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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Judy Greer

Our Souls at Night (2017)

Old people have sex, too!

Louis (Robert Redford) and Addie (Jane Fonda) are two people who’ve been living next to each other for the past 40 or so years. They don’t really know one another, live alone, and yeah, are basically trying to live out the rest of their days in absolute and total silence. Louis seems perfectly content with this, whereas Addie doesn’t, and so, she offers him time to spend with her. Whether it’s just sleeping in the same bed together, having dinner, or going out on casual dates, and giving each other company, she wants it all. She’s not asking for sex, but just a human connection – something she hasn’t had since the death of her husband. Louis is initially against it and a little antsy, but he soon starts to grow closer to Addie and realizes that he doesn’t mind the company. Then, Addie’s son, Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts), brings his son, Jamie (Iain Armitage), around, who then forges something of a connection with Louis. It’s something Louis and Addie both appreciate, but Gene isn’t too happy about, due to a shared-history the two families already share.

Don’t pull a hernia, you whippersnappers!

I’ve said it before and I guess, I’ll say it again, having Netflix around is great for the entertainment business. Case in point, Our Souls at Night. Here’s a movie that, had it ever been widely-released or produced by a major company, either 1) wouldn’t have been made, 2) filled with ridiculously dumb and idiotic boner jokes, and/or 3) just wouldn’t have felt so raw and fresh. While I do understand that there are numerous movies out there about old people, growing older, falling in love, and realizing the lives that they have lived, they don’t nearly feel as contained, as honest, as realistic, and as lovely as Our Souls at Night.

Don’t know if you can really say Netflix is the whole entire reason, but to me, it seems like that. Cause Netflix is willing to have faith in a project that, otherwise, wouldn’t have found much funding or backing anywhere else, regardless of having two screen-legends in it, due mostly to the material itself, it gives me a greater-faith that more and more movies, small or big, creative or not, dumb or smart, will continue to find the help they deserve.

In other words, let’s hope Netflix stays around, so long as that means we get more movies like Our Souls at Night.

Cause for one, it’s a very smart movie that, due to the material, doesn’t feel like it’s in all that much of a rush to get anywhere. Director Ritesh Batra is very admirable in that he’s willing to not trust the strong script, but to also allow for this material to breathe and move at its own pace. Batra doesn’t really have add much conflict here, or feel like he’s going to introduce any twists or turns – it’s literally a story about two elderly people, hanging out, and enjoying whatever time they have left on this planet, but together. It’s quite a beautiful little movie that made me happy just about every scene, whether it was just them two sitting in a room, speaking about past regrets, their hopes, dreams, aspirations, former-spouses, and the idea of dying.

Kale?

It may sound boring and completely melancholy, but that’s sort of the point. And oh yeah, it isn’t boring. Cause the movie features both Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, together, after all this time, it’s worth watching and having a ball with. Both are still amazing and handle their roles with a great deal of sincerity, heart, emotion, and sadness that feels fully-realized, as much as it feels honest. The movie never talks down to them for being old, or even a little cranky, which is why the time we spend with them, is just a joy; it’s literally two of film’s best, working with some solid material that not only gives them the respect they deserve, but enough opportunity to show the world that they’ve still got it.

Take note, Hollywood. Don’t give up on the oldies!

The only issue Our Souls at Night seems to run into is that because it is so lax, so laid-back, so melancholy, and so meandering, in a sense, it does eventually feel the need to throw in a conflict here and there, which, when it comes around, feels shoe-horned in. Mostly, it all comes from Schoenaerts’ Gene character who, right from the get-go, feels like a ticking time-bomb who wants to start trouble everywhere he goes. Are there people out there, just like this? Sure, but does one have to be in this movie? Not really. And it’s why his performance not only suffers, but the movie itself.

But still, it’s Redford and Fonda, baby. Love it while we got it.

Consensus: Even if it’s a little slow, Our Souls at Night still features two of the greatest performers, ever, together again, enjoying the material, and making it all worth watching and sticking around for.

8 / 10

Okay, so maybe there’s a boner joke here and there. Somewhere.

Photos Courtesy of: Netflix

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Lemon (2017)

So, wait. What does the fruit have to do with it all?

Isaac (Brett Gellman) is an actor just trying to make it big. However, he finds out that each and every role isn’t quite for him. The only thing in life he has to rely on is his girlfriend Ramona (Judy Greer), who also happens to be blind. But then, she walks out on him, sending his life into a free fall. Now, he does his best to direct a staging of Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” while also trying to stay close with his family and also maybe even attempt a new love in his life.

In the world of comedy, there’s this general idea that there are no rules. The only rule there is, like at all, is that your comedy has to be funny. If not, you’ve failed already. Meaning, you can be offensive, you can be mean, you can be off-putting, hell, you can even be in the most poor taste imaginable – as long as you’re funny, then all is fine and right with the world.

Another weird supporting performance from Michael Cera in the year 2017.

But after watching something like Lemon, I sort of feel like there needs to be a few more rules added on to that very small list.

Lemon is so clearly straining itself to be weird, odd, and random that it’s not just obvious, it’s downright annoying. It’s the kind of movie that, like last year’s the Greasy Strangler, is so wrapped-up in its strange little world, that it’s actually interesting to see where it navigates through and where it goes; except in this case, Lemon isn’t all that interesting. It wants to be and definitely thinks it is, but it isn’t.

If anything, it’s just another case of an odd indie-comedy that’ way too bizarre for its own good and never really makes sense of itself in the meantime. It’s like Tim and Eric-level comedy, but instead of actually being so twisted, it doesn’t matter if any of it makes any sense, it’s just so weird and twisted, that who really cares. I almost want to say the word “dull”, but it’s too strange for that.

It’s just boring, really.

Thinking of something completely and utterly random.

There’s at least ten minutes or so of this hour-and-20-minute-movie that has, at the very least, some laughable comedy, but it’s not really due to the script, or what jokes are being set-up. It’s mostly due to the fact that there are the likes of Martin Starr, David Paymer, Fred Melamed, Shiri Appleby, and Rhea Pearlman, all singing a nutty song about Motzaballs. Without any of them, the scene just wouldn’t have worked, but because they’re all such respected talents in their own rights, getting stuck working with silly material like this, it’s actually chuckle-worthy.

Oh, and that’s another thing about Lemon – its cast is quite stacked. Clearly everyone is here either as favors to Gellman, or just because they had a chance to let loose for a bit, but even some of them feel a bit wasted. Judy Greer plays a blind woman who is basically just used as a one-joke punchline the whole time; Nia Long plays a possible love-interest here who, despite seeming she like she’s in on the joke, doesn’t really have much else to bring here; Michael Cera plays a self-serious actor and isn’t funny; Gillian Jacobs has like two or three scenes with Cera and yeah, isn’t given much to do; and yeah, I’m sure there’s more.

Basically, everyone here feels like their wasted. Even Gellman himself who, no matter what he seems to show up in, is awfully fun to watch. Here, because he’s playing such an odd character, doesn’t actually get the chance to really be the usual compelling we see from him and know him especially for, whenever he decides to rear his bearded-face into something. He channels something different that we haven’t seen from him before, but in a way, it’s hard to not wish for him to go back to the old ways.

Consensus: Odd and crazy, yet, with nothing really funny, Lemon tries very hard to make people laugh and squirm, and stretches itself way too thin it trying to do so.

3 / 10

Yeah, don’t ask. I couldn’t even tell ya.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

The War of the Rise of the Dawn of the Why Are These Titles So Long?

After their last battle with the humans, due to the actions of evil Koba, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his apes are still fighting for their lives and are still forced into a deadly conflict with the humans, who see their extinction coming and coming very soon. That’s why the ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) wants Caesar and all of the apes gone, prompting the apes to suffer unimaginable losses. And as a result, Caesar sets out to find this colonel and take him down, once and for all. But on the trip, Caesar and his fellow band of trustees find something odd is happening – people are losing their ability to speak. How, or better yet, why? Caesar doesn’t know, or understand, but the further he adventures into this cold, dark and cruel world, the more answers he gets and the more he discovers about the possible end of the world, where the apes may take over, the humans may become extinct, and nothing will ever be the same again. It’s only a matter of time, though, and it’s a coin-toss of who is going to win this battle and continue to habitat the planet.

Comedic-relief? In the ape-apocalypse!??!

This new, rough, tough and re-vamped Apes franchise has been a pretty solid one, to say the least. I say “has” because apparently, it’s going to be the last. Well, at least, for now, and it’s odd because the movie seems like it still could continue on, getting better and better, and make more money for all of those involved. It’s one of the rare franchises that, if over, I’d be a little sad to see gone because, hey, these movies were actually pretty good and considering that the word “franchise” nowadays brings about gag-reflexes, it’s nice to have something that makes up for all of the marketing and tie-ins.

That said, War for the Planet of the Apes is still a fine movie that, whether or not it being the end, still works because it presents a pretty dark and disturbing future that the past two movies have tried to build-on. The only issue that I’ve had with these movies, and especially this one, is that they’re just so dour and mean at times, it almost feels like they’re trying way too hard. Director Matt Reeves knows exactly what he’s doing with this material for the second time around and it’s clear that he’s taking this premise, this world, and this idea incredibly seriously, without barely any jokes or goofiness thrown in there for good measure, but often times, it feels like he’s maybe trying to out-serious himself.

It’s basically the only summer blockbuster you’ll ever see that may depress you and mean to do so in the process.

And that isn’t to say that movies such as these can’t be ultra, super duper serious, because that’s fine; in this world, where the apes have taken over, the humans are struggling, and yet, for some reason, we’re still supposed to root for the more powerful species, things are allowed to be told to us without a punchline. But Reeves can also get a little sucked into this sadness and depression and because of that, the movie can often feel slow, plodding and above all else, a little boring. It’s too in-love with its own dourness that it’s almost too afraid to get its act together and start moving somewhere, hell, anywhere.

But as usual, once it does get going, War is quite the ride, mostly because, like I’ve stated before, Reeves knows what he’s doing with this tale. It’s actually quite interesting how the story plays-out – not by hitting the same sort of beats and conventions that we’re used to seeing with these kinds of stories, but keeping us, the audience, in the dark, for as much and as long as possible. Reeves always seems to have a little trick up his sleeve and because of that, the movie almost feels dangerous, as if anything bad, disastrous, or awful, could happen at literally any second.

“The horror.”

I know, it sounds all so simple and easy, but trust me, this is the kind of stuff that so many movies get wrong and/or can’t do, like at all.

But that’s why War, even despite it being the saddest thing since Trump’s Twitter, still works – it does get moving and can be fun, exciting, and hell, even a little scary. It’s the right kind of blockbuster and honestly, I’d say more about it, but basically, it does everything that the last movie just did, except also wants to provide some closure. And sure, that’s fine; possibly saying goodbye Andy Serkis’ Caesar is a bummer, because Serkis is always so good in the roles, as well as the fellow new apes along for the ride, like Steve Zahn’s possible comic-relief. But a possible ending also does provide a better hope and future for the state of franchise flicks, in that they don’t always have to be about the Easter-eggs, the tie-ins, the merchandise, the references, or even about the greater universe.

Honestly, all it needs to be about is telling a good story, with good characters, and a compelling arch that we want to see continue on, for many, many more movies. That’s what this franchise was able to do – even though, back in the day, it seemed like it was a dead brand – and it’s the hope that for the future franchises to come, they’ll take a lesson or two.

Let’s just hope they brighten up the damn rooms, though.

Consensus: Undeniably thrilling, emotional and exciting, War provides all of the action and adventure, as well as the darkness you’d expect from this ramped-up franchise by now.

8 / 10

And they’re not monkeying around! That works in this context, right?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Wilson (2017)

Life’s crap. So talk it out.

Wilson (Woody Harrelson) is a guy who, well, likes to talk. To anyone. About anything. Most of the time, though, he just annoys people by being outspoken, always having something on his mind, and normally, being smart and well-equipped for any conversation. It makes him a nice guy, but also someone who doesn’t quite like the world, making him feel more lonely and isolated. That’s why he decides to track down Pippa (Laura Dern), the ex-wife who left him 17 years earlier. And while they reconnect and everything seems to be great and wonderful, wouldn’t you know it, that the two actually have a kid together, in the form of Claire (Isabella Amara). And while she gave her up for adoption, Wilson decides to bring Pippa along for the ride of finding Claire, getting to know her, and striking up something of a relationship that was clearly missed out on before. It’s something that Wilson wants and, at this point in his life, needs. But it’s also something that may prove to be his ultimate undoing and a true sign that he needs to get with the times and grow up a bit.

I don’t know if she’s shocked that he found their kid, or that they had sex together to begin with?

Wilson is from the masterful brain and mind of Daniel Clowes, who knows a thing or two about making fun of the social norm and everyday life that is regular society. And in this movie, we do get a bunch of that; constant conversations about technology, life, love, friendships, work, and so on and so forth, casually gets discussed and honestly, they verge on being brilliant. Clowes is a smart writer who actually has an ear for dialogue, even if the dialogue does lead to characters just going on and on about silly stuff.

In a way, he’s a pessimistic Kevin Smith, for better and for worse.

But what’s odd about Wilson is that it feels like a lot of that brilliance gets lost in the shuffle of a story that doesn’t quite make sense, nor ever really come together. It’s as if director Craig Johnson knew that Clowes’ material was great and hilarious, but also realized that in order to make this all work in one, cohesive picture, he needed to create a story, with plot-archs, character-development, and well, feelings. He gets some of that right, but really, it feels like he’s straining a bit; it’s almost as if he just wants to keep on sitting by and listening to these conversations and not really get brought down by something as lame and conventional as plot.

Life is grand. So stop talking about it, bro!

And who could blame him? As Wilson, Woody Harrelson is pretty great, showing a funny, nice, and rather sweet guy, who often times gets brought down by his own anger and frustration with the world around him. It’s a role that could have been very one-note and, well, boring, but Harrelson handles this kind of thing with absolute charm, allowing for the material to click when it should. And the rest of the ensemble, with Isabella Amara, Judy Greer and Laura Dern, among others, are all pretty good, too, showing off a great deal of lightness and fun, even when the material gets sort of stuck.

And it’s why Wilson can often times be a disappointment. Johnson’s past two movies (True Adolescents, The Skeleton Twins) have both been thoughtful, smart, and heartfelt looks inside the lives of people we only see in indie-movies. While that can sometimes give off a negative breath of air, in ways, it works for him. He tries to do the same thing with Wilson, but mostly, he gets lost in a plot that doesn’t know what it wants to be about. Does it want for Wilson to grow up and accept his responsibilities? Does it want him to leave his only child alone? Does it want him to be sad? More depressed? Fed-up with the world around him?

Honestly, I’m not sure. And nor do I think Wilson himself is, hence why this is a bit of a disappointment. So much more could have been done, had there been more attention paid to the things that truly, honestly matter.

Consensus: Wilson has some streaks of absolute hilarity, but mostly, feels like a sad attempt on trying to string together a bunch of character-beats and ideas, alongside a plot that doesn’t gel.

6 / 10

They’re a happy family. They’re a happy family.

Photos Courtesy of: Roger EbertThe PlaylistFilm Blerg

Grandma (2015)

Sometimes, the oldest people are the coolest.

Sage (Julia Garner) just had sex with her boyfriend (Nat Wolff) and, well, wouldn’t you know it? Turns out that she’s pregnant. So, rather than keeping it around and having to deal with all of that in her young life, she decides that she wants to get rid of it and have an abortion. Issue is, she doesn’t have the money. And even though her mom (Marcia Gay Harden) has plenty of it, she doesn’t want to bother her with the situation. So, that’s when she turns to her hip, cool grandmother, famed poet Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), who is going through some issues of her own. One, she just broke up with her girlfriend (Judy Greer), and secondly, she doesn’t really have any money. So this means that the two will have to band together and search for money anywhere they can. For Sage, this mostly means going to the father of the unborn child and that’s it, but for Elle? Well, this means that she’s got to go way back in time to all of her friends and confidantes over the past many years, hit them up for money, and promise them favors she doesn’t really seem to keen on holding up.

I'd take the ride if she was offering it.

I’d take the ride if she was offering it.

A typical Grandma, you see?

Grandma is the type of vehicle that someone of Lily Tomlin’s talents deserves. Though people have loved seeing Tomlin show up every so often in random films, some good, some bad, it seems like she’s never been given that extra time to show and remind the world why she kicks so much ass. Heck, even Grace & Frankie, a show that’s purpoted as “Lily Tomlin’s”, really seems to be wasting her on tired, old hippie clichés.

Something that Lily Tomlin herself is much better than.

That’s why Grandma works as well as it does; not only does it give Tomlin the chance to shine and show the world the true talents that have been lying within her for so very long, but it also presents a solid character worthy of our attention, care and, possibly, love. Because as Elle Reid, Tomlin plays the typical stereotype of an aging lesbian who does what she wants, says what she wants, kicks whoever she wants to in the nuts, doesn’t give a flyin’ hoot about whatever anybody else says, and bangs whomever she oh so pleases. Are there people out there like this? Of course! But is this a bit of a bore to see?

Oh definitely!

However, that’s why Tomlin is so good here, as she not only transcends that stereotype, but shows that there’s a reason behind the way she acts. Not only is she still heartbroken and destroyed over the death of her long-time girlfriend, but she also’s coming to terms with her own mortality, as a whole. That’s why, on this little road trip Elle and Sage take, we start to learn more and find out about Elle herself – not just through what people tell us about her, but how they act towards her, even after all of these years. It’s this kind of story-telling and character-development that isn’t just smart, but engaging, as we don’t really know just what Elle’s life has been, but we get a good idea through the constant interactions she has with those around her.

And every step of the way, Tomlin is there to make it work. A lot of the “funny” dialogue that she has to work with can occasionally come off as cloying, and sometimes, annoying, but that’s only because the movie feels as if it has to present Elle as a wise-cracking granny. Having her just be a no-bullcrap woman is fine as is, all the added-on punch-lines and jokes at other’s expense, don’t really matter or work. There’s one painful scene with Nat Wolff, where he ends up getting kicked in the nuts and it’s played for laughs, in a shocking. almost outrageous way, but it never works and feels like a scene thrown in there because Wolff himself decided that he had a day or two to film his scene.

Who wouldn't want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

Who wouldn’t want the kid from Paper Towns, who also bares a striking resemblance to Adam Goldberg, as their baby daddy?

There are a few other weird scenes that play-out just like that, but it’s always Tomlin who keeps these moments, as well as these characters, grounded in some sort of reality that makes sense and can be, at the very least, relateable.

Aside from Tomlin, the rest of Grandma is pretty stacked with some heavy-hitters, all of whom are game for Paul Weitz’s script, adding in their own two cents whenever necessary. Julia Garner doesn’t really need to do much as Sage, instead just sit there and let Tomlin do all of the work, but she’s fine as is; Judy Greer gets a few solid scenes as Elle’s former-lover; Marcia Gay Harden is funny and exciting as Sage’s mom, which makes me wish that this probably was a movie about Sage, Elle and her character, all hangin’ around one another and getting into the occasional squabble; and there’s a few nice appearances from Colleen Camp, Laverne Cox, John Cho, and the late, great Elizabeth Peña.

But the real star of the supporters is Sam Elliott, playing one of Elle’s former lovers, as well as ex-husband, and gives perhaps one of his most “human” performances since Thank You For Smoking. This isn’t to say that all of Elliott’s little pop-ups in random pieces haven’t been unwelcome or bad – it’s more that it seems like he’s playing that same kind of character he’s been known for all along and rather than upending that appearance, he’s been fine with just staying the same, adding the grizzle whenever he feels necessary. Nothing wrong with that, but watching his performance here, it makes you wish that he was more demanding with his own roles, as he’s not only a bright spark of liveliness this movie needed, but gives us everything and anything we need to know about Elle and the sort of affect she had on those people in her life. We get the basic idea of what happened between them both, but really, we don’t know everything and that’s fine.

Grandma isn’t about knowing everything. It’s about the little details that can sometimes make people’s lives the most interesting.

Consensus: With a solid, but rare leading role from Lily Tomlin, Grandma works because of its gentle, tender care and attention to its characters and heartfelt themes, without overdoing it, even if the comedy doesn’t always work.

7.5 / 10

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?

Daughters become grandmothers, but turn to mothers. Why am I quoting John Mayer?0

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Ant-Man (2015)

Never be afraid to dream a little bigger. Unless Kevin Feige says otherwise.

After being released from prison for a robbery he committed on some company he worked for many years ago, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finally gets a shot to take back his life and make amends for the pain he’s put his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and daughter through. Problem is, Scott’s past is so shoddy, that he’s finding it harder and harder to get a job, start anew and move on from what he once was. That’s why when one of his buddies (Michael Peña) brings up the idea of pulling off a vault-heist on some old dude’s house, he’s initially hesitant, but also realizes that cat-burglarizing is what he’s best at – whether he likes to admit it or not. Little does he know that the old man’s house he’s robbing is Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), a scientist who once worked for Stark Enterprises and left when he realized that one of his inventions were getting used for all the wrong reasons. But now, with Scott, Hank has found his perfect guinea pig for his pet-project: Ant-Man.

Puns intended.

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor....

Sort of like how I watch my next-door neighbor….

Already going into Ant-Man, there was a feeling of disdain from yours truly. Most of that has to do with the fact that, not only does it seem like the Marvel machine is growing to be more and more of the same entertaining, but generic thing, time and time again, but that there’s hardly a chance for anyone to come in and try to shake that formula up. Case in point, Edgar Wright – someone who is able to make many movie-nerds foam at the mouth at the possibility of him both writing and directing something. And heck, put his own sense of zany style in a Marvel movie, where a bigger cast and budget would be at his free reign, you bet your bottom dollar that the hype-train just gets more and more packed.

But sadly, and predictably, I guess, things didn’t pan out so well.

For one, Wright left and the powers that be within Disney were left scrambling far and wide for the next possible replacement to pick up the slack and see if they could make water out of ice. With Peyton Reed, most people involved with Marvel and Disney felt as if they found the most suitable replacement available and honestly, I can’t hold many qualms with that decision. Even despite the fact that Reed’s previous directorial efforts include the horrendous Yes Man and Break-Up, clearly they were working against a deadline and came up with whomever they felt was more than willing and capable of handling the job.

Sure, Reed’s no Wright, but then again, who the hell is? Though Reed’s directing-style may borderline on “generic”, he still handles a few action set-pieces well enough to where we get the same sort of imagination and frivolous fun that we would come to expect with Wright. If anything, Reed’s style is so mediocre, that it helps not get in the way of what could have been a very pushy and needy movie. Sort of like a pet who wants you to pet it, so it just cozies up to you, never leaves you alone, and stares deep into your eyes until you give in and give it what it wants.

Pretty sure you can’t pet ants, but you get my drift.

So, with that all said, it’s worth mentioning that Ant-Man turns out to actually be a bit of a better movie than I expected from all the controversy surrounding it in the pre-production stage. One of the main reasons that Ant-Man works well, is because it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get out there in this huge, Marvel universe, and tell a bunch of other stories that it doesn’t need to bother with; instead, it’s focus is solely on Scott Lang and whomever else is around him. Some may be annoyed at the fact that other Marvel superheros don’t get the time of day like they do in other flicks, but somehow, it works in this movie’s favor; it helps keep things simple, contained and most of all, entertaining, without ever trying to be more complicated than it needs to be.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

With hair like that, you bet she can kick your ass.

Still though, that’s not to say that this movie doesn’t feel as if, considering what Marvel’s been up to in the past couple or so years, a bit of a disappointment. And this most definitely has to do with the fact that there were so many hiccups before filming even got started, because something does feel a bit “off” about Ant-Man while watching it. Maybe the fact that there were literally four writers on this thing has something to do with it, but also due to the fact that the movie itself doesn’t always set out to blow our minds.

Sometimes, there’s no problem with that; in most cases, all you need is a good time to get you through everything. But something feels odd in this movie where the humor can sometimes feel tacked-on and random, as if it were just thrown in there so Marvel could keep up with the formula that their movies hold so dear to their hearts – exposition, action scene, character development, witticism, rinse and repeat. The jokes themselves are a bit hit-or-miss, but whether or not they’re funny isn’t really the point – what is, is whether or not they feel like they deserved to be tossed in there when they are, and they sort of don’t. I’m glad at least one of the four writers made an attempt, but sometimes, it’s best to just take a back-seat and let things move for a little while.

But when things go wrong in movies such as these, it’s always best to depend on the cast to save the day, which is what they do.

Well, sort of.

Paul Rudd, as usual, is charming, funny and cool as Scott Lang, even if it feels like he’s never quite given that opportunity to shine, break out from his comfort-shell and prove exactly why he deserves to be taken seriously as this superhero. None of that has to do with Rudd himself, though, as it’s most definitely the script’s fault for not spending more time in fleshing him, or anybody else at. Because where it stands, mostly everybody here is fine at playing these characters on a superficial, surface-area level and that’s about it.

Such talented folks like Corey Stoll, Evangeline Lilly, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Martin Donovan, Michael Peña, and Michael Douglas, all play their characters in such a way that makes it seem like they just came ready to play around for awhile and that’s it. Once again, not their fault, it’s just a bummer considering that with these names, you’d expect something so much better. Way better, actually.

If only Edgar Wright stayed on.

Consensus: Without trying too hard, Ant-Man is a perfectly serviceable piece of superhero blockbuster, but considering the company it keeps, it can’t help but feel like a small step down.

6.5 / 10

Until next year, bro.

Until next year, bro.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Jurassic World (2015)

Next summer, just go to Six Flags.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just seems weird, is all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 / 10

Meh. Whatever.

Meh. Whatever.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Tomorrowland (2015)

On second thought, It’s a Small World is definitely a lot cooler.

After teenage science enthusiast Casey (Britt Robertson) receives a mysterious pin, she does what any normal person would do in the same situation: She picks it up. However, once she picks it up, she all of a sudden gets taken to a bright, beautiful and mysterious, new world that takes her somewhere in the future. However, she has no clue how this is, what else the pin can do, or above all, what does it all mean. Eventually, Casey gets the news in the form of an eleven-year-old robot named Athena (Raffey Cassidy) who tells her that she was chosen to have the pin and has to make sure that it doesn’t get taken away from her once all of these mysterious robots begin to attack her. Now, Casey and Athena have to travel to parts unknown to find a reclusive inventor by the name of Frank (George Clooney) who may, or may not have all the answers to what Casey can do to ensure that these evil robots stop chasing her, and also save the human race from possible extinction.

Brad Bird’s been wanting to film Tomorrowland for quite some time. You can see this from the way he’s built this beautiful world, to how giddy he is while moving along the plot, and especially to when he tells the audience that no matter what they do in their lives, that anything is possible. Tomorrowland is the movie that Brad Bird has been dreaming of making for so very, very long and now that his dream has finally come true, he can’t help but be extremely ecstatic to share this dream with anyone who is willing to see it for themselves.

Problem is, the dream isn’t as exciting for others as it may be for him.

New cult.

New cult.

Part of this problem comes from the fact that Tomorrowland‘s story is so muddled and confusing, that taking time out of your day to pick it apart, piece by piece, still may not help you understand it any more. The general gist is that something bad is going to happen to planet Earth (as they’re usually is), and somewhere down the line, robots get involved. Honestly, that’s all I can tell you that I was able to gather because while Brad Bird clearly loves telling this story, the way in how he explains it, doesn’t quite register as well.

Don’t get me wrong, Bird still puts effort into this thing. When it comes to the action and adventure side of the story, all of the thrills are here and are to be enjoyed by any member of the family. Bird clearly hasn’t lost a single step of his creative skill for effective action sequences that started in the Incredibles, and only heightened with Mission: Impossible 4, and it does the movie some justice. Because even while things in the plot department may not always click, whenever the action shows up, it livens everything up and all of a sudden, everything gets better. Things are quick, fun, and exciting, all without seeming too difficult to understand.

However, once the movie gets right back to the story, it goes back into being an odd mess of exposition that doesn’t matter, sci-fi mumbo jumbo that doesn’t make sense, and characters that aren’t more than what they present on the thinly-veiled surface.

And this isn’t me just going on and on about how a movie like Tomorrowland, something so mainstream, ambitious and made for Disney families, should be as simple and easy-to-decipher as possible, but when you’re devoting a lot of time to building a world and a circumstance for visiting this world, there needs to be more time in certain plot-details. To simply scratch the surface and just say, “Hey, it’s science fiction,” doesn’t work; in fact, it feels like a cop-out. Rather than just keeping it simple, from the story, to the world, or even to what was at-stake to begin with, Bird tries to take it one step further by digging in deep to the mythology and it only seems like a waste of time. While he and Damon Lindelof may have thought what they were doing and/or writing about was smart, it only proves to be a problem for anybody expecting something that’s light, fun and fine for the whole family.

Also, not to mention that the movie ends on such a melodramatic note, that it makes it feel like a whole other movie entirely. Whereas a good portion of it feels like it wants to be a sci-fi flick akin to something Spielberg would create, another portion of this turns into being an inspirational, message movie about staying creative and constantly challenging one’s self to push themselves further in a creative manner. It’s a noble message, for sure, but feels like it comes out of nowhere and is just tossed in there so Bird didn’t feel so guilty for not being able to do much else.

House is in the........ehrm...house.

House is in the……..ehrm…house.

And of course, this isn’t to say that because Tomorrowland is a disappointing misfire, means that the cast is to be blamed, too, because that isn’t the case. In fact, some of them make the ride all the more pleasant and easy-to-watch, aside from all of the head-scratchers the plot throws at us.

George Clooney doesn’t normally take big-budget, mainstream extravaganzas like this too often, so for that reason alone, it’s interesting to see him here as Frank. But as always, Clooney’s in his element: he’s funny, charming and suave when he needs to be, but also feels like the only one keeping the heart and soul of this movie alive whenever Bird seems concerned with everything else. Hugh Laurie, another one who doesn’t take up these kinds of movies, either, shows up every now and then to be “the baddie” and that’s basically it. He’s fine with it, but the material he’s given is where the movie really starts to get preachy, so it’s a shame.

And Britt Robertson, despite me having never seen much of her before in other stuff, does a solid job as Casey. While her character is the typical “movie nerd” who is quirky, yells a lot, and generally knows a lot of stuff without being too mature, Robertson makes her likable and enjoyable, rather than annoying and over-the-top. Her character could have easily gone this way, but Robertson keeps her head up above the water and doesn’t allow that to happen.

Wish I could have said the same thing for Bird, but I’ll leave him alone for now.

Consensus: With a confusing story-line, sentimental message that’s random, and a cast that isn’t pushed far enough, Tomorrowland is a disappointing mess that shows Bird is solid at action, but in terms of telling a coherent, effective story, he still needs some polishing done.

5.5 / 10

Take it down a notch, George! It's a family film!

Take it down a notch, George! It’s a family film!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Men, Women & Children (2014)

“Technology’s the devil”, in case you haven’t heard that from your grand-parents enough already.

The world in which we live in is changing everyday and technology’s a big reason for that. However, the big question remains: Is it good that we have technology around us, affecting our lives so much? Or, simply put, is it bad and making us disconnect from those around us? Well, the answers don’t come easily, especially for a handful of people living in a Texas suburb. Take for instance, there’s the married-couple (Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt) who hasn’t felt that love or passion for one another in quite some time; the photographer mother (Judy Greer) who so clearly loves her daughter and the passion she has for acting, but can’t help but lead her the wrong way; another mother (Jennifer Garner) who may be a bit too over-protective of her daughter and how she uses her forms of technology; a high school sophomore (Ansel Elgort) that quits the football team to focus more on his personal life, which leads him to falling for an outcast (Kaitlyn Dever); and lastly, a young teenage girl (Elena Kampouris) who is curious about sex for the first time in her life and will do anything to experience it, even if that means risking her own life. Oh yeah, and it’s all narrated by Emma Thompson, for some odd reason.

There hardly ever comes a time when I find myself following the rest of the status quo and agreeing with just about everything others have said. That’s not how I roll with movies, music, TV, video-games, and just life in general. I have opinions that I’ll make up for myself and stick to them until I wake up one day and think differently.

Now, with that being said, when I found out that everybody has been practically trashing on this movie here, I was surprised. Not because it seemed like it was a return-to-form for a favorite of mine, Jason Reitman, but because it featured an ensemble cast so good, that it was almost too hard for me to believe that any of them would agree to do something that’d be considered “utter shite” (well, except for Adam Sandler, but hey, he’s trying to get better!). But such is the case here with Men, Women & Children and rather than going into it and expecting it to hate with all my might because of what plenty others have been saying, I decided to stick to my guns, go in with a clear mind, and see how me, myself, and I felt walking out.

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds' heads!

Libraries!?!?! Even more dangerous thoughts thrown into our young minds’ heads!

And well, wouldn’t ya know it? I quite liked it. In fact, I came close to loving it on a few occasions. And then I didn’t. But the moral behind this story here, folks, is always make sure to not get bogged down by what others may, or may not, be saying. It only gets you further and further away from what matters most: Your own feelings regarding anything.

But like I was saying, there’s definitely something fishy about this movie. For instance, I find it rather strange that Reitman would go for a story that, yes, could be considered timely because of how much it uses technology as a moral stand-point for its story, but in all honesty, actually feels somewhat dated. These types of movies that try to warn us about the dangers of technology seem like they were running wild all over Lifetime or Oxygen way back when. That’s not to say that these types of stories don’t matter nowadays, because no matter what, technology will always be relevant in each and everyone of our lives, but I could have definitely done without a another “technology is evil” movie that just disregards its own message when it’s telling us, the audience, to actually engage in conversations on social-media networks to continue the conversation about the movie we just saw.

A tad ironic, but hey, whatever. The world’s not perfect, and the same thing goes for this movie. Because see, since this is an ensemble-piece, that means one thing: Not every story will be interesting. Though I’d like to hope for that in every movie I see in which different stories take place over the course of one film, the fact of the matter is that it usually doesn’t happen. And such is the case here, because out of the, well, I don’t know, say nine or so subplots, at least four-and-a-half of them are actually somewhat compelling. The others are sort of just there to take up space and allow us to see actors do, well, just that. Which isn’t such a bad thing, especially when you have a cast this good, but every so often, the movie makes you wonder what could have happened, had there been a lot more attention given to the development of these characters and their stories, much rather than the whole obvious message surrounding them and hitting us in the face.

For instance, try the story of Adam Sandler and Rosemarie DeWitt’s subplot; in movie terms, their characters are the quintessential aging married-couple: Bored, unfulfilled and always horny, yet somehow, not for one another. There are brief instances in which this story could take a couple of really dark, shocking turns, but since it has to rely on the story’s gimmick of making it all about technology, the movie then jumps into the whole “dating services” aspect of the internet that so many movies have touched on, and also more effectively. Now, that’s not to say that neither Sandler or DeWitt put in bad performances (Sandler does pretty well at playing subtle here, although I was a bit upset by there being hardly any shopping-aisle dances), but you can tell that, had they been given much more to work with, they could have come close to stealing this movie away from the rest of the group and have us actually twisting our heads and thinking.

Well, more to work with, and probably if there hadn’t been any technology used in the first place.

Cause honestly, the aspect of technology placing itself into these stories doesn’t always work and, quite frankly, doesn’t feel wholly necessary. Now, I get that this is an adaptation of a novel that deals with the same problems and what have you, so I understand why Reitman didn’t want to totally take out the aspect of the idea that made it so “unique” in the first place, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just a cautionary tale of how most of us don’t talk to one another and, occasionally, do bad things. Does that mean that technology is always involved with these problems in life? Hell to the no! So, to make every person’s problem in this movie in some way or another, have something to do with technology and its usage, just felt pointless and really took away from the emotional impact that so many of these stories had initially promised.

That’s not to say that these stories don’t deserve to be told, but they don’t deserve to be done so in such an off-putting, slightly over-bearing way either, in which technology always has to rear its ugly head in, somehow, or someway.

Hey, at least they're sleeping in the same bed, right?!?!?!

Young lovers of the world, look close, this will be you one day. Don’t argue, just accept.

And it should be noted that Sandler and DeWitt’s story aren’t just the only ones that get, pardon my French, get the shit end of the stick; a few others show plenty of promise early on, only to have all of that go the way of the Dodo about half-way through. Elena Kampouris’ subplot about a teenage girl with image and sexual issues is alarming, but gets a bit insane by the end that it starts to feel like Reitman’s driving right back into the melodrama he loved so much with Labor Day. The same could sort of be said for a subplot involving a young teenage kid who literally can’t get an erection or perform the act of sex, if it isn’t at all like how he views it as in the various pornos out there on the web. Once again, it’s another honest, true-to-life story, but just feels corny by the end, especially when we see how crazy it pans out to be. And the Jennifer Garner subplot concerning the over-protective mother was just stupid from the very beginning, and only made worse by the fact that Garner’s nerdy-mom shtick gets real old, real quick.

Though the stories that do hit, actually hit pretty hard, if not for the reasons that Reitman had probably intended. Probably the best, most interesting, most compelling, and most lovely subplot of this jumbled-up movie is the one between Ansel Elgort’s ex-football player and Kaitlyn Dever’s social outcast who both, through pure chance, just end up falling for one another. Not only is this the one true story that’s the closest to my heart (high school romance hardly ever disappoints this sentimental soul), but it’s the one story that feels like it’s the closest to Reitman’s heart, too. Both Elgort and Dever’s characters, with as few scenes we get with them together, feel like they would be attracted to each other and not just for the sole reason of having sex, getting it out of the way, and moving on. They’re both lonely, sad, and tormented young souls that need somebody, or someone to talk to, regardless of how it’s done. It also helps that Elgort and Dever have great chemistry and feel like fully fleshed-out teenagers in a film that, honestly, didn’t seem too concerned about in the first place (Elgort is especially amazing and wins me back from his over-the-top nature in the Fault of Our Stars).

But even then, this story seems to get a bit wacky by the end when it relies too much on the idea its presented itself with and takes a bit of steam away from the real heart of the best story it had to offer.

But since I’m going on so much about what Reitman does wrong here, I do have to say that I’m happy to see him at least slightly back in his usual-form. Granted, this isn’t a typical comedy like we’re so used to seeing him do like before, but it’s at least a minor step in the right direction to where he’ll hopefully be able to blend comedy and drama so well, that you have a hard time being able to discern one from the other. That’s the old Jason Reitman we all loved and awaited to see what he had up his sleeve next and it’s the Jason Reitman we all want back, in full-fledged form.

Right, guys?

Consensus: At times, Men, Women & Children can feel like a typical, over-exaggerated after school special about the horrors of technology, but thanks to a solid cast and a few interesting subplots, it is able to get through its various plot-hoops and holes.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Generation Y, in a nutshell. Or at least, in a digital image.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)

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

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

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

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

"What? Is it something on my face?"

“What? Is it something on my face?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Typical Franco-fashion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got your back, Darwin.

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

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Caesar here!"

“Caesar here!”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Carrie (2013)

I thought that nowadays, someone like Carrie White would be the class slut. At least at my school she would have been. That, or my girlfriend.

You know the story by now, but just in case, I’m going to regurgitate it one more time. Carrie White (Chloë Grace Moretz) is the weird girl at school that nobody likes, nobody talks to, and everybody practically picks on. Most of this has to do with the fact that her mom (Julianne Moore) is known as a total nut, but it also has to do with the fact that she’s just plain and simply a quiet person who lays low in the back of the class, doesn’t talk, doesn’t get involved, except for when she’s forced to recite poems that have no meaning to anybody else in the class. After an incident she has in the shower, one that she is ultimately ridiculed for by all of the other gals, Carrie is even more embarrassed than ever. However, she starts to gain back some of her confidence when she realizes that she has these telekinetic powers that allows her to move anything, at anytime, and at any force. And better yet, she’s been invited to the prom by the popular jock at the school, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), which, yes, was down out of pity from his girlfriend (Gabriella Wilde), but still gives Carrie’s life new meaning. I mean, Christ, it’s the prom! How bad could it be?

In case you haven’t seen by now, not only did I do a review on the 1976 original, but I saw it for the seventh time and I have to say, it surely was a charm. In fact, it was more than just a charm, it was a great experience that I’d never felt with the movie before. Suddenly, all of the points King’s original source material was trying to make, came right out at me and hit me slap-dab right in the face, making me think more about high school life, being an adolescent, and how all of that harsh bullying can effect one person’s life, for the better or for the worse. Obviously in this case, it was for the worse, but at least it still had me thinking.

Hey, I've seen worse on prom night.

Hey, I’ve seen plenty worse on prom night.

That’s why, after watching that not too long before I saw this, I realized all there was so many problems with this remake, however, the main which just stems from the problem that Kimberly Peirce, somebody so talented and thought-provoking, even with only two films under her belt, seemed like she was really phoning it in here. There may be a good reason for that (she may be saving up all of her money from this to make that next, big important piece of film), but only time will tell. As for right now, in the year 2013, I have to say I am very disappointed with what she’s brought to the table in terms of remakes, and most importantly: To the story of Carrie itself.

In fact, nothing new, improved, or original at all seems to have been brought to the table with this remake; except for maybe the inclusion of social-media websites, YouTube, and texting which, in a way, makes Carrie’s bullying worse. However, it’s strange because while the type of torment that Carrie takes does get surprisingly upped, you still don’t care because it’s such a minor inclusion, that the movie could have literally gone on without it. Other than this minor add-on, nothing else in this remake really stands out, as maybe only a couple of character’s lines or motivations will be changed around, just so that Peirce can show everybody that this is still her work, and she’s going to try and mess around with it as much as she can.

However, changes or no changes, this movie still would have failed as a remake for what they do with the ultimate prom scene at the end, something which, as we all know, has become iconic by now. What Perice does with this character of Carrie White is that she makes her more savvy to her powers. Rather than having Carrie frightened at the possibilities of hurting other people and having literally no control over it, Carrie now knows that she can hurt others with her powers, can control them, and will stop at nothing to extract revenge upon those who deserve hers the most. While most of these people do have it coming to them, it’s still strange because with this self-knowingness of what it is that she can do and how, Carrie becomes somewhat less sympathetic, and more of a horror anti-hero; except that she’s more of an anti-hero that we want her to do these bad things, yet, know she’s a better person than any of them.

That’s why when the prom sequence eventually shows up to do its story justice, there’s a weird feeling surrounding it that feels slightly off. You never quite cheer for Carrie, nor do you ever root against her either. You’re sort of just watching her kill/and or harm these people, some of which deserve it, some of which don’t, and it has no effect on you whatsoever. Not like the original where there was plenty of emotion going around that not only had you feel bad for Carrie that she’s been humiliated in front of all these people and want her to extract revenge, but you also feel bad for the kids she’s taking it out upon as well. It’s that approach that made that movie more than just your traditional, run-of-the-mill horror flick; whereas this one, on the other hand, IS that traditional, run-of-the-mill horror flick.

Except this time, we’ve seen it all before and not much has changed since. Well, kids do sext now, so I guess that’s somewhat new.

And Julianne Moore be like, "Long hurr, don't curr."

And Julianne Moore be like, “Long hurr, don’t curr.”

And while I do think that she’s a bright, young, and talented face that the mainstream should not let-go of, Chloë Grace Moretz just is not right for this role. Regardless of how Peirce’s movie paints her as, Moretz feels like she’s too smart for this character of Carrie White to be so naive and upset. Nor, however, does she really seem like she’s all that powerful or vicious to really start killing all of these people in the most hideous, disturbing ways possible. She just seems like a lonely, sad, and a bit shy. That worked for Sissy Spacek all of those years ago, and added more depth to her, however here, Carrie comes off as dull and uninteresting. Which, in and of itself, is pretty interesting, except for all of the wrong reasons.

Same goes for Julianne Moore who, is one of the best working-actresses today, and yet, comes off as a complete joke here with her performance as Carrie’s mom. She’s over-the-top, which is probably what the script called of her to be, but she goes way overboard, way quick, and doesn’t even seem like she really loves her daughter. She actually seems more infatuated with hurting herself at random times, whenever she sees fit. She’s laughable to watch and once again, that may be what she was assigned to be in the first place, but rather than coming off like a nut job that also seems to be a real person, with a real heart, and real emotions, she seems like she came right out of a Scary Movie movie, slumming it up for the paycheck. And hey, with the career she’s had, she deserves it. Let’s just not make a habit of it now, okay, Jules?

However, not everybody is terrible in this cast, and surprisingly, most come off as more interesting and more sympathetic. Judy Greer plays the no-nonsense, smart gym teacher that looks after Carrie and makes sure she isn’t being played with, and while Judy Greer is great in almost anything she shows her pretty face in, she does seem a bit dull here, doing what she can to make this teacher hip, cool, happenin’, but also very serious about her job and the kids she cares for. The one out of the whole cast that really worked well for me was Ansel Elgort playing Tommy Ross. The cool angle Peirce takes with this character is that even though Tommy Ross is still the school jock, he’s still an ultra nice guy that feels like his heart is in the right place and also just wants to do right so that he can go back and bang that sweet arse of his that he calls his girlfriend. That may make him seem less sympathetic, but in my eyes, it just makes him seem more of a real person, something this movie desperately needed more of. From what I read in the press notes, Elgort is a newcomer, and with this being his first movie, I can safely say the kid’s got a bright future ahead of him. Just steer clear of remakes, kid. Especially ones as dull as this.

Consensus: Want to save some money, time, and still have the chance of getting laid? Stay home, find the original Carrie, and rent it. Don’t even bother with this junk as it just gives you the same story, with a minor differences thrown in there which ultimately, do nothing for the movie or your interest-meter. Trust me.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Remember, she has to be a "weirdo".

Remember, she’s supposed to be “weird”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Village (2004)

Thanks for helping me locate my next drinking spot, M. Night!

In rural Pennsylvania (holla!) during 1897 a group of Protestants who live in a small area live happy and peaceful, in an area surrounded by the woods. However, things aren’t always so peachy and keen, due to the fact that in these woods, apparently lie creatures that kill and might possibly invade this little town. Because of this “problem”, the leader of the village (William Hurt) keeps everybody confined and safe with a set of rules that will help them hide-away from these vicious beasts. After awhile, some people begin to lighten-up and realize that there may be something else out there to find, and one of those curious citizens goes by the name of Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), who also just so happens to be in love with the leader’s blind daughter, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard).

Yes, it’s been known to many, many people that M. Night Shyamalan is the 21st Century equivalent to a one-trick-pony. He starts off all movies the same, with just the right amount of mystery and wonder, continues to build it all up and up, until, woolah; we have ourselves a twist on our hands. Everybody knows what to expect with an M. Night movie and most of the problems with his movies is that when you see them once, who needs them again. However, “everybody” does not mean yours truly.

Yep, believe it or not, I am one of the very few people who actually will still go-to-bat for Philly boy M. Night. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m representing my home land, or maybe it’s because I actually like watching movies that continue to challenge me with an original story, an original twist, and an original look and feel that reminds me why I love watching movies so much in the first place. I know I’m hyping this one up quite a bit, but don’t worry; this isn’t going to be one of those “I don’t see why everybody hates this movie” review, it’s just going to be me sticking up for poor, old M. Night. And with his latest-flick coming out this Friday, the dude needs all the love and support he can get.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What the hell is she looking at? Oh, never mind.

What I liked so much about this flick starting off, is that M. Night doesn’t simply spoon-feed us what we need to know about this smallish-community, and he sure as hell doesn’t try to make sure that there are conversations that make it easier for us to figure out. He is simply plopping us into this setting, and just allowing ourselves to get ready and up-to-speed with all of these people and what they are up to. Of course, there’s plenty of mystery surrounding what the community is really like, but you don’t think too much about that as much as you think about just who these people are, what’s their deals, and why are they so freakin’ petrified of going out to “the towns”.

You definitely know that something is up from the get-go, but you’re not exactly sure what. However, even though the characters here tell one another that they are monsters in the woods, monsters that you even see from time-to-time, you can’t be too sure what it is that you are seeing, is in fact real or just a figment of yours, or the character’s imaginations. Throughout the whole duration of the movie, up until the last 10 minutes or so, you know that M. Night is playing a trick on you and feel as if you aren’t easily consumed by being fooled, however, something still has you questioning just what is the truth and what isn’t. M. Night does this in all of his movies, and this time is one of those rare instances where it works and makes this movie better, especially when you see it for a second time.

But then of course, there is always that big question at the top of your mind whenever you finish an M. Night flick: “does the twist really hold up when you compare it to the rest of the flick?” Well, the answer to that is: sort of. See, the movie is all about it’s twist, what it tries to make you believe in, and what is actually the truth, but it never loses focus of it’s characters or it’s sense of place in the world. Sure, you don’t quite know exactly what area of the world M. Night has placed us in, but you know it’s a strange place that could easily be in any type of forest on the face of the planet. Does that rule out every realm of possibility? Nope, not really, but it does get a bit obvious as it goes on from there.

As a whole, I do believe that the twist works and the way that holds up in the story is well-done, but what I do feel like M. Night dropped the ball on was actually handling how the twist was revealed, and what he did to us when we realized what was really going on. Slowly, but surely, odd pieces of evidence begin to shine and you not only realize that this movie is getting at itself somewhere, but M. Night can’t wait to show us either. But because of that frantic-feeling the dude must have had in the pit of his stomach, the twist almost feels too sudden, as if we should have really been hit with that “WTF?!?!?” moment that the dude has lived his career on thus far. It does eventually sink in over time, but not enough time until the full-twist is revealed and then all of a sudden, there’s a jumble of thoughts, ideas, and wonders that the brain is attacked with and as we know; the brain can only handle so much.

So, to answer the question that most people have on their minds after seeing an M. Night flick; I’d say yes, the twist does hold up and work well, but the way that it plays itself out, almost defeats any type of smart or genius that the man had to present. Not sure if I still answered the question I placed up-above or if I’m making any sense, but it worked for me. May not work for you or any other peeps on this Earth, but that’s what movies are made for: discussion, disagreement, and different points-of-views.

But it doesn’t matter where M. Night goes with this funky story, the dude always has time for character-development, as well as giving his cast some time to shine in the spotlight, especially when he isn’t stealing it from them. Joaquin Phoenix is good as the member of the community that wants to rise up and find out what’s really happening outside there in the woods, because he’s able to give us a brave and courageous character, that also has some insecurity-issues as well and isn’t just a born-and-told superhero. The same accent he uses here, that he used in Gladiator was a tad annoying since they sort of came off as the same character, but at least the dude is capable of having us forget about that memorable-role after awhile, and focus on this one. Playing the town “special buddy” is Adrien Brody who is fine with giving this character more emotion and heart than you could suspect, but considering that this movie was filmed and released two years after he came out victorious in what some call the most-stacked ballot for Best Actor in a Leading Role, it does seem like a bit of a disappointment for a dude that’s so talented and obviously can show it.

He heard the train 'a comin'....

He heard the train ‘a comin’….

William Hurt is also very good and charming as the leader of the community, because of the way he’s able to make us believe in all that he says, but yet, also not allow us to fully trust in every word he says. There’s some sexy-chemistry going on between him and Sigourney Weaver’s character, the mother of Lucius, and it’s pretty compelling to see since it gives you further and further clues as to what the hell really is happening underneath the wooden-tiles in the ground.

And last, but damn sure as hell not least is Bryce Dallas Howard as Ivy, the blind girl of the community with a heart of fire and passion. Howard has somewhat became a household name by now, but it’s so great to see where she got her start as a head-liner, and show that she was more than just “that girl, who also happened to be Richie Cunningham’s daughter.” It took me awhile to figure out that she was blind, but that didn’t matter after awhile because I could evidently see that this girl had something more to her than just being one of those disabled-peoples, that takes life more for granted now, than most people who seem to have it all. She actually is capable of loving, and to be loved, which gives us more of a reason to feel more for her as time goes on and her adventure begins to get more creepy and scary. Actually, “scary” may not be the right word, but “creepy” definitely is. Yeah, that fits.

Consensus: Even if not all of it adds up to make for a perfect-conclusion to a well-done story, The Village still works, even as a re-watch because of all the hints, clues, ideas, and themes that M. Night gives you to chew on and ponder for a bit, that is, until he shoots himself in the foot by the end once everything is brought out into the open.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chads Ford, PA!!!

So beautiful. So quaint. So Chadds Ford, PA!!!

Playing for Keeps (2012)

All the single, hot-to-trot mothers can never keep those hormones in-tact whenever that Scottish accent comes through. Oh, roar!

A former professional soccer player (Gerard Butler) with a weak past tries to redeem himself by coaching his son’s soccer team, only to find himself unable to resist when in scoring position with his players’ restless and gorgeous moms.

Alright, before all of you get your torches and brooms and come right to my door-step and try to burn the witch that has apparently taken over my movie-viewing control, let me just tell you that the decision to not only watch, but review this movie, was all mine. Yes, nobody other me, myself, and I chose to watch and review Playing for Keeps and because of that, I have come to terms with myself and just realized one thing: I am a fucking idiot. Yes, I am a lot happier now that I’ve realized that about myself. Thanks Gerard Butler!

"Hahaha but seriously! How many how more of these lame-ass rom-coms do I have to do?"

“Hahaha but seriously! How many how more of these lame-ass rom-coms do I have to do?”

I have no idea where to begin with this piece of shit other than to just focus on the director, Gabriele Muccino, and just what the hell was going-on throughout his mind during filming. This movie tries to be one-step above the rom-com genre by infusing the thrill and fun of the sport of soccer into it, but really, it’s just the same old shite we have all seen before. Dad tries to pick himself back-up from nothing, does a very good job at doing so for quite awhile, finds himself in a dilemma, finds himself back into nothing, and then, low and behold, he’s back on-top and everybody is happy, running around in fields of daisies and rainbows. Okay, maybe I just gave away the whole movie there and maybe, just maybe, that isn’t exactly what happens but seriously, if you get pissed about how the whole movie was just spoiled in one sentence and you had no idea what was going to happen, then you, my friend, should not even read my site anymore, let alone watch movies.

This movie, is as obvious, predictable, and conventional as they come, but it’s even worse because it’s so damn dull. There’s nothing new here, there’s nothing fun to really watch here, and worst of all, there’s just nothing to stick-around and watch. You watch these characters just do their thang, act like you’d expect them to, and to have absolutely no effect on you, your life, or your thoughts whatsoever. It’s almost like you’ve never seen this movie and coming from a guy who actually did waste his precious time and life seeing it: you’re probably better off that way. In case you couldn’t tell by now, this movie fucking blows and if you want to see more as to why that is, continue to read-on but if you get the point and want to just get on with your life, then leave this site and come back tomorrow when I have another review of another movie coming up. Trust me, I won’t be offended, I’ll actually commend you for doing-so.

Ever since the new millennium hit, they had absolutely nothing to clap about. So, why the hell are they?!?

Ever since the new millennium hit, they had absolutely nothing to clap about. So, why the hell are they?!?

The biggest question-mark going-on in my mind throughout this whole flick was: who’s wife did Gerard Butler fuck? Honestly, Butler must have done something terribly inhumane to some higher-up in Hollywood, because it seems like they just place him in these movies, regardless of what it is, tell him what to do, tell him to use no emotion whatsoever, and just act like you don’t really care if you’re there or not, just accept the check and be done with it. I don’t know if he cut a deal with somebody where he has to do shitty-movie-after-shitty-movie to lose the price on his head, but whatever it may be, the guy’s got it bad and what’s even worse, is that he does nothing to help this movie out in the least bit.

Butler is as dull and boring as they come and the whole time I wondered just what the hell made him so much more different from any other male-lead in these rom-coms that come-out once a week? Is it the facial hair? Is it the sexy build that has somehow decreased year-after-year since 300? Or simply, is it the Scottish accent that seems to get every gal’s panties to fly-off into the mist? I think it’s the latter and that’s a shame too, because after seeing a movie like Coriolanus and realizing that this guy kicks total ass when he gets the chance to do so, just makes this movie, his role, and his performance all the more terrible and disappointing to watch. Come on, Hollywood! Give Gerard Butler another chance! I’m sure the guy is sorry for whatever the hell he did.

What’s even worse about this flick is the rest of the impressive cast that this movie has going for it, and how equally dull they all are. Jessica Biel plays Butler’s ex gal-pal that he has a kiddie with and as hot and sexy as she is here, she is also nothing more than just a piece of cardboard here with some dialogue she has to spring-out of her. Biel, just give up on acting and do porn or something and make yourself useful. Make us all happier and stop trying to take your career seriously because honestly, nobody does. Not even, dare I say it, Justin does.

"Remember me! I was in the Descendants last year! Please hire me again!"

“Remember me! I was in the Descendants last year! Please hire me again!”

As by-the-numbers Biel is, it isn’t much of a surprise since the girl blows in just about everything but actresses like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Judy Greer, and Uma Thurman!!?!?!? Aww, hell no! In the past decade, these girls have all given some of their best performances in their whole-careers and it’s such a damn shame to see them do a pile of shite like this, try their hardest, but in the end, just come-off as a bunch of obvious, walking cliches of a bunch of women that couldn’t keep their clothes on whenever some sexy, built Scottish man came strolling through their neck of the woods. It makes me very, very sad to see them all do this type of crap and what’s even worse, is that Dennis Quaid is here as well, and I don’t think I need to say anything more about that. Okay, I’m going to go and cry now.

Consensus: Playing for Keeps may have one redeeming factor to it: it’s fun to watch and make fun of if you’re reviewer like yours truly. However, if you aren’t, then you’ll probably find yourself cringing, upset, pissed-off, confused, and just plain and simply, bored with everything that occurs on-screen and wonder just when exactly you can begin to move on with your life and act as if you have never, ever seen this piece of shit. I already have, and I’m about to finish my last sentence of this review, right….about…..now! Yes!

1/10=Crapola!!

In case you wanted to actually know, those are their REAL heads, attached to their REAL necks. Convinced yet?

In case you wanted to actually know, those are their REAL heads, attached to their REAL necks. Convinced yet?

Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012)

Always count on your big bro to make you feel less weird than you already are.

The film revolves around one man (Jason Segel) searching for the meaning of life while running to the store to buy wood glue. Using the universe as his guide, Jeff looks for signs to help determine his path. However, a series of comedic and unexpected events leads him to cross paths with his family in the strangest of locations and circumstances. Jeff just may find the meaning of his life… and if he’s lucky, pick up the wood glue as well.

The Duplass Brothers‘ last big film was ‘Cyrus’, a film that was strange and quirky but still had a nice heart to it and some pretty good laughs. It’s also the film that got these guys big and made people realize that they are an indie force to be reckoned with, however, I don’t think that they should be showing this one off if that is the case.

The film seems like a minor one because it just barely gets by a run-time of only 80 minutes and takes course over a single day but this is also a film that seems to show The Duplass Bros. stretching out their legs and seeing what they can do with a somewhat bigger budget. The plot here allows them to at least branch out a bit by having the whole thing take place outside and even let them pursue some action here although it’s not the kind you’re probably thinking of. Still, they have the same old hand-held camera style where its jumpy and constantly zooms in-and-out awkwardly on the characters. Their style of mumblecore works well for this flick because there are many moments where I felt myself laughing a bit but also feeling something for these characters and investing myself more and more into them. However, that only went so far.

Much of the script is improvised, exactly how the directors like it, and it adds this sort of genuine flow to the film that works but at the same time takes away from the flick. Since you have these two funny-as-hell actors up in front of us the whole time, you would expect them to make us practically howling out of our seats but instead, they just resort to yelling the F-bomb out of each other and getting in physical fights, physical fights that are actually a lot funnier than what either of them say. Usually these guys are hilarious and have me on the verge of tears but for some odd reason, everything they said just came off as either unfunny or totally flat. I guess Segel was just waiting for Kermit or Miss Piggy to pop-up.

The two different story-lines that these brothers have aren’t very interesting since their so damn simple. Jeff is just a pot smoking dope who lives in his mommy’s basement and barely ever comes out and Pat is a regular dude who seems to be having a marriage that is falling down to an impending doom. There’s nothing too special about either of these story-lines at all but what was pretty neat was the whole idea Jeff has behind that everything in the world is connected to each other in some way or another. It’s pretty cool to see how everything does come together here, just like it was supposed to in Jeff’s mind, but then that mumbo jumbo spiritual crap started to get redundant and made it get a bit annoying after awhile.

What was bad with this film though was that by the end, all of the “comedy” that we saw in the beginning of the flick starts to go away within the last 20 minutes and everything begins to get dramatic. And when I mean dramatic, I mean DRAMATIC. I don’t mind if a comedy is trying to show some of its heart and even a little bit of its love it has to give but it gets very cheesy, very quick and it just came across as melodramatic rather than natural. At least with the Duplass’ last flick, they at least were subtle about showing their soft side, this film just bares it all with the over-powering indie score and everything.

However, when it really came down to it, the performances from everybody involved is what really made this flick work in the end. Jason Segel is good as this goofy and very philosophical dope, Jeff, and the slacker that he always plays his roles with is here but this time it at least has more of a heart and soul this time; Ed Helms is good as Pat but was a little too deuchy for me at points but then again, that was pretty much how he was supposed to be so my point was pretty dumb; Judy Greer is once again great in her little role as the wife of Pat, Linda, who seems to be cheating on him and she has a couple of good scenes where she shows some real emotion and gets this film into its dramatic territory but there’s not enough of her here (then again though, when is there ever?); and Susan Sarandon plays Pat and Jeff’s mommy who actually has the most interesting story as she deals with a secret admirer in her work-place, but then her story sort of gets thrown into unbelievable material by the end and it kind of loses it’s fun feeling it had.

Consensus: Jeff, Who Lives at Home has some funny and touching moments much ado to the cast, but ultimately feels like a let-down from the Duplass Brothers considering how lazy the writing feels, how unfunny many parts, and just how damn dramatic everything gets by the end. It definitely makes me want to watch ‘Cyrus’ again and see what made that one way better than this flick.

5/10=Rental!!

The Descendants (2011)

Who would ever want to cheat on Clooney?

Matt King (George Clooney), the trustee of his family’s ancestral land in Hawaii, tries to reconnect with his two daughters after his wife suffers a serious boating accident and falls into a coma.Under pressure from different factions to sell the land, he belatedly learns a disturbing secret about his wife.

Director and writer Alexander Payne hasn’t been around since 2004 with ‘Sideways’ and it took him awhile to see what he was going to choose next. Thankfully it was this one.

This film reminded me of Payne’s earlier film, ‘About Schmidt‘ because it had some very funny times where I laughed that were also under-lined with real heart-wrenching moments as well. The humor here is a lot more dry and sarcastic, rather than being straight-up in-your-face about it, but either way worked because it had me laughing just about every time without ever feeling forced.

Where the film really works is where it gets emotional and shows real heart in how it handles each and every situation this film goes through. Moments and situations that you think are going to go one way, end up happening a completely different way then you imagined and the way Payne makes us feel something not only for these characters, but this story as well is where the film really worked.

Life is very unpredictable and it can sometimes be very messy, but for this Matt King guy, it seems like his life is really at a loss. However, the plot itself doesn’t feel like a major let-down and instead of hammering us over the head with constant mushy moments that would seem forced in many other films, it goes for the subtle realism that comes in anybody’s life and Payne always reminds us that it’s not just how we act about ourselves, but also with each other. It’s better to be there for one another, rather than not being there at all and I think that’s what this film really did a good job with trying to convey.

My main problem with this film is that I feel like the whole angle where Matt is stuck in this huge-ass sale of his ancestor’s land was just annoying, and kind of got in the way of the actual dilemma at hand. With this sub-plot, the film was trying to show us how Matt is in a more conflicting moment in his life and how he has all of this pressure on his back of basically getting rid of his whole family history, which to me seemed way to obvious and unneeded considering Matt is already finding himself with his family. I think without this sub-plot the film would have been a lot more easier to feel emotion for but instead it just adds on another idea that was not needed.

I also had a problem with the pacing because I really did feel as if it was a little bit too much of a languid pace for me. There were moments where this film really seemed like it was picking up some steam, and then there were times where it just dragged on to show us something about this character that I didn’t feel was needed and more of Payne just giving us moments of silence rather than characters actually talking.

George Clooney gives a great performance as Matt King, and it’s almost to a point where it’s too hard to tell a good Clooney performance from a bad Clooney performance. Here as King, he down-plays his natural charisma but he still has moments where he show that charm that makes him so damn likable in the first place, which makes the comedy work even more when he’s being a tad goofy. There are also many emotional scenes where Clooney is supposed to show his grief and pain through his facial expressions and I think it really works well and I think Clooney was a very good choice for this role.

As with ‘Up in the Air’, Clooney is given another young-actress to accompany him throughout the whole film and almost up-stage him here with Shailene Woodley in a great role as the rebellious daughter, Alexandra. She is mean, angry, and a little bothered by her dad but still has enough love and sympathy for him where she can ease up and realize that their whole family is going through a hard time. Nick Krause plays her boyfriend, Sid, who reminds me of a younger Keanu Reeves but in a good way; Beau Bridges is funny and really cool as cousin Hugh; Robert Forster plays the King’s father-in-law and boy did he get old, but he’s still good; and Judy Greer is awesome here as King’s wife’s boyfriend’s wife. I know that was a pretty long one but hey, I tried to make sense.

Speaking of King’s wife’s boyfriend, he is played a face that nobody has seen in quite a long time, a guy by the name of Matthew Lillard. Yes, Shaggy from Scooby-Doo is a person that some chick would rather bone than George Clooney. I think this casting was awesome because Lillard is actually very good and shows a lot of range as a dramatic actor and it’s just such a surprise to see how old this guy looks now as well. His character is also fleshed-out very well as is every other character in this film and I think that’s why this film really works in the end, because nobody is a caricature. They are all real people and all have real feelings, even if they may be a little bit messed up.

Consensus: The Descendants has problems with it’s languid pacing but is very sweet, emotional, and rich in character development where it shows how people deal with grief and the unpredictability of life. Not my favorite film of the year but a very good one that I’m glad to see that Alexander Payne wrote and directed.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Three Kings (1999)

Not your average, sympathetic war film.

George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube star as a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. When the three arguably wise men find a map they believe will take them to a huge cache of stolen Kuwaiti gold hidden near their base, they embark on a secret mission that’s destined to change everything.

The Gulf War just seems like a war that was basically a total joke. It only lasted for about a year, if not even that, and barely anybody got killed in it. So it was pretty cool to see a fun take on a war, that didn’t seem even energetic at all.

David O. Russell is a crazy mofo, but is a really great director. The one strength that Russell uses here is that he blends drama, action, and a little hint of comedy altogether but it doesn’t once get annoying like most films that blend genres do. The fact that this isn’t like any other war film is not the real reason it’s great it’s because of what this film does and actually talks about. Russell does some pretty innovative stuff here with his direction, whether it’s using a slow-mo shot to show the bullets hitting a person, or a moving image of the sky, or even an awesome image of showing what sepsis wound looks like. Russell is a very gritty director and he uses this to his ability, to bring out the real dirt and mud that was The Gulf War.

The real strength of this film is located within it’s script that Russell did himself as well. The real reason why this script works so well is because the drama is here and ways heavy on the story, there are still many moments of actual dark comedy that will probably have you laughing and wondering just exactly why you laughed here. The story starts off really quick and comedic with the sounds of The Beach Boys in the air, but soon changes into a very dark, haunting, and disturbing take on the war. You start to really get behind this story because the satire is there, and the political commentary which comments on the U.S.A’s involvement with foreign affairs will ring true and actually have you very angry as to where this story starts to take you. But this is also an action film and there’s plenty of enough thrills and spills to hold over any adrenaline junkie, but it’s more a political critique than an action/war film.

My only problem with this film is that sometimes I do feel like Russell get’s a little out-of-hand with the artistic side of his directing. I’m not going to lie, he does some pretty cool stuff here with everything he shows, but there are many times that I feel like he just gets a little too over his head with this artsy-fartsy crap he does. Also, by the end of the film it does get a little preachy, but I have to say this didn’t totally bother me, I just noticed it right away.

George Clooney and David O. Russell got in a huge brawl on-set during the filming of this film, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t turn in a good performance himself. Clooney basically plays the George Clooney he plays in every film but it always work because he has that cool vibe that always helps his character’s and is just totally sweet and smooth. He is all of that and a little more here as Archie Gates. Mark Wahlberg is amazing here as Troy Barlow because his character is a very human person that just wants to do what is right, and never wants to just kill anyone to kill anyone. Ice Cube is also great as the black grunt, Chief Elgin, and it’s kind of sad to watch this, knowing that this is his last film that actually showed that he any street cred left. Damn TBS! Spike Jonze is also very funny and good as the dumb hick, Conrad Vig, and it’s a very rare performance because now that Jonze has found his niche as a director, we may never see him in front of the screen again. This is a pretty strange head-lining cast but they all do real well with this very challenging material that gives them the opportunity to show their dramatic depths as actors, as well as their comedic timing too and they pull it off. The rest of the cast is very good as well with the likes of Jamie Kennedy, Judy Greer, and Mykelti Williamson aka Bubba.

Consensus: Though it gets a little preachy by the end, David O Russell’s Three Kings is still a smart and innovative blend of action, drama, war, and comedy that shows The Gulf War for the crap that it was and how we can all learn from our mistakes.

8/10=Matinee!!

Love Happens (2009)

Not as bad as everybody makes it out to be, but not all that good honestly.

When widower and self-help guru Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) unexpectedly falls for Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), his latent grief threatens his chance at romance. Now, the best-selling author and expert on coping with loss must prove he’s his own best teacher or risk losing love again.

What I was expecting from this film was to be totally bored out of mind, and to see nothing new. In a way, I kind of got that, in another way I didn’t.

The plot for this film is probably something that you could have seen if you were skipping school and decided to spend your day watching Lifetime with your mommy, and I think that’s the main problem with this film because it doesn’t do much with its premise rather than just be shallow about the themes within its screenplay.

The film says it’s about a romance between these two leads, but that is barely even there really and it’s more about a self-help guru coming to terms with his grief. This took me by surprise because some parts actually did work, but there was no real insight to this theme that we haven’t already seen before. Moments here were dull and boring, and the cutesie-bootsie montages that they use here become exhausting, and probably become the biggest cliche of the whole film.

If there is anything that this film does a great job with, it’s showing that Aaron Eckhart needs a damn Oscar! He plays this self-help guru with a lot of wit, and actual realistic human feelings that will have you like his character, Burke, a whole lot more than you expected. Jennifer Aniston is here as Eloise playing that quirky rom-com love interest we all know her for, but she doesn’t really show up that much and doesn’t do much for this film. There is also not enough chemistry between these two, mainly because the film doesn’t give them much time to actually develop. Judy Greer as always is awesome, Dan Fogler is OK if you like wannabe Jack Black’s, and Martin Sheen does a good job too. The script just lets this whole cast down, which is a real bummer since they all do try really really hard.

Consensus: Love Happens had some surprisingly nice moments, but the dramatic element nor does the romantic element work, and offers surprises if you haven’t seen a rom-com in the past 15 or 20 years.

4/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!