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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kurt Russell

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

American

After the events of the original brought them all together, the Guardians of the Galaxy are back to doing what they do best: Ehrm, guard the, uhm, galaxy. Right? Anyway, things aren’t so different this time around with everyone – Quill (Chris Pratt) still loves himself and thinks everyone else does too; Gamora (Zoe Saldana) still can’t stand him, even though, deep down inside, she wants to maul him like a bear; Drax (Dave Bautista) is still saying uncomfortable things; Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) is, well, still being Groot, but just a baby; and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper), when he isn’t getting on everyone’s nerves, seems to be trying his hardest to prove himself as the best of the group. Basically, they’re still a rag-tag group of n’er do’wells who understand what they were put together to do, and while they don’t always get along, they like causing all sorts of havoc. And they get to do that, again, when they come face-to-face with a mysterious man named Ego (Kurt Russell) who, better yet, also happens to be Quill’s daddy. But yeah, there’s something off about him that just doesn’t sit right with the group and threatens to ruin them, as well as the galaxy, forever.

They’re Groot.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy was, honestly, one of the better Marvel movies to have come out in some time, for many reasons. One, it was just weird and so different, that yeah, it worked. It wasn’t trying to be like all of the other Marvel movies, it wasn’t trying to tie-in to anything, or anyone else, and it sure as hell wasn’t setting itself aside to make you feel pleased and as if you are a part of the joke. It was its own beast that, despite actually being a product of a huge, overly-budgeted conglomerate, felt like a bad-ass, smart, witty, and self-aware monster that wasn’t afraid to tell you where to shove it.

And some of that, unfortunately, seems to be gone with Vol. 2, however, it’s not nearly as soulless as you may think.

But such is the case with most big-budget, blockbuster sequels, everything that worked so well and felt fresh in the first, sadly, gets overdone here a bit too much. The humor, while still definitely funny, also feels like it hits some lame notes and is just forced for the sake of being humor; the character-stuff, while appreciated, often times feels meandering and as if it’s not deep enough as it likes to be; the plot, while simple and understandable in the first, sort of seems to be overly complicated and covered in exposition that, once again, doesn’t seem to go anywhere, or do much of anything; and oh yeah, the run-time. At a little under two-and-a-half-hours, Vol. 2 does feel long and it shouldn’t – it’s the kind of movie that should constantly zing and zag along, proving to be the most perfect diversion for anyone looking for some sort of action-adventure, pseudo-superhero fun.

And while it sort of is, the movie’s also very long and feels like there’s almost too much going on, without a clear end in sight. James Gunn is no doubt, a very talented writer and director, and is perfect for this material, but even he gets a tad bit carried away; the fact that there is literally five mid-credits sequences should already tell you enough about the length to which this movie goes on till and puts into itself. But then again, when you have a good product, is it a problem to go a little overboard?

In some cases, yes. And Vol. 2 is, as much as it pains me to say, one of those cases.

Then again, the movie’s still a good time, all things considered. It could have definitely done with some trimming in both the writing, the filming, and the editing department, but overall, it feels like a solid piece of its own pie that also, somehow, still exists in the Marvel universe. It still isn’t playing by any sort of pre-conceived rules and it still isn’t trying to please everyone, and for that, it deserves a whole heap of respect. That it’s also a very popular franchise in the first place and a clear money-maker for the already very wealthy Marvel, just goes to show you that there are people out there who will accept and reward creativity, even when that creativity is made for the billions and billions of people out there in the world to buy a ticket and see.

So yeah, Communism rules at the end of the day, right?

He’s Groot.

Anyway, Vol. 2 works well because, by now, we’ve gotten the origin-story out of the way and we can finally, thankfully, get to know who these characters are a bit more and dig in deep. While there’s some questionable character bits and pieces throughout, the bulk of them all work in helping us understand who these colorful cartoons actually are, identify with them a bit, sympathize with them, grow close to them, and oh yeah, also get a little worried and sad when their lives seem to be in danger.

Take, for instance, Michael Rooker’s Vondu who, in the first movie, was a stereotypical villain, with terrible-looking teeth, a mean, grizzled Southern accent, and oh yeah, Michael Rooker playing him. He seemed like a one-and-done kind of character, that would be easy window-dressing for the second, but somehow, he comes close to being the star of the show and with good reason; not only does he have something to offer, in terms of his meaning to the overall story, but he’s actually got a bigger heart and soul than you’d expect. I don’t just chalk this up to Gunn’s solid writing for him, but also Rooker playing to his strengths as an actor, where he’s able to be mean and dirty, but also kind of a softy once you get to know him.

Then again, what can’t Michael Rooker do nowadays? Seriously?

And he’s not just the only character who gets the spotlight a bit and watch it all pay-off. Everyone else from the first, as well as a few new inclusions, all get their time in the sun, and while it may originally seem like overkill, the final-act puts it all into perspective and makes us realize, oh wait, this is about everyone here. Not just Quill; not just Rocket; not just Baby Groot; not just Gamora; not just Drax; and definitely not just the Avengers – but everyone. Needless to say, there’s a final-act here that absolutely worked, as it not only brought tears to this cynical viewer’s eyes, but made me want to watch these characters more and not leave their sides.

They’re just too fun to be away from for so long.

Consensus: While the writing isn’t always there, Vol. 2 still works because of its fun, well-written and exciting characters, to go along with the beauty and excitement of the visuals and action.

7.5 / 10

Yup. We’re all Groot.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

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The Fate of the Furious (2017)

Can automobiles be family?

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has been living the good life since the events of the last film. He’s practically on vacation and thinking about starting up a family with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). But somehow, he turns to the dark side after an evil, somewhat vicious criminal mastermind named Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up and demands him to do all sorts of crimes for him. Obviously, it isn’t just Letty who feels betrayed, but also Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), and the rest of the gang. So, in order to stop Dominic from going any further into the dark, seedy world of crime and murder, they team back up with the government and try to stop him all at once. But this time, they’re going to get a little assistance from someone they haven’t been too fond of in the past: Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the man who hasn’t yet forgiven the family for what they had done to his own brother, but is willing to let bygones be bygones for the time being, just so that he can take down Cipher.

Uh oh. There must be a jabroni somewhere close by.

The last three Fast and Furious movies have been some of the best action movies in the past decade or so. They’ve upped the ante by becoming more and more ridiculous by the installment, while also never forgetting that what makes them so much in the first place is that they don’t ever try too hard to take themselves too seriously – the last movie definitely verged on getting way too dramatic for its own sake, but that was only because it was put in an awkward position of having to pay tribute to its star, Paul Walker. And from what it seems, the franchise will only continue to get more and more successful, the more and more insane it pushes itself to be.

Which is why the latest, Fate of the Furious, is a bit of a mixed-bag.

Don’t get me wrong, the action, the ridiculousness, and the sheer stupidity of it all is still here and in full-form, but at the same time, there’s something else keeping it away from being quite on-par with the past three installments and that all comes down to story. For one, no one goes to these movies for their well thought-out, interesting, and complex plots – they come for the action, the silliness, and most of all, the cars. People don’t care about who’s betraying who, for what reasons, and what sort of lessons can be learned from it all.

Of course, this being a Fast and Furious, it makes sense that we get a lot of lectures and discussions about family and what it means to stand by one another, but that’s to be expected and that’s not he problem. The real problem is that the movie takes way too long to get going, and when it does, it constantly starts and stops without ever knowing why. At nearly two-hours-and-16-minutes, Fate may be the longest installment so far (although, it could have been over two-and-a-half-hours, as previously reported), and at times, it feels like that; there’s so much downtime spent on plot and poorly-written sketches of characters, that it’s almost unnecessary. Having something resembling a plot is fine, because it’s what the past three have done, but Fate takes it up a notch in that it tries hard to give us a plot that’s harder to pin-down and far more detailed.

What a power-couple. Make it happen, real life.

But it didn’t have to be. We know it’s stupid and all filler, and so do they. So why are we getting all of this?

A good portion of that probably has to due to the fact that in lead-villain role, Charlize Theron gets to have a little bit of fun as Cipher, even if her character is so odd and random at times, it almost feels like anyone could have taken on the role. She’s your stereotypical villain in that she does bad stuff, for no exact reason, other than she’s a bad lady and can’t messed with. Once again, I’m not expecting anything more in a Fast and Furious movie, but the movie spends so much time on her, as she plays these silly mind games with Dominic and the gang, that it’s almost like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan themselves don’t even know the material they’re playing with.

Same goes for the rest of the ensemble who are, as expected, just a bunch of punchlines and a few paragraphs of things resembling characters. But hey, it’s fine, because they all work well with the goofy material and make us realize that it doesn’t matter. Is it odd watching without Paul Walker? Most definitely, but the gang more than makes up for the absence, by doubling down on the charm and excitement, with even Statham himself proving to be having the biggest ball of everyone.

Oh and yeah, the action’s still pretty great, when it happens.

Everything before and in between, honestly, is a bit boring, because it’s all a build-up, but when it does actually get there, it’s still wild, insane, and highly unrealistic, but who cares? Almost all action movies, in some way, shape, or form, take place in some fake, mythological world where real-life issues and consequences don’t matter, and nor should they. These are the Fast and Furious movies, not Shakespeare.

I just wish somebody told everyone else that.

Consensus: A little long and slow, Fate of the Furious still gets by on its crazy, hectic action, as well as its talented ensemble who prove to be perfectly equipped with this goofy material, no matter how far-fetched it all gets.

6.5 / 10

News team, assemble!

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Breakdown (1997)

Truck-drivers act as if they own the road and well, sometimes, they do.

A married-couple, Jeff and Amy Taylor (Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan), are leaving their regular lives from Boston, and moving to San Diego. Why? Well, I guess to get a fresh new start, but that all begins to change when they break down on the side of the road. Thinking that they’re going to be fine as long as Amy goes with a truck-driver (J.T. Walsh) to the local diner where she can call up for help and some movement, Jeff begins to get suspicious when she doesn’t come back for awhile. Now, Jeff who is all alone and without a clue in the world of what to do, decides to go out and look for her, and hopefully uncover clues and hints as to where she might be, and why the hell this kidnapping even occurred in the first place.

Sounds like a pretty standard thriller-plot, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. Nothing really flashy here in terms of writing, directing, or even the plot – just a normal and average thriller that actually happens to be pretty damn tense as well. It starts off with a mystery that we’re totally left in the dark with and for awhile, there’s a lot of questions surrounding what’s going to happen with this plot.

Yeah, it don't look pretty, now does it, Kurt?

Yeah, it don’t look pretty, now does it, Kurt?

Director Jonathan Mastow knows what he’s doing to craft this sometimes very tense thriller, but he puts us in the same exact position as our lead character, Jeff. Everything that Jeff sees, hears, feels, or even thinks, we see, hear, feel, and think along with him. It gives us a better way of feeling for this dude, but also get into his head a bit, as he continues to look down each and every alley-way, river, and desert for Amy, wondering just what the heck truly happened to her. Mastow’s interested more in making us wait, rather than throwing each and every plot twist or reveal at us and making us feel like we know what to expect next. But rather than taking that latter, lower-road, Mastow keeps us confused, puzzled, a bit worried, and altogether, very tense.

However, it works well for about a good hour or so, and then it all begins to fall apart once more and more ideas come to our attention. I don’t know if that’s more of Mastow’s fault, or just our own. Since we know what to expect from thrillers such as these, it becomes pretty clear just where this flick is going to go and how, which sets it more and more out of the realm of actual possibility, unlike the rest of the flick that seemed to make plenty of sense, as if it could happen to either you or me, on a good day at that. Once the plot gets going and we figure out what’s really brewing underneath the surface here, the movie begins to answer questions and show us situations that could only happen in a movie, rather than in real-life.

Gone way too soon. Seriously. There were so many more psychos to be portrayed!

Gone way too soon. Seriously. There were so many more psychos to be portrayed!

Then again, I’m cynical and it’s kind of hard not to be in certain situations such as these.

At least Kurt Russell was around to save the day and keep things more and more interesting, as more and more of his true colors began to come out. Russell is good at playing these bad-ass characters that take no names, no prisoners, and sure as hell do not let-up for anyone, and is still able to show that, even with the yuppie-act he’s given here. It is a tad hard to believe that somebody as rugged and tough-looking as Russell could be this soft, wimp-of-a-man that all of a sudden has a change of heart once the love of his life is captured, but he at least milks it for all that he can, without ever resorting to the usual, snarling one-liners we tend to hear with his characters. He’s less of an action-hero, and more of a regular-dude who’s been pushed a little bit too far off the edge and it’s time for someone to pay.

In one of his last film roles ever, J.T. Walsh shows exactly why he was the go-to guy you needed when you needed somebody to play a evil and psychotic villain here as the truck driver that captures Amy. Walsh is good at the beginning because he gives you this wholesome, likable feel that you could only get with the country buck, but then changes things up once the going gets good and the devil horns begin to grow. The character Walsh plays is very one-note, but at least Walsh keeps him interesting and entertaining to watch, making us expect that he’s going to fully come out of his shell and show off a real person, underneath all of the cheating, lying, murdering, and stealing. However, we don’t get that and at the end of the day, the guy’s just another bad dude, who lives in the middle of nowhere, and does bad things because he can, and I guess that’s scary enough as it is.

But still, I wanted more. Is that so much to ask for?

Consensus: Breakdown starts off with enough juice and gas to keep it moving at a steady-pace for it’s hour-and-a-half run-time, but eventually hits the breaks by the end when it gets too silly, too goofy, and way too conventional for it’s own good.

7 / 10

Is this the part of the movie where they turn around and are absolutely horrified by what's coming at them?

Is this the part of the movie where they turn around and are absolutely horrified by what’s coming at them?

Photos Courtesy of: JMount’s Written in Blood

Miracle (2004)

Who needs a college education when you could just defeat the Russians?

When college coach Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) is hired to helm the 1980 U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team, he can’t believe himself. At one stage, early in his playing-career, Herb was supposed to be on the same team, but was cut at the last second, making this opportunity seem like a second chance at success. While his wife (Patricia Clarkson) means that Herb won’t be quite the present husband for quite some time, she still supports him enough to where he can take the job and bring all of his hopes, dreams and aspirations to the young, talented whipper-snappers he has to work with. But Herb has a lot to deal with; the team is chock full of hot-heads who think they’re way better than they actually are, and in of their very first games, the team gets their rumps handed to them. So Herb decides to crank everything up a notch and put all of the guys through hell, even if they, as well as some faculty don’t fully support it. That said, Herb’s doing it all for a reason: To defeat the undefeated and incomparable Russian hockey team once and for all.

"Okay, so just get the puck in the net. Any questions?"

“Okay, so just get the puck in the net. Any questions?”

Miracle, on paper, seems like your traditional, syrupy, feel-good Disney sports flick where we know the heroes, the foes, the conflict, and the ending from the very first second of the flick. And on film, believe it or not, that’s actually how it all plays out, but there’s something more to it than just schmaltz and melodrama. Director Gavin O’Connor is smarter than just sitting down and shooting whatever is in front of him, so that he can collect that nice, big and hefty paycheck from the folks at Disney at the end of the day – a part of him feels and appreciates this true, inspirational tale.

And because of that, somehow, there’s more feeling and emotion to it all.

Sure, the movie is still conventional and hits every beat that a sports movie of this nature should indeed hit, but it hits them all so well, that they’re beats that are hardly noticeable. O’Connor does a lot with this sports genre, in that he has a lot of the conventions – like the supportive, but strict wife, or the training-montages, or the tough-as-nails-coach who isn’t loved by everyone, or the brassy, young talent who needs to be coached harder, etc. – and finds a way to put something behind them that allows for them to work. The fact that we already have a sense of nostalgia for this patriotic blend of America at the start of the 80’s sets in right away and hardly ever leaves, making Miracle feel like a cookie-cutter attempt at giving families “adult” entertainment, when in reality, it’s just a typical sports movie, disguised as something far more meaningful and honest.

If anything, it’s just a sports movie that does a nice job of surprising us, even if we know what’s going to happen. Most of that comes with Herb Brooks and Kurt Russell’s great performance of a simple and straightforward man who has a mission in his life, and will not at all stray away from whatever it takes to get him to achieve that dream. Brooks is a soft-spoken man, who has very little to say at all, but Russell does wonders with this kind of role in that he shows a hard, but passionate man who doesn’t seem to care what others may think or care about him – he just wants to win the gold, screw all of the haters. In a way, there’s something so incredibly awesome about that and the fact that O’Connor keeps the focus mainly on him, helps; we don’t normally get sports movies that take the coach over every other character, but here, it works well for the movie.

Uh, who?

Uh, who?

Then again, that does take away from the actual players themselves and, after awhile, does have them feel like a bunch of faceless “nothings”.

It’s admirable on O’Connor’s part to cast mostly unknown and inexperienced actors in these players’ roles, as it allows for us to see them as players, and not just famous dudes trying to play hockey, but he doesn’t help them out much. They don’t get a whole lot of development and the scenes in which they do get even a glimmer of any, they’re so poorly-done, it’s almost too obvious that it was a second-priority for O’Connor and writer Eric Guggenheim. Of course, anytime that the movie gets bored with these kids, it heads right back to the compelling Brooks, but it doesn’t help the movie’s case that it’s supposed to be about this one, miraculous team and all we really care about, or who we know the best and most, is probably the coach.

Once again, nothing wrong with that, but it also does take a whole lot more than just a very good coach, to win the gold.

Consensus: Even with the typical conventions of sports flicks firmly in-place, Miracle gets by on a tremendous performance from Kurt Russell, as well as a heart and emotion to the proceedings that make it feel more than just a soulless, big-budget retelling, destined for ESPN Films reruns.

7 / 10

If Kurt's happy, everyone's happy. It's just a fact of life.

If Kurt’s happy, everyone’s happy. It’s just a fact of life.

Photos Courtes

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

Live by the oil, die by the oil.

On April 20, 2010, an oil rig out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico exploded, leaving many oil riggers on board, dead, severely injured, and even worse, an insane amount of oil to fill up the ocean and wipe out a rather large chunk of the sea population. In this take on the true events, we get a glimpse into the life of one oil rigger, Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg), who is very dedicated to his wife (Kate Hudson), his family, and his job, which means that he is mostly concerned with making sure that each and every member of his crew is safe on board of the oil rig. However, issues arise when certain shareholders and powers that be within BP have some issues with the way the rig has been going as of late; so far, they’re past budget and feeling a lot of pressure from their bosses to get the oil out of this rig, as soon as possible, and by any means neccessary. Of course, this means actually testing the darn rig in the first place, which causes a whole lot of problems and, essentially, sets off the disaster that we’ve all come to know and, unfortunately, may never forget.

"No! I've got to save the day!"

“No! I’ve got to save the day!”

Peter Berg seems as if he’s become the perfect, go-to guy for these true, fact-based tales about hard-working men and women being, well, hard-workers and facing death straight in the face, even when any normal person in their situation would run away and scream for their lives. Berg likes to make tributes to these people and honestly, it’s an admirable task that he has on his hands; he chooses to make movies about the stories that do actually matter and deserve to be told, to a larger audience who may not know the story as is, or exactly what happened. And because of that, another movie in his wheelhouse, like Deepwater Horizon, not only feels like a solid step in the right direction, but hopefully a sign of better things to come with Patriots Day, a film about the Boston bombings that comes out later this year.

Does it really matter though? No, not really. But if anything, a movie like Deepwater Horizon proves Berg to be one of the better directors out there today, but we just don’t know it yet. He’s not necessarily a flashy director, showing off all of the neat and unusual skills that he learned in film-classes or from his peers, nor does he ever seem to be the kind of director who has a statement to make with every flick he directs, with the exception of, of course, showing us that there are average, everyday people like you or I that could be, essentially, heroes. Sure, it’s a little cheesy and melodramatic, but it still works because Berg doesn’t lay it all on thick, as opposed to directors like Spielberg and, oh lord, Michael Bay seem to do.

No offense, Berg. You’re no Spielberg and you’re sure as hell no Michael Bay.

That said, Berg does a nice job with this material as he presents a story that most of us seem to know by now and still, somehow, some way, make it all compelling and tense. There comes a certain point about halfway through the film in which Berg has set everything up that he needs to set up – location, the characters, their relationship to one another, the central conflict of the movie, and why any of this matters in the first place, etc. – and just lets it all spin completely out of control. While that may sound like a bad thing, it works in Berg’s favor; he truly does get put in the heads of these men and women aboard this oil rig and makes us feel as if we are actually there, experiencing all of the carnage and havoc for what they are, which is disastrous.

Sure, you could make the argument that Berg goes a tad bit overboard with it, in the way that he went a little nuts about the soldiers in Lone Survivor breaking all of the bones in their body, but it makes you feel closer to this whole situation. While Berg is trying to tell us a story, he’s not trying to sensationalize anything, either, no matter how many explosions or high-flying acts he lets run wild; he’s respectful of the story itself, but isn’t afraid to also show what the sort of hell it may have been like on-board of that oil rig that day.

Trust the 'stache. It may save your life.

Trust the ‘stache. It may save your life.

Man, and to think that J.C. Chandor was the original director for this.

Regardless, Berg’s recreation of everything here is tense and unpredictable the whole way through, even if, yeah, we know exactly how everything goes down. All that matters most is actually being drawn in by these characters and the cast, which Berg allows for even more. Wahlberg has become something of his muse as of late (he’s starring in Patriots Day), and the two seem to handle each other quite well; Berg allows for Wahlberg to be his macho-self, while also still giving him a sense of vulnerability that makes us see a true human being, stepping up and being a hero of sorts. Berg also gets a lot of mileage out of some really talented actors like Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Dylan O’Brien, Gina Rodriguez, and a whole slew of others, but never feels like he’s shorting anyone, at any particular time. Malkovich’s BP member may seem like your typical Malkovich-villain, loud-screaming and all, but there’s a little something more to him than just being a savage-like prick who doesn’t care about the cost of human life when compared to the cost of his shares.

That said, the note that Deepwater Horizon ends on is an admirable one. Berg shows us, in small, relatively subtle ways, that our world is incredibly reliant on oil. While Berg doesn’t ever get the chance to stand on his soapbox and preach, he still shows us that this is what can happen when the danger of more profit and more reliability is out there in the world. Sure, he’s not necessarily asking you to get rid of your cars and start walking/riding bikes, but he’s also asking us to take a second look at what we do with our normal lives and most importantly, just how much we spend when we go to the pump.

Especially to BP.

Consensus: Tense, thrilling, emotional, and believe it or not, exciting, Deepwater Horizon is another true tale from Peter Berg that not only ups the ante on the explosions and deadliness of the situation he’s portraying, but one that’s got something to say and isn’t totally concerned with just blowing stuff up for the sake of it all.

8 / 10

"Coach? I've got a bad feeling about this."

“Coach? I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Hateful Eight (2015)

Next time a blizzard comes, stay away from the cabin with the most assassins.

In post-Civil War Wyoming, John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) escorts fugitive Daisy “The Prisoner” Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to Red Rock, where she’ll be hung for committing all sorts of evil murders and crimes over the years. However, along the way, they encounter a bounty hunter by the name of Major Marquis “The Bounty Hunter” Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also heading out to Red Rock to get money for a few criminals he killed himself. Ruth allows for Warren to hop aboard, but they soon realize that a deadly blizzard is coming their way. With this information known, they decide to hold out in a little comfortable and cozy cabin where everybody knows and loves called “Minnie’s Haberdashery”. There, the three meet a few shady, but altogether, colorful characters who may, or may not, be up to any good or actually be who they appear to be. There’s Bob “The Mexican” (Demián Bichir), who claims to be one of Minnie’s helpers, even though they’re nowhere to be found; Chris “The Sheriff” Mannix (Walton Goggins), claims to be the soon-to-be sheriff of Red Rock; Oswaldo “The Little Man” Mobray (Tim Roth), is another one who claims to be the soon-to-be hangman of Red Rock; Joe “The Cow Puncher” Gage (Michael Madsen), claims to be just a lonely ol’ cowboy looking to spend the holidays with his mommy; and ex-General Sanford “The Confederate” Smithers (Bruce Dern), well, doesn’t claim to be much of anyone. He’s just holding out and waiting for this storm to pass, which is what everyone else seems to be doing, until it becomes clear that someone is up to no good and needs to be taught a lesson.

Sort of bad-ass.

Sort of bad-ass.

Quentin Tarantino makes the sort of movie he wants. Nobody’s going to tell him “no”, nor will anyone tell him “how” – they’ll just hand him a bunch of money, plenty of freedom, and see what happens. Due to this, his movies can tend to sometimes feel overlong and excessive, which is why, when it turned out that the Hateful Eight was going to be over three hours, with a short, 10-to-12 minute intermission, automatically, most people will be turned off, as well as they should.

However, here’s the funny thing about the Hateful Eight – it’s actually pretty deserving of its three hour run-time.

Much of this is due to the fact that Tarantino doesn’t try to, in any sort of way, shape, or fashion, rush the plot here – instead, he takes his time to give us those delicate, but juicy character-moments we oh so appreciate and adore from someone as immensely talented as he is. Nobody really breaks into a conversation that feels useless, unnecessary, or unneeded – everybody here has a reason to talk about what they want to talk about and, honestly, it’s hard to not be intrigued by them right away. After all, this is Tarantino’s dialogue and as is the case with Tarantino’s dialogue, it’s punchy, fun, energetic and most importantly, exciting. The issues that have chased Tarantino since the beginning of his career in that his characters speak in that heightened sense that no other normal human would speak in, may still be here, but honestly, who gives a hoot?

It’s Quentin Tarantino! You know exactly what you’re going to get, as soon as you walk into one of his movies.

And even though most of the promotion and hype surrounding this movie has been about the fact that it’s filmed and presented in 70 mm, the real kicker here is that, aside from at least 20-25 minutes of wide landscape shots at the beginning, middle, end and sporadically throughout, the majority of the movie takes place solely in this one room. The movie looks great to begin with, as we’d expect from Tarantino, but the reason why the 70 mm matters so much in a story like this is because it gives you a greater sense of just how confined and stuck these characters are; while it may appear that there’s a great big world for these characters to go outside and venture out into just in case they have to, because there’s a deadly blizzard going on right outside, they are all stuck with one another.

Which, as you could probably guessed, leads to plenty of scenes where characters talk to one another, get on each other’s nerves, and come pretty damn close to killing the other. This is, of course, all terrific and great to listen to, adding more of a sense of intensity and suspense to the chilly air of that Tarantino, as well as his terrific ensemble create. Any lesser director/writer would have been bored with this one room setting and decided to take their movie elsewhere and jump around a bit, but Tarantino knows and understands the sheer power there is in watching a bunch of heavy-hitting actors stand around a room, watch one another, and get ready for the other shoe to eventually drop.

And when that shoe drops, well, it’s pretty crazy, violent, and gory, but still all so pleasing.

However, at the same time, there’s also that annoying feeling that perhaps Tarantino loses himself a slight bit here. For one, the intermission that takes place is perfect because it sets up a whole other movie, with a whole other tone and feeling altogether. It’s a smart decision on Tarantino’s behalf, but what he does with this second-half is, sadly, a bit disappointing; though the movie doesn’t necessarily feel long, there’s a 20-minute sequence that, in hindsight, didn’t really need to be included at all. Without saying too much, it’s a sequence that takes us a tad away from the current on-goings of the plot and instead, give us another view to look at the story; while it’s a tricky device that Tarantino uses well, it still doesn’t seem like it needed to be included at all.

As an audience-member, it was already easy enough to connect the dots as is, so why is there the need to explain certain plot-elements even further than what’s already needed?

And this matters because, right after this point is where the Hateful Eight started to feel like a bit of a retread of what Tarantino has done many times before and, mostly, better. There are still certain ways that Tarantino keeps this plot moving in an efficient manner, but by the same token, he also seems to be utilizing the same sort of twists and turns we’ve seen him roll with before and, honestly, it’s a bit of a shame. This isn’t to say that Tarantino misses the mark here, but considering that the bar has been raised so high in the past few years with Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, really, anytime it feels like Tarantino isn’t fully giving his all, can definitely be a problem.

Kind of bad-ass.

Kind of bad-ass.

This is all to say that the Hateful Eight definitely isn’t Tarantino’s best, but also isn’t to say that it’s his worst, either.

It’s just that it’s very good, yet, also feels like it’s destined for something far, far better than what it ends up being.

Through it all though, the ensemble, as expected, works perfectly. Though it did disappoint me a tad bit to see a lot of familiar faces show up to work with Tarantino again here, it still doesn’t matter because they’re all so great as is. Samuel L. Jackson continues to get his meatiest roles from Tarantino and as Major Marquis Warren, he gets to show us a man who has been through it all in life and isn’t afraid to get violent when he needs to; Kurt Russell is having a blast as John Ruth, someone who seems to have a decent-enough heart, but is also just as savage as the rest; Tim Roth is joyously fun as Oswaldo, someone who seems way too cheery to be a hangman; Michael Madsen is, once again, cool and stoic as Joe Gage; and Bruce Dern, playing the ex-General of this story, is wise and grizzled, but also adds enough depth to this character that he feels like more than just “the old man of the story”.

As for the newcomers, they’re all amazing, too and show why they were perfectly picked by Tarantino to deliver his sometimes challenging, but altogether lovely dialogue. Demián Bichir, despite playing what appears to be just “the Mexican”, also seems like there’s more to him that he’s not letting on and it’s cool to see someone like Bichir, play both mysterious, as well as funny; Channing Tatum shows up in a small-ish role, too here, and does a fine enough job that it makes me definitely want to see him appear in more Tarantino flicks; and even though he already appeared in Tarantino’s Django, Walton Goggins is electric as Chris Mannix, the supposed-sheriff who we may not be able to trust, but because he’s sometime so stupid and naive, it’s almost like he’s telling the truth.

However, the true star of this cast, believe it or not, is actually the sole woman of the main cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh.

As Daisy Domergue, Leigh does a lot of standing around, staring and looking as if she’s up to no good and nine times out of ten, that’s pretty much the case. While we’re told that she’s as bad-ass and as dangerous as any of the other men surrounding her, Leigh still shows that through her odd, occasionally hilarious performance. Though she may appear to be nothing more than just a basket case, there’s something about Domergue that, underneath it all, still seems present and this is perhaps the main factor that keeps this character interesting, as well as compelling. Domergue, just like every other character here, is a total mystery to us and while we may never know what to expect next from them, we sure as hell know it’s not going to be an act of kindness. And that’s why Leigh, who we haven’t seen much of in the past few years, is absolutely brilliant in this role, giving it all that she’s got, but at the same time, still seeming like she’s not really trying at all, either.

Consensus: Though the Hateful Eight isn’t Tarantino’s best, it is still fun, well-acted and compelling enough to keep everything moving at a fine pace, even despite the three-hour long run-time.

8.5 / 10

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Totally bad-ass. Back off, boys.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Furious 7 (2015)

People can be violent, but cars are nearly worse.

The gang’s all back, but this time, it’s personal! Soon after their buddy is killed by a notorious thug by the name of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) – a brother of one of their former foes – Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) realize that it’s time to get vengeance in the only way they know best. But before doing so, they get a proposition from a special agent (Kurt Russell): Help him retrieve a piece of spy software from a terrorist (Djimon Hounsou) and he will more than make sure that Dom, Brian and the rest of the crew get that sweet taste of revenge that they’ve been clamoring for after all of this time has passed. However, there are other problems going on from within the group where Dom can’t seem to get Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to remember their past together for what it was, nor can Brian seem to tear himself away from the wacky, wild life of crime that’s always attracted him for so long, even if he’s know settled-down with a wife (Jordana Brewster) and kid. Will the crew stay fast? Furious? Or neither?

So yeah, already going into this installment, there’s plenty to be discussed. With the tragic passing of Paul Walker nearly a-year-and-a-half ago, everything that was initially planned for Furious 7, from the release date, to the plot, were all scrapped and made anew. Which makes total sense. Walker wasn’t some sort of bit player in this franchise that showed up every so often to utter some witty line that would get the whole crowd laughing at how likable he is; he was, literally, the heart and soul of this franchise. Without him, it probably wouldn’t have gone on for as long as it has, which is both a blessing and a curse.

And they're not beating the hell out of each other, because.......?

And they’re not beating the hell out of each other, because…….?

A curse because the movie’s are dumb, over-the-top, ridiculous, and represent everything that is wrong with American’s society of masculinity. On the flip-side, though, it’s also a blessing because these movies, at least in the case for the last three installments, are so much fun, seem to never lose sight of just how illogical they are, and hardly ever apologize for it. Fast & Furious movies aren’t supposed to be taken seriously, and that’s where the real charm lies.

Hence why Paul Walker, all of his acting talents aside, was perfectly-suited for this franchise, no matter what it threw at him, or where it threw him.

With that being said, Furious 7 is a pretty raucous time. While I may not be saying anything new that hasn’t already been uttered by millions and millions of people from around the world, there’s still something interesting to note about a franchise in which the movies seem to constantly get better and one-up the one that came before it. Fast Five started this trend of the franchise going towards more action-fare, rather than just making it all about hot cars, hot men, hot women, and hot bodies, and the sixth film absolutely went for it all and, for the most part, came out on top.

While Furious 7 may not be better than the sixth movie, it’s still pretty damn close because it never forgets what it is: A mindless piece of action-fare that audiences will pay dozens of dollars for. Though this sounds easy (because, quite frankly, Michael Bay’s been doing it for the past two decades now), looking at some films, it’s actually not. Last year’s utterly forgettable and boring Need for Speed tried so desperately to pull-off the same sort of magic that the Fast franchise has been pulling off for quite some time and it failed miserably. That movie wanted to be silly, insane and ludicrous beyond belief, whereas the Fast movies are exactly that, but they don’t ever seem to be trying.

Not to mention that they actually do feature a dude a named Ludacris.

But because Furious 7 knows what it’s all about, it doesn’t try to pretend it’s something it isn’t. Though there are a chock-full of scenes dedicated to these thinly-written, one-dimensional characters breaking down all sorts of barriers and getting dramatic with one another, these scenes are quickly dismissed as soon as they show up. Also, too, it makes sense that we need at least some sort of character-development to help make things seem fully rounded-out and not just *crash*, *bang*, *boom* all of the darn time. While this would have been fun, let’s be realistic here: No movie franchise with its seventh-installment is going to totally shelve its characters for their beyond-nuts action sequences.

Just get used to it and move on. That’s what I did and it worked well.

It worked well because, once I realized that every problem these characters had didn’t really matter much in the grander scheme of things, the action just got a whole lot better and more exciting. Though you’d think these movies would have already run-out of ideas on how to set-up action sequences and still, somehow, be able to utilize automobiles in some sort of fashion, director James Wan proves you damn wrong. With scenes depicting cars flying through the sky with parachutes and even scenes where cars go flying through three buildings, this franchise continues to give us something new and fun to feast our eyes and ears onto.

Not a Rock Bottom, but it'll do.

No Rock Bottom, but it’ll do.

And honestly, the sky is the limit from here on out. No matter how many times this movie tries to break actual science, it won’t lose any bit of respect because the rules have already been set-in place: There are no rules. Cars can literally fly through the sky; people can literally shoot their guns till the cows come home and never run out of ammunition; jets can literally glide around downtown LA without there being hardly any interference from the Army of any sort. Literally, anything can happen in these movies and because of that, they never lose an ounce of momentum; they just continue to build up and up on it some more until it feels like, you know, we may have had enough adrenaline for one day.

And really, the same rules apply to the characters, as well. Like I said before, none of these characters here are inherently interesting or well-written, but they exist in a universe that loves them all so very much, that it’s hard to look down upon them for being “types”. Like the movies they exist in, you just accept them for what they are, let them do their thing and move on.

It’s quite easy, really.

Meaning, when you accept them, you have to accept Vin Diesel’s garbled growling; Michelle Rodriguez’s resting bitch face; Dwayne Johnson to be wearing Under Amour every time he is on-screen and trying so hard not to break kayfabe; Jordana Brewster just being “there”; Ludacris and Tyrese to be the goofy sidekicks that everyone can rely on for comedy and not really anything serious to contribute to the plot; and, most of all, Paul Walker’s ability to just be the “everyman” in every scene he’s in. Because even though newcomers to this franchise like Tony Jaa, Djimon Hounsou, Nathalie Emmanuel, Ronda Rousey, Kurt Russell, and especially, a deliciously evil Jason Statham all acquit themselves perfectly into this movie, strut their stuff and show us what they’re more than able to bring to the creative table, it’s Walker who still leaves the most lasting impression. He isn’t trying to, either – he just is.

And somehow, there’s a small bit of beauty in that.

Consensus: Like every other installment of the franchise, Furious 7 is as ridiculous and nonsensical as you can get, but still a whole bunch of fun, treating fans to everything that they could ever want with one of these movies, and then some, especially with the emotional tribute to Paul Walker – the one true face of this franchise.

8 / 10

Ride on, brotha.

Ride on, brotha.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Death Proof (2007)

Never trust a dude that can rev it up to over 150, and still collect retirement checks.

Kurt Russell stars as a Hollywood stuntman named Stuntman Mike. He’s cool, lean, mean, drives a sexy, muscle car, looks as fly as can be, and is also very quick to the point. Whenever he walks into a joint, he’s the coolest mofo there, if not the most mysterious as well. However, what most people don’t know about him is that he’s a raging sociopath that goes out of his way to kill beautiful, innocent women on the road with his sexy, muscle car and is finding more and more victims of his to prey on. But not all of the ladies he is on the hunt for are going to stand down from a fight.

That plot synopsis up above may make this movie seem like a pretty straight-forward, slasher flick that doesn’t really deserve the light of day, let alone the light of a movie theater. However, what may change your mind as quick as possible is the fact that it’s written and directed by none other than Mr. Crazy Genius himself: Quentin Tarantino. And if you know Tarantino like I do, you know that nothing he does is ever straight-forward. Thank the Movie Gods for that!

All of those 70’s exploitation flicks that had to do with fast guns, faster cars, and even faster women, are the perfect examples of what Tarantino’s trying to do here. And yes, obviously that style is going to be over-the-top and a bit dated in spots, but it’s Tarantino, and when the guy wants to make a movie, in whichever way possible, you can’t help but come along for the ride too and just share his same sense of joy and pleasure. Since this is Tarantino’s attempt at trying to recapture, or for lack of a better word, “recreate” the same style as those before him, he uses a lot of the trademarks where the camera has little rips and tears throughout, making you feel as if you are sent right back into to the golden years, into those little, rinky-dink theaters that used to carry these unapologetically dumb movies around in order to find it’s audience. After awhile though, it starts to feel like a gimmick, which is why you can sort of tell that Tarantino gets bored with it as well as he changes things up around the second, and in my opinion, a lot more interesting second-half.

"Wanna go for a ride, TO HELL!!!!"

“Wanna go for a ride? The destination being HELL!!!”

However, before we even get to that second-half of the movie, we get to see Tarantino work his magic in a slow, melodic movement that sets the pace for the rest of the movie. Instead of popping out with guns ‘a blazin’ and blood shootin’ out of everywhere, Tarantino begins this film in a quiet, almost relaxed pace where we get to see these female characters talk one another, just like normal females would actually talk to each other. Now, I’m not sure that all girls out there in real-world talk as interestingly and witty as Tarantino makes them out to be here, but they still have conversations about the same topics as most women do like men, sex, food, and partyin’ it up. But Tarantino scripts it all in a way that you want to hear these gals talk it up and it almost doesn’t matter that it goes on for about 30 minutes at a time with barely little to no action to be seen. It’s very interesting and fun to hear them just speak about whatever the topic of discussion is, and somehow, makes us care for them a wee bit more especially when shit hits the fan.

And do trust me on that: Shit does in fact hit the fan here.

Although Tarantino’s dialogue doesn’t seem to miss a single beat with any of these characters, the action is what really takes the second-half and makes it the adrenaline-fueled experience I was expecting to see, but didn’t quite get until it totally blind-sided me out of nowhere. What I loved so much about the action bits here, is that they all felt really old-school, but in a way that wasn’t forced or trying too hard, but in a way that felt natural. The cars in this movie look great and make you really want to go out there and try your hand at a couple of 70’s-era muscle cars yourself. Then again though, they wouldn’t be of any use whatsoever if it wasn’t for the awesome car-chases that take over this flick, especially in the last half-hour. And when I mean the last half-hour, I mean: THE LAST HALF-HOUR.

What separates the car-chases in this movie, from the ones that we usually see in big-budget, action galore-fests, is that they feel necessary to the plot and these characters. Every character in this movie talks about their love and fondness of cars and how they love to get wild when they’re in and driving them, so that when they get on the roads and start going 90 mph down the freeway, you feel like it’s believable, as if they really do enjoy driving in these cars, at these very high speeds. And even the car-chases themselves get you going at a high-speed where you really feel like these are real people, driving real cars, on real roads, and actually have the fear of death in their minds while they’re at it. These scenes reminded me a lot of the one in Bullitt, where it just felt like it was actually happening, without any add-ons like unbelievable CGI or anything of that crappy nature. It gave me fear for these characters in the pit of my stomach, but even worse, it made me scared for myself the next time I get myself behind the wheel because I know that staying below 80, would be a little too hard.

But, even though this film kept me entertained, alive, and well for the most part, there was still something that I felt was missing from the product as a whole. I don’t really know what it was about this movie that just didn’t “get me” as much as all of Tarantino’s other flicks do, but it’s almost like the feeling wasn’t here as much as there is when he does something like Kill Bill or Inglorious Basterds, aka two passion-projects of his that he lets you never forget about, not even in a single-frame. Here, you can tell that he has some feeling and interest for what he’s displaying on-screen, but the passion and love just isn’t all there that much. Almost feels like he went through the motions in what he thought was cool, but didn’t want to get too carried away as he probably is saving them for a later film idea that he has brewing around in his crazy-ass head. Still love the guy, though. I always have to give him that.

THE FEET!! THE FEET!!

THE FEET!! THE FEET!!

Even though some of the feeling for this whole film may not be around, you can still tell that the cast has that feeling, and all do great jobs with what they’re given. This is probably the first time that Kurt Russell has ever went out there and been a straight-up baddie, but since he is a baddie in a Tarantino flick, he’s obviously not going be your typical, scenery-chewing a-hole where you can tell what he’s going to do, every second of the way. See, Russell plays around with this role a lot as he’s very mysterious, strange, creepy, charming, but also, a bit of a bitch when it comes right down to it and by the end, you’ll start to see that more and more. It’s an awesome performance from Russell that shows that the guy can still knock-out iconic pieces of work, no matter how old he gets.

All of the gals in this movie are great, but the one that really took me by surprise would have to stunt-woman Zoe Bell, playing, well, stunt-woman Zoe Bell. If you’ve never seen Bell in anything else before, don’t be ashamed, because you shouldn’t. The girl has never really been in front of the screen to where you can see her face and has been doing stunts for quite awhile, but here is where that all changed a bit. Here, Tarantino gives her more than she expected with a role that displays an endearing sense of charm and likability to her that works and makes me think about all of the other stunt-men and women out there that have to constantly be in films where they aren’t shown doing anything, other than pulling-off some pretty sick stunts. Maybe they like that, but then again, maybe some of them out there have some real, effin’ charm that needs to be seen, in order to be believed.

Consensus: Death Proof is certainly not anywhere near being Tarantino’s best, but still features plenty of his trademarks that make it a great flick and never seem to get old, even if the film itself is trying to set that example with the grungy, 70’s-look that can get a bit gimmicky and unnecessary at times. That said, it’s way better than Planet Terror.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

And Dom Toretto thinks he's all that and a bag of chips.

And Dom Toretto thinks he’s all that and a bag of chips.

To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Planet Terror, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/planet-terror-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Planet Terror (2007)

Muscle cars > zombie apocalypse.

Not all small towns get along, but especially this one that seems to be located somewhere in the heart of Texas. And just to make matters worse, they’re thrown up against the wall and supposed to fight off a ward of zombies after an odd, toxic biochemical is released onto them. Why? They don’t quite know yet, except for maybe the government may be involved. However, they can’t, and they won’t worry too much about it because they have bigger fish to fry. Or should I just say: Bigger “zombies” to fry? Yeah, it’s corny, but that’s what I’m going for!

The idea of having a chick having an M4 carbine assault-rifle for a leg is probably one of the dumber one’s out there, even as cool as it may sound. That is, unless, you’re a character in a Robert Rodriguez movie, then it makes it perfect sense because you’re just another part of his crazy, insane puzzle that never seems to end inside that guy’s head. And that’s not a complaint at all. I like what Rodriguez brings to the table, whether it be weird, straight-laced, or something new he’s trying out. However, when he’s supposed to be back in his “original form” and is going up against non other than Mr. Quentin Tarantino himself; he can’t help but feel tame in comparison.

Its just what happens when you go toe-to-toe with an even bigger nut, if that’s even imaginable.

"Walking Dead who?"

Walking Dead who?”

But, despite whoever you put Rodriguez up against in a movie, no matter what: The guy always knows how to have fun with his stories and direction, and it is no different here. It’s obvious that this is a mesh between the George A. Romero zombie-flicks, and the eerie, horror movies from John Carpenter, but it seems like Rodriguez is doing more than just an homage, and actually expanding on his own story, with his own quirks and trademarks thrown in there for a great deal as well. The guy lets loose on what we all know and love about him; people get shot-up to oblivion, body-parts come flying out of nowhere, corny-lines are exchanged, and distorted colors seem to make everything on-display trippier. Basically, everything you expect to see from a “Robert Rodriguez zombie flick” happens and is seen here. For that reason, it’s very fun and will keep your eyes alive on the screen for quite some time, even when it seems like Rodriguez is maybe going a little too “nutso” with his own material. Then again, he’s a film maker and he’s allowed to, so who the hell am I to judge?

But what I think ruins Rodriguez and his flick as a whole, is that when it’s stacked-up to Tarantino’s Death Proof, it really pales in comparison. Now, in a way, Death Proof and Planet Terror are both different from one another. Death Proof is a bit serious with its subtle-approach and as a result, feels very down-played, whereas Planet Terror goes absolutely gung-ho with it’s story and never loses it’s pace; Proof is very dialogue-heavy, with lines that are as witty as you’re going to get, whereas Terror has some of the cheesiest lines you’re ever going to hear, but it’s on-purpose; Proof is more about the tension, dialogue, and characters, whereas Terror is all about the action, blood, and violence. See, as much as the two stories may have in common with one another, you can’t help but notice how different they are as well. Whether or not that was deliberate on both of these guy’s parts is totally left up in the air, but I think that’s where this flick hits a hard-place. Or at least Rodriguez does, anyway.

Maybe because I’m speaking from my own point-of-view, my problems with this flick may be a bit biased, but when it comes right down to it: Tarantino is just more talented than Rodriguez in the long-run. Some may call that a no-brainer and some may not, but what I do know is that I feel like Tarantino has a lot more resilience when it comes to the movies that he wants to do and why, where as Rodriguez is a little too random and sporadic. Also, Tarantino has never done a Spy Kids movie so maybe that’s where the sake of the argument lies as well. But I digress.

So yes, both sort of have the same styles in how they let their movies play-out and even tell their own stories as well, but in the end, Tarantino just has something more to him that’s attention-grabbing and as interesting, as anything that Rodriguez has ever really done. Now, I’m not saying that anything Rodriguez has done in his career isn’t good by any means necessary, but Tarantino just has something about him and his movies that make you want to go out there, start writing on a piece of paper, and start making your own movies. In a way, Rodriguez’s films can do that as well, but Tarantino is the automatically first guy I think about when it comes to inspirations/favorite directors.

Fairly uncomfortable I'd suppose, considering he "assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg" situation.

Fairly uncomfortable I’d suppose, considering he “assault-rifle-instead-of-actual-leg” situation.

Aside from that whole “Rodriguez vs. Tarantino” rant, the reason why Planet Terror just isn’t as good as I would have liked for it to have been was because it’s stacked-up against something that Tarantino did, and that movie’s name is Death Proof. Granted, Proof was no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but it kept me alive, intrigued, and best of all, entertained the whole time; whereas with this flick, I felt myself, as well as itself, just meander along and didn’t really offer me anything new that I haven’t already seen done 100 times before in other, and sometimes, “better” zombie movies. That’s not to say that this flick isn’t any fun at all, because trust me: It is. Its just is a time-burner for the sake of being a time-burner and there’s nothing else to it other than that. Kind of disappointing when you think how this is by the same guy who did From Dusk Till Dawn, among many others, but I guess that’s what happens when you go up against a guy who’s won Best Original Screenplay more than once.

Where this film does feel a lot like a Tarantino movie, is in it’s characters that are goofy, wild, and fun as hell to watch. Rose McGowan fits perfectly as Cherry, the ex-stripper/wanna-be comedienne, because of her physical presence (her early strip-scene is one of the hottest openings I’ve seen in a long, long time), and her comedic-timing is actually pretty good which makes the whole idea of her being a “stand-up comedienne” seem pretty convincing. Freddy Rodríguez is alright as Wray, Cherry’s bad-boy, and does what he can but comes off as a bit of a stiff dude, without any real presence on-screen. Most of that screen-presence is used very well by steadied-pros like Michael Biehn, Josh Brolin, and even a short, but lovable cameo from Bruce Willis. A pretty stacked-cast and everybody kicks it pretty hard here, but its a real surprise to me that the only one who really comes out on-top is Kurt Russell. And hell, that guys from a whole other movie!

Consensus: Robert Rodriguez injects Planet Terror with his signature style of goofy, over-the-top, wild fun that we all like to see in all of his movies, but can’t really stand-up against Tarantino’s far better, more interesting piece of work known as Death Proof. Sorry Robert. Quentin’s just more of a crazier son of a bitch than you are when it comes right down to it.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Don't worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds."

“Don’t worry, I got enough money to work for 5 seconds.”

To check out my buddy Brandon’s review of the other part of Grindhouse, Death Proof, go on over to http://bkstareviews.blogspot.com/2013/08/death-proof-movie-review.html and let him know what you think! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Stargate (1994)

Let’s just stay in this universe and not fuck anything up. Thanks.

Prof. Daniel Jackson (James Spader) believes there is more to our humanity but yet, nobody will care to listen to him because they feel as if he is just another nut with a microphone, and a head that’s a bit too big for his britches. That said, somebody takes notice to this freak-o and makes him apart of a secret mission to uncover an ancient portal known as the Stargate. Along with a couple of soldiers, lead by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), they take a trip through this other dimension to see what’s shaking and baking and the answers they come up with are sure as hell not pretty.

We can all come to terms with the fact that Roland Emmerich isn’t the type of guy we can expect to see new-bread, highly-intellectual classics from, but at least we can expect one thing from him no matter what the story may be that he is tackling: fun, fun, and more fun. That’s all there is to it with Emmerich and even though Godzilla pissed almost everybody and their Chinese relatives off, and 2012 didn’t quite predict the future so well, at least the guy had fun with it, right? I’d say yes, but then again, I’m usually a sucker for these movies that don’t lose their enjoyment, no matter how stupid or idiotic they may actually get. This movie is the one where I drew the line with Emmerich and all of his stupidity that follows.

What I’m about to say is probably going to lose me a lot of street-cred but hey, so be it. The problem with this movie, right from the start, was that it was just so damn terribly boring, almost to the point of where I was actually contemplating turning it off, checking out another movie, and acting as if this one never came anywhere near me or my mind. I was very, very close to doing this but sadly, I stuck with it and it rarely ever got better for me. Emmerich tries his hardest by building up a story, showing us all the details, but also trying to leave some out for good fun, but it’s almost too much to where we don’t even feel like we know what the hell is going on at all.

Cool cut though.

Fresh cut though.

We get that these guys have to go to a different dimension, look for species, figure shit out, and take notes down, but that’s about it. Oh, and need I forget to tell you that Russell’s character has actually been given the direct order to bring a bomb with him and detonate it whenever he senses danger on this other universe. You know, a universe that may have human-beings alive on it and other materials that may be useful for the world we live in. Nope, just blow that shitty place up and act like it was all good in a hard day’s work. Because let’s face it, that’s what the military does, right?

That aspect of this movie seemed really stupid, but I was willing to drop my pants and my brain for a healthy-dosage of fun and entertainment, and I barely even got that. The first half of this movie is simply dedicated to these dudes running around this strange land, being acquainted with the natives, and trying to figure out what the hell is up with this land, even if there isn’t really anything wrong with it in the first place. This all plays out as if it was a shitty, low-budget remake of Dances with Wolves, but instead of having Navajo natives, they got these weird, slightly-colored people to speak total gibber and gabber, and consider that a “foreign language”. Seriously? That’s the best you could come up? Give me a damn break!

Don’t worry though, because it does get worse. As soon as the problems do actually show their faces, the movie still continues to make no sense as to why this person they have to face-off against is evil, why the hell he cares about these dudes showing up on their land, and just what does it all mean in the grand scheme of things. Sure, you could probably say that I was looking for a little bit too much in something that was just a typical, sci-fi yarn, but when a movie that is so focused and hell-bent on describing it’s ideas, plot, and exposition, I at least expect there to be some sort of reasonable explanation to it all. Not a whole lot, but just some, and this movie just never gave me that nor did it do anything to excite me. A couple of action scenes here and there fly by, but that’s about it and something felt like Emmerich just wanted to cut-loose, get crazy, and start blowing the shit out of random things like people, pyramids, and most of all, hairy monsters that are just there for show.

If there was any hope in this movie that it wouldn’t be the total shit-box I was expecting of it to be, it was at least that the cast could save the day, and apparently even that was asking way too much. James Spader is a very talented actor that can usually make any type of role work, but he just is so nerdy, so gullible, and so spazzy, that it gets to a point of where it’s annoying. I didn’t look at this guy in any other way, other than just by seeing him as the usual bookworm that thinks he’s way too smart, doesn’t know how to act in situations where the shit gets hot, and worst of all, doesn’t know how to talk to girls. Something tells me that a dude like James Spader doesn’t quite need help with the ladies but I guess Roland Emmerich saw something that I didn’t. Strange.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Okay, maybe he does need some help.

Thankfully, this is where Kurt Russell shows up to pick the slack up from here and shake things up, Snake Plisskenstyle. Okay, maybe his character here isn’t that awesome or cool for that matter, but it’s Kurt Russell being Kurt Russell, and for a movie and role like this: we really needed to see that come alive within the dude. Russell is constantly cool, a bit dangerous, a bit mysterious, but always bad-ass and shows that he can take even the shittiest-material, and make it his own little bitch. He seems like he really wants to get wild at some points, but he keeps it grounded and humane, just the way I like to see Russell play it. Although it doesn’t hurt to want to get up and start hacking people off left and right. Especially wouldn’t have hurt in this movie, anyway.

The strangest person in this cast, who still has me scratching my head as to whether or not he was actually good, or just plain and simply ridiculous was Jaye Davidson as the Egyptian king that wants this pretty place to himself, with nobody else’s grubby paws getting in the way. Davidson is the person most of you may now from the Crying Game (yeah, you know who the hell I’m talking about) and is fine here, but dresses so strange, looks so weird, and has this voice that’s a mixture between Barry White and Satan, that it just didn’t do a single thing for me and had me laugh at him the whole entire time. It seemed as if Davidson just got back from a drag-queen show every time he showed up on set and decided to now waste the time getting ready to suit-up, and kept the clothes he had on originally. Does it work? Yeah, maybe in a campy-way, but this movie isn’t campy enough and is always so self-serious that this villain, this performance, and this look that Davidson carries on throughout the whole movie just seems idiotic and totally out-of-place. Still have no idea why the hell this dude jumped off the face of the Earth after this movie hit, but who knows. Maybe he got stuck in another universe after all!

Consensus: Sci-fi junkies will probably eat this shit for breakfast, spit it right back out, and chew it up again for fun, but for a person who just wants a good story, realistic characters, and a bunch of fun and action, Stargate doesn’t even fill me up after the appetizers. It feels as if it wants to be a goofy, over-the-top movie but plays it so serious and so dramatic, that it never gets off the ground. It just stays there and sinks into the sand.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

Trust me, it's a dude. I think...

Trust me, it’s a dude. I think…

The Hustler (1961)

I really got to work on my pool skills.

“Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman) is a man that knows how to play his game of pool, win, and while he’s at it; hustle some peeps in the long-run. However, his shenanigans eventually start to catch up with him once he decides to get involved with a lady of his (Piper Laurie). But it only gets worse once his desire to prove himself the best player in the country is by beating legendary pool player “Minnesota Fats” (Jackie Gleason).

“Cool” is a word that fits plenty of films, but not as well as it fits this one. In fact, I never quite thought that a sports movie about pool would actually be considered “cool”, but there’s just something about those old school billiard lounges, filled with smoke, brewskies, and jazz music that are just able to get you in the mood for some cue-balling. Oh, and some gambling too. Can’t ever forget about that fun activity.

Actually, I wouldn’t even consider this a sports film, but more of a character-study that gives us a character, a dilemma, and a reasoning, and uses the game of pool as a background. Most movies of this nature have been using this idea for centuries, but this flick shows it in a different light that isn’t all hurrah hurrah about it’s sport, or the people partaking in it. That’s right, no Kurt Russell speeches here. Cue the tears.

This film is surprisingly very dark but it never lost me and it was pretty intriguing to see where this film went with Felson. We get to see him through all of the thick and thin where we see him at his highest, as well as his lowest. We also get a chance to see him for his flaws, as well as the aspects that make him so likable and charming, upon first-sight. Felson could also serve as the protagonist for this story, but he’s not an underdog, there’s no valiant loser, no witty old-timer that is getting the young buck for his next big match, and there is no training-montage let alone, any scenes of training whatsoever. This is what separates this sort of movie from all of the other sports movie and it’s a risky move that director Robert Rossen takes with this material, but makes it work no matter what.

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

Aw yeah! Strike that pose, Paul!

But no matter how dark this film may actually be, there is still a certain type of coolness about it that just lingers underneath everything else. There’s all of these countless themes about greed, addiction, love, hustling, and the fear of being lonely, that could get any sports-junkie on the suicide watch list, but do more than you think. It adds a certain brooding sense of feel and style, but also enhances the mood in which you feel like the way these games of pool are set-up and played, are definitely not the type of ones you just decide to play around with, while you and your bud are drinking before the big fight. Nope, there’s more to it than that, and I have to say that it’s a bold move that I can’t see many other sports movies taking nowadays. That is, unless they didn’t want to earn any money or fans with the popular, movie-going crowd. Because honestly, let’s think about it: which person wants to see a sports movie, only to find out that it’s a whole two hour flick dedicated to one person crying, and swallowing in his own misery? Maybe this guy over here, but sure as hell not the type of people I know who want to see movies like these. Hence why it was made in 1961. A much simpler time where people had standards. Sort of.

Paul Newman is known as being cool in almost everything he does, and “Fast Eddie” Felson is the perfect personification of that. Newman brings so much cool wit and charm to this character that in almost every shot, you can just feel them both oozing out of every line he speaks. Whether he’s doing it with his eyes, his lips, or his physical-stature, the guy’s always got something to say and whether or not the other person across from him is going to like it, is wholly on their asses. The character of “Fast Eddie” isn’t a particularly likable one, considering the guy always acts like his shit doesn’t stink when he wins two games in-a-row, but Newman keeps him grounded and always worth a cheer. You never know where this dude’s story is going to lead into next, but Newman keeps you guessing and wondering just how he pulls off these acts of desperation, but still seeming to be “cool”, underneath it.

Then, on the total and complete opposite side of him is Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats. Fats rains supreme as a totally different character than Felson, for the sole-fact he is just the intimidating guy you do not want to fuck with if you see him across the bar. But yet, Felson loves to do that and does just that, many ‘a times. Fats is a character that reminded of one of those old-school, big guy mob types that you can just feel the tension of. The only difference here is that this guy isn’t part of the mob (or at least so I think), he’s just regular, old-school pool shooter that just so happens to be one of the best in the country and Gleason plays this up so perfectly. Fats isn’t really in the film that much but whenever he is, it’s easily some of the best parts of this whole flick and his presence is always there throughout the whole film.  No matter where “Fast Eddie” goes with his game, with his money, with his dame, and with his high-life; Fats will always be there ready to play again.

"Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong."

“Come on, kid. You got it all fucking wrong.”

But I can’t just talk about these two without talking another two that absolutely knock their roles out of the park as well. George C. Scott has probably never been as dirty or greedy as he is here as Burt Gordon, one of the main guys that takes Felson under his wing, but strictly for money purposes. Scott is so damn detestable but you can’t take your eyes off of him throughout the whole movie because you know he’s going to screw Felson over, one way or another, and it’s going to hurt big time. Piper Laurie is also amazing as Felson’s love interest, Sarah, but be warned; she isn’t your normal romantic love interest all of these sports movies have. This chick has problems, BIG, BIG problems, actually. Sarah is a very interesting character because she just seems like one of these chicks that is always so drunk all of the time, that it’s easy to underestimate her, but after awhile you realize that she knows what’s up with everything that Felson is doing and what could possibly happen to him. Laurie is great with this character and makes her watchable the whole damn time, even if the ride between her and Felson isn’t always enjoyable, nor is it all that believable once you see how they act with one another, once they get drunk, wild, and rich. Bad combination right there, no matter who you are.

Being that this is an older film and a lot of the people in it talk all hip, sly, and witty, in the way that they probably thought was hip, sly, and witty back in 1961; some of it does feel dated. Not all of it, but some. Some performances go a bit over-board and I couldn’t help but feel like a lot of these dude’s who’s reactions are filmed, weren’t just because they were talented actors, but because they were the only actors around to take part of filming at the time. It’s been almost 40 years and one sequel later, so maybe my main-beef is all but idiotic, but it’s just little problems like that, that usually get to me. Don’t know why, it’s just the way I am. Go home if you don’t like it.

Consensus: The Hustler isn’t your quintessential sports movie that’s all about the happy cheers, beers, and winning championships, but more about a loner of a dude that makes money a cheap, but sly way, and gets caught-up doing so. And sometimes, in more ways than one.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Hustler3

“If I beat him now, it’s still breakfast at Mickey D’s. Hmm…..”

Django Unchained (2012)

DjangoUnchainedPosterNo way the dirty South could have been this dirty. Could it have been?

Jamie Foxx stars as the titular character named Django, who is an escaped slave who teams up with bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) to rescue his wife (Kerry Washington) from sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

Let’s just get it all out in the open and out of the way for everybody to see and understand before I jump any further into this review: this was my most anticipated flick of the year. Obviously, I’m not much different from others out there in the movie-world, and it’s probably no shock to any of you out there who know that Quentin Tarantino is one, if not my favorite writers/directors working today. This has been a passion-project of his since day 1 and it only seems right that after knocking-out homers left-and-right over the past 20 years, that he finally get to do, what he does best: showing us a little piece of his sick, but original mind.

Everything you see in this flick is exactly what you would expect from a Tarantino flick: crazy characters, wacky dialogue, oodles of violence, ironic use of pop-music, homages to classic flicks that only he and about 5 others actually “get”, and a huge deal of suspense, that almost seems to come out of nowhere. These are the staples of Tarantino’s flicks and as much as they have came-out to be nothing short of expected by now, that still is in no way, shape or form an insult or negative about Tarantino and this movie, because it’s still freakin’ awesome and probably the most original flick I’ve seen all year.

The topic of racism is what really stands in the front of the line with this movie and even though the flick basically takes place during 1858, in the South where slavery runs high and mighty amongst rich, white men, the topic is never used to be thoughtful, or even used as a metaphor for the world we are in now. It’s basically used as another tool for Tarantino to show loads and loads of gruesome/graphic violence and actually give it meaning, rather than throw it at the screen and hoping that it will make sense in the grander scheme of things. Nope, Tarantino’s not all about that and anybody who complained about Inglorious Basterds not being the action-packed, gore-ride they were expecting from QT, then he will definitely shut you up with this one because every piece of violence here, is bloody, gory, and ever so stylized, as we can always expect from Tarantino. Sometimes it’s almost too vicious to watch but hey, that’s not a bad thing considering this is coming from a movie who’s director had 15-minutes of a movie dedicated to a chick hacking-up people, all-over-the-place, with a samurai sword, of all weapons to choose.

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858....

So, a white man and black man walk down the streets of a Southern town, around 1858….

The violence in this movie definitely stands-out among the rest of what Tarantino uses here, but the script is even better and is classic-Tarantino, at it’s finest. As usual, we get a lot of the witty, catchy-banter between characters that seems almost too energetic to be true, but Tarantino really works himself hard as a writer, especially with this movie, because he actually goes somewhere we never really expected him to in the first-place: comedy. Yeah, it may seem like a bit of a head scratcher that I would talk about how much comedy Tarantino uses and how it surprised the hell out of me because with the flicks that he’s done over the years, it would seem like he’s been doing comedy forever. To be honest, Tarantino has always had a knack for incorporating a great-deal of humor into his scripts, but not as obvious and not as important as it is used here. There are so many scenes here that just had me laughing, not just because Tarantino is doing something that only I, as a movie-geek, actually get, but more or less because he is actually trying to make me laugh and it worked so, so very well.

However, as much as he may put the emphasis on comedy this time-around, Tarantino still never forgets to switch things up and make it more dark and serious, and the tonal-changes are swift, unnoticeable, and always deserved. You know once Tarantino gets into his “serious mode”, then all of the violence and, in a way, more comedy actually comes about since this is the type of material that Tarantino strives for and always seems to have a blast with. Certain scenes would really catch me off-guard because here I would be expecting it to be a scene where a couple of people are sittin’ around, shootin’ the shit, and basically being a bunch of goof balls, but then would all of a sudden change into this very dark and tense scene, where all hell is about to break-loose and anybody you actually care about in this movie, could be gone as quick as you can say the word, “dead”. Seriously, just that snap of a finger, and all of a sudden a scene does a total 180 where we don’t even know what to expect. That sure unpredictability is exactly what I come to expect from Tarantino and it’s put to good-use here, so many damn times that I was literally sweating with tension at-times. The idea of not knowing where a film is going to land next, is always my favorite-aspect of a movie and here, it’s only better because it’s Tarantino and this guy always seems to have a blast with just fucking around with the audience, their minds, and their moods. That damn Tarantino! He’s always so snarky.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, btw.

This scene would have been so much more epic if more than 3 people got what the hell Tarantino was referencing. Not including me, by the way.

Even if Tarantino seems to be having a ball with this movie, he’s not having the most fun. Actually, that utter sense of joy and pleasure goes right to the ensemble cast, who are all amazing, well-picked, and having the time of their lives just doing what they do best: act their asses off. When I first heard about Jamie Foxx’s casting as Django, I thought it was a tad unoriginal, and just another-way for Foxx to go around, acting all cool and jive, while wearing a cowboy hat. You know, in an ironic-way. I wasn’t really-looking forward to seeing him play this role, but you know what? Foxx kicks-ass in it and it’s a huge wonder as to why I ever doubted the dude in the first-place. Foxx isn’t as front-and-center with this story as you may think, but whenever he does get the time to shine and do his own thing, he owns it, and doesn’t even have to say anything. Sometimes the emotions on his face tell it all and as easy it is to make us feel something for a slave that wants to be free and get his wife back, it’s even easier to make us feel something for a character that we know can fight his own battles and not ask for sympathy. Django, in terms of the actual-character, is the perfect, Spaghetti Western cowboy, because he’s soft-spoken, cool, but always has something witty to say on his mind. And Foxx owns that role to a T.

In the past 3 years, ever since Basterds hit the theaters and made Christoph Waltz a bona-fide star, it seems like Hollywood has never been able to capitalize on the guy’s real talents as a serious and dramatic actor. However, Tarantino knows how to use the guy best and shows that with every-line of dialogue that comes out of this man’s mouth. Waltz plays Dr. King Schultz, the nicer-version of Hans Landa, but still is just as sadistic and smart. What makes Schultz such a great character is that the guy is always one-step ahead of everybody else around him. He always knows to act in every situation, he always knows the right things to say, he always knows how to keep his cool, when shit starts to get heavy, but the most-important factor of his character out of all, is that he always knows how to kill anybody that stands in his way. He’s a violent bastard that seems like the type of guy you want to be bounty hunters with, but as time goes on and he starts to have heavier obstacles thrown in his way, Schultz starts to fold under pressure and show how sometimes, Django is better-suited for certain situations. It’s a great dynamic the two characters have, and it’s heightened even more, mainly because of the pitch-perfect chemistry between the two that always seems to feature the best lines in the whole movie.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

The nicest way to ask a black man if he cared to have a smoke back in those days.

I was mainly looking forward to this movie for many, many reasons, but I think the most, out of all, surprisingly, was the fact that this was Leonardo DiCaprio’s first, main-role as a villain in lord only knows how long, here as Calvin Candie. I’ve always been a huge fan of Leo and all that he’s been able to do in the past decade or so, but even I will admit, his act seemed to get a little stiff by the 10th time he played a confused, and troubled victim of something bad being played against him. It was the same-old routine in almost every movie he seemed to sign-up for and even though the guy did awesome with that routine, it started to become glaringly old, and a role as a campy, over-the-top slave owner, in a QT film, sounded like the perfect-way to spice things up in the dude’s career. And damn, was I ever so happy that I was right about that sweet, soothing sound.

DiCaprio is, well, how should I put it? Perfect in a role like this. Calvin Candie is cunning, funny, campy, and very, very sly in his way of handling himself through every situation he’s put into but you can always tell that there’s something darker lying beneath the surface and the way DiCaprio handles all of that, is probably the best-acting he’s done in awhile. DiCaprio doesn’t just explode with anger, rage, and energy whenever the camera’s on him. No, he just lets it sit there, watching him, letting us know his character, all that he is, all that he does, and all that he can be, if he has to turn the other-cheek and be an evil asshole like we all expect him to be. Eventually, Candie does turn into that evil asshole we expected to see from him right-away, but DiCaprio is so good and so masterful at portraying it, that you really cannot take your eyes off of him. No matter how hard anybody else around him actually tries, DiCaprio is the one that steals the spotlight in every scene he has, and it’s just perfect to watch, especially coming from a guy who’s been wanting a role like this for Leo, for the longest-time. When he loses his shit, he loses it in the most-hardcore way of all and demands your attention, rather than simply asking for it, in the kind-way, Candie likes to fool people with. I really don’t think I can hit the head on the nail as much as I have already, but I’m just going to leave my whole two, orgasm paragraphs on Leo by saying this: that motherfucker deserves the Oscar this year. I’m done, I’ve said it, and yet, I still feel like I haven’t said enough! Aaaaahhhh! Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect. End. Of. Story.

"Listen, bitch!! I'm Samuel L. Jackson, and I'm just loud! Get used to it!"

“Listen, bitch!! I’m Samuel L. Jackson, and I’m just loud! Get used to it!”

Now that that is over with, let me move onto everybody else that deserves a bit of a shine from the spotlight as well. Samuel L. Jackson seems to be another-one in this cast that’s having a ball as the head house slave Stephen, a total Uncle Tom from head-to-toe in terms of appearance, and mental-state also. From the first-shot of the guy, Samuel L. is almost unrecognizable as Stephen, but as time goes on, you get it in your head that it is Samuel L., doing his funny-as-hell, loud yelling and screaming that we always expect from the guy and it’s just so great to watch, especially since it seems like Samuel L. in his comfort-zone. I don’t know if the guy ever left to begin-with, but watching him just have a blast with a role and take over the screen like he does, is always a joy to watch in my book.

Kerry Washington was a bit of a disappointment to watch as Django’s baby girl, Broomhilda Von Shaft (trust me, see the movie and you’ll understand), not just because she isn’t featured in the movie a lot, but mainly because she doesn’t have as much of a screen-presence as everybody else in this flick seems to have. And that’s especially weird to have coming out of my fingertips, considering this is a QT movie and the guy always has kick-ass, female characters to show off. Don’t get me wrong, Washington is still good with her role but doesn’t really get much to do other than cry, yell, and looked terrified the whole-time. There’s so many more faces and stars in this cast that are worth mentioning and bringing to your attention but seriously, just go see the movie for yourself and realize that Tarantino is not only perfect when it comes to writing and directing, but also casting. The guy’s just got it all and all of these rumors of a possible, early-retirement has me scared shitless. Oh well, let’s just hope he keeps on churning out movies until he can’t no mo.

Consensus: Some trimming of the fat needed to be done here and there with Django Unchained, but for a movie that is 2 hours and 40 minutes and is never, for a second, ever boring or uninteresting, I have to say that’s pretty damn a-okay with me, especially if it’s a Tarantino movie, where fun, violence, comedy, cheekiness, homages, and pop-culture references all come together, in one beautiful, original blender of ideas.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Apparently, people DO care if Don Johnson ever works another day in his life again.

Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy it and enjoy the presents you may or may not get from Santa!

Escape from New York (1981)

That poster has nothing to do with this flick but it’s still pretty damn cool.

It’s 1997 and crime rates have been soaring up so high that New York City has been blockaded off for a place where all criminals run around and do their own thing. However though, the U.S. president (Donald Pleasence) is soon captured by these criminals and soon has to be rescued by condemned criminal and former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).

The 80’s may have been a rather lame decade but for legendary director John Carpenter, it was probably the best 10 years of his life that he will ever have and it all started because of this one. I don’t know why though either considering there isn’t anything really special to be seen here.

What bothered me with this film right from the start was how the flick started off so slowly and just seemed to just slide right by with barely any action or anything else that would have held my attention. There’s definitely a certain type of atmosphere here to really get you worried but the film never really plays up on that and is more concerned with building up the plot, which in some cases is a good idea but for this one, it doesn’t work and just comes off more as being a bore fest.

You can also definitely tell that Carpenter really didn’t hit his niche with this flick either. The vision is cool but it definitely isn’t pretty looking and it actually looks a lot more unprofessional and cheesy rather than eye-opening. Since I knew there was going to be a lot of New York looking like total ish the whole flick, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how much Carpenter just littered it up here but then again, he could have made it look a lot better rather than just making it look a bit too much like an indie flick. Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s obvious that Carpenter was on the top of his game with this one but a year later, he ended up making The Thing, so I guess he can be forgiven for that.

However, once that first hour went by everything started to get better and better. There isn’t much dialogue but even when these characters do speak, they seem pretty mean, nasty, and tense which adds a lot to the whole vision and feel of this flick. Speaking of the vision, the central premise of how New York is now all of a sudden a huge play-ground for all of these angry and evil criminals to just do whatever the hell they feel like is really cool and used well enough here to give you a cool feeling that this place is basically shit and everybody in it deserves to die, with the exception of some nice peeps. The action is also pretty good but then again, there wasn’t enough of it except for a one-on-one fight between Snake and this big ass bearded dude that ends in a very cool way which definitely is one of the high-lights here.

The main reason why this film is probably as iconic as it is today is because of its central character himself, Snake Plissken, played by the always amazing Kurt Russell. Russell and Carpenter had great collaborations together and this was definitely one of them because Russell is able to create this bad-ass, cool, and utterly terrifying dudes that seemed like he didn’t give any shit whether or not you were ready to fight, he will just kick your ass no matter what. Plissken barely talks in this flick but even when he does, he always seems to talking through his clenched teeth but he’s not about his words and more about his actions. This guy is definitely one you want on your side in a bar fight and also a character that shows that Russell was and still is able to create characters like this where you don’t want to mess with them, even if you do think they need a nice ass-whoopin’.

As for the rest of the cast, they are all pretty good with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, and Donald Pleasence all showing up, but perhaps the most memorable from this whole flick is Issac Hayes as the #1 and only master of this little criminal playground, The Duke of New York. Hayes is cool no matter what flick he does and here is no exception even though I would have definitely liked to see a little bit more of him being an evil mofo, but then again I think we get enough.

Consensus: Escape from New York has a cool vision, great central performance from Kurt Russell playing the bad-ass character, Snake Plissken, and has some amount of B-movie fun to it, however, the first hour goes down with a whimper and you can definitely tell that this isn’t Carpenter’s best direction but he made up for it a year later so it’s not that bad.

7/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: The Thing (2011)

If I see an alien frozen in ice, I’m gonna leave that damn ice alone.

This prequel tells the story of a team of Norwegian scientists who find an alien ship frozen in Antarctica. When the organism inside awakens, blood flows across the frozen landscape. Leading the group is pilot Carter (Joel Edgerton), who allies with paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in a desperate attempt to rally the paranoid workers to combat the deadly threat.

When I first heard rumors about a prequel to the John Carpenter horror classic, ‘The Thing‘, I thought that this would once again just be another cash-grab for the Halloween audience of October. However, it didn’t play out as bad as I would have expected, but I still missed the bearded Kurt Russell.

Dutch director Matthijs van Heijninger Jr. actually does a surprisingly good job here recreating the tone and feel that Carpenter explored very well in his classic. There were times when I felt the paranoia of not knowing who was infected and who was not and the whole film just keeps on building little tiny bits of suspense. It isn’t the kind of suspense where I was practically on the edge of my seat the whole entire dang time, it still had enough of it to where I actually felt it.

Also, having any film in an Antarctic setting is just plain and simply freaky. The only time I can think of where it actually didn’t work was that piece of crap Whiteout, but other than that, placing your film in a place where it’s surrounded by snow, snow, and more snow just cooks up the perfect recipe for a good horror film.

The problem that I knew that I was going to have with this film beforehand, was the fact that everything that happened in this film, was something I already saw in the Carpenter film. The whole idea of who was or who wasn’t taken over by an alien, the reason how and why they take over the body, and the way they find out who is real and who isn’t, are all ideas from the first that seemed so original and novel then, but instead now just feel like recycled material over-and-over again. On it’s own, the film doesn’t really have much of a leg to stand on and it was kind of a drag at times too.

The scares also sort of work here but too many times it just feels like those same old “boo” scares that we get in so many horror films today, whereas the Carpenter version never did that. You know the scares, everything gets all quiet with little sounds and no score, until suddenly something incredibly crazy and loud happens and that’s the scare-factor right there. It also didn’t help that the volume in my theater was up to about 100 so every time these damn aliens yelled or screamed, I went deaf for about 5 minutes.

If you couldn’t already tell by the trailer in the beginning, there is a lot of action that is actually pretty fun to watch even if it is a bit the same things we have already seen and done better. Instead of also focusing on actual costumes, make-up, and designs for the scary “infected” this film uses a lot of CG creatures that actually look pretty detailed as well as disgusting. It didn’t really stun me the way the Carpenter version did but I have to say that when I saw these creatures, I was pretty disgusted in a good way.

When you have a cast for a horror film, you know not to really expect much, and as is the case with this one as well. Joel Edgerton is the obvious choice to replace the hard-assed Kurt Russell hero role from the Carpenter film, but he does an alright job with what he’s given as Carter even though his role and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje‘s are both very minimal considering that they are gone from the screen for a long period of time. Why though, is something I cannot say. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is alright as Kate Lloyd, even though I think her performance just mainly consisted of her being scared or determined. There are also plenty of other Norwegian dudes playing Norwegians which was kind of a problem considering the fact that we can’t really tell each of them apart, and the fact is that there is just too many characters to begin with in the first place.

Probably my favorite part of the film was the credits and that’s not me being an ass either, the credits are pretty cool. Considering how lame and cheesy the ending is (it takes place in an alien spaceship?) when the credits came up it sent chills down my spine because as soon as I heard the Carpenter score, I just knew what I was getting. I was expecting it to lead me to the opening of Carpenter’s film but the way they did it, I thought was pretty cool and a nice twist on the whole film in general.

Consensus: Though not as bad as I imagined at first, The Thing is an unnecessary prequel that has some chills and thrills, but still doesn’t have the originality, creepiness, and overall effect on you as Carpenter’s version might have.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

I didn’t know that having green eyes in the 80’s was the craziest things, but then again so was rubix cubes. I mean this is the 80’s we’re talking about here.

Traveling through a shadowy world filled with supernatural creatures and spectacular action, regular guy Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) try to track down a 2,000-year-old magician, Lo Pan (James Hong), who has kidnapped Burton’s friend’s green-eyed fiancée.

After reading that synopsis right there you probably already have an understand of just what you’re getting yourself into when you go into a film like this. But it isn’t all that bad.

Director John Carpenter is doing a crazy thing here by actually combining a kung-fu film with some aspects of a western and somehow making it all work. The film really works well with it’s action that seems intentionally corny with the non-stop karate noises, high-flying judo kicks, and almost everything getting ripped to pieces. The action is a lot of fun and I’m glad that Carpenter went for the tongue-in-cheek approach because who can honestly take wizards and truck drivers fighting against each other in one movie together?

I think the problem with this film is that even though it does have a certain amount of fun to it, the lines and cliches were just almost unbearable to the point of where I just got annoyed. The film starts off a tad slow, which wouldn’t have bothered me at first if the lines weren’t so damn cheesy and the gags they actually had were funny rather than just being forced. There were also times during this film where they do something that seemed really cool back in 1986 but now just seems totally lame which is how it is with a lot of films that came from this decade.

However though, the real shining star of this film is actually Kurt Russell as Jack Burton. Russell is channeling in his inner John Wayne and does a great job at playing this dude that is such a fool of himself by talking up a big game for himself, and then never ending up to be able to actually prove his man-hood. Burton has some of the best lines in the film and when it seems like everyone else is just another action movie cliche, he seems to be able to seem like the most realistic person in the film.

The rest of the cast is filled with almost every Asian actor who’s been in a movie such as Dennis Dun, Victor Wong, and James Hong. Let’s not also forget to mention that we have a little side performance from none other than a very young Kim Cattrall who actually seems like she could use a film like this ever since her comeback performance in The Ghost Writer.

Consensus: Though it is of course dated in many places, Big Trouble in Little China has some awesome and just fun action sequences, with writing that doesn’t take itself too seriously so therefore nobody else should whoever wants to see this one.

6/10=Rental!!

Also, check out one of my latest posts on Boomtron about The Rock and Taylor Lautner in the David and Goliath film here: http://www.boomtron.com/2011/09/the-rock-vs-jacob-taylor-lautner/

Thanks everyone!

The Thing (1982)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Vanilla Sky (2001)

I thought Tom Cruise was confused in Eyes Wide Shut, but damn was I wrong!

David Aames (Tom Cruise) has it all: wealth, good looks and a gorgeous woman (Cameron Diaz) on his arm. But just when he’s found true love with warmhearted Sofia (Penélope Cruz), his face is horribly disfigured in a car accident, and he loses everything … or does he?

Vanilla Sky is directed by Cameron Crowe, and this is a remake of a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes. Once again, an American director is remaking a foreign classic, however, this is not so bad compared to others of that demographic.

I think my favorite element of this film is Crowe’s direction. It seemed kind of odd having his guy direct this type of material, but he has a bigger budget this time, and he spends it all so dearly. The film starts off all normal, with a sensational shot of a deserted Times Square, but then the car accident happens, and that’s when shit gets out of whack. However, it’s also so well done.

The film gets a lot of ish talked on it because it doesn’t make all that much sense the first time around, but that’s because you won’t be able to get it really the first time around. It’s one of those films that right from the beginning you have to pay close attention to every little detail, because they eventually will come back up later in the film. I also found myself finding a lot of beauty within this film, and some shots are just so perfect the way they look, and gets you this idea that you are in dream-like state of some sort.  There are little clues to the real idea behind this whole story that you kind of have to look at, and at first you’ll be totally confused but if you can look past all the confusion and look at the clues underneath it all, you’ll find a real, brilliant message from the story.

The message is that the world we live in, is it just a dream, and if so how far do our dreams go, until they become nightmares. David Aames is a douche who thinks he’s got it all, but then in a quick second he loses it all, and creates this world of fiction where everything is perfect, and means something. What does reality consist of? This film searches for those answers and although they may not be telling you them right in the open to your face, it’s the idea of looking at everything and thinking is where the real beauty of this film lies.

My only gripe with this film is that I do feel like their are times where the film loses itself. Especially the ending since it kind of gives everything in a way that we aren’t really expecting. I feel like Crowe gives too much of a conclusion to this story and the reason as to what is happening, but somehow you can’t be too sure really. This is a minor complaint, because even though I feel like I have the whole story already thought out, I can’t be too sure honestly.

Tom Cruise does a lot with David Aames here, and it’s not easy stuff to do in the first place. Cruise has to play this narcissistic asshole, that goes through a whole bunch of transformations as he starts to have no idea just exactly what the hell is going on. His character gains a lot of depth, and many of the more emotionally intriguing scenes are from Cruise, and his crazy, balls-to-the-walls performance. Penelope Cruz is very likable here as Sofia, and you can see why Cruise’s character fell in love with her after all. Cameron Diaz is sickly sexual as Julianna, and brings out the films best performance because her character is so disturbing, and crazy that you almost feel like she is a big nightmare. There’s also some nice little side performances from the likes of Jason Lee, Kurt Russell, Timothy Spall, and the always creepy in any film Tilda Swinton.

Consensus: It may be too ambitious at points, but Cameron Crowe’s fearless direction brings out intelligent points about dreams, the life we live, among others, and the performance add more dimensions to this film than you expect.

9/10=Full Price!!

Tango & Cash (1989)

If these two were actual cops in real life, the world would be a safer place.

When Ray Tango (Sylvester Stallone) and Gabe Cash (Kurt Russell) are framed and wind up in prison, they’re tortured by the thugs of the drug lord who put them there. But watch out — the partners are sure to escape and exact revenge.

The 80’s was a special time for big-budget, action comedies like this. And for two stars of this genre to be in one movie, is a dream come true for any huge fan of this genre.

For me, I’m not a huge lover on this genre, but I will watch some movies that are like that, just for a good time and to enjoy myself. This film has a lot of that fun to enjoy yourself. The action is comes at you right away, and doesn’t really stop coming. There are loud explosions, guns blasting, people dying, punches, kicks, and this all equals up to you having fun.

However, this script is sosososo dumb. It tries way too hard to be cool, hip, and funny so they just keep on bringing cheesy one-liners to this film. Some one-liners work, others don’t but the fact of the matter is, is that they use too many for the sake of being funny, and by doing that, just make it annoying and less funny.

I did like seeing Stallone and Russell paired together as the opposites-attract, buddy pair. They both play well off each other, and actually make a lot of the bad lines, better cause of their machoness, as well as their comedic timing. They also both play riffs on characters they have played in the past, and that actually works cause who doesn’t like seeing some major film figures make fun of themselves? Exactly. Also, who doesn’t want to watch Jack Palance as the main bad guy, delivering lines so bad, that they would make

Consensus: Tango & Cash tries too hard to be cool, and funny, but fails at doing so, instead is a fun, action comedy, with two of the best action stars playing off each other well. Put this in the “so bad, it’s good” category.

5/10=Rental!!