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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Laura Linney

The House of Mirth (2000)

The grubbiest paws aren’t always the easiest to bother.

Lily (Gillian Anderson) is a ravishing socialite who takes her charm and beauty for granted. For one, she thinks she’s way better than a lot of those around her and while she’s not necessarily wrong, said beauty and charm does start to bring all sorts of interest her way in the form of men, but it also brings upon jealousy in the form of the fellow women who surround her and can’t stand the fact that she gets so many eyes towards her ways. And just like a lady did back in the day, she seeks a wealthy husband and, in trying to conform to social expectations, she misses her chance for real love with Lawrence Selden (Eric Stoltz), a man she think she’s better than, even though he thinks that they would be perfect, no matter what. Eventually, her search for a husband takes her to many different men and prospects, none of whom quite work out once Lily is accused of having an affair with a married-man, not just making her bad news, but also an outcast from the rest of the socialites who she used to wine and dine with so often.

See? There’s those long walks.

The best period-pieces are the ones that, no matter how old the tales in them are, or are taking place, still hold some relevancy in today’s day and age and can be looked at through the modern-eye. The House of Mirth is such a period-piece, in which we get a classic tale of a woman trying to find love, be rich, and relaxed for the rest of her life, which isn’t all that relevant nowadays, but sooner or later, eventually does. To say that the House of Mirth takes a turn for pure darkness about halfway through wouldn’t be necessarily such a spoiler, because it’s a story that’s been around for many years and it’s also quite obvious by a certain point just where the story itself is actually headed.

But there’s still something about its deep dive into sadness and darkness that still sticks with me.

And honestly, it’s a true testament to writer/director Terence Davies, who not only has a knack for nailing the period-details to this story down perfectly, but also knows how to make each and every one of these characters, inherently interesting just in the way that they are. Sure, watching a movie where a bunch of rich people bicker, eat, drink, dance, take long walks, and gossip, may not seem like the most entertaining two hours ever put to screen, but somehow, Davies makes it all click and pop off of the screen. He doesn’t take these characters, or this story, as a product of its time, but instead, a product of any time, where rich people sneer at those who they feel are lesser than them, for sometimes awfully silly and ridiculous reasons.

Which is why the House of the Mirth, both the source-material, as well as the movie, still work, way beyond most other period-pieces do. It’s a tale of love, sure, but it’s also a rather chilling, disturbing tale of one person’s descent into sheer madness and depression, and just how that can all happen, solely through people’s words and actions. It follows a very clear path early on and never really strays away from it, but the path is compelling to watch; we know where the story is headed, but to watch it all play out, as sad as it can sometimes get, honestly, is hard to turn away from. It’s like a train-crash you see from a mile away, can’t do anything about, and for some reason, you don’t want to miss the end-result of.

Just take him, Lily! Don’t be silly!

Okay, so that maybe that’s a bit harsh, but you get my point.

And of course, the movie works as well as it does because Davies has assembled a pretty solid ensemble here, what with Gillian Anderson leading the charge as the complex and heartbreaking Lily Bart, a character we get to know, love, and feel so much sympathy for over the two hours. Anderson has always been a very strong actress and it’s interesting to see her here, because she has to show so much emotion, by barely showing much at all; it’s the kind of stuffy, yet, subtle performance so many actresses try to work with and nail, that Anderson does so flawlessly here. Watching her try to navigate through life, as well as all of these various people around her, can truly be hard-to-watch, but she always stays rich, true and honest, and it’s why her character works as well as it does, all issues aside.

Eric Stoltz also has a nice role as the love of Lily’s life who, for some reason, she doesn’t ever come around to loving because she think she’s better than him; Anthony LaPaglia plays another possible suitor for Lily who, may or may not, have the best intentions in mind; Dan Aykroyd gives a truly surprising and shocking performance as a married-man who instantly takes a liking to Lily and wants to help her out in any way that he can, with obvious strings attached; Terry Kinney plays a very similar character; Laura Linney plays a married-woman who doesn’t take so much of a liking to Lily’s naughty ways; and the same goes for Elizabeth McGovern.

Basically, everyone here is evil, sick, or twisted. But hey, they’re rich, so they’re able to get away with.

Consensus: As stuffy and blase as it may start, the House of Mirth soon turns into a sad, shocking and rather upsetting tale of class and gender roles that still feels relevant.

8 / 10

Then again, can you blame all men for practically drooling over this woman?

Photos Courtesy of: All About Gillian

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The Mothman Prophecies (2002)

Just watch the X-Files.

John Klein (Richard Gere), a respected journalist, loses his wife (Debra Messing) one night, after she takes the wheel of their car and sees a strange figure attack her. Cut to two years later and John has found himself in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, where there has apparently been many sightings/clues of a secret ghost out there, and John thinks he has the answers to all of the clues.

Saying that your movie’s story, no matter how creepy or strange it may be, is a “true story” or “based on a true story”, makes it seem like such a manipulative-way for the filmmakers to have us take the material more seriously. I mean, it did somehow work with movies like the Blair Witch Project and Cannibal Holocaust, but that was all because it looked and felt real, and also, nobody really had any idea whether to prove it false or not. However, stories like these where everything dark in the world seems to come up, doesn’t make it more freaky because it’s “based on a true story,” but instead, how about this, just makes it more dull.

However, don’t go up to director Mark Pellington and tell him that this material is, in fact, “dull”, because he’ll try his hardest to prove you wrong with any trick he can pull out of his director’s hat. Every chance that Pellington gets to make us forget what type of lame story we’re seeing, he capitalizes on it and gives us something to treat our eyes and for the most part, yeah, it actually works. The constant barrage of tricks and effects that Pellington pulls off aren’t all stuff we haven’t seen done before, but at least he makes a conscientious effort to really pull us into this state of paranoia and fear. You can tell that Pellington comes from a long line of directing music-videos, and it works for the overall atmosphere and tone of the movie.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is 'a brewin'.

The color blue is always a sign that something bad is ‘a brewin’.

But just like most directors who have a music-video background, they just can’t quite get the narrative.

See, with Pellington’s direction,  no matter how hard he tries to keep our minds off of it, he still can’t get past the fact that this story is relatively boring. The pace is always off, with the plot constantly starting-and-stopping, and then never knowing how to pick itself back up again. Pellington knows how to freak us out, but to keep our interest is a whole other issue right then and there, and it’s hard to keep total invested interest.

As for the story, it isn’t terrible; there’s an idea of an mystery and having no idea what’s going to happen next, but it happens in such short spurts that it hardly almost matters. We get way too many scenes where it’s just Gere talking to some weird thing on the phone and says something disastrous is going to happen, it does end-up happening, and Gere runs around looking for an explanation by talking to random people as well as that weird thing. You can only watch Richard Gere run around, looking like a bewildered-fool so many times, and by the 45-minute mark of already seeing this 20 times, it’s hard not to be done here.

And oh yeah, Gere is terribly bland as John Klein and even though it seems like the dude should have more emotions and ideas in his because he for one, went through a terrible life-crisis like losing his lovely wife, somehow doesn’t. Instead, you don’t care about him, the paranoia he’s going through, the sadness he went through with his lost wife, and worst of all, you just don’t feel like the guy’s actually scared. Yeah, Gere puts on that scared-expression plenty of times, but it came to a point of where it seemed like the only skill the guy could pull out of his one-note bag of expressions and it made me realize why I have never cared for Gere in the first place.

Something I sure he’s really broken up about.

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Generic Richard Gere look #2

Laura Linney is pretty dull here, too, as the country bumpkin police officer that made me want to give Frances McDormand a call. Linney’s does what she can, but all she really does is put the same expression on as Gere has, try to look scared the whole time, and in the end, somehow act like she’s the one after his heart and can save him from all of this pain and fear he’s had to deal with throughout the past two years of his life. I’d be able to believe that these two would have some sort of a romance between one another, if the film ever alluded to it throughout the whole two hours, but it rarely ever does and when it seems like Linney goes all goo-goo eyes over Gere at the end, it was just dumb and a contrived way for the movie to bring these two together at the end. An end that was, yes, pretty cool to look at, but also, an end that signified that this long movie was finally over and I could get on with my life, forget about Gere, forget about Linney, and hopefully, watch a better movie before the day was up.

Consensus: Mark Pellington is a fine director that does all that he can to keep us awake throughout the Mothman Prophecies, but the script and story think otherwise, and sort of carry everything down with a dead-weight of total and complete dullness.

3 / 10

What I should have done from this movie.

What I should have done from this movie.

Photos Courtesy of: Thecia.Com.Au

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Life is depressing, then you die. It’s that simple.

Despite the big house and even bigger bank account, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is still incredibly sad about something. Her second husband (Armie Hammer) constantly leaves for business trips, when in reality, he’s just having sex with other women; she doesn’t keep in-touch with her teenage daughter; and she’s still feeling some sort of guilt from having cheated on her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). But for one reason or another, he sends her a transcript of his latest novel and it absolutely haunts Susan’s life – in her dreams, at work, at her house, seemingly everywhere. And why is that? Well, it just so happens to be a random tale about a husband (also Jake Gyllenhaal), a wife (Isla Fisher), and a daughter (Ellie Bamber) who get ran-off the road by a bunch of mean, dirty and foul Southerners. What does this novel have to do with Susan’s life? Well, she doesn’t quite know, but the more she continues to read, the more she starts to think about her own life and all of the countless decisions she should have, or shouldn’t have, made.

It’s been nearly seven years later since famed fashion-designer Tom Ford’s A Single Man and well, he’s been sorely missed. While that movie not just proved to be a great acting showcase for the always underrated Colin Firth, it also proved to the world that Ford was more than just one of the biggest, most notorious names in the fashion-world. His aspirations and ambitions with his career went further beyond designing pretty clothes and making a heap-tons of money – he had a skill for directing movies and guess what? It all showed.

I don't know, so don't ask.

I don’t know, so don’t ask.

But what’s so interesting about A Single Man and Nocturnal Animals, his latest, is that Ford shows he doesn’t just have a knack for crafting beautiful visuals, but also knows how to make, well, a movie, with a good story, good acting, and most importantly, emotion. This time around, however, Ford’s creative-skills are put to the test in that he takes on what is, essentially, two movies into one; there’s the dark, depressing character-drama about sad and lonely rich people, and then, there’s the even darker, but far more grueling and violent Southern-revenge thriller. What do the two have to do with one another?

Well, I’m still trying to figure that all out.

However, there’s no denying that Ford crafts a very interesting, if at times, hard-to-watch movie. While it’s easy to give him credit for making the one story about the sad and lonely rich people and making it somehow work, it’s not as easy to give him credit for the Southern-fried revenge-thriller. The two are very hard movies to make, side-by-side, but somehow, he pulls it all off; both stories and compelling and also seem like they could have been their own movies.

Which is also the very same issue with Nocturnal Animals, in and of itself. For one, it takes a lot on, and handles it well, but also runs into the problem of having one story-line be fare more intriguing than the other. It happens to almost every movie with countless subplots, but here, it feels more disappointing, because they’re both very interesting to watch; it’s just that one clearly has more juice than the other.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

Shave up, Jake. And possibly shower.

And yes, I am talking about the Southern-fried revenge-thriller, although, it doesn’t make me happy to say that.

See, with that story, Ford is able to transport himself into far more deadly material, where anything can happen, at any given time. Just the introduction into this story, with the couple getting pulled-off to the side of the road and essentially terrorized over the course of ten minutes straight, still plays in my head, just by how truly disturbing it is. But it continues to get better and better, asking harder questions and not giving all that many answers, either.

But then, there’s the other-half of Nocturnal Animals and it’s still good, yet, also very different. It’s slower, more melodic and and far more interested in building its characters. And is it successful? Yes, but it just so happens to be placed-up, side-by-side with this other movie and it makes you wonder whether or not they should have been put that way in the first place? The book in which Tom Ford is adapting does, but I don’t know if it transitions well to the screen, where we literally have two entirely stories being told to us, with two very different styles.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m still racking my brain around Nocturnal Animals.

If there’s anything I’m for sure certain about, it’s that Tom Ford is no fluke of a director and has, once again, put together a pretty great cast. Amy Adams gets a lot to do with very little, as the very cold and mean Susan Morrow who, through certain flashbacks, we do see develop over time and become more human to us; Jake Gyllenhaal plays her ex-husband as well as the daddy in the book very well, even if they are, two different performances, both seeming to be emotionally draining; Aaron Taylor-Johnson has always been fine in everything he’s done so far in his young career, but here, is absolutely bone-chilling and scary as the one psychopath from the story; Michael Shannon pops up as the Texas Ranger from that story and is clearly having a ball, yet also, showing off a great deal of heart and humanity in a story that, quite frankly, could have used more; and others seem to pop-up, like Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Isla Fisher, Michael Sheen, and Andrea Riseborough, and do whatever they can, but sometimes, have such limited screen-time that it’s a bit of a shame.

But hey, maybe that’s just me being extra needy.

Consensus: By working with two movies at once, Tom Ford expertly crafts Nocturnal Animals into being a dark, dramatic and sometimes disturbing emotional-thriller that may not fit perfectly together, but does offer up some really great performances.

7.5 / 10

It's love. Or is it?

It’s love. Or is it?

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz, Indiewire

Sully (2016)

He’s the Captain now.

On Jan. 15, 2009, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 goes up in the sky and heads for its destination. However, not long after take-off, they run into a bunch of geese, not only destroying the plane, but even going so far as to take out its engines. This leaves the two pilots, Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) and Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), to have to make an emergency landing in, of all places, New York’s Hudson River. Though it’s very risky and sort of a do-or-die decision made at the last second, it miraculously works out, with all of the 155 passengers and crew surviving. As expected, this makes Skiles, but most importantly, Sully, out to be true American heroes who, after experiencing something as tragic as 9/11, need someone to look towards for inspiration. However, as is the case with most problems such as this, U.S. Airways lawyers and insurance companies want answers to what exactly happened up there in the sky, leading to an investigation of Sully’s judgement, history, and most of all, his character.

"This is your captain speaking. Yeah, we're kind of screwed."

“This is your captain speaking. Yeah, we’re kind of screwed.”

Even at age 86, Clint Eastwood is still knocking them out like nobody’s business. And sure, while Sully may not be the greatest movie he’s ever made or, god forbid anything happen, the perfect note to go out on, it’s still a solid reminder of what kind of film-maker he can be when he’s got good material to work with and seems to have some sort of inspiration to work off of. That’s not to say that everyone of Eastwood’s are “bad”, but sometimes, you can when the creative-juices are flowing, and sometimes, when they’re not. With Sully, you can tell that they are flowing and it’s nice to watch, especially since, at almost an-hour-and-a-half, it does everything that a good movie needs to do: It tells a good story, gives us solid performances, and most of all, has us going home feeling a little bit better about our lives.

Now, what’s so wrong with that? After all, aren’t most movies supposed to do that?

Actually, no, but that doesn’t matter here; Eastwood is setting out to tell this story of a hero that, honestly, time seems to have forgotten about. With Sully’s story, however, Eastwood isn’t just using his movie as a platform to pay a tribute to the man and leave it at that – he wants to tell a story of a little moment in our nation’s most recent-history that we may remember perfectly, or may not, but definitely mattered. After all, it’s people like Sully who might possibly make this world a better place and even though Eastwood, as a film-maker, could have definitely gone down the road of lionizing this man from beginning to end, instead, he shows a real human being dealing with this whole idea of fame.

However, what’s interesting about Sully’s story is that his so-called “fame”, if anything, really comes from a possible tragedy, where a man like him was just doing his job, at the perfect time that he needed to. He had to make a very smart judgement call and while some, even to this day, still feel as if he could have avoided his final solution, there’s no doubting it was a hard one to make and it’s one that, certain people like Sully, find hard to cope with and understand. Eastwood shows how, even though Sully may be looked at by the rest of the world as a flat-out “hero”, he has a hard time accepting it, or even making sense of it.

The 'staches that fly together, sit out in the freezing cold together.

The ‘staches that fly together, sit out in the freezing cold together.

As stated before, he was just a pilot flying a plane and insuring that everyone on-board made it off alive.

And as the titular character, Hanks is quite great because, as usual, he shows us a real beating heart underneath all of the gray facial and head hair. While it’s easy to just see Tom Hanks, one of the world’s most recognizable actors ever, under a bunch of make-up and hair jobs and never look past it, look harder and you’ll see Hanks really disappearing into a role that shows off everything that he can do so well. He makes us feel for a person who, in all honesty, didn’t really need all that much sympathy drawn out of us to begin with, but still, it’s nice to see him give it his 110% as we all know and expect of him to do.

Of course, it was nice to Aaron Eckhart in, finally, a good movie again, doing his best to create some comedy out the dark and dramatic moments here, and while she doesn’t have a whole lot to do, Laura Linney is still good enough to offer up plenty as Sully’s wife. And really, it’s neat to see actors like Mike O’Malley, Anna Gunn, and Jamey Sheridan play a bunch of despicable, almost evil investigators who are acting solely on the behalves of U.S. Airways. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call the portrayals of them as a complete and total hatchet job, Eastwood does show them all off as being people who are, yes, doing their jobs, but also not realizing just what this man Sully did for these passengers, as well as for the nation.

And in a time like post-9/11, where New York City was still clearly reeling from tragedy, trying to make sense of everything and not looking forward to stepping onto planes again, it mattered.

Consensus: With a solid leading-role from the always dependable Hanks, as well as a melodic, but smart direction from Eastwood who, even at age 86, is still capable of reminding us that movies like Sully deserve to be made, if solely to pay a tribute to those smaller heroes we don’t always think about on a day-to-day basis.

7.5 / 10

Follow him. He's Tom Hanks.

Follow him. He’s Tom Hanks.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, the Wrap

Genius (2016)

It takes a lot to be considered “a genius”. Like, for instance, an overlong novel.

Maxwell Perkins (Colin Firth) has published and help edit a lot of books, some of which, are revered classics. Perkins had already previously published works by the great American writers Ernest Hemingway (Dominic West) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Guy Pearce), both of whom have all sorts of riches to their name. Now, a young writer by the name of Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law), wants his shot at getting his work published. And once Perkins sees what Wolfe has to offer, he’s absolutely astonished; not only is the work great, interesting, and exciting, but it’s quite long. Obviously, people aren’t going to want to read a 500+ page book, which means that it’s up to Perkins and Wolfe to come together and figure out what should stay, and what can go away. While Wolfe loves his work too much to let every little detail be taken out of the text, he eventually learns to shut up and give in, even if he, nor his girlfriend, Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman), are all too happy about it. Then again, neither is Perkins, which makes him constantly battle himself, as well as his wife (Laura Linney), who has stuck with him through the thick and thin.

"500 pages left to go! Woo-hoo!"

“500 pages left to go! Woo-hoo!”

In case you couldn’t tell by its title, Genius thinks very highly of its subjects – or more importantly, it thinks very highly about Thomas Wolfe and all of the literature that he has brought to the world. There’s no problem with that, either; Look Homeward, Angel, while overlong, is definitely a book worth reading, if only once, just to say that you did and well, you did get into some sort of trance because of it. However, being too petrified of the lengths of his other books, I’ve always strayed further and further away from Wolfe’s work; I know that he’s a literary genius and very well-loved in that world, but honestly, it’s just too scary for me.

Then again, Genius is a movie that’s all about the fact that Wolfe himself couldn’t take himself away from making his books way longer than they had any right to be. And in a way, there’s something exciting about watching as an author gets their writing dissected, toyed around with, and prodded by someone who is, essentially, just trying to make a quick dime off of it. That same conflict actually comes up an awful lot in Genius; the choice between loving a piece of work for all that it is, or trying to take the things you love about it and make it more accessible to people who are willing to pay for it.

What do you do?

Well, Genius has that discussion a few times and asks those questions, yet, never seems too interested in ever answering them, which is a problem from the very start, as it seems like director Michael Grandage and writer John Logan love Wolfe so much, that they aren’t able to focus on much else. They want to make the movie about the book-editing process and all of the pain and agony that comes with killing your darlings, but also, give a shout-out to the man himself for the pieces of writing that he graced the world with.

Once again, is there any problem with that? Once again, not really. However, there’s also something to be said for a movie that can never quite figure out what it wants to be; while it wants to hold a magnifying glass up to Wolfe and his persona, the movie never makes much of a strong judgement on him, either. It actually shows that, in between all of his drinking, smoking and sexxing around, he was just a brilliant writer who couldn’t help himself and, darn it, his work should have been left the way it was!

Uh oh. Crazy's back.

Uh oh. Crazy’s back.

It’s actually quite odd and, by the same token, annoying. Genius has all of the right elements to be a very good movie, not just about Wolfe, but the writing-process and book-selling business as well, but it kind of misses its mark to do so, in favor of just featuring Wolfe running around, yelling like a crazy man, and holding his hat in his hand, with Perkins just sitting by, smiling and chuckling to himself.

Once or twice is fine, but practically the whole, entire movie? Oh, come on!

And it’s a bit of a shame, too, because the cast is pretty damn stacked. Firth is fine as Perkins, if only because he does a lot of sitting around and staring, as opposed to speaking and letting people hear his terrible American accent (which was shown-off to even worse affect in Devil’s Knot); Laura Linney doesn’t get to do much as his wife, except just stand around and berate him for doing his job; Nicole Kidman has a couple of good scenes, showing how, slowly, but surely, Aline Bernstein was losing her marbles; and Jude Law, well, let’s just say he does probably everything that was asked of him and it was the wrong thing to do.

However, I can’t hate on Law for doing what he was told; the script called on for someone to constantly be howling and acting wild, and it’s what he gives. In a way, there’s some joy to be had in watching him play it to the rafters with this performance, but after awhile, once we figure out that there’s not much more to him than just that, it can get draining. The movie attempts to show us a deeper, darker side to this persona of his, but it still features him yelling and howling about, which never seems to end, or be toned-down in the slightest. If anything, it made me want to watch something like Dom Hemingway again, where Jude Law got a chance to play it wild and over-the-top, yet, was also rewarded in the end.

Here, he’s just doing it because that’s what he was told to do and there’s no real pay-off for him, or in this case, for Wolfe, either.

Consensus: Genius has a fine cast that helps the sometimes boring material, actually work, but at the same time, still feels like it can’t make up its mind about itself, nor have anything interesting to say about its figures.

5 / 10

I'd look like them too, if Nicole Kidman was coming my way. Then again, I guess I'm just a simpleton, so my opinion doesn't count.

I’d look like them too, if Nicole Kidman was coming my way. Then again, I guess I’m just a simpleton, so my opinion doesn’t count.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Mr. Holmes (2015)

Eat your heart out, Benedict.

Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) has seen, done and been through it all. That’s why, at age 93 and after being long retired, he’s finally ready to just settle down, take care of his bees, and let life continue on a peaceful, easy-going manner. But for some reason, he just can’t seem to get past that final case of his, which he didn’t get a chance to solve, or make perfect sense of. No matter that, though, he’s got the company of his housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her young son (Milo Parker), who not only try to help him remember certain events and details of that case, but also remind him that life is still a bit grand worth living, even if he can seem to be a bit on the grumpy side. Through this all though, Holmes just wants to feel better about his life and look back on his legacy with a smile and pleased heart, even if he doesn’t feel like the media or Watson has portrayed him as true-to-nature; something that continues to follow him, even until this very day.

There’s so much of Sherlock Holmes nowadays that, honestly, it’s a bit suffocating. Robert Downey Jr.’s brought him back to his old-school roots where he kicked ass, got sexy women, and always seemed to solve the cases no matter what. Benedict Cumberbatch’s borders on being autistic, while also maintaining something of a love story with his fellow friend/partner, Watson. And there’s Jonny Lee Miller’s who is, for the most part, the generic one who solves crimes, says witty things, has a solid banter with Watson, and mostly, just does what we tend to expect from Sherlock Holmes nowadays. But these are mostly all young fellows playing the famed detective – what about the older ones out there?

Well, that’s where Sir Ian McKellen steps in and well, it’s just as you expected: Wise, funny, and most importantly, cranky.

And it should go with saying that no matter how much I jump down the throat of Mr. Holmes, it is in no way because of McKellen or the performance he gives. Because, unsurprisingly to some, he’s actually a perfect fit as the older, much more reserved Holmes who has seen almost all of life pass him by, isn’t fully willing to accept it and still has a feeling that he can make a difference in the world. That McKellen’s Holmes is getting older and on the verge of death, it’s already enough to tug at the heart-strings, but McKellen doesn’t beg or plead for your sympathy; in his own way, his Holmes is still pretty bad-ass and cool, even if we don’t see him karate-chop someone, or actually solve any crimes perfectly.

In a way, we just see him acting and being an old man, which is more than enough to give McKellen plenty to work with and show different sides of this Holmes character that we think we already know so much about.

Issue is, Mr. Holmes doesn’t always have the best idea of what to do with itself. Director Bill Condon is a solid enough director to know how to make his picture look as handsome as an episode of Downton Abbey, but he loses himself a bit here with there being so many strands of a story here, that it’s hard to pick between which ones are more interesting than others, or better yet, actually meaningful in the long-run. Of course, we all know that Holmes is trying to test his memory and remind himself of this final case that he never got a chance to solve, but then, there’s a few other subplots concerning Japanese people and the housemaid, as well as her son. Condon seems to have a lot on his plate here, which shouldn’t have been such a difficult job to handle in the first place, but it seems like even he gets a bit confused of which story deserves the most focus and attention to make the best impact.

Laura Linney? Irish? Why not!

Laura Linney? Irish? Why not!

The housemaid story, with Laura Linney and Milo Parker playing her son, seems exactly as if it was ripped directly out from McKellen and Condon’s last team-up, Gods and Monsters, and it feels a tad lazy, not to mention, obvious. There are some moments of tender sweetness, which is mostly due to the fact that McKellen can’t help but look adorable in his “old man” make-up, but overall, it comes and goes as you expect it to happen. Kid will be interested by Holmes; Holmes will be stand-off-ish towards kid; kid and Holmes will find a way to connect; Holmes fully trusts kid; and yeah, you get the picture after this. It’s predictable and doesn’t feel as fully-developed as it probably could have been to help keep this story interesting.

And then, there’s the case itself which, quite frankly, didn’t really deserve the treatment it gets here.

Most of this is due to the fact that Condon starts the film off by making it so abundantly clear that this final case is what seems to be itching and screwing with Holmes, even until this very day. Because of this, the expectations for this case are already through the roof and once we eventually do find out what really happened with the case, why it didn’t get solved, and what sort of revelations came about after it, it can’t help but disappoint. It seems as if it was also an easy road for Condon himself to take, had he not really wanted to go as deep and dark into Holmes’ past as he may have wanted to; instead, we just focus on a possible love of his life and leave it at that.

Do we learn anymore about Holmes than we already know from the countless other media outlets?

No, not really. But hey, at least we do know that he is capable of getting old!

Consensus: Despite McKellen’s sweet and tender performance as the aging, title character, Mr. Holmes doesn’t really know what to make of its many stories, how they connect, or why they matter so much in the first place.

3.5 / 10

More saggy-skin = older.

More saggy-skin = older.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Dave (1993)

Luckily Barack doesn’t have too many impersonators out there. OR SO WE KNOW OF!!!

Dave Kovic (Kevin Kline) is a simple, small-town man that wears big-rimmed glasses, rides his bike to and fro work, and also run a temp service that isn’t quite as big on making a whole lot of money, as much as it is just all about getting people jobs and having them make money. Oh yeah, and he also has an uncanny resemblance to the 44th president of the United States, William Harrison Mitchell. That eventually comes to work out for him in the future when he’s called upon to be an impersonator for the President in public appearances, just to avoid any problems whatsoever. However, it just so happens that on that same night, the President happens to suffer a stroke while banging his secretary, which leaves all of his right-hand-men stumbling without any idea of what to do. Allow the country to run wild with the sudden-death of their president? And by doing so, do they leak any dirty secrets about what he did during his time as presidency, minus the whole “cheating-on-his-wife” thing? Well, the simple answer is “no”. Instead, they all decide to let Kovic take over the position as acting-President, but only until the actual President himself wakes up and is ready to get back to doing his job. But what if he doesn’t seem to wake up? Even worse, what if the President’s wife (Sigourney Weaver) finds out that this man placed in her husband’s position, actually isn’t her husband?

Yes, there’s so much drama going on here that only a politician during the 90’s would know all about. Ammiright?!?!?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Honestly, would anybody have a problem with him being President?

Anyway, so yeah, this movie always gets talked-about when you discuss the subgenre of “political comedies” and it’s easy to see why. Not only is the first of its kind during the Clinton-administration, but it’s one of the very rare political-satires that doesn’t really destroy any sort of political-agenda that was being thrown around during that time. Instead, it sticks to whatever “people get jobs and we all stay happy forever and ever” idea it has about politics. Sure, the fact of the matter is that that would never, ever happen in real life, but sure, when you’re watching a movie, let alone a comedy, you don’t really need reality to come in and hit you in the face. All you need is some nice, pure escapism in the finest form and that’s exactly what Dave is, with some snappy jokes thrown in for good measure.

That’s not to say that the movie is at all “dated”, it’s just that some of the humor probably doesn’t hit me nearly as hard, or as effectively as it probably did for those back in the early-90’s. It’s not that I don’t know a thing or two about politics, it’s just that most of this film seems to be playing it so damn safe most of the time, that it’s really hard to find much of anything to really laugh at in the first place. Sure, there are plenty of quips made here that may, or may not catch you off-guard, but they are hardly surprising, nor are they really slap-happy hilarious.

However, where I think most of the film focuses its strengths on is just the overall pleasant, carefree pace that Ivan Reitman sets, which carries the movie through some very sketchy-waters. For instance, there’s the sequence in which the President and the First Lady head-off to a homeless shelter in which they just stand there, say hi to people they wouldn’t bear to be around, had their not been cameras around, and basically just muck it up for the press surrounding them with all of the cameras flashing and recording their every step. We always see this in politics, and it could have easily been seen as a snotty thing for a the President and his wife to do here, however, Reitman handles it with care and always makes it seem like this Dave guy does genuinely mean well, even if he doesn’t know a lick or two about actual politics itself. Especially not how to run a country.

I mean, sheesh! We should have all been happy with Bush Jr. just by looking at this guy! You know?

Too far? Okay, anyway, back to the movie itself.

What you could also attribute most of Dave’s charm to is the performance from the always lovable Kevin Kline, doing another one of his sweet, happy-guy acts. My only complaint about Dave, and well, practically every other character with the meager exception of one in particular, is that we never really get an impression for who these people were before this movie. Yeah, we get the idea that Dave was always a nice, peaceful soul that tried to make those around him happier in life, just by solely giving them what they want, but why is he like that? Better yet, why is it that he’s alone in his life, despite being what some clearly see as “the nicest guy on the face of the planet”. Nobody says that about him in the movie, or even to his face, but it’s pretty much implied with just how much Dave is able to make everyone around him smile, cheerful and just overall, feel better about themselves and their lives.

Or, even him?

Or, even him?

Sort of like how I was, until I started drinking. Then, it was all downhill from there.

Anyway, like I was saying about Dave, I wish I got to know more about him. I guess that was the point of not getting to know who he really is as a person, considering he has to practically impersonate another the whole movie, but just more detail would have gone a long way for him, Regardless though, Kline works well with Dave, giving us a guy we can all stand behind and love, even if he is just being the type of guy who doesn’t ask for much in the first place, and doesn’t want much in return. He’s just that type of cool guy, and that’s mostly how I’d like to imagine Kline is in real life.

Same goes for Sigourney Weaver in terms of her character, although her character doesn’t clearly go so far as “wife who hasn’t the dong in awhile”. Hey, it’s not like Weaver can’t play that role-up to perfection, but I think we’d be able to give her just a bit more to work with. If only a bit, that is. We also get treated some amusing, side roles from the likes of Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin, Laura Linney, Ben Kingsley as that one character I said has some of his past told to us, in a way that isn’t at all manipulative, and a despicable-as-hell, but-clearly-loving-it Frank Langella as what we pretty much expect him to play, “the baddie”. Once again, you can tell that they definitely elevate the material to being a bit more than what it is, which is all we really needed in the first place.

Consensus: Though Dave doesn’t really bite with its satire as much it should, that still doesn’t take it away from being a mildly funny, tame and rather pleasant comedy that’s big on likable characters, rather than laughs. Either way, something here is bound to be liked.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you're right.

Or, hell, maybe even her?!?!? Too soon? Yeah, you’re right.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBCollider

Arthur Christmas (2011)

I always knew Santa was nothing more than a lazy tart.

It’s another year, which means, it’s another time for Christmas in which Santa (Jim Broadbent) and his illustrious team of trained and skilled elves find a way to deliver over millions of presents to children all over the world who’ve been clamoring for this moment for a whole year. However though, one present gets lost in the shuffle and come 4 a.m., Santa’s son Arthur (James McAvoy) takes notice of this and decides to gang-up together with his grandfather, Grand Santa (Bill Nighy), to deliver this one present, to this one child who would be absolutely heart-broken if they don’t receive it. Along the journey, the two run into quite a few problems, but back at home, their biggest problem may be Arthur’s older brother, Steve (Hugh Laurie), who is next-in-command for the position of being Santa Claus, and will stop at nothing to make sure that they don’t screw this plan up, nor that his dad doesn’t forget that he’s as smart, or as in the Christmas spirit as Arthur, despite not caring too much for cute, soft or cuddly things, like children, toys or the spirit of Christmas itself.

They wouldn't work though. Too patriotic.

They wouldn’t work though. Too patriotic.

There’s a hard case to be made for most of the Christmas movies being currently made. Not only is it hard to stack-up against such holiday classics like Santa Clause is Coming to Town, or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but it’s even harder to try and spin the simple tale of Christmas in a way that makes it fresh, new and cool, but still not forgetting about the happy spirits and thoughts that make the season itself such a joy to be alive in. But leave it up to those clever lads at Aardman Animations to pull something off in which they not only turn the usual, average story of the night of Christmas that we usually get, around, but also find a way to make us feel like we’re watching a Christmas movie made for the whole family, even if that said family may have to be British.

Still, the fact that this movie was made by Brits holds no meaning whatsoever, because it’s still a sweet tale that doesn’t really set out to offend anybody that believes in Santa, or those who don’t. Simply, those who come the closest to not believing in Jolly Old Saint Nick, are usually just a bunch of Scrooge’s who treat Christmas itself as a mission, rather than a time made up for simple fun, joy and all sorts of other happy thoughts. It will probably make the kid who is watching at home plenty of warm stomachs and smiles, while also letting the parents know that they have nothing to worry about as their child will still believe in the guy in the big red suit who comes down your chimney. And then they grow up and at age 11, they’ll get the bomb dropped on them and it won’t be pretty.

Trust me, it won’t and it may even damage their minds forever, and ever. Trust me.

Anyway, what this movie does do, and does well, in case you couldn’t tell, is that it gives off plenty of happy and cheerful vibes, the exact same vibes you expect from a Christmas movie. However, I will say that it does think it’s a bit funnier, than it actually is. Aardman Animations usually has a problem with this because while they make think that they’re being a bunch of cheeky, witty fellows, they don’t realize when they’re more or less throwing themselves out of a window for a laugh, and when they’re just making us laugh effortlessly. Lately, I’ve been having that problem with them more and more, and it’s starting to feel like they may be doing this on purpose more and more to appeal to a the children, in terms of content and quality, rather than the parents, where it’s usually all about the material and how smart it is that usually gets them. I don’t know, maybe I’ve had one too many viewings of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run in the past, but I know when my favorite kind of animated movies are being dumbed-down, and I’m afraid to say it, but I’m seeing that now with Aardman Animations. Still, maybe that’s just a problem I have and nobody else does, and if that’s the case, then so be it. I’m just keeping an eye out though, people. That’s all.

The voice-cast for this movie does feature plenty of famous names that even us Americans know and more than likely, can commit to memory, however, they all still do pretty well playing-up their characters for all that they are. James McAvoy, while he does get plenty to do as Arthur with his high-strung character, does get a tad bit annoying with how screeching high the pitch of his voice is. I get it, he’s something of a neurotic Brit with a good heart, but the act got old after awhile and it made me feel like McAvoy needed to smoke some weed, or something to call him down. Bill N

If he ended up being Santa, he'd probably tear all naughty kids a new one.

If he ended up being Santa, he’d probably tear all naughty kids a new one.

ighy also gets the same type of role as the Grand Santa, but he still has a lot of fun and is less annoying because he’s, well, Bill Nighy, man. Can’t ever go wrong with that lovely Brit.

And I don’t know if it’s just me or whatever, but having Jim Broadbent as Santa Claus would be a perfect move, not just on a movie’s part, but all malls spanning the globe. He’s got this lovable, warm and goofy voice that really does make us believe that he’s an aging, out-of-his-league Santa that’s getting down to his last couple of years of going out into the field, but also make us believe that he still has a good heart and does care for these little tikes still getting what they ask for, and as a result, still having the faith to believe in him. Once again, may just be my thoughts and my thoughts alone, but if I had Jim Broadbent was showing up to my local mall as Santa, I’d be there right away, no questions asked! But lord knows he wouldn’t be able to handle me sitting in his lap. Poor guy. Nevermind, probably wouldn’t work.

Consensus: It definitely may not be as funny as it thinks it is, nor as what we’ve come to expect from Aardman Animation’s past contributions to the animated world, but Arthur Christmas still gets everybody in the Holiday spirit that may work more for the kids, than the parents, but that’s all that matters in the end, you know?

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The truest Santa if I've ever seen one. Except Artie Lang definitely gives him a run for his money.

The truest Santa if I’ve ever seen one. Except Artie Lang definitely gives him a run for his money.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Fifth Estate (2013)

How much punishment can one laptop take?

Everybody knows what WikiLeaks is and its everlasting effect on the world of politics, humanity, and most of all, journalism. But does everybody know the man/creator behind it? Well, sort of, but if you don’t then here he is, in full-fledged form. Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the man of the hour, and the man with the power who is able to release all of these confidential, and somewhat threatening pieces of information that is detrimental to plenty of big corporations out there who are living happy and easy, all because of their sneaky ways of screwing people over. However, even though Assange has all of this information up on his site, he doesn’t have the marketing to make it be seen by all those peeps worldwide. That’s where spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Bruhl) comes in and gives Assange and WikiLeaks all of the help that it needs to get out there to mass public audience, be seen by important politic figures, and have people aware of what’s really going on out there, without any strings attached like you would most likely find in a public newspaper. But, like with any company that finds its sweet-spot, WikiLeaks itself begins to show cracks of not only endangering the people they promised to protect, but also doing even more harm to the friendship of Berg and Assange, showing that one of them wants a bit more power and control than he ever originally imagined.

"Julian? Why do I hear moans coming from your computer?"

“Julian? Why do I hear moans coming from your computer?”

The story of beginning of WikiLeaks is a very interesting one, however, it’s one that I think can only be done justice through the documentary format. I know that there already is a documentary out there about the upbringing of WikiLeaks, Assange, Berg, and its overall impact on the rest of the world, but I have yet to see it, which means that this piece of mainstream media will have to do. And if that is the case, then so be it, because this movie isn’t half as bad as some people may be declaring as being. Then again, it is a movie that comes from Hollywood, so you can’t always expect the truth and nothing but it.

However, that’s what surprised me the most about this movie and Condon’s direction: It doesn’t necessarily take as many sides with this story as you’d suspect. Yes, you can tell that Condon definitely favors the idea of letting the general mass-public know what their government is doing to them, but he never gets too deep into it to where you can practically see him cheering the side on from their corner. He remains objective, shows both sides of the story, and while he’s at it, informs us just what happened and how this idea of a whistle-blowing website all come to fruition. If there’s anything that surprised the most about this movie, it’s that; the idea that not only can you inform me on a story I’d like to know more about, but you can also entertain me as well, without losing site of what this story means, who the characters are breathing inside of it, and why it all matters.

Although, I do have to say that the last aspect doesn’t really come into play as much, mainly because it seems like Condon is too infused with informing us, rather than actually giving us reasons to care in the first place. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it gives us plenty of ideas about what really went on behind those closed closets of the early days of WikiLeaks, but it still could have done itself an even bigger favor by reminding the audience that this all matters to us in the year 2013, and these are the reasons why. Another cyber-thriller of the same vein, The Social Network, performed this task expertly, however, that one worked on all cylinders when it came to its overall presentation. This, on the other hand, doesn’t really leave you with that lasting impression that our world is changed forever, and ever, and ever. It only reminds us that the government are a bunch of baddies that continue to do immoral, terrible things, and it’s up to us to pay attention.

Once again, not a bad idea to have in our heads, but is that really all WikiLeaks is about? I feel like there was more to it, but Condon didn’t explore it too much. Oh well, at least he made something like the constant clicking and clacking of computer keys entertaining and even, dare I say it, thrilling.

But where I think Condon takes the biggest misstep in his direction is in the way that he has Julian Assange himself portrayed. No gripes against Benedict Cumberbatch one bit as the guy is good at making us see all of these clear intentions behind the way he speaks, act, and interacts with the people around him, and still making us see that he has a heart. However, once this character begins to go sour and his journey to proving right and wrong becomes blurry, then the missteps in making this real-life character interesting and compelling, begin to show and make you understand why the real-life Assange was so pissed about this portrayal so much. They don’t really rain on his parade, as much as they just make him out to be a bit of a control-freak that loved all of this attention and glory he received, and couldn’t share that with the others who helped him get to that point. Which is fine because the real-life guy definitely was like that, but it seems like that’s all Condon was too worried about: Making him a negative person, rather than just a person. Once that judgement got cloudy, then so did my interest-level as it seemed like the guy was just a dick, just to be a dick. Nothing more, nothing less.

At least they got the long, beautiful, and curly flocks of white down correctly. At least.

At least they got the long, beautiful, and curly flocks of white down correctly. At least.

Regardless of his character’s problems, Cumberbatch was still good to watch and had me more interested in him playing the person, than the actual person himself. Same goes for Brühl who, with last month’s Rush, is showing his bright and talented face to American audiences for the greater good that they will all eventually latch onto the fact that not only is this guy a talented actor, but he’s also a very versatile one as well, able to make a character that doesn’t really say or do much throughout the whole movie, and yet, you still know what his true intentions are and best of all, you know they’re good and better than Assange’s turn out to be. That bastard.

The rest of the cast is pretty good with Stanley Tucci, Anthony Mackie, and Laura Linney showing up as a bunch of United States agent members trying their best to figure out what’s going on with WikiLeaks and its overall effect on their confidential informants in foreign countries. Though there is a subplot featuring Linney’s character that goes a bit overboard at one point, they all do fine and make their story somewhat interesting, rounding out what could have been a very one-sided story. Also, nice to see David Thewlis popping up in something and putting his charm to the works. The guy always finds a way to make me laugh, even if I’m not British and can’t get past his usage of various slang.

Consensus: More importance upon why WikiLeaks matters would have done The Fifth Estate more good, but with the solid acting and enjoyable feel, without ever being too convoluted or confusing for people who literally know diddly-doo about the actual true story, it still works as a movie to see, but not to expect too much from in terms of opening up your eyes and seeing the world. and your government, in a totally different way. If you want that, just go to the site yourself.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Together, let's fight crime and prove political injustice to the rest of the free world forever!!"

Proving political injustice, one illegal hack at a time.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Mystic River (2003)

At the end of the day, boys will be boys.

Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn), and Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) were three childhood friends who lost touch over the years, all because of an incident that happened to one of them. All these years later, Jimmy’s daughter, Katie (Emmy Rossum), is found dead in the park, and it’s up to Sean to find out who killed her, why, who, what, where, and when, but somehow, Dave seems like the most prime-suspect out of them all. Whether or not he did it, is left up to these three to figure out.

Movies that try to deal both with a human-story and a mystery, never fully come together and seem to work all that well. However, Clint Eastwood seems like the type of dude who’s been in enough movies to realize that anytime you can add on real, honest human emotions; then anything can work. He also seems to know that if you can get an amazing cast, that is more than capable of delivering on every, single spectrum; then anything can, and most likely will, work. Clint knows the game he’s getting himself involved with and although he’s been racking it up in the age-department, the guy shows us he still knows what’s up with a good story.

What works so well with this flick is that in almost every aspect, something is always working. For starters, the mystery behind this flick is one that actually works, and one that keeps you glued to wondering just what the hell is going to be revealed, and possibly said, next. Most of these movies that try to add mystery to a human-story, never really seem to work and instead come off like a lame excuse to distract the audience who wants a fast-paced, exciting story, but this isn’t one of those flicks. We are never really told what happened to Katie in the beginning, other than the fact that she was murdered, by the park, and somebody called it in. After that, everything we hear, see, or try to grip and understand, are all news to us and it feels like we are learning everything, just as soon as each and every other character in this movie as well. Love a fine mystery-tale, especially when it’s done well and not for cheap-kicks.

Then, you get to the human-element of this whole story, which is really the anchor to it all and has everything come together like a fine string, between two Dixie cups. Every character in this movie, for no matter how long or how little you may see them pop-up on-screen, you still feel like as if you know them for all that they are, all that they were, and all that they ever will be. Sure, some are more pleasant to think about than others, but you still can’t help but be intrigued by the way that these characters interact with one another, and just how they find ways to connect around the a murder-case like this.

"Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies."

“Fucking Southies, man. Fucking Southies.”

The most interesting character-relationships in this movie, were definitely the three boys we see at the beginning: Sean, Jimmy, and Dave (remember those names). At the beginning, we see how they were childhood pals, until something very disturbing and dramatic happened to one of them, and separates them all, while changing the course of their lives forever and ever. After we see this change in their childhoods, we then fast-forward to them being adults, moving on with their lives, and making ends meet, but still never, ever forgetting about that fateful day that impacted all of them, not just that one person. Throughout the rest of the flick, they always go back-and-forth about that moment in their lives, and they realize that it changed who they were, forever, but never really come to terms with how or why. They know that one person was actually hurt and had to pay the piper, but in the end, they were all hurt that day and never seemed to forget about it, nor heal from that pain. It’s interesting that they all see each other in one-on-one’s, but never show up altogether. It’s as if the movie wants you to see how separated they are, not just from each other, but the rest of the world around them. Maybe that’s just a bunch of babble from yours truly, but it’s something that I felt, and something that I saw and continue to think about even while writing all of this jibber-jab.

But trust me, not everything in this movie is as clear as I may make it out to be (or not). The movie has characters that you don’t know whether or not to trust, like, dislike, or even care for, but you still remained enticed by everything that you see them as. Eastwood also has an interest in each of these character’s lives and personality-traits, and shows how each of them react to certain situations differently. Some are cool, and some are nervous bumb-fucks. Some are suave, and some jittery-jatters. Some know all the right things to say, and others do as well, they just don’t know how to say it. You see all of these characters act and respond to the same situations, the same questions, and the same happenings, but yet; they are all different in their own ways, and watching that was just about perfect. It was even better to watch, if not just for the actual characters themselves, but the performances that were there to back them up.

When you have a story that’s so rich, so deep, and so compelling as this, with characters that are on equal-measure, it’s necessary to have a cast that can handle this, and that’s exactly what all of these heavy-hitters are ready to do, and do it in style. Sort of. Back when this flick first came out, everybody ranted and raved about Sean Penn and his performance as Jimmy Markum, but it’s rants and raves that were meant to be. Not only does Penn give one of the greatest freak-outs of all-time (second to this, of course), but he also gives us a deeply-layered, and beautiful glimpse inside the world of a man that’s trying to be right, trying to be good, and trying to be well-mannered, but just can’t because of his natural-tendencies. Markum is not a nice guy and is definitely not the type of guy you’d be easy and able to trust when it came down to getting business done the right way, but he’s trying and you can see that in every single scene that Penn shows up in. Most of the time, he’s a grieving father that’s just taken down, notch-by-notch, because of the fact that his baby girl is dead, but he continues to get back up, fight, and search for the truth. The ways he goes about it, the answers that he finds, and how he responds to those said answers, are not always the most “just” ways of going about your bizz, but Penn always remains stoic, compelling, believeable, and understandable in the way he never loses hope, even if death is staring him right in the face. It’s not as corny as I may make it sound. Trust me on that.

Tim Robbins comes very close to stealing Penn’s spotlight as Dave, an old-time friend of Jimmy’s, who also just so happens to be married to his wife’s cousin. Don’t know what that would make them in terms of family, but I guess they’re related, right? Okay, whatever. Anyway, Robbins is amazing as Dave, not just because Robbins knows how to play crazy like anybody’s business, but he really plays it up without going overboard in the sense that he’s way too insane to be considered the type of guy you’d want to marry, have, and raise a family with. He seems like an honestly-nice dude, that just so happens to have a pretty fucked-up past that gets in the way of his present-day happenings. That never makes him a bad person, but just the type of person you never know whether or not to trust, and what it is about him that’s so shady. Whatever it is, that mystery and that dark-shade of him, always stays there between us and that character, and it not only works in the movie’s favor, but Robbins’ as well. Both him and Penn received Oscars for these roles, and in my opinion: were both well-deserved. Then again, I think I share that same opinion with many, many others out there in the movie-reviewing world.

Marcia Gay Harden plays Dave’s wife, Celeste, who knows about Dave and what he did the night Katie was murdered, but doesn’t know how to accept the fact that maybe her hubby was the killer out of all of this. Harden is great with this role and this character because it gives us a sense that this woman loves her husband to death, but still doesn’t know if she can trust him in all of this, and finds herself in a dilemma between choosing between love, family, or being fair. She’s always nervous, she’s always twitchy, and she’s always scared, and some may call her performance one-sided for that, but Harden handles it perfectly, and never lost my interest.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really needed an Oscar.

Jeez Louise. Somebody really wanted an Oscar.

Kevin Bacon seems like he got the shortest-stack of the bunch with a character that isn’t as interesting and sure as hell isn’t as memorable as these two, but still proves that he’s the man when it comes to owning roles like these, no matter how procedural they may be. It also doesn’t help that his character’s wife just so happened to have left him, with their baby, calls him almost all of the time, and never speaks. She just sits there, with the phone to her ear, in silence as the guy rambles on about nearly nothing. Still, Bacon is great through all of this, it’s just obvious that Eastwood wasn’t as concerned with this character as much as he was with the first two. Laurence Fishburne plays Sean’s fellow-detective who’s also investigating the case and is great with what he does, but is only there to give some slappy, side-comments and show how he isn’t as biased as Sean may be. Then again, Fishburne is always worth watching, especially in roles where he’s playing himself better than anybody else.

Even though the cast, the direction, the writing, the themes, and the mystery behind this whole movie, worked for me and had me loving just about every second of this, there is always a glaring-problem that never ceases to leave my mind when I think of this: the ending, or should I say: the final 10 minutes. Without spoiling all of the shite that goes down in the final-act, we leave with a dark, but reasonable conclusion that effs with our minds, our hearts, and our eyes, especially with everything we just saw for the past two hours. However, the movie doesn’t end there, just when it should have. Nope, instead, the movie felt the need to add on an epilogue where we not only get one, whole scene dedicated to Laura Linney’s characters, Jimmy’s wife, acting as Lady Macbeth-type character, but also feed us an ending that sort of contradicts the whole movie.

For instance, the movie plays around with the themes of people staying true their ways, their morals, and their nature, but somewhere, those themes get lost in a strange conundrum of characters not acting like themselves. It’s so hard to go into all of this without giving each and every thing away, but for the people who feel like they know what I’m talking about, you may be able to understand that some people realize some things about others, that they didn’t know before or has just become news to them, but yet, they choose to do nothing about it and go about their lives as if nothing happened. That would have been fine for one or two characters in this movie, but for the one that it does high-light, it seemed wrong, too theatrical, and a tad stupid, as if Eastwood really wanted us to feel like nobody was meant to be trusted, nor were they meant to be liked in any way, form, or shape. It’s not a happy-ending, per se, but it’s the type of ending that may piss you off because everything up until that point, was going swell, but had to end right there. Damn you, Clint. Why’d you have to go and ruin a good thing?

Consensus: The ending doesn’t make sense in the grander scheme of things, but everything else in Mystic River leading up to that, is still near-perfect with it’s powerful acting, realistic themes about life, and interesting character-traits and relationships that never always seem to add more heart and depth to this mystery, rather than just finding out who the baddie is.

8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

Dear, I could imagine the type of conversation these two would be happening.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012)

FDR was the perfect family man. Just don’t let him stay alone with your oldest daughter.

The story takes place over a weekend in 1939 where a little-known and rather peculiar affair FDR (Bill Murray) had with his cousin Margaret ‘Daisy’ Stuckley (Laura Linney) took place, as well as a visit from King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at their upstate New York cottage.

Without Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who knows what the hell type of state our country would have been left in. Not only did he get us through one of the worst times to ever be alive and live in America (The Great Depression), but he also got us through a Second World War. Basically, when it comes right down to it, the man is an inspiration to all Americans, let alone, human-beings out there and it only seems suitable that the guy be part 2, of 2012’s “president-gets-a-movie-year”. However, I wish it wasn’t this movie.

Taking the same approach that Lincoln did, as instead of focusing on the president’s whole life and adventures, they take a little snap-shot of his life and whereas that movie seemed to be focused on a more-important aspect of Honest Abe’s life, this story takes place around a time of FDR’s that should seem important and should seem interesting, but simply, is not. Director Roger Michell definitely seems like he wants to have fun with this story and make it seem like we really are there for the weekend, just as much as the King and Queen are, but we never really get that true-essence of fun, mainly because of who the story is focused on and why.

Instead of making this an important story about FDR and King George VI became buddies, in order for England and America to unite and fight WWII together, the story is more about how FDR got his rocks off with his 5th cousin. That’s all juicy and sensational and definitely provides an interesting-take on a romantic-comedy plot-line, but is just boring and after the first 10 minutes where FDR and Daisy share an intimate moment in a field together (which is one of the biggest “WHAT THE FUCK?!??!” moments of the year) it all goes downhill from there and never brings us back-up to date with anything that’s going on or what’s going to happen. Seriously, after that scene, you’re not going to know what to think and keep on wondering as to whether or not you should laugh, leave, or just laugh, in the unintentional way. Your pick, I guess.

Underneath this semi-romantic story, actually lies a deep and understood one about the uniting of these two nations and they definitely provide some of the best scenes of the whole frickin’ movie. There’s a sweet, subtle scene between King George VI and FDR where they both chill out, share a couple of after-hour martinis, and just shoot the shit on being a ruler, being the hot-shot on campus, and most of all, just life in general. Since the story/movie is apparently supposed to be told through Daisy’s eyes, it’s a tad strange that we get a look at this private moment between the two, knowing that it could have never been seen through her eyes, but regardless, it’s still a nice, heartfelt scene that shows that maybe this movie can do more than just try it’s hardest at giving us a weird-romance to care about.

However, it falls right back into it’s formula that it tried so hard to leave in the first-place and just really bummed me out since there is promise for a strong story here, but no Michell just wanted to keep on throwing soapy melodrama at us, as if we care for this relationship in the least-bit. Anytime Daisy gets upset over the fact that FDR is doing things that takes his eyes and attention away from her, she slips into a rage-fueled break down that makes her seem so childish, and just makes the movie seem all the more dramatic than it needed to be. It wouldn’t have sucked so much if we gave a crap, but the fact of the matter is, we just don’t and I would have much rather seen the film about FDR and the King and Queen getting along, rather than him and his cousin, well *ahem* getting along.

What also makes Daisy the weakest and most annoying-aspect of this movie is the fact that Laura Linney seems terribly miscast as her, simply because the gal is a bit too old. No offense against Linney, but she’s almost 50 and she’s playing a person that has the emotions and love-swindles of a 7-year-old girl who finds her first-crush in the playground out in the school yard. Linney does what she can with this mediocre role, but it isn’t enough to save her character from being really, really strange, not just by how she reacts to FDR’s womanizing-ways, but also to how she falls in love with the guy in the first-place. Other than the infamous field scene, there really isn’t all that much between the two that would really have me feel the love and in the end, just ends-up less and less believable as the story goes on. Yes, I know it’s a real-life account that is straight-from the personal diaries of Daisy, but there has to be some sort of dramatic-license taken here. There’s just gotta be!

The most interesting aspect of this whole movie, and probably the best as well, is the fact that it has Bill Murray playing non-other than Mr. FDR himself, and it’s a move that not only seems like a stretch, but also pretty risky, right? Well, in a way, it is a pretty risky maneuver trying to have one of the most famous comedians of all-time, play one of the most iconic president of all-time with little or no make-up used, but it’s a risky maneuver that Murray does very-well of getting past, mainly because the guy just has the most lovable screen-presence of any comedian/actor working today. Not only does Murray capture the undeniable fun and charm that was behind FDR and all his ways, but he also captures the presence of a dude that could never stand, yet was the happiest and tallest one at a party, mainly because of his happy-go-lucky personality towards everything. Sometimes when I was watching him, it really seemed like it was Bill Murray playing Bill Murray, rather than it being Bill Murray playing FDR, but I could mainly get past the fact and just enjoy the hell out of Murray and all that he did, and could do as FDR. It’s just a shame that DDL had to come-out and play Honest Abe in the same-year as Murray playing FDR, because the guy would have gotten some real Oscar-talk.

Possibly the biggest-stretch of this whole movie that wasn’t even apparent to me until I started watching was how this movie featured both the same King and Queen, that were portrayed by Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter so famously about 2 years ago with The King’s Speech. It would almost seem like blasphemy to try and feature another movie with the same real-life figures, and not have them be played by Firth and Carter, but surprisingly, Samuel West and Olivia Coleman take over those roles pretty-well and are most likely the most interesting-aspects of this movie. West does a nice-job with the stammer and doesn’t go into a full-on Firth-impersonation, and Coleman allows herself to be a little weird, but reasonable as the Queen, but when then are together, it’s just so fun and electric to watch that you really feel like you’re watching a married-couple that knows each other so, so very well. However, it probably would have been way more epic to see Firth and Carter, come over from that movie into this and give a little two cents of their own. Now that, my friends, is an Oscar-caliber movie. And probably a lot better than The King’s Speech, if you don’t mind me saying so myself.

Consensus: With so much promise in the air, it’s a total bummer to admit that Hyde Park on Hudson fails to bring-out any type of importance out of it’s somewhat, historically-important story, and instead, decides to just focus on how much FDR liked his stamp collection, martinis, and most of all, some nice booty here and there, especially the ones that weren’t his wives. Yeah, that’s exactly how we all want to remember one of our finest presidents of all-time.

5/10=Rental!!

Also, if you have any extra-time in your day, go on over to GuysNation and check out my latest post of Movied. Thanks!

The Truman Show (1998)

Surprisingly, MTV hasn’t tried this yet. Probably will after Jersey Shore starts to become repetitive. Oh wait…

‘The Truman Show’ chronicles the life of a man named Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) who is initially unaware that he is living in a constructed reality television show, broadcast around the clock to billions of people across the globe. Truman becomes suspicious of his perceived reality and embarks on a quest to discover the truth about his life.

In today’s day and age where everybody is constantly on Twitter tweeting about what they had for din-din, on Facebook posting pictures of them and their bong sesh the night before, or on YouTube uploading videos on themselves singing R&B songs by Mariah Carey, it’s easy to see why you would sometimes feel like you’re life is all one big TV show. However, life isn’t that cool and unique after all.

High Concept movies are usually hit-and-miss and rarely ever do they hit as well as the concept here. Writer Andrew Niccol takes gives everything he can into this concept where Truman in his own little world, and where everything is one big show, one big block of advertising, and most of all, one big piece of reality TV. There’s obviously a lot of satire to be had here where Niccol brings up the point about how our nation, is a nation that is consumed by watching other people’s live and needing to know everything that goes on in his/her private lives. It’s definitely a theme that gets better and better as the years go on by considering we have so many things in today’s world that take more and more away from our privacy. But it’s not all about the obvious satire, and that’s where the real beauty of this film lies.

Director Peter Weir did a perfect job here as a director because he immerses us into this world where Truman lives. We see everything that goes on in his “fake” world, then to the people who make this world for him, and then to what’s going on behind closed doors and how they are all filming everything the way they are. It definitely seems like a concept that would be a little too far-fetched but somehow Weir was able to pack all of these things in here that gets you more and more involved with this story as if you are, hey, watching a life play out in front of your own eyes. That’s right people, I’m talking about something that sounds exactly reality TV. Oh em gee! As you see Truman start to peel away the layers of his life to realize that something eerie is going on, you start to root for him and can only hope that he eventually does find out that it’s all one big show, and that he was the main star. This plot may have never been able to work, had it taken place in real life, but the way he realizes everything, hint by hint, not only makes the film seem plausible but feel like it’s actually happening right then and there.

It’s a real surprise how a plot like this actually came together so damn well in the end, but I guess when you put two heads like Niccol and Weir together, miracles can happen.

My only problem with this flick was that I sort of felt like the ending was a bit too abrupt. All of this build-up is leading and leading up to the finale of where Truman finally finds out about the world outside of his own, but even when it does happen, it’s sort of a let-down. Actually, I don’t want to say that it’s a let-down because I think it was actually handled very well in fact, it was just that it all happens so quick and I would have liked to see more of what actually happened after the ending went down. I know I sound very vague but that’s because, believe it or not, I don’t really want to give too much away here.

Ever since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out, people really started to take notice that Jim Carrey could play a more serious role than we usually see, but this was the real film that let us know that this guy had more than just a bunch of goofy faces. Carrey is amazing as Burbank because he makes this character so damn likable and believable that it’s easy to see why someone would want to center a TV show around him in the first place. In front of everybody, he’s hamming it up to the neighbors and going through the same routines day-in and day-out, but behind the closed doors, he continues to lose his shit as he realizes that something is a little too freaky underneath it all and you really do want him to find out everything at once and just get the hell out of there. Carrey totally throws himself into this role showing a lot of dramatic range as an actor, but also showing the things that make him funny in the first place as a comedian and giving us a new look at someone that we thought would end up being his own biggest fan.

Even though I’m not as fond of her as everybody else seems to be, Laura Linney is pretty good as Truman’s wife and it makes me wonder just how much money would a lady take if they had to act like Carrey’s wife and sometimes, get it on with him? Yeesh. Ed Harris is also good as the show’s director, Christof, and gives off this God-like nature to him that makes it seem like he was the one who actually gave life to Truman after all. Also, be on the look out for a nice little side spot from Paul Giamatti. Damn, this guy was everywhere back in the 90’s!

Consensus: The Truman Show works as well today, as it did way back when in 1998 with it’s very realistic satire but also works because of an amazingly original premise that seems to get better and better as more and more is revealed, and also features some great performances from the cast, especially a very good and very different Jim Carrey.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

You Can Count On Me (2000)

You can always depend on your doped up brother to bring some shock to your life.

The return of wild brother, Terry (Mark Ruffalo), is an unwelcome surprise to Sammy (Laura Linney), a young mother who is starting to cheat on her fiancé, Bob (Jon Tenney), with her boss, Brian (Matthew Broderick).

Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan is a dude I hear so much about considering he has only done two films in the last decade. Still though, I’m surprised that he isn’t a bigger name, especially after doing something like this.

What I like about his script is how it is a very honest script that shows what real relations between family is like. Every human emotion here doesn’t feel contrived or like they just rehearsed it, everybody reacts to each other the way that they normally would in real-life and it’s that kind of human honesty is what made me react to this flick the most. These are sad people, with sad lives, but they are all trying to get through it with one another and even if it may not work out to the best of their imaginations, they still somehow find ways to make good with what they have. This is a script that has some very smart moments with its drama and its emotions but its also very funny at certain points that you wouldn’t expect right away.

I also liked how Lonergan didn’t try to make us feel more for these characters than we already did by throwing us a bunch of sappy and cheesy moments that all emotional films like this try to snake us into. Since the film also shows the relationship between a long lost bro-bro and sis-sis, you would expect that there would be plenty of key scenes about their past and what happened so that the viewer would know more, however, the film doesn’t show this at all with the exception of the beginning, and it works. It’s quite impressive when films like this can do that because it lets us think about what happened through how they are now and it doesn’t try to spell anything out for us.

Lonergan is very good and skilled as a writer, no doubt about that but as a director, it seems like he may need a little working with. There is a lot of shots in this flick that shows these characters either just sitting, sleeping, watching TV, driving, or just randomly doing something that doesn’t pertain to the story and is just there because Lonergan wants to show us how unhappy these characters really can be. Some of these scenes seem very random and un-needed and one in particular with Broderick’s wife, seemed to go on a little too long for my liking. May sound like a weird complaint but there a couple of random scenes like this that didn’t really need to be here in the first place.  As good as the script may be too, everything still plays out the same way you would expect a drama like this to. It’s not as terribly disappointing as I may make it sound but it was still something I noticed right off the bat.

Laura Linney isn’t an actress that I usually like, because I thinks she plays the same character in almost any flick that she does but she’s very good here as Sammy. Sammy is one of those confused but very strong-willed women that just wants to do the right thing no matter what, but always seems to be dragged down by all of these mean people around her. Linney plays this character well because she shows what it’s like to be a woman who’s been through so much and just can’t seem to get a grasp on things but it’s not a one-note performance. Linney takes this character and give her a charming likability that is easy to relate to and understand right off the bat and I’m glad that she was nominated for an Oscar here.

Mark Ruffalo was also amazing in his role as her brother, Terry. Terry is one of those characters who has a lot of obvious problems but always tries to do the right thing no matter what. Problem is, he’s taken down by other people, just like his own sister. Ruffalo plays this role perfectly with just enough anger and heart to give us a full-rounded character that may be a little rough around the edges, but still is a good person no matter what he may mess up with. The scenes with him and Linney are all great and they feel like the an actual brother and sister that haven’t seen each other in so very long. Matthew Broderick is also good as Brian, Sammy’s boss, and he actually has a couple of funny scenes that work here even though his character may be a tad strange. Still, good performances all around here.

Consensus: Though some moments may not work, You Can Count on Me works mainly because of the great script from Lonergan that feels honest, insightful, and emotionally here, as well as the great performances from the whole cast.

7.5/10=Rental!!

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Two people who have English degrees don’t seem to make the best couples.

Set in Brooklyn in 1986, this film captures with extraordinary immediacy the inner workings of the Berkmans. Bernard (Jeff Daniels), a once successful novelist and Joan (Laura Linney), have given up on their marriage, leaving their two sons Walt (Jesse Eisenberg), 16, and Frank (Owen Kline), 12, to grapple with what has become of the family.

When I think of films that have to do with divorce, I think of the classics like ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ or ‘War of the Roses’, to name a few. However, never in my right mind would I thought that a film by the same dude who brought me ‘Greenberg’ would be added to that list as well.

Writer/director Noah Baumbach is a guy who’s films I can never really get into but with his script here, he shows some real talent that deserves to be heard. His script is filled with a bunch of humor, sarcasm, and witty puns that actually take your mind off the fact that this flick is essentially about a family falling apart right in front of our eyes. It’s strange to be laughing at something like this but the way Baumbach is able to make every single situation in this flick, come out almost funnier than the last is what truly is what makes him such an inspired writer in the first place.

The script also has a bit of a sweet side to it, which at first, is a little too hard to see since everybody is mean and nasty, but by the end of the flick you can really start to see it come out. The film has characters that aren’t very likable but by the end, they start to understand their short-comings for what they are and that’s where the film made a difference for me. I actually started to care what was happening between the members of this family just through how they show their pain and anguish over this divorce and it works because you somehow get attached to these characters. None of these moments are ever shown in an obvious or melodramatic way either, which is always one step above the normal Hollywood comedies we get almost every weekend.

The one fall-back that I did have with this flick was that Baumbach seemed like he just felt the need to be a little strange and weird with this flick and it doesn’t work. The whole idea that the one kid, Walt, is playing ‘Hey You’ by Pink Floyd an calling it his own without his parents or many other people not knowing that it’s actually by them seemed a little far-fetched for me since it is a pretty big song, and I don’t know, Pink Floyd is a pretty big band. Then again, I guess these sophisticated types just stayed at home and listened to opera all day.

Another example about the weirdness of this script is the whole sub-plot about Frank and his angst. First of all, he’s drinking beer just about every night and he constantly jizzes in his hand and wipes it all over random stuff in school. OK, I get it, the kid is having a hard time but does he really need to wipe his semen everywhere in order to show how upset and confused he is. This seemed like something for a whole different movie and this was just a little too weird and strange to actually ring true at all.

Where the film excels perfectly act though, is the performances given by all four of these performers. Jeff Daniels is great as the snobby, know-it-all, Bernard. The guy thinks he’s right even when he’s terribly wrong and it’s just funny to watch him go about his day and say things that obviously make him seem like a total pompous asshole. Daniels is great in this role and easily can make us laugh but he’s also still likable in a way and he’s a pretty cool guy, even though he can be kind of a dick. Laura Linney is also pretty good as Joan. It’s a really hard character for her to play, considering she has to make an extremely unlikable character, likable in some way but she pulls it off and makes her character seem like a real person rather than just another one of those confused woman that want sympathy all the time.

Jesse Eisenberg is great in this role as Walt, playing the usual fast-talking nerd he plays in every flick but he still seems like a young kid, as he actually was when this film was filming. Much of the film actually revolves around him and just to watch him take his father’s advice all the time and practically hate his mom as well, seemed very realistic and made Walt an easily relate-able character since I would have probably acted the same way as well. Owen Kline, son of Kevin Kline, is also very good as Frank and it’s a real wonder as to why this kid hasn’t done much more with his acting since he gives a very realistic performance as a young kid, even if his story does get a little too wild. The one scene-stealer in this whole film though is William Baldwin as the total goon, Ivan, a guy who made me laugh just about every time just by calling everybody around him “my brother”. Alec probably could have pulled it off better though.

Consensus: Even though some moments don’t really ring true, The Squid and the Whale still features great writing that mixes drama and comedy perfectly, with realistic performances from everybody involved that add so much more to these almost unlikable characters.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Countdown to Claus: Love Actually (2003)

Who loves Christmas? Almost every single British star apparently does.

I would give this huge plot synopsis but there really is so much here. Basically, everything in a nutshell, a lot of British folks fall in love with one another and Christmas starts to approach, which as everybody knows, means they all have to basically let their hearts out and tell the truth.

When I say there is a lot of stories in this flick, I mean there are a lot but I think director Richard Curtis does a fine job of handling all of these stories at once. He knows how to structure all of these stories together so well that they don’t seem too overwhelming to take in or repetitive for that sake. He doesn’t drop the ball as much as I would have expected him to but when it comes to handling dozens and dozens of love stories in just one flick that runs at 129 minutes, let’s just say that he’s no Robert Altman folk.

Where I think this flick gets messed up on is the fact there are way too many stories in this film and rather than just singling out every tiny story that it had, I’ll just tell you that there are some good bits and other bad ones. Some stories were obviously better than others, however, there were some that seemed unneeded because even though they were all comedies at heart, they also had a lot of downer dramatic elements to them as well.

There were also many moments with this film that seemed so cheesy and schmaltzy that I wanted to punch somebody in the face as soon as I heard another British bloke say, “I love you” to a chick they’ve known for only 2 days. The whole story with Liam Neeson and his step-son is really creepy and the whole fact that he’s telling his son to go and get it like a man, seemed a tad strange to me and almost like the film was trying way too hard to be cute.

The last of my problems with this flick is that it is very uneven. The abundance of stories would have been a little bit more enjoyable if they actually had some evening out with all of the stories but the problem here is that some stories go on for awhile and then you never see the other ones again, until you’ve almost forgotten about them completely. The whole Keira Knightley love-angle seemed very minor in this flick and although that one flash-card scene was cool, the film only has about 3 scenes of this little “romance” brewing up. Too many times I would wonder just where a certain story would have gone, and then when it came up I practically almost forgot about it.

Still, even though I’m ragging on this flick a whole hell of a lot, it still won me over. Despite some of schmaltzy moments there is a lot of heart-warming stuff going on here and each little story in their own right, is original and interesting. Take it for granted, there are some lame ones and others that plain and simply don’t belong because they either take up space or aren’t as interesting when it comes to having you smile when the supposed “love” is supposed to be going on. But not only are there a whole bunch of moments that had me tummy feel are warm and cuddly, there were also plenty of laughs to come along with this flick and even though they start to decrease by the end, I still felt myself happy.

The reason this film also works is because of the huge ensemble cast that Curtis has brought together. Everybody here does a great job with the ones who stand-out such as Hugh Grant as the prime minister, Colin Firth as a writer, Bill Nighy as an aging rock star, and Emma Thompson as a wife that is getting played with. Everybody here was great to watch and it was just awesome how everybody got to play around with their roles for a little bit, even if they weren’t really doing anything ground-breaking. Let’s not to forget that Andrew Lincoln of The Walking Dead is up in herrre and the always lovely Mr. Bean. People should get the notion that you should put Atkinson in every single British film. The damn guy is always funny!

Consensus: Love Actually is very uneven, and has stories that are better than others, but Richard Curtis still handles every story well here with heart-warming and comedic moments that are heightened even more by the charming cast.

7/10=Rental!!

The Life of David Gale (2003)

Does this even argue anything about the death penalty?

When Texas professor David Gale (Kevin Spacey), an advocate for the elimination of the death penalty, is falsely accused and convicted of the rape and murder of another activist (Laura Linney), he ends up on the state’s notorious death row himself. In a series of flashbacks, Gale tells his story to a young reporter (Kate Winslet) who’s visiting him on death row, leaving her to sort out his guilt or innocence.

The whole film I was expecting it to be another argument on the death penalty, and how it is just soo wrong. However, it just turns out to be an interesting jig-saw puzzle that you can’t steer away from.

The first two thirds of this film are quite riveting, mostly because the plots twists and turns, all come at you right away, without you even knowing. By the end the films twists really do seem to be implausible, and actually kind of stupid, but it was first two thirds that really had me going in the first place.

The cinematography is very ho-hum and certain editing techniques used to link scenes in the present to scenes in the past, where the camera spirals over words like: innocence, love, guilt, hate, are pretentious as hell. These montages are also so grossly out of place that they seem as if they were clipped from an episode of NYPD Blue.

The performances given here by Spacey and Winslet, is what in the end really won me over here. Kevin Spacey gives one of his best performances here, cause the whole film is basically given to him, to act his ass off, and well, he does just that and even more. Kate Winslet, is good as this mean, kind of bitchy reporter, but does give some good emotional scenes, although it may seem she is trying too hard. I wish these two had more scenes together to show that they could build up a great chemistry on screen. But just way too many flashbacks prohibit this.

Consensus: Although it’s plot and message seems so out-of-place by the end, The Life of David Gale, has at least two strong performances from Spacey and Winslet, as well as an interesting first two thirds of a film.

5/10=Rental!!!

Absolute Power (1997)

What if I saw Obama getting bust too, I think I would be acting a little like Clint.

Cat burglar Luther Whitney (Clint Eastwood) finds himself in the president’s doghouse when he spies the chief executive (Gene Hackman) trysting with a trophy wife. When their rough romancing turns lethal, efforts to cover up the scandalous situation spiral violently out of control. Now, Luther must survive a desperate pursuit from the back streets of the nation’s capital to the halls of power.

I can’t lie when I say this, but Eastwood is one of the better actor turned directors, in the history of film. I mean he does make a film almost every year, but still he makes films that are entertaining enough, to where you aren’t bored with his films. This one here is no different.

While Absolute Power isn’t a particularly great thriller, it still was rather entertaining in a quiet sort of way. Maybe that was the problem, Eastwood’s little thriller about political abuse was more about Eastwood’s relationship with his estranged daughter, played professionally by Laura Linney, than about anything really exciting or original. If the film was just about the reconciliation of father and daughter, it might have worked more for me.

Also, the fact of a standing president being almost directly involved with a murder of a well known wife of the philanthropist that put him in office, all feels a little implausible and Eastwood just could not quite make it plausible.

The emotional stuff worked so well here it was hard to see it get tonned down, by the kind of unbelievable plot. It moves slow and at times, the film doesn’t quite focus on the main plot at hand, but overall the film sort of still works. I mean the things that really work, as I mentioned before, is that the film has a lot of good screen time dedicated to its characters. I thought it was cool to see how all these different people interacted with each other, and the believable dialogue that followed their conversations. The suspense does build up to the end, even though there is a pretty shallow ending.

Eastwood’s role here is still one of the highlights of the movie, cause he isn’t what you would expect from good ole’ Clint. He isn’t a grumpy-gilled, old man, instead he is very smart, and still has a lot of things in his life that he wishes he would have changed, and you can see that in his performance. The others in the cast are good to like Ed Harris playing his usual bad-ass self, and Laura Linney surprisingly bringing a lot of emotion to her character that I wasn’t expecting, but the big disappointment in this movie was Gene Hackman. I reviewed Welcome to Mooseport awhile back, and that film had Hackman playing the president, but it was a good performance, and it seemed like he had a lot of fun with it. Here, his screen-time was taken down, and his performance was too one-note. We only saw this president that was an asshole, and why would we ever want him nominated in the first place.

Consensus: Though it isn’t Eastwood’s best mostly due to its unbelievable story, Absolute Power still has great moments of emotion, suspense that works, and good performances, despite a disappointing Hackman performance.

6/10=Rental!!!!

Mystic River (2003)

Thee boys reunite over a lost childhood, in both ways.

Tragedy reunites childhood friends Sean (Kevin Bacon), Dave (Tim Robbins) and Jimmy (Sean Penn) when they’re linked together in the Boston-based murder investigation of Jimmy’s teenage daughter. But while detective Sean works the case, Jimmy launches his own quest for the truth.

Mystic River is Clint Eastwood’s 24th directorial effort and it is one of his best. This is an extremely well-crafted and powerful film that shows us the real feelings of a childhood lost. Mystic River is based off of the novel from Brian Hegeland which works both as a taut thriller and a important character study.

After seeing all, the critical acclaim this film has gotten I will say that I was expecting to be taken away with one of the greatest films I have ever seen. But to be truly honest I wasn’t. Much of the story is great but there are some plot holes that I just didn’t believe such as the plot concerning Sean and his wife how she always calls but doesn’t say a word. Also Tim Robbins’ character as a young boy was molested, and throughout the whole movie he just acts like a nutcase, and throughout the whole time I was thinking, how did this guy have a smoking hot wife and a kid.

I liked how the film shows how these three men’s lives were changed when the incident with Tim Robbins occurred. The film isn’t a fast-paced thriller, but features elements that everything mysterious and wrong all lurk in the air.

Its a tremendously powerful film about the American tragedy that features characters that I did actually believe. I felt like the setting they were in was very true and actually was a character in the movie itself, and how each character reacts with one another felt true as well.

The performances are what really captivated me in this film however. The whole star-studded cast does a great job and all the performances jell together really well when their all on screen at once. Sean Penn gives one of the best performances of his career, and shows that he can take your typical average working American and switch him into something more than just that. There is a scene where he finds out his daughter has been killed and it is amazing to see his reaction, that scene though so early in the film kept me standing in my one spot. Tim Robbins does a great job as well despite his character being a little nutty, but he plays him real well.

The problem with this film that ultimately killed it for me was the ending. I don’t want to give anything big away but the ending was total junk. I felt that by the end of the film it was supporting murder, and vigilante justice, and didn’t make any sense or create a feeling of anything was right in this film.

Consensus: With some upsetting plot holes, Mystic River is well-acted, suspenseful, and full of great emotional power that shows a great portrait of real characters in real situations.

8.5/10=Matinee!!!

Primal Fear (1996)

Through all of these years I have watched and loved Edward Norton movies. Then I wonder where was his start? Now I found out, its in a courtroom drama starring my all-time favorite (sarcasm), Richard Gere.

Primal Fear is a 1996 motion picture which tells a story of a defense attorney (Richard Gere) who defends an altar boy (Edward Norton) charged with the murder of a Catholic archbishop. On the other side of the courtroom defending the archbishop is Gere’s ex-girlfriend, played by Laura Linney.

The film does not take full part inside of the courtroom, most of the time its either outside on the streets or in Norton’s cell. For this film to be truly great and effective I would’ve preferred their to be time inside of the courtroom and have more of the drama stems from inside there.  But only about a total of 40 min. from the film is inside the courtroom, and the rest is filmed outside, which I think kills all the suspense and drama this film could’ve really built on.

Richard Gere ,who in case you all know I strongly dislike with a passion, actually does try his hardest to give a grade A performance. Though his character is so egotistical and arrogant its hard to root for him as this case goes on. Though Edward Norton, one of my favorites, does a phenomenal job at portraying Aaron Stampler. You can feel the emotion for this poor character and have a sort of sympathy for him as his case goes along. Laura Linney in her own right does a very respectable job as the one lawyer who fights hard for justice, as they all do.

However, I thought the script was too cliche written and featured many predictable happenings. With a better screenplay and better direction this film could’ve been a total courtroom classic. But in all fairness it’s not, and without an incredible performance by Norton and a crazy twist ending this film would’ve fallen under the waist side.

7/10=Rental!!