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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 J. O’Connor

Gods and Monsters (1998)

Next time you dress up as Frankenstein this Halloween, think about where the creation came from.

James Whale (Ian McKellen) is one of the most regarded directors of all-time. With such classics under his belt like Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, and Bride of Frankenstein, Whale had all of the fame and fortune that any man could ever afford to settle down and spend their last couple of years in utter and total harmony. However, Whale still pains from what his career could have and should have been, had he not been openly-gay and criticized for it his whole career, and it’s beginning to take more of a toll on him as the days continue to go by and his hair gets whiter. Then walks in his newly-appointed gardener (Brendan Fraser), and all of a sudden, Whale has found a new bit of inspiration in his life, whether or not it may just be sex or art. Either way, the man is happy and spirited again but his long-loving care-taker, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave), doesn’t see it as being so happy or spirited. She senses trouble brewing in the air and she may be right, but James doesn’t care nor take notice to it. He’s just happy being him.

He likes what he sees.

It’s interesting to watch Gods and Monsters because, at first, you have a general idea of just where the story is going. You’d automatically assume that Whale, in his last gasp for life, starts something of a relationship with this hunky groundskeeper, reliving all of the lovely and enjoyable times of his past, while also realizing that life is beautiful, wonderful, and grand, and deserves to be lived, rather than not, only to then pass away right as soon as the going gets good. In a way, that sort of happens, but it sort of doesn’t, and it’s why Gods and Monsters remains a solid look at the life of someone that time may have forgotten about, but the movies he’s made, will continue to stand the test of time.

Which is neat, because after watching Gods and Monsters, you’ll soon realize that a lot of the issues prevalent in Whale’s own life, basically shined through his most famous works. Whale had a love and an affinity for showing the weirdo’s, or better yet, the outcasts, of society to the rest of the world. The movie’s many hints at this can tend to get a bit annoying, but that doesn’t make them any less true; making movies for Whale was less about making millions and millions of dollars, gaining respect, and getting the chance to hob-knob with some of Hollywood’s finest, as much as it was about expressing his true, inner-feelings of loneliness that haunted him his whole life.

Does that mean he didn’t have some fun while doing it all? Of course not, but still, we’re shown and told that there was something more here than just a bunch of fun-to-watch monster flicks. There was a heart, a soul, and an absolutely sad being behind it all.

But the movie doesn’t just harp on this one fact and drive it into the ground, as it’s actually more about this made-up guy known as Clay, as played by Brendan Fraser, and the type of relationship he builds over time with Whale. Like I’ve said before, this aspect of the movie could have easily been the most obvious and conventional one seen coming – man and man fall in love, realize something new about one another, etc. – but it doesn’t quite go that way. In fact, Clay doesn’t even know Whale is gay at first, and even when he does find out, he doesn’t quite care; personally, he just likes to hear the stories this guy has to tell.

Can you blame him?

It’s an interesting dynamic these two create and to watch as their relationship builds to something sweet, is quite nice. It also helps that Fraser and McKellen have great chemistry, seeming as if they truly are getting to know one another and getting along while doing it. Fraser has always gotten a bad-rap for being a bad actor, something that hasn’t always been true; just one look at his performance in Gods and Monsters, you’ll notice that he’s holding his own against McKellen, while also showing some signs of immaturity and growth needed. Basically, it’s what his character was going for and Fraser shows it, proving that when given the right material, he’s actually quite good.

McKellen, on the other hand, well, what can be said that hasn’t already been said before about him?

McKellen is an old pro who knows what he’s doing, which is why watching his performance as Whale can sometimes be a joyous experience, even if it does revolve around a great deal of sadness. McKellen shows us that there’s some true light, happiness and inspiration in Whale that somehow reignites once he meets Clay, but also doesn’t forget to remind us that there’s something truly heartbreaking about this character. We get the flashbacks, the dream-sequences, and of course, the stories, but where we really get the idea of something truly unsettling, is through McKellen himself. He plays Whale as an old man, getting older and more broken down as the days go by, proving to himself, that life can end.

But it’s the movies and the creations you release to the whole world, that really make it all meaningful.

Consensus: With two very solid performances from Fraser and McKellen, Gods and Monsters works as a smart, moving and rather sweet take on life, memories, and an aspect of Hollywood classics that most of us tend to look away from.

8 / 10

Best friends forever.

Photos Courtesy of: Cinema Queer

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Hero (1992)

HeroposterEveryone’s a little super. Just look closely and stop judging!

Bernie Laplante (Dustin Hoffman) is known as a cheap-skate, a swindler, and just all around rat, who can’t be trusted with anything, or anyone. However, he makes the first selfless gesture of his life when he helps save injured passengers from a roadside plane crash. Before he can get any sort of recognition or praise for this righteous act of heroism, he vanishes into thin air, feeling as if he’s got nothing else to offer. But Bernie is very wrong, because not only are people out there looking for him, but most of all, the one, the only reporter Gale Gayley (Geena Davis) is now interested in finding this mystery man who put his own life at risk. And in by doing so, she announces a $1 million prize for anyone who is willing and able to step forward. But when handsome vagrant John Bubber (Andy Garcia) takes credit, Bernie now feels like it’s time to speak up, even while all of the media is centered on this one story.

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

What? Would you not trust these two faces?

Hero is a sloppy film in that it balances out a lot of what it wants to say, do, and actually be, but still, it all comes together because, when you get right down to it, it’s an enjoyable movie, with some great performances to be found. Sometimes, that’s honestly all you need in a movie, no matter how messy, muggy, or dirty it may actually be.

Okay, maybe that’s not always the case, but you get my point, right?

Anyway, what Hero benefits from the most is a great cast on-deck who feel as if they are more than capable of taking on this material and giving it all that they’ve got, even if they do sometimes feel like they’re far much better than the material itself. Hoffman especially is great in the lead because while he’s definitely an unlikable and pathetic bum, who constantly steals and rips people off for his own self-gain, he’s still likable and fun to watch. This is the beauty of Hoffman – give him a gritty character, a bunch of unlikable traits, and still, watch him as he works wonders into making him the most lovable guy in the whole world. The script always wants to give you the sense that there’s good in this man, but Hoffman does away with them in smart moves; you almost get the sense that Hoffman would have preferred for this character to have been more detestable and mean, but unfortunately, the movie is too light and quick on its feet to really get down and deep into those dark waters.

If anything, it wants to play around, have some fun, make jokes, but also be “about something”, which is what kind of ruins it in the end.

Cause honestly, Hero is the kind of movie that, yes, on the surface, it’s about something, but for some reason, the direction from Stephen Frears doesn’t seem to show that. If anything, Frears seems more interested in having fun with this situation and watching it spiral more and more out of control; it’s like a Capra crowd-pleaser, but obviously, a lot more modern. However, that’s the central issue with Hero – it never fully feels like it’s as funny, or as light as it should be, nor does it feel like it ever gets as dark or serious as it should.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

Yeah, take a shower, Dusty.

What Hero seems to be talking about here is how the media portrays certain people as being hero’s, for the sole sake of ratings and attention, even if, deep down inside, these people are evil and ugly human beings, really. There’s been plenty of movies made about this topic and honestly, given today’s world of media, you don’t even need movies to know this – just turn on the tube and you’ll see what picture the world paints of celebrities and athletes. That said, it is hard to get down on David Webb Peoples and his script for trying, because Hero is the rare big-budget movie, with A-list stars, that’s more than willing to ask the hard questions.

Sure, it may not give the answers it oh so desires, but sometimes, all you need is a little question to make it all matter most.

Anyway, Hero‘s messy, but it’s a fun and, at times, interesting mess. It is something of a redemption story that, because of Hoffman and his dedication to his craft, is a lot smarter and sweeter than it may have intended to be. Even all of the media stuff, as wild and hectic as it can sometimes get, still works because of Geena Davis, in full-on charm-mode, showing us a character who may be sad, deep down inside, but is still looking for that story of her lifetime to make her feel somewhat complete as much as she possibly can. The movie never gets as deep with her as I make it sound, but trust me, there’s something there, if you look close enough.

And yeah, even Andy Garcia is fine; while comedy has never been his strong suit, there’s something to this character that makes you hate him, but also like him as well. The movie is filled with characters like these and it’s actually quite refreshing to watch; we know we’re supposed to like them, but there’s still factors and ideas about them that make that much harder to be a reality. Why more and more movies can’t feature these kinds of attributes is beyond me, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

Doesn’t matter the decade it comes from.

Consensus: Albeit messy, Hero still benefits from a great class, interesting ideas, and an entertaining approach to a premise that could have easily been boring, preachy and sad.

7 / 10

All of the men can't wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

All of the men can’t wait for Geena. No matter what the year.

Photos Courtesy of: Rob’s Movie Vault, Virtual History, Cineplex

The Longest Ride (2015)

Art enthusiasts and bull-riders rejoice! You’re somehow compatible.

Though Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) live right by one another, they’ve never met and honestly, why would they? They’re both complete opposites with him being a handsome, daring bull-rider, and her, a college student from New Jersey looking to get her foot in the art world. But somehow, due to a chance meeting and date, they somehow realize that they’re perfect for one another, even if there are the occasional problems that ensue when you’re young and still trying to make sense of the world, as well as who you want to spend it with. Both of them eventually learn of all of life’s joys and hardships through an aging man by the name of Ira (Alan Alda), who they stumble upon after he has a car-accident. What Ira tells them about, is the story of when he was younger (Jack Huston), and met the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Through his memories of his sometimes tragic past, Luke and Sophia grow closer and realize that they may be the ones the other needs to help keep them happy and always willing to be their best selves.

With Nicholas Sparks movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That means, there’s not much of a point in discussing what doesn’t work in them – if only because hardly anything does. They are as contrived, cliched, and saccharine as you could possibly get, and while some may not be as terrible as others, there’s no denying the fact that they’re really not worth checking out. Like, at all.

Can't wait to see when their families finally meet.

Can’t wait to see when their families finally meet.

However, in order to wade through all the crap, it’s up to us, the regular, common folk who doesn’t fall for these types of movies, to figure out which ones are slightly more commendable above the rest. The Notebook of course comes to mind as the one and only Sparks movie that’s worth watching (if only for Baby Goose himself), but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same old junk. Two love-sick people meet, fall in love, have some sort of conflict, and wouldn’t you know it? By the end of the story, somebody either has cancer, has been dead for the whole time we’ve been watching them, or is a total and complete, murderous psycho. It’s the formula that, no matter how many times we see it, never seems to die away an everlasting, painful death.

But for better, and especially for worse, the Longest Ride takes that formula and does something s relatively interesting with it.

“Relatively”, being the keyword here, people. So please, bear with me.

What the Longest Ride has going for it that most of the other saptastic Sparks pieces lack, is that the central couple actually seems to have sparks of chemistry between each other. Both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, despite seeming like the sort of cutesy, overly attractive types that you see in these roles, actually do put some effort into how their characters bond with one another, even if it’s all incredibly calculated and predicted from beginning to end. You can’t tell me that once Eastwood helps up Robertson from a mechanical bull mishap, that she’s instantly going to fall right in love with him, as she stares deep and hard into his eyes, getting lost in the maze that is his hunky exterior.

Sure, we’ve all seen this done before, but what Robertson, Eastwood, and director George Tillman, Jr. admittedly do, is that they light some sort of fire between these two characters that it makes whatever happen to them next, feel like it has a certain kind of believability. You believe that Eastwood’s narrow-headed character would think the Expressionism art Robertson so loves and desires, is stupid and not deep at all, just like you’d believe that Robertson wants Eastwood to stop bull-riding, aka, the only source of employment that he’s able to live well off of. I’m not saying that where their story goes, it’s all understandable and therefore, not corny as all hell – because it totally is. I’m just saying that, considering what I’ve seen some of these on-screen couples get into with these movies, it works a bit better here.

That’s not to dismiss that there’s also a whole other relationship going on here that, unsurprisingly, isn’t all that interesting and just adds way more material onto this already hefty material than there definitely needs to be.

Which does sound a bit crazy, considering that the other relationship portrayed here involves not just Oona Chaplin or Jack Huston, but also Alan Alda, because they’re all fine in everything that they do; it’s just that here, it feels like they’re wasted on a lame script that doesn’t deserve them. According to the movie, Alda is supposed to be playing a 90-year-old-something Jewish man (even though he doesn’t look a day over 60, even despite all of the machinery of make-up and hair), who, at one point in his life, looked like Jack Huston. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think either one look like the other in any sort of fashion; even though Huston has this sort of timeless look and feel to him that makes it easier for him to blend into any decade that he’s placed in, playing a younger-version of Alda doesn’t seem to fit so well with him. Chaplin’s fine in her role as the love of Huston/Alda’s character life, but she even feels too one-note, as she’s constantly sunny, happy and charming, no matter what sort of curve-balls get thrown into her way.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

Just imagine a younger version of Clint, with more hair.

And then, there’s the whole conceit that the plot never gets tired of using and it’s as tiring done the fourth time, than it is for the ninth, or tenth time.

Because the movie is telling two stories at once, in order to go back and forth between the two and make it easier for the audience to understand what is happening, the movie uses this narration from Alda that’s supposed to be his diary/journal entries, chronicling his life with Chaplin. Problem is, every entry literally feels like it was written two seconds after the two had a date, and is actually less of a diary of one’s feelings or thoughts, as much as they’re just Alda telling us what happened with his character and this other one. It’s so obvious and unnecessary, that once you get to the two-hour mark, you’ll start to wish that the movie just took out that whole angle and stuck small and simple with Robertson and Eastwood’s story. Because at least with them, you would have had something sweet to fall back on when the silly moments came around.

On a side note, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that literally three, out of the four main cast-members in this movie are in some way related to other actresses or actors. Eastwood is clearly the son of Clint; Huston is the grandson of John, as well as nephew of Anjelica and Danny; and Chaplin, well, is the daughter of Geraldine and grand-daughter of, well, I’m not even going to say it it’s so obvious. If anything, this proves that Hollywood, in case you haven’t been able to tell by now, is as nepotistic as you have probably heard. People get on Will Smith’s case for pushing Jaden and Willow to the front of each and everything he does, but just look here! That’s not to say that none of these actors have talents worth looking at and enough to cast in your movie – it’s just that maybe, quite possibly, there’s other actors out there more willing for these kinds of roles, that are maybe less-known or less connected than these ones here.

Just a food for thought, I guess. Because, before you know it, whatever spawn Brett Ratner produces, will soon be taking over Hollywood and demanding that we see their over-budgeted messes, no matter how many people actually dislike them.

Can’t say you’ve been fore-warned.

Consensus: Despite a lovely chemistry between Robertson and Eastwood that makes it slightly less painful to watch, the Longest Ride is still like mostly every other Nicholas Sparks movie in that it’s stupid, contrived and way too overlong.

4.5 / 10 

She doesn't know what she's getting herself into....

She doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into….

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water (2015)

I’m still a kid and I don’t care who knows it!

After the Krabby Patty mysteriously loses the famous recipe to one of its most prized possessions, all hell breaks loose in the Bikini Bottom. Civilization breaks down, friends become enemies, and basically, it’s everything for themselves. However, Spongebob loves his little pineapple under the sea, as well as everybody around it so much, that he’s willing to go to the ends of the sea to find out what happened to the recipe, who has it, and exactly how he can get it back. But to do this, he may have to enlist the help of a known rival of his, Plankton – someone who has been clamoring for the Krabby Patty recipe for many, many decades, all due to a long rivalry with the owner, Mr. Crabs. All personal problems between the two aside, they’ll both have to look far and wide no matter where they go, even if they don’t know that it happens to be none other than Burger-Beard the Pirate (Antonio Banderas) himself, who is using the recipe to his own gain on dry land. Which, in case you haven’t been able to tell just yet, isn’t ideal for these sea creatures.

Having grown up in the late-90’s/early-aughts, many hours of mine were spent in front of television sets watching Spongebob Squarepants. I was there when the first episode aired on Nickelodeon (after the Kids Choice Awards, I think), and I stayed with it for quite some time, even as I started to grow older and my humor matured a bit (although, don’t get me wrong, I still appreciate a nice fart joke here and there). However, that was the beauty of Spongebob: I may have been young and laughed myself silly, eventually, I got older and realized that there will still plenty of jokes for me, the older version of myself, to chuckle at. Though it’s recently been watered-down by an over-reliance on kids humor, Spongebob will forever have a special place in my heart and will be the one animated show that I, one day, will hopefully get the chance to pass down to my offspring.

Meh.

Meh.

This movie may not be the one I rush my kids to see first, but I’ll still bring it up to them to remind them that hey, it’s out there and hey, it’s actually alright.

What worked so well about the series, and what those behind the movie didn’t forget about, was how the humor could be so strange and bizarre, but at the same token, still work. The reason for that was because the people who created Spongebob made it into this insane world where practically anything could happen, whenever it saw fit. Sometimes it would come out of left field, sometimes it would be expected, but most of all, it was usually funny. Here, with the movie, the same happens where we’ll get certain scenes that seem to have been made from the slight influence of some sort of hallucinogenic, and then, moments later, get a silly pun that practically everyone can take notice of.

And with that said, just like the show, the movie gets down the right amount of jokes made strictly for kids, as well as those for adults. However, they don’t necessarily overlap. Whereas kids will laugh at a character falling down, getting hurt, or ripping their pants, the parents will probably laugh at a joke aimed more towards them that actually deconstruct the Bikini Bottom a bit. But nonetheless, the jokes aimed towards the parents never get “too mature” to where they could be deemed “inappropriate”; they tread that fine line between and it helps to create a cohesive sense of humor, even while the plot progresses.

Now, with the plot taken into consideration, there is something to be said for a movie that probably didn’t need to go into live-action territory like it does so here. However, what’s so interesting about all of the advertising for this movie, is that it clearly pushes the angle down everybody’s throats that Spongebob and everybody else turn into real-life, 3D figures in a real, live-action environment – even if, you know, that doesn’t happen until the final-act. For the most part, a good portion of this movie stays in regular, 2D animation, as if it were just another episode and it works. It goes to show you that you don’t need all of the gimmicky, pyrotechnics to get the audience involved, or, at the least, intrigued in your product; all you need, sometimes, is a good story, with an even better sense of humor.

Once again, meh.

Once again, meh.

That’s why, when we’re all of a sudden placed into a live-action environment, the movie gets a bit iffy. The jokes still hit and the movie doesn’t lose its self-deprecating sense of humor neither, but it just feels unnecessary, especially considering the fact that the first two-halves of the movie worked so well, and it didn’t even seem like they were trying. Of course, the live-action elements benefit from the fact that Antonio Banderas is having a blast playing up his machismo as Burger-Beard the Pirate, but even then, his act gets a little old as we realize that he’s just there to service the plot and keep things moving forward.

Which calls into question: Do you really need much of a driving plot to keep Spongebob enjoyable?

No, not really, but whatever. Maybe I’m just looking a bit too deep into this thing. Because even while the creators make the smart move of not crapping on a part of my beloved childhood, I still am finding something to bitch and moan about no matter what. Which is to say, don’t listen to me and just enjoy Spongebob for what it is. I did so and I have been doing for the past 16 or so years.

God, man. I sure as hell am getting old.

Consensus: Without sacrificing its trademark wild sense of humor, Spongebob: Sponge Out of Water works as an extended episode that delivers fun for the whole family, as it’s been doing on television for the past decade or so.

7 / 10

Okay, that's more like it.

Okay, that’s more like it.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Amistad (1997)

Jack Sparrow definitely had something to do with this as well. I know it for a fact.

I think it’s safe to say that anybody who has ever took history in the 5th grade or below knows this story, but if not, here’s the gist of it all: Newly-captured African slaves somehow broke free and revolted against their owners aboard a ship called La Amistad. They eventually got brought into the states where they were tried for their wrong-doings, but thanks to their leader, Cinqué (Djimon Hounsou), they are able to have a voice and get a fair trial. Or at least they sure hope so, or else it’s back to the poop-deck for them!

Steven Spielberg is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, and that’s usually something I can never argue against No matter how schmaltzy and disappointing some of his pieces of work can be, you can still count on the fact that every once and a blue moon, he’ll come back in full force and shut our negative mouths up. The guy’s got a knack for doing that and he can do it especially well when he’s telling a true story of those who have suffered the most. Whether he’s focusing on the Jews, the horses, or the living robots from the future, the guy knows how to take one person’s side, show how wronged they are by the rest of society, and let them have their time to shine. Add African slaves onto that list, just not to the tippy-top.

What makes this material so hard-hitting and inspirational in the way that it plays out is the fact that it’s all real, and yes, even though some parts here and there may be fabricated for theatrical-purposes, the main idea of it all stays the same. These were real people who had to go through a real rough time to get their freedom, try to hold onto it for as long as they could, have it taken away from them, and (SPOILER, I guess) then, given right back to them with a full introduction of hope and happiness still in their hearts. It sounds like a sappy story, and the way that Spielberg has it all play out, it certainly can be, but the fact that this a true story, true case, and true. real-life people that went through it all, really touched me more than I expected. And I don’t mean in the Sandusky way, either.

"Why can't anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it's just that nobody's asked me."

“Why can’t anybody understand me? I can speak English too, it’s just that nobody’s asked me. Fuckin’ white people.”

However, this isn’t the type of Spielberg flick where you get all sunshines, rainbows, and a bunch of over-dramatic music-cues; there’s some real smug ugliness to this movie that will catch you by surprise. First of all, the beginning of the flick is quite gruesome where Spielberg shows us, in full-detail, jusr how the Amistad raid occurred, and how the owners of these slaves were killed. It’s a pretty disturbing way to start off with and when it was over, I was slightly relieved because I felt like Spielberg backed away from that dirty stuff and got back on with the emotional-core of the story.

Oh, but how wrong I was.

Somewhere, about half-way through the movie, we get to see what it was like for all of the slaves to be aboard the Amistad, before the raid even occurred, and I have to say, it’s 10-times worse than the opening. You see how all of these people were treated, how they were tortured, put to non-stop work, fed, clothed (if at all), put to sleep, and in many ways, killed. It’s some real, gods-to-honest disturbing stuff that still stays put in my head. Still, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Spielberg because it never feels like he’s exploiting any of it in the least bit. He’s just showing us how it was to be aboard that slave ship, which means we get a lot of blood, nudity, and grittiness, almost to the point of where you feel dirty just for watching. Some people will rag on Spielberg for usually crapping-out from going all of the way with his nasty-material, but for those naysayers: Watch the beginning and middle-half of this movie and then come back to me saying the same thing.

That whole sequence actually helps the movie out in many ways, but mainly because it has you understand these slaves even more than ever before. Not only does it give them inspiration to take charge with their lives, but it also gives them the right amount of hope and clarity they should have in their lives, and makes us root for them even more. I also like how they weren’t all just portrayed as a bunch of wild, gibberish-speaking black folks; they actually had personalities, they actually had words, they actually had meanings, and in some ways, had more ideas than most of the white people they encounter throughout this whole flick. Spielberg definitely showed his balls with this movie, but when it came back to getting with the story and showing us all how we love to root for the underdog in any story, regardless of if it’s true or not, he’s always solid in my book.

But to be fair, Spielberg isn’t always the most grateful man when it comes to humanizing his stories and doesn’t always let everybody get the same treatment as the Amistad slaves he’s portraying. I get that he wanted us to fully feel the internal-strife that these African slaves were going through, and so by doing so, really put the hammer down on some of those opposed to it, but didn’t feel right to me. It felt like, to me, that Spielberg was a little too quick in his movements to start pointing the fingers at other people for being racist, bigoted, and all about making money, when that was just how the times were. To me, it felt like Spielberg could have taken his hand back and realized that it’s not right to point, no matter how wrong or immoral you thought a certain set of persons or people were. Didn’t your mother ever teach you anything, Steven?!?

And as always with most of Spielberg’s flicks, the guy is always able to assemble a highly-qualified cast of characters and lets everybody do their thang, no matter how showwy or subtle it may be. Rarely does anybody ever go for the latter, but at least they keep it entertaining. Even though he has practically faded into obscurity now for no apparent reason, I was surprised to remember just how much of a powerhouse Djimon Hounsou was. What worked so much for him was that he had these eyes and this physical-prowess to him that showed you so much more than he could probably say or put into words. That’s especially true in this movie, because his character cannot speak English at all, but still gets the chance to show everybody around him what he’s feeling by expressions on his face, the tone in his speech, and the look in his eyes, no matter how cold or inspired they may be. The guy has been nominated twice for an Academy Award, and I was sure as shit surprised to find out that this wasn’t one of them. Still, the guy needs to come back and win something, because he’s a great actor and could also snap my neck with the twitch of his leg. No doubt about that.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

Even Djimon is surprised by how over-the-top Anthony is.

The one who did get the Oscar nomination for this movie was Anthony Hopkins, playing former President John Quincy Adams, and does what he does best: Command the screen every chance he gets. Watching Hopkins just take this script, chew it up, swallow it, and spit it out, making himself a new one, was so exciting and entertaining to watch that it was no wonder why he was nominated for this. He shows up every once and awhile throughout the whole movie, but there’s this whole sequence at the end where he just tells it like it is when it comes to politics, living in the U.S., being a human-being, and just doing the right thing, that was compelling the whole time, even if it did seem like Hopkins may have went on some tangents a bit. Still, it’s Anthony Hopkins and the guy always give it a 110% so if anything, there’s always something to see.

Matthew McConaughey plays the lawyer that stands beside the African slaves in the first place and is very, very good, but it almost feels like his role from A Time to Kill, but dashed with some 19th Century apparel, and a goofy, Southern accent to boot. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, because the guy was pretty damn solid in both flicks, but it does show you that maybe more originality could have gone into choosing the right people for these roles. Then again, McConaughey’s career seems to have gotten a bit of a resurgence as of late, so I guess it doesn’t matter what happened to him 16 years ago.

The one out of this whole cast that I was really bummed to see play such a bland and mediocre role was Morgan Freeman as Theodore Joadson. He’s an Uncle Tom of sorts, but a man of color nonetheless, which makes it a great role for Freeman to just roam free with everything he has. However, he doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, Freeman does what he can with this role, but it seems like one of those roles that was made for a small amount of time and only there to be the token black guy on the opposite end of the fence. A dull role that Freeman tries to save, but just can’t help but fall underneath the rest of the cast and story. There’s many more in this cast, as well, but as you can tell, I’ve pretty much exhausted myself talking about these four already, so just know that there’s plenty, plenty more.

Consensus: Steven Spielberg is the king of being schmaltzy and manipulative when it comes to his movies, and Amistad is no exception to the rule, but it still proves to be an inspirational, and very true tale of fighting for what you believe in and doing what we were put on this Earth to do in the first place. Corny, yes, but still gets you in the fighting spirit nonetheless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Quick! Which one of these things does not look like the others?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

The Master (2012)

Move over Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise officially has a new arch-enemy.

A charismatic intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) launches a religious organization following World War II. A drifter named Freddie Quell  (Joaquin Phoenix) becomes his right-hand man, but as the faith begins to gain a fervent following, the drifter finds himself questioning the belief system and his mentor.

Whether you’re a Scientologist and have been waiting to protest outside of every movie theater across the nation, have been waiting to see the return of “normal” Joaquin Phoenix, or have been waiting to see what writer/director P.T. Anderson has kept himself busy with over the past 5 years, chances are, you’ve been pretty amped for this flick, as well as I have been. I mean hell, I reviewed two movies, from the same director, for the past two days! I rarely do that, and I was definitely willing to make an exception for this guy just because he once again, proves that he is one of the best directors we have working in America today. Without a doubt.

One thing that could be said about this tale (but not taken away from, however) is that a lot of it plays out in the same vein as There Will Be Blood. Don’t believe me? Okay, well think about this: instead of oil, you have religion; instead of oil tycoon Daniel Plainview, you have religion-starter Lancaster Dodd; instead of the loose-cannon Eli, you have the loose-cannon Freddie; and instead of the relationship between Daniel and Eli being at the fore-front, you have the relationship between Freddie and Lancaster. The only difference here is that Freddie and Lancaster actually seem to get along with one another, rather than drinking each other’s milkshakes. But I digress.

Whatever way you want to look at this film, you cannot deny the artful skill and compelling nature that lies behind every frame of this movie that Anderson beautifully constructs. From a technical standpoint, this film honestly could not be any better as certain scenes will just have you forgetting about what’s going on screen by how beautiful and wonderful they look. Anderson captures the look and feel of the 50’s as if he actually took a DeLorean back to those days, along with his film crew, and just started filming right on the spot. The long landscape shots that Anderson captures are even more beautiful and breathtaking as the ones he took in There Will Be Blood and I highly suggest you see it in the 70MM way it was meant to be seen in. I would like to complain and say that it was almost distracting how wonderful this film looked sometimes because it really does take your eyes off the action at-hand, but I can’t diss art and that’s exactly what Anderson has painted here.

Then of course, you got the score from Johnny Greenwood that uses the same exact trifling with sounds as he used in There Will Be Blood, but this time almost plays out a bit differently as Anderson gets back into the grand scheme of things by allowing pop-music to ironically poke it’s head into some key scenes that will probably fit any type of emotion Anderson was going for in the first place. No, there’s no Sister Christian or Aimee Mann songs to jam out too, but still some nice quality tunes that shows Anderson is the perfect guy for when it comes to meshing music with scenes.

One of the biggest buzzes surrounding this flick is whether or not this is Anderson’s take on the early days of L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology. There are a whole bunch of similarities between “The Cause” and Scientology, but Anderson never seems like he feels the need to go so far and just openly describes what it is and that was a pretty brave step coming from Anderson as he could have taken as many cheap-shots as he wanted to with this subject material. However, this does give him plenty of room and opportunity to talk about religion and whether or not this “Cause” is actually good for any of the people that follow it. You can tell that these people love being able to believe in something that makes them feel like they live in a beautiful and wondrous world, but at the bottom of it all though is the fact that some of this may just be all based on a bunch of lies. But still, even though this seems like an area that Anderson can get into and almost badger the hell out of, he smartly doesn’t and allow the viewers to make up their own interpretations about whether or not this religion is the right one to follow. Once again, another brave move by Anderson and shows you why he is in fact, one of the smartest-working writers and directors on the planet. That’s right, ON THE PLANET.

But as much as this film may seem to be about this underground religion and all of the effects it has on its people, this film is really all about the relationship between the two main characters: Freddie Quell and Lancaster Dodd. Both are very, very different from one another as one is the leader of a smooth-talking, happy-all-the-time “religion”, and the other one is just a drifter who can never seem to control his anger, or his drinking for that matter. This contrast between the two characters is probably one of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of this whole flick because we see them both work wonders for each other in ways that we thought weren’t even imaginable from the first meeting the two. They actually care for each other and both want what’s best for them, even if they don’t fully make it work every single time they try. One scene that comes to my mind the best when I think of the relationship between the two is when Dodd actually tells the cops to not hurt Freddie, even after he continues to beat the ever loving crap out of them all. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in the whole film not because it’s a turning-point for the whole direction in where the story was headed, but because it shows you the depths of the relationship these two have together.

What I think makes the relationship between them both the most memorable, is the fact that they are played so brilliantly by its two leads: Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I was so damn happy to see Joaquin back in full-on acting mode because it’s performances like these that make me realize the type of talent this guy has that shouldn’t be wasted on a faux-rap career. Phoenix is mesmerizing as Freddie Quell because he brings all of that vent-up frustration and strangeness that he had with his “character” in I’m Still Here, and let’s that play-out in a way that’s as memorable as it is compelling. You can tell that this guy is going to flip any chance he gets the chance to and it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have the best conscience out there, either. However, there are a couple of key scenes that show Freddie in a very sympathetic light that may have you understand why this guy is always so off his rocker. He comes off as a fully-realized character that has plenty of sides to him and you honestly can’t take your eyes off of. This performance is nowhere near the type of actor’s play-day performance Daniel Day-Lewis had with Plainview, but it’s still something that’s worth loving and remembering come Oscar time.

Then, you got Hoffman playing the type of Plainview-like character as Lancaster Dodd, a character that couldn’t have honestly been played by anybody else except for Hoffman. Hoffman does a great job with Dodd because he plays the character, like a guy that has so much charisma, so much heart, and so much warmth to him that it makes you realize why everybody feels so close to him that they could follow him and every word he speaks out. He’s almost reminiscent of Orson Welles in a way of how he’s all tight-lipped with his speeches and rarely ever loses his cool, but when he does, it’s one of the more memorable scenes since we see this character slowly start to unravel right in front of our eyes. It’s not like this character is treated like an evil piece of crap that nobody should care for, but is instead shown off to be a guy that believes in his own way of life and wants to spread that across to everybody else. Yeah, that could be viewed at as a bad thing but the film never quite portrays it as that and it’s another brave step Anderson was not only able to take with this story, but this character that Hoffman has also fully-realized in his own charismatic way.

Some may be surprised to see that Amy Adams doesn’t have a bigger role here as Dodd’s wife, Peggy, but does a nice job giving her character a very dark turn that I wasn’t expecting in the least bit. Still, out of the other two, she sort of comes off as the weakest-link and could have used a bigger and better role to be more substantial to everything that’s going on and the plot itself. Everybody else is good here too, and I like how Anderson made every character in this cast worth something and have their own moment, even if it may only be for a second or two.

So, here I am, going on and on and on about this flick and how amazing it is and you are probably sitting there wondering, “Oh em gee! Is he going to give it the prized 10/10 I haven’t seen in God knows how long??!?!”. Well, no. Sorry to burst your bubble everyone but this film did still have some problems in its own right and it’s that I think the emotional connection for this film was a bit more off this time around, probably due to the fact that the story is always weaving around and whatnot. With Daniel Plainview, it was easier to follow this character and know him for all that he was because it mostly just about him doing his own, evil thing, but here, the story goes back-and-forth between Freddie and Lancaster so much that it was a bit hard to build-up the tears when that ending came around. Also, there was this really strange scene that had to do with Amy Adams, Hoffman, and a bathroom that is still fresh in my mind because it made no sense and seems to be a bit misplaced in a film that seemed to really go for it all, in terms of being sane and keeping itself in reality. Still though, minor quibbles if you ask me.

Consensus: The Master could easily be a title that director P.T. Anderson is giving himself, because that is exactly what this guy is. Everything from the visuals, to the landscapes, to the score, to the performances, to the fully-developed story, to the religion movement; all are done with the masterful craft of Anderson and is sure to be one of the films to watch out for, come Oscar season.

9/10=Full Price!!

There Will Be Blood (2007)

The whole point behind this whole film: drinking milkshakes.

This tells the story of an oilman, Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), who goes into a small town to drill for oil. But, a local preacher, Eli (Paul Dano), tries to get a piece of his profits to expand his church, and Daniel doesn’t like that one bit and that’s what causes a whole bunch of problems between the two characters.

With The Master coming up closer and closer by the seconds that pass us by, I thought it would be a great idea to check-up on how P.T. Anderson‘s last flick still does after it shook up the whole, wide world 5 years ago. Needless to say, it still kicks some oil-loving ass.

The most notable element that stands behind Anderson and his skills as a director is how he is able to make anything look very beautiful, but also very dark and Gothic in it’s own weird way. The cinematography for this flick is beautiful as we get to see a lot of the long, wide landscapes that always find themselves, hidden somewhere in the background and give you a better idea that you are in fact watching a story that’s taking place during the early days of the “oil boom”. There’s a lot to gaze at here and there are plenty of memorable shots where Anderson just keeps the camera on one piece of action and never seems to move and it creates more and more tension as it goes along. But as beautiful as this film may be, there’s also plenty of darkness in it as well, mainly coming from the story.

One of the key elements behind this story that makes it work is just how progressively dark and strange things begin to get for everybody in this story. There is never a single moment in this flick where you feel like anything good is going to happen to these characters, which does make this seem like a bit of a downer in hindsight, but for some reason you never stop watching. Scene after scene is just as memorable as the last one as Anderson has a knack for making even the slightest bit of dialogue show just who a character really is and what their real motivations are underneath it all. It’s strange that a guy like this can do something so dark and depressing as this, but still have the chance to turn out a zany, wacky rom-com like Punch-Drunk Love, a flick that he did 5 years before this one but it also shows just how versatile of a writer/director this guy can be.

But without even going any further about this flick, I have to say that this also features one of the most epic and bizarre scores that I have ever heard before in my life. You would never, ever think that the words “Daniel Day-Lewis”, “Western”, and “Radiohead” would go in the same sentence, but somehow, someway, Anderson found a way to get them altogether and it makes a perfect match that seemed very weird to have in the first place. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead, did this score all by himself and it’s very well-calculated in the ways that he makes certain types of noises fit in so well with whatever is going on on-screen. There’s always a great deal of tension and darkness in this film, and Greenwood’s score conveys that with a weird collision of strings and percussion that just add more to the dark and manic tone of the whole flick. One scene in particular, is when Plainview runs after a well of his that just burst and without any music whatsoever, it would have still been tense the whole way through, but not as tense with the power-heavy beat coming from Greenwood that continues to build and build-up until almost all hell breaks loose. It’s one of those rare scenes where everything just comes together so perfectly into one film and it’s one that should probably be played up to the highest level of volume you can get on your television.

Despite almost everything in this film coming together and gelling so perfectly, there was one problem with this flick that always seemed to get me even when I was going for the whole 10/10 aspect. The story is all about Plainview and how his whole descent into darkness makes him more evil and insane as the days go by but in my opinion, I never understood exactly as to why. We get that the guy doesn’t like people, doesn’t see the good in them, and just wants money so he can get as far away from them as he can, but why? Was there ever a moment in his life when the guy realized that his life was going to be surrounded by people that he hates or was he always just like this and the huge amounts of money he’s been raking in just made him feel it even worse now? I don’t know what it was and quite frankly, I don’t think P.T. did either. I think that this was just a character study about a guy that hated human-beings for no reason, and that was my problem with this flick: I needed the reason. Yeah, that’s right, this film would have been a 10/10 had it not been for this one, itty, bitty problem in the story.

But aside from this strange character foil, you can’t help but walk away satisfied after seeing one of the greatest performances in the past decade, given by one of the best off all-time: Daniel Day-Lewis. Daniel Day has been known to be very selective with his roles, very weird with him about the limits he goes to with staying in method and in character, and to always walk away with an Oscar nomination or Oscar win. All of which is exactly what you get here with his performance as Daniel Plainview as I think it is probably the best he has ever given just by how much he puts into this role. Granted, this character already had a lot to work with when it came to the whole script, but Daniel Day takes that character one-step further in his own way. This guy is one evil son of a bitch that I don’t think does a single nice thing throughout the whole movie (I seriously don’t) but you can never, ever take your eyes off of him just because every scene of Plainview, is just another scene where Daniel Day does something different.

What I mean by something different is that there are these types of facial expressions that he has just to give his character a real feeling that is unlike you have ever seen in this character the whole flick. Essentially, this character could be written off as the usual, one-note, evil asshole that nobody cares to be around but there’s something more behind it all and Daniel Day keeps us watching and waiting for that throughout the whole film. If my whole description about this guy’s performance hasn’t already sold you yet on this perfect performance, than please, stop reading and go out there and watch this freakin’ movie and pay attention to every little thing that Daniel Day does with this character. To the weird limp, to the Jack Palance impersonation, to the open-handed slaps, to the evil looks he gives Eli, and to everything else he ever does in this movie, he does it with the utter grace and perfection that should always be shown off, especially when you’re working with a character such as this. Totally deserved that Oscar win.

Although this is Daniel Day’s show, through and through, Paul Dano doesn’t allow himself to get kicked out of the whole film. In fact, Dano has just as many intense and memorable scenes as Daniel Day, it’s just that every single one is with Daniel Day and it creates some of the best back-and-forth scenes I have seen in a long-ass time. Dano nails the whole crazy aspect that lies behind those certain preachers out there in the West, but he never necessarily over-does it and that’s what really surprised me about this character. Him and Daniel Day work perfectly together as you can tell that right from the start, they never really see eye-to-eye on anything and it’s only a matter of time until one of them finally has enough of it all and decides to break loose. That’s what ultimately leads up to one of the most abrupt, yet satisfying endings that I have seen in the past decade, and is definitely one to stick around for no matter how much the flick’s slow-pace may be pissing you off.

Consensus: There Will Be Blood may not make much sense of it’s story at the end, but will still keep you watching the screen the whole time with it’s out-standing performance by Daniel Day-Lewis (one of his best of all-time, if you can believe that), a strange score from Johnny Greenwood that actually goes along with the subject material very well, and a superb direction from Anderson that captures all of the beauty, and all of the horror that comes along with fame, money, and well, oil.

9/10=Full Price!!