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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kate Winslet

The Mountain Between Us (2017)

At least they have a dog.

Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) and photojournalist Alex Martin (Kate Winslet) are two people who desperately need to board their planes. He’s about to save somebody’s life in a very critical surgery, whereas she has a wedding to get to. However, their flight gets cancelled when, due to stormy weather, the skies just aren’t totally safe to go through. But Alex has a plan and that’s to board a charter plane, between her and Ben, and a pilot (Beau Bridges) that she entrusts to get them where they both need to get to, safely and without any issue of hitting the storm. However, halfway through the flight, the pilot suffers a stroke and they crash somewhere out in the middle of the wilderness, without any signs of life anywhere to be found. Both survive and although Alex has an injury, it’s nothing too serious that Ben can’t help out. Now, it’s just up to the two to survive and do what they can to make it through this awful predicament they are in, even if they aren’t wholly sure if they’ll ever get out of this alive, or even sane.

Is this considered the “meet-cute”?

The Mountain Between Us is the kind of melodramatic, sappy, and cheesy piece of fluff that Hollywood so rarely makes anymore, in that it’s actually not awful. Think a Nicholas Sparks movie, but instead of having subplots about cancer-striken parents or abusive husbands, you have two people who are, for the sake of the matter, just trying their best to survive. Oh, and a cute little dog, too.

Can’t go wrong with the dog.

Which is to say that the Mountain Between Us is just another case of big Hollywood having enough time and money on their hands to make something that’s corny and a little silly, but in a way, that’s fine. The movie isn’t trying to be high-art in the slightest, nor is it really trying to pass itself off as a Oscar-winner. It’s just a simple, sometimes stupid, but always enjoyable romance, laced with a little bit of survival. Coming from director Hany Abu-Assad, who has made two great flicks in Paradise Now and Omar, it can seem like a step-down, but considering how many prized foreign-film makers screw up their English-language, American debut, it’s a moderate side-step.

It’s not perfect, of course, but that hardly matters because when your movie is almost two hours of just Kate Winslet and Idris Elba on the screen, does anything else matter? You can say that this movie does try very hard to force all of the weight on the back of these two stars, their good-looks, and their inevitable chemistry, but what’s wrong with that? Stars like Winslet and Elba were made for movies like this, where plot and the script sort of come second to their good-looks and their great acting-ability, so that even if a film wasn’t to care all that much about other stuff, like plot, or making sense, it’s not a total crime.

Trust me, she’ll be in safe hands with a man like that. Rawr.

The fact is that they’re still here, doing their absolute best and in this case, that’s enough.

The rest of the movie is, as I’ve said, silly and if you think long and hard about this even in the slightest, yeah, it doesn’t hold-up. It’s the kind of movie that looks pretty because it was shot on-location, but once you actually get to thinking the geography of where these two are, how they have to survive, and where they have to go to stay alive, yeah, it doesn’t quite make sense. It’s as if the film-makers thought that the audience wouldn’t care too much because we’d all be too busy sinking into the beautiful eyes and faces of Elba and Winslet and didn’t care about too much else. Of course, they aren’t wrong about that, but maybe for some others out there, like me, a little bit more comprehension and plot can go a longer way.

But hey, it’s Idris Elba and Kate Winslet, looking hot, sexy, and beautiful, while falling in love and trying their best to survive in harsh winters.

Oh, and a little dog, too.

Consensus: Not to be confused for high-art, the Mountain Between Us mostly relies on the charms of Winslet and Elba to get by, even when its script is clearly lacking in certain aspects.

6 / 10

Come on, Kate! Don’t just hold onto the man! You don’t need him!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Collateral Beauty (2016)

Mr. Smith Goes to a Wonderful Life.

After the tragic death of his daughter, rich and successful New York ad executive Howard (Will Smith) loses all hope with life. He is, essentially, sleepwalking through it all, barely talking to those around him, getting anything done at work, and just ruining everything that exists in his own world. His coworkers don’t like this – not just because they care and love Howard, but because they’re worried that their company is about to go under. So, in a way to make sure that it doesn’t, the concoct a plan to, in a way, blackmail Howard by hiring three actors (Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore), to come up to Howard, talk to him, and make him think about the three aspects in his life that he thinks about the most: Life, Time, and Death. While the partners believe that it’s only Howard’s life who needs some help, eventually, the actors start hanging around them, making them take one look closer at where they’re going with their own lives and how they could make the best of what they’ve got.

So yeah, Collateral Beauty is a pretty bad movie, made from a pretty bad idea. But here’s the dilemma I always seem to run into with movies such as these: Can a movie be so absolutely, positively, no-doubt-about-it horrendous, if it’s barely 90 minutes? A part of me wants to say that it can’t happen, because there are so many movies out there hitting the two-hour run-time, and then some, and are just so bad, that they should have just never happened in the first place.

"Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro."

“Hey, Will. Cheer the hell up bro.”

But Collateral Beauty, no matter how long or short, is just a bad movie.

And it’s kind of a shame, too, because there’s an iota of a good idea to be found somewhere in the deep, thick and confusing layers of this narrative, but sadly, it just never comes out; it’s stuck under a movie that never makes sense of itself, is so stupid without ever knowing the sheer lengths of its stupidity, and somehow, thinks that it’s changing lives with how deep and meaningful it is. Does this movie mean well and have something to say about life, love, death, time, and family? Sure, a little bit, but does any of that come out in a meaningful, somewhat powerful way that resonates with those who set out to see this?

I don’t think so, or better yet, it didn’t for me. Could I be wrong and nothing more than a heartless, soulless, evil and unforgivably mean a-hole? Most likely, but when it comes to Collateral Beauty, I don’t care – the movie’s bad and if you enjoy it, you’re not a bad human being, you just don’t know what a good movie is supposed to be.

It’s weird, though, because everyone involved with Collateral Beauty is, in one or another, a talented individual. Director David Frankel has definitely had some stinkers in his life, but when he’s on his game (like with Hope Springs or the Devil Wears Prada), his movies are actually enjoyable to watch. Here though, it feels like he had no sword in the battle. For one, he was already replacing the much more interesting Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and, oh yeah, he’s working with a script from Allan Loeb, the same person who have us the scripts to winners like Here Comes the Boom, the Dilemma, and oh man, the Switch.

The Switch, people.

What the hell?

Anyway, so yeah, i feel bad for Frankel because it really feels like he doesn’t know how to make this script play well, or even remotely work on the screen, so in a way, he just sort of gives up, films every scene the way it’s supposed to be shot and let’s the script do all of the talking. Clearly that was the biggest issue for the movie, but it also seems like a battle that someone as plain and as ordinary as Frankel just wasn’t ready to battle; perhaps had Gomez-Rejon stayed on, or maybe even a better director got on-board, something could have been done, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got the finished product of Collateral Beauty, which is stupid from the very beginning and never seems to quick, what with the exception of maybe one or two bright spots to be found in the whole thing.

"Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!"

“Faster! We gotta get the hell out of this movie!”

And yes, most of that comes from the impressive, yet unused ensemble. Will Smith may get top-billing here, but oddly enough, he’s not really in the movie nearly as much as you’d think. And even when he is, he’s downplaying all of that fun, all of that charm, and all of that coolness about him that just radiates off the screen. Nope, instead, he’s playing it sad, depressed and without a single smile to be found. Normally, I’m all for this change of pace, but it never feels real, just calculated; it’s as if someone told him to always have a frown when the camera was on and went one step further and got plastic-surgery to make his face literally look that down and out.

We know he’s better, so why?

And while I’m at it, yep, the rest of the cast here knows better, too. Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightley, Jacob Latimore, Michael Pena Jr., Ann Dowd, and freakin’ Dame Helen Mirren are all here, and as good as they may all be, not even they can save whatever the hell it is that they’re stuck with doing. Norton gets his own whole subplot that kind of works and sees him trying something new, while Mirren and Pena have some great scenes together, but honestly, it doesn’t matter – the rest of the movie is way too concerned with itself and trying to make sense of things that will never, ever make sense, no matter how hard the cast, Frankel, or Loeb tries. It’s just sad and a shame to watch, which makes me think why anyone bothered with it in the first place.

Oh well. At least they got paid, right?

Consensus: Silly, random, nonsensical, and as contrived as you are able to get with a wholesome movie, Collateral Beauty tries to do interesting stuff, but it just never pays off and has everyone, especially the great cast, look dumbfounded.

4 / 10

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she's in crap like this.

Always listen to the Dame. Even when she’s in crap like this.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Why can’t people just date like they used to?

When Elinor Dashwood’s (Emma Thompson) father dies, her family’s finances are absolutely crippled, leaving her and her family to think fast of where they’re going to end up next, or better yet, who they’re going to marry. After the Dashwoods move to a cottage in Devonshire, Elinor’s sister Marianne (Kate Winslet) is torn between the handsome John Willoughby (Greg Wise) and the older Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman). She seems to not care who she ends up with, because all she really wants is to have some fun, be happy, be loved, and most of all, be taken care of for the rest of her days. On the other side of things, Elinor doesn’t have the best options, even though she’s definitely in love with one Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant), who also happens to be previously engaged to another woman to marry. Through this all, however, Elinor and Marianne come together and realize that there’s way to be happy and pleased with life, with, or without husbands.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don't tell them that.

Sisters till death do them part. Just don’t tell them that.

Sense and Sensibility is probably the best period-piece ever made. Sure, there’s a lot of stuffy people out there in the world who probably sneer at certain flicks of this nature, because they don’t feature any action, violence, or explosions – or at least, not in the physical, literal sense – and prefer to focus on more things like characters, plot, emotion, and most importantly, language. If it’s not your bag, then fine, but to say that it’s a terribly boring genre in and of itself is wrong; when done right and to near-perfection, they can be quite the most exciting, most emotional things to watch.

Take Sense and Sensibility, for obvious reasons: While it may seem boring and overstuffed, in just a little over two hours, it does so much. It’s funny, heartfelt, romantic, sweet, sad, passionate, beautiful, exquisite to look at, perfectly acted, and most of all, directed with such a smart, detailed look, that it honestly feels like Ang Lee hardly even showed up to the set.

Which is, yes, a good thing.

What it shows is that the material was already there and all that Lee himself had to do was just stand there, keep the camera in-place and of course, focus on the action; while that sounds incredibly simple and easy, which it is, there’s also something to be said for a director who gets literally every shot correct. There’s not a dull moment, or misplaced shot to be found – Lee knows how to make beautiful scenery look even more impeccable and it’s the main reason why Sense and Sensibility may remain his best movie. It’s not flashy, or overstuffed with the sort of visual flair that he’s known for using – it’s just plain and simple, but still compelling in each and every way known to man.

 

Don't trust all men, Kate. They're swine.

Don’t trust all men, Kate. They’re swine.

And it also all comes down to the fact that the ensemble cast is so perfectly assembled, that it’s hard to find the single best, even if it does come sort of close. While Emma Thompson may not have wanted to be cast here in the first place (she’s also co-writer), she’s still amazing as Elinor. Thompson’s one of the best around, but what she does so well here is that she finds small, subtle ways to get her character’s feelings of sadness and regret across, but never actually has to say it; throughout the whole movie, she’s constantly on the verge of tears and one step closer to losing her marbles, and watching as Thompson constantly battles with that, is incredibly moving.

She was great in Howard’s End, but honestly, she could have won the Oscar for this, too.

Anyway, there’s also a very young, very spirited Kate Winslet as Marianne, being as lovely and as charming as we’ve ever seen her before, working as the perfect counterpart for Elinor’s more reserved-self. The fellas aren’t so bad, either, with Hugh Grant playing the perfect Edward, and never letting us know just whether he’s a slime or not, and the late, great Alan Rickman, playing Colonel Christopher Brandon, who may have a far more obvious route of going with his character, but to watch as he constantly battles himself over his love for Marianne, is quite the watch.

But really, it all comes down to the actual meaning of Sense and Sensibility, which isn’t just that, “Rich, white people will always fall in love,” as much as it’s actually about, “Don’t stop giving up on love and finding whatever path your life will take you.” Sure, it sounds all incredibly corny and sappy, as if you’re almost reading a self-help guide, but it’s not quite as bad as I make it sound; there’s a true bleeding heart here, that shows us many people can be sad, even if they are rich. It’s not a matter of how much money, or mansions you have, as much as it’s about what sort of love you’ve got in your life and what it does for you, day in and day out.

Okay, yeah, it’s a little sappy, but man, it works.

Consensus: Smart, heartfelt, sweet, well-acted, and most of all, never boring, Sense and Sensibility is the ultimate peak of period-dramas, showing Ang Lee’s great balance of humor, mixed with pathos and romantic-drama, and never missing a mark.

10 / 10

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Not all ladies search for male suitors. But when they do, they do so in style.

Photos Courtesy of: Decider, Frock Flicks, The Rush Journals

Triple 9 (2016)

Dirty cops do dirty things. Like not take showers, apparently.

A group of bank robbers are running high on their latest heist and feel as if, finally, it’s their time to settle up, kick back, relax, and enjoy all of their riches. However, that’s all short-lived once the the ruthless and notorious gangster Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) orders her men to pull off another job – the one they keep on calling “the last job”. While none of the guys are happy about this, they see this as their only way out, so they devise up a few plans on how to steal another huge amount of cash. Eventually, they have a million-dollar idea, the only issue, is that it involves cops. But this isn’t much of a problem considering that two of the members in the group, Marcus Belmont (Anthony Mackie) and Jorge Rodriguez (Clifton Collins, Jr.) , actually happen to both be cops. But to make their plan even more difficult than before, Marcus gets saddled with Chris Allen (Casey Affleck), a by-the-books cop who is now for playing it on the straight-and-narrow. Will the guys be able to get the heist altogether, even despite the obvious issues standing in their way?

Corrupt cops never smile.

Corrupt cops never smile. That’s just a fact.

What’s so interesting about Triple 9 is how little it’s being promoted, or how it doesn’t seem like many people will see it this weekend, even though it features an insanely stacked, all-star cast list of who’s who. Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Clifton Collins, Jr., Michael K. Williams, Teresa Palmer, Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, and more, all show up here in Triple 9, yet, you wouldn’t know it. And it’s not like the studio’s trying to bury the movie, either; this much talent can’t be attracted to something so terrible that it would be thrown in the February time-slot, due its horribleness. While you could definitely make the argument that that has in fact happened before, I still rest my case and say that, for what it’s worth, Triple 9 is a fine movie.

In fact, it’s a very fine crime-thriller, which makes it all the better.

John Hillcoat loves him some blood, action, and crime, which is why it’s no surprise that Triple 9, in nearly every shot, seems as if everyone and everything in it, needs a long, steaming hot shower. However, it’s quite refreshing to see something so down, out and gritty as Triple 9, that isn’t pulling any punches when it comes to its violence, nor when it comes to giving us characters we don’t necessarily hate, or love. In some ways, we can sort of feel very “meh” about a character, depending on how much time they’re given to develop, but really, Hillcoat isn’t trying to make one character in particular, better than the rest. Everybody’s conflicted; everybody’s got an issue; and most of all, everybody’s got at least some sort of “bad” to them.

That’s why, with this solid cast, it can sometimes feel like Triple 9 isn’t giving each and every person a whole lot to do, even if there are a few exceptions to the rule. Woody Harrelson and Kate Winslet get the two showier roles of the movie, and even then, it feels like they aren’t here enough. While Casey Affleck could easily be classified as “the protagonist”, he still feels like an afterthought when it becomes clear that Hillcoat himself is a tad too enamored and caught up with all that’s going on with bank-robbers and their own personal lives. No issue with this, as the bank-robbers here are all played by solid actors, but at the same time, it still can’t help but feel like a little too much, for a movie that’s so simple to begin with.

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Why does Daryl always get stuck driving?

Sure, Triple 9 may combat with the idea of it being a far more “serious” and “complicated” crime-thriller, but really, it isn’t all that much different from any other crime-thriller out there.

Every character feels like a type, every situation that they’re thrown into, when it’s not predictable, has been done before, and really, there’s no real message at the end of the day. Not that every movie ever made needs to have a message at the end of it to wrap everything up in a neat, little bow, but Triple 9 thinks that it has one and that’s its biggest issue. It’s maybe far too self-serious and brooding for its own good, when really, all we want it to do is crack open a beer, chill out, and turn that frown upside down.

The more entertaining moments of Triple 9, other than the violence, is when the actors seem to be dialing it up to 11 with reckless abandon. Harrelson and Winslet are definitely the main ones here who take advantage of their limited screen-time, having as much fun as they seemingly can, but there’s others in the cast like talented character actors, Clifton Collins, Jr. and Michael K. Williams, who seem like they showed up, ready to have some fun and just let loose. That’s why, when Triple 9 is just living it up in these moments, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself.

But then, like I said, the actual story comes around and everything gets so super serious, so super quick and it’s a bit a slog to get through. Not to say that people like Affleck, Mackie, or Ejiofor can’t do some interesting stuff with this kind of material, but by the same token, it also feels like they’re bringing down the whole ship with them. Although, not nearly as much as Aaron Paul is, with his one-note, rather annoying character who is addicted to drugs and constantly causing problems everywhere he goes. In fact, if there’s a weak-link in this huge cast, it’s Paul, but it may be less of his problem, seeing as how he doesn’t have much to work with.

Sort of like a lot of other people here. Even if they all make a go of it, for the longest time.

Consensus: Given its well-stacked ensemble, Triple 9 may be a tad bit disappointing for those expecting something far more powerful, but for those expecting a bloody, ruthless, gritty and sometimes, fun, crime-thriller, then enjoy.

6.5 / 10

Red means "they're onto something". I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

The red glow means “they’re onto something”. I think. Or the bar just has crappy lighting.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Steve Jobs (2015)

No one’s a genius until Aaron Sorkin says so.

Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) is one of the most inspirational human specimens to have ever graced this fine planet. For one, he paved the way we view and live according to technology. At the same time, though, he was incredibly difficult to work with and often times, found himself making more enemies, than friends. Not only did this carry into his work life, but his personal one, as well. And through three important moments in Jobs’ life, we see both of these sides play out and sometimes, clash heads. Though each story takes place in a different year (’84, ’88, and ’98, respectively) each one shares a similarity in that they all take place at conventions and feature Jobs getting prepped-up and ready to premier a recently-made piece of technology of his. While this is already a stressful enough time, now, he’s got everybody coming up to him, bothering him, and constantly making him lose sight of the bigger-picture that he has to work with. Co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), wants Jobs to give more credit to what he and his team did on certain items; a former fling of his (Katherine Waterston) has his kid that he refuses to say is actually his own flesh and blood; CEO of Apple, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), wants to always remind Jobs of what’s really at risk here; and always there for him, almost no matter what, is his dedicated, passionate assistant, Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), who always stands by his side, even though we wouldn’t ever blame her if she did.

"Eh, maybe you're right, honey. These things probably won't ever catch on."

“Eh, maybe you’re right, honey. These things probably won’t ever catch on.”

So yeah, it’s clear that Steve Jobs is a bit contrived. Each one of these major moments in Jobs’ life, all of a sudden, now feature each and every person from his past coming into the fray, making their presences known, and giving us a certain shadings to Jobs that we may have not gotten had it just been him, all alone, in a room. While I assume that Aaron Sorkin would make that movie still interesting, it’s nice to see that, despite the obvious-nature of the structure of the plot, that he’s able to make it all go away once we realize that yes, this is an Aaron Sorkin-scripted flick. Meaning, everybody talks so electric and stage-y, that no one in the real world would ever speak the same.

Then again, that’s why most of us head out to see Sorkin pieces, and that’s why Steve Jobs, is amazing (the movie, I mean, although the person himself wasn’t too shabby, either).

Though it hits the two-hour mark and is filled with nothing but walking, talking, and narrowly-shot hallways, Steve Jobs never, ever gets boring, nor does it feel overlong. In fact, if there was a complaint I had about this movie, was that it wasn’t long enough; three acts in Steve Jobs’ life is fine and all, but had Sorkin taken it one step further and decided to focus in on a snapshot from way later on in Jobs’ life, it would have most likely been welcomed. After all, Sorkin is known for making even the strangest of conversations and topics seem, somewhat interesting and relateable; even if you aren’t a huge a techno-geek, Sorkin still puts you right by the side of Jobs so intimately, that everything he says, does, or gets pissed-off about (which is a lot), you feel it. It doesn’t matter if you know exactly how many bytes or megabytes have to go into his presentation – all that matters is that you can understand what somebody says when they state, “I hate you”.

But once again, because this is Sorkin, we get many variations on that well-known and understood term, which makes the movie all the more exciting. There’s a exciting feel in the air whenever people start talking in Steve Jobs and it’s one that hardly ever leaves, even in some of the more downbeat moments. Like, for instance, we’ll get one heartfelt scene of Jobs connecting with his she’s-not-actually-mine daughter, that’ll make you see him for the human that he is, and then, in the next scene, you’ll see him get into a verbal-sparring bout in public with Woz, where he practically tells him that “he’s nothing”, that’ll make you see him for the monster he was mostly alleged to be. Sorkin himself is perfect at this type of blending between different tones and/or feelings, and it’s no different with Steve Jobs.

Sure, there’s plenty to laugh at in a snarky way, but still, there’s a lot to be disturbed and saddened by, which is exactly the point of Sorkin’s script.

While Sorkin is, as usual, showing off his skills for writing snappy, inexplicably silly phrases, he is, at the same time, still building up this Steve Jobs character that we often think we know, but this movie actually shows you, warts and all. There’s no real hiding behind the fact that this Steve Jobs, as presented in the movie, was a stubborn, sometimes maniacal son-of-a-bitch; not to just his enemies, but to those who actually cared for and loved him. Sorkin knows this, understands this, and not until the very, very end, try to make amends for it; he sees Jobs for all that he was, and doesn’t hold back in reminding the audience that he could definitely be a terrible person. Did that mean he didn’t, on the rare occasion, commit a nice act for a fellow human being?

No, of course not!

He made iPods for gosh sakes!

But still, all kidding aside, Sorkin’s script is just about perfect. Though the sappiness does begin to take over quite a bit towards the end, the script, as it is, takes over the whole movie and reminds us why most of us out there still stand by Sorkin, even when it seems like he loves to hear himself speak and yammer-on about lord knows what. Steve Jobs, because of Sorkin’s help, is more than just a biopic, it’s more of a character-study and it shows that sometimes, all you need is really interesting characters, mixed with great dialogue, to make a plan, simple scene, more riveting than anything ever presented in a Michael Boy movie.

Of course, you’re actors need to be solid players, too, but that’s a given. And with Steve Jobs, the cast is absolutely outstanding. Michael Fassbender, despite not being the first choice for this iconic role, still does a terrific job as our titular-neurotic, blending both sides of this man’s personality together so well, that you hardly ever notice that there’s a change in his psyche. After awhile, we just sort of come to know, accept and understand that whenever Steve Jobs gets pissed-off, he’s going to snap on whoever is nearest to him, and while it can be hard-to-watch and listen to, the mixture of Sorkin’s winning-dialogue, with Fassbender’s commanding presence, gels so sweetly, that it’s like these two were made for one another. Though we do get a chance to see plenty of the nice attributes surrounding Jobs’ persona, it’s the nastier ones that keep everything riveting, and it’s great to see Fassbender sink his teeth into each and every second of it, loving everything that he’s doing.

"Wanna do the walk-and-talk and see whose the best? Huh?!?"

“Wanna do the walk-and-talk and see whose the best? Huh?!?”

Also, speaking of someone whose acting-style blends quite well with Sorkin’s writing, is Jeff Daniels. This may come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who has ever seen an episode or two of the Newsroom, but still, it deserves to be said that with Jeff Daniels, Sorkin may have found his go-to guy whenever he’s counting on a reliable source to deliver this dialogue and not make it seem hammy, or stitled. Which is why it’s all the more surprising to see Seth Rogen, in a very dramatic role, work well with the dialogue as well. Not that I ever doubted Rogen’s abilities as an actor, but still, it’s awesome to see him not just get a chance to stretch out his serious-acting wings, but to do so that works and doesn’t seem odd.

But no matter how much male-posturing and dick-measuring goes on here, it always comes down to the women.

In Steve Jobs, there’s two women that deserve to be mentioned, because they’re the ones who make these men get everything done, even if they don’t intentionally mean to – which, for a Sorkin piece, is saying something, because he’s not always revered for the nice treatment of his female characters. Katherine Waterston, despite being given the difficult role of playing an unlikable woman that constantly bothers Jobs, as well as the audience, does a fantastic job in showing the utter sadness and despair a woman in her situation may feel like. While she doesn’t always go about getting her way in the smartest manner possible, she’s still sympathetic enough to where you’d understand why she’s so miserable and needy.

Kate Winslet, on other hand, has a different character to work with as Joanna Hoffman’s, Jobs’ most trusted friend and confidante. While Hoffman does take an awful lot of crap from Jobs throughout the majority of this flick, there are still those instances in which we see her take control and remind him that, not only will she not put up with so much garbage, but throw it right back at him as well. By the end, the flick tries to bring up some honestly valid points about why Hoffman’s and Jobs’ relationship never became anything more than just business, but also, reminds us that it’s not all about sex to make a person love another; sometimes, it’s all about respect and care. Winslet is amazing in this role and, if things work out her way, she might be looking at another Oscar come that time.

Then again, I don’t want to cross my fingers.

Same goes for Danny Boyle as director. While it looks nice and definitely keeps itself moving at a fine pace, Boyle’s direction, does what it needs to do. I know that’s a surprise to be saying about Danny Boyle, but honestly, the movie didn’t need his direction to make things work as well as they do; it certainly helps, for sure, but the movie isn’t made or broken because of it. It just still works, which is probably all that it needed to be, because it’s my favorite of the year.

So far.

Consensus: The combo of an intelligent script from Aaron Sorkin and well-done cast, help allow for Steve Jobs to be more than just an acting-piece, and instead, an actual look inside the mind and life of an icon that we need to know more about.

9.5 / 10

One of these days, Stevie, this could all be yours. Just stop being an asshole.

One of these days, Stevie, this could all be yours. Just stop being an asshole.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Reader (2008)

Even the Nazis had to get a little freaky from time-to-time.

When Michael Berg (David Kross) was younger, he fell for a woman, Hanna (Kate Winslet), who was nearly twice his age. She taught him everything that he needed to know about life, cooking, books, family, women, and most importantly, sex. But because he was so young and hardly knew anything that he wanted with the world, let alone who he was going to spend it with, the years went by and Michael began to get more and more interested elsewhere. For one, he took up with a new girlfriend of his own and started focusing on his career. Because of this, Hanna inexplicably got up, left and disappeared from Michael’s life, without a note or anything. Saddened by this, Michael does eventually move on with his life and grow up to be a dashing, handsome, but sadly, flawed middle-aged man (Ralph Fiennes). But Michael is brought back to Hanna through hearing of a trail she’s being put through for war crimes she committed under the Nazis. While Michael never knew about this secret past of Hanna’s, he knows that it doesn’t make her a bad person. At the same time, however, Michael doesn’t know if he can bring himself to relive his very lustful younger years.

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

I know of many men who would do anything to be in that same bathtub. Just get that other dude out, though!

The Reader is the kind of movie that makes you want to punch somebody in the face. Because, for as long as it is up on the screen, you assume that it’s going to be these sweet, saucy, sexy and lurid fantasies that came true for this one dude, all those years ago when he was hardly even 15. But what works about these scenes isn’t that they are just chock full of butt, boob, penis and vagina, but that there is a small layer of fine sensuality felt within it. Most people would have a problem watching a movie that makes the case for a boy who has just hit puberty, hanging around and having all sorts of steamy sex with this much-older women, but Stephen Daldry doesn’t.

And that, to me, makes me want to give the dude credit. Not to mention a solid bro-five, but that’s for later when were singing dicks out at the bar, joshing around and laughing about all the good times.

But yeah, anyway, the movie.

So yeah, what Daldry does best is that he shows that this relationship, while definitely controversial and frowned-upon for sure (and also illegal, but hey, who cares!), is just that – a relationship. In between all of the humping, the pelvic-thrusting, the orgasms, and smoldering hot baths, these two actually strike-up something of a nice chemistry between one another. While she teaches him in how to make love to a woman so that he’s not the only one who enjoys it (which always happens, sorry ladies), he, unbeknownst to him for awhile, teaches her how to read. Sure, you could make the argument that she’s teaching him more about the ways of life than he is to her, but still, the fact that this movie shows that there’s more going on than just bodily-fluids being swapped, helps us connect to these characters.

And then, it all changes up.

About half-way through, the movie goes from being a very explicit coming-of-ager, to being another Holocaust/WWII drama that likes to prey on the fears of those who are easily vulnerable to these types of movies and love to tear up. In a way, this makes the movie feel less interesting and lose its sense of focus, but there is an interesting spin put on that whole sub-genre of film. Rather than focusing on the plight of those affected by the Holocaust (like, for instance, the Jews that Hitler killed), the Reader asks us the age old question that we don’t see too often explored in movies: Can we have sympathy for those who were on the other side of the Holocaust?

It’s easy to have sympathy for those who were personally being persecuted and discriminated against, but is it that easy to have the same kind for those who were apart of the SS? Cause, after all, sometimes, those people were the same ones who were just taking orders from the higher-ups, in hopes that they’d be done with the war as soon as possible, so that they too could go back to their normal lives. And hell, had they decided not to go through any order handed down to them, then they too may have followed the same fate as their prisoners.

But that’s why there’s a boldness to the Reader that I enjoyed and couldn’t stop wrapping my head around.

For one, we never know quite for sure that Hanna was apart of the SS, until we do, and it makes us wonder as to whether or not we can push certain truths to the side, no matter how harsh they may be. After all, she’s a woman who was just doing what she was told to, by those much more powerful than her. And it’s not like she still acts or thinks the way she does today, right?

Still can't stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Still can’t stop thinking of K-Wins. Nor should he.

Cause after all, what we do see from Hanna, is that she’s a loving and caring woman. Sure, she can be a bit grumpy at times, but she’s got a reason to be. It should be noted that Winslet is great in this role as Hanna, even though I don’t believe it’s the role she should have won the Oscar for (Revolutionary Road would have been my one and only choice). But all that aside, Winslet is great in this role because she allows for us to see the sometimes broken-hearted woman that lies inside this rather rough and tough exterior that Hanna presents to the world around her. The role itself may have been written-out to be incredibly over-the-top and hammy (what with the over-extended German accents and all), but Winslet finds certain narrow paths to make it much more subtle and it works, especially when we get to the end of the movie and wonder whether or not this woman actually does deserve to be persecuted for these war crimes she’s being called upon.

Cause, honestly, does she?

Well, the movie brings these questions up, yet, doesn’t seem too interested on answering them. That’s fine, too, because it seems like they’re the kind of questions that deserved to be brought up in a manner that has people hitting themselves in the face, over and over again, trying to figure out what conclusion they can settle on. However, it does allow for the movie to end on a sour note that feels more interested in pushing its message across and lose the main focus of this story: Michael himself. Without him, we’d have no reason for this story to exist, but as soon as Ralph Fiennes shows up, it’s almost as if the character gets pushed to the side and all of a sudden, Lena Olin shows up, gets pissed-off and we’re left thinking, “What was the point?”

Sure, some kid got boned a lot, but other than that, did we really need that extra half-hour tacked-on at the end to remind us that, hey, the Holocaust was bad, guys? Probably not, but for some reason, Daldry included it anyway and makes me wonder just where the main focus was here. Did they use Michael’s sexual awakening as a manipulative path into talking about the Holocaust? Or, did Daldry legitimately want to talk about the Holocaust?

Eh, whatever. Too much questions.

Consensus: For awhile, the Reader is alluring, smart, and interesting coming-of-ager anchored by a wonderful performance from Winslet, but loses focus in the later-half and feels like it wants to tell a different story than it set out to do.

7 / 10

Is that a smile I see?

Is that a smile I see? Eh? Maybe? Nah, never mind!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

The Holiday (2006)

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

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

She's attractive.

She’s attractive.

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

That’s it.

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

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

Once again, that’s it.

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

He's attractive.

He’s attractive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5.5 / 10

Aw, bloody hell! They're all attractive!

Aw, bloody hell! They’re all attractive!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Insurgent (2015)

See what happens when you don’t conform, people? All hell breaks loose.

After messing with the Erudite’s plans, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run and in need of some sort of shelter so that the evil, diabolical head of Erudite (Kate Winslet) can’t force them to be something that they aren’t. Because of this, they find themselves in the company of many random groups – one of which includes Four’s mother (Naomi Watts) who seems to have the same mission in her head as well. The only problem is that nobody is able to fully trust Four or Tris, so they must figure out a way to retrieve this secret box that has all sorts of special powers that only certain people can attain. One of those people just so happens to be Tris, but she’ll have to get to the box, in one piece, before she loses her life and ruins all of the plans that the “Factionless” have had to conquer their society.

This is a very hard premise to write about, because honestly, there’s not much here. Not just because I don’t care about any of this (which I don’t), but because the bulk of Insurgent seems to be about getting this mysterious box and doing so without dying. Or, at least that’s what I thought it was about.

Sorry, Jai NotTaylorKitsch Courtney. You'll get 'em next time.

Sorry, Jai NotTaylorKitsch Courtney. You’ll get ’em next time.

In fact, most of the time while watching this movie, it’s never made clear just what’s really driving it, or even what the main point is; we know that Kate Winslet’s character is up to no good, but why? What does she want from all of these faction-less people that she can’t get elsewhere? And also, just what the hell is up with that box?

These are all questions that you may, or may not, find toggling around in your head. Which is probably a good thing for Insurgent, because at least that’s something to think about while all of the boring proceedings take place in front of you, without you ever feeling invested in it, or having much of a reason as to why you should care about it in the first place. It’s how I felt about Divergent, but at least that movie had enough world-building and character-development to allow for the two-and-a-half hours to go down smoothly.

Here though, Insurgent is a half-hour less than Divergent, but it feels at least ten times longer.

That’s a problem in general, but when your movie has as little plot, character-development, and/or interesting metaphors to offer as this, then you’re in huge trouble. Which is probably why YA movies such as these try so hard to latch onto the popularity of other (better) movies like the Hunger Games, or even Harry Potter. Those movies felt like they had a reason to exist; a reason to explore the universes that they created; and even better reason to give us compelling characters worth rooting for, and sometimes even despising the hell out of. The Divergent franchise has barely any of that, and it shows just about every minute of this second installment.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t some enjoyment to be had with this material. Some of the performances from this ensemble are well-done (especially from a newly-acquired Naomi Watts, who fits in well), and the crazy, over-the-top action-sequences that occur in this LARP-like world are quite neat to look at, but whenever the movie gets back to the reality of this world, it becomes all the more clear that there’s just nothing really holding this together. The world that this movie has created isn’t at all believable, but the movie doesn’t know this – instead, it constantly hits us over the head with metaphors out the wazoo about “being yourself” and “standing up to those who try to make you think or act like they do”.

It’s basically everything my high school therapist told me, except that he actually cared about my well-being. This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t. It just wants my money and my time so that I can hopefully come back around and see what’s crack-a-lackin’ with the next two installments of those already over-done franchise.

How does one actually get caught into this situation?

How does one actually get caught into this situation?

Which brings up another question: Will I actually give them, the creators of this franchise, what they want and go to see these next few movies?

You know what? Probably.

The reason being is because, despite my best intentions, I’m already in too deep. Movies like these where the franchise doesn’t need to exist, nor does it need to be as long as it is, always get me because once I’ve seen one installment, I have to practically see them all. It’s sort of like binge-watching a new TV show and already wanting to give up on it. Then, you realize that there’s maybe two more seasons left and rather than just leaving it at that, calling it a day, and moving onto the next TV show that you’ll probably want to give up on about 30 episodes in, you stick with it because already, you’ve seen too much. You can’t give up – you have to keep on watching, seeing what happens next.

And why is that? Well, because you already made the first mistake of watching the initial installments to begin with. After them, you’re screwed and practically owe your life to whoever created whatever it is you’re watching. It sounds like a painful, miserable, and downright excruciating experience, but that’s because, it is.

Insurgent is a painful movie to get through, and it shouldn’t be. With this stacked of an ensemble, there should be more than heavy-handed metaphors for them to deliver, but sadly, that’s what we get. Nobody here is a real character; they’re just serving a plot that thinks it’s a lot smarter or thought-provoking than it really is. They spout babble about “being themselves” and “not giving in”, but by saying that, the movie has already set itself up for failure. That the movie is conventional, plodding, and like anything else you’ve ever seen in the many years since Twilight hit theaters, already shows that Insurgent should have taken its own advice and branched out a bit more. Instead, it’s just like the rest of the pack.

Damn conformists.

Consensus: At two hours, Insurgent is already too long with hardly anything interesting to say, do with its thin-plot, or offer to its ensemble, who clearly have better places to be than slumming it low like this.

2.5 / 10

"We don't need no education!"

“We don’t need no education!”

Divergent (2014)

Conform, OR DIE! It’s like high school all over again!

Sixteen-year-old Beatrice (Shaliene Woodley) is like any other normal teen living in Chicago, except that she isn’t. See, what separates Beatrice from any other American teenager (see what I did there?), is that the world she lives in is a bit different. This is Chicago, after it’s been destroyed by all sorts of war, havoc and absolute mayhem where, to ensure safety among the common-people, society is broken-up into “factions”. The factions are meant to bring people with similar interests together, judged solely by their personalities or what they desire to be. In other words, they serve as a purpose to give most of these people reasons to live on and conform to certain ideals that are put down onto them. Beatrice is, at first, apart of the Abnegation team, where she grows her own food and clothes, and is basically a hippie. However, she has this weird ability where she is able to think for herself and question authority – something that the rest of society doesn’t accept, nor do they ever want polluting their minds. Therefore, rather than causing trouble, Beatrice joins up with the Dauntless team, where everybody goes to the gym, beats the shit out of one another, and parkours from one area, to the next. It’s a big step for Beatrice, however, it’s one that she tries her hardest to succeed at, which is mostly thanks to her non-stop training, as well as the fact that one of her teachers (Theo James) takes a liking to her and, in ways, may be exactly like her: A free-thinker that doesn’t listen to what everybody around them tells them. Aka, a “divergent”.

Dun dun dun!

Sorry that premise took so damn long to write, but I think in order to understand what all of this hullabaloo means, I have to go into some heavy-detail about the setting. Well, actually, I could have probably made it easier on both of us and just said it is something of a “Communist government, mixed with a lot more funky dress-styles”, but I don’t think that would have gotten the point across well enough. Just know that this is an adaptation of a young adult novel, that’s set in the post-apocalyptic future, features a female lead, has a lot of violence, political-themes and a romance at the center.

"Cut me out of Amazing Spider-Man 2, see what happens!"

“Cut me out of Amazing Spider-Man 2, see what happens!”

Oh, and by the way, it’s not the Hunger Games.

However, you probably wouldn’t really be able to tell the two apart, since it’s so damn clear that this is what this movie is being made-out to be. Which, granted, isn’t such a bad thing, just as long as the material can hold itself up. I mean, hell, even the Hunger Games, before it was actually considered “respectable” amongst humans that weren’t teenage girls of gay men, was being advertised and hyped-up as “the next Twilight“. Thankfully, that never turned out to be wholly true, but so be it; this is exactly where most major, motion-picture studios are going to be putting their money into and we all might as well accept it now, or suffer long, excruciating deaths from fan-girl mania.

But anyway, I’m just talking too much out of my rump. With this movie, Divergent, there’s nothing really new we haven’t ever seen done before, or hell, even heard discussed. Sure, the idea of everybody having to conform to a certain group, in order to feel socially-accepted or be left homeless, or even worse, dead is a neat one, but it feels like a retread of what most young adult flicks have been trying to do as of late. They continue to try harder and harder to discuss politics in an underlining way, but instead, come off more like their preaching and obvious, rather than actually being sly about it.

Though, what separates this flick from most of the other YA adaptations out there, is that director Neil Burger actually feels dedicated to this material, and isn’t too afraid of getting deep down and dirty with the places this story ends up in. First of all, it’s a pretty violent movie. Many young boys and girls are seen to be either shooting each other with fake, but realistic-feeling guns; throwing knives at one another; having sparring-matches where the loser is decided by whomever passes-out first; and be forced to take a test where they have to figure themselves out cruel, disturbing nightmares of sorts. In ways, it’s actually a bit more violent than anything either Peeta or Katniss have ever done, yet, it still feels like it’s not really doing anything. It’s just being harsh and putting its audience in an awkward situation where they have to watch a guy beat the crap out of a girl, all in order to “fit in” among a group of other fellow “He-Men Woman-Beaters”.

Burger, despite the fact that the material itself is a bit too jarring for even its target-audience, still at least puts enough effort into this where the action is suitable, yet, you will still be longing for more. Mostly though, that’s exactly where the cast comes into play, because everybody here, isn’t just talented, but more than capable of handling this material. It’s only really a matter of whether or not Burger gives them much to work with in the first place; and sadly, he does not.

The only two in this cast that Burger seems to utilize the most, and for all of the right reasons, are both Shaliene Woodley and Theo James as our new, “Edward and Bella”, or, for more of those tougher-fans out there, “Gale and Katniss”. Regardless of this obvious, yet very true, comparisons, James and Woodley are great together, all because you can feel the sexual-tension between them just getting more and more rich over time – as it should. Alone, they’re just fine: Woodley really is continue to grow into one of finer, more interesting young actresses of today; whereas James is a total hunk that will have the ladies swooning, even before he takes off his shirt. However, when they are together, whether they’re arguing over rules and regulations of how to become apart of the Dauntless, or just making small, somewhat flirty, talk, they’re constantly making this flick better and a whole lot more believable. In fact, I’d wager to say that the movie is worth just seeing for them, and them alone, as the attention to their characters and their relationship in the first-half, is what makes it so watchable in the first place.

But, as expected, things start to go off-the-rails by the end, as it becomes more and more clear that this story is dealing with a “higher-power”, as well as more of an ensemble that’s absolutely wasted. Also, not to mention the fact that the movie is close to being about two-and-a-half-hours long, which is long for any movie, especially a YA adaptation. Hell, it even makes Need For Speed feel like a Saturday morning cartoon!

He's so hot, and he acts like he doesn't know it. By doing so, he only makes himself even hotter. Gosh damn him!

He’s so hot, and he acts like he doesn’t know it. By doing so, he only makes himself even hotter. Gosh damn him!

Anyway, what goes so wrong with this story is that it begins to just get more and more serious, and therefore, getting way too over-blown to where you don’t really if they even plan on making sequels to this and want to cram everything in, or, if this is really how jammed-up the actual story is with all of its ideas. Either way, it feels like a little too much for the starter-up of a franchise and even worse, none of it really feels believable or exciting. It’s all pretty boring, if only because we’ve seen it done a million times before and, in most ways, better, too. They definitely leave a lot left open for a sequel, or hell, maybe even two, but most of the ideas here could have easily been placed into them, for the betterment of its high-strung, core audience.

Like I was saying earlier though, about the cast: It isn’t just Woodley and James that this movie has packed-in, there’s a pretty solid ensemble that I feel like any director, with any material other than this, would have utilized so perfectly. However, here, they all just feel like a good waste of talent, time and money (although I’m definitely sure most of these stars got a pretty nice beach house out of the ordeal).

After the Spectacular Now, it’s weird seeing Miles Teller and Woodley in a scene together where they aren’t making love or flirting, but such is the case here where Teller plays a huge dick that is constantly antagonizing everyone around him, especially Beatrice; Maggie Q seems like she’ll be the only voice-of-reason in this new world, as the first gal who realizes Beatrice hidden talents, but is only around for a few scenes where she gives people tattoos and doesn’t kick anybody’s asses (which, if you’ve seen a single episode of Nikita, you’ll know is a huge shame); Jai Courtney plays another muscle-bound a-hole that doesn’t take no wussies around his part of town; Mekhi Phifer is barely ever around, despite his character being the leader of the Dauntless’; Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn and Ray Stevenson made me happy to see them show-up in something for a change, even if they were given barely anything to do; and probably the biggest sin this movie achieves is that it wastes Kate Winslet, giving her the “one-note baddie role”, where all she does is act mischievous and order mass-wide genocides. And why is that, may you ask? Well, it’s because she’s supposed to be a bitch. Or something like that.

Who knows?!?! Who cares?!?! Right!??!

Consensus: The post-apocalyptic future laid-out for us is a bit more grim than what we’re used to seeing in YA novel adaptations, but aside from a sparkling chemistry between Woodley and James, nothing in Divergent really stands-out to separate itself from the rest of the same types of movies that have been released in the past decade or so.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Well, I hate to say this, but if these were my parents, I may have done it sooner.

Well, I hate to say this, but if these were my parents, I may have done it sooner. But, then again, that’s just me.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Labor Day (2013)

Escaped convicts always make the best stand-in daddies. Honestly don’t know why they aren’t more frequent.

13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith) and his depressed mother Adele (Kate Winslet) are going through a bit of a rough-patch right now. Mainly her though as she’s trying to get over the recent-divorce from her ex (Clark Gregg) and find her way back into being the normal, spirited gal she once was. However, Henry has it pretty bad too, with puberty and all, but he doesn’t think he has it all that bad when he just so happens to stumble upon an escaped convict by the name of Frank (Josh Brolin), who then urges them to come with him and not be suspicious in any way. At first, both Henry and Adele are frightened of this man, but sooner than later, they begin to realize that he’s got a heart of gold, but also just so happens to be a murderer – a murder he consistently lets us know is “not what it appears to be”. As time goes on though, the three all begin to bond, with Adele and Frank even going so far as to start doing a little hanky-panky, which leads them to their next stage: Move-away and become a real family? Or, just let the law take control and send Frank back to the slammer, where he rightfully belongs? Decisions, decisions people.

It pains me to see a movie like this, where one of the most promising directors in the longest while, Jason Reitman, tries something new and slightly bold, and somehow, falls on his face. Not flat on his face, but you can definitely tell that his “smart idea” of changing his directorial-choices up a bit and going for something that’s far more dramatic, romantic and in some cases, suspenseful than what we’ve seen him do in the past, definitely wasn’t fully thought-out.

"Don't mind this goatee-sporting man that just so happens to be wearing a sweat-top and baseball-cap next to me. He's just an old friend I just so happened to stumble upon."

“Don’t mind this goatee-sporting man, who also happens to be wearing a sweat-top and baseball-cap next to me. He’s just an old friend I just so happened to stumble upon while shopping.”

Reason being: There just isn’t much, or any at all spark to be found in this story that should have made it work.

The one aspect of this movie I will give Reitman some credit for is at least trying to give the audiences something new, in terms of an “adult romance”. And by that, I don’t mean that we see much sex between the adults, or nudity, or even that much of sappy, love-struck moments that would make even Nicholas Sparks get all red in the face; it’s an “adult romance” in the way that we see two, older-aged humans that have clearly experienced life for what it was has brought to them, and now how they want to continue on their lives with one another. It’s kind of sweet when you think about it and definitely gives you the idea that this is not something very “popular” with audiences out there. However, the fact remains that adults do in fact, “fall in love”, and it’s time that we started seeing more movies that depict that fact of life.

But to add on that, we should also be seeing good movies that depict that fact of life, not something like this. Which, I kind of do hate to say because I love Reitman; he’s the type of writer/director who’s not afraid to take chances, or depict characters that may not always be perfect, but feel like full-fledged characters we can actually care about and connect with. Here though, we have a bunch of broken-down, beaten-up people that would definitely seem like perfect matches-made-in-heaven for one another, but don’t really add up to much. It’s believable that somebody as repressed as Adele would look twice at a guy like Frank who, may even be more emotionally-disturbed than she is, but treats her like the Queen Bee she hasn’t felt like in some odd time. That aspect of the story definitely makes sense, but it just doesn’t play-out in a believable manner.

Which, I think, is to put the blame on Reitman for having this story be told in the point-of-view of Henry. Granted, I never read the book this is an adaptation of, so it could definitely be just a case where somebody is following by the guide-lines presented to him, but it doesn’t work. Not only do we get too much focus on Henry oddly and awkwardly talking to this fellow teenage girl (that, unbelievably, keeps talking about sex and how he should get ready to be kicked-out of the house because the adults he lives with are having too much of it), but we never actually get to see Frank and Adele develop much as a couple, or even soul-mates. We just see them sad, lonely and in need of some lovin’, which is all fine and dandy because we’re all human in the end, but we never quite see them talk, get to know one another, or even see them initiate the act of sex. We just hear their moans and groans, which is supposed to be played-up for laughs, but just feels like Reitman trying very, very hard to secure a PG-13-rating without over-stepping those boundaries or offending anybody in the process.

In this case, as dirty as I may sound to state this, but those boundaries needed to be taken-off and shoved in front of our faces, just like he’s done with all of his movies.

And trust me, this all hurts me to say because while I definitely did see promise in this material and in this director, I felt the most of it with the cast. Which I wasn’t wrong to think, because they are all actually fine and make this movie the least bit “watchable”. Kate Winslet gives us, yet again, another performance where she acts her ass off as a sad, slightly disturbed heroine that definitely does seem like a nice lady when she’s functioning, but she rarely is and doesn’t even bother to go out there in the real world. It’s kind of sad to see this type of character, really, and while, without saying anything, Winslet tells us everything there is we need to know about her character, Adele does become a bit more implausible as time goes on and she starts to change every aspect of her life, just to be with this man she’s known for all of four-five days. I get it, that’s the point, but the point didn’t work for me. Sorry.

One of the very rare instances in which it's "okay" to have your woman bake you a pie.

Hey, shouldn’t “the woman” in that equation be making the pie? Men? You with me on this?

We also have Josh Brolin here as Frank, who, like Winslet, is fine at displaying this type of character that seems like he was, at one point in time, a very nice and genuine guy, but has been through the ringer a bit too many times to where he’s a bit scary to be around. He’s still nice and definitely the right kind of guy to teach you how to throw a baseball, but is also a bit unpredictable as you never know when he could turn that other cheek, and commit some questionable actions. He already did once, so what’s stopping him now? Nada, that’s what!

Gattlin Griffith shows some promise here as Henry, but he too gets bogged-down by some unbelievable twists and turns his character takes, and it makes you wonder if this kid’s scared, sheltered, or just dumb. Tobey Maguire also narrates the older-version of Henry, and while it’s nice to hear his smooth, gentle voice over the speakers when we least expect it, it still doesn’t add much to the film and just tells us everything that’s happen on-screen. Poor Tobey. From just standing-around and looking like a fool in the Great Gatsby, to this, it seems like the guy will almost never catch a break. Somebody give him a hug already!

Consensus: Winslet, Brolin and relative new-comer Griffith, definitely make Labor Day somewhat interesting, but everything Jason Reitman does as writer/director feels like he’s just trying too hard to be anything like he’s been for all of his other movies, and by doing so, doesn’t allow this story to ever pick-up any tension or blissfulness that it so clearly needs.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't be nervous, kid. Cause if you are, I'll freaking snap your mom's neck in-half. Like I said, don't be nervous."

“Don’t be nervous, kid. Cause if you are, I’ll freaking snap your mom’s neck in-half. Like I said, don’t be nervous.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Movie 43 (2013)

Not all celebrities are prudes. Only the ones with Oscars are.

The central story is about how a deranged writer (Dennis Quaid) forces a studio executive (Greg Kinnear) to make his movie. But before any moves actually take place on it, we get to see what the actual-product is as the writer reads it out to us and the executive. Basically, it’s just one dude’s shitty idea, all for us to see and cringe at. Yay!

Sketch-comedies never seem to work, that is, unless you just so happen to be drunk, horny, wild, and ready for a good-time. However, I don’t think it will matter if you’re any of those things: you may never, ever enjoy this movie. Okay, maybe if you’re 12-years-old, and love to hear the word “balls” in almost every sentence  then yes, you might just have a freakin’ ball with this thing. But if you are above that age-limit in anyway, shape, or form, this is going to be one cringe-inducing trip for you. Whether you like it or not. I’m going to guess your most likely to side with the latter.

Any movie can tell a ball, poop, or fart joke like it’s nobody’s business, but it’s all how you do it and literally; this film just cannot do it in the right way where you laugh, chuckle, or even get that they just made the joke. Almost every single skit in this movie has at least one use of the word “ball” or “shit” and it gets annoying, probably around the time the first skit kicks-in and you realize that you’re going to be tormented to the core of your stomach, with non-stop raunch jokes that do nothing. Apparently, everybody who ever worked on this movie, all thought that the idea of somebody having a certain bodily-fluid sprayed all-over-their-face was downright, hilarious and it’s a huge-shocker that it never dawned on any of these people that maybe, just maybe, the type of material that they are working with, just isn’t funny enough to suit a 6-to-7-minute sketch, let alone a whole movie full of ’em.

"Today's lesson is, "How to NOT choose shitty movies like this".

“Today’s lesson is, “How to NOT choose shitty movies like this”.

And also, the idea of having a movie so chock-full of sketches where big-named stars just demean themselves to the lowest, common denominator, almost seems so old-school, it’s not even worth it paying the money to go out and seeing. I mean, you can probably go onto Funny or Die, College Humor, Cracked, or even YouTube for that matter, find big-celebrities, doing some crazy shite for laughs, and actually having there be; ACTUAL LAUGHS. Here, in this movie where it’s just one, long presentation of a bunch, you get probably one-or-two laughs and that is literally all because the jokes that they use in the film that are actually funny, were already used 100-times before in all of the trailers/commercials we have either seen or heard, 100 times before. Going out to see this movie is already a crime, but actually going out to pay for it, is like a freakin’ cardinal sin. Especially when you know that more-quality humor is laying right there for you, at your fingertips.

Even if the delivery is god-awful, at least some of the placement is okay. For instance, some skits actually seem to have some promise like the one where Robin (Justin Long) actually stands up for himself and gets involved with a Superhero speed-dating event, where other, actual superheroes show-up to mingle and hopefully, get laid. This idea seems like it’s planned to be a butt-load of fun, especially if that idea came from Joss Whedon, but sadly, it comes from the makers of this shit-pile and before you could say the word, “kryptonite”, the sketch has already lost itself in saying the word “bush” or “shit”, one way too many times. I mean, when you got Wonder Woman and Batman talking to each other about how they fucked and it never amounted to anything but Batman running-away and never calling again, you would expect non-stop hilarity, right? But nope, instead it’s all about having Robin still be played-out as the softer, gayer-one of the two and if you didn’t think that joke was over-played by now, trust me, just wait for the rest of the movie.

However, without the promise of an interesting-idea, most skits just fall from grace, right from the very start. The skit where Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott both find and capture a leprechaun (played by Gerard Butler, in CGI-form), in hopes to get some gold, starts off pretty bad. Apparently the director, Brett Ratner (in case you haven’t been surprised yet), thought that the idea of having a leprechaun spew-out a bunch of dirty words was funny enough to last a whole sketch, especially one where it seemed like it’s main actors would actually sparkle in. Sadly, they just don’t do anything for the sketch, or the movie itself and the way it all ends is so dark and savage-like, that it really left me with a bad-taste in my mouth, which is very shocking since the rest of the film just couldn’t. I want to spoil the ending of that sketch for you so you understand what I’m blabbering all about, but sadly, I am a critic and I have morals, people. But still, don’t see this movie because I won’t spoil it for you.

"No, I'M in this movie?!?!"

“No, I’M in this movie?!?!”

The idea of having all of these different stars being packed into one movie where all they do is completely raunchy and dirty shit (sometimes literally), may make them seem cool and on-the-edge, but in reality: it’s just a poor-decision. I guess it’s really strange to see heavyweights like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman in a skit about a dude with balls on his neck, or a skit with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts playing parents of a home-schooled kid that give him the full, high-school experience with sex, drugs, abuse and all, but it’s even stranger to see peeps like them actually stoop themselves so low as to actually make this material work. I don’t know if they knew this right from the initial script-read, but this is terrible-material they are working with here so instead of giving it their all and actually going to town with whatever energy or sense of purpose they can muster-up to make this work, they seem almost as if they forcing it out, almost like a kidney stone (and yes, it is THAT painful to watch). Nobody here really out-shines the other and probably the only person that really made me laugh and surprised the hell out of me from this whole cast was Will Sasso, who shows-up, does his thing, reminds us that he is still alive, and actually made me laugh. I was terribly and utterly surprised, but he was the real spectacle to see for me. Everybody else can suck my nut because I hated this shit, and I hated watching them try to act in it!

Consensus: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the star-studded cast fool you, Movie 43 is one hell of a bombshell that begins on a lame-note and ends on an even-worse one that makes you feel like you’ve just been hit over-the-head with somebody’s foreign parts, and not in the fun, or pleasureful way, either. It’s the type of way that disturbs you and scars you for life. That is, until you see an equally as bad movie and that’s, going to be very hard to come by for some time I think.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

The main reason why I refuse to travel to New Zealand.

Heavenly Creatures is true story of two teenage girls (Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey) from New Zealand who form a very strong friendship that changes both of their lives as they live through their own imaginations. However, things start to get strange when their friendship turns into obsession, which soon leads into murder.

The most disturbing aspect of this whole film is that this is an actual true story and while that is effed up in it’s own right, the chicks are still alive and well today, roaming the streets of only God knows where. Then again, this is a Peter Jackson film which means it’s always going to be strange.

The one thing about this film that sets it apart from other films of this nature is the direction and vision from Jackson himself. This is a pretty straight-forward story but the way Jackson tells it through extreme close-ups, awkward camera angles, constant zooming in-and-out, and not many regular shots, gives this flick a real different feel that I haven’t really seen before in a film that’s about two teenagers who go bat-shit crazy.

However, my problem with this whole direction is that everything here is practically going just about a mile a minute and I just wanted this film to slow down a bit. I get what Jackson was trying to do here, he wanted us to see the world through these girls’ own eyes and imaginations but after awhile it felt like Jackson just wanted us to know that it’s him directing so of course we need gigantic clay figures running rampant killing people. The best scenes for me here were when Jackson kind of just let the tension flow and come on in itself without Jackson ever getting in the way of that but for some reason, he just tried a little too hard and got in the way of what was going on.

The film also opens up with these girls covered in blood from head-to-toe screaming about a murder so right off the bat, I knew exactly what was going to happen by the end and for the whole time, I was just sitting there waiting for it to happen. If they didn’t show us this scene right from the get-go, I think I would have been more into this film like I had wished because it was only till after the flick that I actually checked out the actual case itself.

Even though I still bitch about all of these problems with the film I still found myself totally involved with the very disturbing story that this flick is all about. Seeing two girls go from being friends, to obsessive lover types, to stone-cold killers is downright frightening and the fact that everything here is true is what kept me really disturbed. Every film always shows the bright side to friendship and finding your bestie, but you hardly ever see the dark side of that and what it can do to not just everyone around you, but also yourself. The last 10 to 20 minutes are probably some of the most tense and disturbing I’ve seen ever since ‘Bully’ and I have to say that is something worth recommending.

The performances given by the two girls here are awesome and I think elevated this film completley. Melanie Lynskey is great as Pauline Parker and gave me that very angsty but dangerous teen-vibe the whole time. I still cannot look at her the same and actually be able to call her hot seeing this film. Kate Winslet gives a break-through performance here as Juliet Hulme and steals the show giving this incredible energy that keeps the film entertaining every time she is on-screen. It’s crazy to see where these two really got their starts and it’s also even more great that they sort of made me feel something for their characters, even if they are totally effed up in the head.

Consensus: Peter Jackson has way too much style here for me to actually be involved with this story, but regardless, Heavenly Creatures is a flick that is very disturbing, well-acted, and makes you feel as if you are in these girls’ heads as they go from normal to completley insane.

7/10=Rental!!

Little Children (2006)

A pedophile and a red-hot affair don’t really mix.

Two stay-at-home parents (Patrick Wilson and Kate Winslet) both end up striking affair after they both realize how bored they are with their own actual lives at home. Then another story happens where a convicted sex offender (Jackie Earle Haley) moves back into his house and is soon harassed by almost every person he sees.

This is the sophomore effort from writer/director Todd Field, who some will remember from the big-smash he made back in 2001 with ‘In the Bedroom’. Somehow, he took that similar story mixed it with some ‘American Beauty’ satire and divided it with a hint of ‘The Woodsman’, then he got this crazy flick.

The film starts off very strong with these two immature parents who obviously don’t know what to do with their lives except just nag each other and hope that all their depression and angst goes away. I dug this beginning because the film showed these characters in a very interesting light while also focusing on the fact that it’s telling us that these adults are just like kids in some ways, they both forget the responsibilities they have in the world and they go with their gut-feeling rather than just using their heads.

A lot of people complained about the whole narrator from PBS thing so much that when I heard it in this film, I couldn’t say that I was too bothered. Yeah, he does spell out everything a little too much but there are times when his narration actually makes a lot of this moments in this film a lot more entertaining then they have any right to be. It seems as if he is reading a children’s story to us, like one of those audio-tapes you would get for a book if you didn’t know how to read, and it really divides the line between what’s funny and what’s sad in this film. I found myself laughing at some of the things that the narrator was saying, while others, I didn’t know how to feel.

The main problem that lies within this film is that it is very very messy because it constantly shifts back-and-forth between these two stories and they shouldn’t be in the same film together either really. There would be moments where the film would just focus on the suburbanites and their affair for a very long period of time, and then randomly go to the peddy without any real reason other than to show this dude who has obvious problems. Both stories are pretty interesting in their own rights but together, they can’t really share the same screen considering that after awhile the “affair story” becomes the same thing over-and-over again whereas the “pedophile story” becomes a lot more interesting as the time goes on. I think I would have rather watched two different films of these stories rather than just one because it wouldn’t have been so messy.

I do think Field as a writer is very talented but there are times where I think he loses himself with trying to be too smart, which I know is a weird thing to say but just bare with me peeps.. There are moments here when Wilson and Winslet are getting it on and Winslet will constantly ask him, “Is she pretty?”, she meaning his wife. She doesn’t only just ask this once but also many other times during whoopie and this to me seemed very unbelievable as some chick would just constantly ask the dude who’s mounting her about his own wife. There are also plenty of other moments where this film doesn’t feel all that realistic but not worth mentioning.

Everything with this film is all pretty messy until the last act, where the film really loses itself with the shock-o-riffic ending that seems more put-on than anything. I don’t want to give anything away really but I think Field tried a little too hard to convey these certain types of emotions for these characters to the point of where this ending came up, and it probably looked good on paper, but when it came to actually filming it up on the screen, it seemed very dumb.

The cast is very good though despite all of these other problems with the film. Kate Winslet is great as the conflicted house-wife, Sarah, and Patrick Wilson has never been more charming or conflicted as Brad. Jennifer Connelly is good as Brad’s wife, Kathy, but I wish there was more of her that gave more of her side on things. Granted, we get a scene here and there but I really did feel like her character could have done a lot more for this film if they included her just a little bit more considering Connelly is such a good actress as well.

The best out of the bunch though is probably Jackie Earle Haley as the pedophile who plays up that man-child act so well that it’s almost too hard to hate this guy when he’s being such a dirt-ball. I mean yeah, he’s a dirty dude that I would never have over for dinner around my kids but he’s also a very troubled soul that wants nothing more but to be accepted once again and feels the need to fit in, mainly because his mommy says so. Haley is great here and just by looking at him, you get the sense that this is a sad and tormented soul.

Consensus: Little Children has some good elements, such as its good acting and very strong beginning, but then starts to fall apart with being too repetitive, too unbelievable, and just by having two different stories that don’t really mesh all that well in the same film.

5/10=Rental!!

Carnage (2011)

Always remember kids, don’t get in fights at school, or the parents will probably duke it out too.

Two sets of parents (Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz, and Kate Winslet) all meet together when both of their sons get into a playground skirmish. What starts out as a nice, civilized meeting soon turns into complete havoc as tensions between two couples begin to rise up.

The fact that Roman Polanski is directing a stage play that is also a comedy, seems a little strange for a director who is most known for bringing us some of the tension-filled thrillers of the past 20 years. However, this film is just further proof that Polanski can do no wrong, except for when he gets stuck with little kiddies, but that’s a whole different story.

What I liked about this flick was the fact that it was very fast-paced and the screenplay feels rich and authentic, almost like how real people would talk if they were put into this type of situation as well. The tone is humorous but in a very dark way so even when you can tell things are going to go from bad to worse between these two couples, the laughs somehow sneak their own little sly way into making you chuckle when you least expect it.

Even though this is no suspense thriller by any means, I still do believe that Polanski brought some tense moments into this film. I didn’t know what either person was going to say next and as these funny twists and turns keep coming out, the more ridiculous and also kind of tense it gets as well. My favorite element to this film was how everything was played in real-time and I also liked how Polanski didn’t feel the need to leave the room and instead we are just left in this one room for the whole time, which to some may have been a little boring, but for me was well-used.

My problem with it being in one room is that when one of the couples try to leave, they somehow find themselves brought back in whether it being to get the last word in, or get a cup of coffee, or because the plot needed more conflict. This is done a lot better on the stage because you can feel as if the characters have absolutely nowhere to go, but where have a camera that can and will go anywhere with these characters, it feels a bit contrived and forced. About the 3rd time they walk back into the room, I couldn’t help but think that these people just wanted a large-scale brawl.

Another problem I had with this flick was the fact that there was all of this satire and points about “The God of Carnage” and I just couldn’t buy into it. When they all start to talk about each others relationships with each other and how women do this, and men do that didn’t feel insightful or farcical at all, instead it just felt like the film was trying to be more than just 4 people in a room, bickering over some little skirmish. Maybe it’s just because the stage play went down the same path, that the film did it too, but for some reason, I just could net get into it.

The one thing that Polanski does perfectly here is that he keeps the camera on these four leads as each of their relationships start to unravel. Kate Winslet is amazing as Nancy because she starts out as this nice, easy-going trophy-wife that soon starts to change as she gets the booze in her, and then she turns into some foul-mouthed trucker. Winslet has always done transformations like these with her characters, but she is just so good here as her emotions change from one side to another. Jodie Foster has always been that one actress that always feels up-tight and very reserved, but as Penelope, she lets it all out. Foster is very good in this role because she plays against type and just lets loose on the anger and frustration that this character has throughout the whole film, and as she starts to get a little bit drunker, she starts to get more foul-mouthed as well.

After being terribly disappointed by his performance in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, I was very glad to see John C. Reilly kick some ass again in his performance as Michael. He’s funny, charming, and likable but you know there is some rage to him that’s hidden deep-down inside and I think this is something that Reilly shows very well. Glad to see that this guy can still be lovable. Christoph Waltz had a few duds this year with ‘The Green Hornet’ and ‘The Three Musketeers‘ but he’s back in his full-swing as the complete a-hole that finds anyway to cause conflict. Waltz was probably the one who made me laugh the most out of this whole cast and I think it shows that Waltz really can play villains that you can still like, just by being charming and funny. He one an Oscar for it already, and he can definitely keep on doing that for a long long time.

Consensus: Carnage does feel somewhat contrived and forced with certain elements, but thanks to a very slick direction from Roman Polanski and Foster, Reilly, Waltz, and Winslet bringing out the best with their performances, you can definitely laugh even if it does make you wish you saw the stage play.

7/10=Rental!!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Maybe there are some chicks that I wanted out of my memory, maybe….

After learning that his mercurial ex-girlfriend, Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), has undergone an experimental medical process to purge all memories of him, mild-mannered Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) opts for the same procedure. But during the operation, he decides he doesn’t want to lose what’s left of their relationship and tries to conceal her image in his memory cells.

The script here is done by Charlie Kaufman, who has done scripts for films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, so already you know this is going to be some crazy shit. And crazy shit, is exactly what you get here.

The one thing about this script that separates itself from other romantic comedies is that this is painfully honest at times. The sci-fi premise is used as a metaphor as to whether or not we would be better off eliminating that heartbreak from our lives. The fact is that we need heartbreak to learn from it and make sure not to make the same mistake again, and thus it makes us the person we are today. This script really does show love in a beautiful yet painful way because this love that Joel and Clementine has, isn’t a pretty one. This love/relationship isn’t one of those instant love-at-first-sight kind of deals, it’s more that for almost every single great memory of Joel and Clementine there is an equally painful one, one that I wouldn’t want, but not every single relationship a person has, is going to always be happy-go-lucky. This script is just so beautiful and breathtakingly honest because it shows that people change over time, and no matter how much you have your mind want to believe that truly do hate that other person, your heart will never forget that one person. I know it may sound cheesy and a little schmaltzy, but the way the film tells this fact, is just beautiful.

Let’s not also forget that another reason as to why this film works, director Michel Gondry. I don’t know how Gondry took a look at this script and came up with this piece of beauty, but I have to say he absolutely makes every single scene here, his own. Since this takes place in the mind, and as we all know, a lot of crazy things happen inside of our minds, Gondry has the opportunity to let some real trippy stuff happen on screen. The visuals are amazing and are amazing without hardly any use of CG special effects. There’s a lot of beautiful lighting tricks, setting movements, and just overall breath-taking scenes that take us inside of the mind, and give us this wonderful fantasy that life really is something you can’t imagine.

The cast here is also something to praise. Jim Carrey gets rid of his goofy faces, and give us a spot-on performance as the quiet, sweet, and endearing Joel. Carrey owns this performance because he has you believe that somebody this serious could actually have the type of relationship he has with Clementine, and go through all the things he does to keep her in his mind forever. Kate Winslet is almost even better as the eccentric and quirky Clementine, who actually carries her character into being more than just that zany chick, that is almost too hard to believe. Winslet is hilariously likable in this role, but at the same time believable, and wins the crowd over almost throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast in this film is good with the likes of Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and the always reliable, Tom Wilkinson.

Consensus: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is twisty and trippy, but beautifully filmed, with a brutally honest script that shows heartbreak as something in life we always need, no matter how painful, or rewarding. Perfect film all around for anyone who wants to get inside a mind, and possibly get inside their own. I wish I could say more about this film and it’s utter greatness, it’s just one of those things you have to see to believe.

10/10=Full Pricee!!

Happy Friday everyone!

Contagion (2011)

An apocalypse with no zombies. LAME!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10=Rental!!

Revolutionary Road (2008)

What would have maybe happened if Jack and Rose actually lived “happily” ever after.

The perfect couple living in the perfect house in a perfect suburb? Not quite. April (Kate Winslet) and Frank’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) marriage unravels when a desperate plan to change their “perfect” lives becomes their last hope to escape lives actually engulfed in emptiness.

When this film was first talked about back in the day, nobody could get over the fact that it reunited two stars, who played Jack and Rose from the biggest movie-seller of all-time (now 2nd), Titanic. Although, I can only imagine the people’s faces when they saw this expecting a sequel to that film.

The thing with this film is that it really is harsh, mainly due to the screenplay. These two are constantly hammering each other with yells, screams, insults, curse words, and of course the usual house object thrown around. The dialogue works so well here cause it shows us the reality that many couples go through, and that’s not wanting to be like every one else, as well as having that internal strive to feel alive and new. The hopes and dreams you once had, may finally get away from you at one point, and you can’t help it. Many times throughout this film, their actual human emotions are tested, and you wonder just how you would feel put in the same position. It’s all about capturing the American Dream, and although you may not always get it, you can’t give up on it.

Now this is not a film that will have you screaming from the mountains: “Go Marriage!”. But it will have you totally and utterly shell-shocked. There’s a lot of suspense with this film, much thanks to the direction of Sam Mendes and he brings a lot out of this material that you wouldn’t be expecting so much on paper. I also liked how the film looked, as I almost felt like I was in this 1950’s suburban America, trapped as well with this couple.

The problem with this film is that the characters are not very likable. Frank and April aren’t the most lovable people in the world, but you can sense their pain of entrapment. However, they don’t do anything nice at all, and almost seem like their constantly trying to fight with each other on purpose just to get somewhere. A simple nice and calm chat over a cup of brew would have been nice, but instead, they just have to go crazy and scream at one another until their lungs are just about lost. I feel like Mendes wanted to just have these people fight, and never actually have anything solved, let alone actually be happy. At times, I felt that this was almost so depressing that at times, I didn’t even want to be watching it because there was no sign of hope at all.

I mainly enjoyed this film the most because of the cast here. Leonardo DiCaprio is amazing as Frank, and although he is a little too pretty to be taken seriously as a man, he doesn’t let you forget that he is the true man of the house. Kate Winslet is equally as amazing as April, where she gives one of her very best performances I have ever seen. She starts off as the beautiful, lovely house-wife, but something triggers in here and the non-stop craziness that comes from her is frightening, but at the same time believable, and Winslet nails it in my book. They both work so well together, and every scene they have together feels perfect, and genuine which really adds to a film when throughout the whole film, all they do is fight and argue. I believed them as young ones in love, and I believed them as a married couple trying to stay in love. However, the most stellar job from this whole film is Michael Shannon, the guy nobody had any idea about before this film came out. He is in this film for about 10 minutes, but he absolutely owns every single one, and brings out the most pain and suffering these two already have. If it wasn’t for him I don’t think this film would have gotten the real “kick-in-the-ass” it needed, and when it’s all said and done with, his performance is the one your still thinking about.

Consensus: Revolutionary Road may not be the most entertaining film you have ever seen, but it features brilliant performances from the cast, and a fearless script that tackles all of the problems that couples go through, even though it may not be all happy in the end.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

The Life of David Gale (2003)

Does this even argue anything about the death penalty?

When Texas professor David Gale (Kevin Spacey), an advocate for the elimination of the death penalty, is falsely accused and convicted of the rape and murder of another activist (Laura Linney), he ends up on the state’s notorious death row himself. In a series of flashbacks, Gale tells his story to a young reporter (Kate Winslet) who’s visiting him on death row, leaving her to sort out his guilt or innocence.

The whole film I was expecting it to be another argument on the death penalty, and how it is just soo wrong. However, it just turns out to be an interesting jig-saw puzzle that you can’t steer away from.

The first two thirds of this film are quite riveting, mostly because the plots twists and turns, all come at you right away, without you even knowing. By the end the films twists really do seem to be implausible, and actually kind of stupid, but it was first two thirds that really had me going in the first place.

The cinematography is very ho-hum and certain editing techniques used to link scenes in the present to scenes in the past, where the camera spirals over words like: innocence, love, guilt, hate, are pretentious as hell. These montages are also so grossly out of place that they seem as if they were clipped from an episode of NYPD Blue.

The performances given here by Spacey and Winslet, is what in the end really won me over here. Kevin Spacey gives one of his best performances here, cause the whole film is basically given to him, to act his ass off, and well, he does just that and even more. Kate Winslet, is good as this mean, kind of bitchy reporter, but does give some good emotional scenes, although it may seem she is trying too hard. I wish these two had more scenes together to show that they could build up a great chemistry on screen. But just way too many flashbacks prohibit this.

Consensus: Although it’s plot and message seems so out-of-place by the end, The Life of David Gale, has at least two strong performances from Spacey and Winslet, as well as an interesting first two thirds of a film.

5/10=Rental!!!