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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Kyle Chandler

King Kong (2005)

He must protect his house.

Carl Denham (Jack Black) is a filmmaker living in the 1930’s, meaning, he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities. And the ones that he does have, don’t tickle his fancy as much as they used to. That’s why, when he catches wind of a mysterious, huge and odd island out in the middle of nowhere, Denham soon gets the ambition and inspiration all over again. So, he assembles a team full of actors, actresses, crew, and handy-men, who know a thing or two about an adventure and are capable of solving issues, should any of them arise. Aboard the ship is leading-lady Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), who also is in desperate need of a hit and will do anything for the spotlight, just one more time. Screenwriter Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody) feels the same way, but also finds himself falling for Ann, leading him to make some pretty rash decisions along this adventure, all leading up to finally meeting, once and for all, King Kong – the giant gorilla who practically watches over Skull Island and kills any sort of threat that may come its way. In this case, it’s these humans and needless to say, not all of them are equipped to take him down.

Why would you want a human, when you could have a Kong?

After winning practically every Oscar that he could for Return of the King, it made sense that he would be allowed to make virtually any movie that he wanted. Cause it’s a known thing in Hollywood: Make a lot of money, win a lot of awards, earn respect, and guess what? You can make your dream projects a reality. And oddly enough, for Jackson, it was remaking the movie he grew up knowing and loving, King Kong. Oh, and by “remaking”, I mean making two hours longer and adding on more CGI, special-effects, and story than you could ever imagine.

But trust me, this isn’t a stab at Jackson.

If anything, King Kong is Jackson getting the opportunity to play in his sandbox, where the world is his oyster, sky is the limit, there are no rules, and even better, everyone’s watching. A lot of people may have complained about the fact that the movie is over three hours long, takes awhile to actually get to Skull Island, and yeah, features one too many monsters and creatures, aside from the titular Kong, but in a way, that sort of makes the movie more epic; it shows us that Jackson isn’t setting out to make a note-for-note remake, but bask in every single bit of this material and be as excessive as humanly possible.

Is it a little draining? Quite possibly, yes, but at the same time, watching Jackson having the time of his life is, in all honesty, a beauty to behold. There aren’t many directors out there in the world with the impressive and ambitious scope like Jackson’s, so when he’s given carte blanche to do all that he wants and not stop, it’s nothing if not entertaining. Also, when was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that goes by in a flash? King Kong should have been a slog, but it’s not and it’s a true testament to Jackson’s prowess that allows for him to make a three-hour movie about little humans and a big gorilla, feel a lot less than that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Jackson directs the hell out of this thing and it makes sense why he wanted to bother with this story in the first place.

And even getting away from the technical side of the movie, and focusing more on the actual things that matter, like story, character development, etc., yeah, it still kind of works. The story isn’t all that different from before, but this time around, Jackson does up the emotion in a way that’s surprising, mostly because while we’re watching Kong up there on the screen, we’re watching something believable and impressively done – almost to the point where instead of being scared by him, we’re actually connected to him. The whole tale about this gorilla falling in love with a short little blonde thing is, of course, silly, but the movie doesn’t forget that sometimes, the seriousness of a tale like this can actually work, so long as you build enough tension and emotion behind it all.

That’s what Jackson does and it helps King Kong move along, even when it gets away from the gorilla beating the hell out of other monsters and dinosaurs. Cause even during those sequences, there’s a fun, crazy and almost hectic energy that’s a lot like the Lord of the Rings movies, but still its own kind of beast. Even when Jackson does dial it down for the characters, the movie’s still at least somewhat interesting, because we’ve spent so much time and energy with them, it’s hard not to understand them, at the very least.

Jack knows what I’m talking about.

Then again, the ensemble involved does help out with that as much as they can.

If there’s one thing that holds King Kong back from being a truly and absolutely great movie that it sometimes comes close to being, it’s that the performances can tend to be a bit bland, which may have more to do with the script and less to do with the actual actors themselves. Like, for instance, Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are two perfectly good actors who can work well when given the material, but for some reason, they just feel underdeveloped; Watts gets some chances to be bright and shiny, whereas Brody is mostly just serious and not all that right for a movie that’s so concerned with everything else that’s going on around him. Others in the cast fare better, like Kyle Chandler, Jamie Bell, Thomas Kretschmann, and Colin Hanks, mostly because their characters aren’t made out to be the leads and can benefit from some goofiness, but with Watts and Brody, who are supposed to be our emotional anchors throughout this whole thing, it doesn’t fully work.

That said, the movie does benefit from having a very good, very surprising, and very dark performance from Jack Black. Of course, a lot of people will consider Black’s performance to be channeling Orson Welles, but if so, it’s still a good performance, because we see him lay down all of the usual trademarks and conventions that we’re so used to seeing, and hating with the sorts of characters he plays. What we get here, is a person we grow to love to hate and because of Black’s performance gets better, taking on more meaning as the movie develops and we start to see more sides to this twisted, sometimes sad little man.

Which is to say that I’m still waiting for that battle between Black and Kong.

Black Kong. What a name.

Consensus: Ambitious in scope, epic in its look, feel, and overall mood, King Kong is the movie Peter Jackson deserved to make and absolutely revels in the opportunity to do so, for the benefit of us all.

8.5 / 10

See what I mean?

Photos Courtesy of: Fernby Films

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Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Life’s a little sad. So just take the boat out.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) lives a pretty sad life. Most of the time, when he’s not cleaning out toilets, fixing sinks, or working on pipes in four apartment complexes, he’s spending most of the time drinking at the bar, getting drunk and starting brawls with people. However, his life is shaken-up a tad bit when his older brother (Kyle Chandler) dies of a sudden heart-attack, leaving Lee to pick up after his brother and become the legal guardian to the son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). This means that Lee has to return to his hometown, watch over Patrick for the time being, take care of his brother’s affairs and figure out where to go next. But there’s something going on deeper and darker underneath Lee that makes his travel back down memory lane a whole lot more disturbing and it involves his ex-wife (Michelle Williams), who is still reeling from the affects of a tragedy she and Lee both had gone through when they were together, some many years ago.

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan has such a distinctive ear for dialogue, it’s a wonder why more of his movies haven’t worked. You Can Count on Me, while perhaps his most famous, is a good movie, that’s still outdone by its quirks and Margaret, even despite all of the setbacks and controversies during production, is still an uneven, overblown, and occasionally interesting movie that gets outdone by Lonergan not having enough focus. But here, all of those issues and problems there, seem to have gone away. Now, with Manchester by the Sea, Lonergan has found focus, he’s found humor, he’s found heart, he’s found self-control, and most importantly, he’s found a great cast who almost never let him down, or let-up in giving him the best that they can.

manchester2

Uh oh. Get the Kleenex ready, boys.

So, what the hell took so long?

Regardless of the “whys”, or “whos”, of that inane question, Manchester by the Sea is one of the better dramas I’ve seen in quite some time, but it isn’t quite what you’d think. Sure, it’s a little sad, it’s a little depressing and it’s definitely a little hard-to-watch, but all feels real, raw and gritty, to the point of where it never rings true or feels overdone. Rather than just making this a sad movie, about sad people, Lonergan finds smart, small and interesting ways to not just inject some humor into the proceedings, but also have us more interested in these characters in the first place.

Rather than just being a tale about sad people being sad, Lonergan takes it one, small step forward and shows us why they’re sad in the first place, how they cope with it all, how they get by, and most importantly, how they all connect with one another. Manchester by the Sea is one of the rare drama’s where you may actually get excited by the sight of watching a bunch of characters gather into one room and just speak to one another; Lonergan, despite a heavy theater background, knows how real people talk and express themselves, without ever seeming like he’s reaching too far and wide to show that. We could have all easily been turned off and away from this sad, repressed world that Manchester by the Sea shows us, but Lonergan does the smart thing in that he embraces it all and shows that, underneath all of the quiet, dark moments, there’s some light and love found in there, too.

Which is why Manchester by the Sea is far better than most indie dramas out there.

Sure, it embraces the darkness and sadness its characters represent, but also doesn’t just wallow in its own misery, either; the movie takes pride in building its characters, showing them for all that they are, and never passing any judgement. A movie like this, with these kinds of characters, could have easily came off as pandering, or even rude, but Lonergan seems to adore each and everyone of these characters, warts and all, that after awhile, it’s hard not to follow suit. They’re not all perfect, they’ve all got issues, they’ve all got benefits, and they’ve all something about them that’s just not, for lack of a better term, “troubling”, but then again, so does everyone on Earth. This idea that we’re actually sitting around, watching real life people, talk and engage with one another, makes it not just easier to relate to them all, but come closer and closer to loving them all, as well.

Ain't nothing like a brother's keeper.

Ain’t nothing like a brother’s keeper.

Oh and yeah, it helps that the ensemble is pretty amazing, too. Casey Affleck is a pretty great actor, but over the past few years, hasn’t quite shown it. He’s been a little out of the spotlight, occasionally popping up in supporting roles, or being giving leading roles without much mainstream appeal, but here, as Lee Chandler, he gets the best role of his career and he makes every second work. Right from the start, there’s something interesting about this guy that makes us want to see how he lives his life, how he talks to people and generally, how he gets by. Affleck shows us that there’s more to him than just this downtrodden and slightly alcoholic shadow of a man – he shows that there’s a living, breathing and feeling human being that wants so desperately to get by in life, but for reasons that come very clear to us in the middle of the movie, just can’t. It’s a raw, gritty performance that doesn’t always go for the big emotions, but when it does, Affleck shines through it all and shows that he’s dangerously on the cusp of breaking out for the whole world to know his name and face.

Why it hasn’t happened yet, is totally beyond me.

As his brother, Kyle Chandler makes the best of what he can, what with the flashback structure popping in and out whenever it wants. However, as much as flashbacks can sometimes ruin a flick and seem obvious, above all else, it works here and helps make us understand more about these characters, as well as Chandler’s dead brother-character, who we see as a loving, adoring brother who was always there for his little bro, even when it was nearly impossible to do so. Despite playing the conventional role of the angst-y teen, Lucas Hedges does a nice job as the orphaned nephew in that he shows us a kid trying to come to terms with his life, where it’s heading and exactly who his family is. He has a nice bit of chemistry with Affleck that shows that there is some sort of a relationship there, but still clearly needs to be worked on.

However, the real standout in maybe just four or five scenes is Michelle Williams, showing up occasionally as Affleck’s ex-wife. While it may surprise some that she’s not in here a whole lot, every scene that Williams gets, she makes count for all that it’s worth; she’s funny, smart and dramatic, sometimes, all at the same time. There’s one key scene late in the movie where her and Affleck’s run into one another on the streets and it’s hard-to-watch by how emotional it gets. It shows that as long as the material is there, you can give an actress a small role and watch her work wonders for the whole product.

Not that Manchester by the Sea needed much help in the first place, because it’s quite great, but it’s definitely nice to have.

Consensus: At times, it’s funny and light, others, it’s dark, dramatic and sad, but no matter what, Manchester by the Sea is an expertly crafted and acted character-piece about life, love, regret, family and heartbreak, without ever coming off as melodramatic as it may sound.

9 / 10

It's okay. Go crabbing. Feel better about yourself.

It’s okay. Go crabbing. Feel better about yourself.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Kingdom (2007)

Let’s just stay home and let people settle themselves out, okay?

Charged with the most important assignment of his career, federal agent Ron Fleury (Jamie Foxx) has one week to assemble a team, infiltrate and destroy a terrorist cell based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It’s not what he had in mind when he decided to join back up with the force, but it’s the task that was handed down to him, so he wrangles up Special Agent Janet Mayes (Jennifer Garner), a forensic examiner, FBI analyst Adam Leavitt (Jason Bateman), an intelligence analyst, and Special Agent Grant Sykes (Chris Cooper), who all have their own set of skills that will help allow for this mission to go down a lot smoother. And if that wasn’t enough, well, then the four also have the company and good graces of Colonel Faris al-Ghazi (Ashraf Barhom), the commander of the Saudi State Police Force, a man who is providing security for them. However, what seems like good intentions at first, all start to go away once the agents realize that they aren’t allowed to do their jobs and complete their mission because of some strange rules that the Saudi government is passing down to them. Will they obey them? Or, like most Americans, will they just do whatever they want?

Jamie's packin'.

Jamie’s packin’.

The Kingdom shows Peter Berg more of where he’s at now in his career. He tackles these real life moments in our nation’s history and does all that he can with them, never really making a point about what it is that he’s depicting, just more of showing the world a little story that we may, or may not, already have known about. Although Berg starts the movie off by showing the relationship between the U.S. and the Saudis, post-WWI, Berg still settles himself down, opting for a more traditional approach to a story that, quite frankly, could have not only just used more eyes and ears, but more voices.

In a way, it seems like the Kingdom is the perfect movie for Berg to get on his soap-box and speak out against the U.S.’s insistence of a relationship with the Saudis, but he still seems torn; at one point, he’s all about making a point, but then, at other points, he just wants to see stuff blow-up and people get shot dead in the streets. Somehow, somewhere, it doesn’t all come together perfectly and it seems like a case of Berg himself getting lost in translation and not knowing where to speak out, and where to let the violence start happening.

The action’s good though, so that’s got to account for something, right?

And yeah, it definitely does. There’s no denying that Berg knows how to craft a tense and effective action-sequence, but there’s maybe only or two throughout the whole film, which means that a large portion of the flick is dedicated to watching a bunch of characters talk to one another about stuff we may not have a clue about, or better yet, not even care for. The Kingdom may not try to settle all of the issues between the Saudis and the U.S., but what it does set out to do, is tell us a story about something that happened in the real world and why it deserves to be told.

So is Chris.

So is Chris.

Why, for some reason, that emotional impact isn’t felt while watching the movie is, for lack of a better term, weird. Berg knows how to craft action-sequences and in the many scenes where there are people talking, there’s still some underlining sense of dread and tension, but it never quite materializes into being anything all that exciting. Berg is, simply put, telling this story and leaving it at that.

In a way, that’s perfectly fine.

But in another way, it’s not. It lets the very talented cast and crew down, as well as the people it’s supposed to be depicting. Of course, the events and situations are all loosely based on other events that occurred in Saudi Arabia and had to do with American forces intervening, but the idea of patriotism and paying a tribute to these men and women who serve our country, only to make other countries nearly as good and safe as ours, still feels relevant. Berg wants to celebrate these people and there’s no problem with that – except for when he doesn’t quite give them all that much of a spectacular movie that really gets us, the movie-going audience, going.

Consensus: Despite a few solid pieces of action and timely themes, the Kingdom doesn’t know how to package them all up in a neat, somewhat cohesive manner that’s both effective, or interesting, making it feel like a missed-opportunity to really speak out against issues that deserve to be spoken out against.

6 / 10

And you know what? Even Jen is.

And you know what? Even Jen is.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Carol (2015)

Once you work in retail, you’ll fall right out of love with everyone.

In New York City, during the 1950s, Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) works as a sales-clerk for a department store that excels during the holiday season. While she does aspire to be a photographer, most of her life surrounds this job, and the possibility that she and her boyfriend (Jake Lacy), may be heading out for Europe some time soon. However, Therese’s life gets turned upside down when she meets an older woman by the name of Carol (Cate Blanchett). Though Carol is currently going through a divorce with her husband (Kyle Chandler), she’s still tied to her child and doesn’t want to lose her in the proceedings, due to claims of affairs she had with other women. Despite this, Carol is still drawn to Therese and vice versa, so because of that, the two decide to see if they can make something of this relationship, despite it being the 50’s and time hasn’t quite caught on yet. But no matter what, Therese and Carol decide to leave their former lives behind for a little while, head out on a road trip, and eventually, see if they should be together and make this thing work, if it’s just another sordid fling for Carol that she wants to try out with a younger woman.

She's faking it.

She’s faking it.

Given the relationship, as well as the nature of it, Carol could have easily just been one crazy sex ride from beginning to end. Wistful glances from afar? Slight breezing of hands? Curious smell of perfume? Oh man! Already sweating just typing it all!

But surprisingly, but at the same time, unsurprisingly, writer/director Todd Haynes handles it all with ease, care, and above all else, delicacy.

See, for one, Carol concerns itself with a romance tale that most people, new and old, may already feel square-ish about – not due to the fact that it concerns two women, but one who is much older than the other and clearly looking for some hot, young meat to sink her teeth into. And from the very start, that’s exactly what Carol seems like; while our titular character definitely has enough reason for wanting to experience something younger and much more lustful, there’s also a good enough reason why she may just be after Therese in the first place and that’s just for a little bit of fun sex. No shame in that, however, Haynes makes it perfectly clear that to Therese, this is no game.

In fact, if anything, it might be love.

And from here on out, Carol takes a wide turn away from being infatuation, to deep, dark and heavy romance that, despite being seen as constant HLA, is actually very far from. In fact, if anything, it’s plenty more subdued that, despite one key scene that’s not just beautiful, but perfect in describing how it is to make love to someone you actually love for the first time, the whole movie’s just a lot of shared-looks and beating around the bush (pun intended, I’m sorry). Nobody in Carol outright declares their love for one another, nor do they ever make it clear just what they’re full intentions are; all that they do know is that they’re feeling something and going wherever it takes them next.

Which is to say that yes, the two people I’m talking about the most is indeed Carol and Therese, as portrayed both perfectly by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, respectively. Much has already been made about who is the lead character here and who isn’t; no matter how you put it, both characters are given just as much as attention, detail and focus as the other, so regardless, they’re both fully-developed, well-rounded characters who you get a sense of from the very start and gradually continue to know more about, as the story progresses. Haynes could have easily left these characters at just the surface-level, but instead, takes more steps into showing us how they are together, as well as when they aren’t together, which is perhaps what matters most.

And by the same token, allows each actress to dig deeper and deeper into who these characters exactly.

As the titular Carol, Blanchett finally feels as if she’s really building a character here and not just “acting”, with a capital A. Don’t get me wrong, Blanchett is an amazing actress who can never not be good, but lately, it seems like most of her roles have just been about placing her in a spot and letting her do her thing. Nothing wrong with that, but after awhile, it starts to get tiring and, in a way, boring for the actor themselves. That’s why, as Carol develops, we get to see Blanchett go down certain avenues with this character that we don’t expect and get to witness for the first time, which not only makes her seem fresh to us, but also real and believable. While we want to be upset with her and judge her for leaving her family and giving into temptation, to see how truly happy she is in her own skin, when she doesn’t have to hide or shelter herself, is a perfect reason to think otherwise and that’s why Blanchett’s performance truly is amazing.

As is she.

As is she.

As for Mara playing Therese, she’s even better. Therese, on-paper, seems like a meek, mild-mannered girl who doesn’t have much to say or do with her life, and generally seems to be just floating about. However, as we start to understand more and more about Therese as the movie progresses, we see that she’s just a sad, little confused girl who has no road to lead her on, nor a person to fully lean on; she’s just going with the flow, but desperately in need of a plan that it’s making her depressed. Mara’s great in making us feel the sympathy for this character, but never overdoing it, and it’s why her performance, while maybe not as showy, is perhaps the most effective.

Together, the two have great chemistry, from the beginning to the very end.

Because Carol is a movie that deals with a relationship, as its developing, its interesting to see it from the initial, building stages, to what it eventually becomes, if anything at all. There’s no real form of chemistry; there’s just a lot of awkward pauses, phrasing and stutters that don’t really go anywhere, except to show that you’re just as flustered as the other person. You’re getting a feel for the other and you’re just seeing to where it all could go. That’s why, when Carol and Therese first meet, get together and see what they can do about the spark between one another, it feels honest and believable – not like a “meet-cute” scenario where they hit it off right the bat.

This is mostly due to the fact that, yes, both Carol and Therese have issues of their own going on, which basically all just boil down to being about men. However, what Haynes does well here, is that he fleshes out these two character’s stories well enough to where they’re not just worth caring about, but sympathetic. Kyle Chandler’s Harge seems like a genuinely upset and heartbroken man who was lied to and sort of toyed around with, only to just now realize that he’s got no direction in life and basically hopeless. Same goes with Jake Lacy’s Richard, a guy who so clearly and desperately wants Therese in his life, but doesn’t want to overthrow his hand, nor get forgotten about, either – he just wants to be with her, love her, marry her, have kids with her, and do whatever else couples do.

If that doesn’t sound at all sweet or romantic, then go elsewhere and stay away from Carol, you heartless wench.

Consensus: Elegant and beautiful, in both its visuals, as well as its story, Carol features a lovely, but compelling romance, as portrayed perfectly by both Blanchett and Mara.

9 / 10

But together, neither is! It's just love, baby!

But together, neither is! It’s just love, baby!

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll and a whole lot of money. Oh my!

Meet Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio): He’s a womanizer, a drug-addict, a go-getter, a hard partier, and most of all, a full-fledged billionaire, and this is his story. We follow Jordan through his early days as a licensed stock broker on Wall Street, where he learns of the ins and the outs from a seasoned-pro (Matthew McConaughey), but eventually, finds himself out of a job and inspiration for life once the stock market crashes. From there, Jordan finds another job in which he’s still working the stocks, however now, he’s found a way to rip people off, and benefit from the extra cash money he has flowing in by the weeks, and then by the days, and then it’s by the hours, and sooner or later, it’s by the minutes of each hour, of each and every single day. So basically, Belfort discovers a way on how to keep on getting richer, and best of all, how to keep on partying and living life until you can’t no more. Sooner than later, though, the FBI starts snooping around and that’s when Jordan begins to find himself backed into a corner that he may not be able to get out of, or one that he may be able to, but will have to take those nearest and dearest down in the process.

Most of you can probably tell by now, but I’ll say it anyway: This movie is a freakin’ blast. Yes, it does clock-in at 179 minutes (that’s near-three hours for those of you counting at home), and yes, it features countless acts of debauchery in which drugs are consumed, women and their body parts are fondled, Big Bens are thrown high up in the air and the “f word” is used more times than it ought to be, but if you can stick through all of this and keep the blood pumping, you’re going to find yourself having one of the best times at the movie theaters.

Was it all politically correct to call it "midget tossing" back in the late-80's/early-90's?

Was it politically correct to call it “midget tossing” back in the late-80’s/early-90’s?

Just exactly like I did, and here’s why.

It’s not easy to make a film about a bunch of stockbrokers that are knowingly ripping people off, in hopes of gaining a heftier wallet and more gifts to bring to the parties, in which we don’t actually hate them and instead, actually rather loathe them, but with all of the movies he’s made in the past (including this), Martin Scorsese has proved himself to be more than up to the task, and then some. Scorsese is approximately 71-years-of-age, but this movie does not show an old man working inside of his comfort-zone, nor one who seems like he can just get as much enjoyment from the spoils of this movie, as much as his subjects in his movie are. Nope, instead, Scorsese continues to find more and more ways in which he can try something new, or, for lack of a better term, never slow down.

When I said that this was a movie that clocked-in at nearly-three hours, most of you probably ran for the hills and never looked back; but what I didn’t say was that it was a near-three hour movie that never, not for a single second, slows down. Sure, there are some moments where we see Scorsese let go of his style and just let his ensemble do the speaking for him, but it’s all Scorsese, all of the time, and it never lost its sense of energy that made it such a blast to watch for its first five minutes of being on screen, let alone it’s 2-hours-and-59-minutes. And needless to say, some of it could have definitely been chopped-down and even taken-out, but with what Scorsese himself has here, it’s pure dynamite by how quick, fun and energetic everything is, without taking a brief moment for silence or to catch your breath.

In other words, if you can’t handle a near-three hour movie that never cools its brakes, you may want to look elsewhere, because once Marty and the rest of his gang get this bus going, they aren’t stopping and it makes you feel like Scorsese himself may never, ever quit making movies. And I would have no problem with that whatsoever, because if he shows us, so late in the game, that he can still hang with the best of them, get moving when he needs to, and also be able to keep his blood-pressure at a reasonably healthy rate, then we don’t need anybody else other than him. If he’s going to keep on branching out and trying new things, then who needs someone that could be, “The Next Martin Scorsese”. It would surely be nice to get someone else who can master the art of the multiple over-head narrations, or the constant zooming-in camera movements, but as for right now, at this moment in time, I’m fine with Marty Scorsese sticking around for however long he damn well pleases to. I just hope that he continues to make movies as exciting, entertaining and hilarious as this.

But everything that I’m saying about Marty, and how he seems to still be open to new and cool things to play around with, could be said for his cinematic muse, Leonardo DiCaprio. Anybody who has ever followed my blog and knows my history, knows that I am a huge and adoring fan of Leo, and he did not disappoint me a single second here. Heck, in fact, I’d say that he surprised the hell out of me here, showing that it is possible for somebody who’s nearing-40, and who has already shown his talents as an actor, to still shock us by letting us know that he’s capable of doing more than just yelling, emoting and being upset; in fact, just like he proved with his Oscar-worthy performance last year in Django Unchained, he can actually be quite funny and steal the scene from some of the most charming, and spirited screen-presences out there.

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Women, AMMIRIGHT?

Not only does Leo get show his lighter-side with Belfort, in terms of making wise-cracks and just being the lovable, handsome devil that knows what to say, and when to say it, he also gets to branch-out a bit and pull-off some really impressive scenes where it’s just him, and him alone. There’s the one scene that everybody seems to be talking about in which Leo begins to feel the side effects of decade-old Quaaludes, and begins to fall limp in every part of his body; almost to the point of where he’s practically dragging himself and crawling to his car. It’s the scene that everybody seems to be talking about, and with good reason: It’s funny, it never ends (in a good way), it’s probably the quietest scene in the whole movie, it’s bizarre and the best of all, it shows us that even somebody like Leo DiCap, the same guy who has been taking serious-role-after-serious-role for a good chunk of his career, can handle something like “physical comedy”, and pull it off with perfection. There’s even a couple more scenes where he’s getting the rest of his stockbrokers all locked, cocked and loaded for whatever it is he wants them to do, whether it be getting richer or throwing down a sweet-ass party, and he absolutely owns each and every one of them, showing us, once again, that if you give him character, you give him a drive, you give him a capable director and you put a camera in front of his face, he’s going to make some magic happen and absolutely over-power everybody else around him.

That’s why, when you look at an ensemble as wide and as fun as this, you really do have to give a whole bunch of credit to somebody like Leo for never letting this movie loose, because his shoulders are the ones in which this flick solely rests its fate on. While everybody here is charming, fun, crazy and anything else but boring, he’s the guy who keeps the train on its tracks, making us realize that these were in fact, real people, who screwed over real people, just like you or me. Though Scorsese may never seem to go any further than “look at all these rich guys and all the debauchery acts they’re committing”, the movie is still a powerful indictment on the fact that these were guys who messed our economy over, and we’re the ones who had to pay for it. It sucks big time, and even though this movie has a good time getting itself away from that fact, we’re still the ones who have to suck it up and move on with our lives, while they are the ones who get to live freely and still be able to do what they want.

Sucks, I know, but it’s all in the name of a good time, right?

Anyway, needless to say, I’ll be pulling for Leo to land his Oscar this year, as I do every year, but let’s face it: He’ll be lucky enough to nab a nomination. Which blows, because he’s so electrifying here, you’ll wonder what else he’s got in-store for us and whether it will be back to his old ways of playing the same old,”troubled and tortured smart guy role”, or if he’ll continue to surprise us and show that he’s got more in his tank than what we know of? I don’t know what side he’ll most likely lean towards, but what I can is that Leo will definitely keep on being one of the best working today, and one that proves to me, as well as to everybody else, time and time again, that nobody can steal the spotlight away from him. Nobody!

Yeah, I’m a bit of a Leo DiCap fan boy. Deal with it.

"Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I've moved on to bigger, and more critically-acclaimed things. Sorry, guys."

“Hey, Judd? Seth? Yeah, I’ve moved on to bigger, and more respected things. Sorry, guys.”

Like I was saying before though, Leo may own this movie, but he isn’t the only that’s actually “good” in it. Jonah Hill is a laugh-out-loud riot as the equally as demented and sick buddy of Jordan’s, Donnie, who starts to show some pretty dark shades to his character as time goes on; Matthew McConaughey appears in about two or three scenes early on in the movie and is a whole box of fun, even giving us some insight into the person that Jordan himself aspires to be, and most likely, will be once he gets his paychecks in order and balance; Rob Reiner is a welcome-presence to see back on the screen, this time, playing Jordan’s dad who handles all of the money, and doesn’t like to ask questions about where it comes from and what it’s for, but still somehow can’t get away from being just a little curious; Jean Dujardin shows up as a Swedish bank-owner that Jordan doesn’t particularly like, but does business with to keep the feds off of his ass; and speaking of those feds, Kyle Chandler plays the FBI Agent whose leading the whole sting-operation against Belfort and his trusty band of misfits, and somehow forms a nice rivalry between the two, despite only having about two scenes together where they actually do match wits.

Oh, and last but not least, Margot Robbie is as perfectly-suited for this Scorsese flick, as much as she’s easy-on-the-eyes, because while she does definitely get full-on naked at various times, she never feels like an object that’s an easy stepping-stool. She can hang with the big boys and she proves that she won’t be taken advantage of, even when it’s clearly obvious that all Jordan wants her for is a nice fuck and a gal to watch over the rest of his family, as well as his empire, just in case he just so happens to be gone for a short while. She’s what every man in the world wants: Smart, brass, good-looking, and a fire-breather in bed, but also the same type of girl that won’t put up with your shit, no matter what. In other words, each and every one of my ex’s. Damn them all!

Consensus: Running on a near-three hour time-limit may take some viewers away from spending time with the Wolf of Wall Street, and the excessive amount of drugs, sex, crime and violence that it depicts, but those who are willing to, will find themselves rewarded with not only one of the most entertaining flicks of the year, but also one of the most impressive that shows us that neither Leonardo DiCaprio, nor Martin Scorsese are down for the count and might just have a few more hits left in them.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Cheers indeed, Leo. Cheers indeed.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

The Spectacular Now (2013)

Drinking and partying hard every weekend when you’re in high school is considered “bad”? Somewhere, I’m calling B.S.!

Sutter (Miles Teller), no matter how many people want to deny it, is the perfect example of a high school senior. He does not know what he wants to do with the rest of his life, and he doesn’t actually care much at all neither. He’s just happy to live in the moment, be with his girlfriend (Brie Larson), drink a hefty amount of whatever he can find, and be ultra-popular among adults and fellow kids. However, all of the partying and good times do eventually catch up with Sutter, and not only does he lose his girlfriend, but begins to see his grades fail way beyond his reach. But after a heavy night of binge-drinking with some of the best in town, Sutter is suddenly awaken (literally and mentally) by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a quiet, shy, and low-key girl that reads sci-fi and Manga novels. This makes her the ultimate nerd and the complete opposite of Sutter’s high-strung, loud-mouthed ways, but somehow, they hit it off quite well and realize that there’s more to each other than they could have possibly ever knew was there in the first place. Especially Sutter, who finds something within him awoken with this new relationship.

With this summer’s The Way, Way Back, The Kings of Summer, and now this; it seems as if teens have an awful lot to learn from this year. Almost each of these flicks concern teens coming-of-age with whatever responsibilities they have to deal with, while also learning a thing or two in the process. However, what’s separated them all is the tone and the material involved. Way, Way Back is a lot more comedic, with the occasional moment of heartfelt drama; Kings of Summer, despite being my least favorite out of the three, was more jokey and didn’t take its premise very seriously, until it soon realized that there needed to be a point behind the whole product, and shoved it in there for a good measure; and now we have The Spectacular Now, the type of film that takes its subject seriously, but never over-does it. Not saying that those other ones do, but there’s just something about this movie that really clicked with me, and made it my favorite coming-of-age drama from the whole summer.

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all "cute" on us!

You just had to kiss the forehead and get all “cute” on us!

There’s going to be plenty more where this came from, but it’s still nice to know that they can be done, and be done well. John Hughes is smiling somewhere. I can tell.

Director James Ponsoldt isn’t a name you’ll know right away from hearing it uttered, but definitely should, especially by the end of this review. Last year, with Smashed, Ponsoldt tackled the rough subject of alcoholism in its grittiest way yet. It offered us a solution to all of the problems, but still showed them off in a very far, very unreachable distance, that it made the whole movie seem rather depressing, yet very true and realistic as well. As someone who has seen alcoholism around him very much in his life, it touched me and had me remember all of the times I had to hold somebody’s head over a trash-can/toilet, just because they were too busy out getting plastered all night. But this isn’t a review about that movie, it’s one about this movie, The Spectacular Now, but I can assure that the themes and issues that the flicks tackle, make them very similar, but very different in the ways they go about talking, or mentioning it.

For instance, the movie never utters the word “alcoholic”. Not even Sutter himself, who seems like he knows how much he drinks, how much he loves to drink, and why he does so, but yet, never comes to admit to himself that he has a problem and needs help. And to be brutally honest, it doesn’t seem like he needs all that much help with that aspect of his character, as much as he does with everything else in his life. What Ponsoldt does well with this character and this flick is that he tackles all of the problems that most teenagers face when they are about to get ready and leave for college; but never dramatizes them in a way that we’ve seen done a million times before, in lesser, coming-of-age flicks. Sutter has a problem with drinking, yes, but he also has an even bigger problem with living for the future and taking the rest of his life into hand. He knows that he needs to be the life of the party for now, because that’s all that matters, but is it going to matter 10 years down the road, except for maybe when he shows up at the reunion, still drunk off of his ass? Not at all, but Sutter doesn’t want to hear that, and honestly, he’s like every other teen out there I’ve ever met, including myself.

No young person, female or male, wants to admit that they don’t have everything planned-out and ready-to-go. Every young person likes to think that they’re out on top and nobody can take them off of their high-horse; but that’s when reality comes in, slaps you in the face, and has you wake up, realizing that you have the rest of your life to live, and the countdown starts NOW. That’s where this movie really hit me, because for the first hour or so, it’s somewhat fun, comedic, light, and playful with its material, its characters, and what it’s ultimately going to set-up, but once the reality of the situation of all of our lives, including Sutter’s, sets in; then, the movie becomes very dark, very dramatic, and very sad, almost in a way that shocked me by how far Ponsoldt decided to go.

It’s a teen-drama in the sense that kids do party, kids do drink, kids do have sex, and kids do go to school and plan for college, but it’s also a teen-drama in the sense that it’s not like a movie; and more like a life-lesson on what could happen to anyone, at any moment. However, it’s far from being that hokey or ham-fisted as most of those “message movies” are. This one, instead, really touches on the ideas and themes that are present in all young teen’s lives, allows it to tell itself, and never holds our hand or tells us directly what’s happening. It’s almost like we’re watching real life happen in front of our eyes, with all of the good and bad decisions made along the way. For that, I have to give this flick a super, duper high-five! Not just because it’s smarter than your average, run-of-the-mill teenage-drama (which it totally is), but because it touches on an idea that most of us are afraid to admit is there, and sometimes prevails: Failure. Yep, that dreaded “F word” has a funny way of showing its own face around every once and awhile, and this movie does not shy away from that fact either.

But believe it or not (because you sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to tell from my constant bickering), this is a movie about two teens getting acquainted, finding out who the other person really is, falling in love, and doing all of that other, cutesy-bootsie stuff that most people who fall in love do. On that note, it serves its job, even if I did feel like the ball does get dropped a bit at the end once a middle-twist shows up, and totally changes the movie’s view-point around. Can’t say much as to what it is, or how it happens, but trust me, when it does occur, you’ll feel the movie’s weight drag right from underneath you, and pull you down as it continues to develop more and more. That’s a good thing, by the way.

Like I said though: The romance at the center of this flick. Despite this seeming like another one of those “popular guy falls in love with nerd, nerd finds out her inner-beauty, popular guy realizes he’s been a jerk his whole life and conforms at the end”-stories, it totally is not. Ponsoldt touches this aspect of the story with as much sensitivity as a real-life, blossoming-relationship would be. There’s the insecurities; the awkward conversations; the initial action of sex; and the first meeting of the family-members. However, it’s all played with about as much sincerity and honesty as most of your relationships may have been, and it touched the inner-romantic side of me, while also made me realize all of the good times, as well as the bad ones, that I spent with a few of my honeys during high school. Quite a lot I had, just don’t ask them if they did go out with me or not.

What really makes this relationship between these two work so well and believably, is that Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are both very charming when they’re together, and even when they aren’t. More in the case of Teller, but I’ll get to him in just a few bit, as for right now, we have Woodley to discuss here, who is not only the most adorable, sweetest female to grace the screen this whole year so far, but really out-does the Oscar-worthy performance she gave in The Descendants. Not only is she less brass and sassy as she was in that flick, but she also has more of a heart to her here, one that feels like it deserves love, even if it is from this dude who’s just trying to figure out what he, as well as life’s, all about. She’s a nerd in the sense that she doesn’t talk to many people and reads weird stuff that us cool kids wouldn’t dare get caught skimming-through in the cafeteria, but she doesn’t wear glasses, she rarely differs in her personality from the beginning to the end, and she isn’t in need of a major makeover that drastically changes her appearance, making her sexier and more desirable than ever before. None of that, at all. Instead, we just have Woodley here to give us a beautiful look at a young, small-town gal who wants to do nice things for the people around her, and deserves all of the love in the world, regardless of who it comes from. Wonderful performance from the gal, and I hope she bounces back from being bounced out of The Amazing Spider-Man sequel.

That Marc Webb sure is a heartless bastard.

RED CUP ALERT!!

RED CUP ALERT!!

Although, the one performance here that this movie depends on the most is Miles Teller’s as Sutter Keeley, aka, the guy everyone wants to be, but just never amounts to actually being in high school. Sutter has it all and knows that he does, yet, he doesn’t quite take advantage of it while he still can, because he’s constantly drunk and acting like an ass. Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re young, but like what many people tell him throughout this flick: You have to get serious every once and awhile, and stop always being a jokester. Whenever Teller is being funny and/or charming, he’s perfect at it, and feels like a younger-version of Vince Vaughn (without saying “baby” at the end of every sentence).

He knows how to work the humor and the fun of this character, but also knows how to get to the deeper feelings as well, and never loses sight of what’s really going on behind this guy’s wild times, as sad as they may be to go face-to-face with. With that, Teller is amazing and I really cannot wait to see where his career goes from here, as it seems like the guy knows how to be lovable and funny, but also have us care for him too, despite his character not being all that sympathetic or smart. Sutter does partake in some questionable actions, as well as very lazy ones, you still feel for him and understand where he’s coming from; all because he, like you, were at one time or still are, a teenager and coming to grips with what the real world out there is like. Some of it’s pretty, some of it ain’t. But that’s the world for ya, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

However, it’s also the rest of the ensemble cast that perfectly rounds out this movie, and makes it even more brutal and realistic in its scope and vision. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a few nice scenes as the older sister of Sutter, a girl who was probably just like him at one point, but has finally escaped that world and married into the money world; Brie Larson plays Sutter’s ex-girlfriend, which would be an easy role for any actress to work with just by being bitchy and annoying, but Larson isn’t and gives this character an sympathetic-route that I didn’t expect to feel for her at all; Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Sutter’s mommy, a damaged woman who obviously loves him for what he is, but is a bit too broken-down to fully merge herself into his life and take charge; and last, but sure as hell not least, Kyle Chandler has a perfect 10-15 minutes of screen-time as Sutter’s daddy, a guy who’s just as messed-up as him, if not worse, and it totally hits a soft spot with him, as well as you. Overall, perfect cast that helps hit you with a harder blow, had it been handled by any lesser-actors.

Consensus: The obvious trappings of a coming-of-age, dramedy are definitely present in The Spectacular Now, but are rarely used because it’s a lot smarter with its hard-hitting and brutal, yet realistic view of what it’s like to be a teenager, see what’s next to come, and not want to let go of the past, as much as it may pain one to do so.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Again with the "cute"! Damn teenagers!

Again with the “cuteness”! Damn teenagers!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider, Joblo, ComingSoon.net

Broken City (2013)

If Mayor Nutter ever needs somebody to watch his woman, he can always give me a call. He just better drop my taxes.

An ex-cop (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in a job for New York City’s mayor (Russell Crowe), which is that he must trail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he believes is having an affair. However, what the ex-cop stumbles upon is worse than he ever imagined and thus, the job becomes a lot more difficult than he expected.

This is one of those movies that seems like it has all of the promise with the cast, the characters, the plot, the stars, and heck, even the director (Allen Hughes, in his first movie without bro Albert by his side) all being big and well-respected. However, just like Gangster Squad, it is January, and you can’t always expect the best, no matter who may be behind it all. Why can’t it just be May already? Why?!?!??

As a director all by his lonesome, Hughes is actually not too bad. Granted, this isn’t a very showwy-direction for the type of dude that is known for this type of stuff, but he gives us a nice atmosphere and mood to start us off on the right foot. We feel as if we are in for a movie that’s all about dark stuff, happening to dark people, in dark ways, that are almost too dark to explain and believe. Basically, this movie was started-off as being one, big, piece of darkness that was most likely going to keep me guessing until the very end and for awhile; it was doing just that.

I don’t want to say that all of the twists and turns of this story work when you take everything else into consideration, but for the most part, I liked not knowing exactly where the story could go and how. Rarely do you ever get thrillers that just like to throw plot-twists for fun, but actually have them mean something, rather than just be a wake-up call to the audience and make sure they’re paying attention. You never quite know where this story could go and even the places that it does end-up, could actually take you by surprise and make you feel like this is a no-holds-barred movie, that’s ready to take you down any chance it can get. However, that would definitely be giving the movie way too much credit.

"What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?"

“What do you mean you thought Hugh did better?”

Even though the twists, the turns, the darkness, the secrets, and big reveals kept me interested in what was going on behind the closed doors we rarely get a glimpse at, they didn’t feel deserved. It was almost as if the movie itself thought, “Well, we already have these twists here, why not throw in a couple more just for good measure?”. That idea that I maybe think the creators thought up of in their heads during the writing-process, only goes to show you that there wasn’t much thought going into this script, because certain things just don’t add up. We get a look at how the world of politics can be cruel and why it’s more of a fight between the toughest, rather than the smartest, but those moments only get shoved down our throats when the movie feels like it needs to be more than just a natural-thriller where Marky Mark is going around and kicking the crap out of people.

Then, it just gets stranger and more contrived, as more subplots come in like a gay couple that seems as forced as can be, a problem with Marky Mark’s drinking problem, a love story between him and his gal-pal that has the material there to be interesting and gripping, but just isn’t due to the delivery, and a plot that shows Mark’s past and how the “hood” he used to represent, may not always be there. You put these three factors in, add a bit of the political-idea of this flick, and mix them altogether in a blender; then you’re most likely going to get a mixed-bag full of moments that work, but other moments, that just don’t add up to anything. I think where I’m trying to get at with this flick, is that even though you get into it, the movie is still nothing more than just a thriller, no matter how many debates and arguments they want to throw in there about changing NYC, by giving “the People” they’re money back. In today’s day and age, with the economy we have, maybe messages like that would work and really get inside the minds of many, fellow Americans, but put that message in a movie like this: it’s going to go nowhere and not matter a single-bit. Why? Well, because people paid over $9 to see Marky Mark and Maximilian go head-to-head, not discuss on how to make the world/NYC a better place to live free and be happy in. Yeah, wrong movie entirely.

Marky Mark definitely seems like he’s made for these types of roles where he plays the type of conflicted dude that may not have the best morals you have ever seen, but is still a hell of a likable dude that you can’t help but cheer on. His role here, as Bobby, is exactly one of THOSE roles and it’s not something new, original, or slightly refreshing to see from the guy, but it doesn’t matter, because Wahlberg is good, as always, and gives us more to like about this character. However, it’s that character himself I just didn’t believe.

"I told you, Michael. The doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else."

“I told you, Michael: the doctor said only 3 times a month for sex, or else no Wall Street 3.”

Without spoiling too much about this plot and basically telling you what goes down with Mark and everybody else, I’m just going to state that Mark’s character goes through some sort of self-realization phase where he soon starts to find-out that there’s a set-up somewhere along the lines, and it’s up to him to not only save the day, but show the bad people, for everything that they are: bad people. In any movie where Wahlberg does the same, exact transformation, not only do you believe it, but you like Wahlberg more and more cause you see the cool guy come out of his performance, but here, you just don’t care. Billy is one of those dudes that’s got a troubled-past and some issues that he’s dealing with at the present-time, but never so much to the point of where I feel like the guy would really turn his life around and eventually go balls-deep in a case, that doesn’t seem like it concerned him, well, ever. I can’t give away anymore of what happens, but trust me; you won’t believe in Bobby, no matter how much Wahlberg may distract you with those big guns and crooked, angry eyebrows.

Out of the cast, the two that really shine are probably Jeffrey Wright and Russell Crowe, who both feel as if they were just called-up to have a good time, and do exactly that. Especially Crowe, who seems like he needed to give the audience a nice-reminder that yes, even though he can’t sing, he can sure as hell own the screen like no other. I mean, hell, the guy has an Oscar at his household, and has been nominated close to three times by now! The guy’s got talent, it just doesn’t necessarily mean it’s in his vocal-chords. Oh well, nice to see you back, Russell. Now, stay away from Broadway musical-adaptations!

Consensus: The promise that lies within Broken City is exactly there for the first 45 minutes or so, but once the flick decides to spice things up with an over-abundance of plots, twists, conventions, and obvious-narratives that don’t feel believable, then it just loses all of it’s steam and is nothing more than just another thriller, with more talking than usual.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Of course I'll say hello to my mother for a face like that!

Of course I’ll say hello to my mother for a face like that.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Osama’s dead! Now it’s time for Hollywood to take advantage!

The film is a chronicle of the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, and his ultimate-death at the hands of U.S. Navy SEALs in May 2011.

Unless you have been living under a cave for the past years (sort of like Osama himself), then you’ll probably already know how this story ends. People get on the look-out for Osama, find some tip-offs, locate his living quarters, send a search and destroy team, and basically, destroy him and everybody else that was practically in there.

After a decade of anger, frustration, sadness, paranoia, and a great deal of questions left unanswered, we, as a country, finally got what we wanted ever since those fateful hours of 9/11: we killed the son-of-a-bitch that was to be blamed for all of it. If you like to look at humanity in the eyes that every person made in God’s eyes are equal and judged the same, but if you look at it from another pair of eyes, you’ll start to realize that this was a piece of shit that deserved to die, deserved to be stuck in-hiding half of his life, and better yet, deserved to be killed the way he was. In my opinions, no matter how brutal or vicious, I feel like the guy got-off a bit easy with a couple of shots to the dome (apparently) and no torture whatsoever, when this is also the same guy that killed over 3,000 innocent people in just one day. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m rooting for America on this one and I usually don’t get all this “hurrah! hurrah!”, over being a patriot of my country, but there’s just something about the idea of finding the person that was responsible for so many deaths and broken hearts in one day, killing him, and showing him, as well as his followers, what the ‘eff is up with the good, olde U.S. of A. I hate to sound all lame-ass and cliche, but damn, was I proud to be an American after seeing this movie.

No, I did not just spoil the movie's ending with this image.

No, I did not just spoil the movie’s ending with this image.

This also really surprised the hell out of me as well, mainly because I wasn’t expecting feelings like this to pop-up, after expecting this to be Kathryn Bigelow’s big, follow-up to The Hurt Locker, a war movie in which, it seemed like the theme was very much against the war, rather than creating a love-letter to those who fight for our safety and freedom, day-in and day-out. It’s not like Bigelow went full-throttle at the army’s throats and showed them how much of dirty and despicable bastards they can truly-be, but instead, showed them more as a bunch of people that have problems, just like you or me. It was a nice movie, a nice war movie, and a very nice movie with a smart message to-boot, but that’s not the film I’m reviewing here.

The movie I am reviewing instead is this one, Zero Dark Thirty. Up until a couple of days ago where I heard this movie has been destroying film festival award shows, I wasn’t really all that amped-up to see this flick. Yeah, we all know the story about Bin Laden, we all know the cook gets shot, and yes, we all know that people did a lot to figure-out just where, how, and when this guy hid for so long. It was an obvious story that just seemed like it was going to be the more modern, war-version take on a “based on factual events” story like Argo. However, slowly but surely, this movie really started to creep-up and find it’s way into my mind and have me very, very excited to see what was going to go down and after awhile, I got to thinking: I didn’t really know all that much about the whole Bin Laden-killing as it was.

Yeah, I knew how it began and how it ended, which is pretty much enough for some people, but being the type of guy that likes reasons, explanations, and understandings to most of the stories that I find-out to actually be true, I knew there was more than meets-the-eyes and that is exactly what you can expect from this movie. Right from the start, you know you are in for a thrill-ride that is full of suspense, espionage, exposition, clues, hints, interrogations, arguments, conversations, torture, and best of all, action. This movie basically has it all and even though the first 20 minutes seems to go a bit over-the-top with the whole “torture” idea, it soon builds into something that doesn’t need to have things exploding or people being shot to keep you interested and riveted; it just uses conversations, and wonderful conversations at-that.

Seeing how this whole investigation got from Point A, to Point B, is pretty damn interesting, but what’s even more interesting is how much feels like it’s on the line in this flick. When these characters are out searching for Bin Laden, where’s he hiding, and who the hell helped him with terrorist attacks, we feel as if we are there searching with them as well, with just enough terror and suspense as you could imagine. I knew how this was going to turn-out and if you are the biggest-idiot on the face of the Earth and don’t know by now, well then, you do too. It’s a real-life investigation that just so happened to turn-out successful  but getting to that point where everybody is happy, jolly, and feeling victorious, is a real, fucking ride that will take you all-over-the-place in terms of emotions and thoughts. Actually, maybe saying it will fuck with your mind is the wrong-impression to give you, but if you like a thriller where you have no idea what’s going to happen next and like to have your palms sweaty for about 95% of the actual-movie, then this is the type of thriller for you that will stick with you just as much as it did to me.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I'd still try my hardest for her heart.

Even though she could order a team of highly-trained professionals to come and kill me in a matter of seconds with no traces whatsoever, I’d still try my hardest for her heart.

And as for the rest of that 5%, well, I sort of left that out, mostly because it seems like more of this flick is about getting the facts straight and telling it like it is, which was all fine and dandy with me for the most part, especially because all of it seemed to be pretty legitimate. As with most of these movies that take on an actual, real-life investigation that had to deal with the U.S. government, there’s always a lot of speculation as to what is real, what is dramatized, and what is fake. For the most-part, after all of the controversies this flick has seem to be dealing with as of-late, I can easily state that most of what you will see and hear here, is in-fact told in the way it went-down. Of course not every scene was filled with as much witty-lines and moments of humor that this movie’s scripts throws in there to great-effect, but the ideas, the hints, the clues, the thoughts, and the actions, all seem to be very reasonable and I never really found myself scratching my head as to how the hell somebody could pull something-off like this, no matter how much leverage she may have had. However, it’s less of a history-lesson and more of a thriller that shows you what went-down, how it went-down, and what exactly was going through the minds of the people behind all of the actions. Some good, some bad, some are just not worth giving a fuck about but at the end of the day, Osama was killed and everybody was happy and joyful together. Yippie-Kay-Yay!

Featuring a cast that doesn’t really have any real, blockbuster names to attract an audience to a flick that already seems like it may have a bit of a struggle with making moolah around this time of the year, definitely seems like a risk that Bigelow is willing to take, and a risk I want to watch her take, more and more now, especially after what I saw what she could do with an amazing cast like this. After having what is essentially the greatest year of her freakin’ life so-far (other than that one, beautiful summer where she went to camp and become a woman for the first-time, I don’t know, just guessing that it’s what all girls have memories of), Chastain builds on top of that with a stellar-performance that is probably the best she has given so far, mainly because her character goes through so many changes throughout the whole flick, but yet, they all feel real.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

Ahhhh, beautiful Pakistan.

When we first see Chastain as Maya, we see her as soft-spoken, scared, and a bit of wimpy-like girl that can’t handle the sight of so much blood and torture that she sees within the first 20 minutes, but after awhile, she gets used to it and realizes that maybe, just maybe, she, as well as the rest of the CIA, needs to get their shit together and find this summbitch who caused all of this trouble in the first-place. Chastain is strong-as-hell in this role and you can totally tell that as time continues to go-on for her and for this mission, that the look on her face and her eyes, begin to change and get more and more disrupted by the anger and frustration that sort of domes come with the job of being a very-skilled member of the CIA and handling a mission like locating, and taking-out a top-terrorist. Every look she gives another character in this movie feels deserved and she is such a strong female-character that you are able to stand-by, trust, and feel like she is literally a nice human-being that only wants what’s right for her, her own well-being, and her own country that she fights for day on a daily-basis. No surprise whatsoever that this gal is getting so much damn Oscar buzz for this and if she does win (which she just might), I will have no objection or angry-tirade whatsoever. Hell, after all that she did last year, the woman deserves it. But please, somebody just give her my number!

Her co-star from this year’s earlier-release, Lawless, Jason Clarke has the next best role as another member of the CIA, but yet, has a way different job than her. See, Clarke’s character is a guy that has to deal with the torturing and question of their Iranian prisoners and as hard as it may be to watch some of the actual torture that does go-down in the flick (mainly within the first 20 minutes, just to let you know how crazy, wild and disturbing this movie is going to be), it’s even harder to watch a character like this have to suffer from doing something that literally makes him a miserable human-being. Clarke is a guy I never really payed attention-to in the past, mainly because I never thought he really needed to shine in the spotlight, he’s just always been there, but here, every chance the guy gets, he absolutely nails it in showing us how a character that does something so vicious and violent for a living, can actually still stay sane and normal in the outside world around him. If it wasn’t for all of the buzz that has already been surrounding every-other aspect of this damn movie, then I would definitely have to say that Clarke would be up for an Oscar nom., but as for right now, I think I may just have to wait and keep my, Minnesota Fats-like fingers crossed.

"Seriously, since you're night-vision doesn't work, you brought a candle?"

“Seriously, since you’re night-vision doesn’t work, you brought a candle instead? Do you not know what we are here to do!?!?”

Even though Clarke and Chastain may be the real stands-out of the flick, you know, the ones you really remember when all is said and done, they sure as hell aren’t the only ones that give solid performances worth-mentioning. Mark Strong shows up in a couple of scenes, and absolutely hits the high-rising emotions in this flick, and hits them hard, especially with an introduction-scene that is one of the best he has ever done in his entire career. Trust me, just ask the fellas I saw this movie with. They’ll probably tell you I couldn’t stop quoting his damn scene and with good reason: it’s memorable, important, and best of all, perfect. And no, for all of you people out there wondering: Mark Strong does not play Osama Bin Laden, regardless of what his past-decisions for characters may have you think otherwise. Kyle Chandler seems to be having a lot of fun playing, once again, another member of the CIA that seems to always have the right, witty answers to every solution, but yet, still can’t keep an eye on his own shit and even get the chance to cover his own-ass. Chandler’s been doing some real splendid work as of late, and I think this flick is only going to prove that point a whole lot more. James Gandolfini also shows-up in a scene or two as the main, higher-up of the CIA that always has to give final-word to the president and even though it’s not a glamorous-role for the guy, it’s not one that shows how much of a fat-slob he has become, either. He’s just a normal dude, with a very demanding job.

However, these three are the only three I could really think-of off the top of my head and say exactly why I liked them so much here, because everybody else, I kid you not, is as great as they should be. Every tiny, little-role that Bigelow needs filled-up, she fills it up with a great actor/actress that gives their all and might into scene that sometimes doesn’t mean a shit in the long-run, but after it’s over, you are still left remembering it because of how well-acted it truly was. The only bad apple out of this whole cast that really seems like he may have been trying a bit too hard was Chris Pratt as the main, Navy Seal that goes into Bin Laden’s cave. I love Pratt to death and I think he is an absolute riot as Andy Dwyer, but seriously, you can’t go from a character that’s all about being a man-child, who is dumb, big, and slow, in terms of understanding the things around him, and go right to a character that practically slimes his way around and about Bin Laden’s head-quarters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Pratt and he’s not even that bad here, but he just seems like he should be off, doing something more comedic that would use him well.

Despite all of this big and bad jibberoo about why the movie works and how, I can only imagine the real question on your mind: what about the whole Bin Laden-shooting? Well, without giving too much away or even letting you know of what fully goes down, I’m just going to state that Bigelow handles it in the most understandable, most respectful, and most perfect way that makes you realize how far everybody has come to this point and in a way, what is to come of us next, not only as a country lead by an army, but as humans living in the country as well. Bigelow handles this last-sequence where all of the Navy Seals find their-ways to Bin Laden as if we are actually there, right next to them, as they make all of the tough shots and calls, and it’s probably the most exciting and suspenseful, piece of 30 minutes at the theaters I have spent in a very, very long-time. And mind you, I am talking about the whole Bin Laden-shooting. Something that I actually have prior knowledge to knowing that it did actually happen!

"What by the term, "Casual Friday", do you not understand?"

“What by the term, “Casual Friday”, do you not understand?”

Yup, it surprised the hell out of me too, but if there is anything that surprised the hell out of me, is how happy and proud I was to be in a country where most humans have the rights to do whatever they want, however they want it, and mainly because we all are humans, no matter what eyes you look through. Now, I’m not saying that it’s right for people to do anything they want, whenever they want because they’re humans (last Frdiay’s shootings come to mind), but for people that can choose between right-and-wrong, and are given a set of ideas as to what is right for the world and everybody else living in it, it’s a beautiful country we live in and it’s one that makes me happy, just knowing that I am being protected by people who are days and days away from me, but yet, still continue to keep me safe at-night, while I sit here, half-naked, drink a Mountain Dew, and talk about a movie that’s all about them. Yes, thank you all for saving my life day-after-day, please don’t stop either, because I really like not having to look over my shoulder every five seconds.

Consensus: Some historical facts and inaccuracies may always be up for discussion here in Zero Dark Thirty, but what cannot be up for discussion is how entertaining, enlightening, smart, provocative, well-acted, and perfectly-performed this flick truly is and I really do see it winning a crap-load of Oscars, come February of 2013.

9/10=Full Price!!

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Looks like the perfect cover for a video-game version of the movie.

Argo (2012)

See, Star Wars really did save people’s lives.

The movie is on the true story of a secret 1979 CIA mission during the Iran Hostage crisis in which six diplomats are rescued through a bizarre extraction plan involving a fake Hollywood film crew scouting locations for a sci-fi film named “Argo.” Ben Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, the real-life CIA exfiltration expert who came up with the idea in the first-place and has to find the strength and courage to go through with it.

Believe it or not, that silly-ass plot synopsis up there is a real-life account on a secret CIA mission that took place during 1979 to 1980 and may have you think, “just how the hell did the government trust Hollywood with saving the lives of six people?” Well, the truth is that Hollywood is good for many things, and not only is saving the lives of six people one of them, but reviving Mr. Ben Affleck’s career as well.

As director, Ben Affleck is basically three-for-three (Gone Baby Gone and The Town are his two other flicks), but this one is slightly different from those other ones as he is actually stepping out of his friendly-streets of Bawhstan, and upping his game by focusing on something bigger, and a lot larger-scale than from what we usually expect from this guy. The look and feel of this movie just put me right into a late 70’s/early 80’s vibe that not only set me in the right-mood, but never rang a single false-note to me whatsoever, even with all of the goofy mustaches, cars, and hair-do’s running around all-over-the-place.

But what really came as a total shock to me is how Affleck was not only make me feel like I was exactly right there with him in America during this time-period, but also made me feel like in the chaotic shit-hole of Iran during this time as well, and damn, was it freakin’ scary. Right from the start, we are put in this area of Iran that is just full of chaos and on the verge of collapsing, and Affleck shows this perfectly by splicing together his footage, with actual-footage taken at this time to create a realistic, if even scarier view-point of the setting where our main-story takes place in. It’s not only great in it’s realistic/very detailed look, but also how we are able to draw the similarities between the Middle East and the West’s relationship with one another, to then, and how almost nothing has changed whatsoever in the thirty-plus years since this whole “Argo” mission went down.

However, it’s not all about making a point and showing off the politics with Affleck, it’s more about the whole mission itself and that’s where most of the fun of this movie came from. The first hour or so where we are left following Affleck as he tries his damn near hardest to make this fake-movie every bit of legit as he can, is the most entertaining aspect of this whole movie, not just because it takes a lighter, and slightly, more humorous approach than the rest of the film, but because it shows you just how hard it is to actually get something made in Hollywood, regardless of whether it’s the next masterpiece or not. But, all of the hootin’ and holler soon starts to go away once the real plot of this movie kicks in, and that’s where I really started to feel the tension go up my spine and get the goosebumps working. This is where Affleck shines the most, by showing how capable he is of making you sweat your ass off, with every single, tense second that goes by. It’s worked in his other two films, and it sure as hell works here but not as perfectly.

The reason why the whole suspension of this film doesn’t work as well as Affleck’s last, two movies, is because we already know the story going on and if you haven’t already known, chances are, you’re going to be able to tell how it ends. Then again, that’s sort of the basis for all movies out there but when you have a movie that puts the whole aspect of itself, on the fact that you have to feel all tense and worked-up to really enjoy the whole movie, then you kind of have to wonder just when this movie’s time is up. I don’t know want to say that it got to that point for me, but there was a very heart-breaking point where I realized that, “okay, I already know what’s going to happen, so why the hell is Affleck wasting my time with all of these slow scenes and epic score bits?” But, I don’t want to give anything else away and trust me, if you don’t know the story going in, be ready, cause you may already know it from start-to-finish about half-way through. I did, and I think that’s where this film sort of failed in captivating me as much as I would have liked it to.

Then, it seems to get worse for Affleck as the guy doesn’t really stand-out as much with his performance as Tony Mendez. The problem with Mendez isn’t Affleck’s acting, in-fact, the guy’s pretty good when it comes to him showing his near-perfect comedic timing, as well as showing us a character that’s easy to root for, even when the odds are stacked up in his defense, more of the problem is that this character just doesn’t have much going for him that’s interesting or worth really standing behind in the first-place. Yeah, the guy singlehandedly comes up with this plan and is brave enough to go out there and finish it off himself, but he doesn’t really have much of anything else going for the guy. This is fairly evident when the film tries to shoe-horn the whole angle with him and how he misses his son and wife, even though they touch on it for about 6 minutes throughout the whole film, and then at the end, is supposed to have some big, emotional impact on us as we walk out the door. No, no, mister Ben. Not falling for it this time.

Then again, you have to give Affleck more credit because this even and plain performance, almost allows him to take a side-step to the left for the rest of his ensemble to show off and do their own thang unlike anybody else. Bryan Cranston shows up in his 100,000th movie role this whole year as Tony’s boss, and nails all of the snappy dialogue they give him, and his angry soul. I was hearing a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Cranston and his role here and as good as the guy may be, I don’t really see it all that much since he’s not really stretching his skills as an actor by just yelling and looking mad all of the time. Still, it’s an act that I have yet to be tired of. Alan Arkin is also another guy that’s been getting a lot of buzz for his role here as big-shot, Hollywood producer, Lester Siegel. This buzz is deserved but I don’t really see Arkin getting a nomination, mainly because the guy doesn’t do anything else other than yell, scream, holler, and rant like the old man we all know and hopefully, love him for. Then, there’s John Goodman as real-life make-up artist John Chambers, who also seems to be having a lot of fun with his role and steals a lot of the scenes he’s in. However, the rest of the supporting cast is just filled, and filled, and filled to the brim with actors/actresses that you have most likely seen in about 1,000 other movies and when you see their faces pop-up here, you’re going to be going right up next to your buddies ear and say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy from that so-and-so movie?” Trust me, I did that plenty of times with my sister and I probably missed a hundred more because my mind would still be in heavy thought and not focused on who’s familiar face was going to show up next.

Consensus: Though it’s not as tense or electrifying as Affleck’s last two directorial efforts, Argo still works as a smart, funny, and entertaining thriller that covers a mission that not many people ever knew about, but was also a very important one by how it showed certain sides of the U.S. government working hand-in-hand with Hollywood in a slightly surreal, yet smart way.

8/10=Matinee!!

Super 8 (2011)

Makes me wanna hang-out with my childhood friends again, or what’s left of them anyway.

Living in a small town in the summer of 1979, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) helps out his friends film their monster movie while trying to move on from the death of his mother. While filming a scene at a station, a truck smashes into an oncoming train forcing it to derail. After the immense explosion, something escapes from the wreckage. Joe and his friends then witness several strange events around town while Joe’s father (Kyle Chandler) tries to keep the peace and the shady military begins to occupy the once sleepy town.

From the beginning nobody had any idea just what this film was about and then everybody started to notice it was like an old Spielberg film. Now of course, this is a big homage to such sci-fi classics as “The Goonies”, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, and “E.T”. During this whole film, you’ll definitely be reminded of those films but I can promise you this isn’t a parody, this isn’t a rip-off, it’s just an homage to those old films and with Steven Spielberg as producer, its a great homage.

Writer and director J.J. Abrams obviously grew up loving these films and I could feel it watching this because with every little element to this film, he does it all right. Abrams keeps this story moving at a nice pace and doesn’t try to do anything that would seem phony or cheesy in any way, he tells the story like it is. Abrams also does a great job at not actually showing us “the monster” and when we actually do its great because the whole time during the film we are just left in total mystery of what this thing is, and what is behind all these strange happenings. The explanations Abrams give us are reasonable, but the mystery of the plot is what really sold me here because I really wanted to see what this damn thing was.

My only problem with this film was the fact they did a bad job of making the Army seem like the bad guys, which isn’t really a problem considering so many films do that nowadays. I just felt like this film was so much smarter than all those others, but made these Army officials look like complete dicks, but then again, this film did need some conflict in between everything else so I understand.

The cast here is full of a bunch of random people but their all good. Joel Courtney is great in his big-screen debut as Joe, who carries that emotional weight of the story on his shoulders and doesn’t let up once. Great performance, and I can tell that this kid has got himself a good career ahead of him. Elle Fanning is growing up pretty quickly and is actually my favorite from the cast as the sort of bad girl, Alice. The rest of the kids are pretty good too, but my main favorite was Riley Griffiths as Charles, and is just hilarious the whole time through and kind of reminded me of a younger Dan the Man I must say. Let’s not also forget the always reliable Kyle Chandler as Joe’s Dad, Jackson, who finally gets some big-screen time here as well.

What really had me here was that this is just a whole lot of fun, but still with something to show for it. The visuals, especially the train crash, are absolutely amazing and just look so realistic. The screenplay here is also near-perfect because even though all these crazy explosions, invasions, kidnappings, and strange happenings are occurring, this is still all about the kids and with good reason because their just so fun to be around. The film reminded me of “Stand By Me” because this actually showed kids talking like kids again. They aren’t all squeaky clean and know-it-alls, these ones insecure, curse like it’s nobody’s business, and altogether, innocent. This film is all about the kids and how they relate to each other and not once does it hit a false-note at how the kids and their parents unify, or don’t unify during these strange events. I was totally surprised by how much of an emotional weight impact this had on me and when I left the theater, I just felt happy.

Consensus: Some may be annoyed from the constant nostalgia feel of this film, but Super 8 is a J.J. Abrams’ beautiful homage to all of the old Spielberg films of the 80’s with a great screenplay that is funny and emotional, fun action, and just reminds us what Summer blockbusters should always be like.

9/10=Full Pricee!!