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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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

Tag Archives: Liv Tyler

Heavy (1995)

The more, the merrier.

Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince) works in a pizza shop and doesn’t really talk to anyone around him. While he gets along with most everyone, it has to do with the fact that he’s so shy and big, nobody really knows how to really talk to him, or what to say. Because for Victor, life is just something to get through on a day-to-day basis and it doesn’t really matter about much of anything else. But his life sort of changes when a new girl, Callie (Liv Tyler), comes into town and begins working at one of the local taverns in the area. Immediately, Callie takes a bit of a liking to Victor – it may not be love, infatuation, or anything sentimental, but it’s enough to give Victor some life and hope. But Callie has some issues going on in her own life, in that she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, either. The two end up forging something of a friendship that helps the two navigate through life and realize that there truly is some sweetness out there in the sometimes dark and brim world.

Writer/director James Mangold has had quite the career, mostly because he’s never really seemed to pin himself to one genre in particular. When he’s not making action-heavy, big-budget spectacles (the Wolverine, Knight & Day), he’s actually out there making subtle, slightly arty dramas (Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line). And of course, when he’s not making those movies, he’s off trying his hand at other genres, like Westerns (3:10 to Yuma), fantasy rom-coms (Kate & Leopold), and twisty, Hitchcockian-thrillers (Identity).

"Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don't call me, 'Steve.'"

“Take me away. Far, far away from here, where people don’t call me, ‘Steve.'”

And then, there’s his debut, which is perhaps his most different movie, but unfortunately, probably his weakest.

For one, it shows that Mangold definitely knew how to create a sense of time and place. Heavy is a very sad, depressed and at times, moody flick. Mangold puts us in this small town, where it’s not exactly bright, shiny, or even happy – it’s just a lot of rain, clouds and frowns. There’s hardly any light in the sky, nor is there much of any light in the people’s faces. In a way, they’re all kind of miserable and at a stand-still, not knowing where they want to go, what they want to do, and how to go about the rest of their lives.

Which is fine for a mood-piece, if that is exactly what you’re going for, but at nearly two hours, Heavy wears out its sad and repressed welcome. After all, Mangold presents this small part of the world and doesn’t have much else to offer; the sweeping shots of the forest and mountains underneath dark clouds of rain, while beautiful, are also incredibly repetitive, not adding much to the story except an obvious bit of symbolism. Which isn’t to say that it’s a pretty movie, because it is, but beautiful landscapes can only go so far.

Especially when you don’t have much of a story to actually work with.

And that seems to be what’s happened with Heavy. Mangold has a good idea of how to frame and show a story, but actually telling it and allowing for there to be any sort of drive behind the narrative, he doesn’t quite seem to have the knowledge of here. Cause if anything, Heavy isn’t just a heavy movie, but it’s a slow one, that doesn’t really seem to have much to say, or anything to really show. It’s just a bunch of sad people, being sad and trying their hardest not to be sad anymore.

Or something like that, I’m not quite sure. It’s basically the most picture perfect Sundance movie ever made: Moody, dark, gritty, and basically just depressed. It doesn’t have much of a reason to be, either, but Mangold clearly doesn’t know that and pounds hard on the darkness.

Cheer up, Liv! You're always going to be rich!

Cheer up, Liv! You’re always going to be rich!

If anything, the performances do help this movie out a whole bunch, even when it seems like there’s no real character-development or strong writing to even help them.

Case in point, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Victor. Vince is a pretty accomplished character actor, who shows up every now and then in those sloppy, country bumpkin-ish roles. Here though, he’s actually pretty thoughtful and rather sweet as Victor, never going too far to say much of anything, but always getting something across by just the look on his face, or the slight-movement of his brow. It’s actually the perfect kind of small, subtle performance, for this small, rather subtle movie, the only problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t quite know what to do with itself, so of course, it’s a great performance put to waste.

Same goes for Liv Tyler as the object of Victor’s affection. At this stage early on in her career, Tyler was more of a cute mystery – we didn’t quite know if we could trust the characters she portrayed, nor did it seem like she did. And here, she’s quite good in a role that doesn’t quite measure up to much, except being pretty, moody, and nice to almost everyone around her. Pros of the big-screen like Shelley Winters, who plays Victor’s sometimes controlling mother, and Debbie Harry, as the co-worker who’s a bit of a problem to everyone, work out well here, but they, too, like the rest of the movie, just seem underdeveloped.

Oh well. At least Mangold would eventually get his act together.

Consensus: Even with the beautiful cinematography, Heavy just never fully comes together as both a visually and emotionally satisfying movie, but instead, only resulting in the former.

5 / 10

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Kiss her, bro. Do it. Why not?

Photos Courtesy of: Derek Winnert

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U-Turn (1997)

uturnposterNext time, wait for the rest stop.

While on the road to who knows where, Bobby (Sean Penn) has a bit of car trouble and has to pull over into the nearest gas-station/mechanic he can find. Of course, this leads him right into the lovely, yet wacky little town of Superior, Arizona, where he’s told that his car will have to stay around for a few more days so that it can get inspected and get all of the right parts it needs to continue to run. Bobby’s not happy about this, but he can’t do much about it, so he decides to set up shop in town for a short while, and in doing so, attracts a whole lot of unwanted and crazy attention from the local folks who clearly seem to be pretty interested in what a city boy like Bobby’s doing around their parts. One person in particular is the sexual and dangerous Grace (Jennifer Lopez), who decides that she wants to run away with Bobby and start out a new life for her. The only issue is that her husband (Nick Nolte), controls almost everything that she does and will not let her out of his sights, regardless of who stands in his way.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

Even Sean knows neither of these kids have a career in showbiz.

U-Turn is the perfect movie for someone like Oliver Stone to direct right after making something as loud, bombastic and overstuffed like Nixon. Because with U-Turn, you can tell that Stone’s getting back down to his roots, catching his breath, and enjoying this sick, dark and twisted world that he seemed to love and be so fascinated with in Natural Born Killers. And sure, while U-Turn is no way in the same league as that near-masterpiece, it’s still a fun little piece of noir-trash that reminds us what can be done when you have some good material, with a director who knows how to handle it all so well.

Of course, Stone has been better and worse before, but still U-Turn shows us that, once again, Stone knows a thing or two about these dark, gritty and messed-up tales about small people, in small towns, doing some pretty cruel and evil things to one another. Stone of course makes this little town of Superior all the more zany and crazy than we’d ever expect right away, but it works in the movie’s favor; every character we run into and get a glimpse of, despite seeming like over-the-top cartoons, still have this smallest sense of danger in their bones that makes it feel like they could step into the story at any second and cause all sorts of damage. It’s what most thrillers in the same vein strive for, but because Stone has a certain eye for these kinds of movies, it works a whole lot more.

Then again, it is a very disgusting movie that, at times, sure, can test our patience for what we’re capable of seeing and accepting for an upwards of two hours or so.

That said, Stone is having fun here and honestly, that can be sort of rare. There’s this small glimmer of a message about Native American tribes and the fact that they were kicked off of their land, but the movie doesn’t make it a top-priority to get on any sort of soapbox and preach to the audience – it’s rare for an Oliver Stone movie to do that, but it’s a welcome change-of-pace because it helps not take away from the cast and twisty, turny plot, and also allow for us to enjoy the movie a whole lot more, all its shortcomings with plot aside.

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Wow. Is this the last time Billy Bob was actually engaged and/or enjoying himself?

Sean Penn is a nice addition to the world of Oliver Stone and even though it’s not a more spirited and crazy performance like we’re so used to seeing from him, as Bobby, it almost feel like he didn’t have to be. In a way, he’s sort of the cool, calm and collected one in the middle of a group full of nuts, wacko’s and fools, which suits Penn a whole lot, even if it is also a whole bunch of fun to see him freak-out every so often. Same goes for Lopez, who is playing the typical femme fatale we see in these sorts of flicks and does a solid job playing up that sexy, vivaciousness of her, making us wonder if we can, or can’t, trust her.

But then, there’s the rest of the ensemble who seem to be a little more ramped-up than Lopez and Penn, which is perfectly fine because it suits them all so well.

Powers Boothe and his eyes steal every scene he’s in, because of how scary he is; Jon Voight has a few heartfelt moments in the middle of a wacky and wild movie; Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes seem as if they walked off of the set of a sitcom as two young lovers who constantly keep on running into Bobby; Billy Bob Thornton seems spirited and awake as the town mechanic who seems to be enjoying his chances of ripping Bobby off every chance he gets; and yes, Nick Nolte is as dastardly as can be, playing Grace’s husband, snarling and howling every line that comes out of his mouth. But you know what? It works. We’re supposed to be repulsed by this guy and Nolte is perfect at delivering it all.

If only he and Stone worked together more.

Consensus: As wild and as crazy as Stone has been, U-Turn also shows off his most vile and inhumane piece that is definitely not his smartest movie, but still a bunch of fun, if in the right mood for it.

7.5 / 10

Yeah, Sean can't be bothered because he's just too cool, yo.

Yeah, Sean can’t be bothered because he’s just too cool, yo.

Photos Courtesy of: DVD Dizzy, Horror Cult Films

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

He gets angry. He goes green. He doesn’t like it. Yeah, we get it.

Scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) has a bit of a problem. After being exposed to a gamma radiation that contaminated his body and cells, he’s now been unable to control his emotions and therefore, has been lashing out as the Hulk. Desperate to find a cure and get away from the controversial spotlight that constantly surrounds him, Banner decides to go across the world, looking anywhere that he can find any sign of hope. Of course, going off the grid as he does also means having to be cut-off from his one true love Betty Ross (Liv Tyler), who wants nothing more than for him to just be safe. Her father, CIA Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt), however, wants Banner to turn himself into the authorities so that they can cure him and make sure that he doesn’t go around smashing things anymore. But because Banner doesn’t seem all that interested in listening or taking orders, Ross decides to enlist the help of a supremely powerful enemy known as The Abomination (Tim Roth), who is nearly as dangerous, if not more as the Hulk.

How Edward Norton prepares for a role. Any role.

How Edward Norton prepares for a role. Any role.

Except in his case, he’s the baddie!

It’s been said and shown that giving the Hulk his own movie doesn’t quite work out as perfectly as some would prefer. Ang Lee’s Hulk was an odd, slow and downright boring character-study that was way too deep for its own good and the Incredible Hulk itself, while fun, still feels like it’s not really allowing for this interesting character, other than, as expected, setting up several other Marvel movies to come up after. If anything, as evidenced by the first two Avengers movies, Hulk is perhaps best used as a supporting character, who comes around every so often, destroying things, smashing them and reminding people that he can an absolute crowd-pleaser, while also the most dangerous thing around.

But regardless of all this, the Incredible Hulk does do the character some justice, in that it gives him plenty of things to smash and be angry at. At the same time, however, it also can’t help but feel like a small disappointment compared to all of the other standalone Marvel movies, where we get a rich mix of story, humor, heart, and excessive tie-ins. In a way, actually, the Incredible Hulk‘s actually very interesting to watch all of these years later as, at the time, it was the second movie produced by Marvel in this planned-universe (after Iron Man, obviously). So, with that said, it’s neat to see how little the film actually relies on featuring tie-ins from other superheros, or barely even hinting of their existence at all; after all, when this movie was being made, the idea of an Avengers movie was just a pipe-dream that Marvel had planned, it all came down to whether or not people were going to stick around for four more years to actually see it. Thankfully, they did, but as a small microcosm of what Marvel once was, the Incredible Hulk serves as a nice little escape from some of the overstuffed and overcrowded superhero movies we’ve got going on nowadays.

And I’m not just talking about Marvel’s movies, either.

But regardless of its importance in the long-run of Marvel movies, what the Incredible Hulk does best is that it serves its story justice by offering up as much as action as humanly possible. Louis Leterrier isn’t the best director out there, but he’s a competent enough director that when you tell him to shoot an action-sequence, well, he does just that. And to mention, he makes them pretty damn exciting and fun, even if they are just chock-full of CGI and green-screens. Still, that’s the name of the game with these superhero movies and if that’s what I’m going to start complaining about, well then, I’ve got bigger problems on my hand.

And even when the action isn’t going on, the movie still works fine enough. The drama may not be as heavy as it was in Ang Lee’s movie, which is both a positive, as well as negative; positive because it doesn’t drag the story down from being an actual fun piece of big-budgeted action, negative because it doesn’t always feel like it’s the strongest it can be, given the cast and talent involved. Getting Edward Norton involved with the movie in the first place was smart, as it showed that someone as talented and as smart as him was willing to take a chance with this role and, well, guess what? He does a good job with it.

Take away that grizzled 'stache and Liv Tyler's a spitting-image of William Hurt!

Take away that grizzled ‘stache and Liv Tyler’s a spitting-image of William Hurt!

Granted, the material is not nearly as strong as we’re used to seeing Norton work with, but he does what he can, with what he’s given. While Ruffalo is a perfect fit as the Hulk now, it still makes me wonder what would have happened if Norton didn’t piss-off too many people behind-the-scenes and he was around, collecting the big paychecks. Sadly, it’s all speculation, because obviously, Norton didn’t last long.

But hey, he left a pretty good impression.

After all, some of the scenes he has with Tim Roth, William Hurt and especially, Liv Tyler, as oddly-written as they may be, he brings a certain amount of genuineness to it that makes us feel closer to this story, as well as this character. We don’t get to know his heart and soul like we did in Ang Lee’s, but that’s actually fine; you get the sense that perhaps they were setting-up more development of this character for future movies, but instead, had to opt for the easy way out in just letting it all hang. While I don’t particularly agree with the fact that we can’t give Hulk his own movie, one of these days, I’d like to see them do him justice one day, where we get all of the smashing and whatnot, but some heart and humanity behind it as well.

Maybe with Ruffalo? Who knows!

Consensus: As an early Marvel movie, the Incredible Hulk does fine in giving enough action to help measure out some of the messier parts of the movie, like the melodrama.

7 / 10

It's like David vs. Goliath, although, they're both pretty well-matched.

It’s like David vs. Goliath, although, they’re both pretty well-matched.

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

Space Station 76 (2014)

Being up in space can make a lot of people upset. And horny too, apparently.

Somewhere all the way up in space, lies Space Station 76 a refueling outpost that is being currently used in the 70’s. Aboard the 76 are a bunch of sad and lonely people, most of whom don’t really seem to understand that there’s more to life than just what’s given to them. Like, for instance, try the ship’s mechanic (Matt Bomer), who can’t seem to get a grip on his emotions, or even his philandering, constantly pill-popping wife (Marisa Coughlan). Then, there’s also Captain Glenn (Patrick Wilson) who, because of a secret he’s holding near and dear to his heart, is slowly dying inside and is contemplating whether or not this life that he has is worth living after all. But, soon, both of these men’s lives are changed once Jessica (Liv Tyler), a new second-in-command to Glenn, shakes things up. Not to mention, she comes around during the most joyful, happiest time of the year: the Holidays! What’s so sad about that?

"What did I tell you about singing, "Walk this Way" in my presence?"

“What did I tell you about singing, “Walk this Way” in my presence?”

On the surface, Space Station 76 seems like an over-the-top, campy-farce that wants to make fun of 70’s fashion, ideas, and conventions that they can’t even contain themselves on the very retro-looking poster. And pretty much, for the first thirty minutes or so, that’s exactly how it all plays out. It’s definitely over-the-top and campy as one would expect, but also incredibly weird, with random, almost shocking scenes of sex and masturbation, and an overall tone that was so bizarre, I couldn’t help but feeling like I stumbled upon a late-night special from Adult Swim. That’s not to say any of what I’m saying is actually a bad thing, as much as it was just a thing that I was enjoying, but wasn’t too sure about how well it would still hold-up for the next hour and ten minutes.

Then, things got weird. But again, in a good way.

See, where Space Station 76 really pulls the rug from underneath its audience, is in the way that it slowly, very tenderly-like, reveals itself to be something of a dark, intimate drama about some very sad, emotionally-troubled people. It still has an odd sense of humor placed in throughout, but for the most part, once the second-half rolls on by, it becomes clear that we’re not dealing with a sci-fi camp-fest – in fact, we’re dealing with a rather interesting dramedy. But it’s not that because the movie plays with its audience’s expectations is the reason why this is interesting, it’s mostly because the characters put into it, as much as they seem caricatures, are mostly all well thought-out, three-dimensional human beings. Sure, they have some weird stuff going on with them, but tell me, what person doesn’t?

With each and every character here, we get a few that we know we’re supposed to like and actually care for, even if we don’t really know them fully well; all we do know is that they’re sad and want more out of life. Because of that, the movie works best as a way to figure out which characters deserve our attentions the most, but here’s the real kicker – even the characters who initially seem to be just plain old, immoral a-holes, they actually turn out to be more human than you’d expect. It’s a wonder that a movie can make us sympathize with Marisa Coughlan’s wife, considering that she constantly cheats on her dedicated, honorable husband (with a character portrayed by Jerry O’Connell no less), then comes home, only to bitch at him for not doing something she wanted, or whatever, but that’s what co-writer/director Jack Plotnick is able to do and it works for every other character here.

Matt Bomer’s lonely hubby character, not only makes you’d want to give him a hug, but hope that whoever does give him said hug, is a person he can spend the rest of his life with. I didn’t expect Bomer to work for me here as the down-and-out mechanic, but he works well in creating a character wants our sympathy, but doesn’t demand it; he’s just wholesome enough that you appreciate his nice tendencies, but isn’t a perfect human being either. So when Liv Tyler’s character walks in and changes thing around for Bomer’s character, not only does he feel happiness and hope for his future, but it also makes you, the viewer, feel the same as well. What I said about Bomer is the same thing for Liv Tyler, the kind of actress who has left me quite cold in the past. She’s fine here in that she’s allowed to be a bit of a sweetheart, albeit, one who may not be exactly who she presents herself as being from the first appearance of her in this flick.

Tee-hee. 70's clothes are funny.

Tee-hee. 70’s clothes are funny.

But the one character who really kept my interest the most was Patrick Wilson as Captain Glenn, a character who’s secret dilemma I called from a mile away, but still didn’t affect him, the character. Because, as he’s written, Glenn too is a very sad individual, but Wilson does something neat with him in that he makes him rather insufferable in certain spots of this movie. Whereas the movie wants us to be a bit creeped-out by his appearance and actions towards those around him on the spaceship, Wilson still can’t help himself to make him the least bit likable, although he’s still not fully as trustworthy as Wilson’s characters have been before. Still, as it is, there’s something inherently sympathetic to this character that makes him worth standing by and, ultimately, rooting for. For lack of a better term.

While mostly all of these characters are strong in their ways, there’s still a feeling this movie could had been a lot better, placed as just an ordinary drama as was. Sure, the spaceship-setting probably was done so on purpose to divert its attention away from the other dramedies of the same nature, but it still seems unnecessary at times, especially considering it’s the 70’s and there are a little too many jokes made at the expense of the fashion, the look and the feel of those days and ages. Don’t get me wrong, I always have a little chuckle whenever I see somebody spotting a silly, 70’s-era porn-stache, but for something as smart and well-done this, I felt like it was a little too cheap for its own good.

Oh well, guess you have to please everybody.

Consensus: Though it pulls a bit too many lame jokes, Space Station 76 surprisingly works best as a drama, and one that pays plenty of attention to its well-written characters.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, this little guy was kind of funny.

Okay, this little guy was kind of funny.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Armageddon (1998)

Before we all die, at least we can take some pleasure knowing that we’ll be treated to the lovely sounds of Steven Tyler.

After NASA catches wind of a meteor the size of Texas heading straight for Earth, executive director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) cobbles up a plan: Get a crew on the meteor, drill a hole through it, and leave a nuke in there so that it can break off into two pieces and still miss the Earth by a small bit. It’s a smart plan, but the only problem is finding out who’s right for it. In walks oil-driller Harry S. Stamper (Bruce Willis) who Truman recruits for this mission because the ship plan is the same one Stamper uses on his own oil rig. Though Stamper is initially hesitant to take on such a huge, daring mission, he eventually decides to take it, but on one condition: He gets to choose the crew that goes with him. In walks the rest of his rag-tag group of dysfunctional nut-balls that either love prostitutes (Steve Buscemi), love to smash things (Michael Clarke Duncan), or love Stamper’s own daughter (Ben Affleck). Though not everybody feels alright with this change, they don’t have any other plan to go along with. Meaning, it’s all up to these guys to save the world and all of mankind.

Not much of a burden if you think about it really, you know?

Well, well, well. Here it is, everybody! The movie I swore I would never, ever watch again after seeing it numerous times as a little kid, all because back then, I knew it was total junk. But for some reason, curiosity killed the cat in my case and I just could not help myself; I had to see if this movie got any better with age, and also, whether or not my tolerance for mostly all things Michael Bay would have anything to do with any change in feelings toward this.

He would have done anything to say "Yippie-Kay-Ya".

He would have done anything to say “Yippie-Kay-Ya”.

Needless to say, they sort of do. But not by much. Here’s why:

See, though I like to give Bay the benefit of the doubt on most cases for blowing all sorts of shit up and taking absolute pleasure in doing it, I felt like this was total over-kill. And yes, even by his standards, that means a lot. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself here, because most of the explosions occur during the last hour-and-a-half of this movie. As for the first hour of this movie, we’re “treated” to watching a bunch of clichés act like nuts, talk goofy, get some back-story on what makes them the slightest bit of “human”, and try to have us believe that they could actually be smart, trained, and neutered astronauts in a near 18 days, but actually be trusted in saving our whole race from extinction.

And while I’m all for a movie being silly for the sake of making people laugh, this was not that kind of silly – it was just downright dumb. What makes it even worse is that the cast here is pretty damn talented – actually, scratch that, it’s an unbelievably stacked ensemble that, with any other movie/director, would have me rushing the gates as soon as I caught wind of it happening, but not here. Especially not with Michael Bay, the kind of guy who takes pleasure in taking these incredibly talented, wonderful screen-presences, and making them his wild, wacky, and near-racist guinea pigs.

Then again though, in the world of Hollywood, money really does talk, so I guess I can’t be getting on Bay’s case too much for just getting along with the times and following the path set out for him.

Still though, that doesn’t excuse giving somebody as wonderfully charming as Steve Buscemi a role in which he just makes stupid comments about hookers, having sex, dying, not being crazy, menstrual cycles, and going absolutely nuts while shooting a machine gun. And yes, while that all may sound incredibly amusing to some of you out there, I can assure you, it’s totally not. It’s just downright corny and seems like Bay is trying way, way too hard to make us laugh at anything; so much so, that he’s willing to embarrass the hell out of some of the most respected talents in the biz.

Also, he uses this comedy to break up all of the nonsensical violence, loud noises and explosions that occur during the last half-hour which, coming from a Michael Bay-standpoint, is relatively impressive. Though, nearly 16 years after the fact, some of it looks a bit dated, you can tell Bay really pays attention to the constant vibrancy he has behind the camera and how he makes this movie look. Sure, it’s frantic and you can almost count how long Bay holds a shot for (don’t worry, it’s two seconds or so each), but it does show you that he’s the kind of director that works well with this stuff.

However, with this stuff here, there’s just way too much. Too much double-crossing; too much dumb humor; too much poor script-writing; too much explosions; too much of random things happening only to make the plot seem more dense and the movie run-time a little longer; just too much of everything really. And yes, while I do admit to being on Bay’s side for this very same reason in most movies, this is not one of them. For some reason, it just felt different this time and rather than laughing and having a great time, I was just laughing, only in a way to pass the time of my complete boredom with the same things happening again, and again, and again.

All that was missing was a bottle of Jack and some Funyuns to make life a whole lot less depressing.

Love and animal crackers: It's the combo you never thought you'd never thought you need.

Love and animal crackers: It’s the combo you never thought you’d need.

Like I mentioned before, too, Bay really does have a knack for getting together an interesting cast, it’s just such a shame that he gives them so very little to do. And even when he does give them anything to do, it’s utter garbage that only makes it seem like the actor in question was in desperate need of another shore house. For instance, despite being practically the perfect role for Bruce Willis in which he has to play a tough, rough, and masculine-as-hell man (with an in-and-out Southern accent), somehow, the writing is so cheesy and godawful for this guy, that everything that comes out of Willis’ mouth seems like he’s having a hard time reading anything at all. Not just because he can’t believe the trash that he’s reading, but because he forgot his glasses on the counter at home.

And heck, I wish I could say the same for Ben Affleck, but man, this kid is terrible here. I know that Big Ben has cleaned his act up now and is a pretty respected guy out there, but any reason why anybody thought he was just a young talent, with barely any of the later at all, were totally correct when they saw this. Which is a shame because watching Affleck, you can see a guy that’s trying really hard, but just doesn’t have the skills yet to really deliver on all of the sobbing and screaming he has to deliver on. It just seems like he’s in a parody of the type of movie that he’s in. You know, a parody of a Michael Bay movie, in which every character has an IQ of 38, has women-troubles, likes to cuss, say dumb stuff, act silly, and at the end of the day, still be able to save the world, all while chanting “USA! USA! USA!”.

Yep, that’s Michael Bay for ya: Praising America, one over-budgeted mess at a time.

Consensus: Though much of Armageddon is what you expect to get from a Michael Bay movie, there’s still no denying how incredibly hard it is to believe anything that happens in this movie, nor enjoy one’s self when all there is a explosion, after explosion, after explosion, with barely any end in sight.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

If these are our saviors, we're fucked.

If these are our saviors, we’re fucked.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

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.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Finally, 9 hours of my life can finally be put to rest.

As Sauron’s dark army surround the citadel of Minas Tirith and hope wanes for all of Middle-earth, Frodo (Elijah Wood), Sam (Sean Astin), and Gollum (Andy Serkis) continue their journey towards Mount Doom in order to destroy the Ring of Power.

After two movies that have already racked-up to being over than 3 hours each, it seems almost granted that the final-conclusion of this spectacular trilogy would end with a 3-hour and 21-minute time-limit. That’s right, ALMOST 3-AND-A-HALF HOURS! But what separates this long-ass time-limit from the last two, is the fact that you barely notice it one-bit, despite it being the longest of the three. Just goes to show you that long movies, aren’t always that bad to sit-through.

I think first things first to get this review going would be to give major kudos to director Peter Jackson who, like with the last two, does a magnificent job at showing us this beautiful world of Middle Earth, in all of it’s darkness, weirdness, and overall beauty. The sets, designs, make-up, costumes, art direction, and everything else, just look perfect and with this last movie, you needed that keen-eye for attention to detail that Jackson has to make a movie like this work, and it totally does. Obviously a lot more of this movie is dependent on special-effects and CGI, whereas the last two had it, but not a huge-amount, but it’s not distracting from the real beauty that lies underneath this movie and from what I hear, a lot of this was filmed naturally, which impressed me as hell since it seemed like some of these sets would have taken years to be built, and each movie came-out a year-apart from one another. That’s dedication to detail right there, folks, and it’s no surprise that that same dedication won Jackson almost every art and set-design Oscar that year, and rightfully so.

LOTR1

“What the fuck did you just say?”

However, Peter Jackson didn’t just win a bunch of secondary-awards for his work here on this movie, he also won Best Director and that’s not just because of his strong look and detail into this world he obviously loves, but mainly because the guy has the spirit and passion inside of him that makes this flick work, right about from the start. The reason I say “right about from the start”, is because the film obviously has a bit of a problem in the beginning, because it seems like it’s trying to find it’s footing in how it wants to start things-out. We get a couple of awkward cuts to Frodo and Sam being slightly homosexual with one another, to a pretty un-epic shot of Legolas, Aragorn, Gandalf, and Gimli, all slowly riding-down the grassy lands with their horses, but after that, it picks up it’s speed and momentum, and I was willing to forgive Jackson for all of this because it just continues to get better and better.

Once this movie picks up and knows exactly where it wants to go, it’s the freakin’ most epic, most entertaining, and most emotional-ride you will ever take in a movie. The movie cuts between the two stories of Frodo & Sam’s journey to Mount Doom and the defense of Gondor and Minas Tirith, and whereas the weaving in-and-out of stories took a lot of momentum out of the direction the last time-around, it works so perfectly because both stories have a great deal of built-up tension and emotions that run high in about every frame of this flick. Watching Sam and Frodo make their way to destroying the ring will keep you on the edge of your seat as they constantly continue to find hardships getting to their destination, and the Battle of Peleanor Fields is the other story that seems to be the centerpiece of this movie, and had my heart racing just as much as Sam and Frodo’s journey, even though they were both polar-opposites in terms of pacing and development.

LOTR2

Quick! Who has been the most successful in the past decade? By the way, the two pictured are Orlando Bloom and Karl Urban. Okay, never mind. Dumb question.

In the Two Towers, the Battle at Helm’s Deep was an absolute joy to see play-out on screen because it built-up the intensity, the emotion, the action, and most of all, the fun in having two, opposing sides go head-to-head and watching as they are both equally-matched, and equally-as-smart as the other. It was probably the highlight of that whole movie, even if there was a lot more to cheer-on about, but the battle that takes place here in this flick (the Battle of Peleanor Fields), makes it look like a bunch of kiddies messing around in the playground. Jackson totally ups the ante with his direction by providing so much action, blood, and sometimes, gore to have us really involved, but also adds a great deal of heart and emotion to have us fully-invested enough, to the point of where our hearts are racing every time it seems like somebody is going to be the nest one to bite the dust. Seriously, I’ve seen this movie about 2 or 3 times before, but I was still gripping my sheets, wondering who was going to be next and it sent me shivers up my spine whenever I heard a loud, scary enemy come-through again and provide another threat to all of our heroes and favorite characters. Seriously, if you don’t feel any type of emotional-connection to these characters as they all become one-step closer to death in a span of 1 hour, then you my friend, are just as soulless and as dark as the enemies they are facing. Crappy metaphor, I know, but you get the point.

LOTR4

Secretly, there’s weed in there. Or whatever the hell those Middle Earth snobs call it.

However, that key-battle in the center of this movie is only one of the main reasons why this movie works as well as it does and why Jackson got the Oscar in the first-place. There is so much going on-here that it would definitely be very easy to see how somebody would feel as if it’s too much at one-time, but Jackson evens it all-out so nicely so that we see everything that happens, why it happens, and gives us a bit of time to understand it all. Not many movies that have a certain-type of audience feel the need to do that because they feel as if it’s strictly for the fanboys to understand, and everybody else to ‘eff off, but not Jackson. No, he’s a different type of lad and I’m happy that he decided to take his time with this movie and lay everything-out on the ground for us all to get as soon as the story started to pick-up because when it gets going, it never stops and that’s when you find yourself having the best time of your life with this movie.

Another key-element to this movie that Jackson wisely allows, is that every character that we have gotten to know or see over the past 2 films, finally all get their own chance to shine, rather than having it be the Frodo and Gandalf show 24/7, which also means, all of the performances are fully-realized and some of the best of the whole trilogy. Viggo Mortensen kicks ass once again as Aragorn, and shows that he is not one prince to be messed-with, especially when it comes to somebody coming in between him, his buddies, and most of all, his gal that he is so far-away from. I may make Aragorn sound like a bit of a pussy with that description, but trust me, he’s not in the least-bit. Ian McKellen is awesome as Gandalf and shows how wise and warm he is, not only as a ruler, but as a character, as well; Orlando Bloom is good as Legolas, and shows us why the guy kicks just as much as Aragorn does; and John Rhys-Davies doesn’t quite get enough moments to steal the spotlight from everybody else like he did in the 2nd-movie, but he still has a lot of fun here as Gimli. Anybody I didn’t mention, don’t worry, they all did good, especially those little, fuckin’ hobbits.

LOTR5

His ax is the best part of his character, without it, he’s just got one-liners about how small he is. Somebody find it, and quick!

In the past 2 movies, it seems as if Sam and Frodo are the only ones to really get the attention from Jackson in terms of character-development and actually meaning something in the whole grand scheme of things, but now, Jackson allows the other two as well to show what they’re made of. Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan are each great as Pippin and Merry, respectively, and show that they aren’t just about of immature jokers, they can actually put-up and shut-up when they need to and actually help move this story along, even if they are without their tree buddies that I missed very, very deeply. These two get a lot to do, but Frodo and Sam aren’t left-out of the equation, either, and their story is by-far the one I really connected to since it’s all about the limits of friendship and how far one will go to really help the other one out and hopefully, save their lives in the process. Elijah Wood has been a bit tweedy as Frodo in the past 2 movies, but really excels here and gives Frodo a bit of a mean-streak that actually has you fearful for Same, as well as Gollum. Wood has never been the star actor of our generation, but here, he shows us that he can act no matter how much he gives-off that softy-smile that really rang the wrong bells for me. Seriously, I thought the revelation at the end was going to be Frodo was in-love with Sam after all of this time, I swear it.

LOTR3

“Yep, there go our careers as we know it.”

As good as Elijah Wood may be, Sean Astin is the one who really steals this show as Samewise Gamgee, and you know what? It’s about damn time this guy finally got his rocks off in these movies, because not only is Samwise as strong of a character as anybody else in this whole damn series, but Astin is also a great-actor too, and one that I feel like never really gets to show himself for all that he is because people still see him as Rudy. Samewise is such an awesome character to watch on-screen not just because he lays down the law for Frodo and tells him all of the obvious stuff about the ring, Gollum, and the evils that come-from both of them, but because you feel like this guy would do anything, I do repeat, ANYTHING, to save his friend’s lives, no matter how hard or impossible it seemed to be. Astin plays this up so perfectly and to watch him come-alive as an actor through Same, is a freakin’ revelation since this guy rarely ever gets the chance to and it’s sort of a shame that this guy never got an Oscar nomination for his work here because he’s understated, believable, strong-willed, and most of all, the emotional anchor that holds this movie down from being a “Nerd’s Only” love-fest.

If there is any reason why this movie deserves the high-rating I’m giving it, it’s mainly because it’s one of those rare-occasions where I’m reminded of why I love watching epic movies such as this: they take me out of the real-world I’m in, and place me into another no matter how unbelievable or fantasy-like it actually may be. After those first, 15-minutes that Jackson seems to struggle with are over, things only go uphill from there and show you exactly why you invested half-of-your-day to see the first 2 movies in the first-place. You love the characters, you love the mythology, you love the setting, you love the battles, and most importantly, you just love what Jackson does with this movie and how he never seems to disappoint any loyal fan of the original source material, or regular, moviegoer that just wants to be transported into a different world. He delivers on both ends of the spectrum and trust me, by the end of this movie, if you loved the first two, you will most likely shed a tear once you see your beloved trilogy come to a sweeping, but beautiful ending that couldn’t have been better, even if Jackson put a freakin’ cherry on top of it. Go out there and see The Hobbit this weekend, people! Lord knows I will be, regardless of if I want to or not. Trust me, I do.

Consensus: Despite being the longest out of the three (clocking in at 3 hours and 12 minutes, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King still delivers on every end of the spectrum that fans, and moviegoers alike expect from these movies: beautiful sets and designs, fully-realized characters, dazzling action, an emotional story from start-to-finish, and especially with this one, a beautiful send-off to a trilogy we will most likely never, ever forget about, no matter how many prequels Hollywood and Peter Jackson want to churn out of their money-making asses.

9.5/10=Full Price!!

"I'm money, bitches."

“I’m money, bitches.”

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

I may be a noob because I don’t know a Orc from a Uruk-Hai, but as long as we got elves, wizards, dwarves, monster-creatures, and trees all duking it out in one flick, I’m fine with not knowing.

Taking place literally 3 days after where the first one left-off, we follow three stories of our favorite characters and see how they all are separated, but go-out on their own quests as well. Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) continue their journey towards Mordor to destroy the One Ring, meeting and joined by Gollum (choreographed by Andy Serkis), the ring’s former owner. Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), Legolas (Orlando Bloom), and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) come to the war-torn nation of Rohan and are reunited with the resurrected Gandalf (Ian McKellen), before fighting at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Merry (Dominic Monaghan) and Pippin (Billy Boyd) escape capture, meet Treebeard the Ent, and help to plan an attack on Isengard.

That’s a pretty lengthy-premise, hell, probably the longest one I have ever done, and hell, this is a pretty lengthy-movie. But even though it may clock-in at 2 hours and 59 minutes, just missing that day-changer by a measly minute, you still can’t help but have a great-old time watching all of your favorite fantasy characters, battle it out like nobody’s business. Oh, and let’s not forget the walking trees, too. Can’t forget about them.

Once again, as you could probably expect from the guy, Peter Jackson does a great-job at nailing each and every single, little detail of this setting down to it’s core. Everything just looks perfect the way it is and those swooping shots that seem to take over the film, do nothing else but put you in the mind-set that yes, you are in Middle-Earth and it’s time to get ready for a place that is filled with mystical-beings and happenings, but also a place that’s filled with a lot of darkness and war, as well.

Believe it or not, from a reader’s stand-point, this is the most controversial movie-adaptation of the three because apparently Jackson took some liberties of his own in changing up the story-structure, events, and even the characters as well. Obviously any person who has ever read these books and is expecting the exact, same thing on-screen are going to be a little pissed to see some things shook-up a bit, but I don’t think Jackson could have told this story any other way. What I mean by that, is that since there are three stories going-on at the same time, you sort of have to tell them all just like that, rather than telling one-story, being done with it, and moving onto the next without any transition to other stories. It can be done, but it wouldn’t have worked for this movie and that’s why I’m really glad Jackson kept all of these three stories to continue to go-on at the same time, without a break, or stop, or anything. It’s just got a beautiful flow to it and that’s because Jackson knows the story from head-to-toe and wants to show everybody his love and appreciation for it, even if he has to stick to his movie-rules and piss a couple of people off by doing-so. Hey, you can’t please everybody out there, Pete, but you sure as hell pleased the hell out of me.

I think where this film works so well compared to the first-one is the sort of tone and approach it takes to the story. You can definitely tell that this story is starting to get more and more tense as it develops and you can tell that there’s more of a drastic-feeling to every scene, where you don’t quite know what’s going to happen next, who you’re going to have to say bye to, and just how far the story will progress in-time. You have a bigger, emotional-connection to everybody here and it’s not just about who’s going to get killed-off next, it’s about who are you going to miss when it’s all said and done. There is definitely a lot that’s worth standing-by and awaiting the next surprise, but it’s not all about surprises, twists, or turns with this story, it’s about the feeling of the world you’re placed into and whether or not you’re going to be able to stay-long and watch as all of your favorite characters risk their lives 24/7.

That’s why the infamous battle at Helm’s Depp is considered one of the best battle-sequences of the past-decade, there’s so much emotion, turmoil, and intensity going on behind it, that you can’t stop feeling like you are involved with it as much as the actual-characters themselves. Anybody that talks about this movie, always talks about this huge-spectacle of a battle and as they should, because it is absolutely awesome to be entertained by, and absolutely gripping to watch. You never know what’s going to happen next with this scene and you feel like anything could happen, and usually does actually happen. It’s filmed-beautifully, as well as you could expect, and just goes to show you that Jackson had an inspiration for how he wanted this battle to look and feel like and holy damn, if it wasn’t for this whole-sequence, I don’t know how much of this film I would have actually loved.

However, I shouldn’t really talk like the battle at Helm’s Deep is the only thing worth watching here, because it isn’t. Each and every other story that they throw at us is as epic, dramatic, and gripping as the one that comes before it, the only problem is that when it gets in the way of the battle-sequence, it slows things down a bit. I liked the story of Sam and Frodo continuing their quest with the Ring, and the two hobbits with the walking trees, but whenever they showed-up, it was usually to break-up the action that was happening during the battle and it felt a bit cheap, as it just took away from all of the excitement and intensity that we were feeling beforehand. I mean, yeah, these stories needed to be told and needed to be spliced-in with the main-one, but still, you can’t help but feel like they just dedicated a good solid 45 minutes to the battle at Helm’s Deep, and be done with it, rather than just jumping back-and-forth and breaking some of the fun.

That same person who you heard talking about this movie and mentioning the battle at Helm’s Deep, would also probably mention that this is the flick that first introduced the CG-driven powerhouse of Gollum, played by Andy Serkis. See, what most people at the time didn’t know was that Serkis donned the blue-suit for this role and encapsulated all of his movements, flow, and feelings all into this character to give him a realistic-look and feel. Instead, everybody else thought that it was just another case of the computers taking over the magic of Hollywood, and just using a bunch of special-effects that may look beautiful, but are still special-effects none the less. That’s what’s so amazing about Serkis as Gollum here, is that he just brings all of this feeling to a character and makes it seem very unbelievable how he was able to pull it all off so well. I also can’t forget to mention that Gollum looks as real as you’re going to get and it’s a work of art to watch and just gaze at. Yeah, technology is better now, but at the time, it was beyond art. It was a freakin’ masterpiece.

Ian McKellen was the anchor of the first movie, but is rarely here as Gandolf, even though he still kicks as much ass here in this movie, as we expected from him in that movie. Instead, that anchor is given-away to Viggo Mortensen who absolutely nails it as Aragorn. Viggo just has this look and feel to him that has you wonder what he’s going to do next, but yet, at the same time, still has you feel like you’re in safe-hands whenever he’s around. That’s why it was pretty freakin’ awesome to see him take over ship here a lot of times and just let everybody know that he’s the boss, he’s the man you don’t want to mess with, and most of all, he’s the man that’s going to slay all of these weird-looking, freaky creatures. Just goes to show you that Viggo really can scare anybody, whether he’s playing a Russian-mobster, playing Sigmund Freud, an ex-gangster-turned-family-man. Yeah, that last sentence pretty much puts Viggo Mortensen’s career into a nutshell.

Consensus: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is the second-installment that hits, and hits hard with enough emotions, action, and characters running through, that you feel like you have a full grip and feel of this story, what’s happening in it, and what’s to come of it in it’s grand, epic finale. Return of the King, here I come!

9/10=Full Price!!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Alright, bring on the freaks!

Set in Middle Earth, the story tells of the Dark Lord Sauron, who is seeking the One Ring. The Ring has found its way to the young hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood). The fate of Middle-earth hangs in the balance as Frodo and eight companions who form “the Fellowship” begin their journey to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor, the only place where the Ring can be destroyed.

Obviously with the fact that Peter Jackson is returning to Middle Earth soon with The Hobbit, I thought to myself, “It’s been awhile since I actually wasted my day and watched one of these movies. So, why not just go back to the whole trilogy and waste three days now? Woo-hoo!!” Trust me, people, it’s all for you out there so you better be freakin’ happy.

Anybody that ever talks about this movie, or the trilogy itself, always says the same thing, “You have to have read the books to fully understand.” Is that true? Well, yes, in a way, but that does not mean you can’t still appreciate it for what it truly is: a very, very well-made film. Jackson has never been a huge favorite of mine but I have to cut the guy some slack here because this direction is one of the more inspired-directions I’ve seen in a long, long time. Jackson obviously has a near and dear passion and love for the J.R.R. Tolkien novels, and that shows here with his set design and attention to detail.

Saying that everything in this movie is beautiful, is a downright understatement. Everything looks so perfect the way it is, that at times, believe it or not, I actually caught myself wondering just how they got it to look so real and put it out into a film without ever making it look cheesy one-bit. I will say that in the year 2012, the CGI and special-effects may not be as up-to-date as we all are used to nowadays, but just checking this film out from a viewer’s stand-point and realizing how much attention and detail was given to each scene really makes me want to get up, and give Jackson a big old hug. The guy really has a distinctive look with this film and made me feel even closer to Middle Earth, even though the shots were obviously from New Zealand. But you know what? Who the hell cares, because if Jackson can make it look like Middle Earth, then that’s good enough for me.

I feel like I should have been more open in this review by starting off and saying that I’m not a reader/nor have I ever read any of Tolkien’s novels and to be honest, I still think that the story made me enough sense for me to get the gist of it. In the beginning, Jackson spells-out everything pretty nice and clear for everyone to understand just what’s going on with a detailed and heavy prologue and definitely makes it clear right from the start, just what we’re in store for: hobbits, elves, dwarves, wizards, sorcery, action, violence, and plenty of other weird-looking creatures just hangin’ around. Jackson’s attention to detail in terms of setting and scenery, carries out very well into the characters and creatures that he creates but I feel like that’s a pretty obvious statement already. Let me just get it out of the way: Jackson’s direction is superb here and he pays attention to detail like no other. Also, it’s a very, very, very beautiful film! Okay, now that I got that thought out of my mind, I can move on now and just tell you that it’s a pretty fun movie once you get past all of the kookiness behind it.

You don’t generally have to be a fan of fantasy movies (like me), to enjoy the hell out of this movie, but it definitely does help. There’s so much exposition, secret powers coming out of nowhere, swords clashing, people yelling bold statements about courage, weird creatures, and more exposition. It’s exactly what you expect from a fantasy movie and I didn’t have much of a problem with that because the story kept me involved, and I found myself to have a lot of fun with it as well. The action doesn’t take over the whole  movie, but that was a-okay with me because I payed more attention to the adventure that all of these colorful characters were on, where it was going to take them, and the danger that lied ahead of them. There was definitely a great deal of suspense in the air because I never really knew when shit was just going to pop-off for these characters and their adventure, and quite frankly, I was a bit scared for them as well. It’s one of those movies where you feel as if you are on an adventure that may never end, but you sort of don’t want it to end because you feel as if you’re along for the ride, without having to worry about being killed or eaten alive by some weird-looking, monster/creature/thing.

Regardless of how fun and exciting this movie really was, it still does not make it “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a statement and accolade that has seemed to be given by anybody who has watched this movie. Is it a grand, sweeping epic that catches your attention right from the start and keeps you watching? Yes, but is it perfect? Awwww, hellll nooo! The reason why this movie is not perfect is because of how long it is. It comes close to clocking in at over 3 hours and even though I don’t mind that with most movies, just as long as they keep my attention, I minded that with this movie because of how many times it seemed to start-and-stop all over the place.

What I mean by this, is that every time the movie would fire-up with an ultra-epic action scene, it would just automatically slow-down, start having everybody talk in their exposition jibber-jabber, continue walking, focus on another character from another setting, have another ultra-epic action scene, and then go right back to the same pattern. At first, I didn’t really mind this because it was entertaining to see and I liked watching where Jackson went with this story, but after awhile it became a bit repetitive and I could almost tell where all of the action was going to go down and when. That’s not good for me, because I usually like my surprises, especially with my action-adventure movies and if Dan the Man’s not surprised, Dan the Man’s not happy! Waaah!

And to be honest, it was even worse when these people would go off on these rants and raves in this jibber-jabber, that really seemed to get in the way of any type of excitement or energy this movie had going for itself. When I thought the movie would continue to go at the pace it was going at, it just slows down, focuses on a character talking a whole bunch of nonsense that only people who sleep with the book would be able to comprehend, and loses that steam for the longest time, that is, until the next action scene files in and picks the movie right back-up from where it was left off in the first place. A couple of scenes where these characters had these “talks” really seemed to come out of nowhere, and maybe should have gotten a call from Jackson’s editor to cut that one the hell out. One scene in particular is where Cate Blanchett comes in out of nowhere and starts to go crazy about the ring, and even though it is visually-stunning, it’s still pretty obvious and serves no purpose to the story or the message other than, “everybody is obsessed with this ring and wants it like Grandma’s secret meat loaf recipe”. Yup, I think I got that idea right from the beginning of the story when I saw how bat-shit crazy this ring made everybody go so it didn’t necessarily do anything for me when all of these characters kept falling for the same bag of tricks over and over again.

But I can’t rag on this film anymore, really, because it still kept me entertained and kept me watching a great ensemble, do fantastic jobs in each of their own, respective roles. This whole cast is jam-packed to the core with familiar-faces and superstars of the silver-screen, but the one who really stood-out for me was Ian McKellen as Gandalf. McKellen owns it as Gandalf because he gives this character a great deal of warmth and sympathy that it makes it real easy for us to believe why so many people feel comfortable around him, and why they don’t have to fear for their lives whenever he’s around. I also liked how McKellen didn’t really ham it up and kept everything very straight-forward with what he was going to do next, and why. I also can’t forget to mention Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn. The guy just looks intimidating and definitely holds his own as the only guy who could be considered an “action hero” throughout the whole movie, but there’s going to be a lot more of him talked about in the future reviews of this trilogy so I won’t go and spoil it now. Just be ready, everybody, as I wastes my life away watching swords, sorcery, and stones.

Consensus: Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring may be a tad overstuffed with scenes that feel unneeded, but it’s epic-nature still cannot be denied with it’s fine, fine, fine attention to detail from Peter Jackson, and engrossing story that makes you feel as if you are along for this ride in Middle Earth, where nothing is safe and nothing is sacred. Not really sure if that’s the right statement to use for this movie, but you get what I mean.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Reign Over Me (2007)

At least it’s better than Sandler dressing in drag.

Former university room-mates Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) and Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) meet up again by chance on a Manhattan street corner. Five years after losing his family in the 11 September 2001 attack on New York City, Charlie – once a successful dentist – has retreated from his life, and Alan is stunned to see the changes in his formerly gregarious friend.

9/11 dramas are ones that can be pretty hard to make, mainly because people out there are still very sensitive to the subject. Yes, 11 years later, people are still not ready to be reminded of that disastrous day and it’s films like this that remind us just how terrible it was for everybody. Even somebody like Billy Madison.

I could totally tell what Mike Binder was trying to do with this flick, and for some of it, it worked. This almost seems like a “buddy drama” of sorts because it focuses on Charlie and Alan’s relationship throughout most of the film and it serves as the heart in the middle of it all. You see how certain people deal with loss and grief in different ways: some try to act like it never happened by avoiding everything that has to deal with their loss, while others just still have it on their minds 24/7 and barely find any comfort from it. It’s definitely something that seems very true and the way Binder touches on it, with delicate care and respect for most of the people out there, who have all had to deal with something as painful as this.

Another aspect of this flick that I also liked was the huge use of music for this movie, as it seemed like they were used in a way that was more believable, rather than just trying to throw classic rock songs at us every 5 seconds so we’ll go home and search ’em up on YouTube. As you can tell, The Who is definitely in this film but there are also other key tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Pretenders, and of course, Pearl Jam who actually do a cover of the song that this movie is named after. Maybe it’s not as awesome as I’ve made it sound but it’s still some clutch music, used for some very clutch moments.

However, there are definitely a lot of glaring problems here that really bummed me out considering just how well this film was doing for the first hour or so. One of the problems was that I think Binder lost a lot of focus with what the main story here was. The relationship between the two main characters is obviously the main focal point of this flick, but the has way too many side stories going on here, that it distracts us from what is mainly going on here. For example, there is a whole subplot concerning Alan and a patient of his that keeps on trying to give him a blowy. This story took up so much time here, that even when it was finally revealed as to why she was being the way she was with him, that I just knew why they brought her character here and what they’re going to do with her next. That’s not the only story here that distracts, but it’s one of the main ones that seem to take us away from our story at hand: these two dudes’ friendship, and the one dude going through some real, heavy shit.

Even when the film did focus on its main plot, a lot of it starts to get very repetitive as it goes along. Every time the films would focus on Charlie, we would see him just being a nut and trying his damn near hardest to avoid any single question or type of conversation that would relate to his family or 9/11. It happened once or twice, which was fine, but then they just started to really hammer away on that and it almost felt like we were the ones getting the therapy here. This bothered me to high heavens and it also took a lot away from the film considering this should have been so much more emotional than it actually was. Still, at least it wasn’t as manipulating as Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Now that’s a shit storm right there people.

The main set-up for this film, basically was to show us Adam Sandler‘s return into dramatic territory and for the most part, it’s a pretty good performance if a bit, disappointing. Sandler does a great job of keeping his character very warm, fuzzy, and also very weird but never a character that you feel like is a bad person, just a very hurt one to say the least. Sandler doesn’t ham it up with this performance and is a lot more subtle and it works very well, especially when it comes to the scene where he talks about what went down with his family and how he felt. I don’t want to say that it made me tear up but it was definitely an emotional scene, and one that Sandler performed very well.

However, there is also a bad side to this performance as well. Sandler is good with the dramatic stuff as well as some of the comedic stuff that Binder throws in here, but a lot of the scenes where he flips out and shows his anger, seem very out-of-place but it has nothing to do with the writing or direction, it’s mostly Sandler’s voice. Sounds weird, right? Well Sandler’s voice here, whenever he freaks out, is pretty much the same goofy voice he uses for such characters in The Waterboy and Billy Madison and considering none of those scenes are trying to be comedic at all, it’s confusing and a little bit distracting. Maybe that’s why it was so good for him to be silent in Punch-Drunk Love, because we couldn’t hear him utter the word “Borophyll”.

However, as much as the film revolves around Charlie, it’s actually supposed to be more about Alan, played by Don Cheadle. Cheadle, as always, is great and does everything that he can with this performance but the film strides so far away from his character, that in the end when it seems like they want it to be all about him, some of it comes off as fake and underused. Still, Cheadle does what he can and that’s really all that matters.

Consensus: Reign Over Me boasts strong performances and keeps its heart in the right place, but sort of loses focus and take our minds away from what the film is essentially trying to talk and be about.

6/10=Rental!!

That Thing You Do! (1996)

If only songs were as catchy and simple as this one.

In 1964, teenage garage band The One-ders — singer Jimmy (Johnathon Schaech), guitarist Lenny (Steve Zahn), drummer Guy (Tom Everett Scott) and a nameless bass player (Ethan Embry) — become an overnight sensation when their debut song jumps to the top of the charts. But internal tensions threaten to make the group’s fall just as rapid as their rise.

Writer/director Tom Hanks is obviously a guy we all know, love, and care about when it comes to his acting but his writing and directing maybe was pushing it a little too far. However, have no fear, Hanks still is good no matter what he does.

What I liked about this flick was that the simple premise is showed in a very fun, entertaining, and nice way just like the bubblegum pop days of the early 60’s were before all of the drugs started popping on in and out. The story starts off as your usual “band gets bigger and bigger” story-line which was fun to watch because of how charming this script was, and the film keeps that charm going on throughout the whole flick. Hanks does throw in a little bit of satire against the whole music business, but it’s nothing too much to where he seems to be aiming too high.

But enough about the script, let’s just get to the real reason why anybody really remembers this movie and that is for the title song. It’s so catchy, so fun, and is played probably about 7 times throughout the whole flick but it’s not like “I’ve Got You Babe” in ‘Groundhog Day’, to where every time we hear it we want burn every single copy left of that song, it’s a song that’s just really good and actually seems like a song that would be on heavy-rotation during that time-period. There are a couple of other tracks in this flick that are pretty good, but this is the only one that I can remember having stuck in my head after it was over and while hell, even I’m writing this I kind of humming it now as we speak.

However, as good as good as this song may be, it’s also one of the bigger problems with this flick. The direction, writing, and attention is detail is fine the way it ought to be but there’s nothing else that really stands-out from this flick other than the song. It also didn’t help that by the end, there are a little bit too many parts where the film starts to dive into some lame melodrama and just gets really soapy and unbelievable. Then again, I wasn’t looking for anything that seemed like a realistic take on the lives of pop music stars during the 60’s, I just wanted a fun and entertaining flick, which is basically what I got.

I also liked how Hanks put the main focus on the dude that is essentially the back-bone of the band, the drummer. Being a drummer myself, I thought that this was pretty cool to see considering it’s always either the singer or guitarist in the band that hogs all the spot-light. Also, Tom Everett Scott is pretty good as Shades. I’ve seen this dude in plenty of other stuff but this is the only film that I can remember him best in because he’s pretty likable and seems like a dude I would love to jam with due to his love of jazz music. The guy also had a pretty good technique even though it wasn’t really him drumming obviously.

The other band-mates are all pretty good here with the likes of Steve Zahn playing his usual funny/sarcastic-ass character here as the lead guitarist; Ethan Embry being a lot of fun to watch as the semi-mentally challenged bass player aptly named T.B. Player; and Johnathon Schaech probably being the weakest of the bunch as the singer, because when shit starts to hit the fan for this band, he really just seems like he’s starting all of it, just to start it. Tom Hanks is also great as the band’s manager, Mr. White, which also probably helps considering he has the film’s best lines and seems like a dude I could trust with all of my money and fame; Liv Tyler is nice to watch, as always, here as Faye; and it was also really funny to see a very young Charlize Theron as Shades’ girlfriend. There are so many other people in this flick that I could mention but it’s honestly a lot more fun to just point at and think about who he/she is during the film.

Consensus: Though there’s nothing all that spectacular about the flick, That Thing You Do! is still a fun, charming, and well-acted tale of what all bands during the early days of the 60’s all dreamed, hoped for, and had to go through. Also, that song is just catchy as hell.

7/10=Rental!!

Super (2011)

Basically Kick-Ass with a lower-budget.

When his wife (Liv Tyler) falls in league with a drug dealer, average guy Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) dons the guise of a superhero, dubs himself the Crimson Bolt and tries to keep a tagalong comic-book store clerk (Ellen Page) from becoming his sidekick. But it’s hard to be a superhero when all you’ve got to work with is a pipe wrench.

When I first saw the trailer for this way back when, I didn’t buy it, and just thought it was going to be a complete rip-off of Kick-Ass. In a way it is, but it still works.

Writer and director James Gunn is very good here with this already pretty dark story, and putting some comedy into it and heart here. It starts off as a parody of those super-hero films that we all see, but then turns into one of its own and dives into some very dark and disturbing places. I have to say some of this comedy doesn’t work because it’s almost too terrible to even laugh at, but I have to say I felt uncomfortable at times, and I think that’s what the film wanted to do.

There is also loads and loads of blood, gore, and just really hard-to-watch violence. Some of it will keep you watching and actually rooting for more, while others will just have you totally horrified and taken aback by what you see. Basically, if you’re squeamish, don’t see this film.

My main problem with this film is that Gunn tries to make the audience actually feel bad for rooting this violence on which I did not understand. I guess that Gunn was trying to comment on how we see violence in our every-day life and it’s basically glorified, but this film is pretty much doing the same exact thing here. I didn’t get what he was trying to say, if anything at all, and to be truly honest I think that Gunn could have done a better job of getting his point across.

Rainn Wilson is totally awesome here as Frank aka Crimson Bolt, and is playing this character very straight-laced and normal, with barely anything funny, but he totally gets lost in the character. Wilson is good at making this loser, who turns crazy and wants vengeance, seem believable and actually likable. I think Wilson should keep on doing more roles like these because they actually do work. Liv Tyler is here and does a good job at just being there. Kevin Bacon is great at playing this slime-ball, Jacques, and although he is a total asshole, he still manages to bring laughs out. Nathan Fillion is funny here as The Holy Avenger, the Christian channel superhero who fights off evil. However, Ellen Page is the real delight in this film as Libby who comes out of nowhere and you expect her to be really annoying, but somehow is a great character which Page plays to perfection and her best scenes are with Wilson where they just are total opposites, but seem believable friends.

Consensus: James Gunn’s supposed message may get a little messy, especially towards the end, but has some very dark laughs, a good story, and great acting that keep us involved with this sometimes gruesome superhero tale.

7.5/10=Rental!!