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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Jude Law

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Where’s those Knights of the Round Table?

After the murder of his father (Eric Bana), young Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is sent off, via boat, to an island where whores and crime run wild. However, Arthur gets going with it all pretty quick and soon, he becomes the smartest, craftiest, and trusted people on the island that, practically, everyone is asking him for their help, in any way that they can. But there’s a reason for why Arthur is the way he is – he comes from royalty, yet, doesn’t know what it is, what it feels like, nor does he actually want it. He’s actually pretty pleased with his life and doesn’t feel the need to up-end it, only until he discovers that his power-hungry uncle Vortigern (Jude Law), who also killed his father, is looking for him and needs him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone. Arthur eventually does and leads to all sorts of action and violence that both sides will compete in until their deaths, but also know that there’s more to being a king, than just having power and fine jewelry. There’s also this thing called respect and honor, and stuff like that.

Just look at that get-up! Clearly the baddie!

King Arthur is a movie that a lot of people will, and already have started to, hate. This isn’t to say that those who don’t like it, aren’t wrong, because in fact, they’re probably; the movie is loud, dark, brash, stupid, random, nonsensical, and downright weird. But sometimes, can’t there be fun had in all of that?

See, Guy Ritchie is the kind of director who seems to take on anything he wants, so long as he can put his own little cool, suave stamp on it. It’s why his early movies, the Sherlock Holmes‘, and even Man From U.N.C.L.E. have worked so well for him, because he was able to do something neat and different with these pieces of work, and make them entirely his own. And yes, it also helps that Ritchie’s style, while definitely show-offy, is still fun to watch and brings a certain amount of energy.

Then again, maybe that’s just for me.

See, the first ten minutes of King Arthur are just so odd, slow and boring, that it made me want to check out very early on. But then, out of nowhere, Ritchie’s style kicks in, where everything’s quick, a little dumb, loud, and random, making it feel like we were watching Clash of the Titans, only to then change to channel to 90’s MTV. It’s silly, of course, but it works in moving this flick forward when in all honesty, other films just like it would have kept a slow, leisurely pace for no reason.

Does it totally work? Not really, but it does help keep the movie fun at times when it shouldn’t be. For instance, Ritchie makes Arthur and his cronies as just another group of his usual rag-tag bunch of gangsters, stealing, lying and killing, for their own gain. Granted, Arthur’s supposed to be the hero here, but listening to him and his pals telling a story, or better yet, a bunch of stories all at once, is quite entertaining.

Once again, this may all just be me, but for some reason, King Arthur was a little bit of fun for me.

The issues the movie seems to have is in making sense of its story, which is why, for two hours, the movie can be a bit long. There are times when it seems like even Ritchie himself can’t make sense of the story and why Arthur matters in the grander scheme of things; certain supernatural elements with witches, eagles, and bugs, all randomly pop-up and are supposed to mean something, but they really don’t. The movie hasn’t really told us much about it, other than, “Oi, yeah, this kind of stuff can happen.”

Poor Eric Bana. The man can just never catch a break.

Can it, though? I guess, and it’s why King Arthur, while clearly not a perfect movie, also seemed to need some more help on the story, even though it took three writers to apparently bring it around.

Still, King Arthur provides enough entertainment when it’s needed and it’s also nice to see the ensemble here having some fun, too. After the Lost City of Z, I began thinking of whether or not Charlie Hunnam was actually a good actor, or if he was just another good-looking guy, who also happened to be able to read lines. Here, I think he fits Arthur quite well; he gets to cool, calm, sophisticated, and a little arrogant, which, if you’re someone who looks like Hunnam, it probably works, and it does here.

Even Jude Law gets to have some fun as Vortigern, although he never quite gets the chance to go full “villain”. Sure, he kills innocents, gives people the bad eye, and yes, even scowls, but there’s never any key moment where it feels like the man is as despicable and as evil as he probably should have been. He’s basically just the Young Pope, but instead of preaching and having weird sexual feelings for nannies, he’s actually killing people.

So shouldn’t that make him more evil? I don’t know, either way, Law deserves to be meaner and badder.

Consensus: While it is no doubt a flawed, odd and at times, random piece, King Arthur also proves that Guy Ritchie’s hip and cool style can still work, so long as it isn’t being depended on to help out with the story, or other things that matter to making a good movie.

5.5 / 10

He’s still deciding on what accent to use, or if to even have one at all.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Genius (2016)

It takes a lot to be considered “a genius”. Like, for instance, an overlong novel.

Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) has published and help edit a lot of books, some of which, are revered classics. Perkins had already previously published works by the great American writers Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce), both of whom have all sorts of riches to their name. Now, a young writer by the name of Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), wants his shot at getting his work published. And once Perkins sees what Wolfe has to offer, he’s absolutely astonished; not only is the work great, interesting, and exciting, but it’s quite long. Obviously, people aren’t going to want to read a 500+ page book, which means that it’s up to Perkins and Wolfe to come together and figure out what should stay, and what can go away. While Wolfe loves his work too much to let every little detail be taken out of the text, he eventually learns to shut up and give in, even if he, nor his girlfriend, Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), are all too happy about it. Then again, neither is Perkins, which makes him constantly battle himself, as well as his wife (Laura Linney), who has stuck with him through the thick and thin.

"500 pages left to go! Woo-hoo!"

“500 pages left to go! Woo-hoo!”

In case you couldn’t tell by its title, Genius thinks very highly of its subjects – or more importantly, it thinks very highly about Thomas Wolfe and all of the literature that he has brought to the world. There’s no problem with that, either; Look Homeward, Angel, while overlong, is definitely a book worth reading, if only once, just to say that you did and well, you did get into some sort of trance because of it. However, being too petrified of the lengths of his other books, I’ve always strayed further and further away from Wolfe’s work; I know that he’s a literary genius and very well-loved in that world, but honestly, it’s just too scary for me.

Then again, Genius is a movie that’s all about the fact that Wolfe himself couldn’t take himself away from making his books way longer than they had any right to be. And in a way, there’s something exciting about watching as an author gets their writing dissected, toyed around with, and prodded by someone who is, essentially, just trying to make a quick dime off of it. That same conflict actually comes up an awful lot in Genius; the choice between loving a piece of work for all that it is, or trying to take the things you love about it and make it more accessible to people who are willing to pay for it.

What do you do?

Well, Genius has that discussion a few times and asks those questions, yet, never seems too interested in ever answering them, which is a problem from the very start, as it seems like director Michael Grandage and writer John Logan love Wolfe so much, that they aren’t able to focus on much else. They want to make the movie about the book-editing process and all of the pain and agony that comes with killing your darlings, but also, give a shout-out to the man himself for the pieces of writing that he graced the world with.

Once again, is there any problem with that? Once again, not really. However, there’s also something to be said for a movie that can never quite figure out what it wants to be; while it wants to hold a magnifying glass up to Wolfe and his persona, the movie never makes much of a strong judgement on him, either. It actually shows that, in between all of his drinking, smoking and sexxing around, he was just a brilliant writer who couldn’t help himself and, darn it, his work should have been left the way it was!

Uh oh. Crazy's back.

Uh oh. Crazy’s back.

It’s actually quite odd and, by the same token, annoying. Genius has all of the right elements to be a very good movie, not just about Wolfe, but the writing-process and book-selling business as well, but it kind of misses its mark to do so, in favor of just featuring Wolfe running around, yelling like a crazy man, and holding his hat in his hand, with Perkins just sitting by, smiling and chuckling to himself.

Once or twice is fine, but practically the whole, entire movie? Oh, come on!

And it’s a bit of a shame, too, because the cast is pretty damn stacked. Firth is fine as Perkins, if only because he does a lot of sitting around and staring, as opposed to speaking and letting people hear his terrible American accent (which was shown-off to even worse affect in Devil’s Knot); Laura Linney doesn’t get to do much as his wife, except just stand around and berate him for doing his job; Nicole Kidman has a couple of good scenes, showing how, slowly, but surely, Aline Bernstein was losing her marbles; and Jude Law, well, let’s just say he does probably everything that was asked of him and it was the wrong thing to do.

However, I can’t hate on Law for doing what he was told; the script called on for someone to constantly be howling and acting wild, and it’s what he gives. In a way, there’s some joy to be had in watching him play it to the rafters with this performance, but after awhile, once we figure out that there’s not much more to him than just that, it can get draining. The movie attempts to show us a deeper, darker side to this persona of his, but it still features him yelling and howling about, which never seems to end, or be toned-down in the slightest. If anything, it made me want to watch something like Dom Hemingway again, where Jude Law got a chance to play it wild and over-the-top, yet, was also rewarded in the end.

Here, he’s just doing it because that’s what he was told to do and there’s no real pay-off for him, or in this case, for Wolfe, either.

Consensus: Genius has a fine cast that helps the sometimes boring material, actually work, but at the same time, still feels like it can’t make up its mind about itself, nor have anything interesting to say about its figures.

5 / 10

I'd look like them too, if Nicole Kidman was coming my way. Then again, I guess I'm just a simpleton, so my opinion doesn't count.

I’d look like them too, if Nicole Kidman was coming my way. Then again, I guess I’m just a simpleton, so my opinion doesn’t count.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Road to Perdition (2002)

perditionposterAlways trust daddy. Especially if that daddy just so happens to be Tom Hanks.

Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) lives a comfortable, easy-going life with his family in a little house in the countryside of Rock Island, IL. Sullivan works for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an old school mobster who found him at a young age and practically raised him, as if he were one of his own. And what Sullivan does for Rooney, is such a mystery to his sons that one night, his oldest, Mike Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin), decides to sneak into his daddy’s car late one night and see what it is that he does. What Mike finds out is that his dad’s a hired-assassin and kills people! But, as if that wasn’t bad as is, Rooney’s actual, biological son, Connor (Daniel Craig), finds this out and decides to take matters into his own hand. This means that there’s a hit out on Sullivan and the rest of his family, which leads Sullivan to hit the road with Mike and set out on the run, hopefully trying to stay safe and find out how this sort of situation can be mended. But just to ensure that this never happens, Connor hires a weird-looking hitman (Jude Law), who has a certain penchant for taking pictures of the dead, just as they’re nearing the light.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Tom Hanks with scruff is scary Tom Hanks.

Coming off something as magnificent and ground-breaking as American Beauty, the odds were clearly stacked-up against director Sam Mendes to make another great, awards-caliber movie. Which is why Road to Perdition‘s a bit of an interesting choice for him to decide to follow-up with; not only is it a gangster-thriller of sorts, but it’s also one that’s based on a graphic novel of the same name. Surely, this is not something anybody expected Mendes to try, but thankfully, it all worked out for the best. Even if, you know, the movie in and of itself may not be the perfect Oscar pic that people would have liked.

But does that matter? No!

Not every movie ever made has to be perfect or absolutely shoot to get every single award known to man. While producers and studios may want that (because with more awards-buzz, comes more cash money), the films themselves don’t necessarily have to be catering towards that specific kind of audience who likes when their movies are classier and more prestige. Though there’s nothing wrong with a movie trying to be more than just your everyday fodder, as long as it’s interesting and somewhat stimulating, then it doesn’t matter what it gets nominated, what it doesn’t get nominated for, or what it wins, and what it doesn’t win.

All of the rest is just a bunch of unnecessary junk and that’s why Road to Perdition probably works best. It doesn’t set-out to achieve greatness, but it just goes out there and tries to tell a fine story that may, or may not, impact your life till the day you die. You may even forget that you see it a few months after the fact, but still, it isn’t trying to win each and every person over (much like every Oscar movie tends to do).

But anyway, I digress.

So yeah, Sam Mendes definitely had a lot working against him here, but the man, being the talented director that he is, did a splendid job here. Mendes is clearly more interested in the characters and the relationships they share with one another, which is why when the guns do start going off, the bullets start flying, and the bodies start dropping, it’s a lot more effective. This isn’t to say that Mendes doesn’t at all care about the violence to begin with, because honestly, many of these scenes can be as bloody and as disturbing as you’d expect them to be, but it isn’t his main focus and it’s probably why the movie works a lot better than most gangster movies.

Not to mention, too, it’s actually a rather sweet and tender tale about the relationships between fathers and sons, how complicated they can be, and most importantly, how important they are in helping to develop someone as they are growing up and trying to make sense of the world around them. That Mike Jr. is so young and is already thrown into this crazy, incredibly messed-up world of guns, violence, drugs, money, death and gangsters, is already enough for us to sympathize with him and hope everything goes smoothly from here on out – but also, the fact that the kid isn’t precocious, also helps. It’d be one thing if we had a smarty-pants kid acting as if he knew everything that the world had to offer him, but it’s a whole other one completely when the kid is actually a kid, who knows little to nothing, and can’t make sense of a single thing happening to, or around him.

Oh no, Tommy! Look out! A gun!

A Tom holding a tommy-gun. I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

It’s quite sad, really, but the movie focuses on how his father is there for him to help him through.

Which also causes a bit of a problem for Road to Perdition – while on the one hand, it’s this sensitive, emotional drama between a father and a son, on the other, it’s also this dark, violent and sometimes sinister tale about gangsters each other over and the great lengths some of them will go to to protect their pride, fortune, and reputation. Both movies, in their own rights, are fine, but together, they do have the film feeling a bit languid and off-center at times. Not to say that I wasn’t always interested in where it was going to go next, but it also isn’t to say that I didn’t want to see one movie over the other.

This became especially true whenever Jude Law’s hitman character came into the foray. Law is great here and seems to really be enjoying himself with this dastardly, snidely character, but because he’s so campy and over-the-top, he feels out-of-place from the rest of the overly serious, melodramatic flick he’s supposed to be apart of. There’s almost this feeling that he comes straight out of the graphic novel and onto the screen, and the transition isn’t all that pretty, no matter how hard Law and Mendes try to cover it all up. Still, it’s another good performance from Law that, once again, shows he’s more than just a pretty face and hot body.

Which probably isn’t something people had problems with the likes of Tom Hanks or Paul Newman, because not only are they good-looking guys, but hell, they’re fine actors, too.

That’s why when we do get a chance to see them share the screen together, it’s actually quite exciting. Here’s two legends of the silver screen, finally, after all this time, pairing-up together and getting to work with one another, and while the movie doesn’t feature them together a whole lot, the scenes that they do have, still work well enough that they make it last. Respectively, both are solid; Newman’s an endearing father-figure with a bit too much love for his son, and Hanks, playing against type, is actually quite menacing as the charmless hitman who won’t hesitate to shoot or kill someone, but also doesn’t want to do it out of cold blood either.

They’re both excellent here and help Road to Perdition become a great movie, even if, you know, the Oscar-voters didn’t go as nuts as everybody would have liked.

Because, quite frankly, who gives a hoot about them anyway?

Consensus: With a solid cast and directing job from Sam Mendes, Road to Perdition is a fine gangster film, that also works as an endearing tribute to the relationship that a father and son duo have with one another.

8 / 10

I'd have a drink or two with these fellas.

I’d have a drink or two with these fellas.

Photos Courtesy of: Collider, Indiewire

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

AIposterIf this is the future, I don’t want anything to do with it.

In the near, not-too-distant future, global warming has caused massive flooding and heavily reduced the human population. Also during this time, a scientist by the name of Professor Allen Hobby (William Hurt) has started creating robots known as Mecha who walk, talk, and feel just as humans do. One robot in particular is David (Haley Joel Osment) ends up getting adopted by Henry (Sam Robards) and Monica Swinton (Frances O’Connor), who are still reeling from a injury their son, Martin (Jake Thomas), had and left him in a coma. Through David, Henry and Monica get the chance to help raise another child; one that, due to the technology embedded in him, no matter what, David will always and forever love them both. And for awhile, it seems to be going great, but once Martin wakes up, then all hell breaks loose for David and the rest of the Swinton family. This leaves David navigating through the rest of the world where robots are either left to slave their ways through raunchy jobs, or get destroyed for the public’s amusement. But no matter what, David wants to become a real boy and along with Joe (Jude Law), a robot gigolo, he believes that can happen.

Like with most families, the good times don't always last.

Like with most families, the good times don’t always last.

A lot of people have gotten on Spielberg’s case for A.I. and unreasonably so. For one, all of the odds were stacked against him as is with Kubrick wanting to make this movie, dying, and then having his estate pass off the rights to him. Another, is that Spielberg really had to make this appeal to a broad-audience so that he could not only make a “good” movie, but one that would also make rich people, even more rich (something that, due to the source material he was stuck to work with, was no easy task). And lastly, well, because he’s Steven Spielberg; while he can do whatever he wants, he still always loves to end things on a happy, if not overly-positive note.

Which, considering the bulk of A.I., is surprising.

What’s perhaps most interesting about A.I. is that it finds Spielberg in pure-creative form. While we start the movie off at a suburban household, we eventually get thrown into this huge, futuristic world, and this is where Spielberg really shines. This isn’t to say that the first-half of the movie doesn’t work as its own, because it does, but it also seems manipulative in that Spielberg needed a reason for David to be thrown out into this great big world, so therefore, had to create tension among characters who, quite frankly, are pretty stupid.

No seriously, take the Henry character, as played by Sam Robards, for instance. At the beginning of the movie, we see that he’s suddenly all about having a robot-boy come into their lives and fill the void that their unconscious son can’t for the time being. Monica, on the other hand, but soon turns the other cheek. Around the same time, however, Henry begins, for no reason or another, to despise the very idea of David and clearly wants nothing to do with the thing, so therefore, scolds it and refers to it in passing, as if it’s something they have to deal with, rather than embrace.

Uhm, excuse me, bro? But weren’t you the one who bought it in the first place?

Anyway, then the Martin kid wakes up, gets pissed-off that David is trying to be too much like him, and then, we’re treated (which, in this case, probably isn’t the right word, but whatever), to one of the more disturbing scenes Spielberg’s ever made. David is abandoned in a grassy, mostly deserted area of the woods by Monica, who does nothing but push and shove him away from her, professing that she wished she “taught him more about the world”. Considering that she never discussed this when David and her were spending so much time together, this seems random, but still, the fact that David – something manufactured to love unconditionally – is yelling, screaming, and clearly, “feeling” distraught, makes this scene hit harder than it probably should. After all, David is now lonely in this world and while he may not know what to expect, he’s still a young thing, and it’s hard to not feel an ounce of sympathy for him.

But like I said, once the movie gets into discovering this world more, Spielberg clearly starts to work his smart wonders in not only exploring its creepiness, but its downright bleakness. While Kubrick would have definitely envisioned a much darker, more disturbing future, Spielberg’s future is still pretty damn bleak; a future where huge crowds of hooting, hollering, beer-swigging crowds cheer over the destruction of malfunctioning robots for entertainment. Once again, the picture that Spielberg paints isn’t nice, or sweet, but because it’s Spielberg, it’s slightly a bit lighter than what Kubrick would have done and because of that, it’s always going to be held up to scrutiny.

However, it shouldn’t and that’s the problem.

One of the key themes within A.I. is loneliness. David being on his own for a solid majority of this flick (although, he does have the adorable Teddy by his side), this is especially clear. He has a quest for becoming a real boy, but because we know that this dream of his will never come true and the adventure will lead to almost nothing, it’s very sad to watch as he constantly tries to make himself, as well as those around him, believe in it. Though he’s a robot, he’s still a kid-like robot, whose wonder and amazement of the world around him can never be matched by any cynic old-head, like you or I.

"You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not 'anything', but you get my point, kid."

“You can do anything you put your mind to, David. Except pee. Or eat. Okay, not ‘anything’, but you get my point, kid.”

Once again, this is all sad and it’s supposed to be. Even Joe’s story, although random and not especially necessary, still seems to revolve around him making all sorts of sweet love to women, yet, still not have any true connections in the world and mostly just glide-on by. That he has nothing else more to make of his life other than that he was “a great lover”, already makes it clear that Joe is a robot, with nothing else to him but just that. Together, David and Joe find one another and seem to set out on a world that, quite frankly, doesn’t care about whether or not exist.

I’m getting depressed just writing about this. But I’m not mad, because that’s the point.

By the same token, though, Spielberg still screws the movie up by losing this idea about half-way through. Though the movie is nearly two-and-a-half-hours, it takes a long while to get where it needs to get going and once it eventually does reach its drive, it feels like something of a cop-out. Spielberg decides to take us to the source of David’s creation and what’s supposed to be scary, shocking, and disturbing, just seems like an odd twist thrown at the end to create a drama, as if this were some sort of futuristic soap opera.

And then, there is, as we all know, the ending. Yes, this is the same ending that Spielberg still catches flak for, as well as he should. To be honest, it feels like something of a cop-out; the idea of having this story relate to Pinocchio’s already feels like that, but when Spielberg jumps into the future, many, many years later, and describes practically everything to us, it’s as if he doesn’t trust his audience anymore. Now, the same audience who sat by, watched and were disturbed by the sci-fi future he had to present, is now the same audience who is listening to Ben Kingsley rant on about exposition that doesn’t make any sense and would have probably been left better off not included.

Then, it just ends. David is treated to a dream that he always wanted, and even though the movie has reached almost two-and-a-half hours by this point, it still feels as if there’s something more to be explored. The outside world surrounding David, maybe, but still, there’s a certain incomplete feeling to A.I. that makes me not only want to watch it again, but possibly think harder and longer of where it could have gone.

But the movie, as it stands, still works – it’s just not nearly as great as it could have been had Kubrick been alive to have it made and see the light of day. Rather than fall for all of the sympathetic, melodramatic sap that hits the later-half, Kubrick would have found a certain path to go with that would have made it stuck around longer. But because he wasn’t around, the movie feels like it wants to tell a sweet ending, to a pretty bitter story.

The only way Spielberg insists on doing.

Consensus: Though it doesn’t reach the magnifying heights it could have with Kubrick alive to make it, A.I. is still bleak, dark and interesting enough to make up for the fact that Spielberg sort of drops the ball with the last-act.

8 / 10

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar...

A robot, a teddy bear, and a male gigolo walk into a bar…

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Holiday (2006)

It’s always those attractive celebrities who need the most love during the holidays.

Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) are both women who seem to be going through the same sorts of problems, even though both live in different countries. The former is from London, and had an affair with a man (Rufus Sewell) who has just recently gotten engaged; whereas the later is L.A.-bound and has a boyfriend (Edward Burns) who cheated on her. They both feel hopeless and upset, and with it being the holidays, they have no clue what to do next with their lives other than sit around, mope, and cry. However, Amanda has an idea that will also affect Iris: She wants to take a trip to London and Iris wants to take a trip to L.A. So the two concoct a plan where they’ll switch residencies for the time being and live in the other’s shoes. This all happens, but what surprises them both is how they end up meeting new people and, believe it or not, start striking up some romances of their own. Iris starts to see a film composer, Miles (Jack Black), whereas Amanda starts to hook-up with Iris’ brother, Graham (Jude Law). Both are happy and enjoying their time together, but the reality is that they’ll eventually have to get back to their real lives, and it’s something that may keep the relationship’s away from being anything more than just “some fun”.

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

And honestly, that’s all there really is to this movie in terms of complications or tension. There’s no big twist thrown at the end to throw the whole plot and/or its characters into a whirl-wind of chaos, nor is there any sort of hurdle that these characters have to get over in order to make themselves feel fulfilled. It’s honestly just a bunch of hot-looking, attractive people, flirting, dating, smooching, sexxing, and then, oh wait, having to then come to terms with the fact that they’ll be living in separate parts of the world in a few days.

That’s it.

A part of me should be pleased that writer/director Nancy Meyers didn’t try too hard to make this movie anymore complicated than it needed to be. So rarely do we get movies that are literally about, what it’s about, and don’t try to stray too far away from that original-plot. So in that general aspect, Meyers does a fine job of giving the audience, exactly what they’re seeking for.

But at the same time, there still needs to be a bit more of a plot to make up for the fact that this movie is over two-hours long. However, it’s not the kind of two hours that flies on by because of the company the movie keeps; it’s every bit, every hour, every minute, and every second of two hours and 16 minutes, which is to say that it definitely needed to be trimmed-down in certain areas. The main which being the scenes that Iris has with her older neighbor (played by the late, great Eli Wallach). Don’t get me wrong, these scenes are nice, charming, and sweet, but as a whole, they don’t really add much to the final product; we just sort of see that Iris is a kind, loving and caring gal that’s nice to old men.

Once again, that’s it.

The scenes that she has with Jack Black’s Miles, tell more about her, her personality, and the kind of lover she is – the scenes she has with Wallach, thankfully, do not. However, Winslet, as usual, is as lovable as she’s ever been; it certainly helps that Iris is a strong-written character to begin with, but it also has to do a great deal with the fact that Winslet can handle both the comedy, as well as the more dramatic-aspects of the script, whenever she’s called on to do so.

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

Diaz herself is quite fine as Amanda and also does the same as Winslet does: She balances out both the heavier, as well as the lighter material well enough to where her character stays consistent with the movie’s emotions. It’s not a huge shocker to know that I’m not a big fan of Diaz, but she’s actually quite enjoyable to watch here, because she doesn’t always over-do her act. Her character may be a bit stuck-up, but that’s the point; to see the cracks and light in her personality shine through, makes her all the more likable and sympathetic, regardless of where she comes from.

But this isn’t just a lady’s affair, because the men who do show up, also give their own, little two cents to make the Holiday work a bit more than it should. Black isn’t as grating as he usually is, and Law, the handsome devil that he awfully is, also shows certain layers deep inside of a character that could have probably been as dull as a box of hammers. Thankfully, he isn’t and it helps the relationship that his character and Diaz’s strike-up.

Problem is, though, it’s that run-time.

Also, not to mention that the movie doesn’t really make any reason for its existence. There are a few occasions where it’s funny, but for the most part, it’s just particularly nice. Nice does not mean “funny” – it just means that the movie can be seen by practically all audiences, regardless of age. Nancy Meyers always makes these sorts of movies and while they may not necessarily be lighting the world on fire, they’re just pleasant enough to help any person watching, get by. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman, a kid, an adult, a senior citizen, gay, straight, bisexual, married, single, widowed, engaged, in a “it’s complicated“, or whatever. All persons from all walks of life can enjoy a Nancy Meyers movie.

That alone does not make them amazing pieces of film – it just makes them accessible.

Consensus: With a likable cast and fluffy-direction from Nancy Meyers, the Holiday is fine to watch and relax to, even despite it being way too long, and feeling as such.

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Spy (2015)

007 needs to smile more.

After an agent of hers that she’s been looking out for and bonding with over the past five years, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), has to take a leave of absence, desk-bound, under-appreciated CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) finally gets her chance to be in the field. Her task: Stop a Bulgarian crime lord by the name of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) from selling nuclear weapons. The only problem is that Cooper’s cover continues to get blown by either her own wrong-doings, or a fellow agent who has just recently decided to go rogue and try and take matters into his own hands. His name is Rick Ford (Jason Statham) and while he and Cooper don’t get along too well, it’s solely up to her to make sure that she keeps Rick away from the mission as much as humanly possible, while also still making sure that she’s keeping some level of anonymity for her own well-being. But as the mission gets more and more complicated, Susan realizes that she may have to get a little dirty if she not only wants to complete the mission, but to also stay the hell alive.

Though some people may bitch, moan and complain about the fact that writer/director Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy seem to team up practically every chance they get time out of their schedules to do so (which seems like every other year, so far), there’s still no denying that they’re a match made in heaven. Both clearly know what the other wants, so therefore, they work well together in not only giving themselves 110%, but also giving the right kind of 110% when necessary. Because yeah, even though these two don’t seem to be challenging one another all that much, when the end result is still entertaining to watch, just as much as the last movie that came before it, what’s the real problem?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!?

Allison Janney and Melissa McCarthy! In the same room?!?!? Just take my money already!

In all honesty, there is none! So stop complaining, people!

With Spy, McCarthy and Feig’s third team-up so far, the look, feel and overall idea of a spy movie is messed around with, but don’t be fooled by what this movie’s advertising may have you think, because it’s not a parody flick. Though it may have initially started off as such, eventually, the movie turns the other cheek to where it’s less about poking fun at the stylish cars, guns and women, and more or less poking fun at the lovably charming characters here. At points, it probably would have been nice had Feig tried to make more of a comment on the spy genre (especially since there seems to be so many damn movies coming from this genre nowadays), but if a movie is funny, then I won’t hold any gripes against it.

And yes, Spy is definitely a funny flick. Like with the Heat and Bridesmaids, where Feig shows his real, true strength in directing comedy is just allowing for it to draw itself out to where even the most normal, everyday situation, can turn into something truly odd and bizarre. Sure, while some of this praise can go to the cast and crew who definitely seem to be, for the most part, playing along with it and making it up as they go along, there’s still plenty to be said for Feig himself. After all, he’s the guy who gets to say when a scene begins, goes on, and ends and so he definitely deserves credit for at least knowing when and how to format his comedic scenes.

However, like with the case of the Heat, there’s still a weird feeling that maybe the action takes over a bit too much, especially in the last hour or so of this flick. There’s no problem with an action-comedy utilizing the later portion of that term to its fullest, and most absolute extent, but when it seems like it’s doing nothing much other than to just keep the run-time going, it gets a tad bit tiresome. The action’s fine and all, but any comedy that goes over two hours, definitely features some form of trimming, no matter who you are.

Talking about you, Mr. Apatow!

But, as always, a lot of this doesn’t hold up too well when compared to the fact that the movie is enjoyable and funny, but also a teenie bit more than just that. See, with Feig’s movies, he always puts an extra amount of detail into his characters to where, even if they are acting like cartoonish jack-asses, there’s still some form of humanity and personality to them that it all makes sense as to why they’re acting the way they do, with whom, and how. And because of this, most scenes that would generally just seem “funny”, end up turning into more hilarious territory, especially when you consider the smart writing that’s been put into most of them.

Look at J-Stath! The dude's having the time of his life!

Look at J-Stath! The dude’s having the time of his life! Let him do that more!

For instance, take Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper. While Cooper is another instance in which McCarthy gets a chance to swear, yell, make fun of people, and kick ass, there’s a bit more to her character than just that and it makes a lot of what she does and say hit harder. Because Cooper, the character, is such a sweet and relatively gentle person, to hear and see her when she has to step up big time in the field, she turns into a whole different person where she’s loud, obnoxious and more than willing to lay the whoop-ass on whoever deserves it the most. Once again, this is another performance from McCarthy that we’ve seen before, but there’s so much fun in watching her do it and hardly miss a beat, that it’s hardly ever boring.

Not like it was in Tammy, that is, so lets be happy about that.

But even though McCarthy’s the lead, which entitles her character to the most development, she isn’t the only one. Rose Byrne, despite playing the main baddie, gets a chance to not just be funny again, but show some form of humanity within a character that just wants to blow the United States up, as most villains in these sorts of movies want to do; Jude Law plays the charming and handsome fella we usually see him play, but his character is a bit more of a dick than he lets on and it’s actually interesting; Miranda Hart plays Cooper’s best friend and confidante and gets a chance to show an even sweeter side to a job that you wouldn’t think could have one; and Jason Statham, well, what else is there to say other than he lights the screen up every chance he gets. And then some.

See, if there’s any complaint that I have about Spy, that I don’t believe I had with many other movies, is that it needed more Jason Statham. That isn’t to say that I’ve never uttered that phrase before because I detest Statham and think he’s a talentless hack – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think he is very talented, charming and fun to watch, but because he’s usually the lead in the movies he does, there’s a lot of him to go around and it makes me wish that wasn’t the case, at least not in those movies. Movies like Spy where we get to see the more charming and light side to his tense presence, makes it easy to see why somebody would want to hire him just for his comedic skills alone. He’s been funny in the Guy Ritchie movies that he’s done and he occasionally drops a little wittisome here and there in a dull action-thriller, but here, he’s on full-force and I wish I got more of it.

Meaning, producers and casting agents, give Jason Statham more funny material!

Consensus: Tad overlong, Spy runs into a slight problem of unevenness, but because it’s cast and crew are so talented and funny, it slides on by as an enjoyable time that also proves why we’re all lucky to have Melissa McCarthy in our lives, and why Jason Statham needs to do more funny stuff.

7.5 / 10

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it's funny.

Funny costumes + Melissa McCarthy = sure, it’s funny.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Black Sea (2015)

Submariners are the new pirates. Thankfully, no Jack Sparrow.

After all of he and his buddies get laid-off from their jobs, a submarine captain named Robinson (Jude Law) catches wind of a possible way to make plenty of dough. The only problem is that it’s from a sketchy backer (Tobias Menzies), who may or may not be exactly who he says he is. However, Robinson isn’t taking any chances because what he really wants is that money so that he can get himself, as well as his lads, back to see their families. So, Robinson gets a rough, ragged and culturally diverse group together and lets them know right away that he won’t put up with any sort of shenanigans going on/around the submarine. Problem is, after he tells them this, he also lets everybody know that they’ll all get equal shares of whatever it is that they find in the sea. Which brings up the question: If people know that there share’s get bigger, once some crew-members die-off, then will they commit any sort of wrongdoings? Well, Robinson and the rest of the crew are about to find out first hand, which wouldn’t be so bad if they weren’t at the bottom of the pitch black sea itself.

"It's either my way, or the highway! Or, erhm, wherever we stop for air next!"

“It’s either my way, or the highway! Or, erhm, wherever we stop for air next!”

Submarine thrillers, more or less, depend on one element and one element mostly to get its viewers paying attention: Claustrophobia. It works in all of the biggest and best movies in a submarine, and with good reason – normally, people don’t like enclosed spaces they can’t get out of. It doesn’t matter if they’re watching it, or simply witnessing it from a first-hand account, if you are able to create the allusion that you have to be up close and person with the walls that surround you, or else you’ll have to perish, then you’ve already done your job. People will instantly freaked-out and very tense.

This is the element that director Kevin Macdonald uses, but it’s not the only card he shows. Rather than just showing the audience these enclosed-spaces, with plenty of men sweating, Macdonald also takes time to focus on the dynamics amongst the crew that may, or may not, bring everything to ahead. That the crew is split-up between Russians and non-Russians, already gives you the impression that anybody could flip out on another person, because they may have misconstrued something in the wrong manner.

But once again, Macdonald does not stop there. And a part of me sort of wishes he did.

Because while the movie has plenty of excitement going for itself with the constantly yelling, running, crashing, shooting, and explorations into the deep blue sea, there are moments where it feels like maybe Macdonald and writer Dennis Kelly aren’t totally comfortable with just having these various characters argue and threaten one another to create tension. Instead, there’s got to be more twists added-on that maybe, just maybe, these guys are doing this all for nothing? Or maybe, these guys don’t have anything else to live for, so in a way, this job was nothing more than a swan song for all parties involved? Either way, the story gets a little too wrapped up in itself and it made me wish that Macdonald and Kelly trusted themselves enough to know that the simple they kept it, the better it was. The more that they threw on, only complicated matters much worse.

However, there is something to be said for a submarine thriller that is able to be just that, thrilling, without ever feeling like it’s re-inventing the wheel that’s been steered so firmly many times before. Macdonald doesn’t get into the mechanics of this submarine, as much as he just shows what works, why and how it can work for the group. It’s a simple understanding between the audience and the director that we don’t too often get in movies such as these; more special because Macdonald himself doesn’t seem to want to throw any of his intelligence on the audience members who may not know a single thing about submarines except that they go deep underwater and stuff. Macdonald shows an appreciation, almost an adoration for these submarines, but he never forces us to follow him and his love for them – simply, he just wants us to watch as these chums all try their hardest to pull off the greatest heist in submarine history ever.

The face you just can't trust.

The face you just can’t trust.

That said, Macdonald gets a lot of mileage out of his cast, most especially Jude Law in the kind of unattractive, challenging role we’ve been seeing him taken as of late. As Captain Robinson, Jude Law uses a Scottish-accent that may seem like no biggie at first, until you realize that it gives him this kind of hard-edge to make you think that this guy’s seen it all in the world, been through hell and back, and is just trying to make a living, regardless of if it is a simple one or not. With this role and the title-character in Dom Hemingway, Law has proven himself to be a far-better, more talented actor than most of us maybe had taken him for in the past. Sure, he’s still got his good looks, but he’s also getting up there in age and it’s finally about time that he’s at least approached this aspect of his life, and allowed for it to play-off so well in his career-choices.

In other words, I’m interested in seeing what “old-head Jude Law” has to offer.

Though Law’s definitely the one to pay most attention in this flick, he isn’t the only one who leaves a mark as there are character actors aplenty in this ensemble and all of them put in great work. Ben Mendelsohn, as you could suspect, plays something of a trouble-maker early-on, only to then slightly turn the other cheek and become something of a nice guy, even if he’s one you know to never fully trust, no matter how many times he says to grab his hand and pull-up; Konstantin Khabensky is one of the Russians here who doesn’t speak much English, but leaves you with the impression that he wants the same thing as his non-Russian counterparts want, and are just as capable of pulling-off some evil acts of vandalism as well; and Scoot McNairy, despite clearly being the odd duckling out of the whole group, fits in well as the whiny, annoying member who had to come along for the ride, but also works as the voice of reason well enough to put this whole story into perspective and remind all of these characters who they are all on this mission for in the first place – their families.

Consensus: Without trying to change the game of submarine thrillers, Black Sea is a tense, rather fun piece that focuses on all aspects of its story well enough that it makes the finale all the more effective, even if the twists do get a tad over-zealous with themselves.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Marcellus Wallace's dirty laundry?

Marsellus Wallace’s dirty laundry?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

eXistenZ (1999)

You know what’s so lame about GTA? It’s not real!!

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a famous video-game maker who has made a video-game where people can transport themselves into other lives, as well as gives them the chance to constantly guess whether or not they are in real life, or just living a pure fantasy where they can do anything that they want. This inventive, yet, incomprehensible game is called eXistenZ, and it soon takes over her mind, as well as her bodyguard (Jude Law)’s.

Video-games have become so crazy now, that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised one bit if somebody came from out of nowhere, made this type of game, and watched it as it sky-rocketed to the charts of the highest-sellers come the Holidays. That person would also have to watch as the suicide-rates would be sky-rocketing off the charts as well, because with a dangerous mind-fuck of a game like this, you know people are just going to go crazy. I’m telling ya, it’s a surprise that this hasn’t happened yet and I’m just waiting for more video-game designers to think of the next “Million Dollar Idea”.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

Uhm, yeah. Just roll with it. Yo.

However, if they do come up with this idea, they do have to give some of that change they earn straight to writer/director David Cronenberg, because he’s the main guy who came up with the idea in the first place and milks it to the brim with this movie. I have to give Cronenberg a lot of credit here because the guy definitely starts this flick out on the right foot with any eerie feel, a lot of mystery in the air, and a whole bunch of suspense as to what the hell is going to happen next to these characters once they finally suit up (I guess that’s what you could call it), and whether or not they’ll make it out of the game alive. When Cronenberg gets crazy ideas like these, they usually don’t pan-out so well for me, but here, he actually kept me involved and kept my mind on the film at hand, considering the whole game these two are playing, is just one, big twist after twist without any real type of explanation as to what’s going on and what it isn’t.

Which normally isn’t fine for me with most of his movies, but here, was surprisingly so.

As much as Cronenberg may toy around with the idea of us not knowing whether or not this is a game, or real life, he still allows himself to get real nutty on all of us and uses some of the trademarks we all know him for. The gore here is downright disgusting as we go through a couple of different spots where blood comes shooting, guts fall out, and people’s faces just come flying straight-off, landing on the floor below them. And on top of that, there’s also a lot of gooey, slimy sounds that make you squirm even more and add just another level to Cronenberg’s already, ‘effed-up mind that he obviously wants us to play around with him in. But while this would usually tick me off with some of his movies, here, I decided to just go along for the ride and enjoy myself, even if I had no idea what exactly was happening, or even what it meant.

But that was the problem I eventually ran into with this movie: I knew everything about anything Cronenberg was trying to discuss. See, while this movie, on the surface, is about this insane, balls-out game that allows its players to do whatever they want, in a world that they have no idea about as is, when you dig a bit deeper, it ends up becoming something darker and more upsetting. In a way, Cronenberg is trying to get across what your mom has been saying for the past two decades to get you off you Laz-E Boy and in the classroom: Video games are bad and they make you do bad things.

Now, while I don’t necessarily agree wholly with that statement, I still understand that many people see an evil in the art of video games and how it may drive certain people to lose their minds. We’ve seen certain cases regarding this in the past and while I don’t feel its appropriate to voice my opinions out on those here and now, I’ll just say that whatever Cronenberg is trying to get across here, is practically the same message and it’s kind of annoying. We get that video games mess with certain people’s minds and allow them to not be able to differentiate the difference between “reality” and “fiction”, but do we really need to be reminded of this every five-to-ten-minutes? Maybe because of the time this was released (nobody in 1999 had ever heard of an XBOX), but the message, in today’s world, seems relatively preachy and dated. Granted, back in the day, these ideas may have been revolutionary and eye-opening, but to us humanoids from the 21st Century, we realize that everything being said here, is why we moved out of parent’s place in the first place.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

The future of gaming, people. Except, not really at all.

So take that, older-generation!

Another problem that most Cronenberg movies, not just this one in particular, is that usually he’ll cast an interesting bunch in his movies, but since his material is sometimes so weighty and dense in the way that it’s delivered, you can tell which actors are more suited to it than others. For a total surprise, Jude Law actually ends up doing well in a rather restrained role as this body-guard. Sure, Law’s using some of his charm to get us to like him and his character here, but most of it is actually just him trying to be weird and mysterious, and it works well and to his advantage. Same goes for the likes of Sarah Polley, Willem Dafoe, and Ian Holm who don’t show up too long or often to leave an impression, but show that they are capable of fitting into Cronenberg’s world, where everyone speaks like he imagines them as speaking.

The only one who feels totally off in this movie is Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is supposed to play this geeky, downright off-kilter video game nerd, but just ends up coming off as she’s bored. In fact, a part of me felt as if she was in her own movie altogether; one where she was allowed to deliver her lines like she’s been doing for the past three decades, but instead, actually worked. Here, it seems like Cronenberg cast her, without really knowing full well if she’d be able to handle his “speak”, quite as well as the others. Don’t get me wrong, Leigh’s still a top-notch actress in most of the stuff she does, but here, she feels awkward stilted.

Maybe that’s how Cronenberg wanted her to be? Then again, maybe not. Who the hell knows what goes on inside that dude’s head!

Consensus: David Cronenberg loves to play with his audience and in eXistenZ, he gets a chance to do so, but too many times does it feel like he stops the wild fun, just so that he can prop us down for a lesson or two about the world of video-games that, trust me, we already know full well about.

6 /10 = Rental!!

Even in so-called "virtual-reality video-games", the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Even in so-called “virtual-reality video-games”, the ladies still fall head-over-heels for J-Law. Damn that Brit bastard and his sexy charms!

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Cold Mountain (2003)

I thought the South was supposed to be a warm place full of happy, positive thinkers?

Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman) and her father (Donald Sutherland) move from their riches, and into a slightly slummy, lower-grade town in North Carolina and fit in very well, especially Ada who has the fortune of being stunningly gorgeous and able to catch the weary-eye of any man. However, one man in particular is the one she only cares about, and his name is Inman (Jude Law). What separates Inman from all the rest of the other slack-jaw, testosterone-fueled scuzzy-buckets around him is that he’s a sweet, soft and gentle man. The two hit it off quite well, but not as much as they would have probably liked to since less than a couple of weeks later, Inman is drafted into the Civil War, however, he doesn’t leave without giving Ada a nice smooch, and letting her know that “he’ll be back for her”. She stays there waiting for him, expecting the war to be over in a couple of weeks, but they eventually turn into years and Ada loses all hope that Inman’s coming back, let alone, alive. But Ida won’t have to fear any longer since Inman escapes the war, and makes his way back to her. Only real problem in his way: Rusty, law-enforcement imprisoning and executing war-refugees.

First of all, I know it’s hard to get past the fact that many, upon many famous non-American actors and actresses are sporting a Southern drawl and all that, but trust me, it’s not all that hard to get by once you just pay attention to the story, the visuals, and pretty much everything else that’s going on around these people when they speak, no matter how fake it may sound. And hell, it isn’t even that bad to be honest, however, there is a price you have to pay when you have Jude Law and Nicole Kidman in the lead roles of a Civil War movie, but the price isn’t that much that late, great director Anthony Minghella obviously couldn’t handle.

"Say whaaaaaaa?"

“Say whaaaaaaa?”

Minghella, as most know, had a fine eye for beauty and detail when it came to the way his movies looked, and this movie was no exception to the fact. You can tell that a lot of this was shot on-location, rather than placing a bunch of over-clothed, over-priced sets and actors in some rural town that nobody had ever heard of, and it works well in the movie’s favor, no matter where its story goes. It makes you feel as if you are right there with this story, just as it’s happening, wherever it may wound-up at. More of that could be said Inman’s story, as he’s the only one who really does any “moving around”, whereas Ada just sort of hangs out on her own, at her own ranch no-less; which also creates a bit of problems for the movie, in terms of pacing.

You see, since both stories that we have here are occurring practically simultaneously, it’s hard for us to not get more involved with one story over the other. As interesting as Ada’s story of her coming into her own and being her own gal may have been on-paper, it comes off as rather cliche and sometimes hokey on-screen, only livened up by deadly, violent acts of violence, that we see more than a few times happen in Inman’s story. Not saying that Ada’s story needed more blood, guts, and shootings to keep up the pace with Inman’s, because when it does come, it hits hard, it just feels like we were missing a part of the pie that would have made that story something we were cheerful to see getting more attention. Now, as for Inman’s story, well, that’s where the movie really works its wonders.

It’s obvious that, despite all of his good-intentions, Minghella cares more Inman’s story than he does with Ada’s, which is fine because his story is filled with so much excitement, drama, adventure, and intrigue, that it’s a wonder why Minghella didn’t just make this all about Inman, and only showed Kidman at the end. Probably wouldn’t have worked as well, but maybe some trimming would have? Anyway, what I liked so much about Inman’s story isn’t that he goes around the world, encounters a new person each and every day, changes their lives just as much as they change his, and all of a sudden, he has a prettier outlook on life than he originally had before; nope, it’s actually the opposite. Inman goes into the war as the soft, sensitive-type that feels like he would much rather be sitting underneath a tree, jotting down a few lines of poetry that flash right into his head, rather than being the type of guy to put a bullet between the eyes of a fellow human. He’s just not functioned that way, however, he’s drafted into the war, which means he obviously has to be complete his duty as a common-day citizen, turning him into something of a savage beast that knows his ways of violence and the limitations he has bestowed upon them, and he doesn’t like it a single bit. Because don’t forget: He’s not a killer, he’s a lover, dammit!

And that’s exactly what makes initial escape and adventure so much more sympathetic and worth watching.

In fact, we somewhat applaud him for having the cojones to actually get up and leave the war when he has the right chance to, because he knows that this war is for shit, he’s seen all the ugliness about it, and he wants nothing more than to go back to his squeeze and be back in beautiful play-place he calls “North Carolina”. It’s a long and hard trip that experiences many pitfalls along the way, but he’s able to go through it all, just by the sheer shred of hope in his mind. Because of this, we want him to succeed and we care about every person he meets, regardless of if he changes their outlook on life or not. He’s just a man, going about his way, trying his damn near hardest to get back to his woman in one piece, and hopefully live the rest of his life in eternal happiness and love. Now tell me: What’s not romantic about that?!?!?

"Thank y'er darlin' fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?"

“Thank y’er darlin’ fer dis tasty bevereeeerge. Southern enough?”

Well, one thing that isn’t so romantic about their relationship is that the two don’t really feature much of a chemistry together. But I don’t know if that’s a hit against them, as much as it is against Minghella, considering they spend about 15 minutes of screen-time together, and are suddenly separated. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman do great work when it’s their own, respective stories where they just have to tell their story for the way it is, but you can just tell that there isn’t much glue holding them together as a couple that makes it worth fighting and daring to die for. Law gives Inman a quiet, but powerful presence that’s easy to root for, whereas Ada’s more or less going through the conventional, riches-to-rags-to-riches story that we see most movies churn out like butter. That said, both are good, despite not being able to generate any fireworks when it comes to their “love”.

However, the smart decision Minghella made with this movie was not to just have pretty, beautiful, and talented faces in the leads, but to also have them in every other character ever seen in this movie. This is one of the largest ensembles I have ever seen for a movie, but that isn’t used just to distract you from some of the story’s more problematic segues. Everybody’s great with however much screen-time they’re given, no matter how minor or large, but there are a couple of stand-outs that really left an impression on me, long after the movie was over.

Obviously Renée Zellweger was great in this movie (obviously, she won an Oscar) and really gets Ada’s story fun and interesting; Natalie Portman shows up as a widow of a Civil War soldier and shows Inman enough compassion, but also asks that he give her some in return, and then some more; Philip Seymour Hoffman has so much fun as the dirty, raunchy preacher-man that Inman runs into and stays with for most of his trip, and shows you why it’s so great to see this guy anywhere he shows up; and even Ray Winstone is somehow able to get rid of his Cockney accent and give us a nice performance as the sheriff from Inman’s town that is not only a very determined dude when it comes to nabbing these traitors, but doing what he has to do for punishment purposes. He’s a bit of a sick bastard, but Winstone gives him a nice ounce of humanity that makes it easy enough to see the world from his side. But like I said, there’s plenty more famous peeps where that came from, and it’s fun to watch, while also intriguing because everybody’s great.

Consensus: One story may be more interesting than the other in Cold Mountain, but nonetheless, they both come together to make a heart-breaking, upsetting, but also, very compelling tale of what it means to adventure for what you want, by any means possible. Corny? Yes, but it’s handled much better than I may make it sound.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Guess Jane eventually got her gun.

Guess Jane eventually got her gun. #FilmReferenceKindofSortof

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Dom Hemingway (2014)

Don’t drunk and drive, kids. Or go to jail for 12 years. Or do drugs. Or, simply, just don’t do anything bad.

It’s been quite a long time since Dom Hemingway (Jude Law) has been out in the outside world (12 years to be exact), but he finally gets released one day, where he goes back to doing everything he once did before. He collects debts; has sex with women; does blow like nobody’s business; drink; illegally smoke tobacco inside of a pub; hang out with his close-buddy Leftie (Richard E. Grant); kick the shit out of the man who married his wife when he was thrown in jail; and try his damn near hardest to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Emilia Clarke). The only problem is that Dom has a bit of a temper-issue, which more often than not, has gotten him into trouble in the past, and seems to be getting him in even more trouble now when he realizes that he’s out of money and needs a new gig. Being the swift heist-man that he is, with the niftiest of fingers, he decides to go back to his old ways of breaking into concealed-vaults; something that’s a lot harder now with every vault being electronic, thus throwing Dom off of his game. Thus, as a result, making Dom even more pissed-off with everything and everyone around him.

It’s been a long while since I’ve seen something in which Jude Law really wow’d me. Not saying that he’s a bad actor by any means – in fact, he’s a terribly consistent one. He always shows up in movies, acts, does what he has to do, look charming, get his paycheck and continue on to the next project in which he’ll do the same exact thing. There’s nothing wrong with that really, especially if you’re somebody whose been surviving in Hollywood since the mid-to-late-90’s, but there is something to be said for an actor who has always been around, but really hasn’t had that one, amazing performance in which he’s knocked down all of the doors and showed us his true talents as an actor.

Hey, uhm, whose driving?

Hey, uhm, whose driving?

I think Dom Hemingway may in fact be that performance we’ve all, myself included, have been waiting for.

What Law does so well here as Dom Hemingway, unlike from anything else we’ve ever seen him do, is be brass, crass and all sorts of detestable. Dom Hemingway, by creation, is a dirty, mean son-of-a-bitch that looks as if he’s stumbled out of the pubs from the 70’s, and into the modern-era in which none of the kids want anything to do with his old, grungy ass, and just want to hang out and drink their Pabst Blue Ribbons alone and in peace. He’s always wanting to get pissed, get some blow, bang some fine ladies, and start trouble with anybody who dares to ever step up to him. Because of that, we’re supposed to dislike him and think he’s just a total jack-ass that doesn’t our sympathy, or even time of day – but somehow, Law makes us do just that.

Law is every bit as loud as he’s ever been in a movie before. With Hemingway, Law’s asked to be a total sleaze-ball, but a sleaze-ball that is always making those around him feel uncomfortable. Not just because he always seems to do and say the wrong things, at the wrong time, and to the wrong people especially, but because he’s just so damn unpredictable with his actions. One second, he’ll be so drunk that he’ll be offending and screaming at the most powerful mob-boss in all of Europe; but then, the next second, be totally cool, calm and suave at the dinner-table, with the same guy he was just insulting clear to his face. So yeah, Dom Hemingway is not an easy character to pin-point down, but that’s why it’s so amazing to see Law tackle a hard task like that and seemingly get through it all without making us ever seem like he’s trying too hard to be something that he clearly isn’t.

Sure, the receding hair-line, chin-strap facial-hair, and over-worked jaw-line may also have something to do with that, but for the most part, it’s Jude Law that makes us believe in somebody like Dom Hemingway.

The same actor whom, ten years ago, was most known for tappin’ his nannies and filling in Michael Caine’s shoes, in a movie most of us would like to just forget about by now.

But there’s a reason why I’m talking so much about Jude Law’s performance in the first place because, as much as I hate to say it, the rest of the movie doesn’t really live up to everything he does. The supporting cast is good here – with Richard E. Grant being a particular stand-out as Hemingway’s close buddy/voice of reason – and there were a few moments in which I had no clue what Dom was going to do next and how it was going to affect him and those around him. But, like I said, there just wasn’t much else here to really keep me going and all that interested.

Practically me, every night of the past week.

Practically me, every night of the past week.

There’s a twist that occurs somewhere around the half-way mark in which the tone of the movie sort of changes and we see how Dom’s life goes from shit, to even shittier in about a matter of a couple of minutes. The surprising switch itself is one that I think writer/director Richard Shepard pulled-off well, but he does with that feels sort of like an after-thought; almost as if the only idea for this movie was to focus on how much fun it is to watch Jude Law yell, rather than actually give us a plot, or even much character-development really. Then again, we do get some character-development here for Dom, it’s just that a lot of it seems so cheap and over-used.

Like, for instance, the whole idea that Dom’s daughter absolutely hates his guts because he left her and her mother all alone, with nobody to care for them at all, isn’t anything new, but you could do so much with that to make it feel genuine and heartfelt. Here, it felt like Shepard knew he wanted it to be the sweet aspect about the movie that the more emotional moviegoers would enjoy more than just seeing Jude Law eat cocaine like breakfast cereal, so he didn’t put much thought into it. All we get are a couple of arguments that go nowhere except show us that Dom’s daughter doesn’t like him and doesn’t want to give him a chance to get to know her better and make up for lost times, which then makes Dom want to go out and go back to his old ways of pulling-off heists.

For some reason, I didn’t see the connection and I sort of wish I did. It not only would have made the movie more interesting as it went along, but would have made a lot more sense to me once Dom started going nuts and humping vaults. Yeah, it gets a little nuts, but that’s all this movie seems to want to be: Nuts, with Jude Law providing most of that craziness for us.

Consensus: Though Jude Law clearly carries Dom Hemingway on his bulky shoulders and booze-breath, the rest of it doesn’t feel as well thought-out or interesting, it’s almost too in awe of its own main character.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The only way Dom Hemingway knows how to make an entrance: Through the damn wall.

The only way Dom Hemingway knows how to make an entrance: Through the damn wall.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

This type of nonsense would never occur at a Motel 6! That’s for certain!

In 1968, a writer (Jude Law), staying at a beaten-up, run-down hotel called “the Grand Budapest Hotel” meets millionaire Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who apparently has a lot to do with the history of this hotel – the same type of history not many people actually know the exact story to. Together, the two decide to meet-up, have dinner and allow for Moustafa to tell his story and why he is the way he is nowadays. The story goes a little something like this: Back in 1932, young Zero (Tony Revolori) was hired as a Lobby Boy at the hotel, where he eventually became concierge Gustave H.’s (Ralph Fiennes) second-hand-in-command. Gustave, for lack of a better term, is Zero’s role-model and he’s a pretty darn good one at that: Not only does he treat his guests with love, affection and respect, but he even gives them a little “something” more in private. And apparently, he treats one guest of his, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), so well, that he’s apparently the owner of one of her prized-possessions, the same prized possession that her bratty son Dmitri (Adrien Brody) won’t let him have. But you can’t tell Gustave “no”, when he knows what is rightfully his, so therefore, he takes it, which leads onto all sorts of other crazy, wacky and sometimes deadly, hijinx.

So yeah, for the past week, I’ve been kicking ass and taking names with all of these Wes Anderson movies, and if there is one thing that I myself (as well as most of you) have learned about, is that I really do love his movies. I mean, yeah, I knew Wes Anderson has always been a favorite of mine, but what really surprised me with this past week is that not only have I been watching and taking note of how his style changes over time (or in some cases, doesn’t), but also, how he’s grown as a film maker and decided to get a whole lot more ambitious.

Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

Okay, but on a serious note: Did the elevator really have to be THAT red? You know what, never mind!

And I don’t mean “ambitious” in the form that his movies are a whole lot bigger or more ensemble-driven, but more that they tackle on so many different-threads of meaning, rather than just being all about family-issues amongst a group of dysfunctional, troubled-characters. Don’t get me wrong, I usually love those said “family-issues”, but even I know when it’s time to move on, start trying something new and most of all, stretching yourself as a writer, director and overall creator.

Thankfully, not just for me, or you, or even Wes Anderson, but for all of us: Wes has finally shown us that he’s ready to take a swan-dive out of his comfort-zone and shock us with something that he’s almost never done before.

Key word being “almost”. More on that later, though.

First things first, I feel as if I am going to talk about any notable, positive aspect of this movie, it’s going to be the overall-style. Now, I think we’ve all known Anderson to be a bit of an eye-catcher with the way he has his flicks so colorful and bright, that you almost practically go blind because of them; but this, he truly has out-done himself. Since most of where this story takes place is made-up inside that creative little noggin of his, Anderson is practically given free-reign to just ran rampant with his imagination, where every set looks as if it was taken-out of an historic, field-trip brochure, dibbled and dabbled with some pretty colors, and thrown right behind everything that happens here. In some cases, that would usually take away from a film and be just another case of a director getting too “artsy fartsy”, but due to how crazy and rumpus most of this story is, it actually helps blend these characters in to their surroundings, as well as make this world we are watching seem like a believable one, even if they are so clearly made-up.

Which is why this is probably Anderson’s most exciting movie to-date. Of course though, Anderson’s other movies like Rushmore and even Bottle Rocket had an hectic-feel to them, but they were done so in a type of small, contained and dramatic-way – here, the movie is all about the vast, never ending canvas surrounding each and every one of these characters, and just how far it can be stretched-out for. So while those other movies of Anderson’s may have had a sense of adventure where a character would want to get out of the house, only to go running around in the streets, here, you have a bunch of characters who not only want to get out of their household, or wherever the hell they may be staying at, and get out there in the world where anything is possible. They could either go running, jogging, skiing, sight-seeing, train-riding, bicycle-hopping, parachuting, and etc. Anywhere they want to go, by any mode of transportation whatsoever, they are able to and it gives us this idea that we are not only inside the mind of Anderson and all of his play-things, but we are also stuck inside of his world, where joy and happiness is all around.

Though, there definitely are some dark elements to this story that do show up, in some awkward ways as well, the story never feels like it is too heavy on one aspect that could bring the whole movie crashing down. Instead, Anderson whisks, speeds through and jumps by everything, giving us the feeling that this is a ride that’s never going to end, nor do we want to end; we’re just too busy and pleased to be enjoying the scenery, as well as all of the fine, and nifty characters that happen to go along with it.

And with this ensemble, you couldn’t ask for anybody better! Ralph Fiennes isn’t just an interesting choice for the character of Gustave, but he’s also an interesting choice to play the lead in a Wes Anderson movie. We all know and love Fiennes for being able to class it up in anywhere he shows his charmingly handsome face, but the verdict is still out there on the guy as to whether or not he can actually be, well, “funny”. Sure, the dude was downright hilarious in In Bruges, but being that he had a dynamite-script to work with and was one out of three other main-characters, did the dude have much of a choice? Not really, but that’s besides the point!

What is the point, is that I was a little weary of Fiennes in a Wes Anderson movie, where most of the time, comedy and drama go side-by-side and would need all of the best talents to make that mixture look and feel cohesive. Thankfully, Fiennes not only proves that he’s able to make any kind of silly-dialogue the least bit “respectable”, but that he’s also able to switch his comedy-timing on and off, giving us a character we not only love and adore every time he’s up on the screen, but wish we saw more of. Because, without giving too much away, there are brief snippets of time where we don’t get to always be in the company of Gustave, and when those passages in time happen, they do take away from the movie.

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump'll do!

No Luke?!?! Fine! I guess this chump’ll do!

It isn’t that nobody else in this movie is capable enough of handling the screen all to themselves, but it’s so clear, early on, that Anderson clearly beholds this character as much as we do, and we can’t help but follow suit and wish to see him all of the time. Most of that’s because of Anderson’s witty and snappy dialogue that’s given to Fiennes to work with, but most of that is also because Fiennes is such a charismatic-presence that the fact of him actually making me, or anybody laugh, is enough to make you want to see a biopic made about him, and him alone.

But, like I was saying before, the rest of the ensemble is fine, it’s just that Fiennes was clearly meant to be the star of the show and plays it as such. Newcomer Tony Revolori feels like a perfect-fit for Anderson’s deadpan, sometimes outrageous brand of humor that’s practically winking at itself. What’s also worth praising a hell of a whole lot about Revolori is how he more than holds his own when he’s stacked-up against certain presences that aren’t just Fiennes (although the two make for a wonderful duo that they are another reason why it sucks whenever Gustave isn’t around). All of these other familiar faces that pop-up like Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson, and Saoirse Ronan, and even Jeff fuckin’ Goldblum are all great, but surprisingly, Revolori doesn’t get over-shadowed and keeps the heart and soul of the story clearly alongside with him, as it was intended to be. And yes, even though that heart may not be the most richest, most powerfully emotional we’ve ever seen Anderson bring to the screen before, it’s still the same kind of heart that has go along with Anderson on any ride he takes us, all because we know that, at the end, it’s all going to be totally worth it.

That, and also, that we’ll have something new to recommend to our white friends.

Consensus: The Grand Budapest Hotel is definitely Wes Anderson’s most ambitious work to-date, meaning that we get plenty of laughs, jumps, thrills, some chills, heart and enough familiar, talented-faces working with some wacky, but fun material from one of our finest writers/directors working today.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

All in the 'stache, ladies. All in the 'stache.

All in the ‘stache, ladies. All in the ‘stache.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Aviator (2004)

Good thing those milk bottles didn’t go to waste.

This is the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), the type of man that Hollywood adored, yet, had no clue what to do with. Then again though, he didn’t know what to do with himself half of the time, so it evens-out. Anyway, we follow Hughes’ life from when he sets out to make his first movie, Hell’s Angels, to where he spends ungodly amounts of money, and pisses off all sorts of people like his lawyers, his distributors, his agents, his lawyers, and even the major corporations that are trying to do business with him, however, he chooses to say “nay” to. Hughes has a vision that only he thinks he can achieve, not just solely through money or power (although that certainly does help), but through his determined heart and soul, that sometimes falls victim to his many bouts and problems with OCD, of which he gained at an early age through his mommy. But even through all of these problems though, Hughes still had a little bit of time to get down and dirty with the ladies, especially and most famously with none other than Ms. Katharine Hepburn (Cate Blanchett) herself.

Present-day Hollywood’s fascination with Howard Hughes seems like it may never end, and it makes sense as to why. Not only was Howard Hughes the type of creative genius that didn’t settle for something else that went against his original, near-perfect vision, but was also able to charm anybody over that he met, get rich, solving any problem that may have come into his way by throwing money at it and at the end of the day, still having enough time in his hectic schedule to go home to some of Hollywood’s spiciest, sexiest starlets of the day. Yep, that Howard Hughes surely was a man among men, and it makes perfect sense why fellow creative geniuses’ like Christopher Nolan, Warren Beatty, and yes, even Martin Scorsese would want to make a movie about him, his life, his struggles, his genius and what he gave the rest of the world.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Apparently Hughes also shacked-up with that chick from No Doubt, before they got big. Or hell, before they were even born.

Of course though, only one of those three was able to actually achieve their dream and get their project on him made. That person was Martin Scorsese, and what a great choice it was (although the other two wouldn’t have been so bad neither).

What Scorsese does expertly here, that he’s practically done with each and every one of his flicks, is that he’s able to take a long-winding, over-blown story, with an even longer run-time, and finds a way to have it go by in a total jiffy. There’s no room for error, or even breathing with Scorsese’s directing, no matter what it is that he’s doing and this movie is no different. He covers every aspect of Hughes’ life with just enough attention, detail and honest reality that we get a full, clear picture of what he’s trying to tell us, without ever being confused, despite the movie usually finding itself moving a mile-a-minute at times. However though, when you do have a movie that nears three-hours, you need to be quick, jumpy and to-the-point, but never so much, to the point of where you lose a viewer as to what the hell is exactly going on, to whom, at what time and why this all matters.

And with a movie about Howard Hughes’ life, that makes a lick of a difference since there seems to be so much that went on with this guy’s day-to-day life, it’s a surprise that Scorsese himself didn’t make it a four-hour-epic, 15-minute intermission included (then again though, I wouldn’t throw that out as if it wasn’t already a “possibility” inside the head of Scorsese’s). For instance, we stumble upon Hughes’ life right away and we get an idea of what he is doing and why: He’s making his Hell’s Angels epic, he’s trying to figure out a way on how to get it looking and sounding perfectly, he’s trying to create some of the biggest, and best airplanes the world has ever seen, and through it all, mostly, he’s trying to find that one sweet, everlasting soul that can fill up the damage and pain that’s been brewing deep down inside of him for a long, long time. In a way then, you could almost say that this is three different movies, taking place with the same subject: A movie about showbiz, a character-study, a romance flick, and an underdog-tale.

But see, the problem is that Scorsese doesn’t really nail all of these aspects that make this whole movie one, cohesive piece of nonfiction. The stuff about showbiz is interesting because it was very cool to see how Hughes, the creative visionary that he was, didn’t let high-heads in major corporations get in the way of achieving what he wanted for his movies, as well as how he just continued to throw his money away on certain smaller things that had to do with production like editing, sound mixing, color and, heck, even making sure that there were clouds in the sky when he was filming the airplane sequences for his movie (which, need I remind you, he did all himself). And even for the romance part of this story, Scorsese still nails most of it, although I’d wager that’s more because of the gals he gets to star as Hughes’ various lovers are usually better than the material given to them, but more on that later.

As for the other two parts of this story (the character-study and underdog-tale), I don’t know if Scorsese really hits, or hits well for that matter. We do sympathize with Hughes when we see him battling with his OCD, his paranoia and how it makes him totally lose his shit in public, in front of the people that matter the most no less. It’s sad to see this happen to this guy, since we know that when he has a clear-head on his shoulders, he’s the smartest, most charming guy in the room, and it does make you sympathize with him a bit. However, late in the movie, once we get an idea of who the baddies are in this story that want to go against Hughes, his vision and tarnish his name in the papers, it d starts to feel like we get more away from the inner-demons that Hughes himself battled on a daily-basis, and more towards how he fought against the big-wigs in corporations and came out looking like a superhero. That’s all fine and all, especially since it’s all true, but it doesn’t really do much to make us feel like we know this guy, nor do we feel like much is actually at-stake. It is more or less that we’re just watching a guy battle against a bunch of people that could bad mouth him even worse than what’s already been said about him, or that he could add more and more millions of dollars into his bank-account.

Either way, it seems like Howard Hughes, despite his inability to twist doorknobs, will probably be better off in his life, regardless of how this settlement ends.

That said, Hughes is somebody, even through the thickest and the thin, we stand behind, which is all thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, giving everybody our first glimpse at the type of stardom he was about to fully achieve. Nowadays, it seems like Leo’s on fire with each and every role he takes, but around the time of this movie, he was basically just another case of a “promising, pretty-boy face that may actually have acting-skills”. Sure, Catch Me If You Can showed us that there was more to him than just being the king of the world, but this was the movie where he really got his time to shine and showed everybody that he could make somebody like Howard Hughes seem like a real poor fellow, despite having all of the money, fame and skill in the world, that one human could possibly desire. But like I said, even while he may not be the nicest man in the world, he still is one we care for and get behind, even when the odds seem more than stacked-up against him.

"Whose balls were bigger?" was usually where most conversations tended to lean towards.

“Whose balls were bigger” was usually where most of their conversations tended to lean towards.

Cate Blanchett shows up to play Katharine Hepburn, one of Hughes’ most notable flings back in the golden days and does a pretty spot-on impersonation, but also shows us that there’s more underneath the whole facade of her being like “one of the boys”. She can be preppy, she can be spirited and she can sure as hell kick some other dude’s behind in a game of golf, but there’s a reason why she is the way she is, why it is that she falls so hard for Howard when she does, and why it is that she falls out of love with him, only to take up her time with the gruff, teddy-bear we all know as Spencer Tracy. We all know Blanchett’s an amazing actress and can seemingly do no wrong, but to show us that she could get us past the fact that she’s playing one of the world’s most famous, iconic actresses of all-time, was really something else. And hell, she won an Oscar for it, too, so good for her!

However, Blanchett and DiCaprio are just the two here out of this whole cast that seem to get plenty of screen-time and attention from Scorsese, but they aren’t the only good ones here. John C. Reilly is good as Noah Dietrich, the Chief Executive Officer of Hughes’ estate and is just kind and mellowed-out enough to make us believe that he does actually give two hoots about Hughes, but also cares more about his wallet than anything else; Kate Beckinsale plays another famous dame that Hughes hooked-up with, in the form of Ava Gardner, and is fine, although it’s fairly obvious that she’s nothing more than pair of nice teeth, eyes and, well, you get it; and Alan Alda and Adam Baldwin both play two of the main heavies in this movie that try to their legalities around and at Hughes, and do fine showing us that they want money, they love money and they need it, especially if its Hughes’ money it is that they’re taking. Don’t know how Alda got nominated for an Oscar for this, considering that he mostly just yells at and argues with DiCaprio, but hey, I guess it was about time that he got “some” recognition, you know? Oh, and Willem Dafoe is in this for one scene, and then he’s mysteriously absent from the rest of the movie. However, as weird as it is, I guess one scene with Willem Dafoe, is better than no scene with Willem Dafoe, am I right?

Consensus: Scorsese clearly has an undying love and adoration for Howard Hughes, the man he was, the man he set-out to be, and all of the achievements of his grand-staking life, but while the Aviator shows that, it can’t help but feel a bit jumbled in the process, especially since Hughes’ life as it was, seemed to be so hectic at one point in time.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Locked in, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don't sweat it, Howie!

Locked-away, lonely, naked, bearded and pissing into jars is usually how most people in Hollywood end-up, so don’t sweat it, Howie!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Just live life, don’t think too much and shut up! There, just saved you a near-two hours!

Environmental activist Albert (Jason Schwartzman) is the type of guy you just have to feel bad for. He’s the type that means well, but nothing ever seems to be working out well for him to the point of where he could just finally relax for a little bit. But nope, that is not the case, especially since he’s practically getting screwed over by a major corporation called Huckabees, mainly the head of P.R., Brad Stand (Jude Law). Brad practically promised Albert that he would save a huge part of land so that they could plant all sorts of trees and beautiful things, however, Brad doesn’t care about that and just wants his money, so he plans on just planting a huge shopping-mall instead, with Huckabees dead in the center of it all. Albert’s pissed about that, but he’s also worried about these strange run-ins he continues to have with this tall, African American man, that he automatically thinks are more than just sheer coincidences, they might just give meaning to his whole life in the past, present and the future. That’s where “Existential Detectives” Vivian and Bernard (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) come in and try to help him figure it all out, but since Albert’s a bit of a spastic nutcase, not everything goes as smoothly as planned.

Let”s just start things off on the right foot here: The movie is a mess, but it’s an intriguing mess, much like life is. There’s the hook, now on with the rest of this review.

They aren't supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

They aren’t supposed to be doing that, right? So therefore, it just HAS to be funny!

David O. Russell may be a very talented film maker and from what we’ve seen in these past couple of years, he’s really shown himself to be something of a man who can handle anything big or large. Sure, he’s had his freak outs many, many times before, but he’s made it clear that if you give him a huge cast, with a relatively simple, yet complex story, he can work wonders. However, when the story seems to be more than just simple and way more than just complex, then it becomes painfully clear that he can’t really hold his own and has to rely on his usually well-chosen casts. Which, once again, isn’t all that bad to begin with since everybody he gets to be apart of his ensembles are all great and do magnificent in his flicks, it’s just that there needs to be more substance to these stars doing shop, and regardless of what you may think with this material, there is no substance here. Please, do not be fooled.

See, while people will probably go out there and say, “this movie speaks volumes because of the types of questions it asks us about our current-existence, the lives we live and the world we live in”, is all a bunch of bologna. The movie seems so damn pleased with itself that it’s more than just your traditional, quirky comedy; instead, it’s asking bigger questions, that have to deal with bigger issues most people don’t get to thinking about on a day-to-day basis. There’s nothing wrong with thinking outside of the box either, it just has to be done right. Almost in the way in which Charlie Kaufman writes his movies: Strange, quirky and off-kilter, yet wholly insightful, emotional and more than meets the eyes.

David O. Russell, as much as it may surprise some, is no Charlie Kaufman and doesn’t have the ability to make this movie more than just a series of pretentious, heavy-thinking discussions about our existence on this planet. Those are the types of questions that usually come popping right up when a bunch of pals are saddled-around the campfire, smoking on the peace pipe, and that’s probably exactly where they should stay, especially if O. Russell’s going to be discussing them. I feel bad for getting on his case so much, because while there are some funny bits and pieces here, they mainly all stem from the fact that what’s happening on screen to cause these small pieces of laughter, is just because they’re pure random. Plain and simple. They don’t really work well towards the story or the type of message the movie is trying to get across (which is painfully clear, or not, who knows, who cares), and just seem like a bunch of crazy ideas O. Russell had rocking around in his mind and decided to go for the gull with here. Sometimes it works and amounts to nothing, sometimes it doesn’t and it just makes you feel bad for everybody involved.

Especially the cast. This poor, poor cast.

Better yet, I should just say poor Jason Schwartzman, because while I usually find him hilarious and entertaining to watch in whatever the hell it is that he pops up in, I couldn’t help but see him as annoying here. He always seemed to bitch and complain about everything in his life, never seemed like an actual character, with dimensions or emotions and seemed like the perfect type of guy that O. Russell could use as the straight-man for all of these over-the-top and crazy performances to play off of. And in that general aspect, the man gets what he wants, however, some of them fall short.

They're all jealous, Mark. Don't listen to 'em.

They’re all jealous, Mark. Don’t listen to ’em.

Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman come close to, but keep their heads afloat playing the two Existential Detectives, who basically just serve as Albert’s self-conscious; letting him know what’s right, what’s wrong, what does it all mean and how he can move on in his life, the right way. Together, they form a fiery and fun chemistry, but their roles do begin to get a bit repetitive, as they seemed to be saying the same things, over and over again, just with different phrasing and mannerisms. Jude Law also gets the bad-end of the straw as the sleazy Brad Stand, though he definitely relishes in the moment of playing somebody that would be as mean and detestable as a man of his looks golly-good looks would be. Naomi Watts seems to really be loving her time as Tom’s girlfriend, the scantily-clad model for Huckabees, and gets most of the laughs from her side of the spectrum. Worked wonders for her role, especially once her character goes through her own existential crisis and as you could expect, some hilarity ensues.

The only time actual hilarity within this movie does ensue, is whenever Mark Wahlberg shows up to steal the spotlight as Tommy, the oddball firefighter who drives everywhere in his bike, has something against petroleum, likes to start fistfights anywhere he goes, with whomever he sees and just seems to want to get his point across, by any means imaginable. Yeah, he seems like he’d be the most grating character on display here, but Wahlberg somehow gets him by on sheer charisma and willingness to make himself seem dumb. It’s very rare where you’d get a very good-looking guy like Wahlberg, who’d actually be willing to participate in something as strange as this, playing an even stranger character than we’d ever seen him play before, and trudge all trudge all the way to the finish line with it, while making us laugh all along the way. Wahlberg’s obviously shown his love for comedy in the past couple of years, but this was when he showed the world that he was more than just a nice set of guns, a catchy-as-hell song and a wonderful way of saying hello to mothers, he could actually entertain you and steal the show from heavyweights like Hoffman, Tomlin and yes, even Isabelle Huppert! Not even going to acknowledge the shock in that statement, I’ll let you take that one for me.

Consensus: There may be some moments of actual comedy to be found in I Heart Huckabees, but most of them are scattered across a slap-shot script, full of pretentious ideas and performances from a very talented cast that don’t add up to much, even while they’d probably work wonders in a way better, less preachy movie.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Not even the sight of Shania could save the day.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJobloComingSoon.net

Side Effects (2013)

Okay, I get it: drugs are bad!

Emily Hawkins (Rooney Mara), is a beautiful young woman who has a serious addiction to prescription drugs which she uses to deal with anxiety and depression surrounding the pending release of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison. However, problems start to begin when she soon becomes involved in an affair with the doctor (Jude Law) who subscribed her to the drugs. Moral of the story: never trust a doctor as good-looking as Jude Law. Lesson learned.

Even though I have already stated that there is apparently an affair taking place between the patient and the doctor, rest assured, there isn’t actually any hanky-panky going on. Regardless of what the plot-lines, trailers, and advertisements may be telling you, this is more about the problem that occurs within somebody’s mind and physical state of well-being, when pharmaceutical drugs start to take over. Maybe there is some sex, maybe there isn’t, but the fact that the movie is willing to take the non-Hollywood approach to a relatively conventional story, just goes to show you what type of will and firepower Steven Soderbergh still has to his name.

Instead of making this movie one of those thrillers where a bunch of bad stuff happens, with clear-explanations and more understandings of what is really happening; the movie decides to take the higher-road and make everything more complicated than you’d ever imagine it being. What I liked so much about this movie is how it all started-off obviously, telling the story, giving us characters, and ultimately having us run into the problem that’s going to bring out the bolts and crannies of this movie. And for the longest time, we almost feel like we know where this story is going to end-up, how it will, and what it’s going to say when all is said and done, but no, no, no. Soderbergh doesn’t play by the rules and this movie shows just that.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of drugs and crime.

So happy, so young, so ready to be devoured by a life of non-stop drugs and crime.

Without giving too much away and spoiling all of the fun for you peeps out there, Side Effects goes into places you wouldn’t in the least-bit suspect a medical drama to go towards. It begins as a character-study of depression; then it becomes a medical drama about the negative and positive effects pills can have on a person’s mind; then it becomes a crime thriller; and then, ultimately, turns out to be a mystery/detective-thriller where you feel as if you have all of the clues and hints to make-up a clear understanding of what’s happening, but in reality: you just don’t. In a Soderbergh, nothing is ever quite what it seems to be and that’s not just a cliche, that’s just how he roles.

The combination of these 4 genres, may make the movie seem a bit like it’s too much, for so little, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always this feeling that something new and unpredictable is going to come your way and just when you think you know what the big picture is all about, Soderbergh decides to pull the rug, right from underneath your feet and have you guessing more, more, and more, all up until the end where it feels like all of the questions have been answered, and everything is settled. Soderbergh always seems like he has a clear vision of what it is that he wants to do, say, and show-off in any of his stories, and even though the message may be a bit too obvious with where it goes (pills are only made for the doctors to get more moolah), there is still always that shred of memory that you watched this movie, and sat there in total and utter suspense, not having a damn clue where it was going to show-up next. I love that about movies and even better: I love that with my Soderbergh movies.

If there was a problem that I ran into with this movie, it was that the usual, downbeat ending that we are so used to seeing with Soderbergh movies didn’t show-up this time around. In fact, I would probably say that this is his most positive ending in the longest time, probably ever since Ocean’s Eleven. That’s a real shame too, because even though most of Soderbergh’s movies aren’t the happiest-of-go-luckies to watch and spend time with for 2 hours, you still feel like you’re watching a movie from a guy that doesn’t give two shits about having us leave with a happy and clearer view of the world. For the story right here; it does sort of work but when you take into consideration all of Soderbergh’s other movies: it’s a tad disappointing.

However, all problems with the ending aside, this is still a great movie mainly due to the fact that the cast is more than game for the material that writer Scott Z. Burns and Soderbergh are willing to throw at them. This is probably Jude Law’s best role in the longest-time as the psychiatrist that does all that he can do to not only help Emily with her condition, but also make sure to save his money from totally being thrown into the meat-grinder. From the beginning of the movie, I was expecting the movie to make Law’s character seem like a total, money-hungry doctor that didn’t give a single crap about the people he treated or what it was that they were going through; and have it more based on the fact that he’s just about doing his job, doing it the right way, making sure his patients are fine, and hopefully, at the end of the day, making the money go ching-a-ching. It’s a very, very well-written role for Law that shows that the guy still has what it takes to be the center of attention and never have us lose sight of what this character’s motivations are, whether they be good or bad. In this case, it’s all good in the hood of NYC.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by taking some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Doc needs to take his own advice, by swallowing some pills and getting some damn sleep.

Rooney Mara seems to be a very, very fine fit as the total and complete nutcase that is Emily. Mara really nails what it’s like to be so terribly-conflicted with depression, almost to the point of where she can’t handle it anymore. You always feel for this gal and as much as you want to give your heart out to Law’s character for always being there when his patients needed him, you still have to give some pieces out to Emily, for at least trying whatever it is that she can to get over this problem in her head and mind. Mara seems to really have a bright-future ahead of her and it’s a real delight to know that they ended-up dropping Blake Lively for her. Hell, if that chick was in it; it probably would have been a way different movie. And that’s not a good thing, either.

Much like Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones gets to show-off here more than she’s been able to in the past and gives us a glimpse at a lady that you can’t always trust, but yet, you just can’t put your finger on what it is exactly about her that rubs you the wrong way. Zeta-Jones is just able to mess-around not only with the characters in the movie, but our minds as well and it was great to see that played-out with such slickness and charm from Zeta-Jones. Definitely makes me forget about her sleep-walking role that was the Mayor’s wife in Broken City. Well, obviously not too much since I just remembered and mentioned it, but you get my drift. Channing Tatum is also very good as Emily’s, recently-released-from-prison hubby that does whatever he can do to make things between him and his wife, and is here to serve the plot and that’s about it. Not bad or good, just needed to move things along, I guess. Still, it’s good to see the guy working with Soderbergh once again and being able to keep his clothes on for more than 5 minutes.

Consensus: Even if it doesn’t rank-up with Soderbergh’s best, Side Effects is still one hell of a movie that will keep you guessing, on-the-edge-of-your-seat, and fascinated with how much Jude Law can do as an actor, even if his last couple of movies haven’t been able to prove that point.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

CZJ not happy!!

CZJ not happy!!

Rise of the Guardians (2012)

The St. Patty’s day leprechaun would have definitely made this a different type of movie.

The movie centers on a group of heroes with extraordinary abilities, thatmust join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of the children all over the world against the evil ideas of the Boogeyman (Jude Law). The heroes up against these terrible ideas just so happen to be Santa Claus (Alec Baldwin), the Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman), the Sandman, the Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) and Jack Frost (Chris Pine).

Other than the Avengers and Justice League, there aren’t many other groups of heroes/characters that are worth being brought to the big-screen to team-up. I mean, yeah, maybe there is but no team really comes as quick to my mind as much as every child’s favorite pieces of fairy-tale story-telling: holiday heroes. Yes, even though you may not believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, or that spooky piece-of-shit that lives underneath your bed, kids still do and will not find it hard to believe that these same characters, can bring on a can of whoop-ass every once and awhile if they wanted to. Yeah, that’s the type of movie we’re dealing with here: holiday characters, beating the shit out of things. Get ready for some questions that need to be answered, mom and dad!

I wasn’t really looking forward to this film from the get-go mainly because the trailer seemed to take itself way, way too seriously. I mean think of it, you have Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and Jack Frost all piled into one movie and you’re going to show me how they band together to fight evil? I don’t think so and better yet, where’s all of the fun in dreaming of about one of these days watching all of your favorite childhood, holiday characters come onto the screen and hang-out with one another? There should be some fun and judging by the trailer, it seemed like the fun was a tad too serious for my taste. Thankfully, I was wrong, dead-wrong to be exact.

There’s actually a lot of fun to be had in this story, mainly because the plot shows all of our favorite characters as what they are, gives them each personalities, specific traits that make them so special in the first-place, and how they are all going to band together and fight this bad evil that seems to be taking over the world and the little kiddies that inhabit it. It’s fun to see Santa and the Easter Bunny just mess around with one another, but it’s even better to watch how they use their respective skills of climbing down chimneys and throwing eggs to help each other out and work as a team. I loved seeing that, and I can assure you that kids will too because it’s something you don’t get to see everyday until you fall asleep and can only dream of it. Yes, anybody over the age of 12 can still dream of Santa and the Easter Bunny, so bug off!

And as you would expect, the visuals and animation is just beautiful. Since I didn’t see this in a free screening, you know I sure as hell didn’t see this one in 3D but if I did, I would have probably loved it because this is so beautiful-looking. It’s crazy to see two movies come out in the same weekend where both are filled with beautiful-visuals, yet, are used so differently. Life of Pi uses it to enhance the story and make you feel as if what you are seeing is all real without any preservatives added, whereas this movie, doesn’t use it to show you that everything is real, but to place you in a small, animated world where everything is colorful, wild, and most of all, beautiful to look at. Both films are beautiful, but they are both beautiful in their own, different ways which definitely has me wondering whether or not 3D film making is ever going to go away.

However, like Life of Pi, this movie sort of runs into a problem with it’s story that seems a bit manipulative and not utilized very well. It’s a fun movie, no doubt about it, but when you have all of these characters come together, you feel like there should be more inventiveness and originality used to where you feel like that’s something you could have never done, had you been given a pad, a pen, and a plot-line to write-on about. It’s a bit obvious with where it goes and doesn’t really make sense as to why it does go there. It just does. Maybe that also has to do with the fact that the times that this movie does try to be funny, it doesn’t really gel very well and even though they weren’t really going for the hilarity-angle of the final-product, I still feel like some of the times they tried were way too obvious and painful to not mention. Also, those elves were so obviously a rip-off of the freakin’ Minions from Despicable Me, almost to the point of where they just hit each other the same way. Way, way too obvious but hey, it will most likely get the kids laughing.

Where I think this movie really lost me was how I thought about it afterward, and barely remembered a thing from it at all. Yes, I enjoyed my time when I watched the movie and yes, it was a great animation-flick, but nothing as memorable as it should have been. Maybe it was because I did the “double-movie day” that I usually do every once and awhile and this was the first of the two and that’s why I didn’t remember much, or maybe the fact that I saw Red Dawn after this and my mind went and good mood went elsewhere, but writing this review about 3 days later, reminds me of just how little I actually remembered. It’s enjoyable, no doubt about it, but once it’s all said and done, then it’s gone from your mind without anything to really stick their forever.

Even though the overall-product wasn’t great, the voice-casting actually was. Casting Alec Baldwin as Santa and have him voice a Russian-accent seemed very, very strange at-first, but actually worked quite well for Baldwin and the character, and gave Santa a persona that was larger-than-life in a way. It’s also better because I didn’t think it was Alec Baldwin voicing Santa, I actually thought it was Santa, right there in front of me, on-screen. He does exist! I knew it! Chris Pine is pretty solid as Jack Frost but the voice did seem a little too heavy and hoarse for a character that looks like a little boy that doesn’t have any muscles and instead, has super-powers. Still deciding on which one’s better. Hugh Jackman seems to be having a ball as the Easter Bunny and always seems like he wants to fight somebody, no matter what the situation is. Maybe that’s how Hugh Jackman is in real-life? And if so, that would be really bad-ass of the guy. Isla Fisher is fine as the Tooth Fairy but not really funny or exciting to watch, she’s just there. And last, but certainly not least is Jude Law as the Boogeyman who has a vicious, if creepy sound to his voice that works for the character, even if the guy is a bit annoying with how much he hammers on the idea of him being a bad-guy, doing bad things, and always tricking people. I get it! The Boogeyman is bad! I knew that since I was 5, and I know it now!

Consensus: It may not be the ultimate team-up movie you’d expect in a year where The Avengers have reigned supreme, but Rise of the Guardians is still the same type of fun, excitement, and good-feelings parents and their kids want, especially around the holidays.

7/10=Rental!!

Anna Karenina (2012)

Think of this as one, big act of revenge courtesy of Sienna Miller.

The story centers around Anna (Keira Knightley) – a Russian wife and aristocrat who visits her brother in Moscow after his wife accuses him of adultery. While mediating between the two, Anna finds herself romantically drawn to the affluent bachelor Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson) and the two begin a tumultuous and passionate affair that will challenge the rigid social structures they live under and bring Anna to the depths of despair and isolation.

I don’t think I’m in the minority at all when I say that I don’t enjoy watching period-pieces, especially one that’s done by Joe Wright. Yes, even though the guy has made some pretty impressive movies of the year and always has something flashy and beautiful to show-us, I still can’t help but feel like the guy should be spreading his wings more and going for action-thrillers like Hanna, rather than going back to the period-pieces that made him so famous in the first-place. However, maybe a period-piece by Joe Wright is all I really needed to have me less-hateful of them in the first-place. Then again, maybe not. It’s probably just that period-pieces are way too boring for my fast-paced, 19-year old soul.

Even though this may come off like a normal period-piece that’s no different from any other one that has came-out in the past-decade or so, Wright brings us something new, something fresh, and something that’s worth taking a second-look. See, what’s so unique about what Wright does with this material in the first-place is that he stages the film as if it was all a play. Characters, situations, and events may change, but the setting rarely ever does and rather than just filming all-over-the-globe and having places look like 19th century Russia, Wright keeps it condensed into one, theater-room that brings a new level of art to it, but will also confuse the hell out of you, as it did to me.

For the first 20 minutes or so, I kept wondering to myself why everybody was acting and dressed differently, but still in the same-spot as they were before. Of course, as time went-on, I started to realize that this obviously wasn’t the case and it was just a stylish way of Wright trying to get our minds off of the fact that this is yet, another period-piece, with soapy melodrama to spare, but hey, I gotta give the guy some kudos. If it wasn’t for Wright directing this flick with his sharp-eye for color and design, then I don’t think this film would have held my interest as well as it did. That, and also the fact that Wright keeps this story moving at a pretty quick-pace that doesn’t seem slow-down for anything in this movie, which I liked it because it was a fresh-approach to a period-piece that I feel like I needed to fully be entertained by.

Sadly, this quick-pace doesn’t stick and after about the first hour or so, the story starts to really take a toll on you with it’s snail-like pace that rarely goes anywhere with itself. Like most period-pieces and the stories that inhabit them, this story’s tale of love, lust, and passion during a frowned-upon fling doesn’t generate anything new or exciting that we haven’t ever seen before and even though it’s like that throughout the whole-movie, it didn’t really seem to bother me because of the distraction Wright had on my mind. However, once that distraction was lifted, I felt like I could see all of the problems with this story and how it seemed to linger-on as if it had somewhere to go with itself, but needed a good shove here and there to actually do it.

Thankfully, Wright does give the story that occasional shove every once and awhile, but it’s not enough and the latter-half of this flick just really started to bore me away, like I usually expect from period-pieces of this nature. The story isn’t anything new, but I was expecting a different-look at the theme of adultery and finding the real you through it, however, none of those sparks ever seem to be lit. Instead, we get a bunch of scenes where Knightley just runs around, cries, throws temper-tantrums, gets jealous really easily, and has a bunch of panic-attacks that could have almost had her back to the psych-ward that she was in last year with A Dangerous Method. Actually, come to think of it, that would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then just Knightley acting all bi-polar because she needs her bones to get jumped. Crazy Knightley for the sake of being crazy = good. Crazy Knightley for the sake of just banging a gong and getting it on = not good. That’s as much of a surprise as to me as it must be to you, I know but it’s the truth.

Even though her character was one that I started to care less-and-less about as the flick went-on, Keira Knightley is still great as Anna Karenina and shows us why she deserves roles like these. Knightley has always been this actress  that I’ve liked and saw a lot of promise in, yet, she never really seems to break out of that crap-mold that she always finds herself in with flicks like The Jacket and Domino. However, it seems like whenever she has to put on some old-school, pieces of cloth for a role, she’s always on top of her game and nails it just about every time. I think she’s an actress that deserves more credit because of the way she can handle weird roles like Karenina, and make her the least-bit likable and surprising with where her motivations go and don’t go.

Playing the eye of her affection, is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who seems to really be crankin’ it up as of late with all of these strange-roles he’s been taking as of late. Kick-Ass was obviously the one flick that had us all notice him, but then he takes something as wacky and weird as his role in Savages, and now this! The guy definitely likes to expand himself and see what he can do and he does that very-well here as Count Vronsky. Vronsky was a pretty-interesting character right from the start because he’s very sly and very mysterious, but he never lets his guard-down long enough for somebody to capitalize on it. That is, only until Karenina does and then all of the interest I had with him was just lost as he and her both seem to go through a pretty obvious, pit-fall in their relationship and as much as I would have like to sympathize with both of them, I just didn’t.

The guy who I did actually sympathize with here, was in fact, Jude Law as Karenina’s much-older hubby, Alexei Karenin. What surprised me the most about Law and his performance here as Alexei was that he doesn’t play the type of “jealous husband who’s being cheated-on” role like we are so used to seeing in movies of this nature. Law actually down-plays himself very well and only allows his emotions and feelings to come through his facial expressions and actions, rather than words. Law is definitely the most interesting out of the bunch and really made me feel sorry for him because even though some of it his fault for being such a dull, and boring dude, I couldn’t help but feel like the guy wanted nothing else other than to be loved and not cheated-on like he is by Anna. I would have said look for Law to be nominated for an Oscar by the beginning of next year, but due to this film’s already, mediocre-performance, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we won’t have to look at all. Shame too, because I think Law’s been due an Oscar for quite some time now.

Consensus: Joe Wright definitely adds an extra-level of style and beauty to an otherwise, ordinary and empty period-piece, but Anna Karenina still fails to deliver on the emotional fire-works that it’s premise seemed to promise, as well as interesting characters that we actually care about and have sympathy for as they go-on, with all of this lust and adultery.

6/10=Rental!!

360 (2012)

Sex is apparently everywhere, especially when you’re on a computer.

This is a story about a series of different characters, that are all interconnected by one another through the subject of sex. That’s right, sex is everywhere. People have it, people do it, and there’s no escaping it no matter who you may meet in the world.

With a cast with 3 Oscar-nominees (fairly recent, too), director of one of the best flicks of the past decade (City of God), and a subject that seems universal discussed and portrayed (sex), you would think that a film like this would have no problems making it to theaters, kicking some box-office bootie, and even get some “talk” come Oscar-time. However, it’s able to be viewed by Video On Demand now before it’s limited theatrical release. Hmmm….

Maybe it’s just that I’m a sucker for these kinds of flicks in the first place (interconnecting story-lines), but there was something about this flick that seemed to be working quite well. First of all, director Fernando Mereilles is definitely not the type of director who just lets his story get in the way of his style and as bad as that may sound for most directors, it’s not for this guy. There’s not much style to actually been seen here in the first place, with the exception of a couple of cool split-screen tricks that show about 4 stories at a time, but he does allow there to be enough room for compelling stories, even if they aren’t all that way.

One story, in particular really kept me intrigued the whole time just to see how it played-out in the end, was the story that began with Anthony Hopkins connecting with a young Brazilain woman on a plane. Hopkins has always been one of the best actors to ever grace the screen in the say, past 20 years and he shows that type of skill with his performance here as an old, but wise man that knows the mistakes he has made in his life and doesn’t want others repeating them, either. There’s a lot of restraint in his performance, that may separate it from a lot of his other performances but I really can’t remember the last time I saw Hopkins get a role so meaty quite like this in a long, long time. That story soon starts to follow the young Brazilian woman (who is good, but I don’t know her name) as she meets a recently released from prison pedophile, played by Ben Foster in what I think is a role that shows his true talents as a dramatic actor.

Foster has always been on the g0ods with me ever since I first saw him beat the shit out of everybody in Alpha Dog, but this is where he proves me right in saying that this guy could very well be a huge name in Hollywood, he just has to be given the right material. Foster plays a man that is so trapped in a body and mind that he can’t seem to control at all, that whenever he’s on-screen, you feel like this guy is going to crack and you don’t want him to not just because he may be a little messed-up in the head, but because you generally feel like he’s a good guy. And it’s all played out very subtle, to where you don’t know when he’s going to crack and how but little things he does, just have you thinking the worse.This performance reminded me a lot of Jackie Earle Haley’s in Little Children, but they both seem very different in their own rights and both convey very different emotions right from the start of the flick. Foster makes this story compelling as it unfolds and watching him was the real treat of this flick.

As for everybody else in this cast, they’re alright, too, along with their stories. Lucia Sipsová plays a Slovakian prostitute and has a pretty interesting story-line that spins off another interesting one and Rachel Weisz and Jude Law have a so-so story as a bored, married couple that seems to be at the end of their road with one another. Both stories are well-acted, but certainly don’t get enough screen-time as they should, especially Weisz’s and Law’s that seems to start fairly late in the film, but somehow end very early, as well. Mereilles runs into this problem a lot with this flick a lot because even if some stories are very interesting, they aren’t allowed enough time to develop and have it’s characters gain our sympathy just yet. Not every story is a miss, but there aren’t as many hits as there should be anyway.

But perhaps the biggest problem with this flick that I had was the subject-matter itself: sex. Right from the very first shot, I thought that this was going to be one of those racy, dirty flicks about how people in the world just can’t get enough of sex and where they will go just to get some of it. Almost sounds like Shame, if Robert Altman had directed it but I can assure you, that the idea of that actually happening is probably a lot more interesting than anything this flick has to say about the subject of sex. Yeah, we get it, people do bad things when it comes to sex. Some make a living out of it, some get in trouble for it, and some just can’t get over their infatuation with it and even though the film teeters on actually doing something risky with this premise, it never fully delivers. Instead, this film just gives us a bunch of stories that will make you think of something while they’re going on but when they’re off the screen, they’re out of your mind and out for good.

Consensus: With an exceptional amount of good stories and performances from this large, cultural cast, 360 does deliver on giving us a drama that keeps our attention but when it comes to providing us with some major issues and themes about the world we live in where sex is everywhere? Nope, not really there.

6.5/10=Rental!!

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

I don’t even think Sherlock himself could figure out what the hell was going on here.

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Sherlock Holmes, teaming up with Watson (Jude Law) once again trying to fight crime and solve mysteries. The crime they must stop is the powerful kingpin of England, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who seems almost too tricky to get a hold of.

When the first Holmes film came out back in the winter of ’09, I have to say that it was really cool seeing this character taken in a completely different and action-star way, mixed with a lot humor as well. Though, going into this I was a bit skeptical knowing that twice is not always the charm. That is unless your Robert Downey Jr.

Director Guy Ritchie is one of my favorites and his style and energy is what had me liking the first one so much and he does a good job here as well. The story is very mysterious and many times I had no idea what was going to happen next, considering that I couldn’t pay attention enough because of how funny Holmes and Watson were together. Also, there is a lot of fun action to be seen here with the usual idea of having Holmes narrate what he’s going to do next and basically every time doing exactly that, but sometimes adding in his own little twist in the end.

Ritchie also has a knack where he tries to not only illustrate what Holmes is going to do next, but basically everything that has any type of action to it, which is what I found really cool. He uses all of these cool camera-tricks where the film is sped-up, then sped-down or if a gun is being loaded, we see where the bullets go, when the safety is turned off, and when the gun shoots. It was pretty cool seeing how Ritchie could use all of these cool tricks that he had up his sleeve to create some pretty cool action moments and give it his own style.

However, where this film suffers the most is the fact that the film feels like it needs to be a sequel, so therefore, everything is the same from the first one, except a whole lot more. I didn’t mind all of the slow-mo scenes as much as others but I do think that Ritchie gets a little too carried away with having way too much of that early on as well as more explosions, more explanation, and more bantering for these guys to do. I’m not saying I hated these elements but I do definitely think that Ritchie just took exactly what he did from the first one, and injected steroids into it so that we got more, more, and more.

The story for the first film, was not a very original idea in the first place but compared to this one, it’s a hell of a lot more simple! Where the problem with this plot/story lies is that it is very jumbled and doesn’t really do much when it comes to keeping us compelled. Though I could follow it, I still felt like the whole idea of Watson and Holmes going around, searching for a mysterious gypsy woman and stumbling upon a plot to start the first World War, seemed a little lame and too generic for a film that obviously wants to stray itself away from countless others just like itself.

Robert Downey Jr. is still a total delight as Sherlock Holmes and keeps his fun, frenzied, clever, and always funny act up to the point of where you think this guy can play this performance in his sleep. Jude Law is also a whole lot of fun as Watson, and keeps that fun chemistry he and Downey have together. They both act like they have been hanging out for years with their constant jokes, innuendo, and constant badgering of one another that never seems to stop no matter what kind of crazy-ass mess they find themselves in.

The real delight to watch is the performance from Jared Harris who plays Professor James Moriarty. Moriarty is obviously more devious and smart than a lot of “sequel bad-guys” usually are and basically everything that you thought that could not be touched or harmed, he proves within the first 30 minutes that it can and will be, because he’s in charge, bitch. Harris plays Moriarty with a quiet and menacing look on his face and you can always tell that he is always one step ahead of Holmes whether it being finding a bomb, having a one-on-one brawl, or playing a nice little game of chess. Harris is very good in this role and definitely a lot better of a villain than I had first expected.

What the real disappointment of this film was the fact that they have Noomi Rapace here playing Madam Simza Heron, and she does absolutely nothing. She is only here to be the replacing female character because Rachel McAdams bites the dust pretty early and I wish that they did so much more with her considering how much of a bad-ass she was in ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’. I feel bad for Rapace because she could have done so much here but instead she was only used as a plot contrivance.

Consensus: Although there are times when Guy Ritchie feels like he’s over-doing the whole style he used for the first one, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is still a whole lot of fun with energy, humor, a good villain, and the pitch-perfect chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law that keeps this film always entertaining.

7/10=Rental!!

Hugo (2011)

I guess Marty got tired of making films about people getting murdered so he decided to get in touch with his inner-child. No, not I’m not talking about Leo.

When his father dies, 12-year-old orphan Hugo (Asa Butterfield) takes up residence behind the walls of a Parisian train station. There, he meets Isabelle (Chloe Moretz), the daughter of filmmaker Georges Méliès, who holds the key to Hugo’s destiny.

Knowing that this is Martin Scorsese‘s first family-film and the trailer was kind of cheesy considering it had that really bad song by 30 Seconds to Mars in it, my expectations were pretty low despite all of the non-stop positive reviews. However, I’m glad to say I was duped once again.

What Scorsese does perfectly here is bring out the most exuberant flair as a visual arts director then in anything else we have ever seen him in. I don’t normally see films in 3-D because I think they’re are a waste of money and 9 times out of 10, the 2-D versions end up being the same thing as the 3-D one. However, I went into this one with the glasses and everything, and I have to say that almost every single shot here is perfectly made with lush and gorgeous visuals that will take you inside of this colorful little place where it seems like Scorsese had Van Gogh do the film’s art-work himself. I mean this guy makes screws look beautiful. That has almost never been done.

Another great element about this flick is how Scorsese is able to basically send a love-letter to all of the silent film era stars who have inspired him to do what he does best, but it doesn’t feel like he’s just kissing these peoples asses the whole time, he actually creates his own story and adds a silent film-look onto it as well. There are some scenes where there is barely any talking at all and it’s all about how the score, sounds, and art-work all look to make sure you aren’t bored one bit. Basically, anybody that is a film-lover, like yours truly, will love all of the homages and shout-outs to all of Scorsese’s homeboys but the film is also something for kids to watch even if they don’t get all of the silent film stuff right off the bat. However, that’s why they invented Google kids.

The biggest problem for this flick is that it does take quite a bit of time to get started and that usually doesn’t bother me but the first hour or so, was terribly boring and actually had me zoning in-and-out of the film, which barely ever happens. The first part is your typical little kiddie movie that I’ve seen far way too many times for my own liking where the two kids both talk about being reckless, free, and adventurous but then everything sort of just goes back to normal once they realize their kids. It also a long flick (clocking in at 127 minutes) but then again, coming from Scorsese I wasn’t expecting a 1 hour series premiere.

Another major problem I had with this flick was the fact that I think it’s central story, you know the story about the orphaned kid who’s father dies, kind of gets lost by the end. I don’t want to give away too much but there is a big “twist” in the story that gets more attention than the real story at-hand, which is something I was kind of disappointed about because I think they could have made a real emotionally-realistic story about a kid who misses his daddy, but they went with something else. The story they ended up going with was not a problem for me but I still think they could have a done a bit of better job of focusing on the real story they started with.

The performances from everybody involved is also great as well. The kiddie performances from Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are good but they have done better in the past, and they kind of get lost by the end of the film. Sacha Baron Cohen plays Gustav the Station Inspector and is a perfect fit for this role because he seems like a silent film star villain where he uses his goofy emotions on his face to express his villainous acts and the terrific dialogue matches well with those emotions too.

Ben Kingsley is the real show here to watch as he gives a totally heart-breaking performance that goes way back to his wonder days when he was in talks for Oscar-bait every year. Kingsley had me worried at first because I thought I was going to hate this angry and grumpy old man but somehow he turns that around with a sad and grief-stricken character that brings out the most emotion I felt for the whole entire film. It’s definitely a good performance that I wouldn’t be surprised got him a nomination come Oscar time but it is definitely enough to make me forgive him for BloodRayne. But I understand, a man’s gotta make a living somehow.

Consensus: Hugo may not get fully off its grown in the first hour or so, but Martin Scorsese makes this love letter to his favorite films growing up something else that’s stacked with utterly gorgeous, luscious, and amazing visuals that everybody should definitely go and experience in 3-D no matter what.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Contagion (2011)

An apocalypse with no zombies. LAME!

Contagion follows the fast progress of a airborne virus that is lethal and kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows larger, the worldwide medical community runs and races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads almost faster than the virus itself.

It’s been awhile since director Steven Soderbergh has gone back to the scale of Traffic, and to be honest, it’s kind of a good thing since he does get a little out-of-hand sometimes.

Soderbergh fully explores what would happen if a deadly virus were to hit the planet in today’s society and just how the government, scientists, people, and every single person known to man would react. I just wonder how the media would actually handle this virus and what they would do to spark it up and gain attention. This film shows that as well as the well the panic that would travel throughout the world, and just what everybody would do if they almost couldn’t touch anything.

However, the story never really goes anywhere and instead of actually being immersed in all of these characters, I never felt moved by this story at all. What the problem that Soderbergh usually has with many of his films is that he tells a story, and instead of allowing us to feel something for what’s going on, we just feel like we’re along for the ride with Soderbergh. And if I was in for a ride like this, I wanted to go on a new one.

There were moments were I felt that sort of paranoia and feel that the film was striking for so very very much but in the end, nothing here really kept me involved with this story other than the fact that everyone seems to be dying, and I couldn’t really care that much. Soderbergh has this film go on at a slow-pace, which isn’t really bothersome to me in other films, but when you have a film that seems to just move along its pace with no actual connection or emotional feel, then I just get a little, dare I say it, bored. I can’t believe it either, but for some reason, there were times when I checked the time just to see how much longer of the virus we had left.

Though I must say, when the story didn’t keep me going, I still felt a bit affected by the technical aspect of this whole film. Soderbergh shows that even though he may not be able to get this story in your hearts, he will get it in your mind with some really great visuals and camera-tricks that actually made just little scenes of a door-knob or a fork so terrifying and showing how by touching each item with your hands, you can spread the virus more and more. The score that was done by Cliff Martinez actually adds an under-lining tension to a lot of the scenes where people are just walking around and gets you in this full feel of just fear of everything around you.

The ensemble is also one of the best that Soderbergh has shown as of late, and even though they don’t do an amazingly perfect job, their altogether pretty solid. Matt Damon is good as the loving father, Mitch, who plays that everyday man put into a radical situation and gets some really good scenes going here; Laurence Fishburne probably does his performance in the past couple of years as Dr. Cheever, a guy who has so much on his plate but still seems to somehow have it all together and can still do his best to save others he wants to, even as manipulated as he is by the government; and Jude Law is probably the best out of the whole cast as a know-it-all blogger that is all about spreading the real truth, while all of these government officials keep the truth away to keep getting more and more money. His story was the best and I think I actually connected with it more now that I’m becoming that little rebellious teenage pissant nobody wants to deal with.

The ladies here are also good but don’t show up as much as the dudes. Marion Cotillard‘s performance as Dr. Orantes is good but her character is in the film about every 30 minutes, and when her time-limit is up, we find out nothing that has happened to her. Kate Winslet is really good as Dr. Erin Mears, the CDC’s “detective”, and brings a lot of emotional weight to her character for us to actually care about her, even though her character’s motives aren’t clear; and Gwyneth Paltrow is here for about 10 minutes and basically is just there to look sick and have foam pop on out of her mouth. I still don’t know why her character had to begin the film with her having any sex and therefore cheating on her husband. The rest of the cast has some notable faces such as John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Elliott Gould, and a random Demetri Martin.

Consensus: Contagion has an impressive ensemble and makes you feel as if you are in a world of fear and panic during this epidemic, but you never actually feel totally involved with this story, and more of just a watcher of Soderbergh’s annoying way of showing how much cool science stuff he knows.

7/10=Rental!!