually getting one or two emotional moments that hit the right notes, even in a movie that wouldn’t seem to know anything about them. This allows for all of the blood and violence that does eventually come around, to hit a whole lot harder and feel like more than just your typical action-thriller – it’s one with more on its mind and more in its heart.

As strange as that heart may be.

Consensus: While not perfect and definitely an odd hybrid, the Accountant gets by on a solid cast, a smart direction that takes itself seriously just enough, and a couple of nice twists and turns that keep this mystery alive.

8 / 10

So. Many. Numbers.

So. Many. Numbers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sicario (2015)

Do drugs kill? Or do people? Think, think, people!

After a sting operation goes terribly wrong, FBI agent Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) is left wanting any sorts of revenge on whoever may have been responsible. Thankfully, she gets called up to the big leagues when higher-ups in the FBI, like Matt (Josh Brolin), recruit her for a mission to take down a notorious drug lord in Mexico. Kate knows that this is what she wants to do, but she starts to see that the mission may not be all that it appears to be. For one, an informant that the FBI is working with, named Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), comes from a very shady history that, in ways, seems a lot more reprehensible than the one that this drug lord is most known for. Secondly, Kate has to fear for her life in ways that she didn’t expect. While she think she may be doing the right thing, she’s making herself a target for all sorts of evil-doers that may be associated with the cartel that her operation is targeting, but some may also be associated with the FBI – the people that she’s supposed to be protected by and arm-in-arms with.

I don’t know what sort of travesty occurred in Denis Villeneuve’s personal life, but after having seen this, Enemy and Prisoners, I can easily say that Villeneuve wants to hurt someone. Whether it be people, animals, or trees, Denis Villeneuve seems like he’s got an ax to grind with someone and because of that, we’re just watching him make these dark, brutal, brooding, and downright angry movies about people that are, well, dark, brutal, brooding and downright angry as well.

I'd hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his gun.

I’d hate to be on the end of anything with Benincio Del Toro. Not to mention, his scope.

And I’m loving it all!

I mean, of course, whatever happened Denis, I’m sorry for your loss. But please, whatever has you so upset with the world you live in, let it continue to mess with your for a little while longer. So long as you’re making movies like Sicario, where we can see you vent all of your frustration in mean, but exciting ways.

With that said, too, yeah, Sicario‘s pretty awesome. In every sense of the word, it’s a thriller. But because this Denis Villeneuve we’re talking about here and somebody like, I don’t know, say, the one and only Michael Bay, there’s a lot more brewing underneath the surface other than just more guns, more bullets, more blood, more death, more drugs, and more Mexican gangbangers. Of course, all of the guns, bullets, blood, death, drugs, and Mexican gangbangers help keep this movie exciting and tense as anything I saw displayed in Prisoners, but when you strip all of that away, you got a really interesting story about how the FBI is, well, shady.

Through Emily Blunt’s Kate Mercer, we see this world where FBI agents and cartel members constantly duke it out between who has more money, more power, and most importantly, more weapons at their disposal. In fact, in me just describing that, I realized that this movie would have been at least ten times better, had it literally just been a one-on-one, winner-take-all, last-man-standing battle between the FBI and Mexican drug cartel. They could have gotten Bruce Buffer to announce it, Jim Ross and Joe Rogan to commentate, and hell, even Mills Lane to referee everything.

But sadly, Sicario is not that movie.

But I don’t mean that in a bad way because, in its own, all-too-realistic manner, Sicario has a lot to say other than that, “people who do and get involved with drugs are bad, bad people that you probably should stay away from on the streets or at social gatherings.” In this post-9/11 world that we currently live in, nowadays, the FBI and so many other people involved with the government and in catching baddies, are so concerned with getting the highest top-tier guys that they can find, that they’re willing to do whatever it takes to get there. This, in some more ways than one, means that they find themselves in some shady alliances that, on paper, may look nice, but when you get to thinking about it, don’t really make much of sense. Why would the FBI, let one violent, sadistic, and smart criminal go free, just because he helped them get to another one who has the same characteristics? Is it because one bowed-out before the other? Or is it because it’s the only hand that the FBI can play with that makes them look good to their superiors and the people who hand-out promotions?

I’ll let you think about that one, but yeah, you get my drift. If you look under Sicario‘s hood, you’ll find that there’s a lot more going on and to be said, which is fine and all, but occasionally, it does take away the sheer awesomeness that is the action here. And by “action”, I don’t mean fist-fights, gun-battles, car-chases and/or sword-action galore – I mean the kind of action you see in Michael Mann movies where the sheer fact that it’s being lead-up to and spread out over time, intensifies it a whole lot more. There’s one sequence in particular where the FBI is stuck on the Mexican-border with a hostage of theirs and honestly, I won’t spoil it any further. Just know that it’s a pretty rad sequence so that, when it comes up, you can get ready and let your friends know how rad it’s going to be.

Courtesy of Dan the Man, of course.

And what makes the action all the more exciting is the fact that it’s all being shot by the legend himself, Roger Deakins. Roger Deakins could shoot a film-sequence of me sitting on my love seat, flicking through the premium channels to where I found good re-runs of my favorite Wire episodes (spoiler alert, I never do!) and it would have more layers of beauty than a whole Adam Sandler movie ever would. He’s one of the main reasons Sicario breathes as vibrantly as it does, regardless of what’s happening. People can be sitting around, talking, or they could be getting all ready and amped-up to blow some people’s heads off. Either way, it’s always lovely to watch, all because of Mr. Deakins himself.

Look out for the camo!

Look out for the camo!

Not to mention, too, the cast is pretty great. This isn’t a total surprise to me considering that Denis Villeneuve got just about every role down to a perfect T with Prisoners, but still, it’s worth noting that when your movie features Emily Blunt as a bad-ass, kick-ass, take-some-names FBI agent and doesn’t have me laugh my rear-end off, then yeah, you’re solid gold. Granted, Blunt is a great actress who has shown, many times before, that she can move around any genre she likes and make it work in her favor, but still, this role could have easily been a silly one, had the wrong actress been placed into it. Then again, the fact that it was an actress placed into this role to begin with, and not some chiseled, ripped-up, and beefy dude with other masculine features, is worth praising.

But the reason why Blunt doesn’t seem to get too much notice is because, quite frankly, she’s used as our eyes and ears for this story. She’s at least one step above that and has something resembling a personality, but overall, she’s basically our conduit to everything that goes down and as to why this story is being told. Which is good, because without her, we wouldn’t have been treated to the likes of Benincio Del Toro as Alejandro.

As soon as you see Benincio Del Toro in a movie about Mexican drug cartels, you automatically think, “Oh great. Re-run of Traffic! Next!” But because Del Toro’s an actor and a very good one at that, he likes to shake things up and show that he can give this character a type of menace that will have you terrified for days. However, at the same time, he gives this guy a conscience that makes you think he’s a human being that doesn’t like to chop down trees for the hell of it, but at the same time, still doesn’t make you think he’s a total nice guy, either. There’s a certain back-story to this character that puts everything he does or says into perspective and it gives Del Toro absolute free reign to do whatever he wants with this character, and it’s a blast to watch.

Sure, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, and surprisingly, Jeffrey Donovan, are all good in their own rights, but it’s Del Toro who runs away with this movie and will have you thinking about him for days.

And also the cool explosions, bro!

Consensus: Tense, well-acted, and most importantly, complex, Sicario is more than just your average thriller with lots of explosions and bullets flying, but still takes much pleasure in showing those things, too.

8.5 / 10

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Damn. I still hate that Josh Krasinski, man!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

We Are Your Friends (2015)

I’ll take a Daft Punk documentary instead.

23-year-old Cole (Zac Efron) is currently struggling in his life. For one, his buddies still act as if they’re in high school, and his career as local DJ, isn’t quite lighting up the sky, either. So basically, Cole plans the rest of his life living in his friend’s house, fixing the roof, cleaning the pool, and playing to whoever shows up at the club. That all begins to change on one fateful night, however, when he decides to go out and party with the one, the only, DJ legend, James (Wes Bentley). Cole and James, after a wild night of booze, good music, nice vibes, and some PCP, they both hit it off perfectly, with James wanting to hear some of what Cole has to offer. While James isn’t too impressed with what he sees right away, he knows that there’s potential and decides to take Cole under his wing. The only issue is that James’ girlfriend (Emily Ratajkowski), is getting bored of being his assistant and may want some of what Cole is offering her. At the same time, while Cole’s life is changing right before his own very eyes, his buddies are starting to notice this too and feel like it’s not fair that he gets to have all of this fame and fortune, and they’re still stuck living at their parent’s places.

My friend's were cooler.

My friend’s were cooler.

In case you haven’t heard, EDM is all the rage now. Kids love it; older people love it; even those indie-kids who think that they’re too cool and would much rather listen to Conor Oberst, love it (they won’t admit it, but they do). For me, I think the music can sometimes be interesting and entertaining to listen to, but there’s only so much one can take of the non-stop, pulse-thrilling, ear-aching back-beats, over and over again. Every once and awhile, I prefer a solid little rhythm and formation every so often, but hey, that’s just me.

But to be honest, my opinions don’t matter because kids love EDM music and they may even love We Are Your Friends. Why is that? Well, because it features young adults just like themselves, reaching for the stars, chasing after their dreams, never letting adversity get in their way, and overall, having a great time while doing so. Does this mean that the movie’s actually any good?

Nope, not really. But what does the target audience care?

Cause, if anything, We Are Your Friends is just another conventional, run-of-the-mill, corny inspirational tale, hidden underneath the layers and layers of EDM music that covers practically the whole entire film. That’s not to say that the music’s bad or anything; if anything, it helps add a certain level of excitement to whatever dry proceedings are occurring between whatever one-dimensional characters on the screen. But after awhile, it begins to seem that whenever the music begins to crank up, then all of a sudden, another montage shows up, and we’re thrown into something resembling a music video – not an actual feature-film.

It’s a pretty-looking music video for sure, which is all thanks to director Max Joseph, but it doesn’t add anything to a movie/story that, quite frankly, needed all of the help it could get. No character’s ever really interesting; the plot doesn’t go anywhere surprising; and when all is said and done, we’re all of a sudden supposed to believe that this guy’s music is all that brilliant to begin with. If anything, it just adds an extra layer of annoyance to a genre that’s already getting to the brim of that.

Also, it makes me more and more anticipated for Disclosure’s next album.

And that’s pretty much all there is to this movie. While I know I sound like I’m being unbelievably and irrationally harsh, there’s hardly anything I can do about that. The movie acts as if it lives and breathes off of the energy that it gets fed by the crowd it’s playing to, but instead of actually offering anything exciting, it just uses the same old underdog story done before. Except, this time, it’s not a person who has all of the odds stacked against him, like cancer, or a family that he has to take care of, or whatever – he’s just not a big name yet in the DJ world.

My girlfriend was hotter.

My girlfriend was hotter.

Yes, it’s as entertaining to watch as it sounds, but the only one who actually brings anything at all to the table is Wes Bentley. Bentley has been here and there in the past couple of years, and while it’s not that I can say he’s lighting the world on fire like everybody thought he was once able of doing some many years ago, he’s still great here and steals just about every scene. Granted, in a movie as plainly-written as this, it’s not too hard, but Bentley invigorates this movie, as well as his character, with a certain amount of humor, fun, common sense, and most of all, heart, that makes me wish this movie was more about his James character, rather than about Zac Efron’s cliche Cole character. Of course, that would take a smaller-budget and release-plan, but hey, it’s a movie I would be more than happy to see and walk out of pleased.

So yeah, Hollywood, make that shit happen.

And Efron’s fine as he usually is, but here, I couldn’t help feeling as if he was going through the motions of sorts. That is, of course, difficult to say for someone as young as he is, but from what I’ve seen of Efron in far more interesting, challenging-roles, is that he can hang with the big boys when push comes to shove. He’s not afraid to go deeper and darker to depths that people couldn’t imagine him having and he seems to welcome it more than anything else, too. That’s why it was so disappointing to see him just go through one scene, after another, look as if he’s bored and has somewhere else to be.

Then again, he does get a chance to smooch that “Blurred Lines” chick, so life ain’t all that bad after all.

I guess.

Consensus: Despite a lovely supporting performance from Wes Bentley, We Are Your Friends falls prey to being too conventional and uninteresting to suit its own well-intentions.

2.5 / 10

Now, nobody's cooler.

Now, nobody’s cooler.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Of course hipsters have found a way to make cancer ironic.

High school senior Greg (Thomas Mann) isn’t all that in love with himself. He’s self-loathing, whiny, and actually kind of selfish, but because he doesn’t try to stand out from among the rest of the high school crowd, he’s gotten along with just about everyone around him; even if they don’t know full well, just who the hell Greg actually is. The only person he does hang out with is Earl (Ronald Cyler II), someone he considers more of a “confidante”, if only because they film so many movies together where they parody Criterion classics. However, one day, Greg gets a bit of a wake-up call when his mom (Connie Britton) strong-arms him into hanging out with a classmate who just recently came down with cancer, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). Greg does so, but because he’s such an awkward downer, the early times he spends with Rachel don’t quite go anywhere that makes her, or him feel better. But as time rolls on, the two start to hit it off, although the fact that death is always looming on the horizon makes Greg feel like he’s being too rushed for his own good; something that he apparently seems to be struggling with as the prospect of college becomes all too real for him.

There’s been many “twee” movies before Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, and don’t worry, because there will be plenty of more. It’s just up to all of us to figure out what respective movie out of this subcategory is worth checking out, seeing as how it still works and is relatable enough, even despite all of its tendencies; or, if it’s just a piece of pretentious crap that only film school kids would love and adore. And thankfully, Earl is definitely part of the former.

It's hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman's around, though.

It’s hard to be pissed when Nick Offerman’s around, though.

Although it definitely does flirt with being a part of the later.

One thing to be said about Earl, is that it definitely loves itself. The whole plot-line surrounds the fact that all of these characters are so awkward and weird with themselves, that when it comes to honest, one-on-one interaction with another human being, it’s stumbling and odd. That’s the whole idea surrounding this plot and while it definitely offers up some neat little pieces of insight into teenage characters we don’t normally see these kinds of movies made about, the movie still thinks that having a numerous amount of scenes where characters stutter, mumble and dance awkwardly around what they want to say next, is the perfect solution for hilarity. Problem is, it isn’t and it gets to be a little annoying.

Though, the movie definitely does improve after the first half-hour or so. Some of this has to do with the fact that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon seemed to be struggling with how to find his footing with this material; which thankfully, he does, because the movie becomes something of a pleasant delight as it goes along. The movie may never fully get past hugging and patting itself on the back, but it does also realize that there are some real issues to deal with, rather than just shoving them off to the side, shrugging it all off, and moving on while moaning and complaining about how the world just doesn’t get them.

Sorry about that. A little tangent always seems to come from me when I talk about these hipster-ish types.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

A girls room: The place any teenage male would want to be and yet, he clearly seems not to care.

Anyway, as time goes on, Earl finds itself in a sweet place as it begins to discuss certain ideas that we don’t too often see in these kinds of movies. Whereas one movie would make the cancer all about the fact that life is ending, Earl takes it one step further and uses this as a device to explain what it’s like to grow up, realize that your future is right ahead of you, and it’s about time to take a hold of it. Don’t get me wrong, though, the movie doesn’t forget that there is a life in danger here at the forefront, however, it doesn’t also forget to explore the beauty in living one’s life, whether it was planned perfectly, or not. Sometimes, that’s the beauty of life – it can end up in places that you’d never expect.

And at the center of this flick, is the tender relationship that Rachel and Greg have – however, don’t expect it to go in places you’d normally expect it to (as the movie, once again, constantly reminds you of itself). While it would be so incredibly easy to pin-point exactly when Rachel and Greg would find certain interests with one another, start to get along, bond, and, eventually as time rolled on along, fall in love, this movie’s a lot smarter than that. Sure, they bond, get to know one another and definitely make each other better as a result, but they don’t have that one key moment where they fall in love, shout it out to the stars and decide to take a trip to the Anne Frank house.

Once again, I’m sorry, but sometimes, I can’t help myself.

As Rachel and Greg, respectively, Olivia Cooke and Thomas Mann are both quite good in roles that seem to be tailor-made for their strengths. Cooke is smart, smarmy and funny, but she’s never too much of so to make us forget that her character is still dealing with some incredibly life-altering problems, and it’s these moments where she seems to break down and remind us of this that have the most impact. As for Mann, his character is more one-note in terms of how he constantly just shoulder-shrugs his way through each and every scene, but he makes it work with smaller, less-seen subtleties in scenes that you wouldn’t expect him to have it. Sure, he may be self-loathing and a tad bit self-righteous, but he also seems to clearly care for others when push comes to shove and definitely wants that human connection he hears is so much of the rage back home. And then, of course, there’s Earl, played wonderfully by Ronald Cyler II, who you should know is just as charming as the title makes him out to be.

Hence why he’s in the title.

Consensus: While some of its stylistic tendencies tend to get a bit excessive, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl still keeps its heart in the right place to make it affecting coming-of-ager, without really settling for the sappy moments these kinds of movies are expected to have.

7.5 / 10

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Basically, Be Kind Rewind, the junior version.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Fury (2014)

I guess something that weighs over 30 tons isn’t all that safe after all.

It’s April 1945 in Nazi Germany, towards the end of WWII and the Allies seem to be kicking all sorts of ass and taking names. So much so, that Adolf Hitler himself has been ordering just about every man, women, and/or child, to get out there on the front lines and fight the good fight. And during all of this, therein lies a tank crew who maintain and work in a big mofo they call “Fury”. The tank sergeant is a man that goes by the name of Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) and just recently, finds himself all torn up over the fact that his second-in-command has just been blown away in the middle of combat. He still has the rest of his crew intact, but this proves to be such a hard hit, that he doesn’t know necessarily how to move on. Well, except all that he and his crew have to do is fight, fight, and fight some more. This time though, they’ll be along for the ride with a newbie by the name of Cobb (Logan Lerman) who nobody really takes a liking to and with good reason: He’s never been on the battlefield before and doesn’t know if he can handle killing other people that haven’t done anything specifically to him. Throughout the next week or so, that may change and Wardaddy will be more than happy to show him why.

There’s something of a plot to be found here in Fury, but honestly, what it all comes down to is “Brad Pitt and a bunch of his fellas go around Germany, shooting and killing people.” While that sounds somewhat repetitive and ultimately, boring, there’s a feeling here that writer/director David Ayer is using it for a whole other reason in particular.

For instance, it’s never made clear to us what exactly the objective here of this story is; usually for a war movie, we understand who is searching for what, why, how they’re going to go about it, and what is going to be accomplished at the end of the day. However, here, the only objective of the plot-line is to fight the war, continue killing the enemy, and try to do so without getting you, or your fellow soldier killed in the process.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

Looking that good, can sometimes be so tiring.

In all honesty, that’s more of how the war probably is. there’s no need to save any Private Ryan’s, or even any plan to capture top-level Mogadishu-officials. Here, it’s all about trying to stay alive and killing as many Germans as they possibly can, which is probably just how being in a bloody war is like – hardly ever stopping and always fighting. This is a bold move on Ayer’s part to take, but it’s one that I think needed to be taking, because so rarely is it that we get a war movie that shows us just how screwed up and unforgiving the battlefield truly is, without trying to force a message down our throats. Here, you could say that the moral of the story is, “the war is terrible, and people die.” That’s all Ayer seems to be saying here and I think that’s all that needed to be said.

But of course Ayer takes it a bit of another step forward and actually get to discussing the certain soldiers in the war, by showing us just the type of disturbing affect the war has on them, regardless of how messed-up in the head the individual may be. This is where I think Ayer’s writing is at its best, because rather than glamorizing these soldiers and having them come off as the Nation’s biggest heroes, Ayer has them portrayed as a bunch of guys who had nothing else better to give to society back in the States, other than just sitting around and taking up space. On the battlefield, they have a purpose, they have a cause, and most of all, they have a reason to live. Though we never actually hear a character state this throughout the film, they don’t really have to for us to get the point; in fact, them just stating every so often that being in the war was, “the best job they ever had”, gives us the impression that this is all they have to live for and they’re more than proud to die if they have to. They may be scared, but they’ll at least feel proud to perish because it’s for a reason, even if that reason is for their own well-being.

And though I may make this movie come off as a bit of a melodrama, I can assure you that it’s not; there are moments of pure drama where characters break down, shout their hearts out, and let us know how they feel. However, at the end of the day, it’s a war movie, and because of this, we get plenty of action-sequences with tanks going toe-to-toe with another, people getting shot, stabbed in the face, lit on fire, and most of all, dying. But while these scenes are effective in the most gruesome ways possible, there’s still a feeling that the movie doesn’t know what it wants to say about them – are we supposed to feel bad that countless soldiers on both sides are getting killed? Or are we just supposed to care that way for the American side?

The best example to highlight this problem the movie seems to have with itself is when Cobb, the new blood of this tank group, is ordered by Wardaddy to shoot a German prisoner. Though the German prisoner has surrendered (thus, making it illegal to kill him), Cobb is physically and emotionally manipulated into doing it, even though it is a horrifying act he does not want to partake in. We know it’s not right, he knows it’s not right, but every other character around him (as well as the movie), doesn’t and that’s one of the sole problems with this movie. It doesn’t have enough to say to be an anti-war movie, yet, it doesn’t have enough self-control to not glamorize the violent, sometimes inhumane, acts that occur during the war itself.

Basically, you could write it all down to Ayer not being the best director out there. Sure, as a writer, he’s pretty fine and has shown that he has a knack for writing gritty, raw, and bare human beings who are conscience enough to be considered “realistic”, but as a director, his movies don’t always translate so well. End of Watch was a fine piece that showed he was able to turn the found-footage genre on its head a bit, but that’s about all the praise Ayer gets as a director (his other film released earlier this year, Sabotage, is currently running the gauntlet for being one of my least favorite of the year). That said, while this is probably Ayer’s most accomplished film as director, there’s still signs that what comes out of the pen, doesn’t always translate so well onto the screen, even if the one writing, also happens to be the same individual filming.

Thankfully though, for Ayer at least, he can fall back on the amazing ensemble he has here to ensure that his material will be more than just what’s presented on the surface, and can at least be dissected and looked at a bit more. Brad Pitt, playing a WWII soldier that isn’t collecting Nazi scalps, does a lot as Wardaddy, although it seems like he’s just being his usual-self: Cool, smart, collective, and most of all, masculine as hell. However, there’s more to this character and we get the idea that even though he’s all about defending his country to the very end and do whatever he has to do to protect those around him, at any costs, he still fears the idea of dying, or even worse, a close-one of his meeting the same fate. He’s an emotionally-battered man that disguises it all with orders, commands, and death, but if you look closely, you can see exactly what kind of person he is, and it’s not all that different from you or I.

That's the look of someone who has maybe gone too method.

That’s the look of someone who has maybe gone “too method”.

Except that he looks like this, a sad reality I live with everyday I look in the mirror.

But as good as Pitt is in the lead role, I really have to give a lot of kudos to Logan Lerman, a young talent who is really rising through the ranks and showing us he has what it takes to hang with the big boys. Though Lerman’s character can be classified as “scared, wimp-ish rookie”, Lerman presents us with shades to this character that makes it easy to see why someone as sheepish and kind as he is, would actually totally change into a ruthless, unforgiving killer. It’s actually pretty horrifying if you think about it, and that is why Lerman’s performance is so good: He’s a normal person like you or me, but now it’s time for him to grow up, face the terrible realities of the war, and start shooting that rifle of his.

Though, as good as Lerman and Pitt are, there is a glaring difference between them two, and the attention they get from Ayer, as opposed to the characters played by Michael Peña, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal, who all seem like types that want to be more than just that, but never get a chance to cause the writing prohibits them from doing so. However, because these three are all good performers, we get a deeper, more effective camaraderie between the whole group that seems to go further than just “war buddies”; they could actually be something of brothers, that just so happen to be connected by the reality of war.

One instance of this is a scene that, for some reason or another, takes place all in real-time and runs for about twenty-five minutes. It starts with Wardaddy and Cobb going into a random German woman’s home, having dinner and sex, but turns into something darker and tense once the rest of the group shows up. This is a great scene because it not only shows the restraint in Ayer’s sometimes confused direction, but actually allows all of these guys to just act with one another, in one scene, one location, and uninterrupted. In this scene, we get to understand who all of these fellas are, why they stick up for one another when they have to, and why they all love each other, in the most non-sexual way possible. It’s probably the most memorable scene of the movie, which is probably a testament to the cast, especially when you consider how much blood, guts, bullets and steel are flying around.

Consensus: Maybe not the deepest war movie ever made, Fury doesn’t know where it stands on certain ideas, but is still well-acted by its highly-capable cast and displays a growing talent in David Ayer as a director, even if there is some room for improvement to be made.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

#2MasculineForYou

#2MasculineForYou

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Grudge Match (2013)

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

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

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

Oh my! So meta!

Oh my! So meta!

Disappointed? I’d sure as hell say so!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

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

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

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and a whole lot of money. Oh my!

Meet Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio): He’s a womanizer, a drug-addict, a go-getter, a hard partier, and most of all, a full-fledged billionaire, and this is his story. We follow Jordan through his early days as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street, where he learns of the ins and the outs from a seasoned-pro (Matthew McConaughey), but eventually, finds himself out of a job and inspiration for life once the stock market crashes. From there, Jordan finds another job in which he’s still working the stocks, however now, he’s found a way to rip people off, and benefit from the extra cash money he has flowing in by the weeks, and then by the days, and then it’s by the hours, and sooner or later, it’s by the minutes of each hour, of each and every single day. So basically, Belfort discovers a way on how to keep on getting richer, and best of all, how to keep on partying and living life until you can’t no more. Sooner than later, though, the FBI starts snooping around and that’s when Jordan begins to find himself backed into a corner that he may not be able to get out of, or one that he may be able to, but will have to take those nearest and dearest down in the process.

Most of you can probably tell by now, but I’ll say it anyway: This movie is a freakin’ blast. Yes, it does clock-in at 179 minutes (that’s near-three hours for those of you counting at home), and yes, it features countless acts of debauchery in which drugs are consumed, women and their body parts are fondled, Big Bens are thrown high up in the air and the “f word” is used more times than it ought to be, but if you can stick through all of this and keep the blood pumping, you’re going to find yourself having one of the best times at the movie theaters.

Was it all politically correct to call it "midget tossing" back in the late-80's/early-90's?

Was it politically correct to call it “midget tossing” back in the late-80’s/early-90’s?

Just exactly like I did, and here’s why.

It’s not easy to make a film about a bunch of stockbrokers that are knowingly ripping people off, in hopes of gaining a heftier wallet and more gifts to bring to the parties, in which we don’t actually hate them and instead, actually rather loathe them, but with all of the movies he’s made in the past (including this), Martin Scorsese has proved himself to be more than up to the task, and then some. Scorsese is approximately 71-years-of-age, but this movie does not show an old man working inside of his comfort-zone, nor one who seems like he can just get as much enjoyment from the spoils of this movie, as much as his subjects in his movie are. Nope, instead, Scorsese continues to find more and more ways in which he can try something new, or, for lack of a better term, never slow down.

When I said that this was a movie that clocked-in at nearly-three hours, most of you probably ran for the hills and never looked back; but what I didn’t say was that it was a near-three hour movie that never, not for a single second, slows down. Sure, there are some moments where we see Scorsese let go of his style and just let his ensemble do the speaking for him, but it’s all Scorsese, all of the time, and it never lost its sense of energy that made it such a blast to watch for its first five minutes of being on screen, let alone it’s 2-hours-and-59-minutes. And needless to say, some of it could have definitely been chopped-down and even taken-out, but with what Scorsese himself has here, it’s pure dynamite by how quick, fun and energetic everything is, without taking a brief moment for silence or to catch your breath.

In other words, if you can’t handle a near-three hour movie that never cools its brakes, you may want to look elsewhere, because once Marty and the rest of his gang get this bus going, they aren’t stopping and it makes you feel like Scorsese himself may never, ever quit making movies. And I would have no problem with that whatsoever, because if he shows us, so late in the game, that he can still hang with the best of them, get moving when he needs to, and also be able to keep his blood-pressure at a reasonably healthy rate, then we don’t need anybody else other than him. If he’s going to keep on branching out and trying new things, then who needs someone that could be, “The Next Martin Scorsese”. It would surely be nice to get someone else who can master the art of the multiple over-head narrations, or the constant zooming-in camera movements, but as for right now, at this moment in time, I’m fine with Marty Scorsese sticking around for however long he damn well pleases to. I just hope that he continues to make movies as exciting, entertaining and hilarious as this.

But everything that I’m saying about Marty, and how he seems to still be open to new and cool things to play around with, could be said for his cinematic muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Anybody who has ever followed my blog and knows my history, knows that I am a huge and adoring fan of Leo, and he did not disappoint me a single second here. Heck, in fact, I’d say that he surprised the hell out of me here, showing that it is possible for somebody who’s nearing-40, and who has already shown his talents as an actor, to still shock us by letting us know that he’s capable of doing more than just yelling, emoting and being upset; in fact, just like he proved with his Oscar-worthy performance last year in Django Unchained, he can actually be quite funny and steal the scene from some of the most charming, and spirited screen-presences out there.

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Not only does Leo get show his lighter-side with Belfort, in terms of making wise-cracks and just being the lovable, handsome devil that knows what to say, and when to say it, he also gets to branch-out a bit and pull-off some really impressive scenes where it’s just him, and him alone. There’s the one scene that everybody seems to be talking about in which Leo begins to feel the side effects of decade-old Quaaludes, and begins to fall limp in every part of his body; almost to the point of where he’s practically dragging himself and crawling to his car. It’s the scene that everybody seems to be talking about, and with good reason: It’s funny, it never ends (in a good way), it’s probably the quietest scene in the whole movie, it’s bizarre and the best of all, it shows us that even somebody like Leo DiCap, the same guy who has been taking serious-role-after-serious-role for a good chunk of his career, can handle something like “physical comedy”, and pull it off with perfection. There’s even a couple more scenes where he’s getting the rest of his stockbrokers all locked, cocked and loaded for whatever it is he wants them to do, whether it be getting richer or throwing down a sweet-ass party, and he absolutely owns each and every one of them, showing us, once again, that if you give him character, you give him a drive, you give him a capable director and you put a camera in front of his face, he’s going to make some magic happen and absolutely over-power everybody else around him.

That’s why, when you look at an ensemble as wide and as fun as this, you really do have to give a whole bunch of credit to somebody like Leo for never letting this movie loose, because his shoulders are the ones in which this flick solely rests its fate on. While everybody here is charming, fun, crazy and anything else but boring, he’s the guy who keeps the train on its tracks, making us realize that these were in fact, real people, who screwed over real people, just like you or me. Though Scorsese may never seem to go any further than “look at all these rich guys and all the debauchery acts they’re committing”, the movie is still a powerful indictment on the fact that these were guys who messed our economy over, and we’re the ones who had to pay for it. It sucks big time, and even though this movie has a good time getting itself away from that fact, we’re still the ones who have to suck it up and move on with our lives, while they are the ones who get to live freely and still be able to do what they want.

Sucks, I know, but it’s all in the name of a good time, right?

Anyway, needless to say, I’ll be pulling for Leo to land his Oscar this year, as I do every year, but let’s face it: He’ll be lucky enough to nab a nomination. Which blows, because he’s so electrifying here, you’ll wonder what else he’s got in-store for us and whether it will be back to his old ways of playing the same old,”troubled and tortured smart guy role”, or if he’ll continue to surprise us and show that he’s got more in his tank than what we know of? I don’t know what side he’ll most likely lean towards, but what I can is that Leo will definitely keep on being one of the best working today, and one that proves to me, as well as to everybody else, time and time again, that nobody can steal the spotlight away from him. Nobody!

Yeah, I’m a bit of a Leo DiCap fan boy. Deal with it.

"Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I've moved on to bigger, and more critically-acclaimed things. Sorry, guys."

“Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I’ve moved on to bigger, and more respected things. Sorry, guys.”

Like I was saying before though, Leo may own this movie, but he isn’t the only that’s actually “good” in it. Jonah Hill is a laugh-out-loud riot as the equally as demented and sick buddy of Jordan’s, Donnie, who starts to show some pretty dark shades to his character as time goes on; Matthew McConaughey appears in about two or three scenes early on in the movie and is a whole box of fun, even giving us some insight into the person that Jordan himself aspires to be, and most likely, will be once he gets his paychecks in order and balance; Rob Reiner is a welcome-presence to see back on the screen, this time, playing Jordan’s dad who handles all of the money, and doesn’t like to ask questions about where it comes from and what it’s for, but still somehow can’t get away from being just a little curious; Jean Dujardin shows up as a Swedish bank-owner that Jordan doesn’t particularly like, but does business with to keep the feds off of his ass; and speaking of those feds, Kyle Chandler plays the FBI Agent whose leading the whole sting-operation against Belfort and his trusty band of misfits, and somehow forms a nice rivalry between the two, despite only having about two scenes together where they actually do match wits.

Oh, and last but not least, Margot Robbie is as perfectly-suited for this Scorsese flick, as much as she’s easy-on-the-eyes, because while she does definitely get full-on naked at various times, she never feels like an object that’s an easy stepping-stool. She can hang with the big boys and she proves that she won’t be taken advantage of, even when it’s clearly obvious that all Jordan wants her for is a nice fuck and a gal to watch over the rest of his family, as well as his empire, just in case he just so happens to be gone for a short while. She’s what every man in the world wants: Smart, brass, good-looking, and a fire-breather in bed, but also the same type of girl that won’t put up with your shit, no matter what. In other words, each and every one of my ex’s. Damn them all!

Consensus: Running on a near-three hour time-limit may take some viewers away from spending time with the Wolf of Wall Street, and the excessive amount of drugs, sex, crime and violence that it depicts, but those who are willing to, will find themselves rewarded with not only one of the most entertaining flicks of the year, but also one of the most impressive that shows us that neither Leonardo DiCaprio, nor Martin Scorsese are down for the count and might just have a few more hits left in them.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Snitch (2013)

Would you really call the People’s Champ “a snitch” to his face. Think about it and choose your words wisely, ya jabroni.

A suburban father (Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock) decides to risk everything and go undercover as an informant in order to help the authorities build a case against a high-ranking drug dealer. Why does he do this? Well, because he’s the greatest daddy ever apparently and just wants to reduce his son’s 30 year mandatory drug sentence. If that doesn’t scream “Daddy of the Year Award”, I don’t know what the hell will.

It’s coming towards the end of February, therefore it means that the Hollywood production companies are going to start throwing more and more crap at us, up-until the Summer hits and they’ll be throwing more crap at us, except with the cool breeze of Summer in the air. With that being said, this movie was definitely nowhere near my must-see, but surprise, surprise! It ain’t half-bad as I was expecting it to be, except just a little dumb. Just a little.

The fact that this movie is based off a true story, definitely gives it some lee-way in terms of what it can and cannot do with it’s story, and still make it seem believable. For instance, the whole idea that the DEA would be willing to actually allow this suburban-daddy to get involved with this drug world, in order to thrown some prime-time players in jail, definitely seems like a bit of a stretch, even for a movie starring The Rock (yes, that T is still capitalized). However, this movie isn’t all about the facts, it ain’t all about the truth, and it ain’t even all about the fun. It’s surprisingly about the story and what a simple premise can do, when you give it a simple and normal-look.

Directed Ric Roman Waugh did a similar-film like this a couple of years ago called Felon, where he took a regular, everyday man and put him into an atmosphere he has never been involved with ever before. That movie was pretty damn good, and even though this one doesn’t reach the heights of that, it still has the same look, feel, and emotions going-on. For example, instead of making this movie all about the guns, the drugs, the violence, and the action that usually happens in these movies where people get involved with the underground world of drug-trading, we actually get a story that means something here. You know, a story with real and heartfelt emotions.

Just give me a little bit of the People's Eyebrow. Just a tiny bit.

He’s trying so hard to give us the People’s Eyebrow.

The fact that this movie is being advertised as another, slam-bang action-thriller in the same vein as Faster or the Rundown, is a real sin. Because once you get past the fact that you aren’t going to see blood, bullets, and octane (Joe Carnahan has nothing to do with this movie, but it’s still pretty cool to say) the whole-time, then you can actually enjoy this movie and see where it’s going with itself. The movie gives it’s story more meaning by setting itself up, showing us the characters, who we are dealing with, and what’s really at-stake here. Yeah, it does seem a little obvious at-times, but the movie is about showing the connection these people have when there’s a shit-load on-the-line.

I’ll never go so far as to say that this movie touches on a lot of emotional truths and hardships that’s going to make the insides of you weep for a hug, but I will say that it will surprise you with where it goes, and how it gets there. Waugh is about giving us characters we care for and can believe in, and that’s ahead of all of the foolery of the violence we expect from this cast and crew. If there is any credit I have to give to Waugh, it’s that he took the higher-road and decided to give us more substance, than we usually expect from movies like this. You care for these people, you care for this story, and ultimately, you care for this movie. That is, up until the movie starts to lose itself and get all action-y. I mean, come on! Did you really think they were going to have people hugging, crying, and kissing each other for the whole 2 hours? Hell no!!

When the action gets introduced into the story, it feels forced which was unexpected because the movie actually built-up a nice amount of suspense and tension throughout. The movie makes you feel like some real and crazy shit is going to happen any time now, and in a way, it does, but it doesn’t feel legitimate. It feels like the film makers of this movie saw the final-cut, and decided that there needed to be more action, more explosions, and more guns involved, so all of the dudes that went-out to go and see this Dwayne Johnson flick, wouldn’t start to question their sexuality. That idea is so cynical, but for Hollywood, it’s just money baby. That’s what bothered the most about this flick and it seemed like if they kept it a real, near, and dear drama the whole-way through, did a couple of cuts, and re-cast some people, then they would have really had a keeper here. Instead, they decided to take the low-road and stay with the cast, stay with the original-cuts, and keep some of the drama in, but mostly action as well. Hey, some of it works, some of it doesn’t. In today’s day and age, you got to take what you can get.

Now, here I come to the saddest-part of my whole review: The Rock. Yes, I know he’s Dwayne Johnson, I know he wants to be taken seriously, and I know he’s trying so damn hard to shine away from his wrestling-days (even though he was just recently the champ, I think), but he will always and forever be The Rock to me. He’s one of, if not, my favorite wrestler of all-time and just has the look, the charm, and the personality to make any movie he does work. That’s why it comes as such a surprise to me to see that the guy isn’t anything really special here, and sort of came-off like a bit of a miscast problem.

They come runnin' just as fast as they cancause every girl is crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man.

They come runnin’ just as fast as they can,
cause every girl is crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man.

Don’t get me mistaken, The Rock is mostly good in this movie. He has a dramatic-range that is surprising and can actually cool himself down when he needs to let the drama and the story take a hold (pun intended), but he seems to be trying too hard as well. There’s a lot of scenes that seem like they call on him to just be use his expressive-eyes and facial-expressions to give the motives of this character more meaning than they should have, and seems like he’s over-emoting. His line-reading isn’t bad, but it does leave a lot to be desired, especially when you think about how bulky and scary his character is. I get that he doesn’t want to be playing his usual, bad-ass type of role where he kicks people’s asses, does The Rock Bottom, and throws his arm-band out at the crowd (still haven’t grabbed one of them yet), but he feels out-of-place here. He tries to play wimpy, he tries to play the family-man, and he tries to play innocent, but the guy looks just too scary and intimidating to really be construed as that. When a guy comes at him, he’s actually scared. The Rock that I know, The Rock that I love, and The Rock that I believe in, would layeth downeth the Smackdowneth on that person’s candy ass and not just stand there in fear. Come on Rocky! There’s so much more to you than this. I know it.

But where The Rock loses, everybody else succeeds. The main reason why I was looking forward to this movie as much as I actually was, was because of Jon Bernthal and seeing what he could do outside of Shane from the Walking Dead. Thankfully, the guy delivers and shows us that he can play a nice, civilized, family-man that may have a bit of a history, but still wants to do the right thing. Bernthal can play that sick, sinister-type oh so damn well, but when he has to come back down to Earth and keep it real; he’s still very believable and makes you feel more for this guy, than you do for Rock’s character. I can tell that if there is anybody from the Walking Dead that’s going to have a shinier career, it’s this dude and I can’t wait to see what he has in-store for us next.

Everybody else is pretty damn good as well. Michael Kenneth Williams is, as you would expect, playing a drug-dealer that smokes, deals, and kills for a living. But also a bit more to him than you’d expect, and the last couple of scenes we get with him is where I was really shocked at the type of dimensions this movie was able to explore, especially for such conventional-characters like “the black drug-dealer”. Benjamin Bratt feels underused and a bit stupid as the head of the Mexican cartel, but still does what he can with material such as this; Barry Pepper shows up in his ZZ Top get-up, is very sympathetic, very bad-ass, but also very believable and does his best at making us all forget about Broken City and how he had the disprivilege of ever touching that crap; and last, but sure as hell not least, is Susan Sarandon as the prosecutor that’s only slightly-less evil than half of the drug-dealers that she’s trying to arrest, but still revels in the material and in a way: fits her like a glove. A firm, lovely glove that I wish I helped her put on. Rawr!

Consensus: Believe it or not, the only real reason why Snitch isn’t as good as it should be, is because of the very same thing that the movie advertises itself as: a thriller. A thriller with guns, action, blood, guts, drugs, and crime is not what this movie’s all about; it’s more about the characters, what they’re going through, what they have to do, and how they can all come out of this problem alive, well, and prosperous for the future. Okay, maybe it’s not that in-depth, but it still is a lot more-developed than any other action-thriller that’s come out this year, so far.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

So glad these two finally got to share the same-screen after all of these years of heavy-anticipation.

World Trade Center (2006)

Surprised that I didn’t hear about Lee Harvey Oswald in here at all.

This follows the true story of the heroic survival and rescue of two Port Authority policemen – Sergeant John McLoughlin (Nicolas Cage) and Officer William J Jimeno (Michael Pena) – who were trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, after they went in to help people escape.

Back in 2006, when this was first coming, people had two reservations about it at first: 1. Is 5 years too soon? and 2. What the hell is Oliver Stone going to do with this material? To be honest, these reservations were both very reasonable and understood at the time because people were (and still are) grieving over their lost ones from that fateful day and Stone has always been known to get pretty crazy and paranoid about the topics he covers. But thankfully, nothing ever really goes down the wrong path here. I mean that too, nothing.

The best part about Stone’s direction here is that he doesn’t pull any punches with this touchy story. That means there’s no conspiracy theories about who was behind the Bush administration at the time or who was actually behind the attacks themselves, but instead just gives us a true story of courage and the man’s will to fight for survival no matter what the obstacles may be standing in their way. Sounds like something that is very out of the ordinary for Stone to direct but he doesn’t lose his mind with this material and keeps everything grounded to where this becomes one of those inspirational stories you would expect it to be.

Going into a film about this certain subject, you have to expect your heartstrings to be tugged at a bit and even though they do, it doesn’t feel manipulative. Simply put, this is Stone’s way of showing us how two policeman, fought for their lives just to stay alive, tell the story of it all, and go on back home to their wife and kids. It’s one of those sappy stories that we always see and hear about but it isn’t used in that same context here. It feels real, it feels genuine, and it feels like something that Stone really does rightfully care about and feel for. Weird to think that this is the same dude who was out there showing Mickey and Mallory shooting people’s heads off, would also be one of the first people to pay tribute to the men and women that died on 9/11.

But aside from being very genuine and true to it’s emotions and who it’s trying to give love towards, there’s not much else here that’s really eventful or groundbreaking in terms of story-telling which makes it a bit more tedious in a way. This is a story about real human-beings being in real-life situation/catastrophe, but maybe there should have been more excitement, more tension, more, I don’t know, more suspense as to know what’s going to happen. I wasn’t asking for a fast-paced action movie that took place in New York during 9/11, but I was just waiting for something to really pull me in fully and keep my eyes glued but instead I just found myself and my mind going into other places. I have no idea but it just did and maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t in the most perfect mood to watch this.

The movie looks great with plenty of detail and attention going towards how New York looked like during and after the Towers fell. It was really neat to see how realistic everything looked as you could almost feel the same pandemonium as everybody else did there but there could have been more of that. There was this really cool sequence where Stone gathers real-life footage from people checking out what happened on 9/11 from all over the world and it’s a sequence that shows you the kind of impact this even had on the world, not just our own country. This showed me that Stone maybe played it a little too safe in just focusing on this little story of two men, and could have gone a bit bigger by focusing on the environment surrounding them and how everybody felt during this time but I guess Stone didn’t want to go too far because then he would have had to start bringing out the conspiracy theories, and then things would have gotten bad for this movie.

Oh, another reservation some people may have had about this film beforehand may have also been that Nicolas Cage was in the lead role as Sergeant John McLoughlin, but no need to fear people, he’s actually pretty good here. I think it would be pretty hard for Cage to screw up a role like this, considering he barely moves and just stays underneath a huge piece of rubble the whole film, but the guy does well with it and reminds us that he can still handle roles like these. The one who really gets away with this flick is Michael Peña as Officer William J Jimeno, showing a sweet innocence to him that makes us sympathize with this character even more because all he shows is love and sweetness to everyone around him even before this happened. Both are good and work very well together, as well as everybody else in this cast, but those New York accents got to be a bit too much for me at points. I get it, everybody in this movie is practically from New York or somewhere near there so they have to have an accent but do they really need to be this deep? It get’s distracting at times, but you’ll start to forget about that once you start to see all of the notable faces that Stone has pop-up on the screen. It’s sort of like a really fun game of “Hey, remember me?”.

Consensus: World Trade Center is a rare example of Oliver Stone playing it really, really safe which has it’s positives and negatives, but mostly shows us the true story of two brave Americans that did whatever they could do stay alive in a time and place like New York City during 9/11.

7/10=Rental!!