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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Keith David

The Nice Guys (2016)

Who ya gonna call? Two studs!

It’s 1977 in Los Angeles, and Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a bit down-on-his-luck. His wife has just died, he’s left to care for his teenage daughter all by himself, and he’s got a job as a private investigator that sometimes pays the bills, and sometimes doesn’t. However, there’s a new case that comes his way when a young woman named Amelia (Margaret Qualley) mysteriously disappears. While Holland is sure enough that he can solve the case on his own, a local enforcer, Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe), comes into the picture, vowing to find Amelia as well. The two don’t get along fully well, but hey, they’re willing to push aside differences to solve the case and make a few bit of dollars in the process as well. What the two run into while in the case, though, is probably more than they bargained for, what with shady government agencies, hitmen, and the porn community, all involved in one way, or another.

He doesn't drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

He doesn’t drive, but he takes pics, too. Man. Talk about a total package.

The best thing that Shane Black has ever done for himself and his career is become a director. Once he was able to do that, he didn’t have to worry about any director messing-up, or misinterpreting his vision, but instead, just know that what he wanted to see, was what he was going to get. Case closed. All of his movies have all been pretty great, but with the Nice Guys, it feels as if he’s finally found that sweet spot in cinema that may make or break him.

Meaning, if people don’t go out to the Nice Guys, Hollywood may stop allowing for Shane Black to work carelessly on his own projects and just keep him to name-brands. However, if people do go out to the Nice Guys, which they totally should, Hollywood will not only reward originality and creativity in the biz, but reward Black himself.

But honestly, it doesn’t matter because whichever way you put it, there’s no denying the Nice Guys is just a fun time from beginning to end, and Black is all to thank for that.

Clearly, it’s a buddy action-comedy, given the fact that this is a Shane Black movie, but it doesn’t feel like a well-worn thread; instead, Black himself finds new and interesting ways to not only surprise us, but himself as well. You think you have a clear-cut idea of where this story is going to go, what with the convention and all that, but nope, Black will take a step to the right or left and beat away from the path we’ve all seen before. I can’t go into great detail about what I’m going on and on about, but if you’ve ever seen a Shane Black movie, you get where I’m going; the dude follows the beat to his drum and that’s great. He does it better than anyone else, mostly because he created the damn drum in the first place.

And this is all to say that the Nice Guys is the perfect kind of summer blockbuster you’d want to see. It’s pace is breezy, its sunny-set location is relaxing, it’s jokes deliver, it’s action is exciting and unpredictable, and most of all, the characters themselves are so great and well-written, that it’s hard to find a stand-out here. Black brings in a lot of colorful beings, but mostly all of them are better than the last and after awhile, you start to wonder if he’s got any more in him.

Then, you soon find out that yes. Yes he does.

With Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, Shane Black has found his perfect odd-buddies. Crowe is the rough, tough and ragged figure that loves to solve every problem/argument with a fist and a gun, whereas Gosling is the kind of cowardly figure who definitely uses his brain to get by, but has no capability in fighting or kicking ass. The two obviously clash, but to watch Crowe and Gosling bicker and banter with one another, is an absolute joy. The two really seemed to have get along during filming and even if they didn’t, they do a great job at hiding it.

Cheer up, Russ! You're in a Shane Black flick!

Cheer up, Russ! You’re in a Shane Black flick!

But it isn’t just about the joking around and busting-of-balls that makes these two characters such a blast to watch. Over time, as the movie rolls on and the case that they’re following gets more and more deadly, we get to find out more about these guys, their pasts and how, in ways that they don’t even know, are pretty similar. A lot of this can be attributed to Black’s script, but really, it’s Gosling and Crowe who do a lot of heavy-lifting and make the smaller, more quieter moments in between all of the guns, blood and cars, much more meaningful than you’d expect with a movie like this. Sure, Black keeps them funny, but there’s a heart and soul deep inside of these characters and it keeps the adventure worth sitting through.

It also helps that there’s so many others in the cast that are fun to watch, too.

Angourie Rice plays Gosling’s daughter and while she could have easily been another annoying, precocious child character, she shows that she’s smart, but also still very immature and can’t always handle every situation perfectly, just like any kid would act; Matt Bomer shows up briefly as a scary, vindictive hitman who makes his presence known in an awesome shoot-out; and Kim Basinger, in some limited screen-time, shows up as a shadowy figure, reminds the boys that she’s around to play as well and won’t let the screen get stolen from her.

That’s Basinger for ya. Always stealing that spotlight.

So yeah. I guess the real question is should you see the Nice Guys? The answer is yes. However, I feel like not many people will. Neither Gosling, Black, or Crowe are the box-office draws that they once were, but to me, that doesn’t matter. The Nice Guys is a great time; it isn’t perfect, but then again, what is?

“A lot of stuff,” you could say, but who cares? Just see the movie, dammit!

Consensus: With Black’s well-written script and smart direction, the Nice Guys is a laugh-out-loud, thrill-ride from beginning to end that benefits from a wonderful bit of chemistry between Crowe and Gosling.

8.5 / 10

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Oh, Ry and Russ up to their silly shenanigans again!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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Barbershop (2002)

Everybody likes to have a little conversation while getting a trim.

On the south side of Chicago. Calvin (Ice Cube) runs a barbershop that he inherited from his deceased father. Since it’s been struggling for the past few years with funding and whatnot, Calvin himself views the shop as nothing but a burden and a waste of his time that he absolutely can’t wait to get rid of so that he can go on and move on with his own life for a change. Granted, there’s other people in the barbershop who may be upset or disappointed with seeing it gone and dead, but Calvin is just thinking for himself and his own life. And now, after selling the shop to a local loan shark, Calvin slowly begins to see his father’s vision and legacy and struggles with the notion that he just sold it out for nothing more than pure selfishness. However, on this one fateful day, a lot of other stuff that happens that begins to affect the others who work in the barbershop, as well as those who come to it, day in and day out, expecting a fine cut, some good conversations, and a greater feeling that they did something right for their community.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Judging by that grin, somebody may be demanding their money back.

Barbershop isn’t, by any means, a stone cold classic in the comedy genre. It is, if anything, a small, simple and easygoing comedy that has a nice, breezy pace, doesn’t ask the hard questions, doesn’t demand the hard answers and, at the end of the day, also doesn’t forget to make its audience laugh. Sure, you could say that’s the deal with a lot of other comedies just like it, but there’s still a special feeling with Barbershop that, even after all of these years, makes me feel like it’s legacy may forever live on, just by how good-natured it is.

Once again, does that make it “a classic”?

Nope, but it does make it a perfectly watchable and fun movie.

This mostly all comes down to the talented cast and the fact that, a lot of them, all seem to get along and have a nice bit of chemistry between one another, even if their characters don’t always get along or seem like the best of friends. Ice Cube, for one, shows that he can be an awfully charismatic and fine lead when he isn’t glowering over those around him as Calvin, giving us a good enough character that we at least identity with him, but not too much of a presence to where he takes over the whole movie and makes us forget about everybody else. In a way, Cube is perfectly fine playing the straight man in this cuckoo’s nest of wild and crazy characters, and that’s why he deserves extra brownie points here.

If anybody is the one who steals the show away from everyone else, it’s Cedric the Entertainer as Eddie. Cedric is doing a lot of hamming it up here and while his character can definitely be taken in for small doses, those doses, as meager as they may be, are still fulfilling and healthy enough that they keep him funny, and the movie going at a fine pace. Much has already been said a lot about the tirades and rants that Eddie goes on and on with about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and more famously, Jesse Jackson, and with good reason – not only are they very funny, but they also prove to be some of the smartest comedy bits that Cedric has ever done (with the exception of everything he had to do or say in the Kings of Comedy).

Of course, some of that could have definitely been improved by Cedric and it would have been perfectly fine, but yeah, it doesn’t matter that he sort of steals the show. Everyone else here is still fine and charming enough that they at least make their presences known, even if they don’t take over the whole film. Peeps like Troy Garity, Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve, Michael Ealy, Leonard Earl Howze, and plenty more all show up, do their things and remind us why they matter in a story like this.

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Cover up those paw prints, missy!

Even if, you know, the movie itself sort of jumbles them around a tad too much.

Because Barbershop is such a small, relatively contained comedy, it almost feels like a disservice to the rest of the characters that there’d be so much plot and twists and turns that are, for the most part, as predictable as they come. It’s as if director Tim Story didn’t trust his comedy enough to move and tide things along, that he felt the absolute need to have a whole robbery-angle and a love-story to accommodate it. Sure, these things are fine to have if you’re trying to build up characters, but it can also hurt when it’s taking away from some real moments of fun and laughter. If anything, it just breaks up the joy that everyone’s having and making them all realize that, oh yeah, there’s something of a story here that’s supposed to be told and yeah, it’s kind of lame.

But at the same time, Barbershop isn’t trying to light the world on fire, so even if it does take a few pratfalls here and here, at least it gathers itself back up, brushes off the leftover hair from the ground and continue on with itself, as if it’s not fazed and just having fun.

Or yeah, something like that.

Consensus: Though its over-reliance on plot can become a bit much, Barbershop is still a funny and enjoyable enough movie to get through, if mostly because of its charming cast.

6.5 / 10

I'd take a seat in that chair.

I’d take a seat in that chair, provided laughs were involved.

Photos Courtesy of: Youtube, Qwipster’s Movie Reviews, Superior Pics

Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)

Sorry, Jen. But together, these two are really hot.

After having a chance meeting in a foreign country some odd years ago (five or six, neither ever knows), John (Brad Pitt) and Jane (Angelina Jolie) Smith live a comfortable life where either one talks to one another, yet, still live under the same roof and go to couples-counseling in hopes that things will get better between them two. However, when both find out that they are not only living separate, secret lives as super-duper spies, but that they are also part of feuding spy-agencies, then things got a whole lot more tense between the two; not to mention deadly. Oddly enough though, this newfound information ignites a spark between them both and for the first time in a long time, John and Jane both find themselves happily in love with one another, banging and eating all over the floor. Problem is, it may just be too late as the spy-agencies soon find out that these two are actually married in real-life and decide that it’s best to take them both out because it’s, “bad for business”. Whatever that means, right?

Herein lies the film that started it all; the famous, highly-attractive Hollywood couple that will be synonymous with Generation-Y’ers till the end of time; and definitely the duo that J-Aniston still wants to get back at all of these years later. Ladies and gentleman, here is the beginning of what we know to be known as Brangelina. Heck, it’s even got its own WikiPedia page! If that doesn’t just scream “culturally significant”, I can’t tell you what will!

Oh stop!

Oh stop!

With most movies that have more talk about what’s going on behind the scenes usually means that the final-product itself isn’t anything worth chatting about it either. It just serves as a platform for a conversation to get started on about; although today, one could just mention either Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie respectively and end up finding themselves still talking about their togetherness, and less about the actual movie that brought them all together.

And as you can tell, I’m doing the same exact thing I’m going on about, because it’s sort of the truth: The movie that brought these two superstars together, really isn’t all that memorable.

“But surely something must have been well-done enough to where it would actually attract such picky A-listers as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Dan? So what is the problem?”, you might respond with, and honestly, my answer might be a general, “I don’t know”. Maybe these two were attracted to the idea of starring in a movie together, or better yet, maybe they just saw plenty of big bucks in the idea as is. It doesn’t really matter because either way, the movie is still very “meh”.

Most of that has to do with the premise itself which, on paper, seems very promising, fun and witty, and for the most part, is. However, the movie knows this a little too much and can’t help but remind us each and every chance it gets that, “Our premise is so goofy and our co-stars are so in love with one another, that we can’t help but be pleased!” These are the types of movies that linger on being “smug”, and there are more than a few occasions in which Mr. and Mrs. Smith finds itself creeping over to that side.

What keeps it away from doing so on most occasions? Well, it’s the main selling-point this movie had to roll with in the first place: It’s lovely co-stars.

And yes, it’s also said that usually actors who hook-up in real life, have terrible chemistry in the movies they’re starring in together, but here, with Jolie and Pitt, that isn’t necessarily the case. They’re good together and you can really tell that the two have a little twinkle in there eye whenever the other is in the same scene with them, however, they don’t get to show it off too many times. Because the premise is sort of a joke in and of itself about this married-couple hiding their real selves from the other and not really doing much of anything together as a unit, Pitt and Jolie aren’t really given too many opportunities to do a whole lot of on-screen flirting. More or less, they’re spending scenes together in awkward silence, which yes, is the point, but after awhile, does seem like a waste of some incredibly talented-individuals, who just so also happened to be shaken’ the high hoots behind closed doors at the time.

Yet, the moment in which these two come alive, is when they both find out that their secret spies, which yes again, is the point; they’re bored with their simple, carefree home lives and just want to live a little. In a way, Pitt and Jolie, at the time of filming this movie, were probably the same kind of people – Pitt wanted an escape from his faltering-marriage with America’s Sweetheart, whereas Jolie herself was looking to settle-down a bit and get serious with somebody who didn’t wear her blood across their neck, and/or wasn’t her brother. Maybe I’m looking way too deep into this than I should (actually no, I totally am), however, I can’t help myself. Not just because I’m obsessed with these two and their career’s in general, but because there’s not much else to talk about with this movie.

No, seriously! Cut it out!

No, seriously! Cut it out!

Personally, they’re the only reason to see this. Any reason why you’d laugh during this would be because both Pitt and Jolie are charming enough to make even the dumbest line/moment work. Everything else is sort of a mess. Like, for instance, the whole action-sequences themselves aren’t filmed right; Doug Liman is a fine director that clearly knew what he was doing with the Bourne Identity, but doesn’t seem to realize that action scenes work best when we care about everything that’s going on and is at least given to us in a fun, exciting way. Here, bullets fly; grenades explode; punches are thrown; and upper-class, suburban homes burst into flames. And yet, I didn’t give a single hoot about any of it.

Except for Jolie and Pitt themselves, who are clearly doing fine without hearing anything I have to say.

Love ya Brangie. Sort of made that up, sort of didn’t. Whatever.

Consensus: Most of the talk surrounding Mr. & Mrs. Smith has to do with what happened in real life between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and basically, are the only real reason this movie deserves to be seen – a time-capsule for what everybody was talking about in the mid-21st Century.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

No! Damn you adorable freaks!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

That Riddick, when he isn’t busy sacrificing fellow humans or gripping the throats of alien-monsters, he sure is cool.

It’s been 4 years since the last time we saw bad-ass, anti-hero Riddick (Vin Diesel) kicking booty, finding any way out of custody, and being sneaky, and it’s nice to see that not much has changed in those past 4 years. Yes, Riddick is still up to his same old tricks and games, yet, he finds himself caught in a bit of a rut when he’s taken into custody by a religious group called the Necromongers. They are lead by the nefarious Lord Marshal (Colm Feore), who wants to either convert or kill any existing race out there, in hopes that he will be reigning-supreme ruler throughout the universe. However, once Riddick gets a blast from the past in the form of an older, much wiser friend of his Kyra (Alexa Davalos), who may be in a bit of trouble herself, as she’s stuck on a whole other planet and needs to be let out of custody. Or something of that nature.

Even though Pitch Black was nowhere near being a science-fiction masterpiece, it was still a fun flick if you took it in for what it was: A really dumb, really cheesy, B-movie. If you saw it as that, and nothing else, then you might have actually enjoyed yourself with it, as I did so myself. Hence why I was looking forward to this a bit, knowing that Riddick would still be cool, still be laying down the whoopin’ on whomever came around his way, and that there would be plenty more planets, creatures, and all sorts of of other sci-fi gadgets and doo-hickies to be seen, but I was surprised by how little of any of those features I saw. Thankfully, I got a chance to see Riddick lay down the law (or the exact opposite, since he is considered a “criminal”), but that was about it, and it’s a damn shame too!

The excitement they felt working together must have been contagious. Just look at them!

The excitement they felt working together must have been contagious. Just look at them!

I think where writer/director David Twohy messed up with this movie is that he gets too ambitious. Granted, that’s not necessarily something that should be frowned upon, especially when you’re making a sequel to a movie that almost nobody saw, but here, it takes away from the novelty of that first one, and what made it fun and entertaining to watch. Everything in that movie was yes, corny and terribly-written; however, it was shown on a smaller-scale, with a punchier run-time, where we knew everybody was on-the-clock, and they each had to move it, or else it was going to be their ass getting chewed-up by those alien-like creatures. That idea taken into consideration made the movie exciting and fun, while also making it easier for us to get past some of the more crappy-aspects of it like the half-assed acting, the badly-written script, and the non-stop plot-holes that would show up whenever Twohy forgot what page he was typing on.

Here, with what seems to be a way, WAY bigger budget and more on his plate than he could have probably handled, Twohy loses his grip a bit and makes it a big, loud, long, and overly-dramatic space opera of a sort. The same type of space opera where we get development for characters that aren’t all that interesting to begin with; a slower-pace where we actually have to pay attention to the story/script (therefore, making it harder for us to ignore it all of the dumb aspects behind it); and even more lines that are corny and terribly-written, yet, roll off the tongue of some of these people, as if they weren’t even trying. The movie’s close to being 2 hours, and while some may think that’s enough time to build an atmosphere for this universe Riddick is placed in, it surprisingly isn’t, considering how less time is spent on the way the universe itself works, and more about how these planets don’t like one another, and are all run by religions, sometimes very deadly ones.

With that being said, it’s a pretty nifty idea that Twohy seems to take pride in exploring, however, it’s not given as much attention as most of the dumber aspects of the movie are, like, say the action, the cheesy one-liners, and the whole dilemma we’re supposed to care about. And trust me, it’s not because I’m not a huge fan of sci-fi is the reason why I wasn’t all that interested; it’s mainly just because the movie takes itself so self-serious and dramatic all the time (even going so far as to touch Shakespeare material at times), is why I was turned-off by it all as a whole. Twohy handles the action and the special-effects very well, and actually had me excited for a little while, but the story itself is just a bore. Which, in all honesty, it didn’t need to be because the first movie was nothing more than a small, stupid, but effectively-done sci-fi thriller; here, it’s a drama about planets facing off against one another, nearly disguised as that small, stupid, and effectively-done sci-fi thriller we all knew worked, and really liked.

Karl Urban, in what seemed to be his 20th role in a bland, big-budget sci-fi flick that only 10 or so people would bother to see.

Karl Urban, in what seemed to be his 20th role in a bland, big-budget sci-fi flick that only 10 or so people would bother to see.

In this case: Going bigger was not the way to go at all. Sorry.

However, I think the root of this movie’s problem really lies within the fact that Vin Diesel was one of the main producers on this. Knowing that valuable piece of information afterwards, allows for this whole movie’s sake of existing make perfect sense: Diesel felt like his popularity was starting to wane, so decided to go for a mainstream blockbuster that wasn’t XXX, or apart of the Fast & Furious franchise, and see if people would latch on like they sort of did before, way long before he was that big star, back in that small-window during the early 21st century. Maybe that’s just all me thinking into it too much, but it makes a lot more sense why this movie was made, and why it’s so over-blown in a way to confuse itself with being “epic”. Diesel wanted to make this movie, just strictly so he could get more money, see if he was still a big star, and destroy the nice legacy that the first one would have probably been left with, had he not decided to come around and manipulate the use of his star-power.

All of that conspiracy talk aside, Diesel is still pretty solid as that huge hunk of meat we all know as Riddick, even if we can’t understand a single thing he says. However, with a character as simple as Riddick, we don’t need to know what he’s saying, we just need to see him kick some fine ass, which is what he does, and very well too, may I add. But it’s strange though because despite Diesel not being the best actor in any circle, he’s somehow the only one who feels right for the material, among many, “better” actors. Thandie Newton does her Lady Macbeth thing; Karl Urban just stands there, tries to look tough, and ends up looking like a total dweeb; Colm Feore goes on and on about some prophecy he has in his mind; and Judi Dench takes any type of energy or steam out of the movie, whenever she shows up here as this odd, ghost-like figure, who’s only purpose in the whole movie is just to whisper exposition into Riddick’s ear, giving him hope and inspiration, even though it doesn’t seem like he’d need it. It’s weird to see such a good cast as this go to waste here, but then again, I feel like they just had to know what they were getting themselves into signing up for “the sequel to Pitch Black“, so I guess not much sympathy is going to be going to their way from my end. Sorry, guys. You can’t win ’em all.

Consensus: While it’s busy disowning any sense of tightness or moody atmosphere that the first movie had, The Chronicles of Riddick also ends up becoming a duller, longer, and boring continuation of the story of Riddick, the same type of story that nobody really cared to see on the screen again, except for maybe Vin Diesel himself, and it shows.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

I wonder how many credit cards Vin maxed-out just for this one scene alone!

I wonder how many credit cards Vin maxed-out just for this one scene alone?

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

P.S.: Never thought that I’d be reviewing this on my birthday, but so be it! Cheers!

Pitch Black (2000)

I could actually see everything that happened. Bullshit title.

A transport shuttle carrying more than 40 passengers, main one being a ruthless, sadistic criminal named Riddick (Vin Diesel), finds itself in the middle of a meteor storm, and nowhere left to go but down. They crash-land on a nearby planet that seems deserted with the only things left rummaging, or if they are living, they are deadly creatures that come out in the night. But that’s all fine and cool because the planet they are on has 3 suns which means that there is no darkness, so therefore, no need to worry about their lives being in danger, right? Well, think again, bloody chaps! What just so happens on this fateful day is a lunar eclipse where the planet goes black and leaves the crew left to fend for themselves, with any supply of weapons or light they have, just so that they can repair their ship and get the hell off of the god-forsaken planet. However, the only that can really help them out, is the same said ruthless, sadistic criminal I mentioned before, and he’s more than likely to help, just as long as he’s calling the shots and nobody else. Obviously this doesn’t bode so well with the rest of the crew, considering he’s a criminal and all but they have bigger fish to fry, so escaping from this unknown planet it is!

I never quite understood what the whole “attraction” behind the Riddick franchise was, but two sequels later, what does it matter what I think? The answer to that rhetorical question is obviously “nothing”, however, I still wonder how a low-rent, B-movie without any real stars or main attraction going on behind it, made such a killing at the box-office that it was able to spawn two more movies over the course of 13 years. Hell, we still have yet to see the Independence Day sequel we all want and deserve, but we’ve gotten 2 Riddick movies instead? Hmm. Seems strange, and maybe it’s something I’ll never be able to wrap my head around. I don’t know.

"It's hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin'!"

“It’s hot. Yeah, I know. Quit bitchin’!”

What I do know is that despite me being a tad bit interested in what this flick had to offer, I had to say that I got off on the wrong foot with it, as I feel like many others probably did back on their initial-viewing. The movie opens with a chaotic frenzy of shaky-cam, people yelling out total gibberish (aka, “spaceship jargon”), and a bunch of loud noises that consist of “boom”, “bang”, “crackle”, “pop”, and many others of that nature. It definitely got me feeling like I was right there with this crew in this spaceship as it went down, while also having me on the verge of throwing up as well. I know I sound like a bit of a wimp and all, but seriously: The opening-sequence to this flick is just total overkill of the shaky-cam method and had me expecting the worst of what was next to come.

Thankfully, things slowed down and cooled-out after that, but lord did I have a crackling head-ache!

Anywho, the flick does work in a way because of David Twohy’s vision that surprisingly captures a sharp, refreshing glimpse at what it would look like if you too were on the same planet with all of these buffoons. The alien air is is bleached-out, as if the cinematographer sprayed Sunny D all over the camera to give it a cooling, relaxing feel. But while doing this, he also creates a sense of the unknowing, where we too are placed on a world we know nothing about and is most likely filled with all sorts of cool things, creatures, and materials. This aspect of the movie actually had me pumped-up and ready for action, especially when things began to get all dark and tense and for a long while, it was still working.

Twohy knows how to place us in the dark (literally and figuratively) effectively, as he allows us to guess who’s going to get bumped-off next, why, what these creatures are, and just how the hell they’re going to all get out of this planet alive, if at all. It’s very tense at times and it creates an atmosphere where anything that could go wrong, probably will happen, and won’t be “Hollywood-ized” either. This is a B-movie after all, which means that there’s going to be plenty of gruesome deaths, blood squirting out wherever humanly possibly, monsters ripping people to shreds, a slew of curse words that you aren’t supposed to say out in public (unless you’re legally permitted to), and even more corny lines than you could possibly shake a yard stick at, however, there is some bit of fun behind it as well. As stupid as it could be, it did get tense at times and honestly made me wondered who was going to make it out of this hell-hole, even if it was easy to predict one person surviving at the end. Not going to throw away who it is, but if you don’t get it by now, just stop reading. Please.

Sorry, boys: She'll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Sorry, boys: She’ll more than likely kick your ass than accept your dinner date request.

Where this flick, as well as many other B-flicks of this nature and of this genre fail, is in the character-development process where we are given the standard bits and pieces for things that are supposed to be living, breathing human-beings who are capable of having emotions and feelings; yet, has a script that shows completely otherwise. With this cast of motley characters, we get all of the same conventions we’ve seen before: The head-Muslim who constantly believes that a higher-power is to be blamed for all of this bad stuff happening; the geologist who knows everything about this planet, even if they can’t tell what planet it is that they are on; the morphine-addicted cop who’s all about getting the baddie, at any, and I do repeat, AT ANY cost; the teenage kid who holds an infatuation for the said baddie, but also has a bunch of secrets on his own; and the inspired, yet too-big-for-her-britches pilot who wants to show dominance and force, but can’t help but have a vagina and be criticized and treated harshly for the fact. In case you couldn’t tell, you got every character here that we’ve ever seen before in a movie where a group of random people get thrown together, have to deal with a situation in any way they can, where ego’s and different ideas come clashing together like pans on New Years, and this time, it proves nothing new or refreshing we haven’t seen before.

With the exception of maybe two characters in this flick, everybody’s pretty cut-and-dry. Either they are sympathetic human-beings that know what is right and feature no gray area, or they are totally and utterly despicable, as if “being humane” was nowhere to be found in their blood-stream. That’s okay and all, but with a talented cast such as this, it does feel like a bit of a bummer to see them stoop to this type of material, even if they do try their hardest.

But like I said, there are two exceptions here in this movie and they are non-other than Radha Mitchell as head-pilot Fry, and Vin Diesel as Riddick, the role that seemingly put him on the map of super-stardom and rightfully so. Not only is Diesel good when it comes to showing that the guy can kick just about anything/anybody’s ass, but also allows us to see a bit of a humane-side to this dude as well that isn’t used in a manipulative manner. We actually see Riddick as a sort of human-being, one that you can’t always trust, but know to trust enough that he will get you out of whatever sticky situation he can or even cares for to begin with. That’s not to say Mitchell is chopped-liver neither, because the gal does her work here and does it well. Her small-ish, frail body works well for her character that seems like she has all the balls, mentally, to carry this crew to safety and get them off the planet, but doesn’t have the physical balls to nut up and shut up when push comes to shove. She’s good with this character and gives her all that she’s got, even if Diesel is the one who steals the show here. Then again, I bet you knew that already.

Consensus: A B-movie in the sense that it’s stupid, cheesy, and thinly-written, but Pitch Black also has a slight bit of fun with itself, especially in the way Diesel commands the screen with every ounce of talent that he’s got, showing us just what was next to come for this uprising star.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with oddly-colored, mutant eyes.

The ladies still love themselves some Vin. Even with brightly-colored, mutant eyes.

Photos Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

They Live (1988)

Not much changes in the world we live in, except for dated movies apparently.

The film follows a nameless drifter referred to as “Nada” (Roddy Piper), who discovers the ruling class within the moneyed elite are in fact aliens managing human social affairs through the use of a signal on top of the TV broadcast, concealing their appearance and subliminal messages in mass media.

It’s funny how spot-on writer/director John Carpenter is with his satire here. All of the comments about the “Reaganomics” of the 80’s, TV, movies, and pop-culture, were all pretty funny and made me think about this a whole lot more than I was even expecting too. But I only wished that he could have kept that going on for longer.

The whole tone and setting that Carpenter started off with was pretty nice. The rich are getting richer, while the poorer are getting poorer and this is an element to this flick that starts this flick off with a bleak beginning but it isn’t as depressing because there is a big-hint of mystery in the air. I liked how Carpenter starts his flicks off, with just the right amount of mystery, setting, and even some character development roaming around as well and this one is no different. However, it was only a matter of time until he started to lose me, and lose me real, real bad.

Everything was going fine with this dark comedy satire idea on 80’s culture, but as soon as Piper puts on his cool shades, then the film goes for a huge action-packed ride. This bothered me because I felt like Carpenter really set himself up big-time with a groovy premise like this that would have everybody laughing at all of its irony, but instead, he just decided to waste his time on bullets and corny one-liners. It’s almost as if he had a good idea in his head and started off with it, and then he just decided to be a little teenager again and get a little crazy with his guns. I don’t know if that’s exactly what was going through Carpenter’s head but it sure as hell seems like it.

But it wasn’t just the fact that the film changed its tone in the first place, what really bothered me was the fact that the action wasn’t as exciting as it could have been to get this story off the ground. Of course, there’s scenes of Piper going around with a shot-gun, shooting off aliens left-and-right (which is always good fun to see) but it just keeps on starting and stopping, almost to the point of where I was utterly and completely bored. I had the same problem with Escape from New York, but it was just so much worse here and instead of keeping me glued in, it just lost me and at one point, even had me nodding off. Also, what the hell was up with that 7-minute fight!?! Made absolutely no sense as to why it went on as excruciatingly long as it did and didn’t really do much for the story, other than to show that Piper is a tough-ass mofo.

Speaking of Roddy Piper, he tries his hardest here as Nada but can’t do nothing else other than seem flat the whole time. I loved Piper as a wrestler, and always found out that he was a funny guy, who could always back it up in the ring with the best of them but he definitely can’t do that as an actor. The casting of Piper was a very smart idea from Carpenter, but Piper’s character is so flat and uninteresting, that’s it almost too hard to believe or even care what the hell this guy is going to do next to all of these bad-ass aliens. Actually, it seemed weird that Piper would start off so squeaky-clean at first, with a guy who almost seems like he wouldn’t hurt a fly, but then changes it up out of nowhere, and is now this wild, crazy, and violent one-liner dropping type of dude that don’t take no shit from nobody. It just seemed very strange to me and no matter how much I love Piper as a wrestler, the guy can’t act. Sorry my kilt-wearing friend.

But hey, at least Keith David was around to keep things going the right way, right?!? That guy better get a damn Oscar one of these days.

Consensus: They Live starts off fresh, smart, and very intriguing with it’s satire-covered premise, but then it switches gears to an action movie, and a not-so fun or entertaining action movie at that with it’s constantly uneven pace.

5/10=Rental!!

Cloud Atlas (2012)

So, since we’re all connected to one another, does that mean Hugh Grant is connected to me??!?! Yes!

The movie explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.

Most of you folks out there have probably been seeing loads and loads of advertisements and whatnot for this flick and are probably thinking, “What the hell is this about?” I’m pretty sure my synopsis up there didn’t provide any such help for you either so let me just start off by saying it’s about a bunch of stories that all take place during the past, present, and future, and all connect to each other in slight, little-clever ways. There, now you have it so let’s get on with what makes this film one that the common-folk will hopefully see. I highly doubt my review will do anything to change the opinions of peeps, but there’s always hope, people.

This movie marks the long-awaited return of the famous directing team, the Wachowskis, but it isn’t all about them the whole way. They also share directing-duties with Tom Tykwer, but that doesn’t matter because you can’t really tell who’s directing who as neither of them really have a distinct-style of film-making, other than using loads and loads of CGI in their works. Not saying that’s a bad thing but it’d be a lot more obvious if you had a pairing-up between two directors like, say, Martin Scorcese and David Lynch. One person would be telling a story about a bunch of mobsters going off to whack some guy, while the other person would be telling a story about boogie-men, Roy Orbison songs, and live-walking bunnies. Hell, now that I think about it, that would make a pretty cool-ass flick. Anyway, I am toates off-subject here. Back to the freakin’ movie at-hand.

From what I hear through the grapevine, the original novel that this movie is based off of, has been apparently called unfilmable, which makes the direction between these three seem all the more eventful in the long-run. There about six-different stories that are told here, and all seem very understood and easy to follow, where you don’t really ever get confused as to what story is actually taking place and what the hell is going on in each of them. All stories are pretty simple to follow and even though some of them may have goofy sci-fi shit going on, you still get the gist of what’s going on.

And what’s so great about all of these different stories, is that each and every single one is about as entertaining and interesting as you could get. Granted, not all of the stories hold your attention as much (the one that takes place in the woods where everybody talks like they’re from the South, during the 19th century), but they all seemed to keep me glued to the screen and provided me with the right ingredients to have a good time. They also all seem to have their own personalities where there’s one story concerning romance, one story concerning a bunch of slap-stick humor (and it’s slap-stick done right, mind you), one story concerning sci-fi, futuristic action, and even one story that reminded me a lot of Death Wish, with it’s cool, 70’s-thriller vibe. In a way, there’s something here that’s for everyone and if you don’t find one story all that intriguing  then you can always depend on another one to come right out, and sweep you off your feet to get you right back into what’s on-screen. Great directing skills from all three of these peeps and it shows you that these guys still have it in them to make an entertaining movie, even if it is almost 3-hours long. Yes, you heard me right, people. 3-HOURS LONG. Bring the red bull, you may need it. But yet, it’s 3-hours that didn’t feel like it at all, so maybe you don’t. You know what? Bring it just in case.

However, as entertaining and interesting as this whole film was, I still felt a bit empty at the end of it all. The whole point of this movie was understandable, and it was how we all the same, underneath our skin. It’s a message that does get drawn-out very well in this movie with certain stories relating and connecting to another in a very small-way, but that message didn’t have any impact on me whatsoever when the movie was over. Some of the characters in the stories I did care about, but not to the point of where I felt like I was going to cry my eyes out if they died or anything. Maybe that’s sick-way of thinking when you see a flick like this but that’s how it all went down for me. No emotional impact, no emotional connection, no nothing. It was just a bunch of fun, entertainment that kept my interest.

But somehow, I felt like the Wachowskis and Tykwer were going for me than just that, which is why I felt like I missing something at the end. The score did give me that epic-feeling in the pit of my stomach and had me look to the screen with wonder, but how the hell was I supposed to connect to characters and to a story through just plain and simple score-music? I don’t know what was wrong with me during the viewing of this flick, but if you expect a huge, tear-jearker, than you may have come to the wrong-place. Bad/sad stuff does happen, but never to the point of where I felt like I needed an extra box of Kleenex on the way home. Maybe that answers the question for ‘ya. So, for all of you Nicholas Sparks fans, don’t even think about going to this after a bad break-up and expecting to relate.

Most of the fun of this movie that I already alluded to earlier, is watching the ensemble cast and seeing all of these different roles they pick-up in each story. See, in this movie, instead of just having a star play one character, in one story, and having that be their own pride and joy, they all get to play another character in each and every other story and all have different looks. Some are goofy-looking, and some are pretty neat-o how they all pulled it off (make-up and costume designs are sure to get an Oscar nomination this year), but overall, they all will probably have you staring at that one character and thinking to yourself, “Is that Huge Weaving in drag?”

And yes, in case you wondering, Hugo Weaving does actually show-up in drag here and it’s fun to watch him play it too, because the guy plays a villain in every, single story. But he’s not the only one having fun out of the cast, because everybody else is pretty much too. Tom Hanks shows up the most prominently in this flick and plays all of these different types and roles that we have never really seen from the guy before and it just goes to show you why exactly this guy is the face of-Hollywood, in a lot of ways. Halle Berry is another one who shows up the most prominently in this flick and shows us all why she deserves bigger and better roles like the ones she has here. It’s been awhile since Berry has actually took a nice, juicy-role that spoke to her true talents as an actress, and thankfully, the time has come to where we see it finally and she handles herself oh so perfectly with every story.

Out of this whole cast, it’s really hard to decipher who has the more-difficult tasks at-hand here, but I will say that the one I was most impressed with was Jim Sturgess who held his own pretty damn well throughout this whole flick. Maybe the guy didn’t do an amazingly spectacular job, but after appearing in shit like 21, Across the Universe, and One Day, the guy took me by surprise by showing me the depths he has as an actor and I look forward to seeing what else he can do in the near-future with his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, he steers clear of those soapy, melodramas that always seem to plague young, good-looking guys’ careers like his.

It should also be as to no surprise that Jim Broadbent steals the show in every story he has, and the one where he and a couple of fellow old-timers plan an escape out of an old-folks home is definitely worth the price of admission alone. Basically, everybody you see on that cast-list up there on the poster, is featured plenty of times in this movie that will have you pointing to the screen a crap-load of times. But on a sad-note, the coolest Brit of them all seems to get the short-stick a bit. Yep, that’s right. I’m talking about you Hugh Grant. I want to see more of you buddy, so show-up in more stuff!

Consensus: Cloud Atlas is a very, very long movie that’s filled with plenty of stories, plenty of characters, and plenty of ambitions that it’s set for itself, but is also a very entertaining and beautiful movie to watch as it never really leaves you bored when it’s all over. It may not be the most emotionally-impacting viewing-experience you’ll have this year, but it’s a great watch that will probably take-up half of your day. But, in a good way at least.

8/10=Matinee!!

Crash (2005)

Don’t be racist, especially in L.A.

A Brentwood housewife and her DA husband. A Persian store owner. Two police detectives who are also lovers. A black television director and his wife. A Mexican locksmith. Two car-jackers. A rookie cop. A middle-aged Korean couple… They all live in Los Angeles. And in the next 36 hours, they will all collide…

So the one thing about this movie that always seems to get people crazy (myself included) is that this was the Best Picture winner over the near-masterpiece that is ‘Brokeback Mountain’, and while I can’t say that I think otherwise now, I can still say that i think that this one doesn’t deserve all the bashing it seems to get.

To start off with this flick, I have to say that the general idea of having all of these stories center around racism is pretty nifty and it works mainly because of Paul Haggis‘ script. Haggis did a great job at showing us all of these different perspectives on other peoples’ race and gives us plenty of stories where we realize just how hard it is to be anything in this world, especially when race comes into the picture. I think I’ve mentioned race about 3 times already in this review but it’s as if it was just another character in this movie, but it just didn’t speak. It’s everywhere these characters look, around everything they do, and basically impacts all of their everyday activities and it’s only gotten worse and worse as the years have gone by. It’s a harsh reality but it’s a very true reality and I have to give it to Haggis for at least going out there and showing all of this because it’s something everybody needs to hear and understand. There’s plenty of other themes and messages here about life, people, and the world we live in, not just racism, but it’s definitely one of the themes that I could understand and connect with the most.

The problem that Haggis ran into with this script was that it sometimes dives into soap opera-ish and that’s where it sort of began to lose me. Some moments in this film rang true for me, while others just felt too cinematically cheesy that they could only happen in a movie, which is what movies are all about but this film does try its hardest to seem like its real. Take for instance, the scene with Ryan Phillippe and Larenz Tate, without giving too much away I just want to say that they both are driving in a car and within 1 minute of the ride, they are already fighting and arguing about something, which is trying to show how a black person and white person can’t really get along. Then it ends in a very bizarre and shocking way but it came off more as unbelievable to me because it seemed like Haggis was trying too hard to try and show us how messed up relations between two different races are. Nice try Paul, but life doesn’t always play out like that.

However, for every “made for movies” scene, there was an equally compelling and powerful scene waiting to just come right up and snatch us. Haggis has a couple of scenes as director where he unleashes these very heavy scenes full of his score and they work because as over-powering as it may be, it still keeps your eyes glued on the screen as you can feel the emotion pouring out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but the fact is that when it works here, it works superbly.

Where this film really works is the ensemble cast that Haggis was able to assemble here and all do perfect jobs with their sometimes unlikable characters. Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, and Matt Dillon are all given characters that you can’t really like just because they don’t do the right thing about 95% of the whole flick, but yet they are very compelling, especially Dillon. Matt Dillon is perfect here as the racist cop, which is sort of a cliche in and of itself but he somehow transcends above that formula and makes this a character that it seems like only he could play. He’s unlikable, pompous, and racist but by the end we start to see the human side of him and it actually feels very real and that’s where I think his performance hit its highest note. Once we start to realize that he’s actually a good actor too, is also when his performance got better. Still don’t know why this guy hasn’t been able to get more like this recently. Then again, there was ‘Takers’ but I think that only counts as a good movie for me.

Consensus: Crash is a very hard flick to talk about because it’s well-written, features some great points about the world we live in, especially when it comes to race, and is acted greatly by everybody involved, but way too many scenes also feel like they were just made for a movie experience and the more the film seemed to ring false, the more it seemed to lose points for me. Good film? Yes. Good enough to win Best Picture over Ang Lee’s near-masterpiece? Nope, sorry.

8/10=Matinee!!

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Hmmm….so is doing drugs fun?

A widow (Ellen Burstyn)’s growing dependence on amphetamines and a self-help television show parallels the struggles of her heroin-addicted son (Jared Leto), his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and friend (Marlon Wayans).

Having seen this film already way back when in 2009, I knew that I was in for a Debbie-downer none the less, which is what I got. However, there’s something with age that makes this film better in a way.

This film is absolutely Darren Aronofsky‘s right from the start, all the way till the last credit rolls off the screen. Aronofsky makes this film the psychedelic head-trip that it is with everything he throws at  us with all of the powerful and haunting imagery by his one-of-a-kind style. Aronofsky uses editing in the way that it should be used, as in the way to get inside the mind-set of its characters/stories. Whenever these people are popping pills or shootin’ up, we don’t just see them doing it with a slow burn, we just seem them doing it in an ultra-fast mode that’s done in a matter of 2 seconds. It shows the effect it has on the certain person where time sometimes speeds up, slows down, and even may take you into this dream-world where all of the craziest illusions just pop-up out of nowhere. Either way, Aronofsky is a pro at making a dark story even darker just with the right amount of style to give me images that will probably stay in my head for the rest of my life.

It’s not just Aronofsky’s visuals that get this film going, it’s also the sounds and soundtrack done here that really works wonders as well. The soundtrack is done by Clint Mansell and the Kronos Quartet and every single little piece of music they put in here is as haunting as the last one and it’s one of the very rare times where the songs themselves actually start to build-up and up and up and up along with the actual film itself. The attention to sound is also a big deal here as well because everything sounded so legitimate as if you could hear the pill box poppin’ or the lines being done themselves. This is one of the films that shows how much sound can go a long way, especially if you’re doing a drug film that shows the constant motion people go through, day-in and day-out, when they are on drugs.

Where this film really got me was its message. Yes, it is rather obvious the first time around but once you start thinking about it more and more, and take it into consideration with your own life, then it really hits you. The film talks about how habitual drug use such as pills, cocaine, heroin, etc. will start to disillusion the world you live in and you start to live this imaginary world where almost everything seems to be happening the way you want it, but in reality, it isn’t even close. People in this film start off all happy and high with drugs but then soon start to fall even more and more into the drug world and they start to lose sight of each other and the world they live in. This is very true with real life as I have almost had to go through with some of this myself. Now, I’m not saying that I’ve obviously went through the major shit that these characters go through but drugs came into my life at one point and it really effed me up as well as others around me. Drugs can make you happy, but in the end, drugs always end up doing more harm than good no matter what it may be. Moral of the story is, kids, drugs are bad. Doesn’t get any more simpler than that really.

My only one and main problem with the film was not the film but more of its story. The story is very grim and depressing the whole time but the fact that I couldn’t really feel much for any of these characters, except for the obvious one, was pretty much it. I mean I felt bad for the old lady considering she didn’t know what she was getting herself into with the drugs she was given, other than the fact that she was going to lose some weight, but the others, I couldn’t really feel any sympathy for. I mean they knew what they were getting themselves into right from the moment they did their first “job” and when that all starts to spiral out-of-control and they are basically left with nothing but a couple of hundreds for druggies, I couldn’t feel anything else except for pity. Then again, I don’t think the story is really asking for me to feel anything in the first place so maybe I just wanted somebody to feel for.

I couldn’t go on in this review without mentioning the performance here given by Ellen Burstyn playing that old lady, Sara. This is a very risky role for someone of her age and stature, but she went for it all here and gave one of the memorable performances of the past decade. She’s sad, lonely, troubled, confused, and right when these drugs come into her life, she gets even more crazier by the second and it’s not only sad to watch but also effective as well because there are so many people like her out there in the real world that go through problems as much as she does as well. She definitely deserved that Oscar considering she took a role that I’m guessing not many others went for, and made it her own troubled and depressing character.

Jared Leto has a Brooklyn accent that doesn’t really ring true for me but he actually does very much look the part of the big-time heroin addict that he’s playing here as Harry. Jennifer Connelly play’s his girly-friend and probably has to go through a lot of the more crazier ish that takes over this film within the last act and does a pretty good job with it as I can easily say that I was not that attracted to her as her addiction started going on and on. Let me also not forget to mention that this Marlon Wayans is surprisingly good as Tyrone, and it’s a huge bit of random casting that somehow worked to this guy’s advantage but sad thing was that he didn’t really get much dramatic work after this.

Consensus: Though it’s not for the faint of heart, Requiem for a Dream is an anti-drug film that has a hard-hitting style used by director Darren Aronofsky, a score that will make you terrified, and performances from everyone involved, especially Burstyn, that add so much more to these characters than just a bunch of junkies.

9/10=Full Price!!

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Of course this is Disney’s first black princess, and she’s a frog half of the film. Classy Disney!

Down in New Orleans during the fabulous Jazz Age, young Princess Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose) searches for true love and comes face-to-face with snooty debutante Charlotte (Jennifer Cody), ancient voodoo priestess Mama Odie (Jennifer Lewis) and the evil Dr. Facilier (Keith David). But with the help of her mother (Oprah Winfrey), a crooning alligator and other friends, Tiana’s fairy-tale dreams may come true after all.

When you have a film that’s advertised as the people who made ‘Aladdin’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’, you got a lot to live up to. However, I can say that black isn’t better, but still alright.

With all of the talent involved, I have to say that they really did do a great job with this material. Granted, the original story isn’t much different from anything else we’ve seen before, but they do a great job of actually expanding on that idea and giving it a little fresh twist of actually having the princes be a frog too. Not much of a huge shocking twist in the story, but still a good one none the less.

I think if anything was to really stick out about this film was the setting of New Orleans which really did a lot for this film. You go from the southern swamps, to the mansions, and to French Quarters which all give it a really cool look especially with this beautiful 2D animation that just pops out here. With just about every film being released in 3-D nowadays, it was kind of cool to actually see a film, let alone animated, that could have really benefited if given the extra dimension. It’s a film that is very very pretty to look at but if this was in 3-D, I think it would look even better. Especially this scene where some kind of crazy voodoo is going on and these constant colors are just flying all-0ver-the-place and bring you into this sort of acid trip, which would have been even more awesome, if I had those glasses on.

The songs are also another strong-point by how much different types of song genres that come about and give Randy Newman a lot of space to show his talents in. One song is typical jazz, another is gospel, another is Cajun, and then so on and so forth and it was just awesome how great all of these songs sounded. Hell, the film even opens up with some Dr. John here as well and once you open up with him, you know you got the flavor.

The cast and characters in this film are also all pretty good with the likes of Anika Noni Rose, Terrence Howard, John Goodman, Bruno Campos, and Oprah Winfrey among others. Probably the most stand-out job of the whole cast was Keith David (aka THE EFFIN’ Man) as Dr. Facillier, the voodoo man. He not only proves he can deliver sinister dialogue but he can also sing like a professional. He has totally got some major respect points from me now.

However please don’t get me wrong, I do not think this is a bad film by any stretch of the means, it is just not as memorable as any of the other Disney-animated films. When I walked away from Aladdin, I always remember humming “A Whole New World” or “Friend Like Me”. Even with The Little Mermaid I caught myself singing “Under the Sea” or “Part of Your World”. Damn I’m even singing it now! Even though the songs here may be fun to listen to and very well-done, they still don’t match up one bit to any of these other songs from any of these other films and I still can’t remember one off the top of my head.

There is also no real break-out character that we’re always so used to seeing. With Aladdin it Robin Williams as The Genie, and with The Little Mermaid it was Sebastian. Here…I’m guessing maybe the big ass alligator named Louis, who just wanted to play in a jazz band because he was very good at the trumpet. How ironic that his name is Louis too. Even though these characters aren’t memorable, they’re still amusing.

Consensus: The Princess and the Frog benefits from good music, a sweet and tender love story at it’s core, and the beautiful look of the film, but nothing else really stands out and even though the film doesn’t have much wrong with it in general, it just lacks in comparison to so many other Disney classics. Not a bad film just not a memorable one either.

7/10=Rental!!

Lottery Ticket (2010)

I wonder what would happen if this occurred in my “hood”.

Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), a young man living in the projects, dreams of having his life changed by winning the lottery — as do all his neighbors — but when Kevin finally hits it big, he must keep his good luck secret until he can claim the prize. Thrilled to be in possession of the $370 million ticket, Kevin endeavors to keep his scheming and sometimes hostile neighbors at bay.

Looking at this premise, it actually looks like Friday stretched out over an entire weekend, but sadly it’s nowhere close.

The one thing I must say about this film is that it does have some fun moments. The humor here is short and sweet, and it’s overall generally harmless. I didn’t find myself being offended by any of this (probably because I’m white), but if I was black, I don’t think I would be offended by this either.

My main gripe with this is its tone is all-over-the-place. The problem is that it’s social-political commentary isn’t very smart, it’s humor isn’t hilarious, and it’s drama isn’t thought-provoking. There’s a huge struggle with tone issues here because there’s some real shocking gritty realism, but then at the same time it still has that over-the-top ridiculous humor. For instance you can’t have a slimy preacher talking about some girl he thinks is hot, and then in the next scene talk earnestly about giving back to the community, just be a comedy.

Let’s not also forget the huge amount of stereotypes, and cliches that are within this script. This film is very shallow, showing these people walking around with guns as if it’s nobody’s business, everybody going crazy after this one kid for his money, and there’s actually a girl who just wants to be a baby daddy. I have no idea why there would be so many tired stereotypes in a film that tries to show that the hood isn’t such a bad place after all.

However, the cast is what really brought this film all together in the end. Bow Wow is not the best actor, but there is something magnetic about him on screen where he actually looks like he’s having a good time. This a more adult lead role for him, and I can see that he has got enough charm to carry a film. Ice Cube (who also produced) plays Mr. Washington, and makes a good acting choice as he brings out that distinct coolness about him, and he really commits to being this old man which I surprisingly bought. Naturi Naughton plays Bow Wow’s best friend, Stacie, and has one of the most endearing and likable performances of the whole cast. The rest of the ensemble is filled with plenty of stars such as Brandon T. Jackson, Keith David, Charlie Murphy, Loretta Devine, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Terry Crews, Bill Bellamy, Mike Epps, and the marvelous thespian that is, T-Pain. All do fine with their little jobs but are never fun enough, and aren’t really given much of a shot to be as hilarious as I know they can be. Still, they add a lot of fun to this film.

Consensus: There’s an amount of fun here that isn’t wasted, especially not on its cast, but Lottery Ticket suffers from a tipsy-turvy tone, non-stop stereotypes, and tired cliches. However, you will enjoy yourself if you’re looking for a fun story that all means well in the end.

5/10=Rental!!

The Thing (1982)

Any place with a temperature below 20 degrees is ultimately the scariest place ever.

Scientists working in Antarctica are forced to abandon their research after a helicopter crashes near their camp, bringing a lone dog into their midst. But the plot thickens when the otherworldly canine changes form in the middle of the night. As it turns out, the dog is a shape-shifting alien that can attack animals — and unsuspecting humans.

Ever since I played that video game back in the day, I have always been wanting to see what this whole film was all about, and thankfully I wasn’t let down.

This is from the insane mind of horror legend John Carpenter, who was on a role in the 80’s, and this film shows it. The film combines two elements here to create a lot of horror within this movie and that is the actual story and the jaw-dropping special effects that both work so well hand-in-hand.

There is a great deal of suspense to to this story as it plays well along the lines of a “whodunit”, but actually more of a” whoisit”. You don’t really have an idea s to what’s going on, how it’s happening, and who or what is causing all this until it is too late, and this film keeps that mystery going for a pretty long time, thus kept my interest the whole time. The special effects are also some of the best I’ve seen in a film ever, and they really are some of the most disgusting, freakiest things I have ever seen. It was nice to see just how amazingly scary these special effects can look, and still be creepy about 20 years later and not actually be computer-generated. With these two elements helping this film’s creepiness, some really crazy shit goes down. I can’t go in to what exactly does happen, but to say the least, there’s some crazy batso shit here that will really mess with your mind.

However, my only real complaint with this film was that I felt like the characters weren’t actually written that well. The cast does a pretty good job with what their given but all these dudes really just seem like cliche, and I feel if they actually brought just a little bit more insight to these character’s lives, I would have actually rooted for them more and more. Although, you do have Kurt Russell sporting one of the best beards in film history, and Keith David being that cool, black man.

Consensus: With ultimately terrifying special effects, and an inspired direction from the mind of John Carpenter, The Thing will leave you on the edge of your seat, as well as scaring the crap out of you.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Gamer (2009)

God, I wish I was playing a video game instead of watching this crap.

It’s 2034, and humans can control and kill each other in a large-scale online gaming world. But Kable (Gerard Butler), a wrongfully convicted soldier forced to join the violent competition, tries to free himself by taking out its evil architect, Ken (Michael C. Hall). While being controlled by a rich kid (Logan Lerman), Kable must also save his wife, Angie (Amber Valletta), who’s trapped in her own avatar world.

Looking at the plot and trailer from a far, I was thinking it looks really cheesy, but at the same-time, bat-shit crazy which is always good. However, it’s not good here.

The problem with this film is that it really is all over the place, with no sense of logic or control whatsoever. I get the satire and what the film is trying to say, by saying we’re to feel guilty for what the world has become in exploiting violence and death on TV, movies, and even in video games, but the problem is that the film focuses on this by showing us loads and loads of amounts of violence and death. The script also tried too hard to be witty or funny at points, and it just ended up being weird or dumb really.

Sometimes when you have crazy, slam-banging action thrillers, you don’t have to really rely on the story because the action is always there to keep you busy. However, this film doesn’t even do that so well, and that’s all blame on writing and directing team Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, known for the even crazier Crank films. The problem here is that all the violence just looks terrible, and the way they film this just makes it look low-budget, and a cheap indie film. The action is OK I guess, but that shaky cam gets way too annoying for points, and you don’t even feel like you’re watching a movie anymore, you almost feel like your on a LSD trip. Make sure you just take yourself some mushrooms before you go in.

Also, what the hell was up with all those titty shots? It was like almost every time this film cooled down, they just decided to show some big boobies. Usually, I don’t mind this, but this film literally over-does the whole “boob shot” thing for me, which I thought I’d never have to say….ever.

Gerard Butler is alright in this role as Kable. I have always had faith in this guy, and I do believe he will eventually get that role that will bring him back up, but as the main hero in this film, he is OK. Michael C. Hall does his very best to do a Southern accent as the villain, Ken Castle, and this really doesn’t work probably because they make him seem so cheesy, but this film probably made that on purpose. I still don’t know what Kyra Sedgwick was doing here, and why the hell she accepted this piece of crap! There are also others in this film that need new agents such as Logan Lerman, Amber Valletta, John Leguizamo, Ludacris, and a totally jacked-up Terry Crews. Also, Keith David shows up too! What the hell is wrong with these people!?!? It’s not the cast’s fault as to why these characters suck, it’s the damn film itself.

Consensus: By taking a glorious amount of psychedelics beforehand one could actually have an enjoyable time with this crazy, all-over-the-place action thriller, but if sober, you may find yourself totally bored, annoyed, and just not entertained one bit by this dumb piece of failed satire.

1/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!

Death at a Funeral (2010)

Goes from being a black comedy, to a BLACK comedy. Pun intended.

Put-upon Aaron (Chris Rock) is always plagued by drama and dysfunction, but he encounters more than he can handle while attempting to plan his father’s funeral. What’s a family gathering without jealousy, tension and blackmail?

This film is directed by Neil Labute, but noticed how I said directed, not written. This guy has made some pretty edgy comedies like Your Friends & Neighbors, and In the Company of Men, so I was kind of bummed to see he wasn’t doing any writing for this film, and considering his last remake was The Wicker Man, I was sort of on my tippy toes about seeing this.

Now I haven’t seen the original so this review will be based on this one, so don’t worry no comparisons here my friends. I didn’t want to really see the original at first, but after watching this, I really don’t want to. This script could have been so much better if it was written by Labute, but yet, I don’t know how funny it would have been either. The jokes in this are as tired as how you would feel after a funeral. We have too many poop gags, drug gags, sex gags, and overall just no sense of what’s even funny. The joke doesn’t work the first time, but they keep going on with it, and that’s what really sucks, cause it takes away from all the other possibly good jokes that could have came out.

The one thing that really intrigued me, is the ensemble cast that has some of my favorite African-American comedians, however their not funny. Chris Rock playing this straight-laced, hapless guy was really dumb, because he wasn’t convincing, and he does too much nose clinching, and wide-eyes to convey emotions, and after awhile, I was just sick of it. Martin Lawrence has put on a couple of good pounds, but isn’t funny at all, he has a couple of dirty sex jokes with him and this girl from high-school, and the jokes are about dead within the first minute of it. Tracy Morgan probably made me laugh once or twice, but he’s watered down by dumb poop jokes. Zoe Saldana, Regina Hall, and Loretta Divine are all good on their own time, but just fall fatal victim to the wrath of the gags. Luke Wilson‘s also here, and it looks like him and Martin Lawrence have been hanging out, as well as sharing lines, cause nothing’s really funny here either. The only ones that made ma laugh the most were James Marsden and Peter Dinklage, who were both under the influence in the movie, as well as Danny Glover‘s lines are hilarious. But notice that’s two white guys out of the whole cast, plus one, but those two are the funniest. Oh and Columbus Short, and my fav Keith David are here too, but their not as funny, as they could be.

Consensus: Death at a Funeral has a great ensemble cast full of the best comedy stars, but uses them for stale jokes, that are tired, as well as not funny, and used way too many times.

2/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

P.S Roger Ebert said this was the best comedy since “The Hangover”. Sorry Roger, love ya bro, but WTF were you smoking!??!

There’s Something About Mary (1998)

What is so great about Mary!??!? Oh, it’s Cameron Diaz, nevermind.

The Farrelly brothers nail the laughs in this hugely popular comedy about a hugely popular girl. Mary (Cameron Diaz) is the ideal girlfriend of every guy she meets, especially frustrated high school suitor Ted (Ben Stiller). But he’s got plenty of competition from Matt Dillon and other unexpected rivals.

The film is directed by The Farrelly Brothers, and this is basically the film that got them into mainstream names. For this they combine their signature gross-out humor, as well as a great deal of cute romantic comedy.

The one thing about this film is that it’s comedy pushes the envelope. It doesn’t push the envelope to the point of where your basically leaving in the middle of the movie to throw-up, but it does get very very raunchy and dirty at times, but not without making you laugh. There’s a lot of moments in this film where The Farrelly Brothers go the extra mile, to bring out the excruciating laughs, and well here, they work. Who after watching this can honestly forget about the “Frank and Beans” scene, or the “dog on speed scene”, all of these scenes are so out this world, but hilarious, and done so well.

But it’s not just about the raunchy and disgusting humor, it’s also, the screenplay that’s filled with some good jokes. There are plenty of moments where these guys actually have a lot of funny things to say, and despite all the gross-out stuff, the film still does have a big heart at the core of everything.

I thought that although the comedy had me laughing, I felt like some of it was trying too hard to be so crude, and mean, that it just got on my nerves. There are many, many jokes centered, and made about mentally challenged people, and although I’m not calling myself a saint or anything, I still think some of the jokes were low-blows. I don’t mind being politically incorrect, but when your just being mean to bring out some laughs, you can’t quite laugh.

Ben Stiller plays basically the same straigh-laced geek that he plays in almost every comedy, but hey it works. Cameron Diaz is great here too, and she’s got that fun-loving personality, beautiful looks, and strong sense of control in her life, that makes you fall in love with Mary too. Matt Dillon steals the show here, as liar Patrick Healy. It’s great to see how much he goes through just to get Mary, and the stuff he makes up, and how he puts it, is just hilarious. He may not have been a very funny dude before this movie, but now, he is just hilarious, proving dick-heads can always be funny. The rest of the cast is funny like Chris Elliot (a dude I haven’t seen in years), Lee Evans (some funny stuff when he drops his keys), and my favorite, Keith David (who is just hilarious in that whole “Frank and Beans” scene, and just made me almost cry every time he said something). Also, let’s not forget the perfect cameo from, “Brett”.

Consensus: There’s Something About Mary may be the most politically-correct comedy, but is a great deal of blending cutesy romantic comedy, with raunchy humor, as well as still providing enough other funny moments for the rest of the movie.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Coraline (2009)

Nightmare Before Christmas was so much better.

Curious young Coraline (voiced by Dakota Fanning) unlocks a door in her family’s home and is transported to a universe that strangely resembles her own — only better. But when her Other Mother (Teri Hatcher) doesn’t want Coraline to return to reality, our heroine must summon an amazing amount of courage to go home and save her family.

So Coraline is another stop-motion pick written & directed by Henry Selick, the same dude who did Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and the legendary Monkey Bone. But to be honest, this guy should just stop where he’s goin before he destroys his legend.

The film has some great stop-motion visuals. There is a lot of things done with the camera, that I can tell took a lot of effort, and it looks good as it keeps up with the story and the action. Almost all the detail is there, I just wish the story was.

I feel like kids that went into this, probably couldn’t go to sleep until they were 13. I mean this is some freaky stuff, that is just bound to have you sleep with a night-light on for awhile. With all of the implied and overt threats of violence of an uncensored Grimm’s Tale, Coraline fails to entertain as a family film while falling flat on its face as a thriller. Would someone please explain to me the purpose an extended burlesque routine by a nearly naked lady in a film targeting CHILDREN?

The problem with this movie is not just its rating, but the story itself. The film starts out incredibly slow, and very dark and creepy. And I don’t mind if that was the boat they were trying to go for, however, there was barely any happy moments in this film. Everything was dark, and odd, and it was just all slow.

The cast is alright here. Dakota Fanning is good as Coraline, as she adds a lot more sas onto her character than you would expect. Teri Hatcher is good here too, as the mom, who is really creepy, especially when she’s being a bitch. But the reason I’m giving this movie bonus points, is because, Keith David is in this. I love him, he’s the man. Nuff said.

Consensus: Coraline may look good, but it’s stretch of the PG rating, and deep, dark story, just adds on worse to the slow pace.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!!