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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Liev Schreiber

Goon: Last of the Enforcers (2017)

Who needs a goal? Kick somebody’s ass!

A lockout has reunited old teammates and brought a crew of new players to the bench for the one, the only, and the notorious Halifax Highlanders. Sidelined after one too many hits and now married with a baby on the way, Doug “The Thug” Glatt (Seann William Scott) is forced to hang up his skates and settle into something that we call “normal life”, with him trying his hand at selling insurance. Does it quite fit him like a hockey-glove? Not at all, but it does keep him occupied and his wife (Alison Pill) happy, so why not just stick with it? But it all changes when Doug’s nemesis, the young, cocky hotshot Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), is made captain of the Highlanders and new ownership threatens to tear his team apart. Now, Doug feels as if it’s time to lace back up the skates, put the gloves back on and, yeah, take some people’s teeth out.

Get it? They’re Canadian! Listen to the way they pronounce their “O’s”!

In the world of sports movies, it’s very rare that we get one about hockey. Better yet, it’s incredibly rare that we get a good one. Or hell, it’s incredibly rare that we get a hockey-comedy that isn’t just funny, but also kind of sweet and exciting to watch for everybody, regardless of if they love hockey or not. But that’s exactly what the first Goon was: Hilarious, hard-hitting, and at the center of it all, a little heartfelt. It was, for lack of a better word, one of the better sports movies made and perhaps, close to being the best hockey-movie of all-time.

Notice how I said “close to”, people. Don’t get all riled-up as I know Slapshot! is still #1 is on everyone’s list.

But still, Goon probably didn’t need a sequel, but here it is and well, things feel a whole lot different. For one, the quality has been downgraded a whole lot. Jay Baruchel takes over directing-duties this time around and while he’s very good at shooting hockey and the sort of excitement that can be felt from watching a game, where it seems like everyone’s more interested in beating the hell out of one another, and not actually, you know, scoring goals and winning, he feels awkward with everything else. The comedy, the drama, and even the slightest bit of heart that’s anywhere to be found, just doesn’t quite work.

Does he know what’s happening?

The only thing that really does work is, other than the hockey and over-the-top, but effectively extreme brawls, is Seann William Scott who, once again, proves why he’s one of the more underrated talents in comedy. Cause while the guy is definitely funny, he also has a little something more to him than just crass-jokes about balls and Canadians (which is all this movie’s comedy revolves around); he’s actually a pretty nice guy who means well and basically loves everyone around him, even if he is an absolutely nutty and crazy fighting-machine. Scott’s delivery with everything he says here is golden and feels like he’s constantly lifting the movie above what it actually seems like it wants to be.

Cause at the end of the day, it’s still a really loud, a really crass, and really dumb sports-comedy that sort of works, but also sort of doesn’t.

It’s hard because when you compare it to the first one, you have to think that there may have been an opportunity wasted. The story isn’t really here, the comedy is really slapdash, in terms of what’s funny and what isn’t, and the supporting-characters all just feel a little one-note. It’s as if the heart and soul was somehow lost, even though it seems like everyone involved with this, wanted to make this, and felt so incredibly passionate about it, that they didn’t care if the money was there or not. They wanted to make Goon 2 and well, they got it.

I just wish it was something totally worth waiting the past five years or so for.

Consensus: While still just as silly and raunchy as the first, Last of the Enforcers also feels like a drastic step-down with weak writing and a bad case of familiarity, despite the hockey-scenes and William Scott saving the day.

5 / 10

That’s more like it, Dougie! Knock his ass out!

Photos Courtesy of: Entertainment One

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Chuck (2017)

Rocky who? Oh yeah, that guy.

Chuck Wepner (Liev Schrieber), for quite some time, had the life that any person would have wanted to live. He was an accomplished boxer, kicked a lot of people’s assess, had a wonderful wife (Elizabeth Moss), good kids, loyal friends and family, respect, a cool nickname (“the Bayonne Bleeder”), and oh yeah, went 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali. In fact, he was so well-known that, believe it or not, Sylvester Stallone actually used his life and career as the inspiration for Rocky – a fact that, for a very long time, Chuck would continue to let everyone know about, regardless of if they asked or not. But after awhile, Chuck began to get too big of britches and, to go along with his insane drug-habit, he couldn’t stop screwing around with all the wrong people, other women included. Eventually, he loses his job, his wife, his legacy, and oh yeah, his family. So where does he go from there?

No really, where does he go from there?

Uh oh. Chucky go some ‘asplainin’ to do!

See, Chuck was advertised heavily as “the story of the guy who inspired the story of Rocky“, as if any of that really matters. It’s like when John Carter came out and the advertisements were all saying, “the story that inspired Star Wars and Avatar“, once again, as if any of that matters. Because even though the story may have inspired another one, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the adaptation of said story, isn’t conventional, or formulaic.

After all, we didn’t get Chuck before Rocky. The other way around, in fact. So because of that, Chuck comes off a bit like a run-of-the-mill, stationary biopic that hits all of the same beats and rhythymns that Rocky hit, but also feels a little overdone. Because instead of feeling like a movie, of its time, like Rocky did, Chuck goes the extra mile to put us in the place of the 70’s, where coke was everywhere, disco was constantly playing, and people dressed-up so super fly.

Does it kind of work?

Yeah.

It’s hard to have an issue with a movie that makes the energy and glitz of the 70’s so fun and infectious; if anything, it’s nice that they were able to get it all down so perfectly, without feeling like they were trying way too hard to recreate a period of time that they obviously didn’t have the budget for. Director Philippe Falardeau, while no doubt a very serious French director, also seems to be enjoying himself here, not allowing for the material to get too dark or serious, but just to the point where it matters. But for the most part, he’s having a good time and relishing in the period-setting and the details that all went along with it.

Does that help take away from the fact that Chuck is a little conventional and, well, as a result, slight? Not really. But it makes what could have been a very boring movie, turn out a lot more fun and entertaining. It’s still a formulaic boxing movie, about an underdog who had his shot at the big time, accomplished it, and then lost it all due to awful life decisions, but it’s an entertaining one, at that. So yeah, it helps.

All about the hair.

And yeah, it also helps that the ensemble is quite good here and clearly able to keep up with the times.

Liev Schreiber is perfect casting as Wepner, because he not just looks the role, but feels it. There’s something lovable about him, but also makes you realize that he’s a bit of flawed asshole who you can’t always trust, especially not with your wallet or wife, but can always still love, when the end of the day comes around. And that’s what matters for a story like this, about a guy like this, who definitely didn’t make perfect decisions, but was a good time to be around. He had his moment in the spotlight, made it last, and did what he could to keep the party going? Granted, he forgot about his wife, kids, bank-account, and plenty other responsibilities, but hey, who am I to judge?

Either way, Schreiber’s great in the role that he was, essentially, born to play. Everyone else is good from Elizabeth Moss as his annoyed, but strong wife, to Jim Gaffigan in a pretty silly role. But everyone’s good here; even the bit role with Naomi Watts, while feeling a little self-serving, still works because, believe it or not, her and Schreiber do have good chemistry.

See, not every couple has to have their own Gigli.

Maybe that’s why they’re broken-up now. Ugh. True love doesn’t last, people. So love the one you’re with and try to make it last.

That’s the moral of Chuck, right?

Consensus: Formulaic and run-of-the-mill, Chuck is a boxing-drama that doesn’t really break any new ground, but is fun, light, and well-acted enough to get by the conventions that usually keep movies down like this.

6.5 / 10

“Guys. Who’s Sly?”

Photos Courtesy of: IFC Films

Defiance (2008)

Who needs to bathe when you’re fighting for freedom?

In 1941, Nazi soldiers were all over Eastern Europe, going around and slaughtering whatever Jews they could find out in the open, or even in hiding. The numbers got so ridiculous that they reached the thousands and eventually, people began to get more and more petrified of the possible threat and were left heading for the hills, in hopes that they would find, at the very least, some sort of shelter. Three brothers, Tuvia (Daniel Craig), Zus (Liev Schreiber) and Asael (Jamie Bell), are able to do that and find refuge in the woods where they played as little children. But what turns out to be a small conquest for the three brothers, soon starts to get more and more people involved, with fellow Jews not just looking for refuge, but also to take part in killing Nazis and getting any sort of revenge that they can find. And for the three brothers, this is fine, however, they also start to collide with one another, when each one has a different point-of-view of how the camp should be run, what sort of rules should be put in-place, and whether or not any of this is even worth it.

All you need is some brotherly love.

All you need is some brotherly love.

Yet again, another Holocaust drama. However, Defiance may be a tad different in that it’s not necessarily a melodrama, Oscar-baity weeper – it’s much more of an action-thriller, with obvious dramatic bits thrown in for good measure. It’s something that director Edward Zwick has been known for doing for his whole career and it’s a huge surprise to see him handle material with so much potential and promise, and yet, not do much with it.

This isn’t to say that Defiance is a bad movie – it’s just a movie that could have been better, what with all of the different pedigrees it had going for it, but instead, got way too jumbled and confused about what it wanted to, or do, that it loses itself. While it wouldn’t have worked necessarily as a deep, dark and upsetting drama about the Holocaust and the horrible Nazis, it still somehow doesn’t work as a cold, deep and dark drama, with action-sequences of Jews facing off against Nazis. In a way, it’s two very “okay” movies, that still don’t find their ways of coming together in a smart, meaningful and coherent way.

Some of this definitely has to do with Zwick’s messy direction, but some of it also has to do with the fact that the script he’s working with, from himself and Clayton Frohman, just doesn’t always know what it wants to say.

For one, yes, it’s a Holocaust drama that cries out about the injustices and awfulness of the Holocaust in an effective, if slightly original manner; taking all of the focus away from the actual camps and ghettos themselves, and placing us in the woods, makes the movie feel all the more claustrophobic and tense. It also shows the desperation of those involved in that they were literally willing to risk five years of their lives, all alone in the shivering cold and unforgiving woods, just so that they weren’t found and executed by the Nazis. The movie doesn’t forget that most of these Jews have no clue about what’s really lurking beyond the woods and in that sense, it’s a smart, if somewhat effective thriller, bordering almost on horror.

But then, the movie takes in all of these other strands of plot that just don’t really work.

Or an assault-rifle.

Or an assault-rifle.

For instance, Jamie Bell’s character all of a sudden has a romance with Mia Wasikowska’s character that feels forced, as well as Daniel Craig’s romance with Alexa Davalos’. I would say that Liev Schreiber’s romance with a sorely underused Iben Hjejle is also random, but it’s hardly ever touched upon, until the very end and we see Schrieber smack her bottom, as if they’ve been canoodling for the past decade or so. Sure, putting romance in your movie assures that it will become more of a universal tale for anyone watching, but it also takes away from the believeability of the story and breaks up whatever tension there may have been.

And it’s a problem, too, because Zwick works well with actors and the ones he has here, really do put in some solid work – they’re just stuck with some lame material. Craig is your typical hero of the story, who always seems like he has his morals and heart in the right places, regardless of terrible the times around him may be; Bell tries whatever he can with a conventional role; Schrieber brings out some semblance of sympathy with a character who’s sole purpose is to be rough, gruff and violent; the ladies never quite get a chance to do more than just be dirty window-dressing; and Mark Feuerstien, despite seeming out-of-place as one of the Jews who takes refuge in the woods, fits in perfectly and is probably the most interesting character out of the bunch, despite not getting a whole lot to do.

Which is a shame, because the whole movie is basically like that. Everyone tries, but sadly, nothing in return.

Consensus: Even with the solid cast and director on-board, Defiance is stuck between two movies and never quite gets out of that funk, giving us a messy, imperfect look at the Holocaust, with an interesting viewpoint.

5.5 / 10

Or even a furry hat.

Or even a furry hat.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Spotlight (2015)

Of course Thomas McCarthy would know a thing or two about journalism.

In 2001, with the internet slowly rising to become the top source for news and information, the Boston Globe felt as if they had struck gold. Through their investigative unit known as “Spotlight”, the Globe came upon a bunch of sources and stories about Massachusetts priests molesting children and then covering it all up with fancy lawyers and lingo that made it seem like a crime wasn’t committed. While the Spotlight team realizes that they’ve got something really strong and ground-breaking to work with here, they’ve got to do more uncovering and following to get the full story. And, well, due to the fact that Boston is a primarily Catholic-based city, it makes sense that just about everyone and their mothers are pleading with the Globe not to release this story. However, these journalists know better than to let such issues get in their way of telling the full story and uncovering what the truth about these priests are, what they did to these kids, who are mostly all now adults, and try to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It's the dude with the tie.

Somebody definitely does not fit in here. Hint: It’s the dude with the tie and facial-hair.

As most of you can probably tell, Spotlight is the kind of movie that’s made exactly for me. Not only do I love journalism movies that feature journalists, doing journalism-y things, but I also love it when the journalists in the journalism movies use their job, their smarts, and their skills, to take down big institutions. Whether it be the government, hospitals, or the Catholic church – any huge institution that gets a much deserved dressing-down, then you can count me in.

Which is to say that, yes, Spotlight is not only a great movie, but possibly, for now at least, my favorite flick of the year.

One of the main reasons why Spotlight works as well as it does can all be traced back to writer/director Thomas McCarthy, who is hot of the heels of the disaster that was the Cobbler. What’s so interesting about McCarthy’s previous films (even including the Cobbler, sadly), is that they’ve mostly all been small, simple, and understated human stories that deal with the big emotions, but in a very subtle kind of way. While much of the style is still the same, with Spotlight, McCarthy is now dealing with a bigger story, that takes on a whole lot more fronts and ends than he’s ever worked with before. Still though, despite what troubles this may have caused any director in the same shoes as he, McCarthy handles it all perfectly, making sure that the story that needs to be told, is done so in an efficient, understandable and most importantly, compelling manner.

That the way Spotlight‘s story begins to unravel once more revelations come to fruition, as well as the way it begins to blend-in together, makes all the more reason why this movie is a true testament to the art of journalism, as well as those who work within it. Just like the best parts of a movie like Truth, Spotlight loves that feel and utter rush someone can has when they feel as if they’re walking upon something that could make their story, as well as the certain heartbreak and utter disappointment they can feel once they walk upon something that could feasibly break their story. There’s a certain bit of joy and pleasure one gets from watching people, who are not only great at their job, do everything in their absolute power to make sure that they keep doing their job to the best of their abilities, while also not forgetting the true reason for it all.

And while a good portion of this movie is a dedicated to the world of journalism, it’s also a dedication to those who are passionate and inspired to uncover the truth.

But, trust me, it’s not as hokey as I may make it sound; while McCarthy’s movie definitely flirts with certain ideas of self-importance, he never falls for the fact that the story he’s telling is BIG, EMOTIONAL and IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. There’s an argument that Mark Ruffalo’s and Michael Keaton’s characters have where they’re combatting between the two different oppositions of this story; whether it be to tell it to sell some copies, or to expose the problems that have been going on for so long. It’s not only riveting, but also very smart, as it definitely reminds us why this story matters, but does so in a way that gets us back on-track for what needs to be told – which is, that the Catholic church covers all their wrong-doings up, and it’s time that somebody called them out on it.

Once again, though, this may sound all incredibly melodramatic and corny, but trust me, it isn’t. McCarthy doesn’t let the story get out-of-hand with overt cliches, but also, makes sure that the characters in this story stay true, realistic and above all else, actually humane. Nobody in this movie is ever made out to be a superhero for what it is that they’re doing; most of them, quite frankly, are just doing their job. While they definitely feel the need to tell this story and make it so that their points are seen, they also understand the utmost importance of faith and Catholicism, which, all being residents of Boston, means a whole lot.

No! Don't go on the computer! It's the devil!

No! Don’t go on the computer! It’s the devil!

And though the movie may not dig as deep into these characters as possible, it still does a fine enough job of making us realize just who these characters are, what their part of the story is, and just why exactly they matter. Ruffalo’s Michael Rezendes is always jumping around and running to the next piece of information that, despite the sometimes pushy Boston-accent, is quite entertaining to watch, but at the same time, we still get the idea that this guy loves his job so much and will do anything to keep himself alive and well.

Rachel McAdams’ Sacha Pfeiffer is the sweeter one of the ensemble, who is there with the abuse victims when they’re airing their disturbing stories out in the most matter-of-fact way imaginable; Liev Schreiber’s Marty Baron doesn’t have much of any personality whatsoever, but still feels like the voice of reason for this story, when it all seems to get a bit haywire; John Slattery’s Ben Bradlee Jr. also feels like the voice of reason, but at the same time, still very much like Roger Sterling (which is a compliment); Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt Carroll has a neat little subplot about finding out one of the accused priests live in his neighbor and how he goes about finding that out is well-done; and Stanley Tucci, is very energized here, but also seems like the most understandable character in the whole flick, showing a person who not only cares about the cause he’s fighting for, but also knows that he has a civic duty.

However, as great as everyone is, it’s Michael Keaton who steals the show, with just one look.

There’s a scene towards the very end of Spotlight where it becomes very clear just what this story means and the sort of effect it’s going to have – and it’s all on Keaton’s face. Though I won’t get into the nitty, gritty details of what occurs during the end, but after everything that has come along with the story – from the facts, to the sources, to the edits, to the fragments, to the re-writes, to the push-backs, and to everything else that has to do with it – the movie makes us understand what it was that these journalists were fighting for. Keaton, who is superb, as expected, throughout the whole movie, doesn’t fully want to believe that the Catholic church would have been involved with something so dastardly and maniacal as the evidence proves. However, though, he eventually does come to believe that evil can be real, not to mention that it can take all forms, shapes, and sizes. But rather than pissing and moaning about it, late night at the bar, he, as well as his fellow co-workers, are doing something about it. There’s a look in Keaton’s eyes as he sees this all happen and then, he accepts it, metaphorically pats himself on the back, and moves on with his job.

That’s what journalism is all about and that’s why Spotlight is one of the best flicks of the year.

There. I’m done.

Consensus: Gripping, intelligent, and above all, important, Spotlight takes on its subject without ever editorializing or leaning one way, but instead, telling its story as it was ought to be told, with some of the best actors in the game today.

9.5 / 10

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Bad priests, bad priests, watcha gonna do? Watcha gonna do when the Boston Globe comes for you?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

Pawn Sacrifice (2015)

How Bobby Fischer was everyday of his life, is exactly how I get when I enter a movie theater.

Ever since he was a little boy, Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) has always loved the game of chess. He’s also been incredibly paranoid about everything, too, but that’s done more to enhance his skills as a chess-player than actually hinder it. As he got older, Bobby became more and more known as a genius and gained a whole lot of notoriety – most of which, he wasn’t able to deal with. But the peak in his career/life came during the rise of the Cold War, when he challenged the Soviet Union and their best player, Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber), to a series of chess matches. Though the Russians agreed, Bobby still felt as if the games were being rigged in ways that went against him and it’s what ultimately made him a tragic-figure in the media. Though everybody wanted to tout him as an “American hero”, Bobby just wanted to be left alone and pushed away from the rest of the society he viewed as “Commies”. This not only pushed away those who were most close to him, but also ruined his skill as a magnificent chess-player.

He's crazy.

He’s crazy.

The crazy, unusual life of Bobby Fischer is an interesting one that, sadly, not too many directors have tried to tackle. It seems as if because his antics were so erratic and controversial, that to just make a movie solely based on him and his antic tirades would lead to be nothing more than just that. However, Edward Zwick and his crew of writers (Steven Knight, Stephen J. Rivele, Christopher Wilkinson) try to make amends for that mistake in giving us a sorta-biopic of Fischer, his upbringing, and his momentous chess bouts against the Soviet Union.

There’s a slew of other characters to pay attention to, of course, but still, it’s Fischer’s story we get.

And as Bobby Fischer, Tobey Maguire is solid. Maguire gets a bad rap for not being the best actor out there, which isn’t something I wholly agree with; while he’s definitely not shown a huge amount of range over the years, he’s still proven to be a fine presence in movies that he’s just coasting-by in (the Great Gatsby), or when he has to act like a total and complete nut (Brothers). His performance as Fischer is a whole lot more of the later and it works; once we see Fischer grow up into becoming Maguire, he’s a whole heck lot more frantic, manic, and strange, and it’s something that Maguire can play quite well.

You’d think that three movies playing someone as nerdy and straight-laced as Peter Parker would make Maguire into a dull specimen, but thankfully, for him, as well as the movie itself, it didn’t.

Everybody else in this movie is fine, too and ensure that Maguire doesn’t steal the whole movie away from them, even if he does occasionally get the chance to do so. Peter Sarsgaard plays Catholic priest William Lombardy, one of Fischer’s fellow chess experts, who also served as one of his teachers, and gives a humane-look inside a guy who isn’t exactly what he appears. Sure, he’s wearing the same outfit that a priest would wear, but he swears, drinks, smokes, and is able to hang around Fischer, even when he seems to get so erratic, nobody in their right mind would stand-on by.

Michael Stuhlbarg shows up as Fischer’s manager of sorts and while you know he’s someone that’s not to be trusted, there’s still a feeling that he has Bobby’s best intentions at heart. He may not at all, but Stuhlbarg keeps us guessing as to what it actually is. Lily Rabe shows up as Fischer’s sister who tries to help her dear brother out as much as she can, but eventually, it becomes all too clear that the man is just too far gone to be helped, talked to, or aided in any way – which is actually a pretty sad that the movie doesn’t really touch on until the end of the movie. And though he doesn’t get a whole bunch to do, Liev Schreiber still does a nice job as Boris Spassky – someone who had no clue what to make of or how to handle Fischer, except to just play him in chess and hope for the best.

And honestly, the performances are all that’s worth to discuss here because they’re the reasons why this movie works as well as it does. Everything else about Pawn Sacrifice is as handsome and nice as you can get with a biopic, but really, that’s all it is and stays. Nothing really leaps out at you as any sort of insight into Fischer’s character or persona; he was just a wack-job that, yes, was great at the game of chess, also had plenty of issues when it came to interacting with others, his own psyche, and how to handle all of the fame that had totally blind-sided him. This, if you’ve ever known a thing or two about Fischer himself, is obvious, but the movie still tries to find other aspects to his character that haven’t been touched on yet.

He's not.

He’s not.

Problem is, they all have. So there’s nowhere else to go.

Zwick may seem interested in the political landscape surrounding Fischer at this time in his life, but he never goes anywhere further with it; there are constant conversations about Communism and conspiracy theories, but really, that’s just all of Fischer talking and no one else. Whether or not any of these accusations held true, are never said, which leads it to all just seem repetitive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s something enjoyable about watching and listening to Maguire ramble on about how the Jews, the Russians, the White House, and practically everybody else on the face of the planet, are out to get him, but after awhile, it becomes a bird that I would have been pleased to stop hear chirping.

And of course, there’s a post-script about Fischer’s later-life, how far away from society he had gone and where he had been living before he died, but it’s all too late. The movie had already focused so much time on Fischer’s life when he was younger, alive and successful – everything else was, as it seems, added-on filler. Which is a bit of a shame because this later-half of Fischer’s life would have been very interesting to see portrayed, but it doesn’t seem like the budget or time allotted it.

Shame. But I guess there’s another biopic to be made another time.

Consensus: Thanks to great performances from the cast, especially an unhinged and edgy Tobey Maguire, Pawn Sacrifice is an enjoyably, mildly interesting, but never seems to rise above being that.

7 / 10

The end.

The end.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Manchurian Candidate (2004)

Run, Denzel, run!

Denzel Washington plays Army Major Bennett Marco, a career soldier who grows suspicious about his experience in Desert Storm after Squad Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), son of the powerful Senator Eleanor Shaw (Meryl Streep), becomes a candidate for Vice President. Something feels very eerie about Marco, and both of the Shaw’s and that’s why Marco is going to go out and settle the truth.

Jonathan Demme is a very skilled director that can go from making movies about Neil Young, to making one about a pilled-up Anne Hathaway that loves crashing weddings, and make it all work out in his own way. Of course, like with most directors, the guy has had his fair share of blow-outs (The Truth About Charlie, anyone?), but I think it’s safe to say that he’s definitely had more hits than misses and this flick is one of those rare hits, that somehow misses a mark it could have hit a littler harder.

What makes this flick work is that Demme puts us in the same state-of-mind as it’s main character is in, and has us disheveled and confused as he is, and never lets us know exactly just what the hell is going on. We get a lot of dreams, flashbacks, hallucinations, ideas, drug-trips, and plenty more devices that are used to mess with our minds, just like our main character’s as well, and that’s what Demme succeeds at the most. He keeps us in the dark with what we think we know, and what we expect to happen next in a flick like this.

And yes, it most definitely works.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

Just think about it: Naomi Watts would be OUR first lady.

There are certain places that this movie goes, really will surprise you, in terms of twists and material. The twists are good and kept on flying when I thought they would end, but still added more and more layers of tension and mystery to a story that didn’t need it, but didn’t suffer from too much of it either. But in terms of material and where this flick goes with it, it can be pretty damn surprising. Certain things happen that you don’t expect to considering this is a mainstream thriller with A-list names and Hollywood producers, and you also don’t expect certain characters to get killed-off when they do. Basically, with a filmmaker and story-teller like Demme, nothing is as what it seems and you can’t seem to trust anyone. Once again, that’s the same sort of mind-frame that our main character takes and it’s a real delight to see that work so well by the inspired hands of Jonathan Demme.

Although, something just wasn’t clicking for me in the right ways that I was expecting it to. What I mean by that, is that the movie has all of these ideas, all of these mysteries, and all of these conspiracies to it, that enhance the plot as well as our confusion of what we think is actually happening, but never seems to get off-the-ground. The reason for that being is because it feels like Demme is so considered with laying down the groundwork of this story and telling us what he feels like we should know, that he never kicks the story into full-gear and having us feel like we are on a ride that’s never going to end, and shows no signs of it either.

Maybe the problem I had with this movie and this pace, was that I think I was expecting something more of a slam-bang, action-thriller, and that’s exactly what I did not get. This is more along the lines of a psychological thriller that takes it’s good old time to get where it needs to go, and doesn’t really worry about the people watching it, squirming in their seats and just waiting for the tides to change, and start having people beat the shit out of one-another and run away. That never happens and even when it does show signs of that actually occurring and speeding everything up: it still disappoints. If it wasn’t for this snail-like pace, Demme would have really been onto something here, but the guy just never lets his material move at a speed that cannot only gain our attention, but have us more intrigued in seeing where it all goes and ends-up.

Thankfully, we have an A-list cast like this to save the day and thank the heavens for them. When you see a movie that Denzel Washington stars in, you automatically assume that he’s going to be the downright lovable, cool-as-shit Denzel Washington that we see him play, and master in just about every one of his movies. However, he’s a little different and shows that the guy can play crazy, pretty damn well, mind you. The guy’s still got some charm to where you feel like he’s a good-guy underneath all of the lost-marbles, but you still don’t know what to make of where he’s going, in terms of character and his motivations. No matter where this character ends up, Denzel is always compelling and always makes it easy for us to root him on, as if it’s him vs. the world, and we are on red corner’s side, just hoping he comes out of this alive and without a single-scratch on that voluptuous forehead of his. Yeah, I went there and I make no apologies for it either, bitches.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

Not walking up the public-escalators? Yeah, totally crazy.

The one in this cast that I was really surprised by was Liev Schreiber as Raymond Shaw, because not only does the guy portray his character’s smugness in such a way that really had me want to punch him in his corrupt-face, but he has the most challenging-role of all. For instance, Shaw is the type of character that is typically a bad guy because he looks bad, is on the bad guy’s side, and is rich, powerful, and smart. Pretty much any person that has those qualities in a movie, or life for that matter, fit the bill of being a total and complete villain that we just don’t like and want to see dead as soon as possible. I’m talking about in the movies, not real-life. Although I do think you could arrange that if you needed to.

But I digress.

What makes this character of Raymond Shaw so complex is that yes, he does fit the role of the type of guy you would normally hate and root-against in a movie like this, but there’s more to him than just that. You sort of feel bad for him because you can tell that he doesn’t really have the brightest-clue as to knowing what the hell is going on, and feels bad that he’s being played-with as a result of all of this confusion. Therefore, he has to take the higher, and sometimes more difficult road of taking everything he sees, hears, and thinks in stride and going about his business, but still having wonders in his head as to what the hell is right and what is wrong with his life. Schreiber plays this moral-dilemma so very, very well and shows the type of dimensions you can get with a character like this, no matter how one-sided he may seem on-paper. Schreiber is always a solid actor that continues to turn in good-work-after-good-work, and his role as Raymond Shaw, is one of the glaring examples of this.

Perhaps the one who really knocks this out-of-the-park, but didn’t surprise me as much was Meryl Streep as Raymond’s “mother”, Eleanor. I think it goes without saying that we all know and love Streep for being the powerhouse-force of in almost everything she does, but her performance as Eleanor shows a darker, meaner-side to the things that she can accomplish and show-off as an actress. She doesn’t necessarily chew the scenery, as much as she takes a look at it, contemplates whether or not to take a bite, and then, decides to eat the whole freakin’ thing and spit it right back out. Streep is the type of actress that can pull-off this hard-hitting woman role like gangbusters, and it was so glorious to see her play a character that isn’t all wholesome and happy; she’s actually pretty terrible.

Consensus: Demme doesn’t allow The Manchurian Candidate to fully pick itself up off-the-ground with fun and electricity in the air, but instead allows the eerie, and mysterious atmosphere kick in and mess with your minds as much as it’s messing with the lead character’s, and many other’s as well.

6.5 / 10

Rawr!

Rawr!

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.Au

Salt (2010)

What about Pepa?

CIA officer Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) has served and protected her country for many years, so when she’s accused of being a Russian spy, she’s absolutely baffled. Not just by the claim itself, but the fact that people who know and have worked with her for so many years, would actually start to believe this claim to be a fact and hunt her down as if she was some sort of Splinter Cell. But Salt knows that she can’t just sit around while she’s being thought about, so instead, she decides to take matters into her own hands by going on the run. This puts the CIA on a heavy, electrifying chase of sorts, where they find out more about Salt’s history/background and also see if they can get in contact with her husband (August Diehl). However, what’s strange is that he’s nowhere to be found, but what’s even stranger is that Salt’s past does seem a bit sketchy. Almost as if she could be some sort of spy who, for all these years, has been feeding off countless bits of info to her homeland of Russia. Then again though, nobody knows for sure and that’s how Salt plans on keeping it.

While this seems like a general, run-of-the-mill action-thriller, that would more than likely star either Matt Damon or Tom Cruise in the lead roles, all of a sudden becomes something of a different beast when you get rid of those two, manly-men and replace them with none other than a woman. Better yet, a woman by the name of Angelina Jolie who, despite what you may think about her questionable choices in her personal life, is a movie star in every sense of the word.

Yup. Toates Russian.

Yup. Toates Russian.

She’s not only proven herself, time and time again, that she can in fact act with the best of them, but is also able to kick some fine ass and even have us believe that a skinny little thing like her would be capable of doing so, too. Sure, most of her action-movies are the typical fodder for dudes who are just begging to see her naked to love and adore, but what she does well is that she can turn her “action-mode” off, as well as on, and have us believe her every second. She may not have many fans out there, but for me, Angelina Jolie is the exact kind of Hollywood star I want head-lining my major blockbuster; not just for the major dough involved with having her name attached to something, but because she always seems to put in the best that she can.

That, and the fact that she’s a woman who reminds us why girls can be tough, too.

All that said, this movie isn’t really trying to go out on a limb and make some sort of grand, feminist-statement – much rather, it just wants to be exactly what it sets out to be in the first place: A general, run-of-the-mill action-thriller. However, what’s so different here, is that something feels slightly “old school” about it all. Most of that can be chalked up to the fact that the writing is something of pure 80’s cheese, in which the CIA is running rampant all over the globe and Russians are still the bad guys, but another part of that can be chalked up to director Phillip Noyce, the kind of director that is able to bring us back to the good old days of action-thrillers.

You know, before Bourne had to come around and shake things up a notch. I mean that literally, and figuratively.

But what’s so interesting here that Noyce does, that not many action-thrillers do, or just seemingly forget about because they just want explosions and bullets, is that there’s more to this movie than just a bunch of simple, yet exciting action-sequences; it’s actually a mystery of sorts and adds more to the final product. Sure, the action-sequences are great and all, and more often than not feel as if they are riding the thin line between “absolutely absurd” and “somewhat believable”, but it’s the mystery as to who the hell this character is that really keeps it moving. It also keeps the movie interesting, because even when they do call it a lunch on all the action and decide to explore more and more about this main’s character life, it’s still compelling to figure out. Not that the writing for these flashbacks are great at all, but what they are able to get away with is being placed in at the right times, for the right reasons.

They're still holding a grudge over who's getting paid the most here.

They’re still holding a grudge over who’s getting paid the most.

That said, Salt herself is a bit of a bland character. I get the fact that since she’s a woman and she can kick more than a few asses on a good day is supposed to make her “different” from the rest of the other ass-kickers out there in a genre filled to the brim with them, but here, she does begin to feel less and less human as the movie goes on. And I don’t mean that because of the fact that she jumps on moving, speeding cars while on the highway and hardly ever gets a scratch; I mean that just because the writing never allows us to get to know as much as we should about her, in order to have us fully care for her journey into clearing her own name. Yeah, it kind of blows that everybody around her would all of a sudden go gung-ho after hearing that she may possibly be a Russian spy, but is that it? I needed a bit more, and maybe that’s asking too much as is.

That’s not to say Jolie isn’t bad here, because it’s quite the opposite – she’s good, meaning that she’s capable of having us believe her as both an ass-kicker, as well as a woman thrown into a disaster of a dilemma. The rest of the cast is pretty fine too, with the likes of Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Corey Stoll showing their faces and letting everybody know that they can hang with Jolie, too. However, most of the time, especially for the first two names I mentioned, they’re just spent staring at monitors and spitting in each other’s faces when everything starts to go haywire for them and this mission of tracking down Salt. It’s fun to watch these guys scream and yell, like most of us imagine CIA officials do on a daily basis, but the fact that they’re both technically fighting and hollering over a woman, makes it even funnier.

Better yet, make that woman Angelina Jolie and you’ve got yourself a comedy. Except one with a lot more running, jumping, killing, explosions, shooting, bleeding and death. Does that still qualify as a “comedy”?

Consensus: Exceptionally well-made as an action-thriller of yesteryear, Salt feels like it’s constantly keeping us, as well as itself moving, and while that may not make it more than just a standard action flick, it’s still a good time regardless.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"That'll take care of that fly."

“That’ll take care of that fly.”

 

Photo’s Credit to: Thecia.Com.AuGoggle Images

Fading Gigolo (2014)

Always count on a neurotic Jew to score you some major poon.

Fioravante (John Turturro) is an aging man living in New York City who has come to a bit of a stand-still in his life; his bookshop has just recently closed down and now his flower shop may be in trouble as well. However, his best buddy, Murray (Woody Allen), comes up with a plan that may be a bit ridiculous, but ultimately, may work out for both of them in the end: Become a male prostitute. Murray believes this is a good idea because he knows a couple of lonely women that are in need of some male lovin’ – especially a Jewish widower by the name of Avigal (Vanessa Paradis), who, despite being all about her faith, and the strict guidelines that come along with it, is willing to give Fiorvante a shot and see what all of the fuss is about. However, problems ensue for all three of them once a local policeman (Liev Schreiber) discovers what’s going on, and wants to take them all down. Which won’t just ruin the business Fioravante and Murray have going on, but the relationship they’ve built with Avigal herself.

You’ve got to hand it to John Turturro – the dude isn’t just writing and directing here, but he’s doing so in a movie that has him being portrayed as a total ladies man, that each and every girl he meets is willing to pay nearly $1,000 to bang. Not saying that Turturro isn’t a charmer by any means, but what I am saying is that since he’s the one who is all behind this piece, it does seem like he’s giving himself so much credit, that it becomes nearly “a fantasy”. Then again, you could say the same thing about more-than-a-half of Woody Allen’s movies, so I guess it all evens out.

"Love truly isn't something another person can understand. You know?"

“Love truly isn’t something another person can understand. You know?”

And speaking of Allen, his inclusion here in the cast seems very reasonable, although quite distracting to the final product: The movie itself seems like something Allen would write and direct in his own spare time, yet, isn’t. Instead, as mentioned before, this is a John Turturro movie and, needless to say, not everything’s as lovely as we’ve come to expect from a Woody Allen movie, no matter how mediocre one may be. Most of that has to do with the fact that Turturro just doesn’t seem like all that much of a charismatic director. Sure, he has a neat story on his hands, but surprisingly, it’s a rather dull, unexciting one that doesn’t take full advantage of the “fun” premise concocted here.

Some of that could be attributed to Turturro’s rather bland writing and directing, but some of it could also be pointed right towards he himself, the actor. See, Turturro, despite being one of my favorites, was surprisingly boring here. Not only does it seem like he’s sleep-walking through the role, but has intentionally written himself out as being so, just so that he can use that as a tool to allow the supporting cast to shine on and on, like most of them do on more than a few occasions. But, there’s a problem with that, because although Turturro allows the others to do their thing, his character constantly stays in the spotlight and when you have somebody as uninteresting as Fioravante, it’s hard to really want to see what happens to his character next. This is all bizarre too, because Turturro, in almost everything I’ve seen him in, is as charming as he could possibly be. But here, he’s just dull and painfully so as well.

And like I said before, this allows the supporting cast to do whatever it is that they want to do and have a good time doing so. Out of everybody, Woody Allen is the one who really seems like he’s having a blast, by just playing his typical, neurotic self. It’s an act that never ceases to get old or tiring, regardless of whose script it is that he’s reading. And although Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara bring some much needed sex-appeal to this story, their characters seem more like the stereotypical rich, horny and bored housewives that need more sexy-time than what they get from their own spouses. While it’s fun to see this unlikely duo play friends and be a little sexy, they don’t seem real, just two characters cobbled up from Turturro’s own imagination.

"So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?"

“So, uh, is that a Picasso or something?”

The only character who really seems to be devolved from any bit of reality is Vanessa Paradis’ Avigal, who plays this sad, lonely and slightly scared Jewish widow. Though she is fine in this role and she and Turturro create some nice bit of chemistry, the whole idea that the Jewish community would be going absolutely insane over such a unity is downright extreme. Maybe I’m wrong and this is what happens in those small, intimate Jewish communities, but something tells me the portrait Turturro has created here isn’t just unrealistic, but somewhat insulting. That these highly respected Jewish men would capture a person and take them in for countless lines of questioning relating to their business-dealings seems so goofy, that it’s not even funny – it’s just stupid and seemed like a lame way for Turturro to bring out any bit of comedy that he could.

That’s not to say that the whole movie is bad, it’s just that you can tell that, in the right hands, it could have been so much better. Maybe had this been in the hands of a more capable creator like, well, I don’t know, say Woody Allen, then this movie probably would have been better off and been able to actually be more than just a ludicrous “sex comedy”. Instead, it’s a ludicrous sex comedy that doesn’t have much of anything interesting to say, nor does it really seem to know what it’s about. It just goes through the motions and depends on its charming cast to win everybody over.

Which, in a way, it does, but only because of that damn Woody Allen.

Consensus: While it gets by mostly on its charming cast, Fading Gigolo doesn’t really have any point or direction in which it wants to go in, so instead, just relies on cheap gags and unbelievable plot-points that border on being “fantasy”.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don't ever get.

Exactly what I want to come home to every day. But sadly, don’t ever get.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Painted Veil (2006)

Women just never give the man the lovin’ they deserve. Tsk tsk.

Rich, spoiled, and bored English gal Kitty (Naomi Watts) thinks she’s met the man that will sweep her off of her feet, or at least, sweep her away from her mother, in the form of Dr. Walter Fane (Edward Norton). The two are clearly opposites and don’t seem to have much in common with one another, except for the fact that they want to be married and get away from their past lives. However, Kitty soon starts to get bored of Walter, and finds herself gravitating more towards his confidante, Dr. Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber), in which the two participate in a sordid affair of sorts. Walter isn’t dumb though and knows what’s going on when he isn’t around, so he makes Kitty a deal: Come with him to a cholera-infested village in China, or, get a divorce from him and see if her lover will want to get married too. Seeing as how Charlie doesn’t want to leave his own wife, Kitty has no other choice but to go with Walter where they both taste the dirt and do what they can to make time past, and maybe, just possibly even fall in love with one another. You know, like they originally thought that they did. But this time, for real.

What’s interesting about this movie, isn’t by the way it looks or sounds, it’s more about what it is. In one way, it’s a love story about a married-couple, but at the same time, it’s not a love story about a married-couple. These two may be married, but they sure as hell don’t love one another, and it was intriguing to see that play out, in a period-piece during the 20’s no less.

"Girl? Whatchu say?"

“Girl? Whatchu say?”

However, as interesting as that may have been, it didn’t really do wonders for me while I was watching it. See, even though I’m a young lad that’s chock full of hormones and energy, I truly don’t mind a slow-burner; in fact, sometimes, I more than welcome it. There’s nothing better to me than a movie in which all of the cards are laid-out on the table, shown to me in a comprehensible way, and made so that I can get a hold of everything I’m being told and just exactly what it is that I’m seeing. That’s usually what works so well about slow movies such as these, however, in order to make them fully work, there has to be something deep, hard, and meaningful burning deep down inside, and I just could not find that here.

Well, for the most part, I could at least decipher everything that was going on here, because not everything’s subtle. These two not-so lovebirds make it very clear to one another on many occasions that they do not love the other, and I have to say, everytime that happened, I couldn’t help but laugh. It’s played with the utmost sincerity, as if we’re supposed to be utterly shocked by these two characters not only fighting, but wanting nothing to do with the other. Also not to mention, the fact that it’s hard to feel any sympathy for either of these characters.

First of all, this Walter Crane guy is a bit of a geek – that’s pretty evident early on. Not only is he practicing in the medical-field, but he lets Kitty know, early on, that he’s a “bit clumsy”. Yeah, we get that. So, when they share one day together of doing Lord only knows what, he professes to her that he loves her, wants to get married, and needs an answer ASAP. Personally, I feel like maybe one or two dates is a bit too soon, but I guess if you feel it, then you feel it, and in the case of Walter Crane, it was instantly.

I guess I was supposed to feel sympathy for this nerdy guy because it’s clear that he doesn’t have a way with women (despite looking like Edward Norton whose dated gals like her and her) and maybe doesn’t have the best track-record, but it’s hard to care for him when he finds out that maybe he isn’t her type and then forces her to come on this life-changing trip of his. It’s clear he’s upset and confused, but still, come on, man, who was the one that practically threw it on her to get married. He even says at one point, “I knew why you married me in the first place”, or something along those lines. Then what the fuck!

It’s as if you brought a grizzly bear into your home and gave it honey. Then, moments later, you find out it still wants to claw the shit out of you, chomp your head off, and you still being like, “But hey! I brought you into my house and fed you!” Most bears are just wired that way, they can’t be fixed or helped in any way to think differently, so for you to bring it into your home, with your resources, and treat it your certain and expect the same in return, is just a bit dumb; bears are just wired differently. Maybe that’s a dumb metaphor, but I think its slightly understandable: It’s hard to feel bad for someone who gets a bunch of problems brought onto them, when anybody could have seen it coming from a mile away.

Now that I’m done with Crane, it’s time for Ms. Kitty who, despite being the cheater of the two, I actually felt a little bit more sympathy towards, if only because she didn’t try to be anything that she wasn’t. Sure, she was a total brat that only wanted to get out of her boring house and her annoying mom, but at least when her and Walt have their arguments, she doesn’t try to hide the fact that she was somebody else he didn’t already know about. Yes, I get that she is the one who decided to take the sanctity of marriage and shove it right down the sinkhole, but at least she wasn’t imposing upon anybody that she was anything else. If she was my wife, I’d be pretty pissed too, but that’s only because my wife would be somebody I know I’d feel safe and comfortable with loving and marrying; unlike how this Walter guy was with his wifey-poo.

God, what an idiot.

"Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning."

“Ah. Love that smell of cholera in the morning.”

Anyway, while neither character really put me in their sympathy-corners, I must say, the performances from Norton and Watts are, as expected, pretty good. Norton, despite his character being such a dunce, actually gives this Walt guy a real compassionate heart which, for what it’s worth, makes him seem like a genuinely nice guy who actually goes out of his own way to save these people all dying of cholera. He doesn’t have to, but he chooses to, and you can feel his compassion through Norton’s performance; it’s just such a shame that he wasn’t as compassionate or as smart when it came to choosing his women.

As for Naomi Watts, she gets to do a lot of pouting and staring, but she does very well with it. Though she’s the one character we’re supposed to clearly not like the most out of the two, Watts still makes us believe that there is some room for change in her personality and when that does happen, it seems understandable and barely ever tacked-on. It may be a bit corny in the way that it is presented to us, but that’s not any of Watts’ fault. Hell, it hardly ever is in her case.

Together, the two fix themselves together a nice chemistry that makes you feel like they truly do detest the absolute guts out of the other when they’re fighting; falling head-over-heels for one another when they are, well, you get it; and just happy to be in each other’s company. The movie never really throws any of this on us – it’s more about what these performers can do with the characters and material given to them, and you can hardly ever ask for a better pair than Edward Norton and Naomi Watts. All their character’s problems aside, they do what they can and most of the time, it’s good. Not great, but good enough to be seen.

Consensus: Though the Painted Veil includes the hard task of making its audience like, sympathize and understand its two relatively unlikable characters, it mostly gets by because Norton and Watts are so good at doing what it is they do: Act.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?"

Shit. Did you remember to lock the side-door?”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB

The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Don’t trust your government. Because apparently, they have no clue what the hell’s going on half of the time.

The new Russian President, Nemerov (Ciarán Hinds), seems like he may be giving the good ole’ boys of America a hard time. Actually, probably a lot harder than either the president (James Cromwell) or CIA director William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) feel comfortable with! Apparently, a nuclear bomb that was mysteriously lost during a 1972 Israeli-Egyptian conflict, somehow finds its way back into prominence with the Russians who, in their sneaky ways, are making a secret bomb of their own. Some of it makes sense, and some of it doesn’t, but one thing’s for certain: America won’t be taking any chances with this whatsoever. This is when they decide to call in CIA Agent Jack Ryan (Ben Affleck) who, having already written a book on Nemerov, seems like an expert of sorts on this type of stuff, and goes so far as to call him a “good man”. The U.S. government doesn’t agree with this and sets up defense as soon as they can. However, “as soon as they can”, may just be a little too late.

"I said, "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!""

“I said, “CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW??!?!?!””

Let’s not forget that this movie was released only nine months after the 9/11 attacks occurred and, in case you were born just yesterday or have been living under a rock for the past 12 years, America still hasn’t quite gotten over it. And nor should we; not only was it one of the worst travesties to happen to our country in the past hundred or so years, but it showed every citizen that yes, our country is vulnerable enough to where a couple of terrorists could actually get into planes, strapped with bombs to their chests, run those said planes into the Twin Towers and during the process, even blowing themselves, as well as everybody within a 10-feet-distance from them, up into smithereens. The images, videos, sound-bites, etc. are still shocking to this day and it has us wonder if anything as tragic like that will ever happen again to our country.

That’s why, when a movie that not just discusses the same ideas of terrorism like nukes, mass-genocide and paranoia, but even goes so far as to give us a shocking sequence in which all of Baltimore is hit by a nuclear bomb, it comes off as a bit “in poor taste”, for lack of a better term. Though some of you out there may get upset with me “spoiling” what happens about half-way through, I think it deserves to be noted because not only is it the turning-point for this movie, but it also still does the trick, even twelve years after it’s initial-release, and a little near-thirteen years after the infamous attacks themselves. It’s still shocking, it’s still brutal and, even despite some choppy-visuals here and there, still feels somewhat realistic.

Strange to think that seeing certain stuff like that in movies still gets us to this day, but so be it. That’s what happened to us on that fateful day, and for most of us, we’ll continue to be scarred till the rest of our days.

But anyway, like I was saying about how it effected this movie, because before this sequence, the movie was rather by-the-numbers. Sure, some of it had energy and intrigue added to the proceedings, but for the most part, I didn’t get what was really happening, nor did I really care. Nobody feels all that fleshed-out, with the exception of Freeman’s Cabot who, as you probably guessed, steals the show every time he shows up. Hell, even when he isn’t around, his presence can still be felt and you’ll wonder just when it is that he’ll show his lovely face again, and give us a character that we both enjoy to watch and be around, but also respect enough to where if he was in the same room as us, we’d automatically shut our traps and let him do whatever it is that he wants. He just has that type of control and prowess over a movie, which is why he was the only real reason to stick with this flick for its first-half, because everything else, is rather boring.

Then, the already-mentioned nuclear attack happens and all of a sudden: Everything in this movie is cranked-up to eleven and everybody is going absolutely ballistic. Though you could argue that this later-half of the film is as conventional and plain as the first, you can’t argue that it wasn’t entertaining to watch a bunch of heavy-hitting, grade-A character actors like Bruce McGill, Ken Jenkins, James Cromwell, and Philip Baker Hall walk around a board-room, just yelling at one another. Even if certain lines like, “It’s the Russians who did it! Nuke ’em!”, are a tad corny, they’re still fun to hear, especially when you have talented dudes like these delivering them. There’s also a stand-off between the Russian and United States government in which both presidents talk to one another through some sort of a computer-messaging system and though it may be a bit silly, it’s still suspenseful to watch and listen to. Yeah, typing on a keyboard has never been the most thrilling, nor exciting thing a movie can do, but here, it worked for me.

"Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something."

“Quick advice kid: Leave the heavy-lifting to me and go get drunk or something.”

However though, whenever we don’t focus on these powerful men screaming, figuring stuff out and yelling demands at one another, we focus on Jack Ryan as he ventures all throughout what rubble is left of Baltimore, which may have been exciting to watch, had Ryan’s story been all that interesting to begin with, but it isn’t. That’s not to discredit Ben Affleck too much here in the lead role, because while the guy definitely does try, the movie isn’t all that focused on him to begin with and only shines a light on him whenever necessary. I’m not saying that if you took him out of this film, it would work better, but you could probably have featured somebody awesome like Liev Schreiber’s very mysterious, yet ruthless spy in the same role, and it would have been a lot more entertaining to watch.

Then again, everybody out there in the world knows exactly who Ben Affleck is, and not Liev Schreiber. Hence why one is in main leading-role, whereas the other is in the strange, rather under-written supporting role. Sucks to say, but it’s true.

As it remains though, this is Jack Ryan’s story so when it does focus on him to really deliver the thrills, chills and elements of suspense, it isn’t that Affleck blows the chance to do so, it’s just that we don’t care that much. We see that he’s clearly a nice guy that has a bright head on his shoulder, but can’t fight worth of dick. Which means, that when he has to drop-down in the mud and get his knuckles dirty, it doesn’t fully work, nor does it make you believe too much in him. So it stands, Ford may have been the best Jack Ryan to-date, with Baldwin running a close-second. Sadly, that leaves poor Ben in last place, which isn’t so much of his fault, as it was more of just a wrong film, and wrong time. If Big Ben had been in either the Hunt for Red October or Patriot Games, something tells me he would have been a nice fit and worked well with Clancy’s exposition-heavy dialogue. That’s not the case though. Poor guy. At least he’s onto portraying bigger and better characters than some chump named “Jack Ryan”.

Consensus: May not quite pick-up its full head of steam until half-way being over, but nonetheless, the Sum of All Fears is a well-acted, tense, exciting and rather visceral thriller that takes on a new life when you think about what our country had been going through at the point in time it was released, but also how the shots of a post-apocalyptic Baltimore still have us cringe a bit.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit's about to get real.

I think we all know by now that once you step into the state of Baltimore, shit’s about to get real.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJoblo

The Last Days On Mars (2013)

What goes on on Mars, should definitely stay-put there. Except for you, Martian Manhunter. You’re a pretty cool guy.

A group of astronauts on Mars, all get ready for what’s supposed to be their final day of their first-manned mission to Mars. It wasn’t a very eventful mission to say the least, but it was one that went down without a hitch where everybody felt pretty relaxed, happy with one another and confident that they were going to be able to adjust back to normal life on Earth. That is, until something unexpected happens when two astronauts go missing, and one comes back, but brutally injured and possibly bringing back a virus along with them. And while the rest of the group tries to contain their fellow passenger, as well as the virus, they are unsuccessful, leaving the virus out there and able to infect anyone. As the seconds count-down to when they rescue crew will be able to pick them up, every ‘naut tries to do anything they can to stay alive, at any costs. Even if that means getting their hands a little dirty.

While the slew of comparisons to Alien, Red Planet, Mission to Mars, and all sorts of other lost-in-space movies are endless, that still doesn’t mean that a little flick like this couldn’t make its own wonders happen, even if they’re are on a smaller-scale than what we’re used to seeing. That’s why with such the high-profile cast, premise and crew, one has to wonder: Why hasn’t this one gotten a bigger release? And better yet, why the hell isn’t anyone talking about it?

They all act like they've never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven't they ever gotten a massage?!!?

They all act like they’ve never walked into a room where a guy has an erection before. Haven’t they ever gotten a massage?!!?

Well, the answer to both questions is pretty darn simple: It ain’t all that good to begin with.

Problems with movies in this same vein are pretty constant, but one of the biggest is character-development, or in this movie’s case, lack therof. I get that it may be a bit hard to tell us everything we need to know about each and every single one of these characters, given the small time-frame we have with them (an-hour-and-a-half), but a little probably would have a real long way, especially since there were some pretty talented people in the roles. Peeps like Liev Schreiber, Olivia Williams, Johnny Harris and the always welcome Elias Koteas are all here, doing what they do best, however, the script just doesn’t really assist them in anything whatsoever. Instead, it gives them corny lines like “We’re gonna get you through this”, even when the person that they are in fact talking to is turning black and blue from some sort of virus that’s taking over their minds and souls.

Speaking of which, I won’t dare jump into spoiler-territory, but it should be known that once you actually do get to see what infects these people and what they actually become once they are infected, you’ll be pretty bummed. For starters, there’s no reason for what they become; they just become it, all because of the radiation in the air, or something like. Also, there’s never a real explanation as to how you can kill them, or get rid of them in anyway. You see people knock ’em down, roll ’em around and drag ’em as far as they possibly can imagine, and yet, they still continue to get up and cause all sorts of havoc. To show how ridiculous this idea truly is, there’s an even a scene in which Schreiber’s character is wailing away at one of these infected “things” so damn much, to the point of where we can just see the venting frustration clearly on his face. It’s actually one of the movies very rare moments of humor, whether it was intended or not.

And that’s pretty much all we have to this movie. We have our setting (Mars), we have our stock-characters (a group of astronauts), we have our central character who’s is supposed to be the heart and soul of this story (Liev Schreiber’s character), we have our dilemma (people are turning sick and twisted with this new virus) and we even have our end-point in sight (rescue team is supposed to be around in 24 hours), so it’s pretty standard stuff. Not everything in this movie happens the exact way you’d expect it to, but then again, it doesn’t really surprise you either. Sometimes one certain character will take a fall when you don’t see it coming, but that’s more because the actor who is getting killed off is a pretty well-known, recognizable face, and less about the character, the background that went into them and all of the time we’ve invested in them. It’s got the ensemble that isn’t really an ensemble, yet also has a bunch of people we’ve seen, we like and we care for when they show up in stuff, just not as much to where we could really devote our hearts to them here.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I spy with my little eye Phoenix Stadium in the background.

I can see that I’ve practically gone on and on with this review to the end where it practically seems like I’ve hated, but here’s the thing: I actually don’t. I’m just very “meh” about it. Sure, it can be predictable, doesn’t have anything neat or new to say about the alienation one feels being lost out there in outer-space and it definitely won’t be remember by the year’s end, but if you’re looking for something to watch when you’re cold, alone, bored and want to spend some time underneath the blankets, then I’d say watch this, just don’t expect much. If anything, the movie looks great and has some real moments where you’ll give the creators credit for at least making use of their rather measly-budget, giving all of this space-gear and such a realistic look. Maybe more time and effort could have been dedicated to the script and whether or not we would totally be shocked by the end, but I guess that’s a complaint that’s going to go nowhere considering I’ve made it a hundred times before, and it’s not going to change a thing. Let’s just hope that this makes Liev Schreiber want to choose better roles, in better movies, because when he’s given something to do, he can work wonders with it. Just ask Ray Donovan.

Or, don’t ask him, just watch it. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

Consensus: The Last Days On Mars is about as generic as its title promises it as being, which isn’t all that bad since it can be fun at times, but at others, can just be a plain, simple and dull time whether you’re at the movies, or watching it from home. I’d stick more so with the latter, than anything else.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

If Mars ever wanted to be considered "a vacation spot", well, I think I just found their postcard.

If Mars ever wanted to be considered “a vacation spot”, well, I think I just found their postcard.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Diana (2013)

Prince Charles looks like ten times more of a pimp now than ever before.

Shortly after her divorce from Prince Charles, the media begin a storm on the personal life of Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) in hopes that they’ll be able to calculate and catch the next big possible thing Diana has going on in her life. However, despite all of the hustle and bustle from what seems to be never-ending on the outside, on the inside, where all the action really happens, Diana stays sound, quiet and thoughtful as she catches the eye of a surgeon (Naveen Andrews). Though this surgeon doesn’t quite care for celebrity-gossip or any of that rubbish that Di always finds herself being the talk-of-the-town through, he does realize that there’s something more to Di than what he sees on telly, and he’s going to find it, even if that means having to wad through hundreds and hundreds of paparazzo and practically saying “adios” to his personal life being kept, well, personal. Then again, did he not know this beforehand when he decided to tap that sweet rump of Diana’s? I mean, come on, man! She’s the Princess for lord’s sake!

In case you haven’t read a single review of this in the past couple of months, or even heard of it, this movie’s been getting a big old thrashing. And to me, that’s a huge disappointment because yes, even though it’d seem nearly impossible to make a biopic about Princess Di without at least offending someone in one way or another, they still could have gone a little unconventional, while also using a really good, really inspiring true-story to fall back on. I’ve never been a huge follower of Di did when she was alive, and/or what her impact on the world is still being felt even today, but I do know that there was a better movie meant to be made here, it just wasn’t made.

Seems like Di's been hanging out a bit too much with those mobster's wives.

She had to whack one of the Goodfella‘s wives for that helmet.

It comes down to being that simple, really.

The problem with this movie is that it’s almost way too simple and sweet for its own good. Granted, I didn’t want to see a biopic that really got on Di’s ass for screwing around a whole slew of guys after she and Charles called it quits, and I sure as hell didn’t want one that took that d-bag’s side in terms of who was the better of the two in that break-up, but then again, I didn’t want to see something as conventional, and as sentimental as what we have here. The movie starts off giving us the traditional story of what we know about Diana, and through mere-speculation most of the time, doesn’t jump away from that type of story telling. It gives us all the details and bits of info that we already know about Di’s life and doesn’t really bring much of anything new or different to her legend. Just shows her being an ordinary gal, in a world that she couldn’t stop but to help.

And Di is totally deserving of her own movie, but a far better would have been perfect for me. It gives you the facts, it gives you some of her most famous and notable moments and it even gives you a shot of those devilish kids of hers, but it never digs any deeper, or even seems like it’s interested in even doing so. Mostly, all this movie is concerned with is telling us the story of Di as the media knew her, while also clearing up her name as well. Remember all those steamy, sexy and scandalous pictures that were taken of her on a yacht with some hunk-of-flesh? Oh, well they were all set-up just so, in the dumbest way possible, Diana could mess around with the over-bearing paparazzi. But in essence, she only made it worse, which, in another essence, eventually led to the cause of her death.

So, if there are any lessons to be learned, it’s that you just don’t give the paparazzi any more room for comfort than they already deserve. Sorry all of you Diana lovers. It’s the truth that hurts the most.

Where the real disappointment of this movie comes in is through its two stars, both of whom actually seem like they’re bleeding from head-to-toe trying to make this material pop-off of the screen and into our laps, but to no avail whatsoever. Naomi Watts is possibly one of the best working actress we have in the biz today, and if there’s anybody in this world that I feel more comfortable with playing the role of the iconic Princess Diana, it’s definitely her. However, as good and as talented as Watts is, she looks nothing like Diana whatsoever, and it just takes you out of the movie everytime she shows up.

In another movie, they'd be the match-made-in-heaven. Or just London.

In another movie, they’d be the match-made-in-heaven. Or just London.

Sure, the movie tries their hardest to give you the impression that this really IS Diana herself on the big screen (that wig looks like it was bought from Halloween Adventure, and it only gets more comical to look at when she puts on another one), but never once are you going to forget that this is Naomi Watts playing Princess Diana, as well as she honestly can. Because with a script like this, you can only try you’re hardest. That’s what Watts does and she makes the movie better as a result, but nothing too spectacular to where she saves the movie. Poor gal. At least she goes home to Liev Schreiber at night. At least she has that.

Though Naveen Andrews isn’t as big of a name, or as noticeable as Watts is, he’s still alright as Dr. Hasnat Khan, the surgeon that catches Di’s lingering eyes. Andrews does what he can, much like Watts does, but where he shows weakness more so in is that he just doesn’t seem like the type of guy Diana, at this time and point in her life, would actually fall for. Yes, I know that this man is real and that Di did in fact go out with him, but there was just something so cheesy and awfully nerdy about this guy that made him seem too square to be going out with royalty like Diana, let alone be noticed by her. Once again, I know it’s a true story, but the facts to me didn’t really connect with the story itself, nor the chemistry between these two, or should I just say, lack thereof? Yeah, I’m leaving it at that.

Consensus: Probably one of the most boring, conventional and safe biopics you’ll ever see, Diana tries time and time again to make this story interesting, but even with the best efforts of Watts and Andrews, no sparks are to be found nor are any actual insight into the iconic woman herself.

2 / 10 = Crapola!!

The constant head-bobs just weren't cutting it for me anymore.

The constant head-bobs just weren’t cutting it for me anymore. Sorry, Naom (it’ll catch on, just you wait).

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Ransom (1996)

Would you really put a price on your children? If they just to happened to be Jewish, then yeah, Mel wouldn’t think twice about doing so!

Self-made millionaire Tom Mullen (Mel Gibson) seemingly has all that a man could ask for, and then some. He’s got the loving wife (Rene Russo), he’s got the lovable kid (Brawley Nolte), and the job that pays well, and will continue to do so, long after he’s dead. However, all of that happiness and sunshine goes away once Tom’s son is nabbed by a bunch of kidnappers who are demanding $2 million. Tom feels like he should pay it, but with the FBI in on the case as well, he realizes that if he does pay it, he runs the risk of never, ever seeing his kid again. Then again, if he doesn’t pay it, he runs the same risk as well, but with more of a cloud hanging over his head. What to do, what to do?

You can only do so much and so little with ransom movies, which makes perfect sense as to why this flick felt like nothing more than a daytime soap-opera, with the idea of a kidnapping being the one aspect of the story to hold it down. In order for a flick to work like this, it has to be boiling and simmering with tension, as if the story itself and the characters that inhabit could literally go anywhere, at any time, just at the drop of a hat. But Ron Howard, as skilled of a director as he may be with most that he does, doesn’t quite have the skill to where he can take a simple premise like this, shoot it longer than 2 hours, and still keep everybody on the edge of their seats. That tension and suspense comes around near the 2-hour-mark, but everything else leading up to it feels like a slow-burner, without any real places to go.

"I'm sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son you Jews and blacks!"

“I’m sorry for all of the hurtful comments I have made in the past. Now, somebody find my fucking son, you Jews and blacks!”

The places and areas that it does take a detour in, only feel like sad excuses for Howard to show everybody that this isn’t your typical, kidnapping flick. No siree, this one has more meaning and more of a point behind it. How? Well, because at one point, without giving too much away, Tom actually goes on a news station, gets in front of the camera, and puts a bounty on the kidnapper’s heads, stating that whoever finds these killers and his sons, will get double the amount of the ransom price he was originally proposed. This is one of the very rare smart ideas that I’m glad to see Howard take and it went on well for awhile, because you have to think about the media, and how much they love to twist the actual pain and agony that real families face, and take it in as their own story, made to be read and enjoyed by millions all over the globe. That’s what the media gives us and I could tell that’s the angle that Howard was trying to take with this material.

Then, well, it all crashed and burned, going right back to where it started from: A soapy melodrama.

And I hate to say it, but “soapy melodrama” isn’t exactly the right ingredient for a suspenseful, pore-sweating movie. Howard definitely tries to milk as much out as he can with this simple premise, but it to almost no avail. There’s no real point behind the kidnapping, the reasoning for doing so, or why this story is meant to be told. Which would have been fine, had the movie been a slam-bang, action-thriller that wasn’t asking us to use our brains too much or too often with the material, but those weren’t the types of waves I was receiving from Howard and co. Something felt like Howard was trying to reach for more than this material proposed, but ultimately failed at doing so. Meaning that instead of actually giving us something to chew and discuss on the way home, he just gives us a movie that’s in your head, and out of it a near-2 hours later.

Not so bad if you can make your movie the most entertaining thing out there, but Ransom is not that type of movie. It may have some spills, chills, and thrills, but not much else boiling underneath the surface other than two pissed-off people.

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant.....and named Dan....

Would have been awesome if his character was a Lieutenant…..and named Dan….

Speaking of those said, two pissed-off people, they’re actually played very well by both Mel Gibson and Gary Sinise, respectively. Gibson is a good actor with these types of roles because despite him seeming like a bit of a freakin’ nut behind the scenes, you can still that there’s an ounce of heart and humanity to the guy, and it shows every time he takes a dramatic role like this. Obviously he doesn’t get these types of roles coming his way anymore, but when he can make a role that seems to go totally against his bad-boy, hard-edged image, then I’m always able to welcome it with arms wide open. I’ll just have to let him know that I’m not Jewish before he approaches me.

Then we have Gary Sinise as the head-kidnapper who, despite being brought to our attention within the first 20 minutes, actually plays-up the psychotic-streak of this dude very well, actually making me believe that somebody so nutty and odd would actually go so far as to kidnap some millionaire’s son, just for the sake of fortune. That is until Sinise goes a bit overboard with this character, and has it come off more as a self-parody, rather than an actual character that you could believe handling himself in this type of situation, had it ever presented itself in front of him any other time. Together, they’re good because you never know who’s smarter than the other, but you know that their paths are going to eventually cross and when they do, all hell will break loose. It sort of does, but not in the way that you expect and I sort of liked that approach that Howard ended up taking. He goes for the over-the-top theatrics a bit by the end, but still keeps it grounded and humane enough to where you see these characters for all that they are, as random as they sometimes may be.

Consensus: Everything about Ransom should spark and sizzle with tension, but Ron Howard can’t seem to get it up and going, despite a wonderful central performance from Mel Gibson, showing us more power and depth to a man that’s thrown against his will and all that he knows with the world.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"I mean that: Your husband called me "the N-word"."

“I seriously heard your husband whisper derogatory statements about my race beneath his breath.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Adore (2013)

Knowing my friends and their moms, why can’t either of them be this open to experimentation?

Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) have been besties ever since they were children. They grew up together, got married and had families together, and are not banging each other’s son together. Wait, what?!?! You heard me, right: They are banging one another’s son, and what’s the strangest thing behind it all is that they like it, and don’t want to put at end to it. Roz’s relationship with Ian (Xavier Samuel) gives her a way to escape the problems she’s having with her hubby (Ben Mendelsohn); whereas Lil’s relationship with Tom (James Frecheville) is mostly spurred-on by the fact that Roz is in one with her son, so why not her, right? Anyway, the two seem to enjoy nailing these younger dudes, but what happens when the idea of them moving on and getting acquainted with women more their age, becomes a reality?

You could only imagine how a premise like this would settle in with any real person, mother or not. It’s pretty weird to think that one second, your best-friend’s mom is cooking you sandwiches for lunch, and then the next second, she’s cooking you sandwiches for your post-sex lunch. Pretty weird idea, don’t you think? Well, what may be construed as “weird” in the eyes of normal folk like, say, you or me, may not be in other people’s eyes and believe it or not: I could totally see something as outlandish as this actually happening in real-life. Hell, it could practically be happening right from underneath my nose for all I know!

"So it's cool, right? Not weird at all if you start locking arms with my son, and mine with yours?"

“So it’s cool, right? Not weird at all if you start locking arms with my son, and mine with yours?”

With that said, the movie takes the daring, but bold choice in showing these characters and their situations as real human-beings, that not only have a reasoning for mom-swapping, but also do not judge the other for doing so either. They’re all fine and dandy with the idea that they’ll be having dinner like a normal bunch of friends and family, and then be spankin’ the hell out one another right after. Pretty weird, I know, but the movie never judges these characters for partaking in such actions either, and I have to give it credit for that, if nothing else.

We see them, for them, and, in terms of our main female characters, paints them in a way that shows them as sexually-dominating, getting what they want, how they want it. Usually in movies like this, the shoes are on the other-foot, with the male getting whatever type of sexual-satisfaction he wants, whenever he says so; but here, it’s a bit different and I liked seeing a movie approach a story in that light. It may have not been able to work any other way (except maybe if you showed it from the guy’s perspectives, and had the movie written and directed by Neil Labute) and I’m glad they rolled down the avenue, making it more appealing to all MILFS world-wide.

And hell, if that gets their rumps in the seats, then count me in! Can’t lie, but I wouldn’t mind myself an older woman here and there, knowing what I’m saying? Probably not, but so be it! I know what I like, people! Leave me be!

But despite the brave approach the movie takes to its story, somehow, someway, none of it ever seems to come flying off the screen. You’d think that with this much sexual-tension lying underneath each and every frame of this movie, that you’d probably need about four fans and bottles of water around you just to make sure you stay cool and alive for the rest of the movie, but it surprisingly never reaches that point. There are signs that it may go that way, but after the first scene where the act of sex has already been initiated, it all sort of gets repetitive after that, showing how these four characters all entangle themselves in affairs, and don’t really seem to care for much else, except for maybe time away so they can bang each other some more.

You know, weird stuff like that.

The film does make you wonder though, and it brings up this question more than often: What are these young dudes and older women going to do with their sexual-lives together when the idea of moving-on, meeting new people, and exploring life shows up? Well, probably sit down, cry, and pout like it’s no tomorrow, because that’s exactly what these characters seem to do and it didn’t really make much sense either; and it should have, however, the film didn’t bother to spend much time developing these characters further than just that they like having sex, and best of all, with each other. More time spent on who these characters are, the way they function when they aren’t spreading themselves across the sheets and what they think about doing for the rest of their lives. would have done a sexualized-story like this wonders, but it somehow doesn’t get off the ground or make much sense.

Or, "The MILF-slayers" as they like to go by in some circles.

Or, “The MILF-slayers” as they like to go by in some circles.

For instance, take the two characters of the young guys. Both are chiseled, sexxed-up, in-shape, ready-to-go, and able to get any woman all hot and ready upon first-glance, so why the hell are they settling for these older ladies, who also happen to be each other’s mommies? Never made much sense, mainly because they aren’t weird dudes. They definitely are young and use their dicks more as tools than as meaningful parts of their body, used for creation and years of love, but it never hit me why they would get so far as to bang these gals, and then stick with them for so long. Never made much sense, and as much as Frecheville and Samuel do try with their roles, they aren’t anything more than just a bunch of pretty faces, slapped on to some sexy bodies. Hey, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty dam impressed with what they had packing.

As for the two older ladies that they’re banging, Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, both seem to like this material and put their hearts into it, but the movie doesn’t really do them any favors either. Even though the movie is on their side and shows that they have wants and needs too, it never feels like it gives them much credit for being the great actresses they are. They don’t develop that much, and in ways, get really strange at times, almost to the point of where it really creeped me out. It is creepy to see them all hang out like a normal family that goes to dinner, chats, and hangs out together, but it was even creepier to see them try to step out into the real world, and act like there isn’t anything more going on between them all. Now that, my friends, is strange as can be.

Consensus: The premise for Adore is odd and will definitely shock most normal, run-of-the-mill humans out there, but it does take a respectable-stance on its material, and doesn’t pass judgment on these characters, as thinly-written as they may be.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

The future looked so bright for these friends, and then puberty hit.

The future looked so bright for these close friends, and then puberty hit.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

Good call on making it Lee Daniels’ The Butler, because there would have been a whole lot of confusion differentiating this movie, from the 1916 short film of the same name.

The years from 1952 to 1986 saw a lot of change. Change in economy; change in society; change in people; change in politics; and just change in general. However, the one thing that didn’t change in this world was Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), and the job that he had as a White House butler. Remember though, he was the butler for more than 8 presidential terms, and saw them all: He started with Dwight D. Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ended with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman), and witnessed all of the change, the turmoil, the happiness, the problems, and all of the social happenings that occurred in our country, and had the best seat in the house. However, on his home-front, away from the very white, very rich people who lived in the nation’s capitol, Cecil Gaines found it a little hard to keep everybody in his happy, mainly his drunken wife (Oprah Winfrey) and rebellious, but racially-inspired son (David Oyelowo).

When you see a movie like The Butler (which I will continue to call it for the rest of this review), you have to know what you’re getting yourself into right from the start. Obviously its going to be predictable, ham-handed, preachy, episodic, and beyond earnest, but that’s what you expect with something that people are considering “The Civil Rights movement meets Forrest Gump“, right? But like with most movies of this type of nature, if you can get past all of the politics of what the story’s trying to get across, then you can actually find yourself a bit touched by this story, even a little inspired. Nope, I am not black and nope, I am not a Civil Rights activist that still fights to this day, but I’ll be damned if this movie didn’t make me want to raise my fist up to the white man!

"Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He's scaring the shit out of me."

“Dear Lord, please get this black man out of dining-area. He’s scaring the shit out of me.”

What’s very strange about this movie though, and what ultimately does it itself in, is that it’s seemingly two movies spliced into one, 2-hour-long feature. One is a flick about a meek and kind butler working for these rich, white politicians who are sometimes as mean a they come; while the other is a flick about a father and a son who obviously love and care for one another, but can’t find an agreement on where they both stand when it comes to the Civil Rights movement, and what needs to be done in order to get the same respect and gratitude that the white man’s been practically getting forever. One’s very interesting, if a little conventional, while the other is surprisingly well-told, and holds most of the core emotions that Lee Daniels himself has this flick bottle-up, just in hopes that it will eventually cork right open and have everybody crying in their seats.

Eventually the cork does come flying out and the emotions do run high, but it could have hit harder, had the other-half of this movie not been so coincidental.

And yes, I do get that if Gaines’ story didn’t have some sort of meaning in the grander scheme of things, then ultimately, we wouldn’t have a freakin’ flick; but some of this is just a little too hard to let slide by. A couple of scenes with Gaines and the president-at-the-time felt honest, realistic, and believable (mainly the ones with JFK, played very well by James Marsden, who not only looks, but feels the part, for as short of a running-time as he gets), but others just claw their nails into your face, just trying their hardest to get a tear out of you. The scenes with Nancy and Ronald Reagan mean well, but end up somehow spitting in the face of both of those familiar faces, making them seem more like fame-whores, rather than actual humans, that were considered at one time, the saviors of this country. I guess hating on Nixon is all fair game by now, but the Reagans? Really?!?! Oh well, maybe it’s just me, but something with their story left a little bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

But then of course we have the stronger-half of the movie: The father-son drama, that’s more compelling than it ought to be. I don’t know who to chalk up the credit to for this part of the movie working the most, so I’ll just give it to all involved with it. Firstly, Lee Daniels has never really impressed me with anything he’s done yet as a director, mainly because the dude’s nowhere near being subtle. Even Precious, as dramatic as it was, was completely over-the-top and got away with it all, because it was adapted from something people consider “truer than art”. Didn’t see that at all, but whatever. I didn’t drink the Kool-Aid on that notion, but hey, I guess it’s time to get blind-sided every once and awhile, right?

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Daniels doesn’t pull as many punches here, and it shows. When he keeps it grounded in a sense of comforting reality, you feel closer to these characters and have an emotional-placement in them and what it is that they do. Sometimes Daniels gets a little too over-his-head with various cuts to news footage of the South, where it was practically legal to kill a black person (only if you were a white person that is), but overall, the guy made sure that his story stayed on track and never lost sight of what he was really trying to tell us here. Maybe Gaines’ story didn’t impact the world like Daniels thinks it does, but it definitely is a story worth telling, especially on the big screen, and you can tell that Daniels loves that fact and doesn’t want to lose us, or our interest.

Like I was saying though, the aspect of this movie that mainly keeps it going throughout is the father-son relationship between Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo, two actors who give their best work in a long time, especially for the former, who has been churning out dull-role-after-dull-role ever since he won “The Big One” way back in ’06. Both characters, Cecil and Louis, are fighting a fight and doing it all for a cause; and that’s racism. But what separates one from the other is how they’re doing it. Cecil stays loyal, workable, and dedicated to his job, just to show that a black man can make a living in the White House, even if he isn’t at the head of it; while Louis, on the other hand, believes that taking to the streets is the one, and possibly only, way to get your voice heard and to make matters finished. At first, when he’s teaming-up with MLK, it’s all about resilience and control, but once the man gets assassinated, and Malcom X takes over the wheel, then it all becomes about violence, installing fear into society, and doing a whole bunch of other questionable acts that would end anyone in a slammer, regardless of their skin-color.

"Don't worry baby, I'll just buy you the White House."

“Don’t worry baby, I’ll just buy you the White House. I mean, cause Christ, I’m Oprah, bitch!”

Anyway though, I’m avoiding the fact that these two, despite them being both father and son, are fighting the same battle. They want to speak their minds and be heard for the rest of the world to take notice of, but are doing it completely differently, if not at the same time. But they don’t disagree with how either goes about it, and that just causes more friction between the two, even when they aren’t together. It’s very clever how Daniels stretches this aspect of their story, and it never gets old or over-done, especially since Whitaker and Oyelowo inject their characters with some real-life heart and trouble. Whitaker gives the type of tour-de-force performance that always is able to get his name noticed come Oscar season, but it’s mainly Oyelowo who shows us that he’s capable of taking someone who’s a little too young and brass to fully get a grip on the world, and still be arrogant about it. Yet, at the same time, still fully gain our sympathy because we know his heart is in the right place, it’s just that he doesn’t have the total understanding on what the world means or where it’s going to end up. Pretty interesting stuff once you think about it, and thankfully, Daniels doesn’t hammer that idea in too much, to where it practically becomes over-shadowing everything else; even if it still does, unintentionally so.

And the rest of the ensemble is great too, if not a bit too stacked for it’s own good. Going into this movie, I felt like I was going to be annoyed to high heavens of Oprah Winfrey here as Cecil’s wife, Gloria, all because it seemed like a piece of stunt-casting used just to get the movie’s name out there more and more for the rest of the world to see (because honestly: Everybody loves Oprah!). I have no qualms with Oprah, but it seemed like a dumb idea to cast her here, if not a very obvious one. However, the woman totally shocked the hell out of me with her portrayal here because she never over-does it, always brings out something new within this character, and charmed me with every scene she was in. Heck, she even made me forget I was watching Oprah act as somebody that wasn’t Oprah! Didn’t think it would happen, and nearly thought I was doomed once I saw her face on the big screen, but she sure did show my pretentious ass. Glad she did, too.

Also, glad to see my main man, Cuba Gooding Jr., getting more work and still being able to knock it out of the park. Take note, Hollywood. The man may be on his comeback trail. Guess Daddy Day Camp wasn’t such the career-killer everybody thought it was….okay, yeah, it was. But still, he’s back, baby!

Consensus: Lee Daniels’ The Butler touches plenty of schmaltz throughout it’s 2-hour running-time, but does it so in a way that will actually compel you, while also serving a history-lesson on how far we’ve come as a nation, and how many times we’ve screwed-up in the past. However, the future looks bright and that’s something I feel that is worth seeing, especially during these hard times.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

When he isn't responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

When he isn’t responding to politicians who want his input on legal matters, the Butler still finds enough time to stare out into space, still being unresponsive. Whatta man.

Photos Credit to: IMDBCollider, JobloComingSoon.net

Robot & Frank (2012)

Never trust robots, until they make you steak dinners. Then, it’s okay.

Set somewhere in the near, but not too distant future, Frank (Frank Langella) is an aging jewel thief whose son (James Marsden) buys him a domestic robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) mainly because he cannot take care of him being about 10-hours away. Even though he’s very resistant at first with the robot, Frank warms up when and realizes he can use it to restart his career as a cat burglar.

Everybody seems to like to make jokes about what could possibly happen, but the idea of having robots practically take over most human’s positions in the world, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched after seeing a movie like this. I mean, think about it: if some human is tired and bored of doing what they do, why not just get a computer/robot that’s programmed to do the same work, with more inspiration, and probably with better results as well? It’s definitely something that most people can poo-poo to the side and say it’s just crazy talk, but I’m serious, if we don’t look out, sooner or later, the robots will be taking over the world. First it’s the jobs, then it’s the wife and kids, then it’s the president, and then it’s the world from there. Okay, maybe not that crazy and drastic, but just you wait you non-believers. Just you wait.

But those simple ideas and thoughts aren’t really the gist of this movie and maybe that’s why I liked it so much. It’s a sci-fi film that does include robots, but isn’t all about shit blowing-up, intergalactic battles, and possible end of the world talk. It’s just a realistic and honest, human film that just so happens to involve a talking robot that does and says whatever it’s programmed to do. Think of it as I, Robot without all of the guns, bombs, fights, explosions, kick-ass score, and a constantly-yelling Will Smith.

"While you're at it, shine my shoes, bitch."

“While you’re at it, shine my shoes, bitch.”

This film isn’t all about showing robots taking over the positions and roles that most humans fill; it’s actually about a sweet, tender story of a man getting old and trying to still connect with the world he once knew. Through the robot, Frank is able to relive his glory days as a cat burglar and feels the type of rush and sensation that he hasn’t felt in years, and most of all: hasn’t been able to feel them with anybody else. See, Frank is a crook and was never really able to live that up with his kids or his wife, so it was always just him riding solo and committing crimes. Not the worst way to conduct business, but a bit of a lonely-experience if you think about it. That’s why it’s nice to see him and the robot talk with one-another about life, what they’re doing, and all of the sweet, fond memories that Frank had from his golden-days and it’s as sad as it is sweet.

Getting old is a pretty damn big part of life and it’s something that we can never avoid. Yet, at the same time, it’s something that we can all help by caring for the other’s that need it the most and that’s exactly what this flick shows. You see a friendship between this robot and Frank actually start-up and you see how the other one cares for the other and it’s very surprising how many depths there are to this friendship, as well as how nice they treat it, rather than making it some old-school joke about a cook treating some robot like a human-being. Hell, the movie itself even tries to remind Frank that the robot is not human and as painfully honest as that was to see on-screen, it still made me sad to think that there are just some people out there who probably cannot tell the difference by what is real and what isn’t, and for them, it all comes down to emotions. It’s a thoughtful-idea that the movie plants into your head, and it’s one that the movie still treats with respect and care, sort of like it’s protagonist.

However, the idea’s of getting old and going through dementia aren’t that subtle to see, especially by the last-act when everything begins to get obvious and heavy-handed. We get that the movie wanted us to know that Frank is going through a hard-time with life in trying to remember what he had for dinner 2 days ago, but it gets to a point of where it just seems like the flick is making it TOO obvious. It’s nice how they treat the idea, overall, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, you realize that they could have played it a bit safer and just kept on doing what they did in the first-place. May seem like a bit of a dumb negative to hold against the flick, but it’s something I noticed and didn’t swing too well with me.

The one element of this movie that did swing very, very well with me was Frank Langella as, well, Frank. Langella has this lovable and endearing look and feel to him that makes it easy for us to fall-behind the guy’s back and just wish for the best, but what really makes this performance work is how much you believe in this guy in what he’s going through. He doesn’t forget stuff like how to tie his shoes or turn the television on, but simple things like what his kids are up to in the world or where his favorite restaurant is, really stood-out to me and the way that Langella handles that character’s real-life dilemma with such believe-ability, really worked for me. Langella, in my mind, can almost do no wrong, and here, he gets to show me exactly why it is that I think that and why the guy can still take over a movie, even if he’s not playing one of our most famous president’s of all-time.

"This library used to be sooooo mainstream."

“This library used to be so mainstream.”

The one that really took me by surprise here was Peter Sarsgaard, who literally doesn’t do anything else in this movie other than voice the robot, but he does it so well that it is totally worth being mentioned. Sarsgaard has this voice that is instantly recognizable, by the way it’s so sinister, yet so compelling in the way that he can make little phrases or words sound so devious, yet have so much more meaning that it’s insane. The guy’s always a creep-o in the movies that I see him in, but since he only has to voice the robot, he seems more humane and kinder with the way he uses his words to convey emotion and feeling. Which is weird, because he’s voicing a robot that apparently has neither emotion nor feeling. It’s a great job by Sarsgaard who shows that just by having strong vocal-chords, you can still make the most-compelling character out of the whole movie.

James Marsden and Liv Tyler play Frank’s kids and they’re both pretty good, especially because they get to show how much they love their daddy and will do anything for him, yet still have their own lives to look after as well. I liked how the movie didn’t just make them a bunch of sneaky, lying pieces-of-shits that were ungrateful for everything that dear old daddy did for them, but I still would have liked to see a little bit more to their characters and their history with Frank. Susan Sarandon is here as Frank’s love-interest, and does a pretty nice job with what she’s given, but is just here to serve the plot and serve Frank’s moral dilemma. She’s okay with what she has to do, but it also feels like a bit of a waste for such a beautiful and powerful talent.

Consensus: Even if you might not suspect it to be more than just a movie about a guy and a robot becoming friends, you still will be surprised to know that Robot & Frank features plenty of depth and emotions about the fact that people get old, that it sucks, and that it’s up to us to care for those ones who need our help the most. It’s also a sweet, little story about a guy and robot becoming friends, as well.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'm telling you: 5 more years, folks.

I’m telling you: 5 more years, folks.

Movie 43 (2013)

Not all celebrities are prudes. Only the ones with Oscars are.

The central story is about how a deranged writer (Dennis Quaid) forces a studio executive (Greg Kinnear) to make his movie. But before any moves actually take place on it, we get to see what the actual-product is as the writer reads it out to us and the executive. Basically, it’s just one dude’s shitty idea, all for us to see and cringe at. Yay!

Sketch-comedies never seem to work, that is, unless you just so happen to be drunk, horny, wild, and ready for a good-time. However, I don’t think it will matter if you’re any of those things: you may never, ever enjoy this movie. Okay, maybe if you’re 12-years-old, and love to hear the word “balls” in almost every sentence  then yes, you might just have a freakin’ ball with this thing. But if you are above that age-limit in anyway, shape, or form, this is going to be one cringe-inducing trip for you. Whether you like it or not. I’m going to guess your most likely to side with the latter.

Any movie can tell a ball, poop, or fart joke like it’s nobody’s business, but it’s all how you do it and literally; this film just cannot do it in the right way where you laugh, chuckle, or even get that they just made the joke. Almost every single skit in this movie has at least one use of the word “ball” or “shit” and it gets annoying, probably around the time the first skit kicks-in and you realize that you’re going to be tormented to the core of your stomach, with non-stop raunch jokes that do nothing. Apparently, everybody who ever worked on this movie, all thought that the idea of somebody having a certain bodily-fluid sprayed all-over-their-face was downright, hilarious and it’s a huge-shocker that it never dawned on any of these people that maybe, just maybe, the type of material that they are working with, just isn’t funny enough to suit a 6-to-7-minute sketch, let alone a whole movie full of ’em.

"Today's lesson is, "How to NOT choose shitty movies like this".

“Today’s lesson is, “How to NOT choose shitty movies like this”.

And also, the idea of having a movie so chock-full of sketches where big-named stars just demean themselves to the lowest, common denominator, almost seems so old-school, it’s not even worth it paying the money to go out and seeing. I mean, you can probably go onto Funny or Die, College Humor, Cracked, or even YouTube for that matter, find big-celebrities, doing some crazy shite for laughs, and actually having there be; ACTUAL LAUGHS. Here, in this movie where it’s just one, long presentation of a bunch, you get probably one-or-two laughs and that is literally all because the jokes that they use in the film that are actually funny, were already used 100-times before in all of the trailers/commercials we have either seen or heard, 100 times before. Going out to see this movie is already a crime, but actually going out to pay for it, is like a freakin’ cardinal sin. Especially when you know that more-quality humor is laying right there for you, at your fingertips.

Even if the delivery is god-awful, at least some of the placement is okay. For instance, some skits actually seem to have some promise like the one where Robin (Justin Long) actually stands up for himself and gets involved with a Superhero speed-dating event, where other, actual superheroes show-up to mingle and hopefully, get laid. This idea seems like it’s planned to be a butt-load of fun, especially if that idea came from Joss Whedon, but sadly, it comes from the makers of this shit-pile and before you could say the word, “kryptonite”, the sketch has already lost itself in saying the word “bush” or “shit”, one way too many times. I mean, when you got Wonder Woman and Batman talking to each other about how they fucked and it never amounted to anything but Batman running-away and never calling again, you would expect non-stop hilarity, right? But nope, instead it’s all about having Robin still be played-out as the softer, gayer-one of the two and if you didn’t think that joke was over-played by now, trust me, just wait for the rest of the movie.

However, without the promise of an interesting-idea, most skits just fall from grace, right from the very start. The skit where Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott both find and capture a leprechaun (played by Gerard Butler, in CGI-form), in hopes to get some gold, starts off pretty bad. Apparently the director, Brett Ratner (in case you haven’t been surprised yet), thought that the idea of having a leprechaun spew-out a bunch of dirty words was funny enough to last a whole sketch, especially one where it seemed like it’s main actors would actually sparkle in. Sadly, they just don’t do anything for the sketch, or the movie itself and the way it all ends is so dark and savage-like, that it really left me with a bad-taste in my mouth, which is very shocking since the rest of the film just couldn’t. I want to spoil the ending of that sketch for you so you understand what I’m blabbering all about, but sadly, I am a critic and I have morals, people. But still, don’t see this movie because I won’t spoil it for you.

"No, I'M in this movie?!?!"

“No, I’M in this movie?!?!”

The idea of having all of these different stars being packed into one movie where all they do is completely raunchy and dirty shit (sometimes literally), may make them seem cool and on-the-edge, but in reality: it’s just a poor-decision. I guess it’s really strange to see heavyweights like Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman in a skit about a dude with balls on his neck, or a skit with Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts playing parents of a home-schooled kid that give him the full, high-school experience with sex, drugs, abuse and all, but it’s even stranger to see peeps like them actually stoop themselves so low as to actually make this material work. I don’t know if they knew this right from the initial script-read, but this is terrible-material they are working with here so instead of giving it their all and actually going to town with whatever energy or sense of purpose they can muster-up to make this work, they seem almost as if they forcing it out, almost like a kidney stone (and yes, it is THAT painful to watch). Nobody here really out-shines the other and probably the only person that really made me laugh and surprised the hell out of me from this whole cast was Will Sasso, who shows-up, does his thing, reminds us that he is still alive, and actually made me laugh. I was terribly and utterly surprised, but he was the real spectacle to see for me. Everybody else can suck my nut because I hated this shit, and I hated watching them try to act in it!

Consensus: Do not, I repeat, DO NOT let the star-studded cast fool you, Movie 43 is one hell of a bombshell that begins on a lame-note and ends on an even-worse one that makes you feel like you’ve just been hit over-the-head with somebody’s foreign parts, and not in the fun, or pleasureful way, either. It’s the type of way that disturbs you and scars you for life. That is, until you see an equally as bad movie and that’s, going to be very hard to come by for some time I think.

1 / 10 = Crapola!!

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Poor Gerard Butler. This is probably his worst movie to-date.

Goon (2012)

Stifler vs. Sabretooth. The show-down of a life time.

When he’s seen dispatching a rude opposing hockey player in the stands, Doug Glatt (Seann William Scott) is hired by a rival team for his fighting skills. It seems the new team’s star is gun-shy after being hit by a puck, and Glatt’s job is to be his on-ice bodyguard.

Hockey fans don’t get so much love their way when it comes to getting their own movies. I mean you got classics like ‘Slapshot’, ‘Miracle’, and ‘The Mighty Ducks’ franchise to an extent but they are all pretty spread-out far apart from each other. Thankfully, I think you can add this one into the “pretty good” list.

The script, written by Apatow lovers Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg, is taking a big step with this flick considering that all of the controversy in the NHL today is all about how they are starting to come down hard on fights or hits that may cause concussions so the general premise here can be either taken in bad taste or as politically incorrect. Either way, it doesn’t matter because these guys seem like they love hockey, love watching it, and just love watching these guys take off the gloves and get into big-ass brawls. This script definitely shows a lot of love for the sport of hockey but it also shows a lot of love for its story and the characters that inhabit it as well.

This film is definitely funny and has plenty of those raunchy moments that we should come to expect from R-rated flicks, but the film has more heart than it may have you think at first. The film explores some dark themes such as drugs, death, and even adultery but it’s never too serious to where it’s strange, instead, the film focuses on it just for a small amount of time to have us feel something for this story. The drama here isn’t over-bearing but it’s used in some nice ways that may take you by surprise and even though you won’t be shedding tears over this material by the end, you’ll definitely feel a lot closer to the story and its characters.

Still though, this film doesn’t really take itself too softly and still delivers the goods when it comes to showing some straight-up ass-beating coming from one of the sports that’s most famous for it. Each scene has a gory look to it and even though blood never spills out like this in real life, it’s still awesome to see somebody lose about 12 pints of blood when they’re getting their teeth knocked out. I love hockey fights the most (then again, who doesn’t?!?) but they were definitely a lot of fun to watch as simple and unoriginal they could be. Besides, any fight sequence that’s played to “Working Man” by Canada’s own Rush is a win-win for me.

My complaints with this film aren’t huge but they still did take me out of this one a bit. I think that this film over-did it a bit with it’s whole raunchy/dirty side because it really got annoying after about the 20th time I heard the word “fuck” used in the film, and it hadn’t even been 5 minutes yet. “Fuck” isn’t a word that bothers me, but once you use it too much just to gain laughs, then you start to make that word even less unfunny. Also, for a film that’s all about hockey, there definitely wasn’t as much hockey playing as I would have liked to see from this flick but I guess it was all about the ass whooping and that’s all that matters folks.

What really makes this film’s heart come out is its performance from Seann William Scott as Doug Glatt. Scott has never really done a role like this before because instead of just being Steve Stifler and letting out all of these dirty and degrading sex jokes towards girls all the time, he is actually more toned down and creates a lot more of a likable character. At first, Doug seems dumb and very slow but after awhile we start to realize that he’s just a shy and kind-hearted guy that never really got the time of day from the people all around him. He’s a very lovable character right from the start and one of those guys that seems so easy to root for even though he’s beating the shit out of everybody on the other teams.

Liev Schreiber is once again adding onto his list of great “villain” roles and his one here as Ross Rhea isn’t any different, except for the fact that he seems a lot more of a grounded person that has been so used to beating people’s asses that he sort of knows that he’s not gotten any younger and it’s time to pass the torch. The show-down between him and Glatt is also pretty freakin’ awesome and ends the film on a pretty high note. Jay Baruchel is pretty funny as Glatt’s buddy, Pat; Alison Pill is a revelation as Eva because she brings so much warmth to her very messed-up character, but it’s so hard to deny that you like her; and Eugene Levy had his moments as the disapproving father of Doug, but it was still a tad confusing for me to see Jim’s dad as Stifler’s dad too. Oh well, still can’t wait for the reunion in a week!

Consensus: Goon isn’t perfect but that’s not the point, it’s supposed to be a funny, violent, and entertaining hockey flick that features not only the goriest fight sequences I have ever seen in a hockey film, let alone sports flick, but also has a lot more heart to its story than the trailers, posters, and even its talent involved may have you expect. If you love hockey, definitely give this a try.

8/10=Matinee!!

Repo Men (2010)

I feel bad for the dude who has to get found out with the organ as his schlong.

In the world set in the not-too-distant future, artificial organs are readily available to anybody with a credit card. But what happens if a buyer falls delinquent on his payments? Jude Law stars as an organ repo man who’s now fleeing his ex-partner after failing to keep up the payments on his own recently installed ticker.

Going into this film, my expectations were totally lowered beyond belief and I was in for some dumb, sci-fi fun, but what I got was better than I actually expected. Love when that happens!

The thing for this film that it has working for itself is the fact that it has a lot of fun elements to it. I have to say that the story will keep you entertained for the most part, there are also some jokes here that will have you laughing, and the action is relatively good which will keep you watching. All of this was going good for quite some time until the middle act comes around, and how bad that really was.

To say the least I didn’t understand just why on Earth I was supposed to care for this “killer”, who all of a sudden gains a conscience and doesn’t feel like killing anymore people. I mean this dude has no problem with killing all of these other people, but when it comes to his own life, aww hell no! I also didn’t really understand why everybody was getting these artificial organs in the first place. I get it that their all easy to find, but why the hell does everyone keep on getting them if they know that they can’t pay and will eventually end up getting killed.

Another problem that this film has is that if you have seen all of the other films that this one has ripped off, it gets really tedious after awhile. The city seems like it’s the same exact one from Blade Runner, and anytime this film over’s up something cool, it’s something we’ve seen before and probably done 10 times better the first time around. The first act also had this really weird vibe going for it, but then by the end, started to get all serious which I couldn’t take into consideration.

However, despite all of these problems with the story, there are some really well-shot action scenes by the end, filled with guns, knives, blood, and gore flying all-over-the-place which made me go “hell yeah” when the scenes were over. The ending will also probably piss some viewers off but I have to say that I liked it, even though it did seem like it was backing out from a sucky story transition.

Jude Law seems like a weird casting for this role as Remy, but somehow he makes it work and for the whole film while were watching him, he actually allows us to sympathize and root on his character. Forest Whitaker is also good as the conflicted thug, Jake, who brings a lot of menace as well as humor to a role that seemed like it was written for cheep jokes. Law and Whitaker have good chemistry and it was pretty much a bummer to see them separated as the film went on. Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, and RZA are also good in their own little roles, but the script is just pretty lame as a whole.

Consensus: With good performances, fun bloody action, and a surprising twist at the end, Repo Men is what I call a somewhat guilty pleasure that suffers from not-so original writing with plenty of plot holes that seem to over-come this film, and a bad transition into a story that seems lame.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Scream 3 (2000)

Not the best way to end a great horror trilogy, but an alright way.

Sidney Prescott again battling a crazed killer — only this time it’s on the set of Stab, a movie-within-a-movie based on the original Woodsboro murders. Gale Weathers (Courteney Cox), Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and the rest of the Scream gang appear, alongside new characters played by Parker Posey, Jenny McCarthy and more.

So the first films, were just as equally good as each other. They had so many things that were just great about them, that made them entertaining to watch, but at the same time, game-changing. The sad thing is, that this one, doesn’t really do much with those two.

I think the main problem with this film is that the writer of the first two, Kevin Williamson, chose not to be on deck for writing this, because he did some crappy short-lived television series. BIG MISTAKE!! I mean the film does have it’s usual tongue-in-cheek appeal to it as usual, with some surprising twists, as well as funny moments, but it doesn’t have enough of that insight into the horror films it’s making fun of. The film sadly, starts to descend into the horror films they made fun of in the first place, cliche, and formulaic, which is really sad, considering the first two films, were always against that.

But I will not lie, I was still entertained by this film. There are plenty of awesome deaths in this film, and the whole time you are on your feet wondering just who the new killer really is. Also, plenty of “homages”, and cameos pop-up, and although their not that great as you would expect, they still are cool to see, if you can spot them.

Neve Campbell is back doing what she does best, playing the scared, but determined, Sidney Prescott, and that charm never seems to lose. Courteney Cox and David Arquette, are also back, and even better than ever, although I thought their best work together was in the second film. I was a little disappointed that the supporting cast wasn’t as memorable as the first two, but they still do shine in ways. My favorite was Parker Posey, who literally steals the screen with everything she does and says, which really worked for this film, even when it was in it’s most driest moments. Patrick Dempsey, Jenny McCarthy, Liev Schreiber, and Deon Richmond all show up in this film, and do the best with what they can do, which isn’t asking much, but I just wish the script had them made out to be better.

I think this film kind of has me a little scared for the next one, but yet, I’m not all that sure. Williamson is back, and I can only hope that Wes Craven can do with that film, like he did with the first two, and not like he did with this one.

Consensus: Still entertaining, and suspenseful, but the weakest part of the trilogy, with a lack-luster writing job, that turns into more cliche, and formulaic, than the first two.

7/10=Rental!!!