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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kevin Cannon

Pride and Glory (2008)

Keep it in the family. Even corruptness.

After a bunch of his fellow cops are shot dead in what was supposed to be a drug-ring raid, Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) returns to the detective field to figure out just who killed these cops and just exactly how it all happened. And because his daddy (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich), and brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell), are all apart of the force as well, it should make absolute sense that he should have no problems getting the right kind of answers he so desperately seeks. However, what Ray begins to find out, though, is that the details surrounding the killer and what happened are a bit shady. For one, nobody can find the supposed-shooter, and to make matters worse, it turns out that perhaps some brothers in blue may also be a little bit dirty. Which is expected, but there’s a possibility that these dirty cops may have been involved with the killing of the other cops, leading Ray to start questioning all of the cops around him, including his family. Obviously, they’re all appalled and shocked by Ray’s findings and accusations, but at the same time, there’s still some truth to it, and this is when everybody involved starts getting desperate and finding a clean way out of this dirty situation.

"Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?"

“Please tell me! Why did you get those corn-rows?!?”

If you’ve seen one cop movie, generally, you’ve seen ’em all. Hardly do they ever stray away from the norm of what we’ve all come to know and expect with a cop movie, which begs the question: Why does Hollywood keep making them? Is there really any huge sell or draw in them that makes people flock out to the theaters to check them out? Or is that Hollywood can’t get over its weird affection and interest in the brothers in blue, so they still continue to make movies about them, not offering anything new or interesting to say about them, either?

Well, whatever the answer may be, Pride and Glory doesn’t really do much to make sense of it.

Although, Pride and Glory is a different kind of cop movie; for one, it’s about dirty cops, being, well, dirty and corrupt as all hell. Given today’s political climate, you’d think that this would be a hot-button topic worthy of being touched upon and prodded at, but director Gavin O’Connor doesn’t really seem interested in diving deep into that discussion. Instead, he just sort of wants to show off his dirty cops as they were; doing stuff they shouldn’t be, pointing the fingers at others, and telling lookie-loos to “mind their own business and shut their mouth”. O’Connor may have some sort of interest in what drives a seemingly normal, everyday cop, to become a drug-dealing, money-stealing baddie, but he doesn’t quite show it.

Most of the time, O’Connor allows his movie to fly-off the rails with fine actors going a tad bit over-the-top. Gifted character actor Frank Grillo is sadly the clearest example of this as his cop character, albeit a dirty one, wants absolutely each and every person in the movie to know it. It’s almost as if any and all subtlety was lost here and O’Connor told Grillo to “just have fun”, and he really did. Problem is, all of the yelling, punching, kicking, and gun-slinging doesn’t do much to help create a character, but further highlight a type that needs to be done with.

But Grillo isn’t the only one who is dialing it way, way up.

Colin Farrell is intense, doing his best De Niro impression here, but once again, his character feels like he has no rhyme or reason for breaking bad. Sure, we get the idea that maybe greed took over and he couldn’t stop himself, but we can only assume that because we never see this character actually be a good cop – we just see him as this dirty one, who can’t be trusted with anything. There’s an unpredictable nature to Farrell that he brings onto the screen each and every chance he gets, but mostly, it just ends with him yelling or acting out in some way.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

Just imagine Micky Donovan, as a cop.

I mean, hell, the guy almost hot irons a baby! What the hell!

Edward Norton, thankfully, dials it down a bit more and seems to actually be more interested in diving dig into his character’s psyche. Issue is, this tends to make his character feel a bit more boring and dry than he probably should, which is an even bigger shame because he’s the lead protagonist we’re supposed to stand behind, root for and spend all of our time with. Norton has solid scenes with just about everyone around him, but when it comes to pushing the story-line along, there’s a never ending sense of normality that overtakes Norton, as well as the movie and it’s hard to get away from.

By the end though, O’Connor decides to stop sitting around and let everything and everyone, within Pride and Glory, run wild.

This means that guns are shot, people are beaten-up, noses are bloodied, faces are battered, people start shouting, and out of nowhere, which was, at one point, a slow, almost meandering drama, is now this wild-and-out, action-thriller where people can’t stop beating the hell out of one another. Is it exciting to watch? Sure. Does it feel like a whole completely different movie? Oh, most definitely and it’s an issue that seems to make Pride and Glory, yet again, just another cop movie.

Although still plenty more watchable than season two of True Detective.

That’s for sure.

 

Consensus: Despite a solid cast, Pride and Glory is drenched into too many cop movie cliches and conventions to really do much, other than just mildly entertain those looking for some entertainment.

6 / 10

"We're brudders. We ain't eva gain to brake apaart."

“We’re brudders. We ain’t eva gain to brake apaart.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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Ten Thousand Saints (2015)

Want to feel happy? Turn on Minor Threat. They’ll turn any frown, upside down.

Jude (Asa Butterfield) was adopted by Harriet (Julianne Nicholson), after the father, Les (Ethan Hawke), went off to do whatever it is that Les does. Occasionally, he’s with Di (Emily Mortimer), but most of the time, Les spends his time hanging around, listening to sweet jams, and of course, smoking reefer. The times are good for Les, but as for everybody else around him? Well, not so much. For one, Jude is reeling over the recent death of his very best friend. Di’s daughter, Eliza (Hailee Steinfeld), also finds out that she’s pregnant, which may seem like no big thing, except for the fact that the father of the unborn baby is also Jude’s best friend who just died. So basically, this causes a lot of commotion and drama for all parties involved, where certain people learn to grow up, and others, well, sink themselves into hard-rocking, loud-as-hell punk rock music. Because, after all, it’s the 80’s, and what better time to start thrashing to some hardcore?

The look I've always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

The look I’ve always wanted from Ethan Hawke. Screw my own dad!

Ten Thousand Saints is a movie I’d like to classify under a category that I call, “Indieocrity”. Whenever an indie film is made, regardless of who it’s with, or what it’s about, there’s always a certain level of heightened expectation to it because, for better, it’s not a studio-flick. Most of the times, these studio-flicks tend to be over-saturated and edited for the largest possible audience, so therefore, those movies tend to be a lot duller than your average indie-fare. However, every so often, you do happen to get the indie movie that, as much as you don’t want to admit it, is pretty dull.

Actually, a lot duller than mainstream-fare.

In the case of Ten Thousand Saints, this is especially true. While it’s easy for me to commend the movie on having such a nice heart and care in telling each of these character’s stories, it’s a shame that hardly any of them work out. Sometimes, this is due to the fact that no character is really ever allowed to break-out from their one-note, “type”-shell, but other times, this has to do with the fact that there’s just so much going on with each and everyone of these characters, it’s a little hard to keep track of what’s happening to whom, for what reasons, and how everybody else surrounding them is affected.

And this isn’t because I’m an idiotic dumbo that can’t pay attention to movies if they don’t feature some sort of car-chase or gun-shot; normally, these are my kinds of movies that I cherish for each and every second. But with Ten Thousand Saints, there’s just so many subplots that eventually, after about the fourth time or so of forgetting what was going on with them, I sort of gave up and just hoped that the movie’s good vibes would come and save the day.

That only happens with Ethan Hawke – which, to some, may not be all that surprising.

Hawke is the perfect choice as Les, because you get a huge sense that this guy means well, but he’s such a slacker, that he’ll never get his life in order to take care of those who need him the most. Having worked with Richard Linklater so much in the past definitely helps create this image of Hawke already as someone like Les, except in this case, it’s about thirty years down the line and needless to say, he hasn’t done much growing-up. But that doesn’t matter too much because it’s obvious this character has a good heart and is most definitely there to make sure those around him are happy, even if he does seem to bail at the most inopportune times.

But I’ll take that over the rest of these characters.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

The match made in absolute indie-movie hell.

Basically, if you take that synopsis up above, add on two other subplots concerning Nicholson’s character’s own mid-life crisis and Emile Hirsch’s character punk band, then you’ve got a pretty hefty movie. It totally feels like during the driest moments, where the comedy doesn’t really stick, and the drama is so scattered among all of these stories, that the heart gets lost in the fray. That isn’t to say that I felt like co-writers and directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini didn’t care one bit for these characters, it’s more that it seems like they care so much, that they don’t forget that, sometimes, the best medicine for any screen-writer is to no what to cut and what to leave in.

There’s about two or three subplots that I could have done without here, but by saying that, I also realize that I’m down-grading a lot of the other performers here and that’s not right. For one, they all do seem to be trying here and also, they’re all really great in everything else they show up in, which makes this movie all the more surprising by its mediocrity. Butterfield has an odd American accent as a character who is a little too whiny for his own good; Steinfeld is fine at playing this raw, dirty and wild-type, but overall, here story turns into unabashed melodrama; Mortimer is sweet, but her character’s sort of forgotten about half-way through; same goes for Nicholson; and then, Emile Hirsch is here not really seeming like he’s trying.

Honestly, this is a big shock to me considering that just about each and everything these stars show up in, I love them in. The movies/shows themselves? Maybe not so much, but their own respective work has always felt nice and deserved, as if they should have gotten pats on the backs as soon as filming commenced. But sadly, that doesn’t seem to happen with Ten Thousand Saints, as they’re all just sort of left with conventional characters, nowhere to really stretch out their wings, and basically, service a script that doesn’t seem worth their time or effort.

And yet, they give it anyway. What entertainers these folks truly are!

Consensus: Despite the talent on-board, Ten Thousand Saints never rises above the sheer mediocrity it turns out to be with its over-stuffed, yet still uninteresting plot(s).

4 / 10

So straight edge.

So straight edge.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Being Flynn (2012)

Happy that my dad has a roof over his head and isn’t a complete dick.

Aspiring writer Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) begins working at a homeless shelter and develops a drug problem he struggles to control. His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), is a con man who was never there for him as a child and still considers himself to be one of the greatest, living writers of all-time, despite never being published. Jonathan actually stumbles upon Nick one day at the homeless shelter and is need of a place to stay. But, as predicted, Jonathan finds problems with just about everything around him.

The problem with Being Flynn, right away, is that its whole idea of a joke is to have its character, Jonathan Flynn, narrate some of the movie and talk like he’s the greatest novelist of all-time and is a walking genius, even though nobody knows it. Problem is, he doesn’t know it. That idea of a joke can be a little humorous at times (because let’s face it, who doesn’t love to crack a couple of chuckles at older, Alzheimer-bound men), but it gets annoying and repetitive, as if the movie didn’t realize the butt of its own end joke was meant for the character, and not for the freakin’ movie itself.

But this turns out to be the whole movie. Just one long joke that nobody ever seems to get the hang of telling better.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that's okay. Whatever suits you best.

Shirt by any chance? No? Nope, that’s okay. Whatever suits you best.

And this is a shame because the material for Being Flynn seems as if it has more to it than just being “a joke”. But what ultimately happens is that it just lingers and gives this Jonathan character another reason to yell, scream, and scam his way some more into people’s lives. I never, not for once, felt any ounce of sympathy for these characters and even when it seemed like they were going through problems as people of society, and of people going through age, I still never bought them.

There were some elements I did buy, like the fact that Nick does go down a bit of a rocky road with drugs and needs to change his life around to be a better person. But that’s about it. Other than all of Nick’s problems that could have pretty much been centered-down to, “Yeah, my dad left me when I was a baby, my mom raised me, slept with a bunch of dudes, and killed herself”, Jonathan’s problems seem to be a bit more scary in the way that the guy is homeless, the guy is out in the cold, and the guy is a bit of an over-zealous dick. That fear of him dying never hit me hard enough, just because he’s a, well, a dick.

As plain and simple as that.

I think I’ve exhausted everything there is to say about the character of Jonathan Flynn, but honestly, it deserves to be said because there’s not much more to this movie than him. Which is annoying because Paul Weitz can’t help but be utterly pleased to have him being a miserable and unlikable hack that doesn’t do anything else in his life other than bullshit his way past things with that signature De Niro smile, chuckle, and charm. And heck, thanks to De Niro, it almost works!

And De Niro is fine here, but he’s saddled with a character who is just too unpleasant to give a hoot about. That’s why it was nice to see Dano at least try with the likes of Nick, another unlikable and whiny character. Dano is known for his “big” performances, but here, he dials things down for us so that we get to see Nick as more of a sad, self-destructive human being, rather than somebody who is cool because he lives life like its constant party. In a way, he’s sort of a tool, but the movie never fully digs deep into that aspect of his character; it’s just left up to Dano to pick up the pieces and work from there.

She's like a dude, but she's not. So rad, man.

Short hair, don’t care.

This is a shame, too, because Dano and De Niro, together, playing a son-father duo, seems like it would be ripe with all sorts of powerful and raw emotion. And though Dano may have been more than happy to share the screen with De Niro, Weitz’s direction and script gets in the way too much. Somebody has to learn something, somebody has to grow up, and somebody has to bond. If it’s these two, then so be it.

This is all to say that, even though they’re both solid actresses in their own rights, Julianne Moore and Olivia Thirlby aren’t used as much as they could have been to help even this movie and its melodramatic self out. Moore is mostly designated to flashback scenes, whereas Thirlby’s character has to do a little bit of heavy-lifting, both literally and figuratively, as Nick’s gal-pal. But still, her character is then soon treated as being a female love-interest for Nick to hook up with, screw around on, break up with, try to get back together with, and eventually, have all of his dreams come true because he’s, well, “a better person now than he was before”.

Bunch of BS if I ever heard it!

Consensus: Though it has a solid cast and, on occasion, director, Being Flynn falls apart because it’s not only a bit too melodramatic for its own good, but conventional, self-serving, and too smart for its own good.

3 / 10

Staring at your child in admiration: such a mother's thing to do.

Staring at your child in admiration – whatta mother!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Cold Souls (2009)

Just take my soul already!

Paul Giamatti stars as a fictionalized version of himself, who is an anxious, overwhelmed actor who decides to enlist the service of a company to deep freeze his soul. Complications ensue when he wants his soul back, but mysteriously, his soul gets lost in a soul trafficking scheme which has taken his soul to St. Petersburg, making Paul have to venture all the way out there to see just what the hell is even going on in the first place.

What you see in the title, is exactly what you get in the movie’s tone. Seriously, don’t come expecting some minor laughs here and there, because the film really just doesn’t seem all that concerned with that aspect at all. It’s more about being dark, moody, bleak, and overall, pretty frigid in its portrayal of where our society may be turning towards. Actually, it’s a pretty far-fetched idea, but I could definitely imagine, just waking up one day, and wanting to be and have Brad Pitt’s soul.

Damn, now that I think about it, I hope this future does come to existence!

Here's a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

Here’s a shot of Paul Giamatti being sad.

This is the debut flick of Sophie Barthes who not only directs, but writes this flick as well and the information I was looking up for this said that apparently she had this idea in her dream. Now, I could only wish that any of my dreams had anything as ambitious lingering around in them, as apparently the ideas she has swimming in her brain when it’s sleepy-time, but considering that she’s working off of an idea that was probably no less than two minutes, I have to give the gal some credit because it’s pretty intriguing what she comes up with here. Even if the results don’t fully match the ambitions, you have to at least give her credit where credit’s due, because it’s sure as hell not easy to make a movie in today’s day and age – let alone one with as kooky of an idea as Cold Souls.

Barthes doesn’t paint a portrait of a future that’s groomed for doom, where people are in desperate need to be others, have different lives, and basically just erase or escape any type of life they have and don’t like. It’s sort of like the same ideas that went through mind-benders like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, and although this one doesn’t really stack up anywhere near those masterpieces, Barthes at least tries to capture that Charlie Kaufman-esque nature of her material without really going overboard. There’s a lot of weird, sci-fi stuff going on here that’s definitely thoughtful, but it’s also grounded in a reality to where you feel like something could happen like this, had somebody gotten a more well thought-out plan. Barthes definitely deserves style-points on this one in terms of his screenplay, but damn, did we really need to be so sad the whole time?

The answer is no, but most people will probably disagree with me.

Even though the premise definitely promises a bunch of weird, wacky fun in the same light as a Kaufman flick, that promise never gets fulfilled. Instead, Barthes seems like she’s content with just focusing on the sad aspect of this story with long, gloomy shots of a snowy Russia, and an even more horrid-looking New York City that looks as if it hasn’t seen the sun in a decade. All of the colors in this movie feel like a mixture of soft blues and muddle grays, and as much as that may make this flick seem more depressing and sad, do we really want to feel like we, as well as the characters were watching, should just go kill themselves and get it all over with? I don’t think so, because even while you may have an interesting premise to work with, to just constantly hammer us over the head with your inherent seriousness about it can get pretty old.

And another, even despite the fact he's in the same bed as Emily Watson.

And another, even despite the fact he’s in the same bed as Emily Watson.

But even despite the actual lack of fun in this movie, probably the most disappointing aspect of this whole flick is that it brings up all of these questions, ideas, and messages about life and exactly where we are headed as a society, but loses them about half-way through once the last act kicks into high-gear; and then, it ends, just leaving everything up in the air. Listen, I’m totally game for any type of film that wants to bring up a lot of food-for-thought, have me doing thinking about what’s it trying to say, and eventually allowing me to go out with some people afterwards and talk it up, but this movie doesn’t even seem like it wants to give me that privilege. Even when that last act comes around and the movie oddly changes from this existential drama, into this mystery/romance/off-kilter comedy that now all of a sudden wants to please us, rather than having us contemplate jumping off the San Francisco bridge. It was a change in tone that not only felt phony, but showed that Barthes maybe backed-out on an ending, that could have answered a whole lot, and even left some more up for thought and discussion.

But nope, she didn’t even give us that.

What’s even more surprising than this change in tone, was how Paul Giamatti seemed to be a bit boring to watch as well. Granted, the guy isn’t given all that much to work with, other than a slew of shots of him just staring off into the space, looking all mopey and sad all of the time, but when the guy does need to liven things up, he does with that charm and wit we all know and love the guy for. His character (which is pretty much him, just not nearly as famous), is a downer and that’s why it’s pretty fun to see what happens to him when he switches souls, gets a little bit more energetic, and a bit more inspiration with how he lives his life and it’s one of the very rare moments in this flick where not only he comes alive, but the movie as well. Sadly, Barthes knocks his character back down to reality, and he becomes the same old, sad sap we started out with in the first place and it’s a bummer, because Giamatti’s always good and entertaining to watch. You just got to give him the right material that allows him to have some fun every once and awhile.

Consensus: Cold Souls deals with a very interesting idea about the current landscape of our society, but is too dour to really bring anybody into the world it’s trying to portray, nor does it really follow through on any of the rules it sets up to begin with.

5.5 / 10

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

And, yet again, another. But with snow!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

True Story (2015)

Got to look out for those charming serial killers; they’re the hardest ones to loathe.

After being publicly shamed and fired for fibbing about a story he did on child-slavery in Africa, ex-New York Times journalist Michael Finkel (Jonah Hill) is left jobless, depressed and desperate to find any sort of work that may possibly come his way. Eventually though, work does eventually find its way to him – however, just not in the ways he had intended. After being on the run from the feds for the alleged murder of his wife and two kids, Christian Longo (James Franco) fled to Mexico, where he went under a false identity; who also just so happen to be Mike Finkel. Though Longo didn’t get away with this, the real Mike Finkel still finds plenty of interest in this and, seeing a book-deal in the horizon somewhere, decides to jump on the opportunity right away to interview Longo, get to know him better, and eventually, figure out the truth about just what the hell happened and whether or not Longo even committed the crime to begin with. Eventually though, Mike’s obsession with Longo’s life begins to grow almost too serious, which is when Mike’s fiancee (Felicity Jones) sees that it’s time to step in and check out what this Christian Longo guy is all about, if anything at all.

What we have on our hands here, folks, is the classic case where the real, true-to-life story the movie’s discussing and adapting, is way more interesting than the movie itself ever turns out to be. That’s not to say that there aren’t bits and pieces of True Story that don’t sizzle, pop and crackle, as reading this story straight from its Wikipedia page would, but there’s something to say about a movie where it’s constantly made clear that you’ll probably want to read the actual details on what really happened, rather than taking this movie’s word for it.

Pack your bags up, Jonah! You've got more movies with Marty Scorsese to do!

Pack your bags up, Jonah! You’ve got more movies with Marty Scorsese to do!

Because hey, Hollywood lies and they can’t always be trusted.

However, in True Story‘s case, there seems to be too many creative-licenses taken at times that makes this feel like a jumbled-up mess, when it sure as hell didn’t need to be. For instance, the inclusion of Felicity Jones’ character never makes sense here and, on more than a few occasions, takes away from what could have been a thoughtful, intriguing piece about the mental cat-and-mouse games we sometimes play on those who we feel are equal enough to us to play back. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Felicity Jones and considering that she’s red hot right after her Oscar-nominated performance in the Theory of Everything, I’m especially happy to see her be able to take center-stage against the likes of Franco and Hill, but when her scenes with them are supposed to bring some heartfelt emotions, they can’t help but ring false.

And most of this can be attributed to the fact that this is director Rupert Goold’s first time behind the camera, and it damn well shows. According to what I’ve read (because people do that, you know?), Goold comes from a long history of theater and directing plays, which makes total sense; some of the best parts of this film are when it’s simply just two or more people, sitting in a room, talking to one another, and seeing what shoe drops next. Most of these scenes include both Hill and Franco talking to one another, but it works so well because not only are these two actors solid here, but their characters have genuine tension together that you don’t know whether they’re going to take out weapons and start brawling, or rip-off each other’s clothes, shut the lights off, and start making some sweet, hot and sexy love.

Either turnout seems interesting and more than likely, especially considering that these two seem so incredibly comfortable with one another, that even when they aren’t supposed to be laugh-out-loud stoners making us laugh, they’re die hard thespians that try to one-up the other, in any way that they can. In some ways, it’s less of a mind game between these two characters, and more of a mind game between these two actors, who definitely make the movie all the better by showing up, ready to work.

Goes to show you that it’s not such a problem to change things up every once and awhile and get downright serious with your work.

Franco, so smug right now.

Franco, so smug right now.

But Franco and Hill, as hard as they try, aren’t fully capable of keeping this movie above the water for long enough to where the problems within aren’t noticeable. Like I mentioned before, Goold comes from a theater background, and because of this, when he gets right down to making this story about something, rather than just about two guys talking to one another and constantly lying about what may have, or may not have happened on some fateful date in their lives, he stumbles a whole heck of a lot. There’s a point here to be made about the state of modern-day journalism, and how some people are so willing to stay successful and famous for as long as they can, that no matter what, they’ll cover whatever comes their way, but even that feels oddly-placed in a movie that doesn’t know who it wants to judge, or what it wants to say about these people.

Judging from this movie, Mike Finkel isn’t the best journalist who lied about his story to get it past the editing process and hopefully make him a huge star. That didn’t happen, and because of that, we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, even if the movie makes it seem clear that what he does after losing his job, is all the more humiliating. Then, at the same time, it still can’t help but to judge him for jumping on something as odd as Longo’s case, which is where the movie got odd. Is it against Finkel as a person? As a journalist? Or, as somebody who wanted to hold onto any sort of fame he could grasp a hold of?

Whatever the point to it all may have been, it’s hard to put a finger on. Even if Hill and Franco, yes, do seem to be trying here. And, most importantly, don’t seem all that stoned.

Okay, maybe a little.

Consensus: True Story gets most of its mileage out of the solid performances from Hill and Franco, but everything else about is messy, ill-formed and almost too over-dramatic to be considered “the truth”, even if the movie loves spouting that fact many times throughout.

6 / 10

PDA?

PDA?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Stay away from graveyards, people. They’re creepy enough as is.

Former NYC cop Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) used to be a total alcoholic. He’d wake up, go to his local bar, have a coffee, and then down two shots of liquor. However, one fateful day, that all changes and eight years later, he’s regularly attending AA meetings, living alone, eating at diners, and also turning in some work as a non-official private eye. One night he gets an offer and decides to seek it out: Find a group of serial killers that are kidnapping rich drug-dealer’s wives/loved-ones, ransoming money off of them, and yet, still taking the liberty of hacking these women up to little pieces. To them, it’s all fun and games, so when an actual drug-dealer (Dan Stevens) calls on Scudder to do this job for him, he doesn’t back away from it. After all, getting rid of a few serial killers in this world is a job well done, no matter how you do it. But Scudder eventually realizes that this job is going to be a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking than he would have liked, which is why he, whether he likes it or not, gets some assistance from a local homeless kid by the name of TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley).

And yet again, here we are, people, another “Liam Neeson kicks ass” kind of movie where he, yes, is a certain man, with a certain level of skills, takes it upon himself to go about utilizing those skills, shows that he’s a nice guy underneath the sometimes questionable-decisions he makes and, well, of course, tells the villains to, for lack of a better term, “fuck off”. Yes, these are the kinds of movies we can all expect from Liam Neeson right about now and while some can say that they’re bored by this and want him to go back to making Oscar-caliber films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, the fact is, nope, Liam ain’t too bothered with any of them.

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin' nuts?!?!

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin’ nuts?!?!

He is, as they say in the biz, striking while the iron is hot and rather than trying something daring to make sure his “arthouse”-ish crowd is pleased with him, Liam is just going to stay and continue to make these typical, run-of-the-mill action-thrillers where he, yes, kicks plenty of ass.

However, that’s not to say any of them are bad and because most of them aren’t, I’m quite happy for Neeson. He’s the type of actor who, with his tall-frame and soft, yet still intimidating Scottish-accent, deserves many movies to be made where he’s, typically, the center of attention. Which is why he seems to be a perfect choice for Matthew Scudder; the type of troubled, somewhat crooked-cop that isn’t the nicest, nor the most moral of guys, but wants to see that he gets the job done, in the most efficient way possible. Meaning, that he wants to ensure no innocent people are killed while he is completing his various shady tasks.

But Scudder isn’t just a well-written character in the way that he’s well-rounded, he’s funny and shows a charming side to his sometimes grim personality that we know Neeson is capable of high-lighting every so often. To say that Neeson is great here, would almost be too obvious for me to even state, but here I am, stating that Neeson is great here and practically carries the movie on his own two, long, lanky shoulders.

That said, the rest of the movie isn’t all that bad, because while Neeson helps it get through some rough patches (whenever the serial-killers pop-up, they’re pretty conventional and spend most of their scenes just being strange, in almost too-serious way to be not kidding), it’s writer/director Scott Frank who really makes this movie work. Something about this flick’s tone, the way it’s so hush-hush most of the time and how it doesn’t seem to glorify it’s over-the-top, grisly violence, yet still shows it in a derogatory light that he makes it seem like more than just “movie violence”, is what really made me think that Frank should make more movies. The dude’s already written my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie (Out of Sight) and actually had a pretty stellar directorial-debut of his own not too long ago (the Lookout), so why wait any longer, Scott? Let’s keep this a train a-goin’, man!

Anyway, like I was saying, Frank’s direction here is really genius and it brings a smile to my face knowing that there are certain film makers out there who still care about giving us genuinely tense, sometimes unpredictable thrillers. Thrillers that, mind you, don’t necessarily rely on how many times a gun is shot, or even how many bones are broken in a particular brawl – much rather, thrillers that take time to not only build the story it is trying to tell, but also give us some context in how we’re supposed to think of these characters as. Not all of these characters are great people here (most of them, drug dealers), but the movie doesn’t simply judge them on who they are, much more than on what it is that they do.

"I'm used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you'll do."

“I’m used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you’ll do.”

For instance, take the character of TJ who, in a lesser-movie, would have been the stereotypical smart-aleck-y, rather adorable kid that Liam Neeson’s character not only stumbles upon by pure chance, but even takes under his wing and make his new sidekick. Add on the fact that TJ is in fact black, and you’ve got yourself a walking, talking, breathing cliché just waiting to ruin your goddamn movie, not to mention your time! But somehow, TJ, nor anything surrounding him, seems to be written that way; he’s a simple orphan kid that is a bit punk-ish, but is still curious enough about how this world Scudder surrounds himself with, not just works, but how he can be apart of it without getting him, or anybody else killed. Not to mention the fact that this young guy, Brian “Astro Bradley, is very good in the role, making you feel sorry that he’s sort of left all by his lonesome, but also happy that he may, or may not, have a future hangin’ around this tall, New Yorker, with an Irish-accent.

I know I’m getting into this a bit more than I maybe should, but there was just a feeling I got with this movie that I haven’t gotten with a thriller in quite some time. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because a little bit of time ago, when I saw the Drop, I felt sort of the same way: A crime-thriller that takes its time to build momentum, as well as character-development. While those movies seem sort of neck-and-neck in my eyes, they’re both clear-as-day examples of what can happen when you take a simple story revolving around thugs, doing thuggish-like things, and make it as detailed as humanly possible, without ever overly-boring the audience, nor giving them enough to where they can expect everything to happen as clearly as they may have predicted it as being straight from seeing the advertisements for it.

So, once again I say this: Scott Frank, continue to make movies. You’ll make me a very happy man and most of all, a very happy movie-goer.

Consensus: With extra-attention paid to the look, feel, and characters that inhabit its slightly unnerving story, A Walk Among the Tombstones is, yet again, another winner for Liam Neeson and his seemingly unfazed streak right now, except a lot smarter and wiser this time around.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see."

“Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Life Of Crime (2014)

Of course they had to kidnap the one housewife who looks like Jennifer Aniston!

Repressed and angry housewife Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston) doesn’t like the life she’s practically married into; her husband (Tim Robbins) is a philandering drunk, her son doesn’t really talk to her anymore, and she sees there almost no chance of being able to escape. That is all until she ends up being kidnapped in a get-rich-quick-scheme set up by two cons, Ordell (Yasiin Bey) and Louis (John Hawkes). While the plan seems simple at first (kidnap the wife, demand money from the hubbie, run off and have no problems), it suddenly all goes South once the husband’s mistress (Isla Fisher) gets involved. Also not to mention the fact that Louis and Mickey actually begin to develop something of a friendship that makes it a lot harder for Mickey to really be scared in a situation such as this, when she really should be. But she shouldn’t worry any longer because coming to he aide is a friend (Will Forte) who wants more than to just be a dude she casually talks to – he wants to be with her and won’t stop until he finds her and uncovers this plan.

There’s a strange fact that connects me more to this movie than I would like to; see, way back when in high school, I decided to give Elmore Leonard’s the Switch a read. I had already read a few of his books beforehand and considering that the film-adaptations of his books that I had already seen were great, I thought to my young, restless-self, “Why the ‘eff not?” Well, funny thing is that while I’m reading the book, I just so happen to stumble upon a news story that this same book I’m reading, is the latest Leonard piece to be adapted into a film and was going to feature none other than a favorite of mine, Mr. Dennis Quaid himself.

Thought I smelled a rat, too.....

Thought I smelled a rat, too…..

Fast forward a couple years later, Quaid’s out, replaced and the whole movie has come together in something that I didn’t expect. Now trust me, I won’t try to make this a review of the book vs. the movie; although I certainly can’t promise I’ll stay fully away from it either. However, all that said, it’s easy to see why they’d want to adapt this story, of all the other promising pieces of Leonard’s works – it’s quicker, funnier and features more character-development than most of his other works and it made total sense as to why such a high-caliber cast would get involved in the first place.

Even if, you know, my main man D-Quaid wasn’t involved anymore.

Anyway, though the source material holds out a lot of promise, there’s just something totally and completely “off” about this movie to where I feel like writer/director Daniel Schechter didn’t fully understand what it was that he was reading, and as a result, writing down. There are some genuine moments of suspense, even for somebody who has already read the book and knows what happens, but that’s pretty much it when it comes to getting Leonard’s style down perfectly and put onto film.

That’s why certain directors like Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino have done so well with his pieces: They get Leonard, the way his characters talk and how the plots progress on and on. Schechter, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem like he’s capable of bringing Leonard’s fun, vivid mind to the big screen and because of that, the movie feels incredibly uneven. There are moments when it’s supposed to be quippy and funny, almost to where we can believe these characters saying these certain lines of wit at these specific moments, but it feels very tacked-on; which isn’t to discredit the cast, it’s just that they’re given such lame material to work with, that even their charming presences can’t make it any better.

For instance, try John Hawkes, an actor who, no matter what he shows up in, is always doing something interesting, yet always stays believable in that character’s skin. He can play a good guy, and literally be the nicest human being alive; he could be a bad guy, and possibly be the most despicable person you’ve ever seen. He just has that certain way about him that allows him to blend into whatever character he’s playing. And honestly, that’s why Louis (the same character played by one Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown) seems like such a perfect character for him to play: He’s not necessarily a moral person, but he has a kind heart. Given the right script, too, Hawkes could have ran wild with this character but instead, he comes off as poorly-written and is hardly ever considered somebody “bad”. There are small instances of his rage, but whenever he’s on the same screen as Jennifer Aniston’s character, he automatically softens up and seems like it’s coming completely out of nowhere.

It was the 70's, so it's okay.

It was the 70’s, so give him a break.

Not to mention that this is hardly ever mentioned/alluded to in the book, but like I said, staying with the movie here, people!

And the same sort of goes for Aniston – while I’ve never been absolutely stunned by the work she puts into certain movies, she’s always likable in her own way. Here, she just seems like she’s on auto-pilot and doesn’t really get much to do that’s neither believable, nor even fun to watch her do. She just sort of yells, screams, runs away and occasionally, tries to act smarter than the criminals who have in fact kidnapped her.

But the same I say for Aniston, is pretty much the same way for everybody else in this cast and it’s absolute waste of some real fine talent assembled here. Yasiin Bey (aka, Mos Def) does his best impersonation of Samuel L. Jackson without totally over-doing it and he gets a few laughs, but all in all, seems like he’s just there to be the token black character who makes stereotypical jokes about race, food and women; Tim Robbins plays the husband as a total dick (mostly how he was written) and is fine, but after awhile, you wonder just what the hell there was about this guy in the first place that actually attracted her to him; Will Forte is goofy and that’s about it; and Isla Fisher, despite being a lot older than I expected her character to be, is smoky, sexy and that’s all she needed to be for this character to work, although it never makes full sense as to why she gets involved with these cast of characters either.

Consensus: Despite boasting an impressive cast who are all clearly trying with all their force and might, Life of Crime can’t help but just feel like a dull, aimless, uneven and rather boring crime-thriller that doesn’t do its source-material justice whatsoever.

2.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

"Yeah, this is NOT Mos Def calling. It's my real, actual name."

“Yeah, this is NOT Mos Def calling. It’s my real, actual name.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Immigrant (2014)

Becoming a hooker and spending money on hospital bills. Ah, the American Dream.

When Polish immigrant Ewa (Marion Cotillard) comes over on a boat to America, she automatically runs into problems. Her sister (Angela Sarafyan) gets taken away and put into intensive care because she is believed to be “sick”; her aunt and uncle don’t want her staying at their place; and she is desperate fear of getting sent back to her country, which seems to be going through a wild period of violence, death and bloodshed. However, in comes walking the mysterious Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who makes her a deal: Come along with him and live in his place, as long as she agrees to work. Seems simple enough, until Ewa realizes that the job she’ll be doing is as a prostitute – the kind of job she doesn’t want to do, but pretty much has to, because she has nowhere else to go and needs to pay for her sister’s medical bills. So, Ewa goes along with the job, screwing, making money and staying loyal to Bruno; however, that all changes once a local magician by the name of Emil (Jeremy Renner) takes a bit of a liking to her and is not going to leave her alone. Bruno doesn’t like this and, as expected, leads to a bit of a strange love-triangle that spurs out of control, with devastating results.

James Gray loves these types of small, slow, and intimate character-pieces. With most of his movies, you get a sense that the premises should have the pace going a-mile-a-minute, but somehow, Gray finds a way to keep them mellowed-out and calm by paying attention to his characters. Violence and action does usually rear its ugly head, but its done in a way that feels realistic, if only because we’ve invested so much time and patience to these character’s and their lives, that it makes total sense why one would decide to commit an inappropriate act of sorts.

A rare case in which somebody as looked at Joaquin Phoenix as "their savior".

A rare case in which somebody looked at Joaquin Phoenix as “their savior”.

And in the Immigrant, Gray is in top-form, for lack of a better word. You get a sense that Gray isn’t trying to talk about one story in particular, but a plethora of stories that stem from the idea of the American Dream. As our world has made it out to be presented as, America usually seems like the type of country where dreams are made of – the kind of country that embraces individuals that want to do when they want, how they want to, and wherever they want to, because it’s a free country and just about everybody is allowed to be themselves to a certain extent. To be honest too, there’s nothing wrong with that vision – I live in America and, despite a couple of questionable decisions made on our President’s behalf more than a few times, I love it. Not to say that there’s any problem with other countries out there, but for one thing, I’m glad I was born and bred in the good old U.S. of A.

Gray doesn’t necessarily have a problem with America, either, however, he understands that the means for which a person needs to survive by, can sometimes be immoral and dehumanizing. Even in a place like America, the land of the free and the home of the Brave.

With Ewa’s story, Gray shows what it’s like for a person to feel as if they are leaving their troubled, horrible past behind themselves, only to then be thrown into a new world, better yet, a new life, where it seems like things may be even worse than before. Those who come to America, expect happiness, beauty and all sorts of pleasures that they may have not been able to receive in the previous country, however, the harsh reality is that sometimes, that’s not really the case. It’s a shame to say, but it’s the truth; and while times may have gotten better for those who want to come into America and become a “citizen”, some of it still sort of sucks, almost to the point where it makes sense why one would divert away from the standard, typical professions one expects another to take in for means of survival. And by that, I mean taking a job that would require one to have sex, deal drugs, or be involved with any type of immoral behavior, all for money.

Like I said before, I love my country, but there are sometimes certain aspects of everyday life that even I have to admit are in my country and cannot look away from.

Anyway, I know I’ve gotten past the fact that this is, yes, a movie, but it’s one that’s very thought-provoking. In fact, that’s all it may in fact be. Gray presents a well thought-out idea of what people perceive the American Dream to be, and allows it to live through the story of Ewa’s – a pretty sad one, I may add. However, the sadness gets to a point of where it’s almost too bleak to really be anything else except for that; we get that Ewa doesn’t have much of a chance to get a high-paying office job of sorts, but is it really that bad that she can’t practically go anywhere else without being taken in by police and thrown back on Ellis Island? I don’t know, but to me, it seemed like a bit of a stretch; almost as if Gray used it as a ploy to keep Ewa with Bruno, and try to create as much tension between the two as he could. It works, but it does seem deliberate, and because of that, a little less realistic.

However, with this small, but effective cast Gray assembles, we get fully-realized, understandable human characters that seem like they could exist even in today’s day and age, except with maybe fancier clothes and a knack for taking selfies. Leading the cast as Ewa is Marion Cotillard and, believe it or not, she is great. There’s just something about those expressive eyes of hers that you can feel the pain, the remorse, and the agony that’s going through this character at every point in time, that you want to hug her like you’d want to embrace a sad, little and lost puppy. But once Ewa starts to embrace this newfound lifestyle for all its worth, there’s a change in Cotillard’s eyes and her demeanor as a whole, and it’s astonishing to watch. Once again, it’s all through the eyes in which Cotillard lets us know and understand what Ewa is going through, and it’s a riveting performance, from one of the best actresses working today, who makes me feel like a failure at life for not being able to complete a full sentence in Spanish, let alone any other language for that matter.

"Ignore the top-hat and guy-liner, and you'll see that I'm a really cool guy."

“Ignore the top-hat, villainous-mustache and guy-liner, and you’ll see that I’m a really cool guy.”

Another one of our finest workers in the biz today, Joaquin Phoenix, gets plenty of chances to run wild with this material. Gray and Phoenix have done four films together now, and you can tell that both completely know and understand each other’s strengths and weakness as creators. Gray probably wrote a lot of this material for Phoenix to work with, but by the same token, it also seems like Phoenix just decided, “Aw heck with it!”, half of the times and just went crazy. That’s not a bad thing, because if there’s anybody I feel comfortable with doing that in any movie, it’s Phoenix, somebody who is probably a lot more bonkers behind the camera, than the characters he plays in front of it. Together, him and Cotillard create a relationship that’s weird and clearly not the best thing for either of them, but as time goes on, you can tell there’s a strong connection between the two and by the end, they feel almost inseparable, despite the circumstances made in how they met and how they stayed together for so long.

Another great actor in general, doing exceptional work here, is Jeremy Renner who shows up every so often and brings just enough charm and loveliness to this movie, to keep it away from being a total drab-fest. You can clearly see that he has affections for Ewa that are just and realistic, but you can also get a sense that maybe, just maybe, he has another trick up his sleeve and is trying to fool her, like Bruno fooled her. Then again, she’s not wrong in thinking that, nor are we as an audience: The world is full of selfish, manipulative and distasteful liars. Even in America.

Consensus: While, at times, exceptionally slow and dark, the Immigrant poises an interesting anecdote to the general perception of America with a well-written script, and a pair of exceptional performances from its cast, especially the always amazing Cotillard.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity."

“Welcome to America. Now please, hand over your dignity.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Jack Goes Boating (2010)

Dan does typing. Dan likes typing. Dan continues typing.

Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a meek, mild and closed-off guy that doesn’t really ask for much from others, so therefore, he never gets asked of much in return. He’s sort of just there, without really bringing anything to the table or to the world, even though he does have a pretty fine job as a limo driver. Through mutual friends, Jack gets set-up with a woman who is a little bit of the same as him (Amy Ryan), although a tad more scared of a human-connection, which she apparently has a dark history about. Together, they meet, they hit it off and Jack suddenly becomes interested in cooking, being a better guy and even learning how to boat, so that he can take him and his girl out on it. On the other hand, we have Jack’s best buddy, Clyde (John Ortiz), who is having a bit of his own lady problems; except in his case, it’s his long-term wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega). All four do spend time together, hang out, eat food, get drunk and try to have fun, but eventually, problems do begin to arise for both couples and lead to some very sad, very upsetting truths being unearthed.

Usually when an actor goes to make that jump from being in front of the screen, to trying their hand at the back of it, most of the time, they tend to go for the small, sweet and simple stories that aren’t that big, or ambitious to pull-off well with a lot of skill. All they need is just a simple idea of how to handle a camera, and basically, just know how to film a movie, of which most actors-turned-directors have a clear idea of. Or at least they should have.

"So....uh, should we kiss? Or, I mean, we don't have to? Not if you don't want to, that is. You know? Okay...uhm yeah. Kiss, right?"

“So….uh, should we kiss? Or, I mean, we don’t have to? Not if you don’t want to, that is. You know? Okay…uhm yeah. Kiss, right?”

So, that’s why when Philip Seymour Hoffman decided that he wanted to try and shake things up a bit with his own career and get behind the action, it seemed like a no-brainer that he’d not only adapt a play he starred in back in the day, but also not try to really reach out of his limits as a director. Which, for some directors, would be rather lame, but for him, it works in its own condensed, easy-going way.

Sure, there’s nothing here about Jack Goes Boating that’s really life-changing or revolutionary in terms of what you’ll be thinking about when it ends, but does every movie need to change your life? Especially when all it’s about is a bunch of people with some very closed-off personalities who just so happen to know one another, and talk and fall in love? Yeah, I don’t think so and I have to give Hoffman at least credit for not really trying to over-step his boundaries as a director. If it was somebody like Scorsese, or Spielberg, or even Spike Lee behind the mantel, then yeah, I’d be a little ticked-off and disappointed considering I usually expected them to make something, out of anything, no matter how small or large; but as for Hoffman – the guy never over-steps anything that’s given to him. Instead, he just focuses on our four characters and gives them a chance to show us why they deserve to be looked at, thought about and discussed.

And even if you don’t go that far into your thought-process with these characters, there’s nothing all that wrong with that because each and everybody is good with their own respective roles, which is something to applaud Hoffman for in at least handing over the spotlight, on many occasions, to his supporters in this rather tiny cast. Even so though, it’s apparently clear that Hoffman really owns the screen whenever he gives himself a chance to do so, and it’s great to see him play this nervous, awkward and twitchy guy, but not done so in a way that we’ve seen him do before in something like Magnolia and Happiness (where he was a lot more creepier). Jack’s just a simple guy, who wants to impress this lady of his that he just met and practically fell head-over-heels for and we can’t help but want to see the big lug get his happiness, get the love of his life and best of all, get his boating-license. There are small goals these characters set for themselves, and just being able to watch them as they try their hardest to get to that point, truly is something worth seeing, especially in Jack’s case.

However, as much as this story may be Jack’s, it could have easily been Clyde’s as well, and it still would have been just as compelling, if not more. Most of that has to do with the character is written so richly to where you get a general idea that he’s a different person everywhere he goes, but that’s also because John Ortiz himself is so damn good in the role, making you think just what the hell he is going to do next every time he shows up. Ortiz has been one of my favorite character actors since I first checked him out in American Gangster, and I’m happy to see that not much has changed; especially here with his role as Clyde where he gets to show all sorts of sides to his character. Clyde can sometimes be too touchy and put people in an uncomfortable situation; sometimes too open to the point of where he’s revealing stuff his wife sure as hell wouldn’t want revealed in a million years; sometimes too happy and spirited to where he’s just simply over-bearing; and sometimes, he can be a bit of a dick, saying and doing the wrong things, to the wrong people, at the wrong moments. However, I never hated Clyde for doing these things because I truly did feel like he always meant well and never meant to hurt those around him. Mainly Jack, though.

Women: Always driving us men to drink.

Women: Always driving us men to drink.

The ladies get to do some fine work as well with both Daphne Rubin-Vega and Amy Ryan putting in some fabulous work that clearly challenges the guys in how well they can developed and looked-at. Rubin-Vega is great here and seems like the type of wife that can put up with Clyde’s crap for as long as she has, but also seems like the type of woman who doesn’t want to be tied-down too much, regardless of if it hurts her hubby’s feelings or not. We should dislike her for that, but we sometimes see just how pushy Clyde can be, so instead, we sort of sympathize with her and hope the two work it out. As for Ryan, she has a bit more of the “shticky” role where she gets to be odd, off-kilter and slightly neurotic, but never to the point of where it’s annoying. Rather, we always feel like we’re seeing a truly messed-up person who definitely wants love in her life, but just can’t get past that point into intimacy where she has to giver her whole-self to that one and only person. That’s why her scenes with Jack truly are nice to watch, especially their little kiss in the snowfall. Only Ryan and Hoffman could pull that scene off so well, but with Hoffman directing that, it feels all the more sweeter.

Poor guy. He truly will be missed. Another legend gone from the silver screen. But at least we have the memories. At least we have the memories.

Consensus: Essentially, Jack Goes Boating is the type of small, uneventful directorial-debut we expect to see from a well-known actor trying to make that stride over to the other side, but Philip Seymour Hoffman still shows that he was a good director, and definitely understood the tiny, simple and easy-going pleasures of these character’s lives, as well the fact of life itself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

At least he got a chance to reach his goal. Good for Jack.

At least he got a chance to reach his goal. Good for you, Jack.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net