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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Laurence Fishburne

Last Flag Flying (2017)

Can’t get old. Just can’t.

Thirty years after serving together in the Vietnam War, Larry “Doc” Shepherd (Steve Carell), Sal Nealon (Bryan Cranston) and the Rev. Richard Mueller (Laurence Fishburne) reunite to help bury Doc’s son, a young Marine killed in Iraq. Even though it’s typically routine in these kinds of cases, Doc doesn’t want his son’s body buried at Arlington National Cemetery, so the three decide to take a trip back to his hometown of New Hampshire. It’s a road-trip, in the sense that they do a lot of travelling, whether it be by train, bus, or car, and that all three chew the fat and realizing how different each of their lives have been since they last all served and saw each other. But no matter what, no matter how old they get, how grey their hair turns, or how much they change in general, they will always be members of the Army and that is something that they wear with absolute and total pride.

Somebody didn’t come dressed.

A lot of people will hate Last Flag Flying because it’s literally just all talking, it’s slow, and it’s barely concerning itself with a central-conflict. It’s literally about three old war buddies, getting back together after all of these years, hanging out, drinking, smoking, eating, talking about the good old days, the not so good days, and oh yeah, driving to a destination that keeps changing somehow. It’s not the kind of movie you see on a Friday night, before you head-off to the clubs, nor the kind of movie you go to after a few drinks – it’s the kind of movie you see if you want chill-out, hang for a little bit, enjoy yourself, and who knows, maybe even tear-up a bit.

Some will say that’s lame and boring. But I came pretty close to loving it.

Also, it’s a movie directed and co-written by Richard Linklater, so what the hell do you expect? It’s not a movie that entirely cares about getting on with plot and trying to throw us twists and turns to keep us alive and awake; in fact, the few times that the movie does attempt to do this, it’s a little weird and clumsy. But when the movie is just the guys hanging out, talking, it’s probably more compelling than any set-in-stone plot could have taken care of.

Most movies nowadays think that just having a bunch of good actors, playing well-written characters, and working with a smart script, doesn’t really do the ticket. In a way, that can be true; it can sometimes be boring, slow, and pretentious, to a fault. But it can also benefit your movie, depending on how it’s all paced.

Linklater, as he does with all of his movies, doesn’t seem to be in any kind of a rush with Last Flag Flying, which is why it’s sort of like spending a weekend with your grandpa or uncle. Fun times will be had, beers will be drank, cigars will be smoked, and nostalgia will overtake, but it’s so easygoing and peaceful, that it’s almost like it never happened in the first place. I know that makes it sound like Last Flag Flying is just a senseless, forgetful bit of drama, but it really isn’t.

It has a heart, a soul, and a great trio of actors showing up and putting in some great work.

Hey, when Jackie don’t feel like acting anymore, might as well call up Bry. That’s what they call him in the biz, right?

As expected though, right?

Oddly enough, Last Flag Flying is a quasi-sequel to Hal Ashby’s the Last Detail, in the sense that the setting and plots are different, but the characters are still the same. It’s pretty odd and a bit distracting; you can tell that Cranston is doing the loud, obnoxious Jack Nicholson role, whereas Steve Carrel is doing the silent, stern, and demanding Randy Quaid role. But really, it doesn’t matter because the three are so good here, you forget about those movie-legends and remember that these three are even better.

Carrel’s silence is deafening throughout the whole movie, because he’s arguably the biggest star out of the three here, yet, doesn’t have much to do or say. He’s sort of like a macguffin in that the movie needs him to keep moving, but he literally never has anything to say, so it’s almost like he isn’t here. Laurence Fishburne’s role, while initially seeming like it’s going to be cliche, turns into something sweeter and darker, even if there feels like there’s more about him to be developed. Then again, that’s kind of the point; he’s closed-off such a large part of his life already, so why wouldn’t he close off much more portions of his life?

Then, there’s the aforementioned Cranston who, in the Nicholson role, is pretty great.

Sure, it’s loud, showy, and a tad annoying, but that’s truly the point of his existence. Also, Cranston himself is so endearing and charming, you grow to just love and accept the guy for who he is, what he represents, and why there are so many more men and women out there, just like him, doing the best that they to get by for a country they put their lives on the line for, and didn’t get all that much in return. It’s a shame, but it’s why we still have movies like this made.

Consensus: Despite being incredibly talky and meandering, Last Flag Flying also features smart, funny writing, with three great performers in the leads, that makes it go by so much quicker.

8 / 10

Hold those hands, Bry! Come on!

Photos Courtesy of: Amazon Studios

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Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

It’s like they say, “Your best movies, are the ones that come close to killing you.” Even though, yeah, they don’t.

After making not just the Godfather Part I, but Part II in the span of a nearly two years, Francis Ford Coppola could basically do whatever the hell it is that he wanted, with as much money, with whomever, and wherever. That’s when he decides to take up adapting Heart of Darkness, the novella that had been a long passion-project of Coppola’s, but needed some extra push to get off the ground. Eventually, he got it, but in this case, it wasn’t what he, or anyone else was expecting. Needless to say, without saying too much, one lead actor gets a heart-attack, another gets recast about halfway through, one is filmed in a drunken-stooper, one lies about his age to get in the movie. But then, if you go past the usual actor stuff, you’ve also got the fact that the budget is running up the bill way more than it was supposed to, the Vietnam locals are getting pissed, the weather was absolutely awful and practically unlivable, and oh yeah, Coppola himself literally lost his mind.

Was it “method”?

The biggest joke about Hearts of Darkness would be that the resulting film of all this mayhem and madness, Apocalypse Now, turned out to be a bunch of crap that people put way too much of an effort into, for no other reason because they had to, or they thought what was right. But that’s what’s funny, because the movie turned out, dare I say it, almost perfect. All of the years spent filming, editing, and putting money into it, guess what?

At the end of the day, everyone went home happy.

But Hearts of Darkness isn’t a movie about what the final product ended up becoming, nor is it really about what everyone else thought about the movie, it’s mostly about the behind-the-scenes of everything that happened on, as well as off the set, and yeah, it’s just about as candid and as eye-opening as you can get with a documentary about so many big names and faces in Hollywood. With the assistance from Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper, believe it or not, Eleanor Coppola, Francis’ wife, is actually the perfect one to bring this table of absolute craziness to the big screen; she was, after all, there for it all, and her insight, while sometimes silly, focuses on things that probably mattered the most. While Francis was off worrying about how much fire was burning the trees down, Eleanor was worried that her husband was going to have a stroke and possibly die from all of the tension and turmoil in his life.

It’s not like she wants us to feel bad for her husband, but at the same time, she also wants to see it from more of a film-nerd’s perspective, where the control-freak director is always right for themselves, the movie, and everyone else around them. But still, just watching what happens behind-the-scenes here, and the things that we only hear small instances of, are truly insane, but draw you in even closer to the mind of Coppola, how he worked, and why he slaved away for so long to get this picture of his made and up on the big screen, for all the world to see and hopefully feast their eyes on.

It was the 70’s and it was hot, so maybe he wasn’t totally crazy.

And really, it all comes back to Coppola, someone who has become a pretty infamous figure in movie-making, only because it appears like his career has taken a huge turn downwards after he was put into debt for this project, as well as the many others to follow. For one, it’s interesting to see Coppola talk about this project, but also not think of him as a total ass; sure, he loves himself and his work, but can you blame him? The man has literally just made two of the greatest movies of all-time and was onto making another, so maybe he’s allowed to kiss his own ass, eh?

If so, it still brings up the question: How much is too much?

Eleanor and the movie as a whole, brings this point up many times and makes us think, whether we’re on his side for going so far as he did, to make sure that this movie was complete and actually worked to his vision, or, if he was just way too artistically-driven in the first place? See, it would be a problem if the movie didn’t turn out to be such a classic, but it somehow did and it makes us not just think, but wonder: Where has that same artistic integrity gone? And hell, when is it coming back?

Consensus: Eye-opening and thrilling to watch, especially if you’re a film-nerd, Hearts of Darkness will surely show you everything you need to see, hear, and understand about all of the craziness that went into making sure the final product turned into what it is seen as today.

8.5 / 10

Pictured: Cast and crew getting the hell out of Coppola’s rage.

Photos Courtesy of: Jonathan Rosenbaum

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

This Wick guy can’t catch a break.

After having to eliminate all of those who killed his precious dog some years ago, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is now enjoying his life of luxury, at-home and not having a single worry in the world. However, it all changes when a former associate of his, Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) shows up at his door-step, asking him to take someone out. While Wick doesn’t really want to, he basically has to, because Santino is part of the “organization” that Wick and many other lethal and powerful people are apart of. So Wick does his job and takes out the target, however, little does he know that Santino wants to tie-up loose ends and get rid of Wick, putting a seven million dollar bounty on Wick, for anyone who is capable of taking him down. Is this a battle Wick can fight, hell, even win? Probably, but it’s going to be a hell of a ride, taking down every skilled mercenary that’s out to make a quick dollar off of the head of Wick.

One of the key complaints people seem to have with video-game movies is that they don’t feel like you yourself, are actually playing a video-game. Instead, it feels like you’re watching someone else play a video-game, not ever handing over the control, and not doing anything right – they’re constantly doing the wrong things, dying over and over again, and not even bothering to put in cheats. Video-game movies can be frustrating for this sole reason and it’s why most of them don’t work and are better off staying as video-games, where anyone can play them and do what they want.

Don't mess with a man who has a beard like that.

Wes Bentley gonna sue somebody!

Which is why John Wick: Chapter 2 is probably the best video-game movie, that’s not actually adapted from a video-game.

With most sequels, the ones behind them know that whatever worked in the first, should be done in the second, but with even more aggression and repetitiveness. Often times, this can make the sequels feel boring and dull, as if there’s no heart or emotion to them, but just studio-mandated sequences. Chapter 2 is the rare sequel in which the excursiveness of itself, actually helps the movie out in the long run; the first movie was crazy and chaotic, too, but Chapter 2 takes it to the next level.

In a way, Chapter 2 is a better movie, all around, than the first John Wick. There’s more creativity here, more excitement, and yes, a little bit more of a story. But Chapter 2 is smart in that it doesn’t try anything terribly new or different that could potentially push fans of the original away; there’s still tons of action, blood, bullets, guns, knives, and blown-off faces. In other words, it’s a grand old time, but it’s never cheap about it.

Director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad seem as if they know how to make this pulpy material work, without trying too hard; Kolstad seems to just write one dumb monologue after another, whereas Stahelski shoots every action-sequence in the most simplest way imaginable, without all of the unnecessary cuts, CGI, and finickiness that can sometimes make most action-thrillers a chore to sit through. Here, you can see just about everything going on with this action and because of that, it’s more compelling to watch.

That, and because well, it seems like Keanu Reeves himself is doing a lot of his own stunts.

Oh yeah, get on with the shooting.

Oh yeah, get on with the shooting.

Which, yes, may not sound like much, but trust me, it does. Reeves has been well-known as an actor who uses a stunt-double for his action-sequences, but doesn’t solely rely on them for each and every scene known to man – Tom Cruise is a lot like this, but he’s also far more showier about it than Reeves. And in Chapter 2, you can tell that a lot of is Keanu, which is pretty impressive, considering that he’s nearly 53-years-old and can be seen here jumping, kicking, punch, falling, rolling, and most of all, running. Age doesn’t matter for Reeves and it’s a great thing, because he seems to absolutely love these kinds of roles and they fit him like a glove, so it all works for everyone in the end.

Of course, Chapter 2 gets by on its wild ensemble, most of whom are leftovers from the original. If there’s one issue to be had with Chapter 2, it’s that the movie does have the ability to stop itself rather abruptly, just so that a character can sit around and whisper something somewhat meaningful, or menacing, but doesn’t really amount to much. While it’s neat to get an action movie that does this, it also breaks up the tension and makes us just want to see these characters beat the hell out of one another. Sure, it helps that you’ve got pros like Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, Peter Stormare, John Leguizamo, and Laurence Fishburne working with this material, but yeah, sometimes, enough is enough and it’s time to just get on with the ass-kicking.

But hey, a movie that can give us a bad-ass Common, then, deserves a whole lot of credit.

Consensus: More action-packed and crazier than the original, Chapter 2 is the rare instance in which a sequel is better than its original, based solely on the fact that it constantly packs more on as it goes along.

8 / 10

He's got a new dog. Don't. Touch. It.

He’s got a new dog. Don’t. Touch. It.

Photos Courtesy of: Kenwood Theatre

Passengers (2016)

Space can get pretty lonely for hot, attractive people.

On a trip to a new planet, where all sorts of wonderful and exciting adventure awaits them, 5,000 passengers lay asleep, waiting to be awoken in 90 years so that they can start fresh. However, the ship malfunctions and awakes one passenger, Jim (Chris Pratt). For Jim, he has no idea why this has happened, or better yet, what to do, but tries whatever he can to alert someone that he has been woken up before everyone else, can’t get back to sleep and may now be forced to live the rest of his life, alone and on this spaceship before it reaches its destination. It’s such a sad existence that all of a sudden gets a little bit better when Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) suddenly wakes up, too, leaving the two to obviously put their brains together even more and think of ways to get out. But of course, seeing as how they are two attractive, hot people trapped on some spaceship together, they eventually begin to gain feelings for one another, making the situation all the more dramatic, especially when the ship begins to malfunction more and more, leaving them to have to make brash decisions in the wake of it all.

She's hot.

She’s hot.

Okay, so yeah. There’s more to Passengers than I’m letting on, but because I am a nice guy, I will try my best to avoid spoiling any small secrets about Passengers that may not just ruin your experience, but not have you expect anything to happen. Because for a movie like Passengers, not knowing what’s going to happen, helps it a great deal.

It’s just that certain level of unpredictability doesn’t stay around so long.

But still, what Passengers does best is somewhere to be found in the first hour or so, when all of the fun of this setting and the promise of this premise is toyed with in smart, sometimes interesting ways. Director Morten Tyldum and writer Jon Spaihts seem to both love this idea of having this spacious, lavish spaceship to play around with and get crazy with possibilities, which makes it interesting to see how these two characters act within their surroundings; this idea that living the rest of your existence seemingly alone sucks, but there’s also plenty of other stuff in this spaceship like a basketball court, something resembling a Wii, Michael Sheen as a robot-bartender, and so much more to it.

However, what’s perhaps most interesting about Tyldum and Spaihts’ approach here is that it feels like there’s so much more to explore within this spaceship and this idea and that for awhile, it almost seems like they’re going to go there. I’ll admit, the love-story does come on very strong, but still, the idea presented about their relationship and how it pertains to the spaceship and overall existence itself still sticks around, making all of the lovey-dovey stuff, at the very least, bearable. It also helps that the spaceship itself, from the outside and in, as well as the rest of the movie, looks pretty great, never seeming as if it’s cheaping out on getting us even more and more immersed into this story and this setting.

Then the final-act kicks in and yeah, it kind of falls apart.

Without saying too much, it seems like the first two acts were written by Spaihts and the last act was done by some studio head’s wannabe-writer kid. Melodramatic revelations start to drop, people begin to cry, sci-fi jargon is thrown everywhere and supposed to mean something, and oh yeah, lots and lots of stuff begins to catch on fire. Why does this happen? Well, no reason really, except that it’s a studio movie and studios are afraid that if there isn’t any action around, people are going to get bored and leave.

And sure, while I’m not totally against the idea of allowing there to be all sorts of crazy action to crank-up the intensity of a story, here, it feels unnecessary and incredibly rushed. It’s as if the movie wasn’t actually finished being written, but there was a budget and a deadline, so they had to do their best but to stick with the conventional fall-out we expect from a plot like this and it just does not work. It’s overlong and way too chaotic to really work – making this movie seem like two different ones combined, without much of a transitional period.

He's hot.

He’s hot.

And that’s honestly why Passengers is getting such a bad rap.

Sure, some may blame it on the fact that the advertising holds back a very important part of the story intentionally, but it sort of doesn’t matter – the movie is less about the spoiler/surprise, as much as it’s about actually watching these characters interact with one another, in this setting, and thinking about what to make of it all. In that sense, the movie is very interesting and the two performances from Lawrence and Pratt, are compelling, but the movie doesn’t totally challenge them a whole lot, either. Essentially, they are playing very much in their wheelhouse, where they both have to play charming and dramatic, and together, they create quite the hot couple. They keep it watchable, at the very least, even when everything begins to fall apart in the end.

Which isn’t to say that Passengers is quite the train wreck everyone’s been making it out to be, but it could have been so much more, had it not seem like the studio interfered. Or even if they didn’t interfere in the first place, the least someone could have done was look over the script a few more times, think of things to fix and overall, make that ending better. It would have helped out a lot and probably kept that spoiler from being so idiotically secretive in the first place.

But hey, whatever brings butts to the seats, right?

Consensus: For a short while, Passengers takes full advantage of its talented leads and interesting premise, yet, does a full 180 about halfway through and loses any sense of what it was originally going for.

5.5 / 10

So, why shouldn't they be hot together?

So, why shouldn’t they be hot together?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Color Purple (1985)

Men are always bringing women down. Doesn’t matter the race.

Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) has had a pretty rough life. At a very early age, she was impregnated not once, but twice by her daddy and rather than getting the chance to raise the spawn of his seed, they were taken away from her and sold to a family that was willing to pay a healthy price for the children. And honestly, Celie couldn’t do anything about it. After all, she was an African-American woman living in the South, during the early-1900’s, where not only did black people of every kind face all sorts of harsh treatment and inequality throughout society, but most of all, women especially. But the pain and torture for Celie doesn’t stop there; eventually, she gets married off to the wealthy, but equally as abusive “Mister” Albert Johnson (Danny Glover). While she’s given a spacious place to live in and a few stepchildren to care for, mostly, Celie’s time spent here is filled with utter torment, and Albert is not only a mean person, but one that does not care about making it known about his extramarital affairs – something that would absolutely upset Celie, however, she’s just too numb to feel anything. The only glimmer of hope in Celie’s life is the idea that one day, possibly, she will be reunited with her sister, who is apparently out and about in Africa, learning all that there is to learn of the native land.

Cheer up, Celie. At least your sissy may still be alive, right?

Cheer up, Celie. At least your sissy may still be alive, right?

Steven Spielberg, in hindsight, may have been an odd choice for this sometimes cruel source material. Considering that he isn’t a man of color, but also, at this point in his career, wasn’t always known for his deep, dark and disturbing dramas. If anything, he was most known for the summer blockbusters he churned out to both critical, as well as commercial acclaim. Nowadays, we know and can usually depend on Spielberg for these kinds of dark dramas, but in 1985, it was a hard idea to fathom that Spielberg would take source material as coveted and as regarded as this.

But still, Spielberg being Spielberg, he makes it his own.

The Color Purple is, by all means, a very disturbing flick. Right from the very beginning, when we find out that Celie’s father has been raping her, impregnating her, and giving her children away for money, it’s a huge shock. Most movies/stories would have that be its final twist at the tail-end, when people aren’t ready or expecting hard, messed-up truths like that to come out. But nope, Spielberg allows for the movie to get as grim as can humanly be, right off the bat; it’s not just a shocker, but a smart move, as it allows for the rest of the film to play out as terribly disgusting and inhumane as can be.

But it’s all worth it, as odd as that sounds. Spielberg isn’t just allowing for Celie’s story to play out, one scene after another, in which she is assaulted in every sorts of way imaginable. Sure, you could definitely pin-point the movie as being all of that, but honestly, it doesn’t feel like that. The movie moves at a steady pace where we’re able to be horrified by the atrocities, but also get an understanding of who these people are involved with said atrocities; in fact, that actually helps the movie a whole lot more as we learn to care extra for Celie and those around her who may be on the receiving, or giving end of certain assaults and whatnot.

It may not sound like much, but it goes a long way to help us grow more immersed with these character’s lives and the world around them.

And because of that, the Color Purple can sometimes be a rough movie to sit through. In a way, you almost wish that Spielberg himself would look away, or take a moment to pause from all of the brutality and instead, move the plot forward, but all of the rough and nasty edges are what sort of make this story all the more heartfelt. Had Celie, as well as those around her, had been assaulted once or twice throughout the whole two-and-a-half-hours, the movie wouldn’t have as much of an emotional impact. But because Celie and all of the other women are treated so awfully, basically throughout, it makes a whole lick of difference and makes us feel like their situation is way worse than we could have imagined.

Those eyes, though.

That look, though.

Though Spielberg is one for sentimentality (like he shows in the last-act), he still doesn’t forget about the mean realities in life that plague our society. That’s why, for all of the silly choices Spielberg makes – like, for instance, allowing for a score to play just about throughout the whole run-time in a rather obnoxious manner – he still gets the meat and the crux of the story right. This is a story about women – black women, in particular. And they aren’t growing up in any certain time like today – it’s the South and it’s the early-1900’s.

The times weren’t pretty and they don’t deserve to be seen as such.

And as Celie, Whoopi Goldberg is quite great. There’s a lot of staring and crying that she has to do, which may make it appear like she doesn’t have a whole lot of range, but what Goldberg is doing so well, is that she’s bottling everything about Celie up that, once we get to a certain point, we see that she’s about to ready to explode. And yes, when she does in fact, explode, it’s a great scene and reminds us all why Goldberg, her View-shenanigans aside, is a great actress and is more than willing of that Oscar she achieved some sixteen years ago (yes, I know it was for Ghost, but you can almost think of it as an “apology Oscar” from the Academy for not giving it to her here).

But it’s not just Goldberg who is great here. Playing the strong-willed and sassy Sofia, Oprah Winfrey reminds us that she’s a great actress too, showing us a funny and honest character who, despite always having something to say, may also be her own worst enemy and is almost deserving of her own movie entirely; Danny Glover is downright terrifying and vile as Albert, but rightfully so, and in some brief instances, we do get to see a certain level of humanity, making us see this man for what he is: A human; and as the lively and sexy Shug Avery, Margaret Avery shows us the more positive sides to being a black women living at this time and also awakens something of a sexual desire within Celie that brings out the best in both of them.

And thankfully, the women here all got Oscar nominations. Though, of course, they didn’t win.

Big surprise, right?

Consensus: Though it isn’t without the occasional misstep and Spielberg indulgence, the Color Purple is still a hard-hitting, effective and surprisingly emotional tale of racism, bigotry and violence that’s as disturbing as it should be.

8.5 / 10

Do it, Celie! What you've got to lose!

Do it, Celie! What you’ve got to lose!

Photos Courtesy of: Blu-Ray, Cinematic Fanatic

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

My money’s on the guy who can fly. And no, not like a bat.

After nearly destroying all of downtown Metropolis after his brawl with General Zod (Michael Shannon), Superman (Henry Cavill) isn’t quite loved by the general public. The media portrays him as either a “hero”, or a “dangerous alien”, government officials are calling for him to testify to his actions, and even those close to him, like Lois Lane (Amy Adams), still aren’t sure if he’s making the best choices. One person who would definitely agree with Lois is billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), CEO of Wayne Enterprises, and one of the many people who were affected by Superman’s mayhem of destruction. Seeing as how his whole company got screwed-over by Superman, without so much as a “sorry”, or “I.O.U.”, Bruce decides to take matters into his own hands and go after Superman himself, but this time, as Batman. Meanwhile, evil-genius scientist Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) is conjuring up his own dastardly plan of sorts, but doesn’t seem to keen on letting those in governmental power know what it is. Obviously Superman and Batman got their issues to settle, but with Luthor somewhere in the background, they may have to push it all to the side and focus on the rest of humanity.

"Hero! Hero! Kill him!"

“Hero! Hero! Kill him!”

I’m going to be nice to Batman v Superman. Even after all of the anticipation, hype, and expectations built-up for this thing, it seems like a lot of people are, predictably, not liking it, which isn’t the only reason why I’m going to give it a break. One reason is that it’s a tad better than a lot of people seem to be giving it credit for in that it’s as dark, as serious and as brooding as you can get with a superhero movie. While Christopher Nolan may not be directing (he’s actually producing), his style is seen everywhere – the overbearing Hans Zimmer score, the countless shots of superheros looking into the distance and being sad, daddy issues, and, oh yeah, the seriousness.

Oh, so very serious.

But that’s one of the main reasons why I dug Batman v Superman in the first place – it’s not trying to crack jokes, wink at the crowd, break the fourth-wall, or make it seem like they’re out to provide knee-slappers. What it’s trying to do is give you this story, these characters, and do so in a very serious, almost unrelenting manner. The world painted here by Zack Snyder is a gritty, cold and bleak one, which definitely works, given how the first ten minutes start-off with us seeing just all of the destruction Superman caused at the end of Man of Steel. While Snyder himself may have caught a lot of flack for using that movie’s last-half as some sort of mindless 9/11 allegory, here, he shows that there’s actually a heartbeat to all of that pain and demolition; it’s not just about blowing things up for the sake of blowing them up, but showing that there’s a consequence for these kinds of actions.

That’s why, if anything, Batman v Superman seems to be, for the longest time, very anti-Superman. If it wasn’t for the first ten minutes portraying his act of retribution as something harmful to the rest of society, the following hour-and-a-half questions just what kind of being Superman is, whether or not he can be trusted, and why his better judgement may get the best of him if he’s not paying close enough attention. So rarely do superhero movies nowadays seem to hold a mirror up to their own characters in a way that Snyder, and co-writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer do with Superman and it brings up some really interesting ideas and questions about the idea of a superhero in and of itself.

Like, for instance, would we trust someone who could literally all kill us one day so easily, even if he was just saving us from every cataclysmic event? Or, would the fact that he’s always saving our butts give him enough privilege to do whatever he oh so pleased? And if not, then what would he have to do to ensure that he’s not just free-wheeling on his own? Set-up governmental rules for him to follow by? Or, just let the people decide?

Batman v Superman brings all of these questions ups and while there doesn’t seem to be much interest in actually answering them, the fact that they’re still brought-up at all means a lot.

And most of this is just to get past the fact that the rest of Batman v Superman is pretty messy and odd, even by Snyder’s standards. At two-and-a-half-hours, there’s so much, with so many, going on here, that it’s almost impossible to talk about it all to great length without spoiling something, or just getting lost in the shuffle of this movie, but just know this, there’s so much going on here that it’s basically too much. Snyder doesn’t know how to settle things down enough to where we get a few subplots and leave it at that; instead, the movie has at least five or six subplots going on, all surrounding the main, important one at the center with Batman and Superman coming to battle.

"I see youuuuuuuu!"

Way to hide, bro.

Speaking of them two, the battle they do eventually have is, pretty nice. In fact, all of the action here is pretty well-done and looks great, which is no surprise because Snyder knows his way around a good shot. It’s just that the movie literally takes two-and-a-half-hours to actually get to the ultimate showdown between Batman and Superman, when it definitely doesn’t need to. The movie already makes itself pretty damn clear what Bruce Wayne is going to be doing for the next hour, which is, chasing after Superman, so why take up all of our time, give us subplots of characters we don’t give a hoot about, and further prolonged the battle we’ve all been waiting so desperately for?

Don’t get me wrong, the fight is definitely awesome and it’s not like I would have preferred it if the fight had been in the first five seconds, but still, there’s too much time dedicated to senseless stories, when it could have been dedicated to developing both Superman and Batman more. And while you could definitely make the argument that we already got enough development with Superman, a part of me walked away feeling like Superman was a bit of a dick in this; when everyone is up-in-arms about all of the destruction he caused to the city, he literally says nothing and continues to fly around the sky, pouting, and, every so often, crying on Lois’ shoulders. No inspirational speech, no selective reasoning, no mic-drop speeches, no nothing.

He literally just takes it and leaves everyone to hate him and question him.

If anything, it’s Ben Affleck’s Batman who fares a lot better than most of the people here. As an older, much more grizzled Bruce Wayne, Affleck gets a chance to show a more seasoned-side to himself than we’ve seen in recent time and it works. While there was a public outcry over Batman being handed to Affleck, he shuts them all up by showing, not only is his Batman a freakin’ bad-ass that will literally stab a guy, or shoot him in the face, but will also take no mercy on whoever has done him wrong.

Screw these Justice League movies! Give me the solo Batfleck movie now!

Consensus: Messy and at times, incoherent, Batman v Superman has gotten its haters for a reason, but for those willing to look past its many weaknesses, will also see a very dark, very serious and very exciting superhero movie that gives us a solid new beginning to the DC franchise, that can hopefully pick up the pieces a bit after this.

6.5 / 10

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot and sexy tango that would be.

It always takes three to tango. And what a hot, sexy tango that would be.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Signal (2014)

Don’t ever trust hackers. Not that you ever could anyway, but just saying.

Three MIT students, Nic (Brenton Thwaites), Jonah (Beau Knapp), and Haley (Olivia Cooke) are on the road to Haley’s new place, where it’s presumed that her and Nic will eventually break-off, because a long-distance relationship just isn’t something that two 20-year-old’s can handle together. Anyway, on the road, Jonah and Nic discover that an anonymous hacker they’ve been talking to and playing around with wants to take them to a destination, where they’ll meet up for the first time ever. When the three do get to the destination, it just so happens to be a worn-down house in the middle of the desert that they go into and hear some weird stuff. Moments later, they are mysteriously knocked unconscious, and several moments later, wake up in a padded-up testing center where they are asked a series of strange questions by Damon (Laurence Fishburne), someone who seems like he knows a thing or two about what he’s talking about. However, Nic is tired of all this crap that he’s been force-fed and decides to take it upon himself to discover the truth about the place that he is at, and find out whether or not he can be reunited with his friends, once again.

I must say, while that may not sound like all that much of an intriguing premise, there’s something interesting about what this movie does with said premise that makes it worth watching. It’s strange, because for the first 20 or so minutes of this movie, it’s pretty much like any other indie coming-of-ager – there’s shots of young college kids in a packed-car driving down a highways, looking out from upon a mountain, discussing what the future holds for them, and trying to grasp adult-hood, while somewhere in the background M83 plays. It’s no surprise to me that this movie screened at Sundance, because honestly, it seems like the kind of movie that that sort of crowd would go bananas over.

I too, hate it when the milk man misses the front-door.

I too, hate it when the milk man misses the front-door.

Not me, however. And it wasn’t that I was bored, it was because the movie just moved too slow without anything interesting to be happening at all. Sure, the idea that this hacker wanted to meet up with them was something that kept me wondering, but the characters were boring, the soundtrack was so moody and saddening, that it made me want to chug a whole bottle of Merlot, and there was no Laurence Fishburne. Sounds dumb, I know, but when you expect Laurence Fishburne to show up in a movie, because you know he’s in it, it’s a bit hard to get past the fact that his lovable mug isn’t present within the first half-hour of whatever movie is in question.

Thankfully though, that all changed once the movie reveals to us that “twist”. I use parentheses, because the movie never makes it clear to us what’s going on with these three kids, or what these people in padded-up, astronaut-like suits are actually up to; the movie just plops us down into the middle of a situation that we have no clue about and are left to fend for ourselves. Whenever that happens to me in a movie, I’m always grateful, because it’s so easy for a movie/director to just force-feed us everything we’re supposed to know or understand, in order for our eyes to stay glued to the screen at all times. Not every movie has to be so obvious with what it wants us to know to add tension or a whole understanding of everything, but not many directors out there are fine with just playing it subtle.

But director William Eubank totally is and that’s what really kept me alive and awake during the second-half of this movie. It was still slow like the first-half, but this time, there was something actually charging it and keeping it alive and interesting. The story itself could have turned out to be 1,000 different things, and as ridiculous as most of them could have been, they still worked because it was a movie that didn’t show, nor tell us everything.

Instead, we come to our own conclusions about certain characters, their motivations, and just what the hell is going on behind the sealed-doors. Because we’re thrown into the mind of our lead protagonist, Nic, we never have a totally clear clue what those in charge are absolutely up to; all we do know is that they want to extract info and play some strange mind games with Nic himself. It’s supposed to make us pissed that they aren’t telling him anything at all and practically messing with his head every chance they get, and because we’re thrown into his head, his mind, it sort of works.

There was a certain part of me that wanted to see this Nic kid to find his friends, break out of this “prison”, and find any sort of peace or safety that’s at all possible, while also exposing these mofo’s for all that they are worth. In a way, I got a rebellious spirit in the pit of my stomach and though I didn’t want to see Nic go full-Pacino and start screaming “Attica!” from the top of his lungs, I still wanted him to get out of this strange situation alive, well, happy, and at least safe from these creepy, vague a-holes.

"Whadup? It's me, Laurence Fishburne. Just hanging out."

“Whadup? It’s me, Laurence Fishburne. Just hanging out.”

However, there’s a problem with all this because once the movie becomes all about Nic on the run from these mofo’s, it gets repetitive, albeit, conventional. Don’t get me wrong, the reason this is an original sci-fi movie, is because of how much it keeps us away from knowing the truth; everything else, from the gadgets, to the vernacular, and even to the post-apocalyptic-ish landscape is just feels like ground covered before. But it’s how the story tells itself is what works so well and makes it seem like something of its own beast. That’s why once the final-act comes into play, it seems like an ordinary-thriller that loses its way about two plot-twists right off the bat.

It was a bummer that it happened so late in the movie, but it was an even bigger bummer that the plot-twist that it ended on was so bizarre, it reminded of David Lynch. And no, not the good David Lynch either – the bad!!

That said, the cast is serviceable, if not entirely memorable. The three younglings who play these college-grads don’t have much to work with, and as a result, feel underdeveloped despite how hard they try. Though, the one who gets away with this problem is Laurence Fishburne, which more or less has to do with the fact that his character leaves so much to be desired, it’s intriguing to watch. Not to mention that Laurence Fishburne can read any line, humorous or not, and make it seem like he’s thinking of 30,000 different things at the same time. He’s just that good and watching him ask a kid if he’s agitated or not, was surely some fun. And lord knows there needed to be more added to this.

Consensus: While its an interesting premise that goes into some very strange places, perhaps the Signal‘s biggest problem is that it doesn’t know when to stop with these strange places, and just let the story tell itself in a regular way, without any added excitement or craziness.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Whaaaaaa?

Whaaaaaa?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

Event Horizon (1997)

Maybe it’s not the aliens we should fear, but ourselves? Then again, maybe not. They’re freakin’ scary!

Smart, but slightly off-kilter astrologist Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) creates a ship called the “Event Horizon” which, for one reason or another, can create small, black gravity holes and do a whole bunch of other cool and fancy things. The first crew to go aboard the spaceship onto a mission for Neptune, somehow vanish into thin air. Nobody knows how, why or where – they just know that one day, everything went dead. This is when Weir decides that it may be his time to finally go and see what has happened to those crew-members, and most importantly, to his creation, but not without some much-needed, professional guidance first. Enter the spaceship called “Lewis & Clark”, commandeered by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), the type of no-nonsense guy you’d expect to see on such a high-class mission such as this. And for awhile, everything seems to be going all perfect, that is until some of the crew-members begin to see some weird images, that may or may not be actually “real-life” or just plain and simple “hallucinations”. Nobody knows, and yet they are all experiencing them, even Weir himself, who may be getting even more sadistic images in his head than the others.

"....well then you better go catch it!!!"

“….well then you better go catch it!!!”

So yeah, I bet you can already get your pen and papers ready and try to chalk this one up to being, yet again, just another carbon-copy clone of all sci-fi, lost-in-space movies like Alien, 2001, or hell, even Lost in Space itself. And to be honest, if you were to do so, you wouldn’t be wrong; everything that you see here doesn’t have much originality to it in terms of what new technology it introduces, or what sort of logic about its premise and high-tech gadgets it may make us try and believe. But there is something to be said for a movie that doesn’t really try to go out there and re-invent the wheel, but instead, just tries to keep things small, contained, claustrophobic, and straight-up in-your-face, like any good B-movie, you know?

Especially if that B-movie just so happens to be directed by this guy.

Yep, before Paul W.S. Anderson started forcing us to notice and pay attention to how hot his wife is, the guy was another ambitious, inspired and up-and-coming film-maker that had a predilection for big, loud and extremely dumb sci-fi movies. You could argue that his taste-preference hasn’t quite changed since then, but you also could, considering that it seems like he definitely put some thought into these movies, rather than just making the same damn video-game adaptation, time and time again.

I mean seriously, how many times can we honestly see Milla Jovovich blow-off some zombie’s head, while barely-clothed!??!?

But I digress. Mainly what I am trying to get across here is that Anderson is a bit of a joke nowadays (especially being that he’s usually considered “the lesser director Paul Anderson”), but back then, when he was just getting started, the guy showed that he knew how to frame a story, make it tense, make it go all-over-the-place and most of all, make it fun. While this movie definitely starts-off a bit too plot-heavy, eventually Anderson himself decides to throw most of that out of the window and just allow us to feast our eyes on a bunch of characters just losing their cool and not knowing what to believe and take-in as “real”, or “make-believe”. And needless to say, Anderson frames this idea perfectly and actually has us in the mind-set of not knowing just what the hell to believe, or what to expect next. Always fun when you have a movie like, no matter how original its plot may, or may not be.

I guess the "hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche" could work for a movie that takes in space.

I guess the “hard-as-nails, take-no-crap black lieutenant cliche” could work for a movie that takes in space.

As you could expect too, the dialogue is, at times, horrendous. The fact that it’s being delivered by some talented, and relatively substantial names, definitely gives it an extra-push to where it’s not as grueling as it may have been with lesser-people involved, but so is not the case here. Laurence Fishburne is definitely the stand-out in this movie because it’s quite clear that he knows exactly what he signed-up for, and lets there be a couple of moments of light in his eyes, shine through whenever necessary. However though, most of the time, he just stone-faces this material, and oddly enough, makes it work because of how strict and uptight this character is. Same sort of goes for Sam Neill who is able to make any sci-fi mumbo-jumbo sound the least bit credible, even if it is abundantly clear, right from the get-go, that he’s definitely a bit of a weird guy who, I for one, would not trust around me for a single bit on Earth with, let alone flying millions and millions of miles into space.

Everybody else that shows up here is fine, too, but I don’t really want to stress any of them all that much because this isn’t really an “actor’s movie”. It’s less concerned with them, and more concerned with how it looks, feels and entertains us as movie-goers, and with that idea taken into mind, the movie does a mighty fine job at doing so. You can clearly tell that most of this movie’s budget went right into the look that Anderson packs with all sorts of 90’s-CGI, that is dated, but then again, it’s the 90’s, so what else could ya expect?!?! And also, any movie that’s as up-front about its numerous amounts of blood, gore and violence as this movie is, always deserves a free-pass from me, especially since it is quite rare to ever get a sci-fi extravaganza that’s rated-R. Maybe that’s why this movie bombed in the first place, but that’s not the point. The point is that while the movie definitely may not have had everybody clamoring at the knees to see it on opening-day weekend, it still seems to have gain a pretty loving, and devoted cult-following; the same one I guess you could consider myself apart of, even though I probably won’t be going to any special events for it anytime soon. Or ever, for that matter. I think a Netflix watch is just enough for me.

Consensus: You can’t wholly expect greatness from Paul W.S. Anderson, but with Event Horizon, you can at least expect him to deliver the goods on a not-so original story that’s fun, exciting and a tad unpredictable, especially once crap begins to hit the fan for everybody involved. Including yourself, the viewer.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Less creepier than before, Sam. Nice job.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

21 (2008)

Poker nights with the boys are lame now. Vegas is where it’s at, baby!

Ben Campbell (Jim Sturgess) seems like your typical young adult: Senior at MIT, has a respectable source of income, is a bit of a geek, nice to his mommy, cares for his friends, does well in class, and is trying his hardest to get his ass into Harvard’s Med School. Okay, maybe he’s not the “typical young adult” we all associate ourselves with, but he is poor and he does have a dream so at least he has that going for him. Problem is, the dream he has is practically unattainable due to a lack of funds and a very small shot at getting the perfect scholarship that would make all of his problems go away. However, when Campbell catches the eyes of his professor (Kevin Spacey), he soon finds himself involved with his school’s late-night, underground world of card-counting and unofficial “gambling”, where all of a sudden, all of the money in the world that Ben could possibly want is right here in his hands. How’s he going to handle it all though?

Many out there would probably dismiss this as nothing more than another one of “Hollywood’s, glamorized fantasies” where unrealistic, young, aspiring people have a chance to live their dreams, get rich, party it up, have a good time, and live like they’re going to die tomorrow, And to be honest with you, you wouldn’t be that far off here, had the actual story behind this movie not just been true, but actually written into a book that this movie adapted itself from.

Totally considered "professional".

Totally considered “professional”.

That’s right, believe it or not: A story about a bunch of MIT students who, in the mid-90’s went out to the Vegas casinos, using their skills of counting cards to benefit from the rewards of steep cash, who were lead by a man named Jeff Ma. Despite being, as they say, “based on a true story”, the flick has every working of what could be counted as a total and complete ball of unrealistic glitz and glamour, that gives any kid hope that they too can not only just run tables by learning code names behind certain cards, but also “act out” in a way that changes their image up and has people fooled because they decided to throw a mustache on their face, or a wig on their head. Obviously, it’s all very stupid and hard to fully believe in, but I don’t think that’s really the point behind this flick, especially coming from an inartistic director like Robert Luketic. It’s meant to be a fun, thrilling, and shiny-looking movie that’s more of a love letter to Sin City, than actually being about a heartfelt tale of a kid who chased his dreams, had them in the palm of his hands, and came very, very close to losing them due to sure stupidity, but that’s fine.

Well, fine as long as you can keep me interested; something Luketic forgot to do and in a lazy way as well.

It isn’t even that the movie lost me because everything happened the way I expected it to; in fact, I knew that was going to happen, so I didn’t get myself all wrapped up in the rampant clichés and decided to enjoy what was on screen anyway. However, Luketic tested my patience a bit too much here because he never seems invested in the material, nor does he ever really add an stamp-mark on it, as if you could see him, and only him directing it. This movie could have literally been directed by anybody: You, me, the homeless guy right by the 7-11, anybody. It feels like the type of movie that Luketic made just so he could score some extra cash on the side and with the type of track-record he has; I wouldn’t throw that possibility out at all.

Even as boring as his style (or lack thereof) may be, the writing for his flick is even worse. One of the first rules that these younglings bring up right away before they get out to the town and started making some moolah, is that they play it low-key, so nobody knows just what the hell they are up to, or who they are. For the first couple of trips, they’re calm, collective, and cool, while still making plenty of money on the side. However, once a little bit more cash-flow starts coming their way, they’re acting like total and complete a-holes, as if they were the Rolling Stones during their hey-day. They got the strippers; the drinks; the money; the drugs (didn’t see any, but it’s assumed); and the vanity behind it all. All that’s left was a rockin’ soundtrack of 80’s glam rock collection of Mötley Crüe and Poison. Maybe it was to show that they were young, naive, and a way too in over their heads, but even the professor that’s aiding them on this trip is allowing it, even joining in on the fun as well. Just stupid, stupid, stupid stuff, man.

"If white guys in Marty Scorsese movies can run a casino, hell, I can too!"

“If white, Italian guys in Marty Scorsese movies can run a casino, hell, I can too!”

Anyway, they totally betray their finest rule of their scheming and not only did it take me out of the movie, but it didn’t allow me to see anybody or anything as believable in any sense. Jim Sturgess shares not a single resemblance to the real-life Jeff Ma at all, but he gets by on being a welcome-presence that’s nice and rather sweet, even if if his accent does go in and out almost as much as customers in a whore plantation. Once his story goes on and gets more convoluted, you begin to care less about him, and more about the people around him, who actually feel some sort of emotions for the dude, despite him being a bit of a prick. I guess you could throw Kate Bosworth’s character in that group, even if she too feels like she’s a bit dull and bored with the material. However, Luketic probably didn’t worry himself too much with them in the first place, so why should they even bother, right?

The only two in this cast that are worth watching and giving a shit about are the screen-vets that wipe their asses with this material: Laurence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey. Both take a bit of a back-burner to these younger stars, but eagerly wait in the background, just to have their moment to shine and show the rest of the movie world that they still “got it”. Fishburne is fun to watch as the strong, powerful black man that takes controls of his casinos and will not, not for a single bit, fall victim to another fraud that left him kicking cans in the street last time something like that happened; and Spacey is, well, Spacey. He’s sarcastic; he’s an ass; he’s funny; he’s vindictive; he’s manipulative; and he’s a blast to watch. What else is there left to say? Without these two, the movie definitely would have suffered a whole lot more, but just them showing up and letting us know that they actually care about this material as much as they didn’t need to; really made me want to give it a chance. Even if that chance came crashing down and burning once I realized that it’s nothing new I haven’t seen done a hundred times before, and mostly better as well. That’s Hollywood for ya, though. Nothing new, nothing funny. Just shiny, pretty surfaces to gaze at.

Consensus: Even if 21 is based on a true story, you wouldn’t fully believe in it due to it’s empty feeling and boring characters, despite it being okay to watch, if only you have nothing else to do with your life than spend 2-hours in front of a screen that isn’t your phone or the computer.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

By the end of the year, at least two of them will over-dose on coke or heroin. Because that's the life of a millionaire, card-counter, babay!

By the end of the year, at least two of them will over-dose on coke or heroin. Because that’s the life of a millionaire, card-counter, babay!

Man of Steel (2013)

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman going in really, really slo-motion.

After his mother and father (Russell Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) are killed and destroyed, along with everything else on his home planet of Krypton, Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) lands on a farm in the middle of Kansas, owned by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane). While he’s on Earth, he finds out who he really is, what his powers are, what he’s supposed to do with them, and what could be made of them. However, he those are just ideas and questions juggling around in his head, as he, nor anybody else that knows of his secret powers are quick to give the answers to any of them. So, in spite of the life-saving abilities he has as something that’s not from planet Earth, he decides to lay low with a bunch of seamen (not that type, pervs), that is, until General Zod (Michael Shannon comes back from his home planet to unleash his wrath and anger on Clark, along with the rest of the human-beings on planet Earth, some of which, especially fame-hungry journalist Lois Lane (Amy Adams), he cares about.

Superman, no matter what your stance is on the Marvel Universe, is the definitive superhero of our time. So definitive, that it’s almost way too hard to make a movie out of him, because you never know what you’re going to get right about his story, what you’re going to get wrong, what you missed completely, and what isn’t the right way to develop his story and all that he can do. He’s had plenty of movies, comic books, and even his own WB television series (top of the food-chain right there), but nothing has ever seem to really get him right in terms of the who, the what, the where, the when, the why, and all of the finer-details in between all of the sci-fi talk and hooplah.

Something tells me that Zack Snyder, Christopher Nolan, and David S. Goyer all knew this and had the bright idea that some justice needed to be done! However, they haven’t quite done it the justice that even the big man in spandex would approve himself, but he would at least give them the benefit of the doubt because they’re getting there and it’s only a matter of time until we are taken by the Clark, as much as we were with Peter and Bruce, not too long ago.

"Don't worry, guys. I think I got this one."

“Don’t worry, guys. I think I got this one.”

Give it some time and just let it happen. It will. If not now, then definitely, maybe later.

Where most of this “justice” comes from is in the first hour or so of this movie, that not only packs on all of the exposition and back-up info we need to, even if we already do, know about our man of the 2 hours and some-odd minutes, but gives us plenty more themes and ideas to tackle. We never think in our minds, but if somebody like Superman was to ever come into our lives; we would not have the brightest clue what to do with him, other than just push him to the side and be scared that he might just turn on you. That’s exactly the type of idea this movie touches on, and while we’re still in the period and time where our superheros are crying, more than they are actually kicking some baddie-butt, at least it can still be done in a well-deserved, original way that makes us gain more respect and gratitude for this character.

It all gets better too once Clark begins to see more of what’s on the in, rather than the out (even though he isn’t doing so bad with that aspect). The attention to detail of who this character is and why, all makes sense, seems logical, and doesn’t have you scratching your brain or throwing your hands up in the air because you felt like they couldn’t come up with anything smart, so just went with their gut-feeling and threw it all up. It works, it makes sense, and it keeps this story fresh, and full of new ideas; exactly what I expected when you got three minds like Nolan, Snyder, and Goyer on the job.

However, once things get hairy and the movie hits that hour-mark; things begin to change up a wee-bit, my friends, and not in the good way either. See, with the first hour of this movie, we really got a look and feel for Superman, who he was as a person, what he was feeling, why we should care for him, and root for him to do the right thing and stand up for Earth, even though we know that’s exactly what his brave-ass is going to do (what’s a superhero for anyway?). It’s dramatic in the way that it knows it’s a movie about a guy who flies around with a cape, but takes itself seriously enough to where you feel the story and all that it’s trying to get across, but it all goes away once the three minds I alluded to earlier, realized that they were still making a movie about “a guy that flies around with a cape”, and couldn’t have it be smart, enlightening, or a powerful experience in the least bit. It had to be loud, angry, violent, chaotic, special-effects-fueled, and most of all: a summer flick movie.

Yes, yes, yes! I know that I may be going against this flick bit too much by coming at it’s neck for being a summer flick, that is actually released in the summer, but I’m not rolling like that. What I’m angry at this flick for doing, is getting me all hyped-up, ready, and locked-up for an experience unlike any other superhero movie I’ve seen in some recent time, but what I got was something that started off with more than enough originality to soak us up, away from the sun, but got rid of them once the explosions and fighting came in. Which, trust me, isn’t a bad thing because I love the occasional beat-down as much as the next bad-ass motherfucker, but I have to say that this flick, with the way that it’s done and at the capacity it’s constantly at; it’s a damn shame. Everything was working so fine too, and then Warner Bros. had to (possibly) screw it all up.

Damn, major, Hollywood producers!

"In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!"

“In my contract, it says I have to do this at least once, so awwhwhwhwhwhwwhwhwhwh!!!”

But the movie does deliver on it’s goods when it comes to being an action movie, with superhero’s doing superhero-like things, it just seems like a bit of a bummer after the incredible start we got. With that taken into the mind, Snyder still does a nice job at showing all types of carnage and destruction, without ever having it look too campy or using that dreaded slo-mo of his. The man also shows that he’s more than capable of being subtle with what he wants to say, and how he wants to get his words across, without literally spelling them out on the screen or having the character say it for him. Snyder seems like he’s changing and evolving more as a filmmaker and it has me anticipate more and more what’s next to come of him and his career. And I’m not just talking about the next Superman movie, I’m talking about whatever he decides to do next as a project. No matter what, sign me up and get me a Redbull!

An aspect of this movie that Snyder handles perfectly, is the impressive ensemble he’s been able to put together. Henry Cavill leads the day as Superman/Clark Kent and does a serviceable job as the man with the big red cape, but here’s the thing about him: he isn’t given much to do. When it comes to being a superhero, having those sort of traits, and making us feel like this guy could, and would go to bat for our race of humans, had he been pushed into doing so, but he isn’t given much else other than that. Cavill’s definitely a charming, handsome-looking dude, no doubt about that one, but something still felt like there should have been more given to this guy, in order for him to really work his ass off. Just like with Snyder’s direction, I hope to see it get better and better as the sequels come piling in.

Despite her being a tad too old to play young, hot-shot journalist of the Daily Planet, Lois Lane, Amy Adams is still great because she has that fiery-attitude of hers that meshes well with the character, as well as being an equal of sorts to Superman. She doesn’t fall head-over-heels for the dude right away, it takes some time and some development to really have them fall in love, and I have to say that it was pretty damn effective by what they were able to do with them both. Nothing spectacular, but better than what we’re used to getting with superhero/human romances. Laurence Fishburne plays Perry White, her boss, and is good, but really serves no purpose in this movie other than to be Perry White who’s there to give Lois a hard-ass time, run when the shit gets heavy, and remind us that he’ll probably play a bigger part in the sequels as well. I look forward to it, but as for now; I wait and I wonder. Just like I do with everyday-life.

"Perry White", get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, "Perry WHITE".

“Perry White”, get it? Laurence Fishburne is playing a character named, “Perry WHITE”.

A lot of people praised the hell out of the decision to cast Michael Shannon as General Zod and although I think it was a smart move since this guy can be completely bonkers when he wants to, I still feel like there’s a better performance from this dude, lying within all of the yelling and screaming. Zod definitely has a moral-dilemma here that’s supposed to make us wonder if what he’s planning on doing is the right, or the wrong thing, however, the movie only seems to touch that surface and go nowhere else with it. It’s just Zod being a dick, and although I like Shannon playing a dick, especially one that just so happens to be General Zod, it’s not like I haven’t seen this type of performance done before, done better, and done by Shannon himself.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is Kevin Costner and Diane Lane as the Kents, aka, the people who take Clark in as a wee, little boy, and both are fantastic. I thought Costner’s role was going to be shoe-horned in because he’s a big, but aging-star, but he did well with the role and provided plenty of emotion, depth, and understanding for the character of Clark Kent, that carries on mostly throughout the film. Lane is also great because she provides the same type of emotional-attachment to Clark, and never feels like she’s over-doing the earnestness. And lastly, we have Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Clark’s real daddy, and in a day and age where Crowe can’t seem to do anything right by anybody’s imagination, it’s nice to be reminded that not only can do the dude still act and have us bring some tears to our eyes, but also kick some ass when he needs to. Just stay away from the microphone, buddy, and all will be fine with your career and respect you oh so desire.

Consensus: Though it definitely starts off great, with just enough attention to exposition, character, story, and heart, Man of Steel eventually takes a detour into the loud, action-y, stupid, and brainless exercise that we’re used to getting with superhero movies, but feels like a bit of a disappointment now, knowing what could have been, and still might be, seeing what the sequels can do next.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well, he just broke the vault so that's considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude's gonna get pinched with a lifer.

Okay, well, he just broke-open the vault so that’s considered a robbery, right? Yep, this dude’s gonna get pinched with a lifer.

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.

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Come on Ethan, I thought you didn’t need women.

Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty to train new IMF agents and start a life as a married man with his new squeeze (Michelle Monaghan). But he is called back into action to confront the toughest villain he’s ever faced, named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.

If you have seen the first two Mission: Impossible movies, liked them, had a good time with them, and didn’t get bored watching Cruise play cool, then chances are, you are going to like this one, have a good time with it, and not bother one-bit that Cruise is playing cool, once again. Actually, I could just use that one-sentence to sum-up my whole review and be done with it, but since I am a critic and I just spent 2 hours of my life watching this thing, I’m going to take away 5-7 minutes away from your life, just so you can read what I have to say. It’s a sort of domino effect, but trust me, you don’t really have to read this. I’m probably just going to go on and on about Katie Holmes and how right she was. Seriously, take a drink every time I mention her name. The review will be a lot better.

Anywhoo, after highly-stylish directors like Brian De Palma and John Woo took over the last two installments, J.J. Abrams comes up on-board and gives his first-shot at directing a full-length, feature movie. Before this, Abrams was known for creating Alias, Lost, Felicity, and other popular TV-shows that people loved and fan-boys went oogle over, which makes this movie all the more interesting to watch now, considering this is also the same guy that went on and brought Trekkies back to life almost three years ago. It’s great to see a director that obviously loves these old-school action movies, but yet, doesn’t forget to throw some of the newer-stuff in as well to fully get us going and have us feel like we’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

"Felicity's graduated, bitch."

“Felicity’s graduated, bitch.”

Thankfully, that is exactly what Abrams brings to the table here and right from the first-sequence where Hunt and his gal get tied-up and interrogated, you know you are in for a real, real action-treat. Actually, after that scene, the movie doesn’t really ever seem to slow down. We get a bunch of non-stop, tense action-sequences that seem to pull out something new each and every time, and a couple of twists and turns that are sure to have you wondering what’s going to happen next, but in the good way that actually makes sense and not confusing like the first-one. Basically, it was a great choice to bring Abrams along for the ride on this one and it’s obvious that the guy knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful action-scene that will have you gripping your seat, even if you do know how it’s going to end. That’s the sign of a good action director, actually, let alone, director none the less.

However, if you do not like these movies chances are, you’re not going to like this even more. It’s not as stupid as the others, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely feels like a plot-line that wasn’t really thought-out well enough for an action movie of this caliber. For instance, it’s never really brought to my attention what was so bad about this Davian guy in the first-place. Yeah, he’s got weapons and materials of mass-destruction, but I never really saw any of that put to test nor did I really see him actually go to work on any of that whatsoever. I just heard that the guy was bad, realized he was a bit of a dick, and I guess, just assumed that he wasn’t a guy that plays on the good-side. There’s a whole bunch of other problems with this plot that didn’t seem to really make all that much sense to me but in the end, I soon realized that it didn’t matter a lick and all that did matter was watching Ethan Hunt be as cool, as he might as well can be.

Faster than a speeding bullet coming from an Chopper, he's Ethan Hunt dammit.

When you have Scientology on your-side, you can out-run anything. Even speeding bullets.

Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt like he always does: cool, swift, witty, sneaky, and most of all, smart. Cruise plays this role like no other, has no intentions on leaving, and you know what? I don’t really mind it all that much, either. Yeah, the dude’s getting old and a bit funny-looking in terms of botox but the guy still can play this role in his sleep and have us love him, no matter what crazy shit he does or says in his personal life. At the time of the release of this movie, I know that was a bit hard to get by but to me, it doesn’t make much of a difference now and never really did.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, but the one I was really impressed by most of all was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, the main-villain that Hunt is forced to mess with. What makes Davian so different from the others, is the fact that the guy holds no remorse for the things he’s done or is about to do, and plain and simply looks at you in the face, tells you he’s going to put a bullet through it, and says so with no emotion or expressions whatsoever. You really feel like this guy will hold you up on his promise when he’s going to get right down to business and kill you, and that’s why this guy was so freaky to watch and most of all, actually seemed like a legitimate threat to Hunt after all. I will say that his character doesn’t meet the smartest demise of all, but before all of that, Hoffman is electric, fun, and very sinister to watch, in a way that makes me wish he played more villainous-type roles. In a way, I guess he does but oh well, doesn’t matter because the guy can act.

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

The only one in this cast who really stuck-out like a sore-thumb and seemed to bring everything down was Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s new lady-friend, Julia. I don’t know if it was Monaghan’s acting, her writing, or just the shoddy-development for her character, but I didn’t give a crap that she was there, why she was there, or what really even was going to happen to her in the end. Abrams tries very hard to throw at us that Hunt is not only doing this mission for the safety of country, but the safety of his heart as well and as appealing and relateable as that may be for some audience-members watching, I for one, didn’t really buy it and give a single-crap whatsoever. If you want to know why, just go on back to my M:I-2 review and you’ll see why I don’t think Hunt should play around with gals. That is it.

Consensus: Mission: Impossible III is probably the best of the whole series because of it’s electric-direction from Abrams, tense action-sequences that never seem to end, and fun-loving spirit for both old, and new action-movies of the world and makes you feel like this is a series that will never run out of a steam, just as long as they stay fresh with new-directors coming on-board and keep Cruise in-line. Oh yeah, by the way, Katie Holmes. Drink up, people!

8/10=Matinee!!

"Employ me again, Tom. Please?

“Employ me again, Tom. Please?

Apocalypse Now (1979)

War is hell. Especially when you’re dropping acid.

This film tracks the journey of Captain Benjamin L Willard (Martin Sheen), a USA Army Intelligence Officer sent on a hazardous mission up river into Cambodia to terminate “with extreme prejudice” American renegade Colonel Walter E Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who has spun out of control and out of his mind. What Willard has to go through in order to get to Kurtz is unlike any other.

Jesus H. Christ. Where do I begin with this one? Well to start, I should say that this isn’t the first time I ever saw this movie, or even the first time I ever reviewed this movie. Confused as to why I’m doing a total double-take? Well, the first time I watched this flick I wasn’t as fully into it as I should have been and my review at that time (along with many others), come off as very lazy to the point of where it seemed like I was reading off of Rotten Tomatoes and piecing them altogether. Trust me, that’s not what I did but if you go back and read it, you’ll think it by all of the jibber-jabber that I typed. But after checking it out for the second time, I finally realized the beauty and the ugliness that lies behind this film but I said it once and I will say it again: this film is somewhat overrated.

Anybody who has ever done research about this film probably heard about how director Francis Ford Coppola literally went to hell in pre-production just to get this film done in his way (it’s actually the subject of a documentary, one that I need to still see), and thank heavens for that because this film would have not worked without his direction. Seriously, no way in hell would it have. What catches your eye right from the start is the beautiful, but deadly images of a Cambodian jungle being blown up to pieces, all played to a tune from The Doors. It’s the perfect combination of a dark song and a dark image coming together and starting this baby perfectly right off the bat, and it gets you ready for what’s about to come and that is pure, utter craziness that’s all from the point-of-view from Coppola.

Let me just say that this film is probably one of the more beautiful ones I have ever seen in my entire life. I don’t know how Coppola got some of the shots that he did, but the long, sweeping shots of helicopters blowing shit up to the tune of Wagner still sticks in my mind every time I think about this film and the beauty it has. Oh, and there’s also the famous bridge blowing up scene where the only source of light throughout the whole scene is just fireworks and gun shots being lift-off in the sky. But regardless of what specific scene I’m talking about, there’s something inventive Coppola does with the colors in his film and it’s just that he constantly mixes them with every new frame. One shot you got purple, the next you got yellow, the next you got red, the next you got orange, and so on and so forth. Coppola has a great eye for colors and how they convey moods for a film and that’s what really caught my eye every time with every shot. When you look at this film and the way that it’s shot, you know that you have to give Coppola enough credit for that but that’s not all he does that makes this film work. No sireee!

The whole general story of this flick starts off pretty strange, but only gets worse after that whole “Wagner sequence”. We start to see these soldiers go across Vietnam running into other soldiers that are either completely insane, or have no guidance whatsoever, or run into a bunch of innocent Vietnamese that are just trying to make it across without getting killed or hurt, or just another bunch of people that keep on making this film tick and tick away some more. There are no sunshine and peachy days with these people that we soon meet on this “trip”, if you will, and they automatically shock and compel you every time somebody new shows up. This is fairly one of the strangest films of all-time, with characters that only make it so, but it’s all there for a reason and that’s to show you the type of effect the war has on people from all different sides of it.

Not once do we see the enemy from their point-of-view, or do we ever really see them up-close-and-personal. Instead, we get to see plenty of the American soldiers that are fighting against them and just how much of a terrible toll this isolation and destruction is taking on their bodies, on their minds, and on their lives as well. This is all some scary shit that we have seen before in anti-war flicks of the same nature, but never this disturbing to the point of where you really feel like it’s about to get bad. Coppola gives us the images to really stick in our heads, but he also gives us the situations and characters to think about and how all war, brings pain and misery no matter whichever way you make it out to be.

However, you heard me going on and on about this film but the one question in your head still has to be left there thinking, “Just what the hell does this cat think is so overrated about this movie, because all he’s doing is having orgasms over it?”. Well, have no fear because here’s the answer to exactly why I think so: not as much character development as there should have been. That’s right, in this whole 2 hour and 30 minute movie, we get plenty of crazy and bizarre-o characters that pop in-and-out and provide us with a lot of philosophical shit to chew on for the time-being, but when it came to the main players of the story, I found it very hard to care for.

Let me give you the prime example of this flick, and that is Martin Sheen‘s character, Captain Benjamin L Willard. Willard is a very confused fellow that seems like he has no motivation for this duty he has to do, other than the fact that he literally had nothing else to do and was just assigned to it. We see Willard go throughout the whole war, meet up with new characters that eff his mind up as much as it effed mine up, challenge what he thinks is suitable of the war, and teach him some new things about life that he never once realized. Problem is, I think I’m looking into that a little bit too much because we never get much from this Willard guy, other than a very cold and intimidating stare from Sheen. Don’t get me wrong, Sheen does an amazing job with this role and handles the lead with such ease and perfection, but he’s not given much to work with outside of just looking pissed and barely saying anything. All of his motivations and convictions feel real, it was just that we don’t really know what to think about him since the guy is so damn stern the whole time and barely loosens up with the exception of a couple of scenes where he actually cracks a smile.

Everybody else kind of suffers from the same thing, but that doesn’t matter as much because of the awards-caliber performances they give as well. Robert Duvall is a sensation to watch as the hip, fun, and cool as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore. Of course everybody knows the famous “Napalm” line that Duvall utters in this film but honestly, how can you not love that line as well as this dude’s charisma? The whole film is essentially one, big downer of a movie and Duvall brings a whole bunch of comedic relief to the film that makes you appreciate him a whole lot more once he’s out of the film for good but you never forget one of the lines he says, and trust me, it’s not the “Napalm” one either. You’ll see.

Then of course, you got Marlon Brando who caused all types of shit (as usual) on the set of this film by showing up overweight, needy for money, and dicking everybody around like he normally does. However, it’s kind of hard to be mad at him for something like that especially when he gives off such a commanding but brief performance as Colonel Walter E Kurtz. As soon as Brando shows up, the film takes a much darker turn, which I thought wasn’t even possible, but once I started hearing all of the shit Kurtz discusses, then I realized it was. Brando hits like a wrecking ball in these types of roles and his small role here as Kurtz is no different and you can’t help but just wait, and wait for him to show up as soon as you see his picture-perfect face within the first 10 minutes.

Also, be on the lookout for plenty of other supporting performances from people you obviously recognize, but other’s, you don’t by how young they are. Especially a very young Laurence Fishburne, who deserves major props for being 14-years old in this film and still not getting blown out of the water with the type of talent they have on-display here. Nice going Morpheus!

Consensus: While it’s not the pitch-perfect masterpiece so many people laud it as being, Apocalypse Now is still a powerhouse of a film to watch, mainly because of the inspired direction from Coppola that pulls out all of the stops, awesome performances from this wide ensemble, and plenty of themes and moral issues to chew on about the war and all of the misery it brings to those involved.

9/10=Full Price!!

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

Snow storms just make everything worse.

During a snowy New Year’s Eve, a most-wanted mobster, Nicholas Zambrano (Laurence Fishburne), is temporarily incarcerated at the doomed Precinct 13. As the sun sets and a long night begins, a motley crew of policemen and prisoners, reluctantly headed by Sergeant Jake Roenick (Ethan Hawke), must band together to fight off a rogue gang that wants to extract Zambrano at any cost.

This is a loose remake of a film that was done by John Carpenter and even though they aren’t considered the same thang, I think I’ve seen enough already. Although, I do have to say that John Carpenter is a pretty solid director in his own right.

Director Jean-François Richet doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel of the usual slam-bang, action thrillers we’re so used to seeing but damn does he do a great job with it! Richet brings in a whole bunch of crazy weapons here all ranging from the likes of hand-guns, sniper rifles, lazer sightings, silencers, a samurai sword and basically anything that can be used as a weapon in one way or another. It all shows up here in this flick and used to great effect because the action here is what really kept this story going. Even when it seems like the story is about to fall into its softer/slower side, it picks itself right back up from where it started and gives us plenty more deaths and action to behold. It’s not like Richet tries to go for anything new here, it’s more of like that he knows how to film action and make it work.

Another element to this film that made it all the more enjoyable was that the story does go through some twists and turns here and there that are pretty funny and kept me guessing. Now I’m not saying the whole film is unpredictable but what I will say that there are a lot of times that the film does something out of the ordinary like kill of a main character or throw in a couple of “who is the bad guy?” scenes here and there, which all kept me watching. Once again, nothing that is terribly original or new, just entertaining to watch.

The problems that I had with this film are all pretty obvious. With this type of material, you basically know that it’s all going to play out in the same way that all of these other films have been doing for the past 30 years, actually dating back to Carpenter’s original. The good guy has a dilemma, the bad guy has a connection with him, they both realize who they are through a death-defying situation they get thrown in to, and yadda yadda yadda this and yadda yadda yadda that. It’s basically the same old shit that we have seen done 100,000 times before and it’s no different here, except for maybe a couple of cool little twists and turns along the way. But those cool twists and turns can only go on so long.

Even though the plot was fun and entertaining, there were plenty of plot-h0les that still seemed to bother me. One memorable problem was the realization of the underground tunnel beneath the compound. I mean honestly, you would think that something as life-saving and crucial to this predicament as an underground tunnel would be the first thing 0n somebody’s mind and brought up within the first 10 minutes that this attack was going on. But for some very odd reason, it just so happened to slip this dude’s mind. Then again, it wouldn’t have served the plot if they did do that in the first place so I guess it all makes sense in the end.

A lot of the credit has to go to this cast that is actually pretty good with their roles by adding a lot more humanity to them and making them characters that we care for and want to see live after all of this havoc is over and done with. Ethan Hawke did a nice job as the burned-out cop and plays snarky so well that it’s almost hard to take him in as anything else. Also, it’s pretty fun to think of this character as his character from Training Day but this time, only 4 years down the road and fed with all of this shit. May sound lame but hey, I can have a little bit of fun while watching these movies. Laurence Fishburne also adds a real deep sense of coolness to his evil gangster, Bishop. It’s not like this is a stand-out performance from Fishburne but I definitely think its a lot better than half of the shit we’ve been seeing him do lately. However, I’m not talking about Contagion considering he was probably the best out of that whole cast.

Consensus: There’s no re-inventing of the action wheel here or any new surprises to be seen, but what Assault on Precinct 13 does bring is a lot of blood, action, gun shots, violence, and some fun twists in order to have a good time.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Predators (2010)

Oh, if only Arnie was still around to do this and wasn’t off with chicks that weren’t his wife.

Rugged mercenary Royce (Adrien Brody) inherits command of an elite team of human fighters — including dorky-but-dangerous Edwin (Topher Grace) and tough-but-beautiful Isabelle (Alice Braga) — as they are hunted by a race of ruthless alien trackers known as Predators.

Being a fan of the original as I was, a sequel that was practically 20 years in the making almost seemed too cheesy to be true! Sadly, it just made me miss the governors and Apollo Creed so much more.

Director Nimród Antal does a very good job here playing with a formula that we already know, and making it very fun to watch due to his incredibly fun style. Antal knows how to make a film entertaining with some really cool visuals and some slick production designs that actually add a lot more to the environment, as well as the story and the action.

The first 30 to 40 minutes the tension is fully raised up as the characters are trying to gather up what’s going on, and what’s going to happen next, until the CGI dogs come out and it’s killing time! But then that energy is suddenly lost so we can have some down-time for these characters to talk and so we can actually care about them. This was fine since we need character development for this type-of film to actually give two-shits, but by the second or third time they have some down-time it’s nothing but annoying considering the fast pace that it goes through sometimes.

The premise itself also starts to fall into the usual and predictable way the first one originally panned out which was kind of expected, but for some reason I still thought it wouldn’t happen. Every character gets picked off one-by-one, the kill count goes up and lands on the characters you would expect it too, and the premise pretty much turns out the way you would expect it to. Also, the way these people begin to find out what’s going on here is kind of far-fetched considering a lot of it is trying to date back to the first one and seems nothing more than just to reference that superior film.

However, as bad as some of the writing and pacing may be, I still found myself having a fun time here especially with the action and just how it kept the pace going at a rapid speed. The predators this time around are also something that are a lot more menacing, and for once I actually just wanted those mother-humpers dead rather than not caring one way or another. I thought the way they were dudes in costumes, and not just CGI effects made it incredibly realistic (well, as realistic as this material can get), and kept me further excited when the action scenes were going down.

The characters may be more of character devices rather than actual humans, but the cast surprisingly makes it all better. Adrien Brody is fine as the tough-as-nails Royce, and although he’s the main bad mofo, I never really felt like he was in trouble; Alice Braga does a good job of keeping up with the dudes as Isabelle; Topher Grace is kind of funny and extremely dorky as Edwin; and Laurence Fishburne shows up about half-way through the film to show that he is still Morpheus after all these years and is pretty good but I just wondering one thing: why was he so fat when his character had been on that “planet” for so so long? I never understood but then again, the writing didn’t really seem to care either.

Consensus: The pacing may be off, and lacks any genuine surprises as well, Predators still has enough action-packed sequences, cool visuals and production design, and a quick pace that feels like a better sequel than those other pieces of crap that have come out in the past.

6/10=Rental!!

Contagion (2011)

An apocalypse with no zombies. LAME!

Contagion follows the fast progress of a airborne virus that is lethal and kills within days. As the fast-moving epidemic grows larger, the worldwide medical community runs and races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads almost faster than the virus itself.

It’s been awhile since director Steven Soderbergh has gone back to the scale of Traffic, and to be honest, it’s kind of a good thing since he does get a little out-of-hand sometimes.

Soderbergh fully explores what would happen if a deadly virus were to hit the planet in today’s society and just how the government, scientists, people, and every single person known to man would react. I just wonder how the media would actually handle this virus and what they would do to spark it up and gain attention. This film shows that as well as the well the panic that would travel throughout the world, and just what everybody would do if they almost couldn’t touch anything.

However, the story never really goes anywhere and instead of actually being immersed in all of these characters, I never felt moved by this story at all. What the problem that Soderbergh usually has with many of his films is that he tells a story, and instead of allowing us to feel something for what’s going on, we just feel like we’re along for the ride with Soderbergh. And if I was in for a ride like this, I wanted to go on a new one.

There were moments were I felt that sort of paranoia and feel that the film was striking for so very very much but in the end, nothing here really kept me involved with this story other than the fact that everyone seems to be dying, and I couldn’t really care that much. Soderbergh has this film go on at a slow-pace, which isn’t really bothersome to me in other films, but when you have a film that seems to just move along its pace with no actual connection or emotional feel, then I just get a little, dare I say it, bored. I can’t believe it either, but for some reason, there were times when I checked the time just to see how much longer of the virus we had left.

Though I must say, when the story didn’t keep me going, I still felt a bit affected by the technical aspect of this whole film. Soderbergh shows that even though he may not be able to get this story in your hearts, he will get it in your mind with some really great visuals and camera-tricks that actually made just little scenes of a door-knob or a fork so terrifying and showing how by touching each item with your hands, you can spread the virus more and more. The score that was done by Cliff Martinez actually adds an under-lining tension to a lot of the scenes where people are just walking around and gets you in this full feel of just fear of everything around you.

The ensemble is also one of the best that Soderbergh has shown as of late, and even though they don’t do an amazingly perfect job, their altogether pretty solid. Matt Damon is good as the loving father, Mitch, who plays that everyday man put into a radical situation and gets some really good scenes going here; Laurence Fishburne probably does his performance in the past couple of years as Dr. Cheever, a guy who has so much on his plate but still seems to somehow have it all together and can still do his best to save others he wants to, even as manipulated as he is by the government; and Jude Law is probably the best out of the whole cast as a know-it-all blogger that is all about spreading the real truth, while all of these government officials keep the truth away to keep getting more and more money. His story was the best and I think I actually connected with it more now that I’m becoming that little rebellious teenage pissant nobody wants to deal with.

The ladies here are also good but don’t show up as much as the dudes. Marion Cotillard‘s performance as Dr. Orantes is good but her character is in the film about every 30 minutes, and when her time-limit is up, we find out nothing that has happened to her. Kate Winslet is really good as Dr. Erin Mears, the CDC’s “detective”, and brings a lot of emotional weight to her character for us to actually care about her, even though her character’s motives aren’t clear; and Gwyneth Paltrow is here for about 10 minutes and basically is just there to look sick and have foam pop on out of her mouth. I still don’t know why her character had to begin the film with her having any sex and therefore cheating on her husband. The rest of the cast has some notable faces such as John Hawkes, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle, Elliott Gould, and a random Demetri Martin.

Consensus: Contagion has an impressive ensemble and makes you feel as if you are in a world of fear and panic during this epidemic, but you never actually feel totally involved with this story, and more of just a watcher of Soderbergh’s annoying way of showing how much cool science stuff he knows.

7/10=Rental!!

Osmosis Jones (2001)

Now I know what’s going through my body when I’m pinching a load.

40-year-old man (Bill Murray) who’s the host to various organisms, tissues and blood cells all trying to do their assigned tasks. Chris Rock provides the voice for Osmosis Jones, a daffy white blood cell who tries to police Murray’s body.

I remember seeing this film back in the day when I was about in 2nd grade, and I loved it. The poor thing about this movie is that it made about $12 million, and it cost about $75 million to make. So does this still hold up as a good for me? Oh yes indeed.

The best thing about this film really is the animation. I liked how it looked, and overall I liked the story, and the action it provided. Your inside of this guy’s body, and you see how all these little cells act like humans, and do human-like things, except their in a human body, and their just a bunch of cells really. The action is also fast-paced, and you can’t help but be entertained by everything that’s going on in the body, it’s just a shame that when we pan out of the body, that this is where the film is most weak at.

The screenplay is not so good. There are a lot of dumb, stupid, and just plain grotesque toilet humor jokes. There’s non-stop farting, burping, snot, sneezes, and hell even a pimple bursts. That’s where I draw the line, cause that ish isn’t funny, that’s just plain old disgusting. I guess I don’t know what else to expect from gross-out humor kings The Farrelly Brothers, but at least some of the other disgusting stuff is funny, this is just stupid. The human parts are actually very boring compared to the animation, probably cause their both directed by two different people.

Chris Rock does a good voice job with Osmosis Jones, and doesn’t bring too many of his blackness to this in order to bring laughs from the more African-American viewers. David Hyde Pierce was such an odd choice for this, but he really does shine, and bring a lot of comedy with his signature delivery. You also have Laurence Fishburne playing the cool, bad-ass villain Thrax, and he does a very good job too. Bill Murray really isn’t that funny in this movie, probably because he plays such a bum, and does nothing but basically kill himself in this movie, he wasn’t very exciting to watch on screen.

When I was watching this I couldn’t help but remember all the good old times watching this movie with all my buddies, and laughing at the fart jokes in this film. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize, fart jokes, done right are funny. Still, any movie that can bring me to my child-hood is A-ok with me.

Consensus: Osmosis Jones brings me back to the good old days of when I was a kid, with its awesome visuals and action, but doesn’t satisfy when it turns to the human aspect of this film, and it’s non-stop array of terrible potty jokes.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Higher Learning (1995)

If this is what college is like, well I better start taking boxing lessons.

College is a battleground in the hands of writer-director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood). As several students make their way through school, they find themselves traversing a minefield of race and sexuality. The stellar cast includes Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Jennifer Connelly and Michael Rapaport.

Higher Learning is a very underrated film for many reasons. One of the major reasons is the fact that it’s directed by John Singleton, who everybody considers a one-hit wonder, because of Boyz N the Hood. That is all bull-crap, because he does a good job here as well.

One of the best things about this film is that it’s script really is amazing. Singleton does a good job at combining all these little, inter-twining stories, that each show conflict in every way. There are always problems with sex, race, and heritage, everywhere we go, and we are shown that it can always lead onto something more serious than we originally think it will. Racism is never a good thing, and through this we see how both whites, and blacks, criticize one another, and how that leads onto more serious consequences.

The problem with this film is that Singleton’s direction kind of gets distracted by the middle, and you can see that he doesn’t know what to do with all of this story-telling in one movie. He has a strong message, no doubt about that, but he doesn’t know how to deliver it. He steps into way too much melo-drama, that seems misplaced, and handles bigger issues than he should be. I will admit, he keeps the film interesting, but there are parts in this film that just had my head turned sideways, and too cliche.

I did like Singleton’s style however. He’s a very energetic director in this film, and there are some nice shots that show emotion, like how dark this world can be. The campus he filmed this on seems so real, and adds a lot to the realism this film was going for, especially when you got all these young adults running around, drinking, having sex, and causing havoc.

The performances here are actually quite good. Omar Epps never shines away from being stunning at all. Ice Cube is good with what he does, but doesn’t show up enough, and literally is gone for about 30-minutes of this film, which is odd considering he has top-billing. Laurence Fishburne is very good here as Professor Phipps, and the character is very smart, witty, and true to himself, and Fishburne handles that pretty well. Kristy Swanson is good here, as the shy, naive school-girl, that just wants peace, and Jennifer Connelly kind of got annoying after awhile. She would show up at random times, and then we had no idea why her character was there in the first place. My favorite performance of the whole film was Michael Rapaport, who does a great, and strong job at playing this weird, lonely, and out-of-place dude, that soon follows in with the Neo-Nazis, and you see how he transforms into something more. Every time he’s on screen, you can feel the tension, and presence within him, and it sucks that he doesn’t get much of a credit in today’s world, cause he knocks this one out of the park.

Consensus: It has its flaws, and problems, but Higher Learning has a great message, that is shown with its terrific script job, and acted so well, that you almost forget your watching a fictionalized film.

7/10=Rental!!

Armored (2009)

A B-grade Reservoir Dogs.

Armored truck guards Mike (Matt Dillon), Baines (Laurence Fishburne) and Quinn (Jean Reno) turn against one another after their plan to steal $10 million from their own company goes seriously haywire. A witness throws a wrench into their seemingly flawless strategy, so each man scrambles to save his own skin — whatever the cost to the other conspirators.

The film starts off very, very slow, and I was just already sick of this movie by the 30 minute mark, cause it was all the same predictable, same crap, I have seen before. But then as we get onto the heist, things really do pick up, which I was surprised by.

Director Nimród Antal (what a silly name), directs this film well, because he actually creates a lot of suspense with this film, even though most of it is, a guy in a huge truck, that is just waiting to be released. He does a lot of cool camera tricks that put more suspense within the film, which I was surprised by, and there is even some cool action sequences, that look pretty cool.

The problem with this film is that the suspense is totally in this film the whole time. By the last 20 to 30 minutes, you could see where this film was going, which was kind of a bummer since I was on the edge of my seat before that. Also, the film is only about 88 minutes long, which kind of blows, considering the ending does feel rushed, and if they wanted to, they could have made more interesting character spots, for these guys, so we could have cared more about them, when something bad happened to them.

Columbus Short does a good job in the lead, providing a lot of emotional depth to his character, considering the film allows him to do this. Matt Dillon is convincing as the evil, and utterly bad-ass deuche bag, that basically puts all this together. Laurence Fishburne does a good job at playing the big, mean guy that we all know and love him for now. Jean Reno is good also to see work in something that makes him menacing again, instead of these clown roles, he’s been doing lately. Milo Ventimiglia has one good scene, where he shows a lot of emotion, and it was good. Skeet Ulrich (aka Billy Loomis all grown up), does a good job here too, surprisingly he has a lot of screen time given to him, and does a good job with it.

Consensus: It may get way too predictable by the end, and lose its story, but compelling performances from a good cast, and some tense filming, makes this old-style film, better than expected.

6/10=Rental!!

Apocalypse Now (1979)

One of those trippy war films.

Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adapts Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to the Vietnam War, where special operations Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) must travel deep into the Cambodian jungle to locate and kill the mysterious — and insane — Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando).

The one thing right away you will notice about this film is that it is not your typical war film. And that is a good thing, but also a bad thing.

The best part of the film is just the amazing visuals that inhabit this movie from start to finish. The vibrant colors that Ford Coppola use, especially at the end, all convey a sort of emotion that nothing is right and you are in hell where there is no way out.

The film is a lot more trippier because its also about the haunting fear of the war. I liked this part and yet I thought it was pretty much goofy. One reason was because I feel like there were times where the film could have succeeded with being a natural war film with nice war scenes, but instead gets into this weird world by the end of the film that we really have no idea about and its kind of freaky, but also unrealistic.

I have to give most of the credit to director Ford Coppola who basically directs this film with sure power and makes sure no detail is left out. The way he lights his scenes, and makes them look is beautiful, but just the overall setting especially the one helicopter sequence which really shows some great film making. Ford Coppola gives you this sense of madness that is going around at this time, to a point where you feel as your going mad with these soldiers as well.

The young cast is awesome here with recognizable faces, but not so much of recognizable performances. Sheen is the fore-front of this film and brings out a lot of craziness with his character, but doesn’t get too nuts and stays sane most of the time. It was funny to see all these performances from all the actors so young like Laurence Fishburne, Harrison Ford, and a great Robert Duvall. But the best here that will leave a mark on you at the end of the film is the always great Marlon Brando. The whole movie is basically all about him waiting to be seen and the one scene when him and Sheen finally meet is just shot so perfectly, and after that Brando has a short monologue which is just so perfectly delivered gave him so much more gratitude by the end.

Consensus: Apocalypse Now is not your typical war film, but has a fearless direction from Ford Coppola, who gives us these beautiful colors on-screen, a haunting setting, and brings out great performances from its young cast.

9/10=Full Pricee!!!!