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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Juno Temple

Wonder Wheel (2017)

Went to Coney Island and Man, We’re People Annoying.

It’s Coney Island in the 1950’s and there are a bunch of people who are just doing their best to get by, whatever the hell that even means. There’s Ginny (Kate Winslet), an emotionally volatile former actress now working as a waitress in a clam house and yeah, she doesn’t quite like it. There’s Humpty (Jim Belushi), Ginny’s rough-hewn carousel operator husband who just wants the best for his family, even though he knows that’s easier said then done. There’s Mickey (Justin Timberlake), a handsome young lifeguard who dreams of becoming a playwright and instantly takes a liking to Ginny, despite her marital-status. And lastly, there’s Carolina (Juno Temple), Humpty’s long-estranged daughter, who is now hiding out from gangsters at her father’s apartment. Together, all four are just trying to get by, finding work, finding love, and oh yeah, finding a whole heck of a lot of issues along the way.

He could save me from drowning any day.

Wonder Wheel is, yet again, another one of Woody Allen’s less inspired efforts, although it does flirt with the idea of being something so much more and something so much better. And yet, it doesn’t. It sort of just sits there, stagnate, telling its story, its characters, conflicts, and just moving at its own even-pace. Which is odd, because Wonder Wheel is never all that funny to be a comedy, nor is it really all that sad or emotional to be considered a “drama”; it’s mostly just a bunch of dialogue, with bits that seem like comedy and drama, yet never reach that magnitude.

Which had me thinking, “Why doesn’t Woody Allen give television another try?”

I know that Crisis in Six Scenes was considered a bomb (though I didn’t mind it), but seriously, with so much TV out there that blurs the line between comedy and drama, there’s a part of me that wonders, with more time, effort, and care, Allen may be able to make a great TV show. Of course, though, you could say the same thing about the movies he makes, where each and everyone only takes a year to write, shoot, edit, and release, which is surprising for an 82-year-old man, but also obviously inconsistent. It’s almost as if every 7th flick or so from Allen is good, whereas all the others are just incredibly mediocre or fine.

And yes, Wonder Wheel is that movie where it seems like it Allen may have an inspired idea, but doesn’t really go there. He could have chosen to crack jokes about post-WWII America and the utter nostalgia that frames every inch of the beautifully-lit screen here, but instead, he settles for a story about four people, finding love and inspiration on Coney Island. If Allen actually cared, these characters would be compelling, but that’s the rub: It almost seems like he doesn’t. It’s as if everyone written here were already small sketches that he somehow got the green-light to make more of, but rather than working on said characters, he just continued to write more and more plot.

It’s like the Sopranos, with Jim Belushi, somehow.

And it’s a bit of a sad affair that, without the actors in it, would have been terribly boring.

But it isn’t and that’s because the cast all come ready to play and give it their all. Kate Winslet is going way wacky and over-the-top here as Ginny, but the woman sells it because she’s funny, a little sad, and a little different from what we’re used to seeing from Woody Allen’s heroines. For one, she’s older and going after a younger man, so already, she’s a ground-breaker, but yeah, she’s also an enjoyable presence in the movie that I would have loved to have seen in another movie that cared more about her. Justin Timblerake is fine as the lifeguard that Ginny falls for and while a lot of people have been ragging on Timberlake’s performance here, he’s okay enough to where he handles himself well, even among the crowd of talented people he’s stuck with.

But really, my favorite is probably Jim Belushi as the depressed and rather upset husband of Ginny. This character is interesting in that we’ve seen Allen play with these sorts of characters and make them completely awful human beings (see Danny Aiello in the Purple Rose of Cairo), whereas Belushi’s role as the husband is a lot more sad and sympathetic. Usually, these characters are mean and cruel, but this guy seems like he just wants a little bit more love out of life, isn’t getting it, but isn’t going to give up, either. He’s the kind of character who I wanted to give a hug, too, but once again, Allen steps a bit shy of actually giving this character more to deal with. It’s mostly just Belushi doing all that he can and he makes it work.

Wish I could say that about the rest of the movie.

Consensus: Never quite settling on a tone, Wonder Wheel is another middling-effort from Woody Allen, who seems to get by with beautiful visuals, a nostalgic setting, and solid cast, but can’t quite get his scripts to work.

5 / 10

Wrong attire for the beach, but hey, at least you’re here!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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The Most Hated Woman In America (2017)

Say what you want. Except if it’s about God. People really seem to like that person.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair (Melissa Leo) was known for being a bit of a shit-stirrer. She was one of the most vocal and well-known atheists in the country, who not just spoke out against the war when it wasn’t generally accepted to do so, but also made her case known about the separation between church, state, and most importantly, the state’s public schools. Due to this, a lot of people had issues with Madalyn, constantly threatening her and her family’s lives, leaving her to fear that she’d die eventually, and not by natural causes, either. But throughout all of the ranting and raving she did, some good came through it with the foundations she created for those who were in desperate need – something she continued to do until her death. And oh, about that death, well, that in and of itself is already a pretty odd and confusing spectacle. Then again, the same could have been said about Madalyn’s whole life.

Say cheese?

The story of Madalyn Murray O’Hair is perfect for a movie, just not for this one. Even though there’s already a documentary on her life, there’s still no reason you couldn’t do a full-length, scripted feature-flick, with this cast, and this story, but for some reason, the Most Hated Woman in America just doesn’t seem to be that one movie. It’s an confused movie about who it wants to be about, what it wants to say, and as a result, sort of muddles through everything in O’Hair’s life that makes her such a fascinating person to watch and listen to in the first place.

But thankfully, Melissa Leo does a slam-bang job as her.

Then again, are you surprised?

Probably not. Leo’s always been a solid actress who takes on rough and challenging roles like these, making them her own, and in a way, somehow making them sympathetic, in only the slightest bit. With O’Hair, Leo has the hard task of making this loud, obnoxious, and often times, incredibly rude woman, seem somewhat courageous and smart in her methods – it’s not like the way she is and goes about getting her point across makes her a bad person, but in any other movie, O’Hair would be the worst person ever. But because it’s Leo playing her, she gets by on pure charm from the actress who can do, essentially, anything.

And the rest of the cast is pretty stacked, too, surprisingly. Adam Scott shows up as a journalist who wants to discover the truth about O’Hair’s disappearance; Michael Chernus and Juno Temple play her two weird grand-kids; Vincent Kartheiser plays her son that goes through all sorts of expected problems, growing up with her as a mommy; and Alex Frost, Josh Lucas, and Rory Cochrane, despite playing conventional types, do what they can to make their kidnapper-characters more than just soulless creeps. They sort of are, but that’s not the point.

Yup. Still yelling.

But then again, with this movie, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point.

Director Tommy O’Haver makes the biggest mistake of taking this interesting and challenging subject, this person’s life, and all that they had to say, and not really saying anything about them. We get a nice history-lesson on who this woman took on and what she achieved, but how does the movie feel about that? And better yet, when does a movie such as this become less and less of a history-lesson, and more of a story being told to us? One with heart, emotion, and excitement in the air, as opposed to being just a slow, rather meandering WikiPedia entry put to film?

Either way, O’Haver misses a great opportunity here and it’s weird, too, because for a little over 90 minutes, the movie seems like it should have gone by so much quicker and had so much more to say. O’Haver’s story does, after all, deserve justice and is still a very relevant one, where certain politicians are, once again, using the big man in the sky to get away with discriminating against those who may be different than them. O’Haver fought for these people who didn’t have a voice as loud as hers and, somehow, yeah, she sort of came out on top.

Now, why can’t we get a movie that comes out on top, too?

Consensus: For all of the history it covers, the Most Hated Woman in America still feels like a missed opportunity that features great performances, but aside from that, not much else for O’Haver’s interesting life.

5 / 10

“Hug it out, son. Who needs faith when you have a mommy?”

Photos Courtesy of: The Daily Beast, Washington Square News, Tampa Bay Times

Black Mass (2015)

Tim Burton must feel pretty useless right about now.

Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) was one of the most notorious criminals in history. He ran South Boston by his rules, which, for the most part, consisted of a lot of drugs, booze, women, and murder – actually, there was lots and lots of murder involved. But the reason why Whitey was so able to get away with all of his criminal escapades was because he aligned himself with an old pal of his, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), who just so happened to be part of the FBI. Because Connolly looked up to and adored Bulger, he gets the FBI to strike some sort of deal where they’ll take down all of Bulger’s enemies (the Italian mob, local kingpins, etc.), and Bulger himself will practically be able to get away with anything he wants. Nobody quite catches on to this fact just yet, but eventually, the blood-shed, the drugs, and the murders become too much and too frequent to the point of where people start to notice that something is awry with this deal between Bulger and the FBI. And it all comes down to Connolly and Bulger’s relationship; one that will ruin both of their lives forever.

"Don't you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!"

“Don’t you dare say your sunglasses are cooler than mine!”

Finally, after a few months of sitting through some okay-to-good movies, it seems like the time has come for extraordinarily great movies to start hitting the cinemaplexes. While I am very tempted to say “Oscar season is upon us”, my better-half doesn’t want to because that seems to have recently given off a negative connotation. Rather than just being about good movies that deserve our attention, Oscar season is more about how studios finagle and manipulate their way into getting more votes and notice from the Academy, so that they can make more money, become more successful, and continue to do so for as long as they want to. And while Black Mass may not be a total Oscar-bait-y movie, through and through, it’s still a sign of good things to, hopefully, come in the next few or so months.

Oh yeah, and Johnny Depp’s pretty good in this too.

In fact, he’s really good. As good as he’s been since he started hanging around with Tim Burton. And while you could make the case that, yes, Depp is once again playing a notorious gangster (like he did in Public Enemies as John Dillinger not too long ago), there’s still something that feels different about this portrayal here that makes it seem like we’re not watching Johnny Depp playingJohnny Depp“. But instead, we’re watching Johnny Depp play Whitey Bulger, a ruthless, cut-throat, mean and sadistic crime-boss that intimidated practically everyone around him, that nobody ever dared to step up to him.

Sure, some of that has to do with the sometimes-distracting make-up job that’s trying so desperately hard to make Depp have some sort of similarities to the infamous Bulger, but Depp is so dedicated to making a character, that it works throughout the whole movie. He’s one-note for sure, but he’s so scary and terrifying to watch, even as he holds conversations that seem to go south as soon as somebody steps slightly out-of-line, that it’s hard to take your eyes off of him. Which is an all the more impressive feat when you consider that Black Mass isn’t exactly a Depp-centerpiece, as much as it’s an ensemble piece, where everybody gets their chance to show up, do some solid work, and give Depp a run for his money.

Depp may still own the movie at the end the day, but it’s an effort that’s compelling.

This is mostly evident with Joel Edgerton’s performance as John Connolly, a close friend and confidante of Bulger who, after awhile, you begin to feel bad for. Though Connolly is dirty, corrupt, and tries to avoid every idea that Bulger may get incriminated for all the wrongdoings he’s committed, there’s still something interesting to view and dissect. That Connolly looks up to Bulger more as a big brother, rather than a pal, makes it all the more clear that there’s something inherently wrong with Connolly’s own psyche, but he doesn’t own up to the fact and watching Edgerton play around with this character, showing-off all sorts of shadings, is enjoyable. It may not be as showy of a performance as Depp’s, but there’s something that sits with you long after that puts Black Mass over the hill of being more than just “an entertaining gangster pic”.

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you're an FBI agent in the 1970's, you've got to have a sweet-ass 'stache!

Come on, David Harbour and Kevin Bacon: If you’re an FBI agent in the 1970’s, you’ve got to have a sweet-ass ‘stache!

Which is to say that, yes, Black Mass is in fact, an entertaining gangster pic. Director Scott Cooper and co-writers Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth clearly have a love for these kinds of raw, gritty, and violent gangster flicks in the same vein as Scorsese and do well in constructing a movie that’s both fun, as well as emotional. While it’s hard to really get attached to any character in particular, there’s still interesting anecdotes made about certain character’s and their lives that make it more of an interesting watch.

For instance, though she only gets a few or so scenes, Julianne Nicholson is spectacular as Connolly’s wife who, from the very beginning, doesn’t like a single thing about Whitey Bulger. While she knows he’s helping her hubby out in getting a nice promotion, she also knows that the dude’s bad news; so much so, that she won’t even bother to sit at the same dinner table as him, let alone socialize with him at a party at her own house. Though this role is clearly limited to “disapproving wife”, there’s a lot more to her in the way Nicholson portrays her that makes us want to see a whole movie dedicated to just her.

Same goes for a lot of other characters here, as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bill Bulger, Whitey’s bro, is a mayor who knows that his brother is up to no good, but is so willing to push it off to the side if that means he gets to have more power, politically speaking, that it’s actually scary; Peter Sarsgaard plays a drug-dealer that gets in on Whitey’s dealings and, although a total mess, still seems like a real guy who is easy to care for; Dakota Johnson only gets a few scenes as Whitey’s wife, but sets the basis for what Whitey himself will live by until the day he died; and of course, there’s the likes of Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Corey Stoll, W. Earl Brown, Juno Temple, and a very emotional Rory Cochrane, that all add more layers to their characters, as well as the movie itself.

Though it doesn’t make the movie great, or better yet, perfect, it still makes it a highly enjoyable, mainstream gangster pic that has more to it than meets the eyes.

Or should I say, more than just bullets that meets the eyes.

Consensus: Led by a breathtaking performance from Johnny Depp, Black Mass benefits from its stacked-ensemble, but also has plenty more to say about its characters than just guns, blood, and crime.

8 / 10

Jack Sparrow who?

Jack Sparrow who?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Far From the Maddening Crowd (2015)

Look out, Marcus Mumford. You’ve got lots of competition coming your way.

In Victorian England, single, independent and smart farm-owner Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) lives a comfortable life where men are always asking for her hand in marriage. After she inherits her uncle’s farm, and all the riches that come along with it, plenty more men come her way, but mostly, in the forms of three, very different men. Suitor one is Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer who asked for Bathsheba’s hand in marriage early on before she got rich, and still clearly has the hots for her, as she does for him. Suitor two is Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), an army Sergeant who, after being stood-up at the altar by his ex (Juno Temple) is currently pissed-off and always drunk, although he catches Bathsheba’s eyes many of times; and suitor three is William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a rich, much older man who constantly stalks Bathsheba no matter where she goes, and always seems to be infatuated with her it borderlines on the verge of being creepy. All three suitors have their own pros and cons for Bathsheba, but it’s fully up to her to make her own decision and come to the conclusion as to who she wants in her life as a mate, if she even wants one at all.

Every year, especially around this time, it seems like we’re all treated to British, Victorian-era period pieces that are clearly targeted to whomever isn’t interested in seeing Avengers for the third of fourth time. While this is a smart marketing plan by whoever makes these kinds of decisions, it leaves one to wonder if these movies are any good in the first place? Surely, not every movie has to feature robots, things blowing up, and CGI, but by the same token, do we really need to get so many period pieces around the same time of the year where only a fine majority will actually go out to see and enjoy them?

Meh. Uhm, no.

Meh. Uhm, no.

Maybe these are questions best suited elsewhere, but anyway, that’s one of the main reasons why Far From the Maddening Crowd worked for me, as opposed to so many other prestige, British dramas of the same vein.

While it’s all very luscious to look at, serious, professional, and color-codded in a way to make older people gasp and gaze at a time when things were a lot simpler, it’s still also a very modern story that doesn’t take too much time or effort to think about. Sure, Far From the Maddening Crowd is still a complex tale with plenty of layers to decipher, but basically, what it really is, is a story of one woman deciding who she wants to be with in her life. Some of that may not seem like it comes at any cost, but the movie makes the good point that, in at least Bathsheba’s case, there totally is.

Bathsheba is an independent free-thinker that doesn’t need a man to define who she is, what she does, or what she can do for those around her, but at the same time, she wants that never ending feeling of love and happiness that mostly comes with having a mate in one’s life. She doesn’t need it, but she wants it, and that’s what makes her tail all the more complex, as it’s a smart one that doesn’t try to tell all women out there that, “All you need to make yourself happy is a man, and that’s it. Everything else is poppycock.”

And it’s also a perfect piece of casting to have Carey Mulligan in the role that, from what I’m supposed to believe, is the one female character to inspire many generations of ones to come. Mulligan doesn’t have a great amount of range (or at least, none of which that I’ve totally seen yet), but she’s good here as Bathsheba Everdene because she’s not only gorgeous, but doesn’t seem stupid. Sure, she makes the silly mistake of falling for the wrong guy and marrying him at one point, but she isn’t a dope that could be easily swayed one way; with her, it would take a lot of time and effort on one’s behalf to really impress her, which makes Bathsheba all the more compelling to watch.

No! Definitely not!

No! Definitely not!

Not to mention that it helps make her three suitors entertaining, even if one does get a tad too over-the-top for his own good.

Though Tom Sturridge is a fine actor and does what he can here, his Frank Troy here is just too one-note. Sure, we feel bad for the dude because he gets stood-up at the altar for all of the wrong reasons, but once we realize that he’s the main antagonist that the movie is going to rely on, the role gets a bit more bland. He’s there to basically stir the shit when the shit needs stirring and it just comes off as lazy and manipulative on the part of director Thomas Vinterberg. Maybe this was how he was written, I’m not sure, but all I know is that it doesn’t wholly work.

That said, Sturridge doesn’t blur the fact that both Michael Sheen and especially, Matthias Schoenaerts, are great here and allow for these two characters to seem more deep than they may actually be written as being. Sure, Sheen’s character may be a total and complete creep, that can’t help but find Bathsheba whenever she’s in a dark, confined hallway, but also seems like a genuinely nice guy who is willing to do whatever he can to get the love of his life. Once again, not saying I fully condone his actions, but the dude’s inspired by something, so I’ll give him that.

The one who obviously seems like the perfect fit for Bathsheba is Schoenaerts’ Gabriel Oak – a character who seems so hokey, that he sort of works. He’s the quiet, stern and silent type, but he’s also incredibly handsome, hot and capable of fixing anything and everything that needs fixing. Clearly, he seems like the perfect fit for Bathsheba, but because she doesn’t go for him right off the bat, were left waiting and wondering when that may happen, if at all. I’ve only seen Schoenaerts in a few films or so, and I have to say, the dude has impressed me tons. Not only does he find ways to further challenge himself, but doesn’t seem pigeon-holed as being the Brando-clone that he was made out to be so early in his career.

Can’t wait to see what he’s got next, but let’s just hope that it isn’t another British period-piece. I can only handle so many of these a year.

Consensus: Like most period pieces, it’ll appeal to some, and not to others, but Far From the Maddening Crowd features a top-notch ensemble, with a romantic story that goes certain places that are interesting, believable, and fun to watch, all at the same time.

7.5 / 10

Yes! Get it, girl!

Yes! Get it, girl!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Horns (2014)

The Devil works in mysterious ways.

Ignatius “Ig” Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young dude who had planned to live a full and complete life with his loving, adoring, and ultimately, sweet girlfriend (Juno Temple), until she was mysteriously murdered. Though all of the fingers are pointing towards him, Ig knows full well that he’d never kill the love of his life; an idea that his defense attorney (Max Minghella) is trying his best to argue in the court. But nobody wants to fully believe Ig and just about everybody around him hardly wants anything to do with him, or even hear him plea his case. That all changes though when Ig, for some odd reason, starts to grow Devil horns, which, for another odd reason, makes every person around him want to unearth their deepest, darkest secrets. Initially, Ig is freaked-out by this, but eventually, he starts to smarten-up and realize that he can use this skill to his advantage. Now, he’s set out on a course to find out the real killer behind his loves’ death and, hopefully, clear his name of any evil wrongdoings.

But those horns just won’t go away.

You're never fully in love unless you're both sprawled out on the floor together in perfect, sappy harmony.

You’re never fully in love unless you’re both sprawled out on the floor together in perfect, sappy harmony.

So yeah, by reading that synopsis, you can that there’s something odd going on with this movie and seeing as this is directed by splatter-lover Alexandre Aja, you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that a lot of messed-up stuff happens here. In fact, that’s exactly what I expected to. Watch any of Aja’s movies and you’ll be able to know full well that the man loves throwing as much ketchup as he can, wherever he pleases, and however he likes to. That’s why something as dumb, over-the-top, and somewhat boring as Piranha 3D was made slightly more enjoyable, if only because Aja couldn’t take the hiding anymore and just had to let loose somehow.

But that’s also why a movie like Horns surprised me, and in a nice way, too. See, this isn’t necessarily a horror movie in the sense that we get a butt-load of scares and frightening things happening; it’s more of that we have a very dark, eerie premise, based around an idea that in and of itself, could be even more dark and eerie, yet, is played-out as a dark comedy of sorts.

For instance, try the angle the plot takes with these horns growing on Ig’s head – while in most movies, this would be downright terrifying and lead to sinister occurrences that only Damien himself would be equipped to handle, Aja plays it up for laughs and makes Ig’s horns a source of comedy. This surprised me, not just because the humor was actually effective in certain ways, but because Aja found a way to still add a sense of creepiness by allowing these characters to speak their minds openly, and in such an over-the-top manner, as well.

And while the movie isn’t always funny when it wants to be, Aja still does plenty else here to make sure that our minds are kept busy. Which yes, does come off as manipulative and purposeful, but it shows us that Aja is growing. Not just as a person, but as a film maker that’s willing to take on more than just horror. For example, he doesn’t just show scenes of heads getting demolished, or people getting doused in flames, but also has a relatively sweet love story at the center, and, for as long as it can sustain to do so, has an unpredictable mystery that seems like it could go anywhere, with anybody to be blamed at fault.

That said, it doesn’t always work and you can, for the most part, understand why it’s sometimes best for Aja to just stick with scenes of relentless, gory violence. And yet, he doesn’t do just that and because of that being so, I give him credit. The movie itself may not be perfection, but when you show the world there’s more to you than just people losing limbs in disgusting ways, then I, the movie-goer, will always have your back. Even if, you know, it doesn’t always work out the best way you maybe have hoped for.

So yes, Alexandre Aja, take this is as a way of me saying, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

"Bro, it's just devil horns. Take a chill pill, man."

“Bro, it’s just devil horns. Take a chill pill, man.”

Even though I highly doubt you’re even reading this.

Anyway, the same that I’m saying to Aja, could just as easily be said to Daniel Radcliffe who, in the past three-to-four years, has definitely taken advantage of his time away from Hogwarts by appearing in both, money-making mainstream projects, while also, trying his hand in some interesting indie-pieces as well. All around though, with this time away from one of the biggest movie franchises of all-time, Radcliffe has shown us that he’s a versatile actor and isn’t afraid to make himself look ugly, especially if he has to. Here, as Ig, the dude definitely gets to look rugged and mean, as if he had finally gotten tired, once and for all, of being known as Harry Potter and has wanted everybody to know that he’s ready to get rid of those good looks of his, especially if he has to. And with that being said, yes, Radcliffe is good in this role as Ig; not because he’s willing to go to some weird places most actors wouldn’t feel comfortable with dropping down to, but because he shows us that he can actually be funny, in a type of dead-pan way. A way which I hope to see more of in the near-future with whatever he decides to take up next.

The rest of the cast does pretty fine, too, especially since most of them have to just play a bunch of crazy, wild, caricatures that sometimes verge on “cartoonish”. But, I couldn’t help but be entertained by them nonetheless. Juno Temple plays Ig’s dead girlfriend who, despite getting naked quite a few times, feels like an honest little girl in a small town; Max Minghella plays something of a dick that you’re not too sure about right from the very start; David Morse plays the grieving dad and at least adds some emotional gravitas to a movie that, quite frankly, doesn’t seem to be too bothered with it in the first place; and lastly, Heather Graham shows up as an insanely self-centered waitress and seems like she showed up to the set either totally high, or having no idea if her mic was on or not, so she just decided to scream each line she had as loud as possible.

Either way, it works for her and ultimately, for the movie as well.

Consensus: Tonally jumbled and not always effective, Horns is still a fun film, if only because it seems like everybody set out to make something strange and, altogether, not worth taking fully serious, until it tries to be.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Take that, Snape."

“Take that, Snape.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

When a place is called “Sin City”, it’s best not to trust anyone and just leave.

Sort of taking place before the events of the first movie, and sort of not, we follow three-four different story-lines taking place in the most violent, most brutal places of all: Sin City. First, there’s a out-of-towner gambler by the name of Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who definitely has lady luck on his side when it comes to playing a mean game of poker, but ends up realizing that maybe he’s met his match in Senator Roark (Powers Boothe). Then, there’s Dwight (Josh Brolin) who, after having reconnected with a former flame of his (Eva Green), finds himself in the middle of a scandal that puts both his life, as well as his lover’s in danger. And lastly, after having the love of her life killed, Nancy Callahan (Jessica Alba) vows for vengeance against the man who is responsible for this, although now, she’s drinking a lot more heavily than ever before. But also, lets not forget that there’s Marv (Mickey Rourke), who is basically roaming around, kicking whoever’s ass deserves a whooping next.

Though it was over-the-top, violent, gratuitous, and incredibly idiotic, there’s something about the original Sin City that still has me smile. Even to this day, if I’m running around through the channels in need of something quick, fun and easy to watch, and if it’s on, I’ll usually sit back and watch as if it’s my first time all over again. It’s also the movie I can turn on around my bros, and safely know that they’ll enjoy it.

I state this fact because I don’t necessarily think I’ll be saying/thinking the same way for this movie. Which isn’t as much of a problem, as much as it is a disappointing. Because if you think about it, we didn’t really need another Sin City; however, it doesn’t hurt to have one because the original was such a lovely surprise of dark, brooding joy. And it would have been totally fine had both Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller decided to go down the same route once again, and apart of me actually wishes they did.

Could have swore I told him not to bring that Don Jon crap around Sin City.

Could have swore I told him not to bring that Don Jon crap around Sin City.

Because yes, while this movie may not be nearly as bad as some may have been touting it as, it sure as heck isn’t what a superfan of the first movie would want to expect. Remember all of those senseless acts of over-the-top, cheesy violence in the first one that never seemed to stop showing up out of nowhere? Yeah, they’re here, but rather than being all that fun or exciting, they’re just repetitive and after awhile, just feels like a crutch for Rodriguez to fall back on when he doesn’t trust the numerous stories are keeping our attention as much.

Which, isn’t to say that the stories here aren’t at least interesting to follow, as they jump through one hoop to the next, but honestly, it becomes a bit of a drag after awhile. All of the numerous double-crosses and contrivances of the plot eventually begin to show and it makes you wonder what the real passion behind this movie being made was in the first place. It couldn’t have been to get more and more money from the die hard Frank Miller fans out there, could it have? I don’t think so, but whatever the reason may be, it doesn’t seem like Rodriguez feels all that much strive for this movie to be made and work for anybody who decides to watch it.

And I know I’m getting on Rodriguez’s case a bit too much here, and yes, I know it isn’t all that far. But however, since I saw Machete Kills and gave it some sort of “a pass”, I feel like I’m obliged to go out there and get on his case for sort of ruining another franchise that was chock full of surprise and absolute wonder. Sure, the Machete and Sin City movies aren’t the highest of art, for the most respectable movie-audiences out there, but they’re movies that, when done right, can be an absolute great time because they’re so crazy, so idiotic, and so self-knowing about their own stupidity, that anything goes, so long as the movies themselves stay as fun and as awesome of a time as they originally promise being.

With this second Sin City film, it feels like there’s not nearly as much craziness, or fun, to really make up for most of the problems with the script, its stories, or even its characters. It’s just something of a blank slate that feels like it wants to go somewhere, somewhere rather insane beyond our wildest and zaniest dreams, but for some reason, just doesn’t. This is a feeling I’ve had with most of Rodriguez’s movies and I feel like it’s time that he nuts up, or shuts up. Meaning, give me an absolute, balls-to-the-walls B-movie that doesn’t give a hoot about what people think or say about it – or, just doesn’t promise me anything like that at all in the first place, especially if you’re not going to follow through on your promises.

To be safe, just make another Spy Kids movie. Nobody seems to be complaining about them.

Or, the people that shouldn’t be, at least.

That said, the ones who mostly get out of this movie, Scott-free is the ensemble who are either as charming as one can be in a goofy noir, or downright weird that they feel perfectly suited for the material they’re given. Either way, they do a fine job, it’s just that it feels like, in the hands of a much better, more dedicated director, they could have done absolute wonders, like mostly everybody did in the first movie.

Returning as everybody’s favorite, and something of the iconic superhero for this franchise as a whole, is Mickey Rourke as Marv and shows us that, underneath that over-load of costume and make-up, lies a true talent that can still breath some dimensions into his character; even if that character is literally a cartoon. Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe, Jessica Alba and a few others return and show why they were picked for this material in the first place, even if there is a slight feeling that maybe Alba could have been given less to do. And it’s not to rain on her parade and talk out against her skills as an actress – it’s more that her character is so poorly-written, that the only positive aspect to her character is that she, occasionally, will talk to the spirit of Bruce Willis’ character. He’s another one that shows up every so often, but really, he doesn’t need to be here; he’s just taking up space, really.

Mean, heartless, brutal and full of weapons. My kind of women.

Mean, heartless, brutal and stocked with all sorts of toys. My kind of women.

As for the new bloods coming into this franchise, most of them are fine, although, like I said before: One can only wonder what would have happened to them, had there been a far more driven director involved. Josh Brolin plays Dwight (who has a new face, hence why no Clive Owen in the role) and is fine playing this troubled character who wants to always do the right thing, but knows that in a place like Sin City, that’s easier said, then actually done. Brolin’s good here as the gruff dude that can kick ass, but he doesn’t have as much of a personality as Owen did. Maybe it’s a British thing?

Another new addition to this franchise is a favorite of mine (so back off, ladies!), Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Johnny, a known gambler who sometimes is a little too in over his head. It’s cool to see JGL challenging himself in something this stylized and strange, but honestly, if you take his character, or even his whole story-arch, out altogether, there would probably be no notable change found whatsoever. Although there is a lovely bit featuring Christopher Lloyd as a degenerate doctor, his story lacks any real muster that makes you want to keep watching him, or this Johnny character as is. So if he was taken out, there wouldn’t have been a problem, except for the fact that this is a JGL and the guy’s known to put in great work. So give him something better to do, dammit!

And last, but certainly not least is Eva Green as Ava, the dame people are “killing for”. Green, with what seems to be the second movie in a row this year (300: Rise of An Empire being the first), brings a certain level of camp that doesn’t necessarily make the movie better, but at least makes her scenes feel like they’re genuinely pulsing with some sort of energy. Add on top of that the fact that she’s naked practically every other scene she shows up in, then you’ve got the most memorable performance of a cast filled with huge, reliable names.

For better, and I guess, for worse.

Consensus: Without nearly as much heart or as much of the shock-factor as there was in the first, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is, for the most part, occasionally fun, but never jumps over that edge of making it total and complete, B-movie joy. Much like the original was.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

If I was on the opposing side of these two fellas, I'd need a new pair of shorts.

If I was on the opposing side of these two fellas, a new pair of shorts would totally be needed.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Maleficent (2014)

How could one not be petrified to death of those cheek-bones?

When Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) was just a blissful young fairy, she was full of all sorts of life and cared for all of those around her. She loved and protected the forest she lived in; had fairy-friends that she would often fly around with; and even made herself a human-friend in the form of Stefan (Sharlto Copley). They had a great friendship that lasted until he became King – an honor he received by cutting-off Maleficent’s wings, and therefore, robbing her of her innocence. So obviously Maleficent wasn’t too happy about this and decided that she would do whatever she could to extract revenge on him in any way possible, even if that meant cursing his newborn daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning). With the fear that his whole family is in danger, Stefan decides to send his daughter away with three fairies (Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple), where they will watch over her and take care of her. However, the problem is that these fairies do a pretty lackluster job at doing so, and instead, leaves Maleficent herself to care for Aurora and watch over her through her formative years; making the bond between the two of them stronger than either could ever imagine. Especially for Maleficent who, if she’s not careful, may actually start caring for this little kid she calls “a beast”.

Though most of you may think that these constant, live-action re-workings of classic fairy-tales may not work for someone such as myself – it’s surprisingly the other way around. In fact, more or less, I actually commend more of them to be made. Not only do I feel like it gives our future generations a better understanding of what these stories actually are and look like, but it also shows us what these types of stories could be with actual, real-life human beings in the role, regardless of how much CGI may be floating around them.

And in the case of Maleficent, there’s a whole lot of CGI floating around here, and then some.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

I think in this case, he may be the one with the horns, if you catch my drift.

While what I just said may have given off a negative connotation, I’ll have you know, that is totally not the case with this movie. See, first-time director Robert Stromberg has truly created something beautiful here; colors, locations and fantasy-like worlds all blend together to give us an idea that were in some place totally original, despite looking like every other fantasy world ever created. It’s a hard task that Stromberg is able to pass, and pass well, which may not seem like much of a surprise to anyone who knows that he’s worked on movies like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland in the past.

However, is there such a thing as a movie looking “too beautiful”? Personally, I don’t believe so, but there does come a point where you have to wonder just when do the visuals end, and the story begin. And here, there isn’t ever a really story that begins, or even ends for that case; it sort of just accompanies the beautiful, awe-inspiring visuals that keep our eyes busy and preoccupied, so that we don’t realize what little story there actually is here.

But considering that this movie is a little over an-hour-and-a-half (a huge surprise to get in the first month of the summer movie season), the lack of a story/drive, is really noticeable and actually makes a lot of the problems with this movie shine even brighter and harsher than before, when all it was that we had to pay attention to was how purrty everything looked.

Like, for instance, with the exception of our titled-character, there is not a single interesting character to be found throughout this whole movie; instead, everybody is just a bunch of walking, talking, and behaving cliches. Sharlto Copley plays King Stefan who is basically just a selfish, deuchy man that continues to get more and more insane, just as his facial-hair begins to get more and more ridiculous and over-bearing; the three fairies are ditsy klutzes used to be something of “comedic-reliefs”, yet they are neither; Sam Riley seems like he wants to break out and show off some charm as Maleficent’s side-kick that she can turn into any creature she can think of, but anytime it seems like he’s just about to, our evil queen (aka, the movie) turns him into a crow, or a wolf, or a dragon, therefore killing any possibility that he may have some fun in this thinly-written role; and Elle Fanning, for once in her short, but storied-career, gave me a performance of hers that’s not the least bit intriguing, because, for the most part, all she has to do is look up to Maleficent and gaze into those mesmerizing eyes of hers.

That’s pretty much it. Could have called up Dakota for that job, if you ask me.

But that’s not even the bulk of the problems with this movie; like I alluded to before, there’s really no story here. In case you didn’t know, this is an origin-tale that throws us right into this story, this world, and this character that we’re clearly supposed to care for, but once Maleficent turns the other cheek and becomes an evil beotch, then the movie sort of just moves along at its own pace, while at the same time, not really doing anything. Sure, we get to see some shading to the character of Maleficent and how she’s not all that much of a despicable witch after all, but it’s not enough to warrant a whole movie made about her, her adventures, and the problems she must overcome as an evil witch scorned with hatred and revenge for another man.

Come to think of it, it’s always about a man, isn’t it? These Disney movies always love to brag and show off how much they’re about “girl power” and how much having a man in their life doesn’t matter, but when it really comes right down to it, it’s always a man that they’re fighting for, or because. It’s never that a woman lives her life because she wants to by her own free-will; it’s always because a man had some inspiration in the matter, somehow, someway. Always seems a bit weird to me, but maybe I just think too much.

And this is what sort of brings me to my next point about the most important aspect of this whole movie: Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. It’s cool to see Jolie in a role like this that nobody could ever see her actually accepting to do, but I guess motherhood has had a bit of an affect on her life as of late and it’s about time that she finally decided to take some roles for herself and bring some of that extra-dough. Whether or not that’s actually the case, it doesn’t matter because at least we still get to see how good she is when she’s given enough material for her to chew on and work with to the bone. She’s always been known to do that, as well as show everybody how damn beautiful and dazzling she looks; so with an iconic villain like Maleficent, you think that she’d be working wonders with this role. Right?

Ripped right out of Shrek.

When did everything become Shrek all of a sudden?

Well, that’s the problem, once again, with the movie: It doesn’t give her enough to really run wild or have a good time with. There’s a certain charisma that Jolie brings to this role that allows us to see her more human than ever before, but there’s just not enough camp to this performance where we really get the sense that she’s having fun. She’s never going through the motions, however, she’s never really showing all that much of an effort that would really put this movie over the edge into being something you need to see, if only for her.

Most of that’s the movie’s fault, and less of her own, but it’s still a fault that this movie should be held accountable for. And not just because it doesn’t give one of our best-working actresses today enough material to really go nuts with, but because it makes Maleficent, the character, seem like sort of a jumble of ideas. I’m all for getting behind a villainous character and showing them in a slightly sympathetic-light, but with somebody as memorably and recognizably scary as Maleficent, it doesn’t really do her any justice for us to see her as a character we not only stand behind, but actually come to like. Not saying that it can’t be done, but when it comes to this character, one who is quite frightening even in animated-form, then you really have to know just what you’re going to do with her and why. If you don’t, then don’t bother.

And you sure as hell don’t waste any of Angelina’s good old time. Especially when she’s got to go back to that hunk of man-meat every night.

Consensus: Easy on the eyes with its beautiful production-designs, Maleficent proves to be a movie that’s a lot about what it seems to be on its lush-surface, but when one really gets down to it and digs a bit deeper under that said surface, there’s not much to be found. Just a waste of a great cast, most importantly, a more-than-willing Angelina Jolie.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Ugh. I can't believe she wore that to this party. Like what a betch."

“Ugh. I can’t believe she wore that to this. Like, what a betch.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Afternoon Delight (2013)

Sky rockets in flight….

Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is your typical, suburban mommy. She’s rich, she works-at-home, she cares for her kid, she has barely any sex with her hubby (Josh Radnor) and she routinely sees a therapist (Jane Lynch). But worst of all, she’s just bored. It’s that plain and simple. So, in order to fix that and get some spice back into her uneventful marriage, Rachel decides to go to a strip-club where she gets a private lap-dance from a much younger girl named McKenna (Juno Temple). The two don’t necessarily hit it off, as much as it’s just Rachel who sees McKenna as a possible source to not only cure her boredom, but make her feel like she is saving somebody from this world, if only it’s to take her away from the sex world. This is when Rachel gets the bright idea to have McKenna stay in her house and tell everybody that she is her “nanny”, while also trying to make sure that McKenna herself stays away from the pole, as well as her other job, being a high-class hooker. As the cracks in Rachel’s lie begin to show, so do the ones with her marriage, her friendships with her fellow neighbors, as well as her and McKenna’s relationship as well, which causes hell for just about everybody surrounded around them both.

Though it’s easy to characterize anybody who lives in the suburbs as “uptight”, “boring” and “stuck-up”, among other things, it’s not exactly fair. See, I actually live in the suburbs, even though I venture out to Philly for most of my natural, breathing-life, and I can’t help but see this differently sometimes. Some of the people that I do know that live in the suburbs, definitely don’t always have a firm grip on reality, or what actually is occurring out there in the world, so they just act like it’s all a big deal, and donate to a charity or some fund, just in order to make themselves feel better about their contribution to a needy-cause. That’s only “some” people I know though.

Dude's totally tucking it in right now.

Dude’s totally tucking it in right now.

As for the others that I know, they’re just as simple as you or I. Sure, they don’t always have the best clue on what is really going on out there in the world, but they aren’t necessarily dummies either. If you take them into the city where crime and violence supposedly runs amok, they won’t fret or freak-out. Yeah, they’ll be a bit tense and all, but who wouldn’t?!?!

But what I’m trying to get at here is that most of the ideas we think we have about those upper-class, suburbanites, aren’t always exactly true, and I think that’s the type of idea this movie tries to get across – not just in its message, but through its main character, Rachel. See, here is the thing about Rachel: You know that she’s this woman who longs for something more and isn’t too into-her-own-head to get all bothered and bugged about what most of her neighbors get all crazy about. However, you can also tell that she still wants to look good in their eyes, not seem like a total “rebel”, and just make sure that she keeps the peace between her and all them, without ever stepping on their toes, or offending them in any way. And to be honest, when you watch Rachel, you can’t help but just root her on because you know that she’s a lovely lady and means well, but the group of gals that she’s thrown into, aren’t really the right fit for her and are the type of walking, talking and living cliches we usually see of these upper-class, suburban women: Uptight, boring and stuck-up.

However though, that same dilemma built for Rachel, is what makes her such a compelling character to begin with. We want to despise her and look down on her for being so dumb and thinking that she could, or “should”, save a girl like McKenna, who has practically been screwing, lying, cheating and stealing since she first learned how to speak; but by the same token, we also can’t hate her because she has good intentions, she does nice things for people and, at the end of the day, she’s just like you or me, and has the same wants, needs and pleads. It’s what makes her so interesting to watch, not because we never know how she’s going to react next to McKenna’s dirty and gritty world, but because we never quite know how she’s going to react to those other women around her. You know, the women she’s supposed to fit-in with, but yet, just doesn’t seem all that interested in doing so.

Writer/director Jill Soloway definitely made a smart decision in making someone like Rachel, feel as real and as genuine as you could get, but she also made an even smarter-decision in casting someone like Kathryn Hahn in the role, someone who, in case you didn’t know, loves to be very funny, crazy and wacky, just about ALL of the time. And in all honesty, I think that’s what makes this performance so worth watching: We know Hahn’s background and we know how much she can make us laugh, but watching her sort of play-up the whole serious side of acting-skills and actually emote, is really surprising to see on-screen, not least because she isn’t any good at it. Because she totally is and makes Rachel someone we can sort of connect with, as well as empathize with, because we all know she wants to do the right thing, even if her intentions are in a bit of a jumble as to why, and for what reasons.

But, make no mistakes, we never hate Rachel, nor do we ever hate someone like McKenna either, which is mostly due to the fact that Juno Temple practically has this whole “young, sexpot”-act down to a T by now. Though we hear that McKenna comes from a sketchy-background, I never once felt like she was all that bad of a woman to have around the house, or bring out into public. Sure, she’s been around the block maybe one too many times, but leaving her alone with my kid? Eh, I could do worse. However, leaving her around my hubby while I was gone? Not at all! But, once again, Soloway makes the smart decision in giving somebody like Josh Radnor, another dude we mostly see as the charming, funny dude in stuff, a dramatic role, but also, a very believable one as a husband that loves his wife, his kid, his house, his salary and his buddies he smokes pot and surfs with, but still may have that lingering-eye a few times.

Very subtle.....slut.

Very subtle. Slut.

Still though, the movie doesn’t always entertain the idea that Radnor’s character may actually go behind his wife and cheat on her with McKenna, which is sort of a disappointment, because there are many times where it seems like this movie could have definitely benefited from some more emotional fireworks thrown into the mix. I mean yeah, we get a couple of scenes where we see Rachel try and understand who McKenna is, where she comes from and why she loves what she does (screwing), but there was never enough to fully wrap us into either of their stories. They were sort of getting to know one another, but at the same time, sort of not. They were, more or less, just peaking into each other’s lives to see what it was all about – which I get was probably the point, but Soloway never allows for there to be much tension added into the proceedings.

Instead, we get a bunch of characters who are definitely very interesting and may make you reconsider some previous-stances you may, or may not, have had on those who choose to live far, far away from the suburbs, so that they can live in peace in harmony, without much excitement in there to shake things up. You can call their life-styles “boring”, and hell, you can even call it “unrealistic”, but for some people, this is probably for the best. So next time, just let those suburbanites settle into their lives and move, as you do the same. Unless you are one, then in that case, get outside, get your ass to the city and see what life is all about!!! Woo-hoo!

Consensus: Most of what Afternoon Delight presents here are used more as just thoughts, rather than as a full-blown idea to keep the narrative going, but when you have such great performances from the likes of Josh Radnor, Juno Temple and most surprisingly of all, Kathryn Hahn, it doesn’t hurt to just sit back and watch as these people live their lives. Even as monotonous and dull as they may be, at times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I'm saying, guys?

So if I just wanted to watch, would I have to chip in as well? Know what I’m saying, guys?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

Lovelace (2013)

So did she really have a clitoris located at the bottom of her throat?

Remember that porno back in the 70’s that started a phenomenon of pervs getting away with watching people bang on-screen and have be it considered “art”, Deep Throat? Well, the main star of that “film” was Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) who was more than just a gal who gave very good head. Nope, actually, believe it or not, she was once a small-town, Christian gal from the suburbs that just so happened to get caught up in an older man named Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard). They fall madly in love and before they know it, they’re out gallivanting and loving life in the hot sun of L.A. However, Chuck sees potential in Linda, the same type of potential that could be used to make both of them very rich, and very famous as well. Problem is, with fame and fortune, comes the problems and with Chuck, the problems never seem to stop coming up.

The porn world sure has come a long, long way since the early days of the 70’s, and all of us horny dudes have Linda Lovelace to credit for that. However, as most of us may, or may not know, there was a lot more brewing underneath the surface of Lovelace’s life, as well as the making behind Deep Throat. Not only was Lovelace practically beaten within an inch of her life for a long while of it, but she was also forced to do the movie just so that Traynor could pay off some debts, support his drug habit, and just make money in general. He also wanted Lovelace to be a star, which she did become, but once that actually panned-out well for her, the dude put his foot back down and domineered his way back into her life like before, except it only continued to get worse and worse.

"Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD."

“Okay, now, you have to blow him. HARD.”

All of this is pretty tragic, considering the fame and fortune Lovelace could have had had her career gone on any longer; but the film never seems to tap into that fact. It’s strange, but believe it or not; the flick is mainly more about Traynor than it is Lovelace. Lovelace does have many scenes where she’s not with Traynor, but even then, she’s always with another person on screen, as if both writers/directors Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman didn’t have enough trust in their material to find a way in making her more of an interesting character to hold an hour-and-a-half-long movie. It gets very disappointing after awhile, and it also feels strange because the movie never quite goes as deep as it should with it’s subject, the sadness behind it, or what exactly happened to Lovelace’s later life.

In fact, I’d probably say that her later life was probably the most interesting thing going for her. Once Lovelace had it with all the money, the notoriety, and the sex, she decided to stand right up against the porn industry; the same porn industry that she helped catapult it’s way into total and complete popularity. Seems odd for a type of person to do that, but given the circumstances of which she lived with for a long while, it makes sense that somebody so damaged and upset would go back to those limits and scare others away from making the same mistakes she made.

However, that’s just a reality; the type of reality this movie doesn’t even bother to develop enough. Then again though, oddly enough, it doesn’t develop much else either. Sure, we see the spousal-abuse from Traynor come around, a little too much I would say, and we see her film her porn scenes that have become something of infamy now, but never anything else to where we really feel a connection to this story or anything that’s going on. Even Lovelace herself just feels a bit like a sad excuse to show boobies, asses, dicks, and grotesque-sex, just so the horn-balls watching this will have something to get off too. A real shame too, because Lovelace’s story that I wouldn’t mind hearing more about, or even seeing for that matter, but the flick doesn’t show much interest in her, or anything else for that matter. It’s just dull, and painfully so. Where’s Dirk Diggler when you need him!!?!? Seriously!

Speaking of Linda Lovelace, she’s played very well here by Amanda Seyfried, the type of role that’s meant to stretch her abilities as an actress, but somehow doesn’t. Not her fault neither, because she does all that she can, without as much clothing as possible, but it never amounts to a fully-driven, sympathetic character. We do feel bad for her because she’s stuck with a d-bag that acts like all sweet and charming with her one second, and then turns into this crazy, ballistic animal the second, but nothing else here really makes us sympathize with her or have us root in her corner. We know she’s a nice gal that would like to do nice things for the ones around her, but is there anything else to that? Does she deserve to have a porn career? Or hell, does she even deserve to have a whole movie made about her?

I thought she did, but this movie could have fooled me!

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

Like what happens to most loving couples: The porn industry eventually tears them apart.

But like I was saying before, the movie isn’t all that concerned with her as much as it should be. Instead, most of the supporting-cast around her takes over the spot-light, which isn’t so bad since it’s such a heavily-stacked list of names, but then again: Who’s story is being told here? Anyway, playing the d-bag-of-a-hubby that she gets stuck with, Chuck Traynor, Peter Sarsgaard does a wonderful job, as usual, playing two sides to this character. Firstly, he has that lovable, charming side that makes it easy for him to win us, as well as her and her parents over. And then secondly, and probably everybody’s favorite side of Sarsgaard’s acting in general, is the crazy side where he’s yelling, doped-up, an being a total evil, and manacle ass. Why? Well, the movie makes it clear that it’s all about drugs and debts that he has to pay off, but doesn’t make it any clearer than that. Basically, he’s just a self-destructive nut because that’s what he is, just about all of the time. Sarsgaard is good at playing this character and at keeping him somewhat interesting, but like with everything else in this movie, still pretty dull at the same time.

The rest of the crew we have here is a bit more scattered, with some having more screen-time than others and bringing a little plate of food to the party, and others just showing up empty-handed. The ones who’d be placed in the former would definitely have to be Robert Patrick and a nearly unrecognizable Sharon Stone as Linda’s Catholic-faith parents. They are both good because you can tell that they love their daughter very much, but aren’t going to leave out a helping-hand too much, due to the fact of where she’s going with her life. Sounds pretty harsh and mean if you ask me, but the movie still has them seem sympathetic and almost like the voice-of-reason to all of the havoc and dismay that will take part most of Linda’s later-life. But as for the others: Ehh, they’re fine, but no real pieces of shining silver to be found. James Franco has a nice bit as a younger Hugh Hefner; Hank Azaria and Bobby Cannavale seem to love the hell out of playing-off one another as the director-producer combo that worked on Deep Throat; and Chloe Sevigny has, I think, maybe 5 seconds of face-time on screen, and the rest of her performance is just her voice. That’s it, nothing more. I think somebody needs to give their manager a call!

Consensus: While it touches on certain moments of Lovelace’s life with as much respect and adoration as one movie can, Lovelace is still a very dull, uneventful, and tepid biopic that never reaches high enough to get it’s story moving, or get it’s point across, whatever that may have been.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say "Res in Peace."

Speaking on behalf of all horny, sexually-excited men out there, I say “Rest in Peace. You will truly will be missed.”

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Luckiest freakin’ student ever!

When Sheba Hart (Cate Blanchett) joins St George’s as the new art teacher, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench) senses a kindred spirit. But Barbara is not the only one drawn to her. Sheba begins an illicit affair and Barbara becomes the keeper of her secret.

Honestly, what could would ever want to pass up on a chance to sleep with their teacher, especially if that teacher was Cate Blanchett?!? I mean come on people, let’s be real here.

Going right into this flick, I was expecting something that was going to be pretty generic with a good cast to elevate it all. However, aside from the cast, it’s also the writing that really works here and keeps everything tight, just when it starts to loosen up a bit. The film starts off with a very normal pace with a chronicle of these two ladies becoming “friends”, but then when the affair is caught by Barb, all hell breaks loose and we have ourselves a psychological thriller that didn’t really stop moving. May get a tad predictable at times, but you’re able to get past that thanks to everything else that’s going on

Everything is very dark and eerie in this flick because it touches on a lot of topics like pedophilia, adultery, and lesbianism but it still somehow maintains a very dry sense of wit that made me laugh at times. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that this is a dark comedy, but I will say that it catches you off guard sometimes by how witty it can be, but you still can’t get past the fact that this flick continues to go deeper, deeper, and deeper into its story until there’s barely anything left in it. A very fine script and the direction from Richard Eyre, may not be anything special but at least he isn’t trying to get involved with the story too much. He just lets it play-out like it should.

My main problem with this flick was that the whole reasoning as to how this affair started in the first place seemed a bit unbelievable. First of all, Sheba does not seem like the type of older gal that would develop a school girl crush on a boy, and then to start shacking the high hoots with him either. It seemed like Sheba herself, was a little too intelligent and mature for this type of behavior but then again, I can’t say this too much because certain shit like this does happen in real-life. Pissed that it doesn’t happen at my school but teacher-student banging does go down none the less.

What went along with this problem was that the reasoning Sheba gave as to why she wanted this kid in the first place, was because she felt lonely with her husband, who’s 20 years older than her, and the family she had to raise with him. Yeah I get this, but the film barely shows us any of these problems ever happening until later on in the flick when her mind starts to get a little crazier from all of the constant paranoia of being found-out. Maybe if they touched up on this a bit more, I would have been able to believe it all but it came off as a bit of a stretch or a lame excuse for this chick wanting to bone a younger kid. It also didn’t help that the kid was a terrible actor, and I swore to God that if he said the word “miss” in his fake-ass Irish accent, I was going to punch the screen hoping to get a piece of him too. Dreams never do come true!

However, all of those problems are almost forgotten about whenever I think about the performances here from the trio of leads here. Judi Dench is very unglamorous as Barbara because she’s sad, lonely, old, looking for love, but also very, very, very creepy deep-down inside. She’s pretty much playing a crotchety old hag that has a lot more heart and warmth to her that makes you feel some sympathy for her character but then you also start to feel like you can’t trust this chick and neither can any other character in this flick either. Dench definitely takes over the screen every time she gets a chance to, and shows just how creepy of a character she can be.

Cate Blanchett is also a revelation as Sheba, one of her more unsympathetic character roles. Blanchett is constantly on fire with this character because she’s sad, lonely, and in need of love, but in a very different way. Unlike Barbara, Sheba is a character that you can trust in what she’s going to do next and even though Dench gets a lot of crazy material t0 work with, Blanchett is still allowed to let loose as well especially when it’s on each other. I don’t know what it was here, but there’s just something so awesome and perfect about watching two respected actresses like Blanchett and Dench go all-out on each other in a cat fight that features barely any physicality; all verbal baby.You can’t also forget to mention the always perfect, Bill Nighy as Sheba’s husband. Nighy almost steals every scene he has on-screen with each of these two chickies, but it’s by the end when all of the emotions of this character start to pour out is when you realize that this character has a lot more to him than you would expect. After seeing him and Dench try their hardest to be happy and make love in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I think it’s pretty safe to say that they have both regained my respect for them.

Consensus: Notes on a Scandal may have problems with believablity, but where it succeeds in is perfect performances from its cast, an script that continues to go farther down into what it’s trying to explore, and a plot that may be generic and simple at times, ends up being very unpredictable and thrilling.

8/10=Matinee!!

Killer Joe (2012)

Never in my life have I wanted KFC more.

The story centers on a brother (Emile Hirsch) and sister (Juno Temple) combo who plot the death of their mother for the insurance money and hire “Killer Joe” Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) , a cop and contract killer to do the deed.

After hearing about all of the crazy controversy about this movie and it’s NC-17 rating, I knew I had to just check it out and see what all of the damn fuss is about. Yeah, it sounds strange that I would only want to go and see a flick based on it’s rating but come on, doesn’t it feel cool just going into an NC-17 movie, knowing that there’s going to be some dirty stuff that only you’re allowed to see. Actually when I word it like that, it sounds creepy. Never mind then.

76-year old legendary director William Friedkin shows that he still has the style and look to pull off any story, even the insanely-violent ones. Apparently this film was adapted from a stage-play (which is weird because I don’t necessarily think there is any audience out there that’s willing to see this type of material on stage) but Friedkin seems like he can do a lot more with it, than just making it a bunch of talking heads scenes. And even when there is talking heads scenes, they are suspenseful and very entertaining, with a whole bunch of dark comedy that will surely make you laugh, even at times that you don’t think you should.

The balance of dark humor and trashy violence is one of the key elements to Friedkin’s flick and he shows that he can make us laugh one second, but look away the next at how gruesome some of this material can get. The violence in this flick doesn’t happen all of the time, but when it does, it looks disgusting, ruthless, and so brutal to the point of where you can almost feel it. I won’t lie to you, I looked away from time-to-time, but not long enough to miss what Friedkin was showing us up on the screen: some straight-up, trailer-trash beatings. Great to see that Friedkin still has the touch that people have always seen him have back in his old days and it sort of gives hope to a lot of those older directors out there now who seem to be slowing down and getting softer in their old age. But not this guy, no sirree.

But as good as Friedkin may be behind-the-camera, the story somehow falters because everybody here, is just about as unlikable and distasteful as the next. Usually, when you have these types of stories where everybody is a baddie and you don’t know who to fall back on, there’s at least one character who at least seems likable more than them all, which there is here with Killer Joe himself, but whenever he isn’t around, you don’t really care much about anything or anybody else. These characters just go from doing one bad thing to another and it only gets worse and worse as the story goes on, which ultimately means that we start to care less and less for them and when their lives are in danger, we don’t really seem to care. I guess that’s the whole point of this film, but it didn’t do much for me.

Another problem that I seemed to have with this flick is that no matter how good it was with it’s intense dialogue and performances, it still felt a lot like a stage-play. A lot of the action that happens here, just takes place in a trailer-park home where it centered around two people just talking about God knows what. These conversations that these people have work well and distract us a bit from what seems overly-stagey, but when it comes right down to it, it still feels like a stage-play adapted to the big-screen with barely any changes here except for the actors and actresses.

However, where the story falters, the performances take over and keep your eyes on-screen the whole time. Emile Hirsch turns in another great lead performance here as Chris. Hirsch is one of those young, underrated actors that I think deserves more credit for taking challenging roles like these, rather than going down the teen idol path he could have easily gone for back when he did Speed Racer. Yeah, the movie sucked but girls were swooning all-over-the-place. His character bothered me, though, because it almost felt like this guy was getting too corrupt and dumb for his own good, and where it almost seemed like a cliché. Thankfully, the other characters distracted me enough from this problem but I still noticed it, none the less.

He is joined by Juno Temple, who plays his sister, Dottie, in one of those sweet, little innocent girl roles that doesn’t feel manipulative and we actually care for her character the most out of everybody else. She’s definitely the easiest character out of the bunch to feel some sympathy for and she feels more human than everybody else, if a tad contrived with all of her good-girl aspirations. Playing their parents are Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon, and both show that they have that off-kilter type of humor down-pat, but Gershon definitely feels like she’s stretching her acting talents a bit too far for her own good. However, her first appearance in this movie will probably have most people forgetting about her “acting talents” in the first place.

Still, as good as everybody is here, they don’t stand a chance against Matthew McConaughey‘s incredible performance as Killer Joe, a role that he seemed born to play. It seems like ever since The Lincoln Lawyer came out last year, McConaughey has been doing more and more roles that show the type of talents he has as an actor, rather than a guy who goes around, chasing babes like Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson, amongst others. There are amazingly hot and sexy ladies, but it doesn’t help his career out and I think he was starting to realize that, and that’s why he’s totally changing it all up this year. He was great as Dallas in Magic Mike, showing that he could steal just about every single damn scene he was in there, and he does the same thing here with this film but it’s a way different character from Dallas. Joe is a stone-cold killer that just looks like one of those menacing, mysterious dudes you do not ever want to mess with, ever.

However, this guy isn’t just a scary-ass dude the whole way through, McConaughey still brings out a lot of his charm and good looks to make this character seem like your everyday, good old Southern boy that you could see strolling through the streets with his cowboy hat and horse. But as time goes on, we start to see something more twisted and sinister inside of his mind in what could be some of the most tense last 20 minutes to any other film I have seen this whole year. Basically, McConaughey has totally re-invented himself by taking all of these different and darker roles which show the type of skill he has as an actor and it’s something I can’t wait to see more of. Let’s just hope he stays away from those damn rom-coms.

Consensus: Though the story may falter, Killer Joe still features a top-notch cast (especially a stand-out McConaughey), a tense and wild direction from Friedkin, and a great balance of dark humor and shocking violence/sex.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

OK Batty, you had your fun, you had your box-office records, and you had your hype. Now, it’s time to get the hell out of here!

It’s been 8 years since Harvey Dent was killed by Batman and Gotham City is pretty much going to hell. It’s turning for the worse, there’s no central peace or order to be found, and Bane (Tom Hardy), has a huge gang of thugs basically taking over the city. However, little does he know that there’s a certain someone who’s always there to stop evil at once: Batman (Christian Bale).

Honestly, who the hell has not been waiting for this freakin’ movie!?! Ever since The Dark Knight came, stayed for a long-ass time, and went back in 2008, people have been waiting day-after-day just to see what Nolan was going to pull off for his last hurrah. Thankfully, this is his last hurrah, and what a perfect hurrah it is.

Director Christopher Nolan proves, once again, why he is in-fact one of the greatest story-tellers working in film today. I know the same exact thing in The Dark Knight review, but this guy really proves that he has some insane skill with this flick because from start-to-finish, I was basically on-the-edge of my seat, wondering what the hell he was going to do with this story, these characters, and everything else in between. I’ve never been a huge comic-book fan and to be honest I’ve never really read much of Batman comics, but from what I see here, this guy takes the story of Batman that we all know and love, gives it a dark edge, and makes you feel like it can and will go anywhere he wants it to. There were certain parts of this flick where I really felt like some major characters were in danger of being killed off right away and even though that danger comes and goes, much like normal superhero movies, you still feel like the danger is not over. Just when you think that things are going to get better for these characters and Gotham City itself, it doesn’t and throughout the whole film, I was constantly thinking who will I be seeing for the last time and who will I be seeing again to fight the baddies. Sounds lame, I know, but this story really feels like it will go somewhere where no other superhero film has ever dared to do so far before, and sometimes it does, but it’s all I could ask for in an entertaining, superhero movie. A lot of this story harks back to Batman Begins, so be ready for that, but this is it’s own story, through and through.

Nolan is a daring film-maker, well all know and love that, but it’s not just because of how epic and twisty the story can be, it’s all because of what that guy brings to the table that makes this film all of the more enjoyable. There’s a certain type of suspense in this film the whole time that not only made me feel the energy going throughout my veins, but kept my eyes locked on the screen at all times. Every single action scene feels like it’s going to be even better than the last one, which they usually are, but there’s just something so much more epic about the action scenes here that made me want to get up and join in the action, whatever that may have been at the time. You can just feel the energy of this movie escalating into something bigger and bigger as the run-time goes on, and once it gets to that breaking-point, all hell breaks loose and there’s just so much action and excitement going on that you cannot help but feel it come off the screen as well. But, however, as good as a lot of this action may be, it’s still feels very epic and I think a lot of that has to do with Mr. Nolan and what he does behind-the-camera.

This is definitely one of those films to see in IMAX, even though it’s not always shot in that format the whole way through. The shots Nolan grabs here are great, whether it’s these sweeping action set-pieces or just beautiful over-head shots of Gotham City, either way, the IMAX looks great and if you do pay extra for that ticket, you will not be disappointed with what you see, or hear. The sound is just so loud and clear, that whenever an action scene happens, you can almost hear and feel the hits with the loud-ass booms of the speakers, and it gets even better with the score that Hans Zimmer has made up here. As soon as you hear it come up, it hits you and you can just feel like shit is about to go down, one way or another, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it definitely freakin’ does! Didn’t make much sense, but I don’t care! I know I don’t mention scores a lot, but with a film like this, you need an epic score just to give you the feeling of how epic this film truly is. Yeah, I know I said the word “epic” again, but it’s the truth, everything from the score, to the cinematography, to the story, to the action, makes it that from beginning to end. Yeah, there may have been a couple of problems with it’s story here and there, but I was able to let that all go by me and realize that this story just totally grabbed me and never let go. And thank the lord for that.

For every single person who has ever talked ish on Christian Bale and what he does with Batman and that “growl” of his (trust me I’m one of them), be ready to feel ultra sad knowing that this will probably be the last time you ever see this guy do that ever again and what a way to go out with it. This is probably the best performance Bale has given as Wayne out of the whole trilogy because he brings out that warrior-like darkness that arose in him from the second flick, but also goes back to when he was just learning the ways of his anger from the first one, as well. It’s a pretty cool mish-mash of character ideas going on with him in this flick and Bale handles it perfectly, just like I expected him to.

After having such an iconic villain like The Joker, played by the late, great Heath Ledger, it feels very obvious that Nolan would try his hardest to make Bane out, almost the same exact way, if not more, but he doesn’t go down that route which I liked. Bane seems like a strange choice of a villain to be in this dark trilogy, but he’s given a lot more development here that gives him a pretty bad-ass origin story to start off with, a bunch of intellectual skills that match his fighting skills, and a pretty intimidating physique, courtesy of rising-star Tom Hardy. Hardy is great with this role and proves to be more intimidating and dangerous than The Joker in more ways than I expected because whenever he’s on-screen, you can just feel that tension whenever he is, but when he isn’t, you can still feel it as if he’s just planning what he’s going to do next in the background somewhere. There’s this great use of his eyes that Hardy uses to convey all of these evil and mean thoughts that are going through his head, and you almost feel happy that you don’t see what else is going with his face. Definitely a great threat for Batty, and another reason why Nolan should have been trusted with this character from the first place. Oh yeah, and that “voice” of his? Easy to understand most of the times, other times, you can’t really hear it fully, but you pretty much get the gist of what he’s talking about. Evil shit, and that’s all you need to know.

Another big worry that people had with this film’s cast of characters was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. It’s not that people didn’t trust Hathaway and her skills as an actress, it’s more or less that fans didn’t know what to expect from this character that seemed so weak whenever she was adapted onto film the other times, but somehow, they pull it off perfectly here, mostly Hathaway. Right from the get-go when you see this girl, she is just bad-ass, smart, witty, sly, evil, and sexy, but you never know what’s on her mind, what she’s going to do next, or who’s side she was going to end up being on in the end of it all. That mystery about her, made her character so much more awesome and bad-ass than anybody ever expected and she totally seems like the type of chick-character that could hold her own with the best of them. Don’t hold me to this, but I sort of do see an Oscar nomination for Hathaway here, but if it doesn’t happen, I won’t surprised, either. Just one of those things I could see happening in the future, and with good reason, too.

As for everybody else in this flick, they’re all pretty good, too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, aka the effin’ man, does a great job with a character that comes out of nowhere, we know nothing about, and just seems like one of those cookie-cutting good guys that every superhero story needs. However, JGL makes this character so much more bad-ass than anybody, even myself, first thought and he makes a great supporting character that you know you can trust every time he shows up on-screen. JGL is getting bigger and bigger with each and every role he takes, and it’s not for long until this guy finally nabs an Oscar. Maybe even two, hell, maybe even three! I don’t know! The sky is the freakin’ limit with this dude! Marion Cotillard is also new to this story as Miranda Tate, and does a splendid job, as usual, even if her character does seem a little bit forced with the hum-hum romance between her and Bruce Wayne, but it’s easily forgivable since she’s so good in everything she does. As with out returning veterans of the series, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine, they all do their parts and show why exactly their characters have stayed so strong throughout the whole time of these movies.

I know that throughout this whole review, I kept mentioning and bringing up the word “epic”, but if I had to sum this flick up in one word, it would be exactly just that: epic. You can just feel like this film is going to culminate into something big, something extravagant, and overall, something that will stay in your mind forever because of what Nolan has done with this series, and does with this goodbye to the series and stories that he has made so damn popular once again. Now that he’s done with these flicks, Nolan will go off and do the film he’s always been wanting to do and probably kick as much ass with them as he has with these three, but I will never forget this amazing trilogy and as sad as it may be to see the last time for all of these characters happen right in front of our eyes, I know that I had a great time with all three flicks and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I’m getting a little teary-eyed here right now just writing this and when you see this flick, trust me, you won’t be able to blame me. Thank you Christopher Nolan. You truly can do no wrong.

Consensus: Though it may be very long, The Dark Knight Rises delivers on every spectrum: acting, writing, directing, cinematography, score, etc. It’s exactly what you could want in a summer blockbuster, and superhero movie, but it’s also exactly what you could want in a film that’s saying “adios” to all of its characters that it’s introduced to us for the past 7 years and it’s a legacy that I won’t forget. That’s for damn sure.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!

The Three Musketeers (2011)

I guess it’s time for there to be a rum-drinking, Keith Richards impersonating musketeer.

The original three musketeers are past their prime and working menial jobs in Paris when their friend D’Artagnan rallies them to defend the nation. To do so, they must undermine Cardinal Richelieu’s plot to have himself crowned France’s next king.

I wasn’t a huge fan of ‘The Three Musketeers‘ when I was a kid, and having a film directed by Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t make me want to go out there and watch some either.

The whole film is surprisingly straight-forward and with a run-time of only about 100 minutes, the film basically resolves itself pretty well in that time-limit. The film also is pretty entertaining with a lot of jokes, that sometimes fall completely flat on their face, but others actually work and made me chuckle. Too bad the same couldn’t have been said for the actual writing of this film.

The problem this film has is that it’s plot, direction, and writing don’t really jell well together at all and come off a bit jumbled. The plot goes all-over-the-place and gets too in-depth about a couple of dudes with swords, which wasn’t needed at all. It’s also a bit confusing because they do a lot of pointless talking to where I didn’t really care what they were even talking about, but somehow there was some back-stabbing going on and other crap that didn’t really matter.

The writing is also kind of off because even though it did have me laughing at times, a lot of it just felt like total cheesiness that reminded me of something I would see in an 80’s film. Granted, this film doesn’t really take itself too seriously, which is what I liked but the one-liners just try too hard to be funny and instead come off a bit corny. Also, the film is called The Three Musketeers but they were barely even in it. It was always this smart-ass kid and these three villains that I didn’t give two shits about, which was annoying since they were probably the funniest parts of the whole film.

The direction from Anderson is a little hectic but he still does keep this film moving at a quick enough pace to where we get enough story, romance, action, and humor, which don’t all work well together still make us have a lot of fun. I didn’t see this film in 3-D but I could bet it’d be a lot of fun because Anderson does know how to film action and make it a lot of fun with swords, bullets, glass, and little boat bombs constantly flying at the screen. There’s also a bout 5 slow-mo scenes as opposed to other films directed by Anderson that usually have about 30, so at least he’s moving up in the world.

The cast is here just to chew up scenery but that is not so bad really. The Three Musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson), and Aramis (Luke Evans) are all having a ball with their roles and that transits to us watching as well. The problem is that even though the film is named after them, they aren’t in it as much as you would expect and it’s a real bummer. It’s an even bigger bummer that I had to watch Logan Lerman as D’Artagnan because out of this whole cast, he is probably the weakest link. A lot of his lines just seem off as cocky and arrogant as opposed to being funny and even though that’s basically what his character was supposed to be, I still shouldn’t want to be the main characters face in every time he’s on screen.

The villains are fun to watch too but all under-utilized by some bad writing. Orlando Bloom looks like a parody of a movie-villain and comes off as Will Turner gone bad, rather than this bad guy he was supposed to be playing. Milla Jovovich, who is obviously in this because her hubby’s the director, is under-written as Milady and doesn’t really do anything special and new with this character that I haven’t already seen her do as Alice from Resident Evil. The best of the villains is probably Christoph Waltz as Cardinal Richelieu because he seems like he is in such an entirely different film. He has many moments where he seems like he breaks the fourth wall many times, and just features this funny, sarcastic side to him that made him the best “villain” in this whole film.

Consensus: The cast is here to chew up scenery, and the action is very fun to watch but the plot is too detailed, the writing is too cheesy, and a lot of it just feels dull but The Three Musketeers is still entertaining, just leave your brain at the door.

5/10=Rental!!