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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Liam Neeson

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House (2017)

Takes one whistle to blow.

Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) was just any other ordinary man, living in America, trying to do right by his country. He worked for the FBI, believed in the values the country was founded on, and mostly, wanted peace, love and harmony. He also wanted a happy marriage with his wife Audrey (Diane Lane), and to find his daughter Joan (Maika Monroe), so that she could come home once and for all and they could go back to being the perfect, little family. But soon, Felt will find out that like his family, the United States government can’t just be put back to perfect, because, in all honesty, it wasn’t even perfect to begin with. It’s a realization that shocks him and forces him to take matters into his own hands and do what we all call “leak”.

And the rest is, I guess, history.

“Don’t worry, honey. No one’s kidnapping you today.”

With three movies under his best (Parkland, Concussion, this) writer/director Peter Landesman shows that he has knack for assembling ridiculously impressive ensembles for fact-based, true-life dramas that seem like they’re more important than they actually are. Parkland was a movie about the different viewpoints on JFK’s assassination, but mostly just seemed like an attempt at doing Crash, but with a twist, whereas Concussion was a little bit of a better movie in that it tackled a hot-topic issue with honesty and featured a great Will Smith role, but ultimately, felt like it came out too early and would have been better suited as a documentary.

Now, Landesman is tackling Mark Felt, his life, and the whistle that he blew on the United States government and it’s about the same thing going on again: Big cast, big situations, big history, but almost little-to-no impact.

And that’s the real issue it seems like with Landseman – he’s good at assembling all of the pieces, like a cast, a solid story to tell, and a nice look to his movies, but he never gets to their emotional cores. They feel like, if anything, glossy, over-budgeted reenactments your grandparents would watch on the History channel and have about the same amount of emotion going on behind them. Every chance we’re being told that “something is important”, it mostly doesn’t connect and feels like Landseman capitalizing everything in the script, but never trying to connect with the actual audience themselves. It’s one thing to educate and inform, but it’s another to just do that and forget to allow us to care, or even give us a reason.

“Yo bro. You’re gonna want to hear this.”

Which is a shame in the case of Mark Felt, the movie, because at the center, there’s a real heartfelt and timeless message about how we need men like Felt to stand up to Big Daddy government, tell important secrets, so that the citizens of the U.S. know just what sort of wrongdoings are being committed on their behalf. Landseman clearly makes his case of who’s side he’s on here, which is also the problem, but his admiration is nice: We need more Felt’s in the world, especially when it seems like our government is getting involved with shadier and shadier stuff.

Issue is, that message is left in a movie that never gets off the ground for a single second.

Cause even though the cast is stacked and everyone here, including a solid Neeson, are all good, the material gets in the way. It’s too busy going through the bullet-points of who everyone is, what their relation to the story is, and why they’re supposed to matter, that we don’t actually get to know anyone, especially Felt himself. He himself feels like another bad-ass Liam Neeson character, but instead of finding people and killing them, he’s just taking information in and leaking it out to the presses. It’s really all there is to him here, as well as the rest of the movie.

Shame, too, because we need more Mark Felt’s in the world. Regardless of what those in power may want or say.

Consensus: Even with a solid ensemble, Mark Felt never gets off the ground and always feels like it’s too busy educating us, and not ever letting us have a moment to care.

3 / 10

Oh, what could have been. Or hell, what can be. #Neeson2020

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics

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Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

Forgive. Forget. Go a little crazy.

During the 1970s in Northern Ireland, times were tough and they were onlu getting tougher. The IRA was running rampant and people were dropping dead, for no real reasons other than because, well, it was a sign of the times. One such person was Joe Griffin’s older brother gets shot dead by the teenage leader of a UVF. It’s disturbed Joe so much that, all of these years later, now, as an older fella (James Nesbitt), he can’t quite get by in life. He is still haunted by that murder, as well as the memory of it, along with his brother. And it’s why, now nearly thirty years later, Joe is finally ready to meet his brother’s killer, Alistair Little (Liam Neeson), on live TV, with all sorts of producers and agents standing around, expecting some sort of huge emotional breakthrough that only reality television can provide. And well, they’ll most likely get that, except in this case, they won’t be expecting; see, Joe didn’t show up to this meeting for reconciliation, but to extract revenge for all of the pain and anguish that Alistair has caused on his life. It’s just a matter of getting the deed done that matters most.

The most adult game of “hide-n-go-seek” I’ve ever seen.

Five Minutes of Heaven, no matter which way you put it, works best because of the two great performances in the leads, mostly Nesbitt as the strange, deranged and incredibly disturbed Joe. Nesbitt’s a pretty great actor and has been able to play these kind of angry roles before, but never this deranged and crazy, and it’s a nice change-of-pace for him, because while he could have easily gone overboard, he never does. Instead, he plays it short, small, and subtle, making this person’s pain felt the whole time throughout; we know that the man is suffering, but the movie doesn’t have to tell us that at all. Just one look at Nesbitt’s upset face is more than enough to clue us in to what’s really wrong.

And yeah, Liam Neeson is good, too, but he doesn’t show up nearly as much as Nesbitt. That said, he provides a very interesting character who, in any other movie, would have easily been a cold-hearted and evil villain, without any heart, soul, or humanity to be found. But instead, he’s actually a much rather soft and understood man, who has guilt, who feels shame, and wants to be forgiven for all of the awful actions that he’s caused, giving us a chance to see the true human underneath the brooding.

In other words, two great performances in an otherwise fine movie.

Halloween or IRA?

All that said, Five Minutes of Heaven is still a good movie because it asks all sorts of questions about guilt, forgiveness, death, life, and sadness, but also seems interested in actually answering them. We’re told that old wounds can heal with time and separation, but at the same time, we see someone as torn-up and destroyed as Joe, that almost all of that goes out the window. The movie doesn’t always get the chance to answer everything it wants, but the ideas and elements of the story it brings up, guess what? It actually develops and seems to go somewhere with.

Even if the ending is a bit silly. But hey, not all movies have to be absolutely, positively perfect. Sometimes, all they have to do is make you think, watch, and get excited, if only for short, brief instances. Five Minutes of Heaven sort of does that, but also allows for us to feast our eyes on two of the best Irish actors working today.

Aside from the one and only Colin Farrell. I mean, honestly, how charming is that guy!

Consensus: Benefiting from two amazing performances in Nesbitt and Neeson, Five Minutes of Heaven is a smart, challenging thriller that has more on its mind than guns and murder.

7.5 / 10

Some men just want to watch random cars burn.

Photos Courtesy of: Michael McVey, SkiffleboomFlick Diary

A Monster Calls (2016)

Hug the trees. Just not too hard.

At his age of 12 years old, Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with a lot. For one, his mom (Felicity Jones) is sick with cancer and slowly, but surely, dying. His grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), while meaning well, is also a bit of a stuck-up meanie who doesn’t let Conor have any fun, when at his age, that’s all he should be caring about. His dad (Toby Kebbell) is barely in the picture, now living in the States and occasionally coming back across the pond to visit and check-up on things. And oh yeah, there’s that talking tree in his backyard (voiced by Liam Neeson). The Monster may cause a lot of imaginary destruction and chaos, but mostly what he wants to do is tell Conor stories about life, death and love, making him think longer and harder about his own life, his family, and his whole grieving process. Of course, this makes Conor dream more than he should, wondering what’s real and what isn’t.

A Monster Calls is one of those movies that’s so emotionally draining and dour, that after awhile, you start to think whether or not it’s actually a good movie. Because while it’s definitely good at making it so that every person seeing it has at least one tear in their eye during the two-hour run-time, there’s other elements it seems to be lacking in, like an actual plot development, or meaning to it all. And sure, you could say that A Monster Calls is one, long movie about the grieving process and learning that it’s okay to be sad, but still, does that make it a better movie?

"God? Or, tree?"

“God? Or, tree?”

Not really, but I will say that director J.A. Bayona is a very talented fella who knows how to make a story about a woman slowly dying from cancer, pretty compelling.

That said, it is a pretty sad movie and at times, feels like it’s doing incessantly, to the point of where it seems like it’s got no other card to play. The only moments of actual fun and spirit seem to come through the talking-tree bits, but that’s only because listening to Liam Neeson tell folk tales is like a warm cup of coffee on a cold, winters day. Bayona definitely knows how to set a mood, as he’s done with the Orphanage and the Impossible, but he doesn’t quite know how to go from the mood-setting; to just make people feel sad and depressed is one thing, but to actually do something with that sadness and depression is a whole other thing and I’m still not sure Bayona’s been able to work that out perfectly.

However, this may be Bayona’s best movie in that it does move at a solid pace, all things considered. Being a nearly two-hour movie about a woman dying, could have been a total and complete slug of a flick, but Bayona knows that in order for a story like this to work and actually matter, there has to be something driving the movie along. And sure, while he doesn’t always seem to have it going for him in the story-department, he more than makes up for it in his characters.

As Conor, Lewis MacDougall has got a whole lot to do, but he handles it all well; there are times when he seems a bit too smart for his own good, but there are others where it seems like he’s just a kid, who has no clue of what’s really going on in the world out there, and most of all, hasn’t come to terms with the fact that his mom’s about to die and his life as he’s known it, is about to go through a total and complete change. It’s a weighty role and the kind that could definitely make or break a child actor (see Thomas Horn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but MacDougall’s very good here. He plays a kid very well and when the movie really starts hitting the hard stuff, he’s even more compelling to watch.

"It's okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it."

“It’s okay, son. Life goes on. Just without me in it.”

Felicity Jones has impressed me before, but for some reason, she doesn’t quite work here, but it may not be her fault. Due to her character literally dying the whole entire movie, we don’t really get many shades to her and instead, only see her sick and in constant agony. It’s a one-note role and unfortunately, Jones just isn’t able to do much with it. Sigourney Weaver shows up as Conor’s strict grand-mom, who may seem like the typically evil mom-mom, but has certain shadings to her that make her probably the most compelling character in the bunch. Toby Kebbell, despite getting maybe one or two scenes, does a nice job as Conor’s estranged daddy and a longer movie would have probably focused on this relationship more.

But nope, of course, we get a talking-tree and dreams.

Not that I’m complaining, because I cried. Then again, how could you not? A Monster Calls seems to have one sole objective on its mind from the very beginning and it’s hard not to let go and just allow for the movie to rip the tears right out of you. The movie’s not perfect, but hey, at least it gets its job done.

Consensus: Pretty sad and emotional, A Monster Calls is an interesting fantasy flick that deals with grief and death, yet, is still somewhat compelling.

8 / 10

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Uh oh. Look out evil-doers.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Silence (2016)

Like politics, never bring up religion at the dinner table.

It’s 17th century Japan and the government is killing citizens who identify themselves as Christians. Among those killed were a bunch of priests who came over from Portugal, to not just spread the word of Christianity, but also help out the Japanese citizens who rightfully did follow the faith. Stuck over there Father Cristóvão Ferreira (Liam Neeson), a mentor to many priests still living in Portugal and influential figure in the world of Catholicism. Two of his proteges, Jesuit priests named Sebastião Rodrigues Francisco Garupe (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver), decide that they have to find him in Japan, discover whether or not he’s dead and see if they can change some ways in how Catholicism is accepted in Japan. However, both soon realize that, as soon as they enter Japan, the Japanese government does not at all take kindly to anyone preaching the Catholic word, especially priests from another place who came over solely to do just that.

"Trust me, my son. I used to be Spider-Man."

“Trust me, my son. I used to be Spider-Man.”

As far as passion-projects go, Silence is one of the better ones. Martin Scorsese himself has been hard at work trying to make this movie a reality for the past few decades, and while there’s been some sure signs of it possibly happening before, unfortunately, we’re just getting the movie now, many, many years after the fact. That said, whatever halted the project for so long, clearly worked and mattered in the long-run as Silence isn’t just one of the best religious epics in quite some time, but one of Scorsese’s most personal and emotional.

 

It’s a known fact to anyone who has seen more than a few of his movies, that Scorsese loves to discuss faith and how it embodies each and every person. Here, he gets to explore that idea more and more, but he’s never showy about it; the movie’s nearly three hours long and while it is definitely a slow-mover, it’s never boring. Every shot, every action, every line of dialogue, everything in general, is so perfectly specific and timed, that it seems like Scorsese himself had everything planned-out perfectly way ahead of time, so that he didn’t miss a single beat. It’s the sign of not just a true director, but an even better storyteller, finally getting the chance to tell a story that’s closest to his heart, the only way he knows how: Through film.

That said, Silence is less about Scorsese and his battle with his demons, and more about the actual battle between right and wrong, understanding one’s faith, and how it actually makes you who you are. The movie could have been incredibly preachy and come right out and said, “Without faith, you are nothing,” but it doesn’t. The movie’s much smarter in that it shows how religion can be used in many different ways; for some, it’s a healing mechanism to help get them through hard times and remind them of the better ones to come, while for others, it may be used as a weapon. The movie makes it a point to show how much these Christians are being persecuted for what they believe in to their core, and while a lot of people may come away from seeing this thinking the movie’s all about that, it’s actually much, much deeper than that.

If anything, the movie does something smart in that it actually raises a magnifying-glass to Catholicism and many other religions, without ever showing a sign of disrespect.

Without diving into it too much and having this just be one, long sermon courtesy of someone who doesn’t know how to deliver an effective one, Silence is interesting in how it shows that all religions, when you get right down to it, may act and work in different ways, but are mostly all beneficial to those who are involved with it. The movie also dives deep into this idea that those using faith and Catholicism to their advantage, may be just as bad as those persecuting the ones for following said same faith. There’s a lot of discussions about one’s identity and how one’s faith connects it all, which made this adventure all the more compelling.

Because yes, the movie is, after all, an adventure and it feels very much like that. But with Silence, we don’t get the typical flair and energy from Scorsese – this time, he’s much more mannered, subdued and surprisingly, subtle. For instance, there’s a lot of scenes involving gruesome and ugly violence, yet, rather than getting all in-your-face about it like he’s done before, Scorsese takes a step back, shows it in a different light and in a way, makes the violence being portrayed on the screen, all the more terrifying. Same can be said for the rest of the movie, where it seems like Scorsese’s following a certain path, where he sets the pace and carries us by his side.

"Please, Father. Keep me away from more Taken movies."

“Please, Father. Keep me away from more Taken movies.”

Cause if I’m going to spend nearly three hours in 17th century Japan, the only person I want to do it with is Marty Scorsese.

That said, Scorsese doesn’t take away from his ensemble, either. While it’s a bit disheartening to see the likes of Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver play Portugal priests, it’s still easy to get past once you actually see them act and realize that they’re very good at what they do. Neeson and Driver aren’t around nearly as much, which gives Garfield plenty of time to work through this material’s like no one’s business; the character is already so interesting that Garfield doesn’t have to do much, but there’s an extra layer of emotion and compassion to his performance that makes this character downright heartbreaking. If anything, this performance reminds me that Garfield is probably one of the most exciting talents we’ve got working today and makes me so damn excited to see what he’s up to next.

It’s interesting though, because you’d assume with a movie about how rather villainous and evil that these Japanese folks can get, that they’d all be despicable and one-note, but that’s very far from the truth. Sure, while they’re mostly all terrible human beings, they’re layered and have more going on underneath the hood, other than just wanting blood and guts. Some are just doing their job and sticking to it, while others are simply scared as hell and just trying to survive. In ways, God or Jesus doesn’t even factor into it – it’s just life itself.

And sometimes, that’s more important.

Consensus: Many years in the making has proven to be a smart move for Silence, Martin Scorsese’s decades-long passion project that is quite possibly his most emotionally satisfying, powerful and personal since the Last Temptation of Christ.

9 / 10

"So uh, what's up with the food?"

“So uh, what’s up with the food?”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Schindler’s List (1993)

Not everything’s in black and white. Except for, well, this movie.

Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) was a German industrialist and Nazi party member, who came to Krakow in 1939 and capitalize on everything that was happening in this area at that time. Schindler is already a rich man, but he sees a way to get richer, so he decides to use various Jews who are being pushed from one ghetto to another, to his good use. Not only does he employ them for the easiest tasks, but he’s making all sorts of money off of it, too. With the help of Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern (Ben Kingsley), Schindler is basically able to keep going with this form of slave labor. However, what makes Schindler less terrible than he sounds, is the fact that these workers are called “essential”, meaning that they stop in the factories, and away from the gas-chambers. While Schindler doesn’t care too much about this at first, eventually, once he begins to see all of the pain and cruelty the Nazis are making the Jews suffer through, he decides to wage a small war of sorts, trying to get every single Jew he can find into his factories, so that they don’t have to die. Sometimes, it works. Other times, unfortunately, it doesn’t.

Yes, people: Liam Neeson did act before Taken!

Yes, people: Liam Neeson did act before Taken!

It’s difficult to do a review on Schindler’s List because, well, what else is there to say about it? By this point, it’s basically like reviewing water – “Yeah, it’s pretty good and all, right guys?” Some people obviously don’t like it, but others still and to this very day, love it with all of their hearts. Is there any problem with that? Absolutely not, as it’s one of the very rare movies that, no matter how many times you see it, still is able to conjure up feelings of anger and rage that only grow stronger as the movie goes on and on.

Then again, why you’d want to watch this movie more than once is totally up in the air!

Regardless, what Schindler’s List proved back in the day, and especially now, was that Steven Spielberg wasn’t afraid to get as heavy and as dark as he possibly could. Sure, the Color Purple showed some people the truly messed-up and scary feelings he was battling deep down inside of his soul, but if anything, Schindler’s List releases them on full-blast. No man, woman, or child is safe from Spielberg here and that’s how it should be when doing a movie on the Holocaust; there’s no bright, shining sun here, it’s all sadness, almost all of the sadness.

But like I said, it needed to be, in order to get what it’s trying to say, which is basically as simple as can be: The Holocaust was a terrible time for our world. While this may not be any groundbreaking news to anyone out there who has ever picked up a book or a newspaper, still though, Spielberg really does make you feel the chaos and wretchedness of the Holocaust, without ever pulling back. One sequence in particular is when the Jews are all moved from their ghettos, to the camps, and while you assume that the sequence is over once all of the Jews are in the camps, all safe, warm, and cozy, surprisingly, it isn’t. It continues to go on, while showing more and more Jews who tried to stay behind and hide in their homes, all get caught, gunned-down and treated awfully, even if they were trying something incredibly admirable.

This is all to drive home the fact that, yes, the Holocaust was horrible. Spielberg’s camera constantly focuses in on everything happening, without ever making it seem like we’re watching a movie of his, or a movie in general, and more or less, a viewpoint from someone who was actually there. This makes the movie all the more terrifying and also give you that feeling of suffocation that, no matter where you go, you cannot hide from the Nazis.

They love it that way, too.

Spielberg is smartest when he tones himself down and here, he totally does. The cheesy, overly sentimental moments, at least for the longest time, are all turned down so that Spielberg himself can just focus on the story, these characters, and most of all, this setting. It would have been very easy for Spielberg to pass judgment on each and every Nazi here, but believe it or not, he actually just shows everything for what it is; people get killed for stupid reasons, Nazis act out in vicious, inhumane-like ways, and human rights are violated every way from Tuesday, and yet, no judgement from Spielberg. He shows everything as it is, just as it would have been back in the day, which makes the movie all the more disturbing.

But Spielberg doesn’t just wallow in the sadness – in fact, he does feature a story here and a pretty compelling one at that.

He's just English enough to be classified as "German".

He’s just English enough to be classified as “German”.

What’s perhaps so interesting about Oskar Schindler and his story here is that we never get a full grip on just who he is, what he cares about, what he believes in, or exactly why it is that he’s doing all that he does here. Sure, he definitely wants to profit off of the helpless Jews and he also wants to have a whole lot more power to his name, but does he really care about all of this so much? The movie never makes a clear decision on what it is that Schindler is all about, and that’s perfectly fine; Schindler is as much of a mysterious to us, as he is to those around him. We watch him interact with Jews and Nazis alike, acting and speaking in two, entirely different manners; with the former, he’s soft and caring, whereas with the latter, he’s respectful, but also tricky and figuring out any way he can con these men into giving him what it is that he needs, or better yet, wants.

In fact, after watching Schindler’s List for the, ahem, second time, I’ve come to the conclusion that Oskar Schindler wasn’t entirely a good person and that’s alright – in fact, he’d probably prefer it as such. What’s so great about Liam Neeson’s performance is that while he always appear to be the hero in the story, the things that he does and says don’t always show this; sure, he was trying to save Jews from being wrongfully killed, but at the same time, didn’t he just want to make a quick buck without having to pay anyone else for it? Neeson makes us constantly think that the man is some sort of later-day saint, without ever fully converting and showing off his good features, and allowing for us to be confused by just who, or what kind of man this guy was?

The questions remain long after the movie, but still, they’re worth bringing up.

It’s also worth bringing up that Spielberg allows and dedicates some time to the Nazis and, incredibly, allows for them to be fleshed-out as much as they can possibly be fleshed-out. What Spielberg is trying to show with these Nazi’s, is that even though they’re going around, killing Jews because of silly orders they were given, sometimes, they don’t always like to do that; most of the time, they’re just bored, teen-like guys who need to blow-off some steam and don’t really have any other way that doesn’t involve shooting people for no reason.

Ralph Fiennes’ performance as Amon Goeth shows us exactly what it is that we need to know about these Nazis. While he himself is a terrible excuse for a man, the movie also shows that there is some breath of humanity in him that, despite never coming out, does exist. Fiennes is startling in this role; being both scary, twisted and naive, all at the same time, but never overdoing any of it. He could have definitely been an over-the-top, wacky and wild Nazi villain, but he plays it at just the right level to where we definitely hate him, but also realize that he’s a human being and unfortunately, he has way too much power and time on his hands.

Then again, same could be said for Hitler.

Consensus: Smart, provocative, well-acted daring, disturbing, and downright emotional, Schindler’s List is the high-mark in Spielberg’s career, and with very good reason.

9.5 / 10

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Death to Jar-Jar.

In order to tell the story in its fullest form, sometimes, you have to go to the very beginning. In this case, we start with two Jedi knights, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), who are sent in to break up some sort of intergalactic trade embargo that’s going on and interrupting all sorts of people. However, while they’re on the case, they also manage to uncover a secret, scary plot by a bunch of aliens who’s sole plan is to take over the planet Naboo by sheer force and power. While all of this is going on, the two Jedi’s also discover the presence of two Sith warriors, who were thought to be long extinct by this point, but are still a force to be reckoned with. And of course, the Jedi’s end up crossing paths with small, young slave boy who has something about him that just makes them want to work with him to be the next great Jedi. The kid’s name? Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) and he is destined to be “The Chosen One”. Even though certain folks like Yoda, aren’t too sure of the kid and make it their top priority to test him every chance they get.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

2-on-3 has never been so cool.

It’s become almost second nature to despise the Phantom Menace. When I was around six or seven and saw this movie, I’ll never forget the feeling; there was just a certain rush of joy and excitement that I couldn’t get out of my system. I was hooked from the very beginning and all I wanted to do was see it again. Then, once that happened, I got the awesome PS1 video-game, caught up on the other Star Wars flicks, and considered myself a fan for so very long. But now, after all of these years of constantly pushing it away and not wanting to admit it, I can easily say that, well, yes, the Phantom Menace is not a very good movie.

Does that mean it’s an awfully terribly crappy one that deserves every cop in existence to burned and steam-piled?

No, of course not. In fact, there’s very few movies that actually deserve that; while my mind automatically jumps to Adam Sandler’s flicks, even then, I still find something here and there to take away. With the Phantom Menace, you get the sense that because the movie had so much hype surrounding what it was supposed to be, that when it ended-up actually becoming something of a let-down, it wasn’t just a disappointment – it was a sign of the end of the world. That the movie and George Lucas was given as much money and time as he needed to make this movie and do whatever he wanted to with it, already puts everything into perspective: Like, is this really what he wanted to do?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a nice couple bits within the Phantom Menace that are still fun and exciting, even if they feel thrown in a jumbled-up mess. The pod-racing scene, of course, is neat to watch, even after all of these years; the Jedi-battle duel at the end is by far one of the very best of the franchise; and Liam Neeson, playing the almighty dad-like figure as he’s best known for, does seem like a genuinely nice and warm figure to have around. Do all of these factors add up to a good movie? No, they do not. However, by the same token, they at least help the movie out in ways that, quite frankly, people don’t give them enough credit for.

Once again, I am in no way saying that the Phantom Menace is a misunderstood masterpiece that people just wanted to hate because they could – what I’m saying is that, well, it’s pretty lame and misguided, but not terrible.

Most of this has to do with the fact that George Lucas, who returned to directing and writing after 22 years for this, doesn’t seem like he’s always clear of what he wants to do with this story, whom to put the main focus on, or set things up for the next two movies. It’s obvious that, from the very start, Lucas set-out to make a Star Wars movie that his kids could enjoy and because of that, we’re tragically forced to sit through and watch as Jar-Jar Binks and Anakin take over the film, and hardly bring out any emotions whatsoever. Everything’s already been said about Jar-Jar, his faux-Jamaican accent, and the fact that the movie itself couldn’t get enough of his slapstick, so without trying to beat a dead horse, I’ll just say that, yes, when I was six or seven, Jar-Jar was awesome – now, he’s just super annoying and makes you feel like you’re watching a different movie.

Someone misses Leon.

Someone misses Leon.

But really, I still can’t wrap my head around the casting of Jake Lloyd in the iconic role of Anakin Skywalker. For one, as much as it pains me to say this, Jake Lloyd can’t act; though the movie seems like it wasn’t helping him out much either, there’s still the impression that the kid doesn’t know how to read his lines without seeming like he’s confused and in need of some help. This isn’t me ragging on him and being a cruel, miserable a-hole, because it’s not just his fault, but why he was pushed so far to the front of the line for this role, is totally beyond me. There’s also the idea of why he’s so young to begin with, but hey, that’s another post for another day.

And what the real shame about Lucas putting all of his focus on the likes of Jar-Jar and Anakin, is that it takes away from the overall impact of the story. Because this is the first movie of the supposed trilogy, after all, it makes sense to start things off slow, easy-going, and relatively peaceful, but really, a lot of this film just seems meandering. It’s as if Lucas wasn’t ready to scare his audience just yet, so in a way to wind them all up, he just gave each and everyone a film that’s perfectly serviceable for the whole family. Of course it worked for me when I was younger, but now, it just feels like a waste of what a great opportunity this movie could have been.

Thankfully, it gets better from here on out.

Sort of.

Consensus: George Lucas clearly had some rust when making the Phantom Menace, which will always and forever be known as the unwanted and unloved “Annie and Jar-Jar Show”, despite it not being the end-all, be-all disaster people love to hop on the band-wagon and go on about.

4.5 / 10

"Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me."

“Get out of this business while you still can, kid. Trust me.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Ted 2 (2015)

Teddy bears are people, too!

Three years after we last left them, Thunder Buddies Ted (Seth MacFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are back together and hanging out more than ever! Ted is now married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) and is looking forward to the future and starting a family, but for John, things aren’t so pretty. Recently, he and Lori (Mila Kunis) got a divorce because she wanted him to change for the worst and John just wasn’t allowing that. However, now that he’s single, he’s a bit depressed and can’t stop checking out porn. But now, for Ted’s sake, he’ll have to put all of that on the back-burner so that he can help Ted and Tami-Lynn have the family that they want. Problem is, after much legal looking into, the U.S. government suddenly declares that Ted isn’t fit to be married, raise a child, or be considered a “person” because he is, in essence, a “thing”. Though Ted can think, read, act, and feel, the government doesn’t believe so – which means that it’s up to him, Johnny, and their young lawyer (Amanda Seyfried) to take on the government and, once and for all, prove that Ted is more than just a thing.

Be careful, Amanda!

Be careful, Amanda!

Seeing as how I’m not a huge fan of Family Guy, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that the original Ted actually worked for me. While it was nowhere near a masterpiece, it was still funny and entertaining enough to where it felt like MacFarlane was giving us all of his greatest hits, without trying to remind us too much that he’s the same dude who created Family Guy. Surely, he’s got his audience out there, but not everybody likes Family Guy and for the matter, not everybody likes Seth MacFarlane, so for him to be able to have people forget what it is that they’re watching come from him, is relatively impressive.

And then, there was A Million Ways to Die in the West. I won’t harp on that movie’s failure too much, especially considering that this is a review for Ted 2 and not the sequel to that dreadful garbage, but I will say that it reminded me so much of what I don’t like about MacFarlane, his certain brand of humor, and his over-excessive tendencies to think that he’s way too clever for his own good. Once again, some laughs were there to be found, but for the most part, they consisted of the weirder moments that MacFarlane was able to cobble-up from a pretty standard plot-line that seemed to have aspirations to go elsewhere, but just didn’t.

And now, there’s Ted 2, which is pretty much a mixture of both.

One of the main problems that seems to be plaguing MacFarlane and his first three movies, is that he doesn’t know when to take a chill pill; too much of this movie is him just pushing a scene deeper and deeper into places that it probably didn’t need to go. There’s a scene where Amanda Seyfried’s character gets a guitar and starts singing, that starts off simple and straight-forward, but soon turns to the odd and bizarre. Which, once again, wasn’t so bad because it actually had me laughing, but too much of it felt like it was thrown in there for good measure, regardless of it had to do with the plot or not.

Which is to say that yes, Ted 2 is a mess, but it’s one that’s at least somewhat entertaining to watch, if only because there are nice moments of comedic inspiration from MacFarlane. There’s another similar sequence to the Seyfried one that I mentioned earlier, that concerns Liam Neeson and it’s so odd, so random, and so strange, that it works well enough to get past the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with the over-sized plot. There are many moments like this, most of which are so nonsensical, that they actually elicit some chuckles; then again though, there’s those many other moments where the movie doesn’t seem to go anywhere with itself, except just use the same stupid gag, over and over again.

And that’s a problem, especially when the gag to begin with isn’t all that funny.

Oh, so that makes us the "catcher".

Yeah, that’s not mayonnaise.

This becomes a big problem too, considering that that Ted 2 comes very close to two-hours; which, for any comedy, is already a problem, but one that uses three courtroom scenes to get its point across about accepting all “persons”, by using a walking, talking, and smoking teddy bear as symbolism, is a major disaster. Because MacFarlane doesn’t seem to know where he wants to go, except for the bottom of the barrel, it becomes distracting that he can’t find anything to do to keep the plot moving. But instead, it just rolls and rolls along, as if there is no end game.

Once again, I’m not saying that I despised Ted 2 – it’s just clear that this movie has plenty of problems that could have probably been fixed, had there been maybe one or two more editors by MacFarlane’s side, letting him know what can stay, what can go, and what can never see the light of day. While there’s maybe not a whole lot of scenes that could be placed in that later category, there’s some that come pretty close and/or probably didn’t need to be thrown into this already mish-mash of a movie. Of course MacFarlane is fine at voicing Ted, but are you honestly surprised? It’s his character for gosh sakes!

And as usual, Wahlberg is up to the task of goofing-off as Johnny, even if this time around, he’s saddled with a more boring story-line. Whereas with the first movie, we were getting to see more revealed to us about this character, here, we just sort of see Johnny mope around, look sad and make it seem at all believable that someone who looks like Mark Wahlberg would have a problem getting laid. Either way, Wahlberg seems like he’s trying here and, for the most part, pulls it off, but at the same time, it made me feel like maybe he wasn’t all that there for this one.

Maybe someone was missing…

Consensus: Nowhere near a tragedy, yet not as good as the original, Ted 2 is just funny enough to be worth checking out, if only for the crass moments we all know and, sometimes, love MacFarlane for.

5.5 / 10

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

The buddies that have a thunder song together, go scuba-diving together. For some odd reason.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Run All Night (2015)

No kidnappings. Just running. For a whole night, too. In case you couldn’t tell.

Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is an aging hitman that doesn’t really have much to live for. He’s a drunk, lazy and an overall embarrassment to himself, as well as to those around him. However, he’s a good childhood friend of the boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), so nobody messes with him; they just let him go about his day to where he mostly ends up in a pool of his own piss and vomit. But, the one aspect of his life that keeps Jimmy alive is his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman); someone who wants nothing to do with Jimmy. That’s why, when Mike is thrown into a situation where Maguire’s son (Boyd Hollbrook) shoots and kills somebody in front of him, he goes right to his dad. Jimmy knows that he needs to hash these things out with Shawn before they get way too out of hand and everybody involved ends up dead, but what starts off as a promising compromise, soon goes awry once Maguire’s son is shot and killed by Jimmy, because he was going after Mike. Now, both Mike and Jimmy aren’t only the run from Shawn and his people, but every cop within the New York City police department. It’s gonna be a long night for these two, which means that they might have to let bygones, be bygones.

Say what you will about Liam Neeson and the direction he’s career has been heading in since Taken: The dude’s making more than enough money for most 60+ actors out there, not to mention that the movie’s he participates in, aren’t all that bad. Sure, take away Unknown and especially the recent Taken movie, and you’ve got a pretty solid track-record, for somebody who’s screen-presence was practically dead in the ground no less than a decade ago.

"Just saying, mine's a lot bigger. And I'm not just talking about the lobster we just had."

“Just saying, mine’s a lot bigger. And I’m not just talking about the lobster we just had.”

That said, there’s something about Run All Night that I’m just not too sure about yet. Is it good? Is it bad? Is it mediocre? Is it so trashy that it’s supposed to be bad on purpose? Or, is it just so self-serious that eventually, after much male-posturing and dick-measuring between the characters and yourself, you learn to accept it for what it is and run along with what it does?

Sure, I guess you could. But to be honest, I’m still racking my head over this movie.

So, with that said, this review’s going to be a tad bit weird. Because though Run All Night can be fun and rather intense at times, there’s still a muskiness to it all that makes me feel like it’s the kind of movie made strictly for guys who love it when bad dudes, do bad things to one another, and talk bad to each other about how they’re going to eventually do all of these bad things to one another when they actually shut the hell up and get on with. But then it gets all serious with its heartfelt story about dads, sons, the old times vs. the new times, and how the golden-age of the mob is all gone by now.

So, whatever this movie was going for here, I’m not too sure. All that I know is that it wants to have its cake, eat it, too, but if nobody’s watching, possibly go the bakery and get another cake, in which they would consume that as well. At times, it’s a thrilling piece where the action sequences actually seem like they could go anywhere, literally at any second, but then at others, it tries to water it all down by being about family, and love, and sons, and brothers, and mothers, and fathers, and all that sappy crap that, quite frankly, is made for a whole other movie. Not the kind of one that features a stealthy, overly-athletic hitman (played by Common), who goes around literally killing anybody who walks in his way of his target, without ever worry about racking up too much of a kill-count that would have him easily identified as public enemy #1.

But hey, it’s a Liam Neeson! So ‘eff all logic!

Which, yes, I am perfectly fine with in a movie like, I don’t know, say Non-Stop (another movie that just so happened to star Neeson and be directed by Jaume Collet-Serra). That movie wasn’t perfect and it sure as hell had plot-holes that needed some more tending to in the writer’s room, but it didn’t take itself too seriously, nor did it try to be something that it wasn’t; it was just another goofy, over-the-top, Liam Neeson-starer that was going to take its story wherever it pleased. Here, Run All Night wants to be fun, unpredictable and wild, which it sometimes is, but when it focuses on its story and its deeper-meanings, it feels odd.

Not that a story like this can’t have anything deeper or more meaningful to say, but when most of that just revolves solely around the fact that one guy was a crummy dad his whole life and only just decided to change his ways once his son’s life was in the balance, it doesn’t seem worthy. It seems tacked-on, so the directors didn’t feel guilty about all of the bloodshed. They want to make these lives have some sort of meaning, but by doing so, they’re taking away the electricity of what makes these kinds of movies so fun in the first place.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

Holder playing Holder. And no Linden. Boo.

I don’t know, maybe I’m just a heartless person with no soul.

Though, no matter how lame these movies can sometimes get, there’s no denying that Liam Neeson does a fine job in them and here, there’s no difference. Jimmy Conlon is a sad excuse for a human being, but as the movie goes on and his character develops, we see a smart, wise man who has come to a crossroads in his life and genuinely wants to make good. The character is written this way, so of course I had to believe it, but had the movie just left this idea up to us, the viewer, it still would have worked because of Neeson’s portrayal of a man who wants to do good, yet, doesn’t know how to make up for his sketchy past well enough to where all can be forgiven.

Also, giving Neeson some seasoned-pros like Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Nick Nolte (who is in it for maybe two minutes), brings a certain amount of dramatic-heft to the proceedings, although some of it can be a bit cheesy after awhile. Harris is a solid actor at playing these mean, sometimes despicable crime-bosses, but here, he seems like he’s doing a parody of those characters he’s so well-known for, which makes the scenes with him and Neeson entertaining, but also slightly teetering on over-the-top. Which, yet again, wouldn’t have been such a problem had the movie realized that it didn’t need to be so serious all of the time and should have just embraced its hardcore, overtly-violent goofiness. And yet, we have a movie where people are killed, blood is shed, and tears run down cheeks.

Wait, this is a Liam Neeson movie I’m talking about here, right?

Consensus: The grimy action is fun and intense, but for the most part, Run All Night also wants to be a heartfelt story about broken relationships and even more broken people, and tries to mistaken itself for something that isn’t another Liam Neeson action flick.

4.5 / 10 

"Time to run."

“Come on son, time to run………………all night.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Taken 3 (2015)

This family should just never step outside ever again.

After a few run-ins with foreign thugs, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) can finally sit back, relax, and soak in that his family, for once in what seems like an eternity, is safe and sound. His daughter (Maggie Grace) seems to be spending some lovely time with her new boyfriend (Jonny Weston), as well as getting an education in college; his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), is also currently dating (Dougray Scott), but doesn’t know whether or not she should take it to the next level; and there’s even a possibility of their being another member of the Mills family. However, that all goes away once Bryan’s ex-wife mysteriously turns up dead and, wouldn’t you know it, Bryan’s the one who is framed for it. Without standing by and allowing for himself to be wrongfully imprisoned, Bryan takes justice into his own hands, goes on the run, and does whatever he can to clear his name. That means kicking a lot of ass, questioning a lot of folks, and figuring out just who the hell is behind all of this. Also trying to do the same is Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), somebody who believes Bryan is innocent, even if he can’t fully prove it just yet.

"Act your age, missy!"

“Act your age, missy!”

Unlike everybody else on the face of the planet, I was never so hot with the Taken franchise to begin with. Sure, it was a neat concept – place an aging-actor, well-respected actor in an action-packed, take-no-names role and just let him be as menacing and scary as humanly possible. However, both movies hardly ever did anything for me. The first Taken was too serious for its own good, and if we’re being honest here, Taken 2 may have been a bit better for me, if only because it was absolutely balls-out wild and hardly ever made excuses for itself. Action movies that are like always win my heart, even if they do feature one of their characters throwing random grenades all over a city.

But hey, let bygones be bygones.

Now, with Taken 3, it seems like the franchise has finally hit its peak, or I guess, lack thereof. The story itself always showed signs of getting old, tired and stale, and that’s exactly what this movie proves as fact. There’s no real story here, except that Liam Neeson is on the run in a Fugitive-kind of way, where we’re left to sit back and enjoy all of the crazy, adrenaline-fueled close-calls he runs into to protect his life, as well as his family members. Honestly, it’s kind of a bore to watch, which shouldn’t at all be the case.

Some of that problem is due to the fact that the story just isn’t all that engaging to begin with, but it’s also because Olivier Megaton’s direction is constantly irritating. Rather than allowing for us to see how an action-sequence plays out, who is affected in it and why, Megaton feels the urgent need to shake the camera up all over the place, and cut every single shot that comes the slightest bit close to hitting four seconds. In a way, it’s almost nauseating and makes it seem like Megaton knows he’s not working with anything worth writing home about, so he just does whatever he can to distract us, in the most manipulatively obvious way possible.

Where’s Tony Scott when you need him?

Also, let me not forget to mention that this movie is PG-13 in the worst kind of way possible. People get their throats slit, shot in the face, blow-up in car accidents, stabbed in the abdomens, and so on and so forth, and there is absolutely no blood to be found. I get that the powers that be behind Taken 3 wanted to appeal to a larger-audience, so rather than scaring the hell out of anyone who wanted to have a good old time at the theater and not think of the harsh consequences for such violent acts as these, they wanted to soften it all up, without showing any sort of ketchup whatsoever. Like with Megaton’s direction, Taken 3 is made solely to distract you from the real problems that may be lurking within the movie itself and rather than being sly, or even coy about it, it’s easy to pick apart every little problem it has, which makes it all the easier to see why this trilogy needs to end, and end now.

"Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired."

“Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired.”

Which is definitely a shame because this is the same franchise that helped re-invigorate Liam Neeson’s career. Say whatever you will about these movies, without the first Taken, we wouldn’t have the Liam Neeson we see and sometimes love, in today’s world, had it not been for the unpredictable popularity of that movie. It helps that Neeson brings some gravitas to this role and allows for Bryan Mills to feel more of an actual, living, breathing human being who also just so happens to be able to karate-chop people to death. However, here, in his third-outing as this character, Neeson seems tired and, dare I say it, bored. And he definitely should be. The guy’s had some of his best roles in the past few years, with a lot better movies, and from what it seems, there’s only more of them to come.

So, people, whatever you do, don’t feel bad for Liam Neeson. The dude’s going to be mighty fine for many years to come.

The ones who you should probably feel bad for are the likes of Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and new-to-the-franchise Dougray Scott. Because, honestly, I don’t know if either of these three are going to get anymore shots at glory like they have with these movies. No offense to Grace, but she’s never been the best actress for this role (especially considering she’s always looked 30, whenever she was supposed to be roughly around 17 to 21), and here, those problems show. She’s got at least one look on her face throughout this whole movie and she wears it to a T. Though I can’t say much about Janssen, due to the fact that she dies pretty early on, the relationship she has with Bryan borders on being friendly, to downright four-play and it makes you wonder whether these two are going to just let all of the bullshit go away and bang, right here and now. That’s the movie I would have liked to see, but sadly, didn’t. Oh well.

Then, of course, we have Dougray Scott, who has actually been pretty good in past movies, but is pretty terrible here. He’s forced to do some sort of American-accent that does not at all work one bit for him, and his character is so clearly not who he says he is at first, that when we eventually get to see some of his true colors come out, it’s no surprise to us whatsoever. And as for Forest Whitaker, he’s just here to service the plot, occasionally dueling out a nice bit of charm here and there. But mostly though, he’s left to just eat bagels.

And there’s your sales-pitch, everybody.

Consensus: With hardly any story to work with, Taken 3 is a relatively boring, aimless piece of PG-13 action, where people practically get beheaded, and there’s not so much as a pint of blood to be found.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

It’s okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

KRussians love the cold, so what the heck could a little radiation do to them?

During 1961, when the Cold War was running hot and wild all over, the Russians needed a way to really hurt their enemy: the U.S. So, what they got all packed together was a newly-made submarine that packed nukes in hopes to add more blow and potentially come close to winning the war. They had a stubborn, but inspired captain (Harrison Ford), they had a co-captain that was just as inspired, but also more friendlier (Liam Neeson), and a butt-load of other fella’s that knew their way or two around a submarine, so what could possibly go wrong? Well, let’s just say that radiation could start to leak out, infect the whole ship, and get just about everybody aboard sick or near-dying, that’s what.

I don’t know how they did it, but somehow Kathryn Bigelow and everybody else involved with the production of this flick got made, which is probably more of a sin for them, than it was a victory, since it had no chance of ever being able to connect with the mainstream, American audience. Why? Well, that’s because the story is focusing on a bunch of Russians during the Cold War, who were practically carrying weapons that were destined to hit us and us alone, while also trying to make us feel sympathy for them as each and every one started to die from the spilled radiation on-board. It does sound very strange once you get to thinking about it, but despite the cast, the crew, and the obvious, but hokey message behind it all, the movie was made, widely-released, and then got back the numbers that were apparently $35 million domestically, on a $80 million dollar budget.

"A captain always go down with his ship. Make sure somebody tells Chewwy that."

“On this mission, can I bring my trustworthy friend named Chewwy along?”

All of this number-throwing and speculation does eventually lead somewhere, and that’s to say that this is a movie that was destined for death right away. Nobody, not even the most hardcore hippie in the world wants to lay down their rights, views, or themes inside of their heads, and take some time and effort out of their days to watch a story about REAL Russians, who went through REAL problems, and actually, REALLY died. It’s asking a lot of Americans, and it came as no surprise to anyone that this movie bombed it’s ass out of the water, which should also bring up the question as to whether or not this flick was even really worth all of the hate/bombing?

Kind of, but not really.

The idea behind this movie that really keeps it moving and interesting is knowing that what you see really happened, no matter how much speculation there may or may not be. Granted, that usually comes with the material, but it’s something that is easy to forgive here since Bigelow actually seems to take a tender love and care with this material, and more or less expresses each and every one of these crew members as humans. They’re corny and one-dimensional ones, but knowing that these characters are in fact based off of real-life people, makes you feel a little bit more closer and more sympathetic to the material, even if you know that what they are dying from, most likely could have killed us, had they actually succeeded in getting to their destination. I guess that’s a spoiler but since I’m typing on this computer about this movie and you’re reading this, wherever you may be, that it isn’t totally a spoiler, as much as it’s a little tidbit that you may or may not know going on.

Okay, it’s not a spoiler! We didn’t get nuked, dammit!

Anyway, Bigelow has an assured direction and I’m surprised that despite her having an actual vagina, that her movies more or less are aimed towards men, and men alone. I mean hell, I think we only get one scene of some actual, female tail here and that’s probably for about a good two minutes or so. Everything else after those two minutes is practically dude, dude, dude and whether or not you’re the straightest dude out there in the world, then you may not want to bother with this, however, gay men will be in heaven right here, especially if they have a fetish for dudes with a Russian accent. Regardless, Bigelow’s choices for what material she wants to bring to the big-screen next is always surprising and usually impressive, considering what she does with that material once its up on the screen.

But something here tells me that I wish there was more effort along the way to make this more than just a standard flick about a bunch of dudes in a submarine that are arguing, yelling, and acting angry at one another, as they come closer and closer to death. The feeling of remorse and death is in the cold air throughout this whole movie, but it never swamped me as much as it swamped the characters in the actual flick. It just felt like I was watching people die, without barely any feeling whatsoever as to what was happening, or to whom. It just tallied-up it’s death-toll and continued to make it’s moves; almost sort of like a horror movie, but you can’t kill the slasher. He just continues to kill and kill away, no matter how hard you try to stop him or keep him away. Oh wait, that is actually a horror movie!

And it’s not like the reason I didn’t care was because I’m some political a-hole that can’t at least feel some sort of sympathy for the other side in any way, shape, or form; it’s just that the movie cares more about the submarine jargon and what these people have to do next, rather than the people themselves. That can create tension and suspense in the air, but that still doesn’t give us a lick of sympathy for these guys and in the end, it just felt like the film lost all of our hearts and minds, because it wanted to continue to rattle down what’s happening to the submarine and why, but never actually explaining it.

For instance, I don’t think I stand alone for when I say that I’m not very submarine-savvy, so, when I have a flick that’s telling me that this thing blew up in this part of the submarine, which also blew up this rod and so on and so forth, I’m practically left with my tongue half-way down my throat. I don’t know what half of these characters were saying, what it meant for them or the ship, and how they could get around the problem. I just sat there listening in, trying to understand, get a grip of what was going on, but ultimately come to the conclusion that everything everybody said was bad, bad, bad and would most likely lead to death, death, death, if they don’t get up off their asses, kick out their egos, and get to work right away. That’s what it came down to me understanding with this movie after awhile, and by “after awhile”, I mean a good hour-and-a-half. Then, I realized I had all but 40 minutes left of the movie, and I felt like I was missing out on something, somewhere around here.

But anyway, back to what I was talking about before, was the fact that this movie still got made, produced, and green-lit, despite featuring a premise that was surprisingly unheard of, especially from an American-made production. Well, one of the key reasons behind all that is mostly that Bigelow was able to rope in big star, Hollywood actors like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, who are, oddly enough, playing the two, main Russians-in-command here. It’s weird seeing both of these highly-recognizable stars don a Russian accent, but it’s even odder to see Ford because not only does the guy not do very well with the accent, but his whole act is just so polarizing to begin with.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

For once, Peter Sarsgaard plays a character that wants to save humans, rather than kill them and dance over their corpses.

Think about it for a second, he’s Indiana Jones; he’s Han Solo; and hell, for God sake, he was even the President of the United States, so where the hell did the idea for this “American-hero” to be portraying a Russian that not only protected his country til the day he died, but also to any cost?!? Never made much sense to me and never seemed to work for Ford, or the character he was portraying. It seemed like a parody after awhile, as if Ford was payed a huge chunk of money just to goof-around and work with a spotty accent. Problem is, it wasn’t a parody and there was no joke here. It was mega-serious, all of the damn time.

Poor Liam Neeson too, because the guy actually does a serviceable-job here as the second-in-command (despite not even bothering with an accent), but has a character that’s so prideful and in-the-right all the time, that there never seems to be a moral dilemma for this dude as if he knows what he should do next, whether it would be the most moral move or not, or if he’s going to be able to pat his friends on the back. I got it from the first couple of minutes, the guy was a nice dude that obviously cared for his crew mates and wanted what was best for them, as well as his country, but it’s an act that got stale after awhile, as if he would have never made a bad call ever. Peter Sarsgaard remains the only other crew-member that’s the most recognizable, even today, and is okay, but really obvious as he plays the wussy that eventually stands up for himself and is forced to come up big when they need him the most. Corny.

Consensus: Bigelow’s intentions are surprisingly heartfelt and well-mannered, even if the rest of the movie that’s supposed to make K-19: The Widowmaker pop, lock, and drop it as if we are on-board with these guys, doesn’t do either of the three and just hangs there.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Even they know they deserve a better movie. Then they died.

Even they knew they deserved a better movie. Then they died.

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Third Person (2014)

Always heard Rome was the most romantic place to be on Earth. Turns out, eh, not so much.

A bunch of stories that, despite taking place in different places, are inter-connected through the power of love, children, and forgiveness. Or something like that. In one story, a middle-aged writer (Liam Neeson) has just left his wife (Kim Basinger) for a much-younger confidante of his (Olivia Wilde), and the two converge in a wild vacation in Paris. Another story, there’s a mysterious businessman (Adrien Brody) who meets a random woman (Moran Atias) in a bar in Rome and ends up getting thrown into her very dramatic life that leaves him wondering if he wants to continue on this adventure with her or not, or go back to his boring, subdued life in the States. And lastly, there’s a story of a young woman (Mila Kunis) who is finding it hard to get over a supposed crime she committed to a kid and is currently in the midst of a rough custody-battle with her ex (James Franco) over their child.

In case you couldn’t tell by now, Paul Haggis definitely likes to make his movies about “something”. Now the answer to what that “something” may be is a whole different question altogether,  but there’s always a feeling one gets when watching a Paul Haggis movie that all of what you’re seeing, is supposed to have a big, ultimate meaning at the end. And though people may have a problem with that, I for one have to credit someone like him for at least stepping out and trying to make his pieces more than just conventional-fare that doesn’t have much to think about when you get down to it. It’s risky for a film-maker, especially nowadays, to test the boundaries of cinema and see what can come out as the end result, even if said end result isn’t as perfect as the creator may have originally intended for it to be.

Oh, James. So serious. So "artsy".

Oh, James. So serious. So “artsy”.

That said, there’s something odd going on with Third Person that I feel like even Haggis himself loses a bit of control over.

For instance, all of the different subplots Haggis has going on here, there’s hardly an interesting one to be found. Sure, some of the themes he’s dealing with like adultery, love, forgiveness, and heartbreak may all be relateable, but they hardly add up to much other than being “about that kind of stuff”. Also, you can discuss these ideas and show how it all connects to your story, but if you’re not really doing anything to grab our attention in the first place, then what’s the point? Is it entertainment? Is it to tell people you like to think a lot about big, important stuff? Or, do you simply just need a format in which you can stand on your soapbox and preach for the whole world to hear?

Well, I’d say that in the case of Haggis, the later two options are definitely possibilities. Which is a shame because Haggis, as usual, has assembled a pretty solid cast on his hands here, it’s just that none of them are given much of anything interesting to do and also, it becomes very clear early on that their performances don’t mean diddly-squat to what it is that Haggis wants to say. In a movie like Crash, it was easier for the cast to shine and show that they could get in the way of Haggis’ moralizing, but here, with Third Person, mostly everybody’s trapped, can’t get out and eventually, just have to give in to the fact that they’re in Haggis’ control. And with that, it’s going to be quite difficult to break away from the rest of the movie and leave a lasting impression on the viewer.

The only one who I think does such a thing is Olivia Wilde and obviously, for all the wrong reasons. Yes, Wilde does get quite naked in this movie and definitely shows us that she’s got a wonderful body to go along with that wonderful face of hers, but her character becomes so unlikable and cloying, that you feel bad for Wilde, because you know she wants to win over the audience like she usually does in anything she’s in. But here, considering she’s playing a gold digger that goes for older, married-men, there’s already a feeling that she’s not a character we’re supposed to care for much and Haggis doesn’t stop trying to make that clear to us.

It’s just such a shame that Olivia Wilde had to be on the opposite end of that lesson. What a lovely, lovely woman she is.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

We are a long time away from the Pianist, folks. A long, long time away, indeed.

And as for the rest of the cast, everybody else is pretty much the same – nobody’s spectacular, yet, nobody’s bad either. Liam Neeson is the adulterating older man that decides to start sleeping with Wilde’s character and is okay, but his whole shtick of writing a book and not being able to complete it/get it published, gets old quick and shows that maybe Neeson wasn’t the best choice for this role; Adrien Brody makes a nice choice at choosing who he works with for once in a long while, but sadly, plays this role of a mysterious businessman with as much emotion as a cardboard box; Mila Kunis spends a lot of time yelling, looking befuddled, and constantly running around; James Franco does quite the opposite in that he stares, whispers certain sayings and acts his usual cool-self; and Kim Basinger’s hardly around enough to leave an impression to where we feel bad for her and the situation she’s left to deal with.

But at the end of all this, Third Person ends up being a trick movie, in that, everything we see, may or may not be how it actually happens. And somehow, all of these stories are connected, more so than we originally thought. It’s a neat trick that I applaud Haggis for trying here, but sadly, it doesn’t work and makes it clear that this director had a goal here, and it wasn’t to give us compelling characters or stories; just to lead us on a non-meaningful story, only to then pull the rug from underneath us at the last second.

Paul Haggis, you bastard. Brokeback Mountain should have totally won.

Consensus: Every minute of Third Person, it’s clear that Paul Haggis is running the show and not only does it get in the way of the cast, but gets in the way of creating an actual compelling narrative, that people could actually be affected by.

4 / 10 = Crapola!!

"And so I told him 'I will find you, and I will kill you.' Hahahaha!"

“And so I told him ‘I will find you, and I will kill you.’ Hahahaha!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)

Stay away from graveyards, people. They’re creepy enough as is.

Former NYC cop Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) used to be a total alcoholic. He’d wake up, go to his local bar, have a coffee, and then down two shots of liquor. However, one fateful day, that all changes and eight years later, he’s regularly attending AA meetings, living alone, eating at diners, and also turning in some work as a non-official private eye. One night he gets an offer and decides to seek it out: Find a group of serial killers that are kidnapping rich drug-dealer’s wives/loved-ones, ransoming money off of them, and yet, still taking the liberty of hacking these women up to little pieces. To them, it’s all fun and games, so when an actual drug-dealer (Dan Stevens) calls on Scudder to do this job for him, he doesn’t back away from it. After all, getting rid of a few serial killers in this world is a job well done, no matter how you do it. But Scudder eventually realizes that this job is going to be a bit more difficult and nerve-wracking than he would have liked, which is why he, whether he likes it or not, gets some assistance from a local homeless kid by the name of TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley).

And yet again, here we are, people, another “Liam Neeson kicks ass” kind of movie where he, yes, is a certain man, with a certain level of skills, takes it upon himself to go about utilizing those skills, shows that he’s a nice guy underneath the sometimes questionable-decisions he makes and, well, of course, tells the villains to, for lack of a better term, “fuck off”. Yes, these are the kinds of movies we can all expect from Liam Neeson right about now and while some can say that they’re bored by this and want him to go back to making Oscar-caliber films with the likes of Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, or Martin Scorsese, the fact is, nope, Liam ain’t too bothered with any of them.

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin' nuts?!?!

Is this cat trying to interrogate Liam? What? Is he freakin’ nuts?!?!

He is, as they say in the biz, striking while the iron is hot and rather than trying something daring to make sure his “arthouse”-ish crowd is pleased with him, Liam is just going to stay and continue to make these typical, run-of-the-mill action-thrillers where he, yes, kicks plenty of ass.

However, that’s not to say any of them are bad and because most of them aren’t, I’m quite happy for Neeson. He’s the type of actor who, with his tall-frame and soft, yet still intimidating Scottish-accent, deserves many movies to be made where he’s, typically, the center of attention. Which is why he seems to be a perfect choice for Matthew Scudder; the type of troubled, somewhat crooked-cop that isn’t the nicest, nor the most moral of guys, but wants to see that he gets the job done, in the most efficient way possible. Meaning, that he wants to ensure no innocent people are killed while he is completing his various shady tasks.

But Scudder isn’t just a well-written character in the way that he’s well-rounded, he’s funny and shows a charming side to his sometimes grim personality that we know Neeson is capable of high-lighting every so often. To say that Neeson is great here, would almost be too obvious for me to even state, but here I am, stating that Neeson is great here and practically carries the movie on his own two, long, lanky shoulders.

That said, the rest of the movie isn’t all that bad, because while Neeson helps it get through some rough patches (whenever the serial-killers pop-up, they’re pretty conventional and spend most of their scenes just being strange, in almost too-serious way to be not kidding), it’s writer/director Scott Frank who really makes this movie work. Something about this flick’s tone, the way it’s so hush-hush most of the time and how it doesn’t seem to glorify it’s over-the-top, grisly violence, yet still shows it in a derogatory light that he makes it seem like more than just “movie violence”, is what really made me think that Frank should make more movies. The dude’s already written my favorite Steven Soderbergh movie (Out of Sight) and actually had a pretty stellar directorial-debut of his own not too long ago (the Lookout), so why wait any longer, Scott? Let’s keep this a train a-goin’, man!

Anyway, like I was saying, Frank’s direction here is really genius and it brings a smile to my face knowing that there are certain film makers out there who still care about giving us genuinely tense, sometimes unpredictable thrillers. Thrillers that, mind you, don’t necessarily rely on how many times a gun is shot, or even how many bones are broken in a particular brawl – much rather, thrillers that take time to not only build the story it is trying to tell, but also give us some context in how we’re supposed to think of these characters as. Not all of these characters are great people here (most of them, drug dealers), but the movie doesn’t simply judge them on who they are, much more than on what it is that they do.

"I'm used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you'll do."

“I’m used to saving Jews and/or family members of mine, but I guess you’ll do.”

For instance, take the character of TJ who, in a lesser-movie, would have been the stereotypical smart-aleck-y, rather adorable kid that Liam Neeson’s character not only stumbles upon by pure chance, but even takes under his wing and make his new sidekick. Add on the fact that TJ is in fact black, and you’ve got yourself a walking, talking, breathing cliché just waiting to ruin your goddamn movie, not to mention your time! But somehow, TJ, nor anything surrounding him, seems to be written that way; he’s a simple orphan kid that is a bit punk-ish, but is still curious enough about how this world Scudder surrounds himself with, not just works, but how he can be apart of it without getting him, or anybody else killed. Not to mention the fact that this young guy, Brian “Astro Bradley, is very good in the role, making you feel sorry that he’s sort of left all by his lonesome, but also happy that he may, or may not, have a future hangin’ around this tall, New Yorker, with an Irish-accent.

I know I’m getting into this a bit more than I maybe should, but there was just a feeling I got with this movie that I haven’t gotten with a thriller in quite some time. Okay, that’s actually a lie, because a little bit of time ago, when I saw the Drop, I felt sort of the same way: A crime-thriller that takes its time to build momentum, as well as character-development. While those movies seem sort of neck-and-neck in my eyes, they’re both clear-as-day examples of what can happen when you take a simple story revolving around thugs, doing thuggish-like things, and make it as detailed as humanly possible, without ever overly-boring the audience, nor giving them enough to where they can expect everything to happen as clearly as they may have predicted it as being straight from seeing the advertisements for it.

So, once again I say this: Scott Frank, continue to make movies. You’ll make me a very happy man and most of all, a very happy movie-goer.

Consensus: With extra-attention paid to the look, feel, and characters that inhabit its slightly unnerving story, A Walk Among the Tombstones is, yet again, another winner for Liam Neeson and his seemingly unfazed streak right now, except a lot smarter and wiser this time around.

8 / 10 = Matinee!! 

"Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see."

“Great. Gotta fuck more shit up today, I see.”

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)

Talking to a silent dude who wears a poncho is definitely one way for sure.

During the year of 1882 in Arizona, a loser sheep farmer by the name of Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) practically loses it all; his pride, his girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), his courage, and even his own self-respect. Basically, Albert has no reason to live and even though he doesn’t want to off himself, he still knows that life in the West is dumb, which is why he decides to move away to San Francisco in hopes of changing his life for good. However, things turn around for Albert when a new lady comes into town named Anna (Charlize Theron). Not only is she smokin’ hot, but she seems to take a bit of an interest in him and makes him a deal: She’ll help him gain enough of his courage back so that he can win his ex back and eventually live happily live ever after. Albert thinks this is a great idea, except for the problem that he isn’t able to shoot a gun – which is practically a big “no no” in a place like the West, where just about everything and anything could kill you, at any time. To make matters worse, Anna also has a bit of a secret past that includes known-killer Clinch (Liam Neeson) and he’s not happy about her not being with him, and off with some wimp like Albert.

Though I’ve never been a huge fan of Family Guy, that sure as heck didn’t stop me from enjoying Ted. Sure, Seth MacFarlane loves his sophomoric jokes and and gags, but that’s sort of the point to his humor and for the most part, it’s done him quite well. And since Ted was such a success, it’s no surprise to see that he would eventually take all of that studio-money and make something that he clearly wants to do, from his heart and with himself thrown right into the middle.

Oh, I get it. He's a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

Oh, I get it. He’s a sheepish guy, in the middle of a flock of sheep! Clever! I think..

I’m coming very close to calling this something of a “passion project”, which it may very well have been, but from the results of it, too much passion may have went on way too long and for too much.

That’s not to say it doesn’t seem like there isn’t much effort on MacFarlane’s part, because there totally is, however, it does seem like that a little of his humor can only go on for so long, until it all becomes repetitive and over-used. Maybe, just maybe I could have gone a whole two-hours without hearing jokes made about someone’s fancy-looking mustache – better yet, maybe, just maybe I could have gone the whole movie without a handful of jokes revolving around sheep’s penises. But with Seth MacFarlane that’s what you have to expect, which makes me wonder why it just did not work here at all.

Okay, that’s a lie, there are times when this movie can be pretty funny, but it’s not because of MacFarlane himself. Mostly, the laughs come from the fact that the ensemble he’s put together is clearly working their assess off to make any sort of joke hit. Because, even if they do fall flat, at least there’s still something to be interested by; like, for instance, why wouldn’t you make a joke or two about Liam Neeson’s terrible Southern-accent? Better yet, why wouldn’t you ever crack a joke about the fact that all of the townspeople look like your usual, ragged-type to be seen in these types of Southerns, yet, everybody else in the movie looks like they just walked off the set of a Loreal commercial?

For some reason, we never get those kinds of jokes, and instead, we are “treated” to ones about smiling in old-timey photographs, 19th century racism, hookers, virgins, pooping, and bar-brawls. Maybe that sounds like a good time to you, because it totally does to me, but somehow, Seth MacFarlane found a way to suck all of the air out of it and give us a piece that’s pretty boring, even when it is trying to be funny. Which, believe it or not, is about 75% of the time; the rest of the 25% is dedicated to action, drama, romance and awkward situations without barely a lick of comedy. And do trust me, I don’t have much of a problem with a comedy trying to be a tad serious and throw some heart into the story for good measure, just to even things out, but it was never interesting here, nor did it really do much for the characters themselves. It just seemed thrown onto us and almost like Seth MacFarlane needed a new editor-in-charge. Much like the feeling I can sometimes get with Judd Apatow’s pieces.

Which brings me to the man himself: Seth MacFarlane. Of course we all know, recognize, and, for some, love MacFarlane from his various voice-roles and maybe even his culturally-divided Academy Awards hosting-job, but here’s the first time in which we really get to see all of Seth, in his full-on, human-made form. None of that animated, voice-over crap; it’s just him, his face, and his ability to actually act and emote for the camera.

And, as much as it pains me to say, it makes total sense why he’s stayed behind the camera for so long in the first place.

I get why he's here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

I get why he’s here, but Sarah Silverman? Come on, honey! You must have had something better to do!

That’s not to say that MacFarlane is really bad with the material really, it’s just that it’s obvious his face wasn’t really made for film. He’s sort of a bland screen-presence on screen that tells his own jokes, yells, hollers, acts goofy, puts on an “OMG” face numerous time, and occasionally have to act where he has to put on his “serious face” and whatnot. Sometimes, it works, and some other times, it doesn’t really do much of all. It just seems like him, hogging up the screen and taking away from some of the better, way more-talented members of the cast. Not to get on MacFarlane’s case or anything, but I don’t really see the guy taking over the acting world anytime soon. For now, I’d say to just stay behind the camera, keep on doing the voice-work and every once and awhile, show your face to let everyone know that you’re alive and you are in fact still working.

Anyway though, the rest of the cast fairs a lot better, if only because, like I mentioned before, they are a lot more skilled with material in general and they can usually make the most out of anything as silly as this. Charlize Theron gets the best acting out of MacFarlane because it seems like they share a natural-chemistry that makes it more than just being about her hot, rockin’ bod, even while she’s on the prime of reaching 40; Neil Patrick Harris gets the most laughs out of the whole cast as the mustached-man that Albert’s ex is now dating and shows us why if you give NPH something worthwhile to do, he’ll run with it and never look back; and Liam Neeson has a goofy accent but doesn’t get much funny stuff to do (even though we know he’s clearly capable of doing comedy). Also to mention, there are a few cameos here and there that are rather hit-or-miss. There’s one actually that’s quite spell-blindingly clever, yet, is totally ruined just by the sheer awkwardness of it all. Want to say what it is, but you may just have to wait and see.

Then again, maybe you don’t have to. Because honestly, you’re not missing much to begin with anyway.

Consensus: It isn’t that Seth MacFarlane isn’t trying with A Million Ways to Die in the West, it’s more that he’s just trying too much and doesn’t really know what’s considered “well-done crude humor”, against, “annoying, repetitive crude humor”. You know, if there is such a thing.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

Okay, that 'stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-late faux hawk MacFarlane's got going on.

Okay, that ‘stache is a bit ridiculous, but it totally beats the 10-years-too-late faux hawk MacFarlane’s got going on.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Non-Stop (2014)

If only they gave Liam Neeson a line like this, then we would have had a masterpiece on our hands, folks.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a burned-out Air Marshall who has about had it with whatever it is that he does. He drinks, he smokes, he’s not a pleasant guy to be around and always stares at a picture of his daughter. So yeah, you kind of get the idea that the dude’s not fully on-point, but he’s at least smart and determined enough to know that when there is danger in his path, he will not stop until it is gone. That’s why when he gets a series of odd text-messages from a number he doesn’t recognize, inside of his secure-network no less, Bill can’t help but feel like he has to get to the bottom of this. To make matters worse, the texts from this unknown person, are telling him to transfer a large amount of money, to a certain account number that, when checked-on, just so happens to be Bill’s. Something is definitely going awry aboard this plane and Bill is going to find out what exactly is causing it, although his tactics aren’t always supported by those around him.

Another year, which also means, another Liam Neeson-starer. To be honest though, I don’t mean to say that in a disappointed-tone, because I actually like Liam Neeson and even the movies he’s been choosing to do. Sure, most of the movies rely on him being a tall, angry bad-ass that, at one point, eventually picks up a gun and shoots it, but overall, his movies aren’t always so bad to watch to where I feel like I’ve seen the same formula done over and over again, until it’s practically rinse, recycled and repeat.

That’s why, somehow, I was actually looking forward to Non-Stop, because not only does it feature Liam Neeson in, yet again, a starring-role where he plays a tall, angry bad-ass that picks up a gun at some point, but also doesn’t seem like your traditional-thriller. Sure, it’s got the whole “who is the secret person texting me these bad things”-angle going for it, but the way in which the story gets twisted, turned and skewered around to make it look like Liam Neeson is the baddie after all this time, really intrigued me. Even then though, I wasn’t too sure who was going to be the baddie by the end of this, which, just by judging a trailer from the year 2014, means a whole heck of a lot.

"Are you the guy with his phone up to his ear? Oh wait, dumb question! Never mind!"

“Can you hear me now? ‘Kay, cool.”

But like I was saying, what was key to this movie’s suspense and excitement was that we have absolutely no clue whatsoever who the baddie is, why that person is doing it and how exactly are we going to find out. It’s all what keeps us in the dark just enough to ensure us that the long-winding, suspenseful-wait for the big reveal at the end, will be ultimately rewarding and worth it. And even if it totally isn’t, at least we were thrown on a wild ride, right?

And honestly, I think that’s all this movie seemed to be going for. Jaume Collet-Serra definitely knows how to wrack-up tension here, but to do so in the right way that doesn’t feel manipulative. Maybe there were a bit too many red herrings thrown in our direction for good measure, but it all felt necessary after awhile, if only because it made the story all the more twisty and surprising. A thriller like this doesn’t have to be a game-changer, all it has to do is keep us guessing, again and again, even if the story itself does continue to get even more and more implausible; which, sadly to say, actually does happen here.

Yes, Jaume Collet-Serra does begin to lose it quite a bit by the end when all hell truly begins to break loose and the person(s) we get revealed as the baddies, not only have a crummy reason but sort of seemed obvious all along. Actually, that’s a lie. No it didn’t, but the movie made it seem so, just by the sheer-fact that the reasoning why wasn’t quite well-written or even all that believable. Not even a lot of the stuff that Bill is somehow able to do in such a small time-frame mostly doesn’t even seem all that logical, but when you have a thriller done in a tense, assured way like this, you can’t help but forget about all of the plot’s shortcomings and enjoy the ride for as long as you can.

Also, another quick note to make a point of is how some may feel a bit uncomfortable seeing a movie that has to do with a jacked-airplane, post-9/11 America. There are a few occasions where the movie indirectly makes a note of that event occurring and it actually made me feel a bit better. Not just because it showed that the creators at least took into consideration that that event would be exactly the first thing to come to these people’s minds, but that they aren’t too afraid to say it either. There’s also a couple of snarky-comments made towards the Muslim in the story who, just by his appearance, is already looked at in a suspicious-manner by just about everyone around him – and even moreso once things start getting racy up in the air. But like I said, it’s strange that a movie made in the 21st Century can be about an airplane being taken over by terrorists, and not just make reference to 9/11, but also how it still affects our psyche today, even just when it comes to taking a step on an actual aircraft. Maybe a bit too deep for a movie so thin, but hey, whatever.

Anyway, back to the movie on hand here.

Like I alluded to before, the reason why most of these movies do work is because of Liam Neeson’s presence, one that’s always been acknowledged, yet, never fully utilized in a role that had him command our attention, at every single second. Nowadays though, that seems to be all that Neeson gets, and we’re better as a society for it, because he absolutely runs wild with his role as Bill Marks. You already get the sense, early on, that Bill Marks is a pretty disturbed-dude, but Neeson actually takes that one step further and shows you how exactly that can affect not only his thought-process, but the whole situation he, as well as everybody else is in, in general. You want to feel bad for him since nobody seems to fully believe all that he’s saying and passing as “truth”, nor do you really get on his side either, since there’s always a shred of doubt in your mind as to what is really going on with this guy. Still though, in every step of the way, Neeson makes Bill Marks a compelling-figure that deserves to be picked-apart, if only because he’s played by somebody as commandeering and interesting as Neeson. Maybe one of these days, Neeson will shake the movie-world up again and show us that he’s got room on his shelf for an Oscar, but until then, I guess we have plenty of shots of him just holding-up guns and looking like a big, bad mofo.

Redheads are always deceiving.

Redheads are always so deceiving.

Can’t say that there’s much wrong with that though, as he’s definitely the right guy for the job.

But of course, Neeson isn’t the only one working his butt off here, as there’s plenty others in this capable-cast worth taking note of. Julianne Moore is charming as the passenger who takes a seat right next to Bill and cozies on up with him pretty quickly; Corey Stoll plays a NYPD cop and reminds me why I miss his ass so much on House of Cards; Scoot McNairy plays a passenger who tells a little white lie about where he’s actually going, only to find out that he’s made the biggest mistake of his life by doing so; Nate Parker plays a computer programmer and shows us that not all black people who are good with electronics have to look like Jaleel White; Omar Metwally plays the Muslim I made a mention of earlier and also happens to be a doctor; and even Lupita Nyong’o shows up here, in what seems to be a role she took, way before she even had a clue that 12 Years a Slave was going to make her a huge name. There’s plenty of more recognizable and notable faces that get paid attention quite an awful lot here, but what makes them all so worthy of our attention is that each and every one of them have enough positive-qualities to where you can believe their innocence, but just enough shadiness as well, to where if they were to turn that other cheek and be the ultimate baddie, then you wouldn’t be all that surprised either.

Basically, it’s a free-for-all where nobody is who they say they are, all up until they are finally found-out and taught their lessons. Sort of like my high school relationships.

Consensus: Kind of dumb, yet, also very tense, exciting and fun that allows Non-Stop to be another winner for Liam Neeson and his love of releasing a winter movie, just about each and every year. Good for him, but even better for us since we get to watch these movies and be entertained by them!

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Hate it when they all know the answer."

“Hate it when they all know the answer.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

3 Days to Kill (2014)

We all know that when daddy says he’s going on a “business trip”, that he’s really just going off to some foreign country and kill terrorists.

CIA agent Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is good at his job and knows how to get it done, however, that all begins to change once he receives news that he is terminally-ill. Faced with about four-to-five months left to live, Ethan decides that maybe it’s time for him to start working on the job in his life that he never was good at it: Being the husband to his wife (Connie Nielsen), and especially being the father to his daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). Though they initially resent him, due to all of those years where he was constantly on the road in “sales meetings”, eventually, Ethan finds a way to connect with the two women in his life that mean the most to him, and will hopefully be there for him when he eventually has to bite the dust. However though, another woman steps into his life in the form of CIA sex-bomb, Vivi Delay (Amber Heard). Vivi wants one thing and one thing only: For him to complete his final mission and get rid of some terrorist named “the Wolf”. If he can do this, she’ll give him one thing in return, a life-saving, experimental drug that only she knows about and is more than willing to give Ethan.

In all honesty, I don’t understand this whole “tired guy gets back in the field of action and violence” sub-genre that’s been so popular for the past couple of years since Taken attacked our movie-screens, and practically took (pun intended), us all by surprise. Not only did it show us that an aging, nearly-forgotten actor like Liam Neeson could still pull in plenty of people to see his movie, but all he had to do was get a couple of guns, pull-off a couple of sweet, ass-kicking moves and talk on the phone in a menacing, yet very determined whisper. That’s it, and now look at him! The guy’s on top-of-the-movie-world and finally getting some of the respect he so rightfully seems to deserve. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind that these older stars are getting their chances to finally shine the spotlight, but it just seems weird that movie-going audiences actually pay a lot of money, go out and want to see them.

She could kill me whenever she wanted.

I’d let her kill me whenever she’d want to.

But of course though, in Hollywood, once one person finds their stride and a whole load of success, and eventually, others follow suite.

Such is the case with 3 Days to Kill, where instead of getting Qui-Gon Jinn to whoop some fine-ass, it’s that guy who dances with wolves. Or the guy who made Waterworld. Either way you put it, it’s Kevin Costner in the lead-role, and he’s definitely worth mentioning first, because he’s probably the best thing this movie has going for it. For quite some time, I’ve stayed firmly on the side of Team Costner, and forever, I’ve been telling everybody, “Just you wait. Kev’s going to be back in action, and better than ever.” Not only am I very happy that I won a few bets in the meantime, but I’m incredibly ecstatic to see that comeback come to life because the dude’s been putting-out exceptional work for years and years, it’s just that nobody seems to really be paying attention to him, his movies or just anything he touches. At least, not like they used too, anyway.

However, now, Costner’s in full comeback-mode and it’s time to live it up and party like it’s 1989!

All jokes aside though, Costner is definitely the main reason to see this movie, because while it is fairly obvious that this is clearly paycheck gig, and nothing more, Costner at least tries, by not trying at all. Here, in his role as Ethan Renner, Costner’s really down-playing it and almost looks like he’s about to fall asleep every second the camera puts it focus on him. In some cases, I would usually be quite pissed-off at Costner for putting in such a lack-of-effort on his part, but somehow, I wasn’t pissed because it ended-up working for this character he was playing. Ethan Renner is the type of worn-down, beat-up and exhausted kind of seasoned-pro we get to see in these types of movies, but Costner does it with such charm and ease, that it almost seems like he isn’t even trying. Which, need I remind you, is a good thing, people! It’s K-Cost for Christ’s sakes!

Like I mentioned before though, it’s a shame that Costner seems to be the only thing really working for this movie, because everything else is sort of just here and ready for to be seen on the surface, but it doesn’t really go any deeper than that. In a better movie, handled by more capable-hands (more on that in seconds), the relationship that Costner holds with his daughter, played by Steinfeld, would have been rich with human-emotion and complexities. But somehow, with McG working it, it’s just passably entertaining and seems like an after-thought in the mind of his own. Instead, McG would much rather focus in on the non-stop barrage of numerous scenes of PG-13 action, terror and violence, which isn’t always bad, but feels manipulative after awhile, considering how many times people get shot here and yet, NO FREAKIN’ BLOOD IS SHOWN!!

Wake up in the mornin', feelin' like Kev Cost.

Wake up in the mornin’, feelin’ like Kev Cost.

I get it, you want to sell tickets and try to make some cold, hard cash in the meantime, but McG tries really hard to cover up the more graphic, naughty material presented here. For instance, there’s a scene inside of strip-club where we see a topless dancer, clearly being half-naked and grinding up and down on a pole, yet, we hardly see any boobs, due to the fact that they are being covered-up by an obvious, gray cloud of CGI smoke. And to make matters worse, another half-naked topless dancer shows up on the stage, only to start making out with the other. What the hell!?!??! How the heck doesn’t something like this not get an R-rating, and better yet, why couldn’t it? If McG decided to push the limits just a bit, we would have a way better, more exciting thriller on our hands here; but rather, we have a jumbled-up, slightly incoherent action-flick that, of all people, McG got a chance to work with.

Why him, Hollywood?!?! Seriously, why this dude?!?!?

Of course, I can’t quite get on this movie’s case too much, because I truly didn’t hate it, it’s just a mess. However, the moments that did work for me, were more than enough to make up for whatever the hell McG was trying to do. The supporting cast is really the main reason why this movie works as well as it does, but if I had to name names, I’d probably have to mention Hailee Steinfeld as she really does give it her all as Ethan’s estranged daughter, giving the role all of the smart-arsed teen-sass we’ve come to expect from these types of roles to be written. Sure, it’s a stock-character we’ve seen done before, but her many scenes with Costner actually can be sweet to watch, and are sure than enough to take your mind off of whatever the heck was going on with Amber Heard’s character, along with her whole CIA-mission subplot this movie tried cramming down our throats. Not only did it not really matter to us who was doing what, for what reason, and why, but Amber Heard, despite how foxy she is, can’t help but feel random and misplaced in a movie that doesn’t know what to do with her, other than give her tight outfits to bust-out of and change wigs. That’s it. Amber Heard, in a nutshell. Good for you, Johnny Boy!

Consensus: In case you couldn’t tell by now, McG is not a very good director, and is the main reason why 3 Days to Kill is such a mess, yet, an occasionally entertaining one with two solid performances from both Haliee Steinfeld and a charming Kevin Costner, who is more than likely going to have bigger and better things to come his way throughout the year. So think of this as something of an appetizer.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"But dad! You said that if you built it, they would come!?!??!"

“But dad! You said that if you built it, they would come!?!??!”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

No Kraken? Booo!

A decade after kicking some mighty and fine Kraken-ass, Perseus (Sam Worthington) settles down into a life that’s relaxing, full of joy and happiness, as he teaches his son the ways of the world. Everything’s going fine too, until he finds out that his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), needs to be saved from his long-lost, rogue brother (Édgar Ramírez) and asshole-uncle Hades (Ralph Fiennes). As strong and powerful as Perseus might be, he can’t do it alone so he recruits Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) to join him as they fight through thick and thin, limb-from-limb, and even battle a Minotaur. Aw yeah! Maybe not as awesome as the Kraken, but aw yeah!

Even though I didn’t mind it, I can get why a lot of people hated the hell out of Clash of the Titans. It was dumb, a bit long and had CGI done in a way that makes me wonder if we’re still using MACs or not. However, I still can’t understand why the hell we needed a sequel to it, let alone, one that starred the same lead, nor featured the Kraken; because let’s face it: The only reason people waited around in the first movie, was just to see how awesomely cool and epic the appearance of the Kraken would be. Which it was, but does all of five minutes, make an-hour-and-a-half seem worth it?

I can’t quite come to answer that question because, as I said, I didn’t mind the first one but I can totally see and understand the disdain of hearing the news of a sequel. However, you have to think about Hollywood here for a second and realize that not only did the first one make a shit-ton of millions and millions of dollars in the States, but overseas, it made a ton more. So, therefore, you have to realize that of course Hollywood is going to do a sequel for the sake that the first made a bunch of movie, whereas also hoping that the people who ventured out to see the first one, however many times it might have been, will see the second one and probably be just as pleased. That’s exactly who this flick is made for, and that’s the only way this flick could really work.

"No please! Don't squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or so sequels!

“No please! Don’t squish me too hard! Jimmy C. still needs me for the next five or six sequels!

That’s why I sort of liked this one a bit more, which isn’t saying too much but is better than what I can say for a movie that’s still on my list for “Most Unnecessary Sequels of the Past Decade”. Even though I didn’t hate Louis Leterrier’s approach to the first movie, producers felt like it was time to re-vamp the series and give it a darker look, feel, touch and story, so therefore, they brought in Jonathan Liebesman to shake things up a bit and see where he could go with this. Liebesman is a welcome addition to this series, mostly because he knows exactly how to get this story off-and-running, right from the beginning.

As soon as we get introduced to what Perseus has been doing for the past couple of years, action just erupts out of nowhere, and we begin to see the old-school Perseus come back in full-form by tangling with a two-headed beast (three, if you count the mouth they have on it’s tail). Right after this fun beginning, the movie jumps right into the story and continues to pile and pile on the exposition, as if all the stories and legends we remembered from Greek History 130 and Herc’s Adventure, was all bullshit.

As mean-spirited as that may sound, the movie still doesn’t show much improvement over the first one in terms of it’s story and script. Of course, I wasn’t expecting a life-opening screenplay about what it means to be a father in the day and ages of Gods and evil forces running amok, but at the same time, at least give me something to hold onto when the action isn’t slamming me in the face. I can only handle so much subplots, stories about Gods, what they can do, and all sorts of philosophical speeches about the after-life that’s supposed to have a deeper-meaning than just, “I don’t want to die”.

That’s where the action comes in and take over what was already a pretty dialogue-heavy movie. Not much better, but slightly in the way that everything looks more polished, feels more thought-out and definitely has more fun with itself, even if it’s a tad too serious for it’s own good. I liked the first one for knowing that it was dumb, loud, and stupid, as if you were watching a B-movie on cable when you and your buddies were high, drunk, bored, or a mixture of all three. This one, however, drives itself down the darker, windier-road that’s all about showing emotions and sad things that not only bring you down, but try and make you feel like there’s more at-stake here when two people are going toe-to-toe in a scrap. It doesn’t work, and it feels like the movie’s trying a bit too hard. All that being said, the movie still has enough fun with itself to the point of where the dark-approach isn’t numbing or bothersome, it’s just more noticeable than it should be.

Nary a scratch and yet: she's in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she's doing half of the killing.

Nary a scratch and yet she’s in the middle of an intense, bloody battle where she’s doing half of the killing. Inspiration to women all over the globe.

The only real improvement in this flick that’s actually noticeable is that Sam Worthington does feel a bit more “in-his-mode” than he did with the last one. Here, he seems to actually enunciating the horrendous-dialogue he’s been given and seems to really throw himself into the action-sequences that call for more than just heavy panting and staring. Even though there seems to be little to no personality with his take on Perseus, at least Worthington shows us that he wants to be here because maybe all of those wads of cash that he was getting from four years ago, are finally running out and he needs whatever he can take.

Yup, that movie about those blue aliens was released four years back. Funny how time flies.

Returning with Worthington from the first movie, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson seem to be having a bit more of fun as Hades and Zeus respectively, even if they too, do feel like they are slumming themselves down to really fit in with the pure-dumbness of this movie. Can’t complain about that too much, since it is a dumb movie, but a little bit more time and effort would have been greatly appreciated. Hell, if this dude can give us that, why can’t you, Oscar-nominated actors?!?!?

Since everybody from the first movie practically died in it, or re-thought their movie careers, there are new faces and names to be seen and heard which are more welcoming than I expected. Rosamund Pike is a nice addition as the sexy, fiery lady-warrior that isn’t taking anybody’s crap, yet, doesn’t have a problem showing that she can still flaunt it like the boys as well; Toby Kebbell brings a bunch of wit and charm to his role as Agenor, Poseidon’s human son; and Bill Nighy shows his bearded-up face for a wee bit as Hephaestus and has fun, makes his wisecracks, and goes on his own way, probably collecting a hefty paycheck or something, and making us all wish that he would just come back and give us more fun and entertainment. Can never get enough of Bill Nighy, now can ya?

Consensus: To say that Wrath of the Titans is better than its predecessor is stating the obvious, but the problems with that first one still do lie within the cracks and creeks of the script here, and are only ignored when there’s loud, hectic stuff happening on-screen, which makes it at least entertaining to sit-through, even if you sort of wish somebody would crack a smile or two.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Two dudes who played Germans during the Holocaust unite!!

Two dudes who played Germans during that Holocaust movie unite!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Why fix what was clearly not broken?

Born of a god but raised as a man, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is thrown into the real-world where Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his evil ways have seem to take over the rest of the world. To end this all of this pain and suffering throughout the land, Perseus and fellow warriors go on a dangerous mission, where they run into many obstacles along the way. However, seeing that Perseus is indeed Zeus’ (Liam Neeson) son, many of the obstacles can be powered through, except for one. And yes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Yes, yes, yes! We all know that this movie sucked when it first came out, with post-production 3D and all, but just think about this movie in a different way, if only for a second: Maybe it’s somewhat okay? Alright, maybe that was asking too much but please, do bear with me here as I show you why exactly this flick may not be as bad as people say it is, and say if it is bad, why it is bad in a so-bad-it’s-good-way.

Have I lose anybody yet? Okay, if I have, it’s my fault and my fault alone. But I’m not done here just yet.

The thing about this movie that pissed so many off is the fact that it doesn’t really adhere all that much to the 1981 original. Sure, the story-line and plot-happenings are somewhat the same, but overall, it’s a bit of a different take, with a different way of telling it and a whole new tone that goes in well with what I said before. Then again, the tone here isn’t really too serious that it’s painful to watch, it’s almost so serious, that you can’t help but laugh every five seconds when somebody new decides to throw exposition-upon-exposition down our throats. Even the male-posturing that was always so present within these Greek myths, all gets over-played and used in ways that makes you wonder if the movie was trying to be funny, serious, or nothing at all. More or less, the movie rolls with the last option, but I’m fine with that, as long as it can keep me entertained.

"May we please get your autograph, guy from Avatar?"

“May we please get your autograph, guy from Avatar?”

And entertained is what this movie kept me throughout the whole hour-and-a-half. Basically, the whole movie is built upon three battle-sequences that are supposed to take up the whole run-time and keep us going for more – which seems really stupid considering that this is a movie about titans, having them clash, and eventually fight that lovable sea monster we all know of and love. But somehow, it actually works because the movie injects some fun nature into them. This is most surprising to me, mainly because I know the type of crap that director Louis Leterrier goes for when it comes to his movies, and injecting a quick, shaky-cam is one of them, but it somehow kept this movie moving at a quick-enough pace that I didn’t mind all of the stupidity. And do trust me, there is plenty of stupidity to be had here.

Even though it seems as if three writers were apart of this movie, it doesn’t seem like any of them were able to capture any sort of emotion, feeling or idea to this flick that would make it the least bit more interesting. Instead, everybody yells, screams, commands others to do something, goes “argghh”, and talks about the Gods up above and how dick-ish they are for releasing all of this agony on the people they are supposed to love, care for and watch over. Then again, the movie never really makes up it’s mind of what type of stance it wants to take concerning the Gods. At times, it seems like the movie is saying that to not pray to the Gods and worship them is a sign of being disrespectful and arrogant, but at other times, it tries to say that the Gods are wrong for all of the command they issue out onto these citizens, and even go so far as to show Zeus as being non-other than a high-class, serial rapist. I mean, think about that for a second: Perseus is Zeus son because Zeus decided to bed his mommy in the middle of the night, only to have her realize that the baby wasn’t her actual hubby’s babies, and instead, have it be Zeus’, the God of all things God-like.

Kind of creepy, eh?

You bet your damn ass it is!

However though, the movie isn’t too concerned with all that nonsensical logic and understanding – it’s about big, loud, and angry things being huge and monstrous, so that we all just go “oooh” and “aahhh” the whole way through. It works, but that doesn’t really matter to me since the movie has fun with it’s B-feel, and never let me forget about it. Maybe I was in a good mood; maybe I was feeling generous; and yeah, maybe I was being a nice guy (for a change), but I honestly cannot say that this movie is near-torture to watch and sit-through. Hell, if I caught it on television anytime soon (which with HBO, I most likely will), I’ll probably not mind plopping my rear down on the couch, grabbing a couple of snackaroo’s, getting myself a soda, find the remote and give it a nice, little watch. The worse it could do is probably ruin my day, and that’s all up to me, isn’t it?

I can tell that I’m losing all sorts of credibility here, but that’s what a movie-critic’s life and career is all about. Gotta start somewhere, right?

Since he's Zeus, of course he has to look like Liberace!

Since he’s Zeus, of course he has to look like Liberace!

As you could probably suspect, if the story, the script, and the themes of this movie blow, then, most likely, the characters do as well. However, they aren’t so damn bad, to the point of where watching them will also follow-through with the action of finding hot candle-wax and throwing it in your eyes, in hopes to release the memory of what you have just witnessed on-screen. Sam Worthington leads the pack as Perseus and has that feel and look of the type of Demigod you can believe in to not only just do the right thing, but to kick some fine-ass while doing so. That aspect of Perseus, Worthington does well with, but everything else is just Dullsville right from then and there. Then again, knowing Sam Worthington and what the cat’s been up to in recent-memory, you can’t expect too much from this dude. All you have to know is that he’s going to do some bad-ass things, use the same face for every scene, and somehow, change his accent with the reading of every line. There’s Sam Worthington for ya right there, in a nutshell!

The rest of the cast is only here for show, and all are probably just as interesting, if not less than Worthington and his Perseus. Liam Neeson seems like he’s sleep-walking through his role as Zeus, the type of role that seemed like it would fit Neeson like a glove by now; Ralph Fiennes tries too hard to seem vicious and evil as Hades, even though he just sounds like an old nut-ball; and Mads Mikkelsen doesn’t deserve to be here, and doesn’t seem like he wants to be either. He’s just there for that pay-check, in hopes that he’ll end up breaking the barriers down into the States someday. I think that wish has been fulfilled.

Consensus: Though it is remorselessly stupid and over-the-top, Clash of the Titans can actually be considered as entertaining and enjoyable if you take it as the B-movie it obviously sets its sights on being, and just leaving it at that.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, stop saying "aaaah".

Okay, quit saying “aaaah”.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The LEGO Movie (2014)

Remember those small, yellow things you used to “accidentally” stick up your nose as a kid? Yeah, they have lives you know.

Normal, everyday Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt) lives in a world that is controlled, run-by and practically dominated by the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). In this plastic world, everyone is to wake up, follow their day throughout a precise set of instructions and guide-lines, always smile, swallow overpriced coffee, go to work, be happy about it, get that paycheck, sing terribly-catchy, yet excruciating pop-songs like “Everything is Awesome” and go home to watch mind-numbing sitcoms like “Where Are My Pants?“. It’s so painfully dull and monotonous, but nobody cares, nor does anybody fret, because quite frankly, nobody knows any better; not even poor Emmet, who is just like everybody else. But things begin to change for Emmet once he stumbles upon an an ancient artifact known as the Piece of Resistance. He knows nothing about it, but he’s soon picked-up by the rebellious ass-kicker known as Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), and is told that the fate of humanity lies in his hands, and his hands only. In better words: He IS the “chosen one”, and it’s up to him to stop Lord Business’ maniacal ways.

The plot is the same old, cookie-cutter stuff that we’ve seen done in a million other movies (*cough cough* Star Wars), but that doesn’t matter because it’s all used so that the directors can get all sorts of these LEGO-pieces together and see what sort of magic they can make-up next. Needless to say, for a kid who has played with LEGO‘s all throughout his childhood, it was an honor to see the likes of 2002-era Shaquille O’Neal, rub shoulders with none other than Batman himself. And no, I do not mean that ACTUAL Shaquille O’Neal and Bruce Wayne got next to one another, showed their faces to the camera, and rubbed shoulders; I mean that their LEGO figures did.

Basically, he's like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

Basically, he’s like the LEGO version of Corporate America.

And that’s where all of the fun lies with this movie, whether you like it or not.

Chances are though, going into this, no matter how idiotic you may think the idea of LEGO movie being, you’re going to be laughing, be having a great time and totally surprised by what this movie does; not just with its animation, which is quite stunning to look at pick-apart, wondering just how they were able to film it all, but with its script, that displays hilarious wit at a non-stop pace. Most of the jokes here, are made solely for the adults that will most likely get roped into seeing this, and there is no problem with that whatsoever, because there’s a lot of humor here that had me howling like a banshee in my seat. I mean hell, there’s even a joke about how they refer to one character as “Michelangelo, the artist”, and another as “Michelangelo, the Ninja Turtle.” Now, if that doesn’t make you at least crack a smile or two, then I have no freakin’ clue what will!

But there’s definitely plenty out there for the kiddies as well, which doesn’t mean that there’s just a whole bunch of slap-sticky, or fart jokes to make them giggle – there’s a whole bunch of action, fun and excitement that gets thrown into this, all because you can tell that both Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly care about the audience that this movie is being made for. Sure, you could argue that a LEGO movie actually does exist, solely to sell more toys and merchandise, and I wouldn’t disagree with you. However, the movie isn’t just an-hour-and-a-half ploy trying to grab your arm, snatch your wallet and long-dart you to the nearest Toys R Us or Wal Mart; it’s actually an animated-flick that’s pretty damn hilarious, fun and always able to gain your attention, no matter how many times you may have to remind yourself that you are in fact watching LEGO‘s, up on the big screen.

It’s a strange feeling that even I had a problem getting through on occasion, but I knew one thing: I was just happy knowing they weren’t actually MY LEGO‘s. After all of the abuse and torture I put those poor things through, lord only knows that if they ever became animated and alive, they’d come after me, and with a vengeance, too! Same goes for my sister’s Barbie Dolls!

Although, that may be a different story entirely….

Anyway, moving on!

Though it is hard to go on and on without talking about the voice-cast, I do have to give all of them credit because they do some energetic, spunky work here that definitely makes you see their wild and goofy figures brought to life. Chris Pratt is growing up more and more each day into the perfect “everyday man”, even if in this instance, it just so happens to be a LEGO; Elizabeth Banks sounds as sexy and dangerous as she should as Wyldstyle, almost too sexy and dangerous for a kids movie where young boys will most likely be present in viewing; Will Arnett is hilarious as Batman, by basically just being Gob Bluth, disguised as Bruce Wayne; it’s neat to see someone like Morgan Freeman lending his voice to an animated-movie as goofy as this, but you know, the guy gives it his all and really seems to be enjoying the hell out of himself; the same being said for Morgan Freeman, can practically be said about Liam Neeson who seems like he was definitely a bit tipsy during the voice-over recordings, but hey, it made it enjoyable to listen to; and if there was one weak-link to be found in this voice-cast, it’s probably Will Ferrell, who is definitely as harsh he should be with a name like “Lord Business”, but the act gets stale after awhile and you can sort of tell that Will Ferrell himself is enjoying this a bit too much. Maybe somebody like Nic Cage would have done this guy total justice. Actually, not “somebody”, definitely Nic Cage.

Look! That's the joke I'm talking about! And there's even a ghost in the background! Sweet, right?

Look! That’s the joke I’m talking about! And there’s even a ghost in the background! Pretty sweet, right?

But being that this is an animated movie, which is more often than not, being marketed towards the whole family, there obviously has to be a message learnt here, which there is. However, that may also be where my main problem came from – the way in which it kept on hitting me over, and over head with what message it was trying to get across. Granted, Miller and Lord take a very bold-step in the last-act with a twist that I honestly can’t say I saw coming (one which I won’t spoil here), but it’s one that didn’t feel necessary. Reason being is that whatever this movie was trying to tell us about “expressing ourselves no matter how strange or different we may be from the rest of the crowd around us”, all felt like something we understood right after Wyldstyle steps in and decides to shake things up with this story. Clearly this movie wanted to be more than just your typical, fun-for-the-whole-family animated-fare, but rather than being a simple, ode-to-love flick like the Croods, it ends up going for more of a Lorax-feel, that got a bit too preachy and a bit too strained with what it was trying to say. Doesn’t mean the fun didn’t stop, but it definitely did bother me a whole lot and took me away from most of the action that was happening on screen, most of which happened and was said so fast, I couldn’t make-out half of what was going on.

But you know what? That’s the fun of it, everybody! So definitely do make sure to go out and see this! Just make sure you have at least one cup of coffee to assure yourself that you’ll be able to catch almost anything and everything that Lord and Miller are throwing at you. Because do trust me: They’ll give you everything. Even the kitchen-sink.

Consensus: Almost anything and everything that Phil Lord and Chris Miller have at their disposal, they’ll launch at you, and then some with the LEGO Movie, but it’s always fun, exciting, hilarious, appropriate for all ages, and most importantly, as quick-as-a-Jack-Rabbit. So make sure to keep up and not get too distracted by too much butter being on your popcorn!

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw "Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another", but also with "The Statue of Liberty right next to them"?!?! Like, super rad!!

Even cooler! I mean, how in how many lifetimes are you going to be able to say that you not only saw “Abe Lincoln and Superman together at the same time next to one another”, but also with “The Statue of Liberty right next to them”?!?! Like, super rad!!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

Waiting nine years for a sequel to Anchorman?!?! Kind of a big deal!!

After he and his fellow wife/news anchor Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) run into a rough patch that causes a separation between the two, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is left with nothing to gain, nor anything to lose. He’s practically hanging himself, just as an ambitious businessman (Dylan Baker) comes to him with a proposal: Get the old gang back together, and help him start up a 24/7 news-station. At first, the idea seems quite preposterous, but seeing as how Ron is out of a job and needs to gain some confidence back into his ego and his wonderful ‘stache, he decides to get out there, and ramble up Champ (David Koechner), Brian (Paul Rudd) and of course, sweet Brick (Steve Carell). Together, the four decide that they’re going to take the news world by storm, however, they have just one, big problemo: They’re on at 2-5 a.m. Yeah, not exactly the ideal position for these seasoned-pros, but they get on with it and realize that telling the news is exactly what they loved doing in the first place, even if not everything they discuss is in fact “news”.

As you all most likely saw and scratched your heads about, I did and still do to this day, love the hell out of Anchorman. It’s dumb, random, nonsensical and completely, utterly idiotic in terms of where it goes, why and how its plot is structured. However, that’s why I love it and laugh my ass off at it each and every time I catch it. Doesn’t matter where or when, all that matters is that when I see it, I laugh my heinie off and have as great of a time during that moment, then I did when I first witnessed it all of those years ago.

Yerp, it's the 80's alright.

Yerp, it’s the 80’s alright.

However though, as much as I looked forward to the idea of a sequel to my beloved comedy-classic, something didn’t sit too well with me after all of this time. First of all, it’s literally been nine years since the first flick came out, which means that this is a sequel happening nine years later. I’m sure that the original will stand the test of time and the memory of it will continue to transcend from decade-to-decade (I sound crazy, I know), but that just feels odd that it would take THAT long for a big-budget, mainstream sequel to come out, especially since everybody involved with the first movie, are even bigger stars than they were before (with the exception of Koechner, sorry Champ). So why the long wait, guys? Better yet, was it even worth it?

The answer to that last question is sort of, and the answer to the first is “I don’t know”. Why? Because I’m not in the business of Hollywood so I don’t know why it took so long to get this sequel off the grounds, but that’s another discussion for another day, another topic and quite frankly, a whole ‘nother blog out there.

Like I was saying though, most sequels to successful comedies fail at many things, the main one being that it tries to do exactly what the first one did, with all the same jokes, gags and insider pieces of info that got the fans so on-board in the first place, but that’s surprisingly not what happens here. Yeah, there are a couple of times when Ron utters his famous line “stay classy”, or familiar faces from the first one show up to let us know that they’re still getting a pay-cut from all this, but it’s never like “Hey, Whore Island? Ammiright!?!?” Instead, the whole movie just focuses on letting these guy do what they did best in the first movie, as well as subsequent offerings they’ve completed since then: Just be funny, have a ball and give us something to laugh at.

In that case, the movie’s pretty damn funny. Random stuff happens, is said and even alluded to, and you don’t know why it’s happening or where it even came from, but you expected that already, so you learn to just roll with the punches and see what else these guys can bring out of their funny-repertoire. Not all the punches hit the funny-bone as well as they did in the first, and there definitely are more than a few ad-libbed parts that don’t really go anywhere and felt like they could have been cut and thrown right into the blooper reel section of the DVD release, but taken on as a whole, it was a funny comedy that made me laugh.

Then again though, I’m running into constant problems with this because the first movie is my baby and, as much as it pains me to say, this movie just doesn’t meet those qualities. More than a couple of times, I found myself holding my gut as I was yucking it up, but never to the point of the first movie, nor did it feel like anything that happened here was ever going to be as quotable as, I don’t know, say “I’m in a glass case of emotions”, or even, “Cannonball!”. Nope, instead we get a bunch of ramblings that lead on to some pretty funny, wacky and wild stuff that we expect from everybody involved, yet, never feels like it’s hitting that sheer level of “odd-genius” that the first movie hit. Maybe I’m being unreasonable and maybe I’m being a bit harsh on this movie, but the first one will always have a close place to my heart and if something is going to connect itself to that story, and try and reinvigorate the same magic as that charmer did, then I’m going to be looking a bit harder and closer than ever before. Doesn’t mean I didn’t like the flick, it just doesn’t hold up to the standards of the first one.

But, once again, let’s not split hairs here, people: If you want a good time at the movies, to bust-out laughing and be surprised along the way, then see this flick. It’s nothing special like the first movie but for what it’s worth, it’s a fun time at the movies, guaranteed by yours truly.

And thanks to the returning-cast, the movie’s funnier and more entertaining than ever. Chalk most of that up to, as I stated in my review for the first one, to none other than Mr. Ron Burgundy himself, Will Ferrell. We all know that Will Ferrell is hilarious and will practically throw himself out there on a silver-platter if that means getting at least something of a chuckle, but man, he goes for it here and it pays off big time. There’s one scene that’s been spoiled in the trailers, but is actually quite hilarious when you see it all play out and it’s when he’s at the dinner-table of his “black” girlfriend’s family home. It’s racist for sure, but it will certainly get a hell of a lot of laughs, especially since Ferrell just goes for it and never looks back. He’s the type of comedic-actor all aspiring entertainers should want to be, and he proves that to us time, and time again.

Okay, okay! The only reason I'm giving up his is because it literally occurs in the first two minutes. I kid you not! Check me out on that!

Okay, okay! The only reason I’m giving up his is because it literally occurs in the first two minutes. Just be happy I didn’t include another famous, more talented black rapper who shows up in this movie…..

But when I start talking about the rest of the newsteam, I start to get a little upset. The reason being that although Steve Carell, Paul Rudd and even David Koechner all get their moments to shine and bathe in the spot-light of fun and happiness, some actually feel misused. Koechner’s there, is funny and does his thing, so I hate to say that he doesn’t count, but he truly doesn’t. The two who I’m really talking about here are Carell and Rudd; with the former getting a hell of a lot more attention than he did in the first movie, and especially a lot more over the latter, which is strange considering that they both seem pretty worthy of more than enough screen-time, but nope, apparently Adam McKay saw differently. The thing with more of this focus on Brick, and his love-angle he has with Kristen Wiig’s character, is that the novelty of him saying really ridiculous and out-of-left-field things is lost. Much more now, we just hear him say, or do something completely and utterly crazy, just because it was such a winner in the first movie, so why not up the ante a bit, eh? It didn’t feel right to me and it was an easier pill to swallow because Carell, like Ferrell, goes for the whole slice with this, but it gets over-played at times and seems like the only card the movie can handle.

Also, I feel like I’m of the opinion that any time away from Brian Fantana, is time wasted. Am I right, people? Come on!

And while I’m sure all of you probably no who shows up here, to say the least, each and every familiar face that you see in this movie, is a face worth noting. Can’t get into specifics one bit, but they’re all fun, all exciting to see and a bit shocking, considering there are some pretty serious faces that, oddly enough, actually agreed to show up in the sequel to Anchorman. Maybe it’s cult following isn’t just a bunch of single and lonely dudes? Maybe others out there have noticed the charm of Ron Burgundy and the rest of the news-team and decided they wanted a piece of the pie, too? Or maybe, just maybe, they’re doing Will Ferrell and co. a favor. Yeah, you know what? I think that’s it. Oh well.

Consensus: May not fully bring back the strange, idiotic charm of the first movie, but Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is still a laugh-out-loud comedy from a bunch of people who clearly know what they are doing here, and don’t shy away from breaking their backs for a laugh or two. It just seems desperate after awhile, that’s all.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

Still jumping. But this time, pulled-out backs are huge consequences.

Still jumping. But this time, pulled-out backs are huge consequences.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Gangs of New York (2002)

Even without guns and cars, I’d still be pretty freakin’ scared to go toe-to-toe with a gangster from the 1800’s. Especially, if they were in-character the whole time.

Taking place in New York City around the 19th Century, the son of a gang leader named Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) comes back to his hometown in order to avenge his father’s death. He plans to do this by killing the leader of the Natives, a simple and kind fellow named Bill Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis). By the way, the “simple and kind” statement, was bullshit. The guys fuckin’ crazy.

Apparently, this was a “dream project” for director Martin Scorsese for about 5 or 6 years that took longer than he expected to actually get made. Like all dream projects we have in our minds, we joggle them around forever, and actually crash-down to reality and realize, “oh shit, this is going to take longer than I ever wanted to”. Yeah, even directors feel that way and yes, even Marty Scorsese apparently too. It was reported to cost over 100 million dollhairs, took months and months to build actual sets of the film, needed to go through tons of editing, and was released in December of 2002, a year later than it originally had planned. Usually when this kind of crap happens, this usually shows trouble with the overall film quality, regardless of who the actual director is. Thankfully, Marty is unlike any other and that’s all that matters.

What I liked most about this flick is how Marty tackles the same exact style of gangsters, crooks, and bastards in the 1880’s, the same way he would with the ones of the 1900’s. There’s a very fast-paced essence and feel to the whole film that keeps you on-edge as to what’s going to happen next, what characters are going to be finito by the end, and when this final-battle between the two opposing sides is actually going to occur. Now, does it look and feel like an actual Scorsese flick? Not really, but that’s what’s so interesting about the guy. He’s able to change-up certain trademarks he has about himself and give a new story, a whole different type of look and feel you wouldn’t quite expect from him. It does get pretty damn violent at times, so there’s the obvious trademark for ya, but regardless of how many trademarks are shown in here, it’s still pretty damn entertaining to watch even if you have seen it over 5 times and can calculate everything now, like yours truly.

"Hurry up, Cameron. Let's get you out of here before Marty changes his mind."

“Hurry up, Cameron. Let’s get you out of here before Marty changes his mind.”

However, as many times as I have sat-down and watched this 2-and-a-half-hour-movie and been entertained by it, I still can’t deny that there lies a whole butt-load of problems brewing beneath the surface. First of all, one of the biggest hints that this film was going to have trouble with itself was the fact that it has three writers working on it (Jay Cocks, Steve Zaillian, Kenneth Lonergan). Usually, that spells out trouble and that’s exactly what we get here as this film tackles a bit more than it can get away with. In fact, it actually seems like these writers were all given different subjects to write about, understand, and bring back to Marty so they could make one, big, and long epic about life in NYC in the 1800’s. That idea, in case you were confused by what I was saying, does not work here as it’s too many ideas, with too little of a pay-off.

The whole idea is about gangs that hide out and cause havoc in New York, which makes a compelling and entertaining watch on it’s own, but then, once you add all of those other ingredients in, it get’s a bit over-stuffed to the point of where you have no freakin’ clue what this movie is trying to talk about or even convey. Is is about a young dude getting revenge on the guy who murdered his dad? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about a possible “romance” between this young dude and untrustworthy gal? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the history of New York in the 1800’s? Yes, well, sort of. Is it about the war and how everybody had to take part in it? Yes, well, sort of. Or, is this flick all about how politics usually came into play with the gangs and how they all acted around one another? Once again, yes, well, sort of. As you can tell, this film touches on too many subjects, adds in too many subplots, and juggles too many ideas, which shouldn’t have been such a huge problem, given the time-limit offered to the script, but somehow it just does not work altogether and seems jumbled around like the best bits of an musician’s career. However, these “best bits”, aren’t really the best. They’re slightly mediocre to say the least.

Probably the most compelling story of all should have been the whole revenge tale with this young dude going after the man that killed his father when he was a child and he vowed at nothing to stop him from succeeding at that. However, that whole story seems a bit half-baked considering we barely get to see the young dude with his father as a kid; barely get to see how all of this has an effect on him as an slightly older dude and constantly being in that man’s presence; and barely get any tension except for the last 20 minutes where everything really comes into play. And heck, even that final stand-off doesn’t really count, for reasons I can’t state.

Speaking of the ending, some people freakin’ despise it and count it as one of the worst of all-time (and once you see it, you’ll know why), but I actually thought it was a pretty clever way to allow it to tie into history and give it more of an importance in terms of how we view New York City now, and how it really was. Yeah, it wasn’t the best way that a genius like Scorsese could come-up with and yeah, it may have dropped the ball on some fun and excitement, but it still was pretty neat to see how everything was going to be tied around in a nice little bow at the end. It comes off as a nice reminder that NYC has history and is a beautiful place to live, which was an idea that some people may have brushed-off to the sides during the lean days of ’02.

Despite all of this bad talk, I still had a lot more fun with this flick because of the performances from an impressive ensemble that Marty always has a knack for casting well. Leonardo DiCaprio proves he is able to take on a stronger, more dramatic role as a young kid going through a bit of a crisis and makes Amsterdam a believable, and compelling character to watch. It’s also better since the guy is easy to get behind and can practically kick anybody’s ass, but doesn’t get too in-over-his-head like most characters of this same-exact convention usually do. The kid may not always have a huge ounce of charm to his look and personality, but it’s Leo, and the guy is always great to watch on-screen and you can’t help but root for Amsterdam as things start to go from better-to-worse, sooner than later. Then, there’s Cameron Diaz, who I am not a very big fan of but is serviceable in a role that could have easily gone to any other actress and still been as good or entertaining. That’s not really a good thing or bad thing, it’s just that her character doesn’t offer much to really intrigue you and Diaz doesn’t help us with that much, either.

I'm afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

I’m afraid to ask him if he needs that lit.

But despite these two, the one who really steals the show is none other than the man, the myth, the effin’ crazy man who stayed in-character the whole time during the making of this flick: Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting, or as my dad likes him to be referred to as, Bill the Butcher. Cutting is a very fun character to watch and the fact that he’s played by Daniel Day just makes him all the more compelling to keep your eye on as every chance he gets, he proves to you why this guy can never be trusted and why so many damn people in the city fear him for the things he can do. Cutting is a bit caricaturish, but Daniel Day makes sure it doesn’t get too over-the-top and strangely, keeps the guy human and believable in his own, sadistic way. There’s the one memorable scene that really touched me where he’s talking to Amsterdam about the only man that was worth remembering that he killed (Amsterdam’s father) and it gives us a wonderful look-see into a man that does some pretty terrible and evil things, but still feels something for the people he kills, even if they are his biggest enemies. Daniel Day is electrifying in this role and makes it all the more fun to watch, but sadly, he is probably the only interesting character of the bunch, and he’s the freakin’ bad-guy you’re supposed to despise!

Consensus: Gangs of New York struggles with way too many ideas, themes, and a bunch of plot-points that never come fully-realized, but has a very entertaining feel and vibe to it, that places you in this setting of New York City during the 1800’s, and features compelling performances from everybody involved, including the magnetic Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting/the Butcher.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!

The only way they knew how to party in NYC during the 19th Century: LIGHT SHIT ON FIRE!!